Notes on Advancing the Struggle Inside: Intersecting Strands of Oppression
Today's principal contradiction, here in the United $tates, is the national contradiction — meaning that between oppressed nations and oppressor nations. MIM(Prisons) provides some very provocative questions as to secondary contractions, their influence on or by and in conjunction to the current principal contradiction. Class, gender and nation are all interrelated.(1) Many times, while organizing our efforts and contemplating potential solutions to the principal contradiction, we overlook the secondary and tertiary ones. Such narrow-mindedness oftentimes leads to difficulties, hampering efforts toward resolution. Other times it makes resolving the principal, effectively, impossible. Analogous to penal institutions making it possible to punish a citizenry but impossible to better it due to the irreconcilable contraction between retributive punishment and rehabilitation. This is why reforms consistently fail and prisons persist as a social cancer.
In regards to intersecting strands of oppression, prisons are illustrative of more than pitfalls of narrow-mindedness (i.e. reform of one aspect while leaving the rest intact). Prisons also provide numerous examples of oppression combinations. Interactions of nation and gender oppression are some of the most evident. Penal institutions are inherently nationally oppressive, because they are social control mechanisms allowing capitalism to address its excluded masses. Since the United $tates is patriarchal in practice, prisons over-exaggerate this masculine outlook, creating an ultra-aggressive, chauvinistic subculture.
Intersection occurs oft times when a female staff member is present. Other than the few brave people, most wimmin in prison are regarded as "damsels in distress." Generally speaking (at least in Colorado prisons) a male will accompany a female; though, most males make no effort to do this for other men. Capitalism's undercurrent to such "chivalrous actions" is rooted in wimmin being the weaker, more helpless and vulnerable gender. In prison, machismo culture such is the chauvinist's belief. While many wimmin aid in their inequality by accepting, encouraging, or simply not protesting such "chivalry," brave, independent wimmin experience a form of ostracism — they are derided, an effort to enjoin their conformity. At the same time men are being chivalrous, they sexually objectify females, further demeaning them, reinforcing their second-class status under machismo specifically and, capitalistic patriarchy generally.
Furthermore, there is also the ever-present nation bias (e.g. hyper-sexualizing Latina females, white females should only fraternize with whites). As prisons are "snapshots" of general society, the contradictions — their intersecting and interacting — hold useful material for revolutionary-minded persyns.
Intersection of different oppression strands (as shown above) demonstrates that the resolution of one does not automatically mean resolution of others. For instance, should machismo in prison dissolve, the national oppression will still remain and vice versa. Prisons are an encapsulation of society, meaning, their abolishment will not necessarily translate to class, nation, gender contradiction resolutions throughout society. Although, it is a very good, versatile place to start. Penal institutions are more of an observation laboratory where the effects and affects of contradiction co-mingling manifest. A place to watch, document, analyze, formulate and possibly initiate theory and practice. There is no better way to comprehend oppression than to witness it in action. Nor is there any better way of combating the many oppressions than from the front lines.