Does anyone remember the infamous Terri Strange? This is going to be a long post talking about her, radical feminism and orthodoxy and multiple things coming full circle with some of the current battles between radical feminism vs gender critical...
I popped onto a livestream she did a day ago and was able to ask her some questions. She privated it, probably because the conversation led to her talking about her politics. Usually her comments section used to be locked and she's been strangely ambiguous about her politics, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see where she was at on things now. As you all may know, she appeared to fall out of radical feminism a couple of years ago and was seen dating some man way older than her that was pro-trans, often misogynistic and even openly objectifying women. He was extremely skeezy, even by just regular standards. He was a juggalo, if that gives you some perspective of how embarrassing this dude was. Nowadays, her channel seems to focus around life stuff and tarot cards, of all things.
I asked her what her thoughts were on radical feminism, the sex industry, gender roles, and this toxic guy she used to date, etc (not all at once, I was pretty tactful).
She is not a radical feminist anymore. She said she found it very lonely and that women weren't supportive on a personal level and that it was very competitive and restrictive. She was in a bad place back then and now she's a lot healthier moving on from it. I agree it's good that she's feeling healthier.
When asked if she is still anti-sex industry, she said she doesn't think in those terms anymore, as there's pros and cons to everything and some of the most pro-women she's met are in the sex industry. She also says if someone told her they were thinking of becoming a sex worker, she would tell them it's not a good idea....so there's at least that.
When a man in the chat went on to ask her thoughts about porn and how he thinks it's bad for men, she agreed and seemed to be critical of the effect porn has on men. She believes it drains them of "masculine" energy and makes it hard for them to have healthy sexual relationships with women.
She goes on to say one of her biggest disagreements now with feminism is the hatred of men and the devaluing of masculinity. She thinks both masculine and feminine energy are needed to balance out the world, but she also thinks there's a problem of men being too much in their feminine energy and women being too much in their masculine energy. Feminists she used to know that thought it would be great if women went out and worked while men stay home with the kids and grown up to see this realized can now see how it's not working. Terri says she isn't attracted to men who have too much feminine energy.
She never answered my question about gender roles, but I guess the masculinity vs femininity energy thing sums it up.
In terms of that toxic guy she dated that went viral with screenshots...she rejected my use of the word "toxic", and said she doesn't consider any of her past relationships toxic and she felt all of them benefited her and didn't know what I was talking about. Then I said "maybe not toxic, but someone that seemed like not a good guy"...she then was like "oh, that guy...it's not like he hurt me", which she said in a sort of joking way like she felt like the question was infantilizing her.
She also says she's not political anymore. To sum it up, she was strangely ambiguous about her views, extremely relative in everything she said and often uncomfortable talking about any of it. Her behavior and presence was strange, kind of like someone that can't delve into deeper things because of maybe trauma? She didn't seem to be all there mentally. The gendered energy references sound like new-age spirituality speak, so I take it that's central to her beliefs now.
It's such a weird thing to witness go down because as a radfem I've basically been aware of this woman about 17 years, and I have some thoughts about the things that I've witnessed by her over the years and can maybe act as a lesson for how to interact with radical feminism.
Back in the early days of YouTube...the early 2000's, there was a small collection of radical left-wing youtubers. One of my favorites was a man that had a whole series debunking prostitution from a radically left perspective. He now debunks gender ideology in the current day. Through him, I became aware of Terri. Back then, she was radically left, and not into radical feminism, but sympathetic to some feminist things.
At one point, a young male Marxist did a whole MRA-like rant video response to my mother after she said in the comments that she had hate for the things men do. Terri made a video response to this that was a bit too sympathetic to the man, but also somewhat patronizing in explaining how my mother must have trauma she's working through to have such a view. So this was my main introduction to Terri. I didn't find her to have much feminist analysis, if at all.
