Statement of Principles

I have tried, for some time now, to avoid spending my time responding to slander. To a large degree I felt, and continue to feel, that anyone who actually reads what I’ve written or engages with any of the art I’ve produced, will realize that such accusations are absurd; doubly so because my work has, if anything, been noted for its dedication to principles of equality. I know most of you see the claims made against me as the laughable attempts at smearing someone that they are.

However, the truth is that these individuals have considerably more power and attention than I do, and as such their slander may come to define the impression that many people have of me, particularly in the field of computer games. Given especially that these people are associated with non-mainstream gaming, as am I, this can pose a serious threat to my ability to continue making games and reach a friendly audience.

So, for the purpose of clarity, I would like to state some things about how I approach the world.

First, the basics:

  • I believe all human beings deserve protection from harm.
  • I believe all human beings deserve shelter.
  • I believe all human beings deserve nourishment.
  • I believe all human beings deserve access to the highest standard of medical care available to our species.
  • I believe all human beings deserve an education.
  • I believe all human beings deserve freedom of speech.
  • I believe all human beings deserve freedom of religion, so long as their religion does not infringe on the rights of others.
  • I believe all human beings deserve access to art and entertainment.
  • I believe all human beings have the right to be recognized as individuals, irrespective of various characteristics.
  • I believe all human beings have the right to love whoever they love.
  • I believe all human beings have the right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they do not harm others.
  • I believe the economic and political system we live in is required to provide these things, or be considered inadequate.
  • I believe we are technologically capable of providing all of the above without all that much effort.

Now, about the current (highly inadequate) system:

  • I believe that our economic system defines the totality of our social relations. Not just in capitalism, but always.
  • I believe that social antagonisms are rooted in economic inequality and serve to reinforce systems of oppression.
  • I believe that we are on the brink of global social, economic and especially ecological collapse.
  • I believe that meaningful change can only occur through a democratic mass movement aimed at radically altering the fundamental principles by which our economy is organized.
  • I do not believe that this change can occur through creating “a better capitalism” and other similar constructs promoted by liberal (progressive capitalist) groups.

However, contrary to accusations, I also believe that:

  • Racism is a very real problem.
  • Sexism is a very real problem.
  • Many other forms of discrimination are also a problem.

The difference between the point of view of socialists like myself and that of “social justice activists” and related identitarian groups is that:

  • I believe that economic injustice (class, not classism) is not only the problem faced by the majority of humans today (the 99%, to use a modern term) but also the problem that underlies all the others.
  • I don’t believe social antagonisms can be eradicated without eradicating economic injustice.
  • I believe that attempts to eradicate social antagonisms without eradicating the underlying systems of economic injustice ultimately serve to reinforce the system of oppression by integrating a small section of oppressed social groups into capitalism while maintaining divisions between the oppressed (the majority of every population).
  • I believe that organizing around various concepts of identity is counter-productive, as it reinforces the divisions between people with the same interests.
  • I believe that many of the problems that appear as related to a particular form of discrimination are actually fundamentally economic (see the debate about identity and disability).
  • I don’t believe that guilt is a political emotion.
  • I don’t believe in ideological purity or in utopia; the point is to create a better system, one that minimizes suffering and promotes human potential, not to “get along” or to perfect human society.
  • I believe that the fight is not between the oppressed and society but between society (all of us) and the system.
  • I believe that organizing around objective material conditions is the only way to build a genuine mass movement.

This perspective is strongly influenced by history:

  • I believe there is an obvious connection between the present financial crisis and the rise of far-right politics, the media propaganda against immigrants and the poor, and the general xenophobia promoted by the establishment.
  • I believe an analysis of previous crises of a similar nature in the past irrefutably demonstrates the role played by ideologies of division in maintaining the existing order.
  • I believe the history of nationalism in Europe, not only in the two World Wars but also in the various movements of national liberation, shows how even an identity constructed against a backdrop of oppression will destroy diversity and allow the system to perpetuate itself with a slightly different face.
  • I believe it is important to remember that some of the most radical changes in women’s rights were accomplished by the early (non-Stalinist) Soviet Union.
  • I believe it is important to remember the lessons of the Civil Rights struggle in America; Martin Luther King’s increasing belief in the necessity of uniting for economic rights and Malcolm X’s rejection of the racist politics of the Nation of Islam and embrace of an internationalist perspective both point to the necessity of organizing along global economic lines.
  • I believe it is extremely necessary to examine and learn from world history, to avoid a perspective built entirely along the social divisions of one particular time and place. (On the internet this usually comes down to a US-centric or eurocentric perspective, though similar forms of self-centered thinking are far from exclusive to those parts of the world.)

One thing that this group of people finds particularly appalling is that I do not accept their terminology:

  • I do not believe that “privilege” is a helpful term or one that accurately describes the inequality that exists in our society.
  • I believe the privilege discourse is essentially a form of victim-blaming, in which one group of victims is elevated to being more deserving of equality than the other.
  • I do not believe in a determinist understanding of social origin in which all people from one category are inherently sexist or racist.
  • I believe in rights, not privileges. Not being harmed is not a privilege, it is a right. If one person is harmed and another is not, the blame should go to the one causing the harm.
  • I do not believe that racism comes down to a simplistic black-white dichotomy.
  • I especially do not believe that such a dichotomy can be applied to countries that are historically unrelated to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and/or colonialism and thus have no conception of “whiteness” to begin with.
  • I do not believe that “patriarchy” is a useful term (except in its very specific original meaning) and that sexism should be understood as the enforcement of gender stereotypes, not “male privilege”.
  • I believe that sexism has historically oppressed men and women equally, by forcing both to live their lives in highly circumscribed ways, subjecting women to servitude at home and men to servitude both at work and in the battlefield. To ignore either side of the equation is to ignore the suffering of billions.

Essentially:

  • I believe the most urgent need of our time is to change the economic system we live in, before the inevitable crises produced by the current one annihilate us.
  • I believe sexism and racism can only be fought by deconstructing the fictional borders that fuel them, and that uniting people in the fight for better material conditions is actually the best, possibly the only, way of destroying the arbitrary divisions that have socially enslaved every member of this species for so long.
  • I also believe that attacking sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination at every opportunity (as false divisions, not via the guilt-based privilege discourse) is essential to building a mass movement; this interlocks with the point above.
  • In other words, I am calling for a transcultural, internationalist approach to the fight for equality.

It should also be noted, however, that:

  • I could be wrong.
  • You could be wrong.
  • Being in error is not a sin.
  • Disagreement is not a sign of moral degeneration.
  • It is extremely destructive to claim that all those who oppose one’s methods or analyses oppose the very notion of equality or justice.

This is all very abstract, as one would expect from a summary. But you will find that wherever I have argued in favour of these ideas, I have provided detailed arguments for my position, and I have written many long and thorough explanations of individual points on this list, drawing on a global tradition of thought that includes people of all genders, sexes, sexual preferences, classes, colours, and so on.

