Feminists for patriarchy

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post reports that “[Hillary] Clinton’s most loyal supporters . . . make the case that if a former secretary of state, senator and first lady cannot win, it will be a long time before any other woman has a realistic chance.”[1] Therefore, we should support Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination notwithstanding her declining support,[2] even among women,[3] and thus the extreme improbability that she can prevail in the general election.

In another example, there is little question that Afghans in power—mostly men—whether or not Taliban, hold hideous attitudes toward women.[4] Therefore, I have heard, we must not abandon Afghanistan despite our manifest inability to prevail in the bloodshed there.

Similarly, some—but notably not all—feminists saw the rather well-documented prospect that Julian Assange might face extradition from Sweden to the United States or other danger from U.S. intelligence agencies[5] as diminishing the crimes of sexual assault and rape that Assange has been accused of[6]—but apparently still not charged for even as time limits for bringing such charges expire.[7] The charges themselves seem dubious on their own merits, more so when given the context of Sweden’s more usual handling of such accusations, even still more so given the Swedish prosecutor’s mishandling of the matter,[8] and damningly more so given the British government’s hysterical reaction to Assange’s gaining asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London,[9] but I guess we should storm that embassy and haul Assange out nonetheless.

Each of these cases represents a feminist quest for a Pyrrhic victory. Clinton cannot prevail in her presidential campaign even if the Democratic Party crowns her on schedule. The Afghanistan war does little to protect women, especially in Pakistan where the Taliban also operate.[10] The Swedish charges against Assange, if they are ever even brought, could probably only succeed in a rigged trial—which itself might never occur if, as seems more than likely, the investigation is in fact a pretext for laying hands on Assange to extradite him to the U.S.

But there’s something even more fundamentally wrong here. Clinton, despite her incredible pandering to the left, is in fact the candidate of the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Apart from her pandering to an anti-establishment left in her campaign for the nomination, she is very much the establishment candidate and thus likely even the candidate of the national security complex.[11] As such, she is a female face for patriarchy. The Afghanistan War benefits only the national security complex. And the accusations against Assange and especially the British threat to storm the Ecuadorian embassy appear to occur at the behest of the United States, which objects to the activities of Wikileaks, which Assange heads, and which exposes the activities of the national security complex. And the national security complex is, of course, very much a patriarchal establishment.[12]

There are certain ways in which anarchism and feminism—at least insofar as feminism is more than simply a movement to help women under capitalism get ahead—seem to me to have a telling affinity. Though the two movements have quite different histories, arriving at their positions through different routes, certain basic analogies between them hold up. Anarchism by definition, and radical feminism as it has evolved, are both fundamentally and deeply anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian. Both operate through loose, voluntary social organization from the bottom up, relying on collective activity by small groups, forming for example, day care centers, battered-women shelters, anti-rape squads, consciousness-raising groups, rather than, say, large political parties; and both favor direct action to promote change. As the anarcho-feminist Lynn Farrow wrote a few years ago, “Feminism practices what Anarchism preaches.”[13]

Despite the examples I have cited, feminism contributes greatly to our understanding of power relationships. In the examples I’ve cited, however, some have failed to understand gender bias as only one part of a much larger picture of political, economic, and social inequality and injustice.[14] To ignore this larger picture is to cripple our understanding, in fact to enable patriarchy to divide us against ourselves.[15] If I might be so bold, we need to be thinking about these issues much more carefully.

