Re: Intersectionality

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Shorter H-G:

Come back, m. leblanc! We miss you!

Actually, that was an awesome post.

M.'s, that is.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 9:47 AM
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It was a very thoughtprovoking post. My instant reaction was that I want to disagree with a lot of it, but I need to tease out the 95% of that reaction that's probably defensiveness, and see if there's anything left once I've done that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 9:51 AM
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Shorter H-G:

Are you arguing that my post should've been even briefer?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 9:52 AM
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Or that poor women who are paid shit wages to clean up after rich people could have my luxury of obsessing over whether my boyfriend expects me to do the dishes, instead of being expected to, without question, do all the household labor for your own family as well as another's.

My fellow union organizers and I often found ourselves in the position of recruiting female workplace leaders on house visits who would change their status at home by virtue of their status rising in the workplace. The domestic responsibilities were the last to change, but there were plenty of stories of women who left their abusive, controlling cheating husbands after a couple of years of becoming shop stewards and realizing just what kinds of bullshit need not be put up with.

There are luxuries, and there are luxuries. Hiring domestic help is a luxury that if you're going to indulge in it, you'd best be mindful how you do it. A Mini Cooper is a luxury that, hey, if you can afford it, you're killing the planet a little but knock yourself out and vote to raise your taxes. Modeling a more just world at the level of minutia may strike you as a luxury but it's really an obligation, and while it's not a replacement for working towards public, social change (and m. does quite a bit of that), you damn well ought to do it, because it's not just you for whom you're doing it.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:02 AM
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Me too, and wish I did, Heeb.

2: It made me feel very defensive and angry and wanting to attack her, and I do try - when getting that feeling from a woman of color writing about race issues - to think why I feel that way. Sometimes I think I'm right to be pissed - but more often, I do think "wait, this is a good question, and my initial anger is a sign of how good a question it is".


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:06 AM
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Shorter 3: You got some kinda problem?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:12 AM
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Thanks for the link, heeb. Y'all should definitely read the comments over there, too; they're way better than the post.

I wish I knew how to talk about this stuff; if anyone in the know wants to direct me to books I should read, feel free. I feel like back when I was 16 and didn't know anything about feminism and would constantly bumble around when I tried to make any arguments.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:23 AM
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A quick stab at what I had problems with, which is still probably largely motivated by defensiveness.

M. identifies herself as White (in a personal-history-complicated kind of way), and a feminist, but not as a White Feminist, because White Feminism incorporates an ideology of deliberately privileging minor lifestyle concerns affecting middleclass white women over more significant social justice concerns affecting poor people and women and men of color, and particularly of aggressively pursuing criminal justice/prosecutorial ends in the name of safety for women that are very damaging to communities of color.

I'm pretty squarely named by this critique -- I'm a middle-class white feminist, and my reaction to lifestyle-kind-of feminist issues affecting middleclass women tends to be several days of intense thought and argument, while legitimately more serious issues that don't affect me as personally tend to get a "Wow. Man, that's harsh. I have no idea what to do about that."

The thing is, though, while the error of disproportionate effort and attention on comparatively minor problems that LeBlanc's describing is one I consistently fall into, I recognize it as an error and have all along. And I'm pretty sure most other women who LeBlanc is calling White Feminists, in the sense she's defined it in the post, do the same: there aren't a lot of feminists out there who, if you asked them "What's more important -- whether you and your boyfriend split household chores equally, or whether poor communities are devastated by unequal policing?" would say "Definitely the housework."

I'm not quite sure what to do with this. The critique LeBlanc is making is a valid one. But couching it as a critique of an ideology when I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who would admit espousing that ideology seems wrong to me: M. LeBlanc is saying, roughly "White Feminists believe X, and that's why I disagree with them and am not one"; I'm more comfortable with "middle class white feminists tend to fall into a characteristic set of errors such as X; I agree that those are errors and try, often unsuccessfully, to avoid them."

I've got some more issues with the specifics of the post -- I don't see the square opposition between policing/prosecution calculated to best avoid violence including sexual violence toward women, and policing calculated not to destroy poor communities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:29 AM
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A quick stab at what I had problems with, which is still probably largely motivated by defensiveness.

M. identifies herself as White (in a personal-history-complicated kind of way), and a feminist, but not as a White Feminist, because White Feminism incorporates an ideology of deliberately privileging minor lifestyle concerns affecting middleclass white women over more significant social justice concerns affecting poor people and women and men of color, and particularly of aggressively pursuing criminal justice/prosecutorial ends in the name of safety for women that are very damaging to communities of color.

I'm pretty squarely named by this critique -- I'm a middle-class white feminist, and my reaction to lifestyle-kind-of feminist issues affecting middleclass women tends to be several days of intense thought and argument, while legitimately more serious issues that don't affect me as personally tend to get a "Wow. Man, that's harsh. I have no idea what to do about that."

The thing is, though, while the error of disproportionate effort and attention on comparatively minor problems that LeBlanc's describing is one I consistently fall into, I recognize it as an error and have all along. And I'm pretty sure most other women who LeBlanc is calling White Feminists, in the sense she's defined it in the post, do the same: there aren't a lot of feminists out there who, if you asked them "What's more important -- whether you and your boyfriend split household chores equally, or whether poor communities are devastated by unequal policing?" would say "Definitely the housework."

I'm not quite sure what to do with this. The critique LeBlanc is making is a valid one. But couching it as a critique of an ideology when I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who would admit espousing that ideology seems wrong to me: M. LeBlanc is saying, roughly "White Feminists believe X, and that's why I disagree with them and am not one"; I'm more comfortable with "middle class white feminists tend to fall into a characteristic set of errors such as X; I agree that those are errors and try, often unsuccessfully, to avoid them."

I've got some more issues with the specifics of the post -- I don't see the square opposition between policing/prosecution calculated to best avoid violence including sexual violence toward women, and policing calculated not to destroy poor communities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:29 AM
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A quick stab at what I had problems with, which is still probably largely motivated by defensiveness.

M. identifies herself as White (in a personal-history-complicated kind of way), and a feminist, but not as a White Feminist, because White Feminism incorporates an ideology of deliberately privileging minor lifestyle concerns affecting middleclass white women over more significant social justice concerns affecting poor people and women and men of color, and particularly of aggressively pursuing criminal justice/prosecutorial ends in the name of safety for women that are very damaging to communities of color.

I'm pretty squarely named by this critique -- I'm a middle-class white feminist, and my reaction to lifestyle-kind-of feminist issues affecting middleclass women tends to be several days of intense thought and argument, while legitimately more serious issues that don't affect me as personally tend to get a "Wow. Man, that's harsh. I have no idea what to do about that."

The thing is, though, while the error of disproportionate effort and attention on comparatively minor problems that LeBlanc's describing is one I consistently fall into, I recognize it as an error and have all along. And I'm pretty sure most other women who LeBlanc is calling White Feminists, in the sense she's defined it in the post, do the same: there aren't a lot of feminists out there who, if you asked them "What's more important -- whether you and your boyfriend split household chores equally, or whether poor communities are devastated by unequal policing?" would say "Definitely the housework."

I'm not quite sure what to do with this. The critique LeBlanc is making is a valid one. But couching it as a critique of an ideology when I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who would admit espousing that ideology seems wrong to me: M. LeBlanc is saying, roughly "White Feminists believe X, and that's why I disagree with them and am not one"; I'm more comfortable with "middle class white feminists tend to fall into a characteristic set of errors such as X; I agree that those are errors and try, often unsuccessfully, to avoid them."

I've got some more issues with the specifics of the post -- I don't see the square opposition between policing/prosecution calculated to best avoid violence including sexual violence toward women, and policing calculated not to destroy poor communities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:29 AM
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BTW, I apologize for being flip - for reasons that have been covered once or twice at this forum, I feel that I (as a white male non-activist) had best stay mostly out of this discussion.

The one thing I'll say (for now) is that I thought that the post seemed premised on the idea that getting more sexual predators thrown in jail is a primary focus of the feminist movement, as opposed to an almost incidental result of a determination not to permit sexual violence against women to be treated as acceptable or inevitable. It's not that there's not an issue to be dealt with there, but that it's not as if "Jail More Rapists" is a common rallying cry at NOW meetings.

But maybe this issue was raised as a synecdoche, or maybe it does loom larger in feminism than I appreciate.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:29 AM
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Good lord. I have no idea how that triple-post happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:30 AM
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I'm also a white male and am hesitant to comment.

I'll say I see similarities in one respect between Christianity and Feminism - they both have the question of priorities and effectiveness.

Given that one's resources are finite what is the best or correct way for one to use her resources to further her cause?

I don't have any real answers, although for me my gut says to start locally and work my way out, but I've only got a vague set of reasoning for that approach.

I'm just pointing out that proponents of other issues face a similar challenge in how best to advance their cause.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:33 AM
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You know if you triple-post, LB, that only makes you three times as wrong.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:36 AM
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usually i don't read further when one states his/her
whiteness perceived or born into and whoever s/he is
so maybe the post was good and thoughtful one, but i didn't read it


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:37 AM
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but that it's not as if "Jail More Rapists" is a common rallying cry at NOW meetings.

No, but feminists do push for all sorts of things that will make rape prosecution more vigorous: availability of rape kits, better victim shield laws, intense criticism when police dismiss claims of rape.

Thing is, I can't see anything in M.Leblanc's post to make me doubt that these are all important and useful goals. Yes they involve working with a racist system, but doesn't everything?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:37 AM
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Particularly embarrassing with a comment that long. But I'm glad M. is here in the thread; that long comment was an attempt to get something said as a starting point, but I'm hoping for disagreement because it at least needs to be refined, and maybe I need to be convinced that I'm just off base.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:38 AM
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Yes they involve working with a racist system, but doesn't everything?

But shouldn't an organization make as its first priority those who are worst off? So if women in poor minority communities are not served by policies which sabotage the community, doesn't the organization need to promote something that actually supports what they need?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:53 AM
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That was me. I'm proctoring a test and using a classroom computer.

I should add that I'm playing devil's advocate - I have more questions than answers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:54 AM
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LB, I get that you recognize it as an error. And if I wasn't clear, I should be so: I am a White Feminist. But I'm uncomfortable with being one, because of the problems that I name.

But recognizing something as an error is not the same as doing something about it--taking action, or at least talking about it. And frankly, if I didn't have the job I have, I would have gone on maybe forever without thinking about this stuff, and without thinking about whether are are aligning ourselves with law&order types.

Rob, I don't mean to single you out, but your "doesn't everything involve working within a racist system" is an example of the attitude I have a problem with. Because the feminist movement seems to think that there are things to be done about gender equality, but seems to think that racial inequality is this intractable problem that we can't do anything about. Just like LB's comment about "I don't know what to do about that."

And I should emphasize that I feel that way too. But the thing is, there are things to be done, and we could find out what they are if we just started paying more attention to what racial justice activists are up to.

And if I started paying more attention, I'm sure I would come up with other issues besides just this one where there's a conflict between middle-class white feminism and communities of color.

But even on just this issue, there's a ton to talk about. Mainstream feminist discourse talks as though it's a given that more women should report rape, sexual harassment, abuse, etc. But this totally ignores what was brought up in comments at Bitch, which is that women of color might justifiably be hesitant about calling in police when the police have damaged her community, are more likely to beat or kill her loved ones (or her) or arrest them without cause. And what are those women to do? Those women are, in some sense, trying to protect their communities by not getting law enforcement involved.

Anyway, as to what seems to be your primary issue: "But couching it as a critique of an ideology when I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who would admit espousing that ideology seems wrong to me," I think this is an odd complaint. Sure, you might not find people who say "screw communities of color, I don't care if they're terrorized by the cops," just like you might not find many people who admit that they're racist. But just because it's not a stated part of the ideology, or one that people would readily admit to, doesn't mean much--it could still (and, I believe is) be implicit in the rhetoric and activism of the movement.

So if "White Feminism" recognizes that thinking this way is an error, and doesn't do anything about it, I don't think this is qualitatively different from not recognizing the error at all. It is different in terms of a culpability sense, but since I'm not trying to blame or shame anyone, I don't see how that matters.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:59 AM
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18: And what do you do about conflicts between the needs of a community, and the needs of an individual woman for protection from violence?

If I'm attacked, raped, whatever, by a middleclass white guy, I'm pretty clear that I want the perpetrator prosecuted, and I don't see aggressive policing (within the limitations of generally acceptable police behavior) in that regard as socially problematic. Are we going down a road that would suggest that a poor woman of color should have less police protection from violence because the criminal justice system is more damaging to her community? Obviously that's the wrong answer, but I'm not clear what the right answer is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:03 AM
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Rob nails it in 16: where's the causal relationship between feminism and racial(or other) injustice? Police departments were railroading minorities in order to "protect" white woman long before feminism got involved. If anything, feminism improved the situation by forcing law enforcement to fight actual rapes rather than focusing on some fantasy about dark-skinned savages despoiling white virtue.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:03 AM
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if anyone in the know wants to direct me to books I should read, feel free.

Just to state the (extremely) obvious, I think of bell hooks as the author most publicly identified with these sorts of questions.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:03 AM
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Regarding helping those worst off - in technical circles it seems the most often system of prioritization is to start with the 'low hanging fruit.'

The base assumption is one of diminishing returns - the first 90% of the benefits come from 10% of the effort and the last 10% require 90% of the effort.

Whether this pertains to social changes I have no idea.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:06 AM
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where's the causal relationship between feminism and racial(or other) injustice?

I don't think there's a causal relationship. The accusation is that the feminist movement is perpetuating structures of white dominance out of ignorance/complacency, not because they started the problem.


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:08 AM
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where's the causal relationship between feminism and racial(or other) injustice

No, this is totally irrelevant. I'm not trying to say feminism is at fault for creating racial injustice. That would be stupid and pointless. What I am saying is that if I'm going to be part of a social justice movement, which I think feminism is and should be, I want it to consider women and men of color, and listen to them about the potential ramifications of feminist politics on their communities.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:09 AM
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And what do you do about conflicts between the needs of a community, and the needs of an individual woman for protection from violence?

Right, here I have to punt and say, "Become better informed about non-traditional solutions by consulting existing women of color activist groups". But the comment elevated to the post of Leblanc's post gives one sort of example-solution.


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:11 AM
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So if "White Feminism" recognizes that thinking this way is an error, and doesn't do anything about it, I don't think this is qualitatively different from not recognizing the error at all. It is different in terms of a culpability sense, but since I'm not trying to blame or shame anyone, I don't see how that matters.

