Archive for Politics

Stuff We Forgot

Have you seen the BBC 4 three part documentary “Women”?
If you haven’t, you should. After all, it’s not everyday that we get to see feminism on the telly. And we should really make the most of it while it lasts.

The Guardian has published a critique of the programme’s third part, “Activists”, titled “Enough middle-class feminism” and written by a middle-class feminist. Her words seem to have struck a chord. Her intentions were probably good, as evidenced by this line:

“They have lots to say about the media objectification of women but, bizarrely, little to say about consumerism or capitalism.”

Unfortunately it goes downhill after that.

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we will be here again. Every time feminists attack the sex industry somebody is compelled to butt in and tell us that “we are not dealing with what really matters”. My opinion on the subject hasn’t changed: the sex industry, especially in it’s everyday manifestation of pr0n, advertising, entertainment, media, et al, and it’s spilling over as the “beauty” industry, that’s fashion, dieting, looks, et al, is the only remaining ideological tool with which women are being oppressed in the realm of the superstructure. (And all this theory is way out of my league!). What on Earth am I trying to say? Simple. The message still is “women, stay in your place”, because women must, at all costs, stay in their place. But now they can’t come out and say it like that. The religious arguments don’t hold much water in rich, liberal democratic societies. The biological determinist idea that women are just not good at the “big stuff” has been reduced to shreds through decades of feminist theorizing, researching and probably Margaret Thatcher. The arrangement of woman as “mother and homemaker” can’t apply anymore, because now every adult human is needed in the labour market to keep productivity high and wages low. To recap. “Women are not as good as men because Christ wasn’t a woman”, crossed. “Women are just not as good as men, they are not rational, intelligent, whatever”, crossed. “A woman’s place is in the home”, crossed. What are we left with? “Women are just good for sh*gging”. Or pretty things to look at.

Back to the article, I have to say it does bring up something that crossed my mind when I was watching the documentary: sure, sure, the sex industry should be killed with fire, but… what about the other stuff? There’s not even a hint of a critique of capitalism. I can’t remember anyone acknowledging that not every human being, or every feminist for that matter, lives in London.

That said, I am getting increasingly tired of everyone and their dog using the “where are the working class women” card to attack feminism, of the second wave or the third one. Feminism doesn’t have monopoly rights over forgetting the working class. And it most certainly isn’t the only movement to forget working class women. To put it bluntly, feminism forgot about the working class just as the Left forgot about women. There’s enough guilt to spread around.
And if we’re going to be painfully honest, the Left has forgotten about the working class as well. Deprived of its core ideology, that is, the economy, it has been left rumbling about like an undead corpse, kept alive exclusively by debates over politically correct language and multiculturalism. Hardly conducive of revolutionary change. And if you ask uneducated, ignorant, old me, this is too similar to what feminism has been reduced to, that is, focus on the culture and the ideas, the “superstructure”, and leave the “base” intact.

What we have in our hands is the conflict of how to go about changing the root of the problem when all we can see is its effect on the surface. Feminists attack the discursive ideas of women as sex objects because that’s where we see misogyny and oppression taking place. In reality it stems from some place else, but what that is or where exactly it’s located, we have no clue.
The traditional Left, however, has known what it needs to do to revolutionize society for more than a century. What’s their (our) excuse?

I’m beginning to think that women’s oppression and worker’s oppression share a common root, and that both should be tackled at the same time. These ideas are too fresh in my mind, however, to write about them as of yet.

Before you go, take a look at this article on a seemingly entirely unrelated topic, “Yes, striking is a human right”. There’s this one word that got me thinking…

“The real question we should be asking is not why do people strike, but why they do not do so more often? To respond by saying that workers are all happy bunnies compared with their forebears would not be the right answer.”

Could the sex industry and capitalism have more in common than we previously thought?

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And THAT Is How It’s Done

Behold, fellow Feminists! Battles are being won before our very eyes! Or at least in Iceland.

“Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.”

Simple and to the point. Wasn’t so hard, now, was it?

Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation based in Reykjavik that campaigns against sexual violence, (said):

“I guess the men of Iceland will just have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.”

