Radical Feminism and Oppression Theory, 2013

Contentious Divisions — Racism

Within feminism, we recognize that women are marginalized under patriarchy as women. What we don’t always recognize is that, among women, some of us are further marginalized for our differences from the markers of privilege, things like race and class. What I want to consider is how those differences, those further marginalizations, those multiple oppressions 1, can be framed so that we can understand and care for one another, while we nurture out the insecurities coerced (and sometimes defended) within ourselves.

Feminism is going to divide itself into factions, as women gather around beliefs, common experiences, wounds and points of pride. I don’t see this, by itself, as an issue. None of us has all the experiences to ground us in our theory; we need other women’s perspectives to create a comprehensive whole which can then be used to guide us in female empowerment.


Because we are all women — and feminism is by, for and about women — we are rightly seen as a sex caste, one of two sexes. Yes, there are a very few intersex individuals, but this doesn’t really change the fact of there being, primarily, two sexes. The issue is that when women don’t jump into this women-qua-women alliance wholeheartedly, WE are often seen as being divisive. When Black women bring up the entitlement of white supremacy, when lesbians talk of heterosexual privilege and its presumption of normality, and when I challenge classism, and fat oppression and the ever-present expectation that there is a right size and it’s thin, charges of our being divisive often arise.



That feminists with real-world privilege may still be oppressive to more-marginalized women becomes a contentious issue, and some of the things that come out in the ensuing discussions are brutal. Alliances with white women, with class-privileged women, with thin or average-sized women, and, foremost, with heterosexual women, are demanded. Hierarchy is usually ignored. It is complex, and maintaining victimhood while deflecting other women’s anger for complicity can and must often seem like life support to the threatened privileged. Still, it’s hard to hold unending sympathy, since they are privileged.

Victim Feminism/ Liberal Feminism

One of the biggest divides, even within radical feminism, is a leftover of liberalism that equates femalehood with victimhood only: each woman is a victim of patriarchy and her individual foibles of complicity should never be the focus; she is doing her very best, and is most correctly seen as a victim — and never, herself, as an oppressor. Differences are divisive. The ultimate insult within liberalism is to define a person as a member of a group, also disparaged as ‘identity politics.‘ Liberalism seeks to maximize the choices of the individual, without ever really questioning the effects or the consequences of those choices. 



Feminism, seen as white and relatively elite, is something women of Color may join if they fit in … on white women’s terms. Mostly those terms are that racism cannot be discussed because it hurts white women, who are only willing to focus on their own oppression. Victimhood is comforting in its lack of responsibility to do anything except fix blame.



Every focus beyond victimization, it is said in myriad ways, is about behavior coerced by patriarchy — and white women cannot be expected to address racism, class-privileged women cannot be expected to examine their own privilege, and so on. Because they are victims. Because attention to race (class, etc.) isn’t feminist. Because any mention of racism (classism, etc.) is to focus on differences, and it’s our commonalities as women which bring us together as feminists. Racism is (and classism is, etc.) viewed as a subset of patriarchy, and the empowerment of women-as-women will take care of all the other more-marginal issues. And because any focus on anything other than women-as-women is to shift the focus onto men, which is all too common — it’s always about the men, and women are forgotten, or worse, seen but ignored.



WATM has become a common Internet acronym: What About The Men? Women, as the lesser sex-caste in the existing hierarchy have been expected to consider men, as a matter of survival. And it shows, in Internet interactions. Men expect to be catered to, overwhelmingly, and whole groups have formed to complain about non-catering women; these men are called MRAs, ‘men’s rights activists, although many of us prefer other words, including ‘male reactionary’ or ‘repugnant’ and ‘asshats.’ In mixed-sex groups, male goodness often overshadows female brilliance; men are rewarded for behavior expected of women. WATM is a valid criticism within feminism, generally — but not necessarily when it comes to racism, classism, lesbophobia, and so on. Paying attention to further-marginalization does not necessarily imply WATM-ing.

