From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
Elizabeth Miller, the Contributing Editor of Spinning and Weaving: Radical Feminism for the 21st Century, noticed there hadn’t been a radical feminist anthology covering multiple topics for years. She wanted to preserve the insightful new theory women write daily online—from articles to social media comments.
She reached out to many of them, receiving essays, poems and fiction from 38 contributors. They range from feminists still writing ground-breaking theory since the Second Wave to women in their twenties establishing new feminist organizations or critiquing existing ones.
She included as many international contributors as possible to reflect the “vast radical feminist work being done all over the world.” Women worldwide are forming new radical feminist and lesbian feminist organizations, consciousness raising groups, websites, podcasts, radio shows, and conferences and writing journals, zines, and books. They are demonstrating against authoritarianism and for feminist issues including reproductive health, food security, and education
NAMING THE PATRIARCHY
Radical feminism “names the patriarchal system as the root of women’s oppression” and “identifies women’s liberation as what is needed to free ourselves.” It is not an “ideology” but is based on women’s experiences, and new theory must be developed in response to new methods of oppression. The title, inspired by the late Mary Daly, refers to breaking the webs of patriarchal lies and spinning the webs of thought and communities among women.
These writings expose worsening situations. They draw connections between the exploitation of women and the environment. Technology facilitates the intrusive filming of women and deep fakes (falsified images of a person) to become internet porn. Radical feminists are banned from internet platforms while fascism and advocating violence are allowed. In real life, they are assaulted and their meetings disrupted.
Indigenous women are silenced and violence against them trivialized when their history is rewritten. Counter-revolution poses as liberal feminism, claiming increasing prostitution as “empowerment.” Several chapters expose the extreme harm to women in prostitution and expose capitalists who captured large organizations like Amnesty International to support their problematic position on sex workers’ rights.
Contributors also theorize truly feminist solutions in thought and action. Thistle Pettersen describes the importance of replacing the culture of narcissism and body hatred—encouraged by internet addiction—with “radical self-acceptance.” We can then replace traditional patriarchal cruelty towards other women with female friendship and community. Linda Bellos emphasizes building upon insights of earlier radical feminist groups, since the process of how groups are run is as important as what they do. Several chapters describe the rebuilding of the radical lesbian feminist movement and its past importance to women.
MASS MOVEMENTS EXPLORED
This anthology mentions by name some of the many mass movements of women worldwide from recent years, from demonstrations to collective farming. I hope these will be explored in depth in future books, whether or not the participants recognize themselves as part of the broader radical feminist movement.
Anne E. Menasche emphasizes the importance of “winning the battle of ideas within the whole society, including the broad Left, through…in-the-streets feminist organizing and activism” since victories like the legalization of abortion “were won by mass struggle of millions of women.”
Miller is interviewing radical feminists about their activism on the Women’s Liberation Radio News (WLRN) podcast. This will be helpful to younger radical feminists who ask online what they can actually do to rescue a world whose problems may seem unsolvable. This insightful book will surely lead to more anthologies reflecting the explosive growth of the radical feminist movement.