"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 11, 2010

Feminist Essentialism

...is a goddamned trap, folks. Getting more women into positions of authority in the corporate-state death racket isn't going to come up roses, the end of discrimination or the undoing of oppression.

It's going to mean that more women end up brutalizers.

Elena Kagan has overnight revealed the paucity of long term thinking, or the consideration of the systemic problems which don't directly relate to gender, in the ranks of middle and upper class white feminists.

Oh, for a hundred more Audre Lordes, a thousand, a thousand thousands...

Update: Well, I've waded into it, so I guess I get what I get. Apparently structural critiques of class are unwelcome at several forums for feminist discussion. I'm honestly having a difficult time understanding how I earned the label "concerned misogynist" for questioning the wisdom of associating feminist gains with getting more women into exploitative hierarchies.

It makes no damned sense to me, this sectarian division of "the left" into mobbed up turf fighting for ideological control of issues, with so much emphasis placed on conformity to a very narrow set of definitions of acceptable argument.

We have the same damned set of adversaries. And while we certainly have tons of room for disagreement about how to achieve goals and what to do with those gains if we ever get it together enough to have a few, our differences don't erase those adversaries from consideration This reflexive retreat into trigger warnings, and protected corners of belief, and the frankly malign incapacity to see the overlap of categories (such as gender and class) seems like a way of avoiding doing anything.

While feeling good about one's own intellectual castle and how well the small sectarian clan has defended it.

Jeebus, this reminds me of a "feminist' argument about the failure of Lost to incorporate more women as leaders and less as girlfriends. So passive and defeatist, this approach, waiting for a creative oracle with an English Lit. degree and a $5k a week salary to glom on to your ideological triggers and tell you the stories you want to hear, in a language that appeases you.

On corporate managed, funded, underwritten and advertised television. 

Instead of taking a pen, a piece of paper and your own wit to write the fucking stories you want to hear, and want to tell others, your own damned self.

And the fucking arguing about right arguments - instead of coordinating all the ways we can work together - gets us more corporate control of the commons, more expansion of the military-police state, and less shared memory of a cooperative past that saw the ruling class pushed back far enough to flinch, and flinch hard.

Gawfuckingdamn it...

36 comments:

BDBlue said...

I think the problem is that too often we see a single woman's elevation as a "feminist gain" even as women as a whole are stuck with lower wages and more responsibility for caring for family members and child rearing than men. In other words, while there has been some progress, the basic inequality that exists between men and women in this country remains even as individual women move up the ladder.

However, there is something to be said for putting women in positions of power. Not to make society more just and less brutal generally, but to try to temper the brutality aimed specifically at women. Putting women in positions of authority helps diminish the overall acceptance of misogyny and sexism in society, which helps all women even if the woman that moves up the ladder participates in the same sins that her male counterparts do and our country continues to have other social justice problems.

For example, women in Congress played a big role in ensuring medical studies of health issues by NIH aren't restricted to men. This did not happen until Barbara Mikulski joined the Senate and she was joined by women of both parties in both houses and the female head of NIH to get that done. Does it excuse all the crap the US Government does or Mikulski's role as a Senator in it? No. But that doesn't mean there is no benefit to women of having women, however morally tainted, in positions of power. To the extent those women help lessen the women-specific brutality of the government, and I believe they do (albeit not nearly enough), it still has some worth.

Not sure if this makes any sense since I'm pounding it out quickly, but I always go back to a quote I heard from lambert (not sure where he got it) that we asked for equality and they gave us diversity (applies, obviously, not just to women). Having said that, diversity, while not the same as equality, is not without some benefit. It's just wildly insufficient.

Jane said...

You're braver than I to wade into those forums. I've spent enough time as a temp worker to know the "free alterations feminists" as Michael J. Smith calls them, don't give a damn about me. I am still a feminist, but have no use for any so-called feminism without class analysis. I fail to see how some unitary-executive loving hack like Kagan on the court benefits me as a woman at all.

