Video: Crash on the pressure to transition

Must-watch video.

Crash also wrote the full text on her blog if you prefer to read.

Link

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Gratitude

Here is an interview with Derrick Jensen and Robin Wall Kimmerer about gratitude. The excerpt that caught my attention and made me want to read more was this:

“And when we really practice gratitude, it brings forth a sense of enoughness and sufficiency, I think. It makes you feel rich when you’re grateful. You think “Oh my gosh!” You enumerate all these gifts that are around you. And I think in a sense there are practical consequences of that emotion of gratitude; they are that we take less. And when we look at climate change, when we look at the biodiversity crisis, we all know that that is, in a linear way, related to our own consumption. And so if gratitude can be a control or a restraint over our own consumption, gratitude then becomes a really powerful tool for caretaking, for the earth. And so that’s one of the things, I think, that the earth asks of us, is gratitude.”

Kimmerer describes the relationship we should have with the natural environment in terms of gratitude—viewing the things the earth gives us as gifts with intrinsic worth, rather than “resources” to be bought and sold. This perspective is incredibly important and I think that viewing the world this way is necessary for our survival.

I love the way she sees the natural world and I love how she explains greed in terms of a lack of gratitude. Some people turn their whole lives into an endless pursuit of material things, and this vice has gotten out of control to the point where it’s killing our whole planet. What these people need is to really experience the intrinsic value of what they have, instead of trying to always have more. I think the reason they keep wanting more is because they have failed to feel grateful for what they already had.

Kimmerer says this about the importance of paying attention:

“And I think that one of the first places that I always start, especially with my students, is with attention. That in a world that gives us redwoods and mosses and salamanders, we should at least be paying attention to all of those beings and gifts, and to the fact that our lives are utterly dependent on them. And that kind of paying attention is what I think’s needed to bring us to a place of feeling that we live in a world made of gifts, rather than a world made of natural resources.”

Recently I wrote a post about spirituality in which I explained that my personal sense of spirituality is related to the ability to feel awe. I think this is a similar thing that Kimmerer is saying —we need to pay attention to and appreciate the intrinsic value of the things around us, and with this attitude, we realize we are constantly surrounded by gifts.

The way you can feel awe about something is to sit still and focus on the experience of that thing. When I took a mindfulness course, I realized that absolutely everything can be awesome, if I really allow myself to experience it. We did an exercise where we ate a raisin mindfully, and it’s amazing how a simple exercise can be so impactful. I was able to be mindful of the whole experience of holding a box of raisins in my hand and watching my hand as it opened the box, and then I took the time to notice the taste in my mouth instead of just swallowing it right away, and I figured it out—I understood what mindfulness feels like. It wasn’t about the raisin, of course, it was about learning how to pay attention. I actually noticed that day how complex the human hand is, and how not only is it complex how the fingers work to perform tasks, but we can do all sorts of complex things automatically, without our conscious mind even getting involved. I had a good cry that day over the miracle that is my hand, and that exercise really enhanced my ability to see what could be called “miracles” or “gifts” around me. The main things that keep me out of despair are gratitude and awe. Feeling this way has done wonders for my mental health.

To see someone taking this concept and applying it to how to deal with climate change was just beautiful and amazing. I recommend reading or listening to the whole interview—every bit of it is fantastic and important. (Here’s that link again!) This is a concept we have to understand in order to build a sense of spirituality and to understand how to save the world.

The reason this interview was brought to my attention is because our dear comrade Miep has been transcribing interviews that Derrick Jensen does on his show Resistance Radio. Thank you so much Miep—I love the gifts you bring to me!

An anthology of queer fairy tales

I came across an anthology of erotic lesbian fairy tales while looking up lesbian books online, and I had to buy it because that is right up my alley, plus I’m working on writing a lesbian fairy tale right now. It’s good to see what else is out there, right?The description of the book provided online goes like this:

In this sexy, erotic anthology of twisted fairy tales, the damsels are the ones doing the rescuing! Full of ancient, adapted tales that were changed to include female/female pairings and also some brand new stories of feminine heroics and sexual dominance, this collection of stories will leave readers under a spell of lesbian love!

If you’re a lesbian who’s ever searched for erotic lesbian writing, then you’re aware that it’s hard to find anything that’s actually good and that’s actually lesbian. It’s really hit-or-miss out there, since there are people writing “lesbian” books who aren’t lesbians, and since women who write erotica tend to be sex-pozzies, and sex-pozzies tend to present sexuality as something artificially performative and kinda weird.

I was willing to take a chance, because here’s my attitude toward erotic writing: if it’s good, it’s really good, and if it’s bad, it’s still weirdly entertaining. Well, this anthology turned out to be an eclectic collection of the good, the bad, and the ugly. There were some stories I enjoyed, and there were some that left me baffled and shaking my head.
For entertainment purposes, I’m going to tell you about some of the mistakes I saw in some of the writing. Although, do keep in mind that there was something to like about each story, and some of them I enjoyed all the way through, even though I’m bringing up these criticisms here.

One mistake I saw a few times is that authors introduced their characters as disliking each other and then they suddenly wanted to have sex with each other for no apparent reason. I’m puzzled as to why an author would decide to make their characters hate each other first before having sex. I can understand that this provides a plot twist, but that only works in a longer piece like a novel where there is time for the characters to interact with each other long enough for them to change their opinions of each other. In a short story where everything moves quickly, it’s really unrealistic that someone hates someone on page 3 and then on page 4 she’s feeling aroused at her touch, with no actual character progression in between. If you’re writing a quick sex scene, with no character development beforehand, you should be establishing immediately that your characters actually like each other. I can’t say this about heterosexual couples or queer sex-pozzies, but lesbians only have sex with women we actually like.

