"...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

Jul 16, 2010

Feminism Cannot Address Sexism?

I probably find this provocative because I agree with the central analysis (though not with the hopefulness about what communism can or will accomplish). And because I seem to inspire angsty condemnation from the 1.14 feminists who have ever read this blegh, which tickles me a bit.

Also, because my wife really doesn't like feminists, which strikes me as odd on even numbered days, since she's no wilting lily and hardly deferential to men or power. I certainly advocate more feminists positions than she.

Anyway:

"...The problems started occuring[sic] when private property came about through the increased production of farming and subsequently slavery. The man thus started owning more and more property (the tools of his trade) while the woman kept owning the same. And because mostly the tools of the man could be used in trade, he started owning the wealth. Thus the role of the woman was marginalized as she was not creating any wealth, and after enough generations, she ended up being treated as inferior.

This is all simplified but it is a historic fact that male sexism and the mistreating of women appeared as soon as private property became the norm. The only reason why women have now started to reclaim some of their equality is because Capitalism has forced them to enter the workforce, and like all exploited people, this exploitation is what is raising the awareness of their inequality.

This inequality is not because of some innate feeling of men to be sexist. It is because men have been the only ones until now who have been creating wealth. And the ones with the wealth wield the power. Thus the women, who were not wielding any power, ended up being considered inferior organically, just because it looked that way. Now that this is changing with more women becoming workers, feminism is becoming more powerful.

But Feminism is not going to remove the strain of sexism from the world, for the Capitalist system demands it. Women will always need to give birth and many of them still give up their careers once they get married. This means that there are more men working, creating wealth and thus wielding the power. And as long as the manhood wields on average more power than womanhood, sexism will exist..."

http://dbzer0.com/blog/why-feminism-is-simply-fighting-the-symptoms-not-the-cause

I think the Shirky Principle could cast some light on the subject, as well:

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." -- Clay Shirky

And for the record, "wielding power" doesn't appear to solve the problems created by other people "wielding power." Revolutions fail, in part on account of this fact. The shape of the society doesn't matter to those who rule it, when it comes to how they constitute their power. Only how they interact with it. Perhaps this may also explain why values, ethnicity, race, religiosity, gender, morals and social function matter more to the governed than the governors. Failing to ameliorate the form of the power which rules them, they come to obsess over the form of society to which they belong.

If 75% of the positions of power devolve to women, tomorrow, the shape of power will not change, because the purpose of power will not change. The ruling hierarchy resembles itself, not the society over which it rules.

Mayhap some day we'll realize that efforts to get [insert preferred identity grouping] into power never results in less abusive power, on account of the above.

56 comments:

Jenny said...

I don't agree with it personally. Socialism has it's far share of sexists too:

http://amleft.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html#6883964108186717810

Jack Crow said...

I don't believe that the blogger wrote "socialists cannot be sexists."

I think the essay suggests that feminism does not address the causes of the symptoms that it seeks to ameliorate or abolish.

ASP said...

The analysis you quote is interesting, but I have two issues with it. The first is the question why men started owning more and more tools of their trade, and women didn't. There is nothing about private property that necessitates this should be so. But, what needs to be taken into account is that in primitive societies women were a kind of property themselves, exchanged between groups as a form of bond-creating and enforcing exogamy. This in fact precedes capitalism, but, of course, situation where man is primary owner of wealth is co-opted by capitalism, certainly.

The second issue is the implication in the last paragraph that because women need to give birth that somehow makes them inferior to men in the workplace, because if they give birth they cannot work like men, as unlike men they have the obligation (or desire or whatever) to care for the children. This obligation, again, while co-opted by capitalism, is not the product of the capitalist system itself. Capitalism is simply another system which has learned to exploit patriarchy to its advantage.

However, that doesn't mean that patriarchy can be addressed without addressing capitalism. Some people think it can be, because it is historically and culturally a more encompassing system of oppression; I think both are too intertwined for it to be feasible to address only one.

Joseph said...

Sorry, but defining "feminism" as something that addresses symptoms instead of causes, and then saying that feminism doesn't address the root causes of sexism is a less than convincing argument. Many feminists advocate separatism rather than participation in politics; do they still fail to address the causes of sexism?

JRB said...

If feminism means independence, in their relations, for every woman, then the problem resolves itself: you can't have capitalism or hierarchy if you have feminism! This is why we are all called to be feminists, and why I think we have to turn to women if we want to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Now, if somebody wants to define feminism some other way -- which short of the above definition wouldn't even make sense on its own terms (e.g. women ruling over other women?) -- then naturally this position deserves to be criticized.

