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An Expanded Reiteration

July 29, 2009

I know I’ve said before – here and elsewhere – that female “heterosexuality” is not a meaningful concept to me.  That is, politically, and with regard specifically to radical feminism, I don’t believe that whatever a woman feels in her head (influenced so mandatorily as it is by male supremacy) about her own sexual inclinations really matters in the grand scheme.  It doesn’t matter any more than it matters what’s inside the heads of people who say they feel like they’re a different sex than the one they were born, or people of white phenotype who appropriate the identities of people who are not white.  An internal self-assessment just really doesn’t matter in comparison with the external interactions, and the way those interactions reflect and perpetuate male supremacy.

What matters is the privileges gained, the degradations suffered, the actions taken.  Heterosexually engaged women gain certain socially sanctioned privileges just by the fact of their heterosexual engagement.  It doesn’t matter whether a woman liked it or didn’t like it – any more than it matters that certain white people don’t *like* being white.  It doesn’t matter whether a woman situates her experiences closer to one end of the rape spectrum than the other.  What matters is whether, from a radical feminist perspective, women have either validated and indulged the entitlement of males to female bodies or denied them.  And the fact that males *will* have their entitlements met by *some* woman or women makes the particulars of each woman’s circumstances absolutely irrelevant politically.

I do think it’s important to talk about the differences in individual experiences on a micro level.  It’s learning about how each unique female experience of male supremacy fits into the larger scheme that helps us to refine our vision of female liberation.  And I also think that it’s an indication of trust, respect, love even, for women to be able to share with each other the disparities – whether between classes of women, or between individual women – without fear of having their dedication to radical feminist ideals or their femaleness, the fundamental bond that links us, called into question, and without having one faction or the other resort to men’s misogyny.  This has so often not been the case that I really do think it’s magical when it’s able to happen to any degree.

  1. Mary Sunshine permalink
    July 29, 2009 2:45 pm

    Margaret: so beautifully stated. A basic tenet of radical feminism.

    {{{Love}}} and thanks to you.

  2. July 29, 2009 6:56 pm

    What matters is whether, from a radical feminist perspective, women have either validated and indulged the entitlement of males to female bodies or denied them. And the fact that males *will* have their entitlements met by *some* woman or women makes the particulars of each woman’s circumstances absolutely irrelevant politically.

    I feel like I can’t get my head around what you mean here. These two sentences seem kind of contradictory, to me — in the first one, you’re saying that it matters to deny males entitlement to female bodies (whether ideologically or practically, I assume). Then, the second sentence could be read as saying “men are going to fuck *somebody* so it doesn’t matter if you let them fuck *you*.” Which I don’t think is what you mean, but maybe you do. Personally I am on the fence lately about acts of resistance and their capacity to create change, which is new for me, resistance champion that I’ve always been. So I’d love to know if you understand my confusion and what you would say in response to it.

  3. July 29, 2009 7:08 pm

    I guess what it comes down to, Amy, is the fact that all we can do is make the effort.  Making the effort, whenever we get around to making it, is what’s important.  The hows and the whys of our ensnarement in male supremacy, for how ever long it lasts, don’t matter.  And we can’t blame ourselves for our entanglement.  All we can do is make the effort to free ourselves to the extent that it is possible, which varies for everyone.

    As with all things in male supremacy for females, a paradox we’ll simply have to do our best to navigate.

  4. July 29, 2009 9:01 pm

    Well that makes sense, thanks. 🙂

  5. redmegaera permalink
    July 29, 2009 10:24 pm

    …any more than it matters that certain white people don’t *like* being white.

    I know it’s not central to your argument, but thanks for raising this. I’m constantly exasperated by men (and women) in positions of privilege, who actively and unquestionably benefit from their sex, race, class postion etc. but who explain those benefits in terms of purportedly neutral terms such as “talent” or “hard work”, thinking that just because they didn’t actively choose that privilege or don’t always like it that they’re somehow exceptional. Or worse that they should be congratulated or even pitied for living with the intolerable burden of privilege! Young, white, upper-middle class men wringing their hands, complaining that while they acknowledge that they are privileged, they don’t identify with the values that shape those privileges (i.e racism, sexism, classism etc.). Because it doesn’t matter what you actually do just the kind of lip service you’re prepared to pay. A covert way of defending/securing those very privileges if you ask me. Gives me the shits.

