Dear Feminism: The End Of The Road

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Feminism

It’s been a long process this. I have looked back at my blogposts, and it seems as if most of what I have written to/about you over the past months, has been a break-up letter of sorts. It is not surprising I am finding it hard to let go of something I was born into, and that has accompanied me through my whole life. This is the longest relationship I have had, apart from with my parents.

I’ve shed tears. I’ve felt that horrible nausea in the pit of my stomach that comes with knowing something is over. But now it is time to move on.

We have had some good times you and me.

I remember when I was 12, stood at the side of the fence at Greenham Common, saying to my Mum, ‘we never linked round the whole of that?’ ‘We did’ she said. A chain of women about 12 miles long covering the circumference of an American nuclear base, in our beloved  country. It felt like something special. It was something special.

I stood next to you on countless demos; learned with you from the stories of the Miners’ Wives and the ANC women; I raided pro-life meetings and was expelled from them; I argued with my teachers about my wish to wear trousers like the boys; I invoked your name when talking about my assault by an ex partner; I wrote you and wrote you and wrote you for 80,000 words of a PHD. Up all night, reading and reading and reading. I got to know you like the life-long lover you were. Every contour of your body, every bruise, every flaw.

But I don’t think you know me. You never seemed to  listen when I’d come in from the pub, eyes blazing with a new theory, a different way of looking at our politics, an idea for how we could change things. You just sat there impassive, unmoveable. Why would you want to change things? Things suit you just as they are.

So here I am. Saying goodbye. It doesn’t even feel that difficult anymore.  I know my sisters and brothers have got my back beyond the confines of these walls. And more importantly I’ve got theirs.  I haven’t gone anywhere. I won’t give up the struggle. I think I will be a better and more useful person now. My energy was wasted fighting you all the time. I’ve got better things to do.

Here is the line I am drawing under this. ____________________

Goodbye Feminism. This is my stop. I’m getting off the bus.

Yours, in tired sisterhood,

Quiet Riot Girl

  1. JenniferRuth says:

    Feminism isn’t a system or a club or something that you are. It is simply a way of looking at the world. I think of it as a type of healthy skepticism.

    Of course, when using feminism to deconstruct the status quo people are gonna emerge with different results. Don’t let it get to you so much.

  2. Too late, baby. It got to me. I wish it were skeptical. The feminism I encounter is fucking fundamentalist and thoughtless. But I am getting over her now!

  3. JenniferRuth says:

    I understand but it is worth considering that other feminists may have the exact same impression of you!

    But listening to me probably isn’t very helpful since I think that entire world is fundamentally broken. Just wade through it in your own way and do what makes you happy baby!

  4. Thanks. I will try! I know what other feminists think of me they have no problem in telling me!

  5. Maddie says:

    I think this is very similar to how many women who sit on the intersections of more than one form of discrimination feel about “mainstream” feminism. I can totally relate to what you are expressing here… but I’m not quite ready to give up entirely yet because, well, I wouldn’t know where else to go. Feminism may not be a monolithic entity, or a club, but parts of it certainly act as if they are and close ranks against anyone who they percieve as beyond the bounds of acceptable dogma.

    I think that’s the problem really, dogma. Certainties are attractive and make for powerful slogans and campaigns, but they are not so good for learning and growth and inclusivity. All of which any living, vibrant movement also needs.

    There are plenty of women exploring feminism(s) outside the high profile media friendly “mainstream”, I’ve been having some joy finding them online at least 🙂

  6. Hey Quiet Riot Girl,

    Maybe you’re meeting the wrong kind of feminists?

    I’m a feminist. I believe in equality between men and women. I believe men and women can make equal contributions & that most men treat women fairly. But I want the men that don’t to change their behaviour. I want to see an end to domestic violence and rape. I want to see women being valued for their non paid caring roles as mothers and carers of elderly relatives. I want women in poorer countries to have the same educational opportunities I had & so much more…

    I want to debate the best way we get these things. Not to go for knee jerk ideologies.

    I can be a feminist without agreeing with everything other feminists say!

  7. Hi Virginia thanks for your comment!

    Unfortunately the dominant feminism in the UK at least at the moment is full of knee jerk ideologies and dogma. I have argued with them till I am blue in the face. I won’t stop campaigning on issues I think are important, I just don’t want to associate with the ‘feminist’ ‘ideology’ anymore.

  8. arctic_jay says:

    I’m curious, since you’re skeptical about the feminist concept of patriarchy, as to what you felt was valuable about feminism in the first place. An ideology is a theory about how things work that people center their identity on. There’s no branch of feminism I can think of that doesn’t use the concept of patriarchy to explain how society works. You say that feminism’s current dogmatism prevents you from identifying feminist; what’s there of use to begin with?