  1. [1]Karen Tumulty, “Poll: Sharp erosion in Clinton support among Democratic women,” Washington Post, September 14, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-sharp-erosion-in-clinton-support-among-democratic-women/2015/09/14/6406e2a0-58c3-11e5-b8c9-944725fcd3b9_story.html
  2. [2]Jennifer Agiesta, “Poll: New speed bumps for Clinton,” CNN, June 2, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/02/politics/hillary-clinton-2016-poll-gop-field-close/index.html; Jonathan Allen, “Bernie Sanders and ‘top secret’ emails are catching up to Hillary Clinton,” Vox, August 12, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/8/12/9137705/clinton-email-top-secret; Dan Balz and Scott Clement, “Poll: Trump, Carson top GOP race; Clinton leads Dems but support drops,” Washington Post, September 13, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-trump-carson-top-gop-race-clinton-leads-dems-but-support-drops/2015/09/13/7961a820-58c2-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html; Dana Blanton, “Fox News Poll: Shakeup in GOP field after first debate, Sanders gains on Clinton,” Fox News, August 16, 2015, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/08/16/fox-news-poll-shakeup-in-gop-field-after-first-debate-sanders-gains-on-clinton/; Philip Bump, “Hillary Clinton hits a new low in the polls — but this time it’s not Bernie Sanders’s fault,” Washington Post, September 8, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/08/hillary-clinton-hits-a-new-low-in-the-polls-but-this-time-its-not-bernie-sanderss-fault/; Jesse Byrnes, “Clinton’s support down 18 points in new poll,” Hill, October 1, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/255626-poll-clinton-maintains-double-digit-lead; Nick Gass, “Poll: Clinton losing ground to Sanders,” Politico, August 19, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/poll-hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-donald-trump-121514.html; Nick Gass, “Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers have gone under water,” Politico, September 2, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/poll-hillary-clinton-2016-favorability-213251; Mark Hensch, “Poll: Sanders surges to within reach of Clinton in Iowa,” Hill, August 29, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/dem-primaries/poll-sanders-closing-in-clinton-in-iowa
  3. [3]Husna Haq, “Are white women abandoning Hillary Clinton?” Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/0804/Are-white-women-abandoning-Hillary-Clinton; Karen Tumulty, “Poll: Sharp erosion in Clinton support among Democratic women,” Washington Post, September 14, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-sharp-erosion-in-clinton-support-among-democratic-women/2015/09/14/6406e2a0-58c3-11e5-b8c9-944725fcd3b9_story.html
  4. [4]Alissa J. Rubin, “For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom,” New York Times, December 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/world/asia/for-afghan-woman-justice-runs-into-the-static-wall-of-custom.html; Pajhwok, “Sharp surge in jailed Afghan women: HRW,” May 21, 2013, http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2013/05/21/sharp-surge-jailed-afghan-women-hrw
  5. [5]David Carr and Ravi Somaiya, “Assange, Back in News, Never Left U.S. Radar,” New York Times, June 24, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/world/europe/wikileaks-back-in-news-never-left-us-radar.html; Democracy Now! “Julian Assange on Being Placed on NSA ‘Manhunting’ List & Secret Targeting of WikiLeaks Supporters,” February 18, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/18/julian_assange_on_being_placed_on; Philip Dorling, “Revealed: US plans to charge Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 29, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/revealed-us-plans-to-charge-assange-20120228-1u14o.html; Philip Dorling, “US senator calls to prosecute Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, July 2, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-senator-calls-to-prosecute-assange-20120701-21b3n.html; Philip Dorling, “US in pursuit of Assange, cables reveal,” Age, August 18, 2012, http://www.theage.com.au/national/us-in-pursuit-of-assange-cables-reveal-20120817-24e8u.html; Philip Dorling, “US calls Assange ‘enemy of state’,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120926-26m7s; Tony Eastley, “Pilger says the US wants Assange,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, February 2, 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3421114.htm; Kevin Gosztola, “Ecuador Endorses Julian Assange’s Fears, Grants Asylum,” ShadowProof, August 16, 2012, http://shadowproof.com/2012/08/16/ecuador-endorses-fears-of-julian-assange-grants-asylum/; Glenn Greenwald, “The New Statesman must correct its error over Assange and extradition,” Guardian, August 24, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/24/new-statesman-error-assange-swedish-extradition; Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, “Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters,” Intercept, February 18, 2014, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/02/18/snowden-docs-reveal-covert-surveillance-and-pressure-tactics-aimed-at-wikileaks-and-its-supporters/; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, “Evidence of a US judicial vendetta against WikiLeaks activists mounts,” Guardian, July 3, 2015, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/03/evidence-us-judicial-vendetta-wikileaks-activists-mounts; Paul Lewis, “Ecuador seeks to stop ‘evil’ of Julian Assange US extradition,” Guardian, July 26, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jul/26/ecuador-julian-assange-extradition-us; Kim Sengupta, “Assange could face espionage trial in US,” Independent, December 8, 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/assange-could-face-espionage-trial-in-us-2154107.html
  6. [6]Democracy Now! “Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman: Feminists Debate the Sexual Allegations Against Julian Assange,” December 20, 2010, http://www.democracynow.org/2010/12/20/naomi_wolf_vs_jaclyn_friedman_a; Naomi Wolf, “J’Accuse: Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide,” Huffington Post, December 13, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/jaccuse-sweden-britain-an_b_795899.html;
  7. [7]Deutschewelle, “Sweden: Prosecutors drop inquiries into Julian Assange,” August 13, 2015, http://www.dw.com/en/sweden-prosecutors-drop-inquiries-into-julian-assange/a-18647085?maca=en-newsletter_en_from-the-heart-of-europe-2098-html-newsletter; Nick Gass, “Prosecutors drop charges against Julian Assange,” Politico, August 13, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/julian-assange-sex-assault-charges-dropped-121321.html
  8. [8]Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff , “We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited,” Guardian, August 23, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/women-against-rape-julian-assange; Deutschewelle, “Sweden: Prosecutors drop inquiries into Julian Assange,” August 13, 2015, http://www.dw.com/en/sweden-prosecutors-drop-inquiries-into-julian-assange/a-18647085?maca=en-newsletter_en_from-the-heart-of-europe-2098-html-newsletter; Nick Gass, “Prosecutors drop charges against Julian Assange,” Politico, August 13, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/julian-assange-sex-assault-charges-dropped-121321.html; Rolf Hillegren, “Swedish Prosecutor: Time to Close the Assange Case,” trans. unknown, Radsoft, January 12, 2014, http://radsoft.net/news/20140112,00.shtml; Rixstep, “Assange: Police Docs Published in Swedish MSM,” December 6, 2012, http://rixstep.com/1/20121206,00.shtml; Guy Rundle, “Rape case against the WikiLeaks chief ‘weak’,” Telegraph, February 5, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/sweden/8306348/Rape-case-against-the-WikiLeaks-chief-weak.html; Tim Sampson, “Swedish authorities will question Julian Assange at London embassy,” Daily Dot, March 13, 2015, http://www.dailydot.com/politics/swedish-authorities-question-wikileaks-founder-sexual-assault-allegations/; Dick Sundevall, “Now we publish the preliminary investigation of Julian Assange,” trans. Google, Para§raf, December 6, 2012, http://www.magasinetparagraf.se/bilden/forundersokningen-avseende-assang
  9. [9]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Julian Assange: UK ‘threat’ to arrest Wikileaks founder,” August 16, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19259623; Juan Cole, “Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State),” Informed Comment, August 16, 2012, http://www.juancole.com/2012/08/ayatollah-cameron-threatens-to-invade-ecuador-embassy-re-assange-or-whitewashing-iran-for-the-us-national-security-state.html; Eduardo Garcia and Alessandra Prentice, “Britain threatens to storm Ecuador embassy to get Assange,” Reuters, August 16, 2012, http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/wikileaks-assange-ecuador-idINL2E8JFH5K20120816; Carl Gardner, “Julian Assange: can the UK withdraw diplomatic status from the Ecuadorian embassy?” Head of Legal, August 15, 2012, http://www.headoflegal.com/2012/08/15/julian-assange-can-the-uk-withdraw-diplomatic-status-from-the-ecuadorian-embassy/; Rosa Prince, “FCO ‘risks breaching international law’ over Assange embassy crisis,” Telegraph, August 16, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/9479250/FCO-risks-breaching-international-law-over-Assange-embassy-crisis.html
