Intersectionality https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/15196/all cached version 23/09/2018 20:54:32 en The politics of Latinx recognition https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ed-morales/politics-of-latinx-recognition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity is emerging in American politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdMorales.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez canvasses in Sunnyside, Queens on June 26th, 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez#/media/File:Alexandria_Ocasio_Cortez_Primary_Election_Day_Photo_by_Corey_Torpie_02.jpg">Corey Torpie/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>In March of this year, 18-year-old South Floridian <a href="https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a18715714/protesting-nra-gun-control-true-story/">Emma Gonzalez</a> announced that she was “Cuban and bisexual” in the midst of her battle for stronger gun controls following the <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-respond-shooting-parkland-florida-high-school-n848101">Valentine’s Day shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School</a>. A few months later, 28-year-old <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-historic-win-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party">Alexandria Ocasio Cortez</a> claimed a working-class, Puerto Rican identity during her successful challenge to the&nbsp;<a title="Democratic Caucus Chairman of the United States House of Representatives" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Caucus_Chairman_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives">Democratic Caucus Chair</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Crowley">Joe Crowley</a>, clearing the way for her to represent the Bronx and Queens in the US Congress.</p> <p>These young women were asserting an intersectional identity that is easily recognized by many of their millennial generation peers but unfamiliar to many others: after years of debate within the Latino community they became emblematic of “Latinx,” a new identifying label that is rapidly taking hold among millennials, Latino activists and advocacy groups, and academics.</p> <p>In a political climate marred by the continuing ascendance of authoritarian, nativist politics embodied by the Trump presidency, Latinx may be able to create a wealth of political capital by embracing a fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity. And this might stimulate a more effective reaction to Trumpian rhetoric which uses the phrase “America First” as a code to further anti-immigrant scapegoating, reaching sordid new lows with the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/migrant-children-detention.html">separation and detention of over 12,000 immigrant children</a> from their families in 2018.</p> <p>The advent of the term Latinx is the most recent iteration of a naming debate that is grounded in the politics of race and ethnicity. For several decades the term ‘Latino’ was the progressive choice over the European-ethnic sounding ‘Hispanic,’ carrying with it the notion that Latin American migrants to the United States were not merely hyphenated Europeans but products of mixed-race societies and cultures.</p> <p>Still, as Latino became the preferred choice of those who wanted to identify as multiracial, gender politics quickly emerged in the politics of labeling. As racial identity began intersecting with gender and sexual preference, Latino became ‘Latino/a,’ then ‘Latina/o’ to move the ‘o’ out of its privileged position. After the universalization of digital communication it briefly became ‘Latin@.’</p> <p>In the last few years the term Latinx has become popular among members of the LGBTQ community who wanted to dispense with gender identifiers in language—as witness the now-ubiquitous millennial practice of posting pronouns to be used when referring to an individual like ‘she/her,’ ‘him/her’ and ‘they/them.’</p> <p>When many of us first see the word in print, Latinx can seem strange and unpronounceable, but after closer inspection it appears liberating and futurist. Just as identifying as Latino represented an attempt to defy America’s black/white racial binary, Latinx defies conventional gender conformity by defying the male/female gender binary. As far as I know, Latinx is the first attempt by a racial and/or ethnic group to make a statement about emerging issues of gender identification.</p> <p>When political figures like Ocasio Cortez, González, and other emerging candidates like <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/julia-salazar-new-york-722616/">Julia Salazar</a> openly tout their multiple identifications alongside progressive policies, they are representing a new form of intersectional politics (Salazar recently won her Democratic Primary for State Senator in New York and identifies as Colombian and Jewish, though not without controversy). Pioneered by African American feminist projects led by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Smith#Combahee_River_Collective">Cohambee River Collective</a> in the 1970s and coined by legal scholar<strong> </strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberl%C3%A9_Williams_Crenshaw">Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw</a> as well as the Chicana “border thinking” feminism of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_E._Anzald%C3%BAa">Gloria Anzadúa</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherr%C3%ADe_Moraga">Cherrie Moraga</a>, intersectionalism seems like a fitting antidote to a political landscape in crisis over the conflict between neoliberalism and nativist authoritarianism.</p> <p>Even before the ascension of Trump, community organizers and street demonstrations were trying to promote a message that Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Movement and the Sanctuary Cities movement to protect the rights of the undocumented were intersecting causes that should be joined together. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that the demonstrations that were held at JFK airport in early 2017 against Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban were organized by a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups and featured a multiracial cross-section of New Yorkers.</p> <p>For Latin American descendants, multiracial identity is, to varying degrees, ‘cooked into’ their varying national cultures. <em>Raza, </em>the Spanish word for race, is often used to designate a collective identity that is itself a mixture of races. Prominent Mexican scholar <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Vasconcelos">José Vasconcelos</a>’ essay <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_raza_c%C3%B3smica">La Raza Cósmica</a> </em>tried to celebrate mixture as a path to transcendence beyond racism, but in many ways it only served to privilege European identity at the expense of indigenous culture.</p> <p>For many Latinx in the US, the harsh reality of the black-white racial binary they confront as immigrants is a wake-up call that in many cases reinforces their solidarity with their roots as marginalized people. This was manifested most clearly in the 1970s among Puerto Rican migrants in New York, whose embrace of African roots informed cultural and political movements, and in the West, where Mexican Americans came to identify as ‘Chicanos,’ a name derived from their indigenous ancestors in Mexico and the Southwestern USA.</p> <p>While dormant for much of the last 30 years, these new multicultural and intersectional forms of identity are gaining in prominence, and they represent a kind of synergy between people of color and white millennials whose dampened economic prospects have led them to embrace class politics. Much of Ocasio Cortez and Salazar’s support comes from neighborhoods in Queens with an increasing millennial demographic. The two women are both members of <a href="https://www.dsausa.org/">Democratic Socialists of America</a>, a group favored by politically-aware millennials which stresses class politics and socialist solutions to social problems.</p> <p>Yet the case of Latinx also argues against the supposed dichotomy between class-based politics and so-called identity politics. Much of the debate among progressives following the Trump election centered on whether Republicans were more successful in appealing to class-based politics through their critiques of free trade agreements and the loss of jobs overseas, as opposed to the Democrats’ perceived focus on identity politics rooted in Obama’s victory. Latinx and other marginalized groups are large constituencies that are affected by growing global inequality as much as, if not more than, the white working class.</p> <p>“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” says Ocasio-Cortez in her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez.html">now-famous campaign video</a> depicting her ties to working-class Bronx. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.” For <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-outfit-designer-criticism.html">all of the critique</a> recently leveled at her for posing in an <em>Interview</em> magazine photo shoot wearing thousands of dollars of designer clothing, Ocasio-Cortez is practicing the politics of recognition. She is asking to be recognized, not only as a woman of color—the &nbsp;object of both racial and sexual discrimination—but also as part of the struggling 99 per cent: central to her platform is an increase in the minimum wage, universal health care, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, confronting climate change and campaign-finance reform.</p> <p>It's this politics of recognition that Francis Fukuyama attacks in his new book, <em><a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374129293">Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment</a>. </em>For Fukuyama, the claim to difference, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, Osama Bin Laden or Vladimir Putin, is the ultimate threat to the new liberal order established by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. For him, this form of identity politics is a kind of misplaced passion somewhere between desire and reason.</p> <p>Latinx does represent something in between, a way of thinking that moves in and around borders, but on that journey it retains memories and moments of everywhere it travels. It’s a politics of recognition that not only brings to light the unrepresented and the marginalized, but also sees many forms of marginalization existing in one person. For that reason, the new politics it represents, defined by mulitiracial and multicultural awareness and inclusive of gender difference, is not the end of history but a new beginning.</p> <p><em>Ed Morales’ new book is <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2563-latinx">Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-Music/barretto_3302.jsp">Rice and beans with collard greens: the America of Ray Barretto, 1929-2006</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oliver-ward/what-hope-for-millennial-generation-in-politics">What hope for the millennial generation in politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ed Morales Trans-partisan politics Intersectionality Culture Activism Sun, 23 Sep 2018 19:13:47 +0000 Ed Morales 119763 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to barbershop therapy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/celeste-hamilton-dennis/welcome-to-barbershop-therapy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Barbers in the US South are training as first responders to assist men with their mental health concerns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CelesteDennis.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project, holds a barbershop talk in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Santanna Hayes for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Amid the sound of television and hair clippers buzzing around him at Goodfellas Barbershop in Little Rock, Arkansas, Lorenzo Lewis was trying to get a man wearing a mask to talk about his emotional pain.</p> <p>Lewis asked the man how he was doing. “I’m good, I’m good,” he responded. Lewis said how he’d noticed he seemed on edge recently. Same response. Lewis kept asking questions until the man eventually took off his mask. “I’m hurting,” he said. “I’m just really going through something right now.” When asked if he was feeling suicidal, the man nodded.</p> <p>Lewis is founder of The Confess Project, a mental health initiative for boys and men of color. His demonstration was attempting to show barbers and their clients how men hold in their pain—and how to break through.</p> <p>Why do it in a barbershop?</p> <p>The barbershop in the Black community has historically been a safe, nonjudgmental space for men to talk about anything—sports, politics, religion, women, manhood. The 90-minute conversations about mental health, called Beyond the Shop, are an opportunity to deepen sharing that is already happening, Lewis says. The initiative is similar to New York City-based Barbershop Books and the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in Inglewood, California, which focuses on hypertension prevention.</p> <p>Through an interactive format, Beyond the Shop aims not only to help Black boys and men confess their vulnerabilities and give them resources to begin a healthier way of living, but also to show barbers how they can be mental health advocates, too.</p> <p>“When you go to your barber, you’re trusting them with your prized possession—your hair,” says Goodfellas owner Matt Dillon. “So if you can trust and respect someone to do your hair, you can trust and respect them to help you with a problem.”</p> <p>For Black men, seeking help can be difficult, an effect of stigma that Beyond the Shop is hoping to erase.</p> <p>“At the barbershop, guys are already outspoken and opinionated, but we don’t tend to talk about self-care and the things that make sure we’re around for our kids and future generations,” says Sam Johnson, a Beyond the Shop participant in Louisville, Kentucky. “The biggest thing I took away was checking on my brothers. We’re so quick to say, ‘Man up,’ when I really should be asking more questions and letting him know that if he needs help, I’m here.”</p> <p>The numbers are telling: Black people&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931265/">more frequently have post-traumatic stress disorder&nbsp;</a>than other ethnic groups. Yet Black men are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db206.htm">less likely to get treatment&nbsp;</a>than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Alliance on Mental Illness. There’s a lack of mental health awareness. Disproportionate access to health care. Increased exposure to violence. Distrust and misdiagnosis due to the lack of culturally competent care.</p> <p>Lewis’ approach with Beyond the Shop is modeling vulnerability through storytelling. He draws empathy from his own story.</p> <p>Born in jail to an incarcerated mother, Lewis struggled with depression, anxiety, and anger throughout his youth. At 17, involved with a gang, he turned it around. Reaching out for support from family and friends was key, as was professional help. “I was in bad relationships, and not able to get along with others. I had a horrible time getting girlfriends, and when I did, I didn’t know how to treat them right because I’d been through so much trauma,” he told the men in Goodfellas. “I started realizing, maybe I need some therapy.”</p> <p>Since starting The Confess Project in 2016, he’s facilitated mental health awareness sessions for thousands around the country—from national universities and organizations, including NAMI, to local health fairs and high schools. He draws from his experience of working in behavioral health facilities in Little Rock for over a decade, where he underwent training in suicide prevention and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.</p> <p>At Goodfellas, the men were apprehensive at first about Lewis interrupting their haircuts. They didn’t know what to think of him—or the strange mask the man was wearing, to illustrate how men hide their emotions.</p> <p>But the men in the shop did start talking. One man spoke about the pain of being separated from his children and the stress of child support. Another admitted how he turned to unhealthy outlets to cope with working menial jobs. Heads nodded. In the next chair over, a man talked about the anger and fear that come with being pulled over by police. A common thread was how society treats Black men.</p> <p>“Our mental illness is criminalized. You take a person not of color that goes in and shoots up a school and automatically the response is, ‘He’s mentally ill.’ When a person of color does anything remotely like that, not that we even do, he’s a thug,” says Dr. Karen Mathis, psychotherapist in Little Rock. “But I think we would rather be labeled a thug than mentally ill. Why? Because it’s a sign of weakness. And we don’t want to appear weak.”</p> <p>Mental illness in the U.S. carries a stigma. For the Black community, especially for men, Lewis says, that stigma is manifold and gets in the way of asking for help.</p> <p>At the end of Beyond the Shop, along with holistic ideas for self-care and information on suicide prevention, Lewis provides information on local support groups and culturally competent therapists. Black mental health professionals make up only 2.6 percent of the field, according to the American Psychological Association. And therapy can also be a financial barrier for many.</p> <p>That’s where barbers step in.</p> <p>Barbers learn how to help the men in their chairs—from recognizing that lack of eye contact might be a sign of depression to being comfortable asking someone if they’re suicidal (this can be&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/suicideinamericafaq-508_149986.pdf">the best way to identify risk,&nbsp;</a>according to the National Institute of Mental Health). They can point to resources in the community.</p> <p>“I feel more able to help somebody,” says JJ Harness, owner of Broski Barbershop in Little Rock. “Now, once I see the hints they’re throwing out there that they need to talk, I’ll open the door up for discussion.”</p> <p>Increasingly, communities are starting to see the need to equip unlikely first responders to better recognize health concerns in the people they interact with on a daily basis. Librarians in Sacramento, California, for example, underwent “mental health first aid” training at the beginning of the year to be able to identify issues in the homeless people who come through their doors and point them to help. In&nbsp;<a href="http://dementiafriendlyduluth.org/">Duluth, Minnesota, a community-wide effort&nbsp;</a>trains everyone from neighbors to business owners to support people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Baristas double as mental health aides in a new coffee shop in Chicago that’s openly committed to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.</p> <p>Since the initial pilot in Little Rock, Lewis has taken Beyond the Shop to five other barbershops in cities across the South: Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta; and, most recently, New Orleans. Response to Beyond the Shop conversations overall has been positive. A survey of participants even showed 58 percent would be more prone to seek treatment if a therapist was located in the barbershop.</p> <p>In Louisville, a city that saw its&nbsp;<a href="http://wfpl.org/louisvilles-2017-homicide-count-ranks-among-highest-record/">highest ever homicide rates in the past two years</a>, 40 people, including the mayor, showed up at The Campus Barber Shop in January. Representatives from the Louisville Urban League and Metro United Way also came. Men openly shared their stories and offered each other advice.</p> <p>Shortly after the event, owner J. “Divine” Alexander went to a homeless shelter to volunteer his barber services. He met a man there who was without a job and feeling down. Alexander, who struggles with depression himself, has been more open with others since the talk. He gave the man a haircut and a beard trim and at the same time encouraged him to seek help. A few months later, the man came into his barbershop—employed and ready to become a regular.</p> <p>He credited Alexander for the turnaround. “He was like, ‘Yeah, man, it all started with a haircut and a conversation to do better.’”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-is-barbershop-therapy-20180823?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180824&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180824+CID_3e11412dfd3d4db3312c0612d55d6eca&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20Is%20Barbershop%20Therapy">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick">What happens when mental health professionals also get sick?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/penny-wangari-jones/how-to-decolonise-mental-health-services">How to decolonise mental health services</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system">We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Celeste Hamilton Dennis The politics of mental health Intersectionality Care Thu, 20 Sep 2018 16:13:57 +0000 Celeste Hamilton Dennis 119679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No, the existence of trans people doesn’t validate gender essentialism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kaylee-jakubowski/no-existence-of-trans-people-doesn-t-validate-gender-essentialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Finding the middle ground between our bodies and our cultural influences has always been a paramount idea in feminism—and the politics of transitioning are no different.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kaylee Jakubowski.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>Blue for boys; pink for girls. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/5712981936">Flickr/Michael Coghlan</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Originally published on <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/03/trans-people-gender-essentialism/?mc_cid=7acf0211e2&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p>By now, it should be no secret that&nbsp;<a title="10 Misconceptions Every Trans Ally Needs to Understand" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/misconceptions-trans-ally-understand/">allyship with trans people</a>&nbsp;is a core component to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/">intersectional feminist thought</a>. Yet there is still one question I consistently hear from well-intentioned friends and colleagues: “<em>Don’t trans people validate the idea that men and women must exist within certain societal roles? Doesn’t it perpetuate gender essentialism?</em>”</p> <p>This question—conjoined with the constant assault of doubt and skepticism aimed at the entire existence of trans identities—has likely haunted a fair share of politically conscious trans activists themselves at one point or another over the course of their transition.To answer this question, we’ll need to start by defining&nbsp;<a href="http://std.about.com/od/G-L/fl/What-is-gender-essentialism.htm" target="_blank">gender essentialism</a>.</p> <p>Gender essentialism is the idea that men and women have inherent, unique, and natural attributes that qualify them as their separate genders. These differences are often biological or sexual, and they are almost exclusively viewed as polar opposites: Men are strong, women are weak; men are dominant, women are submissive; men have penises, women have vulvas; men have a high sex drive, women constantly need convincing; and so on and so forth. Gross right?</p> <p>Moreover, gender essentialism fuses gender and sex to one another intrinsically. To someone promoting gender essentialism, gender and sex are identical. Naturally, growing a masculine-read body but being a woman (i.e. a trans woman) is a sheer impossibility. This is the reason why some see&nbsp;<a title="10 Things I Wished I’d Known When I Started My Transition" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/12/10-things-starting-transition/">transitioning</a>&nbsp;as a submission to essentialist thought: trans women and trans men are making their bodies more feminine or masculine, accordingly, and thus promoting this fusion of gender and sex. Right?</p> <p>Not exactly.&nbsp;This assertion isn’t as cut-and-dry as it might seem. In fact, it is absolutely possible to take a stance against gender essentialism and still continue to transition – or to support your Queer kin who are doing so.</p> <p><strong>Transition itself is non-essentialist.</strong></p> <p>As I mentioned above, two core parts of gender essentialist thought are the biological and sexual assumptions that go along with a person’s definition of what it means to be a man or a woman (<em>and being&nbsp;</em><a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/non-binary-people-portraits/"><em>neither of these</em></a><em>, of course, is right out of the question</em>).</p> <p>A common narrative that trans people express is that they aim to become their&nbsp;<em>“</em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/transgender-woman_n_1311562.html" target="_blank"><em>true selves</em></a><em>.”&nbsp;</em>However,&nbsp;striving to become one’s true self is not the same thing as the popular misconception that trans men or trans women are working to “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/magazine/when-women-become-men-at-wellesley-college.html" target="_blank"><em>become the opposite sex.</em></a>” The differences between these two are subtle, but important.</p> <p>The first description implies that they are&nbsp;<em>already</em>&nbsp;men, women, or non-binary and are searching for ways to&nbsp;<a title="Separating Out Gender Identity from Gender Expression" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/05/separating-identity-expression/">better express their reality</a>. The second implies that their identity is completely invalid&nbsp;<em>until</em>&nbsp;they alter their bodies.&nbsp;Right from the get-go, we’re subjected to a cissexist perspective on trans realities.</p> <p>Of course we’re going to believe that transitioning is inherently essentialist when the argument starts this way—because it has been inaccurately presented to us&nbsp;as&nbsp;<em>inherently </em>essentialist. The journey to become one’s “<em>true self</em>” frequently passes through many places.&nbsp;A common one involves the person freeing themselves from the gender expression expected of people with their body and adopting one that feels more natural. Another involves altering their body so that they can feel more comfortable in it, which allows them to reclaim it for themselves in the way that they see best fit.</p> <p>Both of these self-affirmations break apart the idea that the person is permanently and biologically tied to their gender,&nbsp;while still affirming their&nbsp;<a title="3 Ways to Respect Your Child’s Autonomy While Still Being a Parent" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/respecting-your-childs-autonomy/">right to be autonomous</a>&nbsp;over their own body and to alter it to their content. Transitioning is non-essentialist by its nature because it actively defies the idea that bodies need to or should operate in accordance with how they “<em>naturally</em>” operate. It denies the presumption that our bodies have a biological predestination and queers (<em>as opposed to maintains</em>) the social constructs surrounding gender and our bodies.</p> <p><strong>Trans people are diverse.</strong></p> <p>Another major reason why the “<em>transition-as-essentialist</em>” argument falls flat is because not every trans person is identical or wants the same things. A full body transition is not desired by every trans person. There are even major trans activists who promote the radical idea that&nbsp;<a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/zinnia-jones/2013/08/10-rules-for-managing-your-penis-when-youre-trans/" target="_blank">trans women can actually love the body they’re in</a>&nbsp;and don’t need to feel coerced to change themselves.</p> <p>Conversations between trans people about their bodies, the gendering of them, and the significance and political meaning of physical transition have been happening in Western culture for as long as two trans people have been talking to one another. In fact, trans people have been defying the gendered expectations of their bodies for at least as long.</p> <p>Furthermore,&nbsp;the argument that transitioning is inherently essentialist undermines the diversity that exists even within people who&nbsp;<em>are </em>transitioning.</p> <p>Butch trans women&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCxH0s0YtPU" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>Femme trans men&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO1TqUaLPZk" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>Transitioning agender and non-binary people&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJCdGw4g-vg" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>These expressions and identities, in and of themselves, subvert gender essentialist expectations by queering the binary constructs of gender, gender roles, and expectations.</p> <p>A person’s&nbsp;<a title="16 Myths About Gender Confirmation Surgery" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/gender-confirmation-surgery/" target="_blank">decision to change their body</a>—or advocating for increased autonomy so that they can—does not necessitate advocacy for a gender essentialist world. Just the opposite, it adds options and opportunity for people to exist in non-essentialist ways. It opens doors for people to express their genders and reclaim their bodies where they would otherwise feel trapped.</p> <p>Most importantly, it shows off the gender binary and the norm of arbitrarily gendering children for what these systems really are: broken as hell.</p> <p><strong>Well okay, maybe it’s a&nbsp;<em>little</em>&nbsp;essentialist.</strong></p> <p>I’ve spent the last two sections demonizing gender essentialism and showing how it is not the sole purpose for transitioning, and I stand by those arguments. Gender essentialism—in <em>the way I defined it above and the way that it’s understood throughout our society—is </em>a totally garbage concept that is largely to blame for much of the gender-based oppression within our culture.</p> <p>This is obvious just by looking at how our own identities differ from the social norms that exist around us. We alone dictate that gender essentialism simply&nbsp;<em>can’t&nbsp;</em>be natural law. Biologist and Queer-feminist activist&nbsp;<a href="http://juliaserano.com/" target="_blank">Julia Serano</a>&nbsp;talks about her own apprehensions toward gender essentialism in regards to her own identity in her book&nbsp;<a href="http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781580055048" target="_blank"><em>Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive</em></a>. She compares the nature-vs-nurture dichotomy first by showing the flaws in gender being recognized as only genetic:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“[I]f being genetically male automatically led to a male identity, masculine gender expression, and exclusive attraction to women, [then] how did I become a bisexual femme-tomboy transsexual woman?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Simply put, if gender essentialism were the rule, genderqueer identities just wouldn’t exist. The ills that gender essentialism has brought women and non-binary folx has led many of these people to embrace&nbsp;<em>gender artifactualism</em>, the understanding of gender as strictly a&nbsp;<a href="http://thefeministagenda.blogspot.com/2009/04/social-construction-of-gender.html" target="_blank">social construction</a>. After all, gender norms differ from culture to culture, and they certainly don’t accurately describe every person within our own culture, so they can’t be natural or inherent to us as humans. But Serano addresses an inconsistency with the idea that gender is exclusively a social phenomenon as well.</p> <p>She describes scenarios in which male children were reassigned as female (<em>after their&nbsp;“ambiguous”&nbsp;genitals or&nbsp;</em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer" target="_blank"><em>botched circumcisions</em></a><em>&nbsp;led doctors to mandate it for them</em>) grew up to be men or have “male-typical” traits, despite them being raised and socialized as girls. She also touches on how this gender artifactualism doesn’t coincide with her own gender reality, using a similar argument as above:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“[If] socialization artificially brainwashes all of us into becoming heterosexual masculine men and feminine women, then how do you explain the existence of fabulous bisexual femme-tomboy transsexual women such as myself?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Out of this conundrum, Serano concludes that there is only one explanation:&nbsp;Gender is neither essentialist&nbsp;<em>nor&nbsp;</em>artifactualist, but is&nbsp;<em>both&nbsp;</em>essentialist&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;artifactualist, each to some degree depending on the individual person.&nbsp;She refers to this concept as the&nbsp;<em>holistic model of gender</em>.</p> <p>So while neither our biology nor our socialization&nbsp;<em>exclusively&nbsp;</em>dictate who we will be and how we will identify, there is evidence that&nbsp;<em>both</em>&nbsp;of these influences simultaneously and convolutedly guide us toward one direction or another. (<em>This outcome should be unsurprising in a field of study that works to&nbsp;</em><a href="http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/gustafson/FILM%20165A.W11/film%20165A%5BW11%5D%20readings%20/Lorber.Beyond.pdf" target="_blank"><em>deny binaries and dichotomies</em></a>). From there, finding the comfort zone between self-affirmation and political idealism is up to the individual; not every trans person is an activist, after all.</p> <p>Gender essentialism is a tricky topic. On one hand, it’s been used to legitimize both sexism and trans-antagonism; on the other, evidence suggests that it might not be entirely unfounded for every person.</p> <p>Finding the middle ground between our bodies and our cultural influences has always been a paramount idea in feminism—and the politics of transitioning are no different. Advocating for and supporting transgender rights by acknowledging the diversity that exists within trans people is inherently non-essentialist, and opens more doors and opportunities for people to explore their genders and create a society that respects the full array of human experience.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/t-m-murray/why-are-religious-conservatives-embracing-transgender-rights">Why are religious conservatives embracing transgender rights? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist">How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trans* and non-binary genders Kaylee Jakubowski Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 23 Aug 2018 18:19:25 +0000 Kaylee Jakubowski 119233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Boris is wrong about the burka https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mathew-guest/why-boris-is-wrong-about-burka <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is more offensive—concealing your face or misleading the public?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MathewGuest2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Colien's Winter Burka. Credit: Flickr/<a title="Go to Eduard Bezembinder&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bezembinder/">Eduard Bezembinder</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Boris Johnson has become the latest in a long line of right-wing politicians to criticise Muslim women who wear the <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niq%C4%81b">niqab</a> </em>or<em> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa">burqa</a></em>. Writing in <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/05/denmark-has-got-wrong-yes-burka-oppressive-ridiculous-still/">his column for <em>The Telegraph</em></a>, Johnson mocked such women as looking&nbsp;“like letter boxes,” “bank robbers”&nbsp;and&nbsp;“absolutely ridiculous.” Despite calls for an apology from opponents and colleagues, at the time of writing Johnson remains unrepentant.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Perhaps we’ve come to expect tabloid jibes from Johnson, and his attempt to re-insert himself into the public eye after his resignation as foreign secretary is predictably clumsy. But what is arguably more alarming is his attempt to position himself as the voice of reason and moderate good sense.</p> <p class="Body">Across Europe and beyond, governments have passed legislation that bans the wearing of the <em>burqa</em> in public, and Johnson’s column focuses on the introduction of a new measure passed in Denmark. While Johnson warms to the assured individualism he finds amongst the Danes, he opposes an outright <em>burqa</em> ban as a step too far into strident secularism. He is uncomfortable with the regulation of religious dress in public, and is mindful of how such measures play into the hands of radicals. He is even gracious enough to affirm the rights of a ‘free born’ woman, ‘minding her own business,’ to be left to get on with her life unimpeded by a heavy handed state. Enter Boris the liberal…</p> <p class="Body">In case we were under any illusions that the former foreign secretary had finally seen the light and migrated to the centre ground, he expands on his perspective with a series of caveats. It seems there are limits to Johnson’s newfound ‘live and let live’ philosophy. Specifically, businesses and government agencies should be able to ‘enforce a dress code’ that obliges women to reveal their faces. He already feels ‘fully entitled’ to expect Muslim women to do the same at his constituency surgeries, and he supports the same approach within schools and universities.</p> <p class="Body">So Johnson is gracious enough not to call for a ban, but nevertheless feels entitled to expect women to behave according to his own understanding of&nbsp;“full disclosure.” As he says,&nbsp;“it’s how we work,”&nbsp;the implication being that ‘we’—presumably the British public—have ‘our’ customs and conventions, and minorities need to observe them in order that society can function properly. &nbsp;It all makes good, plain sense doesn’t it? No prejudice here, just a sincere call for everyone to play by the same rules (i.e. Boris’s rules).</p> <p class="xxxbody">We might reflect on the irony of such a mercurial and opportunist politician calling for more transparent expression in public life. In the opaque and fractious politics of Brexit, we have learnt that those who speak loudest, simplest and with bare-faced confidence are not necessarily those we should trust.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Johnson mirrors another pattern among right-wing commentators: he presumes to comment on women’s intentions on the basis of their clothing. We’re probably more familiar with the moral judgements that are often projected onto women in western garb, but what values are imputed to Muslim women wearing the <em>niqab</em>? No doubt they frustrate conventional expectations, and perhaps that’s why figures like Johnson find such women so problematic—they are too covered, too hidden, and therefore break the rules that inform the male sense of entitlement to see what lies beneath.</p> <p class="xxxbody">The many Muslim women who have been attacked on Britain’s streets know what this feels like, since a common act of violence is <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/man-tries-to-pull-off-muslim-womans-hijab-in-suspected-hate-crime-attack-10950692">to pull the veil or <em>hijab</em> from their faces</a>. This is why so much hate crime against Muslims is best understood as a form of misogyny. It is targeted against those women who most visibly transgress the prevailing assumptions about what the female form should look like, and who implicitly challenge the assumption that men should have an unimpeded view.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Johnson also assumes that wearing the face veil indicates an experience of oppression, alluding to the&nbsp;“weird and bullying”&nbsp;expectations of men. There is no acknowledgement that women may freely choose to wear the <em>niqab</em>, and no effort to find out why. Any religious meaning it may convey is lost behind Johnson’s faux liberalism.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Unfortunately, uncompromising criticism of the <em>niqab</em> is also found among some liberal and <a href="https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4199/why-feminists-should-oppose-the-burqa">feminist commentators</a>, whose western lens on human agency struggles to see such covering as anything other than <a href="https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/20/muslim-woman-veil-hijab">forced concealment</a>. In this view, the liberated self is exposed and, it is assumed, is therefore more honest, more forthcoming, more trusting—and in our own context, more British.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Those on the right may want to excuse Johnson as a voice of so-called&nbsp;‘common sense.’ After all, he rejects the need for an outright ban, thereby distancing himself from those European nations who have imposed punitive measures on their Muslim minorities, and preserving intact his Brexiteer credentials while rehearsing the myth of the great British compromise.&nbsp;Neither loony left nor hard right nor confused continental, his position is presented as a sensible middle way—laudable for avoiding extremes, an argument from practical sense that needs no further justfication.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> But this is why his comments are so dangerous: it is the unexamined cultural conventions that are often the most insidious carriers of prejudice and ignorance. By categorizing them as uncomplicated truths we abdicate our responsibility as citizens to question the norms by which we live, and risk overlooking the injustices that persist in our midst.</p> <p class="xxxbody">When uttered by an embodiment of that most British of clichés, the upper class eccentric, comments like Johnson’s slip neatly into a cluster of associations that together reinforce our most deep-seated and intractable habits of thought, as if Eton and Oxbridge had bestowed a special gift of sight on those socially-awkward elites who we both love and loathe. We don’t have to think about our British customs and presumptions because Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will do it for us. Except that they won’t—they’ll just keep us cosy in our habits by telling us that all is well; we’re British after all.</p> <p class="Body">This is unsettling not just because of the platform Johnson enjoys, but because it is a habit of thought that achieves new plausibility within our Brexit-obsessed context. The underlying message is not just that Muslim women who wear the <em>burqa </em>are veering wide of the true British way, but that the nativist narrative that excludes them is essentially benign and obvious. It is an expression of the age old Tory conceit that to be a Conservative has nothing to do with ideology, and everything to do with good, pragmatic sense.</p> <p class="Body">With such confusion about the labyrinthine complexities of Brexit there’s an understandable attraction to plain speaking, and to the idea that cultural problems are easily solved with a little of the good sense we all possess. But behind this apparent democratisation of wisdom lies a more malign populism, one whose story is deceptively simple yet is quietly fierce in its defence of our narrowest boundaries.&nbsp;</p> <p class="xxxbody">The reactionary perspective affirmed by Johnson states that those who cover their faces aren’t just suspect; they aren’t playing the game. They are out of step culturally speaking, and so, in an important sense they don’t belong. They isolate themselves by concealing their faces from us, and this is a most unBritish practice.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Face-veiling elicits a curiously passionate counter-response, as though it indicates a strategy of deceit. Somehow, concealing one’s face is presented as more offensive than concealing one’s intentions, ambitions and moral shortcomings, more offensive even than misleading the public. Johnson needs to take a look in the mirror the next time he considers opining on the British tradition of honest speaking. He may find the problems of concealment lie much closer to home.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anisur-rahman/should-britain-consider-banning-burqa-and-niqab">Should Britain consider banning burqa and niqab?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/val%C3%A9rie-hartwich/dangers-of-burqa-ban">The dangers of a burqa ban</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mathew-guest/can-universities-still-provide-transformative-experience">Can universities still provide a transformative experience?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Mathew Guest Love and Spirituality Intersectionality Culture Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:09:35 +0000 Mathew Guest 119176 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Real gender equality includes femininity (and the color pink) https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/anne-th-riault/real-gender-equality-includes-femininity-and-color-pink <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As feminist parents we tell ourselves that we’re trying to break down the gender binary, but what’s wrong with skirts and baby dolls?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AnnTheriault.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The message that we consistently send out is that in order to achieve any kind of significant career goals, girls need to adopt traits that are typically associated with masculinity. Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p> <p>A few months ago, my 4-year-old son went to a classmate’s birthday. The party was superhero-themed and the loot bags were packed with cute little superhero trinkets, including temporary tattoos. One little girl, let’s call her Izzy, put hers on immediately.</p> <p>“LOOK,” Izzy yelled, running up to everyone in turn. “IRON MAN. SO COOL.”</p> <p>The other children and parents in attendance oohed and aahed over her forearm. Every single one of them showed their admiration and approval for her Iron Man tattoo.</p> <p>Later, as we parents were watching our cake-smeared kids run around in a sugar-induced frenzy, one of the other mothers turned to me and said, “Isn’t it funny that [your son] loves My Little Pony so much? I mean, he’s&nbsp;<em>such</em>&nbsp;a boy.”</p> <p>Not really knowing how to answer, I said, “I don’t think it’s funny. It’s a good show.”</p> <p>“Oh, sure,” she said. “It’s just that it’s so&nbsp;<em>girly</em>.”</p> <p>I’ve been thinking a lot about this episode, along with all the other weird remarks people have made about my kid’s love for all things Rainbow Dash. I’ve especially been thinking about them since reading sailor mercury’s wonderful post&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/@sailorhg/coding-like-a-girl-595b90791cce">Coding Like a Girl&nbsp;</a>on Medium. I’ve also been contemplating my own internal biases about women and how I view them within existing power structures. And while I know that I’m not saying anything huge or revolutionary here, I’m still going to go ahead and put it out there: We live in a culture that simultaneously claims to embrace the equality of men and women and at the same time seriously devalues femininity.</p> <p>Little girls are, for the most part, taught that women can be anything. This is a message that we try to instill in them from day one. However, what they aren’t taught is that people who dress, think, or act in a traditionally feminine manner can be anything. The message that we consistently send out is that in order to achieve any kind of significant career goals, girls need to adopt traits that are typically associated with masculinity. Like, sure you can be a girl and write code, but you can’t write code while wearing a dress. You can chair a meeting, but not while wearing sparkly hair clips. You can repair a bicycle, but not while wearing lipstick. Everyone knows that lipstick prevents people from being competent.</p> <p>The flip side of all of this is that we shame any boys (and, to a certain extent, girls) who participate in activities or behaviors that are seen as being more “feminine.” I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve seen who think they’ve somehow failed at feminism because their daughters like lace and Barbie dolls; it’s much rarer to see the parent of a boy upset because his love of Batman and Star Wars doesn’t sufficiently challenge gender roles.</p> <p>This devaluation of femininity is why everyone was fine with Izzy’s Iron Man tattoo but balked at my son’s appreciation of My Little Pony. It’s less about enforcing rigidly defined gender roles on boys and girls and more about straight-up misogyny. Anything regarded as “feminine” is still seen by men and women alike as occupying a lower status.</p> <p>We see the devaluation of femininity play out in tons of different ways. For example, as sailor mercury mentions in her post, there’s the whole trope of “you throw/run/play like a girl,” not to mention the fact that “girl” is routinely used as an insult among boys and men. Women are advised to tone down their femininity—less ruffles, less makeup, less flashy jewelry, more dark suits with clean lines—if they want to be taken seriously at their jobs. And while the backlash against the hyper-gendering of little girls—the ubiquity of princess culture, puffy skirts, and a color palette that veers strongly toward pink—is very much needed, there is occasionally an anti-femme tone that creeps into the discourse.</p> <p>The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with pastel colors or fluffy little tutus; problems arise when we use these things to push certain gender expectations on girls. For example, Amazon sells a “<a href="http://www.amazon.ca/Fre-Childrens-Educational-Simulation-Medicine/dp/B00NMAR78I/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1426779423&amp;sr=8-7&amp;keywords=doctor+play+set">medical kit</a>”&nbsp;that comes in shades of pink and mauve, which is super sucky on one level because it sends the not-so-subtle message that girls need some kind of special girl equipment in order to be girl doctors. But on another level, there is nothing objectively wrong with a pink stethoscope. When people ask, “Why can’t girls just play with a regular doctor kit?” I always wonder why the pink kit can’t be the “regular” kit? I mean, I&nbsp;<em>know</em>&nbsp;why, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the more masculine-leaning version of any given toy being hailed as the status quo, while the feminine version is pooh-poohed as being silly and unnecessary.</p> <p>Gender equality doesn’t mean that everything has to be androgynous. It means that all the girly things we’ve been taught to have such disdain for should be seen as being just as good as all the masculine stuff we self-described patriarchy-hating folks continue to embrace. The way forward isn’t to teach girls to be more like boys—that’s just the same old patriarchal shit of privileging masculinity over femininity. Instead, we should be teaching&nbsp;<em>all</em>&nbsp;kids that wearing skirts and loving pink and wanting cuddly baby dolls are totally cool and fine ways to be. There’s nothing inherently bad about being femme; problems arise when we try to enforce femininity on people as a means of oppression.</p> <p>We feminists tell ourselves that we’re trying to break down the gender binary, which is, for sure, an admirable idea that should be tackled with enthusiasm. But as we move toward viewing gender as more of a spectrum, we need to make sure that spectrum includes the color pink.</p> <p><em>This article by Anne Thériault originally appeared on&nbsp;<a href="https://ravishly.com/2015/03/20/why-we-need-stop-devaluing-femininity" target="_self">Ravishly</a>&nbsp;and was republished with permission in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/real-gender-equality-includes-femininity-and-the-color-pink-20180613?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180615&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180615+CID_cd0e50d8ab948866c92e475c998fd3bd&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Real%20Gender%20Equali">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/please-call-me-they">Please call me they</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/k-and-robot-hugs/what-if-we-thought-of-gender-like-ice-cream">What if we thought of gender like ice cream? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Anne Thériault Liberation Intersectionality Culture Thu, 19 Jul 2018 20:45:05 +0000 Anne Thériault 118782 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Motherhood and an end to women’s civil war https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/niki-seth-smith/motherhood-and-end-to-women-s-civil-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Maternal ambivalence has always been provocative: a review of Sheila Heti’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NikiSethSmith5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Doors, choices, decisions. Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/doors-choices-choose-decision-1767562/">Pixabay/qimono</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Sheila Heti’s <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1098254/motherhood/">‘Motherhood’</a> came out in May, not a day too soon for me. Her book is something I urgently needed to read, a novel drawn from life and a kind of fictionalized diary that allows Heti to interrogate the question, ‘Should I become a mother?’</p> <p>Her answer is ‘no,’ she will not. Or given that Heti inverts the question, seeing it as a positive choice: ‘yes,’ she will remain childfree. Although the book doesn’t use this term, <em>freedom</em> is an idea to which it keeps returning.</p> <p>The narrator calls writing the book a “prophylactic” or a “raft” to get her to the other side of 40, an age Heti reached while finishing the manuscript. The reading experience is often maddening, like watching a mouse scurry around in a trap.</p> <p>&nbsp;“On the one hand, the joy of children,” she writes, “On the other hand, the misery of them. On the one hand, the freedom of not having children. On the other hand, the loss of never having had them…”</p> <p>As in Heti’s breakthrough work <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/11/sheila-heti-how-should-person-be">‘How Should a Person Be?’</a> much of ‘Motherhood’ consists of recounted conversations with friends and family as the narrator seeks direction from anyone and everyone in her life. In offbeat injections that brighten the prose she also consults ‘the coins’ (a flipping method adapted from the I-Ching), producing exchanges in which we are tempted to find meaning, at turns comic and profound.</p> <blockquote><p>“Are these women punished? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>By not experiencing the mystery and joy?</p><p><em>Yes</em><em></em></p><p>In any other way? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>By not passing on their genes? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>But I don't care about passing on my genes! Can't one pass on one’s genes through art? </p><p><em>Yes</em><em></em></p><p>Do men who don't procreate receive punishment from the universe?<br /> <em>No”</em></p></blockquote> <p>There’s a note at the beginning of the book explaining that the coin results are real. This is typical of Heti’s irreverent approach to philosophy, allowing her to both poke fun at and acknowledge the desire for a spiritual destiny or guide.</p> <p>This constant self-seeking has led Heti to be <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/25/true-lives-2">accused</a> of narcissism. A <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2018/04/never-done/3/">caustic review</a> of ‘Motherhood’ in Harpers Magazine went even further, denouncing the book as “existential solipsism.” The reviewer, Christine Smallwood, doesn’t seem to acknowledge the echo of an accusation that’s levelled at all non-mothers—that&nbsp; they are ‘selfish, shallow and self-absorbed,’ which turns out to be the title of a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/books/review/selfish-shallow-and-self-absorbed-sixteen-writers-on-the-decision-not-to-have-kids.html">recent collection of essays</a> from 16 writers on their decision not to have kids (three are childless men but there’s an acknowledgment that women come in for greater social punishment).</p> <p>Maternal ambivalence has always been provocative. Rachel Cusk’s 2001 memoir ‘A Life’s Work’ <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/21/biography.women">led to a vicious backlash</a>, including accusations similar to those levelled at Heti that she was a “self-obsessed bore” and overly-intellectual (Smallwood says Heti is “only interested in abstraction”). If doubting one’s own choice to be a mother is taboo, dwelling on the decision is <em>verboten</em>. At a recent <a href="https://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk/events/past/2018/5/motherhood-sheila-heti-and-sally-rooney">London Review of Books event</a> the host asked Heti how it felt to “write into the void.” Heti confessed that she’d struggled to find any books on which to build.</p> <p>That’s why I’m grateful that ‘Motherhood’ exists. Yes, the book has tunnel vision: it never looks far beyond the particular perspective of a Canadian woman with Hungarian Jewish heritage who belongs to a charmed circle of writers, yet it never pretends to try. Rather, it’s a book of pillow fears, drenched in the night sweats of the moments when we’re terribly alone with ourselves.</p> <p>While Heti is attempting to exit the long phase of life shadowed by the 'Big Decision', at the age of 32 I’m still at the threshold. The dismay and surprise I’ve already encountered from family, friends and even medical professionals has dismayed and surprised me. “But you’ll make a great mother!” “You don’t want to leave it too late and miss out.” My mother’s initial response was, “People shouldn’t think about it too much”.</p> <p>Likewise, Heti’s narrator wonders if she should simply obey her impulses. “Does the lizard brain trick the body into singing its ancient song?” Yet she finally follows another urge, also located deep in the psyche, to remain without children.&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of childless women is rising. In 2016, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/childless-women-on-rise-more-than-ever-before-fertility-crisis-menopause-career-study-reveals-a7882496.html">17 per cent of women in England and Wales</a> over child-bearing age (defined as 45) didn’t have kids. That’s nearly twice as many as the last generation and is a trend that’s <a href="https://www.economist.com/international/2017/07/27/the-rise-of-childlessness">reflected across Europe</a>. Yet the demand to justify one’s position, and the increasing media visibility of ‘<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/childfree-by-choice">childfree by choice</a>’ or ‘voluntarily childless’ as a growing identity, means that we usually hear from women only after they have made the decision. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Why+I+Don%2527t+want+kids">‘Why I don’t want kids’</a> YouTube videos are now practically a genre of their own—fierce , fun, feminist and 110 per cent sure.&nbsp;</p> <p>Young women like me are urged to choose a side in what one of the voices in ‘Motherhood’ calls a “civil war.” Even Heti, making up her mind, clearly feels that she is on the frontlines. Many of the book’s descriptions of mothering radiate admiring wonder yet often veil a violent rage, as in the narrator’s reaction to the constant news of her friends’ pregnancies. “There are craters, all around, and no home is safe enough not to be pummeled to dust by these blessings, by these bits of stardust, these thousand-pound babies aimed straight at the earth.”</p> <p>The pressure to decide on a role, and then to play it convincingly, is also in the theme of ‘trying on’ lives, as the narrator does with her friend Nicola, who is described as a “respectable” mother with three kids, a marriage and a house. The narrator finally rejects this life. “I realized that my fantasies were misplaced—they wormed inside me like a disease.” “Look at her life like a beautiful ocean liner, a grand old steam liner passing by…”</p> <p>This dismissal is horribly dehumanizing, as is the image of the worm. No mother’s life is a pleasure cruise. This is recognized as the poison of rivalry later in the book: “…one person’s life is not a political or general statement about how all lives should be,” the narrator admits. She shouldn’t feel superior <em>or</em> ashamed.</p> <p>‘Motherhood’ could just as well have been titled, ‘How should a woman be?’ The drive to pose this question, and the struggle to resist it, is the primary tension in Heti’s work. No wonder it raises hackles. Only the privileged have the luxury to reach for the ‘best kind of life,’ just as the vast majority of women in the world have never had the choice not to bear children.</p> <p>Yet this doesn’t make ‘Motherhood’ apolitical. It is precisely this oppressive edict—to embody the one true perfect woman—that&nbsp; exposes womanhood itself as a fraught and impossible performance beset by contradictory pressures. Being childfree is a threat to this illusion by rejecting the drive for success. “What if I pursue being a bad woman and don’t breed…” the narrator considers. “Only in the pursuit of failure can a person really be free.”</p> <p>Where ‘Motherhood’ disappoints is in failing to acknowledge the same psychic oppression that is at work on mothers themselves. If childless women are seen as failures, so too are women with kids. As <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/mind/why-being-the-perfect-parent-can-be-bad-for-your-health/">various studies</a> have shown, reaching for the modern holy grail of ‘perfect parenthood’ is a rigged game. The feminist socialist Angela McRobbie <a href="https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-353212615/feminism-the-family-and-the-new-mediated-maternalism">has described</a> a "neoliberal intensification of mothering," particularly since the financial crash. As state support is stripped away, more responsibility is piled on women to be ideal mothers, workers and wives: they have already failed before they begin.</p> <p>Jacqueline Rose takes this further in her latest work, ‘<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35406477-mothers">Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty.’</a> Drawing on diverse philosophical, literary and cultural sources including Ancient Greek medical lore, Elena Ferrante's <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26828169-the-neapolitan-novels">Neapolitan novels</a> and post-natal depression in South Africa, the book argues that mothers have long been held accountable for the suffering of the world. “Motherhood is, in Western discourse, the place in our culture where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts, of what it means to be fully human,” she writes. In other words, mothers are the “ultimate scapegoats.”</p> <p>As Rose goes to great lengths to show, mothers, just like childless women, are always perceived both as threats and failures. In this she builds on Adrienne Rich’s ‘<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/305826.Of_Woman_Born">Of Woman Born: ‘Motherhood’ as Experience and Institution’</a>, a pioneering work of second-wave feminism which agued that “there is much to suggest that the male mind has always been haunted by the force of the idea of dependence on a woman for life itself.”&nbsp;Women have the ultimate power: to bring life into the world, or not. Therein lies the threat. The fight for control over women’s bodies will be lost for good if women decide not to breed.</p> <p>So who bears the heaviest cross—the outcast witch or the always-inadequate mother? This, of course, is the wrong question. Both camps are under siege, and as so often under patriarchy, they are conveniently turned against each other. We don’t even possess a neutral language. Whether we use ‘childless’ (implying defectiveness) or ‘childfree’ (implying that mothers are ‘unfree’) is just one of the many battle-lines. By getting lost in the fray and exposing the bitterness and sorrow of division, Heti’s book can be read as an urgent missive to lay down arms.</p> <p>There has never been a better moment to acknowledge that neither position is ‘natural,’ and to accept <a href="https://philosophynow.org/issues/69/Becoming_A_Woman_Simone_de_Beauvoir_on_Female_Embodiment">Simone De Beauvoir’s classic statement</a> on the realities of self-construction: “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” It’s not only the rising number of childless women; it’s also the growth of different kinds of mothering through the increased use of reproductive technologies like IVF that’s used by lesbian couples to <a href="http://helloflo.com/the-rise-of-shared-motherhood-in-lesbian-couples/">share motherhood</a>. There’s an ongoing struggle for the rights of queer bodies to use this tech, as well as a class and racial divide due to its expense. Yet the possibilities give new meaning to the question, ‘Will I make a good mother?’</p> <p>I, for one, am undecided. ‘Motherhood’ is also a raft for me in entering these turbid waters. Heti doesn’t touch on some of my most vital concerns. For a book published in the Trump era, it doesn’t waste many words considering what kind of future might be bequeathed to the next generation. If I listen to my animal instincts, they are telling me to direct all my powers, such as they are, towards protecting the good that is already in the world. Practically, financially, and in deeper terms of emotional energy, I am not sure I can also have children.</p> <p>There is much more to say, yet Heti is brave to have opened the door. ‘Motherhood’ is a gesture towards honesty, bringing much that was dark into light. The book makes it more possible to <em>think</em> the decision, but also to dream, embody and feel it. And that’s what I intend to do. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/we-don-t-have-to-be-related-to-be-family">We don’t have to be related to be a family</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/emily-rowland/i-want-to-talk-about-my-miscarriage">I want to talk about my miscarriage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/niki-seth-smith/romantic-love-agent-of-change-0">Romantic love: an agent of change? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Niki Seth-Smith Liberation Intersectionality Care Sun, 08 Jul 2018 18:48:29 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 118732 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why criticisms of identity politics sound ridiculous to me https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sincere-kirabo/why-criticisms-of-identity-politics-sound-ridiculous-to-me <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sincerekirabo.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March, Pittsburgh East Liberty Women's March 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nosuchuser/32328714031">Flickr/feral godmother</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</span><span></span></p> <p>I&nbsp;remember the first time I was called a nigger.</p> <p>I was in the 4th grade. I remember being in a classroom, joking with a friend (a white girl) and calling her a nincompoop. She looked to me, her smile melting into a look of contempt, and replied, “You’re wrong…<em>you’re</em>&nbsp;the nigger.”</p> <p>She had obviously misheard me, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about yet I understood, on a visceral level, the underlying message and how it made me feel: small, ugly…&nbsp;<em>less than</em>.</p> <p>Since that unwitting attempt to “put me in my place,” I’ve endured countless scenarios — sometimes casual, sometimes hostile—that made me feel one or more of those things throughout my life, a consequence of navigating a white-dominated society with an anti-black value system woven into the tapestry of its white-oriented culture.</p> <p>The thing is, I’m not just Black: I’m also an&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/12/struggles-atheists-understand/" target="_blank">atheist</a>. While far more benign compared to anti-blackness, being an atheist tacks on a more uncommon layer of prejudice that I contend with given our Christian hegemonic society, even within the Black community. Since most are reared in a social environment that constantly encourages and reinforces some type of religious or theistic belief, many view these normative ideas as being identical to truth.</p> <p>This view results in thinking something traumatic must have happened to those who reject these normative beliefs, or that they must hate god (which is&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misotheism" target="_blank">misotheism</a>,&nbsp;<em>not</em>&nbsp;atheism), or that there must be something wrong with them mentally—because, somehow, we’ve been conditioned to believe that no sane individual would reject the idea of an invisible yet omnipresent supernatural being we’ve never seen and are only familiar with through primitive stories and hearsay.</p> <p>But I’m not just an atheist. I must deal with a wide range of animus, fear, bias, ignorance, microaggressions, alienation, and erasure reserved not just for atheists, and not just for Blacks, but for the intersection of blackness and atheism. I’ll always be an outspoken atheist as well as&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/06/respectability-politics/" target="_blank">unapologetically Black</a>&nbsp;(that is, I despise&nbsp;<a href="http://bigthink.com/alicia-wallace/everyday-respectability-politics" target="_blank">respectability politics</a>, readily speak to the real-lived texture of Black life, and choose to not diminish issues disproportionately impacting Black America).</p> <p>Those who suggest I ignore either of these essential pieces of my being, depending on which space I occupy, are really asking me to deny who I am for their comfort and their allegiance to social norms declaring those aspects of my identity matter less. Being a Black atheist within white-centered atheist spaces that satiate the concerns and interests of white atheists really helped me realize the importance of the questions, “<em>Who’s being left out—and why</em>?”</p> <p>Thinking deeply about this also helped shape my appreciation of the ways I hold many social advantages as an able-bodied,&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/straight-allies-lgbtqia-spaces/" target="_blank">cisgender</a>, heterosexual male in a society that confers a surplus of meaning to those occupying these identities while delegitimizing the humanity of those who do not. So, for me, the reason why intersectionality is vital is apparent: it’s both a metaphor and frame of understanding that acknowledges multiple “avenues” of prejudice and marginalization exist, and that these “avenues” intersect.</p> <p><a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/intersectionality-anti-black/" target="_blank">Intersectionality</a>&nbsp;reminds us to consider how we are all impacted differently due to the complex, intersecting nature of social power dynamics. Still, there remain many who disparage or otherwise question the need for intersectionality. This usually happens for three reasons.</p> <p><strong>1. Naysayers don’t understand identity or its impact on our shared social&nbsp;reality.</strong></p> <p>There are many assumptions we take for granted when it comes to identity and the patterned social arrangements of society. Before speaking further about the significance of an intersectional analysis, it’s necessary to unpack some fundamentals of what identity does and does not entail.</p> <p>Identities&nbsp;<em>are</em>&nbsp;systematized descriptors that reference objective and causally relevant characteristics of a shared reality.</p> <p>Identities&nbsp;<em>are</em>&nbsp;based on specific cultural contexts, social histories, and lived experiences.</p> <p>Identities&nbsp;<em>are</em>&nbsp;the conditional products of social interaction and social institutions, subject to occupying particular locations within time, social space, and historical communities.</p> <p>Identities&nbsp;<em>are not</em>&nbsp;an attempt to reduce an entire group to an essential, coherent monolith. To share an identity with others is to share in only one facet of a multifaceted reality. There is no contradiction between identifying with specific social groups and being a complex, unique individual.</p> <p>When discussing common identity—separate from individual identity—we’re describing what’s imposed on us by an established history of social standards, stratification, controlling images, and stereotypes.</p> <p>To affirm that we have an identity, or to state that we’re a part of a particular identity group, is to simply agree that we have a location in social space informed by the interlocking social structures we inhabit.</p> <p>It’s necessary to increase awareness regarding the ways in which this complicated social reality impacts people differently if we want to build a society where the most vulnerable among us are recognized and listened to in hopes of alleviating (and ultimately,&nbsp;<em>eliminating</em>) their vulnerable status.</p> <p>This is why Kimberlé Crenshaw, scholar and civil rights activist who coined the term intersectionality,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/?utm_term=.80f6258e582c" target="_blank">once described intersectionality</a>&nbsp;as being “an analytic sensibility” and “a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could" target="_blank">She’s also articulated how intersectionality helps us</a>&nbsp;increase attentiveness to identity-based “blind spots” when it comes to aspects of unequal social power dynamics we don’t ourselves experience.</p> <p><strong>2. Naysayers associate intersectionality with their favorite bogey monster: “identity politics.”</strong></p> <p>The phrase “identity politics” is merely a pejorative blanket term that invokes a variety of ambiguous, cherry-picked ideas of political failings.</p> <p>Declaring something is “identity politics” is often a measure taken to trivialize identity-based issues that make many members of dominant social groups uncomfortable (e.g., Black Lives Matter critiquing anti-black racism, feminists critiquing sexism, LGBTQ activists critiquing cis-heteronormativity, etc.).</p> <p>Basically, “identity politics” is used as an expression to identify political deviance — to describe political actions defying imbalanced political structures we’ve been conditioned to accept.</p> <p>What’s ironic is politics are unavoidably connected to identity&nbsp;<em>for everyone</em>. Who and what we are is rooted in our identities. Identities are forged by socio-historical context, and they directly impact&nbsp;<em>interpellation</em>&nbsp;(the means by which we encounter our culture’s values and internalize them) as well as our lived experiences. Experiences correlate with identity to provide both an epistemic&nbsp;<em>and a political</em>&nbsp;basis for interpreting the world we exist in.</p> <p>Consider&nbsp;<em>white-centeredness</em>, a deeply-rooted cultural feature of this nation. The term “white-centeredness” describes the centrality of white representation that permeates every facet of dominant culture. This representation upholds as “normal” the ubiquity of language, ideas, values, social mores, and worldviews established by the white perspective.</p> <p>White-centeredness standardizes whiteness. This standardization saturates what we refer to as the “status quo.” The maintenance of this social order&nbsp;<em>is&nbsp;</em>white identity politics, as engaging in political activities to preserve these ideas and structures demands prioritizing the collective interests of white America.</p> <p>The thing is, nobody distinguishes political motivations, political judgments, or political maneuvering that enshrines white-centeredness as being white identity politics. Instead, white identity politics go “undetected,” as we’re socialized to regard the sustaining of dominant culture as “what is expected” or “the way things&nbsp;<em>ought</em>&nbsp;to be.”</p> <p><a href="https://othersociologist.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos</a>, a sociologist with Swinburne University, echoes this sentiment, stating:</p> <p>If the phrase has any value at all—and it really doesn’t—“identity politics” calls attention to the ways that people from majority groups, especially White people, do not “see” how their identities are governed by politics.</p> <p>This is how Whiteness works: White culture is embedded into all fields of public life, from education, to the media, to science, to religion and beyond. White culture is constructed as the norm, so it becomes the taken-for-granted ideal with which other cultures are judged against by White people.</p> <p>Hence, White people do not recognise how their race shapes their understanding of politics, and their relationships with minority groups.</p> <p>It shouldn’t be surprising that those who occupy positions of social dominance seek to discredit identity politics wielded by those with restricted social power.</p> <p>They’ll refer to it as “divisive” or “tribalism,” neglecting the fact that the political activism they belittle is&nbsp;<em>in response to&nbsp;</em>pre-existing social divisions situating certain social groups (<em>tribes</em>) with greater sociopolitical power at the expense of subordinating other social groups.</p> <p>They’ll go to great lengths to invalidate missions for increased social and political power by those from&nbsp;<em>marginalized social groups</em>—communities systematically disenfranchised in ways that restrict access to resources, rights, or opportunities made fully available to other social groups.</p> <p>In other words, the term “identity politics” is typically employed as a linguistic Trojan horse to stigmatize campaigns for civil rights.</p> <p>In 1977, a Black feminist lesbian organization known as the&nbsp;<a href="http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html" target="_blank">Combahee River Collective issued a statement</a>&nbsp;that may be considered the historical genesis of explicit identity politics. In it, the group expresses the relevance of identity to politics and how shared aspects of identity produces solidarity when confronting unique forms of oppression that target specific identities.</p> <p>The group was formed after issues related to their particular life circumstances were continually disregarded due to pervasive heterosexism, erasure within the&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/04/white-feminism-womens-march/" target="_blank">white-dominated women’s movement</a>, and erasure within the male-dominated Black liberation movement.</p> <p>For marginalized social groups, what is perceived as explicit identity politics is a challenge to status quo, and used as a means of seeking increased sociopolitical power currently not being distributed in an equal or just manner. This form of political engagement—which emphasizes issues and perspectives relevant to shared aspects of an identity— erves to address social ills that disproportionately impact the lives of marginalized social groups in clear and specific ways.</p> <p>A laser focus on matters related to our own social positions breeds insularity and complacency, obstructing our emotional and intellectual connection to disparate social realities we don’t experience. This is why we need intersectionality—to challenge and expand that narrowed focus.</p> <p>Speaking to how intersectionality forces us to move beyond more simplistic notions of complex social matters, Zevallos says:</p> <p>Intersectionality is not about “identity politics,” a term used to denigrate minorities’ contributions to activism, academia and other public discussions. Intersectionality is a framework used to illustrate how systems of discrimination are interconnected.</p> <p>Black women struggled against industrial relations law as they experience co-occurring incidents of racism and sexism in the workplace. The law puts Black women into a tricky position by forcing them to focus workplace complaints in either the area of race discrimination or gender discrimination.</p> <p>Professor Crenshaw’s use of intersectionality shines a light on how existing processes act as if individuals belong to discrete groups, when, in fact, Black women face multiple inequalities at the same time. Over the decades, theorists, including Professor Crenshaw, have further developed intersectionality to show how other relations of power structure inequality.</p> <p>For example, a Black woman activist at a Black Lives Matter protest unfortunately could not expect the police to protect her safety, as we have seen all over the world — <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/was-the-womens-march-just-another-display-of-white-privilege-some-think-so/2017/01/24/00bbdcca-e1a0-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?utm_term=.37865a981d5a" target="_blank">while a White woman activist at a Women’s March protest</a>&nbsp;can expect the police to provide a peaceful environment for her to march across the city. Race offers a buffer for one gender group (White women), but not another (Black women); hence, interconnections of race, gender and other forms of disadvantage require concurrent attention.</p> <p><strong>3. Naysayers don’t want seismic social&nbsp;change.</strong><strong></strong></p> <p>Many people simply don’t want radical social progress, or significant societal changes that would create a more inclusive social order, as this requires casting asunder oppressive ideas and systems codified into the status quo that dominant social groups benefit from.</p> <p>When you’re socially and politically exempt from&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/11/white-americans-dont-face-racism/" target="_blank">systemic inequality</a>, it isn’t unusual to focus on matters that relate more to your vantage point and to greet treating matters that decenter your purview with indifference, defensiveness, bewilderment, or hostility.</p> <p>Editor at Large of&nbsp;<em>The Establishment</em>&nbsp;Ijeoma Oluo, who spoke to this tendency in her article&nbsp;<a href="https://theestablishment.co/thank-god-for-identity-politics-fba03f73be43" target="_blank"><em>Thank God For Identity Politics</em></a>, describes those who take issue with intersectionality as “people who are threatened because they see intersectionality as something that is forcing them to change, to see themselves as something other than the aggrieved party.”</p> <p>This brings to mind the recent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. No, it wasn’t a “We Hate Intersectionality” protest, but it damn sure was a flagrant display of white folks&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/charlottesville-videos/?utm_term=.4d676a3c9f7c" target="_blank">espousing exclusionary beliefs</a>&nbsp;(e.g., chanting “You will not replace us,” parading KKK and neo-Nazi symbols) and expressing dissatisfaction with steps toward social progress: removing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/take-the-statues-down/536727/" target="_blank">monuments commemorating white supremacy</a>.</p> <p>Despite being white and existing within a white-dominated society steeped in a white-centered culture, both the protestors and their sympathizers are unable to see themselves as anything other than “victims” of a changing world gradually eroding their hegemonic status.</p> <p>This imagined distress of the privileged is encapsulated by the popular quote, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”</p> <p>We Need Accountability<strong></strong></p> <p>I asked Oluo about her opinion regarding the criticism that intersectionality creates a “hierarchy of suffering,” to which she responded:</p> <p>I think that it is the lack of intersectionality that creates a hierarchy of suffering. Intersectionality does just the opposite: it adjusts to the nuances of individual situations, and holds us all accountable to each other.</p> <p>This. Right. Here.</p> <p>Intersectionality demands&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/08/responsibly-take-accountability/" target="_blank">accountability</a>. Those occupying dominant social positions tend to be less accustomed to taking responsibility for attitudes or behaviors that adversely affect non-dominant group members.</p> <p>This is something I’m intimately familiar with when it comes to Black men who embrace shallow “Black first” ideas of wokeness that’s hip to the antiblackness ever-present within our white supremacist society while also reproducing ideologies that overlook or cosign <a href="http://www.gradientlair.com/post/84107309247/define-misogynoir-anti-black-misogyny-moya-bailey-coined" target="_blank">misogynoir</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/black-lives-matter-gay-marriage-lgbt-supreme-court/" target="_blank">heterosexism</a>. This is why Oluo affirms, “You cannot only pick up the parts of revolution that free you and then fight against those working to free themselves and still call yourself a revolutionary.”</p> <p>We’ve all been socialized within a profoundly oppressive culture wherein widely accepted social mores cater to dominant social groups, whether based on gender, class, race, sexuality, ability, religion, or a combination of these and more.</p> <p>The exercise of intersectionality intervenes on the everyday assumptions, expectations, and interests we uncritically accept that routinely eclipse the concerns of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/12/so-you-got-called-out-on-facebook/" target="_blank">marginalized communities</a>.</p> <p>Writer, educator, and social activist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sally-hemings-died-in-charlottesville_us_599afc92e4b02eb2fda321c8" target="_blank">Sikivu Hutchinson</a>&nbsp;explains it this way:</p> <p>Intersectionality is the human condition. It addresses the multiple positions of privilege and disadvantage that human beings occupy and experience in a global context shaped by white supremacy, capitalism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, segregation and state violence.</p> <p>Intersectionality upends the single variable politics of being “left” or “right.” It speaks to the very nature of positionality in a world in which it’s impossible to stake a claim on a solitary fixed identity that isn’t informed by one’s relationship to social, political and economic structures of power, authority and control that are themselves rooted in specific histories.</p> <p>As Oluo puts it, intersectionality requires folks to “set aside their egos and realize that we can always do better, and should always strive to do better, if we really want to be better.”</p> <p>For the sake of realizing a society more inclusive of the disadvantaged and the underrepresented so that increased access to well-being and autonomy is possible, it’s vital we take advantage of an analytical tool that deliberately seeks out those who exist on the margins. And that tool is intersectionality.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://theestablishment.co/heres-why-your-criticisms-of-intersectionality-and-identity-politics-sound-ridiculous-89b4116f9239">The Establishment</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jennifer-lentfer/wrestling-with-my-white-fragility">Wrestling with my white fragility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation identity politics Sincere Kirabo Liberation Intersectionality Sun, 01 Jul 2018 19:05:56 +0000 Sincere Kirabo 118257 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We don’t have to be related to be a family https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/we-don-t-have-to-be-related-to-be-family <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Moving beyond traditional family structures is both personally and politically liberating.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/sofagradin7_0.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Me and my family on holiday. Credit: Suzanna Randall. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A lot of my friends and co-workers are 'starting families’—by which they mean producing offspring and registering the details of the person with whom they officially have sex with the government.</p> <p>I'm 35 years old, which is the kind of age when your parents, or even random people at dinner parties, start asking when you're going to ‘start a family’ too. Thankfully I rarely get asked that question because I don't really speak to my parents, never go to dinner parties, and most people don't realise I'm 35 because—as a visibly genderqueer person who likes colourful clothing—they always seem to assume that I'm a child.&nbsp;</p> <p>But actually I’ve already started a family myself, just a different kind of family to the ones we’re normally used to. While 'proper' families spend their weekends at IKEA or hiking in national parks, I'm in the club dancing to Whitney Houston with mine, or in an anarchist meeting or a collective cleaning day for the local social centre.</p> <p>When you don't have a nuclear family and you live outside of that tradition, knowing the purpose of the family and who gets to be a member is a little complicated. On an abstract level, family could be seen as the relationships that reproduce us i.e. that provide us with those things our jobs deplete but that we don't or can't buy—like care, cleaning, cooking, love, safety, and other domestic, personal and emotional things. Family <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_labor">isn’t always easy to separate from friendship or from work</a> since they all resemble each other in different ways and are interdependent. In particular, and <a href="http://www.reimaginerpe.org/19-2/rudman-rein-federici">as marxist feminists have argued</a>, capitalism is dependent on the unpaid domestic and emotional work that women are expected to do for men.</p> <p>In Northern Europe where I live, family is usually understood as marriage, kids and a mortgage. But as I was growing up, I decided this setup wasn’t for me. I decided to bail on ‘womanhood’ and fight my way out of the patriarchal system of two genders, which in my case also meant opting out of the traditional notion of the family.</p> <p>So at the moment, my family consists of my sister who lives up the road from me, a group of about five very close friends whom I consider my queer siblings, plus the three housemates I share a home with. My siblings, biological and figurative, are the people with whom I talk every day, tell everything, ask for advice, and go on holidays; people who I understand, feel understood by, and love.</p> <p>My housemates are less close, but they’re the people I live with so we share domestic labour and support each other when we're sick or injured. They held me when I came home the evening that my girlfriend of two years dumped me via text, and they've always brought me soup whenever I've been ill. I remember this with fondness when it's my turn on the rota to clean the shower or scrub the floor.</p> <p>Most people don't grow up dreaming about a family like mine. Many would probably assume that I lack the closeness or commitment that comes with traditional family ties, or that I'm immature or somehow incapable of having a 'proper' family. As I've experienced when fishing in my pockets for my ID at tills and bars, gender—which is intricately linked to family roles—is closely connected to the idea of a person's maturity.</p> <p>As it happens, I and my queer siblings didn't grow up dreaming of our current family setup either: so <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-do-parents-reject-their-lgbtq-children_us_58b9a3f7e4b0fa65b844b26d">many queers are disowned by their families</a>, or have their relationships with their parents turn weird when they come out. Today <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/young-lgbt-and-homeless_uk_5a79868fe4b00f94fe94cf6b">40 per cent of homeless people under 25</a> are LGBT+, many because they are kicked out of home.</p> <p>For me though, a different definition of family works both personally and politically: it helps to make my own world better, and it enables me and my family members to share emotional and domestic labour more equally, live up to our values more easily, and spend more time organising and campaigning for social change.</p> <p>There are good reasons why I’ve rejected the roles of woman and wife. It wasn’t because I was 'born queer;' it was because I wasn't willing to play the well-rehearsed roles that women have played in nuclear families since the beginning of capitalism—to do the cleaning, cooking and other domestic work for another person, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/upshot/same-sex-couples-divide-chores-much-more-evenly-until-they-become-parents.html">usually a man</a>, who is fully capable of doing it himself; or to jump in and take care of his emotional stress when it doesn't occur to him how to sort it out on his own. <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/articles/womenshouldertheresponsibilityofunpaidwork/2016-11-10">Based on current UK figures, wives do ten more hours of housework per week on average than their husbands</a>. Not to mention childcare, and being the person who sacrifices herself to keep other people's lives together.</p> <p>It’s not that I’m selfish; in my family we're very mindful of how much emotional and domestic labour we put on each other. We're not ungenerous with our love, and we probably do way more counselling and crying and cleaning the bathroom for each other than most nuclear families. But we’re careful not to free-ride on each other or dump problems at each others' doorsteps. Of course we all have times when we're needier or when we’re going through difficult patches, but nobody keeps a tally of who's asked for what.</p> <p>Unlike many wives in traditional relationships, me and my siblings can opt out if we're having a bad day and come back the day after. Instead of calling each other up and immediately pouring it all out, we check first: 'is this a good time to talk? I could call Suzy instead. I just need to talk about something horrible that happened'. And saying ‘no’ every now and then is completely legit. How helpful is it to be supported by someone who's barely holding it together anyway? And how does it feel to ask for help from a loved one you can see is already depleted themselves?</p> <p>By extending my family to a larger number of people I have both security—since there will always be someone there when I need them—and the freedom to say no.</p> <p>The only life-long member of my family is my biological sister, and the fact that I'm not sure if my current family constellation will be exactly the same for the rest of my life is both a good and a bad thing. I'm probably missing out on some of the security that traditional family structures offer. Since there aren't any clear social norms that govern how nebulous queer sibling-families work, we're slowly working it out on our own.</p> <p>In this neoliberal era of privatisation and austerity, who is it that would look after me if I got seriously ill? For whom would I take time off work to do the same? The answers are unclear, but we're talking about it. And while we're doing that, we're also campaigning against welfare cuts and organising for a collectively owned economy. The point is to contribute to social support structures that can help everyone when they need it—whether it's state welfare, or even better, welfare that's not organised through a violent, domineering and exclusionary institution such as the nation-state. And to work against our society's expectation that women, femmes and nonbinary people will be at hand to do the unpaid care work.</p> <p>As well as putting question marks around security, though, not having a solid constellation of family members has also been liberating. I've had friends and partners in the past who are very close with the nuclear families in which they grew up, and I've seen how their families can act as a brake on their exploration of the values and politics they want to live by. They have a load of duties and expectations that I don't have: to get married, produce grand-children or be a ‘good girl.’ Not having a nuclear family has allowed me to rethink my life choices radically; I've been able to try different things, move to new cities, and be inconsistent in my identity.</p> <p>Though I'm talking about 'freedom' I want to clarify that my family structure isn’t about becoming more individualistic or unattached. I haven't chosen this family setup so that I can be an autonomous individual who commits to nothing and needs nobody but themselves. On the contrary, I need my family. In fact, I need everyone in the broader society that I'm a part of, whether it's the anarchist political scene or the queer community; everyone I pass on the street; or the migrant workers in Portugal who grow my food.</p> <p>The liberal idea of the self-sufficient individual is a myth spread by capitalists to justify the notion that competition and inequality are somehow natural. In reality we all depend on everyone else for our survival: how could we get good quality health care, education, food, transport, communications, or anything else worth living for if we didn't club together with others?</p> <p>People often say that a society based on sharing and mutual gain is utopian; it can’t exist in real life. But that isn’t true. We already practice socialism within our families and between our friends. What we need to do is to extend more of it to others all around us, and that's what my family is trying to do.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/please-call-me-they">Please call me they</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sofa Gradin Liberation Intersectionality Mon, 28 May 2018 20:57:43 +0000 Sofa Gradin 118022 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why misunderstanding identity politics undermines the goals of a just society https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/yoav-litvin/why-misunderstanding-identity-politics-undermines-goals-of-just-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>'Ideal citizens' should not be defined by a white patriarchal system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/YoavLitvin.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/05/the-limits-of-metoo-sectionalism-economism-and-identity-politics-on-the-left/" target="_blank">crisis&nbsp;</a>of identity politics has undermined the concept of <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/40498-no-single-issue-politics-only-intersectionality-an-interview-with-kimberle-crenshaw" target="_blank">intersectionality</a>, which&nbsp;<a href="https://socialistworker.org/2017/08/01/a-marxist-case-for-intersectionality" target="_blank">is viewed&nbsp;</a>as critical to the struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression. Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, the term “identity politics” is often associated with the promotion of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/43685-beyond-resistance-transcending-party-politics-to-establish-economic-and-social-justice" target="_blank">tokenized personalities&nbsp;</a>rather than on the representation and advancement of oppressed communities within society. This form of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/2017/8/15/16089286/identity-politics-liberalism-republicans-democrats-trump-clinton" target="_blank">identity politics&nbsp;</a>often revolves around&nbsp;<a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/19/time-to-diss-obey-the-failure-of-identity-politics-and-protest/" target="_blank">empty partisan placards&nbsp;</a>and exclusive single-issue platforms rather than on forming inclusive alliances meant to stimulate fundamental structural change. As such, it reinforces a populism that serves white supremacy and patriarchy.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/05/the-limits-of-metoo-sectionalism-economism-and-identity-politics-on-the-left/" target="_blank">crisis&nbsp;</a>of identity politics has undermined the concept of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/40498-no-single-issue-politics-only-intersectionality-an-interview-with-kimberle-crenshaw" target="_blank">intersectionality</a>, which&nbsp;<a href="https://socialistworker.org/2017/08/01/a-marxist-case-for-intersectionality" target="_blank">is viewed&nbsp;</a>as critical to the struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression. The recent assassination of the Brazilian Black queer activist&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/16/marielle-franco-assassination-brazil-police-brutality/" target="_blank">Marielle Franco&nbsp;</a>and the consequent public uproar demonstrate the threat intersectional leaders pose to the ruling establishment that uses division and preserves privilege to stifle change. Leaders such as Franco serve a vital unifying role in a peoples’&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theblackscholar.org/on-the-imperative-of-transnational-solidarity-a-u-s-black-feminist-statement-on-the-assassination-of-marielle-franco/" target="_blank">transnational solidarity&nbsp;</a>movement that embraces—rather than eliminates—identities.</p> <p>Ashanti Monts-Treviska co-manages a social enterprise, Cascadia Deaf Nation, which focuses on creating a member-owned cooperative model that co-creates thriving spaces with Deaf Black Indigenous People of Color (DBIPOC*) in British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon. Monts-Treviska is a doctoral student in transformative studies and consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies.</p> <p><a href="https://www.co3consulting.net/who-are-we" target="_blank">Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell&nbsp;</a>is a Pacific Indigenous scholar and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.co3consulting.net/upcoming" target="_blank">transformative coach&nbsp;</a>who intermingles Indigenous epistemology and Western philosophies. Together, Monts-Treviska and Ebalaroza-Tunnell facilitate spaces for dialogue that shift paradigms and challenge the status quo. They are now working on producing a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.co3consulting.net/upcoming" target="_blank">resilience and adaptability workshop&nbsp;</a>to address the dynamics between trigger and response. In this interview, Monts-Treviska and Ebalaroza-Tunnell discuss the importance of intersectionality and decolonization as fundamental aspects of building a just and equitable society.</p> <p><strong>Yoav Litvin</strong>: Discuss the various components of your identity and the prejudices they invoke. Do you give preference to one over the other, or do you agree with Audre Lorde, who stated that “there is no hierarchy of oppressions”?</p> <p><strong>Ashanti Monts-Treviska</strong>: I appreciate the term “intersectionality,” coined by&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DW4HLgYPlA&amp;t=6s" target="_blank">Kimberlé Crenshaw</a>. Without the understanding of intersectionality, it would be difficult to express exactly what I have experienced with all of my identities.</p> <p>I view the various components of my identity as aspects of my experience. They are not separated from each other. The complexity of my identity is unique because it allows me to interact and connect with almost everyone through resilient empathy, compassion, and conscious understanding, while dealing with a whole stack of biases against me.</p> <p>Before I unpacked myself several years ago, I primarily adopted my most oppressed component, being deaf, because of communication barriers due to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/audism" target="_blank">audism&nbsp;</a>in my family, in my learning environments, in various communities including Black communities and communities of color and other spaces.</p> <p>Audism is best described as oppression or discrimination against people who identify with the spectrum of deaf experience (deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, etc.). It is basically a normalization of the devaluing of the experience of an inability to hear or inability to hear everything in the normal range of sounds. Audism is one of the manifestations of the white patriarchal supremacist system, which defines the parameters of ideal model citizens. It is an overarching paradigm of lateral and horizontal oppressions. Within audism exists cultural-linguistic audism, linguistic audism, lateral audism, dysconscious audism, and passive and active audism. Most hearing people practice&nbsp;<a href="https://www.handspeak.com/culture/index.php?id=119" target="_blank">dysconscious audism</a>, intentionally or unintentionally.</p> <p>Through the journey of unpacking myself, I realized it was a deep mistake to stick with the most oppressed aspect of my identity while ignoring or repressing its other components: being a Black Indigenous womxn. Each aspect has its own contributions to my overall growth.</p> <p>My choice of a complex identity as a Deaf Black Indigenous Womxn of Color (DBIWOC*) means that I equitably acknowledge and embrace the Afro-Cuban and Native aspects of myself along with the resilient experience of being a deaf womxn. As a womxn, I am gender fluid when it comes to clothes, and I am a queer when it comes to relationships. It means I would be with a person because of the soul attraction and the way they carry themselves.</p> <p>In terms of my own deafhood, most people tend to pity me because I cannot share an experience defined by sound. I am extremely sorry for people who choose to believe that deafness, as a pathological or medical anomaly, needs to be cured or fixed. I view the deaf experience as an organic one (including the ability to express myself creatively in American Sign Language) because it is a different way of processing information. There is an uncontaminated beauty in that.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:&nbsp;</strong>How does the Hawaiian anti-colonialist struggle play into your personal experience of decolonization?</p> <p><strong>Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell</strong>: Growing up on the island of Oahu meant that I was part of a unique culture that is a blend of many ethnicities that make up Hawaii. On my birth certificate, it states that I am of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese descent. But according to my DNA test, I am also 32 percent Polynesian.</p> <p>In Hawaii, everyone looks like me, speaks the same Native tongue as I do, and experiences life under the collective banner of “Aloha.” In mainland U.S., I discovered that people live under an individualistic banner and in doing so, isolate themselves from one another.</p> <p>My genetic makeup and life experiences meant that I was not only a member of those oppressed, but also the oppressors. My partaking in the system of hierarchical oppression, regardless of where I stood within it, was one of the colonizer.</p> <p>The struggle to de-colonize myself came through education—colonized education. As I worked on my Masters, and then my Ph.D., I read, processed and struggled. Finally, I came to understand that my mind was not my own: It had been colonized.</p> <p>I have come to appreciate Audre Lorde’s statement that, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house.” But throughout my studies, I believed this statement was false; that colonized education could be used to dismantle the systems of oppression. I eventually discovered that the decolonization of one’s mind is not only rooted in the access to knowledge, but in the willingness to dismantle rooted and programmed belief systems. I utilized Western epistemology to inform myself about myself. It is now apparent to me that as a Pasifika Indigenous scholar and cultural practitioner, I must learn and teach to walk in both worlds to ensure that my voice and the voices of all future generations are not oppressed.</p> <p>In fact, it was through the lens of the Hawaiian struggle for decolonization that I have come to find my decolonized self. I came to realize that Hawaii, through Aloha, retains a fragment of an uncolonized civilization. By its very nature,&nbsp;<a href="https://collectivecompassion.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/its-all-about-love/" target="_blank">the collective spirit of Aloha&nbsp;</a>welcomes all to participate and be a part of it. The practice of Aloha on an island far out in the Pacific creates a bubble of potential that could be leveraged toward a decolonized culture of modern human beings.