« profile & posts archive

This author has written 1117 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

66 responses to “Destroy which joint?”

  1. Liz

    I’m not sure that I agree totally with your analysis, Kim. Although, I’m not sure I totally understand it, which is probably my fault.

    Razer doesn’t have a problem with Cultural Studies as such ; just bad Cultural Studies. She identifies as someone who adores Judith Butler. I think it’s more that she sees the DTJ push as being insufficiently theorised in their desire to change how women are represented. But, it’s true that Razer wants women to join a union and fight for better pay, rather than being concerned with what Alan Jones has to say about anything. Just ignore the old fart, would be her advice. However, I also disagreed with her reading of Price’s argument.

    Certainly DTJ started as a humourous hashtag by women such as Jane Caro. It was meant more in the spirit of ridiculing idiocy and it’s certainly grown. But, when you look at the FB page it’s very much about calling out perceived sexism. But, yeah it’s not heavily theorised.

    Anyway, this is an issue when I can really see right and wrong on both sides of the divide. As someone with a Cinema Studies background, it feels very familiar to me. Positive role models vs a more nuanced view of representation. That’s why I loathe the stupidity of the Bechdal-Wallace test, btw. But, I think it’s a good, useful debate. And now I’m waiting for the first bloke to come along and tell us we shouldn’t talk about this, as it’s so unimportant.

  2. Liz

    Oh, and I also wanted to say, great to see you back, Kim.

  3. Liz

    I don’t know that a Cinema Studies perspective takes us that far. But, in the ’70s there was a major debate about what sorts of politically active films women should make. There was a fairly straightforward activist take which talked about giving women a voice and creating positive representations. Then, there was a more heavily theorised Laura Mulvey approach which was about the need to create a revolutionary feminist cinema which completely remade film language. It argued ‘positive representations’ was naive and ignored Freud, Lacan etc.

    In Australia, feminist filmmakers tended to take a more playful take on the whole thing; one which has often been described as ‘larrikin’. A film called ‘We Aim to Please’ is important one here it was rude, funny and engaged with theory.

  4. Liz

    And above I’ve just summarised a huge, complex debate in two short paras, which is a bit silly.

  5. Liz

    I guess my answer is that different women are going to work in different ways and that’s ok. But, maybe that’s just a bland, easy way out answer. Really, the only thing that annoyed me about Razer’s article was her insistence that she was representing the one true feminism. Just no. But, having said that, I don’t have a lot of time for the ‘I choose my choice feminism’.

  6. Liz

    Yes. There was another article by Jessica Rowe about how she’s a feminist and she uses Botox. Please. I don’t care if anyone uses Botox. I really don’t. But, don’t pretend it’s a ‘feminist choice’. Or as Rowe wrote; I’m doing it for myself. It had nothing to do with patriarchy. Or the fact that she’s on television. *Sigh*.

  7. Cindel Towani

    [Moderator note: morphing your nym and other details to evade previous bans is a breach of the comments policy. Bye!]

  8. Liz

    Good to see you hear. But, now I’m off to sleep.

  9. Anna Winter

    I, too, sympathise with Razer’s anger – not at cultural studies per se, but at some of the terribly literal and stupid “cultural studies” that’s happening through Destroy the Joint and, worse, Collective Shout.

    I understand why others dislike her so, she does like to take a very exaggerated position to make her point, but I’m also grateful someone’s doing it.

    But mostly I just wanted to comment to say I was very happy to see all this happening at LP again. Hooray!!

  10. Anna Winter

    Yes, down with reading everything on the internet literally!

  11. Casey

    “the terribly literal and stupid “cultural studies” that’s happening through Destroy the Joint …”

    Okay, it kills me. The other day the Destory the Joint (sic on purpose pendants) asked, “what do you think (morons)? Is Pride and Prejudice a feminist novel or not?”

    Okay okay, I withdraw the ‘morons’. Clearly that was my inner monologue commenting on the comment. But really really? What? What? I can’t stand it anymore. I am one click away from unfriendlying myself.

  12. mindy

    I assumed Razer was doing an eyeroll about the whole ‘who is and who isn’t a feminist’ with claiming to be the door bitch of feminism. She may have been speaking literally, sometimes I find it hard to work out.

