On Spinning and Spiraling August 27, 2012Posted by FCM in feminisms, meta, radical concepts, thats random.
Tags: mary daly, spinning, spiraling
mary daly talked about women getting together, spinning and spiraling and sparking off each other — a creative process by which we learn from each other and make leaps in our own individual and collective thinking. this is a real thing, as many women know — men know how this works too, and that its highly effectual and leads to breakthroughs. thats why they dont want women doing it, ever, and why women-only and especially radical feminist women-only space is taboo, and endangered.
the image of the spiral is also life-affirming and occurs repeatedly in nature, like this:
spirals move. flat, or two-dimensional spirals move out from the center, either a little or a lot in each turn:
while anti-spirals move in toward the center and disappear down the drain.
spirals can also be 3-dimensional, like this:
so anyway, what got me to thinking about spirals was this. there has been a lot of heat around the issue of radicalism vs. reformism in our movement, and from what i understand, this discussion has been going on a long time. it seems to be incredibly destructive too, where the question has become “what is a radical act?” and its not clear whether there even are any. or its not clear to some of us anyway. harm reduction is not radical, but it is necessary — it is the human(e) thing to do, so many women do harm-reduction/reformist work out of common decency, or feminist decency. it reduces suffering, served on and perpetuated against women, via men, and patriarchy.
examples of this kind of work abound, think “condoms” and excavate that vein forever. it will take that long to explore it fully because as long as men have been harming women, and for as long as this continues, women (and indeed even some men) have been and will be figuring out how to manage or mitigate that harm across time and place. men’s versus women’s reasons for doing so are going to be very different of course.
as many of you know by now, *i* actually think that radical writing is a radical act, and that the act of truth-telling, which is what radical feminist writers do, is a radical thing to do. writing is an act, you see — the words, sentences and paragraphs dont just magically appear on the page. apparently, because it keeps happening, it is tempting to want to skip this critical step, or minimize its importance, in favor of reformist “acts” but if the truth is not informing our acts, then what is? this is a serious question. its also very easy, isnt it, to get a handle on the truth or its basics, letting radical truths inform your actions, and then throwing the truth-tellers under the bus by saying that what the truth-tellers do isnt important.
or, pulling the ladder up behind yourself might be a better cliche than the bus one? i believe ive made my point. its not nice to do this, but beyond that, its not honest. truth-telling *is* a radical thing to do, where reality is built on lies, and a radical feminist thing to do, when it concerns the truths about womens lives and what men do to us. and writing it all down is an action, an activity and yes, it is very much an “act.”
at any rate, its clear that radicalism and reformism are different, and are happening at the same time. are radical feminists “spiraling” differently than, or without the reformists? when reformists denounce, ignore or are unaware of radicalism, is it because they are spinning/spiraling separately from us? could this be the case, and yet both are working together as one, and toward womens liberation from men? so then i imagined a double-spiral, like this:
double-spirals exist in nature too. interestingly, the helices (three-dimensional spirals) of the DNA strand are anti-parallels, meaning that each spiral (helix) runs in the opposite direction. does this mean they share different origins (beginnings) and may not share the same destination (ends)? i guess, but im not sure this has anything to do with time – srsly, it will take a bigger brain than mine to think and write extensively on double-helices and DNA. im just thinking out loud.
the thing about the DNA-imagery specifically that interests me currently is that theres a third component to it — it includes the double-helix as well as the “bonds” that run perpendicular to the helices. coincidentally, ive been thinking about a seemingly third-part to a (perhaps?) feminist whole that seems to go largely unnoticed, and thats feminist sci-fi. where the author can begin her story and her universe at any time, and where the ugly details — such as how do we get rid of all the men? — are not really the issue, nor the authors responsibility. indeed, in real-life feminist discourse it seems as if even radical women get stuck here, when we start to imagine and discuss a world post-patriarchy, and without misogynistic violence, because some of us are ready to admit what seems to be an obvious truth, which is that this is not likely to occur if there are any or many men around. and yes, this includes male children. doesnt it?
suddenly, it is a flaw in radical feminist theory (and in radical feminists ourselves) to state the obvious, or to come to this reasoned conclusion in the face of overwhelming evidence. this, we simply cannot have, or we cant if we intend to keep our numbers intact: women appear ready to leave over this, or to abandon each other, or to threaten to, so that the more-radical women are in effect coerced into taking it all back, or to not believe our lying eyes on this one issue, in order to maintain our solidarity with other women who arent ready or willing to go this far. this parting-of-ways is partly based on accusations of deficient “realism” as if the very idea of living without men, because it is “unrealistic” for many women, or logistically problematic, is somehow also not true, or is not a reasoned conclusion based on overwhelming evidence.
and indeed, radical feminists are realists in every way, it seems, especially when compared to fun-fems — we are not talking about how things “should be” when we talk about womens lives and what men do to us. we are telling it like it is. and yet, imagining a world without misogynistic violence — if we believe that men cannot or will not stop perpetrating it — does require an element of unrealism, or fantasy. because removing the world of men is not likely to happen, or at any rate, given womens political standing, we are not likely to be the ones who cause it.
enter feminist sci-fi? feminist sci-fi lets us imagine a world where this end is a given — we do not have to worry about the details, or about turning the world into a bloody horror show where men are the victims at womens hands. you know, the opposite of how it is now — no, thats too much! not feminist! etc. this gross imagery is thought-terminating and unfair, as if its up to *us* to summon the courage, numbers, strength, political power and technology — and the sanity/insanity it would also take — to make this happen, and to stop thousands of years of patriarchy (and patriarchal men) in its tracks. or as if any possible logistical issue(s) in getting there make our conclusions wrong. its not, and it doesnt.
interestingly, and helpfully even, a common end to the problem of maleness in feminist sci-fi is that either nature takes care of it with a virus or something, or male-created technology selectively destroys males as a class. i highly recommend reading james tiptree, jr/alice sheldon and joanna russ for more feminist sci-fi scenarios. or, you know, make up your own.
so does a three-part model describe our feminist reality — reformism, radicalism and feminist sci-fi? is one of the three the one that bonds the other two together? i dont know. really, im just thinking on this one. and the pictures are nice. i was also intrigued to see that a double-helix is a kind of spiral, or that it incorporates spirals. and DNA its the building-block of life, or something, innit? ah, spirals.