Jun 13 2011

Anecdote mania!

The author as funfeminist rocker

Why no post today? I’ve been in church. So in the fine old tradition where spinster aunts rely on blamers to supply content while they (the spinster aunts) are otherwise ocupadas, I declare Reader Anecdote Day.

I know I’m always urging everyone to make with the analysis rather than the anecdote, but I read this

“Alas, it took me many funfem years to figure this out.”

in the comments the other day and thought, mang, so many of the radical feminist types say the same thing, that they came gradually to the radical position after misspending their youth as empowerfulized funfeminist collaborators.

For example, years ago, when performing in my rock band, I myself used to dress in negligees and combat boots to play such feminist anthems as “My Baby Won’t Go Down On Me” and “Don’t Fuck With the Straight Girls Downtown” while crowds of dudes hooted their approval. I thought I was being super fucking transgressive, banging on a Les Paul and snarling through lipstick “you’ve got the second-biggest dick I’ve ever seen.”

Good times.

So, what’s your take? Did you slog through an embarrassing funfeminist phase? What turned you around? Is funfeminism a necessary step on the road to truth, beauty, and militancy? Give us your anecdote.


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  1. Barbara P

    A “fun feminist” is simply a feminist who still indulges in certain privileges, while just waking up to the cesspool that is patriarchy. Sometimes, this privilege comes from looking the part to suit patriarchy (the whole “youth ‘n beauty” thing), and sometimes it comes from having a degree of money or power, or some other way to imagine oneself as more higher-ranking than other women.

    Unfortunately, there may be some truth to the idea that radical feminists are ugly and old. The problem with the insult is the fact that this IS such an insult. (I mean, does anyone say that the ideas of communist men are stupid because communist men are ugly and can’t find a woman?)

    I was a “funner” feminist when I was younger and “hotter”. Sex seemed much more important to me ten-plus years ago, and I’m still trying to parse out which aspects of that are patriarchy-driven and which were just due to youth and hormones.

    I’m saved by knowing that I was never really that fun. I never had the experience of having lots of men validate my feminism (as you describe). It was tolerated at best. I’ve become less fun as I’ve gotten older because I’ve started to care less about what people think of me in general.

    But I wonder that I still may have some fun left in me, so to speak. On the surface, I mostly pass as patriarchy-compliant.

  2. Pinko Punko

    I’m having a flight of fancy where you cover “In the Year 2525” but change the lyrics.

  3. nails

    I had some pretty radical ideas as a teenager. Lacking the tools to defend my views, however, lead me into a fun phase that lasted quite awhile. Being around a lot of semi-liberal dude bros didn’t help. The Beauty Myth kicked off my eventual journey into radical feminism. The questions the book asked of society were really not that hard-hitting, and yet everyone seemed to be in denial that these questions needed asking at all. It made me really aware that my “rational” skeptic friends were assholes when it came to their own privilege. Also, the election disturbed me deeply. Watching Hillary run, and then the Sarah Palin fiasco, really made me angry at the world. Seemed like I could pretend sexism was isolated before that.

    Really though, honestly, IBTP is what made me into a radical feminist instead of an equality feminist. That was right when I started to really understand, because arguing against all of it was extremely difficult. I would not have thought to pick up a book by Andrea Dworkin until IBTP. I had been one of those gender traitors who hung out with duddes and casually watched pornography, and defended porn for a long time. My douchey young person experiences can be useful for spotting the bullshit in pro-porn or pro-prostitution arguments, if nothing else.

  4. buttercup

    I’m buying a first class ticket on Pinko Punko’s flight.

  5. Fede

    My funfeminist phase involved a ‘fake it till you make it’ sort of approach to the problem of inequality. I used to treat men like damsels in distress, taking their sides agains imaginary foes and arguing with gusto and a completely straight face – since I had half convinced myself – that women had immense power to hurt them, and that the world at large was skewed against them. The thing is, men’s dependency on women was never entirely a figment, and because it built on a modicum of truth, my act could be made extremely convincing.

    Furthermore, ‘fake it till you make it’ does, to some extent, work. If you adopt and only slightly spin the language of MRAs, by the end of a conversation you can have men feeling like delicate flowers who are vulnerable to the aggression and cynicism that we boorish Amazons must always fight to contain in order to fit into civilised society. And the best part is they’ll be slavishly grateful to you for finally pointing it out.

    The most perverse pleasure I got from that approach was whenever I apologised profusely on behalf of myself and all the many other women who were only interested in those poor romantic men for one-night-stands and didn’t always remember to respect them in the morning. The most convincing lies are close to the truth. I did find men interchangeable, I did only want them for one night, and I did forget their names immediately after. So only the apology was insincere.

    I have to admit it was fun, because the seemingly honest, charitable condescension of it confused the hell out of them.

    But the sham was just as much an attempt to persuade myself that the patriarchy couldn’t fuck with me which, obviously, it can and did and always will.

    Having fun doesn’t address the real issues, and it doesn’t ultimately change anything. Now I’d rather spend my time and energy speaking the truth, no matter how enraging, and hearing the truth from people who are actually worth their salt. Which is why I’m here.

  6. humanbein

    Brava, Barbara P!

    I wish I could share some anecdotes myself, but my experiences are too shameful to share. I can share this Jill-centric anecdote, though.

    Many years ago, Jill, either out of charity or laziness, hired me to teach her the basics of Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and any other program I knew better than her from back when I was employed as an Art Director at a tiny local ad agency. Jill’s online presence is pretty awesome, but in person she is even more fun, being human and alive and everything, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with her as a friend.

    At the time, I still totally accepted the centrality of sex to existence, as we all tend to do under the cultural bombardment of titillation and privilege and rape culture. Though I thought I was feminist friendly as all-get-out, I still thought man-pleasing was natural and that men and women were fundamentally different, as is imposed on us by the patriarchy. I had the dream of starting a woman’s Burlesque show, to take the weirdness out of the strip club idea and bring back fun and real sexiness to the idea of women taking their clothes off to please men. I though that Jill, or someone like her, would be perfect for running such a thing, because I assumed that only a woman could do it without it getting really creepy really fast.

    And now, the whole idea seems creepy! So you can imagine the reaction I got from Jill! She tried to tell me what a bad idea it was, and I kept arguing with her. Every word out of my mouth was straight out of the standard patriarchal repertoire.

    Jill, being only human, gave up on me after a short while. She said: “You just need to read some standard feminist books in order to understand this, I can’t explain it just like that.”

    This talk was not in vain, I like to think. Though it took a very long time to really sink in. I can’t help but think that rearranging a lifetime of overwhelming cultural conditioning can’t be done quickly if it can be done at all, and it can never be done as completely as you might wish.

    Of all the things that helped to change me from being feminist friendly to being closer to what a aspire to be, it was definitely the books that helped the most, after this blog, of course. This blog provides the sarcasm and wit that makes feminism human, and the commentariat provides the real emotional urgency. The books made everything complete, replacing arguments devoid of logic and reason with well-thought out theory that has become standard common sense.

  7. Puffin

    I think as the privileges that come with youth give way with age, most funfeminists have no choice but confront the ridiculousness of equating power and freedom with their choice to wear mini-skirts.

  8. nakedthoughts

    I had a douche-bag antifeminist phase. I was so glad I wasn’t like “those women”. I was “a cool chick” which my much older boyfriend assured me was the pinnacle of complements a girlfriend could get.

    I felt uneasy occasionally when one of the boyfriends friends would complain about all those women drivers. Or how most women were sluts. But I wasn’t one of “them”. I was a cool chick. All I had to do was throw everyone else under the bus and I could bask in patriarchy head pats.


  9. IrishUp

    I was funfem because I was sufficiently P compliant & inexperienced that I believed I could outwit The System. Dad understood that he was misogynist (though he didn’t really do much unpacking there), and he understood he had bright, pretty daughters whom he didn’t want to be hurt by men (like him). His solution was to raise us to be Broads: smart, funny, sarcastic, tough-talking, hard drinking, able to bring the smack-down. So we were (and my sibs arguably still are) Exceptional Women FunFems. I dismissed radfem analyses initially out of the navel gazing of youth. “It can’t be *that* bad!”; no, it just wasn’t *that bad* for *me* YET. Age and experience gave me later, what perhaps more direct suffering under P brings others earlier.

    This is not to my credit.

    In contrast is my step daughter. She has a severe eating disorder with various and sundry other issues. She had precious little in her arsenal when P started attacking for real during puberty, and lots of intrinsic vulnerabilities. Her diagnoses further marginalize her; they’re coded feminine, and what “treatment” she gets is loaded with victim blaming, resignation, pearl-clutching and hand-waving*. Conspicuously absent are evidence-based solutions, and actual therapeutic treatments. We’re wading up current against the shit-river of misogyny. If I can keep P from killing her, I will at least have made some amends.

    *During her first stint in a cardiac ICU (for danger of cardiac arrest), the parents were meeting with the ED therapist. Therapist is telling us not to be “soo involved”. I replied by saying – ok, shouting – “If we were sitting here calm and collected, you’d be making notes about our fucking ‘cognitive dissonance while D is in the ICU’.” Therapist’s reply? [insert patronizing tone] “Don’t get your Irish up!”. And now you know.

  10. Ottawa Gardener

    Okay, I’ll cop to my funfeminist phase. Mostly it was a fuck em stage. I thought of it like travel. Howver, my P-compliant dress and bedding skills also had a decidingly unfun side. It hurts me to realize now, especially as the mother of two daughters, that I engaged in the little p prostitution common to many in the sisterhood. Being manhandled from a young age, I learned to harness what seemed valuable to survive and I’m extending this to the conning arts people who are relatively powerless rely on. It makes me want to puke now when I think of what I did to further other aspects of my education including the book learning.

    And quite frankily, despite my radfem leanings, I’m still a bird in a patriarchal cage singing pretty songs so the powers that be don’t forget to keep the cat out. I aspire to more.

    @IrishUp: I sympathize with your step daughter. It is difficult to turn the mind back outward and to calm the storm of control.

    @Fede: Yup.

  11. DancesWithCats


    I was the WORST funfem.

    Without a doubt I was the most feminist person I or anyone in my circle of friends knew, but still. Just ugh. It was pathetic.

    I lived for male approval.

    I brought the sexay, everywhere, to everything, all the time, without exception. Hair done, nails done, high heels, makeup, dressed to the nines, generally showing off either a lot of leg or a lot of cleavage. Not both because that’s just tacky, right?

    I went to strip clubs just like one of the guys. Sometimes it was a group of only women who went, but wow, were we super proud of ourselves for being so cool! I mocked the strippers for being strippers and the men who paid money to be there. I drank like a man and jeered at women who couldn’t keep up. I made fun of fat chicks (despite being a semi-fat chick myself), homely chicks, chicks who tried too hard, chicks who didn’t try hard enough, chicks who were too slutty (while loudly defending their right to be a slutty as they wanted to be), chicks who were too prude (what’s THEIR deal, anyway?), oh god. Everything I did was engineered to prove how I was totally not like those other stupid women–I was different! I tried so hard to prove that I was basically just a dude who looked and dressed like a sexy woman. (Dudes loved this act, by the way.)

    I was fucking miserable.

  12. buttercup

    After much thought, I don’t think I was ever a funfem. I spent most of my time trying to be one of the guys instead. What a waste. It’s just another way of seeking male approval. See? I know how a car works and I can fix it. I like hardcore jazz and Led Zeppelin. I’m a tough ass motherfucker and you can all kiss my ass. Now let’s have sex. Yeah, I wasn’t very happy either.

    IrishUp, I would have gotten my fists up at that comment.

  13. Boner Killer

    The radfems took me in early – but just last night I was reading through an old journal, kept when i was 15. I wrote about “not belonging in the kitchen” and “shaving my head”

    Maybe that counts!

    Most feminists I know of though, have definitely rode the waves of fun-feminism before arriving at radical feminsim. Think you’re right Jill, it’s a “transitioning” point – lets just hope it happens to the “wave” of the fun-feminists of today. The dick lyrics are priceless – nothing says empowerment like a big forest of dicks swirling around…dicks dicks dicks! freedom freedom freedom!

    No idea where I am going with that one…

  14. Linda Atkins

    I was raised by a non-funfeminist who explicitly said that if you dressed up to please men, you were a moron, so no funfeminist phase here. (Thanks, Mom!)

  15. DancesWithCats

    I told myself I was dressing up and putting on makeup for ME. Yeah… sure.

  16. Ash

    My “funfeminism” years were a mess.

    I was young and lacked the experience, education, or even vocabulary to understand the gender issues I was being exposed to, and I reacted to it by allying myself with the oppressors. I pretty much wanted to be a guy, and not in the biological sense. I just knew that’s where the power and privilege was. I’m bisexual anyway, so it was easy to band together with the guys and see women as the sex class. I could make lewd comments about female anatomy with the best of them. I was hyper-sexual, dressed like a stripper, and thought I’d become something other than a Regular Lame Old Woman because I never let any insecurity show. I associated femininity — and, by association, being female — with weakness and insecurity.

    I thought I was liberated, but I was so far from it. I fell into the trap of becoming complicit in the oppression of women because I knew I didn’t want to be oppressed myself.

    “It’s just another way of seeking male approval.”

  17. Blind Horse

    Like buttercup, I also tried to be one of the guys. I have 7 brothers and got a college degree in engineering at a mostly male para-military academy. I now work in construction as a project manager, with, you guessed it, males. It took me years to stop trying to “fit in”. Now I call bullshit on a lot of things that I would have let slide in the past, but I am, of course, still oppressed enough to err on the side of not getting myself fired for saying what I REALLY think, for which I both hate myself and blame the patriarchy.

  18. MJ

    I’m 20. Many, many, women I know are doing funfeminism so hard right now.

    It is so easy to try to reap the gains of the patriarchy when it works in your favor, even though this is a game where the house always wins. I fell into the soft feminism trap of do-what-you-want feminism, clumsily opining: “oh, women are sexual beings! They should be able to express themselves however they want! If they want to wear lipstick and bake cakes while running a marginally successful from-home business, fine! All feminists want is for people to be equal to make choices! Rainbow and butterfly happy feminism barf!”

    It’s especially painful to think back on how I treated and viewed other women. I was So. Determined. to differentiate myself from “sluts,” from “bitches,” from “ugly girls,” that I basically would unconsciously immediately categorize every woman I met as one of those, on sight. But at the same time I felt the need to fun-feministically validate the existence of those categories: “some women like straight sex! Let them have it. Sluts. Some women are successful! Let them have it. Bitches. Some women don’t conform! That’s cool. Ugly.”

    Craving male approval so hard just automatically seemed to tear me apart from other women, and, I am ashamed to admit, at times I still get an unpleasant tingle of patriarchy-induced jealousy or anger. And I still feel compelled to validate my friend’s choices to, like, take pole-dancing classes because I don’t want to fight with my friends. I fight with the male ones enough.

    And SEX. Don’t even get me started. I have given enough blowjobs that…oh my god I just added it up and I have estimated that I have spent about 4 solid days of my life with a dick in my mouth.

    But, you know, somewhere along the line, perhaps even with the dick in mouth, I realized that I was being fucked by the P in every aspect of my life. Fun-feminism laid the groundwork for a really angry rad-fem, when I finally got around to that. Twisty helped with this here bloggy to give a nudge into full-on discovery, as did Dworkin and Greer and Firestone.

    It’s hard. Especially for the young ones. We’ve gotta just keep on truckin. Poke the fun-fems enough and something will break through. I have to hope that once you get a taste of women’s situation, you can’t ignore something as big and mind-fucking as the patriarchy forever.

  19. Yardshark

    As for myself…I was never a funfeminist. I recognized early on (at single-digit age) that the world did not see me as I saw myself, partly because my mother has never been a feminist of any sort. It pointed up starkly just how on my own I was in terms of being seen for who I wanted to be.

    I am so glad that we’ve found a way to define funfeminist tools, because (for instance) back when I was studying art history I had no word for the WRONG feeling I had about many of the ways purportedly feminist artists went about arting. I didn’t see a whole lot of difference between a gallery full of tits and slits painted by women and a gallery full of tits and slits painted by men. The end product was no different, and it didn’t change anything. And change (also recognized by Fede) is KEY.

    (Some artists were and are able to make visual points about the normalized Gaze without also playing to it, but many aren’t.)

    Now I’m girding myself for a future that probably includes living in a place that is oh so proud of its strip clubs and an increased number of women in my circle who think the new burlesque is fabulous. Well, I have time, I guess, to rehearse my speech about how not being a funfeminist does not mean being a “prude.” (<– an insult used to bully people who believe women shouldn't have to accept sex class status into a false dilemma)

  20. EmilyBites

    Oy. Haven’t we all done it? Once I argued for my right to get up on stage and perform a porneriffic stripperesque amateur show a la Moulin Rouge for the entertainment of my male peers.

  21. Astraia

    I tried to be a funfem once, when I thought it was my nonconformism that was making me depressed.

    Turns out I wasn’t any good at it anyway, since what was actually making me depressed was the patriarchy, and even if I dressed the part of the funfem I couldn’t help being overly sensitive and analysing things more than other people seem to.

    Of course, now that I’m in my mid-twenties I’m quite content with who I actually am – the woman all the funfems want to tell men they’re not. Ugly and hairy with sensible shoes, and asexual too. (I thank whatever deities there may be for that particular orientation which has saved me from having to navigate the dominance and submission games which the typical romantic-sexual relationship seem to be based on. Just an observation. Kudos to you if your Nigel doesn’t fit the pattern.)

