Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Couple of Profeminists Talk About Radicalism, Sex, Race, and Responsibility

image of book cover is from here
As Michael Kimmel and Thomas Mosmiller's book details, men advocating for women's rights and women's liberation from patriarchal oppression isn't new. I don't have much of a sense of the state of profeminism today. Perhaps one day they will write a new book with profeminists from around the world. A common misconception both about radical feminists and radical profeminists is that they're/we're all white. Most radical feminists I know are not white. And I know of a few men who are profeminist, but only one of them is white, and only one of them lives in North America. So I imagine there are many more men out there in the world advocating for women's liberation, hopefully in ways that are meaningfully accountable to the women in their own communities.

What follows is a fictionalised conversation between two adult white males who identify as profeminist and who value radical social transformation.

Jeremy: I have been reading some of your posts and share your wish for society to be radically different than it is. What I am sometimes critical of is how you focus on what some women but not all women experience. From my point of view, all women are oppressed by men, and discussions by men that focus on other oppressions or other dimensions of life in patriarchal societies tend to do what anti-feminists do—take the focus off of how Men.Oppress.All.Women.

Julian: So are you saying that profeminists who write about women's struggles for liberation in—or from—patriarchal societies, have an ethical obligation to write about how men oppress all women?

Jeremy: Yes.

Julian: I don't disagree. Should my work or the work of other profeminists stop confronting male power and the many insidious and lethal forms it takes, I'd question the veracity of any male's claim that he is, in fact, profeminist. Males must counter the systematised male-bonding acts of men and boys as they limit the world of women and girls through ridicule and rape. To value bonding with men is to value misogyny to at least some extent; so even while gay, I make it my political and spiritual business to make sure my closest relationships are with women. I do this not with a sense of sacrifice; I have gained much more from my friendships with women than I have in any kind of relationship with men; and if I weren't asexual my choices would probably be different in some regards.

I believe we need to focus our energies on what other males do that is oppressive to girls and women, and to publicly challenge systems of male supremacist reward and punishment that benefit men-not-women. And it is white supremacy, too, that allows men to oppress women and girls, and this point is not one I see emphasised enough in white, anti-status quo, politically active communities. So, to respond more to what you bring as critique, Jeremy, I'll ask if you have noticed how many Western and white men and women who critically discuss the oppression of women, while perhaps intending to speak about how men oppress all women, instead do one or two other things, thinking that they suffice: they speak about dynamics among whites, as if white people represent all people—as if white men represent all men, and as if white women represent all women? We do that, or we may speak without awareness as whites about how men of color oppress women of color and white women—acting on a structurally very white and very male entitlement to speak about populations of people we don't know much about. We speak out about what others do, when it is what we do that we most need to be clear about, and stop. We speak as whites or as men in ways that make ourselves seem like the heroes or the saviors of the world. Have you noticed any of that?

Jeremy: I've seen plenty of examples of what you're talking about.  But do you think white men shouldn't call out how men of color hurt and oppress women of color?

Julian: I think white men should only do so when in relationships of accountability to the women of color they claim to be concerned about. Or when supporting organisations run by women of color doing anti-oppression work. And I think if white males are going to do so, we'd better be very clear about how we oppress men of color, women of color, and white women. 

I think this is shocking: I see very few whites of any sex being truly accountable to women of color, honestly. Very few. What I see happen a lot is white liberals, white progressives, and white radicals deciding what the appropriate courses of action are, self-determining our own values and practices with little to no regard for how such courses of action actually impact women of color. I see whites consistently speak about ourselves as if we are unraced and unclassed, as if our lives are less intersectional than the lives of women and men of color. Given that everyone is raced in a racist system, and that everyone occupies some structural place on social hierarchies of sex and class, how could the lives of some people be less intersectional than others?

Jeremy: Well, I think that someone who doesn't have to deal with white supremacy—who doesn't have to fight against racism from the vantage point of being harmed by it, I mean—might have a sharper, less complicated view of male supremacy for just that reason.

