Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why Boys Are Heterosexist Boys and Sexual Harassers and Rapists of Girls

[image is from here]

Below is a discussion and review of a part of a book with a strange, anti-gay title, which, presumably, is being passed off as acceptable, for one reason or another.

What follows offers experiential evidence that compulsory heterosexuality in combination with virulent lesbophobia and homophobia, in combination with passive acceptance of sexual harassment of girls in grade school, in combination with a climate of "boys will be heterosexist boys", in combination with refusing to teach boys about asexuality and what respect for girls looks like, means that the distance from boys being those violatingly misogynistic boys, and boys and men being rapists, is not measurable in theoretical experiential miles, but in inches.

The image chosen to introduce this post was done to get us off the one-track mind of genetic determinists, sociobiologists, and evolutionary psychologists, who grossly misrepresent (and incorrectly imagine) our ancient human past and our genetic present. This is done in order to portray a contemporary set of pro-rape practices that is wrongly assumed to be inevitable and natural. It is neither natural nor inevitable. If it were nature, we'd have to kill men. If it were inevitable, we'd have to quarantine men and boys who demonstrate disrespect for women and girls. Why it is men argue that it is both, is beyond me, unless they want their nuts shot off, along with their heads. The post which uses that image is one fucked up racist/classist piece of CRAP, although it does take the position that rape is not natural or inevitable, but the privileged white woman who wrote it needs to have her privileges check and her education adjusted. To read that piece, called "Is Rape an Evolutionary Trait?" see *here*.

What follows is from here at the Yes Means Yes blog.

Compulsive Heterosexuality And Rape Culture

Yesterday I reviewed Dr. C.J. Pascoe’s book Dude, You’re A Fag. One thing I said I might do is deal at greater length with the public exhibition of symbolic heterosexuality among boys, and how it relates to rape culture. So, this post is that.

Pascoe notes a lot of disturbing, invasive, violent sexual harassment by boys against girls in her year in a California high school. This behavior formed the material for the third chapter of the book, and she concluded with this observation:
As a feminist researcher I was saddened and quite frankly surprised to discover the extent to which this type of sexual harassment constituted an average high school day for youth at River High. Though much of the media and many cultural critics repeatedly claim that we have entered a postfeminist age, these scenes at River High indicate that this age has not yet arrived. In fact gender practices at the school – boys’ control of girls’ bodies, almost constant sexual harassment, and continual derogatory remarks about girls – show a desperate need for some sort of sexual harassment education and policy enforcement in schools.
P. 114.

Pascoe has some observations of how this culture of constant, low-level assault on girls’ autonomy relates to rape culture, though that is an aside to her book. I have been thinking about closely related issues lately so I have some thoughts of my own. In particular, I want to examine how these behaviors and norms relate to what we know about rapists in the population, particularly from the work of Lesak and McWhorter; see here and here.

The kinds of interactions she witnesses were somewhat shocking. To appreciate the flavor of it, I’ll quote several passages at length here:
On Halloween, Heath arrived at school dressed as an elf carrying a sprig of mistletoe and engaged in a fairly typical ritual of getting girls. He told anyone who would listen that an elf costume was a brilliant idea for Halloween because “it’s the wrong holiday!” … [Heath] lifted the mistletoe above his head and, moving from behind the table, walked up to a group of girls. They looked at him with a bit of trepidation and tried to ignore his presence. Finally one acquiesced, giving him a peck on the cheek. Her friend followed suit. Heath strutted back to the table and victoriously shook hands with all the boys. …
While the boys laughed and celebrated Heath’s triumph of will, the girls may not have had the same reaction to his forced kisses. In a study of teenagers and sexual harassment, Jean Hand and Laura Sanchez (2000) … girls overwhelmingly indicated that being kissed against their will was the worst form of sexual harassment …
Of course it is unlikely that boys, or girls, would recognize these sorts of daily rituals as sexual harassment; they are more likely seen as normal, if perhaps a bit aggressive, instances of heterosexual flirtation and as part of normal adolescence (N. Stein 2005).
Pp. 93-4.
Shane grabbed her neck with on hand and forehead with the other, shoving her head backward and forward. Cathy squealed, “You’re messing up my hair!” As he continued to yank her head around, Cathy tried to do her work, her pen jerking across the page. While this sort of interaction regularly disrupted Cathy’s work and looked exceedingly painful, she never seriously tried to stop it. When I asked Cathy why they interacted like this, she answered, “He has always been like that with me …He just beats on me.” Her response echoed Karin Martin’s (1996) finding that adolescent girls, especially working-class girls, don’t have a strong sense that they control their own bodies. While some girls, such as Shawna, were able to assert subjectivity and deny the primacy of boys’ desire … not all girls felt entitled to or expressed alternative definitions of gender. … Cathy’s affectively flat response to my question revealed that she simply didn’t have access to or couldn’t express her own bodily needs, desires, and rights.
P. 99.
“[I hate] When mixed girls date white guys! Mixed girls are for me!” Shawna attempted to interrupt his rant, saying, “What if the girl doesn’t want to date you? Girls have a say too.” Darnell responded, not in as much jest as one might hope, “No they don’t. White boys can date white girls, There’s plenty of ‘em. They can even date black girls. But mixed girls are for me.” Darnell’s frustration reflects a way in which racialized, gendered and sexual identities intersect. While he felt that he had a claim on “getting girls,” as a “mixed” guy he saw his options as somewhat limited. Girls and girls’ bodies were constructed as a limited resource for which he had to compete with other (white) guys.
P. 96.