I’m not convinced that the oppression of females is the founding oppression, the basis for all others, which is often cited as a cornerstone for radical feminism. I believe my First Nations friend when she says that for some, colonialism brought misogyny — that it did not exist prior to white contact. To me it looks like the sadistic side of the domestication of animals, or possibly wholesale slaughter vs. taking for need, may have formed the foundation for further oppressions, the legitimacy of canid companions and hunting aside. And perhaps the parent-child relationship, in its first abuses, led to the idea that some people are ownable, appropriate chattels, without any responsibility for their welfare, their own needs and desires. Scarcity, and the rise of the few sociopaths in devastating times, may have been the root cause of oppression — and it well may have brutalized women and girls first, since sexual violence works to disempower females so well. I still claim that I am a radical feminist; I can usually find words like Christine Stark’s, 2 where radicalism is “a means of getting to the root of the issue — seeking fundamental rather than superficial change.”

To me, the issue isn’t limited to the oppression of white, elite women. Feminism, and especially radical feminism, is for all women. And the need is for a fundamental restructuring of our culture, western culture, so that inequities between women are removed, and the playing field is leveled. A great deal of information exists within cultures and subcultures that this dominant one, via patriarchy, has sought to destroy. Rather than further marginalizing communities of Color, we’d be better off begging for the forgiveness of white folks, of Settler folks, and then listening to and learning non-imperial and non-landbase damaging ways of being and doing. I don’t see how it’s possible with climate upheaval and peak soil and the drawdown of ancient water stores to marginalize the Earth side of ecofeminism; even if they haven’t always done perfectly well by women and girls, many First Nations cultures have existed sustainably for tens of thousands of years, at least. We’ve lost on both accounts, so we might as well begin by listening. Especially, listen to the women.

I agree that feminism’s focus needs to be on women and girls. Feminism, again, is by, and about, and for the empowerment of, female people. AND Black women ARE women, and First Nations girls ARE girls, and so it goes. And the pressing issues in the lives of Black women — including that their sons/brothers/partners are the majority of the statistic that in the US, Black people are killed by security officers at a rate of one every 28 hours — matter to feminism; they have to, or feminism becomes patently white.

It only infantilizes us to insist we are always and only victims. We ARE victims; we can be survivors, as well. And we can be accountable to one another, so that we examine our biases, our complicities, our capitulations, and we work to not further marginalized multiply-oppressed women.



Marginalization Specifics

The Trayvon Martin trial, which should have been a legal examination of the acts of George Zimmerman but wasn’t, has ended and the younger members of the culture and a bunch of elders like me are devastated and angry. We are bouncing between despondency and rage. And in the days since the verdict, much of the bouncing has been on the Internet, where white entitlement has erupted repeatedly. Race, finally, is in the fore — at least for the saner ones among us. Fewer white supremacists are demanding that race had nothing to do with Zimmerman’s original stalking and accosting of the Black teenager. But the damage has been done. For every supportive post I have seen two, three and four posts making the claims listed above for Victim Feminism, even in radical feminist circles. And I have been scrambling to make challenging and worthwhile supportive posts! Even claims that feminism has work to do on racism/ white supremacy are contentious. Our work has barely begun, here.

If you suspect I’m overstating radical feminists‘ resistance to dealing with racism, consider this choice paragraph:



I am seeing this Zimmerman / Martin case being blown up on the Radfem FB pages and women fighting each other and actual claims being made that Radfems are seriously racist.  First of all, why are we discussing the Zimmerman case in the first place on Radfem pages when the case is about two men?  Secondly, women can’t be racist against men even black men because even black men oppress white women and have more privilege in patriarchy than white women.  If you are a radical feminist you should understand this basic power dynamic that the oppressed can’t oppress their oppressors. Yes white women can oppress and do have privilege over minority women and yes heterosexual women can oppress and do have privilege over lesbian women, but so far the claims I have seen of their being serious racism amongst Radfems have not been based on white Radfem women oppressing minority women or white heterosexual Radfem women oppressing lesbian women, but instead on Radfem women not wanting to concern themselves about the Zimmerman/Martin case—which is about MEN.  I must agree that this subject has no place in radical feminism and calling Radfem women racist because they don’t want to engage in or discuss the plight of men regardless of their race is ridiculous and has only proven to divide women.

