Lesbian Separatism

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Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:30 pm UTC

So I've been reading the blog "feminist reprise" quite a bit, and I find it fascinating. This entry in particular:

http://www.feminist-reprise.org/wpblog/ ... exism-too/


Now it's strange, even though the blog by its very philosophy has nothing to say to me, it has made me think a lot about what role as a man I have in society. The argument is essentially that men as a whole will not stop oppressing women as long as it is an option, and that given the current environment, it is ideal for a woman to put her economic, social, emotional, and sexual focus exclusively on other women. She acknowledges that this is very hard (often means poverty, social isolation, etc.) but believes that it is important to not invest energy in one's oppressors. This is a pretty inadequate summary, I'd definitely encourage reading the entry linked above.

I'm interested to know what you think of her arguments; I've read and thought about them quite a bit, but I haven't really discussed them with anyone.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby MiB24601 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:02 pm UTC

Well, similar to you, the author isn't speaking to me. However, I did read the essay you linked two and mostly, I was struck by two points:

1) The author is willing to and even seems happy to tar all men with the same brush, as rapists who don't care about women as anything but an object for sexual release, based upon the actions of a very small minority.

2) While the author does flat-out state that she thinks homosexuality is innate and not a choice, she seems to think that women can't be in good relationships with men and rather than try, should simply be in relationships with women, even if the relationship is non-sexual. However, the author seems to think that the relationships should be sexual, contradicting what she early said about homosexuality not being a choice.

Regarding the first point, any time a person judges someone for a personal characteristic that was not a choice, they've crossed a line. Someone can't decide their gender, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation. A person can't make a choice about any of those things and judging a person for that is unreasonable, to say the least. A person can be judged for their personal actions, as there is a choice involved. You hate rapists? So do I! So does every reasonable person. But that is a judgment based upon a personal decision. How can you hate men for something they had no say in?

As for the second point, I just can't get over the glaring contradiction between the authors original statements regarding sexuality and her later statements about relationships. I mean, what else can I really say about it? Actually, probably a lot but it mostly comes down to saying "I don't grant your premise that heterosexual relationships can't be happy and healthy."
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:08 pm UTC

Um, a bit extreme? I'm no champion of feminist theory, but when I see things like:

If we really want that safe feminist world, women are going to have to give up male approval and male love and start to build something with other women—not because rape is our fault or because justice is our responsibility but because men like raping women and they like hitting women and they like controlling women and they’re not going to stop until they have to. A


I stop listening to what they're saying and lump them in the 'too angry to work towards a solution' category. I mean, she's making excellent points, and believes in what I consider reasonable stances, such as that in order to incite change in the patriarchy you have to stop supporting it, but her blatant and open hatred for men just strikes me as no less sexist then the notions she's rallying against. I disagree with lines of thought that preclude solutions.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:14 pm UTC

Well, remember, basically none of us so far in this thread are the people she cares about impressing or convincing, so she doesn't care about lumping us all together. And, y'know, she kindof has a point. Even if there are men who do try to understand, and try not to participate in the patriarchy, men as a whole *will* oppress women as long as they're able, often without even registering that that's what they're doing (or even because they don't realize that's what they're doing and refuse to let themselves realize it).

I think the big falling-down-point of her logic is more around the part where she's saying that heterosexual women should give up heterosexual sex forever. I think around the time you start suggesting that people should just change their sexual orientation or become celibate, you've found an unworkable solution and it's time to go back to the drawing board.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:34 pm UTC

If you can argue that men as a whole will oppress women, why can't you argue that women as a whole will oppress women?
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:39 pm UTC

I'm sorry but that blog and other such man-bashing makes me so gorram angry that I have to vent a bit.
feminist-reprise.org wrote:men like raping women and they like hitting women and they like controlling women and they’re not going to stop until they have to.

Now I take the basic point, the incidence of male rape offenders is very much higher than female and they tend to be more violent. However the generalisation that 50% of the population wishes to rape the other 50% is quite hurtful. I love the idea of gender equality and will fight for it to then end, but self proclaimed feminists saying that I can't help wanting to rape women is very analogous to a misogynist saying that women can't help being physically and emotionally weak.

If I said that men should go live separately because women are really quite useless and that all they are the social norm of what we should have sex with rather than the alternatives of autoeroticism or homosexuality I’d be called a misogynist. This really isn't feminism is the equal right, suffragette sense rather tis misandry.

