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We are hard at work on the upgrade of all our online oeprations. It has been a 
long time coming - and it is a long time finishing, too. But soon, we hope, we 
will have new sites for your benefit. They will include new content, 
navigation, design, blogs, forums, and many many other new features and 
facilities including for basic users, for those who sign up as free members, 
and especially for those who sign up as supportive sustainers.

The changes, in short, are enormous, which is why the upgrade is taking so 

Meanwhile, in this message, we have two articles from our top page for you. The 
first is by Justin Podur and titled Global Warming Confusions. Podur, who works 
with ZNet, has written partly in response to our times and their complexities, 
and partly in critical response to two recent essays, one by Alexander 
Cockburn, the other by David Noble. The second article is by Paula Rothenberg 
and titled Snatched from the Jaws of Victory: Feminism Then and Now. It 
criti8cally and highly insightfully addresses the current condition of both 
women and the women's movement. 


Global Warming Suspicions and Confusions
by Justin Podur  

In recent years, a number of important contributions have influenced the 
growing debate on global warming. Paul Baer and Tom Athanasiou's book, Dead 
Heat, from a few years ago, was excellent. Noam Chomsky's latest book, Failed 
States, mentions global warming as one of the three more urgent problems 
humanity faces (the others being war and the lack of democratic institutions to 
deal with problems). George Monbiot's new book, Heat, provides a workable set 
of proposals for stabilizing the climate without draconian sacrifice (except 
commercial flight). 

Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth cuts back and forth between cogent 
explanations of climate science and self-aggrandizement (Gore on the farm, Gore 
walking to the stage, Gore changing planes at the airport, Gore doing product 
placement typing on his Mac computer). Properly filtered, however, it provides 
an excellent introductory lecture on climate change. I wish that it had come 
from someone else, someone who hadn't vice-presided over the Iraq sanctions 
regime and the bombing of Yugoslavia.  But the fact that Gore made it popular 
doesn't make it a sham. The terms of discussion for any major problem are 
usually set by elites, with the rest of us trying to sort out truth from 
falsehood and sensible policy from corporate propaganda after the fact. 

Scientific issues, like any issues, take work and time to understand. Those who 
can't take the time to delve into the issues, and no one can delve into 
everything, look for credible sources. To leftists, Gore is simply not a 
credible source. He is seen as an apologist for the powerful interests he 
served while in office and callous about the people who suffered under his 
rule. Furthermore, leftists are suspicious of any elite consensus, including a 
scientific one. They know that dubious science is often trotted out to state 
why some regressive policy or other is justified. Leftists therefore need 
people credible to them to go back and do what Gore and Flannery did - to 
explain the basics of climate science. Much of what they would explain would be 
the same as Gore does, and the same ways - but it would not come from a tainted 
source, nor would it be tainted by political campaigning. Both 
Baer/Athanasiou's Dead Heat and Monbiot's Heat accept the scientific consensus 
on global warming and do not spend much time on the basic science, leaving that 
field to people like Gore and popular science writers like Tim Flannery, who 
wrote The Weather Makers. 

The first problem for leftists trying to understand climate science is that 
they cannot trust Gore and they cannot automatically trust the scientific 
consensus. The next problem is that the best-known proposed solutions for 
dealing with the problem are flawed. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, is 
completely inadequate for stabilizing emissions. Carbon emissions trading and 
markets are designed to provide incentives to corporate emitters. Biofuels, in 
the form of palm oil and sugarcane plantations, are helping to displace 
peasants through paramilitary massacre in Colombia, contributing to dangerous 
food shortages, and in any case cause CO2 emissions just like fossil fuels do. 
If credible science is mixed with dubious pro-corporate policy, which is what 
Gore has to offer, leftists might feel the sensible thing to do is reject the 
whole package. 

