One of these things is not like the others

Biological essentialism is not gender essentialism and it is not biological determinism.

Or in plain speak – Believing that there are innate characteristics to both sexes is not the belief that the sexes are naturally inclined towards carrying out different roles in society and that one sex is therefore destined to dominate or be ruled by the other.

Yet when so many women hear talk about the fact that there is something about men which makes them act differently than women, something that exists outside of human social constructs altogether they immediately take up the charge of “gender essentialism” or “biological determinism”.  Now what “essentialist” radical feminist has ever in any way made the argument that men are destined to rule women?  Or that their system of patriarchy is natural?

These things don’t naturally lead into one another.

Most female animals organize their societies around females and their children.  The male animals are generally shoved to the periphery.  They are far less in number because they are not cared for by the female society (and you can sure as shit guess that the males aren’t taking care of each other).  The males that are on the edge interact with females for breeding purposes and in some cases act as a deterrent for other males of the species to come around.  The reason for this is that across the animal kingdom males are generally violent and destructive.  However there is no patriarchy among these animals.  They live in what is a female and child collective.  It is my belief as an “essentialist” that this is the natural order of things.  That patriarchy has taken men from the outskirts of society and thrust them into the center.  Turning the natural order of things on it’s head.

It makes sense that if males are inherently violent and destructive that patriarchy is therefore unnatural as they cannot be trusted to organize a decent society such is their lust for blood and destruction.

This does not mean I think women are immune to negative behavior, that they are incapable of horror.  But I seriously doubt any of the atrocities we as a species have witnessed throughout history would have happened if women were in the driver’s seat.

This also doesn’t mean I think men can’t bake cookies or sew, or like makeup and pink.  Confusing a biological understanding of male violence with a belief in the oppressive gender roles that have been thrust upon women since the dawn of history is just lazy thinking.  Confusing it with a belief that men are therefore naturally meant to rule over us is just absurd.

So much of women’s reality is hidden in plain sight.  We do not see the things that are right in front of us.  The distortions patriarchy levels have women chasing our metaphorical tails.  It is much easier to not see what is plain.  It is much easier to project humanity where there is none.  Project emotion where there is none.  This is how men are able so effectively to mindfuck women.  They can tell us to our faces (and often do) what they know they inherently are.  What they are capable of and we will argue with them until we are blue in the face that they are WRONG and that they’re really like us deep down.  They can openly treat their pursuit of women to fuck as sport and women will tell themselves that is not what is happening.  We have to, have to realize that our minds are not our own, that they’ve been accustomed to a lifetime of denying their own realities.

Radical Feminism requires that pursuit of women’s truth, women’s reality be primary.  As others have written before me, it requires us to follow our thoughts, no matter how scary, to their natural conclusions.

When I was a Marxist Feminist, a few years back I had this tendency to argue everything.  I had to be right.  I would argue with men about how they needed to change, how they were capable of so much more, how they denigrated themselves by being sexist.  I would have these blocks.  Like I wanted to go further but couldn’t.  Like I knew what I was arguing for was just bullshit.  But it was hard to let go of because of my own ego.  I had identity wrapped up in “not being like that”.  Meaning I wasn’t fucking crazy.  I was “reasonable”.  Basically I wanted men to validate that my feminist cause was just.  It took years to figure out that I didn’t need to argue anymore.  My cause needs no justification.  My boundaries need no justification.  My politics need no justification.  They simply are.  Real.  Elemental.


10 responses to “One of these things is not like the others

  1. Thanks for writing this Terri.

    “Radical Feminism requires that pursuit of women’s truth, women’s reality be primary. As others have written before me, it requires us to follow our thoughts, no matter how scary, to their natural conclusions.”

    So so so true. Please keep writing the truth.

  2. Reblogged this on Sonoran Dreamer and commented:
    “Radical Feminism requires that pursuit of women’s truth, women’s reality be primary. As others have written before me, it requires us to follow our thoughts, no matter how scary, to their natural conclusions.”

  3. Reblogged this on Female Biology Matters and commented:
    Real talk.

  4. ‘It is my belief as an “essentialist” that this is the natural order of things. That patriarchy has taken men from the outskirts of society and thrust them into the center.’

    Interesting. Thank you.

    If it’s true that, as with many animals, humans also once organized society around females and children, with a smaller population of males living on the periphery, wouldn’t it be possible that males would’ve also formed a type of society, a sub-culture, of their own? I haven’t read any feminist texts that explore how this might have been, but I can imagine, vaguely, two mostly separate, yet loosely connected social spheres. Connected, naturally–but in a limited, formal way–for the purposes and reproduction and for perhaps resource-sharing to ensure the survival of offspring? I don’t know. In this scenario, what type of life conditions for males would compel them toward the centre of female society, where they would use their (natural?) propensity toward violence to take over, and to replace a co-operative society with one based on domination?

