Brocialism. “Woke Boy Sexism.” Manarchism. All names for the same phenomenon that seeks to destroy our movement from the inside.
Brocialists, male leftists who mask sexism in the words of leftism and liberation, are the number one reason I, as a woman, took years to transition from liberalism to leftism. From the outside, the movement seemed like a boys’ club, filled with men insisting they wanted women to participate but doing nothing to create a space where our concerns would be heard. Before going into the rationales of brocialism, I would first like to provide some examples so everyone reading can understand what this phenomenon looks like practically.
1. Bad praxis regarding solidarity with women’s movements. Brocialism frequently manifests as the pitting of women’s issues against the problems of other marginalized groups. Just last week, one of my favorite anarchist pages posted a meme which called feminism “the worst social justice group” and then listed strawman arguments to minimize the problems women face. In the eyes of the brocialist, one struggle must always be more important than another and the struggle of the woman because of her womanhood mysteriously always ends up as “less important.” The result is a place where radical women feel their valid concerns will just be silenced and women whose struggles fit into multiple “boxes” (women of color, women in poverty, immigrant women, etc.) do not have a home in any movement. We all know the liberal feminist movement frequently fails at intersectionality — it is our responsibility as leftists to do better than liberals, not to replicate their flaws.
2. Concern with the language of women’s liberation. In the eyes of the brocialist, all criticism of the patriarchy needs to conclude with criticism of capitalism. Women cannot speak of patriarchy or its sins without explicitly absolving the leftist perpetrators of patriarchal sexism in this way. We must explain in every case that our concerns are the result of an economic force that leftist men cannot control and that men are also victims of. Of course, patriarchy is exacerbated by capitalism and capitalism is facilitated by patriarchy, but if a brocialist adds “and the cause is capitalism” after every important point in the discourse of women’s liberation, it shows that their priorities are not to help us but to bring the focus back to themselves and to reassure themselves of their innocence. Frequently, leftist men still contribute to the patriarchy and, to women, patriarchy is evil enough on its own to merit criticism. Patriarchy, independent of capitalism, can end our lives and relegate us to second-class citizenship. We need no reminder of its links to capitalism to remind us that patriarchy is wrong. If you do, you do not grasp our concerns.
3. Whataboutism. This is tied to the same root cause as the previous action. For example, leftist men will frequently insist that we as women treat the effects of patriarchy on them with priority. They dispute the name “feminism” because they are not included. They dispute feminism in the developed world because “it’s worse somewhere else.” This is a derailing tactic to shift the focus from our concerns to anywhere and everywhere else. It serves only to waste time and poke holes in the genuinely valuable work of organizers seeking to unite feminist and leftist movements. Women’s movements are dismissed if they are not open enough to men (a target which moves constantly) but when a leftist movement is not welcoming enough to women, that is the individual woman’s problem. The double standard, to a female leftist, is glaring.
4. Unique criticism for women’s movements. It is true that many modern social justice movements are liberal, but brocialists reserve a special animosity for the liberalism of women’s liberation. They miraculously manage to excuse neoliberalism in movements for gay rights or gun control, where liberalism is equally if not more prevalent, but #MeToo and the Women’s March are just one step too far for them. In truth, feminism is as important to leftism as leftism is to feminism and the pitting of these movements against each other is depriving both of necessary allies. Criticism of women’s movements is by no means off limits; it ought to be encouraged. The problem arises when feminism is dismissed because its current iteration is liberal when we should be criticizing feminism to improve the movement so its infrastructure can properly further leftist goals.
5. The tokenization of women in the leftist movement. I should not have to explain why this is a problem.
6. The idealization of sexist men without criticism, paired with criticism for feminists for their flaws. While we should destroy our Susan B. Anthony-esque idols, we also should destroy our Karl Marx-esque idols.
Brocialism is not a new phenomenon. Marxists see history as the story of the class struggle, wherein all discrimination and conflict fits into the context of class. Racism evolved as a justification for slavery which was a product of capitalism. Sexism comes from gender roles established during the Agricultural Revolution to increase output and solidify the division of labor. Homophobia and transphobia result from the need to reproduce to replace the workforce. While all of these historical precedents are true, such forces of oppression have evolved since their class-based inception and taken on new and additional elements that cannot be addressed by raising class consciousness alone. The Church justified racism and homophobia before capitalism did. Gender roles predate expressly capitalist economic systems. These forces of oppression intersect and reinforce one another, but we are past the point where solving one will solve the others without additional legwork.
Marxist criticisms of modern feminism are valid, but they are not reason enough to discount feminism. As a woman, my husband is the person most likely to kill me, not my landlord. To ignore the very real threat to my life posed by existing alone at night as a woman, insisting I put it aside and fight the class struggle under the justification that “we’ll get rid of women’s concerns eventually” means I have to sit by in fear indefinitely when we could be fighting these hierarchies in conjunction with one another.
My problems as a woman are worsened by capitalism, as are all other problems faced by all other marginalized groups and, because I understand that capitalism is one root cause of these structural oppressions, I strongly advocate that capitalism be fought as a main prong of all social justice movements. That being said, if we wish to grow leftism across the board, we must engage with feminists, gay rights activists, and other liberal organizers. Their existing structures for grassroots organizing are powerful tools which could inform and activate the masses. To dismiss them outright serves only to disengage potential activists and frequently, as I have shown, the dismissal tends to overlook the very real struggles of women, people of color, and queer folx.
It is true that modern feminism has come to be coopted by capitalists and is frequently expressed in liberal identity politics which serve to stand in the way of real progress. However, women’s liberation is a cause worthy enough to try and save. For every leftist man who denies feminism on the basis of liberalism, there is a feminist woman who denies leftism on the basis of sexism. Neither recognizes that their struggles are intertwined, that our causes should work to overthrow every hierarchy. Liberal feminists will never work with sexists who they see as a threat to their physical existence as women. Because of that, it is on us as leftists to take the high road, to eradicate sexism in our own movement, and to show that we cannot have feminism without leftism just as we must learn that we cannot have leftism without feminism.