Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Whether "Patriarchy" is the Root of All Other Oppressions. Q: Who benefits from this perspective? A: Rich folks and whites

This post exists to support, in an unsolicited way, of a series of posts by Lb over to The Vagina Conspiracy, a radical feminist blog by a Black woman. (See *here* and also below for that series.)

White radical feminists, historically and presently, often promote an idea and it is this: "patriarchy" (seemingly unraced or beyond race or inclusive of all races) is the root problem, the root oppression, and, from a radical/root perspective, activism focused on eradication patriarchy is sufficient to liberate women from the systemic oppressive realities that confine, subjugate, dominate, and destroy them. I'll address my problems with this perspective in a moment. Lb addresses her problems with it here:

The Root from Lb'rashon Breed on Vimeo.

The Root 2 from Lb'rashon Breed on Vimeo.

The Root - Clarification from Lb'rashon Breed on Vimeo.

Before I go on, I'll note that many white radical feminists arrived at this perspective in part because of their long-standing frustrations and dead-ends with radical activist and Leftist men across race conveniently "forgetting" to address patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, and male supremacy in their own ranks, among their own groups, in their own agendas, in theory and in practice. I have argued with more white anti-Capitalist men than I can count--some of whom are marxists--about the glaring omission of "patriarchy" in their understanding of what needs to be radically challenged socially. Across the last several decades and to this very day it is beyond rare to find any man (across race, region, sexuality, class, and age) who takes patriarchy seriously as an oppressive social-political-economic form (often termed by men: "civilisation" or "society" or "capitalism" but never managing to appropriately identify how and where men are in charge). Patriarchy exists to place women beneath men in every way patriarchs can.

Also, Liberalism as a political frame that historically comes from white Europe and has specific form in North America, the UK, Australia, and in other places globally, ignores patriarchy as a system of atrocity and oppression when it comes to presenting plans of so-called progressive personal-political action. Liberalism tends towards obfuscating systems of oppression. It does this in several ways and detailing those ways is beyond the focus of this post. But basically, Liberals contend with systems of harm--when they do so--by pretending that unorganised individual action is sufficient to bring about adequate social change. Liberals also pretend that ideas or thoughts alone carry as much weight as economic, social, and political acts of force, aggression, hostility, colonisation, and dominance.

Practitioners of White and Western forms of Liberalism (including its more restrictive and repressive cousins, White and Western forms of Conservatism) don't publicly acknowledge they are operating out of a Liberal framework. They also don't usually address most forms of violating and lethal oppressive force, actually, but the fact that it doesn't deal with patriarchy and has no plan of action to eradicate it from social-political-economic worlds, doesn't excuse it from taking this matter on, seriously and systematically, with organised revolutionary vision.

Part of how systems of oppression achieve success is by rendering the oppressed only capable of attempting to survive the harms promulgated by the inhumane systems. If one is dealing with depression, poverty, PTSD, and hateful aggression directed against oneself and one's people daily, it may be difficult to find time, will, and energy to fight the larger systems in organised ways with larger groups of people. That said, most radical and revolutionary activists are not privileged by wealth, lack of warfare, or by race, class, and gender. But most people are not race- and class-privileged, after all.

In countries that value corporate or State-funded academic learning as a site of "primary knowledge", we find that class- and education-privileged people are often assumed to possess the best qualifications to lead the rest of us out of trouble and into a better world. I probably used to believe this was the case to some degree at least: that only the "best and brightest" as determined by CRAP, could know what we need to do to end all forms of oppression. I not only don't believe that any more, but I also believe that the generally Liberal Academy has its own agenda and accomplishing anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, economically humane revolution for all women it is not.

Jessica Yee has edited a book that deals with this in much more detail. I hope in the coming months to discuss that book titled Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism. You may link to it *here*.

Across the last several decades, radical and feminist women of color have challenged many assumptions that are white supremacist and that are seemingly intransigently enthenched in white radical feminism and white liberal feminism. The white supremacy is entrenched, in part, by "radical feminists" who don't own or behave responsibly (meaning here: accountably to women of color) with the race-privilege, race-entitlement, and race-power loaded into their perspectives and courses of proposed or practiced action.

After publishing a recent post on this subject (see *here* for that), someone posted a comment which will not be published at this blog as it violates my Comments Policy: it's grossly racist, for one thing. It was submitted by someone who calls themself "Unknown". In it, there was an assumption that me challenging or naming the racism in white radical feminism was a divisive maneuver, was highly manipulative, and is an anti-feminist thing to do. What is often forgotten by whites is exactly how divisive and anti-feminist racism is in white radical feminism (and in white anti-radical, anti-feminist circles too). Typically, whites see the naming of our power and privileges as whites as "divisive" and the divisions they unintentionally highlight are those among white people.Whites don't relish having our collective power diminished, among all of us or among various constituencies of white people, including among conservatives, liberals, radicals.

The critique in the unpublished comment I suppose was sent in order to shame or silence me and others who name white power as such. That I am male (and white) is supposed to be cause for me to never name racism in any group other than white men. To clarify: that's not my politic (and is obviously not my practice), any more than it is my politic to not name sexism in any group other than white men. This blog exists to call out, name, challenge, analyse, and support activism fighting all forms of heterosexism, racism, and misogyny: including the racist misogyny that is so unchecked and unchallenged generally by white women, by white men, and by men of color--all across barriers of class, region, and sexuality.

