A quick note to those coming here from reddit

I”ve noticed a fair bit of traffic coming over today to my “Prudes Progress” tag from a reddit subforum, http://www.reddit.com/r/feminisms . I’ve tried to leave a comment there but the moderators deleted it, so I’m making a note here instead.

In that forum, moderators have a history of deleting comments from trans* women who criticise radical feminism. They also delete comments from anyone who points this out.

To make it worse, the moderator who’s most active in deleting trans* comments, yellowmix, is a man. A man is deciding which women have a say about feminism and which don’t – or rather, what can and can’t be said. Including comments by the author of a post about her own post.

I’m a radical feminist who produces radical feminist work. So my articles are valid tender there. But the comments of any trans* sisters who want to challenge them aren’t.

I’m deeply uncomfortable with any situation in which my voice is promoted over my trans* sisters’; even when we might disagree, even profoundly. So if you find links to my work there, I hope you enjoy it; but please also be aware that the view you’re receiving of trans*feminism is deeply distorted in a way that I find outrageous as a trans* woman and as a radical feminist.

(Note that, sadly, http://www.reddit.com/r/feminism isn’t exactly better. It’s run by Demmian, who’s an MRA. For a decent feminist forum on reddit – or at least the best you’ll find – I recommend http://www.reddit.com/r/srsfeminism.)

[Guest Post] liberal feminism isn’t your ally either

Note from Lisa

This is a guest post by Emma Brant.

The original, along with its associated tumblr commentary, can be found here: liberal feminism isn’t your ally either.

Guest posts are something I’ve wanted to do on this blog for a while now. I have a (small) platform here and I’d like to share it with other trans* women who are doing feminism on the radical side of things (no, it’s not just me).

If you fit that description and would like your post to appear here, please get in touch (tweet me or leave a comment on my about page).

Guest posts are made unaltered and are completely the work of their original authors. However, if I’m putting a guest post up here, it’s generally because I support/agree with the work that’s being done, and see it as a part of the liberation project which this blog participates in. I stand by the author completely but take no credit.

Comments are enabled (mine are below), but please consider leaving positive feedback with the original post. Likewise please make sure to credit the author in all links to the post.

liberal feminism isn’t your ally either

i don’t normally like to delve into the realms of the TERFy these days, but i felt compelled by some recent experiences to talk about the ways that liberal feminism fails trans women, since trans folks tend to focus their criticisms on radical feminism almost exclusively. my aim is to show that the specific ideological differences are not the cause of trans-exclusion, but that rather these things are the result of pervasive cissexism that exists in the vast majority of cis people, and thus naturally cis women.

lisa millbank of the excellent radtransfem has talked about how liberal feminists “weaponize” trans women against radicals – and this definitely seems to bear out. someone who presents an apparent contradiction to ideas of wholly socially constructed gender is convenient for a group whose ideology depends on an unease with that concept, and an unwillingness to embrace it fully. you can dismiss radicals with, “well what about trans people?” without engaging their arguments or considering their implication for your own circumstances.

trans inclusion is predicated, i would argue, on this relationship. trans women are welcomed symbolically, without ever really achieving integration with the group. as long as the trans woman “behaves” – is sexless, not too radical, willing to be an artefact for liberal rhetoric, they are accepted. in exchange the libfems will very loudly shout buzzwords for them, about how “gender is between your ears not your legs” and that “trans women are women… period!!!!” that obfuscate trans discourses in favour of palatable platitudes.

for a while now i’ve been part of a local feminist discussion group, and while there are some excellent and engaged feminists in there, i’ve consistently sensed tensions between myself and the more liberal wing of the group. despite being trans myself, my comments about being trans are viewed with suspicion and distrust, because i speak with the language of radicalism. a cis woman is generally treated as the group’s authority, because she knows several trans men and does drag, and her comments receive a lot more respect than mine do. the rhetoric she serves up is simplistic and asinine, focused on trans-as-subversion, and overly biasing trans narratives that are constructed entirely out of empty appeals to gender identity and preferences in gender expression.