This feminist victories in Iceland remind me of the expansion of women’s rights in Spain in the last decade. And all it took was a government that was committed to equality and had the outrageous conviction that domestic violence was unacceptable.

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The Misterious Case Of Apathy Amongst The Young

Here we go again…
To set the mood for the impending election, we are being reminded, once again, that the youth of today is apathetic when it comes to politics. It’s part and parcel of the old tradition of electoral politics. As timely as the cries about the infamous “War On Christmas” come November.
And it’s not the exclusive purview of Britain either. Most countries in the world where there’s even the pretence of democracy and elections seem to suffer from a case of “apathetic youth”. And of course, the best way to fight back this apathy is to blame its victims for it. How dare the young not care about politics! People have (changes to deep voice with echo effects) died (voice changes back) for their right to vote… They have actually (dramatic voice on) died (dramatic voice off)… What everyone seems to forget is that people fought for the right to vote when voting actually made a difference. Now it doesn’t. For reference, see the last two terms of the Labour government.

But let’s focus on this “apathy”. It’s difficult to make the youth apathetic since this is, traditionally, the time in people’s lives when they are most rebellious and hopeful that change is possible. Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and since it has happened we might as well try to figure out how.

Case 1. I’m thirteen and entering high school for the very first time. The teacher for Civic Education asks us for ideas on how we could improve the working of our high school. Goody, you might think. I was already cynical by then and so, unlike everyone else, I suggested what I thought was the simplest and easiest change I could think of: the starting time of PE. Once a week we would finish morning classes at a quarter to one, but had to get to the PE gymnasium by two o’clock. We had to run to the bus stop and catch a bus to the next town (said bus being paid with our own money, of course) and then get a bollocking for being late. You know what my teacher said? That the timetable was already set for the year and there was nothing that could be done about it. Point taken.

Case 2. Second year of University. Shortly after the year starts classes are supposed to assign two delegates who will take complains and suggestions to members of staff in one big meeting. One of the issues raised that year was the blackboard in our maths lecture room, approximately the size of a stamp post, as one lecturer charmingly put it. Can you imagine solving big, bulky, long and tedious equations in a teeny, tiny blackboard? After the meeting I talk to my delegate, who tells me that the issue was discussed at length (though apparently it was more about the merits of the old technique of using a blackboard versus the modern approach of using projectors). In the end, nothing was done. We didn’t get a bigger blackboard, and we weren’t assigned a different lecture room.

Case 3. Last year of University. For some bizarre reason, the location of the lecture rooms seemed to have been assigned totally at random and, at the same time, purposefully designed to cover the whole campus. This time the fricking lecturer complained about it. In came the second term and things only got worse. Not only were our lectures taking place anywhere and everywhere, but the exact location of the coming lecture was a well guarded secret until the very last minute, sometimes guarded even afterwards. I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, I would say to myself, on my last year at university and I’m running around not knowing where my lecture room is like a fresh student on her first week.

What do we learn from this? That change doesn’t happen. Any change, no matter how small, is, by definition, too big to take place. What’s the excuse? Shortage of money? Was my high school short of time? Was my University short of blackboards or lecture rooms? No. But they both were short of power. Power has become so centralized that it’s impossible now, even for large swathes of society, to effect any change. Very few people control almost everything, while the rest of us control practically nothing.

But while power has been gathering into fewer and fewer hands, something very peculiar has been going on. We are being told left, right and centre that “our opinion matters”; “Your call is important to us”; “If you have any suggestions…”. Every self respecting business has a complaint form ready to be filled out or a suggestion box ready to be filled in. There are polls asking every opinion anyone has ever had about almost anything. We are constantly being invited to take part in some survey to improve some service or other. At the end of every University term, students are asked to rate their lecturers. In my own workplace, there’s a flyer with a telephone number and the invitation to call and give our opinions.
But does it work? Do our complaints ever get anywhere? Are our voices being heard? The answers can be found in a single Dilbert comic strip: a paper is introduced in the box labelled “suggestions” which contains a shredding machine.