  9. Hi Jay
    as you can see from this post I have been a feminist all my life. I was not born, skeptical about the concept of ‘patriarchy’! I learned my feminism from my Mum, experience, theory books etc. I have had a changing ‘relationship’ with feminism and ‘patriarchy’ over the years.

    So part of my disillusionment with feminism has been a growing disillusionment on feminism’s reliance on a very simplistic view of the concept of ‘patriarchy’ as a structure of power relations.

    I might write more on this, when I am over the initial stages of ‘grief’ for my lost lover!

  10. Maddie says:

    Are you familiar with the kyriarchy concept?

  11. No! It sounds like Kryptonite!

  12. Maddie says:

    “Kyriarchy – a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression. ”

    A fair number of feminists prefer to talk about kyriarchy rather than patriarchy alone.

  13. Thanks Maddie. I might read that one day. Today, this break-up letter stands, and my interest in feminist theory is only the interest you have in the memory of your ex-lovers face, that you want to both hold in your hands and kiss and also scratch and punch. I have decided that leaving it alone is the safest option for us all!

  14. arctic_jay says:

    Don’t fall for the “kyriarchy” ploy. First of all, it’s a really stupid neologism. A “master” can be defined as “someone who rules over something” so the term actually means “ruler rule.” It has no explanatory power and shows a careless redundancy only a feminist is capable of. Also, feminist who embrace kyriarchy still believe in patriarchy. They still believe that being male is a privileged category over women. All they’re allowing for is the possibility that a poor, black homeless man may be more oppressed than Paris Hilton. Wow, how revolutionary.

    I realized that you probably started out accepting feminist theories on patriarchy, I was just wondering, since you seem to continue to admire some feminists, if anything else drew you to feminism beyond the reductive male oppressor/female victim dichotomy.

  15. Jay. This is my break-up letter. I am going to have to break up with my long-term lover on my own terms! I am not breaking up with every single person who has an opinion on feminism I’d be here for the rest of my life! Can you just be happy for five minutes that I agree with you that ‘patriarchy’ is bullshit and male oppressor/female victim dichotomy is redundant? Thanks. Now I am going to get drunk and listen to Dolly Parton records. x

  16. harpymarx says:

    I kinda understand why you have come to this conclusion. The feminist movement, for me, is about highlighting, campaigning, challenging and fighting against patriarchal norms that exist in a capitalist society, but it all seems stuck in the same repetitive groove esp. on issues such as sex work and porn.

    Being a feminist is part of my political make-up, it is all about solidarity, unity and making alliances that will create a strong vibrant and dynamic movement that is open to debate and differences of opinion.

    But…..Debates, fundamentally, need counter-balanced arguments which are unfortunately left out of the political equation and therefore if you don’t hold a certain line on sex work and pornography then you are marginalised, silenced and no platformed. It is about controlling the debate which stymies debate and openness.

    I admit my politics are contrary to these given prescriptives as I am anti-censorship of porn (certainly oppose state censorship) and support the decriminisation and unionisation of sex workers.

    Those are my views and I believe I have every right to argue them within the feminist movement and everyone who opposes me has every right to argue against me. That’s debate, that’s democracy.

    And certainly after attending the Reclaim the Night demo (first one for 20-odd years) and being shouted at for marching with sex workers…. I became utterly disillusioned and demoralised and marginalised…

    • thanks harpymarx If I’d been shouted at for marching with sex workers on a reclaim the night demo (I mean, who has to work and walk through cities at night the most eh? FFS) I might have punched somebody. My break with feminism is for the best-for everyone!!

  17. arctic_jay says:

    I honestly didn’t mean to rain on your parade. Just thought I’d warn you about a possible rabbit hole.

    I’m glad you’ve managed to progress beyond a group that no longer makes you feel welcome. I’ve cast off once-reliable, but stifling mindsets as well. It’s a relief and energizing, like a new beginning.

  18. it is a new beginning, thanks arctic_jay! I feel like a new woman! 😉

  19. Kimboosan says:

    I respect your right to do this, and I respect that mainstream feminists in the UK have driven you to it, but I the only way I can view this action is as an epic flounce of “well if you don’t like me than I don’t need you! Neener!” My honest opinion is that “leaving” feminism abandons it to the people who ruined it for you. That isn’t a triumph, that is abdication.

    But grandstanding about how stupid/wrong/evil feminists are means you are saying those things about me, concerning issues I don’t support or agree with. It may feel empowering to bad mouth your ex, but please try to at least point your venom in the right direction. I AM A FEMINIST. So unless you’ve also divorced everyone who agrees with you, I respectfully ask that you keep your accusations directed towards the *specific* group you mean, such as “mainstream UK feminists.” You can shorten their name to “femcunts” for all I care but don’t bucket me in with them, please.

