Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Interview, where it is asked: "Does Julian Hate Men, or Is He Just Crazy?"

[image is from here]
[added to on 30 March 2010]
An Interviewer and Julian sit down for a talk.

I: So why are you so hateful towards men?
J: [Coughs out some water he was sipping from a glass.] Okay. Well. So, I guess we're starting the interview now, eh? [laughs and coughs a bit more. clears throat.] As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm not a hater. I'm a lover... in a rather unconventional way. What makes you think I am hateful?

I: You are often belittling men, putting men down, criticizing men, calling men "rapists" and "pimps", aren't you?
J: Yes. And what about that is hateful?

I: You don't think being disrespectful is a sign of being hatefully oppressive?
J: Not necessarily. Disrespecting a corrupt government, for example, or a grievously corrupt president, such as G.W. Bush, is a form of love of humanity, I think. However, when hate is backed by institutional and systemic power, dominant social custom, mass media, the State's legal weight, dominant religious teaching, and military force, then pro-status quo disrespect fuses to institutionalised hate in oppressive ways. Separate from that, all we're talking about is someone's interpersonal feelings, right?

I: But that's what I'm asking you about now--your personal views on men. Do you hate men--white "het" men specifically?
J: No. I'm honestly not sure that's even possible for me to accomplish. It's certainly not a goal. I hate what some white het men do, in the name of manhood and whiteness and in order to prove themselves heterosexual, in order to be "manly", and in order to maintain social privileges and legal entitlements that harm and oppress women of all colors. That's not "hating men" at all. I feel great affection for most men I know, actually. I have loved and still love many men. Some of my best friends are white het men! And I hug them warmly, far more warmly than they usually hug me! [laughs] But that's their homophobia showing. I'm not afraid to tell men I love them and care about them. But het men, well, there's all those hang-ups about being thought of as womanly... or "gay"!

I: To read your blog, you'd never know that you love white het men.
J: That depends on how you read my blog, I suppose. I mean most people who read Andrea Dworkin's work think she hated men too. She didn't, of course. So what does that tell you: is it the writer or the reader who has the issue with misperception and incomprehension?

I: I think you could be clearer that you don't hate white "het" men.
J: I think men, collectively, could and should be clearer than they don't hate women. And one way to do that would be to de-institutionalise the hatred that is currently written into law, coded into customs, and practiced with power over and against women. And I really can't disprove something that isn't true to those who are convinced it is true. There's really very little I can do about that. Or, rather, what I'd have to do is not something I'm willing to do: I'm not willing to be silent about what white het men do that harms the rest of humanity. For many men, women being silent about what men do that is harmful is seen as a sign of women loving men.

As Lorde, Dworkin and many other feminists have noted, silence and passivity does not mean consent is present, individually or collectively. It can often mean the oppressed have not yet found the words to speak out with; or conditions are not accommodating of any speech from the oppressed. The flip-side to that is criticism from the oppressed, when words are found, doesn't equate with contempt for the oppressor. Men and whites need to learn that direct and unapologetic criticism is a form of radical love, if the criticism is about how inhumane someone is being. And that when the inhumanity is blistering and painful, the expectation of the oppressor that those harmed will bring critique in mild-mannered ways is not appropriate or respectful of those harmed. Understanding this, alone, would mean that the work of Lorde, Dworkin, and so many others, would be read much more accurately with receptivity, rather than defensively, with an assumption that the writer hates the ones being criticised. If Lorde hated whites and men, and Dworkin did as well, they would never have written all they did. Their writing is proof of their deep love of humanity. I wish far more whites and men would understand and experience that. You'd be surprised, really, at how many men I have met who absolutely do get that Dworkin loved men (and trans people and women). So many men get this. They are grateful to Dworkin for not mincing words.

We live in a society in which words that critique the powerful must be minced, sliced, and diced to the point of being ineffectual. The truth often hurts, the way setting a broken bone hurts. But only once we have genuinely and non-defensively faced the hardest truths about ourselves, collectively, can healing occur on the deepest levels. I believe that. And that level of healing isn't individual; it's collective. It doesn't just impact relationships; it reshapes societies.

I: So, honestly, truthfully, you don't hate white het men, or het men, or white men?
J: Nope. I'm aware that there are many misogynist men, many white supremacist men, many heterosexist men who are sort of invested in "the critic" hating them. White het men may want those of us who speak out against inhumanity to hate them so they don't have to listen to what the oppressed are actually saying that is hard to hear but important to hear. They can think we don't understand their pain, or don't care about their humanity. But I tend to care about people a lot, far more than many militant animal rights activists I know. [laughs] I'm not at all a misanthrope, as was a childhood friend was who loved non-human animals and hated people. I don't hate people. Men, het or not, white or not, are, after all, people.

I: You don't think pimps and rapists are monsters? You don't think men who are serial killers are evil monsters??
J: Well, I think white and het men who pimp and rape and commit serial killing are doing evil things,
but I don't tend to hold very religious views about "evilness". And I don't think anyone is inherently evil, or is born evil, or is "genetically" evil. And I don't think any human being, no matter how evil their practices, is "a monster". I think putting some of us into non-human categories is a way to deny what many human beings are capable of doing. Redemption, in a radical sense, doesn't occur because the oppressed learn to care more overtly for the oppressor. Redemption happens when those with power become humane, because they see that is the only way to be responsibly alive.

I: You don't think Hitler and... who have you written about here... Columbus, were monsters?
J: Not at all. No. And to turn them into these individual monsters, as if they didn't have lots of state support, in each case: from "the people" or from "the royal family" is to really not understand what they were doing, or why they were doing it. Do you think Hitler would have done what he did without any support? Do you think he could have? I don't. Do you think Columbus could have gotten off shore, let alone found his way onto other people's shores, without being funded by royalty? Why do we pretend evil happens in this individualistic way? I don't think evil ever is asocial or ahistorical. Focusing on individual men is easy and makes for great stories. The larger systems aren't as easy to cast in the movies about the horrors of the world. Who would we cast, let's say, to play "capitalism"? We cannot simply personify structures of oppression, even if they are solely human constructions.

