peak radfem

i launched UnMinding with the intention of showing people the personal side of cult recovery. what it feels like, the internal struggle, the embarrassing thought processes.
so i’m going to describe to you, what happened a few minutes ago:

i reactivated my “radfem” facebook account. the one where i’m known as Radical Feminist Alicen Grey, and 90% of my “friends” are such merely because we shared an ideology. i never knew these people. they never knew me.

14697904421_600cd23749_onot even a few minutes into scrolling down that newsfeed, it began:  stomach, twisting. hands, shaking. anxiety creeping to life under my skin. a vague sense that i was being tested, and judged. i scrolled past familiar names, and with each one, the dread intensified. even after taking a break from RadFemLand, the associations i have with the group must have been too strong to forget completely.

and to really hammer the anxiety home: an ex-friend in the community (who had started off as a fan of my work) had written a status that was clearly about me, giving her (exaggerated) side of what had transpired between us. in the comments, she was given the utmost sympathy, and a few others passed swift judgment on this (fabricated) culprit she described.

i felt powerless to the situation. because it’s happened so many times before:

  • being put on a pedestal by the Pentecostal church – and then, demonized for asking questions.
  • being loved and adored by my one-on-one cult leader – and then cut off, brutally, over a disagreement.
  • being hailed as a hero to the animals in the vegan world – and then, ostracized from every animal rights organization in New York City for calling the vegan movement out on its racism/sexism/etc.
  • being celebrated as a trans ally — and then, called a murderer for refusing to blindly accept transgender ideology.

and now, here we are again. i was Radical Feminist Alicen Grey. until i left for a little bit to figure shit out, and a power-obsessed opportunist saw it as a chance to turn people against me.

as much as that stings, there’s a lesson here: ideology-based friends will turn on you in an instant, if it serves them to do so by improving their reputation with the group, giving them more followers, etc. you are theirs to be used, and discarded. (never forget that, cj.)

but even if no one’s hearing me, here’s my side of things.


so why did i distance myself from RadFemLand?6201277661_63c73cfa70_b

well, before i can tell you that, i need to tell you why i got involved to begin with:

i always cared about women’s issues, and craved a community that shared my passion. but the only feminism i had access to was of the Tumblr variety. so i had a lot of questions, for which nobody could provide adequate answers. questions about the porn industry’s abuse of women. about BDSM. about “sex work”. about transgenderism. every question was met with the thought-stopping acronyms TERF and SWERF, or accusations of “slut shaming” and being a “white feminist” (i’m a woman of color, just, FYI). as with all my past cults, i learned to keep my questions a secret.

until one day, i stumbled across a radical-leaning article. which led me to read another one. and another one. the floodgates opened. FINALLY, i was allowed to ask questions! i was allowed to critique sex work and transgenderism! i felt safe, and validated, and desperate to get involved.

the problem? – i had heard people call radical feminism a cult. as a cult survivor, that was not an allegation i could take lightly.

however, i’m a smart cult survivor. i know how cults work. so i told myself: just stay away from the more extreme sides of the community, like the political lesbians and the separatists, and you’ll be fine.

i believed that being well-educated about cultism and thought reform would protect me from being sucked into the hivemind. i believed information and critical thought alone would be enough of a buffer between myself and the extremists of the ideology.

it is with great shame and humility that i say this now: i was wrong.

 

it was so beautiful at first.

tumblr_m33yrexq7s1rt7p5lo1_1280after writing my first few radical feminist articles, i was flooded with friend requests. some people wanted to meet me in person. i took up the invites. many healing conversations took place. us, women, discussing shared traumas, shared fears, shared visions for a better future. my social life was starting to look promising. i was also inspired to take up self-defense (for political reasons), which improved my confidence.

