Friday, October 30, 2009

Which came first: gendered division of power or some other division?

[this is an image of the quilted artwork of Susan Brubaker Knapp, and the image was found here]

A commenter here offered the following (see "Shaukat said...), on a topic which I realised doesn't really have a "home" here, as it's not a subject I'm that interested in discussing, as it tends to become highly intellectual in a way that academically brain-trained people enjoy while allowing us academically trained white men to not confront atrocities directly, with direct action, such as rape and genocide. There's a place for conversing about such matters, of course. I'm just not sure I want my blog to be that place. Ironically, the link Shaukat shares below is from a blog I used to comment at years ago, Feral Scholar.

But I left it for good when I realised it catered to white men's privileges and entitlements to put down women of color. I felt many of what the white Leftist men were saying, that was sexist and racist, never should have been approved as comments to begin with. But that was his blog, and this is mine!

Here I wish this space to be very welcoming and safe for radical women of color. And, beyond that concern, nothing is more boring to me than theorising a past that cannot be known, especially through lenses which refuse to see gender as anything but biological and not own how being white informs the viewing of societies that are and were not. Such is not exactly the case with Joel Kovel, however, some of whose writing (theorising) appears below. It's his whiteness, more than his manliness that he doesn't seem to be able to overcome or come to terms with, or understand.

Here he argues that there was a time where humanity mutated not genetically, but socially-politically, in the context of male raiders taking females hostage thus introducing force and violence against women into societies where such raiders existed.

Here's the commenter's remarks:

Shaukat said...

Not sure if this is the right place to post this (feel free to move it to a more appropriate entry if you like) but the linked article by Joel Kovel is, I believe, an excellent piece that attempts to uncover the origins of patriarchy and male domination, the origin of which he locates in the sexual division of labor. Would be interested to know what you think.

Here's the content of that URL, minus typos and many of the comments there, only some of which I'll copy and paste below:

Section entitled “The Gendered Bifurcation of Nature” (pp 118-121)

[Already with the unnecessarily "studious" lingo. Academics love to show off.]

The first map of the human species was drawn according to ‘him’ and ‘her’, in that produced configuration of sexuality known as gender. Gender is the original dividing line within humanity; all constructions of humankind, whether within humanity or between humanity and nature, are inscribed by it. There is nothing more ‘material’ (to the common origin of words, material and mother). Sex is of the earth, and the primary dividing lines between genders were between earth-transforming labor. From this matrix (there is the root again) arose the beginnings of domination, and all future dominations, including that effected by capital, are shadowed by that of male over female.

This is not an exercise in politically correct male-bashing, but the recognition that the history of domination would be radically incomplete unless the role played in it by the construction of the masculine gender were acknowledged. The actual origins must remain shrouded in an impenetrably distant past. Nevertheless, everything that is known (though all too often ideologically denied) about the human species compels the reconstruction of the following, which we state succinctly and according to the ideas already developed about human nature, so as to bring us to the essential points:

* In the original, hunter-gatherer, phase of society, the first differentiation of labor occurs according to sex, generally speaking, with males hunting and females gathering — along, needless to say, with their work of reproduction. Note that this labor produces the gender itself, and that its origins were a genuine differentiation, with mutual recognition, fluid social relations and self-determination. Such can still be seen in the cultural remnants we have of these peoples, and by the reconstruction of the quality of self-experience derived from it: the ‘dream-time’ of Australian first peoples, the wandering of souls, the manifestations of Trickster, and so forth.

* The phase encompasses the great span of human prehistory, and entails a great range of human-natural transformations, including the domestication of animals and the origins of agriculture. Though without domination, the original division of labor set forth males as the takers of life and females as life givers. Moreover, the death-dealing tools of the hunt, and the fact of its often being carried out by roving bands, prepared a way for something worse.

* Here a sporadically occurring event may be certain even though no concrete first instance can be brought forward. Its agent was masculine, not as individual hunter, but as a subset of the collective; a group, or band of hunters. Its stimulus would vary, being composed however of internal as well as external forces, the latter being, say, a threat to survival, such as disease or drought, which compelled a search for new resources; while the former was a function of the psycho-dynamics of the male group. In any case, the event in question was the transformation of a hunt into a raid, with the object being not now the obtaining of food and skins from animals, but the expropriation of productive labor from other humans, taking not the life of another creature, but the life-giving and building power of one’s own kind.

* This necessarily involved the seizure of women and children from a neighboring collective. We would suppose a threefold violence; killing or driving off the males from the attacked collective, denying the self-determination of the seized women and children, and the forcible sexual violation of the captives.

* This act was a profound mutation in human being. It created a whole new conjuncture, which in time became a structure. First, the possibilities of exploiting another’s labor are introduced, always in the direction of male over female. Second, the potentials for enduring social divisions are grounded in this, again male over female; these are to extend forms of the hunting band, to the warrior band, and to the ruling class, with any number of intermediate and modern variations, such as the Vatican Curia, the NFL Superbowl champions, corporate Boards of Directors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Politburo, and secret societies like Yale’s Skull and Bones. There is a sense in which the whole world has been run by male groups since the beginnings of history. Third, the genders are further produced by this, with sharply opposed identities constituted by master and slave. And fourth, violence — physical force along with the culture glorifying this — had to become institutionalized in order to hold on to what had been stolen.

* The structures imposed by the original seizure of female labor had dramatic expansive possibilities. Social violence entered the lists of the dangers to which societies are exposed. The violence invited retaliation and/or defense, and it came to define ever larger social aggregates with expansive dynamics, as each particular group underwent a compulsion to achieve power relative to others. Internally, the drive toward power caused struggles for leadership and social control. The result, after innumerable twists and turns we are unable to detail here, was the emergence of the Big Man, the Chieftain, the King, the Emperor, the Pope, the Fuhrer, the Generalissimo, and the CEO.

