Radical Feminism

(185 Posts)
Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 13:07:01

I see so many myths about radical feminism. So what does radical feminism mean to you?

chocoluvva Fri 08-Nov-13 13:16:23

I am someone who is aware that we live in a patriarchy, to the disadvantage of women - though ultimately not in anyone's interest - and saddened and angered by the oversexualisation of females in western culture. I've never actively campaigned or done any reading (unless you count signing and sharing e-petitions).

My (very limited understanding of rad fem) is that it involves actively rejecting gender stereotypes including personal grooming done by only women eg removing body hair, wearing ' women's' clothes associated with being sexually available eg high heels.etc.

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 13:40:30

Essentially to me, radical feminism is just a different way of achieving the same end. So as a liberal feminist, I believe you can work with the system instead of it needing to be dismantled.

On the more nuanced points of radical feminism, I agree with many of them but don't necessarily agree with how it's aims would be achieved.

Unfortunately radfem has been taken over by others, particularly MRAs to mean hard core, man hating nutters. Something that doesn't describe any of the radfems I know.

Bunnylion Fri 08-Nov-13 13:50:28

My understanding of rad fem is that it's the active side of feminist thinking. So setting up DV shelters, campaigning against prostitution and for female reproductive rights, against fgm etc. ["campaigning against fgm" just autocorrected to "campaigning against fun")

Not sure it has anything to do with shaving your pits chocoluvva confused

As far as I know it's more focussed on taking apart the patriachy and rebuilding from scratch, rather than adjusting the current system.

So based on that I wouldn't define myself as radfem as I feel that the aim is a little too out of reach.

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 13:57:28

They also eat baby boys which I think is a step a little too far. Us liberals feminists just humiliate and emasculate them

MooncupGoddess Fri 08-Nov-13 14:04:11

Yes, 'radical' comes from 'root' so it's about analysing/changing society from its foundations.

There are lots of non-radical feminists who do great campaigning and activist work, Bunnylion. Though radical feminists generally oppose prostitution in all its forms, whereas liberal feminists don't always.

Radical feminists tend to focus on violence against women as the most crucial feminist issue and very aware of the structural prejudice against women that still exists in society; whereas liberal feminists were traditionally focused on the law and so many of their demands were granted in the 1970s with the Equal Pay Act etc.

Radical feminists mostly argue that gender roles are imposed by society, and are therefore less likely to follow culturally imposed grooming expectations... but I have never known any rad fems who do shave their armpits get a hard time for it! (Though anyone turning up at a rad fem event in TOWIE get-up might feel rather out of place.)

All in my experience of course.

kim147 Fri 08-Nov-13 14:09:56

My view of rad fems has been based on the actions of certain prominent ones and some of the websites they run. But that maybe the views of some of them.

chocoluvva Fri 08-Nov-13 14:12:52

Ah - now I understand more smile

Wasn't sure whether Grennie was asking for perceptions of radical feminism or asking for informed viewpoints. Clearly the latter.

One of the reasons I'm not actively involved in any campaigning group is my (mis(?))perception that the campaigners will be humourless and think I'm shallow.

(Happy for anyone to do whatever they like with their 'pits'.)

NeoFaust Fri 08-Nov-13 14:16:36

Radical feminism as a specific movement, rather than simply radical feminists, stated that women should all be lesbians.

As is stated in this article by a self described radical feminist

NeoFaust Fri 08-Nov-13 14:18:50

Oops, ignore me, that's revolutionary feminists. So hard to keep all this schisms straight.

People's front of Judea, Judean peoples front...

MooncupGoddess Fri 08-Nov-13 14:34:26

I have to say, chocoluvva, that most of the rad fems I meet are excellent company and v. funny. Don't let the media stereotypes put you off.

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 14:39:31

Chocluvva, I've found that it doesn't matter what particular theory of feminism you ascribe to as anyone who opposes feminism will accuse you of being a humourless radfem anyway.

The more extreme radical feminism is mostly theoretical and can be challenging to follow and upsetting but there's always merit in being forced to examine your own views and it certainly does that.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:03:52

Sorry, had to pop out. I wasn't intending to start a thread and run.

NeoFaust - Yes I have heard a small number of radical feminists say that all radical feminists should be lesbians. It doesn't appear to be a majority view though. Catherine MacKinnon for example, lives with a man.

There are a proportionaly large number of lesbians in radical feminism, but I think that is because the movement tends to be much more genuinely welcoming to lesbians, than other types of feminism such as liberal feminism are.

Choco - It does involve questioning gender stereotypes, and I would say more radical feminists don't shave, wear make up, etc, than women in the general population. But I have attended RadFem conferences, and there were some women wearing make up, heeled shoes with dresses, etc. Nobody cared. I think the key is understanding that patriarchy teaches us that we are supposed to dress and behave in a certain way, to constrict us and make us look "sexy". In reality, we should be able to dress however we want.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:06:03

Mooncup - I have met brilliant funny radical feminists, serious ones, quiet, loud, etc radical feminists. The women vary enormously. I think there are a far higher proportion though, who won't take any shit, especially from men.

MooncupGoddess Fri 08-Nov-13 15:17:31

This is true, Grennie. Anyone coming to a radfem space and saying 'My husband needs sex at least twice a week or he gets really arsey' or 'Men just aren't designed to notice what needs cleaning' would benefit from some intense consciousness-raising grin

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:24:38

Yes I can just imagine the reactions to that!

Although one of the radical feminists I know that I really like, first discovered radical feminism when she went to a conference, and in all ignorance asked a question in the plenary as to why trans womens needs weren't being addressed in any of the discussions.

Women very nicely explained the radical feminist analysis to her on this issue.

kim147 Fri 08-Nov-13 15:25:21

I just wish some rad fems would be more understanding and tolerant. They have their beliefs but just maybe what they think about some stuff could actually be wrong.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:25:42

kim - Sometimes the women who shout the loudest, are not necessarily those who present the most nuanced understanding of radical feminism.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:30:37

And everyone can be wrong about their beliefs I agree. But most people are not very good at admitting that. Look at how vehement people get on here about the most unimportant views.

bigkidsdidit Fri 08-Nov-13 15:34:51

This is very interesting. I thought I was becoming more radical as I age but perhaps not - I didn't realise the dismantling the patriarchy bit was key.

Can I ask, how in practice do radical feminists believe it can be dismantled?

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 15:35:52

Kim, I know some of the things that you find particularly upsetting but I don't think you can call their views wrong anymore than they could call yours wrong. Their manner of expressing it can be utterly vile but you get extremists at every end of every political spectrum.

It's like every theory, people forget that it's peoples lives and choices that are being dissected and ridiculed. The internet certainly allows a voice to those who don't stop to think of the damage they do but equally, it allows a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard. I don't know how you balance it but I simply stay away from the extremists. I think discussions on here sometimes show a bit more compassion and humanity when touching on difficult subjects but it can still be raw if you're a poster who's directly experienced something while others are blithely discussing it from a theoretical viewpoint.

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 15:37:52

Sorry, whilst my initial sentence was addressed to you, Kim, the rest of it was aimed at 'you' in general.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:40:16

Yes radical feminists believe the only way to end the oppression of women, is to dismantle patriarchy. Some radical feminists think thsi can never be achieved. Others think it will take centuries of struggle to dismantle it, and they point to improvements that have already been made.

Another key difference, is that radical feminists view things from a class position. So for example, when looking at issues such as porn, they look at what is best for women as a class or group. Liberal feminists look at individuals.

bigkidsdidit Fri 08-Nov-13 15:45:54

What does that mean, grennie? Eg web cam work. I thought liberal feminists would be against all forms of prostitution but do you mean if a woman genuinely is a 'happy hooker' then it's ok for her?

