Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hiding in Plain White: the problem of protecting institutionalised power in allegedly radical political theory and practice

archived photo of feminist activists is from here

Across the web and offline as well, there are many arguments being made about "men" or "women" or "transgender people" that fail to mention this: only a small minority of people in any of those groups are speaking on behalf of everyone else.

So, we ubiquitously hear white rich men speak about the value of capitalism all the while ignoring how it is fused to both white and male supremacy. They do not speak for "the 99%" of men who do not benefit from capitalism.

We also hear socially empowered transgender people speak about what it means to be trans, using elitist terms like "transmisogyny" and "cisgender" without considering that most trans people are cisgender and most trans people internalise misogyny that is acted out against women and trans people too. We also see some white lesbians speak out against trans people as if trans = M2F or F2M transsexual people. As someone who has described myself as intergender--a politically problematic term I continue to wrestle with--I see most trans people as not being described or represented anywhere in dominant social discourse.

The invisiblisation of most trans people, most women, and most men, by social elites, be they whites, men, or the wealthy, is part of the problem for those of us seeking to end all forms of oppression and for those seeking to survive those systems of callousness and cruelty.

When we put forth theory or advise others on political practice, we ought to consider who we speak for, who we represent, and who has the ability to do what we promote if we promote acts of resistence and revolution. To what extent are our views white? To what extent do they reinforce male supremacy? Do our theories center the experiences of girls and women of color? Of women who do not live in white-majority countries? Of women who are not part of the Western world?

This blog supports the work of women who name how race, region, sexuality, and class impacts their own and other women's lives. Whites--women and men--who refuse to do this are not acting in radical ways. Pretending "white-majority" views are not only representative of all women but are also radically feminist is a well-known practice of misogyny and racism both: it is white male supremacy in action. What's "radical" about that?