</p> <p><strong>Litvin</strong>:&nbsp;What have been some of the difficulties in cultivating a nurturing social environment that respects all components of your identity? How do you define your community?</p> <p><strong>Monts-Treviska</strong>: It was very difficult to work with or fit in with various communities because of my intersectional experience. It is hard to ignore my Latinx and Native background as well as my deaf experience when interacting with Black communities. My unique intersectional background left me with almost no community because most people do not understand the meaning of co-creating a cohesive community.</p> <p>Many are taught that charity is the best way to help those who are in need. Charity is practiced out of a sense of pity and is a means to avoid questioning the system of oppression. At Cascadia Deaf Nation, we believe in “sharity”: a sense of sharing the collective wealth within thriving spaces.</p> <p>I work on reframing the cultural-linguistic narratives through a new concept of deafhood of color as a possible&nbsp;<a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/44100-on-embracing-intersectionality-and-decolonization-to-foment-personal-and-societal-change#a1">third space</a>. Deafhood, in contrast to deafness, is a spiritual or transpersonal journey of discovering the deaf experience and expressing it truthfully and creatively. Deafhood is also a decolonization process of dismantling the dominant status quo. Audre Lorde's work, along with various third spaces, validated the need for a deeper understanding of deafhood to co-create a shift in collective awareness on multiple social levels.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:&nbsp;</strong>What is the importance of deconstructing privilege with the goal of building a just and equal society free of colonization?</p> <p><strong>Ebalaroza-Tunnell</strong>: If we are to decolonize ourselves collectively, we must start with decolonizing ourselves individually. To do this, we must reach back and connect with our own Indigenous ways and the means in which they were colonized.</p> <p>Throughout the process of my decolonization, I found myself shying away from the principles embedded in traditional knowledge and moving toward the Western cultural values of acceptance and integration. I stopped believing that my Indigenousness was an integrated state of being, and I unwittingly gave up this important component of my identity. The realization of my oppression caused me to mourn, and I felt a deep sense of loss and sorrow as I became aware of the broken relationships and pain that I caused due to my shallow sense of power and privilege. Part of me inclined to take shelter behind the excuses for my behavior. I detached from those who I injured to safeguard myself.</p> <p>It is instructive to examine the ancient story of the Tower of Babel, which has different versions in many global cultures: The tale of humanity and its great ability to work together to build a tower toward the heavens and touch the gods. In this story, humanity is scattered and languages are confused to ensure such a feat could never happen again.</p> <p>Symbolically, this story exudes the self-organization necessary to build a tower and the collective imagination to dream it. What it also exemplifies is a disempowering force imposed on humanity. This power is colonization. We have come full circle here at the dawn of the 21st century: We have built a tower of human culture in which the stones are made up of a monetary illusion that is incredibly effective at allowing [nearly] 8 billion of us to simultaneously exist on this planet. To do so, we have erected a system that is very structurally demanding; a reality that requires reckless consumption. This is sustained through the protection of privilege and the establishment of firm hierarchies.</p> <p>This societal structure was born through the dismantling of Indigenous epistemologies. All human cultures have been assimilated into this tower that we have created for ourselves.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:&nbsp;</strong>What is the nature of the transition from oppressed to the oppressor?</p> <p><strong>Monts-Treviska</strong>: In our culture, privilege is often unexamined. Deconstructing privilege is one of the first steps to decolonizing the self from the narrative of the privileged group. In order to acknowledge privilege, one first needs to understand its roots. Second comes the question [of] whether those privileges help to preserve or dismantle the system of oppression.</p> <p>I am especially interested in the expression of privilege in social justice and equity spaces as it provides insight into how these dynamics work in society in general.</p> <p>Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed afforded me deep insight into how people become oppressors within their oppressed group. As a deaf person of color, I could be an oppressor toward another deaf person of color or deaf-blind person or a deaf-disabled person within the deaf community because of my privileges that were either earned or awarded. Owning privileges and keeping them in check through humility enables a person the ability to share power and relinquish a hierarchical power structure. This is achieved by harnessing the power of listening, solidarity, humility, mindfulness, words and intuition.</p> <p>Without acknowledging privilege, people easily fall into a dynamic of lateral oppression within oppressed communities. For example, in my case, a hearing Black person can choose to represent him/herself by using voice to overshadow a deaf Black person such as myself. As such, I had to learn to be more creative in bringing a different narrative to the critical issues. Unfortunately, I have to work harder to make that happen because I have less privileges in some areas.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:</strong>&nbsp;How do you view violence? What are safe spaces, and how do you go about constructing them?</p> <p><strong>Monts-Treviska</strong>: Most people associate violence with physical and sexual manifestations, but are unaware or desensitized to many other, subtler forms. In fact, many people are oblivious to the fact that they are being consistently violated through various channels of violence.</p> <p>The problem is that we do not know how to honor each other's existence because we are taught to exist in survival mode rather than in an internal space in which we can thrive. Thus, we compete and are violent toward one another.</p> <p>Audism is violence. Racism is violence. Saying something to disempower yourself and to disempower people around you is violence. Reading something that makes one group of people look bad through destructive stereotyping is violence. Dictating how a woman’s body should look like is violence.</p> <p>We lack an understanding of what actually creates a nurturing culture that provides both “safe” and “sacred” spaces simultaneously. But what is really safe? All-Black or all-POC or all-deaf spaces are considered “safe” for these marginalized groups, but they are not always safe for people who have intersectional identities. Here, people can become oppressors toward their own people through lateral violence because of the systemic internalizations being unchallenged.</p> <p>That’s why I would rather go with “sacred” spaces—to acknowledge that each person’s journey and life experience is sacred. In the “safe space,” we unintentionally project our privileges onto different people who are underrepresented or who are less privileged within that space. If I were to reframe the meaning of “safe,” I would use the word “sacred welcoming”—similar to the approach of welcoming a newborn every minute of our lives. Each person's soul is sacred; however, we contaminate the sacredness of our souls by internalizing the toxicities of our oppressive systems, which serve to divide people.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:&nbsp;</strong>Discuss the importance and transformational qualities of storytelling. What role does it play in effectively countering colonialism, while rebuilding community?</p> <p><strong>Ebalaroza-Tunnell</strong>: Alo—meaning “front” and Ha—meaning “breath.” Aloha means the exchange of the breath of life. That is what storytelling is: the exchange of ideas, the resolution of conflict, the changing of perspectives and the evolution of our collective being. Much can be accomplished by the sharing of individual stories.</p> <p>From a Pasifika Indigenous worldview, storytelling is the most natural way for Indigenous wisdom to be passed on. The method of story gathering and story making/building can help us make sense of complex interconnected situations. It can serve as a tool for people to explore better ways to connect with each other by engaging in deep listening and transformative dialogue about issues that divide us.</p> <p>Whether in caves or cities, the stories we tell remain the most typical and essential form of communication. All of us tell stories. We do not see our own stories as “stories” because we see experience through them. Narratives are not abstractions of life, but how we find ourselves engaging with it. We make stories, and those stories make us human. We can awaken into stories as we awaken into language or culture, which is present before us and will continue after we are gone.</p> <p>Our stories possess truths and motivations, and they are wholly our own. We come together collectively—as two or more—with the incredible feat of melding these narratives together. These collective narratives could be anything we wish them to be and [we] should not settle for what we are told they should be.</p> <p>Media and screens have us tethered and tied to a collective truth that is growing long in the tooth: The story of what it is to be a modern human—a colonized human. The reality of ourselves is so much grander than this foolish tale of dominion over all we survey. We could be way-finders once again, navigating across the sea by following the stars if only we chose to weave such a story for ourselves. The things we believe to be fictions are only a collective agreement away from becoming our reality.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:</strong>&nbsp;How do you view the culture of “political correctness”? What are some of its qualities that lend to oppression and the oppression of language?</p> <p><strong>Monts-Treviska</strong>: Most people think that they know how to say the right things. However, they do not bother to inquire about the intersectional experiences of different people, including deaf POC. It happens because most people are afraid of what they do not know or understand.</p> <p>Words either disempower or empower us individually and collectively. A deep understanding of the power of words is an essential key to uncovering the root causes of oppressions. Political correctness is similar to an easy “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to dealing with various critical issues. Political correctness instills fears in people about appropriateness rather than encourages them to investigate the “other.”</p> <p>When deaf people internalize the political correctness from the dominant majority (i.e. hearing people) and project it into their culture and communities, it creates oppression of subgroups within deaf communities.</p> <p>If I were to reframe “political correctness,” I would frame it as “reality experience”; each person's reality is different from another person’s. We need to give people the space to embrace their own journeys. In order to decolonize our views on political correctness, we must learn from different people’s reality experiences without judgement. In that sense, we could embrace different people’s journeys and acknowledge their ability to contribute to humanity’s evolution of collective consciousness in an equitable manner.</p> <p><strong>Litvin:</strong>&nbsp;How do you avoid being used as a token within a predominantly white supremacist and patriarchic culture?</p> <p><strong>Ebalaroza-Tunnell</strong>: I take my work as the opportunity to teach. I wouldn't consider myself very popular within the supremacist and patriarchal models of our culture. If I were, these entities would approach me not to co-create communities, but along the lines of self-aggrandizement. Thus far, that has not happened. When it does—if it does—I suppose it will be as much of a battle as it would be for any teacher who challenges the status quo.</p> <p>I must be true to myself and willing to sacrifice. I am no different than anyone else in this world. I would welcome more comfort than I currently have and relief from the discomfort I experience. How to find that and not sell myself out is the trick. It is a challenge to avoid self-colonization and that is the very struggle for enlightenment we all seek. Some days I am successful and others, I am not.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was originally published by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/44100-on-embracing-intersectionality-and-decolonization-to-foment-personal-and-societal-change" target="_self">Truthout</a> and re-published by <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/why-misunderstanding-identity-politics-undermines-intersectionality-and-goals-of-a-just-society-20180424">YES! Magazine</a> in an edited form.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/enough-talk-about-intersectionality-lets-get-on-with-it">Enough talk about intersectionality. Let&#039;s get on with it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation identity politics Yoav Litvin Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 17 May 2018 20:44:47 +0000 Yoav Litvin 117618 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 32 types of anti-feminists https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/barry-deutsch/32-types-of-anti-feminists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Have you gotten pushback against your feminist beliefs? If so, maybe you recognize these arguments.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Anti_emblem.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By Gabrielle La Mort at the Russian Wikipedia. Transferred from <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15171500">ru.wikipedia, Public Domain</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Originally published on&nbsp;<a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/32-types-anti-feminists/?mc_cid=389fdcb549&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/types_of_antifeminist.png" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist">How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/meggie-ramm/here-s-how-representation-in-comics-could-be-so-much-better">Here’s how representation in comics could be so much better</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Barry Deutsch Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 10 May 2018 19:44:17 +0000 Barry Deutsch 117542 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Comedy is part of feminist history—and we need it more than ever https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maggie-hennefeld/comedy-is-part-of-feminist-history-and-we-need-it-more-than-ever <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Feminism has always been mobilized and strengthened through collective joyful laughter.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MaggieHennefeld.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Women's march to denounce Donald Trump in Toronto, January 21 2017. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55239158">Wikimedia/By booledozer</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>. </p> <p>There is no fiercer political weapon than laughter. The controversy around <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8IYPnnsYJw">Michelle Wolf’s</a> brilliant, uncomfortable, and brutally honest roast at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner is the latest in a long line of examples that reveal the threatening power of feminist jokes. As the author <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Margaret_Atwood#%22Men_are_afraid_that_women_will_laugh_at_them._Women_are_afraid_that_men_will_kill_them.%22">Margaret Atwood</a> puts it, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.” This is why the Patriarchy has always tried to stereotype feminists as humorless killjoys, the anti-pleasure police, or shrill sticks in the mud. </p> <p>In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. From&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC18vz5hUUqxbGvym9ghtX_w">Samantha Bee’s satirical&nbsp;TV show <em>Full Frontal</em></a>; to the stand-up comedy of <a href="https://www.wandasykes.com/">Wanda Sykes</a>, <a href="http://margaretcho.com/">Margaret Cho</a> and <a href="http://tignation.com/">Tig Notaro</a>; to the explosion of playful memes and witty protest signs that forcefully satirize patriarchal predation, feminism is, and has always been, mobilized and strengthened through collective joyful laughter.</p> <p>As I show in my new book,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Specters-Slapstick-Silent-Comediennes-Culture/dp/0231179464"><em>Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes</em></a>, insightful satire and exuberant comedy were important forces in the early years of the feminist movement. The biggest myth of anti-feminist propaganda—both in the present moment and in the history of the struggle—is that wanting&nbsp;equal rights<em>&nbsp;</em>and having a&nbsp;sense of humor<em>&nbsp;</em>are somehow mutually exclusive. </p> <p>In fact, when women laugh too loudly or pointedly they’re often disregarded as ‘hysterical’—not in the positive sense or as a figure of speech but as pathology: ‘maybe we should send you to a mental institution and poke at your uterus to figure out what’s wrong with you.’</p> <p>Comedy, though delirious and light-hearted, is often extremely violent and vividly obscene. There’s a fine line between edgy and insulting, and it’s long been the role of the clown to test the boundaries of that line as they change over time, particularly during moments of escalating social and political activism. Wolf exemplifies this tension between the timely and the taboo in her roast with jokes like these: “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NclJj1h_MW4">Sarah Huckabee Sanders</a>, I loved you as Aunt Lydia in <em><a href="https://www.hulu.com/press/show/the-handmaids-tale/">The Handmaid’s Tale</a>;</em>” &nbsp;“I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress.”</p> <p>Women, LGBQT+, people of color, and other oppressed minorities have long used satirical comedy effectively to ‘punch up’ against authority and speak truth to power. For example, as Lindy West puts it in&nbsp;<a href="https://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke">“How to Make a Rape Joke,”</a> there’s a difference between “a joke about women getting raped” and “a joke about the way that rape culture—which includes rape jokes,&nbsp;<em>makes women feel</em>.” Nothing is off-limits for progressive comedy, not even rape; what matters is whether the victim or assaulter becomes the butt of the punch line. Regardless of the comedian’s identity—even if you have to live in the aftermath of your own mockery—a joke that goes too far, or that risks exploiting its topic rather than exposing it, will typically fall on deaf ears.</p> <p>The refusal to laugh is not always intentional. After all, laughter is supposed to be involuntary: it erupts in spite of ourselves, often in response to images and ideas that actively confuse us. This is neither good nor bad: we laugh when we’re not completely sure how we want to feel about something, and are still thinking it through. In other words, we are not always in control of the social consequences of our laughter, even though we would like to be. </p> <p>Comedy is often a matrix for processing social change, as much as an active force that directly provokes it. As an example, take&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCm51fg5hpk"><em>Mary Jane’s Mishap</em></a>, a slapstick comedy from 1903 starring Laura Bayley about a housemaid who spontaneously combusts out of the chimney while trying to light a fire. Mary Jane erupts out of the roof and her dismembered limbs and torso rain down over the village skyline. Finally she returns as a ghost to haunt her own gravestone, which has the epitaph, “Here Lies Mary Jane. Rest in Pieces.”</p> <p>Mary Jane’s explosion out the chimney is an absurd representation of how women desire to break free from the domestic sphere and the drudgery of everyday housework. I’m really attracted to these types of films in which gendered oppression is rendered ridiculous. That’s what slapstick is all about: the exaggerated representation of make-believe violence, but violence that strikes us as somehow too zany or cartoonish to be threatening in reality. </p> <p>Women have always had a marginal position in physical comedy because audiences often feel uncomfortable laughing at comical images of violence against female characters. As with West’s distinction between rape jokes and jokes about rape culture, <em>Mary Jane’s Mishap </em>took aim at the tyranny of women’s domestic enslavement and the brutal mockery of violence against women in the home by presenting these things in slapstick form—and through that medium connecting with its audience. &nbsp;</p> <p>The comedian Amy Schumer takes a page out of&nbsp;<em>Mary Jane’s Mishap&nbsp;</em>in her sketch show <em><a href="http://www.cc.com/shows/inside-amy-schumer">Inside Amy Schumer</a></em>, which frequently features skits about women who spontaneously combust, self-decapitate, or commit absurd ritual suicide when their ability to derive meaning from their everyday lives stands in vivid contradiction to their own utopian gender ideals. Skits like “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzlvDV3mpZw">Trouble Accepting a Compliment</a>,” “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGXnlFLC0Ck">I’m So Bad</a>,” and “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39jN_CRGcbI">Allergic to Nuts</a>” all exemplify Schumer’s<em>&nbsp;</em>slapstick feminism <em>ad absurdum</em>.<em></em></p> <p>This isn’t new. From the early 1900s, female slapstick comedy in the popular media has been an &nbsp;avenue for feminist activism and social protest. For example, the only way for Mary Jane to break out of the home is through the chimney. In another film released in 1914 called&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mneu7A3MVms"><em>Daisy Doodad’s Dial</em></a>, a bored housewife trains to compete in an amateur face-making competition so avidly that she is arrested for public indecency after she grimaces at random men on a street car. </p> <p>She then shuts herself up in her bedroom and has nightmares in which she’s haunted by spectral superimpositions of her own disembodied face-making. Or take&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HM-ChelaAs&amp;t=57s"><em>Laughing Gas</em></a> (made in 1907)<em>,&nbsp;</em>in which a black woman is given nitrous oxide by her white male dentist, and then spreads her laughter contagiously through the streets, including to several police officers who can’t arrest her because they’re all laughing too uproariously.</p> <p>Social satire in these films arises from the jarring clash between how women and minorities are traditionally&nbsp;<em>expected to behave</em>&nbsp;and how&nbsp;<em>they</em>&nbsp;<em>actually want to live</em>, exemplified in suffragette protest comedies, trick films in which women metamorphose into giant spiders or man-eating dolls, and domestic disaster comedies where women ‘blow up’ or bust loose from their normative gender roles and domestic duties in a variety of astonishing ways.</p> <p>It’s also important to remember that cinema, like Twitter or YouTube today, was the most popular form of new media in the 1890s and early 1900s. There was something about the power of cinema to display movement as never before—housemaids exploding, automobiles crashing,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9d1MPD4eYM">miniature nicotine fairies melting</a>—that provided fertile terrain for social protest and cultural experimentation. </p> <p>Women’s bodies were ideal for these ends, because they were believed to be physically malleable and less resistant to external manipulation—just look, for example, at the corsets women were expected to wear in the early 1900s that contorted their bodies into crazy human hourglasses. New media images, like gendered bodies, have always been celebrated for their limitless capacity for physical manipulation and visual invention. </p> <p>People have been drawn to ‘new’ media throughout history because they believe in the transformative power of radical images to influence social and political breakthroughs. Female-identified and gender fluid bodies—the clothes they wear, the positions they assume, and the way their bodies occupy public spaces—are markers of how much social norms and cultural ideals can change over time.</p> <p>I see so many parallels between the feminist protest culture of the early 1900s and our present-day moment in 2018, when satirical laughter and new media experimentation are again such vibrant parts of our collective imagination and activist resistance. One of my favorite protest signs at the <a href="https://www.womensmarch.com/">Global Women’s March in 2017</a> was proudly raised by a group of women dressed as suffragettes: “Same Shit, Different Century,” it said. </p> <p>Though the issues have changed—from voting rights to abortion rights to #MeToo—some things remain the same: feminist laughter is a forceful political weapon. Some will continue to repeat the old lie that “<a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2007/01/hitchens200701">Women Aren’t Funny</a>,” but that’s ok—it shows that they’re still terrified by the revolutionary power of collective laughter.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Maggie Hennefeld’s new book is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Specters-Slapstick-Silent-Comediennes-Culture/dp/0231179464">Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes</a>, published by&nbsp;<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/specters-of-slapstick-and-silent-film-comediennes/9780231179478">Columbia University Press</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/catherine-rottenberg/radical-happiness-moments-of-collective-joy">Radical happiness: moments of collective joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Maggie Hennefeld Liberation Culture Intersectionality Sun, 06 May 2018 20:35:16 +0000 Maggie Hennefeld 117616 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is toxic masculinity a mask for anxiety? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ruth-c-white/is-toxic-masculinity-mask-for-anxiety <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is it that makes so many boys grow up to believe that sex is theirs for the taking?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RuthWhite.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/victory-day-masculinity-1396495/">Pixabay/Katy_foto</a>. <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/victory-day-masculinity-1396495/">CC0 1.0</a>.</p> <p>The widespread discussion of sexual harassment and what is being defined as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_masculinity">'toxic masculinity</a>' leads to questions about what it is in the ways in which we are raising young boys that would make so many of them (though definitely not all) grow up to believe that sex is theirs for the taking, and that consent is an undefined state that is theirs to manipulate and interpret as they see fit.</p> <p>Just like too many women who were once girls who were taught to be compliant and polite and to be afraid of men and their power, so are way too many boys being taught that their pleasure is paramount and coercion is part of what they need to do to in order to get their needs satisfied.</p> <p>So what are we doing wrong and how can we change our social and cultural expectations of boys so that they grow up to be men who are more inclined to protect and respect their sexual partners instead of exploiting and denigrating them?</p> <p><strong>What is 'toxic' masculinity?</strong></p> <p>Perusing many definitions—whether in the hip Urban Dictionary or summarized from&nbsp;various social science articles—‘toxic masculinity’&nbsp;refers to the social expectations that men, and thus also boys, should be sexually&nbsp;aggressive, physically violent, unemotional and homophobic, and should also devalue women. It is the kind of behavior that is stereotypically referred to as 'locker room' or 'frat-boy behavior.' It is also the type of behavior that emphasizes&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at competition" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/sport-and-competition">competition</a>&nbsp;based on physical power,&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at risk-taking" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/sensation-seeking">risk-taking</a>&nbsp;and sexual prowess and promiscuity. </p> <p>The research shows that these expectations of boys are damaging to both men and women, and to society at large. Toxic masculinity has been discussed as <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1097184X16664952">a cause of&nbsp;mass shootings&nbsp;</a>and&nbsp;of <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-men-group-therapy-folsom-prison-the-work-toxic-masculinity-20171130-story.html" target="_blank">violence</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The impact of toxic masculinity on mental&nbsp;health.</strong></p> <p>In a&nbsp;<a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fcou0000176" target="_blank">meta-study</a>&nbsp;that looked at the findings of more than 70&nbsp;studies of&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at conformity" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/conformity">conformity</a>&nbsp;to masculine norms, researchers found that these norms were "unfavorably, robustly and consistently" related to negative mental health outcomes and reduced the likelihood of men seeking out mental health services. The three most powerful masculine norms that predicted these negative outcomes were self-reliance, power over women and the pursuit of sexual promiscuity. </p> <p>In&nbsp;<a href="https://www.popsci.com/research-shows-that-toxic-masculinity-is-harmful-to-mens-mental-health" target="_blank">an interview</a>, Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University at Bloomington (one of the authors of the study) said that the links to sexism mean that these behaviors are particularly problematic, because society has changed and sexism is no longer acceptable behavior—though the multitude of&nbsp;reports of sexual harassment in the last few months make it quite clear that, even if unacceptable, such attacks are still suffered in silence by too many women. </p> <p>But women are not the only ones suffering in silence, because the emphasis on self-reliance and the rigidity of the ways in which we perceive masculinity mean that many men feel that they have no other choice but to fulfill these social expectations. Wong argues that men feel trapped by these norms even if they do not align with their personal values; they perpetuate such norms because they&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at fear" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear">fear</a>&nbsp;not being perceived as 'masculine.' So what does this mean for boys?</p> <p><strong>Toxic masculinity and boys.</strong></p> <p>There are many efforts to undo this toxicity including courses and initiatives in masculinity on university campuses such as&nbsp;<a href="https://campuslife.wustl.edu/leadership-programs/mens-project/" target="_blank">Washington University in St. Louis</a>,&nbsp;the <a href="https://win.wisc.edu/organization/mensproject" target="_blank">University of Wisconsin</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2016/09/deconstructing-masculinity-duke-mens-project-aims-to-facilitate-discussions-of-male-privilege-and-patriarchy" target="_blank">Duke University</a> and others. These efforts reflect a broader societal effort to change the way we define and express masculinity.</p> <p>But why wait until boys get to college to change the way they see themselves? Masculinities scholar&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drronaldlevant.com/content.html" target="_blank">Ronald Levant</a>, author of&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318144.aspx" target="_blank">The Psychology of Men and Masculinities</a></em>, shows how the socialization of boys into behaviors such as dominance, emotional restriction, toughness and self-reliance begins as young as infancy, and is transmitted through&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at parents" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/parenting">parents</a>, the media and the world at large. </p> <p>Therefore, it would seem that these behaviors and beliefs would have the same negative impacts for young people in high school and earlier, yet a search of the PsycInfo database (the leading database of psychology articles) does not find any articles linking 'toxic masculinity' with 'boys' or 'adolescents', though there are lots of studies exploring the impact of&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at gender" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/gender">gender stereotypes</a>&nbsp;on adolescent males. </p> <p>As stated by University of Illinois Chicago sociologist Barbara Risman, "boys make fun of other boys if they step just a little outside the rigid masculine&nbsp;stereotype." Families may even&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/26/local/la-me-one-way-gender-revolution-20131227" target="_blank">become&nbsp;socially ostracized and threatened</a>&nbsp;with violence because their son gravitates towards more feminine toys such as Barbies and Disney princesses.</p> <p>According to psychologist Tali Shenfield, author of popular&nbsp;<a href="http://www.psy-ed.com/wpblog/child-and-teen-anxiety/" target="_blank">anxiety tests for children</a>, negative emotionality is one of the most common triggers for anxiety. Fear of rejection can cause&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at anxiety " href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/anxiety">anxiety&nbsp;</a>and&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at anger" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/anger">anger</a>&nbsp;in boys, with the 'lone wolf' stereotype being implicated in instances of violence that include&nbsp;<a href="https://search-proquest-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/psycinfo/docview/621848461/7C29AAAF35084533PQ/5?accountid=14749" target="_blank">Columbine</a>&nbsp;and other shootings. </p> <p>The&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at bullying" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/bullying">bullying</a>&nbsp;that many boys experience if they deviate from dominant social norms is a source&nbsp;of anxiety, as shown by recent studies by researchers at Duke University and at University College London. Dealing with this anxiety may help male adolescents find less problematic ways to express their frustration, and help to build emotional&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at resilience" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience">resilience</a>.</p> <p>Having strategies to deal with this anxiety and being able to foster broader definitions of masculinity will help boys to grow up to be less attached to stereotyped ways of being, especially those which are no longer valued in a society where gender equity,&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at cooperation" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/teamwork">cooperation</a>, and emotional expression are more socially acceptable.</p> <p><strong>Broadening the definition of masculinity.</strong></p> <p>Many articles are being written about the shifting definitions of masculinity and the&nbsp;difficulties that some men are having in adapting to these new norms. In an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/men-left-behind.aspx" target="_blank">article in the Monitor on Psychology&nbsp;</a>published by the American Psychological Association entitled "The Men America Left Behind," Kristin Weir explores the disconnection that many men, particularly white men, now feel because of this shift in social expectations regarding male roles.</p> <p>Allowing boys the freedom to be who they are without defining such behaviors as masculine or feminine will decrease the&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at cognitive dissonance" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-dissonance">cognitive dissonance</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at stress" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/stress">emotional stress</a>&nbsp;that so many men feel as they try to navigate changing social norms. Encouraging expressions of emotionality such as tears — whether of joy or sadness — will reduce the stress of stifling emotions that often are expressed in less healthy ways such as violence. Encouraging boys to talk about their feelings will help them build social support networks that go beyond typical ways of 'male bonding.'</p> <p>Teaching boys healthy ways to express their&nbsp;sexuality&nbsp;through mutual respect and communication will help them to understand how to have sexual relations that produce enjoyment and satisfaction for both parties. Sex as shared instead of sex that is taken is something that too many adult men find difficult to&nbsp;understand in terms of acceptable forms of sexual engagement.</p> <p>It requires all of us to shift our expectations of men and boys so that these new norms are rewarded. Women will no longer 'protect' men by suffering in silence, and men need to hold each other responsible for being masculine without the toxicity that creates so many problems for us all.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/ruth-c-white-phd">Psychology Today</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rebecca-tinsley/if-this-is-what-it-feels-like-to-be-woman-what-does-it-mean-to-be-man">If this is what it feels like to be a woman, what does it mean to be a man?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/dan-mahle/how-i-stopped-watching-porn-for-one-year-and-why-im-not-going-back">How I stopped watching porn for one year and why I&#039;m not going back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation masculinity Ruth C. White Liberation Care Culture Intersectionality Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:51:31 +0000 Ruth C. White 115895 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #MeToo, dialogue and healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/perry-dougherty/metoo-dialogue-and-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To give voice to our deepest experiences is to cultivate connection and collective healing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PerryDougherty1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/healing-glow-dreamlike-ultraviolet-2324796/">Pixabay/Chulhwan</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Washington University, St Louis, 2002. We sit on the floor, friends and others, each of us holding vigil.</p> <p>I wonder if I will even be able to find the words if I choose to speak. There are fewer facts than I wish for—more self-judgments and denials than cohesive narrative.</p> <p>It is the story of a date gone bad—broken but intrusive memories, tainted, tamed, and tortured by reoccurrence and repetition.</p> <p>Heavy, loaded, and strange, the words that come out feel foreign on my tongue as if the story were not mine.</p> <p>There was the taxi cab, the woman giving herself a pedicure in the living room, my hurrying down the stairs and out the door only to realize I was locked in. There was having to go back inside to ask him to let me out of the gates.</p> <p>There was, if I let myself feel it, the sensation of watching my body on the bed from far up above where the wall met the ceiling by the doorway to the room. There was voicelessness and fear—the shame of knowing that I did not yell or fight.</p> <p>There was my wandering of the streets not knowing if I would find my way home or if I even wanted to. There was the feeling of a disorienting sense of safety or freedom in those dark, foreign streets—he was not there.</p> <p>For the first time, that night I give voice to the words: “I was raped.”</p> <p>I wonder if the sentence will ever feel real. I do not cry. I just sit in the room, on the floor, where we have all come to share our stories. I stay still and listen to others after I speak. The candles around us seem to offer some comfort of illumination and the darkness in which they flutter holds the safety of an emerging connection to myself and to something else unfolding and unseen.</p> <p>Daring to break our silences, even those that have kept us safe, is vulnerable work, no matter when or where or how we make the choice. Giving voice to stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault carries with it uncertainty, fear, and the possibility of re-traumatization. Those of us who have experienced the trauma of sexualized violence run the pros and cons of whether to tell people in our lives or offices or communities a million times over.</p> <p>Times may be changing. Our societies may be ready to receive these stories without questioning them or us. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement">#MeToo</a> has given us a sense of solidarity and togetherness. But even in this watershed moment we are left with the question of collective healing; of how to be in relationship with one another, grieve together, and rebuild a society without such ubiquitous violence.</p> <p>The only way I’ve found even a glimmer of hope for answers to these questions lies in the practice of dialogue, through which we come to understand ourselves and others, and from that understanding create the relational trust that’s needed to re-imagine and rename how we want to live together.</p> <p>To give voice to our deepest experiences is to cultivate connection. I have come to believe that sharing personal stories invites us to enter into transformative dialogue with oneself, with others, and also with the sacred. I have come to see much of my ministry as opening up spaces for people to be with one another in solidarity and dialogue, much like the one I experienced in St Louis that night.</p> <p>It is hard for those of us committed to working for peace, justice and healing to find safe places to honestly explore our stories. As the demands for outcomes, impact, and measurable change drive us toward easily quantifiable, transactional engagements, we are devaluing the power of sitting together with the simple task of naming the world as we have experienced it.</p> <p>As we practice giving voice to our experiences and listening to those of others in <em>non</em>-transactional environments, it is impossible to ignore the presence, understanding, and insight that emerges personally and collectively. Such spaces, I have found, are schools of healing, reconciliation, awareness, and spiritual growth.</p> <p>Paulo Freire, in his book <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy_of_the_Oppressed">Pedagogy of the Oppressed</a>, discusses this power: “To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. Some may think that to affirm dialogue—the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world—is naively and subjectively idealistic. There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans.”</p> <p>To engage in dialogue requires that we surrender the desire to control ourselves, others, and outcomes. Such a practice requires that we remain firmly and faithfully committed to the cultivation of an abiding and unconditional love, humility, faith, and hope—essential qualities of both our spiritual and practical co-existence. Speaking the story of my rape aloud for the first time back in 2002 did not heal me or free me from my pain and fear. But as I look back, I realize that in the moment I opened up and people listened. I unlocked the possibility for change within me, and maybe outside of me too.</p> <p>Whether sitting with an individual in spiritual direction, leading a leadership development effort or designing a community healing program, I’m consistently struck by the fragmentation of relationship that comes with suffering. With the wounds of trauma, we all crave a concrete path to healing—if only there were the equivalent of surgery and sutures. But trauma is different. The suffering following trauma can be as multifaceted as the wound. Often one’s connections to self, others, and the sacred cease or change so dramatically that they feel chaotic and meaningless.</p> <p>If relationship is to be a path to liberation, we must understand the nature of what it means to enter dialogue from a place of pain, loss or trauma. All of the people and places that have offered me something of healing—whether therapists or spiritual teachers, community healing events, 12-step programs, meditation halls or activist groups—have honored the power of dialogue through pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. They have allowed me to name my experience freely and openly, listen to myself and others, rename my experience, and embrace the interconnected nature of all life.</p> <p>This dance of dialogue has taught me what safety in relationship means. It has helped me to honor the depths of myself and others, and has enabled me to trust again. Slowly, I have realized that I am not alone, that the highs and lows can co-exist. I have realized that I can show up fully to life as it is.</p> <p>As I pay these gifts forward I am reminded of how much people yearn for spirit-filled opportunities to begin healing with others as a complement to their mental health care and other supports. At my organization <a href="http://stillharbor.org/">Still Harbor</a>, we remain committed to accompanying communities as they discover the power of dialogue-based approaches for healing together. We have offered such experiences in many ways over the years.</p> <p>In Boston, for example, we’ve trained trauma-informed &nbsp;‘companions’ in the art of spiritual listening to offer peer support to their neighbors in a community that experiences chronic violence in its streets. We’ve hosted monthly events and small group dialogues that invite people into an open, creative, and expressive space to share their stories of loss, fear, hardship, suffering and hope. This program has unlocked a powerful, transformative energy and a felt sense of connection for all involved.</p> <p>The profound simplicity of these principles is challenged only by people’s collective fear of the unknown, the fear of what might unfold when we invite people to show up and share their past, pains, and prayers. It can be hard to see others struggle. It can be hard to struggle ourselves. It can be hard to cultivate enough faith in our own spirituality to allow for the kind of authentic dialogue that leads us together toward healing. But I have discovered that in this, as in so much of life, it is well worth the effort.</p> <p>I used to say that suffering was my teacher. But in truth, I learned very little from mine until I started to name it for myself and in relationship with others. It was the naming and renaming of my suffering that set me on a path towards healing, growth, and happiness.</p> <p>My hope for all of us is it that we find the courage to create more spaces for this kind of dialogue. As we recognize and enter such places I am confident that we will begin to free ourselves from the oppressive silence of realities unnamed, unheard, and un-integrated. This, I believe, is the power of wholeness, relationship, and community.</p> <p><em>A longer version of this article appears in <a href="http://stillharbor.org/anchormagazine/2015/5/18/fierce-embrace-dialogue-as-a-path-to-healing">Anchor Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/desdemona-dallas/after-metoo-healing-from-trauma-of-sexual-assault">After #MeToo: healing from the trauma of sexual assault</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/emma-hyndman/invisible-metoo-anonymous-testimony-sexual-abuse">The invisible #MeToo: how anonymous testimony can help survivors of sexual abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-comet/on-good-day-she-would-kiss-me-back-transforming-trauma-into-creative-energy">On a good day she would kiss me back: transforming trauma into creative energy and action</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation healing Sexual Violence Trauma Perry Dougherty Care Intersectionality Fri, 23 Feb 2018 07:30:00 +0000 Perry Dougherty 115986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Six things urban feminists should never say to rural people https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/annah-anti-palindrome/six-things-urban-feminists-should-never-say-to-rural-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Folks with degrees from Smith and Wellesley&nbsp;talked to me in slower, louder voices once they realized where I was from.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AnnahPalindrome.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Shutterstock via <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/urban-feminist-ignorance/?mc_cid=dca890f2f1&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="p1"><em>Originally published on <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/urban-feminist-ignorance/?mc_cid=dca890f2f1&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p class="p1">This article is for my fellow poor/working-class, rural feminist transplants trying to navigate a movement and culture that centers urban, coastal, middle-class values, experiences, and people.</p> <p class="p1">If your experience has been anything like mine, I know you’ve probably had to walk a long (and bumpy, dirt) road. And for those of you without the citizenship, cis-gendered and white-skin privileges I have,&nbsp;bumpy is undoubtedly an understatement.</p> <p class="p1">While not all of us move to big cities, those of us who do might leave the towns we grew up in because we felt isolated, unsafe, fell in love, or got a fancy scholarship that propelled us into the academic industrial complex.</p> <p class="p1">Others might leave in&nbsp;hopes of connecting with like-minded people, to obtain healthcare, or to gain access to the kinds of resources only made available to urban artists, activists, and culture makers.</p> <p class="p1">I moved from my small, rural, hometown in northern California to the Bay Area because so many of the artists, activists, and culture makers I look up to have lived or still live here.</p> <p class="p1">I wanted to witness their processes, study with them, learn and grow from their struggles and legacies. I wanted my own life and work to be influenced by the same landscapes and conversations as those of my mentors. (p.s. relocation,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.poormagazine.org/node/4433" target="_blank">especially to the Bay Area</a>,&nbsp;is complicated in general, no matter who you are or where you’re from.)&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">Upon arrival, we tend to be greeted with the simultaneous disgust and awe of a character from the movie&nbsp;<em>Deliverance</em>.&nbsp;Popular culture’s stereotypes and caricatures of us have never been kind.</p> <p class="p1">We’re always portrayed as being a group of exclusively white, mullet-wearing, banjo-playing, lazy, toothless, illiterate, alcoholics and addicts. Casual jokes about inbreeding, incest and bestiality are perpetually being made at our expense, and we’re often depicted as violent, hateful, and dangerous.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">When I first got to the city, I constantly found myself having to prove the fact that I, a “rurally socialized person,”&nbsp;could&nbsp;<em>actually</em>&nbsp;be a feminist.&nbsp;People were always insisting on helping me with the use of rudimentary technological devices.&nbsp;<a href="http://cdn.meme.am/instances/500x/60490414.jpg" target="_blank">Folks with degrees from Smith and Wellesley</a>&nbsp;talked to me in slower, louder voices once they realized where I was from.</p> <p class="p1">People used the term “tacky”&nbsp;to refer to the way I dressed and spoke. And I know that I am not the only person who’s had class privileged, urban folks<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/imperfect-teeth/" target="_blank"><em>&nbsp;shamelessly</em>&nbsp;gawk at my teeth</a>, insisting that I “take down the number of their orthodontist friend.”</p> <p class="p1">Being a target for this ongoing barrage of insults can make it hard to remember that these stereotypes were&nbsp;<em>designed</em>&nbsp;to make us feel inferior—to quell our sense of dignity and willingness to fight against injustice.</p> <p class="p3">But make no mistake, these insults&nbsp;<em>were</em>&nbsp;created to reinforce the hierarchies necessary for industrial capitalism, white-supremacy and heteropatriarchy to thrive.&nbsp;They were meant to prevent racial solidarity movements from forming, let alone, from effectively Taking Shit Down.</p> <p class="p1">It’s crucial that we’re able to identify where these harmful stereotypes about us come from, what purposes they serve in the larger context of white-supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy, and why they just aren’t true!</p> <p class="p1">The following six statements are comments that I hope eventually, none of us ever have to encounter again!</p> <p class="p1">And if you’re a rural, working class/poor feminist who hasn’t had the pleasure of engaging face to face with many of your class-privileged, urban and suburban counterparts, you’re really in for…a treat.</p><p class="p1"><strong>1. 'So you grew up in white-trash central?'</strong></p> <p class="p1">This is infuriating on so many levels.</p> <p class="p1">First off, at this point, we all know that the term “white-trash”&nbsp;isn’t solely engineered to offend white folks living in poverty, right?&nbsp;The underlying implication is that anybody who&nbsp;<em>isn’t white</em>&nbsp;is already considered trash—hence the need to specify “white”&nbsp;when calling someone “trash”&nbsp;in the first place.