Friday, July 25, 2008
There are too few blogs moderated by men with discussions leading to activism that seek an end to rape and racism, to name but two atrocities.
This will be a space to report news and have constructive, pro-activist (not elitist academic or abstract) discussion about how to dismantle white supremacist, ecocidal Western patriarchal societies and the ideologies and violence that bolsters and defines them. I hope what appears here is useful to radical activists, particularly to Womanists and feminists.
No comments will be accepted that promote misogynistic/male supremacist, racist/white supremacist/anti-Indigenist, homophobic/heterosexist, ecocidal or other pro-oppression, pro-"death culture" stances and actions. The goal is to compost CRAP: Corporate Racist Atrocious Patriarchy; I'm a sucker for pithy acronyms--what can I say?
I am a white, gay, class-privileged Westernized man. I have many of the privileges and entitlements that come with being a man, being white, not being raised in poverty, not being physically disabled, and not being a child or very elderly. I also benefit by having English as a first language in an English-speaking region of the world, and by having an "education", as defined by Academics. (I do not equate "being educated" with being wise, knowledgeable, perceptive, or intelligent. Some of the most ignorant people I know have a graduate degree.)
I find the Internet to be a particularly despicable place, often. It has taken me years to decide to have a blog, because I never wanted to be committed to being here as often as bloggers are, if attending to their blogs regularly and responsibly. Not that this news is going to shock anyone, but cyberplace is filled with industry-produced pornography, and also has many misogynistic, racist, and misopedic websites and web networks designed by men, predominantly white men, to participate in and gain pleasure from the rape and torture of women and girls. (Boys, trans, and intersex folks are also made into objects of abuse also at these sites and within these networks.)
As for my own history of participation in white male supremacist activities:
I once used what used to be termed soft-core pornography; I have never enjoyed pornography portraying "sex acts" between people--or between people and nonhuman animals. And I haven't spent any money on pornography in a very long time, and never online; I used to look at some "adult" magazines geared to gay men, and later at Internet images--still and video--of young men jerking off, or going "solo" as it's put in gay sex website lingo. I endeavor not to look at these images and videos again. Will I ever seek them out? We'll see. I'll state here if and when I do. Putting this statement out to you is one form of accountability.
My experience of heterosexual men who use industry pornography is that they are threatening to women's self-esteem and dignity, interpersonally, at least. I don't give gay men a pass because we don't desire to look at images of objectified women. Gay pornography, as has been noted especially by Christopher Kendall, contains all the elements and values of a racist, patriarchal, consumerist sexuality. Replacing an image of a Photoshopped woman, presented as if she has no history or intellect, with a Photoshopped man, presented similarly, doesn't make those images liberating or radically empowering; the fact that they now proliferate commercial mass media is a sign industry pornographers have done one part of their job, with a healthy paycheck to prove it.
I have engaged two younger men in physical-sexual contact since being an adult: all the sexual contact I had before becoming an adult was with age peers, was consensual, with fellow teenagers, or was in the category of sexual abuse of me by men. Given that the law doesn't understand the limits or subtleties of meaningful consent, only the abuse done to me would be actionable in court; the abuse I did to others would not be. This tells us a lot about the lack of social understanding of what abuse is and how it is accomplished. While I have never used physical force or overt coercion, restraints, drugs, or alcohol, to obtain sexual contact with another person, I have used forms of manipulative seduction that were geared to appear and be experienced by the other person as non-threatening; no one I've had sex with was afraid of me or is afraid of me; I say this not based on self-serving speculation, but on the non-sexual verbal contact I have since had with each individual I abused, which has included me owning what I did to them as abuse, apologizing for it, and them accepting my apology. While I had the means to use my entitlements, privileges, and power to obtain sex in a more overtly abusive way, I didn't do so because I didn't desire to do so. We men generally don't do what we don't desire to do, when it comes to sexual activity. And we are able to do what we do because we have the means to do it, including interpersonal and social systems of secrecy and mandatory complicity.
I am not presenting myself as someone incapable of sexual abuse, only as someone who has taken it upon myself, with full accountability to feminist friends and colleagues, to make sure it doesn't happen again: for example, I don't put myself in situations and locations where I might be tempted to objectify young (or older) men, for example; I don't have a home computer in part for that reason. For the last several years I have been celibate: there isn't an active sexuality that exists yet that I find compelling to participate in. I am gay-identified because of two things: I only desire to be sexual with men, and I see individual women as full human beings, not as body parts or things who exist for my pleasure.
There are many ways to harm women of all colors and men of color, of course, beyond sexual contact. And being celibate doesn't mean a man, in my case, cannot objectify others in violating ways. I do not practice objectification by interrupting any early stage of doing so. Objectification is a political action, not a genetic imperative. To those heterosexual [or gay] men who say, "Objectifying women [or men] is natural and inevitable" I say: Given my own experience and my work with other men, I believe you are wrong, and are self-servingly making excuses for continuing a behavior that sexually pleases you, at the expense of others' humanity.
As for other ways of being abusive, I can, on occasion, raise my voice or withdraw from conversation in frustration, hurt, and anger; I am not, generally, "a yeller." I don't like being part of loud discussions with voices raised.
I find myself feeling really irritable and annoyed when around white people and/or men with class privilege who proclaim liberal perspectives on the world while believing them to be politically useful or responsible, and that irritability is usually intuitively picked up by those around me, regardless of whether or not I speak or withdraw from the conversation. I am told that my non-verbal "energy" speaks loud and clear, and can be intimidating or have a shaming effect on those around me--leaving them with a sense of "I am wrong", or "I am bad". As I wish to engage constructively with others, I choose to not be that social, as I do not expect all my family and friends to see things from a radical perspective; and given that I also do not always see things from radical perspectives (meaning striving to get to the roots of the social-political matter) can get irritated with myself. I welcome my own lapses into liberalism or other forms of political ignorance being pointed out to me; my radical activist friends know this. But I live in a liberal society; it is easiest to maintain a liberal perspective on the world because it doesn't threaten the oppressor's worldview, nor does it demand that someone with privileges deal responsibly with the political consequences of her or his own behavior.
White men's conservatism, in the U.S., is currently alarmingly close to fascism. I oppose it as well. It is ridiculous to me that feminists, any feminists, are called "feminazis" by men. Men who use this term seriously are utterly delusional about what fascism is and has been; they obviously have never been on the receiving end of fascistic policies and practices or they don't recognize them as fascistic. (Some white men with graduate degrees use that term, feminazi, as if it made sense or had social meaning: this alone shows how little one can learn spending years in an academic setting.)
I have never struck another person in anger, or with the intention of harming them, except my older brother (who had cooties and I think still does). When we were little and he was picking on me, including physically, I would sometimes strike back, hitting his arm or shoulder. My efforts at self-defense had pathetic and harmless results: no injuries to him, no "ouch" exclaimed by him, nor even a halt to his behavior. I'm just not a physical fighter. There were and are names for boys-to-men like me, and they range from pansy to pacifist. It occurs to me now how humorously ironic it is that the word "fist" appears in the term pacifist. Ah, English: a language from a culture and civilization known for what Marimba Ani, in her astoundingly important book, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior (1994) terms its "rhetorical ethic." This ethic, she makes clear, is made socially real in oppressive action; it is not simply a problem of saying things one doesn't mean. White Westerners say one thing while doing another, with atrocious and horrific results. To learn more about her book, please go to the following website, which, in the lower left, includes link to chapters one and six of the book. Chapter six contains an extensive analysis of that ethic, see here.
I'll close for now.