Who is being silenced?*
Leftist publications have a problem with radical feminism. They have long maintained an informal ban against publishing radical feminist writers. They refuse to grapple with radical feminism's critique of male supremacist sexuality as a system of oppression of women. They generally pretend radical feminists don't exist, except for Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, whose names they try to weld into keywords for 'censorship', 'anti-sex', and 'bad kind of feminist'.
Leftist publications do publish liberal feminists and leftist women, thanks in part to the pressures of the feminist movement. There's a tiny bit of space given to women in The Nation, a little bit more in Z Magazine, and a generous bit more in The Progressive. But whatever the ratio, all publishing access comes under the provisions of an underlying contract: 'We will publish your writing. We will even allow you to be stars. Just don't go there—where Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, and those nameless radical feminists go. That's taboo territory. Don't even think about respectfully engaging with these feminists. If you join their ranks, we will treat you the way we treat them. If you even look like their friend, you will no longer be welcome here. We will reward you, so long as you don't cross that line.'
After decades of this divide-and-conquer strategy, radical feminists might hope that sexist men on the left would simply tire themselves out. After all, how can they keep pummeling those who are made invisible? How can they both bash and erase, year after year? How can they keep getting liberal and leftist women to follow their rules, almost without exception?
Unfortunately, no one is getting tired—except perhaps radical feminists. Women who move in leftist and liberal publishing circles know the rules of the contract, and more and more of them make these rules their own. Many of them take the initiative to bash and erase the 'bad feminists' (the two that exist) as a pledge of allegiance to the men and the system around them.
Laura Flanders, a leftist-feminist journalist and founder of the Women's Desk at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, provided an example in the May
* This article was first published in July 2001 in Said It: feminist news, culture, politics.
Available at http://saidit.org/archives/jul01/mediaglance.html.