False conciousness was an idea posited back in Marx's day, it was basically a "woods for the trees" style of thing then - workers given slight privelages as a result of enabling the exploitation of the workers by, say, breaking a strike or something so as to get short term gains, such as being paid for working during a strike during a time of high unemployment, over the long terms gains of there being A) more work for all (so that cake could be had while it was also eaten - through the simple means of having more than one cake at a time) and B) that everyone who works isn't horribly mangled to death inside machinery for a non-living wage.
A slightly clearer and more common sense example of false conciousness is substance abuse - for the length of the buzz the person with the chemistry problem can avoid the problems they're running from, making it, in most cases, a sensible solution to life in the short term, even if it does more often than not lead to that most ultimate of long term solutions; death. Of course the trouble iwth substance abuse is that it often gets in the way of dealing with the problem you're running from in the long term - not least of which because the long term solution will provide short term problems, which are not really helped if you're DTing or tripping off your tits at the same time.
In modern feminist terms then, the best example of false conciousness is... men.
Now I know, I know, normative feminist discourse pretty much requires that talk of false consciousness be focused on how women ain't to knowing what they be wantin' - but that's bullshit, and some what contradicts Feminist's Law (women are people too).
as Amy's Brain Today quite rightly points out, Again and again we talk about how men hate us, how men screw us over:
When a 30-year-old man forces his penis into the mouth of a child, it’s not date rape, it’s not some necking that got out of hand. He’s not thinking she’s consenting; he doesn’t care. When three college students viciously beat and rape a woman in a houseful of people, it wasn’t because she didn’t say “no” loudly enough. When three 18-year-olds purposely drug the drink of a 16-year-old woman and violate her in every way possible with penises and objects while she’s passed out, and make a video of it, it’s not a misunderstanding. She’s an object to them, a thing to be used, and the damage to her doesn’t even matter because there will be more where she came from.
Of course she then goes on to try to rationalize seperatism, which I reject on the simple grounds that I plan to spend my retirement waving the petrified penis of dick cheney around on the end of a key chain while yelling "dick cheney! Dick CHAINEY! Geddit? Eh, eh?" at random people in the super market, which revolution by seperatism doesn't allow.
There are good reason to reject seperatism of course, it's just that most of them start of with the holocaust, then points out that the jews tried seperatism, and it really didn't work on any level.
Which'd be kinda dull, and whipping out the holocaust as a sensible, non-bolic, point in a well reasoned arguement is not in the spirit of the intertubes.
The thing is that, seeing as men are the problem, and men are the lubricant of patriarchy, as it were, which allows the butt secks of female oppression to... I don't like that metaphor.
If men are the problem, then the solution should, as it were, involve solving this great "male problem"** shouldn't it? I'm just going by logic here, but if we're not able to sort out the male problem, then we can't raise sons, cannot be heterosexual, cannot be free unless we totally keep women and wermen seperate - and the slight trouble with that is that any freedom that relies on such totalistic control over human interactions is not really a free kind of freedom, and therefore kinda pointless.
Because if we seperate before we've got sexual equality, we'll be seperate but unequal, which ain't that big a difference in the status quo really, and we'll be on the ass end of a power imbalance controlled by those weremen we'd be running from.
So let's think of it from a strategic point of view.
The key strategic axioms are:
- Never try to negotiate with your enemy when it isn't in their best interest.
- Never help to increase an imbalance of power between you and your enemy if it's not in your favor.
- Never forget that a pyrric victory is a contradiction in terms.
Well no, because that violates the third axiom - you can't create an equal society from a society that rests on slope.
which leaves axiom the first - and that means...
REVOLUCION! Dibs on the meathooks!
Or we could check that there's not some point on which this whole patriarchy thing isn't a bad thing for them too.
This is where false conciousness should be predominantly used with feminist theory.
And of course, such is not how it is used.
After spending any amount of time in the feminist blogosphere you should be familiar with the normative uses of false conciousness - as an ass covering maneuver for poorly thought out theory.
AS far as I can make out, it was introduced when, sometimes during the forelash, circa AD 1949 or so, when society and its feminism were both preparing for some serious cresecendo, some feminists fro mthe upper classes, awash in the socialism that only upperclass, mildly disposessed persons have routinely turned to, started messing around with some marxist.
Now marxist theory has always been a bit problematic when weilded by the upperclasses, by the time Marx and Engels were publishing The Manifesto of the Communist Party in about five languages it already had critiques of contemporary examples of marxist theory used in the most mind bogglingly way.
One of the worst, aside from the precursor to modern "social liberalism" - and yeah, it was a method of protectionaism for the privelages of the "well bred" back then as well, was of course utopianism.
