A Metaphor of Radicalism (also to be taken literally)

Please understand this text both literally and as a complicated metaphor. If anyone wants clarification or explanation of a layer or layers of nuance, do ask. I’m sure I’ll get around to it someday anyway, but in the meantime: what I wish could be the text of my Stop Porn Culture Conference speech on class radicals, radical feminists, radical feminism, class, and radicalism.

The third wave might be frightened of being seen as manhaters, but I’m not third wave. Men are shit. Money is shit. If you will side with men or money over yourself or other women, you are shit. At the very least, you are not an ally.

Any revolutionary movement that still thinks porn is okay, that human trafficking is acceptable, that abuse and use of women can go unnoticed, is not revolutionary, and if they succeed in revolt they can feel free to put me against the wall in the first round — because I’d rather die with some measure of dignity than live like that.

Because living like that is no different from living like this.

And if any revolutionary movement also still deems it acceptable to keep a class of women in service to other women, then they can go ahead, but they’d better not expect me to clean their fucking goddamned toilets.

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10 Responses to A Metaphor of Radicalism (also to be taken literally)

  1. jilla says:

    Virginia Woolf was repeatedly raped by her two half-brothers, and spent time in and out of mental institutions over that, and that abuse which tormented her throughout her life was likely the reason for her suicide.

    • joy says:

      Yes, I know. And I know that severe trauma can lead people to do erratic things and act in violent, erratic ways towards themselves and other people. I should know.

      But somehow, although I too have been repeatedly raped and spent time in mental institutions, I manage not to egregiously abuse “the help.” Mostly because my ethics find the thought of hiring “help” to be morally repugnant even if I had the resources or inclinations to do so, but still.

      The point of my article is not about Virginia Woolf, It is about radicalism, and about the fact that nonfeminist radicals and feminist nonradicals (many of which consider themselves radical feminists) miss many important points. Perhaps one of the points is treating other people fairly and well.

      And so yes, I suppose this is a part of it: being a woman, even a deeply traumatized one (although the state of being a woman at all is necessarily a state of trauma), does not excuse one from abusing others. Not even “the help” (not only because the having of should be a disgusting and repellent concept to begin with).

  2. Sargasso Sea says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you Jilla.

    Also, I’m inclined to agree with yours, too Joy! Thanks for the link to that particular blog. Have it bookmarked for coffee in the morning 🙂

  3. joy says:

    I don’t even treat waitresses poorly. I always greet and talk pleasantly to people who check me out of stores and bag my groceries (if I don’t go through the automated checkout and/or bag for myself). I once shocked the hell out of a maid when I was staying in a hotel (a gift from a friend) by talking with her, asking how her day was, and telling her I’d left tea if she wanted a cup while or after she cleaned the room.

    I’ve been a waitress, a cashier, a cook, and a maid, so I’d have to be inhuman not to empathize with these women — who are separated only from myself by a few choices and decisions, who might be having a shitty day, and who very possibly do not want to take your fucking order, swipe your goddamned groceries, make your dinner, or clean your house/do your laundry/pick up your mess.

    But even if I hadn’t been there, done that, myself, I’d like to hope I’d have enough empathy not to think it was okay to employ an entire “service class” of people to cater to my whims. Having “help” (whether a waitress, a maid, whatever) is tremendously convenient, sure, but they have their own lives and their own ambitions that no one else’s should trump.

    If we can understand that marriage is oppressive, that heterosexuality is oppressive, that trafficking is oppressive, that sweatshops and forced childbirth and sexual grooming and stripping and porn and media distortion are oppressive, then it should be easy to understand that having “a service class”, be it literal or metaphoric — and remember, this is all both literal and metaphoric — is oppressive.

  4. Sargasso Sea says:

    Cross post!

    And I also agree with the idea that having *help in* is not a revolutionary, forward-thinking act. I’d like it a ton better if we could just do for ourselves AND help other people out because it’s the right thing to do.

    That’s what’s so fabulous about some serious radfems, we do that.

  5. jilla says:

    Joy, you were posting on the thread at NIne’s when I first came back to the netz, about a couple months ago.

