Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yoko Ono gets Germany's Peace Prize and finally is publicly released from the lie that she broke up the Beatles

photograph of Yoko Ono is from here
There's been a fair amount of news of late about conceptual, musical, performance, and visual artist, Yoko Ono. As you may well know, she's also an environmental, human rights, and peace activist. Recognition and appreciation of a range of her work is happening, as it has on and off over the decades. Yes, much of it, especially her work in avant-garde movements during the 1950s and 1960s, was eclipsed and overshadowed for a time due to her relationship with Beatle John Lennon. And then came the association of her name with the break-up of the Beatles.

The inaccurate association has always been a deeply misogynist and racist one, primarily put forth by white men who love to hate on women and blame them for whatever hurt and pain happens in men's lives. (The assumption that any woman and man sharing power in an egalitarian, non-patriarchal relationship means she must be controlling and dominating him are flat-out misogynistic.)

As all four Beatles have said over the years, the lads from Liverpool were breaking up for a while, starting as early as 1966, due to many factors including growing apart after being so close since their teen years (with John, Paul, and George) and early twenties (with Ringo). But there were also differing levels of interest in drugs and spirituality, financial and business problems particularly since the death of manager Brian Epstein, and assorted musical and legal battles. But Paul McCartney finally came forth recently with this statement in interview with David Frost. (See *here* for more.)
"She certainly didn't break the group up, the group was breaking up," he says, which may do something to dispel decades of hostility directed at Lennon's widow by diehard fans since the group disbanded officially in 1970.
He goes further and says that without Ono opening up the avant garde for Lennon, songs such as Imagine would never have been written: "I don't think he would have done that without Yoko, so I don't think you can blame her for anything. When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant garde side, her view of things, so she showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave, he was definitely going to leave [one way or another]."
So now that that's out of the way, let's get back to focusing on Yoko Ono's work.

She and her son, musician Sean Ono Lennon, are speaking out against "fracking" or the process of forcefully injecting toxic chemicals into the earth's rocky crust to fracture it and release oil. It poisons earth and water and also has caused earthquakes in areas that never had them before. Big Oil wants to pretend it's all nice and safe and good for us (them). For more on that, see *here*.

The most recent news is this. It is of note for many reasons. One of them being that the most recent Nobel Peace Prize went to the EU, which does many things but promoting peace isn't among them. For more on how the prize going to the EU disrespects the will and work of Nobel himself, see *here*.

Someone who does promote peace and has done so for over forty years, is Yoko Ono.

Congratulations to you, Ms. Ono, for getting and deserving this latest award.

(You may click on the title below to link back.)

Yoko Ono picks up human rights prize in Berlin

Yoko Ono on Friday accepted a German human rights prize for peace activism with her late husband, Beatle John Lennon, as well as her more recent work championing equality for women and gays [and lesbians].

Ono, who will turn 80 in February, picked up the Rainer Hildebrandt Medal at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie Museum next to the former Cold War border crossing.

Wearing a black top hat and trouser suit, she gave a two-fingered peace sign as she thanked the jury.
"I'm very honoured to get this award and I will consider this award as an encouragement to do more work in humanitarian causes," she said.

Hildebrandt, who died in 2004, founded the museum to document daring attempts by East Germans living under communism to escape over the Berlin Wall and in protest against the regime's shoot-to-kill policies.

His widow Alexandra handed Ono the prize, which was selected by a jury she said included German President Joachim Gauck, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

"Since the early days of her career, and in addition to her music and conceptual art, Yoko Ono has always drawn attention for her political statements and her fight for peace and human rights," the jury said.

"She is a great proponent of gender equality, and is committed to world peace and the recognition of same-sex partnerships."

Previous winners include jailed Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky and assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Tokyo-born artist -- raised in both Japan and the United States in a well-off family of bankers -- became a global icon when she married the rocker from Liverpool.

Since her Montreal honeymoon with Lennon, during which the couple called for peace from their marital bed, Ono has used her celebrity to raise awareness for causes.

In 2002, she launched the "LennonOno" grant for peace in Iceland, given every two years.

In honour of Ono's 80th birthday, the Schirn Kunsthalle in the western German city of Frankfurt will present a retrospective of her work from February.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I encourage you to read this guest post: "In a Quiet Place", by Itoro

What follows was posted originally on Itoro's own blog, "Thoughts of my Mind". She has welcomed me to repost it here. And it is with gratitude to her that I do so. To link back to the post on her blog, please click *here*.