as the months progressed, things got a bit more intense. i was getting fan mail. i was invited to speak at a radical feminist event in France. France! all expenses paid! and high-profile activists wanted to know who i was, were inviting me to coffee, were asking to read articles i was drafting. that they wanted to be associated with me, was incredibly flattering. seductive, even…

getting involved in radical feminism quenched all the burning questions i’d carried over from liberal feminism. it was the first political movement i’d ever encountered (still the only one, actually) that acknowledged male pattern violence. i felt free to express my deep fear of men, my dissatisfaction with sex, my resentment of gender roles. in that, it was liberating.

so when i witnessed older feminists encouraging younger feminists to die for the cause (a huge red flag) i excused it.

but then the next red flag reared its head: a radfem spitefully using slurs against transgender people.

flag after flag after flag. it kept going.

i have actually heard real-live radfems 116017204_3a475bc6a1_osay that they do not believe women are capable of raping men. i have been exposed to images of horrifically mutilated penises, against my will, by revenge-driven separatists. i have also seen radfems excuse women who abuse men and children, because “they learned it from patriarchy” (meaning, men were still somehow to blame for women’s abusive behaviors. lord have mercy.) when my non-radfem friends dared to enter a discussion, they’d be shut down with accusations of “mansplaining,” “gaslighting” and not caring about women. the amount of casual emotional manipulation was unreal. and there were certain radfems who would go as far as to accuse you of being an “infiltrator” or “government spy” if you associated with people they didn’t like.

i know, i know. “not all radfems are like that!” but every group says that, in an attempt to disown the ones who make them look bad. which got me thinking: to what degree are groups responsible for the behavior of their extremists? when i was a vegan, was i responsible for the militant vegans, by virtue of shared core beliefs? when i was a Pentecostal, was i responsible for my pastor’s anti-gay rants?
whether the whole group shares blame for the behavior of their extremist minorities, is a question that’s been asked since forever. and nobody seems to have satisfactorily answered it yet.
so i can’t say “this is how radical feminists generally are,” but i can say, “this is what my experiences in certain radfem communities were like.”

 

aside from the cultic red flags, i had my own personal difficulties navigating radical feminism that weren’t necessarily the movement’s fault.
with more and more exposure to information about male pattern violence, my fear of men (which i’ve had since childhood) intensified to an unbearable degree. there were points where i didn’t want to go outside without my boyfriend there to make me feel safer. i started casually expressing an automatic distrust and hatred of men, much to the concern of my non-radfem friends. all i could think about, or talk about, was radfem-related stuff. pornography, prostitution, rape culture, male pattern violence. there was no room in my head for anything else but this latest obsession. worst of all, i found myself parroting radfem quotes and slogans. and when i wasn’t parroting, i was still passively supporting the bullshit by keeping my disagreements to myself.

and then i realized: i was under pressure.

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there was pressure from the inside: pressure to pretend i thought “political lesbianism,” “separatism” and “self-objectification” were logical concepts, to avoid hurting friends’ feelings. pressure to avoid mentioning that yes, women can be rapists too. i hesitated to post any pictures of myself with my midriff showing, or of my tattoo, in anticipation of a debate about whether i was “pornifying myself.”
and i felt like, since i owed my writing success to the support of the radfem community, that turning around and questioning those beliefs would be like a betrayal. i didn’t want to be ungrateful. there seemed to be many eyes on me. when’s your next article, alicen? i love your work! i didn’t want to disappoint people.

there was the pressure from the outside, to avoid making my questions about feminism too obvious. because i have a lot of critics. usually anti-feminists and liberal feminists. people who, like predators, stalk my work, waiting for me to make even one misstep or contradiction, so they can rub it in my face that i was wrong about something. “see? i knew it! that cultist radfem can’t think for herself — what a fucking idiot! proof that feminism is stupid!” i feared the i-told-you-so’s.

there was pressure from my ego, to make it look like i had everything under control. i’m not one of those radfems! i’m not being a cultist! i can think for myself! but when some friends vaguely suggested that i might be cult-hopping yet again, i had to admit it was somewhat true.
can you imagine how embarrassing this feels for me? my entire life is just one group after the other after the other. i’m like a group addict. and every time i think i’ve recovered, it turns out i’ve just transferred my addiction to some other “drug.” the most embarrassing part is that everyone sees it before i do. it makes me feel hopeless.
since i’ve become so public about my cult recovery process, i feel like i have to be a perfect example of  an ex-cultist. never vulnerable to groupthink, or cognitive distortions, or cultic behavior. i play it off like i’m too smart for that shit. and i do not forgive myself.

the pressures were unspoken, and incredible to any particular source, but definitely there.

