Speaking of “attachments to the self”

We get to read Alison Phipps’s “don’t hit me, hit those other white women” paper.

The actual title, lest we forget, is “White tears, white rage: Victimhood and (as) violence in mainstream feminism.” It’s a white woman sneering at white women, specifically for talking thinking campaigning as feminists.

Speaking out can attract political dividends: in earlier work (Phipps, 20162020) I have theorised experience, especially of the traumatic kind, as a form of investment capital in what Ahmed (2012 [2004]: 45) calls the ‘affective economies’ of testimonial culture. Trauma can be disclosed or ventriloquised to generate further capital in the form of feeling, creating political gain.

Most of the key figures in the viral iteration of #MeToo were Western, white and middle or upper-class (Tambe, 2018), reflecting the makeup of mainstream feminism and especially its media iterations…

In her 1995 book States of Injury, Wendy Brown argued that progressive movements tended to coalesce around ‘wounded identities’ that demanded recognition and protection, whether from hate speech, harassment or violence…

As I have argued elsewhere (Phipps, 2019), the ‘wounded attachments’ Brown attributed to feminism are likely to be those of middle-class whiteness, given the domination of both first and second waves of mainstream feminism by bourgeois white women (such as myself). 

Such as herself, but she’s damn well going to sneer anyway, because that’s where the action is – piling up the reasons to hate Karen.

By ‘mainstream feminism’, I largely mean Anglo-American public feminism. This includes media feminism (and some forms of social media feminism), institutional feminism, corporate feminism and policy feminism. This is not a cohesive and unified movement, but it has clear directions and effects. Building on HoSang (2010), I call the modus operandi of this feminism ‘political whiteness’. This goes beyond the implicitly or explicitly ‘whites first’ orientation of most politics dominated by white people: it has a complex affective landscape involving attachments to the self (often the wounded self) and to power (often in the form of the state). These attachments produce a number of dynamics: narcissism, alertness to threat (which in white women’s case is often sexualised), and an accompanying need for control.

How dare women be alert to threat? How dare women feel a need to control threats?

But also…every single item in her extended sneer applies double or triple to those geniuses of non-white non-bourgeois feminism, [drum roll] trans women. Trans women are immune to Phipps’s sneers because they and they alone are True Victims who have Every Right to be alert to threats and flaunt their wounded identities and demand recognition and protection. The trans bit cancels the white bit, you see.

More later.

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