Fighting the Enemy Without: Patriarchy in Bruce La Bruce’s The Misandrists

As sexism – pure, naked sexism and misogyny – rears its ugly ahead in the liberal democratic public sphere, it appears ever more appropriate to look back for insight to the feminist 1970s: a time oft-mythologized1 and (at times) faithfully portrayed as the era of very angry women. The 1970s are a complex moment in North American feminism’s past. The way we re-visit this so-called ‘foundational’ era of the Women’s Liberation Movement, it seems, will play a role in how we can imagine the horizons of feminism’s futures.

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Bringing Fuel to the Flames

When Anselm Jappe wrote Guy Debord in 1993, it was widely hailed as the first serious intellectual biography of the principal figure of the Situationist International (SI). Six years later, when the University of California Press published an English translation, Stewart Home1 declared it “both the most boring and by far and away the most stupid book to be written about a situationist to date.” On the other hand, Ken Knabb2 praises Jappe’s effort as “the only book on Debord in either French or English that can be unreservedly recommended.” 

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“Wanna Define? So Say So!”: David Bryne’s Utopia

Two works sit before me. One, a non-descript jet-black Verso book, containing a controversial and often misunderstood thought experiment from the dialectical philosopher Frederic Jameson. The other is a record album by the great humanist songwriter David Byrne. Both are titled American Utopia. Both attempt to find countertendencies in the social whole in the 21st century, “late-late capitalism”, if you will, countertendencies that perhaps we can cognitively map, if not concretely perceive as utopian, as going beyond the semblance of time and place, a place where nothing ever happens, as “happening” implies going back to the dualism of fact and value that dialectical art and philosophy attempt to transcend. Byrne’s music, both literally and figuratively, provides a soundtrack to what Jameson called postmodernity – a concept about which one can hold agnosticism with regards to hard periodization, but still use to demarcate an aesthetic sensibility.  

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Welcome to the Last Days

To rise to and consolidate power 20th century fascism invoked crude race and national origin myths. This is part of what led Breton to pose the problem of counter-mythology, a different set of stories; stories that would animate resistance – that would bring the weight of the past crashing down on the enemies of socialism and the working-class. As Walter Benjamin wrote, the hatred and sacrifice needed for revolution is nourished “on the picture of enslaved forebears.” For Breton this was bound together with Surrealism and its intersections of chance and plan, individual and collective psychology, dream and consciousness, individual and collective action. As our contemporary far-right movements have gained ground they have brought back the “belligerent gods.” And among the neo-fascist “alt-right” there is a return of esoteric occult fascism in the “Cult of Kek” and its Pepe the Frog fascinations. So, just as before, we need our own animating counter-mythologies – our own stories for living and fighting in this world – for ridding it of the “myths of Odin."

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