"...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

Jun 26, 2010

Lady Bits For Israel

My problem, which the 3.5 readers of this blog probably remember, with feminist essentialism lies not in the feminism part, but with the essentialism.

In the same way that I reject arguments about natural male dominance, so too do I reject the argument that women with power bring a necessarily improved perspective to the use of power, as women.

Power almost universally trumps gender, or any other defining category. Power represents a universal which invariably overwhelms the categorical particulars.

Case in point:

"...Jewish leaders welcomed the appointment of Australia’s first female prime minister, who has been supportive of Israel.

Julia Gillard was elected unopposed in a Labor Party caucus meeting Thursday after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to a leadership ballot triggered by a slump in the polls.

Gillard, from Labor’s left faction, was widely considered an unknown quantity on Israel when she was elected deputy leader in 2006.

But she 'stood like a rock during the Gaza incursion [in 2009], reiterating again and again that Hamas began the conflict by rocketing Israel,' said Michael Danby, a Jewish lawmaker in the Labor government.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, agreed.

'Having been to Sderot, unlike so many of Israel's critics, she understood and defended Israel's right and need to defend its civilian population against repeated and indiscriminate missile attacks from Gaza,' Rubenstein said...."

Some might want to celebrate that a person with an inordinate amount of mastery over others happens to have "lady bits."

I still prefer to consider what said persons do with their power. Power, understood rightly, has everything to do with doing. People don't really have power. They do power.

And I contend, yet again, that anyone - eh nee won - who has what it takes to climb up over human remains and broken human lives, into a position where she or he can order people to their deaths and take reward for it, such a person by definition has many things wrong with her or him...


Justin said...

I know this is completely to the side of the point, but for the record, the narrative that she stood like a rock by is questionable. My understanding of events is that Israel broke the cease fire with a military raid.

There are a couple of things going on with this post that are more interesting.

First, you say your problem with feminism is essentialism. I take this to mean that you reject arguments for gender equality that categorize behavior and power dynamics of relationships on gender lines. That they may actually fall on gender lines is a function of power rather than inherent natures of gender.

So to act 'more like a man' in a patriarchal society simply means to become an oppressor, since 'acting like a man' in this context is taken to mean become an authority figure with power over others.

Feminists can look at this situation and choose one of two options; seek power for themselves to make things 'equal', thereby preserving the existing inequitable structures of authority, or work to break down the system entirely, working to make it so that such positions of authority no longer exist or are less powerful.

Am I understanding you right?

M said...

Who are the feminists who suggest that there is anything natural - as opposed to cultural and social - about male dominance? (Apart from evolutionary psychologists, but they're rarely feminists.) The feminist movement has been adamant in rejecting biology - feminist theory revolves around the idea that womanhood and manhood are social and cultural constructs, not facts of biology. So who are these feminists? And do they also think girls are naturally worse at science and math, and prefer the colour pink, naturally?

Also, you can consider what persons "do with their power" while also examining the changing power relations between genders (or races) and social and cultural impact of more women (or persons of colour) taking positions of power, and whether this destabilizes patriarchy or do these persons emulate patriarchal patterns of oppression, etc etc. But, the question is, as long as we have these structures of power, should half of the population be excluded from them? Yes or no?

Jack Crow said...


That's close. Part of my problem - and I recognize that it is a problem - is that I have a deconstructive view of most critiques which ignore power.

But I wouldn't break it down to only two choices in a strict either/or.

I don't think feminist have to make any choices. Feminists get to decide what feminism is. I don't. And I wouldn't presume to.

I don't believe that an individual feminist is wrong for seeking to add more women participants to the great game, or for offering a critique of male dominated society which notes that male domination arises in part and in full from structurally enforced gender preference.

My deconstruction begins with the assertion that men qua men are necessarily oppressors, and that women qua women can address the imbalance of power by obtaining more power, to offset male positions of oppression, that they possess an essence which allows them to, as women with power, alter the fabric of power itself.

