Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Efforts to Legalise Prostitution are not Just Ineffective In Making Conditions Safer for Women Inside Systems of Procurement and Purchase of Human Beings. These Approaches are also grossly Classist, Pro-Genocidal, and Pro-Gynocidal, Negatively Impacting Women and Girls Globally

Sex shops, adult cinemas, brothels and lap-dancing clubs jostle for clients alongside restaurants, dance clubs and live-music venues on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, the city where the Beatles performed more than anywhere else. John Lennon once said he grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool. Paul McCartney described it as a “sexual awakening” for the teenagers from conservative 1950s England. “We were baptized in Hamburg because there were the girls,” he says in his official biography. Most were strippers or hookers, he adds. [source of image and captioned text: here]
I cannot accept--because I cannot believe--the premises of the feminism that comes out of the academy: the feminism that says we will hear all these sides year after year, and then, someday, in the future, by some process that we have not yet found, we will decide what is right and what is true. That does not make sense to me. I understand that to many of you it does make sense. I am talking across the biggest cultural divide in my own life. I have been trying to talk across it for twenty years with what I would consider marginal success.

I want to bring us back to basics. Prostitution: what is it? It is the use of a woman's body for sex by a man, he pays money, he does what he wants. The minute you move away from what it really is, you move away from prostitution into the world of ideas. You will feel better; you will have a better time; it is more fun; there is plenty to discuss, but you will be discussing ideas, not prostitution. Prostitution is not an idea. It is the mouth, the vagina, the rectum, penetrated usually by a penis, sometimes hands, sometimes objects, by one man and then another and then another and then another and then another. That's what it is.
[M]any of us are saying that prostitution is intrinsically abusive. Let me be clear. I am talking to you about prostitution per se, without more violence, without extra violence, without a woman being hit, without a woman being pushed. Prostitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman's body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. And if you are not simple-minded, you will never understand it. The more complex you manage to be, the further away from the reality you will be--the safer you will be, the happier you will be, the more fun you will have discussing the issue of prostitution. In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women's bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. -- Andrea Dworkin, from her 1993 speech, "Prostitution and Male Supremacy", which may be read in full here*
*Thanks to Nikki Craft.
To those who argue it is only ivory tower academics and other "out of touch" feminists who are for ending prostitution as a male supremacist practice (who, you might suggest, allegedly never worked in any of the sexxxism industries and know-not of sexual exploitation by men or of economic deprivation including homelessness), I wish to remind you that it is primarily those populations of women--those without homes, those who have been used and abused, trafficked and enslaved by men who think some girls and some women exist for such uses and abuses who are fighting against legalising prostitution--who advocate for ending prostitution as a male supremacist practice. It is not primarily academics, or otherwise "out of touch" feminists. The out of touch people are often academics, however. The ones who never did live on the streets, who were never homeless, who have class, race, age, and ability privileges.

It is primarily poor and illiterate girls and women--white, Asian, Brown, Black, Indigenous, globally--some of whom are very literate and are also academically educated (but most not), some with legal expertise (but most without), some with class and race privileges (but most without), some who were never rented or sold by men (but most not), who do this specific activist work--to end, abolish, stop men's sexual use and abuse of girls and women including the trafficking and enslaving of girls and women, and also transgender, and male people, by and for men's consumption, pleasure, and profit.

In the U.S. especially, but across North America and in other lands invaded by palien men, a terribly Western neoliberal ethic supports people thinking of promoters of prostitution (overwhelmingly a white-het-man-thang to do), as something individual women have a right to do, as if individual women are somehow not members of the group "women". An abstract and individualistic ethic of personal freedom to behave in ways that don't indicate any form of collective freedom erases the reality that men having an acted-out entitlement to obtain sexual access to some women and girls impacts women generally, and negatively. Such an ethic of convenient abstraction and non-existent individualism denies women, as a class, the opportunity to be seen as individuals who don't exist to sexually service men, as rented beings or as slaves. 

Let me give but one atrocious-while-terribly-common example of how some men wanting some women to be prostitutes impacts non-prostituted and prostituted women negatively as a class.

I was on the phone with an adult female friend who was walking in a neighborhood outside. She was in sweat pants and a winter jacket--a large loose-fitting coat that was only waist-length. I remember the length because she remarked how she needed a winter coat that was longer, to keep more of her body warm when she walked. She has medium-dark skin, as such characteristics are carefully measured and monitored in the racist U.S. Her class-background is not discernible by her appearance, but she was walking in a working class neighborhood.

You get the picture: She was speaking with me on her cell phone, engaged in conversation, walking along a sidewalk with houses to one side of her.

A car pulled up, slowing down, with the driver riding along at her walking pace which was quickening. The driver repeatedly asked her a question that assumed she was working as a prostitute and might be interested in having paid-for sex. In fact, she was working at having a conversation with a friend (moi). She was also working at being perceived as a person who doesn't exist for anyone's sexual services. She was also working very hard--and this is a job with overtime hours that pays shit--at being understood to be a full human being who is her own person--an individual with a personal life and particular interests and ideas--that in no way belongs to anyone else, that no person in any way ought to assume they have a right of access to. That she was, in that time period and probably beyond it, a stereotype of this driver's racist heteropatriarchal [lack of] imagination, is the point here.

Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot to mention the gender of the driver. The driver was a man. I'm sure you're all scratching your heads incredulously. I know: hard to believe, isn't it?

In case you missed it, this is the atrocity: a woman, my friend, cannot be seen socially as a fully human and individual person, including when she's walking and talking on the phone to another person--the way many humans do. This is an issue of ableism, the ability to be seen as a human being who isn't "for" men who want women to be for them.

So this is the reality: how men treat some women, with male supremacist entitlements and privileges and power firmly socialised and institutionally protected, is how men can believe, in their collective lack of imagination, that my friend existed to sexually service that strange man, or any man or men, or anyone at all. She doesn't. That's not what she was put on the Earth to do. She was put on the Earth to express herself, to hone her substantial intellect, to laugh more often, to have friends, and to live her own life, being seen and treated as the individual she is and always has been. That society, generally, cannot see her as an individual or as fully human, is beyond offencive. It is civilly unjust, criminally inhumane, atrocious beyond words, and a Western and global human rights issue.

Those who argue that prostitution ought to be each individual woman's own decision might wish to first create a society in which individual women are seen as individual human beings, none of whom were put on Earth to sexually service men as rented beings or as sexual slaves. Let me know when that's been accomplished. We can go from there to discuss how some individual women ought to have the right to sexually service men--men who behave an awful lot like a political group when it comes to protecting their privileges and entitlements, that aren't at all individualistic. How curious it is that white het men are the only demographic who can be seen, generally and usually, in media and in history, as "individuals" who did great things, innovative things, remarkable and new things. That Shakespeare. That Einstein. Those Beatles. Procuring and enslaving women isn't usually noted as one of the things non-individualised men (including the Beatles) have done that isn't so great, innovative, remarkable, or new.

To every Westerner and Global Northerner, and to every white het man who thinks prostitution is the world's oldest profession, not among the world's oldest forms of male supremacist oppression of female human beings, let me ask you: do you view "some women" as prostitutes--as existing in order to produce pleasure for exploitive, sexist men who get pleasure from renting and purchasing human beings as their idea (always also exercised as a practice) of how to have "sex"? Do you think your own spouse or sister or mother or daughter is such a woman--one who was put on Earth to perform oral sex on men and to take men's penises into their lower body's orifices, including the orifice that you have (pssst: down there, in back) that you are collectively incredible nervous about anyone entering or even touching? Do you believe "some women" like having their bodies penetrated by ten to thirty men a day? Do you believe "some women" are best suited to perform more or less degrading sex acts on men who think (through the actual practice of mistreatment) that some women are wh*res, naturally?

If so, your beliefs prove the point that legalising prostitution would harm women as a class of human beings, including the individuals you say want to be prostitutes, and who you sometimes pay to say so themselves, while you remain a silent coward, putting up women to speak your beliefs for you. If you want  the right to fuck [over] women on demand, why don't you just say so? Are you too embarassed? Suddenly feeling a bit shy in the communication department?

It is only because of the generally unchallenged existence of Western white het male-controlled sexxxism industries and systems of procurement, of systematic rental and purchase of human beings for "sex", of sexual slavery, of trafficking rings, of child sex abuse rings, of incest of girls by their fathers, that you could even conceive of "some women" existing to sexually service men. Believe me, you weren't born with an idea of "prostitute" in your infant child brain. There are no "pro-procurement" genes and hormones in men's bodies. There is no requisite charter--or ought not be--in any country that states that "some women" must be made to be sexually available to enact the utterly unoriginal whims of men's now-globalised misogynistic/racist/classist fantasies learned only from observing men mistreating "some women" in those ways online or off. Or from practicing mistreating women in those ways and then fantasizing about what was done, and what other men do, to "some women".

With that as an introduction, I offer you this article on the subject of legalising prostitution, an idea always promoted and financially backed primarily by class, race, and sex-privileged men who think "some women" exist to be prostitutes because those women, and others, are wh*res, naturally.

Legalization wouldn't make prostitutes safe

by Janine Benedet

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Supporters of the prostitution industry want us to believe that women would be safe if men's purchase of women for sex is legalized. In the name of women's security, they are arguing in an Ontario court this week that male johns and pimps have a constitutional right to buy and sell women. They are claiming that prostitution is women's work and that legalizing it would advance women's liberty. Opposition is dismissed as based on “moral panic.” A closer look at the violent reality of prostitution exposes the utter fallacy of these claims.

Andrew Evans was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury in Vancouver last week for the 2007 killing of Nicole Parisien, a 33-year-old aboriginal woman. Mr. Evans admitted that he killed Ms. Parisien by beating and strangling her and that he dumped her body in the bushes. The only legal issue was whether he intended to kill her when he attacked her. The answer determined whether he was guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Legally, this case broke no new ground. But a closer look tells us a lot about male violence against women and its relationship to prostitution.

Mr. Evans told the police that he contacted Ms. Parisien after finding her through the “erotic services” category on Craigslist. The Kitsilano apartment where they met was not her home; the evidence suggested that it was used regularly for prostitution. Online services such as Craigslist are becoming an increasingly important venue for the advertising of prostitution.

Mr. Evans said he agreed to pay Ms. Parisien $200. He became enraged when she couldn't maintain his erection, hitting her and choking her to death.

The murders of aboriginal women, mostly by white men, sometimes connected to the prostitution industry, are all too common in this country. Aboriginal women's groups and Amnesty International have documented hundreds of cases of missing and murdered women. Many have not been solved or even fully investigated, the disappearances blamed on the women's “high-risk” lifestyle.