In a Quiet Place

why some people be mad at me sometimes
by Lucille Clifton
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering mine
This testimonial is a celebration for all the ways we survive, often unnoticed and alone in our struggling to make a difference from the many places we inhabit. This testimonial does not belong to me, it could not be written without the wisdom and knowledge of many other peoples remaining vigilant in putting our dreams of a world free of exploitation into practice. Our collective memories of the ways in which unchecked supremacy can run rampant in our practice towards one another fuel our determination to realize this dream. We often find ourselves marginalized and alone, unwelcome in radical communities with curt responses or none at all, and usually no acknowledgement of the ways in which we have been torn in these movements.    Radically telling this truth can be viewed as divisive to the movement and a “pathological” issue. This logic is an effective tool to manage dissenting voices, sanitize our lived realities and allow for treacherous interactions. Many of us have horror stories of the types of systemic disrespect and negation we have gone through.  In fighting for a more expansive politics, to openly name the ways dominant behaviors surface across many institutions and people is met with hostility. To honor our rage and pain, to use our stories as a way to salve our wounds and name the abuse is a radical endeavor. It suggests the possibility of healing and allowing ourselves to find wellness. Acknowledging pain demands a critical reflection on all the interactions that happened to get us to the point of betrayal in the first place. It also demands us to interrogate our own habits and question the role we have played in the matter. Often, this type of radical truth-telling does not happen, we end up leaving or staying in these places looking in from the margins, completely discredited. So of course, the scars are here, still swollen and bruised. Wherever do we go from here?
Hey, big woman–
with scars on the head
and scars on the heart
that never seem to heal–
I saw your light
And it was shining.
(Assata Shakur)
As someone who identifies as Black, as woman, first-generation, African, working class and energetic, I have seen how my rage has been treated as counter-productive to the movement.  I think of my own horror stories expressing the destructiveness that can come with doing this work. The most recent and painful memory. I am working as an educator within a radical teaching organization. We care about solidarity, critical thinking, understanding and liberation across difference for our common struggles, Yet, when I note the overwhelming whiteness and privilege often exercised within the organization I am either met with an eerie silence or hostility. More specifically, when I say that the movement to end class exploitation must also deal with white supremacy and assert that we (yes we, not just the ruling classes) must investigate our roles in reproducing this class system with our own internalized supremacy I suddenly become that sore on every one’s side.
 “Am I crazy? No one has said anything so maybe it’s me…”
I soon start to believe that I am the problem. Besides, there are people of color here too, who care about solidarity, critical thinking and liberation across difference. We have to care about it and love each other fiercely…right? When trying to voice my concern to this woman of color she swiftly cuts me off and says, “It’s not about a black pedagogy or white pedagogy but a class pedagogy.” End of discussion, there is no longer a conversation to be had. She does not even look me in my face, just like the rest of them. Maybe I should have said something else, maybe I missed something… I am that sore on her side. This is a woman of color, she holds a lot of respect and authority within this organization. I respect her too…is this my fault?
The refusal to not scrutinize how we practice freedom in our daily lives often leads to this type of unspoken and unrecognized pain. When these contradictions remain unchallenged, usually the most vulnerable within the organization are the one’s who experience the worst of what the organization has to offer (or refuses to offer). In other words, we become easy targets for your unspoken rage and anger to be unleashed and accepted at any moment when our mere presence calls out your particular contradiction and shortcoming. My rage speaks to the pain of the explosive silence and broken relationships that has deterred all our efforts to see us finally liberated from a larger structure of outright violence, denial and repression. I think of my sources of anger. I have had to go back and scrutinize these memories to break my own fears and silence:
●      A colleague of mine has told me that the all white teaching staff is wondering out loud if I am really serious about teaching. Constantly dealing with these students and administration is hurting my health. I have had racial slights hurled at me and most of the teachers act as if I am not there…living in this area has physically made me sick and yes I have been absent for a couple of days. I come back to hear that now the teachers are talking about whether or not I am serious about this work…never mind that my white colleague can go to a wedding for a week and not have these things wondered about him, or the quality of his work questioned…in fact, his teacher mentor wants to keep him for the next semester…
● I demand a meeting to talk about the institutional racism going on in the schools and teaching program. I go to the administration (comprised of two women of color and one white woman) they ask me questions about why I am so upset. One of the women (a woman of color) even says that when she saw me crying one day in front of my classmates she read my display of emotions as “impulsive.” She notes my silence as the primary reason the administration does not know what is going on (never mind that I told her about the “white teachers gossiping” incident a couple weeks ago) She questions why I want special treatment around race when other people in the program also have their issues. I am questioned so much that I begin to think what I am asking for is trivial. All the things I “demand” remain mostly unchanged.
● A white male student has been allowed to teach in Harlem New York. It was my understanding that no student could travel this far out for an internship. I think back to previous meetings I had when I said I wanted to work specifically with children of color. The administration told me that my wanting to teach students of color is a subjective issue.  Most of my white peers talk about wanting to do prison work, feeling that people of color need the most help and wanting to work with “vulnerable” populations. But this colleague can go teach students of color and even travel away to do so. He comes back to class saying he is having a difficult time relating to the issues he is seeing with this population. I watch the same woman who used her questions to discipline me, use her questions to help this student with his specific situation.
●  I have become completely silent in class no longer wanting to engage. I should do better and hate the fact that I feel so stuck. But still, I do have to note that two of my other colleagues are incredibly silent however no one seems to stare their way and demand and answer when the white people exclaim, “Not enough people speak up in class!…”
● I’m in a role play in a small group on intervening to stop racism. The scenario: One woman wants to cross the street because she spots an African American male walking on the sidewalk. The other friend is supposed to intervene. For the next ten minutes I watch these two white, well meaning women theorize around why they would not intervene in saying the woman wanting to cross the street is acting in a racist manner. I finally come out with my uneasiness and say this is dominant thinking. After I finally said those words I dealt with the brunt of these two “allies” insidious shame and guilt.
●      A teacher is teaching us aspiring teachers about cultural sensitivity and bias in the classroom. She is White. (This should not matter because we are in a radical setting.) In order to teach us about cultural understanding, she makes an almost entirely white class take the Chitling test. These are the things I know about the Chitling test 1). It is extremely offensive 2). It pyschologizes the black experience and 3). It should not be taken (even with well meaning adults) if we do not talk about the legacy of white supremacy. None of this is talked about. In fact, the white teachers defend why this test makes sense. One of them notes that a black sociologist created the test. I don’t give a damn if a black sociologist created this test. We are not all on the same side. Some of the students look confused, most of us say nothing, most of us do not understand the history behind this test. This is confusing. One white woman across the table from me laughs and says, “Let’s take the test!”
●      I’m working at a new teaching site. It’s a progressive school. If I want to be paid for substitute teaching I must go through a background check. I pass in the required documentation within the first two weeks of school…two months later I hear no word about my paperwork going through. I send emails to no avail. My other white male colleague who entered the site the same time I did has passed his background check. He has started subbing and is getting paid for his work. I take on the same teacher load but the situation is different. Not having my background check cleared requires a “real” substitute teacher to sit in and monitor what I am doing. By law I am not allowed to be alone with the kids. The kids wonder who is the authority figure…I teach any way. A week later I am sitting eating my lunch. The lady who is supposed to handle my paperwork comes in wanting to check in about the situation. She tells me that for some reason my documentation has not yet been passed in. She proceeds to ask me, “…so about your background check. Are you…legal?”
● The most devastating memory: A professor of color asks me in front of the all white class, “You’re black, why are you silent?” I express a tenth of the rage and anger at white supremacy and finally say I am tired. The teacher says “I knew you would say that,” and for a moment I think I have an ally. She goes on to swiftly tell me that John Brown understood what this struggle meant, and that I am doing this work for the people. It is this day when I really start to wonder if by the people she is referring to the predominantly white middle class students sitting in her classroom.
● Note to self: Document everything you can and don’t let them get you alone (unless you’re strong enough to take them on), that’s their way of coercing you into things you might not want to do. Try to have someone there as a witness to verify what they tell you in private from what they actually do when everyone is watching. My last day meeting with two of the administrative members at the end of program. I finally tell one of them that I felt chastised within the program and that there was absolutely no support offered. She asks me, “Did something deep in you change?” At this time, I do not realize how deeply patronizing and dismissive her question is.  I reply yes. The respect for her authority is still there. I still try to hold my position that there should have been some support. She goes on to tell me: “The institution is not supposed to be supportive.” This feels like the twilight zone. It also feels deceptive. This is confusing.  I was under the impression that we wanted to build community, namely with one another… I’ve seen her be supportive when she needs to be…why is she always so heavy handed with me? And what about me needs to change? And if something is wrong why can’t she at least be clear about it so I can fix it?  Has she said this same statement to any other student? This is information you do not hide, if I had known she felt this way I would have known that for all this talk about principles, it was a “pick and choose what works for me” game at best.
●  A little over a year and all’s been said and done. I must still ward off these anti-racist white women who have not shaken their case of Missy Anne syndrome. One of them wants to “touch base.” She cannot take no for an answer when I say no to meeting and hosting her. She uses her creativity to get my phone number, my partner’s phone number and persistently texts and calls. She’s found out where I work and I hear that she’s been to my workplace. With all this persistence there must be something she needs to say. When we finally meet she smiles without acknowledging anything. Not what happened back then and certainly not that her supremacy is showing now.  She still feels insufficient in her work for social justice and something about maybe buying a house. This meeting is awkward at best. I will not use my energy to soothe her guilt. People reflect the organizations and ideologies they’re coming from.  And inaction and denial is such a reactionary and tired tune. Haven’t heard from her since. You cannot force a relationship.
As I think of these memories, I wish I had been resolute in knowing that these people were very much tied to their positions of power and dominance.  Under such an abusive gaze, where there was much more going on than this little story can touch, I celebrate that I did not give in to grief.
Finding the language to analyze these habits becomes a necessary task when the words of radical thought is so readily available, while in the same hand, we feel the constant jerking of an elbow hurting our sides. Like everything, there is no pure place to work from. Social justice work is also rife with historical contradiction and struggle. Within a capitalist structure, it has become professionalized. If you play your cards right, you can make your meal ticket off of “helping” people, and even your feelings of wanting to “do good” can be used to buttress your career. So please be sure, this is not a compartmentalized race story. The way things played out politically was steeped in the protection of white supremacy and tokenized positions of status for a few people of color.  These terror stories should alert us to the types of spaces we inhabit within the overall class hierarchy when there are no built in structures for us to critically reflect and change these contradictions as a collective. When we look at how our right to lead our own movements, to teach in our communities, to have our ideas heard and published, and to safely work, is constantly thwarted by this type of hidden supremacy, we cannot be so naïve as to not connect these structural behaviors to our economic options.  If we care about movement building we must challenge the institutional silence that erases and shames us while these injustices occur in the space and cracks of our liberation work.
Where does the pain go/when the pain goes away?
Audre Lorde
Women of color, in a quiet place, come together to talk about the ways in which we have been hurt. We name the things we have had to go without; from adequate health care to employment discrimination to worrying if we’ll be the one picked up on the street when walking home at night from the train station. We talk about our struggles and dreams. We choose to use rage as insight to continue. We are not fodder for the “cause.” We are here. There is much to fight for and no time to waste.
Without the love of my sister-friends I would not have made it. They built me up to be a warrior and tore down those sinking doubts and feelings I had. Their stories put steel in my spine and resolve in my throat. They massaged that crackle in my voice that had internalized blame and doubt. They were committed to practicing love as a principle.  They were confident in knowing that we should not be the ones to always receive the brunt of contempt, to be the ones who must be taught harsh lessons so we can really internalize how dreadful this system is, for fear that we become too “coddled.”  Mutual caretaking and intimacy is part and parcel of our survival. To toughen ourselves does not mean we must be cruel to one another. To survive does not have to mean that we allow ourselves to be tokenized to call rank on one another, that we give in to the values of this system and see each other as an opportunity for individual benefits. Through their words and commitment to heal what had been scarred I was made whole.

