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I used to be a liberal feminist. In fact, I didn't even know there was anything besides liberal feminism - which I knew as simply "feminism". Of course I believed that women have inherent value as people - I am a woman after all - and so of course I was a feminist!

I believed that sex work was empowering, should be legal, and was always a woman's choice. I watched pornography with my boyfriend, and enjoyed it.

I believed that women could be empowered by getting nearly naked on television, that they could feel liberated by wearing hijab.

I wore a full face of makeup and felt ashamed without it. I looked down on ugly women. I believed that captivating a man's interest by using my looks, was a form of power. I delighted in being objectified. I shaved every inch of my body.

I believed that TWAW, watched TW youtube channels and left comments along the lines of "you go girl". I aspired to be as "girly" as them and felt that they were more woman than me because they spent more time styling their hair or doing their nails. I watched Contrapoints and thought, "those TERFs sure sound like bad people."

I allowed men to tell me that my "vanilla" preferences showed that I was not "sex positive", and I believed they were right. I believed that I was "just frigid" for not wanting to be tied up and punched. I hoped I would someday shed my "hangups" and genuinely enjoy being spit on and choked. I blamed myself for the times I was sexually assaulted and harassed.

I called myself a "feminist, obviously" while living with a man, doing 100% of the cooking and cleaning, aspiring to be nothing more than a "trophy wife", part of a still life painting in the background of his fantastic life. I was so depressed I had to go on Lexapro.

That all - that was feminism to me. Until I realized it wasn't.

There were things that didn't sit right with me. Cracks in the dam. Things that didn't really make sense - but I blindly accepted - because I was a liberal, a left-winger, a good little feminist who goes along with what feminism is. I didn't know there was any other way.

I did ask questions. When Nicki Minaj's video "Anaconda" came out - I asked my "feminist" girlfriends - "is this really liberation?" But when they all said yes, I just stopped questioning it. It didn't look or feel empowering to me, but I thought I was just wrong.

I didn't understand how TW could be literally women but I thought it was just something I was personally missing and that someday I would get it. I had dozens of long conversations with family and friends on that topic, especially when "Caitlyn Jenner" emerged in the news. How can a man really be a woman? They're born with women's brains? I don't feel like a woman, but I am one? Hm, okay.

So, there were things that didn't sit right with me, but I went along with it anyway, because there was no alternative - that I knew of.

The gender critical dam was the first thing to burst for me - and that's a story in itself that I'll save for another essay. But I had that peak moment like many or most of us here did, which was an absolute revelation for me, where my thinking on that particular topic did a complete 180 over the course of about 3 days. A door opened in my life and I walked right through it. On the other side of the door was a place many of us landed, r/GenderCritical, where I felt my eyes open for the first time in my life.

Over the next year, the final year before it was banned, I read GC every single day. I had never had women in my life like that - wise women who were brave, bold and unafraid to say what was on their minds even if it didn't match the narrative that was being pushed literally everywhere else. They showed me a new way to be a feminist, they introduced me to radical feminism. It's something I'll be forever grateful for.

When I showed up at GC, I had just peaked on the T topic. But I still clung to those other beliefs - that SWIW, that a red lip was a symbol of power, that NAMALT. But when women there spoke on those topics, I listened. I sometimes discussed, but mostly I listened. I listened with an open mind, even on topics I thought I had made up my mind on. Even when it was challenging, instead of pushing back, I sat with the things these women said, I let them marinate.

The women of GC did this incredibly valuable work of opening other women's minds, but I really don't think it was work for them. These anonymous women were simply getting thoughts off their chests, processing source texts for their own benefit, ranting, sharing out of a love of sharing - and because they were doing it on a public forum, women like me benefited.

I ventured further than GC. I followed links, I read articles, I read books. I read Andrea Dworkin, I found so much power in her words, I read Sheila Jeffreys. I watched videos of second wave feminists and my jaws dropped at their courage. I watched documentaries on women's suffrage, I learned about first wave feminists, I read Mary Wollstonecraft. I read liberal feminist writing too and learned to critique it.

