Thomas Paine Cox posted this article somewhere, and thank you very much for it. I find it to be an interesting look into what is all too often an incomprehensible far leftist movement that is so hard for many people who aren’t involved to relate to. Perhaps because of reasons that my good friend Jan has pointed out time & time again: in these organizations the Left is not actually attempting to create real, meaningful change but is more focused on creating an environment where they can compete for the ultimate prize of King of the Politically Correct Social Justice Warriors.
Such a precedent, of course, points out the glaring flaw of many of the revolutionary movements: that they are not even really working towards an end goal but they are merely forming their own community and their perceived networking is nothing more than being active in a social club.
Not to mention all of the below article will illustrate just how foreign & bourgeois they end up becoming to even the people who might normally express interest in membership in a leftist organization working for their betterment:
A year ago, on February 28, 2013, at an event titled “Patriarchy and the Movement,” I watched as a friend of mine attempted to pose several questions based on her experience trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing.
“Why have the forms of accountability processes that we’ve seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?” she asked. “Is there a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable?”
At that point she was, quite literally, shouted down. An angry roar came up from the crowd, from both the audience and the panelists. It quickly became impossible to hear her and, after a few seconds, she simply stopped trying to speak.
The weeks that followed produced an atmosphere of distrust and recrimination unlike anything I had experienced in more than twenty years of radical organizing. A few people were blamed for specific transgressions. (My friend was one: she was accused of violating the venue’s “Safer Space” policy, “triggering” audience members, and employing “patriarchal mechanisms” in her statement.) Others were called out for unspecified abusive or sexist behavior. And a great many more were alleged to have supported or defended or coddled those guilty of such offenses.
Keep reading for the explanation of this particularly confusing twist in the plot. It is surprising for all of us who do not live in a world where easy & resolute denunciations of people for wanting to have a political discussion come in.
I kind of chuckle reading this and imagine that some of the major conflicts within the Soviet Union or Mao’s China were not unlike this — ideological veterans speaking a language that they can only readily access bantering over a million silly abstractions:
The ensuing controversy destroyed at least one political organization, and an astonishing number of activists––many with more than a decade of experience––talked about quitting politics altogether. I know people who lost friends and lovers, often not because of anything they had done, but because of how they felt about the situation. Several people––mostly women, interestingly––told me they were afraid to say anything about the controversy, lest they go “off-script” and find themselves denounced as bad feminists.
One might expect that in the midst of conflict questions about how we address abusive behavior and hold each other accountable would seem particularly relevant. Instead, in a statement released after the event, the unnamed “Patriarchy and the Movement” organizers tried to bar such questions from being raised at all. They wrote:
“We also feel that framing the discourse around survivor’s needs as ‘political disagreements’ or ‘political arguments’ is in of itself sexist––as it pretends that this conversation should be emptied of subjective narrative, or that there is an equal playing ground in the conversation because the conversation itself isn’t about real power, or that this conversation itself isn’t already racialized and gendered. It is also problematic, in that it suggests that there is a neutral or objective rationality in this debate, rather than the possibility that the debate itself and the content of the debate is a socially contingent result of prevailing power dynamics.”
If political framing does all that––assumes objectivity, equality, ahistoriocity, race and gender neutrality, and an absence of power––then it becomes hard to see how political discussion is possible, not only about gender, but at all. On the other hand, if political discussion relies on those conditions, then not only would it be impossible, it would also be unnecessary. For it is precisely the disputes over truth, the contested facts of history, identity, inequality, and power that give politics its shape, its content, and its significance. The second sentence of the above quotation contradicts the first: the argument runs that this discussion cannot be political, because it is necessarily political.
Their statement continues:
“There are direct consequences to these ‘debates’, and there [are] physical bodies involved. As survivors and feminists, we must become cautious when our bodies[,] our safety, and our well-being, as well as our needs around our bodies, safety, and well beings, become the subject of ‘political debate’. For us, there is more at stake here than just the merits of a ‘debate’. Our bodies, safety, health, personal autonomy, and well-beings are at stake. We do not agree with people having a ‘political argument’ at our expense. The outcome could be life or death for us.”
That is true: There are serious consequences to the debate about accountability. There are lives, and not merely principles, at stake. But rather than being a reason not to argue these issues, that is precisely the reason that we must.
If politics means anything, it means that there are consequences––sometimes, literally, life or death consequences––to the decisions we make. When it comes to war, climate change, immigration, policing, health care, working conditions––in all of these areas, as with gender, “bodies, safety, health, personal autonomy, and well-beings are at stake.” That is why politics matters.