Being prostituted places women at risk, to be sure, but it is not a “lifestyle” that aboriginal women just happen to choose in larger numbers than other women. Promoters of prostitution want the public to believe that prostitution is safe when it happens indoors. But moving prostitution out of sight does nothing more than keep the abuse private and the abusers mostly anonymous.

Mr. Evans was by all accounts a regular guy – a former member of his university rugby team who had volunteered as a peer counsellor. But he was possessed of a sense of male sexual entitlement that led him to believe that he should be able to buy a woman who would meet his sexual demands and that she was worth so little that she could be physically assaulted when she failed to do so.

Ms. Parisien's family has rejected the suggestion that she was a prostitute, maintaining that she was an “escort.” This is an understandable response to grief. But dressing up this abuse as a form of work obscures its casual brutality.

Ms. Parisien was advertised in a mainstream medium, she was prostituted at a prominent apartment building, the suite was monitored with a living-room security camera and yet she died within a minute or two of Mr. Evans's first blow. Legalizing men's purchase of women for sex would change nothing about the arrangement through which Mr. Evans met and killed Ms. Parisien, but it would officially confirm his belief that he was entitled to use her body until he was satisfied. It would also absolve the state from doing anything to address the social conditions that produce a supply of women to be prostituted, or providing the necessary support for women to exit.

The violence in prostitution comes not from the law, but from male pimps and buyers such as Andrew Evans. Canada ought to follow the example of Sweden, decriminalizing women like Nicole Parisien but criminalizing the men who buy and pimp them. We need laws that support the abolition of prostitution rather than its normalization. But if the courts strike down the prostitution laws because they find that men have a Charter-protected right to buy women's bodies, it will become much more difficult for Parliament to enact a law that recognizes prostitution as fundamentally contrary to women's equality.

Janine Benedet is an associate professor in the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia.

Muchas Gracias Ecuador! News About the Pro-Earth Activists Who Have Filed A Lawsuit Against BP (Brutish Petroleum)


image of horrendously devastated water bird and the Gulf of Mexico's sea is from here

I posted a very brief note a few days ago about this historic event. But here's more about it, cross-posted from Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua. With thanks to Ana. Please click on the title to link back.


Historic Moment in the defence of the Rights of Nature

Quito, Ecuador, 26 November 2010

A historic case was filed by an international coalition of defenders of nature’s rights at the Constitutional court of Ecuador against BP and its crimes against nature. Ecuador recognises the rights of nature in its current constitution adopted in 2008. The rights of nature are universal. This provides the fundamental basis for this legal case.

The case was brought with regard to the massive environmental disaster caused when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010. That incident exposed BP’s drive to maximise profit with total disregard of nature and its rights. The company constantly lied with regard to the scale of the
disaster and toped this up by using unusually high amounts of toxic chemical dispersants to cover up the spill. This disaster was not limited to the Gulf Coast but has wider reach through the movement of water as well as atmospheric pollutions.

The defenders of nature are not seeking financial compensation since the harm done to nature cannot be compensated for in monetary terms. Some of the key demands in the case include that BP should release all data and information on the ecological destruction caused by the oil spill. Another
demand is that they should also to refrain from extracting as much oil underground as they spilled in the Gulf of Mexico incident.

Besides this case the activists called for support for the Yasuni ITT proposal of the Ecuadorian government to leave the oil in that sensitive ecosystem underground. They also urged the US government to extend the moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

Speaking after filing the case, the defenders of nature insisted that phasing out crude oil as a major energy source should be an issue of critical importance at the climate conference in Cancun. It is the key way to phase out the current carbon economy, tackle climate change and halt the forces
that are driving the current global crises.

The case was jointly filed by

1. Vandana Shiva, (eco-feminist and winner of the1993 Right Livelihood
Award, considered the Alternative Nobel Prize)

2. Nnimmo Bassey (Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Coordinator of
Oilwatch international and 2010 laureate of the Right Livelihood Award)

3. Delfín Tenesaca (President of ECUARUNARI, indigenous Andean
ecuadorean organisation)

4. Blanca Chancoso (ecuadorean indigenous leader)

5. Líder Góngora (representative of the ancestral peoples of Mangroves)

6. Alberto Acosta (Ex President of the Constitutional Assembly of

7. Ana Luz Valdéz (representative of social movements from Chiapas,

8. Diana Murcia (Colombian human rights lawyer) and

9. Cecilia Chérrez (President of Acción Ecológica, Ecuador)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Part 2: Sara and Julian Discuss Trans/Feminist Issues: a few more thoughts on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and on to the matter of Cisgender Women's Privileges

This image is from here. We can note how it doesn't include political location and structural position as part of how identity is defined, decided upon, imposed, enforced, and determined. This is, typical to U.S. dominant culture, a highly individualistic and apolitical understanding of "identity". For whom isn't "oppression" a factor in their identity?
[Part 1 of this exchange is *here*. What follows is Part 2.]

JR wrote: "The truth about MWMF is that there's no way to know who was FAAB and who wasn't, unless the person gets naked while there or is known by participants to not be FAAB. So intersex women, trans men, and trans women have likely attended."

Sara responded: Yeah, they first vocally expelled trans women they knew were trans. But eventually got against doing pantie-checks and adopted a DADT policy instead, still telling potential trans women going there that doing so was disrespecting the policy and they should feel ashamed for that.

    I've never been there myself and have no intention to go, either. My only take in the debate is to be against injustice.

    It's a bit hypocritical to say "for all women" and then define women as "not trans-women" (or like they say: FAAB).

As I understand it, the issue is that some people with male privilege want to attend and claim to not have male privileges. Not necessarily in those terms, but that's the political gist of it, as I see it. If Black people wish to gather without people who have white privileges and entitlements, to convene and celebrate what it means to be Black, I am all for it. And if someone shows up who is not visually identifiable in terms of distinct race as such things are constructed in the U.S., and many Black attendees experience the person as throwing white privilege all over the place, and want that person to leave, they should have the ethical/communal right to do so. That's my view. And if a white person shows up and claims (completely genuinely) they have always felt Black, grew up in Black community, identified always as Black, and see themselves as Black, I also support Black people not letting that person into their gathering.

Identity is not a product of subjective experience only or, often, even primarily. If that were true, lots and lots of white middle class New Agers who felt "Native American" (maybe especially "in a past life") or who were into "Indian culture" ever since they could remember (as they stereotypically and exploitively understood it), would have been claiming to be "generic Native American--heritage, language, affiliation, or nation unknown", while holding onto VERY white privileges and entitlements. And the very act of claiming, in all earnestness and sincerity, to be part of a group you aren't part of, if you structurally oppress that group, is even more proof that you aren't a respectful member of that group, not proof you are. And, just to be clear here, as I understand it from American Indians and First Nations people, there are varying ways of determining ethnic membership and skin color isn't one of them. So I'm not saying that "white" people can't be American Indian or First Nation in heritage and identity.

But in the dominant U.S., identity, along with subjective experience of self, is also a product of how one is experienced interpersonally and socially, and how one is structurally positioned and located in political hierarchies. Some women, for example, may well be predatory, and if women don't feel safe with her being around, then they should be able to request that she leaves and not returns, based on her behavior being disrespectful, threatening, hostile, or violating to other women.

Sara, do you see it as an injustice for an oppressed group to be violated by people who are structurally oppressive, by being born and raised with privileges FAAB women didn't have as girls or as women? Do you see it as an injustice or a social wrong for women to be made to accept into a gathering members of the human community they don't wish to have there, when that decision is not based on race, ethnicity, class, age, ability, or appearance?

I think a key point of contention in these debates, which I imagine you and I will explore much more, is the issue of who carries cisgender privilege, and what cisgender privileges mean, for example, when the cisgender person was always gender non-conforming or always appeared to not "fit" the dominant categories that were or are socially enforced, with terroristic force.

You might have heard of the Vancouver Rape Relief vs Kimberly Nixon court stuff that went on until 2007?

Yes. I have.

Their argument is about FAAB, again - but the way they "spotted" this particular one was through looks, and they brought arguments against "masculine looks" (defacto also excluding butch women), wether it be clothes or just "your face looks too masculine".
    I agree they only should hire women, but not their reasoning that reeks of lookism. And they never proved their point about the need of FAAB-only. They only asserted it was so.
    One wonders how they deal with not triggering victims of female-female rape. Since the concept of triggering was central to their court plea.

I will get back to you on this case. I need to research it a bit. I won't forget to pick up these points you make, though. And I thank you for raising them.

"No, that's not the same. You repeatedly keep ignoring the issue--that the person or people excluded are not politically structured in the same location, socially, as those who the gathering was designed to support. Those who seek to exclude are politically located beneath those they seek to exclude, structurally speaking and evidenced in behavior."

    You might not agree, but it's evident that women in general are located structurally above trans women in general. Like white women are located above black women, or Jewish women.

I'd like to know what your conception is of trans women. Are you speaking here only of trans women who have had MtF surgery or hormone therapies? Are you speaking of trans women who, regardless of therapies being approached and surgeries being performed, pass as women in the larger population, or those who don't? What about trans women who have decided not to transition, but who choose to present as genderqueer? And who, to most people, appear to be and are regarded socially and politically as male-men? It is a frustration for many of us who are trans and intergender that the term "trans woman" gets used and repeatedly discussed as if this is an identifiable population who are more oppressed than cisgender women, when no such group exists in such a readily identifiable way.

You say "women in general are located structurally above trans women in general." I assume you are using the term "woman" in the first part of the sentence to mean cisgender women. I see very cloudy evidence for making that statement and think it presumes far too much about the conditions impacting cisgender women's lives and trans women's lives.

For example, we might say that gay men are always more oppressed than straight men. And while gay men have a different relationship to homophobia and heterosexism than straight men, I've known "fey" straight men who have been queer-bashed, and gay men who have always been assumed to be straight. So if we're speaking of "who gets beaten because they are targeted as gay" it doesn't always play out that it is gay men. Some straight men are beaten for being gay too, even while they're not gay or bisexual.

Here's another example. A lesbian cisgender woman onced remarked to me that, in some ways, she has more privilege that heterosexual women. That goes against "conventional thinking" in anti-oppression activist circles--she was part of such circles at the time she made this statement to me. She wouldn't deny that lesbian women are targeted generally and in specifically harmful and hurtful ways for anti-lesbian violence, which may be institutional as much or more than being interpersonally experienced. But she noted that living intimately with members of the population who are raised to sexualise your oppression is not "a privilege" among women. It is a danger. And to the extent that lesbian women don't choose to "regularly sleep with men--or one man", they are not putting themselves at the same risk for rape as those women, often heterosexual or bisexual, who do regularly sleep with men--or one man. Heterosexual women are more likely to be battered and abused by a man than by a woman. So is her socialisation to live with men--or one man--intimately, "a privilege"? Yes, if she's married to a man she may, statistically and in fact, in her own life, benefit temporarily or for the long term in economic ways, but she's also made vulnerable due to that economic advantage, when and if it is there. She's vulnerable to homelessness upon divorce, for example.