Julian: I think just about everything that informs such an assumption is profoundly fucked up and not only racist but misogynist to the core. Let's start with the assumption that “less complicated” means “sharper”. What if surviving multiple linked systems of abuse and subordination is what women are enduring? How does simplifying that, focusing only on class, only on sex, or only on race, become an example of seeing reality more sharply? I've been hearing this nonsense for decades: male supremacy is a political reality that somehow exists beyond or outside the world of white supremacy or other raced systems. And to adamantly maintain this position somehow allows for greater clarity about what is happening to women worldwide. These are assumptions only the masters in a raced or sexed system can afford, it seems to me. I seriously doubt that perceiving oneself as only oppressed or only oppressive in one regard allows for greater clarity about what is happening to women of color. If we're addressing conditions Indigenous women are facing in Australia or in the Americas, or what Black and Brown women are facing across Africa or the Americas, or what Asian women are facing across Asia and beyond, or what women in Pacific and Caribbean Island nations are facing, it would distort reality grossly to pretend women's condition is only encountering patriarchy, or only racism, or only economic oppression and exploitation.

Jeremy: How do you explain white women being able to so effectively name the intricacies of sexualised male supremacy—women such as Andrea Dworkin, Mary Daly, Catharine MacKinnon, and Sheila Jeffreys? Isn't their ability to do this shaped in part by not also having to resist and survive racism?

Julian: I think what white people do who speak about the condition of “women”, is make a very incomplete and simplistic assumption that either male supremacy doesn't exist at all, or that it is a system of brutality that can and ought to be understood as separate from other systems of oppressive harm and horror. Only for white power-protecting white people can such an assumption pretend to have radical validity; it therefore doesn't surprise me at all that any number of Western white women, such as the ones you name—each one offering brilliant analysis and insights, might describe how male supremacy works as if it was not bound to white supremacy. And of those women, only Andrea Dworkin—not irrelevantly the only Jew among them—refused to ignore the danger to women (and men of color) of white supremacy. She maintained, from her earliest work to her later work, that for feminism to be radical and revolutionary it must overthrow class power and white power as well as male power. That white, Jewish woman's challenge to other whites has gone generally unheeded, including by those who love to quote her. The two US women she chose to acknowledge as exemplary revolutionary feminists in the introduction to Woman Hating were Black women: Sojournet Truth and Harriet Tubman; that's not by accident--she didn't choose white women for a reason. Neither of those revolutionary women focused on "sex", per se, in their liberation work. She understood that women positioned politically, socially, structurally, to know much more about how race and sex and class harm women are far more likely to bring that knowledge into an organised plan of resistance and revolutionary struggle. 

I think the reasons why some white women have focused on sexuality as the central site and source of male supremacy is complicated. One reason is that it was the work that needed to be done at the time; it is what those writers had to say as they brought political insight to practices promoted by men as allegedly apolitical. Another reason, I believe, has to do with how the sexuality of white women is discussed and analysed by whites as an unraced while political experience. I wonder if this has a silencing effect on people whose sexual lives are known to be a product of both white and male supremacy. 

While I've read a great deal by some of the white women you mention, I see how the sexualities--and the larger lives--of women of color are systematically being ignored, marginalised, tokenised, distorted, or exploited by whites and by men in writing and in life. When women of color write about sexuality as intricately and historically tied to supremacist systems based on race and sex, their work is too often ignored by those who don't want to deal with how all of our sexual lives are shaped by both. 

Audre Lorde and Alice Walker spoke against sadomasochism and pornography due to how they are tied to racism and misogyny, yet when progressive to radical whites write against sadomasochism and pornography, only the patriarchal features are discussed. That white, self-termed 'sex radicals' are untroubled by those patriarchal features, while also ignoring the raced aspects, only shows how the term 'radical' can sometimes mean ultra-conservative.

I think there have been many men of color who have had brilliant insights and analysis of white supremacy, but when you consider that their contributions usually leave out observations and critiques of their own male power and how that is exercised against women of color, including the women of color in their intimate lives, you might come to the conclusion that their analysis is in service to their male power over and against women of color. We can also note how so few white men critically understand or are even moderately aware of how white and male supremacy along with economic exploitation, shape the lives of women and girls detrimentally. If damage to human sexuality, to human life, is seen, it is seen as happening most significantly to men and boys. And so white men, as a group, ought not be consulted on the matter of how to organise or foment revolution. Because when white men do so, their willed or unconscious protections of white and male power will be built into the plan. We have to conclude, I think, that white women's writing about an unraced sexuality that is male supremacist to the core, tells us how unwilling whites are to deal with racism in our own lives, and how little we listen to feminists of color when they speak about the politics of sexuality.