Constant conversations with sister-friends who knew what I was going through was my healing balm. Whenever we could get together, we would develop strategies to protect ourselves from the daily blows and assess how far we needed to go with our particular struggles. One sister-friend would write very detailed and thought out letters that helped develop my analysis when I needed words to name behaviors beyond feelings. In one tough situation she wrote:
In many ways being in this situation has helped me to polish my analysis, and understand more broadly what boundaries i must establish.  i am able to also see more clearly my own internalized oppression and how this manifests in my comments/behaviors, etc. In addition, i can also see how my knowledge and analysis is quite powerful and if not used carefully can be destructive towards my allies as well as others who do not hold my same opinion.  I am very glad to have gone through the process of conflict transformation.  for though i am a big critic, i learned much about myself and my capacity to try to bring understanding and solidarity in situations like this, without negotiating my fundamental values. i really don’t think i will be able to work with this group of people, but i will continue to support their efforts for social justice, as i will others.  the white privilege is present in every work, gesture, and suggestion.  it is much to much and will take to much of my energy which is continuously being challenged by those who are really in power.  but at least there i am visible…..very visible. i will be writing soon, with details, attaching emails, and recording the negligence of some of our colleagues, who just happen to be people in positions of power and decision making. i never thought these groups were perfect, for i am also not.  but, i was not expecting to have to put up with so much rejection and dominance. this is absolute nonsense coming from such an organization. let’s stay positive, let’s not dismiss anyone regardless of their positions, left, right, moderate, even fundamentalist. let’s try not to do what they do.
And I must shift the eye towards myself. I fed into the supremacy and hatred for another woman of color who I consider a dear sister friend. I should have raised my voice when her anger was being laughed away in front of my peers. I did not intervene when another woman of color said that she would not respond to this woman’s anger. Never mind that she was a professor saying such a dangerous statement to two students of color.
The “angry” woman in question was just “easily pissoffable.” That day, I did nothing to earn my title as an educator truly wanting to see a just world. I was too afraid to claim a position that brought humanity to my friend;  I chose to stay comfortable. I should have said it would be more productive to analyze the situation than to individualize her anger as an unwarranted abnormality. Or say that we have become all too accustomed at discrediting each other when the other is not there and this is something to be pissed off about.   I did not use that moment as an opportunity to speak to the larger structure of the organization and our serious issues around not explaining our choices, ignoring one another, and justifying our positions as the only fact that can exist. I could have even gone on about how we explain away brutal ego-tripping gossip as “analysis.” My friend’s anger was justified and should have been taken seriously. I did not have to contribute to the cruelty of that situation. When I look back, there are many could-a, should-a, would-a’s I wish I had claimed as moments for clarity.
I am sure that there are stories about my shortcomings that has done an incredible amount of damage, and I have to hear them if I am committed to sharpening my analysis, healing and creating solutions that restore dignity.
Too many of our stories are fraught with betrayal, distortion and violence in struggling to reach a place of equality. What type of hard and difficult work are we doing to ensure that we are creating the conditions for the massive change we want to see? Are there structures where we can all be clear about the choices we make? Do we consent to the targeting of our peers? Is our work restoring our dignity? The struggle continues. In my new place of struggle I knew what mistakes I did not want to continue…this knowing is liberating and involves much risk.
It took me a while to own that burning part of myself, the part that could spit fire and the part that could honor my resistance. Being around such strong women made me want to own that power and continue to struggle. There are so many peoples we do this work for, who have given much more than I can imagine and suffered greater losses. I am still here. To give in to my fear is a slow death at best. There is much too live for.  I remember a time when I wrote an email about the privilege and dominance within the program, how it hindered our goals. There was no response from my peers and I began to wonder if there would be a punishment for my thoughts. My sister-friend was able to salve my wound with her final words:
“And yes, I noticed no responses. As we know this is a strategic move of privilege and hegemony…to deny the existence of our thoughts, ideas, and creativity. Oh, but they heard loud and clear…do not doubt this my friend. Keep speaking, for if we don’t we will lose our humanity and dignity.  i know what it feels like when we feel we have spoken to much. it’s really okay. Breathe and know it is okay.   gather your thoughts, honor your life and your way, give people a chance to take it in….you will know when and how to continue. but never, never, be silent for too long…remember that what we say is deep, much to deep for others to sometimes handle.  but remember we have handled even more and have survived and become better women because of it.  don’t let guilt or shame stop you….those are the masters tools….do away with them.”

[The website this is from is: ]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why should non-oppressed people focus on oppression?

image is from here

As I look back over some of my posts and some of the themes I've focused on, I thought I'd write up something about "why": why this focus, why these issues?

From a pretty early age, the things that stood out for me were how some people suffer injustices systematically, and that those injustices didn't appear to register as such by the less-effected masses. The pain of enduring oppression--the depression, the anxiety, the exhaustion, the psychic, sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual assaults, the post-traumatic stress--were as real as blood, but were somehow not registering as important, not sounding any alarm in those not oppressed. The pain wasn't just unheard and unseen; when heard and seen it was ignored and denied, when not ignored and denied it was called something else, like "what she really wanted" and "what they deserve".

Seeing both disregard and contempt among whites and men, disregard for women and men of color, contempt for women and girls across ethnicity, is something that demands a humane response. Not excuses. Not denial. Not lie-telling about oppressed people.

If you scratch the surface of the intellects and psyches of enough oppressor-class people, you'll find unsubtle thought processes and distancing mechanisms that allow them/us to not feel and not think about and not know what oppressed people contend with and die from.

This blog exists to say, "What oppressed people experience is real. And once faced as reality, oppression calls us forth into action to create justice and liberation where there is none."

As a Jew, the stories of "the Good Germans" of WWII haunted me: how could ordinary citizens of a country stand by while other citizens were carried off, gassed, and burned into ash floating in the sky?

The question may be answered this way: How does it happen that the on-going genocides against Indigenous people worldwide demands no action at all from the non-Indigenous? How do the realities rape, incest, battery, trafficking, and poverty not call resource-advantaged people to stop these atrocities?

Because isn't the answer the same about the non-Jewish Germans as it is about the non-Indigenous and about men? Isn't it the case that whites, for example, express some variation of this: "I didn't know there were any genocides still going on." Don't men express, in one way or another: "I don't see rape and the rest as endemic and horrifying."

Once the horror, the terror, the atrocity is as real as anything else, one is called forth to act. Enough things happened to me early in life, and through my early adulthood, to make it impossible to not see the horror and not feel the pain.

I want other whites and men to work together in alliance with oppressed people, to take down the defences and barriers whites and men construct to stay separate from the conditions we don't live with so directly and daily, but are primarily responsible for. And to dismantle the institutions and transform the structures that hold hate and disregard in place. I want oppressor-class people to see oppressed people as fully human beings who cannot deserve the oppressive conditions. And to act humanely with everyone's life in mind.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sign the petition to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory in solidarity with Aboriginal activists

Justice for Kwementyaye Briscoe - lay charges against police
photograph and text below is all from here
I begin with this reminder: white male supremacy is a hateful and horrific institutionalised ideology and it must be overthrown for peace and justice to thrive. The terrorism by white-male/anti-Indigeous/anti-Aboriginal police forces of oppressed people of color is a pro-feminist issue because whatever the gender of the assaulted and imprisoned, the burden of care and protest disproportionately falls on women. And because harassment and murder of men and boys of color by white male supremacists is one way to reinforce the same white male supremacy that enslaves, assaults, and murders girls and women of all colors.

I have not been able to find the names of the people pictured above; if you know their names, please let me know, assuming they wish to be publicly identified. All that appears in this post including the photo, other than these two introductory paragraphs, is from You may be linked back to it and related material by clicking on any of the text in color or by clicking *here* and *here*.

Justice for Kwementyaye Briscoe - lay charges against police

Trisha Morton Thomas
Petition by
Alice Springs, Australia
On 4 January 2012, my nephew T. Daniels Briscoe died in police custody.

He was slung about the Alice Springs lock up, resulting in a head injury that the police completely ignored. Other detainees yelled for help when they heard him choking, but they were ignored. Police listened to music and surfed the net while my nephew lay dying.

My nephew was taken into custody supposedly for his own protection. The coroner found his treatment was “completely inadequate”, and the police were “utterly derelict” in their duty of care. Yet not one of the officers involved has been sanctioned.

My nephew was a soft hearted, funny and humble man. He was slow to anger and readily forgiving. He was generous to a fault and would give his last  dollar to anybody in need. He kept my family connected and reminded us that money and wealth would not mourn for us when we passed, only those we love and love us.

Since 2009, four Aboriginal people in Alice Springs alone have died in the hands of police or NT corrections authorities. They have promised changes, but my nephew’s death is proof those promises were not kept. My nephew, other victims and our community have been ignored for too long.

The Coroner’s findings are, in our view, sufficient for the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate and pursue charges for negligent manslaughter.

On behalf of our family and community, I’m asking for charges to be laid against police for what was done and for real changes to be implemented, rather than empty words.
Please sign the petition, and encourage everyone you know to help and lend their support.