  22. crickets

    Sort of funfem, and probably still am a bit. My first relationship was with another woman who was teetering of the verge of transgender – i was pretty shocked when she asked me out and i realised i wasn’t repulsed, the way girls were supposed to be by teh scary lesbians, and thought why the hell not. So that was an education in the deep end of gender issues, but when we split up i fell back into dressing and acting the part and got all excited about boys unfortunately, but grew my body hair out and foreswore high heels in uni. I have definitely changed myself to please boyfriends, but switched back to the same old self once they’ve gone. Currently i find the thought of sex ridiculous, and i wonder why i ever slept with any men in the first place. I do have a male partner currently, but have started to imagine myself alone more and more recently. I’m only 25, but I think what I’m trying to do is untangle the patriarchy from my self – all my relationships have been tainted by it and I’m not even sure where I want my personal life to go anymore. It’s sad in a way to realise that I don’t know myself yet, because of the patriarchy. But that’s very self pitying! Currently telling off the lads I work with at school for their burgeoning misogyny, speaking up more, and dressing like a slob (or a smart slob at work) I’m pleased to say! I don’t think i’m done changing yet though. Good to hear all these stories from fellow blamers!

  23. stacey

    Shit. I just realised that my comment got moderated because i said “bitching”. Holy crap, i haven’t used that word in years – i wonder what made it pop out today? I thought i’d eliminated it from my vocab. Sorry Jill, and you can delete this message.

  24. stacey

    Thanks to a radfem aunt, I was pretty feminist-aware from my teens on. She taught me to think critically, and call out sexism (and other isms) when I saw them; sadly, I probably didn’t do it as much as I should. Still don’t, really, unless the person is right there and it’s a safe environment. But if it’s in newspaper and media, I forget to email, then it just slips away.

    Then I had a boy-child, and I had to smarten up real quick. Being a feminist role model for a male child is tricky business… but I think I’m doing okay. We were in a drug store, and I was raging about the “men’s magazines” and the “women’s” mags”, which were separated. I asked the kid (7 yrs) what was the major difference between the two sections, he said, “Well, one is for people who like fashion and cooking and fitness and crafts, the other is for people who like fashion and sports and news and cars.” I was about to yell HAH! PATRIARCHY, when I realised that he hadn’t brought gender to it all – while I immediately recognized the sexist subject matter of men’s and women’s magazines, he saw them as a division of different interests. So I shut my mouth and let it rest.

    Now, someone convince me that it’s not ideal feminist practice to be a cam-broad for money.

  25. stacey

    Hi Jill, you can delete the first iteration of my reply as well, the one containing “bitching.” Sorry for being a moderation jackass. Jackass is pretty gender-neutral, isn’t it?

  26. MPMR

    Before I came to radfem, one of my most embarrassing habits was calling people b*tch and c*nt. I thought that since I used those terms to refer to men AND women, that it had nothing to do with gender or sex!

    Ugh. I recoil from my former self. On days when I’m trying to be nice to myself, I remind myself that I was reacting to a world that hates me, and so it’s not surprising that my own disguised hatred of women was a result.

    I think my reaction to the patriarchy was particularly sharp because I spent my whole upbringing proving I was smarter than everyone else. Then I got to the nation’s premier nerd university, where I was frequently the only female in my classes, and even so was assured that I wouldn’t succeed (but I did). Then I got to the most highly regarded PhD program in the country in my field, and was told by my fellow classmates that I had only been admitted because of my sex. It wasn’t until I was doing better research than them that I realized that I could never prove myself to them. That no matter how much work I put in, they would either believe my success was an unearned gift because of my sex, or, if I was LUCKY, that somehow I “transcended” my sex BECAUSE I succeeded. That the very very best I could hope for would be to somehow “graduate” from being a woman to being a man. But I would never, ever, be a smart, accomplished, deserving woman. Those don’t exist. So that helped me find radfem, along with a rather crushing realization that all the liberal lefty men I hung around with were actually as misogynistic as the rest of them, they just got laid more.

    But, just like Blind Horse, I’m still funfem enough to not tell people what I REALLY think while at work. Because I need the job. And I even like the job. So I don’t mention that the women do 50% more work than the men, and that’s even before you count all the “women’s work” that we do, like cleaning the fridge, and picking up after lunches. And I don’t tell my colleagues to their faces that they are disgustingly racist. And this one is the worst, but I don’t tell them to get out of my face when they compliment me on my clothes, instead I smile and say thank you.

  27. anne

    In high school, I took buttercup’s route of trying to be one of the guys. The rationale was if I acted like one of the boys, society would treat me like one. Obviously it didn’t work out that way.
    In my college years I had a godbag phase, which I shudder to recollect. Putting myself on the “right” side of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy was another failed attempt at garnering some societal privilege.

  28. Carpenter

    I didn’t go through a funfeminist stage but rather some other variant of internalized misogyny.

    I went to college at a large private university with a handful of nerds and a buttload of rich frat/sorority types. I remember talking some serious serious shit about sorority girls. Mostly it was slut shaming stuff, but also the assumption that these girls were stupid, greedy, friviolous, etc. I now realize I basically buying into every old stereotype about women in general and projecting it onto a certain group of women for performing their gender in the way everyone insists they must.

    Luckily by senior year I had come to my senses, and I remember arguing loudly with a guy who insisted that some sorority girl should be aloud to wear low cut dresses and heels in class because it distracted him and the other guys and the girl was obviously asking for unwanted attention.

    I also witnessed something that lots of feminists later come to regret, which is enjoying being the only woman in the room. I don’t think I did too much of this, but I am in the hard sciences and there aren’t many women, I have heard other women say that they get satisfaction out of thinking they are special because they are the only woman that was tough enough to make it. Instead of realizing that only a fucked up system has so few women, you end up congratulating yourself. Most people I knew grew out of this, and even wrote about it, several essays like that appear in “She’s Such a Geek”, but I think that this is something fun feminists also do.

  29. Cycles

    What’s also disturbing is knowing that however much we have evolved away from congratulating ourselves for being “one of the guys” and not like one of “those women” … that same hate is being directed at each of us right now by the current crop of woman-hating feminist women.

  30. Triste

    I’ve used the term funfeminist before, but I am starting to sour to it. It’s an easy shorthand for “feminists who try to argue that constantly appeasing men is a feminist act” but jeez, it’s not like I hate fun. I am actually pretty pro-fun, pro-pleasure, pro-happiness, and so on. The term strikes me as being sort of similar to “pro-life” (as opposed to the more accurate “anti-choice”) in that it is one of those terms that makes that side seem more awesome than it actually is. Most of the women radicals would consider “funfems” actually seem, at least to me, to suffer at the hands of the Patriarchy due to their refusal (or psychological inability) to not put up with the bullshit some guys put women through when they want to get laid. That is, in my mind, pretty unfun.

    Other things that are not fun – having to wear shitty uncomfortable shoes so your ass looks good. Obsessing about weight and feeling bad for not being hot and skinny. Not being allowed to eat whatever the fuck you want because you want to be skinny but you also don’t want to be a hairy vegan because vegans are unfuckable but you also don’t want to eat too much meat because then you’ll be fat oh dear god. Not wanting to express any discomfort because it’s not like you’re a man-hater or anything and if you complain they will say you’re a gross misandrist and you just so don’t want that. All of that shit is for the birds, in my opinion.

    But I know what you guys mean when you say it, so anyway, here is my anecdote: I’ve been ugly pretty much since childhood, and I’ve been fucking girls since I was 13. I basically gave up on femininity – I was just too fat and too hopelessly bad at it, too impulsive and angry and probably too smart, and my father had really raised me to believe that the whole culture is a scam so I figured it wasn’t actually important to be feminine anyway. I’ve had a number of shrinks of various stripes (psychologists, psychiatrists, school counselors, etc.) note that my behavior and manner of dress indicated “gender confusion” since childhood, which for one is bullshit and for two is nobody else’s fucking business.

    I was therefore never really what you all would probably consider a “funfeminist.” I simply didn’t qualify by virtue of being a hairy, manly whale of a chick. I wasn’t really any kind of feminist – I was in such an acute state of social withdrawal that I was, compared to most women, barely even subject to gender politics. I had already decided that I would never fuck a man, so I was unconcerned with things like access to contraception. I was too unattractive and surly to be subject to much in the way of unwanted sexual attention, too big, strong and aggressive (not to mention in a safe sheltered middle class environment) to be consistently afraid of physical intimidation. I did not have or want friends in school – I had an active social life online and didn’t feel lonely – and so it didn’t matter to me that I was too ugly to fuck or be popular.

    The main issue that I faced – which I still face – was the pressure from authority figures, applied either subtly or blatantly, to conform to the proper standard of ladyhood for purposes of appearance. It annoyed me when relatives and authority figures tried to insinuate that I should be more feminine, but I didn’t actively relate this to the feminist movement. It just seemed so incredibly obvious to me that I should be able to wear what boys wore, talk how boys talked, and so on. I took (still do take, really) pride in not being a proper girl – I bragged regularly that I had been suspended more than any other girl in the history of my junior high, told people online that I was ugly and unfuckable and proud of it. On forums dudes would sometimes, upon finding out that I was female, demand pictures as masturbatory material. I had a number of photos of my fatass self in flannel, looking as unsexy as possible, which was always good for a laugh at their reaction to the horrifying reminder that women =/= porn.

    At the time I looked down on women who capitulated to the pressure to be feminine, but I’ve grown more understanding with maturity, I think. And of course I’ve grown to relate my own struggles to a larger feminist movement which includes lots of issues which have a limited direct impact on my life. I came into radfem philosophy mostly by meeting such feminists online and noticing that they were objectively right about shit in many cases.

    So that’s my story, in a nutshell. A bit incoherent, but whatever, I have too many things to do today to make it make sense, so there you go.

  31. HazelStone

    Ash: “I was young and lacked the experience, education, or even vocabulary to understand the gender issues I was being exposed to.”


    Ditto for not ever running into the concept of privilege or thinking about Power. So mostly I was just ignorant.

    Most of my funfem activities revolved around reacting to the Bible Belt where I grew up and being very into the idea of promoting sex as not shameful and making sure that it was consensual and a good experience for everyone, but still being too uptight/unenlightened to really make that happen for myself or demand that of my partners. There was also a certain amount of really shameful “real women have curves” BS that I meant as a reaction against body shame, but ended up body shaming skinny women. Ugh.

    Also, I was one of those annoying smug atheists. I’m still an atheist, but not smug.

    Thing is, I didn’t really run into any radical feminism so it isn’t that I rejected it. As soon as I did hear about it, I was into it. Of course being in a relationship with a pornsick asshole probably spurred that considerably.

    Really, reading about radfeminism was just a big click for me the same way learning about privilege was — like “ah, finally I have words and theory to help me understand my gut reaction to how screwed up the world is!”

  32. HazelStone

    Also, I think getting older, wiser and just having a broader worldview contributed a lot.

  33. Keira

    I was an elected funfem official, for a little while. I was the Women’s Officer at my university students’ association (student politics in Australia – I don’t know if there is something similar in the US).

    I have a particularly cringe-worthy memory of taking care to dress super hot-but-not-too-hot for a sign-up stall, to increase recruitment and prove to first years (freshmen) that not all feminists were angry unfun. Which is dumb, because how can you be a feminist without being angry?

    We did add some games into the O-Week agenda such as patriarchy pinata (hitting a paper mache phallus with a stick), so at least we used the word, but hey, what’s the point of bashing patriarchy when you’re in a mini skirt and pigtails?

    I studied Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and stuck with the funfeminists in a whirl of theory that we bent to support ourselves- no authentic self, just what we’ve been molded into, no real gender therefore we can do what we want and its just a choice, and a little bit of Freudian being the phallus.

    It probably didn’t help that the only rad feminist we came into contact with (via text) were at the time advocating no sex or lesbianism only, and the others called themselves “sex-pos”. There’s so much saturation of culture with the pride-cool-autonomous-sex link, its very hard for 20 year olds drenched in horny to take anything else in. I liked to think that I was making my own, adult choices at the time, but I was still eating coco pops for breakfast.

    I started coming over to the right side when I was 22 and working full time. I was shopping for make-up, and it was very expensive. I remember thinking, “Hey, I have debts. This shit is expensive. My male colleagues don’t waste their dough on it, and they are gonna earn more. I’m not going buy this shit anymore.”

    Its been little steps since then, eschewing bit after bit of outward femininity, questioning my thoughts, learning real autonomy (well, trying to) etc. I only found this blog recently, and I am so glad – I was always unsatisfied with my previous feminist haunts, and I love to be able to come here and be reminded that I’m not over-sensitive, that patriarchy is alive and well.

  34. Jill

    I grasp your gist, Triste, on the issue of the “funfeminism” moniker. Radical feminists are not against fun. Obviously. In fact, I went out and had some flippin fun just this afternoon!

    But feminism itself isn’t fun; it’s fucking depressing and difficult. I use the term ‘funfeminism’ to describe a lifestyle, where “feminism” is being all tough and fighty but girly, too, and above all, consumery and choicey. As opposed to regular feminism, which is not a consumer lifestyle, but a revolutionary movement seeking to liberate women from patriarchal oppression.

    But you know all that!

  35. Ottawa Gardener

    @triste: I had a hard time convincing the gals that I was really into them. They figured I was just experimenting so I gave up.

    Which reminds me of a crush I had once on a gal grad student with a stocky body and a mass of curls on her head. She started tarting herself up to attract a life partner for procreation and so on. When we had first met, she had told me that she thought I had gotten lost and ended up in the lab. I guess fuckable girls pooled together in less mathy disciplines. One day at a party, her object of affection hit on me. What ensued was great drama where she accused me of not understanding what it was like to be her. True, I didn’t understand, but if only we could have come together as sharing the same subjegation even if (in her perception) in opposite forms.

    Was that anecdoty enough for ya?

    @HazelStone: Yes, once I heard about radfem, mostly through this blog, I was all thumbs up.

  36. Roving Thundercloud

    Like Triste, I realized very very early that not only did I not qualify as feminine, but that I didn’t want to qualify–wasn’t interested in performing feminity. Even though as a teen I discovered I was a horny heterosexual, I did NOT want sexual attention from boys of any age. I was mostly withdrawn, and at times tried to fit in with the guys a little. Even without that, I disdained girls who acted girly and wasted time and money on makeup and/or clothes.

    My funfeminist error was a big one: getting engaged to the first male that actually did show any interest in me. Cuz you know, there would probably never be another one ever. (But of course there was, and just in time.) That was a close one!

    Sadly, my mother had made the same error (with my biodad), only went ahead and married the jerk, and spent the next 20 years telling me, directly and indirectly, that men are evil. But ironically, as kindly advice to me on the subject of getting out of the house and having some fun/meeting new people before I completely die of atrophy, she sent me an article on how women who have taken up pole-dancing have completely revitalized their marriages! WTF?

  37. Carpenter

    I have a question for Jill, and it is about he use of the word ‘transgressive’. I have a hard time untangling how I feel about this word ,and about things that are meant to be transgressive and where the succeed and where they fail, because funfeminism leans on the concept a lot.

    What part of your rocker-persona was meant to be transgressive? Was it just the shock value of a woman saying the word ‘dick’-which nice girls don’t do? Why the negligee? simple contrast to combat boots? mixing masculine and feminine gender associations?

  38. niki

    I was never a funfeminist. I never liked attention. I was more of the fat girl according to the stereotypes (overweight, detached, lots of gay boyfriends) although I was never really fat either. My friends, though, they still struggle to this day.

  39. Triste

    Yeah, I guess I am really mostly griping about how consumer culture has sort of snatched the concept of fun and hijacked it for capitalist purposes, such that the definition of “fun” actually means “living like they do on Jersey Shore.” Part of the whole “humorless feminists” stereotype, in my view, stems from this belief. Patriarchy is ~fun~ for women! Don’t you realize how much fun it all is?

    It’s a bit like the Shania Twain song, in a way. You know, there’s the bit where she says that women just get to go out and have fun, damnit! And then goes and describes her idea of fun, which is wearing a miniskirt and going out and partying and getting piss drunk and dying her hair and just going nuts! But that scene isn’t real fun, man. The whole lifestyle is just tied up in so much awful garbage. The women I know who live that life are hyper-focused on their looks out of fear that they’ll lose them and become worthless, they spend tons of money on makeup and clothes and shoes and purses, they go out and do a bit of the dancing and wildness but the consequences for a woman who actually dares to “let her hair down” include slut-shaming and gossip and loss of respect from co-workers/friends (who now feel justfied in viewing her as solely a sex object – after all, she asked for it, the slut!) and, of course, sexual violence. And a woman’s social status in those crowds is forever defined by what kind of man they have. Then in a few years when they get older and are no longer Patriarchy-compliant hotties, they’re going to be unceremoniously dumped out.

    That whole Patriarchy-compliant world chews women up and spits them out, basically. That’s the thing. If it was really fun – if complying with the Patriarchy genuinely and honestly made women happy (happy as in /happy/, as in happy in a permanent and real sense, not happy as in fleeting fluttery feelings before getting stomped like a bug) and was a source of joy in the world, I wouldn’t be against it. But it’s not. It’s sweet, it’s tempting, it promises white picket fences and happily ever afters with all the orgasms you’ll ever want. But it’s just a big fucking lie. It’s not fun. It is a terrible fun-killing cesspool of a world, and I’ve never seen a woman emerge from it without having been damaged by it.

  40. ginger

    (It’s hard to be anecdotal about yourself without being excessively centred around the word “I”.) I never was comfortable with strip clubs, because the exploitation is right there on the surface. I went, because I thought I should be okay with it, but it was so fucking obvious that it really wasn’t okay.
    I still have a soft spot for comic burlesque. Women of all different shapes dancing and being funny – that’s my cup of tea. But just because I like particular aspects of something doesn’t excuse it from being a repugnant byproduct or tool of patriarchy. I don’t *have* to consume it, just because I like it. That’s part of what makes radical feminism unfun, at times – you can’t just thoughtlessly do stuff. You have to consider the implications, y’know?

  41. Jezebella

    I don’t think I was ever a “fun-feminist”. My mother and grandmother both referred to themselves as “female chauvinists” but also we all considered ourselves to be Exceptional Women – not like those OTHER stupid girls.