</p> <p class="p1">Further, people of color and white folks live together rurally in communities&nbsp;<em>all over the country—</em>in<em> </em>the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Delta" target="_blank">Lower Mississippi Delta</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Belt_(U.S._region)" target="_blank">Southern Black Belt</a>, regions along the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico%2525E2%252580%252593United_States_border" target="_blank">US-Mexico border</a>, and large parts of&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachia" target="_blank">Central Appalachia</a>. I grew up in California where migrant workers from all over South America made up a huge part of the community I was raised in.</p> <p class="p1">Insinuating that all rural, working-class and poor folks are white&nbsp;<em>not only</em>&nbsp;invisiblizes folks of color, it enacts the power of white supremacy&nbsp;by calling on the old, divisive modes of our forefathers who&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=iC6PTKYgNHkC&amp;pg=PA411&amp;lpg=PA411&amp;dq=poor+white+pitted+against+people+of+color&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=XDuNod8Nez&amp;sig=XXYzkRi7NzKAO699nKqAqQe9nis&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMInb_QrMbmxwIVEE2ICh1MuAGs#v=onepage&amp;q=poor%252520white%252520pitted%252520against%252520people%252520of%252520color&amp;f=false" target="_blank">pitted rural-poor white folks against people of color</a>&nbsp;so they wouldn’t have a class war on their hands!</p><p class="p1"><strong>2. 'Didn't you grow up, like, with no electricity?'</strong></p> <p class="p1">Since the dawn of western expansion, people in positions of power have&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_opposition" target="_blank">constructed strong distinctions</a>&nbsp;between what is considered “civilized”&nbsp;verses “savage.”</p> <p class="p1">Colonizers, by deeming themselves and their ways of life “civilized”&nbsp;(and therefore superior), were more easily able to dehumanize the people in the communities they occupied.</p> <p class="p1">This civil/savage dichotomy is reinforced in all sorts of ways still today—one of them being through&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Divergence" target="_blank">technology.</a></p> <p class="p1">The skills and access required to be considered “technologically civilized”&nbsp;in today’s world excludes&nbsp;<em>enormous</em>&nbsp;populations of people all over the globe, and we –&nbsp;in turn –&nbsp;use that to justify dehumanizing them, appropriating their culture, and occupying their land.</p> <p class="p1">No computer or wireless internet in your house? How savage! Using a clothes-line to dry your clothes? Savage. No central heating system? Savage! Use of non-electric domestic appliances? You get my drift.</p> <p class="p1">To make a long story short, we are taught that “civilized”<strong>&nbsp;</strong>is superior to “savage,”<strong>&nbsp;</strong>and that it’s impossible to be considered “civilized”<strong>&nbsp;</strong>if you lack access to the newest technological resources.</p> <p class="p1">In reality, what we consider “civilized”&nbsp;is actually just capitalism’s way of getting us to assimilate into its dangerous consumption-obsessed culture.</p><p class="p1"><strong>3. 'But you look so normal!'</strong></p> <p class="p1">As far as I’m concerned, this comment is meant to assert the notion that—due to our “savage,”“animalistic,”&nbsp;“amoral,”&nbsp;and “perverse”&nbsp;sexualities—folks in rural communities suffer from self-inflicted, genetic mutations that render us&nbsp;<em>inherently</em>&nbsp;flawed.</p> <p class="p1">In other words,&nbsp;kids in poor/ working-class, rural schools have lower test scores and literacy rates than kids in affluent urban areas&nbsp;<em>not</em>&nbsp;because of&nbsp;<a href="http://occupywallst.org/forum/simple-explanation-of-why-capitalism-is-unfair/" target="_blank">capitalism’s unfair allocation of resources</a>,&nbsp;but because of irreversible, biological stupidity.</p> <p class="p1">In addition, the idea that being “smart”&nbsp;and coming from a rural-poor background is somehow surprising is really hurtful! In the face of this, it’s important to remember that our society values certain ideologies, skills and smarts over others.</p> <p class="p1">For instance, individualism, competitiveness, market economy, industrialization, and the importance of overpowering one’s “animal nature”<strong>&nbsp;</strong>are typically associated with the “metropolitan mentality”<strong>&nbsp;</strong>and deemed “civilized.”</p> <p class="p1">In opposition, the adherence to tradition, ritual or religion, the prioritization of process over of product, community infrastructures based on support and&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutual_aid_(organization_theory)" target="_blank">mutual aid</a>, and the building of economies that coincide with the rhythms of nature (like farming, for instance), are considered “anti-modern”&nbsp;and therefore, inferior.</p> <p class="p1">So while<em>&nbsp;</em>it may be true that some of us didn’t achieve full literacy until we were much older than a lot of class-privileged, urban and suburban kids did,&nbsp;we knew how to cook a meal, balance a checkbook, and be caretakers of small children by the age of ten.</p><p class="p1"><strong>4. 'Did you actually come out as queer when you lived there?'</strong></p> <p class="p1">The idea that rural areas are somehow less safe than urban ones for folks deemed “other”&nbsp;has&nbsp;always baffled me.</p> <p class="p1">We live in a heterosexist world where certain people are targeted&nbsp;<em>every day</em>,&nbsp;<em>everywhere</em>. Have you seen the statistics of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/07/27/these-are-trans-women-killed-so-far-us-2015?page=full" target="_blank">trans women murdered this year alone</a>&nbsp;in urban spaces?&nbsp;Of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm" target="_blank">queer kids bullied</a>&nbsp;and brutalized in urban public schools?</p> <p class="p1">We all know that hate crimes happen in rural spaces as well. Of course—by nature of the world we live in—they do.</p> <p class="p1">But the scapegoating and lack of accountability that occurs when people imply that rural areas are “worse”&nbsp;than urban ones in this regard is inaccurate.</p><p class="p1"><strong>5. 'Growing up around all the rural mysogyny must have really impacted your love life!'</strong></p> <p class="p1">Comments like this usually come in tandem with assumptions about&nbsp;<a href="https://photocyclops.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/preview-barefoot-pregnant-and-in-the-kitchen/pregnantkitchen/" target="_blank">The Helpless Rural Housewife</a>: barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen with two black eyes, sobbing into a mixing bowl while making jam.</p> <p class="p1">I’m not really sure where the image of the meek, rural housewife comes from, but let me tell you —all the working-class, rural women I grew up with were fucking tough, capable, smart, and sassy as hell. They had to be.</p> <p class="p1">They’d collect truck beds full of splintered lumber with their bare hands to bring home for firewood. They’d keep buck knives in thick leather cases dangling from their belt loops, and they could remove bottle caps&nbsp;<em>with their teeth.</em></p> <p class="p1">I don’t mean to imply that all rural women are like this—obviously every community, family, individual, and rural culture is different. I’m just saying, the rural women I know are&nbsp;<em>far</em>&nbsp;from meek or passive.</p> <p class="p1">As for the stereotype that all rural men are&nbsp;<a href="http://lippardcd.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/white-trash-white-trash-mulllett-demotivational-poster-1219712415.jpg?w=448&amp;h=355" target="_blank">misogynistic abusers</a>,&nbsp;patriarchy is patriarchy.</p> <p class="p1">There are some men who are allies and some who aren’t—and I’d venture to say there’s a mix of them in both rural and urban spaces.</p> <p class="p8">These gendered stereotypes function to reinforce class-privileged, urban supremacy by using…you guessed it…the civil/ savage dichotomy.</p><p class="p8"><strong>6. 'Your family shopped at Walmart? What about the boycott of unfair labor practices?'</strong></p> <p class="p1">Just because a community doesn’t organize through consumer-based activism or with the intent to change institutional policy doesn’t mean they’re complacent or apolitical. Activism often looks really different in rural contexts than it does in urban ones.</p> <p class="p1">We know that rural, working-class, and poor folks engage in forms of activism every day, one example being through the practice of mutual aid.</p> <p class="p1">By this, I mean we know how to show the fuck up for each other. Where I grew up, families regularly shared resources without expectation—shelter, food, childcare, money, and so on.</p> <p class="p1">We looked out for each other. Girls and women tagged the names of known perpetrators and abusers onto restroom walls all over town so we knew who to watch out for, whose tires to slash, and who to never leave our loved ones alone with (…unarmed).</p> <p class="p1">We might not organize a boycott against Walmart if that’s the only place to buy groceries for a 100 mile radius, but we will sure as hell fight&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ice.gov/ero" target="_blank">ICE</a>&nbsp;when they come into our communities trying to detain our undocumented friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors.</p> <p class="p1">I don’t know about you, but I grew up seeing masses of rural, poor/working-class folks&nbsp;<a href="http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/07/30/article-1203115-05E1C1E6000005DC-460_634x364.jpg" target="_blank">show up with rifles and form barricades</a>&nbsp;to&nbsp;keep&nbsp;<a href="http://l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/yegCSlSMs8LbwUueNAMNdA--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3NfbGVnbztmaT1maWxsO2g9NjQ3O2lsPXBsYW5lO3B5b2ZmPTA7cT03NTt3PTk2MA--/http:/media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/Reuters/2014-05-26T034721Z_1537939234_LR2EA5P1379C0_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE-CRISIS-DONETSK-AKHMETOV.JPG" target="_blank">cops and immigration officers from invading</a>&nbsp;homes.</p> <p class="p1">We are constantly being told that there is only one effective&nbsp;<em>way&nbsp;</em>to be an activist—and that is simply untrue.</p> <p class="p1">The actual stories, voices, and activisms of poor/ working-class, rural folks are always silenced by stereotypes and media mouth pieces. Urban dwellers have so much to say about the poor/ rural experience, which they do through memes, popular media, books, and movies. But rarely do we hear directly from the voices within our own communities.</p> <p class="p1">Consider&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/morgan_spurlock" target="_blank">Morgan Spurlock</a>, with his&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/15/arts/television/walking-in-someone-elses-shoes-briefly.html?_r=0" target="_blank">premiere episode</a>&nbsp;of<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_days_(tv_series)" target="_blank"><em>30 Days</em></a>, in which he and his partner move to a small, rural town in Ohio and each get jobs earning minimum wage for a month – you know, to show everyone how&nbsp;<em>hard</em>&nbsp;life can be for “some people”&nbsp;(before returning to their swanky&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Slope" target="_blank">Park Slope</a>&nbsp;home and lucrative, metropolitan careers).</p> <p class="p1">And you know what? Life&nbsp;<em>is</em>&nbsp;hard sometimes—but we are complicated human beings! We are not defined merely by the hardships and adversities we face.</p> <p class="p1">And further, we are very capable of&nbsp;<em>writing</em>&nbsp;<em>our</em>&nbsp;narratives ourselves. Did anyone ever even ask us what we might have to say?</p> <p class="p1">Enter&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/barbara_ehrenreich" target="_blank">Barbara Ehrenreich</a>, journalist and author of the 2001 bestselling book<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/nickel_and_dimed" target="_blank"><em>Nickel and Dimed</em></a>, who wrote about her harrowing experiences living undercover as a member of the rural, working-poor for one year.</p> <p class="p1"> And, well, I guess that since we’re&nbsp;<em>such</em>&nbsp;“simple folks,”&nbsp;it’s&nbsp;<em>totally</em>&nbsp;possible for a class-privileged urban transplant to understand a lifetime’s worth of cultural nuances from spending just&nbsp;<em>one</em>&nbsp;year among (the likes of) us.</p> <p class="p1">Are you kidding me?!</p> <p class="p1">Some of us want to challenge the stereotypes that exist about us by writing stories that reflect how multi-dimensional and dynamic our lives actually are.</p> <p class="p1">But aside from the publishing industry not seeing us as a profitable or sexy demographic unless portrayed as comedic others, we are generally considered&nbsp;<em>far too stupid&nbsp;</em>to be capable authors in the first place.</p> <p class="p1">Academic and governmental institutions have never taken us seriously. The schools we go to are never well funded, and they generally fail to provide us with the educational resources necessary to succeed beyond mere hand-to-mouth survival.</p> <p class="p1">We never had teachers encourage us to explore our academic passions. Nobody ever told us that college was on the horizon, or even helped us explore alternative paths to finding our own forms of self-actualization.</p> <p class="p1">We are too often funneled from shitty, run-down school districts into labor trades where we’re expected to use only our bodies (until they give out on us) and never our brains.</p> <p class="p1">We often settle into the shame and disappointment of this reality&nbsp;and wonder whether our community’s stories&nbsp;<em>ever</em>&nbsp;really get archived (let alone taken seriously).</p> <p class="p1">In a different world, rural schools would be given access to the same resources that class privileged urban schools do. People like Morgan and Barbara would have offered to share their resources so that rural, working-class, and poor folks could have the opportunities to document our own narratives.</p> <p class="p1">In a different world, there would be grants available&nbsp;<em>specifically</em>&nbsp;for the purpose of supporting poor/ working class, rural writers in the process of archiving our stories. There would be free tutorial and editing resources available to us as we work through our projects. In that world, we would be seen as intricate, complicated human beings with powerful and important things to say.</p> <p class="p1">Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world (yet). But there are some things we can do for ourselves and each other in the interim.</p> <p class="p1">My suggestions to you—regardless of where you choose to live—is to&nbsp;<em>find each other</em>.&nbsp;Cultivate solid, long-lasting, loving relationships with each other. Remind each other how smart, resilient, resourceful, and strong you are.</p> <p class="p1">Immerse yourselves in the cultural work of other poor/ working-class, rural feminists. Share and act on your mutual aid values in every community you’re a part of. Learn more about the marriage between white supremacy and industrial capitalism.</p> <p class="p1">Study the history of solidarity movements between poor/ working class, rural&nbsp;<a href="http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/11/27/black-women-white-women-and-the-solidarity-question/" target="_blank">white folks and folks of color</a>. Get involved with and/or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/PoorNewsNetwork" target="_blank">support movements that center the voices</a>&nbsp;of poor and working class people of color in both rural&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;urban communities.</p> <p class="p1">Write your stories and support others in writing theirs—<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=Ndpsb86ldA4C&amp;pg=PA590&amp;lpg=PA590&amp;dq=punk+rock+literacy+activism&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=rWjOSQAMRE&amp;sig=LebRSLr2u_JrwD77AbsqbSE-tOA&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIo8upy83mxwIVRlyICh1VXQBS#v=onepage&amp;q=punk%252520rock%252520literacy%252520activism&amp;f=false" target="_blank">get involved in literacy activism</a>.</p> <p class="p1">I’ve found that these things can make navigating the world feel a lot more manageable.</p> <p class="p1">Oh, and one more thing: It tends to make class-privileged folks real uncomfortable when you have a visible weapon dangling from your belt loop,&nbsp;so whenever possible, keep the buck knife&nbsp;<em>inside</em>&nbsp;your purse.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-is-american-left-so-prejudiced-about-south">Why is the American left so prejudiced about the South? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist">How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Annah Anti-Palindrome Liberation Culture Intersectionality Thu, 08 Feb 2018 22:17:18 +0000 Annah Anti-Palindrome 115926 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sammy Rangel, director of Life After Hate, talks about his work with violent extremists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2018/01/life-after-hate-sammy-rangel-countering-white-supremacy/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWolpert3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Life After Hate Executive Director Sammy Rangel at a TEDx conference in 2015. Credit: Youtube/TEDx Talks.</p> <p>It’s been a roller coaster year for Sammy Rangel, the executive director of Life After Hate—a non-profit organization that encourages people to leave violent extremist groups by offering them support and a community of other “formers.” From&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/katharine-gorka-life-after-hate_us_59921356e4b09096429943b6">losing its government funding</a>&nbsp;when the Trump administration took office to experiencing a surge in media attention after Charlottesville, Rangel’s organization has become a go-to source for its unique perspective on the motivations compelling people to join extremist groups—and how to get them out.</p> <p>As former members of extremist groups themselves, Rangel and his colleagues at Life After Hate bring an insider’s understanding to their work. They know why people embrace hate and understand the pain and vulnerability fueling their violence. As a child, Rangel was abused, raped and tortured by family members. He ran away from home at age 11, and began using hard drugs and having sex, leading to more traumatic experiences when his young girlfriend gave birth to a stillborn baby. Rangel’s sense of fear and abandonment turned to anger, leading him to join the Maniac Latin Disciples gang and spend years engaged in violent crime and cycling through prison.</p> <p>Over time, Rangel’s life slowly began to change for the better. After undergoing drug abuse rehabilitation, he started doing community outreach to reduce violence, earned a master’s degree in social work, and began training law enforcement agencies on reducing violent extremism. When I spoke to Rangel, he discussed his belief in peoples’ potential to change—even those engaged in violent extremism. He challenged the way such people are condemned and dehumanized by the very people who claim to stand against hate. For Rangel, nonviolence requires the recognition of each person’s humanity, and countering violent extremism must begin with trying to understand what leads a person into a life of hate in the first place.</p> <p><strong>A recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/us/ohio-hovater-white-nationalist.html"><em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;story</a>&nbsp;profiling a neo-Nazi sympathizer in Ohio sparked a heated debate about the line between giving extremists a platform to spread their beliefs and trying to understand them as people. Could you tell me how you see that distinction in your own work?</strong></p> <p>For us, it’s not a fine line. We’re not conceding anything, nor are we relinquishing anything in our position. We just know how to develop a dialogue with the person who needs the help. One of the things we have to be mindful of is whether we are adopting the same narrative about the people we say we are protesting against. If I were to look in the mirror, do I look and sound fundamentally like the person I’m challenging, in how much I hate and condemn that person and want to cause harm to that person? That’s what the other side is trying to do. They think, “That person is so different from me that I could never relate to them.” But whether you dehumanize someone because of their race or ideology, it’s still the same process. It leads to the same thing: violence and extremism. You can be against a behavior and still see value in a person.</p> <p>The<em>&nbsp;New York Times</em>&nbsp;article minimized and glamorized. It went too far in how it depicted this person. But underneath the story is the truth: This person eats and sleeps like everybody else does. He has feelings and relationships. We’re not dealing with Nazis, we’re dealing with people who embrace the propaganda of white supremacists and the alt-right. They’re still a person, not an animal, not a sub-human. We’re dealing with people, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping that in the forefront of your mind.</p> <p><strong>How do you think we can try to understand where someone’s coming from without condoning their beliefs and ultimately resembling the same dehumanizing narrative we’re trying to oppose?</strong></p> <p>Both sides have two things in common: They have grievances, and they want to be validated. They like to talk and be heard and feel they are important. By saying “We understand,” [some left-wing groups] think we’re conceding our position. We haven’t. What we’re saying is: “I see how you got to that point in your life. I can see your process and start to dismantle that process through a lens of understanding, which is only focused through compassion and empathy. I see the suffering. I don’t agree with how you’re managing your suffering, but I see it.”</p> <p>Is a white supremacist wrong when he says the middle class is shrinking? No, but where it gets radical is who they blame and how they carry that out. They blame the government and then take it out on minorities. They should take it out on the government, but not with bombs and tiki torches. What’s amazing is that when you listen, they actually calm down and listen in return.</p> <p><strong>What sorts of things can people do to build better understanding with members of extremist groups, particularly those of us coming from left-leaning activist circles and who aren’t in a position to reach out from personal experience?</strong></p> <p>We see a lot of counter-protests, and while protests serve a purpose, they shouldn’t be equated with the idea of dialogue. You’re not going to a protest to listen to anyone—you’re preaching to the choir. In many ways a silent protest would be more powerful in my mind, because we’re there to hold our position and show the nation that this won’t go unnoticed—not to challenge their ideology. We’re not trying to win anything, but we are trying to maintain and restore balance.</p> <p><strong>A lot of left-wing groups have been celebrating the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/jan/31/the-punch-a-nazi-meme-what-are-the-ethics-of-punching-nazis">“punch a Nazi” meme</a>since the violence at Charlottesville. What are some ways groups can oppose ideology that’s not going to alienate people even further and lead to more violence?</strong></p> <p>We don’t need to oppose ideology. It’s not the ideology itself [that’s the problem], it’s the radicalization and ultimately the extremism. It’s not unconstitutional or illegal to be a radical in your thinking. [It only becomes those things] when you take those thoughts and act out on them violently. What we want to be promoting or ensuring is a place where people can have their differences of views without feeling that they can impose those on other people. You can only oppose a person’s ideology when you have mutual respect in the relationship, and that mutual respect normally comes when you are willing to listen. Listening is often mistaken for conceding something, but it’s not conceding.</p> <p>The second thing a person can do is to get behind organizations that are doing a good job on this. We’ve raised $700,000 this year, but we’ll run through that in a couple of years doing the work we’re doing—it’s not sustainable. We need people to get behind it. Other people have been&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">innovative</a>&nbsp;in helping to raise funds [by donating to groups like ours when white supremacists come to their town]. These [white supremacists] know every minute they’re out there, they’re funding programs like ours. They hate that shit. There are innovative ways to do this—it’s not difficult. We have to spend more time learning from others about what’s working in the nonviolence world.</p> <p>We also need to let people know that nonviolent doesn’t mean non-dangerous. It’s one of the most dangerous paths that a person can walk. It’s actually probably more dangerous [than using violence] because we’re walking into dangerous situations where people are willing to be violent, and we’re putting our lives on the line to hold a position as it relates to humanity. If you’re going to represent your humanity and your values, you can’t do it by diminishing someone else’s—that’s not how that works.</p> <p><strong>How might future white supremacist rallies be countered without leading to the kind of violence we saw in Charlottesville?</strong></p> <p>We’ve talked about the value of holding a protest, but not holding it where these guys show up. Let them talk to themselves while we hold our rally over here at another place. What if no one was there to pay attention? For their movement, any press is good press. We’re lending our light to their light, and that’s not what we intend to do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protest at the same time, I just don’t think we need to engage with them directly. I think that’s counter-productive on every level. What you’re trying to do is to intimidate them, but you’re actually going to embolden them.</p> <p><strong>In an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/2/27/14738170/former-neo-nazi-dont-ignore-threat-of-white-extremism-picciolini">interview</a>&nbsp;with [former Life After Hate co-founder] Christian Picciolini, he said it’s identity, community and purpose that drives radicalism—not ideology. What are some of the ways that we, as a society, can work on addressing the underlying issues of identity, community and purpose, in order to create more space for people who feel rejected or are looking for validation?</strong></p> <p>Let me ask you this: If we’re protesting the way we protest, where is the safe place for someone who is second-guessing their membership? What are we doing in our community to create a space for those people? Right now, Life After Hate is the only place to go, which is a shame because we can’t be everywhere all the time. But if the community took that stance, they might actually win some of those people right there on the spot, who say, “You know what, I want more of what you have.” When they look out their window beyond their group, they see a raging, angry crowd with nowhere to exit.</p> <p>As for identity, when we won’t allow them to have a voice or a grievance, we also rob them of their identity. What’s more, we don’t let them change their identity. Once a Nazi, always a Nazi [is so often the mentality], which is why people shame, isolate, fire and remove them from their homes. We’re not even allowing them to try and create a new identity. [Nor are we allowing them to find new purpose.] What purpose can they serve in this community when all their opportunities are being squandered because of who they used to be?</p> <p>This movement has forgotten that there are things like reconciliation and redemption. I think we’re so violent because we’ve lost faith in our own ability to be effective in this fight. If you’re skilled at what you do, you don’t burn out like this. You don’t become violent and adversarial. You only do this shit when you get so frustrated that you abandon ship, you abandon your own moral high ground. We have to do better at being strong in our position without having to condemn people. Do not concede, but do not condemn. You can do that without sympathizing with anybody who is willing to act out on hate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Intersectionality Thu, 01 Feb 2018 22:18:22 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 115786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Erica Garner’s death, I can’t breathe through the tears https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/after-erica-garner-s-death-i-can-t-breathe-through-tears <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In praise and memory of a great advocate for peace and social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZenobiaJeffries3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, leads a march of people protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July, on December 11, 2014 in the Staten Island Neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images via Yes! Magazine.</p> <p>Three weeks before her death, anti-police violence activist Erica Garner spoke in an interview of the trauma and struggle that caused&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv6gSl4JcFA">Kalief Browder</a>’s mother to die of heart problems—literally, a broken heart. Browder was the 16-year-old boy from the Bronx accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 who then spent three years in an adult prison, often in solitary, without being convicted. After he was released, he struggled with mental health and eventually took his own life.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminPDixon/status/946436687588192257">interview</a>, Erica discussed her own trauma of seeing her father, Eric Garner, killed by a New York police officer, her own health struggles, and the stress of fighting injustice since that summer day in July 2014.</p> <p>“This thing, it beats you down,” she said to podcast and YouTube show host Benjamin Dixon. “The system beats you down to where you can’t win.”</p> <p>Erica shared that she felt her father’s pain watching the viral video that shook the nation, showing New York police officer Dan Pantaleo putting her father in an illegal chokehold, killing him. “That same pain when he said he can’t breathe. That same pain when he said he was tired of being harassed” by police officers.</p> <p>But the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, the oldest daughter of Eric Garner’s children, stated emphatically, “It’s hard, but you have to keep going. No matter how long it takes, we deserve justice, and I want to get justice for other people.”</p> <p>Erica was tireless in fighting for justice for her father, whose death was ruled a homicide, although no charges were brought against Pantaleo. She died fighting for police accountability and justice for others.</p> <p>Like so many others’, my social media feeds were flooded with the news of Erica’s death on Saturday. People expressed their own pain, anger, frustration, and sadness.</p> <p>But I had no words. I could barely make out my own emotions. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of quick sentiments. I didn’t know Erica personally or professionally. I didn’t follow her work. My reaction was similar to when I saw the “I can’t breathe” video of her father’s killing, similar to when I saw the killing of Philando Castile, the killing of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-they-shot-terence-crutcher-this-time-i-watched-20160922">Terence Crutcher</a>, the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.</p> <p>There was only numbness.</p> <p>But now the tears won’t stop.&nbsp;<em>I can’t breathe </em>through the sobs.</p> <p>I remember the fatal chokehold that took Erica’s father’s life. I remember the image of a Black child being gunned down by a police officer at the park. I remember the image of a Black driver being shot while reaching for his identification, his girlfriend screaming when he dies on camera, the sound of their 4-year-old daughter consoling her mother. “It’s OK, Mommy, I’m right here with you.” Pleading with her mom to stop “’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.”</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all this remembering.</p> <p>My tears will not bring her back, and they will not get the justice that she fought for so personally and passionately. But maybe these tears, along with these words, can touch a few hearts.</p> <p>And maybe many words and many tears can spark a lot of people—tens of thousands, millions—to join the movement to end the oppression of marginalized people in their communities.</p> <p>And maybe those people will propose legislation that refuses to give police violence a pass, and that fully prosecutes wrongful acts of policing. This is something the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/the-call-to-end-the-war-on-black-lives-starts-with-accountability-20161103">Movement for Black Lives</a>&nbsp;has already begun.</p> <p>And maybe out of that will come the Eric Garner Law or the Tamir Rice Law, or pick a name—maybe just the Black Lives Matter Law, which sees to it that police officers are not allowed to just retire following an act of violence. Maybe this law will instead suspend them without pay during an investigation of a killing, a rape, harassment—any form of police violence. Maybe this law will encourage just and appropriate charges. And maybe convictions, too.</p> <p>And maybe all the programs that have been proposed to actually train police officers in implicit bias and de-escalation will be mandated for every policing agency in the smallest town to the largest city—rural, urban, suburban, county, state, and federal.</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all these maybes.</p> <p>Erica died fighting for justice. Like her father, her heart gave out from the task. She died seeing the person who killed her father not be held accountable for taking his life unjustly.</p> <p>I do not want to die knowing that I said nothing. Did nothing, knowing that oppressed people every day are dying unjustly at the hands of police, moving along with my days numb, as if that is just the normal way things are. It is not normal.</p> <p>So I will fight through the numbness and the tears, and offer my words.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/after-erica-garners-death-i-cant-breathe-through-the-tears-20170103?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180105&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180105+CID_c325be1d4f4e3aa12eddef67b19b729b&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=After%20Erica%20Gar">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alexis-buchanan/blacklivesmatter-makes-some-people-angry-isn-t-that-good">#BlackLivesMatter makes some people angry. Isn’t that good?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/what-dna-ancestry-testing-can-and-can-t-tell-you">What DNA ancestry testing can and can’t tell you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Zenobia Jeffries Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Intersectionality Thu, 11 Jan 2018 22:12:17 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Addressing systems of White supremacy can’t be dismissed as ‘identity politics.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lori2_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><blockquote><p>“Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.”&nbsp;Nancy Isenberg,&nbsp;White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America</p></blockquote> <p>There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in&nbsp;<em>White Trash,</em>&nbsp;“identity has always been a part of politics.”</p> <p>Laws have been written to oppress and exploit particular identities—Native Americans, Black Americans, Asians, homosexuals, transgender, and women—in a successful effort to maintain a system of White supremacy. Yet, members of these communities have worked for the rights and equality of everyone. In turn, White allies have joined in these anti-racism fights.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-redneck-revolt-is-showing-up-at-gun-shows-and-kkk-rallies-to-end-white-supremacy-20171117">Redneck Revolt</a>&nbsp;is one such organization. The self-described anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist group challenges working-class White people to stand against White supremacy.</p> <p>I recently talked to Brett, one of the members who heads up the network’s Southeast Michigan Chapter (because of hostilities toward the organization, Redneck Revolt members use only their first names publicly).There are about 40 chapters nationwide.<em>&nbsp;</em>He explained why the group focuses on anti-racism rather than economics even though it seeks out white working-class and poor people in economically struggling rural areas. The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.</p> <p><strong>Zenobia Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What is the significance of the name Redneck Revolt? Why did the name change from the John Brown Gun Club?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;They’re two sides of the same coin. We have some branches that are still the John Brown Gun Club. Our national network is Redneck Revolt.</p> <p>Redneck Revolt chapters like ours in Michigan here primarily focus on outreach, and winning hearts and minds, counter recruitment, showing up, being present, being allies, being where we need to be to show our community support.</p> <p>Whereas, John Brown Gun Club pretty much only deals with the firearm aspect of things. It deals with a lot of tactical training, a lot of information security-type stuff.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;Can you give an example of what you mean by “changing hearts and minds.” What does that look like?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;A really great example would be back in June. The ACT for America folks did an anti-sharia law march. Redneck Revolt was there. We were on one side of the barricades along with a slew of other leftist organizations. On the other side of the barricades were Proud Boys, Vanguard America, and a hodgepodge of other alt-right groups. But one of the most prominent was the Michigan Liberty Militia, which is famously racist and famously exclusionary.</p> <p>Toward the end of the demonstration, this one older gentleman—he was an older White man up at the barricade with all the gear on, and armed—had his rifle. One of my members and [I] went up to this guy and were like, “I understand mixing state and religion is not good. Nobody here wants to mix state and religion, nobody is protesting that. [But] it’s clearly anti-Muslim. This protest is against Muslims.</p> <p>“Furthermore, it’s against all people of color because this neighborhood [is] first-generation Somali, first-generation people form sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing abject poverty and warfare, starvation, disease. So how can you be in this neighborhood and be like, ‘This is what America stands for’?</p> <p>“Not only that, if you look to your left and right, those kids with the sun wheel on their shields, and the eagle on their shirts, those guys are self-described, literal Nazis. We fought a war about this. I thought we were all in unanimous agreement that Nazis are bad.”</p> <p>And this guy he kind of started tearing up, and he was like, “You know, I’ll tell you, my dad died in World War II in Europe fighting Nazis.” And he goes, “This really has given me [something to think about]. You know I may not agree with everything you say. But associating myself like this has really given me pause, and has really made me think about what I’m doing here.”</p> <p>We don’t expect anybody to walk away from someplace where we’re counter-recruiting waving the red flag of revolution. But if we can at least pull them out of that mindset, that’s a win for us.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;One of the things I find fascinating about Redneck Revolt is that your primary focus is organizing working-class Whites, yet you center race and anti-racism in the work that you do. So many are putting the focus on the economy, and calling anti-racism work “identity politics.” How did you all decide that you wanted to focus on White supremacy—that it is just as much of a problem for working-class Whites as for people of color?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Our stance is that our entire capitalist system is built on a bedrock of White supremacy, and as White folks we have access to spaces that people of color don’t. So we try to exploit the spaces and put ourselves in those positions to reach the White working class because it’s like the old IWW [Industrial Workers World] saying, “If we don’t get to them first, the Klan will.”</p> <p>And we understand that if there’s going to be any kind of serious discourse about dismantling capitalism, about building the new world from the ashes of the old, as they say, that description can’t be had until the underlying issue of racism is addressed.</p> <p>That’s why [we] don’t engage law enforcement. We believe law enforcement is an extension of the old slave catchers.</p> <p>We don’t engage with anything that reinforces the current system that basically is built on White supremacy. We go to great lengths to dismantle that system and empower people to help us do that, but at the same time using the spaces that we have access to, to get other people to see that.</p> <p>And I believe that a lot of people we speak to may generally not be racist in a conventional sense. But they’re certainly benefitting from the system of White supremacy that has been built. They’re not doing anything to actually help dismantle it.</p> <p>So, that’s kind of the message that we try to bring across. Nobody is saying [to them], “You’re like burning crosses, you’re actively racist.” But you have to acknowledge that … as a White person in America, you are benefitting from White supremacy.</p> <p>So, in order to address capitalism, in order to address economics, the issue of systemic racism first has to be addressed.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;I would imagine that when you’re in those spaces, and saying what you’re saying, that people respond, “But Black people are racist, too.”</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Yes, we get that a lot.</p> <p>For an example, I was talking to a gentleman the other day. He was like, “Blacks have a whole month. They have Black History Month, where we do nothing but celebrate Black history. Blacks have their own channel. People would be up in arms if we had a White Entertainment Television.” And that’s the kind of thing we get most often.</p> <p>What I say, first of all, is there is no such thing as White culture—that’s a myth.</p> <p>Secondly, we do celebrate White holidays: Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, arguably Columbus Day. Not to mention our entire society is [tilted toward] celebrating Whiteness. What I try to tell people is, Look at your ancestors. Most White people can point to a single village. I’ll use myself as an example. I can point to a single village in Sweden. I know exactly where my people are from. That’s why I take a lot of pride in my Scandinavian heritage.</p> <p>Whereas with Black folks—and other people of color, but especially Black folks—the reason they celebrate Black culture is because their culture, everything Blacks had, was ripped away from them when they were taken from Africa. So that’s why it’s celebrated; that’s why it’s important.</p> <p>Because it’s the counter narrative to hundreds of years of systemic murder, oppression, just brutal slavery. That’s why we celebrate Black culture, because that’s all most folks have.</p> <p>The conversation we have to have is how can we look at ourselves and say, “I’m benefitting from this culture that has been built to only make sure people that look like me get the advantage.”</p> <p>And, obviously, the topic of privilege comes up, and most White folks will deny that they have White privilege. They’ll say things like, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” or “My grandfather started his own business."</p> <p>It’s hard to get people out of that mindset.</p> <p>[We] start explaining to them that “I’m sure your grandfather was a hardworking man, I’d never doubt that he was. But the fact that he was able to do that, and given that opportunity, I can promise you that postwar United States, a Black man applying to that same position definitely would not have gotten it.”</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Along the lines of the “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” mindset, I’m sure you also get folks who say, “Why should we poor and working-class Whites care about what’s happening to Blacks and other people of color when we’re struggling, too?” Especially, when the issue of crime is brought up.</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We get a lot of reactionary questions, and it keeps us on our toes. But it makes our practice better. What we try to explain is that Black communities have their own set of problems just as other communities have their set of problems.</p> <p>The difference is White communities have the support of the state. For example, [when] a Black family moves into a primarily White neighborhood, then the housing values tend to go down. So what happens? The state intervenes and then makes the price of housing so high that then that Black family has to leave. That’s one example of how the state supports White supremacy. I’ve given that example a whole lot, and it tends to resonate with people.</p> <p>I have the clarity to understand that I am a college-educated [man] … who’s had uncountable numbers of opportunities thrown my way because I’m White. And given the same circumstances with a young Black man, that most certainly would not have happened. That’s what I try to explain: that people of color in the United States categorically do not have the same opportunities as White folks. Even if you are poor, which a lot are.</p> <p>But there are systems in place to make sure that I succeed. There are systems in place that make sure that my Black counterpart does not. And it’s designed that way.</p> <p>Until we as White folks can recognize collectively that we are benefitting from a system of oppression, then economics is secondary, or tertiary at best. There is no point in talking about economics when the only people affected by these economics are White people.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>I’ve read some articles stating that Redneck Revolution doesn’t have a political ideology. While you may not align yourselves with the status quo parties of Democrat or Republican, your actions and principles are very much political. How do you describe your politics?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;We’re broadly on the left. We’re what’s called a “big tent” organization. We’re overwhelmingly anarchists, but we have some communists in our ranks, we have some capitalist Democrats, progressives, and Republicans, believe it or not. I mean, we have people from all political stripes.</p> <p>That being said, we do understand there’s not going to be any grand revolution tomorrow. But the best thing that we can do short of a revolution is revolutionary change. We believe that revolutionary change comes in the form of dismantling the system of White supremacy that exists.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;What is the end goal of Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Part of it is dismantling White supremacy. Another part of it is creating spaces inside of communities [where we can] help people not rely on the state. We help to create and encourage radical spaces that encourage things like mutual aid and direct action, as opposed to relying on the state for whatever means.</p> <p>For example, we’re working very closely with the IWW, one of the oldest radical unions in the country. They have a soup kitchen in Detroit where they distribute food and clothes every second and fourth Sunday in Cass Park. They’ve been doing it since 1996, or something like that. We’re trying to build a sustainable model like that close to Ypsilanti [in Michigan], especially with the winter months coming up. There’s another organization called the Michigan People of Defense, who do a lot of street medic training. There are a lot of us, including myself, who have military experience. I’m a combat lifesaver, so I have skills I can teach people.</p> <p>People get hung up on the firearms thing, but we also believe that it’s very important for the working class to be armed. We also understand that that puts people of color at a very high risk. So we try to put ourselves at the tip of the spear, so that way we can teach people the knowledge that we have. We can show them safe operation of firearms. How to use them, how to safely handle them.</p> <p>In [one community], there are a bunch of Hammerskins [a White supremacist group]. They basically patrol the neighborhood, and we have people of color over there who are in fear for their lives, and they’ve been reaching out to Redneck Revolt to help show them to use firearms.</p> <p>We’ve taken proactive steps, and if a community needs us, they know they can call on us, and in a heartbeat we’ll be there to help in any capacity that we’re able.</p> <p>The big point is building mutual aid, radical spaces inside of existing communities to not have to rely on the state, and while doing that trying to dismantle the system of White supremacy.</p> <p>We think that by doing that, one kind of complements the other.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Was the Trump campaign for the presidency the catalyst for Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We were already around, it’s just people didn’t know about us. And that’s probably one of the problems that we face, is that people don’t know we exist. And I want to say it’s our own fault, but we do things very intentionally.</p> <p>We don’t have much of a social media presence, and we do that on purpose because we have no interest in getting bogged down in spam wars on the internet. If you have a legitimate critique of our practices, meet us in the streets, tell us what we’re doing wrong. And if your idea is better, then we’ll incorporate your idea. That’s the way we operate.</p> <p>We feel like we’re an organization that is meant to be in the streets with the people doing things, making differences in people’s lives, not sitting behind a keyboard crying about capitalism.</p> <p>You can be any [ideology] you want. If you agree with the fact that capitalism is a system of oppression, and that system of oppression is largely held up by White supremacy, and you’re willing to dismantle that system, then welcome aboard.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What would be your message to the middle and upper-middle classes, to so-called elite/progressive/liberal Whites who dismiss rural poor and working-class Whites simply as Trump supporters?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>The major issue is getting them to come out of their bubble of comfort. They hear the word “redneck” and they don’t see it through the [same] lens that we do.</p> <p>The word redneck has always been used pejoratively, but we don’t see it that way. We look at our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers and understand why they were called rednecks. You look back at the Harlan County wars, and those folks would wear bandanas to keep the sun off their necks, and that’s where the term redneck comes from. We embrace that term, and say, “Yeah, that’s who we are. We’re working-class people who are out in the streets.”</p> <p>If you can take the blinders off, you’ll see that … your comfort is still built on a system of White supremacy. Your comfort and the things that you’re enjoying are a byproduct of 150 years of working-class struggle. If you like the weekends, thank a union man. You like your 40-hour work week, you like that there are no kids slaving in textile factories, thank a union worker.</p> <p>It’s working-class people who brought those changes. It wasn’t [the] middle-class bourgeois who brought that change. It was working-class people out fighting in the streets. That’s who we are, that’s what we do.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics-20171129?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20171201&amp;utm_content=YTW_20171201+CID_ef20847be54fa7ba0fc41d3e42961bc1&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Why%20Redneck%20">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jennifer-lentfer/wrestling-with-my-white-fragility">Wrestling with my white fragility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Zenobia Jeffries Liberation Activism Care Culture Intersectionality Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:12:51 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115081 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Visualising the human price of gold https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/shirin-m-rai-beth-goldblatt/visualising-human-price-of-gold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An exhibition of powerful photographs brings home the real costs of illness and incapacitation for miners and their families.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Nosipho Eunice Dala, widow of Zwelakhe Dala who worked in the mines for 28 years and contracted silicosis. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In May 2016 the South African High Court (Gauteng Local Division) <a href="http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPJHC/2016/97.html">granted an order in the case of&nbsp;<em>Nkala and Others v Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited and Others</em></a> that certified a consolidated class action against 32 mining companies. The action had been brought by mineworkers who had contracted silicosis by breathing in the silica dust that is generated during mining, along with their dependents. This disease can take many years to manifest, is incurable, debilitating and often fatal. </p> <p>The mineworkers argued that exposure to silica dust also increased the risk of contracting TB, a lung disease caused by bacterial infection. Once miners became too ill to work they returned to their families, who became tasked with their care. The&nbsp;<em>Nkala </em>decision authorised the commencement of <a href="https://features.dailymaverick.co.za/whenthedustsettles/">the largest class action litigation ever to occur in South Africa, with almost half-a-million possible claimants</a>.