Kristian Williams’ “The Politics of Denunciation” is a misleading article full of faulty arguments, starting with the fact that the entire foundation that it is built on is a lie. Williams states that“a friend of mine attempted to pose several questions” which is,at best, a strong misrepresentation of what occurred. The friend stood up to read a pre-written statement defending an individual who had been critiqued by another attendee of the event.
It is irresponsible to pretend that the questions were merely being posed for discussion when they were part of a statement to deflect blame and critique around the specific patterns of behavior of an individual. The outrage and shock from the crowd, or “angry roar”, was in response to this statement, particularly because speakers at the event had just spent the last couple of hours talking about how survivors are frequently disbelieved or reasoned away. That brought a lot of trauma up for many in attendance.
Denunciation bemoans the fate of those that lost friends, lovers or organizations because they didn’t want to take sides. What this neglects is the wide range of other people who lost their friends, lovers or organizations because they felt isolated, unsupported or abandoned. The act of “not taking sides” is anything but because it requires taking a side. Not providing support is taking a side. Not critiquing a friend or ally because it makes you uncomfortable or unpopular is taking a side.
As for the article’s point that strife was created in the aftermath,it is correct that it happened but wrong in the presentation of it. The Patriarchy in the Movement event did not create strife by itself. It was the statement that was read to defend against the critique of an individual’s behaviors that caused the strife. In the aftermath, many people did split ways but that is not denunciation per se,it is called standing up for your principals and standing with allies.
Denunciation makes a plea to continue to organize with instead of against abusers and criticizes organizers who push others out instead of working to heal them. This plays into the recurring trend of prioritizing an abuser’s needs or their inclusion into a community at the expense of those they have acted against. This argument is dangerous for the implications that are frequently justified by it. A perpetrator is seen as an important asset to a scene and their continued involvement gets prioritized over the survivor who is then left to accept the blame if they disengage. The idea of working with abusers should be addressed but not until our communities have developed the knowledge, capacity and desire to support survivors through their trauma.
The argument that Denunciation uses is not new and stinks of the old “black and white unite to fight” rhetoric. If there was a campaign against police brutality in a community that was predominantly people of color, can one seriously assume that Williams and his advocates would use the same arguments to prioritize the involvement of white power nationalists? No, we should not. But this is just about feminism so…
Denunciation critiques the survivor-centered accountability approach by saying that a group can make vague call outs in order to pass judgment rather than make a specific accusation about someone. It is odd that Williams makes this point considering that a specific critique about an individual was aired at the event which led to the statement being read defending the individual. It can’t be both ways can it? Denunciation tries to make two arguments that contradict each other. The first argument is that listening to the survivor is dangerous because they can be so vague about details that you can’t refute a vague allegation. The second argument is that you shouldn’t listen to a survivor when they are specific because the real issue is found in theoretical questions. The only way that those two statements are not contradictory is if one reads them both as true and walks away with the conclusion that the experiences and opinions of survivors simply don’t count.
Denunciation attempts to remove the context that created the fallout after the Patriarchy in the Movement event. It seeks to frame a purely theoretical debate (with faulty frameworks included) and removes the subjectivity that brought the issue to a head in the first place. It misrepresents what happened and presents the issues in a false light. More importantly, many that were affected by the fallout from the events of a year ago are now placed on the defensive with their backs to the wall again. The sheer amount of emotional trauma that was slowly healing from the last year has been kicked around again. This demonstrates what the priorities are for supporters of Denunciation,that theoretical points (however faulty they are) are more important than the experiences of people who have endured through abuse and assault.