I'm just not sure it deserves to be attributed to a "problem of feminism," because it's not a problem if you aren't a total hypocrite in your position toward women. And I don't think most feminists are. Which means we are talking about a subset of feminists, who maybe appear more prominent because of their class position -- so we look at their agenda, and seeing that it isn't sufficiently whatever, proceed to declare that feminism is insufficient! -- but only because we're preoccupied with its liberal form.

I think plenty of feminists will take offense to the fact that some dudes are transposing this model onto them, or demanding that they renounce it categorically, just because they don't appear to be on the same page as the dudes at first glance, or because for them questions of strategy aren't as simple as the dudes insist they are.

The bottom line for me is that we can't talk about feminist strategy (i.e. reform vs. other approaches) without talking to women. Until men and women make a commitment to work on these things together, all this cross-talk -- you know, one dude spouting off about feminism within a circle-jerk of almost all male blogs/commenters, and the hostile reactions from women and other feminists it elicits -- is just a pointless exercise. Either we are judged to the degree that we can work through these problems together, or there's nothing really worth evaluating in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I really like this last comment.

On another blog I frequent, I always roll my eyes when one of the loudmouth regulars triumphantly uses the line, "See? Feminism is its own worst enemy!" This happens whenever somebody quotes an moment where some feminist said something stupid, or at least something that Liberal Man didn't approve of wholeheartedly.

I'm constantly tempted to tell him to STFU about shit he can't possibly understand, but I never do.

Y'know... I'm not too crazy about most liberal feminists, either. But there's just no way that feminism can be more of an enemy to itself than patriarchy is to it. Even the world's most powerful feminist-- however you'd describe that-- is still a woman and the majority of the power in the world is still held by men.

However, in Liberal Man's world, all you have to do to be declared "your own worst enemy" is to be, well, imperfect; a human being. As long as you're imperfect, everyone higher up the food chain is off the hook for the shit they do. That's not as important as the fact that you made a mistake for the guy higher up the food chain to play "gotcha!" games with.

Also, I have no idea what "angsty codemnation" means. Maybe you'd care to clarify...?

-- ms_xeno

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, I present to you my demonstrative evidence that putting women in power will not change the landscape significantly:

Condoleezza Rice
Hillary Clinton
Samantha Power
Elena Kagan
Dianne Feinstein
Nancy Pelosi
Ann Coulter
Michelle Bachmann

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you that the foregoing women are indicative of what types of human being aim toward, reach for, and attain the reins of power at the top Federal levels.

Some of you may be thinking that we only need to get more Oprah Winfreys, Diane Rehms, or Maura Liassons... or perhaps a Rachel Maddow or two... and such will offset the negative consequences of my first set of exemplars.

I would only remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that we have an adequate track record of women seeking and attaining high Federal power and thus would remind you that my first list of exemplars is indicative of the result.

I trust your judgments will be fair and considered.

Jane said...

I agree with Ms. Xeno.

The issue isn't feminism, anti-racism, gay liberation or any other struggle. The issue is that, as ASP said, you cannot fight these struggles productively without addressing capitalism.

There is nothing that bourgeois liberals cannot fuck up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jane.

I would add that justified dislike of Clinton, Kagan, Pelosi and the like is a piss-poor excuse for one's local activist group being wall-to-wall dudes except for that one quiet chick in the back who likes making coffee for us, damnit! Shut up about your stupid bourgeois women's lib shit!

-- ms_xeno

BDBlue said...

I think there's a simplification of feminism going on here that alters its actual goals. Feminism is not simply putting women into power. That is not the end all be all of the feminist movement. That some women and/or feminists seek to focus on that does not make it so. And I think there's often a push for that to be the focus that comes from the patriarchy because it allows them to look at token women in positions of power and act as if that resolves the underlying lack of power most women have. Kind of like people like saying there's a black President and so we're over that whole racism thing.

Feminism means ending the oppression of women and creating a society where men and women are treated equally. Not that any particular woman is put into any particular position. And if you look at countries where women have achieved a great deal towards equality, you will largely find countries that generally treat their people better - have stronger social safety nets, less militaristic cultures, more humane justice systems, etc. See, e.g., the Nordic countries. That's not because they've elected X number of women to office (although that is, in fact, part of it), but it's because of an entire change of the power relationship in their society. Dismantling patriarchy is good for everyone. Right now, a lot of the costs of capitalism are born by women - they provide all sorts of free or underpaid labor in childcare, education (although this is less than it used to be which is one of the reasons there's a crisis), healthcare. If you upend that, then you fundamentally change the way people relate to each other and to the State.

It's not so much that electing a particular woman to a particular office will change anything - it won't. Or that women are somehow more virtuous than men, they aren't. It's that destroying the system where women are systematically oppressed in a society fundamentally changes the society in all sorts of positive ways. Just as the Civil Rights movement was connected to the anti-war movement and other people powered movements. Now, maybe there are other ways to achieve the same thing - some sort of revolution for economic justice or ending wars or something else - but I'm not sure as a practical matter these are more easily accomplished. And many times they've been tried they've ended in failure, in part IMO, because these movements did not seek to end the patriarchy. They simply sought to extend it to a larger group of men.

Feminism would not put women lording over men (that's a scare tactic of the patriarchy to get men to back away from feminism). Feminism would seek to create a society in which women and men are equal. Where there was no rape culture or forced births or coerced labor. That is not simply our society with different masters, it is fundamentally different than the society we live in.

Jack Crow said...

These are all great comments, but I think they (in general) miss the original premise - that feminism cannot address sexism as a symptom, because sexism unfolds as a symptom, not as a primary cause.

I don't know if I agree with it in its entirety, but I do find it nonetheless challenging to the essentialist current in feminist thought, as well as to the liberal (in this case,feminist) assertion that power = liberation.

Jack Crow said...

Additionally,

Power serves a very specific purpose. To get people to obey, in the interests of their rulers. You cannot excise this all encompassing logic of power (from your model of events) without obscuring its purpose.

You cannot have power without obedience. Not ever. Not anywhere. For one person to hold power, others must do his/her bidding, towards his/her ends.

You cannot erase the ineluctable relation of the master to the obedient instrument.

Unless you don't want a more accurate model of events.

Anyone who obscures the purpose of power, obscures the use of power.

It doesn't matter whom you slot into an office, role or position of power. The purpose (forcing others to obey) will not change. Therefore the shape of power will not change.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how anyone ever got it into their heads that sexism needs to be EITHER a symptom OR a primary cause of events and/or situations. It's both. Attempting to make it one or the other is, to my mind, nonsense.

BDB

...Dismantling patriarchy is good for everyone. Right now, a lot of the costs of capitalism are born by women - they provide all sorts of free or underpaid labor in childcare, education (although this is less than it used to be which is one of the reasons there's a crisis), healthcare. If you upend that, then you fundamentally change the way people relate to each other and to the State...

This. Exactly.

Too often I hear men all across the political spectrum pining aloud for some pastoral, non-existent era where women were happy to be kept sequestered in some walled garden somewhere, tending plants and making babies (and not getting under men's feet when they were trying to do important manly things). Even if we were all raised in capitalism, I have my doubts that this mentality originated with capitalism.

-- ms_xeno

Joe said...

I agree with ASP--the idea that the subordination of women is somehow a direct result of private property is suspect, to say the least. You could just as easily argue that it's the lack of private property *for women* (including the right to so-called self-ownership) that was/is the problem.

Also, I don't think the piece quoted in the original post is arguing for shifting power from one group to another. I think his argument is even more nonsensical than that--that abolishing "wealth" or "property" will necessarily lead to equal power relations between men and women. This strikes me as magical thinking.

Jack Crow said...

Joe,

The subordination of women followed agriculture.

What did agriculture produce?

Stable population groups, ruling bloodlines, priestly castes and therefore, stable power.

*

Ms Xeno,

You cannot relate to "the State" except as a subject, unless you belong to "the State."

Changing the relation of men to women won't change the form of power, because social conditions don't produce power. Power produces power.

Nor have I suggested that we must understand sexism only (that assumption seems imposed on the argument, no?) as a symptom. I tend to agree with the original that the attempt to treat with sexism as a symptom will fail, because it does not address cause.

Jack Crow said...

PS- the "1.14 feminists..." refers only to ASP and I's ongoing inability to agree about anything.

Joe said...

Jack,

I'm not sure I follow. Unless I misread, Db0's point was that the underlying cause of sexism was private property. I don't see how this is the case, or how any other system (like communism) would somehow be inherently less likely to produce sexism.

ASP said...

These are all great comments, but I think they (in general) miss the original premise - that feminism cannot address sexism as a symptom, because sexism unfolds as a symptom, not as a primary cause.

Like I said, the differences between men and women and their prescribed statuses in society predate capitalism. Therefore it is more plausible to argue that wealth became distributed differently due to pre-existing different roles of men and women, than that distribution of wealth determined the roles. Sexism then is not merely a symptom of differences in wealth distribution, but precisely the cause of the different ways in which wealth became (and is) distributed.

ASP said...

PS- the "1.14 feminists..." refers only to ASP and I's ongoing inability to agree about anything.

I am delighted at the fact that I am more than 1!! :-]

Jack Crow said...

"Women started becoming a second class citizen as soon as farming came around. Before that time, there was no sexism against women for their house duties were equaly[sic] important as the man’s. The man simply owned the tools and skills of the food production while the woman owned the tools and skills of the household.

The problems started occuring[sic] when private property came about through the increased production of farming and subsequently slavery."


The premise begins with agriculture and accumulation.

*

I think it has a too narrow focus and an undo simplicity (citizenship and household don't really work as appropriate terms, for the period in question, for starters), but Db0 marks the beginning (as do many feminists) of gender inequity with agriculture.

*

I happen to agree with Shlain (and not on every point), that much that we can identify as inequitable begins with writing.

Jack Crow said...

ASP,

Capitalism has no material existence before 18th century England and Holland. Mercantilism and the exchange in luxury goods did not result in capitalist accumulation, though they did provide a series of transitions.

Exchange - before the very specific and localized emergence of capitalism from English enclosure and the Dutch shipping industry - predates capitalism by several millenniums.

May seem like a niggling point, but property and exchange do not necessarily reflect capitalist modes of relation.

(see HM Wood, "The Origins of Capitalism," for the much longer and original explication of this argument)

With respect,

Jack

ASP said...

The exchange of women as property, which I referred to in my first comment, comes from the work of Levi Strauss, who explored this relationship in primitive societies, that is those not based on agriculture.

JRB said...

What I am taking away from this thread is less of an interest (among women) in identifying some historical moment when men began subjugating women, but a skepticism toward any approach that can't incorporate their concerns going forward, on whatever grounds.

Anonymous said...

...Changing the relation of men to women won't change the form of power, because social conditions don't produce power. Power produces power...

[shrug] This statement is so vague to me that without some concrete examples of how to discern male-female relations from "power" as a force unto itself, I find it pretty much meaningless.

-- ms_xeno

BDBlue said...

a skepticism toward any approach that can't incorporate their concerns going forward, on whatever grounds.

I will say I'm skeptical of any approach that seeks to roll feminism into some larger battle for equality. Throughout history women have been told time and time again to wait their turn. That we'll get around to patriarchy as soon as we free the slaves, end Jim Crow, get more white men better jobs, get the right to unionize, overthrow the capitalist system and on and on. Or that women will somehow benefit from all of those efforts and so you don't really need to take on women's equality as an independent issue. And yet here we are after the Great Society and the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement and women still earn a fraction of what men do for the same amount of work, they're still overwhelmingly responsible for child care, they still live in a society where they don't control their own bodies both in terms of shrinking access to reproductive freedom and in terms of rape culture. So I am extremely skeptical of the idea that I should just roll my equality into a movement along with everyone else's because, if history is any guide, when we come out on the other side there may be some progress for everyone, but somehow women will still be second class citizens who have to be afraid to walk outside their own homes at night alone.

As for the idea that feminism can end sexism that seems like wordplay to me. There will always be people who hate others different from them. The Civil Rights movement has not ended racism. but that doesn't mean the Civil Rights movement was wrong or the gains it made at its height were worthless. The gains have stalled, but that's as much a function of its leaders becoming corrupted by corporations and the Democratic Party as anything else. It's not a reflection on the ideas that underlie it, IMO. Feminism is the same and like virtually every lefty group has the same problem - corruption of its leadership and associations by virtue of their ties to corporate and partisan power.

But I still maintain that a society in which people are not forced to give birth to kids they don't want or be raised by parents who didn't want them, in which rape is not a dominant theme, in which free labor from half the population isn't a given, in which all people are equally responsible for the care of the children and elders, in which sights and sounds of hatred towards half the population beaming from every tv isn't the norm is fundamentally different. Just as a society without slavery is fundamentally different. That slavery didn't end racism didn't mean that the end of it as an institution wasn't important and didn't make society a better place. It did. It just didn't make it perfect. Similarly ending patriarchy would be an enormous victory for humanity. Would it create some sort of Eden? No, but it would fundamentally improve the world in which we live in all kinds of ways. As I noted above, the most gender equal countries also tend to be social democracies that have greatly softened the blows of the capitalist system.