Apols if daft question.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:48:57

Liberal feminists vary on their opinions in fairness. But the most common view, is if a woman "chooses" prostitution, then that is fine. We should stop women being trafficked and abused, but we should allow those women to carry on being prostituted.

Radical feminists say that the existence of prostitution is harmful and exploitative for all women. No man should be able to buy a women's body to use for sex.

curlew Fri 08-Nov-13 15:50:59

On Mumsnet, a "radical feminist" is what, in any other circumstances, would be a "feminist".

bigkidsdidit Fri 08-Nov-13 15:51:43


I guess I am becoming more radical in my old age.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 15:52:48

True Curlew. But many think radical feminist means extreme. So if they see a woman who think is an extreme feminist, to them that means she is a radical feminist.

Radical feminism is actually a theoretical position.

Blistory Fri 08-Nov-13 16:08:39

Liberal feminism doesn't necessarily support prostitution.

The main difference between radical and liberal is how they view the role of the state and the individual. So whilst liberal feminists may believe that prostitution is a valid choice for a woman to make, it believes that more should be done to ensure that laws exist to afford her protection, employment rights, the right to at least the National Minimum Wage etc. For me, I support a woman's right to personal autonomy and to enter into prostitution if they wish only in theory as in practice, the protections for these women don't exist, the choice can't be seen to be a free one in light of our current society and it can only be a valid choice once woman are truly equal and exercise the same freedoms as men.

Liberal feminists tend to view the state as having a role in fixing things and from that women will gain the autonomy needed. Radical feminism, as I understand it, believe that the state itself is creates the inequality and therefore must be changed from the ground up.

Both strands of feminism are more in agreement about the issues involved but not in the causes or the solutions.

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 16:31:07

I would describe myself as a radical feminist rather than a liberal one, certainly.

This comes about from MN - while I always knew I was a feminist, since my teens, I didn't know much about stuff. Coming on here and meeting others, it felt like finding a place that had been missing somehow. Mainly due to Dittany, she was great and I really miss her.

I have been to a few feminist conference type things including a radfem one and really I felt what was said resonated with me in the main. Also a great bunch of women. Plus I am not even slightly gay and MARRIED of all things and I certainly didn't feel that was any kind of problem. Much of radical feminist theory is theory - everyone knows that women do what they must and what they will in the society in which they live. So eg while I understand the point about political lesbianism and why it is made, clearly it's not a road I'm going to go down.

The nicest thing about being in a meeting / conference like that is freedom from the male gaze which I never really experienced until I was in a place with all women smile - it was lovely.

On Kim's point yes I agree, that there is no reason or excuse for attacking others whether online or in real life. I do agree with the radical position on gender but totally disagree with any kind of action against individuals who are just trying to get by and frankly have a bloody awful time of it under patriarchy anyway. I don't see the actions taken by an extreme view as representative of the political movement as a whole, if you get my drift.

FairPhyllis Fri 08-Nov-13 16:31:13

To me, radical feminism is a branch of feminist theory that analyses gender as a social construct that is used by men (as a class) to oppress women (as a class). Not all feminisms have this view of gender.

It seems to me to differ from liberal feminism in that it is non-apologetic in naming male violence and male oppression of women (again in class terms). This is why it is called 'radical', because it goes to the root of the problem ('radix', from which we get 'radical', is the Latin for 'root').

I would say that its perspective is that of the liberation of women from oppression rather than that of women gaining 'equal rights'. While I don't think radical feminists are against the gains that have been made in legal rights for women, they would argue that pursuing a 'legal equality' strategy will never fully achieve the aims of feminism because you need a more profound cultural shift to eradicate misogyny. It's not enough to simply achieve legal equality within a social system that was formed by patriarchy. The whole society has to change too, otherwise patriarchy will continue to be perpetuated.

curlew Fri 08-Nov-13 16:32:34

Sex positive feminism (you know, the one men like) is pro prostitution.

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 16:47:37

YY phyllis.

I look at the world and think the whole thing needs a total fucking rethink.

The current situation is unacceptable. Not just for women - for everyone. However women and girls tend to get the shittier end of the stick and as I am one, and live it every day, that is where my total fucking rethink has its start point.

bigkidsdidit Fri 08-Nov-13 16:55:27

Phyllis, how can those aims be achieved? Or is it entirely theoretical?

The only self-identifying radical feminists I've encountered have been transphobic. I don't know whether that's part of their school of thought or whether I've just been unlucky and only encountered that type though. confused

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 17:27:17

Joyful, it depends what you mean by transphobic? I agree with the views about the theory on this blog. I don't agree with calling trans people names or being shitty to them.


scottishmummy Fri 08-Nov-13 17:34:59

radical feminism is a false divide,another tool to divide by creating false ideological split
I've seen radical used as an insult in same way liberal is used as slur too
imo,there are wide range opinions and we don't need to agree or divide in false constructs

Bunnylion Fri 08-Nov-13 17:59:06

Really interesting thread, I'm learning a lot here.

But I do like the interpretation of it as "extreme feminism" that I've seen it often referred to as a slur - people fighting for "extreme equality" grin

MooncupGoddess Fri 08-Nov-13 18:01:58

Oh hello SM, nice to see you again.

I dunno, I think it is useful to put a name to significant ideological divides (whether in feminism or any other political ideology). But probably the majority of feminists (including me) don't explicitly identify as either radical or liberal feminists and that is absolutely fine.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 18:02:26

NiceTabard - Do you know about radical feminist groups on places like facebook?

Beachcomber Fri 08-Nov-13 18:28:56

I think one the key aspects of radical feminism is that we identify women's struggle as being one for liberation (from female oppression/male supremacy) rather than being for equality (which radical feminists analyse as being unobtainable and a fundamentally flawed concept within patriarchal society).

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 18:31:23

oooh good stuff beachcomber smile

grennie I know there is stuff there, and I even set up a facebook in one of my old MN names to join with them, but TBH I don't really "do" facebook. My computer time is spent on MN. BBC and reading fanfic blush

Grennie by transphobic I meant hideously prejudiced and insulting about those who identify as trans rather than cis.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 19:03:06

No not all radical feminists are insulting of transgendered people. Some radical feminists at one time identified as trans themselves.

Cis though is a term that I think all ? or certainly nearly all, radical feminists reject. The point of being trans critical is about theory. It is not about insulting people who are just trying to live their life in the best way they can.

FloraFox Fri 08-Nov-13 19:09:42

Grennie I don't think of myself as a radical feminist but when individual issues come up, I generally agree with the radical feminist position on it. What do you think is a good overview of radical feminism?

TheDoctrineOfWho Fri 08-Nov-13 19:12:03

Hmm. I believe changes can be made within the current structure, so thought i was a liberal feminist . But I certainly agree with the "as a class" approach to analysis.

To be fair, I just consider myself a feminist except when specifically asked to distinguish.

Do not consider that pro-prostitution is a libfem viewpoint - with Blistory on that one.,

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 19:22:35

I agree with grennie.

Gender identity is a really rough subject for many feminists. I don't "identify" as cis. I don't "identify" as "feminine". I don't actually "identify" as "woman". I'm just a person. If gender is all that matters, then my sex is not female. But I am female, I was born female, I have been treated all my life as female, often to my detriment. The appreciation that there are things that happen to females because they are identified as female at birth is important, and is in no way taking a pop at trans people. If we say that people are only their gender - well I'm a bloke, I guess. But physically, I am very "feminine". And that's OK to me - I think it is OK for people not to conform to very constrained views of what they are based on their genitalia.

Otherwise what is someone like me? I was born and raised a female, with all that entails. My appearance is very "feminine" - not something I would change, or could really. The things that I enjoy, my approach to sex, the way I feel about my children, loads of things, are all stereotypically male.