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i didn’t expect non-cultists to understand this dilemma. so i backed out quietly. as soon as i deactivated that facebook (which is where 90% of my involvement with radfeminism took place — since real-life radfems are hard to come by [it’s not a popular movement]), i felt relieved. and then i read this Ex-Radfem AMA, and felt so validated. just like when i left liberal feminism, i now feel FREE. to ask questions. to commit thoughtcrimes.

on that note: interesting how many women come to radical feminism after having their “peak trans” moment (the moment of realization that liberal feminism/transgender ideology is full of contradictions). and radfems LOVE that. they LOVELOVELOVE that. they open their arms to new converts, bond over the relief of finally being able to question shit, and congratulate each other on finally learning to think for themselves.

but having a “peak radfem” is not met with nearly as much acceptance or understanding. it’s like, “you can think for yourself as long as it’s under the broad umbrella of radical feminism. but not beyond that.”

don’t you just love double standards? i sure do! < / sarcasm>


here’s what happens next:

radfems will catch wind of this blog post, share it up, and gossip about how

  • i’m a traitor
  • i’m a danger to the movement — don’t associate with me
  • i must not actually understand what radical feminism is about
  • i never truly cared about women
  • i’m misrepresenting the movement
  • i’m making mountains out of molehills / being dramatic
  • i’m projecting my cult trauma onto their ‘harmless’ group
  • i’m just confused about radical feminist concepts, but might still be won-over with some “discourse” and “healthy debate”
  • i’m an infiltrator/government spy/snitch
  • “nobody’s forcing you to believe anything! your cultism is your own damn fault!”

then they’ll cut contact — or awkwardly attempt to keep in contact with me, to prove to themselves that they’re open-minded and not cultists, no, not at all!

how do i know this is going to happen? because it happens every damn time. it happened with the Pentecostals, it happened with the vegans, it happened with the liberal feminists, and i know it’s going to happen with the radical feminists.

the upside of having been in so many groups throughout my life, is that i can predict their behaviors and always stay one step ahead.

i promise myself i won’t fall for it this time. i like the distance i have from this group. i like the freedom of refusing the “radfem” label, of just being someone who cares about women’s rights, without adhering to a particular ideology.


some challenges moving forward:

  1. i know this blog is going to be used against me by people with an agenda, like MRAs, anti-feminists and ex-feminists. i guess i can’t stop people from twisting my words to serve their own needs. that happens when you opine on the internet. comes with the territory.
  2. the awkwardness of having to explain this to any radfem who wants to maintain a relationship with me. and navigating the anger, hurt feelings, etc.
  3. trying to make sense of my cultural observations (male supremacy, female subordination, rape culture, etc.) without losing my critical thinking skills by letting radfems do all the work of thinking for me. sometimes i think it would just be easier to disown politics all together. like, fuck the social justice warrior mentality! but i know better; i should be seeking balance, not another extreme.
  4. i have to deal with the “Reality Collapse” feeling again. that’s what i call the phenomenon of having your narrative suddenly (and painfully) disrupted. it’s a feeling every ex-cultist has felt, upon finding out the truth about their beloved groups and leaders. it feels like being spit out of the ocean and left standing in the middle of a desert, with no sense of direction, everything monotonous and boring without the cult to make it exciting and vibrant, nothing worthwhile. there is so much temptation to find a new ocean to flail around in. Reality Collapse is like intentionally choosing to be thirsty when beliefs are water, because you don’t know how to drink without drowning. being a belief addict, and choosing to let go of beliefs in order to heal and recover, is terrifying

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eventually, i’ll probably write about why i’m skeptical of feminism but still critical of patriarchy/male supremacy/etc. (hear that, everyone? I AM NOT AN ANTI-FEMINIST. not-being a radfem anymore doesn’t mean i’ve abandoned feminism completely.) maybe it’ll just be a list of all the questions i have. maybe i’ll write revisions of past articles, with my new perspective.

until then, i’m just gonna stand here, in this belief-desert. a place i’ve returned to so many times, it might as well be my home.

