Leftist Men Aren’t Born to Lead Radical Struggles

by Ginny Brown on July 8, 2013

First published by Znet. Re-published with author’s permission.

What do women hit by the latest austerity and misogynist attacks need? Not another reminder by men that feminists are white with middle-class politics, as John Pilger’s piece a month ago seemed to imply. Nor do women need being set up as aloof, proletariat-dividing essentialists who think men are inherently violent.

We don’t need a chip-on-the-shoulderish, misplaced complaint that ‘there is a war on ordinary people and feminists are needed at the front’, as Pilger’s response went to the recent media commentary – ranging from misogynist violence, to greater male suicidality and criminality, to derision of TV dads – about acrisis of masculinity‘. Any generals worth their salt see the entire terrain of war and don’t dismiss half of it as either privileged or nonexistent. Nor do they reduce specific attacks – waged on half ‘their own side’ and participated in by others ‘on their side’ – to the general conditions experienced by all soldiers.

Women worldwide lack sexual and reproductive autonomy and perform most unpaid care tasks, despite neoliberal rhetoric about ‘choice’ and ‘empowerment’.

The current social and political attacks we face are not simply the attacks borne by male workers, but attacks that exacerbate this female-specific pattern of oppression – centered on the family unit – so vital to capitalism.

This is not helped by a leftist man stepping in to write off global rape culture as ‘a rash of dreadful murder and kidnap cases’, even with the dismissive addendum that ‘simultaneous war and “austerity” policies have exacerbated all kinds of abuse, including domestic violence’ and the racial impoverishment of women. It is not good enough to mention that women have it bad while failing to say why these attacks target and impact women the most, as if women were simply unlucky.

As Indian feminist Kavita Krishnan recently wrote:

Sexual violence cannot be attributed simply to some men behaving in ‘anti-social’ or ‘inhuman’ ways: it has everything to do with the way society is structured: i.e., the way in which our society organizes production and accordingly structures social relationships.

While Pilger protests at class analysis being suppressed in ‘media-run “conversations” on gender’, the reality is that his economic reductionism feeds into men’s blinkers about their privilege. Privilege that tends to make them more supportive of female oppression, and more inclined to ignore its inter-relations with class.

Capitalism inherited and expanded the system of male dominance that’s achieved at female expense, in which females are considered at least partly men’s property. If you think this is inaccurate, consider the endurance of rape jokes and of sexual harassment – and who has the power in these scenarios. Consider the infrequency of rapists ever being punished, even by their social circles. (Typically, the man accused of rape is considered the victim who has had his life ruined, and the real victim receives social punishment in addition to trauma.) More than four out of five victims of sexual assault are women and girls, and 93% of their attackers are male, mostly known to the victims. 98% of sexual trafficking victims are female. The social pressure on women to birth and rear is added to by direct reproductive coercion by male partners and the state. The World Health Organization reported in 2002 that up to 70% of ‘female murder victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends‘, whereas studies show killings by female current or former spouses to be less than 10% of all male murders. In Australia, a 2008 report explained, ‘intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 …. Four out of five [intimate partner homicides] involve a man killing his female partner’.

This massive tally doesn’t need to implicate all men in order for it to play an important role in giving males power and privilege over us, especially via hetero relations, making them more satisfied with the status quo.

While Pilger sneeringly disparages any mention of the very different efforts that men and women put into opposing female oppression as being about who sounds most outraged on Twitter, one wishes he would pay attention to what most feminists are saying and doing before offering us advice.

As Krishnan further explained, the recent attacks on women are reducible to neither gender-neutral austerity measures nor happenstance:

we are witnessing a global cutback in [] social spending. Any State that pursues such policies, needs to persuade women to accept the burden of housework as ‘women’s work’, and to dissuade women from rejecting traditional roles. It is notable that some of the worst rape culture remarks by US Republican Senators (who could compete with India’s patriarchal lawmakers in misogyny) have been made recently to promote arguments against the right to abortion.

The enormous resistance to,and organized reaction against conceding the right to abortion or same-sex marriage in the US is an instance of how much the capitalist class still invests in the family institution and the control of women’s sexuality and reproduction within it ….

primitive accumulation by multi-national corporations that grab land, minerals and other resources in India, is not only, as Prabhat Patnaik correctly notes, a source of corruption, it also unleashes state repression and sexual violence against women who are the forefronts of movements against corporate land grab.

The global upswing in gender violence (including sexual violence and domestic violence) and misogynistic rape culture, ought then to be traced at least in part to the imperatives of global capitalism and imperialism and their local agents, to justify an increased burden of social reproduction for women, the availability of women from the former colonies as pliant labour, and rape as a weapon against people’s movements resisting primitive accumulation. The fear of violence contributes to disciplining women into suitable labourers, both for global production as well as reproduction. That is why the abusive husband and the rapist cannot be understood as isolated perpetrators who are ‘anti-social’ aberrations that pose a threat to the system. It is no coincidence that perpetrators of gender violence find powerful advocates (not just in India but across the world) in the misogynistic and rape culture statements by the custodians of the political, religious, and law-and-order institutions.

It is also no mark of support for women that Pilger’s article wrongly blames three individual women for attributing sexual violence to all men. The contexts of the quotations chosen by Pilger make his claims seem inexcusable. Suzanne Moore specified that she doesn’t think all men are rapists, and Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley’s May 12 Guardian Letters formulation of ‘male sexual violence’ was immediately followed by their comment ‘gendered behaviour is culturally shaped. It could be addressed by many social measures, if only policy-makers willed it’.

So although Pilger presumably doesn’t think ‘trade union bureaucracy’ (another phrase from his article) means all unionists are bureaucrats, he nonetheless thinks ‘male sexual violence’ is intended to describe all males, even where feminists explicitly say otherwise.

Importantly, Pilger is not displaying eccentricity here, but is echoing a growing habit amongst left sexists for deploying different criteria for political assessments of feminism than other radical struggles. Feminist women constantly find ourselves held to a different standard – by men who appear not to understand female oppression – than other activists. This includes ‘mishearing’ our analyses, as Jennie Ruby describes in her Off Our Backs article ‘Male Pattern Violence’:

There seems to be a kind of statistical dyslexia that people get when feminists start talking about male violence. The statement “Most violent crimes are committed by men” is often misheard as “most men are violent,” or even with a kind of gender dyslexia, as “women are never violent.”

It is also too common for anti-feminists (in or out of the closet) to characterize all feminism – but not other anti-oppression struggles – by its sections which are most beholden to the interests of the capitalist class. And to invisibilize feminist critics of capitalist-serving female politicians, as Pilger does. (Many of us have not just criticized but also organized against such ‘leaders’, who do indeed falsely portray capitalist interests as beneficial to women.) His apparent pitting of workers’ rights against feminism is in ignorance of the best radical class struggle traditions of opposing such false divisions. And his selective highlighting of a small segment of feminism echoes the longstanding invisibilization of the majority of feminists – who are working class and women of color.

While Pilger’s hurt at feminists daring to discuss male-pattern sexual violence somehow reminds him – because it helps denigrate all feminists, I assume – ‘of the elevation of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to feminist hero following a speech she gave last October attacking Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, for his misogyny’, his criticism of the politics of prominent female Labour MPs is not off-base. They, like their party’s men, are acting for the capitalist class, and women’s liberation requires that we combat illusions in them.