We would emphasize again that these principles would variously be applied across a vast range of situations. There is no need, either, to imagine a single such event radiating outward to encompass the rest of humanity. But what has to be underscored is the absolute dynamism of this event, and the fact that it amounted to a real mutation of human society as potent as anything in the realm of genetics. Out of the nexus of original male violence arose codified property relations, as a way of holding onto what had been taken: hence the notion of legitimacy follows that of violent seizure. Similarly, the institution of patriarchy emerged, as a system of apportioning women and assuring ownership and control over children — a never ending dilemma for a man who sows his seed and moves on, as the Big Man must. Property, in this sense is not primarily that which attaches to the self, like clothing and jewelry (although in stratified and wealthy societies, the control over personal consumption is quite significant), but rather the power of producing — and re-producing — life and the means for life. The control over labor generates civilization, and this originates in the forcible control over women.

It follows that domination and property are gendered from the beginning. This means that a basic alienation is introduced at the foundations of society — alienation being the reflex, at the level of human being, of ecosystemic splitting. The dominant male identity is formed in this cauldron. From the beginning, its reference point is the other males in the hunting/warrior group, with whom it associates and identifies; coordinatively, it comes to shun and deny recognition to the subjected female. A purified male-Ego comes to define the dominant form taken by the self, which enters into the exfoliating system of splits constituting the emergent civilization. Subjectively, this alienation becomes inscribed as a progressive separation from the body, and from what the body signifies, namely, nature.

A polarization between the human and natural worlds ensues, with masculinity occupying the human (=intellectual, far-seeing, spiritual, powerful and active) pole, and femininity the pole of nature (=instinctual, limited and body-based, inconstant, weak and passive). The gendered bifurcation of nature has been set going, to configure the relations between genders, and between humanity and nature, all the way to the ecological crisis.

I'll put in a few comments from the original blogsite, to show how such conversations tend to go, if they go at all. Please note: Stan is the blog's white male moderator. Peggy is a regular white commenter there and her background is in anthropology and feminism. If she's reading this here--hi Peggy!

And then there are the others... white dudes with little to no feminist consciousness:


This is the most retrograde piece of writing I’ve seen in a while. [...] He/she naturalizes the violent domination of women by men. There is no substantiation for his/her claims about human prehistory.
16 November 2005, 12:48 am

I'm not sure that is what the piece is saying. Pointing out something that used to happen in the past, even the pre-historical past, is not ‘naturalising’ it, merely reporting it. Part of the whole point he is making is that there is nothing ‘natural’ (or unnatural) about human behavior, despite its having grown up unconsciously. The very fact that our reason can identify trends within human development, and critique whether they are positive or negative, as well as posit alternatives, means that the subjugation of women by men (a historical fact) is no more ‘natural’ or defensible than thinking brown cords are less fashionable than blue jeans.

His claims about human prehistory do seem to be based on deductive reasoning, rather than hard (archaeological?) evidence, but does that render them completely without merit? If there is another explanation for how gender roles came to be solidified around the biological fact of physical gender, then perhaps it should be explained, or posted.
17 November 2005, 6:10 am

[Ah, eionmonkey shows his bias right away: noting "the biological fact of physical gender" as if physical attributes necessarily assign meaning and value. A good example: in Nazi Germany having blue eyes meant something, as did having brown eyes. Blond and blue-eyed was regarded as intrinsically "better" according to the racist beliefs of the Nazis. In this country, while being blond and blue-eyed still has its perks: you're more likely to get a modeling job at Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, those physical attributes alone do not constitute a separate "race" from other white people (such as Ashkenazi Jews) in the way that they did seventy years ago in Germany. Although they do still function to produce valued meaning, as anyone who has read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye can attest.] [...]

Stan: [...]
Joel Kovel is a colleague of Maria Mies, and her work argues vehemently against the naturalizaton of women. When JK is saying “Sex is of the earth,” that is not HIS position; he is engaging in a bit of literary ventriloquism.

Alas… the perils of excerpting.
18 November 2005, 6:58 pm

milosevic to eoinmonkey:

"His claims about human prehistory do seem to be based on deductive reasoning, rather than hard (archaeological?) evidence, but does that render them completely without merit? If there is another explanation for how gender roles came to be solidified around the biological fact of physical gender, then perhaps it should be explained, or posted."

How about this: once class differentiation became a permanent feature of (some) human societies, the rulers quickly realized that an effective way to enhance their own wealth and power would be to increase the number of serfs and slaves under their domination by attacking and subjugating neighboring societies. This program would obviously have generated resistance from the targeted nations, both those which were also class-divided and those which were not.

Overcoming this resistance would have required large numbers of disposable soldiers — arrow-, spear-, and sword-fodder. In order to produce these troops in the required quantities, it would be necessary for the social managers to assert control over the means of (re)production — to convert women from citizens into baby-making machines, denied the right to control their own bodies and lives. This innovation would itself have required an appropriate ideology to normalize and justify it. And once this whole process was underway in one society, there would have been strong pressure to emulate it in all its neighbors, again in order to make possible the otherwise insane waste of human effort and emotion inherent in having babies, supporting and socializing them until maturity, and then sending them off to die to serve the interests of a tiny clique of nobles, warlords, and priests.

I think that there is rather more historical evidence to support this theory than the one advanced by the writer in question. For a discussion of this, I would suggest a book called “The Chalice and the Blade”, by Riane Eisler.
23 November 2005, 9:12 pm

[milosevic, for me, takes far too many liberties with his assumptions, particularly in imbuing men with some power to control women, which he neither explains the history of, or sees a problem with stating as a given. For example, "to convert women from citizens into baby-making machines" implies women are not the converters. Why? He just assumes men have this sexist role, this dominant power.]

