75

Hi! We thought since we have a 'peak trans' thread on how you became gender critical and it's really popular and useful, it might make sense to have a kind of 'peak patriarchy' thread, where we can talk about experiences that brought us to feminism.

If you consider yourself to be a radical feminist, then it would also be interesting to find out if you became a radfem after moving on from some other form of feminism.

~

I volunteered to kick off this thread because I have a short but I hope impactful story. My father made me a radfem, and not in the good way.

I grew up in the UK, and not in a nice part. More post-industrial wasteland than grassy suburb. My father was an extremely violent alcoholic. He beat my mother to the point of breaking her bones and scarring her face. He was a manual worker; she worked in care. He was big; she was small. She became an alcoholic too. She died from a cancer related to her addiction before I was 20 years old. He beat my brothers. He beat his second wife too, a much younger woman he started seeing after my mother got her terminal diagnosis (classy!)

I didn't understand why nobody helped us. I didn't understand why my grandparents changed the subject and pursed their lips when I talked about it. I didn't understand how he justified his violence when I questioned him about it. Worst, I didn't understand how my mother internalised the blame for it. And I knew that there were many more situations like mine in the neighbourhood, children my age with similar - and even worse - stories to tell; boys and men whose chat-up attempts bristled with the same aggression. So many excuses were made for him: his hard life and difficult childhood, her 'neuroticism', our cheeky behaviour; some even - it was a generation ago, mind - mentioned the blow to the male pride of having a working wife. Even when - rarely - the abuse was so severe the law was involved they did nothing that helped.

In my early/mid teens, hiding out in the local library to avoid the drama at home, I found the feminism section. I read, first, Sexual Politics. Then Right Wing Women. Then Pornography, and then, and then, and then....until I'd exhausted every book in the section. I remember I was so eager to read on, my hands would be twitching to turn the page.

I realise how lucky I was that these were the books on the shelves in the mid-80s, and that the feminism available to me gave a framework to understand male violence. If these women can see it too, then I'm not mad. But more than that: it gave me courage, and hope. If these women can resist it, then, surely, I can too. If they can see other futures, then maybe there's one for me.

A few years later, violence in the household had escalated to a point I became fearful for my own safety. So, with all the hope and courage feminism had gifted me, I ran away from home with my few possessions in a binbag, moving through homeless shelters and squats and even sleeping rough, until I was 18. Legally an adult, I was able to find a permament address, and pick up the strands of my education. Don't think I could have done any of it without those women and their vision behind me.

Hi! We thought since we have a 'peak trans' thread on how you became gender critical and it's really popular and useful, it might make sense to have a kind of 'peak patriarchy' thread, where we can talk about experiences that brought us to feminism. If you consider yourself to be a radical feminist, then it would also be interesting to find out if you became a radfem after moving on from some other form of feminism. ~ I volunteered to kick off this thread because I have a short but I hope impactful story. My father made me a radfem, and not in the good way. I grew up in the UK, and not in a nice part. More post-industrial wasteland than grassy suburb. My father was an extremely violent alcoholic. He beat my mother to the point of breaking her bones and scarring her face. He was a manual worker; she worked in care. He was big; she was small. She became an alcoholic too. She died from a cancer related to her addiction before I was 20 years old. He beat my brothers. He beat his second wife too, a much younger woman he started seeing after my mother got her terminal diagnosis (classy!) I didn't understand why nobody helped us. I didn't understand why my grandparents changed the subject and pursed their lips when I talked about it. I didn't understand how he justified his violence when I questioned him about it. Worst, I didn't understand how my mother internalised the blame for it. And I knew that there were many more situations like mine in the neighbourhood, children my age with similar - and even worse - stories to tell; boys and men whose chat-up attempts bristled with the same aggression. So many excuses were made for him: his hard life and difficult childhood, her 'neuroticism', our cheeky behaviour; some even - it was a generation ago, mind - mentioned the blow to the male pride of having a working wife. Even when - rarely - the abuse was so severe the law was involved they did nothing that helped. In my early/mid teens, hiding out in the local library to avoid the drama at home, I found the feminism section. I read, first, *Sexual Politics*. Then *Right Wing Women*. Then *Pornography*, and then, and then, and then....until I'd exhausted every book in the section. I remember I was so eager to read on, my hands would be twitching to turn the page. I realise how lucky I was that these were the books on the shelves in the mid-80s, and that the feminism available to me gave a framework to understand male violence. *If these women can see it too, then I'm not mad.* But more than that: it gave me courage, and hope. *If these women can resist it, then, surely, I can too. If they can see other futures, then maybe there's one for me.* A few years later, violence in the household had escalated to a point I became fearful for my own safety. So, with all the hope and courage feminism had gifted me, I ran away from home with my few possessions in a binbag, moving through homeless shelters and squats and even sleeping rough, until I was 18. Legally an adult, I was able to find a permament address, and pick up the strands of my education. Don't think I could have done any of it without those women and their vision behind me.

