We just received a very provocative e-mail from someone who's obviously thought a lot about some of the issues we talked about in our Re: Power, Structure, Agency episode. However I disagree with many of her points and since she's posted at various places around the internet I thought this would be a good opportunity to respond in order to clarify where we are coming from. My responses are interspersed in dark blue:
To: The Pinky Show
Subject: 'Class Treason' show lacking hugely!
[I] wrote the following on youtube, and on Facebook:
"I have some issues with this instalment: the attention aimed at women (who reinforce but are not the power-brokers in the system) and the focus on personal change (too-minimally challenged), and the trashing of theory. But most of all, the absence of class consciousness - "all classes of people just looking out for ...their own interests"??? WTF? Pinky - of all beings - just presumed a level playing field? OK, at just short of 18 minutes, it gets better. But I still hate the invisibilizing of working-class people."
In all fairness, the people who comment well on classism are ... either dead or not born yet? but since we're all in bad company, it'd be useful to challenge the worst of our offerings. And I suppose if you-all weren't so exceptionally good under other circumstances, I wouldn't be SOOO disappointed. But I am.
Soccer moms? These moms' SUVs? Yes! Because *women* are murdering the planet with their heavy industrialization, these goddesses of capitalism! (No, we were a one-car family until I had to carpool to the alternative elementary school, a decent option for a working-class family - and even soccer was carpooled-to. But even so, those other moms? They didn't singlehandedly trash the world. And my contribution meant nothing - it's *industry* that does 97% of the polluting, and all the moms in the world doing zero-waste processing still don't account for the 97%.)
College means something very different for working-class people with activist backgrounds. It's still problematic, but it's about the only way to get recognized by those who otherwise won't listen. I'm an activist. I write fairly awesome political theory, from which I work diligently. I have one fan, maybe two, in Seattle. I now have the attention of the head of the Gender & Women's Studies department of the local college in this small midwestern town - the college where I work as a clerk in the convenience store, so that my daughter has lowered tuition and can earn a degree that gives her credibility when she goes out to make social-justice change. I know how far I can get. Um, did I mention cashiering? I can't guarantee she'll have better access, but it gives her a shot at it!
What really frustrates me is the presumption that you're only talking to the elite. Facebook, especially, is full of working-class activists who are either retired from their w-c jobs or are winding down into greater activism. The one person who's commented on FB so far (and to whom I gave your link) is a retired gentleman several years older even than me, and decidedly working-class as well. Please don't render us invisible! We exist! And please don't paint us as ineffective, either. There are lots of us, and though the media writes us off, we don't expect it from 'our side.' Please.
Posted by Bunny.
May 12 Update, posted by Bunny: We receive a lot of criticism via e-mail. Most of it is ridiculous and not worth responding to, sometimes it is more thoughtful (like the e-mail above). I responded to diana's comments because I think it's very important to examine how something can be thoughtful and wrong at the same time - especially when spoken by someone on 'our side'. We received a reply today and so I am adding it below - if we're misogynist and classist then hopefully it is all more fully explained. Or this may be an example of how difficult it is to recognize or understand other arguments once we've claimed the positions from which we speak. Either way, the struggle continues. - B.
May 12 e-mail response from diana: "Everybody ... should be critiqued." Yeah, well, sure, if you're writing a book. But if you're not, then singling out certain people, and making others invisible, these are terribly political acts - for which you can expect to face the consequences. And targeting soccer moms, or any other group of women, is downright coerced, because the cultural feeling against women who've relatively made it is too easy to tap into. It's misogyny that makes it so easy. Target CEOs and senior execs? Well, no, rich white men don't get the same kind of indignation that wealthy/ish white women do. And "individual agency" - seriously? You've simply renamed 'personal change.' And you haven't added much, because any genuine foray into personal change will still examine it, if briefly, in relation to the structures of the culture around it. The reason my claim that you trash theory is even made, above, is because you have previously regularly used and promoted theory that was breathtaking in its clarity; I recommended Pinky to people *because* of the excellent theory. The fact you 'use it all the time' is a straw argument. And your 'where did we say that' right next to 'the section of the video you reference' is an odd pairing, showing that I really have told you 'where.' But most of all, to say *clearly,* if in essence, that 'all classes of people are just looking out for their own interests' truly flattens the perspective and renders invisible a great deal of dissimilarity in privilege and power. You can't choose not to speak about a group, and then leave it at that. That is exactly what renders a group invisible.
You know, I really don't want to do any more of this. You've been a great resource for gently explaining theory at a depth few others, short of authors of thousand-page books, have managed. You hit upon two of my areas of disprivilege, and I called you on it. Let's don't spend time arguing. Take a look at your own stuff, and either you'll see it over time, or you won't. I found this episode terribly, oddly misogynistic and classist, and way below your normal standard. I keep the bar pretty high for you guys because your show is normally so very good. Everyone - every single one of the people I initially posted to - knows that I have recommended your show repeatedly. And now are they gonna see your defensive response with some pretty weird claims back at me ("quote out of context ..."), and my challenges? Doesn't help clarity; doesn't help dialogue to have to engage in defensiveness. You can keep the last word (or not, your call). What I don't want is to drift toward a more-horizontal hostility. We eat each other up on the left, do the dirty work for The Powers, in getting locked into such engagements.
Take a look at the stuff I've called you on ... over time (and no, you haven't, it's in your defensive words). Or don't. But the revolution, or life post-collapse, or whatever it is we're all looking toward, will be much richer (in real wealth - Earth health) if misogyny and classism are also understood, and not furthered, and not accepted-in-passing. Thanks, diana