This kind of thing is really not helpful. While I think that she has a point that women should seek out those who don't desire to rape them this doesn't equate one to one to lesbianism. Go to the LSR board here and you can find many examples of possessive, hateful lesbianism and wonderful, equal heterosexual relations (as well as all other variations of morality/relation). Splitting people into camps based on an incidental quality to the quality of a relationship, namely gender, is not nearly as useful as the bastard/nice person distinction. We really just need to campaign for and make personal decisions that are not possessive and objectivising.

As well as this
feminist-reprise.org wrote: I’ll be the first to say that the belief that sexual orientation is innate and inborn is a big patriarchal lie.

And the hateful normative lie has been before that you choose your orientation and that you can "treat" or "cure" it. It is not a clear cut thing, you have both an innate disposition and experience forming your sexual preference the strength of both of which vary from person to person.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:41 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Well, remember, basically none of us so far in this thread are the people she cares about impressing or convincing, so she doesn't care about lumping us all together. And, y'know, she kindof has a point. Even if there are men who do try to understand, and try not to participate in the patriarchy, men as a whole *will* oppress women as long as they're able, often without even registering that that's what they're doing (or even because they don't realize that's what they're doing and refuse to let themselves realize it).


Exactly, a big part of the tone of her posts is that she really isn't interested in trying to work with men, and so trying to be diplomatic isn't really useful. Elsewhere she argues that even though there are men who are not blatantly oppressive (or are even trying to help fight oppression), that ultimately, when the chips are down, they will side with those who will preserve their own privilege. That might be a bit cynical, but to me it seems reasonable that the *vast* majority of people will ultimately put their own self-interest first (I know that I usually do).


Belial wrote:I think the big falling-down-point of her logic is more around the part where she's saying that heterosexual women should give up heterosexual sex forever. I think around the time you start suggesting that people should just change their sexual orientation or become celibate, you've found an unworkable solution and it's time to go back to the drawing board.


It is a little unclear in this article, but elsewhere she expresses skepticism at the idea of iron-clad sexual orientation, citing all of the women who have chosen to exclusively have relationships with women for the sake of feminism and essentially says: "I won't say that anyone can be a lesbian, but if you're immediate response is that you have to have sex with men, you could be a little more open-minded".

bigglesworth wrote: If you can argue that men as a whole will oppress women, why can't you argue that women as a whole will oppress women?


Well, certainly groups of women will (and do) oppress other groups of women based on things like ethnicity, religion, weight, sexual orientation, etc. but I don't think it makes sense to say that "women" as a group will oppress "women" as a group - that would require some sort of wide-spread masochism.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:45 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:If you can argue that men as a whole will oppress women, why can't you argue that women as a whole will oppress women?


Well, yeah. Especially considering that not all of the aforementioned women would be white.

Also, that individual women like and see value in associating with men, despite all the societal bullshit.

Really, there are a lot of holes in the whole lesbian separatism idea, and "Oh me yarm they are being so mean to the menfolk!" is, like, the very last on the list. Possibly a footnote. It's telling that it's the one everyone fixates on.

Setzer77 wrote:That might be a bit cynical, but to me it seems reasonable that the *vast* majority of people will ultimately put their own self-interest first (I know that I usually do).


True story. I think privilege is as much bullshit as anyone, but at the end of the day, if I need to get a job so that I can eat and pay rent, I'll swallow my morality and exploit the hell out of it to get what I need to get by, even as I realize that there are others who don't have that option and are actually worse off because I do. Self preservation first, and all that.

Which is why, I think, there's always that not-quite-one-of-us attitude toward male allies in womanist/feminist spaces, and white allies in POC activism spaces, and so forth: because as much as we want the world to be better and for this shit to get fixed and for everything to be equal, no one seriously believes that, when the chips are down, we won't exploit an unequal system to save our own skins. And that makes us fickle allies at best.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:50 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:Well, certainly groups of women will (and do) oppress other groups of women based on things like ethnicity, religion, weight, sexual orientation, etc. but I don't think it makes sense to say that "women" as a group will oppress "women" as a group - that would require some sort of wide-spread masochism.


It was on the issue of things like weight I was thinking of, although as you and Belial rightly point out, questions of race &c. might be more important. My thoughts were: The indoctrination of women into gender roles involves their mothers, their sisters, their friends. Holding men and women to different standards isn't only found in Playboy magazine, instead it is in examples every media, even those with female editorial control. Expectations of women to be feminine aren't only held by the men in their lives.

