Radically Speaking by Renate Klein and Diane Bell

At the suggestion of rhondda, I have just begun reading Radically Speaking on my Kindle. As such, I have also been tweeting some quotations that I find particularly interesting (holy technology, batwoman, I am hooked!).

Here are a few of my favorites for discussion, if you please. I will update this post with more as I read. Please feel free to leave your own quotations, comments, or questions. I want to INTERACT about READING.

In the introduction to the first issue of the French feminist journal Questions Feministes (1977)—a journal of radical feminist theory—the editors identify their political perspective as radical feminist, recognising that the political struggle they are involved in is that against “the oppression of women by the patriarchal social system” (p. 5). They outline some of the underlying principles of radical feminism: the notion that the social existence of men and women was created rather than being part of their “nature”; the right of women not to be “different” but to be “autonomous”;…

See here.

…bandaid reforms, or equality with men in a male-defined society, or “empowering” women to have “self-esteem” while leaving intact a status quo with a perforated ozone layer—all are pseudo-solutions that a radical feminist finds unacceptable;…

See here.



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21 responses to “Radically Speaking by Renate Klein and Diane Bell

  1. rhondda

    Hey UP, is it possible to give page numbers for your quotes? Then I can look it up in my book.
    As for the first quote it reminds me of something that Janice Raymond said in a Passion for Friends —- something about feminism is not about equality with men, but about autonomy, independence and the love of the female Self in affinity with others like her Self – her sisters.
    As for the second quote I totally agree that putting energies into male political parties and their agendas is not going to help women at all. It is not about status and self esteem, but freedom from that shit. Yes, some reforms help some women, but they are indeed bandaids, and the larger picture is ignored.

    • Rhondda!!! Yes! In fact, (such a thrill) Kindle sent me an update this very morning that will allow me to see the physical PAGE NUMBERS!!! YAY! I have to be connected to Wi-Fi, though (which I can’t do at work), so I will have to update my software, then post page numbers later tonight. 🙂

      I’m really enjoying the first part of the book, where they kind of lay out what DIFFERENTIATES radfem from other forms of “feminism.” Big picture, structural change is key– not band aids to the current system! And the radfem commitment to women’s SAMENESS (at least as far as our oppression as sexualized beings goes). Pomo is always telling us that we are DIFFERENT, there is no singular female experience. If this is the case, if there is no unifying element of oppression, then feminism is Dead On Arrival!

      Another one of my favorite quotations is:

      Post-structuralism is a “friend of Phallic Drift,” writes Joan Hoff. “Like the tendency of a compass to drift north no matter how you turn the instrument, Phallic Drift is the powerful tendency…to drift inexorably to the male point of view.” Post-modernism is not about change, it is about wallowing in dystopias and doing it with glee. Post-modernism represents women by differences, not similarities, and the power of the representer is masked. Because it declines to identify domination in general and male domination in particular, post-modernism cannot contest the relations of power….

  2. rhondda

    Yeah, Phallic Drift. What a wonderful term. I think I will go drift in female land thank you.

  3. rhondda

    The chapter Dworkin on Dworkin is an excellent read.

    “erotica simply means pornography for intellectuals.” Page 211
    “The women’s movement always called on and involved women from all sectors of society. But, I would say that alot of the women who have been involved in the women’s movement are on a quest for respectability.” p.213
    ‘My understanding of the ‘personal is political’ also is that what you have experienced in your personal life has a political dimension to it and you can use what you know in a way that has social value.” page 215

  4. Sargassosea

    I’m only on the second essay at this point but it does appear that *theory is born of practice* is the running theme here and I find it very interesting on a number of different levels.

    This concept allows for the reality of what’s called “women’s intuition”, which of course is normally derided as unscientific and silly. But I think, quite to the contrary, it’s not “intuition” (ie, the state of being aware of or knowing something without having to discover or perceive it) at all, it’s what women know. It’s specialized knowledge that can only be discovered or perceived by experiencing life as a woman.

    Dammit 🙂

  5. Yes! Women live in a DIFFERENT reality. It cannot be “discovered” by men. It just IS.

    The fact that women belong to the social group which has the capacity for procreation and mothering, and the fact that men belong to the social group which has the capacity to, and does carry out, acts of rape and violence against women, must intrude into the consciousness of being female and male. But this analysis allows for change in the sense that men themselves could change that consciousness and therefore their actions. It also allows women to recognise that we can and must develop our own theories and practices and need not accept male domination as unchangeable.


    We MUST develop our own world view. Accepting and/or forcing our expereinces into the male perspective does NOT work.


    empowering well-being through bonding with other women and a joy in the liberation from accepting patriarchy and hetero-reality as immutable ingredients of human existence.

    Sisters, what do you think of this??

