Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Writing Off (And NOT Writing Off) White Radical Lesbian Feminist Sheila Jeffreys

 [photograph of Sheila Jeffreys is from here]

What is missing from much supposedly "intelligent critical thinking" that white men are so renowned for accomplishing, is the capacity, it appears, to even engage with ideas that critique patriarchy at all. Radical political thinkers' work has limitations: like that of Noam Chomsky, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze. But I know academic white het men who have mental orgasms reading and discussing their ideas and perspectives (seemingly endlessly) on political and social reality. "Limitation" is endemic among white radical men's writing especially when considering and centering the perspectives of political philosophers who are women--Indigenous women, lesbian women, and women of color, for example. I do not know of one single (not one) white het man who has read Yurugu, by Dr. Marimba Ani. I know of no white men who have concerned themselves with the work of Patricia Hill Collins. Or Mary Daly. (Amazon won't even list her books on their "Mary Daly Page"!) Or Winona LaDuke.

Or Sheila Jeffreys. (Amazon also cannot seem to figure out how to list all of Jeffreys' work on their "Sheila Jeffreys Page".) I do know a few men who have read and appreciated the work of Audre Lorde and Andrea Dworkin, although I question the extent to which they comprehend the meaning of the writings or appreciate the complexity of the authors' ideas.

There is a blatant double standard and gross misogynist (and also racist) and anti-lesbian bias I find among "academically trained" white het male and white gay and queer men. And I've never it seen adequately challenged by other white men. Whole academic fields, disciplines, courses, and seminars, as well as community organising and resistance, are built upon the severely flawed ideas of Great White Het (and Gay) Men. But when the "great thinker" is a woman, in this post focusing on one white radical feminist lesbian woman, she is generally dismissed by most white men for no legitimate reasons at all that some inane dismissive remark like "she hates men". This concern for "writers who hate a gender" doesn't seem to stop the allegedly brilliant white boys from pondering the intellectual efforts of pro-patriarchal misogynists.

In the cases of writers like Mary Daly and Sheila Jeffreys, white boys typically and predicktably take one bit of something either writer once wrote, use that as "representative" of ALL of her ideas, and rid themselves of the necessity to engage thoughtfully with the bulk and main points of the work, the philosophies, the political challenges to patriarchal (male supremacist) harm, privileges, entitlements, and power. I find this to be true among men of color as well. Men of color will expect white women to read the philosophical and political works of great men of color, but let a white woman hand a man of color a book by Daly or Jeffreys and watch the look on their faces. It is more or less like the look on white men's faces. This wouldn't be because men don't want to deal with their patriarchal methods of harming women, with male privileges, entitlements, and power, would it?

You have one guess whose interests are served by men writing off radical lesbian feminists of any color. (The answer sounds and looks a lot like the word "MEN's".)

See the video below for a THOUGHTFUL discussion on the matter of reading the work of Sheila Jeffreys. I challenge white men and men of color to be at least as thoughtful and considerate in their readings of her work as they are of their much adored Great Male Thinkers. And, yes, that will mean men will have to start by reading her work with masculinist defenses checked before opening the front cover.

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