I guess you can thank Gloria Steinem for derailing the once interesting 2nd wave movement. There's a ridiculous clip of her on YouTube where she dismisses Marx because he supposedly sponged off others or wasn't the perfect new age guy or something. She fails to mention a better substitute for Marxist analysis.

Reducing the feminist movement to a powerless wing of the Democratic party has done nothing for me or millions of other women.

BDBlue said...

"reducing the feminist movement to a powerless wing of the Democratic Party"

That pretty much describes where all lefty activist groups are now, doesn't it? I think African Americans were among the last to join those ranks, but have done so in the age of Obama, making it pretty much unanimous. The "left" is now just a bunch of powerless groups who are willing to be subservient to the interests of the Democratic Party.

Unless and until we get activists willing to part with the Democratic Party - on a wide array of issues, not just feminism - we will continue our rightward drift because there is nothing to pull the Democrats left.

A Sane Person said...

Jack, women are still treated as second class citizens. They're denied equal pay, denied the right to bodily autonomy, denied the right to not consent to sex (every time a rapist is set free because a woman was too drunk or too slutty to successfully claim she has the right to decide whether she wants to have sex or not), denied the right to claim to be equally capable as men in business, science, academia or politics. Putting more women in positions of power is not going to completely end discrimination or undo the oppression but refusing to put them in positions of power will exacerbate those things. Those small numbers of women in significant spheres of social, economic and political life are constantly being held up not as a proof of discrimination, but as a confirmation that discrimination is justified because - look, if these women were capable enough they would have succeeded on their own by now. The system is not discriminatory or oppressive, it's the natural consequence of women's lesser ability, goes the reasoning. So I agree with BDBlue, when women are put in positions of authority they advance the status and rights of women across the society. Because, really, women are seen and treated as second class citizens in too numerous ways. And leaving them out of the power structures only exacerbates that.

Jack Crow said...

Working backwards -

Sane Person,

Your choice of the passive, I think, reveals the unstated problem with this sort of thinking.

When you state, "So I agree with BDBlue, when women are put in positions of authority..." you reveal precisely the dangers of essentialism, its fundamental passivity, and the unquestioned assumption that the "putting into power" will not alter the person so there put.

I don't know if you intended the passive phrasing, but it is illustrative. Elena Kagan has not set out to lead. She is being put into a position of power. By. A. Man. Not just by any sort of man, either. By a rotten imperialist who has no problem killing people, savaging the poor and protecting oppressors.

Elena Kagan, then, is beholden to a patriarch for her "authority."

Putting women into positions of power won't change the relationships of power. It won't alter the behaviors which are needed to get, have and hold power over others.

Furthermore, it won't change what power itself means. Power is the use of people as instruments, so that those who rule can benefit from the labor of those who are ruled.

A hundred thousand more women doing the work of ruling won't magically transform society into a just, or more just, set of social arrangements. It'll mean a hundred thousand women now have armed staffers, or access to them, in order to tell other people what to do.

This is probably why my comments here (http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2010/05/11/elena-kagan-and-the-lighter-side-of-arizonas-descent-into-fascism/#comments) were so poorly received. I'm not a misogynist. I'm not anti-women, or anti-woman. I didn't even make the comments being attributed to me (as I'm lumped in with another respondent *solely on the account of our genders*!). It's also probably why the blog owner refuses to take the remainder of my replies out of moderation, because it's easier to attack a class critique when it's lumped in as "things misogynists write."

BDBlue,

Again, putting women into power doesn't and won't alter the relationship that concentrations of power have over those they rule. It'll just make women complicit in the exploitation of others. And it's still just "putting" women into authority.

I understand, fully, that our society needs - positively begs for - more women to lead. But leadership is not power. A woman who leads stakes her own claim. She makes her own way, and provides her own voice. She is absolutely antithetical to a women who begs, scratches, climbs or is placed in a position of power over others.

Power requires armed staffers. That's an unavoidable fact in our society. Either by way of the police enforcing property and class law, or by the direct use of paid enforcers.

Unless we are being asked to believe that women possess an independent essence which renders them immune to the corruptions of power, gender itself provides no cover or protection.

