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On Harm Reduction June 29, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, health, PIV, pop culture, thats random.
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anyone of age in the 1980s probably remembers carole jacksons “color me beautiful” franchise that went viral before there was such a thing (and its still going!) where women were enlightened through personal color analysis how to best choose clothing, accessories and makeup color based on their own hair, skin and eye color.

arguably most useful for white women, the CMB color analysis reveals whether a woman is spring, summer, autumn or winter, and indeed once a woman figures out her proper colors she can actually “save money” by only buying things that will look good on her, and that she will want to wear until they fall apart (or until she changes size, or the item goes out of fashion, or whatever).  yes,  i did say saving-money-by-spending-it.  its consumerist okay?  and i say its “arguably” most useful for white women because apparently women of color can save-money-by-spending-it this way too, but are afforded somewhat more limited advice, frequently being the most flattered by a “winter” palette.  dont shoot the messenger ok?  we are talking harm reduction only.  this isnt rocket science, and its not radical.  its also not feminist, but thats obvious isnt it?  okay good.

now.  i am talking about “color me beautiful” because this shit actually works, to reduce harm.  it does.  (BTW i am a spring!)  when i go out into the patriarchal pornified rapefest i mean into the world, where i maintain a job and have to deal with pornsickened, objectifying assholes, rapists and handmaidens of the patriarchy all day, every day…i find that i can manipulate their perceptions of me, steer their emotional response to benefit myself, and make certain things (but not others) easier for myself, if i perform grooming and dressing rituals that are basically par for my sex.  (is it just me?  HA!  didnt think so).  but i refuse to pornify myself, and i have decided in the last year or so that i also dont want to spend either time or money doing this.  at least, i dont want to spend any more than a man would have to spend, to fulfill the requisite boo-hoo poor me i have to groom myself and wear work-clothes to work sex-appropriate rituals for men.  not because i think anything men do or dont do is the gold standard or anything…this is me, reducing the harm i incur daily, under the P, based on my sex.  saving money (or not spending it, and DEFINITELY not spending it on patriarchal beauty mandates) is harm reduction only.  and i want to reduce my harm, to whatever extent its within my own control to do so.

so, among other things, i cut my hair short…and i recently stopped wearing makeup.  yes, i said recently.  dont hate!  i have uneven skin tone mkay?  and i wasnt able to give it up until recently, with the help of “color me beautiful”.  YES!  if you wear the right colors, you dont need makeup!  especially if you phase out the face-paint over time, and didnt cake it on like a “femme transwoman” in the first place.  you see, a salmon, turquoise or teal shirt (“spring” good-colors) costs as much as an orange, a pale yellow or a white one (spring bad-colors!) and wearing good colors evens out your skin tone.  it does!  in my case, i usually wear neutrals, so i have realized that a cream, navy or dark-heather-gray (whatever-item) costs the same as a white, black, or brown of the same item…and its going to look better.  so good that i “look like” im wearing makeup, but im not!111!!!1 

yes thats right: im spending the same amount on clothing as i did previously (i personally enjoy thrift-stores and a good tailor if needed) and i am NOT spending ANYTHING on makeup.  (and i gave up accessories completely a year ago).  i hope to NOT-SPEND money on as many things as possible for as long as possible, and then stave-off rape and the sexual entitlement of men for as long as possible, in my old age.  and failing that, when the money and the security it buys runs out, i will probably kill myself.  (isnt that everyones retirement plan?)  but i digress.

so, back to harm reduction.  harm reduction isnt radical.  its just something we do, or dont do, to get ahead (or at least not to fall behind, or further behind) and to mitigate the damages we incur as female-bodied persons under patriarchy.  thats all.  generally, specific harm-reduction strategies work for some women, some of the time, and might be more or less available, more or less appealing, or more or less effective for different women, based on individual womens circumstances.  generally harm-reduction strategies also support the patriarchy in some way (rather than subverting it) which is why they arent radical.  kind of like…saving money.  this entails actually making some, and participating in capitalist (and abusive) hierarchies for example.

and also like…abortion.  okay?  abortion is not a radical solution to the harms women incur daily, as female-bodied persons under the P.  abortion is harm-reduction only, meaning that it can be less harmful than bringing a pregnancy to term for some women, some of the time.  and like all harm-reduction strategies, abortion will be more or less available, more or less appealing, and more or less effective for different women based on their unique situation.  what abortion will never do, because it cant, is save us from men, or from mens sexual entitlement, or from mens abuse (including rape) or from poverty or from anything, really.  only a radical solution could save us from any of that.  all abortion does is terminate an existing pregnancy.  thats all.

