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/ @

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.