20 December, 2006

Excluded Survivors’ Thread

Posted in Alas a Blog, Male Disposability, Privilege, Richard Jeffrey Newman, Survivors and Survival, toysoldier at 7:45 am by Daran

(Note that the original text and title (still visible in the URL) of this thread pertained to male survivors only. However, in the discussions both here and at toysoldiers, I have remarked that feminism’s normative construction of abuse excludes some female survivors whose experiences do not fit into that framework. These survivors are doubly-excluded, since they are both exiled from what is purportedly ‘their’ survivor movement, and not admitted to the nascent male survivor network. In addition, transgendered survivors, whose particular difficulties I do not purport to understand, may also feel excluded. Since I advocate a wholly inclusive approach, it was wrong of me to exclude these people, hence this broadening of the focus.)

This thread is for excluded survivors to discuss issues relating to their exclusion, including but not limited to issues arising from Richard Jeffrey Newman’s posts here, here, and here. A parallel discussion, more narrowly focussed on male survivors of sexual abuse is also taking place on Toy Soldiers.

By “survivor” I mean any person who has suffered psychological damage as a result of gender-based abuse or maltreatment. This includes, but is not limited to, childhood sexual abuse, schoolyard bullying, domestic violence and rape. How bad the experience was, viewed ‘objectively’ is not the point. The point is that you were damaged by those experiences. It has taken a long time for me to accept that my experiences count, and I don’t want anyone to feel excluded or that they should exclude themself.

By “excluded” I mean anyone who feels blamed or rejected by feminism’s approach to survival, and hence (or otherwise) excluded from the survival discourse which feminism monopolises. So far, only men have participated, so the discussion has been male-focused, but transgender and female excluded survivors are welcome to participate, and I would endeavor to fully include them.

People who are not excluded survivors but who are supportive of our efforts here are welcome to comment, but be aware that I will moderate this one more strictly than I would normally.

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12 Comments »

  1. What you are doing here is imposing your ideological interpretation on other people’s experiences, something you have no business doing. And this, in a nutshell, is what is going wrong with your threads over at Alas, and why you have had to come here and to toysoldiers to talk to us[*], because none of us taking part in your threads on Alas.

    You make, I think, the same mistake Toy Soldier made in his response to my post on Alas: I was in my post talking about ways in which feminism makes it possible to think structurally about male survivors; I was not analyzing anyone’s experience, nor suggesting that the individual experiences of male survivors need to be shoehorned into this structural analysis. Indeed, I stated quite explicitly, when I quote curiousgyrl’s comment about why men rape other men and boys, that the “phenomenon [she] points out is a structural one; it does not get at male survivors’ interior experience….”

    It is fascinating to me that both you and toy soldier ignore the part of my post where I talk about how I experienced feminism as silencing and seem to assume that because I find useful certain feminist insights about the structuring of society relative to male survivors I therefore must think that feminist analysis is the way to go when talking about male survivors’ experiences and/or healing. In other words, no one said, gee, there are these seeming contradictions in Newman’s post–and I acknowledge quite freely that there are–I wonder how or if he is going to try to resolve them?

    Finally, I realize that it might be a point of pride in the blogosphere to have people come to your blog and comment, but I have to say that I don’t care where this discussion takes place: on Alas, on my blog, on your blog, on Toy Soldier’s blog. Amp offered me a forum; if you had offered me one, I would have been happy to take it, especially because people like you and Toy Soldier find Alas to be at best a problematic place in which to discuss your ideas/experiences, and I am sensitive to the needs of survivors to feel safe when and where they choose to speak. The important thing for me is that the discussion happens, not because I think my way is the right way, but because I think male survivors need to find a collective voice. What I have read from you and Toy Soldier contains a lot of critique of feminism–some of it I agree with; some of it I don’t–what I have not read are conrete and specific suggestions for other ways of approaching the issue that are as, or at least are as potentially, forcefully and compellingly politicizing in the way that feminism is for women’s issues.

    (There’s no way I can see to move comments, so I copied this one across. I did my best to duplicate all the meta info, but it looks like you’re going to have to put up with my Avatar. — Daran)

  2. Daran said,

    You make, I think, the same mistake Toy Soldier made in his response to my post on Alas: I was in my post talking about ways in which feminism makes it possible to think structurally about male survivors; I was not analyzing anyone’s experience, nor suggesting that the individual experiences of male survivors need to be shoehorned into this structural analysis.

