Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"You Misuse It, You Lose It": On Biting The Unwelcome Penis, Part 1

The earlier subtitle to this piece was "On Snow White, Snow-jobs, and Blow-jobs" but I've since (1/2/2009) removed the last term from the title, as I find it, well, distasteful.

There's a recent news story about a woman who bit down on her husband's penis during "oral sex". She has stated she didn't want to have sex, and he charged her with battery. He won. "Not wanting to have sex" is not a legal matter, apparently, if you're in the midst of having sex. Not only is this completely fucked-up CRAP, but it reveals a more prevalent issue, the old one--about who owns whom during sex, and who is statused and privileged enough to not have to worry about saying "Yes" or "No" out loud, preferably on a tape recorder. Lost in the misty midst of the "Did she say yes or no, clearly and sincerely, before sex happened?" debate, is the reality of how sex happens for many people, including against many women. The old axiom "It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind" apparently ends at the point when a penis comes into contact with her body.

For more on this see related blogposts over at Womanist Musings and The Curvature. And rock on, Renee and Cara.

Related to these blogposts are two others over at abyss2hope (also linked to from my blogroll), which may be found here and here.

Folded into the batter--or is it battery?--is this is white heteromale supremacist Dennis Prager's stupidity encapsulated in a blog entry posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2008. (Among other things, he writes for Townhall.com as a columnist.) The misogynistic title of his piece is "When a Woman Isn't in the Mood: Part I". (Let's hope some form of ethical sanity intervenes before he posts Part II.)

The historically legal and/or customary declaration by heterosexual married men that the women to whom they are wed should be expected to (that is to say, "must") have sex with their husbands when hubby is horny, are bountiful and bodacious.

I'll open my own discussion with a comment by a man in response to the relevant post at Womanist Musings on the penis-biting/assault charge incident.

My name is Inkognegro and I am a man who is the Father of two sons and the Temporary foster father of another son. I wholeheartedly encourage ANY woman who finds her self witha penis in her mouth that she did not invite to express her displeasure in whatever way she deems appropriate. It would seem to me that if men find themselves with bitten penises they just might be more careful where they put them.

I concur with the author of the comment above. In my own completely untested fantasy-laden moral universe, biting on or attempting to remove any part of a man that he uses/we use as a weapon--as a means of subordinating, violating, degrading, and physically injuring another human being--should be not only legal and customary, but taught in school, responsibly. Heterosexually active women and sexually active gay men should know how to "perform" the removal of the penis by any means necessary, if said penis has been used to harm another human being. I suppose the slogan for the portion of this campaign directed at educating male offenders could be titled, "You misuse it, you lose it".

The whole matter of determining harm based on whether or not consent was present--at which point, one might ask?--is so problematic as to be almost completely worthless, if better than no standard at all. "Consent", interpersonally, within the context of a couple of people, implies a mutuality of agency, will, and power, including the power to determine consequences of acceptance or refusal of an act initiated. This level of consent needs to be not only interpersonally in place, but also institutionally in place.

If a corporation is buying up working class white people's homes in a section of town, and one willful and empowered home-owner says "No" to the rich thugs, are we to conclude that those who said yes gave their consent? When a white male colonialist-genocidalist "recommends" to the living members of an Indigenous Nation on Turtle Island, "We demand that you move onto this small parcel of land we stole from you, or be killed; which of these options do you prefer?" Is the colonized group's answer, "We will move to that land" an indication of willful, meaningful consent? And if they say, "Kill us, motherfuckers" (in their own tongue), is that a statement offered back in the context of consent?

Consider the heterosexually married woman of any color has been traumatised, sexually or otherwise, during an international military war against her ethnic group's people by U.S. white men. Let's also say that the U.S. military's portion of the war is over, including the rapes that constituted the terrorism against her as a woman (a human being), the rapes of the girls and women of her ethnic group as a gendered class, and the grossly intrusive and destructive assault of all of her people as a group. We'll add here that she has a loving husband, a respectful husband, who does not think the way Dennis Prager does. This kind-hearted husband initiates sexual affection but in a way that is similar, in gesture, to how one of her attackers approached her. She is immediately triggered, by this gestural similarity, into a state of deep dissociation. If they proceed to have sex, with her deeply dissociated, is she giving consent willfully and meaningfully?

I believe each of these "hypotheticals" rooted in actual U.S. history, show up the lack of worth of "a consent standard" for determining whether or not sexual assault or a rape happened. Catharine A. MacKinnon has a much more thorough discussion of this matter in her book Women's Lives, Men's Laws, in chapter 19: "A Sex Equality Approach to Sexual Assault".

I will close this portion of the discussion here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is sex? An anti-normal perspective

I grew up as many did, believing that there were only boys and girls and that they were, eventually, supposed to be interested in "sex".

What "sex" was depended on where you got your information from. In my life there were two primary sources for "Sex Education". In the classroom, students around the age of eleven were shown meaningfully human activities (kidding) like chickens fucking, or some small mammals "doing it". I was clearly not well-educated in grade school about "what sex was". Other than those feathery foul fooling around learned about in sixth grade, the only other reportedly reputable source of information about "what is sex" was pornography. I mean, surely THOSE people know ALL about sex, right? So imagine my confusion when I found out that the creator of Hustler and Barely Legal magazines was, well, a chicken-fucker.(1)

Earlier in my childhood, my very thoughtful and caring dad had a talk with me when I was seven, about what boy-parts were really called. I can now thank him for sparing me the humiliation of being an adolescent and asking a friend "Do you know what it means when a boy's pee pee feels funny?" Not that the term "penis" was spoken of among my friends. "Dick" and later "cock" seemed to be the terms of choice among my peers. Personally, I find the term penis far less obnoxious, but who wants to be an outsider, socially? My answer to that appears later in this post.

From inside school, behind barns, or on the streets, boys passed around the most absurd ideas about "what is sex". Chief among them were some baseball metaphors which involved "getting to first base, then second base, then third base," and, better yet "hitting a home run". Hey, my brothers in the UK--do you have similar sexual lessons and imagery based on cricket or football [soccer, for the US-centric among us]?

Given my options, atop my list of things to do was to to seek out pornography because, well, that's what people did who wanted to know about sex, and experience sexual feelings. You do learn about sex from porn, right? I mean that's where everything happens, isn't it?

But there was a problem. I wanted to kiss boys, not fuck them or be fucked by them. And I got the sense from female friends that heterosexual fucking wasn't all it was made up to be. Many girls and women I've known reported it being either painful, traumatic, boring, or too fleeing to hold as much of a memory. The girls I knew who liked it seemed to like it because of the proximity it put them to a male they wanted to be close to. (That was also my objective when an adolescent: to be close to a boy I liked.) The more sexually aware girls in my circle knew that, besides making out, "getting oral sex" was where it was at, and, unfortunately, performing oral sex on a boy was mandatory if you were either going to go out with a boy, or expected to have him perform oral sex on you.

Since then the value of "reciprocity" among heterosexual youth has disintegrated considerably. Boys now expect or want girls to "go down on them" just about anywhere: in the backs of grade school buses, in school rest rooms, in bedrooms with locks on the doors, and practically anywhere else adults are not likely to appear. Boys want and get it. Girls may want it and most don't get it. How incredibly self-serving and selfish of boys who have sex with girls! At least if boys were sexual with boys, they'd do it to each other! (I didn't learn much about what girl's did together, or wanted to do together, because for the longest time, the only representations of women-being-together-sexually was forced for me by pimps through a lens of heterosexual male self-interest: women were with women because men liked to watch that kind of action going on. This was odd to me, as one could safely assume the idea of a woman being with a woman sexually was that you didn't need a man around.

The more I learned, the clearer it became that sex was what boys and men wanted sex to be, and boys and men learned about sex primarily from pornography, or other boys and men's "stories" of what they'd done to some female, or, if the male was more prone to hallucinations and arrogant gradiosity, to "a group of females". This phenomenon of heterosexual men talking to each other about things like "gettin' p*ssy" made heterosexual men seem about as emotionally empathic and politically dangerous as Larry Flynt. Now that's a scary thought, given that he's also been charged with raping his daughter.

So, to summarise: by the time I was an adult, I'd learned that sex is what boys learn from pornography, what boys tell one another they should want (often based on what they've learned from pornography), or what boys lie about having done, claiming it was the best thing since sliced bread. (The fact that there were more boys having sex using items such as mattresses, pillows, chair cushions, or their own soapy hand, than with female human beings was deduced from additional cultural information.)

The exception in my childhood circles was the whispered about fact that some boys were having sex with their youngest sisters. The younger sisters seemed to not want to talk about it, out of shame or fear. The boys, depending on their peer groups, either bragged about it or just told others about it as "something they do" when between girlfriends, which is to say something they commonly did.