Pascoe calls this out for what it is: a chest-beating display of dominance that has little to do with sexual orientation or desire and everything to do with a gender performance that positions the boys in relation to other boys. The boys themselves seem to know this:
The way boys talked about heterosexual practices and orientations in their interviews reveals that their public sexuality was as much about securing masculine social position as it was about expressions of desire or emotion. David explicitly talked about this “image” problem as one of “peer pressure,” saying, “If you haven’t scored with someone, then you are not adequate to anyone else, you know?”
P. 89, emphasis supplied.

The boys felt pressure to be sexually active, and to be reported to be sexually active. One boy said, “If a guy wasn’t having sex, ‘he’s no one. He’s nobody.’” P. 88. Their ostentatious displays of “heterosexuality” are designed to repudiate the spectre of the “fag” identity, a failed gender identity in the Judith Butler sense, that is a major part of what Pascoe identifies as the way gender performance among high school boys is policed. The boys’ own relationships incorporate challenges to perform in this way:
The ritual of “getting girls” played out in this homecoming skit illustrates one of the ways compulsive heterosexuality becomes part of boys’ friendships and interactional styles. “Rock” and “Jackson,” like boys at River High, jokingly challenged each other to dominate – or, in their words, to “get” a girl. In these rituals girls’ bodies functioned as a symbol of male heterosexuality and tangible evidence of repudiation of same sex desire (Butler 1999).

Pascoe coins a term for this, playing off Rich’s term “compulsory heterosexuality.” Pascoe calls these displays to ward off gender policing “Compulsive Heterosexuality.”

So … how does compulsive heterosexuality relate to rape culture? I can identify several ways. As a threshold matter, much of this behavior is itself sexual assault. Just because it is short of rape doesn’t make it acceptable. Pascoe in places calls it sexual harassment; but the physically invasive acts are not just harassment. They are assault.

Next, what Pascoe describes relates to rape culture in a very direct causal way. These boys are under pressure to “get girls” or “have sex”, not for intimacy with a partner or even for self-gratification, but to meet the obligations of their peer community’s gender norms. For that purpose, girls’ autonomy is an irrelevancy or even a hindrance. One student basically admits to rape, while trying to distance himself from what he perceives as real rape:
“The majority of the girls in eighth and ninth grade were just stupid. We already knew what we were doing. They didn’t know what they were doing, you know?” When I asked him to explain this, he continued, “Like say, comin’ over to our house like past 12:00. What else do you do past 12:00? Say we had a bottle of alcohol or something. I’m not saying we forced it upon them. I’m sayin’ …” He trailed off here as he tried to explain that he didn’t need to actually rape girls, though his friends did[.]
P. 88.

This account matches exactly what Lisak tells us to expect. This boy thinks real rape involves overt force, but he has a practiced technique — which he developed very early — of using isolation and alcohol to inhibit or defeat girls’ resistance to sexual conduct that they did not want. So, he’s a rapist, but he does not identify what he does as rape. (Notably, Pascoe does not, either. That may have been a choice driven by a desire to stay focused on her larger points.)

