Tag Archives: women

Why I’m a radical feminist

I recently decided that I don’t have the luxury to be a liberal feminist. I honestly don’t understand how any woman does. Because liberal feminism has lost sight of simple fact that male violence against women is global, and endemic. Other women have written about this, so I’m not going to rehash their arguments here. But, if I had to pick a defining characteristic of the people committing violence against women, I’d say they are male humans. With penises. If I were to define the victims, I’d mention the fact that they all possess a vagina. Some people seem to think these facts are unimportant. I don’t: here’s why.

In case you missed it, women are dying

In November 2013, I spent a month volunteering in Rajasthan. At that time, I worked for a big financial company that offered bursaries to people who wished to undertake voluntary work. I wanted go armed with as much knowledge as possible, so I undertook a research project and learned about India. I learnt about the huge numbers of menstruating girls who have no access to sanitary products. I learnt that menstruation is such a source of taboo and shame that girls are kept from school. I learnt that the value placed on female lives is so low, that the population demographic is skewed. I learnt that, since 1985, selection abortion and infanticide has meant that there are 10 million missing girls in India.

Seriously, let’s think about that for a moment. There are currently 8.8 million people living in London. Imagine the whole city, deserted and devoid of life, like a scene in 28 Days Later. That’s how many female lives have been lost. Why? Because they were female, and Indian society culture places a lower value on female lives.

Before we get too smug, and assert that not valuing female lives is an Indian problem, let’s think about Brock Turner. Lest we forget, he’s the unanimously convicted US rapist reported in the media as a champion swimmer, accompanied by a cherubic photo. His victim writes that:

“At the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming”.

Why does this matter? Because the media framed this crime as “look, he did a bad thing but seriously, a man’s LIFE could be ruined!” The impact on the woman’s life is minimised, because a man’s life is deemed more valuable. And while it’s fucked up, this view is rampant. The oppressions I’ve outlined happen to women, because they ARE women. The reality of being a woman is not something they can opt out of. Liberal feminism has lost sight of that. So I’ve lost all time for it. feminism-295245_1280

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How to define a woman?

feminism-295245_1280As I sat cosied up with my coffee this morning, I came across this article by Gaby Hinsliff. Remarking that “if there ever was a universal consensus on How to Be a Woman, it’s dissolving fast”,  she discusses the changing notions of femininity and womanhood. It made me a little uneasy to see various mentions of gender in her article, but none of sex. Because while I support trans rights, I’m really concerned at the erasure of biological sex in the definition of women.

Female biology is important. I was on a volunteer placement in India a while back – where I learned that huge numbers of menstruating girls have no access to sanitary products and where the topic is such a source of taboo and shame that they are kept from school. Where female foeticide (aborting unborn female babies) is so widespread that it has skewed the population demographic. The International Development Research Centre estimates that selective abortion is responsibility for 10 million missing girls in India since 1985.

These are sex-based oppressions: girls and women literally dying because of being female. In the US, the sex-based oppressions are different: a lack of affordable contraception, maternity care and abortion. But if you remove any mention of biological sex from the idea of being a woman, you are in effect saying that these sex-based oppressions don’t matter. You’re also stymying efforts to tackle these problems, because you’re removing the very language that articulates them.

Woman – a loaded word

Living rurally as I do, I couldn’t make the recent women’s marches protesting Donald Trump. But I did buy a knitted pussy hat, and have been strutting about it in ever since. Upon reading that various transactivists were calling pussy hats transphobic (because they represent vaginas), I was really pissed off. I want to be good trans ally, but as someone who has been grabbed by the vagina, twice, I’d say it’s up to me how I respond to those assaults, and what I wear to protest them.

I’ve seen transactivists affirming that the mere mention of female biology is “literally violence”, while Planned Parenthood now refers to women as ”menstruators”. The British Medical Association is also removing the words ‘woman’ and ‘mothers’. To any guys reading this – how would you feel if the word ‘man’ became politically loaded and you were to be referred to as ‘ejaculators’? Would you be cool with that, or would you find it a tad dehumanising?

It goes without saying that trans people need to be actively included when medical providers outline their services, but there’s no logical line from there to erasing the word ‘woman’ and any mention of female biology. There is, there has to be a way of supporting our trans sisters without policing the language that lets us describe the realities of being female.