So I don't "identify" as cis, as that would be to identify as feminine, female, surely.
I don't identify as trans, I don't feel a need to change my body or how I am.

What am I, under the new code?

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 19:28:46

Here are some blogs that explain what radical feminism is.



Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 19:32:54

NiceTabard - I have no idea what you are under all the many labels that now exist. I think you are a woman and NiceTabard.

Women should be able to be who they are. It doesn't matter how you dress or behave - as long as you are not an idiot.

And yes, women get treated as girls i.e. second class citizens, from the day they are born. It doesn't matter what they think internally, they are treated in a certain way because of their bodies.

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 19:34:55

DGR site = fab.

Thank you grennie.

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 19:36:55

The DGR site is great. It explains the radical feminist position in a reasonable way.

There is this blog that lists radical feminist blogs. But the actual blogs are of variable quality. Some are very good, and some are not.


Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 19:37:58

So for example, Bev Jo's blog is featured on there. Bev Jo is really a lesbian separatist. A lot of her views are not radical feminist IMO.

MadameLeBean Fri 08-Nov-13 19:44:11

Rad fems do not support the lie that there are happy hookers etc (they cannot look an exited woman in the eye) or that men can "become" women (and so they are vilified for being transphobic but there is a lot of sense there if you are not too easily offended- can't be arsed to open that can of worms). But mainly I think that rad feminism is feminism proper because it rejects all this patriarchy conforming man pleasing behaviour that liberal feminism likes to call "empowering" hmm and liberal feminism spends a lot of time saying "check your privilege" which derails from the real issue that women are considered objects and 2nd class people.

NiceTabard Fri 08-Nov-13 19:52:57

Also want to say that I personally am pretty relaxed about people identifying/presenting as they wish. I have no issues whatsoever with anyone who steps outside the box of what is considered normal or usual in our society. I wouldn't dream in a million years of being mean to a woman / man who used to be the opposite sex (not trans / cis - just people) and really the idea of calling someone by male words when they have made it clear they are female, for example, is just awful. And patriarchal. Who is it who really gives gay / not macho / trans kids hell in school? And in work? It's blokes isn't it. It's most definitely not feminists.

I had an enlightening time on a course at work recently about equality type laws. There was a mix of male / female and white / non white. Everyone got exactly what they were talking about straight off apart from the white men. Most of them also got it after a while, apart from one. I looked around and thought, well ALL the women get it, including the young graduate ones, all of the non white men get it. Just the white men struggled with one refusing to accept anything at all. It was illuminating, really. I got a lot out of it grin including explaining to two very earnest young white chaps why actually saying X and doing Y might make women feel uncomfortable grin

EarthMither Fri 08-Nov-13 20:45:09

I identify as a radical feminist in that I want to tackle the root cause of the structural inequality that women experience. I also believe that sex and gender are two different things.

Although I have identified as a feminist since I was a girl (pre-teens), thanks to being raised to think about these issues by my mother, my position has certainly shifted as I've got older (now 41). In my 20s I was definitely more of a "fun" / lib fem with a dash of (bleurgh) "sex positivism". Now I look back on that position and see it for what it was - an insecure young woman wanting her feminism to be acceptable to the men around her.

Now I am wiser and old enough not to be concerned with gaining approval from men for my beliefs grin

I also miss Dittany (but I'm pleased to see you back SM).

Beachcomber Fri 08-Nov-13 22:12:41

I actually think that there is more confusion nowadays as to what liberal feminism represents. I suspect a lot of people think that liberal feminism is "everything that is not radical" - which of course is false.

For example classic liberal feminism objects to prostitution on the same grounds as radical feminism - that it is a sexist and gendered institution which acts as and reinforces barriers to gender equality/freedom.

Also classic liberal feminists are IME troubled by patriarchal gender values as expressed by queering and or transgender politics. That is not to say that they are unsympathetic to the plight of individuals, rather that, similar to radical feminists, they are concerned that there is an additional (male defined) aspect being added to the (male defined) social construct of what a "woman" is considered to be in male dominated society, and that this addition is neither representative of an actual female perspective, nor helpful to women - quite the contrary, it is restrictive and highly conservative.

Beachcomber Fri 08-Nov-13 22:26:43

I may just be out of the loop of classical liberal feminism, but it appears to me that it has been much colonized by queer politics/postmodernism/sex positivism, etc. All of which are male dominated and represent the male perspective.

Which is a damn shame because classical liberal feminism used to be about making space for the female perspective and eroding a system based upon the male perspective.

EarthMither Fri 08-Nov-13 22:49:59

I think you're right about the colonisation of liberal feminism Beachcomber, which is another reason why I feel more at home within radical feminism these days (as someone somewhere else is fond of saying, my feminism will be about women or it will be bullshit).

I also had a "peak lib fem" experience a few years back where a male colleague (a self-proclaimed 'feminist') accused me of being "essentialist" for pointing out that female and male biology are fundamentally different confused If only the word "mansplaining" had been in my vocabulary back then grin

Brenslo Fri 08-Nov-13 23:07:08

Maybe I'm being a bit thick, but can some one explain this "all women should be lesbians" stuff.

I'm straight. No matter how extreme or radical or militant my feminism became, I'd still be straight. That's because I'm straight. I'm not sexually attracted to women. I like men. That's never going to change. I think it's to do with me being heterosexual.

Do they mean I should live a lie and have a lesbian lifestyle for political reasons? Or just abstain from sex so as not to involve men in my life?

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 23:09:58

Beach, I totally agree. Liberal feminism has been colonised by queer politics. Much to the detriment of feminism.

MooncupGoddess Fri 08-Nov-13 23:22:09

I don't think anyone actually believes that all women should be lesbians, Brenslo. It's a myth.

Brenslo Fri 08-Nov-13 23:24:56

OK Mooncupgodess. I thought they were serious! Never realised it was a joke. Must be losing the plot in my dotage!

scottishmummy Fri 08-Nov-13 23:28:46

Colonised?do you mean someone got temerity to disagree

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 23:30:33

Moocup, some do actually think that all women should be lesbians or at least not in relationships with men. But it is a minority view.

EarthMither Fri 08-Nov-13 23:30:52

The idea of 'political lesbianism' is neither a myth nor a joke, although it's not something every woman can embrace as sexual attraction is such a personal thing for each individual. There's an interesting piece on the emergence of lesbianism as a political (and personal) choice here

Grennie Fri 08-Nov-13 23:31:24

scottishmummy - No we mean that queer politics changed what liberal feminism used to mean.

I don't care about anyone disagreeing.

scottishmummy Fri 08-Nov-13 23:35:33

Queer of course being a derogatory term,latterly adopted by some in a reclaim way

EarthMither Fri 08-Nov-13 23:38:12

"Queer" means "queer theory" in the context of this discussion, SM

MooncupGoddess Sat 09-Nov-13 00:06:16

I am very aware of the existence of political lesbianism, and quite understand that some radical feminists see sexual relationships with men as contrary to their core values. But are there really radical feminists who believe ALL women should abjure sex with men? It must be a position held by a tiny minority at most.

curlew Sat 09-Nov-13 00:16:04

Queer politics/theory is a different use of the word to "queer" as a derogatory term.

Grennie Sat 09-Nov-13 00:29:03

Mooncup, I have talked to a few women who do. But yes seems to be a very minority position

Brenslo Sat 09-Nov-13 08:43:39

So it's true. There are women out there, a small number maybe, who are political lesbians, but are actually straight. They live the lesbian lifestyle to avoid being "traitors to the cause", but at their core, they are heterosexual.

I'm sorry if this upsets anyone's sensitivities, but that's just bonkers. And probably a short cut to mental health issues in the future.

