Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can Enemies Become Allies? A conversation between MRA James Huff and Profeminist Julian Real Part 1: Getting to know you... and trust you

image is from here
What follows is the beginning of a correspondence between myself and James Huff, who works with and for the MRAs. (James, if that is not accurate, I'll put in here what you'd prefer.) I'm learning as I go along here, but apparently his role is to educate MRAs on how to engage with people in responsible and respectful ways. That's the sense I get, anyway.

I will state that I don't believe in teaching abusers how to speak nicely if they are still abusing. I don't believe that racists and misogynists, for example, should be taught how to appear as though they aren't racist and misogynistic in public, if behind closed doors they are both.

That said, here's the opening of our connection to one another. My job is to communicate to him as honestly as I can what my concerns are with what he does and what other MRAs do.

-- Julian

Sat, May 28, 2011
To: Julian Real
This is James Huff/Mastenship.
I do agree that there are MRAs out there whose words do more harm than good.
In our discourse, I noticed that we did our best to stick to the point and not make personal attacks upon each other.  Which is how it should be.  If you read my Steps to War Part II, you will see the commonly used rules or debating tactics.  I did the best I could in following those rules.  It seemed when we first started talking that even by inference, I was being personally attacked.  With patience and time, however I noticed how our conversation turned to at least a mutual toleration of each other’s presence in order to actually talk about our differences.
I really appreciate how you altered your tactics in the later posts.  It felt good to actually have DEBATE, instead of a having mud-flinging contest.  Of course we find each other’s ideas repulsive to one another, and that will never change.
You will of course place emotionally charged posts on your post...and I know that I will on mine.  But if I write on your post I promise I will keep that type of thing “at home”.  I am sure, after reading your responses, that you will do the same if you ever come to my side of the fence to comment.
We laid our points out beautifully.  We stuck to our guns...agreed to disagree...and did so respectfully.
I request your permission to use only the comments section as an example of how the changing nature of discourse should run....to teach others that when debating with someone that there doesn’t have to be hate-filled words, evil intent, or acerbic commentary. I would like to post it “unanalyzed”, meaning there will be no further commentary by myself on the issues we discussed.  It is simply a tool on how to keep the vitriol to minimum, and stick to the ideological points.
While we will never see eye to eye on the issues, I think many MRAs could use this as an example of how to approach others and leave their ego’s where they belong....at home...or to paraphrase what you might say “in their pants”...lol.
I can see where those 3 other posts may be detrimental to your cause.  I did write them from my perspective, and if needed, I do not mind if you dissect this perspective to point out the assumptions or flaws for your readers.  My readers would be seeing them as is obviously, because they ascribe to my perspective of the world (most do anyway).
Once again, I thank you consideration at least, and hope the day finds you in good health and fine spirits.


Sat, May 28, 2011
To: James Huff

Hi James,

By all means, please repost our exchange for the purposes you discussed in your email to me. And please send me a link, here, of that post. :)

It might be useful to engage further some time in email or on the blogs. I'm so used to people from the MRA camp coming over and just tossing ignorant and hate-filled verbal bombs and leaving. Most of those don't make it onto the blog, needless to say. And, they're all so typical in "where they go" to try and score points: calling me a f*ggot, for example, or a mangina, whatever that means.

Why do you think so many public-online MRAs do that? Why are so few men who despise feminists able to actually discuss social justice issues?

And, what do you see your role being in ridding the MRA community of its hate and ignorance? For example, I've seen time and again how I and many radical feminists are portrayed as haters of men, with no evidence whatsoever that that's the case, and with plenty of evidence it wasn't the case. Andrea Dworkin loved humanity more than most human beings. And I'm not a man-hater. I love humanity, dislike inhumanity, and want to see a more just and peaceful world.

Your thoughts on what is going on in the MRA camp, at least among those you know?

Also, why do you think there's so much homophobia and misogyny among US male soldiers, and why do you think training officers use derogatory language about women--calling men "girl" and other terms to degrade and humiliate them, for example, during the training period? I've known people, including family members, who were in the service, adn they all reported the same thing to me--and none of them are feminists. They weren't trying to make a point. They were simply describing--uncritically--what they experienced.

To what do you attribute your attitude and beliefs (in my experience unique among conservative and libertarian anti-feminist men) of seeing that whether gay, lesbian, bi, or het, people are people who deserve respect and regard? Do you find that men more conservative than you show you respect for believing lesbian and gay people ought not be discriminated against? And that feminists ought not be castigated, stereotyped, and pigeon-holed?

And, lastly for now, I hope you have a meaningful Memorial Day holiday weekend. I imagine there surely must be men and women you knew who served in the armed forces who lost their lives who are in your heart this weekend and always. I hope you didn't lose any close friends.

I very much appreciate the tone you brought to my blog. The reason I'm not, as yet, posting those other comments is because it is my experience that, in them, you speak for poor people and draw broad generalisations based on no apparent deep friendship-level experience and a seeming unwillingness to see people of color as just like you. In those comments if not in life, you appear to view people of color as an object to be studied, put through your analysis, and popped out the other end "understood". In your case the conclusions are, to me, mildly less demeaning than those I see coming out of the mouths or off the fingertips of white supremacists.

Do you see that as a dehumanising thing to do? To not let people speak for themselves, far more complexly and honestly than you or I could?




