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Today’s Male Terrorism: Left- and Right-Wing Leaders Bonding Over the Bodies of Women

In doing some poking around about Daniel Ortega, the newly-elected President of Nicaragua who raped and incested his daughter from the time she was 11, I came across an article in a conservative publication in which the author alluded to Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela,  having beaten either one of his wives or a mistress badly enough to send her to the hospital.  So then I went poking around to see if I could find more information about that.  I did not find anything, so I can’t say whether, indeed, Hugo Chavez is an abuser.

But I did find an interesting article here in which Chavez was taken to task by feminists for having embraced Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

It is moments like this, when feminists and any activists who care about women’s liberation, are reminded of just how little women’s lives matter in the world of patriarchal nationalist politics.

One expects Chavez to condemn all US war-mongering and threats against Iran. We can applaud as he uses the public stage to denounce Bush as a criminal who is out to dominate and destroy the world. But there is no excuse for declaring solidarity with a misogynist theocrat like Ahmadinejad. By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism. In this equation, the only thing that matters is one’s opposition to US imperialism. Women’s rights, worker’s rights, student’s rights– the things that are supposed to matter to socialists and progressives– be damned.

Apparently, Chavez, appears not to have noticed that the Iranian government has created one of the most brutal and misogynist regimes in modern history—turning Iran into a country where gender apartheid and sexist hatred of women has been enshrined in law, where women are still TODAY stoned to death for the “crime” of adultery, buried up to their necks and pelted in the face and head with stones until they die, where women have no right to divorce or child custody, are legally forced to veil under threat of physical beating or imprisonment, can’t travel without the permission of a husband or father, where their testimony in a court of law is considered half that of a man, and where political dissent of any kind, for women and men, is punishable by imprisonment, often torture and death. This is the government that Chavez compares to his own as a “heroic nation,” one which he deems, “revolutionary.”

It’s the line I bolded that struck me, in part because of having written about, and thought a lot about, Ortega’s recent embrace of Roman Catholicism.  He may identify as a leftist, a revolutionary, a Sandinista, but he’s in cahoots with the Vatican when it comes to abortion rights, not to mention in the way he treated the daughter who says he incested and raped her for years.  Essentially, he seems to have won the presidential election because he was right enough for the Right and left enough for the left, and of course, the losers were women.

Eleanor Ommani responded to Jennifer Fasulo, who wrote the article I excerpted from, taking her to task:

Preferring to give her readers a fast-track lesson in fighting imperialism, Jennifer’s next gem was an “eye-opener”: “By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism.” This statement is contradictory. Isn’t imperialism itself a right-wing force? How could a right-wing be fighting another right-wing, defeating its own purpose? Ms. Fasulo has to show how, when and where in history a right-wing force has been anti-imperialist? This is a frivolous concept benefiting imperialism in fact.

I disagree with Ommani here.  I think we definitely are seeing theocratic regimes (which are thoroughly Right), like the regime in Iran, like the Pope’s regime, forging alliances with leftist regimes, particularly those in Latin America, to fight U.S. colonialism and imperialism. 

I was struck by Ommani’s defenses of the Iranian regime and the comparisons she made of Iran’s treatment of women with America’s treatment of women.   Fasulo wasn’t suggesting in her article that the U.S. treats women any better than Iran does.  That wasn’t her point.  Her point was that a Leftist revolutionary leader had very publicly bonded with a right-wing theocrat over their common hatred of Bush (who is also a right wing theocrat).  The deal they appeared to be cutting — and the point I believe Fasulo was making —  was over the bodies of women, i.e., “We will mutually ignore one another’s abuse of women in the interests of fighting the U.S. and Bush, our common enemy.”   How is this anything but male terrorism, the clear message being that so long as leaders oppose Bush and U.S. imperialism, how women in their respective countries are being treated is off limits for discussion?

So then I came across this photo.