BDBlue said...

I will also note that so long as there is power as it currently exists it's unfair and inhumane for it to be exercised against a subset of the population disproportionately, which is what is happening now with both sexism and racism. And that while the greater social good would be to upend the power structure in its entirety, it is not meaningless to at least dampen its disproportionate impact, especially to the people who are bearing the brunt of that impact. Ending rape culture, for example, might not seem like a sufficiently lofty goal if we're all still earning $7 an hour at Walmart, but that just reflects, IMO, a privileged position. Someone who doesn't have to size up every male who gets in an elevator with them. Who doesn't mind walking to their car in the parking garage alone. Who isn't more at risk at being imprisoned in our brutal prison system.

I'm skeptical of being told that my equality within the system isn't worth fighting for because the system sucks by people who don't have to live in the sucky system with the added burden of inequality. And I don't think it has to be an either/or fight. As I've said, I think simply ending patriarchy changes the system in fundamental ways. But even if it doesn't, there's nothing that prevents a fight for equality within the system and a fight against the system at the same time, especially since both fights go to the underlying power structure.

The main issue with feminism right now, IMO, is the corruption of its leadership by its association with corporations and partisan politics, primarily the Democratic Party. This undermines its efforts to change the power structure in this country in fundamental ways. But that goes to the human failings of its leaders, not to the ideas that underlie it, IMO.

Anonymous said...

ms xeno,

I've spent the last month spelling out that thesis.

Jack Crow said...

Soz, back on home computer:

What I mean, I've described at length below, but in brief:

The various social relations don't change how power works, or what it looks like.

You can have 40k buddhist auto mechanics, only Jewish women between 24-45, only WASP males with names ending in -ton, or a pluralized mix of ethnicity, gender, religion and language - and the form of power will stay the same.

The relation between members of the ruled society won't change the hierarchical shape of the power which rules over them.

Women and men can live in a society which has absolutely functional and legal equity in all matters, and it won't alter the form of the hierarchy which governs them, because social relations don't change the purpose of power.

You have power to force people to do things. Power has - literally - no other purpose. Gender, racial, orientation, religious, age or national equity won't change this fact.

In fact, they can mask it.

Which doesn't mean I've argued or supported the idea that people ought not try to combat and oppose discrimination, only that that goal doesn't alter the relationship of power to subject population.

Unless you believe that the possession of identity provides an immutable essence.

Which personally I don't.

Respect,

Jack

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

The "Civil Rights Movement"?

Good lord, are we hearing a GooGoo argument here?

What changes racism and bigotry is not federal legislation, but one-on-one personal relationships and the education and experience that grow therefrom.

The 1965 Civil Rights Act didn't change racist attitudes. In many ways, it made them worse -- more pernicious, more spiteful and, sadly, more "underground".

Hence the modern Southern USA tendency to be very polite to one's face, and quite the opposite otherwise. A genteel superficiality and forced integration do not change latent racism.

It's not about party politics or partisan identity, and the more you entrench yourself in that childish Us vs Them tribalist identity, the more pathetically erroneous your "understanding" will be.

+++++++++++++++++++

The problem with gender focus is the broad sweep it requires... blaming everything on Man vs Woman, and thereby blanket-blaming all men for things that certain men did.

I shouldn't need to remind any of the ladies how that game turns out.

Just take a look at Israel, treating the world to murderous spite thanks to what a select group of Germans did to a select group of Jews.

Uh huh.

JRB said...

Jack,

I think a simple way to express the idea is that power which is monopolized, or concentrated, should be diffused.

So if investors and executives are excluding others from participating in economic decisions, for example, then that power needs to be redistributed in a more equitable way. It doesn't just go away; it is shared among affected groups.

The point which BDBlue articulates so well is that people are excluded from their own autonomy according to various criteria, some disproportionately so. Having women "take power" is necessarily part of the process by which women assert control over their lives. It doesn't happen any other way. It's not clear to me whether you acknowledge this or not; and if not, what you are proposing instead.

So, although we often use the term "power" in its pejorative -- meaning "concentrated" -- any free society will extend a portion of that power to every individual for their own development.

JRB said...

PS. The "Hillary Clinton" problem is easily solved by supporting all women in this regard, not just wealthy white ones. Which is a more consistent definition of "feminism" anyway!

Jack Crow said...

JRB,

I don't believe that the "diffusion of power" every evidences in real terms, because power requires obedience. You cannot hold power - no matter how diffuse - unless you hold the obedience of those who submit to it.

