Review of “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood” (1976)

Jo Freeman (writer).

Read in 2020.

Trashing is a particularly vicious form of character assassination which amounts to psychological rape. It is manipulative, dishonest, and excessive. It is occasionally disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict, or covered up by denying that any disapproval exists at all. But it is not done to expose disagreements or resolve differences. It is done to disparage and destroy.

A cogent essay on the ferocity of intra-group conflict, adult bullying and master suppression techniques before the Internet made these more confrontational by normalizing cold media. The author speculates about why the phenomenon seems (to her) especially prevalent in the US “Women’s Movement”, suggesting it’s a consequence of traditional gender roles as well as egalitarian aims converging on sameness: “instead of an alternative culture with alternative values, we have created alternative means of enforcing the traditional culture and values.” Similar factors are applicable to the “Way” phase of early Christianity, when the cult consisted mainly of the lower classes and preached equality; cf. 2 Corinthians (ca. 56–57 CE). Writing as “Joreen”, Freeman goes on to speculate that the Movement’s notion of the personal sphere as part of the political contributed to the same effect. This, too, reminds me of Christianity and similar religions, where privacy is minimized and supernatural stakes are attached to each member’s personal morality.

non-fiction text