Misogynists and the Left

First Gerry Healy, then Tommy Sheridan, George Galloway and now Martin Smith.  Why are so many men who obtain leadership positions within socialist organisations so ignorant of women’s rights that they sexually abuse women, excuse sexual violence and participate in sexual exploitation?

Article also available in French and Greek

Most readers of this blog will be too young to remember the scandal that was the Workers Revolutionary Party.  Led by Gerry Healy – a celebrated international trotskyist, it imploded in 1985 after Aileen Jennings, Healy’s longtime secretary, sent a letter to the Political Committee of the party claiming that the Party’s headquarters and Healy’s nearby residence were being used for “opportunistic sexual liaisons .  Or in less delicate language, that Healy was systematically raping female members of the party, using a combination of intimidation and outright threats of violence to ensure their silence.  Twenty six women came forward to state that they had been raped by Healy, one beaten so badly that she was left disabled. The WRP imploded.

More recently, the Scottish Socialist Party collapsed after it came to light that its poster boy, Tommy Sheridan, had been visiting sex clubs.  A doomed attempt by Sheridan to sue the News of the World failed after the majority of the leadership refused to lie under oath as he attempted to cover up his dodgy sexual dealings by appeal to a bourgeois narrative of a “committed family man”.   A successful defamation action was quickly followed by a perjury trial and further stories of his involvement with shadowy gangland figures involved in the sex industry followed.  Although the leadership distanced itself from Sheridan, the damage was done.

Last year, George Galloway publicly stated that under some circumstances, rape was merely bad manners.  When Selma Yacoob distanced herself from this, Galloway went on the offensive and within the month, the only left-wing party to be headed up by a woman had lost its leader as party members made her position untenable preferring to back a celebrity misogynist to a prominent Black woman.

And now Martin Smith.  Rumours of sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual violence being covered up within the SWP have circulated for years.  And several of them pointed directly at the National Secretary, Martin Smith.  The splits which lead to both Counterfire and the International Socialist Group were in no small part prompted by the cover-up of these allegations and a refusal on the part of the leadership to properly investigate them.  Yet neither explicitly mentioned them in their statements on why they were forming a new organisation.  The genie is however now out of the bottle.  The recent SWP conference saw two declared factions and rumours of a third emerge as people close to the SWP spoke of* a signed statement circulated from women in the party confirming that Martin Smith was indeed a sexual predator   The most prominent signatory on that list has now been edged out, as the SWP moves to try to contain the damage.

The question must be asked.
Why do misogynists rise to such positions of prominence on the left?

 Firstly, there is simply the issue that lots of men are misogynist cunts.  Its really not that uncommon.  Consequently it is unsurprising that a number of them find their way to left-wing organisations.  We should not be taken aback that at least some of them emerge within left wing organisations, we should expect it.  From rape culture to raunch culture, misogyny is everywhere. One in twenty men have raped at least one person, each one committing an average of six rapes.    And consequently we should look at ways that we can limit the opportunities for misogyny, and in particular sexual violence, to manifest within our organisations.

Where men hold power within an organisation, power can be conferred to women through engaging in sexual relationships with them.  When a prominent activist starts a relationship with a lesser known female activist, responsibilities and political favours can flow as a consequence.  This leads to a consolidation of power, whereby indirect control is exercised over areas of work through the relationship, situating her activism within his own power base.   This can be used as a lever to continue a relationship that woman wishes to leave. The end of the relationship mean the end of the female activist’s prominence as their former lover seeks to marginalise them within the organisation, while resentment at the perceived or real favours which have been granted lead people to overlook their political work.

Within such an environment, the lovers of senior male members become promoted as the womens representatives of the organisation.  Any suggestion of male domination is countered by pointing to such female activists.  Yet the access that senior male party member have to their time through their relationship can be utilised to ensure that they do not challenge that male domination.  Personal and political loyalties become entwined, and with both it is always the men who hold the upper hand.

Men – as a group – gain power from other men’s sexual violence.  Women are trained to fear sexual violence, consequently are less likely to participate in late night meetings, leaving to get public transport for safety reasons rather than walk home.  Despite men also being victims, they do not systematically fear that violence in the same way.  So meeting, or corresponding, with a male political acquaintance does not have the same implications for a man as it does for a woman.  Men can arrange meetings in environments hostile to women, then shrug when no women turn up.  Women self-police their behaviour to avoid any implication of “leading someone on” or “giving someone the wrong impression”, systematically limiting their involvement in organisations where much of the power  is held by men.

