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PORTSIDE  March 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE March 2012, Week 2

Subject:

'I Am Woman Hear Me Roar': Violence is Not Radical or Revolutionary

From:

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Date:

Fri, 9 Mar 2012 21:02:08 -0500

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text/plain (187 lines)

'I Am Woman Hear Me Roar': Violence is Not Radical or
Revolutionary

by Kathleen Kelleher

Published by Portside
March 9, 2012


The words "hypermasculinity" and "violence" have appeared
together in articles about the Occupy movement, in
particular about the coverage of events in Oakland and
Washington, D.C. in which Black Bloc participants broke
windows and carried out petty thievery. About "Black Block"
participants that call themselves "anarchists," Chris Hedge
notes, "The Black Bloc movement is infected with a deeply
disturbing hypermasculinity." The people who participate in
Black Bloc, he points out, dress in the same uniform --
black clothes, black hoodies, black face coverings, and they
march "as a uniformed mass." Such a high degree of
hypermasculine uniformity, I would argue, is hardly
anarchist. It is fascist. Clearly, such a uniform block of
humans requires quite a bit of hierarchical organization, as
well as top-down implementation. Such uniformity looks like
-- and smells like -- the hierarchically organized brown-
shirted anonymous blocks that marched in jack-boot fashion
across Europe. And, I would agree with Hedges when he
speculates that its primary appeal is what he calls its
"hypermasculinity."

Hypermasculine hierarchy ... hmmm. Last I heard--at least 40
years ago from Mary Daly -- this is called "patriarchy." No
more the "neutral," "logical" word: hierarchy. We women
understand quite clearly that the order of things in our
society is male-dominant. More precisely: hypermasculine
male-dominant. So don't try to convince us in the Occupy
movement that there is an inherent "logical movement" from
"peaceful protest" to a supposedly more meaningful, more
significant, or stronger--read: hypermasculine--protest.
(And, yes, there are women who are swept up into the line of
thinking that holds that aggressive behavior is somehow "the
logical outcome" of peaceful protest).

Hannah Arendt, another major female thinker of our times,
questioned the logic of the Third Reich in which it was
assumed that A led logically to B, which led logically to C
... all the way down to, as she said, "the murderous end of
the alphabet." What's wrong with this "air-tight logic"?
Well, let's just say that it's hard for some of us girls and
women to breathe in such an environment in which we have
been allocated no air space and are not allowed to question
the assumption underlying this fault-line logic. As women--
many of us mothers--we need both the space and the air to be
seen and heard: my baby has the right not to be hurt, my kid
has the right not to be killed. Even that cool dude Joe
Strummer of The Clash said it: "Number one: You have the
right not to be killed."

Participants in Black Bloc: Do you really want to smash
windows? "smash the state"? (Who came up with those empty
words?) Do you really want to be one of them ... ya know,
one of those guys that wears all black, wears no identifying
insignia, moves together as one unit ... one of those guys
that can be seen in the photographs of police from Greece to
Oakland: SWAT teams of police dressed in all black, wearing
"the new style" (Nazi-shaped) helmets, wearing plastic face
masks that assure total anonymity, standing over a protester
lying on the ground, black-leather truncheon frozen in mid-
air ... in that split-second just before it is brought
crashing down. Do you really want to go there?

Let me be perfectly clear. You do not speak for me. You do
not act in my behalf. You do not even act in the name of the
young woman at Berkeley who had a police truncheon
forcefully jabbed directly into her solar plexus. This is
not the '60s. There has been a feminist movement. That young
woman at Berkeley who was so forcefully violated by a man
has a mind of her own, a voice of her own, and a choice of
her own to make as to how she herself is going to respond.
And, given that the violence carried out against that young
woman was captured on video and you-tubed across the
country, that young woman "has a witness." And, she gains
the support and solidarity of women such as myself. This
requires, first, that I seek her out and, second, that I
listen to her.

Let me be perfectly clear. You do not act "in the name of
the people." (Would you believe? I have even seen this
spelled as "The People.") Please: no more patriarchal
empires declared in the name of "The People." Please: no
more fantasies of the master race. Before the feminist
movement, there was the black empowerment movement, meaning
that African-Americans are, of course, also quite capable of
speaking for themselves. The question is: Are they being
listened to? Let's listen to one African-American woman:
"When the deluded young are forced to face the reality that
we are bound by class, by limited resources, by the
exhaustion of glories, by endless exploitation, they become
rage filled and rage addicted. Only death, self-mutilation,
or the slaughter of their peers appeases." Even better if
this quote is read in the context of bell hook's book Where
We Stand: Class Matters, in which she also notes: "Of
course, once class was placed on the agenda [of the feminist
movement], women had to face the intersections of class and
race. And when they did, it was evident that black women
were clearly at the bottom of this society's economic totem
pole."

"Some guy" yakking about how he is worried about "the
minorities"? how he is worried about "The People"? Better to
listen. The black woman has a voice of her own, and she
speaks articulately in her own name and in her own behalf.
Listen to this: "If women are to play a meaningful role in
struggles to end racism and classism, they need to begin
with feminist consciousness. To abandon the feminist
movement is another gesture of collusion," notes bell hooks.
"Radical/revolutionary feminist politics brings a message of
hope, as well as strategies to empower women and men of all
classes. Feminism is for everybody."

Pushing people around and breaking things is not somehow
"more radical," "more revolutionary," or "more manly." From
what I have witnessed in Occupy Denver, this kind of
behavior is more of the "same-ole/same-ole" hypermasculine,
selfish, ego-driven behavior ... regardless of whether it's
carried out by men or women.

Listen to what bell hooks is actually saying: Men can,
should, and do in fact act with a feminist consciousness.
There are plenty of concerned men that focus, as bell hook
notes, "in a primary way on the concerns of women and
children." I talk with them -- and their kids -- every
Saturday when we Occupy Denver, and I interact with them
during the week as we work together. So, when it comes to
pushing, shoving, grabbing, jabbing, and smashing things,
keep in mind that there are plenty of the poorest of the
poor--single African-American women--who consider this kind
of violent behavior to be a privilege carried out by those
who feel safe enough to do so in this white-privileged
patriarchal culture ... in this land of white-privileged
patriarchal laws and courts.

So, what to do? Talk with her. Listen to her. My guess is
that she won't be talking about "smashing the state" or even
smashing windows. More than likely, she'll be asking for
help so that she and her kids won't be forced out of their
house, foreclosed. Or, she'll be asking for support to get
food on the table for the kids. Empower her. Help her
develop strategies for self-actualization, strategies that
strengthen self-esteem. Support her. Show solidarity.

Don't go around bashing and clashing and giving Occupy a bad
name. Don't create discipline problems (that's what we
teachers call it). We've got enough problems already. If you
must be a bad boy or a bad girl, show solidarity and go on a
hunger strike. We'll support you.

More words from the wise woman, bell hooks: "Ultimately,
more than any previous movement for social justice, the
struggle to end poverty could easily become the civil rights
issue with the broadest appeal--uniting groups that have
never before taken a stand together to support their common
hope of living in a more democratic and just world--a world
where basic necessities of life are available to everyone,
to each according to their need."

[Kathleen Kelleher is a participant of Occupy Denver, an
essayist, playwright, and teacher of multiculturalism who
has been active in the Denver teachers' union.]

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
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