    I do and don’t agree with her analysis, and I also agree that sometimes DtJ does sweat the too small stuff. But then again it was through the small stuff that I go interested and involved in feminism so we can only hope that DtJ takes their members further or that they forage further afield themselves.

    @Liz – I’d be interested to hear more about your issues with the Bechdel/Wallace tests. Have you blogged about it anywhere?

    I also liked Razer’s response to the botox story. That I thought was spot on.

  13. tigtog

    Sadly, Mindy’s post seems to have vanished in the Great Server Meltdown of March ’13 – Hoyden had to be recovered from backup discs, and we seem to have lost the last few days worth of posts & associated comments.

  14. mindy

    Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy anywhere so it is lost I fear.

  15. mindy

    The lovely Tigtog has rescued it and it is back up 🙂

    Unfortunately the comments were lost though.

  16. mindy
  17. Liz

    Mindy, why I find the Bechdel-Wallace test asinine is that I don’t think it’s useful to address art as a tick and flick test. I’ve seen terrible films with shitty roles for women that tick all the boxes. Conversely, I can think of many films with wonderful roles for women that fail the test dismally.

    That’s my short answer ‘cos I’m a bit fla chat right now. I might extend my answer a bit more later.

  18. mindy

    Thanks Liz, answered my question nicely.

  19. Liz

    That’s a really good article, Mindy.

  20. faustusnotes

    For issues re: the Bechdel test, try Game of Thrones, which has to be one of the most misogynist shows on TV. Lots of cases of women talking to each other about other women, often to take great pleasure in the imminent vicious abuse of one of those women …

  21. tigtog

    Re the Bechdel/Bechdel-Wallace test, I do agree that it’s been widely misapplied/overextended but I still contend that it holds up a spotlight on a narrative imbalance – it’s a low bar to hurdle to have female characters talk about aspects of their lives which don’t involve being reliant upon men or male approval, and that’s still a bar which a whole lot of films just don’t manage. It’s very possible to have films with wonderful female parts that do not pass Bechdel-Wallace, but it’s still a huge part of the human experience which is being erased.

  22. tigtog

    P.S. as part of a totally unrelated (to this post) discussion with spouse, I have come to hypothesise that part of the popularity of slash-fiction amongst heterosexual women is at least partially an inverted aspect of Bechdel-Wallace – some of the appeal lies in how male characters are narratively more fully rounded characters, whereas women so often are narratively adjuncts/objects.

  23. faustusnotes

    I agree about the Bechdel test, tigtog. I think it’s a necessary but not a sufficient condition, maybe …

  24. Myriad74

    (LP is back woohoo!)

    The crux for me on the issues that Helen raises is this-

    On the day that Gillard gave her misogyny speech rightfully skewering Abbott, the ALP & LNP voted together to throw thousands of single parents, overwhelmingly single mothers, onto Newstart and into poverty & lost opportunity.

    What I saw play out was a great deal of analysis and hailing of Gillard’s misogyny speech- a speech that I have no doubt was sincere by the way & also tactically brilliant (yes it’s possible to do both in parliament).

    But it’s importance, particularly from our first female prime minister paled in comparison with the decision to severely disadvantage single mothers and their children, all in search of a fictional and unnecessary budget surplus.

    So while I acknowledge that Helen is a polemicist and provocateur that sometimes ruins a good point with unnecessary flights of language and seeming meanness; and while I acknowledge that DTJ taking on the media portrayal of women is valid and a necessary part of feminism-
    Ultimately it’s deeds not words, attacking structural disadvantage rather than portrayal that matter to me.

    It’s hard to think of a better example of the dangers distraction via media analysis than that of far too many Australian feminists getting caught up in the sexist portrayal of a high profile & privileged female to acknowledge, decry or fight tangible & potentially permanent damage to the well-being of a large group of Australian women.

    I started out enjoying & supporting DTJ & I do think there is an important symbolic & real victory in holding someone if influence like Alan Jones to account. But it’s been frustrating to see to many think that feminism & what is needed is encapsulated in such action, and most importantly a seeming absence of discussion re:priorities.

    I’m possibly too harsh as I’m not on FB, but for these reasons while not perfect, Helen’s piece resonated for me.

  25. Helen

    On the day that Gillard gave her misogyny speech rightfully skewering Abbott, the ALP & LNP voted together to throw thousands of single parents, overwhelmingly single mothers, onto Newstart and into poverty & lost opportunity.