I: So you don't think there is such a thing as a "bad seed"?
J: I think there is poisoned soil, to use that metaphor. I think society breeds evil, and so evil people inevitably rise up from polluted ground. And by polluted, I mean "politically unjust" and "socially oppressive". I don't strictly mean "chemically polluted". Just to be clear. The people that grow up on that sort of polluted ground tend to have lymphoma and other cancers. And they tend to be poor, as that's where rich and unregulated corporations that produce toxic waste tend to put it--near or on reservation land, for example, and generally not in places where rich whites live. Of course some forms of pollution, like that of the air, is harder for corporations to drop in specific locations. But the soil is made dirty when once it was clean. In white and Western societies, "dirt" and "soil" are synonyms. Rarely do white folks acknowledge it is only what white men have done to that soil that makes it dirty.

I: Why do you go on and on about men who are doing bad things? Why aren't you feeling sorry for them, because they grew up in a polluted society?
J: My sorrow is not what they need to become humane; and it's not about me. I can do very little, actually. And the belief that the oppressed can love the oppressor into a more peaceful humanity is a dangerous theory that keeps people in abusive relationships, and keeps the most harmed blaming themselves for the pain they endure. The oppressed have done enough loving, caring, and attending to the oppressed. Women need to love themselves and each other. The same with people of color. So too with queer people. We need to attend to ourselves, our own groups. What white het men need to become humane is to feel soul-shifting sorrow for what they do, to stop doing it, and to give up their unearned entitlements, and to hand over their privileges, and all the wealth and well-being that comes with it. That can only happen by working to radically change the structures that hold those entitlements, those privileged, that power and wealth in place.

I: So you think that groups need to change, not individuals? I'm confused about where you stand on individuals working to change themselves into better people.
J:  To be clearer: I didn't say that individuals are not responsible for society. I'm saying that we are positioned differently, and that difference isn't "diversity". That difference is hierarchy. To anyone who oppresses another person, there should be an accounting of the harm done, a halting of the harming. Spiritual repair, if and when possible, should be offered but only unconditionally. I feel for the privileged of  society: I am among them and I am careful to not forget that. I struggle to not be oppressive. It's so easy to be, when one is positioned or placed inside a society with power over other people. I know how easy it is to be unaware of the consequences of my actions.

I know we all hurt; we care about things, struggle to love people, and suffer for those and other reasons. I know we all carry wounds and experience loss and get illnesses that are scary. I understand full well that white het men are as human as everyone else. What I seek, though, is to sound an alarm that everyone else is as human as white het men, and that white het men ought to factor that into how they behave, at work and at home, alone and in groups.

How those of us with unearned privilege and institutional power spend our time and energy matters. Class-privileged white men, more than most people on Earth, have choices with what to do with our time. And knowing that some white men spend their days complaining about how hard they have it--bemoaning a "loss of rights", as if anyone else has it any better, is disconcerting to me. It is also callous and invisibilising of pain that white men don't systematically experience.

I think there's a relationship, between the two--gross privilege and the accompanying loss of empathic sorrow, with other factors as well, like the military machinery of any society, and its media. Together, those of us with privileges and power generate and re-generate dehumanising societies. And we can keep making it poisonous and oppressive, or we can work together to make it healthy, sustainable, and just. I'm very much a collectivist, and very much not an individualist, in the sense of how I see social change happening. Individual action is never not collectivist, in my view. The actions of one person impact the rest. I believe in an ethic of accountability among the most privileged to those who are least statused and entitled in WHM supremacist societies.

I: This relates to something I was going to ask you...
J: What's that?

I: I was wondering if you see yourself as a leader.
J: No. Not at all. I actively resist such a position, actually. [laughs]

I: Why? What have you got against leaders?
J: Oh, I'm all for just and compassionate leadership, for fierce and determined leadership that seeks to empower and work with the marginalised masses to identify and bring down the structures which keep the very few very rich, and keep whites privileged in ways people of color are not, and keep women subservient, in many ways, to men.

I: So why not be one of those leaders?
J: Because I really think the issues I support, the matters of central concern to me, are not best represented by white men. I believe in my heart and soul that women of color already are, will continue to be, and must remain the leaders. I think we're all very used to whites and men being leaders, and that, unconsciously or willfully, we tend to give such people powers that they don't deserve. White men, in particular, have a lot of power. And we collectively misuse it. So while I'm all for white men dissenting, being dissenters, and calling out atrocities where they exist, I'm not for white men being leaders in movements that are supposed to liberate women of any color or of all colors. To be honest, I don't think white men are capable of being leaders. As a group, I mean. Structurally.

I: You're losing me.
J: Yeah, I do that a lot with people! [laughs] ... I mean that political and social position often dictates what we see and what we know. Whites and men, in the West, let's say, have to go out of our way to see what harm whites and men do, collectively, around the world and at home, that isn't done to one another. We have to seek out that knowledge, and then make a point to not repress it, to not deny it. To not push it away. Because we are privileged, or positioned, to be able to be in denial and to not be negatively impacted by being in denial. We can afford to live in denial. The oppressed may choose some levels of denial, but what people of color have taught me is that they can't really afford any of them. I supposed I have learned most about this from the writings of James Baldwin.

I: Don't you think we're all harmed by society.
J: Yes, well... I think whites have real privileges, as do men. And I think those privileges add up to something, and that "something" is a tricky thing to describe, but basically it often means "we live, they die", "we are paid well, they are not", or "we are systemically abusive, and they systemically abused". So when your teenagers die from being shot by the police, and other teenagers don't, that's a kind of privileged difference, in reality, that ought not be denied.

I: So why do you think it's "tricky"? What's tricky about that? You're saying that people with social privilege have an easier life, right?
J: I think in the collectivist sense, there's no question that white people have an easier time with life than do people of color who live among whites, in white-ruled societies. I think that in male dominated societies--and most are that--men benefit, materially and concretely, from being men. And that women are harmed specifically because they are not men.

