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Archive for the ‘Property Status’ Category

White Privilege is a Thing

As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.

Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.

… Specifically referring to white privilege.

Now, I want to make two things clear:

1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.

2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.

Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.

It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.

That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.

The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.

The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.

And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.

I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.

The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!

The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.

Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.

The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.

Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.

That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.

They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.

And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.

So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.

And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.

Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.

In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.

That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.

Hunting: Dom/sub

Hunters are one of those groups that no one really feels neutral about. Fauxgressive carnists hate hunters because the regressive carnists love them; even the halfassitarians—whoops, I meant to say vegetarians—adore hunters because they can “respect” their ability to “look their food in the eye.” Which is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard; if you think you’re perfectly justified because you have a big manly, uh, gun, you’re going to be able to look whoever you want in the eye and tell them, “Yep. I am perfectly justified in doing whatever the fuck I want,” without a trace of goddamn irony.

And as someone who lives on $25/week for groceries, you have absolutely no place to be telling me that they hunt for food. If you have enough money to buy and maintain a gun license, a hunting license, a good gun, ammunition, safety gear and a vehicle to take you into a hunting range, you so have enough fucking money to eat goddamn beans. You didn’t grow up with a family that needed to hunt—you grew up with a family that wanted to hunt. Beans provide more protein than the human body even needs and won’t give you diabetes, and probably not cancer, either. Meat does not have any magical properties, especially if you’re claiming you’re an omnivore, who are very traditionally scavengers, not predators. Okay, do I need to cover anything more? Okay, good. Go argue with someone else about how you need to hunt because you are a magical protein-deficient fairy (that also happens to be, just as magically, not an animal). That bullshit doesn’t fly here.

More to the point, I want to cover the rise of the hunter ideology by a cross-section on property/submissiveness.

Defiance of power creates a backlash; this is a pretty big fucking reason for deference among all the inferior classes—nonwhite, nonmale, prepubescent, etc. Watch anyone who’s never been enrolled in any military training converse with a cop; the difference between how they’d treat a “normal powerful person,” and how they’re treating the cop is startling. When someone can really fuck you up, you spend a great deal of energy showing that you are not worthy of their backlash—you’re still obediently conquered. No resistance here; you don’t need to apply any pressure to get me to obey.

That’s how it goes. The conversation between the average person and a cop is just all threat politics writ large: you get nervous and you get deferential because this dude can fuck your shit up. It’s the dynamic of fear, where one person has nothing to fear and the other person has everything to fear.

But the same submissiveness that white men try to effect on everyone else in the world is also counterproductive to one rule of Patriarchal Physics. Also one of the most important ones: thou must continually prove thy superiority by dominating others.

A submissive target is a good one for reinforcing power roles amongst your peers—gang rape, lynchings—but it simply won’t do when you need to keep asserting your dominance. Someone who will just lie down and think of England isn’t fun to torture. When you prove your power, you need to break their soul—although their body can do just as well, provided no one will care if you keep them alive or not.

So you go hunting.

No one cares when you hurt and kill property because straight-up property will never fall in line with the kyriarchy; they’re either incapable of it due to language barriers, as with non-human animals, or they’re just slightly isolated outside your realm of social influence, like children. Patriarchy is a religion that has three tiers: one, for the elite class, is orthopraxic—it matters how you practice. The second is orthodoxic—it doesn’t matter how you practice, because you have no power; what matters is that you believe. If you’re on the second tier, you’re partially property, but because you admit you’re property, you have some limited means of protection. Maybe. Provided you don’t go thinkin’ silly things like that you have a right to your own body, and to not be raped or forced to bear children whenever someone of the elite class wants to stick his dick in a hole.

The third tier is at the bottom: they’re the infidels, the unbelievers—the ones who will never, ever fall in line with the kyriarchy, so you get to kill and rape them at will. Hell, breed them and then sell pieces of their corpse so that other believers can feel they are drawing strength and vitality from their flesh, having a fucking mystical experience where every cell in their body is coming alive.

