Gaslighting Culture


Lately I am really coming to terms with the fact that patriarchy is a gaslighting culture, and for the most part, messages do not need to be true in order to be consistently believed by a large number of people, or to be actively disseminated by the media. In fact, I’d go far enough to say that truth is often considered irrelevant in the media. I used to get angry when these messages veered so far off course from the truth, but I’m starting to see that as a feature and not a bug. That is, they never were meant to convey truths or reality- they were meant as wide spread propaganda.

For example, neo-liberal culture frames personal individual negative impacts in terms of “choice” and “consent” rather than systems of power that constrain groups of people, even though choice has very little to do with whether, say, impoverished inner city kids succeed in school. The same is true with the hidden-in-plain-sight fact about the toxic nature of masculinity and male pattern violence. The fear of taking sides or being too radical by *naming the problem* shapes the thinking patterns of almost the entire world.

This is why, for example, you’ll so often see suggestions like, “legalize prostitution- it’s just consenting adults!” as the most frequent opinion on the subject, even though there is overwhelming evidence that prostitution is harmful to women. It’s libertarian individualism writ large.

But my specific point about gaslighting is related to the worldwide culture of misogyny that has near universal adherence, even among feminists. I’m reading a book called Sarah Canary set in the 1870s that illustrates the gaslighting common at the time. Rape is referred to as “an encounter with women’s frailty”. That’s just one example of the way that reality- that is, a man forcing himself onto a woman- is seen as a weakness on the part of the woman being raped. In another case, a Chinese man comes to a house the next day after a murder occurs. He leaves town, and is told that he can never come back as the town has pinned the murder on him. Even though he wasn’t even present at the time of the murder, that is irrelevant- the fact is, the racist town wants to blame someone who is not from there for the event.

Those are just two examples in the book where reality is obscured through lies and gaslighting for a particular goal- in these cases, male and white supremacy, respectively.

Recently I saw an article on the Miss Representation page about how a young baby was being “slut shamed” for an image of her eating a frozen treat. This is gaslighting, because it implies that she was eating the treat in a way that disclosed her slut nature. A child. The article should have been pointing out that she was being sexualized in a sexist manner, or turned into an object of pedophilic desire. In no way should she have been described, by a *feminist* organization, as a slut. That depiction is false and feeds patriarchal narratives about the promiscuous nature of women and girls.

Nowadays, that gaslighting has just morphed into new forms. Women are still well hated, and we are not seen as people. I’ll include two incidents from this past week.

An event set up to normalize the varied embodiment of women’s external sexual organs through whimsical representations on cupcakes is derided as somehow “violent to trans women specifically”. It’s obvious to anyone who hasn’t been brainwashed on transgender issues in 2015 that this is a laughably hyperbolic statement, and yet this is the level of discourse we are working with. In another recent cupcake kerfluffle, it was said that “YOU ARE KILLING TRANS WOMEN WITH YOUR BELIEFS” and “the only good thing about terfs is that they don’t have feelings so its ok to kill them whenever you want”. As purple sage fem says,

It is so idiotic to claim that snack foods are oppressing people. I am just shocked that people are making this claim with a straight face. The only way you can truly believe you are being oppressed by cupcakes is if you are privileged enough that you have no idea what oppression actually is.

But this is gaslighting patriarchy, so of course if vulva cupcakes are killing people, and a transwoman told you that, you had better listen up. Women are being bullied out of discussing our complicated relationships to our bodies. We are even being told that we may not display feminine hygiene products in the women’s room. Our realities are considered of secondary importance to what transwomen want. We aren’t even allowed to discuss our own pregnancies as mothers- we are now “pregnant persons” (yes, really!).

Another situation from this past week is much more horrifying and is discussed here by Hypotaxis. This past week, supposedly “feminist” Jezebel hosted on their site an interview with a convicted child rapist, murderer and corpse desecrator who says he (a transwoman) has been victimized by “TERFs” for disclosing true facts about a horrific murderer he committed.  The interview is full of statements that the murderer is a “feminist”. How can an “feminist” publication print such lies while omitting the name of his victim and the nature of the crime he committed? As one of the commenters stated, “How ass-backwards do you have to be as a feminists to promote a child rapist and murderer on your site Jezebel?”