Another way that this behavior relates to rape culture is that it normalizes violent interactions where boys impose their desires on female bodies as a display of dominance. Pascoe applies this analysis:
What really undergirded all of these interactions is what some feminists call a “rape paradigm,” in which masculinity is predicated on overcoming women’s bodily desire and control. A dramatic example of this “rape paradigm” happened between classes during passing period. Walking between government and drama classes, Keith yelled, “GET RAPED! GET RAPED” as he rhythmically jabbed a girl in the crotch with his drumstick. She yelled at him to stop and tried to kick him in the crotch with her foot. He dodged and started yelling, “CROTCH! CROTCH!” Indeed, the threat of rape was what seemed to underlie many of these interactions where boys repeatedly showed in cross-gender touching that they were more physically powerful than girls.
Pp. 99-100, emphasis supplied.

As Pascoe noted in the passage about Cathy, above, girls are routinely hurt and physically manipulated by boys in this environment, but often have no access to tools to stop it. They are being taught that they quite literally cannot stop a boy from doing what he wants with their bodies, while the boys are being taught that doing what they want with a girl’s body even when she says no increases their status among other boys. A clearer recipe for rape I can’t imagine.

In fact, the dynamic is so clearly one that negates girls’ autonomy that it’s a wonder our culture doesn’t teach all high school boys to rape. And yet, most don’t. Lisak’s and McWhorter’s samples show that the overwhelming majority of boys are not growing up to be rapists, and that the serial rapists are a single-digit percentage of the population. And even those are not using force. In high school, force and complaint are obviously taken very lightly; so why are those boys who do grow up to be rapists not completing the progression, and using overt physical force to rape?

Actually, I think this is where decades of “no means no” has been effective. At some point, these boys seem to understand that the use of force against girls’ bodies stops being something acceptable and becomes something they could get in trouble for. Even the rapist understood that.

I’ve argued before, in the linked posts on Lisak’s work, that rapists do what they do because it is effective. I’ve argued that it is effective because rapists can rape outside the recognized narrative of rape, and when they do so they will have ready-made defenses.

To my mind, the most powerful way in which the dynamics Pascoe recorded feeds rape culture, is also the most insidious. This behavior is the tall grass in which the predators hide. Pascoe noted that teachers never intervened to stop this behavior. p. 99. It was so normalized as to be part of the wallpaper. This is a culture where:

- boys’ physical abuse of girls who shut down and barely complain is normal;
- boys’ pursuit of sexual activity that girls do not want is normal;
- boys’ sense of entitlement to date women of their choice is normal;
- girls’ assertion and determined defense of bodily boundaries is not normal.

That is to say, the wallpaper of daily life is so close to what rapists actually do that it is trivially easy for them to operate without drawing suspicion. That’s what it means to have a social license to operate. This culture creates the climate in which they can do what they do without seeming aberrant.

There is a cure for this disease. The cure is an environment where girls’ bodily autonomy and agency are the norm, and invasions against it are the aberration. But to get there, we have to have a culture where girls can identify and vindicate their own desires: only subjects have autonomy, and a girl who can’t say “yes” has no space to say “no.” We have to, as a culture, want — yes, I said want — girls to know what they want, and to go about getting it; in order that they may also know what they don’t want, and understand clearly that they are entitled to reject that. And our boys — for some of us, our sons — must be made to understand that, as Shawna said in the quoted passage above, “girls have a say.” In fact, girls have an equal say, and if she’s not having fun, you have to stop.

U.S. White Lefty Jed Brandt on the need for Communism, the ineffectual agenda of Pres. Obama, and the failure of U.S. society to meet the needs of the vast majority of U.S. people

[image is from here]

Here's some cool info about Jed from Wikipedia. If you're wondering if he's white, here's how you know: they don't mention it.

Jed Brandt (b. Cleveland, Ohio) is an American communist.[1] His writing, photography, design and artistic work has appeared in the Indypendent, and other publications.[1] On March 1, 2010, Fox News television host Glenn Beck dedicated a segment to reporting on Brandt for a speech given at the Brecht Forum.[2][3] Brandt is a member of the Kasama Project and advocates for the formation of a new communist movement.[1]

Early life

Raised in West Virginia, Brandt relocated to Chicago. He was a founder of Youth Against Apathy, a high-school network with communists, anarchists and bohemian youth from across Northern Illinois.[1]

