An Open Letter to Movement Men About Sexism from David Gilbert

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Oct 4 2012 19:09
An Open Letter to Movement Men About Sexism from David Gilbert

Political Prisoner, ex-Weathman Underground cadre, David Gilbert has been featured in 4 Struggle Mag and I would copy and paste it into the library here, but I think this might be the better place for some discussion on the letter:

http://4strugglemag.org/2012/10/04/an-open-letter-to-movement-men-about-...

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Oct 5 2012 12:36

I stopped reading at "classism". Fail.

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Oct 5 2012 12:56

Actually, to be fair, I didn't actually stop reading there, I paused to put on my "shite politics filter glasses" and read the rest of it. I think the intentions are genuine, despite the rubbish inverted hierarchy language. But I think in terms of the solutions proposed, he's somewhat missing the point. So long as the American (or other) movement remains, in the main, addicted to anti-organisationalism and informalism, then the lack of appropriate processes for dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault or harassment will continue. Why? Because it takes organising work to work out and agree proper processes for dealing with these things, and organisational discipline to actually implement them. Having said that, even being in a formal organisation with agreed codes of discipline and procedures for investigating and dealing with complaints and issues, it would be lying to say this stuff is ever easy. As for Men's Groups being the solution to preventing these issues occuring in the first place, that doesn't really deal with the men who don't want to engage in such groups - and often (although not always!) they tend to be the ones with the more problematic behaviour in the first place.

R. Spourgitis
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Oct 5 2012 18:41

I think the piece is decent. You know, ocelot, I don't really get arguing against this kind of men's groups. In US, there is a current that seems to be so far more localized on campuses, but it's essentially a developed praxis of anti-sexism from a feminist male perspective. Most of these folks have a kind of vague liberal or social dem politics, from what I can tell, but they're doing a lot right now in taking some action and developing theory on these issues. I would also include homophobia, hetero-sexism and transphobia here, too, although these are not incorporated to a degree that I would like to see.

My answer to you as far as how such groups help with regards to men that wouldn't take part and are most problematic is peer intervention, offering ways for people to approach and call-out fellow males constructively (rather than viscerally so and causing them to shut down or withdraw), be they friends, family or, in your example, fellow organizers, as well as working out our own issues (not solely as individuals, but as a society). This would be as opposed to the guilt-oriented, individualistic, self-study approach that is more common to the radical left, privilege politic scene. Is the men's studies approach perfect or not still wrought with its own problematics? Certainly not, but I've found it better by far than what I've seen elsewhere. If people have other good examples I'd love to see them.

Wiki "men's studies" or see the works of Harry Brod, Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, etc.

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Oct 5 2012 19:12
ocelot wrote:
I stopped reading at "classism". Fail.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people mean hating the poor when they talk about classism in my experience.

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Oct 5 2012 19:16
ocelot wrote:
So long as the American (or other) movement remains, in the main, addicted to anti-organisationalism and informalism, then the lack of appropriate processes for dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault or harassment will continue.

I think you're right, but I also don't think David Gilbert was ever anti-organizational, nor most of the people who who have followed his work in the U$.

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Oct 5 2012 19:20
R. Spourgìtis wrote:
I think the piece is decent. You know, ocelot, I don't really get arguing against this kind of men's groups...such groups help with regards to men that wouldn't take part and are most problematic is peer intervention, offering ways for people to approach and call-out fellow males constructively (rather than viscerally so and causing them to shut down or withdraw), be they friends, family or, in your example, fellow organizers, as well as working out our own issues (not solely as individuals, but as a society). This would be as opposed to the guilt-oriented, individualistic, self-study approach that is more common to the radical left, privilege politic scene. Is the men's studies approach perfect or not still wrought with its own problematics? Certainly not, but I've found it better by far than what I've seen elsewhere.

I think this about sums it up!

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Oct 5 2012 19:42
revol68 wrote:
It's just vague nonsense, stocked full of confused jargon, that is high in moral outrage but low in analysis, beloved by those stuck in the outdated "new left"
.
Its basically him saying sexism is bad m'kay.

Coming from someone who has "middle aged camel toes." listed as one of your interests, I know I don't have to read or worry what you write when it comes to sexism.

