Category Archives: manarchists

An anticipatory obituary for the SWP

The SWP have appeared dead in the water for months, since the revelations of sexual violence and attempts at cover-up like an inept, less popular and worse-dressed Catholic Church. And yet, like cockroaches, they have survived.

The latest horror to come to light is a phrase uttered to applause at their conference:

We aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie

At best, this statement can be interpreted as unabashed, unapologetic rape apologism. At worst, one wonders why they’re laying the groundwork for smearing children who have survived sexual violence as liars, and what else may emerge.

Following this statement, the SWP has once again haemorrhaged members, and some are once again celebrating the death of the party. I hope this is true, but sadly I suspect that we’ll be seeing this gang of misogynists shambling on, long outstaying their welcome. After all, they’ve survived this long.

Part of the problem is the SWP are everywhere. As well as their folding tables and newspaper salesmen, and the chap who shows up with a legion of placards screaming the SWP branding, you’ll find them in other places. They get themselves elected into positions on trade unions. They have a number of front organisations, including Unite Against Fascism, Unite The Resistance and Right To Work.

There’s a lot we can do to hasten the demise of the SWP. First and foremost, we absolutely must not organise with these fuckers. We must not organise with the SWP itself, and we must not organise with the front groups. This is harder than it sounds, given they have attempted to monopolise resistance, but it’s absolutely crucial if we are to take a stand against sexual violence.

We must make sure that they are completely and utterly unwelcome in our spaces. Wherever there is a SWPper, have the words “misogynist” and “rape apologist” ringing in their ears, as anyone with principles left long ago. Vote them from elected positions, and scream at them in the streets. If they do not leave, direct action may be necessary. Be critical not just of the SWP, but those who try to defend them, like the AWL did.

This is not a ban. It is simply standing up.

And finally, we need to create a climate wherein misogyny and rape apologism are thoroughly unwelcome in all of our organising spaces. It’s not enough to challenge it when it comes from the SWP–after all, everyone hates them. We need to put the necessity of safer spaces front and centre in all that we do.

I look forward to the demise of the SWP. I look forward to the demise of misogyny in my organising spaces even more.

Further reading:

I heard you have an SWP problem (thenameoflove)

Kill the SWP inside your head (me)


“I see it too”

Content note: this post discusses gaslighting, a form of emotional abuse

One of the films I find myself revisiting from time to time is Gaslight. It tells the story of a young woman–played by Ingrid Bergman–who marries a villainous man who is out to steal some jewels left in her family home. His search is noticeable, so he tries to convince the woman that she is mad so she will not notice. His evil plan almost succeeds, except it doesn’t, which is why I love this film rather than it being a horrible, miserable experience to watch.

Towards the climax, someone else sees the gaslight dim. Bergman’s acting in this scene is beautiful, going from certainty of her own madness to relief–and almost joy–at reality finally breaking through. From this point on, she is empowered to take down her villainous husband. And, my god, she does it gloriously.

The moment where someone says “I see it too” is often all too precious. I’ve written before about how differences of opinion under an unequal power structure often result in gaslighting, but the problem often goes beyond this. Microaggressions so often mean that someone’s very experience is completely trivialised if they dare draw attention to what is happening. It’s all too easy to be made to feel as though you’re imagining something when all around you people are refusing to acknowledge it.

Yesterday, I blogged about a level of biphobia which is considered acceptable in feminism. I was anxious about posting it, imagining a pile-on of people saying that it was all in my head, that there was nothing wrong with the comments made about me, that biphobia isn’t real anyway. It felt so good to hear that other people saw it too. Indeed, with the exception of literally one comment saying “I’m bisexual and this isn’t my reading”, what happened was overwhelmingly supportive. Other women like me had been feeling this too. Other women like me had been feeling this too, and thought it was only them.

Likewise, sometimes someone will put into words a problem I have experienced that I felt like I was alone in feeling. Another person saying “Yes, I see this. No, it’s not OK. No, you’re not imagining it” always fills me with a rush of relief. It gives me the strength to keep on fighting, knowing I’m not fighting something completely imaginary.

Pointing out that the gas has dimmed is a small act, but one which is deeply meaningful. We spend too much time being told that the truths we perceive are not there, and this is a profoundly draining experience. We are made to feel as though we have lost touch, when in fact it’s not us at all. It shouldn’t be a radical act, saying “I see it too”, but it is, because in doing this we are jamming the system and forming rich bonds of solidarity and sisterhood.