Now - I understand that oppressed people, and those emerging from oppression, have real insights *because of their experiences.* The experience is nonetheless not essence.

Jane,

Since you and I are more fully in agreement, I will only add that in the original "discussion" which precipitated this post, my three subsequent responses have been so-far censored, while the knee-jerk, wagon circling, sectarian attacks on person are published.

That. Speaks. Volumes.

With abiding respect and gratitude too each of you,

~ Jack

A Sane Person said...

Jack, I don't think you are a misogynist. But I also don't think you fully perceive the under-privilege of being a member of the gender that is still overwhelmingly (and institutionally) considered to have lesser ability, lesser cognition and lesser human rights - and why we would fight for women's recognition even within the oppressive power structures.

Yes, Elena Kagan is being put into a position of power. That is the situation with many women today - they achieve power because men are graceful enough to grant them it. Women can be as successful and accomplished and assertive as they want, but the success of many of them will still depend on whether some member of the male gender will allow them to succeed (although, more frequently, it will be many different men at various stages of her career).

And you are right: women in power will most often than not serve that power, instead of change it. That doesn't change what I said: that when women are given (or achieve) power and authority this advances women's rights across all sections of society. That is why women will lash out at you and accuse you of being misogynist - because not supporting having more women in positions of power means less recognition and support for all women and their rights.

Whether the people in power are men or women, they will still be in power. But if there are more women, the female gender will benefit from that. This is also the same reason why I support the abolition of don't ask, don't tell policy - even though I'm firmly against the US imperialist politics and I cannot at all agree with people who would willingly be a part of that, the recognition of gays' and lesbians' right to serve in the army advances their human rights in general, and that's why it's important and should be supported. If those men and women in the army are not supported and the DADT policy is upheld, the army itself won't go away - but this refusal to recognize homosexuals' equality will harm gay and lesbian people everywhere.

Jack Crow said...

Let's be blunt:

"...when women are given (or achieve) power and authority this advances women's rights across all sections of society. That is why women will lash out at you and accuse you of being misogynist - because not supporting having more women in positions of power means less recognition and support for all women and their rights."

*This is magical thinking.* And for women to "lash out" at critics of essentialist theorizing only alienates people who are otherwise sympathetic.

The possession of power does not translate automatically or necessarily into the extension of rights.

Barack Obama is a black man. He is President of the United States. He has more power than almost anyone else on the planet.

His power does not mean that poor black kids have greater recognition of rights.

And it certainly doesn't erase institutional and structural oppression.

Because, to get that power, the person already has to be willing to use, manipulate and destroy others.

Power doesn't confer dignity, rights or respect.

People with dignity, freedom and self-respect carve out their own political rights and liberties.

Or they fail, and do so with their dignity intact.

And...

FWIW, Jane is not the only woman who has reported rejection and ostracism because she refuses to abandon study of class to focus exclusively or narrowly on the gender discrimination faced by white, middle and upper class women seeking access to power over others.

Jack Crow said...

And while I don't resent the implication that I, as a man, could not possibly understand the ways in which women are mistreated I am going to take note of the fact that this is itself another example of essentialist magical thinking.

Jane said...

Rather sexist of Violet to lump you in with Phil, when unlike him, you never claimed that women are never oppressed as women. That was a ridiculous statement, but I haven't seen any evidence that you believe it yourself. It's also crummy to call you a purist and not let you respond.

I suspect most of the women on that forum are free alterations feminists themselves. They must be; why else would they be hostile to a class critique?

Appointing a reactionary with a vagina is a great way to avoid dealing with women's issues like unequal pay and poverty at all. The appointment itself is the "Mission Accomplished". I just don't understand why liberals keep falling for it.

Violet says:

“What’s the point in civil rights/gay rights/etc. if we’re just going to continue to live in this capitalist nightmare?”

I think that's a damned good question. What good does it do most black men to have amoral creeps like Obama and Holder in power? What good has the elitist HRC done most gay people? How much good will a former Goldman Sachs advisor like Kagan do for American women, most of whom are working class?

