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Mistaken Identity? Part II

29 Oct

Remember this post? I sure do. Between calling me a TERF, a lot of empty snark and mockery without actually engaging in any semblance of a debate, a complete cutting out of power relations, and either whitesplaining racism to me or insisting that one cannot “theorize” about racism because one is white (…), it was not so easily forgotten. To be clear: I still advocate what I have written back then. Given the reaction, even more so today. Quite frankly, I am astonished at the complete lack of grounding in intersectionality theory by many of those who proclaim to be its champions (and a simultaneous refusal to, just perhaps, have another look…) and who claim to base their (identity) politics on it and pursue them because of it. If you had actually (re-)read Crenshaw et al. (or, just as an experiment, clicked on any of the material provided throughout this “debate”), you would not be able to lean on her and others with this in the way you do. And here’s why:

“The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite – that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup differences. In the context of violence against women, this elision of difference in identity politics is problematic, fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class. Moreover, ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that bears on efforts to politicize violence against women.” (Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–99, 1242)

One of the main reasons Crenshaw (and others before her, cf. Elizabeth Spelman’s edition of “Inessential Woman,” for example) advocated an intersectional analysis of identities and, most importantly, their underlying power structures, was (and continues to be, apparently) the refusal to acknowledge intragroup differences, as she writes here. This concerns “women” as a social group, but also other groups established by their common experiences of systematic oppression. This also includes, for example, colorism, cissexism and heterosexism. Do you really want to tell me that people who identify as PoC and who pass as white have the same experiences of racist discrimination and of in-group colorism as people who identify as PoC and who cannot (while still all being subjected to racism)? Do you really want to tell me that people who identify as queer and live in cis-heterosexual marriages have the same experiences of heterosexist discrimination as people who identify as queer and who cannot (while still all being subjected to heterosexism and notwithstanding other intersecting forms of oppression)? Systematic discrimination is woven into social structures, including the denial of various forms of societal access and resources, endangerment of one’s physical_mental_spiritual life/well-being, and (thus) affecting one’s daily life. What is so clearly articulated toward white cis-het men evidently gets lost when it comes to in-group differentiation and acknowledging situational privilege.


CC: Tom Beardshaw.

I am equally surprised about the recent unwillingness to take power relations into account when talking about identities and intersectionality. Here’s what Crenshaw et al. have to say about that:

Intersectionality is inextricably linked to an analysis of power, yet one challenge to intersectionality is its alleged emphasis on categories of identity versus structures of inequality. While this theme has surfaced in a variety of texts, particularly those that might be framed as projects that seek intersectionality’s rescue, […] we emphasize an understanding of intersectionality that is not exclusively or even primarily preoccupied with categories, identities, and subjectivities. Rather, the intersectional analysis foregrounded here emphasizes political and structural inequalities. […] The analysis of the overlapping structures of subordination revealed how certain groups of women were made particularly vulnerable to abuse and were also vulnerable to inadequate interventions that failed to take into account the structural dimensions of the context (Crenshaw 1991; Richie 2012). Departing from this work, however, critiques of intersectionality’s supposed reification of categories often reflect distorted understandings of identity politics. Attentiveness to identity, if simultaneously confronting power, need not be interpreted so narrowly. As deployed by many intersectional academics and activists, intersectionality helps reveal how power works in diffuse and differentiated ways through the creation and deployment of overlapping identity categories.” (Cho, Sumi, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall. “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis.” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 785–810, 797, emphasis mine.)