But that is gaslighting culture.

Thankfully, some are waking up. A Houston initiative that would enact “gender identity” laws (meaning anyone could claim the gender identity of woman and be allowed in the women’s room) was defeated using videos like this one to state what the impact of the bill would really be.  While it is unfortunate that conservatives are the ones who are seeing through this nonsense at the moment, and are large perpetrators of gaslighting culture themselves (remember Guantanamo Bay?!), I say radical feminists should use any exposure of the truth to our advantage. It is so rarely seen in these dark days.

gaga feminism

soda-can-hair*Content Warning- Pedophilia*

I’ve recently had the misfortune of reading a particularly bad post-modernist book entitled Gaga Feminism. The author is Judith Jack Halberstam who can be reached on twitter at @Jhalberstam.

Halberstam comes from a queer theory background and uses this framework throughout the book. Within the first few pages Susan Faludi, author of the insightful book Backlash, is bashed for not incorporating the latest female-erasing queer theory analyses into her projects.

Within the first fifteen pages, however, we see an incredibly worrying passage. Halberstam recommends civil libertarian Judith Levine’s (twitter here) “brave and controversial” book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex.  From wikipedia:

[Levine] suggests liberalization of age-of-consent laws in the United States and the conception of minors as sexual beings, which Levine argues is extant in Western Europe. Levine argues for weakening most United States laws governing possession of child pornography, the access of abortions to minors, and conduct classified as statutory rape. Conservative commentators have heavily criticized her work.

This content is pretty concerning to me as a feminist who is opposed to the sexual exploitation of children. Halberstam states:

Levine, by asking impertinent questions about children and sex—like, Why label a child a victim if she doesn’t feel victimized? or, Why presume that all sexual conduct between adults and children is unwanted by the child or that all sexual activity among kids under the age of ten is pernicious?—has pushed back on one version of feminism that sees women and girls perpetually as the victims of unchecked male sexual aggression, and has pushed forward with another that understands children as sexual, parents as erotic figures, and sexuality itself as the pursuit of pleasure. By casting “harm” in terms of the judgments adults pass about child sexuality rather than in terms of exposure to inappropriate material, Levine went gaga and began a much-needed public conversation about the folly of imposing sexual regulation on children and the wisdom of making more-neutral assessments about what children want. Indeed, Levine proposed, when we really don’t know or understand what children want or how they may feel about something, we could always do something wacky and crazy … like asking them to let us know what feels good and what feels intrusive or wrong. p 15

Let’s unpack a few of the statements included in this quote.

Halberstam uses an interesting device in this in-need-of-editing passage– the “rhetorical question”. This way, Halberstam gets away with saying offensive and dangerous things by phrasing them as queries rather than statements. For example:

Why presume that all sexual conduct between adults and children is unwanted by the child

The phrase begins with the assumption that most people make generalizations about the participants in a particular sexual practice, and stands as a corrective to those generalizations. It frames the generalizers as out-of-touch prudes who just don’t understand what children want; meanies who won’t let children play with their favorite toys.

In fact, however, the rhetorical question is doing the opposite of what it purports to do. While it means to stand up for the rights of children to enjoy all facets of their lives, it’s actually making an excuse for pedophilia by claiming that some children actually enjoy sexual contact from adults.

Adults are responsible for setting appropriate boundaries with children, and children’s feelings towards inappropriate behavior are entirely irrelevant to whether the behavior should be engaged in. Halberstam’s re-framing of sexual violation as a potentially enjoyable pastime for children is a repellent reversal.

I asked Halberstam about this quote, and the response was to change the subject to child-on-child sexual behavior:


Halberstam first prevaricates on the term “child” the way that many child sexual abuse advocates do when they suggest that perhaps pedophilia may not be okay, but hebephilia or ephebophilia are. This changing of the goal posts is not appropriate when in any case we are talking about exploitative, dominating, and abusive behavior from adults towards minors.

Then Halberstam changes the subject in order to avoid my pointed question. The response presumes that I was asking about child on child sexual contact, which I was not. Dodging the question is a frequent tactic of those who wish to avoid revealing the truth.

Over the course of this afternoon, Halberstam has refused to answer my pointed questions regarding the viewpoints quoted in Gaga Feminism.

