|poster image is from here|
I've discussed the beginning of this essay earlier this year, *here [2 Feb. 2010 post]*.
Race, like gender, like sexuality, like economic class, all exist as socially real phenomena, lived complexly while organised and politically constructed to appear to be predominantly and irredeemably natural and inevitable. There is, in my view, increasingly less and less recognition that each category necessarily includes all the behaviors which manifest each. And that among these political behaviors are some which might seem relatively benign, but are linked to those others which are more overtly unjust and inhumane. To see how the apparently benign behaviors are tied to those that are terroristic ought to lead us perpetually and perennially toward developing approaches and strategies for stopping the madness. Perspectives which clarify rather than cloud the foundational, destructive dimensions of each hierarchical caste system, must congeal through the process of arresting, obstructing, and halting the forces used to maintain each system of power: white supremacy, male supremacy, and heterosexism. The theories are borne and honed in the practice of the resistance and rebellion, not prior to it.
Post-modernism, in the wrong hands, becomes a tool for obfuscating the political and terroristic social nature of each of the aforementioned hierarchies. Social norms and roles work to make it appear these play as they should. Whether through media propaganda or military might, we are routinely led back to the fundamental belief that whites ought to be positioned over and against people of color structurally, so that white supremacist ideology and its practice of oppression keeps whites better off, living off the bodies of those who are not white. What liberals misunderstand is that hateful ideologies alone don't oppression make. Hate, or callousness, or cruelty, or selfishness, must be institutionalised and backed by major systems of force in order to be collectively dangerous. The force of ideology isn't found primarily in ideas, but in terroristic and brutal actions. The idea of Black Power, for example, offers no significant threat to white power as long as whiteness rides a history and present of anti-Black slavery, lynchings, apartheid policies, and gross discrimination. The same with gender, sexuality, and economic class. The idea of feminism isn't substantively threatening to male supremacist power as long as misogyny is normative and rape is inevitable. Men who disparage feminists do so not because feminists will harm men, but because men want to ensure they can continue to harm women, for profit, pleasure, and significant privilege.
When the suffering of women who are terrorised and otherwise harmed by male supremacists is seen as psychological and personal, not structurally political and social, it may be diagnosed as a dysfunctional aspect of the oppressed not adjusting properly to positions of mandatory servitude. Refusal to agree to the terms of one's own subjugation is cause not only for being harmed, but also incarcerated and institutionalised. Denial of the level of threat, displacement of rage onto those similarly oppressed are among two strategies for surviving while the cattle cars make their way to the gates of Auschwitz. Assimilation into or acquiescence within systems of destruction can only enable more destruction. And those with the most structural power are the most responsible for stopping the trains on their tracks, then dismantling the tracks and the train cars, as well as concentration camps and the SS.
Post-modern theories were developed in Europe, mostly by anti-status quo white men, to assist in toppling oppressive regimes--in thought and beyond thought in the very bloody social world. They were not intended to be used to reinforce and maintain the status quo. But, as with most theories exposing the vulnerabilities of the most powerful, or the lies that prop the leaders up, post-modernism, largely, has been misappropriated by the Academy, along with post-structuralism, to confuse the issues at hand. Where "woman" was, for a time, defined by some feminists as the category of people assigned female at birth, raised as girls, and treated as women as adults, post-modernism in sexuality and gender studies assumes that there is no such discrete category. This effectively invisibilises the force and terror used to create it as such. People who are initially indentified as female, are raised to be feminised because that is seen to be appropriate-while-compulsory, and who are treated as feminised adults by men, sexually and socially, are a particular oppressed group in a male supremacist system. To pretend that group isn't specific while diverse, is to ignore social-political reality.
Once we stray from the idea that gender is political into the belief that gender is fluid, flexible, and malleable, we drift away from the urgency to radically challenge gender's right to exist in the first place. To make race only into "ethnic difference" is to pretend white supremacy doesn't construct "race", including especially the white one.
We are living in dangerous times. Theories that once held value in communities of resistance to the status quo are threatened by other theories which effectively mess with the project of dismantling and radically transforming corporate racist atrocious patriarchy (CRAP) by back-burnering actions aimed at exposing and eliminating the terror and force necessary for CRAP to exist.
If race or gender is re-naturalised as one of many differences in the human species, seen only as too constrictive due to their not being enough categories, we are left with white and male supremacy as ruling systema of oppression. The same is true of sexuality and economic class. More presence of more races, genders, sexualities, and classes inside CRAP effectively avoids dealing with the issue that one of them, "non-white" or "woman" or "non-heterosexual" or "poor" is required to be submissive and subservient to another group of people, called "white people", "men", "heterosexuals", and "the wealthy".
One of the reasons I have, in some posts, questioned why bisexuality is contained in the acronym of the social group working to end heterosexism is because it doesn't come with a political agenda other than to fight for its right to sit at the table that dead lesbian and gay youth rot under. I support a bisexual agenda to dismantle heteropatriarchy. I simply haven't seen one materialise.
I question the usefulness, even, of perpetuating the term "gay" if all it means politically is a category of feminised men striving to not be seen and treated as if feminised while allowing or encouraging women to be treated as such. Better I call myself pro-feminist, to locate my relationship to opposition to masculinist/patriarchal force and terrorism, including that aimed at gay men. But what I call myself matters less that two other things: how I am treated--statused or stigmatised, why that is the case, and what I am doing in concert with other oppressed people to end these conditions of some groups being privileged while others are persecuted.
If we accept, without organised resistance and as inevitable, the systems which necessarily destroy some of us, we insure the tally of traumatised and murdered oppressed people will go higher and higher.
The way to stop deaths by warfare is to end the wars. We don't collectively work to stop warfare if we are socialised to consider it heroic, erotic, or profitable on any level. There are many wars being waged. Let's not forget about these: men's against women; whites against people of color; straights against lesbians and gays; and the rich against the poor. The oppressed seeking membership in the clubs of the oppressor don't accomplish the dismantling necessary to end the bloodshed. Nor do efforts of the oppressor seeking to join the ranks of the oppressed.
We either collectively challenge and end the terrorism or we don't. To turn it into entertainment such as via video games, into sex such as via pornography, into increasingly complex sociology via an academic version of postmodern theory, or or into official status by honoring and celebrating those who murder people abroad, such as in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we allow the terrorism to thrive. We make the trauma and horror that comes with this terrorism into something we need to figure out how to endure endlessly, not end by any means necessary. Once the degradation and subjugation of the oppressed is revered as normal by the systemically privileged controlling groups, we are left with the illusion that hierarchies are merely differences, not expressions of dominance.
When I challenge men to take up the project of ending the rape of women by men, or the incesting of girls by men and boys, what I get back is either resignation that such a project is doomed to fail, a complaint that I'm ignoring the ways boys and men are also hurt in society, or the argument that it isn't a worthwhile project relative to others that are seemingly more important. To understand how rape is tied not only to patriarchy, but also to white supremacy, heterosexism, and capitalism, is to begin to make the case that de-prioritising an agenda and organised practice of ending rape is keeping all those other systems of force in place.
Once you see who is raped in society and care about the experiences and feelings of raped people as much as those of anyone else, you might also see how white supremacy, male supremacy, heterosexism, and capitalism operate together terroristically.