her arguments aren’t as interesting to me as the form of her arguments though, and i’ll refrain from addressing them directly here and now. because these arguments are made whenever trans radicalism raises its head. these arguments are veiled in the language of inclusion – “not all trans people want surgery or hormones”, she says, and she’s right, but the way she says it, specifically addressing radicalism and trans people’s voices, implies heavily that those that do, or even those that want dysphoria and transition to be considered important parts of what trans means for a lot of people, are not really… the right sort. they’re not useful to her, going out on saturday nights in drag to “indulge her boy side”. they’re kind of weird in fact, and hard to identify with. i think that the appearance of inclusion is more important to liberal feminists than actual inclusion.

this can produce disastrous results if the liberal in question radicalizes. one woman in the group, who didn’t know i was trans, took my comments about gender abolition and trans radicalism and explained that it had given her a lot to think about, and that really if you think about it female only spaces are a good idea. this was hardly my point. viewing trans women in the sort of dehumanized way that our society encourages however, the only way she knew how to respond to increased radicalization with regards to gender was to admit that she was suspicious of trans women all along.

these experiences have led me to a very obvious conclusion. the way libfems and radfems think about trans women is no different. what differs is their perspective on gender. while gender is fun, trans women are useful. when gender must be destroyed, trans women, as gender’s apparent avatars, must be destroyed with it.

so trans women, don’t be fooled. the liberals aren’t your allies either. the only solution is enthusiastic acceptance of trans women in women’s spaces, an acceptance where our voices are not taken from us and we are not held in contempt for radicalism. the irony is that to achieve this sort of radical acceptance we must be radical, liberal subversionism will only ever buy us false friends.

Sous la contrainte : action, pouvoir et consentement, première partie : “non”


Cet article contient une discussion sur le viol, les stratégies visant à excuser les violeurs et à accuser les victimes. Une survivante1 qui a lu cet article avant publication a estimé que la définition du viol donnée l’avait particulièrement secouée.


Quand nos modèles de consentement sont utilisés pour excuser les violeurs et disqualifier les analyses féministes, cela vaut la peine de s’interroger sur les limites de ces modèles. Cet article constitue la première partie d’une série d’articles examinant ces questions.

Première partie : “non” : Comprendre le consentement comme un concept binaire en fait un outil critique puissant, puisque de là dérive l’expression “non c’est non”, qui a permis et permet encore de faire évoluer dans le bon sens les mentalités et les attitudes sur la question du viol.

Néanmoins, considérer le consentement comme un concept binaire peut se révéler problématique lorsqu’il s’agit de réfléchir à ce qui peut signifier “non”, et de distinguer entre différentes formes de “oui”, données dans différents contextes.

Cette analyse peut également être utilisée pour accuser les victimes. Elle ne rend pas toujours compte des difficultés inhérentes à toute conversation (bien qu’il faille faire attention sur ce point, parce que l’argument du “malentendu” est un bouclier derrière lequel les violeurs se cachent volontiers.) En outre, considérer que “non veut toujours dire non” semble suggérer que nous devrions accepter que réciproquement “oui veut toujours dire oui” ; cette analyse peut poser problème lorsqu’on en vient aux subtilités d’une analyse féministe radicale globale de la culture du viol.

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The Prudes’ Progress: Re-membering Feminist Desire, Part VIII – Conclusion and Bibliography

This is the final part of an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. For the first article in the series, which includes a table of contents, please click here. The articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you.

In Conclusion

Every feminist work should be prepared to answer the question, “What contribution does this make towards a broad-based, international movement for the ending of sexist oppression?” (credit to bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: from margin to center for fixing this question in my mind). I have four justifications for this piece:

The first is that politically-minded sexual and emotional joy can a powerful source of energy within feminist movement. For a movement to be Self-sustaining it must also replenish us. Feminist desire can both heal and motivate us within the feminist struggle, and so it contributes to feminist movement.

The second is that sexual misery, degradation and violence are not just the forces we’re opposing, they are realities in our lives and living with them can leave us exhausted and unable to join in feminist organising. In writing up this Progress I’ve aimed not only to reveal some aspects of how sexual degradation functions, but to chart a positive movement away from it. To the extent that we can free our lives from sexual degradation, we’re also freer to participate more fully in a broader movement.

