I’m pretty tired of always being expected to be apologetic to hegemonic persons who automatically get riled up at the merest hint that they may be in collusion with an oppressive system – whether men, white people, cis-people, straight people… Seriously, no matter how good you THINK your intentions are, you benefit as a member of that group from the oppression of others. You have a responsibility to proactively act against all the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the existing structure. You don’t get off by saying “I don’t see color” or “we’re all human” or “everyone is equally deserving of respect”, or “Just be nice to everybody!” (“nice” really isn’t the issue). By doing that, you are erasing and ignoring and minimizing the actual lived experiences of marginalized people – THEY never say they don’t see color or that everyone should love each other equally, because their ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE is based on the fact that people DO see color (or gender, or ethnicity, or weight, or age… and they DON’T LIKE IT). You don’t get to say “generalizing about men is equally sexist to what men do to women”, because guess what: it isn’t. If that was all we were dealing with, we wouldn’t be here, doing this feminism thing. And getting no end of crap for it. We get to be mad, because we’re the ones getting raped, murdered, beaten, paid less, judged, disowned, legislated against, maligned, harassed, and more. You don’t get to act as if there is parity between us. If I hate you – nothing happens to you except you feel I was unpleasant to you. I live in a state of fear and violence, whether or not you even recognize my existence. I get to say “I hate straights/cis-people/men”, even if that isn’t “nice”. I don’t owe you my niceness. You don’t get to hate women/people of color/trans* people – because when you do, you are supporting an entire system of oppression and violence. Someday, when the playing field is even, you will have a right to claim that this attitude might lead to oppression. Someday, on that day that will only arrive if TODAY YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES AND THE OPPRESSIONS OF OTHERS. But for now – you don’t get to take away our anger. Their anger. The anger that comes from being stomped on and marginalized. YOU JUST DON’T.
Good intentions. I’m sick to death of good intentions.
Every time someone comes into one of the groups or blogs I manage, says something racist or sexist or transphobic or [fill in oppressive BS here], and they get called out on it, not only do I end up getting the whole offended “I’m the victim here” song and dance (“You are oppressing me by nullifying my right to express an opinion” “You are being violent to me by excoriating me in the group” “You are being a dictator!! [yeah, I’m Stalin])… Not only all that, but then come in the chorus of apologists: “He didn’t *mean* to offend anyone, he meant well!”. Oh, I guess the hurt he caused is now erased, then.
So here is what I have to say about good intentions: FUCK GOOD INTENTIONS.
If you have “good intentions” all that means is one or more of the following:
- You are trying to make yourself feel good by doing some patronizing BS. You don’t actually “see” the group you are thereby
helpingoppressing, you are actually maintaining the existing order (which is patriarchal, hierarchical, and based on unequal power relationships). You are probably white knighting, cookie seeking or mansplaining. Or just plain being a liberal asshat.
- You are being selfish and/or self-centered. We might try to follow the golden rule (treat other as we would want to be treated) or walk a mile in their shoes, or some other cliche on how to act towards others… But really – each of us thinks differently and processes information differently and has our own filter for actions and words. Especially if there are differences of gender, race, class… You don’t get points for enforcing your own ideas upon others, especially if you’re going to get offended when they don’t appreciate your take on things like you wanted them to.
- You are defining for others what is good, what is harm… If that isn’t oppressive, what is? If you’re trying to be an ally, find out what the group you’re allying yourself wants, for fuck’s sake. Find out what their pain points are. Don’t assume things. Don’t go barging in there with your good or bad baggage. Their activism is theirs, and you get to help. IF they want you to. HOW they want you to.
- You haven’t done your homework. Activism is first and foremost about awareness. You don’t go stomping in with your newly budding understanding of something, and spray it all over the place. Have you learned what the group is about? Does it have any rules or conventions you should be aware of? Do members of the group want to continually educate newbies — or are they trying to get their own stuff done? There are plenty of resources to learn from on pretty much any issue, and in any case I’m sure the group you’re trying to work with would appreciate your asking where you can learn – and therefore help – rather than assuming you already know more than you do, and gracing them with your ignorance. No excuse for stomping. Even if you’re dancing to make your cat happy, if you step on her, ya know, she’s gonna yowl. Maybe even scratch.
