Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Responses to Responses of "Misogyny out of Mantrol!!"

In case you haven't read "an abusive relationship is moving train" it's another account of the patterns of abuse and responses to it over the last 10 years in the anarchist/socialist movements in Aotearoa.

Just to keep the conversations going, here are some comments made about the previous post I want to address.

From anon1:
I have some questions about anarchism that have always concerned me. If we abolished the state, courts, rule of law etc don't you think there would be much greater instances of violence against women, children, LBGT and other marginalised people? (...)

I think that really depends on where the society is at in terms of understanding and challenging patriarchies, homophobia, racism etc. But this is exactly the reason why these struggles against gender/'identity' oppressions shouldn't be left to deal with 'after the revolution' but should be an inherent part of the anarchist revolution. Anarchism is meaningless, freedom is meaningless, if social hierarchies still continue to exist without a state. That's not my idea of anarchism at all.

But I really think that with the state system that we have, so much violence still continues and the legal system, prison system isn't invested in prevention or rehabilitation. It rarely even brings about true justice for survivors of abuse, in fact, it's often re-traumatising and continues the violence and increases the hardships for survivors (and their children). With the system that we have right now, gender violence (or at least reporting rates) are increasing. It's not effective in solving this problem or ending this oppression because it's part of the problem, not the solution. It's not the government but NGOs that do the majority of the work to ensure safety of survivors and develop support systems.

I believe that society can function without oppressive hierarchies if people at the bottom organise collectively and create a social environment where it's 'not cool' to dominate and control other people. The power of social pressure and the threat of ostracism can hypothetically stop someone from trying to gain power over others. An underlying premise of anarchist theory is that humans are inherently social beings and need other people to survive, so fear of isolation and ostracism can make people think twice about taking action that's going to harm others.

There's more comprehensive answers to this question and others in this book: Anarchy Works.

From anon2:
Forgiveness and compassion is of course out of the question in this narrative. Doing anything of that sort, of second chances, or new beginnings, rebirth and regeneration is nothing more than weakness and part of the dominating, abusive rhetoric that enables men, particularly cis men to continue exercising their privilege, power and domination in order to subordinate womyn.

... so basically we're evil feminist bitches who don't give second chances? If only it was simple that abuse can just be forgiven and then the abuser will change and suddenly re-born into a new and respectful person, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly after spending some time as a chrysalis. If only...

Firstly, in order for forgiveness/new beginnings (etc.) to happen, the abusers/perpetrators must take responsibility for what they've done and to take initiative to make amends and change their pattern of behaviour. Most of these misogynist abusers and supporters in the anarchist/socialist movement continue to MINIMISE, DENY or BLAME THE SURVIVOR for the violence they inflicted. Forgiveness is also not something anyone can give, it has to come from the person who suffered the abuse to be relevant. I can't just randomly forgive someone for what they did to someone else, it's not up to me.

Secondly, it is actually really dangerous for survivors of intimate partner abuse to hold on to hope that their partners will change, and to continue to forgive them. Abusers may feel remorse and then ask for forgiveness and the survivor takes them back, then the pattern of violence repeats! I have seen this pattern way too many times, where womyn have gone back to their abusive partners and get assaulted again. It's a cycle and the easiest way to break it is to break up. And I think it's our responsibility as a community of people who understand the power dynamics to first and foremost support survivors of this abuse rather than focus all our energy on changing the abuser, which is important work but shouldn't be done instead of but as well as survivor support.

From anon3:
You say that a woman who accuses a guy of abuse should automatically be believed. I object. I'm a male who has been falsely accused of sexual abuse. False accusations happen. Males can and occasionally are victims.

I think the 'benefit of the doubt' should always be given to the survivors of abuse (regardless of gender). It's not easy to disclose abuse or histories of abuse to a community who will doubt you first and I think it's important that responses to 'accusations' of abuse should be survivor-centric. The alternative of questioning and 'investigating' a survivor of abuse puts them in a really unsafe position. The last thing that survivors who speak up about their experiences need is people to question and interrogate them about what happened, and are thus automatically disbelieved.

There's also the concept of 'power of definition' where survivors should have the right to define what happened to them. Sometimes people's definitions or perceptions of what constitutes as 'sexual abuse' are different. Not long ago in the West, the concept of 'marital rape' didn't exist because wives are just their husband's property. Having a good understanding of consent is really important to preventing sexually abusive behaviours, assuming there's some level of respect for sexual partners. Silence is not consent, someone who is passed out cannot consent, a child cannot practice informed consent. Getting a 'yes' after emotionally blackmailed or threatened is not consent. Here's some zines on the topic of consent which discusses these issues really well:

Consent, Sex and Violence

Learning Good Consent

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Misogyny out of Mantrol!!

Trigger warning: Some of the content in this rant may be triggering if you have experienced gender violence or abuse.

I can’t even count on my fingers the number of male anarchists who have abusive misogynist patterns of behaviour anymore. I can’t even count on my fingers on the number of womyn I know who are survivors of male violence. How many womyn have to be beaten or sexually assaulted for the whole anarchist/leftist community to give a fuck about gender violence? To take feminist practices seriously? To hold perpetrators accountable for abuse? To wholeheartedly support the survivors of abuse instead of blaming them?

