Divide and Conquer
Tho we all share commonality as women which unites us, we must also be willing to hear out the pain that has divided us. There is no way around it. There are no shortcuts. We must understand how the patriarchy divides and conquers us.
None of us gets a free ride. We are all discriminated against and oppressed by some difference the patriarchs have singled out, other than just being women. This is what divides us. So we don’t get the option of ignoring it. We must listen to the pain of what it means to be a woc, a lesbian, a mother, a single or childless woman, or a senior, and …. So we must be willing to hear each other’s pain of how the patriarchy attacks us in special ways. – Luckynkl (possibly paraphrased from published works)
Indeed. I so agree with this sentiment. Despite so much of the intersectionality discussion reverting to Oppression Olympics, rendering it meaningless to many radfems, we still need to be willing to listen to the pain of women’s experiences from the other oppressions. We need to understand, and that is painful, for both speaker and listener. It’s hard to separate out the pain from the tendency to place everything in boxes of a less-than vs more-than hierarchical structure. Sometimes the pain we hear from other women who have been oppressed differently to ourselves will hurt us too. As white women listen to the pain of women-of-colour, some will feel unfairly attacked as ‘racist’. Some will feel liberal white guilt. Some woc will lose all sympathy with white women who don’t *get it*. Some will think woc are just playing the ‘race card’, and some respond along the lines that the ‘race card’ is powerless to hurt other women anyway. Others will try to understand how some of their unconscious behaviours might feed into structural racism.
The women sharing their pain, may be angry, they may use ‘nasty’ words, or they may well express ‘nasty’ concepts, but framed in polite, respectful, educated language. Which makes it OK to some women, as long as its said with ‘respect’ it doesn’t matter how cruel the sentiment being expressed is. They may say things that other women find painful to hear. Don’t take it personally, some say. It is just venting in rage against the ‘system’. Or, its just an ‘opinion’ on the situation, on a set of behaviours, not the person, its not an ‘attack’. It’s not directed personally, or onto any particular group of women. Nonetheless, for some women it feels that way.
Once I saw on a radfem’s blog, a remark about a woman immigrant dressed in hijab who she sees on her commute, including a comment along the lines of wishing the woman would return to her own country. It would appear the woman’s behaviour and dress was offensive to the American woman, perhaps the woman was too patriarchally-identified or ‘contaminated’ or not ‘pure’ enough to share a public bus in America. I don’t know why, but I was upset reading this, partly because I happen to know many women from hijab-wearing cultures who continue to wear it for various reasons. Some of whom are radfem lesbians.
Childless women vent their pain and anger, and some of that sometimes falls on mothers. I sometimes read the pain and anger of the childless as ‘contempt’ for mothers. Sometimes I see it as ignorance, for they do not know in what ways mothers are oppressed. Sometimes I see it as arrogance, for they do not care enough to find out. Some are proud of their achievement in escaping the chains of motherhood (while calling it *privileged*), and encourage others to do so. Some mothers join in to beat themselves up with regrets. I try to hear the pain, as rage against the ‘system’ and not as an ‘attack’ on mothers. As a mother, I don’t see the ‘contempt’ or ‘rejection’ of motherhood as a personal insult or rejection to all mothers, but I can understand why many mothers might feel that way.
Some radfem vegans are not shy of calling omnivores ‘impure’ and placing themselves as holier-than-thou on the radfem ladder. They are proud of their achievement in solidarity politics with our sister creatures. I know some radfem vegan lesbians who have called women ‘tainted’ because of their meat-eating habits, implying they are engaging in a kind of political rape. Is that an insult to all women eating meat? I don’t know, but many meat-eating radfems out of mutual respect, or in solidarity with the political principles perhaps, understand the anger and empathise, or just let it go.
In many of these oppressions that the patriarchy puts on all of us, we women – ourselves – are often used as tools of the patriarchs to police and reinforce them on other women. Many of us are unconscious of it. Lesbians in particular, because they interact with more women on more intimate levels, are often far more aware and conscious of how hand-maidens of patriarchy hurt us and in personal intimate ways.
Some lesbians, possibly the minority of all the minorities, similar to other minority women, get tired and frustrated at not being able to speak their pain because it might hurt other women, who just aren’t interested and tell us to go find our own country. Some lesbians, like some woc, have no time, energy or sympathy left. Recently a young radfem lesbian blogger asked where are all the young lesbians? I would add where are all the older lesbians? Some young lesbians are *terrified* of het women’s reactions. Many older ones stay closeted.
Some lesbians, like childless women, are proud of having escaped the chains from an early age, but their pride in their achievement is seen as hierarchical and is trashed as trivial and unimportant by most other women. On the other hand, childless women are put up as role models. Such lesbians are just terribly threatening. All 10 of them. All 0.00000001% of them in the population. Freaks. It would appear that even those few, must be culled from the herd and not allowed to survive.