Sat, May 28, 2011
To: Julian Real
Thank you Julian.
Unfortunately, I cannot speak for all MRAs, just as much as you cannot speak for all Feminists, or even for all Radical Feminists.  Trust, me, I have seen the hate roll both ways.
What I can say is that I think much of this hate can be explained by non-analytical thinking and a lack of regard for the basic values of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Too many people internalize the “status quo”.  They fail to think outside the box when dealing with a perceived enemy (ideological or personal).
I can tell you that in my time, I count myself very fortunate to have met people from all walks of life.  Did I have my preconceived notions about them at first?  Of course I did.  I had grown up in a strict Catholic upbringing.  Imagine my surprise the first time I met a Lesbian Wiccan.  The latter I knew right away.  She was very open about it. 
However, I swallowed my fear, and my initial revulsion and struck up a conversation.  Curiosity outweighed everything else.  I was in the military at the time (back in ‘93).
We sat down and talked.  I learned about Wicca.  I recognized it as something beautiful.  We became fast friends.  I was honored to have been invited to the Beltane celebration, and I was able to feel the flow and ebb of energy as the corners were called, the cone of power was invoked, and the our grounding commenced.
We sat down and spoke about a great many things.  We didn’t always agree, and sometimes would have to concede one point or another to each other, swallowing our pride and dogma on the way.  It brought us closer....and I began to see that she was indeed attracted to women.
This did not bother me at all.  She was happy and full of life.  She would have fought to protect me, even with my differing views.  She called me friend, and I her.
Finally, she felt as if she could no longer hold it back.  Teary-eyed, she told me.  She was deathly afraid that upon me learning that I would turn her away, renounce our friendship.....
I told her that I had already suspected for quite some time, that she was my sister and that I understood, and nothing would change that.  I told her that it was her business and had no bearing on our personal and professional relationship.  We fell into each others arms in a heartfelt embrace of love and friendship.
That was my first lesson.....and one I think about every time I decide to talk to another if they have an opposing ideology.
My role is to set an example.  You do not have to vilify an individual for “being a”. It’s not about that.  The correct example is “I disagree with you because....”
By setting this example, we can actually move a discussion forward.
How?.......well...in order to say the words “I disagree because...” you have to be able to think critically.  You have to understand your views, and you have to have familiarize yourself with the views of others.  You also have to challenge all the pre-conceived notions about what your views entail.  It forces you to take a look at historical trends (yes I know those are open to interpretation), and it forces you to take a look INTERNALLY.  When you find a bias based out of emotion, then you really need to ask yourself WHY you feel that way.  The answer should always be thought out and based within a logical framework (or as close to logic as what can be described when talking about emotions).
I consider it a lack of education, and a lack of character for MRAs and Feminists alike to make unfounded attacks not based on the issue being discussed.  I certainly do not like to be impugned for being white or male, for instance.  I know you don’t like it either....and it doesn’t matter when we share ideas.  The minds are fertile grounds...not the body.
Of course the education can be taken care of.  This is why I point out the reading materials.  I thought it wise for you to have done so as well.  However, I want future MRAs to know BOTH sides of the story as relates directly from “experts” in both fields of study.  I don’t want them just reading my material and going “Yep! That’s the way it is!”.  I want them to make informed decisions, not follow dogma blindly.  I also want to moderate the initial feeling of revulsion they may have.  It needs to be leveled out.  It’s about logic to me.
The lack of character is something that can change over time as well. 
After I got out of the military the first time I began to drown in depression.  I started to see all of life through a dark lens.  I began to hate humanity...the term is Misanthropy.
I was an avid role-player at the time, and a very prodigious reader.  I studied everything from cooking to quantum physics.  None of this changed my view of life however.  I was a man with two-faces, the public one being happy and wise, the private one being bitter and withdrawn.
I deigned to look into my own eyes one day.  And at that moment...I understood the true meaning of HATE.  All my knowledge..vast amounts of it...all my eloquence...plenty of that too...meant nothing to me.  I saw the emotionless automaton for what it was...a robot to one day be devoured by the world and forgotten.  I saw every flaw, every inconsistency in form and thought.
I thought to end it for a moment.
Then I saw one little tiny light...so small...but so perfect.  I held off on not ending it.....just for the day.  The days became weeks as I pondered.  I began to understand the nature of the thought that had sprung into my mind.  “I can change”.  “The human spirit is infinitely mutable and malleable.  We are only confined by our imagination.”
That thought kept me alive....and that thought became the keystone to the foundation that I built.  It took years to become who I am today with my set of beliefs.  I literally rebuilt myself from the ground up.
Now I see the world much differently.  I see myself as an active participant,  and seek to teach others that it doesn’t have to be as dark as what it is (or what they perceive it to be).  Granted, my methods differ from yours, but I’m sure you can understand that we each have our own journeys.......and that nothing within the human mind is created completely from a vacuum.
The MRA camp is beginning to solidify.  Individuals such as myself seek to bring together leaders from various disciplines within the field and begin to consolidate case study of law, criminal and civil, as well as financial implications.  I intend on bringing them together to iron out these differences and make a united front based on reason and logic instead of anger or hatred.  Hence the Steps to War series I am writing.  I seek to distill the message until it becomes pure reasoning, and I need the collected effort of the community’s leaders to do that.
You are right though...this isn’t just a battle of words.
Once I have collected the material I need, I fully intend to embark forward.  I will make it my mission to see that others have the opportunity to make the choices I have made.  I will attempt to push the separate teams out, each specialized in an area of study to address the concerns of the MRA movement to people on the street, legislators, and executives.
Yes...I know that others want to do that as well.  But no-one that I know of has sought to do it in the way I think it should be done.  I’m sure you see the differences already.  I have every intention of being the idea man in the background.  Read the blog carefully and you will see what types of qualities I am looking for in my allies.  I will except nothing less.  HONOR is a must.  Read that one carefully.
Feminists are no different in the long run.  History changes things.  Humans are Humans are Humans.  Individuals can be very “wrong” or very “right” in their outlook depending on the perspective of the world.  This is why I do not castigate individuals so much as the ideas that they stand for.  I think it folly for any group to do that to another.  It creates a spiral that draws others into logical fallacy and sucks the whole thing into a common playground brawl.
Unfortunately, you may be right about me seeing people as an object of study.  Given what I have told you about my experiences, you can be assured that I do that with EVERYONE....including MRAs that I work with.  I had to do it to myself when I rebuilt who I was.....so in truth it is simply a modus operandi that comes naturally to me.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t care....far from it.  It just means that the entire universe comes under this objective lens in search to uncover what I think is the truth.
Even my personal relationships are flavored by this.
I do love though....I do cry.  I have cried over the simple things, so I do understand what it is to PART of the world.  I have cried over a moving piece of music, over a beautiful sunset, over the happiness of a child on Christmas morning.  I have cried over the pain of others. (I had a hard time keeping it together as I wrote those posts to you). It certainly does NOT make me less of a man to FEEL.
As far as the derogatory comments leveled within the military...I don’t agree with them.  I much prefer the words “failure to perform”, “incompetence”, “weak”, ect. when describing someone’s actions as relates to such things.  It keeps the gender out of it, and bases it instead on a level of pure performance as dictated by the accepted standards in order to succeed in your basic tasks.  A soldier must have a minimum capability in order to be a soldier.
I think the sexual orientation issue and derogatory comments are being addressed on a massive scale.  The military is can no longer hide behind sexuality stereotyping.  The repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” will ensure that such issues are addressed.  Did you know that there are MANDATORY quarterly trainings on sexual discrimination, rape, sexual harassment, safe sex, holiday safety, motorist safety, drunk driving, boating safety, and a whole medley of other issues?  Soldiers have to sign in at these events, and are subject to UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) action if ordered to go and they don’t show up.  These programs have filled out GREATLY over the last 15 years as new issues have come to military leaders’ consciousness.  I have no doubt that a similar program will be in place concerning the LBG community within the military.
I went to these events every quarter...and even during deployment we had informal training discussions on the effects of all the above.  We also addressed PTSD, which I am glad to say I do not have, considering the things I saw.  I was able to “digest” it through that peculiar lens I have that I spoke to you about before.
You would be surprised what a rich environment it is on a unit level.  If you dissect the military down to it’s lowest point, I think you will find a richness of spirit and cooperation that you will not see easily in the civilian world.
My friends come from all colors, and all backgrounds.  I have been both humbled and honored to hear stories of their homelands (yes, some of them were naturalized citizens from across the world), or even stories of the hard life on the streets in the good’ ole U.S.A.  I count myself fortunate to have been able to experience so much from within and without.

Though our ideals conflict greatly, I hope you see ME.


Sat, May 28, 2011
To: James Huff

Hi James,

I find it quite easy to see you, as you make yourself visible, both known and knowable.

I met my first boyfriend when we were teenagers--he was fifteen and I was sixteen. We were sitting out gym class on the bleachers. We fell in love--I guess that's what it was; perhaps we fell in need for affection and kindness. Anyway, his step-father, a socially conservative man, and a bitter one, enforced a wish that his step-son and I not see one another. His step-son and I weren't sexually involved; only emotionally involved. But that was threatening to the step-dad and he soon moved his son to another high school to help ensure our relationship wouldn't continue. It worked, although we remained friends and are friends to this day.

I'm glad you don't live with PTSD. I'm distressed when I hear about soldiers with clear symptoms being sent back for a third or fourth tour of duty. That seems so inhumane to me. Does it to you? I would not be surprised to find a kind of solidarity among soldiers working together that is rare to find in US society generally. And I wonder how fellow soldiers feel about seeing their comrades sent back into wars when they are in desperate need of relief from the horrors of warfare. I'll clarify that I don't expect or want you to speak for anyone but yourself, other than to give a point of view on something I might ask. So, here, for example, I don't wish for you to speak for soldiers, but only to your experience among soldiers.

Depression is something that had been with me for decades, mostly undiagnosed. I have been getting good treatment for it in the last decade and am better now. Thank goodness.

Regarding this: "I certainly do not like to be impugned for being white or male, for instance.  I know you don’t like it either....and it doesn’t matter when we share ideas.  The minds are fertile grounds...not the body."

I'll share this with you: I think how I use the terms "white" and "man" on my blog are frequently misread and misunderstood, with someone's own preconceptions being layered on top of the meanings I'm wishing to communicate. Or, I'm just terrible at communicating. lol

When I use a term like "white" or "man" I'm speaking not so much of a kind of "being" but rather a kind of doing-in-a-location. The location is one atop a social hierarchy. The doing is such that the hierarchy is reinforced, not dissolved, by the behaviors of those atop the hierarchy. I view those atop a hierarchy as having more power, relative to those on the bottom. This doesn't at all mean I feel or thing or experience people on the bottom as not having agency or power, or will, or anything else. We're all human, to me. But rich people have more opportunities and privileges than do poor people, in my experience. And they have different experiences with being shamed and/or statused for one's economic status. I don't know many poor people who get the best seat in a restaurant for being poor. But merely being rich might afford one this privilege. That's a minor example of what I'm getting at. So the action of whiteness would be to take advantage of the privileges one has for being white, or a man, or rich. Or heterosexual.

I had a curious experience just yesterday. I watched, from a distance, as two people came towards me--on route to passing me by. They were holding hands, walking down the street I was on. I was facing them, and at a distance incorrectly assumed they two people holding hands were differently gendered. I thought the couple was one woman and one man. I felt a kind of pain. It is the pain, perhaps, of someone newly (or not) in a wheelchair, who once ran, watching runners in a marathon go by. I don't know if you can relate to that kind of pain or not. For me, when I see a man and a woman holding hands while walking down the street, it reminds me of options not safely open to me--to do the same with a boyfriend, for example. I mean I could do it. I have done it. And a truckload of young men--not that I was old at the time--pulled over hurling insults at us, and proceeded to leap out and chase us. I knew the area better than they did, fortunately. I found a good place for us to hide as the young men out for some "gay bashing fun" ran by. It was very scary. So when I see a man and woman holding hands while walking down a street, I see their privilege at being able to do so without fearing being beaten up for holding hands. Because they are displaying themselves as heterosexually in love, whether or not they are either heterosexual or in love.

