On Separatists

Posted: April 15, 2010 in Humans

Over at ND’s, conversation has turned a bit to Separatism.  I asked a question of women who engage- in so much as possible- in Separatism and was politely answered by both Joy and Polly (thus far).    I’ve been doing a bit of thinking on the subject myself…and you know, I have no problem what so ever with women who want to, for what ever reasons, live their lives in a separatist fashion.  Hell, I can see why some women would want to, for various reasons.  If a woman has consistently been treated like shit by men, or has no interest or use for them in any way, or is merely sick of the way things are currently….well, she might and probably does have reason to not want to be around men.  Hell, I think it would be extremely interesting to see a place/state/country/town whatever that was merely a place for separatist women.  I pondered that idea once a while back.

I also surely do not get the hatred thrown at women who wish to be separatists…and they do get hate thrown at them big time.  I am sure in some ways it is that natural human hate humans seem to throw at anyone who deviates from the herd, but in many ways it is far more insidious and scary.  Throwing death threats at women who have simply found the current way of life lacking and want to try something different on their own?  Makes no sense to me.  Same way that sort of hate is thrown at other groups of people who wish to live in their own communities with people like them makes no sense to me…I am sort of in the mindset that if people, of any type: women, men, gay, straight, whatever nationality, even color, wish to have a community unto their own- so long as they obey laws and don’t start shit with other folk…let them have at it and let them be.  People might say this attitude is a slap in the face to fostering diversity- but you know, I am sure there are a lot of folk out there who have tried diversity and found it lacking and just want to be amid people who are more like themselves- and while that might not be for everyone- if these folk just want to go live peacefully on their own and do their own thing?  No reason to hate them for it. 

I also think the word separatist scares people…because most folk, when they hear it, well, they might think of it not in a women separatist or lesbian separatist way, but rather another way.  Images that might spring to mind are, er, perhaps a heavily armed skin head white separatist.  They might think that anyone wishing to “separate” has violent intentions towards those who do not.  With some separatists, of any sort, this might be true, but I think the majority of folk with this attitude really just want to be left the hell alone. 

Considering that- I have no problem with women who want to be separatists, in fact, I support them.

Be that as it may…I sure as hell know I would suck at it and have no desire whatsoever to be a woman separatist.  Are there things wrong with society and how it deals with women?  HELL YES.  However, I do not think I would do so well in an all women/women only community.  I mean, most of my good friends are men.  I generally do not fit in to well with groups of women.  This is not because they are horrible, its just that we’re often very different- in out look, in prefered hobbies-in mentality, in all kinds of things.  Women separatism is not for me.  I do not think I, or other women out there, would be happier or better off or more “free” in such a setting- all things which have been suggested in the conversation at ND’s.  Nah, the current world ain’t perfect- but I think I am far happier and better off “as is” than I would be living in a Women’s Separatist Community.

I don’t think that makes anyone better or worse, it just makes us different….I am just not so sure why people cannot see that and accept it, as is.

  1. dead_Vladimir says:

    a question though; if someoen said they wanted to found a spearatist community based on ethnicity per se (lets say waspy european) would you be as understanding?

    Personally if people want to live apart I am all for it.

    I think the threats come from three groups. One women who base their power off disenfranchised women, so when women completely opt out rather than abscribing to change society, well they feel threatened. Misogynistic men, they only need a little exucse if any to hurl vituperation at any women, and these women are easy targets because they are setting themselves up as outsiders, and alone. Thirdly, I tihnk they draw attention from the greater good people, people who beleive in some nebulous concept of society as a whole being more importnat to the individual, and again anyone who drops out challenges or detracts from their world view.

  2. rootietoot says:

    There are alot of folk who believe anything different from the way they live their lives is a default disapproval. My parents fall into that catagory. There are people who think the separatist idea insults them, and separatists who cannot see how any woman coupld possibly want anything to do with a man. The hard part for so many is to see pas their own belly buttons and admit that something that’s good for one might be bad for another. That’s true of any demographic, not just separatists (or racists or mysogynists or mysandrists or anyone else who hates someone based on an external characteristic)
    I agree that if someone wants a woman-only community (or old folks only or white only or black only or gay only…whatever) they ought to have to right to do so, and be left alone about it. The problem is that there will always be people who are offended by the idea and will try to make the noises about exclusion, etc. I woudln’t want to live in a (insert demographic) only community because that’s how intellectual inbreeding happens. BORING.