</p> <p>The mining companies lodged an appeal against the High Court judgment which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in March 2018. Parallel to the appeal process, <a href="http://www.groundup.org.za/article/silicosis-unpacking-gold-mines-strategy/">there are discussions occurring between some of the parties</a> regarding a possible settlement. In the meantime, significant numbers of plaintiffs are dying each year without seeing the case resolved.</p> <p>In addition, given that the miners’ families have had to take on many more responsibilities as a result of their incapacitation, shouldn’t they also have access to compensatory damages? The High Court recognised the contribution that women make to caring for the miners, but like most international measures that calculate GDP (such as <a href="https://unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/sna.asp">UN System of National Accounts</a>) it did not recognise the value of domestic labour as labour that has real economic and financial value. </p> <p>This is largely because domestic work is placed outside the ‘production boundary’ and is not seen to be contributing to the national economy, a non-recognition that leads to a measurable deterioration in the health and well-being of individuals, households and communities <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616742.2013.789641">because the inflows required to support social reproduction fall below a sustainable threshold</a>. This is especially important in the context of the reduction of state-provided services in countries like South Africa as a result of economic crises, austerity policies and government retrenchment.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Mncedisi Dlisani, who worked in the mines for 15 years and contracted silicosis, with members of his family. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>One way to document, raise up and publicise these under-appreciated issues of care and compensation is through visualisation, which brings home the human costs of gold-mining and silicosis through powerful imagery and associated commentary. </p><p>In a remarkable collaboration organized in the weeks prior to the court case, Cape-Town based British photographic artist <a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a> worked with <a href="http://section27.org.za/">Section 27</a> and the <a href="https://tac.org.za/">Treatment Action Campaign</a>—two South African civil society groups that work on health rights—and &nbsp;<a href="http://www.genderjustice.org.za/">Sonke Gender Justice</a>, which works on the rights of carers, to photograph all 56 of the named miners in the space of 26 days. The portraits were taken in the homes of the miners that were spread all around the country. </p><p>As Pierce told us in an interview about the project:</p><blockquote><p>“One of the biggest challenges is to find some simplicity and balance. You don’t want to overload the photograph with information and you want the person to be the centre piece with other supporting information that tells a story. After meeting each of the miners or widows we would explain the project in as much detail as possible, making sure they understood what we were doing and why we were doing it. We would then do the interview so that I had a chance to get to know each person a little better.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The interviews started being about silicosis and how they struggle with the illness but I soon realised that I was getting the same answers from everyone, because that is what it is, the same illness with the same symptoms. Once I realised this I started just finding out about them as people and this led to some much more interesting stories that told relatable stories, forcing the viewer to connect more deeply with each person.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I shot portraits with the wife or other family member wherever possible. I wanted to tell the story of the family. The widows were all photographed alone but where the miners were living with sisters or brothers I wanted to include them. Only one wife refused to be photographed due to her being a traditional healer.”</p></blockquote><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt3.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Patrick Sitwayi, who worked in the mines for 22 years and contracted silicosis, and Asive Bingwa. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>To go along with the photos and increase their potential impact on the climate of public opinion surrounding the court proceedings, Pierce <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/">wrote a blog</a> that pulled from his conversations with miners and their families. He also made sure that <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/blog/9/12/2015/the-price-of-gold-exhibition">they were exhibited</a> in the most powerful way possible using sound and visual effects that were designed to pull the viewer more deeply into the experience:</p><blockquote><p>“All of the portraits were beautifully printed and mounted on board, and then displayed in a pitch black room so that they formed tunnels for people to walk through. We had a soundtrack on a loop of the wheezing from the miners that I had recorded during my interviews, together with industrial mining sounds, and we provided hard hats and head torches. The only way to view the images was to walk through the tunnels and use the head torch to see. All of the individual stories were also displayed next to each portrait. As you can imagine it had a huge impact; people came out crying.”</p></blockquote><p>By using these techniques, Pierce was able to walk the fine line between exposing the collapse of the worlds of the miners and their families, and displaying their courage and dignity in the face of such adverse circumstances. His photographs are striking in what they say and what they omit, what they make visible and what remains invisible. He supplements some of these gaps with captions containing information that he has selected about each of the miners.</p><p>The social construction of illness—of silicosis acquired by black, male bodies working in white owned mines—frames the social context of these photographs. Pierce aims to alert the audience to the pain and loss the photos reveal, and to support the legal claims of the miners and their families in the process. He gives attention both to the male workers and their relatives since each group has been so clearly affected by the men’s illness and their loss of employment.</p><p>The photographs also speak to the issue of gender and gendered roles: in most of them the description is of male lives, even when female bodies are present in the same frame. There are women in kitchens, situated in their homes with the accoutrements of everyday life. Their dwellings showing plenty of wear and tear, but also careful maintenance.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Zama Gangi, who worked in the mines for 19 years and contracted silicosis, and his wife Matshozi. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>Looking at compensation claims through the lens of photography helps us to think about which forms of harm are recognized and which are not—and why. It also leads us to ask <a href="http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/49070/">who is compensated for the harms done to them and who is not</a>, and what happens when compensation is denied to those who must assume extra responsibilities. </p><p>Understanding these questions as they manifest themselves in Pierce’s photographs points to the need for a deep and textured reconsideration of ideas about loss and injury as they are normally understood and quantified for the purpose of compensatory damages in law.</p><p><em>Thom Pierce’s award-winning photographs can be seen at the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2017/exhibition/">Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition</a> in the National Portrait Gallery in London in November 2017.</em></p><p><em>A longer version of this article has been published in <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0964663917739455">Social &amp; Legal Studies</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/florence-goddard/inside-miners-fight-against-silicosis">Why South Africa&#039;s gold miners are suing their bosses</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/natalia-duarte/beyond-blood-diamonds-violence-behind-gold-route">Beyond blood diamonds: the violence behind the gold route</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/anthony-rond-n-camacho/cajamarca-minining-colombia">How a popular vote of a local community can halt a gold mining mega project</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Beth Goldblatt Shirin M. Rai Activism Care Intersectionality Tue, 28 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0000 Shirin M. Rai and Beth Goldblatt 114781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest. https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>He wanted to know how institutional racism has made an impact on my life. I’m glad he asked, because I was ready to answer.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lori2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>Yesterday I was tagged in a Facebook post by an old high school friend asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query, but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a few folks on Facebook.</p> <p>Here’s his post:</p> <blockquote><p>To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.</p></blockquote> <p>Here’s my response:</p> <p>Hi Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime—in fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday—because I realized many of my friends—especially the white ones—have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened. </p> <p>There are two reasons for this: 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ’70s and ’80s—it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does); 2) fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.</p> <p>So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first: 1) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherry-picking because none of us have all day; 2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured; 3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today, regardless of wealth or opportunity; 4) Some of what I share covers sexism, too—intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big backyard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that. Then mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that&nbsp;<strong>the white privilege in this situation is</strong>&nbsp;<strong>being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.</strong></p> <p>2. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant—that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement. If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is&nbsp;<strong>if you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege</strong>.</p> <p>3. Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some time within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester. The point here is,<strong>&nbsp;if you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation, you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>4. When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off. The point here is,<strong>&nbsp;if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve&nbsp;achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,”&nbsp;you have white privilege</strong>.</p> <p>5. When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow AP student, you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:</p> <p>Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”</p> <p>Doctor: “Where are you going?”</p> <p>Me: “Harvard.”</p> <p>Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”</p> <p>The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.</p> <p>Store employee: “Where are you going?”</p> <p>Me: “Harvard.”</p> <p>Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”</p> <p>The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.</p> <p>Woman to the boy: “What college are you going to?” Boy: “Princeton.”</p> <p>Woman: “Congratulations!”</p> <p>Woman to me: “Where are you sending your boxes?” Me: “Harvard.”</p> <p>Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”</p> <p>I think: “No, bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.”&nbsp;But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.”</p> <p>Then she says congratulations, but it’s too fucking late.&nbsp;The point here is,<strong>&nbsp;if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>6<strong>.</strong>&nbsp;In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4–5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss&nbsp;The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t relate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I said, but I still remember the feeling—I think it’s what doctors refer to as chandelier pain—as soon as a sensitive area on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof—that’s what I felt. I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t have anything to do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what learning is about—trying to understand other people’s perspectives. The point here is—the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or achievements of white men. So,<strong>&nbsp;if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media, you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>7. All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dorm masters. (Yes, they were called “masters” up until this February, when they changed it to “faculty deans,” but that’s just a tasty little side dish to the main course of this remembrance). While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria staff—the black ladies from Haiti and Boston who ran the line daily (I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day)—Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be serving the nation’s best and brightest. I don’t know if they heard her, but I did, and it made me uncomfortable and sick. The point here is,&nbsp;<strong>if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence, you have white privilege</strong>.</p> <p>8. While I was writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss—who had only known me for a few days—had unbeknownst to me told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a potholder on the stove, burning down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer. When what he said about me was revealed months later (by then he’d come to respect and rely on me), he apologized for prejudging me because I was a black woman. I told him he was ignorant and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. But the point here is,&nbsp;<strong>if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>9. On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger-side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seatbelt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed that either it was stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, Warren was told to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man and he was much less likely to be stopped. The point here is,&nbsp;<strong>if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>10. Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. (And let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is in case you don’t already have a clue—as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen- or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story! I also have to alter headlines constantly to 1) include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets 1st Black Board Member,” or 2) rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP. The point here is,&nbsp;<strong>if you’ve never had&nbsp;to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice, you have white privilege.</strong></p> <p>OK, Jason, there’s more, but I’m exhausted. And my kids need dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these moments has been a strain and a drain (and, again, this ain’t even the half or the worst of it). But I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind. I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers, but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you have not to be judged, questioned, or assaulted in any way because of your race.</p> <p>As to you “being part of the problem,” trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever. But what IS being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege DOES exist and not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor,” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, not to let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by friends, co-workers, or family slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.</p> <p>With much love and respect,</p> <p>Lori</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was originally published by&nbsp;<a href="http://goodblacknews.org/2016/07/14/editorial-what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege" target="_self">Good Black News</a> and then edited for and published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/my-white-friend-asked-me-on-facebook-to-explain-white-privilege-i-decided-to-be-honest-20170809?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20170915">YES! Magazine</a>.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jennifer-lentfer/wrestling-with-my-white-fragility">Wrestling with my white fragility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/for-racial-healing-we-need-to-get-real-about-racism">For racial healing, we need to get real about racism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lori Lakin Hutcherson Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 19 Oct 2017 20:35:37 +0000 Lori Lakin Hutcherson 113582 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What if we thought of gender like ice cream? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/k-and-robot-hugs/what-if-we-thought-of-gender-like-ice-cream <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why do we have to choose between chocolate and vanilla?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SofaGradin5small.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Every flag together is the peaceful warrior: rainbow country, San Francisco 2014. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/14196204508/in/photostream/">Flickr/Torbakhopper</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">CC BY-ND 2.0</a>.</p><p><em>Originally published on&nbsp;<a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2017/09/gender-is-kinda-like-ice-cream/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EverydayFeminism+%28Everyday+Feminism%29&amp;mc_cid=3912d5e47b&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p>Gender identity is a deeply personal issue that many people still have trouble understanding and respecting. Unlearning restrictive binary genders is a process, but one that is well worth the effort.</p> <p>This comic highlights the importance of looking past restrictive ideas of gender and embracing the idea that every identity is ‘real’ and deserves to be respected. After all, each person&nbsp;knows themselves best.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/gender1.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/gender2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/gender3.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/gender4.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/please-call-me-they">Please call me they</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/t-m-murray/why-are-religious-conservatives-embracing-transgender-rights">Why are religious conservatives embracing transgender rights? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation K and Robot Hugs Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 28 Sep 2017 21:41:20 +0000 K and Robot Hugs 113580 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Please call me they https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/please-call-me-they <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How do I explain to my colleagues that I’m not a ‘he’ or a ‘she’—and why it matters?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SofaGradin5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Every flag together is the peaceful warrior: rainbow country, San Francisco 2014. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/14196204508/in/photostream/">Flickr/Torbakhopper</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">CC BY-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In a few weeks time I’ll be starting a new job in a university that I’ve never worked at before. This presents me with a uniquely queer dilemma: how do I ‘come out’ about my pronoun at work?</p> <p>To give you a bit of background, I’m a genderqueer nonbinary person who uses the pronoun ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ or any of the others. I was born into the label ‘girl’ 34 years ago, but that doesn’t have much relevance to my life as an adult. I don’t aspire to any kind of womanhood or manhood so ‘she’ is really not a word that captures me—and neither is ‘he.’</p> <p>My life is a mishmash of feminine and masculine experiences, but above all, experiences that are not really gendered at all. That’s why I prefer the pronoun ‘they,’ which is free from all the expectations and assumptions that come with gendered language. But how do I explain this to my new colleagues?</p> <p><strong>Scenario 1</strong>: I walk into the office on my first day and say ‘hi, please call me they—that’s my pronoun. I’m not a woman or a man. It’s very nice to meet you.’ &nbsp;That will set me up for some relaxed relationships at work for sure…..</p> <p><strong>Scenario 2</strong>: I don’t say anything about my gender until a few months later when everyone’s gotten to know me, then I announce that nobody in the office truly knows who I am—they’ve &nbsp;been using the wrong pronoun since day one. That’s bound to build trust among my colleagues…..</p> <p>Either way, it’s going to be awkward. Anyone who’s had to come out as anything knows that it’s not a one-off event. You keep coming out most days of the week for the rest of your life. But it’s particularly hard to come out as nonbinary genderqueer because most people have no idea what that even means. So let me explain.</p> <p>For me—and I have to emphasise that this is my own interpretation since other people understand it differently—queerness is the opposition to the Western social ordering principle of gender, and the building of alternative ways of being that are free from such gender norms. Contrary to common misconceptions, queerness is not primarily about sexuality but about gender. What’s more, it’s not really an identity but a structural critique of modern society and its violent and deadly hierarchies.</p> <p>When we are born, or actually before we are born, we are put into one of two genders—boy or girl; boxes that tell us loosely who we are, how to act, and what to aspire to. Thanks to feminists’ struggles over the last 100 years these two boxes have been stretched and expanded, but they’re still definitely recognisable. The queer criticism of these boxes isn’t just that they’ve been too rigid historically, but that their contents—‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’—are inherently and irreparably harmful.</p> <p>Sure, it’s unpleasant to be put in a box and told by everyone else who you should be, and ideally we would all choose our own individual identity without being dictated to by others. But humans are not islands. Our thoughts are made through language and the concepts and categories that come with it. Our innermost desires and tastes are created through interactions with other people, and in that sense we co-create each other.</p> <p>In order to do this and live together we do need categories—maybe even some kind of boxes—but those categories should be flexible and varied, and there should definitely be more than two of them. When someone chooses to merge things from different categories together we should support them.</p> <p>However, the important thing about the queer critique of gender is that hegemonic gender boxes are not just limiting and rigid; they are toxic and hurtful <em>to us all</em>.</p> <p>Think about the traits that define the stereotype of an ‘ideal man’ in capitalist and white supremacist society. The masculine man is strong and competitive, knows everything, thinks rationally, acts aggressively when threatened, and likes to conquer both women and non-European cultures. These are tired old stereotypes, but they still affect and shape our worldviews.</p> <p>The corresponding stereotype of traditional Western femininity is the opposite: hesitant, modest, unsure about how cars or science work, motivated by emotions, beautiful to look at, desperate to please all those around her, and wanting to be conquered by dashing men. Hats off to all those feminist activists who have fought to break down these nauseating clichés, and shame on all those post-feminists who deny that they still affect us.</p> <p>Of course, it’s difficult to generalise about gender stereotypes because they vary depending on your class, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racialization">racialisation</a>, age and so on. The contents of those two boxes are different depending on who you are. But the hegemonic version of these stereotypes—the contents of the white, middle-class, working-age gender boxes—are something everyone in society must relate to, and against which they must be judged.</p> <p>The point about these stereotypes is that they’re not random—they serve a specific function: masculinity is the embodiment of domination and femininity is the embodiment of subordination. In recent years, the concept of ‘<a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/06/12/toxic_masculinity_is_killing_men_the_roots_of_male_trauma_partner/">toxic masculinity’</a> has been used to highlight the links between pressures on men to be strong and assertive, and the incidence of violent attacks, male suicide, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. I’d add war, macho politics, profit-seeking and colonialism to that list.</p> <p>In this binary model, femininity isn’t much better since it acts as the complement to masculinity: it is self-erasing and accommodating; it provides free domestic and emotional labour; and it supports, applauds and copes.</p> <p>The queer critique of the binary gender system, then, is not only that it’s boring or constraining, but that it’s actively harmful. Many liberal feminists have campaigned for the right of women to jump out of the pink box and into the blue one; hence women can now become CEOs, wear suits and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/15/angry-voter-berates-theresa-may-disability-benefit-cuts">cut people’s</a> <a href="https://dpac.uk.net/2017/07/call-government-act-urgently-independent-livingsocial-care-funding-disabled-pple/">Disability Living Allowances</a> just as aggressively as any guy. To a queer, this is not the way out of the mess in which we find ourselves.</p> <p>Rather than focusing on opening the two boxes to everyone, nonbinary queerness lets us create entirely new ways of being that reject and go beyond <em>any </em>hierarchical bundle of identities. Is it so difficult to imagine what that might look like in concrete terms? Thankfully there are already many real-life alternatives.</p> <p>As a lecturer for example, I could orate in a booming voice like my masculine forbears or femininely defer to the brilliance of male authors and male students. Of course I do neither. Instead I try to talk to my students without dominating anyone and aim to facilitate their learning, like many lecturers do.</p> <p>As a politician, British Prime Minister Theresa May has chosen to pursue policies based on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/theresa-may-threatens-eu-with-tax-haven-hard-brexit-plan-ready-to-do-so-if-eu-blocks-trade-migration-deal_uk_587cbbdae4b04a8bfe6af15b">aggressive competition</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/31/theresa-may-inequality-margaret-thatcher-resolution-foundation">inequality</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/28/theresa-may-signs-100m-fighter-jet-deal-with-turkeys-erdogan">sanctioning state violence</a> rather than daintily giggling her way through politics. But wouldn’t it be much more progressive to practice a different, non-hierarchical form of politics and economics altogether—rooted in &nbsp;participatory local governance,&nbsp; worker-owned co-operatives, alternatives to prison and publicly-funded social centres, schools and youth clubs?</p> <p>There are a million alternatives to gender binaries in all areas of our lives. Nonbinary queers reject them in different ways: some believe in expanding gender stereotypes from within by parodying and stretching gendered attributes, while others believe in making them obsolete by embodying different and gender-free ways of being. The choice of tactic will depend on your background, culture, religion and relationship to your family.</p> <p>Personally—as a white atheist city-dweller with no traditional family ties—I try to move beyond gendered expressions and identities as much as possible in my personality, life choices and language. That’s why I’m not a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’ Instead, out of all the non-gendered pronouns I could have chosen (and <a href="http://askanonbinary.tumblr.com/pronouns">believe me there are plenty</a>), I’ve gone with ‘they.’ That word isn’t so much about my identity as it is about my politics, worldview and entire personality. And that’s why what I say to my new colleagues at work is far from a trivial pursuit.</p> <p>Maybe there’s a third scenario to add to the others I mentioned at the outset: print loads of copies of this article and give one to each of my new colleagues: everyone loves a preachy missionary who forces other people to read their stuff. That will make me popular at work.....</p> <p>Or I could just play them <a href="https://youtu.be/tWXt1fFpX5k">this Madonna cover</a> that I’ve made with my own words added. I hope you enjoy it. And please don’t forget to call me they.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/cole/they-pronoun-why-it-is-important-emotional-weight-words">This is why using &#039;they&#039; as a gender pronoun is so important</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation 50.50 Transformation Sofa Gradin Liberation Intersectionality Sun, 03 Sep 2017 23:24:21 +0000 Sofa Gradin 113062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are religious conservatives embracing transgender rights? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/t-m-murray/why-are-religious-conservatives-embracing-transgender-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iran has the second highest number of sexual reassignment surgeries in the world. What’s going on?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TMMurray.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A transgender flag in San Francisco. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/14511581936">Flickr/Torbackhopper</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p><span></span>Transgender rights activists emphasize that they belong to a minority that’s <a href="http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/transgender-terminology?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4aKKpvy91QIVUkwNCh2RHAhtEAAYASAAEgLTDfD_BwE">defined by a gender identity that is different from that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth</a>. This transgender identity presupposes that ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are innate psychological states that are intrinsic in the human subject, conceptualized as things akin to hair color or skin pigmentation. However, attempts to <a href="http://www.cell.com/trends/genetics/fulltext/S0168-9525(02)02666-5">link gender to a supposedly ‘male’ or ‘female’&nbsp;brain&nbsp;</a>have been <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060975199/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A1W9YO40S7WJUH&amp;psc=1">fraught with confusion</a>, since the science involved&nbsp;has often been&nbsp;<a href="http://ssc.wisc.edu/soc/faculty/pages/docs/fujimura/Signs%20fujimura%20sex%20genes.pdf">biased by&nbsp;social presuppositions</a>.</p> <p>It may be true that an adult person’s&nbsp;sexual biochemistry&nbsp;determines arousal and sexual preference (i.e. the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_system">endocrine system</a>, which is responsible for the regulation of androgens such as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estrogen">Estrogen</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone">Testosterone</a>), but there is no evidence that it determines the range of stereotypical ‘personality attributes’ that we associate with ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity.’ What we ‘make’ of our sex is up to each one of us. It’s clear that only women can bear children, for example, but the implications are undetermined—the current social division of labour around childcare is only one of many possible arrangements. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Hence, the idea that all men share a set of intrinsic heterosexual personality attributes that are different to all women is a socially and politically-conservative fiction, designed to maintain certain dominant institutional arrangements.&nbsp;After all, if gendered behaviours, mannerisms and styles of dress were ‘natural’ then the need for ‘role models’ to teach children how to be ‘men’ and ‘women’ would evaporate.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nevertheless, stereotypes about gender and sex continue to be widely circulated by parents, teachers, television, cinema, sport, literature, children’s toys, clothing, hairstyles, the beauty industry, and religion. Exaggerating differences between men and women far&nbsp;beyond&nbsp;reproductive biology, along with mystifying the opposite sex and making unregulated sexual activity between men and women taboo, only strengthens these stereotypes. As a result, we are unable or unwilling to see the opposite sex primarily as a person like ourselves, with similar needs and desires.</p> <p>But here’s the thing: in arguing that a small number of people are born with a sense of gender that does not ‘match’ their genital sex, there’s a danger that the Trans movement might strengthen the assumption that all of us possess an innate identity that’s inherently ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’&nbsp;<em>prior</em>&nbsp;<em>to socialisation</em>. This might explain why many ultra-conservative religious bodies from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/iran-transgender-law-islamic-republic-advances-bill-protect-transsexuals-amid-1940978" target="_blank">Iranian Parliament</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pakistan-first-passport-transgender-designation_us_59513135e4b05c37bb782260" target="_blank">Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior</a> to the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/21/proposal-for-transgender-baptism-to-go-before-church-of-england" target="_blank">Church of England</a> are throwing their weight behind transgender rights while remaining steadfastly homophobic.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conservative religious views of ‘creation’ cling to the view that all healthy humans possess an innate heterosexuality, a belief that’s based on the compatibility of male and female&nbsp;genitals&nbsp;for reproduction. Accordingly, homosexuals are simply defective or disordered heterosexuals.&nbsp;However, if homosexuality is naturally-occurring then this reasoning collapses. &nbsp;And since we know that many individuals do not conform to traditional gender norms it’s clear that these norms cannot be innate.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to conservatives, if anyone born with a penis were to have an innate desire to ‘act like women’ then he would be diagnosed as sick or “<a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria#1" target="_blank">dysphoric</a>.” The same goes for biological females who feel a stronger affinity to normatively ‘masculine’ social roles and sexual attractions. In this context, it would be surprising if homosexuals did <em>not</em> feel confused.</p> <p>Some clinicians do identify gender ‘dysphoria’ (or ‘unhappiness’) as an abnormal psycho-sexual condition that exists within the ‘patient,’ but is this true? Is it the person, or their<em> </em>relationship&nbsp;to society’s strict gender expectations,&nbsp;that makes them feel unhappy in their body? This question has real political consequences, because any criticism of social institutions that need reforming can easily be redirected towards the ‘aberrant’ individual: <em>they</em>&nbsp;must be altered to fit the norms of health and social acceptability.</p> <p>To get some purchase on how this works in practice, consider the situation of&nbsp;<span>queers in Iran</span>. Iran is a sexist, intolerant, homophobic theocracy in which fundamentalist religious laws are strictly enforced to support the hetero-normative status quo. The official state solution to homosexuality is either to&nbsp;<span>punish or execute</span>&nbsp;those who practice it openly, or to ‘encourage’ homosexuals to transition surgically to the ‘correct’ sex so that they can ‘fit back into’ society.</p> <p>Consequently,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexuality_in_Iran" target="_blank">Iran</a>&nbsp;has the second highest number of sexual reassignment surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. The government even provides financial assistance for them. This seems analogous to chemically lightening a black person’s skin to make them more comfortable in a racist society rather than tackling that society’s racism.</p> <p>In the same way, the seemingly compassionate ‘recognition’ of transgender ‘patients’ by many progressive clinicians and others in the Transgender rights movement may actually be&nbsp;reinforcing&nbsp;the hetero-normative binary that has long caused suffering and alienation for both homosexuals and gender non-conforming heterosexuals.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a child I wanted my body to be male so that I could do things that only men in my culture were permitted to do, like playing football or marrying a woman. It may be that I ‘identified’ as a boy when I was a little girl, but this could well be because I simply preferred to do what my culture had taught me were exclusively ‘boyish’ activities.&nbsp;&nbsp;There’s no way to test whether being unhappy with one’s biological body is a by-product of dogmatic gender enculturation&nbsp;or&nbsp;an innate condition as conservatives would have it, since all cultures indoctrinate their children with gender norms, albeit in slightly different ways. There is no ‘control group’ against which we could compare gender-indoctrinated individuals.</p> <p>In this confusing context, it becomes very difficult to distinguish homosexuals from ‘transgendered people.’ Given the heterosexist expectations that are built into social gender norms, homosexuality represents one very good reason why a subset of people simply cannot feel ‘at home’ in their bodies. The stereotypical expectation that all men are the same (and all women too) furnishes us with another excellent reason. Such individuals are not suffering from a disease; their societies are suffering from an inability to accept diversity.&nbsp;</p> <p>That said, some individuals might still be happier to transition than to cross-dress or to live as a gender non-conformist. In a liberal society, the option to surgically transition to the opposite sex should never be off the table for consenting adults. However, it should not enjoy automatic precedence over fighting for social reforms that are aimed at achieving more tolerance for gender non-conformists. Gender reassignment should be a decision taken by people who are fully aware of the part that learned social norms have played in their understanding of themselves and their sexuality.</p> <p>We need not object to informed and consenting adults surgically transitioning to live in a body in which they feel more comfortable. But we should all—including progressives in and outside the transgender rights movement—eschew the popular rush to embrace this option uncritically, or as the&nbsp;primary&nbsp;solution for youngsters who suffer unhappiness because of their bodies. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rebecca-gould/love-without-monogamy">Love without monogamy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/edgar-rodriguez/theres-more-to-being-gay-than-anal-penetration">There&#039;s more to being gay than anal penetration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation T. M. Murray Liberation Care Culture Intersectionality Sun, 13 Aug 2017 23:53:57 +0000 T. M. Murray 112713 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women beware: President Trump and the promise of violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/women-beware-president-trump-and-promise-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Mooch may have gone but the menace and misogyny remain deep inside the White House.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AngelaMcRobbie7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Anthony Scaramucci being interviewed by Emily Maitlis. Credit: twitter.</p> <p>When <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3Y883FGMCt2P2BkQZKYLJqX/emily-maitlis">Emily Maitlis of BBC Newsnight</a> landed <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqa4kykOsEk">her first (and possibly as it transpired, her last) interview</a> with the then-incoming Head of Communications for the White House, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Scaramucci">Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci</a>, she could have had little idea beyond her briefing notes what to expect. What viewers actually saw and heard wasn’t just a bad omen of things to come, but an exercise in that peculiar blend of undisguised contempt and ferocious masculine-driven competition that has become a decisive marker of the violent underpinnings of Donald Trump and his administration. Women beware. </p> <p>Scaramucci rose to the occasion of having a well-trained and well-mannered BBC female journalist in front of him by attempting to cut her down to size. He repeatedly pointed and stabbed his finger at Maitlis. He seemed to want to pat her on the arm, perhaps intending to infantilise her as ‘just a girl.’ Eventually he did touch her on the hand, thereby breaking all the normal etiquette and disarming her for a moment. Successful working women like Maitlis might have gotten to the top, but she still needed to be reminded of the ‘natural’ pecking order. </p> <p>There are at least three political issues entangled with one another in this kind of media spectacle. The first is the fact that a right-wing faction in government is having to contend with the presence of professional women on its home turf. This is something that neo-liberalism has already found a way to manage through recourse to ideas of ‘leaning in,’ thereby—at least to some extent—adjusting to this phenomenon. Not so the harder right which forms a key element of Trump’s support.</p> <p>Secondly, these kinds of gladiatorial televisual knockabouts form a deliberate part of Trump’s approach to political communication. In similar fashion, a few days after Scaramucci’s interview with Maitlis, presidential adviser <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/03/the-ugly-history-of-stephen-millers-cosmopolitan-epithet-215454">Stephen Miller went head to head with CNN’s Jim Acosta</a> who asked him a question from the floor about Trump’s proposed new legislation on immigration. Miller accused Costa of “cosmopolitan bias” and <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/03/the-ugly-history-of-stephen-millers-cosmopolitan-epithet-215454">was hailed by Breitbart News</a> for his “evisceration” of the journalist. These performances are deliberate—gauged for their entertainment value in a presidency that’s increasingly defined by those standards, but sophisticated as a form of propaganda. </p> <p>The third issue is Trump’s flagrant debunking of the law and the surrounding institutions of the state, and his disdain for the scaffolding of liberal democracy. In this environment, gender equality is a scornful thing. </p> <p>Each of these factors played out in the Maitlis interview and thereafter. Indeed Scaramucci showed himself to be supremely talented in this respect, delivering his jabs with smiles and nods to the camera while displaying a prowess well beyond anything he learned at Harvard Law School or on Wall Street. And therein lies the danger: by converting news to entertainment, the actors involved may, at least to some extent, be exculpated from the gravity of their deeds. This weakens our capacity for the depth of critique that’s required in the present moment. It adds levity in a context where democracy is in peril.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Sticking close to Trump’s Presidential campaign script, Scaramucci accused Maitlis of elitism, and referred to the political classes in Washington DC in the same way, aiming to elevate Trump and himself as champions of the ordinary working-class man or woman. His straight-talking style and claims to authenticity on the basis of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Scaramucci#Early_life">growing up on New York’s Long Island</a> are part of a repertoire of reaching out to Trump’s political base over the heads of the professional class. While Trump’s constituency may not watch Newsnight, they surely would have appreciated Scaramucci’s ability and willingness to throw a metaphorical punch in clips that were widely circulated on social media. </p> <p>These claims to authenticity are part of the ‘we the ordinary people’ &nbsp;‘Born in the USA’ rhetoric of many Trump voters. Such self-mythologizing is buried so deep in the white masculine working-class psyche of modern America that it resonates even when the carrier of the message is a man in a Wall Street suit. The Mooch was happy to explain to Maitlis that—while most of his counterparts in Washington DC were backstabbers—at least he and Trump were more honest: ‘we do it in the front.’ Five days later, and under the direction of the President’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/us/politics/trump-white-house-obamacare-health.html">new Chief of Staff John Kelly</a>, he was forced to step down. </p> <p>But the question remains: what was Maitlis to do under these circumstances? Who was guiding her through her earphone? She was on duty, so presumably her professionalism stopped her from asking Scaramucci to desist from making so many stabbing gestures with his hands. The question of what to do when etiquette is broken like this in a blatantly macho way is one that must surely reverberate for many women journalists working in and around the White House under the current administration. </p> <p>Where rules are flaunted on such a regular basis, new and insidious forms of sexism must be high on the agenda. Just a few weeks previously and while awaiting a call from the newly elected Irish Prime Minister, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/06/28/i-bet-she-treats-you-well-trump-calls-over-irish-reporter-compliments-her-nice-smile/?utm_term=.fc9d82a1a948">Trump called a young woman forward from the Irish contingent of the Washington DC press corps</a> and congratulated her on her smile. She could have refused his invitation on the grounds that this was not a beauty pageant, thereby showing how inappropriate a comment this was to someone taking part in her professional duties. Would she have lost her job? Surely not. Again it was a way of reducing a woman down to size. </p> <p>All of this is redolent of the showmanship underpinned by menace that’s practiced by other right-wing leaders like<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-then-and-now"> ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi</a> &nbsp;who, like Trump, also recognized and utilized the power of TV entertainment in politics. Berlusconi felt no need to restrain himself when demeaning women. Their very presence warranted a comment in public that all could hear, whether one of approval or otherwise.</p> <p>In these many small but significant actions, we see a disavowing of all the measures taken to ensure gender equality in and across public life, in media institutions, and in departments of the state. Coming from heads of government or their appointees, these actions and their signals are all the more important, seeking as they do to give legitimacy to what is happening, though Scaramucci’s performance in his interview with Maitlis pales in comparison to <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/politics/scaramucci-new-day-transcript/index.html">his expletive-driven comments to New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza</a> which led to him being fired. Reportedly Trump himself did not object to Scaramucci’s foul-mouthed tirade—“I loved it” <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/07/28/trump-loved-scaramuccis-profanity-laced-rant-to-a-reporter/">according to the New York Post</a>. Perhaps his daughter and his wife were not impressed, but it was Kelly who insisted that he be sacked. </p> <p>Trump’s particular brand of authoritarianism relies on the popularity of various media genres to give it legitimacy, even in adversity, and even when the White House is struggling to meet any of its policy objectives. No one will ever be able to watch <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apprentice_(TV_series)#Original_series">The Apprentice</a> again and see it as harmless fun. Perhaps more complicated is our psychic attachment to genres like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather">The Godfather</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sopranos">The Sopranos</a>, or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Scorsese">Martin Scorsese’s</a> cinematic masterpieces of New York’s gangster-land like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Streets">Mean Streets</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodfellas">Goodfellas</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raging_Bull">Raging Bull</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>These were the same kind of guys, the same ‘goodfellas’ who talked in the exact same way about women, and who were only truly at home in the strip club. Cut women down to size with a few violent expletives. Refer to each other in the language of the locker room where the real guys hang out. </p> <p>Maybe they endeared themselves to us because they seemed to belong safely in the past. Sadly, it’s time to think again. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-then-and-now">Anti-feminism, then and now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/neoliberal-economics-of-family-life">The neoliberal economics of family life</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/gathering-and-assembling-judith-butler-on-future-of-politics">Gathering and assembling: Judith Butler on the future of politics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation 50.50 Transformation Angela McRobbie Liberation Intersectionality Sun, 06 Aug 2017 23:33:33 +0000 Angela McRobbie 112708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I wrote this so&nbsp;that&nbsp;more&nbsp;cis&nbsp;men can understand their&nbsp;toxic&nbsp;behavior and avoid apologizing 20 years too late.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonGreenberg1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A person in a grey shirt looks out from a balcony. Credit: Everyday Feminism.</p> <p><em>Originally published on&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/07/from-asshole-to-an-activist/"><em>Everyday Feminism</em></a>.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">After leading&nbsp;my students, all&nbsp;high school&nbsp;seniors,&nbsp;on a field trip to a local domestic violence (DV)&nbsp;organization&nbsp;to&nbsp;get a better understanding of intimate partner violence&nbsp;(IPV), I didn’t expect to be the one to leave with an epiphany.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">On the bus ride&nbsp;back to school, I messaged my ex who had been with me through many of those thrashing years of high school and college:“Whenever I hear about methods of control in DV situations, I hear echoes of a younger, way-more-insecure me.&nbsp;I am so sorry you had to deal with that me. Sorry also that it has taken this many years to apologize.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">She was “floored.”&nbsp;I responded that I hoped&nbsp;that&nbsp;the floor was clean. My past&nbsp;certainly&nbsp;has&nbsp;not been.&nbsp;What’s more,&nbsp;I spent much&nbsp;of my life never fully understanding how dirty I was.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Long before I joined&nbsp;Everyday Feminism,&nbsp;I joined Facebook and began reconnecting with childhood folks who knew that younger me. One woman, who I had never been particularly nice to in my adolescence, praised an article I wrote on&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/proof-male-privilege/" target="_blank">male privilege</a>&nbsp;and asked how I “started to get it.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Though she didn’t say it like this, the question I heard, knowing my history, was: How did you go from being such an asshole to a writer for Everyday Feminism?</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">A fair question, one I more than earned.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But it’s a complicated question. First, I’m still a bit of an asshole, though I make a conscious effort to keep any&nbsp;assholery&nbsp;separate from systems of oppression. Second, I have editors telling me this piece is supposed to be an article, not a memoir.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But the article-length answer is that, over the course of my life, I have found numerous frameworks to help me makes sense of my behaviors – and unlearn them, or at least try to.