Scaring the menz, taming the wimmin

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Scaring the menz, taming the wimmin

Social and economic (in) justice II (click here for part one of this series)

Part One on social and economic justice, ended with this:

Such unequal access to power occurs throughout our society: in institutional and political policies, economic arrangements, and social practices (such as those described as part of rape culture). The whole system, and social attitudes that support it, needs changing from the bottom up.

This system damages the lives and well-being of many people, including many women, people of colour, LGBTI people, and those on low incomes. In this unequal power system, social and economic (in)justices are frequently intertwined.

There is an urgent need at the moment to decrease economic inequalities, to provide everyone with a living income, plus affordable, safe and secure housing. Social injustices are embedded within these economic injustices.

In the course of her long participation in political and social justice campaigns and movements, Angela Davis was seen as a notorious enemy of the US state. She was charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder”, imprisoned for a period, but eventually acquitted.

She’s also a respected academic and writer. Davis is no namby-pamby chardonnay feminist, whining because some man slighted her at a corporate board meeting (as anti-identity politics stereotyping would have it). Davis was a leader of the Communist Party of the US in the 1960s, supporter of the Black Power Movement, and continues to be a very vocal campaigner against the prison-industrial complex. She argues for a complete change of society, not just for a contained shift towards equal rights before the law, as she describes the civil rights movement.

In a 2014 interview Davis said:

At the time of its [Black Feminism’s] emergence, black women were frequently asked to choose whether the black movement or the women’s movement was most important. This was the wrong question. … We are still faced with the challenge of understanding the complex ways that race, class, gender, sexuality, nation and ability are intertwined—but also how we move beyond these categories to understand the interrelationships of ideas and processes that seem to be separate and unrelated.

In a more recent article on Black Lives Matter, Davis said:

I was once asked to finish the statement, “My feminism is…” It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. I’m a gay, black woman. My feminism is intersectional. … experiences in life are shaped by the intersection of class, race, gender, sexual orientation and identity.

The public face of feminism tends to focus on extremes: it includes those who want to convince harsh opponents, while working to increase equal opportunities within the current system; and also includes those who, like Angela Davis, are very outspoken, may seem shockingly radical, and to many may appear to be jarringly, in-your-face and uncompromising.

Others, in an attempt to convince people potentially antagonistic to change, may become tame, and non-threatening. Consequently they are in danger of becoming neutralised and contained within the patriarchal capitalist system. This poses a dilemma on the most effective way forward.

Some women who support social justice campaigns, don’t like the “feminist” label because, as mentioned by Davis, it is seen as white women’s thing. Annette Sykes, for instance, talks about wahine toa and mana wahine:

Since the election of president Trump, debates about social justice issues have intensified among progressive or left wing people in NZ. Many of us have been attacked online for promoting “identity politics”, and often dismissed as authoritarian “identitarians”.

We are told to back off and focus solely on economic injustices. We are told by some we are damaging and splitting the left, even as they try to split the core matters of the left (economic and social justice) into two unequal parts.

Like Catriona MacLennan, I don’t like the term “identity politics”. Too often it is used as a stick to attack those who speak out on social justice issues, as for instance often happens to those who are critical of our society’s all pervasive rape culture. Masculine and corporate dominated, capitalist culture is damaging to life, social networks, and ultimately the economy.

Others have produce in-depth, well-sourced, evidence-based arguments for a left politics on this topic. See for instance the 2014 article “Economic Inequality or Social Justice for Everybody?” by Victor Baez and Yasmin Fahimi.

Many blame feminism for watering down the class struggle in the post 1980 neoliberal era. In fact, feminism has also been diminished in the same period. Social justice campaigns were not the cause of this, but another casualty of neoliberalism. Feminism has been commodified into marketable, images and lifestyle for women. Campaigns for empowerment of women throughout society, have been narrowed to individualistic, often sexualised representations of empowerment, while women struggling on low incomes have been marginalised, and too often demonised.

Many women and men on the left do understand the enormous damage done by both economic and social injustice, and the way they are interwoven. And we will not be silenced.