Violet again: "So it’s entirely possible (likely, even, given that they’re different things) to strike a blow for women’s equality without touching other problems in the world."

The empire's power structure is so malignant that you can't see its increased diversity as a good thing in itself. Feminism should be more than affirmative action for upper class white women, and the chance for women to enforce the whims of the ruling class. People definitely experience oppression based on gender, race and sexuality, but fighting these issues divorced from class struggle only benefits the elite members of those groups.

A Sane Person said...

No, the possession of power is not immediately translated into more rights for a particular group. But those things never happen immediately or even very soon. Women have been given the vote almost a century ago, yet they still comprise only a minority of the political class. But the general perception of women has shifted. Our perceptions of women's ability, cognitive capability, emotional scope, understanding of justice and other things, are different than those of previous centuries. That didn't happen immediately, but because a lot of women fought to be recognized and in doing so did a lot for the advancement of the entire gender.

That certainly wouldn't have happened had women thought it would be pointless to try to enter the academia or the political and the economic settings, because those are used to oppress people and perpetuate power that belongs to only a minority of people.

A Sane Person said...

And while I don't resent the implication that I, as a man, could not possibly understand the ways in which women are mistreated

I didn't mean to say you *couldn't* possibly understand that, but that I don't think you fully understand it. But maybe you do, but still don't think this particular way of fighting against it is worthwhile. In which case, I disagree.

Jack Crow said...

Jane,

For the record, I absolutely accept as valid that women are oppressed qua women.

There's no way to understand the existing patriarchal hierarchies without seeing as clearly as possible that they depend upon the exclusion of women from access to resources, community, association and the fruits of their own labor.

That these hierarchies depend, fundamentally, upon the civilization wide theft of women's labor, expropriated as family work for which there is no compensation.

Jack Crow said...

Sane Person,

Not only am I not a capitalist, I am an anti-capitalist.

It's unlikely that I'm going to agree with ameliorative programs designed to get a few more women, blacks, gays, Arabs, Hispanics, Asians etc. positions of control in a system which is rotten, especially when these programs refuse to address the structural and super-structural problem of class.

This is perhaps because I don't see how having more women doing really awful things to poor people translates into justice.

Carly Fiorina, Patricia Woertz, Angela Braly, Lynn Elsenhans, Hillary Clinton, Condie Rice, Irene Rosenfeld, Ellen Kullman, Sonia Sotomayor, Mary Sammons, Susan Ivey, Christina Gold, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Sarah Palin etc haven't exactly transformed the USA into a just society.

They just continue to run the machinery of the state and corporations for the benefit of their class.

How that's good for the majority of women; how that translates into increased recognition of rights; how that ends the same oppression of laborers by owners - it all eludes me.

Jack Crow said...

...I hope you will note that I did not include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in that list.

JM said...

I agree with Sane Person here actually although in some cases woman in power doesn't equal progressive(I.e. Sarah Palin)

Granted, Kagan is centrist, but suppose, say, Mckinney got a nomination?

There's this too:

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2010/05/10/elena-kagan-is-not-anti-choice/

Jack Crow said...

Jane,

"The empire's power structure is so malignant that you can't see its increased diversity as a good thing in itself. Feminism should be more than affirmative action for upper class white women, and the chance for women to enforce the whims of the ruling class. People definitely experience oppression based on gender, race and sexuality, but fighting these issues divorced from class struggle only benefits the elite members of those groups."

This speaks directly to me.

Jack Crow said...

Jenny,

I'd love to see the most excellent Cynthia McKinney on the Court. Not because I think she'd transform the class and power bias of the Supremes by her presence, but because I know she would make wonderful, beautiful, delicious mischief with that kind of platform.

A Sane Person said...

It's unlikely that I'm going to agree with ameliorative programs designed to get a few more women, blacks, gays, Arabs, Hispanics, Asians etc. positions of control

I don't think a few more members of minorities or women will do much good - they're mostly token representatives, and as such were chosen (or better said - allowed) to have power because they emulated the behaviour of the dominant class and were willing to perpetuate the dominant power structure.