In no regard was sex centered around the interests and wants of girls. Those seemingly selfless boys who claimed "I do what she wants" boiled down to them still doing what they liked, it just so happened that some boys liked trying to please girls sexually, not just treat girls like masturbation devices.

True story:
A male friend of mine was friends with a girl and a boy who "hooked up". They were supposedly interested in getting to know one another. She didn't want to be sexual. He did. My friend was informed by both parties what they did together--just once: the boy told him that he had some kind of sexual contact with this girl, and that it was a good time. My friend soon heard directly from the girl that the boy was a freak: that he sat on top of her waist, pinned her arms down with his knees, and proceeded to do things to her chest, including exposing it, that she did not want done. What she wanted was for him to not be pinning her down, so she could run out of the room and never be alone with him again. She accomplished that, after getting out from under him. She got away from the young perp and never had contact with him again.

The boy called this sex. The girl called it sexual assault. I've heard these differing versions of reality many times, and each time the boy or man seems not to have a goddamned clue that he's actually with another human being who might describe what she'd like to do if the male didn't so quickly "go about his business".

Why would he do this, as his first sexual act with a potential girlfriend? Because before that moment all his sex had meant opening a magazine and having it spread out before him, with him able to turn pages as he wished, with no resistance from the magazine or the females in it. He had access upon demand. He did to her what he'd learned to do with pornography.

As for the girls who were sexually abused by their older brothers, or fathers, or step-dads, or doctor, or preacher, or man on a park bench, or man in an elevator, I found that they never really got to know what they wanted. "What I want" was not part of the process of deciding "what happened". Sex, for them, was more like something one endured, rather than something one determined.

Some of those girls grew up, and some of them couldn't deal directly with what was done to them by family members or other older males. So when they later met boys or men who were into pornography, "being pornographic" was acceptable, because it meant acting or dissociating; either way they didn't have to be sexually/emotionally present.

I've studied heterosexual pornography. I've seen some gay pornography, but have never been that interested in it. From the heterosexual pornography, a few things are overwhelmingly clear:

1. Men write the scripts for what women do to men or to other women.
2. All of sex is organised around what pleases men, turns men on, or it expresses what men wish to express about how they feel about women, which is generally anti-sensuous.
3. Women are never allowed to show disgust and mean it.

I recently heard about a film that's been seen by at least a few people--and what it shows, folks, is a rarity: the film was taken by someone who was not the director of the pornography movie being filmed. Got it? This rare film is about what it is like beyond the director's lens, for the woman in a heterosexual pornography scene.

Now, in case you've been away from the Internet for the last umpteen years, let me tell you one of the things men seem most to enjoy doing that women in porn films, according to men, also enjoy. That is men ejaculating on women's faces. Sometimes one man, sometimes more than one man. (Why these guys don't just have sex with each other and leave her out of it is a question only answered by economic laws of supply and demand. Men want to see women degraded sexually, humiliated, made to appear dirty, or as if their sole objective in life is to be a wh*re.

So in this very rare film, after "that scene" with the guy or guys doing what they do on her face (to her person), the director yells "cut" and the woman immediately says "GROSS" and gets something to wipe her face with, disgusted. (That part never seems to make it into "the director's cut" of a pornography film. You have one guess as to why that is.)

I realise there are women who say they like pornography, or who do enjoy looking at it, or who enjoy acting out pornographic scenes almost always (un)originally scripted and directed initially by a man who has economic interests, not intimate ones, for women being sexual in his vicinity.

I realise there are men who say they like pornography, who do enjoy looking at it, or who enjoy acting out pornographic scenes almost always scripted and directed initially by a man who has economic interests, not intimate ones, for women being sexual in his vicinity.

But what I can tell you based on being a gay male who grew up in a violently and obnoxiously heterosexist society, and a virulently misogynist and racist one as well, is that "what I want" has usually not had much to do with "what I and the other person wants". Usually one or both of us don't really know what we want, because for years we've been told what we're supposed to do that is "sex"; we're told we're supposed to "have sex" and we're shown or told what constitutes "sex" and so that's what we do, regardless of what we actually feel like while doing it. Or, we've been forced to do certain things in or beyond childhood, and in order not to feel the pain of that abuse, the terror, the humiliation, the violation, we turn those "scenes of trauma" into "chosen sex acts" so we can feel we're in charge now, we're in control, or, at least, like sexual behavior doesn't have to be traumatically painful and degrading: it can now feel empoweringly painful and degrading. When there are so few choices available socially, welcomed and regarded as "hot" or "fun" by peers and pornographers, we "choose" from the dissociating rubble, the inhumane trash heap, and call that "my chosen sex life".

I did that. I used to think that is sex, which is to say that's all sex can be or should be.

Later in my adulthood I realised I wasn't very present during sex, nor had I ever been. I also figured out (a "duh" moment) that I wasn't even sure I wanted to be doing what I was doing, and that it was very difficult to know, one way or the other what I did, in fact, want. What I did then was unusual. I engaged in an "anti-normal" very socially and politically incorrect practice: I opted out of having sex. I decided that not knowing what I want, and not being able to be present when I was doing what I thought I wanted, and not being able to set boundaries even when I had a clue, meant I would be emotionally better off not having sex at all.

I honestly didn't know I could stop having sex, in the sense of it being socially acceptable to stop. The only group I knew of who vowed to not be sexual were nuns. And believe me, I was no nun. I was a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan. (Which is not to say that all nuns hate the RHPS.) I had begun to put some pieces together in figuring out who, really, was "in charge" of teaching us about sex. And that they were corporate pimping scumbags whose sexual values ought to be regarded as the standard of what not to do sexually or otherwise, if you value intimacy, self-awareness, and an end to economic and sexual exploitation.

I am surprised and not surprised, simultaneously, that I didn't know adults don't have to have sex, especially the kind of sex that is commercially mass-produced, advertised, and sold for consumption to economic elites at the expense of the many in poverty.

I hadn't yet met anyone who was comfortably asexual or intersex. Once I had, I knew everything I was taught about adults and sex was fucked up to the core.

So I've been celibate ever since, but during that time away from behaving compulsively, acting out, dissociating, pretending I'm having a good time, and desperately longing for something that has never actually occurred, I've slowly become aware of what I do want. What I want is something that hasn't been directed or demanded by a pornographer or boyfriend. I don't want sex when it's begged for pleadingly, desired obsessively, requested while in an altered state, or demanded by a person I'm with who doesn't really care much about me or my humanity, or anyone's humanity, including his own.

I know, it's absurd right: not wanting my head bobbed up and down on someone's dick. Not wanting to drive to meet someone, month after month, for sex in a motel room from someone who wouldn't know intimacy if it caressed him on his face. I'm done with men who won't kiss. I'm done with men who think penetration equals sex or that disrespect and non-mutuality equals sex. I'm done with men who value having sex more than getting to know someone on a deeply intimate level, on a variety of levels, BEFORE jumping into bed, onto a rug, in the rows of a cornfield, or whatever.

It took a long time, too long, waaaaay too long, for me to realise the best thing for me was to opt out until I knew, deeply, what had happened to me, and the full effect of what I had done, so far, on myself and anyone I'd be semi-dissociatively or compulsively sexual with. That meant finding out. That meant digging deep into myself, touching old terror, feeling old pain. That meant contacting people with whom I'd been sexual, and having really honest conversations about "what that was for you" (and for me). That meant feeling remorse, regret, and sorrow for the times when my behavior had made someone feel confused, uneasy, ambivalent, or ashamed.

I am thankful I never raped anyone or was raped by anyone. I knew sexual assault in my youth, as the one who felt powerless and was victimised, and for some reason, never acted that out against anyone later in ways traumatic or violating to the other person. I am grateful for that. I am thankful I've never been emotionally physically violent with anyone during sex, and have only been emotionally hurtful and insensitive in non-sexual situations, with friends with whom I am still friends. I am also thankful I have called out males around me who needed to be called out, for harming people without knowing it, or who knew it and didn't care. I plan to continue calling out abusive men on their oppressive behavior.

My biggest mistake, sexually, was in believing what society told me sex was. I had a boyfriend when a teenager (before his step-dad found out and moved him to another high school), then a girlfriend because both of us thought being together is too difficult. I am thankful I told my girlfriend, before we were together as a couple, that "I'm not heterosexual". She ended up fixing me up with a gay male best friend of hers. I didn't like him or respect him and had almost nothing to do with him. I did like and respect her. We are still on good terms; she is currently married to a heterosexual man who, while a bit of a slug, does love her in a way I could not. She's known I'm out-as-gay for about as long as I have declared it.

Making heterosexuality compulsory and normal is dangerous and damaging to many people. Making some forms of sexual engagement compulsory and normal is also dangerous and damaging to many people. Making gender dualism, boy and girl, man and woman, compulsory and normal is dangerous and damaging to many people.