To be entirely clear, I do not object to people thinking that I am wrong; I do object to the notion that these principles mean I am a sexist, a racist, a “manarchist” or any other such thing. I also object to attacks on my moral character (such as calling me a “creeper”) on the basis of these principles. If you dislike me because I once criticized an article written by one of your friends, fine, but do not pretend it is anything other than a petty personal vendetta. If you simply disagree with my positions, that’s fine too – either ignore me or talk to me. You’re not required to engage in debate, but responding to disagreement with slander is rather low.

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45 Comments

  1. Emma Bull

     /  November 9, 2013

    Thank you for this MASSIVE summing-up, and for doing such a great job describing my thoughts on these things as well as yours. As Brust said, I’d sign this.

  2. qymaen

     /  November 9, 2013

    I agree with almost everything you’ve said here (my main disagreement being that I wouldn’t unilaterally attribute all inequality to economic inequality: I think economic inequality reinforces and is in turn reinforced by other inequality-enforcing systems, but what I think isn’t so important here, and I don’t begrudge you the difference of opinion). Anyway, you make great games and I really appreciate your dedication to incorporating real-world socioeconomic themes into your work, rather than making straight-up escapist work (as most game devs, indie and mainstream, tend towards, though of course their ideas and biases tint the end product of their work anyway).

    This is getting a bit rambly but tl;dr don’t let the haters get you down keep making great games

  3. Janet Coburn

     /  November 9, 2013

    I would like to repost the bullet points starting “I may be wrong” on my Facebook timeline. I will give credit to you and, if you want, a link to your article. May I have permission to do this?

  4. I wouldn’t unilaterally attribute all inequality to economic inequality: I think economic inequality reinforces and is in turn reinforced by other inequality-enforcing systems

    That’s a fair point to make. Perhaps I should say that I believe the underlying structures of capitalism cause economic inequality, which in turns interacts with other inequality-enforcing systems in a vicious circle. In everyday experience, the systemic origins of the problems aren’t always immediately apparent.

  5. Janet Coburn

     /  November 9, 2013

    “I could be wrong.” Sorry.

  6. @Janet: Sure, go ahead.

  7. Flan Cat

     /  November 9, 2013

    A shame it had to come to defending yourself against name-calling. What happened to communicating to share understanding between people? People struggling for social justice should be the last who resort to reducing individuals to pejorative terms.

    Keep up the good work! I look forward to Ithaka and the other works you have in store.

  8. I’m not sure I entirely agree with you.

    🙂

    However, I think I’d enjoy discussing issues with you, and would learn from doing so.

  9. StranaMente

     /  November 9, 2013

    Times and times again I see you defending your point of view thouroughly and with much wisdom against many misinformed and/or malevolent people who kept attacking strawmen with rage and disgust, without an inch of empathy, and without any kind of support of their ideas.

    The only good things that their attack brought are such wonderfully clear explanations of interesting socio-economical concepts and profound analisys of the identity issues.

    It really saddens me that you have to be subject to this slander, when it’s so evident that they’re attacking strawmen instead of you.

    I thank you for your effort to summon your ideology in this way, as I know it may not be easy to reduce your entire world view in few, clear, concise paragraphs. Sadly I don’t think that this will stop them, but I hope it’ll help.
    Stay strong.
    Mario

  10. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 9, 2013

    Great list.
    You might want to think about a different, more specific wording for number one (protection from harm).

    That one is really confusing me, and seems to contradict latter entries.
    You put it first, so I assume it is one of your more important ideals, but does it not completely invalidate “I believe all human beings deserve freedom of speech.”? If I cannot harm anyone, what freedom of speech is left? Not too much, depending on how you interpret harm.

    And does that first ideal mean that you are also for all drugs being illegal, and suicide as well? As you could see, it could also be interpreted as being a big roadblock for “right to live their lives as they see fit”

  11. One thing I find particularly interesting is that your views aren’t all that different from the views of your detractors (at least the ones we’re talking about here).

    I follow the likes of Anna Anthropy and Merrit Kopas on the web because they’re pretty fucking smart, and I care about what they do and what they say, like I do with you. And many times I’ve seen them come to the same conclusions you repeatedly point out.

    Finding specific quotes on Twitter is nearly impossible, but I remember it clearly. Both of them have expressed how messed up gender is and how just struggles can be hurt by making silly divisions based on it, or any other thing. Both have said that privilege-checking is a very unproductive way of spending energy that could mobilize real activism. Many people who jumped at your throat after Would You Kindly Not have shown several times being tired at “white dudes” used to represent The Enemy, or “die cis scum” used to represent a fair claim.

    I’m not saying that’s what it is, but it really looks like, after opposing you so strongly, many have come slowly and naturally to the same conclusions you were defending back then, yet some kind of enmity or opposition remains just because it’s already established.

    PS You don’t have to do it, but I think it’d be cool to add transphobia to your list of very real problems, because it’s very much on topic.

  12. @Jonathon: I fear you’re getting lost in semantics. I think once we’ve established a society in which people aren’t being beaten to death for belonging to the wrong group or bombed for living on strategically valuable land, we can find a workable balance – at the moment the harm people experience is pretty unambiguous. (I also think defining speech as harm is generally pretty silly, with specific exceptions that aren’t that impossible to legislate in a free society.)

    @David: I originally typed out an answer to this, but I’ve deleted it. I feel there is little point in talking about them, and I’m sure they appreciate people discussing them behind their backs as little as I do. That’s why I’ve tried to keep this on a more abstract level (except in moments of total frustration).

    I consider my definition of sexism to include both homophobia and transphobia, as well as other discriminatory practices based on gender stereotypes. (I’ve also not separately mentioned Islamophobia and a variety of related issues that are on topic, as I would consider them to be part of my position on racism.)

  13. Sounds about right.

  14. Visitor to the Lands of Dream

     /  November 11, 2013

    Hello, Mr. Kyratzes. I have only recently discovered your blog on the internet here, and I first discovered one of your games, The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge, at the jayisgames.com website, a few years ago. Then just a couple weeks ago I had discovered that you had since made a few more Lands of Dream games since that one, and then I discovered this blog. I have to say: WOW. I can’t believe I’ve found someone who both makes such great games and whose politics I greatly agree with! I am a young senior in high school from California (the Bay Area specifically) and this post perfectly sums up my thoughts about identity politics. I didn’t even know terms like “privilege” existed until I started reading things on the internet a year or two ago, and I was shocked by the vitriol some identarians out there spew. My English teacher right now is sort of an identity politics kind of guy, and that is very frustrating to me because he is otherwise a very good English teacher. My only point of departure with you is perhaps two things: one, I am an anarcho-communist, because I think the State is inherently economically and politically forceful and an oppressor and that it is not possible for there to be a just or kind State; second, I am not so in favor of schools as you are (at least not compulsory ones for those under 18) because I think the right to live your life as you see fit should apply to youth and children as well as adults and they should not be forced to be in a place like school against their will, which is basically a polite term for a youth prison. Universities are good however, I think, because they are voluntary (although their lecture-and-memorize pedagogy could use some work). Have you ever read the works of John Holt, Ivan Illich, or Alfie Kohn? I think they might enlighten you on this. But I don’t think this is a major disagreement, I just think that youth/teens and children are oppressed by capitalism and the State just a everyone else is but in different ways in a form of discrimination sometimes referred to as adultism. Anyways, my favorite anarcho-communist author I have heard of so far is Peter Kropotkin, who has wrote “The Conquest of Bread” and “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.” But I am going on too long, so once again, thank you for writing this post Mr. Kyratzes, and I am sorry that internet commentators would be so unduly rude and slanderous towards you.