    Part of being the Exception is being able to do stuff guys can do – change the oil, shoot pool, whatever – and so I did some of that. I was never a tomboy because I’m just not athletic or outdoorsy, but I can wield power tools and I love gadgets and techy things, so I definitely have tried to be “one of the guys” over the years. I still find myself in the room with the boys at a party where the genders drift into separate groups, but mostly because, where I live, women my age are wrapped up in parenting, and I’d rather talk about cars and computers than potty training. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not my kink.

  42. Kea

    I was never a fun feminist in the sense people are talking about here, because I started fighting the housewife training at the age of 2, decided to be a theoretical physicist as a girl, and I never gave a toss for fashion or male approval. But I was young and very naive once, at that time when one reaps the benefits of being young and curvy, whether one wants to or not (actually, I’m old enough to remember the cat calls, drunken slobbering and bottom pinching). However, these so called benefits that I was being endowed with all worked towards pushing me away from physics. Everything and everyone pushed me away from physics, because of course a woman could only be miserable trying to do a man’s job. Everyone still apparently thinks this, so not much has changed since the ’70s.

  43. Bushfire

    I’m almost 27. I spent a period of time in my late teens and early twenties trying to have a lot of sex with men and trying to be really sexy. But it didn’t take me very long to discover feminism. At my university there were always feminists writing to the student paper to complain about things, and the more I read them, the more they made sense, and then I discovered the Vagina Monologues, and then I discovered dykes… the rest is history.

    I think I still have some funfeminist cells in me, but I’ve been reading Twisty for years and I’ve agreed with about 99.7% of everything she’s said. As nails also mentioned, I would have never considered reading Dworkin without having been addicted to this blog for years. A lot of people my age are funfeminists, and they drive me nuts, but I have a partner who is a wise, well-seasoned dyke and she keeps me sane in an insane world.

    This blog does a damn good job keeping me sane, too.

  44. humanbein

    I see a lot of us are commenting about acting like a man. I’ve often thought that part of the problem is that men have co-opted many of our common virtues and labeled them as manly virtues, when they are just human virtues, and really apply to either sex, if gender were to be tossed out. Wearing pants, not shaving your legs, fixing cars, not primping and fawning – these are all the actions of a human unconcerned with gender. And I praise you for it, while I wish it were only the norm.

    If you take away all the common virtues that unite the sexes from masculinity, all you have left is hateful, loveless bile.

  45. maria

    I battled the patriarchy pretty much from the start, because all the stuff I liked was considered just for boys. Then junior high school started, I was worn out and stricken with self-esteem issues. I had almost entirely male friends, but then college proved that I had no real male friends because they all try to fuck you at some point. I got depression, but much worse was the medical machine that nearly destroyed my life -just keep switching meds until they “fix” you. I tried to cope, I drank alot, entertained men, struggled.

    I had always been a feminist, I sometimes said ‘radical’ because I thought it had to be changed from language on up. I got an idea of funfeminism when Suicide Girls had shown up and no one questioned its ’empowering’ message. One day I read Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly and just woke up. I said to myself “I will not be part of my own subjugation”. Now I’m radicalized and I make, what most consider, a “big deal” out of women’s oppression. It’s the single biggest issue of our time and times before and I’m not going to shut up about it. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it? 2 years depression free.

  46. minervaK

    This is totally going to sound like I’m sucking up, but I swear that it’s true.

    When funfeminism became the norm (early 90’s?), I remember being really puzzled by it. I couldn’t figure out why it felt so icky to be a feminist. So I just decided I must not be one, but I could never articulate exactly what I *was.* I knew I believed in the right of women to be human, but that apparently required acceptance of “sex positivity” and a bunch of other shit I couldn’t stomach. So, I pled “undecided” when forced to state whether or not I was a feminist.

    Then one day a couple of years ago I was surfing for something and came upon this blog, and it’s been an eye-opening experience ever since. Now, when asked (and sometimes even when not asked), I define myself as a “real feminist.” Unless it’s space-filling chit chat, that inevitably leads to questions that allow me to explain exactly what I mean.

    Here’s my anecdote. I’m a casual fan of Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation. The other night, the episode of STNG where Giordi meets the real-life version of the female engineer (Dr. Brahms), whom he idolizes, was on. I know that I’ve seen this episode before without throwing up, because I hate to throw up and can count the times I’ve done it on the fingers of one hand. This time, though, I actually TURNED THE TV OFF IN DISGUST about 3/4 of the way through the episode, I was so nauseated by the fact that Giordi’s character is allowed to behave like the injured party after essentially sexually assaulting the Dr. Brahms character. He’s all, “I offered you ‘friendship’ and you turned me down, how rude!” and of course then she’s all, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I shouldn’t have refused your advances, since I’m a hot babe and you’re an obviously desirable young stud. I totally forgive you for using my image in your holodeck porn fantasies.” IT JUST MADE ME SO MAD.

    I realize that being disgusted with a TV show is small potatoes for The Revolution, but I’m still pretty new at this.

  47. minervaK

    Oh, shit. I completely forgot to mention fat acceptance. That fertilized my mind sufficiently to be able to adore IBTP sufficiently.

  48. trish

    I totally did the ‘i’m smart & cool & sexy, but not *too* sexy’ thing in my 20s (just like a guy but with boobs & a vagina,
    ’cause being smart meant being like a guy, and the greatest compliment from a guy was that i was like a guy). I actually had fairly rad-fem ideas even as a teenager & probably as a girl, but somehow in my early 20s I managed to convince myself that all the so-called alternative lefty guys I knew weren’t misogynistic a-holes, and that I was having a super-fun & in-control sexy free time (and even convinced myself that I hadn’t been drugged & abused by one 1-night stand). Still amazes me that I lived in such a fantasy land, but I guess it was easier, at least for a while.

  49. wondering

    I’ve never been what anyone could ever call pretty, even on a good day, so I never really got around to fun feminism. I rejected man-pleasing as an unwelcome chore, mostly because my dad tried to train us into it and I hated every moment of it. Pro tip, dad: If my little brothers get to watch tv while your daughter has to wash dishes, bake you a cake, and bring you another beer,it’s probably going to breed resentment from an early age.

    On the other hand, defaulting out of man-pleasing by dint of being fat and ugly while refusing to be invisible due to loud mouthed assertiveness usually means that I get treated as an actual person. Which makes the blatant sexism that occasional comes my way (as opposed to the constant, background, institutionalized sexism that I’m soaking in but doesn’t feel directed at me personally) I real fucking slap in the face when it does happen. At least it gets my temper up so that I can fight assholes with fire when it does happen.

    You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry – then again, maybe you lot would!

  50. Shelby

    I work from home so if anybody should come a calling without first making an appointment they’ll usually find me with Kramer hair, tracky dacks, a bra-less shirt and either ugg boots or $5 thongs adorning my tootsies, depending on the season. It’s quite a look I can tell you.

    I have a friend who is a lovely English lass who has apparently gotten sick of me looking like this and suggested quite recently that once a week, as a treat to myself, I dress up and put some lippy on, you know, just for me.

    If she could see my armpits and bikini line (cause that’s now an official anatomical separate body part) she’d probably have a fucking aneurism, anneurism, anurism, stroke.

  51. Keira

    @Shelby its interesting the way people say you should do things “just for you”, isn’t it?

    If I’m gonna do something just for me, it would be something I like – wear my trackies, eat tasty food, drink some beer/wine/tea, and watch something I like or read.

    Putting make up on, just for me, would be like mopping the floor, just for me.

  52. Shopstewardess

    A few years ago I used to hear a lot of young women denying that they were feminists. It seemed to me that this was mostly because they wanted to be accepted by/liked by/attractive to men (perhaps as a response to their position of relative powerlessness) and thought they wouldn’t be if they had the description “feminist”.

    The current “funfeminist” tag is at least an improvement on denying feminism altogether, as once the fun runs out (as it inevitably will) there is a better chance these women will turn to the feminist, rather than its alternative, depression.

    I was never much of a funfeminist, although I do regret spending rather too long being a liberal feminist and too much time as the only woman in the room. (Are these the same thing?) Shades of compliance remain: I’ve recently caught myself wondering whether I might remove the long hair from the mole on my face before a forthcoming interview. Mostly, though, I’m now old enough, independent enough and lucky enough for “****-em” to be my default response.

  53. Anna

    Funfeminism never crossed my mind. Boys and men have treated me like shit ever since kindergarten. Pleasing them was the last thing on my mind, even when I got older and started finding them physically attractive. And since actual boys were so annoying, aggressive and hateful, being “one of the boys” never held any appeal either.

  54. A Ginva

    Wow! So amazing to read other experiences!
    I started off as a misogynist tomboy, hating girly girls and wanting to be around with boys and doing only boy stuff, having only male role models. I would play with boys but they merely tolerated me, never became friends. I thought I was deviant for identifying to boy stuff and already hated myself for being excluded. I remember crying when I got my periods, asking my mum if I could be sterilized. I hated the female sex.

    By around 11 or 12, being teased more and more and having no friends, I fell into a long depression, after which I had enough and tried everything to integrate. Integrating meant pleasing men and being fuckable, and fucked. So it became the goal of my existence, and so came the very painful route into femininity. I still despised other girls for being too feminine, shy, “stupid”, all the things they’re supposed to be, and continued identifying to boys and boy stuff while wanting to be fucked and dominated by them.

    Around 21-22, I had enough of being fucked (with hindsight, raped) and spending all my lifetime energy at being fuckable. Something felt wrong. Then I discovered feminist writings at uni. Slowly, things would link up. At 23, I turned from antifeminist (misogynist) to feminist. Getting rid of femininity (which I experienced as prostitution) was one of the first steps into feminism. It seemed obvious: femininity had been so oppressive, so painful, so unfair. In a few months, I discovered Radical feminism and it made immediate sense, it was liberatory.

    Once I identified as feminist, I desparately went to meet the uni feminist group. At my massive disapointment, they didn’t share my horror of the patriarchal sex roles, rather, seemed to promote femininity and condoned prostitution – it felt really lonely. I learned later that it meant funfeminism, as opposed to radfeminism. Today (24) I’ve reached the point of being a hairy lesbian radfem.

  55. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    My anecdote is particularly pathetic, because I knew better. My Women’s Studies teacher from my junior year was a card-carrying radfem. She taught me to read Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer, and all the other usual suspects. Thank you so much, Ms. Soames.

    Unfortunately, the dominant culture took over after I left the sphere of her excellent influence. My legs and pits were shaven to a fare-thee-well before I left the house each and every day. My maquillage was flawlessly applied. Weekly mani-pedis were a must. My hair was bleached a fetching shade of blonde. I suffered the agonies of the damned to maintain my size-7 shape. It was exhausting. And painful.

    Worst of all, I consulted my homosexual friends for every man-pleasing bedroom antic in the book, and a few which were decidedly not (I possess the unenviable skill of being able to apply a condom without using my hands. Yerch. Delicacy forfends my mentioning my other skills.)

  56. Liz

    Oh, I had it bad. I wasn’t just funfem for me, I was funfem to experiment with performativity, make a point that you could dress like a porn star and still do well in grad school, and to get more attention to safer sex education! My mesh shirts and nipple rings and combat boots and riding crops … well.

  57. norbizness

    And then a little song called “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blondes came and shook everybody out of their reverie.

  58. Cortney

    I definitely started out as a fun feminist. I grew up in a very small town and had limited exposure to feminism of any kind. It was much easier to embrace reproductive rights, equal pay and sexual freedom than it was to take a deeper look at the root those problems. I still find it shocking that I so totally embraced the label of feminist and I thought I was pretty radical just because I handed out condoms at my high school. And it was pretty radical for the area but I really had no deeper analysis of why there was even a need for reproductive justice.

    It wasn’t until I went to college and took some women’s studies courses that I started to realize that there was a lot more behind those pet causes I had taken up, that there was a connection between violence against women and the overall devaluation of women’s work and their sexuality.

    One little anecdote that I am pretty embarrassed about happened during my very first women’s studies class. We were asked to do final projects about a particular topic that our instructor picked. There were some great topics but I was really unhappy with the topics like rape and domestic violence. In my mind those things had no place in feminism because they were so unpleasant and they made feminism seem like a sad miserable thing. I really believed that there was no connection between violence against women and the need for feminism.

    Obviously, a lot had changed in my life since then but I am still stunned when I look back at the papers I wrote for that class. What was I thinking? How deeply intrenched is violence against women that I was able to completely separate it from reproductive rights and sexual revolution?

  59. yttik

    I never had the safety, the privilege, to go through a fun/fem phase. I’m from the wrong side of the tracks. It really pisses me off to hear people talk about stripping, prostitution, posing in magazines, as if those were “choices” women make to empower themselves. Bullshit.

    I guess on the bright side, those who are off taking pole dancing classes and engaging in various forms of “radical” art, at least have the space and financial means to explore the issues for themselves. Whatever gets you to the truth.

  60. Mary Tracy9

    I have to say, I have recently been struggling with the hyper explosion of “fun feminism” in the media. Reading all these comments has helped me feel that not all hope is lost with funfeminists.

    I was never a funfeminist because I was never any “fun”, as defined by the mainstream. Within a year or two of finding “feminism” I read Marilyn French’s “Beyond Power”; and I thought the woman was mental. It turned out, she was right all along. That’s how I became a “radical” feminist.

  61. anne

    June 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Speaking for myself, what I meant by acting like one of the boys is that I pretended to like that hideous hair metal and other objectively gross and boring macho trappings. The leg shaving and the primping, I still did that stuff.

  62. niki

    What a great and interesting thread! So cool to see all the variety of how people have dealt with being a girl in this society. It doesn’t seem to really ‘work’ any way you do it, sadly. It is helpful to keep this in mind as you go about your lives.

    My brother is raising two girls right now…I can’t wait until they start to read.

  63. minervaK

    OK, I have a question. Does being a radical feminist require acceptance of the idea that the only solution to patriarchy is revolution? And if so, what form is this revolution supposed to take (i.e., Are we talking replacing patriarchy with matriarchy? Are guns involved? What do we do with the men afterward? etc.)

    I’m also doubtful of a blanket indictment of men as a species — while I agree that the majority appear to be complete yobs, I also observe that patriarchy serves some of them very badly. In other words, patriarchy is bad for everybody. Can I legitimately call myself a radical feminist while being married to, and having sex with, a dude?

    Feel free to recommend books, keeping in mind that I’m quite the noob to this stuff.

  64. Bushfire

    I think it’s totally cool that a lot of you are in your twenties. Hopefully it warms your heart, Twisty- you are actually helping to radicalize a generation of young’uns. Keep writing!

    Regarding the “acting like a man thing”. My mom has this cool anecdote- she went several years believing she was a man, not because she is transgendered, but because she knew she was a human so naturally that meant she was a man.

    I’ve also decided I love anecdotes.

  65. Claire

    I joined a roller derby league. I saw so many simpering fun fems exploiting themselves, posing with bruised asses and acting tough for the camera it made me snap. Seeing what went on in the world and seeing what was important to them ( which was burlesque, pin up shoots, tattoos, and boozing) made me take stock in myself and I decided that fun fem was definitely not the type of feminism that was going to change anything for anyone.

  66. laxsoppa

    I officially declared myself feminist at the age of 9, when in our biology textbook said about human females that “they usually wear colourful clothing and lots of jewellery and other ornaments”, looked around at my classmates and teachers, and saw that this was not the case. This was Finland in the nineties shortly before EU membership.

    Then, a few months later, while at school watching a documentary about knife-making traditions or something our teacher (disgusting dude, but that’s another story) made a point of telling us girls that now we would see something about knives in case we needed to use one some day. This in an classroom full of reindeer herders’ children. All of us, boys and girls alike, had learned to hold a knife at the non-pointy end probably before we could TALK properly. I still regret not saying something or walking out of the class that was clearly going to be wasted on useless shit, but I guess kids get given some slack.

    I grew up with my mother who was vaguely aware of feminist concepts but had no real interest in feminism herself, and was depressingly blind to her own internalized misogyny. She treated our brothers differently than me and my sister, housework being the most obvious example, and for example didn’t want us dressing up when we were teens or going out because we might get raped.

    Funfeminism in my life was short-lived and mostly performed in protest to my mother’s puritan dress sense, but I never really saw any fun in spending so much time and money trying to look “hot” for the guys anyway. Maybe this is a cultural thing, but I figured out quite quickly that the guys I was so aiming to please didn’t really give a shit if I shaved my armpits every day as long as I was willing to fuck them. None of them ever noticed or commented on anything of the sort, maybe because they liked the sex and wanted to keep on having it, or just didn’t notice.

    My actual radfem awakening is mainly due to a previous relationship where I was constantly bombarded with misogynist bullshit from my partner who really claimed to love me and couldn’t understand why I was so hurt by his remarks about my sexuality and other intimate things. I couldn’t point it out to him, either, because I, too, lacked the vocabulary to do so even when I was at least a bit aware of where it hurt. I’ve been used to calling out people on sexist bullshit and being able to argue my point for a long time now, but the way this dude was insulting me without even thinking about it was new to me and I felt like there were a few key concepts missing that would clarify the whole thing to me – that instead of reacting blindly to clear stimuli such as sexist jokes, rape culture references etc I would be able to place them on a larger map and find out how the different forms of oppression I encountered every day related and contributed to each other. That’s what radical feminism is for me: piecing it all together so I know what exactly I’m up against, and to what extent am I able to opt out or deal with it so it doesn’t eat me up completely. That and freedom.

    I’ve still got my young, fairly attractive and up for casual sex when the chance presents itself privileges, but after that dude I’m more careful about just having *my* fun without getting into conversation with the dudes, out of fear that I may not be able to fucking stand their moronic views if they get a chance to share them. I’m one of the mid-twenties crop here and I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s mainly thanks to this blog that I started learning the vocabulary to talk about what really gives. So THANKS, Jill/Twisty.

    Regarding the choice and freedom to wear make-up and miniskirts – what kind of choice or freedom is that, really, in the Western world? I want the freedom and the resources to choose a school where they DON’T teach in the textbooks that the females of our species dress in bright colours and giggle a lot. Hell, I want that school to be the default option and not a “special” choice. That would be a measure of freedom that actually counts.

