Saturday, February 17, 2007

Some thoughts on "power play"

Otherwise known as "BDSM," and/or "kink." And yet, those terms come with a lot of baggage now, don't they. What does it all mean, dear? in relation to "real life" power dynamics? -Is- there a fresh way of approaching this?

For now, just a couple of links to other people; I have some thoughts of my own, but, later: it needs to cook.

First, Dw3t-Hthr at World on a Slant

A Cat May Look: Fealty and Slavery

Three threads to this braid: respect for support roles, individualism vs. collectivism, power and vulnerability. It starts at the beginning of all the threads, but trying to write that will start putting letters on top of each other and be wickedly hard to read. And I'm not gonna try to be clever and format it into columns or shit like that.

First mentioned thread: there's this fascinating thread of contempt for people who willingly take support roles. That nobody would hire on as the night janitor if they didn't have to. That nobody would settle for being the secretary if they could be the power executive. When it goes into caretaking it gets worse -- the idea that a full-time parent is actually working doesn't cross the mind of many, the people who take care of their elderly or ailing relatives are treated as having a time-consuming hobby.

A better person, a more competent, more capable person, that person would be in charge -- would have ambition, drive to succeed, would want to be the name on the letterhead, not the initials in lowercase in the bottom corner. Clearly, the one doing the typing, mopping the floor, changing the diaper, they're not suited to anything better. Anything worthy of respect.

Second thread: there's this creepy hivemind thing that I see a lot in the name of individualism. I mean, one can hearken back to the whole being a special unique snowflake just like everyone else when being flip, but there are Rules out there. Be a strong individual and follow your dream -- so long as your dream isn't to be anything that threatens the Rules. Maybe you get to pick your Rules a little and only take flak from people using different ones, but the Rules are still there. Shouldn't work, shouldn't work in these fields, shouldn't work for less than this amount of money, shouldn't think that way, shouldn't dress that way, why? Because we're more mature than that now. We know better. This is the right way. We don't want to be mistaken for Them.

Being an individual is all well and good, so long as one knows which ideology one's an individual in. Then there are the neat boxes that can be dragged out, some of them marked 'good' and some of them marked 'evil', and everything is neatly filed away, and nobody has to think about who anyone is.

Third thread: In the presence of a power differential, the people on the low end of things are living exposed and somewhat vulnerable. The power exists to affect them, and they have less to retaliate with. Holding that power is a drug, and like any drug, there is responsible use and irresponsible use. The position of power is a position to compel intimacy, to know and control more about someone else's life; even if one is not using that power, the possibility does exist for it to be used. And if the power does not exist in a framework of agreement and sufficient support for intimacy, people are gonna get hurt. And do get hurt, all the time.

Let's knot those three together with: I am kinked submissive.

And starting to braid:...


Read the rest at World on a Slant.

Then, coming from another angle, here's trin at the strangest alchemy:


When I came into SM, it was a group in town. I hung with the townies. And there were some real class differences between my daily life at school and the people I hung out with, learned from, and beat because it's hot. Talking to other kinky folks I often hear that most perverts are high class: we can afford floggers and very expensive leather clothes, corsets, etc.

But the people I knew were not those people. They were rural folk, some of whom had never heard much at all about highfalutin stuff like feminism. I remember being a little scared of them and quite a bit classist -- "what the fuck is wrong with their teeth?" most notably. When my parents later met the guy I ended up dating, who was quite poor compared to most of us attending school on our parents' dimes, many years my senior, and a townie -- oh, the teeth thing. "That person must be someone who can't take care of himself if his teeth look like that. Isn't it gross to kiss him? How disgusting."

...Anyhoo. Pervy townies.

Quite a few were good country girls and boys who'd never questioned that women submit to men, and discovered that could be made into a shitload of fun if you bought yourself a couple paddles for cheapish from the local guy who makes 'em.

And learned by meeting the rest of us that some people are gay, some people are poly, some straight or bi women dominate their men.

Their minds got opened by being involved in the alternative lifestyle, not by theory or by sudden understandings of social oppression. They went to the meetings, met someone nice, discovered he kisses and fucks other boys and went "oh hell, we're all weird motherfuckers here," and moved on with a more open mind.

So for me... eh. I feel like I'm overstepping if I say I know all about the class dynamics of it. I don't -- I wasn't a townie. I did most of my kink out in the country when I wasn't at home with my lover -- rural Virginia or West Virginia. But I wasn't them.

But they were my friends, my leather community, my tribe. Going back to town and hearing the younger, richer, more feminist women tell me that the screen savers they filled up with porn and looped when they threw play parties was a problem... never felt right. That was a country-boy Master's idea of fun. Maybe it wasn't great -- I have some thoughts both about porn and the porn the person I have in mind picked -- but it sure as hell wasn't about sending messages. It was about how nice it is that in a room full of perverts you can proudly display what you like, not keep it hidden and stashed away -- and some of them might like it, too.