I: You are sometimes criticized for not stating that men of color harm women of color, or for portraying the source of everything bad as flowing from white "het" men.
J: I don't think my blog posts bear out that critique. The point of the blog, after all, is to pay special attention, to shine a bright spotlight, on what white het men do, because that group, collectively, tends to control the lighting, you know? Contrary to social stereotypes, it is white het men who do the set design, the lighting design, and the stage setting for societies they rule. They also write the scripts and are the directors and editors--they control and regulate what is known about them, and also maintain the rights, the social copyright, as it were, on how to name reality, and where to flash the light, say, on men of color as "the harmers of women". You know... "the Black male rapist myth" stuff. That sort of CRAP. That not-dusty-enough old script.

I: But some Black men do rape, don't they? Why would you not want to address that? Isn't that "harm to women"?
J: Yes, any rape is harmful to the woman who is raped, and is also functionally a form of terrorism of all women. Rape is a hate crime that will not be categorised as such because it happens too often; States cannot financially afford to name rape a hate crime. That fact alone tells you a whole lot about how the U.S. racist capitalist patriarchal social, criminal, and legal systems work. Those systems, the spokespeople with mass media access and control, also can't say genocide is happening now, even though it is.

But the issue isn't that Black women (or any ethnic group of women) are raped only by Black men; in a white male supremacist society Black women and any women of color will be targeted for rape by all races of men. So the issue is that as Black women are raped, yes, by Black men, and are raped also by other men of color, and are raped, demeaned, and violated in so many ways by white men: not just interpersonally. Black women are also assaulted in various ways by white women. So when Black women and other women of color speak out about the harms done to them by men and by whites, I want to promote their voices here on this blog. Because this is a white man's blog, right? And my own voice is very strong here, very dominant. So it's important that I make this a space where radical women of color speak out in their own voices on the issues which are central to them that may otherwise be out of view to me.

The white male supremacist script describes social reality this way: All the Black men are rapists, all the raped women are white, and Black women don't matter at all. I disagree. I think the rapes by Black men and other men of color that I post here are not noticed because their victims aren't white women. The media in white het male supremacist societies only demonstrate a disingenuous liberal form of concern, or give exploitative media attention, when white women are harmed by men of color. What I'm against is whites using Black men in the media as "the rapists" among "us". Because in the press the "us" is always "class-privilege white people". As Flo Kennedy once remarked, the 7:00am daily program ought to be called "Good Morning White America". I loved that.

Several core stereotypes factor into such stories--such as the O.J. Simpson case/spectacle: the pretty or young white damsel in distress, and the dangerous and powerful dark man. And I won't play out that script on this blog. This blog has never once declared that any group of men is incapable of rape, or that any ethnic or cultural group of men, that is sufficiently able-bodied to do so, doesn't commit rape against the women in the societies in which they live. What is not noticed or spotlighted is the ways in which white Western men shape and control the behavior of all men around the world.

I: Can you give some examples?
J: Sure. Europe's men shape what happens in many sub-Saharan African countries, for example; munitions are sent down to countries white governmental and military forces have destabilised, and then white Westerners think "those dark men sure do like to shoot each other!" The deeper truth is "white men sure do like to set up conditions wherein men of color are so desperate they'll kill each other". White men thrive on it, quite literally, and quite disgracefully.

U.S. white men impact the behaviors of men of color within and beyond the U.S. Our weapons are what allow men in Mexico--men of color and white men--to kill there. To commit murder. You need guns to commit the quantity, the breadth of murder that is happening in places like Juarez. Where do those guns come from? Who made them? What company? Who makes money from producing nuclear waste, and who gets disease because it is buried in their backyard? Why do we pretend those are irrelevant questions? How can we pretend that's irrelevant?

Women of color are harmed in so many ways, and rape is only one of those ways. Poverty, famine, forced sterilisation, and racism, as well as gross sexual exploitation and violence, are forces and conditions which kill women of color disproportionately. So you're likely to get information here about that as well. Not only that men rape women. Not only that men of color rape women of all races. While, for personal historical reasons, there is a focus on sexual violence is here in this blog, there is also a concerted effort to focus on many issues that harm women systematically, due to white het male supremacy. Because as Andrea Dworkin noted: If it hurts women, feminists are against it. I take that definition to heart. I live by it. For me, of course, it would read: If it hurts women, profeminists are against it! Rape, poverty, and globalised economic systems hurt women and kill women.

I: Is there media you think is worth viewing--that deals with this kind of horror?
J: I'll mention only two films available for free online or to rent. See "Life and Debt". See "Darwin's Nightmare". It's there. This isn't incomprehensible stuff. But we do need to understand how industry and military forces and economic policies work together to starve people, destroy cultures, and deaden the Earth. So this radical profeminist is against those things existing without being noticed for what they are doing, and without loud response. If we see atrocity, me must speak out against it if we can without being beat up or shot. There are very few places where people can speak out as they wish, against great powerful systems of force and coercion, and not be punished for doing so.

So, since I am one of the people with enough privilege, time, and energy to speak, I will use my voice to call out, challenge, and confront the people who also have the structural power and influence to interrupt and stop atrocity. And if the structures, institutions, policies and practices don't deserve to be respected, then don't be put off if my tone is disrespectful. And don't make my tone the issue.

I: What do you want to say to men who blame feminists for our problems?
J: I say this: Don't make Andrea Dworkin's tone the issue. Stop defensively arguing with the messengers of the bad news. Feminists don't mass manufacture misogyny. Patriarchs did and do. The womanists and feminists are not the ones selling guns and arranging for nuclear waste to be dumped on reservation land. They're not the pimps. They've been speaking out against many forms of horrific warfare. Don't mistake them for your enemy. Take on the munitions manufacturers, the advertisers that promote collective dehumanisation as "sex". Aim your anger at companies mass produce chemical compounds that pollute the Earth; take on the corporate pimps and the White Nationalists; hold the G.O.P. accountable to not wanting health care for children, for the unemployed and the ailing.

Dworkin and Lorde never did anything atrocious: neither woman raped or killed anyone. They spoke and they wrote. They committed no crimes. They were the proponents of justice, fairness, and egalitarian societies. Don't forget that. The status quo's social script will tell you that they harm men and women. Or the script leaves blank spaces for you to rewrite history using the internet's distortions and lies, about people who fight for human rights.

