NORMALLY I AM uncomfortable writing about feminism because, being male, I can never have an insider's appreciation of its dynamics. Moreover I believe the blessing (or curse) of a womb – and with it the implicit responsibility for mothering (or not) – creates in every female a perspective we males might approach intellectually but cannot possibly comprehend emotionally. Hence my usual response to feminism is akin to the respectfully inquisitive silence with which a hopelessly left-brained student might approach a Zen master. I know I will never achieve enlightenment – at least not in this lifetime – though I am unquestionably willing to learn whatever wisdom the master deigns to impart.
But twice this year already, the lily-white exponents of a uniquely USian brand of feminism – the “material girl” ideology so antagonistically antithetical to feminism's socialist roots I am compelled to label it “Ayn Rand Feminism” – have sunk their incipiently fascist fangs into progressive people and causes, first by public repudiation of reproductive-rights heroine Sandra Fluke in retaliation for her progressive economic views, now more recently by denouncing the hacker-collective Anonymous and the women's-equality collective UltraViolet as “white-knight vigilantes” for their courageous defense of rape victims. Thus the Ayn Rand feminists have begun to brandish their fealty to the Ruling Class much as the Teabag Party asserts its lockstep adoration of the One Percent, which means these particular feminists are now – like any other organ of capitalist governance – a legitimate target of socialist criticism regardless of the critic's gender.
What therefore follows is a much-enlarged version of a commentary I posted two weeks ago on Reader Supported News in response to a startling piece of gender-war invective entitled “Brad Pitt's New Movie on the Steubenville Rape Case Has the Wrong Protagonist,” the text cited in the second of the above links. By Tara Culp-Ressler, it offers an updated version of the old gender-warrior doctrine that no man should ever be allowed to help the women's movement lest his good deeds reinforce not only his (despicable) male ego but strengthen the shackles of patriarchy as well – and that any woman who disagrees is a hopeless reactionary, part of the problem rather than the solution.
I ran afoul of that uniquely white-bourgeois dogma nearly 40 years ago, when I was an investigative reporter, and its resurrection renews a sense of shame that prompts me to reveal now a fact I should have disclosed then. Here is the whole story:
An assertively Christian hospital that served a large and populous suburb of a major city refused to treat rape victims lest the association with sex and violence taint its godly image. Despite the fact an executive of the local rape-relief organization was my lover, I got the story not from her but because in those days I had the best cop sources in the area, probably in the entire state, and the cops complained to me about the hospital after one of their fellow officers ran afoul of its atrocious policy while seeking emergency-room care for an especially distraught rape victim. The cops, who in that era still believed their job was to protect and serve the citizenry rather than to serve the One Percent as its army of occupation, were genuinely furious. Several officers correctly likened the hospital's coldly enforced anti-rape-victim policy to psychologically re-assaulting the victim. After my usual telephone-and-shoe-leather effort unearthed an extended pattern of such abuses, I confronted the perpetrators and wrote my report, a blistering story that ran atop Page One.
But to my lingering shame, I omitted from follow-up stories how the local rape-relief group had known of the problem for years but had deliberately kept it secret – apparently for two reasons: they hoped to get sole credit for negotiating a solution, and they feared some (male) “do-gooders” might discover the problem, forcefully solve it (exactly as the cops and I did), and thereby – or so these gender-warriors reasoned – perpetuate male supremacy. In other words, the white, petit bourgeois feminists who ran the rape-relief organization believed it was better for rape victims to be denied proper care at their local Christian hospital (and thus be forced to travel as much as 50 crow-miles to a secular hospital), than for anyone other than the feminist movement – and better yet this specific rape-relief organization – to get credit for solving the problem.
Again to my shame, I half-assedly rationalized my act of self-censorship by telling myself my inside knowledge of the group's operations and policies was off-the-record information. Now nearly five decades after the fact and with the unforgiving, pre-graveyard clarity of old age, I confess my rationalization was total bullshit. The truth is I suppressed that vital detail merely to sustain my relationship with the rape-relief executive; I was living with her in her own house, and the alternative would have been instant homelessness. In any other circumstances, such a deliberate cover-up of atrocities would have either been in my lead or in my second and third grafs. Given a time machine to go back to the where and when, here is how I would write the story now:
Rape victims in Gastropoda County are thrice victimized – first by the rapist, then by Gastropoda Christian Hospital, finally by the very rape-relief organization that claims to be the victims' advocate and protector.
These circumstances came to light after police sources described the chilling ouster of a distraught rape victim from the GCH emergency room two weeks ago. Subsequent investigation brought to light at least a half dozen other such incidents.