Going back to school and hearing the other women scold me for getting used to the porn, for liking some of it -- well, in addition to "Noneya biz!" it also felt like here we are in an ivory tower deciding what other people's lives should look like. That what they consider manners are sexist, even when they're friendly and loving to dominant woman me. That their friendliness and openness and the fact that at least one of my best friends went from being raised strict Baptist to being kinda fundie but bi and kinky and open to just about anyone else's way of life (and a top!)... wasn't enough....



read the rest.

40 comments:

Clampett said...

"Otherwise known as "BDSM," and/or "kink." And yet, those terms come with a lot of baggage now, don't they. What does it all mean, dear? in relation to "real life" power dynamics? -Is- there a fresh way of approaching this? "

Why do you always have to be so smart?


To go out on a limb,

Perhaps the difference between SM power play and real life power exchange is too slight for comfort...holding and exercising Power has sexual signifigances we aren't willing to fess up to (being good Xians and or secular humanists....)

(for example, in interviewing one of America's richest people, Bell Hooks found that the reason he enjoyed being rich is that he could (to paraphrase him) 'make people do things they usually wouldn't')

Thus society's contempt for bdsm has more to do with denial of it's own sadism than any real moral qualm, if attitudes towards other deviant sexual practices involving consenting adults over the past century are any evidence...sm has a monopoly on the 'yuck factor'.

fyi, I didn't hedge my comment on your 2-15 (bible) quote of the day, I hope I wasn't too vitrolic.

-cheers

Trin said...

gah!! i didn't mean to MAKE you post right away :-P

hee.

thanks, tho.

dw3t-hthr (is that typed right)'s post is all full of amazing.

Trin said...

"Thus society's contempt for bdsm has more to do with denial of it's own sadism than any real moral qualm"

heh, hmm

I don't know if society denies its sadism. I think people have a real love-hate relationship with sadism, in general -- just look at, say, video games, horror movies, even reality TV (that's the one I don't grok. Blood? Whee. Catfights of doom? I'll pass, thanks.)

The thing is they don't like people who admit it. If you're dominant sexually (or worse if you're consensually sadistic sexually), if you're a big fan of video games and unapologetic about likin' the ultraviolence factor... THEN you're teh evul.

But we all know who's making it and quite a lot of us use it. There's a "a wee bit of sadism is human" thing, and then there's a "Holy Goddess, that one's got his TOE OVER THE LINE!! AIIIIIEEEEEEEE!" inanity that

well, y'know

what if someone's just curious, bitter, or honest, and not actually harming anyone?

we don't know what to do with that one.

We don't know how to consider intent. We don't know how to: ah, that person confines it to games and play, whether sex or horror movie fandom or Doom 3 or whatever, so that's fine.

er well fine is a bit of a neat wrap-up and I'm trying to avoid that because this is, by definition, "little cruelty" and that's not neat

but

y'know. this person isn't unhealthy and is conscientious and doesn't vent crap on others that does real harm.

vs.

that's not bloody, it's just catfighty, and it's hellaciously ugly but there's no blood or no sketchbooks full of eviscerated dying, so that person over THERE:

not a (minor) sadist.

like take the whole wasp thing: o no, no enjoying cutting people down there, no no.

because we're FEMINIST AND RADICAL AND LOVEY. it's just you fallen wasps, well: tough love.

y'know, fuck lovey. i'd rather see yer teeth. least then i have a chance at getting a kick in first, mebbe.

R. Mildred said...

I -

WAAH! GREAT VOXDAY'S HEAD MACKERAL! sorry, I just tried to put an image into a post and it did it really big.

Reallly really big. If it wasn't VoxDay I'd have said it was life size, but alas I don't have a big enough monitor for that.

- am going to fucking kick in the teeth of the next person who whips our that fuckign patronising "oh but people who do S&M have issues they need to work through!"

Speak for yourselves already, fucking idiotic fuckwits, why don't you point too something else that is boringly hyper-normative about S&Mers.

Clampett said...

Yeah, “ If you're dominant sexually (or worse if you're consensually sadistic sexually), if you're a big fan of video games and unapologetic about likin' the ultraviolence factor... THEN you're teh evul.”
Tru evvvvil.
“I don't know if society denies its sadism. I think people have a real love-hate relationship with sadism, in general -- just look at, say, video games, horror movies, even reality TV (that's the one I don't grok. Blood? Whee. Catfights of doom? I'll pass, thanks.)”

well, I think love-hate is a good analogy.
I’ll be a dervish and go farther: the ‘videogames, horror movies, even reality tv’ Do a lot to exterminate the reality of inegalitarian social conditions. Now, Western liberal democratic society has given more people a better way of life than any other system ever, but in the words of Alain Badiou;

“In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian–where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone–is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships....That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs—even if this best is not so great.