    What I saw play out was a great deal of analysis and hailing of Gillard’s misogyny speech- a speech that I have no doubt was sincere by the way & also tactically brilliant (yes it’s possible to do both in parliament).

    But it’s importance, particularly from our first female prime minister paled in comparison with the decision to severely disadvantage single mothers and their children, all in search of a fictional and unnecessary budget surplus.

    And it’s the assumption by people like Razer that the rest of us are stupid gits who cannot possibly notice the terrible disjunction in that, and are not hugely conflicted because we genuinely thought the misogyny speech was an important moment but at the same time see *quite clearly* that throwing single mothers under the bus was a hugely antifeminist act,

    which makes us headdesk.

    Priorities? We can’t talk about more than one thing per- what – week? month? day? And do we apply to Razer for info on what we’re permitted to talk about? We are getting this both from the right and from the left – “tumblr” social justice bloggers are equally all up in our faces with “You didn’t write about this terrible thing which I have determined you must write about, you wrote about this other thing. Shame on you.” This grim triage is being applied to feminists nonstop, I don’t see it being applied to other social justice / reformist categories. And whatever we write about there is ipso facto something we don’t, so we always fail.

    Jeez, what a *refreshing* “new” narrative on feminism.

  26. Liz

    Getting back to the Bechdel-Wallace Test; if that’s not too much of a derail. It’s no tthe basic rules so much I object. I too ant films in which women talk about stuff other than man. It’s the inanity of the parsing of films that it gives rise too that really makes me grind my teeth. Take this as an example: http://bechdeltest.com/view/3817/zero_dark_thirty/

    It’a a discussion about ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and whether it passes the rules. The writers are seriously dissecting the conversations Maya has to work out if talking about Osama bin Laden is a bad thing and if it means it doesn’t pass the freakin’ test. They need hitting with the clue stick; OBL wasn’t inviting Maya out to the high school prom. Look through this website and you’ll find endless examples of this rubbish.

    Does this tell us anything useful about the film on any level? does it even tell s anything useful about the representation of the female cjaracters? No. It’s film criticism in which you don’t have to engage with what the film actually does and how it works at all, on any level. It’s as stupid and meaningless as asking if ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a feminist novel. So, no I can’t go with you on this Tigtog. Writing like this about film is pure pig ignorance and it doesn’t do a thing to improve the representation of women in films.

  27. Kate

    Welcome back comrades! (Will my ancient avatar still exist, I wonder?)

    I’m with Helen (Balconey, not Razer). Razer annoys the ever-living crap out of me with her “here’s why I, a middle class white feminist, take issue with what these other middle class white feminists are doing taking issue with things that I don’t think they should bother taking issues about”.

    Maybe, just maybe, Razer should spend more time on the things she takes issue with, and less time berating other feminists for their issues. (And I am aware I am falling down a recursive hole of white middle class feminists berating other white middle class feminists etc etc.)

    I’m not a huge fan of DTJ either so take that as you will, but I suppose rather than boo-hissing them for not discussing the right things I think it’s more productive to actually talk about the things we want to see discussed. So let’s talk about single parent payments, about violence against women, and about media representations of women, all at the same time.

  28. Helen

    I never saw DtJ as something aimed at people like, well, the ones who write for LP. I see it as something for people who have not studied Cultural studies, Gender Studies or perhaps any kind of tertiary study. I also see it as being, not exclusively, but especially, for the younger ones. I think one needs to be careful to not be all “get off my lawn” about these things.

    The Social Justice Tumblr bloggers – I’m thinking of the US ones mainly – are very big on the “If you have not blogged this Thing, you have Failed” meme. But each and every one of them goes back to talking about some funny gif or some recording artist or art thing in every second and third post. (Why don’t they use EVERY posting opportunity for something important?) So, you know, it’s a meme I don’t take very seriously, because none of its exponents practices what she preaches, except that it’s so universally accepted and so infuriating.

  29. Helen

    SO nice to see your old avatar back Kate – and all the rest of you too *wipes away a tear, surreptitiously*

  30. faustusnotes

    Two points …

    1. Gillard’s misogyny speech was precisely one of those moments when Larvatus Prodeo’s existence was much needed! If the internet is to have laws, one of them should be “LP Is Not Allowed to Stop”.

