Thursday, January 19, 2006

SDS, Comix and Women

Last night a conference call demanded my attention so I could only strafe over the topic of the apparent reemergence of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) as a coordinating body for counter-establishment sentiments and actions. This deserves examination, but I want to look at it in light of today's article in the San Jose Mercury News, Feds Go After Google Data and some general connections about networks.

This, it turns out, segues into my post on feminism, sex, and politics of a few days ago. My first thought when I read in demleft's Democratic Left Infoasis about the SDS and his reference to Deanna Zandt's Missing women at progressive conference that refers to the ITT List post "Leaving women out of the progressive movement" prompted her to write and me to rant. We are both saying the same thing, but differently, I think. I would make the argument that using the word "leaving" shows the perspective of the people involved to be that of a hierarchical male group. I can't tell if this comes from ITT or their source. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that some group is attempting to co-opt progressive language for use by the same old, same as it ever was, purportedly "liberal" folks who run Washington when the current group isn't in power. Movement isn't the right word either. Movements arise spontaneously, they are not orchestrated in conferences.

This actually relates to the SDS. I'd have to be an amnesiac to forget all the reports of totally sexist practices of the male members of such groups in the 60s. I was a child then, but I remember a lot. My own take on some of this is that much of the Early Feminism of the 70s was in reaction to the sexism of the 60s "counter" culture. Separatist action was seen as one way to counter the embedded structural sexism in any political action that arose at that time. Remember -- at the start of the 1960s women's suffrage in the U.S. was only 40 years old. Not everyone then, or now, trusts such a new phenomena to stick around just because it exists now.

We've come a long way baby, but not far enough. What I think I'm seeing now is a resurgence of the international women's rights movement of the 1800s with a new focus. Women's rights are nothing more than human rights with the twist -- the folks involved believe women must be leaders if peace and justice are ever to come about on our world. The international women's movement focused on suffrage until the mid 20th Century when that no longer was an issue except in a few extremely repressive countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Another issue (not a new one) is now becoming the primary focus of the resurgent international women's movement.

I'm really looking forward to International Women's Day this year when Women Say No To War will try to bring the concept of peace joined together with women's rights to the forefront of the world's consciousness by a truly international campaign to stop the war on Iraq. (That is .org after Women Say No To War, not .com -- right wing scumbags grabbed up .com and pointed the site to Bill O'Reilly. Those big bad right wing men are afraid of pacifist women! Is that a hoot or what?)

Just like the Hippies had hierarchical problems with sexism, many feminists have hierarchical problems with sex. I hope that this time around the movement will reach out to all women including the women with whom the 70s feminists had a hierarchical problem. Many "old guard" feminists truly look down on sex workers. Too often in the past women of high status (and that is almost all feminists in the U.S.) have looked down on women in sex work. Hierachy is garbage. Hierarchy always involves judgment and that most often involves negative assumptions and pronouncements about those excluded from the higher levels of the hierarchyical system. I cannot condone that and that is why I think it is essential to read things like the statement on the Feminist Sex Workers blog.

I seriously think there is a good chance that this time through the cycle of cultural action and reaction that women will incorporate more egalitarian understanding and consequentially peace could be much closer than if only peace alone was incorporated. I suspect that a neocon women's subset of "the movement" this time may be the most likely stumbling block that could derail significant cultural change, much like the temperance movement was when the overall goals of women's rights confused temperance with morality. The women's movement might want to watch for analogous confusion of censorship with morality. Today as I watched C-Span I watched what could very well be the beginning of such a reaction when Ted "Boondoggle" Stevens (R Alaska) questioned folks from various communication groups (CBS, SAG, and NAB, Parents Television Council, ) and others during a hearing about decency in the media and in another about internet child pornography.

This is all related folks, just keep your knickers on! During the McCarthy Era there was "outcry" (largely the product of Sen. Estes Kefauver , who according to Law and Everything Else "had his eye on the Presidency and actually ran for it in 1956. He's the clown who wore a coonskin cap in '56, hoping to capitalize on the Davy Crockett Craze of 1955-56.) about the horrible way comics were corrupting our youth. The outcome of this Kefauver Commission was the ratings system and censorship of comics that drove most creative cartooning underground. Thus the simultaneous birth of comix, or underground comix, that were far more out there than the originally "problematic " comics. The same process can be found in the U.S. Prohibition (of alcohol) or the "criminalization" of Marijuana. If you want to increase the severity and probably the quantity of something, just outlaw it.

There is a real danger that censorship of media/internet will be the tool with which the corporate male status quo attempts to subvert this resurgence. Just take a look at that San Jose Mercury article I mentioned as I began this epistle. It deals with the Feds trying to stomp down on the media and internet and using child pornography as an excuse.

We're on to them this time -- but knowing what they are up to isn't enough. We have to act. (Remember that is act, not react.)



CLB said...

Great piece. I too have read several of the articles to which you link and my nod is especially to your point that 70's feminism was a reaction to the male-led 60's movements--particularly SDS. I was there. You are spot on and frankly, I still run into left-leaning men being partriarchal. Libs can believe that just being lib makes them feminist.

I also heartily agree on your sex-worker point--an argument I make often on my blog--i.e. that sex-work is work and it is only moralism that marginalizes these folks (male or female, remember). My opposition to sex-work denigration also goes to my opposition to sexual repression of all kinds--and I believe it will be kept alive as a tool for shame as long as it is useful in politics (the paradigm example of its abuse being the scapegoating of Clinton).

Artemesia Pax said...

thank you.

i'm glad to hear that my sizing up of reaction of women to "liberated" men's culturally ingrained sexism is not "reconstructionist" and can be validated by someone who was there.

egalitarianism has no room for other isms... (feminism or chauvanism) but we aren't there yet and one does have to live and act in the real world.