35 comments

[–] khlarghk 1 points (+1|-0)

I might have to come back and revise this. To start out, my story is very privileged so be forewarned. For me it started after highschool. I did an international travel study gap year program, that focused around the question “what is development?”. We went to 4 different countries and did homestays and field work, as well as having daily seminars exploring particular issues like public health, the environment, education, and sustainable agriculture. We read books like “Ishmael” “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” “On Dialogue”, etc etc (if you want a reading list and I can get one together). Our mentors were all highly educated highly accomplished women. For me, pedagogy of the oppressed was where I took a turn. I read it in one night, and it spoke to my pain on a level I never could have imagined. My pain as a social outcast, which started through the ways misogyny had wreaked havoc on my self-esteem growing up, and lesbophobia had left me deep in denial about my sexual feelings towards women (despite the glaringly obvious reality of my attractions in highschool) I had a close relationship with one mentor who had completed a masters program in leadership and higher education. She was strongly into the social justice scene, and we connected very deeply on this topic. She taught me a lot through listening to me, and our long conversations. She introduced me to much of the books and materials from her masters course. She exposed me to bell hooks, David Bohm, and feminism as a whole. Also, I fell in love with her. An attraction so strong there was no denying it. It was the first time, studying the Aids crisis in South Africa, that I began to have a real understanding of racism, of my own racist socialization. I was very into the “microcosm and the macrocosm” of these phenomena. I was highly cerebral, but troubled, with some strong attachment issues left over from my upbringing. The whole experience of witnessing global poverty and injustice, the corrupt neocolonialist system that perpetuated it, and the misogyny and racism that is etched deeply into my own life and consciousness. Into my own subconscious reactions... and thus, I inferred, this was the case in others as well. I wrote things and produced work that got many accolades from people in my world. By the end I was much loved and admired, seen by many of my colleagues as holding up the spirit of the program, by my dedication and contributions... but I felt no closeness, only impending doom as it was over. I continued afterwords to fight for social justice but was thrown into a world of liberal feminism (my mentor had aspects of liberal feminism mixed in. She introduced me to the genderbread person among other things). I was thrown into a world where I struggled with closeness, and strong impacts from developmental and early trauma.

The next chapter of my life became about trying to heal myself, and feminism fell by the wayside (although I never shaved again). It was a piecemeal process of healing my relationship to food, to my body. But it was not long before I was hit by the worst symptoms of my trauma. Leaving me debilitated, living at home and hiding from life, spending hundreds of hours at the library reading literature from the Native American Renaissance. In these matricultures, I saw a glimmer of true hope, for a sustainable, non oppressive culture. I began to understand the genocide of matricultures and indigenous as the “original sin” of the US. Essentially, in my evolving understanding, until we as a country rectify the ghosts of our past wrongdoings, we can never be redeemed. Patriarchy’s ultimate suppression of women comes in the destruction of women-centered cultures. Cultures where we could be naked and safe. Where all individuals had the freedom to actualize our gifts, for the betterment of the group. And the women in these books, like Louise Erdrich, were spirits in female bodies. This model of female existence gave me so much relief. Reading these authors gave me so much hope. But still the landscape of indigenous knowledge is confused to the enth degree. It can be so hard to separate truth from misinformation, revisionism, idealization, and general bs. But I did my best. (If I was born in the wrong body, the body I should have been born into was one in an indigenous matriculture )

At this time, I would not have called myself a radical feminist, as I had been turned off it by all the flak I received.

I felt that Marianne Williamson understood the same basic principles as I did. When I heard the words she spoke to the indigenous convention during the primaries, they rung with a level of truth that touched me on a deep level. I proceeded to observe how she was silenced by the media and ejected from serious candidacy by the establishment, who inevitably cherry-picked their candidate in a democratic farce.

