I consider myself to be a Radical Feminist. I know that sounds scary - especially to men! I’ve not always been a Rad Fem. Since childhood I felt a sense of unfairness around the way I was treated compared to the way my brother was treated; Not that I believed he was loved more or favoured, but that I was just expected to do more than him. I was expected to learn how to cook. I was expected to do more cleaning. When I pushed back on that I was told “but he’s a BOY” and it made me angry.
Years later at University, we briefly touched on feminism as part of a sociology unit. By then I had already spent years being objectified and harassed, on an almost daily basis. Men would shout at me out of car windows as I walked along, they’d grope me in nightclubs, grab at me in my bar job and make crude comments about my body. In all honesty I wasn’t even angry about it. It was normal. I wasn’t gorgeous or exceptional. This is just what happens to young women.
In this quick overview of Feminist theory at University I remember learning Radical Feminists want Lesbian separatism. They want men and women to live separately and come together to procreate if necessary and women to pursue same-sex relationships as a political statement. We learned Liberal feminists recognise the progress made by feminists who have gone before them, that they’re pragmatic and seek to continue to work towards change within the current framework we live in. That sounds much more sensible doesn’t it? Also, I’m attracted to men, I really didn’t fancy living in some kind of woman-only colony! (these days that sounds heavenly, but I digress…)
In reality, Radical Feminist theory analyses the structures of power which oppress the female sex. It argues women, as a biological class, are oppressed by men as a biological class. That we live in a Patriarchal society set up for the overwhelming benefit of men.
Over the years since then I considered myself to be feminist while making less than feminist choices. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, especially with men. At 32 I gave birth to my only child, a daughter. Her dad, someone I wasn’t in a particularly serious relationship with, left me at 6 weeks pregnant. I had hyperemesis, my pregnancy was awful and my daughter was born premature. The first days of her life were touch and go. We got lucky and she did not have long term health problems, however I spent the first year of her life constantly worrying about the realities of raising a disabled child as a lone parent.
Her dad was emotionally abusive, even now, 8 years later he’s controlling and uses our daughter to get to me in any way he can. It took me some time to name this as abuse. After all he’d never hit me, never threatened to. Sure he was a shit, but I didn’t realise going through my phone, threatening suicide when he discovered I might be seeing someone (2 years after we split up), constantly accusing me of bizarre sexual things, was abuse. The website Mumsnet, taught me about emotional abuse. I’d hang around the Relationships forum and read the advice given to women experiencing the exact same issues I had. It was a relief to be able to put a label on my experiences.
After a while I started to lurk around the Feminism talk board. At first I was shocked at how NASTY they could be! I remember intervening on a thread to tell women off while they discussed the issue of transgender women using women’s bathrooms. The argument was that transwomen were really men, so shouldn’t be using bathrooms where women might be changing san pro, where there might be Muslim or Orthodox Jewish women. I said they were not being kind. It really didn’t bother me to see transwomen in public bathrooms. I didn’t feel unsafe. I was asked; “Do you believe transwomen are LITERALLY women?” Well no I conceded, not literally, but does it hurt to treat them like women? Transwomen, I believed at the time, were a tiny minority of mainly gay men, suffering from a condition known as gender dysphoria, so distressed by their male bodies they’d go to the lengths of having their penis surgically inverted to alleviate their pain. I was so wrong.
Most transgender people (male and female) these days DO NOT have what is known in the community as “bottom surgery”. They may or may not take cross sex hormones, they don’t even have to change their appearance much at all! Transwomen can be attracted to male people or female people, and yes they DO insist that they are literally women. Biological sex, apparently isn’t important. In fact, mentioning it is dog whistle transphobia.
I’ve always seen myself as an ally, but I didn’t realise transwomen wanted the right to get changed in open single sex changing rooms, that offenders wish to be placed in the female prison estate (even sex offenders), that transwomen would be competing with biological women at the highest levels of competitive sport. Of course this isn’t fair. To me, it’s obvious women will be disadvantaged, even physically hurt by this.
Thus started my life as a Radical Feminist. As I started to read, I realised we shared opinions on other things. “Sex work is work” always made me feel uncomfortable, because I know the sex industry is ultimately harmful to women, that thousands of women are coerced and trafficked into selling sex, that even when it’s a choice, it’s often a choice made by women who are desperate and/or who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, with a warped sense of self esteem. Sex work isn’t “empowering”, no job with such high rates of PTSD could be. No job where women are raped and assaulted with such high frequency could be. That doesn’t mean I exclude sex workers in my feminism, my feminism includes all women. It just means I can see the industry for the harm it does and refuse to celebrate it.
I’m also not particularly keen on surrogacy. People are shocked when I say this, mostly because they see nice gay men like Tom Daley and his husband, joyfully welcoming a bouncing baby into the world, without thinking about the woman they paid to risk their life and grow a baby which would be ripped from them at birth. Commercial surrogacy is banned in the UK, with good reason. So celebrities will often find a working class woman in America, or Eastern Europe, or even the Far East to buy a baby from. And that’s what it is, ultimately you are purchasing a human being.
What has really convinced me surrogacy is exploitative is that you never see wealthy women do it. The Kim Kardashians of this world are never carrying babies for women in 3rd world countries. It’s always the other way around. We don’t allow people to sell off their spare kidney, because this would encourage poor people to risk their lives for a few thousand pounds, yet when it comes to women growing another person in their bodies for 9 months, taking all the risks involved with pregnancy and childbirth, then separating that baby from their world, the only person they’ve ever known, we celebrate it.
Apparently having these views now puts me on the wrong side of history. They’re cancellable views, they could, potentially, lose me my job. So I’m here blogging anonymously. I promise my posts after today won’t be this long, today I wanted to give an overview of my journey to where I am now.