Now GCH executives reluctantly admit it bars rape victims from its emergency room and has forcibly ejected the few who have managed to get past its gatekeepers.
Meanwhile, Gastropoda County Rape Relief officials just-as-reluctantly admitted they've known about the problem for years but have kept it secret. They claim the secrecy was essential to what they describe as an “ongoing” effort to negotiate with hospital management to change its anti-rape-victim policy.
But no such negotiations, spokespersons for both organizations concede, have ever taken place.
Moreover, the hospital's executive director insists he and his managerial colleagues were never asked to undertake such talks.
The hospital's longstanding opposition to treating rape victims – which inside sources say grows out of its owners' fear any association with sex and violence will besmirch the institution's image of “Christian godliness” – is confirmed by records in...
(The anonymity with which I am now cloaking this report is in response to three facts: -my clips of the original story, and therefore my ability to confirm its published details, were destroyed by the same fire that in 1983 obliterated all my life's work, and I cannot replace the clips as the newspaper's morgue of bound copies did not survive corporate bankruptcy in the mid-1980s, nor – for reasons I am unable to determine (especially since it was the local paper of record) – were its editions ever microfilmed by the local library; -the hospital long ago changed hands and is now under secular ownership; -the sources and perpetrators are either retired, dead or otherwise unable to defend themselves.)
Significantly, my lover had made it clear she was uncomfortable with the story from the moment I told her what I was working on. But we never had time to discuss the details of her discomfort. Hence I did not foresee her anger, much less its intensity. When I with my bottle of celebratory wine arrived at our dwelling the night after the story broke, I expected a joyful and exuberant welcome – at the very least a thank-you embrace and a “well done” in recognition of the quality of the work. Instead I was greeted with an unprecedented outpouring of anger and contempt. My reporting, she said, had damn near gotten her fired; some of the members of her board of directors accused her of using her relationship with me to foster publication of the story, thereby perpetuating the sex-for-favors dynamic of patriarchy; others condemned her for allowing a male to “invade” a realm of advocacy they believed should be exclusively female – never mind at least 10 percent of all rape victims are male; still others insisted she should have clandestinely pressured my editor and even my publisher to reassign the story to a woman. When the board voted on her proposed firing, she said, the termination motion failed by only one vote.
To say I was shocked is an understatement, but mostly I was enraged by the indifference to victims that to me had suddenly emerged as the common stance of everyone but the cops and had therefore become the core issue of the entire story. Finally I responded accordingly: “You of all people know how good a reporter I am; you know I'd have found out about it even if you and I had never met – and what I should do now, what I fucking-A-tweet would do right this minute if our circumstances were different, is write a new story revealing everything you told me tonight.” What I did not say, not only because it was too painfully embarrassing for me to verbalize but because both of us clearly knew it already, is that she could goddamn well thank her lucky stars I was living in her house, which meant there was no way I could write the rest of the story without condemning myself to instant eviction. Needless to say, the confrontation killed the relationship, though the process of breaking up would consume another month or two. It also tossed a huge bucket of cold water on my journalistic pride.
Nevertheless the story made a helluva big wave – big enough the hospital's management was forced to reverse their anti-rape-victim policy literally hours after the paper hit the street. They were also forced to pay for their emergency-room personnel to get the medical and psychological training necessary to provide proper care for rape victims of both genders. As ashamed as I am of my act of self-censorship, I remain fiercely proud of what my story accomplished.
(I should note here that journalism of that era – at least as it used to be practiced on a good many local newspapers here in the pre-global-economy United States – was mostly a Working-Class calling. It drew from blue-collar families the same sorts of aggressively bright kids who might otherwise have gone into the cops or the priesthood or maybe the military. Sometimes it even enabled a declassé proletarian like myself to actually better people's lives, which to me was always its biggest attraction.)
Apropos the malice directed at males accused of poaching in political or conceptual territory certain feminists believe should be theirs alone, that hospital story was not my first encounter with it. A few years earlier, when I was an undergraduate, it hamstrung a major research project of mine, part of the work that would become the forever-lost book “Glimpses of a Pale Dancer,” which was destroyed with all its research notes and most of its photography in the 1983 fire. “Dancer,” an investigative reporter's 24-year probe of the origins and significance of the '60s Countercultural Rebellion, concluded the rebels were resurrecting a modern variant of the ancient matriarchal or at least pre-patriarchal consciousness. My findings were based on the Counterculture's music, poetry, journalism, ritual, social structures, economics and the expression of its values in environmentalism, feminism, the back-to-the-land movement and the neo-pagan renaissance. (It is an aside, but the Jungian Edward Whitmont reached a similar conclusion from very different data. But Whitmont's work, unlike my own, was carefully apolitical and therefore achieved significant publication, for which see The Return of the Goddess, Crossroad: 1982.)