Our prime minister is a woman, so, you know, there's a good example of such thing here. Her government is continuing to work on the erosion of workers' rights - currently by attempting to change legal regulations that concern collective contracts, in an effort to reduce the power of the unions.

So, you know, I don't think women in power equals justice or less oppression, far from it (and I don't think it can be much different, as long as only selected members of under-privileged classes are admitted into power, because those who are subversive are not likely to be selected). But I still think that more women in power changes the general perception of women as a gender and their abilities.

A Sane Person said...

Jack, do you think that if there were more women, more minorities in power, that the power structures might change?

I think the greater admission of under-privileged would change the perceptions and the priorities of those in power. But that would have to be a really significant influx of people, because as long as members of minorities are only few and far in between, they neither have much power, nor are they likely to be very subversive (because the system will strive to admit those that are most conformist).

Jack Crow said...

"...do you think that if there were more women, more minorities in power, that the power structures might change?

No. Because our state is a war state. You serve those interests, or you never get into the seat of power in the first.

Can it be different in Croatia or Liberia?

Can it be different in separatist Catalonia or Burundi?

I think so.

But not in the new central powers, such as Germany (Merkel), England (under Thatcher), the US (Obama), France (Sarkozy). And definitely not in emerging powers that are still mostly patriarchies, like Japan, Indonesia, China, Brazil and India.

And what of Israel - which is far more fully integrated than almost any other Western nation, and is still a repressive garrison state?

A Sane Person said...

I feel that I should add that although I am in favour of more women and more minorities in positions of power etc, that doesn't mean at the expense of their politics or attitudes. Our prime minister is a woman, but I wouldn't vote for her party. (It's not that other parties are that much better, but even a miserable improvement is better than a kick in the face.)

Jack Crow said...

These are the responses Violet so far refuses to publish:

# Jack Crow says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Violet: “Well, Jack, feminism is about ending sexist discrimination and oppression. So it’s entirely possible (likely, even, given that they’re different things) to strike a blow for women’s equality without touching other problems in the world.

I sense your underlying point is that it’s not worthwhile to end discrimination against women unless your other issues can be addressed at the same time. Do you take that tack with other things, I wonder?

“What’s the point in civil rights/gay rights/etc. if we’re just going to continue to live in this capitalist nightmare?’ ”

My underlying point was only to question the assumption that allowing women to run more offices of a military death machine will somehow result in ending discrimination against women.

If you’re asking, by way of insinuation, if I think that getting power over lots and lots of poor people is good for feminists the answer is a resounding “no.”

I don’t see how including more women in the murder, exploitation and repression racket will end the mistreatment of women.

What will happen, I suspect, is that the possession of this sort of institutional authority will attract precisely those sort of women who prefer to wield power over others, and that their conduct will be no better than the men they replace.

I don’t see how that benefits the project of feminism.

The problem is power. The sort of women who end up with power positions are largely those who are willing to compromise themselves, or who are already compromised as legacy heirs.

In other words, the women who belong to the same ruling class as the right bastard men who currently make a botch of so much of the world.

Their gender difference from those men won’t transform the power relationships, the economic underpinnings of exploitation, or the methods by which they gain access to power.

The network of power relations won’t change because more women have access to it. The network will change those upper and legacy class women, so that they come to resemble the men they replace, morally, culturally and systemically.

If ending discrimination for women means getting more of them into the ruling others racket, you’re not going to end oppression.

So, it won’t matter if all nine Supremes are women, as long as the class and power relationships are maintained.

Access for those willing to climb over bodies, and justify it along the way to power - that’s not ending either discrimination or oppression.

That’s making a few more ruling class women complicit in it.

Respect,

Jack
May 11th, 2010 at 11:24 pm EST

Jack Crow said...

...and:

# Jack Crow says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Violet, et al ~

I’m not Caucasian, so I ask you to check your own assumptions. I’m Tsalagi and Jewish. Nor do I think that the patriarchal and systemic discrimination against women must be included in every category of oppression, or necessarily tied to all others, for women to struggle against it, on their own terms.

If that were my argument, I’d simply have made it.