Call it wide-spread masochism if you will.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby H.E.L.e.N. » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:53 pm UTC

It is an extreme tack to take, but it's hard to disagree with her underlying premises. Women do face violence and often don't know how to help each other, because we live in a broken society. Same-sex relationships and communities can/do operate differently and those examples probably could help some people out.

So yes, I guess lesbianism would look like a personal solution to you if your relationship is just like a het marriage minus the penis, or if you’re with women because lesbian sex is just so darned hawt.


I think that's as good a reason as any, and would suggest that mocking women's desire is anti-feminist.

The term “political lesbian” didn’t mean a woman who slept with women even though she didn’t want to (though that’s how some interpreted it); it meant a woman who may have been or could have been with men and who chose to grow her love and sexual attraction for women out of her political commitment to feminism.


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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Lucrece » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:59 pm UTC

Oh, I have run into these types in the gay community. Needless to say, these are people who have let rancor empty them of any sense of rationality.

A gay activist comments that he once joined a support group to help members of the community and rally around pertinent issues. He was registering people, and some women came and said to him that since women on average earn 70% of what men do, they should only pay 70% of the membership fee. This was an organization heavily dependent on its donations from members in order to aid the LGBT community. This didn't appear to even register with the women, as they proceeded to accuse the guy of being sexist for denying them the proposal.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:01 pm UTC

Hrm...I do feel a bit weird having a conversation with a bunch of dudes about the merits of a website aimed exclusively at women, so I do want to note that I'm absolutely *not* implying that anyone involved with it (or the movements it describes) should give a damn what I think of it (and I'm sure they don't).

Kulantan wrote:
Now I take the basic point, the incidence of male rape offenders is very much higher than female and they tend to be more violent. However the generalisation that 50% of the population wishes to rape the other 50% is quite hurtful. I love the idea of gender equality and will fight for it to then end, but self proclaimed feminists saying that I can't help wanting to rape women is very analogous to a misogynist saying that women can't help being physically and emotionally weak.

If I said that men should go live separately because women are really quite useless and that all they are the social norm of what we should have sex with rather than the alternatives of autoeroticism or homosexuality I’d be called a misogynist. This really isn't feminism is the equal right, suffragette sense rather tis misandry.

This kind of thing is really not helpful. While I think that she has a point that women should seek out those who don't desire to rape them this doesn't equate one to one to lesbianism. Go to the LSR board here and you can find many examples of possessive, hateful lesbianism and wonderful, equal heterosexual relations (as well as all other variations of morality/relation). Splitting people into camps based on an incidental quality to the quality of a relationship, namely gender, is not nearly as useful as the bastard/nice person distinction. We really just need to campaign for and make personal decisions that are not possessive and objectivising.


True, you can't generalize to all men, but then again it's not like the bad men have signs pointing out who they are. Statistically, a woman is much much safer with other women than with men. It does seem like a lot of it comes down to the orientation thing: if orientation is mostly inborn and immutable, then lesbian separatism is asking heterosexual women to deny their sexual urges to a large extent, which is a lot to ask. If orientation is more flexible then it's simply arguing that while heterosexual relationships have advantages, on the whole it is a much better choice to be with women, and a woman should seriously examine and question her motives for being with men.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:10 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:The argument is essentially that men as a whole will not stop oppressing women as long as it is an option, and that given the current environment, it is ideal for a woman to put her economic, social, emotional, and sexual focus exclusively on other women.


Uhm... it's an option? I wasn't aware of that. It seems to me at as long as THEY (the woman who wrote the article, and I suppose her target audience) see that it's a viable option, it will continue to happen.

Maybe I live in a really progressive cowboy-hick-town, but I haven't seem wymyn being oppressed in probably two decades.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby PictureSarah » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:17 pm UTC

Well, you probably haven't been looking very hard, because you have the privilege to not notice.

