Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why do we write Queer Theory? For whose liberation? Investigating Below The Belt for answers

image of book cover is from here

Ironically, I've been listening to some Barbra Streisand music lately. Contrary to stereotype, this isn't a normal pastime for me. In keeping with stereotype, I believe Barbra Streisand has one of the most FABULOUS contemporary voices in popular white music.

The discussion below takes on queer theory and the matter of genocide, among other things. It also discusses the work of Andrea Dworkin. So what with all the issues related to Jewish survival historically, I thought the above image suited this post. But "the genocide" discussed below by me is not that of the Jews in Nazi Germany. It is the current one, against Indigenous Peoples globally. That Theory-Q fails to identify this current genocide as a genocide deeply concerns and alarms me, and also points out, I think, what is so unhelpful about so much Queer Theory, and most other non-queer theory too: its writers refuse to engage with reality, instead discussing reality as if it were only some idea, imagined perhaps, or made real only through an inflection of language, not through the infliction pain and power.

This just in from Below the Belt: a post in response to some challenges I brought, hopefully respectfully, to Theory-Q. This response appears in its entirety below, and you may click on the title to link back to its appearance at the source blog.

Below Theory-Q's post are my responses, interspersed between passages of what you're about to read not so obnoxiously interrupted by moi.

Fair warning: If I press "post" and this goes public, and the formatting is off, I may not correct it. This was annoying to try to configure as a post--waaaay longer and more tedious than most recent posts I've done, and I'm not really up for going over all of it again, paragraph by paragraph, to make sure spacing and such is all as it should be for easiest legibility. Please forgive me my lapse in attention to such details. 

12.28.2010

What Do You Wish To Do - About Rape, Genocide, and Poverty - on Below the Belt?

This post comes out of a lively debate about the differences between radical activism and academia that I have been having with fellow-blogger Julian Real. The discussion started after I posted some comments on Andrea Dworkin's book, Pornography, which you can read here. To see Julian's response to my original post, please click here. And also click here, to read my answer to Julian, as well as his reply. The post below starts by attempting to answer the following question that Julian posed: What do you wish to do about rape, genocide, and poverty on Below the Belt?

Below the Belt can do a limited number of things about rape, genocide and poverty. Only about 30% of the world's population currently has access to the Internet and an even smaller percentage of Internet users speak English. Therefore, on a global scale, Below the Belt cannot directly affect the lives of the poorest people and the most oppressed - those who have to struggle on a daily basis for survival, for food, water, shelter, and freedom from bodily harm. Its immediate impact is limited to those who have access to the Internet and to those who are fluent in English. This is, on a world scale, a relatively wealthy minority. And I think all bloggers should be conscious of this - whatever they publish online is only directly accessible to a small number of people, usually those who are rich enough to have the Internet, a global "elite" of sorts. This is not to say that groups and individuals within this "elite" are not subject to systematic rape, poverty, or the risk of being killed, but that they are (relatively speaking) in a privileged position vis-a-vis the majority of humans around the world.

Does this mean that Below the Belt and other blogs can do absolutely nothing about the worst forms of oppression? I do not think so. We can influence the way that those who are relatively privileged think and act towards the most oppressed and towards issues of oppression. I cannot speak for everyone on Below the Belt (we have a variety of writers - all with different goals), but in my writing, I want to do two things: (1) to examine and critique ideas that form the foundation for oppressive practices, with the aim of getting people to think about how they think about the world; and (2) to provide an introduction to some issues in gender studies, feminism, queer theory, history, and philosophy - a sort of 'Gender Studies 101'.

You might say that this an anti-radical, anti-activist, anti-anti-oppression agenda, but I don't agree. Let's take the issue of genocide. What needs to happen in order for a genocide to occur? There needs to be an elite willing to slaughter an entire group of people, a specialized 'armed group' to carry out the majority of the killings (I'm thinking of the Einsatzgruppen during the holocaust or the Interahamwe in Rwanda), a majority of the non-target population brainwashed into staying silent or participating in the slaughter (with dissenters murdered or tortured), a sufficient military buildup, development of ways of identifying the people to be killed (I.D. cards, badges, and other symbols), an animalization/de-humanization of the target group (in Rwanda, Tutsis were referred to as Inyenzi or cockroaches), assurance that no other state or international organization will intervene to stop the bloodshed etc...

In addition to all of this, and perhaps prior to it, something has to happen at the ideational level. Both the elites organizing the slaughter and the masses co-opted into it need to be able to believe that a certain ethnic/religious/national/gender category is capable of doing things as a group - that the individuals within it are all virtually the same, with the same biological characteristics (usually biologically inferior, but sometimes also with some laudable aspects, e.g. - Hitler occasionally showed admiration for ‘the cunning' of the Jews), and that they have all signed a social contract with each other to support certain nefarious activities against "the state" or against some other entity: "the Jews" or "the Tutsis" or "the Women" or "the Indians" all have the same aims and the same goals, they are all "in league" with each other. Genocide and ethnic cleansing depend to an extent on our capacity to think about large groups in a particular way, to reduce individuals to their collective identities, to believe that ethnic/gender/national etc.. groups can actually behave in unison, all with the same purposes and with the same goals.

What I aim to do on Below the Belt is to criticize conceptions such as these and thereby challenge the ways of thinking that form the foundation for oppressive practices. I want to get people to think about how they think about the world, how they think about others, how they think about other(ed) categories of gender, nationality, race, sex, and ethnicity. This isn't as important as providing material resources (food, shelter, or arms) to people who are at risk of genocide, undermining the flow of such material to the genocidaires, exposing the existence of genocide, mobilizing international public opinion against the actions of the oppressors, or getting international organizations to develop mechanisms for stopping mass slaughter. But it is still a worthwhile endeavor. Genocide will be harder to undertake, harder to justify, and it will be harder to co-opt people into genocide, if ideas about the ontological validity of fundamental national/gender/ethnic/religious characteristics are discredited.

Andrea Dworkin herself recognized that the ways we conceive of the world (the ideas we have about other subjects and objects) are crucial enablers of genocide. In the essay you recommended for me, "Biological Superiority: the World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea," Dworkin rejects matriarchal arguments about the biological superiority of women to men because she recognizes that such a theorization of an entire gendered category could lay the groundwork for genocide against it - this has already happened to women all over the world, would it really be a good thing if something similar could happen to men? I completely agree with Dworkin in this case, but I would extend her argument: it is not just ideas about the biological superiority or inferiority of particular national/ethnic/gendered groups, but sweeping generalizations about the supposed immutable “character” (whether cultural, biological, or political) of these categories that can form the basis for genocide or ethnic cleansing. In practice, the cultural and political generalizations are never really that distinct from the biological generalizations – but ultimately, they can have similar effects.

I realize that there are some serious problems with this argument, because people do do things in groups. I am just now doing some research about Iceland and I’m looking into how, in the 19th Century, wealthy landowning farmers developed a social system which guaranteed them a steady supply of cheap labor. In order to get permission to marry and own land, ordinary people had to earn a certain amount of money, and basically, the only way they could earn it in such an isolated and rural country was to become paid servants to landowning farmers. The farmers collectively kept wages low, which meant that poor Icelanders would have to work for them from at least their mid-teens until their thirties, thus providing a steady supply of cheap labor and keeping their profits high. Clearly, “the landowning farmers” created a social system that functioned to support their material interests. People can and do act collectively – but can they really do so in extremely large groups, such as nations and genders? And what are the consequences of imbuing such big collectives with sweeping generalizations? Does it set the stage for ethnic cleansing or genocide? At what point do broad statements about "group characteristics" become dangerous? I don’t really know how to solve this problem (aside from marshalling the rather primitive distinction between "small" and "big" groups or drawing on the difference between "organized interests" and "identity categories"), and I would appreciate any insights you or other readers may have, as well as any guidance about writers who have tried to wrestle with this issue.

Nevertheless, I do want to note that I have not acquired these ideas about genocide, generalizations, and collective identity through academia, but mainly through the personal experience of living in a context in which genocide and ethnic cleansing were quite close to home. I am, unfortunately, very familiar with the kinds of mindsets and theorizing that it takes to justify mass slaughter of a different nationality. Contrary to your assumptions, I am not from the United States, although I did go to university there. I bring this up because you seem to think that I am invested in the U.S. liberal academic project with my heart and soul, and that all my ideas emanate from it. I realize that my recent writing does give a very academic impression, given how full it is of citations, academic protocol, technical language, and academic authors. But it was never my intention to be a parrot of U.S. academia, and I am sorry to have made myself seem like that.

About the U.S. academic project, I do agree with you that it is, in general, about maintaining the status quo. In many cases, it also directly links into supporting U.S. global hegemony, the spread of capitalism, developing technology for the U.S. military, and a whole host of other atrocities. Nevertheless, I would argue that while academic institutions are thoroughly involved in upholding things as they are, individuals within academia are able to use the resources of their position for liberatory and subversive ends. Being an academic means being bestowed with astounding privilege – with the time to gather information, to read, to think, to write, and to speak on a variety of subjects. It is rarely the intention of the institutions, or the people and organizations that fund them, to allow this level of freedom. And while they often succeed in curtailing it, some individual academics have been able to use the time and money that they have been given as a platform from which to inform people and move them to action.

For example, Judith Butler has spoken and written eloquently about recent conflicts in the Middle East and she has also recently refused a prize at the Berlin Gay Pride Parade, after speaking with Muslim queer activists and hearing their stories of oppression within the German mainstream LGBTQ movement – thus bringing attention to the problem of Islamophobia in queer communities. Many of the people you cite on your blog are academics – bell hooks, Catherine MacKinnon, Patricia Hill Collins – which gives me some hope that there will continue to be space in academia for radical, liberatory voices. Although, as you point out, the situation is getting more difficult, with cuts to public education funding limiting academic posts, with increasing corporate sponsorship of academia, and with the internet providing more opportunities for surveillance and censorship of people’s voices - it seems that the potential for inspirational and transformative education within academia is unfortunately diminishing by the day.