At age 15, he was tried on felony charges of aggravated battery (on a police officer) after "unarresting" someone from a squad of riot police in front of Chicago's main military recruiting station on the eve of a threatened US invasion of Nicaragua. Hospitalized in the arrest with multiple contusions. He was exonerated when the bite mark allegedly delivered by Brandt on the arresting officer's hand did not match his slightly crooked teeth.[1]

In 1996, Brandt, along with student leaders from across the city, formed the Student Liberation Action Movement. He was the editor of the radical CUNY-wide tabloid Spheric, and then the Hunter College Envoy, founded by the editor of the National Guardian, James Aronson. Both newspapers received awards from the Campus Alternative Journalism Project for reporting and graphic design.[1]

Jed was also briefly a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, where he burned an American flag of the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago, an act he said was in solidarity with all humanity and for "a world without borders."[1]

Professional life

Brandt was a staff illustrator for Vibe Magazine, and has done publication design and reporting for LeftTurn, Political Affairs, Monthly Review online, and numerous other publications. His first investigative article was written on the police torture case involving Chicago's then-Commander of Detectives John Burge, for the now-defunct Revolutionary Worker newspaper.[1]

Brandt studied philosophy and history at the City University of New York, Hunter College, with an emphasis on legal and social systems theory. He is currently in Kathmandu, Nepal, reporting on the Himalayan revolution.[1][4]
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I am going to post two parts of one speech by Jed Brandt. I'd like you to listen carefully to him, which you are likely to do as he's white and a male who speaks English. And he's not gay. So you know, he speaks truth. And I like a lot of what he has to say. Especially about the invisibilisation of white Jewish Communist efforts in NYC that created things like rent controlled housing, co-operative housing, co-operative grocery stores, and decent living conditions for people who could not become homeless. Sound scary yet?

What I don't think is centralised sufficiently in his talk is this: the perspective and interests of Indigenous people, the place of patriarchal atrocity and male supremacy in what he's discussing, and the necessity of centralising heterosexism in his talk. He also doesn't address the fundamental problem with white male supremacist society, which is that it isn't sustainable at all. If you want to know more about that, read another white het guy, Derrick Jensen, who DOES place Indigenism, radical feminism, and "the problem of civilisation" centrally in his framework and understanding of what's fucked up about this society... the U.S. one.

But, you know, what do you expect: he is, after all, a white het guy. But he's engaging, dynamic, and radical. I like that about him. He also is not ignorant about radical feminism, although you'd never know it from what he says below. But I will post a quote of his, about Andrea Dworkin, so you get what intelligent white het men can say about their own ignorance, when they acknowledge and own it as that, and stop pretending they view the world accurately, always.

And one more thing: these two parts fly by: he talks fast and fierce and before you know it a few minutes have gone by. Listen quickly.
Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

Now, the quote:
"All I knew about Dworkin was that she hated men, hated sex, wanted to help the government censor porn and hated my dick, which I so very much loved. In other words, I knew nothing of Andrea Dworkin except what others had said about her. That she was ugly and bitter, the personification of female resentment" -- Jed Brandt

That quote is from this short piece (below), reflecting on the work of Andrea Dworkin in the days following her death, almost five years ago now. Clicking on either the name, the date, the category, or "Email this article", just a few lines down, will link you back to the original source, The Indypendent.

‘I’m a Radical Feminist, Not the Fun Kind’: Andrea Dworkin, Philosopher, Dies at 58

By Jed Brandt
From the April 20, 2005 issue | Posted in Culture | Email this article
I only met Andrea Dworkin once, in passing, at a Brooklyn cafe where I was parsing the Village Voice job listings and halfreading a Don DeLillo book that caught her eye. She was a large woman, powerful in presence even when seated. She had the same wild, Jewish hair and piercing, yet gentle eyes as my mother. Two smart women of the generation that broke out with what they used to call Women’s Liberation, they had learned not to fear their own intelligence no matter who they scared. All I knew about Dworkin was that she hated men, hated sex, wanted to help the government censor porn and hated my dick, which I so very much loved. In other words, I knew nothing of Andrea Dworkin except what others had said about her. That she was ugly and bitter, the personification of female resentment.

“DeLillo always almost gets it, enough anyway to keep me hoping his next book will finally deliver,” she said. I was reading Mao II, and this was before DeLillo finally did bring it home with Underworld, and so I learned that whatever ‘70s time warp she was stuck in, she certainly knew how to read. And then, to my surprise, I learned that she had a male partner, a slight, blond-haired man she introduced as John, who finally joined her before I returned to looking at my book, thinking, “What a hypocrite! She hates men and then sits down to coffee with some guy.” They held hands across the little table, talking easy and light with each other on an average weeknight in Park Slope 12 years ago.