Jeremy: So you think Western white women who don't speak much about racism, about white supremacy, while they are interrogating male supremacy, are supporting white power?

Julian: Yes, of course they are. How could they be doing otherwise? Just as men of color who speak against racism as a system as if it isn't attached at the root level to male supremacy are protecting patriarchal power—including their own. 

But let's not forget who benefits most here: it is white men, not white women, not men of color, and certainly not women of color. White adult males are the material and social beneficiaries of white and male supremacy. Everyone else is oppressed by at least one of those systems. Given how ignorance of our own positions of advantage and unjust power over others works, it surprises me not at all that along with white men, white women and men of color also willfully ignore the oppressive power of their own whiteness and maleness, respectively. This is said to be done without will and without intent, quite unconsciously, by whites and by men. But on various levels, whites and men know very well and very consciously how white and male supremacy structurally benefits people atop the hierarchies. That knowledge, accumulated over a lifetime, is often enough repeatedly unremembered. But that is done so the individual white or man can hold to some notion of being “good” and “moral” and “ethical” as conservatives and liberals rather perversely define such terms. Liberal whites and men get to think of themselves as good and moral because they see that sexism and racism exists even while they won't speak about how they participate in maintaining each. 

Jeremy: Is that the only reason you think white people or men won't own what we do that is oppressive?

Julian: No. I believe the refusal to publicly own what we do, the evasion of personal responsibility, is also done so the often repressed shame of being oppressed by race, sex, sexuality, or economic class, for example, isn't triggered by the very different shame of being an oppressor. Also because we are likely to lose status among oppressors if we speak out against our political kin.

The internal battles in many of us to believe ourselves “good”, and to ignore how most of us stand on other people to be where we are, leaves us unprepared to be honest with ourselves or anyone else about who we are, politically speaking. The US, in particular, emphasises an individualised sense of identity while enforcing various social collectives. What if individuals' goodness and integrity was understood first in terms of what we-as-whites do, or what we-as-men do? 

In such conditions of ignorance and denial we can and often do mistake other oppressed people as enemy #1, when “the enemy”, if we're to think in those terms, is found in the shape of the structures and in the mechanisms of the systems which harm us. Structures of enemyhood, as my feminist mentor pointed out to me, are what we have to identify and uproot if liberation is to occur. If we don't, then we are perpetually at war not only with those who aren't in control, but with ourselves as well. 

For example, picking up on some issues which matter a great deal to some race- and class-privileged people online, no matter how oppressive a lesbian feminist or trans person acts, s/he is not structurally positioned to be in charge of the fate of other human beings collectively. Very few people, with enormous power inside complex systems of gross and brutal force, are truly “in charge”. Unless or until they are dethroned--and their systems and institutions are radically transformed--the rest of us fighting among ourselves will not bring about collective liberation. We will not co-create meaningful liberation from systems of harm and horror. As has been stated hundreds of times by many activist women of color, organised coalitions built by those oppressed by race, sex, region, class, age, ability, and sexuality are our only hope. 

Those few people with enormous power and access to seemingly endless resources cannot simply be replaced. Most simply put in a way that might be meaningful to those of us whose lives are shaped by the experiences and traditions of Europe, killing Hitler would not have meant European Jews were suddenly safe or free. The hands of the architects of HaShoah were not only Hitler's. The whole of any system that unjustly puts the few in power and keeps them there must be radically dismantled so that they no longer obtain and maintain oppressive power from being in such a place: the place itself as a structural location must be dissolved. 

Audre Lorde's essay on the Masters Tools has been misunderstood or mischaracterised by many progressives and radicals to be some kind of call to fight without the tools we need to succeed; as a kind of pacifist screed. I see her essay as reminding us that, for example, replacing “bad men” with “good men” doesn't solve the problem of men being in charge. Replacing white men with white women doesn't solve the problem of whites being in charge. Redistributing wealth inside a system of economic exploitation and global destruction won't result in those without money--or the Earth itself, being free from exploitation and destruction. And I see her essay as a reminder that institutional and psychological structures, as well as oppressors' political locations, must be radically transformed. 