This is, of course, Cindy Sheehan, in the embrace of Hugo Chavez.   How does the alliance depicted here work when it comes to women’s issues worldwide?   Yes, we are all disgusted by the Bush regime’s war on Iraq.  But how might the women I blogged about in my post about women’s demonstrations in Iran, the women depicted below, view not only Chavez’s embrace of the leader who ordered them beaten and arrested, but Sheehan’s embrace of Chavez?  Iranian woman bloggers powerfully documented the brutality they experienced in seeking very basic human and civil rights– an end to polygamy, the right to divorce, share custody of children, and enjoy protection as witnesses in courts of law.  And we as feminist women watched it all as it unfolded.   Must we remain silent about these abuses because– why?  Because we’re being abused in the U.S., too, and therefore we should only speak up about our own abuse?  Because we might offend women from other countries, even feminists from other countries?  How about the women, the feminists who implore us to speak out about what they are suffering, as the Iranian women bloggers did?  As RAWA and similar organizations do?  How effective can we be in our support for the world’s women if we are compromised by alliances with men who abuse and mistreat women?  Why does this question even have to be asked? 

Recent women’s demonstrations in Tehran

If we forge alliances with male leaders strictly because they oppose Bush, despite their treatment of women, who will then speak for mistreated women, wherever we are being mistreated?

As Fasulo wrote:

Precisely because things are so bleak right now and the forces of reaction and religious bigotry are on the rise around the world, we must not tolerate leftist alliances that seek to legitimize them. We must not allow the undermining of the women’s liberation movement in Iran that is tirelessly fighting to save women’s lives and break the chains of their legal imprisonment, nor the progressive revolutionary movements that are charting a third course between US domination and right-wing opposition to it. These are the movements that represent the true hope for the ideals of justice, equality and human liberation. Now, more than ever, we must stand up and defend them.




13 thoughts on “Today’s Male Terrorism: Left- and Right-Wing Leaders Bonding Over the Bodies of Women

  1. Heart, I’ve wanted to raise a critical question with you for a minute now. Today, you have finally asked it:

    “Must we remain silent about these abuses because– why? Because we’re being abused in the U.S., too, and therefore we should only speak up about our own abuse? Because we might offend women from other countries, even feminists from other countries? How about the women, the feminists who implore us to speak out about what they are suffering, as the Iranian women bloggers did? As RAWA and similar organizations do? How effective can we be in our support for the world’s women if we are compromised by alliances with men who abuse and mistreat women? Why does this question even have to be asked?”

    Heart, in order to tackle your question adequately, I must quote from my friend and comrade Julian Real (a US-born white man and radical pro-feminist for nearly thirty years) here:

    “White women and men of color sometimes support but do not control whitemale supremacy. Only white men control it. Not all white men need to keep it going for it to thrive, but if all white men spoke our truths—against the interests of whitemale supremacy—about what we have done to women of color, to white women, to men of color, and to ourselves in order to be whitemale supremacists, then at least and at last the white elephant in the room would be named by those with the privilege and power to name it.”

    White male supremacy. That is what the system is—the system that directly oppresses most human beings on the planet—in Nicaragua, in Iran, in Venezuela, and the United States. The system of white male supremacy includes patriarchy (the rule of man over woman/child), white supremacy (the rule of the Eurocentric White West over global humanity and the ecosystem), and capitalism, and it realizes its ultimate manifestation—its highest stage—in global imperialism. White male supremacy is women/children of color’s experience—the majority of the globe’s experience. When white women focus only on patriarchy, and when men of color only focus on white supremacy-imperialism, you all simplify and misrepresent the full experience of the majority of humans.

    This system is so vast, so intricate, so organized at mulitple levels, so institutionalized, so omnipotent, and yet so invisible, that we can think of it as a kind of fraternity. The White Male Brotherhood.

    Heart, I love and respect you for all the work that you do. But as an African American woman, a member of a still-colonized nationality within this settler territory called the United States, and as a member of the global sisterhood, I have got to tell you this: “Male terrorism” is not my experience. White Male Capitalist terrorism is. I’ll go out on a limb here and state that white male capitalist terrorism is the experience of the VAST majority of women and children across the globe.