The worst example of this was the story where a woman was riding along in a carriage, and she was attacked by a robber queen who killed everyone who was travelling with her, and then the robber queen’s daughter pulled her away for sex. In that situation, you would be really upset about the fact that you just got attacked and everyone you know murdered. You wouldn’t be at all interested in having sex with anyone in that situation, but certainly not someone related to the robber. It’s okay for fiction to be imaginative, but it shouldn’t be completely preposterous.

Oh, and that story gets so much weirder. The woman who gets robbed, she turns out to be part wolf, and her canines lengthen when she’s aroused. The robber’s daughter seems to be part wolf too, I think, because she’s also described as having sharp teeth. A red cloak is mentioned briefly in this story, so I think the author has made a weird version of Little Red Hiding Hood where the protagonist and her love interest both turn out to be the wolf? Anyway, I guess because she’s part beast, when she is riding away on a reindeer with her captor, she can’t help humping it as they ride. Maybe reindeer-humping is normal behavior for an imaginary half-woman, half-wolf creature, but it’s not related to actual human lesbians in any way and that’s not something I can get into.

You know, I always assume that the purpose of erotic writing is to arouse your reader. But some people seem to think that the purpose of erotic writing is to baffle the reader with the weirdness of your imagination. And call me old-fashioned, but I think the way you arouse your reader with a sex scene is by creating palpable chemistry and sexual tension between the characters so that the reader is emotionally invested in the consummation of their desire, and feeling desire along with the characters. The reader has to therefore identify with the characters and relate to what they’re feeling.
I did enjoy the stories where princesses or witches saw each other naked in beautiful forest pools and found each other arousing. It can be an imaginative situation, it just shouldn’t be completely bizarre.

Anyhoo, onto the next writing mistake I saw a couple times, which was abrupt and nonsensical changes in tone. All of these stories were meant to be fairy tales, and the almost universal thing about fairy tales is that they take place in the distant past. Now, sometimes people write modern fairy tales (and there was a very cool version of Rapunzel in this book that took place in a condo in San Francisco, and that was one of the good stories, thanks for that!) but if you are writing a fairy tale where you mention kingdoms, medieval armor, magic spells, living in forests, etc, then you are writing in the past, and you need to use old vocabulary. Or, at the very least, you need to avoid using words and phrases that are specific to the modern sleaze culture of the last four decades. If you are writing about old-fashioned situations and then all of a sudden you start throwing in words like “pussy,” “asscheek,” “panties,” and “clit,” then you are using incorrect vocabulary for the piece you’re writing. It’s jarring for the reader to think they’re reading about the year 1600 and then suddenly realize that no, it’s actually 2017. It also lowers your work to the level of amateur fan fiction when you make this sort of mistake.

I checked out who the writers of these stories were, and many of them were bloggers, and not all of them were lesbians. A small number of writers said they were lesbian. Some of them didn’t mention their sexual orientation at all in their bio. Some of them called themselves by unspecific labels that I inferred to mean bisexual. One of them was a man.

If I were editing an anthology of lesbian erotica, one of the very first things I would do is weed out any non-lesbian authors, and then after that I’d choose the best submissions from the lesbian authors. If men submitted stories to my anthology, I would either not answer their emails at all, or I’d tell them to fuck right off, depending on my mood that day.

I conclude that this is an anthology of writing with female-female pairings that may or may not relate to lesbians and that is intended for anyone with an interest in “queer” fairy tales. I have enjoyed reading it because I love this genre, but if you are a lesbian who isn’t particularly interested in fairy tales and just wants good erotica, then I don’t recommend it.

As a side note, if you are a lesbian looking for good erotic writing by a real lesbian, check out the novel Bishop’s Run by B.D. Gates, which has absolutely spectacular sex scenes.

I am happy to report that I am more resolved than ever to keep working on my own fiction. I have six chapters written so far of my novel—just give me about another year or so and I’ll try and get the thing published.

Jordan Peterson still getting his analysis wrong

Jordan Peterson is the most well-known Canadian man standing up to the trans cult, but unfortunately he keeps getting his analysis wrong. That’s because he’s a conservative and doesn’t listen to feminists. Lots of feminists have done excellent work laying out all the factors that have caused trans cult dogma to flourish and have also clearly articulated what the left should be doing instead, but Peterson isn’t about to listen to us or take us seriously.

He’s been fundraising to start his own online university where students will be able to learn without being indoctrinated into post-modern ideology, and now he’s creating a website that warns potential students against taking certain classes that are known for their indoctrination.

From the Toronto Star:

“Psychology professor Jordan Peterson’s stated plan to build a website aimed at reducing enrolment in university classes he calls “indoctrination cults” has drawn the ire of his University of Toronto colleagues, who say it will make them the target of harassment.

Peterson, who rose to fame in right-wing circles after his outspoken refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns, says he wants to use artificial intelligence to scour university curriculums for what he “calls post-modern neo-Marxist course content.”

“We’re going to start with a website in the next month and a half that will be designed to help students and parents identify post-modern content in courses so that they can avoid them,” he told CTV’s Your Morning in August.

“I’m hoping that over about a five-year period a concerted effort could be made to knock the enrolment down in postmodern neo-Marxist cult classes by 75 per cent across the West. So our plan initially is to cut off the supply to the people that are running the indoctrination cults.”

Post-modern neo-Marxist cult classes? Oh dear gawd. Conservatives like to call anything they don’t like “Marxist” without having any idea whatsoever of what Marxism actually is. Trans cult ideology is neoliberal, not Marxist, and neoliberalism is the opposite of Marxism, not a new version of it. Neoliberal ideology was created by capitalists in order to fight back against Marxism and other forms of collectivism. Neoliberalism was taken up by the anti-feminist backlash and it has been used to infiltrate and destroy all leftist movements, including labor, feminism, and anti-racism.