You then state: "Like white women are located above Black women, or Jewish women."
First, many Jewish women are white. So that gets problematic right away. I'm someone who does believe that if all other aspects of being are politically on par, white women live more privileged lives than Black women in a white male supremacist society. And I'd say that white Christian women in the U.S. have privileges over and against white Jewish or Muslim women, Jewish women of color, Black Christian or Muslim women. So, in that sense, white Christian women are structurally located above those other groups of women, in the U.S., generally speaking.

I'll respond to your evidence about how it is you arrive at the conclusion that trans women are structurally positioned below cisgender women, as we proceed here.

The incredibly high suicide rate speaks for itself (50% attempt and about 20% overall succeed).

That's so very sad. Tragic.

And given that stats are often calculated based on LGBT youth, for example, I'd welcome knowing your source for that statistic. Not because I don't believe it--it feels accurate to me, however horrible it also feels to contemplate that. But because I just want to know how they gathered that information, given this, which is a common problem for our community (from Wikipedia--admittedly, not the best resource for such things):

Though it is impossible to know the suicide rate of LGBT youth because sexuality and gender minorities are often hidden and even unknown, particularly in this age group. Further research is currently being done to explain the prevalence of suicide among LGBT youths.

Are we assuming the people we're talking about are white and class-privileged? Because most stats are based on people with race and class privilege. Poor and of color populations are routinely not factored into such statistics because the researchers don't bother to find out how such populations are impacted by mental health issues, depression, suicidality, suicide, or violence and murder. If a poor woman is murdered and her body is found, is it assumed she was a prostitute, compared to when a rich woman's body is found? If she's Black or Brown and her body is found, is there an assumption then, by media, that she died of drugs, HIV/AIDS, or prostitution-related harm? How would we know her cause of death? If someone is a drug addict, and they die, how and when do we know that was a suicide or not? If most suicidally depressed women--trans or not--do not seek out mental health services because the services, personnel, agencies, and institutions are so terribly racist, heterosexist, and classist--or just plain inaccessible or unavailable--how can we really know how many women--trans or not--commit suicide?

But there's also housing, employment and hospital discrimination, simply for being trans women.

I'm wondering, right now, if there's any meaningful difference in how cisgender women in prostitution survive--what their chances are of being assaulted and worse, compared to trans women in prostitution. I'm wondering if the issue is "being trans" or "being visually gender non-conforming". Because it seems to me that, again, there's a huge assumption here that "trans women" are all, everywhere, recognised and identified as such by housing personnel, employers, and hospital workers. Are you wanting to make that kind of stereotypical statement about "trans women"? Again, isn't the issue here more about who appears to be gender conforming and who doesn't--regardless of whether or not they are trans?

Being left to die on the pavement after you got hit by a car, is not a privilege. Nor is it one to have the paramedics laugh at you instead of helping you. This really happened to a trans woman, a couple years back.

I can well imagine--against some internal resistance--that there are despicable experiences visited upon trans women in life and in death. And the thoughts make me shudder as is the reality that poor people are more likely to be left unattended when in life threatening situations: the Katrina/U.S. government neglect disaster is proof enough of that. The incident you cite is horrible--beyond words horrible. But that is an example of a story that is anecdotal, however true and horrid it is in its indication of some cisgender people's utter cruelty and gross inhumanity--was the person who hit her a cisgender het man? Were the paramedics cisgender het men? I ask because this might be a case of a combination of forms of gross bigotry and inhumanity--combining homophobia--if they registered the victim not as trans but as a "cross-dressing 'homo'", for example. Do we know how the paramedics identified the victim in their gross humor? It could be a kind of anti-lesbian gender non-conforming misogyny, also. I believe you oppose conclusions about oppression based on anecdotal evidence. There are so many unanswered questions about that one atrocity. I raise those examples of how some non-trans people respond grossly and inhumanely to trans people because so many non-trans people don't even accurately identify trans people AS trans people. So I wouldn't assume, for example, that the victim was mistreated because they were perceived to be transgender, but rather because they were perceived to be a "cross-dresser". That's as likely to be the bigotry one would encounter, depending on how one's body matches with society's restrictive homophobic, lesbophobic, transphobic, classist, racist, and heterosexist ideas about "appropriate" attire personal presentation. And none of that means a transgender person wasn't mistreated in grotesquely dehumanising ways--regardless of what was in the minds of the abusers.

I have absolutely no doubt that atrocious things happen to some trans women. I'd be in tremendous denial to state anything contrary to that. But moving from that awareness to a conclusion that trans women are oppressed structurally by non-trans women is not reachable, for me, based on anecdotal stories, because we all have them about every population. Paramedics, for example, laugh at many people--such as obese people. And I'm willing to bet that all the people involved in the degrading behavior weren't cisgender women, but were cisgender men. Do you know if that was the case? And, sorry to make you recount those details.

I almost didn't get my last job. They figured I was trans if only for the name mismatch (legal and current usage) and the head woman in HR thought it might be better for me not to get hired, for my sake. The formator and the scheduling guy thought I would do fine, and I got hired. The people who worked there were generally not mainstream (videogame testing needs hardcore gamers, of which there are few), so I didn't get harassed or anything.

Not hiring me "for my own sake" wouldn't have been much help even had there been discrimination and harassment. I need income like everyone else.

I totally agree. I totally agree that the apparently cisgender (?) woman was not doing you any favors at all. I'm curious to know how you know she was cisgender. I can also imagine scenarios where, for example, a Jewish person tells another Jew, "it'd be better if you didn't work here" because the place is crawling with Christian anti-Semitism. Same with a gay male doing the hiring for a position in a place that is virulently homophobic. But, assuming that woman was cisgender, that'd be actionable discrimination, as far as I can tell. Fortunately, you did get hired. I wonder what she has to say about this now? Have you run into her since? I'd be curious to know if she's been confronted on her discriminatory attitude--not necessarily or even preferably by you, but by anyone. Is it still actionable, do you think? I'm not saying you should risk your job to pursue a case, or that you even have the will or energy to do such a thing, but I am wondering if those other people you encountered in the hiring process are required to report her discriminatory behavior.

I'll close for now and look forward to your responses. I'm glad you got the job!!! I hope you're relatively happy with it. :)

When Het Men Aren't In Denial or Busy Defending Patriarchal Atrocities, They Can Say Some Profoundly Truthful Things About Themselves

image from the movie, A Serbian Film, is from here
Case in point:
This kind of content – sexual violence as horror, and the male sex drive as monster - really hasn’t been explored this way on film before. I found myself reminded of the most distressing literary explorations of the subject that I have ever encountered: American Psycho, Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, but even more so than those – Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women. Any heterosexual male who has ever read Dworkin has doubtless gone through the same cycle I did of being enraged by the assertions made of our gender, yet ultimately coming to the crushing realisation that everything said about the masculine was true: the drive to dominate, to brutalise, to attempt to satiate the ultimately insatiable appetite.
The above passage is from a review of a movie called A Serbian Film. The full review may be read *here*. There's plenty of sexualised violence against women in the film. And it's being discussed as if extreme misogyny something new in cinema. Apparently the author forgot about Snuff, and most films by Brian DePalma and David Lynch. Or mainstream pornography films.

The reviewer, Ben Bussey, seems to be making a simultanously pro-feminist and anti-feminist point: that men desire to torture women, and that men will torture women because men desire to do so. See, for example, this portion of his review.
This, I think, is the overriding theme that has made A Serbian Film the hot topic it is. At the screening, director Spasojevic reiterated his assertion that the film’s primary function is to serve as a metaphor for life in his home nation (and while I do not doubt his conviction, I must say I do not entirely approve of filmmakers promoting so specific a reading of their work; there’s a lot to be said for leaving things open to interpretation). But to my mind the film is really driven by the universal theme of the male sex drive, and of course the universal taboos of rape and paedophilia. It is not anti-porn per se - central protagonist Milos (the also remarkable Srdjan Todorovic) is portrayed as a well-balanced, down-to-earth family man, never frowned upon for his chosen profession – but tough questions are asked about where ‘good’ porn ends and ‘bad’ porn begins, and just how much it takes for a man to embrace those heinous impulses which, like it or not, on some level exist within us all.
If this is what he's saying, I will say that I don't agree with him that a rape-impulse (and practice) in men being an inevitability, or asocial. Or biological. Or natural. Or universal. Such a viewpoint, that men will rape women and that this terroristic action is not due to conditioning one gets in the political formation of patriarchal manhood in rapist-protecting societies, is one that MRAs and "anti-misandrists" ought to be getting their boxers in a bunch about. Because, as has been noted here many times: when men openly say what men do, when it is in agreement with what radical feminists notice about men's behavior, the men are not called out as man-haters by other men (or, for that matter, as woman-haters). It is only when radical feminists note what men do that men deny doing that those women get called man-haters, not woman-lovers, and not truth-tellers.

You know how THEY mistreat lesbians over THERE. Don't you?

image is from here

One of many things radical feminists of color brought to my consciousness was how to responsibly speak about conditions women face globally. For example, not letting white people always speak for women of color. Not assuming that one person of color speaks for everyone else. Not assuming that what happens in the Global North is the same as what happens in the Global South. Not assuming that the West and the East are the opposite of each other. Not assuming Asia means Korea, Japan, and China only. Knowing that one in five women in the world is Chinese. Not assuming Indigenous people are all gone. Knowing that the people who understand globalised economics the best are poor and of color, not rich and white. Understanding that access to clean water is a critically gendered issue for most women on Earth. The list is endless, really. And I strive to keep learning because the list is endless.

The bottom line for me is to do my best to center the many experiences and analyses of radical women of color in the formation of values and activism this blog supports. And to make sure to support marginalised voices from the Global South and East in Northern and Western media I have access to, including progressive and justice-seeking radical media. And to support the activism of women from the Fourth World.

A critical evaluation by radical women of color is how completely hypocritical white men's cultures and values can be and often are. White men say one thing and do another: like preach about contraception being bad while promoting and protecting men raping children and women and also then condemning girls and women for wanting abortions as if pregnancies were all immaculate.

