Lesbian Separatism

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:24 pm UTC

As is the argument that racial, class, and other distinctions would not be solved at all, so the idea that it would be an idealized oppression-free society (conceded here, but... here's not the problem - and once all the non-radical people who bought into a separatist movement find they've been sold a bill of goods, it's going to be that much harder for any solution to get implemented.) is invalid.


Last I checked, it's not a proposition for solving all oppression, so much as one particular type. And I don't know that it's been billed as such. So that doesn't strike me as a flaw, so much as a nirvana fallacy: if you're not solving every problem at once, don't solve any of them.

That said, it's a good reason why the whole thing wouldn't interest a lot of women, much like feminism doesn't interest a lot of WOC: it doesn't address their issues to the same extent that it does white women. Which is something of a problem that feminism is wrestling with (or stubbornly and stupidly refusing to wrestle with, sometimes).

Unfortunately, the only way to work that principle into a separatist paradigm would be to have communities further fragment along racial lines. I wonder if that's a good idea.

Since the attitudes of the people who propose it can be generalized directly to how the idea would actually be implemented, every problem with the people who propose it is a problem with the idea.


True enough. And it's one of the places where the implementation by those people would fall down. But that doesn't make the other objections against the idea of lesbian separatism (that the idea itself discriminates against or alienates men, for example) valid. That is, there are objections to the idea at its core, which is "women should separate themselves from the patriarchy so as to provide a viable alternative to the patriarchy and therefore weaken its position", and then there are objections to the people currently promoting the idea. It's kindof like the difference between objecting to socialism and objecting to the french government.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:43 pm UTC

Kulantan wrote:Also true, however if this is the case then maybe the idea needs "negation" if it is continued to be expressed in the forms we have seen. If we don't listen to other's opinion then we cut ourselves off from half the brain power of the human species. If men are not allowed to contribute then they couldn't model the society on Plato's republic, however if Plato was a woman they would be allowed to, seems to be the position. This idea of anything male originated being a separatism "thoughtcrime" is (in a practical sense, think water pumps, irrigation theory, ect) crippling to the idea.


I haven't heard anyone advocating rejection of anything male-originated (particularly when we are talking about long-dead males). But most would consider getting into a long discussion with some man about the merits of their decisions both a waste of time and somewhat of a risk (not a certainty, but a risk) of reverting back to their previous attitudes (placing a man's thoughts/concerns/opinions first).

Also, I don't think the idea is that a female-only community would be a utopian paradise where there is no struggle or discrimination, not is the idea necessarily a universal gender divide (intelligent people realize that this is practically impossible). However, it would be good thing if their was a female-only community large enough that any given woman had the *choice* to separate herself from men should she so desire. Right now, if a woman for whatever reason (and I believe that there are certainly valid reasons on an individual level) wants to have nothing to do with men, she doesn't really have that choice (or at least not without making massive sacrifices).
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby T-Form » Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:53 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
T-Form wrote:I'm not seeing any reason why every system must tend toward self-interest, either.


For the simple reason that it's vanishingly rare to get any random selection of people to act against their own self interest all at the same time.

If one person is bucking the trend by acting against their own self interest, and twenty more people *aren't*, the one person bucking the trend doesn't change the status quo much.

I disagree that acting against one's self-interest is naturally rare; I think most people won't prioritise self-interest when it's clear that doing so will harm others, except when they feel threatened. We live in societies that encourage isolation and competition and fear, so people do feel threatened and are thus able to disregard a lot of the harm that they cause.

However, I've never known of any person who genuinely advocates lesbian separatism yet isn't a transphobic jerk, so the idealised implementation would be expected to leave me as one of the very few women in a society otherwise comprised of men.


Is that a problem with the idea, or just the people who often propose it?

