Russell Brand begins his call for an inclusive revolution with this sentence: "When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me."
Oh, Russell. You mean it as a joke, but is it really? Your editor’s introduction to the "Revolution" issue of the New Statesman makes fun of a lot, including opulence and religion. Your request for more humor is intriguing. But in your call for societal upheaval, women are too frequently the punchlines of jokes. We are part of a harem, a tangle of limbs, or aesthetic motivation. The way we’re talked about, you’d think we were more props than people. Perhaps to you, we are.
I could pick apart the nuances of Brand’s revolutionary rhetoric, but I prefer to focus on his marginalization of the very people he calls upon to rise up. It’s a problem all too common among activists. Eager for change, we forget whose backs we’re scrambling over in the race to a better future.
Russell Brand calls for an economic revolution but fails to look at how it connects to his misogyny. It's not just him. Mainstream feminists forget about race. Environmental activists forget about people. There are plenty of people working to correct these exemptions, but it’s still a problem: the revolution is not inclusive, and calling it so is an insult to everyone stepped on along the way.
Henia Belalia’s piece on Alternet addresses these problems head on: "It's disconcerting to find so few faces in the prominent ranks of the environmental movement that reflect the realities and experiences of those bearing the brunt of climate collapse," she says. "Those most impacted by socioeconomic ills and environmental degradation are rarely present at those tables."
It’s true. I’ve worked at numerous environmental nonprofits, and the number of white, middle-class male faces in meeting rooms would be striking were it not the norm. The environmental justice movement is trying to change this, but it’s still a problem not enough leaders recognize — or are willing to put in the hard work to really and truly confront.
And it is hard work. Recognizing privilege is hard enough, but acting to reconcile actions and beliefs is another ballgame entirely. Too often I come home with a Florida tomato, or a new T-shirt from H&M. I forget that my parents paid for my college education and paved the way for a foray into professional activism.
Unfortunately, the inclusive revolution Brand calls for won’t happen unless we start to remember. Classism is a problem. So is racism. And sexism. Homophobia. Pretty much everyone agrees we need some type of immigration reform.
It’s a drag to realize, but it’s more of a drag to be told your life and your pain won’t play well politically. Until reformists and revolutionaries like Brand start acknowledging how they exclude, they’ll be playing into the very systems Brand calls upon the public to knock down.