What I reject - and before someone dives off into essentialism, it’s got nothing to do with the accident of my gender - is the narrowing of feminist focus to jockeying for position in corporate and state hierarchies.

Those hierarchies don’t become less corrosive and destructive by the inclusion of those once oppressed. What happens is that the system is preserved, but now some people who once did not have access can become complicit in the ongoing project of exploitation.

Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency - despite the personal and historical weight of history he overcame - did not make the office itself less destructive. Obama has ordered more murderous drone strikes than Bush, and has a nearly identical foreign and domestic policy to his caucasian predecessors.

Because the hierarchy itself is an awful machine. And those who seek power in it are already bad people, by and large, regardless of their melanin concentration, gender, age or education.

It attracts bad people because it does bad things, and it takes moral cretins to want to belong to it.

If feminism is about getting more women to pull levers for that machine, then feminism is betrayed.

~ Jack
May 11th, 2010 at 11:34 pm EST


*

# Jack Crow says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Sandra: “Apply a little critical thinking. If someone is cutting off both my toes and my fingers, am I really going to bitch about them leaving off on my fingers, just because my toes are still getting cut off? No. Because it’s PROGRESS in the RIGHT DIRECTION. Ideally, they’d leave me the hell alone. But it’s hard to hold out for an ideal world when someone is CUTTING OFF YOUR TOES.”

I have applied critical thinking. That someone is cutting off your toes does not mean that the solution to the problem of toe cutters is to become one yourself.
May 11th, 2010 at 11:35 pm EST

*

# Jack Crow says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

“Think the name for Jack and Phil is “concerned misogynist.” I’m learning.”

Wow. That’s really, really uncalled for. There’s nothing anti-woman or misogynist in my thought, or argument.
May 12th, 2010 at 12:38 am EST

Jack Crow said...

In reviewing this excellent discussion, I realized a lacuna in my argument that needs correction.

I haven't stressed well enough that I agree with Sane Person when she argues that ideological rejection of external critiques ought to be expected.

I have entered the discussion, here and elsewhere, with my own preconceptions. I don't expect kid gloves treatments, but I haven't made clear enough that I know they are preconceptions, about feminism, about the value of one sort of critique compared to another, about my own emphasis on class and power.

I hope I have not given the impression that I feel victimized by the criticism I've received. That isn't the case.

For the most part, I just don't understand it, and part of that gap in communication and understanding probably owes in some way to my own preconceptions.

Thanks again, with respect,

Jack

ms_xeno said...

...Jeebus, this reminds me of a "feminist' argument about the failure of Lost to incorporate more women as leaders and less as girlfriends. So passive and defeatist, this approach, waiting for a creative oracle with an English Lit. degree and a $5k a week salary to glom on to your ideological triggers and tell you the stories you want to hear, in a language that appeases you...

With all due respect, Jack:

Why should anyone have to choose between analyzing entertainment and creating it? Most of the creative types I know manage to do both.

Besides, the airwaves are theoretically public, at least. We're supposed to own them. Why keep our mouths shut when we see dissymmetries there that bother us?

"Idelogical trigger?" Is that like a sophisticated version of "knee-jerk," or what?

ms_xeno said...

[snip]

Jane wrote:

...I've spent enough time as a temp worker to know the "free alterations feminists" as Michael J. Smith calls them, don't give a damn about me...

True enough. However, I've tried repeatedly to point out to Smith and the brethren that their wholesale dismissal of feminism based on their "Free Alterations" complaint is missing a huge part of the picture. Lower class and working class women also pay the price for the mentality that upsets "free alterations" feminists. Just ask the receptionist who has to dress like an attorney (in clothes that are expensive to buy and clean) even though she doesn't get paid like one. Ask the women who are required to spend money and time on makeup and (in the case of many WOC: hair care as well) a ridiculous amount of time and money on grooming rituals that men don't have to worry about; because of a distorted idea of what constitutes "professionalism" on the job.

