The Fantasy of pure resistance

Many times, people criticize those who participate in various political/social struggles, or identify with them, for failing to live up to a notion of a “full” or “complete” consciousness of resistance. If you criticize the beauty myth, for example, you are not expected to diet, to lose weight unintentionally, or to express dissatisfaction with your appearance. As a social activist, or a feminist, you are expected to demonstrate consistency that is not expected from those who are not involved with social struggles. Also, if you manage to gain from some form of existing social relations (for example, a feminist who receives support from a male partner) this discredits your other accomplishments.

I believe that the expectation to express a unitary resisting consciousness results from a specific conception of modernity, that ultimately serves to preserve the social order as it is. I have written about “the Fantasy of pure resistance” in one of my articles, which addresses the issue of fat acceptance in Israel:

…Alternative communities, as a collective, often display deep intolerance toward such ambivalence… When activists or scholars argue that individuals have absolute control over the value they assign to their identity, this can also be oppressive (Murray, 2005). Many activists feel that they are the only ones who are not able to practice complete self-acceptance. As a result, they are caught “in a new web of shame and guilt” (Cooper, 1998, p. 56)…

When a subject is embedded within an oppressive social context, a consciousness of pure resistance or pure self acceptance is neither possible nor necessary (Murray, 2005). Subjectivity is multivocal, plural, contradictory, and constantly changing, for those who practice fat acceptance, as much as for everyone else (Murray, 2005). The ambivalent nature of resistance is not a deformity or a deficiency, but rather emblematic of the inner dynamics by which resistance manifests itself over time. Accordingly, acts of subversion and resistance need not be considered antagonistic or mutually exclusive with acts of social conformity. The interplay between elements of conformity and resistance is continuously taking place.

You can read the full article here.

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