I pay it forward, because I have no way to pay back the gift that others have given me. I make sure I tell women that I see what they’re seeing, and I think it’s awful. I know just how precious it can be, and I want you all to know just how much I need to hear those words occasionally.


Bored now: Communiques from the Vampire Castle

I don’t doubt that many of you who follow “left” politics will have come across Mark Fisher’s essay “Exiting the Vampire Castle“. I would like to say how grateful I am to Fisher for writing it. His analysis is so far off the mark throughout that it manages to lay bare major problems which plague our organising, and  has empowered those whose analysis serves to justify these problems to make themselves known. It shows us a movement which is desperate for leaders, any leaders, who must be above criticism. It shows us a movement where any woman who asks to be treated as a human must be bourgeois, even as a millionaire white man somehow qualifies as authentically working class. It shows us a movement which uses pseudotheory to validate threatened entitlement and maintain a status quo. I could at this point compare this shambling, dated mess intent on cannibalising class solidarity to the point it only extends to white men to a zombie; I shan’t because this debate is already saturated with mythical beasts.

At any rate, some good writing highlighting the myriad problems has emerged. I have little to add to this discourse, so will link to the critiques. I will add more as I find them. All of these are worth reading, as this analysis is so poor that there are many facets to critique.

B-grade politics and reaction (Angela Mitropoulos)

K-Punk and the Vampire’s Castle (Not Just The Minutiae)

Brocialism (Recording Surface)

All hail the vampire-archy: what Mark Fisher gets wrong in ‘Exiting the vampire castle’ (Ray Filar)

Vampires aren’t actually real, though. Class is: a reply to Mark Fisher’s castle of bollocks (Cautiously Pessmistic)

Damn these vampires (synthetic_zero)

A neo-anarchist vampire bites back: Mark Fisher and neoconservative leftism (Automatic Writing)

Gothic Politics: A Reply to Mark Fisher (Matthijs Krul)


I’m bored and I’m tired

Let me tell you something about me. I let you see the flashes of rage, incandescent anger which invigorates me. It comes, it builds, it explodes like an orgasm and I collapse into momentary catharsis. It’s not a good feeling but it’s better than the alternative.

Most of the time I’m bored. I’m bored and I’m tired. It is grindingly wearing simply existing in oh so many spaces. It’s exhausting and tedious having the same fucking arguments time and time again, not managing to chip away at the immovable force.

It happens a lot in anarchist and radical spaces. The men don’t like it when you challenge their supremacy. A few weeks ago, all of this happened, and it was dismissed as nothing. Now we’re being told we should listen to some sort of TV celebrity because he made some vaguely supportive noises on some issues. From microaggressions to outright misogyny, it goes and goes and goes and it repeats and it repeats and it’s just fucking tiresome.

Social justice circles are no better. Too many feminists think they can get away with kicking down, not up and we’re expected not to challenge this because they’re making some vaguely supportive noises on some issues.

It’s a sinkhole of solidarity, that’s what it is. Unidirectional. I will pour my solidarity behind their causes and yet, do they ever have my fucking back? No. I am a trouble-maker, I am a monster, I am a liar.

There are so many privilege metaphors I could think of. I am Ginger Rogers, backwards in high heels and I want to kick off my shoes and sit down. I am being told the game is easy by someone who is playing it on easy mode and I want to throw my controller at their fucking stupid smug head. I am being attacked by an evil invisible zombie horde who are all armed with chainsaws and also invisibility lasers and I am too tired to make up a metaphor which actually makes sense.

I have goals in common with a lot of awful human beings. Why should I be expected to dash myself against the rocks repeatedly to support them while they would never do a thing for me? Why is it that I am expected to undertake so much thankless emotional labour, and if I don’t then I am the unreasonable one? Why is it me who has to do the heavy lifting?

And I know I’m better off than some. At least I’m white. At least I’m cis. At least my disability isn’t too bad. At least I have a livable income. And I try to do what I can to help with the heavy lifting in the struggles of those who get more shit than me. And for some reason, I have more energy for this than I do with the banal struggles of my own. It’s easier to direct my own limited resources into people who need my solidarity rather than the solidarity-suckers with all of their privilege.

What I need is something that I cannot foresee happening. I need for what I am fighting for to be understood. I need to be able to move freely, not to be constantly hampered by the same petty squabbles over what should be a tiny amount of ground. I need those with the capacity to take up the heavy lifting, I need support and to know that others have my back when I challenge the terrible or even just the mundane.

We need a revolution, but before that happens, we need to clean out the shit in our own back garden, because if it’s a tiresome struggle to simply exist amid fellow revolutionaries then it’s not my revolution.