Under the self-interest model, it's both - I'm probably not special enough that cisgendered women would gain a unique benefit from letting me in. That's likely to be true for almost all trans women, so the total benefit of letting trans people in is small. On the other hand, our interests aren't always aligned with those of other women, so there might already be a net benefit to excluding us. Furthermore, the cost of letting men in is probably seen to be substantial, so we're vulnerable to a fear that letting trans women in will also let cisgendered men in. If we make the (somewhat optimistic) assumption that one person in a thousand is transgendered, then it would take no more than one man in a thousand - a rather small- and plausible-sounding proportion - before half of the ostensible-trans-women seeking entry are cisgendered men. I expect that separatists would be worried about this, so either trans women would be faced with some sort of test (mirroring the bullshit that's been forced upon trans people by doctors, under one discourse or another, since they first recognised our existence) or we'd be outright excluded. Including us as equals is rather like including the decent cisgendered men - it goes against cisgendered lesbian separatists' self-interest.

There's not much of a pragmatic loss to the eventual separatist goal by excluding trans women, either. Being such a small proportion of the population, we aren't going to have much effect on the balance of power; if separatism would work, it could work just as well for cisgendered women without our inclusion.

Belial wrote:Unfortunately, the only way to work that principle into a separatist paradigm would be to have communities further fragment along racial lines. I wonder if that's a good idea.

Apart from anything else, it'd be uncomfortably similar to some pretty shameful parts of our history. There's also the problem of categorising mixed-race people - it's not exactly the same thing as with trans and intersex people, but I expect there'd be some similar issues.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:02 pm UTC

T-Form wrote:I disagree that acting against one's self-interest is naturally rare; I think most people won't prioritise self-interest when it's clear that doing so will harm others, except when they feel threatened. We live in societies that encourage isolation and competition and fear, so people do feel threatened and are thus able to disregard a lot of the harm that they cause.


That's fair. It's rare in any large society, I'd say. I'd say it's still not the norm in anything smaller, it's just easier to line peoples' self interest up with the common good in smaller societies.

Under the self-interest model, it's both - I'm probably not special enough that cisgendered women would gain a unique benefit from letting me in.


Fair. That is something of a quandry. Yeah, that might be another legitimate problem with the idea.

Belial wrote:Unfortunately, the only way to work that principle into a separatist paradigm would be to have communities further fragment along racial lines. I wonder if that's a good idea.

Apart from anything else, it'd be uncomfortably similar to some pretty shameful parts of our history.


Well, the central conceit here is that there's a huge difference between being segregated and ghetto-ized by a dominant power, and choosing to separate and govern yourself. Otherwise, the entire idea would echo the parts to which you refer.

There's also the problem of categorising mixed-race people - it's not exactly the same thing as with trans and intersex people, but I expect there'd be some similar issues.


Yeah, definitely a problem.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:
Ginger wrote:Fair enough. I concede the point that a commune of women wouldn't necessarily be a paradise free of mistreatment. Does this really matter beyond semantics when the idea hasn't even been tested yet?


Surely, if your objective is to end or reduce the mistreatment of women, how much your plan would actually reduce mistreatment is a matter of relevance? I think it's fairly clear that, for example, "gender segregation would end all mistreatment of women" would be a stronger reason to go for it than "gender segregation would reduce mistreatment of women by 10%". I'm not saying the lack of a perfect solution means you shouldn't choose the next best option or anything, just that it is worth considering how much you expect to gain before you leap into things. Particularly given that some women are going to have to give up things they like to go ahead with separatism.

Yes, that is true, however I said that the potential new ways of mistreating the members of the commune only mattered for semantics' sake because I have never seen or read about the idea being tried. Any sort of considerations about how much that act of separatism would reduce the mistreatment of women or the new types of mistreatment that might arise are moot because doing so would only be speculation. Also, and I honestly don't mean any offense here, but if I were to brainstorm about such personal concerns I'd rather do that with my hypothetical fellow community members than random (Mostly male) strangers on the Internet. :P
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Belial » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:04 pm UTC

Interestingly, I'm pretty sure there *have been* lesbian separatist communes. May still exist. I wonder how that went.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:15 pm UTC

Same here. If anybody has any information about any current or former lesbian separatist communes then please post it! I would be quite grateful.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Random832 » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:30 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:That's basically where I would be coming from if I did such a thing: "Men" are unpredictable and any one of them could turn on me at any moment.