It's different in terms of what you have to do to correct it, I think. Changing your mind is easy: You think X is more important that Y, I argue that Y is actually more important, I convince you, and now we're on the same side, both agreeing that Y is more important. Changing your habits is hard.

Your framing seems to on some level let people off the hook: "She's just talking about White Feminists who believe that minor domestic issues are more important than major social just issues, but because I don't believe that, she's not talking about me, I'm one of the good guys!"

And on another level, whether or not you're trying to, you are blaming and shaming: your definition of White Feminist is purely pejorative, in a way that makes it hard to respond to. For someone in my ideological position, it's hard to respond to. I can't say I'm not a White Feminist, because you're identifying an error I fall into, but I can't say I am a White Feminist, because that would mean not only that I fall into the error you describe, but that I don't see it as an error -- that I straightforwardly believe that who does the dishes in a middleclass household is more important than the destruction of poor communities and communities of color.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:14 AM
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One theme that I heard in m's original post made me think of the challenge in reporting child abuse. On intellectual terms you want to say "Report it! We've fought so hard to build a system that can help with this problem!" and on the practical level you're going, "Yeah, I'll report it, and then the kid will be put in a violent, chaotic foster home, moved around a dozen times, probably sexually abused, and then thrown out on the street when she hits 18."

So with feminism, there are a lot of times when you want to say "Do X! We've fought so hard for X to be possible!" and the practical side of you says, "Yeah. And the unintended consequences of X are going to be...."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:14 AM
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25:But why does that accusation obtain against feminism specifically rather than against, well, almost everyone in the United States?


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:15 AM
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But couching it as a critique of an ideology when I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who would admit espousing that ideology seems wrong to me

While I'm sympathetic to your larger point, I think this is wrong because one would have to be quite slow not to recognize a distinction when presented with it so boldly: cake, or death? housework, or living wage? Ask a group of upper middle class college educated feminists what their concerns are, maybe; I suspect you'd get a different answer.

That said, I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing. People are speaking to what they know, and they can speak well to what they know because they know it. The problem isn't that upper middle class white feminists aren't representing the "authentic" experience; the problem is that they're not aware of the other voices and that they take their experience as representative. (Not to go there again, but that was one of the problems with Hirshman's advice. Great if you are a highly educated woman with a career; not so much if you're assistant post office manager.) It's the feminism equivalent of 'where are all the women bloggers?'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:16 AM
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And on another level, whether or not you're trying to, you are blaming and shaming:

Doesn't asking people to confront themselves always feel like blaming and shaming? In other words, in racist cases which are clear in hindsite, didn't calling people out on racist behavior seem like blaming and shaming?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:17 AM
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Me again.


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:17 AM
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But why does that accusation obtain against feminism specifically rather than against, well, almost everyone in the United States?

Sure, it does. But the point being that if a platform in feminism doesn't work for everybody it claims it represents, then it doesn't work.


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:19 AM
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31: While I'm sympathetic to your larger point, I think this is wrong because one would have to be quite slow not to recognize a distinction when presented with it so boldly: cake, or death? housework, or living wage?

But that's my point. If someone agrees with you on the easy questions, and it only breaks down on the hard calls, you're not talking about an ideological conflict, you're talking about about an educational/effort problem. They need to educate themselves about the facts and consequences of their positions in more difficult situations, but they don't need to fundamentally change their minds.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:19 AM
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32: Sure. As someone being validly critiqued, any interrogation of the critique is always going to be on some level a defensive reaction. But that doesn't make the interrogation necessarily invalid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:21 AM
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For someone in my ideological position, it's hard to respond to. I can't say I'm not a White Feminist, because you're identifying an error I fall into, but I can't say I am a White Feminist, because that would mean not only that I fall into the error you describe, but that I don't see it as an error

I don't see why you're any different than me in this respect. Why can't you be a White Feminist who's uncomfortable with ignoring communities or color, and trying to readjust your consciousness? I mean, we're pretty similar, at least we're both young, white-identified and have law degrees and live in big American cities and are in committed relationships with men. And you seem to think about this stuff. And I think about it a little, and I'm trying to think about it more, and maybe even graduate to doing something about it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:21 AM
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And I should repeat that while I'm pushing back here, I do accept the fundamental validity of the original post's critique.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:22 AM
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They need to educate themselves about the facts and consequences of their positions in more difficult situations, but they don't need to fundamentally change their minds.

I think they need to change their minds about whether there's something major that they're missing. Because when you bring these issues up, you get a lot of defensive (not directed at you--your defensiveness has been minimal), and not a lot of "damn, we should really think of a better way."


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:23 AM
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Sure. As someone being validly critiqued, any interrogation of the critique is always going to be on some level a defensive reaction. But that doesn't make the interrogation necessarily invalid.

Wait. Did you just swap sides with me, Bugs-Bunny style?


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:25 AM
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34: Absolutely. I'll absolutely buy that feminism doesn't do a good enough job addressing the issue of poor and minority woman. But that's a substantially smaller claim than
Would that women of color whose communities have been ravaged by the flip side of "safety" that White Feminists seek to bring to our own neighborhoods could have the luxury of worrying about whether the guy at the corner store calls me "sweetie."


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:28 AM
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And I think about it a little, and I'm trying to think about it more, and maybe even graduate to doing something about it.

I still haven't formed a full opinion on this debate/discussion, but this line struck me as perhaps the source of my resistance to your argument, m. Think about it a little, i can do that. Try to think about these things more, okay, I'm on board. Graduate to doing something about it? Ack! all of a sudden I'm confronted with (a) being pretty sure I'm totally powerless to do anything about it, and (b) being pretty sure that even if there were things one could do, I barely manage the things I need to do now, and there's no way I could ever find time to do anything else! Which then just makes me feel horribly guilty that I obviously don't care enough to actually do something.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:29 AM
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If someone agrees with you on the easy questions, and it only breaks down on the hard calls, you're not talking about an ideological conflict, you're talking about about an educational/effort problem.

I'm not so sure. I mean, look, you took those reading comprehension tests as a little kid. And you were a good test taker, so I'm sure you noticed that you could get through the exams without reading the passages because you knew that the answer would never be "The moral of the passage is that Native Americans are savages and shouldn't be trusted." That didn't show any reflection on your (or my) part, just that you knew what answers you were supposed to give to easy prompts.

I think we agree that more education is the answer, and it's mostly a terminological question: is it part of the ideology but ignored, or is it a lacuna in the ideology? But look, if I announce I'm changing my name, we'll go seventeen rounds on that* while more important stuff is just completely off our radar. I think it's fair to call that an ideology problem.

But, potato, potahtoe.

m. leblanc, you do awesome work IRL; just giving your observations on that, on the blog where you have a really great platform, would probably open a lot of eyes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:30 AM
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37: I guess the button of mine you pushed is defining "White Feminism" as "concerned, on a day-to-day basis, with fighting for the right of middle-class white women to be equal to middle-class white men, leaving women of color and especially men of color behind". I see that, and it really looks to me like a claim that there's a genuine movement out there, White Feminism, that would look at that statement and say "Yep, that's what we're fighting for. Men and women of color can go screw themselves." And that's really not true.

Thinking about issues of racial justice and social justice generally is very important. Doing stuff based on those thoughts is even more important. Disassociating yourself from other feminists who really do have pretty much the same values you do, but who haven't educated themselves enough or taken enough action seems counterproductive to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:31 AM
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Which then just makes me feel horribly guilty that I obviously don't care enough to actually do something.

WDYDTGFeminismReinventedTW?


Posted by: H-G | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:31 AM
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45: I haven't done shit to get Obama elected either. There. I'm a crappy person.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:33 AM
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with no analysis connecting the story to movements to abolish the prison system or defy the legitimacy of national borders.

m. leblanc, the alternet post you link says (as I quote above) that legitimate, inclusive feminism must include support for the movements to abolish the prison system and defy the legitimacy of national borders. I don't think that those programs are best pursued under the rubric of "feminism."

Which isn't to dismiss "intersectionality" as a problem - everything really is linked to everything else - but I think any effective political movement has to be tolerant of fellow travelers. It's unwise, I think, to exclude from the rubric of "feminism" those who support the legitimacy of national borders.

And just to throw this out there, here's ML King pondering intersectionality. As I said, intersectionality is a real dilemma, and on balance, I think King got it right as regard civil rights, poverty and the Vietnam War.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:33 AM
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Just musing on the topic

my gut says to start locally and work my way out, but I've only got a vague set of reasoning for that approach.

This is my perspective as well which means that, in my day to day life, I know that I'm ignoring huge problems in the world that shouldn't be ignored.

It's easy to create tension between "you should do more to address X which you're ignoring and implicitly condoning" and "you should take small, concrete actions in your life."

The idea, of course, is to do both but anyone will always be less successful at one of those two areas,

That isn't, in any way, to say that they aren't both legitimate moral claims, but that any response is necessarily going to involve mediating that tension, rather than transcending it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:37 AM
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I guess the button of mine you pushed is defining

Perhaps the difference here is a principle vs. practice thing. I doubt very many people would self identify with "concerned, on a day-to-day basis, with fighting for the right of middle-class white women to be equal to middle-class white men, leaving women of color and especially men of color behind".

I certain that you could argue this is what often happens in practice, for a myriad of reasons.

Perhaps this division was unclear in the original?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:37 AM
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Surely the more intuitive Shorter would be:

"(Stuff) White (People Like) Feminism".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:39 AM
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I am a White Feminist. But I'm uncomfortable with being one

I'd rather not restart an old and tired argument, so everybody should feel free to ignore it as me just not getting it yet again. However, this sort of endlessly meta and self-flagellating analysis is one of the things that makes people roll their eyes at modern feminism.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:40 AM
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M. LeBlanc's post was searching but I still don't get it. It's an incredibly tenuous link between the use of the criminal justice to oppress Blacks and Latinos and the desire of women--all women, I presume--to be free of sexual violence. I'm still trying to figure out why this is a relevant way to enter into this question. Is LeBlanc a Public Defender? Maybe there's stuff that she thinks about that just didn't make it into the post.

In style, it reminded me of the kind of 'such and such is bourgeois' charge of the radical New Left of the late 60s early 70s. Like 'white feminists are into some kind of bourgeois trip of wanting to make sure the cops care when they get raped.' That's an unfair caricature but I am thinking of the sort of problem of eating your own that feminists have always had. I've been thinking--and getting depressed about-- about how true radical feminism couldn't hold their coalition and this kind of critique really echoes past critiques--where the energy is turned inward into the consciousness of feminists rather than outward into society.

The Hoffman piece also made some good points, ones that have been made by many other feminists for at least the last 20 years. In her piece, it was the style that got me a bit. And that feminists always seem to loop back into the same places. This piece loops back into a place feminists have been many times--in style it is a place of criticizing each other, weighing oppressions against each other, political one-upsmanship. In substance, it is this worry about our ability to be effective politically in light of some of these many horrors. But then how do we become politically effective. It's not just by thinking in the right way. What do we do exactly? That's what I'd like to know because that's what I can never quite figure out.


Posted by: ozma | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:42 AM
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This is my perspective as well which means that, in my day to day life, I know that I'm ignoring huge problems in the world that shouldn't be ignored.

This is a problem much broader than its application here to feminism.

I think one issue with the `Think globally, act locally' approach taken too far is that often the people with the most resources to `act locally' aren't local to the many real problems.

It's certainly more comfortable, and easier to understand what you can do in areas localized to your own life (whether geographical, socio-economically, whatever). This doesn't mean the efforts are particularly globally effective, though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:42 AM
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However, this sort of endlessly meta and self-flagellating analysis is one of the things that makes people roll their eyes at modern feminism.

Good point. Change begins with the good old boys on Wall Street.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:45 AM
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49: Well, exactly. The thing is, though, on a matter of principle, you can ask someone which side they're on, and get an answer. On a matter of practice -- what do you, personally, do in your own life to work for social justice, and is it really enough?-- the answer for pretty much everyone, feminist or not, is that it's not enough. That's certainly the answer for me.

But when you frame the question like that, middle-class-white-feminism doesn't really look like the problem. Arguing about namechanging and doing dishes is something I do when I should be educating myself about the needs of disadvantaged communities. But babbling about mystery novels is also something I do when I should be educating myself about the needs of disadvantaged communities, and we're not talking about a conflict between frivolous novel-readers and social justice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:45 AM
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And yeah to 52. As well as the misplaced-priorities point that I've been picking at, the post seemed to argue that there was a flatout conflict between feminist positions on rape and assault prosecutions and preservation of poor communities, and I don't buy that conflict as a matter of fact.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:48 AM
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middle-class-white-feminism doesn't really look like the problem.

But middle-class-white-feminism sets the agenda, don't we? I'm not saying that we have an obligation to spend airtime on Unfogged threads according to how big a problem is in real life. But blogs that do profess to be feminist blogs have an obligation to represent all women except Palin and pay extra attention to women who're most crapped on by society.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:50 AM
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I'm sure you noticed that you could get through the exams without reading the passages because you knew that the answer would never be "The moral of the passage is that Native Americans are savages and shouldn't be trusted."

I have never been this kind of person. Brute-force* effort every time, dammit.

* And/or plodding, careful, &c.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:52 AM
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blogs that do profess to be feminist blogs have an obligation to represent all women

How does one represent 3.3 billion people on a blog?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:53 AM
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But blogs that do profess to be feminist blogs have an obligation to represent all women except Palin and pay extra attention to women who're most crapped on by society.

This gets weird when you start looking at issues of knowledge and understanding. Imagine Unfogged did profess to be a feminist blog, which at times it's looked kind of like. I'm a feminist, and I could blog about feminist issues -- I can't 'represent all women' because I'm completely ignorant about lots of issues affecting lots of women. Under those circumstances, what am I responsible for blogging about? Should I not purport to be a 'feminist blogger' until I have a level of knowledge that allows me to 'represent all women'? Because at that point, I'm back to blogging about mystery novels.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:55 AM
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#56: no, I'd take that a lot more seriously - if you take the assault question as symptomatic of a general attitude, there's certainly an awful lot of people who have "feminist" arguments to the effect that they're doing Muslim women a favour by not allowing them to wear their headscarves to school.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:56 AM
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But that's because no one mistakes reading mystery novels for social justice concerns. It's arguable that people get the impression that "feminism" means highly educated, successful professional women worrying about whether they can reach the highest echelons of their field, maybe with a side-order of reproductive rights. The problem isn't that you, personally, aren't doing enough; it's that the movement in practice seems to be ignoring a large set of WOMEN when it claims to be representing women.

If you thought your mystery novels counted as educating yourself about crime, we might point that out as a problem, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:56 AM
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How does one represent 3.3 billion people on a blog?