So some years go by, and I'm surprised when I start coming across some videos of hers where she's now radical feminist, and highly, highly critical of men to a really hardline degree. Often times, it appears she thinks of men in a really one dimensional way...like they are biologically incapable of doing good. While I think it's a bit unrealistic (I don't think every man is an evil rapist lunatic), I appreciate hearing a woman being hyper critical of men, as at this point in time...feminism is filled with "what about the men?" (still is...but with much more pushback than back then). Often times her videos are a bit like a stream of consciousness. I appreciated her dedication to the issue and watching her become more radicalized within feminism.
Now we get to around 2011-12ish, radical feminist groups on Facebook are constantly being deleted because of TRA's infiltrating and doxxing. For those of you that are newer radfems and gender critical...yes, they've literally been doing this even back then. They were highly extremist, sabotaging events, cornering women like Cathy Brennan at lesbian marches, etc.
Eventually, Terri has the largest radfem group on Facebook (we're talking like 1,200 people AT BEST...hardly any of us seemed to have existed...I'd see a lot of familiar faces over time in the movement, it was really a very, very small community) and it goes private and even unlisted. I was in the group. I didn't talk to Terri much in the group, but we can both see each other commenting and posting a lot on all the same things. She never accepts my friend request. I suspect it maybe the fact that my profile shows at the time I'm currently in a relationship with a man and I have very feminine, conventional beauty standard norm kind of selfie pictures of myself...not pornified or showing off my body, but wearing makeup, feminine clothing and typical selfie posing. Appearances aside, I had been a radfem for a good amount of time at that point and had been an audience to the uprise of gender ideology, queer theory and the liberalizing of feminism within radically left spaces and it's slow but sure takeover.
While in the group, I got the impression that Terri was incredibly cliquey...to the point of treating other women badly if they didn't fully align with radical feminism in the way she wanted. There was the air of punk rock/alternative in-grouping...some maybe not aware of this kind of clique behavior, but if you know, you know. Terri reminded me of a lot of people I knew of that got into rad left-wing politics via the punk subculture...which I did as well, but I couldn't stand all the cool vs normie stuff where it seemed like a lot of people got involved in causes because of their social circle, first and foremost. Some people look to hardline political positions as a useful thing to gain social cred and prominence within a smaller space.
I remember one time when this woman, who had been around for a good while in the group and other radfem spaces, admitted to going back to doing tantric massage, while still maintaining that she was against the sex industry and also a radfem. She did appear to be in denial about the kind of work she's doing, but Terri was extremely combative with her to the point that the whole thing blew up, she used some very derogatory language, like "whoring", and the woman became vilified and put out of various radfem spaces. She accused her of being a sex industry lobby troll. She had no solidarity or compassion for what should be seen as a victim of the industry. She was very rigid in how women should align to the politics. Yet somehow, she was still friends with tons of lefty men who surely had plenty of political disagreements with radfem.
Her criticisms of makeup and beauty standards and femininity often went overboard into placing some sort of burden onto women for conforming to the standards already in place, meanwhile she wouldn't wear makeup, but she would still have feminine hair cuts and pluck her eyebrows in a typical feminine beauty standards way.
And that's not even getting into the political lesbianism, which beyond the obvious issues...seems like a level of personal sacrifice and burden that can't be healthy.
Terri originally came from a conservative Christian background. Looking back at all this, I think she may have treated radical feminism in the same way that someone adheres to a religion. It seems that maybe why she's replaced it with new-age spirituality mixed with Christianity now.
She feels that radical feminism was restrictive, overbearing, unsupportive and not personally beneficial, but that was how she chose to practice it. That is self imposed. Radical feminism is a critique of the system of patriarchy. It is not an individualist manual, nor does it exist to further divide women and be used to police the behaviors of other women. We can critique industries and systems while simultaneously not criticizing women for conforming to norms for general well-being and survival within patriarchy.
I think there's something to be learned from all of this in some of the ongoing separations happening within radical feminism and the gender critical movement.
