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STATEMENT

 

 

August 26, 2017

To all-

It has come to our attention that a respected leader of our small online enclave has betrayed the trust many people have instilled in him over the past years.  We are stunned at these revelations like everyone else.  It was with much internal debate and emotional pain that we decided as a group that we had to release the information to the community.  Although this form of information is not our usual forte as we are collectively concerned about overriding issues, such as leaving some form of a natural world above all else, it was something so stunningly vile that we had no other choice but to present it to the community as our conscience would not allow us to conceal this from the public.

Since this decision, which is something we thoroughly debated due to its seriousness, there is much online discussion regarding to what degree his transgressions can be described as terrible and even if they should be in the public due to the personal nature of the correspondence.  From this perspective, this person and his supporters have pointed to the fact that the behavior between himself and the woman in question was of a consensual, private nature, and should be of no concern to the wider community.  We believe this argument falls short for three critical reasons which should be considered both separately and collectively.

The first reason is one of ethics, which is separate from legality.  The word ethics is defined as “a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.”  Most professional organizations have codes of ethics, which participants must adhere to in order to remain in good standing.  In regards to its specific ethical standards, the American Psychological Association states “your psychologist shouldn’t also be your friend, client, or sex partner.  That’s because psychologists are supposed to avoid relationships that could impair their professional performance or harm their clients. One type of relationship that’s never acceptable is a sexual relationship with a current client.“

This person has taken on several roles, which in combination provide the framework for producing potentially serious ethical concerns.  As a recognized authority in the field of climate science, this person’s words contain the weight of authority for many.  His carefully worded prognostications of a coming end of human existence on the planet, though backed by his scientific understanding,  nonetheless have the ability to produce a state of anxiety, uncertainty, and despair in those who accept his perspective.  This person acknowledges this on his website, stating that “Because the topics of his presentations sometimes induce despair, Guy became a certified grief-recovery specialist in January 2014.”

The combination of his pursuits, as a climate scientist predicting the end of life as we know it, and grief counselor, puts him in the unique role of both producing or exacerbating the effect of anxiety or despair in an individual, as well as creating the context through which that despair is then addressed.  His audience, of which we have been a part, consists of individuals often marginalized by our larger society that ignores the very real warnings of catastrophic  climate change.  The views shared by many in our numerous and varied Near Term Human Extinction (NTHE) groups have produced not simply a sense of despair about the future, but also a sense of isolation from our immediate communities and families.  Solace is then sought out within the NTHE community, under the banner of this person’s scientific findings.

While in many ways natural responses warranted by our current situation, this combination of despair, confusion, and isolation, none the less set up the potential for the exploitation of those who acutely feel the desperation and disorientation of abrupt climate change, and have nowhere else to turn for answers.

And this is the reason for the need for ethics and ethical boundaries.  This person is in a position of authority with direct influence over the mental, emotional, and in some cases physical and monetary lives, of those who exist in a state of vulnerability.  This is a state which he has helped to facilitate and of which he profits from in his personal life.  To then use that position, as this person has done, to engage in sexualized relations with women by way of administering a self-serving “healing” to individuals who are going such traumatic personal experiences, is a violation of ethical boundaries.  From a purely ethical perspective within a narrowly focused context of a professor/student and grief therapist/client context, the exact content of these relations, which will justifiably elicit revulsion in many by themselves, is not the primary concern.  The mere existence of these relations under such power dynamics, whether consensual or not, is at best ethically compromised, simply because of the potential  for abuse that exists, even if no actual abuse can be conclusively identified.  As the revelations of women who have come forward and expressed their pain with regard to these relationships continues to grow, this strongly indicates that emotional abuse and the abuse of power were at play and their claims should be taken with utmost seriousness. At the most basic level, it is because these abuses could take place that professional boundaries and codes of ethics are established and why we should reject this person‘s behavior.

In that vein, the truth of the matter is that whatever grey area there may potentially be is no longer up for debate due to his repeated and lengthy record of attempting and succeeding in taking advantage of women in a vulnerable position emotionally due to the disheartening mental and social effects of personally accepting the ongoing Sixth Great Extinction (of which humanity will be one of its victims, as well as its singular cause).  As one of the admittedly unfiltered and honest voices concerning this present set of circumstances with few people having the sphere of influence that he has in our small community,  the unethical manner in which he used this trust for nefarious sexual ends repeatedly has left us no other recourse but to do everything in our power to stop him from continuing the same behavior.

This then leads to the second critical point.  While the argument has been made that in regard to his relations with one particular woman, the content is irrelevant because of its consensual nature, this defense rings hollow.  To use an analogy: while living in a free society one may be legally permitted to hold racist beliefs and freely associate with other racists, a member of the NAACP would  nonetheless rightfully oppose its leader if they were later discovered to be a member of the KKK.  Such an association would clearly violate the spirit and mission of an organization promoting racial justice, and in the duplicity of core beliefs in the leadership, it would  also indicate a threat to the structural integrity of the organization and potentially its members.  It would not matter whether the current leader had joined the KKK after being first approached by a klansman, or if the leader started a chapter on his own.  The compromise would be clear.

Similarly, the content of his interactions with one woman in question, no matter how they came about, indicated the willingness of this person to engage in, perhaps initiate, rape fantasies  and other degrading and sexually objectifying dialogues that are not congruous with the core values of a significant number of members of the Near Term Human Extinction Support Group and its associated community.  This incongruity is borne out in the fact that he has spoken out specifically against patriarchy on his regular online radio program and in innumerous public forums and presentations, but has engaged in fantasies of rape and sexual enslavement, which represent the most extreme form of patriarchy, regardless of how that interaction began.   Therefore, the problems surrounding the content of his interactions are twofold.  They are contained in both the degrading, misogynist verbiage itself and the fact that such interactions represent a betrayal of trust relating to the public image of a respect for life and an opposition to patriarchy that he has cultivated in the public eye to his personal benefit.

The destruction of the Earth, the underlying concern of the various NTHE support groups, is the direct result of human and environmental exploitation, a core element of which is the domination of women where females are treated as property to be used  like much of the natural world, mere objects for male gratification.  Thus the move from more egalitarian, hunter gatherer societies into stratified agricultural and industrial societies, which culminated in today’s planet devouring global civilization which this person critiques, entailed the objectification and commodification of women.  To participate in such objectification and fantasies of female subjugation with a potential member of the NTHE community no less, goes beyond hypocrisy.  It signifies that in regard to what this person believes and values, he cannot be trusted.  And given the context, as suggested in the above analogy, this duplicity threatens both group integrity and potentially the safety of its members.

Perhaps some would say that the way in which the information was obtained makes us no better and even worse than the perpetrator, as there are many online accusations of this being the case.  However, we didn’t go out seeking this information, even if we are greatly appreciative of it since it allows us the opportunity to stop any future manipulations by someone in a leadership position.  It was brought to us and we made the difficult decision to use it for the greater good of stopping any further occurrences – our decision superseding any disparaging things said about us individually or collectively.

Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that none of the individuals who became privy to this information have an axe to grind with this person. Actually, this is quite the contrary.  We are all people who had a great amount of respect and admiration of him as a scholar and a person.  It wasn’t until recently that those who possessed such a tremendous amount of respect for this man started questioning his motives outside of the irrefutable science and his singular desire to provide it to the public.  Sadly, this recent incident dispelled any doubts in our minds regarding much of his endeavors.

We are a small community of activists.  Most of what we know to be true in this world in regards to the state of affairs of the planet are things that are not accepted by the mainstream world, even though they are playing out in real time and disaffecting humanity at this very instant and with growing intensity.  As it is difficult to find any sources of solidarity, be it local or globally, once this disparate group of human beings find comrades or leaders (of which there are even less), we tend to cling on to them in great desperation as they are truly few and far between.

As this is the case, the people who come to us and try to find a community of some sort to explain to them what is going on or just commiserate about the ongoing travails of this global society are the picture of vulnerability during their greatest hour of need.  Hence, it is unethical, even predatory, for anyone to take advantage of these people while they are most defenseless.  As some people are trying to construe this as just a single, solitary case,  the fact of the matter is that this has been an ongoing pattern for awhile now and has reached a point where someone must step in and stem the tide of abuse this man is committing on this tiny yet venerable group.

As such, it begs the question how long can people righteously withhold  what they know to be the truth when it comes to this man’s interaction with the members of such a small group, an already victimized sect who find very little acceptance in general society?  Can we, as supposedly moral people, just sit back idly and allow this type of behavior to continue unabated since it is the path of least resistance to stay silent?  As the response from this tight knit community has ranged from outrage to acceptance, the outcome of this revelation is of no real importance as biases abound as to the acceptance of this information.  Since that is the case, the only thing of barometric significance is apprising the people of the truth to keep them from harm, which was our singular reason for the release of this information.

Although we are cognizant that all of us have personal transgressions and no one is perfect, the predatory nature of this individual makes him a threat to both those who may be accepting of his advances and, most importantly, those who are not.  If the interaction is one of consent amongst equals, it is not the business of us as individuals or as a group to intercede at all.  But, when there is a blatant disregard for the welfare of the people  in an attempt to serve the lascivious desires of one man, then that is something that must be addressed by those who are in power to do so by any means necessary.

This brings us to the third and final critical point.  Not only was there a sordid psycho-sexual aspect of what took place that was against everything this man professed to be of a personal nature as a leader of a social movement, he also betrayed the confidence and trust of another intellectual leader and comrade in the movement, where, based on his documented language, it is a legitimate concern as to whether or not he would have been an actual physical threat to her if he had the opportunity.  With this third and final critical piece, his actions go beyond purely professional ethical violations and public misrepresentations of core values which demonstrate a willingness to degrade and objectify women.  His discussion moves into the realm of creating a physical environment that justifiably feels unsafe to core members.  As previously mentioned, there are other cases of women who have begun to voice their own troubling experiences, which at this time we cannot provide further details.

Therefore, even though we have all had an immense amount of respect for this man over the years, the recent events show he isn’t worthy of being in a position of influence and power over others, as he has abused it in the past, is abusing it presently and will assuredly continue this behavior in the future if no one attempts to at least stop him.

Although we are understanding that people will still hold their opinions about the veracity of the evidence against this man and come away absolving him of all guilt in this series of events, the primary thing we hope to accomplish is to warn those who are in the community about the ulterior motives of this man.  Once people are provided all the evidence, it is up to them to make a personal decision if they wish to continue their relationship with this person, be it personal and/or professional.  We aren’t here to tell anyone what to do in any aspect, as freedom of thought and choice is something we believe in and respect.  However, we would be remiss if we didn’t provide people the total knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

As we know that many people will consider our revelation as being divisive and a planned attack for some fantastical reason that has no basis in reality, we can only say we received this information through no attempt on our part and will receive no reward for releasing it.  Once we became aware of it though, there was no other recourse but to bring it to the public sphere, as the ongoing pattern of behavior was spiraling out of control. There will be those who will cast aspersions against our character and accuse us of somehow profiting in some way from this event, even though this is anything but the case.  Still, there will be many people who will consider us turncoats, paid informants, subversives and every other form of accusation as to our motives.  Yet, we will almost assuredly lose more favor and receive heightened scorn through providing this information than any other outcome.  No matter what blowback we receive though, it is worth it to us to receive a mountain of negative response rather than live with the unconscionable act of staying silent in the face of knowing malfeasance.

We welcome all queries about the veracity of the information since the specific evidence is part of the public domain and not under our supervision.  We have nothing to hide and will vociferously defend our decisions in this matter since to be silent in this regard is criminal, if not legally, then definitely morally.

We are greatly appreciative of the support from our online community in bringing this to the fore.

Thank you.

Michael  Sliwa, Host of the radio show Nature Bats Last from August 2014 to May 2017

Derrick Jensen, Deep Green Resistance

Lierre Keith, Deep Green Resistance

Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green

Forrest Palmer, Wrong Kind of Green

Luke Orsborne, Wrong Kind of Green

 

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Psychiatrist, researcher, teacher, and author Judith Herman:

“Authoritarian, secretive, sometimes grandiose, and even paranoid, the perpetrator is nevertheless exquisitely sensitive to the realities of power and to social  norms. Only rarely does he get into difficulties with the law; rather, he seeks out situations where his tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired. His demeanor provides an excellent camouflage, for few people believe that extraordinary crimes can be committed by men of such conventional appearance.  The perpetrator’s first goal appears to be the enslavement of his victim, and he accomplishes this goal by exercising despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life. But simple compliance rarely satisfies him; he appears to have a psychological need to justify his crimes, and for this he needs the victim’s affirmation. Thus he relentlessly demands from his victim professions of respect, gratitude, or even love. His ultimate goal appears to be the creation of a willing victim. Hostages, political prisoners, battered women, and slaves have all remarked upon the captor’s curious psychological dependence upon his victim. George Orwell gives voice to the totalitarian mind in the novel 1984: “We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul.”