Never live a lie about your sexuality.

scallopsrmissingAnyFucker Sat 09-Nov-13 09:20:24

Brenslo, political lesbians believe that sexuality is a social construct, like gender. So it isn't lying about sexuality if you believe your sexuality to be fluid.

scallopsrmissingAnyFucker Sat 09-Nov-13 09:24:06

That last sentence should really say So it isn't lying about your sexuality if your sexuality is more fluid I.e. it isn't innate.

MooncupGoddess Sat 09-Nov-13 09:52:43

There is a 21st-century view that the vast majority of people slot neatly into straight or gay boxes, with a small handful of bisexuals. I don't agree with this view myself, since it ignores the vast range of sexualities and attitudes to sexuality in recorded human history.

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 10:09:25

The political lesbianism concept probably does seem bonkers to many people - probably because we are so used to thinking about things in terms of patriarchal heteronormativity.

Political lesbianism is about examining compulsory heterosexuality and exploring an alternative. IMO it is a lot like feminist objections to mandatory PIV - another notion that seems a bit bonkers when you first encounter it, but which makes a whole lot of sense when you think outside of standard patriarchal framing of the subject.

Political lesbianism is about women refusing to do wifework and investing their time and energy in furthering the endeavours of women. It is actually a revolutionary concept if you think about it.

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence Adrienne Rich

Of course it may not be for everyone, but I think dismissing it as bonkers comes from patriarchal socialization.

curlew Sat 09-Nov-13 10:17:10

When I was a young woman, "political lesbianism" was definitely a thing. I do sometimes think that young women nowadays have no idea how radical an idea it was in the 70s for women to live fulfilled lives separate from men. It's pretty radical now!

I would love every woman under 30 to read The Women's Room. Dated, but eye opening.

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 10:31:23

Patriarchal heteronormativity socializes people to not examine their individual sexuality either as to how they experience intimacy, or, as to how they form relationships. This socialization process could be analysed as a lie, a political structure, and certainly a pillar of female oppression.

We start socializing little girls from the minute they are born that what they want from life is a relationship with a man and children ( the concept explored by Rich of the "institution of motherhood").

Political lesbianism challenges that socialization process - which seems very sensible to me and not bonkers at all. To NOT question it seems crazy to me.

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 10:53:10

And it isn't about not being a "traitor to the cause". Or denying one's sexuality. It is about looking the status quo and violence against women and the exploitation of women's work and reproductive capacities square in the face and realising that it is possible to refuse to live as you have been told you must.

I was talking to a group of women the other day about how if I were not to be with my DH (for reasons of divorce, death, etc), that I didn't think I would bother to be in an intimate relationship with a man again. We had a really interesting discussion about the advantages of women living without a man in their lives and there was much agreement about how interesting it could be to step out of prescribed heteronormativity. These were women in their 40s who were all mothers and had lived as straight all their lives. None of them identify as radical feminists (I'm not sure they even know what radical feminism is) and yet here we were discussing a revolutionary radical feminist concept and finding much to agree with it. We never mentioned the words lesbian, political, feminist or separatism - yet that was what we were discussing. We just weren't calling it that.

A lot of women's real life lived experiences show political lesbianism to not be quite so "out there" as you might think.

FairPhyllis Sat 09-Nov-13 12:24:26

I think I've also seen 'political lesbianism' being talked about in a way that simply meant abstaining from intimate relationships with men, without reference to whether you then form sexual relationships with other women. Which would not be a bonkers thing to choose given the compromises, wifework etc in most heterosexual relationships.

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 15:10:03

Yes, exactly FairPhyllis.

I think people tend to think about lesbianism as being the female quivalent to male homosexuality (because of course we think in male terms with male being the benchmark for everything else) and therefore people have an idea of lesbianism which is not the actual female experience, particularly the political aspect.

Again Adrienne Rich is good on this and when you read her work, the concept of the spectrum of lesbianism makes perfect sense.

For example women's refuges would be considered an example of political lesbianism in action - women only spaces designed to look after the best interests of women and children and to protect them from male violence. There doesn't have to be an erotic or sexual element. Seen like that, political lesbianism becomes immensely powerful for women (all the more reason for it to painted as deviant bonkers sexual lying....).

From the Rich link I gave above:

Lesbians have historically been deprived of a political existence through "inclusion" as female versions of male homosexuality. To equate lesbian existence with male homosexuality because each is stigmatized is to deny and erase female reality once again To separate those women stigmatized as "homosexual" or "gay" from the complex continuum of female resistance to enslavement, and attach them to a male pattern, is to falsify our history Part of the history of lesbian existence is, obviously, to be found where lesbians, lacking a coherent female community, have shared a kind of social life and common cause with homosexual men But this has to be seen against the differences women's lack of economic and cultural privilege relative to men; qualitative differences in female and male relationships, for example, the prevalence of anonymous sex and the justification of pederasty among male homosexuals, the pronounced ageism in male homosexual standards of sexual attractiveness, and so forth In defining and describing lesbian existence I would hope to move toward a dissociation of lesbian from male homosexual values and allegiances I perceive the lesbian experience as being, like motherhood, a profoundly female experience, with particular oppressions, meanings, and potentialities we cannot comprehend as long as we simply bracket it with other sexually stigmatized existences just as the term parenting serves to conceal the particular and significant reality of being a parent who is actually a mother, the term gay serves the purpose of blurring the very outlines we need to discern, which are of crucial value for feminism and for the freedom of women as a group.

This is an interesting thread. I was recently described as rad fem because I was wearing a No more page 3 t shirt. I thought that was hilarious and took it as a compliment, though I'm not sure it was meant as a one. It's in the eye of the beholder. To some I sound radical and extreme. To others my views don't go far enough. Certainly political feminists would see me as conformist.

What is alarming is how very basic ideas of "don't sexually objectify women in the media" / don't gender define children's toys are considered radical.

Brenslo Sat 09-Nov-13 20:20:37

Patriarchal heteronormativity ....what a load of complete psychobabble.

My heterosexuality is nothing to do with socialisation or environmental patriarchal stereotyping. It's in the core of my being. I'm straight in the same way I'm female, white, left handed etc. I just am, always was, always will be. I was excited by boys from when I was about 5 from memory. Maybe earlier. I knew what I wanted even before I knew what I was going to do with it!

rosabud Sat 09-Nov-13 20:55:14

Patriarchal heteronormativity ....what a load of complete psychobabble.

Really? Ironically, before I got to Brenslo's post, I was thinking this:

Patriarchal heteronormativity:

1) Here is a term I have never heard of before - yet here I am sitting in my home, on a Saturday night, reading a website aimed at Mums sharing stuff about their everyday experiences (I know - I can't help being a little rock and roll on a Saturday night smile ), and I have come across a term which seems a bit odd, a bit weird, a bit, you know, out there, but, hey, read on.....

2) Hmm, really interesting explanation of what this means. Need to think about that......might have to get outside my comfort zone to consider it.......enjoying being challenged - after all, I could be watching Strictly or whatever else is on telly on a Saturday night these days......

3) I love the internet and I love this board, the way it opens up my world from my own front room on a Saturday night...

4) Oh what a shame, one poster is so closed minded that s/he is just going to dismiss it as complete psychobabble. Perhaps s/he should just go and watch X Factor instead.......

Bunnylion Sat 09-Nov-13 20:55:35

"I think people tend to think about lesbianism as being the female quivalent to male homosexuality (because of course we think in male terms with male being the benchmark for everything else) [...] There doesn't have to be an erotic or sexual element."

Thanks beach here's yet another lightbulb moment for me on the FWR forum.

curlew thank you too, I'm under 30 and have just Amazoned "The Woman's Room".