We see what happens when the structures of enemyhood are left in tact when white het men aren't around. It is disheartening and discouraging to me to witness how various marginalised groups see one another and treat one another as “THE enemy” rather than as co-crafters of the route to liberation for all oppressed people. I see astounding levels of disrespect and disdain being dispensed among various oppressed people. Meanwhile, elite groups of white men—especially white het men—retain the most concentrated control of the many systems that advantage and empower whites, heterosexuals, and men to maintain advantages and commit atrocities against everyone else.

Jeremy: Do you mean marginalised groups online?

Julian: Yes, I do; but not only online. That said, I can't pretend that I directly what people experience who have less structural power than me or you. I cannot easily understand, viscerally or emotionally, what it means to be deeply threatened and invaded by liberal or conservative political activists that you or I might see as intellectually problematic but not “threatening” to our communal existence. 

Gay male society isn't going to disappear because conservative trans and queer theories take hold; only heterosexist male rulers have the power to systematically destroy gay men. Gay men have too much power as men to maintain the systems and cultures that are important to them. The same cannot be said for lesbian cultures; I think conservative and liberal forces in contemporary white queer communities and white het ones are profoundly and aggressively destructive to lesbian existence across race. But when you see the battles taking place online that only or primarily occur among whites, then you'd better be clear that one form of power that will not be questioned—let alone transformed—is white supremacist power over and against all trans and non-trans women of color, including lesbians.

I take what Flo Kennedy said about horizontal hostility very seriously, as I have seen how within white-dominated and white-majority lesbian, bisexual, and gay communities from decades ago, the in-fighting so often functioned to take the focus off of the myriad ways white het men were in charge of how the rest of us understood ourselves and experienced things such as safety and community, or the lack thereof.

My struggles with coming out as gay were not the ones typically portrayed in mass media. For example, my struggle was not coming out of denial that I was attracted to men. I knew since before adolescence that men were attractive to me in ways that they weren't supposed to be according to the heterosexual world I lived in. Well, SOME men. In my late teens and early twenties, my struggles were with assessing how gay male sexuality was mirroring the practices of het men, and carried het male supremacist misogyny into the lesbian and gay communities I was considering being part of at the time. My struggle was paying attention to what it was about men that I was attracted to that drew me to them. I was also wanting to disengage from a culture of white gay men who were raised, as I was, to believe white het men are the most valuable human beings on Earth. Embedded in this belief was a king of spiritually deadly seeking of their approval for our own well-being and self-esteem. I needed to understand how white masculinity, while positioned as superior to white femininity, didn't make white femininity liberatory just because it wasn't valued in white patriarchies.

I saw the danger of white gay men acting out white masculinity and white femininity without interrogating how each is constructed and maintained with force by white het male supremacist structures that live in and all around queer and het people. Those structures and practices, to the extent they are products of white and male power, have only ever served white het men primarily. But the white power in them also serves to protect the supremacy of whites across sex and sexuality, and the male power in them also serves to protect the supremacy of men across sexuality and race.

I also came to see that white gay men's agenda for liberation was usually designed to protect and defend white and male power as due to that, was spiritually and politically bankrupt. It also ignored, rather completely, how queer people of color were surviving not only homophobia and heterosexism, but also imperialism, colonialism, misogyny, and racism. To hear white class-privileged gay men speak about "our fight for liberation", you'd think battling homophobia was the only task at hand.

Jeremy: I grew up seeing white heterosexual men put down gay men and women—lesbian or heterosexual, but in putting them down they were mostly just promoting ways of being that were inhumane, including to ourselves. Being deprived of an emotional life isn't great.

