Archive for May 31st, 2006

how the Radical Feminists™ made me mad today

A brief change from writing about gentrification (just wrote a response to Paul Brady’s comment in my last post that is basically a post in itself, with how long it got.)

Lately, I tend to avoid the blogs of self-proclaimed “radical feminists” (in which “radical” apparently means “more feminist/less brainwashed than thou). While we probably agree on a great deal of feminist thought and philosophy, the frequent posts and subsequent debates about how all pornography and BDSM are inherently patriarchal and evil, well, they just give me headaches, so I’d rather not partake.

Yet today, I wound up reading a lengthy indictment of polyamory over on Angry for a Reason. (I got there by following an old Technorati link; seems that there used to be a link to my blog on the blogroll there, but it has since been removed, probably because of my rampant misogyny and all.)

Lost Clown’s article, which was published in off our backs, begins thusly (after the requisite Dworkin quote and a definition of the word polyamory):

I believe in polyamory, but only in a society where everyone is equal, where everyone is allowed to be human. Polyamory, therefore, cannot exist in our society.

I have been a polyamorist all my life, before I had knowledge of the word polyamory. I am still a polyamorist today, but I cannot bring myself to practice anymore, because polyamory as a mutually fulfilling practice cannot exist in a society that does not see me as human. The rise of polyamory as the preferred lifestyle in the radical leftist/anarchist circles parallels the “sexual revolution” of the late ‘60s movement. This supposed sexual freedom for women is done not for our benefit, but for the benefit of men. The ultimate goal for these “radical” men is still the fuck.

The article continues as such, with nary a mention of, you know, polyamory that maybe doesn’t involve men and is not all about “the fuck.” Despite the grand pronouncements of polyamory at the beginning of the article, it looks only at heterosexual relationships (in which, of course, polyamory only serves the interest of the men involved, and women are stripped of all possible power and agency because, hey, the patriarchy exists!)

In the comments, I criticize Lost Clown for this narrow, heterosexist dismissal of polyamory; she responds by saying that obviously she was only talking about heterosexual polyamory, despite never explictly saying that anywhere in the article. Funny, it seems like when you say things like “polyamory cannot exist in our society,” without any qualifications, you might be read as talking about polyamory in general. Unless, somehow, one is supposed to understand that by polyamory, she means heterosexual polyamory – heterosexuality being the default, which is a thoroughly heterosexist approach. If you’re going to completely disregard non-heterosexual relationships, please own that and say it outright, instead of assuming that everyone will just understand what you meant. Or, better yet – just don’t disregard them.

I suppose the whole thing hits a rather personal sore spot for me, since I am polyamorous. And, while I do not think that polyamory is some perfect philosophy, or that it is easy to navigate without fucking up or hurting people, or that it is inherently better than chosen and intentional monogamy, I also think that chosen, intentional polyamory that is pursued in an open, honest, equitable and kind way is far preferable to societally-enforced, by-default monogamy. Everyone always seems to think that polyamorous relationships are destined to blow up in people’s faces, but hey, monogamy doesn’t seem to have that good a success rate, either.

Edited to add: Some dialogue continued in the comments of Lost Clown’s post, in which she wrote that she sees my point and that, if or when she re-edits her article, she will try to make it clear that she’s talking specifically about leftist men’s practices of polyamory. I still disagree with her on many points, but I appreciated her seeing my point and planned efforts to make the article more clear; I also do think that, though I probably wouldn’t take the same approach as her, it is important to discuss the problematic aspects of polyamory. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, it seems like there is clearly a lot of sexism going on in certain polyamorous communities. And one problematic thing I have seen is this faulty view of polyamory as sort of “more radical” than any other relationship configuration, privileging polyamory as an inherently more enlightened practice than monogamy. Um, no.