I: Why do you think some white men, and so much mass media, spends so much time trying to discredit feminists?
J: Those most invested in the status quo are also the ones most invested in silencing its critics. The defenders of the status quo script, the dominant discourse, won't identify how mass media and the military function as tools for the powerful against the dispossessed. White men who care more about protecting privilege than seeing liberation happen for the oppressed won't tell each other that we need to stop the harm we are committing with astounding callousness, casualness, and disregard. We'd rather obey the script, which directs us to collectively point the finger at everyone else as "the problem".

I: So you want to focus on "white het men" because there isn't really a media script that names "white het men" as perpetrators of atrocities like rape?
J: Not only that. The script repeatedly tells us that white het men are good, moral, and kind. Think Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life". Think of the man on the box of Quaker Oats. Think of Bono and George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Class-privileged white het men are also seen as intelligent, as logical. They are "the" great writers, thinkers, artists, and doers. Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin, and Mary Daly were three of the greatest political philosophers of my era. But they are marginalised and dismissed as man-haters, crazy, or irrelevant. (Or various combinations thereof.) The script also identifies white het men as the great heroes and liberators: Abraham Lincoln, not Harriet Tubman and thousands of people who escaped the whip and the plantation owners, freed the slaves, you know? [laughs]

I'm against turning the spotlight away from the many ways white het men prepare the soil, so to speak, for all men in a white male dominated society to learn to be rapists and racists. This learning happens through social messages that are often non-verbally shared and absorbed, and if anyone is paying attention, you will learn that wealthy white guys who rape women of all colors will systematically not be prosecuted. Indigenous women in the U.S. are particularly vulnerable, and especially invisible in media. When is the last time you saw a Native North American feminist on television speaking about white men's crimes against their humanity? While women of color will systematically not be believed, white het men allegedly only speak Truth.

Due to systematically not being believed, and the additionally harsh pain of being patronisingly doubted and unrelentingly interrogated, by family, by friends, by society, by court officials, many survivors of sexual assault remain silent. I did. So did my mother. So did my female family members. So did every woman I know who had been raped. Every one. The criminal justice system is so abusive to people of color and white women on matters of sexual violence and violation. It is so very violating and invalidating. Who among us can emotionally, psychically afford to go through a trial after being so violated and humiliated by sexual assault? The effects of the crime makes the prosecution of the crime almost impossible. And the laws make the crime so very probable and protected. It's a disgrace.

I'm speaking here about places where white men have colonised and oppressed people of color, often using bloody murder, genocide, sexual slavery, labor slavery, and land theft as means of occupation and domination. I'm speaking about something called "civilisation", which cannot exist sustainably, and cannot exist without rape and racism. Once you accept this, what else is there for someone with spare energy and time to do but fight the systems that oppress, pollute, and destroy?

I: I thought you don't value individual action?
J: I don't see interpersonal action as the primary means of achieving radical social change. I am under no illusions that conversation with oppressors can cause oppressors to hand over their privileges and entitlements, and it doesn't really matter if a few hundred oppressors do just that. The institutions must topple. The systems must dry up. Other ways of being must be allowed to replenish human societies. Indigenous ways of being. Sustainable ways of being. This will be accomplished by many people working in some relationship to one another, with some shared core values and principles. I don't see that around me. I used to, but the patriarchal backlash has destroyed most of what used to be radical activists movements.

I: Do you see yourself as an activist who is trying to revive those movements?
J: I think of myself more as a rememberer. As someone who lived in a time when radical feminism lived and had potention to make us all humane, until men came on strong to destroy the efforts to raise boys more humanely, and to proclaim feminists the enemies of boys and girls. It's all so preposterous... Oh, but to answer your question more directly, I question whether I am an activist, to be honest. I'm not yet convinced blogging is activism. It's something. And it's what I can do. So it's what I do to not be one of the many very privileged people who do nothing at all, or who do great harm. I don't know of any movements happening in my country that are radically reformist or revolutionary, that center the experiences and analysis of international women of color. So I work alone. I work alone also due to disability.

I: How does your disability impact your political views?
J: It's another place where I am not regarded as human. Disabled people are made into an "other" just as I am made other for being gay and Jewish... and being supportive of radical feminism wins me no "human" points with the het whiteboys! [laughs]

What being disabled has allowed, though, is for me to understand society, itself, as profoundly disabled, quite politically and spiritually disabled and dysfunctional. We are all trapped in these systems of destruction. We all will die from them. But the deaths will come first to those who are most socially vulnerable. And there will not be painkillers for those people. We have seen this exact thing play out in the white man-made disaster/atrocity called "the Earthquake in Haiti". Dominant society is a death culture, and that's about as obvious as the sky being various shades of blue most of the time. Or brownish grey, if looking at a major city or industrial area. But I also think, or hope, I guess, that the most non-industrialised people among us will know the most about how to survive. Because rich white people don't know a goddamned thing about survival. And they'll die off very quickly without running clean water.

I think those people that currently function well in this society, who are happy here, must either be in denial, or be so privileged as to be removed from the horrors all around us. I wish cinema would stop making fictional stories of horror, and would start making more documentaries about the horrors many of us endure. I wish the cinema would show blood flowing from our faucets. Because any city requires a lot of human and non-human animal blood to flow. What if we had to contend, every day, with that blood? What if it was ours?

I: I know you have strong discord with many in the LGBT community, over your views about that community.
J: I guess I haven't really experienced it as a community, for one thing. And the community I do see is mired in liberal values that turns patriarchal horrors into fun toys to play with. Not that het culture doesn't do this more. It does everything more. If for no other reason than there are at least ten times as many heterosexuals.

I: But you are very "out" as gay.
J: I wouldn't know how else to be, honestly. Heterosexism is a kind of atrocity I don't have the language to describe. That word is too academic for what I know in my guts. It's a daily horror to me; and it is a horror that I'm expected to accept as "how things are... naturally". I don't and won't see it that way, and I won't be silent about it. So, yes, I'm not in the closet! [laughs... then a suddenly very serious expression] And as a Jew I won't be silent about any form of slavery or genocide. To be silent in the face of genocide when my life is not at risk if I speak out against it, is to not be a horrid kind of coward. I struggle against cowardice.

