The seagulls in my neighbourhood (I live by a river) are always walking around. Marching up and down the thoroughfares on their blindingly yellow legs, as though they’re just really short hipsters in trendy chinos.
And I’m not talking about those ridiculously fluffy juvenile seagulls with the dark feathers that haven’t learned how anything works yet, who stand around blinking stupidly while I point at them and sing “teenage SEA-GULL! duhn DAHHH!” to the tune of Teenage Wasteland. I’m talking big, threatening, trash scavenging, grown-ass seagulls.
I’ve been sitting in the living room window, or at least in the nook type thing that turns the window into a pleasant arm rest if you position yourself correctly, watching this local gull try to cross the road for ten minutes, darting into traffic then retreating to the pavement in a huff because there’s no break in the flow of cars that will give him adequate time to waddle awkwardly to the other side.
It has yet to occur to him that he can just fly over entire buildings whenever the hell he wants.
If he hasn’t figured it out by ten o’clock I’m just going to pop down and ask him if he wants to go to the pub and grab a beer.
— Phil Harrison, in a Quietus review of Utopia.
(In this case an it’s an anti-SJW/pro-OWS rant from 2011 or 2012, among about 350 other walls of text. What ever happened to Occupy Wall Street? Do they occupy it now? Is it the street they live on? We all know what happened to tumblr “social justice” of course. It’s probably threatening to DOXX you right now.)
Things just get lodged in my head, you know?
And I can’t focus on anything else until I write them out, but I hate doing this. I hate arguing with people on the fucking internet. I love it in real life. I will debate anything with anyone for days if there’s coffee or beer involved and I can speak at the speed of my thoughts instead of hunt-and-pecking my way through 4000 words, cursing the Detroit public school system for not teaching me how to type properly before they set me loose on the world.
Still, it has to come out or nothing else can get in.
What set me off was a reply to this quote:
"Listen, if your revolution doesn’t implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations, then you’re not staging a revolution: You’re staging a change in management." —Melissa McEwan
(Now, we all know that probably wasn’t coined by Melissa McEwan because this is the internet, but maybe it was, so whatever. Doesn’t matter.)
The response someone posted was: “This is what OWS is about and why it’s bullshit. In 40 years we will have to fight the same fight because of these ocuppiers.”
… and yeah, I get where they’re both coming from. OWS doesn’t address or care about feminist/racial/gay issues, so even if somehow, impossibly, the entire government topples as a result of their actions it will only be replaced with one that still needs to address the basic grievances of the oppressed.
That does not make it “bullshit”, nor does it mean it shouldn’t be happening.
A few weeks ago I walked directly into an 84 year old woman who was getting pepper spray flushed out of her eyes, which was put there by taxpayer-funded police protecting corporate interests. Period. She was standing in the street. That was her crime.
Literally millions of Americans are in ridiculous and insurmountable debt. Millions more don’t even have jobs. There are starving people in the richest country in the world while others are buying whole islands to vacation on. Alleviating these social ills is not “bullshit” simply because it’s not POC/feminist oriented. The right to assembly and peaceful protest is under open attack. Scott Olsen almost died. Someone certainly will if the movement continues and we inch forward toward a police state or military occupation. Probably many people. But there are many among the Occupy movement willing to die for a cause they believe in, one that would improve the quality of life for a huge number of people, including the members of every marginalized group in the nation. It wouldn’t end marginalization, but it certainly wouldn’t increase its prevalence either. It’s completely separate from those issues, on purpose. It’s hard enough trying to explain to the average citizen how the stock market works, let alone the inextricable links binding racism and classism with sexism and why those bonds need to be shattered. The main argument against OWS is that its message is too muddled. So it’s supposed to eradicate the bridge between money and politics, redistribute wealth from a corporatocracy back to the taxpayers who finance it unwillingly, consolidate or eliminate personal and educational debt and also explain a couple thousand years of indoctrinated and pervasive male influence and domination, plus the concepts of privilege and patriarchy, and if it doesn’t do that not only alongside but before its barely stated primary economic goals it just shouldn’t happen? It doesn’t count?
