pisaquari: Who are you known as on the internets?
pisaquari: Site(s) you blog? If any?
pisaquari: Places you most frequent/comment (can be nonfeminist)
allecto: Women’s Space: http://www.womensspace.org/phpBB2/
Buried Alive (of course): http://buriedalive.wordpress.com/
see my blogroll: I read them all.
Women’s Lives Matter and Women’s Life Matters: http://radfemspeak.net/forum/
pisaquari: How would you describe your background? Naming as many points for which you are privileged and oppressed as possible.
allecto: I guess it is complicated. My mother is half Black, from a dirt poor background. My ‘father was rich and white, he forced my mother late one night’… sorry, channeling Nina Simone there. My mother married my father when she was pregnant with me. My maternal grandmother is a native Papuan. Her father was half Portugese, half Papuan and her mother was half Chinese, half Papuan.
My grandmother was taken (not forcefully) by white nuns when she was five years old to be ‘educated’. (This was during the second world war. Papua New Guinea was colonised by white Australia. When the war was over the Papuans were ‘granted’ independence.) While she was being ‘educated’ she was not allowed to speak her language, nor was she allowed to have anything to do with her culture or family. She was finally returned to her family when she was 15. Unable to speak with her family she felt distanced from them and related better to white people. She became a nurse during the war, while her father was a translator.
Papua is very male supremacist. Domestic violence is common. My grandmother did not want to end up being beaten by her husband. She saw her mother and sisters and friends getting into relationships where they were beaten. So she decided to marry a white man and move to Australia. She was 20.
I am privileged in many ways. I am light skinned. I talk like a white person. I have been to uni. But there is a legacy of my grandmother’s history.
My mother’s sense of self was very negatively affected by being a half-Black and female. My mother doesn’t talk much about her past, but she does occasionally mention how difficult it was, knowing intimately that she was worthless and counted for nothing. My grandmother had 5 boys and 2 girls. She, having been indoctrinated with male supremacist values, valued the boys more than the girls. My mother is still trying to find worth within herself. She thought that marrying my father, who was rich and white, would bestow value onto her. Or rather, because a rich, white man wanted her, she thought this meant that she was worth something.
But my father abused her. Treated her like dirt. My father became obsessed with Christianity. My mother had to conform to his idea of a good little wife and mother. He tried to turn her into a slave. She tried to conform to his expectations of her, while he continued to abuse her emotional, verbally, socially and sexually. She had seven children to him. I am the eldest.
My father liked my mother’s exotic looks, but he didn’t like that she had a Black mother. We did not visit our grandmother nearly as much as we wanted to because she was Black. I always had thought it was because she lived an hour away from us.
When I was 10 we moved to Finland (my father is Finnish). It was awful there. Our relatives treated us horribly because we weren’t white. My father was coming into some inheritance but his siblings stole it from him. There were two factors at play here: their greed and their racism. It wouldn’t have been cool for them to do this if we were white.
My mother suffered horribly in Finland.
So while I am pretty well accepted as white in Australia, I do have some experience of what racism feels like. There is also the generational effects of white Australian imperialism, that has had a big affect on my mother, my grandmother, and the maternal side of my family.
Other privileges include being able-bodied, having employment, youth, health, love. Being skinny and not ‘unattractive’.
Other oppressions include lesbianism. Although I consider lesbianism to be a privilege in many respects.
pisaquari: How did male supremacy first touch you?
allecto: At the moment of conception. Possibly before that even. I believe that most heterosexual intercourse happens between unequal parties. Especially in the case of my mother. I know for sure that my father forced intercourse on her. I believe that my siblings and myself are the products of rape.
I was supposed to be a boy. They had the name picked and everything. Daniel. The first born son. Oops. Sorry daddy. You got a hairy-legged, lesbian, hell-spawn instead.
pisaquari: Were there any feminists closely involved in your upbringing?
allecto: Nope. Not one. I would call my mother a feminist now. But she wasn’t when I was growing up.
pisaquari: Was there an “aha” moment for you for feminism? For radical feminism?
allecto: Not really. I’ve always been a radical feminist. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see that there was serious dominance/submission issues in male/female relations. I started hating men when I started hating my father. I was 11 when I stopped calling my father ‘dad’ and started referring to him by name. Soon after that I stopped speaking to him all together, even though we continued to live with him for another 5 years.