Assuming power without obedience equals assuming the head of the coin, without the tail.

Respect,

Jack

*

Charles,

I tend to agree, though I do remain sympathetic to a number of feminist critiques, in the same way that I remain sympathetic to marxist and bakuninist critiques.

Respect,

Jack

Jack Crow said...

JRB,

This especially invites only a complete misunderstanding of power itself:

"The point which BDBlue articulates so well is that people are excluded from their own autonomy according to various criteria, some disproportionately so. Having women "take power" is necessarily part of the process by which women assert control over their lives."

You cannot have power separate from power over. Any person who "takes power" does so by having staffers who do his or her bidding. You cannot separate power, the taking of power, or the holding of power from the hierarchy which orders it, in the first.

Respect,

Jack

JRB said...

Jack,

Then what do you propose instead? Specifically, that will be persuasive to women as they have related their concerns in this thread; and, without which, you are just talking to yourself?

Anonymous said...

Who cares if he's just "talking to himself?" It's his idea, not theirs. He's not trying to keep women from being feminists. Is he?. Why does it have to be about dialog the way you need it? What can't a person make an argument about what concerns him? Why does he have to address their concerns? To please you? To make you feel special? To give you a warm fuzzy feeling?

Anonymous said...

BDB beat me to the punch, and says it better than I ever could.

Too many Lefty dudes set up this kind of thing as little more than a massive game of "GOTCHA'"! Just as too many Liberal/Prog feminists point triumphantly at every ignorant, sexist Lefty dude in order to play massive games of "GOTCHA'"!

In both cases, it's people being disingenuous so as not to disturb their own love affair with the status quo, even at the most trivial level possible.

I believe in women's equality, and I'm not a liberal woman getting all mushy and starry-eyed every time Hillary and her ilk break wind.

And today I simply do not have any further paitience to go 'round and 'round with this crack-the-whip garbage. It's the kind of thing that makes it so easy for me to just disappear from Blogland for months at a stretch and just stick to gardening and shit.

Out of here now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. The above was...

-- ms_xeno (google hates my guts these days, so it's hard to log in)

Jack Crow said...

JRB,

I don't know about writing my opinions in order to listen to others, really. I read what others write, to get their view of things. But I don't write what I write on account of an unexpressed need to engage [insert whatever group concerns you] people on terms of identity.

I don't care to persuade women to do, believe or agree with anything, as women. The point of this post has nothing to do with reaching out to a people on account of their identities. The quoted material touched upon a subject which concerns me.

The constitution of power. I don't write about machining sheet metal, Hillary Clinton's electoral opportunities, Modern Monetary Theory, Victor Davis Hanson's monthly misreading of events or Oprah fucking Winfrey, because I don't care.

I care about power. I write about power. Not power for [insert identity group that will magically change the whole world once it gets some].

The logic of power and obedience concerns me. If a person gets something from this, all the better. But I could care less if a figment of social identity takes umbrage with my observation that identity/sociality do not alter the form or shape of power.

I type for myself. I read/listen to people, as individual selves. Not as groupuscular parts of an imaginary whole, or as functions of some transcendent group identity.

I certainly empathize with people who exist within the confines of excluded identities, and I don't care one way or another how they devote their lives to obtaining inclusion or liberation. If a homosexual man thinks such and such an action will help him live a fuller life, it will never occur to me to discourage him from pursuing it. If a woman thinks that more women CEOs will lead to greater pay equity and awareness of women's labor, I will never seek to dissuade her from that course.

I will, all the same, comment upon the choice if I think the methods negate the goals.

And I rather obviously think that some feminist methods negate some feminist goals. I also think that anarchists, gay rights activists (especially those who work for gay marriage), unionists, greens, anti-war agitators, Tea Party radicals, and any number of subcommunities will on any given day employ methods which negate, corrupt, corrode or drive them further from their ends, not closer.

If it occurs to me to point this out, I don't give a rat fuck if an anonymous blogger a thousand miles away disagrees. No either/or obtains, here. I don't need to either engage with [insert preferred identity group] or speak only to myself. It doesn't work that way. I cannot really think of a real world scenario that simple, or simplistic.

Now, if ASP or BDB or Ms. Xeno or any other person disagrees, I have no compunction against reading what they write, and disputing the point. But their perspective does not trump mine, on account of their identities, such that my job degrades to mere auditor and listener.

If you want or need to impose those conditions on yourself, fine with me. But I won't.