and thats important!  make no mistake.  it absolutely and significantly reduces harm, where women are subjected to PIV-centric sex when they do not wish to become pregnant; where they are raped and prostituted, and where men intentionally impregnate us to cause female-specific harm.  and where men have designed their legal, medical and religious machines to magnify the harms to women once they impregnate us, and once we have children too.  in this context, abortion is necessary, and there is no doubt about that.  we must have access to safe and legal abortion.  this will continue to be the case even after the revolution, because even wanted pregnancies are dangerous.  even wanted pregnancies can kill you.  and women will always need the option to say NO to a medical event that is specific only to us.

but, that said, abortion is not a radical solution to womens oppression, or an antidote to mens power over us.  and its not going to liberate us any more or any differently, really, than a flattering thriftstore wardrobe is going to liberate us from mens tyranny and oppression.  anyone can see that adhering to beauty mandates (even on the cheap) is just supporting the patriarchy and reifying male power in demonstrable ways; well, abortion is too.  thats what separates harm-reduction strategies from radical solutions.  in the case of abortion, it de-legitimizes womens legitimate complaints about unwanted and PIV-centric sexuality (because the only real harms of PIV are the ones men experience, aka. unwanted parenthood, and definitely NOT unwanted pregnancy, who cares about that?); and men and male institutions make TONS of money off of all medical procedures, including abortion.

harm-reduction strategies and radical solutions are not the same, and we need to keep them separate when thinking and writing about them, because there are meaningful differences there, and we cannot afford to forget what its going to take to get women liberated from men: the end of female-specific harms perpetrated on us, by men, and an antidote to male power.

Comments

1. SheilaG - June 29, 2011

If you keep track of all the money you used to spend on that stuff, and just invest it, you’ll be shocked at the financial progress over time. I always wondered why straight women were so short of money all the time, unless they were married to men… it was a mystery in my youth.

Decades later, I realized that that was a major difference between me and straight women… no make-up, no hair salons, no nails, no facials, no fashionable clothing, no cars even. But the key is not just what you don’t BUY, it’s what you choose to do with the savings instead, and that’s also something very hard for most people to fathom… that the money itself becomes an employee as well as waged work.

FCM - June 29, 2011

ETA: scans to the actual swatches! yes i have the ACTUAL BOOK!

spring, summer, autumn or winter,

2. KatieS - June 30, 2011

Harm reduction. How clever, FCM, putting “color me beautiful” in the same category as the right to have a safe abortion. The right-wing has attacked abortion and made it appear radical, just as they have attacked gay marriage and have called it a “radical agenda.” Marriage, blech! The opposite of radical. But, yes, the best justification for gay marriage in the U.S. is harm reduction. That is, lesbians need health insurance or they are just one major illness away from becoming destitute.

I’ve spent very very little on clothing over some years due to learning about my colors and what classic styles made sense for my job then buying most things at rummage/thrift stores. I figured out early on that women’s clothes are stupid, with all kinds of styles continually changing and different lengths that never go together, etc. If you notice, each season there is a different palate, length, shape, etc. and it never matches previous years. Another way to rip women off. I actually studied it to save money and time. Next thing you know, the right wing will make me wear “fall” colors (I’m summer), and you’ll be wearing “winter.” No one can wear pink or red, of course. This cheap clothes buying hurts the economy, no? Hence, the next right-wing agenda item.😉

Kidding aside, I think that this is such a helpful distinction, between harm reduction and radical feminism.

3. Mary Sunshine - June 30, 2011

Really well stated; a joy to read. 🙂 Thanks for that.

4. KatieS - June 30, 2011

I meant to add that if the patriarchy can get women focused on fighting for harm reduction as the way out of oppression, then they have won.

Also, I meant “pallette,” not “palate” even though we have a goodly number of colors named after fruit and a few veggies.

5. yttik - June 30, 2011

Yes, harm reduction! I’m all for dumping patriarchal beauty dictates, especially the expensive and dangerous ones. But that said, another part of harm reduction is finding ways to feel good about yourself. There’s a lot of creativity in clothes, color, texture, illusions, fantasy. Women are oppressed by fashion dictates, but they can also be oppressed by mindlessly wearing somebody’s cast offs and old sweat pants because they feel less worthy than a dishrag.

Indeed, abortion is simply more harm reduction. I hate hearing how it’s a “right”. Blech! It’s one solution women have after the fact, after a violation of your body has occurred. IMO, the violation should never have happened in the first place and the majority of abortions are evidence that a woman’s body was not respected. Saying abortion is a “right” is kind of like saying, “after I drive over your foot, you have the ‘right’ to apply an ice pack.” Gee, that’s mighty generous of you! Any possibility you could look where you’re going instead?? Nope, guess not.