Speaking as a person who is both pro-Marxist and anti-neoliberal, it really frustrates me to see him equate these opposite ideologies. It’s also frustrating to see someone speaking publicly about a social issue from a position of authority as a university professor without learning anything about the issue, even though the information is out there and could be easily found.

“In a speech posted to his YouTube page on July 9, Peterson elaborates on what type of courses he aims to target with the website.

“Women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better,” he said. “It would have been better if they had never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell.”

“Sociology, that’s corrupt. Anthropology, that’s corrupt. English literature, that’s corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education.”

He has observed correctly that the arts and humanities have been taken over by the trans cult. Queer theory has taken over the arts and humanities because those subjects are populated with liberal-leaning, open-minded middle-to-upper class people who exist in the land of theory rather than reality and are concerned about social justice but without being actual members of the oppressed classes they claim to care about. Although queer theory was born in the academy, lots of these courses in sociology and literature aren’t inherently flawed but have been wrongly taken over by queer theory. The solution is to accurately identify the causes of the proliferation of queer theory and to rescue the arts and humanities from it. What Peterson is doing is trying to steer people away from these subject areas without even understanding the problem or trying to solve it. I don’t find that satisfactory.

People on the right like to consider anything that’s not right-wing to be left-wing, but they’re missing the fact that neoliberal Liberals and true leftists are completely opposed to each other. Liberals who have bought into the trans cult ideology are not coming from a materialist or a class analysis, they’re coming from an individualist pro-capitalist consumer culture. True leftists laugh at the silly claims of the trans cult and lament the way it’s ruined our liberation movements. If university arts and humanities courses were actually “Marxist,” as Peterson imagines, then they’d reject trans cult ideology completely and teach the reality of sex class oppression and economic class oppression, with the aim to instill in students a materialist analysis, not an enjoyment of choosing choices.

I’m seriously glad that I’m done with university and not going back, because everything that I love, from sociology to literature, has been ruined, and I wouldn’t be able to sit in a classroom and listen to stupid bullshit and pretend it made any sense. I’m so glad that when I attended university and studied these subjects the trans cult hadn’t completely taken over yet, and we were still allowed to acknowledge the difference between male and female without being told we’re “LITERALLY KILLING” members of the ruling class who have chosen identities for themselves.

These important and necessary subject areas are suffering from being taken over by nonsensical dogma, and Peterson isn’t helping to combat this. He’s not helping because he doesn’t understand what’s happening or why, and the things he’s saying are polarizing people without adding anything useful to the conversation. I love sociology and literature, and I’d rather rescue them than discard them.

Also, check out this tweet from him about the recent flood of sexual assault allegations publicized in the media.

Talk about totally missing the point.

 

Feminism and online fighting

Radical feminists, like many other groups, have an online community of people we hang out with and organize with every day. And like many other groups, sometimes we get into fights. We are not a homogenous group; we have a variety of different viewpoints on many things, and sometimes we find other women’s viewpoints to be very wrong. Every once in a while a fight rips through the community like a forest fire, destroying everything in its path, and leaving behind nothing but ashes, upon which new seedlings will have to grow. There are a few fights that happen over and over, and have been happening for a long time. Such as, for example, are straight women upholding the patriarchy by having relationships with men? Are mothers responsible for upholding patriarchy by giving birth to sons? Are straight feminists homophobic, and are lesbian feminists heterophobic? And there’s another fun fight, are meat and dairy eaters oppressing female animals by eating meat and dairy, and are vegans starving themselves and engaging in an elitist individual solution to a systemic problem? Honestly, I feel like rolling my eyes just typing out those sentences. No way do I want to get involved in any of those fights again!

There are many types of radical feminist. After a while you start to identify them when you see the stuff they write online. I’m gonna call my type a “traditional mainstream feminist.” One time a commenter came here and told me that I’m not a real radical feminist, I’m actually a traditional mainstream feminist. I didn’t take that as an insult, I thought it was a reasonable label and I embrace it. My feminism is real feminism, the kind that is about women, not the kind that has been ruined by post-modern academia, anti-feminist backlash, queer theory, and marketing schemes about buying products for Empowerment™. I’m not into certain extreme ideas that have come out of radical feminism, such as “kill all the male babies” or “all straight women are handmaidens,” but since I believe in analyzing patriarchy as the root cause of women’s oppression and believe that women are oppressed based on our biological sex, not our “feminine gender,” that puts me in the radical feminist camp.

There are lots of women who analyze biological sex as an axis of oppression and also have other philosophies, opinions, and viewpoints that don’t align with mine. There are essentialist types who believe that men are irredeemably evil, there are social constructionist types who think we are born completely blank slates and everything about ourselves comes from socialization, there are holier-than-thou types who want to die on the hill of political correctness and make it their mission to kick out anyone who isn’t politically pure, there are conspiracy types who are against Big Pharma and will heal the world with herbs and witchcraft (and there’s even a few anti-vaxxers in this group), there are vegans, and there are women who are against vegans, and there are women with personality problems who like to bully other women in the name of feminism. We are a wild and diverse group. It’s no surprise that the various personalities and viewpoints in our community lead to fights.