The third is one I’ve stated throughout but I’ll repeat it here: The Prudes’ Progress naturally brings us into conflict with the forces of woman-hating, because while an isolated few individual women may be allowed to discover feminist desire under the current system, women as a class are not. Our collective Progress will inevitably create very concrete encounters with many of the structures we need to dismantle. If we were travelling individually, each of us would certainly skip over some of these encounters, as her privileges gave her a “free pass”. But Progressing together means that we are all bound to fight for all of us. We’ll still miss many of the issues, but this way we’ll catch more than we otherwise would. And so it makes our feminism wiser.

The fourth is that some women will encounter too many barriers to continue the Progress right now. This is likely to be more the case the more and more powerful forms of oppression a woman faces in her life. It may be that the situations of many women just don’t allow for this Progress. If that’s the case, we have to know that and, when we list the ways in which classist and sexist oppression, or racist and sexist oppression intersect and create new oppressions, we have to be able to include, “and they make it difficult or impossible to realise feminist desire!”. But despite the fact that women first mapped the paths decades ago, the route of the Progress is so covered over right now that I think very few women know either way whether this Progress is possible for them, and how systems of oppression affect that. And so it makes our understanding of sexist and other forms of oppression wider.

To sum up, every stage of this Prudes’ Progress has been about closing distance and re-membering the erotic. After orienting ourselves, this was done most generally in the form of Self-love and the love of others’ Selves, more specifically with regard to general mechanisms of objectification as we look to treat all women as subjects, more specifically still with regard to the love of dominance which lingers as we contemplate and undo our remaining fetishes and then most precisely when it comes to creating spaces of safety and then within them Kindling friendship and feminist desire between Progressing Prudes.

The task of re-membering feminist desire is to re-verse the ways our Selves are covered over by femininity, pornotypes and fetishes and held apart by distance, to bring those Selves closer and create the possibility for a more genuine encounter. To become, in Mary Daly’s words from Pure Lust, “women-touching women”.

I want to end this piece with two longer quotes which I wasn’t able to integrate elsewhere in the text. The first is from Rebecca Whisnant, an anti-pornography feminist, and the second is from Audre Lorde, who I’ve quoted extensively elsewhere in this piece.

To open up the space for new thinking and experimentation, we need to detox, to get out of the path of the porn culture’s cynical, manipulative, and hateful messages. To start thinking our own thoughts and dreaming our own dreams, first we have to get away from the bastards who are shouting at us through megaphones. Second, we need to draw on our own experiences of love and sex as joy and communion (and encourage others to draw on theirs). As radical feminists have long emphasized, patriarchy constructs our sexuality very profoundly, and even the most enlightened among us are not immune to that construction. But the construction, for most people at least, does not go “all the way down.” Despite everything, many people do have experiences of mutual and egalitarian sexuality – or at least hints or glimmers of it – and that’s really good news. We need to encourage people to tap into these experiences, hints, and glimmers – to remember what they know from their own lives, that no pimp or corporation sold to them or ever could, and to want more of it.

As we continue to tell people what sexual freedom isn’t, we should also encourage them to think deeply and creatively about what it is. What would real sexual freedom look and feel like – the kind that everyone can have, instead of the kind that amounts to freedom for some at others’ expense? We need to richly imagine, and encourage others to richly imagine, another world: one in which no woman or girl is ever called “slut,” “prude,” “bitch,” “cunt,” or “dyke”; in which no woman, man, or child ever has to fear rape or suffer its damage to their spirits; in which men do not control their own and other men’s behavior by the threat of being seen and treated as women; and in which lesbian [sic: bisexual women's love for women is also reduced this way] love and connection is not reduced to a pornographic fetish for men. In this world, every woman and girl sees her own body as beautiful, no man or boy is made to see his as a weapon, and people take part in sexual activity only when (and only because) they expect to enjoy it and to be honored and fulfilled therein. It can be painful to think in this way, because we become more acutely aware of just how far away we are from this better world. But the third wave has one thing right: desire can be, or can become, a form of power. We need to use the power of our desire for this world – our desire to bring it into being for ourselves and for our children and our grandchildren – to unite us and to animate our thinking and strategizing about how to take our culture back from the pornographers.

Rebecca Whisnant, Contemporary Feminism in a Porn Culture

The erotic cannot be felt secondhand. As a Black lesbian feminist, I have a particular feeling, knowledge, and understanding for those sisters with whom I have danced hard, played, or even fought. This deep participation has often been the forerunner for joint concerted actions not possible before.