It does not escape people’s attention that the current situation could not have arisen were it not for the patriarchy and systemic oppression which has allowed those in power to gain that power at the expense of everyone else, plus a concurrent culture of violence that makes cops think it’s a good idea to mace teenage girls in the face, etc. Without that entrenched system of male-dominance, greed and aggression we wouldn’t be able to get in messes like modern-day America. But that’s where we live. Right now. And it certainly needs to be dismantled and rebuilt, but that can’t happen until everyone is free to make those changes, and has the education and the opportunity and the means to do so. And we are, sadly, very very far from being in that position.
The OWS movement is a disorganized mess. Yes it is. And a lot of them are just college kids who don’t want to pay back their student loans, just like their detractors claim. But there are women in there, and the elderly, and veterans, and cops, and black people, and handicapped people, and gays, and every other stripe of the American social fabric except stockbrokers and Senators, and many of them view the economic disparity in this country as a massive and potentially solvable problem, and they are willing to camp out, fight, and maybe die to end it. Is it as large a problem as institutional chauvinism? Or racism? To the people fighting for it, yes. It’s the most important thing there is. Shit, 50% of America doesn’t even know what patriarchy means. But they might if they had access to education, or if they had job security and didn’t have to grind away 60 hours a week for minimum wage to pay rent and feed their kids. They could spend that time reading and thinking and coming around to the “right” way of looking at things.
You’re asking, as feminists and/or social justice activists, for everyone to view everything they do through the lens of feminism or intersectionality because that’s what you consider the correct way of approaching things. And in a lot of ways it’s a good one, but it isn’t the only one, and some people who can advance feminist agendas wouldn’t give two shits if you read them the collected works of Audre Lorde. They have their own agendas. Their own passions and causes. And at some point you might have to cut them down, because your revolution will not be easy and literally the entire world is against you, built from the ground up to oppress you. So yeah, at some point it’s going to get ugly, but is that point now, with a group of people who only want economic equality in a country whose scales are tipped almost 100% in a very small minority’s favor?
Or is the enemy of your enemy your friend?
"OWS is bullshit."
It’s meaningless because it won’t end racism, or homophobia, or rape, and replace a millennia of misguided thought with beautiful, color blind, gender-neutral equality for all.
Did you get out there when they started organizing and demand that they go no further until they agreed to try toppling the patriarchy along with Wall Street? Or are you jumping in to criticize a peaceful movement that originated and will end completely outside the lens of the feminist movement?
It is just a change of management. So was electing Obama. Just another fucking politician, beholden to corporate interests. Just another privileged American male, perpetuating institutional oppression. But I was in Grant Park when he won, and the two old black ladies who hugged the breath out of me and cried and sniffled then cried some more for 15 or 20 minutes going, “I never thought I’d see this day. Oh, honey, I’m so happy right now. Oh my goodness I’m sorry I’m crying on you,” etc probably saw it as an amazing moment in the struggle for racial equality in a country founded on slavery and it would have been bullshit to tell them it was meaningless because he didn’t run on a feminist platform. So did it change anything? Of course not. (CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN, Y’ALL) But for every person of color who spent months and months campaigning and praying for his election it mattered. Having the kids in Detroit look up to their shitty TVs and see a black president, not a basketball player or actor, means something. But to the social justice kids who need to see the worst in everything it’s probably just bullshit. It’s not enough. And what the fuck? Is racism gone because we elected Obama? Of course it isn’t. But it was still a step in the right direction, and incredibly important to millions of people. It didn’t fix anything, but it certainly seems, even now, to be a hell of a lot better than electing a racist hick cowboy twice in a row.
Why do you vote at all? It’s just asking for a literal change in management. But some people spend their entire waking hours going door-to-door trying to get as many people to the polls as possible because not voting is also bullshit. Unless we actually go out in the streets and rip this country apart, raising from the ashes a new system of government, we need the current government to change the laws that affect us. Should those door-to-door ‘please go vote’ people stop? I guess so. Because it’s not going to fix everything all at once.