So in terms of sadism, I’m not really talking about the impulse behind horror films or videogames. I’m talking more about the sadism behind exploiting people in pursuit of the surplus value of capitalism, or more broadly the sadism behind the pursuit of power and status, powerful status being a sexy exploiting ‘winner’, weak being a wierd exploited ‘loser’; the issue is touchy for we’ve sanitized the exercise of power the to point where we can’t admit to liking it even if we think the exercise was just. I grudgingly admit that the Junger-ellul viened anti-technoligist bastard Unabomber nailed us in that regard:
“The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term "oversocialized" to describe such people”…… The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society. Generally speaking, the goals of today's leftists are NOT in conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes (4) for a long time. These values are explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles…….”We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the oversocialized type, NEVER rebel against the fundamental values of our society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society's most important principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account, violence is for them a form of "liberation." In other words, by committing violence they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.”
(apply a pinch of salt: remember he’s a unabombing sonofabitch…in fact the above quotes were published at unabombpoint)


But we all know who's making it and quite a lot of us use it. There's a "a wee bit of sadism is human" thing, and then there's a "Holy Goddess, that one's got his TOE OVER THE LINE!! AIIIIIEEEEEEEE!" inanity that

well, y'know

what if someone's just curious, bitter, or honest, and not actually harming anyone?

we don't know what to do with that one.

We don't know how to consider intent. We don't know how to: ah, that person confines it to games and play, whether sex or horror movie fandom or Doom 3 or whatever, so that's fine.

er well fine is a bit of a neat wrap-up and I'm trying to avoid that because this is, by definition, "little cruelty" and that's not neat

but

y'know. this person isn't unhealthy and is conscientious and doesn't vent crap on others that does real harm.

vs.

that's not bloody, it's just catfighty, and it's hellaciously ugly but there's no blood or no sketchbooks full of eviscerated dying, so that person over THERE:

not a (minor) sadist.

like take the whole wasp thing: o no, no enjoying cutting people down there, no no.

because we're FEMINIST AND RADICAL AND LOVEY. it's just you fallen wasps, well: tough love.

y'know, fuck lovey. i'd rather see yer teeth. least then i have a chance at getting a kick in first, mebbe.

I don’t follow with the last sentence bout’ teeth. But notice how it’s hard to admit enjoying the exercise of power,er..tough love’ as you put it against an entity that by your admission deserves some ‘tough love’.

I think the point i'm trying to make is that sm between consenting adults is a healthy sexual practice. Society looks down on it b/c it reminds a her cruelty she cannot-willnot admit.

belledame222 said...

Well,--a couple of things.

One, we -might- own sadism, but we really don't own the erotic charge of it--the real life cops and robbers games, the teacher student games, the family games, the war games, the 1001 games we all play "for real," without safewords or limits or even acknowledging that it -is- a game. We don't own that we get off in many ways.

and we don't own it, period. as per below: it's "for their own good." or for some Cause. not for us, though. never for us.

FUNKYBROWNCHICK said...

Hey BelleDame!

Rachel Kramer Bussel was a guest on my show a couple of weeks ago (I host the internet radio show Dating Roadkill). She has a series of books on this subject -- "He's on Top" and "She's on Top". If you've already read them, I'd be curious to know what you think.

FBC

belledame222 said...

Hey funkybrownchick!

I don't know those works by RKB, no. that is cool that you got her on your show, though. why, what'd you think?

Trin said...

"I'm not really talking about the impulse behind horror films or videogames. I'm talking more about the sadism behind exploiting people in pursuit of the surplus value of capitalism, or more broadly the sadism behind the pursuit of power and status, powerful status being a sexy exploiting 'winner', weak being a wierd exploited 'loser'; the issue is touchy for we've sanitized the exercise of power the to point where we can't admit to liking it even if we think the exercise was just."

Okay, sure, but the point I'm trying to make is that a lot of the people who DO what you're talking about are really big on being against what I'm talking about.

And the thing about what you're mentioning is that owning that is hard. There are a lot of people who I'm sure exploit people and like the power they have without necessarily liking the exploiting. (Yes, one could bring the unconscious in here, but I like to avoid Freud when I can.) I think that's a big part of what makes all this tough.

And another big part of what makes these things really tough is that, well -- it's tough to call a collective agent a "sadist." You can say it exploits or harms and you can fault the people in it, yeah, or say the person/s running it are but you can't say IT is.

Which is I think part of where a lot of the anti-hierarchy radfems go to hide their own little (or big) cruelties: we're a collective! a group! how can "radical feminism" hurt you and enjoy it?

...and you're going "but it seems that bunches of people who ascribe to that ideology have this tearing-down thing going on, and this purity campaign, and this massive uber girl-boner for dehumanizing the impure."

it's a lot easier to look at, say, me, and go: yep, there's some sadism there. because I'm, y'know... not denying it.

even though that's the kind that doesn't, grand scheme of universe, matter much anyway.

belledame222 said...

anyone see "Quills," p.s.?