Use tiny pixels?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:58 AM
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61: While I agree with you about that specific issue, it's a bigger problem in Europe and the UK than it is in the US. Maybe it's a commoner position than I know of, but I've never run into an American feminist/leftist who supported government action barring headscarves and such.

(And I liked 50. I'm having pretty much exactly the same humorless reaction to this as I did to SWPL.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 11:59 AM
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the post seemed to argue that there was a flatout conflict between feminist positions on rape and assault prosecutions and preservation of poor communities

Yeah, this stuff gets so deeply into stuff I know nothing about I find it hard to take much a post that wasn't particularly clear on the mechanics. That's not a rejection, just acknowledging I have no feel for what is really going on.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:00 PM
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the post seemed to argue that there was a flatout conflict between feminist positions on rape and assault prosecutions and preservation of poor communities, and I don't buy that conflict as a matter of fact

I don't know whether there's a "flatout" conflict or not. But there is some conflict, there, yes. Did I state my argument too strongly? I dunno, maybe. But I was trying to make a point that we, and I, need a major focus shift here.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:00 PM
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I can't 'represent all women' because I'm completely ignorant about lots of issues affecting lots of women.

Okay, feminist blogs ought to either bring on a wider staff that can speak for a range of issues, or define themselves according to what they can speak on, ie "Feminist Blog X is a collection of white upper-class women who care about all but who acknowledge that they speak from their limited range of experience."

Which becomes important when they're deciding which policies to support, and donate money to, right?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:02 PM
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ut blogs that do profess to be feminist blogs have an obligation to represent all women except Palin and pay extra attention to women who're most crapped on by society.

I'd disagree with that; not much more annoying that an upper middle class chick speaking to something she doesn't know well enough. What makes the blogs good are women speaking to what they know. But throwing a link to the writers who do address these issues now and then is probably a good start.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:02 PM
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not much more annoying that an upper middle class chick speaking to something she doesn't know well enough.

Yeah, but she's not blogging competently then (under my idealistic guidelines). She ought to either team up with a wider range of people, or specify what she can and can't speak to.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:05 PM
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IT IS So REWARDING TO KNOW HTAT IN THE BLOGOSPHERE, NOBODY EVER NEEDS TO ASK, "Where the white women at"


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:05 PM
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62: The problem isn't that you, personally, aren't doing enough; it's that the movement in practice seems to be ignoring a large set of WOMEN when it claims to be representing women.

At this point we start getting into questions of who's 'the movement' and what should they be doing. NARAL is a pretty middle-class organization, but abortion rights are broadly important -- they're okay, right? NOW's issue page at least recognizes the sort of social justice issues we're talking about. That's the thing -- if you say "the movement is ignoring these women", a perfectly fair response is "no, it isn't." The truthful critique really has to be "you, and you, and you, and you, and you, individually, need to work harder (or in most cases, at all) on broad issues of social justice."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:06 PM
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I WILL ADMIT THAT I IGNORE THE CONCERNS OF POOR AND MINORITY WOMEN

IF THEY'RE SO SMART WHY AREN'T THEY RICH?


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:08 PM
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62: This claim seems to be assuming a constant and limited amount of Social Justice Concern, so that middle class white woman issues squeeze out lower class black woman issues. I don't think the world works like this, especially at the level of grassroots activism.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:09 PM
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In my everyday life, I have the bizarre affliction of considering myself a white person, but not being seen as a white person by anyone I interact with. ... Lots of people ask me where I'm "from" (code for "what ethnicity are you?") and because I can't truthfully answer that I'm "from" anywhere in the United States, I say I'm from Cairo, Egypt.

Heh. This reminds me of a friend of mine named Arshad. He is of Bangladeshi heritage, but he was born and raised in the Midwest. His Facebook page says "Wait, are you asking me where am I from, or why am I brown?"

As for the actual topic of the discussion, like JRoth and Tripp I'm a white male so what do I know, but I did think Witt's analogy in 29 was very good.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:10 PM
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That's the thing -- if you say "the movement is ignoring these women", a perfectly fair response is "no, it isn't." The truthful critique really has to be "you, and you, and you, and you, and you, individually, need to work harder (or in most cases, at all) on broad issues of social justice."

LB, you're losing me. It might be a "fair" response to say that the "movement" isn't ignoring women of color, but it might not be correct. And I think that's something we can talk about, and where there are actual answers. I don't see why you're determined to make it about blaming individuals.

The only person I feel competent to assess is myself, and I know that am actually in a job where I am, in theory, working for social justice 100% of the time, and I personally feel like I need to assess how I can integrate feminism and racial justice.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:11 PM
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73: Right. As a matter of practice, people I know who spend their frivolity on 'issues of social justice' that aren't as important as they might be, tend to also do more work on more important issues than people who spend their frivolity exclusively on reality TV shows or similar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:12 PM
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The truthful critique really has to be "you, and you, and you, and you, and you, individually, need to work harder (or in most cases, at all) on broad issues of social justice."

Well sure, this makes everyone super-defensive.

But I think the point is a re-evaluation in how feminism actually distributes its resources, in order to support women of color organizations that are already tackling these issues but are currently disenfranchised from mainstream feminism.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:13 PM
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#73: actually, as a first approximation, I would probably defend "fixed lump of social concern" as probably a decent model of the attention economy in this space. Even if it wasn't quite fixed, I would guess that it would be quite difficult to argue that the lump of attention could be grown quickly enough to mean that there was no crowding out of nonwhite women, given the massive imbalance in the inputs of effort aimed at attracting people's attention to SWPL-feminist issues.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:13 PM
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Because at that point, I'm back to blogging about mystery novels.

Wait, when did you do that?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:15 PM
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so that middle class white woman issues squeeze out lower class black woman issues. I don't think the world works like this, especially at the level of grassroots activism.

Women of color activists seem to be consistently arguing that this is the case.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:16 PM
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75: Well, there was an illustrative link to NOW's issue page in my comment. My point is that you can say that mainstream feminist organizations (I picked NOW, but I doubt you'd get a different result looking at any other mainstream feminist organization) aren't doing enough to integrate poor women, and women of color, and their concerns and needs. But it looks to me simply false to say that such organizations are ignoring those issues -- they're in a position like the one you and I are in, where they at least recognize the need for that attention, even though they aren't putting in enough effort or being successful in addressing those issues.

You're right that this is something that should be looked into, but a broad-brushed "We need to start paying more attention to issues affecting women of color and their communities" doesn't make any progress -- to the extent that you can say a movement knows something, the feminist movement knows this. Any progress is going to come on specific issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:19 PM
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In style, it reminded me of the kind of 'such and such is bourgeois' charge of the radical New Left of the late 60s early 70s. Like 'white feminists are into some kind of bourgeois trip

The achilles heel of identity politics is how it can devolve into competing victimization claims by different groups. All true, too. There's one system, everyone is to a significant exent both an oppressor and victim within it. If the center of your critique of that system is the claim that oppression functions by targeting particular groups, the question of which group is most "victimized" suddenly becomes salient when there's no logical reason it should be. Especially since the stance (not the reality) of victimization is an attractive thing in this society.

Not saying I disagree with Leblanc either (although I'm sure she disagrees with me). She seems to be getting at the question of how to design broadly non-oppressive institutions, and under what circumstances seeing oneself as an advocate for a particular identity group can conflict with that mission instead of aiding it. Which is IMO exactly the right set of questions to raise. (although I don' think this needs to be justified through concern for women of color, as opposed to people in general).

And there's no contradiction in middle class white women speaking up for their own socially situated experiences and needs, etc. Or the middle-class white men doing the same thing. If you view social justice as a matter of government programs, there's only so much $ and attention to go around. If you see it as cultural transformation, then it strengthens everyone's questioning of existing power structures when anyone questions them. The problem with middle-class lifestyle feminism, insofar as there has been one, comes up because it hasn't actually deeply questioned existing structures that don't work for people -- in other words, because it's not really left.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:26 PM
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I agree with dsquared in 78: social concern is closer to being a fixed lump than a self-augmenting resource. The problem isn't just that people have limits on their time and energy, its that effective movements need focus.

Example: I saw Bill Clinton speak at an Obama rally a few weeks ago. I saw struck by how on-message every speaker was, especially in comparison to issue-based demonstrations and marches. No one mentioned justice for transgendered people. No one called for the release of Leonard Peltier. There was one message: the current economic crises has come from the failure of free-market ideology.

There is a cost to organizing an event this way. Every speaker was a white male, and every one save the ex-President was a labor leader. (The one time they did go off message was to talk about the assassination of labor leaders in Columbia.)

But the fact is staying on message is how elections are won. And that is a big constraint on the amount of social concern available.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:26 PM
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81: I'm being repetitive here, but it's actually because my own position is gradually becoming clarified to myself.

81 seems to say that it's a matter of degree, but not a need to fundamentally alter the perspective. But there's a continuous chorus from minority feminists that mainstream feminism has left them high and dry.

1) It's possible that these problems are being gradually addressed, and it takes awhile for gradual shift to be felt, so that what seems to be a chorus is actually just residual complaints from a previous time. I'm not informed enough to know if this is the case.

2) But it's also possible that mainstream feminism really is totally missing the boat in some way. This is where I'm placing my hat. I don't know what we're missing exactly, but the symptom of having disenfranchised so many minority women activists tells me there's a big underlying problem.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:27 PM
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The post was... odd. I mean, it made some good points. High imprisonment levels destroying minority communities (not a new point, but still important and true); this is a feminist issue because women have to live in those communities and have a horrible time (a good point) - but then it said the reason for the high imprisonment is the drive to prosecute and prevent violence against white women??

I was surprised to read that piece and see no mention of the War on Drugs. The word "drugs" doesn't even appear once in a piece that is all about the high levels of imprisonment of young black and hispanic men!

Instead, there were sentences like this:
"Never have I seen a true recognition that the criminal justice system, and the attempts to keep white women "safe" that are its stated purpose, have victimized Black and Hispanic men and boys in every town and city in this nation".

Really? That's the big issue in the criminal justice system? That's how politicians get elected - by promising to Get Tough on Violence Against (white) Women? There are massive federal taskforces with wiretaps and helicopters and SWAT teams looking for sex offenders? I seriously wouldn't have thought so. I mean, no doubt it would be nice if it was (assuming the War on Violence against Women went a bit better than the War on Drugs!) but I don't think it's happening right now.

The whole piece just seemed to be agonising unnecessarily.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:30 PM
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80: I get that they are claiming that. But "middle class white woman not paying attention to WOC issues because they aren't interested/don't care enough/etc." just seems more plausible to me than "middle class white woman not paying attention to WOC issues because all their time and energy is sucked up by 'silly feminism.'" Especially because, as LB points out, people don't make the "substitution" claim about other activities of even less worth than 'silly feminism.'


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:31 PM
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M, I can read your post one of two ways, one that I think is true and important, and the other I find farfetched. The first way is that white feminists have a parochial view of feminism, and that while they are demanding changes to the criminal justice system to address injustices to women, they should also demand changes to address injustices to people of color. The second way is that feminists, while arguing for greater punishment of rapists, have directly contributed to more innocent people of color going to jail. Do you mean the former?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:34 PM
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84: And if what I've said looks like an argument that there's nothing wrong with the feminism of middle-class white women, I don't intend it that way. While it would be hard to tell from how I've been talking in this thread, I really do fundamentally agree with M.Leblanc.

I just don't think the sort of focus-shifting that needs to happen can be done at any level higher than issue by issue. There are issues where the interests of white middle class feminists, women of color, and poor communities are naturally aligned, and on those issues, wmc feminists can just go on doing what they're doing and feel good about it. And there are issues where the needs of women of color and poor women are completely off the radar of white middle class feminists, and on these issues wmc feminists need to work on becoming aware of those needs, and working toward serving them. And there may be some issues where the interests of wmc feminists are opposed to those of poor women and women of color, and those need to be figured out, and the interests of broader social justice need to be served.

But I get antsy at broadbrush assumptions that wmc feminism is hurting poor women and women of color, even when it's not necessarily helping them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:37 PM
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The second way is that feminists, while arguing for greater punishment of rapists, have directly contributed to more innocent people of color going to jail.

I don't see how I could possibly mean this. And talking about "innocent" people of color going to jail--well, that's not really as relevant. One thing that really frustrates me about talking about prison/criminal justice issues is the constant focus on the notion that there are innocent people in prison.

There are, of course. But a much bigger problem is that there is discrimination between people who did actually commit crimes--men and women of color are incarcerated at drastically higher rates. And even more than that, with how people in prison are treated.

Contrary to popular belief, there are people in prison for a lot more than just drug offenses. And most of them did, in fact, commit the crimes they were convicted of. The problem is with the way the evidence is gathered, the reliance on confessions instead of forensics, horrible prison conditions, lack of medical and mental health care, lack of re-entry programs, the fact that prisons are situated far from urban areas (so men can not remain connected with their communities).. I could go on and on.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:45 PM
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But there's a continuous chorus from minority feminists that mainstream feminism has left them high and dry.

My gut reaction to this is something like, "Well, yeah. I've got my own (white, middle class woman's) problems to deal with." Which again, not claiming this makes me a good person or anything.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:48 PM
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Hm. There are two sorts of critiques of feminism that I think get entangled. One is that it focuses on issues that disproportionately affect upper class white women, and neglects issues that disproportionately affect minority, poor, immigrant, etc. women--too much focus on housework, on access to high-powered, high-status jobs, etc; too little focus on guaranteeing a minimum, decent level of sick & maternity leave, or conditions for women in prison or in the immigration system, etc. The other is that feminism claims to speak for women, issue X affects humanity and therefore affects women, and feminism neglects issue X: the Iraq war, poverty generally, health care, the criminal justice system, global warming, Darfur, human rights, racial justice, you name it.

The first sort of critique seems fair to me. The second sort of critique annoys me. It's not that I find those issues unimportant--they're often a higher political priority for me than feminist issues. But I think it's unreasonable & crappy to argue that authentic feminism must address every form of human suffering, rather than focusing on issues that affect women *as women*--and it's a standard that no other social movement gets held to.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:50 PM
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89: Death of the author and all that, but I'm inclined to take your word for it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:50 PM
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As I said in 82, I don't believe in the "fixed lump of attention" theory at all. It's true for publicity, lobbying, and legislation. But it's not true for cultural transformation and the deeper questioning that occurs in private life and unofficial community. There, new thinking and alternatives are contagious.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:50 PM
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89: Yes, OK, but you still haven't shown convincingly that a) all this has anything to do with an obsession about preventing violence against (white) women or b) that such an obsession even exists to the degree where it might affect law enforcement or justice policy!

