His body isn’t even cold yet and the New York times has already put out a shameful article declaring Nelson Mandela to be an “icon of peaceful resistance”. News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist — all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
Don’t fucking let them.
Okay, also wrong.
1) Nelson Mandela WAS an icon of peaceful resistance, but not in the simplistic way the NYT article (and, I’m sure, many that will follow) believe he was. You see, when Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was, indeed, the leader of the ANC’s armed forces. That is not a fact that people should forget.
However, when he started negotiations with the apartheid regime in the late 1980s, South Africa was in the midst of what was basically an undeclared civil war. Violence was everywhere and often very unfocused; don’t think for one second that it was all between anti-apartheid fighters against people upholding the apartheid regime. The deaths/beatings/tortures/rapes were largely civilian-focused, and everyone was hurting everyone else (with white-on-white, black-on-black, black-on-Indian, Indian-on-coloured, coloured-on-black, so on and so forth). For an example, Google anything about “necklacing”.
It was b a d.
In order for the country not to collapse completely, someone needed to emerge as a leader who favored political negotiation and peaceful tactics over the violence that was ravaging the country, and Nelson Mandela, whose release had been advocated for over the past few years, found himself thrust into that position to the point that he started negotiating for the fall of apartheid from prison. He did what he needed to do because any more violence would have completely destroyed South Africa. He chose ending apartheid over saving face with the already-emerging anti-apartheid politicians, chose negotiating with the enemies that he hated over seeing more of his people die because of an ego or power trip or an extreme ideology (see: most of the leaders of both sides at this point). He chose making peace over expressing his anger, or (an even bigger issue now), his racial/ethnic affiliation. If he isn’t an “icon of peaceful resistance” for this, I don’t know who is.
2) “He and his party” Hahaha no. There were different parties and different voices and different races who fought together against the regime, not just the ANC. The ANC is one part of a MUCH LARGER MOVEMENT, one that included the people who would become the DA (the ANC’s biggest political rival), one that included not only the black Africans (mainly Zulu) that the ANC represents but also the Xhosa and the Tswana and the Sotho and the Coloureds and the Indians and The Black Sash and the Jews. IT WAS NOT JUST THE ANC.
Also, the ANC is actually largely why the country is so fucked up right now, because the party wants to keep power over actually doing anything good for its people (see: President Robert “Yes I raped that lesbian HIV-positive AIDS activist but I’m getting acquitted because I’m in power and I’m not HIV positive because I took a shower afterwards” Zuma; see: President Thabo “yeah I committed crimes against humanity but come on hear me talk more about how HIV isn’t a real thing and what all my people are dying of AIDS because I refuse to provide any knowledge or treatment LALALALA I can’t hear you LALALA” Mbeki)
3) “Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical.” Don’t let your ignorant, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of a man who is recognized as an amazing leader of a country and continent seriously lacking them. Don’t let your lack of knowledge of contemporary African politics let you think for one goddamn second that praising someone’s violence is a good thing. Don’t let your Western all-blacks-are-same ideology not recognize the true radicalism in his ideology, which is that ethnic groups should not matter and people should work together regardless.
4) “Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t.” Hahahaha take this, reverse it. He started violent and ended peaceful.
5) “For this, during his life they called him a terrorist,” Nope. They called him a terrorist because he fought against the apartheid regime, and the apartheid regime was allied with the West during the Cold War. He would have been a terrorist regardless of the amount of violence he actually used.
"and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist" Yep. Because he was (kind of) in the end. Although the Truth & Reconciliation Commission was totally Desmond Tutu’s brainchild, so don’t listen to anyone crediting him with that.
"All to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy," hopefully by now you realize that if you mean "revolutionary" to mean "violence is okey-dokey" you are full of shit. His revolutionary act was to be a Xhosa leading a largely Zulu resistance-cum-political party; his revolutionary act was to negotiate with a racial/ethnic enemy. His revolution rested in whom he dared to talk to, not whom he dared to hurt.
"and the lessons to be drawn from it." Yeah, the wrong lessons will be drawn from it, but not for the reasons you think. People will just think his thought process was "peace at any cost" instead of "w o w having a violent revolution was a super stupid idea because everyone is dying. Let’s take a different approach that doesn’t involve my wife directing her own band of assassins and me being imprisoned for almost 30 years that sounds grand".
An Actual Fucking (Half) South African
P.S. This is still super-simplified (I could literally spend hours explaining all the ins and outs of apartheid/the anti-apartheid movement/Mandela himself), but I think it does its job at least somewhat okay.
There have been times in my life when I considered myself a feminist. I’ve been reading feminist literature since I was 11, and spent a good portion of my early teens and later stretches in my life in activist spaces, and over the years have come to reject just about every form of what is called “feminism”, because feminism was and is built to serve oppressive structures rather than dismantle them. It’s been a while since I’ve posted about it, so I suppose some of my followers are not getting the 100-level critiques of feminism that I’ve attempted to boil down into the following six points.
Appropriates from and erases women of color. For example, it’s common practice to grab a statistic about violence against women that only applies to women of color, paste it into a picture of a white woman, and when women of color protest, use words like “solidarity!” to silence them.
Creates a hierarchy of women according to ability. For example, it’s common to see Feminists sympathizing with caretakers and mothers who murder their disabled charges, even when both are women. Disabled women are erased and ignored by feminism, and it’s not uncommon to see “preventing disability” used as some kind of wedge to support abortion rights. “Racial purity” and Eugenics have been used by white feminists as a way to elicit support for birth control and abortion for centuries. Disabled women fail to meet the criteria of “real” women according to most feminists, and mostly serve as foils to feminist constructions of womanhood, rather than examples of it.
Homogenizes history to normalize a Eurocentric, Imperialist agenda. Liberal Feminism as well as Radical Feminism both ascribe to the tenet that “all women in the world are oppressed by men and always have been.” This is factually inaccurate and not only erases the First Wave feminists’ getting the idea for “feminism” from Iroquois women in the first place, it imposes a universal standard of European patriarchy as a starting point in many cases where it is completely irrelevant and benefits no one except white women. Feminism also has a long and storied history of colonizing behavior such as missionary work, religious conversion, and uplifting white womanhood as a “savior” at the expense of people of color.
Excludes and perpetrates violence against transgender women. Even branches of feminism that do not outright call for the extermination of transgender women exclude them from ‘women only’ spaces, deny them resources like space in shelters, and in many other ways actively participate in their marginalization, abuse, and deaths.
Promotes biological essentialism and polices women’s bodies. I honestly do not see a difference in the debates between feminists on whether or not a woman should shave her legs and the same dang discussion between men. The idea that a small group of privileged women should decide what women are and aren’t allowed to do with their bodies is no more appealing or “liberating” than a small group of privileged men deciding the same. Replicating patriarchy and enforcing kyriarchy by seeking to replace men as the gatekeepers of women’s bodies, sexualities, genders and activities is bullshit and helps no one.
Replaces inherent value of human beings with Capitalism. Feminism is just as guilty of devaluing “women’s work” as any patriarchal government or social structure; engaging in unpaid labor is seen as “unfeminist” and a moral failure on the part of women. The association of inherent worth with economic production is interlaced into the entire structure of feminism, and as a movement, feminism seems incapable of separating the two ideas. Harnessing the power of women as a labor force in order to “prove” their worth is a function of patriarchy and does nothing to undermine its functioning. Feminism is absolutely as guilty of equating “morally right” with “financially successful” as any other institution of our society.
Great post, sums up a lot of my reservations about feminism.
I’d also like to add that feminism, especially sex-positive feminism, does not address the concerns of celibate, asexual, and/or sex-repulsed women very well. Liberated female sexuality is often equated with being sexually active; if you do not like or want sex, then you are told that you are doing it wrong, are repressed by the patriarchy, are oppressed by your religion, or that you are otherwise a victim who needs help in order to realize her full sexuality. Sexual liberation is generally presented as the ability to say “yes” without being shamed; but the equally important ability to say “no” is usually forgotten, or shunted off into a separate discussion about rape culture. And asexual-spectrum women are frequently targeted by acephobia, ableism, and rape culture even from other women who consider themselves feminist.
As an asexual, celibate, sex-repulsed, partly-female person, feminism tells me that my sexuality is incomplete, unhealthy, repressed, or otherwise not good enough because I do not fit the archetype of a woman who wants and enjoys sex.
I still call myself an “intersectional feminist,” for lack of a better phrase when communicating my views to other people, but the movement’s got problems.
I could write a damn thesis on the intersection of sex-positivity and compulsory sexuality.
I could write a thesis on the intersection of sex positivity and hypersexualization of women of color…and another on certain schools of feminism’s demonization of sex workers that shits on WOC, and a third on the counter-movement of sex worker positivity and the subsequent erasure of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution that also shits on WOC….
Let’s just say there are far too many “movements” acting like they’re operating in a void and are allergic to intersectionality. It’s downright grotesque.