The backlash that women face when alleging sexual violence is a further factor.  An attitude of “police or it didn’t happen“,  silences women within an environment where the police are recognised as a force of state control with an appalling record on handling rape cases, particularly where the perpetrator is known to the victim.  Most women who experience sexual violence do not go to the police – for very good reasons – yet whatever decision is made, it is likely to be the woman who loses.  Only approximately 5% of rape allegations ever result in conviction.  To go to the police with an allegation against a prominent member of a left wing party brings in accusations of “grassing” and with a 95% chance of no conviction resulting, the ongoing narrative is likely to be one of exoneration of the perpetrator and demonisation of the victim – making subsequent victims less likely to come forward.

Yet attempts to manage sexual violence within the organisation do not have a good track record, particularly where the perpetrator holds a position of power.  To take action against a perpetrator while maintaining the desired level of confidentiality for the victim is to navigate a minefield of allegations of faction-fighting and power struggles.  Some of these are not unfounded as power hungry men within political parties seek to capitalise on the wrong doings of prominent members to advance their own position.  Loyalty to those who already hold power is rewarded as cover-ups ensue, while other men seek to use the power vaccuum which emerges in the event of a sexual scandal to build a power base.  And quite often the fundamental issue that women are being systematically excluded and denied collective power because of male sexual violence gets lost.

Within such organisations, where male power is not challenged, women are used as pawns, and sexual violence goes unremarked, misogynists will find their behaviour glossed over and covered up – leading to the incredible arrogance that they are not only above their female counterparts but above the law itself.  They rely on their identification with the organisation and the damage that such revelations would do to the party as a whole to keep allegations at bay, while corroboration with other abusers and misogynists fearful of similar exposure conspire to continue the male domination.

For Saville as with Smith, this silence cannot be endured any longer.  Where previously women were isolated, facing a monolith of consolidated power, there are now far more opportunities for women to speak with other women about their experiences of misogyny and violence and to actively and effectively challenge it.

The left is the home of feminism and it is time that we started kicking the misogynists out the door.

Edited 9/1/13 – to clarify that the information signed statement regarding Martin Smith was based on discussions from outwith the conference.

 

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76 comments
betsy w
betsy w

Incredible that Murdo should claim:"sexual violence against women can become sexual violence against other men... when it is directed against wives, partners, daughters, mothers ....." Aha, so it's men who are victims?Poor guys - I guess we're all sustaining the same trauma of physical & economic injury, humiliation, rage, pregnancy, pain and terror.Hardly.What an egocentric, homocentric statement to make.This observation indicates a view of women as property of men, like the Taliban have: i.e. "sexual violence against women can become sexual violence against men... when directed against wives, partners, daughters..."  For the male supremacist, harming a woman associated with a man is a way of disrespecting the man, injuring the man - women are merely the means to an end. What women suffer in sexual assault is overshadowed by its effect on her male associates.Isn’t this the justification men (fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, husbands) use to murder women who’ve been sexually “compromised?”Because these men believe sexual attacks on “their” women are an affront to them. I’m not presuming here that the men are simply “feeling her pain” because no man could ever understand the fear of pregnancy or carrying a rapist’s sperm. If they did, they would generally, and always, speak out against sexual coercion, no matter the victim, or their relation to the victim.It’s really hard to hear media commentators prating on about how everyone is afraid to be out at night when there’s a series of random attacks in the neighborhood (usually sexual assaults, robberies, rapes or murders) when it’s really only women who are terrorized and men are relatively unscathed, unperturbed by the incidences and free to come and go.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

betsy w  Yes, I am aware many women don't like it.  The more I get feedback on this (especially from Americans) the more I can see that it is a very http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/03/26/reclaiming-the-cunt/, where it isn't used in the same way as across the pond, but has a duel meaning.  For example being described as "a truthful cunt" would be one of the highest accolades that you could give of someone's honesty. Its kindof like "malaka" (μαλάκα) in Greek which can be a horrific insult, but is also used as a term of affection, or even possibly the way that "nigga/nigger" is used both as a term of affection within the Black community and as a very virulent insult.

