Saturday, August 25, 2012

Writings by Audre Lorde, including "Man-Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response" and "A Litany For Survival". Also, a new book of Lorde's writings, I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde !!

image of book cover is from here

Revised on the 26th , 29th, and 30th of August 2012, and December 2, 2015.

I just found a website that has a photocopy of Audre Lorde's classic essay from Sister Outsider, titled: "Man-Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist Response". If you haven't yet, I encourage you to read it and to read the whole book along with it. Here is the URL and link to that one chapter:

I have been saddened to see how many younger people online believe that radical feminist = white woman. I know that many, but not all, of the people publicly naming themselves radical feminist or the more contemporary and racially narrow term, rad fem, are white women. I've written about how I don't equate the terms: radical feminist and rad fem. I've hopefully respectfully challenged the white supremacy of white-majority and white-led organising by people who identify as rad fem *here* in an earlier post.

Of course most of the whites who organise politically are not feminists. They are anti-feminists, racists, and misogynists, protecting white male power at all costs. But unlike anti-feminists and other misogynists, rad fems and I share a lot in common: our critique of pornography and prostitution as male-protected and mass produced forms of men raping and enslaving women and girls; a serious analysis of human sexuality as it is constructed and acted out in heterosexist and male supremacist contexts; and a de-marginalising of male supremacy and patriarchy when analysing and challenging increasingly globalised systems of oppressive, terroristic, and deadly power.

In fact, many of the people who claim to be the definitive example of "human" are white men. And we certainly know that even though white men write most Western history books--that have systematically left out or distorted the accomplishments, the history, of white women, women of color, and men of color--that surely doesn't mean only white men are human. Nor is it the case that only white women are radical feminists, lesbian or not. Many of my role models growing up through my early adulthood were Black and Brown radical lesbian feminists.

My focus, here at this blog, on women of color is seen by some whites and many men as divisive. Some view this centralising of women of color at a pro-feminist website as one way to focus on the differences between women rather than the similarities. I hardly see how focusing on women of color is divisive. Nor do I see it as divisive to point out where white supremacy lives and breathes. Whites want to keep white power all to ourselves thereby dividing humanity into raced "haves" and "have nots". Exposing and challenging white supremacy is an effort to end divisions of social power among humans; its aim is to equalise the control of and the access to resources among humans, including intellectual resources.

Another way to approach the issue would be to ask: Is focusing primarily or entirely only on the written and other activist work of whites divisive? Because that's what most whites do, often thinking they are representing "all men" or "all women" or "all queer people" when doing so. So it comes across to me as problematic when a white person, in my case a white male, who doesn't wish to marginalise women of color is seen as promoting divisions among women. Why isn't this blog seen as unifying women by focusing on the work of women of color? And, if whites wish to deal with our white supremacy in public ways, how does identifying where it lives further divide humanity?

I'd argue that routinely and systematically ignoring, tokenising, or marginalising the activist work of women of color is divisive. It maintains white supremacy and male supremacy. So too does using terms like "radical" by whites who don't include "white" when naming ourselves. The name of this blog certainly participates in that pattern. It would visibilise (and challenge) whiteness more if I termed it "A Radical White Profeminist". It would also serve to make it visible as a particular and non-universal political condition.

I now consider any white person refusing or neglecting to name our structural location by race when we describe our political position, as supporting and reinforcing white supremacy. Were I to start my blog now, I'd name it with "white" being in the title.

I have grown up hearing Audre Lorde and Barbara Smith be regularly identified by whites as Radical Black Feminists or Black Lesbian Feminists. Mary Daly and Sheila Jeffreys have only ever been identified by whites as "Radical Feminists" or "Lesbian Feminists". I hope it's clear how that way of naming white people reinforces whiteness as somehow not worth mentioning. But the "worth", or value, of not mentioning it is the white power that is so well-protected in the practice of whites not naming ourselves with that term. This is a crucial, and often enough unconscious, practice of protecting the very brutal power underlying and enforcing unnamed whiteness. The brutality is aimed squarely at people of color, with especially horrific forms leveled against women of color.

Conscious or not, it is an undenibly political decision to not mention our whiteness as a structural place of power in a white male supremacist system. (This is not, as some have indicated, primarily an issue of naming one's "identity"; this writing isn't advocating what is sometimes termed "identity politics".) If it is not deemed collectively necessary for whites who name ourselves as "radical" to also name and own our own whiteness as a political reality, how do we practice being responsible and accountable to those we structurally oppress by race?

It's not a radical practice for white folks to "disappear" our whiteness in our writings and other work, in my opinion which has been informed by dozens of radical activists of color, most of them feminist. It's not even liberal. It's politically conservative; it has many of the same effects as mainstream neo-Conservative and more publicly marginalised White Nationalist agendas.

White males making our race invisible but our gender visible serves white and male supremacy because the two systems, particularly in the West, are inextricably linked and are mutually reinforcing. Both work together to oppress and destroy women of color. Put another way: let's consider white radical Andrea Dworkin's definition of "feminist" which has been summarised as follows: if it hurts women, feminists are against it. Surely white supremacy as well as male supremacy hurts women (of color). So to ignore race in one's feminist and pro-feminist work is to participate in the deeply racist practice of pretending women of color are not "women"--unless they, too, are somehow presented as unraced. Ironically, whites are very reluctant to do that. Only whiteness is to be systematically ignored-while-protected.

