Nancy Fraser – A Feminism Aimed at Liberating All Women Must Be Anti-Capitalist

Link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, conducted by Olimpia Malatesta:

“A Feminism Aimed at Liberating All Women Must Be Anti-Capitalist”

 

This makes a rather incongruous endorsement of “left populism” in the context of “anti-capitalism”, which is a bit of an oxymoron.  Fraser is too tepid here — she’s mostly offering a slightly watered-down version of ideas that have been circulated by others for some time, with little justification for watering things down.  Overarchingly, though, she is astutely arguing Walter Benjamin’s maxim that behind every rise of fascism lies a failed revolution.

 

Bonus links: Review of Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (includes a useful questioning of Fraser’s “social reproduction” theory) and “On Sex Without Identity: Feminist Politics and Sexual Difference” (this interview expresses a more coherent position than Fraser’s) and “Alt-right Trump Supporters and Left-wing Bernie Sanders Fans Should Join Together to Defeat Capitalism” and “Today’s Anti-fascist Movement Will Do Nothing to Get Rid of Right-wing Populism – It’s Just Panicky Posturing” and “The U.S. Political Scene: Whiteness and the Legitimacy Crisis of Global Capitalism” and “About the Fate of Contemporary Girls” Excerpt (“women should be much more wary today of what capitalism is offering them in the way of liberation than they should be of men.”) and “Supporting a Feminism for the 99%” and “Against the Populist Temptation”

Josh Cook – World War II’s Poisonous Masculine Legacy

In his review of Jared Yates Sexton’s The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making (2019), under the title “World War II’s Poisonous Masculine Legacy,” Josh Cook makes the following statement:

“Some of the racist, sexist, and homophobic vitriol spewed at Trump rallies is performative, spewed by men who did not believe it, or at least with that intensity, but were afraid their masculinity would be questioned if they did not pose as an angry, hateful Trump supporter, who doesn’t care about your feelings. Many of Trump’s supporters engaged in the same kind of pissing contest as internet trolls, where the point was not actually to advance an idea, but to prove how tough you personally are through a specific demonstration of emotional disregard and potential, and occasionally actual, violence.”

This is an important statement — though hardly a novel one, see “Ten Must-Read Books About White Masculinity and the Rise of Trump”.

But what is missing (the elephant in the room), is that Cook’s critiques of performative identity do not address his own performative identity.  Read his review, and one is left with the sense Cook is performing the identity of the sensitive (beautiful soul) male who would never advocate violence.  The problem here is that this nonviolence seems to be advocated precisely when violence is ethically justified.  On the one hand, insistence upon non-violence is one of the hallmarks of cold war (neo)liberalism.  On the other hand, advocacy of non-violence as the sole legitimate strategy is both a self-serving myth and a form of liberal blackmail meant to de-legitimate systemic change.  This is a problem inscribed in the kind of identity politics that Cook takes as a given, which tend to trivialize the difficulty in switching identities that are adopted unconsciously and pursue a tactic of shaming/guilting opposed groups into submission.  Consequently, such “identity politics” tactics simply don’t work at the broader political level particularly when there are real disagreements between social classes:

“As Yuval Harari noted, in his Homo Deus, people feel bound by democratic elections only when they share a basic bond with most other voters. If the experience of other voters is alien to me, and if I believe they don’t understand my feelings and don’t care about my vital interests, then even if I am outvoted by 100 to one, I have absolutely no reason to accept the verdict. Democratic elections are a method to settle disagreements between people who already agree on the basics. When this agreement on basics falters, the only procedures at our disposal are negotiations or (civil) war. That’s why the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by elections but only by war or negotiations.”

This problem with Cook’s analysis is compounded by his rather confused invocation of “abuse” in relation to the concept of “trauma” and, more broadly, using the term “violence” in a way that seems to (purposefully) exclude systemic violence.