Not one of these guys has ever answered me when I've brought up this up, and frankly I don't think it ranks as one of their finer pet subjects. To them, it's trivial. But to the woman scrounging from week to week to make ends meet, it's real life. So these guys are no improvement at all over the women attorneys on this front. They can't make themselves give a damn, either.

Jack Crow said...

Ms Xeno:

"Why should anyone have to choose between analyzing entertainment and creating it? Most of the creative types I know manage to do both.

Besides, the airwaves are theoretically public, at least. We're supposed to own them. Why keep our mouths shut when we see dissymmetries there that bother us?"

I didn't set up an either/or. I also didn't suggest shutting up. I criticized the passivity of the approach.

"Idelogical trigger?" Is that like a sophisticated version of "knee-jerk," or what?"

It's what it means. Imagine an anarchist who needs to find a confirmation of anarchism in entertainment, and won't seek out those sorts of entertainment that don't provide confirmation of ideology.

All I did was borrow a point of purchase and marketing term and apply it to ideology.

I used to help set up store displays, and we would design for product triggers. Items that segments of consumers identify with emotionally. The trigger placement is as important as the trigger itself.

If 21-28 year old white females prefer such and such kinds of beer, it's not enough to place it within reach. Context helps. Sticking it near to other items which trigger consumptive responses helps reinforce the desire for purchase. In industry, it was also called gauntlet design. It's why suburban mothers are channeled through kids snacks, spices and wine on the way to the milk - which is always positioned as far away from the front of the store as possible. A woman with kids from the suburbs has such and such predictable habits, and the gauntlet reinforces purchasing preferences on the way to need-commodities like milk, meat and bread. You see it any c-stores, grocery stores and bulk outlets. You see it in a more refined fashion in the Gap, Abercrombie and Old Navy.

People are more comfortable when their environment seems to confirm their assumptions, their needs and their assumptions about their needs.

It's no different when it comes to identity and ideology.

Jack Crow said...

And for what it's worth, gauntletting is worked up for men as well.

Try getting to a Budweiser 30 pack in a 7/11 without walking past beef jerky and cleavage.

Salty meat is deliberately associated with beer and breasts, because industry studies have shown that salivation triggers reinforce the association between sex and consumption.

Phil said...

Can I defend myself here as well? I am guilty of poor wording/an underdeveloped idea. Here is a comment which she has not posted.

"Well, the issue of female genital mutilation actually illustrates my point well. FGM occurs mostly in non-western countries, as I am sure you know, so this type of oppression is conditioned by ethnic and religious factors. It was likely poor wording, but this was the point I was trying to get across: women are oppressed, but this oppression is conditioned by other factors and is not simply reducible to being a woman. As others have mentioned above, being a woman in different parts of the world results in different treatment, and multiple factors have to be looked at if women's oppression is to be understood. This was all I was attempting to say.

Anyway, it is revealing that previous commentators have focused on my sloppily-worded post and not the article linked. Another article says this:

"Kagan was among advisers encouraging Clinton to deny Medicare funding for abortions in cases in which a woman’s health was at risk — in part to avoid a messy battle with Republicans."

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37119.html#ixzz0nrkYLzGf

So if you want another politician ready to throw women's rights under the bus, get excited, because Kagan looks like she would do just that. What this shows is the limits of the essentialist discourse so prevalent here. It is nice for kids to have role models but women can oppress women just as much as men can so the requirements for someone receiving feminist support should be more than their sex organ."

What I was trying to say was that gender inequality is a starting point for looking at oppression, not an end point. My bad choice of words might have made it seem like I thought otherwise.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks for the clarification, Phil. I was honestly uncomfortable with the original wording, because I think the record is clear: women are regularly mistreated *as women.*

As Ms Xeno rightly notes, this treatment occurs in big ways, and small.

Think of two wait staff, one male, one female. "Right appearance" for the man is a small matter of keeping finger nails clean, face free of hair and hair washed.

If the woman with the same positioned conformed to the acceptable standards for men, she'd like be questioned soon enough for her lack of quality grooming.

This is anecdotal, but I've seen it myself in restaurants.