When the human species first emerged, we were all foragers. Big game hunting came along much later, after we had developed the technology and kinds of social organization needed to capture and kill big fast animals. We were not naturally endowed with such capacities, as were wolves and large cats. We were omnivores, like bears, and our diet and means of subsistence were certainly more like those of bears than those of large hunting animals. Our protein supply would have come from insects and small animals like mice. We were the prey of the large carnivores for a long time before we were predators. We probably first developed means of defense against the predatory animals before, and on the way to, becoming predators ourselves. Thus there was a long period of time when males and females would have been on an equal footing wrt food-procuring techniques and abilities. Females were handicapped by childbearing and nursing, but they could forage as well as males, as they still do. There is no reason to suppose that during this long period of time a gendered division of labor, based on "hunting" versus "gathering", was in operation.

AFTER the technology for big-game hunting was developed, THEN there MAY have come into being a gendered division of labor, based on the ability to engage in displays of virtuosity along the lines of running fast for long distances and throwing projectile weapons far and hard enough to bring down large and fast animals. Still, it seems to have been not so much a matter of subsistence labor as a matter of sport, displays of skill, as it is today. In those particular kinds of display, men seem to have always had the edge. But day-to-day food supplies would still have been obtained by foraging.

The domestication of animals and plants on a regular basis resulted in a profound transformation of human social organizations. This period is generally known as the Neolithic, it began about twelve thousand years ago, and is distinguished from the phase known as Paleolithic, when people lived by foraging, and domestication of plants and animals was uncommon, because it was unnecessary. Foraging provided enough for all. When this ceased to be the case in certain areas, then people took to growing their own food, so that they could have a larger supply of it. For a long period of time after the domestication of plants and animals, people lived peacefully in small settlements. Last time I read about the Neolithic, the small settlements showed no sign of needing defense from raiders. As soon as raiders appeared on the scene, settled people built defenses against them. Those settled people had weapons as well as the raiders. If Neolithic settlements were raided, which I do not know if they were or not, it would have been by desperate bands of outcast people. The loot would have been food, or stuff that could be traded for food or other useful valuables, like what thieves and robbers of today look for. But raiders were at a distinct disadvantage until the advent of horseback riding, about 4000 BC. By the time horseback riding and raiding became, for some people, a way of life, full blown civilizations with irrigation systems and walled cities and iron tools and the rest were already in existence. With a horse, you could get in and out fast, the horse was the first military vehicle, and it became the prototype of military vehicles thereafter.

So maybe we can blame it all on the horse.

The abduction of women and children by bands of male raiders, who wanted the labor of those women and children for the sake of their own subsistence, did not, to the best of my knowledge, happen until way later -- i.e. in modern times in the Amazon. But that is a whole 'nother story. If anyone has specific evidence of raiding and abduction of women and children as a phase in human prehistory, please bring it forward.

And if the raiders simply killed or drove off the men and abducted the women, are we to suppose that the men and women in the settlements were unable to defend themselves and their families against such onslaughts?

Kovel asserts: "This act ['killing or driving off the males from the attacked collective, denying the self-determination of the seized women and children, and the forcible sexual violation of the captives'] was a profound mutation in human being. It created a whole new conjuncture, which in time became a structure."

Or in other words, Kovel is here asserting that bands of men raiding settlements in the above stated manner constituted an evolutionary, transformation of human society as a whole. In implying that this forcible violence against women was an evolutionary human development (virtually inevitable? Like capitalism?) Kovel really loses me, because this is all fantasy, with no material evidence to back it up, and much material evidence, as well as much logic, to contradict it.

I hope I need not go on. But reading that far in Kovel's article, I got riled, and proceeded to write my original refutation, which alas for posterity has been forever lost in the bowels of the internet.[...]
24 November 2005, 9:21pm

[I'm with Peggy: "In implying that this forcible violence against women was an evolutionary human development (virtually inevitable? Like capitalism?) Kovel really loses me, because this is all fantasy, with no material evidence to back it up, and much material evidence, as well as much logic, to contradict it."]

Peggy is an anthropologist, and this is valuable food for thought. One point that is in her post and that Kovel also means to suggest - a point they may have in common - is the point that gendered power may have emerged BEFORE class power, and very well may have served as the model for future forms of social inequality… … before the advent of agriculture, the development of class, and the introduction of warfare.

Much of the speculation about which came first - class or male supremacy - has been characterized by a paucity of archeological information (thanks to Peggy for filling some things in); but more importantly, the hoary left agenda to subordinate the question of gendered power within a class-first (primary contradiction) framework has been selective with facts to make them fit the agenda (and often just wrong). This raises my own index of suspicion that the male-led left is not as immune as it often pretends to plain dominant-class (seeing gender as a class system) interest in preserving power. That gender is do deeply psychologically embedded only serves to make it more difficult to exhume the gender-ideology hiding inside constructions of secondary contradiction, “woman-questions”, and the embrace of liberalism on questions of gender while eschewing liberalism (in favor of revolutionary analysis and action) with regard to class.

Kovel’s aim, however imperfectly he might have pursued it with this excerpt, is to show the connections between gendered power, colonization, and ecocide - based on white male capitalist objectification as the rationale for domination… with gendered power serving as the epistemic base model. He and Peggy are both exquisitely sensitive (as they should be) to the operation of naturalization in this regard.

Since beginning my reading of feminist-womanist literature and theory in earnest three years ago, I have been drawn further and further toward the conclusion myself that gender preceded class, though I see them as absolutely inextricable and therefore without hierarchy in relation to “one another.” A quick look at the language used to describe relations between colonizer and colonized, between “Man” (of course) and “Nature”, and men and women, reveals a very consistent linguistic reflection of this.

I am working on a very comprehensive piece for posting soon that will attempt to observe this whole question from many angles - this time starting with semiotics, linguistics, and working out from there.