  15. Wolfgang DelaSangre

     /  November 12, 2013

    This is why I like you, Jonas. You’re honest and straightforward, even when discussing a single subject with a lot of points. I enjoy reading your articles quite a bit because of this.

    I agree with most of what you have said here, and would probably agree with all of it after a thorough discussion of a few of your points.

  16. @Visitor: While I deeply respect many anarchist thinkers and believe that their contributions should be taken seriously, I ultimately come down against anarchist thinking for one reason – in my opinion, it is primarily driven by ideology. A perfectly just state may never exist, but what I think is even more unlikely is a society without some kind of state; in fact, I think society and the state are part of the same thing – human social behaviour. We are social beings, and we will always organize, and we will always have disagreements – a society without any kind of force is a society in which everyone is utterly disconnected, and as such far more utopian (in the sense of imaginary, impossible) than the idea of a functioning, genuinely democratic state. This is also one of my main problems with libertarianism.

    (And yeah, I also don’t think the state will ever fully “wither away” as many communists believe it will. But I think it will change shape and function.)

    As for schools, well, much as with the state, I think some of the opposition comes simply from people being so used to utterly terrible executions of the idea, rather than from an innate problem. Americans in particular, I think, have very little experience with more social systems of government, which is why there is a much stronger tendency towards individualistic political philosophies in the States. (No offense intended!) A lot of what people in Europe are fighting to keep appears as an impossible dream to people in the US.

    I link to this far too often, but Einstein’s Why Socialism? is still the best explanation of all this:

    I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

    That’s not to say I dismiss all anarchist thought, however. I think there is a great deal to learn from anarchist thinkers like Kropotkin about how to construct a state that is better defended against the kind of process that ended us up with Stalin and his bureaucracy. It’s all about finding the right balance.

  17. @Wolfgang and everybody else who said such kind things: thank you. I’m really grateful for your comments. Sometimes I feel like I’m writing in a void, and it’s good to know there are still people out there.

  18. Jabberwok

     /  November 14, 2013

    I like that Einstein quote, too. I believe I read it in Erich Fromm’s _The Sane Society_ (a great book, IMO). I’m curious to know if you’ve read much Fromm.

  19. I haven’t read a great deal of Fromm, no, though I’m pretty sure I did read *some* back at university. I may have avoided him because he’s associated with the Frankfurt School, which I must admit to hating to an amusingly extreme degree – with an extra portion of wrath reserved for Theodor Adorno.

  20. Visitor to the Lands of Dream

     /  November 15, 2013

    Mr. Kyratzes –

    Thank you very much for answering, I didn’t think you’d have time. I fully respect your well thought-out and reasoned comments, but at the same time, I still have some slight disagreements:

    1) I understand what you’re saying about a more socialistic state, and I agree that would be better than our existing one in America/The United States for sure (actually, almost anything would be better than our existing state), but there would still be fundamental problems with it. First of all, I don’t think representative democracy works because a few hundred people can’t possibly represent the concerns of millions and majority voting creates a “tyranny of the majority” and overly promotes competition at the expense of cooperation. It is my understanding, but please do correct me if I’m wrong, that a socialistic state would still be a representative or majority-rule/voting democracy but with workers ruling instead of the wealthy. Also, an anarchistic collective would still be organized, it would simply not allow people to rule over others using coercion (prisons, police, courts, fines, etc.), and would allow people to decide on all matters that are of most direct importance to them/that they are directly involved in. I think this would most effectively utilize the intrinsic motivation of people to be altruistic, to want to do useful and fulfilling things (not necessarily calling these things work, as I am anti-work), and to want to please each other. By the way, why do socialists glorify work so much? The “work-ethic” comes from Protestant Christianity and is of no use to atheists or those who are not fervently religious, as it basically boils down to a belief in work for work’s sake as proof that you will get into heaven and to make up for original sin (basically a punishment for humans being inherently evil). Since it has never been proven that humans are inherently evil, I think it’s safe to say that they are not (maybe they’re not inherently good either, but the point is they can be either depending on their environment). Have you ever read “The Abolition of Work” by Bob Black or “The problem with work” by Kathi Weeks? Both excellent essays explain my anti-work viewpoints. (Also, the book “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn well explains my views on intrinsic motivation and rewards/punishments, and is back up by lots of research to boot).

    2) On your position on schools, I don’t think it’s just terrible execution; the schools are doing exactly what they’re intended to do. While I don’t agree with his politics, John Taylor Gatto gives and excellent history of the founding of public schools in America and their original purpose in “The Underground History of American Education” (a book that is available for free online in full text). But the person’s arguments who fully convince me that unschooling and similar forms of education are the best way to go for children was Dr. Peter Gray, a psychologist who has a blog called Freedom to Learn on Psychology Today and a book called “Free to Learn,” as well as a website that he started with some other unschooling advocates called “AlternativestoSchool.com.” I think his arguments might convince you, especially the ones about traditional hunters-and-gatherers (the world’s first anarcho-communists, and what humans were for most of their short existence on Earth). Kropotkin also had much to say on education, including that it trains children to preserve capitalism and the State. Many other education authors such as Paulo Friere and other socialists have also expounded on how our education system preserves inequalities, not just through unequal funding but also through “the hidden curriculum” imposed through grades, homework, testing, and other punishments and rewards in schools.

    Whew that was a long comment! Once again, thank you very much for responding and I have greatly enjoyed civilly discussing this with you (and I love your games and blog posts).

  21. I’ll have to reply to your post in individual bits, if that’s OK.

    First of all, I don’t think representative democracy works because a few hundred people can’t possibly represent the concerns of millions

    I don’t think a few hundred people would be asked to do that. Democracy doesn’t have to mean simply electing a parliament; I believe democratic processes would be spread throughout all of society. However, I also think that it’s unrealistic to have no centralization whatsoever, as many large-scale tasks essential to maintaining quality of life require central coordination. With the abolition of the profit motive, transparency of the state and democratic processes on every level of society, however, this kind of centralization is much less likely to be abused.

    and majority voting creates a “tyranny of the majority”

    As per the Einstein quote, I believe that feeling is the result of capitalism’s effect on how the individual relates to society. In a free society with a strong emphasis on rights and no profit motive (and thus no competition), the “tyranny of the majority” is not something people would experience. Disagreement with the majority, sure, but that’s always going to happen. People are always going to get together to do something and other people are always going to think it’s silly. But without the mechanics of capitalism, this does not constitute a threat to the individual.

    and overly promotes competition at the expense of cooperation

    Only within an individualist (anarchist or capitalist) framework.

    It is my understanding, but please do correct me if I’m wrong, that a socialistic state would still be a representative or majority-rule/voting democracy but with workers ruling instead of the wealthy.