Why not: "'People' are unpredictable and any one of them could turn on me at any moment."

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby luketheduke » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:36 pm UTC

Replace "men", by "cops", apply Belial's earlier argument elsewhere.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:42 pm UTC

Men are people so that revision of my post has been satisfied already. More seriously: Personal experience has taught me that men are more likely to betray me or treat me badly than women. Without giving away too much personal information about myself I will just default back to saying that if you look around you will see that many men have personal gain in oppressing women in specific ways and many oppressive women are only doing so by proxy when they buy into the patriarchal system already in place. The trust issues I have with men and with general people are two different beasts. Yeah, Belial also makes a pretty good argument for this sort of thing, so listen to Luke.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Enuja » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:49 pm UTC

Ginger and Belial, libellule posted, back on page 2 this New York Times article about a long-running womyn's land, which includes facts such as there are "about 100 below-the-radar lesbian communities in North America" ""The communities, most in rural areas from Oregon to Florida, have as few as two members; Alapine is one of the largest." and Alapine has 20 members.

When I hear a lesbian separatist saying "men rape" I don't hear it as saying "only men rape" or "men are biologically more likely to rape than women." Instead, I hear it as "men rape" with the assumption that "men have power" and therefore we need to get away from men that have power and rape. I suspect that a lesbian separatist would tell you that men rape because of the way our culture has raised them, and we simply need to get away from that culture before we can get them to stop raping.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Terebrant » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:54 pm UTC

Also, I remember Separatism and Women's Community by Dana Shugar was a decent introduction to the subject even if it dates from the 90s.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby EmptySet » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:26 am UTC

Belial wrote:
Belial wrote:Unfortunately, the only way to work that principle into a separatist paradigm would be to have communities further fragment along racial lines. I wonder if that's a good idea.

Apart from anything else, it'd be uncomfortably similar to some pretty shameful parts of our history.


Well, the central conceit here is that there's a huge difference between being segregated and ghetto-ized by a dominant power, and choosing to separate and govern yourself. Otherwise, the entire idea would echo the parts to which you refer.


Is there the possibility that it would foster xenophobic attitudes, though? You would have people drawing further and further into a group of people who are just like them, and regarding people outside that group as the oppressor. That seems like a situation which might degenerate into outright hostility, especially if the dominant group responds by stating they don't know that people of %subgroup should be considered citizens or patriots, as Bush might say.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Jessica » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:45 am UTC

Separatist ideas spring from groups who start to believe they are unified. Everyone is the same, and as such we should band together and separate. We don't need them, because we have us. The problem is that the group isn't unified. And, as such, higher ranking members of the group will have very "us vs them" mentality. conform or leave.

As such these ideas, at their very core, are racist (along with a whole whack of other -ists), and even misogynistic. The group hates any women who don't conform to their view. They try to escape the dualistic society, by creating a dualistic society.

It's no wonder these feminists hate trans people.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Random832 » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:51 am UTC

So why's it called "Lesbian Separatism", if (i've got this impression from this thread, correct me if i'm wrong) it's not also about separating from heterosexual women?

