Posts Tagged ‘ feminism

The Straw Man of Collective Guilt

In response to a previous post:

“Women are oppressed by men” is so large and grandiose and vague as to be useless.

That may be true, but then so are: “taxation is theft,” “The police have always been thugs who protect the moneyed,” or “Any unarmed people are slaves, or are subject to slavery at any given moment.”

Most taxpayers self-report as willing; most police want to serve the public and very few unarmed people (in the United States) feel like slaves. To note the abstract relationship isn’t to express a universal as expressed by each and every individual, it’s to highlight the fundamental dynamic. The core truth of taxation is that, if one were to resist it, one would find oneself mugged. Any policeman who wants to be a thug won’t likely be stopped and anyone who attacks the infrastructure of wealth will find themselves fighting police. Unarmed people every day find themselves fighting heavily armed state agents and are forced into an obedient role (or find themselves dead).

Most men don’t rape women, many men may not ever use their physical presence to dominate a woman. The fundamental reality of sex, however, is that almost any man can physically overwhelm almost any woman at any time. Importantly to the day-to-day reality of women, that worst-case scenario plays out more frequently than the federal take-down of tax resisters, instances of police brutality, or the rounding up of disarmed civilians.

Show indicia of THIS MAN oppressing THAT WOMAN and you begin to show clarity.
I’m not shouldering blame for what some other man did to a woman I don’t know.

Indicia? You have furthered my education with your comment, sir! This is, I think, the crux of the issue. The conversation about the realities of existing power dynamics does not damn or entitle any individual. We’ve been conditioned to believe:

Wherever human beings engage in direct discourse with one another about their mutual rights and responsibilities, there is a politics. I mean politics in the sense of the public sphere in which discourse over rights and responsibilities is carried on, much in the way Hannah Arendt discusses it. …. The force of public opinion, like that of markets, is not best conceived as a concentrated will representing the public, but as the distributed influence of political discourses throughout society.
Johnson and Long, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

That refusal doesn’t make me a co-oppressor.
It merely makes me someone who will accept blame when it is accurately placed


Certainly no one should be blamed for the actions of a third party and refusing to “shoulder the blame for what some man did to a woman I don’t know” is absurd. In discussions about the crimes of government, kindergarten teachers aren’t widely considered to be co-oppressors. The state can be the object of critique without everyone who is in some way connected to state power feeling the need to come screaming in to stop the discussion. The same should be true of critiques of other power disparities.

At issue is not the need for collective guilt, but rather to honor the subjective experience of people giving their account of oppression. To return to the parallel, anarchists bristle when their subjective accounts of state oppression are dismissed and when they are chided to remain within the cultural confines of “their place in society” in order to remain unmolested by state agents. We, of all people, should stand in solidarity with others whose experiences are similarly dismissed–those who are told to fit sex, gender, and any other social norm in order to remain unmolested by whoever claims the authority to trespass against them. That solidarity should be extended no matter who the claimed oppressor is, even if it’s not the state.

The Bikecast Episode #47: On Having One’s Little Libertarian Touched (or TSA Gropefest Part II)

This bikecast is a restatement of and expansion on the previous episode. The current anger over TSA screening can serve as a point of reference for unconsciously patriarchal anti-authoritarians. The humiliation and violation that airline passengers are experiencing at the gropey/grabby hands of federal agents are identical to those that women and other “2nd (or 3rd or 4th) class citizens” have been experiencing for decades and centuries. That their accounts were discounted or ignored might provide some insight into the incredulity around and negative response towards anti-TSA/no-fly activists.

On the flip side, that the TSA agents aren’t on par with national socialists tried at Nuremburg–a point made to counter the sometimes hysterical reaction emanating from the newly threatened–doesn’t mean that other hysterical reactions of libertarians and anti-authoritarians aren’t justified. The TSA might not be a war crime tribunal worthy organziation, but there are plenty of war crime level individuals and branches of government. Hysterics are appropriate in far too many cases.

Download this episode of the bikecast

The last podcast’s show notes cover this episode as well. With the holiday travel weekend behind us, I’ll use this space to do a quick run through of the highlights. In a predictably bizarre role reversal, the political right came out against the TSA policy, a legacy of the Bush regime demonstrating, the umpteenth time the relative prioritization of security theater vis political theater.

Sadly, Alisa nailed the political left’s majority position, that anti-TSA trouble makers should shut up a do what they’re told. There is a variety of rationales: that they’re paid libertarian provacateurs, that they’re exposing Americans to terrorism/are terrorists, it’s the price we pay for security and so forth. Here’s a good roundup along with notable exceptions (to which I’d like to add Pandagon and Big Think).

