Freya Froelich, Interviewed by Elynn Alexander. Freya is a long time peace activist, environmentalist, gay rights advocate, and feminist although she is quick to clarify that she doesn’t agree with everyone aligned with all of these causes. Indeed, she has had some harsh words for people who claim to speak for everyone else, and her willingness to acknowledge the validity of different points of view without it becoming what she calls “a pissing contest” is something that I admire about her.
“Feminist women in America can only go so far with their complaints, as long as they continue to ignore their sisters around the world, who die for their privileges, they need to accept on some level that they are not immune to being included with the oppressors. And beyond that culpability, there needs to be action that is more than token.” -Freya Froelich
EA: When you say action that is “more than token”, what do you mean when you use that term? What are some of your criticisms about the feminist movement?
FF: I mean exactly the way it sounds, token. A token. Token…it is an insincere attempt to include people for show, at times attempted from a place of self denial. It gives a chair at the table, progress to be sure, yah yah look at us, good…but nobody listens to the token speak. Nobody gives real and equal weight to their concerns or particular expertise. These are often people included because of political correctness or phony white liberal guilt- but these same “enlightened” people ignore them. Ignore their concerns. You know? it’s all bullshit. Let’s have diversity talk while not changing our actual behavior where it matters to people. They don’t want our speeches. People want respect, pay, protection from abuse.
I won’t say that all feminists are this way, no, of course not, and less likely people who are marginalized within the marginalized and get it, and I applaud feminists of color and others marginalized in the movement who speak out in critical ways so their voices are heard. Now I know many feminists are in denial about issues of racism, class, etc. as we can see in their apologies or accusations about the hysterical critics.
LA: What do you mean by “hysterical critic”. Could you give context? Elaborate?
FF: Oh, you know. Any time you are critical of some educated white woman who has taken lots of feminist theory (especially on daddy’s dime, princess academics, that stuff) and can talk circles around others- well if you are critical of them you are hysterical, reactive, emotional. And if you are not particularly good at expressing this discomfort, or wow what if you are messy, suppose you misstep a bit or your words lack their JARGON, you become the object of sneer, mockery, discredited. There’s a showmanship thing, not unlike what they slam in patriarchy. Weird. They get their dicks out and circle jerk too. They don’t even see how much they want to be like the problem. Maybe they have dick envy. Maybe they are copying the boss instead of tossing them off the boat. They aren’t fully ready to stop playing the games. Or another thing, the following of gender expectations but then desperately trying to convince people that it was their idea, you understand? Like blah blah I do it for me. Sometimes. NOt enough, or maybe empowerment is just not convincing to me, I am old enough to be before pants were common.
EA: Your partner was a painter, anarchist, feminist, often said that she refused to”play the games”. Always “the games”, as I recall. Do you play “the games’? As a couple, what did this remark mean to you?
FF: The Games are The Games, capital G, All Inclusive, weekend getaway from your soul to an alien hell where nothing around you is your own including your own life and physical being. The Game is the way we are pushed under the car. We both suffered as lesbians, in a time that women of your generation cannot relate to because you did not live it. Now gay people walk hand in hand and ask why we weren’t brave. What the hell do they know about fear, about living in fear, losing jobs withour reprisal, nobody having your back. Our bravery, when we could manage it, paved the way for the openness. But they dont remember that, just like they don’t remember that being Gloria Steinem back when she was busy being Gloria Steinem was not the same as being a feminist today. Modern people have this ungrateful way of chewing up their trailblazers and spitting them out. Sure, we can be critical. Early lesbians weren’t perfect, so we played the game. So what? Then one day B. didn’t want to anymore, she more or less dropped out. We turned to the land, turned to alternative sustenance.
EA: What is it like to see change, as it happens, social change? Milestones? What about shifts in thinking?
FF: What about it? yes, great, things are so much better and we appreciate. We are starting to get some of what we should have had, oh thank you for not killing us and exploiting us, thank you.
Well… remember that I lived through Pearl Harbor, segregation, civil rights, the counter culture, the evil eighties, the entitlement nineties. To see Obama, Clinton, Ellen, and so on is still this happy shock. It’s amazing, but we also have to remember that there is more to do.
EA: We both love Annie Dillard, you say that she is the earth saint, that she changed the way you experienced nature, gave you words for the miracles. Does this connect to your environmental activism?
FF: What it connected me to was a sense of smallness, made me wonder what right we have to feel so entitled to what we take. We are so self absorbed, wrapped up in our own miracles and distractions, that we don’t care about what we are doing. Yes, I think conservation is very important. Not only are we speaking up for nature, but future generations.
I mean, we talked about this. What right do we have to do this to our children? TO those who follow us?
And talk about being pro-life! These fuckers that care about life- where are THEY on the idea of ruining ALL life, why don’t they care about eliminating humans entirely? Wouldn’t you think these radicals holdin signs would be worried about destroying the planet? God’s green earth, humans made supposedly in his image? What about future fetuses?
EA: What are you proud of?
FF: I am proud of my work with domestic violence, with addiction, in mental health, in the not-so-sexy activism. I am proud that I never became the kind of person who was consumed with being an activist celebrity, “all about me”.
EA: You mean how some use causes for their own fame, celebrity, to bolster their sense of being somebody?
FF: Ego, pride, accomplishments are not wrong. What is wrong is when small resources are squandered, when camps can’t come together, when it is about credit and not the cause or issue. You know how they get, how it gets. Nobody works together.
EA: The activist diva you sometimes speak of?
FF: Exactly. Now on the other hand, there needs to be some slack, media is important and powerful and the face matters. But it has to be in keeping with what is right. oh and self care self care self care is that code for rationalized self absorption? Is it? I heard that and have been thinking about it.
EA: What? Rationalized self absorption?
FF: Living as close to our values as we are able. Not being martyrs, but not becoming full of ourselves either.
EA: What’s next?
FF: I am trying to get better physically. Worried about the ridge, the lines, the birds, the bugs, until I am done, then I am done.