The Non-Radical History of a Radical Feminist

18 Feb

I’ve been thinking lately about how much I have changed in the last few years… and the last few months… and, hell, the last few weeks. The more I read, talk, and know, the more radical I become. I cannot wait until I’m in my 50s!

Opposition to prostitution and pornography was my intro into radical feminism. Learning more about what radical feminism was, it was all downhill after that, as you can see with this blog o’ mine.

But here’s a bit of how I used to be. Your little Lishra, several years ago (keep in mind that I’m in my early twenties now, with many of these things happening when I was like 15)…

*I bought several “strip-aerobics” videos, which helped with facilitating my eating disorder and general self-hatred I had at the time. Oh, Carmen Electra. So succinct in your ability to make a teenage girl feel like shit so that you may profit from the male gaze. (Still, I blame the patriarchy, though, not Carmen.)

*I’ve seen every episode of “Sex and the City” at least twice. Although… burgeoning radicalism: I stole every one of the DVDs from a particular big-box store. I was a crafty one. Also? Such a Carrie.

*[TW] In playing Grand Theft Auto (bad enough!), I sometimes had my character have sex with prostitutes and then killed them afterward, recouping my money. (What the hell was wrong with me? That’s really disturbing, and seems totally unreal to me now. This was about eight years ago, but still.) [/TW]

*I had a “burlesque is totes awesome” phase. This included buying Dita Von Teese’s book, watching several videos of old-timey burlesque skits, and thinking of unique acts that I could do one day when I was old enough to be in bars that local troupes perform in. I even made black sequin pasties at one point.

*This is a more recent one… a couple years ago, there was a period of two months in which I really, really wanted a corset. Not just any corset, but one that would let me “waist train”. Yes, the kind that you wear for 23+ hours a day, every day. Thank goodness for my partner being like, “No. That’s a really awful idea. What the hell? You do not need to do that. That’s so impractical. It will hurt you. Don’t do that!” It also helped that I never could scrape together the $90 for one.

*Also a more recent one: I thought I was super cool because I “got” Judith Butler. True facts: no one gets Judith Butler.

*I used to define my feminism almost solely on opposition to shitty media representations of women. That’s probably a common entry point to feminism for a lot of folks, but, damn, aren’t you glad I moved beyond that? Bonus: I had another blog before this one that was basically dedicated to “Gosh, this ad is awful! Look at how awful this ad is! OMG PHOTOSHOP!”

*I read Jezebel daily from about three months after it started until spring of last year. (The final nail in the coffin was last summer in which the site did a post on Maia’s week of guest blogging over at Feministe about child-free spaces and the shit.hit.the fan. as Jezebel folks rushed over there to make asses of themselves. Whooda guessed that Jezebel’s commentariate consists of a lot of USian white women with zero ability to understand that Other People Aren’t Always Like You?)

*I had a subscription to BUST magazine. ‘Nuff said.

So, as you can see, there is hope for our less enlightened sisters. In time, they too may be fighting the good (radical) fight with us. It’d be nice if they could hurry up though.

Final note to my former self: WTF was that?

Final note to my future self: I can’t wait to be you.

8 Responses to “The Non-Radical History of a Radical Feminist”

  1. Aileen Wuornos February 18, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Love this post, many of the accounts I read from others getting into/becoming rad-fems are fairly similar to mine, which just cements my beliefs more.

    *This is a more recent one… a couple years ago, there was a period of two months in which I really, really wanted a corset. Not just any corset, but one that would let me “waist train”. Yes, the kind that you wear for 23+ hours a day, every day. Thank goodness for my partner being like, “No. That’s a really awful idea. What the hell? You do not need to do that. That’s so impractical. It will hurt you. Don’t do that!” It also helped that I never could scrape together the $90 for one.

    Ah, I never did waist training but I did wear a corset that at my most eating disordered was 18-20″ which is FUCKED UP DUDE. I wish my partner at the time had been supportive and life-affirming as yours, instead, I got encouraged by all around me to wear one cos it was “hot” (oh, hindsight is 20/20) and a partner who would lace it as tightly as possible. Ew.

    I confess, I still play GTA on occasion, usually when I hit the piss though, which is never these days. But you know what? I notice a difference after playing games like GTA in my levels of aggression etc, yush, you guessed it, they increase!

    Thanks again for a brill post.

    • lishra February 18, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      Glad you like the post so much! Thank you.

      That’s pretty serious with the waist thing. Ugg. Bad times : ( I was actually playing GTA last night for the first time in a long time, which reminded me of my past awfulness with it. I wanted to test out a stat I heard about video games recently… just 90 seconds of game play with a “powerful avatar” can make the person have a boost in confidence or something. Maybe taking over opposition gang territories wasn’t “powerful” enough ‘cuz I didn’t notice anything different :p And I played for like 40 minutes. Nuthin’.

  2. Linda Radfem February 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Great idea for a post, Lishra. I’m too ashamed to list my own back catalogue of patriarchy compliance, which mostly occurred in the early to mid 80s, on my blog, but here are a few:

    *When I was your age I worked as a manager for Oz’s biggest lingerie chain AND I put up with a boss who insisted workers wear dresses or skirts, (his name is Brett Blundy and he still owns this chain, among other stores).