And it has also diminished in the broader society, with the mainstream media cutting off radical activists’ access to the public – in this case, I also very much agree with you. But I don’t think at all that radical activists are bad at expressing themselves, or that the increasing poverty of political discourse is in any way their fault – did I say anything to suggest otherwise? And if I point out that radical critiques of society should indicate pathways for getting out of hell, how is this "seeing what activists do and don’t do as the problem"? Or blaming the victim? I am really not saying that the reason oppression still exists is because of things activists have or have not done. There are many reasons for this – very few of which have to do with the people working practically for change. The reason I like to encourage radicals to develop theories that leave open possibilities for change and to develop solutions for the problems they describe is because not doing so could lead to a resigned pessimism of the following type: "the powers that be are the powers that be, they are evil and all-powerful… but there is little that you and I can do about it, things will most likely stay the same." Noam Chomsky’s writing about U.S. hegemony does this, to an extent. I would argue that Dworkin’s Pornography also risks inspiring such an attitude. But what I am definitely not saying is that it is the fault of people like Noam Chomsky and Andrea Dworkin that things are the way the are.

As you probably gathered from my discussion above, I don’t subscribe to a sharp distinction between "thinking" and "acting." Thinking, reading, and speaking are, in a literal sense, actions. And in order to inspire people to act, you first have to get them to think. The Andrea Dworkin books that I have read are all about showing people a different way of perceiving the world and thinking about it than what is presented to them in the mainstream. It is about exposing the systematized violence and harm that societal discourses generally keep out of view. This inspires people to act – but before they act, they have to think. Otherwise, they would be automatons, robots, flinching instinctively at every juncture. Perhaps this should be the natural response to violence and oppression, perhaps it should not be necessary to think about it, perhaps it should just instinctively feel wrong and inspire a reflex action (akin to burning oneself on a stove). But unfortunately, this does not happen often enough, and in order to realize the reality of racism, patriarchy, genocide, and rape, people have to "un-think" years of socialization. Getting people to think more, to think about how they think, and to think differently is part-and-parcel of inspiring them to act – the two projects cannot be separated.

A similar logic can also be used to deal with this very important question, that you posed:

"I'll bet you that there are far more books on 'how to critique the idea of gender' in Academia right now than there are on "how to end male supremacy". Why? I'd be interested to know why you think that is the case, and what the function of such anti-activist 'gender discourse' is, politically/socially?"

I do agree that, right now, books and articles on "critiquing the idea of gender" are much more prominent in academia than work on ‘how to end male supremacy’. There are a variety of reasons for this. Firstly, I think that a number of feminist theorists have adopted the view that male supremacy and female subordination may be embedded in the way we conceive of gender itself. The way that the binary gender system sets up males and females as inevitable "polar opposites" and embeds oppressive distinctions between the sexes such as strong/weak, big/small, powerful/powerless, basically assures a priori that females will be oppressed. Since females are portrayed – by definition – as the opposite of males, the discourse will ensure that they remain "the second sex." I have dealt with this issue in some of my previous posts (see "Gender As Discourse," and "Strong Man, Weak Woman"). I don’t think that activists and academics who have moved towards critiquing the idea of gender do not care about ending the subordination of women – they are looking for the root causes of it. Undermining modern discourses about gender, and encouraging the creation of a gendered world that transcends the current binary is, in my view, not a separate project from combating male domination.

Secondly, the popularity of "critiquing the idea of gender" also has to do with increased concern for ending violence against people who do not identify within the binary gender system and those who do not meet expectations of masculinity and femininity. Transgender people and others who fall outside the current gender structure cannot even claim an existence for themselves under the current rules, and feminine men and masculine women live in constant terror of the threat of violence. However, it is important to note that the violence is aimed disproportionately at feminine men, transfeminine people and at femininity in general, which suggests that homophobia and sissyphobia are basically misogyny, enacted on male-bodied people. This is not to say that masculine women and transmasculine people do not face their own struggle against violence, but that the attacks on femininity are often much more intense, savage, and systematic. Some feminists, by focusing on the category of "woman" as the sole subject of feminism, ended up not paying enough attention to those who do not identify as either men or women or who are identified by others as somehow not in line with these categories.

Nevertheless – I do see how post-structuralist critiques of the idea of gender can be almost completely irrelevant in the context of, for example, a rape crisis center, female genital mutilation, or the fostering of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. For the raped and battered woman, gender is unfortunately all too real and dithering on about its social construction may not be helpful (although, admittedly, understanding gender as a product of oppressive social forces, rather than natural instincts, may help to deal with the trauma). Ultimately, while the “here-and-now” work of ending gendered violence – and violence in general – may draw on some academic ideas, it is not at all dependent on them. And the dominance of the "critiquing the idea of gender" view in academia has served to divert attention away from practical efforts to combat the continuing structural violence against women and feminine persons, from the struggles for liberation waged by feminists around the world, and from the connections between movements for environmental sustainability, racial justice, and women’s survival. Academia has betrayed activism – there is no doubt about this. Academics are, as such, unwittingly complicit with those who wish to continue the violence, the oppression, the hatred, and the murder.

But this does not mean that we should completely discard intellectual responses to oppression! As I outlined in my discussion of genocide above, there is a place for both the practical work of ensuring that mass slaughter does not happen (providing resources to populations likely to be affected, giving out humanitarian aid, developing international institutional mechanisms to prevent genocide) and the intellectual work of critiquing the ideas and world-views that make large-scale killing conceivable and possible in the first place. Ideally, the two should not be separated and they should work in tandem, although I do see how, in a condition of primary emergency, the “here-and-now” work of ensuring the killing is prevented and helping the (potential) victims is more important. I believe that, in academia and in the broader society, there should be a place for practical activist work on ending oppression and for the more theoretical endeavor of thinking about the ideas and conditions that make structural violence possible. It is unacceptable that the former is currently marginalized and this situation needs to be changed.

On the subject of post-structuralism, I don’t think that ideas about the normative foundations for (and functions of) empirical claims are entirely useless for activists. The way that I was laying out my position on this issue was far too depoliticized, and I see how you could have perceived my point of view as fundamentally impractical and nihilistic. When I said that different empirical claims about how the world "is" are tied to normative ideas about how the world "should be," I should have added that empirical world-views are index-linked to specific power-political interests, often buttressing oppressive social structures. Thus, supposedly "empirical" claims about women’s physical and intellectual capacities have served to ensure that women remain physically weaker than men and that they are excluded from academic, scientific and political positions. Activists could therefore use post-structuralist ideas about the connection between ideas about how the world "is" and nefarious political goals in order to undermine the worldviews that form some of the foundations of structural inequality. I certainly don’t think that oppression originates in the improper "exchange" of ideas, nor do I believe that ideas are "freely exchanged." Rather, I would argue that one of the primary ways that structural inequalities of power are maintained is through the propagation of ideas about reality that have the function of upholding them, that make them seem invisible, and that make them appear natural.

In my work, I aim to evaluate claims about "reality" not only on the extent to which are truthful but also on the basis of whose interests and which normative goals they will uphold. I therefore support any depictions of reality which uphold the interests of women, queer folks, indigenous peoples, and non-whites. This does not mean that I view things like whether patriarchy exists or whether American Indians are under assault as "debatable" – and this is a charge that is often thrown at people engaging in post-structuralist analysis: "you doubt whether the sky is really blue and you might even believe that pigs can fly." This is not at all the case, and I think it is a profound misreading of post-structural theory (caused in some cases by the obscurity of the kind of writing this theory inspires). But while there is no need to debate the existence of patriarchy or the oppression of non-whites, there are questions about these phenomena that are definitely worth much consideration, the answers to which will directly impact how they are dealt with: what causes patriarchy? Through which mechanisms does it work? Does it exist in all societies, and if not, under what conditions has it not existed? Why is it currently in place? What are the causes of racism? Why does it exist and how does it work? Getting to the vital issue – "what is to be done?" – first requires thinking about and responding to some of the questions such as the ones I enumerated above.

I am also by no means requesting that Andrea Dworkin and others put forward their positions solely in “this-is-how-I-see-it” terms. I do not see worldviews and theories as being a "personal" thing, with each individual having their own unique way of seeing things. This would be to deny the social nature of knowledge and to make all claims about the world contingent purely on individual experience. Rather, what I noticed in Dworkin’s approach is a long-standing tradition in Western (especially liberal and capitalist) thought of conceptualizing individuals as rational actors, seeking to minimize costs and maximize benefits. I also noticed that, in line with social contract theory, Dworkin imbued very large collectives with the capacity to form informal pacts, think rationally, and operate for their own survival. I am sorry if I gave this impression – but I was not critiquing the views laid out in Pornography because they were Dworkin’s personal views, or because they were the views of a white woman, but rather because those views were based on certain ontological assumptions about human nature and society which have a long and distinguished history in Western philosophy and with which I have disagreements – this is as much a critique of Dworkin as it is a critique of, for example, Adam Smith or Jean-Jacques Rousseau or John Rawls. I was also not criticizing Dworkin’s views so that I, as a "white man" (for the record, I don’t identify as a "man"), can claim objectivity and ownership of the way the world really "is." My post was written in the style of a philosophy-student-cum-wannabe-academic: you might think that this is an oppressive identity to take on, or that this is the identity that "white men" who want to author reality adopt. There is truth to this, but as I described above, there is also a positive side to academic intellectual thought and this is what I want to be a part of on 
Below the Belt. 