I will quote from “Mistaken Identity?” here: Few things are as hotly contested as so-called “identity politics”, i.e., political activism for and (in the best case scenario) by a group of people who have chosen a group identity in response to being marginalized for a particular sexual preference, gender, appearance…, as a means of self-empowerment and as a means of enabling targeted criticism of said marginalization. Identity politics (cf. Kimberlé Crenshaw et al. 2013) are hotly contested because of some people’s tendency to essentialize said identity instead of clarifying that identity politics are a means to an end, namely to uncover, name, illustrate, criticize and eventually abolish a discriminatory power structure underlying any given marginalized identity – not only in certain, but in all social situations. The fact that some leftist activists have a massive problem with identity politics is revealing in so far as that the issue is mostly brought up when PoC assert their right to be heard and to criticize racism in leftist structures and radiating from leftist people who had heretofore declared themselves guilt-free. Negating any form of identity (other than “human”, as it is so often the case) not only ignores continuing and society-permeating forms of systematic oppression, but make the mere naming, the calling-out of oppression impossible. There you have it: Identities are a reaction to exclusionary claims of universalism, not an invention for the sake of essentialism. Intersectional identity politics is a means to an end: To uncover, criticize, and ultimately abolish the oppressive power structures that necessitate it.

And now we come to the most reviled part, namely the question of experience and identity. I had written:No one should have the right to negate your chosen identity. People of the same identity, however, have the right to question whether you can actually relate to their lived experiences (that vary, of course, but the common denominator – e.g., racism, does not) or whether you are playing dress-up literally “coloring” yourself […] and weave in and out of an identity according to the privileges it affords you at the time. […] Anyone can claim any identity s_he wants. I mean that. You can identify yourself as Black (see Dolezal), even if your phenotype suggests otherwise. That’s your prerogative as an individual. Race is a social and cultural construct. What you do not get to do, however, is to claim the lived experiences of people who are subject to the power structures creating identities (countercultures) […]. Individually chosen identities do not automatically make you victim to societal discrimination. The experiences people have of discrimination due to external ascriptions are reformed and renamed into positive identities for the purposes self-empowerment and social activism. With identity politics, it’s not about essentialism. It’s about social relations.” I still do not understand why – especially when read in context… – linking “(lived) experiences” to identities was read as essentializing gender identities, for example. Perhaps we could take another look at intersectionality theory when it comes to power relations and experiences:

“As intersectional work has shown since its inception, social hierarchy creates the experiences that produce the categories that intersect. Substantively, white males dominate. Domination and subordination is the relational dynamic that animates this structure. […] It is this substantive grasp of forces that critical theories—when they are critical— are critical of, criticizing the “uncritical and disturbing acceptance of dominant ways of thinking about discrimination” (MacKinnon, Catharine A. “Intersectionality as Method: A Note.” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 1019–30, 1024, emphasis mine.)

This is what experience is about, and I’m repeating myself: The experiences people have of discrimination due to external ascriptions are reformed and renamed into positive identities for the purposes self-empowerment and social activism. Experiences are linked to, derived from, and dependent on power relations, on social hierarchy, as MacKinnon writes. Black women*, for example, are a category or an identity because of their experiences of racism and (hetero- and cis-)sexism, etc. It’s not about the identity as such, it’s about abolishing the social hierarchy that necessitates it. Identity politics are a (necessary) strategy, and they have a goal – they’re not composed for essentializations. Things are complicated, personal identities are complicated – I get that. This is about reflecting on your personal social positioning within these frameworks and acknowledging intragroup differences that lead to differences in positions of relative power. Colorism is a thing. Transmisogyny is a thing. Hostility toward lesbians is a thing, and so on. Situational privilege: It’s a thing.

Your identity is your right. It’s not tantamount to a particular (set of) experience(s). And it’s essentialized when it’s detached from (an analysis of) power structures. This is why acknowledging differences within social groups is crucial and is the cornerstone of intersectionality. Continuing to disagree with that is your right, too – but please stop pretending this is happening in the name of intersectionality. This isn’t a theoretical mind game, this is practiced (one might even say: experienced). And, as so often, it’s not A or B: Identity politics are an essential strategy. Identities are not essential.

Liebe Katrin Rönicke (et al.),

6 Sep

…du brauchst publicity für dein Buch (dessen Leseprobe ich mir angetan habe, übrigens – zwischen den leeren Parolen war ich besonders fasziniert von dem feministischen Wert der Anekdote, dass du mit blonden Haaren ja ein beliebtes Fotomotiv japanischer Tourist_innen – bei dir natürlich im generischen Maskulinum – gewesen seist). Für diese und andere Publikationen werden gebetsmühlenartig immer “provokative Thesen” zusammengebastelt. Ich verstehe dein Problem.

