This post comes to your courtesy of thoughts provoked by this post at Shakesville [trigger warning for sexual assault]. But really, I’m surprised it hasn’t occurred to me previously given, well, the reaction to almost every guest post I’ve ever made at The Standard.
Stop being so angry. You’re hurting the movement.
Stop talking about leftwing men committing sexual harassment/assault. You’re hurting the movement.
Stop criticising Labour, you’re hurting the movement.
Let’s think about that phrase, hurting the movement. What do [usually white straight middle-class cis men who happen to be leftwing] mean by “hurting the movement”?
Making the movement look bad? Scaring people away from the movement?
To refer back to Melissa’s post at Shakesville, I would’ve thought that tolerating, excusing, and ignoring sexual assault hurts the movement in precisely those ways. It certainly makes the movement look bad. It certainly scares some people away from the movement.
Oh, wait. I think I see the problem.
When people talk about making the movement look bad, or scaring people away from the movement, they don’t mean just any old people.
They mean other usually-white middle class hetero cis men who currently aren’t hip to the movement. They mean outsiders who are just like them, so are people they presume will get on board when they realise how awesomely cool that board is.
They don’t, i.e., mean women. They extra specifically don’t mean feminists.
And this is where another of my favourite issues comes up: the entitlement complex of the left.
Because the only way this makes sense to me is if those people who are telling feminists to shut up about fucking sexual assault are assuming that they’re safe in doing so. It’s not like we can stand up and say “well screw you and your thinly-veiled sexism, I’m voting for a party that’s openly misogynist! Haha!” It’s not like we’re all going to flip them the bird and refuse to vote at all in their inherently patriarchal set-up-for-men’s-interests system, right?*
So they feel safe saying “shut up about your silly women’s issues”. Because we have to be on their side. And gods know that they do have a tiny point in that openness about any issues in the Occupy movement will be instantly leapt upon by the media machine as proof that these protesters are just silly/stupid/ignorant/evil/selfish/dysfunctional/doomed to failure.
But it coincidentally also allows them to go on pretending to be amazing revolutionaries sticking it to The Man without questioning their privilege or deep-seated impulse to defend rape culture.
Myself, I’m a fan of professional wrestling (and True Blood, and the occasional trashy romance novel, and South Park) and a ranty feminist blogger. I can cope with the notion of actively critiquing the things I hold dear and admitting they’re not perfect. Dare you to give it a go, dudes.
*Some radfems probably will/do, but I assume the dudebros don’t tend to read their blogs.
Now up at The Standard and reproduced below for those who choose not to tread there.
Guts. Backbone. Chutzpah. Grit. Will. Vision. Courage.
The one thing all of these words have in common is that Phil Goff could quite easily have used them instead of “balls” when he said:
“It’s time to make a decision that will build a stronger future for New Zealand. We’ve got the balls to do that. John Key doesn’t.”
And I know that Phil knows that, because he’s quoted using at least two of them elsewhere in that story.
Normally you’d cue up a big ol’ Queen of Thorns rant complete with naughty cusswords and all-caps. But seriously? Phil, save us the trouble of firing up a whole two brain cells to figure out your subliminal messaging. We get it. You’re a Man’s Man and you speak like Common People and The Days Of That Nasty Bitch Helen Are Behind Us.
You’ve been listening to Chris Trotter and you wanted to make it very clear, to talkback land and those nasty white-anting progressives at the same time, that you’re A Safe Pair Of Manly Man Hands and Not A Pussy.
You’ve chosen to put yourself firmly, obviously, in the camp (ha) of Damien “gaggle of gays” O’Connor.
Or alternatively you’re a bit shit at figuring out the implications of your own words.
In either case, those of us clinging to a phantom hope of a Labour/Green/Mana-or-Maori coalition actually delivering good outcomes for women, non-whites, queers et al can surely, at this point, take it as read that your party gives not a shit for us if we’re in the way of taking power. (And somehow expects us to vote for you anyway.)