Many male leftists have been dismissive of these linguistic questions, behaving as if prevailing attitudes of the past, providing the excuse for leftists of today to get off the hook. They will tell you about primary contradictions until they are blue in the face, while a woman somewhere is washing their dirty drawers or cleaning their hotel room.

I don’t mean to crack over-hard on male leftists, but they have the virtue, fro the most part, of having accepted self-criticism as part of their practice without becomng defensive. Those are props. I push at us because I think we are the next layer that has to be won over to the revolutionary ideas and practice of feminism-womanism.
25 November 2005, 9:22 am

milosevic to Stan:

"I push at us because I think we are the next layer that has to be won over to the revolutionary ideas and practice of feminism-womanism."

I’d be a lot more sympathetic to this idea if it didn’t seem like most of the people who identify themselves as “radical” “feminists” have an unhealthy fascination with state power. Dworkin and MacKinnon, for example. The punch line always seems to be more laws, more cops, more gun control, more censorship, more taxation — in other words, the revolutionary agency which is going to liberate women from men turns out to be the existing capitalist state, and almost anything which further entrenches its control over the lives of ordinary people is thought to be A Good Thing. I don’t consider that to be a particularly revolutionary agenda.

[I'd jump in here to blast this guy off the page, but Stan responds appropriately.]

Somebody will say here “not all feminists agree with those policies”. Perhaps not, but there is a remarkable lack of public criticism of hese kinds of ideas from the womanists, as far as I can see. The only people who bother to oppose them are liberal feminists. If I have to choose between people who support the institutions of ruling class power, with civil liberties, and people who support the institutions of ruling class power, without civil liberties, I’ll go with the former, every time.

All of which is to say that I don’t enjoy being a slave for the corporations, and I don’t feel particularly sympathetic towards people who seem to want to be cheerleaders for the corporations’ enforcement and extortion agency, the capitalist state. I find it more than slightly odd that a body of theory and practice which started off thirty-five years ago, as “women’s liberation”, emphasizing the intimate connection between women’s oppression and class oppression, has mutated into “radical feminism”, which amnesties the state and the people who own it, so that it can blame the whole problem on individual men, who it considers to be an undifferentiated reactionary mass. It’s not particularly hard to figure out whose interests are served by that kind of theory. And it’s not unreasonable to assume that the gradual transformation of a promising social liberation movement into another ideological prop for the capitalist state, was something other than an accident. It’s almost like somebody planned it that way.
25 November 2005, 2:35 pm

This is a gross misrepresentation, though the same one we’ve heard for years, of rad-fems, and displays not one iota of study of womanism. The most trenchant and on the money critique that has been written, to my view, of liberal law, using marxist categories, was from Catharine MacKinnon.

This is the same left male hostility to feminism I’ve seen a hundred times.

What actual feminist theorists have you read? This might give a starting point to have this conversation. There are dozens of things calling themselves feminism out there, including the crap from Camille Paglia and her reactionary ilk.

I’m serious. What feminists are you referring to, specifically and individually, and what did they say? This kind of artillery salvo does absolutely zero toward reaching any clarity or precision.

Your characterization with regard to “civil liberties’ is a grotesque straw (wo)man.


Stan - One strong argument for the primacy of gendered power distinctions over class distinctions comes in Nancy Chodorow’s gentle book, The Reproduction of Mothering, in which she shows on a psychological level why male human beings would feel compelled to assert their superiority over females, sometimes aggressively. Although psychology is generally considered an individual matter, Chodorow argues that almost all male human beings go through the experiences that would lead them to derogate women. This does not mean that almost all male human beings *do* derogate women, as there are many means to mitigate the factors that push them in this direction. Chodorow’s book in no way suggests that women deserve derogation, or that they have somehow earned it. The main thing is that the urge for boys to push away from, and prove themselves superior to girls and women is *learned* and happens in early childhood. Chodorow’s work is worth reading, even if you end up disagreeing with what she says.

[I don't buy Chodorow's theory at all, except and unless we take it as a given that male supremacy is already in place, so that boys grow up learning which sex is presumed superior. MacKinnon has good challenges to such theorists, who seem to forget that we first need to understand that male supremacy is in place, and also how such an enforced ideology impacts everything, including the devaluation of motherhood, the valuation of manhood and "it's a boy!", and the rampant misogyny that boys grow up absorbing, consciously or not.]

Let me know if all this doesn't answer your question, Shaukat. What I truly despise about such conversations is the ways in which they just assume Indigenous people don't exist, don't carry stories of their past, and ought not be consulted as the "experts" on such subjects. Indigenous Australians, for example, have been around for about 50,000 years. Why does it not occur to white folks to inquire about the history of humanity from them? One answer is because many Indigenous people, if not impacted dramatically by white men, tell stories about their ancestors, as did the Jews. Not "literal" stories, either. (Christians take note.) But is the knowledge offered by Indigenous Australians not important, and if so, who decides what's important to know? A society that has survived for 50,000 years, until white men came and fucked everything up, might have something to say about oh, for example, sustainable living!

Bystanders Watch Gang Rape of 15 year-old Girl: What 'Doing Nothing' Really Means

[image making gang rape "sexy" is from here. And how many men protested this ad's promotion of sexual violence against women by a group of men?]

Below is a copy of CNN's story about why people who witness sexual violence against women often do nothing to intervene. [In brackets and in bold are my responses to this analysis and major media reporting.]

Gang rape raises questions about bystanders' role
By Stephanie Chen, CNN
October 29, 2009 12:00 p.m. EDT
"Genovese syndrome" was coined after dozens watched or heard a killer attack Kitty Genovese and did nothing.


* Psychologists say bystanders in large groups are less likely to take action
* Police: As many as 20 people watched gang rape spanning over two hours
* Bystanders didn't report assault to police and some participated in the attack
* Some experts argue the witnesses may have feared retaliation from the gang

(CNN) -- For more than two hours on a dark Saturday night, as many as 20 people watched or took part as a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten outside a high school homecoming dance, authorities said.

