Next Page

WMST-L logo

Radical Feminism: Readings for a Course

The following two-part WMST-L discussion from February 2007 began and ended
with suggested readings for a course in radical feminism.  Along the way, the
discussion also considered radical feminist thought about transgender issues.
For additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.

PART 1 OF 2  (click Page button to go on to Part 2)
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 12:06:48 -0500
From: gray <gray AT TCNJ.EDU>
Subject: Texts on Radical feminism
Hi all--

Below are the suggestions I've received from list members about readings for
a course in radical feminism. Thanks to all who responded to my request; any
other suggestions appreciated.

Janet Gray
The College of New Jersey
gray AT

this bridge called my back

Flora Davis, Moving the Mountain, The Women's Movement in America since

Barbara A. Crow, ed., Radical Feminism, A Documentary Reader

Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open, How the Modern Women's Movement Changed

Quiet Rumors_ edited by Dark Star

_Anarchism: Arguments For and Against_ by Albert Meltzer

_Daring to Be Bad_ by Alice Echols.
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 11:40:29 -0800
From: Jessica Nathanson <janathanson AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Texts on Radical feminism
A couple more:

Hester Eisenstein's book, Contemporary Feminist
Thought, has a helpful overview of radical feminism

Hoagland and Penelope's, For Lesbians Only:  A
Separatist Anthology might also be useful

And, I don't know this text, but it looks interesting:
 Radically Speaking:  Feminism Reclaimed
Here's a link:

Jessica Nathanson

Dr. Jessica Nathanson
Visiting Assistant Professor
English and Gender Studies
Augustana College
janathanson AT
nathanson AT
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 14:42:16 -0500
From: Gail Dines <gdines AT WHEELOCK.EDU>
Subject: Re: Texts on Radical feminism
Radically Speaking is a great collection and students do well with the
articles. I also suggest anything by Sheila Jeffreys as she applies radical
feminism to a wide range of topics. Her new book on beauty is excellent. And of
course, Andrea Dworkin's books formed the back--bone of radical feminism today.


Gail Dines
Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies
Chair of American Studies
Wheelock College
35 Pilgrim Road
Boston, MA 02215
gdines AT
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 08:47:16 +1100
From: Bronwyn Winter <bronwyn.winter AT ARTS.USYD.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: Texts on Radical feminism
for theory:  radical feminism today by denise thompson.  sage publications.
fabulous book but depends on what level your sts are.

someone else has already mentioned radically speaking which is a must for
any reading list on radical feminism - has contributions from women from all
over the world.

there's also carol anne douglas' Love and politics - a bit old now and very
US-centric but has some very useful material and was written - from the
perspective of a long-time radical feminist activist - at a time when most
'histories of feminism' had little material - and mostly inaccurate - on
radical feminism, written by women who weren't radical feminists and even
often hostile to radical feminism.


Dr Bronwyn Winter
Senior Lecturer
Dept of French Studies
School of Languages and Cultures
University of Sydney
NSW  Australia
Email:  bronwyn.winter AT
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 00:49:19 -0500
From: Joelle Ruby Ryan <joeller AT BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: Radical feminism and Transphobia
"I also suggest anything by Sheila Jeffreys as she applies
radical feminism to a wide range of topics. Her new book on
beauty is excellent." - Gail Dines

I am amazed that after that lengthy discussion of transphobia
as it relates to feminism and to restroom access, that someone
would not only recommend the work of Sheila Jeffreys but term
it "excellent."  Sheila Jeffreys is one of the most rabid,
hatemongering transphobic bigots I have ever read. (See some of
her transphobic diatribes in her book Unpacking Queer
Politics.) While we are at it, why don't we also recommend
Janice Raymond and Mary Daly, two additional "radicals" who did
much to drive feminism into the ground with their hate-filled
and offensive diatribes? Calling Sheila Jeffreys as a good
example of radical feminism is like labeling Mary Daly's
Gyn/Ecology as a good example of multicultural feminism. The
good side of that is Audre Lorde's brilliant essay "An Open
Letter to Mary Daly" blew the lid off of the pervasive racism
in radical feminism. In response, Daly unsurprisingly shirked
her own responsibility by blaming racism on the patriarchy.

A noted trans scholar recently stated that, in terms of trans
women in lesbian/gay AND feminist communities, it's time to
call the question.  What she meant is that there is NO more
debate about trans women and out lives, identities, and
politics. I repeat, OUR lives are not up for debate. We have
been in feminist and lesbian communities since the beginning,
and we are not going anywhere. Some of us will have surgery and
some won't; that is our choice, and it is not to be
interrogated by "radical" feminists with an ideological axe to

At a session on lesbian-feminism I attended a few years ago,
one of the participants identified herself as "Dyke-osaur."  I
could not think of a better term for the likes of Sheila
Jeffreys and her ilk of transphobic, anti-sex followers, who
seemed trapped in a perpetual 1970s lesbian feminist time
warp.  Luckily for a new generation of free-thinking feminists,
as well as older women who have stepped away from such
extremism, feminists like Sheila Jeffreys are rapidly becoming
extinct.  I am amazed that people will excuse the work of
bigoted fanatics like Jeffreys, who use their writings to
oppress a minority group which is struggling to survive on
multiple fronts.