So please, please can we start with the banal, before we expand to the grand? I am aware that for a lot of people, this will be unpleasant, and will require taking on a higher degree of emotional labour than they have ever tried before. But this is how so many of us live day to day, simply to negotiate spaces. It is this dynamic that needs to change, needs a complete inversion.

I know this can happen, because those who I can trust do so. There are some who fight at my side who are supportive and make the fight feel winnable. These few who have my back are unquantifiably precious.

I have seen so many people fall  from sheer exhaustion, from being hounded out of spaces. Voices silenced and bodies taken out of the fight because some would rather maintain and replicate hegemonic power structures within spaces rather than challenge them. I haven’t succumbed yet, mostly because I’m fucking stubborn and I don’t want to let the bastards win. But it hurts. It hurts my soul and it hurts my body, and I’m bored and I’m tired.

Further reading:

Activist Burnout Part I and II by Alice B. Reckless


Time to pick a side

I see a lot of fence-sitting, and it pisses me the fuck off. I see so many so-called comrades refusing to challenge the multi-layered oppressions within our own communities.

Time and time again, I see feminists proudly declaring that they want to be neutral to various issues. In its latest manifestation, this has been a complete apathy towards a payday loans lawyer with a history of harassing women and actively siding with homophobic organisations in her quest to make the lives of marginalised young women hell. However, this attitude frequently comes up when women of colour report racism, when trans women report cissexism, when disabled women report disablism, and so forth.

I see it happen repeatedly within anti-fascist, anti-capitalist and anti-state networks. A deliberate neutrality towards sexism and racism among white men, too often escalating to the point where women reporting sexual violence from comrades are disbelieved. The other day, my friends and I tried to challenge it. So many comrades just stood by and did nothing.

This sort of shit happens everywhere. Intersecting liberation struggles are treated as nothing more than a petty spat, a minor intellectual difference. Instead of solidarity, there is only apathy. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told “I really agree with everything you do, you’re wrong about [really important issue], but I can ignore that.” How in the name of ever-loving fuck can you willfully look away from something so integrally connected?

This position of self-proclaimed neutrality is not some sort of moral high ground. It is actively harmful. Yes, you may not be actively perpetrating violence, but your inaction allows the perpetrators to keep on doing what they do. Think of the murder of Kitty Genovese. A young woman attacked and brutally murdered, while many heard her screams and did absolutely nothing. Kitty Genovese could have been saved, but the inaction of her neighbours left her to die in terrifying circumstances. The decades of subsequent research have revealed that people have a remarkable capacity for justifying their own inaction when someone is being harmed. I don’t doubt that the comments will swell with a sea of self-deception as people try to validate their own apathy, and do you know what? I’m not going to fucking approve any of it, because I’ve heard it all before.

If you don’t take a stand against oppression, you are helping it happen. You are helping the bigots and the rapists, the murderers and the fascists. You are helping the powerful exert their power and making them ever stronger.

It might make your life easier, but it also makes the task of the oppressor far, far easier. When solidarity is diffuse because so many just stand around doing nothing, it is easier to abuse and harass and murder. You are not neutral, no matter how much you like to think you are. You are helping all of this happen. You are not neutral, you are listening to the abuser’s account and deciding you like it better.

So let us dispose of any notion of neutrality. Let us open up our eyes and let in the full picture of the raging injustices. Let it disgust us, and develop our understanding of what is really happening, to actually look at the direction in which the power flows and everything connects together. Let us look at the consequences of our past apathy and strive end victimisation. Let us challenge oppression wherever it appears: within and outside our own communities. Let us nail our colours to the mast and rise up against these abusive structures.

It is a terrifying task, taking a stand, because the powerful just want to swat us down. They cannot do this if we stand together in solidarity with one another: there are too many of us. Let us ally our struggles and end this oppressive facade of neutrality.


Red flags

There are some things that people say that immediately ring the alarm bells, and I know that pretty swiftly they’re going to come out with something awful. These little conversational red flags could, hypothetically, possibly lead to something not terrible, but I’ve never seen that happen in action. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of red flags, the things which set off the Shitlord Klaxon. If you say any of these things, chances are I will jump to the worst possible conclusion, and it’s your responsibility to prove me otherwise. Feel free to pop into the comments and add more of your own red flags!

“Females” TERFs and MRAs alike really love referring to women as females. In the case of the former, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. In the case of the latter, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. Either way, anyone who says “females” doesn’t respect women or see us as human.