I: How are you threatened? Do you really feel threatened? To be silent, I mean?
J: I have been threatened by white het men, who want me to shut up and take down this blog. It's a fucking BLOG, for G-d's sake! I don't quite get the threat of it. Really, I don't. I got a death threat last year on the website I've screen-shotted the violence named to be done to me, and the FBI knows all about it, and tracks them there. Separate from that, I don't feel especially threatened. That's how privileged I am! That's how very, very privileged I am. Yanar Mohammed's life is at risk every day. Imagine that. Imagine the women of RAWA, who have to change homes every night to avoid being caught and slaughtered? Really. Imagine living that way. White het men in the West have no fucking idea how unharmed they are. So they threaten me, as if my blog is some kind of harm to them. They--collectively--do the harming, and then claim to be grossly harmed by anyone who is disrespectful and contemptuous of behavior that is atrocious. Do they have to move every night to be safe from murder for their political activities and expressed views? Does any single one of them? No. Do all of them? Not a chance.

I: Does it surprise you that they also threatened to rape you?
J: Anyone who is perceived or stigmatised as "too feminine" or "female" or "a woman" can and will be targeted for rape. Whether we are raped has to do with many factors, none of them accidental or anecdotal. The soil is prepared, the ground has been planted with homophobic and misogynist landmines, with bombs that spray social shrapnel. And I know full well the terrain is mined with culturally terrifying cluster bombs most densely packed under the paths of women. Harm is not a matter of luck or chance; in white male supremacist society harm is quite well-organised to systematically fire man-made missiles at people who have been branded "womanly" in one way or another. I am in that group, but I am not as targeted as any woman is. And that's a horrible thing to know.

Knowing how much abuse, disrespect, disregard, scapegoating, stigmatisation, condescension, contempt, derision, and social denigration the women of color I have known in my life experience, daily, has been eye-opening and painful, to say the least. It has also been tremendously enraging. And so when white het men speak of being hated, they have no fucking idea. Really, they do not know what it means to be socially despised from birth to death, because they are not designated white or heterosexually male. They have no idea--no concept, no structural or positional frame of reference, and so they can think that a few women and one man writing some unkind things in a dozen books, or on a few blogs, about men as a privilege abusive class of people amounts to "pure hate" and a form of "evil". They don't know evil, or pure hate, unless they watch what spews out of them towards women and people of color. Let them meet the women of RAWA, and learn about what it is to be hated, despised, and threatened with violence. But I'd rather spare the women of RAWA from having to deal with them at all, actually.

I: Why do you think these white het men are so out of touch, so completely out of touch with what other people endure?
J: When you're used to having your face and your ass dutifully wiped and kissed your whole life--almost always by women--from a man's birth until his death, it means that when your ego is neglected or stung with words that occurrence seems like gross criminal assault. To white het men, if their cocks aren't sucked in some way, there is a human rights violation occurring. It'd be really hilarious if it weren't so completely true.

What's sad, is that it's not only that they often willfully have no idea what the rest of us experience; it's also that they cannot know it, in their flesh and bones. There is a kind of capacity for visceral empathy that is lost to them, atrophied and hanging limp, because they never receive the kind of contempt, the social denigration, that is aimed at anyone who isn't white and heterosexually male. And because they are callous and indifferent to the effects of what they and their systems of harm do around the world, they can think that if they feel hurt in some way, that hurt must become the center of the world's attention. Nothing else can compare, they think, myopically. Nothing could be... worse.

Well, there's a memo they keep getting but don't know how to receive or read, and that memo says "You have it best of all." Not every individual, mind you. Some white het men's lives are racked with pain and hold no pleasure. I know that. But when a class-privileged white het man's live is awful, it is almost always that way because he has brought destruction to himself, by being selfish and cruel to others, and being left alone; or by engaging addictively with alcohol or drugs and losing their lives to substances. But the lives of women around the world are unfathomably scary and brutal and hard. White men have no idea about this. And so there frame of reference is only what they feel. And we know how shut down many white het men are to feeling much, except a kind of displaced and delusional rage at those they oppress.

You might think privilege white het men would know a lot about the condition of people around the world. After all, one of the benefits of all that privilege is that they get to travel outside their own communities--they can afford to travel the world. But they bring their callousness as well as their power to abuse, along with disease and illness, to oppressed people all over the world. They do this en masse, not by checking in with one another, but simply because, disproportionately, they can. And as anyone who has lives in or has traveled across regions and raced lands can tell you, white het men are held with a certain kind of regard or status, in most places. The white man's ego is generally  massaged, stroked, and adored. Rarely and very occasionally, that status is despised. But usually the white man is esteemed wherever he goes. Usually white manhood is esteemed by the people who greet him and by those who take care of him. His humanity may not be adored, or liked, or respected. But his status is, often, by those of us who do not have it so good. This is not about every white man. This assessment is about "the white man". As in "the man". "He" is esteemed, internationally. The Christian god has been given his gender and skin color, for god's white men's sake. He is beloved. And he is held in a kind of awe. I believe this has nothing to do with any inherent worth, or well-earned dignity. We are all equal in that regard. I think it has more to do with a kind of globalised Stockholm Syndrome than anything else.

I: What do you mean?
J: I mean that we come to hold our captors, our terrorists, our oppressors, in a position of great authority, even when they are not interpersonally terrorising us. Because we once were or systematically and repeatedly are so helpless and vulnerable in their view, under their watch and control, we come to sort of feel strongly for them for not killing us. We can come to appreciate them for only maiming us but letting us live on another day. I'm not speaking here on a solely individualistic level. I'm speaking very broadly here, about the whole of white Western society and its impact on the world, the traumas it has unleashed, and the collective post-traumatic stress that causes--a cross-cultural post-traumatic stress condition. The U.S. alone has committed more genocidal atrocity than any other nation on Earth, in the history of civilisation. So imagine the effect, the Stockholm Syndrome effect on those who know what the U.S. is capable of doing, and does, to Indigenous people, to the Afghan people and the citizens of Iraq. Let's see how new leadership there plays out. Whenever I hear that a new national leader is "pro-U.S." I think "Stockholm Syndrome".