Look, I agree with the points you're making about the horrible nature of the justice system, and the way it disproportionately affects minorities and so on - I just don't see how any of that is feminism's fault. It's not like black folk didn't get a raw deal from the criminal justice system in 1880, you know.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:50 PM
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mainstream feminism has left them high and dry.

But that's fine (probably the wrong word), as long as they're aware of that. And, you seem to suggest, and my limited exposure does the same, they are aware of that. I'd be pretty surprised if this was a big secret to anyone, actually. And none of this suggests that there aren't natural affinities between various interest groups.

I guess I think it's a mistake to think you can broaden an interest group by willing it so, and maybe something worse than a mistake to claim you can and will do so. But that doesn't mean standard women's groups can help ameliorate the circs for people outside of their base.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:52 PM
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Contrary to popular belief, there are people in prison for a lot more than just drug offenses. And most of them did, in fact, commit the crimes they were convicted of. The problem is with the way the evidence is gathered, the reliance on confessions instead of forensics, horrible prison conditions, lack of medical and mental health care, lack of re-entry programs, the fact that prisons are situated far from urban areas (so men can not remain connected with their communities). I could go on and on.

This is dead on. Back when I did this kind of work, I was under now illusion that any significant portion of my clients was "innocent." Very rarely was that even remotely an important inquiry. The real injustice was in convictions secured through the subversion of the 4th Amendment, Miranda, through inadequate counsel, etc.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:52 PM
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I have met white feminists, associated with NARAL and campaigning for the Republican Senator Bob Packwood ~ 20 years ago, who as far as I could tell fit the worst stereotype of the white feminist. On the one hand, they were not straw women -- they were completely real feminist Republicans. On the other, they give a point of comparison making it possible to ask whether or not most white feminists are like that or not. By and large, they aren't that bad.

During the weakness of the left 1968-2008, some left groups were able to cut special deals: feminists, environmentalists, and gay rights groups. They really had no choice, but there were some unfortunate consequences.

All of the generalist-leftist groups I ever belonged to took the correct feminist position on most or all feminist issues, but it was never reciprocated. (These were all pretty ineffectual groups, it must be said.)

It's perfectly normal for the individuals most affected by an issue to be especially concerned with that issue. But if their concern is too exclusive, it's pretty weak politics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:53 PM
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I don't know what we're missing exactly, but the symptom of having disenfranchised so many minority women activists tells me there's a big underlying problem.

Not even just minority women activists. My mother-in-law wouldn't describe herself as a feminist. Why not? Not out of a policy disagreement, but because the conversation doesn't have a lot of room for an assistant post office manager, even one who took the job so she'd be home in time for her kid to get home from school. A conversation about whether she'd make it in the boardroom just doesn't have anything to say to her.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:54 PM
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just musing here, LB, but perhaps that can be turned around. If you believe the white middle class in the US by its nature continues to hurt the poor and minorities (and hence poor women and women of color), then engaging in feminist issues most relevant to the white middle class hardly gets you off the hook. From that viewpoint, the lack of mitigating action on the part of the `feminist' bit of `wmc feminist' lest the harm of the `wmc' part shine through. I don't know how to answer that, or if it is unanswerable (much the way the global impact of our lifestyle is). Of course it's perfectly reasonable, as Di notes, to react primarily to the things that affect us most, personally.

Further though, and I have no idea if this is correct, if you were able to show that wmc feminists were far more successful in lobbying, obtaining resources, etc for `wmc feminist issues' (whatever that means) than others, and furthermore if you could argue that this was in some sense a finite pie to be divided, I think you have a reasonable argument of direct harm. The first (success rate) is at least quite plausible to me, the middle class having more resources for this sort of thing than the poor and minorities. The latter would be pretty difficult to show, but doesn't seem crazy.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:54 PM
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96: Wait, so if the purpose of 4th amendment protections/Miranda, etc. is not to protect the innocent, then what are they for?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:57 PM
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91 is good.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:57 PM
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Wait, so if the purpose of 4th amendment protections/Miranda, etc. is not to protect the innocent, then what are they for?

How can they possibly be doing that job effectively if they are systematically applied unevenly?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 12:58 PM
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102: Interesting philosophical point. X is actually guilty of a crime, but his trial (which finds him guilty of that crime and sentences him accordingly) includes evidence obtained illegally. Has X been treated unjustly?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:02 PM
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103: Uh, yeah. Are you kidding me?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:04 PM
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as a first approximation, I would probably defend "fixed lump of social concern" as probably a decent model of the attention economy in this space.

My disagreement with this statement is a nice hook for my basic take on the situation: I emphatically don't think that the size of the lump is fixed. Now, obviously, there's a fairly fixed amount of time/effort any individual can contribute to social causes, and so there's positive value to getting your priorities right. But the practical reality is that 99% of our social concern is expressed in either vaporous ways (your own head-space, blog comments, actual votes that represent 0.0000001% of the tally) or in direct, daily ways.

To use a field where my identity doesn't (much) affect my standing to comment, the environment is rife with similar situations. A week doesn't go by when the conscientious consumer isn't reminded that Daily Decision X is meaningless, because Intractable Issue Y is so much bigger. But as an individual, I have almost no say on IIY - I can vote, I can maybe donate some cash, I can maybe alter consumer choices (true for some IIs, not for others), I can tell others and try to raise awareness about IIY. I can, conceivably, drop everything to dedicate myself to IIY - but that just means ignoring (on some level) IIs A, B, and C. None of that is to deny the salience of IIY, but, ultimately, all we can do is get the daily things (whether reusing shopping bags or splitting household chores) right and spread awareness of the Big Issues.*

To circle back to D^2's claim, I don't think there's a limit on the Daily Decisions we can get right - I can use CF lamps and vacuum and buy cage-free eggs and think carefully about how I talk to my daughter about, well, everything. Since my "liberal awakening" (if you will) 15 years ago, I've continually gotten better about social concerns, across the board. I'm a better teacher and role model for my children now than I would have been 5, 10, or 15 years ago. And treating social concern as a learning and growing process means that I'm always open to adding to that lump, and getting better at making decisions based on thoughtful considerations rather than cultural prejudices and social imprinting.

* And yes, this is rather like some of the arguments LB, Sifu, and I were making about SWPL.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:08 PM
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apo,

I'd rather not restart an old and tired argument, so everybody should feel free to ignore it as me just not getting it yet again. However, this sort of endlessly meta and self-flagellating analysis is one of the things that makes people roll their eyes at modern feminism.

I did not know this is an old argument and all I can do is say "Wow, you got that totally right."

I will step out on a limb here and say there might even be a gender thing going on, but it is *not* my idea.

At work we had to take a leadership style class and we had to get some 'enlightenment' or something. We were told we need to understand that the way we do things is not 'right,' it is what we are comfortable with, and other people have different styles.

In the case of gender I specifically recall they said women tend to value everyone getting heard and reaching consensus and men tend to value a hierarchical style.

Maybe this is true, maybe it is hooey, but one of my observations is that women will discuss an issue for a long time, examining it from all sides, letting everyone be heard, and then if a conclusion is reached revisit that conclusion in the future.

In comparison I am, I think, a simple person in that I spend less time discussing and more time doing. Maybe it is just me but I think gender plays a role in my style.

And Di, if you got this far, I know exactly what you meant about trying to decide and being disappointed in what you are capable of doing. I faced very similar conflicts in Kenya. The need is so great and my resources are so small in comparison.

The best answer I found is to do what you can. Know that your are a good person and your ideas are worthwhile and then do what you can.

Sorry I can't be more helpful.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:10 PM
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Something was said above that also relates to something Minneapolitan said on a past thread. It was suggested that black women are less likely to call the police because they (rightly) don't trust the police.

This is an enormous or fundamental issue. I'm not sure that there's a city in the world where the police don't have hostile, adversarial relations with some population, often some kind of ethnic minority but pretty much always poor people. Nice liberal cities like Berkely, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland can be very bad this way.

One result is that the community in question, since the police treat them as an enemy, don't get police protection and have to take care of themselves. A recent survey, unrefuted as far as I know, said that justice at all levels is prejudiced based on the race of the victim, not the race of the criminal. So a black criminal preying on black people will get away with a lot, as long as he doesn't slide over to white people.

The generality of this problem suggest to me that it's structural and can only be addressed by very fundamental changes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:14 PM
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I'm meant to be doing housework today, so I don't have time to read all the comments, but I did read both m. leblanc's piece and the Jessica Hoffman article she quotes.

As many of you know, I'm an anarchist, and a criminal, and a white person, and a man, and I grew up in the over-educated, under-employed urban middle class and did I mention I'm bisexual? Just so you know where I'm coming from. A lot of the issues that have been brought up are just exactly the ones I've been talking to people in the white radical scene about for a long time. And I'm no closer to finding a definitive answer for all these questions.

It bugs me a lot, a whole lot, when the subject of crime comes up among white people, and underlying everything they say is the unspoken belief that you might as well just write off working-class Black men. I don't mean here specifically (although I have seen a fair amount of it in these pages) but at work, or talking with neighbors or even among friends who advocate some kind of radical politics. I mean, turn that thought around -- it's not even within the bounds of discourse to say that we could write off white women who are the victims of sexual violence or domestic violence. Yet in the kind of scenarios m. leblanc mentions -- an incident of domestic violence in a community of color for instance -- the underlying assumption I hear over and over again behind white people's words is that if the cops come and put some guy who was beating up his girlfriend in a chokehold and he dies, then it's no more than he deserved. Sorry if that offends you, but it happens every day and that offends me.

I just don't see a way out of this that preserves the power structures we have in our current society. Maybe the Randroids can posit a completely non-racist, non-sexist, non-xenophobic capitalism (and maybe my Maoist acquaintances can do the same for a non-capitalist state), but I don't think either one of those things is ever going to come to pass. We live in a civilization that is inextricably intertwined with a variety of oppressions. To get rid of the oppressions, we've got to fundamentally change the civilization.

We got where we are today after 13,000 years of hierarchy and domination. We won't be able to undo that overnight, but that's all the more reason to start in on it right away.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:16 PM
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Also, this is really good:

The problem with middle-class lifestyle feminism, insofar as there has been one, comes up because it hasn't actually deeply questioned existing structures that don't work for people -- in other words, because it's not really left.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:19 PM
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107: Wow, that was trippy! It's like we have some kind of mind-meld in effect.

Also, my comment above is dedicated to the memory of Tycel Nelson, dead these 18 years. I'm never going to write him off.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:20 PM
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"Well, yeah. I've got my own (white, middle class woman's) problems to deal with."

I think acknowledging that X problems are white middle class feminist issues (as opposed to other kinds of feminist issues) is an important step- which should not delegitimize the issues, necessarily, but clarify that different subgroups will prioritize things differently and require different solutions, and that the solution of "more policing and more prosecution" is not one that is going to work well for all women.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:22 PM
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Wait, so if the purpose of 4th amendment protections/Miranda, etc. is not to protect the innocent, then what are they for?

They are to protect the rights of everyone. Rights aren't something that are granted by the state on the condition of good behavior, to be revoked upon misbehavior.

Sorry if that seems a bit snippy or googley-eyed, but it's an important, fundamental understanding of a liberal worldview.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:30 PM
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Maybe off topic? but maybe not:

I am currently being funded (education-wise) through the NSF, via work under one of six big grants. So we all have to meet with each other every so often and talk about stuff. At one student conference last year, I was in a workshop about "diversity" (which the NSF really likes). Some people were very upset that the NSF requires background surveys for every funded event, and the background includes information about race, SES, gender, sexuality, etc.. Kids were all "but race etc should not matter! We don't like the tokenization and conferences should be color blind!"

But the other side of that argument, I think, is that if you aren't paying close attention to who you are including (at your conference or in your survey or what have you) then you also don't know who you're excluding, or how to make sure you're more inclusive.

My tenuous idea about how this connects to the current conversation is along the lines of "knowing what White Feminists do that is different than Not White Feminists should be able to tell us information about ... uh, something."


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:30 PM
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Interesting philosophical point. X is actually guilty of a crime, but his trial (which finds him guilty of that crime and sentences him accordingly) includes evidence obtained illegally. Has X been treated unjustly?

SCMTim's 104 basically covers it, but I'll expand. X has constitutionally guaranteed rights not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures and not to be compelled to be a witness against himself. These are rights separate and apart from any right not to be wrongly convicted. If you violate X's 4th and/or 5th amendment rights in order to secure a conviction, X has been deprived of rights guaranteed to him under the Constitution and thus has been treated unjustly.

This is all before you consider Y, Z, and Q, whose 4th Amendment rights were also violated, but who were totally innocent and thus never went to court and (effectively) have no recourse.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:37 PM
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Not to mention when Y,Z, and Q live in a neighborhood where such violations are commonplace, helping to establish an adversarial relationship with the law.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:40 PM
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If most criminal defendants are in fact guilty, it's a sign that the constitutional protections are working. That wasn't true, for example, in the South in the old days, or in various places even today. "We know he's guilty of something, who cares whether he's guilty of this?" is a standard operating principle in a lot of the world, and a fair part of the US.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:43 PM
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If most criminal defendants are in fact guilty, it's a sign that the constitutional protections are working.

That's not enough, if there is bias in prosecution.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:50 PM
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117: Maybe not working perfectly, but working in the sense that prosecutors aren't prosecuting the innocent. If the laws are unfair or prosecution is unfairly selective, that's another problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:55 PM
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If most criminal defendants are in fact guilty, it's a sign that the constitutional protections are working

Not true. Totally not true. Y, Z, and Q in the example above never became criminal defendants because they were not guilty. But the cops still violated their constitutional rights by subjecting them to unreasonable searches.

X? Well, he was totally guilty, but the only evidence they had against him was a confession elicited in violation of Miranda and (since he's in Chicago) because someone like Jon Burge beat the shit out of him. Miranda violations generally don't lead to conviction of the innocent (brutally coerced confessions often do), but they do lead to convictions based on the erosion of constitutionally protected rights.

The 4th and 5th Amendment are not there to insure that only the guilty get convicted. They are protections to ensure that the government does not overshoot its authority and compromise the basic tenets of liberty that some of us are sorta kinda attached to.

(CAUTION: Working on a Mirandabrief at the moment. May rile easily.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 1:57 PM
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188: My point was that we were discussing justice, and even a hypothetically perfectly just system on paper can be rendered completely unjust by selective application in practice.