Moving along, let’s dissect another portion of this text:

[Judith Levine] has pushed forward with another [version of feminism] that understands children as sexual, parents as erotic figures, and sexuality itself as the pursuit of pleasure.

It’s concerning to me that Halberstam “understands children as sexual” and also “understands parents as erotic figures”. Halberstam seems to be clearly advocating for incestual relationships between parents and their children, which is obviously damaging, abusive, and exploitative. Halberstam is silent on this topic when asked directly:


This leads us to the third portion of the quote that I’d like to unpack:

when we really don’t know or understand what children want or how they may feel about something, we could always do something wacky and crazy … like asking them to let us know what feels good and what feels intrusive or wrong.

This is an exceptionally disturbing, grooming quote. Frequently child sexual abusers will groom children into “enjoying” the abuse that they are receiving. This is very confusing for children who grow up not knowing what to do with the conflicting feelings they have. Many adults deal with severe trauma caused by being exploited and used in this way in youth, so to see this ostensibly feminist author attempt to justify such treatment based on whether the child involved enjoyed the treatment is truly beyond the pale.

Halberstam believes that by asking these questions, I have “turned back the clock on discussions about child sexuality about 50 years”:

j jack halberstam 3At this point, there was little to be said on the topic between the two of us. Halberstam engages in the justification of child sexual abuse, and calls those who object to the practice out-of-touch. I admit that my conversations on this matter left me feeling thoroughly disgusted.

There’s more to say about Gaga Feminism as an at best ineffective and at worst dangerous piece of so-called feminist literature. For example, the book states that we don’t need to have an end goal in mind with our activism, so long as we focus on the process:

A gaga feminism does not need to know and name the political outcome of its efforts. More important is to identify the form that transformative struggle should take. p 137

This is obviously no help at all to those struggling with poverty, sexual exploitation, or even workplace discrimination. To fight for abortion rights, for example, we must have a plan and execute it. The “transformative struggle”, so to speak, is worth bollocks if it doesn’t secure our rights for us . This book has a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of feminism, which is to liberate women from oppression.

Halberstam’s fatalism comes out in the following passage which takes as a given that feminists will lose:

Gaga feminism is the ideology that motivates the queen in the chess match—as the queen, you can make big moves, bold moves, aggressive moves. You can do damage, take others out, move at will. You will also have everyone gunning for you, coming for you, following you. You will go down. But, in the words of Lady Gaga: “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen. p 147

At this point, the book seems to be seeking teenage-level approval valorizing our pop music choices and framing our individual lives as feminist battlefields while ignoring structural inequalities, the importance of activist movements, and real solutions for women.

Gaga Feminism is a book that justifies child sexual abuse and has no conception of power relations or the purpose of political movements. It is being taught in several colleges, which is incredibly worrying. This book is anti-feminist propaganda.


The author, Judith Jack Halberstam

A Short Word on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day heteronormative bullshit is so dangerous.

It teaches women that love is more important than boundaries, self-confidence, and self-preservation.

It tells us that our intelligence, our goals, and our health are less important than whether we’ve secured a man to manifest his value through us.

It tells women to stay in unfulfilling or abusive relationships because their self-worth is best realized in relation to /subordination to a man.

It tells us to ignore our partner’s bad behavior, his lack of attention to housekeeping or the kids, his “occasional” use of woman-hating propaganda (aka pornography), and his selfish sexual practices because at least we’ve “snagged a man”.

I know railing against Valentine’s Day is cliche, and I actually wasn’t going to. But another instance of “love conquering all” has come to my attention and it is so sad to see women being told that giving up their safety and their values for the sake of having a dude around is a good bargain.

Hey you women out there: happy I-don’t-need-a-man day!


Sweetening the Pill

Sweetening-the-Pill Holly Grigg-Spall’s book Sweetening the Pill does an amazing job uncovering the harmful effects, questionable history, and medicalized misogyny of hormonal birth control (HBC). She points out that both the pharmaceutical industry and modern third wave feminism have downplayed the harms of HBC and have equated use of the pill with liberation. As she says,

Contemporary feminism is enamored with consumer choice and has fully accepted it as a substitute for freedom. (p 61)

In discussion of this book I want to start by talking about my own experiences on the pill. Then I’ll mention the book’s critics, and finally I’ll cover a few of Grigg-Spall’s points.

