Alicen Grey is an award winning writer, highly-acclaimed author and international spoken word performer. In 2014, Alicen released Wolves and Other Nightmares, a collection of poetry about healing from a cultic relationship. Wolves has since been endorsed by some of the most prominent voices in cult awareness, including the International Cultic Studies Association and SurvivorShip. Her poetry and prose confront both extremes of the human experience: from the internal struggles of surviving abuse and coping with trauma, to the broader sociopolitical issues of the world beyond the self. A passionate artist and activist, she strives to inspire her audience toward change and healing. More of Alicen’s work can be found at her blog, www.alicengrey.com.
1. What are the issues you focus on?
My primary concern is male supremacy. I believe that it’s the root cause of virtually all the violence in the world. I also educate people about psychological abuse, as I am a survivor of a one-on-one cult. It’s especially important for activists to understand how psychological abuse works, because cults prey on highly intelligent, driven and deeply empathetic people — and activists tend to fit that description.
2. What got you into activism?
I took a bioethics course when I was 16, in which we covered the issue of animal rights. That lead to me going vegan at 17. So at the beginning of my activist life, I thought factory farming was the most pressing issue in the world and promoted veganism relentlessly. Then, in college I took my first Women and Gender Studies class, which catalyzed my feminism. But for some reason, women’s rights weren’t as important to me as animal rights were.
Recently, I began questioning the living hell out of my feminist ideas, because my “feminism” was full of inconsistencies. For instance, I couldn’t reconcile my support of “sex work” with the fact that I was watching women get beaten, strangled and fucked to the point of crying in mainstream porn. And I knew I was lying to myself about shaving my body hair, dressing in restrictive clothing and wearing makeup “as a personal choice.”
This questioning process inspired me to check out the work of radical feminists – you know, the scary kind of feminists that we’re all discouraged from engaging with. And damn, these radical women pull no punches! I’ve never read ideas as compelling, as raw, as honest, as the works of radical feminists like Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, Sheila Jeffreys… And since immersing myself in this ideology, my entire being, and all my beliefs and behaviors, have been challenged.
I now realize that self-interested feminism (i.e., “How do I feel about wearing make-up? As what gender do I identify? How do I feel about watching porn?”) ignores the structural and institutional forces that coerce and subjugate females as a sex class. So I want nothing to do with this type of self-serving betrayal of femalekind that masquerades itself as “progressive” and “feminist.”
3. What are your beliefs and who inspired them?
Political stances aside, my philosophy on activism is a spiritual one. I’m obsessed with this Hindu concept, that the Universe is an eternal dance of Creation, Preservation and Destruction (represented by the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
I tend to think of people as embodiments of each phase of the cosmic dance. Some people are more Creative: they enjoy increase, growth, and expansion; they build on what already exists. Some people are Preservational: they’re the go-with-the-flow, do-your-duty types; they maintain what already exists. And then there are people like us: Destroyers. We are the ones who dive deep into the psyche of the world, find the shadows lurking there, call them by name, look them in the eye, take their hand, and help them up into the light of Destruction’s fire. We are the ones who analyze the most uncomfortable realities: male supremacy, ecocide, class warfare, racism, imperialism… Radical activists are, in essence, Destruction in human form.
4. Who are some of your favorite radical artists?
Oh, Mary Daly for sure. Once you think she’s gone far enough in her analysis, she goes even further. Reading her work is excruciating, because she exposes so much of patriarchy’s grotesqueness and minces no words in the process – but it’s also comforting, because she had so much optimism that one day, women will wake up and come together to create a biophilic (life-loving) future, as the antithesis to the current necrophilic (death-loving) patriarchal schema.
5. Please Define Radical Feminism
Radical feminism is about exposing, understanding and challenging male supremacy. The ultimate goal is to liberate women from patriarchy, not to equalize us with males. There is an important distinction that needs to be made here. Male power does not come out of nowhere. It is an institutional force, manufactured through an intricate self-feeding web of domination/subjugation-based relations, and maintained with weapons such as war, poverty, and what Andrea Dworkin called “sexual terrorism.” Women should not want equality to this degree of violence. We should want liberation from it.