I was considered ‘beautiful’ when I was younger. Men would constantly stare at me and hit on me. I hated it. I got my sister to spread rumours around school, that I was a lesbian. Um… so then all the girls hit on me too!!! It didn’t work so well. But it caused me to be really suspicious of men. I thought they all just wanted to fuck me so I just ignored all of them. It wasn’t till I got to uni that I met men that I could tolerate.
The ‘aha’ moment was finding out that there were other women in the world just like me. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. My whole life I have been treated like a freak and my opinions have been mocked and ridiculed and belittled. My goodness, when I found out that I was actually one of thousands of women… it was so amazing. Women’s Space was part of that discovery and The Women’s Library in Newtown.
pisaquari: What attributes in your personality/upbringing do you think made you more open to radical feminism?
allecto: I have always been an outcast. Radical feminism is about becoming Radically Other. It seems fitting that the outcasts would be at home together.
Also I read and I think. Growing up we didn’t have a television because of religious reasons. I think that not being exposed to media conditioning helped me to become more analytical and critical than many of my peers. I loved books written by women with strong female characters. So that showed me a way of opting out. I knew that there was no way I was ever going to get married and have kids. I had seen what that did to my mother. Radical feminism was the only political, social, emotional and spiritual analysis that made any kind of sense of the reality I lived in.
pisaquari: Do you call yourself a radical feminist to others?
allecto: Yes. Unless I am at work. But even there I try to ease open the closet.
pisaquari: How do you integrate radical feminism into your personal relationships? Buying habits? Love? Family?
allecto: Uh. This is a hard question to answer. I don’t think that there is any decision or relationship in my life that hasn’t been affected/influenced by radical feminism. One of my sisters is a radical feminist. My mother is too, in her own way, so those relationships are great. My brother thinks like a radical feminist but acts like a man. That pisses the hell out of me I can tell you. And I can’t stop loving my brother, I can’t. But fuck I hate that he has grown into a man. I hate it.
I met Dissenter when we were 16 and while we actually didn’t like each other much when we first met, we are very similar in many ways, and we have become life-long friends. Dissenter and I were calling ourselves queer feminists when I discovered radical feminism. It didn’t take but 2 seconds for me to drop queer like a hot coal. I had already started being pissed off with queer by that stage. But I had never heard of radical feminism. Anyway, I bashed Dissenter over the head with radical feminist texts until she became one too. It hasn’t really changed our relationship because we were pretty much already rad fems by that stage.
I buy clothes from op shops, food from a co-op. I buy fair-trade whenever possible. I have been a vegetarian since I was 15. I don’t have a mobile phone or a microwave or a car. I try to cut down on electricity consumption and technological consumption as much as possible. I give money away, or lose it or spend it irrationally. I don’t do any of these things to ‘go without’ or ‘live in poverty’ but because things are not necessary for my happiness. In fact I think a lot of the time these things detract from happiness.
pisaquari: What has been the hardest part of radical feminism to integrate into your life?
allecto: Um. I guess the hatred and the callousness that we are treated with can be more than a little trying. I’ve started learning to enjoy getting shit flung at me again. I’m a little perverse that way.
It can be lonely. I really, really wish there were more lesbian feminists/radical feminists in my age group that I could hang out with.
pisaquari: How do you survive/find happiness living in a patriarchy? What are some things you like to do?
allecto: I sing, write poetry, read, play the piano, garden, dance, bushwalk, take photos of myself in pretty dresses. I spend lots of time on the internet communing with my sisters. I really, really love my life.
Also I avoid men as much as possible. I work with women, I socialise with women, I live with a woman, I converse with women, I am political with women. Having lots of women in my life is bliss.
pisaquari: What sort of activist activities are you involved with?
allecto: None at the moment. I used to be but I’m taking a break.
pisaquari: Okay, so there is a radical feminist island–you are there right now: what are you doing?
allecto: Are all my radical feminist friends there too? If so, I am running around trying desperately to hug them all at the same time and gushing about how amazing it is to finally meet them.