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 20:57:58

Well that's jolly nice for you Brenslo. No need to dismiss other women's experiences and politics though surely?

Are you contesting that lesbianism has been marginalized throughout patriarchal history?!

Beachcomber Sat 09-Nov-13 21:00:20

You're welcome bunnylion.

The Women's Room is ace.

bigkidsdidit Sat 09-Nov-13 21:15:40

I've just bought it too smile

OldLadyKnowsNothing Sat 09-Nov-13 22:08:24

I was massively disappointed when I read The Women's Room, strapline "This book will change your life!". But I suspect I didn't have the life experience to fully understand it, I was a Spare Rib reading teenager at the time. I wonder if I still have it?

Grennie Sat 09-Nov-13 23:11:59

Beach I think there does have to be sexual attraction to be a lesbian. Being incredibly close friends is not the same as being a lesbian.

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 09-Nov-13 23:58:07

I think feminism absolutely needs to be a broad church, because women are such a diverse group of people, we need to fight in lots of different ways and areas to make progress.

So I respect radical and liberal feminism and think we need them and the other types of feminisms, I don't hold one type of feminism to be superior to others.

With regards to political lesbianism, I see why some women might embrace that as a way forward and I think it is important to question heteromormativity.


I generally believe that sexuality isn't a choice and for women to deny their sexual desires in the service of an ideology (however well-intentioned) doesn't sound like liberation to me.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 00:06:39

I am more concerned about the appropriation of lesbianism inherent in political lesbian theories

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 10-Nov-13 01:32:26

Grennie - good point! I have heard that mentioned too.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 08:57:37

I think questioning heteronormativity is right. We are all taught to be het from our childhood. And I think it is helpful to individually examine if we are really Het.

I also think patriarchy devalues female friendship. We can have incredibly close female friendships and I think we need to value our female friends and prioritise them.

Brenslo Sun 10-Nov-13 09:34:50

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 09-Nov-13 23:58:07
I generally believe that sexuality isn't a choice and for women to deny their sexual desires in the service of an ideology (however well-intentioned) doesn't sound like liberation to me.

100% this. Nail hit very firmly on head!

MadameLeBean Sun 10-Nov-13 09:36:23

Hmm yes you do get the argument that political lesbianism somehow diminishes or erases "non choice" / "born that way" lesbianism but I personally don't believe that you can't have both as sexuality is more fluid than most of us have been conditioned into believing (especially men actually - believing that all gay men are born gay is reassuring to them if for example they have occasional gay feelings- as being male homosexual is seen as more taboo in patriarchy). I'm not denying that there are people who have never felt attracted to the opposite sex their whole life though.

Personally I feel strongly that if I was not with my male DP, I would choose to be with a woman or be single rather than try to navigate a compromise with a man who at the core has been raised to consider himself superior to women.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 10:57:05

Bean I am not arguing for born that way. I am happy however women become lesbians. What I am arguing against is the idea that sexual attraction is not necessary to be a lesbian. It is. And sex is pretty important to most lesbians

Beachcomber Sun 10-Nov-13 11:14:54

I think it is about accepting that sexual desire is not the same thing to everybody and that socialization is a major influencing factor.

That is not to deny that many people experience their sexuality as innate. I don't think everybody does though.

I understand that many lesbians whose lesbianism is an innate sexual orientation take issue with political lesbianism and see it as an appropriation. I don't think the two need to compete or be in conflict with each other however. I'm a believer in lesbianism as a spectrum but I know and accept that many women disagree with me vehemently on that.

This article is interesting, the comments are worth a read too. I think there is a general tendency to view lesbianism through a male perspective prism of what sexuality and love are and women should be allowed to step out of that and develop our own definitions and identifies, and IMO, that is what political lesbianism is about.


Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 11:27:19

Have you not noticed that it is women who were previously het telling lesbians that they are wrong about what lesbianism is?

Beachcomber Sun 10-Nov-13 11:54:18

Well I guess that's one way to see it Grennie. Perhaps we need another term for women who have had het experiences and lived heteronormativity who have then gone on to no longer want het sexuality and heteronormativity and live more female focused lives.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 12:16:02

And that is fine beach. We should welcome that. But it is not lesbianism

Brenslo Sun 10-Nov-13 12:28:50

If we accept that sexuality isn't fixed at birth but has fluidity and can be influenced by conditioning, (I'm not convinced), doesn't that give a degree of legitimacy to Christians who talk about "curing homosexuality" and who claim that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that can be altered.

Because I've never given that nonsense the time of day!

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 14:26:36

Yes it does.
Personally I think sexuality is formed when we are still young children. I think most people are bi though. But many of them are educated into being het. So yes they can become lesbian or gay.

But it is clear some women are lesbian or het even if they don't want to be.

BasilBabyEater Sun 10-Nov-13 14:34:52

It only gives legitimacy to those bigots, if you consider homosexuality and lesbianism to be undesirable.

I personally couldn't give a toss if someone is a lesbian because she chose it as a political choice, as a lifestyle choice or because she was born that way - I don't think being "born that way" is a particularly convincing argument tbh, it strikes me as being a bit begging and diffident. "I was born that way so can't help it, so please accept me" strikes me as starting from the premise that society has the right to object to your sexual orientation if you've actively chosen it rather than had no choice in the matter. AFAIC my starting point would be fuck it, it's irrelevant if your sexuality is a lifestyle choice or no choice at all, Christian bigots can fuck off.

I think sexuality is on a continuum and some people are more fixed in one place than others. I came across someone recently who had a lesbian relationship for years, lived with someone for 24 years with whom she split up a couple of years ago and has just taken up with a man for the first time since she was a teenager. She said that she probably wouldn't bother with any lesbian relationships ever again as she only ever fancied her lesbian partner, but no other women, whereas actually she fancies quite a few men now that she's got into this heterosexuality lark. I thought that was quite interesting, how someone's sexuality can adapt to a specific person they love.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 14:37:47

Agreed basil. I have also spoken to lesbians who say being a lesbian was as much a choice as breathing.

Brenslo Sun 10-Nov-13 15:01:57

BBE, I agree with you to an extent. I don't care what people are. I think it's a shame when people feel forced into a choice that isn't their true desire, be it a het woman living as a lesbian due to her feminist position, or a gay man marrying because it's "the done thing".

But I've always opposed Christian bigots on 2 fronts, firstly that there's no problem in being gay anyway, and secondly because it isn't changeable or curable.

But you have to remember that the gay people in question are Christian, which is why they fall under the influence of these bigots. If it's true that they can be "cured" of their homosexuality, and due to their religion, they want to be cured, then it's fair enough.

Personally, I don't think sexuality is fluid or changeable. You are what you are. You were born that way. I think believing you can change and going thru treatment to change is not going to end happily, and is not good for your mental health.

BasilBabyEater Sun 10-Nov-13 15:04:33

Well of course the woman I came across (who was in a happy lesbian relationship for 24 years and is now dating men) would be held up by those christians as proof that homosexuality is curable.

She's also proof of course, that heterosexuality is curable, because if it can happen that way round it can happen the other. But I don't suppose they'd consider that angle.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 16:34:10

I know lots of women who were married and have become lesbians. It doesn't mean they didn't think theywere het when tthey were married.

TheDoctrineOfWho Sun 10-Nov-13 17:11:28

I once read that the majority of bisexual women end up in relationships with men, and the majority of bisexual men also end up in relationships with men.

I wonder if that's driven by fertility?

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 17:13:46

Or by patriarchy? Who would choose to be with a second class citizen?

TheDoctrineOfWho Sun 10-Nov-13 17:44:43

Hadn't thought of that, Grennie.