Although you may never reach the status of not property, there are degrees of property status—not that lesser degrees protect you in any meaningful way, because they’re still property; but they protect you from the other second-tier denizens and allow you to abuse the third tier with impunity. For the first tier, abuse isn’t an opportunity—it’s a requirement. You have to keep on subjugating people, violently, and even as fucking ridiculous as patriarchy gets, unless you can get off on it? Punching someone who’s just submissively letting you isn’t impressive.

It is more attractive to dominate (through whatever means, be it rape or killing) someone who will not submit to your ideology—who won’t internalize the belief that they are inherently not worthy of not being abused—because someone who submits is easy prey, a nice wife you keep locked up at home. The patriarchal ideal of domination, though, is that you must assert your power and dominance successively. You can’t stop doing it or you’ll lose your place of power in a ranking system where there is no place for “equals,” only rivals: those you must beat out or they will beat you. FYI, this is where we get the “stupid hypothetical question” shit like, if you had to choose between a 200-year-old tree and a mosquito, which would you choose? In patriarchy, there is. no. in. between.

The kyriarchy is a proselytizing religion: you convert and you slaughter the infidels, though it doesn’t really matter which you choose. Columbus raped, tortured, mutilated, and massacred Caribbean natives, in ways that I couldn’t even come up with in my worst nightmares—he did it as sport. He made his hunting dogs tear them apart. Literally, to him, his atrocities were sport—hunting. Fun. Entertainment.

The Americans did, and are still doing to a degree only limited by population size, the same thing. You went huntin’ those Injuns, so you could scalp them and bring back a trophy. White men hunted them down, unarmed, so they could score “points.”

You know, I’d run a slideshow of every single invading army ever to happen ever, but unfortunately I have no idea how I’d embed that on the page. But if you don’t get my point by now, you need to go back and read this post from the beginning, and keep doing it until you understand.

Patriarchal power rests on the basis that you will go out and deliberately and intentionally violate others to maintain your kyriarchal ranking. However, you can’t do that to the people who are already submitting to you, because you need to use force, not coercion. The more an inferior individual submits to you, the higher a “personhood” status they get, which also means that you can’t violate them except if they try to defy you. So you go hunting.

Fat, Brown and Animal: Being Other

When people want to insult a fat woman, they say, “she’s such a cow.” Well, and even if she doesn’t fit any cultural definition of fat—though it’s usually accompanied by a verbal illustration of how said Cow Lady is fat-like, e.g. she breathes heavily or is clumsy. Similarly, a man who’s fat is said to be a pig.

Insults aimed at fat people have more to do with the inferiority and deficiencies ascribed to animals than they do with humans or body fat. A cow is supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy and gluttonous. Pigs are also supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy, gluttonous and messy/filthy/unclean. Are they any of these things? Probably not to themselves, or another pig or cow; they are to us because they are patently not human, though, in a similar way that non-Westerners are assumed to be immoral, filthy, scheming and/or barbaric. They refuse to play by our rules, because they don’t look and act like us.

Am I getting this through yet? Patriarchy, as we know, is a proselytizing religion: infidels are to be converted or used as hunting-sport with which our patriarchs can prove their masculinity by destroying. As is heterosexism; the Abrahamic West imported homophobia (as well as misogyny to a large degree) into Japan as it did with leftie hatred into China as did the Romans import a new and even more abusive form of slavery into Kemet. White westerners have very typically assumed that because they were, well, them, their culture, their beliefs, their history, their politics and their actions were better than anyone else’s, ergo anyone who differed in any of these things could be justifiably enslaved, imprisoned, killed, ripped off, or just generally treated like crap without qualm or consequence.