Sage said...

On "...contempt for people who willingly take support roles;...a better person...would be in charge..." and the whole dominant/submissive thing. I think that duality goes way back along wtih the idea that the dominant position is preferable. But the one on top is often the one doing all the work, breaking a sweat to maintain the position.

If we can accept having less, we can do less work. I'm thinking of Diogenes living the life of a dog, annoyed only when the Emperor stands in the way of the sun's rays warmly shining down on him. It doesn't work as well thinking about slaves and waitresses as submissive positions. However, I think the choice to be in a submissive position makes all the difference there. If I quit teaching to waitress, I'll have a different mindset now than when I begrudingly waitressed myself through school.

Of course there are benefits and concerns with both roles. I wrote a whole bunch more about this dichotomy played out in philosophy way back here.

"the reason he enjoyed being rich is that he could 'make people do things they usually wouldn't'"

I wonder to what extent the submissive position actually allows more freedom to do things you want do but feel you shouldn't want to do. There's no guilt if someone makes you do it.

belledame222 said...

see, i'm not at all sure about that assumption, that the one on "top" is doing more work. particularly when it comes to y'know stuff like management, etc. etc. i think sometimes the "service" position can be about control and power in its own right. i mean, there are directors; there are actors; but there are also stage managers. Which one has the most power? it may not be the one who looks most glamorous.

also see, "Remains of the Day," the butler who smoothly and invisibly keeps everything going...

belledame222 said...

I wonder to what extent the submissive position actually allows more freedom to do things you want do but feel you shouldn't want to do. There's no guilt if someone makes you do it.

well i do think that dynamic comes up as well, yes.

Trin said...

"see, i'm not at all sure about that assumption, that the one on "top" is doing more work."

I don't think that assumption is necessarily the case either.

Clampett said...

Tina,

T: "Okay, sure, but the point I'm trying to make is that a lot of the people who DO what you're talking about are really big on being against what I'm talking about."

hmm. That's a good way to phrase it. I think we have similar points there.

T: "And the thing about what you're mentioning is that owning that is hard. There are a lot of people who I'm sure exploit people and like the power they have without necessarily liking the exploiting. (Yes, one could bring the unconscious in here, but I like to avoid Freud when I can.) I think that's a big part of what makes all this tough."

Well it's tough until we unpack it, i concur.

T:"And another big part of what makes these things really tough is that, well -- it's tough to call a collective agent a "sadist." You can say it exploits or harms and you can fault the people in it, yeah, or say the person/s running it are but you can't say IT is. "

True. But why would I personify an organization (outside of propaganda)?

Also I can say that the 'vangaurd party' or 'collective agent' is a chauvinistic invention of the tyrant VI Lenin...displaying many of the flawed mechanics of the united/popular front.

T:"Which is I think part of where a lot of the anti-hierarchy radfems go to hide their own little (or big) cruelties: we're a collective! a group! how can "radical feminism" hurt you and enjoy it?"

That's a pretty good analysis for those who forget that some pigs are more equal than others
(in small-medium sized groups; dominant personalities play a large role and folk are suprisingly succeptible to leadership)


"...and you're going "but it seems that bunches of people who ascribe to that ideology have this tearing-down thing going on, and this purity campaign, and this massive uber girl-boner for dehumanizing the impure."

huh? I had my sights set on normative predjudice towards sm, shaming that predjudice as irrational and hypocritical, among other things.

Comparing radfem politics to a 'purity campaign' would be a terrifingly unequal comparison in so far as the object of radfem activism is women's bodies and health, things that I think women should be militant about protecting, at a bare minimum.

Comparing derridian deconstruction to a 'tearing down thing' is hmmm...i don't see where you're going with that.

Comparing the will to fight to an 'ubergirlboner' is just flat mean-spirited.

T: "it's a lot easier to look at, say, me, and go: yep, there's some sadism there. because I'm, y'know... not denying it."

"even though that's the kind that doesn't, grand scheme of universe, matter much anyway."

Well, thats interesting. I don't think that's evil or wrong.

However i do think capitalism-imperialism are wrong, liberal or not, led by women or not.

Clampett said...

my bad,

*trin* not tina

Rosie said...

I took a seminar on BDSM once when attending a women's festival a good while back. I understand there is a good many folk who think this a contentious issue, but frankly, it strikes me as hunting around for something to exert control over.

Which is really ironic, wanting to exert control over people consentually modeling the exerting of control over each other.

Do they not understand that this is a different thing than pathological sadism or sociopathological behavior?

Really, I'd rather someone enjoy working out their kinks this way rather than...say...invading a country.

I know very few people without kinks. I don't know of any sort of relationship that doesn't involve exertion of power. It's the nature of the human condition. It's what we do.

Trin said...