At the conclusion to American Idol's tenth season last week, there was lots of media speculation about whether the top two finishers were "an item". Scotty and Lauren. I've never seen this kind of speculation when the two finalists were men. And I can't remember the last time the two finalists were women. There's lots of interesting analysis about why that is--why men tend to fare better on the show than do women.

Anyway, seeing this apparently het couple walking cozily down the street brought up this old pain of knowing they were doing something I wouldn't so easily be able to do. But as they got closer not only did I realise they were both women, but I knew the woman who appeared earlier to me to probably be a man. We said hi. I then thought about how brave they were for being so open with their affection, hoping they wouldn't get beaten, or worse, for displaying it publicly. It's not that most women couples or men couples get beaten while holding hands. It's that the threat of it is real to those of us who have experienced the threat as more than abstract.

I may build on this point in later conversation, but wanted to share it for now. It also relates to something I link to a bit later in this email. Tangentially, at least.

I'm wondering if we could have a jointly published dialogue and discussion. About what "justice" would look like once it arrived. About what "inhumanity" is, for each of us. And what we see the role of the individual being in a collective.

I'm not sure what the focus might be--or that it would have one. Just wondering.

I think non-harassing communication, aka NVC, is rare on the web and is even more rare among bloggers. I've seen this in many places, certainly not limited to MRA sites!!! (For more on NVC, if interested, please see here: http://www.cnvc.org/Training/NVC-Concepts ). It is not a feminist organisation. It was founded by a very loving man. I don't assume he's anti-feminist or pro-feminist. Just someone who wishes to see aggression and hostility taken out of normal discourse, in order to generate more love among people.

I respect your process. I'm glad you got to meet the woman in the service who introduced you to Wiccan experiences. I'm not Wiccan, for the record, but I have strong regard for all Earth-based spiritual traditions, and not so much for the ones that place a god in the sky, or, well, only in the sky and not at all inside the Earth.

Let me know if you'd like to have our conversation jointly published on our blogs. I believe--perhaps wrongly--that many people would welcome seeing two "enemies" actually engage in civil conversation.


As I go through periods of not having such great concentration that results in me not reading longer pieces of writing, if you have something meaningful to you that is on the shorter side, I'd read it and be open to discussing that, as I would the piece above.

I hope the weekend is going well for you.





Sat, May 28, 2011
To: Julian Real
While I may not have had your experiences in the matter, I certainly felt moved by your description of them.  I can only say that my religious views are.....different than most...and have come under attack.  That is really the extent of my personal experience with prejudice.
I wish to continue this talk.
I want to figure out if we can create a neutral public venue by which to do so.  Each side—beginning with us, can voice the how’s and why’s of our ideologies over specific points.  This way, people can see that while we do differ, we can still communicate effectively.
It will also provide each ideology in perspective, and provide the people with the information they need to make a choice.
We must also address concerns about being vilified by our groups for having the courage to do so.  We need to figure out how to deflect such things.
I think in modern discourse, all we have to do is point to the Democratic and Republican divide as an example.  They are required to debate all the time in the House and Senate.  We can also use the example of newspaper editorials.
Well, we will flesh it out later.
I am going out for a while with my excellent girlfriend.
Contact me sometime next week and we can speak some more.


Sat, May 28, 2011
To: James Huff

Hi James,

I'm glad that you could emotionally relate to what I wrote, even
though it is not part of your own personal history. I have many such
stories with regard to being gay and being grossly mistreated because
of it by men who are not gay or bi. Perhaps in time I'll share more
with you.

I'm glad you're open to communicating further.

I'm thinking now about a neutral place for us to converse in...

I don't really have many other spaces which welcome my voice and
wouldn't want my voice to be put somewhere that is not familiar to me.

I'd like to post our conversation on my blog--and on yours too (not
just on mine), and agree about what sorts of commentary we will allow
from others. How does that sound to you?

I want to be sure, however, that I'm understanding a concern you
raised in your latest email. Are you worried about people from our
respective camps--so to speak--vilifying us for engaging with one
another in this way? I'll just note that I'm not concerned about
anyone I associate with or consider a colleague or ally vilifying me
for engaging with you.

From my vantage point, radical feminism is very diverse and not at all
unified. It's perhaps more anarchistic than tightly organised, with
varying levels of international, regional, or local organisation on
many issues. I also won't and don't speak for "radical feminism" as I
don't see myself as a part of that group, being a male profeminist. I
see myself as a respecter of that diverse group of philosophers,
teachers, and activists; I am someone who seeks to better understand
the experiences of the people who either identify as radical feminist
or who are doing that work but don't identify that way. Most women
don't identify that way who are doing that work--only in part because
they may not speak English. More on this another time, if you wish for
me to explain what I am referring to there.

I'd like to have some ground rules for the tone and content of the
discourse, and on what sorts of commentary we will each allow to come
into our blogs (if you wish for your blog to be a co-home for the
discussion) in response to what they read. I'd like to have this set
up for your and my own comfort and ease on our blogs: the kinds of
discourse welcomed within NVC and the type of discourse you put forth
on my blog in the comments that were allowed through would work for
me. Not beyond the post or series of posts that contain our
conversations/exchanges, but in the posts that do. I would personally
like to not have harassing or hateful or insulting or anti-gay
comments allowed under our conversations. All of this is to say that
while I'm not especially concerned about vilification from groups with
whom I work, I don't want to presume what your particular concerns are
on your end.

As a lot of my audience is not US, I'd like to find some analogies or
examples, such as the Republican-Democratic divide you mentioned, that
aren't necessarily specific to the US. Or, well perhaps build off of
that to more global situations people are experiencing. A lot of
people who come to my blog are not from the US, and so wouldn't be so
familiar as you and I are with what's going on within this country.

Speak with you next week then.



Sun, May 29, 2011
To: Julian Real

I found your post a well written and an enjoyable read.
While I don’t (of course) agree with everything you have written, I have thought long and hard about the discourse.
Remember that we are doing this to shed light on two entirely different perspectives of the world in a public way..both of which view themselves as essentially “good”.  We do this as a joint effort to allow the people who don’t understand  our views to glimpse beyond the “common” rhetoric of each side.  We also do it as an example of how not to have generalized hate filled speech and anger cloud one’s judgment of the arguments.  I think if nothing else, it will show a wider audience of how to debate a position properly.
I have no doubt that we will not change any minds in our respective camps.  That is certainly not what I am looking for.  I know each of will stick to our guns...and there will be rare occasion when we agree on anything.  When we do it may cause some raised eyebrows..for which I am glad.  People should see that human side of the equation.
Rather let the audience decide, based on how universities use to work in times long past.  It is a free marketplace of ideas...unfiltered...without obstruction.  It is meant to allow people to make up their own minds if they have not done so already, but to do it without the rhetoric and anger found in both our sides.
I gladly welcome the opportunity to do honorable battle with you in a public forum (and remember how I would mean that given what you know of me), and would seek to walk beside you for however long this endeavor takes.
Remember that we see in each other in mutual respect, with no personal animosity.

Mon, May 30, 2011
To: James Huff

Hi James,

I perhaps misunderstood the purpose of our correspondence. My apologies.

I thought we were actually going to debate the veracity of our
respective perspectives, philosophies, and arguments.

I personally don't wish to engage in something that is determined from
the start to not change minds. I believe you that you're not
anticipating any change of views or values. Thanks for clarifying that
is the likely outcome.

But with that, there doesn't seem to me to be a point in engaging. For
me, debates that happen with one or both people having a closed mind
to what's being discussed--just to show others how to discuss things,
isn't a worthwhile endeavor. Why? Because it doesn't teach the readers
how people's minds get changed, or how to be brought to a place of
personal-social transformation.

I hope that makes sense.



Mon, May 30, 2011
To: Julian Real

I think you misunderstand.  We both have our reasons for believing in the things that we believe in.  We should certainly attempt to find common ground between us.  Just because I don't think either us will move one or the other very much, does not mean we shouldn't try.  This is part of the debate process, and will teach haters on both sides to chill the heck out and act like human beings toward each other.  Whether or not your or I change our minds is irrelevant to the discussions.  It's in the SPIRIT of open friendship that we should even attempt such a thing, especially when everyone else says it can't be done.