  67. Kara

    I didn’t do funfeminism (OK, I did try for awhile, but I failed at it miserably) but I instead did the “honorary guy” thing, which involved liking computers and Dungeons and Dragons and acting like massively misogynistic comments were perfectly normal and OK because I was “one of the guys” and if I complained about it I would be rejected by all my friends. Looking back I just think, ugh.

    Eventually I did complain about misogyny and sexism and I did get rejected by all my friends and eventually I made new and better friends, so it all worked out in the long run.

  68. Another Name

    This isn’t something I like to think about, but after reading about IrishUp’s stepdaughter, I wanted to reply. (It’s also not something I want associated with my regular posting name, since my friends know that it’s me.)

    I’ve had several bouts of anorexia. The last one, nine years ago, was what made me a feminist. Whenever I saw myself in the mirror, I saw a fat, disgusting pig who desperately needed to lose weight. Then one night I was at a friend’s house, taking acid (which was great because not only was it fun, it was a whole twelve hours where I didn’t feel hungry), and I walked into another room and saw a picture hanging on the wall. It was a photograph of a girl, so thin she looked like the next breeze would break her in half, and a look on her face like she expected to be abused. I focused on it more, and realized that the acid had distorted my view enough that I didn’t recognize it as a mirror. Suddenly, I saw myself for what I was. A fragile, starving victim. Then I thought about the fact that I’d never been hit on so much in my life, nor gotten so many compliments on my looks. That’s when I realized that men, and our society, must really hate me in order to give me that sort of praise for taking a strong healthy body and destroying it. Once I’d realized that, I saw the hatred everywhere I looked. That was the moment when I realized I didn’t deserve it, and that’s when I became a radfem.

  69. minervaK

    OK, I just read the wikipedia definition of radical feminism, and it doesn’t say anything in there about man-hatin’ or violent revolution (well, it does, but not that either is a basic tenet of the concept). However, it refers to several different types of feminism of which I know nothing… obviously, I need to do more research. Sorry to interrupt the anecdotal flow.

  70. laughingrat

    I stumbled into the feminism section of the library at around age 11, grabbed Dworkin’s _Woman Hating_, and came out swinging. So to speak.

    It’s more complicated than that, of course. Patriarchy screws you up big time–it really gets into your head. I loathed patriarchy and at the same time wanted desperately to please everyone around me, like I’d always been told I should. I still do; I’m lucky enough to have a therapist who’s working with me to break free of that, but it’s not an instantaneous process and it’s not simple. Never having the chance for funfeminist privilege–I was never pretty or compliant–helps me to see through a lot of the system’s BS, but that doesn’t mean the P didn’t break my spirit in lots of other ways.

    That’s why I get so mad when other feminists, even radical ones, do classist, ableist, racist, transphobic, or otherwise hateful crap. That’s why I get furious when feminists, even radical feminists, say garbage like “Why doesn’t she just leave her abuser? Why doesn’t she just flip a switch and think differently?” That’s why I demand better than what I see from a lot of feminists. It’s not that I don’t understand how persistent that stuff is, and how hateful messages can just slip out of one’s mouth sometimes. It’s because it’s so important that we actively work to create spaces designed to call bullshit on Patriarchy’s nastiest and most persistent lies, rather than spewing them ourselves. Justice isn’t justice unless it’s for everyone.

  71. Kali

    My first feminist thought was probably when I was five and I thought it was unfair that my mom’s talents as a housewife were not appreciated and respected, even though a man doing the same thing for pay was respected. I have always had feminist leanings, and I don’t think I was ever a fun-feminist. I was however, a milquetoast feminist until my mid-20s. This was probably because I was brought up in an androgynous way (in terms of interests and temperament) and my father also tended to be androgynous, having being practically orphaned at age 5 (mother died, father abandoned them). He and his siblings basically brought themselves up. He liked cooking, knitted a sweater for my mom for her birthday, wrote poetry, ironed clothes, majored in math, was successful in a conventional male career. I shared many of those same interests and activities.

    So, I never thought of males and females as being essentially different. I interacted with my male friends exactly as I did with my female friends (even physically, which led to some people calling me slutty). Rape and other violence was just the handiwork of a few deviants. Patriarchy was just a big mistake, an unfortunate historical happenstance. People made sexist comments and had sexist ideas but all we needed was some education and the patriarchy would learn the error of its ways and correct itself. Then the internet happened and I was quickly disabused of that naive notion. Just as an example, I had spent several days collecting and citing research about how prostitution harms the prostituted women (high PTSD rates, high rape rates, entry at very young ages, etc.) and a man responded with “well, some women don’t think being raped is such a big deal” and the others defended him. That wasn’t the only experience to turn me into a radical feminist. There were too many like that. Also, I got addicted to feminist literature and had devoured the entire section on feminist literature in my university library within a few weeks. The theory from that literature, combined with the direct experience discussing feminist issues with men in person and online, converted me from a namby-pamby liberal feminist into a raging, man-hating, hairy, radical feminist within weeks. Of course, a few weeks of IBTP only solidified that conversion.

  72. nails

    “I started off as a misogynist tomboy, hating girly girls and wanting to be around with boys and doing only boy stuff, having only male role models. I would play with boys but they merely tolerated me, never became friends. ”

    I can relate so much to this story. It was quite a shocker that all the shit I had accepted about the inferiority of women (even feminine ones) was totally false. Even feminine women do a lot of stuff that is good for society, and get crapped on the whole time for doing it.

  73. Ori

    I’m a bit intimidated about posting, but just wanted to say that it was this blog that converted me. I’m not sure if I should thank you or damn you, though. ;) Life was so much easier before.

  74. Cortney

    I forgot to mention, that the radical shift in my feminism came after I read Andrea Dworkin for a college class. Interestingly, the professor had us read her mostly to make fun of her. But it forever changed my perception of the world around me.

  75. Fictional Queen

    I was always rather feministy,I realized something was going on and the expectations of what girls should be and shouldn’t be annoyed the hell out of me.The freedom of movement that guys had annoyed me and still does,geez,thanks dudes for making sure we get less freedom of movement by raping.
    When I was 14-15 though,I did go through a “tomboy” phase.I didn’t want to be feminine because I realized but couldn’t articulate that femininity was a code word for subjugated and weak and approval-seeking.But instead of blaming what was responsible for this (the patriarchy),I saw it as the fault of other girls and women for making us this way.I was scared of becoming like that,so I tried to prove that I was wasn’t girly.Although I didn’t call myself a “funfeminist” because I didn’t know what feminism was back then!
    When I was 17 I started thinking all these thoughts and made reasonings to convince people that victim-blaming or not having the right to abortion etc was wrong,and that was around the time I discovered feminism online! The American feminist blogosphere.And that’s where I realized exactly the kinds of thoughts I had were called “feminism”.I mostly read Jezebel,but Jezebel became increasingly funfeminist and they even started defending the hijab and calling it beautiful,etc and I quit it! I found this blog through the lists of blogrolls and the interesting name caught my attention.I felt like Jezebel wasn’t exactly saying it like it is,it just wasn’t enough! “Regular” feminism wasn’t enough anymore.When I first started reading this blog though,it put me through horrible depression and distress!In a really bad time too because I already was doing bad in 11th grade haha..But once the shock of reading what patriarchy exactly is and what it does so frankly described does went away,I started enjoying this blog.Now,I’m 19 and I’m really glad this blog exists.It’s amazing.If we are crazy and the rest of the rape-apologizing,prejudiced hypocrites are the sane members of society,then I don’t want to be sane.
    An interesting thing! I used to think first-world countries were patriarchy-free and Western women had reached perfect equality! Imagine my dismay at how much I was identifying with blogs written by American women.It was nice thinking there are places in the world where things don’t suck!
    I’ll be a feminist for the rest of my life and use the life experiences of women older than me to not commit the mistakes they did…

  76. Fictional Queen

    By the way,what does “radical” in radical feminism mean? It doesn’t mean extremist,does it?
    What I read here seems like a simple fact to me! Only people are too prejudiced to understand the simple fact that women are people and what that actually means.Because verbally people might agree but when it comes to actually treating women like people,god forbid.

  77. Mary Tracy9

    @ Fictional Queen “Radical” means literally “of roots”. So I see it as going for the roots of patriarchy, rather than fooling around with “equality” and so on.

    @ minervaK My radical feminist “awakening” came through reading Marilyn French’s “Beyond Power”. She describes that the opposite of patriarchy is not “matriarchy”, ie: the rule of mothers, but rather “matricentricity”, ie: a society built around the mother-child bond. At least I think that’s what she said. Anyway, it’s an excellent book. When I first read it, I could actually feel my brain expanding.

  78. A Ginva

    @Bushfire: I’m amazed at all the different generations there are here! It really warms my heart to read about so many stories from women of different countries, different times, and to be able to relate to each one of them, some way or another. And to see the success of the blog in transmitting radical feminism. It gives me hope!!! I wish this blog would be in more languages.

  79. Frumious B.

    I might be a fun feminist now. It really is a very privileged state where you can be Patriarchy compliant as long as you are already Patriarchy compliant. That is, you can wear make-up and cute clothes and toss your hair as long as you are reasonably conventionally attractive to begin with (lot of people will read “young, thin, white, big boobs”, but there is more latitude than one might think. I observe patriarchy compliant women who are not that young, not that thin, don’t have very big boobs, and are not white. “Conventionally attractive” depends on local conventions, which are completely arbitrary. Madison and Fifth Avenues’ conventions don’t apply everywhere). Other ugly girls can attest that if you are an ugly girl, attempts to be “hott” by wearing make-up, revealing clothing, and flirting are swiftly punished. As a young, ugly girl, I was just ugly and there was no hope for me. As a young adult, kind of plain and even attractive in certain circles (didn’t I say conventions are arbitrary?), girl, I tried to be acceptable by not being a typical girl. At some point, I think when I had enough money to cover rent and food and still have some left over, I started buying cuter clothes and wearing them in an effort to be attractive (goddamn, but femininity is expensive. time consuming, too. all that shopping!). Now at 40 I wear nice clothes and make-up and high-heels (never did figure out the flirting), and goddamn if it doesn’t feel good not to be audibly ridiculed for my appearance. Of course, being 40, it is more likely that I am invisible than that I am hot. Whatevs. If it means nobody calls me ugly, I’ll take it. This experience of going from ugly to whatever I am now actually gives me some good insight into the patriarchy and how it twists us and why fun feminism is not the answer. That doesn’t stop me from practicing it, though.

  80. theoryofideas

    A feminist fully endowed with a brain/is a thing to lessen pain.
    Rather than supply an anecdote, I must instead shout out: viva IBTP!
    Hats off, Twisty.

  81. Jezebella

    When we were going through my grandmother’s things after her death, I found a thank-you note I had written her on Holly Hobby stationery after a summer visit to their home in Florida. I was about 7 or 8. In it, after thanking her for her hostessing, I opined that Anita Bryant (then campaigning against The Gays in Florida) was really unfair and it was nobody’s business who anybody wanted to date. She saved that little note for several decades, and now I have it saved as evidence of my early propensity to mouthy righteous indignation. Some five years later, I found myself in ninth grade in Catholic school religion class arguing the pro-choice side of a “rap session” about abortion and contraception. It took a few more decades to move from instinctive feminism based on a well-developed sense of justice and fairness, to liberal feminism, to radical feminism. I think there are so many overt privileges that come with young-cute-white in the U.S. that it was hard to make the leap to radical feminism until I aged out of that category.

  82. TwissB

    There’s an occasional reference along the way here that seems to separate equality from radical feminism. I assume that comes from unthinking acceptance of the popular superficial ideas of equality that limit it to what men have relative to other men. I.e. as someone once desribed it, “the girls are almost as equal.” The exhilarating task of radical feminism is to redefine equality in human terms, including getting rid of those things men do to keep women subordinate and unequal. When the recent 2011 Tony awards show paused for many a reverent moment’s reflection on how all men are now loved and respected, no matter how Gay or black they may be, and then winds up laughing uproariously when Chris Rock tells a hooker “joke” followed by an affectionate mention of his wife, we know which class it is still safe to insult. As it happens, there was a great song and dance number peformed from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” that celebrated the bliss of being accepted into the “brotherhood of men.” It nailed one of the evening’s real themes.

    Anyway, if radical feminism isn’t boldly re-defining the meaning of equality, it’s not radical or feminist.

  83. Kea

    History shows us that revolutions can be either violent or non violent, and that the initial protagonists don’t necessarily have control over the outcome. I guess the outcome depends on the mind of the oppressed mob. For the current cause, does the oppressed mob become sufficiently enlightened to avoid violence? Surely the awareness of feminism has an important role to play here. A semi enlightened mob will presumably see feminism as one piece of humanity’s oppression, but not the whole. The current atmosphere feels tense, as if revolution will break out before an awareness of feminism has influenced the mob’s dreams for the future, or altered the usual patriarchal methodology of revolution (guns, guns, guns).

    Perhaps our best path then is to work on uniting women around the world, without attempting to indoctrinate them, so that at least they understand how much must change.

  84. Shelby


    its interesting the way people say you should do things “just for you”, isn’t it?

    Blood oath mate. It’s akin to the obligatory Brady Bunch makeover. Everybody else just looks so relieved when the formerly plain Jane pops on some makeup and a short skirt and finally takes off those pesky reading glasses. Patriarchy compliance duly completed. Crisis averted.

  85. janna

    I was never a funfeminist, either. I was an antifeminist in high school and I wanted so badly to be a boy because boys are awesome and girls are gross. But I’ve also never particularly been a tomboy. I always had more female friends than male friends, for example. Then I went into the army and somehow came out a radfem. I’m also still in my 20s, though, and I’ve identified as a radical feminist for about 5 years now. Also I’ve never been particularly p-compliant, and I definitely think that funfeminism comes more easily to pretty girls.

  86. janna

    I apologize for my lack of eloquence in the above post. I was more focused on getting out all of my thoughts, and I didn’t realize until after I hit “Blame” that the phrasing turned out so awkward.

  87. Ron Sullivan

    The thing that bugs me about funfeminism—other than how much fun it isn’t—is the idea that certain clothes and paint have anything to do with sex. And by “sex” I mean “fucking.”

    I really really like sex. I like sex with women and I like sex with men, and so far that’s pretty much all I’ve tried so I’m keeping an open mind.

    I had an eye-opening moment in the middle of my feminist discovery/conversion period, when I was in college: The week, THE VERY WEEK I stopped with the makeup routine, my sex life spiked waaaaay up. Maybe it was the extra 15 minutes’ sleep every morning. I’ve been a crazy feminist bitch ever since then AND ugly as a mud fence since about puberty, and yanno, I’ve had mmmmm something like 50 years of good sex, with a few famine periods that were (stupidly) voluntary.

    Re the het stuff: We’re talking about men here. Male human beings. They’re on record as being willing to fuck livestock, silicone gadgets, fruits, and vegetables. We don’t need to attract them; we need to filter them. Annoying clothing and the like doesn’t mean “I want to fuck.” It means “I want to comply.”

  88. Noble Rat

    Damn, Blamers. I can spend hours reading comments here and it always amazes me how much I learn from it.

    I’m 21, and have only identified as feminist for about 3 or 4 years now. Before that, I was as misogynist as I was self-loathing. I did have some funfeminist leanings despite this misogyny. I paid lip service to equality, like just about everyone around me did. Saying some generalized, gender essentialist bullshit in the same breath as I claimed “Everyone is equal,” not seeing how I was contradicting myself and espousing hatred.
    It was complicated for me, because for my entire adolescence I refused to even acknowledge that I was female. I began identifying as a transman at 14, just dreaming of the day when I’d wake up and be a man. I hated my body, hated my limitations (I was told I was stupid, weak, could never be as good as man, so I believed it all), hated what was required of me. It was a very gendered place in my home, so I was the dish washer and sandwich maker while my brothers played computer games and my dad drank scotch in front of the TV after work. My mom worked too, but when she got home she took over the housework, taking only 15 minutes to change from work clothes to whatever sweater she wouldn’t mind getting dish water and laundry detergent on.

    It took a long time, and a few mental breakdowns to realize a couple of things: I wasn’t trans. I didn’t feel like a man or want to be a man, I felt like a human being, and I wanted to be treated and respected as one. I wanted value.

    So I tried to figure out why I wasn’t being treated like a person. That led me to feminism, which, contrary to my dad’s beliefs, is not what made me hate him, or resent my brothers. Feminism made sense of hatred that was already there, and gave me the tools to understand my situation and theirs better. I’m happier and healthier now than I ever was as a misogynist, which is pretty cool, and something I’m still navigating and figuring out.

    But ditto to what so many others have said. This blog has made me grow so much.

  89. allhellsloose

    I was never a funfem because it seemed to me that those women who did it put too much time and effort into sprucing themselves up and got little by way of return. I did enjoy sex a lot but usually with guys who liked their women natural – I live in UK/Europe.

    I believe funfems are hurtful to the cause of feminism. This from Roseanne Barr about a producer (female) in her show articulates a lot of what I think.

    “I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that.”

    I would think that this type of woman exisits in all parts of professional life and I’ve seen them in action. Scary.

  90. trish

    Does anyone have advice on how to deal with funfems (or 3rd wave types more generally)? I’m talking both in the inter-personal sense and how the feminist/radfeminist movement as a whole should respond.
    On the one hand, i agree with @allhellsloose that funfems are hurtful to the cause of feminism. On the other hand, so many of us current awesome radfems started out that way, so, should one be concerned about not alienating/scaring potential radfems from the cause? Is that even possible? Feminism itself is, as Twisty said, bloody difficult and depressing.
    The whole slutwalk thing has brought this issue to mind even more lately.

  91. admirer of emily

    I distinctly remember starting at a new school as a 7 year old and thinking all the girls playing horsie we so silly.

