The sick and twisted joke that is contemporary feminism

My current facebook status is, “So the Australian Sex Party is organising a SlutWalk in Brisbane. I am really starting to think that feminism has become one really fucking sick and twisted joke.” Which I think is an apt summary of the situation we are facing, as women and as feminists. I don’t want to go into the whole SlutWalk thing in great detail. It has already been hashed out by many feminists with great skill at exposing the woman-hatred that it embodies… and I don’t want to bore anyone. But I did think it was a good starting point of discussion. If SlutWalk is the face of modern feminism, and SlutWalk is being lapped up by the sex industry, who are busy promoting women’s freedom to spread their legs to as many men as possible… if the new feminist is a slut who is proud of objectifying herself to men and proud of her ability to hand over her sexuality to men, then don’t we really need to ask: Is feminism a sick and twisted joke? Can we reclaim feminism? Should we? Is it even possible?

This is not a facetious question. The takeover of feminism by women who hate themselves and other women is very real and it is scary as all shit. Actual necessary and critical theorising about male dominance and female subordination is NO LONGER central to the feminist discourse. Instead agency, empowerment, choice and all the liberal language of individualism dominates and we are left with a stagnant pool of self-reflecting narcissism, with no analysis of how unequal power, the sexual politics of rape, violence and subordination, colonisation, appropriation etc have upon the oppressed class: women. And the uselessness of concepts like agency, empowerment and choice are, given the cultural climate under which we live.

The twisted part of the joke, the one that really twists the knife in my back, is the silencing that the wonderful, accepting, tolerant  ‘feminists’ manage to perpetuate, despite their rhetoric and self-advertising. Recently I had the unfortunate privilege to watch a fairly good Feminist Conference go to shit because of the silencing tactics of these ‘feminists’ who within about a month managed to dominate the whole agenda of the conference by bullying and harassing the organisers until they agreed to platform pro-sex industry speakers and pro-transsexuality speakers and all but kick off the one radical feminist speaker.

Ironically the name of the conference is Feminist Futures. This is what our feminist future looks like. A feminism that accepts that men have the right to buy women and girls as sex. A feminism that loves the slogan “this is what a feminist looks like” (as long as the image used with the slogan is white, long-haired, made-up, shaved, stereotypically pretty women… or a man) but doesn’t seem to know what a *woman* looks like. (Note to reader: a woman does not look like a male-bodied person with breast implants and a bit of make-up.) A feminism that wants to reclaim the word ‘slut’ but keep its distance from words like, ‘dyke’, ‘man-hater’, ‘hairy’, ‘birkenstock’ etc.

This situation is fucked, sisters. And the joke is on us if we don’t fight back.

Can we reclaim feminism? Should we? Is it even possible?

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31 comments
  1. Fantastic post. So much right in it!

    I’m so sorry that the feminist conference turned out so badly. This trend of kicking out radical feminists for being “transphobic” is seriously chapping my entire hide. What can we do? They don’t listen to reason.

  2. Gayle said:

    What is the Australian Sex party?

  3. zeph said:

    “The takeover of feminism by women who hate themselves and other women is very real and it is scary as all shit. Actual necessary and critical theorising about male dominance and female subordination is NO LONGER central to the feminist discourse. Instead agency, empowerment, choice and all the liberal language of individualism dominates and we are left with a stagnant pool of self-reflecting narcissism, with no analysis of how unequal power, the sexual politics of rape, violence and subordination, colonisation, appropriation etc have upon the oppressed class: women. And the uselessness of concepts like agency, empowerment and choice are, given the cultural climate under which we live.”

    Wonderful to see you writing again, Allecto. We desperately need that analysis of unequal power between men and women. Women overestimate their power as individuals; it is a trick of the man-media-stream, it’s so voluminous it washes away our reality.

  4. KatieS said:

    You nailed it! This is a key question. Can we reclaim feminism?

    I have seen this happen in other arenas than feminism. Various areas like health care, business, psychology, environmentalism, etc. have become infected by “positive psychology.” Barbara Ehrenreich documents this in “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.” As global economic, environmental, and energy collapse accelerate, threatening survival of many species, including humans, there are the “Bright Greens” who spout nonsense about a sustainability that is impossible. All the while the richest are stealing everything. Feminism has the fun-fems and transfun-damentalist fems. Brainwashed, in other words.

    For me personally, separatism is making more sense all the time. I don’t know how else a strong theory can emerge. Second wave feminists had to fight the culture in unique ways, we have to find the brainless “bright-wingers.” I believe that the bright-wing, trans-fem-fun-damentalist thing is deliberate. It’s a way to defuse any challenges to global corporate patriarchy. The horror of the corporate global patriarchy is becoming clearer. People don’t know what to do. The brightness serves the purpose of denial, but not for ever. Right now, being a wet-blanket appears to be the worst sin in this new world. But that’s for the waning middle class white folks mainly.