6. cherryblossomlife - June 30, 2011

I have recently stopped wearing make up too🙂
I still have my long hair but not for much longer I don’t think.
I’d noticed the colour thing but didn’t know it was a *thing* and it’s better to choose colours than wear make up definitely. I also think that the more women stop wearing make up the more trans women are going to look like obvious men when they do.

Absolutely spot on about abortion too.
Abortion will be necessary after the revolution not just for health reasons, but even in case a woman *changes* *her* *mind* after conception.
I’ve been pregnant and it’s a nine month train ride that you can’t get off, and the thought that the only escape through OUTRAGEOUS pain or some sort of male medical intervention, is fucking terrifying.
We’re talking nervous breakdown territory. My belief is that the only reason most women survive their pregnancies emotionally intact is through cognitive dissonance.
So in my opinion up to the 4 month mark or so a woman is well within her right to change her mind. She may suffer an unpredictable life event, such as the death of her mother– the person she was hoping to rely on for childcare… So abortion will always have its place, but it is NOT a right and it has NOTHING to do with women’s narcissistic demands to kill innocent foetuses and EVERYTHING to do with rape, men’s PIV entitlement and the way women are fucked under the patriarchy–from the moment of conception to their kids’ teenage years.

7. KatieS - June 30, 2011

“from the moment of conception to their kids’ teenage years.” I’d say well beyond that if you count economic harms. Not a trivial harm, considering the horrors of old age poverty for women. Having children and being financially secure are not compatible.

8. SheilaG - June 30, 2011

Harm reduction is a very good term. I often think women have no idea how much harm they are being subjected to. Just saying PIV in and of itself is harmful is a good start. Get that one idea out there worldwide, put it in every classroom on earth. You’d cut the STD infection rate to a fraction of what it is, probably end HIV…. and the biggie, we wouldn’t have abortions at all anymore.

9. maggie - June 30, 2011

Having short hair is, I find for me, harder to keep. I only go to a woman owned hairdressing salon. She does a fantastic cut and I’m happy to give her my money. Hair is just below shoulder length.

I’ve only just started to use olive oil, mild and light, as a moisturiser and the results have been fantastic. It doesn’t smell, I put it on at night and I’m saving loads.

I’ll check out the book. Looks like it’s a winner for me.

10. maggie - June 30, 2011

Love the retirement plan btw.

11. Noanodyne - June 30, 2011

You’re right, harm reduction (wearing seat belts, wearing a helmet, using a gas mask, wearing shoes, getting our teeth cleaned, taking birth control pills) is not radical. Abortion itself is just one of the many things that humans do to reduce harm to ourselves. And abortion not only reduces the harm of phallocentric sex when women don’t want to have a child, it also reduces the overall physical harms of pregnancy to women generally — even for individual women who thought they wanted a child — like fistulas, preeclampsia, and fetus abnormalities that are so severe they could permanently disable or kill the mother. There are mental and emotional harms that abortion reduces as well, but we can’t know which are part of pregnancy and which are part of society. But until we know, we should be erring on the side of helping women get what they need, including freedom from breeding, and without any emotion-laden arguments against her decision.

What is radical in a society that demands that women breed and endlessly coerces them to do so is for a woman to put her own mental and physical health ahead of the blastocyst/embryo/fetus/baby she carries and feeds with her body and for other women to not only support her in that decision, but to help her when she makes it and create an environment around doing so that is in no way punishing, shaming, silencing, or fear-mongering. That is radical precisely because women are not supposed to have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies and there are plenty of men (and women) who would very much like to make it impossible for them to do so.

12. Noanodyne - June 30, 2011

More radical still is to see that, while women are biologically capable of giving birth, that does not have to be our lot in life. Humans have evolved far past having to be tied to our biology for making complex personal and social decisions (which bringing a baby into the world is certainly one of). Radical feminists should have a place in our community for those of us who believe that mindlessly having babies because we’re biologically capable of it is right up there with mindlessly going along with all the evol-psych bullshit about human nature. Until all men are sent into space, women are going to be in close proximity to sperm by choice and they have every right to change their minds at any time up to, during, and after that contact to decide whether they want to carry, birth, and raise a child. Knowing that abortion is easily available, and women making it available to each other, should be our birthright, not something that only exists because men are assholes. Yes, that’s the radical notion that live, autonomous females have more rights than blastocysts, embryos, fetuses, and unborn babies.