That said, I found that blog fairly offensive to women who choose to maintain sexual or social relationships with men. Living communally with other women is all well and good, and any woman who wants to do that should absolutely be able to. But the women who choose *not to ignore* the other half of humans should not be seen as enablers of misogyny, and the fact that she's evidently never seen or been in an equal relationship between a man and a woman doesn't mean they don't exist.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Moo » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:20 pm UTC

Again, PictureSarah appears to have the exact same viewpoint as me and a much more succinct way of putting it. While I find the suggestion an interesting one, I didn't appreciate the undercurrent of accusation.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:23 pm UTC

I'm sure sexism still happens, but going so far as to call it 'oppression' seems to be a little much for me (but as a guy I probably don't have the authority to say for sure). To me, this seems like another small but vocal group that have taken slights, both real and perceived, and blown them way out of proportion in order to garner attention to their plight.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:27 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Really, there are a lot of holes in the whole lesbian separatism idea, and "Oh me yarm they are being so mean to the menfolk!" is, like, the very last on the list. Possibly a footnote. It's telling that it's the one everyone fixates on.


I agree here to an extent. There are huge problems with lesbian separatism: physical (reproducing would be a lot harder), psychological, would it make men more likely to respect women as people if they never had contact with them at a relationship level, what about male children born into this society (or wouldn't you create male zygotes?), how do you achieve it, physical isolationism or social, what in the hells do you do about the transgendered among us and so on. However the argument that is being put in favour of the move is that males are very mean to women (for very extreme values of mean). So the issue of "Oh me yarm they are being so mean to the menfolk!" that your mocking is a serious question about the methodology of the proposed solution (means, ends, justifying, ect).

setzer777 wrote: but then again it's not like the bad men have signs pointing out who they are.

Equally some ethnicities are statistically much more likely to be involved in violent crime and they don't carry signs. So should others just write off that minority for fear of violence? We have to look at people individually and not generalise especially in personal relationships.

setzer777 wrote:and a woman should seriously examine and question her motives for being with men.


I think here that we can generalise that everyone should think whether their sexual orientation is a product of the truth of their feeling, or if it is a social convention that is causing them unhappiness.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:52 pm UTC

Was planning to write new post and delete this one, but lost my window to delete. Contents that were in this post are included in my post below.
Last edited by setzer777 on Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:05 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:58 pm UTC

Wow, this viewpoint is more common than I thought.

Male Infanticide is the best option!

Some of the comments that made me frightened:

Stopping the emergence of any more male human beings is essential to the survival and well-being of all females, human and otherwise. Until such a conscious collective (and successful) action is taken, women are spinning their wheels, and the emergence of any more female “cannon fodder” is a tragedy.


When you got self-appointed Earth Mothers going on about saving the theoretical male babies, you have thriving male supremacy

Would you feel the same way if instead of males and females we substituted whites for males and blacks for females? Genocide is genocide and that is what you are proposing.

LOL. Since when do black people give birth to white people? So, no, you can’t just switch males with “white people.” Fucking idiot.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:04 pm UTC

Kulantan wrote:
Belial wrote:Really, there are a lot of holes in the whole lesbian separatism idea, and "Oh me yarm they are being so mean to the menfolk!" is, like, the very last on the list. Possibly a footnote. It's telling that it's the one everyone fixates on.


I agree here to an extent. There are huge problems with lesbian separatism: physical (reproducing would be a lot harder), psychological, would it make men more likely to respect women as people if they never had contact with them at a relationship level, what about male children born into this society (or wouldn't you create male zygotes?), how do you achieve it, physical isolationism or social, what in the hells do you do about the transgendered among us and so on. However the argument that is being put in favour of the move is that males are very mean to women (for very extreme values of mean). So the issue of "Oh me yarm they are being so mean to the menfolk!" that your mocking is a serious question about the methodology of the proposed solution (means, ends, justifying, ect).


The blog is pretty questionable in the way it deals with the transgendered and male infants (in the latter case it is usually subtle, but there references along the lines of "rather than focus on the male victims of infanticide we can choose to sympathize with women who raise sons that turn against them"). But I think the general idea is to create a community that will establish complete independence for women, and ultimately give them more "bargaining power" with men in society, due to them having an "out" and not being inevitably stuck in patriarchal society. Personally, I seriously doubt how effective this would be, as it seems like trying to be totally independent of the people who control all the major power structures is a good way of becoming irrelevant.



Kulantan wrote:
setzer777 wrote:and a woman should seriously examine and question her motives for being with men.


I think here that we can generalise that everyone should think whether their sexual orientation is a product of the truth of their feeling, or if it is a social convention that is causing them unhappiness.