SplitHeadGirl Sun 10-Nov-13 18:21:02

Mmnnnn...not sure about that Grennie. It seems more and more women are instigating divorce or choosing to not be with men, and many of them instead want to be with women. I think if we consider power dynamics anyway, of those men who DO think about women as second class (not sure many of them do TBH) then many of them would find this desirable....in that THEY would be the powerful one in the relationship.

You could also question why women (or men for that matter) would want to be with men when so many of them are downright horrible and commit most violence and most crimes. But you can't help who you connect with. Like me....I FAR prefer women's company to men's (out of the people I have known) and dislike/distrust men as a class...yet I LOVE my husband and he is my best friend.

Grennie Sun 10-Nov-13 22:06:38

True split. But I do think you do have control over who you fall for. So if for example you met a man that you totally clicked with, but after a month began to see huge red flags, wouldn't you walk away?

MadameLeBean Mon 11-Nov-13 05:03:52

Split I feel the same way about men

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 08:43:19

Split - The fact that women who prefer being with other women, but still choose a man to partner with, is heteronormativity in action. It is no accident that so many women partner with men, even if all they can find are horrible abusive men. We are taught from girlhood that being partnered with a man is something we need to achieve if we want to be happy and normal.

Brenslo Mon 11-Nov-13 09:04:17

Grennie, it could be actual heterosexuality in action.

A woman may enjoy the company of other women over men, but not in the bedroom, where only a man will do. Because she is what she is, straight. No because of heteronormativity, or the patriarchy, but just because that's what she wants.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 09:23:36

Only if you think we are born Het.

Brenslo Mon 11-Nov-13 09:49:29

I guess I do think that. We are born gay, straight, or bi. With most being straight.

In years to come, it will be interesting to see how the daughters of lesbian couples turn out. My guess is that the vast majority will be straight.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 09:58:09

Research shows that the vast majority turn out to be Het. But children of lesbian parents can still be educated into heterosexuality.

I talk to so many older Het women who "confess" that they have had a major crush on a friend in the past. It really made me question whether the majority of women really are Het.

OrlandoWoolf Mon 11-Nov-13 10:32:46

What do you mean by educated? In Russia, there are issues with gay parents because some people think that might promote homosexuality. Do you think children can be educated because that is a slippery slope. They can pretend to fit in as people have done but I don't think you can teach it.

Brenslo Mon 11-Nov-13 11:07:13

Orlando Wolf, not just in Russia. I think it's an argument trotted out over here too, that kids can "catch gayness" from the same sex couple bringing them up.

Worth remembering that the vast majority of gay men and women had heterosexual parents!! And heterosexual siblings. If you can't catch gayness, then you can't catch heterosexuality, from the patriarchy or anyone else.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 11:41:57

Children are educated into heterosexuality from toddlers. They are presented with the idea that being Het is the normal situation, from being a young child they get asked about boyfriends if a girl, or vice versa, girls get presented with the idea of marriage and a wedding dress in films, TV shows, books and toys, etc etc.

Children, and especially girls, are taught by media, and other adults, that girls grow up to get married to a man, and usually have children. That is how they are educated into being Het. That is why lesbian teenagers can have enormous difficulty coming to terms with being lesbian. Because they were brought up to think that of course they would be Het.

FairPhyllis Mon 11-Nov-13 11:42:48

I can understand the appeal of the simplistic 'born that way' view of sexuality - not least because it makes it easier to describe homophobia as an analog of racism - but I think sexuality is probably formed from a complex combination of multiple factors like genetics, hormone exposure and experiences in early childhood. And no, this doesn't legitimise people who say they can cure homosexuality, because all the evidence so far suggests that however your sexuality is formed, it's basically impossible to change what turns you on. Otherwise we'd be able to cure true paedophiles.

I have often wondered whether the apparent greater fluidity of women's sexuality is at least something to do with the way we are conditioned to look at women's bodies under patriarchy - we are presented with women's-bodies-as-desirable-objects ALL the fricking time, and I wonder if a lifetime of that conditioning does play some part in some women identifying as bi or lesbian. I don't see how you can rule that out, anyway.

Can I also just say - I have never, ever seen any Christian organisation in the UK claim that they can 'cure' homosexuality. It sounds to me like you are describing something you have seen on TV in a doc about the US.

OrlandoWoolf Mon 11-Nov-13 11:48:33

I agree that heterosexuality is normalized. In the same way people are conditioned. I am sure there are people who supress it. But I do not think you can change who you are attracted to. Or who you are. But society can force you to hide it.

MooncupGoddess Mon 11-Nov-13 11:59:21

"I have often wondered whether the apparent greater fluidity of women's sexuality is at least something to do with the way we are conditioned to look at women's bodies under patriarchy"

V interesting point, Phyllis, I had never thought of this.

I have never felt I have an intrinsic sexuality... I'm sure my 'vaguely heterosexual' orientation is the result of social conditioning. I know I'm in a minority though.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 12:06:27

Actually I remember reading some research which showed women photos of attractive women and men and measured their vaginal secretions. Het women said they were attracted to the men, but not the women. But the research showed no difference in vaginal secretions between Het, bisexual and lesbian women when looking at other women.

The researchers interpreted this to mean that women whatever their identified sexuality, were turned on by looking at photos of attractive women.

FairPhyllis Mon 11-Nov-13 12:19:32

That's really interesting Grennie. Although part of me is offering thanks that I don't have to do studies where I invite people to have something shoved up their fanjo to measure their vaginal secretions ...

I think women are socialised to accept the institutions of heterosexuality (marriage, being in a relationship with a man is better than being alone etc.) but I am not sure that we are socialised to find men physically attractive in the way that we are for women. But then we're not supposed to actually enjoy sex, are we, so that's OK then ... hmm

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 12:19:33

I don't know if their interpretation is right. But it might be, especially given Phyllis's point.

NeoFaust Mon 11-Nov-13 16:46:17

Grennie: I'm aware of that research.

They also found that women were getting physically aroused by men with women, women with women, men with men and bonobos with bonobos. This was regardless of their declared sexual orientation.

Women have just been socialised into a fear of their own sexuality, which is horrible, and a resentment of men's easier sexual growth, which is sad.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 17:09:12

Yes women constantly try to measure themselves against men's sexuality. Which is sad and bound to create insecurity. Because we are obviously not men.

TheDoctrineOfWho Mon 11-Nov-13 18:19:26

Maybe the secretions were nothing to do with arousal and everything to do with making the whole measurement thing more comfortable!

OrlandoWoolf Mon 11-Nov-13 18:27:33

I wonder how they measured men's arousal grin

Brenslo Mon 11-Nov-13 19:28:08

This is probably not going to go down well, but I can't help thinking the patriarchy is responsible for enough rubbish without pinning the blame on it for women's overwhelming heterosexuality. That's down to millions of years of evolution.

Most people are heterosexual. Which is just as well if the species is to prosper.

scottishmummy Mon 11-Nov-13 19:48:26

I am astonished at the sweeping generalisation passed off here.opinion traded as fact
Women constantly try measure themselves against men sexuality
I don't like being pigeonholed by men,women are this,and that.equally i don't like women doing it

MissMiniTheMinx Mon 11-Nov-13 21:21:58

So Scottish, do men (as a class) pigeonhole women? you seem to be implying they do. So if more than one man is involved and more than one woman, might it be necessary to generalise or abstract? Otherwise we can talk about you if you would like, and then we shall just have to...extrapolate from that and generalise!

GoshAnneGorilla Mon 11-Nov-13 22:39:33

I think the bigger question is:

Is it intrinsically better and more feminist for women to only have emotional/romantic/sexual relationships with women?

I know that there is a school of thought within radical feminism that, yes it is.

But I know that plenty of women would disagree, not least because most women are heterosexual or are in heterosexual relationships and would feel affronted by the idea that it is only "false consciousness" or social conditioning that stops them being in a relationship with a women.