    2. I think the language of “privilege” is a bit fraught when applied to a prime minister (well, I think the language of “privilege” is generally BS, but …). There are many reasons for this but most immediately:

    – to the extent that we accept the office of PM as a legitimate role in a democratic society whose workings we respect [I know some people on the revolutionary left don’t, hence the caveat] then the person in that office is being imbued with power by us well above any individual in society. The putative disabled black lesbian fetishized by the RWDB becomes in essence more powerful than Gina Rinehardt if elected PM. So discussion of their “privilege” seems a little out of place

    – the PM is also uniquely vulnerable in ways that other people with “privilege” aren’t, and this applies even to white catholic men like Mr. Rabbit. They are subject to special media attention on their private lives and simultaneous demands on their private lives that others aren’t. See e.g. Rabbit being asked that creepy question about his daughters’ sex lives, Jannette Howard being run through the press ringer. Given this, and the way that specific misogynist themes were being used against Gillard, her response in that speech was particularly important for all women who will take the office in future, and also relevant to all women working at any level of “privilege” in the community, since the problems she was reacting against were those that afflict all women in work, but writ extra large by her position.

    – this PM comes from a background that is not, by Australian standards, particularly “privileged,” and her career before entering parliament was spent strongly in defense of the under-privileged. Those who doubt that should watch her speech in defense of the AWU scandal: she regularly and obviously proudly references her work in defense of piece-workers in the garment industry. So the accusations of “privilege” in this case are misguided anyway.

    I really hate the word “privilege,” I think it is used by leftists in place of genuine analysis of power, and as a form of personal attack. But in this case even within its own parameters I think it is misused.

  31. patrickg

    Good post, Kim. Thought provoking. I think Razer’s piece and responses, etc in some ways capture some quite intrinsic…. hmmm, fault-lines? Schisms? Conflicts? Both within feminism and also broadly within a lot of political movements of every stripe.

    Most broadly, I think there is an eternal internal conflict in most political movements that revolves around the need for numbers through diversity clashing with the need for a unified and unifying belief system. Obvs this has been part of feminism for a long time, but equally so in the former Democrats most destructively – and every other party and movement.

    More specifically as it pertains to feminism, I agree with your analysis – and I find it interesting, as I had always posited this as a kind of clash between third and second waves in some ways (second = white, academic, essentially middle class feminism, feminism on behalf of others, notably lacking in racial analysis, context. Third = postmodern, obviously, but also bringing to bear a more overt racial and/or class context. Both with strengths, weaknesses, and overlaps).

    I kind of feel that kind of thinking – 2nd, 3rd waves etc – is almost hopelessly antiquated now, and reflects more about the (largely pre-internet) milieu I learnt feminism in, than the realities as they happen now.

    I suppose also this kind of dialogue is what happens when a heavily theoretical/philosophical political movement intersects with the realities of political movements “in the wild”, so to speak. Feminism as a philosophy has such a rich, complex history, it would be hard for any practicising movement to reflect that, I think – and also to resonate with people the way Destroy The Joint has (and, cant aside, I think the proof of this pudding is the way all major parties either lack or have dumped intellectual histories and contexts in favour of naked realpolitik).

    I certainly think it’s true that the feminist movement is a rich, varied, and disparate one, and also that there has been a tendency in the past for different representatives or facets of the movement to pursue a kind of tribalism or dogma about what and what isn’t feminism, and who and who isn’t feminist – and that those kind of in-group discourses can and have damaged the wider public perception of what feminism stands for, and who it’s accessible to – most young women I know (through work, at least) are uncomfortable being badged as “feminist”, and their ideas of what feminism means are caricatured and strange – to me at least.

    By the same token, I also think it’s true these debates and dialogues are important, and that feminism – or any movement – shouldn’t shy away from conversations about what they stand for and how they should advocate. Without those conversations, we never would have had the third wave, or (to my mind at least), the very important discussions around race (e.g Talking Up to The White Woman etc) that have informed a more global feminism, and strengthened the movement in the process.

    I guess it comes back to diversity and inclusiveness. By necessity, only the most generalised and basic goals can be agreed upon by feminists of every type. I think the folly comes from assuming one type of advocacy or belief necessarily comes at the expense of, or invalidates another – or that criticism of something renders it worthless.

