Misanthropic Feminism?

Salon writer Natasha Lennard writes of Russell Brand, “I love much of what the boisterous comedian says, but this Great Man narrative lets sexism slide and has to go.”1 Great Man? Who is the great man? Presumably she refers to Russell Brand. Prior to his articulate skewering of capitalism in a recent BBC interview, I knew little of Brand other than he was an actor and ex-husband of Katy Perry.

I, like Lennard, “felt an immense affinity with comedian and would-be revolutionary vanguardist Russell Brand as I watched his BBC Newsnight interview with dismissive interlocutor Jeremy Paxman.” In fact, Lennard encapsulates the interview very accurately.

Similar to Brand and Lennard, I also don’t vote because it is a waste of time and effort. When the entire slate of candidates is lesser evilist, well, I don’t endorse evil of any shade. If there were an anarchist (thereby throwing anarchist credentials into the toilet) candidate running or a dedicated socialist, maybe voting might be worthwhile. Still by participating in a rigged system, I would feel as though I am granting the system a tinge of legitimacy.

We do not live in a democracy. The capitalist system is a plutocracy, not a democracy. The elections are about money and not the will of the people. Brand gets that. That so-called democracy doesn’t get things done is because it is not designed to allow changes to the capitalist system.

Brand, born poor and now a rich celeb, conducted himself exceedingly well in the interview. He stated that he had not forgotten his origins and that the corrupt system had to change.

Lennard complained,

He’s not a theorist, he’s a well-intentioned, wildly famous performer with a “fuck this” attitude and some really nice thoughts; he’s self-aware and self-deprecating. He’d probably even be there on the barricades pushing off riot cops. And that means something to me and a number of my comrades (yes, comrades; deal with it). But, no, I’m not jumping wholeheartedly on this Brand-wagon.

Lennard offers two reasons:

(1) The fact of his being a mega-celeb.

Writes Lennard,

We have to be willing to obliterate our own elevated platforms, our own spaces of celebrity; this grotesque politico-socio-economic situation that vagariously elevates a few voices and silences many millions is what Brand is posturing against. Would he be willing to destroy himself — as celebrity, as leader, as “Russell Brand”? I think he’d struggle, but I don’t really know the guy.

Lennard has constructed a strawman from which to criticize Brand; the man is not important, important are his words and their intent.

It seems to me, if Brand were asked, that he would agree that people should not give particular credence to a person’s status as a celeb, that they should instead focus on the substance of what a person says — any person, celeb or not. If Brand were not a celeb, then likeliest Brand would not have been given the air time to expound political thought usually marginalized by the monopoly media. Brand realizes this and he used his celebrity to the good, and people should welcome this. In having spoken thusly, Brand has run the future risk of being marginalized by the monopoly media, something Lennard should be clued in on. So Lennard’s first objection is moot. It was her conjuration.

(2) Lennard objects to the “Great Man” and his “most archetypal misogyny.” Upon what does Lennard base her serious charge of “most archetypal misogyny” against Brand? As an example she offers writer Sarah Ditum’s identification of Brand’s “lazy sexism”:

Brand writes that “When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me.”

Lennard calls Brand’s remark a “piece of flippant objectification.”

Man, if admitting that he falls under the spell of a beautiful woman makes Brand an archetypal misogynist, then I have a couple of problems with Lennard’s logic. (1) Being smitten by a woman’s beauty would seem to indicate love of a woman — love of at least an attribute of a woman, not hatred of women. Hence, it is not misogyny. (2) If being captivated by a beautiful woman (with the Shakespearean proviso that beauty is in the eye of the beholder) makes one a misogynist, then I submit an extremely large segment of mankind is misogynist.

To buttress her Great Man hypothesis, Lennard also takes a shot at Julian Assange. She criticizes “the willingness with which thousands of Assange acolytes outright rejected sexual assault claims against him.”

First, in the American system of law, anyone not judged otherwise is presumed innocent. Second, it seems that Lennard is not apprised on the topic on which she opines. Assange has not been charged with anything, and the sex in question is alleged to have been consensual, and then either there was some regret expressed after the consensual fact, or the consent became non-consensual. Yes means no? Nevertheless, it seems at this point in time to be unwise to opine on the particular intrigue surrounding Assange.

Lennard posits: “It is at least logically possible for a man to both be a sexist creepbag and espouse some good political ideas and projects.”

I agree; this is possible.

However, as a counter posit to the feminist posit, I submit: It is at least logically possible for a woman to both be a sexist writer and espouse some good political ideas and projects.

  1. Natasha Lennard, “I don’t stand with Russell Brand, and neither should you,” Salon, 25 October 2013. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.