I follow a lot of antifa (anti-fascist) social media accounts these days, so I'm somewhat plugged in to what goes on in that community. I appreciate the work they do to fight against the current rise of fascism/nazism in the U.S. and abroad and generally enjoy their non-fuck-giving attitudes and messages when it comes to the feelings of fascists/nazis.
Lately, there have been seemingly regular fights between what the media calls "Trump supporters" but are actually nazis and what the media calls "Trump protesters" who are actually antifa. These fights have been all-out brawls, with people regularly getting hurt. Every time someone gets hurt, they're on the news, and every time it's a nazi, the nazis and their supporters spend the following week crying about how mean the antifas they attacked are.
This week, someone got up-close and brutal video of a white man punching a white antifa woman full in the face. It's a hard hit and she crumples from it.
This weekend and continuing on into the weekdays, images of this have been all over antifa social media pages and websites with the antifa organizations holding this up as a reason why the nazis/fascists/"alt right" is so terrible. They're very much focusing on the fact that the person who was hit is a woman.
This makes me uncomfortable for a few reasons.
- It feels exploitative. As a woman and a feminist, I understand that there is indeed something particularly reprehensible about men hitting women due to the history of men's violence against women. I have little doubt that the white fascist guy who hit her likely targeted her in part due to her daring to be a woman standing up to a group that is composed mostly of (very misogynistic) men. HOWEVER, many antifa organizations are also dominated by men. There is something gross about a bunch of men making a huge deal about a woman being hit at one of these fights when many antifa have been punched and otherwise attacked and injured at these brawls.
- It smacks of benevolent sexism. Again, in spite of the clear history of men's violence against women, how this is being presented makes me feel as though they're trying to guilt nazis or nazi sympathizers or draw the sympathy of people who may consider themselves "neutral" because "look this poor woman was attacked, we must protect the defenseless women!"
- The woman in question is white. And the response to this assault also feels like it smacks of a gross habit of my fellow white people to hold up "protecting the white women" as a motivator to fight x. I do believe that most if not all the antifa organizations I follow would have been similarly outraged or perhaps (hopefully) more outraged if a white man attacked a woman of color, but I wonder if, even subconsciously, they're using this trope again to try and get more sympathy from more moderate white people.
- The white woman has dreadlocks. I've already pointed this out on a different platform and gotten the predictable "but x is more important than cultural appropriation!" and worse versions of that. You can easily fight fascism without having gross fake dreadlocks while white.
I may be wrong about some of this. I recognize that antifa groups are pretty notorious for not giving a fuck about wishy washy moderates more concerned with not rocking their boats than stopping the mass deaths caused by fascism. But what I've seen has made me uncomfortable and that is valid, and I trust my gut. I may need more time to mentally unpack this but for now I will say:
If you're antifa and you're a guy, please just do not. Leave it to the women to speak on this, okay? You're doing good work, but don't forget your privileges.