However, persuading women to discard misplaced hopes in pro-capitalist politicians is not a task best undertaken by a rape myth promoter, a role for which Pilger has received increasing feminist criticism. The sexism of left men in fact has a history of exacerbating a tragic antagonism between gender and class analyses, and I have not seen Pilger’s latest article alter this.

How Can Left Men Solidarize with Women?

You want to help women? Signal-boost grassroots struggle and anti-capitalist leadership by us. Serious attempts to boost struggles of the most oppressed women don’t ignore some of the most inspiring recent struggles led by women – the Indian movement against rape culture and the Canadian Indigenous-led Idle No More. Actively support feminist campaigns. Don’t act as though we’re waiting for a man to direct us. Ignoring genuine leadership in order to pose as the general is unfitting for a leftist man.

Don’t employ sexist myths about us. The main myth used to undermine feminism is that women who consciously struggle for the rights of girls and women as a sex (sometimes known as ‘feminists’) are motivated either by the view that male-pattern violence is biologically determined, or by a simple antipathy to men which preceded our own experiences and analysis. This seems to be a habit of Pilger’s. In addition to his repetition of rape myths, he has not only just begun portraying feminists as simply opposed to men. Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley have now been unfortunate enough to be twice misrepresented by Pilger. In December 2011, Pilger claimed that a Guardian article by them on the costs of masculinity (a little too pro-capitalist for me, but deserving of being discussed accurately) argued that ‘testosterone was the problem’. Compare this charge with what they wrote:

As the British Medical Journal recently pointed out, this life-damaging gender difference must be challenged by addressing the culture of masculinity that sustains them. How men and women behave is socially shaped. Popular understandings of masculine characteristics play up biology. Testosterone, the male hormone, the “metaphor of manhood”, is portrayed as driving men inexorably towards aggressive behaviour. Yet studies show that testosterone is related to status-seeking but not directly to aggression. Many other factors are influential. Testosterone levels are increased or diminished in both males and females by diet, activity and circumstance. The opportunity to interact with guns, for instance, appears to increase testosterone, while men’s testosterone levels fall when they are involved with the care of children.

The case we are making is that certain widespread masculine traits and behaviours are dangerous and costly both to individuals and society. They are amenable to purposeful change. The culture of masculinity can be, and should be, addressed as a policy issue.

This does not read as a genuine misinterpretation. In addition to its sexism, it is terrible journalism.


Another tactic used by some left sexists is colloquially known amongst feminists as ‘whataboutery’. Deriding activism and even discussion about issues particularly affecting females, whatabouterists chest-beat about the matters that feminists should instead concern ourselves with. (Pilger, for instance, trivializes the long silence about the sexual abuse of children – often girls – by UK men in powerful positions, including in popular entertainment, by implying that any feminist commentary on this and recent rape and murder cases is indicative of a failure to care about class or imperialism.) This ‘whataboutery’ usually displays an embarrassing ignorance about which issues are already feminist concerns, and fails as an argument against feminist involvement in the issues targeted by the ‘whataboutery’. The impossibility of achieving female liberation under capitalism does not alter the urgency of addressing sex-specific female needs, like reproductive justice. Organizing around female oppression frequently makes for more effective anti-capitalist struggle, and lack of said organizing maintains the shackles and hierarchical divisions that support capitalism. As the Cuban experience shows, feminist organizing remains necessary post-capitalism. Feminist history includes both support for capitalist misleaders and support for workers’ revolution. Targeting only those oppressive dynamics which affect both men and women is not only undermining to the working class, it is trivializing the oppression experienced by over half of this class.

These common problems on the left partly explain Pilger’s dismissal of male-pattern sexual violence and his portrayal of austerity policies as the problem. (‘Austerity’ is a policy of big capital to adjust to the post-60s decline in the average rate of profit, and to make the working class pay for the latest capitalist-created crises.) Even where Pilger has to acknowledge that war and austerity policies have made ‘domestic violence’ worse, he fails to explain why this problem is worse for women. If he listened to the women who began the women’s crisis services now being increasingly defunded, and to women experiencing the sharper end of the imperialist sword, he would know that it is not about gender-neutral ‘domestic violence’ which is exacerbated by very current conditions, but male-pattern violent reinforcement of the sex hierarchy. A pattern in which working women may be especially affected, as Krishnan comments:

For the men, insecure education and jobs do lead to cracks in the secure foundations of masculinity. One response to this crisis of masculinity is of course in the display of masculine protectionism, aggression, the ‘Save Family’ type of patriarchal backlash, and outright sexual violence.

But also a pattern which, she reminds us, exists across economic classes.

Given the longstanding problems on the left of (mostly) male workers failing to see female oppression as important, suggesting that feminists are not ‘ordinary people’ is regrettable. As is any suggestion that feminists need to be told that many common capitalist conditions affect women more – whether that be minimum-wage work (with nearly two-thirds of US workers on this being women) or scantily paid parental and sick leave.

Crude assumptions that colluding in oppression requires consciousness of this also helps explain a difficulty in recognizing sexism even on the left, where analysis can stop too soon after blaming the capitalists. Australian political writer Tad Tietze recently wrote that:

there is no clear indication that huge numbers of voters think that sexism in society is acceptable. Essential Research, for example, found earlier this month that 52 percent of voters polled thought that sexism was a large or moderate problem, up from 45 percent last September (before Gillard’s misogyny speech); only 11 percent said it was ‘not a problem at all’.

That a slight majority of voters are troubled by the sexism they are aware of does not mean that there is not yet more sexism of which they are unaware, and do not oppose. Additional poll questions to distinguish concern for women from the growing concern about sexism against men by women (the increasingly believed-in ‘misandry‘) might also have been illuminating.

‘Media Feminism’

As a socialist I also dislike the mainstream media’s suppression of worker-based political analysis. But Pilger’s swift shift from blaming ‘media feminists’ to pro-capitalist MPs, in a way that makes them seem of equal politics and power, does not help.

We should not wholly write off ‘media feminism’, as Pilger does, as divisive conservatism. Those feminists who have managed to get a column or so in popular news media, often in the tokenistic women’s section, are writing for publications where news is male-centric in content and political alignment, as this 2013 ‘Status of Women in the U.S. Media’ report shows. Its standard practice is to divide men and women in a far realer sense.

It is dismaying that it’s in the context of growing feminist campaigns against the sexist objectification of women in media (for instance, against Page 3 ads), and against other aspects of rape culture, that Pilger has decided to cast ‘media feminism’ as the perp. And that he asserts men have been left out of these debates about gender, when the recent discussions have been quite notable for male commentary on how men are doing, including by Male Privilege Agitators (MPAs – sometimes known as ‘men’s rights’ advocates).

Fightback Terrain of Capitalist Individualism

We cannot fully understand the context of this discussion – about masculinity, feminism and the absent class fightback which Pilger bemoans – without looking at how the ideology of the capitalist class continues to impact on any radical opposition. Individualized responses prevail. Liberation marketed as a commodity, as accessed via identity, and as lifestylism, impedes even the more organized responses from the left.

Pilger jumped into a debate where both male-privilege and feminist spokespeople were using ‘masculinity’ in ways that minimized the centrality of the sex hierarchy to social organization. ‘Gender’, formerly describing the ideology that reinforces this hierarchy and its impact on women, has become essentialized and privatized into sex-based characteristics that are now said to be either inherent to individuals, or a matter of performance, identification or ‘gender expression’.