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Let’s start with what I learned from working with Domestic Violence organizations.</p><p class="qowt-stl-nospacing"><strong>1. The power and control wheel.</strong></p><p> Because most&nbsp;cis, straight men like myself don’t formally study&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/need-feminism-in-schools/" target="_blank">issues of gender</a>, when we think of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/recognizing-domestic-violence/" target="_blank">intimate partner violence</a>, we usually think of illegal acts – physical and sexual violence. Many DV organizations refute these misconceptions using the Power and Control Wheel.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Power_And_Control.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>Notice that only the outside of the wheel consists of those&nbsp;illegal acts. The spokes, however,are full of perfectly legal—and abusive—behaviors.</p> <p>During that field trip, when I&nbsp;looked at a few&nbsp;of those spokes,&nbsp;it was like&nbsp;looking&nbsp;into&nbsp;a&nbsp;mirror –&nbsp;or&nbsp;through&nbsp;a&nbsp;window at a&nbsp;younger me.</p> <p>While I had always been a good kid in most ways, my goodness didn’t mean I was exempt from many of those spokes.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">For example,&nbsp;during the years with my ex,&nbsp;when I was feeling&nbsp;particularly hurt or vulnerable,&nbsp;it was not uncommon to&nbsp;unleash&nbsp;a fury of punching&nbsp;directed at the nearest wall, windshield, or sometimes myself—leaving me with&nbsp;dents&nbsp;in&nbsp;bedroom&nbsp;walls, cracked&nbsp;skin and&nbsp;windshields, headaches—and a&nbsp;very&nbsp;scared partner.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">When I discuss the Power and Control Wheel with my students, they confirm that such behaviors are alarmingly common.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">A therapist I once worked with—one whom&nbsp;I sought out because&nbsp;of my inability to access my emotions—taught me that those fits were a consequence of masculinity. My emotions&nbsp;would spill out as rage because I, as&nbsp;a&nbsp;cis&nbsp;man, was trained to suppress&nbsp;them until they consumed me.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">According to her,&nbsp;I&nbsp;was a&nbsp;victim of masculinity. Liking that&nbsp;narrative, I&nbsp;wrote that interpretation in ink for many years.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I now interpret&nbsp;those fits of rage as a means of control, a textbook case of “Using Intimidation” on&nbsp;the Wheel. If my partner answered a loaded question with the answer that hurt me, she risked a&nbsp;punching storm.&nbsp;It was far safer to&nbsp;tell&nbsp;me what I wanted&nbsp;to hear.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Other behaviors&nbsp;of mine&nbsp;that permeate the&nbsp;Wheel might&nbsp;better&nbsp;be&nbsp;described today as&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/" target="_blank">gaslighting</a>, which&nbsp;Shea Emma&nbsp;Fett&nbsp;describes&nbsp;as “an attempt to overwrite another person’s reality.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I remember&nbsp;on numerous occasions&nbsp;actually&nbsp;blaming&nbsp;my ex&nbsp;when men hit on her—as if&nbsp;I&nbsp;had somehow become the victim.&nbsp;Instead of viewing&nbsp;these&nbsp;unwelcome advances by others as&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/this-is-also-harassment/" target="_blank">harassment</a>&nbsp;against her, I viewed them as threats&nbsp;against&nbsp;me&nbsp;that could lure away&nbsp;my primary source of validation—my girlfriend.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Even without the Wheel, it’s obvious how problematic these&nbsp;behaviors are,&nbsp;and I cringe rehashing&nbsp;them in writing.&nbsp;But the Wheel gave me a framework to reflect on behaviors I had not thought about in years.&nbsp;It spurred a wave of&nbsp;nostalgia,&nbsp;except&nbsp;that&nbsp;they were shitty memories, not sentimental&nbsp;ones, that&nbsp;rushed&nbsp;back into&nbsp;my&nbsp;consciousness.</p><p class="qowt-stl-nospacing"><strong>2. Toxic masculinity.</strong></p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Of course, I didn’t develop these behaviors in a vacuum.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I had help—like an&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/what-is-patriarchy/" target="_blank">entire society</a>&nbsp;training me not just how to gain&nbsp;control&nbsp;over my partner&nbsp;but also that I was&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-women-domestic-violence-confronting-our-societys_us_58ed2f1ae4b0ea028d568d95" target="_blank">entitled</a>&nbsp;to do so.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Poet Tony Hoagland describes&nbsp;some of&nbsp;this training in&nbsp;“<a href="https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinichol/CreativeWriting/323/MiscpoemsHoagland.htm" target="_blank">The Replacement</a>:”</p> <blockquote><p>It is a kind of cooking</p><p>the&nbsp;male child undergoes:</p><p>to&nbsp;toughen him, he is dipped repeatedly</p><p>in&nbsp;insult—peckerwood,&nbsp;shitbag,&nbsp;faggot,</p><p>pussy,&nbsp;dicksucker—until spear points</p><p>will&nbsp;break against his epidermis,</p><p>until&nbsp;his is impossible to disappoint.</p></blockquote> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I bring up this training not to pass the buck or let me off the hook. After all, I embraced much of it.&nbsp;I chose to&nbsp;enroll&nbsp;in weight training classes&nbsp;for&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/02/how-to-exercise-out-of-self-love-not-fat-shaming/" target="_blank">more aesthetic than health reasons</a>. I chose to watch&nbsp;those&nbsp;shows full of&nbsp;gratuitous objectification.&nbsp;I chose to cannonball into the waters of superficiality.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But it’s important to&nbsp;more deeply&nbsp;understand the source of one’s actions.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing"><a href="https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-difference-between-toxic-masculinity-and-being-a-man-dg/" target="_blank">Harris O’Malley</a>&nbsp;defines&nbsp;<a href="https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-difference-between-toxic-masculinity-and-being-a-man-dg/" target="_blank">toxic masculinity</a>&nbsp;as a “narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I was playing out a&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Script_theory" target="_blank">script</a>&nbsp;of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/01/freeing-men-toxic-masculinity/" target="_blank">toxic masculinity</a>&nbsp;that&nbsp;I didn’t necessarily author, and realizing this fact helped me find a new script—even if I couldn’t forget many of the lines from the old one.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Toxic masculinity&nbsp;is the&nbsp;mainstream&nbsp;school that too many of us attend to learn abusive behaviors. And while anyone can exhibit abusive behaviors, if we look at&nbsp;IPV,&nbsp;cis&nbsp;straight men are far more likely to be the perpetrators.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">In response to an underreported&nbsp;shooting,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/san-bernardino-domestic-violence-terror_us_58ed2046e4b0c89f91222524" target="_blank">Melissa&nbsp;Jeltsen&nbsp;writes</a>:</p> <blockquote><p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">According to&nbsp;PolitiFact, there have been&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/oct/05/viral-image/fact-checking-comparison-gun-deaths-and-terrorism-/" target="_blank">71 deaths due to extremist attacks on US soil</a>&nbsp;from 2005 to 2015. Compare that to the drumbeat of women killed by their intimate partners, which&nbsp;<a href="http://testkitchen.huffingtonpost.com/this-is-not-a-love-story/" target="_blank">number three daily</a>. In California alone, there were&nbsp;118 domestic violence-related homicides&nbsp;in 2015.&nbsp;On average, there are nearly 11 murder-suicides nationally each week. Most involve a man killing his wife or girlfriend using a gun. But they get little sustained media attention.</p></blockquote> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Recent years have been banner years for toxic masculinity, as The Representation Project recently highlighted in a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q24g6Wlf1Ko" target="_blank">three-minute video</a>.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But the ‘70s and ‘80s contained enough toxic masculinity to require that the rest of my&nbsp;life be spent unlearning and deprogramming.</p><p class="qowt-stl-nospacing"><strong>3. True self vs false self.</strong></p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Understanding the concepts&nbsp;of the true and false self&nbsp;accelerated the&nbsp;deprogramming.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">In my message to my ex, I mentioned&nbsp;that my youth had been marked by extreme insecurity. I was a skinny White kid whose only remarkable quality was how&nbsp;thoroughly&nbsp;unremarkable I was. I lived&nbsp;directly&nbsp;atop of the bell curve.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Having my love returned by a remarkable person was validating. But also problematic, as I&nbsp;found self-worth not from myself, which is where you’d expect to find&nbsp;self&nbsp;worth, but from my relationship.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Mary&nbsp;Pipher—author of&nbsp;Reviving Ophelia,&nbsp;the classic (White) feminist text from the&nbsp;‘90s—frames this type of validation&nbsp;as symptomatic of the&nbsp;“false self,”&nbsp;which is socially&nbsp;scripted, most often&nbsp;by unhealthy sources like&nbsp;the&nbsp;market-driven media.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Pipher&nbsp;writes, “With the false self in charge, all validation came from outside the person. If the false self failed to gain approval, the person was devastated.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">She wrote this with adolescent girls in mind, but other&nbsp;a/genders can also find the framing useful. After all, we can all relate—at some level—to the pain involved when we can’t own all of our “emotions and thoughts that are not socially acceptable.”</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">In contrast, people honoring their “true selves” accept&nbsp;themselves,&nbsp;rather than waiting for others to accept them.&nbsp;Not having fully accepted myself,&nbsp;I drew an unhealthy amount of value from&nbsp;my&nbsp;relationship.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">And if my ex had power over my self-worth, I consciously and unconsciously did what I could to get control over her.&nbsp;And&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/cis-men-socialized-to-be-abusive/" target="_blank">toxic masculinity normalized my behaviors</a>&nbsp;so I could act without self-examination.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Exploring my true self, however, led&nbsp;to some really&nbsp;heavy&nbsp;questions—like who the fuck&nbsp;am&nbsp;I,&nbsp;really?</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">What truly feeds and nurtures me?&nbsp;The&nbsp;answers to those questions, for&nbsp;me and most folks, don’t include hurting the ones we care about. In fact, I wonder how many abusive people are abusive&nbsp;because they have denied themselves their true selves.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">In&nbsp;the end, we all lose when we play out someone else’s script.</p><p class="qowt-stl-nospacing"><strong>4. Good/bad binary.</strong></p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">We also lose using the&nbsp;<a href="https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-fragility-why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism-twlm/" target="_blank">good/bad binary</a>.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">In my experience, the&nbsp;good/bad&nbsp;binary&nbsp;is&nbsp;a&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/hatred-of-racism-supports-racism/" target="_blank">counterproductive mindset</a>&nbsp;more commonly&nbsp;applied to&nbsp;racism. If we believe that only bad people can be racist, then we’re&nbsp;far less likely&nbsp;to explore&nbsp;and own&nbsp;our racism.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But&nbsp;such a&nbsp;binary ignores the complexity of our world.&nbsp;In a racist world, as a White American, I can internalize racist thoughts even as I try to be a good person.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">The same is true with gender discrimination, as&nbsp;Maisha&nbsp;Z.&nbsp;Johnson argues&nbsp;thoroughly&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/good-people-can-be-rapists/" target="_blank">here</a>.&nbsp;The good/bad binary is a set-up to ensure problematic behaviors go unchecked.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Yes,&nbsp;I was a good kid—a good student, a good employee, and a good athlete. But that all of that goodness didn’t mean I was a good boyfriend. My resume of goodness didn’t&nbsp;negate all of the damage I’ve caused.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">It didn’t negate the time I shouted&nbsp;at my girlfriend so loudly&nbsp;during an argument&nbsp;that a neighbor called the cops. It didn’t negate&nbsp;all the&nbsp;times&nbsp;I policed the clothing choices of my partners. And it doesn’t negate that I continue to struggle to&nbsp;find better outlets for my anger than yelling.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">And just like I need to face my privilege and racist thoughts, I need to face these behaviors. I need to own that damage, not avoid&nbsp;it.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">Understanding the&nbsp;set-up of the&nbsp;good/bad binary&nbsp;has helped me do so.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">So how did&nbsp;go from that&nbsp;embarrassing&nbsp;mess of a young person to a less messy 44-year-old who spends so many of his waking hours&nbsp;<a href="http://kuow.org/post/seattle-schools-may-make-ethnic-studies-mandatory" target="_blank">challenging systems of oppression</a>?</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">The non-memoir&nbsp;answer is&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/" target="_blank">intersectional feminism</a>—the framework of all frameworks.</p> <p>Maybe it was anti-racist work that led me to feminism, but feminism deepened my understanding of these powerful systems that cause so much pain, systems of which I no longer wanted to be part.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">And feminism&nbsp;led me&nbsp;closer&nbsp;to my true self&nbsp;and it&nbsp;brought me to that&nbsp;DV organization, which was created by feminism.&nbsp;And while I wish I had learned these insights sooner, I’m forever grateful to feminism.</p> <p>As an&nbsp;anonymous&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/05/teaching-consent-doesnt-matter/" target="_blank">Everyday Feminism&nbsp;contributor&nbsp;writes</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>I am forever thankful to have stumbled upon this brilliant ideology that names my realities and shows me how the culture is to blame, for giving me a framework to understand why what’s happened to me has happened to me, and why the world is so painful to so many.</p></blockquote> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">But don’t get me wrong:&nbsp;I’m not done learning.&nbsp;And this piece is by no means an exhaustive list of the&nbsp;shit—present and past—that I need to own.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">And I didn’t write this so I can pat myself on the back.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">I wrote this so&nbsp;that&nbsp;more&nbsp;cis&nbsp;men can&nbsp;better&nbsp;understand their&nbsp;toxic&nbsp;behaviors.</p> <p class="qowt-stl-nospacing">And&nbsp;then&nbsp;they can&nbsp;free themselves&nbsp;of them&nbsp;so that they are not messaging apologies&nbsp;20 years too late.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-greene/why-manning-up-is-worst-thing-we-can-do">Why manning up is the worst thing we can do</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rachel-mann/im-woman-but-im-glad-i-used-to-be-man">I&#039;m a woman, but I&#039;m glad I used to be a man</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation 50.50 Transformation Jon Greenberg Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 03 Aug 2017 23:58:35 +0000 Jon Greenberg 112675 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Please don’t tie me down https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/daniel-fletcher/please-don-t-tie-me-down <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s time to let go of the Victorian idea that a ‘serious’ man should not be sensually open. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanielFletcher2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.pixabay.com/">www.pixabay.com</a>. CC0 Public Domain.</p> <p>Disclaimer: I’m a man who wears a tie to work every day. I work in a primary school, and a couple of years ago ties were made compulsory for both male and female pupils. Tie-wearing for boys and girls at school is pretty common in England so their introduction came as no great surprise, but it did produce a dilemma in my mind: I hadn’t worn a tie to work for years, but now that all the children had to wear one should I lead by example and follow suit? There was no school policy on staff wearing ties, but the pressure began to build and eventually I buckled.</p> <p>I’ve worn a tie to work ever since, yet this really bugs me, and not just because I find ties a little uncomfortable or unfashionable to wear: for me it’s also an issue of politics.</p> <p>My interest in the political significance of tie-wearing was pricked in June 2017 when John Bercow, the Speaker of the UK House of Commons, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40446102">clarified that MPs would not be required to wear ties to debates in Parliament</a> (he meant for men, not for women). Bercow’s decision was discussed <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04gvzmf/episodes/downloads">on BBC Radio Five Live’s news show <em>Good Week / Bad Week</em> on July 2nd 2017</a>. One of the guests was the Russian journalist and former Kremlin adviser <a href="http://www.politicalscrapbook.co.uk/alexandernekrassov/">Alexander Nekrassov</a>,<em> </em>who suggested that relaxing the rule on ties would be a “disaster.” He argued that a tie “reveals everything about a man,” and that ties “make men look smart…and smart has to come back.”</p> <p>Nekrassov defended the tie because it’s a symbol of the traditional masculinity he’s keen to preserve (or “bring back” as he put it on the programme), an image that still shapes our subconscious sense of what a man should be. What’s worrying is how broadly accepted this position seems to be. All four of the other panel members agreed with Nekrassov that a man looks smarter in a tie. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/1rtmf0y9DWkzm3Pwb0cHP2g/jane-garvey">Jane Garvey</a>, one of the show’s co-hosts (who also presents <em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qlvb">Woman’s Hour</a> </em>on BBC Radio Four) put it like this: “I tend to agree with the general view that men look smarter with ties.”</p> <p>It’s this idea of male ‘smartness’ that needs to be deconstructed and overturned.</p> <p>When we think about the smartness associated with a man in a suit and tie, we’re thinking about a form of masculinity that is rooted in late Victorian, bourgeois culture. During the Radio Five Live discussion, Garvey half-heartedly offered up the theory that the tie is a “silken arrow” that points towards a man’s “most treasured region” (she didn’t say whether this was his wallet or his penis). That’s a little too Freudian for me. Instead, I suspect that—as a critical accompaniment to the Victorian suit—ties are better understood as part of a wider form of ‘respectable’ expression that’s defined by male self-repression.</p> <p>After all, what does a tie do? It tightens, restricts and covers. It tightens around a man’s neck, restricts his movement just a little, and critically, it covers up the buttons of his shirt that provide the opening to bare flesh. The late Victorian man in his suit and tie is defined by his discipline. He must display his ability to control his raw bodily urges, raising himself above a state of nature with the power of his rational thought and the strength of his hardnosed convictions. The tie helps to communicate this level of control and discipline to the world, literally tying up the top button—the first to be undone in revealing the body—and covering the rest with that “silken arrow.”</p> <p>The modern suit jacket, the surviving descendent of an array of Victorian coats and jackets, completes the look. It adds another thick ‘professional’ layer over the body of sensuality and emotion. To this day, many professional men will wear their jackets and ties at virtually all times when they enter into ‘serious business,’ even when they work in horribly hot and sticky environments. They must bear the discomfort, keep the body well covered up, and ‘be a man.’</p> <p>As Garvey’s fellow co-host <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/14g3BwZXDqxNgqwp2GfqbFp/peter-allen">Peter Allen</a> suggested during the Radio Five Live discussion, there’s a perception that a man without a tie looks ‘untidy,’ but what does that mean? It means a little too free—<em>for</em> <em>a man. </em>If so, a senior professional man with an open-necked shirt and<em> two whole buttons</em> undone might well create complete consternation among his staff. To many people, an un-tied shirt is worrying enough as an indicator of openness to the sensual body, so how about a CEO or Prime Minister in shorts, revealing his bare legs to the world? <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jun/22/teenage-boys-wear-skirts-to-school-protest-no-shorts-uniform-policy">Even the notion of teenage boys in short trousers makes us think twice.</a> The truth is, we haven’t let go of the Victorian idea that a ‘serious’ male should not be sensually open. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Given that we still readily accept a man in a suit and tie as the gold standard for ‘smartness’ in multiple senses, is it any wonder that we still live in societies that are defined by the emotionally stunted nature of traditional masculinity? These are societies where ‘smart’ men in suits and ties go about their business, putting profits above our welfare, self-interest above empathy, and ‘tough decisions’ above human dignity—men &nbsp;who have been taught that raw power is more valuable than emotional sensitivity.</p> <p>In Western societies, ruthless strength in the face of ‘emotional wavering’ is still one of the most prized traits in industry and politics. We should not be surprised, then, to find a man like Donald Trump stepping up from the world of business to claim political power. While he may be clueless, he looks kind of smart in his suits and red ties. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/07/putin-trump-meeting-g20-russia-election-hacking">When Trump met Putin at the G20 summit</a> in Hamburg, he found his kindred spirit on the global stage. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/07/trump-putin-meeting-g20-russia">As the journalist Richard Wolffe puts it, the two men are “cut from the same cloth.”</a> Wolffe used that phrase metaphorically, but he might just as well have meant it literally, because when they sat down together to bond over their status as fellow strongmen, they reflected the image of each other in their immaculate suits and ties.</p> <p>While we may think of men like Trump and Putin as aggressive and hot headed as they bludgeon their way to the top, they strive to give off the impression of being cool and collected during the ‘big’ occasions and the ‘tough’ decision making that follows. Whenever it‘s time for serious business, they will be ready in all their professional layers, looking neat, tidy and <em>tightened up</em>. They will make sure that the sensual body is well restricted when it ‘really matters.’ &nbsp;</p> <p>The irony, of course, is that strongmen who are so keen to express control over their emotions are the same people who are so <em>out of control</em> in their insatiable lust for power. As they drain human sentiment out of their decision making they are left with the most basic compulsion <em>for more.</em> Indeed, modern strongmen drop the token Victorian ideal of the rational overcoming the natural in order to reveal traditional masculinity in its bare form. What matters most to them is not the strong mind but the strong gut—men like Trump like to trust in their ‘gut instinct.’ And here’s the final irony: the ‘smart’ suit and tie of the strongman ultimately hints at the primitive gut of self-interest. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If we want to progress beyond a world defined by this culture, then perhaps it’s time to reflect more critically on supposedly ‘trivial’ symbols of Western masculinity like suits and ties. Deep down, they carry a powerful mix of traditionalist associations that underpins the conservative ideologies from which we’re struggling to break free.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/daniel-fletcher/spectre-of-female-otherness-is-haunting-athletics">The spectre of female otherness is haunting athletics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mark-greene/why-manning-up-is-worst-thing-we-can-do">Why manning up is the worst thing we can do</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/amit-singh/washboard-abs-and-crash-diets-how-beauty-industry-is-hurting-men">Washboard abs and crash diets: how the beauty industry is hurting men</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/michael-weatherhead-richard-bartlett-ashish-ghadiali-david-mallery-rui-tavares/parenting-planet">Politics and patriarchy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Daniel Fletcher Liberation Culture Intersectionality Wed, 19 Jul 2017 00:09:09 +0000 Daniel Fletcher 112290 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The claim that intersectional critiques are divisive is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both intersectionality and socialism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SofaGradin4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">WERK in Solidarity- Celebrating Intersectionality and Resistance, Washington, DC, February 3 2017.<strong> </strong>Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/32694066465/in/photostream/">Flickr/Ted Eytan</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Two recent encounters with fellow lefties have got me thinking.</p> <p>One day I’m at a Leninist meeting talking to a Marxist dude who’s bemoaning the increased popularity of ‘identity politics’ within the left, because it distracts from the ‘real struggle’ of ending material exploitation.</p> <p>And the next day I’m in the basement of a queer bar watching a drag artist shouting to rapturous applause that being ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer">non-binary</a>’ means to be free to be whatever you want to be—celebrating personal freedom as a key element of social transformation.</p> <p>Both of these people belong to and identify with the left, but they seem to represent contradictory positions on a question that’s consuming an awful lot of our energies these days: how to respond to the multifaceted realities of oppression and liberation.</p> <p>As a queer non-binary Marxist, I can see where both positions are coming from. On the one hand, I want everyone on the left to understand that we’re all fighting the same struggle—that it’s people’s material wellbeing that matters in the end. On the other hand, everyone within the Left isn’t the same—there are many identities, cultures, sexualities and personal expressions that need to be respected.</p> <p>What are we supposed to do with these tensions? How should the left respond?</p> <p>Conventional wisdom says ‘take one side or the other,’ but that cements internal divisions still further just when we need more unity. It’s better to recognise that this split itself is artificial, and that both positions can learn from the other. Let me explain.</p> <p>Since the 1970s the left has grappled with its own exclusion of marginalised people. Women, people of colour, disabled folks, queers and others have drawn attention to the assumptions and behaviours that have sidelined their needs and interests. In a ground breaking <a href="http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html">public statement</a> issued in 1977, the Boston-based Black feminist group Combahee River Collective highlighted their need to “develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.”</p> <p>Since then, many groups and individuals have developed a radical ‘intersectional’ critique which argues that sexism, racism and other forms of oppression in mainstream society are often reproduced within the left. As legal scholar <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality">Kimberlé Crenshaw pointed out</a> in the 1980s, struggles in aid of equality for vulnerable people have often failed to recognise that oppression works along several axes at once.&nbsp; There has been an implicit assumption on much of the left that the working class is white, male, non-disabled and straight, so the obstacles faced by the majority are ignored.</p> <p>But now, many on the left are sceptical of this intersectional discourse, arguing that an ‘incessant’ focus on personal characteristics distracts from the common struggle against capitalism—that intersectional politics has become, as Marxist commentator Asad Haider puts it “<a href="http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/a-marxist-critiques-identity-politics/">not about a social structure, but [about] the recognition of an individual or a particular group’s identity.”</a></p> <p>Haider continues:</p> <blockquote><p>“Now in an organizing meeting, any discussion that takes place between a white person and a person of color will be tense and guarded, because at any time the white person may be accused of white privilege, and thus denounced for bringing irreconcilable political interests into the group. That is a very different kind of politics, and not one that tends to result in open strategic discussions, building trust between activists, or effectively broadening towards a mass movement.”</p></blockquote> <p>As these tensions intensify, it’s very important to clear something up: radical queerness and anti-racism are not forms of identity politics; and class struggle is not free from questions of identity. All forms of social life are <em>already</em> coded by class, race, gender and disability, so there are no forms of politics or struggle that exist outside these structures of social power. The claim that intersectional critiques distract from the ‘real struggle’ or are divisive is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both intersectionality and socialism: the question is not whether the two can be integrated, but how.</p> <p>These misconceptions are, however, understandable, in part because intersectional critiques have arisen at the same time as a parallel liberal discourse in mainstream society which <em>is</em> about identity politics. This liberal discourse demands the recognition of non-dominant identities in society: that a Black person can be president; that people with disabilities can be entrepreneurs; that women can be corporate CEOs; and that gay people can get married. These demands, which seem obviously desirable and therefore politically neutral, are in fact the product of a particular political ideology, namely liberalism.</p> <p>At the time of its initial development in early modern Europe, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism">liberalism</a> was a new and radical philosophy that broke away from the traditional feudal belief in a highly regulated social order based on monarchy and serfdom. Instead it emphasised the importance of individual freedom and non-interference by the state or by other people in the private sphere. Every person has the right to behave as they see fit <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harm_principle">unless they actively cause harm to someone else</a>.</p> <p>In response to older beliefs that homosexuality cannot be respectable, for example, or that people of colour are ‘naturally’ different from white people, the assertion that marginalised groups are just as human and important as dominant groups is certainly a form of progress. But what liberalism fails to understand is that it isn’t possible to create a just and free society on the basis of these principles. As many on the left have pointed out (<a href="http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj79/cox.htm">including Marx himself</a>), human beings are deeply social creatures who depend on and co-create each other, so no individual can enjoy absolute freedom and autonomy.</p> <p>Liberals believe that the decisions we make about our lives are personal—that where we work, what we say and how we spend our money, dress and behave is nobody’s business but our own. However, once we realise that people are deeply interconnected these allegedly personal decisions become public and political. Our jobs, for example, are connected to a broader economy that involves a myriad of other workers, consumers and producers.</p> <p>As a result of these interconnections, certain repeated patterns have emerged through the evolution of Western society that have penetrated deep into our personal lives and personalities. For example, British women have not randomly chosen to do <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37941191">two thirds more housework</a> than men. Black women working in white collar jobs are not <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-39268521">constantly mistaken for office cleaners</a> by pure chance. And <a href="http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/">two women per week</a> are not just accidentally killed by men in cases of domestic violence. As these examples show, expressions of power that shape public life also make their way into private thought and action, and vice-versa.</p> <p>Intersectional critiques may look similar to liberal identity politics on the surface, but at their core they are not concerned with assimilating marginalised groups into existing mainstream institutions, language and positions. Rather, the goal is to rethink and reconstruct those institutions altogether. And that effort starts by examining how the structures of power that create and regulate race, class, gender, disabiity and sexuality play out in our own lives and in our own organising, as well as in society more broadly.</p> <p>Hence, instead of encouraging a disabled woman to dominate a panel discussion just as assertively as any non-disabled man, we can organise participatory workshops and train ourselves on how to take part in inclusive discussions. We can rethink our demands and strategies; redesign our posters and websites; change the language we use and our demeanour in meetings and at home; and resist the nation-state by creating more deeply-democratic and participatory forms of governance. In these ways we don’t merely add minorities to existing political practices and structures as liberal identity politics aims to do—we transform them around a much deeper understanding of diversity.</p> <p>By the same token, the claim that non-binary queerness is solely an expression of individual freedom is based on a liberal misunderstanding. For me, being queer is not just a private preference, it’s about how I behave, know, talk, organise, work and live. Being queer is a necessary response to structural oppression; a vehicle to confront and resist the ways in which capitalism, racism and patriarchy seep into the most intimate aspects of my life. Queerness is not freedom <em>from</em> social interference, it’s the opposite—an active and responsible engagement with the structures of social power.</p> <p>Therefore, rather than bemoaning the increased popularity of identity politics we should rethink our forms of organising, core questions and priorities. We must let go of the notion that the working class—or the ruling class—are homogenous. To include the concerns of many women, people of colour, queers and disabled people we must organise in the home, in community centres and night clubs, with accessible toilets and hearing loops, for alternatives to racist and violent policing, against gender norms and borders, and with sensitivity, emotion and attention to the needs and voices of specific groups <em>as well as</em> the goals that unite us.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/enough-talk-about-intersectionality-lets-get-on-with-it">Enough talk about intersectionality. Let&#039;s get on with it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/why-allies-are-welcome-to-criticise-social-movements">Why allies are welcome to criticise social movements</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sofa Gradin Liberation Activism Intersectionality Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Sofa Gradin 111508 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Passive patience is oppressive, but active patience can help us all https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/breeshia-turner/how-passive-patience-is-oppressive-but-active-patience-could-help-us- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does your commitment to justice override your desire for comfort?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/BreesiaTurner.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Two people sitting on a couch while touching each other’s hands and smiling. Credit: Everyday Feminism. All rights reserved.</p> <p><em>Originally published on <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/04/radical-patience/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EverydayFeminism+%28Everyday+Feminism%29&amp;mc_cid=a64d3b7df1&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p>She held me as we lay in bed together, falling asleep. We had only been dating for two months.</p> <p>“I just ask you to be patient with me.”</p> <p>I didn’t respond. I lay there thinking, “Not today, Becky. You gots to go.”</p> <p>You see, I’m a Black woman, and my partner is a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/are-jews-white/509453/" target="_blank">(white) Jewish&nbsp;</a>woman. I am no stranger to white women asking me for patience without understanding that the trauma of being a queer Black woman in America means that we don’t have the same access to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/brittney_cooper_the_racial_politics_of_time" target="_blank">time</a>.</p> <p>I started pulling away from (what I perceived to be) the all too familiar request to honor a white woman’s experience(s) above my own. She felt my energy.</p> <p>“Listen, there’s a difference between active and passive patience. I will never be passively patient with you.”</p> <p><strong>I was stunned. In 25 years, I had never heard this distinction.</strong></p> <p>More poignantly, I had never heard a white woman use the term&nbsp;<em>patience</em>&nbsp;in a way that didn’t center on her own experience, thus erasing my own.</p> <p>Intrigued, I asked, “What’s the difference?”</p> <p>She responded, “You’ve had a lifetime of white women talking. I’d rather show you.”</p> <p>For the past 25 years, I’ve almost exclusively heard patience used in a passive, oppressive way. It’s been used as a tool to silence those seeking&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/11/mistaking-retribution-for-justice/">justice</a>&nbsp;and relief.</p> <p>It’s been six months, and my partner still hasn’t defined active—or rather, “radical”—patience verbally. Every distinction I’ve gathered has been from observing the way she shows up for justice, both in our relationship and in her work.</p> <p>The personal is political, and observing the ways that she embodies active patience has given me context to explore the difference between active and passive patience politically.</p> <p>Here are ten&nbsp;differences between active and passive patience.</p> <p><strong>1. Passive patience is stagnant—it doesn’t grow or change.</strong></p> <p>Passive patience doesn’t work towards changing the conditions that cause harm.</p> <p>It just asks us to stop complaining, resisting, and demanding to comfort and appease folks who are being asked to change.</p> <p>For example, when white women demanded the patience of trans women,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/sydnerain/status/823378710833270786" target="_blank">Native women</a>, and women of color during the Women’s March, what they were really saying is: “We meant well. Stop being divisive by reminding us of your oppression—that is both&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/01/white-feelings-racial-conversations/">uncomfortable and inconvenient</a>. Let us have this moment of solidarity, even if it comes at the expense of your erasure.”</p> <p>In some ways, I understand their distress.</p> <p>Change can be difficult, painful even. But pain and discomfort are inevitable and temporary parts of moving towards change and resolution, both ebbing and flowing in presence and intensity.</p> <p>Our relationship to it often shifts, as opposed to remaining stagnant.</p> <p>Suffering, however, is often either caused or inflicted and is the indeterminate and irresolvable experience of pain. It’s long-term, and its&nbsp;<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/some-assembly-required/201401/pain-is-inevitable-suffering-is-optional" target="_blank">psychological, physical, and emotional</a>&nbsp;impact are devastating.</p> <p>When marginalized folks point out the ways that the actions of our oppressor(s) cause suffering, and our concerns are greeted with an insistence of silence, stagnation, and/or cooperation in our own suffering, as opposed to discussing solutions for change, that’s passive patience.</p> <p><strong>2. Passive patience conflates acceptance with complacency.</strong></p> <p>We’re taught that we must accept who and where we are, even if that means accepting one’s harmful tendencies, in order to change them.</p> <p><strong>But acceptance doesn’t mean that we’re complacent.</strong></p> <p>For example, if someone is on fire, a complacent reaction would acknowledge that someone is burning, but do nothing to address their suffering.</p> <p>However, the process of acceptance requires one to acknowledge, or accept, that someone is burning in order to&nbsp;<em>know</em>&nbsp;what steps come next, like finding water to put the fire out.</p> <p>White cis women must be willing to accept that historically and presently, they contribute to the oppression and erasure of the experiences of women of color. But first, that involves&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm" target="_blank">active listening</a>.</p> <p>They must be willing to listen to the experiences of women of color and&nbsp;<em>accept</em>&nbsp;their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/01/us/politics/white-women-helped-elect-donald-trump.html?_r=0" target="_blank">participation</a>&nbsp;in white supremacist culture before they’re able to dismantle it.</p> <p><strong>3. Passive patience centers one’s good intentions over one’s hurtful actions.</strong></p> <p>In my experience, most people aren’t intentionally sexist, misogynistic, racist, ableist, and so on.</p> <p>But that doesn’t change the harmful impact of their actions.</p> <p>Often, when well-meaning people are confronted with abuse of privilege, they often get defensive because the reality of their actions challenges the person they’ve imagined themselves to be.</p> <p>However, living in a society built on the oppression and marginalization of non-white, non-male, disabled bodies inevitably causes us to internalize oppressive behavior.</p> <p><strong>That doesn’t mean that we aren’t good people. It just means we have a responsibility to be self-aware.</strong></p> <p>Unlearning oppressive behaviors via self-awareness is a lifelong process, but that doesn’t mean that one has to wait a lifetime to stop causing harm.</p> <p><strong>4. Passive patience both maintains the status quo and is coercive</strong><strong>.</strong></p> <p>Most of my life, I’ve heard the term&nbsp;<em>patience</em>&nbsp;both used against me, and other women of color, in a way that mimics&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/">gaslighting</a>.</p> <p>Women of color are asked to be patient when institutions inadvertently acknowledge their lack of diversity, let alone&nbsp;<a href="http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2012/june_2012/diversity_invited_party_inclusion_asked_dance.html" target="_blank">inclusion</a>. Yet, support for our efforts to create a more welcoming, intercultural, and anti-oppressive social climate are either subpar or non-existent.</p> <p>And in the case of Black women specifically, we often begin to doubt our own experiences and develop Black&nbsp;<a href="http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/superwoman-comple-deepak-chopra-breaks-dangers-stressful-lifestyle/" target="_blank">Superwoman complex</a>&nbsp;in a search for the strength to develop more (passive) patience, to withstand affliction from another person.</p> <p>When we complain about the pain we experience as marginalized folks, or walk away because we’ve had enough, we’re told that we just aren’t patient enough, that we need to wait a little while longer until things change.</p> <p><strong>We’re made to feel as if our inability to passively sit with suffering is the root of the problem, not an institution’s unwillingness to work to change hurtful and oppressive conditions.</strong></p> <p>While it’s true that one or both parties may have to deal with hurt feelings and unprocessed trauma, it’s important to recognize that privilege requires an oppressor to carry greater responsibility in the effort of reconciliation.</p> <p>Marginalized folks desire safety and healing like all beings. However, oppression often puts the onus on us to carry our own generational trauma while carrying the burden of our oppressors emotional discomfort and/or complacency.</p> <p>Any model of patience that treats those being harmed like props by insisting that the person(s) experiencing harm remain silent is passive&nbsp;–&nbsp;and violent.</p> <p><strong>5. Passive patience demands self-sacrifice and martyrship.</strong></p> <p>Passive patience requires that the oppressed use our physical, mental, and emotional energies as fertilizer for their dreams.</p> <p>In other words, it requires the oppressed to place our full center in causes, institutions, and actions that don’t value us enough to listen when we’re hurting.</p> <p>For example, to insist that women of color and/or trans women participate in a march that actively excludes them for the sake of able, cis, white women is messed up.</p> <p>Now, I want to state that I have privilege in some areas and am marginalized in others. I’m marginalized as a queer, neurodivergent, Black woman, but my educational background, lighter skin, American citizenship, and able body give me privilege.</p> <p>However, I notice most often that passive patience is demanded of me when my emotional labor is expected in the education of well-intentioned folks who would rather debate my humanity as opposed to listen when I explain why something is hurtful.</p> <p><strong>Having a conversation with a person who’s contributing to my suffering requires energy, especially when the person is unwilling to accept my truth.</strong></p> <p>It’s very uncomfortable for many of us to sit with our own ability to cause harm, especially unintentional harm. Yet, marginalized folks are expected to do this labor, despite the emotional ramifications to ourselves.</p> <p>We’re expected to engage. We’re expected to be passively patient while our oppressors work through their own processes.</p> <p><strong>6. Active patience is an active commitment toward change.</strong></p> <p>As mentioned earlier, passive patience is coercive.</p> <p>Instead of relying on mutual agreement towards a common goal, it demands the participation of those being harmed for the benefit of the oppressor.</p> <p>However, active patience is not coercive.</p> <p>Everyone involved uses their agency to agree on a goal. And when everyone agrees, all parties can move toward a common goal. Everyone can actively move toward change.</p> <p><strong>7. Active patience respects the autonomy of each being involved.</strong></p> <p>Often, the comfort of an oppressor is privileged over oppressed folk’s need for safety.</p> <p>For example, when Native women complained about the appropriation of their culture(s) and the erasure of their histories by white folks during the Women’s March, an actively patient ally would have not only engaged in active listening, but would have sat with their pain.</p> <p>They would’ve sat with the discomfort of their own complicity in another person’s degradation and began searching for ways to minimize the direct harm they caused in that moment while committing to strive towards larger structural changes in the future.</p> <p><strong>They would’ve asked questions to understand the concerns of the oppressed as opposed to silencing them.</strong></p> <p>In short, they would’ve respected their voices and perspectives as autonomous beings as opposed to reducing them to stereotypes, treating them like props.</p> <p><strong>8. Active patience isn’t perfection.</strong></p> <p>So, I’ve laid a lot out here, and it probably sounds like active patience leaves no room for fuck-ups. But never fear.</p> <p><strong>We’re human, which means that fuck-ups are expected.</strong></p> <p>There will often be setbacks on the path of healing and change. But active patience doesn’t allow setbacks to turn into complacency.</p> <p>Just because something is hard and/or we struggle to “get it right” doesn’t mean we give up on the pursuit, especially when it leads to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/11/mistaking-retribution-for-justice/">justice&nbsp;</a>and&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/09/my-healing-and-liberation-journey/">healing</a>&nbsp;for another person.</p> <p>Active patience continues growing and shifting, collectively.</p> <p><strong>9. Active patience doesn’t guarantee lack of conflict.</strong></p> <p>Conflict is inevitable, even in the healthiest, most nourishing relationships.</p> <p>However, we aren’t talking about healthy relationships. We’re talking about fucked up dynamics between privileged and marginalized communities. So, conflict is expected.</p> <p>Marginalized folks desire safety and healing like all beings. As I mentioned earlier, oppression often puts the onus on us to carry our own generational trauma while carrying the burden of our oppressors emotional discomfort and/or complacency.</p> <p><strong>Living in colonized cultures come with a lot of biases, wounds, and assumptions.</strong></p> <p>When conflict occurs, one or both parties may have to deal with hurt feelings and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/culturally-speaking/201509/the-link-between-racism-and-ptsd" target="_blank">unprocessed trauma</a>, but it’s important to recognize that privilege requires an oppressor to carry greater responsibility in the effort of reconciliation.</p> <p>For example, a white person may be offended when a Black person calls their actions racist because that wasn’t their intent.</p> <p>Conflict itself is a healthy aspect of any relationship, but there’s a difference between conflict,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.whenlovehurts.ca/2012/11/whats-the-difference-between-normal-conflict-and-abuse-in-a-relationship/" target="_blank">abuse</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.creativeconflictresolution.org/jc/maps-1/oppression.html" target="_blank">oppression</a>. We need conflict to grow and learn. It can be used to guide us, and facilitate connection.</p> <p>Active patience recognizes that there will be conflict, but it uses conflict as an opportunity to reevaluate and adapt.</p> <p><strong>10. Active patience doesn’t settle for ‘good enough.’</strong></p> <p>Active patience accepts setbacks as something that happens on the way to change, but it doesn’t settle with “good enough.”</p> <p>It doesn’t give up on the pursuit of healing and progress but adapts.</p> <p>If Hillary Clinton had won the election, rejoicing over her victory would have been settling for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/7/28/12317712/hillary-clinton-black-women-history-feminist" target="_blank">“good enough,”</a>&nbsp;given her history of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailywire.com/news/8687/video-proof-seven-instances-hillarys-clintons-john-nolte" target="_blank">racist statements and ideologies</a>.</p> <p>Settling for microaggressions over overt discrimination, opting for mildly offensive as opposed to in-your-face offensive, doesn’t address the root of the issue.</p> <p>Rather, it allows us to ignore underlying causes and settle for “good enough.”</p> <p>Cultivating active patience in a society that doesn’t promote accountability is hard. Active patience requires trust, and it understands the difference between&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/01/differences-forgiveness-pardon/">forgiveness and a pardon.</a></p> <p>Trust requires being present to the experience(s) of oneself and of others. It requires being honest and non-judgmental.</p> <p>It’s difficult to expect any form of patience from marginalized folks when trust is fraught through centuries of oppression, decades of inaction, and silence around our pain.</p> <p>Without trust, active patience is impossible. And without active patience, we perpetuate oppressive systems thru passive patience.</p> <p>Not many privileged folks are willing to take on the challenge of establishing trust with marginalized people because it’s inconvenient. It requires extensive personal and structural changes, and in many cases the total uproot of one’s way of being.</p> <p>It’s important, then, to ask yourself: Does your commitment to justice override your desire for comfort?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/greta-christina/six-reasons-why-left-should-keep-on-infighting">Six reasons why the Left should keep on infighting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rachel-kuo/how-cultural-appropriation-becomes-trendy-and-real-cost-of-our-consumerism">How cultural appropriation becomes trendy—and the real cost of our consumerism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/laura-cacere/what-s-so-feminist-about-yoga">What’s so feminist about yoga?