Carnism is a proselytizing religion, too. I have never met a carnist that, hearing I was vegan, didn’t try to convince me that veganism was too extreme, too privileged or too unhealthy. (Naturally, you want to defer to people who personally and economically benefit from carnism on the subject of veganism vs. carnism.) WIC emphasizes a diet heavy in dairy and devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by the same hand gets rid of a good amount of the unsellable dairy in the country. Heifer Int’l imports the European reliance on animal products into poor, non-white, non-Western (UK, US, AU) regions, starving them by taking away food, poisoning them by introducing nonhuman-to-human pathogens and parasites, and rapidly increasing the speed and spread of desertification through killing off grazing foliage and drinking enormous amounts of water. I shouldn’t have to go further. The subversion of non-Western cultures by the Western Three relies a great deal upon the importation of animal product-heavy diets.

At the same time, patriarchy didn’t get as far as it has by merely vilifying and maligning women. It had to convince men (and women) that being a woman was a horrible fucking thing to be, since they were so… inferior and childbearing and yucky. Part of the slanderous misinformation against oppressed groups was making sure that those who weren’t oppressed wouldn’t sympathize too much with them, or they might be them. So too with animals. Animals are routinely used as a placeholder for every vile human on the face of the Earth: they’re animals, they say, like animals construct fucking rape prisons. I’m not arguing animals are innocent or pure or whatever; I’m just arguing that they haven’t constructed a proselytizing culture that actively traps, imprisons, and punishes those who don’t fall into the “right” categories and belief systems, so they haven’t given themselves nearly as many opportunities to fuck themselves up. Trust me, were, say, finches doing what humans were right now, they’d be just as fucked up too—although I guess that presupposes that you can do what we’re doing without being fucked up.

Effective oppression requires that you not just place the oppressed group within a property category, but that you convince anyone not oppressed just how unworthy of help they are, and how much like them—and therefore a target—you will be if you actually try to do anything meaningful for them.

And if they want to treat you like property, all they have to do is compare you to someone who’s already property. Fucking listen to me! If they want to treat you like they do animals, all they have to do is compare you to fucking animals.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have imprisoned and forced to labor have been compared to farm animals and beasts of burden? Pele’s exploding tits. Black people were shown off at what were essentially latter-day livestock shows. Black people were said to be animalistic: stupid, large, clumsy, lazy, gluttonous—like cows. Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have wanted to exterminate have been compared to—drawn as—”pest animals”? Japanese, rats. Ditto for Chinese. Vietnamese, dogs. Mexicans, rats, dogs. Arabs, snakes.

Snakes, rats and dogs—animals who have committed the mortal sin of refusing to stay still and be exterminated because humans wanted them to, making them Incomprehensible!

How can people be this stupid? Do I really need to spell it out for you? Fine. Oppression of humans will never be fully eliminated without taking down carnism—the idea that animals are just fine to use as property and the actions underlying it—because there is still that fundamental exception. Carnism is the basis for humans’ belief that it is okay to treat someone who experiences their life as property.

It is a fucking excuse, and you fucking know it, or you would actually educate yourself about veganism, and not from carnists—people who benefit, personally and economically, off of carnism. You got exactly no right to be angry at me for tellin’ you the truth: were we in a different time period, you would be just fine with doing this shit to a given group of humans, because you believe this is okay, period.

Away from 101, back to fat. When someone is compared to a given animal group (quarry, farmed, pest, pet, and another group that’s “beautiful” and worthy of their habitat), the stereotypes from that animal group pass over to the brand-spanking-new fucked-over human group.

Fat people are compared to farmed animals: pigs (hogs), cows. Implicitly, then, fat people are what these animals are supposed to be—as I mentioned up at the beginning of the post. I am not saying these assumptions about fat people are justified—in fact, just the opposite, because I don’t believe those assumptions about animals are justified in the first place. Oppression justifies oppression. Farmed animals are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to do this to them; fat people are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to consistently fuck them over and shame them, etc. etc.

No oppression exists without another to precipitate that. Funny, that. Also, as an aside, humans are alarmingly unoriginal if you look at the history of oppression in the world.