So sure, it's a good sign (if it's true, which is uncertain), but it's doesn't carry much weight standing by itself.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:00 PM
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120: more clearly: `it's a good sign' in the sense that everyone would agree that it's (at least ignoring weird edge cases) more just than systemically common prosecution of the innocent. But that really is about as far as it goes ... it can't tell you much of anything about how just the system is in practice.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:02 PM
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I was responding to Ajay's 103, which seemed to be saking whether, since most defendants are guilty (as Di said), procedural irregularities are really no big deal. I was saying that, if only the guilty are prosecuted, it's in part because defense lawyers are vigilant about procedural irregularities. If they weren't, there's be more malicious and frivolous prosecutions of the innocent.

It was hypothetical; there still are places where you have frivolous and malicious prosecutions, presumably in part because a lot of defendants in those areas do not get adequate legal representation.

I forget to mention that the law is constitutive of guilt and innocence, so that when Di said that most of her criminal defendants were guilty, she was speaking inexactly. Legally speaking, only the ones judged guilty in court were guilty.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:12 PM
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Actually, what Di said was that few of her criminal clients were "innocent". As I understand, "innocent" is not legal terminology; "not guilty" is the term. So her clints were not innocent (colloquially) but not guilty (legally).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:15 PM
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107: It was suggested that black women are less likely to call the police because they (rightly) don't trust the police.

There's an interesting article by Salamishah Tillet over at The Root, in which she says:

Unfortunately, because many African-American female rape victims do not want to perpetuate racial stereotypes about the black male rapist (created and used by white mobs to justify the lynching of economically and politically mobile black men) and the black male criminal (now used to maintain racial disparities in the criminal justice system), they often do not press charges against their assailants because they fear further criminalizing African-American men.

It's not just a well-founded distrust of the police/judicial system, it's a profound - and, withal, ultimately self defeating - awareness of white-male dominated social architecture. To give that social structure more ammunition for its stereotype of the bestial black man is to be a race traitor.

To return to the does-keeping-white-women-"safe" damage the minority community: Factually, most rape is intraracial, most rape is perpetrated by men the women knew, whether friend, family member or acquaintance. This is, in many ways, a side issue, something to waste time musing about online. It's philosophical masturbation. It isn't the problem.

What people - not just WF - need to do is focus on the false premises and inherent inequalities of the justice system and work to ameliorate the situation. Why should the UMC white guy get a lesser sentence for his cocaine possession whilst the non-UMC black man gets slammed ten times more for his crack? Why should a prostitute know that it's pointless to make an accusation of rape, whilst the virgin daughter of the minister be comforted and believed by all and sundry?

The disenfranchisement of felons disproportionately affects black males - if, in truth, one's "debt to society" has been "paid", why are one's voting rights not restored?

I should go on, but right now, I have a wheezing kitten to tend to and Prop 8 to rally against. Having a gay child-of-colour tends to focus my activism.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:25 PM
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Actually, what I said was that I was under no illusions that most of them were innocent. Maybe they were, maybe not. All of the criminal work I have done has been appellate, so by definition all of my clients had been found (or pleaded) guilty. Whether or not they actually were was, at best, a secondary concern.

Procedural irregularities are a big deal whether the accused is guilty or not. If it's easier to secure a conviction by fudging the rules, then the incentive is great to fudge the rules. But the rules are there to protect more than any one individual accused and if they are routinely fudged then they cease to have meaning.

Katherine and Carp can, obviously, speak to this on a far more expansive and frightening level than I can...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:26 PM
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The disenfranchisement of felons disproportionately affects black males - if, in truth, one's "debt to society" has been "paid", why are one's voting rights not restored?

Aren't they? I think they are; but a lot of people don't know it.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:35 PM
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out! out! damn semicolon!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:36 PM
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Ah--it varies by state.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:38 PM
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124: Your kitten is gay? And colored?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:40 PM
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127. Depends on the state. In some states once a felon, votes gone forever. One may petition for reinstatement. I'm sure that happens all the time.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:40 PM
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Re-enfranchisement of felons is actually a movement that seems to have had some success.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:42 PM
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Wow. It turns out that in Illinois, you can vote if you are a convicted felon, once you get out. I totally did not know that, and I work with convicted felons. I guess the word isn't really out.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:47 PM
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I work with not yet indicted felons. Some of them haven't even thought of committing the crime yet, but they will.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:50 PM
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I guess the word isn't really out.

I suspect that's intentional.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:51 PM
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131: I hope so. It's one of the stupidest perversions in the American system I can think of. I find it kind of shitty that prisoners can't vote, but I get that. But, especially given how frivolous a lot of felonies are now (like various drug things), it's completely outrageous that someone can do the crime, serve the time, and then, oh yeah, you're still not really a citizen. Fuck that shit.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:52 PM
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133: I didn't realize you were a Jr. High Vice-Principal.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:54 PM
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135 was me, btw.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:54 PM
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I work with not yet indicted felons.

Don't we all?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:54 PM
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133: Lobbyist?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:55 PM
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Here are some felons that you can help restoring their franchise, JE.
http://www.republicanoffenders.com/unindicted.html


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:55 PM
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132: Unfogged: not a waste of time.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:56 PM
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Unfogged: not just a waste of time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 2:58 PM
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Oregon seems to have a higher proportion of political sex criminals than any other state.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:10 PM
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Not to brag or anything.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:12 PM
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Not to brag or anything.

You count in Minnesota's tally now, John.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:14 PM
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Wow. It turns out that in Illinois, you can vote if you are a convicted felon, once you get out.

This is also true of NC. Once one is no longer under the supervision of the court one can register and vote just like any other citizen. A co-worker of Rah's just registered and voted for the first time upon hearing Rah make an off-handed remark about this. He'd been out of jail and out from under any sort of supervision for years but the state does nothing to inform people that their rights are restored.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:15 PM
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John, are you doing anything for Franken? People ought to be paying a lot of attention to the Senate races right now...plus Senator Franken will be a laff riot!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:15 PM
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142: should be the new mouseover


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:17 PM
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132: One more thing to make sure you advise your clients!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:18 PM
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You count in Minnesota's tally now, John.

That's why we had to get him to move back. We cannot allow a sex-criminal gap.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:19 PM
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Hey, wait a minute here, are you saying that John, John Emerson, John Emerson the Wobegon touting Wobegonian guy is not originally from MN but is instead from Oregon!?

Can that be true?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:25 PM
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Originally from MN, IIRC, but adopted in his youth by Portland's demimonde.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:28 PM
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But a much bigger problem is that there is discrimination between people who did actually commit crimes--men and women of color are incarcerated at drastically higher rates.

Between this thread and the general feel of my canvassing in the past two weekends, one of my core beliefs has been reaffirmed: Fuck White People.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:31 PM
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152: in the context of 150, that's known as spreading the love, right?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:31 PM
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Oh, well that's OK then. I myself was kidnapped at the age of two (by my birth parents but still) and forced to live near Chicago until I reached the age of majority.

There is not much one can do about that.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:33 PM
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Paraphrasing Anatole France, I blush to admit never having any desire to commit a felony, nor needing to. So it is extremely difficult to work up sympathy for those who do commit such crimes or feel they are wrongly prosecuted. That having been said, Our rights are not to be determined by the cops. In fact, the whole idea of the Constitution was to say this is what government can do- only. All people in this country have Fourth Amendment rights, guilty or no.



Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:33 PM
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Fuck White People.

Still, some are OK.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:34 PM
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TLL,

I heard getting a BJ is a felony in some states. What if that is true? You still have no desire to commit a felony?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:36 PM
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I am not in the habit of giving BJ's, Tripp. Felony or no. But I am willing to learn. Plus, I try to plan my out of state visits so that I may not violate any local customs. When in Rome, you know.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:40 PM
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Paraphrasing Anatole France, I blush to admit never having any desire to commit a felony, nor needing to.

This is a common enough sentiment, but I think it reflects more lack of imagination than desire. There is no nice clean dividing line between people who might potentially receive felony convictions and everyone else, however comforting it might be to think that there is.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:42 PM
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158: I think all those laws were struck down by Lawrence v. Texas.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:48 PM
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157: No. I liked my formulation better.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:49 PM
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160 came pretty garbled, I think.

What I mean is that while you can make technical, statistical sense of this, i.e. someone from group A is more likely to be a felon than from group B, when broadly applied it really doesn't tell you all that much about the people involved, because it's all tied up with systemic effects as well.

Thinking that there is a bright line dividing people like me/us from you/them isn't a very useful starting point, at best. At works it leads to some pretty nasty places.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:50 PM
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While Massachusetts recently forbade felons to vote while in prison, many other states are liberalizing their laws and restoring voter right. The LA Times has the infobox today, and of course the must-read is Greg Palast on the 2000 election and how not only felons were scrubbed from the rolls but people with similar names to felons were as well.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:51 PM
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Around here there really aren't separate campaigns. I've canvassed things for Obama, but we had Franken literature with. I'll be phoning on election day.

The voter lists we had were horribly inaccurate.

This year I've donated $250 to Minnesota Democrats, of which $50 was rebated. $150 to the DFL Party and $100 to Tinklenberg (running against Bachmann).

Not a ton of money, but if every Kerry voter gave that much it would total almost 15 billion dollars.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:51 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 3:55 PM
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There is no nice clean dividing line between people who might potentially receive felony convictions and everyone else

Sure there is- it's called committing a crime. Not to say that there aren't erroneous prosecutions, but the closest I would have come is speeding. I don't drive drunk, which is the other main infraction. Now I have the same fantasies of killing those who need killing as the next guy, but it isn't fear of prosecution that stops me.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:12 PM
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I'm sure you're pure as the driven snow, TLL, but I'll bet you at least socialize with people who have committed felonies. There's an awful lot of drug use and small scale dealing in the middle class community, and very little of it ever sees the criminal justice system. Let alone DWI, which again, I'm sure you socialize with people who have done.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:24 PM
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167: But what would happen if your life went down hill radically. Loss of job or family? Mounting debt? New addiction? Can you predict you would never commit a felony?

I'm not saying you would, but a little "There but for the grace of God go I" is always in order.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:24 PM
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167: My suspicion is the most likely felony committed in your set is tax fraud of one sort or another. I think people credibly claim it's pretty widespread.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:35 PM
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I'm sure you are both right. My exemplary moral rectitude has not as yet been challenged by hardship. I am not Jean Valjean stealing bread. I read the other day that Walmart is seeing two week buying cycles in baby formula. Paycheck to paycheck. I remember last time things got rough that baby formula was one of the most pilfered items.

But that's not what we're talking about here is it?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:40 PM
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The point is that people who commit felonies aren't a different kind of people. Might not be you, but it's probably your friends, and your neighbors, and your family.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:45 PM
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I do run with a pretty rough crowd, LB. Point taken.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:47 PM
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TLL: I wasn't meaning to suggest that you personally had committed any felony, of course. I was pointing out the fallacy making a sensible partition of `people like me (who do not commit felonies)' and `people like them (who do commit felonies)' in any particuarly useful or even sensible way. It's broken on several levels.

Of course being convicted of a felony is an empirical test that can be gathered (unlike, say, having committed a felony). It doesn't, however, tell us all that much really useful about the groups of people involved. There are correlations, sure, but they are tied up with a lot of systemic problems as well. So when someone says, 'I can't relate to anyone who has committed a felony', what they really mean is that they can't imagine doing it themselves. They are not easily separable from groups of people who do, in fact, commit felonies.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 4:53 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:13 PM
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Might not be you, but it's probably your friends, and your neighbors, and your family.

And if not them, then certainly your president.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:17 PM
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the previous post (currently 176) was me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:29 PM
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Back to the OP/UP, movements have to have focus, as noted above, and have to be big tents. That means accepting and validating not only the claims of WOC, but also those of WMC women, and even of silly feminists. And it has to be a two way street.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with one agonizing, a la Leblanc, over one's own priorities. Agonzing over one's allies' priorities is deeply counter-productive. Either validate, or solve the problem. And by solve, I mean suggest that in addition to getting more men to pay their child support, let's think of ways to make sure more of them are employed. Or whatever.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:30 PM
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Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. A left tradition since 1848.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:32 PM
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179: I think the question is whether the good outweighs the costs when we include opportunity costs and the like. I suspect it's a hard question to answer for a gigantic group, as benefits and costs fall variously rather than uniformly.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:38 PM
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||

out! out! damn semicolon!

I saw Macbeth performed yesterday for the first time in many years. I had a recollection of the title character as a vaguely sympathetic figure - someone screwed over by destiny.

Not so much, it turns out.

|


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:38 PM
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179: but isn't the reason people are agonizing that measures invoked on behalf of one part of the good are in fact hindering some other parts of the good, thus blocking all hope of the perfect?


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:46 PM
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124: The kitten is definitely a colour. I don't know about her sexual proclivities, what with the spaying and all. I gave her some decongestant [every tried to dribble nose spray into a kitten nostril?] and she seems a bit better.

My son: still gay, still a lovely shade of gold, still politically active. Not, to my knowledge, sniffling or wheezing.

VOTE NO ON PROP 8, all you Californians! The fundies are bombarding the airways with misleading lying ads this week: Your children will be forcibly indoctrinated into the gay agenda, your priest will be sued if he won't marry those unnatural fags, you will be sued if you don't endorse gay marriage... AAAAARGH! [inadequate howl - ed.] Fucking liars who should be struck down by the FSM for their lies lies lies...


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:47 PM
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I'm hoping it's the "measures invoked on behalf of" that are in conflict, rather than the actual goods themselves

good turned into a not very perfect noun on me there, in that sentence. Now it seems like I am talking about a bank robbery.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:49 PM
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Re: felon voting.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 5:51 PM
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http://www.metrolyrics.com/fuk-aneta-briant-lyrics-david-allan-coe.html


Posted by: David Allen Coe | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 6:22 PM
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Biden and Obama oppose prop 8. Biden even said so on the "Ellen" show:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/20/entertainment/e174934D50.DTL&type=politics


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 6:56 PM
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OT, but wow!


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 6:58 PM
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Please go and commit sodomy by instrument upon yourself

this can actually be sort of fun, with sufficient lube. Will it still be legal if Prop 8 passes?

195: Biden still sort of threw Acorn under the bus there. It's incredible the BS being spread about that organization.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:07 PM
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189: I think he almost had to - it was pretty clear that the newsreader wingnut shill was going to harp on that connection, in order to convince her audience that the Big Bad Black Man was trying to steal the election.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:14 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:17 PM
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It's incredible the BS being spread about that organization.