    There are probably many possibilities–natural disasters, famines, diseases, etc. Sorry if this is a little messy, and too under-informed about feminist essentialist thought, but recent blog posts like yours, which question the total social construction theory, have got me engaging in thought-experiements. Not original ones, I’m sure! For instance, I easily imagine a society that is based on homo-sociality and homo-sexuality, for both males and females, with heterosexuality existing as a minority–a complete reversal of what we’ve had for thousands of years, and which has become, or always was, unsustainable. With homosexual social structures, breeding would be kept down to manageable levels, helping to ensure the safety and health of individual women and the group as a whole. There’s no reason to think that females didn’t use their ovulation and menstruation to figure out reproduction, and that they had ALWAYS known that too much breeding is a horror show, and so banded together–mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, etc–to protect one another from males. Always knew, that is, until that knowledge was violently erased or submerged.

    I agree with you that so much of women’s reality is hidden in plain sight, and that we project good will onto the men, believing that we need their good will for our own survival. After all, part of the enduring nature of patriarchy is not just its brute strength, but the confusing variability of male violence. With men, a woman never knows if she’s dealing with a sociopath or with a more-or-less harmless male or something in-between. Evaluating men on a case-by-case basis, instead of as a class, is grand scale gas lighting from without and from within. And, for the most part, we don’t turn to each other for support and intelligence. All men benefit from our perpetual state of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty, but their individual, outward behaviour falls along a broad continuum of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological violence. We, women, hold on to theories of social construction, and assume the best of their potential for humanity–the blameless boy-child at the core–while making up excuses for the worst of them, including the mental illness excuse. As if actual, organic mental illness were incompatible with misogynistic violence.

    In fact, we should be assuming the worst, we should be head-on viewing men as a whole, and creating solutions for ourselves from that vantage point. Essentialists or not, this approach–beginning with an assumption of widespread male sociopathy–just makes more survival sense. BUt, of course, we want to get beyond survival, and discover how to eliminate or reduce, as much as possible, the miseries we’ve become accustomed to–that lack of abundance, peace and contentment that, in patriarchy, is called “just life.”

  5. Another great post, and comments too.

    As I move forward toward the end of my thoughts, I too face a lot of fear, uncertainty, and sadness. However, I am re-building myself from the ground up. I give myself permission not to regret any of the waste and harmfulness that occurred before I could see what the reality is. I have been separating as an individual for some time and with each success in sliding out from under the next attempt to control me, I get stronger.

    I look to the future, and I look at the gaps I am also beginning to see in the false reality around us. These are numerous opportunities around us, if we can see them clearly and accurately weigh their use to us. For instance, technology, which is set up for the male agenda, currently allows developed-country women (at least nominally and legally) to buy male sperm and reproduce without named men in our lives, to control whether or not we will give birth, to make money and keep it to ourselves, to buy property, and to move around in cars and on planes.

    I can’t help writing the above sentence without reflecting immediately on all the legal and social obstacles of women trying to do such things elsewhere in the world, and the perhaps more subtle obstacles women in developed countries face too. One great obstacle we can begin to overcome is not even seeing this potential power to control our lives, and taking that power; in the first place. We are not supposed to see these “gaps” and yes, there is an array of resistances ready to be hauled over to fill in each “gap” should patriarchy figure out what we are doing.

    But if we are careful and agile, we could encourage that Elephant society you are talking about, Terri. I agree with you that that is an alternative model that would have potentially a curative impact on male violence against women. Thinking a little further, there would still be a need to protect the extended elephant family from rogues, and to deal our boys as they become men. Elephant society has found non-violent ways to get along; the only violence I know of is rogue males fighting each other, which doesn’t impact female elephants because they are not in physical proximity as we are, and self-defense against humans.

    Like Morag, just doing some thought-experiments. Morag, you ask why human males would have moved into the center of the “elephant” female-centered family in the cloudy past. I would speculate that it began with trans elephants insisting they were not rogues…just kidding!

  6. Sorry about the typos…”deal with our boys”…”against humans and large predators”…

  7. I agree with your opening premise: ‘Biological essentialism is not gender essentialism and it is not biological determinism’.

    During childbearing years I had a healthy, functioning uterus but I chose not to bear children; my biology was not my destiny.

    I like too, your written inclusion of us as an animal species on this beautiful Earth – a reality I feel that is too often forgotten or ignored in discussion.

    Males on the periphery makes me think of Linda Shear’s spoken (not by her) introductory story to the ‘Well Song’. I still have it on vinyl and I think I’ll go listen to it. Thanks for the informative blog.

    • Ahhh, OldBattleAxe, I had Linda Shear’s vinyl, too. Used to listen to that song again and again. Heard her at Michigan, too. ♥

  8. Pingback: THE PARASITIZING AND GUTTING OF RADICAL FEMINISM | Bev Jo — Radical Lesbian Feminist writing

  9. Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
    Love this..just get to the point and dont let men distort or interfere. Put your whole energy into womenwithout male distractions or lies. Put women first NO MATTER WHAT!!!

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