Well, I can go further into the slew of philosophical underpinnings which came to define how I live my life. I found my way into barefoot shoes, nutritious movement, permaculture, and somatic trauma healing. This took me into a variety of environments, including Starhawk’s earth activist training, where identity politics and trans issues derailed two full days of our classes. I saw myself as an ally to trans people, but experienced a growing discomfort.

My true return to radical feminism happened after peaking earlier this year, when I found detrans women and had another life-altering moment with my internalized homophobia and misogyny. I am now looking forward to reading Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy and Max Dashu.

I am still a troubled person, and I am still highly cerebral at the expense of personal feelings of connectedness. I get lost in the endless questioning in my head. Most people tell me to get out of it. That’s my story.

So many good stories, and so different from each other!

It's been a long road so I'll just tell two of my early moments that made me begin to understand what I was up against as a girl and woman.

My instinctive reaction of disgust and rage to the song I Enjoy Being a Girl (and look who posted this video, ewwww) and my family's total incomprehension of why. I was 8 or 9 years old.

My sorrow and rage at the infamous remark by Stokely Carmichael that "the only position for women in SNCC is prone". I wanted so much to be old enough to be a Freedom Rider! (Also I noticed when checking the quote that people are still trying to pass off this remark as a harmless joke.)

[–] goblinwitch 4 points (+6|-2)

I was a strict libfem until college (that's all I was exposed to, and I was a naive sheltered kid). Until one of my favorite youtubers (Deborrah Cooper) mentioned how trans women are harming women. I freaked out and unsubbed because she was 'bigoted', but then came back in a few days because I was curious, was I really totally wrong? I found gender critical on reddit and started reading and my mind was blown. I then found pinkpillfeminism, and then radical feminist books. I couldn't accept that all men had an inherit depravity (sexuality) for a long time, after all my older brother was always kind and never expressed any cruelty. I had to make sure, turns out his computer had a ton femdom sissy shit, and he came out as trans some time later. My kind brother turned into a creep who now only wants to force 'feminine' talk and creeps me out with his 'soft skin' bullshit. Well my dad must have been fine right? He's a traditional family man. Nope, he had gross porn on his phone too. Yes All Men. Some may restrain themselves more, but they all have inherit depravity. Dropped male friends and suddenly had so much more energy, and now I finally understand what was so wrong with the world.

[–] MidnightLanguor 2 points (+2|-0)

Read an article about Rachel McKinnon. That was all it took, really.

[–] bio-woman 3 points (+3|-0)

I had 2 amazing radfem lecturers in college. They assigned feminist reading material and taught everything from a radical feminist perspective. I was very fortunate.

[–] SarahTheGreen 1 points (+1|-0)

I honestly have no idea when or why or how I became a feminist. It's always just been me trying to figure out how the world works so I can thrive and be happy. (Still working on that part.)

I took a Women and Religion course from Naomi Goldenberg in my first undergrad degree (1986–7). In my mid-20s I was in a women's spirituality circle and went to Witchcamp (1988–1990). That was my apprenticeship, but I'd obviously been headed in that direction already, or I wouldn't have done those things. At home I wasn't allowed to think for myself, so all this came out of my spreading my wings as a young adult, but it's possible that roots ran deep.

[–] mutant_vision 2 points (+2|-0)

I grew up in a Catholic household and became a feminist because my mother was 100% anti-feminist. She loved Phyllis Schafly and was mad about affirmative action because my dad couldn't find a university job (in music performance) so that she could stay home and raise babies. She worked and raised plenty of babies, so I'm still not sure why it was necessary to be anti-feminist at all.

I now work in a male dominated field so I have a vested interest in feminism.

[–] Thrillcheesier 5 points (+5|-0)

When I was in 8th or 9th grade (mid-'70s), I learned that abortion had only recently become legal and I was floored -- I couldn't imagine a world in which a woman couldn't make that decision. It was years before I really learned about feminism or called myself a feminist, but that was the point at which I understood rights weren't equal at all.

[–] Feministunderyrbed 5 points (+5|-0) Edited

Impressive story, thank you for sharing it.