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kag » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:53 am UTC

Well, separating from men whilst endeavoring to have sex with them presents certain...logistical challenges.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby EmptySet » Tue Jun 09, 2009 7:06 am UTC

That and the person writing the article uses a definition of "lesbian" which is more broad than "homosexual female". She also seems to believe that heterosexual women can become homosexual, or at least bisexual.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:59 am UTC

Thanks for the link to the article and the suggestion for reading material, Enuja and Terebrant. I can't believe I didn't read the post on the second page! D: Well, actually I probably did, but just forgot about that post until being linked to it. I find it interesting that there are so many communities out there that I have never heard about and even more interesting that they may have only a handful of members.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kag » Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:46 pm UTC

Belial wrote:That's fair. It's rare in any large society, I'd say. I'd say it's still not the norm in anything smaller, it's just easier to line peoples' self interest up with the common good in smaller societies.
The idea that people act out of self-interest is maybe a little silly. Self-interest is presented as a rational imperative, but decision-making is not exactly a rational affair. Take for example the beginning of this thread, several male forumgoers were incensed at the idea that men inherently want to rape women, etc., even though given the circumstances it's not an entirely unreasonable conclusion, and there are several far more valid issues they might have had with the article. Their reaction was almost entirely emotional.

The problem is that making unsympathetic (in this case unintentionally sexist1) decisions becomes easier and easier the further removed you are from the other person, which is why the bit quoted above is still basically true. As a society grows, it becomes less likely that you'll be dealing with people directly. So you're more likely to screw someone over if it benefits you.

However, it's entirely possible to take advantage of that. Frame the problem of sexism in human terms and people will act against their logical self-interest just for the chance to be altruistic2. Achieving an equal society by diplomacy could, maybe, be possible.

It's still probably a terrible idea, though. So...yeah.

1I don't imagine people who actively discriminate against women is a very large club. You have to be a pretty serious asshole to say something like, "You. Yes you there, with the uterus. FUCK YOU!"
2You could argue that altruism is still in their self-interest because it's something that naturally feels good, but that's neither here nor there, and it's got some problems anyway.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby the tree » Wed Jun 10, 2009 12:56 pm UTC

Kag wrote:1I don't imagine people who actively discriminate against women is a very large club. You have to be a pretty serious asshole to say something like, "You. Yes you there, with the uterus. FUCK YOU!"
Meh, people discriminate a little bit actively all the time. "I should probably get a man to do this job since it involves power tools", "I don't know shit about cleaning, could you do it for me...". Still pretty assholish things to say, but they do get said. But yeah, I guess sexism isn't usually malicious. (of course, sometimes, it is)

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:31 pm UTC

I'd argue that those small things are cumulative and either become big things, like the widespread belief that women are incapable of working with power tools, or that they enable bigger things to happen because the stage has been set with the poisonous ideals from the start. I'd also argue that because of the separation Kag mentioned these supposedly "unintentionally sexist" acts are actually perfectly intentional because the male in question believes himself to be a basically different creature from his female counterparts. I mean how many times have we heard the sentiment expressed that women are strange and mysterious beings that are incomprehensible to the common man? So we end up with this sense of hostile alienation that causes some women to prefer to act in their own self-interests, this pervasive ignorance/smug feeling of superiority for the sexist men because they never have to deal with any consequences for their sexism (Ignorance) and because they might think they're one of the "good guys" when they're not (Smug superiority) that makes the whole thing a big messy soup of motivations and feelings wherein one would be better off only taking a bowl for him or herself and forget everybody else!
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Hyphe » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:01 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:...the male in question believes himself to be a basically different creature from his female counterparts.!

A view which is then reinforced by certain feminists who divide people up into the 'bad' pile of men and the other pile of women. And who then suggest, as per the original starting point of this thread, that the entire population should be isolated along gender lines.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:16 pm UTC

I don't think that this phenomenon has anything to do with the decisions of certain feminists. I think that these men have their preconceptions already prepared and are just waiting to apply them--Furthermore they are suitably detached from women's concerns to be able to apply them without ever having to deal with the women that don't match their preconceptions on a personal level. Meanwhile lesbian separatism may indeed be isolating men from women in a way that causes stereotypes to thrive but from that perspective I can see no other option. How do you combat the whole world especially when the people in power blatantly don't care about you? We have this giant bloated beast of a prejudiced society wherein it's just easier to continue to be prejudiced because the prejudice has benefits such as continuing to maintain the privileged status quo of men over women.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Indon » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:32 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Interestingly, I'm pretty sure there *have been* lesbian separatist communes. May still exist. I wonder how that went.