Increasingly, inside and outside of queer and heterosexual communities, I see the following being propped up as "of value": being casually sexual, fucking drunk, having multiple sexual and romantic partners at once without the communication skills and level of self-awareness necessary to make that happen responsibly, and having hormone injections and surgery to be more of who one is. I accept genderism and transgenderism as normal. I reject them as "all there is and all there can be". Most transgendered people I know and many non-transgendered people I know also reject those two options as spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically sufficient.

I accept we live in a world with limited choices, and that transgenderism or genderism is the best choice for some people, given the fucked up gender-binaried world many of us live in. I have experienced, probably daily, not feeling fully at home in my body. As someone born and identified as "a boy", I get wanting to have surgery or at least facial hair removed, or chest altered, or genitals removed or changed--into what I'm not sure, in order to feel more at home in myself. And I'm so grateful to the Womanism and radical feminism of Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Nikki Craft, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, bell hooks, Sheila Jeffreys, Andrea Smith, and Patricia Hill Collins, among other writers and activists, for welcoming human beings to ask the most difficult questions about ourselves and our societies. And for demanding that gender, race, and sexuality be interrogated as oppressively political realities, not just normal social ones.

In conclusion, I have no interest in being normal. When I see old norms or new trends in sexuality, I know to interrogate those norms and trends by reading radical writings, and by discussing social reality with others who are open to digging deep. I consider it a necessity, for my own well-being and the well-being of other people, to ask questions about what the cost is to some human beings, to those of us who are far more marginalised, invisibilised, and silenced than me, to have such norms and trends be presented as asocially natural or willed and enforced by a white male sky-god who has yet to meaningfully intervene and prevent gynocide, genocide, or ecocide. If that kind of supernatural god exists, it is both ignorant and impotent in the face of human oppression and environmental devastation. Or it wants us, not it, to collectively and humanely do something about these problems.

Hello, my name is Julian and I live in an obsessive-compulsive, oppressive sexual environment ruled by dehumanised people who care more about exploiting people and the Earth than ending exploitation in all its atrocious forms.

(1) The real Flynt has little in common with the martyr that he finances people to describe him as. According to his own autobiography Flynt’s first sexual experience was raping a chicken. He killed the chicken to “avoid suspicion”. He has also gone to tremendous degrees in his attempts to silence his daughter from talking about how she was raped by him. He has used his power in the media to attempt to instill intimidation in any who spoke out against pornography. He used his magazine to vilify activist Aura Bogado with hateful, violent and threatening cartoons and articles. In his column called “Asshole of the Month” he has included Barack Obama, Diana Russell, Andrea Dworkin, Dorchen Liedholdt, Gloria Allred, Catharine MacKinnon and hundreds of others. In the 1970s he put out “Wanted Posters” for Gloria Steinem and Susan Brownmiller because they were antipornography. He has offered a bounty on feminists who have been critical against him and done whatever he could to silence whoever would be critical against the racist and misogynistic material in his magazines.

The only free speech Larry Flynt really wants is his own and what he wants said, which makes him as much of a defender of free speech as say for example Stalin or Hitler.

The Right To Be Left Alone? Larry Flynt has never EVER left anyone alone his whole life. --Nikki Craft

[The above note, (1), is from a larger piece from the Manufactured Contempt website, created and written by Nikki Craft and Julian Real in response to the release of a disgustingly flattering and inaccurate documentary portrayal of Larry Flynt titled The Right To Be Left Alone. WARNING: that site contains politically appropriated and altered images (by a feminist) of pornographic violence, sexual and otherwise. Even while altered, the images there may be very triggering for many people.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Political Illiteracy: One White Radical's Perspective on "My people"

Hi, my name is Julian Real and I am a globally illiterate enabler of atrocities. I was raised to be a white man in the United States of America. I am also struggling to understand how my people came to be what we are and do what we do.

What does being a radical mean when I come from such a limited background of experience in the world? I can only answer this question based on that cloistered life. It means knowing I am part of a global minority. It means owning that being a Westerner, white, and a man are, at their core, political realities, not biological or geographic ones. It means knowing what I am as one among my people--particularly as a white person, a Westerner, and a man, which entails knowing where I am located, politically, structurally, and in various social hierarchies that have institutional force behind them and an agenda to subordinate and/or kill anyone who is seen, by any of those groups, as "the other". It means staying current on the political meaning of who I am, and what my people do that is political, organised, and intentional.

My people have constructed, over a few hundred years, various secular, political, and religious institutions that are designed to prop up the forms of power that my people and I have. Among those is the power to name, control, exploit, appropriate, abuse, harm, and neglect; to be oblivious, willfully ignorant, and in denial; to have the economcially coerced assistance of others, sometimes women and children within one's own ethnic group, sometimes the women and children of ethnic groups we oppress; to have slaves; to complain about things most people in the world will never get the opportunity to complain about, to have attention paid to us when we experience even one injustice, while whole populations in many regions of the world don't have one year, one day, or even one day of the privileges our most indignant, complaining ego-centric members have throughout our lives. And if, by chance, due to moving to this country, or this country moving itself into another's, some people do get a taste of some of our "values", our privileges, our entitlements, they do so only as marginalised people.

My people live in the oddest ways. We eat what isn't healthy, we purchase what we do not need, we buy small bottles of water less pure than a lot of our relatively free-flowing tap water; we assume we will always have clean water to drink, even while our millions of empty water bottles pollute the Earth and the water in them never gets to those who do not have much access to clean water--from tap or bottle. We believe that any atrocity is fine as long as the blood, the actual, literal blood, of the murdered, doesn't touch a majority of our hands, and their suffering doesn't reach our souls. Single families live in dwellings that, elsewhere in the world, could house many families, if not the population of a small village. In the case of some mansions, a small village of people could consider some single family mansions "roomy". We idolise and envy the people who own homes like these. We love TV shows about them. We love watching the images of them as they move through their days. We like being distracted and addicted.

We make getting around in a wheelchair, in a brace, or with a walker very difficult; those of us who are not physically disabled in terms of mobility usually drive when we can bicycle or walk. We uphold laws that are unjust. We jail innocent people for long periods of time, and jail rapists, incest perpetrators, child molesters, pornographers, pimps, batterers, traffickers of human beings, government and corporate criminals for short periods of time, if at all; we imprison people primarily based on the hue and shade of their skin and on a determination of their (low) economic standing. Those who are rich and white, who are predominantly and disproportionately my people, will likely never see the inside of a jail cell.

The women and girls among us will be colonised and oppressed by the men and boys among us. We males will rape, batter, pimp, procure, traffic, and enslave our children and women, as well as children and women from around the world. We play lots of video games. We watch lots of dramas, comedies, and sports on our TVs. We steal lots of music and movies from the Internet. We don't consider this stealing. We justify everything we do.

We don't know global geography at all. Many of us don't know whether Africa is a nation, a continent, or both. We barely understand the philosophies of our ancestors, let alone the philosophies of people outside our group. We tend to vehemently believe, or vehemently disbelieve, in one or both of the following: in a white male sky-god, or in Western science. Many of us believe a woman gave birth, without being impregnated by a man, to one son of a white male sky-god. (Somehow, although ethereal, he had a not-so-ethereal penis of some kind with which to impregnate this not-so-ethereal woman. Many of us believe there was a "first" woman who was born from a man's rib, not another woman's womb. I know, it's crazy talk, but we believe this! And if someone believes there is Spirit in rocks and trees, we think they are crazy. If someone believes plants communicate with us and each other, we want to lock them up in a psych ward--the people, not the plants.

We believe (and are taught) that "American English" is "the international language" as if everyone does or should speak it, and as if "it" is one language. What is meant by "American English" is "U.S. white, Hollywood-loving, capitalism-adoring, middle-class, Anglo-centric English". American English in reality, includes Chican@, Quebec, and African American Vernacular English; Yinglish, Appalachian, Cajun, and Ozark English; Hawai'an English or Hawai'i Creole; Mojave, Isletan, Tsimshian, Lumbee, Tohono O'odham, and Inupiaq English. Are all of those "universal"? Do my white U.S. kinfolk, collectively, want them to be? Until today I didn't know most of those languages had specific names. And there are many, many more regional and ethnic variants on what we might call "national newscaster English."

I grew up very provincially, inside the U.S.'s dominant society. Hearing U.S. and European nursery rhymes and children's stories--and later textbooks, watching U.S. and British TV, and listening to popular U.S. and British music ws supposed to sustain me aesthetically, intellectually, and culturally. Spiritually, if not a part of a church or temple (which was and is the case for me), walking in the woods is seen as a spiritually enriching experience if one leaves one's home to do, because "my people" do not tend to inhabit forests or other self-sustaining ecosystems; instead, we destroy them so we can live where they once were. Sometimes we plant and keep a few trees up, for shade or to break up areas of flat lawn in the yard. Some of my people grow herbs on their urban apartment balconies. My people do not know how to find these herbs in their own natural environments, do not know their indigenous (not Latin, not English) names. We are not especially concerned with how and where they exist outside of our grocery stores or supermarkets. My people live in mostly urban and suburban cities, built on stolen land; some of us live rurally on stolen land.