I’ve learned a few things about using the Internet over the last approximately ten years as I’ve engaged with online communities. Social media, as we all know, contributes to lots of misunderstandings and people saying extreme things anonymously that they probably wouldn’t say in real life. I have radar up that detect some of the following behaviours:

  • Ignoring what the original post said, and instead spewing out a bunch of their feelings of anger and frustration in a way that doesn’t respond to the original post, but just offers them personal catharsis, as if the topic or article someone shared was an invitation for people to vent their feelings about whatever is wrong in their lives
  • Ignoring what a person actually said, and instead responding to a strawman argument of their own invention, and delighting in getting angry over what they imagine the person to have said
  • Deciding to hate someone ahead of time, before even reading their work, and dismissing what they have to say or denouncing them without caring what they are actually saying
  • Taking things out of context to make them look bad, or getting angry about a statement that was clearly taken out of context and not looking for the original source to see if the anger is even justified
  • Immediately jumping to the worst conclusions about a statement without first clarifying what the person meant by it
  • Using excessive hyperbole, such as the ever popular claim that someone is violent and oppressive because they have a different analysis of a social phenomenon, or that someone is “literally killing” others by having a wrong opinion
  • Engaging in unnecessary and pointless drama, such as stirring people up on purpose on topics that are controversial, and jumping into arguments that don’t involve you just because you like arguing and adding inflammatory comments to an already smoldering argument

I have radar up for these behaviours because I know that people behaving like this will just take up my energy on pointless frustration, and I’m done engaging with people who can’t have a mature conversation. I’ve left many Facebook groups because I see lots of these behaviours going on, and I just don’t want to hang out with unreasonable people. The groups I stay in are the groups of people who I put into the “traditional mainstream feminist” category and where nobody is causing drama for the sake of drama.

Lots of these problems are a product of social media. Here’s a fun anecdote about how different things are between social media and real life. One time a feminist woman called me a troll. I forget what the conversation was or why she said that, but I was pissed. I decided I wanted nothing to do with her ever again. Then about three years later I met her in real life, and we had a lovely time together and she was very kind to me. I don’t think she even remembered that she once called me a troll.

We spend so much time trying to “correct” people who are wrong on the Internet, and we see people’s typed statements but not their flesh and blood reality, and we don’t take the time to ask “what did you mean by that?” when a statement sounds odd. But even people who type out dumb shit online might be perfectly nice in real life. You were just a screen name and a statement to them, they didn’t know anything about you and the dumb shit they said truly had nothing to do with you the real person, and it had everything to do with them trying to “correct” whatever they read into your statement. Internet culture encourages us to write witty comebacks and funny put-downs rather than engaging maturely with each other.

In my first few years of using the Internet, I did get engaged in online drama. I think that online drama can be addictive. You get a rush of emotion from reading stuff that you believe is wrong or stupid, and you enjoy both the anger and the righteousness of correcting someone who’s wrong. When there’s nothing to fight about, you get bored, and want that rush of anger again, so you jump into another argument. Years ago I used to argue online about abortion a lot, and I don’t anymore. I consider the matter settled that if you want abortion to be illegal then you’re a misogynist, and I’m done trying to convince people that a born woman is more important that a fertilized egg. People who think that a fertilized egg is more important that a fully-grown woman aren’t reasonable people and they’re not going to change their minds, and there’s no point in wasting energy on them. I must have argued about socialism at some point, too, because I remember this guy who was furiously angry over his idea that socialists wanted him to share his bed and his toothbrush with other people. That’s not true, socialists don’t want people to share their beds and toothbrushes with strangers. This is an example of inventing a strawman argument and delighting in getting angry over it. When you see people doing that, you have to walk away. That’s not a person who wants to have a real conversation.

Recently the fight that comes up among radical feminists came up again, the classic fight about whether it’s morally acceptable to be heterosexual. A giant shit storm happened, and lots of women were really upset. I read through a long comment thread and I saw that there were a ton of people who were misunderstanding other people’s statements without asking for clarification, jumping to the worst possible conclusions about other people, calling people names, arguing against straw men and jumping into the argument to add to the drama instead of just leaving it alone. All I could do was shake my head.

Every once in a while we have to remind ourselves of a few important things:

(1) “radical feminist” should not be thought of as an identity,
(2) purity politics gets us nowhere, and
(3) online arguments don’t define feminism.

Identity politics have infiltrated everything, including feminism. Some people get caught up in thinking that we can determine whether or not a woman is a “radical feminist” by assessing whether she meets certain criteria in terms of her personal characteristics and choices. This is totally the wrong approach. We should all understand the root cause of women’s oppression and we should do things to improve the structure of society to benefit all women. At no point does it matter whether someone is labelled “radical feminist” or not, or whether she meets certain personal criteria. There are women all over the world fighting against things like FGM and child marriage, and for women’s rights to be educated and to live free of violence. These women are working for women’s liberation and they’ve never read any of the radical feminist theory that comes out of first world countries. They don’t need to. They already know that men are enslaving women because they are enslaved. It doesn’t matter whether they take on the label “radical feminist” or not. The actions are important, and the label is irrelevant. Same thing in first world countries—our actions matter, our labels do not. If you see women policing whether other women are “real radical feminists” or not, they’re doing identity politics and this is in fact liberal, not radical. It’s also pointless. You don’t have to get upset about what they say, because it doesn’t matter whether or not you meet other people’s criteria for an identity label that they’ve constructed.