They need not do so, however. Monbiot's book, Heat, is principally about 
climate policy, and what policies would be necessary in order to stabilize the 
climate. He is not an advocate for carbon markets, which he recognizes as 
providing incentives to corporate polluters. What he does advocate, as Baer & 
Athanasiou advocated in Dead Heat, is a per-capita emissions quota, the same 
for everyone in the world. If only a certain amount of total CO2 emission is 
compatible with a stable climate, then the right to emit ought to be the same 
for everyone. Baer & Athanasiou's book, and their website, ecoequity.org, 
discuss a stabilization policy based on a per capita emissions quota. They 
argue that, because people in poor countries emit much less than their right 
and people in rich countries emit much more, a credible stabilization policy 
would include both reduction of emissions in the rich countries and the 
reduction of global inequality. Monbiot's book focuses on feasible 
technological and policy changes for bringing the CO2 emissions of first-world 
countries down to the per-capita quota. By showing that the worst emitters 
could achieve the necessary reduction without significant suffering, Monbiot 
debunks the notion that stabilizing the climate requires brutal austerity or 
the continuation of third-world poverty. 

Monbiot is also clear on another point: that the impacts of global warming, 
like environmental problems in general, are not the same for everyone. Many 
environmentalists, including climate activists, believe that because we all 
have to live on the planet, we can all agree that environmental problems must 
be solved. But the wealthy and powerful have always been able to insulate 
themselves from the effects of environmental problems. They appropriate the 
territories and resources they want and leave others to starve or die. The 
hardest hit peoples, in countries like Bangladesh and Ethiopia, are those who 
are already suffering tremendously. Hurricane Katrina in the United States is 
another case of how "natural" disaster does not unite elites with people but, 
instead, can be used to entrench ever more regressive relations. 

If elites also control the parameters of discussion on a problem such as global 
warming, they can be expected to advocate not solving it, as they know their 
interests will be served regardless. If elites are advocating solutions, they 
will advocate solutions that will protect their interests, whether these 
actually solve the problem or not. Advocacy of ignoring or denying the problem 
is the model for parts of the petroleum industry, right-wing politicians and 
movements, and their PR machinery, which Monbiot calls "the Denial Industry". 
Advocacy of "solutions" that serve elite interests is the model for advocates 
of carbon markets and watered-down versions of Kyoto. 

This leaves leftists, who oppose elite agendas, with two options. First, their 
suspicion of the sources on the science can lead them to the position that the 
scientific consensus is wrong. Alternatively, they can accept the science and 
then reject elite proposals for dealing with the problem and propose 
alternative policy suggestions in light of their own values and priorities, 
which is what I believe Monbiot has done, and Baer/Athanasiou before him. 

Recent essays by leftists Alexander Cockburn, Denis Rancourt, and David Noble, 
in contrast, take the first position. They are reacting to a recent change in 
elite strategy on the problem of global warming. The initial elite strategy was 
that of complete denial, and it was successful in delaying any action on 
climate change for crucial years. The recent change of strategy by part of the 
elite (prompted perhaps by increasing evidence in every field that global 
warming is happening) seems to be to try to co-opt and control the discussion, 
if not of the problem itself, then of the possible solutions for it. These 
three activists (Cockburn, Rancourt, & Noble, or CRN) have reasonable 
suspicions of this rapid change of elite strategy and its expression in media 
hype about climate change. Their reactions, however, are in error. If their 
views are adopted by many leftists, elites will be able to claim that leftists 
are anti-science and anti-green, when what people most need are sensible green 
proposals that are also in accord with values of justice, equality, and 