Before I end this, I want to note one more thing, and that is another similarity in perceptions of farmed animals and fat people: they are seen as unimposing, impotent and non-threatening. Despite the fact that farmed animals are actually quite dangerous to humans in ways that suggest we wouldn’t be hunting them in natural circumstances, they’re essentially seen as ridiculous because we were able to dominate them. Fat people, too. A fat man, furious at being treated like an immoral, lazy eating-machine, only comes across as comic relief—a fat woman comes off as even less impressive than that, the most impotent and powerless of them all.

Oppression is oppression is oppression. Human oppressions are only branches of this oppression: carnism is the trunk from which all human oppressions are justified, and property status and human supremecism are the roots. I’m going for the roots. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell out of my way while I’m swinging my axe.

The Monolithic Oppressed and “Consistency” in Product

A female-bodied friend of mine related to me something that happened to her the other day. She’d been waiting outside at the bus stop and one of her neighbors had come by; he had a friend with him. Apparently out of the blue, this neighbor turned to her and asked her, “You know how when a girl is raped the cops can tell because the vagina tears?”

My friend, understandably taken off-guard, responded, “Uh… sometimes…”

He insisted, repeating the question again. She repeated her response. Then, while he kept looking back at his friend, he explained that a neighbor of theirs had said one of their mutual friends had molested her. My friend’s neighbor didn’t believe her; his friend did.

“I wanted to tell them that they should believe her, because I’ve been there,” she told me later. My friend (who has given me her permission to post about this) has been raped before—but it was a “nice” rape, a father of a friend’s. He claimed that she’d “seduced” him, and… well. His wife told her that if my friend ever came near their house again, she’d call the police and have them arrest her.

No one believed her because she didn’t “act right.” She was punk in the first place, so “maybe it was some adolescent rebellion thing.” Or maybe she was just “a slut, you know how some cliques are.” And anyway, if he really did it, “why didn’t she go to the police? Why didn’t she tell someone?” Followed immediately, of course, by a parade of women saying that if they’d been raped, they would have gone to the police because, well, you can’t let them get away with it, now can you?

The neighbor kid didn’t know because she’d never told him. She got tired of being triggered every time she told someone because then they’d ask her those questions. She got tired of feeling like no one was on her side in the world, so she made a deliberate choice to not bring up the issue that would make her know they weren’t on her side.

“I figured it was a bad idea to like, go up to ask ‘Hey, are you really my friend or not?’ Because I never like the answer.”

What was worse was that her neighbor was asking her because she was female-bodied: he was trying to see if she bought into rape culture, if he could use her as leverage against other women. He was using her to cover his dick.

She told me it made her feel like he was violating her again by using her as a tool to dismiss someone else’s violation. “Basically,” she said, “you know how Carol Adams talked about the experience of rape victims being just, made into meat? Like objects? That doesn’t stop. We’re all just meat if some guy wants to use us that way.”

And it was an excuse to say that she wasn’t really being made into meat—she was just “crazy.” It was a bad excuse, but the flimsiest of lies will be seen as true if they defend rape culture.

Both of us know that checking for vaginal damage is in fact very rare, and largely occurs on Law & Order SVU, not in real life, a lot like the rape victim balled up in the corner crying. It’s an insidious form of rape culture: a “real victim” stereotype. No True Rape Victim goes out at night, or doesn’t starve herself to death afterwards, or doesn’t try to scrub off her skin in the shower. You think that trauma is something that makes you stop dead and just cry endlessly in the shower.

Me? I kept going to school; I kept functioning; I barely knew I hurt at all. Because my trauma was emotional, not physical, because I didn’t have bruises and broken bones, no one ever said something was wrong so I just thought it was… normal. And it was normal, to me: I barely existed. I didn’t feel hurt and I didn’t feel anything else, except an occasional thin wisp of amusement. Your body and mind is not meant to deal with ongoing suffering.

