Sunday, October 23, 2005

Misogyny as culture?

At the CTU conference there were three delegates from the Australian CFMEU (Construction, something, mining and something union). They're a left union, more militant than any we've got in New Zealand. But I couldn't go near one of the younger guys without him starting having a conversation, not with me, but with any other man who happened to be around me, about how women liked to be called 'love' and 'sheila', and because they have two XX chromosomes they were OK with being defined by him as the sexual other.

I'm not going to write about how fucking depressing the sexism from men on the left is, nor am I going to focus on how there's no way the workers can unite when some men refuse to believe that women are people.

As I was walking away from this conversation he said "hey I've had to listen to your culture for two days, now it's time for some of mine, love."

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. I was talking about this interview with an Iraqi woman and how depressing I found it that Iraqi women had to deal not just wiht the invasion, but with Iraqi men, and he said "I guess they feel their culture is under attack."

Culture? I don't believe the ways men treat women to control them, big or small, violent or non-violent, as a total system of organising society, or just a random statement by a drunk guy, are about culture, I believe they're about power, and we need to recognise them as such.

Every system of organising society that we have record of involves relationships of power and control. I do believe that cultures, different ways of doing things, are worth fighting for, but the power structures within them are not.

I'm not saying I'm the ultimate arbiter of what is culture, and what is power and control. But what I am saying is that we need to make the distinction.

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