betsy w
betsy w

@admin That term empowers men - not women.  It strikes anger and fear into the hearts of women who are aware of its political import.  Such a term cannot be reclaimed as it's a verbal weapon wielded by misogynists to reduce women to a body part they can dominate by force.  It would be like trying to reclaim rape or domestic violence or the "B" word.  I don't buy it.  Try to beat men at their own game?  Many of us don't want to play their game.  Who can outdo the other?  Men (those who make, enforce, play by, or go along with the rules) have long since set the ground rules of competition, aggression, bullying, cheating and exploiting.  Isn't that how the world is now run?

betsy w
betsy w

@Rosa Lichtenstein I hate it also.  It's such a virulent term - so frequently used to reduce females to a male receptacle.

lagatta4
lagatta4

@admin Hello, I'm personally very glad that this post does not ONLY concern outright sexual violence. That could never be so common if it were not the tip of the iceberg of systemic misuse of women and viewing them as disposable objects, and rarely as important as the great man.  However very important to point out that such attitudes and behaviour are not only found on the left, and never to accept baiting from dodgy establishment characters such as Nick Cohen who wield them as a bloody rag to discredit social movements and uphold capitalism and imperialist war.

Weary Old Red
Weary Old Red

In the middle of the Socialist Unity attack on Comrade Delta, the SWP and now Socialist Party and RMT they publish a post by Sheridan. When people question whether Sheridan should be the public face of a major campaign they are attacked by SU in a manner similar to the attacks on the SWP dissenters by the CC. Socialist Unity are apparently quite happy to support Galloway and Sheridan while leading the fight for womans rights.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Yes, **your wife and you** are worse off without state funded childcare, but women with lone childcare responsibilities vastly outweigh men with similar, and - whether or not unpaid childcare labour is shared equally in your particular family arrangement, in the vast majority it is not. So while men benefit from it, women benefit far more because *currently* men get an element of benefit from women's unpaid labour See - look at it this way - a child requires say 30 hours of care each week. Under a socialised system, neither parent need provide that "care labour", under the current system a single mother provides all 30h, and in a typical family, the mother provides 20h and the father 10h, Consequently single mothers are providing an additional 15hunpaid labour, and partnered mothers 5h labour more than they would do if men contributed equallly. Thus men gain between 5-15h extra per week, which they would not have if women were not taking up their slack because of sexist narratives which consider the unpaid labour of women desireable. On average women do more unpaid domestic labour than men - consequently men *as a group* benefit from this - of course there are exceptions, but* on average* men benefit. The regrading in Scotland in the public sector that took place as a result of the eventual implimentation of the '73 Equal Pay Act saw people regraded to different bands, as women's labour became recognised, the majority of thosewho were regraded downwards were men.

Jerris
Jerris

honestly, shawn, after i read "working class men don't benefit materially from sexism" i had to stop reading your lengthy (and i'm sure, in your opinion, well thought out) commentary. women have no space to themselves. anywhere. this convo is proof.

admin
admin

The issue of domestic labour is only one element - but they all combine. Working class men benefit from unequal pay because they have a greater income than WC women, so are more able to set spending priorities. A lack of access to childcare should be gender neutral, but its not - it affects women more. So single WC women with children are affected, single WC men with children less so. Allowing them greater opportunities for career advancement because they do not have to consider childcare arrangements to the same extent. Etc. At every step of the way, men structurally benefit at the expense of women because of patriarchy. They might not like it, they might not want to, but they cant help it. Are they being offered that job because they are the best candidate or because the best candidate was pregnant? Are they being offered promotion because they are worthy, or because the employer does worry about them taking time off for sick children. I know that you yourself were not talking about "woman policing", but that is frequently what happens. In India, yes there are definately supportive men there, but there are also men who are scared witless by the idea of mass numbers of women getting together to demand an end to their subjucation, and seek to control and contain it.

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

I think I have to disagree. Reducing benefit and women's oppression to the division of domestic labour seems a little narrow to me. Women do about an hour and a half extra work in the home per day and that is a problem, most definitely. But is that more significant than unequal pay, lack of access to daycare, reproductive rights, maternity benefits, etc, etc. In my opinion it isn't. "Problems arise when “winning men to anti-sexism” turn into narratives of woman policing – where you cant discuss certain things because it might alientate teh menz..." I certainly haven't suggested that anywhere because I don't believe in "woman policing". I believe in militant, uncompromising struggle against women's oppression. And I do believe that women's struggles - as the abortion rights movement in Canada was - need to be led by women (though there was a lot of involvement by men and by the trade union movement - with the first illegal, free-standing clinic in the country being set up in a union office in Montreal). I can't speak to the specific situation in India but it occurs to me that the first, important thing is that it's excellent that men showed up in solidarity but that is only the beginning. Now there needs to be arguments with men who hold the view that their role is to act as the guardians of women. Winning both men and women to women's liberation is a process and people come to it with various levels of political consciousness.