    I don’t recall right now what exactly lead me towards feminism, but what I do remember, at age 17, was finding in my local library in a nice leafy middle class Australian 70s suburb, a fabulous book called ‘Up against the wall Mother…’. It began by discussing exactly why the term was considered such an insult, and went on to quote misogynist discussions through the ages.

    From the moment I went ‘WOW!!’ when I opened it up, I never looked back. I sometimes think i should track down the librarian who placed that book on the shelf and buy her dinner.

    That being said, I’m still

  92. JSK

    I’m in my mid-20’s, grew up in rural Pennsylvania USA. I’m trying to classify the stages of my feminism, and I don’t think I had a funfeminism stage. I had an instinctual feminism as a kid and was often vocal about it. I recognized the bullshit inherent in the word “tomboy;” I realized it was ridiculous that girls were expected to spend all this time fussing with hair and clothes when boys were not; I’d growl and snarl when only boys were asked to transport textbooks between classrooms. I never started wearing make-up and wasn’t big into girls’ roles, but I didn’t go for boys’ roles either. As I’m getting older it seems I’d just never been real interested in either of the narratives society had prepared, or in society in general. It never occurred to me to dress with someone else’s pleasure in mind, sex was not something for me at all (though I’m bisexual- so much for that stereotype), and I sort of flailed through public school and a science degree pretty oblivious to just how badly I failed to conform or how severely I was expected to. I don’t know how I did it, lucky duck I was, though in retrospect it explains a lot.

    To my great despair I spent several years not claiming the “feminist” title and would spout crap about being a “humanist.” Barf vomit despair, I knew no better. Towards the end of college I started to see the error of my ways. I found some feminist blogs and read them religiously (if not in a participatory fashion). I wound up dropping many of them for reasons I couldn’t then articulate but which I now recognize as being wildly funfeminist. Since then Jill has given me the language to describe what I was looking at- then I just saw it as garbage.

    My life story looks pretty traditional, i.e. patriarchy conforming, which causes me great pain. Ten minutes of chatting with me reveals otherwise pretty quickly (and often ends the conversation with random people in the world), but it bothers me that I so easily pass as P-compliant. However I’m aware of how hard it is to run completely off the tracks of the P, and it is good to wallop people with a hefty dose of surprise radfem. (I’m like an undercover agent.) I hope I do the title justice these days.

    I’m not great at social interactions or expressing myself without sounding like a stilted ass. I hope this comment conforms to the expectations of this thread.

  93. Lovepug

    What a respite reading all this has been. I’m hiding out here after being revulsed by the comment on a local news story about 12 – 14 year old boys who tried to rape two 12 year old girls on a school field trip. The main thread of the comments is that the girls are making this up to get the boys in trouble.

    Once I’m done retching, IBTP.

    As far as funfeminism goes:
    Time + experience = Savage Death Island – funfeminism.

  94. Bushfire

    On the one hand, i agree with @allhellsloose that funfems are hurtful to the cause of feminism. On the other hand, so many of us current awesome radfems started out that way, so, should one be concerned about not alienating/scaring potential radfems from the cause?

    I think funfems are a necessary part of the ecosystem because they explain basic feminst concepts to non-feminists in a way that they can digest. I’ve been hanging out on one of the Slutwalk Facebook groups for a while and even though it’s full of people who don’t get it, there’s also a lot of explaining going on- people who ask questions and actually listen to the answer. I think there’s a lot of people who would find it hard to jump right from ordinary citizen to radical feminist without a stepping stone.

  95. Ottawa Gardener

    I’d like to draw attention to shorthanding funfeminism to a style of dress: ie, shaving, wearing makeup and so on. As someone who, with the exception of being white and adequately pretty, was often in vulnerable situations, I guess I read it differently or at least more diffusely. Even before I was a pregnant, teenage girl on welfare, I had taken on costuming and acting out certain roles in order to blend and avoid correction. I did not generally wear makeup or uncomfortable clothing. In fact, I had determined that appearing to be a certain class was at least as important.

    Funfemism as man pleasing, and ultimately patriarchy compliance, goes along with the whole madeup schtick but as some people have pointed out, you can get yourself a whole lot of patriarchal approval without red lips or pushed up boobs.

    I think the problem is that patriarchy compliance goes bone deep. To preach to the choir here, it is in the posture of the leg, the tilt of the head, the aim of the eye and the language of the mouth.

    To expand the definition away from ‘Sure I’m a feminist but I like to feel like a woman and fuck guys pro style’ to man-pleasing more widely then not only am I still dragging along the suffocating blanket of a patriarchal upbringing, but in many ways I’m still a funfeminist.

    I still play a role to avoid damage. I have not made it anywhere near as far as many of the radfems on this board. I’m down with the ideas but I haven’t given up years of building ‘characters’ designed to give me access to stuff guys didn’t even know they needed keys for.

    And to speak on the cross-generational thing, I have two young daughters who sneer at girl’s toys (not by my explicit encouragement. Apparently, archery is just more interesting than colouring your face), want to shop in the boy’s sections of stores because they like monsters, and say things like “I thought that the singer would look different. I thought she’d have long blonde hair.” In other words, the song was pretty so they figured that the singer would be of the most stereotypical princess approved appearance. It pains me deeply.


  96. allhellsloose

    I’m looking at this from a radfem perspective, something I’ve come closer to in recent years. It wasn’t always so and the consequences of my actions way back in the day were hurtful to the causes of feminism. That from someone who didn’t comply with funfeminism, but neither would I have dreamed of voicing the opinions of, say, Dworkin. I can understand why funfems do what they do (I just think they get little in return for their efforts), but many never turn to radical feminism and nothing anyone will say to them will change their minds. They continue to hurt other women as a result.

    As some wise commenter put it in another post and I paraphrase, feminism is about furthering the causes and liberation of women and pertains to women only. It is never about the men.

    I’m a radical feminist and I’m a human being. All I expect in life is to be treated as a human being.

  97. Satchel

    Thank you all for sharing your stories, which are fascinating.

    It seems that Jill is right, that we all must comply with the P to some extent to survive. Since that’s the case, I am reminded to work on developing my own capacity for patience and empathy for my sisters in the struggle.

    One thing these stories demonstrate without a doubt: our degree of that compliance can change over time, given good examples and a willingness to risk. Small changes, big ones; small challenges to the status quo, revolutionary acts; small gestures of solidarity, radical ones. All are necessary.

  98. Kali

    I’m loving this thread. Never knew that anecdotes could be so enlightening.

  99. A Ginva

    Me too! It makes me feel so happy. Isn’t that how feminism started? When women started exchanging personal anecdotes of their oppression?

  100. K.A.

    I didn’t feel like a man or want to be a man, I felt like a human being, and I wanted to be treated and respected as one. I wanted value.

    Yes, this! So many instances of transgender fantasy is a manifestation of internalized misogyny, and wanting to escape it. Who would “identify” as “woman” as men have constructed her? Only a misogynist could!

    Dworkin gave me the unifying language to explain all of my observations and traumas.

  101. minervaK

    Hey, y’all,

    I’ve noticed a trend in this relating of anecdotes to express disgust toward our former selves, and just want to point out that it’s not necessary. We’re all works in progress, and if I hate my former self, it’s a short trip to hating other imperfect feminists, who don’t deserve it. Any woman striving toward understanding deserves my respect, even if she’s annoying the shit out of me at the moment.

    Love, Minerva

  102. Saurs

    Heart cockle-warming thread, here.

    Re the question of radicalism and revolution within feminism, I came, like a lot of folk I know in real life (interweb being infinitely more diverse and the better for it), from a Marxist-anarchist background where I felt instinctively and witnessed personally women being dismissed, abused, and discouraged from articulating their own oppression. Kindly white middle-class women, particularly if they were feminist, were the enemy because they agitated for female solidarity which went against the grain — racial and class-based oppressions being the only True Oppressions.

    Plus, it was just a lazy movement, uninterested in revolution except in theory, endlessly in-fighting and ceaselessly devoted to the single pursuit of dudes sitting around pontificating and acting sanctimonious. Women were expected to make special sacrifices for the good of the cause, including: providing sex on request (prostitution and pornography were completely fine, no oppression there), making a living (pontificating is a full-time fucking job), domestic chores (bourgeois lifestyle perfectly fine as long as dudes didn’t sully their hands doing any of it — also provided another reason why women made for poor revolutionaries, their dishwater hands and their ability to stretch a casserole to feed 16 dudes ravenous after an arduous day’s writing pamphlets), and raising the brood. Oh, queer issues? Lesbians didn’t exist. Didn’t Fucking Exist, or Had a Pesky Agenda. Gay dudes were fine, though.

    Being part of that movement helped me, though, because of all the fantastic women — brilliant, far too patient, but so much brighter than the dudes and with much more mental stamina and wit, easily more suited to leading a revolution than cleaning incompetent revolutionaries’ drawers and soothing their fragile egos. And I learned far more about certain women’s issues I’d never even contemplated being a little sprout myself, like the tricky spot women who have children are in, forever having to defend their feminist credibility, barred from so much public life by a culture that deeply resents children and the whores that spawn them, trying to raise children to resist socialized essentialist ideas, constantly in danger of being branded Irresponsible for having outside concerns and interests and for living like regular people (read: men), as opposed to Mom who is always selfless, non-threatening, and effectively mindless.

  103. Schwein

    This post, and all the amazing comments, made me want to de-lurk myself.

    Oh, God, my funfeminist days depress me when I look back on them. And if you use actions to determine a person’s level of feminism, maybe I am still a funfeminist sometimes. I’m 24 years old. While I don’t put much effort into appearing P-compliant on a day-to-day basis, that’s because of a) laziness and b) the fact that my appearance is naturally P-compliant as well as actually behaving like a feminist and thinking that society shouldn’t change its reaction to me based on my current level of fuckability and feminity performance.

    The worse part is that I do still wear makeup and dress up when I have plans to go out, which is several times a month. Not to the level I used to do, but I find male approval to be a powerful drug and being overlooked is hurtful to me. I’m aware, now, of what underlies this need to please – not sure if that makes it better or worse that I still choose to comply. Like others who posted, I can see that aging out of easy access to the “drug” would make full-time rad fem practice easier. I want to cut out my funfem actions before that point, though.

    Autobiography time: When I was in my late teens (not an early bloomer) I realized that for the first time ever, people would treat me like I was special and interesting and pair that with comments about my appearance. When I took pains to make my appearance more P-compliant, the treatment got even better. Even though I was a shy and awkward teenager, people would give me the benefit of the doubt. Especially boys/men who had become invested in hooking up with me. I wasn’t even a funfeminist at that stage. I was one of the girls who stoutly denied ever having a feminist thought, because it was pretty clear that male approval formed the basis of my confidence and I didn’t want to have to give up that confidence.

    After a couple years of college and all its attendant misogyny, it started to occur to me that I might want to call myself a feminist because, um, some shit was fucked up in those parts! Age 22-ish was probably the beginning of my funfeminism stage, then. Of course, I did my best to personally prove that not all feminists are hairy and unsexily clad. I cringe especially to remember comments I left in online feminist discussions at that time. I would always receive kudos from a couple women and ALL the men who had been following along griping about misandry. The fact that these were the people who sided with me actually made me uncomfortable and served as a wakeup call, though, so something good came from it.

    The more I read, the more I got it. IBTP played a huge part in me “getting it.” It started to dawn on me that all the approval bestowed on me for looking fuckable was, by its nature, incompatible with people seeing me as a real person and thus incompatible with feminism. Getting it basically involved articulating why I was so angry about various experiences, and understanding how they all connected with each other. I was very angry for a while. I’m still angry, and still learning to get it. Thanks for the blog, Twisty! (Sorry about the novel.)

  104. allhellsloose

    I’ve always thought that I absolutely rock. There’s no hating here, a bit of doubting maybe, and I’ve also done bad things. And I do like this thread. Women have got to stop hating other women and they can achieve this by breaking free from patriarchial compliancy. The men are never going to give it up. Women need to to do it for themselves.

    I feel a song coming on.

  105. Bushfire

    Question for you. There’s this song which I think absolutely rocks, and I think you folks would probably call it “funfeminist”. It’s a rewriting of Gaga’s “Born this Way”. I guess what I’m wondering is, is this song “funfeminist” and does liking it mean I’m a “funfeminist”?


    It doesn’t matter if you love hir, or capital H-I-R
    Just turn that volume up
    And watch queer porn, baby

    Society told me when I was young
    About various normative sexual scripts
    I rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
    And then tore those scripts to bits
    There’s nothing wrong with wanting what you want
    You know desire is a social construct
    So when the lights are on, the cameras rolling
    That’s when we all start getting fucked

    It’s beautiful when you say
    “Can I touch you there?” “Yes you may!”
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today
    Don’t exoticize bodies of color
    Respectfully eroticize one another
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today

    Oh there are so many ways
    To make queer porn worthy of praise
    Let’s make some hot queer porn today

    Oh there are so many ways
    To make queer porn worthy of praise
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today

    You’re not an object — you are the subject
    You’re not an object — you are the subject
    You’re not an object — you are the subject
    You are!

    Let every lick melt heteropatriarchy
    Every bite – right into white supremacy
    Porn that humanizes is so hot
    You’ll want that shit on DVD
    Having the sex you want is not a sin
    Believe capital H-I-R
    Your body is your own so you can say
    What really, really turns you on

    It’s beautiful when you say
    “Can I touch you there?” “Yes you may!”
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today
    Don’t exoticize bodies of color
    Respectfully eroticize one another
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today

    Oh there are so many ways
    To make queer porn worthy of praise
    Let’s make some hot queer porn today

    Oh there are so many ways
    To make queer porn worthy of praise
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today

    You’re not an object – you are the subject
    And your subjectivity is not a list
    Of traits Lady Gaga considers “different”
    Splotches of paint on her diversity palette
    Erasing histories left and right
    But we won’t go down without a fight
    And we’ll go down after that fight
    Cuz baby, we’re queering porn tonight

    No matter queer or not
    Consensual sex is hot
    We’re on the right track to give
    This one all that we’ve got
    She says your identity was formed
    All based on how you were born
    Don’t need an excuse to be yourself
    You’re great — now let’s make some porn

    It’s beautiful when you say
    “Can I touch you there?” “Yes you may!”
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today
    Don’t exoticize bodies of color
    Respectfully eroticize one another
    We’re on the right track to make
    Some hot queer porn today

    Oh there are so many ways
    To make queer porn worthy of praise
    Let’s make some hot queer porn today

  106. Yardshark

    I’d like to ask a question…does it matter if we like self-adornment if we gender/construct it differently? I was thinking about subcultures like goth and steampunk (maybe even emo counts) where everyone prioritizes resources to spend in the pursuit. Putting aside the dimorphism that is still present, if men and women spend just about equal resources getting pretty, is it still a problem?

    Modern societies are the plainest-looking in history. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the hip Ancient Egyptian dude his wigs, makeup, and jewelry. If we still lived in societies where the “unmarked” (so to speak) was not achieved via the dress code of least resistance, would it be ok to enjoy self-as-art?

    I can’t help thinking that there is some difference between wearing disabling shoes and primping to more closely approximate an ideal that is by definition better than what we really are, and say, enjoying a deep purple eyeshadow just because we love that color.


  107. Kara

    I have to admit I feel conflicted… I’ve never wanted high-heeled shoes, or ‘sexiness’ or make-up, I’ve always felt disgusted and scared when I feel these things are being forced on me. I mean, I was never *remotely* into that stuff, and even though I’ve always thought I was ugly, the truth is, with my body shape, I could have done ‘pretty’ – I would never have managed ‘beautiful’, but I could have conformed more to the feminine ideal than I did… and I see friends of mine who are a lot more feminine than I am, and I really don’t think they’re less feminist than I am, it’s just that’s how they are, being true to how you are is feminist! (Um, I think.) I mean, I see friends of mine who would really like to wear high heeled shoes, but they think, “I won’t do that because it’s not feminist”. They really think I am a good feminist because I have resisted the temptation of high heeled shoes. When in reality I want to wear the high heeled shoes about as much as I want to jump into a tank of starved flesh-earing piranhas. But patriarchy is always there in the background! So complicated! I don’t know, I am confused. I don’t think I should get Feminist points just for being my dorky, slobby self.

  108. MPMR

    Saurs: loved your story. Scary for me to think about the trouble that lies ahead when I become a feminist AND a mother.

    Yardshark: You say modern societies are the plainest in history. Are you actually trying to say “The wealthiest .1% of my society is plainer than the wealthiest .1% of ancient Egyptian society”? Because I’m pretty sure the slaves didn’t get wigs, makeup, and jewelry.

    As for your question about steampunk and effort put into appearance, I would just say that equality is not the same thing as freedom from oppression.

  109. Yardshark

    @MPMR: No, that’s not what I’m actually trying to say. I’m saying in fact that the *ideal* citizen of that society was highly decorated, both male and female. In ours, ONLY the female is “supposed to” spend much time, effort, and money on that.

    Who said that equality was freedom from oppression? Not I. Are you actually trying to say that steampunks are oppressed because they all, both male and female, spend so much energy on getting purty? See, I just don’t necessarily agree that decorating the self *has* to be oppression. In our current mainstream social context, it certainly can be. But you haven’t convinced me that it always is in other contexts.

  110. Yardshark

    Here – I’ll simplify my question. I think that the impulse to self-adorn is ancient and *human*, and need not have to be something one sex does in order to be compliant/acceptable while the other doesn’t.

    In the mainstream society of the present day, it makes perfect sense for radfems to get rid of all of it. I’m just wondering if there are any contexts where it could be ok to not have to do that. Does any and all adornment = compliance, always? I’m not so sure. Doesn’t it depend on context? On what it is and how it’s done? What about in a society where men are doing it to the same extent?

    I’m just asking, see, in a place where I know people really think about these things. I’m not defending or decrying any particular course of action.

  111. XtinaS

    I started out kind of oblivious but anxious to please.  It took me a long while when I was younger to figure out anything about myself, because I was so busy trying to figure out what society wanted from me.