So ultimately, I think political lesbianism is an interesting discussion, but one that has the potential to be very alienating and thus, I'm not sure how helpful it is to the feminist movement as a whole.

I often see the differences between radical feminism and more liberal kinds as the difference between a radical and reformist ideology, the former may be aiming for bigger changes, but those changes are often less achievable.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 22:43:21

Radical feminism talks about women as a class. Political theories talk about classes.

GoshAnneGorilla Mon 11-Nov-13 23:12:09

Grennie - I would still consider feminism to be an ideology as well as a movement and I do think my wider point still stands.

Grennie Mon 11-Nov-13 23:15:53

Sorry I wasn't replying to you Gosh. It was in response to Scottishmummy

Beachcomber Tue 12-Nov-13 14:22:05

I don't think political lesbianism is much of a thing nowadays is it? Personally I think the concept behind it (and certainly how it has been explained to me) makes sense and could be very freeing for women who do not want heteronormative lives.

The term itself is probably outdated and certainly is controversial and potentially divisive - which of course is quite the opposite of the intention behind it.

Grennie Tue 12-Nov-13 14:58:16

Yes I think the idea is fine, but the term is not. Sheila Jeffreys in Lesbian Hetesy talks about it. There are some great bits in that book, but it seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding about lesbian culture. Maybe not surprising when Sheila lived with a male partner for a while before becoming a political lesbian. She was then immersed in lesbian feminist space.

OneMoreChap Tue 12-Nov-13 16:46:59

Is MGTOW akin to political lesbianism, then?

I understood sexuality largely was rather than chosen?

Many men seem to be happier with men, but choose women as partners? Is that patriarchy in action?

Oh, and in passing men often have extremely close friendships with men, sharing things through decades

NiceTabard Tue 12-Nov-13 17:41:55

I must admit I always thought that most people were bisexual to some extent, although with plenty of people far enough from the middle to feel strongly het or homo if you get my drift.

I guess it's difficult to do research on it when everything is moulded so much by society. Certainly (and others will know more than me as my history is rubbish!) there have been times where eg male homosexuality was accepted / encouraged and so loads of men were engaging in gay sex far more than in UK society now generally? Plus you have loads of stuff about single sex institutions where same sex relationships become very common - schools prisons etc. So doesn't all of that stuff indicate that lots and lots of people given certain circs will change a stated preference?

All of this is by the by though - for the vast majority of radfems political lesbianism (which involves more than just being in a sexual relationship with a woman AFAIK) is an interesting theory and to talk about but not obtainable or indeed desirable for most.

NiceTabard Tue 12-Nov-13 17:48:28

I think the christian thing is a red herring also.

People / scientists / whoever should be able to talk about sexuality and how it works and what forms it takes without it being taken as support for the outrageous homophobic views of certain branches of the christian church.

Grennie Sun 17-Nov-13 20:58:15

Some women do say they chose to be lesbians, and others say they were born that way. Certainly for some people, their sexuality does change during their lifetime. And some want it to change, but it doesn't. So I think it is probably more complex than we may often assume.

But certainly plenty of women in their 40's, 50's and older, do become lesbians after being married to men.

TeiTetua Sun 17-Nov-13 23:41:21

For those "women in their 40's, 50's and older, who do become lesbians after being married to men" I wonder if they would say they "became" lesbians or "realised they were" lesbians?

Grennie Sun 17-Nov-13 23:46:49

The ones I know, say different things. Some say they realised, some say they became. Why can't sexuality change for some?

FloraFox Mon 18-Nov-13 18:42:25

I took this test to find out what type of feminist I am:


My result:

Radical feminist 42
Liberal feminist 38
Socialist feminist 36
Women of Color 31
Cultural feminist 18
Conservative 10

The test is US focussed in some respects, I don't know how that changes things.

MissMiniTheMinx Mon 18-Nov-13 19:49:10

Interesting, Thanks Flora

Mine was:

Socialist feminist55
Radical feminist45
Women of Color41
Cultural feminist28
Liberal feminist25

If only I know how the liberal and conservative sneaked in...?

FloraFox Mon 18-Nov-13 20:01:29

blush I'm going to regret this I think. <slinks off to read Andrea Dworkin and become more feministy>

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 18-Nov-13 22:39:08

Radical feminist 46
Women of Color 39
Socialist feminist 38
Liberal feminist 34
Cultural feminist 29
Conservative 10

Interesting. I am a bit surprised; I thought I would come out higher on liberal and lower on socialist. But I took it several times to be sure.

Thanks, Flora smile

Grennie Tue 19-Nov-13 11:56:51

I actually find many women agree with radical feminist ideas, if you don't use the name radical feminism. Most women can see the harms of porn and prostitution to women. And that women get a worse deal in life than men.

JoTheHot Tue 19-Nov-13 14:02:41

Many women agree with some radfem ideas. The fact that they don't identify with 'radical feminism' proves this. The idea that women get a worse deal is common to much of feminist thought.

Until radical feminism matures to the point of incorporating mainstream sociobiology, it condemns itself to impotence.

Grennie Tue 19-Nov-13 14:12:12

What do you mean by incorporating mainstream sociobiology?

grimbletart Tue 19-Nov-13 14:19:01

Radical feminist39
Liberal feminist39
Women of Color31
Cultural feminist30
Socialist feminist24

Pretty boring score

I really think though that this is so US skewed, unless you know the US well some questions cannot be answered with enough knowledge so it skewed me towards neutrality on the grounds of ignorance grin

I think Jo should take the test grin

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 19-Nov-13 14:53:40

I am American living in the US. I did wonder about whether it is culturally skewed. But I answered a couple of questions with "neutral" myself because I didn't think my opinion was informed enough.

JoTheHot Tue 19-Nov-13 16:47:34

RadFems often seem to suggest that the differences between men and women are purely or very substantially due to society. Sociobiology shows that this is very unlikely to be true. Women and men have different attitudes to sex and reproduction for very good adaptive reasons. Society may reinforce these differences, but to claim it creates them brackets RadFems with anti-vaxers and flat-earthers.

FloraFox Tue 19-Nov-13 18:20:22

sociobiology is not science, just made up stuff like evolutionary psychobabble.

On the test, I had to go neutral on a lot of the questions about WoC because I don't feel able to form a view. I'd like to know where the conservative score comes from. I can't think of a question where I gave what I would consider a conservative position. I'm wondering if it was the question about prostitution.

Grennie Tue 19-Nov-13 19:28:37

Jo - Women and men's attitudes to sex have varied throughout history and different cultures. There have been cultures that have viewed women as much more interested in sex in general than men.

Radical feminists know that penis in vagina sex is much more risky for women than men. And that many women who do get pregnant, end up bringing up the child by themselves. So yes, women and men are going to view penis in vagina sex differently.

But note, in the past people did not know how women got pregnant.

FloraFox Tue 19-Nov-13 19:38:44

Grennie I think your last point is vastly overlooked by proponents of evolutionary psychopish or sociobioloblub. It is very clear that our knowledge of sex and reproduction is very new, in evolutionary terms. Even in the early 20th century, it wasn't firmly known how long gestation lasted and there were some legal cases where children were declared legitimate even if they were born two years after their "father" died.

Grennie Tue 19-Nov-13 19:42:31

Yes. I also read about a tribe where the members believed that any man who have PIV with a woman, was partly the babies father. So x would be 20% the father, etc. The article was arguing that under that belief, it made sense for a woman to have lots of male partners, as then there were lots of fathers to help out.

MissMiniTheMinx Tue 19-Nov-13 21:41:15

That's interesting. I am reading Plato (as you do!) and he talks about the guardians not marrying and not knowing who their fathers are. His argument is that if no man knew who his father was, he would never strike another man. Back in the days though, they understood very little about conception.

