- On envy
Envy as need for belonging, wanting to fit in, to be included, to be safe, to find a home. In childhood we may have been denied a safe home or our trust and safety was violently disrupted. We may have been bullied or just not fit in. Others may have characterized us as strange or different, we may have seen ourselves as different.
Envy as imitating others who seem to have a better right to speak, whose needs are attended to, whose existence is more legitimate than our own.
Envy as being replicated by being drawn to derelict places, wastelands, and also to the places where no one else has seen the beauty. Sometimes this is a path of choosing work that fills a historical or spiritual need.
Envy as linked to sex and love, themes of wanting love and fearing to lose the self, amplified by patriarchy which demands women to lose ourselves and men to extract women’s soul energy.
What or whom do you envy? Where does it start, and where does it end?
Free will and determinism in a dialectic, thinking about Jane Rule’s novel This is Not For You. A heart-breaking story of lesbian love rejected, and the rejected woman becomes a nun. It is presented as the inner logic of her destiny while at the same time if both women had had the courage – not bravery but courage that starts from self-acceptance – to love each other, if everything around them had not built walls of fear and shame and denial, a different destiny could have manifested itself.
Believing in good luck and and allowing good fortune.
Shoving off the chains of caring what nay-sayers think. They don’t hold my destiny. Who are you? Finding the truth, the kernel of light and shining it where you are. Diffused light, diffused power of growth, keeping time.
2. On feminism and progressive politics in this historical moment
Several times on this blog I’ve addressed my feminist sisters including about rejecting mental illness accusations. This time I am addressing my progressive, leftist, anti-racist community, including my psychiatric survivor and disability community.
We are living a significant historical moment for the transformation of society to eradicate police terror and other systemic racial injustice against Black people in the US. At the same time we are living the decline of feminism as a movement for liberation of the female sex from subjugation to males, and the submersion of lesbians into an LGBTQ+ acronym that erases our unique existence as same-sex attracted females and the intersectional struggle we bring to feminism and to the politics of lesbian/gay liberation. Progressive spaces fighting racism can be unwelcoming to those of us fighting for lesbians’ and women’s liberation, and we are subjected to ageism as well, treated as dinosaurs who should die out and leave the young to their innocence.
Some background for pride month. The word ‘gay’ can include lesbians, but often a bar, gathering, organization, event, service advertised as gay turns out to be exclusively male or to be centered on gay male sexuality. Saying lesbian/gay was our way to make women visible in the movement of homosexual, or same-sex-attracted people. The additional of bisexuals, and then transgender, then queer and other letters, was a different kind of political intervention – a move towards redefinition of the politics of gay/lesbian liberation into a politics of diversity encompassing sexual orientation of any non-heteronormative kind and gender nonconformity in expression or identity.
The role of butch lesbians in the Stonewall uprising has been obscured by a focus on drag queens and transwomen, who are male. Stormé DeLarverie and other butch lesbians fought with police who arresting them and beating them for being at a gay bar, and according to some reports, Stormé’s call to the crowd, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ sparked the collective rebellion. Stormé, a Black lesbian, was a drag king performer and remained active in the gay liberation movement; she was honored with awards and Michelle Parkerson made a film about her. Lesbians’ place in our own movement (lesbian/gay liberation) needs to be honored, respected, uplifted, and continually remembered.
When progressive spaces make us into pariahs some white women avail themselves of privilege to jump to alliances with reactionaries, who are willing to use feminist concerns as a front for anti-trans, anti-gay/lesbian, anti-female, anti-poor and racist agendas. Progressives have to do their part to fight the mainstreaming of reactionary politics by opening a door to feminists and lesbians – women of color as well as white women – whose feminism excludes males and includes all females.
The use of feminism by reactionaries has extended to the fight against exploitation of women in sex industries and surrogacy – public sexual and reproductive exploitation, in the capitalist market, that unsurprisingly affects disproportionately black and indigenous women and other women of color, and women without economic resources. Reactionaries’ objections to these industries are that they undermine the control of women by the patriarchal family, but they are happy to have feminists front for them while they steer the agenda.
