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Fighting Windmills.

10 Jan

The thing is: you can let it go. You can shut down your browser, or throw away that newspaper, or turn off your radio and TV, or walk past that poster, or end the conversation – and forget all about it. You can publish a statement about why everyone else is wrong, and countless media outlets will print it word for word, because they do not see the need to investigate a little or even ask what a marginalized person might think of any given situation. You can laugh off the comments on those articles mocking the “oversensitivity” and “political correctness” of other people.

I can’t. By externally defined (and imposed) apperance default. It haunts me, and this is neither my choice nor within my control.

I hate “concernment”-centred victimization olympics debates. I hate it when people say that some discriminatory behaviour has “hurt” them and, therefore, the discriminating person should apologize. I’m all for a big ol’ Fuck You, for anger and outrage and argumentative pulping of said discriminating person, because their behaviour, to me, is not about making other people feel sad-faced, but about discriminatory structures they perpetuate through their words and actions and, you know, their racism/sexism/heterosexism/ableism. This is not about an individual “sensation” of discrimination. This is about the fact that someone is racist as hell (like the Schlosspark Theater, for example…), and what most people take from that, is, that these Black people over there feel kinda sad about it. No, goddamnit, I’m pissed. I’m not a special snowflake who clutches her pearls because someone has hurt her “feelings”. This is not about personal comfort zones. I’m freaking angry because someone is a racist. And so should you be. This is not a personal wellness issue.

And yet… As mentioned at the beginning of this post: the personal effects of discriminatory behaviour differ greatly. The white people who felt the need to come into the Schlosspark Theater debate (or every other debate about, you know, little controversies like Blackface or not hiring Black people on principle or naming your newest Dresden Zoo monkey Obama as a “tribute” to the President) can leave unharmed. These racists have made what they believe is a point, and after repeating it for ca. 500 times and expecting to be respected as teh individualistest individualists who say things like “german-speaking Africans” (you know, Black germans are non-existent), or “There simply were no ‘Black actors'” to hire, or “Random people on the internet, no matter how brown, do not define what racism actually is – we do”, they throw a tantrum when they get pushback and then they flounce out. End of story. Nothing has changed. Goodbye.

You can do that. Because your identity was not questioned or declared as actually non-existent. You don’t have to fight a daily battle for recognition and for being treated with even an ounce of the respect that the defenders of white privilege expect from their critics. If you say something, it is not put into question because of the colour of your skin and ridiculed as mere brown oversensitivity, and your demand or plea to be treated as a full human being is not brushed aside as a bid for exaggerated “political correctness.”

You do not have to answer the same pseudo-arguments over and over and over again, because some racist thinks that they simply have to make this very original point that some other racist has already made and you have refuted 50 posts or minutes ago. You are not expected to cater to the every need of a privileged person because said person wants you to do what they say or need right now, and your duty is to educate them. You will be believed that someone has deleted their former post or has actually said something they now deny to have said, and will not be told that you are making things up in your irrational rage or are incapable of reading comprehension, whereas the actual problem and strategy is gaslighting.

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Too Much Information?

2 Dec

I was going to write a different blog post. For some time now, I had a text in mind that, in the wake of Jacquelyn Friedman’s new book on ‘feminist’ (obviously, broadly spoken…) dating and sex, concerned itself with the question many people who are attracted to men™ have asked and discussed and never answered: feminist men interested in heterosexual relationships – anyone? Anywhere?

Obviously, this has been debated a lot (e.g., on Feministe when Jill posed the question how people “date while feminist”) and is a complex issue; for me, due to personal reasons, especially regarding heterosexual relationships and all the negotiations and potential deal breakers they can entail. Thankfully, I have not yet had to deal with super special misogynistic snow flakes (…and being fat helps when it comes to weeding out the people who do not deserve to get laid in the first place…), and since my private environment is either in support of feminism or at least somewhat aware of my political base line (albeit due to my snarky comments or raised voice or the combination of the two… *ahem*), I can be quite happy to report that overt, unchallenged sexism is something I seldom have to deal with in my immediate (male) surroundings now (…it used to be different).  And having any sort of (intimate) relationship with someone who does not share key features of this basic value system, i.e., “leftist” or “progressive” policies or whatever you want to name it, is a clear “deal breaker” and dude would neither get a second glance nor open ear.

Notwithstanding, as “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” has just recently shown yet again, defining yourself as a progressive or even explicitly feminist man does not mean that you actually are one. I think this is a problem due to a lack of individual reflection and comprehension (and here is a fantastic piece about the horrors of “faux feminists”), but also a structural complexity: of course, overcoming socially engraved beliefs and practices is hard, especially when you are living within the culture and society that reproduces and reinforces said beliefs and practices every single day, and belittles or threatens you if you refuse to play along. I expect you to try damned hard, however – it is your responsibility if you claim to support gender equality (that should be an integral part of your “progressive” stance).

