“In this strange labyrinth,
how shall I turn?”
My friends, I am rejoiced that you are glad, but I don’t know how you will feel when I get through. I come from another field—the country of the slave. They have got their liberty—so much good luck to have slavery partly destroyed; not entirely. I want it root and branch destroyed. Then we will all be free indeed. I feel that if I have to answer for the deeds done in my body just as much as a man, I have a right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again.
– Sojourner Truth, “Keeping the Thing Going While Things Are Stirring” (1867)
If slavery is ever to be destroyed “root and branch,” women will have to destroy it. Men, as their history attests, will only pluck its buds and pick its flowers. I want to ask you to commit yourselves to your own freedom; I want to ask you not to settle for anything less, not to compromise, not to barter, not to be deceived by empty promises and cruel lies. I want to remind you that slavery must be destroyed “root and branch,” or it has not been destroyed at all. I want to ask you to remember that we have been slaves for so long that sometimes we forget that we are not free. I want to remind you that we are not free. I want to ask you to commit yourselves to a women’s revolution—a revolution of all women, by all women, and for all women; a revolution aimed at digging out the roots of tyranny so that it cannot grow anymore.
– Andrea Dworkin, “Our Blood: The Slavery of Women in Amerika,” Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics (1976)
Feminist Politics and Women’s Liberation
“Andrea Dworkin’s Legacy Lives On: A Review of ‘Last Days at Hot Slit'” (Essay) (September 2019)
“Her Rights Matter Because Her Life Matters: A Radical Feminist Analysis of Reproductive Rights Rhetoric” (Speech) (July 2019)
“Harriet Jacobs: Raising Consciousness Against Slavery” (Learning Module) (July 2019)
“Emma Goldman: Liberating the Liberated Woman” (Learning Module) (July 2019)
“Victoria Woodhull: Her Body as Hers, Not His” (Learning Module) (July 2019)
“Sister Outsider: Black Women as Abolitionists and Suffragists” (Learning Module) (February 2019)
“Bipartisan Sisterhood: AAUW Discusses Linda Hirshman’s Sisters in Law“ (Essay) (February 2019)
Lesbian and Gay Liberation
“The Simple Story of a Lesbian Girlhood” (Essay) (January 2020)
“Do We Truly See Her?: Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Gender Dysphoria” (Essay) (October 2019)
“‘Sun’s Too Hot—Should Like a Little Ice’: Queer Friendship and the Horror of Masculinity in E.M. Forster’s Maurice“ (Essay) (March/April 2019)
Selected Works from the Campaign for Montevallo’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO):
“Equality Threatens Oppression” (Essay) (January 2018)
“Coming Out: From Closet to Closure” (Essay) (March 2018)
“As in Every Reform” (Speech) (April 2018)
A Note on These Texts
Although, in the present, I disagree with certain more simpleminded, less critical ideas which I held in the past, I provide these works for the sake of honesty to my readers. It is not because these writings exemplify my thoughts in the present, but rather because they indicate where I was in the past, contrasted against where I am going. That is, I see the past as a place so different from where I will be one day. We can all, I think, become too trusting of social movements marketed to us as “progressive.” Regardless of the pain in this process, we should all be honest with ourselves about what we believe and how we come to change our beliefs as we live and learn.
How to Support My Scholarship and Writing
Reading and sharing my writing helps me, whether on Facebook or on WordPress, in public or in private. Please feel free to share my resources as tools for raising consciousness about social problems related to the rights of women and racial minorities.
I also have a PayPal.Me profile and a Patreon page available where any potential supporters can provide patronage to my scholarship and writing.
Link to PayPal: paypal.me/donovankcleckley
Link to Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/donovan_k_cleckley
Encouraging words always help, too, in this world where, it seems, we activists and writers find ourselves pulled and pushed in all sorts of directions, personally and politically, without much choice on our part due to the monetary constraints weighing upon us. In times like these, I recall the words of Andrea Dworkin from her last book Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, first published in 2002:
I can’t be bought or intimidated because I’m already cut down the middle. I walk with women whispering in my ears. Every time I cry there’s a name attached to each tear. My ideology is simple and left: I believe in redistributing the wealth; everyone should have food and health care, shelter and safety; it’s not right to hurt and deprive people so that they become prostitutes and thieves.
As a freelance writer, scholar, and journalist, I am deeply thankful for any kindness and support given toward my work.
But how impossible it must have been for them not to budge either to the right or to the left. What genius, what integrity it must have required in face of all that criticism, in the midst of that purely patriarchal society, to hold fast to the thing as they saw it without shrinking.
– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)
In this strange labyrinth, how shall I turn?
Ways are on all sides, while the way, I miss;
If to the right hand, there, in love I burn;
Let me go forward, therein danger is;
If to the left, suspicion hinders bliss;
Let me turn back, shame cries I ought return,
Nor faint, though crosses with my fortunes kiss;
Standstill is harder, although sure to mourn;
Thus, let me take the right or left hand way,
Go forward, or stand still, or back retire,
I must these doubts endure without allay
Or help, but travail find for my best hire;
Yet that which most my troubled sense doth move
Is to leave all and take the thread of love.
– Lady Mary Wroth, Sonnet 77, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (1621)