My title is deliberatively controversial (incite-full?) because I think the issue should be on fire. At the international women’s day event at Rhizome which I attended accidentally, the feminist-anti poverty discourse seems to have coalesced like this: (this is written from the perspective of the 1st person speaker enunciating the position of feminist anti poverty discourse. No one person laid this out, it’s a combination of agreed upon points from the entire evening)
a) The state is absolutely against the rights of women
b) The state’s values are to support those who have, rather than those who have not
from a and b – female women are the most worst off because of the way the state has constructed society
c) The welfare state is in a time of radical decay
from a and c – we can no longer rely on the state, we need to fight it’s injustice and construct our own alliances because dependencies on the state keep us poor and disempowered.
d) We’re very strong, noble, and deserve to be equal. Also we’ve accomplished a huge amount and have strong voices (seems to contradict c and a? and b?).
NOW – before you all cry fowl and say that state isn’t absolutely against the rights of women, I’m going to put it out there that I believe every one of these points has truth to it, I do generally believe the state is entirely the enemy of justice, and needs to be abolished. Whether you agree with that or not, however, is not important to my case – what is important is that the task of justice is conceived of as 1) an imperative and 2) an impossible, or at least seemingly impossible task. I believe this to be the case.
However, if you noticed how strange d) looked in relation to the others, this is because it takes the position of “redemption” – “We’re fucked, but it’s going to be ok because, or we shouldn’t give up because”. Redemption is the opiate of the weak. It’s an up note, and it’s important to end on an upnote, but what the feminist movements needs is not to redeem itself for what it’s already done but rather to have direction. Now, it’s not surprising that there was no real direction laid out in the meeting, because what direction can you take against the hegemony of an evil state – it’s an impossible task, right? Wrong – it’s an impossible task because you’ve conceived of yourself as a soldier in battle, a soldier in allegiance with others with common interests. It’s a Marxist discourse.
What is required is strategic intervention – pushing points, pushing people’s buttons at the right places and the right times. Inverting the discourse from within itself. The discourse of the state is a) immensely powerful (easily powerful enough to collapse itself) and b) fraught with its own undoing. What is required is not to fight against ideology because it is untrue, but rather to operate within ideology, undoing it from the inside. The Punk “fuck you” discourse will always have a place, but it should not co opt all the voices which could be having a far greater effect moving from within.
“Within”, however, doesn’t need to mean within the mainstream discourse. It could mean moving within sub cultures which spread across mainstream populations but only come into being a certain activities or festivals.
Put differently: the feminist discourse talks about “healing”, and healing is great. However, the healing is happening currently on the level of the field hospital in the war in which women are the soldiers. Medicine needs to move from the field hospital to the puppet hospital, and strategically intervene in the sickness of discourse at large, everywhere (not just on the DTES).