My feminism :: an interview with @FireWomon

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to @FireWomon for sharing her story.

1. At what point in your life did you begin to understand that you were a feminist?

My introduction to feminism was via my father. I was around 11/12 years old and I voiced an opinion on something – I can’t remember what – and he said I was turning into ‘a bloody women’s libber’. I had no idea what he was talking about. From my late teens onwards I called myself a ‘feminist’ because by then I had had enough time to notice how differently I, a girl, was treated when compared with my brothers, and I was angry about it. I had become aware by then that it wasn’t just me, too – I realised that this thing was called ‘sexism’. I’ve always hated injustice and that, to me, was the biggest injustice. When I got married at the age of 21, I walked down the aisle alone (‘no man’s giving ME away’) which at the time I thought was very feminist of me but obviously I lacked the radical feminist analysis then that I now have, else I wouldn’t have got married at all.

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?

I started off as a liberal feminist, which means that I bought the ‘choice’ argument. It’s not feminism at all, but it was dressed up as such and sold to us as such, and young women like me who came of age during the backlash against second-wave feminism bought it. I was concerned with equality for women and girls, and I wanted nothing more or less than that. I thought whatever men and boys have, women and girls should have too. I was very naïve about how the world works. I had no political analysis. The turning point for me was when I gave up my mind-numbingly boring job at the age of 27 and went to my local college to do an Access to Higher Education course. I then got accepted onto a BA at Liverpool University. I was a ‘mature’ student, so a good few years older than most of my peers, and in university I met people from different walks of life – posh people, basically. It was eye-opening.

Whilst I was at university, Germaine Greer’s The Whole Woman was published. I read that book until the pages fell out. It opened my eyes to things I simply hadn’t ‘seen’ before. Then I got even more angry at the state of affairs for women and girls across the globe. That book steered me away from liberal feminism and put me firmly on the path towards radical feminism. Still, I didn’t read any radical feminist theory until I was well into my 30s. It was then that my focus changed. I don’t want equality with males, I want liberation. I want liberation from patriarchy for every single woman and girl.

 3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?

 Radical feminism has changed my life irrevocably. It’s one of those things, like riding a bike or leaning to swim: once you know it, you can’t un-know it. I went through quite a lengthy period of depression – actual, diagnosed, clinical depression – when the full weight of what we (as females) are up against finally hit me. It seemed surreal to me. My brain couldn’t cope with what it had learnt, so one day it simply shut down. Then followed months of recovery. I’m probably still recovering. Some days it all still seems impossible. But most days – I’m glad to report! – my anger motivates me. So *occasionally* my fighting spirit deserts me, but more often than not it is raging inside me, pressing for change.

As regards personal relationships, it’s coming up to a decade now since I had a relationship with a man. I don’t think having a radical feminist analysis is compatible with being coupled with men. My only regret is that I didn’t choose lesbianism sooner (because it *is* a choice which is available to every woman). Being a lesbian has liberated me in so many ways, it really has.

Being a radical feminist has caused rifts in (some) relationships with family and friends. I have much less in common with these people than I used to. I suppose, with regards to one or two particularly, I have gone through a grieving process of sorts. There is no going back now to how things once were. BUT I have gained much deeper, more satisfactory friendships in return. I now know some truly wonderful, remarkable women, who I am proud to call my friends. That feeling of sisterhood – I’d never had that before, with any other friendship I’ve ever had. My radical feminist friends are very dear to me. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I get when I am in their company – feelings of love, respect, and above all warmth. Just writing about them gives me a warm feeling. This is one reason why I feel so passionately about women-only space.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I am optimistic. I know of young feminists who are resisting the queer theory and liberal feminism which is being forced down their throats everywhere they turn. They are listening to both sides of the debate, they are reading radical feminist theory, and they are making their own minds up instead of following the crowd. I have huge admiration for them. They know ten times more than I did at their age. They are young, smart, and they are courageous. They make me feel optimistic about the future.