The social enforcement of the sex roles is trivialized. Gender’s reality of assigned dominance and subordination (‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’) is now viewed in a curiously gender-neutral and apolitical way. A far cry from the ‘second wave’ approaches which dealt with women’s oppression being assigned at birth, on the basis of our perceived sex, and continuing regardless of our subjective identification or ‘gender performance’ (compliance with stereotypes about one of the sexes).

US materialist radical feminist Kathy Miriam tells me that:

The limitations of “masculinity” are seen in too much discussion relevant to female oppression, including commentary by both mainstream and some radical feminists. The problem of “masculinity” has displaced a systemic, structural analysis of male power. And has displaced what I follow Dworkin in describing as the problem of men possessing women, which any battered or prostituted woman would understand.

There are sex/class antagonisms where men derive a range of benefits from their usages of women – via women’s extended domestic labor under neoliberalism, and sexually and reproductively. These benefits shift between race and class status groups, but are always relative to women’s subordination.

“Masculinity” is a term that papers over the problem by treating it as an issue of subjectivity. It implicitly or explicitly psychologizes and re-presents the main issue as how to re-educate boys, and casts violence as a health issue rather than one of power.

The less structuralist ‘third wave’ approaches to gender, which treat ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as commodities that should either be treated or made more widely accessible, have smoothed the path for the the increased acceptance, not just amongst conservatives, of ‘men’s rights’ (Male Privilege Agitator) arguments.

An apolitical focus on ‘masculinity’, even if from an intentionally feminist angle, still gives rise to recent MPA claims such as this by Glen Poole:

The best way to tackle the problems that men face is to follow the example of the women’s sector and build a men’s sector filled with independent organisations that are positive advocates for men and boys. Tackling men’s issues in this way requires the women’s sector to share the gender equality pie.

‘Gender equality’ pie, huh? Let’s share the apartheid around to all ethnicities, too.

Where these ‘men’s rights’ rhetoric agitators go wrong is not merely in ignoring the reality that many of their accusations against feminism should be attributed instead to class oppression. (It is ironic that Pilger’s response to this debate is apparently to attribute this distortion to feminism.) These Male Privilege Agitators (MPAs) also err in assuming that because maintaining male privilege involves a level of risk (although not nearly as much as it does to girls and women), men are just differently oppressed than women. (If not, indeed, oppressed because of women, as the MPA discourse increasingly holds.) Higher rates of male criminality and suicidality, and disinclination to consult the doctor, as this media discussion has lately agitated about, do not alter the fact that men retain more power than women in politics, media, government, home ownership, business, the workforce, workers’ organizations, medicine, academic tenure, the sexual and reproductive spheres and, especially, in who performs domestic labor.

Anyone wanting to unite the oppressed in struggle against the rich needs to prioritize understanding these issues. Misrepresenting feminism reinforces male power over women and acts very much in the interests of capitalist elites.

Leftist men who denigrate feminism need to ask themselves whose side they are on.

With thanks to Kim Doss-Cortes, Kathy Miriam and Claire Sambell.

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

James Heartfield July 9, 2013 at 7:45 am

This article reads as if the author wants it both ways. First she insists that she is not saying that all men are violent; and then she goes on to say that all men gain by the violence of some.

I can’t think of anything further from the truth. Men are not a distinctive social class who collude in the oppression of women; on the contrary the gender division of society, and discrimination against women diminishes men, too.

Brown’s characterisation of Pilger’s argument is a caricature; and her inclusion of the excellent social critic Tad Tietze as a supposed apologist of sexism is a reading so forced as to be laughable.


Pham Binh July 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

There’s no contradiction between asserting “not all men are violent” and “all men benefit from the minority of men who are violent” any more than saying “not all companies are anti-union” and “all companies benefit from anti-union laws.” Whether or not these statements are accurate is a separate question but there is no problem with “having it both ways” here.

Tietze was not accused of being or portrayed as an apologist for sexism. I wonder if we read the same article.


Richard Estes July 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Indeed, there is no contradiction, anymore than there is a contradiction by saying that not all white males are racist, but all white males have benefitted from slavery and racism.

More generally, I appreciate seeing this article reposted here at the North Star. There is a lot here to digest, but I do believe that there are some on the left (including males and females of the British SWP kind) who manipulate the concept of feminism in order to make it all the more easy to malign.

Conflating feminism with middle class social life is one common method by which this is done, thereby rendering it an inextricable feature of the abuses of the capitalist system. A more subtle alternative to this creation of a hopelessly tainted capitalist feminism is the segregation of the work of women in terms of reproducing the family and making it possible for males to work outside the home thus excluding them from being part of the working class, as addressed by people like Sylvia Frederici and Selma James. Here, Brown highlights another means of evading the problem, the refusal to understand violence and harassment directed towards women as part of a broader mosaic of social control, relating to it instead in terms of ingrained behaviour associated with gender, or individual depravity.

All of these serve the purpose of either diminishing the importance of feminism in relation to radical left politics, or, in the case of middle class feminism, characterizing it as an ideological enemy. But, in everyday life, women are exploited in the home and the workplace, and find themselves perpetually subjected to verbal harassment and the threat of sexual violence. Surely, the left can engage this instead of manufacturing additional enemies out of those who emphasize these issues.


Pham Binh July 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Not sure how whites in Ireland or Russia in the 1400-1800 period benefitted from the trans-Atlantic slave trade…


Richard Estes July 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Oops, I was speaking from a US context.


Pham Binh July 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Good to know. I’ve heard people argue that globally, nonsensical as that may seem.


Brian S. July 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

The Irish (and Scots) were strongly represented as mangers and overseers of plantations. (and indeed in all aspects of the running of the British empire.)


Joe Vaughan July 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Thanks to Oliver Cromwell, there were Irish slaves in the Caribbean before there were African slaves.

There’s also that little thing called the Potato Famine. Great benefits to the Irish from that imperialist exercise in genocide.

These are only two of the many ways in which somehow, despite the ex cathedra omniscience of the contemporary Left, the cunning Irish have connived throughout history to thwart revolution and by suffering outrage, pestilence, starvation, and murder at the hands of the British Empire .

But thank you for your dialectical superiority to mere facts.


Joe Vaughan July 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

“and by” should be “by”


Aaron Aarons July 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Irish immigrants in the U.S. at the time of the Civil War generally opposed the abolition of slavery because they saw freed slaves as competitors for jobs. That’s what happens when workers don’t see any prospect, collective or even individual, of escape from capitalist exploitation.


Aaron Aarons July 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm

It should be noted that Irish freedom fighters have repeatedly, going back to the 1840’s, condemned the attitude toward Blacks prevalent among Irish Americans.


James Heartfield July 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

‘all white males benefitted from slavery’ – bizarre. White men and women fought hard against slavery (as I explain in my pamphlet British Workers and the US Civil War http://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Workers-Civil-War-Lancashire/dp/0956806120/). Elites gained by slavery (and, as Catherine Hall’s statistical analysis of slave-ownership in 1834 shows, there were many women among them). You really ought to study history before you pronounce on it.

I said that this was an argument that pulled to ways, and that is undeniable. Brown wants to deny that she ever thought such a thing as that all men are violent, but still insist that all men are culpable for the incidents of violence. I reject it.