Don't have any stats, but if I had to guess, I'd say they would have extremely low rates for sexual violence (possible even 'none') reported, and then spontaneously disintegrate after a certain period of time.

I have difficulty imagining a community that would suppress accurate rape and sexual violence reporting rates more than a community whose entire purpose and pride rests on reducing rape and sexual violence - and that sort of thing strikes me as extremely unhealthy for a community. While that's not the entirety of lesbian separatism, it's still a major facet of the movement.

I feel that solutions to sexual crime (and I do believe that much of the patriarchy's inertia is built upon systemic sexual crime) necessitate an increase in reporting rates, not a decrease. Humans rape people, and any attempt at all to hide that fact will only facilitate it. We also need a system that handles sexual crime with rehabilitative measures instead of punishment, as, frankly, if we tried to imprison or execute every date rapist/nonviolent rapist (and we should devise a system that can deal with every incidence of such crime), I imagine we'd lose 20-30% of our population.

Plus, aside from all that, there's the socioeconomic aspect. A community of women suffers from even more severe socioeconomic disenfranchisement than a community of women who are being discriminated against, but are still interacting with, men. Furthermore, because of that existing disenfranchisement, it's not the women who have greater leverage in that situation but the men, which defeats the purpose of establishing separatism to try to leverage anything but public support (and the public support is problematic in that it's linked to my first point about suppressing sexual crime rates).
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:49 pm UTC

Kag wrote:1I don't imagine people who actively discriminate against women is a very large club. You have to be a pretty serious asshole to say something like, "You. Yes you there, with the uterus. FUCK YOU!"
Perhaps the people who wrote this commercial, mayhaps? I mean, obviously only women are allowed in the kitchen to prepare such fare as salads. Obviously only women are allowed in the kitchen. Obviously women belong in the kitchen.

Then there's the subtext that this charcoal is so easy to light, even a caveman woman could do it. Because lighting charcoal is such a difficult, complicated task. (Nevermind that they're both doing it the stupid way, as even the stupid way is barely above Tying Shoes in difficulty.)
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Hyphe » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:52 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:Meanwhile lesbian separatism may indeed be isolating men from women in a way that causes stereotypes to thrive but from that perspective I can see no other option.

That's not my point. My point is that, at its core, it is hypocritical.

How do you combat the whole world especially when the people in power blatantly don't care about you?

This is something many many different groups have battled with over the years. Very few of them managed it by upping sticks and isolating themselves - which doesn't even fix the problem at large. Do you think all 'those men' will suddenly gain a profound respect for women just because of separation? It's not a permanent solution, and it does not help those who are 'left behind', as it were.

I also agree with Indon. My gut feeling is not 'men rape', but that 'people in power rape'. How the hell we can change that, I have no idea, but I do not think lesbian separatism is anywhere near the right lines.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:05 pm UTC

Okay, I acknowledge your point, however I am saying that from a practical perspective it doesn't matter. From a hypothetical lesbian separatist's viewpoint you have two options: You can remain in a world that doesn't want you unless you're stereotypically feminine and like it or you can separate from that world and be with people that theoretically would respect you because of your ideals and difference from the norm. You can level accusations of hypocrisy at a person all you want, which I think should be done if you truly believe them just so we're clear, but we're still living in this world that is nightmarish for so many of these women.