The fears I have are with regards to the ridiculous notion that ‘woman’ is an identity. This argument worries me greatly. Women can’t ‘identify’ our way out of oppression, yet we are being told that WE are the oppressors. It’s a complete reversal, and it’s deliberate, of course. In academia, women’s studies courses have all but disappeared – replaced with ‘gender’ studies – and women-only space such as colleges and even public toilets are under constant threat. This is simply not on. No oppressed group should be forced to share space with their oppressor. I will argue that to the death.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

 Tons of women. The countless women who are raped, assaulted, abused, murdered by men, day in, day out, every day of every year in every culture. Women who speak their minds despite facing backlash. Women who can’t speak their minds because their jobs or families are threatened, but who silently work for women without expecting or needing applause. Women who work on the frontline in women’s services, refuges, rape crisis centres. Women who have broken free of compulsory heterosexuality and embraced lesbianism, despite the huge amount of stigma attached to this. Women who bring up children, especially those bringing up children alone, and/or those who are caring for elderly parents or other relatives. Women who are battling illness and carrying on regardless (and usually looking after everyone else or putting other people’s needs first). Women who I see in the supermarket, planning meals, getting in the weekly shop, trying to make ends meet, and doing it all mostly, or entirely, without any help from a male partner.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?

 It would have to be The Whole Woman. That would be the starting point, as it was with me. But there are loads more besides – if anyone wants a list of recommended reading, contact me @FireWomon on Twitter or by emailing me: There is always  too, a fabulous resource which provides free copies of texts by Jeffreys, Dworkin etc.

 the whole woman

My feminism :: an interview with @jeanhatchet

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to@sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to Jean for sharing her story.

1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?

I was angry from a young age. Probably around 9 – gendered toys, different treatment from teachers, low expectations of achievement despite my ability etc. I didn’t understand the anger though, as being working class and poor – so much of the confusion around injustice seemed to be wrapped up in a general working class struggle. As I grew into my teenage years, the sense of injustice sharpened,  but still – access to feminist doors seemed largely firmly bolted by Academia, inaccessible and increasingly clique-driven – I just never saw the door, let alone knocked upon it. This is still a huge problem and the issues of class need urgently and firmly addressing in feminist circles. I suppose it was only after I made it to University that I realised properly. The moment when I knew I was a radical feminist was something else entirely. When I realised it was the whole damn thing that needed bringing to the floor – that everything was structured to screw me over and prioritise men– wow. That moment hurt. That moment was painful. It can never be unseen. It can never be unfelt. That pain is staying. Like a smack in the face. I’ve had plenty of those.

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?

In my early years I was very liberal and perhaps lacked proper focus. I only really engaged when I became a victim of male violence. Now, of course I see that as the key factor driving me. Ensuring that no man gets to hurt a woman, sexually, physically or emotionally occupies most of my thoughts. How we achieve this, how we challenge this, how we take back our lives from violent men.  That drives me. I don’t think we can wait. I don’t think talking is the way. I think anger is. We have such capacity to organise now. We have such close connections with each other that we’ve never had before. Importantly we can’t allow every discussion on this to be derailed by men. I don’t care how those men present themselves. If you are male – you aren’t getting in. If you are male you aren’t leading. If you are male then accept that this is a female movement. Ask where you can help. If you are declaring yourself a woman and you have, or have had, a penis then you have to acknowledge that you’ve already benefited from enormous privilege and whilst sisters may be willing to welcome you, we cannot have you dominate in discussions of oppression because you say you must. You also cannot prioritise your issues over the issues oppressing all women. That isn’t transphobic. It is about moving things forward rather than dying in the eponymous fire of DIAF without achieving anything.

3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?