[Social Code #1: Quickly dispense with others who were agents in this happening. Where were the school officials monitoring the site? For more, see this. Note the photo chosen by CNN: two white high school girls and one Black man in the background, watching. News media have gotten savvy about not overtly stating what is in white U.S. America's consciousness, or just under it: men of color are allegedly the greatest danger to white women, of any age. That this is a racist lie does not get exposed in this story. We can note that in that article, a white female schoolmate described the victim, "the 15-year-old girl as a churchgoer who struggled to fit in at Richmond High." Here we have the beginnings of Unwritten Social Code #2: rape, when it happens to "good girls" is evil. Rape, when it happens to, say, prostitutes, is not worth reporting and is rarely if ever reported by media. Social code #3: The rape of girls and women of color by white men or men of color, is rarely made into national news, even though this is far more common that boys or men of color raping white girls and women. For more, see this report by Amnesty International on the mass rape of American Indian women by white men who are never convicted and this piece, with pornographised details, that acknowledges the stats are of convicted rapists only, and also that gang rape is not the predominant form of rape women and girls experience: "Gang rape, while constituting only a tiny percentage of all rapes in the UK, is a horrible reality in this country. The nature of the crime is so appalling that much more research needs to be carried out into its causes. But what seems evident from my investigation is that the key to preventing it will be changing the way young men view women and the kind of group sexual activity they are engaging in at such a young age."

The conclusion is not that gang rape ought not be treated as a heinous crime. The point is that ALL rape ought to be treated as a heinous crime, including marital rape, date rape, acquaintance rape, and the rape of girls by their fathers, step-fathers, and other older male family members. All rape functions to terrorises all women, not just the victims of assault. If the press promulgates stories that support the racist rape myths that "those men of color are the ones to watch out for" we do two things simultaneously that puts women and girls at greater risk: we minimize the degree to which rapists are white, thereby not flashing a light on THEIR crimes against humanity. This is an old tactic of the U.S. white male supremacist South: lynch Black men for looking at a white woman, treat white women as possessions of white men, but do nothing to white slavers and slave owners who raped Black women and girls without criminal (or lethal) consequence to the wealthy white rapers. The history doesn't start there, though, of covering up the rapes and other atrocities of white men against women of color. We actually have a national holiday that reveres the white man who "a pioneer" of sexual slavery of girls and women. He was also a serial rapist and a genocidal murderer. And we in the U.S. have a national holiday to honor him. You tell me what it means that a country founded on the enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans, and the genocide of the Indigenous Nations of North America (and the rest of the Americas), honors one of its most notorious and ruthless rapist-killers, known instead for "discovering America". How much regard do we show those past survivors and non-survivors--all of them women and girls of color, mind you--when we call serial rape and the production of sexual slavery "a great discovery".

This sort of press also allows white men not to carry the stigma of "the image of the rapist" in the popular imagination. This racism not only negatively impacts men of color, especially those with dark skin, but it also adds to the racism dark-skinned women of color experience, as they too are branded socially as "the criminal element". It's not just men of color who are followed around in stores; it is women of color too. We completely invisibilise women and girls of color as the raped by perpetuating the Black rapist/white raped girl mythology. For implicit in the myth of the Black (or man of color) rapist, is the fabricated lie that Black men, when they rape, rape white women. This is not simply not the case. All of this allows white men to rape away without fear of conviction, as noted in the Amnesty piece linked to above, and it also means girls and women of color remain off the dominant presses radar as victims and survivors of rape, which only adds to the pervasiveness of rape against that female population.]

As hundreds of students gathered in the school gym, outside in a dimly lit alley where the victim was allegedly raped, police say witnesses took photos. Others laughed.

[The corporate press, bound and gagged by white male supremacist laws, must always use the word "alleged" even when their is no reason to doubt that such a common crime as rape occurred. But onto the matter of the witnesses who took photos, according to police.

Not mentioned, hardly ever, by the corporate press, is the connection between online corporate pornography, corporate cell phone technology, and the corporatisation of rape. This is what we know: the internet and digital cameras, often in cell phones, has made it very easy for men to violate women and girls in an astounding number of ways. From "up-skirting" to setting up cameras behind or in hotel rooms walls, the RECORDING AND MASS DISTRIBUTION of the visual violation of women is now "standard practice" among men. Social Code #4: Do not ever implicate corporations, capitalists, and pornographers in the reality and relentlessness of rape as a form of terrorism against women.

These men who sexually violate and degrade women and girls do not speak out against these practices, because they want the right to practice them. There is, instead, a code of silence among men, to not out each other for doing just these things which harm women and girls systematically. Social code #5: men protect one another's right to violate women.

Add to those methods of violation-recording the simple mass consumption and downloading of pornographic images of raped women that men take in and benignly call "using pornography" not "accessing images of raped women with impunity". That men, generally, believe "using pornography" is not only acceptable, but also a right and an entitlement also tells us a lot about the degrees to which men value women more when they are being degraded than when girls and women are not. Other proof of this is that men will pay women and girls more to gain sexual access to them, coercively at least, than to do anything else. Certainly women who teach children in elementary schools are not paid nearly as much by male administrators as the pornographers and procurers/purchasers of women and girls, who pay (or otherwise exploit) those same women and their female students. Social Code #6: Ignore all economic factors related to why rape occurs and who is most vulnerable to it. Ignore all social-political ideologies and systems of oppression, such as poverty, white supremacy, and male supremacy. What could THOSE things possibly have to do with rape?

That heterosexual men want women and girls to remove their clothes and be made to be visually and physically assaulted by men is so common and unnewsworthy that only when a "gang" rape of a "good" white student who was a churchgoer makes national news. Forget about daddy molesting and raping his daughter(s). Forget about hubby raping his wife or wives. Forget about all the women and girls of color who endure rape at the hands of men of all colors. Forget the girls and women in prostitution and sexual slavery who are raped many times by many men. That's just not newsworthy.