    As I said above, it’s more complex than that; there’s a vast array of possibilities. (See the system of the soviets, for example.) It’s a common (and easily-made) mistake to imagine socialism as a nicer capitalism; when a lot of people say socialism, I think they imagine something more along the lines of Social Democracy, i.e. Capitalism Lite. So it’s not really workers ruling instead of the wealthy – it’s that concepts such as “the wealthy” no longer apply, and the entire orientation of the system of production is different, producing very different social dynamics.

    it would simply not allow people to rule over others using coercion (prisons, police, courts, fines, etc.)

    While a beautiful sentiment, I think this is also entirely utopian. I think anarchists and libertarians tend to exaggarate what constitutes coercion, to be honest, imagining that the only fair society is one in which everyone is “free from their brother” – which I’m sorry to say is both idealistic and somewhat adolescent. I know that sounds offensive, and I really don’t mean to offend; take adolescent both in its negative meaning of “a lack of relation to the real world” and the positive of “genuine passion about something important that too many people are apathetic about”. But a system free of coercion is a system free of conflict (even personal conflict, disagreement) and free of error (from mental illness to simply drinking too much), and I think that’s basically a fantasy.

    Which doesn’t mean I think it’s a fantasy not worth considering! But I think the closest we can get to the kind of society this fantasy describes is actually through building a genuinely democratic, open state which will allow humanity to lay aside most of its internal antagonisms. I think this will be the social result of this political programme and cannot be achieved directly as anarchists believe.

    (Of course, I could be entirely wrong.)

    By the way, why do socialists glorify work so much?

    Note that I excluded a “right to work” from the list above. If anything, I believe in the right *not* to work; one of the best things about a socialist state is its ability to put modern technology to good use and to plan production according to necessity, allowing human beings to work a lot less. Ideally, someday the only work we would do would be what we enjoy. That’s not quite feasible yet, but we could reduce working hours drastically for everyone.

    I don’t think it’s just terrible execution; the schools are doing exactly what they’re intended to do.

    But in capitalism, that’s one and the same.

    I think his arguments might convince you, especially the ones about traditional hunters-and-gatherers (the world’s first anarcho-communists, and what humans were for most of their short existence on Earth)

    We’re not hunters-and-gatherers anymore, though. The challenges we face are different, and if we want the human species to survive in the long term, we need to face those challenges. We can’t always look to the (glorified) past for answers.

    Kropotkin also had much to say on education, including that it trains children to preserve capitalism and the State.

    It’s not that simple, though. There is a lot wrong with education, and capitalist ideas are certainly imparted, but the knowledge gained from schools is also a basis for understanding and overthrowing capitalism. Thus, witness modern capitalism’s relentless attacks on educational systems worldwide and the increasing radicalization of students and teachers in most of the world. (A lot less so in America, but America has already become that which everyone else is fighting to avoid.)

    our education system preserves inequalities, not just through unequal funding but also through “the hidden curriculum” imposed through grades, homework, testing, and other punishments and rewards in schools

    I don’t disagree, but these are clearly problems that mainly apply to a society built around profit. These are all convincing arguments that schools as they exist are terrible, but not really convincing that the problem is public education per se.

    (I also think that anarchists, many of whom are exceptional individuals with a great deal of confidence and drive, tend to extrapolate a lot from their personal experience of school, which is by necessity more constrictive than that of other people. The danger is in going from I could do without school to we could do without school. Nobody will ever be 100% happy in school, but I think that unhappiness could be radically reduced, and I think some sacrifices are necessary – especially when they come down to little more than a slight inconvenience for the more individualistic people in our society. And I’d count myself amongst them, as I wrote in The Right to the University, much of which applies to education in general.)

  22. Pluvian

     /  November 20, 2013

    Hello, I stumbled onto your blog from Will Shetterly’s blog. I think your principles are clear and well thought out and I agree with them to a great extent.

    There are only two niggles that I have with your list that I was hoping you’d expand.

    The right to religion so long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others is something that seems very hard to put into practice. Many branches of fundamentalist Christianity and Islam are completely incompatible with your list of principles. For example, freedom of speech, freedom to love who you love, freedom of art and expression, and the right to education are all forbidden by varieties of Islam that are practised by millions of muslims worldwide. Practicing the rights laid out in your principles would contravene so many of their principles that they would feel it to be a de facto banning of their religion. Do you feel that a future socialist order would eventually directly oppose some religions?

    I disagree with your belief that sexism has ‘historically’ oppressed men as much as women. I agree with your definition of sexism – the enforcement of stereotypes about men and women – as a modern definition, but one that has only been applicable in the last 30 – 50 years. Historically (with varieties depending on your country) men held almost total political and economic power over women. This is not an equal oppression. Not unless you would also argue that the rich are equally oppressed as the poor because being rich comes with its own set of obligations and anxieties (‘noblisse oblige’, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ and all that). Men and women have only been split into ‘workers’ and ‘homemakers’ by capitalism in the last 150 – 200 years. Don’t you think the fact that sexism has existed in other forms for much longer than that affects our thoughts and behaviour?

  23. The right to religion so long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others is something that seems very hard to put into practice. Many branches of fundamentalist Christianity and Islam are completely incompatible with your list of principles. For example, freedom of speech, freedom to love who you love, freedom of art and expression, and the right to education are all forbidden by varieties of Islam that are practised by millions of muslims worldwide. Practicing the rights laid out in your principles would contravene so many of their principles that they would feel it to be a de facto banning of their religion. Do you feel that a future socialist order would eventually directly oppose some religions?

    There are certainly religious groups whose beliefs don’t match mine; so long as people are not coerced into these groups, there isn’t necessarily a problem. Until they start trying to impose their beliefs on others, of course. But this has to be looked at in greater detail. Too many discussions of religion are entirely ideological, not taking into account material conditions. Reactionary religious groups invariably gain power in times of economic inequality and war, and though they explain their cause in religious terms, that doesn’t mean that the origin of their rage is actually religious. When people got upset about the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, for example, the real origin of the resulting anger was not Islamic traditions of artistic depiction (which are far more varied than the media would have us think) but the ongoing campaign of destruction and economic exploitation of (predominantly) Muslim countries and the related demonization of Muslims in the West.

    Similarily, many far-right Christians are very poor; their turn to such groups is the result of a feeling of being under constant attack by the world. And they are under constant attack – by the very people who are selling them an ideology of division as a distraction.

    Remove these elements, and religion will play a completely different role in society.

    As for those who will persist in attempting to force their bigotry on others – there will always be a few – those will be opposed not on a political, but on a legal level. However, I’m pretty sure they will be very few, and most people will think they are idiots.

    Historically (with varieties depending on your country) men held almost total political and economic power over women.

    How so? Because the ruling classes have been predominantly male? (Let’s not forget that even before capitalism, there were female rulers, some of them quite famous, and no more or less tyrannical than their male counterparts.) The fact that the ruling classes were predominantly male only means that “men had power over women” if you accept the idea that men and women constitute two separate groups without common interests, ignoring or minimizing the importance of class divisions. What did the gender of the ruling class mean to the 99.9% of the population? Not a whole lot. Men and women were equally bound by the same sexist principles: dress this way or be an outcast, only spend time with these people or be an outcast, have these interests or be considered unnatural, and so on. Each group had certain advantages and disadvantages – for example, it was perfectly normal for men to be killed in wars, whereas even today we consider “women and children” worthy of special protection. We could spend an infinite amount of time debating whether one group had more of an advantage or not, but not only is it very difficult to come to any kind of objective conclusion, we’re also missing out on the bigger picture: that nobody except the ruling classes had anything resembling genuine freedom. “Men” did not have power over “women” – the ruling classes had power over the people. The careers of powerful female rulers are a pretty good indication that gender was the least important factor in that.