 The desire for total control over another person is the common denominator of all forms of tyranny. Totalitarian governments demand confession and political conversion of their victims. Slaveholders demand gratitude of their slaves. Religious cults demand ritualized sacrifices as a sign of submission to the divine will of the leader. Perpetrators of domestic battery demand that their victims prove complete obedience and loyalty by sacrificing all other relationships. Sex offenders demand that their victims find sexual fulfillment in submission. Total control over another person is the power dynamic at the heart of pornography. The erotic appeal of this fantasy to millions of terrifyingly normal men fosters an immense industry in which women and children are abused, not in fantasy but in reality.”

FINAL-STATEMENT-AUGUST-26-2017-final-revision

 

Playboy Feminism™: how the gentleman’s porn rag co-opted the women’s movement

NewStatesman

June 30, 2015

by Meghan Murphy

 

Playboy’s recent attempts to incorporate “feminist” content into their online magazine are part of a longstanding effort to sell a version of “women’s lib” that really only benefits men.

Playmate Bunnies at Playboy’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2014. Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Playboy
Playmate Bunnies at Playboy’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2014. Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Playboy

If you ask Hugh Hefner, he’ll tell you he “was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism”. Just this week, Cosmopolitan republished Hef’s love letter to himself, arguing that feminism was its own worst enemy, Playboy being the true source of women’s liberation. “Everybody,” he writes, “if they’ve got their head on straight, wants to be a sexual object”.

This piece was originally published in 2007, but Hef’s been making the same argument since the 1960s. And, in fact, the magazine did promote their own version of “women’s lib” back then – supporting reproductive rights and, of course, “sexual liberation”. The Playboy Foundation even donated generously to abortion rights organisations and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fund daycare centers. Longtime senior editor, Nat Lehrman said the magazine “came out on these important feminist issues before feminists had figured out what their issues were”.

But their support for women was selective, to say the least, and back then there were few feminists who fell for it. Playboy still was known primarily for the centerfolds and was clear about their distaste for a certain kind of woman (and a certain kind of feminist). The Playmate was a young, happy, simple girl – not a “difficult” one, Hef told journalist, Oriana Fallaci, in 1967. Problem is, the feminist movement has fought for women to be seen as human, not one-dimensional playthings.

Claiming to support women’s rights while simultaneously insisting on our objectification was unconvincing for the second wave. But the times they are a-changing and the kind of feminism presented to today’s liberal doesn’t seem so far off from the magazine’s ethos. In an era that ascribes “empowerment” to everything from breast implants to nude selfies to pole-dancing classes, and when the hottest conversation of 2014 was Beyonce’s feminism, it only makes sense that the magazine would double-down on their efforts to capitalize on the movement.

Playboy’s existence relies on the notion of women as sexually liberated proponents of free love. As such, the introduction of the birth control pill in America was deeply connected to not only women’s liberation but to the sexual revolution – women could now have sex “like men”, no strings attached. Playboy was crafting a version of “women’s lib” that was, in the end, still male-centered. Women were permitted to be “sexual” but within the confines of a one-dimensional view of “sexuality” that had to, in the end, satisfy men.

In Right Wing Women, Andrea Dworkin said, of the sexual revolution, “It did not free women. Its purpose – it turned out – was to free men to use women without bourgeois constraints, and in that it was successful.”

So while the sexual revolution was a grand old time for men, for women it was more of a drugged up, floral-patterned version of rape culture. In the past, women could (theoretically) say “no” to sex lest they get pregnant. With the advent of the pill, there was no justifiable reason (from the perspectives of men) to say “no”.