In an essay on Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn makes a number of claims about 
climate science that indicate a dismissal of the scientific consensus. He 
claims there is "zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 
is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend," 
for example. But the mechanism by which atmospheric CO2 causes warming ("the 
greenhouse effect") is well understood. So is the fact that anthropogenic 
production of CO2 is increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. And so, too, 
is the current warming trend, which Cockburn acknowledges. Cockburn seeks to 
break the chain of reasoning (from CO2 causing warming, to anthropogenic 
increases of CO2 in the atmosphere contributing to warming) by suggesting that 
anthropogenic emissions of CO2 do not change atmospheric CO2 levels. He does so 
by referring to some data on CO2 emissions and CO2 concentration in the 
atmosphere from the 1920s and 1930s that say when anthropogenic emissions were 
low due to the Great Depression CO2 in the atmosphere did not change. He 
interprets this to mean that "it is impossible to assert that the increase in 
atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels." But it is the very 
fact that CO2 is long-lived in the atmosphere (compared to water vapour, for 
example) that makes emissions of it such a serious problem. Even if the data he 
presents are accurate (the most reliable records of atmospheric CO2 begin in 
the 1960s) they cannot be taken to mean what he says they do. They could, 
instead, simply mean that there is a lag between changes in CO2 emission and 
changes in atmospheric concentration. One analogy a reader of the article at 
realclimate.org suggested was this: if you are filling a bathtub and turn off 
the tap, the bathtub does not instantly empty, nor does the fact that it 
doesn't empty make it impossible to assert a connection between the tap and the 
amount of water in the tub.  

Cockburn was also answered in more general terms by Monbiot, who cautioned 
against dismissing an entire body of science with a series of fairly random 
assertions. Some of Cockburn's specific scientific claims were answered by 
climate scientists at realclimate.org. Cockburn was using his scientific claims 
as part of a larger argument that the market in CO2 emissions was like the 
market in papal indulgences during medieval times - a release for people's 
consciences that made profits for elites (the church in medieval times, 
corporations today) while exploiting people's guilt (for sin then or emissions 
now) without fundamentally changing anything. This valid point about carbon 
markets is thus combined with a dismissal of climate science and global warming 
as a serious problem using a number of false and discredited claims as 
evidence. This is too bad, because it will make readers doubt his other 
insights, and it abets the climate deniers. 

Denis Rancourt, a physics professor and activist at the University of Ottawa, 
published a similar essay on his blog some weeks ago. In it, he sets out some 
of the standard scientific claims presented by denial industry spokespeople. 
These include notions that water vapor and solar radiation are the real 
culprit, not CO2 emissions, that warming is not such a big deal, and other 
arguments. Realclimate.org explain how  water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and an 
important one, but it is much more short-lived in the atmosphere than CO2, and 
this makes it a "feedback", not a "forcing" like CO2 is. Realclimate.org also 
explains solar forcing: There are fluctuations in solar radiation, but they are 
not sufficient to explain the warming trend, nor would even the presence of 
significant solar radiation fluctuations make CO2 irrelevant. They also explain 
the lag between CO2 and temperature in the glacial record. Another useful 
resource to accompany Rancourt's essay is this collection of Q/A on "How to 
talk to a climate skeptic", by Coby Beck. 

Rancourt's essay ends with a long list of "selected supporting references", but 
there are no citations for his individual claims, and therefore no way of 
knowing what references he has selected or whether it actually supports what he 
is saying. In between making his own scientific claims, which we are supposed 
to accept on his authority as a physicist, he argues that scientists are not to 
be believed and the scientific consensus is not to be trusted because 
"scientists are simple beings" who follow the herd. There is a contradiction 
here, between Rancourt making scientific claims in his blog, which we are 
supposed to accept because he is a scientist, and his attacking all scientists 
and all of science as conformist and conservative, which we are to accept on 
his authority, perhaps because of his inside knowledge of scientists. 

I disagree with Rancourt on this entire issue of science. While science can be 
manipulated and a few scientists can always be found to provide the right 
statement for the right price (whether on climate, tobacco, or pharmaceuticals) 
I believe there are some things that can be known about the natural world, and 
scientists have uncovered some of these things, including about the climate 
system. How this knowledge is spun or used or ignored is another matter. But 
the appeal of science is that, given time and effort, we can understand things 
about the world. While this is no reason to completely defer to scientists, it 
is reason to give weight to arguments that are supported by the cumulative 
efforts of thousands of people who have spent time and care looking into an 
issue - more weight, in any case, than arguments recycled from the 
petroleum-funded denial industry. 

