Radical feminism is not about identity

I thought Miep explained what I was trying to say really well in her comment yesterday.

Radical feminism isn’t a cult, or it’s not supposed to be. It’s a political theory that analyses biological sex as an axis of oppression and analyses how that oppression operates. This is all done with the goal of using this theory and analysis to generate action to liberate the female sex class from oppression.

When you see people on the internet trying to maintain the purity of the identity of “radical feminist” by kicking people out who have the wrong personal characteristics, those people have fallen into identity politics and they are confused about what they are supposed to be doing. Just ignore them—hopefully they will figure it out.

Some commenters on the “peak radfem” thread that I wrote about yesterday are talking about being bullied by lesbian radfems on Tumblr for being straight. This is absolutely not what lesbian feminists should be doing. Lots of women are genuinely heterosexual, and bullying people out of their sexual orientation does not work. If bullying could change someone’s sexual orientation, there would be no gays or lesbians anywhere! I believe that lesbian feminists should promote lesbianism for those women who can choose it (not everyone can) and should provide a critique of the institution of heterosexuality for the benefit of all women, lesbian or otherwise.

I do write about political lesbianism sometimes here, because I enjoy exploring it as a concept. However, it’s a flawed concept and lots of radical feminists are actually against it. (See the excellent post by Elizabeth Hungerford explaining that political lesbianism is identity politics.)

People involved in radical politics need to work together as a group to fight for liberation on behalf of their entire group. At no point is it useful to bully people in your own group for having the wrong personal characteristics. That is just horizontal hostility that makes it harder for us to fight the revolution.


One thought on “Radical feminism is not about identity

  1. Thank you. What I am seeing about “political lesbian” is that actual lesbians tend to feel uncomfortable with the phrase and see it as appropriative. Shouldn’t “lesbian” be about what you do, not an identity you assume?

    So I avoid the term, though I think I understand the intent. But there is no term for women who have given up on intimate relationships with men, but only have platonic friendships with lesbians. Spinsters, crones, they don’t quite fit.

    Heteronormativity can make friendships with actively heterosexual women difficult for us. The whole cultural framing of relationships around sex is wearying. Lesbians are seen as the opposite of heterosexuals, but that’s not an accurate representation, because to be openly lesbian is an act of resistance in this culture. Once you have defied one of the mandates, who knows how many others you can defy? In this sense, it can be a kind of reinvention.

    But boundaries are important, and if calling yourself a lesbian makes other lesbians uncomfortable, maybe it’s best not to call yourself anything.

    Liked by 2 people

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