“But… but the false accusation rate for rape…” Never appropriate unless the conversation is actually about the false accusation rate for rape, you derailing rape apologist dickmelon.

“I was just trying to play devil’s advocate” Don’t. Seriously. Don’t pretend you just sent me a big long diatribe as some sort of intellectual exercise.

“I’m just trying to debate this” See above. Liberation and oppression are not abstract intellectual exercises.

“I don’t have privilege because [insert something here]” Go away, be quiet, and learn how sometimes you can have privilege over someone else, even when your life sucks.

[wears V mask] Sorry, mate, but you’re probably a rape apologist with pisspoor politics.

“Explain to me exactly why this was an oppressive statement” I’m not your fucking nursemaid. Also, if this is the first thing you say upon being called out rather than an apology, you’re probably a groaning shitbagel.

“You’re being irrational. Let’s be objective” You know what’s really irrational? Clinging to myths which have persisted since time immemorial. Clinging uncritically to your favourite cherry-picked research. Thinking that research is somehow magically neutral. So stop it.

 


When #ibelieveher goes out of the window

Content note: This post discusses rape, transphobia, apologism and the effect of not being believed when reporting one’s experiences.

We are seeing a slow shift how we think about survivors, guided by the phrase “I believe her*”. It inverts the status quo; politically siding with survivors, a statement of undoing the way things are by believing the story of a person who we are socialised into not believing. Disbelief in the accounts of survivors of rape, of domestic violence, of child abuse creates the conditions of silence necessary for such abuse to continue. Fear of not being believed is a weapon, wielded by our culture to keep our lips sealed and prevent anything being done about it. It is an attempt to create a safer space.

It is gaining momentum, this culture of believing survivors, and has been broadly adopted by many groups striving for social change. Sadly, while the ethos of believing survivors is perhaps becoming increasingly accepted, the practice itself is often not. We have seen this, for example, too often amid left-wing groups who will happily say they believe survivors until it turns out one of their mates might be a perpetrator, and cognitive somersaults begin in order to justify what is going on.

We see it too when people talk about their experiences of microaggressions. While it’s easy to believe when women talk about gendered microaggressions, those times when we are made to feel less than human by something which is often dismissed as trivial by patriarchal society, this is not extended to women experiencing intersecting oppressions. We see, for example, trans women talking of feeling invalidated and attacked by high-profile cis women to a reboant chorus of dismissal. Far from being believed in these scenarios, trans women end up being on the receiving end of the same old apologist tropes: the victim blaming, the trivialisation, the gaslighting and the flat-out denials. We see similar things happening to women of colour, to disabled women, to sex workers and queer women. Suddenly, it’s not “I believe her”. It’s a demand for a case laid out, meticulous documentation of “evidence”. If evidence is produced, it is thrown as an overreaction or not really evidence at all. Or perhaps everything is explained at the survivor having somehow “brought it on herself” by not behaving exactly according to some unwritten, unknowable, ever-shifting code.

It’s the same tune played on a different instrument. Whatever happened to “I believe her” in these situations?

As a cis white woman, sometimes I find it difficult to recognise where exactly the problem lies. I am not sensitive to some microaggressions, because I am not subjected to them day after day after fucking day. I am never on the receiving end of cissexism or racism, and, as such, sometimes I fail to recognise very veiled abuse. Which is precisely why, when a woman of colour or a trans woman says it is happening, I believe her.

As a cis white woman, it’s not my place to explain that something isn’t racist or cissexist, because I don’t get to define what these things are, and what is crossing a line and what is not. So, when I listen to a survivor, I believe her.

I feel like this is the least I can do. I’ve had experience with not being believed, I’ve had experience of being on the wrong end of victim blaming, I’ve been gaslit and dismissed when I talk about horrible things which have happened to me. I know how awful it can be, that sense that either the world will end or you will, that you’re mad and you’re wrong and you’re twisted and disgusting. I also know that feeling of the light coming in as you hear the magic words “I believe you”. Not being believed hurts like fuck, and being believed makes the pain more bearable, like you might just be able to get through it. It’s helpful when someone else sees the gas go down, too, even if they don’t quite understand it as well as you do.

And so these are the principles I use. I believe those who talk about microaggressive abuse. I believe those who talk about rape. I believe survivors. I believe her.

__

*This is not to say abuse does not happen to people who use male and non-binary pronouns. Of course it does, and the sense of belief ought to be extended to anyone reporting such experiences. However, this short phrase also encapsulates the gendered nature of such abuse.


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