Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some Essential Reading: Works by Audre Lorde

image of book cover of The Cancer Journals is from here

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

Essential Feminist Books By Audre Lorde

The Warrior Poet Also Wrote Warrior Prose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

"Yes," he answers, seeming startled.

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

"Well -- "

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

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

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

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

"Yes, I have," he says.

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

"That's right."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Men Project is Just Another Bunch of Good Ol' White Boys Promoting The Renting of Trafficked Human Beings as a way to obtain what the renters call "Good Sex"

image of men from The Good [White Pro-procurement] Men Project is from here
What makes the Good Men Project Magazine different? Oh, just a few things…

First, we’re trying to make the world a better place. Seriously. In that pursuit, we give 25 percent of our profits to organizations that help at-risk boys. Second, we’re trying to redefine what a men’s magazine can be. Sure, we write about sports. Yes, we write about sex (although we do it without selling sex). [bold added for emphasis by me, Julian]
Where do those funds go, helping those boys? See this, from the bottom of the web page where the image was found:

The Good Men Project Magazine is owned and operated by Good Men Media Inc. Good Men Media Inc. has licensed The Good Men Project name from The Good Men Foundation. Good Men Media will give a significant portion of its revenues back to the foundation in return. For more information, please contact
*          *          *

What follows is one of the most white het male supremacist self-serving pieces of CRAP I've seen on a site promoting the idea that men can be good. I don't question whether men can be good. Men can be. Men can stop rape. Men can not rape. Men can intervene whenever they hear that a man is mistreating a woman. Men like Ghanshyam Timilsinha and Dayaram Dahal can and do challenge men's right to rent and possess women and girls. But, usually, men don't do this. So, usually, men aren't "good" in doing that work. What white het men are especially very good at is being self-serving and abusive while pretending to be "good".

There is a website called "The Good Men Project". What they appear to be making a case for is this: there is such a thing as The Good Procurer, The Good Pimp, and a Good Way to Rent Human Beings for what some entitled, immature, and privileged men call "good sex". To these men I say this: you are being utterly irresponsible in publishing what follows on your website. You clearly are seeking to promote a rather obvious lie that prostitution is generally non-abusive, when all indicators are that it is abusive--to women and girls, by men who abuse women and reach orgasm doing so. You could at least have the integrity to own that's what you aim to do with an article like this.

It is the viewpoint of this blog that some privileged human beings renting other human beings, who they structurally oppress, for sex-as-exploitation, is an abuse of power. It is fundamentally abusive and oppressive to women as a class.

To read what follows, you'd think women fear men because Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon wrote about how men abuse women sexually. In that anti-feminist pro-prostitution view, women don't fear men because men harass women, or batter women, or rape women, or incest or molest girls, or disrespect and disregard women as full human beings, for example by only seeing them as sexxx-things for men. No. Men are to be feared because feminists say bad things about bad, bad men. I'm not a betting person, but I'd wager that a pimp wrote what follows. If she isn't a pimp, she sure makes all the same points that pornographers and pimps-without-cameras make when promoting "sex work" as--surprise--socially responsible and good for those who participate in it. Please click on the title just below to link back to The Good Men Procurer Project.

The Professional

‘I don’t regret selling sex. It’s allowed me to meet many good men.’

I was in my early 20s, teaching undergrads in the morning, taking graduate classes in the afternoon, and selling nighttime webcam sex shows on a site that regularly featured professional porn stars like Jenna Jameson. The man watching me that night bought 90 minutes, which would have cost him nearly $600. I’d landed a big fish, and I didn’t want to lose it. But when he told me his request, I froze.

“Why don’t you take a nap?” he wrote.

It was the most unusual request I’d ever received. And, as you probably know, people feel free to get very unusual when they’re anonymous online.

“You look like you could use some sleep,” he continued.

“Don’t you want to tell me your real name?” I asked, smiling, shaking the ends of my wig around my face. I doubted my sleeping would actually keep him interested.

“We can get to that later,” he replied. “Just nap a little for now. And put some clothes on, or you’ll get cold.”

I arranged my body in a flattering position and laid my head on a pillow. What is with this guy? I thought.

I wouldn’t figure it out until much later.

Disclaimer: coercion is wrong, kidnapping is wrong, and hiring someone underage is wrong. There are men (and women) in the world who want to inflict suffering on others, and hiring a sex worker gives them an easy way to do it.

But I’m tired of seeing men and women buy into the lie that male sexuality is inherently violent and sadistic. My experience as sex worker has taught me the opposite.

When I first began working in the sex industry, I believed the cultural script about the men who made it profitable. Male sexual desire consisted of seeing thin young women naked and suffering, handled roughly, used callously. I read and trusted every word by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. There was so much evidence to support their theories of how male hatred of women was expressed through abusive sex.

Frankly, men terrified me. I suspected they were incapable of compassion. To get them off, I thought, they all needed cruelty.

I started working online during the peak years of anal-sex mania, and requests of ass-to-mouth (ATM) and double penetration (DP) with toys were common—not that I (always) honored them. One of the pleasant things about webcam was that it was possible to fake almost anything, especially penetration.

On the webcam site, non-paying visitors could type anything they wanted into the un-moderated chat windows: “Your family must hate you.” “I bet you have AIDS.” “You’re a fat whore.”

But not every man treated me this way, even with the luxury of complete anonymity. My first regular client was a man who talked with me for up to an hour before asking me to bring myself to orgasm. He wanted to see an orgasm, and he didn’t make demands about how I achieved it. Then came another regular who had only days earlier attempted suicide after a breakup with his fiancée. A year after we first met, he told me that our friendship—which many people would dismiss as illusory and degrading—was sometimes all that kept him from making a second attempt.

