Archive for the ‘food for thought’ Category

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We Make No Pretence : An Anarcha-Feminist Critique

June 11, 2009

This is the text read at out the plenary meeting of the Anarchist Conference 09 during an intervention by a masked group of women who were pissed off by the patriarchy which is (still) evident within the anarchist movement. The video projection which was shown during the intervention is available on Youtube.

http://nopretence.wordpress.com/

This is what was said.

“We make no pretence. This is a conference by and for anarchists. And by anarchists, we mean those opposed to the state, all forms of nationalism, capitalism, sexual/race/gender oppression and all forms of exploitation and domination,” Anarchist Movement Conference 09 Call Out

This is our response.

We have taken this space and projected this short film to show how we see sexism in ‘the movement’ and sexism in capitalist society. We have covered our faces in the same way we might do against the state and its agents – inspired by the tradition of our militant sisters who took back male-dominated stages, and political spaces.

We expect hostility, intimidation and greater surveillance after our action. Covering up makes it easier to communicate. And we know that our message is much bigger than the messenger herself.

The following text is our response to the four themes of the conference.

MOVEMENT or why we aren’t one

No matter how much we aspire to be ‘self-critical’ there is a clear lack of theorising and concrete action around sexism, homophobia and racism in the anarchist movement. We do not feel that the content and structure of the conference deal with gender and we’re tired of asking for space – we’re taking it ourselves.

You want to talk about history? Let’s stop pretending that feminism is a short blip in the history of political struggles. The feminism you know may be the one that has been dominated by white middle-class liberal politics – NOT the struggles and pockets of revolutionary resistance missing from our political pamphlets and ‘independent’ media. The feminism of Comandanta Yolanda, of bell hooks, of Anzaldua, of Mbuya Nehanda, of Angela Davis, of Rote Zora, of Mujeres Libres…

CLASS or is anybody out there?

We are all oppressed by the class system, but there is nobody ‘out there’ who isn’t also oppressed by white supremacy, imperialism, heterosexism, patriarchy, ableism, ageism…Pretending these systems don’t exist or can be subsumed into capitalist oppression, doesn’t deal with the problem, it just silences those people most oppressed by them, and allows for the continuing domination of these systems over our lives.

We are tired of being told that anarchists don’t need to be feminists, because ‘anarchism has feminism covered’. This is just a convenient way of forgetting the reality of gender oppression, and so ignoring the specifics of the struggle against it.

RESISTANCE or are we futile?

If the anarchist movement doesn’t recognize the power structures it reproduces, its resistance will be futile. For as well as fighting sexism ‘out there’ we must fight sexism ‘in here’ and stop pretending that oppressive systems disappear at the door of the squat or the social centre. Only a movement that understands and fights its own contradictions can provide fertile ground for real and effective resistance.

Ask yourselves this – do you believe sexism exists within the movement? When a woman comrade says she’s experienced sexual abuse or assault from a male comrade – what do you think? That it’s an individual or an isolated case? Or that it can happen – and disproportionately to women – because there is a system which allows it to develop and gives it life? Can we honestly say that our own autonomous spaces do not play a part in upholding this system?

Ask yourselves this – Why do fewer women speak in meetings? Because they think less? What is the gender of the factory worker? Why do more women do the washing up and run creches at meetings/events? What is the gender of the carer at home?

Now tell us if you believe sexism exists: tell us why men rape; why more women are battered than men; why more women are used by the state to do free and unwaged work. Tell us – are you a feminist?

We believe that in the anarchist movement, the strongest evidence of sexism lies in the choice we’re told to make between ‘unity’ and what-they-call ‘separatism’, between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Fuck that! We refuse to be seen as stereotypes of ‘feminists’ you can consume – like fucking merchandise in the capitalist workplace.

IDEAS INTO REALITY and what’s in between?

There will be no future for the anarchist movement if it doesn’t also identify as an anarcha-feminist movement. Anarcha-feminist organisational structures must exist within the movement to make anarcha-feminism an integral part of it. And you don’t need to identify as a woman to be an anarcha-feminist – every anarchist should be able to participate in the struggle against sexism.