"Those men" are no longer relevant once the separation has taken place as has been said elsewhere in this thread. Well, they might still be relevant but only inasmuch as they don't try to find the communes and hurt their members, and from that safe distance more thinking can be done if they desire to fix the problem at large. Those that are left behind are unfortunate casualties. I don't agree at all with the hatred of transgendered people for example. But when we're talking practicality and self-interest I think that both sides have certain convictions that will not be compromised despite the problems they may present because to do so would be tantamount to throwing in the towel regardless.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:12 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:Those that are left behind are unfortunate casualties. I don't agree at all with the hatred of transgendered people for example. But when we're talking practicality and self-interest I think that both sides have certain convictions that will not be compromised despite the problems they may present because to do so would be tantamount to throwing in the towel regardless.

Wait... So you're saying that, while you don't agree with transphobia, transpeople will have to be unfortunate casualties because the widespread hatred of them among lesbian separatists is a conviction that can't be let go of without surrendering the whole idea?

Because if that's what you're saying, that's some bullshit.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:15 pm UTC

Oops. No. I'm saying more that the whole idea of separating from society can't be abandoned for the lesbian separatists just because it doesn't fix the problem at large even if there are "unfortunate casualties" (I don't think transgendered people should be unfortunate casualties personally). I apologize for my lack of clarity on these matters.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Hyphe » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:19 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:From a hypothetical lesbian separatist's viewpoint you have two options: You can remain in a world that doesn't want you unless you're stereotypically feminine and like it or you can separate from that world and be with people that theoretically would respect you because of your ideals and difference from the norm.

I'll be diplomatic and say this viewpoint is very fatalistic and hopeless. From my viewpoint there is a third way: changing the world to something better.

Are you playing devil's advocate here, out of curiosity? Of course, your personal views aren't really relevant to this thread so feel free to PM me if you'd rather keep them private.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:24 pm UTC

Hyphe wrote:I'll be diplomatic and say this viewpoint is very fatalistic and hopeless. From my viewpoint there is a third way: changing the world to something better.

As somewhat of an aside, that's how I personally react to the "I'm moving to Canada!" camp on U.S. political developments. It's like, "Well, Bush got reelected, and I guess there's absolutely nothing more I can do as an American citizen to change what the American government does, so I may as well abandon it as a lost cause. And fuck all those poor sops who don't have the means to leave; they're not my responsibility."
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:29 pm UTC

Hyphe wrote:
Ginger wrote:From a hypothetical lesbian separatist's viewpoint you have two options: You can remain in a world that doesn't want you unless you're stereotypically feminine and like it or you can separate from that world and be with people that theoretically would respect you because of your ideals and difference from the norm.

I'll be diplomatic and say this viewpoint is very fatalistic and hopeless. From my viewpoint there is a third way: changing the world to something better.


In the long term that's a way, but change doesn't happen overnight. What if you can't stand to live in the world as it currently is? Should you be obligated to stay in it and try to change it when it is so unbearable? A big part of creating lesbian separatist spaces is attempting to create a community where someone who can't take it can escape and still manage financially, emotionally, sexually, etc. Having this as an option might even provide some positive change to society as a whole (again, because women have a short-term option other than: "accept things as they are or die of poverty"). For some it might even just be a short term reprieve before going back into the world at large and trying to change it for the better.

As an aside: the blogger also points out, and I think this is a good point, that how bearable society is for a woman varies hugely based on how desirable she is considered. An attractive or even average looking woman will have a very different experience than a woman deemed truly ugly by societal standards, and the last may find it much more difficult to get on without the benefits of being considered attractive.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

Hyphe wrote:
Ginger wrote:From a hypothetical lesbian separatist's viewpoint you have two options: You can remain in a world that doesn't want you unless you're stereotypically feminine and like it or you can separate from that world and be with people that theoretically would respect you because of your ideals and difference from the norm.

I'll be diplomatic and say this viewpoint is very fatalistic and hopeless. From my viewpoint there is a third way: changing the world to something better.

Are you playing devil's advocate here, out of curiosity? Of course, your personal views aren't really relevant to this thread so feel free to PM me if you'd rather keep them private.

