Feminism

Feminist Philosophy As The New “Pluralist Revolt”

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“Feminist philosophy should be an essential resource for all philosophers, whatever their views about its political agenda,” says Gary Gutting (Notre Dame), in his latest column in “The Stone” at The New York Times.

Changes, including the rising popularity of feminist philosophy, as well as the increased number of institutional roles women are occupying (e.g., as officers in the American Philosophical Association), he says, are fruitfully transforming philosophy in a way that echoes the “pluralist revolt” against the dominance of analytic philosophy in the profession 30-40 years ago.

For those too young to remember, Gutting provides a little history:

It will help to reflect on an earlier disruption to the philosophical establishment: the “pluralist revolt” against the dominant analytic philosophy of the 1970s and ’80s. The pluralists were a disparate group of philosophers: pragmatists in the tradition of Peirce, James and Dewey; metaphysicians following classical thinkers such as Aristotle and Aquinas or the process philosophy of Whitehead; and, most prominently, “continental philosophers” working out of recent European movements such as phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre); post-structuralism (Foucault, Derrida); and critical theory (Habermas and the Frankfurt School).

Pluralists challenged the dominance of the A.P.A. by the analytic philosophy that they saw as modeling itself on mathematics and natural science. This mode of thought, they said, imposed standards of conceptual clarity and logical rigor that restricted philosophical thinking to a narrow range of abstract and artificial questions. These restrictions, they argued, marginalized pluralist philosophers and, more important, excluded the great perennial questions that had defined philosophy from Plato to Hegel.

The pluralists gained a good deal of power within the A.P.A., made room for alternative voices and no doubt played a role in the broadening of analytic interests. Their efforts supported an increased interest in traditional questions, particularly in metaphysics and ethics, and a turn to pragmatic positions in epistemology. But the pluralists did not overcome the analytic hegemony, with analytic philosophers remaining a large majority in the most highly regarded departments.

Further, the pluralists did little to blunt the sharp division between analytic philosophy and so-called continental philosophy, which maintained its own (relatively marginalized) departments, national organization and journals. Indeed, we are now seeing a good deal of work on “continental” philosophers move from philosophy to other humanistic disciplines (for example, in language, communication and film studies departments) and to the softer social sciences.

Gutting thinks that feminist philosophy has “produced an awakening far beyond that of the pluralist revolt.” He says that is has “further broadened and deepened analytic philosophy” and cites among its benefits its promoting serious engagement with continental philosophers and ideas. He takes the development of the ethics of care, thoughtful scrutiny of the”natural,” increased sensitivity to injustices, a focus on institutions and practices, the emergence of feminist epistemology that emphasizes situated knowledge, and the growth of feminist metaphysics that questions long-prevalent categories as all part of this turn.

Left out of Gutting’s essay (perhaps for reasons of space) is a description of the “opposition” to these changes. It may (or may not) be importantly different. Does the resistance now seem the same as the resistance to the pluralist revolt? Is misogyny a factor? Is information technology? Politics? Economics?

The whole column is here.


Georgia O’Keeffe, “Brooklyn Bridge”

The post Feminist Philosophy As The New “Pluralist Revolt” appeared first on Daily Nous.

Pat Mills Talks to Sasha Simic of the SWP about the Politics of 2000AD

This comes from the Socialist Workers’ Party, an organization of which I am not a member and which I don’t support. But this is another really great video, in which one of the great creators of the British comics for over forty years talks about politics, social class, the role of capitalism and women and feminism, not just in 2000AD, but also in comics and publishing generally, and the media.

Mills was speaking as part of annual four day convention the Socialist Workers hold on Marxism. Simic introduces himself as the person, who gets the annual geek slot. As well as a member of the party, he’s also a convener of USDAW. And he’s very happy in this, the centenary of the Russian Revolution, to have on Pat Mills.

Mills starts by saying that as he was growing up in the 50s and 60s, he read the same books everyone else did – John Buchan, Ian Fleming, Dennis Wheatley, Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Pimpernel. But there was something about it that made him angry, and it was only looking back on it that he came to realise that what infuriated him was the fact that these were all authors from the upper and middle classes, who created heroes from those class backgrounds. He makes the point that these were good writers, but that some of their work was very sinister the more you go into it. Like John Buchan. Buchan was the major propagandist of the First World War. Mills says that Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s infamous spin doctor, had nothing on him. He promoted the First world War, for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada.
He states that he doesn’t want to go too far into it as he’ll start ranting. Nevertheless, he’s glad to be able to talk to the people at the SWP’s convention, as it means they have a similar opinion to him, and he doesn’t have to censor himself.

He makes the point that there are very, very few working class heroes, and believes this is quite deliberate. It’s to deprive working people of a strong role. When the working people do appear, it’s as loyal batmen, or sidekicks, and there is an element of parody there. And it’s not just in comics and literature. In the 1980s he was contacted by the producers of Dr. Who to do a story. He wanted to have a working class spaceship captain. He was told by the script editor that they couldn’t. They also didn’t like his idea to have a working class family. It was only by looking back on where this hatred of the heroes of traditional literature came from, that he came to realise that it wasn’t just that he didn’t want to have any generals in his work.

He also talks about how it’s easier to get away with subversion in comics, as comics are treated as a trivial form of literature, which nobody really cares about. The profit motive also helps. So long as it’s making money, comics companies don’t care what’s going on. And this explains how he was able to get away with some of the things he did in Battle. He states that the way he works is by pretending to write something mainstream and inoffensive, and then subvert it from within. An example of that is Charley’s War in Battle. This looks like an ordinary war strip, but in fact was very anti-war. Even so, there were times when he had to be careful and know when to give up. One of these was about a story he wanted to run about the entry of the Americans into the War. In this story, a group of White American squaddies are members of the Klan, and try to lynch a Black soldier. Charley wades in to help the Black guy. The management rejected the story on the grounds that they didn’t want anything too controversial. Mills decided to draw in his horns and bite his tongue at that point, because he had a bigger story lined up about the British invasion of Russian in 1919, when we sent in 20-30,000 men. It was, he says, our Vietnam, and has been whitewashed out of the history books.

He also makes the point that subversion was also present in the girls’ comics. Even more so, as there was a psychological angle that wasn’t present in the boys’. For example, there was one story called ‘Ella in Easy Street’, where a young girl reacts against her aspirational family. They want to get on, and so the father has two jobs, and the mother is similarly working very hard to support their aspirations. But Ella herself is unhappy, as it’s destroying what they are as a family. And so she sets out to sabotage their yuppie dream. Mills says that it’s not all one-dimensional – he looks at the situation from both sides, pro and con, but the story makes the point that there are things that are more important that materialism and social advancement, like family, comradeship. He says that such a story could not be published now. It’s rather like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, where the hero, in the end, throws the race as a way of giving the system the finger.

Mills reminds his audience just how massive girls’ comics were in the ’70s. They were bigger, much bigger, than the boys’. 2000AD sold 200,000 copies a week in its prime. But Tammy, one of the girls’ comics, sold 260,000. This is really surprising, as women read much more than we men. These comics have all disappeared. This, he says, is because the boys’ took over the sandpit. He has been trying to revive them, and so a couple of stories from Misty have been republished in an album.

This gets him onto the issue of reaching the audience, who really need it. In the case of the stories from Misty, this has meant that there are two serials on sale, both of which are very good, but in a book costing £17 – odd. The only people going to read that are the mothers of the present generation of girls, perhaps. To reach the girls, it needs to be set at a lower price they can afford. This is also a problem with the political material. If you write something subversive, it will receive glowing reviews but be bought by people, who already agree with you. He wants his message to get further out, and not to become a coffee table book for north London.