    I have to say this as well, Heart. As it stands now, all white people and all men are part of the household that is the white male brotherhood. This includes all white women and all men of color—meaning you, Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Cindy Sheehan, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad. All of you simultaneously benefit from and are oppressed by white male supremacy. And as it also stands now, none of you have named the system as it really operates, and honestly—you can’t afford to right now. Why? Because right now, the material privileges that white women and men of color receive from white male supremacy—even alongside the brutal oppression—are too damn great. If any of you were to name this system—name it as it is—you all would lose not only great privilege, but your very ways of knowing and being, overnight. Life as you know it would come to an end.

    Women of color face no such loss. We are already at the bottom. We are not—nor will we ever be—part of the Brotherhood. We have no fraternal obligations, and we owe no one. This material reality, this standpoint, matters.

    So what should we do? Well, sistas are still working on that. We’ll get back to you when we know. What I can tell you right now is what white women and men of color should NOT do. Don’t even attempt to lead the struggle. You can’t do it. You cannot do it. You don’t know what you are doing. You don’t even know what the problem is. You can’t know what the problem is. You are not in our bodies, and you cannot experience our lives. It is the reality of our lives as global women that hold the key to defeating the Brotherhood.

    Until white women, men of color, and conscious white men learn to take a back seat in the struggle, until they can learn TO LISTEN to women of color and follow our leadership, nothing will change. Nothing will change. The dominant cannot end the system of dominance.


    Posted by Y. Carrington | November 10, 2006, 1:37 am
  2. Yolanda, that was an amazing comment. Thanks for posting it. I’ll be thinking about it and will probably blog as a result of the thinking I do about it. Stay tuned.
    Here’s what I would say to you. Male terrorism *is* my battle. It is my absolute lifelong battle. When I say male terrorism, I mean terrorism by white men, terrorism by black men, and terrorism by white men and black men, bonding over their terrorism of me and of my children.
    Somewhere around here I wrote a post, back in the archives, about us all having to fight for our own lives. I think we do. I have to fight for my own life, and I have to fight for the lives of my children. My fight is against the terrorism of white men, and it is against the terrorism of black men, first and foremost, because I have felt that, I have been broken by that, I’ve had a broken skull, shattered eye sockets, a raped body, over that, I have lived in the hell of that, and there’s nobody going to cry out about that the way I will, because I lived it.
    I can’t worry about how I am perceived because of the way I cry out. I’m just going to cry out– in the most articulate, and brilliant, and intelligent, and careful, and well-written ways I possibly can, of course, but still, bottom line, I’m crying out. I’ve got one life, I’ve already lived 54 years of it, and I don’t know how many more years I have to do this work. I see my friends getting cancer, getting diseases, being disabled, dying. I can’t and won’t self-edit or censor my own truth for any reason. Not ever again. Been there, done that for far too long. What this means is, most of the time what I have to say will not rest well on quite a few ears. I know that. I can’t help that. They haven’t lived, like you say, in my body. They haven’t lived my life. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing, or what they’re talking about.
    I am listening to you. And I am fighting for my own life.
    I hear you saying white women simultaneously benefit, and are simultaneously oppressed. I agree. I then hear you say that the dominant cannot end the system of dominance and you include me in that. There is much I can say about that, much much, and in time I will.
    Thank you for saying you respect the work that I do. I respect you too and hope we can help one another.

    Posted by womensspace | November 10, 2006, 5:01 am
  3. Heart, both of your links at the top of this post (about Chavez embracing Ahmadinejad) lead nowhere.

    We all have our blind spots. Hugo Chavez does not choose his friends wisely. He apparently interfered with the Nicaraguan election in support of Daniel Ortega as much as Bush did against Ortega. Perhaps he believes in the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Cindy Sheehan has stated the only issue that matters to her is the Iraq war. IMO this is a blind spot that leads her to accept dubious alliances, and severely limits her potential to effect change.

    Yolanda said: If any of you were to name this system—name it as it is—you all would lose not only great privilege, but your very ways of knowing and being, overnight. Life as you know it would come to an end.