Social Code #7: never, EVER name patriarchy as a reality. And along with that, invisibilise all the ways men are socialised to want to rape and otherwise violate, terrorise, and subordinate women. See, it's not "gang" rape if many men rape you over a period of time. That's called "being a who*re." The stigmas on girls and women who are not "good", who do not go to church, and who do make money by working the streets, means that their rape cannot be registered in the dominant mind as "heinous" and "horrible". "She obviously put herself there to have that happen," is what too many people think. If you don't want to be raped, don't be a prostitute, is men's logic. And if you don't want to be sexually harassed doing office work, don't do office work. And if you don't want to be raped by your husband, don't marry. And if you don't want to be raped at all, don't be female, because being female--just that reality--means you are twice as likely as boys to be sexually assaulted in some way before you reach the age of eighteen. And among American Indian women, one in three are raped as adults, mostly by white men.]

"As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated," Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department told CNN.

[Here we get to another heart of the matter: what "doing nothing" actually is. What it is, is SOMETHING. What it is, is the participation in the gross public degradation and destruction of a human being--a female human being--who gets to know, should she survive, that her rape was not only public, but not intervened upon by on-lookers and bystanders. And if any of those bystanders watch others take pictures or video of that rape, what are they now? Have they still "just done nothing"? And if they cheer, or otherwise encourage the rapists, is that also "doing nothing"? And if they are silent and afraid, and horrified and triggered, is that also "nothing"?]

The witnesses failed to report the crime to law enforcement, Gagan said. The victim remained hospitalized in stable condition. Police arrested five suspects and more arrests were expected.

[Stable condition? This is the press and medical establishment's way of completely minimising the harm that rape does to one's "stability". That her blood pressure is no longer dropping because wounds were sewn up means "she's stable". That she was gang raped and had that rape publicly recorded, now available to be sold or otherwise distributed on a massive scale, should not cause her any instability, right?]

So why didn't anyone come forward?

[This question is spurious. Clearly the rapists did come forward. Clearly the bystanders did loom. Images are also likely to "come forward". The question is meant to say "Why didn't anyone report this to the police" as if "the police" are on the side of the raped and prostituted. As if the police are not well-known for being racist assholes. As if the police are automatically sensitive to the needs of someone who has been sexually assaulted. I knew a woman who did trainings with police departments, on how to handle the gender-invisibilising term "domestic violence". Police officers, without such training, were prone to walk into a home where a woman is being beaten up regularly, and only speak with the man about what happened. Or watch her nod yes to being asked "Are you all right, ma'am?" and assume she's free to shake her head no, and say "This bastard beats and rapes me regularly, and if you don't put him behind bars now and forever, the chances are he'll hunt me down and kill me for having him arrested, as if it's not HIS actions that got him arrested!" A woman I knew for years had broken up with her boyfriend. He was distraught. So he waited for her to come home from work and he killed her. And police ask "Are you all right, ma'am? Do you want us to take him in?" With what other crimes do we ask the victim if the police should consider it a crime? Aren't the police supposed to know a crime when they see it? And don't they get that asking a woman IN FRONT OF HER BATTERER/RAPIST what she'd like to have happen to him is about the most stupid thing that can be done, if concerned in the least about her safety and well-being?]

Criminology and psychology experts say there could be a variety of reasons why the crime wasn't reported.

[Here we go. Social Code #8: Allow socially ignorant men to be THE spokespeople, THE experts, when it comes to understanding and naming the dynamics at work that create and bolster men's atrocities against women.]

Several pointed to a problematic social phenomenon known as the bystander effect. It's a theory that has played out in lynchings, college riots and white-collar crimes.

[In lynchings? "The bystander effect" was what was in place during lynchings?! I thought that was "Klansmen having a good time". I thought that was "whiteboys teaching the n*gger a lesson". I've never in my life heard such actions described in U.S. history books as "the bystander effect". Social Code #9: confuse the masses by allowing "spokespeople" with "media access" to stupidly combine differing social-political realities, pretending they are all the same. Social Code #10: don't ever allow feminists media access when the topic is rape or battery. Don't allow their points of view on TV, EVER. Not in news shows, not on talk shows. Only allow apolitical "psychological" and "sociological" perspectives into the minds of the masses, so we never get to understand what's really going on.]

Under the bystander effect, experts say that the larger the number of people involved in a situation, the less will get done.

w convenient to have a term that absolves people of responsibility. That makes it normal to do nothing. Or "understandable" or "reasonable". I guess non-Jewish Germans were suffering from "the bystander effect" as they saw Jews forced into cattle cars, off to be slaughtered. Only when crimes against women happen by men, do we go out of our way to find reasons to excuse others for not intervening.

Let's note the pornographic offerings of the news story:]

Video: Girl gang-raped for hours
Video: Gang rape outside school dance

Let's note how we can phrase a question in such a way as to make it clear we're not going to take a position on this matter:]
Video: Can witnesses be prosecuted?

Let's note how and what are considered "related topics":

* Sexual Offenses
* California

[RELATED TOPICS wouldn't be "every U.S. state", "patriarchal atrocities", "the mass rape of women by men" or "how men terrorise women" or "how the pornography industry and pornographic mass media makes the public rape of a girl into a social spectacle to be observed and recorded, not reported as a crime". Social Code #11: don't state the obvious.]

"If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then doing nothing becomes the norm." explains Drew Carberry, a director at the National Council on Crime Prevention.