*          *          *

This is my response to what appears above:

Hi Theory Q,

First, my apologies for referring to you as a man if you don't identify as one. I welcome you informing me of how you experience yourself, as well as what you know of how you are experienced by the women in your life. I'll note that while I am male and intergender, I am structurally located as man relative to women I know and to any woman I don't know who I may be following on a street at night. I make it a point not to walk behind any women at night, because I know my being is "a man" in social spaces where I am not known intimately--and sometimes even where I am. But structurally, regardless of what my internal experience of myself is, I am made into a man. But I reject it as an emotionally-spiritually-mentally-politically inaccurate term for myself, and wish to respect you doing so also, for whatever reasons you do so. This is, perhaps, a discussion for another post altogether! Also, how do you identify your sexual orientation, if at all?

I find myself feeling frustrated, lonely, and sad as I read over your post, while I also feel glad that you've written it. I'm glad you're expressing yourself, finding your truths, creating meaning in your life. This too, I want to respect and also support. Please let me know if anything that follows is experienced by you, in your body-mind, as disrespectful or hurtful.

I agree with you that "Below the Belt can do a limited number of things about rape, genocide and poverty" in part because "[o]nly about 30% of the world's population currently has access to the Internet and an even smaller percentage of Internet users speak English." But I don't mean to imply that the way a queer collective blog like Below The Belt can impact political reality is by reaching non-English speaking people more effectively with better/clearer/more effective ideas. I also don't believe that U.S. Spanish-, or Traditional Native-language speaking people and people living outside the U.S. who don't speak English, need to be reached by us and our ideas. I don't believe that people who are activists in the Third and Fourth Worlds need to find out about reality from us. I think exactly the opposite: we need to be listening to them, and finding ways to do so. We also need to stop thinking quite so much, and feel what is going on. I disagree with your premise that by thinking more, we act more anti-oppressively. I believe that by feeling more we are motivated to work towards social change.

Reading about rape didn't get me to understand that rape is wrong. Witnessing the impact of it did. Experiencing sexual assault did. The non-Southern whites who began to support Civil Rights in the U.S. for African Americans weren't convinced of this by reading good ideas about race and racism, primarily. Their actions were shaped by watching white policing officers on television knocking down Black women and men and children with the aggressive, hostile, and utterly humiliating blasts of water from fire hoses. The viewing and the act are not, strictly speaking, ideas. Experience isn't always or even primarily mediated through the intellect, as such a term is used in the U.S.

The idea that people act responsibly with privileges they have based on what they think, I'd argue, is not accurate/truthful. It has been shown that people don't vote for leaders they believe in because of stated ideas, but rather due to how and what they feel about a given candidate, including on subconscious levels. People vote for someone because they rather intangibly, "like her" (or him).

I believe we are motivated towards social justice, towards wanting liberation for ourselves and other people, because of how being oppressed feels and what it does: it hurts, it is humiliating, it is lethal. The absence of political liberation from social hierarchies fosters gross violence--primarily in two forms: violence by the oppressors against the oppressed, both institutionally and interpersonally, and other systematic injuries and injustices to whole classes of people, such as terroristic rape and the indignities and horrors of racism. I believe that we are motivated to act based on something deep within us that is beyond, if inclusive of, the so-called "rational" mind. I believe it is what our bodies and minds, hearts and souls, experience that shape us and propel us into action out of callousness, indifference, apathy, inertia, sorrow, despair, and exhaustion.

I learned a lot about hetero/sexism and racism by the age of nine. Not from being intellectually gifted, either. I was more into watching TV sitcoms and family-themed dramas than reading anything at all. My brother had the "honor" of being the brilliant one in the family--and he received honors throughout grade school for his intellectual prowess (as Kantian white male supremacist school systems regard such expressions of abstracted selfhood). There were ways my brother's intellect could amaze me; and there were ways it was used to hurt me, also.

I learned from him that "intellect" alone was not a wise guide; like a Tin Man, it wasn't made with a heart. Or was it? The body-mind is a false dualism. Like so much in the white Western heteropatriarchal world, things are not as they are presented by the dominants, even though we are often coercively made into what the dominants want. This is done, in part, by their standards of behavior and systems being compulsory--not learned intellectually, but mimicked, done because to not do them is not allowed, is punished, or is simply not imaginable. What is done, often, is learned but not with compassion or conscience: I learned to misuse my intellect in the service of the maintenance and valuation of society that hated my people and those I loved.

Western Academia didn't nurture or support in me any capacity at all to note when it is and is not appropriate to impose oneself as a white male into and onto the world. I was more empathic than my brother, yes. I also did well enough in school, and I learned that my intellect would be regarded as capable of speaking Truth, while women's truths never got capitalised. I learned that my whiteness made my expressed ideas--as more among the words of white people--"important" in a way that those of people of color would never be, on a class level. I also understood that what was taught to me in school was woefully inadequate, distorted, inaccurate, and often boring; I was told that an Italian discovered "America"; not that genocide happened here, wiping out civilisations, societies, nations, approximately seventy million people--over ten times the number of Jews killed in Nazi Europe. I lived in a society that told me one had to jump through twelve hoops before having an opportunity--if privileged to do so--to jump through four more hoops to get a bachelor of arts degree. When one goes through enough hoops, one can believe there ought to be something valuable about doing so. I can out the other end knowing the Academy couldn't and wouldn't teach me what I most needed to know about myself, my society, and the people and land upon which this society, this civilisation, was so bloodily built.

It is possible that I was unusually empathic due to being an intergender male; this isn't a statement about biology--it's a realisation that those who don't or can't conform to dominant ways of being--assigned and enforced--will be punished and sometimes killed. But I saw, or felt, or intuited, that to be a dominant required doing things that my heart couldn't do: reject as 'the enemy' all women and girls; disassociate with anyone of color. My heart couldn't do that and so I didn't shut myself down, which would have crushed my soul.

I didn't shut down my empathy with people of color due to being white in a white supremacist society. Why? Was it because of ideas about race, racism, and what is wrong or right? I'd say, No. I'd say the truer answer is that it was because I knew what anti-Semitism felt like, and I'd seen images of the outcome of anti-Semitism becoming a ruling force, a collection of atrocious actions, not just a ruling ideology. The ideology is repugnant because of where it can go. That is one of Dworkin's points. I'll speak more to her essay and your comments about it shortly. But it wasn't the offence of the ideology alone that moved me to dis-identify politically with whites. It was feeling what I felt when I found out people had been massacred and relocated, hunted and shot, scalped and chopped up by savage, barbaric white men, who were in the process of building an allegedly great single nation, pretending there were not already more nations here than could be counted. I felt what was done. I knew it through my body, not through my abstracted intellect.

I believe that ideas take hold that match one's emotional knowledge, I believe. Emotional knowledge--the intelligence of the heart, is informed by experience, not ideas, primarily. And experience is informed by how one is placed in various social hierarchies, where one is stationed, what privileges and entitlements one has. This makes knowledge social and political, not only individual. As Foucault noted, any given dominator society has an episteme, a boundary beyond which questions are not allowed to be asked and experience must go unnamed. We use fancy language--you and I--to talk about things that are very simple really. I wrestle with this. The discourse of theory is but one way for the white man to keep us from knowing how we feel--how we, the collective, feel. It is a tool to create disconnection from our hearts and each other, by walling us up in minds that are trained in academic settings to "think only" and to think that only thinking will do something significant, because, we are taught, thinking is how we know we are alive. And thinking is so valuable to white men who, en masse, stop their hearts from bleeding.

You state:
Therefore, on a global scale, Below the Belt cannot directly affect the lives of the poorest people and the most oppressed - those who have to struggle on a daily basis for survival, for food, water, shelter, and freedom from bodily harm. Its immediate impact is limited to those who have access to the Internet and to those who are fluent in English. This is, on a world scale, a relatively wealthy minority [...]

Theory-Q, I believe it is important for privileged people to support oppressed people's actions against tyranny, torture, and torment by letting other privileged people know what suffering and struggle feels like, not primarily by figuring out what ideas back it up. I want us to promote the actions aimed at ending Western Civilisation, white het male supremacy, corporate capitalism. Not by discussing ideas a whole lot. We both know very privileged people will read complicated ideas in English about oppression: including poverty, rape, and genocide. And, again, it won't be the ideas that turn them from a collaborator with an oppressive system into a betrayer of that system and its accomplices. It'll be the inability to rest confortably knowing/feeling what most people must endure for a very few to indulge in acts of thinking-only.
 
You wrote:
Does this mean that Below the Belt and other blogs can do absolutely nothing about the worst forms of oppression? I do not think so. We can influence the way that those who are relatively privileged think and act towards the most oppressed and towards issues of oppression. [...] I want to do two things: (1) to examine and critique ideas that form the foundation for oppressive practices, with the aim of getting people to think about how they think about the world; and (2) to provide an introduction to some issues in gender studies, feminism, queer theory, history, and philosophy - a sort of 'Gender Studies 101'.

You wrote:
You might say that this an anti-radical, anti-activist, anti-anti-oppression agenda, but I don't agree.


What I respond with is this: goals one and two have a place, in my view. But to believe it is ideas that generate social change is to engage in the politics of liberalism. Liberalism places great value on the white male mind, abstracted into discussing ideas outside of the survival struggles any useful ideas flow out of. Who benefits from one thousand discussions about what "cis" means? Not most transsexual or transgender people, who never, ever will use the term "cis" to describe and distinguish people. Because most trans people don't speak English, are poor, are earning little to nothing each day, and are struggling to combat hunger, illness, and the inhumanity of the White Man, now globalised.