13. Sarah - June 30, 2011

Glorious distinction, thank you for writing this. I have been casting about in my own noggin for months for how to describe the reasons why I support gay marriage, even though yeah yeah marriage is an institution of oppression why would we want to participate in it, etc. etc. It’s harm reduction, not a radical solution. But some harm reduction is worth pursuing, particularly in my own personal life, where I could be subjected to all manner of not-fun-stuff for not being married – just like I could be subjected to all manner of not-fun-stuff for not dressing professionally.

FCM - June 30, 2011

Thanks noan. Clearly it is completely irrational and woman hating to suggest or insist that a physically-grown woman (I was going to say “adult” woman but in the sexual maturity sense only, as we have very young girls and women being impregnated currently) and her wellbeing is second to anything growing inside her. Even from an allocation of resources perspective this makes no sense, considering the extreme resources that it takes to bring a human being into adulthood, compared to the resources that go into creating a fetus. Clearly an adult is more valuable, and would be more difficult to replace, and this isnt even counting that an adult has paid their dues, is loved and depended on by others, and gives back and a fetus doesn’t. This pro-baby rhetoric makes no sense on any level, except a misogynist and fetishistic level, where women’s status is decreased and fetal status is increased arbitrarily.

14. yttik - July 1, 2011

“…her wellbeing is second to anything growing inside her.”

I watched that show, “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” Some women truly don’t know they’re pregnant until they start delivering. Anyway, what’s been making me crazy is that every one of the women are devastated because “if they had known they were pregnant they would have taken care of themselves.” It’s maddening because, why were you not taking care of yourself just because of you? Simple things, like eating a balanced diet, taking vitamins, or getting some rest are apparently things you should only do if you’re pregnant. If you aren’t pregnant, there’s obviously no reason at all to take care of yourself.

15. BruisedbyBastards - July 1, 2011

Delurking to say thanks for being the first person I ‘know’ in meatspace or online to admit that suicide is their retirement plan. This horrifies colleagues and friends whenever I say it. But it’s true: unlike most of the people in my circle I’m not going to inherit anything from my parents. They are dirt-poor and live off the state. It took me too long to get a good job to benefit from the pension scheme. When I retire, I’ll live on whatever I’ve saved and then I’ll have to die. Surely this is many women’s reality. Why does noone talk about it??

16. Mary Sunshine - July 1, 2011

Hi Bruised,

I too have suicide as my retirement plan; have done all my life. It’s the only way we get to leave this hell-hole with any manner of self-regard, personal dignity, and a minimum of mental and physical suffering.

Check into Exit International. They are based in Australia. Mostly retired upper m.c. professionals with the skills to research, organize, and implement a death-with-dignity support network. I’ve paid $100 to join. It’s not my w-a-a-a-a-y favourite thing to read, but it’s a necessary responsibility to myself, as surely as is dragging myself into the bathroom umpteen times a day to dispose of my bodily waste. I hope that this will evolve into an essential connection in terms of female friendships. That we help each other with this in the same ways that we help each other get to doctor’s appointments, or fix our knitting.

17. KatieS - July 2, 2011

May I suggest something else for a retirement plan? First let me say that I am totally ok with suicide as a plan for when you get to the point that you are physically unable to care for yourself and have no resources for a nursing home, things like that. Most women cannot afford a nursing home, and many would not want to live in one. So, I’m ok with suicide when one is in pain, with a terminal illness, not able to function independently and cannot afford care, etc.

But if we are talking retirement, that’s different. Older women are extremely valuable resources. Think of Mary Daly. I’m reading “Outercourse” right now and she talks about her life as a series of spirals, each one bringing new insights. If her life had been cut short, we would have all been the poorer. Well, a lot of the women on these boards are spectacular, with spectacular insights to share. As we age, with good luck, we deepen. We become extremely powerful.

So, what about a different retirement plan, like getting together with other older women and sharing living expenses? This is not just for the young mothers with children. What about women who love writing, ideas, the arts, etc. Living in such a female-only community could be heaven. Hell, it’s why we need a really big radfem wave. A really big radfem wave is a much better retirement plan, in my mind. I don’t think that this is pie-in-the-sky, either. I think it’s totally possible. I am not willing to let the patriarchy win. We need women. together.

18. yttik - July 2, 2011

I think older women are really valuable and necessary to our culture and so it bothers me when women think of suicide as a retirement plan. Not all older women are going to suffer health problems requiring a nursing home. Only about 8% of the population ever becomes that disabled. The majority of older women I know worked until the day they died. Many of them actually found peace and happiness at the end of their lives. Think about it, men no longer want you, society has given up trying to make you conform, there’s some incredible freedom to be had in old age.