But this erotic charge is not easily shared by women who continue to operate under an exclusively european-american male tradition. I know it was not available to me when I was trying to adapt my consciousness to this mode of living and sensation.

Only now, I find more and more women-identified women brave enough to risk sharing the erotic’s electrical charge without having to look away, and without distorting the enormously powerful and creative nature of that exchange. Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.

For not only do we touch our most profoundly creative source, but we do that which is female and self-affirming in the face of a racist, patriarchal and anti-erotic society.

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, Uses of the Erotic (Quality Paperback Book Club collected edition, 1993), p59

Appendix: A Bibliography of Feminist Desire (Dis-covering Women’s Words)

Not all the books and articles referenced here are about feminist desire, but all of them are either quoted in the piece or otherwise relevant. I don’t endorse every part of every resource mentioned here, in particular some parts of Daly’s Gyn/Ecology, particularly where it covers transsexuality and non-Anglo/American patriarchy. Conspicuously absent from the list is Daly’s Pure Lust. Reading and incorporating Daly’s insights on this subject was too large a task for this series, so Pure Lust, my copy of which only arrived late in writing this, is waiting on my shelf as a treat for once this series is published. I expect it to heavily inform my future thoughts, wellbeing and practice on my next spiral movement around the Prudes’ Progress.

So, sister, perhaps I’ll see you there.

Books and Journal Articles

  • Linda Bacon, Health At Every Size (BenBella Books, 2010)
  • Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (Routledge, 1990)
  • Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (Simon & Schuster, 1975)
  • Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought (Second Edition) (Routledge, 2000)
  • Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (The Women’s Press, 1979)
  • Angela Y Davis, Women, Culture and Politics (The Women’s Press, 1990)
  • Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating (Plume, 1974)
  • Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women (Perigee Books, 1983)
  • Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse (Arrow Books, 1988)
  • Shiri Eisner, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution (Seal Press, 2013) (not yet generally available as of this series’ publication)
  • Sarah J. Gervais, Jill Allen, Sophie Campomizzi et al., Integrating Sexual Objectification With Object Versus Person Recognition: The Sexualized-Body-Inversion Hypothesis (Psychological Science 23, 2012)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (The Women’s Press, 1979)
  • Nancy Henley, Body Politics (Prentice-Hall, 1977)
  • bell hooks, Feminist Theory: from margin to center (South End Press, 1984)
  • bell hooks, Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood (The Women’s Press, 1997)
  • bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (Atria Books, 2004)
  • Sheila Jeffreys, The Lesbian Heresy: A feminist perspective on the lesbian sexual revolution (Spinifex Press, 1993)
  • Sheila Jeffreys, Anticlimax: A feminist perspective on the sexual revolution (The Women’s Press, 1993)
  • Gloria I. Joseph and Jill Lewis, Common Differences: Conflicts in Black and White Feminist Perspectives (South End Press, 1986)
  • Anne Koedt, Radical Feminism (Quadrangle, 1973)
  • Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light: Essays by Audre Lorde (Firebrand Books, 1988)
  • Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993)
  • Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993)
  • Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (Harvard University Press, 1987)
  • Catharine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Harvard University Press, 1989)
  • Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (Harvard University Press, 1997)
  • Susie Orbach, Fat Is A Feminist Issue (Arrow, 2006)
  • Krista Ratcliffe, Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions (SIU Press, 1996)
  • Janice Raymond, A Passion for Friends: towards a philosophy of female affection (The Women’s Press, 1991)
  • Barbara Smith, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983)
  • John Stoltenberg, Refusing to be a Man (UCL Press, 2000)

Web Articles and Other Reading

A space for conversation about “trashing”

I recently posted a link to an article on “Trashing” on this blog’s Tumblr face, and someone asked if I could open up a space for conversation here due to the limiting factors of Tumblr’s conversation/reblogging features.

The comments below this post are that space. Conversation will be moderated according to the normal moderation policy of this blog, though a little more relaxed than usual. :) Please note, though, that this is not a space to complain about how nobody’s allowed to be racist any more or similar arguments. Take that to the Daily Male.