The drip-drip effect of this constant bombardment with opportunities to voice our discontent coupled with the very real fact that there are less and less aspects of our lives under our control leads, inevitably, to feelings of apathy. If our opinions matter but nothing ever gets changed it must be because either it cannot be changed or nobody really wants it to change. Asking for bigger blackboard is just too much. And besides, I must be the only one who wants it. Well, me and the lecturer.

What’s the solution to all of this? Going back to the right to vote and the people who (dramatic voices on) died (dramatic voices off) for it, I gather we have been looking at it upside down. The right to vote wasn’t so important that people died for it, but rather it was important because people died for it. Nowadays nobody has to die for the privilege of casting their vote; it’s a right that’s granted to us free of charge. Which translates into “it’s practically useless”. If we want to effect real change we would be better off looking at the things people would have to die for.

In the meantime, how about we stop blaming young people for turning out precisely the way the world wants them to?

As for me, what can I say? I can’t vote in this country, I’m not British 😀

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The Powerful Oppressed Paradox

I seem to have run into a paradox that I can’t solve for the life of me. It goes something like this.
It is by all acknowledged that in the past, in the industrialized nations, workers were far more oppressed than they are now. They had no rights, they were paid starvation wages, they had to work 10s of hours a day. So far, I get it. But here comes the question: if their oppression was so extreme, how could they gather the force to change their conditions so drastically? Particularly when we compare it with the world of work today. We see less oppression, but at the same time, not much is going on in trying to stop it. This will mean that, yes, in the long run, things will get worse.

This paradox takes a very similar form in the case of women’s liberation. It is by all acknowledged that in the past, in the industrialized nations, women were far more oppressed than they are now. And yet… they managed to organize and get laws passed. We all know that the women’s movement was more powerful when things were worse.

I am by no means the first person to point this out. I’ve seen it in the following form:

How is it possible that in the past women could fight for their rights and today women cannot even keep the rights they already have?

The case of abortion comes to mind. In the past, abortion was legalized. Today, we cannot even keep it legal.

Does anyone know what the solution to this paradox is? Were people in the past more oppressed at the same time as they were more empowered? Or is that a contradiction in terms?

Answers on a postcard.

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What About Abortion, Ireland?

Ireland

“laws allowing transsexuals to be recognised in their acquired gender are likely to go before the Dáil next year following demands from the Green Party”

Meanwhile, abortion continues to be illegal in Ireland.

Cat McIlroy of TENI, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, expressed this new trend in politics perfectly when she said:

“she hopes the Government can see this as a human rights issue: “Having your identity validated and respected by the Government and the rest of your peers is important for everyone,” “

Of course. Now the right to bodily autonomy, that is irrelevant. Most certainly not a human rights issue.

What exactly do I mean when I call this the new trend in politics? I’m not sure yet, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that nowadays the only thing that matters in the fight for social justice is people’s “identity”. How do you identify yourself? Is society respectful enough of your chosen identity? Are you allowed to be who you want to be? Boring old (fart) things like wage slavery, poverty, and the right to not have the hands of the State in your womb, are entirely irrelevant, because all problems can magically go away if you focus on your identity and express your true self.  

I blame identity politics. And liberals. Goodness, I hate liberals.

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Y El Aborto Para Cuando

(the title of this post is in Spanish, and means, roughly, “When abortion?”) (yes, the original is not proper grammar either)

Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, has just legalized same sex marriage.

Abortion continues to be illegal throughout the country. And the whole of latin america.

Something here is very wrong.

When the news programme reported that the courts were considering to do this, my Dad said: “Va a haber matrimonio gay antes de haber aborto”. Which means, “Is there going to be gay marriage before abortion?”. Yes, my Dad is the best.

My own reaction upon hearing that the courts had done this was more succint: “F*UCK”.

I repeat, something here is very wrong. I blame identity politics.

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Who Gets To Be Objective?

Melissa has written a post that has shaken the heart of the feminist blogosphere. Or at least mine. It is so spot-on, it hurts. Literally. And you can count me amongst the many who had their inner voices screaming “yes” at each word we read. I agree with it wholeheartedly, 100%.
I only take issue with one minor detail.

