Tuesday, May 02, 2006
It occurs to me that some in the radfemblogosphere may think that I'm a newcomer to radical feminist theory, and unclear on many key concepts. Though I would not be surprised to discover I'm unclear on many key concepts (of radical feminism among other things), I must disabuse the internets of the notion that I have only recently fallen off the turnip truck of sisterhood.
I have never taken a women's studies class, nor did I develop a feminist sensibility as a result of particular ill-use at the hands of a man. No, I became a radical feminist for love.
I was about 24 when I met L. That would have been about 14 years ago, somewhere around 1992. I was already married and divorced. She was...well - she just blew my mind with the brilliant flame of her intellect, her wide-ranging knowledge, and her inexhaustible passion for women's rights. L. was younger than I, considerably better educated, far more enlightened and progressive than I was at the time (or even now) - I'm not ashamed to say I worshipped her.
Fortunately for me, she dug being worshipped, and we soon fell stupidly, recklessly, wildly in love, but if I wanted to hang with her, I had to do a lot of homework. so I did. every book she recommended, I devoured. every issue she presented, I dug into. Amazon Odyssey, SIP, tons of others - I wish I had taken notes and kept good records on what I read, now mostly lost to the mists of my failing memory. But the important thing is this: I really wanted to make her proud so that she would love me and respect me with the same devotion and ardor I had for her.
L. was part of the group that helped author the Antioch Rules, and during her time at that college she conceived and coalesced a group known as "BARF" - Bisexual and Radical Feminist. * As part of her life, I was part of that group. We did our chanting, banner-waving, flyer-...um...flying, marching and protesting best for two solid years.
However, things were obviously not perfect. L. had an energetic temper and a rather assertive attitude towards sexuality, and I was bad at setting boundaries. As part of the leather dyke community at that time, we both had run-ins with feminists who identified as anti-porn, who could not respect our contributions because of the way we related to each other sexually. I thought that BARFs actions (though personally satisfying) were wastes of energy not leading to profound social change, and she thought I was an unenlightened moron who lacked committment to the revolution.
Eventually the wheels came off our little lavender wagon and we broke up.
For the record, the breakup was my fault. I shouldn't have done what I did. No, really, I shouldn't have.
I should never have gotten involved with a man who I knew was violent, not to please my parents, not for any reason. But I did, even though it went against everything I had read and learned and fought for in the two years I was with L.
But it was only after I had been with this abusive man for seven years, and emerged from that relationship, that I really truly felt that radical feminist thought was relevant and useful as a pattern for human liberation. Before it was interesting, and certainly liberating on an intellectual level, but for whatever reason I had to lose it all in order to really appreciate it.
so here I am. I am running back to old dusty texts and shaking off old dusty brain cells and getting reacquainted with stuff I had to force myself to forget.
But even back then there were issues upon which the radical feminist world and I disagreed, and those issues persist today. I'm not willing to take the bitter with the sweet here, just for the sake of avoiding conflict. If the emperor has no clothes, someone should (and will, no matter how unpleasant it is and how unpopular it may make her) speak up.
*nowadays, www.barf.org will take you to that group, though it has quite a different aim, its acronym now standing for Biblical America Resistance Front - same brilliant, passionate warrior woman of singleminded devotion, slightly different mission.
and she's still calling it BARF?
I am also thinking: I have my beady little eye fixed on a couple of "radical feminists" currently proselytizing the Gospel of Dworkin all over the Internets. I am thinking: it wouldn't take much, really. give 'em a couple of months or years.
that said, yeah - what happens to aging exhausted radicals who are too arthritic and crabby to hold a banner anymore? is there an old radical's home? I guess they go to church...it would be someone's brilliant master's thesis to track the ideological trajectory of the average former radical.
some smartier-pants-than-me once said "anyone who's not a liberal at 20 has no heart, and anyone who's not a conservative at 40 has no brain." or words to that effect.
It was Winston Churchill or some American president or something like that. I've never bought it. Just sounds like a cheap way to patronise people who are passionate rather than cynical about politics
Having said that you don't get very far in politics for having a heart. Jack Straw, who in his younger days was leader of the UK student left, got sacked from government for suggesting that blowing the hell out of Iran was "unthinkable" (and probably for dropping anti-war hints pretty from time to time whilst working as part of blair's government for a while previously). Who knows what the world would come to if people didn't think we were going to blow the hell out fo them?