Monday, August 1, 2011

A Few Thoughts About Speech and Freedom
image is from here
There have been many conversations that were begun here but not finished. The most glaringly recent example is what appeared to be a good discussion with MRA James Huff, on politics and reality. But he decided to not show up for the rest of it after an initial engagement here.

He didn't send any email explaining why he was leaving the conversation: James, if you read this, please let me know why you decided to duck out in such an irresponsible way. For all the free speech rights you enjoy, you've become shockingly silent. Why is that? (I hope it's not due to family illness; but if it were, you'd surely have been able to let me know that.)

This is typical, in my experience, of men who fight for men to have more not less rights, more not less power, more not less social advantages and entitlements. Men speak up when it suits their own interests but get quiet in the face of sustained challenge to the patriarchal power they have and enjoy exploiting.

In my country, rich white publicly heterosexual men are fighting tooth and nail to make sure none of 'em are taxed one bit more than they already are--including taxed just the way that poor and working class people are taxed; that is, without loopholes, without corporate welfare, without access to the meaningful and fair use of laws, lawyers, and all manner of economic systemic help that benefits the rich while punishing (and never privileging) the poor. There are actually ads on television from Big Oil stating that taxing Big Oil and other mega-industrial energy companies would be a bad thing for "us". Why? Why is it bad for us if they pay what they owe, just like every poor US American? How does reducing national debt work against the interests of poor and working people? (It might mean that the interest rates on the debts poor and working class people carry would be lowered, after all.) Are energy conglomerates' wealthy stockholders and CEOs more important human beings? Are the rich entitled to better, less economically terrifying lives than poor people? (I know that the wealthy believe this, but is it right, just, or true?)

In my country, those who state that a man or men have raped them are immediately accused of lying and are made to prove they were raped. Men who lie about never having raped anyone ever don't get scrutinised by media and the public; they are not ever made to prove they didn't commit rape, once or many times. To speak out about rape is to be immediately accused by white male-owned, white male-dominated media of committing the "crime" of speaking out against rapists.

In my country, white, het, and male supremacy are so intimately and intricately embedded in values, practices, and social structures that even to state opposition to those values and practices, whether interpersonal, institutional, or both, is not, in and of itself, a meaningful form of activism.

As I've discussed here in the past, me stating views about things, as I often do, does not necessarily constitute radical activism in my opinion; it functions, perhaps, as a place for such activism to be brought into recognition and regard. (I've written about this before.) Actively and meaningfully supporting the struggles of oppressed people (with accountability to the oppressed) to gain power, liberation, and freedom from those people and systems that harm them is meaningful activism to me.

I hope in the coming months to link to far more activist efforts globally--to the organised struggles of Indigenous people, radical women of color, Feminist Lesbians, and white women. Their speech-through-action needs a larger public stage.

This blog centers on the struggles of women globally to support their work and to publicly analyse and challenge the powers that harm women unrelentingly. But it is the work of women on the ground, not in cyberspace, who are the front line in feminist struggles. More power to them.

When you hear or read pro-oppression speech, note how it frames up discussions; note how it uses ideas like "objectivity" and "rationality" and "science" to bolster its truth-claims. Note which of many forms of masculinist Eurocentric supremacy are embedded in such terms. (See Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, and Marimba Ani, Yurugu:An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior, for much more on this.)

When you read books about "the history of [something]" note whether it assumes that only those who write and get published constitute the tellers of the history being described. Note how many poor women of color are the tellers of both history and truth. And please remember that poor women of color across sexuality and region are the majority of the world's population; they are not what white men call them: a minority. White het men are a minority within a minority of white men: they just get to speak so much, so often, with such overwhelming authority, that we think there are more of them than there actually are.

When we encounter efforts to attain freedom, what are we wanting freedom from and what are we wanting freedom to do? And, most especially, who is the "we"? Is our sexual orientation assumed to be normal and natural, or is it generally socially despised, exploited, or ignored? What color and gender are we? Where do we live? What sorts of privileges do we have?

Beware of the "we" that won't own or name their own structural and social privilege. They likely don't speak for the majority: poor women of color globally who are not without privileges and power but usually without institutional support, without leadership roles within nation-states, and without published books written in their own voices, detailing their own regional and personal-political struggles.