Inmitten deiner Nostalgie bezüglich der guten, alten, weißen Alphamädchen-Zeit bei der Mädchenmannschaft und Feminismus in Schland prä-2012 versuchst du, die “Stimme der Vernunft” zu sein, der Differenzierung, der “Aufklärung”, der freiheitlichen Rationalität (…die Geschichte jener Begriffe ist dir leider auch nicht bekannt). Was deine aufgeklärte Stimme schreibt, ist allerdings alles andere als vernünftig, sondern zunehmend antifeministisch, rassistisch und ignorant. Du weißt einfach nicht, wovon du redest, tust dies aber kompensatorisch umso lauter und redundanter, und weil es nicht mehr (nur) um Frauen geht, die deiner Person und deinem Lebensbild ähnlich sehen, fühlst du dich unterdrückt. Gerade jetzt, gerade angesichts der momentanen politischen Situation gerade für Women of Color (WoC), muss man das letztlich nicht weiter kommentieren. Aber hey:

Da ist er, der reverse racism/heterosexism/etc.: Wer sich gegen Diskriminierung wehrt, ist auf einmal der_die Angreifer_in, ist unsolidarisch, ist böse. Das Lied wird seit Jahren rauf und runter gespielt von dir und anderen Schlandfeministinnen. So nenne ich weiße Mittelklasse-Alphamädchen, für die ihr – oft national- und_oder Standort-“bewusster” – Feminismus gleichbedeutend ist mit heteronormativen reproduktiven Rechten, Lohngleichheit, oft noch binären Geschlechtervorstellungen und vor allem mit sich selbst. Neuerdings werden da auch gerne noch “Men’s Rights’ Activists [sic]”-Forderungen untergebracht. Man kommt quasi aus dem Staunen über diese Art der Klientelpolitik – also der mit universalistischen Phrasen und Identitätspolitik-“Kritik” schlecht verkappten Identitätspolitik für weiße Mittelschichts-Hetero-Paare – nicht mehr heraus.

Zunächst wollte ich dir auf jeden der Absätze deiner Texte bei den Ruhrbaronen antworten. Schnell stellte sich heraus, dass das nicht nur eine Mammutaufgabe ist, sondern sinnlos angesichts dessen, was in deinen Texten an Vorwissen fehlt und wie viele uninformierte Grundannahmen aus jenen sprechen.

Deshalb habe ich nun einfach eine kleine Auswahl an Materialien für dich und andere zusammengestellt. Es ist, stichpunktartig, eine kleine Übersicht zu den Themen, die du in deinen “Artikeln” ansprichst, und zu denen dir offensichtlich Informationen fehlen. Über ein bisschen Nachholarbeit würde ich mich freuen – bis dahin kehre ich wieder zum Überlesen deines Namens und deiner Texte zurück.