I mean, when Jordan Carter’s pre-emptively parroting the line on Twitter I think we can safely file this crap under “Labour election key message”.
Or I’m just vindictively destroying the Left from within. Again.
1. Jordan Carter and Scott Yorke both post about Trevor Mallard’s historic “Tinkerbell” comments, targeting Stephen Wittington, ACT candidate, and David Farrar, National pollster, for raising said comments following the announcement of Labour’s policy on same-sex adoption.
2. Apparently neither Jordan nor Scott read No Right Turn, which is a shame. Or it might have just got in the way of the “this is a nasty rightwing plot against us” meme.
3. Jordan thinks the big issue is that we must be very clear that Trevor Mallard isn’t a homophobe. He just says homophobic things, which is … better, and also completely different.
4. Scott thinks the big issue is that National are full of homophobes anyway so stop paying attention to Labour’s. I am possibly coincidentally reminded of when a few of the secondary school teachers in my family pondered voting National in the early 00s, on the basis that “at least we expect to get fucked over under National”.
Moral of the story? Firstly, as I said on Jordan’s blog, in a country with NZ’s suicide rate amongst queer youth, I have no time for “but just saying a homophobic thing doesn’t make a person A Homophobe” hair-splitting.
Secondly, when an outspoken, openly gay MP like Grant Robertson is reduced to saying of a senior MP, and of a homophobic attack against one of his colleagues, “It’s a silly statement“, when you’ve already had another MP’s homophobia defended because Oh Well Those West Coast Rednecks Will Like It, when it takes two fucking years for someone to admit calling a gay man “Tinkerbell” was “probably unfortunate” but oh, oh, he’s totally not homophobic? I feel quite happy assuming Labour has a serious problem with homophobia.
Alternatively, I suppose one could argue that it’s just a context-free political ploy to unsettle Finlayson, they would’ve called him Four-Eyes if he weren’t gay … but if you’re seriously happy with your political party playing off other people’s homophobia and a culture of queer-bashing for their own gain and still want to defend them, hey, you go right ahead, I’ll be over here with the people who have basic ethics.
And yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, Scott, National are probably 1,367 times as homophobic as Labour so why am I trying to destroy the Left again??????? But you know what, when it comes to the left, I expect more.
I got into a conversation a few days ago on the topic “what can [privileged people] do to help [unprivileged people] without sounding like they want cookies or are using their privilege to dominate/take over?”
And while tackling this on a variety of spectra (as happens when a gay white man is talking to a straight white woman about privilege), talking about sitting down, listening, remembering it’s Not About You, I had a sudden epiphany.
All privileged people are some analogue of Schrödinger’s Rapist.
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.
I’m a straight woman with Real Queer Friends. I know I’m a nice person, I know I don’t [consciously] judge people for being not-heterosexual. And after years of friendship, my friends may be working on the assumption that I am not a threat, not a person who is going to suddenly use “gay” as a derogatory term or crack hilarious jokes about buttsex.
Working on the assumption.
Because I am Schrödinger’s Heterosexual: my friends can never truly be certain whether or not I’m homophobic or transphobic or see the world in heteronormative terms until I demonstrate it. Until I fail the test.
And that goes for my race privilege, and my class privilege, and my education privilege.
And there’s no pass condition on this. A privileged person can simply never actually prove with 100% certainty that they will never be a threat or a problem or a trigger to an unprivileged person.
And lords and ladies, we’ve got more than enough extreme-headdesk-worth examples of people who really, really should know better pulling some serious asshattery.* Until now, they might have been Schrödinger’s Mainstream Feminists. Now we’ve opened the box and had a look and it ain’t pretty.
We privileged people do not “deserve” the automatic trust or assumption of good faith or patience of unprivileged people [especially while in the act of fucking up]. And that’s okay, because it’s not about us. And that’s Basic Ally-hood 101.
*Author’s note: I originally went to type that as “people who you would never think would be bigots”. I get to assume these people aren’t bigots, because I’m a straight white lady. That’s privilege.