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If you were trying to reach out to women who are more liberal or mainstream feminists, but who might be open to more radical feminism, what topics would you start with?

There are a few women that I'd like to discuss radical feminism with, but I'd like to pick a topic that's "safer" than gender/trans ideology, at least to start. Something that emphasizes how women's oppression is based on sex, how gender is bullshit and should be abolished, how there's still a lot more progress to make.

Preferably not porn or prostitution either, but I'm open to creative approaches.

Any specific articles or books would be greatly appreciated as well.

If you were trying to reach out to women who are more liberal or mainstream feminists, but who might be open to more radical feminism, what topics would you start with? There are a few women that I'd like to discuss radical feminism with, but I'd like to pick a topic that's "safer" than gender/trans ideology, at least to start. Something that emphasizes how women's oppression is based on sex, how gender is bullshit and should be abolished, how there's still a lot more progress to make. Preferably not porn or prostitution either, but I'm open to creative approaches. Any specific articles or books would be greatly appreciated as well.

23 comments

[–] Tokenmom 16 points (+16|-0)

Anything from Invisible Women, particularly how women are significantly underrepresented in any kind of medical research from the bottom up. Cellular testing is usually male cells. Testing on mice usually uses male mice. When you get to human trials, if women are included the resulting data isn't separated by sex. There are only a minute number of drugs that are considered safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women because nothing is tested on pregnant or breastfeeding women before hitting the market.

I came to recommend basically the same thing. Things like how crash test dummies aren't required to be built like female bodies and women are more likely to die in car crashes because of it.

Just keep in mind, everyone knows what women are even if they can't let themselves admit it.

I've even had some luck (in person with non-extremist friends so ymmv) getting them on board by meeting them halfway with terminology. Like "setting aside gender for the moment, there are a lot of ways throughout history that people with penises regardless of gender have oppressed people with vaginas regardless of gender." Sure it's dumb and man and woman should be fine, but if someone is really resistant and you really want to cross the gap it's worth it. (It also kinda hammers in how stupid the language is, going back to what I said before... everyone knows what women are)

[–] Kettle 2 points (+2|-0)

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but aren't HeLa cells the most common, and those are female?

[–] Tokenmom 3 points (+3|-0)

I don't know enough about cellular research to argue that, and it's been a couple of years since I've read Invisible Women so I'm going off of memory. I do remember they don't like dealing with menstrual cycles.

[–] lucrecia 10 points (+10|-0) Edited

Something that emphasizes how women's oppression is based on sex, how gender is bullshit and should be abolished, how there's still a lot more progress to make.

Hm, I think most do acknowledge this, though, there's just a kind of cognitive dissonance, or a belief that 'femininity' is also oppressed and this is just as important. And similarly, people think they're helping to abolish gender by identifying as nonbinary. So I think for any topic you can find, they'll probably agree on the face of it, just not think it contradicts their views on touchier topics in any way. But maybe that's the context I'm in. I can't really imagine women around me not believing that sexism is real. So may be in a bubble.

That's fair, and I think cognitive dissonance is a good term here. I guess I want to explore a bit what their beliefs are, but also try to focus on the difference between sex and gender, especially as it applies to everyday situations. I keep hearing "gender" being thrown around to mean both sex and also gender stereotypes, and that makes it unclear where some of these women stand. They seem to acknowledge sexist behavior, as you said, but then one used the phrase "people of all genders" in a political discussion, so that threw me for a loop.

My initial thought was something along the lines of Caroline Criado-Perez's book Invisible Women, or similar content, so draw some attention to sex differences as well as gender aspects of this. It was also suggested to me to try something like the huge impact on women's working lives from Covid, and how many more women are leaving the workforce than men, because they're expected to throw away their jobs to care for the kids.

[–] lucrecia 5 points (+5|-0)

Yeah, I think there's an idea floating around that people sympathetic to transactivism have this bizarre but consistent set of beliefs, and the reality is much more mundane and they don't consciously stand anywhere. There's some idea that gender is bad, from feminist stuff they've internalised over the years, and then there's some idea that people 'have' genders, from transactivist vox pieces, and then there's also gender-used-as-a-synonym-for-sex. So they try to make it fit as best they can, find it doesn't, and shrug and go 'well I guess I don't understand it because I'm cis' or 'I guess I don't understand because I must be agender'. I know someone who has described herself as trans/nonbinary for like a decade, freely confesses she has no idea what people are talking about when they say gender, talks about butlerian 'performing gender' but thinks it doesn't make any sense really. She knows what sexism is. I just don't think she's thought about the practical consequences of her trans politics enough to see that it contradicts her feminism, or questioned why she doesn't feel 'like a woman', and what's implied by that. Soooo this is a long way of saying I don't think it's possible to read anything into someone saying 'people of all genders' beyond 'I'm trying to be a sensitive person!'