What Playboy did 60 years ago mirrors the direction popular feminism (and liberal politics, more generally) has taken today. Playboy’s philosophy was an individualist one that valued “personal freedom” and “personal choice” above all else and saw the state as an impediment to the American Dream. Western men – progressives or activists who claim to oppose corporate power, imperialism, and white supremacy – have happily adopted Playboy’s version of feminism. Rather than questioning their own power and privilege and the way in which patriarchy has dictated representations of the female body and female sexuality, they’ve embraced porn culture, positioning the male gaze as liberatory.

In an imagined effort to defeat the virgin-whore dichotomy that had, in the past, created a class of women men could use and abuse in order to protect the “purity” of upper class women, many progressive men (and liberal feminists) found a “solution” in constructing all women as “whores.” Rather than challenge the notion of women as bodies that exist to serve men, in one way or another, whether through childbirth, sex, or unpaid domestic labour, they’ve embraced Playboy’s “all women are fuckable” vision of emancipation. And not only were all women to be sexualised, consumable objects, but they were supposed to love it. Women learned to always be “up for it,” lest we be labeled repressed prudes. Ergo, our liberation depended on our sexual availability to men.

Playboy’s “safe-for-work” site, launched in 2014, has been recruiting “feminist” content. While many saw this as an effort to rebrand, Playboy’s efforts to coopt the feminist movement are ingrained in the magazine’s history. Cory Jones, senior vice president for digital content told the Columbia Journalism Review, the brand has always been “inclusive,” “pro-consent,” and “pro-women”.

Indeed, Playboy’s foremost “feminist” writer is Noah Berlatsky, whose work exemplifies their longstanding approach to feminism: men know what’s best for feminism, regardless of what feminists say. His political philosophy appears to be “equal objectification for all”, which fits perfectly with the brand. It’s the idea that the more women we can view as “fuckable”, the more women will be liberated.

Today, Playboy and writers such as Berlatsky emphasise “choice” and “consent” in their writing on female sexuality – the objectified are meant to be eager about their objectification, not forced, not begrudging. This all serves to reinforce exactly what Hefner began selling in the 1960s: the Playboy man is a “gentleman”, which means that he won’t catcall women on the street or support revenge porn – rather, he wants a woman’s enthusiastic consent (nobody likes a downer, after all…). He wants her to have chosen objectification and to frame it has something she enjoys.

In a recent piece, Berlatsky wrote, erroneously, that radical feminists who criticise the notion that empowerment is achievable through male-dictated beauty standards were cruel and exclusionary. Misrepresenting feminist critiques of objectification as personal “attacks” on women is common practice for liberals who are unwilling to extend discourse beyond the personal. Using the language of liberal feminism, he capitalises on the very lack of accountability demanded of him as a white man, writing for Playboy, to trash and slander women who challenge the very systems of power that support him. Like Hef, he sees himself as a generous, open-minded, “feminist” man – one of the “good guys” – so kind as to engage in the sexualisation of all women, fairly and equally.

Apparently aware of critiques of both his work and of Playboy’s “feminist” marketing efforts (some of which came from myself), Berlatsky recently argued, defensively, that he chooses to write for the magazine in order to “change minds.” He claims that, despite feminists like Susan Brownmiller’s claims that Playboy doesn’t speak to women, but uses them as “masturbatory fantasies” instead, women were, in fact, enthusiastically speaking to him. Berlatsky has a habit of including particular women’s voices in his ongoing battle against feminism – women who will parrot back to him exactly what he already wants to believe and convey. It’s a shrewd move, learned from the masters. The sexual exploitation industries have always found women to bring onside – women who are hopeful that the “sexy = empowering” mantra will prove to be true. Though, somehow, despite all that sexy sex, Playboy has yet to end patriarchy…

Comedien and Playboy writer, Sara Benincasa, whose articles include “Why Every Woman Should Do A Pinup Photo Shoot,” describes herself as “a sex-positive, body-positive, fun-loving feminist”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with loving sex, your body, or fun – the problem is that these qualifiers are code for “unthreatening feminist” and, therefore, describe the ideal “Playboy Feminist”. It represents the kind of feminism that won’t interfere with men’s sexual fantasies – you can imagine the words placed right alongside a Playmate a la “I’m fun, easy going, and up for anything!”