The patriarchy really fears the old crones. Keep that in mind before you off yourself. Having a last cackle just might be worth the effort.

FCM - July 2, 2011

the thing about suicide as a “retirement plan” is that you have to be relatively well, still, to pull it off. ie. you still need some fight in you. when we are too sick, frail, helpless or victimized to do it is when you need it the most, or its what we think of when we imagine ourselves doing it: once things have gotten really bad and there are no other options. but in reality, once things are this bad, you may not have the resources you need to do it, or to do it effectively. privacy, mental competence and physical ability for starters. so we start thinking about doing it earlier and earlier, to avoid not being able to do it at all. and this is where the problems come in with people protesting: but you still have fight in you, its not fair to the rest of us, its not fair to yourself, its too soon, you arent sick enough etc etc.

its something to think about, thats for sure. all of it. how many of us, realistically, could avoid becoming a completely compliant rape victim, if we were to become incapacitated tomorrow? not many of us, i dont think. we need a community of women to take care of each other in our old age, and its exactly what we dont have, and this starts early and it starts young.

19. Thursday's Child - July 2, 2011

Just popping in here to say hi and introduce myself. I have recently discovered all these great radfem blogs and have been making the rounds reading them. I am 58, FAB, a lesbian and have been a radical feminist for many years. I have posted on radfem and other blogs under the names of Branjor and Barbara Di Bari Visconti. My username is Thursday’s Child when I am signed into WordPress.

Anyway, just want to say that I am in favor of the second retirement plan suggested here. We need communities of women to take care of each other in old age. Older women have a great store of wisdom and IMO are invaluable to our community. As long as we are well, can enjoy life and are not terminally ill, in pain and helpless, it sure beats offing ourselves.

20. KatieS - July 2, 2011

If we had a community of women as we age, we would also have allies when it was time for us to go. Women who could help us get the resources to suicide. Or should I say, when we have a community of women as we age. . .

21. SheilaG - July 2, 2011

Suicide as a retirement plan… I’ll have to bring that up with my branch manager LOL. But seriously, we are already getting together women only groups, and I tell ALL lesbians to get a big fat life insurance policy, and keep it in force to distribute to ex-lovers or last lover, so that when you die you leave actual wealth behind to other women. If you are in your 20s the policies are cheap, just maintain them, build up a little cash, and you’ll pass on a million dollars easily. Just do it, and have a plan, and do that.
Pretty simple women!

Even if you are a total financial screw up, you can still have this one thing to do right at the end.

22. KatieS - July 3, 2011

Sheila, great idea for increasing lesbian wealth over time!

23. maggie - July 3, 2011

I’m reading ‘The Women’s Room’ by Marilyn French and the graffiti ‘Some deaths take forever’ I can’t get out of my mind.

I do like the idea of spending my retirement living in a collective of other women, but I also like my independence. Talking to my sister last night about the book we agreed that if one thing has changed in the last 40 years since the book was first published it’s that women are coping better with being on their own, not abandonment that still brings with it the same horrors as it did to those women in the book. We agreed that from our own life experiences and anecdotes that generally men fare badly with being on their own. They always need a replacement ‘maid’.

24. KatieS - July 3, 2011

Maggie, you reminded me, there was a great song by Malvina Reynolds, back in the 1950’s, “We Don’t Need the Men.” It starts out with the following intro:

It says in Coronet Magazine,
June nineteen-fifty six, page ten,
That married women are not as happy
As women who have no men.
Married women are cranky,
Frustrated and disgusted,
While single women are bright and gay,
Creative and well adjusted.

We don’t need the men. . .

Even back then, a popular magazine did a survey and found that women do better than men as singles. Not to say that it hasn’t improved since then.

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr180.htm

The chorus of that song stuck with me over the years, sometimes I couldn’t get it out of my head😀. Too bad, but I could not find the song itself in record form or any other form, one of the lost pieces of women’s history. Some of her more mainstream work can be found all over the place, but the best songs, the ones that were more feminist, have all but disappeared except for the lyrics website.

25. SheilaG - July 4, 2011

We know from research that women do better as singles, that elderly women fare better alone compared to elderly men. My mother in law, who is in her 80s is flourishing. She reported that a man at the retirement community was thinking of marriage, but she wanted nothing to do with it.
“I don’t want to take care of another man,” she said simply.

Another woman told me “I don’t want to be a nurse or a purse.” I have a client who seems to date dead beat men. I worry about her upcoming marriage to one of these men.