"I understand there is a good many folk who think this a contentious issue, but frankly, it strikes me as hunting around for something to exert control over."

Yes, exactly.

"I don't know of any sort of relationship that doesn't involve exertion of power. It's the nature of the human condition. It's what we do."

I feel exactly the same -- which is why I think that a lot of the "well, but EXAMINE your desires! no, more, MORE!" that I personally saw in radfem circles is a purity campaign and little more. "Wash yourselves of power" is just the same as "don't have sex" to me.

The grounds of both purity campaigns are specious and attractive, because both power and sex can unfocus or corrupt us, and both can be violent.

Trin said...

"Comparing radfem politics to a 'purity campaign' would be a terrifingly unequal comparison in so far as the object of radfem activism is women's bodies and health, things that I think women should be militant about protecting, at a bare minimum."

So do I. But I find it really, REALLY common for radical feminists to get into contests about who has the most raised consciousness, who does the best job of "avoiding hierarchy," etc. It becomes "oh, I'm not telling you you can't do BDSM/fuck men/shave your legs/wonder if we really can truly smash capitalism, but have you REALLY examined your choices and opinions? Patriarchy is a mind virus, so you might want to do it AGAIN..."

and then they cuss you out in their private spaces because you're still a droid, otherwise you'd agree.

Not all people I know who identify as radical feminists do this, but the numbers of people I've encountered who do exceed the numbers of people who don't. And the people who do are absolutely adamant that this is the kind of thing "radical feminism" means.

I used to identify as a radical feminist myself. But the endless rounds of "no, I don't think that such-and-such (usually pornography or sex work) lies at 'the root' of sexism, nor do I think 'the root' oppression is patriarchy" got wearying. And as I watched all this stuff unfold, I gradually also became very suspicious of critiques of liberal individualism that point at holes and selfishness in it, but offer a kind of groupthink I find dangerous as the only real alternative.

So I stopped identifying as a radical feminist. I once again believe that it's most important to protect *people*, with all their myriad messy lives and overlapping oppressions (and the far too rarely discussed but very common situation that people find themselves in when fighting one oppression seems to imply doing X and yet fighting another seems to imply doing Y, and groups on both sides tug at you)... and protecting *people*, as unique entities, means at least re-adding some form of individualism into the mix.

If we don't do this, in my experience, we start a process of weeding people out based on their choices that snowballs and becomes cruel. And just like the society we're fighting, we end up with people at the top of a hierarchy, with flunkies who spout nothing but what they want people to spout (think Heart and Luckynkl, for one example.)

Hell, does anyone remember those "Questioning Transgender" folks? The message board for those people was named "The Chararchy," after their fearless leader --

-- yet their whole point was, supposedly, fighting against the patriarchy and the thing that leads "men to play at being women" and "women to mutilate themselves for a piece of the male priv pie."

Trin said...

rosie:

also I just took a look at your most recent blog entry about the goats and the one female doing scads of dominance humping, and found myself thinking:

hmm, if dominance is so evil, why do some of these radically anti-hierarchy people not get profoundly upset when non-human animals do it?

I suppose it's either that

1) we're supposed to know better
or
2) our actions impact more other animals directly

but I'm not sure.

belledame222 said...

o! that Questioning Transgender site is still around. so, THAT'S who runs it! the famous Char! Heart's MichFest mentor, or one of 'em, i think! ahhhh.

ugh. well and Buzzy Bee referring to another radical feminist as her Queen Bee, no, her -empress-; which, thankfully, most other radfems found ick-making as well. that level of blatant authoritarianism is actually pretty rare, i find. although, unsurprisingly, overall, of the self-ID'd online radical feminists i most can't stand, -all- of the Most Popular and their most faithful sidekicks are among them. and no, i don't always feel this way about the larger boards in other ah denominations (feminist, progressive, or anything else); it isn't a "power corrupts" or even competition thing, i don't think. some Popular Kids I can't stand; others i think are teh awesome; still others i just don't give much thought at all. same as with the near-anon bloggers and regulars and drop-ins.

i think, you know, actually? -powerlessness- corrupts. or rather, idealization of it. Because, with great power comes great responsibility; it's true that a lot of people who blatantly claim power are -not- responsible as they should be; but what does it say about a person who claims to -have no power-? What is this person actually saying?

"I have no responsibility."

No one is telling you what to do; unlike the Big Bad Patriarchy, which is evidenced in everything from instutionalized discrimination to sexist subway ads, these feminists have -no- power to hurt you. At all. Or not so's it's worth mentioning.

And, well, you know what? Besides all the obvious arguments we've all been making (um, well, and yet here I am, hurt, -by your words/actions-, no one else's), i am also thinking:

well in that case, let's say I -do- believe you: you have no power to harm. So, why should I join you?