(http://shehasthepower.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/zimmerman-case-allegations-that-radfems-are-racist-wtf/)


It is a complete misunderstanding of radical feminism, a branch of feminism begun in great part by Black lesbians. There is nowhere in oppression theory, besides in this blogger’s narrow view, that states that (white) women cannot be racist against men of color because all men have greater power than even that of white women. Nowhere. Simply because it’s not true. Both groups, white women and men of Color, are kept mobile on patriarchal capitalism’s hierarchy, certainly both below elite white men, so that they can be pitted against one another in whichever ways benefit elite white men. Black men rape; white women use their contacts with white men to move Black men out of their way. This has meant devastated or dead white women, this has meant devastated or dead Black men; mostly this has meant that the lives and deaths of Black women have been marginalized out of everyone’s awareness. Ha! Feminism.

Notes:

1. “Intersectionality” was, perhaps!, coined by token tower-dweller Kimberle Crenshaw. In scanning a Jo Freeman-edited anthology in a book store, I found the word attributed to a different woman, possibly earlier than the 1989 Crenshaw coinage. I will have to find that, if only for my use, but I will share the info if I can get it.


At least a decade before “intersectionality,” we were using language that was far, far stronger — more evocative of the terrible burden that oppressions caused when they were placed, one atop another, on the shoulders of women. We had “multiple oppressions” and the idea of women being “multiply oppressed.” And these terms are found in the works of Black women and other women of Color, many of whom were lesbians. I’ve been challenged for my racism in disliking Crenshaw’s word, which seems odd, since Combahee cradled such theorists as Audre Lorde, and I’ve heard Pat Parker’s name in there too. Barbara and Beverly Smith, I believe, were there …. To the very best of my information, radical Black lesbian feminists used “multiply oppressed” because it worked to show the burden, the weight, of oppression as it was experienced by more-marginalized women. As I recall it, we all used “multiple oppressions” to explain the dynamic; this was the wording of the 80s, and even the late 70s. And, in further reading, I’ve seen that Jo (Joreen) Freeman was using “multiply oppressed” in the late 60s!



One huge reason why I dislike “intersectionality” is that it brings to my mind ethereal points where this idea of oppressions can be seen as lightly crossing one another, and in that way discussed. The material reality, having to bear the weight of multiple oppressions, is not served by the small, light points of “intersection.” 

As a woman, and one who is working-class, non-Christian, old, and fat, I have a perspective that is at least somewhat marginalized in placement in relation to the power structure. I have a friend who is a poverty-class radical lesbian feminist, who feels the same, basically, but she is the only other woman I’ve ever heard articulate this.


I have heard other feminists, especially those grass-roots radical feminists (not trained in academia in feminism, although they may possess degrees in other disciplines), say that “intersectionality” is a code word for liberal feminism, for the entry of transgenderists as more oppressed than “cis” women. To me, this is too broad a sweep to be useful: words may work for us, even if the other side co-opts them to a degree. And, unfortunately, at the criticism’s basis, there is the idea that simply to discuss racism within a feminist framework is to be divisive, that it’s not an issue inherent to radical feminism, which is about the oppression of women-as-women, and not our differences. I think this is a leaching in of liberal feminism, but there is a lot of support for the idea that Those Other Women are disrupting Our movement — which, of course, makes it a white-centered movement, further marginalizing women of Color. I really can’t imagine that Audre Lorde would be pleased with this.

2. In “Girls to boy: Sex radical women promoting pornography and prostitution,” from _Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography_, p. 279, eds. Rebecca Whisnant and Christine Stark, 2005, Spinifex Press, Australia

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But Which Females First?

An article, linked below, was sent as a reply to one of my posts.  I don’t think it fits, so I’ve discarded it as a response.  But the article itself is interesting, and possibly a space for establishing common ground.  I invite the author, Cathy Brennan, to engage with me here.

The article.

An excerpt:

The last thing Females want to be called is “Feminist” – because that might mean “Man Hating.” That’s bad for Straight Ladies, because then someone might think them Lesbian. Even though Lesbians don’t want to couple with Males, Lesbians are “supposed” to be socially available to them and not “Man Haters.” (I know I‘ve been called “Man Hater” before!) So heaven forfend if you’re Feminist!