Again, I do hope that women can seriously wake up to financial issues, and seriously pull together. You can have little cottages, a common room etc. where women can live on their own but have community. And I see this happening in lots of places. Even when we were living in an apartment in the early 90s, we had several other lesbians move into the same building.
That way we had a community, we had plenty of places for guests to stay, and could pool money for disount groceries, give rides etc. This lasted four a couple of years until we all moved to other places.

26. SheilaG - July 4, 2011

But here’s the thing… if you are hetero, you don’t put women first. In one women’s group I’m in, I noticed that a woman shows up now and then. Every time she is there I ask about her life. She reported that she needed a place to go while her husband was out of town. One time I asked her, “So we’re only a back up for when the man is gone, this group is my group of choice, even with a partner still at home.” This statement shocked her. I think it made her think. So with straight women you can never completely tell if they are 100% committed to women, or just waiting for the man to get back. It bugs me.

27. Sarah - July 4, 2011

I would love to live in a community of women in my old age. Heck, I’d love to live in a community of women NOW. I find the strictly-partnered, parters-first-always life to be pretty isolating and I’m sure I’m not the only one – although I’m often afraid to say it out loud for fear it will somehow mean I love my partner “less.”

28. SheilaG - July 4, 2011

Just about every woman on here it seems wants a women’s community.
If you are hetero and married to a man, this will be a huge block to this goal.
Lesbians have been serious about community, and about our network of friends, lovers, and ex-lovers that is unique in the hertory of the world.
Talk to most lesbians, and they’ll still be on very good terms with “ex-s” It means even when lesbians split up, the bond is still there, and you’ll see exs get together for emergency duty… hospital visits, grocery shopping, pooling of resources.
So if you want women’s community, do the work on it every day IRL, just do it. If you are an isolating anti-social personality type ( and a lot of bloggers seem to be) get over it. Lesbians don’t have the luxury of het income, het survivor benefits or ever het retirement homes. We have some women’s retirement communities, and we’re working on more.
When push comes to shove, I have always found lesbians to completely get what the issue is, to get me, to get my life and times. When you get older, you lose patience with women who seem to never get over their male identification even though they “say” they want women’s community. This just might be wishful thinking in a het world. Lesbian culture and community doesn’t have the luxury of putting community second behind some suburban existance, at least not my age group.

29. KatieS - July 4, 2011

Applying the idea of harm reduction vs radical feminism, I’d say that legalizing gay marriage is harm reduction in that it provides access to healthcare, etc. It is not radical, and it implies a stricty-partnered “economic unit” that fits well with a consumerist economy. It shuts women out unless they are partnered. Putting women first, having a community that is women-only seems to me to be radical. Being committed to your sisters, to a group, being willing to make a commitment is radical. The patriarchy does not like to see women getting together, particularly in women-only spaces. In some ways, it seems more secure to have a strictly-partnered group, but I believe that is false. It’s what the patriarchy wants you to think.

FCM - July 4, 2011

Sheila, your definition of “luxury” is absolutely bizarre.

30. SheilaG - July 5, 2011

I mean “luxury” in a colloguial sense… meaning there is no wiggle room in lesbian lives, because we don’t get het privilege at all. It’s why we are so serious about Michfest, and other women only venues, because this is our life and culture. I don’t see that kind of collective commitment among most het women, and certainly het women did not build the long lasting feminist utopia known as Michfest. It was a lesbian feminist creation still going strong.

And on another note… I couldn’t believe this but someone commenting on liver’s blog thinks FCM is me… then provides the link to FCM’s post on slutwalk, still thinking I wrote the cover blog article for it, even though FCM is clearly labeled as the author below the headline. Guess all radfems are alike to men.

FCM - July 5, 2011

Again, your definition of “privilege” is a fantastic example of a REVERSAL of the highest order. Think about it! And whatever “benefits” het women get from men or from the p, due to being straight, are EARNED benefits, not unearned. Ie. Not a fucking privilege. It literally comes out of our hide.

And I saw that on old liverlips thread, I wasn’t sure if they thought you wrote the article or if they were talking about your comments on it?

31. BruisedbyBastards - July 5, 2011

Thanks, everyone for the alternative suggestions to my – ahem – “retirement plan”. This blog and the rad fem hub keep me sane, even though I haven’t contributed before this post.

