A Place for Separatism: Straight Talk About Survivorship Part One


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.

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3 comments

  1. Melanie · December 2, 2015

    I love this so much. I’ve been single for about 8 years and although I am lonely sometimes, I’m finally doing what I was meant to do with my life in most aspects. Thank you for having the compassion for other women that you do. I’ve always wanted a daughter wo Incould raise a strong, independent woman to help offset the patriarchal crap in our society. But I have never been in a position where I could justify having a child. I’m to the point where fostering may be the answer for me, too, as I still am not financially secure enough to have a child and biology is against me. So, as things continue to improve (Digging out of baggage takes a loooooong time), that becomes more of a realistic goal for the future. We have to take care of ourselves first and then help those we can help. But I think we also have to engage in serious conversations with men who will listen. I have done so with my two brothers, as one in particular is often completely oblivious to his own extreme privilege in life as a white male who lucked out with smarts, a scholarship to a great school, and a string of high-paying jobs. He makes more than our other two siblings and myself combined, and sometimes forgets how much the rest of us have struggled to pay the bills and not compound our woes by choosing unsuitable partners (or the struggles to get OUT of those relationships). He got quite an eye-opener when I had to call him in an emergency situation with a bf many years ago–this brother was the only person answering the phone late on a Saturday when I was stranded: the boyfriend attacked me and kicked me out of his apartment. His roommate did nothing to help during the whole thing, but the upstairs neighbor helped and made me keep calling people until someone could come get me. My brother came and helped me pick up the pieces. He had NO IDEA what my life looked like until that moment, and he has become one of my best allies–along with my other brother and my sister, who always were there for me but had little means to help.

    Anyway, yes, we need to take care of ourselves, but also need to talk frankly about our experiences and help those who may “love” us as family or friends understand how important it is that they consider whether they *really* see women and men as equals, and how they can make changes in their own behavior that will benefit all of us, male and female.

    “Saying no is not hatred of men.” More people need to understand that…and we can hep get that across.

    • joannadeadwinter · December 6, 2015

      I couldn’t agree more. I care about a number of men in my life and I have come under fire from certain people, particularly certain feminists, because I care about men’s issues and the well-being of men as much as I care about women. This is why at one point, I considered myself a men’s right activist and feminist, but it didn’t take long for me to learn who makes up the bulk of the men’s rights movement. I bailed. Anyway, I love talking about women’s issues with men and men often have been receptive, even when they don’t get it. The challenge is when men play lip service to the concerns of women…then demand that we talk about men. I’ve seen it a number of times. I want to talk about domestic violence in all its forms, but spotlight the concerns of women (since I, a woman, am a survivor). Men smile and nod…then spend the bulk of their time wanting to discuss female violence against men and wanting to know why feminists won’t fix it. Uh…okay…

      Individual men I have no problem with, but one of my problems with liberal feminism is the general demand that men as a class change. Yes, men as a class need to change but they won’t change because on the whole, they don’t have to. We continue to wait for them and cajole them. We continue to reward them with our involvement. We continue to have babies and demand that they pay child support. We continue to agree to spend time with them and then want them to take responsibility when they rape or harass us. We accept unequal marriage arrangements, like giving up our names, our income, our very bodies, etc. to build up the households and inheritance of men…while men do little in return. And men certainly should pay child support for children they conceive. They certainly should a) refrain from assaulting us and harassing us and b) take responsibility when they do. They should respect a woman’s equality in marriage. But they won’t because women as a class don’t make them face the consequences when they trample on us. We continue to go to frat parties, involve ourselves in male partying culture and offer our potential assailants our attention. We continue to accept our unequal marriage arrangements by convincing ourselves that we made a “choice,” that tending to home and family is just as important as financial independence, that marriage is about compromise so it’s okay for me to compromise my name and inheritance (while he compromises nothing, of course). We continue to pine for the men in our lives to be the fathers and husbands they promised to be, and we jump from relationship to relationship hoping that one of them will come to the rescue. Compulsory heterosexuality basically. Women who raise the slightest challenge to these things are accused of hating men and judging other women (which is SO much worse than unchecked male privilege and being treated as property of course!) And I’m done with it. Like I said, women are not responsible for being victimized but we are responsible for how we react to it. My plan with my future foster teens is to educate and train them. I am starting a business and I want to employ them in my business and get them started with credit, a work history, and money. I want to help them get through high school and the post-secondary NON-military (talk about rape culture central!) of their choice. If they already have children, I will assist them in exercising their rights and taking care of their children independently of men and of welfare. I will assist the father in being there for his child if he needs it and is willing to do the work. I will not encourage my foster daughters to chase after his money (which he might not have anyway) or state benefits. It’s a waste of time that traps children in perpetual begging and servitude. Once they are adults, on their feet, they can negotiate the world and live their lives free of the economic or social incentive to marry, produce offspring, or conform for survival.

      I see the aforementioned issues as human issues that affect women disproportionately in certain ways. I see all issues as human issues that affect each demographic differently. I strive to capture that in my work, but there’s a time and place to speak for your vantage point…in my case, me as a woman. It’s just as valuable as any vantage point and it’s the one vantage point you are a true expert in. Any man that will give you the space for that and treat it with genuine respect is an ally and I am happy to have them. I am also just as happy to not have to worry about whether certain men are my allies and just be around women. It’s about women having the right and ability to call the shots as they see fit…and be supported by men and especially by other women, in doing so. What shots you call aren’t as important as the fact that you have boundaries and demand respect for them.

      Lastly, while feminist separatism benefits women first and foremost (as it should), it also benefits men and, well, any community with any kind of special concerns. It provides them a framework to advocate for their issues and their communities, in a place of like-minded men, in understanding and safety, without parasitizing or threatening women and their causes. Gay men have done good work in this area. Too many “men’s rights” activists want to make feminism all about them, without doing the work, and they’re surprised that this hasn’t worked for them.

      As far as fostering goes, if you are not ready for that, there is the option of becoming a court-appointed special advocate or a therapeutic foster parent. Basically, you are a part-time foster parent that gives the full-time foster parents a break. CASAs are basically advocates for children in the courts, something that teen girls desperately need, as these people are often the only consistent influence that these kids have and teen girls are already up against high rates of sexual abuse, high risk of drop out, teen pregnancy, etc. and one woman that is consistently there can make the difference between being a star or being a statistic. Look into your options and look into regulations in your state. There’s so many things to do I’m sure you will find the right fit. Good luck!

      • Melanie · December 6, 2015

        I appreciate your comments and encouragement. For me, fostering and even CASA will have to wait quite a while. My current situation is not remotely stable enough to take them on, but I am well-acquainted with the process. I worked for a time at a group home for teenaged girls in protective custody, and several of my friends volunteer for the CASA program in my state. I know how intensive the needs of these children are, and at the moment, I don’t have the necessary resources nor living arrangements which would be necessary to take on such a responsibility. But these things are goals for the future. Without getting too personal here, I know for a fact that I am currently not able to do the job well, so even part-time respite fostering will have to wait for several years. I wish it was different. But there are a lot of reasons I couldn’t continue working at the group home, and some of them are still factors in my current life.
        Again, I really appreciate what you are doing. I hope I can join those ranks some day.

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