My feminism started with complex and fucked-up dynamics in my family and my relationships with my parents. It’s hard to summarize. Basically, I grew up in a right-wing family. My mother was miserable as a SAHM and also seemed to hate me, and favored my brother blatantly. My dad was and is a knuckle-dragging sexist but he made exceptions for me, encouraging me to do well in school and showing me the affection I didn’t get from my mother. Our family was mostly men and the kids in our neighborhood were mostly boys. So from an early age I rejected my mother’s sad, cramped world of femininity and wanted to do everything the boys got to do. When I looked at adults, I wanted my dad’s life a lot more than my mom’s. And then, my mother also read a lot of pop psychology books and identified the misery and unfairness in her life in feminist terms, even as she stayed a right-winger, and I absorbed those lessons at the same time—that it wasn’t fair for my dad to have more freedom and privilege because he was a man.

There’s a lot I’m leaving out, but that’s the kernel of it: seeing the unfairness in my parents’ relationship and wanting something different. My dad’s embrace of me as his little STEM star and my mother’s mean-girl rejection of me were part of it too.

It wasn’t until later that I defined myself as a radical feminist, when I learned the truth about the gender trend, but I think the seeds of that were planted in childhood too. I watched my mother obsess and agonize over her appearance. Her job was to look good, and as all the other dads started leaving the other moms for younger women (this was the late 1970’s and 80’s) she was terrified that the same would happen to her. At the same time she wasn’t stupid. I think she realized what an indignity it was to be a piece of meat for a living, and that there was more to being a woman than that. I learned from that too. When I was a teenager we had epic battles about whether I got to stay out with boys and have sex, but as soon as I went to college and got more freedom over my schedule I figured out that just giving it up to boys wasn’t necessarily setting me free. I dated guys and had sex but I was also pretty aware of the limitations of that kind of liberation. I really didn’t relate when the Sex and the City, strippers-are-people-too! feminism came in around the year 2000. And when trans rights started reading their heads a few years later, I saw through it as another capitulation to male privilege.

[–] AlbaWaterhouse 11 points (+11|-0)

I was raised by a radical feminist single mother. During my childhood she showed me what patriarchy was, how women have to stick together, how important for me it was to not be complacent and to be independent both economically and mentally. We read books about womanhood and she told me stories about her feminist protests with her friends, even took me to some when I was little.

But then, as I was entering my teens, my mum was working non stop, stressed and going thorugh some hard times so she stopped talking about feminism so much and stopped also reading feminist books and keeping up to date, it was the early 2000 and the liberal "feminist" shit hit me hard being a teen and not having my mum's feisty side there.

Also, you know what definetely didn't help? Reading King Kong Theory when it came out. This book was so damaging to me!

During my teens and early 20s I was all about "I get along with men better than with women", "fucking around is empowering", "porn is empowering" and so on.

Then, 8 years ago, suddenly all my mum's words and teachings from when I was a child came back to me, there was no triggering scenario, it just happened. And I began to read real feminist books again, and to surround myself with women, to pause and think, my critical thinking woke up and there wa sno way back.

Nowadays my mom is also back to her old feminist self and is now me that keeps her up to date. I live abroad, but talk very often on the phone and everytime I visit we have long long talks about feminism and the current state of things. It's wonderful.

In Spain we are currently fighting the government that wants to introduce a national selfID law and other gender identity focused laws and when I told my mum that if this happened I will travel to Spain and burn down Madrid she just said: I will burn it with you.

I hadn't heard of this King Kong Theory. What was that about? What bothers you about it?

[–] AlbaWaterhouse 9 points (+9|-0)

King Kong Theory is a book by Virginie Despentes, a french author. The book talks about her personal experiences and thoughts on pornography, prostitution, and rape. It was at the time (2006-2007?) a "revolution" in Europe because she was so "wild" and talked about rape openly and about being a prostitute for a time. The book was marketed as a feminist revolution, a rebel that refused to shut up and wrote pure truths. And it sounds very appealing to teens and young adults, however, it is NOT a feminist book.

The book is a pro prostitution and porn rant, she is shallow and self-centered. Calls women that oppose pornography "frustrated and frigid". Says she always wanted to live like a man, and that is what she did. In conclusion, to not keep this message longer, it is a well written personal rant but not at all a feminist analysis or theory. In reality the vast majority of readers and people that would recommend you this book are leftist MEN.

It pains me to see this book on feminist books lists and feminist sections in bookstores.