    Then why raise it, in a thread purportedly “for” male victims, when this way of “think[ing] structurally”:

    1. Declares men to be the victimiser class, and

    2. Includes male victims within that class, and therefore

    3. Blames the victim.

    Indeed, I stated quite explicitly, when I quote curiousgyrl’s comment about why men rape other men and boys, that the “phenomenon [she] points out is a structural one; it does not get at male survivors’ interior experience….”

    OK. I agree that it does not get at the interior experience. It also refocusses the discussion of male-as-victim onto male-as-perpetrator, which is the way feminists typically derail male victim threads.

    (I am not suggesting that curiousgyrl’s comment was intended to be malicious. I have a very high regard for her. But it was inappropriate in a male survivor context.)

    I mention this only because of the bragging about how feminists wouldn’t derail male-victim oriented threads. from where I’m sitting, the comments thread on your latest post on Alas is virtually nothing but. (True there have been few non-feminist male survivors defending it, but I’ll talk about why I think that is in a mo.)

    It is fascinating to me that both you and toy soldier ignore the part of my post where I talk about how I experienced feminism as silencing and seem to assume that because I find useful certain feminist insights about the structuring of society relative to male survivors I therefore must think that feminist analysis is the way to go when talking about male survivors’ experiences and/or healing. In other words, no one said, gee, there are these seeming contradictions in Newman’s post–and I acknowledge quite freely that there are–I wonder how or if he is going to try to resolve them?

    You seem to think that you enjoy or should be given the benefit of the doubt. You don’t, and you won’t. To me, you look like someone who is sincerely trying to reach out to us (who find feminism generally toxic to our recovery), but who does not comprehend why it should be toxic to us, or even that it is, and who has shown little inclination to try to understand why or to listen to us. So I assume good faith on your part, but little else. (By the way, assuming good faith all the time is a personal trait (possibly Asperger’s-related) that gets me kicked in the teeth, time and time again. Others will be even less generous to you than I am.)

    So that is where you are starting from. I’m not sure where you want to get to, or even if it is possible to get there from here, but that is your starting position, and you need to understand and accept that.

    Finally, I realize that it might be a point of pride in the blogosphere to have people come to your blog and comment,…

    That is frankly insulting. The issue, as both I and toysoldier have been telling you over and over, (but are you listening?) is safety. It is obviously safer for me here, where I have the authority and the moderators buttons.

    but I have to say that I don’t care where this discussion takes place: on Alas, on my blog, on your blog, on Toy Soldier’s blog. Amp offered me a forum; if you had offered me one, I would have been happy to take it, especially because people like you and Toy Soldier find Alas to be at best a problematic place in which to discuss your ideas/experiences, and I am sensitive to the needs of survivors to feel safe when and where they choose to speak.

    With the greatest of respect, you do not appear to be sensitive at all. At best you seem to have a vague feeling that there might be something “problematic”, but you’re do not seem to really understand what it is.

    In fact, just as I was preparing to stick my neck out and disclose in your thread, (cause someone’s got to go first) I was the victim of a massive feminist pile-on in another thread, which I retreated from as soon as I realised it was happening, and then deconstructed the result in detail here and here, and in summary here. Eventually Amp admitted that “on the whole, in that thread you behaved very well indeed. I don’t have any complaints about your behavior”, but only after I had deconstructed his earlier, less sanguine assessments, showing them to be nothing other than victim-blaming.

    But this wasn’t what reduced me to lying in my bed crying my eyes out. No, it was the immediate slap down I got from Amp and you when I asked one of the bullies in your thread to back off a little, because hey, I ought to be thinking about his safety. This is also when the other non-feminist male survivors abandoned your thread. That may be just coincidence. Or maybe it isn’t. But they haven’t come back.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, Marcella solves the bullying problem by excluding the victim (me) and giving the bullies what they wanted.

    So yes, I do feel there is something “problematic” about Alas.

    The important thing for me is that the discussion happens, not because I think my way is the right way, but because I think male survivors need to find a collective voice.