  • Zur Mädchenmannschaft (MM)
    Alphamädchen an die Front. Ist das einer der sachlichen Mainstream-Texte, die du meinst?
    b) Oder dieser Text, in dem Nadia dir noch einmal näherbringen wollte, was Rassismus ist, nachdem du dich bei der Lektüre von Noah Sows “Deutschland Schwarz-Weiss” unwohl fühltest (…und damals noch glaubtest, dass es biologische “Rassen” gäbe, dich aber gleichzeitig qualifiziert genug fühltest, das Buch zu bewerten)? Critical Whiteness und das Ende der Sektstimmung.
    c) Hannah Wettigs (die niemand “rausschmiss”, übrigens) global-erfahrene und differenzierte Rassismuskritik – ist das hier (quasi deine Textvorlage) gemeint? Ich bin übrigens die “Angry Black Woman”, die dort beschrieben wird (und das war der Text, in dem ich meiner “Wut freien Lauf gelassen” hätte) – ich bin aber unbesorgt über dieses rassistische Stereotyp, denn ich bin mir sicher, dass alle, die an diesem und ähnlichen Artikeln beteiligt waren, Schwarze Freund_innen haben.
    d) Oder spricht dieser Text auch noch einmal an, warum es durchaus problematisch ist, Feminismus als das Feld weißdeutscher Alphamädchen zu sehen und, wie du es auch 2015 erneut tust, z.B. antirassistische und anti-cissexistische Aspekte als “links” und “radikal” und “Identitätspolitik” und nicht “mainstreamfähig” abzubügeln (auch ohne mal kurz zu hinterfragen, wo denn der verloren geglaubte Wert der Angleichung an einen sexistischen, rassistischen, etc. Mainstream bitte läge…)? Entweder… Oder?
    e) Der Mädchenmannschaft, der du ganze zwei Jahre angehörtest und nun seit langem nicht mehr liest (wie du sagst…), trauerst oder lästerst du öffentlich nun schon mehr als doppelt so lange nach, als du je dabei warst. Seit 2011 schreibst du über die Mädchenmannschaft und wie es “damals” gewesen sei, kommentierst die Jubiliäumsfeier vor drei Jahren, auf der du nicht zugegen warst, und lamentierst Vertrauensentzüge. Vielleicht wäre es an der Zeit, endlich loszulassen?
    f) Vielleicht wäre es ebenso an der Zeit zu erkennen, dass Auseinandersetzungen – seien sie innerhalb der MM oder auf Twitter oder wo auch immer, keine Frage von “Stutenbissigkeit” oder “Zickenkrieg” oder nachtragenden Beleidigtseins oder ähnlichem sind, sondern politische Auseinandersetzungen? Ich widerspreche dir nicht, weil ich dich nicht möge (…wir kennen uns nicht persönlich) – ich widerspreche dir, weil du wahlweise diskriminierenden und_oder kenntnislosen Blödsinn erzählst. Es ist doch schon bezeichnend, wenn du dich umguckst und siehst, wer genau dir für deine Undifferenziertheit applaudiert.

Gern geschehen :)!


26 Feb

There are certain commenters on feminist and other social justice blogs that I keep wondering about, or rather: whose behavior keeps baffling me. These people (most of them self-identified men) are no “trolls” in the usual sense, i.e., they do not linger around comment threads with the need for petty recogni­tion; the people I am talking about would probab­ly argue that they are ho­nest­ly interested in feminist and other social topics, that they do value the writing people provide on it, and that they are here to argue in good faith. Still, despite all these seemingly benign intentions, even lower-level moderated feminist spaces can’t be bothered publishing or even replying to their comments. But despite the fact that about 90 percent of these commenters’ ideas never see the bright and shiny light of comment thread day, they feel the need to give bloggers the benefit of their opinion on every other post.

Can I just ask… why? What do people think they (or the ones they are confronting with this kind of behavior) have to gain from tactics like these?

Why would you continue to comment (most redundantly) on a blog that has not acknowledged your last ten posts? Why would you think that a feminist blog is very eager to learn your spectacular insights as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied cis-man on every topic imaginable (and why would you think that you actually have the knowledge to talk about all of that)? Why do you think it is appropriate to force your half-assed analyses on every feminist blogger you can get a hold of?

This curious behavior is nestled somewhere between critical commenting, mansplaining and trolling, so I personally find it harder to handle (…engage yet again to repeat the same basics one more time? Ignore? Delete? Spam?). It is, however, quite similar to good ol’ trolling in certain regards: people who have little knowledge on feminist/etc. issues (although they most certainly think they do…) feel the ever-growing need to educate you about either very basic feminist 101 ideas that they’ve just recently learned somewhere and now need someone else to validate them, or about long-refuted hypotheses on, well, The World ™ and how it works. The other possibility (that I find particularly charming) is the devil’s advocate role where some random dudes just start throwing stuff at you (because it’s just the internet, right, don’t take things so personally, you hysterical oversensitive misandrist radical ball buster), even though paying lip service to actually agreeing with you “more generally” – Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written about that many times, and why it is not only exhausting but privileged and disrespectful behavior in the first place.