    Do you remember? Two posters, not sure who they are/were, attacked me most visciously. They did not know who I was, but they did know I was an old woman looking back over my life. All they saw was some fiction in their heads of a right wing? Xtian? woman who needed to be taught a lesson.

    There sure are women who don’t get it. I know.

  6. jilla says:

    SarsS I’ve been household help. It’s the pits, but I needed the money. Thank goodness I was past having to raise children then, but disabled enough I had trouble getting enough work to pay rent. I tried to approach it as an intellectual lesson as well as cleaning toilets. I had that luxury, because I self-educated all my life, including reading Room of One’s Own, which I saw as a place no male could enter and hurt me. I still barricade my door, at almost 69 years.

    My place hasn’t been vacuumed for over a year because that hurts me. There’s a university student down the block who put notices in my building that she will vacuum, clean ovens, dishes etc. for $25 an hour. I can’t afford her.

    But I KNOW she’d earn the money if I hired her. And I know she’s on to something better in her life. And I KNOW there are feminists who think other women will do their shit work. As much as I know, I got bit again, with almost five years of being the help, and no credit when the study came out.

    I’ve seen it here too, online, where some women are used by other rfs to build the rfs reputation.

    I better stop now.

  7. I agree with all of the above, Joy!

    You rarely see white women as house cleaners; it’s always black and brown folks. The only situations where I could see it being useful to hire somebody is if a person is elderly and/or disabled and truly needs the help. (The one exception to the “no white women” rule is a woman I knew with little formal education and severe OCD; she genuinely loved cleaning and said as much. In fact, she had to restrain herself from cleaning too much at home! But that’s a disorder.)

    I don’t think people can realize how much retail jobs, at least, big box retail, which is really all that is left, sucks, until they’ve actually experienced it. You’re forced to see other people as objects to sell too, and they see you as objects. If you don’t see a certain amount, you lose your job. Cashiers are ranked against one another for hours, i.e. survival money. It’s all so effin horrible….though I do realize there are people in a lot worse situations:

    http://www.blog.polarisproject.org/2011/06/07/tip-tuesday-food-industry/

    http://www.blog.polarisproject.org/2011/06/14/tip-tuesday-hospitality-industry/

    That’s all I got for now. Take care, Joy, and see you soon!

  8. FAB Libber aka Dave the Squirrel says:

    The servant class is a shitty concept because they are paid poorly and treated like crap. And mainly the servant class are women, particularly on the lower rungs. The historical and current situation is an extension of misogyny.

    There are people like Jilla – the elderly or disabled – who cannot manage to do domestic tasks for themselves.

    Jilla, I don’t know what your set-up is where you are, but are you able to get some sort of disability payment so that you can get home help in?

  9. jilla says:

    Yeh I agree about the servant class. (From personal experience as a nanny, and hired ‘minder’)

    Historically, around the time of the first WW, the servant class was walking out the door en masse. Even women were getting jobs in munitians factories, and although they were let go after the war, they never went back to servitude. Those who did domestic work were paid, although unions didn’t come in for WOMEN until about 50 years later.

    All but the most acutely ill seniors in my province have to hire at market rate. If I ask for any help with cost, I have to let social workers into my home and life, and my need has to be assessed by s’workers and authorized by a physician. Not gonna happen. I just lower my standards. I may have to hire for vacuuming at least, at market rate independent of cost help, at summer’s end, for two hours (minimum time they will come).

    I refuse to invite the government, and social workers in to my home or life. Once you start that when you are a senior, in our system, they find ways to coerce you into chronic care centres and drugging. Apartment owners can say they find you an insurance risk, and want you to move, for your own benefit of course, NOT theirs. 😦 It happened two years ago here, with a neighbour about 10 years older than me, who kept having diabetic crashes.

    By the way, as I’m sure Fab will concur, these seniors helps and centres, and invastions. are primarily for women, because the poor, elderly, senior is about 95 % female.

    On one of the forms I’ve seen for a level of housing I would qualify for, with my income, the doctor is asked “is patient compliant?”. Note, patient. Although it’s just subsidized senior apartments complexes, and if you need medical help consistently, they make you move to a care centre, where the predatory prescribing starts.

    But all that is a different topic/post. Thanks Joy for your original post, which is very women issue centred.

    Living while female.

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