Purity politics is something that happens in many groups, and I’m sure it happens on the right as well (whether someone is a “real Christian” or not, etc) but of course I am familiar with purity politics on the left. I myself have attempted to be as ideologically pure as possible, and so I’ve learned how this approach doesn’t work. In high school I learned about environmental destruction and cruelty to animals and the wasting of natural resources and all these things that we on the left care about. I wanted to make my footprint on the world lighter, use less resources, and harm less animals. I stopped eating meat for a few years, and I was trying not to use much electricity for a while. At one point I thought that using a washing machine to wash clothes was too much energy wasted, and I attempted to wash my clothes by hand. Boy, is that labor-intensive! But here’s the thing. If you are alive and in a first world country, you are complicit in all sorts of systems of oppression no matter what lifestyle choices you make. No matter how hard you try to be a good person, you are still oppressing somebody. You can stop eating meat, but even the way our industrial agriculture produces grains and vegetables is harmful to animals. If you eat anything at all, you’re harming animals and the environment. You can wash your clothes by hand, but they were created in sweatshops by people working for low wages, and you are still complicit in their oppression. And even if you manage to be as eco-friendly as possible in your own home, you still haven’t overthrown the system that is destroying the planet and you are surrounded by businesses that are doing damage on a way larger scale than your household is. Anytime you buy a product from a store, pay interest on your debts, and pay either rent or a mortgage, you are contributing to capitalism. The computer you use to read about how to be more politically correct was also made in a sweatshop by oppressed workers. There will always be something else you are doing wrong, and you can never be politically pure. The only way you can avoid doing any harm to any other creature or the natural environment is by killing yourself. Of course, the paradox there is that if you kill yourself to avoid doing any harm, you are harming yourself, therefore you are still doing harm. So you literally can’t not do any harm. (Double negative intended.) This means there is no way to be ideologically pure and this pursuit is not worth your energy. People who are acting holier-than-thou and being a better feminist or leftist than you are actually not accomplishing anything. They are just being self-righteous, and it’s not justified because they are personally doing things to contribute to the destruction of the planet and the oppression of humans as they speak. Anyone who’s typing on a smart phone is not politically pure because there are suicide nets outside of the factories that make smart phones because the working conditions are so bad. If someone is typing to you on her smart phone that you’re a handmaiden because you have a boyfriend, ask her if she’s succeeded in unionizing the female workers who made her smart phone yet. If she hasn’t, then she’s a handmaiden. But seriously, if people don’t think you measure up to their idea of political purity, you don’t have to get upset. You just have to do the best you can with the situation you’re in, and try and do the least destruction possible, and try to do the most good possible.

My third point up above, if you have been keeping track, was that online arguments don’t define feminism. We who access the feminist community online start to feel over time like feminism is something that happens online, and that fights among Internet users represent rifts in the movement. Not really, no. Remember that work is being done all around the world for women’s liberation, and tons of women who have never read feminist theory or cared about labelling themselves with a particular strand of feminism are doing excellent work every day. Tons of women who don’t have Internet access, and some of whom don’t even have electricity, are working for women’s liberation every day. Even if there is a big fight online, and even if some women claim to be “quitting feminism” because of problematic people, there are still millions of women who get up every day and go to work in jobs where they are making the world safer for women, and there are women from all walks of life speaking out against the predators and the barriers they are facing in their lives, and there are mothers raising feminist children, and there are schoolgirls punching out the boys who pull their bra straps, there are police arresting pimps, there are survivors of prostitution helping other women get out, and the list goes on and on forever. The fights on the Internet are almost irrelevant to the movement, really. They are a tiny blip on the radar. The movement is much, much, bigger than any online community.

Obviously, if there are people you love and support who are getting into nasty arguments, it will hurt. Of course it will hurt! But the sun will rise again every day, and the worldwide women’s liberation movement will continue, whether or not some people on the Internet are behaving in unsatisfactory ways. Deal with the hurt quickly and then move on—there’s lots of better things to do.

Answering 10 questions for radical feminists

A website for conservative women posted this list of “10 Questions We Need Radical Feminists To Answer Pronto.” I just love answering questions! Thanks to Francois Tremblay for showing me this list and answering the questions very well on his own. I’m going to answer them, too, just for fun.

There are no comments allowed on the article, so I don’t think this list is meant to generate a discussion. It appears to me that these are “gotcha” questions that are supposed to disprove feminism just by being asked. The questions don’t accomplish this, though—they only demonstrate that the author knows very little about feminism.

1) How is being pro-choice, or pro-abortion, supporting equality for all: mother, father, and baby?

It’s not! Reproductive rights for women are absolutely not about equality between mother, father and baby. They are about women taking control of our own bodies, and as a result, taking control over our whole lives. If women cannot help getting pregnant any time a sperm enters our bodies, then we are not in control over our lives. We are dependent upon whoever got us pregnant to provide for us while we are giving birth and raising young children. Men who get us pregnant are not always willing to support us and sometimes they can be abusive. In order for a woman to control when and if she gets pregnant, she has to have methods to prevent pregnancy. Abortion is one part of a reproductive health care system, and it’s necessary because sometimes birth control methods can fail, and sometimes a pregnancy is the result of a rape, and a woman shouldn’t be forced to carry a fetus to term if she does not wish to be a mother.

The only way in which abortion rights create equality between women and men is in the sense of levelling the playing field. Men can already go through their lives without the fear of having to care for an unplanned baby, because they do not get pregnant. With a full array of birth control options and access to legal abortion, women can also plan their lives as they see fit without being derailed or burdened with pregnancies they haven’t wanted. If you see feminists claiming that abortion rights are about equality, this is what they’re referring to.

Children are not equal to adults because of their age. Being immature and in need of adult care means that they cannot be considered equal to adults. Children cannot drive or vote, for example. This has nothing to do with feminism, and it has everything to do with their immaturity.

2) Do you really believe that American women are horribly oppressed when there are women in other countries that cannot vote, drive, file for divorce, etc?

It’s not necessary to use examples of human rights abuses from other countries to prove that women are oppressed. There are human rights atrocities happening to women right in America. American women and girls are being trafficked for sex, they’re being coerced into unwanted and abusive sex acts in the porn industry, they’re being underpaid in their work compared to their male peers and they’re overrepresented among the poor, they are subject to rape, assault, harassment, stalking, and wife-battering. Feminists draw connections between all the abuses that men subject us to and the relations of power that create these abuses. Men are overrepresented in positions of power in government and the private sector, they have more money than women do, and they have created the laws and the religions that shape our culture. They have created a world that puts their interests above women’s. This is true in both America and abroad.