R. Spourgitis
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Oct 5 2012 20:15

Maybe rather than giving vague denunciations to the whole statement over some terminology used, and then taking a passing shot at a school of thought that you don't seem to know much about (Men Against Sexism/men's studies), you could say more what you mean.

Honestly, revol and ocelot's replies seem to come more out of ignorance to the ideas and practice being put forward than any actually meaningful critique.

R. Spourgitis
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Oct 5 2012 20:42

Ok, this is where I implied you were coming from. Incidentally, I don't disagree with the critique put forward in Who is Oakland piece, but I think it's a bit knee jerk to paint any and all conscious anti-sexist work outside of the revolutionary milieu as 'jargony awful new left politics'.

This idea that it's going to work itself out "in the struggle" I find to be pretty flawed, and it's one aspect that I think is a little bit of a shortcoming to the Who is Oakland piece. While I do see the flawed intersectionality part is indeed in there (and agree w/that critique), I think that an anti-oppressive analysis and approach does too often get overlooked.

Maybe in the Bay Area, or London or wherever, you can afford to shun privilege politicistas en masse, personally I have found that it's sometimes impressive to see the work being done to challenge dominant oppressive narratives, and I'm not going to condemn it or tell folks it's not revolutionary enough. On the contrary, there's a lot we can learn from some of this stuff.

R. Spourgitis
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Oct 5 2012 21:10

Fair enough. I think maybe we are in more agreement than not.

Speaking for my own perspective, I'm in a University town in Iowa. I was involved with an anti-sexist men's group for a few years that was at the school (not a student but I'm from the general area). I was skeptical for a lot of the same reasons, and prior experience w/campus based activist groups, but what I found out about both this group and a lot of the ideas and practice in men's studies is actually different than that.

First off, the group is based in the campus Women's Center, and regularly holds events with the women-led, feminist organizations in town. So I'm not thinking that the whole "men just reasoning it out" critique applies in that instance. Maybe some groups operate that way, but the men's studies, sometimes masculinity studies, is pretty firmly rooted in feminist perspective. Some of that mentality was there, but I'd say the approach taken as a whole is more nuanced.

Second, if that's all a group does, to go off separately and challenge attitudes, then I'd agree. I also pushed the local group to see more in terms of anti-oppressive, and gendered, transphobic, hetero-sexist, besides homophobic and sexist attitudes. Most of these themes were already in the curriculum, and honestly, giving people the tools to challenge those behaviors is a good thing. I guess I see it like mass movement level, or you could see it like within the union organizing, take what's there for a good reason, push it to do/be more, challenging those around you further.

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Oct 6 2012 18:50
revol68 wrote:
As ocelot already said the fact class is taled of in terms of classism gives the game away.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that classism is hating people who are poor, like some people argue that race based discrimination+power=racism.

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Oct 6 2012 19:07
revol68 wrote:
it also says my interests are middle class girls wearing silly hats indoors and that im in the trendy lads union. It's almost like i didnt write it myself but immature friends who also post on the board editted my profile and I havent been arsed to change it.

Which is kind of my point. Since you don't take this kind of board seriously, why should I take you seriously? I can't waste my time and energy getting angry about what a troll from the other side of the pond thinks is cute to write.

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Oct 6 2012 19:15
AJI wrote:
revol68 wrote:
it also says my interests are middle class girls wearing silly hats indoors and that im in the trendy lads union. It's almost like i didnt write it myself but immature friends who also post on the board editted my profile and I havent been arsed to change it.

Which is kind of my point. Since you don't take this kind of board seriously, why should I take you seriously? I can't waste my time and energy getting angry about what a troll from the other side of the pond thinks is cute to write.

Can you not distinguish between something on his profile and his political points?
What does it matter what side of 'the pond' hes on in terms of addressing his points?

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Oct 7 2012 17:22

To the extent I have dealt with (and continue to deal with) my own sexist tendencies that has been mainly a response to the challenge of my feminist sisters on both a personal and political level in the various political groups I've been involved with and in everyday life.

I can't comment on the nature of anti-sexist mens groups or studies in the USA but certainly the group I was in, and the short-lived movement of that title over here in the UK a few decades back, was very much on the model criticised by revol68 and was of very limited value to most of those involved so I'm mostly agreeing with Ocelot's and revol68's comments on this particular text.

The background analysis dealing with class and indeed gender entirely in terms of the language of 'oppressions' seems firmly rooted in an idealist approach.