White men cover each others tracks. White men have one another's backs. The spoken and unspoken bonds among white men make them a formidable bunch to try and challenge and hold accountable. White het men usually and generally don't have a clue about what the majority of human beings experience that is WHM supremacist in origin. And this makes that group very ignorant about the world and also very dangerous, in part because they think they know everything about everyone. They think they are the experts. They think that G-d looks like them. And they think women, especially lesbian women of color, are not created in G-d's image. They don't grasp the spirituality in The Color Purple by Alice Walker (not by Steven Spielberg). They don't get what the women in For Colored Girls are talking about--in soliloquies written by Ntozake Shange (not Tyler Perry). White men can grasp it all because they are human. But white men usually don't because they think only they are fully human.

A typical expression of U.S./Western/WHM Supremacist Hypocrisy-As-A-Way-Of-Life is to deny that what happens in other places--places far away from "US", also happen right here, right now, where we are, where we live. Like genocide or terrorism. For now, let's take the issue of terroristic violence against lesbians. Some progressive media in the white West have been focused on those outrageous Africans--you know--those BLACK Africans, who have a country or a culture or a continent or something like that? Yeah, THOSE Africans! The ones who hate gays and lesbians and want them all to die. You know. Those people over there, not here, who think that violence against lesbians and gay men is okay? Yeah, THOSE people, far away from "US".

Consider, if you would, the following two stories and let me know if your conclusion is that the U.S. wants lesbian women to live lives free of sexual/gender violence.

First, from pinkpaper,com, news from a country in Southern Africa. Please click on the title to link back.

First lesbian couple come out in Botswana

A lesbian couple have made history in Botswana by becoming the first to publicly reveal their relationship despite homosexuality being illegal in the country.
Monday, 29 November 2010
28 November 2010


A lesbian couple have made history in Botswana by becoming the first to publicly reveal their relationship despite homosexuality being illegal in the country.

Onkemetse Pule, 26, and Lawrence Kwataka, 24, met through the dating pages of their local newspaper, The Voice, ten months ago, and they have since informed family members of their relationship.

Homosexuality is currently illegal in Botswana, but they felt the time was right for them to show the way for other gay and lesbian couples even though those found having been engaged in gay acts can face imprisonment.

Pule told The Voice: “We have nothing to hide. People should know that lesbian relationships exist. It’s only that we are not being given a chance to express it in the same way as those in a heterosexual relationship. We want the same rights and freedom of expression. If we kiss and hug, hold hands in public, we don’t want to face the prospect of arrest for what society regards as a crime.

The couple, known gay rights activists in the country, believe there are many other gay people in Botswana who are afraid to come out for fear of persecution and discrimination.

“Until gay and lesbians are given the same rights, people will continue to stare and snigger at us with a nudge that says, ‘look at them," they say.

“We are not the only ones – there are many other couples out there. We have friends who feel the same way and just want to spend their time together without making a big deal out of it. Our society needs to remove the labels that say ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ or ‘bisexual’ or whatever, and accept people as people.”

Earlier this month Botswana's government voted in favour of removing sexual orientation from a UN resolution on minorities protected from discriminatory grounds for execution.

But last month former president, Festus Mogae, urged African leaders to decriminalise homosexuality to help the fight against AIDS on the continent. He said: “There was no need to discriminate and stigmatise homosexuals and sex workers because they are part of society.”

Under Mogae’s leadership and that of current President Ian Khama, no one has been prosecuted in the country for being gay for more than three years.

*          *          *
Next, we have this, from North America, or some country or culture in it. It's so hard to keep those countries in North America "straight". From rawstory.com. Clicking on the title will link you back to the source site.

Judge: Let lesbians into military so male GIs can turn them straight

By Daniel Tencer
Thursday, November 25th, 2010 -- 6:09 pm

 Judge: Let lesbians into military so male GIs can turn 
them straight

Did judge suggest corrective rape for lesbian soldiers?

The conservative news site The Daily Caller has removed part of an article that suggested lesbians be allowed into the US military so that their male colleagues can "convert" them.

Critics say the article went as far as to suggest corrective rape for lesbians.

"Lesbians should be allowed to serve, gay men should not," declared Joe Rehyansky in an article published Monday. Rehyansky, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, is a part-time magistrate in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and a former assistant district attorney.

In the original article, Rehyansky concluded that his lesbians-only policy "would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream."

That alarmed some LGBT activists, who note that much of the article before that comment argued that men are rapists by nature. Rehyansky's argument that gay men should continue to be banned from the military was based on this notion:
[S]houldn’t the overwhelmingly straight warriors who answer their county’s call be spared the indignity of showering with other men who achieve lascivious enjoyment from the sight of those lithe naked bodies, and who may be tempted to seek more than the view? They are, after all, guys.
In the early evolutionary years of the human species, Rehyansky argued, "It fell to men to swing through the trees and scour the caves in search of as many women as possible to subdue and impregnate — a tough job but someone had to do it."

Writing at TBD.com, Amanda Hess reads between the lines of Rehyansky's article: "Once all the lesbians are easily accessible in one place, an army of straight dudes will turn them all straight, presumably through that time-tested tactic of subduing and impregnating women against their will."

Hess reports that The Daily Caller briefly dropped the article when it began to gain attention, only to put it back online but without the "converting lesbians" comment. The comment has since been republished at other Web sites.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rehyansky's specialties are "sending criminals to prison" and "astute political analysis."

The Daily Caller was launched earlier this year by Tucker Carlson, formerly of CNN and MSNBC and now a Fox News contributor, and Neil Patel, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some Essential Reading: Works by Audre Lorde

image of book cover of The Cancer Journals is from here

I found this on About.com and thought I'd post it here for y'all. (Click on the title to link back.) I have to say that The Cancer Journals is rarely mentioned as essential feminist reading, but, for me, it surely is. Along with her poems and essays and speeches, The Cancer Journals offers critical understanding of the experience of battling life-threatening illness and Audre uniquely notes how race, sexuality, gender, and other dimensions of political being are forged and enforced by CRAP to try and ensure no Black women survive. 
Her discussions of surgery and prosthetic devices were and are tremendously important to me, and her courage to speak out about these issues, at a time when no one was, is astounding. And, sadly, we live in a time when no one is speaking out about this matter of wearing prosthetic breast-forms, which are never, ever women's breasts: the presence of implants, reconstructed breasts, and inserts into the bra do not "make someone a woman". She also notes the chilling realities of how environmental terrorism, along with white and male supremacy, is part of women's lives. Chemicals manufactured to make us sick are not part of a sustainable society. 
I honor Audre Lorde's courage to time and again face her own vulnerabilities which were never only her own, and were also very much her own.

Essential Feminist Books By Audre Lorde

The Warrior Poet Also Wrote Warrior Prose

By , About.com Contributing Writer
Audre Lorde was a poet who contributed greatly to feminist theory. She called herself a "Black lesbian feminist warrior poet." As a feminist poet, a lesbian mother, an artist, and a child of West Indian immigrants, she rejected descriptions that limited her or other women to only one category. Books by Audre Lorde include not just feminist poetry, but also memoir, essay and personal mythology.

Audre Lorde's writings offer stories of life experience and her vision of black feminist consciousness. The "warrior poet," as she described herself, offered both warrior poetry and warrior prose.A Few Essential Audre Lorde Books
  • Cables to Rage (1970)
    Audre Lorde's second published volume of poetry was Cables to Rage. The poems in Cables to Rage explore themes of love, relationships, childbirth and raising children. The poem "Martha," which appears in Cables to Rage, is often called Audre Lorde's first overtly lesbian poem.
  • From a Land Where Other People Live (1973)
    Audre Lorde's third volume of poetry, From a Land Where Other People Live, explores the complexities of identity while also developing the theme of injustice. During the 1960s and 1970s, in both poetry and life, Audre Lorde fought against using one-word labels to dismiss or marginalize those who are labeled. From a Land Where Other People Live was nominated for a National Book Award.
  • Coal (1976)
    Coal reached a larger audience and continued Audre Lorde's exploration of multiple layers of identity. The poem "Coal" begins "I/is the total black, being spoken/from the earth's inside." The substance of coal is a metaphor for her own essence, a blackness from inside of the earth that provides essential fuel and becomes a diamond.y
  • The Cancer Journals (1980)
    The Cancer Journals
    chronicles Audre Lorde's experience with breast cancer. The book is a collection of her writings, part essay and part memoir. Audre Lorde began writing journal entries six months after her mastectomy. She asks in The Cancer Journals where she can find a model or guide to help her understand how to deal with cancer. She also questions Western medicine and asserts that women should control their own health and healing.
  • Zami A New Spelling of My Name (1982)
    Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is Audre Lorde's "biomythography." She weaves poetry, stories and real-life recollections of her coming of age in New York City. She also recalls early experiences with poetry and the political women's scene. The book meanders through school, work, love and family with equally vivid memories of childhood classrooms, a factory job or the 1950s lesbian bars in New York.>
  • Sister Outsider (1984)
    Sister Outsider is another collection of Audre Lorde's writings, essays and speeches. Feminism, racism, emotion, sexism within the black community, racism within the feminist community - all of these ideas and more were examined in Audre Lorde's life and writing. In Sister Outsider, she continues to grapple with erotic power, personal power and wholeness. Significant essays in Sister Outsider include:
    • "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power"
    • "Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving"
    • "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism"
    • "An Open Letter to Mary Daly," written in 1979

"We Are at War": How Militias, Racists and Anti-Semites Found a Home in the Tea Party, by David Neiwart @ AlterNet

Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
The image above and text below are cross-posted from AlterNet. Please click on the title just below to link back.

"We Are at War": How Militias, Racists and Anti-Semites Found a Home in the Tea Party

In places like rural Montana, the Tea Party is working hand-in-glove with Patriot movement radicals -- including some with close ties to white supremacists and armed militias.

November 21, 2010 |
AlterNet/The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute / By David Neiwert

Maybe it's the gun-making kits that are being raffled off as door prizes. Or maybe it's the fact that nearly everyone inside this hall at the Ravalli County Fairground is packing heat. But most of all, it's the copy of Mein Kampf sitting there on the book table, with its black-and-white swastika, sandwiched between a survivalist how-to book on food storage and a copy of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

It is obvious: This is not your ordinary Tea Party gathering.

Mind you, they don't explicitly call themselves Tea Partiers. Their official name is Celebrating Conservatism. But their mission statement is classic Tea Party -- "to restore our country, counties, and cities back to the Republic and the Constitution of the United States" -- and Celebrating Conservatism is listed as a member of the national Tea Party Patriots organization. Everyone in Hamilton, Montana -- the whole of Montana's Bitterroot Valley, for that matter -- knows them as the Tea Party's main presence in town. Once a month or so, the group holds a potluck dinner at the county fairgrounds that typically attracts a couple hundred people, which in a place like the Bitterroot is a sizeable presence.