The state’s incursion into our private lives and the relationship between sexuality and productivity from which it profits affects people of all genders. The gender binary system violently allocates us roles on the basis of our anatomy. A refusal to accept even these basic precepts will be a great hindrance to the movement.

You ask, ‘Can we find common cause despite our differences?’. We will only find common cause if we recognize that our differences are structured by numerous oppressive systems, and together fight to end each of these systems, wherever we find them.

Our feminisms must be plural, they must be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic. Our inspiration must come from the actions of feminists who have helped self-identified women reach revolutionary consciousness.

Our feminisms must be revolutionary.

Final word

You can pretend we didn’t come here, pretend nothing was said.

You can purposefully misunderstand us.

Or you can ask yourselves why we came, what we meant, and whether we’ll come back again.

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Riots, Not Diets!

February 9, 2009

Written by Emily Frances and originally published in Fight Boredom #3, we only thought it apt that we re-publish it here, especially since we have, in the previous post, touched on beauty standards and the scrutiny of female celebrities in pop culture. Is punk culture a separate entity from the dominant culture? We’d like to think so, but the reality is that the former is ensconced in the latter, and if we want to change the world, we must first look within.

The below article opines on an issue which is oft-unrecognized and possibly taboo in the punk/radical/anarchist community, albeit from a Western perspective, but is still extremely pertinent and needs to be addressed.

What do you picture when you think of the ideal radical?

I’ll tell you what we come up with in my community. Skinny, white, pretty, young. Messy hair, tight clothes covered in patches. Unshaven. Piercings and tattoos. This is the unspoken “beauty” standard in radical communities.

In Raleigh, the wingnuts mental health collective, along with the Cooch Care women’s health collective, organized an event called “Riots Not Diets: A Day of Radical Body Acceptance”. That is the first thing we talked about. What are the standards of appearance in the radical community? What happens if you don’t fit the mold? And what kind of pressure does it put on people who don’t fit those standards?

In mainstream culture, it’s acceptable — and actually expected — to hate the way you look, especially if you’re a woman. If you eat more than a salad, you’re supposed to grasp at your stomach and exclaim, “oh, I shouldn’t have eaten so much!” You’re supposed to talk about how little you’re going to eat the next day, and how much you’re going to exercise. These things are normal. But in the radical community, we’re supposed to be “above” these things. We know all the right answers, we know all about oppression. We, as feminists, know that the diet industry — and all of advertising, really — is patriarchal, capitalist bullshit. We know these things.

But the fact is that, even in our communities, there is still a hierarchy based on appearance. So not only is there pressure to look a certain way, but there’s pressure to act like we don’t care about beauty standards.

So we know these things, they make sense on paper, or in our conversations around the dinner table. But when I go to conferences, people avoid me because I’m fat and kind of dress like a hippie. And suddenly, I feel like shit. Because these activists, these supposedly enlightened people, assume something about me that they don’t like. Maybe they think that I’m lazy and greedy. I couldn’t possibly bike or be vegan. Obviously. Because I’m fat. What the fuck, y’all?

It all started when I read this article online about eating disorders in radical communities. I found it about a week ago after a close friend (and housemate in our activist collective) went into an eating disorders treatment facility, and it hit so close to home that I read it five times in one day. I brought it to the mental health collective and shared it with them. It sparked a big conversation, which turned into planning the event.

So after talking about the beauty standards, we talked about eating disorders in the radical community. I know five people, off the top of my head, who are dealing with an eating disorder of some kind. They’re all anarchists who should, supposedly, be above that. Right? Obviously not. Because none of us were raised in complete isolation from society, we got all the brainwashing that everyone else did. We still have voids that we fill with food. Even more so, being hyperaware of the evils of the world, we still feel like we need to be in control of something, and for some people, that something becomes food.