In contrast, liberal feminism (the mainstream, popular, commercialized version of “feminism”) is grossly male-inclusive. Liberal feminists generally lack activism experience or an understanding of feminism’s deep history. So they don’t recognize male-inclusivity as a form of co-opting or infiltration. I unashamedly say I’m suspicious of male “feminists.” I want to know the motives of males who demand access to female-only safe spaces. I want to know how the hell my oppressor dares to say he understands my pain.
Additionally, most liberal feminists can’t even provide you with a cohesive definition of “gender” or directly answer the question “What is a woman?” It begs the question, why do they even bother calling themselves fem-inists, if fem-ales are not the focal point of their movement?
6. What are your views on gender?
Females are oppressed, and gender is the method by which they are oppressed. Femininity is the ritualized subjugation of female-bodied persons, and it is imposed on us from birth and all throughout life through a process called socialization. I dare you to find one “feminine” thing in our culture that does not invoke weakness, pain or submission. High heels make women immobile and cause discomfort. Makeup is often intended to make women look younger. Female clothing is often restrictive, dysfunctional and makes us appear sexually available at all times. And regarding behavior, girls are taught all throughout life to be quiet, be small, be stupid, and be polite. We are taught to constantly monitor, modify and mute ourselves.
What’s scarier, is that these things are seen as sexy. The more immobile and weak and in-pain you are, the sexier you are considered, by patriarchy’s sick standards. Female submission is sexualized, or, made desirable — which explains why so many feminists, myself included, are afraid to put our lipstick down.
Masculinity, on the other hand, is the ritualized empowerment of male-bodies persons. Males are encouraged from birth onwards to be physically strong, to be comfortable, to be loud, to take up space, to be confident, to put their own needs first, to eat as much as they want… the list goes on and on. Masculinity is the reward for being born male.
All of this is to say, that I am a gender abolitionist, and therefore very skeptical of the assertion that sex can be “trans”ed (or crossed). I am especially skeptical of the assertion that someone socialized as male can internally identify with femalehood. Male-socialized behaviors are not simply cancelled out by a superficial transition. No amount of performing femininity can make male-socialized violence, entitlement and aggression go away.
Everyone has the right to refuse to conform to their sex roles, but males do not have the right to tell females what it means to be female — especially since males are members of the oppressor class in this male-supremacist system. Males have always exercised their power to define femalehood however they want, with no regard for the female perspective on femalehood. The memetic slogan, “trans women are women,” is just another manifestation of that. Males defining females is really nothing new. In fact, it’s the foundation of patriarchy. Thus, the antithesis to male supremacy is for females to define ourselves.
When I explain my views on gender, a common knee-jerk response is to call me a TERF. Let’s be honest: “TERF” is the new “commie.” Often times, calling someone transphobic is a censorship tactic, designed to halt discourse, to smear reputations, to make people afraid to criticize queer theory, and nothing more. So I am not afraid to be called a TERF. My feminism prioritizes females. That’s what feminism is supposed to do.
7. What do you think of including versus excluding trans women in radical feminism?
Trans males have the right to organize and create safe spaces for themselves. And if some feminist spaces welcome trans males with open arms, that’s great. However, trans males are not entitled to all feminist spaces. So I defend the concept and application of female-only spaces. Sometimes black feminists want to organize with other black feminists. Likewise, sometimes females just want to be around other females. That’s not bigotry. That’s a boundary. Women have the right to set boundaries. And when trans males shame and guilt us for doing so, that’s indicative of their unexamined male-pattern entitlement, which is misogynistic and unacceptable.
Also, it’s rather remarkable, how much energy is expended by “transfeminists” on hunting down and punishing radical feminists for our gender-critical views. I wish they would spend as much time de-platforming, doxxing and censoring misogynistic men, as they do to radical women. I wish they’d ask themselves why they think transmisogyny is a worse offense than misogyny. I wish they’d stop using abusive behavior and intimidation tactics to silence women who disagree with them. Only then might I consider them feminists.
8. To clarify for those who found your last statement controversial, you don’t wish trans people any harm, believe they shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want with their body without harming another, or have any rights stripped?