He talks about the way British comics have grown up with their readership, and the advantages and disadvantages this has brought. British comics has, with the exception of 2000AD, more or less disappeared, and the readership of that comic is in its 30s and 40s. People have put this down to demographics and the rise of computer games, saying that this was inevitable. It wasn’t. It was our fault, says Mills. We fumbled it. Games workshop still have young people amongst their audience, while the French also have computer games across the Channel, but their children are reading comics.

Mills goes on to say that it’s easier writing for adults. Writing for 9 and 10 year olds is much harder, because if they don’t like a story, they’ll say. He says to his audience that they may think the same way, but they’re much too polite to say it at conventions. And they had to respond to their young readers as well, as the kids voted on it every week. They’d tell you if they thought it was a bad story, even if you thought it was the best one so far, and asked yourself what was wrong with the little sh*ts.

He also talks about how difficult it is to break into comics. He has friends, who have been trying for decades to get into 2000AD, and have been unsuccessful. His advice to people trying to do so is: don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s 2000AD. And this also effects text publishing. All the publishers have now been bought up, so that HarperCollins have the fingers in everything, such as Hodder and Stoughton. And their politics aren’t ours.

The way round this is to get into web publishing. Here he digresses and talks about pulp fiction, which is a close relative of comics. He was talking to a guy at a convention, who writes pulp fiction and puts it on the net. It only costs a few pence. The man writes about a zombie apocalypse, but – and this is true, as he’s seen the payment slips – he’s pulling in £3,000 a month. Mills says that this is important as well. He wants to get his material out there, but he also wants to eat. This shows you how you can make money publishing it yourself. Later on in the video, after the questions and the comments from the audience, he goes further into this. He mentions some of the web publishers, one of which is subsidiary of Amazon, which will allow people to publish their own work. He also talks about self-publishing and chapbooks. He found out about these while writing Defoe, his story about Leveller zombie killer in an alternative 17th century England. Chapbooks were so called because they were cheap books, the cheap literature of the masses. And this is what comics should go back to. He says that everyone should produce comics, in the same way that everyone can also make music by picking up an instrument and playing a few chords.

He also praises some of the other subversive literature people have self-produced. Like one piece satirizing the British army’s recruitment posters. ‘Join the army’, it says, ‘- like prison, but with more fighting’. Mills is fairly sure he knows who wrote that as well. It was another guy he met at a convention, who was probably responsible for the anti-war film on YouTube Action Man: Battlefield Casualties. He enormously admires this film, and is envious of the people, who made it.

He also talks about some of the fan letters he’s had. One was from the CEO of a school, he talks about the way reading 2000AD opened up his mind and changed his moral compass. The man says that everything he learned about Fascism, he learned from Judge Dredd, everything about racism from Strontium Dog, and feminism from Halo Jones. He and his headmaster, whom he names, were both punks and he’s now opened a school in Doncaster. The most subversive thing you can do now is to try to create an open-minded and questioning generation of young people. The letter is signed, yours, from a company director, but not an evil one, and then the gentleman’s name.

He concludes this part of the talk by describing the career of James Clarke, a member of the Socialist Labour Party, the Communist Party, a lion tamer and conscientious objector. During the War he ran escape lines for British squaddies in France. And people say that pacifists are cowards, Mills jokes. How much braver can you be than sticking your head in a lion’s mouth. He wrote a pamphlet defending a group of comrades, who tried to start the revolution by following the example of the Irish Nationalists and blow things up with a bomb. The pamphlet argued that this was wrong, and that if the working class wanted to gain power, they should concentrate on confronting capitalism through direct action. He also wrote poetry. Mills describes Clark as being a kind of Scots Tom Baker. One of these is a biting satire of Kipling’s If. The poem begins by asking if the reader can wake up every morning at 5 O’clock, or 4.30, and then labour at their machines, and see their wives and children suffer deprivation while those, who haven’t earned it take it all the profits, and describes the backbreaking grind of hard working life for the capitalist class in several stanzas. It ends with the statement that if you can do all that, and still be complacent, then go out, buy a gun and blow your brains out.

Clearly, I don’t recommend any actually do this, but it is a witty and funny response to Kipling’s poem. I found it hugely funny, and I do think it’s a great response to what was voted Britain’s favourite poem by the Beeb’s viewers and readers a few years ago. Can you imagine the sheer Tory rage that would erupt if someone dared to recite it on television!

Many of the comments are from people thanking Mills for opening their eyes and for writing such great stories. They include a man, who describes how Mills’ works are on his shelf next to his copy of Das Kapital. Another man describes how he used to buy 2000AD just after going to church on Sunday. So after listening to some very boring sermons, he came back from Baptist chapel to read all this subversion. One young woman says that the zines – the small press magazines, that appeared in the 1990s – seem to be still around, as she has seen them at punk concerts. Another young woman says that although comics are seen as a boys’ thing, when she goes into Forbidden Planet near her, there are always three girls in there and two boys. She also talks about how many young women read Japanese manga. Mills states in reply that manga stories generally are light and frothy, and so not the kind of stories he wants to write. But as for women in comics, he says that he spoken several times to students on graphic novel courses, and each time about 75 per cent of them have been women, which is good.

He also talks about Crisis and Action. The Third World War strip in Crisis was about the politics of food, and was set in a world where food production was dominated by a vast multinational formed by the merger of two of today’s megacorporations. Mills states that when the strip covered what was going on in South America, that was acceptable. However, at one point he moved the story to Brixton, finding a Black co-writer to help with the story. At that point, the White Guardian-reading liberals started to be uncomfortable with it. There was also a story in which Britain leaves the EU. This results in the rise of a Fascist dictatorship, and the EU responds by invading Britain. Mills says that he’s been trying to get Crisis relaunched, but the company are stringing him along with excuses, probably because it’s easier than arguing with him.

Mills obviously did the right thing by finding a Black co-writer. Marvel suffered a barrage of criticism with some of their attempts to launch a series of Black superheroes, like the Black Panther as part of the Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s. The Black Panther was particularly criticized. The creators were old, White dudes, who didn’t understand urban Black culture, even if the comics themselves were sincere in presenting a sympathetic view of Black Americans and combating racism.

He also talks briefly about Action, and the controversy that caused. What really upset Mary Whitehouse and the rest was ‘Kid’s Rule UK’, a strip in which a disease killed everyone over 16, and Britain was inhabited solely by warring street gangs. Mills used to take the same train from where he was living at the time with Mary Whitehouse. He said he was editing a Hookjaw script at the time, and notice Whitehouse over the other side of the carriage looking daggers at him. So he put in more carnage and more arms and legs being bitten off.

One of the most interesting questions is about the politics and morality of Judge Dredd. Dredd is a fascist, and in one of the strips it seemed to take the side of authority over subversion with no irony. This was in a story about the punks taking over Megacity 1. At the end of the strip, Dredd gets hold of the leader, and makes him say, ‘I’m a dirty punk.’ Mills actually agrees with the speaker, and says that there are people, who take Dredd as a role-model. He’s had letters from them, which he doesn’t like. He doesn’t know what these people do. Perhaps they have their own chapterhouse somewhere. He went cold inside when he heard about the story. It wasn’t one of his. It was by John Wagner, who isn’t at all political, but is very cynical, so this has some of the same effects of politics. But 75 per cent of Dredd comes from Mills. Mills states that it’s a flawed character, and that can be seen in why the two Dredd films never did well at the box office. Dredd was based on a particular teacher at his old school, as was Torquemada, the Grand Master of Termight, a genocidally racist Fascist military feudal order ruling Earth thousands of years in the future. They were both two sides of the same coin. That was why he enjoyed humiliating Torquemada. But it isn’t done with Dredd. Yet it could have been different, and there could be instances where people have their revenge on Dredd without losing the power of the character. He states that it was because Chopper did this in the story ‘Unamerican Graffiti’, that this became the favourite Dredd story of all time.