It has changed the whole world for me. I know who I am, where I fit and what life currently offers. I know what it has taken from me and what I want from it and deserve from it. I know what men have taken. I had many years stolen from me. They are never coming back. Sisters at least gave me the future to do with as I please and that would never have happened. I would not have lived. I see that now. I might not have been writing this. Feminism kept me alive.

 4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I have none. Feminists are warriors. We won’t stop fighting until we are dead and we will raise future warriors.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

Too many women to mention. There are famous women, sure. But for me, it is the feminist who stops by and gently asks, “how are you today?” – who goes out of her way to check that other women are still focused and breathing and not slipping. Good feminists are about women. They don’t judge, they don’t snark, they look around to see who is falling down and they pick her up. I know a lot of these women. I am blessed.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?

Life and Death. Andrea Dworkin.

dworkin life

My feminism :: an interview with @jeyssika

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am beginning a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to Jess for sharing her story here.

1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?

When I was a teenager I remember finding a book called The F Word in the library and that and another book taught me about Feminism, what it was and that it had waves and since then it’s just given a name to the way I always thought. It made so much sense that there was a movement that had existed to help women and that there was still a need for one despite what people say. (We briefly looked at the suffragettes in English but only in passing so I wasn’t really aware of feminism and its history).

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has it shifted over time?

I used to be a liberal feminist, parroting lines about how a woman could do anything as long as it was her choice and it wasn’t until the past year or two that I realised that that makes no sense in a world where women’s actions can help keep institutions that hurt other woman alive and kicking, such as prostitution etc. Reading about feminism and talking to women on Twitter has made me realise that way more needs to be done if we are ever going to liberate women; we need to stop reassuring men that feminism is for them too, we need to demand change instead of turning what hurts us into our own choice, and we need to actually acknowledge what men do to us, especially when it comes to violence.

3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc.

I’m a very vocal person when it comes to my opinions and feminism is no exception to that; it’s definitely made me an annoyance to many, it’s made me lose patience with sexist friends and family members but mostly unfortunately it has had ripple effects in my relationship with my partner. In the past year or so, into a three year relationship, I started exploring feminism more; I’ve spent more time discussing it with people online, finding books about it, and generally trying to figure out where I stand on a lot of issues that I hadn’t considered before. In doing so I’ve been trying to discuss issues out loud with my partner which has meant a lot of talking and a lot of repeating myself so I can refine my thoughts on new issues but this has put a strain on my relationship as my partner doesn’t have an interest in many of the issues; it’s hard to be a feminist thinker when discussing problems women face is met with a roll of the eyes and a ‘yeah’ meant to stop me talking. It’s definitely an issue I don’t see mentioned when talking about being a feminist.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I worry that it will stay where it is now which is not good for women at all; yes overt sexism is called out sometimes and lots of people are trying to make changes but a lot of it is done politely, in ways trying not to upset men. Feminism will always make men uncomfortable because every single man benefits from it – yes even men who face other kinds of discrimination such as due to race, class or sexuality. But instead of making the oppressor class feel awkward and privileged feminism has taken to reassuring them, to putting ‘feminist’ men over women, to trying to turn their own bodies into an act of sexual liberation in the hope it will stop them being used as a battleground against them (it won’t). We need to be loud, to be angry, and to start demanding the world respects us not just shouting the same phrases over and over in the hope men will listen and stop killing us.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

Women on Twitter have been amazing for me, so utterly eye opening. They’ve helped show me issues I didn’t even know existed, they’ve been welcoming and calm and have spent the time to teach me what no one else has. The women in my life also inspire me in many ways: my Mum has helped get rid of any stereotypes I believed about mothers who stay at home, my Mum’s best friend has taught me about women who are independent, and my little sister has taught me there is hope for the next generation after me of women who are sick and tired of the life they’re told they should accept.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would if be and why?

I’d recommend Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, there are loads of others but this one has been brilliant in showing me that so many differences we think exist between men and women aren’t real at all; that its just because the patriarchy that we live in teaches men they’re perfect and women that they’re useless that women believe they are anything less than the awesome that they are.

