Radical politics starts and sticks via direct contact with one’s own oppression. There’s no other realization that aligns one with the oppressed, while answering to the oppressor. There’s no pro-feminism, or no radical politics without it.
If a man can track down his own subjection, restraints, or injustices to the roots, he will then ask the critical questions of the power or authority that burdens or claims his life.
And forms of oppression exist in nearly all men. Racism and class bias impact most; disability, serious illness and accidents, gay identification, personal loss, imprisonment, deadly jobs, and war afflictions, are other examples of ill treatment.
But are they touchstones? Or are they untouchables? If we experience oppression, why are we not in contact with it? Why are we mainly oblivious to its roots, its agency, its origin, and to its power base? Why to hell don’t we resist it?
The answer is obvious: we are not in actual contact with our oppression because we are oppressors. We don’t dig deeply into the nature of our woes because we fear to find at bottom a prowess that exceeds our own, which we don’t confront, because we’re bound to it, and benefit from it.
So we accept the injury. We desist, or resign ourselves to a superficial glance. Complaint leverage, gripes, argument ammunition, each serve us better than does facing the inevitable source of our limited, dishonest, and crippled selves. Anything, anything but to admit that all are oppression can be traced back to male power.
But in doing so, we detach ourselves from revolutionist politics, and forfeit political consciousness. Pro-feminism is off-limits because the denial of our own perceptions equates to a denial of all women. We prefer our superior position in a male hierarchy to an equal position with women.
And heterosexuality, marriage–and prostitution, bring home to us that our rank, no matter how low, is higher than hers. This is the superiority that hierarchy confers upon us for accepting women’s inferiority, the base upon which it’s built.
And when we subscribe to this model of oppression, we also break the link to to that of all other oppressed groups. The whole spectrum of our political activism then exists on shaky ground. How effective can anti-racist work be, if it excludes all women of color? How effective can anti-poverty work be if we, at best, give lip service to what is primarily a women’s issue?
In the 1970s I joined several pro-feminist groups, and a few more later. My experiencing each fell into the same high-low pattern. Elated at first, deflated after. The leaders tilted toward liberalism, the lesser members toward the radical. This leadership’s approach was often psychological and single-issue oriented. The objective oppression of women was rarely foremost. Porn (though there were Playboy pickets),prostitution, and even at times rape were either handled very gingerly or considered no-go or unproductive pursuits.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that most of the leaders were middle-class, professional white males. Nor that the minority dissenting voices were often gay or had working class backgrounds. Democratic form within the groups was not very compelling, and moral expression seemed out of order. There was the same lack of symmetry that existed in Left politics that feminists had critically documented and exposed–the turf of both arenas being more competitive than communal.
This is what happens when one’s own oppression is shelved. The work becomes more like duty than an engagement or a way of life. The politics get diluted and narrowed; members get used; clashes occur; resisters drop out; and groups dissolve, or linger on in the liberal mode with a radical nod or two at best. Or, far worse, some perversely opt-out, to start or join Men’s Right’s groups, in which they get to pay full homage and service to their patriarchal pops.
But the rock bottom example of what pleasure of power or the power of pleasure can lead to is the male-to-female transgender movement. In both the prior and post periods of going transgender, a know-nothing stance toward modes of discontent and oppression dominates. The claims of being an actual female in a male body or of needing to be “sexed” like “chicks” display a total disregard of reality, women, and politics. To compound this, having transed to “women,” these men never raise a whimper of protest or even mention the exclusively male violence, taunts, and threats leveled at them, preferring instead to viciously attack critical feminists who defend women’s spaces, culture, identity, and history from their insolent demands and intrusions.
Which leads to one final question. How creditable can any man or any pro-feminist be if, through self-deception, and the concealment of power relations, he loses awareness of himself and other men as oppressor. If he can’t free himself from his voluntary position inside the heroic male superstructure, how can he liberate anyone else from it?
Okay, it’s not all this schematic, and yes, there are degrees of support, and political consciousness, given the forces waged against it can be less than steady, but in the end, there’s no other accounting for the infinitesimal number of men who endorse and have the back of feminists, let alone radical feminists.