[To Drew Carberry: You should be fired. If you live in a society that normalises the objectification of girls' and women's bodies, do little to nothing to challenge men's entitlements to have visual and physical access to girls' and women's bodies, and, with your male colleagues, friends, and family members, regularly look at internet images of raped women for your male entertainment, might that just possibly contribute to "the norm" of people doing nothing to stop rape? How many men do you know who work full-time to stop other men from raping their girlfriends and wives? From raping prostitutes? From even acknowledging that "looking at porn" is acting out an entitlement to have sexual access to raped women?]

Carberry said witnesses can be less likely to report a crime because they reinforce each other with the notion that reporting the crime isn't necessary. Or, he says, witnesses may think another person in the crowd already reported the incident. The responsibility among the group becomes diffused.

[The responsibility of the group, if we understand "group" to mean people who surround a raped person, means all of those of us present to such a reality, doesn't it? Who among us isn't around women who have been raped? If the whole of a society doesn't even call pornography the production, distribution, and consumption of women being raped, what chance in hell is there of a small group of people recognising that a crime against humanity is even happening? To what extent do you see the pornographisation of society, and the general subjugation of women to men, taught in social and religious institutions, as "factors" in why people don't do anything when they hear or see a woman being abused by a man? Have you read the work of Jackson Katz and James Messerschmidt? If not please click here and here. Social Code #12: even when some men "get it" that what's going on has a great deal to do with patriarchal systems of men controlling and dominating girls and women, don't ever reference their analyses and studies.]

"Kids learn at a young age when they observe bullying that they would rather not get involved because there is a power structure," Carberry adds.

[Since when did the crime shift to bullying? (See Social Code #9.) We're talking about gang rape here, right? Since when did that become a criminologist's synonym for "bullying". See, folks, if we can just steer clear of looking at the sexual politics of rape, we can then pretend what we're dealing with here is the social bystanders' response to a "bullying" issue.]

The phrase bystander effect was coined in the 1960s after people watched or heard a serial killer stalk and stab a woman in two separate attacks in the Queens neighborhood of New York.

[Yes. Note she wasn't "bullied" per se, nor was she a child outside a school dance.]

Kitty Genovese struggled with the attacker on the street and in her building. She shrieked for help and was raped, robbed and murdered. When witnesses in the building were questioned by police about why they remained silent and failed to act, one man, according to the 1964 New York Times article that broke the story, answered, "I didn't want to be involved."

[Might this "uninvolved man" have been a perpetrator of rape himself? Did anyone thing to ask? Might THAT explain why he didn't want to report a rapist? What else might explain his utter callousness? Not "fear of getting involved". No. Complacency in the face of the horrors that happen to women inflicted by men. Yes. He could call the police and request help without "getting involved" right? He didn't have to go tackle the rapist, did he We accept this as logic: that making a phone call means "getting involved". It doesn't. It means doing the appropriate thing when you hear that someone is in danger, is being threatened, is being beaten, or is being raped. Let's not let that "one man" in 1964 go unanalysed, politically, that is. Because the fields of psychology and sociology, notoriously male dominated fields, are not likely to name "men's interest in not interrupting rape" as a reason why men "don't get involved". Or men's desensitisation due to consumption of pornography. Or men's desire to rape. Or men's sadism. We mustn't look at any of those issues, because clearly they are irrelevant, right? Wrong.]

Though the number of people who saw or heard Genovese struggle was eventually disputed, her case still became symbolic of a kind of crowd apathy that psychologists and social scientists call the "Genovese syndrome."

Nevermind that in the Kitty Genovese case, there wasn't just a "crowd", but also an apartment building of listeners doing their best to ignore her being raped and murdered. Consider how little we think of women that we can collectively allow rape to remain a crime against humanity, a war against women, not just "one tactic men use to conquer invaded lands" but THE tactic used to terrorise women, to subdue and subjugate women with men's misogynistic and racist values and practices.]

"I don't propose people get involved by running over and trying to stop it," the 73-year-old brother of Kitty Genovese told CNN, referring to the California gang rape case. Instead, Vincent Genovese advocates a call to 911. "Everyone has a cell phone," he said. "There is no excuse for people not to react to a situation like that."

[Well, the patriarchal and racist sociologists and psychologists actually will come up with any number of excuses. But thank you, Vincent, for telling the truth, and I'm sorry for the tragic loss all those years ago, of your sister.]

A similar incident took place at a New Bedford, Massachusetts, bar in 1983. Witnesses said several men threw a woman on a pool table where they raped and performed oral sex on her. Several witnesses failed to call police.

[No. That's not "similar". It was adults in a pool hall, not teenagers by a school dance. The dynamics are entirely different, except for one thing: the perpetrators are sadistic males. And people fear sadistic males. And even so, women fight them with all their might when attacked. And we can note the pornographic telling of the story: as if saying she was raped and otherwise sexually assaulted wouldn't be sufficient. And, lest we forget, the other rapists are ALSO witnesses. And there's little to no analysis presented by the media of why THEY don't intervene in stopping other males from committing rape. One reason, for certain, is that they want "their turn".]

"The people in the bar didn't do anything. They just let it happen," said Richard Felson, a professor of crime, law and justice at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Some of "the people" in the bar gang raped her. The people in the bar participated by howling and cheering. That's not "doing nothing". Social Code #13: Pretend the rapists aren't people, just like everyone else.]

This detached mentality can be especially pervasive among youth, who are too young to comprehend what victimization means, said Salvatore Didato, an organizational psychologist in New York. When a teenager -- or anyone -- doesn't have a personal bond to the victim, they are less likely to help out.

Even while incest perpetrators of daughters are not "youth" at all. Even while most men who find many ways of gaining physical access to women they wish to violate and degrade aren't "youth", we'll allow the media to put forth some stupid argument that it's because the males were young that they raped, or watched. Even though the "Genovese Syndrome" wasn't created to describe the actions of youth. Social Code #14: blame it on "youth".]

Experts say sometimes bystanders see the victim as less important than the person committing the crime, who appears to wield power. "The victim to them is a non-person," Didato said.

