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Separatist Feminism

(1003 Posts)
VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 08:37:16

Ok, I really am really very late for work at this point but I thought it might be nice to have a space in which we can discuss separatist feminism. I've read a lot of advocates of it, and even incorporate some elements of it into my own life - I prefer not to live with men, for example - but I don't practise it totally and I can't find any examples of any separatist communes.

Does anyone know anything more about it? Does anyone live in a separatist way?

Surprisingly good Wiki link here

sparky12345 Fri 15-Jul-11 08:45:01

i live partially/semi but ive got to go out now.
be back later.

reelingintheyears Fri 15-Jul-11 08:49:23

I think it would be very hard to live in the world as a totally separatist woman.

You can obviously choose not to live with men but how do you manage if you have male children?

I think i would be depriving myself and my DC of a whole part of the world if i chose to live in that way.

It just sounds a bit extreme to me.

sunshineandbooks Fri 15-Jul-11 09:01:57

At the risk of completely missing the point I don't see why you can't have a separatist approach to feminist problems and still also involve men in your daily lives.

Admittedly I know little about separatist feminism but reading that wiki link (thanks VG) I'd say it's about focussing exclusively on the problems women face without diminishing solutions because it may affect men. That's not the same thing as eradicating men from your daily life is it? Isn't that the same approach we have to DV? No one denies that men suffer from it too, but as feminists we focus on it purely from a female POV. Similarly with issues about residency post separation. We don't deny men their problems or their own solutions to those problems, but as they already have all the advantages we let them get on with it and instead focus purely on the female angle.

I lead a very female dominated life. All my close friends are female and most of their children are female. I live on my own. I have a DS as well as a DD though, and I also have male friends, though I don't see them anywhere near as often as my female friends. Most of my female friends are also single mothers like myself. The only male (other than my pre-school DS) that I see on a regular basis is my boss, who behaves in an extremely pro-feminist manner and is one of the loveliest men I know. smile

VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 09:58:12

Hmmm. That's a good point, sunshine, but I think the impetus behind the separation part - as in, excluding men totally - is that only by losing women and all their labour will men come to truly see the patriarchy and the way that it ignores women's contributions. Only then can we start negotiations!

Reeling: I clearly involve men in my life and don't live in a separatist fashion but as a thought-experiment I think it's a very reasonable proposition and not really that extreme. From what I've read (and I would totally defer to anyone with lived experience) I don't think male DCs present a problem - though some women's spaces do forbid even boy children I can't find any evidence to suggest that a feminist who lives in a seperatist way would not welcome a male child, love them, and raise them just as she would a female child.

Julie Bindel on Political Lesbianism here

I shouldn't conflate the two issues really but I think one of the contributors to that article makes an interesting point:

'She says that while the booklet's insistence that lesbianism could be a choice was controversial, debate was equally heated around the suggestion that men were the enemy. "We were trying to challenge the excuses used by some heterosexual feminists as to why they lived with Nigel or John," she says. "They said, 'Oh, but my man is OK,' as a way of refusing to look at the fact that some men really do hate women."'

So it's a way of creating a totally clean slate in which women can clearly see if life is better or not, and then society can move forward, perhaps?

DontCallMePeanut Fri 15-Jul-11 10:09:58

I'm not sure I like the idea, tbh...

To say no man can be entirely "feminist" may be true, but it's not through lack of trying. We only need to take a look at users on here such as TAB to see that there are some very feminist men.

We already have enough opposition from men who feel "feminists are just out for themselves" or "ruining society", making those who support the feminist aims ostracised from the cause would possibly increase friction, thus being detrimental to the feminist movement. Surely the better option would be to socialise with those in support of the feminist movement, thus investing in an equal relationship (even of the platonic kind)

Maybe I've completely missed the point.

VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 11:20:10

But should women listen to those men? I'm totally playing devil's advocate here but surely those men who do think that feminists are ruining society are those who benefit most from classic patriarchal structures: women who serve men, women who please men, etc. No wonder they're chucking a strop. And perhaps a truly feminist individual man would understand why women-as-a-group need to get away from men-as-a-group.