I find it interesting that Dines, a noted anti-porn activist,
would find the work of transphobic feminist
Jeffreys "excellent."  Through my research, I have repeatedly
found that the people who are the most anti-porn, anti-
prostitution and anti-BDSM, are also almost always anti-trans.
It seems to me that this elite cadre of feminists knows what is
best for people: from their use of erotic materials, to their
sex practices, to whether we wish to use our bodies to do sex
work, or have plastic surgery procedures to modify our bodies
through sex reassignment. Now Jeffreys is even attacking women
for using cosmetics and wearing high heeled shoes. Didn't you
know that that tube of lipstick sitting on your vanity is a
vicious tool of the patriarchy designed to keep your shackled
to the cult of femininity?  My question: Didn't that sad and
totalitarian argument die out in the 1970s? No, because
Jeffreys decided to excavate it in her new "excellent" book.

Am I against radical feminism? Absolutely not.  Radical
feminism, like other streams of feminist thought and activism,
has offered and contributed much to the world. But we must
remember to put it in proper cultural, social and historical
context. Perhaps a better moniker than radical feminist for
Jeffreys would be transphobic feminist. This helps to humanize
transpeople rather than assert that they are dupes of
patriarchy who must have their consciousness raised by all-
knowing "radicals."

I apologize if this post angers some, but I urge you to read
Jeffrey's work so that you can understand why it makes so many
trans people's (and pro-sex feminists) blood boil. If those
things were being said about a group that YOU belong to, would
you be willing to stand idly by and not comment on it? 

Joelle Ruby Ryan
joeller AT
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 21:59:39 -1000
From: Hannah Miyamoto <hsmiyamoto AT MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: Radical feminism and Transphobia
   In considering the "Radical Feminism" thread, I have considered
interrogating the meaning of "radical feminism."  Joelle's contribution,
tying the RF and Bathroom threads together, provides an opportunity to
remind everyone that leading RF writers questioned the very legitimacy of
sex differences.  For example, in "Sexual Politics" (1969), Kate Millet
relied on people like John Money to argue that gender roles and identities
are socially constructed, and that gender is an institution to achieve
patriarchal oppression.  Carolyn Heilbrun used literature and mythology in
discussing encouraging females to be more masculine and males to be more
feminine in "Toward a Recognition of Androgyny" (1973). Likewise, in "The
Dialectic of Sex" (1972), Shulamith Firestone insisted that women could best
attain political and social equality by abolishing pregnancy through
   Jeffreys, Daly, and Raymond best represent "Cultural Feminism" rather
than "Radical Feminism", using the distinction framed by Alice Echols in
"Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975" (1990).  Largely
because RF evolved from the anti-imperialist/anti-racist New Left radical
movement on the 1960s, radical feminists constantly focused on privilege and
domination, whether based on race/ethnicity, class position, or sexuality. 
   Were "RF" principles honored today, I think that anti-transgender
sentiments would be considered utterly inappropriate among feminists today.
Certainly, if gender differences are socially constructed discourses written
on diversely shaped and colored bodies, and gender identity is a pillar of
patriarchal oppression, then anyone who refuses to perform their assigned
gender role is a "Transgender Warrior" against Sexism, as Leslie Feinberg
would say.  But then, by this definition, "Feminism" is a transgender

  Did anyone remember that NWSA accidentally experimented with unisex
bathrooms in 2005 (Orlando, FL), when the closest women's room to the
conference facilities broke down, and people of both sexes had to share the
men's room? I do not recall many women refusing to share the facility with
either conventional or transmen, nor did that seem to cause much trouble
besides the unavoidable crowding.

Hannah Miyamoto
hsmiyamoto AT
Univ. of Hawai'i at Manoa
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 12:08:30 +0100
From: Judith Ezekiel <ezekiel AT UNIV-TLSE2.FR>
Subject: Re: Texts on Radical feminism
     Unfortunately, I missed Janet Gray's call for texts on "radical
feminism."  May I ask how you are defiining the term?  And why and how one
can separate out this kind of feminism from women's liberation more
generally?  As I've argued in many places, I find that in recent years,
folks are using the term to study all of liberationist feminism, from those
who called themselves "radicals" (meaning leftist), to those who were in
flux, to some who theorized a philosophy named "radical feminism," to
socialist feminists and more.