Yes, heaven forfend!  I certainly agree that there is a great deal of feminist-baiting — and -hating! — in this culture.  And, yes, Lesbians not willing to avail themselves to every man must be “man haters” in that same-old view.  I love the old Lesbian duo comedy skit where some guy in the audience heckles them for being ‘man-haters.’  One of the duo stops, looks shocked then skeptical, and asks, “So *you’re* the alternative?”  I love it, not because I see Lesbians as alternatives-to-the-norm, but because it bolsters the framing of Lesbianism as a logical, sensible choice.  Hate?  Maybe, but not always, because even that level of energy and attention to men puts other women last.  Nope; ignoring the fools, and then shaming them if necessary to back them off is fine.  Or, if you need a stand-in man-hater, send me.  I volunteer.

I also agree that patriarchy socializes us to distrust one another.  And to devalue our own.  And so, yes, feminism is full of male-apologists.  (There’ve been times I wanted to propose that mixed-sex conferences ostensibly about feminism have dual name tags for het couples:  Her Name, and Her Name’s Nigel; I wondered if that’d get men to not dominate ‘feminist’ discussions quite so much.)  And son-enablers.  And men-firsters or patriarchal apologists (which is what the lines, ‘What about the men?” and “But women do it, too!” seem to mean).  I agree, as a het woman, partnered, that to give energy to males beyond what is received in return is too much.  Way too much.  We can do an even share in this human exchange of my participation — and know my extra energy goes to women and to female children.  In part because way too much extra energy is being demanded by boys and men.  Way too much is given.

Because of our socialization, Females resist coming together, or even identifying, as a class. Accordingly, Females are the most dissolved, invisible ingredient in the Great American Melting Pot. We hear of White, Gay, Black, or Poor People. When discussing Poor People, nobody asks whether they are Male or Females (even though – as a class – the Poor are Female and the Rich are Male). Only when discussing Females do concern trolls come calling to ensure you discuss Poor Females, Brown Females, Vegan Females, Gay Females, and (fill in the blank) Females. That’s no coincidence. Patriarchy places these filters in front of Females to prevent us from perceiving each other as members of the same oppressed class. These obstacles destroy the need for further derails by Patriarchy because Females don’t talk to each other as members of the same class. It divides Females.

I even agree that it is important for us as women to see ourselves as a class, the sex class ‘female.’  I simply disagree on how this vision is to come about.  I don’t believe that we can mandate that those we oppress just shush and join us, because we claim we’re all the same, we’re all just women.  Some of us are not just women.  Some of us are Lesbians, Radical Lesbians, even proud and honorable Lifetime Lesbians … and this complexity of womanness brings its own rich and textured history, its values and ideals, a depth of love for women that is boundless and without equal.  To lose this in the flattened het-washing of the dominant culture would be devastating.  Some of us are Latinas, with gorgeous, proud and colorful cultural traditions that we would never wish to lose, in the bland whitewashing of the dominant culture.  Some of us grew up working class or working poor, and before we’d shed our directness and plain speech, our integrity, our ability to laugh at the ironies around us, and our roots in the warmth of community, we would fight to retain these proud markers of this part of our identity.  To simply name us all women denies the rich tapestry of female existence we weave when we connect with one another as we are.

Actually none of us is ‘just a woman.’  We are women, individually, in a complex weave of privileges and dispriveges — lived oppressions and the lived ability to actively oppress other women.  And so I concur, then, that the poor we need most to concern ourselves with are the female poor.  There are poor men; there are oppressed men.  And yet in most cases it is the females of the group who are overlooked.  Females first:  here I do agree!

And yet, is this what divides females, really?  Obstacles of ‘difference’ thrown down by patriarchy?  Isn’t it actually done by other women — isn’t it the insistence that we ignore the characteristics that mark us as different from class-privileged, white, het, moneyed, college-educated, comfortably “normal” women?  Isn’t it the expectation that we will behave by their standards, speak and write and negotiate by their standards, and meet their standards in our appearance as well, when we are together?  Isn’t it the expectation that we wish to be like them, that we could, if only we tried appropriately hard, be just as awesome as they are?  And isn’t it the expectation that the issues of multiply-oppressed women are not really women’s issues, unless they also impact white, privileged women?

