Every other week, there is a new debate about how to deal with the conflicts, bullying, etc taking place every other week among (mostly) online radical feminists.
I think that an important thing is to overcome our fear of putting this out in the open. There seems to be this idea that talking about these issues somehow either a) prove the veracity of those myths about how women are competitive and jealous and fight a lot, or b) expose some weakness in the feminist movement by making our differences public. I think that is a bit load of craP with a capital P.
I do not think that the liberation of women is about good PR. If it were about that, all we need is to summon a few women in advertising and commission them to come up with a good campaign. Now, that will be futile because no campaign will make men give up their power. The few that will become convinced that what they do is wrong and that it is in their best interest to contribute to the feminist struggle are not going to that because some good PR. It will happen after some feminist spends invaluable time and energy educating them (a very dangerous and exhausting activity) on how the world actually works.
Feminism is a movement where all the involved are doing so FROM their situation of oppression; none of us live free of it, unlike say, some bourgeouis or petit bourgeouis who leaves his family and wealth to go fight for the oppressed class. The only humans who do not suffer women’s oppression are males, and those are NOT feminists. That has many implications as to the way we analyze things. We are studying something while we’re IN IT at the same time. I suppose it is obvious that this does not come “naturally” to us. Pretty much like in the Matrix, only no one is coming to get us unplugged and we do all that training/learning/escaping ourselves. Sounds like quite an achievement.
Therefore, every woman in our movement is extremely valuable. Of course, the movement itself is not about each individual woman, but this is quite the thin line, because if only “some” women are included, then that sort of means the defeat of the movement right there. Eyes on the ball, the game is LIBERATION OF ALL WOMEN. What happens is that every time there is one of these waves of bullying/infighting/etc, SOME women, real, actual women who are unplugging themselves from the Patriarchal Matrix and/or helping others do so, get hurt. Some so badly that they go home for good. After a few days, the cycle continues. Some other argument “evolves” (nah, quite the opposite) into one of these fights and lather, rinse, repeat.
What happens is on one hand, that only the strongest/more vocal/less affected stay standing, and on the other hand, that so many less vocal, etc self censor themselves. They want to avoid the aggro. They don’t want to be that woman defending herself from fellow radfems. Now, this is bad because a)feminism is not about the liberation of the strongest/more vocal/more articulate women and b)because one of the epitomes of our oppression is our relationship with thought and speech. Women have NOT controlled speech for 6000 years. It is hard for us to think, analyze and speak because we have been told what to think and when to say it for too long. I suppose we can see that if a movement fighting for the liberation of women somehow causes the silencing of women THAT MAY be a problem.
Also, I am not concerned at all about “outsiders” knowing that we discuss. In fact, if I could, and if it were true, I’d tell everyone that radical feminists are discussing how to deal with conflict/bullying/infighting because we actually give a fuck about our movement and about the women in it. We give a fuck so much that we spend time and VERY limited resources dealing with this and trying to find solutions. A group of women is reading and discussing books about how women treat each other. Another group is trying to spot when a victim is being targeted and contacting her with other women who have been through the same, other women are posting about this on their statuses, on their blogs, etc. I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with that. It will probably take some time, but I find it relieving that we care enough to deal with this. That we love women/ourselves enough to do this.
The main issues still remain:
a) TONE: the fact that a woman does not use sweet lilies semantics and rhetoric does not make her BAD or her arguments flawed. Women should be allowed to use ALL the language and not just the please and thank you words. Having said that, it is important that a movement like feminism takes care of women. Stressing the difference between assertiveness and cruelty might do the trick.
b)PERSONAL vs POLITICAL: One would have thought this is a non issue because we all know how these two are connected, but there is still great misunderstanding about this. Being a radical feminist does not guarantee ethical, decent behaviour but it should at least guarantee a will towards integrity. No woman can be a feminist if her actual interactions with women are shit. The theory is awesome, but if the practice is not feminist, then the theory is worthless. Tip: If you write a book on feminism and bully feminists
whom you consider weaker than you, you’re doing it wrong. Your feminism needs to show that you love women. In practice. Like what you say and what you do need to be as similar as possible.
c)SISTERHOOD/FRIENDSHIPS, ETC: We do NOT have to be all BFFs. We don’t even have to agree on everything. (though yes, we have to agree on some basic stuff about what feminism is, because it does actually mean specific things) That is not what this is about.
My opinion is that women are not “responsible” for the wellbeing of others, but i cannot imagine any harm if women were aware of the effect of what they may be saying on other women and consciously tried not to hurt them, yes. I am not saying this will guarantee a singing kumbaya by the fire situation, but I truly see no harm and many benefits in treating women with love and respect.
This does not mean that we need to be all sweet and nice. Because we also need to make a point of not being afraid of being strong and assertive and stuff. But character does not necessarily have to equal cruelty.
I would like to add that I don’t have much problem with women getting hurt in the process of opening their eyes to the shit we’re in, or realizing how things really work, as that IS somewhat painful, but I guess I am reticent to “causing” woman to be hurt when -in my opinion- things could be presented differently.
For example, personally, I do not have a problem with anyone saying that I’m stupid or that my ideas are stupid. I am quite aware of my stupidity and in fact I am surprised that more people don’t notice more often that I am stupid. So if you say that what I say is stupid, I’ll be ok. I will ask, probably, why you are saying that, but I will not feel hurt. But if you say for example, that I am crazy, or that I am deliberately causing harm, it would affect me. Because I have been called crazy since school, men have called me crazy as they were abusing me and it would really fuck me up to have fellow radfems calling me that.
I think that women whose emotional wellbeing is more frail would benefit from being treated as well as possible and that this should not mean that they are not criticized, their opinions not challenged, their behaviours not called out. I think that both the looking after each other AND the speaking out are part of our objectives and we need to find a way to balance them.
d)ACCOUNTABILITY: I have no idea how to do this. In a utopian scenario, I suppose that a woman would engage in one of these bullying behaviours, and others would let her know about that, and then this woman would realize and apologize and learn from that and not only not do it again but also help make sure that other women do not do it either, and this would not imply the stigmatization of that woman. But this sounds too fairy tale-y even for this Rantress, so I’ll just say that we somehow need to find a way for women to take responsibility for their actions. We are not making those involved and feminism itself any favours by sweeping these things under the rugs and moving on, as if nothing had happened. OR WORSE, aggravating the situation by throwing random derails to drive attention away from the facts.
Bottom line is: Women are being thrown under buses a lot over this, and those women who love women need to sort this out. It is suicide not to do it.
Duh disclaimer: I do not need to say that this is what I think and not some scientific study about it. This is a place to rant, and hell, I am ranting.