Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

A few notes on privilege and anti-capitalist feminism

with one comment

What privilege means

Privilege in the intersectional feminist sense means that you are not oppressed in a certain way. In this way privilege can sometimes mean ‘being treated like a human being’, which isn’t really a privilege as much as a right. ‘Straight privilege’ seems to mean ‘being able to walk down the street with your partner without getting beaten up’, which should just be normal. ‘Cis privilege’ seems to mean ‘walking down the street expressing your gender without getting abused’ which also should damn well be normal. Anyway. This is the terminology we have and to be fair it could be worse.

Privilege doesn’t mean having shit opinions for no reason other than privilege. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – someone having crap opinions might stem from their privilege and thus ignorance and lack of experience but they don’t have crap ideas just because they’re privileged. It’s because they need telling, or because they need to do some more thinking, or because they are protecting their status. It’s important to recognise this. No excuses for shit opinions.

Debates about anticapitalist ideologies

Left wing feminist women generally know way more about feminism than leftwing men (not in every case though). In addition, we have the insight of experience of sexism in our every day lives. The fact we have that experience – but importantly, also because we just seem to take more of an interest in feminism or maybe even came to be leftwing through feminism (true in many cases) means we can speak with some confidence and a feeling of being right.

Class struggle anarchafeminists and socialist feminists are not just feminists though, and it’s good for our feminism that we’re not, because class oppression is incredibly important. *Sometimes* a man knows more than I do about the history of those traditions – and that’s okay. Because of my gender oppression and general lack of self confidence I also feel less able to discuss things. Also we sometimes get left out because we’re relied on to do ‘the feminist bit’ at every anti-capitalist event ever, meaning we can’t do the class stuff, meaning that we leave that up to the menz sometimes.

I don’t want to be the queer feminist at socialist events. I’m a queer socialist feminist, with emphasis just as much on the socialist as anything else. Not everyone finds it easy or has the time to plough through thick tomes, and no one should judge you if you can’t or haven’t yet read x book in the canon of class politics. And P.S. – often people pretend they’ve read more than they have to look important or clever, and often people have read more than you realise but don’t go on about it because they don’t think themselves especially important or clever.

Someone for the love of God please produce some good notes on some of the tomes. Thanks. I’ll give you some notes on Judith Butler or some other ludicrously hard-to-read feminist writer.

Intersectionality: not quite materialist enough

Intersectionality seems to be incredibly popular at the moment among young leftwing feminists, and for very good reason. That reason is basically that way too many socialists, anarchists and general lefties are sexist or even misogynistic – and also way too many people, including feminists, are racist or white-ethnocentric, classist, ablist, transphobic, etc.

But in my view the version of intersectionality I keep seeing underplays the importance of class politics. Class politics is not just about checking your privilege and stopping saying horrible things or stopping being homophobic or judging people for their class or something. It’s about destroying capitalism and overthrowing capitalists – and creating a classless, communist society. Although I think men benefit from sexism, patriarchy doesn’t work in the same way. Its effects are materially felt but it is a much more blurry thing, less structured, perhaps partly because it’s older.

Racism and orientalism are kind of similar in that – discounting actual fascism – they are loose collections of vile ideas used to justify disgusting actions. Materially felt but not materially upheld in a conspiratorial way. Poor black people in the States for example might be poor partly because of racism but that’s because racism is keeping them in the working class or from getting well paid jobs.  Some capitalists are racists but their main ‘thing’ is self-interest and profit.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t keenly felt, disgusting or disturbing. It does mean that those forms of oppression are incredibly hard to shake. But nevertheless I think class oppression is visibly different from other kinds of oppression – not worse, just different.

Sorry this isn’t as clearly written as it maybe should be. I tried…

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

October 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thanks for this.

    I agree with you that class oppression is different from other forms of oppression, but “class” is used in two different ways.

    Firstly in the cultural sense of someone who eats pork scratchings for dinner while wearing a flat cap as opposed to someone who eats parma hat for lunch wearing a tophat. These are caricatures, but you get the idea, and secondly in the marxist sense of the relationship to the means of production.

    The first I would link with racism – obviously its not quite the same thing, but its based on culture, and so it fits in a spectrum of racism – of privilage being granted according to your culture and shared heritage.

    As sexism is to patriarchy; racism is to colonialism. Both patriarchy and colonialism are structured systems which enable the greater exploitation of some people than others by encouraging those with more privilage to collude with those with less to retain their relative privilage.

    The second, I think is totally different. It is about how you sustain yourself and generate wealth. The working class do this through labour, the middle class, partly through labour and partly through investment, the ruling class through investment.

    And it is this second meaning of class that is the whole point of sexism and racism – manifestations of the structured system of control over the means of the production of units of labour, and of control of the natural resources of the land from which people sustain themselves.

    For capitalism to be efficient it needs control over labour and land. Labour units are created by women, so they must be controlled, and land is attached to people, so they must be controlled. Patriarchy and colonialism are the means by which this is done, which is why the fight against both are critical to any anti-capitalist project.


    October 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm

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