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Breeshia Wade Empathy Intersectionality Care Fri, 05 May 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Breeshia Wade 110396 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why we're not taking the new porn laws lying down https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rude-juud-ingo-cando-and-epiphyllum-oxypetalum/why-were-not-taking-new-porn-laws-lyin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Who cares about a bunch of queers flogging each other when there’s a migrant crisis and article 50 has been triggered? We do.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/lpff.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="normal">We set up the <a href="http://www.londonpff.com/">London Porn Film Festival</a> because we wanted to address two small but significant aspects of the changing political scene. First, we felt it was high time that the culture and spirit of the Berlin Porn Film Festival made it to the UK; and second, we wanted a festival that unapologetically embraced and celebrated sexuality in all its forms. We wanted to do these things because we live in strange times. Britain is at the epicentre of a global political shift via Brexit that could change the course of history. The people bearing the brunt of this shift most publicly are migrant and Muslim populations, but behind the scenes the structures that govern our society are being subtly and permanently changed.</p> <p class="normal">On the one hand we are enjoying what appear to be freedoms, the like of which have never been seen before. LGBT rights are seemingly on the ascent: marriage is now an established fact for LGBT people; Pride is a huge attraction each year, and it has the support of institutions that once marginalised and maligned us. Trans people have made huge headway in re-defining the narrative and gaining better access to medical care. It’s easy to think the fight is over—that a few loose strings here and there need to be tidied up, and then we’re done.</p> <p class="normal">But this is only one part of a much bigger picture. The London Porn Film Festival is not a political outfit in itself, but we are acutely aware of the conditions in which we operate. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/08/homophobic-attacks-double-after-brexit-vote">steep increase of hate crimes against racial and sexual minorities in the wake of Brexit</a> indicates that a backlash is around the corner, and the climate in which such behaviour is acceptable is being fostered by vague and opaque laws such as the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/dec/02/pornography-law-bans-list-sexual-acts-uk-made-online-films">Audiovisual Media Services Regulations</a> of 2014, better known as the face-sitting ban; the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investigatory_Powers_Act_2016">Investigatory Powers Act of 2016</a>, otherwise known as the Snooper’s Charter; and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Bill_2016%E2%80%9317">Digital Economy Bill</a>, which is expected to become law in 2017.</p> <p class="normal">These laws work together to form an alarming mesh of powers. The Audiovisual Media Services Regulation means that several sexual acts including spanking, caning, aggressive whipping, urolagnia (known as "water sports"), female ejaculation, face-sitting and fisting<em> </em>can no longer be represented or shown on screen in the UK. This has been roundly criticised for targeting women and queer people. American hardcore pornography remains, for the most part, untouched. But the worrying thing is that in addition the Investigatory Powers Act (which means that unless you are using a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network">Virtual Private Network</a>, your Internet Service Provider is keeping records of every page you visit for twelve months) and the Digital Economy Bill (which is bad for small, DIY porn businesses because of the cost of implementing new age-verification requirements), the government has given itself the power to outlaw relatively innocuous acts and spy on us.</p> <p class="normal">The implications of these news laws don’t make headlines—it’s difficult to splash something so seemingly obscure on the front page, or rouse popular passions when other more spectacular things are happening. But as the obscenity lawyer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myles_Jackman">Myles Jackman</a> puts it, “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech. It is the first freedom to die. If assaults on liberty like this are allowed to go unchallenged, further freedoms will fall as a consequence.”</p> <p class="normal">Hence, the increase in hate crime in the UK (both homophobic and racist) is no coincidence. The surge of authoritarian, right-wing rhetoric about ‘taking back control’ is understood very clearly by those of us on the margins as a desire to erase many of the social freedoms and much of the political recognition we have gained. By narrowing the definition of what constitutes ‘normal’ in one sphere, this definition can then be enforced in another. The London Porn Film Festival stands against that process, and we hope to provide a space in which the insidiousness of these new laws is actively challenged.</p> <p class="normal">Over the years, the Berlin porn film festival on which we are modeled has &nbsp;developed into a huge, sell-out affair and the centre of a brilliant, fun, imaginative scene—developing &nbsp;porn that does not conform to mainstream standards. Indeed, their goal &nbsp;is very different: to focus on sexual liberation, not as a wishy-washy affair, but as a mode in which people from different demographics, walks of life, and experiences are presented as valid sexual agents, valid people to desire. We can’t speak about sex without speaking about race without speaking about class without speaking about economics—all of these things are intertwined.</p> <p class="normal">This might seem like a trivial point. After all, who cares about a bunch of queers flogging each other when there’s a migrant crisis and article 50 has been triggered? But to an extent, that question provides its own answer. Repressive laws don’t target mainstream populations because there would be too much resistance. Instead, they begin with people who do not matter to the mainstream. If the attitude towards some people is “Who cares?” then they are ripe for being targeted by the state. The prevailing attitude towards queer people, particularly those who do not conform to homonormative ambitions to be just like heterosexual people, is increasingly that we are less important than others.</p> <p class="normal">The London Porn Film Festival has been established not only because we <em>like</em> queer porn but because we <em>care</em> about it. We care about the sex workers, porn performers and producers who make it. We believe that queer, radical porn is a fascinating form of expression that can provide huge political, theoretical and artistic insights, insights that should be available in the blooming cultural scene in what should be a world-leading city of free speech. But the truth is that the laws are so vague and so open to interpretation that we’re not sure where we stand.</p> <p class="normal">And we’re far from the only group or issue being targeted. The fight for digital liberties is a key part of all our futures, and the lack of outrage around the UK Government’s ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Bill_2016%E2%80%9317">Digital Economy Bil</a>l’ is largely due to the fact that most people don’t understand the technology that rules their lives. The days of a separation between real and cyber space are over. The next frontier, and perhaps the cleverest, is to curb what can and cannot be viewed online, starting with online porn, and taking small steps that seem paltry in comparison to the more repressive measure of curbing ‘real life’ freedoms.</p> <p class="normal">Examples include <a href="http://dreamsofspanking.com">Pandora Blake’s </a><em><a href="http://dreamsofspanking.com">Dreams of Spanking</a> </em>which was forced offline for ten months; attempting to bankrupt small businesses by enforcing age verification technologies but providing no support for their implementation; and requiring Internet Service Providers to record the websites you visit. Unless you are taking precautions, the UK Government is quietly but surely collecting information about what you look at, who you connect with, and what you read. And you can be sure that at some point in the future they will have something to say about it.</p> <p class="normal">We’re doing this because it’s important, and because queer porn is a small corner of our broader culture that’s under attack. There has always been strong feeling against sexual agency. It is usually the first thing to be attacked during a tide of authoritarianism. How willing we are to let that happen is a signal to the powers that be about how far they can go. Porn is a genre in which we can re-imagine ourselves, our sexuality and our future.</p> <p class="normal">Do we think a really hot sex scene will change the world? No. But it’s not about a really hot sex scene. It’s about protecting the margins, and showing strong resistance so that we do not allow ourselves to slide into ever more repressive circumstances.&nbsp;</p><p class="normal"><strong><em>Check out the London Porn Film Festival Programme <a href="http://www.londonpff.com/program/">here</a>.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar-kate-bornstein/staying-alive-kate-bornstein-faces-down-gender-binary-cancer">Staying alive: Kate Bornstein gives the finger to cancer, suicide, and the gender binary</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/meet-sex-workers-using-art-to-expose-truths-about-sex-industry">Meet the sex workers using art to expose truths about the sex industry</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ingo Cando and Epiphyllum Oxypetalum Rude Juud Liberation Activism Culture Intersectionality Sat, 08 Apr 2017 15:08:56 +0000 Rude Juud and Ingo Cando and Epiphyllum Oxypetalum 109988 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The neoliberal economics of family life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/neoliberal-economics-of-family-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Attempts to restore the family as the foundation of social welfare could destroy the gains of second-wave feminism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AngelaMcRobbie5.jpg" alt="" width="490" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rally at Minneapolis Social Security Office. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/afge/15095908431">Flickr/AFGE</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>The rapidity with which the Trump administration has set about dismantling what remains of publicly-funded institutions and facilities in the US begs some crucial questions: what was the prior state of welfare provision in American society? What battles have been fought on questions of social security over the last 50 years, and what was the public policy landscape that contributed to his victory? </p> <p>Melinda Cooper’s new book, <em><a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/family-values">Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism</a>,</em> plays an invaluable role in filling in this historical background from the 1960s onwards, outlining and explaining the forces that underpin contemporary anti-welfarism and the increasingly polarised nature of the USA.</p> <p>Cooper documents the array of economists and public policy advisors from the Christian right, the harder edges of the neoliberal spectrum, and even some progressive democrats, all of whom have worked to undo a social security system that they perceived as inducing dependency, driving up inflation, and—with welfare payments in their pockets—freeing sectors of the unemployed from their obligations. Her painstaking account also throws light on the ways in which the right has succeeded in one of its key objectives by finding common ground between neoliberals—who typically endorse the singular freedoms of individual choice and personal responsibility unfettered by the state—and social neo-conservatives (many of whom it transpires were once on the left), who adhere to a more traditional or paternalistic notion of social obligations. </p> <p>The effect of this consensus has been to reduce the legitimacy of government-backed welfare and social security provision by re-focusing attention on the family as the foundation of all social assistance. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Becker">Gary Becker</a>, the Nobel prize-winning economist, understood that this shift involved appealing to the ‘altruistic’ bonds of kinship so that the family unit undertakes what organized welfare systems might otherwise be expected to do. The love and emotional attachment of family bonds, he believed, leads people to care for each other outside of the market values that prevail in all other domains of life. </p> <p>Feminists have long highlighted the effects of this philosophy in terms of unpaid domestic labour, but for Becker such labour is an exploitable resource that can be used to reduce the costs of welfare. Families should provide or pay for their own elder care, health care, and college education for their children. But how is this to happen when resources for most families are so scarce and wages are stagnating? &nbsp;Becker argued that expanding access to cheap credit was the key, enabling people to purchase care while guarding against inflation. &nbsp;Cooper sees this as a shift to ‘asset-based welfare’ or even ‘democratised debt.’ If low and middle-income families are enmeshed in debt from the cradle to the grave, their members are more likely to be beholden to each other. </p> <p>This steering of the family into a pivotal place in the nation’s economy has not been without difficulty. It has been the method of choice on the part of the right as they seek to undo many of the gains which <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism">second-wave feminism</a> set out to achieve in the US from the late 1960s. It is also the right’s answer to the dilemma posed by the un-viability of ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Majority">moral majority’</a> nostalgia for placing women back in the home. As women maintain a steadfast presence in the new service-led labour markets, and as working class men’s skills are eroded and wage stagnation kicks in thanks to the monetary policies of finance-led neo-liberalism, the family must somehow cohere as an entity, as often as not through the mountains of debt they now have to accrue to cover the cost of mortgages, childcare, college education for their children, and privatised health insurance. </p> <p>By appealing to the family as the moral base of all wider social values, a desperate horizon of respectability emerges. Unlike in more overtly feminist times, divorce and singleness reek of social failure, so there is a double bind: sheer dependency on each other for care within the kinship unit (especially in times of hardship or illness), and also a loss of status or social worth for those who fall outside of these familial networks of support. As Cooper shows, these strategies for shoring up the family as an economic unit were also focused directly on the management of the African American population. </p> <p>Dating back to the right wing reaction against civil rights, the welfare activism of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty">War on Poverty</a>, and the community engagement of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party">Black Panthers</a>, the pathologisation of the black family deflected attention away from segregation and the pervasiveness of structural racism which reached into every corner of life, severely limiting the ability of black men and women to maintain their livelihoods—never mind settling down to the ideal of life as a nuclear family in the suburbs. What Cooper emphasises is just how wide the political consensus has become across the male-dominated political spectrum from left to right about the dangers to society that are apparently posed by a perceived loss of ‘family values’ through, for example, divorce and single parenthood. Feminism is also blamed for devaluing the meaning and quality of love. </p> <p>Nor is it just economists from the University of Chicago like Becker who have led this charge. Cooper draws attention to the influence of European leftist social scientists such as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zygmunt_Bauman">Zygmunt Bauman</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrich_Beck">Ulrich Beck</a>, and most notably the German economic sociologist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Streeck">Wolfgang Streeck</a>. According to Cooper, Streeck implies that in its bid for equal pay and flexible working arrangements, middle-class feminism has more or less shunted working-class men out of their jobs, thereby depriving working class women of a reliable breadwinner and destroying the stability of the family unit. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Polanyi">Karl Polanyi</a>—currently &nbsp;favoured by so many social theorists—took &nbsp;refuge in a return to community and state protection in the form of the family wage and its associated securities. </p> <p>Cooper includes <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Fraser">Nancy Fraser</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luc_Boltanski">Luc &nbsp;Boltanski</a> and Eve Chiapello in her list of progressives who look to restore the family as the foundation of welfare. In one way or another all of these writers see the unsettling of the male breadwinner model and the battles fought by feminists to free themselves of dependency on male earning power as contributing to the social ills of today, including those wrought by neo-liberalism and its flexible labour markets. Fraser’s account of feminist complicity in this process <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/56/nancy-fraser-feminism-capitalism-and-the-cunning-of-history">is well known</a>, though also <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01259.x/full">hotly disputed</a>. </p> <p>Finally there is the sheer vindictive cruelty that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_party">Tea Party</a> adherents and other far-right elements display towards ‘the poor.’ According to Cooper, the idea that the uninsured should be ‘left to die’ has earlier precedents. For example, neoliberal economists calculated that AIDs sufferers saved the state money by dying since many were poor and unemployed, and hence unproductive. And because the sexual behaviour of gay men who contracted the illness entailed a calculated risk, they themselves should pay the costs. Cooper gently chides the LGBTQ activist group <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_Nation">Queer Nation</a> in this context for seeking the safety and respectability of gay marriage as a way for loving couples to look after each other, and gain inheritance and property rights in the process. </p> <p>Cooper’s book leaves us with a bleakly realistic account of the (often Christian) rightwing patriarchal forces whose resoundingly angry response to feminist and pro-welfare activism has sought to stifle the impact of the women’s movement from the 1960s onwards, especially in regard to economic, racial and reproductive freedoms. One might assume that similar ideas are at work in the Trump administration today. Under the weight of such antagonism the tenacity of feminism is nothing short of miraculous, and Cooper’s sombre analysis serves to remind the pro-feminist left and the women’s movement of how few in number we are, and have been. </p> <p>However, against this background Cooper’s contribution leaves two questions unanswered.&nbsp; The first is that, if the family unit is here to stay, what kind of feminist politics are required to ensure equality for all its members—for &nbsp;women, grandmothers, daughters, young women and girls as well as men? </p> <p>Second, as is so often the case, when the family becomes over-burdened and incapable of dealing with the crises such close quarters typically generate, how can we re-imagine ‘alternative kinship’ as a potentially-positive response? One of the most compelling arguments from feminism in the late 1970s was that bonds of kinship by no means guarantee love and protection. Instead, they may entail violence, misery and suffering. For many girls and young women at that time, being caught in a family-based trap of gendered assumptions and requirements regarding marriage and motherhood led to angry outbursts of feminist rage and the desire to escape the family altogether. </p> <p>That rage led to a different focus on friendship, and on finding ways of developing female support networks. Since then, feminist and LGBTQ struggles have changed the way we look at kinship by including an increasing range of ‘families of choice.’ But as Cooper shows, what really matters is who picks up the tab for social reproduction, for childcare and education, and for what befalls us in ill-health, old age, and periods of unemployment. There are no equitable, healthy or sustainable answers to that question inside the family.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/is-passionate-work-neoliberal-delusion">Is passionate work a neoliberal delusion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-then-and-now">Anti-feminism, then and now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/gathering-and-assembling-judith-butler-on-future-of-politics">Gathering and assembling: Judith Butler on the future of politics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Angela McRobbie Intersectionality Economics Mon, 03 Apr 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Angela McRobbie 109840 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s so feminist about yoga? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laura-cacere/what-s-so-feminist-about-yoga <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite the influence of capitalism on its practice, yoga can strengthen resistance and movement-building.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lauracacere.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A young person doing the Cobra pose on a yoga mat outdoors. Credit: Everyday Feminism. All rights reserved.</p> <p><strong>Originally published on <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/10/feminism-and-yoga/">Everyday Feminism</a>. </strong></p> <p>Yoga is not feminist.</p> <p>Or that’s what you might think if you only know yoga through the lens of our capitalist, body-shaming, fitness-obsessed American culture.</p> <p>Seeing magazine covers of thin, wealthy, White, cis women talking about “how to get yoga abs” certainly isn’t appealing for those of us working to eradicate inequality and oppression – nor does it make us want to give the practice a try.</p> <p><a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/exploring-yoga-cultural-appropriation-nisha-ahuja/" target="_blank">Cultural appropriation</a>&nbsp;is another serious problem in&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/05/yoga-cultural-appropriation/">American yoga</a>&nbsp;today. </p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/extreme-makeover-yoga-british-empire/" target="_blank">historical</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/decolonize-yoga-practice/" target="_blank">contemporary</a>&nbsp;colonization process of Western yoga serves to whitewash and erase yoga’s South Asian roots, while&nbsp;<a href="https://blackmillennials.com/2014/01/28/an-open-letter-to-a-privileged-white-girl/" target="_blank">privileging the voices and bodies of White</a>&nbsp;(heterosexual, cisgender, and wealthy) Americans as the owners, purveyors, and&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/09/cultural-appropriation-trends/">consumers of yoga</a>.</p> <p>This is certainly not feminist. Heterosexism, cultural appropriation, racism, inaccessibility, profit-driving, gender policing, and body shaming are not feminist values; in fact, recognizing and fighting against them are a necessary part of an&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/">intersectional feminist movement</a>. And yet, these are all very present elements of yoga in America today.</p> <p>They’re also completely counter to the values of the practice.</p> <p>Feminism and yoga are in no way contradictory. In fact, despite all of this, I would argue that yoga and feminism are authentically bound. Despite the destruction that Western patriarchal capitalism has had on yoga practice and culture, yoga holds subversive, feminist elements that can strengthen our movement.</p> <p>So what role can yoga play in the feminist movement? How does yoga challenge capitalism and systemic oppression, or strengthen our ability to be agents of social change?</p> <p>What is so feminist about yoga?</p> <p>Here are four things to consider.</p> <p><strong>1. Yoga changes our relationships to our bodies.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“By being physical without a focus on weight-loss or competition, yoga can help you become a witness to negative self-talk that comes from years of misguided influence of the media and other cultural forces. Despite what Instagram might look like, yoga can help you reject attachment to cultural beauty standards so that you can feel comfortable in your own skin.”&nbsp;—</em><a href="http://happybabyogi.com/" target="_blank">Veronica Rottman</a>, feminist yoga instructor and doula</p></blockquote> <p>Although yoga has only in the last several decades begun to occupy a visible place in the American mainstream, yoga has been practiced globally for over 5,000 years. The word&nbsp;<em>yoga</em>&nbsp;comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning “to yoke,” or “to come together,” “to unite.”</p> <p>The union of the mind and body is at the core of yoga and is certainly no small goal. We tend to view the mind and body as separate things in our culture, and we promote division by prioritizing one over the other.</p> <p>Certainly, living under an endless amount of body-shaming, victim-blaming, and social pressures around sex and body image creates a context for toxic relationships with our bodies.</p> <p>Feminism takes up this cause by examining, deconstructing, and challenging these norms. Yoga takes up the cause through the practice of embodiment. This process means connecting and reconnecting and coming into our bodies just by noticing what we’re feeling without judgment or any attempt to control or change those physical and emotional experiences.</p> <p>Our bodies hold our life stories. They hold our grief and trauma, our anxiety, our sadness, our joy, our histories. And while we live in an incredibly cognitive world, we can’t always verbally explain what’s happened and is happening in our bodies. In fact, most of the time, we don’t even notice or care. The division of our “self” from our bodies allows the space for constant negative self-talk, criticism, and punishment of our bodies for just being what they are.</p> <p>In a world that teaches us to constantly try to “take control” over ourselves – our bodies, our weight, our health, our emotions – it can be a radically feminist experience to learn to simply&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/body-love-languages/">hold the space for our bodies</a>&nbsp;to feel whatever sensations arise, to allow ourselves to carry what our bodies want to hold onto, to let go of what they no longer need, to breathe in their history and each passing moment.</p> <p>This is what yoga teaches – to be in our bodies, fully, and to love the movement and sensations and emotions, with all their complexity.</p> <p><strong>2. Yoga can help us heal from trauma.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“Feminism&nbsp;offered the ideological tools to examine my tortured relationship with my body systematically and deconstruct mediated images. Yoga provided the practice that rooted the things feminism had taught me. It is one thing to intellectualize self-love and acceptance, it’s another to embody it.” —</em><a href="http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/06/yoga-feminism-melanie-klein/">Melanie Klein</a>, academic, feminist, yoga instructor</p></blockquote> <p>To live in this world as a person of marginalized identities is to experience trauma.</p> <p>As I’ve&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/feminism-good-for-mental-health/">discussed in past posts</a>, oppression is immensely bad for your mental health. Healing from the systemic and interpersonal violence that one endures in this world, then, must hold a central role in our movement.</p> <p>We cannot build a movement of strength without acknowledging the daily trauma (<a href="http://www.drjanicecaudill.com/trauma.html" target="_blank">big T and little t</a>) that has been carried out in the name of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and other systems of oppression.</p> <p>When it comes to healing from trauma, both yoga and feminism play important and overlapping roles. While feminism gives us the framework for letting go of internalized shame, yoga grounds that healing in our bodies.</p> <p><a href="https://yogainternational.com/article/view/transcending-trauma-how-yoga-heals" target="_blank">Increasing research shows</a>&nbsp;that because we hold trauma in our bodies, yoga often gives us the tools we need to release it, to let go of the weight and conditioning and to find a new strength for moving through the world.</p> <p>This process of healing and building strength and power is such a central part of our work. To be a part of this movement is to acknowledge the trauma inherent in living under and alongside&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/examples-of-rape-culture/">rape culture</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/police-violence-resources/">police violence in Black communities,</a>&nbsp;violence against abortion providers, the prison industrial complex, gender and sexuality-based hate crimes, and the list goes on and on.</p> <p>We are witnesses to this trauma, and we are survivors of it. The practice of being present to it, to being awake, and to healing are central to yoga, and central to our social justice work.</p> <p>The practice of yoga is not only healing – its philosophy also speaks to our social justice goals: The ultimate goal of yoga is liberation.</p> <p>Yogic philosophy also holds values such as&nbsp;<em>ahimsa</em>, or nonviolence, and&nbsp;<em>kharma</em>, or selfless action, at its core. Yoga, like feminism, seeks to dismantle and deconstruct cultural notions and belief systems through critical thinking, or kind questioning.</p> <p>It values&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/how-radical-is-this-practice/" target="_blank">non-duality and fluidity</a>&nbsp;of the self and in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/queering-tantra-beyond-masculine-and-feminine/" target="_blank">our expression of gender</a>. The idea of “<a href="http://feministing.com/2014/02/18/the-academic-feminist-melanie-klein-on-yoga-and-feminism/" target="_blank">wiping the fog from the mirror</a>” is a common one in yoga – that we can wipe away that which clouds our clarity, that we can be increasingly conscious and awake to what is happening around us.</p> <p>Yoga, then, can teach us not only to let go of harmful and rigid constructions of self as we heal from trauma, but fills that space with a framework grounded in liberation and taking action.</p> <p><strong>3. Yoga helps us cultivate being here now.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“The practice of yoga only requires us to act and to be attentive to our actions.”&nbsp;</em>—T.K.V Desikachar</p></blockquote> <p>Yoga isn’t just about moving your body. Sure, we make cool shapes in a yoga class, but the practice is about so much more than that. In fact,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-eight-limbs/" target="_blank">yoga has eight limbs</a>, only one of which includes the physical poses (<em>asana)</em>. Other limbs focus on ethical standards, self-discipline, the steps of meditation, as well as connecting to our breath and to the present moment.</p> <p>Yoga teaches us to sit in the present moment, to notice every sound, sensation, action – and to notice these things without judgment. This is also called mindfulness, and it is an incredibly challenging thing to practice.</p> <p>It means being here now, in this moment, and facing whatever we may be trying to avoid by distracting ourselves with work, substances, or television. It also means truly seeing the people and other living beings around us. Seeing them not as separate from us, but as deeply connected.</p> <p>While capitalism and oppression teach us to strive to “get ahead,” to compete and compare and criticize ourselves and others, yoga teaches us to accept ourselves and those around us. While capitalism values productivity and efficiency, yoga values slowing down and inaction. While capitalism teaches us we don’t own our own bodies or our labor or our time, to always be thinking of the future as a way to get through the long days of work, yoga teaches us that no one can “own” our time or bodies, and that the only way to truly live is to be fully awake to each and every moment.</p> <p>While capitalism and systemic oppression serve to isolate us from one other and to separate us from our time, our labor, ourselves, and everything around us, yoga teaches us to connect with the present moment, and to the beings around us.</p> <p>When we take action as a collective, as beings who are deeply connected to one another, we are better able to position the values of empowerment, equality, and empathy at the center of our work – and become a stronger feminist movement because of it.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Yoga teaches both acceptance and change.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” —B.K.S. Iyengar</em></p></blockquote> <p>When I first started studying yoga, I remember having a really hard time with that word –&nbsp;<em>acceptance.</em>&nbsp;Why would I work toward a place of acceptance when there is so much in this world that needs changing? Isn’t acceptance of each moment counter-revolutionary?</p> <p>While it can be difficult to hold both ideas at once, it’s possible (and even radical!) both to accept each moment as it is, while rejecting the oppressive violence around us and taking action to enact change.</p> <p>We can hold that each moment is true and real and authentic while wanting events of those moments to be different. We can hold that we are who we are and where we are, while wanting both of those things to be better.</p> <p>But we have to start where we are.</p> <p>I think one of the hardest parts of being an activist is that change is so. frustratingly. slow.</p> <p>And in a world where waking up to the truth of the terror happening around you can easily set you up for a lifetime of endless anger and frustration, it’s absolutely necessary that we make space for connection and joy.</p> <p>It’s a long road to change, and&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/04/self-care-for-woke-folks/">burn-out is all too common in our movement</a>. Yoga teaches us how to do just that – to be both patient and demanding for the necessary revolution; to accept and be grateful for each small change as we remain rooted in our larger vision and thirst for deeper shifts; to be awake to the beauty and power offered in each breath and moment, while challenging the emptiness, alienation, self-blame, and disconnection upon which oppression and marginalization thrives.</p> <p>We need and deserve to see the beauty around us amidst the violence. By doing this, we remind ourselves what kind of world we’re fighting for, and keep that fire for justice burning.</p> <p>Yoga also teaches us how to hold humility and an openness to learning, especially when it comes to learning from the wisdom of both yoga and feminism’s long history.</p> <p>In our work, it’s essential to be open to learning from our history – from both the narrow, destructive past of White feminism’s exclusionary vision to the infinite wisdom of&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Goldman" target="_blank">radical, intersectional feminists</a>.</p> <p>While Western yoga culture may position itself as ahistorical, taking credit for its own profit-driven existence, a feminist yoga practice teaches us that we are intimately connected to its long, vibrant history, as well as to its&nbsp;<a href="https://yogaappropriation.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">destructive colonization and appropriation from its spiritual roots and culture</a>.</p> <p>This awareness, gratitude, and openness grounds us in the wisdom of the past while teaching us to create an intention for the present and future.</p> <p>While I firmly believe that yoga can hold a major role in our movement, this is by no means a call to embrace yoga culture as it exists in America.</p> <p>There are real problems with the way yoga in this country is practiced and with whom it excludes. But I don’t think this means rejecting yoga completely. Instead, I would argue that the qualities of yoga that reaffirm marginalization and exclusion are definitively un-yoga. They’re counter to yogic philosophy.</p> <p>There’s a difference between yoga culture and yoga practice – the larger yoga culture in America may be way too body-shaming and appropriative, but your practice doesn’t need to be. Take it from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.originalplumbing.com/index.php/the-basics/interviews/item/731-an-interview-with-a-trans-yogi" target="_blank">Sparkle Thornton</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://diannebondyyoga.com/" target="_blank">Dianne Bondy</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/a-trans-guy-walks-into-a-yoga-class/" target="_blank">Nick Krieger</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/woman-fighting-yogas-skinny-girl-stereotype.html" target="_blank">Jessamyn Stanley</a>. Take it from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.blackwomenyoga.com/" target="_blank">BlackWomenYoga</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.timeout.com/chicago/gay-lesbian/queer-and-trans-yoga" target="_blank">Queer and Trans Yoga</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://prisonyoga.org/" target="_blank">Prison Yoga Project</a>.</p> <p>As we work to make our studios and practices more accessible, inclusive, and critical of the racist, heterosexist, cissexist, and cultural appropriative elements of yoga, we can also work to integrate the elements of yoga we find most beneficial into our movement.</p> <p>I believe that yoga can only make us stronger activists – radicals with more energy, gratitude, presence, and deeper connections to one another and our planet.</p> <p>While feminism continues to be our ideological framework for understanding and critiquing oppression, yoga can be the tool to ground us in that framework, to practice the awareness, compassion, and self-love that will create the space for us to be agents of change.</p> <p>Just start where you are.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/how-to-decolonize-your-yoga-practice">How to decolonize your yoga practice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">Zen and the art of social movement maintenance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">The selective awareness of Wisdom 2.0</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Yoga religion and social transformation Laura Kacere Liberation Activism Intersectionality Love and Spirituality Fri, 27 Jan 2017 01:00:00 +0000 Laura Kacere 108317 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to another year of transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need your help to expand our coverage of deep-rooted personal and political change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MLK250x300_0_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Martin Luther King. Credit: mugshots.com. All rights reserved.</p><p>On a winter’s night in 1955, a young preacher named&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.">Martin Luther King</a>&nbsp;climbed into the pulpit of the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holt_Street_Baptist_Church">Holt Street Baptist Church</a>&nbsp;in Montgomery, Alabama. Once there, he delivered a speech that would eventually lead to his own assassination, while breathing new life into the struggle to transform the world in the image of love and social justice.</p> <p>If his words are remembered at all these days it’s because of what they helped to launch—the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Bus_Boycott">Montgomery Bus Boycott</a>, which heralded a decisive turn in the movement for civil rights. What King said has largely been forgotten, yet the content of his speech was revolutionary in ways that stretch far beyond the context in which it was delivered.</p> <p>As I listen to it now on a scratchy&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGtp7kCi_LA">YouTube clip</a>, the hairs on my neck stand up straight, the crowd of voices rising to a crescendo as King talks about the keys to the struggle for equal rights.</p> <blockquote><p>“But it is not enough for us to talk about love,” he said, “There is another side called justice. And justice is love in calculation. Justice is love working against anything that stands against love. Standing beside love is always justice.”</p></blockquote> <p>Love is the anchor or inward expression of social justice, I think King was saying, and justice is the outward expression of “love in calculation”—a conscious design for remaking the world in a different image of ourselves. Radical transformations are possible if love and justice reinforce each-other to create a permanent shift in direction among human beings and the institutions they create.</p> <p>“Only new selves could give birth to a new world, but only a new world could sustain the new human beings who constituted it, and who would sustain it in turn,”&nbsp; as&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Royce">Josiah Royce</a>&nbsp;put it in the aftermath of the American Civil War almost one hundred years before.</p> <p>Then as now, there will be no end to patriarchy without deep-rooted changes in men’s behavior; no solution to climate change unless all of us reduce our consumption and carbon footprint; no decline in inequality unless we learn to share resources with each-other; no meaningful democracy until we work through our differences in a spirit of common purpose; no lasting peace if we continue to project our fears and insecurities onto other people.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But turning these examples around, there must also be real, living forms of politics, activism and economics that grow from and reinforce the qualities we want to encourage. “We must be the change we want to see”&nbsp;is a favorite quotation&nbsp;<a href="http://www.compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2012/08/14/be-the-change-where-did-this-saying-come-from/">falsely attributed to Gandhi</a>, but it’s equally true that ‘we must see the change we want to be.’<em>&nbsp;</em>And that means showing how real economies can deliver justice and wellbeing, and real politics can bring people together to break the logjam of vested interests.</p> <p>Unfortunately, such boundary-breaking experiments are in short supply, constantly constrained by the mantra that change is impossible because of (insert your favorite bogeyman): globalization, footloose corporations, human nature, the weakening of governments, corruption in politics, the decline of the public or too much time spent on social media. If we believe that only small changes are possible in our political and economic systems, then small change is all we’re going to see—another turn of the wheel with little or no forward movement.</p> <p>The challenges of uniting personal and social change were central to the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, expressed through civil rights, gay liberation, the rise of the women’s movement and the first stirrings of environmentalism. In the decades that followed, this spirit was less in evidence in politics and activism, though it remained alive among feminists and other radicals like&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde">Audre Lorde</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.junejordan.com/">June Jordan</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_hooks">bell hooks</a>. Elsewhere, the social and spiritual sides of activism began to move apart, perhaps exhausted by earlier efforts or beaten down by the arrival of the neo-liberal revolution and the celebration of self-interest and materialism that followed in its wake.</p> <p>But today, there’s a resurgence of interest in the possibilities of transformation and an upsurge in attempts to put them into practice, spurred on by two key developments: first, the failure of conventional approaches to make much headway against inequality and violence; and second, the urgency of problems like climate change which demand boundary-breaking solutions. That’s why we launched&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation"><em>Transformation</em><em>&nbsp;</em>as a new section of openDemocracy</a>&nbsp;in 2013. </p> <p>The goal of <em>Transformation</em> is to “publish great writing at the intersection of the personal and the political,” and there’s certainly an audience for the material that we’ve published: in the last three-and-a-half years our stories have been read by over two million people (40 per cent of whom live in the USA), and around 600,000 of them have returned to the site more than twice. Our contributors are diverse, with 65 percent of those returning our questionnaires self-identifying as women or trans-gender, 55 per cent as aged under 40, and 41 per cent as LGBTQ. Most are activists (many of whom have never written for a major audience before), with good representation from academia and a few professional writers.</p> <p>With funding from a successful campaign in 2016 to raise more support from readers and the renewal of two grants from the NoVo and Hidden Leaf Foundations in the USA, we have enough money in the bank to see us through to the end of 2018, so we’ve decided to take the opportunity that’s provided by some medium-term financial security to make some changes going forward. These changes are designed to expand our reach and strengthen the role of the site in community-building and debate—to engage with our audience in new and better ways and to identify areas that we haven’t covered in our publishing to date, or which need to be deepened. What’s the rationale for these changes?</p> <p>First of all, the data we collect from Google Analytics show that most of the pieces we publish are only read by between 1,000 and 3,000 people. These are respectable numbers given the type of material we cover, but it seems clear that simply publishing more of the same content is unlikely to grow our audience in the future. The articles with the largest audience comprise less than twenty per cent of the total, but they account for the great majority of reads. </p> <p>Therefore—and without closing down space for articles that we want to publish regardless of how many reads they might get—we want to find ways of commissioning more articles that reach a significant audience on key elements of the transformation debate. We think this means publishing less material overall in order to free up time to investigate the landscape of issues and authors, analyze where the gaps are, and engage in discussions about content with other organizations and websites so that we can strengthen collaboration and cross-posting.</p> <p>That’s the second key issue: publishing partnerships and other community building activities take a lot of time and energy to nurture, but the impact of a thriving and well-connected field is going to be much larger than the impact of any one of its components in isolation. So we want to put more time and effort into helping to build a stronger and more influential ecology of communities, groups and organizations that work on the deep transformation of self and society. And that means seeing and using <em>Transformation</em> as more of a shared resource—for example by co-editing special themed content weeks with other groups or handing the section over to others to convene and publish their own material. </p> <p>Putting these ideas into practice requires stronger links with readers, writers and publishers, so we want to encourage you to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/info/contact-transformation#1">contact us with your reactions, ideas and proposals</a>. Unashamedly,&nbsp;<em>Transformation</em>&nbsp;was set up to challenge the reluctance of many progressive activists to take the personal dimensions of social change as seriously as the political, by showing that self-development isn’t (or doesn’t have to be) New Age narcissism. Rather, it means engaging in the daily struggle for dignity and justice in a different spirit that opens up more effective routes to action. </p> <p>At the same time, we’re also pushing back against the reluctance of many spiritual and self-help advocates to take the political dimensions of personal change as seriously as the inner life they espouse, by showing that love and compassion flourish more easily when new institutions are built on sharing and solidarity instead of the mindless pursuit of competition, growth and power. Rather than agreement or consensus, there’s a sense that readers, writers and editors are all navigating through territory that doesn’t have a map. <em>Transformation</em>&nbsp;is not another good-news magazine, but a place to engage with each-other about the realities and struggles of the radical imagination. </p> <p>All great stories are love stories in one form or another, but the story of love and justice has not yet been told. With your help we aim to put that right. Welcome to another year of transformation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ronan-harrington/why-spirituality-is-key-to-more-visionary-politics">Why spirituality is the key to a more visionary politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-lerner/why-right-keeps-winning-and-left-keeps-losing">Why the right keeps winning and the left keeps losing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Empathy The politics of mental health The role of money Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Economics Intersectionality Love and Spirituality Tue, 03 Jan 2017 08:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 98859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How cultural appropriation becomes trendy—and the real cost of our consumerism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rachel-kuo/how-cultural-appropriation-becomes-trendy-and-real-cost-of-our-consumerism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p3">Doing good doesn’t, and shouldn’t, always feel good. For the sake of justice, let’s face that discomfort.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Originally published on </span><a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/09/cultural-appropriation-trends/">Everyday Feminism</a><span>.</span></p><p><span><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Rachelkuo.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></span></p><p class="image-caption">Side profile of a young person wearing decorative bindi, gazing into the camera. Credit: <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/09/cultural-appropriation-trends/">Everyday Feminism</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="p1">Here at Everyday Feminism we often write about&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/">cultural appropriation</a>—when members of dominant culture takes cultural elements and practices from a people who are systematically oppressed by that dominant group.</p> <p class="p3">These aspects of culture are often consumed in a popularized way that dilutes their original significance.</p> <p class="p3">A huge question that pops up is: Well, what can I do about it? It’s not my fault. Isn’t this really an issue of our capitalist culture and globalization—two huge things that seem too big to tackle?</p> <p class="p3">And aren’t big companies to blame?&nbsp;<em>They’re</em>&nbsp;the ones that provide culturally appropriated products and benefit the most from their sales!</p> <p class="p3">While discussions about cultural appropriation often focus on individual actions like wearing a&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/cultures-are-not-costumes/">culture as a costume</a>, it’s true that we need to pay attention to the big picture.</p> <p class="p3">We can’t have a real conversation about the impacts of globalization without talking about imperialism, which maintains cultural and economic relationships based on domination and subordination by controlling resources, like land and food.</p> <p class="p3">We also can’t forget the many histories where people of color have been directly used as commodities—like how Black people were used for slave labor.</p> <p class="p3"><a href="https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/cultural-appreciation-or-cultural-appropriation/" target="_blank">Imperialism extracts what’s valuable</a>&nbsp;from people and territories that are colonized—which might seem familiar.</p> <p class="p3">Similarly, cultural appropriation makes culture an “extractable,” profitable resource.</p> <p class="p3"><a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35804-how-capitalism-and-racism-support-each-other" target="_blank">Malcolm X famously stated</a>, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”</p> <p class="p3">Capitalism offers a&nbsp;promise of freedom and equality,&nbsp;yet is premised on unequal distributions of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/05/income-vs-wealth/">income and wealth</a>. The idea that this system depends on merit—that working harder and better&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/the-myth-of-meritocracy/">leads to success</a>—obscures <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/racist-origins-of-color-blindness/">racist practices</a>.