  6. July 30, 2009 7:38 pm

    You know there is a tie-in with your two posts on “Hate Me” and “An Expanded Reiteration” and Amy’s comment about the woman who scolded her for taking the mic and Amy’s latest posts as well as Joan’s, —it has been one large loop of too much for me to write coherent comments, although, I feel like I am in a place mentally and emotionally to contribute, but cannot seem to do lately (It is situations like these that underline my LD. But please, no woe is me, it is my cross to bear. Oh, god, I am such a martyr). I have yet to develop thoroughly a synthesizing thread, but I wanted to say something because I have been absent too long around here. A little woe is me aside: I have been so busy, but nothing I can actually label as really busy, but still, I have been majorly distracted.

    Anyway, I keep going back to this (and again I must work it out) but there seems to be a simultaneous case of meshing together but at the same time opposing the meshing together of empathy and appropriation. Where does empathy end and appropriation begins. And not just that, but we (feminists) have been high jacked/diverted by allowing others to dictate who and when one can be empathetic (such as empathizing with rape although you may have not been raped yourself), without being accused of appropriation, thus risking silencing support. I mean, I don’t have to be standing in the driveway while my ex-husband runs me over and breaks nearly every bone in my body because he did not like the way the divorce proceeding went to empathize with the woman that it happened to. How productive would it be if no one but someone who experienced exactly what she has experienced could be allowed to be part of her support group?

    And you know it has worked (for the patriarchy) because it keeps women divided. For instance, if I did not come out of the womb knowing how terrible men are to women and had to learn the hard way (and live daily for the rest of life with the residuals of conditioning) what purpose does it serve exactly for you (the general you) to not accept my empathy. What purpose does it serve for me to not contribute my empathy or work towards developing empathy?

    Now the above wanderings do not serve to justify appropriation, because appropriation is real and can have damaging consequences.

    But I do think there is something there. Somehow patriarchal thinking seeped in and bamboozled women’s potential solidarity. And as a feminist, I need to work toward getting to the bottom of it.

    • July 30, 2009 7:57 pm

      And there is a power dynamic problem which makes it all iffy. With empathy, power (or lack of) can be equalized (or neutralized), however, once one appropriates, there is a powering-over that changes a potential neutral situation into a hostile (invoking bitterness, resentment, resistance, causing one to re-live mimicking situations of powering-over) one, thus making it all unproductive, even counterproductive.

  7. July 30, 2009 8:35 pm

    That’s a really good summary there in your last comment, Kitty!

    In my library there’s an article on empathy and politics:

    Empathy and Antiracist Coalitional Politics

    To be honest I don’t completely understand what they are talking about but maybe you will.

    Personally, I think the word “solidarity” is more useful politically than “empathy” since the latter evokes an emotional response. And I think you’re right, it’s a tightrope walk figuring out how to be in solidarity with people who have different experiences without speaking for them or appropriating their experience in some other way.

    I’m glad you’re back, I missed you a lot.

    • July 31, 2009 2:13 am

      Personally, I think the word “solidarity” is more useful politically than “empathy” since the latter evokes an emotional response.

      Individuals are emotional, and they are emotional about their personal experiences. Because of that, I don’t think most people can get behind something in a solidarity kind of way without having some type of emotional motivation/connection.

      Now, again, I want to reiterate that I am not sure what I am trying to work out, but after reading the first paragraph of your recommended article, I am also not trying to reinvent the wheel, so, perhaps I will have to revisit this after I put it together better. Or at least bring to my conscious mind what I am trying to articulate.

  8. August 3, 2009 4:53 pm

    So, someone calling him/herself sackcloth and ashes asks:

    So to put this in a nutshell, if you’re not a lesbian there’s something wrong with you.  Is that a fair summary?

    Obviously, this comment demonstrates a lack of reading and/or reasoning ability, so I’m not going to let the commenter through moderation, but I did want to address the stupidity of the question, since it seems to be where so many folks get hung up. In answer, no, it’s not a summary AT ALL, let alone a fair one.  If you’re not a lesbian, you’re privileged over women who are.  And that’s a systemic problem, not an individual one, as you must erroneously believe it to be in order to make so idiotic a statement as “if you’re not a lesbian there’s something wrong with you.”

  9. August 4, 2009 12:15 pm

    Any reader who doesn’t acknowledge heterosexual privilege and the oppression/suppression of lesbianism is starting from too unconscious a place to even begin to join the discussion here.

    Here’s sackcloth again:

    …you also seem to be saying that female heterosexuality is simply an intellectual construct, and isn’t a part of a woman’s intrinsic identity.

    I never said anything about intellect. You can’t read. Heterosexuality is a construct of MALE SUPREMACY. If it were so “intrinsic,” they wouldn’t have to teach heterosexuality in schools, or suppress lesbianism through social sanctions.

    Sackcloth, this is the last time you’ll be addressed. I’m adding you to the spam list.

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