I agree with you that there is a possibility of changing the world into something better. I'm not really playing devil's advocate because I do think that this philosophy might have some merit however I'm not an avowed lesbian separatist. I agree that there are copious and serious problems with the movement but that it could be worth a try. Since there are already lesbian separatist communities in existence I suppose it technically has been tried but perhaps not on the scale that would affect any sort of change good or bad.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Enuja » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:44 pm UTC

I think that many of you are completely misunderstanding the point of Lesbian Separatism. Lesbian separatists believe that the internalized cultural gender roles and patriarchy are the problem, and that it's not just a problem with men: it's a problem with women, too. Lesbian separatists want to get rid of their internalized misogyny and patriarchy, and they believe that they can't do it with men around. They aren't getting rid of men because men or evil, or men can't help, or men are different than women: they are getting rid of men because they can't get rid of their internalized misogyny with men around. Lesbian separatism is not as much about fixing society as a whole or fixing the men they are getting away from: it is about fixing themselves. It doesn't matter if men don't learn anything from lesbian separatism, or if money and power from the wider society isn't going to the community, or if most women have never heard of and get nothing from lesbian separatists: what matters to the community is that the people inside the community are happy and healthy and working on being free of misogyny.

Indon, when you are talking about groups of 5-10 people, "reporting rates" is a silly abstraction: do you talk about "reporting rates" of sexual violence in a single family? There simply isn't enough sample to calculate a reporting rate. It's also pretty obnoxious to assume 1) there has been sexual violence in lesbian separatist communities and 2) that violence has been hidden from the community at large (5-10 people, remember) and then 3) to go on to analyze your hypothetical situation.
Indon wrote:I have difficulty imagining a community that would suppress accurate rape and sexual violence reporting rates more than a community whose entire purpose and pride rests on reducing rape and sexual violence - and that sort of thing strikes me as extremely unhealthy for a community.
I read you as saying here that a community that tries to prevent rape and sexual violence is an unhealthy community, and that's just silly. The whole point of the lesbian separatism is to be women-centered, and the prevention of sexual violence seems to me to be a pretty good goal under that rubric. It's about power tools and dishes and cooking and mowing the lawn and interrupting conversation and who gets the new roll of toilet paper and eye contact and body language as much as it's about rape and sexual violence.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Random832 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:19 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I read you as saying here that a community that tries to prevent rape and sexual violence is an unhealthy community, and that's just silly. The whole point of the lesbian separatism is to be women-centered, and the prevention of sexual violence seems to me to be a pretty good goal under that rubric.
But the point is, if that is the goal, then the only way to measure progress towards that goal is reporting rates. And I don't see what mechanism has been proposed to counteract the temptation to fudge the numbers, other than - apparently - denying that such a temptation exists.

And - as far as I am aware, we're not talking about groups of 5-10 people. That is not a community.

It's about power tools and dishes and cooking and mowing the lawn and interrupting conversation and who gets the new roll of toilet paper and eye contact and body language as much as it's about rape and sexual violence.
I think you are operating with a different definition of the word "about" than is usually used.

It's also pretty obnoxious to assume 1) there has been sexual violence in lesbian separatist communities

Not assuming there has, merely failing to assume that it is impossible.
and 2) that violence has been hidden from the community at large (5-10 people, remember)

That's not an assumption, it's pointing out the problem that the temptation to do so exists. Because if the reported rates are no different, some might interpret that as meaning that the entire premise is a failure. Human nature is to try to avoid admitting failure.
and then 3) to go on to analyze your hypothetical situation.

Um, that's what hypothetical situations are for - to be analyzed. There's really not much else you can do with them. Even if the other two parts are obnoxious, I don't see how 3) adds any... obnoxity?... anyway.