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

Being in Canada, I'm not qualified to comment on the handling of this difficult issue in the SWP. However, it seems clear that you're also on dangerously thin ice as far as adding to allegations that are based in rumour - for instance claiming that there is a statement by women in the SWP when really some people who don't even appear to be in the SWP told you that they'd heard there was one. Playing fast and loose with what is known and what is rumoured or alleged doesn't strengthen your argument, it undermines it. But, of more substantive interest is your argument that all men gain from sexual violence. I can see why this would appear to be the case and even sympathize with the sentiment. But I think this is reductive and inaccurate. For instance you write: "As womens activities are curtailed, they have less autonomy and consequently less freedom resulting in a net gain for men. Women will give up jobs where they feel unsafe – providing employment opportunities for men, use taxis which is an overwhelmingly male profession – directly economically benefitting men and make space for men to interact where women are isolated." Firstly, rape and harassment are symptoms of women's oppression and not the source of it. They emerge out of the degradation of women as human beings and their role in society. But, speaking as a father and husband, I know that the lack of maternity leave and that lack of state funded childcare has had a negative impact not only on my partner but also on me and my children (both girls). I know that the fact that women earn less than men reduces our household income, creating more challenges for us both. And while there certainly are a lot of men who are sexist assholes, and probably most men (and women) hold different degrees of sexist ideas, for most of us most of the time these are to our detriment. Nor is it the case that the main reason that women leave their jobs because of the fear of sexual violence - as prevalent as harassment is in the workplace (and I worked for a long time in restaurants & bars where women got it from colleagues & clientele). Most leave because they are laid off for the same reason that men are laid off/fired. I'm afraid that the logic of your argument leads to ideas like women should, on principle, organize separately from men. While sometimes that might be necessary or desirable, it's not a viable long term strategy. Women aren't a nation that can separate from men to overcome underdevelopment. Our lives are intertwined and so, like it or not, we have to win working class men to the fact that sexism effects them negatively and it is in their interest to oppose it.

Anon
Anon

`Last year, George Galloway publicly stated that under some circumstances, rape was merely bad manners.' What a lying little fu cker you are eh?

Rosa Lichtenstein
Rosa Lichtenstein

Am I the only one who thinks it grossly inapproriate to use, as an abusive term, a word for female genitalia -- "misogynist c**ts? And on a website such as this claims to be?

fruitsofzellman
fruitsofzellman

You're mixing oranges with apples here. I think it's incorrect to lump all these arseholes together. There is a significant difference between raping and beating up 26 or more women and visiting sex clubs (whatever they are) or making dodgy remarks.

Menshevik Abstentionist
Menshevik Abstentionist

An attitude of “police or it didn’t happen“, silences women within an environment where the police are recognised as a force of state control ... To go to the police with an allegation against a prominent member of a left wing party brings in accusations of “grassing” This is one of the most disturbing aspects of the situation in my mind. However rich the internal life of the SWP, however much it might delude itself into thinking that it is a revolutionary government in waiting or government-in-internal-exile, a voluntary political organization is not competent to preside over this kind of allegation. So to the extent that it's internal culture and ideology discourages the alleged victim from pursuing her case through the legal system - however "bourgeois" it no doubt is - the party is being even more destructive. More generally, this episode is probably the most blatant example of the sheer inappropriateness of Leninist models of political organization for a comparatively highly stable, affluent liberal capitalist society in the age of the internet.