So why the need to demean us with the label “concern trolls”?  We are your sisters; we’re not trolls, and connection, building community, is a hallmark of women’s ways of being.  Concern is not a bad thing.

Cathy, I don’t feel arrogance from you in this writing.  But I would say that this is the cost to those parts of my identity not privileged, when I buy into this argument:  I find arrogance and entitlement and abuse, put-downs and dismissals.  I am not welcomed in as ‘female-and-whole’ but rather as ‘female — conditional (and please try to speak unemotionally, and please dress conservatively so as not to offend the more middle-of-the-road women we seek as members).’  I can be a movement workhorse, I can be passionate and full of activist joy; I can be persistent and persuasive.  What I cannot be is anything other than my whole, complicated self.  I’m not ‘female-but-‘ … as in ‘female-but-working-class.’  I am ‘female-AND-working-class,’ and in being so, I think I bring a depth to feminist perspectives that is lacking without this ‘difference.’  It is certainly lacking in welcome for women like me!  Ditto for feminists who are also Black, also Latina, also Lesbian, and so on:  we are oppressed as women, yes, but our oppression is not at all identical to women who are not-Black, or not-Latina, or not-Lesbian or any combination of these and others, legitimate others.

I don’t feel arrogance from you, but rather a longing for a strong sisterhood, a feminism united and moving forward.  I share this longing.  I agree that this is a noble goal.  I even agree that identity groups are more safety-ensuring than change-making.  In the long run.  But don’t we need to ask ourselves why women who are marginalized still form into identity groups first, and repeatedly?  Don’t we have an obligation toward creating safety before we demand coalition?  And it’s in the long run — forever forward — that I want radical feminism to endure, to thrive.  The only way I see to get to there is to build comfort enough here so that we can build that coalition, and move us — together, equal, and as we are, whole — forward.  We still retain our full identities — and we can work together within an atmosphere of acceptance of these differences.  I cannot see a future for feminism unless we honor each woman as the whole, wondrous being that she is.

Fighting Horizontal Hostility

Part of the reason Lierre wrote The Vegetarian Myth is to help women evade, she has written, the “ideological purity that’s directed at and destroys female bodies in particular”; she has said, “I write about how female hunger is a huge part of women’s oppression, from preferential male feeding to American anorexia, and the latter’s connection to veganism. If anything is oppression, it’s women denying themselves food to meet patriarchal, body-hating norms.”

That’s feminism, radical feminism, and an ethic of care.  We need more of this, not less.  Yesterday I posted about yet another incident of Lierre being attacked in writing, an obsessive though ill-informed critique of The Vegetarian Myth, and this attack, a blog post by a radical feminist, was widely circulated among feminists on Facebook.  The writing was used to discredit Lierre, and undermine readership of her book.  Is this really what we want?  We need to ask ourselves what effect we wish to have.  As feminists.  And within feminism.

There is no need within feminism to avoid challenging one another.  Challenges help us to grow, to define better our own values and to refine our belief systems so that they are internally consistent, effective, useful to us.  But challenges and horizontal hostility are very different.  Challenges move us to look together to examine a topic.  Horizontal hostility attacks, negates, distances, and defines the other as the enemy; one winner and one loser is the only possible outcome.

This is interesting to me, because I’ve never seen it so clearly before.  If I am honorable, I invite you to sit down tho the table with me to discuss.  I have a belief that we can talk this through, and it’s there that I begin.  Or I hold the belief that we might be able to process this difference to a reasonable level of comfort, and that I am not in danger sitting with you to discuss it.  (If I’m in danger, there is no concern for honor, only for safety.)

Think about that:  If I’m in danger, there is no concern for honor, only for safety.  If I name you the enemy, then I have to approach you oppositionally, I have to be on guard, and I am not under the impression that we can resolve our differences; either you win or I win.  I might immediately bow out to fight another day (I lose); I might stay in long enough to conclude futility, and then concede this battle and move on (I lose); I might plot to force you into showing your true allegiances publicly in spaces you don’t want to do that (I could win, with time and effort), or I might overtly discredit you so that others stop listening to you — destroy your credibility in circles we share, circles that are of vital importance to you (I could win, and likely with the least time and effort).