So if you're not comfortable with me doing that, don't read the posts at this blog. My powers are incredibly limited due to not being part of any major industry, any academic institution, or any political office. I also don't own or control any media franchises, religious institutions, or tech software. But if you come here, please expect to see any expressions of classism, xenophobia, genocide, racism, heterosexism, and misogyny that I encounter socially called out for what it is and for what it does.

We can recall that anyone across race and gender who calls out white power as the destructive racist-misogynist force that it is, will be told to shut up by someone who is uncomfortable having a light shone on it. And so whether it is by a woman of color, a man of color, a white woman, or a white man (or male), I expect to see silencing tactics--rather than respectful tactics of mutual engagement--be employed. "Unknown" did a fine job of illustrating the knee-jerk reactive defence of white power, cloaked as being anti-feminist in this instance, that anyone challenging it is likely to experience. Sad but true. But beyond sad it is dangerous.

The danger is the important thing to not forget. For ideas, thoughts, and ideologies that are liberal, white supremacist, male supremacist, and heterosexist, all are powerful to the extent that they are practiced systematically, are structured into social systems, and are politically protected as speech and action both.

I support radical and feminist women of color challenging male and white supremacy in every environment they are in, endure, and fight against. I support anyone doing so in ways that are not, in and of themselves, misogynistic and racist.


Anonymous said...

You know, I've never been convinced that patriarchy is the root of all oppression in the world, mainly because I don't see any evidence for it. I am a radical feminist, but this is one of the claims made by many radical feminists that I disagree with.

Now I'm just suspicious of any claim that one system of oppression is the basis of all others. I don't know how such claims can be substantiated, or even what exactly it means for one system of oppression to be the basis of all others.

Julian Real said...

Hi KG,

I have seen the argument made because men rule capitalism (well, some rich men do, but women, collectively, do not), and men rule white supremacy (well, privileged white men do but men of color and women of any color do not--although white women do have power in a white supremacist society that people of color do not have). And so on.

But what I've also seen is how this argument is used to allow white women to consider themselves "just women, not raced" as if their whiteness and how it is acted out doesn't oppress women of color. That's one of the problems with that theory, and how it also takes the focus off of how much white men rule the world currently, more than any other group. Poor men of color don't rule the world, relative to rich white men. And to just focus on patriarchy means we miss a lot about how the world works, imo.

P.S. Please also see/hear the points that Lb makes in her audio posts.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced patriarchy is the basis of all systems of oppression because not only is it not clear what that means, but whatever vague impression one may have of what it means, there is no evidence to support it. The mere fact that white men are the most privileged does not prove that patriarchy is the basis of other systems of oppression. If it is the basis other systems would somehow have to depend on it, and I don't how that could be proved.

Julian Real said...

The approaches might include:

--noting what is "sexual" and "gendered" in male supremacist ways about capitalism and white supremacy

--noting what is white about capitalism and male supremacy

--noting what is capitalistic about male and white supremacy

Can and do any of these systems exist without the others. Historically, yes, but capitalism has never existed without male supremacy.

The salient point, for me, isn't to debate which came first, but rather, as you identify, to understand how these systems are intertwined so that they can be more effectively opposed, challenged, and eradicated.

Pakwa said...

Usually I would disagree with your ideas. however,
Radical feminism has grown on me. I have found that
Any form of oppression is frequently ruled over and
Dominated by the essence of patriarchy; either WHMs,
Or others who sympathize with them. It might be more
Understandable to a significantly wider audience if they
Could step away from themselves for a second and see
How the world really works. I hope your message is
Embraced in the near future. All the best!

Julian Real said...

Hi Pakwa,

Thanks for your comment. I find that the people most opposed to what radical feminists write and say have never bothered to seriously consider what they write and say.

David Smit said...

Hi Julian,
Very interesting blog. I'll have to reread the article tomorrow to fully be able to comment.

But in your support since some replies so far have been about a lack of proof.
A few months ago my gf posted this argument and I disagreed with her. (unknown male perspective?) But in order to be sure I looked up some numbers. I was wrong on the business front. There are quite a few(McKinzy, UNWOMEN, etc) which post that, at least in corporate business world, gender equality matters in the final financial return.

If you can extrapolate that to wider organizational foundation, probably. But I'll have to digg for more info on that.

Your post covered more, and hopefully I can comment on that tomorrow.

Julian Real said...

Hi David,

Really nice illustrations at your site!

As I understand it, the corporate world only cares about earning money, and if it can exploit some women, harm most, and ignore many, while increasing profits, it is, so to speak, "happy". But that doesn't mean capitalism in its more globalised and corporate forms actually give a shit about women as a class. Some male corporate heads will hire and promote very elite classes of women, but never "women" across the board: so poor women, women of color, and immigrant women, to name but three groups within the larger class "women" do not get recognition or respect--or good-paying jobs. Only a few white women get those positions. The rest suffer the ravages of male and white supremacy, and the horrors of capitalism too.

Here's that link you provided: