itisiwhowillit

unadulterated ranting, it's cathartic.

Month: August, 2013

how not to treat mental illness.

Trigger warning: ableism, sexual assault.

I keep coming across two attitudes towards those with mental health issues, both of which cloak themselves as progressive, yet are incredibly ableist in their implications.

The first is that people with ill mental-health are out of control. They’re incapable of being reasoned with, incapable of being rational agents, and ergo incapable of being held accountable. This paints us all as crazed maniacs who are a danger to everyone at all times. Essentially, it lacks nuance.

The implications of this are severe. It means our contributions to discussions and in fact to the world are ignored (after all, they ARE completely illogical). It means where we do make bad decisions, say bad things, and even be cruel or abusive to the people we care about, we’re not held accountable. Nobody tries to help us. Instead, we’re just seen as beyond help. Nothing will change until we’re better (if ever we are) and that’s just a matter for the professionals. It’s not as if support networks, allies, and the faith people invest in us are ever helpful.

Once I was sexually assaulted by a man. It had a pretty terrible impact on my life (I offset thinking about how much it has fucked me up by thinking ‘but at least it made me an anarchist’). People defended him by saying that he ‘wasn’t well’ and that he’d ‘always been that way’. This kind of behaviour, this unwillingness to hold mentally ill people to account for their actions gives a green light to abusive, but ill, people. Mental illness can be a reason for many terrible things those with mental health problems do, but it must not become an excuse.

Don’t treat us like we’re incapable. We are not.

Conversely, you get the complete denial/ignoring of someone’s mental health. This leads to a lack of sensitivity, and judgement without context. This attitude ignores how profoundly a mental illness can affect someone’s life.

Essentially, a middle-ground needs to be recognised, because both of these extremes are not only dangerous but offensive to those with ill mental-health. The difference between differing mental health problems needs to be recognised. Someone suicidal will act differently from someone with an anxiety disorder. Their friends, family, and broader support networks need to recognise the specific issues said person has, the specific support they need, and the specific ways in which their mental illness manifests itself.

It requires people to be perceptive, it requires people to be forgiving but also for them sometimes to be harsh. It’s difficult, but until people with mental illnesses aren’t treated either like non-human crazed entities, or have their battle with their own brain ignored, we’ll never get anywhere in creating a safe environment for both those with mental health problems and those around them.

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Manarchism, or, how to hurt a man’s feelings.

The past couple of days, I’ve witnessed a few guys feeling really quite upset and hurt by words like mansplain and manarchist. They’ve churned out the same few tired arguments, and undoubtedly cried themselves to sleep after all that victimisation.

But what is a manarchist? How do you mansplain? 

1) a manarchist is an anarchist man who seems to have missed the ‘destroy patriarchy’ memo. They dominate spaces, manipulate women, dismisses identity politics as ‘divisive’, and, if they’re a particularly bad breed, pray to the Holy Church of St Julian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nucx1L1MkPo If any of that video feels familiar, you’ve met a manarchist.

2) mansplaining is the phenomena where men dismiss the years of  patriarchy women have dealt with, all in the name of That Great Book They Read. Has a man ever told you what feminists ‘should’ be doing? Has a man ever told you you’re doing *it* (whatever ‘it’ is) wrong? Then congratulations, you’ve been mansplained!

So, why are people opposed to these terms? 

Exhibit A) ‘these words tie sexism with men, this creates gender division!’ 
rebuttal: Ah, yes, gender division is women’s fault. We’re absolutely the ones reducing the value of our labour and making sure men rape us. Patriarchy is all women’s fault for using a couple of silly words. Or not.

And yes, sexism *is* tied with men. Just as racism is tied with white people, capitalism with the bourgeoisie, and so on. Men are the beneficiaries of patriarchy, and everyone needs to recognise that. Even ‘non-sexist’ men benefit from patriarchy, and that can’t be forgotten. This isn’t to say men are the only perpetrators of sexism, of course people of every gender can say misogynistic things, but they hold less power in society, and so the sexism that they reproduce is less powerful. Anarchists are supposed to have a thorough understanding of power-relations; if this is a point they care to ignore/dismiss then they’re not doing anarchism all that well.

Exhibit B) ‘it’s alienating! How do you expect people to listen if you’re just mean to them!’

rebuttal: This is another argument set out to make liberation politics palatable to the oppressor. Yesterday, I read a comment on a Libcom thread that said if a woman ‘interprets’ a man’s behaviour as dominating a space, and she says ‘hey shut up stop being a manarchist’ he wouldn’t, but, should she say that he’s spoken quite a lot and we should listen to other contributions, he’d agree, and thank her for raising the point. If the way an oppressed person communicates something to you is enough for you to discount it, you can’t have cared that much in the first place. Plus, this smacks of the ‘ask nicely and we, the gate-keepers of liberation, will allow you to have a concession’ liberalism that defends the brutalisation and criminalisation of those who dissent for their rights.