Lastly, this is framed by the author, and again here by Richard Estes as a plea not to point the finger at people. But this is Brown – and Estes – pointing the finger at John Pilger (and, surreally, at Tad Tietze).

I am all for opposing oppression against anyone, but there is no need for guilty self-loathing as a motivation – indeed that would never work. Rather, men have a material interest in opposing discrimination against women, and most men know it.


Pham Binh July 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm

She never said anything about culpability. Please, enough with the straw(wo)men.


James Heartfield July 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Pham, sorry, but that is a surprising contribution. What else does this comment mean, where Brown dismisses “Crude assumptions that colluding in oppression requires consciousness of this”? For Brown, plainly, men ‘collude in oppression’ whether they mean to or not. I am not sure how you can collude in oppression without being culpable.


Pham Binh July 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm

You’ve chosen to lop off the rest of the quote, which is the key: “… difficulty in recognizing sexism even on the left, where analysis can stop too soon after blaming the capitalists…”

Brown’s accusation is that Tietze’s analysis of how much sexism there is in society doesn’t go far enough nor is it deep enough. Citing a poll on sexism’s unpopularity gets us almost nowhere just as hardly anyone who has racist ideas will openly identify themselves as racist.

I’m still trying to figure out how you manage to turn that point (which seems valid to me, judging by the article Brown is criticizing) into Tietze=guilty of oppressing women or being culpable in their oppression.

It seems that you fail to understand that, according to Brown, it is “crude assumptions” rather than specific persons who are culpable in said oppression. People (men) can’t change who or what they are (barring a sex change operation), but they can change their assumptions or analytical framework. Right?


Dr_Tad July 12, 2013 at 2:47 am

In a long and somewhat heated FB thread that resulted from my response to Ginny’s article it was made pretty clear to me by her and others defending the article that my interpretation of the opinion poll data meant I was indeed effectively apologising for sexism and therefore that my argument was sexist.

It is less clear to me whether Ginny intended to identify me as one of the “left sexists” who engage in the “whataboutery” tactic that is the subject of that section of her article. Her responses on the matter have been somewhat convoluted, but she certainly hasn’t ruled out having meant to include me in that description.


Pham Binh July 12, 2013 at 6:41 am

“… it was made pretty clear to me by her and others defending the article that my interpretation of the opinion poll data meant I was indeed effectively apologising for sexism and therefore that my argument was sexist.”

That’s unfortunate if true. I’d have to see the thread and how the exchange went down for myself before drawing my own conclusions. Relying on others’ interpretations and perceptions in these matters is not a good idea.

Just because your name was mentioned once under the whataboutery section in an article targeting sexist men doesn’t really mean you are necessarily guilty of either., especially when Brown made is very plain what her criticism of you and your argument/method is. Insisting that she rule out fantastical interpretations of her words is an exercise in strawman warfare and a complete waste of time as far as I’m concerned.


Dr_Tad July 12, 2013 at 7:37 am

Given my argument was taken to task in a section on “whataboutery”, which is described as “another tactic used by some left sexists” I would’ve thought that asking for her clarification was a reasonable question rather than based in a “fantastical interpretation”. Perhaps best it gets left ambiguous.


Pham Binh July 12, 2013 at 9:10 am

Asking for clarification is one thing, ruling out possible meanings and interpretations (which theoretically could be infinite) one by one is another.


Aaron Aarons July 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Anybody who, e.g., pays taxes to the U.S. government ‘colludes’ in imperialism’s crimes, but is not necessarily ‘culpable’ of such crimes.


Ginny Brown July 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

James your strawwoman arguments don’t make responding to them very compelling, but let me ask you this – why is it that when Pilger engages in blatant lies about individual women, this is unworthy of commentary, but when I criticise him for doing this, I am proposing “guilty self-loathing” and am “pointing the finger”?

Supposing I had not pointed out that Pilger does this, in what way – concretely – would things be *better*?


James Heartfield July 13, 2013 at 5:52 am

OK, well, if your argument. and Suzanne Moore’s is that violence against women do not tell us anything about men in general, then I am happy to agree, and no doubt John Pilger would, too.


Ginny Brown July 13, 2013 at 6:14 am

Precisely which points in my article are you agreeing with, James?


James Heartfield July 13, 2013 at 6:29 am

Well, if you are saying that you did not argue that men as a collectivity are violent against women, then I agree with you. If you are saying they are, I don’t. Is that clear?


Ginny Brown July 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

[my response to James H appeared in the wrong place the first time I made it, so reposting]

My article pointed out that falsely characterising feminists as holding that male-pattern violence is biologically caused is a common means of fitting up feminists, and that it’s pretty outrageous that some men continue to make such a misogynist fit-up even where feminist women make their views pretty explicit.

I do hope you’re agreeing with this point.


James Heartfield July 13, 2013 at 7:24 am

Your inability to make the point without hedging it about does seem to justify my point that you want to have it both ways. You say that it is a caricature to say that men are naturally violent against women. (Good. I agree.) But then you have this awkward formulation “male-pattern violence”, which is just a way of saying that men are prone to violence against women. That you attribute this to a culture rather than genetics is less important to me than it is to you.
And of course, who would want to deny you your ‘outrage’, since it seems so important to you?


Pham Binh July 13, 2013 at 8:44 am

Again, you see a contradiction where there is none. Most men do not engage in domestic violence. The perpetrators of domestic violence in most cases are men. See the difference?


James Heartfield July 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

Pham, yes; perhaps it is surprising to you to hear it, but everyone in the whole world knows the difference.

What you avoid, though, is that clearly Brown is saying more than that, when she talks of ‘male-pattern violence’, or when she endorses Suzanne Moore’s statement that

“Every time dreadful things happen, nice guys say: don’t associate this with my gender, don’t hate me. This is not good enough. ”

Why is it not good enough? Because Moore, like Brown, wants to associate one gender with violence.

At the very start of this conversation, I said that Brown wants it both ways. She expresses outrage that John Pilger should say that some feminists want to say that men are intrinsically violent. But then, dodging the genetic argument, she builds up instead a cultural-sociological argument to the effect that men as a social group are complicit in the violent suppression of women.

She is entitled to such a view – however wrong-headed; but it is contradictory to moan about it when you are called out for opinions you are defending.


Ginny Brown July 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

James, if you’d read my article you’d know what I mean by the phrase ‘male-pattern violence’.

And my point was made rather strongly. You are responding to an article where I criticised sexists for claiming, without justification, feminists to be essentialists even where they explicitly argue against essentialism, by doing the same thing. I am fairly sure everyone else reading my comment understood it.

Now, please go back and read my article and its explanation of some of the forms of social organisation which perpetuate male-pattern violence.


James Heartfield July 13, 2013 at 9:12 am


Either ‘male pattern violence’ gives insight into the behaviour of men, or it is without explanatory power. If the former, then you are an essentialist, if the latter, you are not saying anything.


Pham Binh July 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

Wrong again. It’s a way of describing a particular type of violence, not a way of generalizing about males or male behavior. You’re guilty of the very conflation the article criticizes and you’ve wasted a lot of comments reiterating this fallacy.

Richard Estes July 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

“‘all white males benefitted from slavery’ – bizarre. White men and women fought hard against slavery (as I explain in my pamphlet British Workers and the US Civil War http://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Workers-Civil-War-Lancashire/dp/0956806120/). Elites gained by slavery (and, as Catherine Hall’s statistical analysis of slave-ownership in 1834 shows, there were many women among them). You really ought to study history before you pronounce on it.”