Julian: And assuming that it is only white het men who are deprived of an emotional life, or who live with what's called a spiritual-emotional “straight-jacket”, means one has to ignore all the ways that the rest of us also have to deny or dissociate from so many aspects of ourselves and our feelings. I grew up hearing endlessly about how white het men, in particular, suffer in North American patriarchy. And how white women got to be so free with their emotions. But none of the white women in my family got to be all that free emotionally. Rape, incest, and battery, and a kind of ever-present condescension and contempt for girls and women, were each perpetrated by white het men who were intimately involved with female family members. Each form of spiritual destruction and visceral terrorism ensured that many women in my family of origin were lost to themselves or didn't feel very safe to express very much, or were quick to be apologetic and acquiescent to men, or were otherwise deferential to men in a deeply compulsory way—meaning that it wasn't so much a psychological habit as much as it was survival-based behavior rooted in knowledge that plenty of men will attack you verbally and physically if you don't obey them.

In so many ways that white het men won't acknowledge, you all are freer than the rest of us to feel, to emote, to express yourselves in sloppy and loud ways, and in silent and sulking ways, that command the attention of the rest of us and assume you will have people around you to care about your feelings and attend to them with concern, regard, and affection. I learned at an early age to attend to your feelings, Jeremy, to white het men's feelings, and put them before my own.

Jeremy: I learned to do that with my father, who was a raging alcoholic. His ego seemed to require constant attention and soothing.

Julian: And I suspect the alcoholism isn't necessarily the most potent element in that emotional equation. I think the maleness and whiteness is. Because I see how males and whites each command similar kinds of attention, or demand it, or just expect it the way we expect air to contain oxygen. And god forbid anyone female and anyone of color NOT show “proper” deference, or “appropriate” compassion to someone white or male, especially when they are struggling in some way but even when they are just walking down the street.

Because structural advantage, by race, class, or sex, often brings with it a kind of perennial permission to allow oneself to be centrally attended to, to be cared about and cared for, what we see is that whites will position ourselves as in need of something when around people of color. And the same for men when around women. As soon as something is asked of a white man by someone of color and female, the white man will predictably change the course of the conversation so that the oppressor's needs are presented as more important. Attending to the white people's or men's confusion about what she has said that is challenging to their sense of self, is supposed to trump her objection to what he is doing—including an objection to him manipulating everyone around him to pay attention to him at her expense.

Jeremy: So what's wrong with identifying how men manipulate women in those ways?

Julian: Nothing. Any profeminist ought to do that. But if you put women of color at the center of your concerns about “women”, then what you will see is that it's not only white men, or only men, who are being oppressive, and who are preventing women of color from experiencing socialised dignity and institutionalised respect. It is also white women. And so if women of color's struggles for liberation matter as much as anyone else's, then, I'd argue, only paying attention to male supremacist harm likely leaves women of color unsupported in their struggle to be free of white contempt and white ignorance. 

If we are going to herald the writings of white feminists—which white profeminists generally do, then let's not forget that Andrea Dworkin said, if it hurts women, feminists are against it. If feminism, as a lived political practice, is supposed to challenge all forms of oppressive hurtfulness towards women, then what whites do to women of color has to matter as much as what men do to women of color, and register in our minds and hearts as just as wrong and just as intolerable. 

Being profeminist means speaking out about all of it—not just against the behaviors that implicate men of color, for example. We can't let whites off the hook. So when I see whites speaking out about what “those” men of color do to “their women”, what I am left wondering is when do we speak about what we do, as whites, to those same women? And when do we speak out about it as profeminists?

Jeremy: Well, you do that, right?

Julian: Yes, but you may notice that when anyone does it, there are usually whites and men who will point out how inappropriate it is, how misandrous it is, how misogynistic it is, for me or anyone else to do so. It's no accident that, almost without exception, it is ONLY whites and men who object, which lets me know that any challenge to their unjust and unearned power as whites and men is what is being objected to.

So when you state, as you did earlier, that profeminists ought to only speak out about how Men.Oppress.All.Women, I have to wonder if you give a shit about how women of color are oppressed and demeaned on many fronts as women, including racially by white men and white women.

Jeremy: I see what you mean now. But don't you think that white males critiquing white women's racism is a way for those males to be misogynistic?

Julian: If white men critique white women disproportionately—say, more than they critique white men, then I'd question what's going on, yes. And if white males do so in sexist and demeaning ways to white women, then yes. But, again, if women of color matter, if women of color are “women” just as much as white women are, then hadn't your question also better be: “Don't you think that white males not critiquing white women's racism is a way for those males to be misogynistic—to women of color?”