I am not het, not married, and have no children. I am, however, an asexual FAAB and have always lived alone (in tiny studio apartments as I am not rich and live in an expensive city) ever since leaving home and my abusive father at 17. My profession is one that benefits women; my few close friends are women. However, I am – for non-neurotypical reasons, perhaps – a solitary person and the idea of sharing my living space with strangers – even women, whom, as a feminist, I love as a class and as individuals – makes me feel panicked. I have beaten myself up over the years for not being a “good enough” feminist because the collective thing – as an everyday lived reality – is not something I could tolerate. Although I very much respect much of what SheilaG writes, and am grateful to her for her insights (and her dogged resistance / radfem presence at blogs such as that of “Liverlips”), this – “if you are an isolating anti-social personality type […] get over it.” strikes me as very lacking in empathy for women with different personality types, tastes, habits, and mental health needs than Sheila and her lesbian community. I didn’t choose to be this way.

Sorry to make it all about me. Thanks, again FCM for all you do.

32. cherryblossomlife - July 7, 2011

Agree with FCM. There’s an old saying in the UK: “Marry a man for his money and you’ll earn every penny”

That’s true, but what they never tell you is that living with a man is unpaid labour.
Every single day.
Even if the relationship is “equal”, there are thousands of hours unnaccounted for in a het woman’s life. Not to mention all that coerced PIV. And het women are taught that THIS. IS. LOVE. That what they have is as good as it gets. They’re suffering from cognitive dissonance just to get through the day to day.
THAT is why old women thrive when their spouses die and why they will not re-marry. My grandma had SEVEN kids and although she always worked and was financially independant, she still had to deal with my grandfather. When he died she began travelling the world. SHe has bloomed. All that wasted energy!

33. SheilaG - July 7, 2011

It is fine to live alone, and create a safe space, however, if we are building lesbian nation and we want the majority of lesbians out there to have housing, to build wealth, and to keep it flowing in the community, then we need to think about this. Those that go out and build do relate to others and work in groups. This isn’t for everyone, but we would have no lesbian revolution created by loners or people who couldn’t handle the groups.
I am well aware of aspie women, but again, I am talking about building, and if we are truly clever we create spaces where women don’t have to share space too.

What we had were very effective small groups, we had many women who lived alone for long periods like Mary Daly. Mary Daly also had a vast support system, and those women cared for her up to the end. It worked.

If we can get serious about collective wealth, and control of more women’s space, then we open the door to non-patriarchal living.

I agree with the above about het women living with men, and having all kinds of labor co-opted and stolen even without knowing it. Just being in a het couple’s home is always a revelation to me, and as I’ve said before, I’ve never once been to a party where the man did all the planning, social lifting, food, invitations, welcoming, keeping conversation flowing ever… straight men that is. Never met a het man who ever did that, and I bet few women on here have had this experience either. Het women in mixed social settings continue to do this conversational labor with men…. and a creepy quote by “Chaz” Bono highlighted well the contempt men really have for women’s conversation in the first place.

Also, glad to slog it out at liver’s. Thankless job I know, but that site is so dangerous to feminism, and just the thought of creep educating young women’s minds without serious challenge is scary. Kind of like when you see a big pot hole in a street and put out a warning orange cone for the other cars to drive around… I’m the orange cone🙂 Just to put out the word there, so women aren’t getting fed a load of stuff without challenge. I am very persistent. I don’t give a damn about men, obviously, but I will “use” their spaces for radfem info just as they’ve stolen women’s spaces for centuries. Robin Hood anyone?

34. SheilaG - July 7, 2011

I think we are thinking of the use of a word differently FCM. I’m just saying that lesbian mistakes are huge, het mistakes have a lot of safety nets. So I just have to be more vigilent in the economic choices I make that’s all. Not even sure we disagree, but this hyper vigilence on my part has really saved my butt in this recession. Believe me, I use my hyper vigilence to help straight women avoid the dangers they normally don’t see.

It might have been me trying to warn you back in the day to stay clear of funfeminism FCM. I could have warned you, but you would not have heard. Nevertheless I do warn, and was aware of male danger probably a lot more than het girls when I was in my teens and early 20s. So the good of it, is you learned, figured out radfem and then you try to reach out and warn the new generations of funfeminists… you can speak to them on authority, I wouldn’t have the life experience to do this as effectively.

35. yttik - July 8, 2011

I get your point SheilaG, it’s just that when you talk about women having a “het safety net” it makes some of us want to cackle hysterically. Many of us are left broke living in a car with two small children, after our experiences with men. Where the hell is this “safety net” you speak of? I’ve heard some rumors that men “provide,” but several generations of women in my family haven’t had much luck with it. To tell you the truth, I’ve concluded that men are simply the path to poverty.