    (That’s not to say that, within the ruling classes and those favoured by them, men were not generally more free. Of course they were. But I believe it’s wrong to extrapolate from that to the entirety of the population. It may be quite misleading to even think of the general population in these relatively modern, individualistic terms. I suspect that most people had relatively little time to consider what an ideal life would be, being much more busy with everyday survival.)

    Don’t you think the fact that sexism has existed in other forms for much longer than that affects our thoughts and behaviour?

    I definitely think that sexism has always been and continues to be a useful trick by which systems of oppression (not just capitalism) can maintain themselves. And I certainly think that sexism is rooted very deeply in our cultural practices – but by sexism I always mean the enforcement of stereotypical gender roles. Both men and women replicate these stereotypes, and those who go with the flow usually have an easier time of it. Nor are these stereotypes always related to classic patriarchal schemes – they don’t need to be. They just need to tell people that “X is appropriate for your gender, Y isn’t.”

    However, I also think that sexism isn’t original sin. It’s not magic. I don’t think people are born with it, I don’t think everyone is raised with it, and I don’t think it’s all that impossible to get rid of it. In fact, I am getting increasingly suspicious of those who claim that no-one can escape their inborn bigotry – especially when so many of these people then claim that the solution is to hire them to fix it for us. I suspect consultants are the new priests.

  24. (I’m not entirely satisfied with how I phrased that. I realize that in most societies, if you took one man and one women of the same class, the man generally held more authority in many situations. That much is true. But I think this competitive view of human relations does not reflect the pains and problems of everyday life for most people – in which they generally had next to no meaningful power or freedom, and a great deal was demanded of them by the ruling classes – nor does it reflect the location of power in society, which was largely unrelated to gender.)

  25. Pluvian

     /  November 20, 2013

    Reactionary religious groups invariably gain power in times of economic inequality and war […] Remove these elements, and religion will play a completely different role in society.

    I think you are a bit too optimistic. Religious fundamentalism is a reaction to inequality, but it is also a cause of it. The demonisation of Muslims in the west is also both a cause and a consequence of religious fundamentalism. The reaction against the Danish cartoons was fueled by a fundamentalist belief that no-one should be allowed to depict the Prophet. Perhaps it is more helpful to view these things as immediate and ultimate causes. When a Somali Muslim man tried to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard with an axe, he did it because he thought that insults to the Prophet should be avenged. This was the immediate cause. The fact that young, poor men are vulnerable to recruitment by fundamentalists because of their economic conditions is the ultimate cause. Both are true and relevant.
    It seems like you think that you can side-step the problem of fundamentalism: remove inequality then fundamentalism vanishes. I think you will have to fight fundamentalism in order to remove inequality. Fundamentalist Muslims are certainly poor and oppressed because of capitalism, but the future they want to replace it with is violently opposed to your future.

    There are certainly religious groups whose beliefs don’t match mine; so long as people are not coerced into these groups, there isn’t necessarily a problem. Until they start trying to impose their beliefs on others, of course.

    I think there are two problems with this approach. The first is children. If a child is raise by a religious group is that child coerced into religion? Are beliefs imposed on them? If a child is raised to believe in literal interpretations of scripture and denied scientific knowledge, can we say in a meaningful way that they ‘chose’ their beliefs? Especially in an evangelical religion (like fundamentalist Islam and Chirstianity) where the punishment for doubt is total exclusion or death.
    Liberal westerners tend to view the world as made up of free and rational individuals who make choices for themselves. They underestimate the extent to which people chose to submit to awful, harmful practices because of the social pressure from the people they love.
    I don’t really have any solutions to this problem. I am a liberal westerner myself, and I think it’s best not to use law against ideology. But it worries me that women who have escaped from fundamentalist Islam, (Ayaan Hirsh Ali, Mariam Namazie, Taslima Nazrin) all seem to agree that fundamentalism cannot be defeated by argument alone.

    As for those who will persist in attempting to force their bigotry […] most people will think they are idiots.

    Only if most people have been taught to think clearly and freely. Believers do not question the bigotry of their priests (this is true of all fundamentalist ideology, not just religion, witness the Soviets).

    How so? Because the ruling classes have been predominantly male?

    No, no, that’s a modern problem. Historically, the ruling classes have been families. However, within a family women have been utterly subservient to men. In England this law was known as coverture. Upon marriage a woman ceased to exist legally, she became a part of her husband. All of her property became his on marriage and all her earnings belonged to him. He had the right to beat her, starve her, lock her up, anything. She didn’t exist – she was just a part of him. The power of men over women wasn’t just the power of the rich over the poor. It was the power, within a family, of a husband over a wife and a father over a daughter.

    This is where we disagree. It is explicitly laid out in law. The power of a husband over his wife was total. She could not escape him, except in the most extreme circumstances. A servant could always leave a bad master and take a job elsewhere (I’m still using England as an example here, it may have been different elsewhere).

    The careers of powerful female rulers are a pretty good indication that gender was the least important factor in that.

    On the contrary, the careers of female rulers support my argument. In the last 1000 years England has had 39 monarchs and 4 of them have been women (5/40 if you count Lady Jane Grey). Women only ever ascend the throne when there are no men left in the family. It was a last resort.

    “Men” did not have power over “women” – the ruling classes had power over the people.

    Within a class, men had absolute power over their women. Between classes, a rich woman could wield power over sub-ordinates if she had her husband’s permission.

    the location of power in society […] was largely unrelated to gender.

    I disagree. The location of power in societies, until very recently, was concentrate in the hands of men who were the heads of powerful families.

    I think the reason why it matters is that our modern stereotypes do depend on assumptions we’ve inherited from history. So, it matters that we get our history right. If we assume that sexism is nothing more than stereotypes which dictate which clothes you can wear, then we miss the way that sexism helps to divert power and resources away from some people and into the hands of others.

    However, I also think that sexism isn’t original sin […] I am getting increasingly suspicious of those who claim that no-one can escape their inborn bigotry.

    I agree.

    I suspect consultants are the new priests.

    Ahaha! Probably true.

  26. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 20, 2013

    This is where we disagree. It is explicitly laid out in law. The power of a husband over his wife was total. She could not escape him, except in the most extreme circumstances. A servant could always leave a bad master and take a job elsewhere (I’m still using England as an example here, it may have been different elsewhere).

    I was under the impression that he could not escape her any more then she could escape him. Didn’t some kind of English king have to create his own religion to divorce his unwanted wife?

    He had the right to beat her, starve her, lock her up, anything.