Just because it doesn’t change the world doesn’t make it pointless. Little victories add up. Ask every CEO who has used Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad to advance deregultaion and corporate personhood. You can do a lot piece by piece.
Would ending institutional oppression and accepting and loving the most marginalized members of our society be the best thing ever? Yes. It sure would. And if you have an actual plan for making that happen en masse, I bet the world is all fucking ears. But in the meantime, in the mess we’re in, when most strangers on the street don’t even know what the fuck POC stands for or what cisgendered means, shitting on a couple million people standing up for what they believe in and trying to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people they’ve never met is kind of … well … bullshit. Isn’t it?
But no, you’re probably right. Let’s tell the Occupy protestors to go home and make sure their next attempt properly addresses misogyny and homophobia and marginalization and that they have ticked every box on their intersectionality checklist before they try to do something good for the country they live in. Meanwhile I’m sure corporate America and their pocket legislators will take a nice T.O. and not pass any laws deregulating speculative finance. The Conservative right will lay off the gays and let them get married too, probably, while we’re all checking our privilege. And since they’re not being bothered and they have some time, they’ll probably give back the millions of jobs that were lost in the late ’00s because that kind of sucked, right? Senators will agree to abide by the laws that they pass and lobbyists will go home and relax and abortion will be easy, legal and free. Because all this political shit is just bullshit, man. It doesn’t address any issues that matter, you know? It’s just a bunch of stupid privileged white kids getting in the way of the real stuff.
Those who truly don’t care about and/or still openly and brazenly attack and hate and fear minorities and margin groups are also out in the street, you know. Fundamentalist Christians are a massive chunk of the Republican voting base, and they are rich as hell. How far will your desire for women’s reproductive rights or gay marriage go if their money is financing the people in power? Legislators answer to the money. That’s why this country is fucked from 32659182456981034659843 different angles right now. And yeah, the patriarchy and all our straight white dude bullshit, but there are things that need doing RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, inside the system of oppression, because the world is still rolling along while everyone’s figuring out the best way to dismantle the master’s goddamned house.
OWS isn’t a revolution. It is a nonviolent American movement to try to take back political power from its abusers. It doesn’t recognize color or gender, and you can see that as a problem or a strength, but if you’re a college educated Westerner googling #OWS and #rapeculture on the internet so you can chime in about the white kids’ misogynist, racist ‘occupation’ that doesn’t live up to your standards, tell it to the 75% of the rest of the world doesn’t have that kind of luxury. Are you willing to take a bullet to the face for your “proper” revolution? Do you think that no revolution that “doesn’t implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations” isn’t a revolution at all? Go to Cairo and tell the families of the 850 people that died that last year’s revolution was bullshit. Walk on into Palestinian territory and tell them that before they can sort out this whole Israel thing they need to have their LGBT priorities in order. Then get the fuck out there. Change something. Sorry if you think you have to wait 40 years. And not slutwalks and sit-ins. Stage the revolution that needs to happen the way it needs to happen right now. Get out there. Go go go! As a straight white male I will not join you, because it’s not my place, but I won’t stop you either. I will sit at home and google it while you’re getting gunned down. Maybe I’ll write some snarky shit about you while it’s happening.
I was going to vote for progressive legislators and do my best to elect a government that will actually address race relations and grant equal rights to gays, stop fucking using foreign oil and call out Arizona for its ridiculous immigration policies, remove pizza from the list of acceptable vegetables to feed our kids, make rape punishable by death and put corporate profits back into the workforce, not the shareholder’s pockets, but instead I have come to realize that that’s all “bullshit” and the only thing that matters is the inevitable full-scale global feminist revolution because it will solve all these problems simultaneously, provided white feminists realize they are coming from a place of revolutionary privilege and everyone with working legs isn’t being ableist by pushing the people in wheelchairs so they can fire their rifles.
So hurry up already. Put whatever money you don’t owe the banks where your mouth is. There are literally seven billion people who need you to get your shit together.
Anything else is just bullshit.