D
D

Interesting. Didn't Linsruck, the SWP's sister section in Germany, collapse a few years ago due to a rape coverup scandal?

lagatta4
lagatta4

mhairimcalpine lagatta4 Oh, I have a touch of the Ding Dong celebratory hangover as well, but it must be far more full-on for those who experienced her ministries up close.  Canadian Tory PM Stephen Harper is of course singing the old bat's praises and nattering on about what a role model she was, though he has injected a particularly strong dose of ecocide.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

lagatta4I think feminism is in a resurgence globally.  Increased technology means that women can talk directly to each other and share their concerns much more easily than previously. I'm still nursing a hangover from Thatcher popping her clogs, so I doubt if I'll write anything more than "ouch, my head" But you might like the retrospective I wrote last year when the Iron Lady film came out. http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/01/13/thatcher-a-feminist-retrospective/

lagatta4
lagatta4

Mhairi, yes of course it is hypocritical. We can wonder to what extent is is consciously hypocritical or simply a given among men (and people in general) in a patriarchal, oppressive capitalist society, but in any case it means that not enough is being done to fight the "normal" outcomes of patriarchal capitalism, whether overtly violent or more subtle.  I was pleased to see to what extent feminist concerns came to the forefront during our recent student "spring" here in Québec (which began at the end of winter and lasted into the autumn 2012, and encompassed people who hadn't been students in years or in decades). Because often a lot of us were in groups (mixed or women-only) that had been involved in many actions and manifestos, and so many people acted as if all our demands had been won)...  Hmm, Thatcher's death reported early this morning our time. Not at all sad about that, though we'll all die, and if lucky, grow old first. Interested in reading what you'll have to say about that event.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

lagatta4Yup, you are quite right.  These attitudes are not only found on the left at all, but it is hypocritical for the left to claim that it is championing women's rights only to reproduce the sexism of wider society internally. If we actually took gender (and race) issues seriously as an integral part of our movement they couldn't be used as a weapon against us. http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/03/02/how-to-undermine-a-cia-plot/

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

rebelderosa Ooh - huge thank you to whoever translated the article.  I'm very flattered.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Well, its not like Socialist Unity is known for its progressive stance on womens liberation. But it does like its lefty heroes. I'm surprised they havent offered Martin Smith a right of reply...or then maybe they have and maybe he just isnt actually that stupid

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

I hadn't realized that your discussion was only open to women - or would that be women who agree with you? As to the length of my reply, I was trying to deal respectfully and concretely with your argument. But it was, nonetheless shorter than your original piece. But as for material benefit: am I better or worse off as a man because there is no daycare and when domestic labour is privatized and commoditized? Of course women suffer more from this but the privatization of the family is a burden on everyone in it - men, women and children, though obviously differentially. Your resort to personal insult is merely a demonstration that you're unable to respond to the argument.

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

I think that we have different definitions of benefit. A benefit, to my mind, can only be said to occur if men would be worse off were there equality. Would men be paid less if women had pay equity? Would men have less access to childcare if there was full state provision? Would men do more housework if there was socialization of housework through access to things like afterschool programming, community kitchens, etc? Would men have worse jobs if women were permitted into traditional male domains (and traditionally female domains were valorized)? There was an interesting study done a number of years ago about racism in the US. In particular what was looked at were wage levels in the north and the south. What was found was that, of course, in both regions African-Americans had lower wages and higher unemployment than whites. But in the north there was less segregation and greater levels of unionization, whereas in the south, with its legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, there were much lower rates of unionization and more pronounced racism of both the popular and state sanctioned kind. African-American wages in the north were higher than white wages in the south. In other words, while racism affected African-American conditions and income directly and more severely, it also had a negative effect on white workers wages and conditions. In other words, they didn't benefit (as much as they might feel like they are superior or privileged), rather they were worse off and would be better off were racism challenged. The same logic applies to women and men. Here, in Ontario, Canada, there was a years long campaign for pay equity in the public sector (comparing job categories of equal skill and training levels of men and women). The result was not that men's wages were lowered to those of women but, rather, that women's were raised to the level of men's in comparable job categories. Having achieved that, it is now much more difficult for the government to try to use the lever of saying "well, women in such and such jobs have the same skills and training as you and only earn 70% what you do, you're going to have to accept a pay cut." Equality benefits men - though it obviously benefits women more who bear the brunt of oppression. "In India, yes there are definately supportive men there, but there are also men who are scared witless by the idea of mass numbers of women getting together to demand an end to their subjucation, and seek to control and contain it." No doubt. There were similarly during the Civil Rights Movement in America, etc. But those men (and whites) won't turn up on demonstrations. They will stay home and grumble or, worse, mobilize against women. Men (and women) with mixed consciousness but who, nonetheless, show up to demonstrations against sexual violence and women's oppression ought to be welcomed imho - and argued with if they still hold sexist ideas.