JO, of course there are differences btw male and female but gender is socially constructed and reinforced, which yes I agree this has certain adaptive reasons when history is taken into consideration. (esp in terms of production/economics/politics) However it hasn't always been this way and it doesn't have to remain so. If you think we are subjugated because of biology then I might be forced to conclude that men are indeed violent aggressors, always have been and always will be, a slave to their biology.

JoTheHot Wed 20-Nov-13 17:51:57

Flora Do you often go about denigrating subjects about which you know precisely FUCK all? I'm guessing not, but for some reason you think it's OK for sociobiology. As a matter of interest, what do you do for a living?

You don't need to know how females get pregnant to evolve a desire for sex. I'd have thought this was pretty bleeding obvious. Individuals who didn't enjoy sex left no offspring. You seem to be labouring under the delusion that when a biologist talks about an evolved instinct they mean women sit there calculating the marginal genetically profitability of a given behaviour. I don't know why you're uncritically reciting selected anthropology. It tells us no more about what's evolved and what's not than looking at any other contemporary society.

Gender is not purely a social construct. Recent history is irrelevant. We evolved on the savannas 100,000+ years ago. No biologist would talk about a slave to your DNA, or genetic determinism, this is just something you see on feminist forums.

These comments reveal a near total ignorance of the field. Buy a biology book, read it, think about it, and come back when you've something substantial to say. It's better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.

MooncupGoddess Wed 20-Nov-13 17:59:58

"Individuals who didn't enjoy sex left no offspring."

Because no woman has ever got pregnant from forced sex hmm

FloraFox Wed 20-Nov-13 18:13:30

Sociobiology is not biology.

Sociobioloblub is a pure speculation which is an attempt to legitimise social constucts through biological determinism. Feminists do not believe in genetic or biological determinism. There is no good scientific evidence that gender is anything other than a social construct.

"Individuals who didn't enjoy sex left no offspring." This would seem likely to some extent (there would be other factors) however if it is true it would support multiple interpretations including that women and men would naturally have the same attitude to sex.

"You seem to be labouring under the delusion that when a biologist talks about an evolved instinct they mean women sit there calculating the marginal genetically profitability of a given behaviour" Actual biologists don't say anything about "evolved instinct" however this is the type of guff that is trotted out in support of evolutionary theories of human behaviour.

JoTheHot Wed 20-Nov-13 19:37:08

So if you've been raped, that means you don't and didn't ever enjoy sex hmm.

Well Florablub, I'm a biologist, and I often say things about 'evolved instincts'. Evolutionary psychology IS the study of evolved instincts. Things like why we like sugar and salt, why we like sex, why we're gregarious, why we don't like people who can't shut up when they have got a fucking clue. Why don't you start by looking up sociobiology, as you clearly don't even know what the word means. Unless you really do believe that no instinct, no behaviour, preference or fear is ever inherited by humans or any other species.

Fuck me, this is like trying to explain chemistry to people who think chemicals are bad for you.

FloraFox Wed 20-Nov-13 20:21:33

JotheNot evolutionary psychology is not biology. You are a random on a website. You are not explaining anything.

Perhaps you can share your knowledge of sociobiology. Who, for example, are the heads of the Departments of Sociobiology at some leading universities? Who are currently the leading thinkers in the space? What are the leading publications?

MissMiniTheMinx Wed 20-Nov-13 21:03:42

JO, in order to make the case that sociobiology shapes human behaviour, we first need to accept two premises:

One: humans are biological matter
Two: we live socially

You being the expert on sociobiology and all things anthropological would of course know this...wouldn't you??????

"sociobiology's contention that genes play an ultimate role in human behavior and that traits such as aggressiveness can be explained by biology rather than a person's social environment. Sociobiologists generally responded to the criticism by pointing to the complex relationship between nature and nurture"

It seems that socio-babble turns to nurture when its nature argument fails. I agree with you that human nature changes over time and is adaptive but the reason isn't genetic but social.

Like language, we evolve over time and in doing so we use language and behaviour to enforce inequalities/conditions that might be considered in some way beneficial at any given point. We may even change in terms of appearance, physical strength, characteristics, traits and fertility because social phenomena, like the way in which we use and abuse the natural environment.

Look at pictures of men in the great depression, men that were out of work, they have lost body mass but retain some muscle, compare that to today's fat and lardy specimen of masculinity and we find that desk dweller or coach potato, men's appearance and physical strength is different to only 80 years ago. This due to not the survival of the fittest (what a laugh) but changes to the economic and social life of people. ie social change drives all change.

And whilst you might like to think that men are naturally driven to aggression because of natural selection, I don't, to do so overlooks the one thing that sets humans apart from other animals...something you yourself seem to lack...rationality.

MistAllChuckingFrighty Wed 20-Nov-13 21:23:12

Radical feminist43
Socialist feminist42
Liberal feminist42
Women of Color30
Cultural feminist24

MistAllChuckingFrighty Wed 20-Nov-13 21:24:18

I am more liberal than I thought smile

FloraFox Wed 20-Nov-13 22:28:06

What we would need to make sociobioloblub and evo-psychobabble provable or valid: tardis

MistAllChuckingFrighty Wed 20-Nov-13 22:29:24


MooncupGoddess Wed 20-Nov-13 22:34:36

Liberal feminist42
Radical feminist39
Women of Color33
Socialist feminist29
Cultural feminist28

Feels about right, though I don't know what a cultural feminist is.

WhentheRed Wed 20-Nov-13 22:44:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeBFG Thu 21-Nov-13 07:19:40

Has anyone got a book reference for a feminist critique of evo psychology?

MissMiniTheMinx Thu 21-Nov-13 09:52:55

I don't know LeBFG I would be interested to know.

Sausageeggbacon Thu 21-Nov-13 13:46:52

Liberal feminist45
Women of Color33
Socialist feminist26
Radical feminist24
Cultural feminist17

How the bugger did the radical sneak in?

scottishmummy Sat 23-Nov-13 00:07:59

Liberal feminist46
Women of Color46
Radical feminist37
Socialist feminist31
Cultural feminist24

CaptChaos Sat 23-Nov-13 00:43:47

Liberal feminist44
Radical feminist41
Women of Color36
Cultural feminist30
Socialist feminist29

Which is a lot more radical than I thought I was!

Again, I had some difficulties in answering some of the WoC questions, mostly through ignorance. Can anyone recommend some reading to overcome this gap?

TiggyD Sat 23-Nov-13 19:02:04

My result was:

Liberal feminist 45
Women of Colour 37
Socialist feminist 26
Cultural feminist 20
Radical feminist 19
Conservative 12

I just had to correct the spelling of 'colour'!

OneMoreChap Mon 25-Nov-13 17:06:07

Liberal feminist46
Women of Color40
Socialist feminist34
Radical feminist28
Cultural feminist25

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/journal/v86/n1/abs/9400353a.html This paper is good on evopsych being a load of bobbins.

JoTheHot Tue 03-Dec-13 16:28:06

Not only is it not a good paper, it is not even a paper which offers any opinion at all on evolutionary psychology as a discipline. It is a paper which offers a view on one aspect (bias in the evaluation of rape victims' trauma) relevant to one area of evolutionary psychology (the adaptive value of rape).

It's this sort of piss-poor extrapolating from the specific to the general which radfems (rightly) condemn when it's done about women, but is apparently just fine when it comes to running down an entire academic discipline they can't even be bothered to read up on.

Grennie Thu 05-Dec-13 08:54:18

Jo - Please don't generalise about radical feminists. Radical feminists are individuals, not a homogenous group. And there are radical feminists like myself who hate any piss poor research, whatever it's conclusions.

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