Julian, in the short time we have written together, I have been able to feel a kinship toward you.  Here we stand, each seeking desperately to end anger and pain...each having separate methods and ideologies to to so.  Each of those ideologies are antithetical to each other.  We each consider ourselves knowledgeable in the subjects we want to openly discuss. But somewhere in the middle we have begun to see each other not as "things" or "obstacles" but as real PEOPLE.  We have shared some of our past, and some of our pain in the process, and that really means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to you , too.  If not for anything else, I would call you friend (but then again, I have always taken people at face value so I know what it is to be hurt often).

Please, let us do this...and do it together.  Though we may not change each other's minds, we can show people how they can respect each other, and actually learn to approach each other with an open mind and open heart. Don't think I haven't I haven't kept an open mind.  It's just that each of us, both of us, have our reasons.  Of course we cannot throw away our convictions without good reason.  People stand on a set of beliefs, or by logic.  Keep in mind that we know not what the future will bring in the long run in our talks, and we may very well find more common ground than what you think, especially as concerns admitting that there are issues we agree on that need to be addressed, and being able to dissect the cause of those issues.

I hope you reconsider, because the future is indeed brighter for us even having this talk in an honest way.  I have never seen this type of communication between the camps take place before.  It is a testament to the human condition that we do so, and perhaps our discourse will teach others how to act like humanely again.

Just a note, I did tone down some of the rhetoric within my own blog.  It is an MRA resource, and of course the military note is still there (because of it's identification with my background), but I have removed much of the type of language that may alienate people coming in.  Of course I don't want to be part of the problem.  Please check it out, and you will see what I mean.

With Hope and Extended Hand,



Tue, 31 May 2011
To: James Huff

I will continue to correspond for now, James.

I can't always anticipate how future conversations will effect me, but
I like your way of engaging--needless to say! We've gotten this far!!

I won't publish anything you write to me without your written
permission. I'll ask first!

I may post some of what I'm writing to you--but not about you--to my
own blog. Let me know if that troubles you at all or if you have
concerns about that.

I'll respond to bits below...

   Yep!  I see what you mean.
   I can understand if you feel it’s a safety issue, I do NOT want
you feel like you are putting yourself at risk by having this expose’.
 I am not saying your fears are unjustified.

Thank you. Death threats are about eight stages beyond acceptable, in
my view. It's incredibly childish while also packed with the worst
violence men do commit, systematically by normal men, not by "sick
men", against women and against other men, and against children.

Terroristic tactics are not acceptable to me. I've never threatened a
man's life--or a woman's. I wouldn't either. The issue is justice and
liberation not vengeance and revenge, for me, to me.

And, please keep in mind--it's not the individual tactics; it's the
whole of the experience across one's life--from the bullying in school
to the sexual abuse to the messages in media, to the messages within
the family, to the messages in religious institutions, to the messages
in education, to the way one is treated everywhere one goes, to how
lovers treat you, and on and on. It's the whole bundle of experiences
which have meaning in that context, never as isolated experiences.

How, for example, am I to separate out what boys said to me from what
that truckload of guys said to my boyfriend and me, from what my first
boyfriend's step-father said to his step-son about him and me being
together? They aren't discrete phenomena; they are "of a whole". That
whole has other experiences in it too. But what most men I know don't
get is how many experiences women have that men don't have and have no
clue about.

I'll list two.

1. Ask all the men you know what they do, over the course of a day and
over a week, to avoid being raped. Then ask all the women you know.
Make a list each time. You'll be shocked at what you find out if you
speak, say, to one hundred men and one hundred women.

2. Ask men what they most fear from women. This was done in a
classroom and the young men, without the female students present said,
"That they'll make fun of me; I'm afraid they'll disrespect or
humiliate me." When the young women were asked without the male
students present, their answer was "That they'll kill me." Killing and
rape is what women worry about, and not without reason. When you fear
someone will rape you, and I'm speaking from experience, it shapes a
whole lot about how you behave around a man. A whole lot, in ways that
someone who hasn't had that fear--for good reason--can't usually
relate to or imagine.

How many times has your life been in danger because of your sexual
orientation? How many times have women experienced scary situations on
the street? Not only disrespectful situations, but scary ones.

I've talked with lots of women in my life--hundreds, easily. And some
of my relatively young women friends have talked with me while on a
cell phone, while walking down the street. Do you know what happens,
typically, commonly, and usually? (Regularly. Not every once in a
great while.) What happens is that a man slows his car down to follow
her. A man calls out to her as if she's a thing who exists for
him--not in a way that is flattering either. A man follows her on
foot, to the point she has to duck into a shop to hope he walks by and
out of her life forever.

And then there are the men who pull the car over and assume the woman
who is not a prostitute is a prostitute. This happens a great deal.
Far more than you know, I would imagine. Unless you've also spoken
with lots of relatively young women while they walk down the street.

I've rarely had this experience, myself. Practically not at all. I
would never, ever have believed how much it happens to women if I
didn't hear it for myself, again and again and again. It's one thing
to have someone tell you about something happening. But I've heard the
men call out to the women--through the phone at her ear.

The women say things like, "Can't you tell I'm on the phone?" Or,
"Please leave me alone." They don't care. They do whatever they want.
They feel very, very entitled to behave this way. Often. Regularly.
Many women have these experiences every day they are out in public.
Can you imagine?

Two of my best female friends were street raped by strange men. Both
of those women had already been sexually assaulted--one by her father
and the other by many men when she was a prostitute. Both of these
women were confident, not cowering. They weren't the types of women
who men pick out as "easy to rape". Do you think men raping women is
honorable? Do you think men terrorising women as common practice is
honorable behavior? Do you think men joking about raping women is
inconsequential? I see it as part of the whole. As part of what
creates a hostile living environment for women across race, religion,
region, age, and class.

   However, I think we can TEACH the moderates on both sides NOT to
resort to such reprehensible tactics.

I'm not in the position to teach women anything, James. I'll teach men
things, if they'll read and listen and take to heart what I say if it
resonates as truth to them.

I wouldn't and won't position myself as women's teacher--I just want
to be really clear about that. The women I know have had men tell them
what to do their whole lives, and it seems whenever men speak, they
too often try and control what women do, what women say, how women say
it, the tone of their voice. That, again, is my experience and I have
seen men do it and have cringed watching it happen so many times.

I'll add this, because it's kind of a no-brainer: I've seen women
humiliate men. I know some mothers have abused their sons and
daughters. I get that women are fully human, capable of doing whatever
any man can do. The difference is what men do collectively to women,
institutionally and systematically. Like rape. Like domestic
terrorism. Like what pimps do. Like trafficking. The slavery of girls
and women both. Purchased immigrant brides. The mass murder of women,
like in Juarez.

I certainly get how individually, in relationships, anything can
happen--and does. So it's not that I think "women good, men bad". I
don't. I believe in looking what people DO; to me, it's all about what
people do and what institutions support people doing.

   I say both sides because I have seen women come onto MRA boards
and get so flaming mad they threaten to castrate people.  I mean,
people like Erin Pizzy and Evin Rubar had to go underground for years
because of the bomb and death treats they received for speaking their

I'm not familiar with them or what happened to them. Erin and Evin.
I'll make a note to look them up.

   I will say that I have certainly seen such tactics used in the
past....but interestingly..and maybe because of the military mindset I
have, my answer has usually been “Bring it!”.

I don't like thinking of any of us being in that frame of mind,
particularly if you're not in the military service. I get how the
service has it's own strategies and tactics. But I'm not pro-war. And
I won't act like I'm in one, even though there are various kinds of
war going on all around me--against the Earth, against different
groups of people, against animals.

   Hate mail?  Already getting it.

I'm sorry to hear that. How often do you get hate mail, btw? Here's an
example of what I mean when I say I won't position myself privately or
publicly as a teacher of women: I would never, ever tell women how to
respond to men who are organising to maintain a patriarchal society. I
similarly would never tell Indigenous people how to organise against
dominant society: however they wish to organise is best--they know
their conditions and options far better than I ever could. The same
with women.

   I guess for me I shrug it off so easily because I survived a war zone.

I'm glad you're able to do that. I'd call that a form of privilege.
Male privilege. Because too often for women across sexuality,
surviving in a war zone also means surviving rape--often enough by a
male soldier who is allegedly not "the enemy".

   That, and I have had the training to help me survive.......so I
feel more confident in my abilities.....
   And for me there are some things worth putting my life on the line for.