Because, see, if you have no power to cause harm, to influence women in any real way compared to the dastardly Patriarchy, then, why, you don't really have power to -help,- either, do you. Much less this vaunted Revolution of which you speak. Since when does Revolution happen without claiming power? What are you going to do, sit there in the dark, alone, until it feels so guilty it just spontaneously combusts? No, I don't think so.

belledame222 said...

btw, trin, i'd been meaning to ask your opinion, as someone who's much more around livejournal than i: how much overlap would you say there is between the feminist blogosphere and the lj feminist communities?

Clampett said...

Trin,

People who define themselves as 'radical feminists' are a lot like those who define themselves as 'punk rock'.

More often than not they are far from it and are marked by the fact that as time goes on, a group that might have been formed around activism breaks down into group solipsism, things like 'yaaay (person x)'!! or 'right on sister', and whatnot begin to suffice for actual thought and er...things get cult like, to say the least, dissenting views are treated with a sneering contempt.


So, the distinction that needs to be made is not only the one between a 'radical feminist' and a radical feminist, but also the one between a person who has knowledge and a person who has memorized a dozen or so propagandistic slogans.

Also, the ivy leagued marthas vinyarded liberal capitalist elites have the habit of posing as leftist marxist revolutionaries until that is they take up a 6-figure job and whatnot. radical feminists my ass. That situation is fucking things up to say the least.

The movement has baggage in terms of propaganda; manifest here as shortcuts to actually learning about macropolitics. From this swamp we get tropish filth like 'the patriarchy' ' X privledge', etc. which might roughly discribe the ambience of a situation, but were calcculated from above to produce an emotional effect in the rank and file.

I agree here:

"I once again believe that it's most important to protect *people*, with all their myriad messy lives and overlapping oppressions (and the far too rarely discussed but very common situation that people find themselves in when fighting one oppression seems to imply doing X and yet fighting another seems to imply doing Y, and groups on both sides tug at you)... and protecting *people*, as unique entities, means at least re-adding some form of individualism into the mix.....If we don't do this, in my experience, we start a process of weeding people out based on their choices that snowballs and becomes cruel. And just like the society we're fighting, we end up with people at the top of a hierarchy, with flunkies who spout nothing but what they want people to spout (think Heart and Luckynkl, for one example.)"

(although i don't know heart and luckynkL, i can't judge them)


and even more here "I find it really, REALLY common for radical feminists to get into contests about who has the most raised consciousness, who does the best job of "avoiding hierarchy," etc. It becomes "oh, I'm not telling you you can't do BDSM/fuck men/shave your legs/wonder if we really can truly smash capitalism, but have you REALLY examined your choices and opinions? Patriarchy is a mind virus, so you might want to do it AGAIN..."

and then they cuss you out in their private spaces because you're still a droid, otherwise you'd agree.

Not all people I know who identify as radical feminists do this, but the numbers of people I've encountered who do exceed the numbers of people who don't. And the people who do are absolutely adamant that this is the kind of thing "radical feminism" means."

Perhaps and as usual, radical (marxist) leftists are prime targets for liberal capitalist cointelpro-esque infiltration and political rape.

Shit, if there is any SM happening here, it's between the democratic party and grassroots radical feminism.

Trin said...

"i think, you know, actually? -powerlessness- corrupts. or rather, idealization of it. Because, with great power comes great responsibility; it's true that a lot of people who blatantly claim power are -not- responsible as they should be; but what does it say about a person who claims to -have no power-?"

Belle:

WHY must you be so damn smart?

*love*

EXACTLY. "I have no power, I can't hurt you. Now if you'd only give up yours, because it's hurting ME!"

"Since when does Revolution happen without claiming power?"

I don't know. I've never figured that one out myself.

But then, I'm dominant. Maybe I just can't see through my own power-lust or something.

"btw, trin, i'd been meaning to ask your opinion, as someone who's much more around livejournal than i: how much overlap would you say there is between the feminist blogosphere and the lj feminist communities?"

I'm actually not all that sure. I know there are some bloggers who are also on LJ and have posted to, say, feminist (correct me if I'm wrong but I think RenEv is one). I also got the impression several people at least used to read Twisty, and I know that delphyne and a couple others who i thouight were the most... "radical feminist" in that "I hate anyone who does not agree with me on everything" way at least used to read BB.

And there'd be periodic railing against the Questioning Transgender folks, but I don't know that it spilled over into seeing Heart's blog and the craziness thereon for most people. It may be that it did, though, and I'm just out of the LJ loop somewhat.

hmm, what else? I know one of my LJ feminist friends who is a white mom of a kid of color has read and railed at Heart for talking out her ass about "what it's like" to be partnered with a black man and raising black kids

and I know that another of my LJ feminist friends posted some link to AradhanaD's a while back.

So I think some of them are at least reading. Maybe not commenting as much, but I'm not sure at all.

Other than that I'm not sure.

Trin said...

"Also, the ivy leagued marthas vinyarded liberal capitalist elites have the habit of posing as leftist marxist revolutionaries until that is they take up a 6-figure job and whatnot. radical feminists my ass. That situation is fucking things up to say the least."