The same is true for men of color who name their race as a structural position of marginalisation and oppression but not their gender as a structural position of power over all women. Men of color not identifying their gender as a structural source of oppressive power serves not only male supremacy, but also white supremacy. Because protecting any male power, as such, bolsters white men's power as men, but particularly as white men.

As I see it and hear about it from radical and feminist women of color, those two systems of power--male and white supremacy--together with capitalism, are the main dividers of humans into--according to power elites--those who are meant to survive and those who are not.

This matter is addressed in those terms in at least two pieces of writing by Audre Lorde. One is in a speech in the book Sister Outsider titled "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action". This is also contained in another book discussed below. Another discussion of this theme is in a poem titled "A Litany for Survival", which may be read in full, along with several other of Lorde's poems, here.

Finally, I offer a link to a relatively new book (2009 hardcover, 2011 paperback), of Audre Lorde's work. The book is titled: "I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde", edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall.

 I have had the pleasure of hearing Johnnetta Cole speak, many years ago. Calling the three editors only "editors" would not be to understand their role in the creation of this book. Rudolph Byrd offers a significant introduction of the works contained in the volume. Johnnetta Cole offers a chapter in the section of the book called "Reflections", which also contain chapters by Alice Walker, bell hooks, and Gloria I. Joseph. Beverly Guy-Sheftall closes the book with her epilogue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Questionable Ethics of Outing People Online, and Other Topics for Discussion Between Julian and a White Feminist Friend

image is from here

One criticism I have of myself is that there is sometimes a lack of openness and a use of analytic thinking to avoid other ways of being. It's not that I'm invulnerable; it's that being vulnerable has made me open to a great deal of pain and trauma and so I'm careful about where I'm vulnerable. Like so many other people, I was bullied. Many males and a few females were the perpetrators. It went on for seven years in my childhood and adolescence. To this day, when I hear people laughing in a group near me, I assume they are laughing at me and my first reaction is to feel humiliated.

Social networking sites don't feel very safe to me in part because of the bullying and meanness I've seen happen there. In my experience, that has happened especially and most egregiously to women of color, by white men, by men of color, by white women, and by other women of color. The thing about bullying is that anyone can be a perpetrator, even the victims of bullying. I tend to behave in rather invulnerable ways when at such places, when I'm there, which is rarely. So, with that said as sort of a personal preface, on with the conversation:

What's on your mind, Julian? Why did you want to get together to have a talk that will be public?

Well, there are few things distressing to me at this moment, other than the usual list of atrocities. Thanks for being willing to engage with me--people being willing to engage with me, respectfully, is one of the things I want to get to today.

Who is engaging with you disrespectfully? 

You know me well enough to know I won't name names. I'm not about that. Suffice it to say that some people have, and some other people have been saying things about me that are not true to the very best of my knowledge and recollections. They're not all saying this to me. In some cases it's being said about me in places when I'm not around.

What's being said about you?

That I have either outed women online or have supported women being outed online. And that I have supported women being called misogynist names.

I know you well enough to know that's not very likely. 

I don't believe I've ever done it, actually. But if someone has specific information to the contrary, I'd certainly hear them out. I welcome them to contact me and I will listen, with care. We may disagree about some things or have different recollections. But I'll listen and really try to get what their experience was and not dismiss it.

Julian, I gotta say this before we go on. I'm not a fan of you showing up in feminists spaces to voice your opinion in a way that triggers, annoys, or bores women. But I've never known you to "out" any woman. I know you're deeply concerned about how women have been terrorized by male supremacists online and offline.

That's what I generally stay very conscious of when writing about women here. If I have any doubt about whether naming someone--only as they publicly name themselves--might cause them to be more socially vulnerable to verbal attack or to other forms of abuse or threat, or to economic distress such as losing one's job, I won't name them.

What I have not taken to heart enough, nor to mind enough, are the ways some of my social behavior has been triggering to women. There's no good reason for me not considering it. I can say this: most people don't know when I'm triggered by them because if the triggering leads me to feel threatened or unsafe, I'm likely to simply not want to engage with them at all. My own triggering is specific to me but is also not atypical. And men can trigger me in various ways. I've grown immune to some things, such as men sending emails to call me a f*g or the classic "mangina". When someone is that ridiculous, it's kind of easy for me to just write them off as behaving like a jerk. But what you've helped me understand is that my anger, no matter what it's about, can be or may be or IS triggering or troubling for some women, for reasons having to do with sexual politics.

Yes. It can be, it may be, and it is. I know before I knew you better, I felt uncomfortable with your intensity at times and it gave me pause when considering whether to take a risk and get to know you better. 

Yeah. I'm glad you were willing to do that, but I'd also have understood if you didn't. I'm quite supportive of women not giving males energy.