We do not know what it is to live on land that has been part of one's being for thousands of years, carrying the blood and bones of our ancestors. We think three generations of living somewhere is a very long time. We don't think of having "ancestors" unless we are appropriating other people's cultural traditions, including raiding their tombs and robbing their graves. We are prone to arrogantly and exploitively "adopt" the ancestors of the people "my people" systematically murder.

I am from "the genocidal class", a fact which I was not taught in my white-dominated schools. I am from "the rapist class", which also was left out of the textbooks and teachings. Being from these classes does not mean I, personally, commit genocide or rape. I have done neither interpersonally. But it means "my people" do it and there is an expectation that, as one of my people, I will be silent about what we have done and still do. To use one of the languages my people are fond of, I am supposed to "enable" my people's civilisation to continue.

I learned from my people a very strange thing: that we arrogantly, if erroneously believe we know everything and that we are the center of the universe: the dead center. Our language is referred to as "the universal language". Those among my people, from this country, who teach or preach Christianity, English, or capitalism here or abroad are seen as "doing good", which is to say, not committing genocide.

Our dominant cultural and religious practices are exported all over the world, as a form of cultural and "spiritual" colonialism which is to say, genocide. We can call these acts "good" because we have the power to be hypocritical, to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to protect and defend ourselves by any means necessary. We have the power to be right by stifling those who call us wrong. Should anyone else, those who are not my people, including "other" U.S. citizens, or "outsiders" seek to hold us accountable to our crimes, they are hunted down as traitors, heretics, lunatics, and terrorists. We are allowed to kill those we deem our enemies by any means necessary, and we have all the means necessary. Those who call us wrong do not have many means available, and we make sure they never will.

Because we call dissidents these negatively stigmatising terms, we are implying, as we believe, we are none of those things, and one of our other powers is to be stigma-resistant.

The Presidents of the United States, generally, have been savages, traitors, heretics, lunatics, and terrorists, yet that significant truth is not in the U.S. white history books I grew up reading. I have learned instead, from my nation's leader of the last eight years and from the history books he approves of, that American Indians were savage (and still could be) and that the land they have lived on was somehow discovered. Oh yes, we have the power to "discover" too. Our history of conquest is deemed glorious, honorable, and God-willed. The histories of those we have conquered have been deemed heathenistic, hedonistic, and godless.

In this context, with these powers to name, we believe that white Leftists are traitors. We believe that feminists, "homosexuals", and Jews are evil heretics. A great many of us believe that espousers of something called Global Warning or identifying our government as corrupt to the core, and genocidal, and pro-rapist, means we are anti-democratic lunatics. We believe that anyone or any group, from a member of The Weather Underground, to the Black Panther Party, to the followers of Malcolm X, to Indian warriors, to anarchists, to the urban and rural poor, to--the current bugaboo--"Muslims, Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, or Arabs" who doesn't demonstrate allegiance to our flag, our Founding Fathers, or our Freedom Fries, is dangerous, suspect, threatening, and untrustworthy. (That those adjectives describe every U.S. president, bar none, is not worth noting; my people hate it when things like that are said, let alone believed.) Regarding the current groups stigmatised as terrorists, we have with little to no awareness of what each of those populations actually is, how they are distinct from one another, where each is and isn't located geographically, and how nationally, politically, spiritually, ethnically, and culturally diverse each of those populations is, let alone how complex (not linear, not static, not monolithic) any national, regional, or ethnic group's history and people are.

I am a member of a people who think we know it all, when we know virtually nothing that can save us from ourselves, while we take everyone else down with us.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Feminism and Prostitution: a radical profeminist perspective

I just found out about this white bloke who on YouTube goes by the name of Starving Flame. I'm willing to give him a bit of air-time, or whatever this is here on this blog! (Btw, imo, the dude needs better lighting. He looks kind of scary!)

I don't agree with all he says, but I like his arguments in this particular piece. My endorsement of the perspective he shares here is in no way an indication that I agree with other statements he makes elsewhere. (Nor should it be assumed I disagree with him elsewhere. I'll post here what I agree with, if I think it's blog-worthy.)

I believe it spares many women so much time and energy to have at least a few men ( hopefully the number is increasing) say this stuff out loud to other men, so feminists don't have to keep repeating it ad nauseam.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Woman-Loving does not equal Man-Hating: Here is Proof

Andrea Dworkin loved women as human beings who were and are being systematically oppressed and interpersonally harmed by men in many awful and common ways. Contrary to popular belief, she also loved men including but not limited to her father, brother, and life partner of thirty years. She also loved the younger men in her family, including her godson. This should not have to be said. But it does, quite unfortunately, need to be pointed out from time to time to break through the fantastically derisive mythologies about her that men have generated in order to do one thing: to silence and stigmatise her, to make sure the masses will not dare to understand what she wrote and what it meant, including what it required of her to write it. And should some of us understand, we had best not speak about it out loud, or we, too, will be silenced and stigmatised.

Her love of justice for women, and of books, surpassed her love of men. As far as I know, this is not a felony, or even a misdemeanor. (I could be very wrong about that.) When men value justice or books more than individual relationships, they are called many wonderful things: scholarly, literary, wise, brilliant, and genius. When women do this, there are few to no positive terms to describe them. The hush, or jeering, in any male supremacist place where Andrea Dworkin is mentioned as a great philosopher, as a great political thinker and strategist, is stunning.

For years, I've seen how she and other feminists have fought against great obstacles to demonstrate their love of women, their passion for justice for women, their work to create some forms of relief for women who are purposefully not innocently, systematically not anecdotally, hatefully not lovingly, harmed by men in ways both calculated and callous.

Women who love women, or justice for women, or safe spaces for women, at least as much or more than men, are miscategorised as "man-haters", among much worse terms.

Andrea hoped, against eras of evidence, that men would figure this out. She stated so in her speech to five hundred men, titled
I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape

Here, in the audio piece below, Andrea speaks a bit about her history of activism and the context in which it existed, as well as the right of women to fight back against those who do them harm.

Nothing you are about to hear equals man-hating, and everything you are about to hear equals woman-loving.

Note what love rooted in a deep political awareness of male supremacy sounds like. Note what love might look like, expressed, when it doesn't mean pacifism.

[Posted to YouTube by a woman identifying herself as Jennaow.]


Saturday, December 13, 2008

On being a "Victim" vs. a "Survivor": part of a discussion

This is the bulk, and I do mean "bulk" of a comment I made on another blog, The Curvature, linked to in my blog roll. I decided to place it here, because I wouldn't blame the blogger one bit if she found this to be too friggin' long to accept as a comment!! So here it is, slightly abridged and partly revised:

My heart goes out to ... all the victims and survivors of rape. ...

I too am a survivor of abuse, “mine” happened when I was under the age of thirteen. (I am often conflicted about referring to “my abusers” as such. Do I really want to claim them as belonging to me?!)

I think “The United Rapes of Amerikkka” is uncomfortable with women naming themselves as victims because, guess what?: that means there was a “victimizer”. If all who are oppressed and/or not-so-individually harmed by sexual abuse and violence only call ourselves “survivors”, doesn’t that invisibilise the perpetrators, the oppressors? Who or what exactly is “the harmer” if someone is “a survivor”?

I think it’s part and parcel of the white male supremacist media’s systematic invisibilising of oppression and perpetration as both vicious and victimising that the political act of rape is being conveniently smuggled away from the realm of Womanist and feminist analysis of the atrocity as a form of terrorism of women as a class. When talk shows have rape survivors on, why aren’t they allowed to express rage, not just tears and fear? The tears, the fear, and the rage–all of it? Why aren’t there any feminist “survivors” (experts) of rape, putting each woman’s experience into a political context–as a way to empower each woman by speaking truth to power? Why is it appropriate to frame up such atrocity as a matter of the survivor-as-individual who “ought to be sure to get good therapy”. Why ought she not learn how to fire a gun, so the next prick that comes along finds himself dead, not just deadened by his own inhumanity?

Sexual assault, as I understand and experienced it, was and is part of a larger system of subordination of women, girls, and feminised boys. It’s very politically strategic–and patriarchally correct–of perpetrators and oppressors to make it seem as if rape should be dealt with primarily or only in small sheltered groups, or with that apolitical psychotherapist, where we can talk about something traumatic that happened, anecdotally, again and again and again (but never systematically!?).

Never mind that “Take Back The Night” where I live has been almost totally co-opted by the language of white academic liberal psychology, not street feminism; and has had to be inclusive of male survivors, because Lorde knows, women can’t have their own spaces any more to speak out about crimes against women.

