Saturday, May 19, 2007

Of great fleas, little fleas, lesser fleas, and that mysterious annoying, persistent, itchy rash

In the midst of yet another perfect-pitch home run by Black Amazon, (which you -really need to go over and read in full right now,- also this one, yeah, -make- time for it), this little bit of quotage from someone else:

"I just wish that a few of her critics had approached the book in a more fair way, and hadn’t gone after her the same way that we’d go after some anti-feminist right-winger."

Well, BA has plenty to say about -that,- and, once again, just fucking read it;

but I'm going to take it and go in a slightly different, if related, direction, because it helped me crystallize something that started to form while I was reading and responding at Ilyka's (also two excellent posts, you should go there too).

This bit:

the same way that we’d go after some anti-feminist right-winger.

You know something? That right there. That is part of the problem, too.

-We're not the bad guys. We KNOW who the bad guys are, they are over THERE, stop stop you're making it all confusing and uncomfortable-...

Hey, here's a wacky notion: maybe that terrific sport of -going after-? Of, not even really so much -getting angry,- or -critique,- but rather of


If it makes you that uncomfortable to be on the other end of it? Maybe time to rethink that one a little bit. I mean, just a -little- bit.

Because, you know what? This isn't just this dustup. This isn't even just about -white privilege- or -class privilege-, much less y'know "yer just jellus" and so on and blahblee and yadda. There's a hint to be had, there.

Actually, this is rancid yellow trickle-down from the top echelons of the Democratic Party, the movers, the shakers: -ohh, right, we kept losing because we weren't toughnmean enough-. United We Stand! Now let's get in there and WIN! the Winner Takes It All, so let's all win together!--you there, in the back, -sit down- and stop causing a scene, can't you see you're ruining it for everyone? We'll -get- to you. Later. After we've dealt with the -important shit,- we can get to your -pet issues.-


Not enough.

You keep -losing-, (even when you "win"), because you forget the basic supposed -principles.-

Which are, last I checked, yer basic Enlightenment principles, more or less: -liberty, equality, fraternity.-


"Sisterhood is powerful," yeah okay.

Which means, what, exactly?

Well, it -might- mean representative democracy. In which case it is incumbent upon the person who is -representing-, to fucking -represent,- or else the incumbent will have to answer to an increasingly irate People. In theory.

And--you know something, that actually goes for more than just elected politicians.

Alternately, we could scrap that, at least for the purposes of you know -building a movement-, go outside the electoral process or try to change it, you know, -direct democracy,- or...anyway, -something.- Something a little more -by the people of the people for the people,- don'tcha know. Something...grassroots.

Which, if we're gonna do -that,- that's gonna take a real serious shitload of work, because it's gonna mean overhauling a lot of our rather basic assumptions.

As well as our approach to power.

Now, some of us do want this more -radical- transformation of society; and some of us would be more content to use the more established channels, fix what's broke, adopt adapt and improve.

And you know what, that could work too, maybe.

But, if you're gonna go -that- way, again, well, as the late great Molly Ivins put it,

"You've got to dance with the people that brung you."

How quickly we forget.

So instead, we whine about how the Gatekeepers are Keeping Us Out.

And most of the time, we can whine amongst ourselves, and it's all just grand;

but every so often, it becomes Election Time;

and when we go to the funny little ants we vaguely remember as "people" and appeal to their great sense of TEAM, now that it's all IMPORTANT;

well, chances are, we might just get the response,

"whaddya mean WE, white man/woman/continue on down as needed?"

Shock! Horror! o no no nonono, WE -can't- be gateKEEPERS, -we- are gate CRASHERS. FIGHT THE POWER! UP THE ESTABLISHMENT! Which isn't us! Not even a little bit!

...Says our end of the Beltway to the blogosphere; says Kos and firedoglake to the rest of the blogosphere;, says the "B list" to everyone but Kos and firedoglake and the rest of that little group; sez the Big Feminist Blogs to the WOC; say the radical/cultural feminists to the transfolk, say say say say say say say say; and say, where does it fucking end?

Remind me again: what is it "we" are trying to accomplish, here?

And: who are "we," again?


Renegade Evolution said...

who is this we you speak of, again?

or, yeah, exactly.

Thorne said...

*Ouch* Too much info squabble overload... link leaping lesbians, Laurie, I'm lost!

Uh. Yeah. What you said.