My feminism :: an interview with @jaynemanfredi

Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am beginning a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to@sueveneer on twitter.

Thanks to Jayne for the first interview.

1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?

My feminist awakening began nearly a year ago; this was when I began to call myself a feminist, but looking back, the roots of this awakening go much, much further back. For me, joining Twitter was absolutely integral to my journey to Feminism. The people who I interact with in real life aren’t particularly political and Feminism as a concept doesn’t really touch their lives. Twitter is a unique space where you can connect with people who you wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to connect with. For me it’s been an invaluable resource in discussing feminist issues, being pointed in the right direction for reading materials, and also having access to a world of feminist blogs that I didn’t even know existed. For the first time in my life I’ve been able to actually articulate my own oppression, which until recently had just been a long-standing feeling of injustice that – while I was aware it was wrong – I had no point of reference for nor affirmation from others.

2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?

I’ve come into the Feminist movement at a time when Feminism is a popular concept; albeit a particular type of feminism. I don’t identify with this “brand” of feminism at all; my focus is on dismantling patriarchal control. I don’t support the objectification of women nor do I support the sex trade. I’m repelled and feel betrayed by any feminism that supports these things. I do not support a feminism that prioritises choice and agency over the lives of every other woman. I suppose I identify most with Radical Feminism; this is true feminism for me; it is the only analysis that seeks to liberate all women and action broad change. The more I’ve discussed feminist issues and the more I’ve read, the more radical I’ve become.

3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?

I’m still at the beginning of my feminist journey so change has been fairly slow. Already I’ve noticed that to be a feminist is to invite conflict; very few people in my social circles grapple with the issues that I do. There is an apathetic acceptance of things being the way they are, and I’ve found people are exasperated by my attempts to highlight women’s oppression. I’m a bit of a figure of fun to some of my friends, who often raise their eye-brows mockingly whenever I bring up a feminist issue, as if to say, “here she goes again.” I am unrepentant though. I recognise it for the backlash that it is.
On a positive note, It’s really given a focus for how I want to parent my children, especially my daughters. I’m proud to be a feminist role model for them.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

My biggest fear is that Radical Feminists will continue to be demonised and misunderstood. I see this happening all over already and it seems to be getting worse. My hope is that more young women will embrace radical feminist analysis, and see it for the truly intersectional movement that it is; so many people are just plain confused about what it stands for. I hope that women will stop falling for the lie that objectification and commodification is ok, just so long as you choose it. Finally, I hope that we can re-start the conversation about gender without being labelled bigots. I would like people to understand that gender is a harmful concept, based on damaging stereotypes, not a civil liberty that needs protecting.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

Mainly, the fabulous women on Twitter. There really are some gifted, intelligent and brave women on there, sharing loads of ideas and writing wonderful blogs. I have had the privilege of meeting some of these women in real life and they are all brilliant feminists.

6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?

The first feminist book I ever read was Natasha Walter’s “Living Dolls – The return of Sexism.” To a woman of my age, who has been raised to believe that pole-dancing and glamour modelling is empowering, this book was a satisfying read. After that, I wanted to read about the history of Feminism and “Women of the Revolution – Forty Years of Feminism” by Kira Cochrane. This got me really excited about the Feminist movement and made me want to learn more. Sorry, that’s two books…

kira living dolls

The thing about male violence #1

Photos of two young girls are circulated with the caption “police are extremely concerned for two missing schoolgirls”.

Why so concerned?

Do they think the teenagers will be unable to feed themselves and starve to death?

Do they think they might wander on to a road and be knocked down?

Do they think that they might go shopping with parents’ credit cards and bankrupt the families?

Is it because they haven’t done their geography homework assignments?

hrimfaxi missing girls

It appears the girls arranged to meet a man. We knew a man would be involved. That is why the police are so worried.