(…) intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation (…). And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn’t make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.

Men don’t just have a different perspective. When it comes to women, men are not “objective”.
First, the obvious reason why men cannot possibly be objective is because they have every vested interest in the continued oppression of women. They are the beneficiaries of women’s oppression and the ones who carry it out. They are, in short, the oppressors. If the oppressed don’t get to be “objective” when it comes to their own oppression, then neither do the oppressors. You are raised as an oppressor or as an oppressed. Either way, your views are going to be subjective. Either you take issue with patriarchy because it screws you up, or you don’t take issue with patriarchy because it makes your life cozy.

I pick on the idea of objectivity because I am too tired of having everyone and their dog thinking that they can be “objective” when it comes to feminism, whereas I, a feminist, cannot be because, of course, I am a feminist. Would they say the same thing to a physicist? “You are a physicist, you are biased towards physics, so you cannot possibly be objective”. What about doctors? “You are a doctor, you are biased towards medicine, so you cannot possibly be objective”. Not that long ago I read/heard somewhere that a considerable number of “important medicine people” got together to ask the government to stop dumping so much money on alternative therapies that have been scienterrifically proven to not work and instead dump said money on important medicine. Oh, I couldn’t possibly imagine why you, important medicine people, would want more money to be invested on important medicine. I’m sure it’s inspired by your deep concern for all the sick people of the world. (Note: people are looking for alternatives because the traditional important medicine doesn’t bloody work.)
This is how it works: if you are oppressed, your views towards your own oppression will be subjective and consist, mostly, of “hey, I don’t want to be oppressed!”. Which means your views cannot be trusted, they are subjective. But whose views can we trust then?

The truth is that objectivity is the prerogative of those in power. It either preserves the status quo or actively serves their interests.

Here’s an example I read yesterday from Derrick Jensen’s “A Language Older Than Words”, in reference to the massacre decline in numbers of Australian Aborigines:

“We would read in scientific journals the reason for this decline: “the races who rest content in … placid sensuality and unprogressive decrepitude, can hardly hope to contend permanently in the great struggle for existence with the noblest division of the human species … The survival of the fittest means that might-wisely used-is right. And thus we invoke and remorselessly fulfil the inexorable law of natural selection when exterminating the inferior Australian.””

I bet these scientists thought they were being objective. They are quoting “natural selection”, how could they not be! Members of the dominating race don’t have a race, and so they can be objective when it comes to race.
Another example: the president of the US talks about how the Free Market is the best thing ever in creating wealth. Can anyone think of anybody less capable of objectivity? The classes who benefit from the current economic system are the only ones who can be objective when it comes to the current economic system. The rest of us are “jealous” that we are not rich like them and think that if we cannot be rich then nobody should. Damn right!

Objectivity lies at the core of scientific thought which in turn lies at the core of modern civilization. And it’s plain wrong. No one can abstract hirself enough to be “objective”. It’s predicated on the idea that the person looking in, the scientist, can put hirself in God’s place, high above the rest of us, look down and pass judgement. It’s a poisonous concept that has done a great job at allowing for the continued destruction of the planet and all who live in.

But if we don’t have objectivity, then what are we left with? Why, subjectivity, of course. On the matter of women’s oppression we should ask those who spend their lives experiencing women’s oppression, ie: women. On the matter of race we should ask those members of the oppressed races. On the matter of economy, we should ask those who live with the inevitable reality of the creation of wealth through the free market: the poor.
Once you get used to it, subjectivity feels natural and right. Let’s go back to Melissa’s post. By the time I finished writing this, she had gotten 221 comments. Most express gratitude for putting into words what we all feel but can’t articulate. A few say her post brought tears to their eyes. All of them are positive. This kind of reaction can only mean one thing: Melissa is right. Call me naïve, but I believe that tears are a good indicator that we are in the presence of truth. I cannot think of one occasion in which someone cried over a scienterrific research paper in a scienterrific magazine.
And if you are suspecting that there is a link between subjectivity and emotions and their subsequent dismissal from the dominant ideology in favour of objectivity, cold logic and reason, then you’d probably be right. But this post is too long already.

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