And now it appears that I have really upset the author of the comic “Feminist Dad” which is a comic satirising the idea that when men father daughters they become born again feminists. The author feels that I have bullied her and tried to force her to ban men from her blog. This is based on my problematising the inclusion of men in feminist discussion after the resident men reacted badly to the comic.
Anyway, it’s got me thinking about other times when I’ve been in similar situations and speaking the brutal truth about gender-based oppression and gender relations. Lesbian separatist theory holds that heterosexuality is a main institution of patriarchy. And that women who receive the privilege and (relative) safety of being heterosexual will always, when it comes right down to the nitty gritty, side with men against their lesbian sisters. We see this played out repeatedly on the internet these days and it’s often interpreted as “defence of men”, that our straight sisters behave as they have been socialised to according to gender roles – as carers and nurturers. I’ve interpreted it this way myself when trying to analyse social interactions that have ended in someone being upset.
But I know that not all hetero feminists fall into this trap. There are radical feminists on the net who don’t do this and who are not male-identified and have given up their investment in het privilege. This got me wondering why do some (or most, it appears) hetero feminists do this? And if it were about just adherence to the rigid gender roles forced onto women in patriarchal society, then why don’t hetero feminists feel as responsible for caring about their lesbian sisters, who they surely understand to be less privileged (and more hated) than they are?
I think it’s about preserving privilege rather than wanting to defend/take care of, men. I say this because I have several straight friends whom I have known for upwards of twenty years, one has been my friend for forty one years. I love them; they love me. They respect my work and my passion for women’s freedom. But each of them has, over the years, when forced to choose between defending or siding with me or defending/siding with a man, they have all, at times, chosen man. But not necessarily a man they care about, or a man whom they are financially dependent upon, in fact none of them are financially dependent on a man. In fact, all of them see men very much the same way I do. All of them have experienced, as I have, violence, abuse, harassment and discrimination at the hands of men individually and collectively. They know the extent of the vile shit that men are capable of doing to us, and the truth of the whole stinking system we are stuck in, and behind closed doors they share my disdain.
But publicly, if it has ever come down to it, and it rarely does anymore because I actively avoid those situations IRL now, they will sacrifice me in favour of het privilege. Not in favour of taking care of an individual man, but in the interests of holding onto that privilege. This is why lesbian and some radical feminists advocate separatism – because most straight women will always protect the bit of privilege they have, in order to survive. The rise of neoliberalism must surely have made this response much worse. This is why radicals have women-only spaces; because having men in our spaces prevents us from achieving feedom for all women. This is also, presumably, why most straight feminists side with men in demonising women-only spaces on and offline. If they don’t they risk the privilege they have as individuals.
We see this happening in online feminist spaces that include men and male-identified women. It’s all well and good until male-identified feminists perceive themselves as being forced to choose – they choose their privilege. And don’t the men reward them for it?