Because in this year so far an estimated 28,000 women and young girls will have been raped while around 40 women will have been murdered (going on previous years’ statistics).

By men.

Missing girls.  I hope they come home. I hope they don’t join the horrific statistics of male violence against women and girls.

Note: statistics from Women’s Aid and the Femicide Census

Babies in high heels

Today I had the misfortune of coming up against patriarchal gender bullshit at its most insane. An American company is manufacturing and selling crib shoes for babies aged up to 6 months with heels. Yes, heels. They are called Pee Wee Pumps. They are revolting. Not only are they revolting they are perverse.

The only rational view of them is of disgust at their obvious paedophillic overtones. The babies are styled like infant pole dancers, mini burlesque stars, draped in boas and wearing satin baby knickers and bras…and finished off with the hideous heels. I don’t really understand what goes on in the mind of someone (the mother of a child in fact) who can do that to a baby and feel good about it. I mean, at what point does she, or the photographer think that perhaps they have crossed some sort of border into the perverse? Clearly, draping a string of pearls around the little neck is acceptable, despite the risk of strangulation or choking. Satin knickers and a baby bra seem to be ok too, as do the horrific shoes themselves.

Baby is then posed on a little sofa but it is a special pose, one that is familiar to anyone who reads magazines or looks at paintings or watches films. It is a pose that is variously referred to as ‘come hither’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘vampish’. It is the pose that has, through centuries indicated sexual availability, sexual abandon, sexual-ness. Sometimes it is coy but always suggestive of sex. It is a pose that historically, culturally, politically sets the woman (watched and prone) apart from the man (watching and looking down). It reflects the dynamic of gendered roles for men and women. She is inactive, her existence only becoming real when she is observed. She exists only in the male gaze. Outside of it she is invisible. He is active, in control, master of all he observes. He is secure in the knowledge she exists for him and is available to him.  It is a pose I’m sure you will recognise.

hrimfaxi sofa 1 hrimfaxi sofa 2 hrimfaxi sofa 4

hrimfaxi sofa 6hrimfaxi sofa 7 hrimfaxi sofa 8

So this little baby, a few weeks old, is dressed in tiny satin pants and posed like this…

baby heels 2

Already in training to assume her place in life when she grows up – on the sofa,  waiting for a man, ready for sex, prone and crippled by heels. She’s going nowhere. Welcome to the patriarchy, little one.

Don’t go out alone and other victim-blaming advice

Sifting through the usual twitter politics, news and kitten pictures reports of a brutal crime was brought to my attention. [1]

A young woman survived a particularly horrific rape on a usually busy street in Albury, NSW, Australia. While walking home from work at 6.30 pm, the 17 year old was dragged into bushes and raped at knifepoint. The news article shows photo fit images of those responsible – three young white males. What caught my eye and made me furious was the attitude of Kevin Mack, mayor of Albury.

After stating that the attack was tragic and ‘is not ok’, Mack is reported as saying this;

Cllr Mack encouraged women to walk in groups in an effort to discourage offenders.

 “I always have encouraged women not to walk alone, to have someone with them at all times, because that in itself is an invitation for someone to take advantage of you,” he said.

Rape culture is so embedded that many people will consider this to be sound advice. I have seen women commentators saying much the same thing. Indeed, our own mothers tell us this from our being very young children – don’t talk to strangers, be home before dark, stay with your friends. I have spent all of my life avoiding dark alleys, deserted parks, and isolated places.

If you think along the same lines as Kevin Mack you won’t be alone. In a poll commissioned by Amnesty International some years ago an alarming number of people believed that in most cases of rape, the victim’s dress, behaviour, sexual history or consumption of drugs or alcohol will make them culpable to a greater or lesser degree. [2] A quick précis of the dominant attitudes about the young woman raped by footballer Ched Evans provides a shocking demonstration of how women who have been drinking are considered almost incapable of being rape victims…they are seemingly willing participants merely by being drunk.