The reason why you believe that women have it better here is because you have relative privilege. You are a student at Yale, and your economic class privilege has given you opportunities that other women don’t have. However, even a rich woman such as yourself can experience sexual harassment and rape. Your perpetrator would likely get away with it, since perpetrators are rarely ever punished. Please remember that there are many women less fortunate than you, even in America, and that the reason you are able to attend university at all is a right that was won for you by the feminist movement.

3) How do you hold yourself on such a pedestal for promoting “equality for all women” but then bash women who do not agree with you?

I don’t hold myself on a pedestal, I’m just a regular person. Radical feminists are more about women’s liberation than women’s equality. We want to take away the power men have to abuse us and we want to stop the epidemic of male violence against women. The concept of equality is a liberal concept. I don’t, for example, want women to have the ability to abuse as many people as men do. I’m not gonna start campaigning that women have to do as much human trafficking as men do, in order to be equal to them. We do want to be equal in the eyes of the law but this doesn’t really address what the problem is. The problem is male power and the fact that they use it to exploit women.

I don’t think I “bash” women who don’t agree with me, but I’ll definitely call out a woman who is being misogynist or who is completely ignorant and nonsensical. Feminism doesn’t mean I have to support women who are doing something harmful or stupid, and it doesn’t mean that any woman’s behavior is beyond critique. Feminists fight for rights for all women, which includes the ones we disagree with. Feminism is not a therapy group where we have to support everyone’s dumb opinions no matter what.

4) Why do you consider government restrictions on abortion “politicians being all up in your business” but are happy with politicians and the government dictating which healthcare you must have, what you must learn in school, and taxing you left and right?

I don’t think the government should make personal decisions for people about their reproductive health or when and how to reproduce. As such, the government shouldn’t tell people they must have a specific number of children, or tell couples which form of birth control to use, or make decisions to sterilize people without their consent, etc. The government shouldn’t tell men when to have vasectomies any more than they should tell women when they cannot have an abortion. These are private medical decisions.

However, this doesn’t mean that the government shouldn’t collect tax money in order to do the things taxes were conceived of to do. The reason we have a government is to organize our political life and build infrastructure such as roads, schools, etc. These are things we need and someone has to pay for them. Consider this: the private sector would still have to build the same infrastructure we have now, even if they weren’t taxed, because they need things like roads and schools in order to conduct business. The money would be spent anyway, even if the private sector was in control of where to build roads.

I think it’s really poor logic to say that if I don’t want the government making private medical decisions for people then I also have to be against the collective organization of necessary public infrastructure.

“Dictating what healthcare people can have.” Is this about the creation of a universal health care system? I’m not all that familiar with U.S. healthcare, but I do believe in universal health care because it provides health care for the poor. Without universal health care, many poor people would simply die sooner because they can’t access medical treatment. This is morally wrong, obviously. I don’t think the government should dictate personal health decisions to individuals, though. I also don’t think the government should dictate what people learn in school. Students should choose for themselves what subjects to study. For obvious reasons, school instruction should stick to what is true and factual when teaching lessons—so no creationism, for example. This isn’t really about feminism, it’s about quality education.

5) Why are you more concerned about fictional characters on fictional television shows getting fictionally raped than real men having their real lives ruined by very false rape accusations? I’m looking at you, Rolling Stone.

Huh? I’m generally totally unconcerned about fictional rape. I mean, it sucks when TV shows unnecessarily include rape scenes, just to titillate the viewers who love rape, but I have to say that even radical feminists like watching Game of Thrones, so we must not be that pissed? I don’t watch Game of Thrones myself, but I do watch Family Guy, which makes jokes about rape. Sometimes feminists need to take a break from fighting the patriarchy and just watch some TV. If we were in charge of creating TV shows, we’d definitely decide not to include the rape scenes.

False rape accusations are not an epidemic. They only occur with the same frequency as false accusations of other crimes. What there is is an epidemic of men who really have raped and get away with it. You are citing Rolling Stone here. That is a mainstream magazine and is not connected in any way with radical feminism. I would advise you to never trust what a mainstream magazine says about feminism—they almost always get it wrong.

6) Why have you let Lena Dunham become a spokesperson for your cause, a woman who has admitted to taking advantage of her younger sister sexually and doing “anything a sexual predator might do”?

I’m really embarrassed for you that you think an actress/comedian is a spokesperson for radical feminism. That is some incredible ignorance right there.

First of all, there are no leaders in radical feminism. Radical feminism is a movement to liberate women from oppression, and it’s happening all over the world as women work to change the conditions they are living in. Radical feminism is an analysis of women’s oppression and a call to action against male violence. If our movement did have leaders, they would be the women who are leading campaigns to change the conditions for women. Celebrities such as actresses and pop singers are definitely not the people who are doing political work on behalf of women—they’re just women who happen to get attention from mainstream media since they work in the entertainment industry.

If we were to consider the women in America who have become well-known because of their political work to liberate women, we could name such famous second-wave feminists as Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, bell hooks, and Gloria Steinem. Currently, Gail Dines is a famous radical feminist living in America (although born in England). Of course, there are many more. Most radical feminists work on the front lines in places such as women’s shelters, and they aren’t getting attention from mainstream media.

It sounds like your knowledge of “feminism” is coming from scanning magazine articles about celebrities. You are a student at Yale, so I think this is not only a poor reflection on you, but also a poor reflection on Ivy-League education, if you think that hastily-written and poorly-researched magazine articles about celebrities are a place to learn about serious social movements.

Meghan Murphy wrote about the Lena Dunham situation here. Dunham was still a child herself when she looked inside her sister’s vagina to see what was there. The situation wasn’t even sexual, she was just curious about human bodies. Most kids are curious about human bodies, and I remember kids showing other kids their parts when I was little, too. Conservatives have spun this situation into something that it’s not just because they hate liberal women.

7) Do you really think being able to walk around topless is a freedom that women need to live a good life?