Exhibit C) ‘This just means that people who are oppressed in x way get the final say and they might be wrong!’

Rebuttal: usually, when women say ‘thanks for mansplaining me’ it’s in a context of women being lectured at by people who have never experienced x manifestation of patriarchy, yet think they know best. It’s the fetishisation of knowledge gained through books, and the complete dismissal of lived experience. Well done, you’ve completed a module in gender studies, and you learnt about the suffrage movement in school. If you don’t experience an oppression, reading is a good way to gain understanding of the system that creates oppression. That doesn’t mean you can empathise, or that you know how to magically eradicate it. Self-organisation is fundamental to liberation.

Perhaps you *were* told you mansplained unfairly, perhaps you were labelled a sexist unfairly. Perhaps. But, chances are you said or did something shitty to provoke such a reaction, and you feeling victimised and crying that you’re absolutely not a sexist at all isn’t the best move, is it? Perhaps just a ‘sorry, I’ll think about it’ will suffice. And do go think about it. Think about, even *if* you were labelled x, y or z unfairly, why that happened. Had the person had a shitty day? Had their oppression got them down, got them cranky and pissed off with people who are their oppressors? Being told you’re a mansplainer’s probably not a fraction of what that person has had to deal with in their day.

Exhibit D) ‘Mansplaining is just used to shut debate down!’
Rebuttal: This might come as a surprise to some of you, but the entire existence of women isn’t to debate patriarchy. Not everything in the world is a debate, and the debate is a pretty patriarchal form in itself. The end point of a debate should be to communicate x idea. Instead, male gate-keepers of ‘debate’ are demanding that the communication of ideas be done in their form. They want a nice calm tone, statistics, and LOGIC. Because humans systems, and human feeling are entirely rational and logical, and everyone is capable of being polite at all times. Except they’re not.

Also, is there really some huge problem of hoards of misandrists running around closing down debate and dominating ALL THE THINGS? If there is, I’d really love it if someone could point me in that direction because I’d love to join in. Or, is the problem still men requiring that women should ask nicely for their scraps?

Exhibit E) ‘you’re basically saying an oppressed person can never be wrong’
No, I’m not, you just lack nuance. Oppressed people can be wrong, and they can also be dicks. But, essentially, living with x oppression can make you a bit of an expert, and we listen to the opinions of experts, don’t we? Except when they’re women. It’s not that they ‘can’t’ be wrong, it’s just that they’re probably right, or at least that there’s an element of truth to what they’re saying that you’re closing down by demanding you’re totally right about everything because of that book you read or that woman who agrees with you.

What you’re also doing here is pretending that there’s only one ‘right’ way to do things (that you’re obviously aware of). Different approaches are pragmatic in different contexts, and with different people. But, again, our entire lives aren’t devoted to pragmatism and you should stop demanding that of us.

Exhibit F) ‘It’s ad hominem!’
yeah, I guess it is. But human interactions don’t work along lines of logical fallacies because human systems aren’t logical. Living with x or y privilege will shape the way you see the world, the way you think, and the way you act. Our body is fundamentally tied to our thoughts. Our lived experience is fundamentally tied to our thoughts. How the world views you will shape what you think. If you disagree with this I suggest we have a neuroscience/embodied cognition 101, which I’m happy to provide.

To conclude:

Essentially, men who have a problem with the term manarchist are little shits who feel victimised because women have created language to explain a kind of oppressor. Your feelings are hurt because you’re absolutely not a sexist and it’s offensive that women insinuate you are one. Because you know more about sexism than the women you’re hurting. Manarchist is a silly, fun term used to describe a particular kind of prick. It’s a shared reference anarchist women have, because of a shared experience anarchist women have. If this offends you all I can say is oh fucking diddums.

And, if you’re offended by the term mansplain, what you’re actually probably offended at is the fact that women don’t care as much about the opinion of a man as they do a sister when we’re talking about patriarchy. But actually, women devaluing the opinions of their oppressors is fine, because they’re the people who keep them in this mess and who benefit from their oppression. Your gender studies seminar is not comparable to years of sexual assault, street harrassment, low pay, objectification, tone-policing, and so on. And you should just accept that. Okay?

Please, feel free to leave lots of nice manarchisty and abusive comments. I don’t moderate them anyway.