You wrote:
Let's take the issue of genocide. What needs to happen in order for a genocide to occur? There needs to be an elite willing to slaughter an entire group of people, a specialized 'armed group' to carry out the majority of the killings (I'm thinking of the Einsatzgruppen during the holocaust or the Interahamwe in Rwanda), [...]

I don't experience genocide that is happening to Indigenous peoples globally to be something that is happening to one group by a distinct and different elite group which is armed militarily. To frame genocide as militarised mass slaughter only or primarily is to not grasp the depth of the problem of genocide, which exists on a variety of levels: spiritual, economic-environmental, social-political, cultural/ethnic, and physical-sexual. Only one part of genocide contains the most grotesquely violent acts, such as those detailed by Mary Crow Dog, aka Mary Brave Bird, *here*: http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2008/10/lakota-woman-on-not-being-white-or-male.html. Why do we, two white males, need to discuss what is happening in Rwanda? How does it benefit white males to do so? Why don't we discuss the genocides you and I are part of, that we support, each day? Wouldn't that be more useful? Wouldn't that call us to listen to our hearts more than discussing what is happening in Rwanda without understanding exactly how whiteness, Christianity, and European men made conditions in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa ripe for rape and murder? Why don't we talk about how we, how our people--white males--rape and murder, through investments if rich, through interpersonal actions if rich or not?

Do you appreciate how even bringing up Rwandan genocide in a discussion between Western whites supports ignorance about the genocides you and I contribute to? A question is this: why do you know more about what happens in Rwanda that what happens in the U.S., re: genocide? It's not that any mass ethnic or group killing anywhere shouldn't matter to us. It's that the episteme of the U.S. requires us not to inquire too deeply about how you and I, and any white men, contribute to the global eradication of Indigenous Peoples, including the people native to Turtle Island.

You wrote:
In addition to all of this, and perhaps prior to it, something has to happen at the ideational level.

This is a privileging of ideas over feelings. And I don't believe ideas come first or deserve to be prioritised in anyone's work if the work is to support the expansion of humanity against the forces of inhumanity.

You wrote:
Both the elites organizing the slaughter and the masses co-opted into it need to be able to believe that a certain ethnic/religious/national/gender category is capable of doing things as a group - that the individuals within it are all virtually the same, with the same biological characteristics (usually biologically inferior, but sometimes also with some laudable aspects, e.g. - Hitler occasionally showed admiration for ‘the cunning' of the Jews), and that they have all signed a social contract with each other to support certain nefarious activities against "the state" or against some other entity: "the Jews" or "the Tutsis" or "the Women" or "the Indians" all have the same aims and the same goals, they are all "in league" with each other. Genocide and ethnic cleansing depend to an extent on our capacity to think about large groups in a particular way, to reduce individuals to their collective identities, to believe that ethnic/gender/national etc.. groups can actually behave in unison, all with the same purposes and with the same goals.

I'd say that for genocide to occur, oppressor-class people need to believe they are part of a group that is capable of acting "as a group" in the groups' interests, which are as likely to be completely insane as "rational". I'd say there's a strong correlation between what the White Man calls "rational" and what non-white women who are politically active call "insane". Just watch this, for more: http://www.handsoffmotherearth.org/2010/07/vandana-shiva-debates-geoengineering-with-gwynne-dyer-on-democracy-now/

And note what being a white man does to one's capacity to even hear what is being said and done there:

http://www.losthighwaytimes.com/2010/07/democracy-now-today-vandana-shiva-is.html

I'd argue that it is because both the white man arguing with Dr. Shiva and the white man blogging about her cannot FEEL what she is talking about, and don't CARE to know what she is talking about, that we are where we are. It is not that they won't engage with her ideas: they'll be happy to do only this as long as it doesn't require them to feel what she has seen and what she knows about what the dominant ways of the Global North costs the people, animals, plants, and the land in the Global South.

I engaged that author in an exchange of ideas. It was mostly a waste of time. Because white men's ideas are not held primarily in the individual mind. They are held collectively, with lots of systemic, institutional supports.

You wrote:
What I aim to do on Below the Belt is to criticize conceptions such as these and thereby challenge the ways of thinking that form the foundation for oppressive practices. [Bold added by Julian for emphasis]

I am already on record for disagreeing that ideas are the foundation for oppressive practices. Children rape and molest each other not because of their ideas but because it is what they feel compelled to act out due to what was done to them. To stop them is not to get at their ideas; to help them stop they must get in touch with their feelings, primarily and be guided humanely to act them out differently. As adults, ideas have a role in what we do. But your privileging of them as the area of action that needs to be interrupted or challenged carries with it an assumption that doing this actually results in people behaving less oppressively, and I believe people do so collectively, not individually, and so changing individual's minds isn't an effective tool for ending oppression.

You wrote:
I want to get people to think about how they think about the world, how they think about others, how they think about other(ed) categories of gender, nationality, race, sex, and ethnicity. This isn't as important as providing material resources (food, shelter, or arms) to people who are at risk of genocide, undermining the flow of such material to the genocidaires, exposing the existence of genocide, mobilizing international public opinion against the actions of the oppressors, or getting international organizations to develop mechanisms for stopping mass slaughter. But it is still a worthwhile endeavor. [Bold added by Julian, for emphasis]

I believe there is probably a good answer to this, but I'm curious to know why you are so sure about this? Is it probable that through a white male supremacist educational system you have been trained to think that thinking about thinking is more important or valuable an endeavor than it actually is, if the project, ultimately, is stopping atrocities and radically transforming inhumane globalised systems into humane local/regional communities?

You wrote:
Genocide will be harder to undertake,
 
You state that as if genocide isn't going on, globally, now, right now, against Indigenous Peoples. Why? How does it serve to support Indigenous people anywhere, including queer and Two-Spirit people, to pretend there is no genocide happening?
 
You wrote:
harder to justify, and it will be harder to co-opt people into genocide, if ideas about the ontological validity of fundamental national/gender/ethnic/religious characteristics are discredited.

Andrea Dworkin herself recognized that the ways we conceive of the world (the ideas we have about other subjects and objects) are crucial enablers of genocide. In the essay you recommended for me, "Biological Superiority: the World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea," Dworkin rejects matriarchal arguments about the biological superiority of women to men because she recognizes that such a theorization of an entire gendered category could lay the groundwork for genocide against it - this has already happened to women all over the world, would it really be a good thing if something similar could happen to men? I completely agree with Dworkin in this case, but I would extend her argument: it is not just ideas about the biological superiority or inferiority of particular national/ethnic/gendered groups, but sweeping generalizations about the supposed immutable “character” (whether cultural, biological, or political) of these categories that can form the basis for genocide or ethnic cleansing. In practice, the cultural and political generalizations are never really that distinct from the biological generalizations – but ultimately, they can have similar effects.

I feel you are misrepresenting, once again, what she is saying about gender and I'm wondering why you continue to collapse her views or conflate them into summaries which aren't accurate. Why do you acknowledge you are unfamiliar with her work, that you do not read her work with great care, and then also summarise what she's stating as if you have read her work carefully? Is that responsible of you to do? I find that to be a white male supremacist action that repeats in your written work. It is consistent with how white males try and control women's speech by putting it through a distorted lens of privilege, ignorance, and sometimes also arrogance. I don't generally experience you as arrogant, Theory-Q. I experience you as thoughtful. As someone who considers what they are putting out into the world. And so it baffles me why you're repeating an action which is effectively disempowering (through misappropriation and misinterpretation) the activist words of a feminist activist calling for an end to male supremacy. Can you see how your actions become male supremacist here?

I witness her speech existing in a specific time and place. And it doesn't exist outside of that time or place. She is quite clear about this. She delivered the speech at a time when it seemed somewhat less impossible that women might actually make some gains, politically, in the late 1970s, before it became clear that Western white patriarchy would not allow that to occur. I hear her noting that it is whites and men who have committed genocidal/gynocidal atrocities. I hear her saying that to believe women are superior to men is to participate in the same kind of thinking that men promote--that to do it is male supremacist/white supremacist, in other words; that it is not feminist; that it is racist. I hear her calling on her audience to consider the implications of what some were promoting in one speech at an event at which many speeches were given, with only one of them promoting this ludicrous idea of female superiority--an idea born of a collective set of experiences: due to women experiencing men behaving with such astounding inhumanity, so systematically, including through acts of incest, battery, rape, and the sexual use and abuse of women on the street.

There's no abstracted "it" with regard to a gendered category: there are women and there are men; there are females and there are males in this white male supremacist system. There's nothing abstract happening. She's not suggesting that women have the power to commit genocide; she's noting that women wanting to do so is an anti-feminist course of action; I believe she knew it wouldn't be realised. She's not arguing against sweeping generalisations: she's noting how and where they occur in real time and real spaces, and what happens when they occur among populations structurally empowered to act out violently against those they deem "other". She's saying that the problem of immutable characterisations is that men who promote themselves having such an intractable character also mistreat women, using biology as an excuse; but the idea can come afterwards: the rapes can happen first; the excuse-making may follow. The speech is an argument against atrocity, and the atrocity she's against is male supremacist, not female supremacist. There was no female supremacist atrocity going on, after all. She's wasn't making the case that women were likely to foster one if they carried forth an idea of female superiority.