Other “feminist” articles recently published on the site include a plea to decriminalise the purchase of sex, a piece about how empowering it is to give men blowjobs, and a couple about the compatibility of feminism and porn. The message isn’t particularly subtle…

Playboy will never bring on feminist writers who challenge men’s vision of women as beautiful creatures to be gazed at and carefree girls who are always up for a good time because it goes against everything Playboy stands for. Supporting writers who represent dissenters as bitter hags and hateful prudes is a far better marketing strategy.

What writers like Berlatsky (and Playboy as a whole) refuse to acknowledge is the possibility that women’s liberation does not rest on men’s ability to find them “beautiful.” His lie, that feminists find the bodies of naked women “disgusting” is particularly misguided (and willfully so) – we know full-well that our body-hatred derives from men like him and other Playboy readers. It is he and men of his ilk who tell us our happiness, our worth, our ability to love ourselves, our humanity, and our freedom all rest on their sexual arousal and satisfaction. Berlatsky’s misogyny is – like Playboy’s – subtle and cloaked in the language of “sex-positive feminism” and liberalism. It is a “pro-women” kind of anti-feminism. And his timing couldn’t be better.

Now that second wave feminists have been thoroughly trashed by progressive men and women alike, the time is ripe for Playboy Feminism’s resurgence. Today’s young feminist wants to make her own porn, perform stripteases (But for free… Because it’s not work, it’s “for fun”) take her objectification into her own hands via Kardashianesque Instagram “belfies”, and rebrand prostitution as an empowering choice sexually liberated women make for themselves.

Playboy never wanted to impose their version of liberation onto women – they wanted us to adopt it willingly, gleefully – with our consent. They wanted us to call it our own. And we did. Playboy Feminism is indistinguishable from mainstream liberal feminism: it is pro-capitalism, pro-sex industry, pro-beauty industry, and pro-objectification. It challenges little in terms of male power, but supports “sex” and uses buzzwords like “choice”, “agency,” and “consent” in order to avoid more complex, challenging conversations that situate “freedom” within a larger social and political context. It asks nothing of men but that they support our “choice” to hop out of our bunny suits and into the grotto.

Meghan Murphy is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, B.C. Her website is Feminist Current

The Weaponized Naked Girl

manyfesto

July 15, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.18.04 PM

The 1976 film Network is the story of a failing television channel and its scheme to improve ratings by putting a crazy man on television. Howard Beale is driven out of his mind after he’s laid off to shield the bottom line. He is a widower, no real friends – a victim of the economic rearrangement of the 1970s. Promising to blow his brains out on live TV, Beale is suddenly the savior of the network as the ratings are higher than ever as a result of this outburst. He appears on television and delivers emotive appeals to his audience, reasoning that while he doesn’t know what do to fix the situation, he at least encourages everyone to “get mad”. But no mass movement erupts. Once his shares start to dip, the network assassinates him to pull their ratings out of the fire.

This is the usual synopsis you’ll receive. Network’s other story lines, the ones about Faye Dunaway’s sexually aggressive yet sexually vacuous character, the cynical manipulation of Black Power politics, are usually ignored. Everyone loves a story about a maniac street preacher. But Network is also about how the media is manufactured, how our pain and frustrations regarding the state of the world are manipulated for ratings, and how legitimate grievances are monetized under capitalism.

It’s a shame we miss out on that, because the media we consume today is just as cynically manipulated. It’s just as weaponized against the population as the media of a hundred years ago, but has now adopted new marketing techniques to sell, promote, and defend imperialism and capitalism. This is not to say that older techniques are not still used – some corruption is still as blatant as taking money or gifts – but other techniques have not been as examined, as thoroughly condemned. While sex and race are just as common as ever in the media’s worship of imperialism and capitalism, the new neoliberal strategies of atomization and the cult of the individual gives the old tropes of manipulation a fresh coat of paint:

We live in an era of flux. The old model of a creator or creative type—a person who does one thing well, and depends on institutions for support—is falling by the wayside. The creator of the future is a super-connected trans-disciplinary mutant: engaged and intellectually rebellious. Molly Crabapple has created everything from Occupy Wall Street posters and arts journalism of collapsing countries to murals on the walls of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs.  On stage, she delivers an energizing, take-no-prisoners talk on how creators—how everyone—can create a life of their own design, without asking permission. (Emphasis mine, from Lanvin Agency)

Atomization is the isolation of a person from their “institutions of support”, meaning, essentially, not just their fellow human being, but also the traditional ways of reading and perceiving knowledge, though history or dialectical reasoning. The atomized individual is “intellectually rebellious”, cut off from the ability to reason correctly and confused by constantly shifting parameters – relying on their own atomized and manipulated environment in order to successfully parse reality. A strategy as old as time is to successfully make the person feel like they came up with the idea to oppress themselves. The fresh coat of paint here is to make everyone relate to their own oppression in an intimate, ego-shaping way. The individual’s decision – once they choose oppression, of course – is a sacred decision; their reasoning and their motivations are private and autonomous. The oppressed are oppressed whether they choose to be or not – but the propaganda encourages the oppressed to accept it anyway, because it makes things easier for domination and atomizes society faster.

Imperialism, too, wants invitations for military advisors, trade agreements, and foreign direct investment. Wars and battles can be disagreeable. Usually it’s preferable both morally and logistically when the oppressed ask for their own subjugation, argue for it themselves. Likewise, patriarchy seeks to subjugate by invitation. Women are told that patriarchy really does have nothing but the best intentions, that she can cleverly twist patriarchy on her own to make it “work for her”. In this way, we can compare the woman who feels violent pornography is empowering to the country which feels monoculture depending on the imperial markets is empowering. Under this paradigm, we the audience, must believe that if they are asking for it, we must respect their agency. Systems of oppression, however, do not simply disappear because they are somehow passively (or actively!) accepted by the oppressed. Indeed, systems prefer the acquiescence of the oppressed to conflict. This is why it is so important for us to be told that women love being prostitutes and how much happier developing countries are under capitalism. In many cases, this functions as a sort of shield for oppression – it’s their choice, after all! And we must respect that. And if not their choice, well then, certainly NATO has their best interests as individuals at heart. An argument about imperialism successfully becomes an argument about agency.

All of this is not just a successful tool for atomization, it is also a savvy marketing strategy for oppression. For this essay, I am going to write mainly on how imperialist-marketing techniques specifically corrupts feminism. While women who stand against oppression and imperialism are often excluded from public platform, or labeled as “crazy” otherwise, when standing for imperialism, misogyny, racism, and capitalism, women are seen as strong and independent-minded. When their representations of the aforementioned are attacked, these otherwise “modern” women simply melt back into stereotypical gender roles, and are posited as victims. I will present three case studies for this phenomenon that will seek to make this connection between feminism, traditional gender roles, agency and imperial aggression.

For the first case study, let’s take a look at a so-called feminist, modern group of women: FEMEN. The marketing strategy of this Ukrainian group is pretty simple to grasp. A photo of any FEMEN action usually includes a half naked blonde woman, political slogans scrawled across her breasts, her face contorted in pain and fear as a police officer or soldier, generally a man, attempts to tackle and arrest her. Here we have a twofold approach: one strategy is that instead of holding placards, these women use their bare breasts as “weapons” (their word, not mine) to trick an otherwise apathetic and disinterested male population into buying whatever it is they’re selling, while courageously doing this as wielders of their own agency, allegedly wielding it in the name of atomized feminism (what I call elsewhere “postfeminism“). This is greatly analogous to marketing strategies which seek to utilize female sexuality – we can see examples of this on any convention showroom floor.  They are simultaneously empowered by using their sexuality to sell their politics, while at the same time cynically bowing to traditional gender roles. The second part of the marketing strategy is to usually include the police. Their groping hands put these lovely blonde ladies in danger. They roughly claw at their exposed flesh. Like King Kong, these women are generally presented as helpless against their attackers, suspended in midair by the ruddy paws of the enemy who seeks to destroy us all. We are winked at by the titillating vision of half-naked attractive white women, offering their politics on their breasts as a way of appealing to the so-called essential nature of of piggish men, appreciative of their strong choices, angry that a man would stand in their way. 

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