Petition Letter

Justice for Kwementyaye Briscoe - lay charges against police

Mr Briscoe was taken into Police custody against his will, purportedly for his own protection, yet died directly as a result of a shocking indifference on the part of NT Police officers to his wellbeing. In delivering his findings on the death on 17 September 2012, Coroner Greg Cavanah laid the blame for the death squarely at the feet of Police, identifying a litany of failures on their part to care for Mr Briscoe. Mr Cavanagh called the actions of Police “completely inadequate and unsatisfactory and not sufficient to meet his medical care”, and to Police as being “utterly derelict in their duty of care”. The Coroner’s findings are, in our view, sufficient for the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate and pursue charges for negligent manslaughter.

NT Police have proved incapable of being trusted to safeguard the wellbeing of detainees. NT Police had been chastised by the same coroner in 2010 following the death of C. Trigger whilst in Police Custody. Many of the same practices and failures contributed to the death of Mr Briscoe, notwithstanding that NT Police had made promises to the Coroner to remedy these practices. As a result of their failure to do so, another man is dead.

It is imperative that all individuals in Australia are subject to objective and independent investigation and prosecution of potentially criminal acts. In order for the Criminal Law to have any legitimacy in Australia, it must apply to all, including Police. Prosecution of offending officers is vital both for ensuring basic justice and sending a message such conduct is unacceptable and will be punished.

We the undersigned support the call by the Briscoe family upon the Northern Territory Department of Public Prosecutions to review the case immediately and prosecute the appropriate officers.
[Your name]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

And one more time, Andrea Dworkin never said "All Sex is Rape"... but how many times does that have to be said for anti-feminists to believe it?

image is from here

Java man has a question. It's not new and it's not original but it is anti-feminist and fueled by misogyny. Anti-feminism and misogyny isn't new or original either. With thanks, again, to Toto, what follows is from Yahoo Answers. (You may click *here* to see the rest of the answers, most of which are dripping with contempt for feminists and for Andrea in particular.)

What did Andrea Dworkin mean when she said "All men are rapists"

Also: "Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women's bodies." Why do feminists idolize this man hater so much?

I will answer your question fully below, but a better question is this:

Why do so many people--usually anti-feminist men--keep claiming that radical feminists said those things, when it's been demonstrated again and again that they never did? Proof that what you claim she said is a lie is below.

I notice you and the others promoting these misquotes as truths don't ever quote the next two--and I will be happy to let you know where the quotes come from:

"I have spent 20 years writing these books. Had I wanted to say men are beasts and scream, that takes 30 seconds."  -- Andrea Dworkin (Modern Times Interview of Andrea Dworkin With Larry Josephson, on "Modern Times", American Public Radio, 1992, as accessed on Sep. 5, 2010.)

I notice you and the others promoting this nonsense don't quote her saying this:

"I came here today because I don't believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It's not because there's a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence." -- Andrea Dworkin

The answer to your question is easy:

She never said "All men are rapists" and neither did any other published feminist such as Marilyn Frye or Catharine A. MacKinnon, which is why you and others can't cite the quote from any of their books. (Putting quotes around the words with Dworkin's name in the same sentence doesn't mean she said it.)

Now, if she actually said and wrote it, wouldn't you think you (or anyone else) would be able to tell us in which book or article or speech it appears?

They never said "All sex is rape" either and the proof is linked to here and below:

This is the truth:
John Berger once called Dworkin "the most misrepresented writer in the western world". She has always been seen as the woman who said that all men are rapists, and that all sex is rape. In fact, she said neither of these things. Here's what she told me in 1997: "If you believe that what people call normal sex is an act of dominance, where a man desires a woman so much that he will use force against her to express his desire, if you believe that's romantic, that's the truth about sexual desire, then if someone denounces force in sex it sounds like they're denouncing sex. If conquest is your mode of understanding sexuality, and the man is supposed to be a predator, and then feminists come along and say, no, sorry, that's using force, that's rape - a lot of male writers have drawn the conclusion that I'm saying all sex is rape." In other words, it's not that all sex involves force, but that all sex which does involve force is rape. [Source for this paragraph is here and below:]

For more on why so many people describe Andrea Dworkin, a human rights activist, as a man-hater or as someone who said the nonsense you are spreading here, see this excellent article:

As for the other quote, you take it out of context. It's not a statement of fact. It's an observation based on evidence which is part of a larger discussion on the reality--a fact--that so many men hate and abuse women in and out of bed (which is the serious social and global issue, not what feminists think of men):

"But the hatred of women is a source of sexual pleasure for men in its own right. Intercourse appears to be the expression of that contempt in pure form, in the form of a sexed hierarchy; it requires no passion or heart because it is power without invention articulating the arrogance of those who do the f---ing. Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women; but that contempt can turn gothic and express itself in many sexual and sadistic practices that eschew intercourse per se. Any violation of a woman's body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography." -- Andrea Dworkin [Source is here and below:]

I hope the readers here appreciate the difference in meaning. It's quite significant.

 Sources for the above:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Clarifying the focus of this blog

image is from here

Just a quick post to let you know that I changed the subheading atop each page of this blog from:

This blog exists to challenge white heterosexual male supremacy as an institutionalized ideology and a systematized set of practices which are misogynistic, heterosexist, racist, genocidal, and ecocidal.


This blog exists to challenge the oppressive forces of white, heterosexual, and male supremacy. I understand each to be institutionalized ideologies that are mutually reinforcing. They work together as braided practices which are misogynistic, heterosexist, racist, genocidal, and ecocidal.

I hope it is clearer now.

In the past some have criticised me for only challenging the oppressive behavior of "white het men" as if I don't also critique the misogyny of men of color, the racism and misogyny of white gay men, and the racism of white feminism and white women generally. I try to be respectful and responsible in the ways I challenge other oppressed people, because as a Western white male, I occupy several positions of privilege over so many people, even while we may also share some experiences of oppression and marginalisation given my location as a gay Jewish person.

I hope it is clear from reading many of my posts that I believe the white, het, or male supremacy that is practiced by oppressed people is always in service to powerful and privileged white het men, at the expense of everyone else.

Anyway, I hope the change clarifies the political stance taken here. And I also hope this blog remains a place where the concerns, challenges, theories, and activism of radical and feminist women of color are put front and center.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide": an invitation to discuss this film

Amie Kandeh speaks to girls in Freetown about staying focused on their studies.
Photo: Melissa Winkler/IRC
If you haven't as yet, I encourage you to watch the documentary, Half The Sky, based on a book by two New York Times journalists, Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof. It is filled with stories of pain and empowerment. (For any survivors of rape, trafficking, prostitution, female genital cutting, battery, and other forms of misogynistic abuse, please be warned: this film deals with each of these atrocities.)

Let's discuss the strengths and the problems with the film. What follows is from one of the websites for the film *here*:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide

A special presentation of Independent Lens.

Watch part one online through October 8 and part two through October 9.

A landmark transmedia project featuring a four-hour PBS primetime national and international broadcast event (check local listings), a Facebook-hosted social action game, mobile games, two websites, educational video modules with companion text, a social media campaign supporting over 30 partner NGOs, and an impact assessment plan all inspired by Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the widely acclaimed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was filmed in 10 countries and follows Kristof, WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. All over the world women are seizing this opportunity.
I'll add to this post soon, especially if there are no comments. But I'd like this to be a conversation about the film and the politics of it, as well as the activists featured in the film and the male supremacist atrocities against girls and women they are combating. The activists are:

Edna Adan

Edna Adan was raised in Somaliland in an educated and wealthy family, and went on to a distinguished international career with the World Health Organization. But after retiring, Adan returned to her roots and opened Somaliland’s first maternal health facility.

Urmi Basu

Urmi Basu is the founder of New Light, a secular nonprofit charitable trust that has set up a shelter to protect and educate young girls, children and women at high risk of commercial sexual exploitation.

Amie Kandeh

Amie Kandeh is the Women's Protection and Empowerment Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in Sierra Leone. After fleeing Sierra Leone with her family during the country’s civil war, Kandeh returned in 2002 to put her skills as an educator and counselor to use in rebuilding the country.

Rebecca Lolosoli

Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of the Umoja Women's Village and an advocate for women's rights. Growing up as a member of the Samburu tribe, Lolosoli attended primary school and then nursing school but dropped out early on due to lack of money to pay the fees.

Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam was born in an ethnic minority community in Cambodia's Mondulkiri province, and grew up as an orphan living in extreme poverty. A man posing as her grandfather sold Somaly as a young girl into sexual slavery.