It’s a fascinating insight into the politics of the comics industry. The zines and other self-published small magazines he describes were a product of the Punk scene, where people did start putting together their own fanzines in their bedrooms. It was part of the mass creativity that punk at its height unleashed. As for the web comics, he talks about a couple that he finds particularly impressive, including those by the author of the dystopian science fiction story Y – the Last Man, set in a future in which all the men in the world have been killed by another disease. A number of my friends used to publish their own small press magazines in the 1990s, as did Mike. Mike started his own, small press comic, Violent, as an homage to Action when it was that comics anniversary. Mike was helped by some of the artists and writers from 2000AD, and so some of the tales are very professional. But probably not for delicate, gentle souls.

Amongst SF fandom, chapbooks are small books which another publishes himself. And they have been the route some professionally published authors have taken into print. Stephen Baxter is one of them. I think his Xelee stories first appeared in a chapbook he sold at one of the SF conventions.

Looking back at Kids Rule UK, this was my least favourite strip in Action. I was bullied at school, and so the idea of a Britain, where everything had broken down and there was nothing but bullying and juvenile violence really scared me. Action took many of its strips from the popular culture of the time. Hookjaw was basically Jaws. One-Eyed Jack seemed based very much on the type of hard-boiled American cop shows, if not actually Dirty Harry. One of the SF movies of the late sixties was about an America in which teenagers had seized power, and put all the adults in concentration camps were they were force-fed LSD. One of the four Star Trek stories that were banned on British television until the 1980s was ‘Miri’. In this tale, Kirk, Spock and the others beam down to a planet occupied entirely by children, as all the ‘grups’ – the adults – have been killed by disease. Kids Rule UK seems very much in the same vein as these stories.

Mills’ story about Dr. Who not wanting to show a working class family, let alone a spaceship captain, shows how far the series has come when it was relaunched by Russell T. Davis. Christopher Eccleston basically played the Doctor as northern and working class, wile Rose Tyler’s family and friends were ordinary people in a London tower block. As for not wanting to show a working class spaceship captain, that probably comes from very ingrained class attitudes in the aviation industry. A friend of mine trained as a pilot. When he was studying, their tutor told the class that the British exam included a question no other country in the world required, and which was particularly difficult. He stated that it was put there to weed out people from working or lower middle class backgrounds, as they would fail and not be able to retake the exam, as their competitors from the upper classes could.

It’s great to hear Mills encourage people try to produce their own work, and not be disheartened if they are rejected by mainstream publishers. I’m also saddened by the absence of any comics for children. They offered me when I was a lad an escape into a whole world of fun and imagination. And at their best, they do encourage children to take an interest in real issues like racism, sexism, bigotry and exploitation. I hope some way can be found to reverse their disappearance.

Credo! Pat Mills on 40 Years of Thrillpower!

Pat Mills is one of the great creators of the British comics industry. In this video from 2000 AD on YouTube, he talks to host Tony Esmond about his career in the comics industry, politics and his determination to give readers working class heroes. The interview was at the 40 Years of Thrillpower convention earlier this year (2017).

Mills is best known as one of the creative forces who seriously upset the establishment with Action before going on to reoffend with 2000AD. Before then he started off writing for the 1970s children’s comics, like Corr! The experience of writing for them was not happy for him. He states that the people behind them had no particular interest in them and very much had a production-line mentality to their creation. He describes how one writer once asked him how many stories he could write in a day. When he said about one every two or three days, the other writer boasted that he wrote three in a day. And then went on to say, probably quite truthfully, that he was making more money than the prime minister. Mills states that the writers at IPC were able to do this because they wrote very much to a formula. He preferred the stories their competitors at DC Thompson produced. Although their comics were also stuck in the past, the stories were better crafted. He describes one strip about a man going around the country having adventures with a horse. As a concept, he says it wasn’t even at the level of afternoon television. But it was well done. The IPC comics, on the other hand, were soulless. It depressed him so much, that, when he and John Wagner, who also later went on to become one of the founders of 2000AD, were writing in a garden shed, he wrote all his scripts on a roll of wallpaper so they formed a continuous strip and he wouldn’t have to go back and read them all again.

British comics in this period were very much stuck in the past, even as British society changed. This was a time when the German experience of the war was appearing in the books of Sven Hassel, reflected in Action’s strip, Hellmann of Hammer Force. But yet Mills found it impossible to launch a strip whose hero was Black. This was to be a strip about a Black boxer. He was told that it wouldn’t work. People would not accept a Black hero. They’d accept a Black supporting character or friend. But as the central character, never. He also thought of introducing one about a Black football player, and that would have been even more controversial. There was a Black football player in one of the London clubs at the time, and he had been treated with racist abuse from the balconies.

Politics and satire have always been an important element of Mills’ work. He says that at one point he became dissatisfied writing for 2000AD, as the management were trying to shift the comic away from its traditional satirical stance, and this very much went against Mills’ own nature. He and Esmond discuss at one point Mills’ memory that, when they launched 2000AD, the management told him that they should imagine a future that they would actually live in. And now, he states, they’re living in it with Donald Trump’s presidency of the US, which Mills compares to the infamous Judge Cal. Cal was the mad Chief Judge in Judge Dredd, modelled on Caligula, who appointed his pet fish as a judge, called in the alien Kleggs to suppress any opposition in Mega City 1, and had another judge pickled. Perhaps we need to be very glad that NASA hasn’t made contact with intelligent aliens yet.

Mills remarks on how very many of the heroes of British literature, from Sherlock Holmes to John Buchan’s Hannay, have been members of the upper and upper middle classes. There are too many of them, and too few working class heroes. He’s been actively trying to redress this imbalance in his strips. It’s why Marshal Law, in his alter ego, used to be unemployed, but is now a hospital orderly. He’s not even a nurse.

He states that as he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, he read many the authors that were around then, like Dennis Wheatley and John Buchan, all of whom were members of the upper classes. And with some of them, it was actually quite sinister. Buchan was a major propagandist for the First World War, in return for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada. And he did it very well. Later on in the video, in response to a question from the audience he remarks on how there is a very definite campaign in this country to suppress anything with an anti-war message. He was asked what the research was for his story in Charley’s War about the British invasion of Russia in 1918-19. He states that there were only two books he was able to get hold of at the time, but since then he got hold of a very good book, which is a much fuller description. This describes how the British officers sent in to overturn the Russian Revolution behaved like absolute animals. This episode has largely been airbrushed from British history. He contrasts with the British media’s refusal to publicise anti-war stories with that of our cousins across le manche. Attitudes there are much different, and Charley’s War, which ran in Battle and was about the experiences of a working-class Tommy in the First World War, is more popular in France even than Britain. This bias against anti-war stories is why you didn’t see Blackadder Goes Forth repeated in the centenary year of the War’s outbreak.

Mills is also critical of the way the indigenous mythology and legend of the British Isles has been suppressed in favour of myths from further south – Greece and Rome, and ancient Egypt. Mills’ background, like Kevin O’Neill, was Irish, and his family were very patriotic. He grew up knowing all about Michael Collins, and his middle name is Eamon after the first president of Eire, Eamon de Valera. Yet it wasn’t until he started researching the Irish, as well as the Scots and Welsh legends, that he learned about any of those stories, and was shocked. Why didn’t he know about the warpspasm – the ultra-berserker rage that transforms the Celtic hero Slaine as he goes into battle? He also talks about how, in legend, London was founded by the Trojans as New Troy, and briefly mentions his treatment of this in the story he is or was currently writing for the Slaine strip. He states he wanted to produce a barbarian strip that was set in this country, complete with its grey skies and rain.

Mills has a deep admiration for these Celtic legends, but remarks on how they differ considerably from the other mythological tales. They don’t share their structure. If you read the Norse tales or Beowulf, there’s a structure there. But the Irish – which he uses to include also the Scots and Welsh stories – read like they’re on acid. He’s particularly impressed with the Tain, otherwise known as the Tain Bo Cualnge, or in English, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and recommends the translation by Kinsella. He’s also particularly interested in finding the bits that were suppressed by the Christian clergy who wrote them down in the Middle Ages. He gleefully quotes one clerical writer, who says that the stories contain much that is true, much that is false, some lies, and some devilish invention, and some which is only fit to be read by idiots. Yeah! he shouts, that’s me!

