Media Girl along with Lorraine pretty much sum all of this up for us. Feminism, so called “liberal/progressive” men’s attitudes towards women’s rights issues, social equality, confronting male privilege within our culture and the political sphere…
Back in April, I said:
In the ’60s and ’70s, when women and racial minorities were demanding equal rights, the conservatives came up with a very savvy response: “Why should you deserve special rights?”
It’s the classic, “When did you stop beating your wife?” question. They evoked a frame, and if you tried to answer it on its own terms, there was no escape. It is trapping rhetoric designed to destroy your position without even addressing it.
What the progressive challenge today is to reframe the entire dialogue, instead of running away from conservative frames like they’ve become toxic waste zones. What we need to do is take up those issues that still linger now, four decades after the civil rights movement, and frame them as they were originally raised:
equal rights (not “special rights,” as the conservatives would have you believe).
Lorraine sounds off on this topic today:
“Maybe you think that abortion and gay marriage don’t matter. Maybe you think they’re things we’re distracting ourselves with. But my argument, nay, my plea, would be for us as progressives to consider the personal issues as political issues and realize that if we take away anyone’s right to privacy, eventually, we will lose our own.
We need to reclaim the body. If we claim the body, then we are able to say categorically that torture, capital punishment, sexual repression, gender inequality, are not part of the progressive agenda. If we claim the right to privacy, we are able to say that illegal search and seizure, religious indoctrination in schools, public prayer, refusal to sell Plan B, abstinence-only education…all of these things…are not acceptable. If we claim gender as power differential, we are able to see how the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners is tied into notions of dominance…the same notions of dominance that will be used against all of us. ”
Why does this problem of perception persist? My guess is that primarily it’s a cultural thing. Men generally cannot — or perhaps simply do not — understand the privilege they enjoy. Some men seem to be actually very afraid of feminism and women’s equality. But even the most “liberal-minded” men can find all sorts of ways to justify their chauvinism.
Ultimately I think it comes down to this assumption of role as judge of what is or is not “appropriate” or “important shit” even when — or especially when — it comes to women’s experiences and issues women consider important. It is this aspect of male privilege that might be the most pernicious challenge to progressive politics — that issues that women consider important are only important if the man judges them as important.
I think that often we end up collaborating and encouraging this behavior by going along, shutting up and biting our tongues (or avoiding dissenting thoughts altogether) so as to maintain the peace and avoid unpleasant confrontation. When there are nutjobs out there like the wingnuts, MRA agitators and other out-and-proud misogynists, the passive-aggressive liberal patriarch can seem rather innocuous.
But sometimes the last straw falls, and this past weekend’s Kos-fest over gender broke the camel’s back for many of us.
Lorraine ends her post with this admonition:
“You do not have to be a woman to recognize that gender and feminism are inextricably tied to the progressive agenda. You do not have to be a woman to recognize that when progressive males start shitting on so-called women’s issues, they are missing the point. If you do not understand how power works, how it is rooted in the binary oppositions that we ascribe to the sexes, then you will continue to focus on saving one tree while the entire forest is being razed. ”
Yet this is the blind spot in many progressive circles, where macho doesn’t disappear simply because it wears a peace sign. The internecine squabbling that goes on in the grassroots progressive world has been a source of great frustration to many of us. Wanting to change that paradigm, some smart folks started up DemSpeak with the intention of finding common framing language and activist strategies to be shared with any and all who are open to new ideas. (Disclosure: I signed on with them to help with the website administration and theming.)
How the progressive blogosphere responds over the coming weeks will be rather telling. My guess is that the alpha males will hold their ground, and we women will go off and do our own thing, and now and then hold our noses to go along with the liberal patriarch orthodoxy.
Change happens slowly, and then suddenly. If the rock face didn’t fall in this wave, some cracks spread out to make it more likely in the future. Something’s gotta give.