  3. Gaina says:

    Ren, Ren it’s ‘Wimmin’ or ‘Wymyn’ – the particular attention paid to deliberately misspelling words is vital if, we’re *ever* gonna turn you into a serious feminist. **LOL**

    OK. I’m gonna be serious now.

    I totally understand people sticking together by ethnicity/gender/whatever out of a genuine fear that their safety is at risk of they don’t as sadly, that’s often justified. I do see the pretty obvious difference between that and say, white people just refusing to live, work and have their children educated alongside non-white people because they think they are simply superior and bigotry like that is utterly vile to me but like I say it’s pretty obvious to me when people want to be separatist because they are genuinely scared and when they’re just being ignorant.

    We’re back to your Sushi analogy – just because some women have had a bad experience that justifies their personal wariness of men this doesn’t mean that ALL men are bad or that radfems have a right to tell all women that they must hate men too.

  4. sneeky bunny says:

    Separatism can only go so far. It address the needs of that small group, but does nothing to change the dominant culture. We see this impulse again and again through out history to throw up ones hands at the state of the world and just with draw from it. It has manifested as benignly as the Amish or as horribly as Jones Town or tragically as one of our own first settlements, Jamestown. I understand the impulse, and do not fault those, who for whatever reason, feel that this is the best option for them, but to insist that it is in fact the ONLY option is not practical, and frankly ridiculous.

    • Erik says:

      Agreed with most of your observations but not sure how Jamestown made the list along with Jonestown. J1 was a commercial venture established by would-be entrepreneurs, not as with some colonial settlements by oppresed religious minorities looking to separate themselves from their Old World oppressors. The Jamestown settlers did suffer and die in great numbers – from malaria, water-borne diseases, starvation, Indian wars – but not by their own hands. They expected to stay connected to European markets and in fact had some eventual success with exports.

  5. Eli says:

    I think separatism can be problematic, and you already touched on the reason; if one wants to live in a community that has only people like oneself, then (a) that community has to be constantly policed and any deviants must be banished or pressured to conform, and (b) everyone in the community must continue to agree what “people like us” means exactly so that purity can be maintained.

    Aside from that, separatism might be reason for concern if it’s not clear whether the separatists want to simply leave society en masse, or are instead considering a purge of the undesirables…

    • I think you’ve hit exactly why this sort of thing bothers me – that people in these sort of communities are likely to end up turning on each other in the end.

      That and I’m very uncomfortable with the sort of resource pooling that seems like it’d be required to actually form a separatist community.

  6. rootietoot says:

    You know my fantasy of a community in the nowhere, fenced in and guarded. I suppose that’s separatism of a sort, I’d never thought of it like that. It wouldn’t be based on gender, color, whatever, but on skill set. If you can’t do anything useful, you can’t play. And, as Benevolent Dictator (sorry Vlad, it’s my fantasy) I get to dictate what’s useful and what’s not.

  7. Dave says:

    I don’t doubt that separatists suffer abuse and trolling; I know some sites like Encyclopedia Dramatica have posted links to separatist blogs to encourage it, as they do with a lot of other sites that they see as a source of cheap laughs.

    Even so, I remember browsing though a few radical feminist/separatist blogs a while ago and reading some angry complaints about threats of violence, but checking some of them out, the hatred they were receiving looked more like a tit-for-tat response to some blatant transphobic/misandrist trolling from the separatists. It seemed rather disingenuous for them to act as if the attacks from other bloggers were completely unprovoked, and simply due do them wanting to be left alone to live their lives in a particular way.

    Not that abuse is in any way justified, or that two wrongs suddenly make a right, but hatred does tend to breed more hatred. All I wonder is how much of the anger is directed at the idea of separatism itself, and how much of it is purely a response to the hateful things that particular separatists have publicly said?

    The same with racial separatists. I doubt they’d be so hated and receive so much abuse if they didn’t typically hold, and express, such vile racist views.

  8. TrinityVA says:

    I don’t have a problem with people living however they want. I do think I have a right to believe they’re being stupid and that any problems they have will only follow them to their supposedly sacred space, however.

  9. Roy Kay says:

    Heh heh. I like Trin’s comment.

    Well, if Polly and ND et all want to be separate from me, the feeling is mutual. And I say, let us all prosper. Libertarian “Freedom of Association” strikes me as the perfect way for people to cleave to those they value (whether for similarity or diversity) and avoid thise they don’t.

    I can live with peacefully separate. I’d even wish them well and perhaps make it easier for them. If they don’t want a war with me, I don’t want a war with them. And by that I mean a political war. What they say in their enclave and what I say in mind, absent the means of violence, is immaterial.