Ingrid Munro

Ingrid Munro is a Swedish national who worked for eight years for the Swedish government in the Bureau of Housing Research. Following this, she began her career as an advocate for the poor in Kenya, pressing for their right to housing as a staff member of Habitat and the head of African Housing Fund, an advocacy group for the homeless.

Jane Ngoiri

Jane Ngoiri grew up in the slums of Nairobi and dropped out of school after the eighth grade. She married at age 18, but when she was pregnant with her second child, her husband took a second wife and she soon found herself with three younger children, pushed out of her home and with no money.

John Wood

John Wood is the founder and board chair of Room to Read. He started Room to Read after a career with Microsoft from 1991 to 1999, where he was in charge of marketing and business development teams throughout Asia, including serving as director of business development for the Greater China region and as director of marketing for the Asia-Pacific region.

So let's talk about this film and the activism.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Audre Lorde's Legacy Film & Cultural Festival 2012 marks the 20-year anniversary of Audre Lorde's passing: Press Release

photo, taken by  Dagmar Schulz, is from here
Audre Lorde died on November 17, 1992 after a long battle with cancer. To honor her life's work the following event has been planned. All that follows in this post is the press release that I found on WindyCityMedia:

  Windy City Times    Download PDF Issue

Audre Lorde Legacy Films screening here From a news release 2012-09-12

Audre Lorde's Legacy Film & Cultural Festival 2012 marks the 20-year anniversary of Audre Lorde's passing. She was a highly influential, award-winning African-American, lesbian, poet, author, mother, teacher and activist. In honor of her legacy four films will be will be brought to universities, libraries, and community venues, accompanied by a reading from the biography of Ika Hugel-Marshall. Fall 2012 USA tour of the Audre Lorde Legacy Film & Cultural Festival with Ika Hugel-Marshall and Dagmar Schultz

The films:
-A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde by Ada Griffin and Michelle Parkinson
-The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde by Jennifer Abod
-Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story by Maria Binder
-Audre Lorde—The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz

The reading:
-Ika Hugel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany
University of Illinois at Chicago, Oct. 2
Screening of "Audre Lorde—the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992"
Contact: Prof. Elizabith Loentz (
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, Oct. 3, 4

The films include:
Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 (2012). Dagmar Schultz, 58 minutes
This film introduces American audiences to a littleknown chapter of Audre Lorde's prolific life. From 1984 through her death in 1992, she spent a part of each year in Berlin, Germany, first as a visiting professor, but more significantly, as the mentor and catalyst who almost single-handedly ignited the Afro-German movement. With her active support a whole generation of writers and poets for the first time gave voice to their unique experience as people of color in Germany. Lorde had a decisive impact on white women—challenging them to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege—and to deal with difference in constructive ways.

The film outlines her contributions to the German discourse on racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, classism, and homophobia within the Black movement and the Black and White women's movement, a discourse alive and growing today. Present-day interviews explore the lasting influence of Lorde's ideas and the impact of her work and personality.

The film contains never-before seen images and audio recorded during this period of Lorde's life, showing Lorde on and off stage. Dagmar Schultz, a personal friend and her German publisher, will be present to introduce the film and follow up with Q&A. web site: .

A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, (1995). Michelle Parkerson and Ada Griffin, 90 minutes

An epic portrait of Audre Lorde, whose writings—spanning five decades—articulated some of the most important social and political visions of the century. From Lorde's childhood roots in NYC's Harlem to her battle with breast cancer, this moving film explores a life and a body of work that embodied the connections between the Civil Rights movement, the Women's movement, and the struggle for lesbian and gay rights. At the heart of this documentary is Lorde's own challenge to "envision what has not been and work with every fiber of who we are to make the reality and pursuit of that vision irresistible." web site:

The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde (2002). Jennifer Abod, Ph.D., 59 minutes

This powerful documentary is a moving tribute to Audre Lorde (1934-1992). One of the most celebrated icons of feminism's second wave, Lorde inspired several generations of activists with her riveting poetry, serving as a catalyst for change and uniting the communities of which she was a part: black arts and black liberation, women's liberation and lesbian and gay liberation.

Nowhere was this more apparent than the groundbreaking I AM YOUR SISTER CONFERENCE which brought together 1,200 activists from 23 countries, including thrilling footage of the inimitable Lorde herself, and candid interviews with conference organizers. This film powerfully brings Lorde's legacy of poetry and politics to life and conveys the spirit, passion and intensity that remains her trademark.
web site:

Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story (1997). Maria Binder, 29 minutes
A moving documentary about the life and untimely death of Ghanaian- German poet, academic and political personality May Ayim.

May Ayim was a personal friend of Audre Lorde. As to Lorde's influence on her poetic work Ayim said: "One of my models is Audre Lorde, (...) who does stand very much behind what she is doing and expressing it openly, for instance, that she is lesbian, mother, Black, poet, cancer survivor. The way she stood there saying who she was impressed me a lot, because normally people hide behind their words."

Ayim was one of the founders of the Black German Movement, and her research on the history of Afro-Germans, but also her political poetry, made her known in Germany and other countries. Ayim wrote in the tradition of oral poetry and felt a strong connection to other black poets of the diaspora.

Poetry gave her an opportunity to confront the white German society with its own prejudices. Interviews and poems reveal the search for identity, how and why the term Afro-German was introduced. An insightful look at how a young black woman experiences the German reunification. (German with English subtitles).

Dagmar Schultz, co-producer of the film and publisher of May Ayim, will be present to introduce the film and to follow up with Q&A. web site:

In addition to the films, author Ika Hugel-Marshall, M.A., will appear in person to read from her autobiography, Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany (2001). She was the recipient of the Audre Lorde Literary Award, which enabled her to write this critically acclaimed work. Hugel-Marshall also appears in the film Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years, and was a close personal friend of Lorde. web site: Dagmar Schultz, Ph.D., was a co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Center in Berlin in 1974, the first of its kind in Germany. In 1974 she also co-founded Orlanda Women's Press (Orlanda Frauenverlag) and was its (co-)publisher until 2001. In addition, Schultz was a professor at Berlin universities. Since 2004, Dagmar Schultz has been involved in writing and in organizing reading tours in the US for her partner Ika Hugel-Marshall (author of Invisible Woman. Growing up Black in Germany) as well as other projects. In 2007 she co-produced the film Hope in My Heart.

— The May Ayim Story. Recently she was awarded the Margherita-von-Brentano-Preis 2011, by the Free University of Berlin, for work and projects which further the development of equal rights and opportunities for women in academia and the promotion of women's and gender studies and research. She is the producer of the documentary Audre Lorde — The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992. web site: .

This event could be presented as a full day, or cover two evenings. Suggested tour dates with Ika Hugel-Marshall and Dagmar Schultz are February through March (African-American and Women's History Months) and/or September 2012.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Writings by Audre Lorde, including "Man-Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response" and "A Litany For Survival". Also, a new book of Lorde's writings, I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde !!

image of book cover is from here

Revised on the 26th , 29th, and 30th of August 2012, and December 2, 2015.

I just found a website that has a photocopy of Audre Lorde's classic essay from Sister Outsider, titled: "Man-Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response". If you haven't yet, I encourage you to read it and to read the whole book along with it. Here is the URL and link to that one chapter:

I have been saddened to see how many younger people online believe that radical feminist = white woman. I know that many, but not all, of the people publicly naming themselves radical feminist or the more contemporary and racially narrow term, rad fem, are white women. I've written about how I don't equate the terms: radical feminist and rad fem. I've hopefully respectfully challenged the white supremacy of white-majority and white-led organising by people who identify as rad fem *here* in an earlier post.

Of course most of the whites who organise politically are not feminists. They are anti-feminists, racists, and misogynists, protecting white male power at all costs. But unlike anti-feminists and other misogynists, rad fems and I share a lot in common: our critique of pornography and prostitution as male-protected and mass produced forms of men raping and enslaving women and girls; a serious analysis of human sexuality as it is constructed and acted out in heterosexist and male supremacist contexts; and a de-marginalising of male supremacy and patriarchy when analysing and challenging increasingly globalised systems of oppressive, terroristic, and deadly power.

In fact, many of the people who claim to be the definitive example of "human" are white men. And we certainly know that even though white men write most Western history books--that have systematically left out or distorted the accomplishments, the history, of white women, women of color, and men of color--that surely doesn't mean only white men are human. Nor is it the case that only white women are radical feminists, lesbian or not. Many of my role models growing up through my early adulthood were Black and Brown radical lesbian feminists.