    Well I don’t, because I don’t agree that they have a true “collective voice”. They should be allowed to express their individual voices. Female survivors too, there are a lot of them who feel that the feminist “collective voice” excludes and silences them.

    What I have read from you and Toy Soldier contains a lot of critique of feminism–some of it I agree with; some of it I don’t–what I have not read are conrete and specific suggestions for other ways of approaching the issue that are as, or at least are as potentially, forcefully and compellingly politicizing in the way that feminism is for women’s issues.

    “Inclusion” is a political stance. A back-of-the-bus status is not good enough.

  3. Daran:

    That is frankly insulting.

    You are right. I actually took the insulting bit out of a later version of the post, but it must have been posted in the confusion of my posting from work. I apologize for that.

    As for the rest of the discussion, this quick response will have to do until I have more time to engage with it fully. We start from essentially incommensurate positions, though I continute to think you wilfully read selectively what I have written, as if I made no attempt at nuance (and I do not claim that my attempts at nuance are by definition successful.) I do not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt, but I would like to be read for what I have written and not for what your feminist-critical radar hones in on

    You ask why I raise the structural issues I raised in a thread “for” male victims: because I think those structural issues can play an important part in understanding how male survivors are positioned structurally (sometimes accurately, sometimes not), both within feminism and without. This says nothing about any individual man’s experience of abuse, nor does suggesting that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual violence or that male survivors, as members of the class of men, share in the privileges accorded to men in male dominance, in any way blame men who were sexually abused for their own abuse, which is what blaming the victim would be. (And I just want be clear: the problem of female perpetrators is one I will return to.)

    I would like to say more about “inclusion-as-a-political-stance,” but I don’t have time. What I will say is that I am not interested in back-of-the-bus either. Perhaps subsequent posts of mine will make that clear.

  4. Daran said,

    As for the rest of the discussion, this quick response will have to do until I have more time to engage with it fully.

    OK I will await that fuller response.

    We start from essentially incommensurate positions, though I continute to think you wilfully read selectively what I have written, as if I made no attempt at nuance (and I do not claim that my attempts at nuance are by definition successful.) I do not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt, but I would like to be read for what I have written and not for what your feminist-critical radar hones in on

    I am responding to what you have written here, and only superficially to what you wrote on Alas. It deserves a more critical examination from me, I acknowledge, but I have not had time to do so.

    When you say “no one said, gee, there are these seeming contradictions in Newman’s post–and I acknowledge quite freely that there are–I wonder how or if he is going to try to resolve them?”, you appear to be expressing surprise that you aren’t being given the benefit of any doubt raised by the ambiguities, which in turn implies that you think you ought to be. Whether or not you ought to be is neither here nor there. The fact is, you won’t be, by those who you are trying to reach, therefore you must either proceed on that basis, or not proceed at all.

    You ask why I raise the structural issues I raised in a thread “for” male victims:

    As an initial matter, why the scare quotes around the word “for”? The initial thread was titled “Open thread for male survivors of sexual violence”, (my emphasis). In your last comment to that thread, you said “I am thinking that the wise thing to do would be to start this thread again”, (again my emphasis). I therefore assume that your new thread was also for male survivors. Was this assumption incorrect?

    because I think those structural issues can play an important part in understanding how male survivors are positioned structurally (sometimes accurately, sometimes not), both within feminism and without. This says nothing about any individual man’s experience of abuse, nor does suggesting that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual violence or that male survivors, as members of the class of men, share in the privileges accorded to men in male dominance, in any way blame men who were sexually abused for their own abuse, which is what blaming the victim would be. (And I just want be clear: the problem of female perpetrators is one I will return to.)

    The problem of female perpetrators is more specifically toysoldier’s issue than mine. I wish him well with it, but he and I have different foci. Mine is male victims qua victims, thus to focus on perpetrators whether female or male is (from my perspective) to be sidetracked.

    Since I do not agree with feminist analysis generally, it follows that I do not agree that the feminist analysis of structural issues is helpful “in understanding how male survivors are positioned structurally [outside] feminism”. However our disagreement on this is better discussed in the other thread.