    It’s so difficult to accept how STUCK we are, here, in our bodies, in this world. And yet, to keep the faith, literally FAITH, that hetero-reality IS mutable and that we are NOT stuck. UGH! I’m only working with one lifetime at a time, you know? It’s nice to imagine reincarnation on improved terms, but… I mean really? Is that my highest aspiration? Yes?

  6. PS. I LOVE this book. Love it. Thank you so, so much, rhondda, for suggesting it.
    PPS. My Kindle is supposed to auto-update, but it ain’t happenin’ so I gotta mess around with it. Page numbers sometime this weekend, I hope! 🙂

  7. Ok, NO, it is not my highest aspiration.

    But suggesting change here, now, makes one vulnerable to claims of LIBERALISM and being INDIVIDUALIST:

    In Gail Chester’s words: Because Radical Feminists do not recognise a split between our theory and practice, we are able to say that the revolution can begin now, by us taking positive actions to change our lives…it is a much more optimistic and humane vision of change than the male-defined notion of the building towards a revolution at some point in the distant future, once all the preparations have been made (1979, pp. 14–15).

    That’s what I cling to. Because I can’t control everything. Only myself.

  8. rhondda

    I am so delighted that you like it. Yes, women’s reality does not need male approval.

    • Amazon Kindle software update 3.1 complete! That’s the good news. The bad news is that, of the 3 books I’m reading, only Radically Speaking does NOT have page numbers. Pssssshh. I’m sorry! I can reference the chapter, though, that would at least help narrow it down. There have also been sub-headings that can be referenced. I’m still only in the beginning (it’s like a 600 pager, isn’t it?), so everything I’ve shared thus far has been in the foreward, “Light Bulbs, Radishes, and the Politics of the 21st Century” by Robin Morgan, or “Radical Feminism: History, Politics, Action” by Robyn Rowland and Renate Klein. I will be more specific in my next posts.

      • Ok, on Catherine MacKinnon’s essay “From Practice to Theory, or What is a White Woman Anyway?”:

        Unlike other women, the white woman who is not poor or working class or lesbian or Jewish or disabled or old or young does not share her oppression with any man. That does not make her condition any more definitive of the meaning of “women” than the condition of any other woman is. But trivializing her oppression, because it is not even potentially racist or class-biased or heterosexist or anti-Semitic, does define the meaning of being “anti-woman” with a special clarity. How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

        TELL IT, C-Mac!! That about sums it up, sisters. White is AS GOOD AS IT GETS for women.

        To speak of social treatment “as a woman” is thus not to invoke any abstract essence or homogeneous generic or ideal type, not to posit anything, far less a universal anything, but to refer to this diverse and pervasive concrete material reality of social meanings and practices such that, in the words of Richard Rorty, “a woman is not yet the name of a way of being human…

        Women are TREATED similarly (as women) by the EXTERNAL world. It’s not INSIDE, it’s OUTSIDE!!

        Feminism was a practice long before it was a theory. On its real level, the Women’s Movement—where women move against their determinants as women—remains more practice than theory. This distinguishes it from academic feminism. For women in the world, the gap between theory and practice is the gap between practice and theory. We know things with our lives, and live that knowledge, beyond anything any theory has yet theorized.

        Oh sisters, we have WORK to do!! Our REALITY is being erased EVERY DAY, all the time.

  9. rhondda

    ‘We know things with our lives and live that knowledge, beyond anything any theory has yet theorized.’ Yes, yes and yes. Lived experience produces the theory. And from each woman’s lived experience and how she interprets it is how we get to theory. It is not a linear universal ideal, but from each woman’s realization of what another woman has said and the ability to relate to that lived experience is what produces the theory that is radical feminism. This is what is meant by the personal is political.

  10. I love that book! I believe I heard about it because of a comment by rhondda on your blog, UP. Imagine that : ) It’s such a great collection of essays… whenever I go to it I always end up underlining and putting asterisks next to so many “light bulb moment” passages.

  11. Oh YAY, lishra, you are reading it toooo!! Rhondda, you are spreading the WORD! 🙂

    Everyone, please feel free to leave your Radically Speaking inspired musings here!

    Honestly, I am terrified to discuss the white woman problem that C-Mac mentions above, though I find it incredibly important and worthy of discussion. But I will say that I think the same KIND of revulsion is directed at “femininity” and “feminine” women, as if femininity were NOT central to female oppression. If you are feminine, you have no legitimate claim to feminism. Just as if you are white woman you have no valid claim to oppression.

