Saturday, July 9, 2011

When is Critique seen as "Attack" and when is an Attack not seen as such?
image is from here
It has come to my attention that some people may view my challenge to the white women of Rad Fem Hub as "an attack". I find this understanding (or experience) of my actions as worthy of some discussion and care, in part because it is not my intended practice here or offline to "attack" women in any way. I'm surely capable of attacking women in text, or of shaming women, coming down too hard on women, displacing my anger at whites on a few white women, being condescending or arrogant, and so on. I make no claims that I cannot be oppressive in sexist ways (and I don't think my intention is what matters most). I make the opposite claim, actually: I am structurally positioned to do so quite easily, just as I am positioned to be oppressive to people of color: women, men, intersex, and trans.

White radical lesbian feminist critiques of white, class-privileged, trans politics isn't, necessarily, an "attack" against trans people or a fear-based reaction. To position all critique as only an attack, as only transphobic, is to make thoughtful, engaged discussion across difference almost impossible. Sometimes radical lesbian feminist critique of privileged trans people's political objectives is a thoughtful, important critique. Sometimes it's a series of grossly racist/classist generalisations rooted in profound ignorance of who trans people are, however. White, class-privileged trans people's critiques of radical lesbian feminism are not always "an attack" but they can sometimes be grossly anti-radical and anti-feminist, as well as anti-lesbian and pro-status quo.

My point in the recently published and revised challenge to Rad Fem Hub is to note the ways that the white women there, and beyond that site, are also structurally located to be oppressors to women of color--and to men, intersex, and trans people of color too. I don't see how noting this in a blog post constitutes 'an attack' but I am open to hearing from any women in email or through comments here to the blog if they believe or experience my actions are an attack against some white women.

As I consider all the times the term "attack" is used when a critique takes place, what I notice first and foremost is that challenges to the status quo are almost always regarded as an attack, from the point of view of the privileged; men feel "attacked" by radical feminists, for example; whites feel attacked when white privilege, power, and entitlements are called out. There's no way to challenge whiteness or manhood without some members of each group--or many white men who are part of both groups--expressing to the world that they are "under attack". Meanwhile, everything that white men do that is an assault, a violation, an abuse, an act of terrorism, against women across race is never portrayed by those men as "an attack" or as "acts of terrorism".

Indigenous people defending their land is seen as "an attack" on white society. White society's on-going genocide against Indigenous people isn't discussed or even acknowledged by whites at all.

White America is portrayed by corporate media as perpetually "under attack" by Central Asian Muslims. The truth of the matter is that Central Asian Muslims are grossly under attack by the US and NATO forces. Quite literally and not at all figuratively, "under attack". As in bombed, invaded, and occupied.

Men do, in fact, in practice, not in theory alone, assault, attack, subordinate, dominate, and terrorise women in egregious and horrendous ways. Women do not do this to men except rarely on the interpersonal level. Nonetheless, men proclaim, ceaselessly, how often they are attacked by women.

Whites do, in fact, in practice, not in theory alone, assault, attack, subordinate, dominate, and terrorise people of color across gender and class. There's are no such systems or structures in place in the West for whites to be victimised by people of color, despite how victimised and threatened whites say we feel when we encounter people of color who want to be treated as the fully human beings they are.

Fundamentalist Christian hets proclaim the threat to their lives that lesbians and gay men legally marrying, or practicing our sexuality openly, represent to them. I'd say they ought to consider how their arrogance, obnoxiousness, condescension, domination, and terrorism of queer people threatens our lives.

I hope the double and triple standards are apparent. When Black women speak up against whites and men, what I see is that they are swiftly demonised and regarded as emotionally unstable, dangerous, and a threat to all humanity, if not also the world as a whole. The outspoken Black woman appears to be seen as just slightly less (or more) dangerous to the world as, say, nuclear power plants in a process of melting down. We may wish to note that government and corporate leaders are notorious for downplaying the harm of such reactors, while up-playing the alleged danger-to-dominant-society of Black women with a critique of that society.

As a male, I am positioned to easily oppress or assault women. That's why I work so hard not to. And I worked very hard to make sure my language, tone, and content, while hopefully deeply challenging to all the white women at Rad Fem Hub, was not condescending, dehumanising, aggressive, obnoxious, or otherwise oppressive to the women there.

It would be a sorry state of white supremacy if white males could not call out white women's racism. It would mean that only white women are capable of doing so unabusively. And given that it is my long-standing experience that white women will not and often (for many reasons) can not call out other white women on their blatant or less obvious racism and white supremacist standards and practices, I'd hate to think that the burden of the task must fall to women of color--or, even, to men of color, who surely will be accused of being sexist and misogynistic if they call out a white woman. On a similar structural note, I've seen how men of color willfully and obnoxiously refuse to listen to anything white women have to say about men's sexism and misogyny, as if the white women aren't women at all, but are only white.

It appears too often to also be the case that in the minds and actions of white women, women of color are not women, but are, instead, a kind of man. The power white women displace and project onto women of color is often power only possessed by whites and men. As far as I can see, across the globe, no groups of women of color hold such power, structurally, systemically, or institutionally.

One version of my address, my letter, to the white women of Rad Fem Hub went into some detail about the history of racism among white radical feminist women towards radical feminist women of color. It's a very painful and awful history indeed. I edited most of that out as I didn't want to drift too far away from the primary challenge: to ask and recommend that the white women there deal with their whiteness in more conscientious and apparent ways, on their new blog and in their own lives beyond the blogs they are part of. I bring that challenge to them because I've seen white women and women of color challenge several of those white women and how defensive and in denial the white women get in response, often considering the challenge to be "an attack".

If the challenge to you is for you to interrogate your own positions of power over others, I'd argue that's not an attack unless the challenger is assaulting you or pretending you're not a human being. I welcome knowing where and when I assaulted anyone who has less structural power than I do. I generally attempt to respectfully make make amends when this happens. My challenge to the white women at Rad Fem Hub is no exception. I hope to hear from them if they feel comfortable engaging with me.

And if anyone is flagrantly anti-feminist, racist, heterosexist, or anti-trans, I'm likely going to speak up about it. Hopefully responsibly and respectfully to all concerned, with awareness of how I am politically/structurally positioned relative to those I am critiquing.