My friend said the same thing. “I just stopped feeling anything at all. No one wanted to see those feelings, anyway. I felt like I was intruding into someplace I hadn’t been invited if I got sad or angry or upset.” She said she became more like a robot than a living thing.

I felt happy and free and joyous every single day I lived in a tent, using my wits to get food for myself and my friend (and the neighborhood cats we made friends with)… It was world-changing. Those of you who have never had that experience, especially those of you suffering from a mental illness, don’t understand what it’s like to be happy, in totality, to have the thoughts and the feelings and the dull hard numbness just gone.

But even then, a month after I was forced back into civilization—into shelter—the memory of that freedom faded into only the palest idea that it had once existed. I only remembered that I had felt something much different, but I couldn’t tell you its heft, its color, its flavor, its quality and substance.

This is what trauma is like for the vast majority of people—it’s this hazy, heavy absence of self punctuated by sharp, stabbing pain. Anxiety. Triggering. Sadness. Loneliness. Worthlessness. Self-hatred. Rage. After a while, you can’t feel anything else anymore—you can’t envision a way out. Maybe it’s a blessing; maybe the memory of sunlight and ripe fruit would sharpen the hellfire of the brand and make us go insane. Nature isn’t cruel; there’s no reason for it to be, and plenty of reason to minimize pain and to not trap you into it. That’s also the driving behavior of trauma—that it is pain you can’t get out of; you’re trapped. Eventually, like the hum of electronics in the background, you just become numb to it.

But the lie that rape culture tells us doesn’t mimic reality, and so makes sure that as few people as possible are “genuine” victims. True Rape Victims do this, or that, and they’re virgins, and they’re good adherents to the patriarchy, and they would never have done anything to deserve male violation. Survivors are never allowed to be people: as Other, they have to be monolithic, because the more monolithic a group is, the easier it is to dismiss it. “Mother Nature” is monolithic. “African-Americans” is monolithic. “Children” is monolithic. “Animals” is monolithic. You can insert these words into your arguments and never have to ever question the assumption that the people that make up these groups are individuals that require an abandonment of exploitation—prison, pens, pastures, classrooms—in order to do justice to them. As people.

It’s a measure of the privilege afforded to white straight men that “white straight men” feel the obligation and right to protest when someone says anything about “white straight guys.” They tell us that not all guys are like that—that not all men are rapists, not all porn-watching men are sexually predatory, that not all white men are racist. They are also afforded the privilege to not have to prove it with actions instead of words: white straight men are assumed to be people—and actually, personhood is primarily defined by these visible social indicators. You can’t say all white straight men are like that—indignation, outrage—but you can turn to a woman standing at a bus stop, minding her own business, and ask her quite casually if she thinks that stabbing a woman through the soul is acceptable, assuming the entire time that if she says yes, then she is All Women, Everywhere, Because A Woman Said It; if she says no, then she’s just strange.

Meat is an object to be bought, after all. You should always shop around to try to get an object that meets your standards and specifications and, you know, it’s quite easy to find those if you look—all acceptable meat follows the same pattern. As an object—as someone transfigured into a number of objects—you, the consumer, are always the one whose whims should be obeyed and indulged. You can certainly pretend the meat wanted to be there, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Since meat shouldn’t argue back.

“I Paid for You.” Capitalism’s Inherent Property Ethic

Even amongst the less capitalist circles, there’s not a whole lot of talk about the totalizing objectification created by a system run by exchange. Pretty much everyone understands the basics of classism: that you’re perceived as being inherently worth more and a better person if you’re richer, and given more opportunities based on that, whereas the reverse is true if you’re poorer. In other words, socioeconomic class is perceived as a reflection on one’s personality in capitalism in a similar way to beauty in medieval Italy. The richer or more beautiful you are/were, the better a person you are/were.