I know you are. Which makes you showing up in feminist spaces more perplexing, honestly. Why do you do that, Julian?

Well, I don't show up in places where I haven't been welcomed to appear, by at least one woman there. And if a space is set up to be woman-only, I don't go there. But over the last decades, most feminist spaces aren't woman-only and that's a decision made by the organisers or administrators of those spaces. But because I do believe in woman-only spaces existing without male intervention and interruption, I have chosen not to go to most gatherings or discussion spaces that are woman-majority or woman-led. But that's truer now than it used to be.

Maybe because lately you don't get out much, huh?

Well, there is that! But I've been very slow to get that my presence isn't wanted by at least some women in most spaces where women gather, even if the organisers or administrators don't have a policy of being woman-only, or are explicitly welcoming of male presence. I plan to appear less in such spaces in the future. My appearance in a discussion in a feminist discussion space on Facebook was, I hope, one of the last times I do that.

But why have you done it? I mean regardless of what administrators welcome, why do you feel like it's ok to be there? You know as well as any male I know how hard it is for women to create woman-only space. And you know as well as I do that many women don't set up spaces to be woman-only because they don't feel like they have the right to do so. Or because men insist the women be liberally "fair" by being accommodating.

I know. It's such a common male supremacist argument. ... Why have I done it so often? I guess because feminist discussion spaces are spaces where the topics, the conversations, are of interest to me. I mean most of what men talk about isn't of interest to me. I've always had closer relationships--friendships--with women than men. I've always organised my private and social life more around women than men.

But you know that some women feel that you're presence is not only not helpful, but plays out some really typical male supremacist patterns, right? And the point of the conversations isn't to be appealing to you or to engage you or make your social world less small.

Well, I know. Yes. I mean my loneliness leads me to do things that I'm not necessarily prepared to do well.

Like offering to politically or more personally converse with gay and queer-identified men who seem like they are anti-racist and anti-sexist who you know you won't be able to tolerate for more than ten minutes?

Yeah. Like that. (Laughs.) A lot like that.

And like that last place: you went there, tossed out a whole lot of commentary, and then left abruptly, stating that you don't even like the space to begin with!

Yeah. I'd like to fill you in on what was going on there for me, if that's okay with you?

Sure, go ahead. I've been really baffled by that, to be honest. And pissed off with you too.

Okay, so first of all, I have been having the experience in many places that my voice isn't welcome, isn't wanted, and that even if I'm speaking to the issues at the center of the discussions, the response is to hear crickets chirping. And I'm not talking about women-majority spaces, in this case. I'm talking about male-dominant spaces. Or in places where discussions are led by men. Women do tend to respond, including by letting me know what I'm doing is male supremacist. Men often just ignore the comments.

And that's relevant how?

Well, because I have come to believe that people--in general--don't wish to talk with me about things. In my experience recently, most women don't want to and most men don't want to. And so this has led me to offer a perspective on what's being discussed, and then just leave. It shocked me that anyone actually objected to me leaving a place suddenly. I know that could sound silly in a way. But it really did surprise me. So I think that whole dynamic has led to a kind of "say what you have to say and then leave them alone" kind of approach to "engaging". Which is to say, I don't assume "engagement" is going to happen to begin with. I assume if I speak I'll either be ignored or disrespected. Because that's what's happened in enough places.

I'd think that would lead you to stop speaking up in places.

Yeah, you'd think. But I have this thing about not speaking up in spaces when something is going down that isn't okay--or, well, that doesn't feel okay to me or isn't okay with women I know well, and also with me. Almost without exception, if I'm speaking up in a space, it's because something is upsetting to me about what's being said. Like, either it comes across to me as male supremacist or white supremacist, or close friends alert me to how it is both. Or it could be profoundly liberal discourse. Those are the kinds of conversations that get me riled up.

What I haven't exactly tracked is how such conversations also upset me in ways that make constructive engagement unlikely. I have learned how to hold my tongue when I'm triggered by something--well, more often than in the past, but I have actually practiced NOT holding my tongue when something male supremacist or white supremacist is going on. Because that's what it means to be an ally, according to the radical women I hold myself most closely accountable to. It means you don't let shit fly around unchallenged, pretending it smells good.

So surely, then, you'd support women speaking up if you're presence is male supremacist, right? I mean, if the male supremacist part of the dynamic is partly or mostly yours, coming from what you are doing there, then you're not surprised if women respond negatively, are you?

I'm not surprised, no. But I have been alarmed by some ways a very few people have responded. Because in one case, a person responded with both disrespect and by engaging in terrorist tactics with me. And neither is okay with me. I mean I get how we can do things that come across as disrespectful. I'm not talking about that--shit happens. People upset each other. People trigger each other. And we can't always anticipate that. Hopefully people learn from past experience, and strive to trigger people less, or upset or hurt people less. Hopefully I learn to be less male supremacist.

As I said, I've been slow to "get it" about some of my behavior. I think that's partly because some of the people I've upset or triggered have withdrawn from me altogether--which I understand. My learning process is mine and is not for others to do for me or walk me through. I get that. I've witnessed enough males and whites saying to people we structurally oppress "Teach me!" or "Help me understand how what I'm doing is insulting or invisbilising of you" to know that it's not for the oppressed to educate the oppressor, even if oppressors are only likely to learn by experiencing the world from the vantage point of those they have structural power over.

