I gave this speech to kick off discussion around the threat of male invasion of women-only spaces at the SCUM Radical Feminist Conference that Amazon ManCrusher and I organised in Perth, Australia on the 23rd-25th of September. The conference was a blast from start to finish and this discussion was especially passionate.
The reality of being a woman under male supremacy is that women do not have a significant political or social identity or existence outside of men. The women’s movement is a collective re-membering of ourSelves and our female being; a be-ing that is not hinged on our relationship, and this is a truly encompassing and one-sided, self-destructive and gynocidal, relationship to men. It consumes us both politically and personally. The colonisation of women’s collective selfhood is one of the major foundations for men’s collective power over us. Our radical re-membering of ourSelves is one of the most important paths to freeing ourSelves from men’s control.
Our social and political identity as women is almost wholly controlled and constructed by men. They need us to believe in the identity that they have created for us. Female identity, reality, space and be-ing is not sacred to men. They own us. It is their ownership which is sacred. This is why pornography is art and freedom of speech. It is sacred to them. It celebrates their collective ownership of us.
Femaleness is not contested ground. There are no men who truly want to be female. We are not talking about men who want to be women when we talk about the invasion of lesbian feminist spaces, rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters by men in woman-face. We are talking about men continuing to assert their dominance, their political and social power of defining our existence as subordinate to them. It is women’s collective re-membering of ourSelves and our assertion of our social, political, emotional understanding of what it means to be female, our assertion of collective control over our identity and political reality, which we firmly reject as being intended for men. This is a real threat to male supremacy and this is the real ground that is being contested.
Female only space frees women to collectively understand ourSelves and centre ourSelves as women without relation, and outside of relation to men. Men understand that this is a serious threat to their dominance. Women will never have liberation until we can understand ourSelves by centreing our collective female selfhood and conceive of ways of understanding femaleness outside of male supremacy. Men know this.
And this is the real fight. It is of fundamental importance to our movement that we understand that the social, political, emotional and spiritual reality of being female is women’s birthright. It is ours. It is vital that we claim and reclaim it. It is not our identity, it is who we are, it is who we have been and it is our future potential.
Men know this too. And they know that if they want to maintain their supremacy it is absolute that they must have control over our political and social reality. They MUST have control over what women understand and believe about ourSelves. Their whole existence, which has been built on our backs, would crumble without it.
Enter the trans delusion. Men do not really believe that men can become women and women can become men. But they are thoroughly invested in deluding women to this effect. Because if a man can become a woman then there is no such thing as collective female experience and reality. If a man can become a woman it makes women’s collective resistance to male supremacy completely meaningless and nonsensical. Essentially, if male-born people are women too then it defines all women out of existence. And females will have no ability to conceive of ourselves outside of males and male supremacy. Allowing men to define themselves into femaleness destroys our capacity to recreate and re-member what it means to be female.
Most women do not understand the transformative nature of intentional women-only space. I would argue that most women do have a sub-conscious understanding that being with other women is qualitatively different, and rituals like ‘girls nights out’ and ‘hen’s nights’ give us glimpses of another way of being. However these have been robbed of their revolutionary potential and are firmly male-centred and centering. There is little chance of women gaining any kind of transformation in these contexts. As the space is not intentionally women-only it is not perceived by men to be a threat. We do not see men fighting for the legal right to enter these spaces on demand.
It is intentional women-only space that is under threat. It is space that men understand is sacred to women, and has radical and revolutionary potential to women. And we who create women-only spaces intentionally know its secrets, its power and its transformative potential.
The recent events around Michfest are a clear illustration of how easily men can disrupt our sacred female space by invading it. An anonymous woman posted this comment on a Facebook page dedicated to defending the women-only nature of Michfest.
“Every womon at festival had lived a life that was informed and dominated by the limitations that the greater society imposes on girls and the womyn that those girls become. The details mattered not and there was no need to vocalize them to benefit from the fest atmosphere. This was key for me because I still wasn’t in a place to vocalize much at all. The healing occurred anyway. Healing that I hadn’t been able to find through therapy or time or being a part of the greater queer community. This is the magic of fest. You don’t even know what is happening, it just does. It was only in the presence of womyn that had shared similar circumstances that I was finally able to come to accept myself as a womon. In that acceptance was an enormous potential for growth and it continues and builds every time I pass through the gate. It still amazes me that the simple act of being with my sisters is so very powerful and has such a drastic effect on me. Each year I find myself a little more and open my mind and heart a little wider. Each year I meet more womyn that I connect with and stay in contact throughout the year. My fest family dwells far and wide and now supports me in some way every day.
This year was a little different. There wasn’t much healing. There was strife, there was hurt and trauma. There was a feeling of violation and betrayal. There was also an awakening. The wbw space we have cherished for so long is being threatened and contested by womyn that somehow have failed to comprehend the significance of how empowering it is to gather with those that have shared a lifetime of similar limitations and challenges.
I can no longer sit back and be silent. I still need this space. There are many other womyn that have yet to start their process of healing at fest. Even more importantly, there are girls and young womyn that need us to preserve and protect this space for them.”
This is a theme I see again and again as I read women’s written experience of Michfest. It is understood as a transformative experience, a healing experience, a vital and necessary part of discovering, remembering and understanding ourselves. I would argue that this transformative potential is possible only in women-only spaces. I do not think women have a hope in hell of remembering and recreating ourselves in the presence of our oppressors. To have a true presence, and I mean presence in the fullest sense of that word, of women the first requirement is an absence of men. When we create a space where women are the only point of reference we come closer to a deeper, Background understanding of what it means to be female.
The politics of women only spaces is not about identity, it is fundamentally about reality. Women only spaces are sacred spaces in a world where women do not have collective control over what it means to be female. Men define who we are, who we were and attempt to control our collective potential. If we allow them to continue to define us out of existence, we will continue to exist, or not exist as the case may be, within their terms of reference. We will continue to defined by our relationship to men. We will continue to be a colonised people.