For me those things are helping the world become more humane, not more
terroristic. Not more violent. Not more murderous and savage and

   As far as survivors of sexual abuse and assault....you’d be
surprised at the number of MRAs that I have seen who have been abused
by their mothers...myself included.

I'm not surprised at all, actually. And I'm sorry to hear you were
abused by your mother. I welcome you to tell me about that--what
happened, James?

My mother was emotionally mean to me at times, but fortunately she
didn't raise me. The male and other female care-givers in my life were
loving and kind.

I again want to be clear about this: I have known of many emotionally
abusive parents--emotionally abusive mothers and fathers. What I
haven't known was mothers who also, in addition to the emotional
abuse, sexually abused their sons from age three to thirteen. I know
of too many cases where fathers or surrogate fathers did that, and
also fought for custody, and were granted it, when the women found out
and left the guys. Is that justice? Not to me.

   The abuse was often more psychological than physical,

I've heard men say this before, as if mothers aren't also emotionally
abusive to girls and as if fathers also aren't emotionally abusive to
sons. I know so few men who were not psychologically harmed by their
fathers--far more than men abused by their mothers.

I truly get that many parents ought not be parents, and how too many
parents pass along all the ways of abusing people they learned in
their own homes. Again, I know that parents of any gender can be
wretched as parents. But how women are emotionally to children ought
not be compared to how men are sexually and physically abusive to
children. Not because one is worse than another.

But only because men, too, fathers too, are emotionally,
psychologically abusive to children and to respond to a story of men's
sexual abuse of daughters with "mothers are psychologically abusive,
while not as physically abusive" takes the focus off the fact that men
are the primary perpetrators of violence in the home. I won't deny
what women do. And I won't deny what men do either.

And in many many countries, to this day, women and children are still
men's property. As was the case, of course, in the US until after the
turn of the last century.

My grandmother was not allowed to vote--not legally empowered to vote.
This is quite a patriarchal society and forty years of feminism has
not made this society not patriarchal. Unfortunately. And the opposite
of "patriarchy" isn't "matriarchy" with women ruling men.

The opposite of patriarchy, and what every single activist woman I
know is working for, is a world where NO gender rules the other--the
goal is to dismantle the hierarchy, not reverse the genders in it. I
know of not one woman who is working to create a world in which women
treat men the way men, currently, across the globe, mistreat women.

I'm wondering right now: do you think we don't live in a patriarchal
society? Do you believe the world is not primarily and predominantly
patriarchal? (Meaning, that men rule society and fathers rule in the

   but I think we both know that one can be just as damaging as the other.

That's not a very useful or grounded statement to me, James. What
matters to me is what people actually do in the real world. Again, I
get that anyone who is human *can* do wonderful or awful things. This
isn't an issue of what people are capable of doing; it's a matter of
what is actually going down that too many people don't wish to know
about, or wish to deny, or wish to stay dissociated from.

   It’s one of the reasons some of them speak out.

I'm sure that's the case. And I feel for anyone who has survived
childhood assaults of any kind. My heart goes out to anyone who has
been abused. But it's really part of a pattern of men believing that
their pain is the worst pain there is. That's what I've seen a lot.
That their pain hardens their hearts, makes them bitter, and they rail
against "women" because their mother or another woman--perhaps a
spouse--was mean to them or abusive.

Most women I know are caring, loving people. Not bitter. Not mean.
Most feminists I know are among the most humane, caring, loving people
I know. They care about men being raped and about women being
raped--they truly could just care when women are raped. But when MEN
joke about prison rape, these women do not laugh. Because they get
that rape is awful, humiliating, violating, degrading, traumatic,
tearing the flesh. It's not a joke to any woman I know, and it's not a
joke to me either. I see such inhumanity in men about violence and
humiliation--as if it's funny. Who gets to find it funny? Privileged
people who aren't survivors of it.

   They feel as though many women are given a “move straight to GO
and collect $200”.

This is a particular "class" of men, because most men don't have
money, and the world's poor are women and children--who won't see $200
in a whole year. I know you were referencing the Monopoly game, but no
matter what that amount, it isn't money most women who divorce a man
will see. And you and I both know how many men never pay child support
or alimony, even (and only) if they are ordered to do so by a court.

How honorable are those men, who don't wear a condom and then complain
because they have a child they have to be responsible for? Who forced
those men, such as with gun against head, or a knife against the
throat, to have heterosexual intercourse, as an adult, without a

I know many women who were raped that way by men who wouldn't even
have the decency to use a condom, because them leaving their sperm in
the women or on the women was part of the degradation, part of the
humiliation and violation.

So when you write that to me, what I think about is this: it can only
be men with money who complain about this. And men are still paid more
than women, dollar for dollar. And the only "profession" where women
are paid much more than men is the one where women are most at risk of
being gang-raped repeatedly: performing in the pornography industry.

   The good MRAs realize this isn’t a reflection of women themselves,
but a system that allows perpetual abuse of children by women while
mostly plastering the man’s abuse of his children all over the media.

I'm not sure what world you're referencing, because the women I know
are fighting to get their abused children away from the
father-husbands who battered the women. And the judges ruled that
information ought not "bias the court" as if whether or not a man is
violent in his own home ought to be "beside the point" of whether he
might be a good father. Huh? The women I know are the poor ones
without the resources to get the best attorney.

Perhaps you are referencing the few women in the world who have gobs
of money. But that's not most women. Most women across the globe are
very, very poor.

   We all have the same qualities.  I have seen some really
vindictive and evil acts come out of humans regardless of sex.  Acts
that were plainly wrong.

Yes, but this line of argumentation functions for me as
abstractionism. Because, again, it's what is actually happening that
matters to me. So to say "well, some Indians killed white men!" is
really a very cruel thing to say. Because it wasn't millions of white
men wiped off the earth across the last few hundred years by Indians,
was it? It was a genocide against Indigenous people by "the white
man". It wasn't "people are terrible to each other"; it was the white
man slaughtered Indians. That's the story of the US and of many other
places around the world too, where the white man went and decided he
had rights to live there--even though there already were people living

   I know you might find this offensive in my approach...but I
laughed my butt off when I heard about the pink prison attire.

That doesn't surprise me.

 I followed that story in the way-back days.  To tell you the truth, I
think they got what was coming to them.

What? Being humiliated by having to do something they viewed as
"feminine"? Do you get how this news story is insulting to all women
and girls? What is your daughter to think about that story, if she
likes pink? What does she learn about her own value in the world from
that story? I'm not sure if you have children, James, but would you
want your sons or your daughters learning that things that are
"girlie" or "womanly" or "feminine" are so degrading that to make a
man wear something that's pink is considered "cruel and unusual
punishment"? See, you get to laugh, because for you it's not
degrading. For me it is part of that whole: of heterosexual men having
more status and less stigma, socially. And that is used against gay
men and against women across sexuality. A lot. Daily. In media those
messages are ubiquitous--what's associated with women is "lesser" than
what's associated with being a manly man.

So, to clarify: I don't find it offensive. I find it predictable.
There's a difference. I find it typical of heterosexual men to laugh
at other het men being humiliated by being made to do something
"womanly" or "girlie". And that violence--that violence of being seen
as "a degraded thing" doesn't visit you, apparently. It visits me a
lot. And women a lot. So that's a kind of privilege too. To be able to
laugh at things that really do hurt some people a whole lot. To be
insensitive to that kind of suffering. To not know who is suffering
and why. To not get how thoroughly woman-hating and girl-hating that
story is.

 In my opinion they should have added purple polka dots to it, too.

Why? To what end? Why can't the men be regarded as human and be shown
how to be humane if their crimes were those involving inhumane

 It comes down to my belief in harsher punishments for certain crimes
becoming a deterrent to those who would think to commit them.  Make
them walk in someone else’s shoes for a while, ya know?

Those men were not made to walk in women's shoes. They were made to
wear pink. They may have been at risk for rape because they were in
prison where men rape men a lot--because there are no women to rape.
And when they rape men they call the raped men "their bitch". Why? Why
does a raped person get called something that is used to further hurt,
insult, degrade, and humiliate women?

Do you know the system that works best? It's in Scandinavia and
involves men being separated from society and trained to have useful
skills, not being humiliated at all. Because most men who end up in
prison have already had too many experiences of being humiliated, and
increasing their shame does nothing to make them more humane.

   As far as someone “being”..I could care less.  I have met plenty
of gays who identify with all manner of identities.

I get that you don't care about it. But plenty of your colleagues in
the MRA groups do. And they're not stopping any time soon. The
feminist women I know are not homophobic and don't put down lesbians
or joke about how lesbians are really for het men to get off to. Can
you honestly say the same about the men who you are seeking to help?