I think a big point of the argument is that decisions about sexual orientation shouldn't be entirely decided by how "true" the feeling is, but at least partially by an analysis of the practical pros and cons of sexual relationships with that gender, as well as the effects on society as a whole.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby TaintedDeity » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:06 pm UTC

Can we try not to let this turn into a 'bash feminism!' thread?
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby H.E.L.e.N. » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:06 pm UTC

Sadistic Humor wrote:Wow, this viewpoint is more common than I thought.

Male Infanticide is the best option!


I think conflating the first blog (which was at least coherent/intelligent/interesting) with the above (which is straight-up batshit) will not lead to any useful discussion.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:08 pm UTC

I thought the fundamental point of "We'd be better off without men" was prevalent throughout both articles, but I see your point. I can get rid of my post, if you want.

EDIT: And for the record, I am not 'bashing feminism'. At the very worst, I am bashing short-sighted feminists, much the same way I bash any -ists who are held aloft by the conviction of their baffling, unfounded beliefs.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Enuja » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:09 pm UTC

If you're interested in lesbian feminism and lesbian separatism, one really interesting document is Woman-Identified-Women, which was put on both sides of a piece of paper and passed out during a Zap (creative radical protest) to protest the absence and silencing of lesbian perspectives at a women's conference in 1970.

My spouse had an interesting perspective on lesbian separatism: he thinks that it was needed in (the 1960s, before it happened), the 1970s, and the early 1980s, but is no longer necessary.* Before the sexual revolution, a man who wanted to treat a women equally had to exit society to the extent that he lost his privilege. Some people did this: there has been a "free love" movement in the United States since the 1850s. However, in many ways, the sexual revolution of the 1960s simply increased male privilege by making it okay for women to do what men wanted them to do. Therefore, even if a man was trying to treat women equally, he still had extreme male privilege and therefore the relationship was not equal. The rise of a kind of post-gender sexuality (described in some parts of "Ethical Slut") plus some of the successes of the women's movement (including the invention and propagation of the powerful ideas of the possibility of workplace sexual harassment and rape in marriage) makes it possible for men to treat women much more equally.

As a mostly heterosexual women, I probably could and would be women-identified if I thought that my heterosexual activity was strengthening men's privilege by a great deal. I think that we need to radically change what we think about gender and sexual orientation, and I think that lesbian separatism might make this change faster. But I want to convince everyone, and lesbian separatism has the risk of creating larger divides between gender. My favorite line from woman-identified woman is "It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy." While somehow respecting the choices of lesbians, male homosexuals, and heterosexuals, I want sexual orientation to be irrelevant. What matters is individual choice, not categories that can be constructed from a string of individual choices.

I think that dismissing lesbian separatism as absurd is too easy and ignores the real problems it was designed to address. I also think that's vital to remember that lesbian separatism is always supposed to be temporary: it's a way to exit sexist society, to give it the kind of shock Ayn Rand imagined productive people would give society by leaving it in "Atlas Shrugged". Main-stream liberals and much of the gay rights movement currently believes that sexual orientation is innate, and that this innateness is an advantage for the movement to give LGBTQ people rights. I think that this assumption of sexual destiny (like one true love and men sweeping women off their feet in a powerful love) is in fact one of the great flaws of our current society, and it's a flaw that lesbian separatism has some power to address.


*I can't help but think that he's heterosexual and was born in the 1970s and so wasn't sexually mature to care about it, but now is sexually mature and therefore wants the time for lesbian separatism to be over. Despite that dose of self-interest, it's possible that he is correct.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Jessica » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:10 pm UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:Can we try not to let this turn into a 'bash feminism!' thread?
Yes, some self proclaimed feminists have extreme views, but they're a minority and to be expected in any movement.

I'd like to agree with Tainted here, because that's what it looks like is on the verge of happening in this thread. Yes, that article (I don't have time to read it, but the argument is fundamentally flawed as Belial has stated a number of times) is more extreme. Then again, now that I'm thinking, when I get back from group, I might read it as a "modest proposal" and see how it holds up. Or... as an extreme trying to push people into doing something, or thinking.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:17 pm UTC

Yep, I should have probably used the phrase "degree of immutability" rather than "truth" and added a logical component. How about:

Kulantan's revised statement wrote: I think here that we can generalise that everyone should think whether their sexual orientation is a product of the degree of immutability of their current feeling, or if it is a social convention that is causing them unhappiness. As well as this people should take a more utilitarian stance on relationships (if they are experiencing more pain then pleasure then it might be a good idea to re-evaluate).


