This is an open letter about men who claim to be feminist and to the women who believe them. This letter is directed at women who — without any analysis or criteria — believe men who claim to be feminist. This letter is not directed at anybody else, so please ensure that you are indeed a member of the intended audience before replying. This letter has been written with the cooperation of 28 radical feminists, all of whom should be familiar to those who frequent radical feminist spaces. We are rather serious today, about a rather serious harm being committed with impunity.
Please keep in mind that it is not our wish to alienate any person who might one day become a genuine supporter of women’s liberation, and while this set of harmful behaviors has been named after one man who exudes these particular qualities in abundance, this letter is only intended to help all men (and the women who nurture them) become the helpful allies whom you claim to be. (Not that we even need your help, remember paternalism is sexist too)
First, you need to know why we have a valid reason for being concerned about the behavior of self-identified feminist men within feminist spaces, and our answer is simple: We have identified the subtle mechanisms utilized by pro-feminist men to “divide and conquer”, to erase the commonality from all women within feminist spaces and whose cumulative effect results in a gross marginalization of the radical feminist position. Nor are we are the only women to notice a problem. Megan Milanese brilliantly describes most of the tactics here — yet that list does not go far enough to analyze the extent of the problem.
So why should an erasure of the commonality inherent to all women matter to anyone besides radical feminists? Lucky Nickel makes the relevant connection for us:
Self-naming and self-identified labels mean nothing. There must be substance to the label they identify with and substance to who they claim to be. Otherwise folks can insist on calling a mouse a giraffe or claim rape is really love.
What I do think important to note is that liberals, lesbian separatists and radical feminists are all flying the radfem flag these days. The problem being, they are 3 separate and distinct political groups and ideologies, 2 of whom are inappropriately waving the radfem flag. It can get a bit tricky tho with lesbian separatists as radical feminists can also be lesbian separatists. But not all lesbians are radfems and not all radfems are lesbian separatists, or even lesbian for that matter. But in Julian Real’s case, that would be irrelevant. The dude is not a lesbian or radical feminist.
What the dude is, is liberal. And what he is attempting to do is appropriate the radical feminist label in order to inject liberal ideology. Equality politics are liberal politics, not radical feminist politics. Radical feminists seek liberation from men and their system, not equality. Liberals focus on differences between women. Radical feminists focus on the commonality of women. Needless to say, these 2 different ideologies conflict and clash. Which delights men like Julian Real to no end. Cuz if he keeps liberal women pitted against radical feminist women, it keeps women from unifying, which in turn keeps the heat off of pricks like him and men in general. Slick, no?
In talking to each other privately, we have decided to collectively communicate the following message regarding Julian Real, Hugo Schwyzer, and other men like them who claim to be feminist allies. These men do not speak for women as well as we can speak for ourselves and we ask that you give radical feminist bloggers the respect of reading our words, joining the discussion in comments on our blogs, and contributing to our own community rather than giving energy to men like Julian & Hugo who seek to divide us on points which all feminists have in common. Men exhibiting these behaviors have inserted themselves into discussions among women when their participation was insidiously harmful in nature, and we ask that you not support that behavior nor make excuses for it.
* I also have to add that Julian Real claims to be an ally to “crazy” people. I have been open about having PTSD and am also a woman much younger than Julian Real. When I met him in person this past year I had no idea he would be so awful as to gaslight me about us having met when we returned to our internet personas. He put me in the situation of knowing that I, because of my “mental health” problems and young age was less credible than he in terms of complaining about his abusive sexist treatment of me. I was very upset and could only confide in a small number of people about what had happened. I feel he was putting me in a spot of separating me from other women whom focus on race and sex issues (of interest to me as I’ve only passed as white as an adult outside of the context of my upbringing which was ridden with racist-sexist discrimination from government institutions). I luckily found more women complaining of his sexist behavior and realized I was not alone. I thank all the other women participating in this open letter for the strength it has given me. This is what sisterhood can do for women, and men like Julian fear the hell out of it.