“Shared girlhood,” red herrings, and the creation of the Third Wave

Here be an excellent takedown and analysis of the myth of “the myth of shared girlhood. “


Have you heard the one about the “shared girlhood”?


The “myth of shared girlhood” is an idea that has been developed recently by intersectional feminists to explain why it’s wrong for radical feminists to want women-only events that exclude people who were born male.  According to the doctrine of the myth of shared girlhood, there’s nothing that really makes anyone female, because there’s no one universal defining experience of girlhood.

It’s true that there is no universal experience of femaleness.  Not one.  For anything you can come up with–even things that are experienced by huge, huge percentages of women–some women, on an individual basis, don’t meet those qualifications.

According to the “myth of shared girlhood” analysis, this means that organization based around femaleness is inherently improper, and that since trans* individuals have shared some experiences that some women have had, they should be considered no different than any other…

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8 thoughts on ““Shared girlhood,” red herrings, and the creation of the Third Wave

  1. Any time women gather as women to overthrow patriarchy, males find all kinds of ways of shutting this down. Radical feminist gathering spaces are very rare IRL, actually. Even lesbian only space is rare, and often under constant attack by men. Poor women who gather in public spaces for radical activism are harassed by men all the time. The safest places I know for lesbians are in private homes, and even these private events are attacked by the trans invaders, who insist on crashing into private lesbian homes. When a lesbian declares a party or event in her private home LESBIAN only, she gets attacked by queerdom. Shocking as this might seem, private property owned by lesbians is not respected at all. Michigan is privately owned lesbian land, it is not open to the public, and that is one reason the music festival has survived for decades, when no other lesbian space has existed this long. Women need to fight back, and kick the trans out of our personal events, our political meetins and our spaces. There is a time and a place for trans / bio-women dialogue and interaction. Male to trans need to meet in safe spaces too, and they need to get up to speed on why bio women don’t have to work with them ever if we don’t want to. Or we can meet at general conferences and work on common issues: violence against all women and against men who take on female costuming, for example. Only women it seems have open season. Only bio women are accused of having no commonality at all. Well, every girl who is born is labeled and made a second class citizen at birth. Male to trans did not experience this. They were raised with male privilege, and have no idea what it is women have experienced over a life time, like all men, they could care less, because they get to rule everything, even private women’s spaces.

  2. Radical feminist gathering spaces are rare partly because women-only space is rare nowadays. The ballyhoo in London, Toronto and Michigan show us that women’s attempts to gather/organize socially or politically (even for a short time) are met with hostility, threats, and stalking. I’d love to talk to older women who experienced the heyday of women-only space — what were the most important things they accomplished? How did it help them live their best, most constructive, most joyful lives?

    That said, most trans people (not even close to most) don’t endorse this kind of behavior. The vast majority of trans people just want to live their lives in peace and freedom from fear. This is what women want, as well. Why can’t we have it?

  3. I have many stories from the days when lesbian only space, and radical feminist space was quite common. It was effective, we got a lot done, we produced great work, we had a great time together. There were no men or trans people to bother us. We just did our own thing. We had deep political debates, of course, and dyke drama. But we all agreed we wanted lesbian only space, and got it. We understood the necessity of lesbian solidarity; we wanted to create a new culture and a new world free of men.

    This was inspiring, as were the books of the era, The Wanderground, The Ruins of Isis, Mary Daly’s books, Andrea Dworkin. We all read the books, we knew and created the theory.

    Straight women were in our groups, but really didn’t seem absolutely committed. They didn’t do much of the work, lesbians did. So we just persisted. None of us had much money back in the day, no one owned homes, but we created this amazing international movement that persists to this day. Now I meet women in their 80s who are still radical lesbian feminists. Go see Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution when it comes to town, because this movie is about the hestory of lesbian separatism. It provides a needed herstorical antidote to separatism as a hated philosophy, but you’ll see how vibrant and alive the women in this movie are. The feeling of it will reveal much to women of today.

  4. I enjoyed going to the women-only places in the 1980-1990s. It had a different feel. We were all interested in what problems we faced in a day to day life and willing to listen to each other.. Now these places became 70% men that all want to be the center of attention and many go there to dress up and hit on the women that show up.. It is not the same.

    The only place left is the Korean spa which are clubs[open to the public]. You have to be nude in the spa area and they do not allow men in the woman’s side because there are female generation families[grandmother, mother, & daughter & grand daughter] and it is a private club. That is the only place that is still no mans land.

  5. We have created all women groups in Los Angeles, and have a lot of private events in homes now, due to the lack of safety at the so called gay and trans open spaces. There seems to be a renewed interest in working to make women centric stuff once again out in the world.

    The over 50 and 60 group is much more this way, because we know how to run women only groups, and we have solidarity over this. A younger generation often doesn’t have the leadership skills and the confidense to do this, mainly because radical lesbian activism grew out of civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activism and the student movement. The groups who came of age after all of this, hadn’t been tested in the streets, and there is this huge disconnect. Basically lesbians and women are expected to accomodate everyone but ourselves, and a lot of women are afraid to stand up and be counted on this issue.

  6. It used to be that the entry point to lesbian activism came through leftist groups to begin with, or even the entry point of the coming out process itself came through leftist politics, but over the last few decades, we have been living in constant backlash, and so younger women haven’t really had the political education and street smarts that they tested IRL in practical ways. We created women only spaces and businesses and magazines worldwide, restaurants, cafes, bars, bookstores, and out of these public spaces, women were privately invited into inner circles. I personally think I just value unassimilated lesbian space much more than a 20-30 something. Women are facing massive backlash and threats, we quietly did our work, and men just ignored us and trans were non-existant. We were stealth, but men now know that radical feminism is a huge threat to patriarchy and their very aggression is testiment to our power as free women.

  7. A rather large segment of our communities were lifelong lesbians, so we never married men, or had a “hetero” phase. We were lesbians from a young age, we had access to radical women’s groups, and radical writing. I think there is this divide between previously het women and lifelong lesbians that is a source of conflict. Women were indoctrinated into male sexual practices, and have brought male stuff. BDSM, that sort of thing. Pansexual, trans, it’s a mess.

  8. That’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to chew on that awhile. I might be considered “previously het,” but I don’t think I’ve brought male stuff into my lesbian sexuality, or if male stuff *is* really male stuff, or what.

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