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Thread: The Movement's Inherent Sexism

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    Default The Movement's Inherent Sexism

    It started in Jena. I suppose Jena a good enough place to start something, right? Granted the demonstration in Jena didn’t spark anything nationally except for an epidemic of racist fucks hanging nooses everywhere. I mean, what good is coming out against a single incident of blatant racism if you’re not going to take it elsewhere? Even leftist groups, Marxist and anarchist alike, have only attempted to make the connection between Jena and the near-by issue of police brutality. All of these issues involve black men, and these discussions are absolutely mandatory, but I’ve become so aware of how many cases of racism against women go completely ignored, not only by the mainstream press, but by the revolutionary publications whose proclaimed mission is outing this shit to the general public.

    I mean, I searched the three Marxist papers I’m most familiar with (Revolution, Socialist Worker, Workers World), and found nothing covering the horrible crimes against Megan Williams. When I searched for a case astoundingly similar to that of the Jena Six (the case of the four black lesbian women in New York who, in an act of self defense, received prison sentences ranging from 3.5 to 11 years), I only found two articles, both in Workers World.

    The arrests of these women (Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson, and Renata Hill) is so incredibly similar to the Jena case. The women, with three other friends, were out in New York's Upper West Side one night when they were approached by a 29 year old man, Dwayne Buckle. He walked up to them and said, "Yo, lemme get some of that." When one of the women told him she was a lesbian, he said, "I'll fuck you straight sweetheart!!!" A fight broke out, and a nearby security camera recorded Buckle strangling one of the women and ripping out her hair. Patreese Johnson ran at him with a steak knife she had in her purse, but doesn't remember stabbing him. The tape also recorded an anonymous man run up to Buckle and appear to stab him. Buckle suffered a stab wound and was released from the hospital soon after.

    The 4 women were arrested. Johnson's knife was never tested for blood, and the anonymous man was never searched for. The women, after being chided by the judge with comments like, "Sticks and Stones will break my bones, etc etc etc," the women were all sentenced to prison. Patreese Johnson, the knife holder, received a sentence of 11 years.

    So Where’s the justice? With the media swaying public opinion to view these women as crazed attackers and Dwayne Buckle as a poor victim of some sort of hate crime, where’s the justice?

    Does the black-on-black nature of this case make it somehow impossible for the racist court system to victimize the defendants? Or is it something else? Does the fact that the defendants are females, LESBIANS at that, make this case somehow less of a civil rights issue?

    Mychal Bell and the rest of the Jena Six now have a movement. They have funding. They have backing and community support. The blatant racism of their case is something very few care to ignore. Unfortunately, the intersecting oppressions of sexism and homophobia continue untouched, unquestioned, and largely unheard of. For Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson, and Renata Hill, the word “justice” may have no meaning at all!!

    I feel like this will just continue to happen over and over again as my criticisms of our movement continue to develop. Because I have plenty. And they’re all needed for any progress to be made. But sectarianism runs rampant in our ranks, and criticism isn’t always welcome. But we owe it to ourselves on the Revolutionary Left to take on these issues head on!
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    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I don't really know what to say. What do we do?

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    I think the way the organized Left has always operated is by responding to the injustices that are beginning to bud movements. I went down to Jena with some RCP organizers and they were all about building their support base down there with the already mobile anti-racist activists. If the women from Newark don't have a huge movement behind them, how could the organized Left possibly latch onto it for their own purposes? That's one problem... I feel like some organized Marxist groups are just opportunistic about getting their word out instead of actual movement building against these horrid injustices. In the case of Jena, a grassroots movement was present long before most revolutionary left groups began organizing around it.

    So on the one hand, the fact that there's no movement around the women from Newark reflects badly on the NAACP, Jesse Jackson (who has repeatedly refused to comment on the case all together), etc, but I think our responsibility should be not only attending huge demonstrations around the already-active movements (Jena, Katrina, etc), but drawing attention to these other cases that reflect oppression far beyond the confines of racism and classism.
    You Belong Here: Commentary from a Radical Activist Refusing Self-Affiliation

    [FONT="Tahoma"]"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
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    Question

    I agree with your assertion that a lot of activists use certain cherry-picked cases of injustice to further their causes, but how do we change it? We don't really have the skills or presence to fight all of these battles, I mean there are [FONT=Microsoft Sans Serif]dozens[/FONT] of blatantly discrimanatory cases like the one you mentioned above each year. How can we mobilize on all, or even a decent percentage of them?
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    There is sexism everywhere and not the least of which among organisations that call themselves leftists or feminists...however the fact that one individual crime has gotten more attention than another individual crime isn't evidence of sexism, it isn't evidence of anything. Communists fixate in getting Abu Jamal out of jail when there are dozens of other former black panthers in jail on similarly bogus grounds, rightwing press fixates on finding Maddy McCain (in the UK) when there are plenty of other missing kids, even missing white girls with affluent parents. Who gets picked for attention is in many ways a matter of luck, a matter of how effective their personal supporters are, a matter of what media outlets you personally look at (which creates huge observer bias, and frankly i think two separate workers world articles on one incident shows that hte left didn't even ignore this) and the fact that media attention builds on media attention.