Who are you talking about here, exactly?

Clampett said...

Trin,

http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/daily/0303/photos/antiwar_2.jpg

(I'm sure there are innocents involved in the picture)

& Amanda marcotte (har-har),

among others.

I mean lets not play, college campuses,Rich&upper middle class encloves,etc are rife with fake revolutionaries/radicals. Its a 'phase' for them, it might explain why their talk is more radical than their actions.

but i don't see why that really matters. I was pointing the stupid fact that the movement splinters on class and political lines, fostering jockyeing among the factions and so encouraging strife..a fact outside forces like to use to destroy the efficacy of the movement (aspects therof that conflict w/ their agendas)...'divia et imperium'

Trin said...

I don't deny that some people go through radical "phases" -- I was just admitting to my own, in fact.

Personally, though, I'm leery of making large generalizations about the radicalness of large groups of people without evidence.

I'm assuming the theory is that Harvard students can't be radical because they're rich -- and I can see that. But I don't know what the major point you're making is, clampett.

I'm trying to think of popular radfem theorists coming out of Harvard, and all I can think of is that MacKinnon was/is, if I remember right, Yale. Is she the kind of person you mean?

*shrug*

R. Mildred said...

i think, you know, actually? -powerlessness- corrupts. or rather, idealization of it.

yeah but the thing is that it's plain old double think, nothing more nothing less, when cultfems start talking about how powerless they are they're generally saying it immediately after doing something that is nothing less than an out and out exercising of some manner of oppressive power-overing (to use that concept for a second).

When Twisty whips out the oh me oh my I'm just a poor little maiden aunt schtick, she's generally just avoiding actually dealing with criticisms of her constant habit of trying to find some poor woman more screwed over htan her brat self to oppress, and heart generally speaking starts up with the "powerless" speechifying inbetween statements that rob someone or other of their humanity.

meh, phrrup! top all that I say.

Clampett said...

Trin,

"Personally, though, I'm leery of making large generalizations about the radicalness of large groups of people without evidence."

Without *stated* evidence.

(p.s it's fun to do when making propaganda....(wingnuts, gunnuts, godbags,cultfems,whatever) and in marketing bad music (emo, rapcore,etc).

I scattergunned/didn't answer your initial question

"Who are you talking about here, exactly?"

b/c i wondered why you just picked one paragraph, and a perifrial one at that....

ok, I'd be talking about anyone who fits the bill of 1. being greater than or equal to uppermiddle class and 2. not interested in persuing concrete goals.

Usually they demonstrate mean/controling attitudes in the course of small group consious raising.

An example would be a recent addition to 'feministe'; the litigator 'zuzu'.

I don't intend that to be a theory, just a rough outline of my experience.

btw, MacKinnon isn't really 'the kind of person i mean' in so far as her work in whiteness studies goes beyond anything the (currently majority 'white') middle/upper class is willing to accept in terms of racial chickens coming to roost.














I hate to dissapoint you but the major point i'm making a is stupid one; the bourgiousie are not a revolutionary/radical class and so members of that class who lay claim to the torch of rad/rev politics are 'pretenders', 'fakers', 'posers', 'trendwhores' whatever you would like to say, which explains this dynamic:

"and even more here "I find it really, REALLY common for radical feminists to get into contests about who has the most raised consciousness, who does the best job of "avoiding hierarchy," etc. It becomes "oh, I'm not telling you you can't do BDSM/fuck men/shave your legs/wonder if we really can truly smash capitalism, but have you REALLY examined your choices and opinions? Patriarchy is a mind virus, so you might want to do it AGAIN..."

belledame222 said...

i wouldn't assume zuzu has no interest in concrete goals...

R. Mildred said...

the bourgiousie are not a revolutionary/radical class

Ah, yes. Well, no. It's complex.

First of all, the major problem with this statement is that it implies the existence of a revolutionary class, indeed, of possible revolutionary classes.

However, such a thing does not exist. No, the working class are not the "revolutionary" class, they are merely the class with the least to lose in a revolution and the most to gain.

You see, the term "Bourgious" is a marxist one that describes a class who's socioeconomic relationship to the proletariat is directly exploitative - and so in turn is the word "proletariat" a term that refers to a marxist conception of a class who's socioeconomic relationship to the bourgious is one of being exploited by that class.

The revolution is not something that cannot arise from either class as a result of the intrinsic nature of the classes because the revolution will comprise the destruction of the socio-economic framework within which those classes exist.

This is why trade unionism usually ends up as an obstacle for a true socialist revolution, because while trade unionism is a truly spontaneous reaction of the proletariat to capitalist exploitation, trade unionism is itself a product of the same socio-economic conditions that also work to create the bourgious.