Yeah, that’s basic. And pretty obvious. But classism is inextricable from capitalism in another way—and ageism, racism, and sexism insofar as these groups are capitalistically disadvantaged, too—because, to put it gently, our entire system is based on the value of currency given to anything in general… and it invades everything.

There’s a particular transactional model of oppression that states thus: the more money that others have to give you in order to support your survival, the less you are worth and the more you are owned by them.

You see this everywhere. Look at the anti-welfare crap going around; look at the anti-socialized medicine crap going on in the U.S., the fire being rained down on unions in Wisconsin and Indiana, the sabotaging of jobless benefits. Resentment is bred because the people who feel they are “paying” for these things without benefiting feel as though they’re getting ripped off—because they’re having to buy something without getting to benefit from it.

When you look at it from an item perspective, it makes sense: if a store charged you for items you didn’t buy (and therefore didn’t get to use), you’d be pretty pissed too. It makes sense, except for the fact where we are talking about peoples’ lives instead of an actual object.

… But thanks to capitalism, the monetary value assigned to someone’s life and/or quality of life is the signal that they are property—an item or a product that you are having to pay for without being able to use.

You know those old “jokes” about how wives are merely bad prostitutes—they take men’s money and then don’t even put out in return? This is why. They are being “paid for” as products, but the men, their “purchasers,” don’t get to use them at all. This follows other forms of oppression, too—ageism, for example. Literally, by paying for their children, parents feel an entitlement to force/abuse them into doing something just so because they are effectively buying them.

A person becomes a product when a monetary value is assigned to them for whatever reason—their survival, their quality of life, maybe just a momentary indulgence. It even applies to employers: Aslan, at a previous job, would be stocking about $20,000 of product every night—usually mostly on zeir own, too—but zeir manager wouldn’t even let zem get fucking overtime. That’s another problem with the product-purchaser capitalist worldview: it brings into play the “natural” desire of a purchaser to get the most for their money.

This is endemic, too, unless and until we cut the line tying someone’s survival and basic quality of life to a monetary value. Food, shelter and water must be upheld as basic human rights, inalienable, such that they cannot be sold unless they are luxury products—as with exotic fruits like passionfruits (in some places), animal products, several kinds of sweeteners, sodas, prepackaged “junk” foods, etc. Outside of luxuries, whole foods are your right. So is shelter. Until capitalism falls or compromises, you will be objectified just by surviving.

What Does Life Say About Those Who Die? Submission and Ventriloquism

I found an article on Gary Francione’s blog, The Abolitionist Approach, a post entitled And What About the Four Other Dogs? In it, he talks about how five dogs were scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter; four died, but one—a puppy—was found to be still alive after being given two lethal doses of euthanasia medicine. The dog’s survival was posted by a veterinary technician on a pet adoption website, and hundreds of people over North America began clamoring to adopt the dog.

He asks, as with the title, what about the other four dogs? The ones who didn’t make some kind of miraculous escape?

This story is similar to the stories about farm animals who escape from slaughterhouses and are then given homes to live out their lives. They, too, are “special.” They escaped from the institutionalized exploitation that we have established. They have cheated death.

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

This is true. I have heard exactly this kind of “argument” used against veganism, although I last encountered it several years ago, perhaps because the most obvious inaccuracies are hard to ignore: “If animals cared about not being killed, why don’t they try to escape? [Kidnapped African] slaves did, after all.”

That’s paraphrased, but I did not actually add in the part about the kidnapped Africans. She put that in on her own. There’s the obvious problem with the argument, which is that many animals have escaped and that slaughterhouses are built to prevent that from happening—a la Temple Grandin—but then there’s something else wrong that she didn’t realize. The fact that most kidnapped Africans did not try to escape, or successfully escape, was used as evidence for the idea that slavery was perfectly fine.