This night -- a September 14, 2010, potluck in the oversized metal shed that is the fairground's main hall -- is special because there is a high-profile guest: Larry Pratt, leader of Gun Owners of America.

Pratt, like a lot of Celebrating Conservatism's speakers, has a long history with the far right. He is considered a godfather of the militia movement, a network of conspiracy-minded, armed paramilitary groups that exploded in the 1990s. Pratt addressed a pivotal three-day meeting of neo-Nazis and Christian Identity adherents in Estes Park, Colorado, in October 1992, convened in the wake of a shoot-out by federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, that had sent shock waves through the extreme right. That gathering is widely credited with birthing the movement's strategy of organizing citizen militias as a form of "leaderless resistance" to a looming "New World Order." Joining Pratt on the stage at Estes Park were Aryan Nations leaders Richard Butler and Louis Beam. (A few years later, Pratt became co-chair of Patrick Buchanan's 1996 GOP presidential campaign, but was dismissed once these Neo-Nazi ties surfaced in the national press.)

Pratt is hardly the only controversial figure to address the group. In May 2010, at its convention on the University of Montana's Missoula campus, Celebrating Conservatism hosted tax protester Red Beckman, notorious for his open anti-Semitism and the author of a 1984 book that argues the Holocaust was a judgment upon Jews for worshiping Satan. At a Hamilton gathering in July 2009, a onetime Arizona sheriff named Richard Mack addressed the crowd; he'd made a career in the 1990s out of organizing militias and speaking on the national circuit of the anti-government Patriot movement. Mack's longtime Patriot movement confederate, Jack McLamb, spoke at the group's Hamilton gathering the following month. McLamb, a former police officer, recruits "soldier and lawmen" to the Patriot cause through a group called Police & Military Against a New World Order.

Those events served notice that Celebrating Conservatism had embraced the Patriot movement cause.

Celebrating Conservatism formed in December 2008 in reaction to the presidential election and slowly gained members that spring by associating itself with a variety of Tea Party events in Bitterroot. But locals only took real notice in September 2009, when the group held a gun rights rally in downtown Hamilton at which participants brandished firearms. Organizers followed up with a Celebration of Right to Bear Arms in March 2010, which featured a march of several hundred people along Hamilton's main drag. Anyone driving through town that day was greeted by a gauntlet of people packing weapons ranging from muzzle-loading muskets to a high-powered sniper-style .308 caliber rifle.

Their display felt like a threat to some locals. Bill LaCroix, a Montana human rights activist, wrote an anxious op-ed in the Bitterroot Star after the September rally: "You have to wonder: If these teabaggers' views are so extreme that they have to carry guns to emphasize how much they can't tolerate your beliefs, what do they suggest be done with everyone who disagrees with them if they actually gained the power they demand?"

* * * * *

The obsession with all things gun is evident at tonight's potluck, from Larry Pratt's presence to a fundraising raffle for registration-free gun kits. At one point Mona Docteur -- Celebrating Conservatism's founder and the evening's emcee -- invites to the stage the owner of the Dillon-based company that sells the kits. He has a kit-made pistol strapped to his waist.

At the back of the room, alongside the bookseller and the gun-kit merchant, are booths for a handful of local Tea Party political candidates -- one running for sheriff, another for county commissioner -- as well as a booth promoting two Patriot organizations: the Oath Keepers, a new organization that recruits military and police to refuse any orders to disarm American citizens or put them concentration camps, threats they view as imminent; and the Fully Informed Jury Association, a veteran far-right group dedicated to persuading juries to "nullify" federal tax and civil-rights laws. The latter group was closely associated for years with the Montana Freemen, which engaged in an armed standoff with FBI agents in the mid-1990s.

What becomes manifestly clear, even before the speakers take the stage, is that this is a gathering of old-style Patriot movement believers very similar to those who made a splash in Montana back in the 1990s: militias, "Constitutionalists," Freemen, and assorted anti-government extremists. But this time around they are riding the coattails of the Tea Party movement. References to "Tea Party principles" throughout the evening are almost as common as references to the Constitution.

The Patriots began organizing on a mass scale in 1994, largely in response to the violent federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, reaching their organizational peak in 1996, when there were over 800 groups on the scene. The movement gradually declined as the 1990s wore on, collapsing to a couple hundred groups once the Y2K Apocalypse, which many of them had warned of as the millennium approached, failed to materialize.

By 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, counted only 131 Patriot groups left in the entire country. Suddenly, in 2009, it counted 512. The numbers continue to climb, and nearly all of this activity, according to Mark Potok, the director of the SPLC's intelligence project, is closely associated with the rise of the Tea Party. "The 'tea parties' and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups," the group's March 2010 report states, "but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism."

Mark Pitcavage, intelligence director for the Anti-Defamation League, has also tracked "a general growth of anti-government rage and associated conspiracy theories." Its most mainstream expression is the Tea Party, he says, "but it has also manifested itself on the extremes by a resurgence of the militia movement, the sovereign citizen movement, [and] other Patriot-type groups like the Oath Keepers."

In his view, the rise of the Tea Party and the resurgence of the Patriot movement are "two sides of the same coin."

David Barstow referenced the overlap between Tea Parties and Patriots in a widely read February 2010 New York Times article, writing that "a significant undercurrent" within the Tea Party has more in common with the Patriot movement than the Republican Party. But he failed to note a disturbing side-effect: the Patriot movement's affiliation with the Tea Party has offered it a measure of mainstream validation. That validation has energized the movement and enabled it to recruit a new generation to "constitutionalist" Patriot-movement beliefs.

In some cases, the Tea Party has helped create a local organizing focus for newborn Patriot organizations such as Celebrating Conservatism, which has effectively become the main Tea Party group in Ravalli County, even though it is clearly a Patriot group. In other instances, Patriot groups have spun off of Tea Party organizing, spreading their own conspiracist and constitutionalist ideas while maintaining close Tea Party alliances. Often the most active and vocal Tea Party organizers are simultaneously leaders of local Patriot groups. This is especially true in rural areas.

In the process, leaders of the two movements have developed strong ties. Potok points out that Richard Mack, a major national militia-movement figure in the 1990s, has given scores of speeches to Tea Party groups around the country over the past year. Meanwhile, new Patriot organizations like the Oath Keepers have built their new followings largely through their heavy involvement in the Tea Parties.

Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, has seen this political hardening at play here in Montana. Celebrating Conservatism's tone and message, he notes, have changed sharply over time. "Early on, they were portraying themselves very much as just this benign group that was educating the public about the Constitution and American history," he says. "Then months down the road, a year down the road, they're taking out an ad in the local paper where they're basically saying that if the government tries to restrict our access to firearms, it is our obligation to rise up and overthrow such a government. And then Mona starts to say things like, 'You know, we're not violent. But we could be.'"

Back in the '90s, he recalls, the Militia of Montana paid lip service to voting, but always followed with a grim punch line: 'When the ballot box doesn't work, we'll switch to the cartridge box.'"

That certainly seemed to be the sentiment this September in Hamilton.

* * * * *

Mona Docteur, a fortyish brunette dressed in a stylish black sweater and jeans, is running the show tonight. She kicks things off with a prayer, then launches into the story of her recent trip to Missoula to watch Sarah Palin speak. She says she was skeptical of Palin, but came away changed. "You know what I felt from that woman? She really is all about God and family and country."

Docteur spoke with Palin about Celebrating Conservatism, she says, and "the thing I got from Sarah Palin was this…. We have got to get together. The divisions are exactly what the enemy wants. And maybe we don't agree on a whole lot of things, but maybe we can agree on one or two things. How about limited government? Does everybody agree about that?" There were cheers. "OK, that's one thing. At least we can agree on that. Can we agree on the fact that we still maybe might have our Constitution? Maybe?" More applause.

That's when Docteur introduces Richard Celata, of KT Ordnance in Dillon, Montana, to talk about his gun kits. "How many of you like having the government know what firearms you have?" he asks rhetorically, to a sea of rolled eyes and disgusted snorts. "Well, these firearms do not have serial numbers on it, nobody knows you've bought it but you and I. What you do is you build it yourself." Buyers get a valuable lesson in the inner workings of their gun, he explains, "plus, nobody knows you have it."

If you buy one of the winning raffle tickets, you get to walk away that evening with the makings of either a 1911 .45-caliber handgun, or one of two semiautomatic assault rifles, an AR-10 or an AR-15.

Sitting next to me is an eager, fresh-faced family man named Mark French. French, who hails from Sanders County, a couple hours' drive away, is something of a known figure in these circles, having run as the Tea Party challenger to Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg in the Montana primary. He only garnered 20 percent of the vote -- a deep disappointment that led him to feel pessimistic about the nation's future. The Constitution, he says, is under serious assault.

Really? I ask. What parts of the Constitution are being attacked?

The question makes him think for a moment; after all, this claim has become a truism among Tea Partiers. "The first one that comes to mind," he says after a long pause, "is being secure in your papers and your personal effects. The Patriot Act, for example -- the Patriot Act walks all over the Constitution."

Then he gets philosophical. "The biggest problem that we have, though, in America is -- and I said this out loud at every speech I gave -- Romans Chapter 1, Verse 28: 'As we did not want to retain God in our knowledge, God gave us over to a debased mind to do those things that are unfitting.'" He mentions Judge Roy Moore's battle to defend a Ten Commandments monument he installed at a public courthouse in Alabama and the national debate over same sex marriage. "We've tried to remove God from our society the best we can," he says. "There's no foundation for anything."

I wonder how all this constitutes an attack on the Constitution, since the First Amendment separates church and state. But before I can ask, the evening's first guest speaker takes the stage: Missoula's own Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a longtime fixture on Montana's far-right political scene.

Marbut enjoys an almost legendary status among Patriot groups and Tea Parties, one seriously burnished by his May 2009 appearance on Glenn Beck's show to discuss efforts by legislators in a number of conservative states to declare their sovereignty vis-a-vis the federal government. The month before, Montana had passed legislation declaring that all guns manufactured in the state were exempt from federal law. Marbut had drafted the bill.

Though he has run numerous times, Marbut has never actually been elected to any office, largely because he resides in liberal Missoula, where residents are aware of his alliances with figures on the extremist right.

In 1994, disgusted with the passage of the Brady Act (which established federal background checks on firearms purchases) and that year's federal assault-weapons ban, Marbut suggested Montana secede from the Union, and his shooting sports group promoted a resolution legalizing the formation of "unorganized militias." Marbut also penned columns for a white-supremacist Christian Identity newspaper, The Jubilee, and for an Identity-oriented militia magazine, the Sierra Times. And he's actively promoted jury nullification through the Fully Informed Jury Association (which has a booth at the Hamilton event), calling it "the last peaceable barrier between innocent gun owners and a tyrannous government."

