Rad feminists not so rad after all, plus upcoming workshop dates!

Hey folks! On t’internet today, Twitter is going crazy about Rad Fem (that radical feminism, not radical femmes sadly) 2012’s exclusion of trans women. Why don’t you tell them how anti-feminist they are being? Rar!

In happier news, I have 3 new workshops to announce. I will be running a workshop on sexism against expressions of femininity in the queer community at both Ladyfest Leipzig and Antifee festival in Göttingen, not to mention a likely collaboration with Berlin’s Slut Conspiracy in September! Check out the details here. And check back soon for more exciting posts from me. I feel something about transphobia coming on…

What kind of man are you going to be?

At first I was going to address this piece only to the trans guys in our community, but then I realised that I experience this kind of sexism at the hands/eyes/unconscious of many queers. I don’t think sexism is 100% determined by your gender, and I feel just as excluded/alienated/stared-at-in-queer-parties by other women, gender queers, dykes and lesbians for the way I present. I feel just as unsupported by them, and also question how much they really would be there for me, a feminine woman, when I need them.

What kind of man are you going to be? Are you going to support me when I am harassed, or are you just going to stand idly by and let it happen? These were the questions yelled out by a friend into the late Summer night. We were sitting by the fountain at Alexanderplatz, bitching loudly about the femmephobia of the Berlin queer scene. A couple of wandering men approached us, seeing us as easy targets. We got rid of them quickly, loudly, aggressively. They seemed surprised.

My friend had just finished telling me about an incident in which she was harassed in a Berlin squat bar, and then blamed by other guests of the queer feminist party for ‘causing a fuss’ when forcibly evicting the harasser. Both of us were deeply frustrated with the failure of our fellow queers to support us when we are threatened. We felt that there was a hierarchy in the queer scene, which placed transmasculinities at the top, forcing transfemininities to the bottom.

Another friend of mine said that the queer trans men in Australia are much better at questioning the privilege their masculinity gives them in this sexist world. I know, of course, there are tonnes of lovely feminist men, trans and cis, out there who question male privilege. But, in general, Berlin doesn’t seem to be doing too well on that point. When queer masculinities are celebrated as the epitome of queer eroticism, when transmasculine queers takes up so much space in our bars and parties and forget to step aside for me, making me squeeze around the edges, then there is a problem.

(Why should they step aside, you ask? Because this world is really sexist. Because in every space I move in, on the street, in bars, in shops, discussion groups I am expected to step aside and make space for men. To give them priority, first word, right of passage. To automatically put them first and myself second. And I fucking refuse to do this in our queer spaces too.)

There is a tendency to self-satisfaction in this small community. We seem to think sexism doesn’t happen here. We are queer feminists, dude, we are so radical! But of course the patriarchy gets in here. It gets in everywhere. And even among self-declared feminists, masculinity is being celebrated at femininities’ cost.

I don’t think misogyny is inherent to masculinity. I don’t think that being a man or a masculine person makes you automatically more sexist than, say, a feminine woman. But I do think men are socialised to believe in their superiority. There is a lot of power that comes with taking up male space. And with that power comes responsibility. How are you going to use your agency? Are you going to help carve out a space in which femininities can also be respected? Or are you going to take advantage of your power, which always comes at femininities’ cost, and perpetuate the sexist status quo?

I think I have said this, like, a million times. Hell, I’ve written a whole thesis on it. Masculinity and femininity don’t have to be played off each other, like cheap adversaries; femininity the Tybalt to our lovely queer Romeo. In order to celebrate transmasculinity, you don’t have to reject me. You can celebrate muscles and ties and sexy bois at the same time as loving colourful feathers and cleavages and feminine flirtation.

Man, I get all into my queer utopias when I start imagining alternative definitions of masculinity and femininity, maleness and femaleness, ones that don’t involve us saying one is bad in order to make the other seem good. Eat your heart out José Muñoz! Will masculinity and femininity, men and women still exist in this non-sexist utopia? Or will these identities automatically be destroyed when we break down sexist boundaries? Man, I hope not, or my whole erotic identity will be buggered. God, I love that play on gender!

It is right to celebrate transmasculinity and recognising its right to be celebrated at a time when medically transitioning is only just becoming possible. But there is a fine line between celebrating and fetishising. And when the sexist behaviour of individuals and groups is ignored and allowed because trans men can do no wrong, they are the epitome of the oppressed, the superqueers, then fetishisation is happening. I think that a lot of the dynamics I see happening here in Berlin are unconscious. I don’t think people are deliberately trying to exclude femmes or trans women or make us feel unwelcome. But that is exactly what is happening because there is an unexamined idolisation of transmasculinity.

So, I would like to address this question to all transmasculine queers in our community. It’s not only what kind of man are you going to be, but also what kind of queer, dyke, butch, boi, genderqueer…? Are you going to question your masculine privilege in our queer society or are you going to embrace it and take advantage of it at feminine women’s expense?

depression, the love poem

Just a little late night silly for you all. Enjoy! Maybe if it’s really popular, I’ll make it into Depression, The Musical!

If depression were a bug

and I the antivirus

then I would explore every body

until I found yours.

 

If depression were a bug

That could be caught with a sneeze,

Or a kiss

I would kiss everybody

Until I found you.

 

If depression were a superbug like MRSA

I would live in the hospital

Checking every corpse

To make sure it’s not you.