    Quite frankly, if you don’t want to be labeled a feminist, I don’t have any problems with that as your choice, and I will respectfully not refer to you as such, per your wishes. But I sincerely don’t feel like other progressive, sex-positive feminists should be thrown out with the bathwater, which is the impression I’m getting here. You’ve divorced feminism because it is BAD BAD BAD and yet I’m a feminist so what kind of impact did you expect this to have?

  20. Hi kim
    thanks for your comment. I don’t think there is anything triumphant about this letter or my decision. Ive felt shit for months about my attempts to continue interacting with ‘feminist orthodoxy’ yes in the UK. but i suspect my experience would be the same in the states.

    Audacia Ray, an amazing campaigner on sex workers rights says she has a break up letter to feminism in her drafts folders on her blog too. Ok she hasnt posted hers-yet. Maybe because she is more sensitive than I have appeared to some of the issues you mention. And she doesnt want to alienate the people she tirelessly supports.

    I don’t either. But a lot of my energy was going towards fighting the establishment of feminism, and not supporting the people who need my feminist beliefs and energy. Like I say in the letter, I am not going anywhere. I still support all the people I thought I could support via ‘feminism’.

    To me, now, working without that label is more productive and more freeing in terms of trying to make sense of how to combat inequality.

    I am more motivated to be involved with campaigns now, that support sex workers and sexual expression and women’s sexual pleasure and freedom. And men’s. And transgender people and gender non-conforming people.

    This blog is unusual in that it is very personal but it is also polemic in places. This conversation about feminism makes those two aspects collide and intertwine in a complex way. As you can see I have been a feminist all my life. So this is not just an overblown statement. Its an account of something thats happened to me thats affected me a lot, which I use my blog to talk about.

    But I can see in terms of my attempts to rally people round certain beliefs and campaigns this could seem a bit of a rejection of those. But it isnt at all. Its working through something I need to work through. If you see what I mean?

    Thanks for bothering to write here. You have been very inspiring to me. And made me think about things differently.

    Yours in sisterhood


  21. not the same in the states, but comparable… probably. I am not sure of course!

  22. lissy says:

    Dammit! Why do you keep having interesting conversations that I can’t respond to in a pithy manner! I will try though!

    I declared on a few ocassions that I was ‘quitting feminism’ then every time some dickhead misogynist came along and reminded me that even if I’m pissed off at some feminists and think some strands of feminist theory and thought are quite frankly fucking stupid (or perhaps stupid about fucking…) that I am still a feminist… or am likely to be labelled one as soon as I open my mouth anyway…

    Hence my feminism is not your feminism and that’s okay, yes I know its hippy fairy but I figure I can’t be worried about other people’s version of feminism… I’m too busy living mine…

  23. i know what you are saying Lissy.
    But I have made attempts to engage with ‘dominant’ ‘mainstream’ feminism in the UK, partly because it seeks to curtail my rights to live as a feminist as I want to. It has lobbied for legislation criminalising and restricting sex workers, and has supported legislation making extreme pornography illegal. It promotes the male/female binary and the myth of universal ‘women’s oppression at the hands of ‘men’. I find a lot of feminist discourse utterly misogynist in many ways. I challenge that as I challenge any forms of sexism including cissexism/transphobia.

    And when I have challenged it I have been ostracised. So, here I am. Still your sister! But not so happy with this ‘feminist’ label, for what it might say about who I am supposed to be aligned with.

  24. Mark says:

    Leaving a relationship that has lasted as long as yours with the sisterhood takes a lot of guts, QRG. Even when it’s abusive and not much fun any more.

    After all, feminism may have been a bitch – but at least it was your bitch.

    It’s their loss, though. If feminism can’t appreciate and accomodate and engage with someone like you – such patience! such thoughtuflness! such wit! – then it’s going to be the lonely one.

    Welcome to the world of the terminally non-aligned. It’s getting quite crowded out here.

  25. Thank -you Mark. That is much appreciated coming from you. It does feel a little strange, detaching myself from such a life-long companion. But so far, je ne regrette rien…

  26. Theresa says:

    I sometimes feel this about Queer – the in fighting, , the partisanship, the petty disputes, the ‘you’re not queer enough’ rhetoric. But the feminism you believe in hasn’t gone away jbecause some people don’t agree with you. And you probably couldn’t NOT be a feminist no matter how hard you try! Keep your chin up love – there are those of us out there who still believe feminism shouldn’t be proscriptive and fundamentalist and that each person has their own brand of feminism, just like try have their own identity.

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