And at the same time, people do learn best, I think, in relationship, in community where people share with one another. Me withdrawing from most spaces, for reasons stated above, and people withdrawing from me, means that I'm not likely to know what effect I'm having--I mean very specifically, to particular individuals.

I value my friendships because we do value letting each other know whether something upsetting has happened. And when I find out that what I've done is upsetting, I usually care about that and want to make amends or offer something that can be healing or productive. But I know that takes time and trust. And what I've been realising more and more is how internet spaces and many offline spaces too, don't have either time or trust as a base. So when people upset each other, or when one person--say, me--upsets a whole lot of other people, there's no agreement about how that will be dealt with. People do what seems best for them.

But you were saying that your experience is that you're ignored or insulted.

Yes. Or threatened.

So some people have actually threatened you? 

I can't really know what their intention is. I can tell you that some people--just a very few, fortunately--have employed exactly the same cyber-terrorist tactics as a way of engaging with me and mostly they've done so privately. Like there's a text book for how to do it and these people have followed the "to do" list to a T. Down to the smallest details. And that's not something that leads me to have much faith that healing or building relationship is possible with those people.

Again, I understand someone withdrawing and not engaging. And I don't think any woman owes me a damned thing. If I piss a woman off, I believe she ought to take care of herself as she sees fit. But going out of your way to terrorise someone, or insult someone, or disrespect someone--well, that's just not helpful to being in constructive, healthy relationship, in my opinion. But the thing is, it's not really "my opinion" alone. My feminist role models didn't model abusive interpersonal behavior. The women I learned radical feminism from didn't treat me like that. And they wouldn't have termed such actions as "feminist". So I took that to heart a long time ago.

You know that some kinds of meanness is especially commonplace now--on social networking sites, on blogs, at discussion sites. I mean I see it a lot in woman-only spaces. I see a hell of a lot more of it in spaces where men engage with women, though.

I know snark is valued in many spaces. And I can reflect on my own past snarkiness with men to see that when I've been in that mode it's because I didn't feel safe to engage in more honest ways. And I'm certainly under no illusions about woman-only space being utopian. I've known too many lesbian women well over the last few decades to arrive at that conclusion. But what I hear women say--you included--is that often enough there's a commitment to valuing community that often doesn't exist in spaces that include men.

So if you understand and appreciate--and support--women not engaging with men when the man, or male person, or the men have come across as threatening, abusive, hostile, or just plain annoying and typically sexist, why do you expect any woman to be honest with you about how your behavior has made her feel?

I don't expect that. And I wouldn't tell any woman she "should" talk stuff out with me. But I can want it or be hopeful about it nonetheless. I've been surprised by woman friends going the distance with me, and they've explained they're sure as hell not doing it for me: they're doing it for themselves, because having another male around who gets it that much more means their lives are that much less burdened by sexism and racism.

What do you hope for?

I guess I hope that a safe-enough space can be created with any woman I've hurt or upset or harmed in some way that was not intended by me, for us to heal some of that hurt or wounding. And to go on in such a way that the woman feels like she's less likely to encounter that from me in the future. And with the experience that I'm caring of how she's feeling.

Whenever I find out a woman is upset with me I do try and put myself in her shoes, to try to feel what it might have been like to be her, hearing or witnessing me be the ways I've sometimes been. But you know that only goes so far because each person has their own history, their own associations; their own wounds, their own triggers, and so forth. What's saddest of all to me in relationship is when both people are triggering the other, and wounding just gets compounded. I've seen that so much in work I've done when counseling couples. Sometimes the wounding and re-wounding is just too severe. There's not enough safe space for healing to occur.

In my case, I think some of the things that deeply alarm me, or trigger me, are so commonplace that the only solution is to withdraw in some way. I know that withdrawing is only an option for some people and I'm privileged to be able to withdraw in many of the ways I do. But I also see how people in long-term abusive situations who are not free to escape or leave, find their own ways to withdraw, such as through dissociation or being silent, or being cleverly dishonest, or getting into arguments chronically. And so when someone says something like "People should always be honest!" I often feel, "Well, being honest in some situations will get you beaten up. Or killed."

And those of us who have had our lives threatened and who have had death threats against us, if we don't want to give up publicly challenging the status quo, figure out how to go on being outspoken but also somewhat protected from the thugs and terrorists.

What I want women who I've upset or hurt or scared to know is that I'm willing to listen and that I will be caring.

I know you do care when you've upset someone. Well, if they're a woman. I've seen you not care so much when you've upset a man. 

Well, it depends on what has upset him. If me challenging his sexism or misogyny or whiteness is what's upsetting to him, then I'm not going out of my way to be too concerned about making things better. Well, unless there's a significant relationship there already. But I don't have a lot of relationships with men, as you know. But me challenging someone on their structural privileges and power isn't an open invitation to be abusive, mean, or intentionally hurtful to them. Nor to dehumanise them. According to my feminist mentors, anyway. I think Alice Walker is one person, someone I haven't met and don't know, who really models that behavior.

