Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The tactics are always the same, even though the name of the game changes

Renee wrote a fabulous piece for the Guardian about being a Womanist and not a Feminist. So of course hand-wringing feminists throw tantrums because they just can't ever do enough to appease black people or something.

Progressives have been writing for eons that the Democratic party in general and the party under Obama in particular pretty much sucks for everyone who isn't a white creative class dude, and Dems throw fits because they just can't do enough to appease women, the poor, people of color, immigrants, environmentalists, etc. etc. etc.

These are the same problem. They stem from the same place. They have the same answer.

(It's even the same problem that animal rights group who shall not be named has. It's okay to hurt women in the name of saving something else.)

Either you really, truly, in your heart believe in equality for everyone and work your ass off for that, or you're part of the problem. If you, as a feminist. still feel the need to look down on poor mothers who just can't keep their legs shut rather than working to make sure that everyone can choose parenthood or non-parenthood without being financially punished for it- then you are part of the problem. If you want equality for women everywhere, except when that woman might have been born in a male body, you are part of the problem. If you think half measures on gay marriage or accessibility for PWD is good enough, you are part of the problem.

You have to be willing to give up a feeling of superiority, even for those you hate or those you have power over, in order to change things. This isn't easy. Lord knows, I love to hate on the rednecks. They are everything I despise in the world. Yet they are just poor whites looking for some measure of advantage and finding it in the only place they can, racism. I don't have to like them, I don't have to agree with them, but they have just as much of a right to exist as any book reading, wine drinking, intellectual.

That feeling of superiority, that little self-satisfied harumph, that is one of the biggest stealth tools of oppression. It is what keeps us from examining out own prejudices and privileges too closely. If we did, we'd see how very seriously feminism has failed women of color and poor women and women with disabilities in its focus on pregnancy preventing for the upwardly affluent and the glass ceiling while ignoring forced sterilization and the removal of children from the arms of mothers deemed "less fit" or the concrete blocks that encircle the legs of poor working women trying to climb any sort of employment ladder.
We'd see how the party of the left in this country fails, over and over and over again, to do anything to put the bottom of society on equal footing with the rest of it.

But it's the same problem. It is the "I'm gonna get mine, suckers" attitude. It is the "Oh isn't that terrible, but let's focus on getting me what I want first and then we'll fix you" mindset. And that keeps the oppression train rolling happily along, while us have nots fight with the have somes. It is a pattern. It is a tactic. It is an intrinsic part of the kyriarchy. It gives a false sense of justice and purpose without actually fixing anything.

And to fix it, you just have to give up wanting power over someone else, whether that person is "beneath" you because of color or gender or sexuality or age (yes, children are an oppressed class, duh), or intelligence or class or taste or whatever. You have to really, truly, in your heart of hearts, believe that. And you have to work on it. Every time that little snicker of disgust comes up because you've been reading the People of Walmart, or This is Why You're Fat, or something about how horrible those awful Muslims are for treating their women the way they do, you have to let it go.*

Being half-assed about human rights and progress means not getting either. And refusing to enlarge your view or examine yourself is being half-assed. You either believe that equality means everyone and that there shouldn't be a rationing system for doling out equality, or you're on the wrong side.

*This is not to say you don't go around calling out oppression when you see it, it's just that really Christian Pot meet Islamic Kettle on the oppression of women shit. The fundy Christians want the exact same things the fundy Muslims want. Examine your own culture first.

**As a pretty good rule of thumb, when a more disadvantaged group is calling out less disadvantaged group for not being inclusive, I tend to listen to the more disadvantaged and believe them. They, after all, are experts in what ever oppression they've experienced, where as the oppressors rarely know that they are doing it.

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