The question that came up in the workshop was, what can we do? What needs to be done? Can we fight someting like this, when it’s still such a taboo topic? Two different women said, “This. Discussions, events like this. We need to get rid of the shame around all of this. We need to talk. This event is exactly what we need right now.” And my eyes teared up, because, shit, we did something right.

So that’s what you can do. Talk about it, don’t assume that your friends are “too smart” to fall into these traps, or that they know too much about the patriarchal bullshit media to succumb to those pressures. If there’s open dialogue, then people will be more aware, and more importantly, they’ll know that it’s not taboo. So when they start to feel weird about their bodies, or get weird food habits, they’ll know who they can go to and say, “hey, can you check it on me?” They’ll know that they’re not the only ones dealing with it. If we get these topics out in the open [without judgement], they won’t feel so ashamed, and people won’t be so afraid to ask for the help they need.

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Article 8

January 12, 2009

This is a short film about the LGBTIQ community in KL which features the likes of Shannon Shah, Juelie Koh, Lainie Yeoh and a few other activists and/or movers and shakers in the community. The film was shot and edited in two weeks with the intention to submit it for the Yogyakarta LGBT Human Rights Festival. First screened at Lil Ladyfest, KL, Article 8 is also a response to the Fatwa against Tomboys.

Other links:

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Punk vs. Sexism and Abuse

January 12, 2009

Recently, someone posted this article (originally from Profane Existence #45, which we will reproduce below) on the LIONCITYDIY.COM forum which sparked off a (still ongoing, from the looks of it) much heated debate. Perhaps readers of the blog would like to take a look and contribute to the discussion at hand. What constitutes “sexism”? Do you think sexism exists in the DIY hardcore-punk scene? If so, what are the various steps we can take as a community to further anti-sexist discourse, and ultimately combat sexism, or is that an utopian ideal? Feel free to also post your thoughts here.

Since it’s early days, the punk movement has been one of “Do It Yourself” rebellion against the status quo. It was a rebellion against the stagnant music industry, who churned out predictable albums from one “super group” after another for mass consumption. Punk also had a very deeply political message, which rallied against the conservative politics of the 1970’s. Punk was about smashing down the old power structures and replacing them with something more democratic and more socially responsible.

By the late 1970’s, a more politically active punk movement began to embrace the ideas of anarchism and equality in a much more serious light. This anarcho-punk move-ment spread around the world and is at the very root of what the DIY punk movement is today. Obviously early examples of anarchist and egalitarian messages can be found in the lyrics of CRASS, Poison Girls, Dead Kennedys etc. There are also numerous examples of these politics influencing other punk rock institutions and into the pages of its magazines. Maximumrockandroll, while not explicitly anarchist, embraced many of the politics and ideals and has been published continuously since 1983. More bands, collectives, magazines, etc. have followed these examples, at least in spirit, if not always in practice.

Yet 25 years later, the punk movement has not come much closer to creating true equality within its own circles, let alone brought mainstream society to a more egalitarian state. It’s evident that a few token lyrics and tired slogans aren’t enough to create true equality among the sexes. The lack of follow through from lyrics and slogans into every day practice is the key reason for this failure. Coupled with this, is the inherent inability of many of the participants in the movement to recognize or even understand that a problem exists. The punk movement is by and large a male dominated chorus, while the female voices are drowned out, ignored, ridiculed, or labelled extremist (such as the Riot Grrrl movement of the late 90’s).

Bands, shows, participants in collectives and spaces have a lack of women involved in the decision making processes. When women do show up, they have often not been taken seriously; often their views and ideas are muffled by the long upheld male dominated voice of the scene. The rare key woman participant has almost come to represent token equality, but in reality this is often not the case. Women are often not given credit for their ideas, actions, and labor.

In the early days of Profane Existence, women in the collective fought hard to be taken seriously. The men, had a hard time recognizing that they held a position of power, and for many it was the first time they had worked with women on a basis of purported equality. We have all been brought up in a society where only men have important leadership roles and this baggage followed us into punk. The men of the collective were forced to unlearn their roles and develop ways in which women were allowed equal voice and equal participation. We also found that without rigorously keeping to the ideals of equality, that things could easily revert to the male chorus.

