On Defeating the Kyriarchy (post 3/3)

Consciousness raising is critical to any attempts to overcome kyriarchical thinking, but it needs re-envisaged. Traditional consciousness raising of the type which became popular during second wave feminism concentrated on examining the oppressions to which the recessive group were subject highlighting to other members of the group their oppression. It is for the radical to examine their own oppressive practices and behaviours. As a member of a privileged group – whatever that privilege may be in any particular circumstances – it can be both an enlightening and humbling experience to examine the oppression which you perpetuate. Developing an oppositional consciousness, allying ourselves with the oppressed and encouraging others to do likewise is a more productive strategy than consistently fighting the other from a position of weakness.

Where oppression is felt most keenly it Is for the oppressed to take liberation, rather than requesting it – no matter how militantly – from the oppressors. To do so is to take risks, the privileged do not readily give up power unless practicing an active strategy of oppositional consciousness. Dominant hegemony cocoons the privileged from awareness of their oppressive practices – by forcing issues, actively seizing power and supporting others from the group which do so is to bring the power differential to the fore. Such a strategy can only be reacted to by an acceptance of the power seized or an escalation in tactics of domination. Rosa Parks is one of the most inspirational examples of this – by simply refusing to give up her seat to a white woman, defying the racist instruction from the bus driver, she seized the power that was hers all along. Within an activist community such an escalation of domination exposes hitherto unobserved power structures.

Separatism can be a productive as a method of exploring broader power structures where one element of oppression has been eradicated. As a long term strategy however it is doomed to failure as its descends into a retreat into the illusion of a safe and unthreatening environment cocooned from the oppression of everyday life. The alternative is radical inclusion. Most commonly associated with burning man and liberation theology, radical inclusion seeks to actively welcome diversity in all its many forms. Within these traditions, radical inclusion upholds the narrative of inclusion of the “outcast” or “freak” – those who would usually be shunned within wider society; within an activist tradition, that inclusion must be doubly radical. Rather than shunning those who display characteristics of domination, to welcome them while upholding non-kyriarchical values; rather than withdrawing ourselves from sites of oppression to actively enter them and challenge.

Anti-kyriarchical thinking takes the activist beyond the narrow notions of binary oppressions, situating the source of identity based power structures firmly within ourselves and our communities and allows us the room to challenge and overcome them within spaces in which we have control – most obviously ourselves.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. scottbw
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 21:33:55

    I like the idea of radical inclusion, and also the flipping of the coin from “you’re oppressing me!” to “who am *I* oppressing?”

    Though “oppressing” is a pretty crap word and open to ridicule beyond the sociologically-minded. Maybe instead ask “who isn’t included?” or “what am I doing that could make others unwelcome or not speak up?”. (This is the sort of question asked a lot in the open source community, which despite being generally inclusive in its approach still doesn’t have great diversity)

    An interesting example of Radical Inclusion was the outreach from pro-Islamic groups like Cheerleaders Against Everything and BMSD to EDL members, though as usual there is more than meets the eye here.

    Personally I think that “the left” in general has been terrible at practising radical inclusion, with many operating on the assumption that ignoring the perspectives of the rest of the population is the only worthwhile strategy (i.e. a kind of separatism). That kind of echo-chamber thinking isn’t challenging kyriarchy, just changing who sits at which table. (Incidentally, this was basically what pushed me out of the radical left back in the 90s to being in the political awkward squad)


  2. mhairi
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 23:06:48

    I think the challenge is to balance the competing tensions while still maintaining values. It is far easier just to do a little bit of “othering” when you come across values you dont like.

    Years ago when the asylum seeker was killed at Sighthill in the midst of racist tensions there was a section of the left which ran around the estate calling the locals Nazis. Utterly fucking counter-productive.

    This was/is a poor area, that the council got money to refurbish on condition that they took asylum seekers, the locals saw the refurbishment and quite understandably felt resentful at their damp homes and rotten windows. The left should have made links with the indiginous population, understood their resentment and helped them focus it on the right places rather than alienate them as the “racist other”.


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