The Nation really went out of its way to connect the anti-TSA sentiment to Koch funding. It’s primary innuendo weaving was done at the expense of John “Touch My Junk and I’ll Have You Arrested” Tyner. None other than Glenn Greenwald popped up to lay on a smackdown of the Nation piece. To which (in the name of completing the tale), Mark Ames and Yasha Levine responded with this defense and the Nation published this partial apology. One last link collects together responses from three other anti-state types who were mentioned as part of the vast wingless conspiracy.

Not especially important, but interesting and worth ten minutes of work time. Anyway, good on you Glenn G. and the several other lefties still in the system but unwilling to flow with their majority.

The Bikecast Episode #46: Alright, How About Nobody Touch Anybody’s Junk

There’s a well known pattern governing the spread of evil. The first to fall are those out-of-power. Isolated, mistrusted, and without recourse, the smaller, the weaker and the outnumbered are inevitably the first victims of any societal ill. Eventually, the cancer–ever growing–will begin to affect the privileged classes. They had, until now, ignored the pleas for help from those who had succumbed. Now they look around desperately, wondering why no one comes to their aid as they cry out, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

Download this episode of the bikecast

Thus we find the forces of human dignity facing off against the dehumanizing empire over one of the more minor matters in the ever growing catalog of state crimes: airport security. Additionally, the fight is against, essentially, “bad touches,” something that women and children spend much of their time avoiding or enduring anyway.

And thus the question of, “why?” is quickly answered. The physical control, domination and humiliation that characterizes patriarchy has finally reached it’s latex glove into the genital area of the soi-disant privileged class (or law abiding citizenry, if you will).
I’ll let Lindsay Beyerstein and Amanda Marcotte fill you in on the details. Their analysis is spot on.

My message is primarily to the “freedom movement.” Being scanned and groped by the TSA might give you a pretty direct metaphor to empathize with the complaints and concerns that women–among others–have been expressing since they were no longer set on fire for talking in public.

I mean this as a helpful suggestion: capture your experience of outrage and stand with those that live in a world of perpetual violation. Most people resonate with the message of peace and freedom, but it sounds odd and false when one warns against a state imposition of a regime of violence and humiliation that someone has already experienced–and may still be experiencing–in their private lives.

Sooo, yeah . . . welcome to the big tent everybody. As will become progressively clearer, there are many unlikely alliances in the struggle against patriarchy/tyranny . Going forward, we will discover that those we thought were political allies are actually the enemy of integrity: libertarians who themselves physically dominate and violate the persons of those around them and progressives who want men to join women and children on the lower tiers of human society for the safety and convenience of governing institutions[1].


A perfect example of an attitude that I would like to see properly categorized with “If you aren’t a terrorist, then you have nothing to be afraid of,” or, “If you don’t like it, you can leave the country”–dangerous, stupid, evil positions:

. . . I feel more convinced than ever that America gets many things wrong about sex. Right there near the top of the list is our attachment to the idea of consent.

In Paris, it seems as if the straight male attitude toward consent is that it doesn’t exist. At clubs, bars, bistros, in the street or on the Metro, Parisian men lobby very aggressively for sex. At the clubs in the 8ème, off the Champs-Élysées, and all along Rue de Rivoli, it is fairly common to watch men literally grab and touch the girls who weave through the crowd.

What a dick. (h/t pandagon, original article here)

  1. [1] I realize I just sort of threw that last one in there. Alisa predicted that someone would take this angle, but I haven’t seen it yet. Instead of accepting non-violation of genitals to be a universal good and demanding that no one be groped at a security checkpoint nor anywhere else, we can say that everyone should be violated equally–I’m happy that nobody I like has recommended this course of action.

Common Ground with Violence

As Amanda reminds us here and here, the notion of a reasoned debate, of consensus morality, of civilized human interaction vanishes and is impossible to recover when the “conversation” takes place with a gun in the room.  There are no proponents of state-mandated birth, no matter how deep their armchairs, that can claim a non-violent stand.  Besides whispering a prayer when an honorable and compassionate human being is murdered, they also dedicate their time, money, and social clout to electing anti-choice “conservatives.”

This act is both cowardly and aggressive.  Pro-forced birth proponents may not be willing to kick in a door, interrupt a medical procedure and incarcerate a woman until she gives birth against her will.  They will (or, hopefully, would), however, clap with psychotic glee as the police point guns at women to ‘save unborn lives.’

How can anybody imagine that “common ground” can be found between people seeking the most basic recognition of their humanity and a throng of mystics begging and pleading for the state to enforce their preference that women bear children at all costs and against their will?  Can anyone expect a reasoned debate about the moral nature of anything when one side is willing to detain, imprison or kill the other and those that aid them?

There can’t, of course, and anti-choice’ers take cover behind the illusion of civil discourse in an attempt to hide the barbaric means that they employ.  They are given a pass because they do not pull the trigger themselves but “vote” for others to point the guns.

The spokespeople for the anti-choice movement cannot condemn outright the actions of a lunatic who murders a doctor.  That is exactly the penalty they want imposed if a doctor refuses to obey their preferences.