There is a difference between converging on a particular policy at a moment in time, and making organizational alliances, conducting joint projects, creating relations of dependence and interdependence. There is also a difference between such alliances and lobbying of politicians or government officials who may be diametrically opposed to one’s political views. The US disability movement has encountered similar issues in its position that Terry Schiavo should be maintained on life support, and in legislative work including the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is not always easy to draw the lines and the issue is one of politics and impact – the impact on feminism, on women, in this case, of succumbing to a strategy of co-optation that steers us away from our own ultimate objectives. Cooptation is an issue we have faced in the US psychiatric survivor/anti-psychiatric oppression movement, when the federal mental health agency decided to fund our organizations to provide peer support and consult on mental health programs but not to do anti-psychiatric oppression work.
Male violence has been named as a problem by feminism in three respects that have to be disentangled. The most central is men’s violence towards women that is specifically enacted sexually through rape, including rape aimed at enforced pregnancy and rape as a weapon of war and genocide; that is aimed at controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction, including anti-lesbian violence, ‘honor codes’ legitimizing the killing of women and girls who are sexually active or who are raped, the criminalization of abortion, female genital mutilation; that is aimed at subjugating women individually and collectively, including the beating and killing and coercive control of intimate partners, misogynist femicides against one or more women chosen to represent women as a class. This is sexual politics per se.
Secondly, violence itself, including sexual violence, and including war, is itself predominantly a practice of males. It can therefore be examined through a lens of gender, or sexual politics in an extended sense, to consider analytically and historically, what is the linkage between the male sex-role, the premise of male sexual entitlement and sexual aggression under patriarchy, and the maintenance of violence through war, particularly aggressive and imperialist war, violent and militarized policing and penal systems and other violent carceral and repressive systems including psychiatry, violence between groups of men and individual men, violence related to criminalized economic activity such as the drug trade, violence against feminine males whose existence threatens sexual politics and the feminization of male enemies. Analytical and historical research on these questions links to the complementary need to research matriarchies – societies ‘beginning with the mother’ – that are egalitarian, consensus-led, based in economic reciprocity with distribution under the control of women, in which structural violence is eliminated. Are these societies peaceful in general, and are they also characterized by an absence of and intolerance for rape? What is the relationship between women’s centrality socially and culturally and women’s economic control, and the ability to live harmoniously? What lessons do these societies hold for us to un-build capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy?
Thirdly, some women hold men to be essentially violent, and equate violence with either male biology or with a male sex-role. This view can lead to diametrically opposed positions, either aiming for complete separation or the fantasy of eradication of males and reproducing parthenogenetically or in other ways controlled entirely by women, or eliminating sexual politics entirely and viewing feminine or feminized males, and those who are sexually assaulted, as being equivalent to women and butch or masculine women, and women who commit violence, as being the same as men. The resurgence of interest in evolutionary biology among feminists in a more narrow sense of theorizing a difference in reproductive strategies between males and females differs from these other positions as the antagonism it implies is not necessarily violent or irresolvable but would need to be taken account of, which could point towards a matriarchal organization of society. I am not comfortable with such an account, since it posits biology as an explanation of behavior, flattening out culture and history and any initiative for change outside the posited parameters. While biology constrains us – e.g. we can’t fly without mechanical constructions, our sexed bodies can’t be self-adjusted like the blowfish though they can be modified through hormones and surgery – the linkage between biology and behavior at individual or species level is a different kind of proposition. That type of theory has been invoked to uphold racism, male dominance, ableism and violent practices associated with those ideologies including eugenics and forced psychiatry, so while I want to learn more about this position from a feminist colleague who holds it, I am skeptical.
Which way forward? We have to continue to think, and act, in all dimensions that we move, with as much consciousness and deliberateness as we can. It is likely that partial movements, constrained by the limitations of politics in liberal capitalism and the violence of the state in suppressing uprisings outside those constraints, will continue to arise, and that suffering and oppression will increase worldwide as capitalism tries to postpone the inevitable running out of material for its pyramid scheme of constantly increasing wealth. I am tempted to think, my life is finite and it won’t be my problem, but I am not yet dead and the year 2020 continues to show us that we will be surprised if we aren’t paying attention. Better to meet the future with open eyes and tools to fight for the whole of what we believe in.