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    Quote Originally Posted by COMRADE CRUM View Post
    I agree with your assertion that a lot of activists use certain cherry-picked cases of injustice to further their causes, but how do we change it? We don't really have the skills or presence to fight all of these battles, I mean there are [FONT=Microsoft Sans Serif]dozens[/FONT] of blatantly discrimanatory cases like the one you mentioned above each year. How can we mobilize on all, or even a decent percentage of them?
    Right, but what I'm observing is that the cases the Left tends to pick are nearly all male-centered. And with the incredible number of women who endure such oppression on the basis of race, class, and then on top of that GENDER, I feel like that reflects on the inherent sexism of the movement.
    You Belong Here: Commentary from a Radical Activist Refusing Self-Affiliation

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    The selection process is biased, for the reasons TragicClown mentioned. You could use statistics to resolve observer / selection bias, or random selection from a comprehensive listing of incidents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by E.G. Smith View Post
    Right, but what I'm observing is that the cases the Left tends to pick are nearly all male-centered. And with the incredible number of women who endure such oppression on the basis of race, class, and then on top of that GENDER, I feel like that reflects on the inherent sexism of the movement.
    Have you read Street Fighting Years (Tariq Ali - I just finished it and it was fantastic). He talks a lot (I mean, perhaps not enough, but more than one normally hears) about the historic sexism in the Left movements, basically the book is a history of his political activism in the 60s and 70s. There's an interview with Yoko Ono and John Lennon in it where they talk a bit about that too.

    I've also heard Chomsky talk a lot about it, about how much of the women's movement came out of the perceived (actual) sexism of the antiwar movements in the late 60s and early seventies.

    So really we should recognize that we've come a long way. The truth is that any movement that exists will be "inherently sexist", because we just live in an extremely sexist society. Hell, maybe even almost all feminism has a strong patriarchalist bent. Older movements will be even more sexist because of the process we've made over the last century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jammoe
    Hell, maybe even almost all feminism has a strong patriarchalist bent
    Please substantiate this extremely controversial statement.

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    I agree with Tragic Clown. What recieves attention comes down to luck.

    By the way, isn't ANY rape an act of sexism in and of itself?

    Hell, maybe even almost all feminism has a strong patriarchalist bent.
    It's this kind of wanton puritanism that makes this dialogue so difficult (and fruitless).

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    What recieves attention comes down to luck.
    I think thats slightly simplistic, and a bit of an over assumption on yours, and TC's part. Though, there is validity to the claim, it's far from being "just luck" in most, or all cases.
    "The sun shines. To hell with everything else!" - Stephen Fry

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    Quote Originally Posted by bleeding gums malatesta View Post
    Please substantiate this extremely controversial statement.
    Will do. I can go into the details specifically later, but look up what the early feminists were saying, like, 1910, second-wave feminism, all that. The general point is that a great deal of feminism for historical reasons contextualizes itself within a patriarchal society, there's a great deal of separate-but-equalism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Proper Tea is Theft View Post
    I think thats slightly simplistic, and a bit of an over assumption on yours, and TC's part. Though, there is validity to the claim, it's far from being "just luck" in most, or all cases.
    Well, I didn't say "just luck", but it plays a big role. I think the "luck" factor is about something happening and sparking a wider movement around that incident. It wasn't JUST about Rosa Parks, it was about much, much more; the organizations were ready, the people were ready to support such an effort and it snowballed from there. Is that clearer?

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    Quote Originally Posted by manic expression View Post
    Well, I didn't say "just luck", but it plays a big role. I think the "luck" factor is about something happening and sparking a wider movement around that incident.
    In certain incidents, yeah.

    It wasn't JUST about Rosa Parks, it was about much, much more; the organizations were ready, the people were ready to support such an effort and it snowballed from there.
    Yeah, that was the timing of the event. And even so, Rosa's rejection to move was probably due to a lot of the factors which led to the result of her actions: the changing conscious of peoples, and the growing resistance (regrowing, perhaps?) of "Black Americans" to the racist American system.

    The coverage...maybe just luck...maybe not. I dont know.

    Is that clearer?
    "The sun shines. To hell with everything else!" - Stephen Fry

    "As the world of the spectacle extends its reign it approaches the climax of its offensive, provoking new resistances everywhere. These resistances are very little known precisely because the reigning spectacle is designed to present an omnipresent hypnotic image of unanimous submission. But they do exist and are spreading.", The Bad Days Will End.