Seriously -- it's an enormous organization that does important work, and now its name is practically synonymous with voter fraud. When I was election observing, a guy came up to me and asked, confrontationally, if the polling place was "being run by ACORN." I said no, of course not, and he shook his head and said, vehemently, "Well, thank God. THANK GOD." As if ACORN is really some kind of huge threat to American democracy. Get a grip, buddy.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:18 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:19 PM
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192: I think, at this point, ACORN's rep is something to be attended to after the election, when the wingnuts have fewer dogs in that fight.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:27 PM
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One of the member leaders of ACORN in L.A. is a short, loud, raspy-voice woman named Bon Bon. She shows up in public meetings and lets it rip against whomever stands in the way of affordable housing, which is their core issue in L.A. She's really funny.

I once had the enormous pleasure of hearing a downtown business lobbyist sneer, "Who pays Bon Bon? That's what you should be looking at." If only I'd known that she was presaging right-wing banananism to come.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:32 PM
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195: Isn't it amusing how the lobbyists cannot imagine that someone would be an advocate without reaping vast amounts of money?


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 7:37 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 8:07 PM
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193: I totally want to be a snatchocrat.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 8:13 PM
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Villaigarosa is a fake Maoist. I'd never vote for him.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 8:31 PM
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I totally want to be a snatchocrat...laydeez.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 8:48 PM
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196: republicans don't do nothin' for free.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 8:57 PM
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From Leblanc's piece: In my everyday life, I have the bizarre affliction of considering myself a white person, but not being seen as a white person by anyone I interact with.

This was a really saddening thing to read.

It's good to see some healthy discussion of white feminism, privilege and the overall effectiveness of the "feminist movement," though. It's long, long overdue and hopefully a sign of things to come.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 9:41 PM
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I refrained from commenting in my own words, because I wanted to find the monthly public service announcement Atrios makes. Here's an example:

One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be. Nick Kristof has played this game in the past, chastising womens' rights groups for not focusing their limited resources on whatever his pet cause of the week happens to be. It's also global warming concern troll Bjorn Lomborg's trick, saying that instead of focusing resources on combating global warming we should use them for a bunch of other things that aren't going to happen. There's always a more important cause, a more deserving subject, a more downtrodden person. It's essentially a way of undermining all good works while building up the critic as More Serious And Enlightened Than Thou.
But people have different priorities. And to the extent people become involved in issues or causes, they have different skill sets, different abilities, different sets of knowledge. They have different things they can bring to the table. Telling people they should be fretting about the women of Afghanistan instead of focusing on eating disorders is, to put it bluntly, just stupid. More than that, it achieves absolutely nothing.


Atrios, 2008 April.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 10-27-08 10:12 PM
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One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be.

OTOH if you relinquish the ability to question and challenge other people's priorities altogether, you essentially relinquish the ability to have a meaningful conversation about pretty much any political or social issue.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 12:06 AM
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Tangentially related to the main post: Charles Barkley's running for governor of Alabama? Hmph. First I'd heard.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 12:21 AM
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Questioning and challenging people's priorities is one thing, but redefining any cause to necessarily include the entire basket of left-wing social justice issues leads you nowhere.

Just as there's tension on the right between the plutocrats and the theocrats, there's going to be tension on the left. Requiring universal buy-in just reduces your numbers to the true believers.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 12:51 AM
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205: Kevin Johnson is running for mayor of Sacramento.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 1:31 AM
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One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be.

Sounds better as an airy generality than when applied to concrete cases. For example, based on this, how would one criticise a "feminist" like Camille Paglia?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 5:46 AM
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And further to this, it's all one-way traffic, isn't it? Do we see SWPL-leftists saying "One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be" when a black community leader, as they sometimes do, expresses a lack of concern about gay rights? When someone says that their main concern in this election is that they want to help build a viable third party and so they won't be voting for Obama, does Atrios say "One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be"?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 5:50 AM
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208 -- Of course. Not making the perfect the enemy of the good goes both ways, and you can't make the tent too big.

Not really obligatory, but it's rainy out.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 5:57 AM
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209 -- There's a real difference between telling someone not to drive the bus off a cliff, and suggesting to the bus driver that she should stop a few feet ahead to the regular stop to help some elderly passengers alight.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 6:00 AM
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For example, based on this, how would one criticise a "feminist" like Camille Paglia?

By pointing out that what's wrong with her priorities isn't just a matter of emphasis, it's that her priorities are actively harmful.

I don't think there's anything wrong with criticism of the form: "X is the most important issue out there, we need everyone who believes they're working for women generally to pay attention to and work for X." But that's really pretty different from saying "It is outrageous that attention and effort are being directed to Y, when there are more important issues to be thought about." By the latter standard, every moment any of us doesn't spend on bringing potable water to Bangaledeshi villagers is an outrage.

When you talk about middle-class feminist concerns being actively harmful to women of color and poor women and their communities, that's certainly a place for direct criticism. The specific criticisms LeBlanc makes in the post, about feminist concerns with sexual violence driving the aggressive policing that destroys poor communities, are, I think, not well founded though. The criminal justice system needs a huge amount of work and attention to make it even vaguely just, but I don't think that what's wrong with it is driven much at all by concerns about sexual violence agains women. (There's a huge weird problem about how sex crimes generally are treated, but I don't think that's a core issue for policing in poor communities, where the problem is much more about our bizarre drug laws and property crime.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 6:04 AM
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There's a real difference between telling someone not to drive the bus off a cliff, and suggesting to the bus driver that she should stop a few feet ahead to the regular stop to help some elderly passengers alight

and strangely, the people who make the decision about what counts as what, aren't usually the ones complaining about being stuck at the back of the bus.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 6:25 AM
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Guardian columnist Zoe Williams has a column which mentioned this topic recently:

The only reason feminism gained any ground at all is that there was measurable injustice at the heart of it. There was a pay gap; there was an opportunities gap; there was a straightforward power void, where a woman was fine if she stayed the right side of her husband. The big mistake of this movement was not that it attacked men ... but that it separated itself from socialism. It shouldn't have. This movement either fights for fairness on behalf of all women, or it's just a petty squabble between middle-class people, fighting for dominance in a conversation no one else is listening to.

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 6:34 AM
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When you talk about middle-class feminist concerns being actively harmful to women of color and poor women and their communities, that's certainly a place for direct criticism.

Katherine's 91 was very good. To the extent that feminism is trying to represent concerns of women, it's a valid criticism if the women it focuses on or gives the spotlight are primarily upper middle class. It's not the fault of feminism that the justice system is corrupt; but if feminism is trying to aid and give advice ("Call the cops because sexual assault must be reported"), it really *is* a failing of feminism if it misses how the corruption of the justice system affects the decisions of women.

That is, the failing isn't that feminism didn't fix the justice system. It's that it didn't really take into account the justice system when thinking about how these issues affect women's live options in response to violence. In other words, the criticism really isn't that feminism hasn't solved all of the world's problems, but that it isn't responsive to reality as it finds it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:20 AM
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or it's just a petty squabble between middle-class people

I dunno. In the absence of a prior commitment to an ideology something like that which Williams holds, it might be hard to justify "petty." In any argument, there are going to be starving kids in Africa at whom to point.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:33 AM
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215 is really good.

Meanwhile,

Do we see SWPL-leftists saying "One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be" when a black community leader, as they sometimes do, expresses a lack of concern about gay rights?

is actually pretty wrong. AFAIK, the majority of politically active black community leaders* range between apathetic and hostile towards gay rights, yet there is no general effort to combat this. Actual gay rights advocates complain about this sometimes, but the rest of the [grits teeth] SWPL-leftists shush them.

To the extent that this discussion happens, it's in the consciousness-raising, awareness-increasing way that I think we've all been on board with. Not even the most bomb-throwing gay rights advocates try to argue that if civil rights leaders really cared about black people, they'd work for gay marriage.

* Less true the higher the profile - but I wouldn't expect the minister marching in my town about police brutality to give a shit about gay rights. He might, but it would be a pleasant surprise.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:37 AM
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That is, the failing isn't that feminism didn't fix the justice system. It's that it didn't really take into account the justice system when thinking about how these issues affect women's live options in response to violence. In other words, the criticism really isn't that feminism hasn't solved all of the world's problems, but that it isn't responsive to reality as it finds it.

This bears repeating.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:37 AM
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Pointing is rude, Tim.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:41 AM
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Having read through more of the thread, ozma's 52: This piece loops back into a place feminists have been many times--in style it is a place of criticizing each other, weighing oppressions against each other, political one-upsmanship.

For my money, this really trivializes and mischaracterizes the Hoffman piece. I don't see how it's "weighing oppressions" and engaging in "political one-upsmanship" for Hoffman to say that, maybe, white feminists could be a little more on the ball about an extremely prominent political development in their backyard like massive immigration raids; it isn't "eating your own," surely, to back up and assess what one's movement is concretely contributing to the major issues of the day. It's not like Hoffman or the people she's citing are talking about insufficient attention to the womyn-of-colour perspective on the latest American Apparel ad or whether high heels are Teh Patriarchal.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:47 AM
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Tangentially related, the USDA has announced that they're cutting a program which is bluntly called Universal Feeding. Basically, it means ALL kids in poor schools get free breakfast and lunch:

"If you have a large majority of poor children in a school, get rid of the paper applications, and just provide free lunches and breakfasts for everyone," [said Stein, the advocate who originally dreamed up the idea].
[...] The lack of paperwork saved the district money. "Filling out 120,000 forms costs more than feeding the children," Specter said.
Universal Feeding also addressed a more subtle problem: the stigma of receiving free meals.
"In the school, there would be one line for free-food kids and another for kids paying," [Mayor] Nutter said. "Maybe some of us forgot what it's like to be in that situation."
Studies show that children who are eligible for free or reduced-cost meals often do not eat them if better-off students pay for their own.
The USDA did not comment yesterday. A USDA spokeswoman said last week that the agency decided it preferred a standard in which every child applied individually for meals because it would be more accurate.
But [US Senator] Casey suggested yesterday that the USDA announced the end of Universal Feeding only after other cities - including New York City and Los Angeles - had asked the agency about adapting the program.
[...] A USDA spokeswoman has said that the program was not ended simply because other cities wanted it.

I am uncharitably translating "more accurate" as "fewer people will apply and WE WON'T HAVE TO GIVE THEM FOOD! NYAH!"


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:51 AM
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I am uncharitably translating "more accurate" as "fewer people will apply and WE WON'T HAVE TO GIVE THEM FOOD! NYAH!"

You're really going to have to up you uncharitable-ness if you want to compete with this bunch.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:53 AM
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To follow up on 220: At least in the stories I read, the Catholic Church was out in front of demanding that nursing mothers be allowed to stay with their children after immigration raids. Not La Leche League, and not mainstream women's organizations more generally.

And anybody remember the massive national brouhaha over immigration in the summer of 2006? I didn't see one single press release, quiet or otherwise, from a mainstream gay-rights organization on the real-life consequences of the immigration laws on gay couples. Now maybe they were deliberately staying quiet because they didn't want to inflame any additional bigotry, but I'm still not convinced that they see this issue as even somewhat related to their mission.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 7:57 AM
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There are starving gay children in Africa.

More seriously, were I trying to solve this problem, I wouldn't so much criticize the mainstream gay-rights organization for failing to say anything about immigration as encourage them to lend their voices to an effort to mitigate the impact of immigration enforecement on gay couples.

The question is whether you're asking them to support your priorities, or abandon their own. Efforts formulated in the latter fashion often fare poorly, no matter how frustrated the people at the back of the bus might be.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:26 AM
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Addressing various comments above: I don't see that M. LeBlanc was pointing any fingers at all. As I understand, she's already voted with her feet by spending her time working on issues such as Guantanamo and immigration, and is saying that even though she's a white feminist, she doesn't feel comfortable with some of the stuff coming out of white feminism. She's not really making a programmatic or polemical statement. And I would guess that part of her discomfort comes from instances when feminists rejected or ignored M. Leblanc's concerns. Painting her as the aggressor seems unfair to me.

206: Redefining any cause to necessarily include the entire basket of left-wing social justice issues leads you nowhere.

The less you support the "entire basket", the more you will feel this way.

There really have been trends in all mostly-white personal-liberation movements (as well as the environmental movement) which were substantially indifferent to racial and class questions or even hostile to advocates of these issues, some of them to the point of being Republican or recruiting Republicans. (Log Cabin Republicans, NARAL feminists, nimby environmentalists, and the bulk of the countercultures are this way). This includes not only feminists and glbt-activists but libertarians, hippies, Deadheads, and punks. And there are others in these movements who are only aware in a very token, ritualistic way.

1. Groups like this can, in fact, accomplish a fair amount for their constituencies while leaving the social justice questions (and I might add, war and peace questions) untouched. In this case you have a white middleclass movement, pure and simple, which might very well take harmful positions on things like policing.

2. To some undetermined extent, even the specific white middle class issues these groups aspire to might be unattainable within the context of an anti-egalitarian warfare state. This will place a definite limit on the possibilities of success of the aforesaid movements. In that case they're not just being asked to be altruistic; they're being told that their goals are bound up with other peoples' goals. (The case in point would be women and sexual minorities who are either non-white or lower middle class and below, who would not find a middleclass white liberation movement addressing their actual needs.)

3. The third point is coalition-building vs. splitting. During the 40 years or so of Republican domination, some personal liberation movements and some environmentalists had partial successes at the cost of working with Republicans and abandoning the class issues and war and peace issues. But they still were part of the losing coalition and had limits to what they could do for that reason.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:28 AM
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215 and 225 are both good.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:31 AM
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More seriously, were I trying to solve this problem, I wouldn't so much criticize the mainstream gay-rights organization for failing to say anything about immigration as encourage them to lend their voices to an effort to mitigate the impact of immigration enforecement on gay couples

This, I think is what is totally at the root of the problem with SWPL-leftism - the general assumption on the part of the SWPL left and SWPL feminism that they're in a position to tell other people what tactics they should be adopting (yes I know, I do it too) but not vice versa.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:31 AM
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(Just to clarify, 223 was not a request for problem-solving; it was an attempt to illustrate what DS and others were getting at above.) And I'm working and can't follow up on this in detail. That said!

More seriously, were I trying to solve this problem, I wouldn't so much criticize the mainstream gay-rights organization for failing to say anything about immigration as encourage them to lend their voices to an effort to mitigate the impact of immigration enforecement on gay couples.

There are always tactic questions of how you go about asking someone to do something. Catch more flies with honey, etc. Sometimes those are the right questions to be asking.

The question is whether you're asking them to support your priorities, or abandon their own.