In contrast, Rancourt's anti-science arguments suggest that there is no way to 
get at an objective understanding of the climate or, by extension, any other 
situation. Rancourt leaves readers to accept only his authority. The political 
or policy core of Rancourt's essay is, again, an attack on CO2 markets. He 
advocates various leftist policies, and argues that leftists should advocate 
these without reference to CO2 emissions or global warming, which is, to him, a 
dangerous diversion. By combining discredited scientific claims about global 
warming, an attack on science itself, and leftist positions on numerous issues, 
Rancourt has associated decent left positions with discredited and false claims 
and arguments. 

David Noble, a friend of Rancourt's, a professor at York University and an 
activist, was, according to Rancourt's blog, inspired by Rancourt to write 
about the "global climate coup" for Canadian Dimension. Noble's argument is 
that global warming politics have derailed the global justice movement and 
diverted it into the dead end of CO2 markets. He shows how elite think-tanks 
and corporations have endorsed "solutions" to global warming that will increase 
their profits and power. His research on the corporate connections of various 
groups, first of the denialist persuasion, and then of the market-solutions 
persuasion, is useful. But he loses most of his credibility in his 
introduction, which implies that global warming is a funny joke:

"Don't breathe. There's a total war on against CO2 emissions, and you are 
releasing CO2 with every breath. The multi-media campaign against global 
warming now saturating our senses, which insists that an increasing CO2 
component of greenhouse gases is the enemy, takes no prisoners: you are either 
with us or you are with the"deniers." No one can question the new orthodoxy or 
dare risk the sin of emission."

His credibility is further harmed by his conclusion, in which he calls Monbiot 
a dupe of the elite group that is creating hype about global warming, whose 
message Monbiot "unwittingly peddles with such passion." Noble calls Monbiot's 
book "embarrassing in its funneled focus and its naive deference to the 
authority of science... as if there was such a thing as science that was not 
also politics." Unlike Cockburn and Rancourt, Noble does not get into dubious 
scientific claims, but he does present global warming as if it is a 
diversionary elite campaign, or simply a joke, and not a serious problem. He 
could have made his case that elites are trying to divert attention from actual 
solutions to the problem (the substantive part of Monbiot's book, only the 
introduction of which Noble quotes) and towards creating new markets and new 
privileges and powers for themselves without so flippantly dismissing concern 
about the climate, presenting that concern as nothing more than an elite 
agenda, or suggesting that all science was politicized. By doing so, he 
associates a useful critique of elite cooptation of climate politics with a 
misrepresentation of the problem, its urgency, and the potential for solutions. 

The strength of Monbiot's book is its presentation of a set of policies that 
could stabilize the climate in accord with values of justice and equity. 
Monbiot is as hard on phony capitalist climate schemes as Cockburn, Rancourt, 
or Noble (CRN) are, but he does not rest his political analysis on an attack on 
a body of science (as Cockburn and Rancourt do), or on an attack on science 
itself (as Rancourt and Noble do). The problem with these authors' mixing 
sensible policy proposals and cautions with false scientific claims and an 
anti-science tone is analogous to the problem of Gore's mixing of sensible 
science with elite agendas. If suspicion of Gore and elite CO2 market advocacy 
can drive leftists like CRN towards a position denying that global warming is a 
problem, then a reliance on discredited science or anti-science positions by 
leftists like CRN can drive people away from leftists (and leftists certainly 
don't need more ways of driving people away). The need is for leftists to 
understand and explain the science of global warming and to think of and 
advocate proposals for solving the problem in accord with values of equality 
and solidarity. Both Monbiot and Baer/Athanasiou have done some of that work. 
Instead CRN reject the science and dismiss the solutions like Kyoto or CO2 
markets not because they are inadequate (which they are) or because they serve 
elite agendas (which they do), but because they conclude that there is no 
problem to solve in the first place. CRN are trying to open the wrong debate. 
Rather than a debate over the validity of discredited scientific positions, 
what is needed is a debate on how to resist the elite agendas that have led to 
the warming, then to its denial, and that now seek to co-opt movements for 
change. On this, I hope CRN might eventually agree. 