Next

setzer777 wrote: But I think the general idea is to create a community that will establish complete independence for women, and ultimately give them more "bargaining power" with men in society, due to them having an "out" and not being inevitably stuck in patriarchal society.


I agreed if it is limited, but if used as a solution for all women I think it would alienate the sexes leading to more misogyny and objectification of women.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

Here is another post from the blog, that takes a more moderate tone: http://www.feminist-reprise.org/wpblog/ ... eparatism/

She does specifically point out that separatism is not feasible or ideal for everyone. This quote in particular I find compelling:

Amy's Brain wrote:
So although there’s plenty more to say on the subject, for this introductory post, I’ll leave you with this sweet little article, “Lesbian Separatist Basics” by K. Hess, Jean Langford, and Kathy Ross, from 1980:

The term lesbian separatism has been used to express many different politics. To us it means, most importantly, not a way of promoting exclusively lesbian concerns, or a way of protecting lesbians from heterosexism in political groups, but a possibility of prioritising feminism. We want to distinguish clearly between women’s interests and men’s interests so that we can act in women’s interests. The institution of heterosexuality blocks this process by encouraging women to see our interests as identified with men’s instead of opposed to them. Women are not going to be able to persuade men as a group that it is in their best interests to set women free because it isn’t. Men get material benefits from women’s oppression: better pay, better working conditions, free labor in the household, more status, greater
control over sexual relations, et cetera. As one radical feminist wrote: “I fully recognize that some radical males have on occasion baked a tray of brownies to celebrate May Day. This does not alter the fundamental structure of American life.”(1)

Economically and emotionally men’s interests are best protected by the oppression of women. It is pure idealism to imagine men as a group rising above their interests in order to be charitable to women. Men will make room for women’s interests only if and when women are strong enough to force the point. As separatists we choose to oppose men rather than try to reform them, not out of a belief that men can’t change but out of a belief that they won’t change until they understand that they have to.

We may fight alongside (we do not say with) men in certain situations like the anti-Nazi and anti-Initiative 13 marches in Seattle in the summer of 1978 but in these situations we insist on our political independence.(2) We will not put it aside in order to emphasize unity. Men are not allies in feminism which is the framework of our political position on any issue. Lesbian separatism is not about asserting lesbianism as a superior lifestyle but about making use of its potential for political independence from men.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby H.E.L.e.N. » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:50 pm UTC

@Sadistic: I don't want to remove your post; I was just having an opinion re: the course of the discussion.

Enuja wrote:I think that this assumption of sexual destiny (like one true love and men sweeping women off their feet in a powerful love) is in fact one of the great flaws of our current society, and it's a flaw that lesbian separatism has some power to address.


And I like what you've said here, because I think showing alternatives in what some people consider to be the purpose of their life is a useful thing. When I step outside of my immediate social circle, it is still shocking to me how some women think of themselves in terms of what men prefer, and I think this is so pervasive that some people wouldn't recognize the little (or bigger) ways that this affects their life until they are presented with a different worldview. I don't think that this can only take place in lesbian/women-focused spaces, but I think lesbian/women-focused spaces can help.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kulantan » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:53 pm UTC

Amy's Brain wrote:It is pure idealism to imagine men as a group rising above their interests in order to be charitable to women. Men will make room for women’s interests only if and when women are strong enough to force the point.


Now I understand what she is saying, but if she is right then the equilibrium between patriarchal and matriarchal would be very unstable. This means that under the "realistic" model one gender will always look out for it self over the other because as humanity as a whole cannot overcome self interest. However I very much don't agree with the view that it would be "pure idealism" rather I think that it is the best course of action.

This feeling that women are better than men is also kind of in
Woman-Identified-Women wrote:"It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy."

I think that you would find these classifications operating under a female supremacy as it is the normative sexuality not the maleness of it that causes it. This is not to say that I don't agree that it is a good idea to look at relationships without emotionally pigeon holing them (also not saying that there aren't biological differences between the various relations that carry importance).

I feel that the ideal is an egalitarian society where both men and women are (and are seen as) equally good and bad rather than any society that focuses on the privilege of one sex over the other. This is why I feel statements like
Amy's Brain wrote:Men are not allies in feminism

aren't great.
H.E.L.e.N. wrote:I don't think that this can only take place in lesbian/women-focused spaces, but I think lesbian/women-focused spaces can help.

Agreed.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

Allrighty. I didn't mean to come off as needlessly inflammatory.