    I am confident that those who speak in ways that make sense will be the voice of sanity for women who need to make sense. There is a great need. Can we reclaim feminism? We sure as hell should try! Thanks for asking a great question.

  5. AmazonMancrusher said:

    Excellent post Allecto, I am very proud of you xxoo

  6. allecto said:

    Hiya Mary Tracy. Good to see you are still around the feminist blogosphere.

    This trend of kicking out radical feminists for being “transphobic” is seriously chapping my entire hide.

    Yes, me too. I really don’t understand how the hell any woman who calls herself a feminist could possibly think that giving platforms to male-born people and kicking off female born people from feminist conferences is a legitimate feminist action. It is truly crazy. Clearly male born people make better feminists than us regular run of the mill females… hmm something smells like male supremacy.

  7. allecto said:

    What is the Australian Sex party?

    The Australian Sex Party is an australian political party set up by the Eros Foundation. They are advocates of the sex industry and are trying to push for the australian government to legalise prostitution (in the states where it is still illegal) and for the loosening of censorship laws against certain pornographic material. Sheila Jeffreys debated Robbie Swan, the slimebag involved in setting up the Australian Sex Party. You can listen to a pod cast here: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/stories/2010/2855103.htm

  8. allecto said:

    Thanks zeph. I hope to stay a bit more motivated this time!

    The unequal power thing is just so obvious I don’t really get how women can overlook it. When almost every aspect of our selfhood is dictated to by men and their monopolies over the media, religion, entertainment, literature, pop culture, ‘alternative’ culture, the workplace… the list is endless… how can this not affect our self-concepts?

  9. allecto said:

    Wow! Great comment Katie. Totally adds to what I was saying.

    For me personally, separatism is making more sense all the time. I don’t know how else a strong theory can emerge.

    Absolutely.

    I believe that the bright-wing, trans-fem-fun-damentalist thing is deliberate. It’s a way to defuse any challenges to global corporate patriarchy.

    I definitely agree. I think that the transphobia nonsense is a complete derail. A very deliberate, and I might add, successful way to shut up lesbian feminists. And as lesbian feminists are at the forefront of providing a critical analysis of women’s oppression and an actual positive and revolutionary alternative to male supremacy, we are the most dangerous women in the game. And we must be shut up.

  10. allecto said:

    @AM: Thank you, my lovely. ❤

  11. KatieS said:

    Oops, in my previous post, I meant to say “Second wave feminists had to fight the culture in unique ways, we have to FIGHT the brainless “bright-wingers.” ” We don’t need to find them, we need to LOSE them. . . 😉

  12. I’m halfway through listening to Sheila Jeffreys WIPING THE FLOOR with Robbie Swan. THank you for the link allecto 🙂

  13. Hecuba said:

    Ooh mustn’t criticise the menz must we? Fun feminists work oh so hard to ensure they are never ‘upsetting the men’ meanwhile back at the ranch it is business as usual for the male supremacists and their innumerable followers.

    ‘Critical theorising about male dominance and female subordination is NO LONGER central to the feminist discourse.’ Why has this happened? Answer because engaging in critical theory and ensuring said theory relates to women’s real experiences not the fun fem kind means subjecting men as a group to the real feminist critical gaze and ‘we musn’t upset the menz must we?’ Remember the poor men are constantly subjected to sexism and discrimination are they not??? Or so they claim and herstory tells us that male supremacy has consistently co-opted and twisted feminism in order to maintain male domination over all women.

    Or to put it another way – power does exist and it continues to be men as a group who hold power and challenging the dominant group (males) can be very frightening because the dominant group (men) can and do punish women for daring to challenge them. So it is much easier for many women to continue to bury their heads in the sand and pretend they have been accorded equal rights (sic) but these ‘equal rights’ are male-centric and do not alter one iota male supremacist system.

    Then there is the fact white men in particular are still the ones holding political socio-economic power and it is men’s voices which continue to be broadcast. Fun fems are hoping for a few cookies from the male masters (sic) but that won’t happen.

  14. Mary Sunshine said:

    Separatism needs to happen, whatever happens to the word “feminism”. That’s my focus.

  15. EskimoPie said:

    Thank you for this. I couldn’t quite articulate my concerns about all this “pro-sex” and “pro-sex” work rhetoric and you and this blog are really helping clarify my thoughts.