Invisible Women seems universally popular among women I know, anyway, regardless of politics. :)

[–] Nekomata 9 points (+9|-0) Edited

I'm thinking back on my own journey which was precisely a transition from lukewarm liberal feminism to radfem beliefs. There were so many different factors that led me to peaking and honestly, simply knowing about Ovarit's existence was a help because it allowed me to do a lot of research and reading on my own. I'm not sure where you live but for myself, growing up in a "woke" area where I was told all my life that sexism was over, women were totally equal now and men were dealing with their own forms of oppression, one of the most powerful things was coming to understand just how recently a lot of our rights came into existence. Speaking from the perspective of being in the U.S., the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) which defends against domestic violence didn't exist until 1994. That was only a couple years after I was born. It was and still is shocking to me. I thought blatant, brutal misogyny was primarily something that happened in poor countries, but realizing not only that was true but that it is still very present in more "advanced" countries was really a wake up call.

With BLM being so relevant right now I see lot of parallels to the women's rights movement and an opportunity to make comparisons in casual conversation. Even in the countries we hail as the most egalitarian and utopian, those rights still came only recently and with quite extreme forms of protest. Take Iceland for example. In 1975 around 90% of women refused to work, do housework or perform childcare. For one day 90% of the country's entire female populace united; that is an immense show of effort. This itself was based on the Redstockings' (the original radfem movement) suggestion of striking.

You can see even more parallels in the violent protest required in the suffragette movement where protesters held rallies, destroyed buildings, fought police and were force fed food through their noses after being arrested. Some died for the cause. (There was a good video posted here a while back.) Women did not get to this point in history by asking for their rights nicely, because men did not care to listen when we were being polite. It was painful, bloody, thankless and hard fought.

Statistics on gender-based violence are always good to bring up as well. Making comments where you can that undo the gendered bullshit we grow up with. "Funny how men always call us the emotional ones but they're responsible for over 80% of violent crimes." I think any opportunity where you can bring up something radfem-related you were reading and linking it into topical events could be useful. FDS on Reddit is a good plug for helping women stay safe and have standards with men (when most of us grow up being taught to accept everyone, even those manipulating us). Say you were reading a book without explicitly stating it's radfem, discuss a topic it brought up, what do your friends/acquaintances think of it? There's also feminist media that can be used to open up conversations like the show The Great or the movie Promising Young Woman. You could discuss the plot and the messages they're communicating. I'm just throwing ideas out there since I think it depends on the relationships you have with these women and their individual outlooks, but hopefully some of it helps.

[–] FARTHARLOT 1 points (+1|-0) Edited

OP, this is a really great response, especially the part about FDS. People seem to respond well to radfem responses to personal problems (edit: if they've been through stuff before). I give advice from a very FDS perspective while sometimes throwing in some light stats about sexual assault/domestic violence, and the people I talk to respond pretty well. Some of them are shocked by the suggestion to put up boundaries against men and that they don't have to sacrifice their emotional comfort for the sake of men, so it's definitely a slowwwwww game. It sucks, but in all cases except one, I've had to wait for a friend to get hurt before they saw any merit in what I said.

But in my experience, you will not be able to have many radfem discussions at all until their view of themselves changes.

Whatever you do, I wouldn't frame it as radical feminism - we've got a pretty bad rap right now, and as soon as you get pegged as being "one of them" it's easier for people to ignore you.

Just focus your attention on clearly sex-based issues and act confused if they try to pretend that men are affected by these things. ("Oh. Huh. Anyway I'm talking about x, which obviously only affects female people. The early women's rights movement fought it by...")

Reproductive rights seems like the most obvious choice. Even very privileged women tend to have a gut feeling for why that one matters, which unfortunately isn't always the case for things like forced marriages or fgm or even period poverty.

So, it's relevant to their lives, but also gives a natural connection to why there is a political movement specifically for women's rights.

Taking a historical approach can help too. First wave feminism was partly about birth control, and of course the second was very much about abortion. And any book that was written more than 5 minutes ago is going to discuss these things as women's issues without apology.

Here's a book about the Jane Collective - an underground abortion service in the seventies - that I've heard is really good (haven't had a chance to read it yet.)

If you want something a little hotter, medical research is another definitely sex-based thing that seems to finally be getting some attention. Here's a fairly recent guardian article that unapologetically calls a woman a woman.

Again, that article is full of things that even a well off libfem can imagine happening to her, if they haven't already.

Keep these issues on her radar as women's issues, and eventually she'll slip up and offend a "butch amab nonbinary lesbian," who will peak her for you.

[–] tervacious 9 points (+9|-0)

"How 'bout that male violence." Bring up something in the news that shows men becoming unhinged at someone telling them what to do, like god forbid being asked to wear a mask. Or one of the many, many stories where a man kills one or a bunch of people, usually his family members. Women are not committing these crimes in significant numbers. The whole point of women's only spaces, women's only conversations & stuff is that men sure can be violent, especially if told no for whatever reason.