I was now going to start dissecting the question as to how feminist exactly a man has to be (and in which regards), so one can “work with” that – clearly, certain issues that I would deem feminist in principle are somewhat relational negotiations in practice, and although the slogan “the personal is political” holds true, intimate relationships tend to not function satisfactory for either person/people if handled as party conventions where the goal is to push your political wing’s programme to the fullest extend (…although I’ve heard that works for some people – and I’ve once tried… hard… ;)).

Yet, right in the middle of the classic thought about how much (anti?-)feminist compromise is justifiable and how to write about that, something else happened, and kind of caught me off guard.

As said above, feminism does not come as a surprise to virtually every man I know on a more personal level, is somewhat common in the professional/humanities/academia surrounding I am working, and I am far from ‘hiding’ it in daily interactions (although, apparently, simply stating a differing opinion is still considered radically feminist, even totally akin to the SCUM manifesto… :: eye roll ::), although I do not roam the streets yelling about it (yet) or wear batches (anymore). This blog is written under a pseudonym, nonetheless, because I actually like to not be identified for once, would find it a bit too revealing to share things like these under my real name with the internet, and think that words can carry without names (although most of my friends and some of my colleague actually know who occupies this virtual space :)). As I had to experience, however: in times of googling people, privacy is just shot to shit anyway.

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Occupying Boundaries.

28 Oct

when i moved to berlin 8 years ago (wow…), my first semester at uni was a very exciting one for many reasons; one of them, that it was not about studying at all. besides adjusting to a 3.5 million people-city, coming from a town of 15,000 people, and trying to grow up a little more on several levels (not that it’s done… ;)), coming to uni was a special experience, because this was the semester of something that happens periodically at universities:  a student strike against the looming introduction of tuition fees, the infamous chronic underfunding of public education and the traditionally hierarchical and increasingly neoliberal structuring and orientation of university politics.

during my first semester, in 2003/2004, this cycle had reached “point zero” again, and thousands of people got angry, attended plenary assemblies for hours, occupied buildings, planned direct actions, and marched  on a daily basis. one of the projects i was immediately involved in was the attempt to establish an “alternative” university structure, i.e. to provide the opportunity for students, teaching personal, non-academics and people who were just interested to come together in “open seminars”, discussing literature/politics/culture, learning a new language, etc., without the requirements of possessing a certain degree or falling into the increasingly small range of people accepted for uni enrollment due to a numerus clausus. the project was called “the open university of berlin” (offene uni berlins), and after repeated and tense negotiations with the university’s administration, it was actually recognised as a student initiative and even given a facility on campus. as the name suggests, this project’s most prominent asset, “openness”, turned out to be its strength and greatest weakness simultaneously and, ultimately, led to its closure a couple of years ago because it just ran out of control, sense and use.

as with (almost) all emerging social initiatives or even movements, channeling the various angles people are coming from in critiquing certain circumstances, events or even political systems is a bit of a challenge, to say the least. there seem to be some kind of “automatic” filters: e.g., people who were in it out of sheer curiosity or because of some sort of attention deficit problem seem to lose interest quite quickly, after a 8-hour-long plenary assembly at the latest. then there are certain processes, i.e., coming up with an agenda or programme and plan of action that some people disagree with, so the focus seems to clarify a bit further again.

however, “agenda” can mean many things, from working out an alternative budget/programme/structure to simply “we don’t want: …” without wanting to sound condescending, agreeing on the one thing you’re all against, e.g. bank bailouts,  is actually a great first step. it is, nonetheless, just one.

attending  “occupy wall street” (OWS) rallies and demonstrations about two weeks ago in new york city (…whereas this movement has now spread to hundreds of cities in the US and worldwide), the slogans, the people, the signs, the atmosphere were curiously reminiscent of the “open university” project and student strike and other political events i had attended before in berlin. as the open university and the student strike did, OWS seemed to put a particular emphasis on its “openness” to all sorts of people and ideas.

OWS in NYC actually has a general assembly that came up with a declaration; yet, despite the focus on the devastating impact of stock market “fails” and wall street in particular, it remains rather unclear what the movement stands for on a broader scale, i.e. regarding social inequality structures that are not uniquely related to wall street speculation; and that rang all sorts of “open university” bells (…which is not a good sign).

i agree that “openness” sounds awesome. this is how you invite and motivate people to get up and come along, this is how you make people feel welcome. it seems to be the exact opposite from what many people who are discriminated against experience on a daily basis, i.e., being shut out from certain communal identities, entitlements, spaces, rights. yet, the funny things about “openness” as a stand-alone political strategy is its follow-up rigidity and re-enforcement of these exact discrimination structures it supposedly fights, in my experience. “openness”, in this form, brings a hell lot of problems. i will even go so for to say that openness on its own is not a political concept, and is not even a value in itself without certain prerequisites.

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