Except, see, the issue in this case is not "please come support this other priority here," it's "Wow, given that you have already defined yourself as concerned with the rights of women to breastfeed in public without being harassed, the rights of (WMC) women to nurse at the workplace without having to go into the bathroom, etc., might you just possibly see your way clear to supporting the right of a nursing mother not to be separated from her child violently in the middle of the night due to a civil administrative law violation? Even just by issuing a supportive press release?"

I realize I'm sounding snippy and sarcastic, and as I said I don't really have time to go into this further now. This does get to something that is really frustrating about these kinds of issues -- it's not that people who are working on housing should drop everything and work on hunger instead, but that people who say they're terribly worried about housing shouldn't ignore the person down the street whose home is being bulldozed.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:39 AM
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227 -- No it's perfectly fine for non-SWPL groups to tell SWPL leftists or SWPL issue advocates what to do. Unless of course they'd like to have the SWPL leftists et al help them accomplish their goals.

I find JE and DD insufficiently cynical about human nature on this subject.

I would guess that the SWPL left, like the SWPL issue groups, self-selects for people who don't want to be told what to do. (Otherwise they'd be pursuing the SWPL dream unalloyed by leftish concerns).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:40 AM
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harmful positions on things

Harmful to some other set of people, I assume. I don't think that there is a self-evident harm out there that people are either pursuing or allowing to happen in the absence of a cost to mitigation.

the general assumption on the part of the SWPL left and SWPL feminism that they're in a position to tell other people what tactics they should be adopting..but not vice versa.

Maybe that's the hoi polloi assumption. I assume that the SWPL pros reasonably believe that it is a two way street, but that--by virtue of political weight as measured numbers, income, and influence--SWPL groups don't really need to listen and the other guys do.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:47 AM
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I'm cynical enough to think of NARAL / Log Cabin liberationists, libertarians, and nimby environmentalists as effectively the enemy. They've really drawn the line themselves. Andrew Sullivan is hoping to be rehabilitated now, but my hope is that his career withers and that he becomes a "Whatever happened to X?" unit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:48 AM
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the general assumption on the part of the SWPL left and SWPL feminism that they're in a position to tell other people what tactics they should be adopting (yes I know, I do it too) but not vice versa.

But the point is that this isn't a GOTCHA! The general claim here is that each movement has its focus and its priorities, and that, as a general rule, they know best how to deal with them. However, there are inevitably times and situations where a movement will have a blind spot. And the appropriate thing to do is to say, "Hey Movement, you have a blind spot here. It would really dovetail nicely with your mission to address this blind spot in some way, even if only to acknowledge it." The thing NOT to say is, "Hey Movement, you suck for not already having addressed/fixed this blind spot. This only proves that you are blinkered and hopelessly UMC."

This isn't just a method for shutting up the back of the bus: it applies across the board. Don't tell the endangered species people that they're assholes for not dropping everything to focus on climate change; suggest that climate change is closely related to their existing mission, and so they should think about how to address it in their tactics. And don't tell White Feminists that they're assholes for not dropping everything to address policing in minority neighborhoods; suggest that policing in minority neighborhoods has previously-unappreciated feminist implications, and so they should think about how to address it in their tactics. Obviously, detailed, good-faith suggestions about how to address an issue in tactics doesn't qualify as concern trolling or "telling people what their priorities should be."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:54 AM
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As I've said elsewhere, I have a long-time grudge on this issue dating back to "The Personal is the Political, the Political is the Personal" ca. 1975 and confirmed by the support of NARAL and other feminists for the despicable Senator Bob Packwood, who was moderate only on abortion.

Given that, and given that I'm a white, nominally heterosexual male, I didn't rush to post here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 8:59 AM
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233 -- I was a freshman at Cal in the mid-1970s, and certainly lived this conversation. The question, John, is whether you're better off with a NARAL in your tent, or treating them as the enemy. Are they Stalin or Hitler to your Roosevelt?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:08 AM
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Are they Stalin or Hitler to your Roosevelt?

Really? Choose between Stalin or Hitler? You couldn't have offered a mildly non-evil alternative?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:12 AM
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Basically, when they were supporting Packwood, they weren't in my tent. They were in the other tent.

You can be pretty bad without being Hitler, you know. You jumped to the Godwin violation with amazing swiftness.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:13 AM
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221:And I bet Barack the Redistributor wants to "spread the food around". So if you don't want to turn into Sweden—Wake up White People!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:14 AM
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Really? Choose between Stalin or Hitler? You couldn't have offered a mildly non-evil alternative?

I don't think "Stalin" and "Hitler" were meant to represent possible alternatives to one another; it's a single group, opposed to FDR. CC's claim is, I think, that NARAL is not evil.

He's wrong, of course.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:18 AM
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One thing I'll note is that people shouldn't underestimate the extent to which single/narrow-minded individuals can be enormous engines for change, and there's no point in trying to redirect such people. I don't actually much enjoy such people, but I respect what they can accomplish.

To draw a comparison from my field, the "alternative building" arena (log cabins, cordwood, earth shelter, rammed earth, etc.), my personal feeling is that (nearly) all kinds of alternative construction techniques are good and have their place, although I have my preferences. But each of these techniques have their evangelists, straw bale builders who look down on cordwood builders with disdain. And, for the most part, it's these evangelists who do the most to advance the individual techniques, even as their blinkered attitudes slow the growth of the field as a whole.

Point being, it's no use saying, "Damn, Sally the Strawbailer just doesn't get it." I hate to say it, but be the change you wish to see. Become a generalized promoter of the field. Find the people who have defined their mission broadly, and support them.

The comparison breaks down a bit when you scale up to organizations, but as was noted way up above, the general-purpose feminist orgs are aware of some of the issues M raises. Some orgs start narrow and broaden their focus; others stay effective by maintaining that narrow focus. If you feel that an org is too narrow, engage with them, see if they can imagine broadening, and go from there. But don't assume that their failure to engage with your personal focus means that they are arrogantly ignoring it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:19 AM
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And the appropriate thing to do is to say, "Hey Movement, you have a blind spot here. It would really dovetail nicely with your mission to address this blind spot in some way, even if only to acknowledge it." The thing NOT to say is, "Hey Movement, you suck for not already having addressed/fixed this blind spot. This only proves that you are blinkered and hopelessly UMC."

This, exactly. Criticisms asking feminist activists to pay attention to and work on issues that they're overlooking because of their own class and race backgrounds are vital, and white middle class feminists who are concerned with social justice should be working on getting past those blind spots preemptively, trying to make that sort of criticism unnecessary. I really do accept this part of LeBlanc's critique absolutely.

I'm digging in my heels and arguing against the position that feminism, even the middle-class kind, is generally harmful, or a step in the wrong direction, rather than too small a step in the right direction. I don't think middle-class feminists have anything, generally, to be ashamed of for being feminist; they have something to be ashamed of for being middle-class people insufficiently concerned with social justice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:21 AM
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The general claim here is that each movement has its focus and its priorities, and that, as a general rule, they know best how to deal with them. However, there are inevitably times and situations where a movement will have a blind spot. And the appropriate thing to do is to say, "Hey Movement, you have a blind spot here. It would really dovetail nicely with your mission to address this blind spot in some way, even if only to acknowledge it." The thing NOT to say is, "Hey Movement, you suck for not already having addressed/fixed this blind spot. This only proves that you are blinkered and hopelessly UMC."

Really? Do the SWPL really treat other groups this way? What about, say, the Reverend Al Sharpton? Or for that matter, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? I seem to remember a lot less "it would really dovetail nicely with your mission" and a lot more "STFU, you bastard, and stick to your job of delivering votes to the Democratic Party".

Or more succinctly; why, exactly, is it that SWPL groups and the mainstream of the Democrats are allowed to take the support of minority groups and the far left for granted, rather than vice versa?

If your answer to the above was "that's the way it is, deal with it", do you really not think there's something a little bit fucked up about that?

If your answer to that, too, is "that's the way it is, deal with it", then can you perhaps see how some people might, over time, find this a little bit frustrating to deal with?

And if your answer to this is still "that's the way it is, deal with it", then can we agree that the proper name for this state of affairs is "white privilege"?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:21 AM
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I'll just say some things in a jumble...on the question of white feminism, virtually every time I've talked to a feminist of color/womanist/WOC who works on women's issues I've heard her say that white feminists just aren't there on her issues, that she feels that she's done her bit on issues that mostly help middle class white women, and that she's tired of the infrastructure of racism on the left. The fact that I've heard this again and again and again trumps almost everything else for me, because we as women aren't going to win on anything really important if white middle class women are de facto making WOC feel excluded. Also because abandoning people is the primary sin.

I have a couple of friends who have committed (fairly minor) forms of sexual harassment/assault. (That is, in neither case was there actual rape.) Both have been through various kinds of therapy and community restitution. I've told them what I think of what they did. But I'm a bit on the other side of this from many feminists...I don't even know how to say this so that it comes out correctly, but it's just awful to try to figure out how to help a friend who's done something really unacceptable, even when he's sorry. It's tough to figure out how to be a friend to the perp without taking focus from the victim and yet abandoning the perp just makes the problem worse.

So I tend not to feel quite as sanguine about "rapists get what's coming to them" as some women do.

I don't like cops and I don't like jails. I've never been raped. I don't know how I'd feel if I was.

I just don't feel like the left will ever really win for good and all if we keep deciding that the weakest and most vulnerable will be best served by the measures that do the most for the richest and most secure.

I think we also overestimate how secure we are, most of us. I'm an 85% time secretary. I don't make much money. I'm weird and not feminine and I have trouble fitting in. The measures that make life better for low income people and women of color are far more suited to me than are the measures that make life better for well-off white women, if I have to pick what to work on. A lot of culturally middle class white women (college-educated but pink-collarized, frex) don't get this...or else they believe deeply that they will go back to grad school and end up making a lot more money.

And...I made a new friend during RNC! A friend from a much more marginal background! She's really smart! And also really working class in speech and manner! And also really committed to anarchism. We've talked a lot about social programs and the left from the side of the victim of charity, since she's been through some of that social-work/welfare/emergency-aid machinery. It's really made me realize how often the system treats poor people like they're stupid--she's told me so much about the hoops she had to jump through, the patronizing advice and the chronic lack of ready money/prescriptions/medical care/housing...lots of advice that wasn't well-suited to her needs and almost none of the things that would have given her enough of a breathing space to get her life in shape. And I've seen people on the left treat her like she's stupid in meetings because she doesn't talk like a middle class person. Slowly this has changed in our collective, but it's taken a hell of a long time and a little bit of very frank speaking for people to understand that she's smart and has a lot to contribute.

...This may not seem relevant to the matter at hand, but I do think that on questions of race, social justice, wealth and policing we on the middle class left almost always speak for people we've only encountered as charity cases, clients, etc---rarely as friends and equals. There's not too much space in the US for adults to make genuine cross-class friendships.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:22 AM
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because we as women aren't going to win on anything really important if white middle class women are de facto making WOC feel excluded

As an empirical statement, this isn't true; you'll continue to win victories on issues mainly of importance to white-middle-class women, because the SWPL element will continue to be able to count on the support of non-SWPL women, because the SWPL-feminists have no power at all on their own and no other potential allies, so as pointed out so many times above, they pragmatically have to continue to make deals on the SWPL's terms or give up on getting anything at all.

It's basically the model of trickle-down economics, and ethically on about the same footing.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:27 AM
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LB, I don't think that anyone is saying that feminism itself is wrong. The criticisms are specifically targetted within a general support for feminist issues, including the upper middle class feminist issues such as the glass ceiling.

Back to NARAL, being no-partisan or bipartisan is morem or less in their charter, and what that means is that they take Democrats for granted, make demands on them, and attack the Democrats who displease them, while buttering up Republicans and supporting them with quite remarkable loyalty.

If the issue is forced, I will support a dovish, socially-conservative, social-justice Democrat over a center-right pro-choice Republican every time. I don't want the issue to be forced, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:30 AM
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Emerson's no Roosevelt either. The question doesn't have anything to do with the intrinsic qualities of NARAL, Hitler, or Stalin. It's just a stark but very familiar example of lesser evil decision-making.

I'll probably think of something as well known later in the day. Best I can do right now is it's the 17th century, you're a Huron, and are you going to use the French against the Iroquois, or join with the Iroquois to drive out the French. We know how it worked out for them . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:30 AM
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CC's claim is, I think, that NARAL is not evil.

Really, not in the very least. My question was solely about JE's point of view.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:33 AM
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I don't think middle-class feminists have anything, generally, to be ashamed of for being feminist; they have something to be ashamed of for being middle-class people insufficiently concerned with social justice.

At bottom, the issue is the extent to which such women are leveraging the weight (and, insofar as people respond to tales about such, suffering) of women who are not in that group by claiming to represent "women" as in "all women." I guess I see a bit of a parallel between a prior discussion here about whether various people ought to identify as feminists and, for example, the recent Palin remarks about "real America." In both cases someone is claiming the authority to define some important, general, moral entity (decent people for feminists, real Americans for Palin), and is excluding people who believe they properly belong in that group. Some people find that irritating.

If your answer to the above was "that's the way it is, deal with it", do you really not think there's something a little bit fucked up about that?

Possibly, but that doesn't really change anything.

can you perhaps see how some people might, over time, find this a little bit frustrating to deal with?

I don't think anyone has said anything contrary to this. Or, AFAIK, this: can we agree that the proper name for this state of affairs is "white privilege"? I don't actually think any of this is news to anyone.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:34 AM
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Hi, Dsquared. I think what I was trying to say is that I don't view things that are important only to middle class white women as super-duper important, convenient as they may be to me personally. I think most middle class white feminists have a list of issues we'd bracket as really important, along the lines of paid family leave, a really effective national health care system that funds reproductive health stuff at every level, etc...those are precisely the things we won't win alone. We'll win stupid pathetic little things like some kind of half-assed health care program, and then those things will get rolled back when times get tight.

"Together or not at all" is better than "separate, bought-off and half-assed".

(I mean, technically as an anarchist I want alternative nonhierarchical institutions to displace those of capitalist society, etc, but we don't need to talk about that right now.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:36 AM
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In various circumstances NARAL showed itself to be an unreliable ally or no ally at all, especially when they supported pro-choice incumbent Republicans aganist pro-choice Democrats.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:38 AM
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I think most middle class white feminists have a list of issues we'd bracket as really important, along the lines of paid family leave, a really effective national health care system that funds reproductive health stuff at every level, etc...those are precisely the things we won't win alone. We'll win stupid pathetic little things like some kind of half-assed health care program, and then those things will get rolled back when times get tight.