Seperatism is of course a key point within the matrix of the utopianist's thought, the idea being that we should make a unique little protected habitat for the revolutionary, in which noble revolutionary gate keepers would ensure that no stray weeds from the outside world would seep in and corrupt the society from the inside.
Because the movment is so fucking fragile, not being a naturally occuring reaction to oppression that occurs whenever a woman fights to be free, that any interaction with hte world outside the commune would instnatly and without remorse cause teh shoddily built lean to of a movement to collapse upon itslef with a faintly disappointing puff as displaced air pushed some dust out of the windows.
Strangely enough, radical politics doesn't quite work like that, and the utopianist's attempt to find a cheap short cut to a revolved society cannot, a priori, work, due to the most important part of the revolution being the journey, not the destination.
Which is less a physical place, or a building or a city or nation but rather a completed mandala imprinted on the path that the revolutionary walks, made up by the wake we leave with our tread upon the ground, and which is shaped by the obstacles we meet along the way.
In buddhist terms then, utopianism is a buddha needing to be killed to complete the journey, at best a benign obstruction in the radical's path, and at worst a malignant one causing active harm to all and sundry, even able to erase part of the pattern that has already been walked out with a shouty "UR DOIN IT RONG!" now and again if you try to stop it.
Of course, due to it being an inherently false start, and due to it being the sort of false buddha that's kind of hard to miss (I mean, at least with the buddhist version you can't open up a newspaper which carries a front page story that disproves your supposed buddha mind, with color pictures and jesse jackson commenting on it no less) the falseness ended up affecting the theory supporting lesbian seperatism, because they'd bound their ego too much in having the answer to just kill their buddhas.
So they did what most reactionaries do when this sort of problem arises; they blame everyone but themselves.
In this case they decided that, because patriarchy utilises certain activtiies, kinds of clothing, and genderizes behaviors in certain ways, the behaviors, activities and kinds of clothing are therefore oppressive in and of themselves.
You see, in classical radfem analysis the thinking goes from the personal out to political - They see from the "I"; I am oppressed by the normativity of activities X, Y and Z, therefore activities X, Y and Z are oppressive.
However, this sort of approach only works, over any given period of time, if you posit somekind of stasis on patriarchy's part, and pretend that it's not an inductive and responsive creature - it reacts to feedback and changes with time and changes in circumstances.
It flows in other words.
In that flow however is one constant that doesn't change - oppressive systems Oppress.
This means that instead of working from the whole "I'm oppressed like so" logic, we can lay it down with a simple, and slightly more flexible and responsive approach of:
Given that we're dealing with an oppressive system, pretty much everything is going to be oppressive (note we're agreeing with dworkin so far), therefore merely "proving" that activity X is oppressive is akin to saying "activity X exists under an oppressive system" becuase making shit oppressive is what oppressive systems DO, full stop.
So to analyse the system, we have to not merely identify that something IS, we need to know the hows and whys of it, and even more than that, we have to falsify the fucking thing, showing what conditions under which activty X, Y and Z would not be oppressive. Which then becomes something we could use to show, via a ridiculum ad absurdum proof, that activities X, Y and Z are normally oppressive under the oppressive system wihtout having to send Bobby Jensen down the road to rent $45 worth of porn from blockbusters! Because it shows the working out of how the normative modality*** of those activities oppress people!
And so, by a round about way, all sex, under patriarchy, is rape, to within a 0.45% tolerance or so.
but of course, that's a really round about way of saying what it can, if you squint and have brain damage, mean, so let's improve it.
Under patriarchy, rape is, in a remarkably radfem fashion, conflated with consensual sex, because being forced to have sex when you don't want to do is traumatic and oppresses women - thus the normativity of rape is how patriarhcy utilises sex to oppress people.
Now, having pointed out that sexuality is used to oppress people, we must point out the hows and whys of it.
So how does rape oppress people?
Well for starters there's the whiplash effect - the trauma and psychic shadow produced by the ever present fear of rape serves to keep women in their place, it also serves as a tool to use to keep men in line, both as a threat against men who threaten rape normativity, and also to give men a ready and easy method by which they can transfer their oppression by patriarchy and other systems onto women and other men low down the hegemonic heirarchy.
There's also the actual trauma itself, which is pretty oppressive.
Not only that, but there's also the way that rape feeds into, via the whiplash effect, into the homosocial solidarity between men that is needed by patriarchy to utilise normativity for it's own ends, but sex under patriarchy is also used to reinforce patriarchal homosocial bonds between women, and to fuck up solidarity between us that would be used against it. We are taught to place women into the same madonna/whore dichotomy that men put us into, we are taught to hate not only our sexualities, but to hate others for their sexualities.