“I am a radical feminist,” she said of herself, “not the fun kind.” Still a man-child when I met her, I hadn’t learned of the real power even ordinary men have when it comes to women. I was born in the early ‘70s, a part of the first generation to come of age after the sexual revolution – used to it, taking it for granted. We were all friends, boys and girls, and without children of our own, or serious jobs and responsibilities, “the patriarchy” seemed little more than some boogieman that timid, out-of-step feminists used to justify their own existence. And then, one by one through our early 20s, I watched as my lovers and friends sold themselves. They stripped or whored to get through school or just to buy dope. They settled for baby-daddies not worth their time, got beaten and stayed with their abusers because, “That’s just how guys are, it’s more complicated than it looks,” as if a bruise could be anything but what it is. I watched my sisters become what men wanted them to be. Men just like me. Because men can. Because decades after women’s liberation, everyday equality is still just a specter. I came to see why Andrea Dworkin is so feared she has to be maligned. I had to become a man to really read her.

Dworkin never said that all sex was rape, even if she saw how the cock is a weapon. She never, no matter how easily her provocations could be misread, claimed that men and women could not love each other. Care for each other. Dream out loud of a world where we don’t know each other by how we hurt each other. She was a philosopher. She didn’t smile when she wrote how women are hurt, beaten, raped. By men who love them. By men who hate them. By men. She wrote of sex without the giggle or sly nod women so often use to put men, and themselves, at ease. She left no easy out for the decent man to say, “Yes, all this rape is terrible – but not me.”

Uninterested in pleasantries, she was intolerant of women’s pain. She did not hate the victims of oppression, but the acts so mundane that no one had seen fit to mention them. The breaking of wives, the training of boys to “become men,” the male right to buy women’s bodies and painted smiles, pornography as “men possessing women.” When Hannah Arendt generalized the banality of Nazi evil, she was applauded. Dworkin applied the same principle to our intimate lives and was spit on. For hating rape they said she hated sex.

Gloria Steinem said, “Every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.” Let that be her epitaph, for from her we can learn the measure of our own progress. Flawed, prone to over-extending simple truths, she was a giant.

For nine years, The Indypendent has printed truth in the face of power. With political and economic systems faltering, there is an opportunity for real change from the bottom up. But this means having a vibrant independent media. Consider supporting The Indypendent as a monthly sustainer, donating as little as $5 a month. Please visit

The Crime of Carving Swastikas in the Skin of a Woman is not only Racist and Anti-Semitic

[image is from here]

It's also a pornographically misogynistic violation of a female human being. The swastika, and Nazism generally, is a genre of pornography, which should surprise no one, given that all pornography is fascistic to women as a class of human beings subordinated internationally to men who deem themselves superior to women. From Wikipedia, we find out this:
Adult films also exploited Nazi scenarios in a string of sadomasochistic "roughie" pornographic films in the '70s and early '80s. Examples include the Mitchell brothers' Hot Nazis, Nazi Love Island with John Holmes and Seka, and Hitler's Harlot. One of the last entries, Stalag 69 (1982), starred Angelique Pettyjohn as an Ilsa-type SS officer. The story was largely a remake of Love Camp 7, bringing the cycle back to its origins. The genre remained mostly dormant for the next two decades. In 2006, Mood Pictures, a Hungarian producer of S&M films, released Gestapo, Gestapo 2, and Dr. Mengele in 2008, all of which are set in a Nazi prison camp and pay homage to Ilsa and the Italian exploitation films.
Neo-Nazi groups (anti-feminist, anti-immigration, anti-queer, and pro-white and pro-Fascistic European Nationalism) are strengthening across Europe and their core is patriarchal racism, which you'd never know from reports like this one by Phil Dickens from an anarchist site, Property is Theft.

This is not a specifically a "Greek" problem, but Greece (like other European States and white het male-dominated States, such as Australia, the U.S. and the UK), is struggling in many ways, with great economic instability and grossly racist elements. This video describes some of the current climate, but also does some racist things, like calling fascists "primitive" and using the Mayan, Kuna (Panama), and Hopi, West, South, Southeast, and East Asian symbol (in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, for example; in Sanskrit, Japanese, Chinese languages) to mean the Nazi swastika, as if one is the same as the other. So there's a kind of racism against Indigenous peoples that inheres in the way this story is being told. It also has roots in pre-Christian Europe, including parts of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece, specifically.