Cook seems to argue that “toxic masculinity” performance should be ceased.  Aside from the problem of defining exactly what is “toxic” here, or why it is specifically “masculine”, that seems well-meaning.  But readers should be questioning the performances that Cook implicitly substitutes because they are just as problematic, and Cook provides no conceptual framework for analyzing the normative ideological battle he fights.  He rejects some ideologies and endorses others.  But his reasons for choosing one over the other are not explicitly discussed in any way.  They are instead naturalized as if they are neutral and unworthy of discussion or potential dispute. Sounds a lot like his point is not actually to advance an idea, but to prove how “sensitive” he personally is through a specific demonstration of alleged moral superiority and a resort to emotional blackmail, coupled with potential/implied coercive ostracism.  We see that his objective is not about overcoming social hierarchies but shuffling them like a game of musical chairs.  When will Cook be cured of this “chronic illness”?  If the goal of ideology is to conceal its aims of domination, then Cook’s analysis is principally ideological, and somewhat totalitarian at that.  It is “predicated on the idea that a non-toxic identity and life can be had[,]” but what if “this toxicity is precisely where our humanity, our subjectivity, resides”?  In this sense, Cook’s invocation of “toxic masculinity is “a gross oversimplification, with possible quite catastrophic consequences for emancipatory movements.”  The more urgent point is the one Henry Giroux later made (drawing on the notion of victimhood status under neoliberal capitalism):

“At its heart, the alignment of white masculinity with the racist discourse of hate and xenophobia has to be condemned while also understood as a mode of depoliticization. As a mode of depoliticization, this script of victimhood robs poor and middle-class whites of their sense of agency and possibilities for individual and collective resistance against the very forces of structured inequality and economic and social abandonment produced by neoliberalism.

***

“This is particularly true for segments of the white male population who are constantly being told that they are the victims of a society that increasingly privileges racial and ethnic minorities.

“Susceptible to calls by demagogues to express their anger and resentment at the societal selfishness, greed, and materialism that surrounds them, many white males have found a sense of identification and community in the racist, sexist and xenophobic appeals of a range of current demagogues that include Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, and Erdoğan. While I don’t want to excuse the poisonous politics at work here and its dangerous flirtation with a kind of fascistic irrationality and the toxic pleasures of authoritarianism, the white males seduced by the pleasures of a toxic authoritarianism need to be addressed in a language that not only speaks to the roots of their fears and economic securities, but also as Michael Lerner has brilliantly noted, to those fundamental psychological and spiritual needs that have been hijacked by a ruthless capitalist disimagination machine.

***

“The pain and suffering of different groups under neoliberalism has to be understood not through shaming whites or other supporters of a fascist politics, but through efforts to unite these disillusioned groups across race, gender, and class divides.”

In other words this fits into a de-politicization (or “university discourse”) based on envy, with fetishist enjoyment of impotent rage proffered as a kind of bribe to accept a destructive social structure.  Or basically what the French have long called ressentiment.  But class struggle is an alternative to this populist temptation.

Maggie Levantovskaya – Identity Shaping on Social Media

Link to a review by Maggie Levantovskaya of Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion (2019):

“Identity Shaping on Social Media: On Jia Tolentino’s ‘Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion'”

 

Bonus links: Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age and “The Programs of Neoliberal Feminism” and “‘If Only There Were More Female Billionaires!’— New York Times” and Organs Without Bodies and “Capitalism and Female Labor”

Ian Graye – Review of Lacan and Postfeminism

Link to Ian “Marvin” Graye’s Review of Lacan and Postfeminism (2001) by Elizabeth Wright:

Review of Lacan and Postfeminism

 

Bonus links: The Logic of Sexuation: From Aristotle to Lacan and “About the Fate of Contemporary Girls” Excerpt and “On Sex Without Identity: Feminist Politics and Sexual Difference”

Liza Featherstone – Bad Romance

Link to a review by Liza Featherstone of Kristen Ghodsee’s book Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (2018):

“Bad Romance”

 

But Ghodsee is open to criticism of the same sort Jodi Dean leveled at Naomi Klein: why is “unregulated capitalism” the problem rather than just “capitalism”?  Isn’t Ghodsee just making typically vague (left) populist claimsWe can critique that position by saying that “populism is simply a new way to imagine capitalism without its harder edges; a capitalism without its socially disruptive effects. Populism is one of today’s two opiums of the people: one is the people, and the other is opium itself. *** What remains of the passionate public engagement in the West is mostly the populist hatred, and this brings us to the other second opium of the people, the people itself, the fuzzy populist dream destined to obfuscate our own antagonisms.”