I grew up in Georgia in the Deep South in the 1960s. I visit there frequently. In addition to my personal experience, I am very familiar with the history. To me, it is evident all whites benefitted from slavery, regardless of the fact that some whites fought to end it. Whites could be taught to read, anyone could taught blacks to do so was subject to criminal prosecution. Whites could own property, slaves, obviously, could not. Whites had freedom of movement, blacks didn’t. Whites could, relatively speaking, keep their families together, and support one another, blacks, of course, had their families broken apart through slave auctions and lost contact with one another. As a consequence, they, and subsequent generations of whites, even lower middle class and lower class ones, reaped the rewards of these advantages, many of which, to lesser degrees, continued after slavery was legally abolished.

For example, I went to kindergarten and then first grade through third grade in Macon, Georgia from 1966 to 1969. My classes were all white. Not surprisingly, we got a good education. A black women took care of me while my divorced mother was at work. She lived in a neighborhood with no paved streets and poor utility service. There may have been many reasons why she was a caregiver, but one of them was that slavery and segregation prevented her from competing with whites for other kinds of higher wage employment. Did I support slavery? Was I part of the infrastructure of segregation? At the ages of 6 and 7, it would have been difficult. But did I benefit from them? Of course, I did.

My experience was a common one. Even lower middle class and lower class whites benefitted from services provided by blacks after slavery because blacks were paid substandard wages dictated by whites. I remember a story related to me by a co-worker many years ago. She had grown up in a middle class family in Mississippi. They had a black maid, housekeeper, we would say now. Her parents gave the woman a raise, from $1.50 an hour to $1.75 an hour. It angered everyone else in the neighborhood because they found themselves facing demands from their own housekeepers.

And whites all across the country were well aware of these perquisites, even in regions where there had been no slavery and segregation was less pronounced. That’s why whites worked hard to keep blacks out of unions for a long time. That’s why they made it nearly impossible for blacks to obtain and keep jobs as police officers and firefighters, public sector jobs with good salaries and workplace protections. Union work was a way for blacks to escape the impoverishment imposed upon them by slavery and segregation, and whites understood, and fought it. Did all whites do so? No. But the majority did until the postwar era.

Perhaps, there is a political reason to try to encapsulate all the fault and benefits of slavery within a small class of elite whites that makes it credible in the UK. But, based upon my experience and education here in the US, it isn’t.

Unfortunately, this same approach has been pulled out of the garage and applied to feminism and the experiences of women, too.


Aaron Aarons July 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

One can agree that whites as a group, white workers as a group, or white males as a group, have benefitted from slavery and racism without agreeing with the absurd statement that “all white males have benefitted from slavery and racism”.

The same caveat applies to the more manifestly true assertions that result from replacing “white[s]” with “U.S. citizen[s]” and “slavery and racism” with “imperialism” in the preceding statements.

The case of the polarity between men and women is much more complex because males and females are often part of the same household, so that things that negatively impact women also can negatively impact men directly. But this is not to deny the special oppression of women and the benefits, economic or otherwise, that many, perhaps most, men derive from it.


S.Artesian July 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Your experiences are real enough Richard, but what they don’t account for is the lower level of spending on education for all in the South; the lower level of economic development; the lower average wages; the reduced general social welfare that existed in the South as the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

That the bourgeoisie now finds that legacy so attractive, and wishes to impose it everywhere says a lot about the bourgeoisie and capitalism, but not so much that “all whites benefited from slavery” (or racism).


James Heartfield July 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm

“To me, it is evident all whites benefitted from slavery, regardless of the fact that some whites fought to end it.” in fact some 140,414 died fighting for the Union cause in the Civil War, and a further 275,000 were wounded.

Your kindergarten experience is less convincing to me than it is to you. You say that you got a better education than black students – that’s true to of the British education system. But you confuse relative and absolute terms when you say that yours was good *because* there’s was bad. Yours’ was as good as it should have been. There’s was worse than it should have been. They were disadvantaged, but it does not follow that you were advantaged.

Indeed the history of the relative impoverishment of the South, that wages, college attainment and IQ scores were lower for black and white people in the South than in the North clearly shows that discrimination, since it divided the working class as a whole, worked to limit the gains of the white working class, too.

To me this smacks of guilt, not solidarity. If you think that white people owe it to black people to do good by them to atone for past wickedness, then it strikes me that this liberal guilt sentiment will maintain an air of superiority, even as it atones, because you imagine yourself into the role of self-reflective agent, and the object of your charity is cast as dumb recipient of your good graces.

I suggest that the better foundation on which to build opposition to racial disadvantage is through solidarity. If the starting point is that it is in the interests of the greater part of the population to oppose oppression then that is more likely to succeed.

From where I stand it seems clear to me


Richard Estes July 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm

“Indeed the history of the relative impoverishment of the South, that wages, college attainment and IQ scores were lower for black and white people in the South than in the North clearly shows that discrimination, since it divided the working class as a whole, worked to limit the gains of the white working class, too.”

Of course. But it has been successful, and remains successful in many places, including areas outside the South, because of the social sense of superiority conferred upon whites through slavery and segregation (as, for example, given expression by Charles Murray), and the tangible transfer of wealth and opportunity from African Americans (and people of color more generally) to whites. Such a transfer occurred, and continues to occur, even though it works to the disadvantage of the working class as a whole. This is not liberal guilt, rather it is the social reality as to why the racist separation of the working class continues to be an effective elite strategy. It works similarly in relation to Latinos and immigration and women and feminism.

Your approach is to simplify the problem, as the GDR did in relation to German working class complicity with Nazism and the Holocaust, in the hope that the minority, in this case, working class people of color, will accept that their best interest lies in associating with the majority, white working class people, and that this is most readily accomplished by the suppression of their history and experience. In other words, they have to subordinate their experience to the majority white one for the benefit of the working class as a whole.

It has an allure because of its simplicity and the history of white dominance within the left, but it has failed, and will continue to fail, because it demands a subservience that mirrors that system that it purports to challenge. Some Marxists have used a variation of the argument in relation to feminism, that the interests of women should be subordinate to the those of the working class as a whole. Not surprisingly, it has been equally ineffective, opening the way for capitalists to exploit a contemporary, equal opportunity, consumer oriented feminism to draw women away from the left.

P. S. “I suggest that the better foundation on which to build opposition to racial disadvantage is through solidarity. If the starting point is that it is in the interests of the greater part of the population to oppose oppression then that is more likely to succeed.”

Perhaps, you are already aware, but this is the argument that the British SWP has used to deflect criticism of his refusal to properly investigate and take action against an accused rapist in its ranks. The prioritization of “solidarity” is used as a means to evade organizational accountability.


S.Artesian July 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

What transfer of wealth occurs, when the production of wealth is circumscribed, limited by the exclusion of a section of the population?

This not a situation where the East India Company comes in and pillages an established pre-capitalist mode of production, transferring that wealth to itself. 45 years ago when the New Left was all enraptured with the “transfer of wealth” from black to white, or from 3rd world to the workers in the advanced countries” I kept asking those arguing that position to describe the transfer mechanisms– to concretely show how even lower wages in one area involved a transfer of wealth producing higher wages in another. Never got an answer.