I. After all, if the kidnapped Africans really objected, they would be escaping, successfully, in droves. II. After all, if she really felt it was rape, she would have fought him off. III. After all, if she really didn’t want to be beaten by her husband, she would leave him. IV. After all, if he really didn’t want to be bullied, he’d fight back or go to a teacher. V. After all, if zie really felt zie was getting cheated by zeir boss, zie would have sued. VI. After all, if zie doesn’t want to be poor and starving, zie would have gotten a job. Et cetera.

This is a variation of the No True Scotsman No True Rape Victim fallacy—the idea that if someone being oppressed really thought it was unjust, they would fight back against it. And they would win. But the idea of the Iron-Willed Escape invalidates not just those who can’t imagine fighting off their abuser—it invalidates the people who do successfully manage to fight off their abuser, too. Rape victims are discredited because, given that he didn’t really manage to rape zem, he’s still Shrödinger’s Rapist and therefore, not really a rapist. The question is always, “But how do you know zie was really intending to hurt you?” because any resistance against power is always seen as fundamentally unjustified.

Thus, if zie was able to fight him off, zie couldn’t really know he was actually going to rape zem—he didn’t, so therefore he’s not a rapist! But if he does succeed in raping zem, then it wasn’t really rape because zie failed to fight him off so zie wasn’t really serious about not wanting it… so therefore he’s not a rapist!

That’s what rape culture is. That’s what victim-blaming is: placing the onus of rejecting violation on the victim instead of the violator. It is Lierre Keith‘s perfect philosophy because, no matter what, the oppressor is never to blame for oppressing. An abuser can’t be held responsible for their actions: you just let it happen. You just let him sell away your children. You just let her beat you. How were they supposed to know it wasn’t okay if you didn’t force them to stop?

“If you don’t like me hurting you, then you shouldn’t let me hurt you.”

The oppressor becomes invisible and the oppressed becomes solely responsible for their own oppression. If they don’t like it, then they should have tried harder to keep it from happening. Somehow, the abuser is never held responsible for their decision to abuse and never expected to actually treat anyone like people. The victim is portrayed in a black room, empty save for zem, shuddering as an unseen hand batters zem—something that is assumed, because of the absence of any visible perpetrator, exists entirely in zeir own mind, that zie is submitting to. A personal pathology. An individual flaw. No atrocity to see here, folks; move along.

You should perhaps question why it is easier to hold the victim responsible than the one who victimized zem.

I draw together all these examples not to show similarities between different forms of oppression, but to show how all oppression is fundamentally the same. Oppression and its justifications are all the same—they’re utterly unoriginal, just a repeating pattern of the same thoughts, the same arguments. Every carb-starved fuckneck thinks that “but plants are alive too” is a unique and compelling argument against veganism, and so does every porn-addled fuckneck think “women’s choice” is a unique and compelling argument against anti-exploitation, consideration of abuse, capitalism, coercion, reality. Then they wonder why they keep hearing the same rebuttals in response, over and over again, and conclude that those desperately trying to scrape their way out of a fucked-up, oppressive world and into a new one, those people simply have nothing else to offer.

It’s the other way around. Being aware of oneself requires an accounting of one’s bigotries, one’s life, one’s actions. It requires a vicious, snarling demand for self-inflicted honesty and ultimately, honesty requires change.

In a society that wants to view oppression as normal, as neutral, as right, it becomes much easier to blurt some self-indulgent nonsense and let yourself fall into the ensuing applause.

To Be Property

Part and parcel of property status is maligning the intelligence of the property class: their experiential, emotional, and mental capacity and complexity. Everyone assigned property status at any point in the world has been said to be simplistic, not in control of their actions, incapable of grasping or using dense logic.

Slaves were—one of the justifications for making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write was that they were incapable of learning. (Apparently it makes sense once you’re dealing with enormous cognitive dissonance; whatever.)

Women were—they had to maintain entirely domestic lives to prevent the atrophy of their frail ladyparts, and also to prevent their descent into violent, frothing craziness. (Which I have to wonder, were they just tired of laying back and thinking of England?) Except for poor women, anyway—the “lower classes” had no problems of the sort because, well, they were lower class, and already had those labels applied to them.