RESULTS MATTER MORE THAN INTENTIONS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
|Yesterday, it was mansplained to me that Israel cannot possibly be an apartheid state because it lets in all these refugees… And that refugees wouldn’t want to come here if it were. The problems with this argument are too many to list, but here are the highlights: Apartheid means segregation, and in its wider context applies to a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. The question of whether Israel, as a political/legal/military/bureaucratic system discriminates (against Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, foreign workers, non-Jews, Ethiopian Israelis, Mizrahi Israelis…) is not in any way dependent on the entry of refugees to the country. That is what you might call a fallacy. But the attempted use of this sad fallacy brought to front and center, yet again, how misinformed people are — right here in Israel — about African refugees in Israel. Because Israel doesn’t LET THEM IN. At all. Ever. And they don’t come here because it is a paradise — they come here because we’re the closest place they CAN come to, to get away from war zones, mass murder, enslavement, and rape. So I wrote this note on Facebook in a probably vain attempt to inject some reality into the situation.|
There are somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Africa in Israel today. Mostly from The Sudan and Eritrea.
None of these refugees are recognized by Israel as refugees. NONE. That’s ZERO.
Since 2003, fewer than 10% of these Africans have been granted some sort of temporary residency in Israel on humanitarian grounds. That’s a sum total of 2700-3000 Africans. Leaving the other 32,000 to 50,000 designated by Israeli authorities as INFILTRATORS.
Since 2007, the default treatment of asylum seekers is detention. When the prisons fill up, the refugees are released to city centers without further assistance — meaning, no home, no job, no legal status enabling them to find a job, no healthcare, no NOTHING. The slums of South Tel Aviv are the refuge of the lucky — many remain homeless. Or in prison.
|Levinsky Tent Encampment After Violent Raid by Police and City Inspectors|
Of course, none of this accounts for the unknown numbers who died or were detained on their way out of their countries of origin, or the Africans who have been subject to “hot return” by the IDF — a government policy that instructs the army to force refugees “back” to a neighboring country — in this case Egypt — where they are typically incarcerated, and denied any access to asylum-seeking procedures. There have also been incidents of Egyptian soldiers shooting at the Africans being “hot returned”. Hundreds of refugees that we know of have been imprisoned in Egypt or forcibly returned to the Sudan or Eritrea.
Meanwhile, those left in Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel also have no legal status or protection. In addition to being denied basic human rights to healthcare, education and the like, they are subject to police raids and random arrests, violence, and eviction. In recent weeks, the City of Tel Aviv destroyed the tent cities where many of the refugees were sheltering from the winter. One man, Jonathan Johannes Birkau, subsequently died from the cold.
Ever since the “refugee problem” began growing to more than sample proportions, Israel has been doing everything in her power to prevent additional refugees from crossing the border. The criminalization of refugees has been a de facto development, and now is becoming a de jure status as well:
Israel recently passed the “Infiltrator Law”, that provides that anyone crossing the border uninvited can be placed in detention — without any administrative hearing or trial — for up to three years. There is no age limit on this detention — it is being planned for adults and children alike. And no appeals system, or evidence required, because the law doesn’t care if the people detained are actually asylum seekers or work immigrants. The law also criminalizes anyone who provides assistance to refugees, providing for prison sentences for transgressors.
To this end, the govenment is building an internment camp in the Negev.
The new facility being built to “house” these men, women, and children will allocate about 5 square meters for each refugee, which is *significantly* less than even Israeli prisons allocate per prisoner. Government sources have said that this is intentional, to make it uncomfortable for the Africans to be in Israel.
None of this even begins to delve into the racial distinction made between the African “infiltrators” and say, people from Europe or the US who don’t otherwise have a “right” to be here, but are not placed in prison, and whose homes are not raided in the middle of the night, whose children are not arrested, imprisoned and deported as has been done regularly to non-western workers and refugees living in Israel, especially since 2010, when 400 young children born in Israel were ordered to be deported, with nearly 1000 more still facing deportation. (Children as young as 3-years-old are regularly put in prison cells, and deprived of food and medicine; authorities have also been caught in mulitple lies as to the legality of many of the parents involved, and children have been deported SEPARATELY from their parents. But Israel’s endemic racism is a wider issue than that of refugees, and too large to be dealt with in a note.)