Here’s the original post:

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The Prudes’ Progress: Re-membering Feminist Desire, Part VII – Re-membering Feminist Desire

This is the seventh part in an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. For the first article in the series, which includes a table of contents, please click here. The articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you, although forward links won’t work until the relevant article is available.

The Seventh Progression: Creating Places of Safety

It’s painful to put this so late in the list, because I think places of safety are essential for all feminists taking on any feminist project. But because “feminist” is such a broad word, and because many self-describing feminists might not be interested in Progressing, I’ve chosen to talk about the process of creating our spaces at a point where Progressing Prudes are aware of and have made significant progress working on some of the challenges of feminist desire.

Few – if any – women will have made it to this point alone. Movement away from instrumental sexuality is movement against the flow of society, and without others around who see things in a similar way, who are supportive and who are moving with us, it can be difficult to sustain. Even those who don’t know anyone else on this Progress will almost certainly have come this far via the support of general feminist community, and perhaps via taking part in specific struggles alongside other women.

Those of us who’ve had time and energy to come this far are likely privileged, lucky, determined or all three. For many people, demands of work, health, oppression and even daily survival have to take priority over the kinds of work described here. Even though I’ve tried to emphasise at many points how so many of the struggles for feminist desire are collective struggles, not individual self-improvement, there’s no getting away from the fact that it takes significant personal energy to do the individual work that’s a part of this Progress.

So I consider it our responsibility to give something back, and one way of doing that is to spend some of our time and energy on creating, maintaining and improving spaces which have political values and practices compatible with feminist desire. These spaces can be political groups, social groups, personal friendships and even sometimes online spaces, although the latter can sometimes lack a personal, empathising quality that I think is important.
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The Prudes’ Progress: Re-membering Feminist Desire, Part VI – Breaking Old Patterns, Cultivating Freedom

This is the sixth part in an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. For the first article in the series, which includes a table of contents, please click here. The articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you, although forward links won’t work until the relevant article is available.

The Fifth Progression: Falling Out Of Love With Dominance

During the previous Progressions we’ve raised our feminist consciousness, prioritised the practice of love towards our Selves and other women, and tracked paths around the various barriers to becoming sexual and social subjects, in other words, more fully Realised human beings. We’re now ready to look at a core part of what makes up identity and our sexual identity in the State of Domination: the love of dominance.

Dominator culture teaches all of us that the core of our identity is defined by the will to dominate and control others. We are taught that this will to dominate is more biologically hardwired in males than in females. In actuality, dominator culture teaches us that we are all natural-born killers but that males are more able to realize the predator role. In the dominator model the pursuit of external power, the ability to manipulate and control others, is what matters most. When culture is based on a dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.

bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (Atria Books, 2004) p115

The form this takes in the world of sex and sexuality is that we are expected to get off on it. The existing system is a system of the love of dominance, in which sexual subjecthood is defined by an instrumental sexuality which takes advantage of processes of objectification in which the sexual subject uses and dominates those they are more powerful than.
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The Prudes’ Progress: Re-membering Feminist Desire, Part V – Resisting Objectification, Be-coming Subjects (2/2)

This is the fifth part in an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. This article continues following the counter-Movements to objectification as part of the process of Subjectification within the Prudes’ Progress.

If that’s too many capitalised words in a row, you might want to start at the beginning of this series of articles as this series has established some of its of terminology along the way. That said, the articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you, although forward links won’t work until the relevant article is available.

The Fourth Progression: Subjectification (continued…)

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The Prudes’ Progress: Re-membering Feminist Desire, Part IV – Resisting Objectification, Be-coming Subjects (1/2)

This is the fourth part in an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. For the first article in the series, which includes a table of contents, please click here. The articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you, although forward links won’t work until the relevant article is available.

The Fourth Progression: Subjectification

Remembering Mary Daly’s definition of a fetish as a necrophilic way of relating, one towards an object, disembodied body part or objectified person which is not able to relate back or whose ability to relate back is limited, we can understand instrumental sexuality as a subject-object relationship between a person and an object. Feminist desire, however, is a subject-subject relationship, between two human beings. In order to have this kind of relationship we need to see ourselves and others as subjects and our partners need to do the same, in other words, we all need to learn to see all women as fully human.
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