While working on “Dancer,” I had foolishly imagined, exactly as I had while putting together the hospital story, that feminists would applaud my disclosures. After all, the pioneers in the “Dancer”-relevant fields of folklore and myth were themselves males. But by the early '70s, the gender-war feminists believed they had appropriated these realms as their own, and they defended their conquests with the passive-aggressive nastiness and backstabbing that characterizes academic ferocity whether male or female. Meanwhile the males associated with my project, an undergraduate thesis, seemed to regard me as a traitor to my gender. Hence though I got enough credit for the research and writing to win my bachelor's degree, my thesis itself was rejected.
And now, decades later, Culp-Ressler has resurrected the same hateful doctrine of gender-exclusivity not just to belittle Anonymous and its breathtakingly courageous defiance of draconian prison terms, but to denounce UltraViolet, which unlike its (white bourgeois) sister organizations defends oppressed women without (ironically) discriminating on the basis of caste, ethnicity or the presence of male allies.
In this same context, the Emily's List endorsement of “fiscal conservatism” – a euphemism for the genocidal savagery of Ayn Rand economics – is typical of the feminism spawned by capitalist co-optation and redirection of the USian second-wave feminist movement. (See again the first of the above links.) Because Second Wave Feminism was a daughter of the New Left of the 1960s, its dominant vision was overwhelmingly petit bourgeois and often fiercely anti-intellectual; therefore, despite its “women's liberation” label and its use of socialist rhetoric, it was frequently hostile not just to the historical truth of class struggle, but to any analysis based on the revolutionary traditions of socialism and Marxism. Stripped of socialist armor, it was therefore easy prey for infiltrators and agents provocateur. That's why the USian feminism of the so-called “mainstream” remains indifferent to the outsourcing of jobs and downsizing of paychecks characteristic of the capitalist (Ayn Rand) moral imbecility that subjugates the USian 99 Percent. It does not acknowledge the fact that for a Working-Class woman, the loss of health insurance inflicted by global-economy outsourcing is often the total loss of reproductive freedom, an ugly reality carefully suppressed by Emily's List and the (Free Trade) Democrats in general. Nor – despite Big Lies to the contrary – is there any guarantee of rescue from the theocratic Christian effort to prohibit Obamacare from providing any satisfactory alternative. Meanwhile, Rand herself has become an USian feminist heroine, which explains not just the Emily's List stance, but bourgeois white USian feminism's unabashed support of capitalism itself, particularly as exemplified by the all the women who define themselves as “anti-union progressives.”
Could it then be a coincidence such divisiveness reappears just as we in the USian Imperial Homeland seem to be making genuine progress toward proletarian solidarity? Surely not, as every available indication points to the Ruling Class mustering all its resources to suppress what it fears is looming revolution. This mustering includes not only the obvious efforts – for example the attempt by the Democratic Party to co-opt (and thereby betray) Socialist Alternative's demand for a $15-per-hour minimum wage – but the newly exposed program under which secret-police agents accompany the military into overseas combat (for which see “Outside Agitation Elsewhere” below). Obviously, such a program has only one objective: to ensure the agents are kill-hardened enough to reliably follow orders when they are commanded to exterminate suspected revolutionaries at home. In this oppressive context, I am not surprised by the anti-99 Percent treachery of the feminism discussed above. In truth it is an old story, so old we should expect nothing else from a movement that was in too-large measure co-opted by the One Percent from about 1970 onward, with the result its exclusion of impoverished women and women of color has long been infamous.
Outside Agitation Elsewhere: The big news is the ongoing neo-Nazification of the United States, the result of capitalism maturing into fascism, thereby not only fulfilling the predictions of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin but validating Marxism itself. (Aside: what the founders of Marxism called “imperialism,” we today know as fascism or Nazism.) Here are two links, with brief expositions of outside agitation on each of the comment threads: “Now We Know What's Being Done in Our Name,” in which Esquire's Charles Pierce writes about the leaked torture-memo scandal, and “FBI Agents Were Deployed in Hundreds of JSOC Raids Conducted in Iraq & Afghanistan,” which describes how the USian equivalent of the Okhrana (or maybe the Gestapo) is being trained to suppress the inevitable uprising against capitalism that is bound to occur here in the post-American-Dream wastelands.
LB/13 April 2014