But trade unions are not inherently anti-revolutionary organisations because of that, any more than individual bougiousie are anti-proletariat, it's just that trade unions and young members of the bourgiousie tend to be both stuck up, self centered, parochial and ignorant of the theory they do so love to throw around so that they can feel like their allowance is ill gotten gains of the oppression of oppressed peoples.

Class is not a particularly accurate way to judge a person's heart, their actions and who they choose to be as people is.

Clampett said...

"Class is not a particularly accurate way to judge a person's heart, their actions and who they choose to be as people is."

ok, assuming that you're serious:

A person's heart is immaterial to where they stand class-wise; how revolutionary/radical they are.

Andrew Carnagie, NM Rothschild et al had good hearts, I'm sure bill gates et al have them too. I'm sure the overwhelming majority of the upper-middle classes are ethical people with big beating hearts.

But see, that's the difference between them and the 18,500 children who died of starvation last night.

Clampett said...

belle, scratch zuzu, bad example, my bad.

Clampett said...

btw Mildred,

I accept your valid point(s) about action and revolutionary/radical status.

[of course disclaiming that by not accepting any ideas about actions negating class status] (class being a material relationship to the means of production)

Clampett said...

R. Mildred, wait a second on those ideas about actions...

"You see, the term "Bourgious" is a marxist one that describes a class who's socioeconomic relationship to the proletariat is directly exploitative - and so in turn is the word "proletariat" a term that refers to a marxist conception of a class who's socioeconomic relationship to the bourgious is one of being exploited by that class."


exactly,

one cannot be exploiting/holding the fruits of exploitation and be revolutionary at the same time; tuhs one cannot be a bourgousie, a lumpenproletarian or petitburgousise and be revolutionary at the same time, for at the moment their actions are revolutionary, their class is proletarian.

cicely said...

This is *such* a big subject! Power is everywhere. Sexually it can start from just the power of attraction. What else is it when just a look of intent from the desired one from across a crowded room can make you want to slide down a wall... and this kind of power goes right up to consensual BDSM. But I don't know that this has much to do with other sorts of real world power.

I read an article recently about Finland because the Finnish President, Tarja Halonen, is visiting Australia. Tarja is the first unmarried mother (unmarried at the time) to be elected a head of state anywhere. (She'also an ex-chairwoman of a national LGBT organisation although she's straight.) Quoting her from the article in 'The Australian' Newspaper.

"In the Nordic countries, we are very puritan concerning morals - in a sense - we have the worlds lowest levels of corruption, for instance. But when people consider whether it is good to be a single mother, they are more concerned with whether you are actually a good mother.

More from the article - by Peter Wilson.

...the national interest in gender equity has led to one of the highest workforce participation rates in the world and lifted the skill levels - women in Finland have achieved more university degrees than men for the past two decades. Tuition, books and even lunches are free, and there are virtually no private schools and no academic streaming until at least 16, so no student is written off as 'non-academic'. The results have been stunning, as Finlands schools consistently rank best in the world for reading and mathematics.That performance has been helped by a remarkable homogeneity and broad community support for the high taxes - income tax reaches marginal rates of about 60% and sales taxes are up to 22% - needed to fund the system.

"Finns are in love with their welfare system", says Juha Tarkka, a senior economic advisor to the Bank of Finland. "In the election campaign (the nation votes next month) no political party is talking about cutting taxes - the debate is about who will do a better job of looking after the elderly."


I could go on - there's much more - and I definitely see the Nordic countries' social democratic economic and social systems as a beacon for the world as to how things could be - but Finns, Swedes and Norwegians (and maybe there are more countries that come under 'Nordic', I'm not sure), are just people. I'd be very surprised if they didn't also have thriving and healthy BDSM communities.

Sometimes I wonder how the radfem idea of eliminating all forms of 'power-over' ever got the traction it did, and when you look at the bullying behaviour of some of the idea's proponents in the blogosphere you have to conclude that whatever the endgoal is, they certainly believe in the concept of the end justifying the means.

Rosie said...

I should have checked this thread earlier.

Hi Trin,

Yes, power/dominance play is very evident in the natural world. Including the great apes of which we are one. In a way, the sanitizing of power/dominance play has a direct connection with right wing creationist theory. It is a negation of Darwinian thought in that it denies the role of power and dominance in the evolutionary course. To make ourselves somehow above our beasthood also makes us stagnant and static in our development as creatures.

We can choose to use our power positively or negatively. To not use it or to fail to recognize it places us at a stand-still.

Louisa said...

trin said:
"I feel exactly the same -- which is why I think that a lot of the "well, but EXAMINE your desires! no, more, MORE!" that I personally saw in radfem circles is a purity campaign and little more. "Wash yourselves of power" is just the same as "don't have sex" to me."

YES YES YES. I agree completely. this is such a perfect summary of (one of the many reasons) why I feel uneasy amongst radfems.

belledame222 said...

Hey, welcome, louisa; your blog looks great.

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