Justin Podur is a writer and editor for ZNet. He can be reached at [EMAIL 


"Snatched from the Jaws of Victory: Feminism Then and Now" 
by Paula Rothenberg  
It was the summer of 2002 and I was traveling through a medium-sized town in 
Hungary when I looked up and saw a young woman coming toward me.  Fifteen or 
sixteen years old, she wore a shirt that proudly proclaimed her to be a "Dirty 

Six months later, in Philadelphia, I found myself speaking at a women's studies 
conference to an audience which included several young women wearing shirts 
with "Cunt" or "Bitch" written on their chest in an angry scrawl.  Shortly 
after, I found myself in Panama watching a rotund 7 year old prance around in a 
hot pink tank top that shouted "Bling,.Bling."  When I checked the web upon 
returning home, I discovered that "Dirty Girl" had been updated to "Stupid 
Dirty Girl" while another T shirt insisted  "As long as I can be on top."

Are the young women wearing such T-shirts liberated women who have taken 
control of their own bodies and now reap the benefits of the women's movement  
- or are they simply dupes? These experiences, and countless others like them, 
raise a broader question for me. They make me ask how the insights and goals of 
the Women's Movement have been transformed and translated as they have been 
integrated into popular culture and daily life?

The Women's Liberation Movement that began in the 60s was originally a radical 
movement seeking deep and fundamental change. It identified the ways in which 
male and other forms of privilege had been woven into every social, political, 
economic institution and cultural practice in our society and went on to 
challenge white supremacy, heterosexist privilege, class divisions as well as 
the images of gender that had been normalized and in this way rendered 
invisible The Women's Liberation Movement I remember argued for the need for a 
radical transformation of all our institutions. It urged women to rethink every 
aspect of our lives, always asking us to reflect on whose interests were served 
by the ways in which society was organized and by the values we had been taught 
to embrace.

Central to this project was the distinction between sex and gender.  In order 
to challenge the conservative view that women's social role was determined by 
her nature, many feminists argued that while one is born either a man or a 
woman and that is a function of biology (and yes, many of us mistakenly thought 
that there were only two possibilities at that time), gender roles were 
determined by society.  Women began to notice that how we were taught to define 
ourselves, what it meant to be a real woman, served the interests of men and 
capitalism. This made us suspicious of what we had been taught were our 
"natural" tendencies or inclinations and made us wonder about our so-called 
"free" choice.

A very important article of the period, a true classic, was entitled 
"Homogenizing the American Woman: The Power of an Unconscious Ideology" written 
by Sandra Bem and Daryll Bem. The authors pointed out that even if 
discrimination were to end tomorrow, nothing very drastic would change, because 
discrimination is only part of the problem.  "Discrimination frustrates choices 
already made. Something more pernicious perverts the motivation to choose. That 
something is an unconscious ideology about the nature of the female sex...."... 
In other words, many of us began to realize that we had been socialized to want 
things that would replicate and reinforce the status quo.

The Women's Liberation Movement of the Second Wave rejected prevailing 
standards of beauty, the Barbie doll image, (being thin and blonde), that were 
virtually unattainable by anyone who wasn't white and by most of us who were 
white as well.  The critique took the form of recognizing and challenging the 
ways prevailing standards of beauty and rules of dress and decorum both 
reflected and reinforced the existing race, class and gender hierarchy in 
society. Women of the Second Wave were tired of being turned into sex objects 
by the fashion industry and so they threw out their high heels (which were 
understood to be on a continuum with Chinese foot binding practices --  a way 
of circumscribing women's movement and keeping them dependent), took off their 
girdles and their bras, stopped trying to be a size 2, and focused on healthy 
eating - healthy for them and the planet.

