Saturday, August 30, 2008

The White Liberal Conundrum

On the topic of "Political Correctness", I think The White Liberal Conundrum, by Kai Chang, says it all. Period.

Original source:
Current source of archived essay:

The White Liberal Conundrum

by Kai Chang

Anti-racism is a rewarding but grueling journey which must be consciously undertaken and intrepidly pursued (both inwardly and outwardly) if one hopes to make serious progress along its twisting passageways and steep inclines. There's no static end-condition at which an anti-racist can arrive and definitively declare, "Hallelujah! I am Not A Racist!" Rather, it's a lifelong process of historical education, vigilant self-interrogation, personal growth, and socio-political agitation. Racism fractures our world and our own intactness; anti-racism seeks to proactively treat these bleeding wounds and restore the integrity of our humanity.

As I've often noted, many white liberals remain oblivious to the depth and breadth of anti-racist work, opting to hide behind the delusion that anyone who votes for Democrats and doesn't have a pointy hood in the closet is "a good guy" in the movement toward greater social justice — as though the Democratic Party ( is some bastion of progressivism and not one of two hands strangling US polity on behalf of the ruling class and the corporate-political establishment which sponsors its power. Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind ( liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry ( if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as either "divisive rhetoric" or "flaming"; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all (; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren't necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Of course not all white liberals are like this. I'd say that a significant minority of white liberals are actually interested in learning about anti-racism once properly exposed to it. This requires enough humility to admit that people of color have something to teach white folks, a concept that many whites struggle with because racism teaches us that whiteness is the seat of authoritative knowledge, while brownness is the repository of murky musical mysticism which whiteness may dip into at will for spiritual support and servile entertainment. Nevertheless, some white folks manage to claw and bootstrap their way out of their own conditioning, opening their hearts and minds to previously unseen worlds from which the voices and stories of people of color emerge; studying and observing the profound effects of racist society on their own perceptual prisms and on the shape of the world (; and consciously, steadily working to counteract those effects. Such people become allies to people of color.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons (, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated. They somehow take pride in being more "down with the brown" than their conservative brethren; indeed they exhibit a certain strange glee in highlighting and exploiting the "macaca" and "call me" moments of their political opponents. Armed with "diversity" soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize ( and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives. When you get right down to it, the unrecognized political reality is that most white liberals have more in common with white conservatives — social cues, family ties, cognitive biases, cultural backdrops, etc. — than they do with people of color. I'm calling this tangle of contradictions the white liberal conundrum.

Obviously the record of white liberals when it comes to racism isn't good. Now I know that white folks frequently bemoan the guilt-laden burden of inheriting the racist legacy of their predecessors; to which I can only respond: If white folks disavow and destroy all the systemic advantages and interlocking privileges and perks of whiteness, then they're off the hook! But you can't enjoy the lifelong fruits of the legacy while disowning the accountability, right? That's not how it works.

For people of color, the white liberal conundrum manifests as an ongoing and often exhausting struggle to determine the extent to which they can or should work with, or trust, white liberals. Some feel that it's a waste of time, that most white folks will never get it and those who do will find their way into POC-led movements on their own. Others believe that some modicum of energy should be extended toward bringing white persons ( of good will on board anti-racism and forging common ground. I'm not really sure myself, but I do know that either way, communities of color are going to be on the move and organizing, resisting the racist social order with ingenuity and hope, even as white supremacist imperialism heaps its abuse ( it always has ( outside of the imperious gaze of the mainstream; advanced by the tireless efforts of innumerable anonymous activists, organizers, visionaries, artists, collaborators, innovators; continually appropriated and/or sabotaged by the political and media establishment; reduced and glossed over by mainstream journalists and historians as the miraculous mojo magic of establishment-anointed "leaders" (; and despite all that, continually inspiring vibrant cultural scenes, enabling potent spiritual networks, and undertaking positive socio-political interventions and transformations. upon dark bodies around the world. Anti-racist progress will continue to occur.

For those white liberals and progressives who become serious about extracting racism from their worlds and their lives, who wish to participate in the dismantling of white supremacy, the white liberal conundrum usually culminates in some sort of series of crossroads ( and reckonings; they're often forced to make tough decisions about which of their previous alliances and networks — newly illuminated and often unfavorably recontextualized by anti-racist analysis — are worth trying to maintain, which are too invested in the distortions of the white lens ( to salvage, and which new directions and networks to pursue.

The good news for those who wish to embark upon ( the anti-racist journey is that there's plenty ( of ( help ( along ( the ( way. The literature on anti-racist history, theory, and practice is voluminous. In the intertube age, it's not all that hard to find. White liberals who have no interest in engaging this vital body of knowledge, who refuse to incorporate it into their political vision and agendas, cannot be considered allies to people of color; they shouldn't act surprised when not all that many persons of color show up for their parties, contribute to their causes, or buy into their narratives. On the other hand, those who have the courage to allow themselves to be transformed by anti-racist consciousness have a shot at escaping the white liberal conundrum; they turn their critical powers upon their own lives, minds, and hearts first; they listen and read and reflect with seering honesty; and thus they begin to recognize — and actively oppose — the breadth and depth of racism's consistent, dehumanizing, body-shattering impact on the shape of this wounded world.

Posted by Kai at 04:33 PM

Celie's Revenge: When White Males Attack: Larry Flynt, Racism & The Left

Celie's Revenge: When White Males Attack: Larry Flynt, Racism & The Left, by Celie's Revenge, addresses a political history almost everyone on the White Left ignores completely. Why? One reason: its own investment in white male supremacy.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sex, Lies, and Digital Images: The Politics of Kyle Payne's Sexuality

A white feminist blogger suggested another question for me to ask Kyle:
Essential Estrogen said...
One more question for your list: Why did he video himself in public buildings? And, yeah, he did.

This is news to me. Thank you, E.E., for the link, the commentary, and your thorough coverage of this story over the months. I don't think you have anything to explain to others about why you have focused in on this case. It warrants at least as much attention as any other sexual assault case.

I hope Kyle's victim and her family find justice, somehow. Peace follows justice; if it doesn't, we aren't doing enough to change what needs to be radically transformed.

This newest revelation about Kyle doesn't upset me because he has been masturbating. It is of concern because the acts are done publicly. This doesn't mean that men's private sexual behavior is less troublesome. In contemporary Western society, a man videotaping himself being sexual, even in the privacy of his own home, can be and frequently is an act of bolstering the man's sexual self-importance--the sense that he's more of "a man" (in the patriarchal sense). In this society, males learn that an erection becomes functional only when someone else is being objectified or violated, in fantasy or reality. In Kyle's case, videotaping himself was not enough. He had to physically and photographically violate another human being; one who was as vulnerable as an adult human being can get.

This newer information, about his public acts, is also a profeminist issue. Men engaging in behavior that aggrandizes ourselves, makes our dicks into objects of patriarchal prominence, equates being stiff with being powerful, especially when it involves sexual behavior with others, is one significant element in making oneself into a gender-privileged person with a propensity to be sexually selfish and callous to the humanity of other people. This selfishness might take the form of a man only caring about the level of his own pleasure, or only wanting to engage another person in an activity in which his dick is the center of attention. There are men who insist that the other person with him must kneel down before it, such as by insisting on getting a blow-job while he is in a standing position. It's not "natural arousal" the man is interested in here. It's the act of degrading or denying another person their humanity. It may also be expressed through acts repeatedly performed in order to be a predatory exhibitionist. Kyle has demonstrated that he is both a predator and an exhibitionist, which makes his entire social universe dangerous to others.

We don't get to know precisely why Kyle wanted to engage in that behavior and later see himself do it, or make it available for others to see, "by accident" or not. But him doing this in places where others could be disturbed or violated by him has to be considered creepy at least, and a way to alarm women and undermine their sense of safety and well-being. I don't know many people who would be unaffected should they witness either the solo activity, or the videotaped version of the activity, especially if it is not wished for or welcomed by the viewer in the first place. Children and women are frequently traumatized by suddenly finding a man alone, jerking off. I have known several women who were terrorized precisely in this way.

Were these places children could wander? Were they places women would likely access? If he did it only in what are predominantly all male spaces, such as in many CEO boardrooms, in a men's locker room, or beside a basketball court, for example, I'd be little bit less concerned. Call that a bias. But in my experience, men, who are disproportionately not sexual trauma survivors, seeing men jerking off is quite a different experience than children or women seeing it happen in public. Some men I know wouldn't be troubled by it in the least. Some would be annoyed. Some would find it seriously alarming. But the range of the impact on boys, girls, and women exceeds those responses. I'm not saying what women would feel, or that all women would have the same response or reaction. (That would depend on the individual woman, her history, etc. There might be women who would laugh, others who would scream.) I'm saying that his behavior exists as one piece of a whole cultural-political puzzle, in which women, girls, and boys, are inundated with images pro-male supremacy folks (of whatever gender) produce. The dominant capitalist culture of the US is one where dehumanizing sexual images abound where women of all colors, men of color, and all children are degraded and debased, for profit. And in this society "dehumanized" is disturbingly synonymous with "sexual."

In the so-called private and public spheres, men's real time non-cyber spaced activities are unrelentingly assaulting, at least to people's psyches and often to their bodies and spirits. What Kyle has been doing, in these public acts, is reinforcing and perpetuating key elements of a rapist culture.

And him privately sexually violating a woman in various ways is especially rapist behavior, fortunately criminal, unfortunately not a felony.

Men in male supremacist cultures are renowned for creating environments that are scary, disturbing, or traumatic for women. Usually those spaces are where women grow up, where women currently live, where women work when they work out of the house, and where women pass through social space, getting from point A to point B.

I have been in conversation with women using cell phones in public spaces, while I am not in those locations. An astounding number of times, through the phone, I hear men call out to them, to "compliment" them, to harass them, or to try and rent them for sex. Virtually every woman I know who is not very elderly, who lives in an urban environment, and appears to be "a woman" to men, is harassed or otherwise intruded upon by unrequested daily male attention and commentary, often overtly misogynistic in content, intent, and effect. And it's not just construction workers who do the harassing. It's men in suits, men in cars en route to god knows where, men who get out of their cars and follow the women to get their attention and phone number, men who will not leave women alone after the women make it clear that they do not wish to be approached by strange men. Women I know are generally polite about disengaging with these arrogant or oblivious pricks. But the harassers and intruders are not only in the public realm. Inside the home, older brothers, fathers, step-dads, uncles, and grandpas are sexually predatory. As are male doctors, dentists, clergy, bosses, co-workers... the list is long. Many women I know grew up with men who, if they did not incest them overtly, did show them "special attention" when they reached puberty, commenting on their changing bodies in ways that made those (then) girls uncomfortable to say the least.

Frankly, I don't give a damn about people masturbating in places where they cannot be heard or seen, and where the knowledge or evidence of them masturbating there doesn't create feelings of unease, unsafety, or disturbance in other people. One more time with feeling: it's not the masturbation itself that is problematic; it's the social-political context in which it is happening and its impact on others. In this case we are talking about someone who has repeatedly gone out of his way to make himself intrusively sexual, for other people to find him. Kyle carrying around a video camera 24/7 is beginning to be plausible, and additionally disturbing.

Kyle the white profeminist, has, apparently, been engaging in overt sexual behavior in public and in private, and has been recording and saving it, for a reason. And those who live anywhere near him ought to know the extent to which he did this. If he were sexually abused as a child, this information might lead me to conclude that, in part, this is "acting out" behavior; that he was being foolishly risky in order to get caught and feel bad. But because he's twenty-two, not six, or even eleven, his past stops being an excuse or an explanation. Individualistic psychological explanations ought not be applied to overly political actions that have a structural and systemic root.

This new information adds something to the "Kyle Payne is a hypocritical sexual violator of women" story. This blog entry is related to and flows from the observations Essential Estrogen brings to the discussion. Kyle's sexual practices, the one he makes sure people can and will know about, not only demonstrate a propensity to engage in overtly sexual criminal behavior. Sheila Jeffries wrote a substantive analysis of gay men's sexual behavior and its negative impact on lesbians and other women in a book I recommend queer communities read and discuss; the book is titled Unpacking Queer Politics. I especially recommend it to white queer people, as that is who she is discussing primarily. In one section of that book, she analyzes how men engaging in public sex impacts women's lives.

Women have so few places, public or private, where they are not being confronting with something traumatic or triggering that men are doing around them or to them; this includes a female-only households where the grim details of another rape is reported on the evening news. My hope, as a profeminist man, is that we men will be honest about our struggles before we are caught; that we make public what we do but not in ways that are in and of themselves irresponsible and insensitive to an audience that includes survivors of sexual abuse and other white male supremacist oppression.

It is likely Kyle is without his camera, or soon will be. Any masturbating he does in the future will, let's hope, not be recorded for anyone other than his courtroom prosecutors to see. With Kyle put away, for six months, the public places he committed these acts might now be less predatory places for people to be in. Using social calculus for measuring creepiness, women may be a tiny bit safer because one more abuser of women has currently been removed from a mixed gendered environment, for six months. Six months isn't a very long time.

Am I implying that I think Kyle Payne, please forgive the pun, is getting off easy?

What I actually believe about his sentencing is this: his victim should have determined the amount of time he spends behind bars, not US laws that do little to nothing to challenge white male supremacy as such, and rapist culture specifically.

Kyle Payne has been sentenced to six months in jail, not prison

Here is the story from the Iowa newspaper that has been closely following this case.


Monday, August 18, 2008

A few questions for Kyle Payne

Hi Kyle.

I have a few questions for you, and I'd appreciate you answering them here.

1. Why have you not posted Nikki's and my comments that we sent months ago, in response to your post A Different Kind of Pain? Or, if you have, where are they?

2. Pertaining to the incident:
Did you turn yourself in to your superior (in your capacity as RA), to other adminstration at the college where you worked, or to the police?

3. (Relating to the above) If not, how did it come to pass that this whole matter was discovered and uncovered? I think there's stuff floating around on the web about this, and I'd rather hear about this directly from you: what happened that led the police to confiscate your computer and camera, I mean after the time the photos and short video were taken? How did the police know that you had committed a crime, or series of them?

4. How much time transpired between you taking the images and the police (or whoever) taking away your computer and camera? Did you upload the images of the victim into your computer?

5. Before the incident discussed in your recent blogpost with update (08.09.08 and 08.02.08) have you ever taken a photograph, digital or not, video or still, of a woman in any state of undress, without her knowledge or permission?

6. How do you plan to make yourself publicly accountable if you are only privately collecting responses from feminists? Have there been requests, to date, for a public online discussion or forum in which you and your questioners can interact? If not, why have you not initiated this?

7. What argument or reasoning can you give for why a woman or women should feel safe around you if the woman or women is/are asleep, drunk, on drugs, or in any state of consciousness or unconsciousness? You acknowledge quite clearly in your statement that this impulse just came over you in a bewildering and confusing way. Doesn't that make you more dangerous, not less? Explain how women are safer now that this story--the press's version and your own telling of it--made it to the public sphere?

8. You state that your intent in speaking about your past was to put the incident in context as a profeminist, yet you don't adequately explain how your white, male, and heterosexual entitlements factor into what you did, except to say that you own what you did. Why is the childhood abuse you suffered more relevant to disclose than a detailed list of your entitlements? (And, which of these entitlements are still in place?)

9. On your blog you wrote:
I write this letter in the interest of dropping barriers, sharing openly and honestly a story that is very difficult to talk about, in hopes that doing so may bring peace, understanding, and hope to the lives of others.

In what ways have you dropped barriers, aside from sharing the story? You seem pretty inaccessible generally, and fully in control of this process. I believe hope is found in concrete action, action that is radically different than behaviors that have harmed other people, if we're talking on the social level.

10. What are you doing that is radically different from your harmful actions, to make yourself more directly accountable to feminists and profeminists outside and inside the blogosphere? How can we know this won't happen again?

I look forward to seeing your answers here.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reality-check, part 1: We Live In A White Male Supremacist Society

I keep returning to this question:

How is it that so many men in the U.S., especially those with class, race, and education privilege, can be so completely ignorant of ubiquitous social phenomena like misogyny, anti-Black racism, genocidal anti-Indigenism, and heterosexism? (To name but four expressions of the dominant ideology-in-practice.)

Part of the answer is that the privilege itself is a distancing mechanism from experiencing what most people (women) in the world experience. But even when we know what's going down, though study and empathic connection to women in our lives, we are generally reluctant to adequately or accurately name (out loud) the harm we do to women. Part of the answer is also that we never radically and sustainably challenge the systems of harm we live in and benefit from substantively because we benefit so much.

Given the choices we have created, living as a white man is a significantly less degrading and difficult human experience than living the life of a woman, of any color. Men suffer, including white men, including rich white men: we get depressed, we get cancer, we suffer great losses of loved ones. But we don't know how or to what degree people who are not us suffer and endure and assume it is more or less like what we experience. It isn't. We also don't wish to recognize that those we oppress are generally less dehumanized than we are. The dehumanization is a prerequisite and a part of being a white man, socially speaking. (I here use the terms "white" and "man" only as social-political categories of humans, not as biological or "natural" terms.)

Our silence and apathy, in a world that rewards us while others generate our rewards, is a powerful and central cause and consequence of white male supremacy. It might be less problematic for us to claim we "see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil." It might be convenient to claim we are "the Good Germans" who didn't know what was happening to Jews and other ethnic, cultural, and political groups cattle-carred into showering rooms and ovens, gassed then burned to ash or buried. The dishonesty of such claims is that we know what we do; we simply refuse to tell others about it, especially ourselves. We speak evil, we hear evil, we see evil, assuming we have those senses. We do the evil, but call it "natural", "inevitable", "inconsequential", or "not my fault".

The U.S. is cluster of social systems of hierarchically arranged gendered, raced, classed, and sexed power has many regional differences and permutations, shifting over time. Within the last two hundred years, or more, there is and has been an overarching ideology from its inception crafted by the "Founding Fathers". As soon as was possible, institutions were established to protect the gross entitlements and unjust privileges of those who created the institutions: wealthy white men. The values and principles infused in these institutions were appropriated and esteemed inside a social context where only white men were deemed fully human: "heterosexuality" as such, was not a lifestyle choice that was fully formed, while the racism and misogyny of homophobia and heterosexism were part of the bloody concrete slab this country was built on.

For "evidence", there's plenty of unapologetic, rampant rape by white men, of white women and women of color, plenty of genocidal atrocity, to this day, and plenty of slavery, in many forms, particularly of Black people who were forcibly brought here from Africa. As business interests go global, slavery expands to include most nations comprising the Third World. One form of slavery that is endemic is sexual slavery. The atrocious practices that accomplish sexual slavery are all white male supremacist, with corporate capitalist assistance. The perpetrators are those who materially most benefit from sexual trafficking. But around them are "the rest of us" who do little to stop those practices, in part because we want in on them, even if we never "go there".

Currently, boys, girls, and women of color around the world, along with the same groups from Eastern Europe, are the greatest populations of exploited chattel. Another targeted population is transwomen, and other people not easily categorized by gender and sexual orientation inside a white heteromale supremacist understanding of "what people are".

I refer to this ideology as white male supremacy: not "white supremacy" or "male supremacy". In this country, in my experience and the experience of the women of color I know, neither of those terms is inadequate to explain what we are living in, enduring, benefitting from, and practicing, to varying degrees, depending on our social location or station. This doesn't make "white male supremacy" the profeminist "politically correct" term. This makes the fusion of racism and sexism apparent from the start, as was the case here when european colonizers came and took root, like a foreign weed forever ecocidally and radically disrupting the civilizations that were here first. This "disruption" might be best termed ecodical genocide.

In the U.S. white male supremacy is also currently bound to an grotesquely inhumane and wildly savage form of corporate capitalism. Class divisions here, though, have always been infused with white male supremacist markers: to have money is to make one more white and more a man. To be rich is to participate, with greater agency and freedom, in the atrocities which are required for the system to "work". That it doesn't really "work" in any ethical, sustainable way is not supposed to be discussed in polite elitist social circles. Even the Academy is bound up in this mess, becoming increasingly corporatized with increasing control over what is considered to be " useful learnable knowledge".

Our corporate white male supremacist society (which is to say, people, engaged in social activity) destructively promotes,always with force and the threat of violence--a range of violent practices that accomplish the task of maintaining the elite's "interests" by any means necessary. The maintainance of the system requires people too oblivious, to callous, or too oppressed, to maintain it. It is never controlled by the oppressed, however, a point which white liberals fail to grasp, along with many other basics about the political reality of the U.S.

Many of the ideals and institutions of Western liberal societies are modified in the U.S. by specific forms of white social conservatism rooted in white Christian fundamentalist values and practices. Among the matters we must not dispute are the "natural, inherent" goodness of the allegedly nuclear family, the "natural, inherent" goodness of the allegedly heterosexual marriage, women constrained by raising children (however joyful an experiene it sometimes can be), and white male supremacist sex for men-on-demand, especially for white heterosexually active men.

Anti-Black racism, genocidal anti-Indigenism, and other forms of depressing, infuriating oppression of people termed "not white" abound. Women of color endure particular forms of both racism and sexism that white women do not. White women experience specific forms of race-privileged sexism, also harmful, also oppressive, that women of color do not.

To call this society only capitalist, or onlywhite supremacist, or only male supremacist or patriarchal, is to willfully or ignorantly not grasp the depth of who is being harmed and why.

"Profeminist men" typically ignore some significant facet of what oppresses the women who live in the U.S. and Canada, to speak only of two highly white-populated countries. We either pretend "patriarchy" is the enemy, and sometimes grasp that white supremacy and capitalism are problematic as well, if not well integrated into our theories.

What is most often left out of our analysis, in my experience, is the ecocidal/genocidal dimensions of our racist patriarchy. While profeminism in the U.S. remains grossly anglo- and eurocentric in its worldviews and methods of discerning "what reality is", it is especially determined to keep from its center the perspectives and experiences of the Indigenous women of what is now called North America.

Until profeminism centralizes the experiences and concerns of women of color, including Indigenous women, it will fail to be, even in the imagination, let alone in social practice, a profeminist movement. A movement which invisibilizes and marginalizes women of color, or holds whiteness as a standard of human being, is not profeminist, it is white male supremacist, at and to its core.

Radical profeminism, in this view, is organized (effectively, with built-in systems of accountability to feminists and other radical women activists) to dismantle and radically transform those practices, policies, and philosophies which harm women of color, centralizing the hurtful-to-lethal experiences women endure and die from, disproportionately because they are women not men. This profeminism is inclusive of, but not organized around, the experiences and agendas of white women only.

A grand myth about feminism is that women of color were never central to its creation. Feminism in the U.S. was forged in and from the experiences and resistance movements of women of color, with additional input from white women's activism.

Inside an academy that has always been deeply racist and sexist, his-story is white and male, and her-story is white and female, primarily.

Any profeminist who has only engaged responsively and responsibly to white women doesn't know what being a profeminist is. I say this based on experience and observation.

White supremacist profeminists, as I'll term them, are committed to an understanding of the world, to a practice of activism, that is usually not fully accountable to feminist white women, and is rarely-to-never accountable to feminist women of color.

What this means is that white male supremacy is unchallenged at its roots.

What this means is that the majority of women--women of color, are not respected let alone consulted, are not read let alone studied, and are not seen as leaders let alone the founders of feminism.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Radical Profeminist Analysis of Kyle Payne's "Because you deserve to know" blog statement

In Kyle Payne's August 2nd, 2008 blogpost I see some patterns of male supremacist behavior that warrant pointing out, by another man. The link above is to the entirety of his text. What follows is discussion about portions of that text. All comments in brackets is mine.

* Trigger Warning * [What is the trigger warning for? Who are you concerned about? Those who have been similarly violated? As you'll see, I think there's much more that's potentially triggering below than your description of what you did that was horrendously violative of a woman. Is that also what the warning is here for?]

We rarely change when we are simply cruising along [privileges in tact], insulated from the world [of meaningful accountability]. It is only when we drop the barriers that separate us from other human beings [be honest], admit that we don’t know all the answers [pretend we don't know what we are doing, or how we did it], and listen closely to others and to the world around us [if and when there are people empowered to accurately call us out] that we can truly promote personal transformation [say, without certainty, we will do better in the future]. [...]

I have committed a terrible act [Kyle has committed several terrible acts, not just one], one [at least four] that contradicts my own [professed] personal values and my [professed] politics, and through this letter, I wish to explain (not justify) [well, maybe some of each] my actions and their effects. [At least there he acknowledges there was more than one act.] I also will describe what I am currently doing, and what I will continue to do, in an effort to promote justice and personal transformation. [I will not let you know what I am doing to evade personal responsibility and accountability.] I wholeheartedly welcome your feedback and questions [but not in such a way that others can see them, because that would allow us to know you are not alone in your assessments of my actions]. You may contact me at

On Monday, June 30, 2008, I pleaded guilty to criminal charges in Buena Vista County in Iowa, specifically one count of attempted burglary and two counts of invasion of privacy. [This plea, however, doesn't really describe the actions at all, and, in fact, minimizes and obscures them.] On January 3, 2007, I was invited [by whom exactly?] to assist [what does "assist" mean: if she's intoxicated, in what ways are you being asked to assist her: holding her head while she vomits at the toilet, and handing her a towel to wipe her mouth? Making sure she is sitting up and sipping water? Those would be acts of assistance to...] an intoxicated female student at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. [How intoxicated was she: was she unconscious, was she drifting in and out of consciousness; was she aware of your presence when you entered her room?] Following my responsibilities as a resident advisor, I looked after this student in her dorm room to ensure her safety and evaluated whether or not medical attention was necessary. [What specific training do you have in order to make such determinations? Were you instructed to check her pulse and movement in her pupils? Were you instructed, in other words, to touch her?] Fortunately, medical attention was not necessary. [Or unfortunately, depending on how this event plays out: had she been brought to an emergency room--as an act of not taking any chances, she would not have later been violated in several ways; why wasn't she brought to an emergency room by at least two staffpeople, one of them female?] However, as I will explain, some of my actions while assisting the student were harmful and inappropriate. {Agreed.]

While caring for the female student, I felt a sudden impulse to expose her breast. Not knowing how to deal with this feeling at the time – and to put it more clearly, not knowing how to make sense of such an urge, given my personal values and my politics – I acted upon it. [This doesn't hold water: you have a sudden impulse to do something that you are registering as inconsistent with your professed values and politics; how does moment of confusion jump to acting upon it in a violative manner? With a digital camera I kept with me regularly [how convenient: this is central to the story, and is not sufficiently explained], I briefly photographed and took a few seconds of video of the woman’s breast[which was or was not already exposed? If it was exposed, why didn't you cover her up earlier on, prior to the impulse that led to you further violating her? If her breast was not already exposed, how did it become so?]. She did not consent to this act, nor did she have any knowledge of it at the time. [OK: so what is being established is that she was not conscious; was she or wasn't she unconscious?] This event ended as quickly as it began, leaving me in a state of disbelief at what I had done. [This is consistent with Western male socialization: to profess one thing and do another. This state of disbelief is a necessity in order to behave in atrocious ways and think of oneself also as a good person; ask any upstanding male citizen who is also an incest perpetrator or child molester who is capable of being honest about this; I realize this drops the pool of available respondents down to almost zero: few men will be honest about what we do and the ways we don't self-intervene to stop ourselves from doing what we desire to do.]

As I have been instructed not to make contact with the victim, I have no way of knowing how she is doing or what effect my actions have had on her life. I feel it is likely, however, that my actions have, at the very least, left her feeling less safe in the company of men. [That's a safe bet; it may also make her feel less safe any time she falls asleep, or when in bed resting and someone enters the room; it may also make her feel like her body belongs to her less than it once did; you have done rape crisis counseling: what else does the violation of a woman by a man cause; what does it do to women in your experience?] I hope she is doing well, and I hope she knows, with the utmost certainty, that she did not deserve to be treated in this way. [I hope so too, but most people who are victimized interpersonally, blame themselves or hold themselves responsible for what male perpetrators do.] No one does. I am very deeply sorry for what I have done. [You haven't fully established that you know all of what you did, unless you believe the following sentence sums up the harm.] In a matter of moments, I committed a terrible act, abusing a position of authority and betraying a sacred trust shared with me as a resident advisor. [That's one dimension of the harm, which leaves out the gendered nature of the violation and how male privileges and entitlements are glaringly present throughout your acts of violation of her, but are not owned or seen as such by you; that you do not own or see these, weakens any apogoly, or renders it politically meaningless, even if it is emotionally sincere.] I owe my humblest apologies to the victim and her family, to the campus community at BVU, to my own family, and to many others who put their faith in me as a person of good moral character. I owe a special apology as well to the many women who have sought my assistance as a rape crisis advocate and who, upon learning about my actions, may have experienced re-victimization. I believe my actions warrant everyone’s questioning of my character [or awareness of your privileges and entitlements, and how being a man in a male supremacist society predicated on the violation and subordination of women factors into what you did, so much so that had those not been in place, you simply would not have been able to do what you did. Period.] and of my ability and willingness to act in accordance with my own professed values. I will either earn trust back, or I won’t. That is not for me to decide. But I take this as an opportunity to speak openly and honestly [as openly and honestly as a man who wishes to keep hidden, from others, if not also from himself, the degree to which this series of violating acts depended entirely on factors you don't name or own.] and be held accountable for my actions. [What do you think that should look like? What do you think appropriate actions by others would be to what you have done?]

Many people have been understandably shocked and angry upon hearing about the criminal charges. [Personally, I am also angry about what the charges leave out, and what you leave out of the story.] Since I started college, I have developed a strong reputation as a pro-feminist activist and advocate for survivors of sexual violence [this is but one of many available strategies for gaining intimate access to women; to be clear: I cannot know whether, deep down, there was a desire to violate women and this move into profeminism and advocacy of abuse survivors was an effort to stifle it and prevent it from surfacing, or if it was more egregiously an effort to hide it]. Feminism, in fact, has been at the heart of virtually every major endeavor I have pursued in the last several years, including my work in residence life, student government, campus media, community service, wellness education, and of course, supporting the women’s studies program. Why would someone so passionate about working to stop violence against women commit such an act? At this point in time, I cannot give a complete answer to that question. [This question is easily answered in terms of male privileges and entitlements. A more traditionally--and patriarchally--psychoanalytic perspective is not necessary to understand why you did what you did.] The act itself is not something with which I identify, [again, this is common among predators who seek to be viewed as good people: clergy, doctors, fathers, etc.] nor are the interests behind it. [I believe women would be safeer if you did identify with them, and own them, and be responsible with them.] Indeed, for some time following the incident, I could not believe what had actually taken place. This may seem confusing, but I hope this letter can begin to shed light on what happened and my experience of it. [So far this letter does little to illuminate how male supremacy was at work in your actions.]

As I have undergone a full psychological evaluation and begun a treatment program for various mental health issues, I am learning more and more each day about what factors led me to commit the act I have described. [I doubt it. I do not believe traditional psychological evaluation will go near a radical feminist or radical profeminist understanding of what you did, and how you could do it.] My experiences of child sexual abuse have produced a great deal of unresolved anger, [understandably] primarily because I was unable to obtain necessary support during that period [which is awful, and, sadly, common] and have since worked very hard to repress those memories. [This working on repressing any experiences to which anger or rage is attached, is one thing that men can do to facilitate becoming dangerous to women or children. By harboring unresolved rage from personal historical circumstances, in a male supremacist society, men have fuel to burn: this tends to be misdirected at women; childhood-generated fuel isn't a requirement for men to harm women, however: male privileges and entitlements are. They are, in fact, the only requirement.]

That unresolved anger at the injustice and violation done to me is what led me initially to anti-rape work as a rape crisis advocate when I started college. [This makes sense to me.] I felt that helping others might allow me to find some sort of peace with what happened to me. [As you are discovering, it doesn't work that way: by avoiding dealing with your feelings from the past that are active in your present life, you facilitate a process of dangerous psychic splitting common among men, which makes it far more likely you will behave in ways that are not consistent with your professed values.] Being an advocate did help me to better understand the socio-political context of my experiences of abuse, particularly as I began reading feminist theory. However, because I concentrated my energy solely on an advocacy role for others, rather than addressing my own experiences of abuse, nothing got better. In fact, things got much worse. [This makes sense and is tragic, especially for your victim.]

Serving as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence and hearing their stories of violence, cruelty, and degradation re-introduced me to my own pain and humiliation via flashbacks, panic attacks, insomnia, bouts of depression, and chronic anxiety. Believing that further justice work, in the absence of appropriate psychological treatment, would help me resolve these issues, I dove headlong into feminist anti-pornography activism, academic research on pornography, and working closely with abusive college men as a resident advisor. [I can well understand how this approach to not dealing with the past was not helpful to you; but it is being offered here as the foundation of an explanation of why it is you violated a woman, and there is no meaningful political link here and to pretend there is to keep yourself and possibly others in denial about why we men do what we do that, disproportionately, violates women.] I feel very pleased that this involvement allowed me to make a real difference in other people’s lives. [I think you should be pleased at work you have done that is helpful to others, but not if the doing of that work was, according to you, not me, central in creating the situation you detailed above involving a female student who you were charged with keeping safe.] But due to serious neglect and denial on my part, my involvement in anti-rape work only distanced me from resolving the effects of being victimized at a very young age. {I follow this. But don't agree with your premise that it is relevant to what you did to that female student.] Through further psychological treatment and careful meditation on this history, it is my primary goal to reach a healthy balance in my life and minimize the risk of hurting anyone in the future. [The plan you have laid out for yourself, in my view, will do little to make you safer to women who you have access to.]

I still struggle to understand what was going through my mind during the incident last January, and more importantly, what prompted me to disrespect and truly dehumanize another person. [Your focus on the psychology of the actions, rather than on the politics of them, will, I believe, only serve to keep you ignorant about why men, including you, commit misogynist acts.] Given what I have experienced as a survivor of sexual abuse, my failure to obtain proper treatment, and my obsessive attention toward the harm of the rape culture, it seems likely that I neglected to fully investigate and confront the influence of patriarchal conditioning on my own sexuality. [This would be one important area to focus on, if you are to become a sexually non-predatory man.] In fact, as my involvement in anti-rape work, and feminism in general, has constantly stigmatized any form of sexualized domination, there would be obvious incentives, psychologically speaking, to repress any (conscious or unconscious) identification with these behaviors. [I would hope feminist studies and your own work on yourself would reveal to you precisely how it is that you did what you did, and that your personal history has little to do with it. As much feminist literature reveals, it is male privilege that is central to any oppressive and otherwise harmful act against a woman by a man. It is our privilegs that make such behavior easily accomplished, by men, in a male supremacist society such as the one you live in; the feminist literature I have read clearly states why we do what we do; Andrea Dworkin, for one, is especially clear about this: what of her work had you read before committing these acts of violation? Are you saying that the feminism you have been exposed to did not clue you into the politics of your own behavior?] Accordingly, I have insisted that my psychological treatment assist me in a sexual development rooted in feminist thought [whose exactly?], while also addressing the developmental challenges and political entitlements of being male in a male-supremacist society. [I agree that would be good work to do.]

I have faced a great deal of serious consequences of my criminal and unethical actions, all of them just and appropriate. [If they are seen by you as appropriate, what is the male supremacist function of you listing them so specifically?] I lost my job in residence life at a major research university, my university-owned apartment, in addition to my acceptance at an excellent graduate program in student affairs. I was unable to attend graduation at BVU, and since pleading guilty, I have been banned from campus for life. My reputation as a pro-feminist activist and an advocate for survivors has been seriously, and quite possibly irrevocably, compromised. I have been forced to leave several activist groups, including those for which I was a leader or founding member. I have also been the subject of intense scrutiny at BVU, in my hometown, in my professional and social networks, and all over the internet. With a criminal record, I will face serious limitations on my career prospects, as well as on my involvement with various social organizations and in personal relationships. [To me, this functions as one of two "I am the victim here" portions of your statement, which is both inappropriate and male supremacist. The mention of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse is the other. As you know, proportionally, far more women than men were abused as children, sexually. Far more men than women abuse women and children: clearly the key factor in why and how men abuse others is not sexual trauma that occurred in some of our early lives. The combination of mentioning that history of abuse here, and detailing what consequences there have been for what you did, undermine the political value, if not also the sincerity, of much of the rest of your statement.]

The consequences of my actions are well-deserved. [Then just say there have been significant and appropriate consequences, and leave it at that. There is a split here, in this statement, that is indicative of the split in many men: a split that is in our interests, as men in a male supremacist society, by the way: a split that serves our political interests at the expense of women's safety and dignity.] No act of men’s exploitation of women ought to be excused [you have, whether you own it or not, been making excuses here, Kyle. It's important that you see that.] or overlooked, regardless of a man’s history of good deeds (even if, in fact, those deeds have been feminist in nature) [Agreed.]or a history of trauma related to sexual abuse and other exposure to violence [the repetition of this sad and no doubt deeply harmful fact of you past undermines and contradicts the opening of this sentence of yours, and much of the tone and content of the whole piece.] For a man to identify as an ally to feminism, as I understand it, is to agree to practice, as Pearl Cleage discusses in her writings, a “posture of listening.” [Yes. That would be one among many other behaviors men ought to do to be an ally to feminists. Her section on how women ought to best take care of themselves around men reveals a lot more about what it means to be an ally to women, from a feminist point of view.] Being in such a posture means to me that I must hold myself accountable to a community of feminists, [Agreed.] answering openly and honestly any challenge or question that women bring to me regarding my actions and my words. As such, I share with you some of the consequences of my actions, not to draw sympathy, [I don't buy this, Kyle: it functions almost soley to draw out sympathy in the reader, or anger at the audacity of you doing so.] but to embrace these consequences [again, no need for us to know exactly what those were, in my view] and provide some context for one of the most important lessons I have learned. {I don't see you providing the political context at all, actually. I see you being very evasive about this matter, and being manipulative, intentionally or not, in the structure and content of this statement.]

I have lost a great deal over the last several months. [Have you not already established this?] Chief among them, at least during particularly difficult times, has been a willingness to wait and see what the next day had to bring. Without the trust that other survivors and other activists had shared with me, a trust that had sustained me and helped me clearly see that there was good in the world, I felt that there was nothing left. I wanted to die. Fortunately, it was a select few of those compassionate souls who helped me remember what real hope is all about. [This would be the third portion of your statement that makes you the victim here; this section is particularly egregious, as it nullifies, by effect, the degree to which survivors of abuse feel suicidal, and sometimes are, successfully. This is highly inappropriate content for a letter of accountability, in my view.] In the words of Vaclav Havel,

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

[For me, this statement of yours is not demonstrating, sufficiently, an ability to work for something because it is good; it is demonstrating a high level of self-unawareness, a glaring need to be self-serving here, a serious attempt to cover your political tracks, an evasion of responsibility, and, possibly, an effective form of denying others a means of holding you accountable.]

I may not regain that sacred trust I described. [At this point, it would be foolish to trust you, in my view.] My hurtful actions ought never be completely forgotten or left behind. [Don't worry: the women I know who have been sexually violated tend not to forget, or leave it behind, no matter how hard they try. From what women have told me, and from what I have seen, among communities of women who have been deeply harmed by men, it follows them, too often in self-destructive ways that interfere with their process of trying to become more fully empowered.] And the guilt and remorse I feel for what I have done will never leave. [As Audre Lorde and Andrea Dworkin have stated, very clearly, the oppressed don't need the knowledge of the oppressor's guilty feelings; but do keep the remorse in tact and very visible to yourself.] But rather than simply fading away myself, [yet another allusion to your alleged victimhood: demonstrating an unwillingness to hold the one most victimized here in a human light.] I need to have the courage to own what I have done, to open myself to criticism, and to continue living more responsibly than I have in the past. [Yes, but this statement offers me little in the way of hope that you'll achieve this greater level of responsibility.]And in whatever ways possible, I need to continue working for the common good. [This is a given, and comes across as grandiose here.]

I am currently living with my parents, who have been very supportive and compassionate throughout this long and difficult process. [There is more victimization implied here: who, primarily, needs compassion when someone is harmed: the victim or the perpetrator. We might answer "both." But there's no mention of their compassion for the woman you harmed. Why is that not mentioned? The effect of a lot of this statement is that "It's still all about Kyle": there is a dangerous level of self-absorbtion here, in my view, not atypical self-absorbtion, not "clinical" self-absorbtion, but rather the self-centeredness that comes with being a man in a male supremacist society. And, still reflecting now on what you say you have received at home: that is only partly good news to me; it would serve you well to have people close to you who are also capable of politically calling you out on what you have done, people who will make sure you understand that perspective, a radically profeminist one.] I am employed full-time in the assembly department at a manufacturing company. And I am also a full-time graduate student and will soon finish a graduate degree in adult education. [I am thinking now of the women whose lives are permanently derailed after an assault, and the privileges you have to continue on as you are in school and work.] With my degree, I hope to obtain employment in training and development or producing educational media, in addition to freelance writing. Wherever the future leads, I plan to remain actively involved with community service and civic engagement. [I would be wary of working with you, unless or until you "get it" about why you did what you did.] Until treatment has resolved my mental health concerns, however, I am halting any involvement with research, activism, or advocacy related to pornography or sexual violence. [As well you should, but not because you're not done with treatment, but rather because you don't own what you did, politically, responsibly.] I am also setting aside my interest in employment in student affairs, particularly residence life. [You state this as something you are setting aside--once again echoing a "look what I have had to sacrifice" or less honestly, "look what I am choosing to give up"; I think the truth of the matter is there's no way in hell anyone would, or should, allow you to be working in the field of residence life: I would hope that a background check would pull up your conviction rather quickly. But I'm glad to hear that, just the same.] In the last few days, I have sent letters to over seventy friends, family members, and other relations explaining my actions in detail, expressing my remorse for these actions, and asking for forgiveness and understanding. [I do not believe it is appropriate for you to ask for forgiveness and understanding, when you do not sufficiently understand what you have done, nor why, from a radically profeminist point of view: the view you say you care most deeply about and is the center of your world. Forgiveness, if it is to be offered at all, is appropriate to ask for only when a perpetrator has demonstrated that he knows what he did, what the full effect is on the harmed victim, and what one has to do to not repeat it.] I have specifically asked for these loved ones to share their questions and concerns, not to treat this matter as something to “sweep under the rug.” [As you know, and state, it will not only be loved ones who will need to share concerns and feelings with you. You have also violated a trust in the feminist blogosphere, from what I can see.]

As I mentioned previously, I have faced a great deal of criticism through the internet. [You have not shown that you have done much more than face it; you remain clueless about the politics of your actions.] Since November 2007, I have maintained a personal blog through entitled “The Road Less Traveled” ( Through this blog, I have spoken out in support of feminism and other social justice movements, particularly against different forms of violence (e.g. physical, sexual, military). In the days following my guilty plea, a pro-pornography blogger picked up the story, and having identified obvious discrepancies between the “public face” on my blog and my criminal actions, began an online smear campaign. [The smear campaign isn't against you: it's against anti-pornographer/anti-pimp feminism.] This effort, which has garnered support from over fifty prominent bloggers from around the world, [this also carries the echo of "Kyle-as-victim"] as well as at least one official trade publication of the pornography industry, has raised considerable public attention toward my actions, and it has alerted me to the larger political consequences of those actions. While many of the criticisms online are based on inaccurate or incomplete information about my case, the feelings and concerns behind them are highly appropriate. [This whole section is deeply duplicitous, in my view.]

My actions have been terrible and tremendously hypocritical, [I agree.] and they have caused harm not only to the victim, but to women generally, who deserve nothing less than an end to rape and all other forms of male domination. {I agree.] Recognizing what I feel to be my responsibility as a male ally to feminism, as well as a decent human being, I ask that any women [what about profeminist men? Do you welcome me contacting you as well?] reading this letter who wish to share their responses contact me via email at I welcome your questions, concerns, feelings, and anything else you would like to share. And I would especially welcome your thoughts on how I might move forward in my life with respect and compassion toward women. [I think you have to move forward towards integrity.] As I mentioned, practicing this posture of listening is vital to any notion of justice, and furthermore, it represents, I feel, a way forward through which some good can come of this situation. [I don't think in this case listening is nearly enough.]

While I still wholeheartedly identify with feminism – and in fact, started a personal blog as an attempt to become more in touch with feminist principles – there is no question that my actions have grossly contradicted these principles. [Agreed.] Furthermore, by failing to address these contradictions openly, while presenting myself as any sort of ally to women, I have not been completely honest. {No, Kyle: this incorrectly states the case; you have been deceptive, deeply and profoundly deceptive and manipulative and self-serving. That's different than not "completely honest." Do you see that?] There was no malicious intent to withholding this explanation – [in matters such as these, intent matters less than effect] for legal and psychological reasons, I was not prepared to address them. [I can believe that, and it has also served your interests as a man to be out of contact for this amount of time. It has served male supremacy, more generally.] As part of my attempts to make amends, however, I will not post any new material on my blog until such time that I have been welcomed back into a community of feminists. [That makes sense.]

Respectfully yours,

Kyle Payne

[Kyle: You need to understand all the entitlements and privileges that were in place that made what you did possible, and that you availed yourself of. You chose to be in a position where you'd have intimate access to women, some of whom might sometimes be drunk. You chose to buy a camera and keep it with you at all times, with which you could violate a woman. You chose to act "out" your confusion, in an aggressive and hostile way, rather than be with your feelings of confusion in a private, internal way: that is your entitlement and privilege as a man; that is not due to your history of childhood abuse. There is more to say. I will stop for now, until you welcome me to share more with you, hopefully publicly, on your blog, not privately, in email. Please also post, on your blog, the original comments that Nikki Craft and I made to your blogpost "A Different Kind of Payne" and explain why you didn't accept them at the time. Please also post the comments that are welcomed to be public by those who write to you privately. Thank you.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Male Supremacist's Strategies For Evading Accountability

A Top Ten list:

10. Rip into the questioner, challenging their right to even ask such a question, perhaps while also maligning them or making them out to be crazy.

9. Feign ignorance of the matter being addressed.

8. Tell the "accuser" that all men do what you do and that makes it OK; toss in the idiotic claim that men are always getting blamed for everything.

7. Keep watching TV or keep staring at your computer monitor. Goal: the questioner will get bored or annoyed and walk away.

6. Crack open another bottle of booze (wine, beer, or vodka will do), and then use drunkenness as your excuse for cracking "your beloved's" skull.

5. Pretend that you were taken over by some other force or influence--that the violence you did just wasn't you. Less elaborate version: Claim you just don't know what happened but you sure are sorry and won't do it again. Hope the listener doesn't notice the fact that your apologies and promises to do better don't have social meaning because you don't understand what you did or how you did it.

4. Blame a woman or "Women!": your mother, girlfriend, or daughter, for your violations and degradations of them.

3. Regardless of the race or ethnicity of the woman you are with: Pull up online, industry-produced pornography of a female human being and say "If you looked more like this [Photoshopped, incested, pimped, drugged, light-skinned woman], maybe I wouldn't [behave badly]". Variation: "If you'd only do what she does..."

2. Steer clear of pointing out the obvious, that you did what you did because: You could (you had the agency and power to do it); You had access to the person you harmed; You wanted to (you had the desire and will to do it); and You thought you could get away with it (because men usually do).

1. Claim that you did what you did, as an adult, because of something that happened to you in childhood.*

(*Never mind the lack of causality. Men use the concept of "causality" only when it suits us. Examples: childhood-specific abuse directly causes us to abuse others when we are all grown up; current daily pornography consumption doesn't influence and shape men's sexual mistreatment of women at all.)

Men Behaving Badly

Well, it had to happen: my very first blog commenter showed up and left me a comment to moderate. It is from someone whose official title is Commander of the American National Socialist Workers' Party. No, really. An actual fascist group's "commander" took time to write to me.

Given that it violates many of the policies of this blog, I willonly appropriate it into this separate blogpost about Men Behaving Badly, and no further comments from "Commander Bill White" will appear at this blogsite.

Check out the August 2, 2008 post on Patricia Hill Collins' incisive work on Racism and Heterosexism (The Prison and the Closet), for that is what Commander Bill White (the irony of the last name: you can't make this up!) is responding to.

HIStorically, we white men, incessantly and obnoxiously, hold ourselves up as the pinnacle of civilized humanity while advocating and accomplishing genocide against people of color, Jews, the Roma, and lesbian and gay people, among "other" groups of people; we also advocate and accomplish, through speech and other acts, many forms of gynocide. Bill White's comment illustrates what white men committed to a white and/or male supremacist ideology do so well, with words and other behavior.

Warning: His comment contains a homophobic slur and an implication that folks who think like I do deserve a physical bashing; he also attempts to make me out to be "malfunction"ing; perhaps, in his eyes, my spark plugs need replacing. Here's his white heteromale supremacist response to the Collins post:

From: Bill White <>
Date: Sat, Aug 2, 2008 at 7:48 PM

[Beginning of Bill's comments...]

Wow. Where, exactly, in the country is this stuff not laughed at or just beaten out of its adherents? Are you a privileged college fag further looking for ways to impose your sickness on the white working class, or are you suffering from some other sort of major malfunction?

[...end of Bill's comments.]

For a deeper glimpse into his patri'otic (Western patriarchally psychotic views), see this YouTube video, which is overly racist and anti-Semitic (we are not surprised): he has as a backdrop, an enlarged image of Adolph Hitler.

(Julian's note: I responded to him by email, personally, letting him know that my family is working class, and then I recommended he do something anatomically impossible to himself.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

White Male Supremacy: What It Is and What It Does

23 August 2010 UPDATE: I've changed "whitemale" to "white male" due to a critique from a reader/commenter. I really have no idea why I originally had "whitemale" as one word other that to indicate that white men are a particular political demographic, but spelling it as two words doesn't take away from that. Thanks to Eline for the comment.

image is from here

(An earlier version of this essay was originally posted on Y.C.'s blog, on the 7th of November 2006. Thank you to Y.C. for all your editorial work in sharpening up the original piece.)

White Male Supremacy: What It Is and What It Does
by Julian Real, copyright 2006. All Rights Reserved.

An open letter to all white men.

I am a white man, which means I can be (and have been), at any time, in any place, a white male supremacist. This is not a revelation about my genetic code, or an indictment of my own soul. This is a statement about structural political reality.

Every time I side with a white person who is being racist, against a person of color who is challenging that racism, I become a white male supremacist. Every time I do not see how my actions, as a white man, silence, disrespect, invade, or threaten a woman of color, I am being a white male supremacist. Every time I project a racist-sexist meme onto a woman of color, and treat her as if she were my (our) projection, I am a white male supremacist.

White Male Liberalism would have us believe that white men are only white male supremacists when we wear white hoods and burn crosses on the yards of African-Americans. White Conservatism would have us believe that the time of white supremacy has passed, and now the real threat to all humanity (which, as defined by white male supremacists, means any threat specifically to white men as a group, or to our political status, privileges, and interests) is people of color: including poor Black people, poor Mexican immigrants, and other non-European U.S. Latina/os, angry or non-deferential Central and South Americans of color, angry or non-submissive Middle Eastern people, angry or non-obedient Asians.

White Conservatism has never acknowledged the unethical existence of male supremacy. White Liberalism doesn’t either: on a good day it says there is something called “racism” and “sexism” but immediately adds that those suddenly apolitical realities can “work both ways”. It claims a level playing field—an as yet fully illusory land of equality—whenever a white man speaks or acts in ways that are harmful and dangerous to women, especially to women of color. It claims to be brutally honest, bravely politically incorrect, necessarily truthful, and boldly noble as it does this. It is either ignorant or arrogant in these claims, except the part about being brutal.

There is no space, cyber or not, where white male supremacy isn’t lurking or acting in its own interests. There is no time in which white male supremacy is asleep. If there were, we should suffocate it with a pillow or inject into it something that will make it never wake up.

White male supremacy’s self-serving stories go like this: a handsome white man, usually accompanied by a white horse, can bring somber, sleeping young white women back to a happy waking life. It is in a white male supremacist's company that a white woman is most content and complete, especially when she bears and rears his children. Contentment and completion involves the treatment of her as a possession or thing. Any woman of color, especially, exists only for the use and abuse of any man or group of men; there is less mythological pretense to a man of any color making her happy or fulfilled; women of color are considered as animal chattel. Women of all ethnicities exist for white men, in any way white men expect—that is to say, interpersonally or institutionally coerce and force—women to be for them.

Because white male supremacy is institutionalized, it does not need to behave badly all the time on an embodied interpersonal front. It just needs to maintain its institutional power and privileges. It shows off its deadly interpersonal self, it rears its ugly individualized head, when it is exposed as such, named as such, treated as such, by human people who white men systematically seek to silence and destroy for allegedly being blasphemers, heretics, and madwomen.

Men of Northern, Western, and Southern European descent have, for centuries, claimed the power to name reality, to decide what it true and what is false, to construct the meaning of intelligence and the parameters of insanity, to make laws and gods which most serve white men and oppress everyone else, to distinguish what is respectable religion from what is delusional cult or irrational myth, to declare, with white male state authority, the qualities and standards of what it means to be human, which somehow, not accidentally, leaves out the humanity of those who are not white, wealthy, or male.

It claims to value peace when it is warring, to love when it is hating, and, especially if liberal, to value free speech while it swiftly silences those who speak directly about the atrocities white male supremacists commit deliberatley or unconsciously, or, in either case, unconscionably.

A voice—any voice—may, if brazen enough, speak in such a manner that white male supremacy is (potentially) revealed to itself, through social human activity, as an ideology-based merciless system of tyrannical power. Those who need it to live on unnamed must silence that voice ASAP. Those unprivileged “others” who must know it and name it, viscerally or verbally, in order to have a chance to survive with any degree of dignity or esteem, will be defamed or destroyed for doing so, if they are seen as human at all, which is not a given in white male supremacist societies. This means white male supremacy usually ignores all voices that don’t speak in its domination-driven dialect, with a Euro-American accent.

When the politics of reality are spoken by a woman of color, her voice will be distorted in the ears of white male supremacists. They will not acknowledge this voice as humanitarian. They will call it all manner of sexist-racist names, and treat it according to how enemies of whitemen’s supposedly sacred (self-centered) reality are to be treated. White male supremacy cannot acknowledge the full humanity of the woman who owns that voice, because she is being so corruptly and systematically denied human status by those with the unjust authority to give it.

Much of what we know as reality is a construction of white male supremacy. It has arranged this forcibly, over many centuries, across many lands, so that when it speaks, people listen as if someone important were talking. Never mind that the white male supremacist voice speaks most eloquently of death. White male supremacy is death to humanity and non-human life forms: suicidal, genocidal, and ecocidal. When it is radically and successfully challenged and transformed, humanity can rise again, sustainably, including the humanity of those who are pale and male. Until that time, women of color will live lives of humanitarian rage or desperate despondency, or a combination thereof. Until that time, women of any color will be stigmatized and oppressed. Until that time, men of color and all “other” marginalized men may seek one of two things: to successfully become humane by forming a trustworthy and accountable allegiance with radical women of color, or to achieve the status of a white male supremacist white man, unrelentingly if unsuccessfully.

White women and men of color sometimes support but do not control white male supremacy. Only white men control it. Not all white men need to enforce it for it to thrive, but if all white men spoke our truths—against the interests of white male supremacy—about what we have done to women of color, to white women, to men of color, the other Life, and to ourselves in order to be white male supremacists, then at least and at last the white elephant in the room would be named by those with the privilege and power to name it. That would be a radically humanitarian occurrence, or, more accurately, would open the possibility for radical humanitarianism to wipe the Earth clean of white male supremacy.

Radical Black Feminism, also known by other names, is a powerful source of information about white male supremacy. Some of the spokespeople of this movement include Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Audre Lorde, and June Jordan. Other contemporaries include Alice Walker (who has also used the term Womanism), bell hooks, Patricia J. Williams, and Patricia Hill Collins. But most radical Black women are unknown to us, whether they are living in Africa or are part of the Diaspora.

Also unknown to white men are the unmediated voices of women living in Greater Asia, including India and the Middle East, as well as women from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. White men need to learn to listen to all women of color, including the Aboriginal women of Australia and New Zealand. White men need to learn to listen to the women of Indigenous civilizations worldwide, who struggle to uncolonize their land, people, and bodies from the savage ravages of white male supremacy.

Pop quiz: name two radical Black women not already named above. Now name two allegedly radical white/European/U.S. men.

White men know our history well (we wrote the books, after all, from our perspective). We banish anyone else’s history, calling it invalid, biased, or unscientific. We, white men, do not take the time to seek out the knowledge and truths that threaten to decenter and destabilize us, let alone wrest unjust power from our blood-stained fists. Listen carefully to what any Radical Feminist has to say about reality. Listen especially attentively and with unusual humility to Radical Black Feminists. They know far more than any white man ever will (or will publicly admit to knowing), about how white male supremacy works, and who suffers under it.

White men, please, in the meantime, tell the truth about what we have done and are doing to maintain white male supremacy. Do not leave it to women of color to do that work for us too. They have their own humanitarian work to do, and it is called surviving our understanding of reality, which has become the social world they must negotiate, or else.

Break the bonds of the white supremacist brotherhood. Politically, and radically, betray every white man you know who values the well-being of his white brothers over his Black sisters and other sisters of color. Understand: this betrayal is a tremendous act of love. Stop apologizing for and excusing white men’s oppressive behavior. Nurture a conscience and a heart that sees all people as people. Actively support and be accountable to those we oppress who are working to sustain dignity and to institutionalize justice infused with empathy for humans raped, sold, enslaved, starved, and silenced. In these acts of compassionate rebellion, we will be nurturing, with the rest of humanity, societies free of organized, systematic harm, as communities of color self-direct their liberation from white male supremacy.

Copyright 2006, 2008, by Julian Real. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Prison and the Closet--Racism and Heterosexism

(A version of this essay was originally posted on De Clarke and Stan Goff's blog, Feral Scholar, on the 6th of February 2006. This 2008 version contains more material from Patricia Hill Collins than did the original piece.)

[image of this P. H. Collins' book cover is from here]

The Prison and the Closet--Racism and Heterosexism:
an Introduction to the Political Writings of Patricia Hill Collins,
by Julian Real

After participating in a rather long, unproductive discussion about racism and heterosexism, I decided to do “the research thing” and bring to light the subtle and sophisticated social analytic work of Patricia Hill Collins.

The first text to be introduced is Black Feminist Thought (2000), with focused attention on chapter 6 (”The Sexual Politics of Black Womanhood”). This is but one chapter of Collins’ very important feminist work: this text should be considered a MUST READ by anyone who calls themselves feminist or pro-feminist, anti-racist, or progressive to radical. It should be required reading, in other words, for all who calls themselves “humanitarian”. Collins opens with a discussion about several factors that contribute to the phenomenon of heterosexism in some Black communities, examined within the context and confines of a Western white supremacist State. Dynamics of social phenomena such as heteronormativity and heterosexism vary from time to time, culture to culture, and ethnic group to ethnic group (often varying widely within any one ethnic group, depending on many factors, including class, religious affiliation, geography, political values, family values, etc.).

But here we find a deeply thoughtful and intellectually incisive discussion about a culturally specific phenomenon, that may serve as a lens into variations on this theme inside and outside other Black communities, especially where other factors of white male supremacist imperialist colonization and the oppression of ethnically marginalized people and Tribes exist.

We must note, regardless of its “usefulness” to other herstorical situations, this discussion is pertinent for all feminists because, well, Black women ARE women, and Black women’s lives, worldwide, are fully illustrative of how gender, race, class, and ethnicity, religion, and sexuality intersect in real time, in real psyches, in the real lives of real people, who suffer, survive, and endure. This is to say (to white feminists and white non-feminists, especially) the importance of reading this work, and other work by the same author, is not for its relevance to white women’s lives, however useful this work may be to untangling and examining those same intersections in ethnic white women’s experience. A primary and fundamental critique of 1970s popular feminism was that it assumed a centrality of experience, a normativity, a basis of theoretical formulation, serving as a launch-pad for various activist efforts and campaigns, while significantly and mistakenly viewing white women’s experiences as“representative” of what happens to women. What happens to white women is what happens to women, often. But it is also ethnic and partial, and this was not uncovered or challenged by white women in those early days of radical thought and action. The job of pointing this out was left, not surprisingly, to many women of Colour, including Audre Lorde, who wrote so eloquently about these struggles in her feminist classic, Sister Outsider. Critiques had been intensifying, for damn good reasons, before and after Audre Lorde’s contribution to the discussion. There have been many voices, of many sexualities and ethnicities, later including white radical women such as Mab Segrest and Marilyn Frye. Together, these voices of deep introspection and structural and post-structural analysis have created a compelling challenge to the racism, classism, and heterosexism of early white feminism. Those brave white woman warriors dared to articulate, at great odds, the real harm male supremacist culture inflicts upon and infuses into the lives of people made into patriarchally female girls and women. With this in mind, we turn now to Collins (Black Feminist Thought, p. 123):

As Evelynn Hammonds points out, “Black women’s sexuality is often described in metaphors of speechlessness, space, or vision; as a ‘void’ or empty space that is simultaneously ever-visible (exposed) and invisible, where black women’s bodies are already colonized” (1977, 171). In response to this portrayal, Black women have been silent. One important factor that contributes to these long-standing silences both among African-American women and within Black feminist thought lies in Black women’s lack of access to positions of power in U.S. social institutions. Those who control the schools, news media ,churches, and government suppress Black women’s collective voice. Dominant groups are the ones who construct Black women as “the embodiment of sex and the attendant invisibility of black women as the unvoiced, unseen--everything that is not white” (Hammonds 1997, 171).

In the following paragraphs leading up to the main theme of this chapter, Collins notes “Within U.S. Black intellectual communities generally and Black studies scholarship in particular, Black women’s sexuality is either ignored or included primarily in relation to African-American men’s issues. In Black critical contexts where Black women struggle to get gender oppression recognized as important, theoretical analyses of Black sexuality remain sparse (Collins 1993b; 1998a, 155-83). Everyone has spoken for Black women, making it difficult for us to speak for ourselves (123-24).

Collins next cites the work of Paula Giddings, noting the following:
[T]o talk of White racist constructions of Black women’s sexuality is acceptable. But developing analyses of sexuality that implicate Black men is not--it violates norms of racial solidarity that counsel Black women always to put our own needs second (124).

Citing the work of Nellie McKay, Collins quotes this passage, also on p. 124:
“In all of their lives in America... black women have felt torn between the loyalties that bind them to race on the one hand, and sex on the other. Choosing one or the other, of course, means taking sides against the self, yet they have almost always chosen race over the other: a sacrifice of their self-hood as women and of full humanity, in favor of the race (McKay 1992, 277-78).

Collins continues:
“Taking sides against the self” requires that certain elements of Black women’s sexuality can be examined, namely, those that do not challenge a race discourse that historically has privileged the experiences of African-American men (124).

Yet another factor influencing Black women’s silences concerns the potential benefits of remaining silent (124).

Collins goes on to describe the costs of Black women and men speaking out about sexuality in a virulently white supremacist context.

The convergence of all these factors--the suppression of Black women’s voice by dominating groups, Black women’s struggles to work within the confines of norms of racial solidarity, and the seeming protections offered by a culture of dissemblance--influences yet another factor shaping patterns of silence. In general, U.S. Black women have been reluctant to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Black lesbian feminist theory in reconceptualizing Black women’s sexuality. Since the early 1980s, Black lesbian theorists and activists have identified homophobia and the toll it takes on African-American women as an important topic for Black feminist thought. “The oppression that affects Black gay people, female and male, is pervasive, constant, and not abstract. Some of us die from it,” argues Barbara Smith (1983, xlvii). Despite the increasing visibility of Black lesbians, African-Americans have tried to ignore homosexuality generally and have avoided serious analysis of homophobia within African-American communities (125).

[...] As a group, heterosexual African-American women have been strangely silent on the issue of Black lesbianism. Barbara Smith argues one compelling reason: “Heterosexual privilege is usually the only privilege that Black women have. None of us have racial or sexual privilege, almost none of us have class privilege, maintaining ’straightness’ is our last resort” (1982b, 171). In the same way that White feminists identify with their victimization as women yet ignore the privilege that racism grants them, and that Black men decry racism yet see sexism as being less objectionable, heterosexual African-American women may perceive their own race and gender oppression yet victimize lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (125-26).

Skipping now to a subsection of the chapter called “Heterosexism as a System of Power”, Collins continues:

One important outcome of the social movements advanced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals has been the recognition of heterosexism as a system of power. In essence, the political and intellectual space carved out by these movements challenged the assumed normality of heterosexuality (Jackson 1996, Richardson 1996). These challenges fostered a shift from seeing sexuality as residing in individual biological makeup, to analyzing heterosexism as a system of power. Similar to oppressions of race and gender that mark the bodies with social meanings, heterosexism marks bodies with sexual meanings (128).

In the United States, assumptions about heterosexuality operate as a hegemonic or taken-for-granted ideology. The system of sexual meanings associated with heterosexism becomes normalized to such a degree that they are often unquestioned. For example, the use of the term sexuality itself references heterosexuality as normal, natural, and normative (129).

Making heterosexism as a system of oppression more central to thinking through Black women’s sexualities suggests two significant features. First, different groups remain differentially placed within heterosexism as an overarching structure of power. Considerable diversity exists among U.S. Black women as to how the symbolic and structural dimensions of heterosexism will be experienced and responded to. African-American women express a range of sexualities, including celibate, heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual, with varying forms of sexual expression changing throughout an individual’s life course (131).

Next, we turn our attention to Collins’ newer book, Black Sexual Politics (2004), to see where she goes in her examination of heterosexism and racism. I will be focusing on chapter 3 ("Prisons For Our Bodies, Closets For Our Minds: Racism, Heterosexism, and Black Sexuality"):

Despite important contributions of extensive literature on race and sexuality, because much of the literature assumes that sexuality means heterosexuality, it ignores how racism and heterosexism influence one another (88-89).

In the United States, the assumption that racism and heterosexism constitute two separate systems of oppression masks how each relies upon the other for meaning. Because neither system of oppression makes sense without the other, racism and heterosexism might be better viewed as sharing one history with similar yet disparate effects on all Americans differentiated by race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality (89).

Noting the importance of critiques of Black sexual politics both from feminist and gay perspectives, including, in both camps, Black lesbians, Collins offers this:

Both groups of critics argue that ignoring the heterosexism that underpins Black patriarchy hinders the development of a progressive Black sexual politics. As Cathy Cohen and Tamara Jones contend, “Black people need a liberatory politics that includes a deep understanding of how heterosexism operates as a system of oppression, both independently and in conjunction with other such systems. We need black liberatory politics that affirm black lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexualities. We need a black liberatory politics that understands the roles sexuality and gender play in reinforcing the oppression rooted in many black communities.” Developing a progressive Black sexual politics requires examining how racism and heterosexism mutually construct one another (89).

In the next section of this chapter, called "Mapping Racism and Heterosexism: The Prison and the Closet", Collins begins with an astute quote by Nelson Mandela:

“We regarded the struggle in prison as a microcosm of the struggle as a whole. We would fight inside as we had fought outside. The racism and repression were the same; I would simply have to fight on different terms.”

The absence of political rights under chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation and the use of police state powers against African Americans in urban ghettos have meant that Black people could be subjugated, often with little recourse (89).

African American reactions to racial resegregation in the post-civil rights era, especially those living in hyper-segregated, poor, inner-city neighborhoods, resemble those of people who are in prison. Prisoners that turn on one another are much easier to manage than the ones whose hostility is aimed at their jailers (90).

The experiences of people in prison also shed light on the myriad forms of African American resistance to the strictures of racial oppression. No matter how restrictive the prison, some prisoners find ways to resist. Often within plain sight of their guards, people who are imprisoned devise ingenious ways to reject prison policies. As Mandela observes, “Prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve. To do this, the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality all with the idea of stamping out that spark that makes each of us human and each of us who we are” (91-92).

Collins notes that hip-hop culture has been one form of resistance. Many creative voices speak, through rap and other cultural forms, to the outrage of oppressed people living “freely” in places that are more like prison than paradise.

Collins observes: What is freedom in the context of prison? Typically, incarcerated people cannot voluntarily “come out” of prison but must find ways to “break out” (92).

But once “out” what world is one released into?

Collins continues:
Racism may be likened to a prison, yet sexual oppression has more often been portrayed using the metaphor of the “closet.” This metaphor is routinely invoked to describe the oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. Historically, because both religion and science alike defined homosexuality as deviant, LGTB people were forced to conceal their sexuality. For some homosexuals, the closet provided some protection. Passing as straight fostered the perception that few gays and lesbians existed. The invisibility of gays and lesbians fueled homophobia, and supported heterosexism as asystem of power. During the era of racial segregation, heterosexism operated as smoothly as it did because hidden or closeted sexualities remained relegated to the margins of society within racial/ethnic groups. Rendering LGBT sexualities virtually invisible enabled the system of heterosexism to draw strength from the seeming naturalness of heterosexuality (93-94).

Since the 1980s, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people have challenged heterosexism by coming out of the closet. If the invisibility of sexual oppression enabled it to operate unopposed, then making heterosexism visible by being “out” attacked heterosexism at its core (94).

Collins describes several approaches the LGBT community has taken to break apart the mythology of heterosexuality as both natural and normal: transgression, “queering” sexuality, and assimilation haveall been explored extensively in queer lives lived bravely in the context of larger cultural communities of rejection, hostility, and punishment.

Racism and heterosexism, the prison and the closet, appear to be separate systems, but LGBT African Americans point out that both systems affect their every day lives. If racism and heterosexism affect Black LGBT people, then these systems affect all people, including heterosexual African Americans. Racism and heterosexism certainly converge on certain key points. For one, both use similar state-sanctioned institutional mechanisms to maintain racial andsexual hierarchies. For another, the state has played a very important role in sanctioning both forms of oppression (95).

Racism and heterosexism also share a common set of practices that are designed to discipline the population into accepting the status quo. These disciplinary practices can best be seen in the enormous amount of attention paid both by the state and organized religion to the institution of marriage. If marriage were in fact a natural and normal occurrence between heterosexual couples and if it occurred naturally within racial categories, there would be no need to regulate it. People would naturally choose partners of the opposite sex and the same race. Instead, a series of laws have been passed, all designed to regulate marriage. For example, for many years, the tax system has rewarded married couples with tax breaks that have been denied to single taxpayers or unmarried couples. The message is clear--it makes good financial sense to get married. Similarly, to encourage people to marry within their assigned race, numerous states passed laws banning interracial marriage. These restrictions lasted until the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1967 that overturned state laws. The state also passed laws designed to keep LGBT people from marrying. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman." In all of these cases, the state perceives that it has a compelling interest in disciplining the population to marry and to marry the correct partners. (96).

Interracial and gay marriage has each had their time in the hot, hot spotlight of public scrutiny--white heterosexual male supremacist public scrutiny.

Back to Collins:
Racism and heterosexism also manufacture ideologies that defend the status quo. When ideologies defend racism and heterosexism become taken-for-granted and appear to be natural and inevitable, they become hegemonic. Few question them and the social hierarchies they defend. Racism and heterosexism both share a common cognitive framework that uses binary thinking to produce hegemonic ideologies. Such thinkin grelies on oppositional categories. It views race through two oppositional categories of Whites and Blacks, gender through two categories of men and women, and sexuality through two oppositional categories of heterosexuals and homosexuals. A master binary of normal and deviant overlays and bundles together these and lesser binaries. In this context, ideas about “normal” race (whiteness, which ironically, masquerades as racelessness), “normal” gender (using male experiences as the norm), and “normal” sexuality (heterosexuality, which operates in a similar hegemonic fashion) are tightly bundled together. In essence, to be completely “normal,” one must be White, masculine, and heterosexual, the core hegemonic White masculinity. This mythical norm is hard to see because it is so taken-for-granted. Its antithesis, its Other, would be Black, female, and lesbian, a fact that Black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde pointed out some time ago (96-97).

Within this oppositional logic, the core binary of normal/deviant becomes ground zero for justifying racism and heterosexism. The deviancy assigned to race and that assigned to sexuality becomes an important point of contact between the two systems. Racism and heterosexism both require a concept of sexual deviancy for meaning, yet the form that deviance takes within each system differs. For racism, the point of deviance is created by a normalized White heterosexuality that depends on a deviant Black heterosexuality to give it meaning. For heterosexism, the point of deviance is created by this very same normalized White heterosexuality that now depends on a deviant White homosexuality. Just as racial normality requires the stigmatization of the sexual practices of Black people, heterosexual normality relies upon the stigmatization of the sexual practices of homosexuals. In both cases, installing White heterosexuality as normal, natural, and ideal requires stigmatizing alternate sexualities as abnormal, unnatural, and sinful (97).

[...] [T]hese two sites of constructed deviancy work together and both help create the “sexually repressive culture” in America described by Cheryl Clarke (97).

Collins concludes this section of her chapter on page 98 with this question: How have African Americans been affected by and reacted to this racialized system of heterosexism (or this sexualized system of racism)?

I believe that whatever ethnic and cultural groups folks in the U.S. are a part of, we must contend with these questions as they apply to each and every one of us.