 

 

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26 thoughts on “peak radfem

  1. I was wondering why this didn’t resonate with me. I figured out that sort of thing had happened in a work environment. I felt a little silly when I realized that I am very much a loner, and don’t join groups. Or, if I do, I hang around on the outside and don’t get much involved. But at work, I am thrown into a group, like it or not. And eventually, I do not like it one little bit.

    Maybe it’s just the nature of groups? If one person becomes conspicuous, too much power, liked by two many people, they get thrown to the wolves?

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  2. The #1 response I’m getting is that I should spend more time with radical feminists in person, rather than let their online behavior chase me away from radfeminism.

    So I’m going to respond to that here, in three ways:

    1) As I mentioned in my blog, radical feminism is not a popular movement. I know about 5 radfems in real life, compared to hundreds online. So to say that my online interactions with radfems *misrepresents* the movement somehow, ignores that this is where most of the movement comes to engage. Here. Online. It’s inevitable, unless you live around a lot of them.

    2) Given the kinds of infighting, gossiping and passive-aggressiveness that happen in radfem circles online — why on Earth *would* anyone go out of their way to meet more of them in real life? I don’t think it’s unfair to say that people tend to show their true colors when they feel protected by the distance and pseudo-anonymity of social media. So again, if this is how they act online when they feel safe doing so, why invest the time and energy in trying to redeem the movement by meeting more of them in person, in the HOPES that they won’t be as bad?

    3) Social media *is* our world now. (Isn’t that a gross thing to say? haha.) We can’t just disown the social dynamics of movements online, by saying people are different in person. Because online interactions may not *feel* as genuine, but they’re still real, and still impact people. Cyber bullying *actually* causes people to commit suicide. Likewise, the radfem community can’t just wring their hands over the infighting that happens online, because even though it’s virtual, it’s impacting *real* people and breaking up *real* political alliances!

    ——- Another response I’ve been getting is that “radical feminism is a critical analysis, it’s not a clique or a group or a movement.” LOL. Here’s my response to that:

    It’s really, REALLY disingenuous to act like we don’t know that ideologies create subcultures. Just look at veganism. Or liberal feminism. Or any fandom, or hobby, or even religion! Shared interests create group dynamics. Sometimes, those group dynamics become toxic. So to brush off the harmful behaviors generated by a shared interest in exposing male pattern violence, is to pretend that mutual political interests play no part in generating those behaviors.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry you’ve gone through this 😦 It hurts my heart to hear that you’ve been so used and feel discarded. Your post resonated with me more closely than I’d like to admit….

    when I was just (seriously) learning about feminism in my early 20s (15 years ago), I almost got pulled into the trans way of thinking and it was a radfem blog (I Blame The Patriarchy) that gave me a balanced view and saved me from doing something very drastic with my body.

    After that “blip”, I was too caught up in school and life to put much more effort into learning about feminism and hadn’t thought too deeply about it, just going along with the popular opinion as it seemed correct on a cursory reading/understanding. I had a big group of friends on facebook, liberal feminism friends, who helped me through many, many tough times and who I helped as well. The friendships were strong, or so I thought, strong enough to weather anything.

    It was when I started asking questions that I saw how ephemeral those relationships where. I remember it distinctly, it was the ‘cotton ceiling’ fiasco and I had such a reaction, physical and emotional, to the manipulativeness about it… how exactly like ‘friend-zoning’ it was that I couldn’t stay silent.