 

If depression were a bug

Then I’d make sure I’d catch it

Just so we could be together.

Queer vs. radical feminism, the hoedown

Honey, I’m hooome! Well, there’s no better way to kill your blog stats than by wandering off for spontaneous spots of meditating in the woods. Oh well, I’m sure all that good karma will mean I get famous in another life. So, where were we? Oh yes, ranting about queer feminism. Here it goes:

Is this really a hoedown? No it’s not, because a hoedown is a country dance, and no matter how many wonderful things you can do on the internet, you can’t dance on it (unless you jump up and down on your laptop, but maybe that’s taking things too literally). I just like using the word because it has ‘ho’ in it, and we all know how queer feminism has practically become synonymous with sex positivity, perhaps even too much. Anyways.

A coupla months ago someone misread my blog as an attack on radical feminism (it’s the subtitle). I was shocked, truly, because I have always identified as a radical feminist. What? I hear you cry? You? But you’re not a lesbian separatist into non-penetrative sex living in a commune in London! To which I reply, not I’m not. And do you know why I call myself a radical feminist? Because I always thought it meant just that; radical feminism.

I don’t know how I managed to miss this, but watching documentaries about the 70s Women’s Rights movement and reading all that feminist theory, I still never associated the term radical feminism with that movement. I always called those guys Second Wavers, or lesbian separatists (tongue-in-cheek with love and appreciation). I mean, yeah, they were radical feminists but so am I! Talking to my friends however, it seems I am the only feminist in the world who doesn’t have this association. Oh well. I always did have my head in the clouds.

Following this shockhorror moment I looked up radical feminism on Wikipedia, to try and sort out my confusion. The opening definition of radical feminism reads:

“[Radical feminism] focuses on the theory of patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on an assumption that male supremacy oppresses women”

And I’m like, yeah, I can dig that! I think patriarchy produces male supremacy which in turn oppresses women. Go radical feminists! Yeah! But then talking with a friend, they point out a general feeling from the queer feminist side that radical feminism is too hard on men and blames them for a fucked-up system which isn’t entirely their fault. And I think, yes that’s true, patriarchy isn’t wholly the fault of men, but by God do they participate in it and enjoy it! Then my friend suggests that queer feminists are so down on radical feminism because the latter is seen as a movement which fails to recognise plural gender identities. And I think, yeah, I guess I have this association too. I think of the failure of Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to allow transwomen to attend, and how respected Aussie feminist Germaine Greer is so nutty when it comes to trans rights.

But then we come to queer feminism and my feeling that queer feminism, at least in Berlin, stands for values which end up reproducing really fucking sexist dynamics. I think of the vast femmephobia here, or the valorisation of transmasculinities at transfeminities’ cost and the fact that very few queers will stick up for women when we are sexually harassed. I used to call myself a queer feminist, but I don’t anymore, because I now associate it with traditional masculinity-is-better-than-femininity sexism. This is quite sad really, when you think about it.

The main problem I have with queer feminism is that it seems to think of ‘woman’ as an outdated category. That we are so beyond the boring realities of people being ‘men’ and ‘women’ and now live in a multiple-gendered world which makes these categories obsolete. But I wonder, why can’t some of the old stories about sex and the new ones about gender both be true? Why can’t both women and men exist, as well as other gender identities? Why can’t some people have an experience of being a man or woman which aligns with mainstream ideas about what they are, and some not? Some men really are fucking male and masculine and heterosexual. Some women are inherently feminine and attracted to masculinity. It doesn’t mean he or she is brainwashed. There are so many realities in this world that we can’t even begin to understand. And none of this, none of this, changes the fact that we live in a sexist world in which women are daily harassed, abused and murdered.

Queer feminists spends so much time fighting for the rights of transmasculine folks, that we end up acting out the same rejection of women that happens everyday, all over the world. Guys, WOMEN STILL EXIST! And our reality sucks.

Radical feminism also needs to remember that sexism doesn’t only affect women and to acknowledge that there are more than 2 sexes and genders in the world.

I guess in terms of my politics I have a foot in both camps. Like many ‘old-school’ feminists, I think there are inherent differences between maleness and femaleness that can’t be accounted for by cultural conditioning. I also think that maleness and femaleness aren’t determined exclusively by biology. We know very little about gender and it seems obvious there are more than two genders and sexes (aside: I remember with fondness a very special former colleague who instead of generally accepting that there are multiple gender identities, insisted that we can count them and that there are 58!).

I would like to find a feminist language that includes and argues for the rights and needs of everybody, even when those rights and needs are different. Feminism has to mean that we will recognise the different positions of women and men (queer or straight, trans or cis), queers, transmasculine folks, transfeminine folks, people of colour and from different economic backgrounds, religions plus many other positionings that I can’t even think of!

Ah, I guess this is what meditating does to you. It make you go all mushy inside and say, Guys, why can’t we all just love each other? Come on, let’s have a big group hug.

I know we’re very busy reclaiming a lot of words are the moment like, prude (yes I am fighting for that one) and slut and queer, but I want to add two more to the list: ‘radical’ followed by ‘feminism’ pronounced in a sincere, celebratory, non-derisive way. As a feminist I appreciate all former movements and see the flaws in my own. I know that my own feminism has some massive gaping holes, and I trust that we mostly all just have good intentions and are doing our best. I am also a perfectionist, and I want us to do even better. Yay radical feminism! Yay queers! Yay us!