I’m a survivor of trauma and domestic abuse. I’m a survivor of economic hardship. I’m a survivor of a lot of things, many of which are too personal to cover here at this time.
The point is, I am a survivor. I didn’t get here by myself, but a lot of my success has to do with my knowledge and my choices. Throughout my life, I have assisted other people, women and men, to learn that same knowledge and exercise those same choices.
The theme of the day is separatism in survivorship. Meaning, the struggles we have as women are honestly best addressed through a certain degree of separation from men. We as feminists talk about how men need to do more housework and childcare. Men need to respect sexual boundaries. Men need to understand that as primary caregivers, women have difficulty in the workforce that men, who traditionally were breadwinners, do not have. Yes, this is a huge generalization, but my years in the mainstream liberal feminist blogsphere left me with this impression: It’s men’s job to not rape us. It’s men’s job to change. It’s men’s job to stop abusing their privilege over us. And we won’t stop speaking out until it happens.
Friends and sisters, waiting for men to change is a waste of time.
Instead of speaking out, we need to act out. Separatism is acting out. All of my friends that I have assisted in their struggles…were derailed by men. Every. Time. A friend of mine has two young children, her first born at age 20, and two divorces under her belt. She is now dependent on her parents and the state, with no job or education and of course her two children. Her second husband was the man that raped her in high school. I told her to separate from men, at least for the time being. Focus on you and your kids. Learn to stand alone. Stop seeking out and partnering with men in your brokenness because every union you have will be as broken as you (and they) are. I’ve given her this advice a number of times and offered to help and each time, she chooses brokenness.
I’m successful in large part because my life and my survival does not center men. I do not have a boyfriend and don’t want one (I’m not attracted to them anyway). I have a few close male friends and family (total daddy’s girl here) but otherwise I don’t have an interest. Every time I have approached a man for everything, he takes it as an invitation to interact with me sexually, often after my clear and firm REFUSAL. This has had tragic consequences for me in the past. No more. I work in a pink collar job and I survive largely because of overtime. I live my myself and receive help from no one…not my parents, not a partner, and definitely not the state. Remember the state? The same state that is funded and controlled by men, who, as a class, make more money and therefore pay more taxes? Including welfare programs, domestic violence programs, and other programs that are supposed to be women’s salvation? Yeah, how’s that working out? Oh, yeah, it’s NOT. Women continue to be trapped in economic servitude, either by the welfare state or my marriage to men. Women’s very bodies are enslaved by the demand that women bear children for the state (since women often cannot realistically get help unless they have [more] children. But once those children are born, you’re a sponge, a leech, and the state will threaten you with loss of support. Nice.)* That’s by design. I am childless, and that’s a large part of my success. I understand that women who have children (for whatever reason) might not be able to enjoy that same success. That’s why I devote so much of my time and my money assisting women who cannot be totally self sufficient and helping women to avoid common pitfalls (thinking that a pregnancy will help her keep her man, etc.) It’s my goal in life to take in teenage girls in foster care to help them establish independence before they leave the system. Help them survive without men. Help them avoid the pitfall that is pregnancy and parenting as a poor teenager that so many foster teens fall into.
Women are not responsible for the actions of men, or the women that enable them. Women as a class, however, are responsible for seeing the pattern and making the choice to break the cycle. I’m not responsible for the actions of the men, or the women, in my life who have done me harm. They and they alone are responsible. But now that I am on the other side, I am responsible for learning about it and choosing how to react to it. As a woman and activist, I am also responsible for using what I know to help others who are still stuck.
So what is the practical takeaway? Do not think that agreeing to stay at home and do the work of homemaking or child care will protect you from being devastated by divorce. Do not agree to raise a child that you are not interested in raising because the man wants it. Don’t expect miracles from a state-funded support system that is funded and controlled by men. In other words, think about what YOU can do on your own and don’t give a shit about what your man wants (if you have one). Any man worth being in your life is willing to be your equal. Do not allow him to make demands of you (change your name after marriage, give up your income, etc.) that he is not willing to make equally. Screw them. Stop seeking relationship with men and focus on yourself and women. If you want relationship with men, wait until you are acting from a place of wholeness and not brokenness, like so many friends before me.
I understand that the bulk of this is directed at straight women who are actively involved with men. If you are a lesbian feminist, your activist dynamics are going to be different and I’m sure active lesbian feminists already know what their priorities are. But for younger lesbian feminists, I offer the following advice. When men makes demands of you, ask yourself what they are willing to do in return. Ask how this benefits *you.* Don’t be swayed by accusations of man-hating. Saying no is not hatred of men. And it’s high time that men as a class learned that.
My personal litmus test is the name change question: I don’t seek marriage to men, but when I meet men and the topic of getting married and having children comes up, I like to ask them: Will you change your name upon marriage or become hyphenated with me? Or can I be the primary breadwinner? Just asking those questions in a joking manner tends to shock and insult them and it’s pretty entertaining to watch. It also tells me the depth of their male privilege and their idea of what marriage means. Your litmus test may be different and if you’re a lesbian, you probably won’t need one. Just be AWARE of what men are really asking and be AWARE, more importantly, of what it means for you.
First responders will always tell you: Take care of yourself first. It’s not just your right, it’s a necessity. And it has never been more necessary for women as a class to take that to heart. It’s not hate. It’s tough love.
*I know that most women do not have babies “for the welfare.” There are a few that do, but most women already were pregnant or had children and tried other means of surviving. And if you do have children “for the welfare,” it’s a bad move because the payments and assistance are pitiful and inconsistent. I’m not accusing people of having babies for government payments. My point is that lots of help is not available to women without children, mothers who work but make “too much money,” and women who are not involved with the baby’s father, hence creating the incentive to be attached to men and to bear children. I and other women have horror stories of people at DHS offices telling us we should get pregnant because then we become a priority. It’s a real thing.