One young man in particular left a deep impression. He was younger than I was, working a blue-collar job in New Jersey, and he couldn’t afford much private time. But he would stay at his computer for as much of my shift as he could, cracking inside jokes and distracting me from other users’ insults while I was in free chat waiting for someone to pay for a show. We talked about music, his puppy, and the girls he was dating.

In this strange cyber world, he became a dear friend. And years after I retired from webcam, we still occasionally reached out to each other through email. Once he wrote, “It’s funny, you used to be this sexual icon that I would never have. Now it’s just like you’re an old friend I haven’t talked to in a long time and all I wanna do is catch up.”

I began to attract more and more men who wanted conversation, who bought me gifts and sent postcards and told me about their lives. They wanted to see me play with myself; they didn’t want to see me hurt. I became more vocal about what I did and didn’t like—in part because, for the first time, I was figuring out what I did and didn’t like. When someone told me to do something I didn’t want to do, I would refuse. I started countering requests for anal with “I will if you will.” It was possible to engage with them. It was astounding to me how many men would listen and suggest something else if I told them what I was doing hurt. They were free to leave and spend their money elsewhere, but few did.

It occurred to me that many men had trouble expressing empathy because no one had ever taught them how. Most were clueless, not brutal—although some were both. Lots of these guys had grown up so confused and undereducated about the female anatomy that they hardly even had a sense of what sensations might feel best or what activities were most satisfying.

The more men I talked to, the more sympathetic I felt. I was approaching the biggest epiphany of my life: men had as much anxiety and shame around sex as women did. We were all in this together, and any ideology that couldn’t admit as much was doomed to fail.

It was this newfound comfort that facilitated my switch to in-person sex work. The vile cesspool that is the Internet made transitioning easy. Refreshingly, I never had a man call me fat, ugly, or diseased while we were standing face to face. And the men I met in person were shockingly tame when it came to sexual quirks.

On webcam, I was asked to play the part of a murderous dominatrix who poisoned her submissive and stood laughing over his grave. One customer wanted to see me tie myself with boat rope in impossibly bizarre configurations. I even had a regular who got off on me fake-sneezing and blowing my nose.

But with escorting, the ATM and DP requests were long gone. In the flesh, men were downright vanilla. Some in-person clients did want to incorporate violence, but only when they were the recipients. (Even the most casual research will bear out the fact while dominatrices can make a good living kicking the shit out of men, female submissives are so rarely in demand that most have to work as a switch in order to stay afloat.)

People who deeply distrust the sex industry—who’ve been personally harmed by it or find it threatening or who associate it only with exploitation—often get very angry when escorts (or academics who study sex workers, like Sudhir Venkatesh) claim some clients don’t want sexual interaction.

But it’s true: some don’t. I’ve been hired by men who never asked me to get naked, never requested that I touch their genitals. There’s always conversation, regardless of the other activities during a date: clients talk to me about their parents (especially their fathers) and about failing marriages or life after divorce. They often show me pictures of their children and, sometimes, spouses.

The longer I’ve worked, the more it seems that the sex is often a front. It’s an entry point that allows men to make their real request (for affection, understanding, and connection) while still satisfying stereotypical ideas of masculinity. What most men want is a great romance or, at the very least, a great friendship. They want to feel like they’re falling in love. They want to feel loved in return.

The clients who do want to have sex—and of course, there are many—don’t want that sex to be uncomfortable or unpleasant for me. They want to me to take pleasure in the act as well. They want to feel attractive and competent and gentle and attentive. Many of them are all of those things. If they express guilt about paying for sex, I don’t try to talk them into feeling otherwise. When one man said he should stop seeing me because the money he spent on our appointments should be going toward his kids’ college funds, I replied, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, it’s going toward mine.” (I never saw him again.)

Yes, I’ve met men who didn’t respect my boundaries and who harmed me, inadvertently or purposefully. But such men were few and far between, and I refused to see them again.

Not every man who visits a strip club, watches a clip of porn, or pays for sexual companionship wants to commit an act of violence against a woman. Rapists and murderers are the ones who want to rape and strangle people; some of them hire escorts, some don’t.

When Melissa Farley tells The Economist that men who hire prostitutes “are not nice guys looking for a normal date. They regularly attempt to rape and strangle women,” she’s not talking about my experience. Farley’s cloudy thinking rests on the belief that a man’s sexual interest in a woman is fundamentally disrespectful, fundamentally abusive, and fundamentally wrong.

But what’s wrong is the stigma surrounding sex work. In the professional world, there is no other service arrangement in which clients are accused of hating those whom they hire. Not janitorial work, furniture moving, notoriously dangerous meat-factory work, or any other job that requires use of the service provider’s body in grueling, unhealthy ways.

In the seven years I’ve known “Napman,” the gentle soul whose strange request opened this piece, he’s yet to let on that he secretly desires to strangle me. He periodically sends me gifts. We email and punctuate our updates with pictures. He knows the names of all of my pets—he even knows where I live. I told him about this article. I came to know him as a man who only wanted what most men want: to do something nice for someone else.

There are many important conversations to be had about the sex industry, but I don’t believe those conversations will be beneficial unless they move beyond cartoonish depictions of villainous, lustful men victimizing innocent and vulnerable women.

I’m not claiming that my experience is representative of all sex workers, or even all sex-working women, but I know my experience is not entirely anomalous. I don’t regret selling sex for a variety of reasons—one of which is that it’s allowed me to meet many good men. And in doing so, it’s forever changed me for the better.