It should be a given that sexism and misogyny have no place in progressive political movements. They have no place anywhere in our society, of course, but progressive movements should take extra care to root out sexism as they attempt to model the type of society with which they wish to replace the current one. This is not controversial; it’s the bare minimum of what it means to be progressive.
Last week, Brittney Cooper, a professor at Rutgers University and contributor to Salon.com, spoke on a panel at the Brecht Forum in Brooklyn, New York, on the concepts of “ally, privilege, and comrade” when building coalition across social justice movements. By her account of what happened during this discussion, the theme of the evening was completely undermined. At the Crunk Feminist Collective blog, she writes:
current embrace and subsequent rejection of comedian Russell Brand as revolutionary savior for another example, or take a quick scan of Twitter to watch the interactions between progressive men and women of all colors to see how sexism is either found acceptable or ignored when men’s politics are otherwise laudable. But that shouldn’t be the model we follow. We should constantly challenge the sexism and misogyny of our peers (and ourselves) if we are truly committed to progressive change. We shouldn’t allow it to get to the point where we’re reacting to assault and then patting ourselves on the back because we would never do that. Revolution requires more work.
“I learned a lesson,” Cooper writes, “everybody wants to have an ally, but no one wants to stand up for anybody.” We especially don’t want to stand up when it means our own power and privilege, no matter how little we are afforded, may be stripped away from us. Men who talk a good game about revolution but continue to be invested in the perceived gains of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny not only do a disservice to the movements they part of but also, more importantly, the people for whom they claim to be fighting.
In New York, Connecticut and Ohio, students are demanding an end to gender violence.