Who is served, and not held accountable, if we “survivors” all just ought to work (privately, quietly) on ourselves to get over it? Since when was activism and speaking out not a form of healing? Why aren’t women allowed to name political harm as such when on a talk show? How nice for the rapists, incest perpetrators, corporate pimps and pornographers, traffickers and abusive johns and child molesters if we just “move on” and put “that” behind us.

Why aren’t victims allowed to acknowledge that for many of us, living through sexual assault isn’t something one recovers from? Why are we being prodded by government and media to be only engaged in privatised processes of “healing ourselves” rather than going after the perpetrators and the systems of harm which support them? I’m sure perps love it that we are shamed out of calling ourselves victims, that we have all, let’s pretend, survived! We have not all survived, and the dead need spokespeople.

Speaking only for myself, parts of me survived, and parts of me have not. I was changed by being assaulted. It wasn’t an incident I can “get over”. The term “survivor” doesn’t address that complexity of experience, even while I use the term to appear “empowered”.

When discussing the subject in relatively safe environments, I will say that “I was sexually assaulted by a heterosexual married man who was also the neighborhood child molester.” And I name him, even though he’s since died. I think it is important to name what was done, which includes identifying the perpetrator–as at least being someone who existed.

We live in an era where finding and claiming empowerment inside systems that have little to no regard for women’s human rights or well-being is “in”, while calling out corporate pimps and other perps, as self-serving, very empowered oppressors of women, is “out”. Whose interests are served by this trend?

Let’s see: perps cease to exist in how we name our experience, and the fact that men pay women more to be sexually available than to do anything else isn’t questioned anymore, because, well, that makes women look like, gasp, victims of economic and sexual exploitation. Every woman I know, inside or outside systems of sexual exploitation, is a victim of economic and sexual exploitation. Does anyone know anyone who isn’t? And if it happens to “all of us”, and we make our way through it, somehow (or opt out of life instead), does what is going down cease to have political meaning?

Curious that the term “victim” is more stigmatised than the terms “pornographer”, “pimp”, procurer, and date-rapist. Curious that the only groups who now embrace the term “victim” are Men’s Rights Activists, White Nationalists, and other racists and people with privilege. Curious that talk of genuine liberation from white male supremacy has been generally replaced with talk of relative empowerment inside systems of economic and sexual exploitation.

That’s not the vision or goal I held to from reading and rereading Audre Lorde’s, Andrea Dworkin’s, Pearl Cleage’s, and Andrea Smith’s written work. They had or have a standard of human dignity, of freedom for women, that didn’t or doesn't include systems of gross exploitation and atrocity–genocical and gynocidal. Yes, we are all here now, and we all must find our way. And I fully support any oppressed individuals defining for themselves what they experience. And while this sort of necessary individualised self-naming goes on, I hope for women's sake that some of those, and other, voices are telling it like it is, without apology.

It has been a long, long time, that far too many women and girls have been permanently scarred, psychically, physically, spiritually, and politically by male supremacist violence.

For taking the focus off of them, and instead criticising feminists for what happens to women at the hands of men, white male supremacists thank us, audibly or not, from the bottom of their harsh cold hearts.

A Convenient Untruth, or, a glimpse into how oppressors manufacture reality

What follows is something of a rambling rant, so stick with it as long as you wish.

"Truth is what you get other people to believe." -- Tommy Smothers, in his acceptance speech at the 2008 Emmy Awards.

It's a cry heard round the world, to which many white men fume, at best, or bash people of color in outrage, at worst: "[The latest report in white male media says some] people of color believe that all whites are racists". Wincing and bashing would be the interpersonal white male reactions. Structurally and institutionally, we whiteboys don't have to do much overt hating or one-to-one bashing: the machine we've created for destroying women, Indigenous people globally, and the Earth and its other inhabitants, as well as something called truth which demands and brings about human rights, only requires our cynicism, superior social status, unchecked entitlements, and apathy to continue grinding human beings into bloody earth, while grinding the Earth into bloody highways; this much just give new meaning to the term "roadkill".

From the menfolk--usually white, usually class-privileged, usually in multi-ethnic, multi-racial countries that are white male dominated--we hear that other rumor, whispered or shouted, bouncing back and forth from non-cyber to cyber-space like the puck in the original videogame, Pong: "[Some feminists have said, decades ago, I think, that] all the men are rapists!". ...Yawn. I'm sorry. I dozed off there for a moment.

These and other convenient untruths are exclaimed in tones both paranoid and delusional: the people who say such awful things about us are telling lies, we are informed by allegedly out-of-touch constituencies, groups... like, um, those feminists. But it's normal, all-Amerkin, homophobic-while-male-god loving white straight boys, not the feminists, not the antiracists, not the Indigenists, not "the queers", who are so out of touch with reality that they don't recognise oppressive activity when they punch it in the face or shoot it in the back.

We must note that these convenient untruths, these claims*, are most often repeated by the very folks who claim them as vicious lies: they want these c.u.s to be sung in rounds, ceaselessly, because, as the once media-censored Tommy Smothers astutely notes: "the truth is what you get others to believe". (*No, really, some of us white men actually say and believe this CRAP--that the oppressed are the most dangerous haters in the world!)

This phenomenon, of oppressors endlessly repeating the things we are most uneasy about some of us doing in social reality, while simultaneously re-stigmatising the oppressed, is clever, if stupid. Whites, straights, and men doing this is, if seen through the fascistic fog, quite a transparent variation of "Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much".

For it is men, in reality, who rape women, after all. Why some whiteboys misunderstand this to mean ALL men, is but one convenient untruth in the Great Book of Convenient Untruths (G.B.O.C.U.). If "colorblind" white folks have looked outside at all recently, they'd have noticed it is still us whites who oppress people of color. Not ALL whites. But whites in political relation to people of color.

The insertion of the "ALL" is one of the most strategically power-protecting ploys in self-proclaimed white educated men's G.B.O.C.U. Never mind that we white men incessantly make truth-claims about those whom we oppress; never mind the pornographers, pimps, and johns, and other consumers of women in systems of prostitution who believe "all women in prostitution are whores", "all Black men are rapists", "Islam is a terroristic religion", "all gays and lesbians want is to convert heterosexual children to be queer--gaining the right to marry is just one of their Satanic, sodomitic steps!", "it's those Mexicans who are taking away our jobs".

One might respond, if so inclined, by saying any number of things: no woman is a whore, not even a prostitute; white men are rapists of women of every color; Christian fundamentalism, in various forms, has caused more death and destruction than Westerners wildest projections about Muslim people's fantasies (most of whom do not live in the Middle East); our jobs are being taken away by the corruptions that comprise corporate capitalism and the U.S. land on which some Mexican workers are employed is legally not white land.

Indulge me in a fantasy.

I long for an adjustment, and amendment, perhaps, to the media's image of the "I'm not going to take it anymore!" white man bolting out of his house onto his manicured suburban lawn, in his pajamas, robe half on, loaded rifle poised to blow the brains out of "the intruders" of his gated community. He glares, with more righteous indignation coursing through his body than oxygenated blood, facing those ever-stereotyped gang-banging, burglarizing, robbing, mugging, woman-assaulting, job-stealing, welfare check-scrounging, crack-smoking, little white girl-abducting, white boy-molesting, dog-AND-cat-hating types stating, with Clint Eastwood cool, slow and serious: "Get off my land!" Just then--this is my fantasy moment tacked onto the the standard Hollywood cliché, a couple or three American Indians saunter up to Mr. Whiteman, with their rifles poised, stating: "Don't you mean OUR land, you racist, Earth-killing, illegal alien?"

James Baldwin identified a great deal of truths about the problem of whiteness in the U.S., truths which white Amerikkka still has not found time to hear, let alone comprehend. He also assessed the price we pay for ignorance about ourselves and the world we live in, and, on a related note, he spoke about the danger of possessing the power of truth-telling falling into the wrong hands.

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."

"The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions." [Or, of course, a Black woman.] [Both Baldwin quotes were found here.]

During his lifetime and since, men such as James Baldwin were called many things by whites, and perhaps among the least ugly was "uppity". Women of any race are called many things by white men for behaving in a manner out of sync with the proverbial doormat.

When any oppressed person speaks truth to unjust power, the powers that be--frightened, insecure, savage creatures that we are, benefiting so much from the human horrors we pretend are not branded with our initials--must mobilise at once. Mobilisation has many forms: the government, the military, the police, the husband's fist, the father's grasp. On the linguistic front alone, verbally maintaining myths that contain untruths about the oppressed becomes a less overtly brutal but critically necessary reaction.

This is accomplished by first identifying it as "a truth claim" rather than "a truth". The next step is to show, through a very particular and peculiar methodology called "Western white men's logic", how implausible or impossible such a claim is. White men's mental devices for measuring truth have always been a bit faulty. We're the ones, remember, who thought the Earth was flat, that Black Africans were not human, that Lincoln freed the slaves, that white women existed as the possession of a white father or, when "given away", to a husband.