No, I don’t. I’d like the world to be safe enough for women that we wouldn’t get assaulted if we were topless, but being topless in public just for the sake of toplessness isn’t generally a thing that women want. Are you confusing the publicity stunts that some women pull while topless with radical feminist political work? Because once against, I’m embarrassed for you.

8) How do you make supporting the right to abortion a tenant of feminism when the majority of abortions performed worldwide are due to the child being female, or also known as gender-selective abortions?

The right to legal, safe abortion is one part of the reproductive rights that women need in order to be in control over our bodies and our lives, as I’ve already mentioned. The reason some societies perform sex-selective abortions is because women and girls are undervalued and considered subordinate to men. Feminists are working to change this so that women and girls are considered fully human persons. We do not approve of the selective killing of either female fetuses or born females, because this is wrong.

It’s really poor logic to say that because women are being killed for being female, we therefore shouldn’t have reproductive rights.

9) When you say “Teach men not to rape” are you meaning to imply that men have been, in the past, taught TO rape, or that men are the only people capable of rape. Mary-Kay Letourneau, anyone?

Yes, men are taught to rape. This doesn’t mean that parents sit down with their young boys and give them a talk about how they should rape women when they grow up. It’s not something that is named and taught so explicitly. Boys are taught that they are superior to girls, that men are the head of the household, that men are better at decision-making, that women and girls exist to please them, that a woman’s job is to be a wife and mother, that certain women are “whores” who are asking for it, and that men shouldn’t be held accountable for coercing women or taking advantage of women. They are taught this by law, religion, custom and culture (particularly porn). This all adds up to making men think they have the right to use women’s bodies as they see fit, and that women should accept being used as sex objects.

“Teach men not to rape” is a slogan that refers to teaching men to think of women as fully human persons who have their own autonomy and agency, and who have the right to decline sex. It means teaching boys that coercing women and taking advantage of women who are drunk or otherwise vulnerable is unacceptable. It means teaching men that they don’t own women, whether it’s their wives, their daughters, or women who are being prostituted. Men don’t own us and they need to stop behaving as though they do. No matter what a woman’s relationship is with a man, she always has the right to say no to sex. Even in 2017, there are men who believe that being married to a woman, or paying a woman money, means they have the legal right to rape her.

10) Do you really think the original feminists, the women who fought for the right to vote, would be proud of you fighting for the right to bare your lady parts, abort your children and shame men into submission like you claim they would?

Radical feminists aren’t fighting for the right to “bare our lady parts.” Where on earth are you getting this from? It’s liberal, sex-pozzie women who fight for the right to be naked and act as sex objects, and this is more aligned with anti-feminism.

Children don’t get aborted, since children are already born. Only fetuses get aborted. In fact, most abortions are performed in the first trimester when the fertilized egg hasn’t even reached fetushood yet.

I’m not sure who’s trying to “shame men into submission.” It certainly isn’t radical feminists. I don’t think anyone else is either. I don’t want any human to be ashamed or submissive. I want all humans to be happy and healthy and behave ethically.

I do think early feminists would be proud of the current work that radical feminists are doing. You seem to know absolutely nothing about what radical feminists are doing today. You appear to spend all your time making fun of what you see in celebrity gossip columns and thinking that that is feminism. What radical feminists are actually doing today is campaigning against pornography, prostitution, surrogacy, and other human rights abuses. We have succeeded in getting the Nordic Model passed in several countries and we have brought awareness to large numbers of people that pornography is a public health crisis. We’re doing great work—you should really check it out sometime.

Spirituality

The following fictional story is based on a lot of people’s true stories:

Matilda was different from the other girls right from the start. She preferred running around and playing sports with the boys, and had no use for dolls or tea sets. As soon as she could talk she started asking for her hair to be cut short and to wear pants instead of skirts. Her parents would frown at her and say, “But you’ll look too much like a boy.” Matilda didn’t know what was wrong with that. Strangers would frown at her say “Is that a girl or a boy?” Matilda knew it wasn’t really a question, it was just a statement of disapproval. The girls at school started offering to give her a makeover, but she refused, and eventually they started to avoid her altogether. The boys at school stopped playing sports with her, and began to either sexualize her or refuse to associate with her. Then the accusations began. “Are you a lesbian, or what?” Matilda hadn’t dated anyone yet, but she was already being punished for dating the wrong people.

Soon after the accusations started coming from her peers, they started coming from her family too. “It’s wrong to be a homosexual,” they’d say. “It’s clearly laid out in the Bible,” they’d say. “It’s not natural. It’s a sin.”

Matilda was already labeled a sinner before she had ever sinned. They told her “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but they didn’t show her any love. They showed her hate. What had she done, exactly? To sin is to violate a moral law. Had Matilda violated a moral law by being different from her peers? Was it a moral duty to conform? They said “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but they already hated Matilda, not for anything she had done, but for an inner nature they suspected she had.

Eventually, the accusations were revealed to be true. Matilda realized that the warm-and-fuzzy feelings she had always felt for other girls meant something. At adolescence they grew stronger, and they grew into romantic love. Matilda loved the way other girls looked, the way they talked, the way they laughed, the way they flirted. One girl in particular caught Matilda’s attention. She fell in love, and she wanted to take care of this girl, to give her everything she wanted, to protect her from harm, to spend her days and nights with her and to always be by her side. She exploded with joy anytime she was with her beloved.

She had finally sinned.

What is this sin, exactly? Is there a moral law that women should not appreciate and care for other women—creatures who are a part of God’s creation? Is it a moral law that women should not show their appreciation, devotion, affection, adoration, and awe towards God’s beautiful work? Isn’t love a virtue? Isn’t love the ultimate good that exists on Earth? Isn’t love a beautiful gift from God, and isn’t love synonymous with God? How can the virtue of feeling goodwill toward God’s creation become a sin because of the genitals of the people who are feeling it? What kind of God would create creatures who are capable of love and then tell them not to love each other?