Gradually I shed all my old beliefs, every single one. And gradually I felt I had learned enough that I could start to contribute, that I could carry the flame and be one more voice to encourage other women to change their thinking too. Even if my voice was small, even if it touched just one other woman, perhaps she would tell another woman and so on. I could be a ripple on this pond, and with enough ripples we could create a wave. I started writing essays and making posts on GC, which was scary and intimidating and challenging, but also so incredibly gratifying to know that I was part of this incredible thing and I could see the power of my words and the impact they were having - that felt like real, true empowerment, and I had never known that before.

Radical feminism inspires me like nothing else. I will continue to learn from other women, to discuss, to read. I believe in women's true liberation. Andrea Dworkin said "I believe social change is possible, that's why I'm an activist." Those words give me hope.

This journey has been a journey of an open mind and receptiveness, things I am determined to never lose. I got here by listening to women. I'm not ashamed of where I came from, I'm proud of the woman I have become and I want to encourage other women as much as I can to challenge their thinking, to explore topics that make them uncomfortable. Because on the other side of discomfort is freedom. Open the door and discover liberation.

I used to be a liberal feminist. In fact, I didn't even know there was anything besides liberal feminism - which I knew as simply "feminism". Of course I believed that women have inherent value as people - I am a woman after all - and so of course I was a feminist! I believed that sex work was empowering, should be legal, and was always a woman's choice. I watched pornography with my boyfriend, and enjoyed it. I believed that women could be empowered by getting nearly naked on television, that they could feel liberated by wearing hijab. I wore a full face of makeup and felt ashamed without it. I looked down on ugly women. I believed that captivating a man's interest by using my looks, was a form of power. I delighted in being objectified. I shaved every inch of my body. I believed that TWAW, watched TW youtube channels and left comments along the lines of "you go girl". I aspired to be as "girly" as them and felt that they were more woman than me because they spent more time styling their hair or doing their nails. I watched Contrapoints and thought, "those TERFs sure sound like bad people." I allowed men to tell me that my "vanilla" preferences showed that I was not "sex positive", and I believed they were right. I believed that I was "just frigid" for not wanting to be tied up and punched. I hoped I would someday shed my "hangups" and genuinely enjoy being spit on and choked. I blamed myself for the times I was sexually assaulted and harassed. I called myself a "feminist, obviously" while living with a man, doing 100% of the cooking and cleaning, aspiring to be nothing more than a "trophy wife", part of a still life painting in the background of his fantastic life. I was so depressed I had to go on Lexapro. That all - that was feminism to me. Until I realized it wasn't. There were things that didn't sit right with me. Cracks in the dam. Things that didn't really make sense - but I blindly accepted - because I was a liberal, a left-winger, a good little feminist who goes along with what feminism is. I didn't know there was any other way. I did ask questions. When Nicki Minaj's video "Anaconda" came out - I asked my "feminist" girlfriends - "is this really liberation?" But when they all said yes, I just stopped questioning it. It didn't look or feel empowering to me, but I thought *I* was just wrong. I didn't understand how TW could be literally women but I thought it was just something *I* was personally missing and that someday I would get it. I had dozens of long conversations with family and friends on that topic, especially when "Caitlyn Jenner" emerged in the news. How can a man really be a woman? They're born with women's brains? I don't feel like a woman, but I am one? Hm, okay. So, there were things that didn't sit right with me, but I went along with it anyway, because there was no alternative - that I knew of. The gender critical dam was the first thing to burst for me - and that's a story in itself that I'll save for another essay. But I had that peak moment like many or most of us here did, which was an absolute revelation for me, where my thinking on that particular topic did a complete 180 over the course of about 3 days. A door opened in my life and I walked right through it. On the other side of the door was a place many of us landed, [r/GenderCritical](https://www.reddit.com/r/gendercritical), where I felt my eyes open for the first time in my life. Over the next year, the final year before it was banned, I read GC every single day. I had never had women in my life like that - wise women who were brave, bold and unafraid to say what was on their minds even if it didn't match the narrative that was being pushed literally everywhere else. They showed me a new way to be a feminist, they introduced me to radical feminism. It's something I'll be forever grateful for. When I showed up at GC, I had just peaked on the T topic. But I still clung to those other beliefs - that SWIW, that a red lip was a symbol of power, that NAMALT. But when women there spoke on those topics, I listened. I sometimes discussed, but mostly I listened. I listened with an open mind, even on topics I thought I had made up my mind on. Even when it was challenging, instead of pushing back, I sat with the things these women said, I let them marinate. The women of GC did this incredibly valuable work of opening other women's minds, but I really don't think it was work for them. These anonymous women were simply getting thoughts off their chests, processing source texts for their own benefit, ranting, sharing out of a love of sharing - and because they were doing it on a public forum, women like me benefited. I ventured further than GC. I followed links, I read articles, I read books. I read Andrea Dworkin, I found so much power in her words, I read Sheila Jeffreys. I watched videos of second wave feminists and my jaws dropped at their courage. I watched documentaries on women's suffrage, I learned about first wave feminists, I read Mary Wollstonecraft. I read liberal feminist writing too and learned to critique it. Gradually I shed all my old beliefs, every single one. And gradually I felt I had learned enough that I could start to contribute, that I could carry the flame and be one more voice to encourage other women to change their thinking too. Even if my voice was small, even if it touched just one other woman, perhaps she would tell another woman and so on. I could be a ripple on this pond, and with enough ripples we could create a wave. I started writing essays and making posts on GC, which was scary and intimidating and challenging, but also so incredibly gratifying to know that I was part of this incredible thing and I could see the power of my words and the impact they were having - that felt like real, true empowerment, and I had never known that before. Radical feminism inspires me like nothing else. I will continue to learn from other women, to discuss, to read. I believe in women's true liberation. Andrea Dworkin said "I believe social change is possible, that's why I'm an activist." Those words give me hope. This journey has been a journey of an open mind and receptiveness, things I am determined to never lose. I got here by listening to women. I'm not ashamed of where I came from, I'm proud of the woman I have become and I want to encourage other women as much as I can to challenge their thinking, to explore topics that make them uncomfortable. Because on the other side of discomfort is freedom. Open the door and discover liberation.