admin
admin

I tak your point that I should have been clear from the start that I did not know whether the statement that was planned for circulation had actually happened. It was sloppy of me, I agree. Rape and harassment are both symptoms and sources of women's oppression. It is because women are in a subordinate position that men feel able to use sexual violence against them but sexual violence and its fear feed back to oppress women and limit their freedom. Women both self-police their actions and are policed by others to behave in particular ways because of victim blaming - drinking, dress and travel arrangements are all considered reasons why they are targetted by predators, so women rearrange their lives to avoid potential blame should they fall victim. You raise an interesting point that men are also negatively affected by women's oppression. I agree. Patriarchy hurts men too, but the point is that although it reduces power from both men and women, reduces *more* power for women. You raise the issue of maternity leave and how you have been negatively affected by your wife's lack of mat. leave, I dont disagree. A single woman expecting a child outwith a relationship however is affected by lack of mat leave and cannot escape being affected; the father not at all. That women earn less than men affects the household income of a heterosexual couple, but in a lesbian couple that effect is greater, while there is no effect in a gay male couple. Yes, most women dont leave their jobs through sexual violence, although certainly some do, but then there are also those who reject employment opportunities because of potential violence. Its interesting that you raise seperatism - many of my female comrades have come to the same conclusion, I disagree. Like you I think that sometimes it is necessary and/or desirable, it is not sustainable and leads to ghettoisation. Where we differ is the view that we have to persuade men that sexism affects them too, but that might be the difference in our genders. For me the priority is joining with other women when womens issues arise and looking best at how we can challenge that, while working with men on issues which affect both genders. I can see tho why, for a man, it is important to raise issues of how sexism affects men and why they should listen to women on this.

admin
admin

Hi George, hope you enjoy the blog. You might learn something.

betsy w
betsy w

@Rosa Lichtenstein I hate it also.  It's such a virulent term - so frequently used to reduce females to a male receptacle.

admin
admin

Its certainly not of the same order, but its basically the same issue - that women are seen as a lesser species. They are seen as disposable when a great man is at stake - that violence against them isn't seen as serious and they are viewed as objects for male sexual gratification.

admin
admin

Thats one of the issues that is so distubing about this. I can well imagine that the victim did not want to go to the police - most victims dont, but still wanted to warn and protect others. But the manner in which this has been done is shocking - the investigation of "conduct" of the victim in particular.

Entdinglichung
Entdinglichung

internal sexism, including rape committed by at least two high-ranking members and some other members played an important role (together with the lack of internal democracy and differences in the approach towards the anti-globalization movement) in the demise of Linksruck from a highly visible org with 1200-1400 members two a group with 200-300 members, today called Marx21, an internal current in Die Linke with two MPs and a some influence in the party ... when several of the rape cases became public around 2001, it became known that e.g. the Linksruck leadership (the primary link between Linksruck and the SWP leadership in London was at that period a guy, who had dumped his partner after she became pregnant by him leaving her with the baby and who a few years later was responsible for substantial financial losses for Linksruck after using the organization's telephone for phone sex) a few years earlier simply sent one full time party employee and leadership member who had committed rape to another city where he continued to be a party employee for at least four years, younger women in that city were told not to visit him in his flat on their own, an attempted rape by another member was covered up because he was considered "too valuable for the organization" being one of their few skilled union activists (as far as I know, he is still a member), ...

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

***"A benefit, to my mind, can only be said to occur if men would be worse off were there equality" Equality under current capitalist conditions you mean? For its all very well saying that in an anarcho-communist utopia men would be better off than they are now, but we are talking about the here and now, and in the hear and now they benefit. ***"Would men be paid less if women had pay equity?" Yes, if capitalists are still allocating the same amount to wages, as womens wages go up, mens wages will go down. ***"Would men have less access to childcare if there was full state provision?" No - they would probably have more, however as unpaid childcare is done more frequently by women, women would benefit more. Consequently currently, men benefit from women's unpaid childcare labour. ***"Would men do more housework if there was socialization of housework through access to things like afterschool programming, community kitchens, etc?" Again no, but CURRENTLY men benefit through womens unpaid domestic labour These are all material benefits that men enjoy **NOW**. Talking of a future society of collective kitchens and communal childcare is all well and good, I entirely agree - it would be much better all round, but **CURRENTLY** men benefit materially from women's oppression.