He has some previous experience in the mainstreaming of radical ideas: in the mid-'90s, Marbut advised Militia of Montana members not to call themselves "militias" but rather Patriot "neighborhood watches."

Tonight Marbut wants to talk about a new piece of sovereignty legislation he plans to promote in the state legislature, something he calls Sheriffs First. The bill would make it a crime in Montana for a federal officer to arrest, search or seize without advance written permission from the county sheriff, Marbut explains, to enthusiastic applause.

"How that will work is, the federal officers might come to your local sheriff and say, 'OK, here's our probable cause, we believe there's people at this location in your county who have a meth lab …and we wanna bust 'em,'" Marbut says. "The sheriff might look it over and say, 'Gosh, I'm glad you brought this to me, here's your advance written permission, and I will send a couple deputies to help you.'

"Or the federal officers might come to the sheriff and say, 'Here's our probable cause, it leads us to believe there's somebody in your county at this location who's manufacturing firearms without a federal license. And we want to go bust them.' The sheriff might say, 'Sorry, we have a state law in Montana that authorizes that activity, it's perfectly legal here, you may not go bust them, you do not have permission, and if you do, we can put you in Deer Lodge. We can put you behind bars in Montana for doing that.'" That brings out whoops alongside the applause.

When Marbut wraps up, it's time for Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America. Pratt, who lives in Virginia, cultivates an avuncular grandpa image these days, and it works well with this crowd, which besides being pure white is also largely on the sundown side of fifty.

He opens by celebrating the primary victory of Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell that night in Delaware and the promising poll numbers of New Hampshire Tea Party candidate Ovide Lamontagne: "The Tea Party's having a pretty good night tonight," he declares. "Even before we get to November, it looks like we've taken care of a good deal of business." (Lamontagne went on to narrowly lose the Republican primary; O'Donnell lost by a wide margin in the general election.)

Pratt then channels Glenn Beck, explaining that the root of our political problems are the "socialist" public schools, which he describes as "propaganda centers for the hard left." And it goes even deeper. "We are in a war," he says. "It is a culture war. We're in a war, and the other side knows it, because they started it."

"We are facing socialism, pure and simple," he continues. "They want our guns, of course -- that's what every socialist regime has ever wanted to do. They want our kids, they want our money, they want our land."

Pratt wraps up with a simple exhortation: "Montana, on November 2, don't forget to take out the trash."

Pratt fields several questions from audience members who have doubts about the Ravalli County Sheriff, Chris Hoffman. One middle-aged man with a walrus mustache, wearing a rumpled cowboy hat and a sidearm, has some particularly dark fears. "I walked up to Sheriff Hoffman," he says, "and asked him to his face, I said: 'Here's the scenario, Sheriff. There's the mountains over there, and there comes the enemy. And the enemy is the Federal Government.' I said, 'The enemy is the Federal Government. And they're coming down, I can see them coming over the hills, and my wife is here, and my little child is there, and you're standing there and we all got guns. Here's my question, Sheriff: What you gonna do?'

"You know what Hoffman said to me? He said, 'I dunno. I'd have to call the D.A. to find out the correct interpretation of the Constitution.' That's what he told me. So that's the kind of sheriff that we're running here. Sheriff Hoffman is obviously not one of us. He's gonna call the D.A. when the feds are coming down the hill to maybe kill my daughter or kill my wife."

Pratt nods and says, with a taut smile, "Then he needs to feel the heat."

Sheriff Hoffmann felt little heat in on November 2: A Republican, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote. But a wave of ultraconservatism fed by the Tea Parties swept Ravalli County, washing away Democratic commissioners and longtime county attorney George Corn, who had a notable history of standing up to Patriot extremists dating back to the '90s. This was also true of Montana more generally, where several Tea Party candidates were elected to the state legislature, and one of Gary Marbut's key allies -- Rep. Krayton Kerns of Laurel, a Tea Party favorite -- is now well positioned to become Speaker of the Montana House.

* * * * *

For people like Travis McAdam, who has monitored the activities of right-wing extremists here for two decades, the talk being heard in places like Hamilton is the kind heard in the '90s from local Patriot groups. Only now their paranoia has the Tea Party's imprimatur.

He sees a tremendous symbiosis between Patriot groups and the Tea Party in Montana, especially in small communities like Hamilton. He mentions Celebrating Conservatism, as well as another local Patriot group, Lincoln County Watch, that had its origins in a 2008 Ron Paul for President meet-up group spearheaded by an activist named Paul Stramer. (Stramer, like Paul, identifies as a libertarian, but Stramer also has a long history of activism with the Militia of Montana and the Montana Freemen.) Both are Patriot groups -- and both are solidly in the Tea Party fold.

"A lot of times you'll find there is the Tea Party group and Tea Party organizing and Tea Party rallies that are happening in communities," McAdam says. "But oftentimes connected up to that is another, separate organization where there is quite a bit of crossover of membership and activists, and the secondary organization has a much harder and really more self-evident streak of Patriot movement theory."

In the case of Celebrating Conservatism, that streak was visible early on, when the group brought in figures such as Patriot movement icon Richard Mack and known anti-Semite Red Beckman. Tea Party groups elsewhere around the state have followed the same course, he says, featuring speakers who have "very colorful" histories with antigovernment groups, white supremacists and hardcore anti-Semites.

Gun-rights extremists like Pratt get a hearing from both Patriots and Tea Partiers, helping to whip up a climate of fear. "Pratt's whole thing," Mark Potok says, is "the government is coming for your guns." In Patriot conspiracy theory, he explains, that's how it starts: "First, gun confiscation, then martial law, imposed probably with the aid of foreign governments. Then concentration camps that either have been built or are being built by FEMA. And then, finally, the country is forced into a socialistic One World Government, a New World Order." By sounding the alarm about the first element in the conspiracy, Pratt and his ilk sow anxiety about the rest.

Many in the Tea Party movement appear oblivious to the presence of Patriots in their midst, Pitcavage says, but the Patriot movement is "painfully aware" of the Tea Party. "They're fascinated and attracted to it, because they see this great mass of angry, agitated people out there who clearly share some of their concerns and fears," he says. "They look at them as a potential pool of people who could be brought along a little further."

Some Patriot activists get involved in Tea Parties simply to express their anger, he says. Others are more deliberate, attending Tea Party events to spread the word about their own Patriot movement beliefs. White supremacists have attempted this as well -- perhaps most aggressively during Tea Party events on the Fourth of July in 2009 -- though they had limited success, as the ADL documented at the time. While recruiters from places as disparate as Tallahassee, Florida, and Bellingham, Washington, reported that they were able to interest Tea Partiers in their material, many others found the events inhospitable.

Patriot organizations have found the Tea Party to be far more fertile ground, for both recruitment and organizational alliances. The Oath Keepers, for example, have carved out a prominent place as organizers, participants, and speakers on the national Tea Party scene. At the same time, local Patriot groups like Celebrating Conservatism have lodged themselves inside the Tea Party network, deepening the influence of Patriot ideology there.

A recent report for the NAACP, "Tea Party Nationalism," authored by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, details how a variety of far-right extremists, including Patriot groups, have come to hold positions of influence inside the movement.

"It's true no matter where you are," says Devin Burghart, one of the study's authors. "In Montana, people will be upset about guns and wolves. In Arizona, it will be undocumented immigrants. In Jackson [Mississippi], they'll talk about black people, immigrants, and Islam." But regardless of how they frame the issues, he says, Patriot Groups have found in the Tea Party "an audience which they never could have gotten on their own. It gives them a mass appeal for which they've been longing forever."

"It gives them traction for their agenda," he adds. "It gives them a stamp of legitimacy. It washes away their previous sins and allows them to recreate themselves under this fresh new party banner."

Here in Montana, gun advocates such as Larry Pratt and Gary Marbut play a decisive role in making these groups appear more mainstream. "Marbut is very firmly in the Patriot camp," says McAdam. "But because of the dynamics around Second Amendment issues in Montana politics, he has been able to portray himself and is looked at by legislators as this gun-rights enthusiast who knows everything there is to know about gun-rights law in Montana. And he is treated both with respect and fear." Even Democrats believe that they can't get elected if Marbut doesn't warm up to them, he says.

Where Patriot activists have entered Montana politics, their effect has largely been toxic. In the south-central town of Big Timber, a Patriot faction led by an Oath Keeper took control of the city council, triggering massive dysfunction, with even local parks projects tied up in bizarre fears of a New World Order conspiracy. "When these Patriots engage local political institutions, take over local city councils and local county commissions, local school boards, what we've found is they have no interest in governing," McAdam says. "They have only an interest in dismantling."

Their main political tools, he says, are intimidation and harassment -- a dynamic visible here in Hamilton. "All of a sudden it's the people with the loudest voices and the biggest stockpile of weapons who start totally dictating public discourse," he says, "and anyone who doesn't agree with them is scared out of the process."

Those involved with Celebrating Conservatism, organizers and participants alike, insist that they only bring weapons to public meetings to assert their rights as gun owners, never acknowledging that a political opponent might reasonably view their weapons as a threat. Some of them, McAdam notes, are honestly shocked at the suggestion.

"Not all of them, though," he says. "A lot of them know perfectly well that guns intimidate people, and they bring them anyway. For exactly that reason."

* * * * *

After the speeches are over and the gun kits handed off to the raffle winners, everyone is milling around. I stop by the Oath Keepers booth and buy a khaki-green T-shirt with the Oath Keepers logo on it ("Guardians of the Republic -- Not on Our Watch"), then wander by the book table where Mein Kampf is for sale. The last time I saw it being sold publicly like this was back in the early 1980s, at a World Congress of Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, three hours' drive away on the other side of Lookout Pass.

The guy behind the table is Reuben Walker, who runs a small local bookstore. "Can you tell me exactly why you're selling Mein Kampf?" I ask. "Have you read it?"

"Yes," he answers, seeming startled.

"So you know that it's nothing but an extended screed about how the Jews are plotting to destroy the white race," I say, pulling out my video camera.

"Well -- "

"So, do you believe what he wrote in the -- ?" I begin to ask.

"No," he answers. "You'll notice we have other books out we don't believe in."

He points to the book next to it: Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, a favorite target of Glenn Beck. It's clear he thinks the two books have something in common. "This is my 'broken books' section," he says. "It's there so you can know what we're up against."

A couple of weeks later I call Walker up at the bookstore, because I realize where this may be coming from: Jonah Goldberg's right-wing treatise, Liberal Fascism, which posits that fascism has always been a left-wing phenomenon. I ask whether he's read Goldberg's book.

"Yes, I have," he says.