If I’m in danger, there is no concern for honor, only for safety; I must be concerned with safety.  If I name you the enemy, then most likely I will be asked to defend that naming.  The easiest way to defend myself is to discredit you.  The focus moves off me, and onto you.  And I can exploit that focus:  I have the arena, and you in the distance as my target.  This happens so often as feminists step in and ask for more information, for clarification, for facts.  The answers they are given offer more in the way of discrediting the target than addressing the actual questions.

Watch for this the next time a text argument ensues — I know I’m going to.

1.  Does the challenger invite in order to share?  Or does the challenger begin with discounting, negation, a hostile attack?
2.  Does the initial wording address the challenged one by name and with respect?  Or does the text open with talk about someone, the targeted one?
3.  If this is a two-person confrontation, what happens next?  Bowing out, manipulation toward revealing hidden alliances, or direct confrontation?
4.  If it’s direct confrontation, is an attempt to destroy credibility begun?
5.  When others ask question, seeking clarification and voicing their concerns, are their questions and concerns addressed directly?  Or are the “answers” mostly further discrediting of the target?

Presuming that coalition is to be encouraged, how do we handle this, as feminists?  There are a number of roles than can be taken up, and probably need to be.  There are the voices of reason who remain uncommitted to a ‘side’ and simply serve to introduce reasonable questions (A).  There are the voices of support who address the charges, and counter them. also remaining calm and reasonable if adamant (B).  There are the voices of passion who make very clear how troubling this is for feminism and for the women involved –they are still reasonable but are more adamant (C).  Negotiations would continue until space enough was claimed to allow for reason.  The idea isn’t to shape the conversation, only to block the false charges from going uncontested.  Anyway, these are the roles I’ve seen taken on; support, for some of us, is really only felt at the (C) level, and some of this may be class-related.  Often women will leave the conflict and not play their chosen role out to its logical conclusion — or even resolution.  And that’s sad because I think this or something like it might actually work.

What if we were to do this, to be available for calling when someone was engaging in yet another attack on Lierre, and The Vegetarian Myth?

Food Politics

I don’t care what people eat and in the long-term, I don’t care if it’s suicide by dinner plate, or drink preference, or dumpster deals, if it makes folks feel that good to be whatever food-identity they’ve taken on.  Women who are trying not to be murdered have my first loyalties, over and above women who are sticking to ideology despite their own bodies’ protests and their sisters’ urgings to listen carefully to those. Those not being murdered and sticking to ideology while taking in their own bodies’ feedback don’t need my blessing, or even my attention.

I’d prefer the real info get out there — making long-term ‘merely-anecdotal’ evidence gathered of tremendous value.  Some of that real info is Lierre Keith’s.  Keith has written the gentlest and most nurturing radical feminist book imaginable, at least to me (The Vegetarian Myth:  Food, Justice, and Sustainability).  Why she has been the target of (m)anarchist hate and female vegan rage is beyond me — except that it’s likely her truth is unsettling to those clinging to Purity Politics.

Yet another ‘feminist’ blogger has, in these last days of December 2011, taken Lierre’s work sentence by sentence to rail against the (imagined) injustices there.  With this level of horizontal hostility, with this intensity of venom reserved for a sister radical feminist, we have a political implosion that must make the patriarchy deliriously happy, and which solves nothing for us.  Some of us, me included, are already on record saying that this book has helped us immeasurably, and we strongly recommend it to others who might, we insist, benefit from it.  We find it to be an important book.

Some is the gathered information that we do have different needs — I need fewer carbs than most, and have probably required that my whole life.  I’m diabetic, a fact that I see as related closely to my decade or so of high-carb vegetarianism.  Buying into the food dogma of the day, I cut fat from my intake, and chose mainly complementing carbs to get protein.  It turns out that those carbs don’t necessarily ‘complete’ as we wish, and that protein itself can still be converted — up to 57% of it — to carbohydrate.  Cut fat and end up with converted protein really becoming carbs, and most of what I was eating was carbs.  That I’m diabetic doesn’t surprise me; your mileage may well vary.  I have Inuit ancestry, for starters, so one line of my people ate fat and meat only for tens of thousands of years.