With respect,

Jack

Jack Crow said...

A "gotcha" Ms. Xeno? Really? Kindly, go pound sand. I think that power forms the greater part of the problems within society. I found an essay which shares at least part of that focus, and I asked a question about it.

If you think that's a "gotcha," I can live with that. But it's so wrongheaded that you must either write in jest, or think I don't spend my time reading what the rest of you have written in reply.

Good day to you, all the same,

Jack

JRB said...

Who cares if he's just "talking to himself?" It's his idea, not theirs. He's not trying to keep women from being feminists. Is he?. Why does it have to be about dialog the way you need it?

It doesn't have to be the way I need it, but I do think it should be "about dialogue" anytime we offer our perspective on things that primarily affect others.

Of course, it doesn't have to be about dialogue: I can say "Jesse Jackson is a fraud," and people within that community can say, "Well, it's not that simple;" and I can say, "Yes, it is." In which case I am talking to myself -- unless I make some persuasive argument that accommodates their concerns, or I only hang out with like-minded people.

Men who want to talk about feminism ultimately have to make these choices -- that is all I am trying to point out.

Jack Crow said...

Men who write about feminism don't have to "make these choices." You might think they do, but they don't have to do anything. Just like women who write about men don't have to make any choices about how men will receive their opinions.

And it's really just silly to suggest otherwise.

I can write about Mount Monadnock on every second Thursday. Writing about Monadnock does not obligate me to consider the imaginary dialogue I might have with the people who happen to climb it on that given day.

I don't have to consider them at all. I don't have to make that choice.

In the same way that a woman who writes or lectures about rape doesn't have to take a single moment to think about the feelings of all the men who don't rape women.

ASP said...

The logic of power and obedience concerns me. If a person gets something from this, all the better. But I could care less if a figment of social identity takes umbrage with my observation that identity/sociality do not alter the form or shape of power.

Different groups of people have different forms of power exercised on them, and power that is exercised over one will not be (or cannot be) exercised over another. This is manifestly evident to anyone who has been underprivileged because of some aspect of their identity. You exclude this from your considerations of power, which is the main reason why I find your analysis of power ultimately inadequate. You don't have to listen when feminists are speaking if you don't want to. But don't think that your analysis speaks to everyone and about everyone's experience. It doesn't. And if you won't take that into account then you will speak only to yourself, even as you think you are engaging with someone else.

ASP said...

I'd like to say, because it appears like that from my comment but this wasn't my intention, that my previous comment wasn't intended to imply your observations need to speak to me or address my experience or whatever, that I have the right to demand this from you or something. I'm just trying to clarify, perhaps, why you and I constantly fail to agree on these things.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Jack,

I tend to agree, though I do remain sympathetic to a number of feminist critiques, in the same way that I remain sympathetic to marxist and bakuninist critiques.

Yep. Hear you loud & clear, agree with you too. That's why I focused on individual change, and on blanket-blaming.

The human nature seems to be to think one's self irrelevant and to look to "experts" and others for what to think, do, feel, say. I must be ur-human or something, because I don't much care what "leading feminists" have to say about "leading man-haters" at the blanket-blame levels where most public discourse of "feminism" seems to occur. I distinctly recall parting company with some of Stan Goff's blanket-blaming of all men for the troubles certain women face today. Look, I'm not taking that blame, not shouldering it, not even giving it companionship.

So I'm not accepting anything on behalf of other XY genetic humans.

I haven't done anything but be a boy growing into a man. I haven't engaged in a man-world power structure to oppress women, and whatever foul treatment a woman received at my doing, it had nothing to do with me as a man wanting to derogate or denigrate all those XX genetic humans.

Driving gender into situations like a log-splitting wedge is one of the most counter-productive things any person can do. It quickly turns into caricature and fast ripens for lampooning.

In my humble, of course.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Jack, this seems to be the fulcrum:

Women and men can live in a society which has absolutely functional and legal equity in all matters, and it won't alter the form of the hierarchy which governs them, because social relations don't change the purpose of power.

The very nature of power, its aim of being able to control and manipulate others, is what causes the negative effects. Not gender. Not misogyny. Power itself -- the application of one's energies toward obtaining and wielding power.

This is one of the main reasons why I don't like the po-po. Taking such a job necessarily means the prospective po-po wants that power, seeks that power, intends to wield that power.

Po-po will of course defend him/herself by saying that the power is there already, and better to be on its side rather than the side of the powerless.

Which is an interesting way to manage negative feelings about power -- the use of cynical assimilation into power's social workings.