From the time of the ancient Greek male philosophers, until Freud, we, white men, also had this silly idea there was one sex, not two (or more). The one was the male sex (of course), and girls and women were, according to white men's "truth", a sort of inverted man, a male-gone-wrong. (And the moon is made of cheese, you know?)

How many of us were taught that there were only two sexes, and that they were discreet and distinct, leading us to the ridiculous phrase, "the opposite sex". What, then, do we do with this information:

Among humans, some men have two Xs and a Y ("XXY", see Klinefelter's syndrome), or one X and two Ys (see XYY syndrome), and some women have three Xs or a single X (and no Y, "X0", see Turner syndrome). There are other exceptions in which SRY is damaged (leading to an XY female), or copied to the X (leading to an XX male). For related phenomena see Androgen insensitivity syndrome and Intersex. [Source: here.]

What we do is identify any variations as deviant, or, in polite company, "a syndrome". That such less-than-doctrinaire chromosomal combinations occur just as naturally as the more reified "XY" combo, cannot be said to be "just as natural". That would be heresy. It is "inconsequential", to many white men, that manhood and womanhood, as well as race, have far less to do with chromosomes and physiology, and much more to do with tremendously enforced social meanings.

"Pshaw!", some white men say, especially the Anglophiles. The subtext to "Pshaw!" is: "We cannot be bothered with any investigations that reveal we have superior social standing unjustly. It really bums us out when you speak of such things. We much prefer the methods we have employed in the many places we control, whereby such meanings and values are chiseled into the psyches of vulnerable children before they have a chance to question this matter.

Should white men encounter other nations and civilisations that have more complex understandings of what we Westerners call gender and race, well: "Off with their heads!" Gynocide and genocide are so much more effective at permanently maintaining "the untruth" of one's social standing, after all.

As long as white men have the power to destroy, we will do so, on our holey sinking ship, standing on the backs and necks of those we despise or consider to be lesser than us.

For a slave to call the master a savage and a sadist is to risk one's life. For the master to call someone a slave, the consequences are not so great. White men control the educational, psychiatric, and legal systems which are designed to maintain a white male supremacist status quo. All objections to our "untruths" are regarded as wrong, psychotic, and criminal.

When it is "sane" and "legal" to commit ecocide, genocide, and gynocide, what does white Western sanity and legality really mean?

As should be clear by many of the linked postings here, and at the blogs linked to from A.R.P., short and longer term survival is not a given for those who are actively being destroyed. Indigenous women, for example, are threatened with extinction, while white fairy tales of "the dangerous indian", the holding onto land illegally occupied, and the economic and commercial exploitation of the names, cultural artifacts, and spiritual beliefs of Native Nations remain a fixture in white-dominated, white-majority societies.

It's time we white men wake up and smell the blood in our coffee.

Navajo and Hopi: 'Black Mesa is not for sale!'

Photo and audio by Mano Cockrum, Hopi-Navajo, in Denver: Navajos and Hopis in solidarity, protest Peabody Coal, outside the Office of Surface Mining in Denver Monday, Dec 8, 2008. Black Mesa Panel Discussion on Dec. 7, recorded by Mano Cockrum. Listen to audio (available to radio stations):

Navajo and Hopi: 'Black Mesa is not for sale!'
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

DENVER -- Hopis and Navajos spoke out in solidarity to oppose a new life-of-mine permit on Black Mesa for the longstanding genocidal corporation Peabody Coal. Speaking out during a panel on Sunday, and protesting outside the Office of Surface Mining on Monday, Hopi and Navajo said their water is too precious to be used again for water slurry.

Wahleah Johns, Navajo from Forest Lake, Arizona, with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, comes from the area, close to the Peabody Coal operations. Johns said the latest push for Peabody Coal mining is part of the Bush legacy of targeting Indigenous lands with fossil fuel extractions all over the world. [emphasis added by this blogger at A.R.P.]

Johns said the proposed life of mine would mean that Peabody can mine as much coal as they can, as long as they like, until all the coal is gone. "It hurts me. I have seen what actual strip mining looks like."

Peabody has been using the pristine aquifer water at the rate of 4,600 acre feet of water each year. "No where else could you find this type of abuse, no where else in the world."

Johns said the Black Mesa Water Coalition organized because of the abuse of sacred water. "Black Mesa is regarded as a female mountain of Black Mesa." She said every effort must be made to stop coal mining on Black Mesa.

During the panel discussion on Sunday, Enei Begaye moderated the discussion on what more coal mining and devastation would mean for the Navajo and Hopi people.

Dale Jackson, Hopi from Third Mesa, said Hopis made a difficult sacred run to Mexico, which required a great deal of sacrifice. He was happy to see the rain when they returned.

"We were happy to see we brought the rain back."

Jackson said the Hopi grandmothers are sad now and do not know what will happen to them. "They are here in spirit listening to us."

Maxine Wadsworth, Hopi, said the people came out of respect to protect the water. "We just had to put our prayers before us, and lay our prayers down to be here today."
She said the Hopi tribal government has provided misinformation about the draft environmental impact statement. She said the Hopi people are not in support of the EIS and have gained the support of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who has asked that the EIS be suspended. She said the Office of Surface Mining is pushing for passage of the EIS.

Wadsworth said Peabody Coal does not have permission to use C-Aquifer water.
"We are here to speak on our own behalf." She said the aquifer provides water for ceremonies at the springs. The springs are drying up.

"When I think about it, I just want to cry. It is that significant to us."
Wadsworth said the US government is failing to protect the religious beliefs of the Hopi people, but yet protect insects and fishes.

Wadsworth listed the federal laws being violated, included the Treaty of Guadalupe and laws created to protect American Indian religious freedoms.

Hopi and Navajo traveled 12 hours to reach Denver, many living in desperate conditions.

They said they came to Denver for their children, their future and the sacred ceremonies. The people are being abused by their own tribal officials and the officials of the Office of Surface Mining.

Navajos from Big Mountain said ceremonial plants are disappearing as the springs dry up.

"They are destroying this beautiful land," said John Benally from Big Mountain. "Because they don't live there, they don't care."

While the healing and ceremonial plants and clays are disappearing, Benally said burning fossil fuels is responsible for global climate change. The sun is now causing people to have blisters. He said Navajos do not want to give their young people contaminated air to breathe and land to live on.

Navajos have to travel long distances to haul water, while Peabody uses the water and tribal officials ignore the grassroots people, especially the elderly.

"We are threatened again with relocation," said Leonard Benally of Big Mountain. "Enough is enough. We need your help."

"Tell the OSM people, 'Black Mesa is not for sale! Go home!'"

More news articles on protest at Pechanga Net Native News/ @ http://www.pechanga.net/NativeNews.html

Julian's note: my source for information above is this page of the Indigenist Intelligence Review, also linked to from A Radical Profemininst's blog roll.

Northern Territory Intervention: Human Rights Day


WGAR: Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)


To read the Human Rights Day Statement and list of endorsees click on this link and scroll down the page:


"Aboriginal Australia Demands Justice Re-instate the Racial Discrimination Act; Repeal the Intervention laws. In March this year, Human Rights Commissioner, Tom Calma said, "The most revealing indicator that the NT intervention was not consistent with human rights principles was the provision at the centre of the legislative machinery used to support the intervention, namely suspending the operation of Racial Discrimination Act." Yet the Rudd government says the Racial Discrimination Act will remain suspended and a blanket welfare quarantine from which there is no appeal will be maintained for at least the next year. ... We therefore call on the Rudd Government to immediately re-instate the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and to end the NT Intervention policies which remove basic welfare and human rights for Aboriginal people." [emphasis added at A.R.P.]

Media Monitoring of the NT Intervention: Human Rights Day (13 Dec 08)
Posted December 13th, 2008 by WGAR [News]

Julian's note: I found this material at this site.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The U.S. (finally?) tackles the trafficking of human beings

Unless otherwise indicated, what follows was copied from the feminist blog, Women's Space. Thank you, Heart, for bringing this to my attention.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act passed the U.S. House at 6 p.m. Tuesday night and passed the Senate yesterday, according to Donna Hughes of the DIGNITY listserv. The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Joseph Biden [D-DE]; co-sponsors are Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D-MD], Sen. Orrin Hatch [R-UT], Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], Sen. Arlen Specter [R-PA], Sen. Samuel Brownback [R-KS], Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-CA]

Highlights of the Act:

Directs the President to implement an anti-trafficking program monitoring system.

Authorizes the President to establish the Paul D. Wellstone Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Sets forth protections for aliens who: (1) may be trafficking victims or who may testify against traffickers (including parole entry for certain family members); (2) are work-based nonimmigrants; (3) are domestic workers; or (4) are employees of foreign diplomatic or other government personnel, or employees of international organization personnel.

Sets forth provisions respecting: (1) assistance for trafficking victims, including child victims and U.S. citizens; (2) offenses of trafficking, forced labor, enticement into slavery, sex trafficking of children, and sex tourism.