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. And, largely, I don't think we disagree. Just, perhaps, to clarify: My point about men "suffering" indirectly from sexism is not to suggest any kind of equation between the experiences of working class men and women. Women are oppressed as women - working class men are not and are working class women are oppressed as both workers and as women. It is just to say that working class men don't benefit materially from sexism. That, to me, is important because it means that there is a material (rather than a moral or intellectual) foundation for unity and to win men to the fight against women's oppression. If working class men want to improve their conditions and win their liberation it is only possible if they support the fight for women's liberation in all its manifest expressions (abortion rights, pay equity, slutwalks, affirmative action, daycare, et al). So, when I discuss "winning men" to anti-sexism/women's liberation, it is not because I'd like to see men more enlightened (though that would be nice) - it is because I want to see sexism thoroughly smashed. As to the question of sexual assault. It is mightily complex. It has been used - and continues to be used as a political tool: in war as a means to terrorize populations and reward victorious soldiers. It has been used as a means to deter uppity women in repressive regimes. And it is also a "naturally occurring" side-product of the fact that women are reduced (in part) to being the providers of sexual services and are thus expected to make themselves objects of sexual desire through clothing, make-up, etc. And then, of course, when they obey the lifelong commands to be sexy if they are to be "real women", and some are raped, they are blamed for being sexy as though it weren't the sexualization of all women that is the cause (rather than that the victim wore high boots or red lipstick). I have known for quite some time that this was the dynamic but now being the father of daughters I am shocked at how early this process begins (try finding boots for a three-year old girl that aren't pink with hearts or princesses or ballerinas on them - or for boys that don't symbolize violent superheroes).

Rosa Lichtenstein
Rosa Lichtenstein

You can't 'reclaim' a word for female genitalia and then use it as a term of abuse. I'm all for reclaiming this word, but using it in such a way is to bury in the mire even further.

lagatta4
lagatta4

@admin Hello, I'm personally very glad that this post does not ONLY concern outright sexual violence. That could never be so common if it were not the tip of the iceberg of systemic misuse of women and viewing them as disposable objects, and rarely as important as the great man. 

However very important to point out that such attitudes and behaviour are not only found on the left, and never to accept baiting from dodgy establishment characters such as Nick Cohen who wield them as a bloody rag to discredit social movements and uphold capitalism and imperialist war.

Entdinglichung
Entdinglichung

the development, even the successes of Linksruck were never a topic which was communicated to the wider IST membership, e.g. even in 1997, three years after the former section, the SAG evolved into Linksruck, publications of the SWP and it's other clones still listed the SAG as sister org, in my opinion simply due to the fact that it would have caused controversies in the wider SWP/IST if it had been public knowledge, that the German section was doing entryist work inside the the SPD's youth org ... the only text on sexism in Linksruck from inside the IST I know, is a text by the Austrian section which heavily criticises Linksruck from 2001: http://de.indymedia.org/2001/12/12841.shtml (in German), don't think that this text became known in the SWP ... and the SWP successfully "edited" Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Linksruck&diff=252184715&oldid=251908107

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Thanks for the background, I had no idea of any of that.

Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney

"Equality under current capitalist conditions you mean? For its all very well saying that in an anarcho-communist utopia men would be better off than they are now, but we are talking about the here and now, and in the hear and now they benefit." I don't need to be in a communist utopia to know that I and my wife are worse off because there is no state funded childcare in Ontario. While in Quebec, the French province next door, there is $7/day daycare (vs $50-$70 in Ontario) because of struggles by the union and women's movement. Both parents are obviously better off - and not a communist utopia in sight. "Yes, if capitalists are still allocating the same amount to wages, as womens wages go up, mens wages will go down." Except that you make this claim without evidence. Whereas I can demonstrate that the public sector workers at both the federal level in the PSAC union and at the Ontario level, through OPSEU, amongst others, won pay equity and men's wages were untouched. In fact, I challenge you to provide evidence of one struggle by women that ended with men's wages going down - as opposed to capitalist imposed austerity that provides immiseration for both sexes (and always more so for women) "however as unpaid childcare is done more frequently by women, women would benefit more. Consequently currently, men benefit from women’s unpaid childcare labour." I'm afraid this is just flawed logic. If I am worse off now because of a lack of childcare it doesn't matter, from the point of view of determining benefit, that I am not as bad off as women. I don't benefit - I'm not as badly off. "Again no, but CURRENTLY men benefit through womens unpaid domestic labour." First off, this inequality is not realized equally nor is it enforced in the way that wage or legal inequality or lack of services is enforced or imposed. Do gay men benefit? Single men? Little boys (more so than little girls)? How about men who share the housework equally? But, more than this, you are still up against the logical inconsistency: if I am worse off (albeit differentially) as a result of the privatized family, then I can't be said to benefit. I simply don't suffer as much. And much of these things aren't pie in the sky - like women's oppression can't be substantially alleviated prior to the victory of the global commune. There is free daycare in some districts that has been won. Likewise access to abortion and at least legal equality (as regards property rights, the right to vote, etc). There have been pay equity decisions, etc. There has even been affirmative action/positive discrimination - the one way in which the fight for women's equality can SEEM to disadvantage individual men, though I would argue it benefits working class men overall.

