Questo sito è dedicato allo sviluppo e alla pratica della scrittura creativa in tutte le sue forme e comprende l’analisi critica di vari mezzi espressivi, dalla narrativa alla musica, dal cinema al teatro, passando per altre forme che fin troppo spesso sono considerate minori: la televisione e il fumetto.

writers   /   An interview with Allan G. Johnson

(lunedì, 27 agosto 2012)

Allan G. Johnson  is one of those writers who truly changed my perspective in many different ways. I first heard about him in a tweet from Feminist Frequency, and I felt compelled to read his work, especially The gender knot. The gender knot is an illuminating essay about privilege and oppression of the patriarchal culture we live in, and about the small ways we can try to get rid of those privileges. Unfortunately there is still no italian edition of this book, and I think it is the kind of reading we desperately need in the male-centered, gerontocratic italian society. I sent Allan a few questions for my site and he was kind enough to answer. I am honored to host his insights here. An Italian translation for this interview will follow at a later time.

- As a man involved in criticism against patriarchal society, what are the most common misconceptions you have to face in 2012?

I think these have changed little over the last decades. Many people still have no awareness that patriarchy and male privilege are real, or that patriarchy is a social system rather than a collection of individual men. The understanding of social systems and how they work in relation to the people who participate in them is still far from the mainstream, which is why social problems are so resistant to change (and why the roots of recent financial disasters are still so poorly understood).

- Is there a specific episode that somehow called you to action?

Not really. Even as a child I was unusually sensitive to issues of injustice. And then I came of age in what were tumultuous times in the U.S.–the Civil Rights, Women’s, and anti-Vietnam-War Movements–and felt compelled to pay attention to issues of privilege and oppression as I became aware of them, beginning with men’s violence against women. To be concerned about these things has always felt natural to me, as if it is something I am here to do.

- Do you think that media professionals should receive a proper training in handling gender specific issues? Do you think they could be in position to make a difference?

Yes to both questions, but I also believe the significance of patriarchy is wider and deeper than ‘gender issues,’ which are usually thought of in terms of relations between women and men, how men treat women, women’s opportunities to do what men do, etc. These are of course important, but it is vital to also be aware of how patriarchy shapes the entire world, including the capitalist economic system, the widespread use of warfare and other forms of collective violence, and the systematic exploitation and ruination of the Earth and its non-human species. These are all manifestations of core patriarchal values, especially the masculine obsession with control, and we need to understand them as such if we are going to make a difference before it is too late.

- As a novelist, do you think there are any cliches writers should avoid in handling gender relationships?

Rather can try to list all the possibilities, I would rather suggest that writers must make it their business to understand the gendered reality we all live in and how this sets us up to participate in all kinds of problems that produce a great deal of unnecessary conflict and suffering.

- Why did you choose the Vietnam War era your second novel?

Because it was closest to what I knew. Please see also this link  for information about my first novel which tells a story of the aftermath of domestic violence. I suspect this may be of greater interest to those in your audience concerned with issues of gender.

- Have you heard about the Anita Sarkeesian project about female tropes in videogames and about the violent response she obtained from the gaming community? What do you think of it? (I owe Feminist Frequency a special debt, since they recommended your essay about patriarchal society).

I’ve known Anita for several years and am a great admirer of her work. I’m neither shocked nor surprised that she would be attacked in this way, given the long history of women being attacked for taking these kinds of risks, which is, I believe, a measure of the power of their analysis of how patriarchy and male privilege are manifested in the world.

- Do you think we can expect new generations to make a difference in the near future in gender relationships? Can we discern small cracks in the patriarchal structure?

I know the preferred response to such questions is to be cautiously hopeful if not optimistic, but I am not, because my concern is less with the more narrow focus on gender relationships than with the future of the patriarchal system as a whole and its core obsession with control that produces so much violence and destruction on so many levels and in so many forms. Patriarchy seems to be at a crisis point–to judge from the pervasiveness of economic and military crises and challenges to various forms of dominance, all of which makes for especially dangerous conditions. Every crisis, of course, is also an opportunity, but it remains to be seen what will be the response.

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