     I'm forwarding a letter I sent another historian of feminism:

     [T]he dominant narrative of the "strands/branches/parts" of the
movement  has progressively been told in terms of a liberal or egalitarian
versus radical feminist divide. Radical feminist has become the term for
everybody more radical than NOW.  So a group that saw women's oppression as
the "primary contradiction" and lost sight of class and race (don't scream
out there--I KNOW not all or even most radical feminist groups did this, and
that many of those who identified as radical feminist came out SNCC, Freedom
Rides etc) is called radical feminsist, alongside a socialist feminist group
whose starting point was finding interconnecting analyses that take into
account all these oppressions.
     Here's a paragraph I wrote in Feminism in the Heartland (Columbus: Ohio
State UP, 2002):
In recent years, scholars have taken to describing early "women's
liberation" with the term "radical feminist."  Examples abound. Echols
reduces the movement to radicals (used interchangeably with feminist) and
politicos, her sympathies with the former.  Nancy Whittier slips from her
cautious "radical women's movement" of her title to "radical feminism" as
one of two arms of the movement.  Rosalind Rosenberg refers readers to Sara
Evans for "the origins of radical feminism" although Evans herself speaks of
"women's liberation."  Claire Reinelt operates from a liberal--radical
feminist divide.  Suzanne Staggenborg discusses socialist feminist groups
under a subtitle "radical feminist organizations."   A case can be made for
reclaiming the appellation "radical" to refer to all of women's liberation;
however given the usage as a specific current in the movement, I feel that
doing so inevitably flattens out the movement.  It wittingly or unwittingly
takes part in the radical feminist/politico and other such debates and
potentially allows supporters of the specific current to lay claim to all
that liberationists have done."
I would add that in Barbara Crow's recent anthology, entitled Radical
Feminism: A Documentary History,  there are articles by many socialist
feminists like Heather Booth and even Marxist feminists like Evelyn Reed,
and in the list of "Radical Feminist Journals" at the end, one finds
publications by WEAL, NWPC and Union Wage!

Judith Ezekiel

ezekiel AT
Equipe Race et Genre
UniversitT de Toulouse-Le Mirail

author of Feminism in the Heartland

editorial board, Women in Social Movements
and "The 'Second Wave' and Beyond" scholarly community

listmistress of WISE-L and etudesfeministes-l
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 14:48:58 +0200
From: Janine Hoek <jhoek AT TELKOMSA.NET>
Subject: Re: Radical feminism and Transphobia
> Joelle Ruby Ryan Wrote:
"I am amazed that after that lengthy discussion of transphobia as it relates
to feminism and to restroom access, that someone would not only recommend
the work of Sheila Jeffreys but term it "excellent."  Sheila Jeffreys is one
of the most rabid, hatemongering transphobic bigots I have ever read."

As we would say in Africa, VIVA JOELLE VIVA.
I am ulululating as we speak. Too long are students expected to read
Jeffreys' texts, without counter argument and contextual counter-discussion
offered in the form of other articles or class discussion. See Elizabeth
Grosz's often colourful responses to Jeffreys, for example. If a philosopher
like Grosz who has so much integrity and displays highly developed
self-critical thinking skills in her work, why should we be recommending
Jeffreys in our classes when Grosz wouldn't? As a  lesbian
pro-sexual-pleasure feminist, I say to you, Joelle Ruby Ryan, you are on the
money honey!

Janine Hoek
University of the Western Cape
Cape Town
South Africa
jhoek AT
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 23:05:49 -0700
From: Susan Koppelman <huddis AT MSN.COM>
Subject: Radical feminism and Transphobia
Two comments to Joelle:

1. Are there any radical feminist materials that aren't transphobic and, if so,
will you recommend them?

2. You wrote: "Sheila Jeffreys and her ilk of transphobic, anti-sex followers,
who seemed trapped in a perpetual 1970s lesbian feminist time warp.  Luckily
for a new generation of free-thinking feminists,
as well as older women who have stepped away from such extremism, feminists
like Sheila Jeffreys are rapidly becoming extinct."  Please don't assume that
all feminists of whatever race or sexuality or class or ability or size in the
70s shared a single attitude, analysis, outlook, practice, etc.  We didn't. 
And please don't sound so celebratory about the illnesses and deaths among my
contemporaries.  It is very hurtful.  Perhaps if you look through the wonderful
new book from the U. of Illinois Press edited by Barbara Love about Pioneering
Feminists you might notice the variety among us and the cost to many of us of
commitments, however they were expressed, to whatever we  understood feminism
to be. 