My focus, here at this blog, on women of color is seen by some whites and many men as divisive. Some view this centralising of women of color at a pro-feminist website as one way to focus on the differences between women rather than the similarities. I hardly see how focusing on women of color is divisive. Nor do I see it as divisive to point out where white supremacy lives and breathes. Whites want to keep white power all to ourselves thereby dividing humanity into raced "haves" and "have nots". Exposing and challenging white supremacy is an effort to end divisions of social power among humans; its aim is to equalise the control of and the access to resources among humans, including intellectual resources.

Another way to approach the issue would be to ask: Is focusing primarily or entirely only on the written and other activist work of whites divisive? Because that's what most whites do, often thinking they are representing "all men" or "all women" or "all queer people" when doing so. So it comes across to me as problematic when a white person, in my case a white male, who doesn't wish to marginalise women of color is seen as promoting divisions among women. Why isn't this blog seen as unifying women by focusing on the work of women of color? And, if whites wish to deal with our white supremacy in public ways, how does identifying where it lives further divide humanity?

I'd argue that routinely and systematically ignoring, tokenising, or marginalising the activist work of women of color is divisive. It maintains white supremacy and male supremacy. So too does using terms like "radical" by whites who don't include "white" when naming ourselves. The name of this blog certainly participates in that pattern. It would visibilise (and challenge) whiteness more if I termed it "A Radical White Profeminist". It would also serve to make it visible as a particular and non-universal political condition.

I now consider any white person refusing or neglecting to name our structural location by race when we describe our political position, as supporting and reinforcing white supremacy. Were I to start my blog now, I'd name it with "white" being in the title.

I have grown up hearing Audre Lorde and Barbara Smith be regularly identified by whites as Radical Black Feminists or Black Lesbian Feminists. Mary Daly and Sheila Jeffreys have only ever been identified by whites as "Radical Feminists" or "Lesbian Feminists". I hope it's clear how that way of naming white people reinforces whiteness as somehow not worth mentioning. But the "worth", or value, of not mentioning it is the white power that is so well-protected in the practice of whites not naming ourselves with that term. This is a crucial, and often enough unconscious, practice of protecting the very brutal power underlying and enforcing unnamed whiteness. The brutality is aimed squarely at people of color, with especially horrific forms leveled against women of color.

Conscious or not, it is an undenibly political decision to not mention our whiteness as a structural place of power in a white male supremacist system. (This is not, as some have indicated, primarily an issue of naming one's "identity"; this writing isn't advocating what is sometimes termed "identity politics".) If it is not deemed collectively necessary for whites who name ourselves as "radical" to also name and own our own whiteness as a political reality, how do we practice being responsible and accountable to those we structurally oppress by race?

It's not a radical practice for white folks to "disappear" our whiteness in our writings and other work, in my opinion which has been informed by dozens of radical activists of color, most of them feminist. It's not even liberal. It's politically conservative; it has many of the same effects as mainstream neo-Conservative and more publicly marginalised White Nationalist agendas.

White males making our race invisible but our gender visible serves white and male supremacy because the two systems, particularly in the West, are inextricably linked and are mutually reinforcing. Both work together to oppress and destroy women of color. Put another way: let's consider white radical Andrea Dworkin's definition of "feminist" which has been summarised as follows: if it hurts women, feminists are against it. Surely white supremacy as well as male supremacy hurts women (of color). So to ignore race in one's feminist and pro-feminist work is to participate in the deeply racist practice of pretending women of color are not "women"--unless they, too, are somehow presented as unraced. Ironically, whites are very reluctant to do that. Only whiteness is to be systematically ignored-while-protected.

The same is true for men of color who name their race as a structural position of marginalisation and oppression but not their gender as a structural position of power over all women. Men of color not identifying their gender as a structural source of oppressive power serves not only male supremacy, but also white supremacy. Because protecting any male power, as such, bolsters white men's power as men, but particularly as white men.

As I see it and hear about it from radical and feminist women of color, those two systems of power--male and white supremacy--together with capitalism, are the main dividers of humans into--according to power elites--those who are meant to survive and those who are not.

This matter is addressed in those terms in at least two pieces of writing by Audre Lorde. One is in a speech in the book Sister Outsider titled "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action". This is also contained in another book discussed below. Another discussion of this theme is in a poem titled "A Litany for Survival", which may be read in full, along with several other of Lorde's poems, here.

Finally, I offer a link to a relatively new book (2009 hardcover, 2011 paperback), of Audre Lorde's work. The book is titled: "I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde", edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall.

 I have had the pleasure of hearing Johnnetta Cole speak, many years ago. Calling the three editors only "editors" would not be to understand their role in the creation of this book. Rudolph Byrd offers a significant introduction of the works contained in the volume. Johnnetta Cole offers a chapter in the section of the book called "Reflections", which also contain chapters by Alice Walker, bell hooks, and Gloria I. Joseph. Beverly Guy-Sheftall closes the book with her epilogue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Questionable Ethics of Outing People Online, and Other Topics for Discussion Between Julian and a White Feminist Friend

image is from here

One criticism I have of myself is that there is sometimes a lack of openness and a use of analytic thinking to avoid other ways of being. It's not that I'm invulnerable; it's that being vulnerable has made me open to a great deal of pain and trauma and so I'm careful about where I'm vulnerable. Like so many other people, I was bullied. Many males and a few females were the perpetrators. It went on for seven years in my childhood and adolescence. To this day, when I hear people laughing in a group near me, I assume they are laughing at me and my first reaction is to feel humiliated.

Social networking sites don't feel very safe to me in part because of the bullying and meanness I've seen happen there. In my experience, that has happened especially and most egregiously to women of color, by white men, by men of color, by white women, and by other women of color. The thing about bullying is that anyone can be a perpetrator, even the victims of bullying. I tend to behave in rather invulnerable ways when at such places, when I'm there, which is rarely. So, with that said as sort of a personal preface, on with the conversation:

What's on your mind, Julian? Why did you want to get together to have a talk that will be public?

Well, there are few things distressing to me at this moment, other than the usual list of atrocities. Thanks for being willing to engage with me--people being willing to engage with me, respectfully, is one of the things I want to get to today.

Who is engaging with you disrespectfully? 

You know me well enough to know I won't name names. I'm not about that. Suffice it to say that some people have, and some other people have been saying things about me that are not true to the very best of my knowledge and recollections. They're not all saying this to me. In some cases it's being said about me in places when I'm not around.

What's being said about you?

That I have either outed women online or have supported women being outed online. And that I have supported women being called misogynist names.

I know you well enough to know that's not very likely. 

I don't believe I've ever done it, actually. But if someone has specific information to the contrary, I'd certainly hear them out. I welcome them to contact me and I will listen, with care. We may disagree about some things or have different recollections. But I'll listen and really try to get what their experience was and not dismiss it.

Julian, I gotta say this before we go on. I'm not a fan of you showing up in feminists spaces to voice your opinion in a way that triggers, annoys, or bores women. But I've never known you to "out" any woman. I know you're deeply concerned about how women have been terrorized by male supremacists online and offline.

That's what I generally stay very conscious of when writing about women here. If I have any doubt about whether naming someone--only as they publicly name themselves--might cause them to be more socially vulnerable to verbal attack or to other forms of abuse or threat, or to economic distress such as losing one's job, I won't name them.

What I have not taken to heart enough, nor to mind enough, are the ways some of my social behavior has been triggering to women. There's no good reason for me not considering it. I can say this: most people don't know when I'm triggered by them because if the triggering leads me to feel threatened or unsafe, I'm likely to simply not want to engage with them at all. My own triggering is specific to me but is also not atypical. And men can trigger me in various ways. I've grown immune to some things, such as men sending emails to call me a f*g or the classic "mangina". When someone is that ridiculous, it's kind of easy for me to just write them off as behaving like a jerk. But what you've helped me understand is that my anger, no matter what it's about, can be or may be or IS triggering or troubling for some women, for reasons having to do with sexual politics.

Yes. It can be, it may be, and it is. I know before I knew you better, I felt uncomfortable with your intensity at times and it gave me pause when considering whether to take a risk and get to know you better. 

Yeah. I'm glad you were willing to do that, but I'd also have understood if you didn't. I'm quite supportive of women not giving males energy.

I know you are. Which makes you showing up in feminist spaces more perplexing, honestly. Why do you do that, Julian?

Well, I don't show up in places where I haven't been welcomed to appear, by at least one woman there. And if a space is set up to be woman-only, I don't go there. But over the last decades, most feminist spaces aren't woman-only and that's a decision made by the organisers or administrators of those spaces. But because I do believe in woman-only spaces existing without male intervention and interruption, I have chosen not to go to most gatherings or discussion spaces that are woman-majority or woman-led. But that's truer now than it used to be.