(The irony of being told recently by vegans that I should never have eaten wheat just now dawned on me.  There is no way to be vegan and get adequate protein without combining grains, legumes and seeds; my detractors are, in fact, vegan.  Yes, vegetarianism allows the addition of eggs and dairy.  But these are still inadequate — so my body said — for nutrient intake, and even adequate-quality protein.  Therefore I ate grains to combine proteins.  Which proved to my detractors that I did it wrong!  So there!  And the focus moved to my wrongness, and NOT the impossibility of their own plan working for them.)

My farmer friend eats little meat, and her own bread and her free-ranging chickens’ eggs and fresh stuff from her gardens and makeshift growing houses.  At 4′ 8″ and in her late 60s, she can outlift me and keep up with me walking (easily).  And I’m a walker.  She is of European Jewish heritage.  Her husband, who is Armenian, a number of years older, only a tad taller, and ox-strong, eats more meat, easily triple her intake.  They eat meat; they eat wonderful whole fresh foods, mostly from a farm that is surrounded by Monsanto-ed crops, pesticided, although controlled some for wind drift simply because they are all neighborly. She often feeds me when I visit, and I leave nourished and comfortably full, if with a blood glucose level higher than ideal.  And this is after abstaining from the sweet treats that she and her husband may share, her homemade pie or pastry.

We are each a little different; we are probably very much our ancestries overlaid with the effects of industrial capitalist patriarchy:  Some of this ‘real info’ is probably that we have built-in sensitivities and allergies and intolerances from living within that system, which easily renders The Perfect Human Diet intolerable in its parts and portions, varyingly, dependent upon our damage(s).  And some of the rest is that the economic side of classism makes it difficult for most of us to access what our bodies need with any regularity.

Another factor that I sometimes forget, because I have so long been an activist against fat oppression, is how deeply we have been coerced to hate and distrust and fear our animal bodies.  Even a focus on food can lead to the toxic cycle of obsession, triggering the process addiction that underlies starving disorders.  For the most part I really don’t believe that food itself is addictive.  I don’t consider HFCS food, and I do acknowledge that drugs are addictive, or can be.  What I do have is the wisdom shared by a former process addict, the woman who originally proposed this idea that it’s the process and not the thing that keeps women locked in the cycles of starving (starve-binge-purge, etc.)  She was so compellingly brilliant in this that, for a while, we got a world-renown ‘eating disorder’ clinic to  admitted, publicly, that starving precedes any other action in The Disorders.

(I want to add that this woman, a proud Lesbian who was brilliantly moving through the PTSD of her childhood — her family camped in abandoned buildings and remained underfed through northern winters — became disablingly ill.  In spite of this, and through it, she organized, furnished and sometimes funded a kids’ computer tutoring program for her huge project housing complex, unpaid of course, and the state is probably still trying to get her off “the public dole.”  We do NOT live in a meritocracy, and the for all the courageous voices we hear, there are others that die in the silence of the vast spaces of privilege ….)

All of this needs our accounting, if we are to discuss reasonably the food we choose.  Our bodies, our choices.  Our bodies, our teachers.  Our movement — and why the horizontal abuse?  The hierarchy of need, of urgencies.  A more collective truth vs. my (privileged) view is oh-so-important.  Intentional kindness in the face of hate is praise-worthy.  Purity Politics demeans us all; purity is impossible anyway when we have so little real control over our environment(s).  Feminism is anecdotal; the truths of our lives matter — and make up the whole.  Conversely, science carries the taint of masculinity unless it can be worked holistically — and there’s a better way to say this, I suspect.  We can have differing views; a better, more useful truth often has a wide range of perspectives, which may agree or diverge, without being oppositional.  Sometimes oppositional is important.  Made-up minds don’t easily assess new information, and staunch confidence can lead to missing those subtle details that matter.  It’s OK to stand against the tide, and ‘majority rule’ is more about empire-building than truth.  A corollary — the fact of minions doesn’t make anyone more correct in their truths.  Class matters; classism comes with privilege.  So does racism, so does heterosexism, and so on.  For real oppressions (not ‘the oppression of het women in relation to Lesbians’ and not ‘trans’).

How, first of all, do we get beyond this horizontal hostility and into doing real work so that our beloved planet might endure?  And how do we continue this discussion, with all its injury and hostility, within feminism?