   If you take a look at my blog, you will see that I make a “Call to Arms”.

I don't understand that. Women are not armed.

   I am asking key individuals to come out and state to the world
exactly what it means to be an MRA.  I am asking them to state their

I'd be curious to see what they say. Well, I've seen what they say,
actually. I've seen what's on MRA sites. And if what's on MRA sites
isn't reflective of what MRAs do and what MRAs think, you've got a lot
of work ahead of you.

   This does two things.  It creates an identity that draws the lines
in a legal fashion.  It also allows us (both of us) to know when we
are speaking to a true representative of the Men’s Rights Movement.

I am troubled by this, James. Because, for MRAs, whoever calls
themself a feminist *is* a feminist, aren't they? Or do the people you
know in that group distinguish between women who call themselves
feminist and women who *are* feminist? And what means do they
use--what methods do they employ--to tell the difference?

For example, a really common thing for MRAs to do in my experience is
blather on about Valerie Solanas as if she was a significant figure in
feminist history. She wasn't. At all. But to hear the way some
self-identifying MRAs go on and on and on about her you'd think she
was feminism's Karl Marx. Hardly. I don't even consider her a
feminist, nor do many feminist activists I know.

I'm curious: does that surprise you?

 The haters are thrown in the junkbin and can be safely ignored,

Will you, personally, throw them in the junkbin? What I want to know,
James, is what are you going to do to stop them from acting out their
hatred? What specifically are you going to do? Because they speak in
your name, using a term with which you identify, and if they don't
speak for you, how will you distinguish yourself from them, in name?

   and it will allow for the type of discourse needed between TRUE
members of the movement, and not these “Johny come latelys” and
“ignorant fools”.

I'll need to hear from you the means and methods you'll employ and get
other men to employ while you call men to arms, to stop spilling their
hatred and and misdirecting the pain of their wounds out onto women in
truly despicable, repugnant, inhumane ways.

I honestly--honestly--don't know one woman who goes after MRAs, who
writes to MRAs, who really puts much energy into dealing with MRAs.
Your group is seen a both a threat and a joke by most people I know
because their vile hatred and their inhumanity is readily exposed by
them, with no effort at all from women. I just go to their sites and
see them discussing things like how much they masturbate. I'd think
they were a bunch of twelve year old boys if I didn't know better. And
if they didn't do horrendous things to women that twelve year old boys
cannot do and get away with. If you want me to link you to the
discussions where men who very clearly and very strongly identify as
MRAs do this stuff, I will. Let me know. It's easy to find online. I
couldn't make this up.

   I have been reading much of your blog, and I must say that I am
impressed.  You are extremely well informed on a variety of issues all
over the world.

I find that is the case with many but not all blogs that are
feminist-affiliated and identified as feminist. From
dedgurlcingztheblooze to The Curvature to Abyss2Hope, to The Feminist
Texican, to all the Indigenous women's sites, to the Black feminist
sites to the white feminist sites.

I can't say that I adore all sites that women have who call themselves
feminist. And I won't. But by and large I hold the women who write
about feminist issues in high regard--because they behave humanely and
with great sensitivity to all human suffering and all forms of
oppression and dehumanisation, including what happens to boys and men.

   I think these issues are important to address in the scope of the
MRA.  I rarely see it happen.  I will have to begin to look into many
of them myself, and learn more.

   In any case, even if you do not decide to this, I want to continue
to speak with you.

Yes. I'm open to that. Again, I cannot promise I will remain open
because I might find something on your own blog that so deeply
distresses me, that supports or advocates for men to be violent to
women, that I just might need to cut off contact. I'll try and make
myself available to process that with you, however. I just won't
promise I will, because if I am too triggered by something I find that
you've written, I may just need to say "bye".

I hope that doesn't happen, though. I do really get a sense of you as
a humane and thoughtful person. And anyone who truly values honor--you
typed it all in caps--cannot possibly support rapists being rapists,
or thugs being thugs, or terrorists being terrorists--no matter what
gender they are.

   We can simply enjoy good company and good conversation, and it
doesn’t all have to relate to the Feminist/MRA divide.  I’m sure I
have stories to regale you about my years of life, and you the same
for me.

Yes. I believe that too, James.

This is my fear, and it is better I state it now than harbor it. My
fear is that you will be very kind and responsible with me, and that
I'll find out that elsewhere you make misogynistic jokes, or laugh at
the suffering of some groups of women--or men, for that matter.

I don't laugh at people's suffering--anyone's. And I don't want to
become someone who does.

I think humanity can be very wonderful--and is. But so too is it
outrageously cruel and sadistic. And if I find out you actively
support people being cruel and sadistic, that will not bode well for
our continued friendship.

I hope that is apparent. And I hope you encourage all men you know to
behave in respectful ways towards  women, and towards men too, and

Do you have kids, James? Are you married? I think you mentioned that
you are. If you don't have children, do you and your spouse want

Reminder, if you haven't yet done this: please send me in email the
text of the post you did about our pending discussion--which, let's
face it--has already begun!!! :)

And, what are your feelings about me extracting parts of our latest
two exchanges for my blog? I'll wait to discuss this thoroughly with
you before doing anything. I won't put up your own words from any
email without your permission and without you welcoming me to do so.



Tue, May 31, 2011
To:  Julian Real

This is a lot to go over, and my mind is happily bouncing.  I do not mind if you extract the text, as long as it isn't taken out of context.

During our exchanges I want you to remember that what I talk about is generational change.  I estimate a natural lifespan for me of about about another 20-40 years....plenty of time use my assets to full advantage.
I will review each of your points soon , as it is now 3 in the morning where I am at, and speak with you more.


Tue, May 31, 2011
To: James Huff

Thanks James. I look forward to reading your reply.

I am glad we met. Truly.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coming soon! Can Enemies Become Allies?: a discussion between an MRA and Julian Real

image is from here
When you think "Star Trek" what's the first thing to come to your mind? For me it's Spock. After that, currently, it's the awareness that the television program was probably the first weekly series to feature people of many different ethnicities--women and men--working together on the same side. (Oh, and different sexualities too, what with "Sulu"--George Takei--coming out as gay!) I'm not sure there's been another show like it since. For other people it's just a "cool sci-fi show". What we think about--what we associate with anything--often depends on what we see, what we experience, and what elements of reality we most resonate with or otherwise experience.

When I was young, watching the series in reruns after it had gone off the air initially, I'm not sure I tracked the multi-ethnic/multi-racial significance, even while I was aware there'd been Civil Rights movement working to allow people of many races and ethnicities to work, socialise, and live in the same places, in peace. Liberation has yet to materialise. I'm not sure that time will come while I'm alive. But I hope so. At least we know it will happen in the future, when Star Trek happens. ;)

I'm not sure in what form I'll be reporting about this meeting. I've rarely to never had occasion to engage in meaningful, mutually respectful dialogue with someone who identifies himself as an MRA (men's rights activist). But a very respectful man has offered to do so, and I'm taking him up on the challenge. I hope it is beneficial for all who seek justice and liberation. For all who are oppressed. For all who endure terrorism and indignity as a systematic part of life.

I am waiting to hear back from him after the US holiday weekend. I've requested that we post our discussion online. He's wondering about having it happen at a neutral place. I've let him know I don't know of any such places and proposed putting the discussion on our respective blogs with notes about our mutual rules of engagement and comment policies. I'll see what he says in response. But I'm looking forward to the exchange.

This is what I believe: we all, in varying ways, to varying degrees, live in states of denial, dissociation, defensiveness, under or within forms of domination or destruction. Some of us do the destroying and dominating more than others. Some of us are in greater levels of denial, dissociation, and defence. I see this on micro and macro levels. As someone who is deeply concerned not only with the quality of interpersonal relationships but with the promise of on-going social justice movement, I look for patterns and commonalities among various forms of oppression and dehumanisation.

I see some patterns; people I know well point out others that escape me, or that I move into denial about. When in denial, I can become defensive about another's truths--particularly when their truths reveal something about me I am not comfortable looking at. When someone who I structurally oppress does this, my defensiveness and denial often become painfully or harmfully oppressive to the person I am engaging with.

As I see it, the human practices--of moving into or out of denial, of dissociating and reconnecting with forgotten or repressed material, of dominating and learning how to live mutually with others, and of destroying and learning how to live creatively, is possible for anyone with the ability to process emotions and experience, to communicate non-violently and to listen carefully and compassionately. I'm not saying everyone is capable of doing that. But if someone is capable of it, then I see constructive growth  as possible.