If we look at popular culture today - what do we see?  Well, Barbie is back 
with a vengeance.  Little girls start dieting in fourth grade and never stop.  
This used to be more of a problem among white girls but it has spread to all 
ethnic groups. And dieting isn't the half of it, anorexia and bulimia are 
occurring in alarming proportions.

Today many young women want to dress like, Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, 
Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, and L'il Kim. And it is not just women in their 
teens and older who are dressing this way, we have four year olds and six year 
olds dressed as sex objects. Cleavage is everywhere and we women can't get 
enough of it so we go out and buy more.  Some of us stopped buying bras in the 
70's; today women are busy buying bras and breasts to put in them.

The number of magazine stories about girls in their early and mid-teens who 
want breast augmentation surgery is increasing as are the number of teens who 
receive breast and nose jobs as birthday or high school graduation gifts. Dumb 
blondes are back in style:  Jessica Simpson, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton.  
Women hack off their toes to fit into high priced, designer shoes.  We are a 
generation awash in plastic surgery and Botox.

But the world is still a dangerous place and bad things happen to women and 
girls.  In a world that is not safe for us, why would you dress your child to 
look like a sex object?  Why would you dress yourself to look like a porn star? 
 In a world where violence against women is rampant, why would you wear a 
t-shirt that says "Discipline Me."

It's easy to imagine the rejoinder from the women at that women studies 
conference in Philadelphia: shouldn't women be able to dress they way they 
want?  The answer seems unambiguous.  Of course they should.  But first we need 
to create a world in which women are genuinely free to choose.  Yes, retort 
those same young women, but isn't wearing such a t-shirt a way of asserting 
one's right to self-define and challenging the system?  To this I answer that 
it can be, but the fashion choices that many women make today do not represent 
a challenge to patriarchy, let alone capitalism, instead, these "choices" 
reflect a total submission to those systems.  We have come full circle.  Girls 
and women now believe that they show how liberated they are by dressing like 
the ultimate male sex fantasy. Men used to have to go to adult sex shops to see 
women and girls dressed the way some of us dress to go to school and work every 

In fact, women have been sold a bill of goods. We were told that the Women's 
Movement was about the right to choose. Corporate capitalism and patriarchy 
happily co-opted the slogan of the Second Wave so that any choice was defined 
as a liberated and empowering choice. But what did "the personal is political" 
really mean?  I remember when it meant that what appeared to be purely personal 
choices made by women of their own free will (to marry, to have children, to 
dress and behave a certain way, to engage in certain sexual practices, the 
choice of whether or not to work and if we worked which career path to follow, 
etc) needed to be understood in the context of a system of domination where 
issues of race/ethnicity, class and sexuality intersected with gender to 
radically restrict women's opportunities and possibilities.  This system had 
been so effective because it is virtually invisible, because the privileges at 
its core have been effectively rationalized and normalized in a myriad of ways 
through out time.

During the late 60s and through out the 70s, as women shared their stories, 
what had been normalized, gradually, or in some cases, suddenly, stood out and 
demanded our attention. We found out that what appeared to be my problem, my 
failing, my fear, my pain was in fact shared by other women, was part of their 
experience too.  We came to understand that "the personal is political" in an 
empowering sense. It wasn't just that I couldn't get certain jobs; other women 
had the very same problem, not because I/we weren't good enough but because of 
a pervasive race and gender bias within the workforce.  It turned out that I 
was paid less than my male coworkers, not because women were inherently weaker 
or less competent or less productive but because jobs and pay scales were 
defined in ways that valued work more and described it differently, simply 
because it was done by a man.  And whether the man wore a tie and a jacket, a 
sweatshirt, or a uniform.

We came to understand that our dissatisfaction with aspects of our personal 
lives, our family structures, our most intimate relationships or our parenting 
responsibilities, did not necessarily grow from some deep, personal inadequacy 
or some psychological deficiency of our own but was rooted in the way that 
society was organized and the way gender (race, class, and sexuality) had been 

To say then that "the personal is political" was to point out that you could 
start with individual women's lives and move straight from their realties to 
institutionalized privilege and hierarchy. We began to understand that what 
looked like individual choices were really social in nature and reflected the 
values and interests of those in power.  As a result, we came to be highly 
suspicious of our choices.