I like to consider myself a 'modern' guy. I treat women equally, as far as I can tell. I am not aware of (at least, on the small scale) of any phallocentric male-ocracy in existence. Sexism most certainly exists, and I've seen lots of evidence of that, but the entire concept of 'male-dominated oppression of women' seems almost laughable in this day and age. It seems to me (let me stress, this is personal opinion based on observation) that the cries and denouncement of 'oppression of the female species' is spouted from the mouths of those who may indeed have been treated poorly and with sexual deference, but they feel the need to cry that the entire 'female race' is being oppressed because they, individually, were treated poorly. The poorly-treated individuals find eachother and band together as proof that the entire 'species' (sorry I keep using quotes, but unless I missed a biology class, females aren't another species / race... just confusing members of this one) is being oppressed.

My wife was invited to some 'Women's Culture' talks and conferences because she's an active member of the community, but she has declined to go to most since she's left aghast and horrified at how they talk at these talks, how nearly everyone there talks about dominance and oppression and being a 'subwife' because the husbands got jobs, and so forth. Maybe we're in the wrong by thinking personal responsibility has a lot to do with it, but it seems that female oppression exists because people insist that it exists.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:06 pm UTC

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Lucrece » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:26 pm UTC

I don't quite grasp what she means when she says male homosexuality and lesbianism are responses to patriarchies with rigid gender binaries.

Is she saying that the behavior only arises in such societies?
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:29 pm UTC

Rather that defining yourself as strictly one or strictly the other, and having it become prescriptive (rather than descriptive) is a product of a society with gender binaries, and that if gender identities were fluid it would be impossible to say "I only sleep with women" because who is entirely a woman anyway....
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby H.E.L.e.N. » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

I think she's saying that these things only have a name/category when there's a strong norm to define them against.

Edit: ninja'd.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby clockworkmonk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:32 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:I don't quite grasp what she means when she says male homosexuality and lesbianism are responses to patriarchies with rigid gender binaries.

Is she saying that the behavior only arises in such societies?


I think she means that the views of them in the patriarchies is responsible for the culture surrounding homosexuality and lesbianism in such societies, not that they are caused by them.

edit: double ninja'd
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:35 pm UTC

Sadistic Humor wrote:My wife was invited to some 'Women's Culture' talks and conferences because she's an active member of the community, but she has declined to go to most since she's left aghast and horrified at how they talk at these talks, how nearly everyone there talks about dominance and oppression and being a 'subwife' because the husbands got jobs, and so forth. Maybe we're in the wrong by thinking personal responsibility has a lot to do with it, but it seems that female oppression exists because people insist that it exists.

Can we stop this nonsense where guys talk about their wives/girlfriends/female friends/random strangers as if that absolves them of all responsibility to stop acting like sexist punks? This stuff is on par with, "I'm not racist/homophobic/ableist/etcetera! I have a friend that happens to fit into one or more of those categories! This totally makes my silly remarks okay."

setzer777 wrote:I'm interested to know what you think of her arguments; I've read and thought about them quite a bit, but I haven't really discussed them with anyone.

My initial thoughts about the original article is that she has a pretty good point about the notion that guys enjoy the various atrocities they commit against womankind every single day (Just because we're not confined to our houses unless accompanied by our fathers/husbands/brothers doesn't mean that oppression doesn't happen). I obviously can't speak for all women, and I don't consider myself the Queen of Feminism, but I find myself honestly embittered and scared at the state of affairs between the genders even in the USA. It doesn't help that I have experienced plenty of proof relevant to the existence of these insidious ailments personally--Nobody can tell me that this stuff just doesn't happen to people!

Would I become a political lesbian or join a commune of women? Yes, I might choose either of those options if presented with them, because it really isn't worth it to enter into an unequal partnership with any given man even if he thinks that he is the most liberal feminist ally on the planet. If atrocities continue to happen every day in sufficient quantities and the parties involved continue to show absolutely zero remorse for their reprehensible acts then the choice becomes more of a matter of emotional--or perhaps even physical given the wrong circumstances--life or death than just a case of dueling ideologies.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Lucrece » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:14 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Rather that defining yourself as strictly one or strictly the other, and having it become prescriptive (rather than descriptive) is a product of a society with gender binaries, and that if gender identities were fluid it would be impossible to say "I only sleep with women" because who is entirely a woman anyway....