I: Were white "het" men esteemed in your own family?
J: In whose family were they not? [laughs, pauses, takes a sip of water.] Yes. Most definitely, although not in all the ways that is typically done. Militarism, hunting, sports, and other stereotypes of white masculinity were not tremendously valued in my home. Thankfully. But white het manhood was valued over anything else, yes. And some egregious expressions of that level of power and privilege were manifest in my family.

I: By whom?
J: My grandfather was one such white man who misused the power afforded him socially. He was "the great man" to many people; in many people's eyes he was esteemed and was seen as powerful. And he had a lot of power, structurally, by "virtue" of his social position, standing, stature, and status. And he misused that power, to abuse others and to assume that some people lived on Earth to serve others--that people of color were meant, in many cases, to serve whites. I found that attitude and value system disgusting when growing up. I saw him take servers in restaurants for granted, for example, and I was disgusted. He had every form of privilege a person can have. He was not Jewish, he was white, he was heterosexual-identified, and he became class-privileged, although he was born poor. So he didn't have every form of privilege, I guess, because I think whites that come from wealth have more power than those that come into the middle class during one lifetime, as my grandfather did. But aside from that, he had great power--the structures of society supported him in ways it doesn't support most other people.

I: So is your hate.. is your critique of white het men really all about him? About how he harmed people that you knew? Did he harm people you knew and loved?
J: Well, first: I knew and loved him. So let's not forget that, please. I knew and loved him very much. And I was deeply disappointed to find out some of what he'd done in his life that wasn't good, that was harmful and destructive to human beings. It's a deeply upsetting thing to find out that someone you love is committing some atrocity, you know? Like the way the children of Nazis have had to contend with having a good parent, who, when out of the house, was busy shooting or rounding up Jews, you know?

I: What kinds of atrocity did your grandfather commit? Was he a neo-Nazi? Did he hate Jews?
J: Well, he loved me. And I was and am a Jew. [laughs] No, he wasn't a neo-Nazi, but he had a certain fascination with Hitler that I found distasteful, or kind of disgusting, actually. He didn't collect books on Hitler, or have a collection of Nazi paraphernalia, but he seemed to hold Hitler in some kind strange place of awe. Something like that. I think there's no one less awesome in Western civilisation during the last seventy years than Adolph Hitler. He was an anti-Semite, I suppose, in the way that some white people can be so, in ignorant ways.

But one more thing about that scumbag Hitler... I can't think of many people who hold less "awe" for me. I find him to be repellent, actually, and to be so much a product of his time, his country's poisoned soil. When I see that some program on the History Channel is going to discuss his life yet again, I make sure I don't channel surf near that swirling water.

He would have been a frustrated, failed artist had he not had a country of people supporting him, right? So let's not forget that. And there's nothing awesome to me about a country of people that wishes to bring into power, into leadership, a man with a genocidal agenda. Except one with a gynocidal agenda. But the two tend to go hand in bloody hand. My grandfather could be racist, and he could do things that were grossly misogynistic and abusive. His hands were bloody. Let's put it that way.

I: How so?
J: My grandfather was an unrecognised child molester and an unaccountable incest perpetrator. He was an abuser of the power he had with and over children. And that was his evil. That's where he lost my respect. I still respect the good that he did in his life--and there was plenty of that. But when someone commits that level of evil--when someone let's themselves become "that" person, who can and does commit evil repeatedly, then their good deeds are tainted, in my view. Their good is weakened, made less good. And that's one reason to choose not to be evil, I think.

I: So you see evil people as also being good people?
J: I see people as being human. And I see human beings as capable of many things, depending on circumstance, and social supports. I know many men wouldn't gang rape anyone, unless cheered on to do so by other gang-raping men. I deplore the cowardice of men to not interrupt the evil-doings of our brothers. When I call some men "dick-whipped", that's what I'm talking about: a very specific form and expression of cowardice, whereby men will not stop other men from doing evil things to women. And men will not report other men, or call them out, even. That's disgusting to me. That's a way that men are behaving without power, without souls. I see "dick-whipped" men as being without personal power, but having structural power. So they can do harm, because they are positioned to. But the harm they do is often rooted in cowardice. The cowardice required to not tell men "What we are doing is wrong!" "What he did is atrocious!" "What you just said is vile and evil." I practice, daily, not being that kind of coward. And of course I am called "p*ssy-whipped" for not being that kind of coward. You see how the system works, yes?

I: You mean that anyone who speaks out against the evils that some men do is considered to be unmanly?
J: Well, that's not how I'd put it, but yes, that.

I: How would you put it?
J: I'd say that one of the ways men control one another is to collectively hold the status of every man in their hands. So if a man, one man, does something to reveal the evilness of what many men do, with impunity, with protections put in place by men, held in place by men... when one man speaks out against the harm that many men do, as men, then he is regarded as somehow under the spell or control of women. Because in the male supremacist imagination, there are only two options: you are controlled by men, or you are controlled by women. Trans and intersex people don't yet have the dominant social status required for anyone to be considered controlled by trans or intersex folks. But men have this status, especially if het, and especially if white, and especially if class-privileged.

I: Yes, you are often accused of being a puppet of women.
J: [laughs] As if being the puppet of men is something to be admired???

I: [laughs] Now aren't you doing what you said: assuming there's only two positions?
J: Well, here's the thing about the dominant imagination: it greatly constructs social reality. White het men name reality, and they have a power and authority to do so that others do not have. So when a woman says "He raped me" the man can say back "Prove it" and she has to prove it. But if the man says "I didn't rape her", well, she still has to prove it. He never is in the position of having to prove he didn't rape her. You see? That's a kind of power. So Black folks are pulled over by white--usually male--police officers who are engaging in racist profiling, right? And then the Black individual is in the position of having to demonstrate they've done nothing wrong. The white police officer isn't under the power of the Black motorist to prove why he was entitled to pull her over. See?

But, no, there are more than two options, always. It's just that in a society founded on social hierarchies, in which there is a top and a bottom only, and no middle, we are either "stationed" at the top or at the bottom. So men are stationed, positioned, above and against women. Women are not stationed over and against men. See? Whites are stationed over and against people of color. Not the other way around. Women of all colors and men of color are stationed, or positioned, structurally, to be of service to white men. To be "less than" white men, in many ways. Less in status, less in value, less in worth, less in esteem, less in humanity. And this is where it all gets sort of turned upside down.