    And when you say that, you mean the law specifically said he was allowed to do that, and that she was specifically not allowed to do the same? Lets not confuse the law keeping out of a corner of a society’s lives with directed oppression. Most domestic violence today is directed towards MALE victims, and I doubt we have any statistics for 1000 years ago. So were wives oppressed, and did the legal system inspire wife beating? Or did the legal system leave family life to families to work out? I do not know, and googleing “historic English law” is getting me no where.

  27. The reaction against the Danish cartoons was fueled by a fundamentalist belief that no-one should be allowed to depict the Prophet.

    No, that’s really not accurate. That’s how it was presented in the American and European media. The reaction was anger about yet another provocation from a far-right tabloid in a context where people are dying daily because of the West’s policies; and it wasn’t monolithic, anyway. But the context matters greatly.

    It seems like you think that you can side-step the problem of fundamentalism: remove inequality then fundamentalism vanishes. I think you will have to fight fundamentalism in order to remove inequality. Fundamentalist Muslims are certainly poor and oppressed because of capitalism, but the future they want to replace it with is violently opposed to your future.

    I think this conflates the majority of Muslims with very small groups of extremists. There is a world of difference between those who are angry about European and American policies and those who want to establish fundamentalist states and/or kill people. The amount of such people, and their power, is consistently exaggarated by Western media.

    But it worries me that women who have escaped from fundamentalist Islam, (Ayaan Hirsh Ali, Mariam Namazie, Taslima Nazrin) all seem to agree that fundamentalism cannot be defeated by argument alone.

    I would be *very* careful with some of these woman-escapes-from-Muslims narratives (which go way back in Orientalism). Namazie, for example, is rabidly anti-Islamic to a degree that I can only describe as bigotry, including repeating common anti-Islamic propaganda. Islamic feminists have written quite extensively on that matter… not that anybody in the West acknowledges the existence of writers from the rest of the world, at least as long as they’re not parroting our lines.

    In general, I think a lot of what you’re talking about mirrors the common narratives of the Western liberal media, which ultimately exist to serve imperialism and colonialism. Criticism of any religion, including Islam, is perfectly valid – I don’t support any religion myself – but these are extremely simplistic depictions of the beliefs of a huge percentage of the human population, across different cultures and continents.

    Only if most people have been taught to think clearly and freely. Believers do not question the bigotry of their priests (this is true of all fundamentalist ideology, not just religion, witness the Soviets).

    a) As I said above, socialism can only be achieved if the borders between people are torn down.
    b) I would question the amount of “true believers” that there are in any society. The Soviets are a terrible example, because most people knew the state was corrupt, they just thought there wasn’t a better alternative (much as people in the West told themselves, too).

    In my view, the number #1 characteristic of religious groups is not faith, but hypocrisy. What people say they’re doing stuff for is rarely ever the real reason.

    Upon marriage a woman ceased to exist legally, she became a part of her husband. All of her property became his on marriage and all her earnings belonged to him. He had the right to beat her, starve her, lock her up, anything. She didn’t exist – she was just a part of him. The power of men over women wasn’t just the power of the rich over the poor. It was the power, within a family, of a husband over a wife and a father over a daughter.

    This is not easy to respond to, because the obvious injustice of what you’re describing makes other arguments sound like nitpicking, though I don’t think they are. Considering only this particular legal situation, I think, does not convey the full picture: one in which men were equally bound by harsh social rules (including being recruited for war), social reality itself is not the same as the law, and men and women were more dependent on one another than they were in competition.

    But this is all a bit tricky anyway, because we’re discussing “the past” and that’s a rather large area. Gender-related rights have fluctuated quite a bit over the centuries and the cultures. There’s no question that women have had it pretty bad. But I think it’s easy to forget that, because sexism sets people against each other, it’s also more powerful and more insidious than just that one power imbalance.

    On the contrary, the careers of female rulers support my argument. In the last 1000 years England has had 39 monarchs and 4 of them have been women (5/40 if you count Lady Jane Grey). Women only ever ascend the throne when there are no men left in the family. It was a last resort.

    Yes, but it didn’t make a difference. What characterizes the ruling classes does not change its function when the representative of that class changes their gender. If they had all been women since the beginning of time, society would have been equally unjust.

    I disagree. The location of power in societies, until very recently, was concentrate in the hands of men who were the heads of powerful families.

    See, I think the fact that they were men matters very little in their function as rulers. “Men” as a group do not exist. They do not have common interests, a common culture, a common anything except biology. The interests of the men who rule are violently opposed to the interests of 99.9% of all men on the planet. So it’s hardly a meaningful category.

  28. Most domestic violence today is directed towards MALE victims

    Ah, Jonathon, you always find the worst thing to say. I don’t think any statistics I’ve ever seen – and I do follow some people who write extensively about this matter – suggest that most violence is directed against male victims. What the statistics do suggest, however, is that situation is not nearly as unbalanced as it is often described: male victims of domestic and sexual violence are actually far more common than most people think.

  29. Pluvian

     /  November 20, 2013

    he could not escape her any more then she could escape him

    He could not divorce her, any more than she could divorce him, but that’s not the same thing. Legally, he held all the power within the relationship.
    Of course, the interesting thing is that custom and law are not necessarily the same. I don’t believe that in England there was ever a time when women were routinely expected to get permission before going out. However, a man would have been within his rights to lock his wife in the house and keep her prisoner if he wanted. A woman did not have the right to imprison her husband.
    As far as I’m aware (and I am not a historian) there’s not statistics for 1000 years ago – not even for 100 years ago. It’s interesting to thing about whether men would have been the victims of domestic abuse in the past. It seems plausible that the legal and social expectations could have worked against them. If a man was assumed to always be the master of his home, then embarrassment and shame could have prevented men from ever reporting abuse. The only example I can think of is Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, but that seems like an example of mutual violence rather than one-way abuse, and it’s fictional.

    Lets not confuse the law keeping out of a corner of a society’s lives with directed oppression.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘keeping out of a corner of a society’s lives’. However, under coverture a woman ceased to exist legally. Denying legal rights to people strikes me as pretty oppressive. Under coverture all of a woman’s earnings belonged to her husband. When the capitalist ruling class exploit the workers to accrue wealth, we call that oppression, even though it’s perfectly legal. If a husband can legally confiscate all of his wife’s earnings, isn’t that oppressive?

  30. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 20, 2013

    I probably did give too much certitude to that statement. The last few studies I have read have been refutations of some long-standing studies in conjunction with the latest Harvard study that suggested a 70% unbalance leaning in the wives favour. Not that this one study, or other like it, are any more proof than the hundreds of long refuted studies before them.

    But, I would agree with you. The only thing we could say with absolute certainty is that the public perception is way off, and the more we dig, the more even these gender issues start to look (though sometimes they are completely reversed as well).

  31. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 20, 2013

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘keeping out of a corner of a society’s lives’. However, under coverture a woman ceased to exist legally. Denying legal rights to people strikes me as pretty oppressive. Under coverture all of a woman’s earnings belonged to her husband. When the capitalist ruling class exploit the workers to accrue wealth, we call that oppression, even though it’s perfectly legal. If a husband can legally confiscate all of his wife’s earnings, isn’t that oppressive?

    What I am saying is that, maybe it is not in some specific circumstances I will outline below.