My own experiences with HBC began in my teens when I began taking it for acne. I remember that once I started taking it, it took me about a month for my over-the-top emotional hormone swings to lessen. I recall going dancing in a club once and not being able to calm the intense pendulum of joy, anger, depression and more that kept swinging over me under the flashing lights. It was a feeling of being totally out of control.

Once my emotions leveled out, I was very good at taking the pill once per day at the same time every day. My friends and I used to sing what we called the tumbleweeds song about our uteruses. We’d imagine our wombs to be as empty as the ok corral prior to a gunfight, and sing ♪ oh e oh e oh, wah wah wah ♫ as our baby-free theme song. We thought it was funny. Our bodies were not at risk of fertility. They were under our control, and would not rebel against us.
here's a tumbleweed, enjoy

I stayed on the pill for a decade at least.

I discovered radical feminism in 2011 and, like so many of us, it changed my life. My thinking was altered on many issues and continues to grow and expand the more I learn. About that same time I decided to go off the pill. The last straw came when doctors thought I had had a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition made more likely by HBC. A CT scan indicated that it was actually pneumonia, but that was a very scary experience for me. I decided to finish my pack and be done with the pill.

Over the next year as my body detoxed from the pill I developed acne all along my jaw/chinline that hadn’t been there before. Large bumps protruded on my face, which was embarrassing as I was well past adolescence. I also experienced weight gain, which I was told wasn’t a *real* side effect of going off the pill. It was frustrating not to believed when I reported my symptoms.

Before Grigg-Spall wrote her book she kept a blog regarding her experiences. Many other women came and shared what had happened to them while using the pill or getting off of it, and it was a place for women to be able to discuss their reactions to the pill in a place free from pharmaceutical brainwashing and the liberal feminist gag-order on women discussing our own biology.

Now that Grigg-Spall’s book was published in November 2013 there has been a concerted effort to discredit her findings by misrepresenting her positions. My belief is that the pharmaceutical industry is threatened by Griggs-Spall’s book and that discrediting her is a way to maintain the status quo. I also contend that rejecting the pill goes against sex-positive/mainstream feminism, which is why there’s push-back as well from its representatives.

Liberal feminists have called her book “dangerous” and use name-calling techniques in attempts to push Griggs-Spall to the margins of feminist discourse. As many of us know, being insulted and told to keep quiet are tools used to keep us away from discovering truths and maintain the status quo. Grigg-Spall is referred to as a “crank” (how feminist!), and potential readers of her book are warned that discussing female biology and women’s experiences is inherently “essentialist”. The cherry-picked, decontextualized quotes this critic uses to make her argument are an obvious attempt to contort perceptions of the book and Grigg-Spall’s positions. There are several critiques of this book that have similar tones and I found the pro-pill apologism quite transparent.

What these reviews leave out is the long-overdue feminist analysis of the pill that Grigg-Spall offers.

I was fascinated by Grigg-Spall’s discussion of the “dark side” of the pill. Apparently data collected from Bayer concentration camp experiments was used in developing the pill (p 31). The pill has negative side effects for women ranging from promoting bone loss (p 63) to blood clots to depression, etc. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the pill as a class one carcinogen alongside tobacco and asbestos (p 59). Apparently, Depo Provera is currently used in sex offender rehab programs to decrease sex drive (p 68).

These are just some of the negative aspects of HBC that third wave feminists and pharmaceutical companies routinely downplay.

Grigg-Spall also critiques the way HBC is set up as a solution to worldwide “population control” when the real issue is global inequality and poverty. The pill is a capitalist solution to this, and not a feminist one. We let women down when instead of seeking just societies we sell them injections or oral contraceptives. She quotes Betsy Hartmann who calls population control a “substitute” for social justice that holds back the emancipation of women.

Real reproductive choice relies on women having control over their own lives and equal power to men and this can only come with economic development. Developed nations are uninterested in providing aid for such countries, because they are active in their exploitation via cooperation with corrupt governmnents and via the corporate power wielded over those countries. The people are purposely kept poor so that developed countries (or at least their corporations) can become richer. (p 81-82)

This helps make sense of the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s strategy for helping women in Africa and South Asia involves giving millions of these women the Depo Provera shot. The Gates Foundation partners with Pfizer, who makes the Depo shot (p 80). This is business as usual, and profits are being made in the name of “population control”.