    I was more of a one-of-the-guys person at the time.  I’d still dress up a bit, though, and wear make-up, and go out to goth clubs all gussied up, and so forth.  Gah, I still remember voicing the whole “She’s wearing $x, which means she wants people to look” opinion, well into my early twenties.  So embarrassing.

    (I vaguely recall having the no-abortion-except-these-three opinion, in my late teens.  (Incest, rape, impending death of one or both.)  Waugh.)

    I honestly can’t remember what turned me around on feminism, or when I first started thinking I might be a feminist.  It’s entirely possible that I grew into it by dating my girlfriend, who’s a feminist.  I’ll probably ask her; we’ve been together for about 7 years now, and her memory is way better than mine.

    Finding that I wasn’t straight, and subsequently dating women, definitely sped up my feminist conversion; I couldn’t both dismiss women in a fit of one-of-the-guysness and also want to date them.  (This, I think, makes me different from a whole lotta men.)  Not to mention, I could empathise with them more, having been raised as a woman in the US myself and all.

  112. MPMR

    Yardshark: I didn’t mean to come off as combative, and I should be more careful with my words online since you can’t hear my tone. I was just trying to point out that I think a larger percentage of our society is adorned. And you’re right, there are cultures where the expectations for men’s appearance is more stringent than in my culture, but even so, if women are still the sex class, the result is the same. The work and money required to meet those expectations is one reason why makeup, etc. is oppressive, but it’s not the only reason. I actually haven’t thought specifically about steampunk subculture, so I don’t know how misogynistic that particular group is, but it seems likely, given that it exists in the patriarchy, that it is.

    You didn’t say that equality was freedom from oppression, and I didn’t mean to say you did. You asked if it was still problematic as long as it was equal. I was trying to say that, for me, that’s asking the wrong question. Equality isn’t the goal, freedom from oppression is.

  113. cellocat

    Growing up, I was a funfeminist wannabe, to the extent that I really wanted to be fuckable, and was extremely envious of the “pretty” girls who were popular. I have only recently, in my early forties, started to truly let go of that. The 2008 primaries showed me that feminism was more important to me than any other consideration, and having a daughter has further galvanized me. Now, I am allowing my feminist values to trump my social conditioning, and if that means that I have lost some relationships, it also means that I feel more whole, more honest, and more powerful than before. I am always aware of what I am modeling for my daughter, and that is a good reminder of what I want to do for myself, and for her.

  114. Mrs. G.

    I went through my funfeminist period the summer of 1987. I was a sophormore in college in Eugene, Oregon. I quit shaving, discovered women’s studies classes AND exerted my feminine power by stringing along two guys who who treated me like shit at the same time. I thought I was such a radical, such a player juggling those two mooks while I reeked of patchouli. And then I woke up.

  115. Gayle

    When someone asked Marlo Thomas why she became a feminist she said she was born a feminist. I understood that. I don’t remember a time where I did not identify as feminist.

    When I got to college, I learned about schools of feminists. There were liberal feminists, Eco- feminists, radical feminists. And more. No fun feminists back then.

    I was thrilled when I found feminism on line. This was followed by confusion when feminist sites i thought i could relate to declared themselves pro- pron and such. It did not make any sense at all to me.

    I think fun feminism is akin to liberal feminism in the old days. They thought that by changing a few laws women would reach equality. I believe changing laws is fine and dandy but won’t lead to lasting change. Real change means you have to go deep into the culture, to the root. Which makes me a radical feminist.

  116. Triste

    To say self-adornment of any kind is antifeminist is as absurd as saying language of any kind is antifeminist. Just like words, clothes/makeup/hairstyles/jewelry act as cultural signifiers which are assigned meanings by social consensus. Just as we have agreed as a society that the mouth/throat-sounds we use to form the word “tree” indicates the big wood plant with branches and leaves and roots and shit, certain articles of clothing indicate certain things about the person wearing them. A person wearing a blue uniform with a shiny police badge stuck to it is wearing clothing which indicates, in our culture, that they are a police officer.

    Feminine clothing, in our culture, is an indication of submission and lower social status. This isn’t the fault of the clothes – the clothes are just fucking clothes. The practice of different clothes for different genders came about specifically as a way to emphasize the difference and lowness of women. The problem with fashion and normative clothing isn’t that one spends a lot of time dolling themselves up – how a person spends their free time is their own damn business.

    The problem with all the normative fashion shit is twofold: first, the society demands that all women comply with it, even if they don’t really feel like it. Secondly, when women do comply with it, they code feminine clothing as being a signal for weakness/submission/openness to sex with any dude who feels like it. It’s a trap. You have to wear the clothes, but when you do, you’re asking for it.

  117. ginger

    I don’t quite buy the contention that modern societies are the plainest in history – I think that it’s much easier to see and acknowledge adornment that’s unfamiliar.
    In modern wealthy secular Western societies, women adorn more than men – jewellery and makeup – but men and women are required to style their hair daily, to alter facial and body hair patterns, and to wear different types of clothing and shoes in various social contexts. Grooming and adornment signal status for men and women.
    I think that maybe it’s not the degree of adornment that matters, but the extent to which the pattern of adornment is asymmetric by gender.

  118. Keira

    @Ottawa Gardener, I always though Funfeminism wasn’t about what man-pleasing or patriarchy compliance you do, but about claiming that those behaviours are themselves feminist.

    Its just about, if not completely, impossible to avoid some amount of patriarchy compliance. I may always comply to some degree – straightness, thin build, enjoyment in feeding people.

    The difference now is that when I was funfeminist I actually had myself convinced that looking hawt, having lots of sex and baking were feminist acts.

    @Trish, to echo others, I think compassion is the only way to relate. Yes, what they do may harm feminism and other women, but they, and every other non-dude, are doing what they know how to do and feel they can get away with in a fucked up system. IBTP

  119. minervaK

    I don’t think I should get Feminist points just for being my dorky, slobby self.

    Oh, honey. You get EXTRA points for that. From me, at least.

  120. Sunhat

    minervaK: thanks for your earlier comment. I didn’t want this to turn into a “shame on your fun-feminist self,” because I think that would really be missing the point.

    I’ve been a whole lot of dumb, disingenuous and incomplete iterations of myself lo these 34 years of mine, but I’m not regretful. I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to grow and learn and inch a little closer to liberation (or as much as I can get in a chronic state of patriarchy). I’m not “there” yet, but I have a much better idea of what I’m looking for and how to get it.

    Fun-feminism isn’t a necessary bridge, but it is a gateway for many women. So it goes.

    Patriarchy confuses the heck out of all of us.

  121. Ruby Lou

    Was I a funfeminist? Probably not. Unless you could call tragic compulsive craving for male attention fun. I couldn’t, that’s for sure.

    I knew from day one that men were/are dangerous violent people with ominous hostilities towards each other and definitely toward women. That out of their hatred and fear of women, men had rigged the game against women and in their own favor to a skin-crawling degree. At first I was just scared but it didn’t take long for me to get real pissed off. Most of the time I tried to steer around the whole arrangement, but occasionally I would let my real sentiments show. For this I had a reputation as a mean psycho female who had outrageously unthinkable ideas about herself as a female. Meaning, how dare you not suck up every bit of shit the guys dish out.

    As luck would have it, I turned into a heterosexual pubescent female who got easily intoxicated by the smell of cute guys. Jesus Christ. So now I was faced with the unresolvable dilemma of wanting to fuck crazy people. I already knew how to amp up the flirt juice, I’d been doing that with my male relatives for years – it was a dandy way to keep from getting wailed on. So I had all this attention from guys, and it was fun and fizzy but at the same time it was terrifying and creepy. So I just careened along that way for a while, in Boyfriend Hell.

    I turned into a heavy doper as I hit my early 20s, and the shadows slumbering in my fractured psyche came out to play. Their favorite compulsion was lots of guys, all focused on me, all the time. I started dancing naked in bars to secure my supply. Which was a perfect therapy: by the time I walked away, I couldn’t stand the sight of men and had received a comprehensive education in the full depth and breadth of male hatred for women. I was completely cured of my jones for male attention. It wasn’t until many years later I understood all this madness was the result of sex abuse in my early childhood.

    The dilemma of heterosexuality, I still haven’t resolved. In my experience, most guys are looking for a mommy who fucks. So that leaves me about 20 miles outside the game. I’m a functional eunuch, which fits well with my curmudgeonly recluse lifestyle. In addition to having zero patience with snot-boys, I have a very limited tolerance for fools of any stripe. That would include those who insist that porn and/or prostitution can be practiced as a valid expression of feminism.

  122. JBT

    When I achieved 6 foot 4 inches of height at the age of 13, I knew that any “feminine” identity, fun or not, was a ridiculous fantasy. I learned, too, that those who were “gay,” or in any way unacceptable, needed back up. What surprised me the most was how few were willing to accept my friendship and how ready they were to condemn me in exchange for a few moments of acceptance. Indeed, on this very blog, I have been termed a Fun-Feminist (an idea that provided endless amusement to the love of my life for 28 years, in sickness and in health, the veritable Queen of Sheva, for whom I almost believe there is a god and for whom I am supremely blessed).

    Sadly, women under patriarchy hold *women* to much higher standards, whether they are self-proclaimed radical feminists or not. We do not know each other at all, really, yet we presume to judge. In general, we can accept that women are trained to perform femininity, but up close, we condemn those who do so as stupid or “fun.” I don’t have, and don’t pretend to have, the one, true answer here. I only know that condemnation is miserable and is unlikely to achieve our objectives. As a life-long dyke, and as someone unable to be a fun-feminist even if I tried, I have to wonder whether this dichotomy is not phony – as phony as all of the labeling of women that occurs (now we can add the fun-feminist caricature). If there is anyone to blame, it is the patriarchy. I burn with that blame, don’t you?

  123. Ottawa Gardener

    @Kiera: Thanks you made me feel a little bit better. As much as I love this thread, it was getting me down to realize how much I still need to rely on playing a woman’s role (though not the sex kitten role of my early 20s – hell no) to get by. By your definition, I had a very short funfem stage in my Uni days and that was only because I had adequate amounts of freedom to even hold the contradiction in my head. Previous to that I was in the trenches of victemized girlhood, and after that I was a disillusioned adult.

    I’m enjoying hearing others stories even if at the same time it makes my heart ache and fills me with anger.

  124. buttercup

    So in terms of ornamentation. Can a woman ornament herself and remain outside the patriarchal demand for compliance? Is all female ornamentation proof of desire to meet standards or can it be individual expression?

  125. Triste


    The definition of compliant shifts based on time, place, circumstance, etc. So probably not, no, unless you’re going with some outrageous Halloween costume or something.

    Patriarchy is a sneaky bastard. If too many women are becoming non-compliant, it will adjust itself to assimilate these women. That’s why we have pants made for women – when people began to realize that the battle to keep women in skirts/dresses was lost, they decided they would adjust by making special pants for women, in order to maintain their separate status.

  126. pheenobarbidoll

    I think I decided that men were entitled, spoiled, worthless pieces of shit when I was about 5 and the little snot being babysat with me threw himself onto the ground for a wall eyed temper tantrum because the baby sitter went to the bathroom instead of getting his precious ass a drink of water. I obliged him, found the largest glass I could get, filled it and dumped it into his screaming, hateful little face.

    My opinion of men and the P hasn’t changed much since that time.

  127. Fictional Queen

    You HAVE to do shit anyway,so the idea that it is your own choice and it even empowers you is appealing and relieving I guess.

  128. minervaK

    Can a woman ornament herself and remain outside the patriarchal demand for compliance?

    The main problem lies in the fact that we can’t control other peoples’ perceptions of us. If we are wearing jewelry or henna tattoos or bikinis because we like them (or because it’s 147 degrees in the shade), we have no way of indicating that to whoever is looking at us, because those things have already been coded partiarchy-compliant. Indeed, WE have already been coded as a consumer item for the patriarchy, so ANYTHING we do with our bodies is going to be read through that lens. Which is pretty fucking sickening, but that’s life in the camps.

    OK, so, given that anything I wear is going to be read by patriarchal standards, what to do? Me, I go ahead and wear the shit I want to wear, up to the limit of where it attracts a level of attention that I dislike. That usually precludes the bikini, except at home in the yard — although it occurs to me that with my fitty year-old, flabby-n-pasty-white figure, wearing a bikini in public might be hella transgressive. I just don’t personally like that level of attention from strangers.

    So, yeah, I think WE can adorn ourselves without the intention of patriarchy-compliance, but I don’t think it’s possible to insure that we’re seen that way.

  129. buttercup

    MinervaK-“So, yeah, I think WE can adorn ourselves without the intention of patriarchy-compliance, but I don’t think it’s possible to insure that we’re seen that way.”

    Well, I have no control over what people think of me, so I don’t stress over it much.

    I constantly question my motives for what I wear or use as ornament and most of the time it’s because I like it and it makes me happy, not because it’s “flattering” or “looks good” or whatever. This is a question that crops up frequently though and one I find myself answering differently as time goes on. I think I’ve arrived at F the P, I wear what I want. Mostly. Not 100% there yet.

  130. TwissB

    @ Gayle “I think fun feminism is akin to liberal feminism in the old days. They thought that by changing a few laws women would reach equality. I believe changing laws is fine and dandy but won’t lead to lasting change. Real change means you have to go deep into the culture, to the root. Which makes me a radical feminist.”

    There are still lots of ageing liberal feminists around who can’t bring themselves to admit that prostitution, pornography, and sadism are not ok “choices” for women or to recognize that men – from Hefner to Weiner who trumpet RvW and pro-choice positions are not doing women any favors since that ratifies their woman-hating practices. I’d bet that Marlo Thomas does not disagree with ageing liberal husband Phil Donahue who used to showcase Hefners and strippers on his show to “help” his devoted women audience loosen up and find their inner Bunnyness. Liberal feminists were thus trained fear being called prudes and to use that epithet to denounce radical feminist criticism of pornography, etc. Patriarchy compliance just goes on and on but that reality reversal ploy seems to work as well as ever and is a mainstay of funfauxfeminism.

  131. Alexandra Means She Who Wards off Men

    I never had a funfeminist stage. I did a 180 from woman-hating and truly wishing I had been born a boy (I was already aware that my male age-peers were not being harangued by their stepmothers to lose weight, stop climbing trees, and dress cuter), to full-on un-fun feminist.

    The other thing is I really was never pretty or slim enough to be a funfeminist. And on top of that there is something about me–and maybe it was the rage seeping through–that makes most men, and some women, uncomfortable. I did have years of trying to gain their approval by being one of the boys, but it didn’t work and guys found me most un-fun indeed. I really have lived up to the meaning of my name.

    I will say though that until I went to college I had no idea how misogynistic the world is. I was more aware of being in the “child” category than in the “woman” category til then. But college was a real eye opener. I had a few non-starter relationships before going celibate shortly before graduation. At the time I didn’t think I was choosing celibacy per se, I thought I was just going to not sleep with any guy I didn’t REALLY like…and that was 11 years ago.

    And then recently (angelic choirs sing) my libido dropped. I think it might be a side effect of some medication, but whatever it is, hallelujah. I did discover that there are a few men who are making a sincere enough effort at being decent human beings that I can still enjoy their company without hormones goading me into it, but the rest just make me sick.

  132. laxsoppa

    “Can a woman ornament herself and remain outside the patriarchal demand for compliance?”

    Thank you for this – it’s something I think about often, being a professional jeweller. I make a living off of people who want to ornament themselves, and a grand majority of them are women. I sometimes wonder if I’m only contributing to the problem of man-pleasing, even though personal ornamentation goes way back to the dawn of time and is practiced by all cultures that I’ve ever even heard of, and I want to believe not all of them are/were patriarchal.

    In every culture that practices any form of ornamentation, it is usually first and foremost a signifier of status, class, wealth or lack thereof, more about the society one lives in than the person. In mine as well as yours, although the dynamics of *how* different people choose different ornaments and what factors play into their choices vary by culture. Therefore the jewellery I produce is, in at least some ways, about the patriarchy. However, I also think ornamentation itself speaks to some part of the human psyche that goes far deeper than the P, although the P has found a way to assimilate it and use it to its own ends.

    What sort of ornaments do our radical feminists wear, and why? Would there be any ornaments in a radfem post-revolutionary world?

  133. Galatea

    I was a severely self-closeted dyke in the South. I spent so much time suppressing any sort of sexual expression that my defiance against what I viewed as the patriarchy, for my early 20s, was probably indistinguishable from funfem. I didn’t really have that set of rationalizations for sexy gender presentation, though; I just wanted to finally, finally express to the world that I wanted to have sex too. And there was nothing my oppressors could do about it! So there!

    Example: When I first bought a skirt that was shorter than knee-length, I was twenty years old and moving out of the country. My first thought was, ‘well, no one I know will see it! So it doesn’t count.’ I didn’t want to be attractively female where anyone in my life would see me do it. Because that would be like admitting out loud that I masturbated at night. (GASP.)

    So I guess for me, my skirts-and-shaved-legs phase was partly about signaling interested dykes (which didn’t work so well as I’d thought) but also very much about defying the slut-shaming silencers of my adolescence. Being sexy was about being proud that I had sexual desire. In that sense, I believed myself to be – if not feminist – then anti-patriarchy.

    I never really did the conforming thing, though, so it was easy to look down on a co-worker with a mani/pedi, heels, and bleached hair. I started hashing out what was mainstream-sexy (and porno-sexy) versus what was sexy to me, and then started the much more difficult thought experiment of trying to detangle what parts of sexy-to-me had been patriarchy-instilled, and eventually came to the difficult conclusion that mainstream culture and counterculture are both consumerist phenomena projected on the unwary brainpan and all versions of ‘sexy’ were at least as co-opted as they were personal.

    So now I don’t follow any particular feminine gender presentation that’s any trouble or pain. I did just dye my hair purple; this is one way of signaling to interested dykes, and also I like it this color. I don’t delude myself that it’s a blow to the oppressor, but I also don’t think that painting my nails the same color marks me as patriarchy-compliant.