    For example: “He could not divorce her, any more than she could divorce him, but that’s not the same thing.” How is this not the same?

    And, sure he was legally allow to beat her, but did the law legally allow her to beat him?
    If we looked at court records would we find any evidence that men had any more protection form domestic violence than women did? Any more protection from rape? That any more of the household income went spent specifically on him than on the wife?

    And sure the Man was the “Master” of the home, but that did not mean he had any right to interfere in domestic matters. And that did not mean that he could order his wife to go chase off an armed intruder because he did not want to risk his more important hide.

    The laws of ancient England definitely did at least try to enforce strict gender roles, but that is in no way one-sided. We are not descended from Neanderthals, we have far more divergence physiology in our genders, which produces strict gender roles. And furthermore, a woman’s ability to produce the next generation will always make her more valuable to society, men always have and always will be the ones who must die and (I would argue) suffer for societies sake, even kings had to lead armies.

    39 monarchs and 4 of them have been women

    And how many of these 39 monarchs were peasant born? I think this statistic highlights Jonas’ point very well. Women might of been picked second, but bloodlines were a hell of a lot more important. This makes me think of an old style film. A bunch of boys are in the park, and they are going to play baseball. They start picking players. The first one is analogous to a direct male heir, still at the very top and very important is the female heir. Then based on their blood lines comes the various nobles. The 99.9% peasants are told they are not wanted, and to go home. To say the second in line is oppressed is being a littler over-dramatic, and ignoring the 99.9% of the population who are are far below the queen as they are to the king.

  32. Pluvian

     /  November 20, 2013

    I think this conflates the majority of Muslims with very small groups of extremists.

    I apologise; I did mean to refer to fundamentalists only. I don’t know the statistics for how many Muslims who are moderate approve of freedom of speech even when it criticises Islam.

    Namazie, for example, is rabidly anti-Islamic to a degree that I can only describe as bigotry, including repeating common anti-Islamic propaganda. Islamic feminists have written quite extensively on that matter

    I would agree that my outlook is generally Western liberal. I’ve always found Namazie to be quite level-headed. Could you recommend good people to read for opposing views? (Googling for opposing opinions is so dangerous, because you never know if you’re getting someone reliable).

    socialism can only be achieved if the borders between people are torn down.

    I profoundly agree. But I am also afraid of tearing down borders with people who don’t support socialism.

    What people say they’re doing stuff for is rarely ever the real reason

    I think with religious groups, the underlying social and economic forces are rarely anything to do with the rationalised reasons (so I agree with you). But on an individual level, many believers are not personally hypocritical, they believe the espoused religious reasons and are unaware of the larger forces.

    men were equally bound by harsh social rules (including being recruited for war), social reality itself is not the same as the law, and men and women were more dependent on one another than they were in competition.

    I agree. Since I’ve chosen England as my example, it’s worth noting that English women were socially far freer than they were legally. All human beings are dependent on one another. I don’t suppose most women in history saw themselves as being in competition with their husbands. But I don’t suppose most servants saw themselves in competition with their masters. In general, people view the social order they grow up in as entirely natural.

    But this is all a bit tricky anyway, because we’re discussing “the past” and that’s a rather large area […] sexism sets people against each other, it’s also more powerful and more insidious than just that one power imbalance.

    I agree. I’m sorry for dragging the conversation off into history, which we are unlikely to settle in the comment section when it’s been argued through thousands of academic journals and books.
    I just felt that focusing on stereotypes alone was to ignore a long history of legal, economic, religious and political exlcusion of women. The fact that men and women love each other in general, and are both subject to stereotypes, doesn’t negate that oppression.

    “Men” as a group do not exist. […] The interests of the men who rule are violently opposed to the interests of 99.9% of all men on the planet. So it’s hardly a meaningful category.

    When laws are made that discriminated against women but not men (and vice versa), then these are meaningful categories. When social customs dictate different behaviour for men and women then these are meaningful categories. When law and custom combine to make women dependent on men then this is meaningful.

    I utterly agree, that from the perspective of the working class, when they are being exploited and oppressed, it hardly matters whether it’s by a baron or a baroness. But from the perspective of women, when a woman is married to a man who is free to use her however he likes, it hardly matters than she can call herself baroness while he does so.
    I do think the class struggle is more important. It’s more important to eat than to be free to choose your method of self-expression (Maslow’s hierarchy of heeds and all that). But it is not meaningless.

  33. I just felt that focusing on stereotypes alone was to ignore a long history of legal, economic, religious and political exlcusion of women.

    Perhaps I should clarify that by “stereotypes” I mean rigid gender roles, which is more than just “women ought to wear pink.”

    When laws are made that discriminated against women but not men (and vice versa), then these are meaningful categories. When social customs dictate different behaviour for men and women then these are meaningful categories. When law and custom combine to make women dependent on men then this is meaningful.

    I just can’t think of any scenario where sexism didn’t apply to bother genders equally (to an equal degree, in different ways). It’s really important not to forget stuff like conscription – millions of men have died as cannon fodder, but it’s always treated as entirely normal. We’ve always all been fucked over – I don’t think it’s even possible to have a society that is sexist towards women but not towards men. Binaries always oppress both sides, I think, which is why the only solution can come through a united struggle.

    It’s more important to eat than to be free to choose your method of self-expression (Maslow’s hierarchy of heeds and all that). But it is not meaningless.

    I don’t think it’s meaningless! That was one of the main points of writing this statement. I just think these freedoms cannot be won without tearing down their material foundations.

    I’d quoted this a while ago and I think it sums up my point:

    An enduring political and ethical approach to a sexist society cannot be based upon these same divisive gender lines, but rather must figure out which behaviours help society and which do not, and work to give all human beings the experiences which will promote these characteristics, not restricting people according to their biology.

    – Kristin Severson and Victoria Stanhope, Identity Politics and Progress: Don’t Fence Me In (or Out)

  34. Could you recommend good people to read for opposing views? (Googling for opposing opinions is so dangerous, because you never know if you’re getting someone reliable).

    I think it’s always good to be exposed to a variety of perspectives. I follow people like Sara Salem, Karl Sharro and Ali Abunimah not because I always agree with them, but because what they say often makes me think. The “Muslim world” (an absurd simplification of dozens of different cultures which themselves have never been monolithic) doesn’t have one voice, but many, and they’re worth listening to.

  35. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    I just can’t think of any scenario where sexism didn’t apply to bother genders equally

    And I think of almost the whole of human history as a time when sexism affected women worse than men. Men may have been subjected to stereotypes as well as women, but women were excluded from political, legal and economic power because of their sex.

    It’s really important not to forget stuff like conscription

    No, indeed. Men do die in war. And women died in childbirth. And everyone died of simple infections and horrible diseases. We can agree that most of human life was brutal and short for most people.