Often women at first will resist that but inside they know. Give them a safe place to agree with that and then revisit the conversation at a later time. Because when we are talking about not wanting to share spaces with men who identify as women, we are talking about male violence, male stalking, male entitlement to women's minds and bodies. Sure you may know the nicest guys in the world, but since we can't predict or tell who is Nice and who is Bad (often the same dude under different circumstances) it's better that they stay out of our spaces. Yes, that means the nice guys too, and the ones who describe themeleves as women and you indulge them despite knowing better, because they are all men.

Hehe, very smooth start there ;)

With some of the women I have in mind, we were actually discussing the Capitol "riot" and some related topics came up, like how white men committing violent crimes are usually described as "a really good guy" by someone who knew him. We had some interesting discussion about that, but maybe I could have pushed into some of the other areas you mentioned.

[–] wildpansy 3 points (+4|-1)

white men committing violent crimes are usually described as "a really good guy" by someone who knew him.

So when black men commit crimes their family members describe them as awful people?

No, obviously not. It was a discussion about the media portrayal of men who commit violent crimes. The headlines about white men in these cases generally focus on them being just regular or nice guys, family men, good workers, etc, rather than describing them as criminals, murderers, etc. That they inexplicably snapped, even if there was a history of violence or crime, or sometimes making it seem justified due to stress or family pressures. That's not generally how the media treatment of men of color who have committed crimes.

If men who have committed these crimes are still at large (or haven't killed themselves), the police generally treat white men more humanely when trying to arrest them, even if they committed the same crimes as men of color.

[–] finn-again 8 points (+8|-0) Edited

The short answer is that there is none. Because if you rule out trans, porn, prost., about the only obvious issue left that distinctly defines or draws the line between liberal and radical, is reproductive technology, but to grasp the radical take on that, you need to grasp the disembodiment that male sexual systems effect in women.

I don't think radicals should reach out to liberals (except at some very personal level) but rather concentrate on all the WORK that's almost infinitely backed up already. But also because liberals are the vast majority--it's up to them to do reach out work, not those who fall under their oppressive thumbs.

I don't agree, that there are no topics, as I think there are some core concepts that touch upon basic aspects at the core of radical feminism that can lead to some more "controversial" topics. If you accept women are being discriminated against because of sex, because of biology, the only way you can then claim TWAW is if you are in full cognitive dissonance mode (or think it's more important to be nice than consistent). At least theoretically.

I think it's a fair point to consider whether this is a good use of my time though, as opposed to focusing on doing work to achieve the goals we have. One of the women is a close relative, and some of the other women are in local feminist groups and who seem open to discussing different aspects of these issues. I'm not ready to completely write them all off, at least not yet. :)

I think I'm going to think more about what I want to achieve here, if it's just to test the waters or convince them, and also consider what issues I consider most important to me and want to pursue in discussion.

[–] llkit 4 points (+4|-0)

Pregnancy. How periods are treated. Also structural patterns that can't be explained away by 'performance' that evidence a systematic pattern.

One of the only interesting points they can make if smart is about the performance of gender. There is an argument that female oppression is about the performances expected of the bodies. Rather than the body itself. Focusing on core body stuff and how those needs are not met is good. Also the very real violence and intimidation based on physicality and the consequences.

I'm sure reimagining gender is part of feminism, but there's just straight up different material consequences at a population level depending on your body.

And yeah the Cornelia Fine book. 'There's women are blamed for nearly everything' by Jess something, I've not read it but have read other stuff she's written. She's rad fem in my pov

[–] Les 3 points (+3|-0)

You'll find that a lot of women in libfem circles actually believe in a lot of things present in radical feminism (because radical feminism is based on reason). They may not admit it aloud, but they know the difference between "AFAB" and "AMAB" makes a huge difference in how men and women are treated. That's why so many former TRAs become radfems after peaking.

The problem is that as soon as you call it radical feminism, libfems retreat hissing. Those women have to think it out for themselves. If you just plant the seeds in plain English (avoid too much radfem jargon) of knowledge they have a better chance of independently coming to the right conclusion.

[–] BiologyIsReal 3 points (+3|-0)

How about abortion, FGM, menstrual huts, sex-selective abortions or surrogacy? I think these topics make it clear women's oppression is sex-based.

[–] zuubat 1 points (+1|-0)

I would start with the word "gender."

As in, not use it. And when the other person does, ask nicely what she means. No matter how she defines the word, if she tries to maintain consistency with that definition, at some point her argument will fall apart. Meanwhile, you just politely nod your head.

Give her the rope, so to speak.

[–] Binah17 1 points (+1|-0)

Domestic violence is an easy topic (easy in that it's such an obvious female specific problem that no one would be able to act dense about it). If you read comments on Youtube about cases involving domestic violence, stalking and violence from male partners, you'll notice most woman know and name the problem.

[DV is] such an obvious female specific problem that no one would be able to act dense about it

Oh my sweet summer child. Don't you know that wOmEn CaN bE aBuSiVe ToO? I've literally had a TRA ask why I wasn't worried about lesbians gawking at or flashing girls in changing rooms.

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