Maybe because lately you don't get out much, huh?

Well, there is that! But I've been very slow to get that my presence isn't wanted by at least some women in most spaces where women gather, even if the organisers or administrators don't have a policy of being woman-only, or are explicitly welcoming of male presence. I plan to appear less in such spaces in the future. My appearance in a discussion in a feminist discussion space on Facebook was, I hope, one of the last times I do that.

But why have you done it? I mean regardless of what administrators welcome, why do you feel like it's ok to be there? You know as well as any male I know how hard it is for women to create woman-only space. And you know as well as I do that many women don't set up spaces to be woman-only because they don't feel like they have the right to do so. Or because men insist the women be liberally "fair" by being accommodating.

I know. It's such a common male supremacist argument. ... Why have I done it so often? I guess because feminist discussion spaces are spaces where the topics, the conversations, are of interest to me. I mean most of what men talk about isn't of interest to me. I've always had closer relationships--friendships--with women than men. I've always organised my private and social life more around women than men.

But you know that some women feel that you're presence is not only not helpful, but plays out some really typical male supremacist patterns, right? And the point of the conversations isn't to be appealing to you or to engage you or make your social world less small.

Well, I know. Yes. I mean my loneliness leads me to do things that I'm not necessarily prepared to do well.

Like offering to politically or more personally converse with gay and queer-identified men who seem like they are anti-racist and anti-sexist who you know you won't be able to tolerate for more than ten minutes?

Yeah. Like that. (Laughs.) A lot like that.

And like that last place: you went there, tossed out a whole lot of commentary, and then left abruptly, stating that you don't even like the space to begin with!

Yeah. I'd like to fill you in on what was going on there for me, if that's okay with you?

Sure, go ahead. I've been really baffled by that, to be honest. And pissed off with you too.

Okay, so first of all, I have been having the experience in many places that my voice isn't welcome, isn't wanted, and that even if I'm speaking to the issues at the center of the discussions, the response is to hear crickets chirping. And I'm not talking about women-majority spaces, in this case. I'm talking about male-dominant spaces. Or in places where discussions are led by men. Women do tend to respond, including by letting me know what I'm doing is male supremacist. Men often just ignore the comments.

And that's relevant how?

Well, because I have come to believe that people--in general--don't wish to talk with me about things. In my experience recently, most women don't want to and most men don't want to. And so this has led me to offer a perspective on what's being discussed, and then just leave. It shocked me that anyone actually objected to me leaving a place suddenly. I know that could sound silly in a way. But it really did surprise me. So I think that whole dynamic has led to a kind of "say what you have to say and then leave them alone" kind of approach to "engaging". Which is to say, I don't assume "engagement" is going to happen to begin with. I assume if I speak I'll either be ignored or disrespected. Because that's what's happened in enough places.

I'd think that would lead you to stop speaking up in places.

Yeah, you'd think. But I have this thing about not speaking up in spaces when something is going down that isn't okay--or, well, that doesn't feel okay to me or isn't okay with women I know well, and also with me. Almost without exception, if I'm speaking up in a space, it's because something is upsetting to me about what's being said. Like, either it comes across to me as male supremacist or white supremacist, or close friends alert me to how it is both. Or it could be profoundly liberal discourse. Those are the kinds of conversations that get me riled up.

What I haven't exactly tracked is how such conversations also upset me in ways that make constructive engagement unlikely. I have learned how to hold my tongue when I'm triggered by something--well, more often than in the past, but I have actually practiced NOT holding my tongue when something male supremacist or white supremacist is going on. Because that's what it means to be an ally, according to the radical women I hold myself most closely accountable to. It means you don't let shit fly around unchallenged, pretending it smells good.

So surely, then, you'd support women speaking up if you're presence is male supremacist, right? I mean, if the male supremacist part of the dynamic is partly or mostly yours, coming from what you are doing there, then you're not surprised if women respond negatively, are you?

I'm not surprised, no. But I have been alarmed by some ways a very few people have responded. Because in one case, a person responded with both disrespect and by engaging in terrorist tactics with me. And neither is okay with me. I mean I get how we can do things that come across as disrespectful. I'm not talking about that--shit happens. People upset each other. People trigger each other. And we can't always anticipate that. Hopefully people learn from past experience, and strive to trigger people less, or upset or hurt people less. Hopefully I learn to be less male supremacist.

As I said, I've been slow to "get it" about some of my behavior. I think that's partly because some of the people I've upset or triggered have withdrawn from me altogether--which I understand. My learning process is mine and is not for others to do for me or walk me through. I get that. I've witnessed enough males and whites saying to people we structurally oppress "Teach me!" or "Help me understand how what I'm doing is insulting or invisbilising of you" to know that it's not for the oppressed to educate the oppressor, even if oppressors are only likely to learn by experiencing the world from the vantage point of those they have structural power over.

And at the same time, people do learn best, I think, in relationship, in community where people share with one another. Me withdrawing from most spaces, for reasons stated above, and people withdrawing from me, means that I'm not likely to know what effect I'm having--I mean very specifically, to particular individuals.

I value my friendships because we do value letting each other know whether something upsetting has happened. And when I find out that what I've done is upsetting, I usually care about that and want to make amends or offer something that can be healing or productive. But I know that takes time and trust. And what I've been realising more and more is how internet spaces and many offline spaces too, don't have either time or trust as a base. So when people upset each other, or when one person--say, me--upsets a whole lot of other people, there's no agreement about how that will be dealt with. People do what seems best for them.

But you were saying that your experience is that you're ignored or insulted.

Yes. Or threatened.

So some people have actually threatened you? 

I can't really know what their intention is. I can tell you that some people--just a very few, fortunately--have employed exactly the same cyber-terrorist tactics as a way of engaging with me and mostly they've done so privately. Like there's a text book for how to do it and these people have followed the "to do" list to a T. Down to the smallest details. And that's not something that leads me to have much faith that healing or building relationship is possible with those people.

Again, I understand someone withdrawing and not engaging. And I don't think any woman owes me a damned thing. If I piss a woman off, I believe she ought to take care of herself as she sees fit. But going out of your way to terrorise someone, or insult someone, or disrespect someone--well, that's just not helpful to being in constructive, healthy relationship, in my opinion. But the thing is, it's not really "my opinion" alone. My feminist role models didn't model abusive interpersonal behavior. The women I learned radical feminism from didn't treat me like that. And they wouldn't have termed such actions as "feminist". So I took that to heart a long time ago.

You know that some kinds of meanness is especially commonplace now--on social networking sites, on blogs, at discussion sites. I mean I see it a lot in woman-only spaces. I see a hell of a lot more of it in spaces where men engage with women, though.

I know snark is valued in many spaces. And I can reflect on my own past snarkiness with men to see that when I've been in that mode it's because I didn't feel safe to engage in more honest ways. And I'm certainly under no illusions about woman-only space being utopian. I've known too many lesbian women well over the last few decades to arrive at that conclusion. But what I hear women say--you included--is that often enough there's a commitment to valuing community that often doesn't exist in spaces that include men.

So if you understand and appreciate--and support--women not engaging with men when the man, or male person, or the men have come across as threatening, abusive, hostile, or just plain annoying and typically sexist, why do you expect any woman to be honest with you about how your behavior has made her feel?

I don't expect that. And I wouldn't tell any woman she "should" talk stuff out with me. But I can want it or be hopeful about it nonetheless. I've been surprised by woman friends going the distance with me, and they've explained they're sure as hell not doing it for me: they're doing it for themselves, because having another male around who gets it that much more means their lives are that much less burdened by sexism and racism.

What do you hope for?

I guess I hope that a safe-enough space can be created with any woman I've hurt or upset or harmed in some way that was not intended by me, for us to heal some of that hurt or wounding. And to go on in such a way that the woman feels like she's less likely to encounter that from me in the future. And with the experience that I'm caring of how she's feeling.

Whenever I find out a woman is upset with me I do try and put myself in her shoes, to try to feel what it might have been like to be her, hearing or witnessing me be the ways I've sometimes been. But you know that only goes so far because each person has their own history, their own associations; their own wounds, their own triggers, and so forth. What's saddest of all to me in relationship is when both people are triggering the other, and wounding just gets compounded. I've seen that so much in work I've done when counseling couples. Sometimes the wounding and re-wounding is just too severe. There's not enough safe space for healing to occur.