I: You mean where women do have more power than men, or where people of color do have more power than whites?
J: No. I mean where whites and men have to give up something important, something terribly important, in order to be stationed or positioned as they are, to be statused as they are, to be structurally held in place as they are.

I: And that is?
J: Whites and men must give up a way of being human that is generally considered by most human rights activists to be called "being humane". Human beings who oppress others structurally, and also interpersonally, have to become inhumane, if they are to maintain their status and station.

I: So male supremacist men--I mean men who actively despise women or who put down feminists as lunatics... these men consider you to be a woman, or under the spell or control of women, to no longer really be a man at all.
J: You'd be surprised how many people across the internet just assume I must be a Black woman! [laughs] Tell that to the Black women I know!!!! [laughs] They'll tell you otherwise, as they've experienced my white and male privileges and entitlements!!

I: So you can be oppressive to women, to people of color??
J: I am positioned to be, you see? I don't have a choice about that. I am stationed to be "over and against" women of all colors as well as men of color. That's how it is. This isn't an individualistic observation: it's social, systemic, structural.

I: I mean you ARE, personally, oppressive, a jerk, a racist, a misogynist, to women of color in your life?
J: How could I not be? I mean I can choose what to be conscious of. And I can choose how to behave, and what to say. I can choose whether to respond like a privileged, powerful jerk, or to listen with care. I can choose whether to regard the person I'm speaking with as "just as human" as society tells me I am. Or I can choose to recede into my own privileged position, like a snail... I can retract my humanity and become this shell-like being, this person without conscience or consciousness. I can do that at any time, really. But because I care about my friends--I hope we ALL care about our friends... because I care about people who I'm close with, I try not to retract, to disappear into my privileges and inhumanity. But I can do it at any time. I can be a racist or a misogynist at any time, at any moment of engagement with any woman of color. Anywhere.

I: Don't you mind calling yourself "racist" and "a misogynist"?
J: Not if I am one. If I'm demonstrating a willingness to be either or both, consistently and without consideration for other people, for their feelings, for their experience of me as a white man, then I AM being a racist and a misogynist, and the shame, for me, is in being that way without regret or remorse, without conscience and consciousness and the will to do better, to be more aware, to be more caring and more considerate. The shame in in the unquestioned status, the unchallenged entitlements, the unconscious privileges. My struggle, or one of them, is to be aware of just how white and male supremacist I am, can be, unless I choose to do my life differently.

But getting back to something... For me to be called "p*ssy-whipped" is to be told by men--only by men, mind you--"You're not holding us in high enough regard". Misogynistic, racist, homophobic men are telling me this when they use that term. They are telling me "value ME more than HER!" And the joke is on them, really. First, the shame is on them. There's no shame in being considered a woman, or in being womanly. So let's be clear about that.

I: So you don't wish to change your tone, so that more white het men are friendlier to you?
J: Well, white het men have no special power over me, to regulate my behavior, or to modify what I say. And that is because I've never held racist, homophobic, misogynistic men or boys in high regard. I don't respect them if those are their values. That's been my saving grace, really.

Since being a boy, a young child, I saw men's socialised cruelty and callousness towards girls and women. I saw how boys and men could be valued by other boys and men for being dickheads to girls and women. "Valued" and "statused" socially, for being dickheads! I mean it's so bizarre to me that men value these re-dick-ulous and inhumane ways of being. But white het men, along with many other people too, do value this, to some degree or another. But it is only white het men who have the privileges and entitlements to act out those values in atrocious or "merely" oppressive ways against queer folks, women, and people of color. And so I'll call them out on doing so, on being oppressive P.R.I.C.K.s, and I'll love some of them too, because they are human, after all.

I: What does "PRICK" mean again?
J: Patriarchal, racist, ignorant, condescending know-it-alls.

I: Right.
J: You see, none of those terms mean "not human". Only a human being can be a P.R.I.C.K., or a pimp, or a rapist. I love humanity, and hate inhumanity. And I don't get what those of us that feel this way are called "man-haters", except that is serves a very useful political function.

I: Which is...
J: Which is to take the focus off of the behaviors and systems being critiqued, and to make the messenger seem mad, insane, out of touch. The humor in this is that there's an assumption buried in there.

I: OK, one last time: Which is...
J: Which is that anyone--according to this most bizarre WHM supremacist logic--who consistently calls out or challenges the evil ways of white het men and the societies they rule rather ruthlessly...

I: ... must be crazy.
J: [high fives the interviewer] You got it.

I: So, are you crazy?
J: [laughs... but not in an insane way] Not yet.

Mobilizing for Reproductive Justice, by Loretta J. Ross

[photograph of Reproductive Rights Activist and Feminist Writer Loretta Ross is from here]

The following article is already a year old. So it is worth revisiting to see what, if anything, has happened regarding U.S. government policy and practice with regard to Reproductive Rights centered on the experiences of the most marginalised and disenfranchised women facing reproductive health, support, and safety issues. What follows is from *here* at On The Issues. The artwork below is also from that web page.

Loretta Ross is the National Coordinator of SisterSong, a national coalition of 80+ women of color and allied reproductive justice organizations headquartered in Atlanta. Ross researches and writes extensively on African American women and abortion and co-authored Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, a book on the history of the activism of women of color.

In our Spring ’09 edition, On The Issues Magazine writers and artists discuss feminist and progressive values that transcend politics -- our Lines In The Sand

Mobilizing for Reproductive Justice
by Loretta J. Ross

I’m not a policy wonk. I am very ill suited to talk frequently to legislators to ask them to do the very jobs they were elected to do and for which they already get paid. From that admittedly jaded perspective, I’m not anyone’s first choice to do lobbying or “education” of elected officials.

Nevertheless, I think it’s important for reproductive justice activists to have a serious discussion -- immediately -- about public policies, reproductive justice and President Obama’s Administration.

