Friday, March 27, 2009

The Blood on Our Hands is the Blood of the Land: On Misogyny, Misopedia, Racism, Homophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Misogeoia

[This river of blood image is from here.]

My hands have blood on them, no matter how many times I wash them. The blood is from the Earth, and its inhabitants, human and nonhuman.

What does it mean to "hate the Earth"? Do heterosexual male batterers of women really hate women? Do child molesters love or hate children (are they pedophilic or misopedic)?

In conversation, I came across a critique of Derrick Jensen's book Endgame (vol. 1), which I strongly recommend reading, along with Derrick's other books, including vol. 2 of Endgame. The critic said they did not really believe people "hate the Earth" as Derrick claims.

This brought to mind many related matters: hatred of people of color by whites, hatred of women by men, hatred of children by adults, and hatred of the Earth by "civilised" humans.

What does it mean to "hate the Earth"? Is gross negligence, callous disregard, and active destruction the same thing as hatred?

A radical feminist friend of mine once pointed out how whites don't have to "hate" people of color, and she, an African American woman, doubts a lot of white folks do. She argues that "hatred" may be a requirement for some whites to feel superior to and in great opposition with people of color, but many whites are simply ignorant and arrogant, living out entitlements and privileges that come with being perceived and treated as a white person in a context in which people of color are treated as lesser-than or subordinate to whites. These whites may feel nothing in particular for people of color. Some liberal whites may say they feel "love" for "all people" claiming they are "color-blind". Ableist language problem aside, I am reminded of something I recently read on Heart's blog by lesbian feminist Pat Parker. Below are the first two lines of her poem "For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend".

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.

Exactly. I feel the same way about being a white Jew, and a white gay man.

Don't pretend I'm not raced, don't pretend I don't have a minority ethnicity that has been under attack for millennia, don't pretend anti-Semitism and heterosexism don't impact me negatively every day of my life: each one does. Don't pretend white and gender privilege don't benefit me every day of my life: they do.

And skip all your assumptions about what it means to be a white Jew and a white gay man when approaching me with your projected version about who I am. Please. Along with most Indigenous and some non-Indigenous peoples, Jews have a very long history of persecution, and worse,; this history is part of what I carry with me; this awareness is in me, and doesn't disappear whenever someone stupid white Gentile tells a "Jew joke". Some of this history is vague in my mind. Some aspects of this history are mostly unknown to me. But what is bone-clear is the knowledge that my people, Jews of all colors, have been persecuted, and worse, for hundreds and thousands of years.

The impact of heterosexism on queer folks is something I have come to realise is simply not fully comprehensible to non-queer people, in much the same way I cannot really know what it is to be a heterosexual woman. Every incident of heterosexism (and heterosexual display that is not violent) that appears loving, is not an act of love to me. It is an act of invisibilisation and marginalisation of my people, queer folks.

This is not to say that I believe women who identify as heterosexual, and who may also practice heterosexuality (out of obligation, law, custom, compulsory requirement, threat of force, desire, or choice) are not oppressed due to sexual orientation--and gender. I believe they are. And I have had long conversations with a lesbian woman whose grandparents were American Indian and white, who grew up in poverty, about the degree to which heterosexual women have "privilege" when they are a population so intimately and privately at risk of daily interpersonal denigration and violence due to being "partnered" with men as their husbands and boyfriends. She was the first person to get me to think very seriously about the "privilege" of being a heterosexual woman. This is not to say that lesbophobia is not also harmful and deadly. I have learned from other lesbian feminist friends just how socially invisibilised and marginalised lesbians are, including by many heterosexual men's, pimps', and prostitutors' absurd assumptions, too often pornographically depicted or misogynistically discussed, of what it is to be a lesbian. Boys, please. Shut the fuck up, and tear of that shit, and for those of you with savvy computer hacking skills, take down those stupid sites.

Did all the older males who sexually abused me hate me? Did the man who sexually assaulted me hate me?

I think the answer is yes and no. In a piece I wrote here a while ago about misopedia, I argued that the term for child molester ought not be "pedophile" as that term means "lover of children" and whatever the man who sexually assaulted me did, "love" was not a part of it.

Do men hate women?

I think when women call men misogynistic, and the men doth protest too much, it is because we men don't necessarily experience ourselves as actively hating women, the way some of us hate, say, a particular "enemy" sports team and its fans. I'm not a man who is into male team sports--in any way, so I'm just recalling here how some (not all) heterosexual men (and many women) in and outside of my family have expressed rage, disgust, or disappointment when "their" team loses a crucial point or an important game against "that other team".

But the point--and this is one point that oppressors seem to actively wipe clean out of our minds every time we sleep--is that the experience of oppression, including whether it is experienced as hate, is for the oppressed to name, not the oppressor. We've heard it a nauseating and lethal number of times that the damned compulsive battering straight male bastard "loves" her and won't ever do it again. (Wrong.) We know that some men who sexually assault dozens to hundreds of children claim either to truly, deep down, love children, or to identify with them and believe they are engaging in "peer" relationships. (Um, sorry. No you're not. Ever.)

When we understand it in terms of its individual and social impact to the members of the class who are treated in these and other atrocious ways the battery of women by men is virulent misogyny, and the sexual assault of children is misopedia (and disproportionately is also direct misogyny).

Which brings me back to the Earth. The reader of D. Jensen was arguing something that I think misses the point. That reader may not experience what they feel for "the Earth" as hatred. But if they believe it exists for "civilised" humans to appreciate, and if those of us who are "civilised" humans believe we have dominion over the Earth, and if we trash the place, "litterally", in what sense is such behavior "loving"?

The issue, getting back to what my friend said about whites, is that we white folks can feel any number of things for people of color--whether targeting one or more oppressed ethnic groups at a time, or on a more individual scale. Did Miss Daisy Werthan "hate" her driver, Mr. Hoke Colburn? (Did she ever address him as "Mr. Colburn"? Was he ever not her employee? Did he really have the economic option of saying "Thanks, but no thanks, Miss Daisy: I'm done being your driver, but we can be friends if you want." Did (and do) Black and Brown women who are caring for white folks' children really have the option of saying, "You know what? You raise your own brats. I'm going home to take care of my own children, or help my neighbor do the same."

What did Howard K. Stern feel for Anna Nicole Smith? What does Chris Brown feel for Rihanna? Of course as humans, and perhaps as mammals too, we are capable of feeling a great many things, in succession or even simultaneously, which is brings us to the problem of liberal individualism.

The issue at hand, for those of us who are radical activists, is not exactly what individuals feel, at any given moment, for those we oppress. It is what the cumulative impact is of what we do collectively and individually, regardless of what we feel. This is why, for me, I don't particularly give a shit if some husband says he "loves" his wife, sometimes to death. I do care if he kills her. I don't care if some emotionally/psychologically child-like adult only finds comfort by fondling children. What oppressors feel doesn't change what the actions do, to the class of people for sure, and also, often enough, for the individual survivor or victim.

If what we do is harmful and oppressive, destructive and subordinating, toxic and lethal, then those so harmed get to call that "hate", in my view, without being challenged by the oppressors as to "the legitimacy of that truth claim". Sure, some child molesters really do "love" their victims, as do some battering husbands. People are complicated; we feel lots of things that are often in paradoxical conflict with one another. But social reality isn't SO complicated that we can postmodernise our way out of seeing structural, systemic harm for what it is because of what it does, tangibly.

If it is the case that ever since "civilised" humans have been on the Earth, the Earth has been in a slow or rapid state of disease and dying, then we who call ourselves civilised are not "loving" the Earth. We're killing it. There's a difference.

If men, collectively--while some do actually love women-as-humans (at least allegedly)--are also degrading and exploiting women in selfish, narcissistic, and callous ways, that is "hateful" not "loving", if "felt" or understood in terms of the harm done.

If wealthy whites are living well at the expense of poor people of color, if the Global North is grotesquely exploiting the Global South, if the West is colonising the East, that's not love or respect, that's hate and derision.

This is why I consider any white Christian missionary to be doing "the Devil's work". There's nothing even close to "Jesus's love" going down when one is part of a group committing cultural/spiritual genocide--no matter which recorded interpretation or misinterpretation is being referred to about how he loved others. When other white EFL folks (English as a First Language) tell me of their plans to go to places where people of color live who don't speak English, in order to teach them English, I wonder if they are aware they are, among other things, practicing genocide. I'll often raise this as a probability, which is usually met with a "you're over-reacting again*" attitude on the part of the young white person who thinks this'll be a great way to earn money, travel, and do "good". (*Can one actually "over-react" to witnessing genocide? Not this Jew.)

Yes, some of us really do "love trees" (and there are some I have loved, down to touching them gently and saying hello, to counting the rings of the stump after a hurricane force wind blew a 60 year old spruce over, a spruce I had understood as my neighbor. And the way I live, in a suburban environment, is also simultaneously wiping the Earth clear of rain forests, and the plants, nonhuman animals, and human beings who once populated the areas free of the misogeoic, misopedic, misogynistic, anti-gay and lesbian, and anti-Jewish Western cultural imperialism, exploitation, and globalisation.

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