From her speech:
To me, this advocacy signifies a basic conformity to the tenets of biological determinism that underpin the male social system. Pulled toward an ideology based on the moral and social significance of a distinct female biology because of its emotional and philosophical familiarity, drawn to the spiritual dignity inherent in a "female principle" (essentially as defined by men), of course unable to abandon by will or impulse a lifelong and centuries-old commitment to childbearing as the female creative act, women have increasingly tried to transform the very ideology that has enslaved us into a dynamic, religious, psychologically compelling celebration of female biological potential. This attempted transformation may have survival value--that is, the worship of our procreative capacity as power may temporarily stay the male-supremacist hand that cradles the test tube. But the price we pay is that we become carriers of the disease we must cure. It is no accident that in the ancient matriarchies men were castrated, sacrificially slaughtered, and excluded from public forms of power; nor is it an accident that some female supremacists now believe men to be a distinct and inferior species or race. Wherever power is accessible or bodily integrity honored on the basis of biological attribute, systematized cruelty permeates the society and murder and mutilation contaminate it. We will not be different.
 
It is shamefully easy for us to enjoy our own fantasies of biological omnipotence while despising men for enjoying the reality of theirs. And it is dangerous--because genocide begins, however improbably, in the conviction that classes of biological distinction indisputably sanction social and political discrimination. We, who have been devastated by the concrete consequences of this idea, still want to put our faith in it. Nothing offers more proof--sad, irrefutable proof--that we are more like men than either they or we care to believe. [Bold added by Julian, to highlight specific statements]

I realize that there are some serious problems with this argument, because people do do things in groups. [...] People can and do act collectively – but can they really do so in extremely large groups, such as nations and genders?

Do you see how you are abstracting the issues, away from the here and now? How does it serve us to take a current nightmare and turn it into a hypothesis? Whose interests are served by doing this, Theory-Q?

You wrote:
And what are the consequences of imbuing such big collectives with sweeping generalizations? Does it set the stage for ethnic cleansing or genocide? At what point do broad statements about "group characteristics" become dangerous? I don’t really know how to solve this problem (aside from marshalling the rather primitive distinction
 
"Primitive" used by whites in this way, to mean "oversimpified" is implicitly pejorative to Indigenous People, in my view. It maintains a valuation of "progress" as good, and "primitive" as bad or unsophisticated. Primal and Indigenous societies were and some, the ones not invaded and colonised by the White Man, remain the most spiritually-politically-ethically-morally-economically sophisticated and sustainable societies on Earth. There's nothing grand or good about committing genocide and land theft to build a nation with slave labor.
 
You wrote:
between "small" and "big" groups or drawing on the difference between "organized interests" and "identity categories"), and I would appreciate any insights you or other readers may have, as well as any guidance about writers who have tried to wrestle with this issue.

I'd argue that because you miss the salient points of her speech, and of her work generally, you also take those misunderstood ideas as a launching point for further abstraction away from reality. I'm wondering why you do this (if you agree you do). I'll note that I spent a great deal of time in my head. I can do it to this day. It functions to keep me out of my body--that place that holds the deepest truths about my social-political reality. I believe it is common for white males to want to search everywhere but in our own bodies and homes, front and back yards if we have them, in our own neighborhoods and towns, in our own states and countries for the injustices we help breed there, and instead prefer the safety of distance: of studying "them, over there".

You wrote:
Nevertheless, I do want to note that I have not acquired these ideas about genocide, generalizations, and collective identity through academia, but mainly through the personal experience of living in a context in which genocide and ethnic cleansing were quite close to home.

I have no insight, through your own writing, what you are referring to. What are you referring to? And why do we not hear about that? This, really, is the heart of the main point: we avoid that which is most painful to focus instead on things that are far outside of us because it can feel and be safer to do that. I have had to avoid the knowledge of my body for a long time. I resist some information to this day. But I don't believe I will find it by studying some other society or culture. Even if the Academy and its accomplices will publish and approve of me for doing so.

You wrote:
I am, unfortunately, very familiar with the kinds of mindsets and theorizing that it takes to justify mass slaughter of a different nationality.

Where? When?

You wrote:
Contrary to your assumptions, I am not from the United States, although I did go to university there. I bring this up because you seem to think that I am invested in the U.S. liberal academic project with my heart and soul, and that all my ideas emanate from it. I realize that my recent writing does give a very academic impression, given how full it is of citations, academic protocol, technical language, and academic authors. But it was never my intention to be a parrot of U.S. academia, and I am sorry to have made myself seem like that.

I get nothing from your writing that is not consistent with what the U.S. Academy wants of its students, except that you are willing to name some realities that it will only postulate as possibly existent. The Academy, in its non-infinite lack-of-wisdom, deems "patriarchy" to be an idea, as opposed to what women globally endure and die from. How safe it makes men in power for all of us to continue these abstractions of harsh truth. What country or region do you live in, Theory-Q, and why do you not write of the place in which you live, preferring instead to write about Iceland? Do you live in Iceland? If so, I'd understand and more readily support your interest in it.

You wrote:
About the U.S. academic project, I do agree with you that it is, in general, about maintaining the status quo. In many cases, it also directly links into supporting U.S. global hegemony, the spread of capitalism, developing technology for the U.S. military, and a whole host of other atrocities. Nevertheless, I would argue that while academic institutions are thoroughly involved in upholding things as they are, individuals within academia are able to use the resources of their position for liberatory and subversive ends.

To me, Theory-Q, this is like saying that white it is the U.S. military's function to colonise and commit atrocities across various parts of Asia, it is also the case that some soldiers do good things for locals there. Do you see how liberally individualistic your argument is? You are postulating possibilities against the reality of probabilities we can, in fact, know. We can know that however many radicals are borne out of the Academy, it is several million too few. Can we not? This isn't to say that we ought not have radicals in the Academy. I'm glad Ward Churchill taught; I'm glad bell hooks teaches. Catharine MacKinnon is not primarily a professor, although she has taught a lot. She is first and foremost an activist outside the color-blind bounds of the Academy.

So while I value radicals teaching, I don't see you making radical arguments. I see instead how you repeatedly misstate what one radical feminist has stated (Dworkin), and how you abstract painful reality, avoiding dealing directly with it in order to promote the production of more abstract ideas. I am seeing your mind in action, and what it is leading me to understand is that you are not wanting to engage with the guts of the matter--the bloody guts of what's going down. I see you sterilising your hands, putting on Academic gloves, and proceeding to claim that doing this is in service to those who are being harmed as I write this to you. Does my view resonate with you? Or am I ridiculously off-base here?

You wrote:
Being an academic means being bestowed with astounding privilege – with the time to gather information, to read, to think, to write, and to speak on a variety of subjects. It is rarely the intention of the institutions, or the people and organizations that fund them, to allow this level of freedom.

I'm not sure why you'd conclude that. I'd argue that what an institution allows, and encourages, is what it intends to have happen. As long as it knows it has succeeded in producing minds that will abstract reality sufficiently to permit most students to never grasp the horror of what is going down, that the Academy supports. As long as for every one progressive to radical mind it sets out into the world, it has produced millions more who will have to actively support the systems which undermine that one mind's progressive to radical views or other actions. This is not to imply some sort of covert operation. It is to simply observe how something works based on what it does and doesn't do.

A typical liberal response is to say, "That isn't what has to be the case, though." And I remind anyone who responds this way to please join me in addressing reality: the here and the now of the suffering that is going on.

You wrote:
And while they often succeed in curtailing it, some individual academics have been able to use the time and money that they have been given as a platform from which to inform people and move them to action. 



But not so much so that any oppressive institution is terribly worried. And, because those in power tend towards extreme paranoia, you'd better believe the U.S. government is collecting information from Facebook and Academic records on who is studying what. And you'd better believe there is a reason Ward Churchill was fired for things that many professors who were not fired also do. And there are reasons why Andrea Smith has had to fight for tenure. I believe she doesn't have it. So you see, when we return to how things actually are, we don't actually find that individuals can do much, as individuals. Individualism is a core value among the elites, who only ever benefit as a group from the privileges and entitlements they protect with weapons and various forms of corruption.


You wrote:
For example, Judith Butler has spoken and written eloquently about recent conflicts in the Middle East and she has alsorecently refused a prize at the Berlin Gay Pride Parade, after speaking with Muslim queer activists and hearing their stories of oppression within the German mainstream LGBTQ movement – thus bringing attention to the problem of Islamophobia in queer communities. Many of the people you cite on your blog are academics – bell hooks, Catherine MacKinnon, Patricia Hill Collins – which gives me some hope that there will continue to be space in academia for radical, liberatory voices.

I don't come to the same conclusions you do about the effects of the actions of Judith Butler. Judith Butler has accomplished something that is a great disservice to women: she has unnecessarily, but with great Academic approval, abstracted away the realities of male supremacist atrocity, promoting ideas of gender being performed, as if every performance isn't being watched by snipers. I believe Judith has also done some good work, but what you cite is insufficient to make any sort of case that the Academy wants there to be radicals in its midst. She isn't one, after all. Her work is tremendously elitist, academically, theoretically. Who besides Western college students read her? Patricia Hill Collins is a sociologist, not an activist. I find her work enormously helpful. I feel her work stands in solidarity with radical activism in a way that Butler's does not. And bell hooks is a complex person with a complex history with the Academy. She has moved away from radicalism, generally, towards the pursuit of non-radical/anti-activist writings. There is much I respect about her work, however. I just recommended three of her books to someone yesterday, in fact. But the person was seeking information on healing hurts from broken friendships, not on how to effectively organise to create safe spaces for women, or to effectively sue a government to get back stolen land.

Please note the spelling of MacKinnon's first name. There are two a's in it and one e. Those who routinely misquote her spell it "Catherine". That's one way I know she's being misquoted.