In my case, I think some of the things that deeply alarm me, or trigger me, are so commonplace that the only solution is to withdraw in some way. I know that withdrawing is only an option for some people and I'm privileged to be able to withdraw in many of the ways I do. But I also see how people in long-term abusive situations who are not free to escape or leave, find their own ways to withdraw, such as through dissociation or being silent, or being cleverly dishonest, or getting into arguments chronically. And so when someone says something like "People should always be honest!" I often feel, "Well, being honest in some situations will get you beaten up. Or killed."

And those of us who have had our lives threatened and who have had death threats against us, if we don't want to give up publicly challenging the status quo, figure out how to go on being outspoken but also somewhat protected from the thugs and terrorists.

What I want women who I've upset or hurt or scared to know is that I'm willing to listen and that I will be caring.

I know you do care when you've upset someone. Well, if they're a woman. I've seen you not care so much when you've upset a man. 

Well, it depends on what has upset him. If me challenging his sexism or misogyny or whiteness is what's upsetting to him, then I'm not going out of my way to be too concerned about making things better. Well, unless there's a significant relationship there already. But I don't have a lot of relationships with men, as you know. But me challenging someone on their structural privileges and power isn't an open invitation to be abusive, mean, or intentionally hurtful to them. Nor to dehumanise them. According to my feminist mentors, anyway. I think Alice Walker is one person, someone I haven't met and don't know, who really models that behavior.

Do you maintain a relationship with those mentors, Julian? I'm not sure I know what happened to those relationships.

What happened, sadly, is that most of those women passed on. They died far too soon, of illness or disease. I miss them. And I miss the kind of culture that I had with them, and that they nurtured most when among women. Caring community where being mean and snarky just wouldn't fly without serious challenge. The whole reason I said, in that last conversation, that I hate Facebook, is that Facebook, in my experience, is a space that seems to encourage snark and meanness as an M.O., as standard operating procedure, for having political discussions. I am pretty sure there are plenty of conversations I'm not privy to that don't operate that way.

There are--and you're not privy to them. But there are always struggles and like you said, people do unintentionally hurt or upset one another. 

I guess the question is: Are we in the struggle together, or aren't we? If the struggle is to create safe woman-only space, then I'm not going to be in on that--other than by not showing up in woman-only and feminist-majority spaces. But if the spaces are committed to being open with regard to gender or sex, then I'd better only show up if I am in a mental and emotional space to be present, be accountable, and be caring--and when invited and welcomed, of course.

So why didn't you show up to do that, to be present and accountable, in this last case?

When I tried, I couldn't get back to it. I'm not sure why. Maybe one of the admins blocked me. I wouldn't be surprised if she did. But to also be named by other women in that space as someone who is not willing to engage, when further engagement is no longer an option, well, that feels hopeless. Because while I did engage in ways that seemed like I didn't really want a genuine exchange of ideas or perspectives, that doesn't mean that if me doing that was upsetting or alarming or annoying, that I wouldn't be open to processing that.

That's kind of problematic, isn't it? For you to want women to make some sort of exception with you? To give you some sort of benefit of the doubt when that may well be too costly to do, emotionally and politically?

Yes. It is problematic. It's outright unfair. I can be far too self-concerned sometimes.

And far too self-negating at other times.

Yes. That too. But the self-concern or prioritised self-regard--and this might also be called "being self-centered" or "typically male", when it's present, is kind of balanced with a lot of compassion and an ability to get beyond myself. I know that in so many situations, suddenly making such a process--about me and my feelings--the center of attention functions to derail the original conversation.

And socialisation being what it is, it is far too often the case that the man's, the male's, or the white person's feelings will get attended to while the sexually or racially or ethnically oppressed person's feelings will get ignored, or the assumption will be "the oppressed person exists to take care of me". But processing can happen away from that conversation and if it's mutual, then those oppressive dynamics don't have to be resurrected and reinforced.

So maybe a safe-enough conversation happens in a separate space. Maybe it happens privately. Because when it's public, that generates another set of dynamics--other people can get appropriately dismayed that any time is being spent attending to the feelings of the male or the white person. But that risk-taking to resolve or heal some negative interaction is probably only going to happen if it's worth it to the person who was hurt or upset--if it is in her own interest to do it.

I know you know what was said about you in that discussion, and what others have charged you with doing, because the conversation was sent to you after you couldn't get back in. I just want that to be clear to whoever reads this when it goes public.

Yes. That's how I know. Someone sent it to me to question what was going on there, to question the allegations, and to let me know the effect of what I'd said there initially.

And I know you get into trouble when you bring up the politics of whiteness, or of ignored white supremacy, in majority-white spaces where that's being ignored or put aside in favor of a politic that goes, "let's only talk about sex and gender even though most of us are white." 

Yeah. I'm also being accused of perpetuating or promoting "identity politics". As if refusing to be silent about race and white supremacy has anything to do with identity politics. I welcome anyone who feels that way to respectfully engage with me on my blog about that.

I know why you do bring it up and for me the problem isn't you bringing it up--it needs to be brought up and it's only the responsibility of white people to do it. The problem is that you're so intense about it sometimes, and honestly I think triggered too because of being Jewish and your own experiences with that ethnic bigotry and invisibilization, and knowledge of the history, that you do it in a way that frightens or triggers women: you become "the visibly angry man" in the space. 

Not just that. I am realising I also become the man who seems to be judging women harshly. Yet another male in the white women's lives who is judging them without knowing them well. But what I'm judging harshly is the white supremacy, not the white women personally.

You know, when this plays out with gender, white radical feminists are usually pretty clear that men should learn to take criticism about the politics of their gender and not take it personally, as if it's a personal attack. But the difference here--you know the difference, right? I don't have to spell it out, I hope.

The difference is that I'm a male doing it in female-majority spaces. I realise it's not the oppressed person challenging their oppressor, in which case the politic, the ethic, ought to be the one Pearl Cleage describes [in her book Deals With The Devil and Other Reasons to Riot]. Basically, "Listen and learn, in a posture of non-defensiveness."

Some white feminists could get the sense you go out of your way to challenge white women on racism, but let white men off the hook on that. And that you're trying to assert power over white women by doing so. Or that you're judging them as if from a superior position--like you "get it" about race and they don't.

Well, you know I also challenge white men about a lot of things including their racism. Which is why most white men won't engage with me. And I challenge men of color on their male supremacy and misogyny too.

I know that. But because that is done in spaces online that are predominantly male, white feminists won't necessarily see you do it. So I think it appears to some women like you only do this to women and that you've found this spurious way to go after women, not men.

I am realising that. Thank you for making that clearer.

Look, Julian: it's really upsetting and painful to see that racist shit play out again and again and again. Whiteness is not regularly interrogated in majority-white places. That's just the damned truth. And it's got to be different. Radically different. Andrea [Dworkin] named that shit in 1974. It was practically the first thing she wrote down when speaking as a white radical feminist. So did many radical feminists of color--correction: so DO many radical feminists of color. And there's nothing at all radical about protecting white power. And I don't think you mentioning that, as you have several times on your blog and elsewhere, is liberal, or is engaging in "identity politics." I really don't.

The same holds true with patriarchal shit in male-dominant places: there's very little commitment among men to collectively root it out. We know this. The collective commitment is to protect male power and to pretend male supremacy is a figment of feminists' imagination. I wish rape and incest and trafficking were matters of imagination. 

And the collective commitment among whites, among white women and among white men, is to protect white power, even though I've never heard any white feminist say that's what her aim is. I have heard white women decades ago say they wanted to protect "white people," though. And I have read online where men say their aim is to protect male entitlements and power. And the big-boy pornographers make a damned good living at protecting that white and male power, at promoting it as "good sex," and at unleashing it against women of all colors. It's always been the pimps and pornographers who most conflate sex and rape, not radical feminists.

It's all disgusting and I don't fault you for finding it profoundly upsetting and for feeling a need to call it out. I know you work hard to be accountable to radical feminist women you are especially close to. And I know why most of those women won't identify as "radical feminist": because the term is used so routinely by white women who, consciously or not, protect white power. I know you work to sincerely be a responsible ally to women fighting male and white supremacy. And I do hope you continue to be accountable to the women most centrally in your life, and that they continue to consider you as a solid ally. 

But I also hope you steer clear of majority-white woman spaces dedicated to feminist discussions. I hope you've learned that your ways of being there are, often enough, too upsetting or annoying or triggering for enough women--and not only white women, to make your presence not only problematic, but more to the point: not pro-feminist.

I do get that now, yes. You won't be seeing me participate, whether more or less obnoxiously, in those discussions in the future.


Now, what do you want to eat? I'm cooking.

Damn right you are! (Laughs.)