Rootietoot said...

As a person who tends to be identified as an anti-feminist right winger, I've wondered how come *i'm* the one required to change, and why is that change necessary O! Why! O Why! Can't we all just get along?? You know what I mean. venom, vociferous whining, and putting people in neat little catagories just pisseth me off. No matter who's doing it.

belledame222 said...

Because politics, hell, The Struggle For The Good Of Humanity, is -exactly like a football game,-

and don't you forget it.

belledame222 said...

--hey, welcome, thorne, if I didn't say.

Alon Levy said...

Actually, in many contexts it makes sense to be soft toward people who are overall helping the cause. That's why I didn't criticize her in public even as I called her peer bloggers shrill hacks: I told myself none of that would matter in her case if her book was good. The only problem is, it's not good. In fact, it's crap, and isn't going to do a single good thing for feminism. So why not criticize her if she's not doing anything useful?

ilyka said...

Which isn't us! Not even a little bit!

Oh damn you, you're reaching into my head again and stirring up something I've been sitting on for months not knowing how to say.

Time constraints limit me to just saying I love this post.

Octogalore said...

Belle, can't agree more with the "we'll come to your issues" idea from the standpoint of politics. For this literalist, can you get more specific on what kind of gate-crashing you'd recommend?

As you know, I have my doubts as to the merits of revolution vs subversion, but I wouldn't rule out grassroots efforts working in tandem with infiltration. I don't think you can make any kind of meaningful change happen without the latter, though.

"You've got to dance with the people that brung you."

Not forever. You've got to dance the first dance, and maybe the second. After that, if you can maneuver yourself to the sweet spot right in front of the band, you might be able to dump the guys that brung you, right off the stage.

JackGoff said...

[skips over the whole dust up]

Bigots suck. Just throwing that out there.

JackGoff said...

Just so there's no confusion, my comment is not about this particular argument. I'm just venting, in a way.

Alon Levy said...

Yeah, I know, Jack.

By the way, given that part of the issue under discussion involves Nubian's original attack on the cover, and given that I bashed her heavily for this, I should do a mea culpa here. I got this one wrong. I thought the book was going to be good enough so that mere blog wars were beneath Jessica. At worst, I told myself, it would be bad, in which case I would've criticized it even without those threads.

But, you know, I got it wrong. Those early criticisms were spot on. I still think it's more about the content than about the cover, but a) the book really does underemphasize issues important to poor and nonwhite women (even though it doesn't really appeal to white middle-class women, either), b) Jessica's response to Nubian should've clued me in about her attitude toward insufficiently obsequious criticism, c) I was stupid to echo chamber her, and d) even my most worst predictions of the book's quality turned out to be far too optimistic to be on the mark.

Like the Duke case, I was wrong, and I'm going to start looking into my general methodology for thinking things to prevent that from happening again. As a rule, I don't like being wrong. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it because I abandoned the "What's good for bloggers in the Pandagon/Feministing/Ezra Klein/LGM cluster is good for everyone" mentality months ago. Or maybe it goes deeper - I don't know yet.

Allie said...

It always seems to take me a little while to remember that giving in to my emotional response and saying nasty things isn't conducive to discussion. And by "a little while" I pretty much mean "one or two nasty comments". It happens in my real-life arguments too, and it's one of the things I constantly remind myself that I need to work on. It's easier online -- I can write something, realize it's pointlessly angry, delete it, and try again. But all too often I come down to three options: post something mean that I'll regret, post that I can't think of anything constructive and bow out, or don't do anything.

It bothers me, how much my reactions to things can be colored by what I know of the person writing them beforehand. I'm more likely to interpret things unkindly if I have it in my head that the writer is someone I disagree with. I wish I could come at everything as open-minded as something written by a friend. I wish I could stop categorizing into "us" and "them" as much as I do.

Uh, yeah, I got sidetracked somewhere in the middle of your post, but I really liked the beginning, so sometime after I've slept I'm going to come back and actually read the second half instead of just running my eyes over it.

belledame222 said...

Thanks, Alon.

Central Content Publisher said...

The revolution dichotomy is a strange one. We ask ourselves something like the following, "should I endeavor to change the establishment from the outside, or change it from the inside?"