Nancy Fraser – Feminism and Marxism

Link to a video of comments by Nancy Fraser:

“Feminism and Marxism”

 

Bonus links: The Trouble With Diversity and “The Feminism of the 1 Percent Has Associated Our Cause With Elitism” (“Today, we are told that we really have only two options — either right-wing authoritarian populisms, which are racist and xenophobic, or else go back to our liberal protectors and progressive neoliberalism. But this is a false choice — we need to refuse both options.”) and “The Politics of Identity”

Julian Vigo – The Spawn: Feminism’s Misandry Problem

Link to an article by Julian Vigo:

“The Spawn: Feminism’s Misandry Problem”

 

Bonus Quotes:

“one should . . . admit how problematic it is to anchor one’s political demands to status of victimhood. Is the basic characteristic of today’s subjectivity not the weird combination of the free subject who believes themselves ultimately responsible for their own fate and the subject who bases their argument on their status as a victim of circumstances beyond their own control? Every contact with another human being is experienced as a potential threat – if the other smokes, if he casts a covetous glance at me, he already hurts me; this logic of victimization is today universalized, reaching well beyond the standard cases of sexual or racist harassment.”

Slavoj Žižek, “Sex and ’68: Liberal Movement Revolutionized ‘Sexuality’ But at What Cost?”

“In short, the extreme horror of Auschwitz did not make it into a place which intrinsically purifies every single one of its surviving victims into ethically sensitive subjects who got rid of all petty egotistic interests.”

Slavoj Žižek, “We Need to Examine the Reasons Why We Equate Criticism of Israel with Antisemitism”

“They play the Beautiful Soul, which feels superior to the corrupted world while secretly participating in it: they need this corrupted world as the only terrain where they can exert their moral superiority.”

Slavoj Žižek, Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors: Against the Double Blackmail (2016)

“The beautiful soul attitude finds a particularly fertile ground in what many call the ‘infantilization’ of our societies. We are encouraged to behave as children: to act primarily upon how we ‘feel,’ to demand — and rely on — constant protection against the ‘outer world,’ its dangers and fights, or simply against the world of others, other human beings.”

“Too Much of Not Enough: An Interview with Alenka Zupančič”

“PC anti-racism is sustained by the surplus-enjoyment which emerges when the PC-subject triumphantly reveals the hidden racist bias on an apparently neutral statement or gesture”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Need to Traverse the Fantasy”

My only disagreement with Vigo’s article is her characterization of “motherhood privilege” (more broadly, “parenthood privilege”) as “delusional nonsense”.  Laws and corporate policies do sometimes grant benefits to parents that are not given to the childless — isn’t that a parenthood privilege?  For instance, assume that parenthood is burdensome but socially beneficial; could someone benefit by avoiding more burdensome and less socially beneficial wage work in a capitalist society through parental leave that is not available to other workers who would like to have time off from wage work to engage in burdensome and socially beneficial activity other than parenthood?  If so, then there is a parenthood privilege.  There is a trace of chauvinist defensiveness in Vigo’s argument there, though this doesn’t undermine her larger point.  See also “About the Fate of Contemporary Girls” Excerpt

Joan Roelofs – Alexandra Kollontai: Socialist Feminism in Theory and Practice

Link to an article by Joan Roelofs:

“Alexandra Kollontai: Socialist Feminism in Theory and Practice”

 

Bonus links: “‘If Only There Were More Female Billionaires!’— New York Times” and “Soviet Power and the Status of Women” and “Capitalism and Female Labor”