Radical Faeries in Wonderland

In Numen, Old Men I write about the Radical Faeries as possibly the best example we have of a “spiritual men’s movement” that doesn’t reinforce oppressive masculine stereotypes. Describing themselves, the Radical Faeries say:

We’re decentralized, and nobody’s in charge—so every faerie who you ask will give a slightly different definition of ‘Radical Faerie.’ Generally, we tend to be gay men who look for a spiritual dimension to our sexuality; many of us are healers of one kind or another. Our shared values include feminism, respect for the Earth, and individual responsibility rather than hierarchy. Many of us are Pagan (nature-based religion).

So it was with some interest that I stumbled upon a piece about them in the latest issue of the high-end fashion and culture magazine Wonderland. The piece is called Hairy Faeries: Dressing Up with the Radical Faeries and Spreading their Message of Individuality (unfortunately it’s not online, but here’s a taken-in-store-phone-snap):

Under the headline is a quote from a Faerie, Huckelfery:

Stumbling across the Radical Faeries, for me, was a bit like discovering and joining the Circus, I always dreamed of running away with as a kid—except the Radical Faeries Circus/Tribe is freakier, lovelier, louder and more Technicolor than anything I might have daydreamed up.

There are then a few—suitably lovely—full page pictures of Faeries.

But here’s the problem: The above quote is the ONLY text accompanying the pictures. There is nothing about who the Radical Faeries are and what they stand for (check out Peter Hennen’s book Faeries, Bears, and Leathermen for a good answer). Instead, we have some nice photos with credits such as “Huckelfery’s bracelet by so and so; earrings by whoever.” What does having a “fashion assistance” credit say about the supposed “message of individuality”? And what would Harry Hay—main founder of the Radical Faeries who was very vocal about his Marxist worldview—have to say about them being used as message-free models to sell trinkets?

Certainly, it is great to get the potential of the Radical Faeries out to a wider audience, but at what cost? Would I appear in Wonderland if I could advertise The Masculinity Conspiracy? You bet I would, but I hope I’d manage the process sufficiently so I could—albeit briefly—communicate my point.

14 thoughts on “Radical Faeries in Wonderland

  1. lovely to see the radical faeries linked to ya blogs joseph…and having recently attended the australian “chapter’s” annual “glitter ball”.

    a very inspiring community model i was introduced to via a dyke mate… living out here in dem dare hills…with a philosophy and spirituality that’s centred in the heart…bloody beautiful to be around…for this hetero woman… just to be on a dance floor all night surrounded by DANCING males…AND with fashion sense and sense of theatre….and not “hitting on me” as i indulged my love of dancing.
    you know i used to see fairies at the bottom of me garden as a kid…so feeling safe amongst faeries is very familiar for me i guess 🙂

  2. find the time?…there IS only now…no seriously…only a problem if we’re a slave to linear time and roman calenders !:-) cosmic baby.

    1. And the number of annual leave days, and the extracurricular writing I should be doing, and the family I should be with … but yes.

      I used to be an expert at having time to do stuff: last weekend I found myself in a discussion about a month off for my 40th birthday in mid-2014.

  3. lol…
    as maynard g. crebbs used to say…WORK ?
    take your family WITH you to visit the faeries ?
    egads !

    1. My wife has “traumatic” memories of mud and nudity after being “dragged” to Nambassa (a kind of New Zealand Woodstock) as an infant and now resists this type of thing, but the kids might like it 🙂

  4. wow…an infant traumatised by mud and nudity…now there’s an irony.
    yeah…well it IS pretty rustic out at the old farmhouse… keep an eye on the kids with snakes too …mmm…better still wait till winter.

  5. Hi Joseph, I just received Numen, Old Men in the mail, a Xmas present to myself with an Amazon gift card. With only an outlined reading so far, I am very excited by your research and feel that it is probably the most important work out there on the subject abd long overdue. It is bringing a lot of things together for me.
    Before I was involved in MKP I was involved in the Radical Fairies but at that time “Queerness” was still a Gay dominated idea and as a bisexual man I was not “gay enough” so MKP became the next exploration which became as expressed earlier a foolish disaster, for myself and others, but I learned from it. I am eager to read the whole book, it seems we have much more in common than I initially thought. Even sharing a similar vision for what masculinity could be, something far more fluid and open, and I have many friends who share the same hope. Perhaps a new men’s/person’s movement can actually occur now. Cheers and Merry Xmas.

    1. Hey: thanks for buying the book. I hope you find it useful.

      I do feel optimistic about the future of these issues, even if there is no movement with which I would want to align. I keep avoiding the only sensible solution to this conundrum: starting such a movement. There’s more scope for this in the USA than Australia, I think, but these things can’t be used as excuses.

  6. No need to start one, there are many men out there that just simply want honest and fair discourse on the topic of all the conflicting messages of “manliness”. But when I finally get an art critical theory class and need to introduce gender studies I will put you in the curriculum.

    The issue I think is there are many men our age which hear bullshit: some forms of feminism berate all male identity in sn over generalized way and the response from the men’s movement has been to affirm some of the most problematic aspects of “maleness”. The popular writing is enough to make any sane person neurotic, discourse at least points out the absurdity but can also inspire men to be more creative with their lives and identities. What was missing in the mythopoetic men’s movement was critical discourse, so anything could be said and people would often disengenuously shake their head yes.

    1. I’m not sure that honest and fair discourse is enough: the well-packaged and popular bullshit is so potent that I think there needs to be an equally well-packed counter to it, rather than good old-fashioned honesty.

      Too cynical perhaps?

  7. Well I would agree you need enough potency to call it out. Thomas Mann would call it “cruel words for the love of man” (paraphrased from Death in Venice) Calling it out for what it is knowing that it will “hurt” those that don’t like it, bruise a few egos that need to be bruised. But for me the “love” is seeing it in myself simultaneously as I call it out, knowing that it is not personal, that it is bullshit flowing through someone.

  8. Perhaps “cynical” is not the word it is Just much more fruitful to point out human imperfection because we are all vulnerable to being fools.

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