|image of Jed Brandt is from here|
This post is about this question: To engage or not to engage?
There is a theory out there, promoted by a man named Jed Brandt, below, that if only we talked enough, and discussed things enough on the terms he puts forth, things like oppression wouldn't exist. I happen to disagree. I believe that wresting corrupt power from the human hands and inhumane systems of patriarchy, racism, and heterosexism, among other forms of oppressive power, is what's called for and this is both an interpersonal project and a larger, systemic process. Patriarchal, racist, and heterosexist power is held by those who misuse and abuse it. And taking power away from those who abuse it in many forms needs to happen. This process includes dismantling the institutions, systems, and social structures which keep that power in place, is what is needed. It also means negotiating when and how to engage with the individual abusers of power.
One of those social structures is prevalent on facebook and many other internet sites that welcome something alleged to be dialogue: men coming into conversations and deciding how things should get discussed--setting everyone else "straight", so to speak. It is a liberal conceit that more talking = more social change towards a more humane world. I think more organised resistance to oppressors and their civilisations = more social change towards a more humane world. Big diff.
Jed, below, is critical of what he terms "identity politics", a theory which, at least to my way of thinking, holds that people occupy political positions socially and interpersonally, intimately and structurally. This view holds that power isn't just in those big bad institutions, but is also possessed, or handed to classes of people, or taken from them materially and in other ways, based on things like the individuals' gender, race, and sexuality.
The end conclusion to this view isn't that everyone who is white has more power than everyone who isn't. Or that each man has more power than every individual woman. Or that each straight man abuses more children and adults than does every bi or gay man.
The conclusion is that power is held in the construction and maintenance of the identities, as they are political, social, structural, institutionalised systems that partly show up in the behaviors of people--behaviors that are promoted and acted out because they either garner status and lessen stigma, or do the opposite: so het men are patriarchally encouraged to fuck around, and gay men and any women who do the same are called sl*ts and wh*res or h*s.
These political, not natural, identities, in other words, carry socially embedded expectations and political proscriptions for how to behave towards others. The behaviors enforce and uphold the larger institutions, and support the values and practices embedded in those institutions.
Not every individual has to behave the same way but classes of people must follow some rules so the systems don't fall apart. So, while not all het men need to rape women, all het men have to protect het male rapists, and rape as a form of male warfare against women and girls, in one way or another. Not all whites need to be Racist Nationalists, but all whites need to protect the power that whites have over and against people of color, internationally. And so on. There's not a monopoly on power as much as there's a system which makes sure that the power to abuse and kill with abandon and no accountability only falls into certain hands, generally. Increasing amounts of power are hoarded by rich men, however. And in North America, the UK, and Australia, most of the rich men are white, and heterosexual. Jed would like us to believe that's accidental. I think there's nothing at all accidental about it.
A few women, and one man, Phil, below, attempt to set Jed "straight" on this. But Jed isn't listening to anyone but himself.
If you believe as Jed does, we can spend the rest of our lives arguing with him and the likes of him (the "likes" of him being a facebook pun), and never get anywhere. And I'd rather work with other activists who get it that WHM supremacy, in combo or just the W, the H, or the M supremacists, is and are the problems that perpetuates atrocities against oppressed peoples, along with capitalism, imperialism, corporate christianity, and state militarism, all of which are run by men--het men primarily.
Where Jed takes this conversation is, in my experience, to typically argumentative and otherwise silly places. In his case he takes them into bizarrely homophobic and racist places too.
I'd like to thank the women--not named below because I don't have their permission to use their names, for their voices. And I'd like to thank the voice of Phil N. Molé too. These voices demonstrate resistance to oppressive mindsets that actually do manifest in non-mental, material, social realities.
On facebook, I asked this: