Friday, April 8, 2011

Yet Another White Het Male Supremacist Doesn't Get It. This One, named Jed Brandt, is on the Radical Left. Not the Radical Feminist Left. The Radical Whiteboy Left. Big Diff.

image of Jed Brandt is from here

This post is about this question: To engage or not to engage?

There is a theory out there, promoted by a man named Jed Brandt, below, that if only we talked enough, and discussed things enough on the terms he puts forth, things like oppression wouldn't exist. I happen to disagree. I believe that wresting corrupt power from the human hands and inhumane systems of patriarchy, racism, and heterosexism, among other forms of oppressive power, is what's called for and this is both an interpersonal project and a larger, systemic process. Patriarchal, racist, and heterosexist power is held by those who misuse and abuse it. And taking power away from those who abuse it in many forms needs to happen. This process includes dismantling the institutions, systems, and social structures which keep that power in place, is what is needed. It also means negotiating when and how to engage with the individual abusers of power.

One of those social structures is prevalent on facebook and many other internet sites that welcome something alleged to be dialogue: men coming into conversations and deciding how things should get discussed--setting everyone else "straight", so to speak. It is a liberal conceit that more talking = more social change towards a more humane world. I think more organised resistance to oppressors and their civilisations = more social change towards a more humane world. Big diff.

Jed, below, is critical of what he terms "identity politics", a theory which, at least to my way of thinking, holds that people occupy political positions socially and interpersonally, intimately and structurally. This view holds that power isn't just in those big bad institutions, but is also possessed, or handed to classes of people, or taken from them materially and in other ways, based on things like the individuals' gender, race, and sexuality.

The end conclusion to this view isn't that everyone who is white has more power than everyone who isn't. Or that each man has more power than every individual woman. Or that each straight man abuses more children and adults than does every bi or gay man.

The conclusion is that power is held in the construction and maintenance of the identities, as they are political, social, structural, institutionalised systems that partly show up in the behaviors of people--behaviors that are promoted and acted out because they either garner status and lessen stigma, or do the opposite: so het men are patriarchally encouraged to fuck around, and gay men and any women who do the same are called sl*ts and wh*res or h*s.

These political, not natural, identities, in other words, carry socially embedded expectations and political proscriptions for how to behave towards others. The behaviors enforce and uphold the larger institutions, and support the values and practices embedded in those institutions.

Not every individual has to behave the same way but classes of people must follow some rules so the systems don't fall apart. So, while not all het men need to rape women, all het men have to protect het male rapists, and rape as a form of male warfare against women and girls, in one way or another. Not all whites need to be Racist Nationalists, but all whites need to protect the power that whites have over and against people of color, internationally. And so on. There's not a monopoly on power as much as there's a system which makes sure that the power to abuse and kill with abandon and no accountability only falls into certain hands, generally. Increasing amounts of power are hoarded by rich men, however. And in North America, the UK, and Australia, most of the rich men are white, and heterosexual. Jed would like us to believe that's accidental. I think there's nothing at all accidental about it.

A few women, and one man, Phil, below, attempt to set Jed "straight" on this. But Jed isn't listening to anyone but himself.

If you believe as Jed does, we can spend the rest of our lives arguing with him and the likes of him (the "likes" of him being a facebook pun), and never get anywhere. And I'd rather work with other activists who get it that WHM supremacy, in combo or just the W, the H, or the M supremacists, is and are the problems that perpetuates atrocities against oppressed peoples, along with capitalism, imperialism, corporate christianity, and state militarism, all of which are run by men--het men primarily.

Where Jed takes this conversation is, in my experience, to typically argumentative and otherwise silly places. In his case he takes them into bizarrely homophobic and racist places too.

I'd like to thank the women--not named below because I don't have their permission to use their names, for their voices. And I'd like to thank the voice of Phil N. Molé too. These voices demonstrate resistance to oppressive mindsets that actually do manifest in non-mental, material, social realities.

On facebook, I asked this:
What will it take to get men to realise that rich and white and het men rule this world, against everyone else? And that everyone else will have to work together, not fighting each other, to end all this CRAP?

[woman's name removed by me] Yep, the codified language. I've been fighting some men of color lately on this very issue. *sigh* As a WOC, it's frustrating. Thanks, Juian!

Jed Brandt Last I checked, "het" men hardly have a monopoly on power. The idea that homosexuality is somehow transgressive of authoritarian power dynamics is not only wrong — it is utterly ahistorical. I live in NYC, and to be blunt: the gay neighborhoods are among the richest places on the planet. They are entitled, and are hardly simply "white". 
Sunday at 7:23pm

    • Jed Brandt Yes, let's end systems of oppression. Let's also not act as if heterosexuality is the problem. Or as if men desiring women is itself a form of abuse. Or as if patriarchy is simply (or even mainly) something men do to women.
      Sunday at 8:04pm

      [name removed by me] the destruction of bullshit "masculinity". It all stems from this.

    • Sunday at 9:25pm

    • Jed Brandt true that, in as much as it stems from any one thing.
      Sunday at 9:27pm

    • Julian Real
      Jed, perhaps because you're a het guy, you're not in the best position to determine the oppressiveness of heterosexuality, hmm? Let me tell you: heterosexism is brutal, and lethal too, in ways heterosexuality and heterosexism isn't to het men. So, you can accept that or ignore it--you surely have the privilege and entitlement to do either and both. As for your comment about one tiny neighborhood in NYC: howsabout we examine the global scene? How many countries are ruled by gay men? How many multinationals? How many media conglomerates? How many oil companies? How many social institutions are ruled by gay men? Het men rule, Jed, whether you want to accept it or not. That I even have to argue this point seems a bit absurd, to be honest. It's like arguing about whether we live in a white supremacist or Black supremacist society. Or whether we live in a matriarchy or a patriarchy. Answer: white supremacist patriarchy--heterosexist to the core.

      Sunday at 11:43pm

    • Jed Brandt If you think heterosexuality, white people, men, etc are the problem — that literally being of european descent, having a penis that (like many penises likes vaginas), or in any other way being a part of a dominant grouping is itself the problem — then you how is it you think things could ever get better?
      Monday at 11:53am

    • Jed Brandt And if you think someone who lives in Brooklyn can't begin to understand New Jersey...
      Monday at 11:53am

    • Phil N. Molé
      Jed, last I checked, heterosexism wasn't the same thing as heterosexuality. Hererosexuality is a sexual preference, while heterosexism is the idea that this sexual preference is the only valid one, and that everyone who doesn't conform to it is aberrant. Heterosexism and its expression through homophobia, transphobia, etc. is one of the main ways gender roles and essentialist nonsense ideas about gender and sexual identity are enforced, and it's a major component of misogyny as well. So if you do want to end oppression, heterosexism really is one of the major things we have to address, along with the fact that heterosexuality, whiteness and the accident of being born male confer unearned privileges at the expense of others.

      Monday at 12:04pm

    • Julian Real
      Jed, you're smarter than you're appearing to be in this thread. I hope. You know damned well that organised resistance and revolution is needed by the oppressed against the oppressor. And who is YOUR oppressor, Jed? Is it a system--one syst...em? Which one? Capitalism? Is it the same oppressor as mine, or women's, or that of people of color? And, might those of us who know what it is to be on the receiving end of the arrogance and ignorance of the privileged have a better idea of the problems and the solutions than, say, those who keep their heads out of the troubles the rest of us face every day?

      Monday at 12:11pm

    • Julian Real Try listening more and speaking less, Jed.
      Monday at 12:11pm

    • Jed Brandt How about we encourage people to speak more on general principle?
      Monday at 12:11pm

    • Julian Real How about you stop defining the terms in which people engage on issues of oppression and resistance?
      Monday at 12:13pm 

    • Jed Brandt
      I don't understand the method, Julian. That's why I entered your discussion. Why would that be bad? Isn't engagement good and defining the limits of a discussion a way of handicapping where we can take ideas? We don't need limits on what we... can and can't think. We don't need less talking, but deeper discussion, especially of ideas that challenge those systems of oppression. Let us wish there were millions of white men who like women that took this up!

      I don't think for a second that being on the receiving end of oppression infers any special ability in understanding how to solve that problem. Or that lived experience is not sharable. Or that social category defines the limits what 'others' can or can't understand. Or that engaging in discussion is (itself) a form of domination through "naming". No. These are all the ways in which solidarity is denied in what I've seen (for many years) as an endless cycle of finger-pointing towards (whoever) is privileged. Privileges can be entitlements. They can also be capacities. Most systems of oppression involve not what is done TO the oppressed, but all the ways in which we implicate ourselves, acculturate our children and accept the terms we have been given. Put another way, patriarchy isn't something men do to women, even where "men doing to women" is a major component of how it functions.

      People in much of the world thought the earth was the center of the universe because this is where we looked out at the stars from. The Copernican revolution opened the world to science in a different way — that we must understand the universe in its relationships, not simply how it "feels" to the viewer, uniquely, at any given point of observation. That copernican revolution in social relations could also be called socialism. And it won't be the sum total of resentments, but new forms of agency and capacity.

      If heterosexuality itself (or "men") is taken as "the" problem — you will never achieve the broad epiphanies necessary for men and women to remake our terms.

      Monday at 12:32pm

    • [woman's name removed by me]
      Because that is what white het males have been doing for centuries. It is not the province of the privileged define the terms in which non-privileged people engage on issues of their own oppression and resistance, that is patently absurd.

      Monday at 1:01pm

    • Jed Brandt
      Theory of General Relativity = "White Het Male Domination By Definition..."

      Or do ideas have validity (truth/veracity/pragmatic value) aside from who holds them? Is "being oppressed" the measure of what is true? That seems like a slave mentality itself allergic to freedom.

      Identity politics... Apparently Nazis, Hindutva fanatics, Zionists and so on are correct in their understanding of social organization. They are just bad because they are privileged. And the world has never seen solidarity, fraternity, love.

      Nope. It's all identity, no reality — and no future!

      Monday at 1:29pm

    • [woman's name removed by me]
      Will be back to this conversation later tonight, but wanted to add something I think is very cogent:
      Monday at 3:13pm

    • [woman's name removed by me]
      I think you are confused about what we are saying Jed. It is not that heterosexual white males of inherently oppressive; there is nothing biologically predetermined in that. Under different social circumstances, perhaps that group would be ...the underprivileged oppressed group, there are infinite variations on this theme and it changes depending on context. But if we are going to talk about what --in fact-- happens to be the case of our current situation, then we simply must acknowledge that yes, white het males are the privileged class and at the top of the hierarchy. There is nothing against white het males in themselves (ipso facto) in the acknowledgment of that reality. It is not inevitable that white het males dominate; but as it happens, that is the case today, in this reality. That is what we are talking about. Denying that would just be to deny reality.

      Monday at 4:22pm

    • Jed Brandt
      We do not live in a feudal world, where "privilege" is synonymous with power. Quite the contrary. Not in Afghanistan where gay warlords take boy concubines. Not in the neighborhoods I grew up in where rich (largely liberal) gays took their ...pick of runaways to chickenhawk. Not with the "double income, no kids" gentrification brigades. Money is power. It is the direct ability to compel others to do your bidding on the clock — regardless of whether they like you. African-Americans in NYC have the "privilege" of both citizenship and clean drinking water, which on a global scale is almost incomparable. Reducing discussion to identity politics will reduce anyone who adopts this method into endless resentments and retreat — into telling others to "be quiet" instead of building new ways of being.

      I can't be the only person in this discussion who has experienced that. Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but it seems very much like Julian believes men liking women is inherently predatory and abusive, or that white men who don't adopt the axioms of identity politics are backward regardless of what else they think, do or intend. And rich white gay men are not oppressed in America. They are among the most privileged people on the planet. Five minutes in the fashion industry should clarify that issue.

      Monday at 6:16pm

    • Jed Brandt Polish peasants hated "privileged" Jews. That worked out great...
      Monday at 6:17pm

    • Jed Brandt And Polish Jewish Zionists asserting their victimhood did a real bang up job when loosed on Palestine...
      Monday at 6:18pm

    • Jed Brandt Colin Powell exists.
      Monday at 6:18pm

    • Jed Brandt This is an important discussion.
      Monday at 6:20pm

    • [woman's name removed by me]
      From about 5 or 6 remarkably and belligerently asinine things you just ejaculated, I have come to the conclusion that no amount of engagement with you will change what are apparently your completely warped views of the world. I.e., you = closed mind. I'm out.
      Monday at 7:26pm

    • Julian Real Jed, you're a homophobe. Among other things. You're not welcome to post comments on any discussion threads I start, including from here on in with this one. Got it? Don't answer that. That'll show me that you get it.
      Monday at 7:37pm