69 comments

[–] IrishTheFrenchie 61 points (+61|-0)

A door opened in my life and I walked right through it. On the other side of the door was a place many of us landed, r/GenderCritical, where I felt my eyes open for the first time in my life.

This is precisely why Reddit shut it down.

[–] ActualWendy 1 points (+1|-0)

They try to stop women talking in private. Because we talk. And then we touch.

[–] banjo 42 points (+42|-0) Edited

I believed that captivating a man's interest by using my looks, was a form of power.

This is one of the biggest myths I see men pushing all the time and they seemingly believe it.

Also I love this stuff:

I could be a ripple on this pond, and with enough ripples we could create a wave

[–] IrishTheFrenchie 23 points (+23|-0)

I was JUST thinking this morning how to explain to young women why this isn’t true. But couldn’t think of the words.

Because the man is just using you? Because it’s still for his benefit not yours?

Can someone more eloquent than me help me word this properly?

Thanks!

[–] banjo 19 points (+19|-0)

Power is too broad of a word for it. Power is about getting to do what you want. Being sexy is about how other people see you, what they want from you, what they would like to see you do. Being sexy may affect your relationships with people, may even provide you with unique opportunities (getting your choice of the most desirable men). But in a misogynistic society, being sexy is both a requirement for all women and a justification for abuse, so making an extra good show of it is dangerous in that men will see you as an extra fair target for abuse... and if you can't stop them from abusing you, what good is the very narrow "power" of turning them on?

[–] MonstrousRegiment 11 points (+11|-0)

What is power? If we're talking about the power to make your own life as good as it can be, in what way does it contribute to your good life if you groom yourself to rigorous external standards of beauty in order to "captivate" a man?

Supposing you somehow subjugate that man by your beauty (this myth is sold in films like The Blue Angel). How does this contribute to your best life and your best self?

[–] llkit 8 points (+8|-0)

Because its not beauty as defined by you, but as defined by the other. It's a shallow, surface form of beauty that's a performance for another.

[–] overandout 6 points (+7|-1)

It's because it is incorrect. It is a form of power that men hate so much that they have structured society to diminish it, hide it (hijab) or channel it into ways that men control like sex work.

[–] notyourfetish 15 points (+16|-1)

Yeah, this stuck out to me too.