He has the same mischievous joy when telling how he came to be persuaded to write the Invasion strip, in which Britain was invaded by a thinly disguised Soviet Russia. The management asked him if he wanted to write it. He said he couldn’t get up much enthusiasm. They urged him to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. So he worked his way as best he could through that. He still wasn’t enthusiastic. Then they asked him if he’d like to write a scene with Maggie Thatcher being shot by the Russians on the steps of St. Paul’s. His response: Yeahhh!

He also talks about how the brutal education he received at a school run by the De Lazare order inspired him to write the Nemesis the Warlock strip. The Terminators, and to a lesser extent Judge Dredd, were modelled on them. They were fanatical, and were quite sinister. He remarks that if you go on the internet you can find all sorts of tales about them.

He also talks about an abortive crossover story planned for Marshal Law and Batman. Marshal Law was a bitterly satirical, extremely violent and very funny strip published in the 1990s about a superhero in the devastated San Francisco of the early 21st century, who hates other superheroes. The superheroes in the strip were created for a Vietnam-like war in South America, and have come back disillusioned and traumatized by the conflict. As a result, they form violent street gangs, and Marshal Law is recruited by the police to clean them up. It was a very dark comic that relentlessly parodied superhero comics from a left-wing, feminist perspective. When DC announced they wanted to make the crossover, Mills thought that they weren’t really serious. But they were. So he and O’Neill decided that for the cover, they’d have the Marshal standing on a pile of bodies of the different versions of Batman from all across the alternative Earths of the Multiverse. Then DC’s management changed, and their story policy did too, and the idea was dropped.

Mills also discusses the various ways comics have been launched, only to be merged with other comics. With 2000AD the comic was merged with Tornado and then Starlord. It was a very cynical policy, as from the first these comics were intended to fail, but by merging them with 2000AD and other comics, the management presented it as giving their readers something new, even though it wasn’t, and they felt it was an intrusion. He also responds to another question about which comic he felt folded before its time. The obvious answer to this was Action, which upset the establishment so much that it was banned, before being sanitized and relaunched. Mills said that they knew the comic was doomed. The new editor, who was given control of it had previously edited – and this is almost unbelievable – Bobo the Rabbit – and so didn’t know what he was doing. Mills said that before then they had skated over what was just about unacceptable and knew just how far you could go. Because this new editor hadn’t had that experience, he didn’t, and the comic folded.

The comic that he really feels shouldn’t have folded, and could still have carried on today, was Battle. As for which comic he’d now be working on instead of 2000AD, if it had proved more successful, these were the girls’ comics, like Misty. They vastly outsold the boys’ comics, but ultimately folded because ‘the boys took over the sandbox’. The video ends with his answer to the question, ‘What is his favourite strip, that he wrote for?’ He thinks for a moment, before replying Nemesis the Warlock to massive cheering.

It’s a very interesting perspective on the British comics industry by one of its masters. Regarding Slaine, Mills has said before in his introduction to the Titan book, Slaine the King: Special Edition, that the achievements of our ancestors, the Celtic peoples, has been rubbed out of history in favour of the ‘stern but fair proto-Thatcherite Romans, who built the roads and made the chariots run on time’. I think part of the problem is that the legends Mills draws on – that of Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and Brythonic Wales – are those of the Celtic peoples, who were defeated by the expanding Anglo-Normans, who made a concerted attempt to suppress their culture. As for the very frank admiration for the Romans, that partly comes from the classics-based education offered by the British public schools.

As for the very staid attitude of British comics in the 1970s, this was a problem. It was actually a period of crisis, when many of the comics were folding because they hadn’t moved with the times. Mills’ idea for a strip about a Black boxer is clearly modelled on Mohammed Ali, the great African-American athlete of the ring. Everyone knew Ali, and he was universally admired, even by kids like me, who didn’t understand or know much about the racial politics behind Ali’s superstardom. Ali said that he wanted to give his people a hero.

Even so, the idea of having a sympathetic Black supporting character was an improvement. Roger Sabin, in his book Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, published by Phaidon, notes just how racist British comics were in the 1960s. This was very controversial, as Black people naturally objected. Sabin cites one strip, in which the White hero uses two racial slurs for Blacks, and another abusive term for Gypsies. And showing the type of strips that appeared in the 1920s, there’s an illustration which shows the Black characters from a strip in one of D.C. Thompson’s comics, either the Dandy or Beano at the time. This was The Colony N*gs. Only they don’t use an asterisk to try to disguise the term.

As for his experiences with the monks running his school, unfortunately he’s not the only one, who suffered in this way. I’ve met a number of former Roman Catholics, who were turned off religion, and in some cases became bitterly against it, because of their experience being taught by monks and nuns. Several of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters from the Emerald Isle were also turned off religion because of this. Dave Allen, who regularly poked fun at religion, and particularly the Roman Catholic church, said that he became an atheist because of the cruelty and the way the priests tried to scare their young charges at his old school. And that mainstay of British radio, Terry Wogan, in a series he presented about Ireland and his life there, said exactly the same about the effect the hard attitude of the teachers at his old Roman Catholic school had on him.

The Roman Catholic church does not have the monopoly on the abuse of children, and I’ve heard some horrifying tales of the brutal behavior of some of the teaching staff – and prefects – in some of the British grammar schools. Dad has told me about the very harsh regime of some of the teachers at his old school – not Roman Catholic – in Somerset. He describes the teachers as sadists, and has a story about how one of the teachers, when one of the boys couldn’t answer a question, threw the lad out of window. Brutality seems to have been built into the British educational system, leaving mental scars and bitter memories.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the British force sent against revolutionary Russia. Perhaps if we’d succeeded, the forty million Soviet citizens butchered by Stalin would have been able to live out their lives, and the peoples of the Russian Federation free of the shadow of the KGB and gulags.

But that’s with hindsight. That’s not why British troops were sent in. The Bolsheviks were anti-democratic and determined to suppress all other parties and factions except their own, even when these were Socialist or anarchist, like the Mensheviks, the Trudoviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries the Left Communists, Anarcho-Communists and syndicalists. But we sent in troops because Britain and the rest of the capitalist world felt threatened by the emergence of a working class, aggressively socialist state. Britain had many commercial contacts with pre-Revolutionary Russia, and Lenin had argued in his pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that global capitalism depended on European imperial expansion. These nations enslaved and exploited developing nations like Russia. A socialist revolution in these countries threatened international capitalism, as it was here that the capitalist system was weakest. Hence the Bolshevik slogan, ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link!’

Ordinary Russians, let alone the conquered nations of the Russian Empire, were oppressed and exploited. If you want an idea how much, and what ordinary Russians endured and struggled to overthrow, read Lionel Kochan’s book, The Russian Revolution, published by Paladin. This was the grotty system British troops were sent in to restore.

On a more positive note, one member of the audience in the video thanks Mills for encouraging him to read. The man says he was dyslexic, but it was the comics he consumed as a child that got him reading. He is now a teacher, who specializes in helping children with reading difficulties, and uses comics in his teaching.

This is really inspiring. Martin Barks in Comics, Ideology and Power, discusses how comics have always been regarded with suspicion and contempt by the establishment. They were regarded as rubbish, at best. At worst they were seen as positively subversive. I can remember how one of the text books we used in English at school included a piece of journalism roundly condemning comics as rubbish literature with bad artwork. And this was reprinted in the 1980s! My mother, on the other hand, was in favour of comics because they did get children reading, and used to encourage the parents of the children she taught to buy them when they asked her advice on how they could get their children to read if they wouldn’t read books. This shows how far comics have come, so that they are now respectable and admired.