I have learned from my friend Avi to have faith in such things. I don't always. But with Avi's and other women's hope, I move forward into this conversation with someone many would assume is my "enemy".

I'd like to discuss enemyhood and then close out this post which I'm writing as an introduction to whatever follows with the self-labeled MRA.

I think people have very different understandings of enemyhood based on experience and due to political-social-economic location. While I've seen middle class white consider the police their friends, I've known poorer people of color who do not. Why? Because the white supremacist police don't make a daily practice of harassing and shooting middle class white people; police forces all across my country do make a practice of harassing, shooting, and otherwise seeking the destruction of poor people of color.

While I have sometimes viewed individual men as fun and enjoyable to be around, women who knew these same men more intimately have reported to me things that horrified or disgusting me about how they behave when only with women or when alone with one woman. I've had occasion to then ask some of these particular men about what I'd learned. What they tell me is that they didn't have the same experience she did. Or they deny what happened all together. Their reality is different, shaped by what is most meaningful to them and also what they're willing to know about reality, other people, and themselves.

Rarely and importantly, some men, the few, when they have perhaps unintentionally (or not) harmed someone, they do own up to their role in it; they don't deny it and are not evasive about it. They demonstrate regret and seek to repair damage done. Some forms of injury are not so easily repaired, and I encourage anyone who is approached for forgiveness by someone who once harmed them to be sure to take care of themselves first and foremost before deciding whether forgiveness of someone else's actions is wise.

For me, it is important to know at least two things: Does the person who did something harmful understand what they did and feel regretful or remorseful about it? Do they feel responsible for all their actions? Do they put ego aside to listen and learn about how their behavior effects other people? And, do they know how not to repeat the behavior? Have they demonstrated this knowledge in their actions? I don't tend to accept apologies for behavior that is performed with unconsciousness, that is later denied. I don't hold hope long when I speak sincerely with someone about harm done if that sharing is met with defensiveness, or dishonesty, or manipulation, or more aggression.

I suppose "enemies" are people with the power to harm others who systematically do harm others and who refuse to become humane when made aware of the damage and hurt. That's as good a definition as I can come up with right now. And this can be on an individual level or on a group level. So when rich people deny they are doing harm to poor people by supporting institutions and practices that rob the poor to assist the rich in getting richer, I don't  hold out hope for mending relationships or advancing the causes of social justice and liberation for oppressed people.

A feminist mentor once spoke with me about the importance of understanding how structures of enemyhood invade spaces where no structural enemies live. Many of us learn how to be abusive and practice being abusive when not needing to defend ourselves. Too often, we take our aggressions and frustrations out on the people who do not instigate or invite them.

I learned about the dangers of horizontal hostility from the woman whose writing on the subject named something that happens to oppressed people. It is one of the most important social-political dynamics for me to be aware of. I see it many places where no terrorists live. Where there is no enemy but where people find ways to turn each other into the enemy. With so many of us having varying levels of PTSD, it is easy to get triggered and mistake a friend or ally for an enemy. I've witnessed this happen more times than I can say. Sometimes there are structural differences between people who might be friends and allies, but the unwillingness of the person with structural advantages and social entitlements to be responsive to and responsible with those advantages and entitlements shuts down friendship and the possibility for considering them an ally.

I hope the oppressed people who do not dump their rage onto their structural political peers are seen as teachers for the rest of us, without us expecting them to teach us anything. I hope we can all learn how some oppressed people survive with dignity and decency. I don't see much of that online. I no longer socialise much because I stopped seeing it offline too. The lack of basic human decency is lacking now in many places because the dominant culture is one in which nastiness, dishonesty, and corruption reigns.

I hope this conversation--however long and involved it is--doesn't fall into patterns of acting with hostility that isn't required to survive. I'm saying this to myself, primarily.

The person I'll be engaging with has some structural advantages that I don't have, in part by not being gay. But he seems to seek honesty and authenticity, and genuine relationship rather than using relationship to win points for one's team.

I hope you stay tuned to see what happens.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law: Dean Spade's New Book!! Info from the press here...

webphoto of Dean Spade is by Johanna Breiding, here

To learn a bit more about Dean's forthcoming book, please read this interview, over at Guernica Magazine online.

An excerpt follows:
Guernica: Can you tell me about your forthcoming book?

Dean Spade: Yeah, it’s coming out September 2011 from South End Press. It’s a book that tries to describe what a critical trans politics looks like. We’re in this moment where there’s this gay and lesbian politics that’s really lacking in its racial and economic justice analysis and overly relies on legal reform for its strategy and doesn’t really look at people in dire need today. So this book says, okay, we have the option to focus on hate crime laws and other legal reforms or we can reframe what trans politics is and center economic and racial justice. We can realize that changing the law doesn’t change people’s lives and have an understanding of the limitations of the nonprofit form, the ways in which concentrating leadership in professionals and having nondemocratic models for organizations and movements harms and undermines the transformative change we are seeking. The book lays out those frameworks that I call a critical trans politics.
I am sooooo eagerly awaiting the release of--and opportunity to read--Dean Spade's book.
For now, we have this from the publisher...

What follows is from South End Press *here*:

Normal Life (Paperback original)

Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law
Dean Spade
Released 2011-09-15
Normal Life is the highly anticipated full-length book debut by Dean Spade, heralded as a deeply influential voice on trans and queer liberation struggles. Setting forth a politic that goes beyond the quest for mere legal inclusion, Spade illustrates how and why we must seek nothing less than the radical transformations justice and liberation require.

Normal Life

Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

Dean Spade

Pages: 208
ISBN: 978-0-89608-796-5
Format: Paperback original
Release Date: 2011-09-15
Purchase for $16.00
This item is available for pre-ordering and qualifies for free shipping.

Description of Normal Life.

Internationally, according to the Equity Network, the average lifespan of a transgender person is 23 years.* The abysmal life chances for trans people here and globally are most often due to violence: police violence and outright murder, to be sure, but also the administration of the seemingly banal state and legal frameworks that invisibly define the most basic contours of everyday life. Within these frameworks, where being trans is not even an acknowledged possibility and the systems in place aggravate some with long lines at the DMV while imperiling the survival of many others, what guarantees can anti-discrimination, equal access, or equal protection laws actually deliver? This question is particularly critical in the current neoliberal context, with popular social movements paradoxically centered on appeals for "equality" by the most privileged within marginalized communities. But if we are to save our own lives, we must not to be sidetracked from the struggle for comprehensive justice. Rather, we must make the necessary interventions into dangerous intersectional systems of repression—and demand the most essential of legal reforms—while remaining steadfast on the path toward liberation.

Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law is the highly anticipated full-length book debut by Dean Spade, heralded as a deeply influential voice on trans and queer liberation struggles. Setting forth a politic that goes beyond the quest for mere legal inclusion, Spade illustrates how and why we must seek nothing less than the radical transformations justice and liberation require.

A trans activist, attorney, and educator, Dean Spade has taught classes on sexual orientation, gender identity, and law at the City University of New York (CUNY), Seattle University, and Harvard University. In 2002 he founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a collective that provides free legal services and works to build trans resistance rooted in racial and economic justice.

* The Daily Texan Online
Normal Life | Advance Praise

"Dean Spade’s long-awaited book is a critical intervention that troubles the role of legal reform in social justice struggles. Spade’s articulation of trans politics goes beyond seeking the representation of trans people in social justice struggles, but demonstrates how activists on all fronts often unthinkingly redeploy the logics of white supremacy, imperialism, and heteropatriarchy through legal form. Spade asks not, how does the law recognize trans people, but how is the law itself the means by which gender is created and policed? This book in an invaluable resource not just for rethinking gender justice, but for rethinking how we do social justice organizing in general." ~Andrea Smith, author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide and Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances
"Sharply political, deeply intellectual, broadly accessible, Normal Life is exactly what we need right now. Beginning with the immediate everyday needs of transgender people, Dean Spade moves on to provide a brilliantly illuminating analysis of the forces of power constraining us all. This is a must read book for everyone who cares about social justice." ~Lisa Duggan, author of Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy and Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence and American Modernity
"In pointing out the specific mechanisms of social power that oppress gender-variant lives, and in suggesting strategies of resistance, Dean Spade monkey-wrenches the bigger apparatuses of control that work to turn all of our bodies intro resources for nation, state, and capital. This street-smart and theoretically sophisticated little book should be required reading for all would-be radicals looking for practical ways to build a better future. " ~Susan Stryker, Associate Professor, Gender Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington
"This original, visionary, urgent, and brilliantly argued book significantly advances political theory and social movement criticism. The book's analysis of contemporary economic and legal structures clarifies the linkages between the systems of repression that all people working for justice encounter. Spade has produced an essential and exciting book for these challenging times." ~Urvashi Vaid, author of Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation

Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual: what perspectives and activist agendas from each group do you support?

image of book written by Leslie Feinberg, is from here

Why aren't Leslie Feinberg, Dean Spade, and dedgurl invited to speak about transgender realities on corporate talk shows and news magazine programs? Why aren't their ideas discussed at liberal blogs online?