I was looking at Memoirs of a Geisha tonight (don't know why, the movie kind of depresses me, but it was free on my subscription and I hadn't seen it in years so . . .) and I got to the part where Sayuri is taught how to make a man stop in his tracks with a coy glance. The geishas were acting like this was some kind of super power and that they had power over men.

Meanwhile, the entire film was about how they were objectified, dehumanized, and completely reliant on the whims of these gross males. They were completely at men's mercy the entire time, yet deluded themselves into thinking they had some "power" in their beauty.

Maybe that wasn't the case but it was how it came off while I was half-awake watching. I also read the book years ago and felt the book was pretty much saying the same thing . . . But of course, it was written by a male.

The entire notion is ridiculous. Men behave like dumb animals led around by their dicks, and most of them will fuck anything. Being proud that you have "power" over one with your beauty is like being proud that you trained a dog. Why? Practically any woman could do it.

[–] Boudicaea 10 points (+10|-0)

I honestly think it's a line sold to us so we will get distracted from what is really going on by competing with our fellow women for male attention. Like you never notice it if no one questions it and you're too focused on competing.

But you're right, any woman could get a man to have sex with her, you don't have to really do anything and they will almost always be interested. So who cares how you look?

[–] izzy314 4 points (+4|-0)

One of the author's primary sources wrote her own book, "Geisha of Gion", if you're interested. I haven't read it myself yet, but I plan to.

[–] [Deleted] 1 points (+1|-0) Edited

most of them will fuck anything.

that's why I seldom trust them. they'd check me out in my teenage years, i'd recall them checking me out in my childhood years, i'd recall them checking out morbidly obese women of 300 lbs. [no offense to any here, i just worked really hard to maintain my body most of my life], hearing about Mr. Hands and bestiality, etc. etc. and realized, we are nothing but holes to them [vag, butt, mouth]. that's why i love wearing the mask while driving. no more licking their lips and beeping at me

[–] RememberThis 3 points (+3|-0) Edited

It’s wrong because that suggests still thinking of power women can get as the power men recognise us. I don’t know if I wrote it clearly lol, but it’s only a tiny bit of ‘power’ in the framework of women’s roles under patriarchy, true empowerment would be to free ourselves from the ‘male gaze’ and expectations. Or better define by ourselves what is ‘empowering’

[–] littleowl12 31 points (+31|-0)

This is beautiful. It really is. And in a way nobody expects, radical feminism gives you peace of mind. Because it's the truth. You never have that nagging doubt, that anxiety that comes when something doesn't make sense.

[–] Alecto 11 points (+11|-0)

Radical feminism answered all those quiet questions I asked myself.

[–] KBash 3 points (+3|-0)

Now I just feel enraged all the time.

That’s just these days, though. I’ve been considering myself a radfem for around ten years, and have seen things take a sharp turn for the worse recently.

[–] notyourfetish 29 points (+29|-0)

Everything you said about GC is exactly why the TIMs shut it down. People were coming to the sub to find out if we were really that hateful, and instead they were peaking.

I don't think the point of r/GC was even to peak people. It was just a sub where women came to vent in the middle of the trans nonsense. At least, that's what I was doing when I was there. I just occasionally vented.

Good to know some libfems were peaked, then, i guess. Maybe Ovarit can achieve the same thing.

[–] KBash 9 points (+9|-0)

I agree. I spent several years there, and the space saved my life in one of its darkest and most difficult times. I also participated quite a bit, and had a number of women, mostly learner lurkers like OP, reach out to tell me that my discussions of processing sexual trauma really helped them, so I hope in some small way I made a contribution.

To the OP: I’m so glad you found us. Your piece was so moving, honest and brilliant, and honestly were I not such a coward (I need to be able to have a life and livelihood right now), I’d ask your permission to share it. And we all know which part of all that you wrote I’m afraid could ruin my life with a repost.

My hope is that we can start infiltrating the mainstream, find a way to become cool, and begin to shift the liberal discourse altogether. Feminists in other countries have managed it, and so can we!