Look, track maintenance workers on a railroad are generally paid less than conductors and locomotive engineers– and for years locomotive engineer and conductor positions were restricted to white males– so is there a transfer of wealth from the track maintenance workers to the locomotive engineers? Are the higher wages of the locomotive engineers determined by the lower wages paid to track workers– or is not the distinct possibility that the more extensive and expensive training, as well as the animation of considerably larger masses of accumulated capital producing a higher rate of surplus value, are the sources of the higher wage.

This does not mean that racism isn’t real; that those positions are “privileges” or privileged for white workers. It does mean that the economic basis for that discrimination is not a
BENEFIT transferred to the white workers. Makes a big, big difference.


Aaron Aarons July 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

You want mechanisms? How about the fact that, in largely competitive industries like garment manufacture and semi-competitive industries like resource extraction, low wages do manifest themselves in prices lower, often much lower, than they would be otherwise. Those lower prices mean a lower number of labor minutes are required for a worker in a privileged position (e.g., as a citizen in and of an imperialist country) in the global economy to gain the income necessary to buy the product.

But, as experience in many arguments shows, the resistance among “first world” leftists to recognition of the participation of “first world” workers in the consumption of the surplus produced by “third world” workers is often manifested in quite impressive verbal gymnastics, including in insistence on proofs that fall within the (partly ad-hoc) conceptual framework of the persons demanding the proof.


Aaron Aarons July 17, 2013 at 6:04 am

A detailed presentation of the argument for white workers benefitting from the oppression of peoples of color can be found in Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai.


An alternate conversion to PDF, this one in three parts:


James Heartfield July 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Well, it is good that you clarify the differences between us. The way I see it, the working class is exploited, by capitalists. In your vision the working class are exploiters of women and people of colour. I see the action of the working class as the solution, you see it as the problem.


Richard Estes July 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Please consider setting aside that old time Marxist songbook and trying something new. You might be surprised to discover that recognizing the abuses of women and people of color by people other than capitalists doesn’t require abandoning the objective of a socialist society.


S.Artesian July 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Are we really having an argument that says “all whites in the US benefited from slavery”? Well, I guess that makes all those free labor, free soil farmers and laborers who fought against slavery examples of false consciousness, no? If it was to their benefit, why oppose it? Moral concerns? Baloney. We’re talking about a social movement, social struggle which pretty much is driven by the conditions of labor.

We can recognize sexism, racism– any -ism we want; but to argue that “all whites/males/heterosexuals, (pick one or all), benefit from the oppression of all females, blacks, LGBTs” (pick one or all) simply obscures the basis for such oppression and obscures the reasons for its persistence.

Did all whites in Britain benefit from slavery, when Britain won the asiento? Did they benefit up until 1833? This is the same argument that says all workers in the advanced countries benefited from imperialism.

I’ll bet those children working in the textile mills really benefited a whole lot from slavery.

Oh, and after that, the young women working in the match factories, dying of “phossy jaw” — they just didn’t realize how lucky they were.


Pham Binh July 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

Ginny Brown, I have to ask: is the ridiculous word-parsing/straw(wo)man fest by critics of your article in this thread typical of the critical responses in general? Having read this over a couple times, I don’t see why why anyone (except for John Pilger!) would get so up in arms about it. The formulations were mostly straightforward and I can’t help but think that the accusations of duplicity against you are either veiled personal attacks or sexism, or both.


Ginny Brown July 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hi Pham,

Thanks so much for asking, and I appreciate your support here.

Yes, these do seem to be typical responses – if anything, more civilised. There have been some personal attacks motivated by previously-existing gripes with me (not by anyone in this thread though, I think). I think the problem is that I seem to have hit rather more nerves than I anticipated, and more than I realised existed. I apparently not only discussed problems that were commoner on the left than I realised, but the expectation that women not speak up about these things also seems to have been extremely strong. (Also, the sexist failure to think ahead, since demonstrating that sexism is more prevalent than my article indicated is hardly likely to make me regret writing about it.)

I am considering documenting the responses, at least for interest’s sake.


Aaron Aarons July 16, 2013 at 2:37 am

Why is it difficult to acknowledge that the tendency or inclination towards violence is, in fact, inherently greater in males than in females. This is probably true in all species of apes, not only our own.

This obviously doesn’t mean that all males are going to commit acts of violence or that females won’t do so. Social and environmental factors will be determinate in specific cases. But failure to recognize the biological tendency towards violence in males leads to a lot of wasted effort in trying to explain why men, in virtually every place and time, commit far more acts of violence than women do.


S.Artesian July 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Not difficult to acknowledge, at least for me. I think the complicating factor is the assertion that all men benefit from the practice of violence against women; benefit being an economic relation, and therefore being derivative of the condition of labor.


Ginny Brown July 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Aaron are you arguing that a greater male inclination towards violence has neatly coalesced into the current social forms which we see today and that their support for capitalism is a happy coincidence? Or that capitalism has ‘turned on’ the switch of the already-existing propensity? And that men in the anti-war struggles have this switch turned off? I’m not too clear on this focus of yours on an inherently greater male ‘tendency or inclination towards violence’.


Richard Estes July 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I know that you directed this towards Aaron, but my view is that violence against women is manipulated within a capitalist system, as is female sexuality. So, I don’t believe that it is a coincidence. Women played a prominent role against the enclosures and the attempted preservation of feudal and peasant communities. They still do today in land struggles in the Africa, the Americas and South Asia. Hence, the frequent recourse to sexual assault and the threat of it against them.

I am hesitant to wholly accept biological gender differences as an explanation for male violence against women for a variety of reasons, first, because it has assisted in the creation of private property and capitalist social relations, and second, because I lack the anthropological expertise to fully understand it, although, I suspect, similar to what Louis Proyect has highlighted in regard to indigenous cultures. that there is a mainstream pseudo-scientific motivation to rely upon a purported inherent propensity towards violence as an after the fact rationalization for male violence within contemporary capitalist societies.

The creation of strict gender and various sexual orientation identities has been a feature of capitalism, intensifying in the 19th and 20th centuries, although, as Patrick McNally said here awhile ago, it may be more broadly attributable to modernism as well. Accordingly, one should be careful about starting with these identities and then going back in time to find corresponding inherent behaviours, such as a propensity to violence. Even if there is such a propensity, is it really an inherently male trait to intimidate women by sexually harassing them verbally and physically, to threaten them and sexually assault them as currently happens all too often?

Like I said towards the top of this thread, an inquisitive left should be able to engage these issues creatively as part of its overall critique of capitalist society, instead of manufacturing faux versions of feminism as a way of dismissing them.


Aaron Aarons July 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I wasn’t “focusing on”, but only pointing out, this tendency or inclination. And my last sentence is the reason for doing so:

[F]ailure to recognize the biological tendency towards violence in males leads to a lot of wasted effort in trying to explain why men, in virtually every place and time, commit far more acts of violence than women do.

It might have been more to the point, though, to have written:

Failure to recognize the biological tendency towards violence in males leads to a lot of wasted effort in trying to explain why men, in almost any particular place, time or social order, commit far more acts of violence than women do.


Ginny Brown July 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Aaron, that’s the point though. The social orders with male-pattern violence are those where males are at the top of the social hierarchy. My article gave political rather than biological reasons for this male-pattern violence, which you brush aside as ‘wasted effort’. If you’re going to comment on this article, you could at least trouble to make your point with greater clarity and justification.