[Feminists say often bystanders see women as less important than men who commit crimes against women. And have written extensively about how victimised women, and women generally, are relegated to non-human status. See, for example, Are Women Human?, by Catharine A. MacKinnon.]

But in California, it's illegal for a witnessed crime involving children to go unreported.

[And how many arrests have their been for doing just that? How many people are found guilty of not reporting their own rapes of girls and women in any U.S. state?]

The Sherrice Iverson Child Victim Protection Act passed in 1999 makes it a misdemeanor to fail to report a crime against a child. However, the bill only applies to victims 14 or younger. The victim in the California gang-rape case was 15.

[What does that tell us about our collective will to actually ending this crime called child rape, and other crimes against children? What does this tell us about even regarding the rape of girls and women over the age of fourteen as worthy of such measly validation by patriarchal law? And why isn't it a felony? Oh, because that might actually mean we take seriously allowing rape to continue endemically.]

Phil Harris, a criminal justice professor at Temple University, who has studied juveniles and group situations for nearly three decades, offered another hypothesis on why as many as 20 witnesses failed to notify police. He said the witnesses could have been angry themselves -- or had a problem with the victim.

[Well now we're onto something, but it's not the right something. This would be the chance in this report to identify society's general lack of appropriate rage about systematical violence against women and girls, and the misogyny that fuels it.]

Richmond Police Department officials said some of the witnesses in the California gang rape ended up participating in the sexual assaults.

[Really. And this is what? A surprise?]

"A lot of kids don't know how to express anger and they are curious when anger is expressed," Harris said.

Social Code #15: Make up stupid theories that avoid naming gender when the crime is gender based. Turn "men and boys" into "kids". Turn misogyny into "anger". Turn desire to assault into "curiosity". Turn rape into "expression".]

Scientific studies over the last decade have shown that adolescent brain development occurs into the 20s, which makes it hard for teens to make decisions, criminologists say. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court took this research into consideration when it ruled that children could not be given the death penalty.

[Social Code #16: Blame it on the brain, or genetics, or hormones, or anything at all that isn't social, economic, or political.]

It is still unclear the ages of the male witnesses who gathered around the victim in California and watched.

[And this matters why?]

In Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin says he believes the California gang rape was too violent -- and lasted too long -- to be the result of the bystander effect alone.

[Finally someone is willing to state the obvious. Social Code #17: In typical jounrnalistic fashion, toss out a bunch of bogus theories by people who are not trained to see the forest for the trees, and later maybe make one or two relevant points, if that.]

Levin, who specializes in hate crime research,

[I guess this is as close as we're going to get to a feminist analysis. And we might note that "rape of women" is not listed as a hate crime, primarily because it happens too often, and states don't have the resources to prosecute all the raptists. So THAT makes it NOT a hate crime.]

says the male witnesses may have kept quiet out of fear of retaliation. In his research, witnesses who live in violent communities often fear stepping forward because snitching isn't tolerated.

[This is supposed to allow the reader to think that rape is something endemic only in "violent communities" (you know, where DARK-SKINNED and POOR men live!) as if all communities aren't violent to women and girls. If battery, spousal rape, and incest are all routine atrocities, which white neighborhoods or middle class communities have a zero tolerance policy for such behaviors? Answer: not just the "violent" ones.]

Snitching could also bring dangerous consequences to their friends and family. "They don't believe the system will protect them from the offender," he said. "They think the offender will find out their name."

[Um. Has anyone noticed the fallout that came to MacKenzie Phillips for naming her father, Papa John Phillips, as her rapist? And this was disclosed after he died. Has anyone noticed how children who are taught to report being molested still don't report it, because they are too ashamed or terrified? Has anyone noticed most women don't report being raped because from hospital to courtroom, should a rape case ever make it that far, women are retraumatised and revictimised by "the systems"? Who DOES believe the system will protect them, if female?]

That may have been the case in Chicago, Illinois, in September when an honor student

["an honor student"? Was this person genderless? Social Code #18: Pretend victims of sexual crimes don't have a sex. This was done when the Montreal Massacre of women students by an outspoken antifeminist man was reported as "murderer kills students at an engineering school". We wouldn't want to confuse the issue my mentioning his militant hatred of women and activists who fight for women's rights, now would we?]

was beaten to death by four teenage boys outside a school.

[Were they also honor students or are we just supposed to assume the criminal youth were not so bright? Because we all know HONOR STUDENTS DON'T BEAT AND RAPE, right? Wrong. They do. But if the students, on or off the honor roll, come from wealthy white families, they are portrayed in the media as the "innocent" victims, and the those they victimise are called the lying perpetrators.]

Video captured by a bystander showed several students watching the attack, but police have found many of the witnesses tight-lipped in the South side community where violence has been prevalent.

[That's the section of the city populated by DARK-SKINNED people, in case you didn't know!]

Police have charged three suspects with murder.

[Really? Police go after poor Black men and other disenfranchised men of color while leaving wealthy white men alone? Who knew?]

While information from the Richmond Police Department in the coming weeks may reveal more about the bystanders and attackers, crime experts say one thing is clear: Third parties can affect the outcome of a crime. Witnesses have the power to deter violence -- or stop a crime from going on, experts say.


Bystanders could have prevented the gang rape from lasting more than two hours, if they had reported the crime to authorities sooner.

[Wow. What a shocking conclusion to come to. Did you even see that coming?!]

The victim was found under a bench, semi-conscious.

"This just gets worse and worse the more you dig into it," Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department. "It was like a horror movie. I can't believe not one person felt compelled to help her."

[Maybe, Lt. Mark Gagan, that's because for them it WAS a horror movie, or a drama, or a comedy. And they didn't want to press fast forward and miss any of the action.]

Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

[I'm not sure what to say, Nick. Surely it isn't "Thank you for the responsible reporting".]