    That may be, but for me, it would not be any great loss. Too much of life as I know it is comprised of things I detest, including my privileges as a white woman. You say, a white woman cannot know what the problem is. I cannot know it in the way a woman of color knows it, but I have some idea. I do not know what you mean by leadership, personally finding the concept so distorted by this culture as to be nearly meaningless, but I do think white women and women of color can and should work together to defeat the Brotherhood.

    Posted by Aletha | November 10, 2006, 6:09 am
  4. Aletha, links fixed (and well worth clicking on and reading).

    I don’t really know about men of color and white women working to defeat the Brotherhood. I believed, at one time, that this could happen. Maybe it can. Maybe I am just way cynical.

    My thinking is, as marginalized people, we should speak the truths of our own lives and just let the chips fall where they may.


    Posted by womensspace | November 10, 2006, 6:43 am
  5. This morning’s thoughts, and I’m late to work and missed the damn bus. Argh.

    Yolanda: I have got to tell you this: “Male terrorism” is not my experience. White Male Capitalist terrorism is.

    I meant to say but didn’t that in my view capitalism is a specific form of male terrorism, as racism is as well, as lesbophobia is, as all the isms are.

    As to leading in the struggle for liberation, what I think is, as someone I very much respect wrote in other words, white western women have had the privilege of *serving* — not leading — the longest revolution. An important project of feminism, I think, has been, and will continue to be, the reinvention of the struggle for liberation itself. Feminism has always been grass roots and comparatively leader-less, which is a good thing.


    Posted by womensspace | November 10, 2006, 2:43 pm
  6. I am grateful for Y. Carrington’s perspectives. It is important to keep in mind the two dimensions of the hierachy we live under: male supremacy and white supremacy, because it is easy for us white women to see it as one-dimensional. Of course cash flow enters in there too as the third dimension, but I think the first two are most potent.

    I don’t know about Chavez, I’m not prepared to drop my support for him. I believe Ortega should definitely be in jail, no doubt. There’s no reforming a child rapist, period.

    But I like a lot of what Chavez has done, and yes she should absolutely condemn Iran for stoning women. But it’s just too much guilt by association here for me. I would still have to see better reference for the woman beating than a conservative’s insinuation. There is a huge and vicious opposition to him because he is redistributing wealth in Venezuela, so all kinds of rumours could be made up. If a woman came out and said he did it I’d believe her in a second. So I don’t mind Cindy Sheehan standing with him, I would. He is standing up to the worldwide white supremacy, which used to get South American leaders killed. It is exactly what people died for in the 70’s throughout South America. I support Lula too and the guy in Argentina.

    Posted by saltyC | November 10, 2006, 4:33 pm
  7. Yeah, salty. My whole issue with Chavez was that he embraced the Iranian president, and my whole issue with Cindy Sheehan was, she didn’t think about the implications of her very public and visible meeting with Chavez, because if she had, maybe when she met with him, she might have talked to him about it, or she might have issued some statement as to why she was meeting with Chavez in this very public way. Which goes to Yolanda’s point about white women not being leaders in the struggle because we don’t get it.
    I know what you mean about too much guilt by association. I think, though, that because of all of these many, complicated intersections and connections, we do have to think pretty deeply about who we align ourselves with, who we embrace, and what we are communicating. I think we can align ourselves with people we disagree with, but not without making a statement about why we’re doing what we’re doing. I think Cindy Sheehan ought to have issued a statement something like what you just said there, and then I think she ought to have said, out of loyalty to women, that she thought Chavez’s embrace of the Iranian president was unwise.
    Very true re the conservative guy suggesting Chavez was an abuser. That’s the thing that gets to me, too, in doing all the research and reading I do. None of these guys has the last bit of integrity, talking now about men, or very few of them do. They could not care less about domestic violence or battering– until some man they politically oppose might have done it and then all of a sudden they’re some champion of women’s rights. Underneath all of their bullshit pissing matches, women are being hurt. I’m always looking to get to women’s stories, underneath all the other stuff.