Today the personal is simply personal. And that understanding has been 
incorporated into popular culture in the absence of any political context or 
analysis, Katha Pollitt puts it this way: "Women have learned to describe 
everything they do, no matter how apparently conformist, submissive, 
self-destructive or humiliating, as a personal choice that cannot be criticized 
because personal choice is what feminism is all about."

When feminism in the 60s and 70s demanded the right to choose for women, it was 
in the context of recognizing the coercive force of institutionalized racism, 
sexism, heterosexism, and class privilege.  Women had begun to understand that 
what appeared to be individual issues turned out to be social problems, social 
problems for which there were few if any individual solutions.  Women looked at 
the things that limited and coerced our choices and asked how we could change 
them, not just for ourselves, but for all women, all people.

Today there are no social problems.  Thanks to the efforts of recent Republican 
administrations in Washington and the efforts of the conservative right in 
general, we live in a world where there is no longer a social dimension and 
there are no social problems.  There are now only individual human beings who 
are worthy or unworthy, deserving or undeserving. The complex web of 
interlocking factors that once required serious and respectful attention to 
every aspect of social and economic life has been replaced by a simplistic and 
reductionist worldview. Social problems require broad solutions - changes in 
the way we do business.  Individual problems get individual solutions.

Postpartum depression, very much in the news a few years back after Brooke 
Shield gave birth to her first baby, was a problem to be solved exclusively 
through medication rather than by looking at the social context in which the 
illness occurs. In the old days, we would have at least considered the 
possibility that women's depression after childbirth had something to do with 
the social conditions of parenting and the organization of the family and that 
it might be improved by re-thinking gender roles and childcare options. If a 
man becomes a father and doesn't want to spend time with his child, do we label 
him ill and prescribe anti-depressants?

Recently a doctor appearing on a morning television program discussed research 
findings that showed more adult women are being diagnosed with Attention 
Deficit Disorder.  He described their problem as something like "woman rushing 
from task to task, unable to concentrate or complete them." The solution was to 
get them on medication.  But the medical condition he described sounds to me 
very much like the daily life of the average super mom in today's high power 
society. Perhaps re-thinking social roles and responsibilities rather than 
diagnosing a new medical condition might be the answer.

In the summer of 2002, Clara Harris was found guilty of manslaughter after she 
ran over her husband who had been having an affair with his receptionist. By 
her own account, when she first discovered his infidelity, she immediately 
hired a personal trainer, dyed her hair blonde, started working out, and made 
an appointment with a plastic surgeon.  At the height of the Women's Movement, 
she might have placed her individual situation within a broad social context 
and might have sought the support and council of a women's consciousness 
raising group rather than collagen injections and liposuction.

Once upon a time women facing high rates of unemployment, unequal pay, 
non-existent or inadequate benefits, lack of affordable (or often any) 
childcare, and a welfare system that channels them into dead end jobs and 
denies them funding for education, would have organized around issues of 
poverty and discrimination.  Now instead of challenging racism and classism, 
highly touted solutions to these problem suggest that women should create 
charities to collect used business attire for these unfortunate job seekers. If 
only they dressed better!  But according to 2004 figures, 12.7% of the 
population live in poverty - approximately 1 out of every 8 people.  And 
poverty is a social problem.  It should be obvious that women living in poverty 
are not poor because they lack the correct fashion sense.

A major victory of conservatives in this country has been to severely limit 
class action lawsuits.  During the 1970s and 1980s, class action suits racked 
up one victory after another for women and men who had been discriminated 
against because of their race or their gender or both.  Such law suits were the 
ultimate reflection of "the personal is political" because they grew out of an 
awareness that meanings were social and that patterns of behavior could 
establish intent. Today it is necessary to demonstrate that an individual was 
specifically discriminated against. This change in policy effectively denies 
the existence of racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia.  By refusing to 
recognize patterns of behavior that establish on-going discrimination, current 
practice denies history.