Right. Exactly. There was some criticism in the Bitch thread of middle class feminists because FMLA was useless to anyone who can't afford to take unpaid leave. And on the one hand, that's off-base as criticism: middle-class feminists certainly would have preferred to get a law passed providing for paid leave, but just didn't have the political muscle to do it. But on the other hand, we're not going to get the political muscle to institute broadly useful reforms without a broader movement.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:39 AM
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Here's a non-feminist example of the sort of thing I have in mind. My cousin, who studied at an Ivy League school, used to participate in these community outreach things where a bunch of undergrads would go to the local inner-city middle school to talk about college, and why it's important to Stay in School, and Get Good Grades, and the kids got stickers and buttons and cupcakes and it seemed like a good time was had by all.

A friend of mine, though, at the same Ivy League institution but via a welfare-ish background and a public university thought the day was great, but limited. Most of the kids weren't going to get into Harvard or Yale or Princeton. (Most people don't.) Most of them wouldn't be able to afford it if they did; and none of the presentations said anything about financial aid, or community colleges, or universities that didn't cost $45K a year. Her thoughts were that had she been exposed to this as a kid, she might have dreamed, but she also might have thought that there was no way her mom could afford that, so why try?

That doesn't make the Ivy League school wrong to have a community outreach school day, but it does mean that it might be good not to mistake it for something that it isn't.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:40 AM
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But on the other hand, we're not going to get the political muscle to institute broadly useful reforms without a broader movement.

Which plausible may be undermined by spending political capital on measures that in the end are narrowly targeted to benefit middle class feminists.... sounds a bit chicken-and-egg, when you put it that way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:43 AM
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#248 - sorry I'm not getting at you personally but I think you've underestimated the cynicism of the SWPL at the top of the tree:

I think most middle class white feminists have a list of issues we'd bracket as really important, along the lines of paid family leave, a really effective national health care system that funds reproductive health stuff at every level, etc

I don't really agree; I think that the empirical evidence would suggest that "more women CEOs" and such are actually top of the priority list.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:43 AM
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It's not 'STFU, your job is to deliver votes' so much as 'without power, we can't do anything, and you're going to keep us from power.' Yes, people who feel ill-served by their coalition partners have a choice to make. One would hope that that choice could include encouraging those partners to adopt better common goals. But there's no draft in progressive movements, and you can't compel passion.

OK, rather than Hitler or Stalin, now I'll say Gore and Bush. Although it's only a matter of time before Godwin refers to GWB.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:46 AM
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For my money, this really trivializes and mischaracterizes the Hoffman piece.

And for my money, it trivializes Hoffman's argument to say that she proposes that "maybe, white feminists could be a little more on the ball about ... massive immigration raids."

Hoffman is saying, quite explicitly, that meaningful feminism cannot exist absent support for open borders and prison abolition.

This is what Hoffman criticizes as "white feminism":

I wonder again: What is your feminism for? If it is for disruption and redistribution of power across society (i.e., not just for women like you), it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants' rights movement

Hoffman effectively sets up opposition to "militaristically enforced national borders" as a litmus test for appropriate feminism. She's not saying that feminists ought to be more educated about the open borders movement (although that's obviously a necessary first step), she's saying that feminism = no border enforcement.

Now you can agree or disagree with that, but to render Hoffman's argument in this anodyne fashion - that feminists "maybe" should know more about other political issues - is to render the argument meaningless.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:46 AM
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why, exactly, is it that SWPL groups and the mainstream of the Democrats are allowed to take the support of minority groups and the far left for granted, rather than vice versa?

This isn't the situation I'm talking about - or rather, you're conflating several situations. WRT the Democratic Party, that's a whole different can of worms that we've talked about before, and I'm not interested in talking about right now - the DP is an incredibly big tent that ignores virtually all of its members in turn (ask the UAW about the DP positions on carbon and gas mileage).

WRT so-called SWPL groups - I'll take the Wildlife Conservancy as emblematic - they don't take support from minority groups or the lefty left for granted. They go about their business, defining their own mission, raising money from White People, and working the system. To say, "Hey WC, you suck for not addressing starving Africans" is really fucking irrelevant. I would imagine that OxFam isn't doing much about saving the Bengal tiger, either.

For an explicitly broad-based, yet SWPL-identified group, like NOW, it's certainly relevant to say, "You need to address WOC issues." And guess what? They do. There are links up above if you doubt it. That doesn't mean that they're perfect or whatever. It just means that "you suck" is inappropriate and unfair.

As for the other direction, I can't think of many good examples of SWPL groups trying to dictate issues to minority/left groups. As I said above, HRC doesn't actually spend much, if any, energy scolding black ministers about homophobia. There are outreaches and so on, but that's in the category I've already said is good all around.

There's definitely the distaste for DFHs, but I'm not convinced that it's primarily coming from the SWPL groups - did NOW denounce Seattle '99? I don't think so. WC presumably puts out press releases bad-mouthing ELF, but ELF are an actually outlaw org. BikePGH officially distances itself from Critical Mass, even as its officials all participate in it and it appears on the Bike Calendar - it's a dance that's part of society. I'm not sure it's quite the same as pushing people to the back of the bus.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:46 AM
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It's not 'STFU, your job is to deliver votes' so much as 'without power, we can't do anything, and you're going to keep us from power.'

as I say, trickle-down economics.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:52 AM
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Part of what we're talking about isn't especially connected to race or gender at all. Movements tend to focus on the specific interests of leaders of the movements. The black equivalent of the feminist "more women CEOs" would be "more black CEOs", with Women's Studies and Black Studies departments hiring black and feminist leaders being comparable cases.

You can push this further to non-profits in general, or politicized churches. Whether or not abortion is prohibited, anti-abortion clergy do well for themselves. A non-profit cultural group, once it's moderately successful, provides a living for its organizer.

Twice I've seen non-profit built up by years of volunteer labor taken over by outsider credentialed "professionals" once they could afford to support someone. The founders and builders of the groups weren't qualified.

The above sound libertarianish, but I'm not a libertarian. These are things that have to be thought about by liberal and those further left.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:53 AM
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I think `trickle down social justice' as d^2 styles it is a pretty good parallel.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:54 AM
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Which plausible may be undermined by spending political capital on measures that in the end are narrowly targeted to benefit middle class feminists.... sounds a bit chicken-and-egg, when you put it that way.

I think that, empirically, this is not true. I don't think that the country would have been better off sticking with the original electorate until such time as we were ready to switch to universal suffrage. Social Security has gotten better and more comprehensive since its enactment - it would have been pretty foolish for FDR to veto it on the basis that it didn't yet have this coverage.

Republicans are terrified of progressive items getting enacted even in part, because they recognize the "nose under the tent" effect. I think it would be pretty stupid of the left to ignore that bit of evidence.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:55 AM
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I don't really agree; I think that the empirical evidence would suggest that "more women CEOs" and such are actually top of the priority list.

What empirical evidence, pray tell, are you talking about?! I mean, sure, I'd be happy indeed to see more than one lonely woman on my firm's management committee. But even UMC I would put paid family leave and effective national health care higher on the priority list.*

* Albeit with the recognition that the goals are symbiotic rather than competitive -- as more women rise to the top of the food chain, they are more likely to recognize the need for and implement reforms that enable women to more easily balance their work and family obligations; as more reforms are implemented that enable women to better balance work/family obligations, women will more easily rise to the top of the food chain.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:55 AM
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To me NOW would contrast to NARAL as a middle class feminist group which is really on my side, whereas NARAL explicitly refuses to be on my side.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:57 AM
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260: I said `plausibly may be undermined by' not `is canceled out by' for a reason. The nose-under-the-tent effect exists, certainly. That doesn't mean it is the most effective way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 9:58 AM
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253, 261: There's also a low-hanging-fruit problem. A lot of the issues important only to UMC feminists are pretty cheap to resolve -- more women CEOs is a goal that can be achieved with persuasion, rather than requiring a whole lot of funding, like paid family leave does. That doesn't mean it should be a higher priority, but it does mean that it's not surprising that a lot of the visible progress has happened on the easier issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:00 AM
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259 -- I do too. The question is what is the alternative? Hectoring isn't going to work. Putting Bush in power isn't going to work. Staying in the back of the bus isn't going to work. Limited co-optation seems the best answer, from the outside.

Where these conversations fall apart, though, is when delusion takes over. I'm sure (well, I hope) we'll soon here shouted from all around that Palin would have won if McCain had let her take the gloves off. Limbaugh is a current exponent of this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:01 AM
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, they are more likely to recognize the need for and implement reforms that enable women to more easily balance their work and family obligations; as more reforms are implemented that enable women to better balance work/family obligations, women will more easily rise to the top of the food chain.

I think the underlying claim is that this isn't true, or, less strongly, isn't true for non-SWPL issues.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:04 AM
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264: That, and there is a pretty big intersection between the smallish group of people for whom these issues are particularly important, and the people who might have the political & social capital to push for it. The questions are I guess: could that capital be better spent elsewhere, and does the act of spending it make deeper issues less likely to be addressed.

The answer to the first is almost certainly yes, but in the same sense that there is almost always a `better cause', so it's not very interesting. The second is thornier, and I have no idea if it's true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:05 AM
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255: That's not what your excerpt says. She says, " it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants' rights movement." That's different from "feminism = no border enforcement."

I'm actually not clear in what sense feminism is "exploitative" of the prison abolition and immigrant rights' movements, but "ignorant" has been extensively addressed here, and "counter to" is also something we've talked about - my phrasing above was "Hey Movement, you have a blind spot here. It would really dovetail nicely with your mission to address this blind spot in some way, even if only to acknowledge it." Once NOW truly recognizes these concerns as part of feminism, it will cease countering them, and in at least some ways support them.

I think there's some confusion here about the distinctions between comrades, allies, and enemies.

All that said, I'm sobered by Frowner's "virtually every time I've talked to a feminist of color/womanist/WOC who works on women's issues I've heard her say that white feminists just aren't there on her issues, that she feels that she's done her bit on issues that mostly help middle class white women, and that she's tired of the infrastructure of racism on the left."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:05 AM
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Again, M. LeBlanc wasn't about hectoring or fingerpointing or rejecting. She was just saying that, as a white middle-class feminist deeply engaged in not-specifically-feminist issues, she wasn't completely comfortable with mainstream feminism. The concrete outcome was that she puts most of her energy into the issues she's chosen, and spends less time with the feminist group she's uncomfortable with. It's not like she's going to their meetings and disrupting them, or publishing public denunciations in the press, or anything like that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:06 AM
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JRoth: yes, that is sobering.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:06 AM
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does the act of spending it make deeper issues less likely to be addressed

And here I think that the civil rights movement is illustrative. To Joe the Plumber, blacks got all their rights way back in the 60s, and asking for anything more is bellyaching (at best). Now, I don't think you can argue that the civil rights movement started out demanding less important things, but my point is that the apparent success of the movement forestalled its ultimate success in combatting inequality and institutional racism. Conceivably there's a world in which UMC feminists have gotten theirs, and they shut down the movement.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:11 AM
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269 -- imo, LeBlanc's a saint. But I think there's more to her post than that.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:11 AM
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242, 268, 270: Yes. Certainly, there's no respectable way to argue that poor women and women of color should quietly accept that their issues are going to have to wait until everything important to UMC women is resolved; no one should ever take that position.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:13 AM
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Conceivably there's a world in which UMC feminists have gotten theirs, and they shut down the movement.

Right, and I really don't know enough about this to offer any conclusions, it just doesn't seem to be something you can disregard as implausible.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:14 AM
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There's not too much space in the US for adults to make genuine cross-class friendships.

Very, very true.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:17 AM
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There's not too much space in the US for adults to make genuine cross-class friendships.

This is true, and sad. There isn't even much room to maintain cross-class friendships if you've changed yours.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:19 AM
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Democratic, liberal, feminist, and even radical leaders tend to be educated and upper middle class, and to be insensitive with anyone aof any race who is less-educated and lower middle class or below.

When I talk about education, I'm mostly talking about unprosperous kids with B averages deciding whether to go to a state school or a community college, or just to get a job. But often the conversation slips back up to UMC parents funding Ivy League educations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:19 AM
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cross-class friendships.
Indians are even more strict, i remember i was asked whether i carry my suitcase myself by my Indian friend and i was like, sure, i'm an able bodied etc
and he said, come on let the luggage carrying people eat too


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:27 AM
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What an interesting and frustrating discussion. I feel like there's massive missing-the-point going on but, for the life of me, I can't put my finger on what the point that is being missed is.

As a side note, I think JRoth makes a valid point when he said:

One thing I'll note is that people shouldn't underestimate the extent to which single/narrow-minded individuals can be enormous engines for change, and there's no point in trying to redirect such people. I don't actually much enjoy such people, but I respect what they can accomplish.

I wonder, as a hypothesis, to what extent the perceived successes of UMC Feminists as compared to WOC should be seen as a result of the simple fact that the single-minded activists for UMC issues have more resources with which to achieve their goals, rather than a missalocation of resources by "the movement."

That's possibly a semantic distinction but it does strike me that, to the extent we're talking about a "movement" that the challenge is frequently to figure out how to foreground different people/groups rather than figuring out how to get existing groups to change their minds -- as an example of the general principle that old ideas are superceded not by convincing the people that hold them to change, but by waiting for the people that hold them to die.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 10:45 AM
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re: 277

Yes, definitely. I hit my head against the same wall when talking about education.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 11:12 AM
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268:

Hoffman:

If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 11:21 AM
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If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds.

Fair enough, she said it. But, to be blunt, I think it's pretty dumb. It takes a metaphor, strives to make it literal, and then scolds others for not doing so. Was Blake suggesting that the key to seeing the world properly actually had anything to do with slabs of wood?

A lot of very dumb movements over the years have mistaken the appurtenances of a thing for its reality: Fresh air is good for kids! Therefore we should send them to school in buildings without glass in the windows! In New England! In winter!

Shit, snake-handlers and poison-drinkers.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 12:41 PM
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281: If you actually look at the context, she's saying that feminism cannot ignore (or worse, exploit) the prison-abolition and immigrant rights movements which are speaking to major issues of the day. And, well, they are. And the feminists she's critiquing aren't. And that is a problem; xenophobia and the prison-industrial complex can be fairly described as towering issues with which anything that calls itself a social movement, if it's serious, should be contending.

She does not in fact come anywhere near saying that subscribing to the most literal possible interpretation of those movements should be a "litmus test" for feminism. The irony of the quote about "challenging borders and prisons of all kinds" is that it's really just the sort of reflexive boilerplate she's complaining about. But that doesn't invalidate her larger point by any means.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-28-08 5:09 PM
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