Feminist movements lead the way in fight against repressive states

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/09/2017 - 6:03pm in

Despite pressures from society and states alike, feminist movements are growing around the world. They know how to challenge restrictions in creative and innovative ways.

Women at an unauthorised march in St Petersburg, Russia, on International Women’s Day 8 March 2017. Women at an unauthorised march in St Petersburg, Russia, on International Women’s Day 8 March 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Around the world, the rise of women in political and public life has not ended gender-related violence. In some places, it has created unprecedented tensions. Men, feeling confused and emasculated, have responded by asserting themselves physically and sexually.

Meanwhile, restrictive laws and policies are limiting civil society in a growing number of countries. Nationalist leaders like Erdogan, Putin and El-Sissi are hollowing out democratic institutions in the name of security and anti-terrorism.

In 2017, feminist activists around the world are confronting epidemics of violence against women and LGBTQ individuals – along with growing militarism, nationalism, and religious extremism. In the Age of Trump, the state is increasingly revealing itself as a big bad hetero-man. 

This summer, the women’s rights funds Mama Cash and the Urgent Action Fund published a new report entitled “Standing Firm: Women- and Trans-Led Organisations Respond to Closing Space for Civil Society”.

It charts how feminist movements are growing despite pressures from society and the state. Many of these groups already have experience operating independently, on miniscule budgets, adapting to restrictions in creative and innovative ways.

I talked to three prominent activists in Russia, India and Egypt, who worked on the report, about their experiences and the challenges they face.

“In the Age of Trump, the state is increasingly revealing itself as a big bad hetero-man.” From Russia, Ivanna* told me over Skype: “Much of the territory we gained is being lost. Democracy? We’re more concerned about basic safety!” The activist runs an NGO that campaigns for the health and rights of an estimated 3 million sex workers in the country.

“Those in power know that it’s easier to control the masses if they have no rights,” said Ivanna, who condemned the Russian government’s decision to decriminalise some forms of domestic violence as “designed to put women in a position of weakness”.

At least 12,000 people in Russia die of domestic violence injuries each year, she said, according to estimates that “don’t tell the whole story” as many incidents are never reported.

Asha Kowtal at the 2016 AWID Forum in Brazil. Asha Kowtal at the 2016 AWID Forum in Brazil. Photo: Mama Cash/Sarah van Brussel. All rights reserved.In India, Asha Kowtal described a climate of impunity, hard-line policing, the silencing of dissident voices, and limitations on the arts.

“NGOs receive little or no financial support, freedom of expression is limited, writers and actors are publicly attacked and threatened, students are assaulted at university by rightist student groups, and farmers lose land in feuds and confiscations,” she said.

Kowtal, 41, is general secretary of the organisation All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, which offers legal support and training to Dalit women – in northern India and in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – and documents violations of their human rights.

“It’s through the woman’s body that the caste system is perpetuated.”

She described “deep-rooted customs and discrimination in society” and a clear link between “caste conflict and gender-related violence”.

She told me: “It’s through the woman’s body that the caste system is perpetuated. Whenever there’s a problem in a rural community, with water or land for example, the dominant caste uses force and revenge against lower-caste women to exert power and pressure”.

Dalit women are “the most abused and the most silenced,” said Kowtal, adding that “in most cases, the authorities do nothing... Or they are active participants in the violence”

Meanwhile, she said, India’s feminist movements have “always led by the elitist, urban dominant caste who... never acknowledged our situation since they had too much to lose if the system collapsed”.

Sondos Shabayek. Sondos Shabayek. Photo: Ahmed Hayman. All rights reserved.In Egypt, Sondos Shabayek said the government “has the civilian population completely under control; all the places where people could gather in the centre have been cleaned up: theatres are closed, censorship has been tightened”.

“We are struggling against those in power, but we are also fighting against the exercise of power among our own people – conservative ideas and social control”, she said.

“We are struggling against those in power… [and against] conservative ideas and social control.”

The 31-year old activist and former journalist is a leader of the BuSSy project that organises theatre workshops in poor Cairo neighbourhoods and in some rural districts, to enable women to share their stories.

This can help break the silence around domestic violence, increase awareness of women’s experiences, and have “an amazing healing effect”, she said, describing the case of one girl who told her story of regular beatings from her brother.

“We didn’t give an opinion, or a solution, or advice. Telling the story was her way forward,” said Shabayek. “One day she came to us and said: ‘I packed my things and left and won’t be going back home before something changes.’”

Shabayek described this as a “natural” process, in which breaking the silence around abuse is a first step towards tackling it.

When we spoke, she criticised a perception in Europe that assumes that “assault and rape don’t exist [in Europe] or that they are an Arab import. That makes it much harder to talk about oppression and violence”.

Shabayek also drew a striking parallel between Trump in the US and El-Sissi in Egypt and how both target “activists, artists and the LGBTQ community because they refuse to submit to authority”. In the end, she said, “their subversion is a greater danger to the state than terrorism”.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

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12 feminist authors who may not be on your college reading list – but should be

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 8:26pm in

Tags 

culture, Feminism

These writers and their work span the globe and its history and would complement any degree. What would you add to this list?

Books. Bookshelves. Photo: Flickr/ Stewart Butterfield. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.If you’re starting, or heading back to, college or university this month then hopefully whatever course you’re studying will include some key feminist texts on your syllabus. But there is more to feminist writing than Woolf and Wollstonecraft (as vital and needed as their work is). There are centuries of feminist texts, stretching across disciplines and around the world.

In medieval France, Christine de Pizan – frustrated at male writers composing screeds damning women – wrote her literary masterpiece The Book of the City of Ladies. In it, she takes an empowering shot at the cultural misogyny of the Middle Ages, celebrating the achievements of women throughout history.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Indian author Rokeya Sakhawet Hossain wrote poems, essays and short stories arguing that women and men should be treated as equals. A passionate advocate of women’s education, her 1905 story Sultana’s Dream imagines a world where women rule and men live in seclusion.

There is a rich tradition of Indian women writers including the Sangnam poets from 100 BC – 250 AD. This includes the work of Venmanipputi Kuruntokai celebrating women’s bodies and sexuality. In one poem she wrote: “when we made love my eyes saw him and my ears heard him; my arms grow beautiful in the coupling and grow lean as they come away”.

‘There are centuries of feminist texts, stretching across disciplines and around the world.’

The 20th century saw a rise in feminist publishing – including Marie Stopes’ texts on reproductive and sexual rights. In journalism, Martha Gellhorn – too often dismissed as “Hemingway’s third wife” – disrupted the male-dominated field with incisive and intelligent reporting from around the world.

Gellhorn reported on the Great Depression, the Spanish Civil War, World War Two’s “D-Day landings” (she sneaked onto a boat to witness the invasion), the Nuremberg Trials, Vietnam and much more.

Her novel A Stricken Field, based on her experiences in Praugue in the autumn of 1938, also resonates today. Its descriptions of columns of people fleeing Nazi occupation, trudging from country to country, their lives carried on their backs as their children cry, are chillingly familiar amid our contemporary refugee crises.

Fierce Attachments, the fiercely-written memoir of journalist Vivian Gornick, is also recommended reading. It explores growing up in an eastern European immigrant community in 1940s New York City and women’s relationships – with each other, with their husbands, and with the places in which they live.

“merciless as well as curious and sympathetic accounts of family, sex, gender, marriage, and class”

Katherine Angel, British author of Unmastered: a book on desire, most difficult to tell, told me over email that Gornick’s book is “merciless as well as curious and sympathetic in her accounts of family, sex, gender, marriage, and class” and that its “beautiful” writing “should put to rest any lazy dismissal of memoir-writing as not simultaneously political or literary”.