[–] DiamondFalls 0 points (+0|-0)

Interesting! Feminist-leaning ladies in my reading circle have just been discussing this book and their reviews were very positive, agreeing with how it's mostly a very honest personal rant. Now I want to read it even more :)

[–] remove-the-veil 4 points (+4|-0)

That sounds truly dreadful! It's awful that people don't realize that it's not simply a choice between being a 'frigid prude' or being 'sex positive' (in the sense that women's sexuality availability only benefits men). So many see this as a black and white issue where those two things are the only options! Obviously, one can have a healthy relationship to sexuality and still not bow to the idea that you have to exist primarily for male gaze/pleasure. But sadly far too many have been brainwashed into thinking there is no in-between, or alternatives.

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

I came from a sexually and emotionally abusive and dysfunctional home (although I was in deep denial about that for a long time). I was very aligned with my abusive father even though he hated women, and so I learned to hate myself and everything that made me a woman. If I had been a young person today, I feel confident I would have wanted to transition.

In my early 20’s I was essentially homeless (not living on the streets, but bouncing from couch to couch with whoever would have me) and dirt broke. Counting dollars and figuring out if I could afford to eat that day. I met an older guy (early 40s), and the second I saw him my gut told me he was bad news. But then all my conditioning came in and I chastised myself for being ‘judgmental”. He offered to buy me lunch and my hunger said yes. By the end of the meal, he had offered me a job working for him in another county. Part of me knew it was a bad idea, but my desperation didn’t know how to say no.

As you can imagine, he forced me into a sexual relationship with him. It went on for several years. It was full of coercion and violence. When I would try to leave he would stalk me, drug me, rape me and then claim he was saving me from someone else who had done all the bad stuff. Constant gaslighting. Oh, and he was a prominent member of a certain community I was living in by then with a good deal of power. One day I saw an opportunity for escape. I left everything I had, all my friends, all my belongings I had accumulated and just left. Moved countries. He could not tolerate my rejecting him. He found me, kidnap me, brutalized me for three days, forced me to act out his childhood rape, and then tried to kill me the way he had killed his childhood abuser once he grew up. I actually don’t know how to explain the fact that I am still alive. I am loathe to use the word “miracle” but I have no other explanation.

I was pretty shellshocked. After that I started reading Andrea Dworkin. And then moved on to many of the other great 2nd wave writers. I started to realize that there wasn’t something wrong with ME that caused men to treat me this way, there was something wrong with THEM.

I became very jaded. I started having lots of abusive sex with random men (the way some women do when you assume that all sex is abusive, but as long as you’re using them as much as they are using you, all’s fair). I was friends with a few high-end prostitutes and very nearly went down that road.

But I went with a friend who was a porn videographer to a particularly intense porn shoot once, and something changed inside me. Despite all my ‘sex-positivity’, something inside me was screaming THIS IS NOT OK. I saw the hatred for women. I could no longer have sex the way I had been.

Sometime later I began a phase of deep healing for myself and my traumas that included a few very powerful psychedelic medicine sessions. Things happened in those sessions that I can’t explain, but a presence that felt distinctly female started to remove so much of the self hatred I had been holding for being in a woman’s body. I connected to the deep grief of woman-kind for what has been done to us for millennia. I cried (I was not one to ever cry). I got really interested what it means to be a woman, really. I felt like I had to go back in time. I became fascinated in ancient Goddess worshipping cultures and read The Chalice and the Blade, When God was a Woman, The Once and Future Goddess, The Great Cosmic Mother etc. This started to transform my relationship to myself as woman. I started connecting to the Earth and my own Body. And, importantly, to other women.

It turns out, I love being a woman, and I love other women.

My introduction to radical feminism was through a now-taken-over-by TRA’s feminist book club (before that happened, the previous organizer was quietly a rad fem) and the reddit GC site. I had had a number of moments where trans-related stuff didn’t sit well with me, but I didn’t think too much of it. It was my searching for things about what happened Vancouver Rape Crisis center that led me to Gender Critical and made me officially peak. Reading GC, I could feel my body relax as I let go of all the cognitive dissonance I had been holding trying to believe TWAW.

TL;DL: A lifetime of abuse at the hands of men + Andrea Dworkin + Psychedelics

[–] [Deleted] 2 points (+2|-0)

damn that abuse killing revenge story is intense! i bet deep down you have always known there was nothing wrong with you and something off with them, or society at least. i know my early childhood was like that. i always just knew that i was being treated differently and objectified even at such a young age.

Load more (7 comments)