  134. Treefinger

    The closest I can remember to engaging in funfeminist tactics was telling a friend who was hostile to feminism that there was a difference between “sane feminists” and “ultra-radical feminazis” in order to win him over to at least some form of it. That was nearly five years ago (I was 16) when I was just making the transition into feminist consciousness myself, so yeah, a mistake.

    I suppose you could categorize me as a funfeminist teenager, as from years 12-15 I basically grew up on various forms of gay porn, and my only political concerns were with queer rights and the most shallow forms of sexual liberation, until I got into socialist thought in my mid-teens. I remember someone I was a fan of quoting Solanas and immediately deciding I hated feminists because of course at the time I identified as male and took the whole “destruction of men” thing too personally. I got over it.

    Today my main beefs with funfeminism (esp. as applied to sexuality) are related to the fact that I’m expected to identify with it because I’m trans and not vanilla. Radical feminists can often be anti-trans and anti-BDSM as we know, and that’s supposed to put me off and lead me to the sex-positive side. I prefer to ignore or reason with transphobes (since they aren’t everyone in the movement, and at least overt criticism is more honest than the creepy cissexism that pops up in sex-positive circles), and generally agree with radfems on what’s wrong with BDSM and fetish, because I don’t confuse enjoying a skeevy product of patriarchy with that meaning it’s a-ok. To me it’s very simple, I view it in the same light I view myself buying a KFC meal or some cheap clothes that could probably be traced back to sweatshops: I am supporting patri/kyriarchy with this action, whether I like it or not, even if at this moment it seems like a trivial and harmless part of my routine. For some reason, many funfeminists will acknowledge the consequences of doing those things, but they defend the honour of what turns them on as sacred no matter what. I guess it’s just that people tend to place particular importance in sexual matters.

    And partly I just don’t like them because they don’t complain (read: blame) enough! Anyone who claims to see the world (minus a few heartwarming moments that keep them truckin’ on) in a positive or fun light when we live under this system inevitably comes across as delusional or a Stepford smiler to me.

  135. Keira

    I wonder about ornamentation too.

    I love wood and stone (rocks, not gems) as jewellery, but have almost entirely given them up along with the make up, heels, long hair etc.

    I still think they are beautiful, but I feel like I am impersonating someone else when I wear them, like wearing my mother’s shoes. I’m in a change-phase at the moment, too, so I am still working out why I think they are beautiful, and if thinking something is beautiful is actually a reason to put it on your head/ear/neck.

    Otherwise, I have two tattoos, one very visible on my wrist, which is ornamentation, I suppose.

  136. Alexandra Means She Who Wards off Men

    One further thought: Everyone who has contributed to this thread seems to be an intelligent and thoughtful person. By contrast, one thing that characterizes most of the funfeminists I know is a very NON-thoughtful approach to the world and their own doings. It’s not that they are dumb (well, not ALL of them), more that they are varying degrees of lazy and/or fearful. I find these women have the same attitude toward, e.g., environmentalism. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone their dryer sheets cause brain cancer or porn is violence against women or whatever and they just shrug and say oh well. It’s just too hard and too scary to think about implications and ramifications. Thankfully, some of the funfeminists will evolve.

  137. Triste

    IMO there’s nothing wrong with any sort of ornamentation in an abstract sense. The problem is that we are compelled to ornament ourselves in certain ways. If there weren’t any consequences for not wearing compliant clothes/makeup/shoes, we could freely choose whether we wanted to wear them or not, and there would be nothing anti-feminist about doing so. Since we live in a Patriarchy, we don’t have the option of freely choosing whether or not to wear heels – we’ve been trained/brainwashed that we need to wear them in order to be sexay, with sexayness being mega fucking important!!!11!1

  138. Mortisha

    I didn’t learn to hate other women. The hyper feminine women that I did meet I thought were just weird for faking helplessness; standing on chairs being scared of mice, not being able to change a car tyre, etc. – what the? My thinking was more – weren’t they embarrassed to be like that? Likewise the dudes who acted all puffed out when they stepped in and help the “little lady”. I now know it’s all the law of performance for the patriarchy and have a name for it besides the “adults are all being idiots.”
    I tried the female performance for the patriarchy at university when a lot of us try on different personas to see how it feels. I enjoyed it for a while; more for the creative outlet of exploring fashion and indulging my arty side. Didn’t have any epiphanies, it just felt weird and illogical to be having sore feet from fuckme shoes, going out in flimsy dresses on cold nights while the dudes wore jackets and I just got bored with it all. Like Ron Sullivan above I found it made no difference in finding partners- definitely agree on the need for a good filter.
    Radicalization came more with the relentless dishonesty and bullshit in the working world. Having to deal with the endless line of incompetent’s assholes in their influential positions of power & wealth by the only virtue of being born with a penis. Not their superior knowledge, not their superior wisdom, not their amazing management skills. And then there are the religious zealots, their crappy world view of women and their insistence on trying the spread all that hatey crap.
    laxsoppa. For me art, music and nature are like oxygen. The adornments I have are usually personally symbolic for me. Like a silver bracelet intertwined with the black mane hair of my childhood best friend horse. Earrings by a designer inspired by Frida Kahlo. Other pieces inspired by ancient stories and nature mythologies that resonant with me at the time and remind me of freedom. Movement, colour and texture I find mesmerizing so i bought a sparkly green chameleon last purchase because it made me laugh, still does, lizards are fun!

  139. K.C.

    The closest I ever came to a funfem phase was back when I was 17. Oh, the fun of listening to assholes and attempting to justify their hate speech with ‘worldview differences’. That lasted about a week. Then it was strictly a diet of radical lesbian terrorism and joyous fist pumping.

    I hope to never slide into another, thank you.

  140. A Ginva

    Most of the existing feminine ornamentation is a problem per se, even abstracted from patriarchy. Most of it was invented as a tool to dehumanise women, reduce their physical mobility and freedom (to imprison), with the intent of causing pain and humiliation and even torture (corset, footbinding, cutting up, depilation), and to make sure they are seen as objects rather than human beings.

    No such ornamentation would have been invented were we not within a patriarchal aim of submitting women to men, so I don’t see how it can be recycled or why it should be.

    When we talk about slavery, do we ask if chains and whips would be ok outside the slave system?

    For instance, high heels have no other aim but to disable women, make them physically vulnerable and unstable. It comes from the hatred of women and the desire to infantilise and objectify them, prevent them from being full and free adults. High heels restrict mobility, and cause pain to the feet when worn too long. They are not meant to be walked with.

    The clothes imposed on women are alo inherently designed to restrict freedom of movement and make women as feel unconfortable and unconfident as possible (women clothes are typically too tight, too small, too short, too thin, badly cut, unfunctional, painful, showing a lot of skin => increase of vulnerability in the public space, etc).

    The very function of patriarchal makeup is to prevent women to love their body as it is. Existing makeup exists in order to “enhance beauty” (fuckability) and encourage self-hatred and low self-esteem, since the eyes, lips, face, (etc) are only ‘pretty’ after application of makeup. It serves only to mould women into a caricature of the fictional character of femininity, the slut, and thus mark them publicly as the inferior sex class. Lipstick for instance was invented in prostitution as a sign that the prostituted women accepted fellatio.

    Sorry for the boring tone…

  141. ew_nc

    Derailing here, so I can share this little bit of of, of, well I can’t really think of a word insulting enough to describe this little rant from the creator of the Dilbert cartoon. It truly blows the lobe.


  142. Yardshark

    @A Ginva – But what about other types of ornamentation that are not disabling? I think we’re already pretty clear on the ones that are.

    And the point was made earlier that no matter what we wear, it’s generally going to be scored by others against a scale of compliance. That’s totally true, as is the point that *as women* we are always-already seen through P-colored glasses. Yup, we live in that nightmare where nobody hears us scream. But to my mind, ornamentation falls on a spectrum from most-compliant (the disabling) to least (?). Some may argue that the spectrum never gets to non-compliant, but are there ways to approach it? Maybe not…it does seem like men can turn anything into a turn-on.

  143. crickets

    “The main problem lies in the fact that we can’t control other peoples’ perceptions of us.” minervaK

    Yep this is what I was sort of thinking, but you articulated it thanks minervaK! We can wear what we want, but our appearance will always be twisted and interpreted along patriarchal lines by any obvserver – men and other women too. We really have no control over the way other people see us – I think funfeminism is a desperate attempt to take ownership of the way we are viewed by others, hence all the “it’s MY CHOICE” stuff. I suppose funfeminism makes sense as a reaction to the patriarchy, in a burying-my-head-in-the-sand way.

  144. Saila

    Once upon a time, I was reading a forum and all the women were complaining about how hard their life was, and how oppressed they were. PFFT! I came swooping in with my heroic tales of overcoming all obstacles and pulling myself up from my bootstraps. I figured they just weren’t working hard enough.

    Then it hit me – hard, in the face, repeatedly. Once I learned proper patriarchy blaming vocabulary, my life was forever changed. I finally had words to describe aspects of my life that I loathed, but I couldn’t put my finger on: slut shaming, performing femininity, catering to the male gaze, policing women’s appearance, etc. Before, I simply knew of “objectification” but now I have a whole arsenal of articulated grievances against The P.

    I am a college student and every once is a while, a Bible Thumper comes to campus and preaches about hell fire. He (they have all been dudes so far) stands in the middle of a busy sidewalk and yells for hours. Everyone considers him a moron and ignores him. Let us assume – purely for argument’s sake – that this person is truly enlightened and has an important message. He is failing at delivering his message because he is alienating his audience.

    I wonder if/how this situation applies to the revolution. That is, to what extent do I compromise my principles and perform femininity in order to not alienate those that need to hear my message the most?

    Honestly, if there is any trait of funfeminism left in me, this is it. My “gottado” list is much longer than I’d like it to be.

  145. pheenobarbidoll

    Sorry but no. When the message is ” stop oppressing me” the onus is on the oppressors to pick up their goddamn feet.

    I’m not obligated to ask nicely when someone is punching me in the face.

    And if they don’t like hearing it, or if it hurts their fee fee’s then they shouldn’t have violated me in the first place.

  146. tinfoil hattie

    I have always felt “wrong.” I have done femininity wrong, I have done submission wrong, I have done “woman” wrong. I questioned patriarchy since the age of 5, without knowing that’s what I was questioning and without knowing I would find no satisfactory answers.

    I never knew what was in fashion. I was dismayed about this and felt so horribly left out and rejected. HOW did all the girls know, seemingly on the same day, that little leather pony tail holders were “in”? How did everyone start wearing Dr. Scholl’s sandals at the same time? How did everyone know to push their socks down, not pull them up to their knees? I was mystified and felt completely on the “outside” of everyone.

    At the same time, I could not understand HOW these things were fashionable, or WHY they were. Mostly, I could not understand why “all the other girls” felt these things were so important. I turned my feelings of rejection into scorn.

    Eventually, I began to say wonderful things like, “I hate women. I would rather hang out with you guys. Women are boring, and they care about stupid, superficial things. I can’t relate to them.” Surprise, surprise – this did not gain me a lifetime membership into the boys’ club; rather, it alienated me from men, too. Eventually, I realized I necessarily included myself in that “hate” claim, since I am a woman.

    Finally, I figured out: No, women are not “catty” by nature; we are desperate. We are not “stupid”; we are shut out. We are not “slutty”; we are trying to please men. We are not “bull dykes”; we simply reject patriarchy’s definition of femininity and refuse to pleas men. We are not “lipstick lesbians”; we are simply trying to conform to patriarchy’s definition of femininity, for many reasons.

    My lobe started blowing when I started to crystallize these thoughts. I struggled for years, and then I found IBTP. I was hideously depressed for months after I read all the archives, once I got past the “Oh, this writer is just so bitter. Just because SHE is unhappy, doesn’t mean EVERYONE is,” and then I really figured it out.

    It is hellishly depressing. I gain hope from coming back here, from connecting online with other women who are struggling similarly, from meeting up with other IBTP-ers when possible.

    Damn, but patriarchy SUCKS.

  147. minervaK

    I think funfeminism is a desperate attempt to take ownership of the way we are viewed by others, hence all the “it’s MY CHOICE” stuff.

    Oh, nice insight, crickets! You may very well have pinpointed the root of funfeminism — an attempt to be seen as “in control” of something that is so very outside our control. There’s a lot of interesting threads leading out from there, too: playing “in control” produces behavior so much more palatable to the oppressors; “in control” can be sexualized out the wazoo; the psycho-emotional implications of “in control” (vs. the “hysterical woman” meme)… the mind boggles…

  148. chocolatepie

    I started reading Cynthia Heimel in high school and alienating all of my friends by lecturing them on not wearing heels and makeup. I was always pretty but so smart that I have never felt inferior to men, nor any real desire to display more masculine qualities or try to please them. I’m loud and funny and intelligent and the men have always shut up and listen to me, with the notable exception of my awful misogynist father.

    However, I still qualify as funfeminist, and I often feel miserable due to cognitive dissonance. However, I am a weak coward who fucks an immature unfeminist man in the vain hope that one day he’ll see the light. I know it’s futile but I can’t leave because I’m pathetic and inexperienced and isolated as the most radical feminist I know (and I don’t know where to find real-world radfem friends. Help!).

    That bout of brutal self-honesty, along with the several moving anecdotes here, just made me burst into tears. Sometimes the fight is just too painful. I love you all, though, and I’m truly grateful that IBTP exists.

  149. Kea

    Being in my 40s, I have watched funfeminism (the hawt sexaay kind) inadvertedly feed the ever growing compliance propaganda machine. Some things really are worse than they were 10 years ago. I can’t check my email (my provider options are limited) without having my face bombarded by tanned asses and patriarchy compliant tits, all supposedly in the name of reporting News.

  150. cootie twoshoes

    Gawd but compliance is embarrassing.

    When I was a child, I was a fierce tomboy, mostly because my older brother got to do lots of cool stuff, and it was so obvious that girly stuff was totally limited. Alas, I was a teenager throughout the ’90s, and I swallowed completely the message that a woman’s power lies in her sexuality. I developed my powerful female image with scant clothing and ridiculous shoes and an eager willingness to impress dudes with my bawdy language. By the time I turned 18, I was stripping in a club. I couldn’t handle the relentless abuse and blamed myself for it, but I finally quit. It took about 10 years to regain my self-esteem and put words to my experiences.

    Radical feminism has nurtured me back to feeling human. This blog has been integral.

    Thanks everybody for sharing the anecdotes.

  151. Jezebella

    Kea, can you use Mozilla Firefox and install the ad-blocker plus plug-in (both free)? That combo really works to screen out ads, pop-ups, tanned asses, and p-compliant boobage. It’s weird to use someone else’s computer and suddenly be assaulted with all of that crap.

    Cootie: BINGO! That is the Big Lie of funfeminism: “our power lies in our sexuality”. What a fucking crock of shit. The day I realized that a dude’s boner was NOT a compliment was kind of life-changing. It’s just a boner, and he’ll have another one in ten minutes whether I’m there or not. Who was it who said a stripper has power over men like a squirrel has power over a pack of Dobermans? I think of that every time some MRA is like “women have the power to choose their mate and demand diamond rings, so men are oppressed and feminism is wrong.”

  152. Kea

    J, these are not ads, they are News items.

  153. Rididill

    Oh funfeminism, the actually least fun kind of feminism. In fact, blatant patriarchal submission sounds kind of more ‘fun’, in that you’re not telling yourself such ludicrious lies about what you’re doing is ’empowering’ and ‘fun’. At least if you’ve decided that it’s woman’s lot to be a miserable slave then you don’t have that schizo cognitive dissonance.

    This may be an incredibly ignorant thing to say, so please feel free to point that out.

    How ironic how many describe how miserable they were under funfeminism.

    Funfeminism was the only kind of feminism I knew until my early twenties. I didn’t know that’s what it was called, or if there were alternatives, except for the hairy legged prude stereotypes. Yeah, I grew up in the 90s too. And DAMN was I miserable.

    Funfeminism got me pregnant. Like, it was COOL to be chilled out about not wearing a condom, right? Not like those uptight prudey girls. I mean, it’s fine, I can just get the morning after pill, right? And he didn’t come very often when he wore condoms, so obviously that hit me pretty hard in my man-pleasing self-esteem. He didn’t even have to pressure me into it, I did that all by my patriarchy-internalised self thank you very much.

    Morning after pill, I discovered, doesn’t always work. So I had an abortion. I got very depressed, though I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t have any regrets about getting the abortion, that’s for sure. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t have the words to say what.

    Now I realise that the pregnancy had forced me to confront the fact that I was a woman, something I had secretly loathed my whole life, trying to be one of the boys. And I was angry, so angry that I’d had to go through this and he suffered nothing. And he didn’t even seem to care or try and understand.

    Of course, depressed people aren’t that much ‘fun’. So he shortly decided that I wasn’t ‘fun’ enough anymore to be worth his time.

    Yeah, those man-pleasing points really get you places, huh. So much ‘FUN’ that is.

    And then I discovered radical feminism and, for the first time in my life, self-esteem. Seeing the everyday realities of misogyny in pretty much every single human interaction or media production that there is, is not fun. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun to live valuing yourself instead of destroying yourself in a big fat empowerment lie.

    To all those who said – ‘I thought it ws my non-conformism that was making me depressed, then I realised it was the patriarchy.’ Amen to that. My family pushed THAT one on me my whole life. And then I read this:


    And realised I wasn’t crazy, that my unhappiness with the world was not, in fact, due to mental illness. Fuck the patriarchy. BLAME!

    I love you, blametariat.

  154. chocolatepie

    Jezebella: Ditto sexuality as power being a crock of shit. I guess that’s why the majority of CEOs, world leaders, school administrators, store managers, and Nobel/Pulitzer Prize winners are fuckable women, then.

    Some people go around saying men’s power lies in their physical (upper body) strength, but everyone acknowledges that a society where that power is necessary to be considered a full human and say, get a job or have people respect what you say or have enough food to eat, is not a place most sane individuals would really want to live in.