As a journalist for the New York City-based weekly The Village Voice in the 1970s, Gornick reported on a growing women’s liberation movement in the US campaigning for the rights of working women, against male violence, and for women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

At this time, writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde was also publishing powerful political and sensual poetry that explored issues of women’s rights, race, sex and sexuality.

Lorde. Audre Lorde (left) in 1980. Photo: Flickr/K Kendall. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.When a white, conservative senator declared Lorde’s work to be “obscene”, she responded: “My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds… [his] objection to my work is not about obscenity… or even about sex. It is about revolution and change”.

Almost contemporary to Lorde was Senegalese writer Mariama Bâ, who explored the position of women in African Muslim societies and the impact of polygamy on women’s equality. Her novels include Une si longue lettre and Un Chant Ecarlate. Bâ also wrote non-fiction, including on the political function of African literature.

Born two years after Bâ (who died in 1981), is the Egyptian writer Nawal el Saadawi. At 85 she remains an outspoken critic of political and patriarchal oppression.

El Saadawi’s 2007 book The Hidden Face of Eve explores political struggles of women in the Arab world – and includes a devastating description of her own experience of female genital mutilation (a form of abuse against girls that she has campaigned to end).

Nawal el-Saadawi. Nawal el-Saadawi at a women's march in Cairo. Photo: Flickr/ Gigi Ibrahim. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.In 2015, another Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy published her book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, which takes aim at religious fundamentalists of all faiths.

Eltahawy told me that she wrote this book “because as important as our revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa were, unless women's equality and liberation are centred and prioritised, all those revolutions will fail”.

She said: “I'm often told, when I say feminism is my top priority, that no one is free, including men. My reply is if the state – which was the target of those revolutions – oppresses everyone, then we must remember that the state, the street and the home together oppress women. That trifecta of misogyny, as I call it, is why I wrote my book”.

'we must remember that a trifecta of misogyny (the state, the street and the home) oppresses women'

In the field of “science and technology studies” there are also powerful feminist texts including the 2016 book Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway. It asks how, in the midst of ecological catastrophe, we can reconfigure our relationships to the planet and our fellow inhabitants.

For students of economics, often seen as a male-dominated field, why not pick up the 2015 book Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?: A Story About Women and Economics, by Swedish writer and journalist Katrine Marcal.

The book challenges Smith’s model of “the economic man” arguing that it ignores all other motivations for our actions other than self-interest, and therefore also ignores the value that society does ascribe to women’s domestic and caring work.

Trans, by Juliet Jacques, is another recent title to add to this list. Published in 2015, it is a memoir of transition and sex reassignment surgery.

In her book, Jacques blends personal and political reflections to share her own journey, and tell her own story. The result sheds needed light on the often marginalised, unacknowledged and silenced experiences of transgender people.

Which feminist authors and books would you add to this list? Leave your recommendations in the comment thread below, or message Sian Norris on Twitter @sianushka.

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Beyond Binaries with Feminist Secureconomy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 7:00am in

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Feminism

Addressing the question of the divide – or the proper relationship – between Feminist Security Studies and Feminist Global Political Economy immediately raises an age-old dilemma: how can we study an undifferentiated social world in which everything is in fact connected to everything else? To analyse a complex world means breaking it up into its components parts, investigating interrelationships, and putting them back together again. To do this, we need to slice it up into manageable chunks that we can conceptualise precisely and examine empirically. Academic disciplines and their sub-disciplines – like Feminist Security Studies (FSS) and Feminist Global Political Economy (FGPE) – are in part the result of this analytical need (and of course in part also the result of the politics of academia, of teaching institutions, of funding bodies, and so on). The outcome of this perfectly explicable need to break things apart, from which we can gain analytical precision, is that we simultaneously tend to reify distinctions that were initially only analytically constructed. This means that we treat as natural divisions that are not real. This reification, in turn, obscures crucial interconnections. We thus face an inevitable dilemma. We could recognise the interconnectedness of everything, which makes it difficult to study. Alternatively we could make studying easier by dividing things up, which falsely separates interconnected dimensions of the social world, leading to problematic analyses. This blog’s discussion of the reintegration of FSS and FGPE in part reflects a natural and potentially fruitful pendulum swing back towards recognising the interconnectedness of everything.

At the same time, any project of reintegrating FSS and FGPE raises a slew of potentially interesting issues for discussion. We want to highlight three of these issues here, not to argue against reintegrating, but to suggest issues to consider in doing so.

1) The distinction between Feminist Security Studies and Feminist Global Political Economy maps onto mainstream/malestream International Relations (IR). Why begin with mainstream IR’s masculinist distinction between security and political economy?

The defining question posed by this blog series is very closely determined by, and maps quite directly onto, the structure of IR as a discipline. IR is traditionally divided into sub-areas, which prominently include Security Studies and International (or latterly Global) Political Economy. The ‘Secureconomy’ workshop (from which this blog series emerges) asked, ‘how the incorporation of Feminist IPE with Feminist Security Studies can advance the theoretical, epistemological, methodological, ethical, and empirical levels of feminist analysis of “the international”’. This question assumes the prior separation of these two IR sub-areas. Given feminist suspicions of IR as a discipline, we might query starting from this traditional IR dichotomy and ask some critical questions, including:

  1. Why reinscribe problematical IR distinctions that grow out of and bring with them theoretical baggage from masculinist realist (security) and liberal (political economy) approaches that have long been successfully challenged, especially by feminisms?
  2. Is ‘security’ versus ‘political economy’ the right dichotomy to begin from? Why accept these as the two most important dimensions of the social world, be it international or otherwise? Where’s the environment? Or migration? Or the everyday? Or power? Or inequalities?
  3. Ought we to be discussing a dichotomy at all? Why limit ourselves to two arenas, whether integrated or not? Why not the more complex world that most people actually encounter, that includes the domestic and the international; the local national, regional and global; the political, economic, social, historical, familial, cultural, environmental (etc)?

If we begin with the social as an undifferentiated totality, we need to ask ourselves on what grounds we divide it up. What criteria do we use? Do we, as feminists, want to privilege and re-entrench the empirical and theoretical criteria for defining and studying IR that have long been dominant in mainstream/malestream IR? This is a particularly pertinent question regarding the integration, or not, of SS and GPE given the masculinist underpinnings of the traditional IR theory on which these distinctions rest. A way forward might be to focus on political categories like power or inequality, which cut across policy areas.

2. Feminist IR has a long history of, and indeed in some ways has pioneered, non-reified, integrated IR. Why ignore traditional feminism’s failure to reify these same distinctions?

It is certainly true that some Feminist IR work can be identified as more narrowly ‘FSS’ and other work as specifically ‘FGPE’, as highlighted in the introduction. But does this really mean that we have a Feminist IR characterised by mutually exclusive camps that require reintegrating to begin with? It seems to us worth considering that the best feminist work concerned with issues of security is always already attentive to political economic context, structures, practices, actors, etc., and vice versa. Much Feminist IR is in fact difficult to locate as either FSS or FGPE to begin with, as pointed out in the introduction. There are exceptions of course – not least due to the disciplinary structure of IR and its journals, institutional academic pressures, and the UK REF, which sometimes force self-identification in sub-disciplinary terms for publication and promotion purposes. Nonetheless, this FSS/FGPE dichotomy potentially leaves out important work that does not deal strictly with security or political economy.

Crucially, significant Feminist IR work has managed (against and in contrast to much of IR) not to begin from this artificial separation, or at least not to reify it. Along with those identified in the introduction, some excellent examples are offered by classic feminist IR work by Cynthia Enloe (2014), Katharine Moon (1997) and many others. These authors study the fundamental mutual constitution of the global, regional, national and local sex industries, sex tourisms, and labour. They highlight the productive connections between employment practices, the forward deployment and home basing of US and other military forces, the military, diplomatic and alliance practices of states, and racist and ethnic identity structures and practices. This work does not begin from a separation of security and political economy. It comes much closer to recognising the interconnectedness of everything, beginning from unreified understandings of local and global, domestic and international, political and economic, and so on. In fact, they start from concerns about exclusions, power and inequalities, rather than from (policy- and discipline-defined) sub-disciplines.