FCM - July 8, 2011

Yes I get sheilas point too, I just disagree with it. The “het safety net” she imagines exists, doesn’t: if we “screw up financially” and need some help, the only thing waiting for us is a piv entitled prick who will put us at risk for pregnancy and disease at every turn, which tends to make women’s financial situation much much worse, not better. And that’s for the men who actually provide, many don’t, and both partners end up living off the woman and her credit cards anyway. And many men literally steal even more on top of it.

Sheila lives in a fantasy world really, where she has it so much worse AND YET EXPONENTIALLY BETTER in every way, when compared to het women. She doesn’t make any kind of rational sense, but we’re used to it!

FCM - July 8, 2011

I do think its funny that she’s keeping old liverlips on his toes…although I can’t figure out why people keep linking to the HUB on those threads?! It’s very strange actually, but then again we are talking about Hugo.

36. Links: July 8, 2011 « Against All Evidence - July 8, 2011

[…] Femonade: “On Harm Reduction” […]

37. yttik - July 8, 2011

Oh yes, FCM, SheilaG’s point the other day about men and rape was well done. It sailed right over their pea brains, but perhaps she planted some seeds for the women who lurk over there.

They link to the HUB because they recognize it contains some real truths and it makes them uncomfortable. They’re trying to use the same old nonsense to dismiss any critics, like implying women hate men or that we think all men are rapists. Unfortunately those two accusations often motivate feminist blogs to tone it down and stop saying things that might make menz like Hugo uncomfortable. We’re always worried about being likable enough, even to the liverlips.

38. cherryblossomlife - July 9, 2011

Two women a week are murdered by their spouse in the UK alone. That’s what you get for living with men.

THe idea that a het relationship is a safety net is one of the most successful lies of the patriarchy. Many het women fall for it and it seems that many lesbian women believe in it too.

What is true, though, is that lesbian women never get to live the fantasy for while, the way het women do. Lesbian women see from the get-go that they’ll have to make their own raft to survive the P. Het women *believe* that relationships with men make them safer in a patriarchy, but that is simply untrue.

39. luckynkl - July 11, 2011

Nah, lesbians don’t see from the get-go any more than het women do. Only 3% of lesbians have never been involved with a man, if that tells you anything. It’s not like lesbians are raised on one of Jupiter’s moons. Lesbians are conditioned and brainwashed just like everyone else on planet earth. Lesbians are lesbians simply because they like, are attracted to, and want to be with women, not because they hate men or can see through their bullshit. Men just aren’t the center of a lesbian’s universe is all and therefore, irrelevant. How’s that for radical?

FCM - July 11, 2011

Actually Sheila claims she was raised on planet lesbiter, and that she’s biologically different from het women…how she gets from there to her “merit based reward system” from which she’s constantly giving herself medals is a mystery however!

FCM - July 11, 2011

I mean really. If she’s biologically superior, it makes it very hard to compete. Foolhardy even.

40. the beauty mandate « smashesthep - September 6, 2011

[…] reminds us that harm reduction strategies are not radical, but they are helpful given our current location in time, and the cultural […]

41. SheilaG - September 7, 2011

There are so many lesbian women worldwide, and no, we are very clear from birth. We don’t give in to fem brainwashing, we don’t go along with the crowd. We don’t have sex with men, we don’t waste our time with this.

We are the Amazons of old, we are the solid unwavering soldiers in the war against men. And we are different from het women, because het women give in to men. They find out later in life what a waste of time that was, the realize the penis is poison, but in their early years they fawn over the enemy, the sleep with the enemy, they get conned by the culture.

And then they get mad at us because we never drank the het cool aid, and you know what? We may be abused by collaborating straight women, but we are morally superior. You will never know this self respect, because you gave in, you refused to rebell. You didn’t have the courage to stand outside the circle. You weren’t there at the founding of the radical lesbian culture. You were too busy having sex with men. And now you regret it, and you get angry at proud butch dykes who did not do this. We prove the whole con game was wrong from the get go. We had will, you sold your bodies to men for trinkets. Live with it.

FCM - September 7, 2011

oh really sheila? let me quote myself here:

generally harm-reduction strategies also support the patriarchy in some way (rather than subverting it) which is why they arent radical. kind of like…saving money. this entails actually making some, and participating in capitalist (and abusive) hierarchies for example.

you saved some money. big effing deal. its not radical, its harm reduction only. and you supported the patriarchy while doing it mkay? jesus you are a stuck up asshole! oh sorry did i say that last part out loud? i guess i did.

42. FCM - September 7, 2011

and what the fucking fuck commenting on a post thats 2 months dead? go to sleep sheila, its late.


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