What is it about the sexism in western societies that so often condones sexualised violence or partner abuse? It’s not even that people don’t know about it, or that it’s a particularly taboo topic. It’s a wilful silence by most men in the anarchist/left movement. I don’t understand why there is such an unwillingness to take a strong stand against gender violence and partner abuse, is it because it’s seen as a secondary issue to more important “public” Political issues? Is it because relationship abuse it still considered as being part of the ‘private sphere’ where it’s none of our business what goes on in somebody’s personal relationships or in their homes?

These attitudes seriously set the goals of feminist/womanist movements back decades. It just goes to show the continued disrespect so many male anarchists have for womyn’s liberation, and that this culture of violence is not taken seriously amongst people I thought were comrades.

Some fucked up comments I’ve heard from male anarchists/anti-feminists in response to gender violence perpetrated by their peers:

But she’s crazy”

As if womyn with mental illnesses deserve to be beaten, or that’s she somehow asked for it and it is her fault she was assaulted. This isn’t just a misogynist comment, it also stigmatises women with mental health problems and doesn’t take into consideration the relationship between ‘craziness’ and long-term psychological abuse. But also, it's easier to dismiss the survivor as insane than have to confront the abusive actions of your friend/comrade.

“I don’t know what to believe, he’s my friend. And it’s just “he said, she said”, you did a BA degree, you know that there’s no real truth in anything.”

This was probably one of the most ridiculous attempts to use intellectual analysis to avoid confronting the issue. Firstly, it’s “he said, THEY said” although it shouldn’t matter if it’s just one womyn saying it or multiple, she should be believed. Why do these people turn up to anti-war or Middle East democracy solidarity demonstrations if ‘there’s no real truth in anything’? Isn’t it just “they said, they said”? The dictators and occupiers have their side of the story too. Why take a political stand on anything? Complicity perpetuates violence and injustice. Neutrality encourages the oppressor.

Learn to connect the dots, it’s not that hard. It’s about power relations, that makes a difference to who’s stories you listen to, especially if you call yourself an anarchist.

“I’ve talked to him, he’s alright now, he’s been to that anti-violence course and he’s done everything he needs to do.”

Don’t you love it when male anarchists decide that a perpetrator has done everything he could so he should be allowed back into the community? Isn’t it just so empowering for womyn and survivor of the abuse for them to make that decision for us?

“He’s not going to assault anyone at the party”

Whether or not an abuser is going to pose a physical threat to womyn in a social setting or not doesn’t address their history of abuse. It completely misses the point that the effects of abusive behaviour are long-term for the survivors and if you’re going to include someone in a space, it is going to make people who care about survivor support feel uncomfortable.

“It was a mutually abusive relationship”

This is often said after a break-up caused by a male activist assaulting his partner. It has become such a common excuse for abusers so they can minimise the abuse and shift the blame to their partner. People who say this often do in a context where they actually blaming the womyn for what happened to her.

“Do I sense a hint of misandry?”

Organising a community response to a male abuser must equate to man-hating right? That statement also an underlying assumption that all men are abusive, isn’t that in itself misandry?

“You’re being divisive”

Yeah, I’m being divisive, not the misogyny or sexism or the violence against womyn that’s divisive. Yeah, it’s the people trying to challenge sexist oppression in our communities that’s being divisive. Makes total sense. Perhaps what is dividing the left is the difference in analyses of gender violence and patriarchy. One side condones it, one side doesn’t or rather one side is complicit, one side isn’t. The division is caused by ideologically opposing standpoints, so how can there be unity?

Minimising, blaming, denying, ignoring

That pretty much sums up anti-feminist activists’ response to gender violence in the ‘community’, which is a continuation of the emotional abuse already inflicted by the partner/perpetrator.

Understanding abuse: POWER AND CONTROL/”MANTROL*”

Intimate Partner Abuse is a political issue, it’s about power and control within a wider context of (hetero)sexist gender expectations and male privilege. Abuse is not just physical assault, it’s not just sexual assault; it’s the matrix of emotional abuse/manipulation, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, intimidation, isolation and using political rhetoric to control someone. These are components of an unequal power relationship of domination and subordination. This is a cyclical pattern of behaviour. This is the product of a society that privileges white heterosexual cis-men. This is political. Yet this is not a core priority for so many anarchist men to fight against. It becomes secondary to class, or state political violence (if it is even on the agenda at all).

Misogyny is out of control and the responses from other activists just seem to get worse with each new incident. What might’ve began as outrage to gender violence a couple of years ago (perhaps due to a stronger anarcha-feminist contingency in Auckland) is now complacency and survivor-blaming mentalities. Some people even deliberately excluded survivors at social events so the perpetrators of intimate partner violence can go with their new girlfriends. This can’t keep happening! Enough. Is. Enough.

  • Support survivors
  • Challenge misogyny, ok maybe understand what that actually means and the different ways misogyny manifests in your behaviour, your speech, body language, perceptions, in group dynamics etc.
  • Shoot the manarchist in your head
  • Critically analyse your privileges
  • Learn to not dominate, abuse, manipulate other people
  • Make it a serious priority

*If you haven't seen those TV ads and billboards, "Mantrol" is a term that's been used in advertisements to stop drunk driving, targeted at men. There's been a huge increase in man-focused ads lately, this just one of the bunch. You can watch it on youtube, it is pretty ridiculous.