Sunday, May 8, 2016

Single-cause Analysis in the Age of the Three-Headed Monster

King Ghidorah is a kaiju film creature, also known as the Three-Headed Monster.
The image is from here.
I grew up with an understanding that 'radical' meant 'root' and so 'radical feminism' is the feminism that seeks to expose the root cause of women's oppression. And to uproot it, eradicate it. What I grew up learning was that eliminating patriarchy is what it will take to liberate women.

I accept that as true, but only if that root is understood in its complexity. Because in the world the women I know live in, "patriarchy" isn't only "male supremacy" and "men's violence against women". Most women--if not all women--are harmed and subordinated by those forces. But so too are most women harmed and subordinated by white supremacy and capitalism and other economic systems that require poverty and other gross economic injustice.

I also grew up seeing the limits of Marxist analysis--how it traditionally holds no deep understanding of what causes the oppression of women by men. Also, analysis of white supremacy and racism too often ignores how it is entwined with male supremacy or capitalism.

If I consider any centuries-old atrocity that causes mass destruction to girls and women, it is tied directly to patriarchy (male and hetero supremacy), colonialism (white, Anglo, and Western supremacy), and capitalism (and wealth supremacy).

Trafficking disproportionately exploits and kills girls and women of color, globally. The globalised enslavement and rape of female human beings for profit for pimps and slavers, for the pleasure and dominance of men. All three heads of the beast are implicated.

Seeing patriarchy as a force that operates separately from colonialism and capitalism is an abstraction. But it isn't just abstract: it denies what is happening and to whom it is most happening.

When women and girls of color are centered, it is impossible to ignore how colonialism/white supremacy, capitalism/wealth supremacy, and patriarchy/male supremacy are always operating against the efforts of girls and women to be free.

This blog will not ignore those forces or pretend only one form of supremacy is deadly. Radically supporting the liberation of marginalised girls and women around the world necessitates naming each head of the monster.


  1. Just curious. Have you ever read "To Kill A Mockingbird"? I would love to hear your perspective on the Ewell vs. Robinson case. If not, you should read it. It's a good book.

  2. Thank you for bringing this up, Harry! Brilliantly appropriate.

    I have read it. It is among my favorite books and also among my favorite films!

    My analysis, in short--I ought to do a post on it as it isn't simple--is that the book superbly identifies how race and sexual politics, with class, disability, and Southern culture as strong elements, play out in the lives of the key figures in the trial, and of course for Scout, Jem, and Dill, who, with childhood innocence, serve as witnesses and the lens through which our own discoveries about those themes are presented.


    As you well know, we have a poor white young woman, Mayella Ewell, whose background with her father remains hidden until late in the story. We have a poor Black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping Mayella, a crime punishable by hanging in the South. Atticus Finch's controversial defense of him riles the white supremacists/normal townsmen determined to make their racist narrative a legal finding: Black men attack "our" women. They act together as a hateful mob when they are not identified as individuals. Only Scout pointing out the troubles one white man has with poverty, in front of all the others, breaks their trance. In court, another truth is revealed.

    Mayella longed for the physical and sexual touch of Tom--to experience longing for a disabled man who did not, in fact, threaten her at all, who was safe to her as long as no one found out. He was especially safe to privately desire. I see this longing partly as a balm to sooth her suffering under her father's domination. Tom, wise to the world, knew it would cost him his life even if passively allowed. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Bob Ewell is the man who has sexually, physically, and emotionally abused his daughter. The white man, not the Black man, is the true rapist in the story, as was the case generally in the South, both of white women and Black women.

    With justice found more in literature than in life, Father Ewell pays with his life. Tom is acquitted of the charges, while not freed from the racist mythology all around him. Mayella is left to confront her guilt, desires, and shame--about Tom and her father, realising her father's role in coercing her to lie was to selfishly protect him, once again at her expense. Bob had every reason to believe his lie would be recognised as truth by a jury.

    Feel free to discuss this more here. Thanks again for the comment!