Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The White Queer Condundrum

image of Dan Savage and the U.S. flag is from here

It seems to me that if white queer activists are to move forward, we must do so by agreeing on a some basic political realities: that our oppression is bound up with the oppression of people of color across sexuality; that our oppression is a product of misogyny and other patriarchal values; and if we take white and male supremacy seriously as two interwoven ideologies that are acted out against all of us who are not white, men, and het, then we'd form a rather large base of resistance against the forces committing the racist heteropatriarchal atrocities against us, including gynocide and genocide.

What would have to happen is that white gay men with class privilege would have to stop trying to reach the pinnacle of social-economic-political-structural success, and be willing instead to assess the cost to others of having those privileges and organising to achieve them. If white gay men succeed in obtaining all the rights and entitlements of white het men, then they become as much the oppressor of girls and women of all colors and all sexualities as white het men, do they not?

If whites queer organisations don't examine and challenge how their white and male privileges are shaping their political agendas and projects--specifically, how they are classist, misogynistic, and racist, as well as anti-Indigenist and ecocidal, then whose responsibility is it to challenge them to be more accountable to those they oppress?

My problem with some contemporary political discourse is that once a group is defined primarily as "oppressed" or "without some form of privileges" (you know who you are), that means they ought not be challenged at all on the privileges they do have. Since when has that been a code of responsible political conduct? That has never been part of the radical ethics I've most valued. All my adult life, gay political agendas have been interrogated (most consistently by lesbian feminists). But so too have lesbian politics. So too have white-led and white-majority political organisations; so too have the agendas and values of queer class-privileged people. So too have Black liberation groups. So too have anti-war movements. No group in the last sixty years has gotten a break from this level of political interrogation.

Why should any group with some structural privileges be able to be exempt from direct accountability to the ways they are perpetuating and perpetrating genocide and gynocide?

A case in point:
What I see a lot of online in the blogosphere is non-trans progressive to liberal women being challenged by a few trans folks to first own and then eliminate their transphobia; I see some liberal and progressive non-trans women be very careful to own their cis gender privileges and to work to eliminate them or at least be responsible for them. I see no such similar challenge by those trans people directed at men on men's blogs. Regardless of political persuasion. Men, it appears to me, and anti-feminists generally, get a pass, for some strange reason. And what I also see is that when any non-trans woman calls out the male privileges of some trans people, those women are systematically silenced and shunned. They are not respectfully engaged. They are not regarded as people who might actually know when and where male supremacy lives and breathes--down non-trans women's backs. Non-trans women are cast as oppressors, not the oppressed. And trans people are cast as only oppressed, and not ever oppressors. That's not a bandwagon I'm leaping onto any time soon, because the blatant misogyny of it ought to make everyone take notice and protest, including trans folks who are also discriminated against because of misogyny and male supremacy.

I trust radical lesbian feminists to know about and be able to accurately name male privilege and practice, among other oppressive realities. And while some of the insults that go around and around on the blogosphere against all groups are indeed hurtful and sometimes degrading, and ought not be considered non-hurtful, at some point those of us with past or present male privileges need to be responsible for and with them, even if we are oppressed in some ways. And the way to be responsible is not to simplistically reject the analysis of radical lesbian feminists--because there is disagreement on one issue, for example.

That most contemporary white queer activists, particularly and especially spokespeople representing gay men, liberal queers, and trans people, view Mary Daly with more contempt and discuss her with more disrespect that is aimed at liberal queer activists whose agenda is implicitly gynocidal and genocidal. This is something that needs to be called out as pure misogyny and anti-feminism. The same holds true for gross condemnation by some white trans people and white gay men of Sheila Jeffreys.

Daly and Jeffreys are two of the most important radical lesbian feminist theorists and writers of the last forty years. This isn't to say each woman didn't or doesn't have privileges. This isn't to say those privileges ought not be called out. But their work ought to be engaged with sustantively and respectfully, in my view, using Lorde's letter to Daly as a prime example of how to do exactly that.

Audre Lorde calling out Mary Daly's racism was NOT used by Lorde as an opportunity to bash radical feminism--or Mary Daly; it was an taken as an opportunity to strengthen radical feminism. Far too many gay male and trans activists don't respect radical feminism, lesbian or not. This is a sign to me that there's a deep-seated male supremacist politic and contempt for non-trans women lurking perhaps not terribly far from the surface. And it is grossly misogynistic. And it is terribly heteropatriarchal.

The white queer community must engage responsibly and respectfully with Jeffreys' book Unpacking Queer Politics, for example. It is far and away the best book on the subject I've seen (please let me know if there's any better analysis of what is liberal and male supremacist about contemporary Western/white queer politics). What I see across the blogosphere, from MRA sites to trans sites, is that not only is the book rejected as ludicrous and oppressive, but all of Jeffreys' work is as well.

I hold some critiques of Jeffreys' work as I do about everyone's work. But to not be willing to engage with it except to dismiss it as "man-hating" or "transphobic" is unacceptable political practice, if you call yourself progressive or radical. It is predictably neoLiberal and neo-Conservative behavior. I expect MRA sites to reject all radical feminist writing as "oppressive" (to--cough--men). Men deny patriarchy because men benefit from it, as a class. And at this point I expect liberal queer folks to reject all radical feminist writings as "not helpful" because the liberal queer project hasn't been to uproot white het male supremacy for many decades. White queer politic work, by and large, only seeks to challenge the ways that the het part leaves some privileged queer people outside the realm of having het privilege. This agenda is apparent in causes like being able to join the army to being able to marry. That political work does nothing to end genocide and gynocide, or even to expose the deadly dynamics of white and male supremacy. It is liberal reform work.

How many girl-slaves do their have to be in the world for white queer activists to take up sexual trafficking as "our" issue? How many Indigenous girls need to be lost to their heritage? How many poor girls have to endure the indignities and illness that comes with the kind of poverty corporate capitalism and globalisation both maintain and intensify?

Within the last day or so, the white het men who are the richest in the U.S. won the right to not have their first ten million dollars taxed at all if they pass it on to their children or other heirs. Not taxed at all. And the rest gets taxed at about 33%. Why is the tax rate for the richest 5% comparable to that of the middle class when the rich earn about 80% of all earnings in this country and the remaining 20% of earned income is expected to house, feed, educate, clothe, and supply medical care to the bottom 95% of the population? Do the math: that means the rich can only get richer, even when they drive their companies into the ground through inept or corrupt management.

And the rich are not going to pay more in taxes because President Obama worked out a deal with the greedy WHM supremacist criminals and thieves to keep more of what they earn, that will not create anything at all except more rich Western WHM supremacy.

When will white queer organisations make the deadly connections between corporate capitalism and heterosexism? Between anti-Indigenism and individualism? Between prostitution, militarism, and marriage as interlinking systems and institutions that are necessarily misogynistic and genocidal?

I'm asking. And I would like some of the representatives of white queer agendas, such as Dan Savage, to please explain to me what is respectable or humane about liberal political work.

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