Directs the Secretary to develop: (1) policies and procedures to ensure that unaccompanied alien children in the United States are safely repatriated to their country of nationality or of last habitual residence; and (2) a safe repatriation pilot program for alien children.

In his statement to the Senate on the bill, Joe Biden said:

Human trafficking is a major problem worldwide and the challenges remain great. According to the most recent State Department report, roughly 800,000 individuals are trafficked each year, the overwhelming majority of them women and children. The FBI estimates approximately $9.5 billion is generated annually for organized crime from trafficking in persons. The International Labor Organization estimates that, at present, 2.4 million persons have been trafficked into situations of forced labor.

These victims are trafficked in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are kidnapped outright, but many times they are lured with dubious job offers, or false marriage opportunities. The traffickers capitalize on the victims’ desire to seek a better life, and trap them with lifetime debt bondages that degrade and destroy their lives.

Since 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act has provided us effective tools, and in this reauthorization, our aim is to take the successes and lessons of eight years of progress and expand our abilities to combat human trafficking. In Title I, the legislation focuses on combating human trafficking internationally by broadening the U.S. interagency task force charged with monitoring and combating trafficking, and increasing the authority to the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. Because of the difficulty in accurately understanding the full scope of the problem globally, we also include provisions to coordinate our multiple federal databases, and set a reporting requirement to address forced labor and child labor.

Today’s reauthorization bill also expands our ability to combat trafficking in the United States. We’ve provided for certain improvements to the T-visa program, which protects trafficking victims and their families from retaliation, so that we can have their help in bringing traffickers to justice, without the victim fearing harm to themselves or their loved ones. We also expand authority for U.S. Government programs to help those who have been trafficked, and require a study to outline any additional gaps in assistance that may exist. Finally, we establish some powerful new legal tools, including increasing the jurisdiction of the courts, enhancing penalties for trafficking offenses, punishing those who profit from trafficked labor and ensuring restitution of forfeited assets to victims.

Human trafficking is a daunting and critical global issue. I urge my colleagues to support this reauthorization and work with Senator Brownback and me to pass it in the Senate as quickly as possible.

For those who might not know, William Wilberforce was a social reformer and abolitionist, instrumental in bringing slavery and the slave trade to an end in the British Empire. [Heart's complete post is linked to here.]

Closing thoughts on this heinousness [by Julian]:

The current trafficking of children and women, used callously and sexually by men, according to many who live through it, is experienced as and understood to be the newest manifestation of a very old form of atrocity: human slavery. Like the slavery of the U.S.'s Old White South, the current form is also a complex of racism and misogyny welded to economic and sexual exploitation. This is to say: it is the gross destruction of human life while a person is alive.

It is important to remember that many other forms of slavery and gross human destruction are also still in existence. Any form of slavery is a political activity, often systematised and highly organised with force, where the presence of human rights is nonexistent for those held captive and traded as sex-things to be abused and imprisoned. The trafficking of people as enslaved sex-things is to define and treat them as inhuman.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Philippines: Indigenous Women Speak out to End Violence against Women

Modern-day Marias tackle woes
Written by Lyn V. Ramo/ Nordis
Sunday, 30 November 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Women’s groups here organize with families of survivors of violence a gathering here on Friday to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

IDEVAW started Tuesday with a press briefing here that featured modern-day women’s issues.

Innabuyog-Gabriela Chair Vernie Yocogan-Diano said the modern-day “Marias” suffer from the brunt of the current socio-economic crises and face problems beyond physical and sexual harm.

Gabriela Women’s Party’s Liza L. Maza will be the main speaker at the forum dubbed “Asserting Women’s Rights Amidst the Philippine Socio-economic Crisis” at the Sangkabalayan Hall of the Baguio Cathedral. It shall start promptly at 1:00 P.M., according to Yogogan-Diano.

National indigenous women’s workshop

In connection with this commemoration, Innabuyog and the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) hosted the national women’s network BAI conference last Sunday up to Tuesday. The conference gave indigenous women from as far south as Mindanao, Panay and Palawan a chance to share experiences with their counterparts in Cagayan and Cordillera regions in the north.

Using the situation of nine indigenous communities, the workshop discussed particular and distinct violence against indigenous women in the Philippines.

Of particular interest that spruced up discussions were the sharing of women from mining communities in Mindanao, Palawan, Cagayan and Cordillera. It turned out mining applications by foreign mining transnational corporations cover inhabited communities like Conner in Apayao, Kinam in Saranggani, Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte and Mariwara in Princess Urduja, Palawan

“These are but case studies that show how mining has changed women’s roles as their traditional sources of livelihood have been destroyed by mining operations,” Yocogan-Diano said.

Pesticides on breakfast coffee

Discussions also ran high on the mono-crop plantations in Mindanao, where aerial spraying of pesticides have been reportedly bringing about health problems among residents, especially women who work in the plantations.

In an interview, Norma Capuyan, chairperson of the BAI Kalumaran, said banana plantation workers in Davao City are directly exposed to pesticides resulting from aerial spraying. She narrated the story of a woman who later died in 2004 after gathering kangkong (marsh cabbage) from a creek that carries pesticide overflows from a Dole Stanfilco plantation.

“Practically almost nothing was left of her body when she died three months after,” Capuyan told Baguio reporters. At least four local doctors opined her internal organs were damaged. Her skin and flesh stuck to the beddings, she said.

In an earlier interview, another Davao City resident said people in the vicinity of the plantations even drink their pesticide coffee when the helicopter would spray early in the morning.

“School children practically bathe in the pesticide showers when they meet the helicopter on their way to school,” our anonymous source said.

Driving indigenous folk away

Pests attack farms outside the banana plantations, depriving peasants of their traditional crops.

Worse, indigenous farmers have been enticed into renting out their lands to the plantations for a measly P12,000 a year per hectare. According to Capuyan, this has been polarizing community folk.

Similarly in Sarangani province, jathropa plantations have expanded by renting lands at P20,000 per year per hectare.

A military reservation in Panay Island, on the other hand has fenced off indigenous peoples from their traditional sources of income and livelihood. Curfew was imposed from 8:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. with land mines compelling residents to refrain from going out of their houses.

Ventilating women’s issues

Eleanor Bang-oa, a Kankanaey from Baguio City who represents AIWN, said the situation requires capacity building among indigenous women to enable them to articulate their issues, give recommendations for government action, corporate involvement and forward these to concerned bodies in the United nations.

“Women should exhaust efforts and means to raise issues and concerns,” Bag-oa said, adding the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is one venue where indigenous women could ventilate concerns.

Innabuyog, BAI and AIWN, in a joint statement said indigenous women in the Philippine will continue addressing issues of violence against indigenous women along with the general issues faced by indigenous peoples and women in the country.

“It is necessary to deepen our understanding on the various forms of violence, build strength to assert our collective rights to land, resources and self-determination as well as our basic individual rights and against feudal-patriarchal and commercial view that discriminate us as women and limit our full participation in all spheres of involvement and development,” the joint statement said.

[For the original post of this article, please click here. There are many other reports and accounts from women throughout Asia about conditions and struggles quite unknown to most Westerners, and invisibilised completely by dominant media. This one website alone helps me realise how completely out of touch I am with what most of the world's women experience.]

The State of India's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 2008

What is linked to here is a PDF document put forth by the Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network.

[U.S.] Northern Plains: Indigenous Women's Reproductive Rights and Pro-Choice Page

[For the complete original webpage which includes the artwork above and the all of the text below, please click here.]

Throughout history, Indigenous women have interacted with other Indigenous women through various women's societies. Traditionally, the matters pertaining to women were the business of women. All decisions concerning women's reproductive health were left up to the women as an individual, and her decision was respected, and was final. Oftentimes an Indigenous women would turn to other women within her society for advice, mentoring, and assistance concerning reproductive health.

With the imposition of colonization and Christianity, foreign values, belief systems, and practices were forced upon our communities. Within those foreign systems, decisions pertaining to reproductive health were made by the Church with little regard to individual rights. Traditionally, reproductive health issues were decisions made by the individual, and were not thrusted into the political arena for any kind of scrutinization. The core of decision-making for Indigenous women is between her and the Great Spirit.

Within traditional societies and languages, there is no word that equals abortion. The word itself is very harsh and impersonal. When speaking to traditional elders knowledgeable about reproductive health matters, repeatedly they would refer to a women knowing which herbs and methods to use "to make her period come." This was seen as a woman taking care of herself and doing what was necessary. Oftentimes women would turn to the women within her society that were the keepers of those herbs, medicines, and techniques for assistance.