I’m so glad you’re here! I was devastated at the loss when Gender Critical shut down. Hundreds of thousands of pages of original literature and detective work: such a vast collaboration. I always naively assumed (as I had essays, poetry etc in there) that of course GC would be safe. It was a constant topic of conversation, and the mods seemed so certain. It was such a violation to me to lose everything I’d written which was a record of my journey to survival when I had PTSD after rape. It was such a violation. It’s still hard to talk about, much less to get others to understand.

I’m so glad you found your way back to us, OP! ❤️

[–] bumpyjerboa 17 points (+18|-1) Edited

I appreciate this so much. You've explained it so powerfully. I'm proud to call you a sister.

Edit: Lol at whoever is downvoting us. Explain yourself or stay mad.

[–] NotCis 16 points (+16|-0)

I identify with this so strongly. I'm a curious person and I tend to get really into topics (like history or architecture) for short periods, then move on to something else. Not the case with radical feminism. The moment I made my entry into this world, first by accepting that most of the world's violence is committed by men, I became obsessed. I think about different subjects in radical feminism every single day. I read essays, books, articles, and posts from women here. It affected the career I chose. I haven't lost interest and it's been 8 years now. I think the difference this time is that I KNOW I have put the time in to understand the issues myself - unlike in my libfem days, I'm not just repeating things I've read or blindly accepting what is most convenient to the men in my life. The passion endures because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that radical feminism speaks to me and provides a framework for understanding how I can survive as a woman in this world without compromising myself.

[–] [Deleted] 1 points (+1|-0)

I can survive as a woman in this world without compromising myself.

Amen.

[–] feminist 16 points (+16|-0)

I don't understand why in the world this post has 5 downvotes. Seems like we have more trolls infiltrating lately. Either way, thank you for sharing.

[–] Chopu 15 points (+16|-1) Edited

 I want to encourage other women as much as I can to challenge their thinking, to explore topics that make them uncomfortable. Because on the other side of discomfort is freedom. Open the door and discover liberation.

A very good point. So much of the libfem rhetoric that we see everywhere is about doing what makes you happy in the short-term. And if something makes you feel bad then it cannot possibly be empowering. This kind of thinking might work in a hypothetical, utopian world. But, the reality is us women have been collectively groomed to continuously pander to men, many of whom just want to exploit us.

It is also important to take into account how even though we are told to choose whatever we want, the choices that benefit men are celebrated (totally just a coincidence) and the choices that challenge the status quo in any way lead to social ostracization and verbal abuse at the very least. Bravery doesn't just mean questioning other people. It also includes questioning ourselves and examining whether our values genuinely align with our actions. Nobody's perfect. But, we should always be open to learning and changing our minds. Thanks for this post.

[–] Alecto 9 points (+9|-0)

So much of the libfem rhetoric that we see everywhere is about doing what makes you happy in the short-term. And if something makes you feel bad then it cannot possibly be empowering.

Exercise also makes me feel bad until I've done it for a while. Then you start to like it. Then you need it.

[–] Chopu 7 points (+7|-0)

And similarly, eating an entire tub of Ben & Jerry's peanut butter double chocolate ice cream might give you a temporary dopamine rush while you are eating it, only to leave you with the worst stomach ache for the rest of the day lol.

[–] KBash 4 points (+4|-0)

And leaves you in the long run to die both early and embarrassingly: immobilely obese in front of the telly with a permanent milk mustache.

"even though we are told to choose whatever we want, the choices that benefit men are celebrated (totally just a coincidence) and the choices that challenge the status quo in any way lead to social ostracization and verbal abuse at the very least."

Nailed it!

[–] Boudicaea 15 points (+15|-0)

I feel like I could have written this myself. Even the timeline are about the same-- are you me? Lol

Thank you for taking the time to write this out. The fact is that for all the vitriol aimed at TERFs, a great many of us were good little libfems right up until we weren't. Every single libfem handmaiden out there chanting TWAW is a future TERF. One of these days, our sisters in feminism are going to wake up like we did. And the longer they are brainwashed, the angrier they are going to be when they snap out of it.

Our time is coming, sisters. 🧹

I really believe this, too. I try my best to be patient (sometimes a challenge) with our sisters who are still in the chrysalis stage, knowing that they have the potential to evolve in their thinking.

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