Grigg-Spall also emphasizes the importance of female biology in discussing these issues. After all, as women “our experience of life is connected to our biology.” As she says,

Taking the pill might be seen as an act of trying to get beyond femaleness. As femaleness in our culture is understood in the negative, escaping its confines is good and progressive. Any dislike we develop of being female and of having a female body is rooted in the history of female bodies being seen as problematic and in need of male control (p 104).

Such claims have no doubt been the source of the liberal feminist claims that her book is “essentialist“. I find this accusation very suspect, as it asks us to stop speaking about our own experiences living within our female bodies. Many women are not comfortable with our bodies as they change in puberty, as they alter with pregnancy, or as they age. It is important that we are able to recognize and discuss these changes amongst ourselves without being considered “essentialist”.

Within feminism, essentialism has always referred to the feminist objection to conservative claims that the male gender stereotypes are natural for men, and that female gender stereotypes are natural for women. For example, the idea that men are better at math and women are natural caregivers. These are obviously anti-feminist claims that link our biology up with sexist behaviors that are expected of us.

These days, however, merely recognizing the relevance of female biology to our own lives is now castigated with the same “essentialist” label. This is an entirely inaccurate characterization, since the bodies we live in are obviously relevant to our experiences as women. Discussing biology was never the problem with essentialism. The problem was linking our bodies up with sexist stereotypes.

Not only is this new definition of essentialism an incorrect interpretation of the original meaning, but it asks women to stop discussing our actual lives. Feminism is about our experiences as women, so telling women they aren’t permitted to discuss these experiences is anti-feminism full stop.

I certainly believe that Grigg-Spall is correct in her observations about HBC. Women are expected to have sex “like a man” and to believe that our biology is in no way relevant to our sexuality. To me, this is as removed from our actual experiences as my cartoon uterus theme song is from the workings of my body.

I’ve covered just a few of the brilliant insights that Grigg-Spall presents in her excellent book. At the very minimum, her book encourages women to see the pill from a different perspective and to become more in tune with what is happening with our own bodies. I encourage all feminists interested in reproductive freedom, misogyny in medicine, or critiques of “choice”/”sex positive” feminism to give it a read.



Amnesty International Supports the Exploitation of Women

Amnesty International is a charity that ostensibly works to end violations of human rights.

Yet this leaked document indicates that Amnesty actively supports the full decriminalization of prostitution.

This policy flies in the face of extensive research indicating that areas where prostitution has been fully legalized have led to more violence and an increase in trafficking.

For example, after legalization in Australia, the percentage of illegal brothels increased 300%. In New Zealand, legalization expanded the illegal sector to make up 80% of the sex trade industry. In Germany, the safety of women within the sex industry was not improved through full legalization. Furthermore, both human trafficking and organized crime increase in areas where prostitution is decriminalized.

Amnesty has chosen to ignore all of this information and instead decided that the rights of johns and pimps who wish to exploit and use women are more important than the human rights of women to live free from this exploitation.

Amnesty could instead support the Nordic Model which decriminalizes women in prostitution but criminalizes the johns and pimps. This has been shown to decrease violence against prostituted women, dramatically decrease the number of prostituted persons, and to provide a way out of prostitution for those who wish to leave.

You can contact Amnesty and express your displeasure with their new policy at, or you can tweet @Amnesty or use the hashtag #QuestionsforAmnesty.

Please speak now. Your voice is needed on this issue.

EDIT: Please go check out this response to this document written by a coalition of survivors.

Imitation, Infiltration, and Invasion at Radfem Rise Up! 2013

I am writing this as an attendee of Radfem Rise Up! 2013 held in Toronto, Ontario. These are my observations as an attendee, and not an organizer.

This past weekend I attended RadFem Rise Up! in Toronto. The scheduled speakers included a survivor of prostitution and domestic violence, a presentation on reproductive justice, and a discussion regarding the case of rape and suicide victim Rehtaeh Parsons, among other topics.