    As for me, I think I like this crew here – which is pretty diverse. I’d do that even if the feeling wasn’t mutual, simply because the world would be a better place with more of ya. Yep, even the sociopathic broad with the greasy hair, scars and sometimes hostile disposition.

  10. Erik says:

    “Women’s Separatist Communities” have been around for a long time: they are called convents, and they exist not only in Western Judeo-Christian cultures but Asian Buddho-Hindu ones as well. And, yes, there is nun-hatred, especially in the West, but convents have a proven track record of general cultural acceptance and long-term social and economic functionality. Clearly, however, this life is for a smalliish minority.

    • Ren says:

      The reply to that would be convents, of all sorts, were put into place and are ultimately controlled / allowed to be by male dominated religions….

      • Erik says:

        No doubt that would be the reply, but it belies an ignorance of how convents and their leadership interact with their larger relligious contexts. Some of the strongest resistance to Papal authority comes from contemporary nuns like Joan Chittister and Jeannine Gramick, who rejects Rome’s teaching on homosexuality. Even in the Middle Ages, strong abbesses were able to win considerable autonomy, and there is a long history of resistance by convents – and monasteries too – to male religious hiearchies. Hildegard of Bingen is an exemplar, but I think you would prefer Theresa of Avila: half-Jewish, wicked sense of humor, got along well with the guys, uncowed by the Inquistion – from whom she protected St John of the Cross, a full Jew – enjoyed giving God himself shit from time to time. Wonder whether any of the contemporary advocates of women’s separatism have half so much moxie.

        • Ren says:

          I am willing to bet some of them do.

        • Aspasia says:

          “Some of the strongest resistance to Papal authority comes from contemporary nuns like Joan Chittister and Jeannine Gramick, who rejects Rome’s teaching on homosexuality.”

          Yes but you’re leaving out the rest of the story. Like the part that shows the Vatican sending over Cardinals and other high-ranking church leaders to get the nuns to “shut up and play ball”. And the part that has the Vatican threatening to excommunicate many of those nuns or even entire convents because they have been so outspoken in a way they were not supposed to be as both nuns and women in the Roman Catholic tradition. The fact that, especially, American nuns do not exclusively lived cloistered, work jobs outside of the convent (albeit ones that coincide with their holy orders, ie jobs as social workers) and even the fact that they wear civilian clothing more than their habits and refusing to give up their independence have been enough to enrage Rome and prompt them to send minions to those convents to make the nuns fall “back in line” and back under the control of male-dominated Vatican.

          “Schreck and others believe Rome is trying to stamp out the last vestiges of Vatican II — the 1960s Vatican effort to liberalize the church, after which sisters took a new approach to ministry. Many traded their habits — the traditional nun’s garment — for street clothes and left their convents for apartments closer to those they served. Others became activists for the poor and immigrants, and some advocated for gay rights and the ordination of women.


          I don’t know what they’re afraid of,” she says. “What I would guess is some of the more conservative bishops in the U.S. might see the sisters moving with spirit of Vatican II in a way they’re not comfortable with. So it may be some effort to kind of rein us in.”

          So yes, those nuns are standing up to Rome but their concerns are not considered valid by the men in charge and the only attention the objections are being given is condemnation. That is the male-female power relationship in male-dominated religions that Ren is talking about it seems.

          I’m honestly surprised that my university hasn’t come under fire from the Vatican since there is an open acceptance of homosexuality and other views that go against church doctrine. I mean, we have a painting of Harvey Milk depicted as a saint.

          But then, Gallic Catholics have been going their “own way” for a while.

          • Sounds to me sort of like they’re scared of what’s happening and want to stop it, but are in fact not doing a very good job at dominating at the moment.

            Though I can see this being added to the list of things that show the Catholic church heading for a schism.

          • Erik says:

            Thank you for picking up where I left off. My point is that nuns are mounting serious resistance to a powerful hierarchy and have been doing so historically as well as contemporarily. My point is not that they have an easy time of it but rather that they show great courage and tenacity in the face of entrenched opposition. I do not think the sisters are willing to concede that their religion should be male-dominated. St Theresa’s correspondence is larded with nods to various hierarchs, true, but clearly this was tactical. She was all about winning autonomy for her order and protection for her friends.

  11. Erik says:

    I am not. Standing up to the Inquisition entailed a very real risk of torture and death. Theresa’s Jewish grandfather had already endured a ritual public humiliation in Toledo at the hands of the Inquisitors, though he had enough money to bribe his way out of a death sentence. Theresa faced something far more serious than nasty comments from bloggers or even death threats – unsettling as these may be – she was up against a massive machinery of surveillance, repression and violence sanctioned by all state and religious authorities.

