It’s not often I’m taken with glee to read of the death of someone. During the years I’ve blogged, many of the writers and philosophers who have had the greatest influence on me have died. Often, I feel their deaths bode ill for a world greatly in need of such thinkers, I wonder where such new voices will come from, though I know equally, looking across the books arrayed on my desk, many of which from writers long having exited, that they will come, are already here, and I shall delight in them also.
But to feel satisfaction, joy even at the death of one who is a writer also, a feminist even, who equally had a profound influence upon me, surely that is a rotten thing?
I want to say, “The bitch is dead! That vile, nasty, hate-mongering, small-minded shrew has gone. Better for all of us though if she had thirty or more years ago”.
I have a weakness to be easily led, impressionable, likely to be swayed by arguments when I don’t have the courage of my own convictions. It gets me into trouble and perhaps is why, contra that, I tend towards the opposite; distrustful, skeptical, likely to use large hammers to muse upon small problems, likely also to spend days reading on a single sentence someone might have uttered in passing, so I can begin to have an opinion. Wary always of fascism of thinking and doing.
My introduction to feminism came at the end of what is posthumously called the second wave. I think. It’s all confusing for me, and really, I reduce it to this: before and after Gender Trouble. Certainly there were things afoot before Saint Uncle Judith published what was really only meant for a few people to read, and luckily for me in the course of reading it, I had friends who could split hairs over the French feminist philosophers, whom I’d call to ask notoriously dumb questions about Lacan. That book though changed much, though not enough.
There are still others I shall delight in their deaths: Germaine Greer, Janice Raymond, others less so because they have become irrelevant. Still hateful and causing harm, but anachronistic and laughable, deserving of scorn and ridicule, not of serious debate.
Feminism though, because of its so easily led fascination with essentialism, a crypto-religious and uncritical adoration of Woman counterpoised against Men, rooted in some asinine pseudo-biology, lapped up the rotten phobias of such woman (including the thankfully dead Andrea Dworkin) and found an ideal marriage with political lesbianism to spawn such repugnant ideologies as radical feminist lesbian separatism.
Feminism as it was in this guise had far more in common with nationalism than any movement of liberation and human rights.
For me my early adventures in feminism were in this. Obviously, it didn’t go well. Feminism was then extremely tangled up in defining what was woman, and by extension, who was not. And just because you were a woman didn’t necessarily mean that de jure you were.
It is because of such women I find myself deeply conflicted to call myself feminist. Too often I find such hate-mongering that I would like to think Judith drew a line under has resurfaced. There are plenty of women who still whole-heartedly ascribe to such statements calling for the erasing of a class of people, that against any other group would be cause for immediate and swift condemnation at the least. That feminism as a whole – and I do find the relativist dissembling of counterclaims that there are many feminisms does feminism no favours – is so lacking in some indefinable regard as to not stake its own claims upon some inalienable rights and vociferously and unequivocally condemn such writers, for me at least means I always am suspicious, always waiting for the resurgence of separatism and hate.
A road that shouldn’t have been gone down. Feminism from that era, of which I caught the tail end and was soundly wrung out by, reminds me now of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The speak bitterness campaigns, the condemnations, the destruction of individuals because they weren’t the right kind of feminist, the right kind of lesbian, the right kind of woman. It disgusts me now.
Perhaps though we should celebrate, be thankful that what these people believe in is a dead end, that queer and trans happened. That isn’t enough though. The difficulty of looking at one’s own unsavory past is always the stumbling point that breeds cynicism and allows for the possibility of more of the same.
So. Who have I been thinking upon while writing this? Someone who is a liar, a hatemonger, a segregationist, an advocate of genocide, a feminist.
Personally, I find the first the easiest to denounce someone on. To fabricate or falsify with the aim of advancing your agenda is simply unacademic and the author deservedly should be publicly exposed and hounded out of university life. The others though are less easy to deal with.
A woman who banned men from her university lectures, who publicly discussed the “decontamination” of earth through a “drastic reduction of the population of males”, who aligns herself with Janice Raymond’s claims that, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies…”, this is feminism as it was done by Mary Daly, and is still done all too often.
Mary Daly, you are not a feminist.