"So is that kind of where you coming from on this? So people could be educated on fascism?"

"That's right."

"So where do you see fascism in our current scene?"

"You don't see fascism in our current government?" he asks. "I believe there is some."

"And so you want people to be able to see and identify fascism by going back to the original sources, right?" I ask.

"Definitely. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it."

Walker assures me that, among the several hundred people at the gathering that night, I was the only one who objected to seeing Mein Kampf for sale. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.

Related stories:
Low Turnout at Gun March the NRA's Fault, Organizer Says - by Adele M. Stan
The Oath Keepers: The Militant and Armed Side of the Tea Party Movement - by Justine Sharrock Gun March Warm-Up: Oath Keepers Founder Goes Off on Maddow, Mother Jones -- And AlterNet - by Adele M. Stan

David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author of five books, including most recently (with John Amato) Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane. He is also the managing editor of CrooksandLiars.com. and writes for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog.

Sara and Julian Discuss Trans/Feminist Issues, part 1: Gender and Race Privilege, Childhood Experience, Structural Political Location, and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

This image of mostly thin and young people is from here. Note who takes up the most space! Note the pink line going up between the legs of the woman on the far left indicating that she, maybe, is "not open to communicating". Yeah, about that. And the big white guy's "manhood" is riding a little high, isn't it, if that's what his cupped hands are supposed to be protecting?
[For Part 2, please see *here*.]

This isn't exactly "part 1" of a conversation Sara and I are having. We began it *here on this A.R.P. blogpost dated November 1, 2010, called "Transgender, Transsexuals, Radical Feminism: Part 4", in the comments section*.

So please refer back to that conversation for the origins of what follows below. Thanks! :)

I've tried to make the conversation understandable in terms of "who says what". Generally, Sara's comments are in italics and mine are not. But there are a few exceptions and those are noted with some (hopefully!) clarifying information.

Before we get going here, I want to expressly thank Sara for being willing to engage with me here on my blog on these issues. THANK YOU, SARA!!!!

Hi again, Sara. Here are my responses to your latest comments.

Sara wrote: "In other words, trans women are just like black women,

    JR wrote: Some trans women are Black women. They're not "like" Black women."

    Sara responded: I meant positioned hierarchically like black women vis-a-vis white women. Black women being oppressed by race. Trans women being oppressed by trans status.

Sara also wrote: "a different kind of childhood from mainstream white women, neither better or worse. Most were raised as weird children"

    JR responded: What does that mean? (I'm not sure I want to know.) That sounds pretty damned racist and misogynistic to me."

    Sara responded to that, writing: The first part is saying that black women have different kinds of childhood than white women, just different, neither better or worse.

I follow you now, but kind of disagree. Here's what I disagree with. I don't believe "Black women" is one group of human beings who share a kind of childhood. I accept that it is inevitable, in the U.S., that any Black or African American woman will experience racist misogyny and misogynist racism in ways that aren't systematically visited upon whites and men. But that's not at all the same thing as saying that "Black women have different kinds of childhoods than white women". Some Black women are viewed as white when among whites, or can pass sometimes, for example, or are more employable in certain job sectors because they are lighter-skinned, or speak a certain way, or have more european facial features. Halle Berry is one example of someone who has been paid more than many other Black women actors because of her skin tone and facial features being "more pleasing" to white audiences. Some Black women can never pass as white. So those are really different social experiences, as I see it and hear about it from Black women.

Light-skinned Black women and darker-skinned Black women may share the experience of knowing that darker skin means you may get treated more like dirt by whites and within African American society than if you have lighter skin. The biography of Audre Lorde, Warrior Poet, by Alexis De Veaux discusses this in some depth, in painful detail, and how Audre's mother communicated to her that dark skin = untrustworthiness or being of lesser value, and how Audre, the darkest of her sibling sisters, internalised that as a message about her own value and worth in her mother's eyes. Sidney Poitier grew up in the Bahamas in an environment in which he'd never heard of Black people being called the n word. That's quite a different kind of childhood to have than one in which you are taught "when whites use the n word, that refers to you" from as soon as you are old enough to know or feel it as the insult and form of derision it is. Also, Black means different things. Indigenous people in Australia are called Black in Australia. But they aren't of African descent. And the experiences, varied as they are, among Aboriginal Australians, isn't just like that of Audre Lorde or Sidney Poitier, if we're speaking of raced experience in white supremacist countries.

If you're saying that Black people, and in this case women, in a white male supremacist environment/culture/nation experience oppression from more oppressor groups than do white women, I'd agree with you, with all other things being similar--such as era, age, class, sexuality, ability, and so on.

Sara also wrote: The second part is saying that trans women are raised as weird children. Many are considered rejects by mainstream society long before they transition. And rarely for stuff like liking pink or wearing dresses, it can be simply for stuff like having feminine body language by default.

I think saying anyone is raised as a "weird child" is a bit insulting, to be honest. Many children--period--are considered rejects by mainstream society: most children of color,  especially if dark and raised in cultures of color; all FAAB girls; all intersex children; all overtly non-het children; all gender non-conforming children. And among all those groups, and in more than I can list, there are some who are transgender or intergender, and some who are not. The identification of only trans children as "weird" or "considered rejects" by dominant society is simply inaccurate and overgeneralised. Plenty of us who are trans/intergender didn't know what we were when we were growing up. We might have thought we were just "different" or maybe we didn't feel all that different in our earlier childhoods. There's no one experience, in childhood, of being trans or intergender, and the way some trans activists talk, there's this one kind of experience that all trans and intergender people share--of "knowing" that we weren't meant to be either girls or boys, or that our psyches didn't fit with our bodies, and so on. And I think that's a really gross stereotype about us, to be honest. A lot of us grow up thinking we're queer/lesbian/gay. And we go with that for a while because trans and intergender experience isn't even identified as what one can feel or be. And "what we are" and how we understand ourselves is a very social/interactive process, not a fixed biological one, in my view.

I know, for a fact, that some lesbian feminists and myself--a radical profeminist--would likely have identified as transgender early in our twenties if we grew up in some of the queer communities that exist now, that promote and welcome transgender experience while also denigrating and insulting radical lesbian feminist experience. The queer community I've known most intimately purges the radical non-trans lesbian feminists while embracing the liberal feminist or non-feminist transgender people. I think they'd also likely purge any radical feminist trans person too. So, for me, this is part of the larger conversation about who defines as what, and why. Are the women who would have identified as trans now, but don't, because they came into radical non-trans lesbian feminist identity first, mean they are or are not transgender? I've only recently even found out there WAS such a thing as "being intergender". I'd say I always was intergender, but I've only recently begun to identify as that. So what was I before I identified as intergender? Cis gender? I don't think so. This is very complicated stuff, and I see too many trans activists trying to pass off one way of experiencing being transgender or intergender--if and when that even gets mentioned, which it usually doesn't--as like every other trans/intergender person, and I think that's a kind of gross stereotyping and bigotry, or false unification around "what we present to the dominant society" that exists within our community that needs to be called out, interrogated, discussed, and hopefully resolved to some degree.

Part of feminine body language is learned, and part of it is innate. It can still be learned to be more "in line" with how others are...but only if you're aware of it. Balancing hips instead of shoulders while walking is considered feminine. Exaggerating this for effect is learned, but the basic way isn't for the most.

I respect your opinion, Sara, as yours. But I simply do not agree that there is such a thing as "feminine body language" that is innate. At all. If we look at female children and girls across era and culture there is no aspect of "femininity" that shows up everywhere. Not one bodily characteristic, expressive aspect, or way of being. There's not even any agreement about what "feminine body language" is, cross-culturally and across era. In most societies where there is a hierarchical gender binary, it is usually, but not always the case that there are things called "feminine" and "masculine". Again, people tend to get really sloppy about this stuff. So while I'm eager to learn more about what you experienced as a child, and what you experience now, I'm not supporting any notion of something called "innate femininity". I don't see it. To even "mark" something as "feminine" is to engage in a very social-political act. There's nothing "inborn" about ascribing meaning and value to sets of behaviors, or to clustering them into one thing called "being feminine". That's all socially done, in the view of the blog.

To take your example of balancing hips instead of shoulders while walking. That's so culturally specific as to not be terribly meaningful to me as a distinguisher. How does one learn to walk if one is going to be carrying gallons of water on one's head, for miles? How does one learn to walk if one is expected to not walk very much at all? If one's feet are pressed into shoes that wreck healthy posture? Clearly there's nothing at all natural about high heeled shoes--and clearly no humans benefit physiologically from wearing them--they fuck up body alignment and shorten the achilles tendon if worn a lot over time. And, yes, some people feel better or taller or more attractive or sexier in them. But there's nothing innate about that. And how we learn to move in our bodies hasn't been shown to be "biological sex" specific, and maybe your childhood and mine would bear that out!

In my youth, I was considered feminine mainly for this (body language in general), and I wasn't aware of it. And nobody would tell me what exactly gave them this 'vibe'. Maybe even they weren't aware of it, but just picked up on it subconsciously. If anything, this contributed to being excluded from mainstream male groups, all of them. Being asexual made it physically impossible to be entitled for sex (I didn't want any).

We share some experiences here, Sara. I was made fun of, ostracised, bullied, and excluded from mainstream male-boy groups for being too feminine, or, for not being masculine enough--or both. Also for playing with girls. Only when I was around eighteen or nineteen did a woman who was part of my extended family tell me that I walked too much "like a woman" and she recommended I stop doing that. I soon ended our friendship and stopped hanging out with her as I found her to be hurtfully heterosexist. And I didn't "correct" the way I walked, either. I don't think I was walking in either a feminine or masculine way, "innately". I believe I was walking the way my body felt most comfortable walking, and that society then imposed a value, a judgment, a deeply gendered and heterosexist one, on that way of walking. It has no innate "sexuality" or "gender" or "sex", in my view. All of that is layered on and imposed by oppressive heteropatriarchal societies and their foot soldiers.

And, as we're both asexual, I'd like to clarify something. Being asexual doesn't mean you or I were not entitled to be aggressors sexually. It didn't mean we were not encouraged to act out rapist behaviors. It didn't mean we weren't socially expected to "make the first move" when with girls. I'd argue we shared that socialisation, even if it didn't feel like anything we wanted to do. Entitlements and privileges don't have to be acted out for us to have them. They are given to us socially, interpersonally. And what we do with them is another thing entirely. That's how I see it, anyway. I see children-socially-identified-as-boys, as a class, being given privileges and entitlements that children-identified-as-girls don't get, as a class of human beings structurally and systemically oppressed by the boys--and by men too, or, at the very least, by male supremacist assumptions and values, even if a girl-child lives only among patriarchally-raised women, for example.