Why won't non-trans politically aware people question, with respect and regard, the problematic issues surrounding the term "cisgender"? Why the liberal acceptance without interrogation? Is it really because they are afraid to be termed "transphobic"? It doesn't seem to stop people from questioning radical feminists. They don't seem so afraid to be termed "anti-radical" and "anti-feminist".

I'm noticing how on liberal blogs, only the most conservative-to-liberal views and agendas coming from Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Trans folks is being accepted and promoted, while all the rest that is rising out of our LGBTIA groups is being disregarded.

For example, het people--women and men--are embracing the most conservative trans perspectives (on what it means to be trans). The views expressed here are not discussed, nor are those promoted by dedgurl. Why is that, do you think? I'm not so concerned with getting those bloggers and commenters over here. I'm concerned that "being trans" is being shaped only by sex- and gender-conservatives and liberals, which means the deeper issues and questions are not going to be asked among non-trans liberals. How can non-trans people support our struggles if they refuse to see who we are in all our diversity? How can we craft our political strategies if most of us are only exposed to liberal understandings of who we are?

Why are radical perspectives on transgender being and transsexual experience being ignored or non engaged with? Is it because radicals don't have the social-cultural clout to speak with truth? Or is it that liberal-to-conservative trans folks are viewed as being the people liberal non-trans people most want to please or not offend?

There are many views out there about gender and race, about class and ethnicity. Some people, twisting the spiritual meaning of Lady Gaga's hit song, "Born This Way", think we are born queer. But being queer and being non-queer are identities and realities that are relative within any given society. These experiences don't have uniformity or consistency across region and era. So how can they all arrive with us as we take our first breaths of air?

I want this blog to be one of a at least a few blogging spaces that takes up the deeper questions that liberals refuse or simply won't ask themselves about us. How is it that we identify as we do? What are the forces which shape our understandings of ourselves?

When some of us say we feel like we were born in the wrong body, what does that mean? What do we learn having a male body feels like or is supposed to do? How does learning what male- and female- bodied people do shape how we feel in our own? If we are raised to believe males feel one way and females feel another, and we feel more like those people who don't have bodies like ours, how does that contribute to gender dysmorphia? What about intersex people who are not transsexual? Where are the voices of intersex and intergender people in these conversations?

If CRAP-loaded media will only cover stories about trans people if the people adhere to the most conservative understandings of sex and gender, what ought that teach us about who--trans or not--gets publicly validated socially?

I welcome all radical, revolutionary trans people to gather here to discuss our issues and to ask the deepest questions, not pretending our experiences are determined for us at birth or only by biology.

Here's a viewpoint:
Because gender--however we experience it--is at least partially socially constructed, we cannot resort to using biologically deterministic (aka, "essentialist") arguments for our existence. Our existence is part of the fabric of the dominant and non-dominant societies and cultures we live in, sometimes facing a great deal of violence within them. What I see is that for someone who is transgender or transsexual to be partially accepted, they must adhere to the most conservative, heteropatriarchal views and opinions about gender. This does those of us working to dismantle the status quo not much good at all. It undermines our efforts.

I don't see conservative trans people as my enemy. I see the conservative to liberal viewpoints as oppressive to most females, trans or not.

I see that only some ways of understanding and experiencing "being trans" is welcomed to appear in mass media. Dominant, anti-Indigenist, racist, misogynist, anti-Lesbian views are interpersonally enforced, socially entrenched, and politically institutionalised and can't move us out of the CRAP we're in. I strongly believe that.

Those views, values, and political agendas which flow from them and work to structure our reality ought not be accepted without the deepest interrogations. The interrogations are happening but because so many liberals are afraid of being termed "transphobic", only a handful of people, in my experience, are willing to ask and attempt to answer the most difficult questions before us: why are we all the way we are, how do social and economic institutions effect who and what we are, and how do we radically transform or dismantle those institutions so that we are freer to determine our collective lives? And, especially, how do we do this with accountability to those we oppress? How do we work with LGBTIA groups, however they identify themselves, and queer populations (beyond the white Western het male supremacist media's world) who do not get coverage or support at all?

I hope to generate a pro-woman, pro-trans, pro-radical, pro-revolution conversation here. If someone submits an anti-trans or anti-feminist response, I may copy and paste only the non-bigoted, not harmful parts and post them below.

"Sl*twalk"... another point of view

image is from here
The poor people in my family don't walk down the street claiming they are the negative stereotypes rich people assume about them. Their dignity and desire not to participate in their own oppression in such a way is too great for them to do that. The people of color I know well, both women and men, don't walk through the street calling themselves the terms whites hurl at them. Only some structurally privileged women want to publicly use misogynist terms, like "dyke" and "sl*t", and "b*tch". It's part of an anti-radical tactic sometimes called "reclamation". I have lived my adult life using the term "dyke" positively. But I get how that is a race-, gender-, region-, language-, and class-privileged experience to be able to do so.

I'm not comfortable with the term "sl*twalk" being promoted as liberatory or pro-woman as it strikes me as deeply discriminatory against the most poor and otherwise marginalised women who do not have the status to embrace terms like "sl*t" as empowering or part of a liberation movement. The reclamation of oppressive, dehumanising terms--the terms men use to insult and degrade women in an anti-woman society--is not part of my political program, and I don't support it. There are other problems too. Such as trying to salvage a term that describes an idea about a kind of person that is linguistically so culturally relative that to embrace it is to continue to support or "reclaim" the particular anglo-patriarchal cultures in which the term exists, such as those in North America. It's not exactly that all women within a society are oppressing themselves by using those terms; it's that they are oppressing other women.

Ageism: the term conjures a gross stereotype of some women of some ages, none of whom are "sl*ts".

Ableism: the term assumes people walk. Many women do not.

Racism and classism: it is disproportionately race- and class-privileged women who assume that reclaiming misogynist terms and behaviors is empowering to ALL women. It isn't.

Sexism and misogyny: the term is one of the most virulently anti-woman, sexually oppressive terms in the English language.

Heterosexism: the term is generally used against women who are choosing to be sexually available to men, within whatever limited options, with strict codes of compulsory heterosexuality in place. Many women are not choosing to be sexually available to men. And the term invisibilises those women.

The term participates in many other forms of exclusion, discrimination, and marginalisation. Such is the case when privileged few try and show up whenever efforts are made by privileged people to reclaim the terms that are used by men against many multiply disadvantaged, discriminated against women.

I was glad to read this excerpt from another blog, but not for the racism, ethnic insensitivity, and other forms of oppressive privilege on the part of some whites, which result in the need for it to be written at all. Please click on the links below the quoted passage. What follows is something I read over at The Angry Black Woman blog *here*. With thanks to her and also to the author of this writing, Mehreen Kasana.
“As a Muslim feminist woman of color, I cannot relate to Slutwalks as it caters mostly to the definition of emancipation set by white women. Slutwalks deviate in terms of delivering the message against sexual assault. It turns a blind eye to women of cultures where flimsy clothes don’t necessarily lead to rapes. Muslim women get raped too. Nassim Elbardouh is right. “Do Not Rape” Walk sounds better. This isn’t to say that I don’t support Slutwalks. I simply can’t relate to a liberating movement that does not liberate nor acknowledge me. Western feminism, despite its undeniable achievements, still perpetuates the image of a white woman as the liberated one. If these feminists do claim to represent all women, they need to understand the dynamics of the cultures other women hail from. Don’t care if you’re wearing a thong or burka, no one has the right to rape you. Burka clad brown Muslim women get raped too. Represent us. I want a movement that represents me regardless of my color and creed. End victim blaming and rape culture by representing everyone.”

Mehreen Kasana  (via intoxicatedspirit)

30 May 2011 UPDATE: Please also see this:
'SlutWalk completely ignores the way institutional violence is leveled against women of color ... and it wont strip the word “slut” from its hateful meaning. The n-word, for example, is still used to dehumanize black folks, regardless of how many use it among themselves. If SW has proven anything, it is that liberal white women are perfectly comfortable parading their privilege...& ignoring women of color.'