Once upon a time the personal really was political. Today, it is simply 
personal.  Capitalist patriarchy has once again showed its extraordinary 
ability to take radical movements and demands that challenge the system, and 
re-package them in ways that actually reinforce that system and preserve the 
existing distribution of power and privilege in society.  How convenient for 
capitalist patriarchy that young women today think that dressing like every 
man's sex fantasy is a sign of their liberation and that the women's movement 
was all about getting the right to choose and had nothing to do with making 
hard decisions about what values and what social vision should be reflected in 
our choices.

I remember well the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It seemed, briefly, to hold 
out the hope that women might finally control their bodies, control their own 
sexuality   But it soon became clear that the new sexual freedom simply meant 
more opportunity for men, not a new kind of experience for women, and that line 
comes from a 1972 article by Linda Phelps which first appeared in Women: A 
Journal of Liberation thirty-four years ago.  In that article, Phelps wrote: 
"Our cultural vision is the projection of solely male experience."  Has that 
changed?  She went on to say "Women are bombarded with the same sex stimuli of 
the female body as is a man - hence females often respond in a narcissistic way 
to their own body and what is being done to it.  The female is taught to be the 
object of sexual desires."  Sounds painfully familiar. "Women are socialized to 
relate to a false world of erotic fantasies and images that are defined and 
controlled by men..."  In fact, women are beginning to realize that nothing new 
happened at all.  "What we have is simply a new, more sophisticated (and thus 
more insidious) version of male sexual culture.  Sexual freedom has meant more 
opportunity for men, nor a new kind of experience for women. And it has been 
precisely our own experience as women which as been decisive in developing the 
Women's Liberation critique of the sexual revolution."

If you go to the Human Rights Watch website (hrw.org) you will read the 

Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation 
of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason 
than that they are women. Abuses against women are relentless, systematic, and 
widely tolerated, if not explicitly condoned. Violence and discrimination 
against women are global social epidemics. We live in a world in which women do 
not have basic control over what happens to their bodies.

In such a world, going through the mime of empowerment defined by a masculine 
culture in the name of feminism is all the more disempowering and degrading. 
Empowerment, we are now asked to believe, is not about getting an education, 
not about becoming economically independent, not about taking control of our 
bodies, not about saving the environment, not about working toward social 
justice, but dressing a certain way and wearing the newest version of what ever 
t-shirt or body piecing we choose. And whose interests does this serve? Today 
cultural practices continue to occur within the context of unequal power 
relations. Racism, sexism, and class privilege are still alive and well. They 
frame our choices and define the meaning of what we choose.  The women's 
movement of the Second Wave talked, not about "equality," but about liberation, 
because believe me, equality is not enough. We have gone from seeking to 
challenge and change the ways in which institutionalized privilege and 
hierarchy limit and coerce our choices to the illusion that the battle for 
women's rights and civil rights is over and done.  We have been duped into 
trading social critique and collective action for a vision of feminism that 
offers us personal choice without social responsibility and without social 
context.  We have exchanged the possibility of genuine change for feminism 
light and designer water. And in the end, we know whose interest that serves.

Paula Rothenberg is Senior Fellow at The Murphy Institute, CUNY. From 1989 to 
2006 she served as director of The New Jersey Project on Inclusive Scholarship, 
Curriculum, and Teaching and professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at The 
William Paterson University of New Jersey. She is the author of Invisible 
Privilege: A Memoir About Race, Class and Gender;  her diversity text Race, 
Class and Gender in the United States is in its seventh edition; a third 
edition of her anthology White Privilege: Readings on the Other Side of Racism 
will be published in late summer 2007; and her newest college text anthology, 
Beyond Borders: Thinking Critically about Global Issues, was published by Worth 
in July 2005.  She can be reached at [EMAIL PROTECTED]   

  • ZNet Update Michael Albert
    • ZNet Update Michael Albert

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