    "(The) working class exists and struggles in all countries, and has the same enemies in all countries – the police, the army, the unions, nationalism, and the fake ‘socialism’ of the bourgeois left. It shows that the conditions for a worldwide revolution are ripening everywhere today. It shows that workers and revolutionaries are not passive spectators of inter-imperialist conflicts: they have a camp to choose, the camp of the proletarian struggle against all the factions of the bourgeoisie and all imperialisms." -ICC, Nation or Class?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jammoe
    Will do.
    I look forward to reading it.

    As for the rest of your post... I'm familiar with the history of anglophone feminisms and i must (again) disagree; the claim that this (even broadly speaking) is a history of 'separate-but-equalism' does not square with this history (of some feminists and periods of anglophone feminism sure) and would be rebuked by most feminists (particularly socialist feminists).

    However, even many liberal feminists oppose a 'separate-but-equal' mentality, though their views are necessarily less radical in this regard than that of most 'second-wave' (not to mention more contemporary anglophone feminisms) and socialist feminists.

    Indeed beyond 'first-wave feminism' i think the history (and nature) of anglophone feminisms is up for debate (and thus not easily reduced to statements along the lines of 'X is a history of Y'); due largely to the heterogeneous nature of the subject (anglophone 'feminism').

    Undoubtedly the majority of feminisms are contextualised within a patriarchal society; in the same way that most communisms are contextualised within a capitalist society; it is very difficult to intellectually transcend one's particular period of time, society and so forth - to escape the intellectual trends, constructs and ideologies of our time.
    I don't think that makes systems of knowledge constructed within a class (or patriarchal) society useless or otherwise fatally flawed - as long as we remain open-minded about the future and critical (as well conscious of the impact class society et al has on the development of our ideas) these issues can be addressed effectively (to the best of our ability?).
    Last edited by Black Dagger; 14th January 2008 at 17:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bleeding gums malatesta View Post
    I look forward to reading it.
    I'll start a new thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by manic expression View Post

    By the way, isn't ANY rape an act of sexism in and of itself?
    How do you figure that? Would you say that any violence against men is sexism in and of itself??


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    Quote Originally Posted by TragicClown View Post
    How do you figure that? Would you say that any violence against men is sexism in and of itself??
    Yeah I guess that wasn't a good way of putting it. What I meant was that realtively common crimes like spousal abuse are basically sexist, and so singling out any crime to raise awareness is doing what the original poster accused the left of doing. My point was that if you want to build awareness around specific instances, you are always going to ignore something.

    Anyway, I think the whole premise of this thread is incredibly misguided. On a small tangent, I'm tired of people accusing everyone of being sexist for things so small as interrupting a female in a political discussion (as if males never get interrupted). SDS is incredibly fond of worthless stuff like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by manic expression View Post
    Anyway, I think the whole premise of this thread is incredibly misguided.
    I disagree, I think there may be a tendency to, as regards the specific case the threadstarter pointed out, make more of male heroes/martyrs than females, and if so this is very important, and we should have our attention brought to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by manic expression View Post
    On a small tangent, I'm tired of people accusing everyone of being sexist for things so small as interrupting a female in a political discussion (as if males never get interrupted).
    I agree. Probably worse, of course, is being called "sexist" for holding doors open and so on.

    Quote Originally Posted by manic expression View Post
    Yeah I guess that wasn't a good way of putting it. What I meant was that realtively common crimes like spousal abuse are basically sexist, and so singling out any crime to raise awareness is doing what the original poster accused the left of doing. My point was that if you want to build awareness around specific instances, you are always going to ignore something.
    This sort of bugs me - the idea that sex crimes, or crimes within relationships, are sexist. It's all very complicated by the contradictions of heterosexuality though, and I don't know if I can go into it all. In general though, I think you have men who have sexual interests in women, and men who have sexual interests in men, and small minorities of both who would be violent to those in whom they've a sexual interest, and there's nothing "sexist" about that.

    Or, sort of related, the nature of sexually intimate relationships, which just for probability sorts of reasons incidentally usually occur between males and females, are such that they can develop a special sort of violence, and this is not "sexist", I think, in a meaningful sense (I hope I'm still sort of coherent. I haven't gotten enough sleep lately and I'm very confused and burned out writing this, I hope I'm making some sort of sense).

    About rape, the psychological nature of rape is not one I well understand, I'm not a psychologist and I don't think I can really comment on it. My hunch, however, is that it's only peripherally related to the larger institutionalization of patriarchy.

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    I think that you can't just say "Well, it's just shitty luck" about the Left prioritizing the struggles of oppressed men over oppressed women. I just reorganized the library in my local Infoshop today and realized that nearly three quarters of the books were written by men (and we proclaim ourselves "feminists").

    Much of the history of patriarchy has been the history of not connecting the dots of gender oppression. The Williams case is another interesting manifestation of that, the New York case even more so. I'd never even heard of the latter. We, as revolutionaries, should always strive to think systematically, and to connect the dots. Patriarchy is certainly something alive and well in our movement (I think it's probably the biggest internal problem facing the leftist groups I've worked with).
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