I haven’t written about the sex/gender debate for a while because I am simply horrified by the amount of abuse that it generates. What chance do we have in dismantling the patriarchy if self-defining feminists think it’s acceptable to insult, denigrate, and harass other women because of difference? This is without addressing the issue of threats of violence up to -and including- suggesting other women should die in a fire.
This isn’t a feminism I want to be part of and I struggle to understand how women think this counts as feminist activism. Trawling the timeline of someone who has blocked you isn’t activism. It’s stalking and we need to stop pretending that it’s acceptable. Digital Stalking lists a series of behaviours which constitute stalking. Look how many are applicable to so-called “feminist activism” on twitter:
- Monitoring you and friends- looking at what you post, photos, where you go, who you go with etc.
- Spyware – putting spy software on your phone or computer
- Sending text, messages – sending hurtful or threatening messages to you over and over again
- Account takeovers/hacking – accessing your online accounts
- Denigration – send, post, or publish cruel rumors and untrue statements to damage your reputation
- Distribute photos or videos – distributing photos or videos to embarrass you
- Exclusion – contacting or inviting everyone but you
- Flaming – posting an abusive response so everyone can see it
- Outing – telling people something embarrassing about you
- Threats and Dissemination – they threaten you and then tell everyone
- Confidence tricks- getting you to reveal information about themselves and then using against them
- Impersonation – pretending to be the victim either online or via email etc.
- Spaming- signing the victim up for junk email
- Trolling – say something online to get you to provoke you into responding
- Bullying by proxy – getting others to join in
It’s been about 6 months since I was last targeted with many of the behaviours above for labelling myself a radical feminist. When I say 6 months, I mean a sustained attack. I still get abusive tweets, bullying by-proxy and flaming on a daily basis from a group of women and men who label themselves feminists.
When I’ve written about this before, particularly in relation to being called “a hypocritical cunt“, I’ve always asked how this can be considered feminism. How can feminism have arrived at a point where calling women hypocritical cunts or suggesting women die in a fire is considered activism?
It wasn’t until I recently read Denise Thompson’s Radical Feminism Today, which is somewhat unfortunately titled since it is actually about defining feminism, that I realised what I was failing to understand. Thompson argues that much of the problem is that self-defining feminists are working from radically different definitions of the term and that much of our disagreements stem from a fundamental inability to define terms: feminism, patriarchy, sex and gender.
A very basic misunderstanding of terms is seen with “radical feminism” which defines radical to mean root or origin. It is radical insofar as it contextualises the root of women’s oppression in the biological realities of our bodies and seeks drastic political, economic, and social reforms.
As a radical feminist, my definition of feminism is similar to that of Thompson: feminism is the liberation of women from male domination. This domination does not exist simply in violence but rather encompasses the mundane social structures which result in the oppression of women even if we do not perceive them as such – the debate over “gendered” toys being a case in point.
Radical feminism, as outlined by Gerda Lerner in The Creation of Patriachy, also posits women’s oppression in two issues: women’s sexuality and women’s reproductive potential. Women’s oppression is because of our biological sex. Terms like feminism, patriarchy and gender are non-sensical if they do not reference biology or the reality of male domination and male supremacy. We cannot liberate women from the oppressive social structures in which we live if we do not recognise that biology has been our destiny for several millennia.
This recognition of the oppression of women as a class because of biology is what results in the vast majority of abuse directed at radical feminists. We have arrived at a point where the reality of women’s bodies are being erased: we can not talk of abortion or menstruation without being labelled transphobic. We cannot discuss the reality of pregnancy, infertility, ovarian cancer or fibroids. These are issues which affect women every single day but we are no longer allowed to discuss them as women’s issues.
Yet, women’s reproductive capabilities are at the centre of our oppression. If we don’t recognise this reality, then why on earth do people think women are oppressed? Because, I genuinely don’t understand how we can discuss feminism without discussing the reasons women have been oppressed and these reasons are all rooted in basic human biology. This is why radical feminism seeks to eliminate gender because it fails to address basic biology whilst simultaneously reinforcing behaviours which are deemed appropriate to man/woman and, as such, mandate women’s oppression based on their biology. The rigamarole required to get to this position is ridiculous.
Gender is not a performance nor is it based in a science. It is nothing more than the systemic social, cultural and physical oppression of women’s bodies which does nothing more than a reinforce a binary of man/woman which is really that of human/subhuman. Gender only exists in order to reinforce the White Supremacist Patriarchy. It actively harms women because it is based in the belief that women are not human.
In order to do feminism, we must define what it is we mean by feminism and it has to recognise male supremacy and domination and the biological realities of women’s bodies. Women’s oppression rests in our sexuality and our reproductive capabilities for a reason; there is a reason that rape is a common weapon to control and punish women [and the men that own those women’s bodies] and that raping women to get them pregnant was (is) a tool of most armies across the millennia. It is because of our biology.
Men took control over women’s (reproductive) labour, in order to grant themselves economic and political power. Or, in the words of Gerda Lerner, the commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is the foundation of the creation of private property and a class-based society.
Women are oppressed as a class because of our sexual and reproductive labours (from the existence of concubines to the rearing of children to women’s labours being the foundation of a family’s income). To ignore this, is to make feminism irrelevant.
Women are oppressed because of our biology.
And, I am officially done with being silenced by men and women who resort to threats of violence and harassment any time a woman points out that abortion is a woman’s issue because it is about the control of women’s reproductive capabilities. If we can’t talk about the state’s interference within our own bodies as women, how on earth are we supposed to break free of the systemic oppression of us as women?
Women are oppressed because of our biology. Violence, and threats therein, are just patriarchal silencing techniques which have oppressed and harmed women throughout history. Anyone who claims that they are engaged in feminist activism when making such threats is mistaken. All they are doing is helping the violent abusive men who rape, torture and violate women continue to harm women. It isn’t feminism.
And, this should go without saying, but deliberately targeting women who have spoken publicly about their mental health for abuse makes you a shitty, nasty excuse for a human being.