Reproductive justice is built on the foundation of human rights. The framework of “reproductive justice” requires that the most vulnerable populations be kept in the center of our lens, not at the margins. This means that we may have to work hard and quickly to create a public policy platform worthy of and capable of doing justice to the reproductive justice framework.

The shape of things

Although the reasons may be obvious why the reproductive justice community must be engaged and clear about what we want, I’d like to state a few points to get them organized in my head:

1. This may be the best opportunity to advance a reproductive justice agenda in my lifetime (okay, I’m over 50 so my urgency may be simply age-related).

2. We have developed strong values in the reproductive justice movement that keep the most vulnerable among us at the top of our concerns: girls, poor women, young women, incarcerated women, lgbtq folks, substance-abusing women, immigrant women, disabled women, teen mothers.

3. We have great collaborations among the leading groups promoting reproductive justice at the grassroots.

4. We have an exciting framework that has transformed the pro-choice movement by raising critical intersectional issues on race, gender, class, age, sexual orientation, ability and immigration in a way that is being heard and embraced beyond women of color.

5. We have allies in the Obama Administration who are strong, have serious integrity and care as strongly as we do about the vulnerable populations and issues we prioritize.

6. We have determined opposition from those opposed to human rights – not just for women of color, but those who also oppose bringing the United States to human rights conversations in a constructive way, either domestically or internationally.

7. We have well-financed anti-woman, anti-gay forces in communities of color that will try to thwart any reproductive justice agenda.

8. And we have a small economic crisis on our hands.

Having said all of that, I believe we need to have a discussion about how we can take advantage of this historic moment to advance a reproductive justice agenda that will benefit women, men and families of color to advance and protect their full human rights.

How do we get what we want?

I believe we need to organize an agenda around three important and convergent conversations:

First, we need to discuss what we believe. As reproductive justice activists evolving into a powerful movement, we need to seek agreement on our non-negotiables.

Will we sacrifice poor women during policy discussions on abortion, failing to insist on the repeal of the Hyde Amendment because “conventional wisdom” says “taxpayers don’t want to pay for abortions for poor women?”

Will we sacrifice lesbians and trans folks if they do not fit poster-child images of who needs to be covered under regulations of assisted reproductive technologies? Will we fight for the sexual and mothering rights of women who are incarcerated even while our society dismisses their needs as people who have few human rights? Will we insist that women who are disabled have the same sexual rights as women who are not disabled? Will we demand that the sexual rights of young people are respected?

Exactly who will we sacrifice on the altar of expedience? Who will make that call?

Second, we need to discuss what we want. This means that we not only want access to public policy tables, but in fact, to change the fundamental nature of what’s served at those tables. Too often, women are forced to compromise on our human rights, or told to wait for a more propitious time to ask for what we need and deserve. Do we want public policies that appear to work, but don’t really meet our needs?

For example, in the 1980s, I worked to help pass the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. I protested when the Washington Beltway “experts” said we could not ask for paid leave because the opponents would not accept that. I knew that without paid leave, many women would not be able to take advantage of the FMLA. In fact, many more women would be excluded than covered because few of us can afford an unpaid leave without ending up homeless. I was told that we could come back and amend the bill later to include paid leave. I’m still waiting for that day to come sixteen years later.

This is an example of what can happen when we are not clear and united in demanding what we want. We are vulnerable to classic divide-and-conquer strategies by both our allies and our opponents. It is often believed that any bill is better than no bill. It is also believed that opportunities to re-launch new fights to fix flawed legislation will easily occur. I do not agree.

I believe that it’s better to draw our lines in the sand and hold those lines! If we can’t produce public policies that benefit the people we most care about, then we should never put ourselves in the position of explaining why we didn’t win the fight for them or, even worse, why we abandoned them for an easier victory.

Third, we need to discuss how to get what we want. Women of color have fought to get a seat at policy tables for the past century. Often they have affected the discussions and outcomes. They have done so by not confusing access with influence, or influence with power.

© Favianna Rodriguez
A seat at the table does not guarantee the power to ensure that the priorities of women of color are shared by others at the table. A photo-op may look impressive in an organizational report, but unless we truly can bring quality and intersectional results home to our communities, why should they believe we are much different from those who have disappointed them in the past?

For this reason, I believe we have to be extremely strategic about bringing the grassroots folks we represent to the policy debates. The central question for me is not whether any organization (even my own, SisterSong, as much as I’d like to meet President Obama!) gets a representative seat in policy discussions. The more urgent question is whether we will continue to invest in our base building strategies so that when we get to the table we have the organized power of our constituencies at our back.

Too often, we are told that shortcuts are possible and necessary because community organizing and mobilizing is slow, painstaking and nebulous work, especially when we don’t have the backing of the corporate media or other levers of power, such as adequate funding. It may be tempting for our donors to urge us to engage in public policy debates, but not provide us with adequate resources to do base building and public policy work at the same time.

This has happened before to women of color organizations in which the policy work became the tail wagging the dog and resources to do community organizing are devalued over the more quantifiable and visible policy work. The potential outcome of such a division could be women of color representatives in Washington without a constituency that can be mobilized to bring our power to bear to support our allies and oppose our foes.

Keeping our vision front and center

Discussions of this sort truly reveal the transformative power of the reproductive justice framework for me.

At present, we have few platforms or policy vehicles capable of carrying our intersectional analysis and serving the people we prioritize. Not only is most legislation of the “single issue” variety, but the negotiations for even these limited bills usually end up lopping off the very people who most need the laws.

Can we envision violence against women legislation that protects women raped in prisons and ensures they have humane birth control, birthing and abortion services?

Can we picture an economic recovery that destigmatizes welfare and welcomes immigrants (legal or undocumented) to receive vital supports from the society they hold up with their labor?

With whom in power do we have these critical discussions who won’t dismiss us for asking for the “impossible”?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m sure of this: only a carefully thought-out approach will enable us to present our beliefs, wants and strategies to President Obama’s Administration. I do not expect that he will be able to give us everything we want and deserve. I am sure, however, that we certainly won’t get it if we don’t ask.

And that means drawing some lines in the sand and holding our president accountable. People like us who believed his message of hope and change were the ones who helped him get that seat of power. But he can’t deliver our dreams to us without mobilizing our power.