Ah, I see, the concept and term. But wouldn't we still come up with a category for someone attracted to someone else of the same body structure? Or is the situation that she's describing up to the point of irrelevance that such attraction doesn't even belong in the radar of people, and thus there wouldn't even be a drive to come up with a term for it?
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:17 pm UTC

Iunno. Ask her.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Enuja » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:18 pm UTC

First of all, Women-Identified-Women was written collectively by the Radicalesbians, so, when referring to the quote I took from it, "she" is not the correct pronoun. "They" wrote it together. Again, I strongly suggest that everyone interested in lesbian separatism read the entirety of The Women-Identified-Women. It's not long. It's old, but it's pretty central and basic to the movement.

Kulantan wrote:This feeling that women are better than men is also kind of in
Woman-Identified-Women wrote:"It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy."

I think that you would find these classifications operating under a female supremacy as it is the normative sexuality not the maleness of it that causes it. This is not to say that I don't agree that it is a good idea to look at relationships without emotionally pigeon holing them (also not saying that there aren't biological differences between the various relations that carry importance).
As I understand that quote from Women-Identified-Women, it uses the ideas that

1) "Male" sexuality is less fluid than "female" sexuality.
2) Male supremacy includes over-emphasizing what male-ness is.
3) Therefore, this sexist society over-emphasizes gender roles in a way that is harmful for everyone, including making men chose a more stringent sexual identity than they would in a non-sexist society.

The sexist society that this essay was written in was a patriarchal, male-centered sexist society. There are other possible sexist societies, and I don't see anything in that quote or in Women-Identified-Woman as a whole to say that society should be sexist privileging women. However, the specific sexist problems with THIS society are of a sexist society that privileges men.

Lucrece, this quote is not about homosexual and lesbian behavior, it's about homosexual and lesbian identity. Another quote:
The Women-Identified-Women wrote:Homosexuality is a by-product of a particular way of setting up roles ( or approved patterns of behavior) on the basis of sex; as such it is an inauthentic ( not consonant with "reality") category. In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings, the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.
The idea here is that men would often have sex and create families with men, and women with women, but this wouldn't create an identity of any kind. Just as we don't currently have an identity of men who date men with blue eyes (although some men do), we wouldn't have sexual identity. There are currently gay male identities about body type and the like, but some of these identities are fluid, and some of them are tied to our patriarchal society. Lucrecre, the Radicalesbians were not saying that homosexual behavior would disappear, just that sexual identity (including heterosexual identity) would disappear in the absence of a male-privileged sexist society. Again, it's the identity, not the behavior, that's the problem. If you need to say you're attracted to men, just say so in as many words!


Sadistic Humor, your definitional distinction makes no sense to me. You say both "I am not aware ... of any phallocentric male-ocracy in existence" and "Sexism most certainly exists". Aren't these synonymous phrases? I mean, phallocentric male-ocracy is quite colorful, and sounds emphatic, but it's actual content, to me at least, is "sexism, especially phallocentric sexism".

I don't know any women who have not been treated poorly by society because of their gender. I know plenty of women who think they are being treated fine, but when I look at how people to talk to them and treat them and listen to things they say, I want to scream "Can't you see how he is patronizing you?" "Don't you see that you're giving up your power by buying into the idea that you have to wait for a white knight to rescue you?" I can't speak to the particular women's group that your spouse dislikes, but when culture tells women that they should not be good at math, should have a job they can quit for some years to take care of a child, should be in a relationship, should follow their male partner for a job and not move their male partner for their job, and while there still a huge gender gap in salaries between men and women for the same job with the same experience, we should address that sexism in society in addition to addressing personal responsibility. One the biggest sexist ideals is that women should not take responsibility for fulfilling their own needs, but should instead take care of other people (spouse, children). Killing sexism and patriarchy will, in fact, increase personal responsibility, so please don't consider feminism and personal responsibility as incompatible with each other.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Sadistic Humor » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:24 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:Can we stop this nonsense where guys talk about their wives/girlfriends/female friends/random strangers as if that absolves them of all responsibility to stop acting like sexist punks? This stuff is on par with, "I'm not racist/homophobic/ableist/etcetera! I have a friend that happens to fit into one or more of those categories! This totally makes my silly remarks okay."

That wasn't even close to what I was doing. Are you saying that, since I talked about my wife and I treat women as equals, I'm a sexist punk? What 'silly remarks' of mine are you referring to?

Can we stop with this nonsense where people take deeply personal offense to every single individual innocent comment?
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