I see a lot of newer radical feminists that have gained prominence and similar to Terri, will regularly critique makeup and relationships with men to a degree that suggests women are responsible for other women's oppression by conforming to femininity, yet these same women will have long feminine hair and use attractive lighting, etc. They can't adhere to their own very strict criticisms of other women, and likely...they will go the way of Terri as well.
These same women will endless and ruthlessly criticize women like Kellie Jay Keen, but will allow some men, who demonstrate themselves to be un-perfect in their views, language and presence, to have certain credits they won't give to a woman doing extremely monumental grassroots work in this movement.
Every theory, ideology and movement can be at risk of becoming too much of an orthodoxy. In fact, the orthodoxy of a theory can even become so impractical that it thwarts any effort to realistically bring it to reality.
I think that's what we see happening right now with the widespread criticism of Kellie Jay Keen and the Let Women Speak events all over Twitter (mostly) in the midst of her literally creating a public platform for women to speak about self ID and even a wider variety of feminist issues. I find it bizarre and frustrating that these rejections of progress being made on the gender critical side of things is happening in the name of radical feminism.
A lot of us that have been involved for 10+ years remember when radical feminists wouldn't even meet in public. It had to be online in private, secret little spaces away from any public consciousness. That was a weakness...and it was a problem. Never could I imagine in a million years a billionaire celebrity and other celebrities even mentioning the mere existence of radical feminism.
This movement is not becoming weaker, it is 100X stronger, and that is with the help of the gender critical movement. The trans issues has opened a door for criticism of the sex industry and other radical feminist analysis that people wouldn't have seen otherwise. This is huge progress. These two movements are complimentary.
So to summarize...I think radical feminists should really think about our main end goals...centering women, giving a voice to women, and uniting women as a class, which will ultimately help us oppose patriarchal oppression/male supremacy. Don't let things like makeup, conforming to femininity, heterosexuality, motherhood and even other political differences be more important than uniting with women, especially women who genuinely are interested in doing the work.
And don't let criticisms of industries and norms become a personal burden onto yourselves and other women to the point of shifting blame from class and patriarchy onto individuals.
Not wearing makeup is not going to overthrow patriarchy. Going to a Let Women Speak event is a lot more of a participation in critiquing and opposing patriarchy than having a bare face.
I enjoyed Terri's videos for a while, but then she really turned weird. She'd increasingly just say that "wearing makeup is dumb," as well as insulted women who respectfully disagreed with her, called them names, etc. It was painful to watch.
"Don't let things like makeup, conforming to femininity, heterosexuality, motherhood and even other political differences be more important than uniting with women." Absolutely.
Her old blog, "The Arctic Feminist", had a significant impact on me. It's surprising that she's charged so much.
I mean, the main thing radfems have an issue with is that they don't want to be co-opted. American conservatives are very opportunistic and will take literally whatever they can get against "liberals"....even sometimes going as far as to claim that they are the real feminists. So they can (and have) stolen radical feminist rhetoric to reach conservative conclusions. We should be concerned about this because it can trick women who aren't informed about feminism into believing them.
Besides that, I think there are many people who go through several political ideologies, because they have an unstable identity. I don't see this as specific to radical feminism.
Well, that's technically true, but continuing to participate in certain femininity requirements doesn't exactly help the women who get ostracized for not participating.
I have to say that I never liked her -- she pushed a lot of "lesbianism is a choice" lesbophobic bullshit back in the day and insisted on calling herself a lesbian when she very clearly was not. It was interesting to read your post to see where she is these days, though, as I hadn't heard anything about her since she started dating that gross man. Still, I don't think that we have to be okay with women who push or cosign harmful beliefs, and I don't think there's anything wrong with pointing those instances out. I'm certainly not advocating for casting a woman out for disagreeing about something small, but I don't think that certain views should be swept under the rug in the name of sisterhood. Frankly that's very often asked of lesbians (and women of color) and it's incredibly frustrating. Ultimately disagreeing about, say, makeup shouldn't be more important than getting real work done, but I also don't think that these longstanding critiques and discussions should be abandoned either.