Some of the latest examples for this kind of conduct were some of the reactions to Charlott’s post about the Oscars, over at Mädchenmannschaft. In reply to her pointing out the misogyny, anti-Semitism and racism of a show that centered around jokes about topless actresses, domestic violence, JewsControlTehHollywoodz and WeCan’tUnderstandLatin@sAmIRite?!, some people found it necessary to tell Charlott that this is just “the entertainment industry,” and what do people really expect from that? Yeah, thanks for that groundbreaking insight… In reply to Charlott stating the obvious, namely that the Academy Awards are given out by a jury of predominantly elderly white men to predominantly elderly white men, people thought it wise to interject that both in the categories of leading and supporting actor/actress, the same amount of Oscars have been awarded. No shit, Sherlock… When Charlott problematized the racist and miso­gy­nistic treatment of Quvenz­hané Wallis, people found it appropriate to “remind” her of Django Unchained and its oh-so-clear “anti-racist” message, and that this ceremony clearly was all about racial har­mony. Have you been staying under a rock recently…? I’d rather publish another response (ironically) praising the beauty of this “coal black child” than those trying to school feminist and anti-racist bloggers about, well, feminism and anti-racism with the most ridiculous assumptions and a bare lack of know­ledge, all while thinking they have a key insight to contribute to this discussion – over and over again.

shhh2And yet, magically, this happens with a large per­cen­tage of the posts on femi­nist blogs, and it is al­most ex­clu­sive­ly done by the same hand­full of people (mostly men*) in seeming­ly end­less loops of re­dun­dan­cy. So, let me give you a quick ser­vice an­nounce­ment that other bloggers are too polite to give you (…and we all know that subtlety isn’t for me): please shut up al­ready. No one cares about your ill-informed “in­for­mation” you think is pi­votal to the success of some­one else’s blog’s con­tent or their wri­ting sty­le. This is not de­bate cul­ture – this is simply draining re­sources from people who have to deal with you and full-fledged trolls on a daily basis any­way. If you have questions about feminism and/or racism, take a look at a 101 and then come back. There is no responsibility to answer every single douche canoe comment to make people happy, and there certainly is no benefit to having to repeat day in, day out, why feminist bloggers on feminist blogs care about feminism so much or why criticizing pop culture makes sense in a critical post about pop culture.

When you realize at some point that none of your comments (or very few) ever make it through, it might be time to step back from the hard and cruel comment game and start reading and listening a bit more. That’s how most of the feminist bloggers (surprise: including this loud-mouthed one) started out, by the way: shutting up and educating themselves in other feminist spaces, for example – not drowning everyone everywhere in a flood of useless comments. If you don’t have anything else but rudely phrased banalities based on superficial knowledge to add to the conversation (which, by the way, can be quickly determined by people’s reactions to your posts or the fact that your posts are never actually answered or never even appear on the page), you might want to reconsider your actions. You know, the basic common decency approach has proven quite popular here and elsewhere… Because right now, the thing you’re doing is essentially online harassment. You’re the guy who is “just not getting it,” no matter how pronounced one signals you to back off. It’s not sexual harassment, but it is gendered harassment – and No means No (including the “No” that is conveyed when ignoring you).

Now: step away from the keyboard, and try to keep it down.

On Censorship.

18 Jan

Apparently, it’s not what you think it is. “It,” that’s censorship. And people seem to have cultivated a most curious interpretation, so let’s repeat the basics:

Guaranteeing the freedom of speech, the freedom of the written word and freedom of images, and the unhindered access to and dissemination of information are the key elements that define german law on censorship (GG, §5). Guaranteeing the freedom of the arts and scholarship and research are fundamentals as well. That means that germany, as a national entity, as a government, as a constitutional state, as a society, entitles you to say and write and watch and learn whatever is publicly accessible to you and whatever the hell you want to put out there (within constitutional limits).