Susan Koppelman  huddis AT<mailto:huddis AT>
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 05:35:47 -0800
From: Erin Graham <e.j._graham AT TELUS.NET>
Subject: Re: Radical feminism and Transphobia
Using the term "transphobia" is a great way to shut down debate. When we say
that there is something wrong about transgenderism, "sex-reassignment
surgery", medical interventions in someone's body, and other tactics of the
trans "movement", we are called "phobic". My disagreement with your politic,
your activities, is just that, disagreement. it is not a phobia.

and Joelle Ruby Ryan was correct when she raised the point that Gail Dines is
an anti-porn activist, and most anti-porn, anti-prostitution feminists are in
disagreement about trans as well. I think of pornography, prostitution, and
transgender surgeries, (and other interventions like that), as being on a
continuum of violence against women, and essentially dehumanizing practices.
Not progressive. Not "pro-sex".

Sheila Jeffreys is not "transphobic". She's an academic and activist with whom
some of you may disagree.
calling her a "bigotted fanatic" is argument ad feminem, by the way. Doesn't
advance your argument.

by all means, read Jeffreys, and Grosz and Lorde and Daly and Dines--disagree,
argue, advance your thinking and mine. tossing around invective
like "phobic" "bigot" doesn't make me think, "oh, right, that's a good point."
Makes me think perhaps there is no valid opposing argument, then.

e.j._graham AT
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 07:39:12 -0800
From: Jessica Nathanson <janathanson AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Radical feminism and Transphobia
I have a different response to this, I think, than has
been expressed.

The initial query was about teaching a course on
radical feminism.  I think it would be difficult - a
disservice, too - to teach a course on radical
feminism and leave out Jeffreys and others who are
anti-trans (if you prefer that term to "transphobic,"
but there is indeed no getting away from it - the
perception of gender reassignment surgery as violence
against women is by definition a transphobic

Radical feminism is steeped in such thought.  While
there are other strands of radical feminism (which I
teach, as well), I think students of feminist theory
and history should know this material.

I think we teach - or we *should* teach - a lot of
material that might go against some of our morals and
principles as teachers.  Julia Penelope, whose theory
I find really helpful, is absolutely biphobic (or
anti-bi).  But teaching her in conjunction with
bisexual feminist texts helps students not only to
understand a lesbian separatist theoretical approach,
but also to see the actual borders of identity
politics and theory.  They get from this a very clear
sense of what the tension is between some lesbian
separatists and bisexual (and queer) movements, and
how issues of visibility and space become central in
these kinds of battles.  And so they come to
understand some of the fundamental arguments in

Joelle mentioned Janice Raymond.  I first read Janice
Raymond in tandem with Sandy Stone's response to
Raymond, and so I got to see the whole discussion.  I
was a student in my first grad course on feminist
theory.  It was so helpful for my own understanding to
see the two sides, not just paired, but speaking to
each other somewhat.

So, I *do* think we should teach Jeffreys and others,
regardless of their position on trans people.  But I
also agree that we ought to be teaching transgender
feminists as well.  Emi Koyama, if I recall correctly,
has written a strong piece that furthers tg feminism
in an open letter to Alix Dobkin (Emi is on this list,
so perhaps she'll share the reference).  This doesn't
have to mean that we as instructors share these
criticisms, necessarily, but again, it's about
teaching the dialoge and the arguments between schools
of feminism and allowing students to see the larger
discussion that is going on.

It strikes me that we often achieve this balance when
we look at the tensions between white feminist theory
and black feminist theory (and more broadly, women of
color feminist theory) and help our students to think
through the criticsms the latter has had of the

But finally, Joelle's recent post speaks to the tenor
of discussions on this list re. transgender.  It's
easy to get caught up in what our theory tells us to
do, but some of the the recent bathroom discussion,
like earlier transgender discussions, was really quite
disturbing.  Some of it showed a fundamental lack of
respect, I think, whether or not this was intentional.
 There are real people on this list for whom using a
public bathroom is an event that requires planning,
thought, and worry.  Several commenters noted this,
but I think we need to remember that this is a diverse
list and that it's really not the place for comments
like "yecch" about other human beings, no matter what
thinking is behind the "yechh."

(And yes, I recognize that this is a difficult
dialogue.  I hope it is not an impossible one.  Much
of radical feminism is against the subject positions
of transgender, sex worker, etc., and when these
issues come up, it is very very hard to negotiate a
respectful conversation without erasing either the
ability of tg people and some sex workers to speak for
themselves or of some radical feminists whose theory
is at odds with the former groups' understanding of
their experiences.  I don't have any solutions for
this, though, I'm afraid.  Perhaps it would be a good
topic for an NWSA panel...)

Jessica Nathanson

Dr. Jessica Nathanson
Visiting Assistant Professor
English and Gender Studies
Augustana College
janathanson AT
nathanson AT

For information about WMST-L

WMST-L File Collection

Top Of PageNext Page