    In order to understand how male survivors are position structurally within feminism requires us to understand how feminism constructs the position of male survivors in society. To do that, requires both a statement of the feminist position, and a meta-analysis necessarily undertaken from a position external to the normative feminist framework being analysed. (Feminism cannot analyse itself.) The problem for you is that stating the feminist position is an essentially ambiguous act when you are feminist. How do you distinguish between “feminism says X about Y” as a statement about feminism and as a feminist statement about Y? As I said before, you will not be given the benefit of the doubt engendered by this ambiguity. The fact that you defend these statements (such as your claim that it is not victim-blaming when it clearly is, and in any case is construed as such by us[*]) does not mitigate in your favour.

    But all this begs the question “why bother”? We[*] do not wish to be admitted into or included in feminism. We know that it is toxic to us. We wish to end feminism’s monopoly on the survivor discourse.

    [*]I’m not used to using the plural pronoun, and I’m aware of the apparent conflict with my earlier statement about male survivors not having a collective voice. By “we” I mean male survivors (and female ones too, maybe) for whom feminism is toxic. Clearly this does not include you. The “collective voice” extends only to our rejection of feminism as harmful to us and our desire to escape from the back-of-the-bus. Other than that, I would not presume to speak for male survivors.

  5. toysoldier said,

    I agree with what Daran has stated, but I just want clarify one thing:

    The problem of female perpetrators is more specifically toysoldier’s issue than mine. I wish him well with it, but he and I have different foci. Mine is male victims qua victims, thus to focus on perpetrators whether female or male is (from my perspective) to be sidetracked.

    My concern is less about which gender commits the abuse but rather that by focusing solely on male perpetrators it greatly limits the discussion, especially for the male survivors who had female abusers. Those survivors should not be excluded.

  6. Daran said,

    The “only male perpetrators, only female victims” discourse is an example of the wider feminist discourse which constructs the class of men as perpetrators. As I pointed out in my first response to Richard in this thread, this is a victim-blaming discourse.

    On that subject, I now understand (but do not agree with) Richard when he says that it’s not victim-blaming because it does not blame the survivor for being victimised. I do not accept that narrow construction of “victim-blaming”: To cast the victim into the role of perpetrator is to blame him.

  7. Daran said,

    Please note the change in title, and broadening of the topic as described in the revised text of my post.

  8. Aegis said,

    Daran said:

    By “male survivor” I mean any male person who has suffered psychological damage as a result of gender-based abuse or maltreatment. This includes, but is not limited to, childhood sexual abuse, schoolyard bullying, domestic violence and male rape.

    When I have seen the recent threads on male survivors, I thought “oh, this is an interesting discussion, but it doesn’t really apply to me.” But maybe it does. I experienced schoolyard bullying, though I don’t know if I would call myself a “male survivor,” because it hasn’t really sunk in that what happened to me could be called “abuse.” I will have to think about this.

  9. Daran said,

    Ha! Just as I change the rubric to make it female-inclusive, you go and quote the old text.

    Schoolyard bullying is abuse, yes. It is gendered because it plays out differently for boys than for girls. I also said “maltreatment” which is broader than abuse. I define “abuse” to be self-serving (from the abuser’s POV) maltreatment. But but even well-intentioned maltreatment can be damaging.

    The key qualification is damage. Probably everyone has suffered some abuse and maltreatment in their lives, but for most it is not significantly damaging and the do not need the support and resources the survivor movement can bring. If you do need that support and those resources, then welcome to my thread.

    I would not call myself “male survivor”. I would call myself “survivor”. It has taken me a long time to apply that label to myself – until just a few days ago, in fact, when I realised just how extreme my reaction had been to the bullying on Alas, and to Amp’s victim-blaming response. The way I deconstructed these events probably come across as very calm and efficient, but that could be analogised to the calm efficient way a Rambo, or a Jason Bourne dispatches his opponents when he’s fighting for his life.

  10. Daran–

    Quickly, just to clear up the confusion: the scare quotes around “for” in my comment were intended to echo the quotes you put around “for” in one of the comments I was replying to. (Sorry, I don’t remember which one.) I think I may have misread the purpose of the quotes in your comment, though I am not sure.

  11. Daran said,

    You are correct. I beg your pardon; it’s unfortunate that quotes are somewhat overloaded with meaning.

  12. […] is a repost of an article originally posted at DaRain Man. Comments older than Wednesdau 10 January 2007 were originally posted there. See this post for […]


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