My feminism :: an interview with Captain_Chaos

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 @Captain_Chaos43 for sharing her story.

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

I’ve always been a strong believer in social justice, I have been involved in activism of various kinds for around 30 years now. I think I’ve always been a feminist, I’ve always believed that women were just as good as men, that we are deserving of fair treatment etc. However, for me, having children was a big wake up call, and then going back to work after a long break raising my sons, one of whom has some serious difficulties associated with autism. I actually had a manager tell me that women don’t do such and such a role with our company and that really opened my eyes.

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

My particular areas of interest are: rape, domestic violence and childhood abuse. I am a survivor of all 3. We live in a rape culture, everywhere you go, there are images of violence and violation of women. Women are still not believed when they disclose their abuse, and even when they are, they are blamed for having brought it on themselves in some way. Narratives abound where women are expected to keep themselves safe from men, and yet, men aren’t taking any real level of responsibility for the epidemic of male violence that’s going on in front of their faces.

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

My friendship groups have changed a lot. I am less and less tolerant of off hand sexist/racist/ablist twaddle the older I get. I tend to have a lot of acquaintances eye rolling at me if I call them out on their attitudes, this has been especially true since the Ched Evans case, however, once you give them the facts, they tend to end up agreeing that he is a rapist and was bang to rights.

I am now going back to college in order to go to university to study psychology. I want to use my studies to point a spotlight on male violence and to help women to find their own tools to heal from past abuse. I can work to prevent male violence, but there will always be women who have experienced painful things at the hands of men, and if I can help with the healing, I will consider my life well spent.

4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?

I see feminism being taken over by man pleasing ideas of empowerment through actions which are inherently unfeminist a lot on social media. I really hope that this trend can be stopped before it utterly destroys the movement. It’s the ultimate divide and conquer gambit by men, and women seem to be sleep walking into it! I’d love to see women coming together more, in safe spaces, I hope that we can engineer that, in spite of all efforts to close down women’s space.

There have been a lot of positives that I’ve seen recently, older women sharing their experiences with younger women, true sisterhood of support and encouragement social media has been a major mover in this, so I hope we can all come up with new ways to exploit that in order to make the world a better place.

5. Who inspires your feminism?

Other women! I have been really lucky to have met a group of women who support and care for each other, who live out what the world could look like if we threw off the chains of Patriarchy and stopped hating each other.

All sorts of women inspire me, from the wonderful Jean Hatchet and her funny and self deprecating battling against some truly vitriolic trolling from men angry at her defence of rape victims, through to the many women who just make life happen for the people they love everyday, women who support other women, offer them the hand of friendship and love rather than endless policing and hurt. We have men who do that, women should look out for each other, especially feminists, and it’s really difficult to see when women gang together to rip other women apart.

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

I suppose, for women my age who have been in relationships for a while, it would be Wifework by Susan Maushart, which explains just how much of the gruntwork women do every day within the majority of homes, and how men have been merrily shirking these shit jobs for too long. I’d also recommend Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, it can get quite dense at times, but it a really easily understood primer for anyone who wants to be sure that there’s no such thing as “lady brain”

wifeworkdelusions

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: firewomon01@gmail.com. There is always www.radfem.org  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.
delusions