Sleater-Kinney’s song is is a jarring riot girl response to the way feminism was commodified towards the end of last century (lyrics here)

Sleater-Kinney #1 must have

From austerity to pussy grabbers

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: From austerity to pussy grabbers

Hikoi for homes

On economic and social injustice

I give money to street beggars (the visible sign of a broken political, economic and social system); lean towards the socialist edge of social democracy; marched in anti-TPPA protests; am pro trade unions and workers rights; desperately want affordable housing and a living wage for all – and I am a feminist. Like many others, I care about issues of economic and social (in)justice.

There is a recurring argument made on social media (and sometimes mainstream media) that somehow I can’t be for all those things: that I am either active and/or vocal against our current system of economic injustice (an end to poverty and a too wide income and wealth gap), or I support “identity politics” (feminism, anti-racism, anti LGBTI or disability discrimination) – or worse, I am one of those now burdened with the clumsy label “identitarian”, with cult-like, right wing connotations. (See also the post on The Standard, “We are all ‘identitarian’ now”.)

This is a label many detractors use to slap down those speaking against injustices that damage women, LGBTI people, people of colour, and many others.

As with all social justice movements, feminists come in a range of political shapes and sizes. I can’t speak for all of them, nor do I want to. They range from the liberal feminists like Judith Collins and Paula Bennett who support corporate capitalism, to left wingers like Sue Bradford, Marama Davidson, and Metiria Turei.

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, on and offline, of a feminist presence in everything from the anti-TPPA struggle, campaigns against homelessness and for the living wage, somehow all feminists are self-serving “identitarians”. It’s claimed our (allegedly) ill-judged comments and whining, are diverting the left from the only authentic struggle. We are accused of splitting the movement, and damaging the possibilities of left-leaning parties re-gaining the government benches later this year.

Social and economic injustices are situated within a system where power is unevenly distributed. In 21st New Zealand way too many Māori and Pacific Island women are struggling to survive and to support their whanau. Too many of them are on low incomes, un- or under-employed, while experiencing housing unaffordability, single parenthood, rising costs for essentials, and institutional discrimination. They make up a significant part of the precariat.

Social and economic justice are united by being about power, uneven access to it, and its damaging impact on the lives of many people. Many people from the least powerful groups have responded by participating in political campaigns.

For instance, women have played a leading role in resistance to the Glen Innes resistance to selling of state houses, to make way for expensive housing for the well-off. This is explained in a video posted by the Accompany Collective March 2016.

In the video, the people, many of whom are women, and/or Maori or Pacific people, explain how their lives, well-being, health and community have been damaged.

Internationally in recent decades, women have taken the brunt of damage done by austerity politics.

A 2015 article in the Guardian says that,

The UK risks widening gender inequality because of austerity policies that disproportionately affect women, a coalition of charities has warned.

Cuts to government spending and services by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government had already hurt women, said Fair Deal. Half of housing benefit recipients are single women, while one in four women are in low-paid and insecure work.

The number of lone parents claiming jobseeker’s allowance rose from 7,000 in 2008 to 159,000 in 2013. Nine out of 10 single parents are women. Those factors leave them particularly vulnerable to spending cuts.

In 2014, the UK slipped eight places down the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) gender gap index. At 26, it is now placed below most European countries, the United States and even the Philippines.

This is the bottom level of a system in which some sections of society have more power than others, and where white men tend to dominate the higher levels.

From Peoples Cube

Some do it while demeaning and abusing women, showing how our culture encourages, and enables many (though not all) men to exercise power over women.

From Twitter: ponytailgate

Such unequal access to power occurs throughout our society: in institutional and political policies, economic arrangements, and social practices (such as those described as part of rape culture). The whole system, and social attitudes that support it, needs changing from the bottom up.

All of these aspects of society are strongly inter-connected.

Moana Maniopoto who has been described as “one of the most significant voices in Maori music”, has also participated in political campaigns such as that against the TPPA, and for workers rights. This song has been described as a “feminist anthem”.

Moana And The Moahunters – Black Pearl (original 1990 video!!!)

To be continued in part two.