Earlier in the year, I talked about the validity and necessity of feminist separatism. Talk to feminist separatists and you will get a difference answer from each one as to what that looks like. I already explained what feminist separatism means…but now I want to discuss what it isn’t.
It isn’t a hatred or lack of concern for men any more than it’s being overly concerned with men, liking or loving men, or having sex with men. Feminist separatism means prioritizing women in at least most areas of your life and on fighting for women’s liberation. I would say that feminists that spend a lot of time openly hating men are just as obsessed with men as smitten straight women…just in the opposite direction. In both senses, we are spending entirely too much time on men, their behavior, their feelings, their needs or perceived needs, etc. And it keeps us trapped in a victim mentality and keeps us from coming together as women, solving our own problems, and declaring our emancipation from men. What I see in many areas of feminism is a love-hate relationship, which is neither healthy in my view, nor consensual. To be truly emancipated and separate, I think our goal is to be…indifferent. Willing to take men and their causes, or leave them, on our own terms. Not being beholden to them, nor reflexively rejecting them and theirs.
Some people reading will read this and be like…wait a minute, I am a separatist, I don’t like men, and she’s criticizing me. Don’t I have a right to not like men, to only associate with women, etc? This isn’t about anyone personally. You no more have to justify keeping men out of your life , or focusing solely on women, anymore than I have to justify spending all my time on, say, Star Wars, Muslim culture, or animal rights. It’s my time, my life and I have the right to my priorities, as do you. We need woman-loving women who will prioritize women, and especially lesbians. Good for you!
On the other hand, I have seen feminists (of all stripes-liberal, radical, intersection, third wave, whatever) in many places over the years criticizing straight women, bisexual women, “misguided” lesbians, and women in general for having men in their lives and being concerned about men’s issues. They are seen as handmaidens of the patriarchy and not being truly feminist. I’m not calling out anyone specific, because I’m not here to start a pissing contest with other bloggers, just making a general observation. The thing with me is, I do care a lot about men, individually and as a group. I care about male victims of rape and domestic violence, even on the rare occasions when a woman initiates. I care about the ways that gender is destructive to men, the concerns of working class men, and poor treatment of male prisoners. I care about lots of men’s issues and gender-neutral issues. Not because I am intimately involved with a man that expects this of me. Not because I feel guilty. Not because some jackass MRA with a sense of entitlement and too much time wrote me a foul-mouthed email calling me a misandrist and sending me rape and death threats.
It’s integrity. It’s solidarity. I can, and do, focus on the unique impact that these issues have on women, and about issues that only pertain to women. But as a gender abolitionist, a pacifist, a progressive, as the kind of decent human being I want to be…I include men in my activism because men, too, are gravely injured by gender (even though women remain the primary victims). They face a lot of the issues that women face, as well as issues that women will never face. I have a father. I will, someday, likely have foster sons. I care about them, as do many other feminist women. My greatest ally as a gender non-conforming kid was my father. My mother demanded a very specific kind of femininity from me, but my father was more than happy to let me be who I was. He was so proud of his daughter, playing with footballs and rubber snakes with the boys, while wearing my frilly dress, my pigtails, and my Mary Janes. He had no problem with my dolls, or my secretive habit of flipping through his tool handbooks. He is a man’s man who loves theatre and classical music. Even though, as a man who has male privilege, he has also been my biggest ally, has a number of feminist views, and has encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be. He took me shopping for men’s clothes when I wanted them. He let me wear makeup and heels when I wanted to. He supported me when I wanted to take automechanics in high school. He is my friend, and I’m not the only woman to be fortunate enough to have a man like that in my life. I genuinely want to help him the way he has helped me. That’s mutual solidarity, not women serving men.
I care about basic human and civil rights that all people benefit from. I defend a man’s right to express misogynistic, politically conservative views as much as I may hate them because I value the First Amendment. I just as much so, if not more so, defend people like Julie Bindel because in addition to respecting her freedom of speech, I believe in her ideas. The thing about rights is, you can’t value rights only for people you like…because it quickly puts you on the defensive the moment a large group of people decides they don’t like you…and tries to vote/protest your rights and protections away. Anyway, I hold the view that there is no such thing as liberation that is gained at someone else’s expense, and that liberation is about more than subjective feelings, more than entitlements, more than theory and definitely, definitely more than purist identity politics. It’s a philosophy of life and meaningful praxis.
This, here, is my separatism. It is a primary, but not exclusive, focus on born women. It’s knowing how the world and its power structures impact women differently, in ways that men do not and cannot. It’s also the freedom to interact with men on my own terms. My interaction with men has nothing to do with my feelings about men as individuals or as a group. It is, to the best of my ability, purely a function of my principles and desires. Detachment is the principle that defines my idea of separatism. And I’m damn proud of it.
Agree? Disagree? Discuss away!