Do you maintain a relationship with those mentors, Julian? I'm not sure I know what happened to those relationships.

What happened, sadly, is that most of those women passed on. They died far too soon, of illness or disease. I miss them. And I miss the kind of culture that I had with them, and that they nurtured most when among women. Caring community where being mean and snarky just wouldn't fly without serious challenge. The whole reason I said, in that last conversation, that I hate Facebook, is that Facebook, in my experience, is a space that seems to encourage snark and meanness as an M.O., as standard operating procedure, for having political discussions. I am pretty sure there are plenty of conversations I'm not privy to that don't operate that way.

There are--and you're not privy to them. But there are always struggles and like you said, people do unintentionally hurt or upset one another. 

I guess the question is: Are we in the struggle together, or aren't we? If the struggle is to create safe woman-only space, then I'm not going to be in on that--other than by not showing up in woman-only and feminist-majority spaces. But if the spaces are committed to being open with regard to gender or sex, then I'd better only show up if I am in a mental and emotional space to be present, be accountable, and be caring--and when invited and welcomed, of course.

So why didn't you show up to do that, to be present and accountable, in this last case?

When I tried, I couldn't get back to it. I'm not sure why. Maybe one of the admins blocked me. I wouldn't be surprised if she did. But to also be named by other women in that space as someone who is not willing to engage, when further engagement is no longer an option, well, that feels hopeless. Because while I did engage in ways that seemed like I didn't really want a genuine exchange of ideas or perspectives, that doesn't mean that if me doing that was upsetting or alarming or annoying, that I wouldn't be open to processing that.

That's kind of problematic, isn't it? For you to want women to make some sort of exception with you? To give you some sort of benefit of the doubt when that may well be too costly to do, emotionally and politically?

Yes. It is problematic. It's outright unfair. I can be far too self-concerned sometimes.

And far too self-negating at other times.

Yes. That too. But the self-concern or prioritised self-regard--and this might also be called "being self-centered" or "typically male", when it's present, is kind of balanced with a lot of compassion and an ability to get beyond myself. I know that in so many situations, suddenly making such a process--about me and my feelings--the center of attention functions to derail the original conversation.

And socialisation being what it is, it is far too often the case that the man's, the male's, or the white person's feelings will get attended to while the sexually or racially or ethnically oppressed person's feelings will get ignored, or the assumption will be "the oppressed person exists to take care of me". But processing can happen away from that conversation and if it's mutual, then those oppressive dynamics don't have to be resurrected and reinforced.

So maybe a safe-enough conversation happens in a separate space. Maybe it happens privately. Because when it's public, that generates another set of dynamics--other people can get appropriately dismayed that any time is being spent attending to the feelings of the male or the white person. But that risk-taking to resolve or heal some negative interaction is probably only going to happen if it's worth it to the person who was hurt or upset--if it is in her own interest to do it.

I know you know what was said about you in that discussion, and what others have charged you with doing, because the conversation was sent to you after you couldn't get back in. I just want that to be clear to whoever reads this when it goes public.

Yes. That's how I know. Someone sent it to me to question what was going on there, to question the allegations, and to let me know the effect of what I'd said there initially.

And I know you get into trouble when you bring up the politics of whiteness, or of ignored white supremacy, in majority-white spaces where that's being ignored or put aside in favor of a politic that goes, "let's only talk about sex and gender even though most of us are white." 

Yeah. I'm also being accused of perpetuating or promoting "identity politics". As if refusing to be silent about race and white supremacy has anything to do with identity politics. I welcome anyone who feels that way to respectfully engage with me on my blog about that.

I know why you do bring it up and for me the problem isn't you bringing it up--it needs to be brought up and it's only the responsibility of white people to do it. The problem is that you're so intense about it sometimes, and honestly I think triggered too because of being Jewish and your own experiences with that ethnic bigotry and invisibilization, and knowledge of the history, that you do it in a way that frightens or triggers women: you become "the visibly angry man" in the space. 

Not just that. I am realising I also become the man who seems to be judging women harshly. Yet another male in the white women's lives who is judging them without knowing them well. But what I'm judging harshly is the white supremacy, not the white women personally.

You know, when this plays out with gender, white radical feminists are usually pretty clear that men should learn to take criticism about the politics of their gender and not take it personally, as if it's a personal attack. But the difference here--you know the difference, right? I don't have to spell it out, I hope.

The difference is that I'm a male doing it in female-majority spaces. I realise it's not the oppressed person challenging their oppressor, in which case the politic, the ethic, ought to be the one Pearl Cleage describes [in her book Deals With The Devil and Other Reasons to Riot]. Basically, "Listen and learn, in a posture of non-defensiveness."

Some white feminists could get the sense you go out of your way to challenge white women on racism, but let white men off the hook on that. And that you're trying to assert power over white women by doing so. Or that you're judging them as if from a superior position--like you "get it" about race and they don't.