It's not nice to grasp the logical consequences of separatism - that heterosexual feminists are 'sleeping with the enemy', as it were, and shoring up the structures that hurt us. It's threatening and uncomfortable reading. I find it threatening; it unsettles me as a het woman; BUT I would never ditch my partner for the feminist cause. My question in recent months has been 'why not?'

When I read the stats for rape, the stats for violence, the way in which women's relationships (sexual and non-sexual) are derided and repressed, systems that benefit women being dismantled, etc, the separatist thought of 'why the HELL do women-as-a-group cleave to men-as-a-group' does seem like a logical progression. Sure, we'd lose some benefits, but we'd make a lot of gains. It makes sense, doesn't it, that we move away from pain and towards peace?

And yet, and yet - I won't be halting my participation in heterosexuality any time soon.

HandDivedScallopsrgreat Fri 15-Jul-11 11:26:47

I think you are raising some interesting questions and points Victor. I am going to have to think a bit more about this though before being able to contribute anything useful!

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 11:30:24 can't be a heterosexual separatist feminist. That's the whole point of political lesbianism.

I do not actually know anyone who has managed to maintain separatism since the 1980s. And the lesbians who've stuck with lesbianism are the ones who made a choice out of joyful, energetic sexual preference.

VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 11:34:56

I think that's my fault, motherinferior, I've conflated the two issues. Feminist seperatism = women living apart from men, irrespective of sexuality. Political lesbianism = what it says on the tin.

Your post suggests that you've known women who followed political lesbianism. I've always wondered about that - I think you desire who you desire and that's the end of that. But that Bindel article above suggests that she chose to be a lesbian due to political beliefs. Interesting stuff.

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 11:51:05

No, I don't think you have conflated them wrongly. Go back and re-read Jeffreys et al. Their point is penetration is a microcosmic re-enactment of men's domination over women, and that you have to live your entire life eschewing it. You can't say 'I have a separatist lifestyle' and then shag blokes. It is (a) logical conclusion to political lesbianism, separatism is.

And the 'I'm a lesbian because of my politics' line...Oh, I think a lot of us tried very, very hard to follow it through, but most - I'd say all - of the ones who wanted to have sex with blokes as well/instead ended up doing so.

And I know at least one gorgeous lesbian feminist who was firmly told she wasn't Sufficiently Feminist back in the 1980s to be a Proper Lesbian grin

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 15-Jul-11 11:55:33

Motherinferior, couldn't one be a heterosexual seperatist but have to accept celibacy as part of the deal? Rather like being a heterosexual Catholic priest - you sacrifice the sexual stuff for the ideals, but you don't lose the preference.

I agree that you can't really be a separatist and shag blokes, but lesbianism isn't the only answer to that.

rainbowtoenails Fri 15-Jul-11 11:57:08

I could probably end up a political lesbian (who still shagged guys for fun) if i ever broke up with dp. After having ds my life became exclusively female, all friends were single mums or lesbians, toddler groups all women, mum babysat, dad didnt. Ive never had real male friends anyway, im not the kind of guys can be friends with..
Because of work and dp my life now has men in it but i dont think mens presence has added anything. Although it is quite ironic that it is my financial dependence on dp which gives me the time and freedom to pursue feminist activism. Also i can hold out for a feminist job rather than being forced into a job which conflicts with my feminist principles.

reelingintheyears Fri 15-Jul-11 12:01:13

Sorry if i didn't make myself clear..

You can obviously choose not to live with men but how do you manage if you have male children?

I didn't mean 'you' personally VG..i should have written 'one'.

Yes,interesting that Julie Bindel has 'chosen' her sexuality to fit with her political beliefs.
I can't imagine that would work for many people.

I also don't believe any feminist would love their DSs any less than their DDs but in this seperatist living,how would they reconcile their beliefs with their grown up DS when they inevitably become men?