  155. cootie twoshoes

    Jezebella, it was definitely life changing for me. When I realized being sexy and bodacious did not somehow grant the power to stop a rapist, that Big Lie crumbled.

    I’ve never heard the squirrel/Doberman analogy, but it’s perfect.

  156. Stella

    I used to think “You think like a guy” was a compliment.

  157. tinfoil hattie

    J, these are not ads, they are News items.

    Ha, Twisty’s famous “bitter, mirthless laugh” is bubbling up in my throat right now.

  158. Triste

    @ A Ginva

    I don’t know that painful practices, when chosen freely (/really/ freely, which is impossible in a Patriarchy), are necessarily dehumanizing. Getting a tattoo hurts like fuck, as does ritual scarification/body piercings/etc, but I don’t think that they are necessarily dehumanizing. Humans do all sorts of insane bullshit which is potentially crippling/bad for them – they climb mountains, they fuck without condoms, they drive Jeeps, they smoke, and so on. If foot-binding/wearing high heels/wearing miniskirts was a choice that could be made as freely as the choice to smoke or the choice to climb a giant dangerous mountain, it wouldn’t be a humanitarian crisis.

    I will agree with you, however, that the reason restrictive/painful clothing is often considered exclusively feminine is that the Patriarchy wants to keep women crippled and vulnerable. I suppose in a post-Patriarchal world, high heels would be gender-neutral items. They would probably only be worn as bizarre performance-art statements, or perhaps as part of obscure hazing rituals for social clubs. Or, you know, sex things.

  159. Shopstewardess

    Choosing not to wear adornments because they are restrictive/painful/dangerous is one thing (jewellery can be dangerous when undertaking physical activity, for instance). And wearing adornments to attract male attention is not something I’m interested in. But I don’t want to defer to the male gaze more than I have to, and so allow it to prevent me from taking occasional pleasure in adorning myself with high quality clothes and my very few pieces of nice but not valuable jewellery. Even though this marks me as female.

    Men of course manage to adorn themselves with so-called practical items, such as watches, which can cost far more than almost any women’s jewellery, without going through any of this agonising. The patriarchy wins again.

  160. buttercup

    Dude I used to work with had an epiphany in a conversation we had whereby he ran out that old line of shit about how women can use their sexuality to get whatever they want. I stood up in front of him with my late 40s fat unshaved cripped ass and said how the fuck is that going to work for me? I swear I saw a lightbulb go on over his head and he said he never really thought about it in those terms before. Dude was not malicious, just indoctrinated, and I hope it made a difference. He moved offices so I don’t really know if it did. (not because of that conversation)

  161. nails

    Saila, that question is part of a lively debate amongst atheists (and scientists) about how to educate the public about science and faith conflicts. People who make educational materials & museums have to decide what approach to use when large numbers of people believe the bible is scientifically accurate. Should they consider the creationist people in their materials, or just go about their business? The group that thinks that things should be altered in order to win over more people are called accomodationists. They say things like science and religion are compatible, and they make displays about evolution in museums centered on winning over the faithful. Mostly, it just wins people over in dishonesty, which never lasts, and the number of people it wins over is miniscule. Creationists are probably not interested in learning a faith-friendly message, and acting as though the conflicts do not exist at all only makes for a superficial understanding of the information. People who think accomodationism is dishonest or ineffective typically just put the facts out there and demonstrate them. It is much more effective, from what I can see. People who are honest, people who care about what is actually true, don’t care a whole lot about *how* the message is transmitted. It can have cuss words or weird phrasing or sound aggressive, none of that negates the truth. The truth typically is uncomfortable, thats the thing about it. If people get feminism they will feel uncomfortable with their past and what is going on around them. It isn’t a bad thing.

    If your street preacher guy lured everyone in by downplaying the more controversial parts of his message, but he still very much believed in all of it, he would eventually out himself to his followers. He wasted everyones time by not saying what he meant. The whole idea of tailoring a presentation in order to get more people than by direct means sounds an awful lot like marketing, which is another kind of dishonesty that I really detest.

  162. Tanya

    I definitely went through a fun feminism period. That would be back when I thought having an abortion was the worst thing a woman could ever do. I think that listening to my slut-shaming middle school teacher going on about the joy and beauty of incubating a fetus may have had an effect. I remember being angry about the nice white lady that came to convince us that having sex before marriage was the worst thing ever. There were several sexually active girls in our grade ten class and the administration would have known about it. They wanted to shame them for having sex. I didn’t figure out the source of my anger at the whole situation until many years later. The nice white lady also made sure to shame horny teenagers out of masturbating. Oh how I b the p.

    I always knew that I would never get married. The whole institution just smelled bad to me, even when I was five. I could not articulate this I just knew it. I did refuse to wear a grad dress, which made my mom really unhappy. We were out shopping for a fancy dress when it hit me-I didn’t want to wear female drag and be gawked at and told I was pretty. I could not have to told you why at the time, but i guess I may have been a patriarchy blamer in training.

    However, I did manage to get trapped into an abusive relationship for many years. My ex ground my self esteem into a pulp and made me hate myself. I’m still dealing with the fallout many years later. It really is hard to deprogram oneself from patriarchal brainwashing. A common nightmare for me is that we are back together and i cant escape. It’s an ongoing process to stop myself from descending into self-loathing for all the mistakes i have made. It makes struggling with a mental illness even harder. But I am getting there. This blog has been an incredible eye opener. It has described perfectly what I have felt and known for years. It has given me the language to describe my personal pain. “Tool of the patriarchy” is a phrase that falls from my lips several times a day. My children and partner are aware of my views about patriarchy but I don’t think they understand how truly hideous it all is.

    I went to university and pursued an engineering degree. There were many times when i was the only female in the room and boy did I feel left out. It was awful. I never felt like i belonged, even though i would be really good at engineering. I loved to take things apart and put them back together but it has never done me any good. Of course I dropped out.

  163. Melinda

    A Ginva, I don’t think your understanding of the development of high heels, makeup, etc. is accurate. I’ve studied the history of clothing and costume, and statements such as “Most of the existing feminine ornamentation …was invented as a tool to dehumanise women” are simply wrong. Even focusing exclusively on European history, we know that men have worn high heels, elaborate clothing, wigs, corsets, and makeup–sometimes all at once. None of these forms of ornamentation or body modification was originally intended as a means of oppressing women.
    I had a typical little-girlhood, playing with dolls, taking dance lessons, but also playing astronaut and riding my bike all over the neighborhood. I was mouthy and challenging, and my first conflict with TPTB was when I wanted to be a crossing guard in sixth grade (in 1966). This position was exclusively for the boys, and we girls were told that we wouldn’t WANT the job–standing out in the rain and snow. Even then I knew a bullshit argument when I heard it, but there was no recourse.
    I was definitely into clothes and makeup in high school, but I was also skinny and mouthy and smart, so was always warned by adults that I was “intimidating” the boys. As soon as I became aware of the concept of “feminist,” I knew I was one. We actually had to take a “marriage and family” class, and when the teacher said that SOMEone had to be the head of the family, and it might as well be the man, I opined that none of the guys I knew were competent enough to make my decisions for me. At the same time, I was very attracted to guys and so disappointed by their shortcomings.
    In college I continued with feminist studies and held very radical views, but also reveled in attention from guys. By this time I had acquired a figure and was quite conventionally pretty, and my need for security compelled me to seek the attention and approval of men–but they never got beyond my looks. I was constantly frustrated at their stupidity regarding feminism. Couldn’t they see how much happier we would all be without that goddamned “battle of the sexes”? At that time–mid-’70s–I was already tired of having the “Playboy oppresses women” argument, and in my worst nightmares couldn’t have imagined how ubiquitous Hooter’s and Maxim, etc. would be, how mainstream “softcore” porn has become.
    I don’t think I’ve ever been a “fun” feminist, although I still wear dresses and makeup when I want to. I definitely struggle with internal conflict. Burlesque, porn, etc. as “empowerment” disgusts me. I like costume, adornment, color, texture, but never subservience or pretending to be a “biddable” woman. I’m still attracted to men sexually, but I’m still constantly disappointed at how low their expectations are of their own behavior and maturity. My brother-in-law once asked me whether I liked men, and I replied, “I like the IDEA of men.”
    On a side note, in reference to the societal pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty, I think it’s important to actually look around. I see countless women who obviously are NOT bothering with makeup, constricting undergarments, elaborate hair-management rituals, and painful shoes. Here in Seattle, they might even be in the majority. We just don’t see them presented as such in the media.

  164. laxsoppa

    minervaK: “There’s a lot of interesting threads leading out from there, too: playing “in control” produces behavior so much more palatable to the oppressors; “in control” can be sexualized out the wazoo; the psycho-emotional implications of “in control” (vs. the “hysterical woman” meme)… the mind boggles…”

    Indeed it does – the last one leads me down a track of thought where one realizes on some level that all that “fun” of shaving legs, wearing uncomfortable and impractical clothing is oppression and participating in it is accepting the terms of engagement set by the oppressor and that there is no way to opt out without dire consequences.

    Enter the “MY CHOICE!” ethos and we have people, grown women, essentially denying the oppression and exclaiming loudly that they choose that crap, when they really have no free choice in the matter – which in my mind is victim-blaming where the victim blames herself.

  165. Jodie

    My mom worked, at a time when moms in our little town mostly didn’t, and she and dad pretty much split up the chores between them in a fairly equal manner. If mom was doing something around the house, so was dad. Decisions were mostly made by my mom with input from dad, because she was smarter than he was about money. Made sense to me, and growing up that way, I just thought that’s how it was supposed to work (somehow not managing to see that my friends’ parents didn’t work like that).

    It always made me mad that there were things boys could do that girls weren’t allowed to do (pretty much what soured me on religion). So feminism seemed pretty natural to me, and to this day, I really can’t get my head around the patriarchy. And I am a lot like tinfoil hattie in that I really don’t fit, and don’t do fashion. Now in my 50s, I’ve perfected the art of dressing so plainly that sometimes I appear to be invisible to the general public. Or maybe it’s just my age.

    I don’t know that I was ever a “funfeminist” since I think that postdates the period of time in which I was determined to be pleasing to men. I wish I’d kicked over the traces much sooner in my life.

  166. FoxTarantella

    From a very young age I had a feeling something was… off. I got on well enough with my close friends, but even with them I noticed that in comparison to other groups of girls we all seemed to be different, outcasts even (which is a word that could pretty much describe what I soon came to be at school in a social sense)

    We all laughed at the girls who would fret over their hair and make up and virginity etc etc, and mock them, even calling them sluts and whores behind their backs whilst feeling glad that we would never be like that. Even when I didn’t know the word feminism existed I was a feminist at heart – although I still fell prey to hating on other women, hence the “slut and whore” terminology.

    My mother and sister would start to get me make up for christmas and my birthdays, and I would get visibly upset/distressed. The concept of make up, and especially what it means in today’s society, has always felt alienating to me and on the odd occasion that I’ve tried a bit of make up I’ve cringed at my reflection in the mirror.

    In regards to men I’ve always felt conflicted. On the one hand I have strong sexual feelings towards them, but not on the same sort of lines as many women seem to do… it’s difficult to explain, so I won’t. All I will say is that the idea of dominance and submission is also incredibly alienating to me.

  167. Melinda

    Somehow I’ve lost the train of theory here. Laxsoppa, don’t you see women all around you who are NOT shaving their legs or wearing uncomfortable clothing? So doesn’t that make it a choice at some level? In my office, several of the women managers mostly wear blue jeans and none of them wear makeup. They’re successful and respected. (Of course, they’re not in sales–all those people dress up.)
    I went for years without shaving my legs, then started shaving again, then quit. No one noticed or cared.
    I’m really fascinated at the contrast between the images I see in the media, and the real women I see every day. Obviously, there are several cultures overlapping and interacting.

  168. Carrie

    It started when I decided to be a sex worker, because “Hey, I love Sex! Why not make some money from it (and pay the rent and support my deadbeat boyfriend)?” I couldn’t figure out why, since it was my “choice” to be there, it felt like I was being raped each and every time. Years later, I had a beautiful baby girl, who, due to a crappy “spontaneous genetic mutation” will never, ever meet our society’s idea of what a woman should look like. Nor will she ever climb a mountain, or jump rope, or swim without a life-jacket. But in my head, my thought was, “At least she’s pretty. Her legs will scare off some, but at least she has a pretty face.”

    Shortly after her birth, I had some funfem friends discuss how empowering their burlesque routine was. I asked, “But what about women like my kid, who don’t have the ability to meet our idea of what a “powerful” sexxaay lady is?” And one’s answer was, “But she’s so pretty, she’ll be fine”. It was like a switch flipped on in my head. Everything Twisty was saying was right! Depressing, but true! I’d just started reading this blog and there was a post about forgiving yourself and other women for doing what you had to do to survive as women in the patriarchy. I forgave one friend and sent her to the blog, and she was converted. The other friend continued to say awful, clueless things to me and is no longer my friend. Now I have to figure out how to raise two girls, one whose knees don’t bend, with both the survival skills to survive in this society and the understanding that that’s what lipstick and heels are, just tools they may need or choose to use – or not use. They can decide for themselves how much they want to use each piece of that knowledge. I don’t know that I’ll do a very good job, but they are bright girls, so I’m hoping they’ll “get it” a lot sooner than their mother did.

  169. mythago

    Who was it who said a stripper has power over men like a squirrel has power over a pack of Dobermans?

    Nobody who’s ever paid attention in a strip club, where they have bouncers for a reason.

  170. eb

    Wow. 156 comments. I guess I’m late to the “I used to be a funfem and now I’m a hairy lesbian” party.

    I had my funfem phase – married to a dude, he wanted to ‘swing’, he also wanted to do the bdsm thing, I went along with all of that shit thinking it was liberating – that I was exercising my sexual freedom. Ironic, huh? After about five years of the ‘everyone envies our sexual progressiveness’ manipulation, I actually did exercise my sexual freedom, left the dude and now I’m a hairy lesbian.

    In the same way you can’t know joy unless you know sorrow, perhaps you can’t understand how fucked up the Patriarchy is unless you’ve been a tool for it a one time.

  171. Mollie

    Most obnoxiously, I defended the right to put a dick in my mouth in the great blow job war of 06. What a maroon. Thanks for this Twisty, I feel better now.

  172. Jill

    Jezebella: “I struggled for years, and then I found IBTP. I was hideously depressed for months after I read all the archives, once I got past the ‘Oh, this writer is just so bitter. Just because SHE is unhappy, doesn’t mean EVERYONE is,’ and then I really figured it out.”

    I know, right? Lots of people start out here thinking I am unhappy over some personal failure to hook a man and that I desire only to make everyone else unhappy, too. But I am not unhappy. I used to be unhappy. That’s when I hooked plenty of men and did femininity and the whole nine yards and everyone found me utterly fascinating. I succeeded wonderfully as a girl. But it wasn’t until I noticed how being sexually manipulative is not the apex of human achievement that I actually become happy.

    Yikes, this sounds like one of those “I used to be gay but treatment cured me” testimonials! Let it be known that by “happy” I mean “enlightened by truth.”

  173. laxsoppa

    Melinda: “Laxsoppa, don’t you see women all around you who are NOT shaving their legs or wearing uncomfortable clothing?”

    Actually I don’t, because I live close enough to the Arctic Pole to enjoy a fresh summer breeze from Franz Joseph’s Land every once in a while, so what the other ladies decide to do with their body hair rarely gets into my line of vision since there is no sauna culture in my current country of residence. I know I cop to it every once in a while, though, but summer gear around here means only two layers of clothing (one if we’re in luck!) and maybe a wool sweater. *Not* wearing comfortable and/or covering clothing is not an option.

    Back to the point. Leg-shaving and clothes were lazy examples and I should have articulated my point better. Because what I see, even in this bloody freezing coast village, is women spending time, money and thought on their appearance in ways that have never even occurred to the men and which will very likely go unnoticed by them unless someone suddenly quits their hair-dying routine or something. Then it might draw a few comments, nothing extreme because the culture here isn’t that focused on preening as such, but it draws comment.

    Notice that I’m not counting myself out of the women I’m talking about, which is partly why I got thinking about the whole funfeminism -> victim-blaming thing. I’ve thought about it often: wouldn’t it be fun to not swim against the flow for a change and just give in, revel in my young and moderately attractive privileges and have all the fun they promised on tv and ladies’ magazines? Then I try it for a day or two and get tired of it, because keeping up appearances and the set of behaviours that go with it is NOT fun, but a lot of hard work, very expensive, no real profit in sight as opposed to my actual enterprise, and I just have to prioritize.

    The victim-blaming part I got from cootie twoshoes who related her own history of attempted compliance earlier in this thread. I never went so far as to work at a strip club or as a stripper in any capacity, but I definitely am better off that I know that it isn’t my fault, it isn’t because I’m doing it wrong, it isn’t because of MY CHOICES that I get talked down to, paid less than the dudes, groped, harassed or anything, it’s because of the P and the people who think they benefit from the living up to P.

    I guess I could make the “choice” of accepting the good woman’s role and try to keep up with all the ever-shifting demands but then I’d only end up blaming myself for not doin’ it right, never doing it right, when the P keeps on screwing me increasingly as I get older, less attractive, less accommodating and less tolerant of being screwed over. Accepting oppression and participating in it by thinking it is “MY CHOICE” just serves to shift the blame away from the P, the oppression generator.

  174. Jezebella

    Hey Jill, that wasn’t me that said that, it was Tinfoil Hattie. Nonetheless: word.

  175. Kate

    What a lively debate and how many anecdotes! I cannot and could never understand the “female persona” – how does painting your nails and wearing high heels make you a woman – it does not , it makes you a drag queen. We are women and we are half of the human condition.
    Just quit my job today, working for the industrial complex and a patriarchal boss, had enough and came over here for a little bit of love, thanks Twisty

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