While attempting to elevate feminism to a place above politics, the organizers’ statement in fact advances a very specific kind of politics. Speaking authoritatively but anonymously, the “Patriarchy and the Movement” organizers declare certain questions off-limits, not only (retroactively) for their own event, but seemingly altogether. These questions cannot be asked because, it is assumed, there is only one answer, and the answer is already known. The answer is, in practice, whatever the survivor says that it is.
Under this theory, the survivor, and the survivor alone, has the right to make demands, while the rest of us are duty-bound to enact sanctions without question. One obvious implication is that all allegations are treated as fact. And often, specific allegations are not even necessary. It may be enough to characterize someone’s behavior ––or even his fundamental character––as “sexist,” “misogynist,” “patriarchal,” “silencing,” “triggering,” “unsafe,” or “abusive.” And on the principle that bad does not allow for better or worse, all of these terms can be used more or less interchangeably. After all, the point is not really to make an accusation, which could be proved or disproved; the point is to offer a judgment. Thus it is possible for large groups of people to dislike and even punish some maligned person without even pretending to know what it is, specifically, he is supposed to have done. He has been “called out” as a perpetrator; nothing else matters.
Under this schema, it is taken for granted that no survivor is ever also an abuser, and no abuser is the survivor of someone else’s violence. Naturally, no past victimization can justify or excuse present abuse, but the strict dichotomy implied here too neatly defines the past away; by the same reasoning, it also forestalls the potential for future healing or growth.
What it offers, instead, is a reassuring dualism in which survivors and abusers exist, not only as roles we sometimes fill or positions we sometimes hold, but as particular types of people who are essentially those things, locked forever into one or the other of these categories, and (not incidentally) gendered in a conventional, stereotyped binary. Each person is assigned a role and, to some degree, reduced to their position in this story. One is only a perpetrator/abuser; the other is only a victim/survivor. They are each defined by the suffering they have caused, or the suffering they have endured––but never by both.
A double transformation occurs. Patriarchy ceases to be a mode of power and system of social stratification and becomes, instead, identified with the behavior of an individual man and is even thought to be personified by him. At the same time, both perpetrator and survivor are depersonalized, abstracted from the context and the narratives of their lives, and cast instead as symbolic figures in a kind of morality play.
Our scrutiny shifts, then, from the abuse to the abuser, from the act to the actor. Instead of seeking out ways to heal the harm that has been done, we invest our collective energy in judging the character of the man responsible.
(The article by Kristian Williams continues at the link below)
Williams writes a good criticism of what happens when overzealous people cease to have functioning minds and instead seek to only uphold static party line that is beyond question.
The party line itself, of course, was created after decades of feminist movements trying to stir themselves to go to greater lengths beyond the sixties feminism. No longer is it about attaining some grounds of equality and being liberated from an antiquated view of women’s role in society that was still very much alive in the sixties, but it has moved on to radicalize and attempt to keep itself relevant in our lives today. In order to this it has to create a narrative where the masculine repression of the feminine is still a relevant theme.
Something fun to potentially look at further than this that illustrates an interesting divide: I had recently asked a group of Communists how they feel about these sorts of famous identity politics, and the response was emphatically negative towards these groups. Negative, of course, because these do not address the real issues facing a legitimate struggle from a leftist perspective but are, as we just pointed out, clawing at the culture around them in an attempt to stay relevant by radicalizing and shifting their positions…
All of this, of course, while major issues of income inequality and exploitation of workers in third world countries grows more dire. Yet, the view of identity politics is that there are major issues that need to be answered in Portland or Seattle or San Francisco more than they need to be confronted in Nepal, Nigeria or Colombia.Thereby a veritable comedy of radical identity politics organizations that are doing nothing to help any leftist cause.
… I am not even a leftist and I see why people find this annoying…
What the article also importantly points out is how vicious and pointless these identity politics become when they are as tools of political assassination within these minor, blips not-even-on-the-radar groups. It is really nothing less than social groups doing in-fighting. And the irony is that they have suspended all reason and rationality to maintain some preconceived concept of victimhood (because their ideology is chiefly concerned with their own or their target audiences statuses as victims).
The whole thing is always apt to climax into a an orgy of perplexing yelling:
All of this happened because Kristian Williams was speaking and is because, apparently, she supports the idea of questioning the continued practice of rote denunciation and branding, and would actually like to hold some political dialog on a topic.
… What do you even say to people who equate open discussion with violence?
I think these people are perfect illustrations of what happens when ideology is left utterly unchecked and fanaticism is encouraged.