Anyway - your rebuttal seems to boil down to "women are better than that" - i.e. immune to human nature.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Enuja » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:39 pm UTC

We are talking about current and historic lesbian separatist communities, and they are very, very small communities: 2-20 people, as described in the New York Times article. So, if we're talking about reporting rates, that means we are talking about reporting rates in very, very small communities, like reporting rates in family households.

My rebuttal boils down to 1) Lesbian separatism isn't only about rape and sex violence, 2) we have no evidence about "reporting rates" in these small groups of women and 3) we have no reason to believe that "reporting rates" would be low were there enough lesbian separatist communities to make useful summary statistics about.

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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:08 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I think that many of you are completely misunderstanding the point of Lesbian Separatism. Lesbian separatists believe that the internalized cultural gender roles and patriarchy are the problem, and that it's not just a problem with men: it's a problem with women, too. Lesbian separatists want to get rid of their internalized misogyny and patriarchy, and they believe that they can't do it with men around. They aren't getting rid of men because men are evil, or men can't help, or men are different than women: they are getting rid of men because they can't get rid of their internalized misogyny with men around. Lesbian separatism is not as much about fixing society as a whole or fixing the men they are getting away from: it is about fixing themselves.

Yeah, I probably missed the point by a mile, however I did at least grasp that the problems weren't only with men. The conversation just started off with a lot of talk about men and those issues have become entangled with the discussion to the degree that the take on the philosophy that you put forth could easily be lost. It's quite an interesting take as well and much more focused on the self, which seems like one of the best places to tackle any issue, the wider world notwithstanding. It's sometimes hard to understand a group like that whose members don't have a goal set in that wider world and are only really looking out for themselves especially when we're talking about such a controversial philosophy... then you have fools like me that muddy the waters further by making offensive assumptions about how a lesbian separatist might view those "left behind" from that framework of actually having an opinion about them in relation to the rest of the world. Anyways, hopefully this doesn't seem too much like unnecessary praise, but I'd like to say that I appreciate your post and thank you for offering some perspective from a different direction while hopefully not derailing the discussion. D:
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Kag » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:12 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:I'd argue that those small things are cumulative and either become big things, like the widespread belief that women are incapable of working with power tools, or that they enable bigger things to happen because the stage has been set with the poisonous ideals from the start. I'd also argue that because of the separation Kag mentioned these supposedly "unintentionally sexist" acts are actually perfectly intentional because the male in question believes himself to be a basically different creature from his female counterparts. I mean how many times have we heard the sentiment expressed that women are strange and mysterious beings that are incomprehensible to the common man? So we end up with this sense of hostile alienation that causes some women to prefer to act in their own self-interests, this pervasive ignorance/smug feeling of superiority for the sexist men because they never have to deal with any consequences for their sexism (Ignorance) and because they might think they're one of the "good guys" when they're not (Smug superiority) that makes the whole thing a big messy soup of motivations and feelings wherein one would be better off only taking a bowl for him or herself and forget everybody else!
Yeah, that was definitely a poor choice of words on my part. The decisions are obviously intentional, and probably intentionally sexist, but I don't buy that the people making them are always aware of the damage they're causing.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Ginger » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Wow, you actually agreed with me for the most part? :D Awesome. I agree with your clarifications. People aren't omniscient and frequently do silly things without knowledge of the exact damage they're causing.
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Re: Lesbian Separatism

Postby Random832 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:07 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:Wow, you actually agreed with me for the most part? :D Awesome. I agree with your clarifications. People aren't omniscient and frequently do silly things without knowledge of the exact damage they're causing.

At the end of the day it comes down to different definitions of "intentionally" (or in the case of the original wording "active") - I think there is a case to be made that without conscious knowledge of some particular consequence of an action, one can't say that that consequence was "intentional" even if the action itself was.

In other words, I would make a distinction between someone actually having the thought process "I should probably get a man to do this job since it involves power tools" vs (i think more likely for most people) having a male acquaintance come to mind first without that conscious thought process - the second can still be rooted in sexism, but it's subconscious and not "intentional"


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