Before my beloved RF sisters get out their mourning garb, let me explain.
I still use the label “radical feminist” because it is an easy way to identify my political views, and for like-minded people to find me in the vast expanse of the Internet. I prefer the term “female liberationist” because it more accurately describes my politics. Similarly, I reject the label “pro-choice” and instead opt to call myself “pro-abortion”. Anyone who knows me will recall that I have an interest in language and its application in politics, and consider it to be very important in ongoing feminist discourse. I have dabbled in debate about anti-female language used in transgender and liberal feminist activism, and experimented with the language we use in our own corner of the political world, instances of which I will provide in a later post. For now, let us examine some of the more common words and phrases we use to identify ourselves in our respective political movements (and don’t worry- this is not intended to be some tiresome identity politics mindfuck, but an examination of terminology and its implications).
Feminist: This label has all but been abandoned by most and restructured with the addition of applicable modifiers. Liberal feminists have begun labeling themselves as such, presumably to further distance themselves from radical feminists. The term is occasionally used in the mainstream as a poor attempt at disguising the serving of male interests, or to gain a few liberties for women without offending the male class too much. All but meaningless, “feminism” has come to denote so many bizarrely un-feminist concepts that few of those dedicated to women’s struggle bother to try to define it. I’ve heard radical feminist women discuss ditching the “feminist” part altogether, fearing that they might be associated with the surreal, male-focused orgy that feminism has become. Hence my eagenrness to clarify that I am a female liberationist-ie, someone who is dedicated to the liberation of female people from patriarchy to make my goals and beliefs very clear.
TERF/SWERF: Trans/sex worker-exclusionary radical feminist. Used as a slur against women who acknowledge the existence of biological sex and believe that women should be free to define their spaces, and women who oppose the widespread commodification of violence against women, respectively. Fundamentally dishonest terms, the linguistic manifestation of the “straw man” logical fallacy, these terms have become so common and so vicious in their implications that “feminist” discourse has been effectively rent in two- the evil TERFs and SWERFs, and the “good feminists”.
Female/Male: In “liberal feminist” discourse, these terms are effectively meaningless. They mean “someone who identifies as male/female”. In “radical feminist” discourse, these terms mean what they actually mean, ie “a female animal is one which is biologically equipped for and typically able to produce ova, and a male animal is one which is biologically equipped for and typically able to produce sperm”. These are political terms because males as a caste systematically oppress and commit violence against females as a class. Liberal feminism/transactivism have in recent years decided to claim that biological sex doesn’t exist because radical feminism started making too much sense to them.
Now, there have been many theories as to how we can amend the problems in the women’s movement today. Myself, I’ve considered initiatives to make liberals be more inclusive of radicals in our shared causes and encouraged people to argue out their differences elsewhere. But radical women are still fighting to even be allowed to let the world know we exist. We are being squashed by the collective fist of the male establishment and its female allies. And though I wish I could wake up one day to find the liberal/radical feminist dichotomy conveniently absent, I know that this won’t happen overnight. And to be quite honest, I think that the women’s movement needs to stop pretending that these “liberal feminists” have anything in common with our goals, or have any of our best interests in mind. They pay lip service to women’s issues while effectively fighting for Men’s Rights. The only difference between “liberal feminism” and “I don’t believe in women’s rights just human rights” is the fact that they use feminist imagery and terminology to gain more followers. And it’s easy for them. Because “liberal feminism” is safe. It is comfortable, and you’re still pleasing men so you have nothing to worry about. I say fuck that, and this is where the “pro-choice” part comes in.
Pretty much anyone with an Internet connection is aware that the major ideological basis of “liberal feminism” is choice. You may remember this from such arguments as “feminism is about women choosing to do whatever they want to do”, “BDSM is a choice”, “prostitution is a choice”, and “if I choose to do it, the choice is feminist”. In other words, “feminism is about having the choice to choose your choices”. This rhetoric is absolutely demented. If someone tells me I should off myself and I choose to blow a hole in my head it doesn’t mean that choice existed in a vacuum, and certainly doesn’t mean that it was a responsible or positive choice to make.
The problem with “pro-choice” in regards to abortion has multiple negative implications for this reason. Abortion is an extremely safe, common, and necessary medical procedure. I have had an abortion myself, and I believe that abortion needs to be considered in the same way one considers any other kind of medical procedure. No one calls themselves “pro-choice” because they are in favour of people electing to have their wisdom teeth removed. I have put off having my wisdom teeth removed for years, partially due to financial constraints and partially due to a strong aversion to having my face ripped apart, and I don’t consider one opting to have or not have an abortion as being any different. I probably need to have my wisdom teeth out, and some women probably shouldn’t have babies if they feel emotionally and financially incapable of supporting them, but while both situations are potentially life-threatening they also potentially aren’t, and are therefore no-one else’s business. If the medical procedure to have my wisdom teeth removed was not available to me, however, I would be understandably perturbed. The reason women aren’t allowed to have abortions is not because those in power have a problem with us making choices, it is because the system hates women and wishes to withhold medical treatments from us because it does not care if we die. This is about the disposability of the female body. Similarly, the system does not criminalise prostitution because it doesn’t like women “choosing to express their sexuality” or any other such liberal nonsense, it does so because it views women as purchasable objects and does not care if we are exploited, raped, abused, or murdered.
The reason that “liberal feminist” activism falls so short of making any actual changes in women’s situation is because it assumes that patriarchal society already views women as human. It doesn’t. No matter how much you love your dad or your brother or your husband does not change the fact that men as a caste hate us. As is evident in the definitions I’ve listed above, post-modern “liberal feminism” is so devoid of critical analysis that it forges for itself a fantasy world in which women have actually made major gains in altering our social status, and living under such a delusion essentially cripples our ability to move forward. In the words of Angela Davis that I love to quote so much, “Radical simply means grasping something by its roots”. Radical women, whether we call ourselves feminists or liberationists, actually need to fight this pomo libfem rhetoric, because it is, aside from being about as insipid as a political ideology can get, possibly the most deceptive and dangerous manifestation of patriarchy there is. And if I never see the word “choice” used uncritically in feminist discourse for the rest of my days, I’ll feel at last that the struggle for liberation has moved forward.