For instance, just how much of my explanation are you dismissing? And what exactly are your reasons?


Aaron Aarons July 17, 2013 at 6:32 am

Actually, Ginny, my original remark was more a response to the general tenor of the discussion here than to your article. But it should be noted that I’m taking an opposite viewpoint from those who falsely accuse you and other feminists of biological determinism by arguing that what they are falsely accusing you of asserting is in fact partially true, even if you don’t agree with it!

I do not feel an obligation, when responding to an essay, book, or article, to write the equivalent of an essay, book or article in response. If I make an assertion, as I have here, that contradicts the shared presumptions of both sides of an argument, those involved in the argument can ignore me, refute me, or adjust their arguments to reflect my point.


Ginny Brown July 17, 2013 at 6:47 am

Well, excuse me for being the author of the article this thread is designed to discuss and for trying to work out to what extent you’re disagreeing with my points, asking you what you make of men in anti-war struggles, etc.


Aaron Aarons July 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Sorry, Ginny, but there’s no rule or even tradition on this site that commenters have to respond to the original post or the original poster. But I will, however, try to meet your request part way, mostly in future comments when I’ve had more time to consider several points.

1) I don’t understand your final, if indirect, question, “asking [me] what [I] make of men in anti-war struggles”. If you’re talking about various manifestations of sexist attitudes and behaviors in left and movement organizations, I’d argue that we need both criticisms of such attitudes and behaviors and structural ways of minimizing their effects, partly by ensuring the presence of women in decision-making positions in a way that doesn’t require much male support, if any, for them to get into or retain those positions.

2) While Pilger’s article that you link to at the top of your article may deserve criticism for its (allegedly) unfair criticisms of certain feminists, your own critique of him is itself rather sloppy and, perhaps unintentionally, unfair. In particular, in the first paragraph of the section you label ‘Whataboutery’ (a word beloved by certain editors of this site and their right-wing pseudo-left boosters who don’t like their choices of what to focus on questioned), you embed two links in the following text:

(Pilger, for instance, trivializes the long silence about the sexual abuse of children – often girls – by UK men in powerful positions, including in popular entertainment, by implying that any feminist commentary on this and recent rape and murder cases is indicative of a failure to care about class or imperialism.)

Those links, for someone who doesn’t follow them, would seem to lend authority to your charges against Pilger. However, the items linked to have nothing to do with Pilger! I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and presume you were being as sloppy as you accuse Pilger of being, and not consciously manipulative.

3) I agree in general with Pilger’s position on Assange. I say, ‘In general’, because I haven’t recently, if ever, read his specific words on the matter. My own position can be found in several places, including:
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=6493#comment-32534 and the follow-up there
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2037 (I have 8 comments there, not all about Assange.)
I also got involved in the debate on Richard Seymour’s leninology.com site, but it uses Disqus comments, which makes it very hard to link to them in context.


Aaron Aarons July 17, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Incidentally, why is your article titled, “Leftist Men Aren’t Born to Lead Radical Struggles”? Is that an expressed or (more likely) implied assertion you are countering? John Pilger is a filmmaker, journalist and polemicist, and, AFAIK, neither an actual nor a pretend leader of any radical struggle I am aware of. If your title is not just an attack on a straw man (pun intended), and if it is your creation and not that of some editor, could you clarify who and what you were referring to?


Ginny Brown July 18, 2013 at 6:01 am

A question about my artice! Sure, I can respond to this, although it does strike me that you may not have read my article thoroughly as, strangely enough, the content does illuminate the title.

Pilger’s general attitude, as my article commented, is not an outcome of individual eccentricity but reflects some common sexist approaches on the left, where it really is generally assumed, although unconsciously, that men are natural leaders.

One of these is a nearly visceral antipathy to acknowledging leadership by women in radical struggle, including ideological leadership. (The reality is that taking a lead against the ideology that the ruling (capitalist) class impresses on us is an important part of radical struggle – without that, there is only very limited leadership.)

This antipathy manifests in various ways, including:
~ responding to such leadership by trying to focus the attention of anyone aware of this by some putdown which may make the putter-down feel better, but also serves to undermine the advance by mischaracterising its significance to the radical struggle in question. So the broader political questions will be ignored and the woman herself will become the focus of criticism, or some small quibble (correct or not) will be turned into a greater matter than her contribution. Sometimes in a slimy way containing a vague, patronising pretence of agreeing with her contribution – ‘yes of course that’s true BUT …’ – which implies that she is saying nothing particularly new nor important, thus disorienting others who may believe that her contribution is in fact reflective of the current consciousness of the struggle. They may even blatantly lie and say that there are no new revelations here. This type of dismissal often serves to paper over the dismissers’ approach which was in fact ignorant of/ sharply contrary to that which they are suddenly pretending they are well aware of.)
Or her contribution will be outright lied about, as Pilger lied about the contributions of Suzanne Moore, Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley.

~ Explicitly encouraging people ‘not to engage’ with that woman’s contributions.

~ Acting as though they, rather than those who are experts in feminist struggle, should be telling feminists what to do. For instance, Pilger’s ridiculous pretence at promoting class analysis, which ends up being misogynist, class reductionist and quite liberal, when he could instead have chosen to signal-boost the struggles and voices and analysis of those who do it properly. Like the marxist feminist Kavita Krishnan, as I pointed out. The reality is that Pilger has had decades to follow and learn, but clearly doesn’t think he needs to.
And I searched his site for any mention of the Indian struggle against rape culture or Idle No More – examples of leadership by women – and couldn’t find it.

~ Telling feminists that in fact they need to be engaged in other arenas of struggle. (Whataboutery.) The reality is that feminists are involved in the gamut of forms of struggle and while some conservative feminists do limit their ideological engagement to pretending that the system just needs tinkering with, if those conservative feminists are political representatives of the ruling class then they’re not going to change, and our task is to convince feminists that there are real alternatives to such fake leadership. Pilger’s article, which was generally incoherent although this common conservative thread of anti-feminism did wind through it, made no clear point about what he was proposing. His focus on capitalist parliamentarians could perhaps have given readers the impression that the solution to oppression is engagement by ‘ordinary people’ (he doesn’t seem to like to use the word proletariat) in the bourgeois parliaments.


Aaron Aarons July 19, 2013 at 1:19 am

Ginny, your style of discussion/debate seems to involve avoidance of concrete quotes and references that actually back up what you are asserting. But, on the charge that “Pilger lied about the contributions of Suzanne Moore, Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley”, I’d agree that Pilger misrepresented the reference to “testosterone” in the Cockburn and Oakley article, but it comes across as a hasty, defensive reading on his part, rather than as an intentional lie, while I can’t see how “Pilger lied about the contribution[s} of Susan Moore”, since all he did was quote her, apparently accurately, in a context of criticizing certain aspects of feminist discourse. Your standards for what constitutes lying are excessively broad, IMO.

Also, while Pilger, along with most left journalists of both sexes, has apparently not written about the Indian struggle against rape culture or Idle No More , a search for the word “women” on his site turned up an article on Afghanistan, dated 10 January 2008, in which he lavishes high praise on the work of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, whose spokeswoman he interviewed in a safe house in Kabul, saying that “There is no organisation on earth like it” and that it is the “home of the bravest of the brave”. He sounds like somebody who wishes there were more, not less, women’s leadership on the left.