  12. rhondda

    As I see it the white woman problem is nothing other than the brainwashing of white society. Most white women and I include myself are afraid of the repercussions of defying the MAN openly. These repercussions may not be visible, as we may not be hit or hurt physically, but are coerced to comply by innuendo that triggers fear. It can just be a gesture by a man that signals that if you do more you will be sorry. That fear has to be overcome; like a bully who gets called on his or her behaviour. But, sisters, it does take courage and when you do stand up, the man is so shocked you then have some leverage and must take advantage of that. Be alert. The other side of this is that nobody has the right to demand someone else be a martyr for feminism. Losing your nerve is not a crime. You do what you can do in the situation. I do think the motto know thyself is a good one .

    • That’s interesting, Rhondda. At first I was thinking, I see C-Mac’s ‘white woman’ point as being specifically about the stripping of intersections and the kind of hatred that is directed toward ‘woman’ on her own. And about how clearly you can see it in the WHITE woman. (Who OF COURSE is presumed to be feminine as well (and het partnered, happily), which is what I was getting at with my previous comment.) But further, what you say about violence: “as we may not be hit or hurt physically, but are coerced to comply by innuendo that triggers fear” is so, so true. Most of the policing men do is with body language, not necessarily with words or outright rages, “It can just be a gesture by a man that signals that if you do more you will be sorry.” Hell yes! I think men are working this when they behave loudly in public spaces, shouting or horsing around often in groups. women are also taught to accept violence, you know, a little bit isn’t a big deal, he just got upset. or he just broke something, he didn’t hurt ME. it’s all a threat.

  13. rhondda

    Are you thinking of how white women are hated because we appear to be complicit with white men in racism and classism? I do think the majority of us are complicit in that. It takes an effort and willingness to know this to be able to try and counter it. Here is the thing. Once you have become aware of this in yourself and try not to continue it, you are constantly bombarded with the message to continue to do so. You may see it and try to explain to others, but unless they are willing to look at their own attitudes lots of luck. I once had a supervisor who was so proud of herself for not being racist. One day I was in a meeting with her with three first nations women. She told a joke. Nobody laughed. She said hey what is wrong with you people. I knew that I as the only other white person there had to tell her that the joke was a bit racist. Well she got irate. So I turned to the three women and asked them what they thought. They sat there for a while and then one said. Yes, I do think that was a bit racist all right. Good on her for saying that because my supervisor did control money that came to the reserves of these women. I did suffer though, being the messenger and got stabbed in the back by her in retaliation. However, here is the delicious part. As soon as it was known that all you had to do is say she was racist she capitulated to that and the First Nations had her running around like a dog chasing its tail. So instead of learning about her own internalized racism, she spent most of her time protesting she was not racist. Then, we wonder why we are held in contempt or laughed at by others.

    • Hi Rhondda!

      Are you thinking of how white women are hated because we appear to be complicit with white men in racism and classism? I do think the majority of us are complicit in that.

      No, that’s not what I’m thinking, but I agree with that.
      What I mean is that, if you take a ‘perceived oppression meter’ (yeah, I just made that up, work with me!) to a white woman and a black man of the same class– with all other variables being equivalent– the black man is a more sympathetic character in regard to systemic oppression. Or if you take a white het woman and white GAY man, again the man appears to be deserving of more oppression-sympathy.
      BEING FEMALE or ‘woman’ isn’t perceived as a significant experience of oppression. WOMEN being groomed as fuckholes since birth and being expected to SERVE those who oppress them in intimate ways (compulsory heterosexuality– you know the ladies LOVE it!) barely registers on most people’s oppression-meters. It’s not, like, a BIG DEAL. Certainly not on par with the other oppressed CLASSES. That’s the white woman problem. She illustrates how the oppression of WOMAN, just woman, is habitually dismissed, minimized, and even SCOFFED at.
      Or take a white lesbian versus a white gay man. Can you hear it now? Oh the gay man might get raped and harassed!!11!!111!!!! Really? That’s what the lesbian puts up with AS A WOMAN her entire life! Both of these oppressions are a result of the gender-system, but women are not perceived as being substantially harmed by it. When others break the rules, however, and are then are treated AS women are treated all day every day, OH THE PAAAAAYYNE!!! It’s insanity. It really is.

  14. rhondda

    Okay, I get it now. duh. But according to liberal feminism, we are equal now and can equally exploit just like the men do. It is so fantastic. An equal opportunity exploiter is just what I always wanted to be. NOT.
    Yeah, we are always supposed to be for someone else’s revolution, not our own.
    Such selfish bitches.

  15. Hannah

    I was just on the radfem hub asking about a book group and was directed to here and you happen to be reading the VERY BOOK I AM READING right now. How lucky is that??? I found a second hand copy in Gould’s a few months ago so I’m happy to post it to anyone who wants it when I’m done with it. I’ve underlined some things but not as much as lishra, sounds like!(Give me time!)
    (Race vs sex discussion reminds me of Steinem’s article about presidential race in 2008 – Women Are Never Front-Runners. )

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