Although, as you point out, the situation is getting more difficult, with cuts to public education funding limiting academic posts, with increasing corporate sponsorship of academia, and with the internet providing more opportunities for surveillance and censorship of people’s voices - it seems that the potential for inspirational and transformative education within academia is unfortunately diminishing by the day.

The corporatisation of the Academy, which is intensifying as you say, will mean that no one will be able to advocate radical activism on campus without being penalised. It's already happened--over the last many years the most radical voices have been silenced. So I'm asking you to really accept these conditions we are in, and to note that the Academy cannot any longer serve our interests--if we share the interests of being part of radical social change that makes life less harmful, degrading, and deadly for the oppressed.

You wrote:
And it has also diminished in the broader society, with the mainstream media cutting off radical activists’ access to the public – in this case, I also very much agree with you. But I don’t think at all that radical activists are bad at expressing themselves, or that the increasing poverty of political discourse is in any way their fault – did I say anything to suggest otherwise?

Here's where I picked that up, Theory-Q.

I do think that Andrea Dworkin is putting forth “a perspective.” There is no necessary identical correspondence between what she describes in her book and the reality “out there.” And since my column on this blog is academically-oriented, I see Dworkin’s view of the world as overly rationalistic and as depending on the presumption that extremely large collectives behave in conscious ways. I am not going to assume that everything she says is true because she is a radical feminist, nor am I going to assume that the way she describes reality is the only way to do it or the best way to do it.

[...] I believe that if a writer/activist/theorist attacks an oppressive system, they should also provide a plan for overcoming that system. Plenty of excellent writers and activists do not do this often enough – Noam Chomsky’s books on U.S. hegemony, for example, are full of important critiques, but contain precious little about how U.S. imperialism can be overcome.


I am not saying that Andrea Dworkin is completely delusional and that the small numbers of men who have committed themselves to overcoming patriarchy has not led her to become more pessimistic. The misogynistic society, and misogynistic men, are responsible for her pessimism – there is no doubt about this. That misogyny is prevalent among men (and among some women too) is indisputable. But how one portrays that reality, how one responds to it, and how one views its origins, is very much up for debate.


I guess the thread that runs through our disagreements is about the relationship between empirical and normative claims. You seem to believe that people can unproblematically perceive the world “as it is,” that all Andrea Dworkin is doing is describing a problem, and not making a normative statement about what ought to be done to end oppression. In my work on Below the Belt and elsewhere, I’ve argued that descriptive claims cannot be separated from normative claims in this way. I think that when we are discussing complex phenomena such as genders, nations, and economic systems, it is impossible to describe them exactly as they are. This is because social reality is complicated; descriptive claims can never fully capture it. Indeed, there is a real difference between describing the chair in my room and attempting to describe “all women” or “patriarchy.” And since every description of phenomena such as the latter is necessarily incomplete, this means that different descriptions (prioritizing varying aspects) will proliferate and that each description will have huge implications for how one normatively behaves towards the phenomenon. The solutions that one seeks to end oppression (the normative) will depend hugely on how that oppression is described, which elements of it are prioritized, what its causes are viewed as etc…


Do you see how I concluded that you are proposing that the activists ought to do a better job of articulating their view. Do you see your own tendencies to support abstraction and theorising over dealing in activist ways with the concrete atrocities Andrea Dworkin wrote about unflinchingly?

You also stated:
Evidently, therefore, social constructivism needs to be transformed – but in what way?

This is where it happens: when you go from "society needs to be transformed" to "social constructivism needs to be transformed."

And to this:
"While a fist in a woman’s face, gang rape, or sexual slavery are not ideas as such, it is ideas about women and their place in society which make such acts possible."

It is not an idea that makes a punch possible, Theory-Q. It is the ability of a person to push their fist into someone's face. That's about power, not ideology. And as we know from listening to men who batter, they often don't understand why they are so quick to move to violence, and have often buried their own learned misogyny as such; they have often left unconnected the feelings built up in them by being socialised to be male supremacists, sometimes by watching their fathers bash their mothers, and have pretended there's nothing at all about society or their past that contributes to their current behaviors. If we can accept that a man is a rational being, a moral being, do we then conclude he has the agency to change from being a batterer to not being one? Or are you arguing he has no such agency? Dworkin is saying that men are adult human beings who can regulate their behavior, because they regulate it all the time, every day. They don't punch out their bosses, for example, even while they rage against them. Why? They do go home and beat their wives, when their wives don't oppress them and the bosses do. Why? This is largely due to what has to happen: rage must never be expressed upward in a hierarchy. Violence must be directed downward or horizontally. This is structural truth, not ideology. Flo Kennedy coined the term "horizontal hostility" to describe the social-political phenomenon of people who are oppressed fighting each other instead of joining together to fight their oppressors. She named a phenomenon, not an ideology.

You stated:
I am not talking about causality here – what leads a man to violate a woman in a specific instance can be a variety of things. Rather, these ideas form the condition of possibility for the man to even think about forcing himself on her. Without the ideas to uphold it, such an act would be inconceivable. Ideas serve to circumscribe the realm of the do-able and the acceptable in society, and until the notion that the body of a woman does not solely belong to her is crushed, rape will always be a possibility.

Do you see how strongly you adhere to this theory that ideas generate and are causal to actions? You state this with regard to how oppressors behave and how resisters of oppression behave. I find this a very privileged, elitist view. Because most people I know, including myself, who fight oppression do so because we felt its sting, we have known systematic humiliation, we have been degraded and violated--and none of those things were ideas. They were experiences, felt. Not ideologies, thought. "We feel, therefore we act."

You stated:
So how to reconcile social constructivists’ ideational view of social relations with the reality of material oppression? Simply put, constructivists need to critique materialism as a dominant ideology. Apart from fulfilling one’s basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc…), the seeking of material wealth is an ideological choice – the ever-greater amassing of wealth and power by a privileged few is dependent on the fact that money and positions of power are imbued with such significance in society, that material possessions are valued so much at the ideational level.

Obtaining and keeping control of material wealth is the issue there, I think. Not seeking it. The wealthy already have it. They aren't seeking it. And in the last ten to twenty years it has been intensely consolidated among fewer and fewer people, in terms of the percent who are very wealthy and the percent who are living in poverty or are otherwise struggling economically. The holding onto wealth isn't ideological; it's a function of laws which allow millions to be passed on from one generation to another within a family. It's a function of tax laws, which benefit the rich. It's a function of white male supremacy, which keeps white men atop every social institution in North America. I'm in agreement that men do not conspire, as such, around every corner, to plot and scheme about how to keep white male supremacy alive, as such. But it is the case that whites and men do plan very specific campaigns, do support the candidate who advocate for making the rich richer. They dump hugs sums of money into campaigns, why? Is it not to consolidate power among groups of oppressor-class people? Why else do they do it?

You wrote:
And if I point out that radical critiques of society should indicate pathways for getting out of hell, how is this "seeing what activists do and don’t do as the problem"? Or blaming the victim? I am really not saying that the reason oppression still exists is because of things activists have or have not done. There are many reasons for this – very few of which have to do with the people working practically for change. The reason I like to encourage radicals to develop theories that leave open possibilities for change and to develop solutions for the problems they describe is because not doing so could lead to a resigned pessimism of the following type: "the powers that be are the powers that be, they are evil and all-powerful… but there is little that you and I can do about it, things will most likely stay the same." Noam Chomsky’s writing about U.S. hegemony does this, to an extent. I would argue that Dworkin’s Pornography also risks inspiring such an attitude. But what I am definitely not saying is that it is the fault of people like Noam Chomsky and Andrea Dworkin that things are the way the are.

You say she risks inspiring such an attitude. But I thought you uphold the view that ideas, not attitudes, drive actions. Are you aware of the extent to which her books, especially and including Pornography: Men Possessing Women, has given thousands upon thousands of women the courage to name what they feel; to declare that they have, yes, in fact been harmed in and by pornography, by pornographer and men who consume the material that teaches men how to hate women and achieve orgasm all at the same time. Why would you invisibilise this effect, and only postulate that maybe her book may be guilty of "inspiring such an attitude" that might lead to pessimism. Do you see how being oppressed creates pessimism far more than writing about it does? 

I am reminded of this MacKinnon quote:
'[T]hose who point out that women are being victimized are said to victimize women. Those who resist the reduction of women to sex are said to reduce women to sex. Subordinating women harms no one when pornographers do it, but when feminists see women being subordinated in pornography and say so, they are harming women. Words do nothing except when feminists use them. Go figure.' --Catharine A. MacKinnon,Women's Lives, Men's Laws, page 350.

You wrote:
As you probably gathered from my discussion above, I don’t subscribe to a sharp distinction between "thinking" and "acting." Thinking, reading, and speaking are, in a literal sense, actions. And in order to inspire people to act, you first have to get them to think.

I'm identifying that as an underlying thesis that you repeated bank on. And I'm calling it out as false, incomplete, and white and male supremacist, in that it places a kind of premium on a mode of behaving that is encouraged by the status quo as long as the status quo doesn't develop ideas against the conditions we live in--by supporting actions beyond expressing ideas against the organising, institutionalised, corporately and militarily backed interests of the rich, whites, and men.

Watch here how you go from making a statement against you thesis, to steering it back into your thesis:
The Andrea Dworkin books that I have read are all about showing people a different way of perceiving the world and thinking about it than what is presented to them in the mainstream. It is about exposing the systematized violence and harm that societal discourses generally keep out of view. This inspires people to act – but before they act, they have to think.

No. Before they act they have to feel something. Before they act, they have to experience something. Before we think, we know things that aren't expressed in words. This is generally the case, I believe. Most knowledge, one could argue, is unlanguaged. Most experience is not reproducable as "an idea". Because experience is beyond ideas. You seem to willfully resist seeing ideas as coming after experience. Why is that? What came first in your own life? Experiencing unlanguaged homophobia or naming homophobia and heterosexism?