3. Perhaps Feminist IR ought to continue the problematisation of ‘the international’ as its overarching analytical category?

Beginning from IR categories necessarily privileges ‘the international’. However, feminists already know that this is an awkward category and it has been thoroughly dissected by feminist and other critical literatures (e.g., Enloe, 1989; Walker, 1993). Our own work on both the anti-street harassment movement, and on popular culture, tourism and world politics, has lead us to become less convinced that ‘the international’ is useful as an, or at least ‘the’, anchoring category for research, even for research into issues traditionally addressed in ‘Feminist Security Studies’ or ‘Feminist Global Political Economy’. As feminism tells us, foundational binaries like the domestic/international are themselves power moves, with significant power effects, that feminists have long been deconstructing. So, challenging the FSS/FGPE binary – as this blog series does – is a good place to continue to question the closely related international/domestic binary. Simultaneously unpicking these two binaries perhaps provides a good place for the resolution of both into wider categories of ‘politics’ or of ‘power’.

We suggest that, instead of starting from an integration of IR subfields, we could begin with questions about power. We could explore how it functions and what it makes possible in terms of relations, identities and practices, in any specific context. Starting from power does not presuppose or reify any particular level of analysis, issue, or sub-area, but keeps concerns about politics (broadly defined) at the forefront.

The post Beyond Binaries with Feminist Secureconomy appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Kate Millett: 1934–2017

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 12:33am in

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Feminism


Still, I went a little crazy too, endlessly having to repeat myself. The real problem with patriarchy: it’s an entire social system of status, temperament, and role — centuries old. We regard it as “nature.” The Movement, but also Fumio, cheered me on; we all had a hilarious time laughing at the conceit of Mailer and Miller. It was outrageous fun even to say these things aloud. The wind blew hard at times: my family tried to control me with psychiatry but finally gave up. Eventually, I went off to England to make a movie.

Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

Is Liberia's Sirleaf really standing up for women?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/09/2017 - 11:11pm in

President Sirleaf's promise to campaign for women candidates in Liberia's upcoming elections comes too little, too late.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Paris in 2012. Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Paris in 2012. Photo: Lemouton Stephane/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.In a public statement in August, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa's first woman
elected head of state – vowed to campaign actively for female candidates
running in presidential and legislative elections in October. While her
pronouncement may appear praiseworthy, it is too little, too late.

In this
year's high-stakes elections – the country's third since the end of a
devastating 14-year armed conflict – only 163 out of 1,026 (16%) approved
candidates are women, including one running for president in a crowded field of
over 20 men. This represents only a marginal increase since 2005 and 2011, when
women accounted for 14% (110/762) and 11% (104/909) of candidates,
respectively. 

During a recent meeting with 152 female contenders, Sirleaf lamented the
abysmally low number of women in elected office. In 2005 when she triumphed over
footballer-turned-politician George Weah in a duel for
the presidency, only 13 women were elected to the national legislature. That
number dropped to eight in 2011, when the president secured a second mandate to
lead Liberia. There is a strong
likelihood that fewer women will win seats come 10 October.

This is
as much Sirleaf's doing as it is a reflection of Liberia's acutely patriarchal
political system. In the past 12 years, she has done next to nothing to
position women favourably to win votes.

'In the past 12 years, she has done next to nothing to
position women favourably to win votes.'

In 2009,
when female politicians petitioned Sirleaf to support a woman in her party
during a by-election to replace a deceased female senator, she campaigned
instead for a man (the candidate Sirleaf supported eventually lost to a woman
from the opposition).

Though a
2014 elections law amendment encourages political parties to increase their
representation of women in leadership roles, Sirleaf's own Unity Party ranks
below smaller, less-prominent parties in fronting female candidates this year.

This is
in part due to Sirleaf's lukewarm response to a gender equity in politics bill
similar to the ones that propelled women in Rwanda,
Senegal and South Africa to high public
office. When in 2010 the Liberian women's legislative caucus sponsored
an act mandating that
women occupy at least 30% of political party leadership, with a trust fund
established to finance their electoral campaigns, Sirleaf did not actively
support the proposed law and it was never ratified.

When a less radical bill
allotting five seats for women in special legislative constituencies was
rejected as "unconstitutional" by largely male legislators this year,
Sirleaf remained conspicuously silent.

In
high-level political appointments, Sirleaf has also failed women. Although she
hired a few female technocrats for executive positions in previous years, only
four of her 21 cabinet officials are women, with the strategic ministries
of finance, public works, education and commerce led by relatively
inexperienced and underqualified men.

Despite
these glaring missteps, much has been touted about Sirleaf's crusade for
women's empowerment before and after assuming the presidency, with a Nobel Peace Prize win in
2011 serving as the ultimate stamp of approval.

Sirleaf in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015. Sirleaf in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Sirleaf's
cheerleaders may have some, but not complete, cause to celebrate. Her
administration has built or renovated hundreds of markets across the country
for thousands of female informal traders called "market women" – the
Liberian president's largest voting constituency.

Sirleaf
has also instituted policies to protect women and girls from male aggression –
including the most comprehensive anti-rape law in Africa, with the establishment of a fast-track
special court to deal specifically with gender-based violence.

Despite
the existence of the court, however, there remain gaps in access to justice for
Liberian women and girls, including the lack of viable forensic facilities.
Liberian authorities' recent failure to swiftly investigate and prosecute the
alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl by a sitting member of the national
legislature is a clear example of the Sirleaf administration's inability
to address sexual violence.

Liberia's dual legal system – customary and
statutory – has also presented significant challenges in implementing the rape
law. Furthermore, a decade after the court was set up to expedite gender-based
violence cases, it remains in the capital, Monrovia, and inaccessible to most
women across the country.

'A decade after the court was set up to expedite gender-based
violence cases, it remains in the capital, Monrovia, and inaccessible to most
women across the country.'

Moreover,
the person nominated by Sirleaf in May and approved by the legislator to
head the court, Serena Garlawolu, has gone on record endorsing female genital mutilation
(FGM), saying the practice "is not a violation of anyone's rights culturally". Liberian
women's rights activists petitioned to criminalise the harmful procedure, but
the proposed ban was omitted from a recently passed Domestic Violence Act.

Femocracy

While
Sirleaf's record on the socioeconomic empowerment of women remains contested,
her record on enhancing the political stature of Liberian women is woefully
inadequate. Her brand of femocracy – a term coined
by Nigerian feminist scholar Amina Mama – has severely stifled women's
political participation.

Mama
makes an important distinction between feminism and femocracy, arguing that
while feminism attempts to shatter the political glass ceiling, femocracy
deliberately keeps it intact. Her 1995 preoccupation with African first ladies
as femocrats remains relevant now that Africa can boast of women presidents,
including Sirleaf and former Malawian head of state Joyce Banda

The
over-glorification of Sirleaf as a feminist icon is particularly troubling
since her 12-year presidency has actually served the interests of a small,
elite group of women and men in politics and thus upheld long-standing
patriarchal norms (pdf) in Liberia. This is
particularly evident in Sirleaf's defence of nepotism (she has appointed three
of her sons to top government positions), failure in fighting corruption and continuous recycling of mostly
male government officials.

Other development challenges which have
intersectional feminist linkages to women's abilities to participate fully in
politics at community and national levels have either been compromised or
ignored, including the right to education for young women and girls free of
sexual coercion and exploitation.

'The euphoria of electing Liberia's first female head of state – twice – has completely lost its lustre.'