This, I believe, encodes two separate errors. First, that gender is an essence, the possession of which provides automatic signifiers of and compulsions to mappable behaviors and conduct. I think that physical gender is biologically coded, but hardly binary, and rarely black and white. And that most of what we call gender is in fact social construct, not unlike race.

Second, this common feminist assumption relies on an often unstated assertion that quanta of power, in any given society, have a terminal upper limit. That there is a measurable amount of power and that once all positions of power have been obtained, the poles are fixed. So that, if I'm reading it correctly, the possession of power by women - and their feminist experiences - automatically deprives men of access to roles in which they can do damage...

Jack Crow said...


...I don't reject any arguments for gender equality. I reject functional equality itself. It's an imaginary galilean space which serves as an intellectual experimental plane, but which does not and cannot arise in ordinary conditions.

This is not to type that people can treat each other with mutuality and respect - but that very idea of equality is itself, and can only be, a chimaera.

You cannot obtain it, because it requires an absolute standard of judgment which does not exist.

But, I do accept as useful that what "actually fall[s] on gender lines is a function of power rather than inherent natures of gender."

That's an excellent restatement of my position.

Respect, Jack



I linked directly to the liberal feminist - whom I respect immensely - who made the "lady bits" comment.

It was this comment which inspired my isolated reply. The possession of "lady bits" mitigates the use and the doing of power not one bit.

If it did, women who arrive at positions of power would not so clearly resemble their male counterparts.

The problem, when dealing with hierarchies, is not gender.

It's power itself.

More women with power won't change the structure of power, simply because those women are women.



Jack Crow said...


Thanks for asking me the "do you still beat your wife, yes or no?!" question.

Awesometastic, that.

Jack Crow said...


"This is not to type that people can treat each other with mutuality and respect - but that very idea of equality is itself, and can only be, a chimaera."

Should read:

This is not to type that people can not treat each other with mutuality and respect - but that very idea of equality is itself, and can only be, a chimaera.

M said...

men qua men are necessarily oppressors

Men are not necessarily oppressors, oppressive is the patriarchal culture and each man not doing anything to dismantle it or is actively participating in it is necessarily an oppressor because he fascilitates and contributes to the perpetuation of oppression. Feminists don't think men qua men are necessarily oppressors, because if they did they would not believe men can be feminists or feminists alies, and many feminists do in fact believe they can be that. What you are deconstructing when you are deconstruction the assertion that men qua men are necessarily oppresors is you are deconstructing a straw argument.

In patriarchal culture, men are in the positions of the oppressors - ensuring male and female equality does not offsets male oppression, it collapses the binary divide by which one gender is oppressor and another oppressed.

The problem, when dealing with hierarchies, is not gender.

Yes it is. Power is always distributed along some divides - the gender, racial, class, etc. Saying gender is not the problem when it comes to power is like saying class is not problem, or race, when millions of people have clearly been oppressed throughout the millenia based on their gender, racial or class identity. Saying this is paramount to saying that the thing about grass is that it's not green. And when women are exposed to sexual violence, sexual objectification, gender discrimination, to say that women with power won't change the structure of power, when the very structure of patriarchal power rests on gender itself, is monumentally mistaken.

Also, my question is not at all analogous to the wife-beating question, but the fact that you don't answer it is quite enough of a reply.

Anonymous said...


Have you ever visited Stan Goff's "Feral Scholar"?

Anonymous said...

feminist theory revolves around the idea that womanhood and manhood are social and cultural constructs, not facts of biology

which undercuts nearly all of the theories generated by those feminists

It's comical, like Manifest Destiny. Like domination-fetishism in the natural world (we will convert the Earth to OUR purposes), the feminist urge to ignore biology is absurd.

Skeptically, I argue that it is rooted in lesbian feminists hating their womanhood (biological XX genetic complement) and wanting to transcend that XX determination and grow a penis, have facial hair, and thereby "dominate" in the culture.

Gender confusion isn't feminism, not literally. But practically? Yes indeed.

Jack Crow said...