Jeremy: Hmm. I guess I hadn't thought about that.

Julian: Do you think it warrants asking, how someone so dedicated to radicalism and profeminism could neglect to ask such a basic question about women's liberation? And how could it be that you didn't you encounter these points again and again in the radical writings by whites and men you've read over the years?

Jeremy: Where did you encounter them?

Julian: In the writings of radical and feminist women of color. And in conversation with radical feminist women of color who have systematically refused to allow my white and male supremacy to go unchallenged. 

Jeremy: So you were open to changing yourself. 

Julian: Yes. But someone I structurally oppress maintaining a willingness and ability, against great frustration and exhaustion, to call me out is only part of the story; I had to have something meaningful to offer in relationship. Progressive to radical males and whites too often assume that our consciousness would benefit greatly from relationships with people we oppress, but we don't consider what we have to offer people we oppress. 

Jeremy: I don't think I've ever had a close friendship with anyone of color.

Julian: Do you know what, Jeremy? I honestly don't know many whites who do. This is one of many ways that race and sex are different: I know very few males who don't have close relationships with women. But whites really do resist friendships with people of color who demonstrate a willingness to call whites out on their white supremacist nonsense.

It isn't enough you or I are willing to listen carefully, change our behavior, not consider ourselves finished with the work of being less interpersonally oppressive, and understand that our structural whiteness and maleness don't ever disappear. In my life, that stuff has been more of a prerequisite for just the possibility of on-going friendship. Deep friendship requires real giving and sharing. Before you consider asking a woman of color for guidance or support in becoming less oppressive, please first be clear about what you have, emotionally, spiritually, to offer her. Don't be heterosexist in your assumptions and actions: don't approach women for what you can get from them, for what they can teach you or for how they can take care of you; that, for me, would be standard het male practice. And don't ever pretend you're not racist and not sexist; I mean don't pretend you're not a white or male supremacist. Because we're structurally positioned to be each, every minute of every day.

Jeremy: You don't see any difference between acting in racist ways and being a white supremacist? 

Julian: In reality, in our region of the world, there is no meaningful difference; catering to the very political ego needs of whites might compel some of us to make such distinctions. But in North America, if the reality that is most real to you is that of women of color, then we must accept that there is no distinction worth making between sexism and male supremacy, or between racism and white supremacy. What I don't see discussed nearly enough in communities that call themselves "radical" is how sexism/male supremacy and racism/white supremacy cause PTSD in those targeted for harassment, debasement, subordination, and death. The truth of male supremacist behavior is true also of white supremacist behavior: terrorism underlies every expression of it. Given that women of color are viciously and normally targeted by each, we have to ask: how is racism not one more form of misogyny when it affects women of color? Do women of color stop being women when insulted and assaulted by white's racism? 

Some feminists argue that all systems of institutionalised power are gendered and that subordination by sex, sexuality, class, or race isn't just designed to degrade your humanity and limit or snuff out your life, it is designed to feminise you as well. Any political vulnerability is seen as feminising. Any position of power, whether sexed power or raced power, or power achieved through acquisition or theft of wealth, is masculinising. Seen this way, racism masculinises white people and white supremacy becomes a form of male supremacy. I'd say the same is true about how many forms of oppression take on raced qualities: being rich and being male can be an experience of becoming whiter, politically speaking--not that Oprah Winfrey ever gets to be white or male even one day in her life, despite her wealth. 

If we accept all of that as part of how these oppressive systems work and impact each other, then the only conclusion to come to is this: protecting white supremacy by denying its existence among white women or among white men, or by relegating activism against it to the margins of one's work, is a male supremacist practice. And so some of the very people, white ones, who argue we must only focus on male supremacy--or let's say, on capitalism, as far too many white male "Occupy" activists do, are being male supremacist in doing so.

Jeremy: But this kind of takes us back to where we started: isn't focusing on how to eradicate sexism, or male supremacy, the primary work of feminists, and profeminists, given that no other group wants to put what men do that harms women at the center of their work?