Having
recently gone on record rejecting feminism as "extremism", Sirleaf
has publicly distanced herself from the very movement that got her elected in
the first place. In her 2005 campaign, Sirleaf aggressively evoked her gender
as an alternative to the previous throng of authoritarian and brutal male
leaders. Twelve years later, the euphoria of electing Liberia's first female
head of state – twice – has completely lost its lustre.

Sirleaf
and others like her have demonstrated that a woman's assumption of the highest
political office in a country does not inevitably result in gender equity. Her
legacy on women's political participation, in particular, is characterised by
an individualistic approach that betrays the hard-fought gains made
by women's rights movements
across the globe.

Though
the international media machinery continues to hoist Sirleaf up as the matron
of women's rights, she is far less deserving of this title. That Liberia
currently has no viable female presidential candidate is a glaring indictment
of her two terms in office.  

In a
recent presidential debate, four male candidates presented very concerning
responses to questions about how they would address gender-based violence in
Liberia. If the first female president in Africa was not able to resolve this
quagmire, we have little confidence that the bevy of men vying for the
presidency will succeed.

If the
current political landscape in Liberia is any indication of future trends, it
may well be a century before we elect a female (or male) head of state who is
truly committed to a feminist agenda.

* This commentary was
originally published in Al Jazeera English.

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Introducing Feminist ‘Secureconomy’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/09/2017 - 6:00am in

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Feminism

Feminist International Relations (IR) scholarship has rapidly developed in recent decades into a distinct and recognised body of scholarship encompassing a terrain of debates about what “the international” is and how we might study it. While feminist IR’s development and institutionalisation within broader IR scholarship can certainly be celebrated, myself, Amanda Chisholm and Saskia Stachowitsch argue in this post that we can perceive a growing divide between those feminists who study security and those who study global economy. Such an intellectual division of labour also mirrors in many ways the mainstream IR “economic” and “security” divisions. We find this replication in feminist work puzzling.

With raising the issue of the relationship between feminist security studies (FSS) and feminist global political economy (FGPE)—and with it the relationship between security and economy—we generally hope to challenge the constructed and sometimes violently sustained borders between public and private, domestic and international, political and economic, state and market, Global North and Global South. We also hope to challenge disciplinary camp structures and camp politics, which too often shape academic, including feminist, knowledge production.

Feminist scholarship has generally perceived of militarism, political economy, and the environment as interrelated, however the recent development of FSS as a distinct approach has fostered the privileging of researching security as an analytical category, sidelining issues of economic inequalities or economic determinants of (in)security. This work has, in many ways, reproduced the ahistorical and Eurocentric assumptions of the mainstream regarding the causes of war and political violence. At the same time, feminist GPE has largely avoided questions of security and violence, particularly in terms of how such gendered and racialised violence matter in the constitution of ‘value’. Thus, the assumptions of scholarship that takes security as a social good disconnected from either its use or (and even more so) exchange value within this political-economic system are implicated in its maintenance and reproduction.

The works in this blog series seek to re-examine the ontological and epistemological divisions that have fostered the drifting apart of feminist work in security and economy and, in doing so, offer a different starting point from which to re-think issues of both security and economy — not as distinct phenomena, but as always and intimately connected. We believe that linking FSS and FGPE perspectives enables us to critically examine the interconnections between economic processes, institutions, and practices under neoliberal globalisation and their role in the generation of gendered insecurities.

In our own work, we have used this lens to talk about, for example, the role of violence in production and the global supply chain, the labour of doing/achieving security, how the researcher is complicit in knowledge production of value and security and of the commodity-producing and fetishising effects of securitisation. Amanda and Saskia’s work on the recruitment of Nepali labour into global security industry highlights how coloniality, gender and economy all entangle in the production of the valued Nepali security contractor. It is a security economy within Nepal that, as Amanda’s current ethnographic work is revealing, profoundly shapes the everyday make-up of households and communities. Value and valuation of security labour is also very much produced through intimate encounters between security clients and the security contractors. Sara’s work similarly complicates assumptions about violence in the international system, revealing the systematic ways in which gendered and racialised logics of violence become integral to resource extraction and exploitation throughout the supply chain, and thus deeply imbricated in the valuation of both labour and products.

The entanglements of security and economy are also evident in the ways in which the advent of free trade and the global opening of markets have increasingly correlated with security practices aimed at reorientating social fabrics of communities to be more amenable to market practices, ironically resulting in decreased societal and social security with significant implications for the livelihoods, wellbeing, and labour of the most marginalised groups in society – especially, women. Dividing “security” from “economy” also has immediate material consequences for development. Feminists such as Sara Meger, Jacqui True and Claire Duncanson have highlighted that post-conflict reconstruction efforts continue to fall short of making lives better for women because they rarely address the economic concerns that underpin security reformation.  Thus, we must also be attentive to the socio-political effects of the neoliberal logics of securitisation.

These and the contributions of this ‘Feminist Secureconomy’ series complicate the neat divisions often drawn in mainstream and feminist IR scholarship between security and economy, thinking through the ways in which security logics are deeply embedded within the logics of neoliberal, globalised capitalism. They connect with our feminist predecessors—and indeed contributors within this blog series. Scholars such as, but not limited to, Silvia Federici, Angela Davis, Gayatri Spivak, Cynthia Enloe and Kimberlé Crenshaw, whose feminist research agenda was driven by a broader intellectual curiosity that sought to explain global politics through intersectional analysis attentive to social relations conditioned by interlocking oppressions of colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy and capitalism—relations which do not attend to the same “security” and “economy” intellectual boundaries IR confines them to. All of the contributors draw on their own research to demonstrate the analytical and conceptual utility of ‘feminist secureconomy’.

Elisa Wynn-Hughes and Jutta Weldes draw our attention to the political effects of the analytical distinction between security and economy, particularly from the perspective of a feminist sensibility. They question the analytic utility of a simple re-integration of two masculinist frameworks of IR and propose a shift to focusing on political categories like power and inequality.

Carrie Reiling simultaneously builds upon this call, while also questioning the implications that follow from ‘needing to be an expert’ across a range of literatures to be taken seriously as scholars bridging conceptual divides. She exposes the additional academic and emotional labour that is involved with critical feminist engagement across the security-economy divide.

Juanita Elias and Amanda Chisholm use the framework to show how the military household operates as a site of both productive and reproductive labour that reproduces security markets and sustain a global security industry. For them, the household is reproductive of both militarism and neoliberal logics.

Also drawing on field research on households, Jenny Hedstrom directly engages the question of what work feminism is doing in analysing the political economy of global security. She shows how a feminist ethic could reveal the otherwise overlooked connections between the intimate sphere and forms of violence experienced therein and the political-economic determinants of war in the Kachin State.

Other themes explored in this series include Sara Meger’s defense of ‘old’ materialism for interrogating the ‘secureconomy.’ Revisiting feminist debates of the uneasy relationship between Marxism and feminism, Sara’s post demonstrates how a Marxist feminist ontology and epistemology may offer the necessary tools for foregrounding the relations of gender, race and class in the work of the ‘secureconomy.’

Finally, Caron Gentry’s blog post fleshes out the analytic leverage of this framework by exploring the profitability of terrorism as both a practice and a red herring in international and domestic policy. Returning to the fundamental question of critical political economy – who benefits? – she demonstrates how the security assemblages built around the threat of terrorism themselves produce deeply gendered and racialised insecurities.

While each author approaches the issues of the ‘secureconomy’ from their own research interests, what the posts of this series share is the desire to extend the boundaries of feminist knowledge in IR. In an era wherein feminist knowledge is co-opted by security governance and economic actors operating across realms of policy and the market, we believe the combination of feminist security studies’ critique of securitised gender relations and feminist GPE scholarship on corporate-led equality frames can be particularly fruitful. We thus seek to push further this nascent body of work and demonstrate how the joint research agenda on ‘secureconomy’ can contribute to a new vision for social, political, and economic relations in a violent world order.

The post Introducing Feminist ‘Secureconomy’ appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

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