    Then women’s spaces, shelters were under legal attack because of male feelings and again it was a physical reaction to the news. I began to read more and more and after suffering the “Reality Collapse” that you mentioned (holy accuracy, batman!) when I had to disengage from all my “friends”… it was a very socially lonely time as I was going through a break down in my offline life and FB was the most important/supportive social interactions that I had.

    There are some things about the groups of radfems that I’ve come to “friend” on facebook that give me pause…. There are some that are more extreme than I am and sometimes the infighting really, really gets to me. Really badly…

    As someone mentioned above, I wonder if the platform has something to do with it. The anonymity, the lack of body language cues, the lack of seeing how your words affect the person you’re talking to.. all of it contributes to an unhealthy environment…… which is unfortunate because I, like many others I assume, am isolated in my offline community. There are no local radfems to talk to and the libfems are not interested in discussions…

    It’s frustrating, I wish I knew what to do to fix things but if I knew that, I’d know how to fix patriarchy so there’d be no need for it, eh? Heh.

    Anyway, I’m rambling and not making sense but know that I and others support your right to question and discuss and also wish for a space to do the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I followed this link from the reddit thread where they are trying to gaslight you & bringing up your past to say you’re paranoid but I never belonged to a cult or anything & I felt the same way. I never really got involved because of the racism and being silenced or accused of supporting “islamism” or acid attacks when I mentioned it. :/ I encountered rad feminism because of my “peak trans moment” – being annoyed by ridiculous teenagers on tumblr – but I felt like some radfems were really obsessed and spiteful. Like I don’t really think women are a caste but the only thing we probably all have in common is we have more serious problems than tumblr trans activists. Then when I criticized Hilary Clinton for killing women and they called me a “bernie bro” “hand maiden” “dick rider” etc. they say they are there for women but they really just want to speak on behalf of women and any women who disagrees is obviously brainwashed – & they’ll liberate by telling us what to think. It really is like a cult. & they won’t accept any criticism at all but I’m glad I read this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not going near the Gender Critical thing. I’ve had it up to here with the character attacks today.

      I was saying to my roommate: it’s fascinating how radical feminism is mostly a safe haven for women who’ve experienced physical and sexual violence at the hands of men — because that confirms their worldview. But when I say I need a safe haven from psychological violence at the hands of ideologies, it’s all, FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR TRAUMA, YOU’RE LYING, YOU’RE MAKING IT UP FOR ATTENTION, STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM.

      They care about victims who can further their cause. But I’m of no use to them anymore. Consider me used and discarded.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a radfem and anti-imperialist. Its true that Killary intends to kill many civilians including women and girls with her drone strikes and imperialist foreign polit in general. That is really misogynist to call you a dickrider.

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  5. Hey, i’m a (white, jewish) nonbinary trans woman who had been sort of involved with radical feminisms of both the “cis” type you spoke of and also more esoteric trans woman-centering varieties. I want to validate that like, yeah, liberal feminism and trans theory AND all the radical feminisms i’ve encountered have been really incoherent and based around really faulty ideas about what bodies really mean and how oppression is structured and how we should talk about it. Your story resonated with me a lot and I am really happy to have come across it and I totally wish you the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Alicen,

    Long time radical feminist and activist here.

    When I first discovered RF, I went through a really intense “voyage of discovery”, reading everything I could lay my hands on, spending every non-work moment in activism and discussing politics. Eventually that intensity diminished and RF is now how I analyse the world instead of BEING my world.

    What was crucial for me was doing real world activism, in which I met lots of different women who had a RF analysis. But there were differences between us as well: meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, separatists, non-separatists, heterosexual, lesbian. In real life you get to know real people who have made different choices than you but that’s OK. You know them as people, not avatars.

    The online world is unreal. Everything is magnified, and it’s easy to react as if people aren’t quite real. People say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone’s face. I follow some debates online anonymously, but I don’t participate because online discussions go wildly off the rails at the drop of a hat. I find it alienating and depersonalised (or possibly over-personalised).

