“Women Speak!”: An Interview with WoLF Board Chair Natasha Chart

How do you define radical feminism? Do you have a favorite rad fem book, and if so, which is it?

Artist: Renee Gerlich

Radical feminism is a way of looking at women’s oppression that views male violence and coercive threats as the means of enforcing that oppression. 

My favorite radical feminist text is Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse, which lays this all out in a very accessible way and shows how these abuses are justified by having been sexualized. A close second is the book Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin, which gets across the same ideas in the form of futurist, dystopian fiction.

How did you come to do radical feminist work? What are the biggest rewards and challenges in this work?

In my work at a mainstream, reproductive rights organization, I started to notice complaints on social media by others in that space about radical feminists opposing gender identity. So I went to go find some of these renegade feminists’ profiles to see what they were saying. It turned out that they had good arguments in opposition to both gender identity and the sex trade; I was persuaded, for which I was fired.

I miss having a regular career, which had been a real struggle to achieve from a background where my parents only had a high school education, and I had no family support as a young adult. I miss some of the friends that I lost. But when I came to see the lies on which the liberal feminist positions on gender and the sex trade are built, I couldn’t participate in that any longer.

The biggest rewards and challenges in radical feminism come from the same place: the work to build solidarity among women. Of course some people just seem to naturally click, whereas other people may bring out the very worst in each other, but that’s not an impediment to solidarity among men. We shouldn’t allow men to use the ways we differ from other women as individuals — based on having different backgrounds, experiences, or ideas about the world — to separate us from each other in terms of class interests as women.

We bring cross-partisan work up a lot as an example–because it’s very important. When men engage in cross-partisan work, or come up with surprising alliances, they may be called moderates, or statesmen, or political geniuses, or they might be hailed as broad-minded ambassadors for their causes. The term applied to women for this sort of political work seems to be traitor, puppet, “wh*re,” etc.

Demonizing female negotiators as traitors is a demonization of female authority itself; it’s a demonization of the right of women, as a class, to carry out the normal functions of political leadership. 

Women rightly fear reprisal and ostracism. Nonetheless, if we ever want anything to change for the better, we need to face that fear. Look at who men have as leaders, after all. Not exactly sending their best people, as they say.

How long have you served as WoLF Board Chair, and what does that volunteer service work entail?

I’ve been Chair since 2017. It’s entailed setting up many of our organizational processes and platforms, guiding our strategy and resource use, negotiating the direction of our partnerships, consulting with our legal advisors, coordinating the Board and working toward consensus, and making sure that we’re walking the line between getting the most out of what we have and trying new things with uncertain returns. 

What are the key issues affecting women and girls in the US today? Worldwide?

Artist: Renee Gerlich

Our key issue is that we are widely hated and seen as worthy only in service to others, rather than in our own right. As a hated class, violence toward us is often justified as reasonable, torture is excused, and quite often humiliation is seen as deserved or wanted if it can be recast in terms of a sexual service we perform for the benefit of a man. 

It’s hard to face the scale of this problem. But women won the right to vote without the benefit of any formal political power, and without overthrowing any governments, based on many divergent strategies that amounted to making a public case for equal dignity under the law. It was a very long argument, but we won it. We should persist.

Why should people support WoLF’s 2020 “Women Speak!” fundraiser?

Supporting our work gives donors a chance to hear from feminists and allies across our networks, and to organize around work that fills in gaps in the broad movement to liberate women, secure our rights, and work for justice for women and girls.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers and supporters?

I hope everyone is doing the best they can with all the travel and contact restrictions; I know it’s very hard. I know that there are some people waiting on vital medical procedures, or who’ve had their income threatened or eliminated in the current crisis, and that many are struggling with isolation. 

If it helps anyone else, I’ve been studying more history. I find that it helps reset my sense of perspective about what’s really difficult, or survivable, and to some extent how far we’ve come in addressing many problems that seemed intractable only a few short generations ago. 

All that human beings have achieved, including surviving the longest state of childhood dependence of any other species of animal, has been built on the almost unseen foundation of our strong talents for cooperation. This is surely why we miss each other’s company so keenly. We’re smart as individuals, but it’s our cooperation that allows our intelligence to be shared and organized. 

In particular, this is a great strength of women. I’m very inspired by what I see the women I know overcoming, and I know we have the collective talent to achieve great things together if we keep at it.

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