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Facing and Discharging on Sexism

I am a raised-working-class woman. The biggest battle for me as I lead is to reach my mind and fight the messages in my head that tell me that I’m doing it wrong, that what I said or did was stupid, and that I don’t know what I’m doing. Sexism, male domination, and class oppression smashed me, particularly as a teenage girl. If I don’t fight for my mind and to show myself, then I stay defeated and accept less than everything.

I recently led a Regional1 Women’s Liberation Day. I started the day by showing the fight I have against internalised oppression. Then I talked about how as females our existence is denied. The world is largely shown to us as belonging to and being for men. I asked the twenty-five women in the room how many had ever been called a “tomboy,” and at least half raised their hands. I think this shows the sexism that runs2 when we use our bodies and expect to do the same as boys.

We looked at ways we are divided as women, in particular by racism. The women of the global majority took time3 on anything that might get in their way of being united with the white women and anything they wanted to share or show. I wanted us to be united as women without pretending we are not set up4 to act out oppression at each other. When I feel inferior in my middle-class job, I’m more likely to try and look pretty. This is looking for crumbs within the power structure of male domination and ends up being racism. I talked about how racism has and does derail women’s movements.

I talked about how Gay oppression separates women and reinforces male domination. Lesbian and Bisexual women get marginalised, attacked, and undermined as females for rejecting a heterosexual female identity. Heterosexual women are made scared of what will happen if they don’t adhere to the oppressive society’s definition of “female.”

I wanted us to notice that we’re female and look head on5 at the oppression and “lose it” (discharge without constraint). I read out loud some statistics about women in the United Kingdom—for example, two women a week are killed by current or former male partners, only twenty-two percent of our members of Parliament are women, and the cost of childcare here is among the highest in the world. I told them how much money is made globally by the beautification, cosmetic surgery, and pornography industries. I asked who in the room had experienced being “talked over” by a man,6 being touched by a man uninvited, having sex with a man when they didn’t want to, having a male head teacher at school, having a male boss, doing more housework than male members of their household. Nearly every woman raised her hand for nearly every question. We then went into support groups and had a good chunk of discharge time. The room had gone pretty7 quiet when I was reading the statistics, so some of the support group leaders made noise and got the women shaking and shrieking. I spent my discharge time feeling bad about what I’d done or not done. It was exhausting fighting those recordings8 all through to the end of the day. However, I think the day was actually fine.

I want us women in the Region to be working consistently on sexism, male domination, and pornography. We need to be able to think about pornography, listen to women and men about it, and articulate our thoughts. We have good perspectives on sex, men’s oppression, capitalism, distresses, and discharge and have much to offer in the debates that are happening now. But we need to be able to discharge to the rafters and fill the room with noise about the degradation of and violence against women that is acted out in and perpetuated by pornography.

Erin Mansell
London, England
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women

1 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
2 “Runs” means is acted out.
3 “Took time” means each had a turn in the group.
4 “Set up” means put in a position.
5 “Look head on” means look directly.
6 “Being ‘talked over’ by a man” means a man interrupting them and talking while they’re still trying to talk.
7 “Pretty” means quite.
8 Distress recordings

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00