But the victim in this case was, according to those skewed, misogynist standards, surely ‘innocent’…fully clothed, sober, walking home from a day at work. If a rape victim, as in this case, is not drunk or sexually promiscuous, on what basis is Mack judging her to be ‘inviting’ rape? Under what circumstances would a woman out alone not be inviting rape, according to him? In fact, if we take Mack’s attitude to its logical conclusion, women are inviting rape by just existing. We make men do it just by being women. The only way we can be safe is by being inaccessible to the poor beguiled rapist, so that he will not dare to attempt to do to us what we naturally invite him to do. Just by being women.

It seems that Mack is saying that any woman who goes out unaccompanied is complicit in her attack. Because she invites rape just for being a woman she must therefore provide obstacles to prevent men from raping her. If she doesn’t, she has invited her attacker to rape her. She has effectively said to him, I’m here, I’m alone, come and get me. So this poor 17 year old girl has, in Mack’s mind, asked those three violent rapist men to rape her at knifepoint because she is a woman and because she was alone. Just take a moment to absorb that.

Imagine a situation where the victim of any other crime is accused of ‘inviting’ the crime. Imagine the victim of the savage stabbing on the streets of London in 2013 being accused of inviting his politically motivated murder because he was in the armed forces….

“I always have encouraged military personnel to never walk alone as this invites someone to murder them”

Imagine other crimes given the Mack treatment…

“I always have encouraged young men not to go to pubs at weekends as this invites someone to stab them”

“I always have encouraged people not to join the police force as this invites someone to shoot them”

“I always have encouraged people not to own cars as this invites someone to rob them”

“I always have encouraged children not to play outdoors as this invites someone to kidnap and abuse them”


In another interview on the Bordermail[3] website, Mack advised on women’s safety saying that they should “never walk alone at night.”

Victim blaming aside for a moment, how helpful is the mayor’s advice? Would staying off the streets alone at night prevent women being raped and murdered?

Women are raped, assaulted and murdered in all kinds of places and at all times of the day and night; parks, buses, doctor’s surgeries, dentist’s chairs, their own homes, streets, garages, public toilets, schools, churches, playgrounds, festivals, sports grounds, taxis, gardens, alleyways, waste ground, building sites. I myself was raped in my own bed in daylight. The assumption that rapists only prowl around deserted places at night is not only patently untrue, it contributes to the myth of rapists as anonymous monsters; not the man in bed next to you, not your neighbour or employer, not your priest or doctor, not your father or brother. Not men, but monsters. In the dark. In the park. In actual fact, according to crime data around 90% of rapes are committed by men known to the victim.[4] So….

staying off the streets at night will not prevent the 33% of rapes being committed in daytime[5]

staying indoors at night will not stop the 40% of rapes being committed inside the home[6]

staying away from strangers will not stop the 90% of rapes being committed by men known to the victim.[7]

So what about women being always accompanied? Will this save us from rape and murder?

Jyoti Singh Pandey was travelling in daylight on a public bus with a male friend when she was savagely raped by a gang of men and then thrown from the bus. She died from her injuries….

Two sisters on an aid trip to Gaza were raped in front of their father…

A man raped a woman in front of her family in Fort Wayne, USA…

A man raped a woman at knifepoint in front of her friends in Bulawayo…

So there is really no safety in numbers. Rapist men will find a way of raping.

There are men who are out at night for all kinds of reasons…walking dogs, jogging, going to work. But there are some who are there for the express purpose of committing rape and assault. We can safely say that NO woman is out alone with the intent of being raped and/or assaulted or murdered.

Kevin Mack is talking dangerous rubbish. From every perspective what his comments show is a total lack of understanding of rape as a crime against women, of the dominance of rape culture (which he perpetuates), the prevalence of rape mythology (to which he contributes) and the responsibility of men to address their own and each others crimes against women.




[4] Office for National Statistics