Well, you know I also challenge white men about a lot of things including their racism. Which is why most white men won't engage with me. And I challenge men of color on their male supremacy and misogyny too.

I know that. But because that is done in spaces online that are predominantly male, white feminists won't necessarily see you do it. So I think it appears to some women like you only do this to women and that you've found this spurious way to go after women, not men.

I am realising that. Thank you for making that clearer.

Look, Julian: it's really upsetting and painful to see that racist shit play out again and again and again. Whiteness is not regularly interrogated in majority-white places. That's just the damned truth. And it's got to be different. Radically different. Andrea [Dworkin] named that shit in 1974. It was practically the first thing she wrote down when speaking as a white radical feminist. So did many radical feminists of color--correction: so DO many radical feminists of color. And there's nothing at all radical about protecting white power. And I don't think you mentioning that, as you have several times on your blog and elsewhere, is liberal, or is engaging in "identity politics." I really don't.

The same holds true with patriarchal shit in male-dominant places: there's very little commitment among men to collectively root it out. We know this. The collective commitment is to protect male power and to pretend male supremacy is a figment of feminists' imagination. I wish rape and incest and trafficking were matters of imagination. 

And the collective commitment among whites, among white women and among white men, is to protect white power, even though I've never heard any white feminist say that's what her aim is. I have heard white women decades ago say they wanted to protect "white people," though. And I have read online where men say their aim is to protect male entitlements and power. And the big-boy pornographers make a damned good living at protecting that white and male power, at promoting it as "good sex," and at unleashing it against women of all colors. It's always been the pimps and pornographers who most conflate sex and rape, not radical feminists.

It's all disgusting and I don't fault you for finding it profoundly upsetting and for feeling a need to call it out. I know you work hard to be accountable to radical feminist women you are especially close to. And I know why most of those women won't identify as "radical feminist": because the term is used so routinely by white women who, consciously or not, protect white power. I know you work to sincerely be a responsible ally to women fighting male and white supremacy. And I do hope you continue to be accountable to the women most centrally in your life, and that they continue to consider you as a solid ally. 

But I also hope you steer clear of majority-white woman spaces dedicated to feminist discussions. I hope you've learned that your ways of being there are, often enough, too upsetting or annoying or triggering for enough women--and not only white women, to make your presence not only problematic, but more to the point: not pro-feminist.

I do get that now, yes. You won't be seeing me participate, whether more or less obnoxiously, in those discussions in the future.


Now, what do you want to eat? I'm cooking.

Damn right you are! (Laughs.) 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fall 2012 Screening Schedule for "Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years"

This is being cross-posted, in full, from here:

You may also click on the title below to link back to the source website.

With thanks to Tambay A. Obenson!

Fall Screening Schedule For 'Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years' + Home Video Release Info

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 12, 2012 1:12 PM
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Previously profiled on S&A, it made its world premiere in the Panorama Documentary section at the Berlin Film Festival in February, and last screened at the Blackstar Film Festival in Philly last week.

Now Dagmar Shultz's Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 will continue its screening tour, and specific dates and locations have been provided for upcoming screenings over the next few months, in the USA.

So if you're interested in seeing it, take a look at the schedule below and find out if it'll be coming to your neck of the woods. I especially encourage you folks in the USS to attend these screenings if in you're area, and if you're interested in seeing the film, because, a message posted on the film's Facebook page yesterday stated that:

Home video distribution in North America is not clear yet, but will follow soon after.

"Soon after" being after Third World Newsreel releases the film to the education market in September. So, if you don't see it at one of the below screenings, it may end up being some time before you are actually able to, since it's not clear when it'll become available on home video for you to rent or purchase.

It's stated that the DVD will have some special features including Audre reflecting on her work two months before her passing, Audre in conversation with Ellen Kuzwayo, deleted scenes and more. 

As a recap... the film focuses on...

Audre Lorde's years in Berlin in which she catalyzed the first movement of Black Germans to claim their identity as Afro-Germans with pride. As she was inspiring Afro-Germans she was also encouraging the White German feminists to look at their own racism

The trailer for the film is embedded below; and underneath the trailer, see the upcoming USA screening schedule:

Fall 2012 USA Audre Lorde Film & Cultural Festival tour

University of Hawai’i The complete program of the Festival
Contact: Prof. Christina Gerhardt
Sept. 20 & 21
University of California, Berkeley Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germanyand screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Contact: Alisa Bierria
Sept. 25
Sonoma State University Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Contact: Prof. Michaela Grobbel
Sept. 27
Goethe-Institut, San Francisco
Berlin and Beyond” film festival
Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germanyand screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Film: Director Sabine Erlenwein, Geothe-Insititut
Reading: Dr. Marion Gerlind, Gerlind Insititute for Cultural Studies
Sept. 29
University of Illinois at Chicago Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany Contact: Proof. Elizabeth Loentz
Oct. 2
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois The complete program of the Festival
Contact: Proof. Anna Parkinson
Oct. 3 & 4
Harvard University, DuBois Institute 
Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Contact: Dr. Abby Wolf
Oct. 9
University of Massachusetts
Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Contact: Proof. Sara Lennox
Oct. 10 - Reading
Oct. 11 - Screening
Hunter College, NY
Reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and screening of “Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992”
Contact: Rupal Oza
Oct. 16
(click here to download this schedule)
The complete Program of the festival includes:
The films:
  • A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde by Ada Griffin and Michelle Parkinson
  • The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde by Jennifer Abod
  • Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story by Maria Binder
  • Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz
The reading by Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany

Friday, August 10, 2012

Andrea Dworkin, Male Supremacy, and the Persistent Refusal of Men to Engage Intelligently with the work of Feminist Philosophers

cover of book is from here
Andrea analysed the sexual politics of The Story of O in her first feminist book, Woman Hating (1974).

