Writeup of Feminism and Race workshop (Aug 2012)

(Dear FAC, apologies for the long delay in publishing this! I’ve been reminded that it needed doing after the very timely response to the recent review.)

Structure of the session

  • We shared experiences in which we felt we had been treated unfairly
  • We made and discussed a list of ways in which women are oppressed relative to men, asking ‘why?’ or ‘what is the history?’
  • We made and discussed a list of ways in which Black and minority ethnic people in the UK are oppressed relative to white people in the UK, asking ‘why?’ and ‘what is the history or institutional basis?’
  • We found some parallels and related aspects on these lists
  • We discussed ways of taking anti-racist work forward into the future

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“Identity Politics” and “The Left”: a brief rant

“Identity politics” is a disparaging term used by people on “The Left” to talk about all forms of oppression that do not directly and specifically affect heterosexual white men. It includes struggles against all the forms and manifestations of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat hatred, sexism, misogyny, and many others besides.

We frequently hear the complaint that “Identity Politics” is destroying the unity of “The Left”. But that unity never existed, except in the imaginations of those who struggle against class-based oppression while simultaneously ignoring, minimizing, or outright denying the existence of every other form of oppression.

Whenever I hear

Identity politics are destroying the unity of The Left.

I mentally translate it to

Why can’t everyone just do what I want? You brown people and women and queers are ruining everything with your pesky demands that I act like your lives and experiences actually matter. Waaaaaaaaaaaaah. (Throws toys out of crib.)

And most of the time, that seems to fit.

See for example:

Privilege Politics is Reformism
Independent Working Class Association: Multiculturalism & identity politics – the reactionary consequences and how they can be challenged
New Statesman: The problem with privilege-checking

Discuss.


A feminist response to Michael Albert’s visions for the Occupy Movement

This is an XKCD comic which I modified. Panel 1: A man stands next to an open box holding a growling cat. A woman says 'What are you doing?' and the man replies 'Making the world a weirder place.' Panel 2: The man is wrapping tape around the box, with the cat inside it. The man says: 'Starting with my EBAY feedback page'. Panel 3: A bruised person surrounded by debris sits at a computer, typing. In the original comment it said 'Instead of office chair package contained bobcat.', but I've altered it to say 'Instead of feminism package contained Patriarchy'. Panel 4: Same image as panel 3, with the person typing: 'Would not buy again.'

Background

This post is a review of two free ebooks: “Occupy Theory” by Michael Albert and Mandisi Majavu (PDF), and “Occupy Vision” by Michael Albert and Mark Evans (PDF). As the names suggest, these books are being put forward as a potential unifying ideology for the Occupy movement, and for the anti-capitalist movement more generally. The ideas in these books also form an ideological basis for the International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS).

A key figure in all this is Michael Albert, an academic and lifelong activist who co-authored both books. In the dedication to “Occupy Theory”, it’s made clear that the ideas in this book are being put forward as a potential unifying ideology for both the IOPS, and for the Occupy movement itself.

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Do 385,000 people really oppose gay marriage?

Poll reveals public unease about plans to redefine marriage” [1] reads the headline on a Christian online publication. This is certainly the impression the Coalition for Marriage has tried to create with their petition to deny gay couples the right to marry. This petition received a flurry of press attention, but does this translate to a real groundswell of grassroots support?

Ben Goldacre (of Bad Science fame) checked out the petition website and found it odd that there is so little information about who is behind it:

But who are the Coalition For Marriage? They don’t say.

http://c4m.org.uk/aboutus/

The Coalition for Marriage is an umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it.

The Coalition is backed by politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders. It reaches out to people of all faiths and none, who believe that marriage is the most successful partnership in history and should not be redefined.

But I can’t find a list anywhere, in any of the coverage, press release, anything.

Googling the address: “C4M, 8 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL” it looks like they are in the same building as the Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship.

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Whatever we do, it’s wrong – so let’s do it right


When I told a friend that I was going to write an article about the fact that “whatever we do, it’s wrong”, we realized after a few minutes of slightly chaotic dialogue that we didn’t mean the same thing. I meant that whatever a woman does with her sexuality, she is judged and criticized for it. And my friend thought that I meant that whatever, as feminists, we do, it’s never completely right and satisfactory, because it’s never truly intersectional.

I first thought it was a misunderstanding, and we moved on. Then I thought that it was a meaningful misunderstanding, and that I had to take it into account as such: as a sign from the god that doesn’t exist (or from my friend) that my politics are not intersectional enough. And now I think that even though I didn’t think so when it happened, my friend and I were talking about the same thing. Or rather, I should have considered that we were talking about the same thing even though I didn’t. Because we were both talking about how to fight domination – any domination, including the one we exercise on other people, on other women whom we call sisters and who could legitimately call us enemies. I should have considered that we were talking about the same thing because MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT. I cannot separate the two; writing about one means writing about the other, otherwise, yes, it is bullshit.

In this article, I first address various inventive patriarchal criticisms of my sexual and affective behaviour, and then try to make a link between the fact that all these criticisms are very hurtful whoever utters them, and the necessity for my feminism to be truly radical and intersectional.

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Musings on safer spaces and free speech

Trigger warning for homophobic and racist violence and bullying.

I remember being told as a kid that I should be grateful that I lived in a country where there was freedom of speech. No-one would be arrested for writing a book or newspaper article, and no-one had to fear being arrested for criticizing the government. We were free to say anything we wanted.

Even as a kid, I knew it wasn’t really true that you could say whatever you wanted. I had already learned that if I mentioned the not believing in god thing to anyone other than my parents, the person would likely get extremely angry and upset. (And it was best not to tell my parents that I sometimes went to church with my friend’s family on Sunday after a Saturday night sleep-over, because it would lead to a half-hour grilling to determine whether or not I was being indoctrinated into Christianity).

There were so many secrets that hiding things was second nature. If I’d told my school friends that I secretly wasn’t that attracted to Corey Haim*, but thought Micheal Jackson was cool, I would have been punished with social exclusion. Micheal Jackson was considered to be ‘gay’ among my friends (who I suspect had only the haziest idea of what the word ‘gay’ meant, and mostly used it as a synonym for ‘bad’). And then there was the fact that I spent large amounts of time making up elaborate stories in my head, completely ignoring the world around me – I always knew that there would be trouble if I revealed that to anybody.

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Ladybird and Fox vs. Anarchism

If you prefer to read text rather than squinting at an image, there’s a transcript at the bottom.

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