Hi! We thought since we have a 'peak trans' thread on how you became gender critical and it's really popular and useful, it might make sense to have a kind of 'peak patriarchy' thread, where we can talk about experiences that brought us to feminism.
If you consider yourself to be a radical feminist, then it would also be interesting to find out if you became a radfem after moving on from some other form of feminism.
I volunteered to kick off this thread because I have a short but I hope impactful story. My father made me a radfem, and not in the good way.
I grew up in the UK, and not in a nice part. More post-industrial wasteland than grassy suburb. My father was an extremely violent alcoholic. He beat my mother to the point of breaking her bones and scarring her face. He was a manual worker; she worked in care. He was big; she was small. She became an alcoholic too. She died from a cancer related to her addiction before I was 20 years old. He beat my brothers. He beat his second wife too, a much younger woman he started seeing after my mother got her terminal diagnosis (classy!)
I didn't understand why nobody helped us. I didn't understand why my grandparents changed the subject and pursed their lips when I talked about it. I didn't understand how he justified his violence when I questioned him about it. Worst, I didn't understand how my mother internalised the blame for it. And I knew that there were many more situations like mine in the neighbourhood, children my age with similar - and even worse - stories to tell; boys and men whose chat-up attempts bristled with the same aggression. So many excuses were made for him: his hard life and difficult childhood, her 'neuroticism', our cheeky behaviour; some even - it was a generation ago, mind - mentioned the blow to the male pride of having a working wife. Even when - rarely - the abuse was so severe the law was involved they did nothing that helped.
In my early/mid teens, hiding out in the local library to avoid the drama at home, I found the feminism section. I read, first, Sexual Politics. Then Right Wing Women. Then Pornography, and then, and then, and then....until I'd exhausted every book in the section. I remember I was so eager to read on, my hands would be twitching to turn the page.
I realise how lucky I was that these were the books on the shelves in the mid-80s, and that the feminism available to me gave a framework to understand male violence. If these women can see it too, then I'm not mad. But more than that: it gave me courage, and hope. If these women can resist it, then, surely, I can too. If they can see other futures, then maybe there's one for me.
A few years later, violence in the household had escalated to a point I became fearful for my own safety. So, with all the hope and courage feminism had gifted me, I ran away from home with my few possessions in a binbag, moving through homeless shelters and squats and even sleeping rough, until I was 18. Legally an adult, I was able to find a permament address, and pick up the strands of my education. Don't think I could have done any of it without those women and their vision behind me.