What follows are a couple of responses I posted to a man; I read them on a discussion-based website dedicated to the life and work of a colleague of Andea Dworkin's named Michael Moorcock. The particular discussion thread is about Andrea's political writings and views, including about The Story of O. For those who don't know about the colleagial relationship between Andrea and Michael, *here* is a link to a conversation between them, with thanks to Nikki Craft. And *here* is a post from this blog that includes a piece of writing Michael did about Andrea, following her death in 2005. 

I have deleted the name of the person who posted the points I take issue with. I don't believe in "outing" people for their opinions and viewpoints expressed online*. And I don't know if he'd want me putting his name, as it appears at that site, on my blog. To his credit, the remarks are unusually civil--while also deeply woman-hating. Most men who critique Andrea Dworkin online do so using more openly and virulently misogynistic language. It is because the website doesn't seem to encourage snark and nastiness as predominant values that I felt comfortable to post my own comments there. Most men at that site seem to regard Andrea as an important political philosopher.

*An upcoming post will deal with this a bit more.

Each response I wrote I also gave a title, as that's the format there.

Dworkin didn't say its because of our genitals that women, through sex, are degraded

Originally Posted by ****
To be entirely honest, as much as I can sympathize that porn, especially in the production end of its business cycle, is powerfully exploitive of women and that most forms of commercial porn focus, indirectly or otherwise, on a very narrow, often ugly bandwidth of sexuality, I find a lot of Dworkin's pronouncements baffling. When she asserts that, because of the accidental structure of the male/female genitalia, violence and degradation are unalterably implicit in sex, it's seems more the wounded mysticism of a damaged child than any reasonable argument.
I don't see that as her analysis. I see her analysis directing us to radically alter the social and political arenas in which males and females live, wherein females are regarded socially as both inferior to and "for" males. Her analysis doesn't discuss what life might be like outside male supremacy: she is dealing with the structural and systemic political realities most, if not all, women and men live in. Her work is often misunderstood and assumed to be unreasoned by people who don't take the time to read what she wrote. 
On assuming self-hate as a condition of being oppressed

Originally Posted by ****
It's statements of her's like that about some presumed ubiquity of self-hate among oppressed or exploited peoples that lead me to dismiss most of her arguments. It reads, obnoxiously, as if she's projecting her own self-hate onto people who conduct themselves bravely, stoically in pretty brutal situations. The Story of O has nothing to say about the legitimate sufferings of people like those of Occupied Palestine or Darfur.....
I'm wondering if you hold a similarly dismissive view of the work of Frantz Fanon, and many other anti-racism activists who write about how self-hatred and/or self-negation is part and parcel of being systematically oppressed. And I'm curious about why you move so quickly into psychoanalysing her, rather than dealing with her arguments directly including by quoting her work.

Responding to the latter part of your comment, I think there is a connection between The Story of O and literature addressing the experiences of other occupied people, if we understand the The Story of O to be a book about how deep oppression goes. The sufferings of oppressed people who deeply internalise the views of ourselves held by our oppressors is not, in my view, illegitimate. The fact that some oppressed groups of people have more physical distance from their oppressors than do women across a lifetime doesn't mean we can't examine what oppressed people have in common. In my experience, the intricacies of male supremacy are generally and usually ignored by men who benefit structurally if not also interpersonally from it. And men often address as "serious" or "important" only the forms of oppression that include populations of men as "the oppressed". When the focus is on how men and boys intimately and institutionally oppress women and girls, it is often considered "not relevant" in one way or another, to discussions and activism addressing gross systemic violence.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Politics of Cultural Appropriation

image of  "American Indian" "wallpaper" is from here

What follows is a typically LONG comment I left on a blog called "Race Files", linked to *here*. I encourage you to read the conversation there. Yes, being white, middle class, and male means I feel very entitled to blather on and on about things, and, often enough, I act accordingly. 

Hi Scot. I just read your post and the comments here. I have several thoughts to add to the conversation. First, I want to commend you on keeping the focus on the political contexts in which cultural appropriation happens. For me, there are a few key issues that I try and keep central when considering this stuff.

One is: who politically benefits from such appropriations? Who is left with more or less than what they had? What are the larger patterns of appropriation and exploitation? Are those patterns part of something else that is less easily disguised as innocuous or innocently done (such as genocide)?

Another key issue, speaking as a middle class white gay Jewish male, is this: what assumptions are carried, usually unconsciously or insensitively, into the process of appropriating others' cultures?