Julian: I guess I've come to see radical profeminist work differently. There is a kind of stigma and denigration of social status among men if your work only or centrally concerns itself with what happens to women. I've been called everything from mangina to a wimp to a woman simply because what happens to women is the center of my political work. I think we need to consider it "radical" to put what happens to women at the center of your political concerns and work. But I can't call activist work that ignores either male supremacy or white supremacy, including among the activists, "radical". There's nothing at all radical to me about protecting and defending one's power to abuse others based on structural location. And intentionally or not, that's what males and whites are doing when we deny the power that inheres in our positions atop social hierarchies.

Jeremy: What do you call white radical feminism if it doesn't analyse and seek to eradicate the power of whiteness? 

Julian: I guess I'd call it a branch of white conservatism that also offers a sometimes useful critique of some forms of male supremacy. Just as I'd call the so-called "radical" political work of men across race, "conservative" and "male supremacist" if that work didn't name, address, and oppose male supremacy. This doesn't make the work only conservative. But it makes it conservative with regard to sex. It kind of boils down to this, for me: if someone's activism ignores race, it is functionally white supremacist. If someone's work ignores sexual oppression, it is functionally male supremacist. This isn't really that difficult conceptually, and if you live it, it's rather obvious. 

Jeremy: You make it sound as if you live it--as if you are being negatively or oppressively affected by white and male supremacy. 

Julian: The experiences of those I love become part of my experience of the world. I think that's true for most people, except maybe for the most self-absorbed and sociopathic. Beyond that, being a gay male means that I encounter misogyny, woman-hating, regularly, daily. It is aimed at me systematically because het supremacists enforce an idea that being gay is a degraded state of being, one that puts males in the same structural bracket, politically, as females. As a Jew who grew up studying both the history of Jews and HaShoah, I learned that dark features are devalued and are seen as suspect by people who are white and Gentile. I learned that my Jewishness was raced "dark and dangerous" in Nazi Germany. Here in North America, Jewishness is primarily an ethnicity or a religious affiliation. 

I understand that symbologies and cultural associations that see darkness and blackness as essentially negative and dangerous are both white supremacist and anti-Semitic. White Jews--as opposed to Jews of color, I mean--have to work out our mixed allegiances with people of color and white Gentiles, hopefully building genuine, trustworthy alliance with people of color. Gay white men have to consciously work to not fall into the trap of trying to get what het white men have or try to possess. 

I'd say I'm undeniably and heavily advantaged--structurally empowered and statused--due to being male and white, and I am also targeted in some ways, in oppressive ways, for being gay and Jewish. The time and place where I live doesn't put me in a lot of danger for being either gay or Jewish, thank goodness. But living in a heterosexist society, and in an anti-Semitic one, even if they aren't the most virulent in either regard, does have a destructive effect on queer people and on Jews. Male supremacy is a very crucial dimension of heterosexism just as white supremacy is absolutely central to anti-Semitism. And it is an on-going struggle to call out the sexism and racism I see in those oppressed-while-advantaged communities.

Jeremy: This is a lot to think about. 

Julian: You got that right. Not dealing with these issues and related ones is sometimes desirable to just about everyone I know. But it is only possible to not deal with them if one is only advantaged in these various systems of harm and horror. One of the ways we can know someone is advantaged by race, or by sex, or by sexuality, is that they never seem to need to discuss it, they don't make it a priority to be aware of the horror, and they don't put effort into stopping the harm.


Chris O. said...

Powerful stuff. It definitely put things in perspective for me. I can remember times where I encountered fucked up racist shit among white feminists, and I didn't say anything because I thought it was not my place to call them out. Whereas the reality is that it is more misogynistic and fucked up for me not to say anything. Definitely something that I need to work on.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write this and thank you for linking this to me.

Julian Real said...

Hey Chris,

Thanks for reading and responding.

I know that white male's racism, as well as our sexism, doesn't tend to get called out by anyone most of the time, unless we actively choose to have someone in our lives who will do so. I realised that if I don't call out every incidence of white supremacy and male supremacy, among men across race or among whites across sex, that means I'm basically leaving it to women of color to do all that work. No radical/feminist woman of color has ever told me not to call out a man of color on his misogyny, or a white woman on her white supremacy. And if white women or men tell me I shouldn't, well, that's just white folks protecting white power as far as I'm concerned--but my concern is built on the concerns of radical/feminist women of color.