You wrote:
Otherwise, they would be automatons, robots, flinching instinctively at every juncture.

So people who feel are only robots? Or unconscious animals? Or automatons? Young children are none of the above, are they? Yet they also aren't human beings who digest experience through ideation primarily or only. A problem for many of us who are survivors of child sexual abuse is that we didn't know what happened to us. We couldn't understand it, name it, identify how it made us feel, and so most or all of that gets buried, denied, dissociated from our minds and portioned into our bodies, acted out compulsively against others or ourselves. Are those of us who behave that way automatons, robots, or only flinching instinctively at every juncture?

You wrote:
Perhaps this should be the natural response to violence and oppression, perhaps it should not be necessary to think about it, perhaps it should just instinctively feel wrong and inspire a reflex action (akin to burning oneself on a stove).

Your denial of feeling and complete devaluation and invisibilisation of it as formative and instructive is deeply troubling to me. There are two groups of people who have demonstrated this extreme denial of feeling as important: men and whites who are socialised to devalue it because to acknowledge it means being bullied or otherwise harassed, and those of us who are trauma survivors, who can't go near the feelings trapped in our own bodies.

Given that in the dominant West, ideas are seen as male, and feelings are seen as female, do you get how your repeated valuation of "the significance of ideas" and "the insignificance of feelings" functions to make your discourse white het male supremacist?

But unfortunately, this does not happen often enough, and in order to realize the reality of racism, patriarchy, genocide, and rape, people have to "un-think" years of socialization. Getting people to think more, to think about how they think, and to think differently is part-and-parcel of inspiring them to act – the two projects cannot be separated.

You wrote:
The way that the binary gender system sets up males and females as inevitable "polar opposites" and embeds oppressive distinctions between the sexes such as strong/weak, big/small, powerful/powerless, basically assures a priori that females will be oppressed. Since females are portrayed – by definition – as the opposite of males, the discourse will ensure that they remain "the second sex." 

It's not "the discourse" that does the oppressing, Theory-Q. It's the expression in reality, interpersonally, institutionally, of power--force, action, agency--against the wills and wishes of women. Again, the fist in the face and the gang rape are not ideas. They are traumatically experienced realities, which sometimes the survivors cannot speak of. No one writes more about this than MacKinnon, and nowhere does she advocate for placing ideas above experience, or for disregarding the feelings of women or females for the ideas of men or males. Or, for that matter, she doesn't advocate privileging the analyses and activism of women over the abstract ideas of males.

You wrote:
I have dealt with this issue in some of my previous posts (see "Gender As Discourse," 

The central problem is gender-as-power arranged hierarchically, exercised in social space by males against females, by masculinist males against anyone deemed feminine by those males. Not "gender as discourse." The bullies in schools don't have to wait to have discourse on effeminacy to pick on a femme boy, do they? To focus only on discourse is to be producing work that is privileged and removed from the bodies of the abused. I find this unattended, unowned tendency in your work troubling and problematic.

You wrote:
I don’t think that activists and academics who have moved towards critiquing the idea of gender do not care about ending the subordination of women – they are looking for the root causes of it. 

The root causes of it were unearthed decades ago, Theory-Q. The only theoretical additions that have been produced by whites in the last twenty years obfuscate and abstract that earlier work. With a few exceptions, such as MacKinnon and Jeffreys. What has been produced in the last twenty years is more and more understandings and sharing of experience and analysis from women of color globally, in the West. And that is crucial work. But it isn't needlessly abstracted either. Patricia Hill Collins, Andrea Smith, and bell hooks are examples of how to theorise without becoming an Academic "abstract expressionist".

You wrote:
Undermining modern discourses about gender, and encouraging the creation of a gendered world that transcends the current binary is, in my view, not a separate project from combating male domination.

Undermining a discourse doesn't do much, if that work is needlessly abstract and viewed and discussed by very privileged people who are already well-trained in endlessly discussing theory without doing anything concrete to stop rape, genocide, the prison system, capitalism, and poverty, or to generate radical communities of resistance and support those which exist well beyond the Academy. You appear to attribute a kind of magical ability of old ideas packaged in new and more abstract ways to do something in contexts you acknowledge are more anti-activist than ever. How do you explain this? If the Academy, as you well noted, is more corporate, less funded, and experiencing all manner of cut-backs, how it is also capable of producing new scholarship that is more radical and more activist-oriented than what activists have been writing about for forty years, inside and outside the Academy? (Dworkin never wrote inside an Academic setting, for academics, for example.)

You wrote: 
Secondly, the popularity of "critiquing the idea of gender" also has to do with increased concern for ending violence against people who do not identify within the binary gender system and those who do not meet expectations of masculinity and femininity. Transgender people and others who fall outside the current gender structure cannot even claim an existence for themselves under the current rules, and feminine men and masculine women live in constant terror of the threat of violence. However, it is important to note that the violence is aimed disproportionately at feminine men, transfeminine people and at femininity in general, which suggests that homophobia and sissyphobia are basically misogyny, enacted on male-bodied people. This is not to say that masculine women and transmasculine people do not face their own struggle against violence, but that the attacks on femininity are often much more intense, savage, and systematic. Some feminists, by focusing on the category of "woman" as the sole subject of feminism, ended up not paying enough attention to those who do not identify as either men or women or who are identified by others as somehow not in line with these categories.

But according to your own analysis, if it is "femininity" that is targeted, how is it not women as a class of people who are most targeted, given that women as a class are seen as "the feminine sex-class"? How does creating a category of cisgender privilege help or assist Two-Spirit women in prison, being pimped and trafficked, imprisoned and left to return to a culture destroyed by white masculinist men's ways of being? How does theorising about gender concretely help trans and non-trans people who will never, ever read one word of what's written. How does academic theoretical work produced primarily and overwhelmingly by VERY privileged white people concretely assist or support the efforts to survive of most trans people who are not Western, not English-speakers, who are poor, who are of color, and/or who are illiterate?

What you did there, in that paragraph, is insideously misogynistic and common in my readings by some Queer Theorists: positing non-women as the most oppressed by anti-feminine politics. In what universe, Theory-Q? Tell me exactly how non-trans girls from various regions of the Fourth, Third, and Second Worlds, as well as the so-called First, are less oppressed if trafficked as sex slaves than an academically trained, class-privileged transsexual person who has the presence of mind and untraumatised conditions within which to write about oppression by cisgender people? Are you aware of the levels of great privilege that are being promoted as normative for trans and non-trans people, when most trans and non-trans people have no such privileges? See this for more:


You wrote:
Nevertheless – I do see how post-structuralist critiques of the idea of gender can be almost completely irrelevant in the context of, for example, a rape crisis center, female genital mutilation, or the fostering of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. For the raped and battered woman, gender is unfortunately all too real and dithering on about its social construction may not be helpful (although, admittedly, understanding gender as a product of oppressive social forces, rather than natural instincts, may help to deal with the trauma). 

Theory-Q, from my encounters with many women across Africa and Asia, the term "FGM" (written out) is not preferred or viewed as respectful, as most women who I have heard from do not welcome having others, particularly white Westerners, identify them as "mutilated". It is a way whites have to relegate African women into the strange other. Again. If transsexuals don't appreciate being termed "mutilated" why would you assume anyone would? Do you hear the women themselves, so harmed, name themselves that way? And what about gender and race Apartheid in the U.S., on reservations? What about race and gender Apartheid among Black and Brown people in the U.S. Why do you need to travel across seas to arrive at populations who are not helped at all by Academic, post-structural abstractionism? Or, for that matter, modernist abstractionism?


You wrote:
Ultimately, while the “here-and-now” work of ending gendered violence – and violence in general – may draw on some academic ideas, it is not at all dependent on them.

This appears to me to go against much of what you've argued thus far.

You wrote:
And the dominance of the "critiquing the idea of gender" view in academia has served to divert attention away from practical efforts to combat the continuing structural violence against women and feminine persons, from the struggles for liberation waged by feminists around the world, and from the connections between movements for environmental sustainability, racial justice, and women’s survival. Academia has betrayed activism – there is no doubt about this. Academics are, as such, unwittingly complicit with those who wish to continue the violence, the oppression, the hatred, and the murder. 

This also appears to contradict much of what you've written above. And that is my main point. So basically we are in agreement. You've noted our many places of agreement throughout, and perhaps I've not been acknowledging them as forthrightly as you have. I apologise for that.

You wrote:
But this does not mean that we should completely discard intellectual responses to oppression! 

I've never called for such a thing. I've called for curbing Academic elitism, needless abstractionism, and the privileging of theories that work well in supporting and furthering white het male supremacy's aims and accomplishments.


You wrote:
As I outlined in my discussion of genocide above, there is a place for both the practical work of ensuring that mass slaughter does not happen (providing resources to populations likely to be affected, giving out humanitarian aid,

I've never talked here about giving out humanitarian aid, which too often appears to be done but is not done; instead the appearance of it being done allows white countries to pat themselves on the back stating how many millions have been raised for relief in Haiti, for example, that Haitians never see. I recommend reading this book, for more:


You wrote:
 developing international institutional mechanisms to prevent genocide) and the intellectual work of critiquing the ideas and world-views that make large-scale killing conceivable and possible in the first place. 