I agree with a commenter above: I'd also say that learning from great thinkers and activists about oppression and resistance isn't "appropriation". Keeping in mind the first key issue, you are using this knowledge to co-create a less oppressive world WITH marginalised people, not just FOR yourself.

I see many middle class whites with Native American, Asian, and Caribbean art and "artifacts" in their possession. They will speak very positively about those cultures and admire the artwork. And I wonder: what do you offer to those cultures and to the people, collectively, who make the art you consume and enjoy? Because what a one-time or regular "collector" paid an individual artist or seller for the artwork isn't a way of responsibly and ethically being with other people with less social privilege and political power. It is an expression of the advantage, the privilege, and the power. This isn't to say that owning the artwork is "bad"; the money one paid for the artwork was likely needed by the artist (this is also true for most white artists I know). It is to say it is part of something beyond but inclusive of the act that is more insidious and hideous.

I learned as a white person to consume despised-while-coveted cultures in a very white supremacist/male supremacist/capitalist way, with great regard for what such acquisition could do for me, and with little to no consideration of what I ought to be offering in return. My people didn't encourage me learn what the conditions were and are that led me to be able to be that kind of consumer or coveter; instead, they taught and encouraged the behavior; after all, it serves the rulers of the oppressive status quo by mimicking their most horrible acts without revealing the rulers' bloody hands.

I see many white middle class people practice New Age spirituality which sloppily and grossly (racistly or "whitely") appropriates practices that may or may not be Indigenous North American. Workshops are offered or classes are taught, never to Indigenous people; only to other whites. The goal is to enrich the lives of whites, to make "culturally deprived" white lives seem more fulfilled, and maybe to cut a profit while doing so. But the capitalist/male supr./white supr. practice of taking-without-giving, and taking-without-asking, operates under an overarching assumption that the world is "for" me not "with" me; it exists to plunder and pillage; bodies exist to be exploited and raped. This is the problem. Appropriating more and more, consuming more and more, is not likely to be a solution--surely not an ethical, responsible, or considerate one. Lorde's caution to us, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house", comes to mind.

The most central global atrocity, to me, is this: white/Western/Anglo and male supremacist "cultures" are built on the backs, brains, and blood of other cultures and people. The ruling classes mass murder, exploit, rape, and otherwise seek to steal from, deplete, and destroy, people and their/our ways of being as well as their/our natural "resources", including stealing and polluting land bases intimately and intricately tied to the cultures being destroyed.

Middle class whites purchasing stocks of corporations that commit genocide for retirement, and whites teaching "Native Ways", and white het men purchasing corporate, for-profit pornography or renting girls or adult women, usually poor, often of color, for sexual assault named "consensual" and "harmless" by the men, all contribute to genocide and gynocide. In my experience, men don't encourage other males to learn what the conditions were and are that led us to be able to be that kind of consumer; instead, we teach and encourage the behavior in other males.

In this view, these practices are all part of a dominant US white/male supremacist culture: these practices define, delineate, replicate, and enforce that culture. These practices, and so many others, tell us what it exists, fundamentally if not only, to do. Ignorance, sometimes feigned or willed, and arrogance, often denied, are two crucial ingredients of that culture.

So, for example, whites appropriate Indigenous North American cultures without understanding the history of whites forcing Native Americans to either give up their own cultures, "adopt" the dominant culture (religion and language, for example), or perish. Another example: men consume corporate pornography as if the people in the pictures or videos aren't as real as the consumer and without regard for the conditions that led the prostituted person to be in front of a camera to begin with. Are girls and women and LGBTIQA people across gender made to fear homelessness and poverty, or are they/we beaten or killed if they/we don't do what pimps (with or without cameras) want? The women I know who have endured and survived such abuses say racist and misogynistic threat and force are endemic and systematic: requisite and definitive rather than anecdotal or apolitically "unfortunate". And of course too often they/we are made homeless, are impoverished, are beaten, raped, and killed for doing exactly what the pimps want, which is, after all, to be a thing for him and other men to possess, use up, and discard--dead or alive.

Whites and the rich appropriate, steal, and consume the lives and cultures of people of color and the poor, including through slavery and mass murder. Men appropriate, steal, and consume girls and women, including women's sexuality and labor, including through slavery and mass murder. We do not share or borrow. We certainly do not "give back". "White-giver" or "Anglo-giver" ought to replace the deeply racist term, "Indian-giver".

I believe these realities ought not be obscured or ignored when the conversations happen. I believe those of us with at least one foot in a structurally oppressive position, if not also a hand, a home, and a retirement account, must strive to continually arrive at less exploitive, less oppressive, less lethal ways of being while challenging and transforming those larger structures and systems of harm and horror. Thank you for not putting these issues aside in your discussion here and in your work beyond the internet.

Post script:
I'll add this question to the discussion: do whites' and men's seemingly non-terroristic acquisitions, purchases, and collections of Asian, African, Pacific Island, Caribbean, Latina/o, and Indigenous cultures contribute to and reinforce the problem of Western white and male supremacist imperialism and terrorism, or do they work against it?