And, while honestly criticizing their errors, we should wish for more journalists like John Pilger.


Ginny Brown July 19, 2013 at 10:00 am

Aaron I take it this isn’t a spoof response, so I’ll bite.

What is it that you’re asking for references on? It’s interesting that you responded to my point about the sexism of left culture not by saying ‘wow, I hadn’t realised’ but with a dismissive remark about my own ‘discussion style’. Are you, in fact, asking me to provide references/ quotes about this culture I just described? What level of quotations would satisfy you? Is this your usual response to being informed about problems on the left?

Secondly, re Pilger’s decision to assert that Moore, Oakley and Cockburn hold political positions *opposite* to that which they expressed, yes I agree that Pilger was likely hasty and ‘defensive’ and didn’t spend much thought or energy at all on what he was doing or on carefully reading what they wrote. That was my point. This is, largely, how feminists are treated. They are assumed to be attackers of males and so it’s assumed that a defensive response which avoids reading or accurately representing what they wrote is reasonable. This should not be viewed as a defence of Pilger but a criticism of him.

Re this:
‘while Pilger, along with most left journalists of both sexes, has apparently not written about the Indian struggle against rape culture or Idle No More , a search for the word “women” on his site turned up an article on Afghanistan, dated 10 January 2008, in which he lavishes high praise on the work of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, whose spokeswoman he interviewed in a safe house in Kabul, saying that “There is no organisation on earth like it” and that it is the “home of the bravest of the brave”. He sounds like somebody who wishes there were more, not less, women’s leadership on the left.

‘And, while honestly criticizing their errors, we should wish for more journalists like John Pilger.’

It is indeed impressive that 5 years ago Pilger mentioned RAWA. And if most left journalists don’t mention Idle No More or the Indian movement against rape culture, that means that Pilger’s decision to tell feminists what to do, and to invisibilise those movements, are absolutely fine and an indication of his real respect and support for feminist leadership.

And, finally, thank you for, at the end, making this an assessment of Pilger as a person and not an assessment of lessons for Pilger and other left sexists to take on board to support feminists better.


Aaron Aarons July 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Ginny, if you are going to complain that “left journalists don’t mention Idle No More or the Indian movement against rape culture”, why don’t you direct that complaint to your fans who edit this very site (like the leftist-basher Pham Binh) and have the ability to easily publish anything you (or anybody who doesn’t object to its reposting here) has written on those topics?

Then again, as far as I can learn from Google, the only thing that connects any “Ginny Brown” to Idle No More, aside from the article on this page attacking male leftists for not covering it, is a link to another woman’s article on the topic that you posted on the Facebook page of a group (real or virtual?) called One Billion Rising Australia. But, since you seem more interested in attacking male leftists than in overcoming their deficiencies, you didn’t include such a link here! Since I am interested in publicizing the activities of female social fighters (as well as male ones!), rather than just attacking others for not doing so, I’ll provide the link:
Idle No More: Women rising to lead when it’s needed most by Muna Mire.


Pham Binh July 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The criticism doesn’t apply to me because I’m not writing articles denouncing feminism or feminists as Pilger is.

You’ve posted too many comments that don’t actually deal with or engage Brown’s article or its arguments and now you’re just carping about how she hasn’t lived up to your arbitrary standards of what she should be doing. You’re wasting her time, my time, and the time of our readers by doing this.

Any further comments along these lines will not be approved.


Red Blob July 19, 2013 at 5:23 am

Theres a couple of things I always try to keep in mind when I’m involved in a discussion about relationships between men and women. First when people make a complaint they usually have a point unless they are complaining about something like reverse sexism for instance, then they are probably trying to obscure a point.
OECD estimates that in advanced countries like the USA women work for 21 minutes per day more than men. Now this is wrong but it is not oppression. The big beneficiaries of a man or a woman’s work in a family is children. Children are the big beneficiaries of men and womens work, its they that are getting an extra 21 minutes per day from mum.
Real oppression of women does exist, it exists in feudal societies. Its great that women in India can challenge ancient disgusting feudal practices and they can do this because capitalism is smashing feudalism in India, hooray.
Another point is that any working class male is an idiot if he is happy about his female partner getting a lower wage. Just think it through, Jack gets $500 per week and partner Jill gets $300. They are a partnership and as a partnership they are getting ripped off $200. Men are on such a good wicket having women paid less. Or maybe its the boss who is on the good wicket?
Just a plug for modernity and its benefits for women and children who now suffer way way lower death rates from child birth. Long live the medicalisation of pregnancy.
With violence my experience has been that the poorer you get the more violent your life becomes. Theres men on men violence and men on women violence but the over riding factor seems to be social standing rather than what sex you belong to.
Just on violence within families I always try to remember that these two people were brought together by love and a commitment to make a better life together. Then I look at the social factors that in so many occasions result in a battered wife rather marital bliss.


Red Blob July 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I cant understand why information about the campaign to free Marissa Alexander isn’t posted all over this web site. Surely the number one immediate step forward for women in the USA is the release of Marissa Alexander


PatrickSMcNally July 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

The title on this thing is silly. In one sense the very notion of “born to lead” has a feudalistic tone to it. I would expect that any honest Leftist would be suspicious of all such notions as “I was born to lead.” That sounds more like a paraphrase of something from Mein Kampf than like what a Leftist would say. But then again, women are not born to lead either. Nor are straights, gays, whites, blacks, whoever. So either there is no real point behind the title or else it carries some hidden insinuation which I am not ready to guess at.


Ginny Brown July 29, 2013 at 1:05 am

Thank you for your contribution PatrickSMcNally. I will bear in mind your naming ideas henceforth. But one thing – do you think perhaps that assumptions in some leftist networks that men *are* the natural-born leaders of radical struggle could perhaps have been what I was criticising?


Spelunker4Plato November 12, 2014 at 1:11 am

men’s reproductive rights: abstinence, condoms

women’s reproductive rights: abstinence, pills, plan b, abortion, give up child for adoption, child support

“While Pilger protests at class analysis being suppressed in ‘media-run
“conversations” on gender’, the reality is that his economic
reductionism feeds into men’s blinkers about their privilege.”

Riiiiight… Keep it about women. Of course when an ancap blames ONLY the state,
that’s truncated. Blaming ONLY the “patriarchy” somehow makes you more
enlightened. By all means, have a pussy pass and let’s not judge you on
the merit of your ideas.

Oh look. The 3rd wave feminist movement has come up with a new word: “whataboutery”. Nice deflection from
wasting time about banning the word bossy or cherry picking catcalls out
of a fraction of a percent of the male population.

“feminists who have managed to get a column or so in popular news media, often in
the tokenistic women’s section, are writing for publications where news
is male-centric in content and political alignment”

what is that? that’s called needless polarizing.

then some diatribe about capitalist individualism… so after attacking
Pilger, it’s double time to make up for what the feminist movement is
lacking, it’s basically turned in to a tu quoque fallacy… which is
precisely why it and modern feminism as a movement has failed.

I don’t know who Ginny Brown is, but she’s not my comrade.

“Identity politics is rooted in a one-sided expression of capitalism, and
is therefore not a revolutionary politics. As noted earlier,
“identity” can be equated with alienated labor; it is a one-sided
expression of our total potential as human beings.”


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