You wrote: "Also, my question is not at all analogous to the wife-beating question, but the fact that you don't answer it is quite enough of a reply."

Yes, in fact it is. You are asking me a loaded question, followed by a "yes or no" command statement.

It's exactly like the wife beating question. It's low, and I won't grace it with a reply. My actual opinions on this subject are not secret. I've no problem with feminist critique. My problem is with the embrace, by some feminists, of power as a measure of advancement of their cause.


I'm very familiar with Stan Goff. I used to correspond with him, until he went down the Jesusy road. That's his thing, but it's not mine, and it's an extra layer of stupid in my book.

Feral Scholar used to a be a decent reference. Now it's a joint for pointillism and self-castration.

Yes. Self-castration.

Respect to you both,


JRB said...

I don't see a need to get hung up on whether or not women want to be executives. If we advocate equally for all, then the advance of community and employee rights would challenge any "executive" role directly, thus resolving the issue.

It's not a strictly feminist responsibility to challenge state or corporate power; it's a feminist responsibility to confront patriarchy. I think it's unfair to expect that women wouldn't pursue this goal because the rest of society isn't ready to move on broader concerns. Maybe society will never be ready; does that mean women accept second-tier status indefinitely?

The same goes for all the hoopla about gays in the military. Yes, gays have a right to be in the military, AND people around the world have a right to live without being killed or occupied by our military. Both are true at the same time. Obviously, we are closer to overcoming one problem than the other. But so what? One is a lot easier to solve!

It doesn't seem like a difficult thing to politely point out to someone who is narrowly focused on their rights that all people deserve theirs by the same principle. Human rights trump "national defense" just as community rights trump executive fiat, so why deny women theirs? We should be supporting everybody's at the same time, and celebrating them when they prevail.

Jenny said...

Foxtrot: Sounds like someone's been reading a wee bit too much evolution psychology.

Jack Crow said...


Who's denying women anything, even in argument?

No one.

I'm suggesting that the "lady bits" comment spells a problem with liberal feminism.

Not all feminism.

Liberal feminism, which like all liberalism, is power obsessed.

Liberation cannot come from power, even if it's women with power.

That's my point.



Anonymous said...

Poor Jenny. Always a step behind, or simply on the wrong path.

Anonymous said...

Jack, the self-castration is what I was aiming toward when I asked. I'm with ya on that one... in case my comments didn't make it clear.

But dammit, I wanted to be an aardvark, not a human!

Anonymous said...

The discussion of "patriarchal culture" is comical as well.

Nobody MAKES ME do anything as part of ANY culture -- patriarchal matriarchal or fratricidal.

There is no overarching "culture" that molds people UNLESS those people choose to be molded by the "culture".

And therefore this thing that "feminists" rail against, it's a spectre, a straw-patriarch.

"I shoulda been born with a twig and berries, not a gash! So I'm gonna complain about how those who have twigs and berries are the OPPRESSORS!,"

screams Rosie O'Donnell, still angry that she was teased for her weight and masculinity while a child.

Pointing to the fact that men have raped women doesn't make the "culture" male-dominant. It only means that IN THAT SETTING the man raped the woman. It doesn't implicate every single man who travels the earth any more than it makes every single woman a rape victim even when she's not been raped.

Uh oh, here comes Andrea Dworkin to tell me that all sex is rape.

Wish I'd been born an aardvark and not a human.

Jack Crow said...


I think we disagree on a number of the details, in fact.

I don't really have an issue with or against feminism. I agree that the claim to patriarchy often rests on a mere assertion, and when which demands the acceptance of men-as-oppressors, qua men.

But I have no issue with feminist critique, even on those points where I rather obviously disagree.

My argument really is just with the essentialist assumptions (all men are rapists, all sex is rape, all interactions between men and women define some contest within a patriarchy, etc) and the liberal feminist attachment to power, as a sign of advancement.

My argument, in the end, is with power - and anyone, be they Marxist, libertarian, paleoconservative, feminist, Fabian or otherwise - who thinks that power structures are radically altered once [insert preferred group] seizes the reigns of them.



