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"My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit". I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. But what does it mean to be intersectional? Of course I can't give the definitive answer; intersectionality isn't a static thing, but one name for a process, an ongoing work to address multiple axes of oppression. But I can say something about what being intersectional means to me, and why I insist that any feminism that supports prison can't be my feminism.

Mainly, punitive justice is a bad thing because it hurts more people than its intended target. We don't all go to prison, but the existence of prisons -- in the public resources they consume, the aftereffects of their violence, and the material and psychological threat they pose -- does collective harm to all of us. Likewise, we don't all suffer violence at the hands of police, but we all live with the knowledge that it could happen. Some people have to live with it more than others.

True, some extremely dangerous people exist that don't announce themselves by a uniform. But consider that we are all indoctrinated in the belief that vital needs are not rights, but should be earned; that resources should be competed over, not shared; and that certain individuals and groups are fair game for violence and exploitation. We live with sociopathy as social policy.

There's no quick and easy solution, but we can each do a small part to end prisons, policing, firearm production, and other institutions of violence by refusing to support these institutions materially, by speaking out against them, and by advocating restorative justice.

You can call these ideas anarchist. I don't care for political labels that come with an identity attached to them; it's too easy for you to say "I'm not an anarchist, so I believe differently", and I don't intend to make it that easy. Nor should you make it easy for me; if you have an issue with what I'm saying, it can only help my position to work through it. What I'm advocating should stand the intellectual acid test, and it needs reworking and rethinking if it doesn't.

I'm fairly confident, though, that imprisonment will never address the root causes of rape, and in fact reinforces a culture of rape. I'm confident that "Pink Pistols" support a racist, classist, and inherently oppressive gun culture, and that there are more effective and more ethical ways to keep queer and trans people safe. And I'm confident that military and police institutions can't be redeemed, however many reforms they might go through.

I don't support pacifism in all cases. Non-violent resistance is sometimes necessary; sabotage is sometimes necessary; violence against property is sometimes necessary; and in the worst situations, violence in self-defense is necessary. CeCe Macdonald was right to stab her attacker, and should be exonerated.

And no one should've attacked her in the first place. I don't think that's an unreachable goal. But positive depictions of trans people in niche media and spheres of academic privilege won't cut it, and neither will increased punishments for hate crimes. Target everyone with huge public information campaigns, instead. And if we really care about fighting hate, the class gap must shrink, and the race gap must shrink. Most of the attackers of gender/sexual minorities don't come from privileged backgrounds. You can be privileged and be a bigot, but there's a huge difference between having bigoted ideas and violently acting on that bigotry. And I think a lot of that difference can be put down to living with a greater level of fear.

I want a world where it's safe to be visibly different, and where it's safe to be female. I don't want it at the expense of someone else. And that includes the rapist and the basher. Fear is too contagious to be effectively quarantined in that way.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
I don't want it at the expense of someone else. And that includes the rapist and the basher.

I... don't think that you and I are going to be able to talk about this issue in particular. :/ I was looking forward to catching up, but... is it unfair for me to try to get across that I'm going to need an indeterminate amount of time away for now?
Dec. 22nd, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
I'm genuinely not trying to be rude... This post isn't without its merits, I can tell that you put a lot of thought into writing it and it's true that there are no easy solutions. It's just that this is a very difficult subject for me for personal reasons which make it a triggering issue. I'm not trying to be hurtful, I just kind of need a time-out to gain a buffer of distance and perspective, does that make sense? :/
Dec. 23rd, 2013 03:12 am (UTC)
Yes, it does. Thank you for pointing this out to me, and for clarifying how you felt; I'm not offended by it. There's a time and place for argument and for us, this isn't it.

After your post about vegetarianism upset me I took some time and thought about the place from which it was written, and while I still disagreed with a lot of things it was useful to carefully think that through. So I understand why you might need at least as much distance from me while the issue is raw. I'm not happy that I triggered you, and if you want to haul off at me, you can; otherwise, it wouldn't hurt to table this and work on it some other time.

Edited at 2013-12-23 03:18 am (UTC)
Jan. 14th, 2014 08:58 am (UTC)
Still in putting this off mode, whatever you might think of me for it... Regardless of what happens, I do appreciate the understanding you've shown so far, just so you know.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
I'm having some trouble figuring out how to begin a response, mostly because I'm not sure whether we're working in a world where some people are inclined to do violence, grab power, and otherwise be selfish, and that only the fear of something bigger keeps them in check, where religion and other large social institutions will continue to trade in fear of an Other to advance their own interests, and public information campaigns are not helpful, but the experience of knowing someone in a marginalized group is. The monopoly of force becomes integral in at least some of those situations.

Edited at 2013-12-23 03:09 pm (UTC)
Dec. 25th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
and public information campaigns are not helpful, but the experience of knowing someone in a marginalized group is.

That may be the case. But not every marginalized group will be in a single person's monkeysphere.

I think public information has had some successes; smoking and AIDS. People still smoke, but the way cigarettes are viewed now is very different from 60-70 years ago. And unprotected sex is viewed differently than 30 years ago.

I'll try to give a point-by-point response to the rest:

I don't think we have a monopoly of force. In theory we could, if we wanted to be much more restrictive, get much closer to a monopoly of force, and that's a potential counterargument. But going down the path of expanded state power leads to more danger for people marginalized by the state.

State force is also a mechanism that rewards those antisocial inclinations you mentioned. There are some good, altruistic people who are cops, but there are also many who channel their need for power into their work. And jails are also an effective channel for large social institutions trading off fear of an Other.

Another issue is that each case is subtly different. Rules and regulations that generally determine what to do are useful, but what justice and redress will look like will differ from person to person, and rules alone can't work that out. We have the idea of blind justice in our culture, which I'd argue against, and instead say that justice is based on seeing what's right for people in their situations and figuring out a way to get that.

Another issue, looking at examples from my own sphere, is that deterrents assume a level of rational self-interest; people aren't always rational enough to think about the negative consequences. Working on the reasons why crimes are attractive ideas in the moment seems like a better idea.

There's a long list of resources here: http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/ I'll be going over them individually over the next few weeks.
Dec. 26th, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
Fair points. I agree that working on why crime becomes attractive is a good place to focus effort and that prison as it is now is not effective at the goal of stopping crime.

I think that many of the success stories of public information work when they talk about the negative consequences of doing an action, like smoking or unprotected sex or drink driving. For positive consequences, like marriage equality, it seems like the effective way of changing minds has been to have someone in your monkeysphere who is affected by the unjust, bringing greater urgency to make things just.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )



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