  10. [10]Mahvish Ahmed, “Taliban shooting of 14-year old sparks outrage in Pakistan,” Christian Science Monitor, October 10, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2012/1010/Taliban-shooting-of-14-year-old-sparks-outrage-in-Pakistan; Alissa J. Rubin, “For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom,” New York Times, December 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/world/asia/for-afghan-woman-justice-runs-into-the-static-wall-of-custom.html; Pajhwok, “Sharp surge in jailed Afghan women: HRW,” May 21, 2013, http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2013/05/21/sharp-surge-jailed-afghan-women-hrw; Declan Walsh, “Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights,” New York Times, October 9, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/world/asia/teen-school-activist-malala-yousafzai-survives-hit-by-pakistani-taliban.html;
  11. [11]Jonathan Allen, “The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton,” Vox, June 10, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/6/10/8760287/Hillary-Clinton-selective-liberal-trust; Alexander Bolton, “Centrist Dems wary of Hillary’s move to the left,” Hill, June 11, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/244631-centrist-dems-wary-of-hillarys-move-to-the-left; Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html; Bill Curry, “This is why Hillary’s losing: The issue Jeb Bush and Donald Trump understand, which may keep Clinton from the White House,” Salon, July 26, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/07/26/this_is_why_hillarys_losing_the_issue_jeb_bush_and_donald_trump_understand_which_may_keep_clinton_from_the_white_house/; Maureen Dowd, “Trade Winds Blow Ill for Hillary,” New York Times, June 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-trade-winds-blow-ill-for-hillary.html; Jesse Hamilton and Cheyenne Hopkins, “Hillary Clinton Lets Big Banks Off the Hook for Financial Crisis,” Bloomberg, October 2, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-10-02/hillary-clinton-lets-big-banks-off-the-hook-for-financial-crisis; Ezra Klein, “Why Clinton’s TPP opposition unnerves me,” Vox, October 8, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/10/8/9477965/hillary-clinton-tpp; Bradford Richardson, “Hillary: Who’s more of an outsider than a woman?” Hill, September 20, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/254315-hillary-whos-more-of-an-outsider-than-a-woman; Robert Scheer, “Go Ahead, Back Hillary Clinton and Forget All About Her Record,” Truthdig, October 9, 2015, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/go_ahead_back_hillary_clinton_and_forget_all_about_her_record_20151009; Noam Scheiber, “Hillary Clinton’s Inequality Rhetoric Is Weak: No, we’re not ‘all in this mess together’,” New Republic, July 9, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118632/hillary-clintons-inequality-rhetoric-insulting; Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Hillary Clinton’s Comment on Jobs Raises Eyebrows on Wall St.,” New York Times, October 27, 2014, http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/hillary-clintons-comment-about-corporations-and-job-creation-raises-wall-st-s-eyebrows/; Niall Stanage, “Clinton’s habit of dodging key issues draws Democrats’ fire,” Hill, July 30, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/249741-clintons-habit-of-dodging-key-issues-draws-democrats-fire; Josh Voorhees, “Why Hillary Clinton Has Moved So Far and So Fast to the Left,” Slate, June 8, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/08/hillary_clinton_runs_left_why_the_democratic_frontrunner_is_embracing_the.html
  12. [12]Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1987; repr., New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995); Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2007); Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (New York: Henry Holt, 1997).
  13. [13]Alix Kates Shulman, “Emma Goldman’s Feminism: A Reappraisal,” in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. Alix Kates Shulman, 3rd ed. (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998), 16-17.
  14. [14]Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991); Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1987; repr., New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995); Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2007); Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, 15th anniversary ed. (New York: Three Rivers, 2006); Charles Lemert, ed., Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010); Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2005); Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham, NC: Duke University, 2003); Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006); Thomas Shapiro, ed., Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2005).
  15. [15]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,'” March 15, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2012/03/15/we-need-know-how-it-works

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