    Posted by womensspace | November 10, 2006, 5:28 pm
  8. I think CNN must have deleted or moved that article (the second link). I found the same link at womensenews, but that one does not work either.

    Posted by Aletha | November 11, 2006, 5:14 am
  9. Aletha, I can’t find that article anywhere. I did find the following from Global Voices, which I’m going to post in case it also scrolls off. The blogs it refers to are in Farsi, but it’s the best I’ve been able to find.

    Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 @ 12:26 EST
    Hugo Chavez in the Iranian left-wing blogs
    Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Americas, Venezuela, Weblog, Freedom of Speech, Cyber-Activism, Governance, Human Rights, Protest, International Relations
    Hugo Chavez, the leftist Venezuelan President, has developed a very friendly relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian Islamist President. Iran even awarded the Venezuelan President its highest state medal for supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff against the international community. This alliance was discussed a couple of months ago among Iranian left-wing bloggers. Let’s look at how they’ve been are looking at Chavez and his relationship with the Iranian government.

    History lesson for Chavez

    Chape No (which means “new left” in Persian) published an open letter written by Leftwing Students of Iranian Universities [Fa]. In this letter, the importance of Venezuelan-style revolution for Iranian workers was highlighted and Chavez was informed that Iranian regime has already executed thousands of left-wing militants.

    In this letter we read:

    کارگران و زحمتکشان ایران در سال 1979 رژیم شاه را سرنگون کردند اما متاسفانه در حکومت جمهوری اسلامی نتوانستند سهمی داشته باشند. در دهه 1980 تمامی اتحادیه ها و سندیکاهای کارگری برچیده شد و فعالان کارگری و احزاب چپ بدون استثنا سرکوب و هزاران نفر از فعالان آنها اعدام شدند… در سال 2003 که رژیم ایران برنامه خصوصی سازی دانشگاه ها را در پیش گرفته بود، دانشجویان دانشگاههای سراسر کشور دست به تظاهرات وسیعی زدند و … تمامی نیروهای سرکوبگر خود را برای سرکوب جنبش دانشجویی به کار گرفت.
    Iranian workers toppled Shah’s regime in 1979 but unfortunately they did not get any share in the Islamic Republic. In 1980’s all unions, workers and syndicates were closed down and worker activists and left-wing parties, without exception, were repressed and thousands of activists were executed…. In 2003, the regime was engaged in the privatization of the universities. Students protested in massive demonstrations all over country…. the government used all its repressive force to repress the student movement…..

    This blog also tells us that any kind of union or worker syndicate is illegal in Iran, that workers do not even have right to strike and Islamist fundamentalists regimes have already deceived many left wing governments. At this moment, the blogger says, billions of victims of capitalism are looking at Venezuela; it will be a great gift for imperialism to put Venezuela’s name beside Iran and Syria.

    Brother Ahmadinejad!

    In Javaan, the Iranian Revolutionary Socialists’ League, we read that the Iranian government has invested in Venezuelan oil industry and other businesses [Fa].The blogger explains how the Venezuelan President’s behavior can put Iranian workers in a much more difficult position:

    while we appreciate the need of every government to have good diplomatic and trade relations with a large and varied number of governments throughout the world, we are, nevertheless, highly critical of the Chavez government’s extraordinarily close and fraternal relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). We believe that this is based on a misconception of the IRI as a ‘revolutionary’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ regime. This relationship, which has included Mr Chavez calling Dr Ahmadinejad his “brother” on a number of occasions, helps boost the regime and weaken the mass movements in Iran – particularly the struggles of workers for their basic trade union rights. We therefore urge all Venezuelan revolutionary, socialist and labour activists to publicise the true nature of the Iranian regime among the masses of the Bolivarian movement. The IRI is one of the world’s most repressive regimes:
    – workers have no right to set up trade unions, to go on strike or elect their genuine representatives;
    – women are second-class citizens with half the legal rights of men;
    – young people are forced to abide by a medieval ideology down to the smallest details of their lives;
    – national minorities are deprived of their most basic rights;
    – the whole population is robbed of genuine democratic rights and free elections.