Generally, if not conclusively, the Nazi swastika can be identified and distinguished by color combination and by the fact that the uncriss-crossed elements can read as "SS", and the symbol is tilted on its edge. In many other societies, it reads "ZZ" to Anglocise it, and lies flat on one of its four sides.

For more (and in some cases repetitive) history on the culturally diverse and distinguishing features of many of these symbols, most of which do not refer to anything fascistic, but some of which due mean "purity", see this, from *here*:
The swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same direction, usually the right, or clockwise. The swastika is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune and is widely dispersed in both the ancient and modern world. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire, or life. The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit swastika which means, "conducive to well- being". The swastika was widely utilized in ancient Mesopotamian coinage as well as appearing in early Christian and Byzantium art, where it was known as the gammadion cross. The swastika also appeared in South and Central America, widely used in Mayan art during that time period.

In North America, the swastika was a symbol used by the Navajos. The swastika still continues today to be an extensively used sign in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. In Buddhism, a swastika represents resignation. In Jainism, it delineates their seventh saint, and the four arms are also used to remind the worshiper of the four possible places of rebirth; the animal or plant world, in Hell, on Earth, or in the spirit world. To Hindus, the swastika with the arms bent to the left is called the sathio or sauvastika, which symbolizes night, magic, purity, and the destructive goddess Kali. In both Hinduism and Jainism, the swastika or sathio is used to mark the opening pages or their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings.

The swastika was a symbol for the [predominantly Indian/Iranian, but also European/Iranian] Aryan people, a name which, in Sanskrit means "noble". The Aryans were a group of people who settled in Iran and Northern India. They believed themselves to be a pure race, superior to the other surrounding cultures. When the Germans looked for a symbol, they looked for a symbol which represented the purity which they believed they contained. The Nazis regarded themselves as "Aryans" and tried to steal the accomplishments of these pre-historic people.

In Nazi Germany, the swastika with its arms turned clockwise became the national symbol. In 1910, a poet and nationalist Guido von List suggested that the swastika as a symbol for all anti-Semitic organizations. When the National Socialist Party was formed in 1919, it adopted the ancient symbol, the swastika, giving it the worst meaning possible, destroying the good symbolism which the swastika had held for thousands of years prior.

In 1935, the black swastika on a white circle with a crimson background became the national symbol of Germany. The major difference between the Nazi swastika and the ancient symbol of many different cultures, is that the Nazi swastika is at a slant, while the ancient swastika is rested flat.
What follows is from *here*, and was originally posted on 9 March 2010 ECD.

Anti-Racism Rally

Via Kathimerini
Residents of Hania as well as teachers and students staged a demonstration in the Cretan port yesterday to protest a string of racist attacks in the area in recent weeks, culminating at the end of last month in an attack on a teacher who had swastikas carved into her skin. “We are marching today to remind young people that their grandfathers fought so that the swastika would not fly on flags in the Cretan sky,” a protest organizer said. Police said they believe the perpetrators had targeted the 27-year-old teacher because she had been offering Greek language lessons to the children of immigrants.
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Finally, here is a video on racist, anti-immigrant fascistic activist groups in Greece, with the wrong symbol representing the Nazi swastika. It tells some of the recent history of this activism:

Lee Maracle on the Need and Necessity of Ontario First Nations Public Libraries

With apologies for it being too wide for this blog, you can see the whole original *here* on YouTube.

A Radical Profeminist Alert: Lee Maracle is more than a benchwarmer, and please tell that to the men who need to know it

 [photograph of Indigenist feminist activist and AUTHOR Lee Maracle is from here]

What follows is a cross post from *here*.

Indigenous Politics, Web Exclusive

Are Aboriginal women and women of colour benchwarmers?

“They’re going to use Lee Maracle as a backup if Shawn Brant can’t make it,” said the insider of a coalition that aims to educate people on what they believe is an apartheid state in West Asia the Middle East.

This is one example of a larger problem within activist circles: Aboriginal women and women of colour given the backseat to men.

