Revolutionaries are easily distracted
Suzanne Moore, commenting on the much-married George Galloway and his recent claim that "we should unrelentingly struggle to persuade women [that abortion] is.. morally repugnant", said that "what with Jimmy Savile too, this week it feels as if we are seeing the face of patriarchy." She adds this: "The continuing support of the hard but impotent left for Julian Assange and their dismissal of the women concerned is not new. Women's rights have rarely been a priority for 'revolutionaries'." Her conclusion:
The reduction of feminism to a "chattering class" issue is absolutely part of the rightwing agenda. Only certain women can "afford" to be concerned and this is exactly the dead end of Tory feminism, which is strong on the right to have it all and totally blind to women who have very little. But open your eyes to see that the fight for women's rights remains real and globalised. Working-class boys have died in Afghanistan on the pretext of improving the rights of women, remember? A 14-year-old in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, has been shot in the head at close range because she wants an education. We admire this fight for basic rights as we talk to the Taliban.
We are not in the same situation but the rights that women assume here – not to be abused or raped, to "aspire" to equal representation in public life and at work – are being chivvied way. We have a judicial and political system that is allowing this to happen and we cannot challenge it if we cannot name it. These words – patriarchy, feminism, misogyny – are indeed old. Retro, even. But they are vintage concepts, pre-loved because they are the real thing. Use when necessary.When I first mentioned the welcome trend of left-wing feminists disassociating themselves from the misogyny of the Assange/Galloway camp, Kellie wisely commented:
The anti-war movement has been misogynist "in effect" for over a decade. It's interesting that some who have been so vocal about Western imperialism are now more able to recognise misogyny in the movement when it concerns events in Sweden and Britain than they were when it was about events in Afghanistan.With the Malala affair, finally the commentariat seems to be lifting its head a little away from what's going on here, to the really brutal faces of patriarchy that the "anti-imperialist" left enables.
It’s interesting to note the response of the Guardian’s Jonathan Glennie to these concerns. In response both to this post, and to Carl Packman’s observation that abortion is still illegal in Venezuela, Glennie brushes aside such silly shibboleths:
@CarlRaincoat abortion, antisemitism – these are distractions – overturning hundreds of years of exploitation, that is the issue
You can learn a surprising amount about someone from 140 characters.Glennie, incidentally, argued that a little less freedom in Venezuela might be a good thing in eradicating poverty and inequality.
I have some sympathy for the notion that overturning exploitation and injustice should be our core, primary goals, and we must never lose sight of this. But to brush away racism and women's rights as a "distraction" is even worse than calling gay rights a "shibboleth". This sort of leftism makes me sick.
UPDATE: I may have been overly harsh in my judgement of Jonathan Glennie. In particular, I missed his earlier tweet "“@CarlRaincoat Having said that, raising the flag against anti-semitism in the left in Latin America is worth doing, i see it a lot…” However, I think the core point I was making remains valid. I will return to this topic in another post soon, and try to provide a more nuanced response to Glennie's Guardian blogging, some of which is persuasive but some of which remains problematic to me. See this conversation for a glimpse.