So I'm challenging you big time on this one point. You say, "Being asexual made it physically impossible to be entitled for sex (I didn't want any)."

I say in response to that the following: many boys don't want to be or feel like being aggressors against girls. Many older male-boys don't want to be sexually violating to female-girls. But those of us who are male and identified as boys as children, and as teens, are socially entitled to be aggressors nonetheless. Not wanting to be has very little to do with it. And it may have been impossible for you to act out sexually, but for many asexual kids, especially those of us who were sexually abused and assaulted in childhood, we DID act out sexually, even though we were asexual. And we acted out in some male supremacist, privileged, and entitled ways. How we "act out" has a whole lot to do with how we are socialised to behave, sexually and otherwise. I hear that for you, "being sexual" as that is commonly understood, was not an option for you. And I'm glad you were able to honor that in yourself. Most of us are not.

Most of us have sexual behaviors thrust upon us, and we are sexually active in compulsory ways, whether we desire to be or not. Most of what I've done "sexually" was not what I'd want to do now;  now, I feel personally (not socially) "entitled" to not have sex with anyone. Even now, today, I AM socially entitled to rape, to abuse, to act out in male supremacist ways. I CAN access pornography--images of raped and pimped women and men. I can voyeur. I can stare at men I think are physically attractive. I choose not to. But if I were heterosexual and seen as a male-man, I could stare at women on the street and be patted on the back for doing so, by male-men who share publicly valuing behaving in male supremacist ways, homosocially and heterosexually, regardless of what they wish to do privately. If you are socially positioned and seen and treated as a male-man, you are also socially-politically "entitled" to do whatever you want that isn't overtly criminal. And you can do the criminal stuff if it's private. That you choose not to--for any reason, including because you are asexual--doesn't mean your entitlements disappear. And it doesn't mean our socialisation to behave as oppressive male-men goes away or takes no root in us. That's how I see it, anyway. That's my experience of people raised to be males, boys, and men. [Added 1/30/2016: ...regardless of the subjective experience of our being. I'm making a distinction between 'how we are supposed to and raised to behave' (colonially, patriarchally, heterosexistly), and 'how we experience ourselves', often with distress, in relation to those expectations and entitlements.]

JR wrote: "The issue is women feeling safe, not some people being "worse". I'm not making the case that some people are better, only that some people in some situations behave oppressively and in ways that make oppressed people feel unsafe."

   Sara responds: I'm not sure what they would be basing their feeling unsafe on, except personal dating experience (which is always anecdotal). Trans women are such a small group. Let alone American trans women interested in going to 400$/ticket 1-week female-only music festivals held by people who hold anti-trans-women opinions (it's like gay people wanting to go to a Republican party to me).

LOL. Well, shockingly, there are large numbers of white class-privileged gay men who want to be Republicans! And I don't know how many transgender women want to attend the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and it is really more an issue of how male privilege and entitlements get acted out beyond that one event. As you note, that event can be and will be attended only by those with some forms of privilege--financial, partly. But some forms of able-bodiedness also. And, in conversations with non-trans lesbian women, this is what I've heard: it only takes a few experiences of someone with male privileges bullying or harassing or dominating their way into a space to make many, many, many non-trans lesbian women feel VERY uncomfortable with that person being there at all. Most lesbian women I know have stories of het men and gay men being dicks, being pricks, being male supremacist jerks. Being misogynistic. Being sexist. Being racist if white. Being classist if not poor. Being ableist if not disabled. And so on.

How many male supremacists does it take to make a group of women feel unsafe? That's not a joke question.

And speaking only for myself and my sense of safety when among male-men, I can feel unsafe in a group if one man is staring at me in creepy ways. Or if one man touches me without my permission. That can happen anywhere--at a party, at a gathering, at an event, at a concert, in a grocery store, etc. It CERTAINLY isn't limited to personal dating experience "which is always anecdotal" according to you. I want to call you out on that, btw.

Nothing about dating is *only* anecdotal: dating experience is one of many common sites of heteropatriarchal and white male supremacist values and practices being acted out oppressively. Battery and rape are epidemic among teen girls who date boys. Those aren't only "anecdotes"--they are stats and they are real human beings being negatively impacted, traumatised, violated, hurt, and oppressed by male supremacists or by male-boys who believe they ought to behave that way in order to be "real men" even if privately, when alone, they are disgusted with behaving that way. These are lived experiences of something that happens to people systemically and systematically, not individualistically or anecdotally only. They are part and parcel of what else happens to people when *not dating*--when walking or rolling down a sidewalk, when going to work, when being at home not dating anyone but witnessing one's father consume pornography and then look at his daughter as if she is a sexxx-thing for him to salivate over. [Added 1/30/2016: Donald Trump admits he'd date his daughter if she were not his daughter. I wonder how safe that makes her feel.]

Also, those I've seen and talked to online (on MWMF forums) seem to base their concept of "male energy" around traits considered masculine, like assertiveness, aggressiveness, competitiveness. Stuff those women seem to have in spades, but who complain about "former-men" having. A double-standard if I ever saw one.

So are you saying women don't have a right to name what they experience in political terms? Are you saying people of color have no right or responsibility to name and call out "white privileged behavior"? Because if that's where you're going, you'll get no support from me on that point. I believe women can and do often know when someone is behaving in a sexist/misogynistic way, in ways that are aggressive or violating or abusive WITH THE INTENT OR EFFECT OF BEING OPPRESSIVE OR DANGEROUS to those women who identify the behavior. And I see it as woefully apolitical, anti-radical, and anti-feminist to try and deny any woman or any women the right and responsibility to identify that CRAP when it is happening. Even at MWMF. Even in any bar or club. Even in any home or out-of-home workplace.

Here's an example of why I don't think what those women are describing is a double standard. I can, on occasion--(or more than on occasion)--interrupt people when they are talking. I often feel inclined to do this. It's part of my regional-cultural heritage, and both women and men in my cultural experience do it, routinely and regularly. Now, if I'm doing that to a woman who is outside my culture, who doesn't experience "people interrupting each other" as normal and ungendered behavior, and she does perceive me to be male, and she does feel like I'm interrupting her a lot, and she does feel silenced or demeaned by me repeatedly doing that, then who is to say whether or not I'm being a male supremacist when I do that? Me or her? I'd say her. Always her. I can weigh in and explain whatever I want, but the bottom line is that if she subjectively feels silenced, then my behavior is oppressive, even if I go to people in my own culture and do exactly the same thing and they don't experience it as oppressive because they are interrupting me just as much.

So, if men MAAB people, or people with male privileges--who acquired them because they were once viewed socially as male-boys or male-men*, act out those behaviors around people who are female-girls or female-women, and, in the case you cited, those women experience that behavior as male supremacist and oppressive along gendered lines, then their subjective experience has to matter, doesn't it? It has to matter as much as the other person's experience, doesn't it? If not, we're then in the position of allowing only one group of people to name reality. And if the only group that gets to name reality is people who have had male privileges at some point in their lives, then that's patriarchy all over again. [*Added 1/30/2016: including those of us who are intersex, gender non-conforming, transgender, intergender, and agender. And, significantly, this dynamic can also play out in only FAAB spaces, among people who are and always were recognised and identified as girls-then-women. I state that based on what several lesbian feminists have described about predatory lesbians in clubs and bars--that it can be triggering of past patriarchal abuses and violations.]

If you're too submissive and shy, well you're just making a caricature of women for the patriarchy (can't be born with those traits). If you're too assertive and dominant, you're really a man. No middle ground. Dominant women don't exist either according to them.

That's not my experience of it at all. I may meet a female-woman who is "butch" and in her "butchness" she does not demonstrate to me a high level of "feminine" qualities or characteristics. First of all, male-men will be quick, often enough, to call her horrid names just because she's not behaving they way THEY think women should behave. Second, her butchness is NOT the same thing as how male-MEN act out male supremacist values and practices, because it is NOT MEN acting them out. [Added 1/30/2016: and because not being feminine enough for heterosexist het men, or for dominant misogynoirist society, is so often and wrongly assumed to be acting 'masculine' as if the absence of one must result in the manifestation of the other.] The example of me interrupting applies here, I think. Women may or may not experience each other as being "oppressive" if the other person is a woman. When the other person is a man, they may experience the seemingly "same" behavior as oppressive and it may cause them to feel unsafe or upset.

What men do can be triggering to women who have had it done traumatically by men in the past. That's social-psychological reality. I react differently, in many instances, to what male-men do than to what female-women do. And the people may be doing "the same" thing, more or less. But because it is coming from a male-man, my body registers it as different. And THAT subjective experience matters and can't be written off as "acting on a double standard". That's how I feel. Now, if men only experience women interrupting them as "women being a b word" but don't hardly notice if men interrupt them, then THAT ought to be called out as sexist, because they are making a negative judgment only about a group they structurally oppress. Position matters, Sara. If a rich white man looks at a poor white man in a certain way, that poor white man may experience that has deeply insulting and degrading. If two blocks later that same poor man encounters another poor man who looks at him similarly, he may not register it as insulting at all, because political-social-economic-sexual location and structural position matters. It is part of why we experience what we do and cannot and ought not be discounted or put down.

I don't hear non-trans lesbian feminists saying that aggression among women is great and it only sucks when men do it. I hear women critique all kinds of aggressive behaviors across gender and sexuality. BUT, it may also be the case that when those problematic behaviors are coming from someone who has been socialised to have male privilege and male supremacist entitlements (whether or not they wanted them), and are aimed at female-women, those women rightfully call it out as problematic and oppressive. And there's nothing wrong with doing so, necessarily. That's how I feel. And I'm open to discussion on this.

The people making and going to such events or women-only facilities feel entitled to enter same. They don't beg or think thrice about doing so. Why should a trans woman not feel like they have the right to access public bathrooms, or shelters when needed? They do need to pee and have their safety from DV. They don't go to say "aha, see I'm here, like you".

This is bringing in something entirely different than an event that people are invited into and can live without attending, such as MWMF. [Added 1/30/2016: Which occurred on private land and was not open to the general public.] Public restrooms and social services are entirely different spheres of political-social existence. So I'm not going to lump them in with "who gets to go to Michigan once a year". And, again, far too much attention is spent focusing on events that, disproportionately to those seeking social services, privileged people get to go to. And that the most non-privileged people generally don't go to. I want to focus more on the experiences of the less-privileged. And so I'm glad you're bringing up rest rooms, as that's something that impacts everyone who is able to leave their primary abode and enter social/public urban and suburban spaces, and many rural ones as well.

I'm going to close this post/response, and pick up those issues in a separate post/response.

Thanks for engaging with me on this stuff, Sara. I appreciate your willingness to do so. :)