Guest post by Seth on political de-politicising

Originally a comment on How dare you treat Rodger’s murders as political?

What’s funny is that saying ‘don’t politicise the issue’ *is* politicising the issue. Here’s my word on the subject, from my tumblr:

It’s quite simple, really. Whenever something happens in the ‘real’ world, whenever people get injured or killed due to neglect or human malevolence, there is always a cavalcade of gainsayers admonishing everyone not to ‘politicise’ the tragedy (at least whenever it’s a tragedy that can be lain at the feet of white men). Whenever there’s a shooting, the NRA falls all over itself to say that anyone who might propose reasonable gun control measures is ‘an opportunist’ who should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of violence for their own political ends. Whenever men attack women (in such a way as to garner widespread attention), there is a contingent of people who deny that widespread misogyny and rape culture had anything to do with it, and anyone who claims otherwise is ‘an opportunist’ who should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of violence for their own political ends.

We’re unlucky enough to be able to experience both of these groups of people rising in response to the horrible violence perpetrated in California. Despite the fact that the perpetrator participated in misogynist communities, despite the fact that he posted a video manifesto that positively dripped with hatred of women just before he fulfilled the threats he made with a gun. We’ve been warned on the one hand that Americans’ ready access to firearms had nothing to do with this man’s ability to slaughter people, and on the other hand that his obvious misogyny had nothing to do with his targeting of women. We’re told to shut up, not to draw any conclusions (or even engage in any kind of discussion) about the issues that this violence raises.

The thing is, these people (let’s call them ‘denialists’, since that’s what they do) always tell us to shut the fuck up, no matter what. They beat us about the head any time we talk about feminism, about social justice, about welfare or gun control or climate change or a million issues that involve compassion for other humans. So when the denialists tell us ‘don’t politicise this tragedy’, they’re turning the tragedy into a political attack against us.

There’s a difference between politics and culture, just as there’s a difference between politics and policy. Politics entails using real-world events to orchestrate attacks on one’s opponents or to shore up support amongst one’s allies. That’s not always a bad thing; often, it’s a vital and necessary activity in order to successfully enact policy and/or shape culture. But political activities are not synonymous with policy or cultural activities. Pretending that they are is inherently political, since it serves no purpose but to attack your enemies and bolster your allies.

But, of course, we cannot expect anti-feminists and misogynists to be consistent.


  1. zibble says

    I guess that’s the beauty of defending the status quo – simply by preventing a discussion, your agenda wins.

    And all the while, you get to demonize the agendas of people who’d like to see women treated better, or to see fewer people murdered with guns while claiming to be apolitical.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … we cannot expect anti-feminists and misogynists to be consistent.

    Except about anti-feminism and misogyny. They got that down.

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