At the time of this writing, about 2000 refugees from the Ivory Coast are in the process of being deported back to the IC, even though international humanitarian organizations are still recommending against refugees’ returning. The Israeli move is breaking up families, and depriving people of homes they have lived in since 1996.
Welcome to paradise.
Photo by: Shachaf Polakow
Slavery in the Georgia school system, and teaching about sexism in the civil rights movement — (almost) just in time for MLK Day; Saudi women take baby steps toward political empowerment; Roe v. Wade celebrates its anniversary; Huxtables — hot or not? Who is your favorite Manic Pixie Dream Girl? And if YOU TOO blame the patriarchy, have I got a blog for you…
It’s a new Thursday Round-Up!
Slavery Examples Used in Georgia Schools
A few weeks ago this hit the interwaves — A Georgia elementary school teacher was using slavery in math questions (really!), and when horrified parents turned to the school district, their concerns were basically dismissed.
“Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”
What the hell is going on in the US, people??
Discussing Sexism in the Civil Rights Movement
In the Internet age, high school kids are no longer limited to the by-the-[text]book material about key figures they learn about. If they look up Martin Luther King, for example, they will likely read about his infidelity, chauvinism, and other not-so-nice stuff in addition to his activism and struggle to promote civil rights and end segregation.
Teaching Tolerance, a project run by the Southern Poverty Law Center, published this guide to dealing with the complexity of multi-dimensional.
What do you think? Good? Bad? Excuses?
Saudi Women to Vote Without Male Permission
Recently, Saudi King Abdullah announced that women in his country would be allowed to run for office and vote in municipal elections without male approval. While widely lauded as a step in the right direction, Saudi male-guardian laws remain largely unchanged: women cannot drive, work, travel, marry or even go to hospital without the approval of their male guardian.
Roe v. Wade – What does it mean to you?
January 22 was the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. Planned Parenthood launched this interactive site where everyone can write what Roe v. Wade means to her.
Gender and Socialization
Trust Women week
Culture and Media
I have to admit I never really liked the show… But when I came across the Huxtable Hotness blog, it really cracked me up. Some weird form of nostalgia?
The Weekly Trope
From the TV Tropes entry on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope:
“Let’s say you’re a soulful, brooding male hero, living a sheltered, emotionless existence. If only someone — someone female — could come along and open your heart to the great, wondrous adventure of life…
It’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the rescue!”
Coined by Nathan Rabin in his review of Elizabethtown for the A.V. Club’s My Year In Flops, the manic pixie dream girl is that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”
If she’s hot, “quirky” and exists only as a means-to-an-end plot device, you’ve got yourself a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. (From one guy’s take on MPDG)
|Natalie Portman in Garden State||Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown|
Blog of the Week
Not for the timid 🙂
This is from the About section:
You are reading I Blame The Patriarchy, the patriarchy-blaming blog that has been advancing the radical feminist views of Jill Psmith and/or Twisty Faster, a gentleman farmer and/or spinster aunt doing the butt-dance in Cottonmouth County, Texas, since 2004.
I Blame The Patriarchy is intended for advanced patriarchy-blamers. It is not a feminist primer. See Patriarchy-Blaming the Twisty Way for details.
I probably don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said before about mansplaining, but I’m always amazed how many people don’t know the term. However, most people (women) I know *do* recognize the behavior. It happens to me every day at work, in a male-dominated industry. Because part of what I live for is calling people out on privilege they are not aware of, I’m writing this post. And because another thing I live for is waking people up to internalized oppression. Like women who shut up when the man is talking. I also want to draw a straight line to the more extreme forms and effects of mansplaining. They are not negligible.
What is Mansplaining?
Mansplaining isn’t just the act of explaining while male, of course; many men manage to explain things every day without in the least insulting their listeners.
Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.
Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!
Think about the men you know. Do any of them display that delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with the rock-solid conviction of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation?
That dude is a mansplainer.
Shakesville’s post on mansplaining gives links to some of the best posts on the topic and lists of examples (see for example Zuska’s “You Might Be A Mansplainer If…” post). SMK explains her take on why gender-neutral terms don’t work in this case, and raises the societal factors that lead to it. (Karen Healey also discusses this here.)