I wish you'd stop equating genocide with killing-only. Genocide is many things. It includes residential boarding schools in North America. Children were not killed there, usually. But they were severely abused, sexually and spiritually, physically and emotionally. That's genocide-in-practice. So too is ghettoising people on reservations without ecosystem/land/water/animal/plat resources to survive. See Ward Churchill's writings on the subject of U.S. genocide. Here's one quote:

"Insofar as the genocide embodied in residential schooling arises as an integral aspect of colonialism, then colonialism must be seen as constituting that source... To be in any way an apologist for colonialism is to be an active proponent of genocide."


You wrote:
Ideally, the two should not be separated and they should work in tandem, although I do see how, in a condition of primary emergency, the “here-and-now” work of ensuring the killing [and non-murderous while also genocidal actions--added by Julian] is prevented and helping the (potential) victims is more important. I believe that, in academia and in the broader society, there should be a place for practical activist work on ending oppression and for the more theoretical endeavor of thinking about the ideas and conditions that make structural violence possible. It is unacceptable that the former is currently marginalized and this situation needs to be changed. 

It's difficult for me to read that. Why? I guess because I've seen how you've critiqued Noam Chomsky and some feminists for describing problems without offering solutions. I regard you as an important voice: please put forth suggestion for how to make the Academy accountable to radical activists, or how to make theory directly helpful to those being most marginalised and harmed. (Note: the most marginalised and harmed, contrary to what many white, Western, class-privileged, academically trained, non-prostituted, non-trafficked  pro-trans activists claim are not Western, white, class-privileged, academically educated, non-prostituted, non-trafficked trans people. Nor are they rich, white, het non-trans men who feel their rights and resources are being taken away. Poor dears. And I wish pro-trans activists would remember that most trans people aren't transsexual, aren't white, aren't Western, and aren't middle class before putting forth truly ignorant analytic reports of alleged cis gender privileges--that most cis gender people don't even have.)


You wrote:
On the subject of post-structuralism, I don’t think that ideas about the normative foundations for (and functions of) empirical claims are entirely useless for activists. The way that I was laying out my position on this issue was far too depoliticized, and I see how you could have perceived my point of view as fundamentally impractical and nihilistic. When I said that different empirical claims about how the world "is" are tied to normative ideas about how the world "should be," I should have added that empirical world-views are index-linked to specific power-political interests, often buttressing oppressive social structures. Thus, supposedly "empirical" claims about women’s physical and intellectual capacities have served to ensure that women remain physically weaker than men and that they are excluded from academic, scientific and political positions. Activists could therefore use post-structuralist ideas about the connection between ideas about how the world "is" and nefarious political goals in order to undermine the worldviews that form some of the foundations of structural inequality. I certainly don’t think that oppression originates in the improper "exchange" of ideas, nor do I believe that ideas are "freely exchanged." Rather, I would argue that one of the primary ways that structural inequalities of power are maintained is through the propagation of ideas about reality that have the function of upholding them, that make them seem invisible, and that make them appear natural. 

Again, the primary means are not production of ideas, but rather maintenance of systems of force and coercion, through use of force and coercion-- exercised by these systems, among others: military, police, prison, psychiatric, court; also supported in institutions like dominant religions, social institutions like marriage, and educational institutions like the Academy. Also implicated is the production of ideas-expressed-as-graphic-material-not-text, such as those hate speech-loaded, patriarchally propagandistic materials produced by the pornography and advertising industries, raking in millions over the raped bodies of girls and women, and trans people too, and not a few boys and men also.

You wrote:
In my work, I aim to evaluate claims about "reality" not only on the extent to which are truthful but also on the basis of whose interests and which normative goals they will uphold. I therefore support any depictions of reality which uphold the interests of women, queer folks, indigenous peoples, and non-whites. This does not mean that I view things like whether patriarchy exists or whether American Indians are under assault as "debatable" – and this is a charge that is often thrown at people engaging in post-structuralist analysis: "you doubt whether the sky is really blue and you might even believe that pigs can fly." This is not at all the case, and I think it is a profound misreading of post-structural theory (caused in some cases by the obscurity of the kind of writing this theory inspires). 

It is a legitimate critique of any discursive style designed--with or without conscious intention--to effectively distance us from the harshness and harm of the reality most people on Earth experience every day. Most post-structural theory is completely inaccessible and is not useful to anyone doing direct front-line work against oppression.

You wrote:
But while there is no need to debate the existence of patriarchy or the oppression of non-whites, there are questions about these phenomena that are definitely worth much consideration, the answers to which will directly impact how they are dealt with: what causes patriarchy?

The practices (expressed through institutions and interpersonal actions of racist patriarchal power) which comprise it cause it and maintain it. These have been well-described by many women over many decades. That work is done. You acknowledge you have not read the bulk of it. Why aren't you doing that? Why are you studying Iceland instead of reading Conquest, by Andrea Smith? Or Black Feminist Thought and Black Sexual Politics, both by Patricia Hill Collins. Or Yurugu, by Marimba Ani? Or Letters From a War Zone, by Andrea Dworkin? Or Toward a Feminist Theory of the State and Are Women Human?, by C. A. MacKinnon?

You wrote:
Through which mechanisms does it work?

The ones women have named many times, for the last forty years, in dozens of books, in hundreds of speeches. 

You wrote:
Does it exist in all societies, and if not, under what conditions has it not existed? Why is it currently in place? What are the causes of racism? Why does it exist and how does it work? 

These are, to me, diversionary and unnecessarily obfuscating questions. And you basically acknowledge this here:

You wrote:
Getting to the vital issue – "what is to be done?" – first requires thinking about and responding to some of the questions such as the ones I enumerated above. 

They've been answered, Theory-Q. Someone once said when you enter a conversation with serious intent to contribute, it is incumbent upon you to know what's already been said on the subject. You haven't done your homework, in my view. And so many questions that have excellent answers remain inaccessible and undigested by you. Your questions imply the questions haven't been asked and answered, many times over. This demonstrates to me that you are coming in "cold", so to speak. And I find that to be disrespectful to all the women who fought hard and died disappointed, because people refused to engage with them seriously, dismissing them as crazy, man-hating, b-words.

You wrote:
I am also by no means requesting that Andrea Dworkin and others put forward their positions solely in “this-is-how-I-see-it” terms. I do not see worldviews and theories as being a "personal" thing, with each individual having their own unique way of seeing things. This would be to deny the social nature of knowledge and to make all claims about the world contingent purely on individual experience. Rather, what I noticed in Dworkin’s approach

Which you have yet to accurately learn about, understand, and describe, Theory-Q.

You wrote:
 is a long-standing tradition in Western (especially liberal and capitalist) thought of conceptualizing individuals as rational actors, seeking to minimize costs and maximize benefits.

Dworkin isn't speaking about individuals, and this ought to be very clear from reading anything she's written. Her analysis of gender is class-based. When she's talking about "men" she's speaking about a gendered group politically structured over and against women, who find identity and status, who maintain privileges, power, and entitlements, by putting women down and keeping women down, through various means. And girls and other people deemed effeminate.

You wrote:
 I also noticed that, in line with social contract theory, Dworkin imbued very large collectives with the capacity to form informal pacts, think rationally, and operate for their own survival. I am sorry if I gave this impression – but I was not critiquing the views laid out in Pornography because they were Dworkin’s personal views, or because they were the views of a white woman, but rather because those views were based on certain ontological assumptions about human nature and society which have a long and distinguished history in Western philosophy and with which I have disagreements – this is as much a critique of Dworkin as it is a critique of, for example,Adam Smith or Jean-Jacques Rousseau or John Rawls. I was also not criticizing Dworkin’s views so that I, as a "white man" (for the record, I don’t identify as a "man"), can claim objectivity and ownership of the way the world really "is." My post was written in the style of a philosophy-student-cum-wannabe-academic:

It comes across to me as unnecessarily arrogant and presumptuous. I honestly don't get the sense you are either, and so I'm wondering why you're employing a discursive style that comes across this way. And, of course, we may disagree about how it comes across. Informal pacts are made among white men--such as to commit various crimes and cover each other's asses; such as to keep resources directed at the wealthy and not the poor; such as to get one another elected to town councils, state office, and other political offices; to keep one another the dominant groups on boards of trustees; by promoting one another over women. And it is done formally, in police-enforced laws, in juried and judged courtrooms wherein women who report being battered systematically lose custody of their children to their batterer because accusing a man of battery is seen in courtrooms across the West as "being mean to the children's father", and through other systems of classist, racist, misogyny.

You wrote:
 you might think that this is an oppressive identity to take on, 

I think it is needlessly arrogant and presumptuous, as noted. And, in places, not only not useful to activists' struggles for liberation, but actively, if not intentionally, uncaring and/or callous to such activism and activists, and the inhumanity and atrocities being endured.

You wrote:
or that this is the identity that "white men" who want to author reality adopt. There is truth to this, but as I described above, there is also a positive side to academic intellectual thought and this is what I want to be a part of on Below the Belt.

I haven't seen much of the positive side, although I experience you as on the side of justice. I just don't see that active support manifesting in your writing as yet. This is my hunch, Theory-Q, and I could be VERY wrong here. First, I like you. From what little I've read by you, I see that you are serious, earnest, and thoughtful, as I've already noted. I don't see you as cynical or sarcastic, which already separates you from most writers. I see you as not terribly abstract, which separates you from most academic writers.

I felt happy to come across your work and this blog, which isn't to say I don't have and won't continue to have significant disagreements with some of what is being presented here as liberatory. I don't accept that transgression is liberation. I don't accept that liberalism is radically useful to activists or people struggling to survive, and rather believe it is part of a larger problem--of being removed from the world of suffering. 

I welcome you to join me in that world, and to identify the places where you struggle, to identify your own pain and privilege, and to locate yourself consistently as an ally with the  people who will never have the privileges you and I do, who are working to end oppression because their/our lives depend on it.

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