JRB said...

Hey Jack,

I posed my comment that way to clarify what I think is important in these kinds of discussions for myself. If you and ASP both agree with the sentiment, which I expect you do, then I don't see what there is to argue about!

Jack Crow said...


I didn't take it as a criticism. In all truth, I don't even like to broach the subject at all. Opinions seem rather securely set, on the matter. And from where I sit they tend to resemble idées fixes.

I do agree with Charles (I think) that the root concept "patriarchy" is so ill defined that it has little communicable value, outside of familiar circles, and works precisely in the same manner that a by nelly jingoist uses "country."

It's an emotional signifier, one which when observed tends to retreat into the distance - a heisenbergian particle of thought which can have some specific instance, but lose relativity, or remain relevant only by lacking definition or position.



M said...

As soon as you dismiss the concept of patriarchy as an ill defined "emotional signifier" (as opposed to something actually existing in reality) you are no longer a feminist ally (which I initially supposed you are), because you cannot dismiss it unless steeped deeply in male privilege and unwilling to give it up. Or unless you are a misandrist, as our pal Charles is. As for the "wife-beating question" - sitting in parliaments and congresses around the world are people using power to wage wars, to make budgets and draft laws, occasionally to fight for their constituents to preserve their jobs or protect them as consumers or health care users etc. Some are power grabbing assholes, some are convinced in the integrity of the system but failure of its members, some see no other alternative but to engage in the power structures as they exist, because they're the only ones we have. It is a simple question whether we should advocate that women be equally part of that as they are part of the society, or should they remain second-grade citizens with no or little access to power. The question for you is difficult because you don't believe access to power would change the relationship between genders, but then again, you don't accept the idea of patriarchy either, so it would be foolish to expect of you to understand power relations between genders. To say that I am disappointed by your blindness (or simple unwillingness to perceive this) would be a serious understatement. I genuinely enjoy things you write about power, because they are engaging even when I don't agree on all things with you. But this particular issue goes beyond disagreement and disappointment. For millennia women were traded between fathers and husbands; today still their domestic labour goes not only unpaid but frequently not even recognized; top jobs for women today are still secretaries, nurses, teachers and salespersons; two women are killed every week in Britain by their domestic partners; tens of thousands of women are raped in Britain every year; rape of women is one of the most often used weapons in war; until two decades ago the laws didn't even recognize a woman's right not to be raped by her husband because agreeing to marriage meant giving up your human rights obviously - and your problem with feminists is their "attachment" to power? And you think patriarchy is an emotional signifier? That is a man feeling his male privilege threatened right there. For fuck's sake.

Jack Crow said...


You're either/or is not a case. It's an assertion. You are declaring me an opponent on account of me not believing a word the way you do.

M said...

Replace patriarchy with capitalism or racism, and assert that the issue is about "believing" a word, instead of acknowledging existence of a system of oppression.

M said...

Also, I am not "declaring" you an opponent. I am deriving a conclusion based on what you have written and on the opinions you have expressed. My words are not a position I have unilaterally and unjustifiably imposed onto you, you are quite clearly taking that position yourself. It is you who is declaring himself an opponent, don't blame me for it.

Jack Crow said...

No, ASP you are arguing against me at this point. You've taken this against my person, while I've shown you the decency of disputing your argument.

And your two examples make exactly the point I want - those terms, left ill- or undefined, mean fuck all.

They become mere emotional signifiers.

And the word "emotional" here is not coded speech for "feminine."

I mean, just literally grounded along emotional triggers.

M said...

What am I arguing against you? I am merely pointing out that you are positioning yourself as the opponent of feminists if your problem with feminists is their attachment to power - that is, if you perceive that the problem of the oppressed is that they want equality with the oppressor so they could stop being oppressed. It would appear that your criticism of power extends to power that is exerted over you, and since you are not a woman, you find the system of oppression against women "ill-defined" and an "emotional signifier."

I would dispute your "argument," if your argument wasn't ridiculous.