Well obviously, no, I don’t want trans people to be harmed in any way, by anyone. But, I can’t help but wonder: What made you ask? Why is it that, when I say, “gender is a caste system,” people hear death threats? Why, when I say “only females have the right to define femalehood,” do people react with rage? Radical feminists are often accused of violence. Some transactivists go as far as to say we “have blood on our hands.” Again, this is a censorship tactic.
Accusing radical groups of violence is the easiest way to demonize them, and make everyone turn against them. That is the sole function of the label “TERF.” The harsh reality is that virtually all transphobic hate crimes are committed by males. Not radical feminists, not gender abolitionist women — males. Males who have never even heard of radical feminism!
So I want everyone who’s fallen for this anti-radfem fear-mongering to think long and hard about the implications of this censorship campaign. When we silence the women who call out male violence, rather than confront the actual males committing the violence, we fail to make the world safer for trans people. We fail them miserably. Protecting trans people from transphobic hate crimes can only happen once we stop blaming females for inciting male violence, and start Naming the Agent instead.
9. What do you think of the earth as our mother and ecocide as the ultimate in mass misogyny?
I don’t know that ecocide is the ultimate in mass misogyny. Ranking misogyny seems kind of impossible, because all manifestations of male supremacy feed into each other, whether we’re talking about a man raping a girl, or a man penetrating a mountain to extract its coal, or a man violating a cell with foreign genetic information to create a frankenspecimen. All these acts of boundary-breaking, death-loving and female-hating feed into each other, inform each other, fuel each other. So I can’t say there’s an ultimate misogyny. Just misogyny, that takes different forms, and that are awful in different ways.
10. Where do you think male pattern violence began? Is it genetic in males or was hierarchy first and it’s just a metamorphosis? Are males of any culture innately patriarchal or is it part of a dialectic materialism of our most predominant and destructive cultures alone?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I still don’t know how I feel about that. There are too many factors to consider, to single out one cause: testosterone, religious indoctrination, murder culture, rape culture, the portrayal of females and males in media…. Who can say which of these is the origin?
While I won’t commit myself to any particular theory or explanation, I will say this: we all have to stop being so afraid of this question. The first step in radical feminism is recognizing there’s a problem: violence against women. The second step is acknowledging that violence against women is mostly caused by males. The third step is asking, how did males get to be this way? This is the scary part where lots of people stop and say, “I don’t want to know.” But we have to be brave enough to entertain these propositions. Maybe it’s hormonal. Maybe the Y chromosome is kinda shady. Or maybe it’s purely environmental.
Regardless, we can’t address a problem without knowing how the problem started. This is the real work of radical feminism – being able to look at your boyfriend or brother or father or uncle when they commit misogyny, and ask, “Why?” It’s okay not to come to a definitive answer, but we owe it to ourselves to at least ask. Yes, it’s terrifying. But it’s necessary.
11. What advice would you give young writers, activists, and revolutionaries to confront the oppression in themselves?
As feminists – particularly as new radical feminists – we must constantly check ourselves for internalized misogyny. This gross thing has been happening, where mainstream “feminists” promote “causes” like porn, BDSM culture, glorifying sex work, reclaiming slurs like slut and bitch, etc.… and men are going, “Sign me the fuck up!” because it gives them permission to continue doing the oppressive shit they’ve always been doing – and claim to be
revolutionary while doing it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to deal with dudebros who
defend their porn habit with the “stop sex shaming” argument, or with the “my feminist friend said it was okay” argument. It’s really no different from when a white person uses the n-word because their token black friend gave them permission to do so.
Men who hate women LOVE watching porn, they LOVE having an excuse to hit women during sex, they LOVE using misogynistic slurs, and most of all, they LOVE when women also love these things. Basically, men who hate women LOVE mainstream feminism – because it’s not feminism.
So if you’re trying to figure out whether your “causes” are informed by feminism or by internalized misogyny, ask yourself: “Would a man who hates women be on board with this cause?” If the answer is yes, it’s probably harmful to women and girls, and you should probably stop promoting it.