You know what you’re not entitled to, however? Saying and writing and watching and learning and publishing whatever you want without someone commenting on it or criticizing your choices or without the possibility of potential consequences if you produce discriminatory and/or insulting crap, for example. Criticism is not censorship. Potential consequences resulting from criticism are not censorship (they are consequences resulting from criticism).

Let’s take Christian Ulmen’s already infamous “Who wants to fuck my girlfriend?” clusterfuck of a proposed TV show as an example: both its title and concept have been heavily criticized as sexist and misogynistic, as a poor attempt at satire that might aim at subversion in a society steeped in rape culture (Sasha Baron Cohen’s movies and their reception seem to not have taught some people anything) but actually only works because it relies on rape culture for entertainment purposes, and “exposing” rape culture is neither the central aim nor a possibility within such a framework of late-night “entertainment.” The fact that certain people respond to a “satire” like that is precisely because of their internalization or even conscious normalization of rape culture (otherwise, the premise of pimping out your girlfriend to earn credit or the premise that this is something that women would actually want wouldn’t work and wouldn’t be mainstream-recognizable) is something Ulmen and his producers are just rolling with; they are actually enjoying feminist criticism and ridiculing it for their idea of subversive anti-sexism. How fun!

muteSo – yes, it’s Tele 5, and who watches that channel anyway? Yes, maybe the show will be quite funny for a very specific group of people  (see whom in the paragraph above)? So what? It’s still misogynistic bullshit, and – thanks to GG §5 – I am entitled to say so. Ulmen and other people’s entitlement to create and produce a show like this one is not similar to an absolute right of broadcasting it, come hell or high water – some people might have gotten that wrong. Angela Merkel issuing an executive order to stop the show because she doesn’t like the title or Ulmen – that would be quite understandable but it would also be censorship. Tele5 being served with an injunction against any broadcast activity – that would probably be for the best but it would also be censorship. Christian Ulmen being physically prevented from entering the studio or threatened because some people don’t like his hair – that would be censorship (…and really, his hair? Who cares?).

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Decolorize The Color Line?

11 Oct

Most things are more complicated than they seem at first glance – most people know that. Analyse und Kritik has published an article last month by Jule Karakayali, Vassilis S. Tsianos, Serhat Karakayali and Aida Ibrahim, named “Decolorise it!” This text has somehow become an internet sensation to many, and is posted and re-posted as if it had reinvented the wheel. I have mostly heard people refer to said article who found themselves confronted with some kind of racism reproach, in a multitude of instances. Even worse, most people who posted this article were white activists who have an anti-racist self-conception (and would object to being called white), occasionally with the – ironic – implicit or explicit note/justification that this text wasn’t even written by “white” german people, but by german people with a “I don’t want to say either migration background or PoC but somehow, well, not white, no, I can’t say that either – waaaah…” (thus rendering the article’s ‘”germanness” = priority’-argument moot).

This article is a nice example as to how little tweaks to allegedly neutrally presented theories can make people throw out “the baby with the bath water” through oversimplifying and generalizing statements and conclusions; in this case about Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) (although the AK article forgets to add the “Critical” to the Whiteness Studies – certainly a mere coincidence, I am sure…). Unfortunately, this text rejuvenates many justifications for (being able to ignore) individual privileges through white supremacy that CWS tried to mark. Although I personally think there are valid points made regarding concrete anti-racist practice and co-operations, the mere fact that so many people who have to stand up to being called “racists” by PoC (yes, I am sticking to that term) now cover their faces with this article seems to clarify that the immediate dissolution of  the (non-essential, even though some people love to forget that) “categories” this article is aiming at would result in (maybe mostly unintended?) disadvantages for anti-racist activism under present conditions.  The article’s conclusion and numerous examples and references are – on their own or through their curious interpretation – symptomatic for the issues CWS (and Critical Race Theory) criticize: the degradation of socio-cultural elements and systematic experiences of racism to a mere secondary contradiction, and cherry picking (Black) authors’ half sentences for the article’s own benefit.

The AK text is very elaborate and touches on many points, so I’ll point out a few examples to illustrate my evaluation but will not cover the whole text.

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