    I guess what I’m saying is that you’ll get no condemnation from me. Because for me RF is a political analysis, not a religion. People can change their minds, or change their focus if they want to. You’re a decent person, and I wish you the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. Radical feminism is not a hivemind, nor a cult, it’s a political analysis, and not everyone interested in a movement shares the same opinions on everything, mostly because we all have different outlooks based on our experiences, sexual orientations, ethnic background… For instance, the user below who feels persecuted in radfem circles as an heterosexual woman, while some lesbian radfems would definitely say they are the ones who feel left out. I totally respect Alicen’s choice to walk away, this is not in question, but I think she gets too absorbed in the social media/interactions aspect of it and then projects it on everyone who might have an interest in a political ideology. I personally, have never met a radfem who says men cannot get raped, posts penis gore, calls other people slurs and the vast majority are against political lesbianism, no one would accuse a woman of pornifying herself for posting a picture of herself, etc. If I thought I had to stop all affiliation with a cause any time someone who also supports it emits an opinion I don’t like, or interacts with someone else in a rude way, it would really mess up with me too.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks for this. I have avoided interactions with the radfem community (beyond following and reading many of them Tumblr) largely because of these issues. I am a private radfem (only admitting it out loud to my therapist) because I’m heterosexual and, while I don’t currently date (and won’t, until I’ve reached a point in therapy where I am confident I can do so in a self-protective, self-loving way), I’m still straight. And while I’m fine with living the rest of my life alone, if that’s how it works out, I do hope to eventually find a guy. The regularity and intensity with which heterosexual radfems on Tumblr are ganged up on and bullied by lesbian radfems (and especially the bisexual ones who are with men, who seem to pounce on straights as if to earn approval from the lesbians) is a lot scarier than dealing with the men at my job. I don’t claim to have any answers and I’m not proud of my cowardice in refusing to engage, but I have to take care of myself first…? Anyway, I’m rambling. Just…thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to say this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is very much me….except I’m a trans woman abd I went to feminism and radical feminism first trying to do my damned bestbto be a good person, a good woman. I joined a FB group then a few more that were about gender equality, they even tagged it. And being fresh new and young all my internal issues went into lockstep with the guilt that I felt about pre transition me, about everything and that led to a lot more problems. A lot were definitely mine but there was a defined point where my RL abuse got stood up to and my online radfem community who knew that person I was with turned on a dime.

    The sad thing is that I still missed these amazing clever and wise women…and I’m angry because they’re literally the ones that took it away by showing me the side you shared here.

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    • I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      You might take a strange sort of comfort in knowing that Maritza Cummings (formerly Mark Cummings — born female, transitioned to a man, then de-transitioned) went through something similar. Stood up to the radfem community and got all sorts of shit for it. You’re not alone in this.

      Also, right now I’m looking up an article for you, that you might like.

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      • Not a remote fan of Maritza, I encounter them before and they were not nice people. And the DV with their first spouse sort of tilted it for me. I do hope they got some peace though because our encounters had been very unbalanced whuch could be part of what she was going through.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Found it!

      “Trans people are not magical gender warriors. We may politicize their bodies, but they are not obligated to play along. As with all of us, some may decide to become activists, but most won’t, and either way, none of them will exclusively do the most politically expedient thing every time they’re faced with a choice. Because they’re human. They don’t owe the world a revolution, or even an explanation. And they’re certainly not obligated to live up to the arbitrary standards of one random cis woman.”

      http://www.damemagazine.com/2015/06/08/who-decides-what-makes-woman

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      • I agree with that quote a lot, there’s so much there on the expectations and standards and even the double and triple standards. And I agree especially with the talk of C. Jenner since C. Jenner decided that she has a bigger voice than she should. But I haven’t expected much there given how rightwing she is.

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  9. Seeing you in your vulnerability, and your (current) truth, makes me want to hug you and let you know that your world will continue to grow as you experiment with life. Please know, you WILL fall again, and pick yourself up, and dust yourself off, and again find your challenge in life, over and over again. This is what true wisdom is all about. I commend you, and encourage you, as you continue on your search to find your self, your true, authentic self.

    Liked by 1 person

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