    Nasle Farda says we should criticize left wing governments in Latin America while bearing in mind that there are several differences between these and the Iranian government [Fa]:

    The leftwing government never limited women’s rights or violates minorities’ rights, in Iran they — the government — did. In any country where a left-wing government is in power, you do not have the large number of executions and political prisoners we have in Iran. But it does not show that these governments are perfect; we should criticize their relations with authoritarian Middle East regimes. The blogger thinks this relation is based on their ignorance about the existing reality in these countries. Chavez has not helped the Iranian government materially, and he has not had any influence on the Iranian regime’s behavior.

    No illusion about Chavez

    In Militant we read that Chavez is a military man with a rural background and he may in future take away all advantages that he has already given to the working class [Fa]. The blogger estimates that the Venezuelan revolution should combine democratic revolution with a socialist one. The blogger says he has no illusions about Chavez, but others do, thinking he has the control of revolutionary forces in Venezuela; he also says there is no news in that country.

    Havari Khorshid notes that Cuba, Venezuela and many left-wing governments are supporting the Iranian government and consider them anti-imperialist. He adds that it is responsibility of Iranian leftists to inform people, teach them history and put an end to this shameful union [Fa].

    Farid Pouya



    Posted by womensspace | November 11, 2006, 6:10 am
  10. Until white women, men of color, and conscious white men learn to take a back seat in the struggle, until they can learn TO LISTEN to women of color and follow our leadership, nothing will change. Nothing will change. The dominant cannot end the system of dominance.

    Yolanda this is so strong… I was in tears reading this… I have never heard this so eloquently put. You’re right… You’re absolutely right and I agree with you completely. Where are you from? What movements are going on in your city?

    Here, the racial tension is literally like a boulder around your neck… It is hard to organize here and most efforts are discouraged in some way or another or someone throws mud on someone elses name etc… MAN that entire post was good… damn good. Thank you so much for posting.

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 12, 2007, 3:03 am
  11. I messed that last piece up…

    Here the racial tension is literally like a boulder around your neck… it is hard to organize here and most efforts are discouraged in some way or another or someone throws mud on someone elses name etc… MAN that entire post was good… damn good. Thank you so much for posting.

    We have people STUCK in the Panther days here in Boston… Not to discredit their work but people are so off… lost not quite understanding they why and how, and misusing some of the principles so on so forth, and the approach used is NOT effective, actually it weakens us. We have a huge problem here with men of color trying to start up a “movement” for people of color. Women of color are underrepresented and not heard. sigh… I’m in school and I tell you, I am eating up every word, reading everything I can get my hands on. I respect both what you have said and what Heart has said and I respect the work of both of you, each to her own. You’re right. MAN are you right…

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 12, 2007, 3:10 am
  12. Hey, Divine Purpose, I’ve been off writing and you’ve been here commenting! I can’t keep up with you, woman, but thanks for all you have written, I plan to spend time reading it ALL. It is such a pleasure to make your acquaintance. (Also, off topic but I saw that you had e-mailed me and will respond to you tomorrow; I suck at reading and responding to e-mails and apologize for that ahead of time.)

    Anyway, I wanted to let you know that Yolanda has her own blog with her own fine writings at The Primary Contradiction. I know you’d enjoy checking her blog out so I thought I’d at least say that much before I hit the sack!


    Posted by womensspace | March 12, 2007, 7:22 am
  13. lol you cant keep up with me?? You have so much on this site and I was relieved and refreshed to get out of that other thread and see that its not all like that here.

    I will definitely be checking out Yolanda’s blog, and thank you so much for posting that for me to view.

    You’re very good at reading and responding (though you may not think so) here, so I have no doubt at all that you will there lol.

    (Take your time with that email. I understand that you are busy I just didnt want to post it in the other thread and either come under attack or end up disrespecting the space as it was a bit off topic.)

    Posted by Divine Purpose | March 12, 2007, 4:40 pm

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