This conference was held as woman only because under patriarchy, women are uniquely targeted with violence and rape. Many attendees have been victims of incest, male violence, and rape, and wanted to discuss these experiences as women together. We believe we have a right to female-only safe space for such purposes. We also believe in the rights of trans people to organize and hold their own conferences if they so choose, but we expect them to respect our right to do the same.

The conference went ahead and was powerful despite ongoing attacks from trans and their allies who do not believe women who have shared girlhoods have a right to meet together.

The first trans activist attack came in the form of imitation. The official website for the radical feminist event was located at However, trans activists and their allies created a cloned version of the website at and allege that their website is in fact the correct one. Their website goes on to claim that the purpose of the conference is to discuss exterminating trans people, and even uses surgical porn language when it states, “we will also be doing some group activities that will allow us to get to know each other better in ways trans can’t possibly do. Speculums will be provided.” That such a website would be set up to undermine us by imitating us and saying outrageous things goes to show how difficult it is to discredit us based on our actual positions. It also tells us that these trans activists and their allies are liars without integrity.

In order to discover our venue, at least one trans activist/ally signed up and paid for conference entry with the intention to infiltrate and prevent us from meeting.

Thus, this/these persons received an email stating the location of the venue and released this information on the internet. Trans activists mobilized their allies via social media to contact the venue and request that they cancel the booking.

Conference organizers were told that the venue received over 200 emails requesting that they drop the booking. Venue staff revealed to conference organizers that some of these emails contained threats, and that they were afraid for themselves and their children.

This is the reason conference organizers were given by the venue for cancelling the booking.

Given this cancellation, conference organizers moved the venue to the location where some attendees were staying.

On the first day of the conference, trans activists and allies sent an infiltrator ally to the new event location. This person sat among us as we discussed radical feminist politics, and shared intimate stories in our ostensibly safe space. This violation of our safe space affected all of the attendees, including those of us who are survivors of the sex industry, domestic violence, and rape.

This trans ally infiltrator leaked the second venue to trans activists. This exposed the fact that our space had been violated– the space where many of us were sleeping (including one ten month old infant).

Trans activists and allies then organized a protest of our event ~200 m from the venue location. transpark The original venue that cancelled the booking had told conference organizers that the reason they cancelled was because they felt unsafe. Given the boundary violations exhibited by these trans activists and allies on the previous day, as well as the long list of violent threats previously made by trans activists towards radical feminists, it is clear that this invasion was done in order to intimidate us.

The conference went ahead as planned despite these imitations, infiltrations and invasions.

If you support trans activism, please consider whether the above noted violations are appropriate methods to use in trans activism, or whether they did in fact cross the line as I am alleging here. The people targeted by these attacks are women– many of whom have already had their boundaries violated by men in the past before. Disagreement is appropriate– intimidation through imitation, infiltration, and invasion is not.

how do I know if my husband watches porn?

Every day, women find my blog by searching some variety of the question:

how do I know if my husband watches porn?

I imagine most of the women who google this are being sent to this post I wrote nearly a year ago entitled On Pornsick Bastards.

I doubt many of these women call themselves feminists, but they do know intuitively that there is something wrong with the man who claims to love them getting off to images of other women being f’ked and degraded.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the post is exactly what women are looking for. They probably would like some advice about how to check their husband’s browser or download history in order to catch him.

But the unfortunate truth I share in that post is that nearly every man who can access porn is a porn user.

This is a sad state of affairs for women attempting to date men, or even for women trying to function in the world along with men. This porn- and misogyny-soaked culture is what leads men to “joke” to women at a Microsoft conference in front of an audience, “Just let it happen; it will all be over soon.”

It’s what leads men to believe that this statement is not sexual harassment:


It’s part of the anti-woman propaganda that leads men to believe that their getting off is more important than our human rights:


[For more information on so-called “feminist porn”, please check here, here, and here.]

In her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women Andrea Dworkin distills the core message of pornography in these simple words:

[Pornography] means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores.

The answer to your question, women, is yes.

If you suspect he watches pornography, he is very, very likely to watch it.

I am so sorry to tell you this. But it is the truth. He gets off on depictions of women as vile whores.

We are here for you. Many of us have been there. Tell us how we can help you out.