    Thus, Destroy the Joint can be valuable, whilst also limited, and not “the whole story”. One thing, for better or worse, I have enjoyed about Abbott’s ‘popularity’ is the way it has really explicated these conversations about feminism and women’s rights into the national discourse, and I feel at least somewhat broken them out of a perceived white, educated, middle-class intellectual ghetto, and brought and urgency and universality to the conversations. Abbott – through his chauvinism – has if not raised the stakes, at least explicated them, and if more people are talking and thinking about these issues, even if they disagree, that’s at least something.

  32. Casey

    Oh, yes, Kate, I agree. I should say, I don’t much care for the way Helen Razer patronises other feminists. I would not be so easy to sweep away Anne Summers’ arguments for the female lipped urinals as misogynist with a lesson on art, as if Summers is somehow being ignorant. These urinals are women’s red painted lips and regardless of their inspiration, they have offended women’s groups elsewhere in the world, along with women’s groups in Sydney. I thought they were despicable. After all, there are not variants of the lips for the women’s toilets are there? And if these urinals are so unimportant why was Razer arguing in their favour, as pieces of art that everyone was too ignorant to understand, as she did right across Facebook and on Summers’ Facebook page.

    And I’m with you, Helen Smart, on the PM’s speech. It was a defining moment for Gillard and that was reflected in the amount of attention it got globally. Gillard has failed women in her changes to the Single Mother’s pension but one does not erase the other and you can criticise one and laud the other. If you start to disparage symbolic moments such as these then you start to sound like Howard with his practical reconciliation versus symbolic reconciliation. Both are important and one often paves the way for the other.

  33. patrickg

    If you start to disparage symbolic moments such as these then you start to sound like Howard with his practical reconciliation versus symbolic reconciliation. Both are important and one often paves the way for the other.

    Yup, for sure. I wonder, in some ways if the more acrimonious political dialogue has played a role there, all or nothing etc. The Press gallery’s despicably performance certainly did. Graphic demonstration of how out of touch they were, not just with most women and dare I say much of the public, but complete inability to assess the complexity that Gillard could be defender of and advocate for women’s rights, whilst at the same time hurting them.

  34. Mercurius

    It’s soooo nice to hear you all back. Thanks for the discussion.

  35. Myriad74

    @37 Helen,

    I can’t speak for Helen Razer but I haven’t studied women/cultural/gender etc studies etc. nor have I got a clue re:tumblr, so sorry if I’m missing the import of yr points there.

    I don’t make presumptions about anyone but I do know what I observed, which was that the revelling in Gillard’s symbolic speech entirely over-shadowed the cuts to single parents. Of leading feminists Eva Cox stands out as one of the few that spoke out pretty much immediately and said “nice speech but”. It’s been a bit of a relief to see others who have media platforms starting to speak up, but not to the extent it’s overshadowed their focus on Gillard & her sexist treatment.

    I have seen & continue to see far more analysis of Gillard’s treatment as a female PM than I’ve seen of the decisions her government is making and their material impact on Australian women & abroad. It’s worth pointing out that some of those decisions have been positive!

    Again, i think studying how Gillard is treated is entirely legitimate; but I just wish there was near the same level of analysis & campaigning from feminists on material issues.

    I’m a bit flummoxed tbh by the suggestion that DTJ is for feminist newbies, I can’t imagine people are suggesting that getting people engaged with how cuts to welfare disproportionately disadvantage women is too difficult.

    I suspect what’s a bit closer to the truth is that a lot of women are personally & rightly aggrieved by how Gillard is treated, and that engenders (pardon the pun) a level of loyalty that then makes skimming over the uncomfortable decisions in particular she presides over very tempting.

    Even if written as the equivalent of a slap with a cold fish, I struggle to see how it’s a bad thing for someone to suggest that the effort going into one area of the feminist project might be out of balance comparative to other issues, especially when one area is basically perception & symbol based and another has immediate & material impacts on thousands of women. Yeah it’s great that having a female PM is getting feminism talked about, why so terrible to have debate about where to place the effort.

  36. Myriad74

    For extra clarity on this- “level of campaigning on material issues” I am thinking specifically of the opportunity offered to harness something as popular as DTJ to tackle them. In Jenna Price’s response to Razer by far the most heartening bit to me was how DTJ successfully campaigned on Telstra free calls /victims of domestic violence. May it be a trend.

  37. Casey

    Casey, I don’t know that I find Razer’s style and persona all that appealling either, but I still think it’s worth considering the argument, minus personalities.

    I did though. Some of her stuff is obviously right – the essentialism stuff, for sure. Who could argue with that? Price addressed this btw and pointed out that Razer misrepresented what she said. But when she is done having a go, what does she suggest the reader do?

    You need to read some macroeconomics, bitches, and spread the fucking word.

    Come on. How about some detail, some more complexity than insulting your reader. Once sentence, that’s it. I’d like to hear how she thinks we can politicise women who resist politicisation? Like my gen Y niece who.does.not.want.to.know. about feminism or economic inequity or how domestic violence is an outcome of a patriarchal system which continues oppress women in each and every way it can. How do I spread the word to her? On the other hand, sometimes those things I call the symbolic moments just spontaneously overcome these resistances because they have a collective, universal resonance. This is obvious in the misogyny speech’s global appeal, for one thing. Also, so many women I know were heartened by it. I know a woman who is an Alan Jones lover, who hates Gillard, who I would call a willing agent of the patriarchy. When she heard Gillard’s misogyny speech, she was arrested, stopped in her tracks. Understood that Gillard’s complaints were reflected in her everyday experiences. Told me a story about knowing how Gillard felt, how just then she had been called ‘darling’ in a servo when she complained about something or other. Well in that instance, Gillard politicised her. She spread the word. The word was: sexism not acceptable. I had a lot of women tell me stories like that. Not all women felt that way, of course, but a fair few did and it was, for a time, reflected in the polls. Reflected also in all those Peta Credlin, Tony helped me with my IVF bottle stories in his fridge. Also, and this is important, the speech is contained in the record of the Parliament of Australia. It can’t fade from the palimpsest. It’s important for that alone. It’s just a start, a moment. All these things build and somewhere down the track, things begin to change. I really believe that.

  38. Casey

    Right. Sorry, er, I was watching a chimney?

  39. Casey

    Here is some more detail from Razer in the comments when someone asks her for specifics:

    “Labour rights. Childcare. Welfare justice. A science-based approach to violence. Stuff for which the State can and should be held responsible.
    lobbying. That’s the main course. The rest of the stuff is dessert.
    IN short, change the material conditions of lives.”

    Also “read a book, know about land rights”

    I wouldn’t disagree with any of this at all and there are many groups out there lobbying for these things. It is a good point that DTJ, with its numbers, could turn its hand to lobbying government on these issues and it could provide more detail on the structural nature of sexism and misogyny, although, from memory it has put up some posts to do with these things. I think she has something of a point when you read her comments (which are more nuanced) along with the post itself.

  40. desipis

    “Small minded self-righteousness, in my political movement?” — It’s more likely than you think!


    there is an eternal internal conflict in most political movements that revolves around the need for numbers through diversity clashing with the need for a unified and unifying belief system.

    The problem as I see it stems from the fact that the movement called ‘feminism’ (however you choose to define it) sits separately from, yet still within, a more general social justice perspective. Choosing to support it specifically necessitates that it’s acceptable to privilege or focus more on one dimension (gender) of social justice over that of others (class, race, etc). Once that premise is accepted, it’s just another step to choose to focus on some issues (women in leadership positions) at the expense of others (women in poverty). And once you’ve narrowed your focus it becomes easy to dismiss everything outside it as unimportant or ignore it all together.

    Which leads me to the main issue I have with Helen Razer’s view. If you’re going to get all high and mighty over the causes of poverty and violence, then get all high and mighty and loose the gendered perspective. If gender is considered to be an on going matter of social justice then it’s something worth examining in all areas of life.

    Where I think she has a point is the criticism of ‘fast-food feminism’. The constant point scoring and cheer leading as if social justice politics is some sort of sporting match is as obnoxious as an infomercial where the presenter actually believes in the cheap crap they’re peddling. The fact that the numbers keep ticking over doesn’t imply you’re doing something productive for society. That’s not to say it’s a phenomenon that’s unique to feminism. Though I do hope our society adapts in someway to minimise the capacity of the Internet to raise well-crafted piffle to the status of wisdom.

  41. Liz

    Desipis, you realise you’ve come into a space where people are talking about feminism and told us not to do so. Just as I’d predicted at the start.

    As for your criticisms; google ‘intersectionality’ and see what work feminists are doing about that.

    Razer’s aphorism that feminism is the struggle against masculinised violence and feminised poverty is a good one. If you want to see that play out in part, read the coverage of the Jill Meagher committal hearing. Man rapes and kills woman because he feels angry. Tell me why we shouldn’t talk about gender?

  42. patrickg

    But community organising and educating people about the material basis of issues is a different thing from running a FB page, etc. Maybe I’m wrong – I’m writing from a distance. But it seems to me that there’s a temptation to kinda keep the hits up, feel success is gained with more likes, retweets, whatevs, etc.

    As someone who works in Communications, I think you’re absolutely right. In my discipline, and the (creative) agencies and other departments I work with (marketing, for example), there is an oft-times mono-maniacal focus on “metrics”, but it’s frequently a real garbage-in/garbage-out kind of thing. In my professional circles, the focus is almost always heavily – heavily – quantitative, at the expense of any qualititative reflection, or broader understanding of statistics 101 stuff even.

    I believe the reason for this is that a) quantitative metrics are much easier, and cheaper, to get than qualititative stuff, and b) quantatitive metrics are much easier to paint as a success. Large numbers look impressive, agencies use them to justify future contracts, internal depts like mine use them to talk about the success of a program. Almost no one has any understanding of stats or proper metrics. Even things like sampling error are unheard of, and there’s no time or incentive to dig deeper, you’re on to the next thing.

    This overlaps with the whole “slacktivism” thing, and what I feel is the consumerisation of political action. Confusing awareness with action (one handwritten letter to an MP will have more impact than 10 000 likes on a page they will never see). Political action as buying something (either metaphorically as in liking a page, or often literally), an inward-focusing statement of identity. Poverty wrist-bands are the exemplar of this on every count I think. There’s the whole “pink” things for breast cancer, too.

    So in that respect, I think Destroy the Joint is a very modern construction, and it reflects its roots in creative and marketing agencies – and the current dominant activism discourse.

    This is all very negative, and I don’t mean it to be. I think awareness and these kind of campaigns can have a tremendous – albeit specialised – power. But they are the first step, and frequently mistaken for the entire journey. I feel like leftish circles would previously turn to advocates with strong backgrounds in literal organising of one stripe or another, unions or social welfare programs, or advocates like that to drive the rest of the journey. But as our media, its production and consumption becomes more atomised, party membership continues to drop and professionalise etc, I think there is a growing gap there.

    And we pay for it because I believe capitalists and other special interests are stepping in to fill that gap with their own skills in that area, and their own money.

    Indeed, I feel the way political action has been diverted into bland consumerism has actually been driven by those special interests as it sidelines genuine activism into something more like a personal, private hobby, as opposed to a collective, public act.

    Destroy The Joint helps with the public part (sort of, still don’t see them touching a lot of people they disagree with, bit like Get Up, ends up a mutual appreciation society), but really falls down on the
    _meangingfully_ collective part, I think. It’s not enough to know about something, what are you doing about it? Get Up’s answer to this was “sign a petition, or pay for an ad”, which I feel is exactly what politicians and special interests want. We have forgotten the power and immediacy of what happened all over the world in 1968, I think, or perhaps after attempting it to stop Iraq it was just too depressing.

  43. Helen

    1. Why is there this perceived need for a monolithic feminism?
    2. Where is Razer’s evidence that women who enjoy DtJ’s hazing of entitled dudes don’t also advocate for macroeconomic reform and other things?
    3. Why is it always the fault of the left in general and feminists in particular that we don’t have the society we want, when the neoliberal and corporate world still hold most of the money, power and media clout?

    Also, why is there always this idea that it is particularly a feminist thing to contribute to wider social justice ideals? Let’s hold ALL “leftish” movements to account. Sometimes, this just smacks of the same old thinking, that it’s womens’ job to look after others, therefore feminism must be intersectional but antiracist, media freedom, socialist, atheist, environmental or other reformist/revolutionary groups don’t have to be.

  44. desipis

    Liz, I wasn’t telling anyone not to talk about feminism or gender. My point is that analysing within a feminist framework is not a holistic approach to morality and justice. That includes what I’ve seen written under the label ‘intersectionality’. Yet when looking at DTJ and the Razer criticism of it, that seems (to me) to be the way feminism is being used.