Mansplainer even made the NY Times list of the best new words of 2010 … Though of course the concept is not new. In 2008, Rebecca Solnit wrote an op-ed in the LA Times called “Men Who Explain Things“.
Solnit tells of an event where a man pontificated to her about a “very important book” that came out on the subject she had written about… And simply wouldn’t hear the many times it was pointed out to him that Solnit had indeed written that “very important book”… Which it turns out he hadn’t even read, just saw in the NYT Book Review.
Solnit writes that in her experience, this type of behavior is gendered.
“Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
Almost every post on the topic is accompanied by the writer’s experience in giving into self-doubt when faced with the Man Who Explains. It took Solnit a while to realize there wasn’t really another “very important book” out there — she was willing to doubt herself, if even for just a while. Jennifer Ouellette, a science writer, also faced a learning curve in taking control of mansplaining attempts, because of course, she’s “just a girl” so what can she know about physics?
These are not isolated incidents. Samhita, in Feministing, writes that part of mansplaining is that when you are confronted with even blatant sexism, you are made to believe you are imagining it. She gives a list of several types of statements/responses that can help you spot mansplaining, including:
This is not a big fucking deal: AKA, we have more important things to worry about. Yes, there is sexism out there, but this is hardly an example of it…
I need more evidence: AKA, I think you are imagining that you experienced sexism, but maybe you can prove it to me. Get in your defensive position, and I’ll be the judge… And here are all the reasons maybe that wasn’t really sexism (maybe the guy was just an asshole, not a misogynist)…
You were “just kidding”: AKA, you feminists have no sense of humor. I know all about sexism, you are just not able to appreciate my “highly nuanced, deeply political humor”.
You find one woman to claim you are not sexist: AKA, if a woman agrees with me, it doesn’t matter how many women I actually offended.
The list goes on…
(Note that the list is Samhita’s, the definitions are my own interpretation of what she wrote.)
It’s All About Privilege
The mansplainer’s problem isn’t so much that he’s trying to teach a woman something, but rather that he takes it as a given that she doesn’t already know whatever it is he is going to tell her.
As someone who lives life as a female human, the sheer numbers of women in comment threads who have recounted experiences of Being Mansplained To is not at all surprising. Despite my general competence at life, dudes mansplain things to me all the time.
The thing is, no man who does this is consciously thinking — I am a man, therefore I know more than this woman who has written books/gotten degrees/just lectured on this subject. The thing with privilege is that when you say “people” the default person is a man. In the US, he is a white man. So the default [i.e., correct] attitude is that of a white man. Any explaining that comes from that privileged status to someone is not of that privileged status, has a risk of being ___splaining. Like mansplaining to women, there is also whitesplaining between whites and people of color.
Whereas whitesplaining is the result of the white experience being “normed,” mansplaining, is the logical result of males possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life. If white people and men, and especially white males, are not aware of this, they are incredibly likely to wrongly assume themselves to be more competent than women and people of color at pretty much everything, up to and including what it means to live as a female or person of color in society.
Here is another good example of mansplaining from Jill in I Blame the Patriarchy. (We all love it when guys tell us why we’re wrong, and if we disagree with them, it is probably because we don’t understand, and if we “honestly” disagree with them, we really aren’t feminists. Because *they* know feminism better than we do…)
In addition to silencing women and making it difficult for them to be heard (and therefore advance, or even enter) in their own fields of expertise, and in addition to women being socialized not to make a fuss about it, the basic attitude at the heart of mansplaining has significant ramifications.
It is the attitude that what women have to say is unimportant, or even worse — unreliable, that is at the heart of various practices that harm women directly. For example, in Saudi Arabia women may not testify in court. In the rare cases they are permitted to, their testimony is deemed “non-factual”. This is particularly onerous if a woman is the victim of a crime, or if she is raped, as the perpetrator’s testimony is deemed more reliable than hers, so she must have male witnesses to the crime, and how often does that happen?
So every time a guy “gets” it, I feel a small sliver of hope. Here’s one who does: http://roboseyo.blogspot.com/2011/05/let-me-tell-you-about-mansplaining-ill.html.