  12. sneeky bunny says:

    Some of the women on the thread over at ND would posit that just by being female we face a disproportionate risk of torture and death even in the 21st century in the west let alone the oppression faced by women in other parts of the world. They may seem paranoid to you but remember Erik, you can walk home alone at night. It’s easier for a man to shrug off an internet death threat as well.

    • dead_vladimir says:

      there are parts of DC for example where i as a man can’t walk home at night anymore than a woman
      also i find the idea that it is easier for a man to slough off a death threat demeaning sexist to both men and women

      • Ren says:

        I think what Bunny is trying to say is this….

        er, welll….okay. There are parts of any city, any place, that are not safe for ANYONE to walk alone, or with friends, day or nite, that is solid truth right there. However, I do think that when one is looking to commit a crime, such as mugging a person for money or whatnot, they are going to pick victims who they think will be easier targets- if one is after an end result from their actions- in this case, mugging for cash- they are going to target people who they think are less likely/able to fight back…and generally, as women are smaller and physically weaker than men, they are more likely to be considered “easier targets” …. other crimes will be different- such as, a person looking to prove to their friends what a bad ass they are might go after a harder target (like a dude), and men (outside of prison) are far less subject to sex crimes than women, but yeah, there is my theory.

        • dead_vladimir says:

          its the value statement of it is easier for a man to shrug off an internet death threat, etc.
          It’s typical flawed logic

          Women in the US aren’t even the #1 victim of violent crime; actaulyl as of the 2005 stats, men were twice as liekly to to be the victim of violent crime.

          World wide I beleive that does change; but i can’t speak to that for sure.
          But in light of that fact one can argue it’s no more easier for a man to walk home aloen than a woman, hell you could argue it’s worse.

          (of coruse there could be the offset that women perceiving thmesleves mroe at risk take safer behaviors but that is a different discussion).

          • dead_vladimir says:

            ok as of 2007 stats t’s no longer double, men are only running about 50% higher than women-haven’t sorted thorguh the data enough to know if crimes towards men are trending down in actual #s, or women up etc)

            still a significantly higher amount

    • rootietoot says:

      There are places that aren’t safe for men OR women, and perhaps the disproportionate risk of torture and death is true, but how mano people who are bloggers (perhaps living in the US, owning a computer, etc) actually face that threat? And what are they doing that is concrete to help the women who *do* face the real threats?

    • Erik says:

      Well I live in downtown New Orleans, so walking home alone at night may not be such a good idea. Street crime is not the issue I was addressing but rather the threat of identity or ideology-based violence. My contention is that the threat Theresa faced from the Inquistion was more serious, because it was pervasive and sanctioned by state and religious institutions, than the threat faced by contemporary women’s separatists from internet cranks and other wingnuts. If we are talking about death and violence in general, it is poor men, women and children in failed or weak state situations who are at greatest risk: Congo, Haiti, Somalia etc. Anyone with the resources to own a computer and go online is almost by definition in a safer situation. As to whether New Orleans is a failed state — well, it is shocking to talk to schoolchildren here and realize how intimately familiar and matter-of-fact they are about death and violence.

    • Ernest Greene says:

      The only Internet death threats I’ve ever gotten are from radical feminsits, and trust me, I do not shrug them off.

      Back before there was an Internet, I got those kinds of threats from neo-Nazi assholes for things I said as a talk radio host. I didn’t shrug those off either and a friend of mine with the same job who did ended up dead.

      The world isn’t just dangerous for women. It’s just dangerous period.

  13. Ernest Greene says:

    On the meta topic, I have no problems with separatism whatsoever. In fact, I think it’s a swell idea for people who prefer to be among only others like themselves, be they rad-fems, polygamists, teabaggers or whoever. As someone who greatly prefers to live in a diverse and pluralistic society, individuals of this sort are just about the only people whose self-exile I see as depriving the rest of us of exactly nothing.

    Of course, as such communities, from Pitcairn Island to Jonestown have demonstrated, tend to breed pathologies of all sorts, I have no doubt that the kind of separatism under discussion here would produce plenty of misery for those who chose it, but that would be their problem and they’re welcome to it. I have about as much desire to be around any of them as they have to be around me.

    In fact, I say let’s all chip in and by them someplace far, far away. I understand the Brits are contemplating the sale of Diego Garcia. That should be just about right.

  14. […] I appreciate when people I may disagree with, sometimes even vehemently or with bad feelings in the past, publicly refuse to shit on separatists. […]

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