Native Women's Reproductive Rights Agenda

"Empowerment Through Dialogue," a historical three-day meeting was held in Pierre, South Dakota, on May 16th, 17th, and 18th, 1990. More than 30 Native Women, representing over eleven (11) Nations from the Northern Plains came together in a collective decision-making process to form a Reproductive Rights Coalition. Their efforts resulted in an Agenda for Native Women's Reproductive Rights
Native Women for Reproductive Rights

The aboriginal people of the North Central Plains lived in, not only a democracy, but also a matrilineal society when Pierre Radisson, the first white person, visited the villages in 1654. The Native women enjoyed a life unknown to white women in Europe, being free to own their own homes, participate in decisions about their government, and have control of their bodies.

In the ensuing years, the People were herded onto reservations and today live in hostage status, suffering every deprivation and loss of freedom. Our grandparents were forcibly taken from their families and sent long distances to schools where the teachings and wisdom of thousands of years of our civilization were brain washed out of our grandparents' generation. The insidious erosion of identity, culture, spirituality, language, scientific, and technical knowledge and power created the chaos and violence in which we, as women, struggle to survive and live a decent life.

With knowledge and appreciation of our history, we fully realize our status in today's society, as we state our rights and aspirations as Native women.

Reproductive Rights Platform:

1. The right to knowledge and education for all family members, concerning sexuality and reproduction that is age, culture, and gender appropriate.
[1 through 19]

2. The right to all reproductive alternatives and the right to choose the size of our families.

3. The right to affordable health care, including safe deliveries within our communities.

4. The right to access safe, free, and/or affordable abortions, regardless of age, with confidentiality and free pre- and post-counseling.

5. The right to active involvement in the development and implementation of policies concerning reproductive issues, to include, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals and technology.

6. The right to include domestic violence, sexual assault and AIDS as reproductive rights issues.

7. The right to programs which meet the nutritional needs of women and families.

8. The right to programs to reduce the rate of infant mortality and high-risk pregnancies.

9. The right to culturally specific comprehensive chemical dependency prenatal programs including, but not limited to, prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Effects.

10. The right to stop coerced sterilization.

11. The right to a forum for cultural/spiritual development, culturally-oriented health care, and the right to live as Native Women.

12. The right to be fully informed about, and to consent to any forms of medical treatment.

13. The right to determine who are members of our Nations.

14. The right to continuous, consistent, and quality health care for Native People.

15. The right to reproductive rights and support for women with disabilities.

16. The right to parent our children in a non-sexist, non-racist environment.

17. The right of Two Spirited women, their partners and their families to live free from persecution or discrimination based on their sexuality and/or gender, and the right to enjoy the same human, political, social, legal, economic, religious, tribal and governmental rights and benefits afforded all other indigenous women.

18. The right to give birth and be attended to in the setting most approprite, be it home, community, clinic or hospital and to be able to choose the support system for our births, including but not limited to, Traditional Midwives, Families and community members.

19. The right to education and support for breastfeeding that include but not limited to, individuals and communities that allow for regrowth of traditional nurturing and parenting of our children.

LATIN AMERICA: Indigenous, Black Women Face ‘Triple Glass Ceiling’

By Kintto Lucas

QUITO, Aug 9 (IPS) - Indigenous and black women in Latin America and the Caribbean face three-fold discrimination because of their gender, race and social class, in politics and at work.

That is how it was put by participants in a panel on "Citizenship and Political Participation by Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Women" at the 10th Regional Conference on Women that ended Thursday in the Ecuadorean capital.

Guatemalan indigenous activist Otilia Lux de Cotí said that from the indigenous women’s point of view, the struggle for women’s right to participate is inextricably linked to the struggle for indigenous peoples’ right to participate.

We are discriminated against by governments, by men, and often by other women, so in order to correct historical inequalities, we must restructure the state and build an egalitarian society, said de Cotí, formerly Guatemalan minister of culture and sports.

Therefore, when demanding minimum quotas for women’s participation, quotas for indigenous and Afro-descendant women should also be specified, she said.

"We want to salvage democracy, and to do so we must rebuild it according to our vision for it: democracy in Latin America can only be intercultural," she said.

Afro-Brazilian leader María Inés Barbosa said that sexism and racism are part of the very foundations on which nation states in Latin America and the Caribbean were built.

"To eliminate sexism and racism, we need to change society, but often at international forums we change the words we use so as not to have to change society. This cannot go on; we must change society instead," she said.

"Leaving self-deception aside, often the documents that emerge from these meetings say one thing, but real life for indigenous and Afro-descendant women outside is another thing, because we are the poorest of the poor," she said.

Margarita Antonio, a Miskito Indian woman from Nicaragua, said countries and United Nations agencies should keep working towards providing better training and education for women, who should share the knowledge they acquire with those who stayed home in their communities, to bridge the gaps that also exist between different groups of women.

The panel, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), was attended by more than 100 women representing regional organisations.

Indigenous women presented their manifesto in favour of building a "plurinational" state.

In spite of quantitative and qualitative advances, mid-way through the decade devoted to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we are facing a critical situation exacerbated by the increasing implementation of macroeconomic policies that ignore the collective rights of our peoples, the document says.

It also says that advances in respect for the human rights of indigenous women are tied to the struggle to protect, respect and exercise the collective rights of their peoples, as well as indigenous people’s unity, based on their territories, natural resources, collective traditional knowledge and full recognition of their institutions for self-government.

We recognise the importance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as tools to make progress on strategies for women’s sustainable development and human rights, although the targets used to measure progress do not include cultural or ethnic indicators, says the manifesto, which was made public on Wednesday.

The MDGs were adopted in 2000 by the U.N. member countries as a platform to combat poverty and inequality all over the world, improve health, education and gender equity, fight pollution, and adopt a sustainable development model and a fairer system of international trade. The deadline for fulfilling the MDGs is 2015.

The indigenous women’s document urges states to immediately adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, as the basic platform for indigenous women’s development and equitable participation.

A study by the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), another of the panel’s organisers, found that indigenous women experience access to resources and positions of power in a different way from non-indigenous men and women.

Women account for nearly 60 percent of the 50 million indigenous people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and they face triple discrimination: as women, as indigenous people and as poor people, the study says.

This year the Regional Conference on Women is focussing on the contribution of women to the economy and social protection, particularly through unpaid work, and on political participation and gender parity.

On the subject of political participation by women, in addition to reforming electoral systems with affirmative action measures, a number of aspects of political culture which produce discriminatory bias must be changed, says another study presented on Tuesday by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The necessary changes should address unequal access to financing, the unequal influence of social networks, and the unjust use of time which demands that women focus on reproductive work (repetitive chores like cleaning, cooking and caring for children and the elderly), the ECLAC study says.

The emergence of women leaders in the region, the increasingly autonomous electoral behaviour of women, and the female vote in favour of women candidates are part of the new democratic scenario, says the ECLAC study on "Women’s Contribution to Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean."

Parity is one of the symbols of the new democracies, and is an ethical measure which can strengthen the legitimacy of democratic institutions, the study says. (END/2007)

Source: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38847

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fierce, Fair, and Unfair Competition the EU-China Trade Race and its Gender Implications

What follows is by Christa Wichterich. Updated Version, June 2008. Publisher: WIDE: Women in Development Europe.

China has emerged as a global player and powerhouse on the international trade map. It is however increasingly depicted as a giant economic monster. As the world’s workshop, the country has become one of the main sites for transnational corporate investment and one of the main exporters of manufactured goods. Against the background of China’s transformation into a market economy, its reckless growth path and social polarization, this paper explores the gender implications of the Chinese trade race and EU’s push for sweeping liberalisation. The author argues that whilst these processes were initiated by the Chinese Government’s ‘open door’ policies, since China’s WTO accession they are increasingly driven by a complex interaction between domestic policies, foreign trade and investment policies, and corporate interests.

After exploring the topical trade and investment policies between the EU and China and their gender-specific effects on the ‘socialist’ market economy in China, the author argues that a key question remains: whether the EU’s concerns about economic, social and environmental sustainability included in the policy documents can change development in China for the better. How powerful and effective is the concept of ‘change through trade’ on social, regional and gender inequalities, or regarding environmental degradation, resource exploitation and energy waste? Concluding points include:

* presently, the Chinese leadership is torn apart between its prevailing interest in economic growth and wealth, spreading social unrest by groups who are marginalised or excluded from welfare, and the pressure exerted by the USA and the EU
* civil society organisations concerned about development issues, social justice and gender equality increasingly challenge the EU’s and China’s trade race by a dual strategy of engagement
* the EU trade and investment policies apply double standards. On the one hand, they attempt to protect EU business and its very interest in efficiency and profitability by the rule of law in China, disregarding the adverse social and environmental effects of this corporate-driven growth path
* due to the competitive advantage of EU companies in environmentally friendly and resource-saving technology, it seems to be possible to link economic interests to environmental concerns. However, regarding issues of social, gender and regional inequality, EU trade and investment policies do not have many answers.

The full document, Fierce, fair and unfair competition the EU-China trade race and its gender implications is available via a link, using Adobe Acrobat, here.