    When tackling issues of poverty or violence of course it’s important to look at the way gender plays a role. But not everyone can focus on issues of poverty and violence; there are plenty of other things to do in life and other social justice issues to advocate for (e.g. leadership or the media). In those areas gender can also be an important consideration and hence also a worthwhile topic. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on one particular part of the whole, but that doesn’t make it OK to go around being self righteous about the choice to do so.

    If claim is that making a material impact on people’s lives should be privileged over addressing more abstract social issues, then I guess I see gendered perspectives as fitting into the later and question why someone who argues such a point is concerned about them in the first place.

  45. Liz

    despisis, do you really think that gendered perspectives aren’t relevant to the material considerations of a person’s life? Look at issues of poverty and violence in women’s lives. Feminism addresses those issues, directly. As to the more “abstract social issues”, they can effect women’s material considerations. Symbolic actions can also be highly powerful cf: Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’. Different feminists are going to in work n different ways and I don’t see that that should be a problem. As Helen pointed out above, feminism isn’t a monolithic movement.

    You did ask us to “loose (sic) the gendered perspective”. That’s asking us not to talk about gender.

  46. patrickg

    Also, why is there always this idea that it is particularly a feminist thing to contribute to wider social justice ideals? Let’s hold ALL “leftish” movements to account. Sometimes, this just smacks of the same old thinking, that it’s womens’ job to look after others, therefore feminism must be intersectional but antiracist, media freedom, socialist, atheist, environmental or other reformist/revolutionary groups don’t have to be.

    I’m not sure if this is addressed at my comment or not, but just in case I should be clear: I’m not arguing that it’s feminism’s responsibility to any one thing in particular, per se, nor that it should be ‘responsible’ for looking after others on the left etc. I was just pointing out that many of these challenges are not unique to feminism, and are something a wide diversity progressive movements and progressives struggle with.

    I don’t think feminism ‘must’ be intersectional, but I think it’s hard to refute that it often is. I personally think this has been of great benefit to both feminism and whatever movements it intersects with, though I acknowledge others don’t feel that’s the case.

  47. Helen

    No Patrick, not at all addressed to your comment specifically, I think it’s a malaise affecting the discussion worldwide and and interesting topic I sadly haven’t had time to blog about yet.

  48. desipis


    Perhaps I should make it clearer that I was restating what I thought one of Razer’s points was, and identifying what I saw was a logical conclusion. I was doing this as a way to criticise the point, not to agree with it.

    do you really think that gendered perspectives aren’t relevant to the material considerations of a person’s life?

    I see ‘material considerations’ as things such as having food, shelter, health, safety, etc. These are universal human factors that affect individuals and I don’t see them as inherently being a gendered issue. If you want to take a step back from these and examine the way social structures cause, change or exacerbate these issues in a gendered manner, then I think you’re getting into ‘abstract social issues’. Hence I don’t agree that aspect of the issue as more worthy than looking at the social structures that have a gendered impact on leadership or the media. That’s not to say that ‘abstract’ issues can’t or don’t ultimately have a material impact on peoples lives, they’re just not material in themselves.

    Take for example the recent move to shift single parents onto Newstart. I see that as a ‘material’ issue because it’s cutting money for people and their dependents who are already struggling financially. When you focus on the material issue, single moms use the same currency to buy much the same things as single dads so I don’t see the materiality component as gendered. The gendered aspects of the issue are that society is structured such that women are more likely become single parents or on welfare, and that women can be disadvantaged by the political processes that lead to the change. I don’t see addressing these aspects as having any more direct material impact on peoples lives more than addressing structures that affect gender in politics or the media.


    Let’s hold ALL “leftish” movements to account.

    Couldn’t agree more. However, if you accept the basic premises behind intersectionality and stand point theory, that will take a great deal more listening than preaching.

  49. Liz

    Desipis, I think you’re making a false division between material and social issues. It’s not coincidental that women are poorer than man. It’s not coincidental that women suffer more from domestic violence, suffer more from rape than men do. These aren’t abstractions. Gender is absolutely central to why these things are the case. If you choose not to talk about gender, none of these issues will change.

  50. Helen

    And to say that bringing up gender is making discussions of poverty and inequality LESS holistic, you need to look up “holistic”; it’s bass-ackwards.

  51. desipis

    Helen, I wasn’t saying that bringing up gender makes its less holistic, of course gender is part of a holistic view. I was saying that focusing on gender makes its less holistic, or at the very least less balanced.