Matilda asked questions. They told her, “It’s the act that is a sin. Fornication is a sin, sodomy is a sin.” They told her that she could remain virtuous if she didn’t act on her desires. Matilda understood that in order to not disappoint God, who is Love, she would have to hide her Love away and make it disappear. She understood finally what they were saying. They were saying that you have to obliterate love in order to please the embodiment of Love.

Matilda realized that they were full of nonsense, and they didn’t know the first thing about the God they pretended to know.

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I think that organized religion is a bunch of nonsense, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual. I don’t generally write about spirituality on this blog, for two reasons. The things I do that give me spiritual purpose are real-life activities I engage in that could reveal my identity if I wrote about them. I also insist upon being an atheist and I worry that being spiritual would contradict that. This will be just a quick summary of what spirituality is to me, without getting too far into detail.

I have spiritual experiences, and when I say that I mean that I have things happen to me that feel existential, important, life-affirming, joyous, and hard to explain. The notable thing about my spiritual experiences is that they consist of feeling awe. They are personal feelings of wonder toward things that are beautiful, whether they are sights, sounds, tastes, or physical feelings.

Sometimes I find the word “miracle” useful to describe something that seems wondrous. I don’t believe that humans can walk on water, or turn one loaf of bread into a whole bunch of loaves of bread, or place their hands on a sick person to make them well. I believe in all the laws of the physical universe, and if something is impossible then it’s indeed impossible. But there are some things that are awe-inspiring and that appear to be impossible or inexplicable, even though they do exist. I like to call them miracles, to acknowledge the awe they make me feel.

Life on earth is a miracle. How a bunch of rocks and water gradually turned into complex beings who are aware of their existence and can manipulate the world to their advantage is awesome and inexplicable. We know it’s possible, because it happened, but we don’t understand how or why.

A lot of human accomplishments are miracles. I know that all of my readers can name plenty of awe-inspiring human accomplishments. Here’s my example. One of the things that has always provided emergency comfort when all hope is lost is Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Consider these amazing facts. In the year 1808, a German man drew some black marks on some parchment that represented sounds that he was imagining. Over 200 years later, people who never knew Beethoven and never set foot in Germany can still interpret the black marks he made as instructions for how to produce sounds on special objects made of wood and metal. Those sounds, when produced, still sound like the scene he imaged: the countryside, a river flowing, a community of peasants dancing, and a storm. How it’s possible that images can be represented by sound is totally beyond my comprehension, but there it is.

I’m guessing that most of us feel awe at one point or another, but I think that some people are more likely to feel it than others. I think some people spend their lives looking in the wrong places for things that are wondrous. Some people think that domination, power, control, material possessions, and outward appearance are where they’ll find meaning, but I think those people aren’t finding any. If you take away their power and material things, their meaning is gone. If you really know what meaning is, then no one can take it away from you, because it dwells within you, and it can’t be bought or sold or contained.

I think it’s legitimate to talk about a life force, or a source of love, and it’s possible that that’s what some people mean when they say “God,” but this concept certainly isn’t embodied by a supernatural father figure, and it can’t be experienced through obedience to rules. I also think it’s legitimate for a community of people to come together on a regular basis to explore the meaning of their lives, to sing together, to mark the passage of the seasons, to do good things for the community, and to teach positive values to their children. I might be tempted to join such a group if they didn’t spend a lot of their time also talking about mythical characters as if they’re literally real, because that shit is insane.

I think it’s legitimate to have personal felt experiences that are life-affirming and hard to explain, and it’s legitimate to think of those experiences as coming from a source of life or a source of love. What’s not legitimate is to require the people around you to validate your personal felt experiences, or to require them to sacrifice something on behalf of your personal felt experiences, or to create laws taking away rights from entire groups of people based on your personal felt experiences. That’s why I don’t support either conventional religion or the dogma of transgenderism being enshrined into law.

Sometimes people struggle with being both homosexual and wanting to have a personal relationship with a source of love. It’s sad that this is a struggle because it doesn’t need to be. The struggle is created by the fear and ignorance of human beings, and the desire to enforce patriarchy. Only the mythical father figure in the sky hates gay people, and he’s as imaginary as Santa Claus. The real source of love only knows how to love.

As with all other culture wars, there are extremists on both sides who get a lot of attention, and the middle ground is not necessarily easy to find. To a person who needs spirituality and who is coming to terms with being lesbian or gay, it might look like the only alternative to being holy and celibate is being completely anti-God. But there is a middle ground here.

To Matilda, from the story above, and to anyone else who wants it, I offer the following spiritual lesson.

Your existence is a miracle. Your body and all its organs that work together to give you five senses, mobility, and consciousness, is a miracle. Your mind and its ability to think, feel, and love is a miracle. There is endless beauty and love around you. It’s there any time you look for it. Whatever it is that makes you feel love is a blessing. That blessing comes from the same life force that brought you here. Whenever you feel love or awe, you are connected to the source of life. You cannot connect to this source by crude mechanical means, or by following dogma, or by accumulating possessions, or by gaining power over others. You connect to life and love by allowing yourself to feel awe and adoration for other creatures and for nature and for the miracles that you encounter. You practice love by caring for yourself and the world around you. You might connect to love by enjoying your body and other bodies. The source of life gave you a body and made it feel pleasant sensations on purpose so that you would enjoy having it. This is a gift for you to make your life enjoyable. When you enjoy your life and your self and when you join together in love with another person, you create and affirm the very love the universe is made of. Your love is beautiful, and it makes the world a better place. You have a limited time to spend walking upon this earth, and you should spend all the time you can living in a place of love and appreciation, and you should not spend any of your time living in fear and hate.