admin
admin

"working class men don’t benefit materially from sexism" Nope - I cant agree with that. You only have to look at the division of domestic labour and the narratives that surround it to see that working class men benefit at the expense of working class women through sexism. Problems arise when "winning men to anti-sexism" turn into narratives of woman policing - where you cant discuss certain things because it might alientate teh menz. I think in promoting feminism the priority has to be women, led by women and women centred, if men help along the way - great, if they dont, too damn bad. In India, men have been turning up at the anti-rape protests, obstensibly to "support" and then bringing along their own narratives of "what has happened is awful but don't worry, we will protect you", which is a risk where men start becoming involved in feminist protest they bring their own benevolent sexism along, which undermines what women are fighting for.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

@betsy w 

Yes, I am aware many women don't like it.  The more I get feedback on this (especially from Americans) the more I can see that it is a very particular use within Scotland, where it isn't used in the same way as across the pond, but has a duel meaning.  For example being described as "a truthful cunt" would be one of the highest accolades that you could give of someone's honesty.

Its kindof like "malaka" (μαλάκα) in Greek which can be a horrific insult, but is also used as a term of affection, or even possibly the way that "nigga/nigger" is used both as a term of affection within the Black community and as a very virulent insult.

betsy w
betsy w

@admin That term empowers men - not women.  It strikes anger and fear into the hearts of women who are aware of its political import.  Such a term cannot be reclaimed as it's a verbal weapon wielded by misogynists to reduce women to a body part they can dominate by force.  It would be like trying to reclaim rape or domestic violence or the "B" word.  I don't buy it.  Try to beat men at their own game?  Many of us don't want to play their game.  Who can outdo the other?  Men (those who make, enforce, play by, or go along with the rules) have long since set the ground rules of competition, aggression, bullying, cheating and exploiting.  Isn't that how the world is now run?

admin
admin

As explained in the blogpost I regard cunt as a neutral term, but one which implies confidence coupled with a warning to be wary. Many men are indeed confident misogynists that people should be very wary of.

lagatta4
lagatta4

@mhairimcalpine @lagatta4 Oh, I have a touch of the Ding Dong celebratory hangover as well, but it must be far more full-on for those who experienced her ministries up close. 

Canadian Tory PM Stephen Harper is of course singing the old bat's praises and nattering on about what a role model she was, though he has injected a particularly strong dose of ecocide. 



mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

@lagatta4I think feminism is in a resurgence globally.  Increased technology means that women can talk directly to each other and share their concerns much more easily than previously.

I'm still nursing a hangover from Thatcher popping her clogs, so I doubt if I'll write anything more than "ouch, my head"

But you might like the retrospective I wrote last year when the Iron Lady film came out.

http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/01/13/thatcher-a-feminist-retrospective/

lagatta4
lagatta4

Mhairi, yes of course it is hypocritical. We can wonder to what extent is is consciously hypocritical or simply a given among men (and people in general) in a patriarchal, oppressive capitalist society, but in any case it means that not enough is being done to fight the "normal" outcomes of patriarchal capitalism, whether overtly violent or more subtle. 

I was pleased to see to what extent feminist concerns came to the forefront during our recent student "spring" here in Québec (which began at the end of winter and lasted into the autumn 2012, and encompassed people who hadn't been students in years or in decades). Because often a lot of us were in groups (mixed or women-only) that had been involved in many actions and manifestos, and so many people acted as if all our demands had been won)... 

Hmm, Thatcher's death reported early this morning our time. Not at all sad about that, though we'll all die, and if lucky, grow old first. Interested in reading what you'll have to say about that event.

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