[W]hat value does identifying as a feminist hold for me?
Most significantly to this issue is my status as a sex worker. But there are others: I am also submissive and enormously enjoy activities defined as "degrading" by many feminists. I am practically disinterested in sex that does not involve these elements. I am also High Femme: my personal presentation is entirely oriented around a construction of feminity I have actively pursued. Yet that makes it sound so cold - I have unpacked it thoroughly, but I love it. It's a desire in me as natural as taking a glorious deep breath of air in the bush on a mild spring day.
I am generally non-monogamous (here, my preference is simply for what best suits me in the particular relationship - I don't rule out monogamy, but I don't want to be bound by the assumption I will always want it).
I am an ally to people of colour, people with disabilities and trans people. I have no mental illness (that I'm aware of - my history with psychs has basically consisted of me running the other way) but I am not an emotionally/psychologically well person and while I function pretty highly, it does impact on my life to varying intensities.
I am obsessed with my looks and my age. I like to be well-presented, I love makeup and it's a rare day I'm not in heels. I buy into body image BS, love to work out and have some fucked up ideals about beauty and perfection.
....And I find that it is the very fact that my politics and my personhood so often are diametrically opposed to theirs, that is the reason that I continue to cling to the "feminist" label, and to feel that it's really important for me, as an individual, to do so.
In fact, one thing I really want to begin to be vocal about, is my identifying as a radical feminist.
For me, there is nothing so infuriating that such a wonderful sounding pair of words: "radical feminist" has been co-opted and tarnished by people consumed with hatred.
It's long been my opinion that sex work is the last true test of radicalism. Someone can name themselves the most out there and passionate activisty activist for whatever their particular cause is, and you hit them with the "I'm a sex worker" bomb and suddenly you find out how far their politics go.
In my opinion, I am a radical feminist. In being a sex worker and a submissive and a Femme in particular, I am consciously inhabiting spaces that have routinely been used to oppress, deny and stifle women and I am unpacking them even as I revel in them. I am taking behaviours and lifestyles subject to all sorts of ridiculous stereotypes, particularly around depicting women as disempowered and passive objects subjected to the patriarchy, and demonstrating how I am not stifled or held back by them; how I am in fact, empowered by them.
I can see where these aspects of identity have been subjected to patriarchal construction and dominance over time and yet my life in inhabiting those identities is not subjected to the same. They are not affectations - they are utterly intrinsic to who I am - and yet they are conscious. They are owning.
To me, this is radicalism.
To defy societal - whether patriarchal or "radfem" - expectations in my identity whilst inhabiting that identity is radical. Because it rejects the either/or approach - that I must deny who I am, suppress and stifle it - or I am a victim. Or a bad feminist. Or anything else.
....And I KNOW. I know sex workers have been marginalised and ostracised and stigmatised and often treated like shit and abused and dismissed and reduced and I know women have long been edged into confining expressions of feminity and I know that heteronormative gender roles have long protected abuse and control and expressions of violence against women. I spend a lot of time reading and thinking and examining these things, and taking a stance against them.
And in KNOWING all these things, and knowing that I have other choices and yet I make these ones - these ones that are not so much choice as they are simply being true to WHO I AM as a person and possessing it in defiance of what expectations others ascribe to it or in spite of being told that I shouldn't, that I am conscious and active in my expression of them and refuse to compromise my very personhood to either conform them to stereotypes/established boundaries or completely eliminate them from my life...
... how is that not radical?
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
A totally awesome post by Garbo in Paint.