Speaking of, working class people were said to be like that—even now, our stereotype of a McDonald’s worker is completely unsympathetic: a vacant-eyed, slackjawed imbecile flipping burgers with a limp wrist.

Children are supposedly inferior, which only holds up as long as you refuse to take into consideration a) adult dissociation from their childhood and b) that not being able to argue effectively in a language you’ve only had a few years to learn, especially when everyone treats you like you’re fucking stupid, might make accurate results a bit hard to come by. Animals are supposedly inferior, too, in the same ways children are—driven by instinct; impulsive; simplistic and lacking in logic. The idea that animals are inferior falls prey to a lot of the same problems, too—but the one I want to talk about here is that believing they are stupid, crazy, and untrustworthy solidifies others’ power over them.

This is not some convoluted fucking theory, either, that makes you feel like you have to be on drugs to see it clearly. You have to believe that their thoughts and emotions are inferior and unworthy of being taken seriously because if you didn’t do that, you wouldn’t be able to keep doing this shit to them. To feel justified in consuming a cow’s corpse, you have to believe that the cow’s experience wasn’t worth taking seriously; to feel justified in forcing a child to eat that steak, you have to believe that the child’s experience isn’t worth taking seriously.

Zie just doesn’t know what’s best for zem. Pele’s erupting tits, that has been heard for centuries. Let me point out:

Crusades: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Conquistadors: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Native American Genocide: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
U.S. Slavery: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Women: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Farmed Animals: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Et fucking cetera. No, seriously, white fucks actually argued that slavery was a good thing because otherwise black people would just run around being violent and tribal and natural (omfg!1) and crap and not knowing what was good for them, and it was up to the Good White Christian Men to kidnap them and submit them to horrendous lifelong multilayered torture to break their spirits for Jesus. And that runaway slaves didn’t say anything against slavery itself, because guess what: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Obviously, there’s that lingering, strikethroughed “Us” right before the Them, unspoken but not unheard. It’s present in every rape, every unspeakable act of violation on another’s body and soul. You just don’t know what you want; you don’t even know your own mind, and that’s why I get to do this to you without feeling a twinge of empathy or regret. You just don’t know that you’re perfectly fine with this, you stupid dog.

This needs to be repeated to you, over and over and over again. Whether it has to do with women, non-human animals, indigenous peoples, children, it does not fucking matter, you need to fucking understand this: the property status came first, the justification after.

It was not: “Animals are, like, retarded, so we’re gonna feel just dandy playing tiddlywinks with their social structures before killing them.”

It was: “We want to play tiddlywinks with animals’ social structures before killing them. Not because we need the food, mind, because there’s plenty of that all around us: we want to because being able to subjugate someone means that you are powerful, and we want that power. But, um, we’re gonna feel pretty shitty if we actually consider their feelings like the non-predatory species we are, so… They’re retarded! Take that, conscience!”

It was not: “Women are simplistic and irrational, so we get to own them and rape them whenever we want.”

It was: “We want to own women and rape them whenever we want… and women are simplistic and irrational, so we are perfectly moral in doing so. God/Science/Nature/Darwin/Psychology says so.”

Part of privilege, part of oppression, is being brainwashed into thinking that it was the other way around. Because if the justification came first, the oppression has a reason to exist—that’s rationalization, right there. It’s never been true, but if the oppression existed for a reason, then you have your reason to disregard it and continue the power structure.

DNA is a damn good self-perpetuating system. But I think oppression may be a little bit better—because even when it’s eating you from the inside until you’re an emotional and ethical cripple, you’ll continue on. Even when you’re killing vast swaths of your habitat and your community, you’ll continue on. And when someone gives a damn good post underlining why those prejudices you hold aren’t trustworthy, you’ll use the prejudices themselves as an argument for why they shouldn’t be listened to.

That’s fucked up, man.

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