  16. FCM said:

    it *is* interesting, isnt it, that these allegedly “tolerant” third-wave feminists have been so successful in silencing second wave feminists, erasing their work, and shaming emergent radical voices that dare criticise them!? they cant debate any of this, because they have no positions. their philosophies, arent. and they manage to legitimize all this with individualist rhetoric, AS IF that is an adequate response to the very correct observation that their emperor is wearing no clothes. pfft. this is righteous outrage, allecto. thank you!

  17. allecto said:

    @cherry: I had the enormous privilege of actually attending that conversation between Sheila and the slimebag. It was VERY entertaining actually getting to watch her wipe the floor with him. Radical feminists are just SO MUCH SMARTER than everyone else on this foregrounded planet.

  18. allecto said:

    …herstory tells us that male supremacy has consistently co-opted and twisted feminism in order to maintain male domination over all women.

    Yes. So true, Hecuba. This is what frustrates me most about contemporary feminism. The lack of any knowlege… even superficial knowledge about our herstory. We desperately need to re-member our crone-logical past.

  19. allecto said:

    @MarySunshine: I’ve missed you. I personally think that woman-centredness, women’s liberation and global sisterhood need to happen. Don’t really give a fuck about what happens to feminism. Besides I have been told by LOADS of women who have commented on my blog that I am not a feminist. That’s fine. It is not a word that is central to my identity as a woman who puts women first. Besides to me feminism is an action… it is not a static individual identity but collective movement.

  20. allecto said:

    No worries, EskimoPie. I hope you enjoy your feminist journey.

  21. allecto said:

    it *is* interesting, isnt it, that these allegedly “tolerant” third-wave feminists have been so successful in silencing second wave feminists, erasing their work, and shaming emergent radical voices that dare criticise them!?

    And they accuse *us* of being silencing and intolerant? US??? We who have no power and no room for our voice in either the malestream or even within fucking feminism. So beyond angry at their reversals.

  22. FCM said:

    i suppose its the reversals that give them away as the handmaidens of the P that they clearly are. the reversal is the favorite strategy of patriarchy, because it makes us feel like we are crazy. up is down, black is white, etc etc.

  23. Amynomene said:

    FCM: “the reversal is the favorite strategy of patriarchy, because it makes us feel like we are crazy. up is down, black is white, etc etc.”

    Absolutely! When I “converted” to radical feminism, I felt the strangest sensation of going SANE in an insane world. Carolyn Gage has a few magnificent pieces about the crazy-making strategy (a monologue from Joan of Arc springs to mind.) However, now I’m left with a feeling of “WTF is wrong with these women, why don’t they WAKE UP, too?!?”

    Allecto: “We desperately need to re-member our crone-logical past.”

    I finally viewed The Dinner Party last December and was Blown. Away. by the list of important women at the end. I actually sat down and cried right there in the exhibit. I felt like I was looking at OUR Vietnam Wall/the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I just had no idea most of these women even existed. Our herstory has been co-opted, hidden and diminished.

    It’s time to take it ALL back. The language. The philosophy. The conferences. The protest actions. It’s time.

    Many thanks to Allecto and the rest of the Radical Hub writers, this is a great step forward in collecting our consciences.

  24. ybawife said:

    Ameynomene, On BBC radi o4 last weeks Womens’ Hour Judi Chicago was interviewed about her work, specially she talked about The Dinner Party and its her-story..if you go to BBC you might still be able to hear the interview it was worth listening to.
    I saw it myself way back when it exhibited here in London still have the special programme that was issued at the time…..with information on all the table settings and the womon…

  25. No One said:

    Hey Allecto… Thanks for this wonderful posting. I’m a 18-year-old brazilian radfem, and it’s hard. I constantly post in feminist blogs, but the great majority of them are funfem blogs. I’ve even saw a site like Feministing, where one of its associates were a M2T blog in which he talked about being a mother, and took a photo of his sperm in a glass bowl, and everyone was cheering him in his way to be a mother, and I actually feel sick and nausated typing and remembering this. But a Lesbian blog was forgotten, those feminists call the blog owner crazy and sick because she opposes PIV, and I’ve even seen funfems making fun of a woman who refused to have sex with a male in the “doggystyle” position. The woman in question thought it was degrading to women, and I felt she was in the right way, but then funfems came and told her she was just being crazy, conservative, and needed to embrace her inner slut.

    Urgh…

    That’s so, so hard. I can’t even criticize the SlutWalk on those sites because, well, “If slut is a transgressive, radical woman, we are all sluts, I am a slut, you are a slut” even if I try to say, sluts don’t exist, you can’t change anything if you accept a patriarchal term. But they don’t listen. It’s all choice, choice, choice, choice is so celebrated there, it’s awesome if you CHOOSE being a stereotypical texan wife, it’s awesome if you CHOOSE to be with a man who treats you badly and your CHOICE needs to be respected.

