On 8th & 9th June 2013 a conference for radical feminists was held in central London. ‘RadFem 2013’, as it was termed, aimed ‘to re-build a radical feminist movement and support the re-emerging interest in radical feminism among women.’ Its organisers claimed to be ‘committed to building a strong and vibrant women’s liberation movement and a community of women of all ages and from diverse backgrounds.’
Sounds good, right? Or, are you saying, ‘I don’t understand what all this means…’? The organisers of RadFem 2013 put a helpful explanation on their website:
WHAT IS RADICAL FEMINISM?
Radical feminism goes to the heart of female oppression by naming male domination and violence as being responsible for women’s subordination.
OPPOSITION TO GENDER ROLES
Radical feminists believe gender roles are harmful to women. We seek freedom from “femininity” and “masculinity”. Gender only exists for the benefit of men, as a class, at the expense of women, as a class.
THE FOCUS OF RADICAL FEMINISM
Radical feminism names, and brings attention to, all forms of male domination, violence and control, including:
■ Women’s exploitation, degradation and torture within prostitution and pornography,
■ Sexual violence towards women and the way this is culturally normalised,
■ Compulsory heterosexuality as an institution which oppresses women
■ Ways in which women are controlled and harmed by gender roles
■ Control and exploitation of women’s biology and reproductive abilities
WHO IS THIS CONFERENCE FOR?
We welcome radical feminists and those women who want to learn more about radical feminism. It is women-only because we believe that we need to organise autonomously in order to fight for our freedom from patriarchy. We aim to make the conference a safe space for female victims/survivors to talk about multiple experiences of male violence and oppression. We need women-only (female) spaces to do that. We will actively promote radical feminism and radical feminists.
We are revolutionaries, fighting for social change, and overthrowing current patriarchal systems. We want a radical alternative to both right wing, biological determinist and post modern versions of “genderism”. In other words, we oppose the promotion of gender roles as “natural”, inevitable, desirable, innate, or exaggerated performances of “femininity” and “masculinity”. We believe that gender is a destructive hierarchy, which harms women and needs to be abolished. We also oppose the the multi-billion pound sex industry. We disagree with “identity politics” which is counter to our goal of abolishing gender and male domination. The language of identity politics re-enforces patriarchy, even though sometimes people use the language of revolution to push these male centred ideologies. This conference will explore radical feminist critiques of all these oppressive aspects of patriarchy and promote alternative ways forward.
COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS
We support the human rights of all people to live free from violence or verbal abuse. We support the existence of laws to ensure those rights are protected. We support the rights of all groups who are disadvantaged within society to autonomously organise. Although we support rights and freedoms for all, this conference will be focused on the liberation of all females.
Now you might not be a feminist. You might not even be female. But I would assume that if you are an individual who believes in the freedom for groups to meet – particularly historically-oppressed groups, as females as a class are – you would have no objection to RadFem 2013.
You may therefore be surprised to hear that in the months leading up to the conference, plenty of people objected to it. You might be shocked to hear that the original venue – the London Irish Centre – pulled out of the booking due to their employees being bombarded with threatening telephone calls, receiving threats of violence, and having their personal property stolen. If you have any awareness at all of male violence, you will not be at all surprised to hear that those responsible were Men’s Rights Extremists (MREs) who object to women meeting in a female-only space.*
Trans activists also objected – strongly – to the conference, apparently on the grounds that radical feminists want them dead. Yes, you read that right. That is the myth peddled on social media.
Heads up: radical feminists don’t want anyone dead.
Radical feminists don’t want to ‘kill all men’.
Radical feminists have sons, fathers, brothers (*whispers* some of us even have male friends).
Radical feminists recognise that patriarchy harms us all and that it needs to be dismantled.
Radical feminists recognise that an individual’s ‘gender identity’ cannot, in a fair society, be allowed to ride roughshod over biological sex, which cannot be changed.
So, if we weren’t talking about killing all men and killing anyone on the basis of their ‘gender identity’, what did we discuss at Radfem 2013?
- Lierre Keith gave an introduction to radical feminism by discussing the differences with liberal feminism.
- Rachel Moran spoke of her experiences as a prostituted girl/woman (I say ‘girl’ because she was just 15 when men began paying to rape her).
- Cherry Smiley spoke about indigenous Canadian girls and women being prostituted.
- Julia Long spoke about male violence against women.**
- Femi Otitoju spoke about building international sisterhood and ways in which we could facilitate this.
- Sheila Jeffreys spoke about compulsory heterosexuality on women as a class and the importance of lesbian-only spaces.
- Cathy Brennan spoke about how Queer Theory has appropriated women- and lesbian narratives of oppression in order to advance the rights of men.
There were other workshops which I couldn’t get to due to timetable clashes so apologies to women I have missed off, but the above list is really just meant to give you a flavour of the issues discussed.
During our ‘down’ time we ate vegan food, we had a pint at the pub across the road and, on the Saturday evening, we strutted our stuff on the dance floor (free from the male gaze). It was two days, and one night, of female-only space. It felt safe. It felt liberating. It was like nothing else I have ever experienced.
If you’ve never experienced female-only space, I urge you to do so before you dismiss it. Females fight oppression from the minute we are born. Females have been fighting oppression since humans walked the Earth. Females always have to *fight* for basic human rights. This is not ‘cis privilege’. This is not any sort of privilege.
It is not fascist to want female-only space. It is fascist to deny that right to females. Think on that.
*Why might this be? Because we threaten them. Radical feminists challenge the status quo. Radical feminists wish to dismantle patriarchy. It is in violent males’ interests to keep things exactly as they are (and to keep females in their place). MREs are used to having things their own way. They don’t like being told what they can and can’t do by uppity wimmin.
**I am not affiliated in any way with Julia, but I would highly recommend her book, Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism. You don’t realise quite how bad the p0rnification effect is until you read this.