    Binaries always oppress both sides, I think

    Like the binary of rich and poor? 😛

    the only solution can come through a united struggle

    Yes, yes, I absolutely agree. I don’t think you ever find sexism except as a part of a larger economic inequality. We agree that sexism is a tactic used against people to divide them against each other. But the way that sexism works is to position women as subordinate to men. For example, in Victorian England, working class women were paid much less than a living wage, forcing them into dependency on men either as wives or whores (hence seamstress and whore being interchangeable in some situations). For middle class women, barring women from all professions meant that they couldn’t earn a living at the same standard as middle class men. The function of sexism is to force women to serve men (within their class). This is not an equal oppression. This is not about stereotypes, it’s about power.
    I think there will always be difficulties in uniting the struggle if power dynamics go unacknowledged.

    However, I think our argument is pretty much about what brought us to this point, not where to go from here. I agree entirely with your quote above. I think we agree that going forward, we need everyone, men and women, to be free from restriction according to their sex.

  36. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    Thanks for the links! And I agree about the Muslim world. 1 billion people can’t all agree.

  37. Like the binary of rich and poor?

    Hah. Well, I think that’s slightly more objective – but there is a very real danger in overemphasizing “the rich” as the enemy. The problem is the system, not the people.

    For example, in Victorian England, working class women were paid much less than a living wage,

    Yes, but at the same time, this meant that working-class men had no option *but* to work to support their families; they weren’t “free” to work, they were basically enslaved.

    The wage gap is one of the things that a lot of feminist theory gets wrong, in my opinion, because it discounts the logic of capitalism – or rather adopts it. Men don’t earn more than they deserve, women earn less. And since capitalism functions via competition, pushing everything towards the lowest possible point, lower wages for women mean lower wages for men. The same pattern occurs with discrimination based on race; the oppression of black workers doesn’t benefit white workers, but severely limits their ability to demand decent pay. Same with illegal immigration.

    (Also, if you consider that most people live in families, differences in wage do not give men an advantage, but disadvantage the entire family.)

  38. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    Jonathon, apologies for not answering chronologically. I stupidly scrolled up and missed you.

    Generally, with regards to discussing gender roles in history, Jonas was right to point out that we’re discussing history, which covers a variety of cultures even if you focus on only one country. I’m focused mainly on English history and I only really know something from Tudors onwards.

    How is this not the same?

    A man could not divorce his wife, but he could certainly avoid her if he wanted to, and there was nothing he could do about it. A woman could only avoid her husband if he allowed it.

    And, sure he was legally allow to beat her, but did the law legally allow her to beat him?

    Under the system of coverture, the law didn’t recognise her existence except as a part of him. She had no legal rights, except as part of him. So, I suppose, if he was legally allowed to beat himself then she was legally allowed to beat him?

    If we looked at court records would we find any evidence that men had any more protection form domestic violence than women did? Any more protection from rape? That any more of the household income went spent specifically on him than on the wife?

    As far as I am aware, there’s no evidence of men bringing court cases against their wives for DV or rape. Nor am I aware of any record of it happening. Of course, women didn’t often bring their husbands to court for DV or rape (AFAIK). Raping your wife was legal in the UK until 1991. However, we do have plenty of documentation that men abused their wives. As to household spending, that’s a very interesting question and worth looking into. I suspect that we could probably find the answer because there are plenty of records available, but I’m afraid I don’t know.

    And sure the Man was the “Master” of the home, but that did not mean he had any right to interfere in domestic matters.

    Yes, he had that right. That’s what being master means. I think you’re referring to the fact that households are usually women’s responsibility and generally men don’t get involved. That’s true, but they still had every right to if they wanted. I’ve recently read a good book called ‘A Gentleman’s Daughter’ by Amanda Vickery which covers the lives of wives in Georgian England. One very interesting thing that she covered was that interfering in domestic affairs was one way for men to humiliate wives that they wanted to punish, since women were meant to be responsible in this area.

    men always have and always will be the ones who must die and (I would argue) suffer for societies sake, even kings had to lead armies.

    Everyone dies and suffers. Even queens die in childbirth.

    And how many of these 39 monarchs were peasant born?

    Absolutely none, although at least one was a bastard. I do not disagree at all that being royalty gave you a better shot at the throne.

  39. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    working-class men had no option *but* to work to support their families; they weren’t “free” to work, they were basically enslaved

    I agree that working-class men had no choice but to work. Working-class people had no option but to work. Women as well as men. For most of the Victorian era though, men, women and children were all down the mine together. When unions started exerting their power it was women who stopped mining, but working class women still worked in service, textiles and other industries.
    Working-class men and women had to work to support their families. Middle-class men had to work to support their families.

    The wage gap is one of the things that a lot of feminist theory gets wrong[…] [capitalist competition] severely limits their ability to demand decent pay. Same with illegal immigration.

    I utterly agree with you. Low wages for certain classes is a tactic to lower wages for all classes. But that doesn’t change the fact that the lowest class (be it women, immigrants, certain races) get the rawest deal.

    most people live in families, differences in wage do not give men an advantage, but disadvantage the entire family

    It gives the men an advantage within the family over women. Until very recently (the last 50 years) there was a social and religious expectation that women would always obey men in a marriage and this was backed up by men’s control of resources. ‘My money, my rules’. You say above that feminism doesn’t understand how capitalism pits people against each other in order to lower wages, but I think feminism understands this fine. It’s simply that there is a strong human urge for autonomy, stronger than the desire for wealth. Simply put, middle-class women decided that control of half the money was more important than more money in total. Of course, this is one reason why feminism is so middle class.

  40. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 21, 2013

    I don’t think it’s even possible to have a society that is sexist towards women but not towards men.

    That is exactly what I have always thought. Unfortunately, it seems like an idea that is impossible to prove or disprove, at least I have never been able to find any evidence at all for either option.

  41. It gives the men an advantage within the family over women. Until very recently (the last 50 years) there was a social and religious expectation that women would always obey men in a marriage and this was backed up by men’s control of resources.

    True – until there was another war, and being born with a penis meant you had to go murder other innocent people or get your brains blown out.

    In the long run, I think, it evens out to “we’re all fucked.”

  42. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    Oh, I’ve just thought of something that might help show that the oppression of women was more than just sexist stereotyping that happens to everyone.

    English law used to have a concept called petty treason, which was murdering your superior. It was treason for a servant to kill his master or for a wife to kill her husband. Does that help show how women, even in marriage, even in family, were viewed as the servants of men, a specifically subordinate class?

  43. Oh, as I said further above, I’m really not doubting this aspect of the oppression of women. It’s just that, as with the example of conscription, there are many other forms of gender-based oppression which tend to be ignored (because they are still culturally acceptable), and which are also profoundly horrific. And I think it’s wrong to see the origin of this system with a group called “men”, as if “men” had conspired to create this system or intentionally sought (as some sort of monolithic political group or class) to reinforce it.

  44. Jonathon Wisnoski

     /  November 21, 2013

    I do not think anyone is disagreeing with you that men had more ruling power. And that how they treated women nowadays would be considered condescending, to say the least.

    But this was back in a time that when a ship sank, the first ones off of it were the women and the children, the second were the men, and the captain quite literally went down with the ship.

  45. Pluvian

     /  November 21, 2013

    Hey guys, sorry for not replying last night. It was my bedtime 🙂

    Thanks for the civil conversation. I think it’s good that, whatever our differences of opinion on the history, we seem to agree on the path forward.