Years ago Mohawk woman Kahentinetha Horn was to be a secondary speaker to a keynote named AngryArab. Little did organizers know that Horn does not believe in being second to anyone, she stole the show. Being a “backup” is not in Horn’s interest or nature. A “backup” for Horn is more likely to be an extra clip for a Glock 9mm, not playing second fiddle to a blogger. So, Horn tooted, and AngryArab, well, remained angry.

But not all women are bold and confrontational like Horn, nor should they have to be.

The question is why do many activist circles preach equity while practicing sexism, misogyny, and what believe is racism? If women are given the forefront it is usually a white woman like Naomi Klein (or in terms of the literature world, Margaret Atwood).

In the past decade Indigenous men have dominated some of the big speaking circles here in Toronto. In the early 2000s the flavour of the month was Ward Churchill: Cherokee, controversial, well read and spoken. Problem is, Churchill says the same thing every time he talks! This writer has seen him speak on three separate occasions for different organizers and events. Churchill gets paid ridiculous amounts for a recycled speech.

The next guy gained popularity outside of the Indigenous community via wrongful incarceration—Bob Lovelace. Now we have Shawn Brant, CN Rail’s worst nightmare, and the new Indian tokenized by the left. Both have done great anti-poverty and land rights work and as a result have become celebrities for white and non-Indigenous activists.

So, we have three men who are heterosexual, able bodied, and have light skinned privilege, many say white privilege. And in the last example, to this writer’s knowledge, an Indigenous woman of colour is only good enough to be his “backup”.

What makes these men so special to white and non-Indigenous activists?

One is an outspoken and vilified professor who has written important books and was a member of the famed American Indian Movement. It is the recent news making actions of the second, doing time and being treated unjustly by cops and government (most of my friends and I should be speaking then, as well as the members of the fastest growing prison population worldwide—women of colour), and the third, laying a school bus across train tracks. These acts have led all three to be tokenized in activist circles.

It seems like gangster ideologies have been adopted by today’s activists. Doing time and holding standoffs with cops has earned certain people, usually men, street cred. Much good work by women that does not involve conflict or media attention is overlooked.

Lets look at some of the many things one Indigenous woman of colour, Lee Maracle (feminist, activist, writer, mentor, ally, mother, grandmother, now reduced to being a benchwarmer), has done over the last forty-five years:
  1. is a Life Giver who brought three Aboriginal children to this world, without Aboriginal women there are no Aboriginal people
  2. helped save the Barrie Native Friendship Centre from closing down in the 1990s, this giving Aboriginal folk a place to meet and spend time in a mostly white town
  3. paved the way and opened doors for many Indigenous writers and writers of colour
  4. has counseled countless survivors of violence and trauma
  5. is one of the few brown, female faces in the white dominated worlds of literature and academia (her book “I Am Woman” is taught everywhere)
  6. has taught many people how to read and write, this in turn combating one crucial aspect of the colonial prison pipeline—illiteracy
  7. has helped change laws that were oppressive to Aboriginal people and people of colour
  8. constantly makes links with different peoples and places in terms of colonialism
  9. supports events that effect people other than just Aboriginal folk: International Women’s Day, Yearly March Against Child Abuse, December 6th Vigil etc.
  10. is a vocal supporter of oppressed peoples worldwide, for example:
Song to a Palestinian Child
I hear a voice calling from a place far away
The voice of a child very much like my own
of green grass and rich soil in Palestine.
Bombs crash about her leveling her home
Clutching an olive branch she raises a defiant fist
of deep roots and copper sun in Palestine.
I see a child rising from a place far away
In one hand an olive branch in the other a gun
of much sweat and red blood in Palestine.
I hear your calling me. Raising my banner high
(Victory), victory, to Palestine I answer in kind
of humble tears my salute to Palestine.
The last ‘action’ (the beloved word of the activist left) Maracle did was hold and console a crying female relative of a murdered woman. Tears drenched Maracle’s coat as many names of the over 500 Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women in Canada were read on February 14, 2010 in front of police headquarters in Toronto. To activist groups, this act of solidarity, and the incomplete list above, does not compare to yelling the same thing at every speaking engagement or stopping a train in front of television cameras. Maracle’s actions have not made front page, or the six-o’clock, news and have not seen her arrested as of late; therefore, she is only good enough to be a backup.

Actions deemed relevant by activist communities are macho and usually done by men.

Have activist groups adopted practices they claim to fight? You would think that groups who claim to be anti-oppressive would practice gender equity. And in terms of Indigenous solidarity (something that activists yell every chance they get), does tokenizing one gender and silencing another equate solidarity?