Put it another way - imagine men working in restaurants, or the office, or any regular working environment. But, imagine them having to conform to the standards accepted for women. Imagine those men in clothing which enhances their reproductive organs, with oil paint on their skin, with shellac on their fingernails, with floral scents wafting about their being, with goop on their lips and dragging down their eyelids, and with an expected demeanor that must cater to the stuck-in-adolescence sexual fantasies of the men who get paid more, but don't have to gussy themselves up to get it.

Also, imagine how "real men" would react to and treat such a "feminized" group of men...

Phil said...

Thanks for letting me post here and allowing me to defend what I said. I understand the knee-jerk hostility toward men but it can be disheartening.

As further clarification, I have been working a lot lately with Judith Butler, Chantal Mouffe, and Ernesto Laclau. The phrase, that "women are not oppressed 'as women'", was simply shorthand for anti-essentialist theory, something which should have been explained more in my original post (a good lesson in making sure that ideas are given the proper amount of supporting detail, I suppose). So don't worry, I am well aware of the battles, large or small, that women face daily. Like you, I am concerned with a feminism that doesn't perpetuate other oppressions, something which many of the posters at Reclusive Leftist do not seem too concerned about.

Jane said...

Just wanted to add that I agree completely with what Ms. Xeno says about the SMBIVA crowd's anti-feminism. I thought "free alterations feminism" was a nifty term and had no idea until their misogynist
"Is there really any such thing as rape?" wank over you-know-who that they loathed ALL feminists.

"I hate all identity politics" is definitely code for "Marx is cool as long as I don't have to give up the privileges I actually do enjoy".

I still read SMBIVA, but their blind spots are pretty tiresome.

JM said...

"
Put it another way - imagine men working in restaurants, or the office, or any regular working environment. But, imagine them having to conform to the standards accepted for women. Imagine those men in clothing which enhances their reproductive organs, with oil paint on their skin, with shellac on their fingernails, with floral scents wafting about their being, with goop on their lips and dragging down their eyelids, and with an expected demeanor that must cater to the stuck-in-adolescence sexual fantasies of the men who get paid more, but don't have to gussy themselves up to get it."

Actually, there are men who do that. They're known as transgendered and it's got nothing to do with conforming to beauty standards nor any sort of fetish. They just believe they were meant to be women, same with female to male transgenders. It is a choice that I believe should be respected.

Jack Crow said...

JM,

I think you sort of missed the point.

Richard said...

there's an old social thing in our personal lives and workplaces, you don't assume that a Jewish coworker cares Israel and talk to them about that, or that a black guy watches the NBA, and initiate conversations about that

it is condescending, a way of relating to people based upon stereotypes, instead of as individuals, and people on the receiving end of this sort of thing sometimes rightly take offense

similarly, why should we immediately assume that the legal career of Kagan has anything to do with feminism and the advancement of women? why, merely because she is a woman? if so, wouldn't that also mean that people like Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Sarah Palin are necessarily associated with feminism and gender equality? that seems ridiculous to me

perhaps, there is such a relation with Kagan, but shouldn't there be some concrete evidence of it, instead of our projections of it onto her?

as for feminism, I hesitate to make broad generalizations about it, because there are many variations of it, including, for example, anarcha-feminism, but there is a middle class American aspect of it that seems to assume that as long as middle class women are extended rights and opportunities sufficient to men, that is a major achievement, so much so that the predations of some women, for example, those that support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like Hillary Clinton, for example, are excused

of course, there are many feminists who resist the allure of this, and the opportunities that it creates for integation into the elite, but, sadly, there are also many who do not, and Kagan seems to be more like the latter than the former

Jack Crow said...

Richard,

I'm really trying to wrap my head around the dynamic you spell out (not that you were confusing, but that it includes so many disparate factors that it can defy definition).

As I noted elsewhere, most of the feminists I knew "growing up," were Sisterhood feminists: anarchists, Marxists, abolition democrats (see Angela Davis) and socialists.

The refusal to consider class just wasn't part of the mix.

I'm learning lately that *liberal feminism,* for lack of a better term, is really, really quite different from the Sisterhood I knew in an earlier age.