    *I also worked as a make-up artist.

    *I used to buy Playboy magazine.

    * I used to own a solid gold fake finger nail with a diamond lightening bolt on it.

    Looking back I was always pretty feminist and activist. At 14 I was writing angry responses to men in the newspapers who criticised feminism. I was a member of Greenpeace at 15 and a follower of the Nuclear Disarmament Party not long after. I attended various rallies regularly, from a young age. But somehow the femininity bug bit me at around the age of twenty and I had quite of few years of delusion about empowerfullment etc.

    I came to radical feminism through experiences of male violence (mine and those of other women that I knew).

    • lishra February 20, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      Thank you for sharing some bits of your past here, Linda.

      I was an activist during the time of a lot of these past things of mine. I was particularly involved in peace/anti-war activities in the run-up to the Iraq war and during its first few years. I was calling myself a feminist by that time as well.

  3. easilyriled February 20, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Lishra,
    I outweigh you by a couple of decades, and the times into which I came to feminism was much much different than these times. Like a different planet, in fact. I was, like you, young and angry and hungry for connection, excitement and meaning–but there was still a vibrant women’s liberation movement around me. There was misogyny and danger everywhere for women, men would yell at me on the street (lots of things, everything from ‘wanna sit on my face?’ to ‘Fucking faggot’! kind of confusing)–and I resisted joining the feminist groups some of my friends were involved with. But there was NOT pressure to remove every bit of body hair, or wear corsets or participate in pornography or embrace burlesque–we didn’t have GTA or pole-dancing classes–there were hints of what was to come, but I only became aware of them years later. Hindsight, like you say. I was an anti-feminist and anti-lesbian ass, true. But the pressure to conform to a completely degraded cartoon image of femininity was nowhere near as great. There was still an uprising of women then.

    There is now, too, but we’ve been pushed underground. We will rise. I’m really glad of you, and other young women who are thinking and writing and shaking off the patriarchy. There has always been a women’s liberation movement, the backlash is strong now, though.

    • lishra February 20, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      Thanks so much for your insights. I was coming of age right as the internet was becoming a more common thing for people to have at home, and even in the short time I’ve been alive, I can tell the differences from before and after that.

      I do kind of romanticize second wave feminism for that visibility and focus on actual liberation that the current strain just doesn’t have. It makes me feel better knowing that there are individuals out there who form this fabulous radical feminist blogosphere of ours, but I do wish there was a more physical presence of some sort. Still, I feel like this neo-radical feminism is the coming wave. I feel like this is just a cusp, not yet the critical mass. Here’s to hoping (and blogging and organizing and patriarchy smashing).

  4. noanodyne February 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Wow, your honesty and bravery are amazing, lishra, thank you for sharing that.

    I know I was lucky to come of age when there were still a lot of women’s bookstores and hence, places to find the classics, go to readings by out and angry feminists and other like events. And the reason I was lucky was because I had a lot of patriarchy-training to undo. I was an out dyke, but I still had bullshit ideas, including that there was no big deal about porn and SM. Over time I was radicalized by 2nd wave feminists who weren’t afraid to kick my ass in an argument (in the nicest possible way, of course 😉 ) because they wanted to teach us all. That was a time when you could actually go hear them talk or join a radical group that was talking about them.

    We went through a long dark time between then and now, and I’m so glad and excited for this wave of neo-radfem/women’s liberation. What all these radical feminist bloggers are doing reminds me exactly of those women who taught me back when. It’s a beautiful thing.

  5. fabflowers September 27, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    i think this new wave of feminism IS finally sticking, thanks to the internets! and who wouldda thought aye? that we could grab hold of one of the patriarchy’s tools of torture and use it to empower ourselves with women-ship (will not call it fellow-ship, dang that patriarchy again, lol).

    thanks for sharing here, Lishra, i too have some embarrassing past moments as well and i was re-introduced to rad-feminism by my sheer desire to seek out other women who believed in my way of thinking (i seriously had no idea rad-feminism was what i have believed in most of my life due to women’s “gender dysphoria” – you know what i mean i hope, that whole “oh, i can’t do what nigel’s doing because i’m a female… sad one”… that kind of thing. i was aware of that from the earliest age i can recall being a conscious, thinking human being – probably around age 4 at a guess.

    like a lot of young girls born at the very end of the second wave of the last rad-feminist progress – i was a 77 baby, in my 30s now – growing up in the ’80s with an extremely het-normative and paternalistic family and between that life and the patriarchy’s backlash against feminism with all that the ’80s fed us (oh ya) i was pretty much screwed. no pun intended there, though i just saw that!

    at some point i will blog about my experiences, i didn’t comment here to hijack your post, but like Linda Radfem here i also came back to rad-feminism quite strongly due to violence from males in my adulthood and the twanz cult – it had me firmly in it’s grip and i lost a nigel to it as well… i’m now realising this wasn’t such a loss. rofl. i digress… i think many of the neo- rad-fems rising up now would share similar sentiments and anger at having been conned yet again by the relentless man-chine that is patriarchy.

    thanks again for your blog, i’m enjoying the reads here and all the other rad-fems here in the blogosphere.

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