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

1 comment:

  1. "It's a cycle and the easiest way to break it is to break up. "

    Agreed. But you conflate forgiveness as one ONE WAY (i.e. forgive the abuser), but this is so simplistic and fails to recognise that forgiveness constitutes:
    1) Forgiving of only one's abuser and then returning to that cycle again.
    2) Forgiveness of self (as survivor) as well as the abuser - as a means of coping with abuse and psychological liberation and freeing oneself from past abuse.
    3) Forgiveness of the abuser (towards himself)
    4) Forgiveness of the "community" (towards the abuser)
    5) Forgiveness of the survivor towards the community, that has let her down.
    6) Forgiveness of the abuser towards the community that has let him down.

    Forgiveness is essential to healing, and letting go of anger and of liberating oneself of the cycle of hurt and abuse from one's life and disassociating from that cycle once and for all.

    By not allowing or taking steps to enable forgiveness, you are complicit in trapping the "survivor" in a cycle of anger, hurt and regret. Possibly you are preventing survivors from healing and forgiving themselves for putting themselves in a position of danger with a violent abuser. You may even be preventing survivors from being psychologically liberated and freed from that past violence. You do not permit the survivor to grow and begin to love herself enough to put her needs before other (despite the love and rage you preach, RAGE almost always seem to consume and displace LOVE). You force the survivor to pander to your political agendas (which are worthy, of course - but you also objectify the "survivor" as a pawn in your power struggle).

    Instead of seeking to heal the wounds, we keep seeking to pick at the scabs, and reopen the wounds, and it never has a chance at healing. It is so much easier to attack those that caused the wound, than it is to heal the wound itself, it takes time, energy, care and love to identify the wound, nurse it, love it and to heal it.

    SURE. Getting angry and railing at the unjustness of the situation gives temporary relief - the relief of righteous anger against wrongness. But it is only a salve or anaesthetic, and deliciously addictive, but not nutritive or nourishing.

    Once the relief from righteous anger peters out, what do we have left? Have we progressed the matter any further? Evidence shows otherwise. Instead, we're left with piles of anger and heavy heavy sense of bitterness that we have not learnt to overcome.

    YEAH - demolish the cycle of patriarchy, but harp on this at the expense of healing the individual hurts, does a great disservice to survivors of abuse, as this narrative offer NO REAL ALTERNATIVE to the needs of survivors of abuse in the mid-to-long term.

    Keep alive the abuse and pain that the survivor went through. Prevent them from forgetting about the abuse. Continue to reopen the wounds and resurrecting the misdeeds. Because as long as the abuser is alive, no matter what, the survivor will have no rest, right? Let's just kill the abuser, poison him and dispose of him as punishment for all the horror he has inflicted, that would be a fitting and just solution. Let us slash him in half with a sword. For that is true justice.