</p> <p class="p3">Cultures have traveled&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/06/poc-cultural-appropriation/">across so many different communities</a>&nbsp;and through so many places over time, it’s hard to distinguish where something “originally” comes from and who has “ownership” over what. Traditions that we feel connected to as our own may have come from other cultures and places.</p> <p class="p3">Because of this, discussions of cultural appropriation go beyond simple hard and fast rules of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/05/cultural-appropriation-what-you-cant/">who can or can’t</a>&nbsp;do something.</p> <p class="p3">Perhaps, paying closer attention to&nbsp;<em>why</em>&nbsp;certain cultural elements become commodified and appropriated offers a helpful framework.</p> <p class="p3">So instead of throwing our hands up in defeat under the monster of capitalism, we can take our power back by asking questions: Why the mainstreaming and corporatization of yoga? Why headdresses at Coachella? Why did bone broth, goji berries, and quinoa become “it” foods?</p> <p class="p3">Which might lead to more questions, like: So what? If these cultural elements and practices have become so mainstream, isn’t that better? Now anyone can access and experience different cultures more readily and easily, right?</p> <p class="p3">People often argue that culture is a commons, yet simultaneously want to own aspects of culture through consumerism.</p> <p class="p3">Let’s get to the bottom of this contradiction. What are some ways that capitalism, as a system, works alongside racism to make cultural appropriation the “trendy” thing to do? And what’s our role in all of this?</p> <h2>1. Our individual expression is encouraged through consumerism.</h2> <p class="p3">Every day, media outlets like advertisements, TV shows, movies, and magazines tell us that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the way we decorate our personal spaces define and showcase our individuality.</p> <p class="p3">For example, I love to travel and try new things. I often buy souvenirs from my travels to wear or display in my apartment, and&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/foodie-without-appropriation/">try different kinds of cuisines</a>,&nbsp;to express that part of myself.</p> <p class="p3">We’re encouraged to buy a lot of stuff to seem chic and cool, professional and put-together, fun and adventurous, more calm and relaxed.</p> <p class="p3">As different cultural objects and practices come to signify aspects of our personality, interests, and style, we attach values to these cultural elements based on how they benefit us.</p> <p class="p3">This is where racism and capitalism converge into cultural appropriation. Consumer culture simplifies the complexities of culture, often resulting in a replica rooted in stereotypes.</p> <p class="p3">Gwen Stefani, in an attempt to show her “love” of Japan through&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailydot.com/via/gwen-stefani-cultural-appropriation-harajuku-girls/" target="_blank">Harajuku Girls</a>, literally used Japanese and Japanese American women as props. Katy Perry, apparently in “homage” to Japanese culture, drew on the image of the ‘geisha girl’ stereotype&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/11/25/memories-of-a-geisha-katy-perrys-amas-performance-stirs-debate/" target="_blank">during her performance</a>&nbsp;at the American Music Awards.</p> <p class="p3">These examples of self-expression drew solely on racist tropes – and they substantiate images of East Asian women as passive, servile, and sexualized objects.</p> <p class="p3">Also, while freedom of choice and freedom of expression are central tenets in US national culture, these principles don’t apply equally.</p> <p class="p3">While white celebrities benefit from fame and fortune when they exploit Japanese culture, East Asian women in the US face the pressure to distance themselves from their own culture in order to avoid stereotypes, fetishizing, and discrimination.</p> <p class="p3">We should be free to do the things we enjoy or wear the clothes we like—but self-expression is a privilege. Some folks are pressured to change the ways we express ourselves, like the ways we look and act, just to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/">stay employed or stay safe</a>.</p> <h3>What can you do?</h3> <p class="p3">While breaking completely free from appropriative consumer culture is a difficult task, there are some initial actions you can take to start breaking away.</p> <p class="p3">Think about the source of your purchase and who it benefits. For example, that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/companies-appropriate-latin-american-culture#1" target="_blank">Colombian mochila bag&nbsp;</a>might be super cute, but the context changes depending on whether you’re buying it from a local artist while traveling or getting it from Urban Outfitters.</p> <p class="p3">Also, consider&nbsp;<em>why</em><em>&nbsp;</em>you’re buying something. What are you trying to express about yourself? Is there another way to do it?&nbsp;</p> <p class="p3">Buying a bag with a pattern you like directly from a Columbian artist won’t silence your self-expression – but it will help you express yourself in a way that’s not exploitative.</p> <h2>2. The idea of diversity has become commodified and consumable.</h2> <p class="p1">When you think about the word&nbsp;<em>diversity,</em>&nbsp;what comes up?</p> <p class="p3">If you do a Google Image search for it, you’ll get lots of hands in different skin tones touching a globe. People of different races laughing together. Clip art of silhouettes in rainbow colors or maybe a colorful box of crayons.</p> <p class="p3">The mainstreaming of diversity means that it’s now “sellable.” We’re socialized to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/dismantling-oppression-at-work/">think about diversity</a>&nbsp;in aesthetics—as in, the more variety the better.</p> <p class="p3">This aesthetic approach to diversity often leaves out the various intersections of identity—instead of actually including people, we tokenize them with a “one of each” model.</p> <p class="p5">This often translates to:&nbsp;<em>Hey! Let’s try all the different cultures we can!</em></p> <p class="p3">In the US, metaphors of the “<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/melting-pot-lies/">melting pot</a>”&nbsp;and “salad bowl” are often&nbsp;<a href="http://hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/hohonu/documents/vol04x06fromthemeltingpot.pdf" target="_blank">used to describe</a>&nbsp;different cultures and communities coming together in unity. We want to celebrate diversity through a multicultural tapestry.</p> <p class="p3">However, this celebration often happens purely through food and festival. Rather than having a deeper engagement with other cultures, we end up with superficial replicas.</p> <p class="p3">While this kind of “celebrate diversity” culture doesn’t seem terrible on the surface, the commodification of diversity has more harmful consequences. For example, in many&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/what-its-like-to-get-kicked-out-of-your-neighborhood/">gentrified neighborhoods</a>, diversity is an attractive amenity.</p> <p class="p3">In my old neighborhood, there’s an avenue where you can get sushi, Chinese bao, tacos, and banh mi. While this makes the neighborhood seem culturally diverse, it’s diverse in a decorative and aesthetic sense–<a href="http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/04/in-gentrifying-neighborhoods-diversity-can-be-decorative/390390/" target="_blank">rather than a social ideal</a>&nbsp;of equality.</p> <p class="p3">Many of these restaurants aren’t owned by the communities that the cuisine purportedly represents–and the decor often looks like a kitschy Epcot-esque theme party.</p> <p class="p3">No matter how “refined” or “elevated” the food, red lanterns and gold accents often fill restaurants that have been “inspired” by the entire continent of Asia. Neon sugar skulls from Dia de los Muertos and sombreros fill Mexican-themed spots.</p> <p class="p3">Based on the price point, these restaurants cater to residents, like myself,&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/poc-worry-when-relocating/">who are middle to upper class</a>. The businesses there aren’t truly accessible to diverse groups of people from&nbsp;<a href="https://thebolditalic.com/the-homogenization-of-san-francisco-the-bold-italic-san-francisco-3c5d43f2ea72#.ysw362yuy" target="_blank">different economic backgrounds</a>.</p> <p class="p3">Because culture can be tangibly experienced, we can easily consume it. This isn’t to say that it’s bad to learn about other cultures by eating different styles of cuisine, traveling, or consuming media from communities that aren’t your own.</p> <p class="p3">These activities&nbsp;<em>can</em>&nbsp;help expand our perspectives. The problem is when we conflate equity with these consumable experiences–because they are not the same thing.</p> <h3>What can you do?</h3> <p class="p3">We need to stop thinking about social justice and equity in terms of an aesthetic model to diversity.</p> <p class="p3">Having a bunch of different voices at the table doesn’t always mean those voices are equally respected—just like having a bunch of different representations of cultures doesn’t always mean those cultures are equally respected, valued, and understood.</p> <p class="p3">Are you actually building true relationships with new people, or do you just like wearing clothes and eating food from other places and communities?</p> <p class="p3">While we may love to celebrate difference through clothing and food, rarely do we acknowledge the actual lived experiences that accompany the cultures we take from.</p> <h2>3. The complexity of cultural expression and history gets flattened through commodification.</h2> <p class="p3">The commodification of culture flattens out cultural complexities.</p> <p class="p3">When we reduce culture down to just the pieces we want to take, we often lose the important stories, memories, and rich histories—the stories that tell us how cultural objects and practices came to endure and survive over time.</p> <p class="p3">This creates a sense of distance and detachment. We end up&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/">losing our connection to the people</a>, the identities, and the community that we’re taking pieces of culture from.</p> <p class="p3">And thus, it becomes difficult to respect that culture in the way it deserves to be respected.</p> <p class="p3">One example is how some&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/culturally-appropriating-buddhism/">Buddhist spiritual practices</a>&nbsp;have been simplified into consumable pieces. The concept of Zen gets reduced to unwinding as a way to market candles and lotions, the laughing Buddha becomes caricatured into accessories, decorative items, or company logos, and more.</p> <p class="p3">But if you’re trying to practice a tenet like mindfulness, you&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/culturally-appropriating-buddhism/">don’t need to buy</a>&nbsp;“Buddha bookends” or “yoga dog” sculptures—which are, unfortunately, real products from Pier 1—to do so.</p> <p class="p3">We need to focus on what aspects of culture are&nbsp;<em>left out</em>&nbsp;when cultural objects and narratives get appropriated for our own purposes.</p> <p class="p3">How do we rethink and retrace our own perceptions of different places and cultures?</p> <p class="p3">Instead of forgetting that influential power dynamics and hierarchies exist, we can be careful not to replicate them through cultural binaries like “high” vs. “low” fashion, Western societies vs. everywhere else, or “first world” vs. “third world.”</p> <h3>What can you do?</h3> <p class="p3">If we’re expressing our love for something, associating ourselves with the&nbsp;<a href="https://thebolditalic.com/please-don-t-commodify-my-culture-the-bold-italic-san-francisco-bdbfa9413e0b#.ug95jc15e" target="_blank">most popularized and commodified parts</a>&nbsp;of that culture may not be the best way to show our appreciation.</p> <p class="p3">We can educate ourselves on the histories and significance behind cultural objects and practices: Why are they meaningful? Where have they traveled? What other objects and practices are they associated with? How and where are they made? Are local artists or producers creating them—and if so, how can I support their work?</p> <p class="p3">The information’s out there—read pieces like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talking-about-it/370826/" target="_blank">Minh-Ha T. Pham’s excellent essay</a>&nbsp;on the production and consumption of the “Chinatown plaid” pattern that became “high fashion.” Learn about some of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refinery29.com/cultural-appropriation" target="_blank">unique dress and customs</a>&nbsp;of the 566 different recognized Native American tribes in the US, and reject&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refinery29.com/cultural-appropriation" target="_blank">generic patterns</a>&nbsp;from companies using&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thefader.com/2016/07/15/urban-outfitters-navajo-nation" target="_blank">labels like Navajo</a>, “tribal,” and “Native” interchangeably.</p> <p class="p3">By developing a more complex, fuller, and more nuanced picture of these objects and practices, we can understand and appreciate their importance.</p> <h2>4. We buy from big companies and consume their approaches to culture.</h2> <p class="p3">Okay, at this point, you might still be thinking,&nbsp;<em>so what?</em>&nbsp;I learn a little more about other cultures, get to know some new people, and ask myself some heartfelt questions.</p> <p class="p3">But how does any of this dismantle the behemoth that is capitalism?</p> <p class="p3">In this market scheme, the process of producing profitable goodies for us to buy often involves cheap labor at a fast pace.</p> <p class="p3">For example, think fast fashion companies, like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. We often don’t even know the supply chains of the products that we encounter in clothing stores, restaurants, supermarkets, and other retail spaces.</p> <p class="p3">While we respond to these big companies, they also respond to us. Big company trends don’t materialize from nothing.</p> <p class="p3">Those awful Lord Ganesh duvets and socks at Urban Outfitters and those “face gems” (ahem—bindis)&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/01/south-asian-accessories-mean/">don’t exist in a vacuum</a>. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/31/childhood-friends-called-my-food-chinese-grossness-how-did-it-become-americas-hottest-food-trend/?utm_term=.38921bcc3c86" target="_blank">centuries-late “discovery</a>”&nbsp;of bone broth’s “healing” properties leading to pop-up shops selling cups of broth at $9 a piece doesn’t come out of nowhere.</p> <p class="p3">Companies produce what we’ll consume—and we’re consuming a dangerous ideology that says culture can be mass-produced.</p> <p class="p3">When we approach culture as&nbsp;<em>consumers,</em><em>&nbsp;</em>that shapes society to operate in a way that seeks out the next big thing–regardless of the consequences.</p> <h3>What can you do?</h3> <p class="p3">As Maisha Z. Johnson writes on the appropriation of Black culture, are you&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/appropriating-black-culture/">giving support or trivializing struggles?</a></p> <p class="p3">When celebs like Kylie and Kendall Jenner are reported to “rock” cornrows that are “epic” and “edgy,” they sure don’t support Black women ostracized or&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/white-people-black-hairstyles/">discouraged by institutional barriers</a> from wearing their hair in natural styles.</p> <p class="p3">But you can reflect on whether or not you’re you showing up for a community’s struggle in a way that’s accountable to that community’s needs.</p> <p class="p3">Investing energy and time in supporting community-led movements is one possible way to demand change in this system. We can work alongside others to organize for justice in a way that’s sustainable and accountable.</p> <p class="p3">For example, Taté Walker offers some ways to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/08/honor-native-americans-without-appropriating/">honor Native Americans without appropriating</a>Native culture, such as backing Native-led movements or supporting Native American artists.</p> <p>Trying to disrupt consumer culture and its link to cultural appropriation can be hard. Consuming stuff is fun! It can feel so good. Yet, in our consumption, no matter how pleasurable, we are complicit in both racism and capitalism.</p> <p class="p3">Companies like Pier 1, Whole Foods, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.salon.com/2010/06/24/american_apparel_quitting/" target="_blank">American Apparel</a>&nbsp;(<a href="http://www.alternet.org/labor/garment-factory-workers-southern-california-are-calling-boycott-american-apparel" target="_blank">not really “sweatshop free”</a>) tell us that we can be more ethical and responsible by buying their products.</p> <p class="p3">But even so-called “responsible consumerism” is&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/consumerism-and-white-guilt/">really not that responsible</a>. It still turns social justice into something that can only be purchased with our dollars. And it’s not nearly enough.</p> <p class="p3">Even if everyone, including you and me, went ahead and said,&nbsp;<em>Well, I’ll no longer shop here,</em><em>&nbsp;</em>the issue of capitalism and corporate power would still be present in the world around us.</p> <p class="p3">Plus, sometimes we end up buying from big companies because it’s more financially accessible. We need people with&nbsp;class privilege&nbsp;to not just swear off buying from these companies, but commit to changing a system that creates dependency on large companies as the only option.</p> <p class="p3">As we re-program our approach to culture, let’s really think about intention and impact—who ultimately benefits and who doesn’t.</p> <p class="p3">Responsible consumerism benefits us in an individualistic sense—we get to feel good about doing good. However, doing good doesn’t and shouldn’t always feel good.</p> <p class="p3">It can be downright uncomfortable. For the sake of justice, let’s face that discomfort.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carmen-rios/seven-everyday-things-poor-people-worry-about-that-rich-people-never-do">Seven everyday things poor people worry about that rich people never do</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mahealani-joy/four-ways-mainstream-animal-rights-movements-are-oppressive">Four ways mainstream animal rights movements are oppressive</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Rachel Kuo Activism Economics Intersectionality Fri, 16 Dec 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Rachel Kuo 107702 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anti-feminism, then and now https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-then-and-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Menace and the threat of violence have a particular address to women. Welcome to a new phase of anti-feminism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AngelaMcRobbie4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/memestate/3458884720">Flickr/Rich Anderson</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>When <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Berlusconi">Silvio Berlusconi</a> was Prime Minister of Italy we got a taste of things to come in the USA. Media mogul, showman and willing to play the buffoon but always with a sense of menace, Berlusconi was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Soprano">Tony Soprano</a> in real life, a man to whom women were inevitably little more than a piece of ass. Remember that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sg2G46v8dc">moment caught on film</a> when Michelle Obama seemed to flinch with discomfort at having, diplomatically, to shake hands with the man? </p> <p>Berlusconi objected, with his whole being, to the rise of independent women. He was a man who wanted to turn the clock back to a time when women knew their place and were subservient as mothers, grandmothers, mistresses and show girls. To any woman of my generation there was something familiar about this kind of older man, aggrieved because he could no longer pinch a woman’s behind with impunity. </p> <p>When forced to interact with powerful women on the world stage such as Germany’s Chancellor <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel">Angela Merkel</a>, Berlusconi became the joker, poking fun at her, playing like a schoolboy and pulling ‘funny faces’ behind her back as though she was nothing more than a nanny figure, in effect saying ‘don’t expect me to take you seriously.’ </p> <p>Confronted with the reality of feminist voices he adopted a classic post-feminist stance, insulting and reviling feminists as unattractive, old and disgusting while at the same time promoting unqualified and stereotypically glamorous women into positions of power across his own government. He also hinted at a new form of ‘mediated’ fascism—a love of being in the spotlight while making relentless denunciations of the left and populist claims to represent the common man, always willing to skirt close to the edges of legality. </p> <p>Now, some years later, Donald Trump’s victory displays these same characteristics on a much grander scale. Trump’s unapologetic sexism seems to give <em>carte blanche</em> to an insurgent patriarchy which can now re-assert itself with confidence, having previously been seen as dormant—so look out Angela Merkel, or British Prime Minister <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_May">Theresa May</a>, or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicola_Sturgeon">Nicola Sturgeon</a>, the First Minister of Scotland. Low level or ‘undiplomatic’ insults reflect a particular way of exercising power, a way of putting women in their place regardless of their party affiliation. &nbsp;</p> <p>Since November 8 2016 many feminists have asked why so many white women voted for Trump. Is this indicative of women’s own misogyny? A good deal of ire has been directed at Hillary Clinton for espousing ‘elite white feminism’ while failing to connect with working class women across the United States. But large numbers of black and other ethnic minority women voted for Clinton, not just because of the racism shown during Trump’s candidacy but also because the fantasy of being a pre-feminist woman who is somehow protected by husbands or fathers and supported by a male breadwinner never had any traction with them—the racialized nature of the labour market rarely permitted a model comparable to this fantasy to emerge, so there was no thought of going back in time to being the archetypal 1950s housewife. </p> <p>In any case, the argument that Clinton was out of touch with ordinary women voters who haven’t seen their real wages rise for decades still doesn’t explain why many of them were willing to vote for a man who is prepared to limit their rights to reproduction and thus impede their very ability to take participate in the workplace on any kind of equal level with men. This phenomenon is only explicable if we take anti-feminism more fully into account.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Although anti-feminism is always changing its colours, it never goes away. &nbsp;As the writer and activist Susan Faludi documented in her important book <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backlash:_The_Undeclared_War_Against_American_Women">Backlash</a>,</em> an angry oppositional movement of ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Majority">moral majority</a>’ adherents arose almost concurrently with the rise of liberal and socialist feminism in the USA. In my own book <em><a href="https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/the-aftermath-of-feminism/book211463">The Aftermath of Feminism</a></em> I traced a later complexification of this backlash which seemed to have a less invidious, more progressive or even pro-women dynamic. </p> <p>This movement entailed a new form of championing of women, and especially young women, on condition that they abandoned feminism as old hat, anachronistic and deeply unattractive—as something associated with old and seemingly embittered women from a past era—in favour of a ‘go-for-it’ pathway of female individualisation. This was the post-feminism of ambitious and competitive ‘Alpha Girls’ who could easily achieve their goals in the new meritocracy without the help of feminism. </p> <p>During the period of Tony Blair’s governments in the UK this ethos pervaded political and popular culture. Feminism was put into cold storage as women were expected to be smiling and compliant ‘Blair babes.’ I recall this time well, when even female students who were otherwise interested in questions of work, employment, gender and sexuality nevertheless repudiated feminism,&nbsp; feeling that they could do just as well without it. It was fashionable to affect a kind of ‘phallic femininity’ by acting like a young man, with a flask of whisky in the back pocket, happy to hang out in a lap-dancing club.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/56/nancy-fraser-feminism-capitalism-and-the-cunning-of-history">Nancy Fraser</a> and others have accused some feminists of becoming complicit with the neoliberal order by advocating this kind of achievement-driven or ‘choice-based’ notion of female empowerment, a complex way of saying that they have sold out to capitalism by accepting a place in the sun that is offered to a select few. In the process, much of liberal feminism has morphed into a more overtly market-driven and competition-based idea of female success, though even this form of ‘neoliberal feminism’ may be anathema to the Trump worldview.</p> <p>At the same time, there has also been a feminist renaissance that embraces many different types and forms of feminist campaigning and organising. The <em><a href="http://everydaysexism.com/">Everyday Sexism</a></em> project is one of the best examples of how feminism has recently shown itself to be so needed. Equally important has been the web-activism of the last decade, like <a href="https://www.thefword.org.uk/">the <em>F Word</em></a> in the UK or the ways in which US feminists have galvanised to demonstrate against Trump’s infamous <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/10/07/donald_trump_2005_tape_i_grab_women_by_the_pussy.html">‘pussy-grabbing’ comments</a>. But what has taken almost all young and older feminists aback has been the level of abuse, violence and vitriol to which this new visibility has given rise. </p> <p>Anti-feminism has now taken on a much more aggressive edge. This hostility has found a home on the internet, and it has moved from there onto the streets, as the terrible <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Cox">death of the MP Jo Cox</a> has shown. Ostensibly Cox was killed because she aimed to stem the tide of hostility against immigrants and asylum seekers. But it also seems no accident that she was a woman. The catalogue of women campaigners, politicians and commentators who have received death threats that resulted in the need for police protection <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jo-cox-dead-violent-threats-online-abuse-natalie-mcgarry-trolls-a7086436.html">has risen steeply in the last 12 months</a>. Sadly Cox didn’t get to the point of requesting that protection. </p> <p>Menace and the threat of violence have a particular address to women, different from men who are squaring up to fight each other. Berlusconi belonged to the realm of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather_(film_series)">Godfather films</a> in which women were slapped about for daring to confront the man of the house. Among his many statements in recent days, Trump has said, provocatively, that there is no need to be ‘scared,’ but the new backlash takes the form of an undisguised provocation to women who are willing to take a stance. The core of rights that were eventually won in regard to contraception and abortion are now more than ever before under threat. It is women themselves who will be forced to defend the freedoms which have had to be fought for from the early days of the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism">second wave’ of feminism</a>.</p> <p>We cannot yet tell how real this threat is, but faced by this latest backlash there’s an urgent need for women across the boundaries of class and ethnicity to take heed and find new ways of defending their rights, both for their own sakes and for their daughters as well as for their husbands, fathers and sons, for they also need to be reminded of how feminism has and will continue to enhance their lives.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/gathering-and-assembling-judith-butler-on-future-of-politics">Gathering and assembling: Judith Butler on the future of politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/is-passionate-work-neoliberal-delusion">Is passionate work a neoliberal delusion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation 50.50 Transformation feminism Angela McRobbie Liberation Activism Culture Intersectionality Mon, 28 Nov 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Angela McRobbie 107152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will black people also be excluded from Mars? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/will-black-people-also-be-excluded-from-mars <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the new space race, whose version of humanity is being targeted for saving?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Ziyaad5large.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Credit: By Andy Newcombe CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In the aftermath of <a href="http://time.com/4563685/donald-trump-wins/">Donald Trump’s shock election</a> as President of the United States, social media channels have <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=mars%20trump&amp;src=typd">been buzzing</a> with disillusioned calls to escape to Canada or even Mars. Earlier in 2016, President <a href="https://www.barackobama.com/about-ofa/">Barack Obama</a> had already <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/11/opinions/america-will-take-giant-leap-to-mars-barack-obama/">promised</a> a giant leap to the Red Planet, adding further momentum to technology entrepreneur <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/elon-musk-20837159#an-earnest-entrepreneur">Elon Musk’s</a> futuristic <a href="https://www.wired.com/2016/09/elon-musk-colonize-mars/">prospect of colonization</a>.</p> <p>But as the writer <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/martin-robbins">Martin Robbins</a> has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2015/may/06/how-can-our-future-mars-colonies-be-free-of-sexism-and-racism">argued</a>, “space is white,” and it’s a myth to believe that “when we go into space, we will all magically become nice.” Now more than ever we need to reflect on a cultural history of space exclusion that may come to define “whose version of humanity is being targeted for saving”, as <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/author/dnlee/">D N Lee</a> so <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/urban-scientist/when-discussing-humanity-8217-s-next-move-to-space-the-language-we-use-matters/">eloquently worries</a>.</p> <p>In 1969, the same the year in which <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/about/index.html">NASA</a> famously landed three men on the light side of the moon, a black man called Sun Ra made the <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/early-years-67-69-20060522/rs31-sun-ra-72156143">cover</a> of <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/"><em>Rolling Stone</em></a><em> </em>magazine. Ra and his ‘<a href="http://www.sunraarkestra.com/">Arkestra</a>’ band of jazz musicians had already left for Philadelphia from their eclectic commune on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, just a few blocks from where they played on Monday nights at <a href="http://bedfordandbowery.com/2014/09/it-was-a-joint-jazz-musicians-remember-slugs-in-the-far-east/">Slug’s Saloon</a>. They made sure to leave New York with a parting gift: <em>Atlantis</em>. It<em> </em>was the first of Ra’s interstellar, free-jazz records to use the <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/culture/2012/10/praise-clavinet">clavinet</a>—their so-called ‘solar sound instrument’—to convey the groovy, electric notes of space.</p> <p>As half a billion people watched <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo11.html">Apollo 11</a>’s <a href="http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_11a_Summary.htm">all-white, all-male</a> crew, capsule communicators, support staff, and flight directors make history on the moon, Sun Ra was jazzing up Earth with a call to Mars and beyond—well before NASA or companies like <a href="http://www.spacex.com/about">SpaceX</a> or <a href="https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/rzekmvyjojcp6uc">Amazon</a> were <a href="http://time.com/4487796/blue-origins-bezos-amazon/">building rockets</a> in order to get there.</p> <p>Ra has since come to represent many things, and one of the most important is the exclusion of black people from space. Born ‘Herman Poole Blount’ one spring in Birmingham, Alabama, Ra was an avant-garde jazz musician, poet, and Afro-futuristic philosopher. His work pioneered the field as a collection of ways in which black identity and cosmologies re-conceptualise both the future and the past by blending science with art into a new techno-cultural aesthetic.</p> <p>Somewhere in the early 20th century, Ra had a vision of himself as an interstellar visitor from Saturn on a mission of peace. Discarding the shackles of his birth name and former identity, he mantled himself in the likeness and headdresses of Ancient Egypt’s great Nubians. Ra then gathered his Arkestra of musical disciples to preach his musical gospel. Perhaps in protest at the institutional forces that kept black people off the moon, Ra’s 1973 album <em>Space Is The Place </em>firmly opened up the cosmos for all.</p> <p>With techno-funk jazz and mesmerising vocals, <em>Space Is The Place</em> offers an important glimpse of black imagination beyond Earth. A year later it was expressed visually in an 85-minute science-fiction film of the same title. In the film, Ra attempts to emancipate black identity from its self-imposed limits and those set by white agents and institutions. Ultimately, he uses the power of music to transport his community of free blacks to settle on a new planet. His biblical struggle to free people for a home in space anticipated the challenges of representation that face societies today as they move further into space.</p> <p>Today, there’s a risk that rivalry between different countries in the new space race will ignore the issues of extra-terrestrial diversity. Though the competition that governed relations between the US and USSR in the second half of the 20th century eventually gave way to increased cooperation, the tempo has changed again with the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/28/china-new-space-superpower-lunar-mars-missions">entry of players like China</a> and Russia, and the evolving racial and political dynamics of the USA. Diversity is often lost sight of in the frantic struggle for national progress and competitive advantage. For example, though NASA has <a href="http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/Diversity_Inclusion_Policy_Statement.pdf">explicitly</a> made a commitment to diversify its <a href="http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/Model_EEO_Agency_Plan-FY2016-TAGGED.pdf">workforce</a>, 77 per cent of its engineers, 85 per cent of its physical scientists, and 86 per cent of its senior executives are white.</p> <p>It’s therefore important to ask whether representation on Mars—and in the space industry more broadly—risks losing much of the Earth’s human plurality. The issue of racial diversity is exacerbated by the fact only a <a href="http://satmilmagazine.com/story.php?number=2112610502">handful of other nations</a> possess the capacity to launch people into space. This is where international bodies such as the <a href="http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/aboutus/">UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs</a> (UNOOSA) could play a useful role by monitoring and overseeing future Martian exploration and space colonization. Building on the <a href="http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/outerspacetreaty.html">1967 Outer Space Treaty</a>, they could lead the development of new space law and constitutionalism in order to balance progress with diversity.</p> <p>That still leaves the problem of under-representation in industry. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/upshot/dont-blame-recruiting-pipeline-for-lack-of-diversity-in-tech.html?_r=0">Technology companies are notoriously deaf</a> in this regard. In Silicon Valley, <a href="https://onlabor.org/2016/03/22/fuzzy-math-silicon-valleys-diversity-statistics/">reliable data is hard to find</a>, though <a href="http://graphics.wsj.com/diversity-in-tech-companies/">leading reports</a> indicate that amongst top companies like <a href="https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/">Google</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/facebook/about/">Facebook</a> and Amazon, minorities constitute at most 37 per cent of the workforce, and black workers never more than four per cent. <a href="http://www.infoworld.com/">InfoWorld</a> executive editor <a href="http://www.infoworld.com/author/Galen-Gruman/">Galen Gruman</a> stresses how this pattern of representation owes itself to Silicon Valley’s inherent elitism, along with the implicit biases that go with it.</p> <p>Elitism operates to turn otherwise neutral policies into exclusionary practices. SpaceX, for example, is currently projecting the cost of its tickets to Mars at <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/27/13078690/elon-musk-mars-mission-cost-per-person-spacexhttp:/www.theverge.com/2016/9/27/13078690/elon-musk-mars-mission-cost-per-person-spacex">$200,000 each</a>, a price that limits participation from minority groups who make up a <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/minorities.aspx">disproportionately poor</a> part of the population. Former employees have also <a href="http://www.law360.com/articles/569123/spacex-workers-launch-3rd-suit-allege-racist-policies">accused</a> SpaceX of racist policies. A spokesman for the company <a href="http://www.law360.com/articles/569123/spacex-workers-launch-3rd-suit-allege-racist-policies">responded</a> like this: “At SpaceX, we don’t care about your gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age or anything else of that nature—to succeed here, the only requirement is to work hard and produce outstanding results.”</p> <p>This type of post-racial, <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2011/11/19/racism-and-meritocracy/">meritocratic thinking is symptomatic of Silicon Valley's elitism</a>, and perhaps it’s <em>too</em> far ahead of its time—ironically echoing Sun Ra’s own disillusioned views in his later days. It has the danger of failing to recognise that formal equality is a necessary but insufficient step towards substantive equity in society. Companies like SpaceX and Amazon should not only make effective commitments to diversity in the workforce, but also develop plans to show how diversity will play into their extra-terrestrial ambitions. Doing so will help to avoid repeating the patterns of inequality on Earth that restrict representation to those who have been historically privileged.</p> <p>Fundamental to this process is the recognition that space is a potential destination for everyone. Contemporary Afro-futurist <a href="http://denenge.net/bio">Denenge Akpem</a> has attempted to spark this discussion through, “<a href="http://denenge.net/mars-project-afro-futurism-fall-2013">The MARS Project – Teaching Afro-futurism as Methodology of Liberation</a>.” Akpem, a performance artist and sculptor who has taught at both the <a href="http://www.saic.edu/">School of the Art Institute Chicago</a> and <a href="http://www.colum.edu/">Columbia College Chicago</a>, invites her students to imagine the first mission to, and settlement of Mars through the lens of Afro-futurism and diversity.</p> <p>In contrast, <a href="http://www.mars-one.com/about-mars-one">Mars One</a>, a private Dutch initiative to settle Mars by 2026, has <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mars-one-finalist-reveals-selection-process-2015-3">raised eyebrows</a> for seeming to select its astronauts using a format akin to reality TV. And while <a href="http://www.nationalgeographic.com/">National Geographic’s</a> upcoming docu-drama miniseries<em> </em><a href="http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/mars/galleries/meet-the-crew-of-daedalus/at/daedalus-crew-2108896/"><em>MARS</em></a> features an internationally, racially and gender diverse crew in 2033 aboard the <em>Daedalus,</em> it’s noticeable that they are led by an all-American white male mission commander who will <a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/NatGeoChannel/status/764914535404826624">“be the first to walk on Mars”.</a></p> <p>In addition, if we are to colonize Mars or any other planet or space station for that matter, then genetics and population dynamics call for the <a href="https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/07/05/mars-colonists-need-bring-earth-large-gene-pool/">largest and broadest sample</a> of who we are to be included among the settlers. As Sun Ra highlights, the worlds of art, music, philosophy, science and literature are created by all of us. In space as on Earth, there is a deep value to embracing and maintaining the plurality of our existence: it celebrates our empathy and love for one another.</p> <p>As Ra presaged, <em>Space Is The Place</em> for us to take this love—the best of Earth’s legacy—to Mars and beyond. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/lost-in-space-silicon-valley-and-future-of-democracy">Lost in space? Silicon Valley and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/in-fight-for-our-genes-could-we-lose-what-makes-us-human">In the fight for our genes, could we lose what makes us human?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ziyaad-bhorat/black-millennials-are-challenging-everyone-to-miss-them">Black millennials are challenging everyone to “miss them”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ziyaad Bhorat Activism Culture Economics Intersectionality Thu, 17 Nov 2016 05:30:00 +0000 Ziyaad Bhorat 106879 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is it time to say goodbye to the non-binary in gender? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sita-balani/is-it-time-to-say-goodbye-to-non-binary-in-gender <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Being defined by a negative speaks more of bureaucracy than of sex or self-expression.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sita Balani.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Trans*march Berlin 2014. Credit: Flickr/<a title="Go to Franziska Neumeister&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/127085184@N05/">Franziska Neumeister</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>For many years, <a href="http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/">various terms</a> have been trialled to express a different position on gender—neither man nor woman but somewhere in-between, or simply a third space: agender, non-gendered, pan-gender, trans*, genderqueer and now non-binary, a recent entry on the list that seems to be gaining in popularity—but which I think should be questioned.</p> <p>I feel some nagging discomfort about the language of in-betweeness, yet in so many ways it expresses my ambivalent feelings about my own gender. Resistance to the language of non-binary can mean making bedfellows of some sexual conservatives, but my critique of the term comes out of queer culture itself.</p> <p>Alternative pronouns have long been tested out as alternatives to our default reliance on ‘he’ and ‘she.’ Although ‘they’ is now more common, ‘ze’ and ‘hir’ were less successful. I remember seeing these terms on writer and activist Leslie Feinberg’s <a href="http://www.lesliefeinberg.net/">website</a> when I was a teenager, just after reading hir novel <a href="http://www.lesliefeinberg.net/">Stone Butch Blues</a>, and finding the notion exciting, disorienting, strange, beautiful and suspiciously unlikely to catch on.</p> <p>Genderqueer came under fire for being used predominantly—and in some contexts almost exclusively—by female-assigned people. Why was being genderqueer so common in lesbian communities and so rare among gay men? Was it simply a political statement or was it a form of being trans? And how did this relate to the small numbers of trans woman in queer spaces?</p> <p>Perhaps genderqueer is an example of what the writer Julia Serano critiques as the queer community’s <a href="http://juliaserano.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/what-is-subversivism.html">‘subversivism’</a>, its valuing of gender non-conformity as a political or moral good. There were also campaigns to ‘save the butch’ as some butch lesbians began to transition and live as men. This debate was always complex and contested, and collective conversations about gender were often fraught with deep and personal pain.</p> <p>My chief concern is that non-binary language feels like it’s stabilising that space of in-between with some potentially damaging consequences. For sure, the gender binary is responsible for violence against the majority of humanity, as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">Sofa Gradin notes on <em>Transformation</em></a>: “in the fact that women die <a href="http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/">every week as a result of domestic violence</a>; that <a href="https://wurldpowur.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/the-mirror-that-blinds-our-attackers/">men commit suicide and violent crime</a> since they aren't taught how to express their feelings socially. The fact that <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/03/remember-their-names-all-the-transgender-people-killed-in-2016.html">transgender people are being murdered</a> and that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_among_LGBT_youth">lesbian and gay people face violent abuse</a> because their church, school, family or the media says that they are sick.”</p> <p>But the language of non-binary as a marker of identity can’t in itself raise the profile of this violence. It provides a space for some people to find a home, and I’m happy that this space exists. It’s exciting that so many people feel able to declare that the gender they’ve been assigned simply doesn’t accord with their experience of the world, and that when this is declared, people are starting to listen.</p> <p>Mainstream newspapers publish articles about non-binary experiences (sometimes <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/identity-warriors-meet-londons-no-gender-tribes-a3162211.html">thoughtful and respectful</a>); toilets are starting to become gender neutral; and my students at <a href="http://www.gold.ac.uk/">Goldsmiths</a> and <a href="http://www.bbk.ac.uk/">Birkbeck</a> now state their pronouns in the first class of the year. My child-self who declared herself neither a girl nor a boy could not have imagined that such a world was possible.</p> <p>Yet I miss the utopianism of previous ways of honouring these feelings. In the absence of a clear, single term, we had to make up new ones of our own. We reclaimed ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ (and would carefully deliberate over labelling ourselves soft or hard, high or low, top or bottom). We put the word ‘queer’ in front of everything: queer tango, queer volleyball, queer sailing, queer crochet, queer techno—even queer brunch. We bemoaned the fact that maybe queer didn’t mean anything anymore.</p> <p>We dismissed capital-L-lesbians and watched every TV show about the lower case variety. Our critique of <a href="http://www.sho.com/the-l-word">The L Word</a> was only matched in fervour by our devotion to actually watching it. These weren’t effective strategies to bring down the gender binary (or anything else), but they were irreverent and sometimes idealistic, and often geared towards fucking, or at least some flirting.</p> <p>Despite our post-gender claims, these queer worlds were mostly made up of people who had been assigned female at birth, yet this joyful and ridiculous obsession with categories and self-naming was a staple all kinds of LGBTQ culture. I giggled in delight recently when overhearing an older gay man refer to himself as a ‘futch’ (femme-butch) on the hunt for ‘bussy’ (boy-pussy). It reminded me that back in the day, before I’d met any queers and was a lipstick-lez-fag-hag trying to make sense of being a homo in the provinces, all the gay boys used to call each other ‘she’—a practice that was equal parts misogynist insult and defiant marker of belonging.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps ‘non-binary’ is part of this tradition of finding new language to express a murky and beautiful third space, yet I struggle to find any poetry in that label. To me, being defined by a negative speaks more of bureaucracy than of sex or self-expression. And I worry that it makes being a man or a woman seem complicit, an act of false consciousness, as though identifying as such is somehow to accept the gender binary and all the violence that comes with it. One of queer culture’s flaws has always been a kind of superiority complex—a habitual sense that we are smarter, hotter, and having better sex than boring old straight people. Perhaps it’s time to rethink this self-righteousness.</p> <p>Given that I never get through the week without someone assuming that I’m in the wrong toilet or calling me ‘sir,’ I’m loathe to accept the idea that I’m laden with <a href="http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/">cisprivilege</a>. Yet I am female-assigned and identify as a woman. Despite often not <em>passing</em> as a woman, and not really knowing if I <em>feel</em> like one, I can’t imagine giving up that term. I want ‘woman’ to be big and spacious enough to encompass all kinds of people, regardless of what we wear or how we look. Given my ambivalence about my gender, identifying as a woman sometimes feels like an active, political, public choice. It’s not always a choice I find easy or that makes me happy, and sometimes it’s a choice that hurts, but it’s one I keep on making.</p> <p>So where does this leave me and the rest of you? I don’t have easy answers to any of these questions, but I’m sad at what is being lost, both in terms of histories and in terms of other, more exciting futures. Despite my misgivings, I’m not suggesting that we throw out non-binary language and ideas altogether. These things evolve, and there’s no sense in trying to hold back the tide. But I think we should hedge our bets a little more, and loosen our grip on certainty. I know I’ve prevented myself from growing and changing by holding on too tightly to what I think I know.</p> <p>What if we tried to embrace that uncertainty? What if some days, rather than declaring our identities, we simply refused to state them? Or, instead of stating our personal pronouns at the start of a meeting, why not experiment with calling everyone ‘they’ right throughout one week?</p> <p>Rather than adding an extra box on a form to accommodate more identities (as <a href="http://home.bt.com/news/news-extra/metro-bank-now-allows-customers-and-staff-to-use-the-non-gender-specific-title-mx-11364110274501">the UK’s Metro Bank</a> have done by adding a ‘third gender’ category), why don’t we just take the day off bureaucracy altogether, and spend our time fucking, or listening to Prince? Isn’t the real battle over where Metro Bank invests their money rather than how they label their customers? Why not campaign to remove all gendered categories from public life instead of adding on more options?</p> <p>When I have this conversation in person, I often argue that this is all a distraction, and that we simply need to spend our time fighting patriarchy and the state. I say in no uncertain terms that cis, straight women live more deeply and painfully in the patriarchy than I do; that it’s a feminist movement that will bring these systems down and not a queer one or a trans one or a non-binary one.</p> <p>I stand by this argument, but I also wonder why I make it so stridently, with such a refusal of the queer gender politics that formed me. Perhaps it’s because I fear that making non-binary a category rather than a movement could make it even harder to define as a woman, a position it’s already hard to inhabit in a sexist world—and because I wonder whether turning ‘binary’ and ‘non-binary’ identities into opposites is itself a mirror image of the dogma we’re trying to resist.</p> <p>I think the challenge might simply be to learn to live in these uncertainties—to say that we don’t know all the answers, that non-binary language both affirms and contests gender norms, that our language will always be imperfect. When you hold a position that is often ridiculed or derided as gender non-conformity often is, it’s natural to try to defend it, to hold it tight and raise it high, elevated beyond critique.</p><p> But a tight grip can stifle creativity and critical thought. Instead, we should keep on pushing ourselves and each other to question these categories, not just man and woman but trans and non-binary too. Since gender categories shape the world for everyone—not just those who defy gender norms—these conversations couldn’t be more urgent.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar-kate-bornstein/staying-alive-kate-bornstein-faces-down-gender-binary-cancer">Staying alive: Kate Bornstein gives the finger to cancer, suicide, and the gender binary</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/cole/they-pronoun-why-it-is-important-emotional-weight-words">This is why using &#039;they&#039; as a gender pronoun is so important</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sita Balani Liberation Activism Intersectionality Mon, 14 Nov 2016 06:00:00 +0000 Sita Balani 106646 at https://www.opendemocracy.net