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 12:30:55

I expect you could, Torty. I just haven't met any. But of course it would be entirely logical.

The separatists I've known (and this was a loooooong time ago) were far too revolted by the idea of sex with blokes to entertain the idea.

VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 13:32:00

Mumsnet upgrade lost my post but yes, that's what I meant, motherinferior. Feminist separatists don't have sex with men, or live with them, etc. That's why I'm not a separatist. What I've been thinking about is why I'm not, given that it looks so simple on paper.

But even if I did go down that route and gave up sex with men, I wouldn't be a lesbian, political or otherwise. I'd be a straight woman who doesn't have sex with men. I know there's the whole lesbian continuum thing, but I think equating women supporting other women with lesbianism is a bit of a whitewash for actual lesbians.

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 13:34:07

Yes, so do I, but as I say that was - was, Back In The Day - a somewhat heretical view.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 15-Jul-11 13:48:19

You can still be a separatist feminist and be a non-practising heterosexual and I know one hetty couple where they don't have penetrative sex as they are both uncomfortable with penetration (they have a reasonably egalitarian relationship)

Molasses Fri 15-Jul-11 13:50:58

I was just going to ask re the penetration thing. Can you be a hetero separatist if you only have exclusively non-penetrative sex?

MooncupGoddess Fri 15-Jul-11 14:01:59

Or of course one can be an asexual (or subsexual = occassionally finds people attractive but not that bothered about the whole thing) feminist separatist. Sex and sexual feeling aren't compulsory, or universal.

Further down the scale (but more relevant to most people's lives), I think there is a value in some psychological degree of feminist separatism - in terms of knowing that one is self-sufficient and can operate perfectly happily and successfully in life without a male partner. I know most people on this board will be in this position anyway - but a lot of women aren't.

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 14:03:02

Well, I've known political lesbians who're unhappy with the idea of penetration with anything....

Essentially, I still think that you're getting yourself tied into the knot of My Man Is Different if you describe yourself as a separatist and yet still get naked with the enemy.

I have nothing against shagging blokes, btw. Or sex with women. I do have a slight problem with separatism.

Malificence Fri 15-Jul-11 14:04:15

Laurie, do you mean that the couple you know are male/female and that they deliberately deprive themselves of penetrative sex because of their political beliefs? shock

motherinferior Fri 15-Jul-11 14:05:15

Well, I deprive myself of flying because of my political/environmental beliefs. Today, I would swap a holiday in far-off parts for a shag grin

VictorGollancz Fri 15-Jul-11 14:05:17

Reeling Hopefully one of the radical feminists will see the thread and answer the children thing if they can. I know rad fem is not separatist fem but all I can find on the internet (it's become a little quest of mine today!) is people accusing radical feminists of not wanting to raise male children. Honestly, given the things that men are so quick to accuse feminists of, it's a miracle we're not all living in happy women-only communes. I can't find any radical feminists who actually say that though, and as far as separatist feminism is concerned, there's nothing.

I could well be merrily postulating out of my arse, but given that separatist feminist theory doesn't seem to fear or hate men, and rather comes from a place of wanting to devote their energies to other women and make men see the patriarchy for what it is, I really don't think that a male child is an issue, given that presumably a male child raised in such an environment would naturally see the patriarchy for what it is. I dunno, maybe that child wouldn't 'count' as a man, because part of being a 'man' is being part of patriarchy? Maybe?

It's totally possible that male children might have to leave the community at 18, or something like that. Of course, it could be that they throw their boy children from the top of the tallest cliff, but I doubt it grin

Posters like motherinferior have pointed out that this does seem a mostly theoretical movement, and I suspect that's why issues like boy children in separatist communities don't come up, because there are either hardly any or none at all.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 15-Jul-11 14:06:24

Yes, but it's not deprivation to them - they have a very satisfying sex life without penetration.

I know a lot of women for whom the penetration part is the least satisfying

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