The problem I have with those who seek power is that the ones I've known have had that cliche'd "chip on the shoulder," a past wrong that tainted their outlook toward their fellow human, one that made/makes them want to experience some form of power over others. Po-po are a simple example within reach of most Americans, but politicians are another, as are "bosses," as are the more subtle forms like priest/preacher/minister/pastor.

An egregious example of using power in a negative way can be found in the world of "social work" where "social workers" go into a home and strip a child from his/her family, "for the good of the child."

JRB said...

Hey Jack,

I see now that I may have been challenging you within assumptions that you don't share -- which isn't fair. For that I must apologize.

This has been a great thread. I really appreciate you hosting it, not to mention writing the kind of post that sparks such discussion in the first place. It is a rare talent, my friend.

I look forward to many more stimulating, if sometimes contentious, exchanges in the future.

JR

Andromeda said...

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution." -- Clay Shirky

Ah, yes, the Replication of Power.

And so "feminists" must somehow preserve female inequality in order to exist.

Even talking about female inequality invokes said inequality---but this is not to say it should be a taboo in conversation.

I humbly submit that the very notion that females are inherently deserving of "everything" is a limitation in and of itself.

Why? You can't have everything all at once---no one can---and so therein lies the limit: extreme "feminists" believe that until they have everything all at once, they will not be satisfied.

Therefore there can be no ultimate satisfaction.

I'm going to get heat for this one, I can already feel it.

Richard said...

Interesting thread.

Regarding the origins of capitalism, I would recommend, rather than EM Wood's very fine book, Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century. He doesn't specifically address Wood's argument (mainly because the book originally appeared well prior to it), but to my mind effectively demolishes the point she was making. Her book is on the origin of the capitalist mode of production, which misses much, frankly.

For the stuff regarding the conditions of women pre-capitalism, and even in the evolutionary period, I recommend:

Chris Knight, Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mothers and Others
Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale
Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch

My overly short, very loosey-goosey synthesis of these books? Culture (language) emerges out of a collective sex strike by women. All of the myths/stories collected and reported by Levi-Strauss and others in some way refer back to the rules emerging out of this moment. Men ultimately took power, began to control women, controlling the movement of women, accumulated property, inverted the rules while creating religion as a mode of control... and so on and so forth till you get to the rise of a sequence of systemic regimes of capital accumulation (Arrighi). Feminism, understood most helpfully, closer to what JRB suggests above, and not as an adjunct to power, is an emergence out from under this situation.

Anonymous said...

That's some crap, Richard. Women don't fuck so people develop verbal signs? Stupid.

Richard said...

It's not stupid. It could be wrong, but it's not stupid. Read a fucking book you goddamned cowardly anonymous fuck. Possibly even the one or several mentioned.

ASP said...

Richard, thanks for the book recommendations, much appreciated.

Andromeda said...

Wow, JC, see how many readers you have? You really got everyone to come out and comment on this one.

JRB said...

The exchange between Richard and Anonymous is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time.

Jack Crow said...

I don't know about funny, but it does seem to show how two people can get it so wrong.

First, "stupid" doesn't apply. It's an inept comment which misses the mark. People who vote for Dems, hoping that they'll somehow turn out to be anything but - those folks are stupid. That aside, I see no merit in the theory myself, so I'll vote for "wrong."

Second, there's nothing wrong with posting anonymously. Seriously, Richard. It's a genuinely silly angle to take. Can't get through one of favorite blogs (IOZ) without reading dozens of anonymous posters. Can't read 2/3 of the remaining ones without reading posts from handles which are clearly not names. There, well, anonymous user tags.

I post anonymously, since "Jack Crow" is an anagram of a portion of my actual name. An actual name that differs from the one my parents gave me, since I also took my wife's name, after we married.

Which identity is "correct," in that case? Which one is "cowardly."

The one I had for the first two or so decades? The one I've had for the following two decades? The one which isn't actually mine, but serves as my anonymous internet identity?

Anyway - I have some thoughts for the other posts, later...

Richard said...

"Jack Crow" is not the same as "anonymous"; not even close. I don't like comments that are posted by "anonymous". But posting anonymously by itself doesn't make a comment cowardly. It's the nature of the comment plus the anonymity. I maintain that this anonymous comment, which amounted to a drive-by trolling, was cowardly. It has not a thing to do with identity.

Richard said...

That is to say, a handle is a trackable name, potentially with a history of its own. Does it track with the poster's "real-life" "identity"? Who knows? Who cares?