Sunday, April 30, 2006

Snobbery and middle class paternalism

So there's been a little bit of a local shitstorm going down in Wellington over the last couple of days. I'm going to have to give you the run down so you can understand the point I want to make, sorry if it's a bit labyrinthine.

A small group of men have organised a peace camp to protest a possible invasion against Iran. A friend of mine went down to visit the camp, and was disturbed by the fact that the men there seemed to be talking about women as objects. He wrote an e-mail to people who might go down to the camp, just so they could bear it in mind.

So far, so sensible. Then some anonyous commenter took this e-mail and put it up in indymedia, complete with a fairly ridiculous response:

The paternalistic behaviour is obvious: I'm an organiser, and I have experience, and I have the right to tell you how to behave at this sort of event because you come from outside the sanctified political scene. Moreover, the class roots of the sexist attitudes exhibited by these organisers is completely ignored, and once again the enlightened middle class are ever present to advise the morally depraved working class of how to properly behave.
His (to take a small step, and there conclusions are) argument appears to be that objectifying women is part of working class culture, and therefore middle-class men are exhibiting 'classist'* behaviour if they call working class men on treating women like shit. The title comes from the indymedia post, but could be much better directed at the indymedia post.

I can't decide what makes me most outraged about this argument. Obviously only a priviledged little shit would say that objectifying women was part of working class culture. The idea that it is class that causes men to objectify women, rather than living in a misogynist society, is ridiculous and patronising. As if middle-class men didn't treat women like objects.

The other implication is that women don't matter. It's far more important that working class men and middle class men bond, than either stop being misogynist. It's nice to know where the priorities are.

I'm reminded of a story from the New Left in America. An SDS man was giving a talk about organising among working class communities in America. He was talking about how consciousness raising it was when he was out with these other guys and they were balling a chick together. So a woman put up her hand and said "What does it do for the conciousness of the chick?" Legend goes that a women's liberation group was started on the spot. But legend is wrong, because women were already organising.

*I've already written about the stupidity of that term here

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this is definitely an example of snobbery. What this is saying is that working class men are ignorant peasants who can't be expected to know any better, and that is a terrible form of classism.

    It reminds me of a story I read in a great book, can't remember the author, called 'Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress'. Anyway the story went that there were two assistant teachers working in an American preschool. One of them heard a young African-American boy using the word 'Ain't' and rushed to correct him.

    The other teacher took her outside and reprimanded her for her 'racist' descision to interfere with the child's 'natural speech patterns'. The first woman naturally responded that the only racist thing would be encouraging a misuse of English from an African-American child that she would not tolerate in her own son, and that the boy would not likely get into Harvard using his 'natural speech patterns'.