Now solidarity doesn't mean agreeing with each other, any more than being a penjort - that is to say, a sister-fucker - means disagreeing wiht other women. Indeed, if we cannot disagree, we are not producing paradigm shifting newness, hence a movement without disagreements is a dead one.
Solidarity just means Not Actively screwing othe women over, that includes not telling WOC to get to the back of the bus, not waffling about the fucking "obesity epidemic", not tut tut tutting because you've used your blaming rays to discern the collagen contain of a working class woman's lips, not pretending that anyone under the age of 40 is a fucking 2 year old, not calling transwomen men, not declaring that the "good" whores are all faceless, volitionless victims first, and people second, and that the "bad" whores are all evil scumbags who need to be raped by a police night stick to teach them what whoring is really all about, not calling pornstars whores, not calling femme women whores as well while mistaking butch women for the sterotypical transperson who only lives in your head...
Just, in general, NOT, just not piling these huge mountains of crap onto each other's backs while laughing whenever we stumble under the weight of it all anymore.
Now the falsification. Under patriarchy, sex fails to oppress people when it A) is consensual and is therefore not rape, B) when we are not afraid to be sexual, or conversely aren't afraid to not be sexual if we do not feel like it, C) when it is not seen as something icky or wrong, D) when we are not judged according to our past or present sexual behaviors as long as the sex is sex, and is therefore a consensual act performed between consenting adults, and E) when we do not judge outselves according to the sexual activites of others.
This is because A) Rape is inherently oppressive due to it being an attempt to rob people of their personhood by pretending that such personhood never existed. B) fear of both sexuality and fear of not being sexual crush men and women within the rape culture, prompting men to rape because they feel they must have sex, and forcing women into a mindset whereby sex and sexiness both become a duty and reason to hate oneself. C) an attitude towards sex as something wrong, both teaches men that they should rape women because no woman "worth" sleeping with would want to have sex with them, and produces a society in which "sexual" women, such as prostitutes, are some how dirty and thus acceptable to be abused. So for those really fucking slow radfems at teh back, this means that the abuse of sex workers is reliant on, and produced by, the stigma attached to sex work by patriarchy. And if you don't grasp that the very simple first step towards helping sex workers is nothing more complex than to refuse to see sex work as something inherently wrong, as you routinely state it is, then kindly Fuck. Off. D) When we stigmatize male virignity, or female sexual experience we are teaching men that their personhood is reliant on them fucking women by any means neccesary, which leads to rape, and we teach women that having sexual experience is wrong, which is bullshit. E) When we judge ourselves by others, we get caught up in keeping up with the joneses, become so intent on overcoming those we are jealous or fear that we forget to be ourselves, to satisfy our own needs, and feel the urge to drag others down to validate ourselves. It does not matter, we have no need to care about what they do or do not do, in this life we have the duty to be only two things: Ourselves, in our most honest form, and Good people - empathic, happy and compassionate - by whatever means neccesary. this is the way that we can never become any of those things, it corrupts empathy into jealousy, happiness into greed, compassion in hatred, and so are we forced to lie to both other people and ourselves about our true nature.
It's late and I'm getting philisophical here, do excuse me.
The falsification is to a large extent the crucial part, because by figuring out how an activity ceases to oppress us, we figure out how to act rather than why we should constrain ourselves in our possible actions. I picked sex in this case because that's apparently the only thing the radfems who wave their idiot theories around can think about, but it should apply to other things just as readily.
The point of course is not to merely liberate ourselves, because it can be applied on a larger scale as well; what situations are women only spaces useful for the larger feminist movement, rather htan obstructions to our collective freedom?
First of all, when they are not put forth as the be all and end all of feminism, when they are not put forth as the solution to the problem, but as an aid to building solidarity by giving us breathing spaces from which we can gather and network, and from which we can egress into the real world, and as long as we recognise them as the traps they are and are willing and able to do without them if neccesary. They should work for us, and we should not work for them.
And so even utopianism becomes something that can be used, if understood, recognised for what it is, and its limitations taken into consideration prior to use for the furtherence of our goals.
* i.e. the feminism of the second wavers, and the upper class first wavers too, but basically Dworkin, the other one who's name I forget, Greer, ad nauseum, et al, and the lengthy and quite impressively complex theoretical frame works they've Mcguyver'd out of old jerry cans, some used rubbers and a paper clip since they got swept to prominence during the backlash of the 60's.
** that's an intentional feminazi meta-pun btw.
*** academic speak in that case is covering up a brainfart which robbed me of pertinent words that weren't "normative modality"