    It’s so sad, Allecto. I feel we’re so distant to actually accomplish something. At least here… I don’t wanna be a feminist anymore if that’s feminism. So much female hijacking. So much “Well, we CHOOSE to do that, so we’re totally feminist. But radfems aren’t really feminist because they HATE MEN, and patriarchy HURTS MEN TOO, so THEY’RE the enemy, dudes, not us!”.

    I’m so sad and tired. It’s too much to bear. At least I’m happy enough to have shown radical feminism to a close friend. Now she tells me she can’t stop feeling angry about this world. Are we in the right way?

    Thanks so much for your piece and sorry for blabbling about my personal experiences.

  26. Here Here!!!

    That kind of feminism is NOT worth reclaiming. That is NOT feminism.

    Feminism, is, however not only worth reclaiming, but has never left!

  27. This is an extremely contentious issue in society today that raises a lot of strong feelings. As radical feminists, archimagical amazons and women loving women we have a right to be angry. However, I also think it’s extremely important that we don’t fall into thinking that perpetuates attitudes of hate and blame in society. I myself have watched some of my dearest sisters cry in court as they have spoken on the stand to try and protect our very much cherished, women born women and raised as girls, lesbian separist space, because a ‘transgender lesbian’ was attempting to sue us and take our right to meet on our own, away from us. During the court case we were very carful to keep an attitude of compassion towards the trangender and in the end we did win this particular case. I think we won because the spritual perspective we shared as a group was greatly evident. While we claimed our space we also acknowledged the right of others to do the same and live as they believe as long as it doesnt infringe upon others. We need to remember we live in a very complicated world and strategies for surviving do not always meet the ideal. We all come from different perspectives, whats right for one is not always right for another and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for everybody else. Yes, we need to make our perspective heard, but we if we do not have respect for the views of others we are just bullies, perpetuating the cycle of domination and oppression. As daughters of the Goddess we are here to show the world how it can be a better place. We also need to rememeber that we have been fighting patriarchy for many, many Centuries and we are getting very smart at it, smart enough to fight it in clever, creative and non-hateful, violence provoking ways – we are better than that – we are more powerful than what we think. sometimes we need to rise above the disturbing details that distract us and fill us with with righteous fury and instead focus on the bigger picture. We are 21st Century Amazons, we have the Goddess on our side and we are not bullies!

  28. allecto.

    Love your observations about radical feminists being accused of silencing other views, when radical feminists views are shut down much more aggressively, much more often (and so often by so-called “third-wave” or “postmodern” feminism)! So true. Its the catch call used when one makes claims that are both true and unnerving. We get called many things, accused of many bad deeds. Its a very good silencing technique that alienates women who hold radical feminist beliefs, or isolating them so their cries become muffled. This is why I am fed so deeply by the hub. I love it. It keeps my voice loud, and reminds me that I am calling out against that which is harmful to women. Call that silencing. Whatever. If it harms women. I will fight against it!!!!!!!

    So thank you to all you amazing women who refuse to sell out to a fun, sexy so-called feminism.

    Thank you for not buying into a patriarchal myth – how clever and devilish patriarchy is, that it can re-name itself under a feminist label.

    In Sisterhood!
    FV

  29. Katie said:

    While you and I would probably disagree on plenty of things, I do agree with you on this. Everything seems to be watered down in this post-modern world. (I’m 27, so no old lady by any means.) We’re not allowed to make a value judgment, even if the reality is right in our faces. I’ve been told I’m not a feminist because I have an issue with most mainstream pornography. I’m sorry, there’s absolutely nothing equal about a woman being called a whore and other names while engaging in degrading acts. (These acts aren’t degrading if the woman truly enjoys them, but that’s clearly not even close to being the focus in most pornography.) Younger women have truly bought the BS, all the way. I love sex and I love men. What I don’t love is having my sexuality evaluated in terms of the porn industry. Where’s the balance in that?

    Sorry for the ran. I never say these things out loud because all I get is negativity. It’s tiring.

  30. Iasmē said:

    Damn, Allecto, that interview is pretty telling. The host of course takes the side of the Sex Party fellow – I know Fiona Patten as the face of the Sex Party. Tragically in the 2010 election my brother, cousins and most non-politically aligned people in my age group just unabashedly voted for the Sex Party because they’d been raised in a pornsick, objectifying capitalist and patriarchal culture.

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