It's a strange question when you think about it. The establishment is transformed by forces as often internal as external. That transformation isn't radically different whether one is on the inside or the outside. One could even go so far as to say that there really isn't an outside. We're all part of this, and noone's hands are clean, and so on. Conversely, we're all on the outside in some way. No one is ALL-powerful. Even Wolfawitz has found himself turfed out. No, not all-powerful. The concept of inside and outside seems a purely political one. If you will; an illusion to rally support. Elites will treat each other as outsiders when it's politically advantageous to do so, and radicals will denounce fellow travelers as "puppets of the man" when the moment is right. Both "sides" are better defined by their opposition to the other than by their principals, or goals, or policies.

It seems to me that it's a rhetorical dead-end, unless, of course, one wants to end it all in a giant nuclear fireball.

On a more constructive note, proportional representation provides many of the opportunities American radicals seem to be searching for.

Democrats go terribly wrong when they try to unite. That isn't their strength. They should instead be dividing - if you know what I mean.

belledame222 said...

well--we can unite. but, it should be, as you say, more about what DO we want, not just what DON'T we want.

part of the problem is that the brief flare-up of energy was around, "well, if there's one thing we can all agree on, godDAM the current administration sunks manky rocks."

but, that's not enough, and it's not good enough to go "well let's kick 'em out first and THEN we'll decide what we DO stand for."

belledame222 said...

--and yes, another part of the problem is an overly simplistic way of looking at power. As though it were monolithic, even inflexible.

It's not. It's not even a noun, really: more of a verb.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I forget who it was who said the following (it may have been Tony Benn early on in his career): "The trouble with it is that, when you get to the top, things look just fine the way they are."

Meaning that, if you start off with the intention of "changing the system from within", once you find yourself in a position to do so, the system is working very nicely for you, and why would you want to change it? Of course, some cosmetic changes are always helpful to keep the "Party Faithful" happy, and convince them (and yourselves) that your ideals haven't changed.

Very little change has occurred without serious pressure from outside the central power-base.

Alon Levy said...

On a more constructive note, proportional representation provides many of the opportunities American radicals seem to be searching for.

Word. Proportional representation is basically good for everyone except beneficiaries of pork barrel spending and politicians whose careers are based on pork barrel spending. Radicals on both sides need it to have serious representation in Congress. Liberals and conservatives need it to stop having to worry about which centrist group to marry every election cycle. Moderates need it to avoid being squeezed out the way moderate Republicans were between '94 and '06.

Democrats go terribly wrong when they try to unite. That isn't their strength. They should instead be dividing - if you know what I mean.

It can work... to some extent. One of the observations I'd have made in my review of FFF had the book taken itself seriously is that the American left is already divided into pillars. There's a feminist pillar, a civil rights pillar, a labor pillar, and so on. This is a good way to excite the base, since people only need to be loyal to the group pursuing their preferred issue. It's always easier for black people to have solidarity with the NAACP than with the Democratic Party.

It's also a good way of drawing moderates, since someone who only agrees with liberals on one issue can feel comfortable in one movement - say, an upper-middle-class white woman in liberal feminism (note: it's not exactly "middle-class" - for one, universal health care is a lower-, lower-middle-, and middle-class issue, but not so much an upper- or upper-middle-class one).

Unfortunately, it's a lousy way of attracting likeminded people to the base. Anyone who cares about more than one issue is left behind, so black women find themselves alienated in both the feminist pillar and the civil rights pillar.

Thus to preserve the pillar structure, each movement needs to be very hierarchical, lest some lower-middle or lower-class women steer the feminist movement in the direction of economic leftism. That ensures the coalition becomes subject to all the pathologies of hierarchy - corruption, getting out of touch with ordinary people, Parkinson's law, the Peter principle - and as a result stops appealing to the base. Eventually even the moderates turn away, since they view the leadership as interested in its own power rather than in their agenda.

belledame222 said...

I think the problem is, among other things, a deep ambivalence about power, for a lot of people. For others, it's yer basic "I got mine, Jack." There's also a lack of a coherent overarching philosophy/set of principles; or rather, it's there, but it isn't articulated, much less examined, nearly enough.

Octogalore said...

Snowdrop, while that's partially the case, it's an oversimplification. Not everyone who makes it within the system becomes jaded and spoiled. And the presence of people with common ground inside the system creates a linkage with those outside. Sure, it takes both working in concert, but the ones outside aren't going to be able to create change without the leverage inside.

Anonymous said...
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belledame222 said...

what the fucking fuck?!