Thursday, May 29, 2014

Re-Mapping the Ideological Landscape

Something quite important happened over the Memorial Day Weekend.  The ideological landscape of America was re-mapped. Misogyny went from being a "mental disturbance" and cultural background noise to being identified as an ideology.  It's doctrines were explicated. Its ideological centers and communication channels were exposed. The dark underworld of its adherents were brought into the sunshine. It became clear that many, if not all men, have been, at various times in their lives, under its ideological influence.

 An ideology can be renounced and turned away from, even if it has become habitual. It can be combatted. The young can be educated against a dangerous ideology. But we throw up our hands at "mental disturbances;" they seem unpredictable and very hard to correct.

The news media seemed all set to present Isla Vista as an all ready familiar narrative. Mentally ill person plus easy access to guns equals mass murder. Cue the Gun control debate.


That narrative was disrupted.  The fact that the shooter left a misogynist manifesto could not be ignored. And when it was reported, women started reporting the effects of misogyny and rape culture in their social media streams. They named the problem. And they started to identify the sources of cultural messages that promote rape culture in popular culture. They called out men's complicity in it.

The ensuing struggle between #notallmen and #yesallwomen was a mass consciousness raising session for the nation, with a time clock of hours instead of days or weeks. An ideological re-mapping occurred, and an important linkage was made between the daily violence against women, ideological misogyny and random mass murder.

This is how social and cultural struggle happens now. It is not the civil debate between columnists of the New York Times op-ed page. It is not erudite or abstract. #YesAllWomen prevailed because it brought forward a tidal wave of individual testimonies which established the real truth, on the ground; how it really happens.

Ordinary people know the full truth about the realities of living in this society. They know what it like to live on the minimum wage. They know what it feels like to have no health insurance. They know how a steady stream of microaggressions wear people of color down. They know how hopeless long term unemployment is. They know that there are no jobs, or no buses to the retail jobs that do exist. They know the fear of living without papers. They know the social vulnerability of gender nonconformity. They know it all. The truth is out there.

And when the truth get told in massive numbers, as it now can, it changes the way that the world is seen and  known.

2 comments:

Steve Cook said...

AYes, it's true; there are now tools to leverage communication of any sort that never before existed. I'm glad of that. I hope, however, that it doesn't just come down to a numbers game, how many tweeted in support of this position, how many in support of that. We will still need New York Times op-ends and the like, or it will just be the noisiest who "win."

Shawna said...

It's quite wonderful, I think, because what's happened is that the ability to share stories has been decentralized. And stories are the most persuasive way to have people change their minds, which is why the media is so powerful - they choose the stories to tell. Blogs and twitter have changed all that. Now people are in control of their own narrative, but it isn't anarchy, as it still gels together over common experiences or how different one's experience is from the so called common experience...and we need to understand this dynamic in order to be relevant.