This writer asked Maracle why she accepts last minute requests for talks (recently an MC gig) when she sometimes knows she is being used as a fill in for absent men.

“If I didn’t I’d never get the stage,” said Maracle.


Again, Maracle is one example of many in this problematic and oppressive practice done by activist groups here in Toronto, and elsewhere I am sure.

Is there a shortage of Aboriginal women and women of colour speakers? A few names come to mind:
Jan Longboat
Afua Cooper
Marilyn Dumont
Jacqui Alexander
Ana Castillo
Christine Welsh
Tracey Deer
Deborah McGregor
Rita Wong
Sunera Thobani
Njoki Wane
Sandra Cisneros
Yasmin Jiwani
Dionne Brand
Pauline Shirt

It would be an honour for this writer to one day be a backup for Lee Maracle, even if it meant keeping a seat warm for her on a bus parked across train tracks.
  • Jorge Antonio Vallejos is a mixed race (Indigenous/Spanish/Arab), Toronto based, poet, essayist and journalist. His writing has appeared in COLORLINES, XTRA!, THIS Magazine, Rabble, Anishinabek News, Toronto Star, The Kenyon Review, and is forthcoming in Descant and Ruptures: Anti-colonial Feminist Theorizing. Jorge can be reached at


  • yes…and why is it more likely that a non-native professor get tenure for teaching Native studies / postcolonial theory -rather than a Native
    and why is it ok for the artist ORLAN to have /exhibit an Indian identity-and not ok for me?
    and why is it, that most full tenured profs teaching African American studies are in fact not African themselves when-this would be equal to a man, teaching feminist theory
    answer=they continue to benefit off of the oppressed- by teaching /writing/getting grants to “research” about oppression-to the complete exclusion of the oppressed.
    we do need EVERYONE to teach these subjects-agreed-but not to the exclusion of the real represented we need the women to speak, and teach truths of lives lived under oppression so that we can break the cycle and continue in our responsibilities of carrying culture forwards and protecting land and Sovereignty
    #1. Posted by tannis nielsen in toronto on March 16th 2010 at 2:25pm 

  • It’s also about tactics and which ones we think are more important.
    #2. Posted by Rhonda in Toronto on March 16th 2010 at 2:44pm 

  • Thank you for this really important article Jorge.
    As someone who has personally been active in all types of solidarity and activist work, this has been a huge issue for me, that not enough people are thinking about.
    The blatant tokenization of Indigenous women and peoples in general is disgusting, and happens in so many organizations and circles, when it’s convenient for them.
    To further this, the appropriation of Indigenous traditions and practices by lefties and “anarchists” is also something that people aren’t talking about, and we should.
    Again, thanks for the article, hope to see more people engage with it, and more written on this issue.
    #3. Posted by Aruna Boodram on March 16th 2010 at 4:53pm

  • Thanks for the great article, Jorge. I remember asking Lee Maracle for help and advice and she was just incredible. She talked about her struggles and what she wants to see for aborginal women and women of colour like it was something she saw everyday-and that really gave me a lot of perspective about my own experiences. I remember one thing she said that really stood out, that when it comes to feminism, the dominant society follows these “recipes” that stem from privileged academic backgrounds on how to make change and I realize that it’s really problematic not just for women of colour to employ, but also undermines interactions between the two groups because the dominant society is content and coming face to face with their privledge is what could be halting actual change.
    Hopefully there will be more discourses on issues on this very important topic. Thank you Jorge and if you read this, thank you again Lee Maracle.
    #4. Posted by Mariette Lee in toronto on March 16th 2010 at 10:43pm

For Indigenous Peoples, a Choice: Following Coloniser State Rules, or International Human Rights Standards

[image is from here]

What follows is a cross post from *here*:

Fourth World Eye
An Online Daily Journal of the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The extension of citizenship rights to peoples that have been dispossessed and subsumed by the very States that are granting these rights is simply a form of internal colonialism. Indeed, citizenship is often associated with nation building and state legitimacy and, in fact, makes no sense outside of the framework of the nation-state. Human rights on the other hand are extra-governmental and have been traditionally used to counteract the repressive capacity of states. It is for this reason that indigenous peoples have accepted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an articulation of their rights, as opposed to the citizenship rights imposed on them by the settler state.
–Damien Short Reconciliation, Assimilation, and the Indigenous Peoples of Australia