In other collectives, where male dominance has not been taken seriously and addressed, women have become disenchanted, ceased participating, and have left. We have heard this complaint time and time again from female participants of numerous collective organizations (stores, distros, gig spaces, etc.). Who can blame them when they are interrupted at meetings, their opinions ignored or ridiculed by other members, or are flat out told that they’re not qualified to make decisions?

Even once the sexism was being worked on from within, it was still experienced from without. One former collective member at Profane Existence hung up the phone on one asshole who ran a record label, because he insisted that he only talk with the “guy who ran the distro.” This guy just couldn’t believe that the woman who answered the phone was equally qualified to answer questions and make business decisions. As recently as the PE benefit show in November, women played an important role in setting up and running the show, but felt they were not equally recognized for their efforts.

This leads to the wide-spread assumption that men run all of the important projects and are more knowledgeable about punk. As told by a female volunteer at Extreme Noise Records, on numerous occasions, customers won’t listen to advise on “what is good,” unless it came from a male volunteer. Chris from Slug & Lettuce zine has had to qualify her name in print as Chris(tine) to stop the assumption that she’s male.

In addition to a lack of recognition and equal participation we have fallen short as a movement in the creation of safe spaces. Sexist remarks and abusive behaviors such as unwanted physical contact and demeaning comments prevail. In fact, they are even accepted as normal, just like mainstream society. The meaning behind the lyrics and slogans painted on jackets scream a call for equality, but in reality they are nothing more than empty promises. While we decry the inequalities found in the world, they continue in our midst.

Further, punk has fostered a place that can often be a safe place for the abusers. The reason is that they are protected by their friendships, accomplishments, scene credibility, not to mention the deep mistrust of authorities and the legal system. In addition we often lack ability, power, or a unified strategy to enact change against such inequalities or behaviors in our own midst. This situation has been played out in the pages of punk magazines over and over, most recently in the columns of Arwen Curry in MRR and Adrienne Droogas in PE.

At this point, we want to make clear that this is an article about sexism, and NOT about or even against sexuality. We here at Profane Existence are all for freedom of sexuality, which we promote and practice as often as we can! However, sexuality is something to be practiced in a consensual, non-exploitative manner that respects the rights of all individuals. We have outlined what we feel are a basic set of rights for all individuals and are listed in detail later in this article.

Also, we are not trying to say that punk hasn’t made an effort to erase sexism from our movement. When you compare punk to other genres of modern music (metal, rock, hip hop, etc), we have made great strides. However, as a serious social movement, we have a long way to go.

ROOT CAUSES OF SEXISM AND ABUSE
Sexism can be blamed on the socio-historical reality that men maintain a position as the dominant gender. This domination is called patriarchy—an artificial relationship of the sexes where males are in a dominant role. Throughout most of recorded history men have maintained this power in everything from laws, traditions, and plain old brute force. Women are treated as second class citizens; it is only in very recent history that women have made serious gains in the struggle for equality that has been going on for thousands of years.

To this day patriarchy asserts itself in many ways. Men have been resistant to give up control and domination. They have a lot to lose, in that, achieving equality would mean sharing the other half of wealth and power. This resistance has manifested itself in blatant forms as recently as the 20th century, for instance denying women the right to vote, own property, receive an inheritance, or receive equal pay (which still holds true today).

Today more subtle forms of control perpetuate patriarchy. We still continue to live according to biased gender roles. Women as are still viewed as sexual objects and as property. Leadership roles are discouraged, if not in theory then in practice. The lack of females in powerful political or business positions is accepted as the norm. Even in such things as professional and amateur sports, women are relegated to second class participants or placed in a supporting role. There has been far less recognition and sponsorship for proffessional women’s sports associations and specific sports programs for women at universities. The huge disparity between male and female graduate students in scientific fields lends credibility to arguments that the educational system teaches men and women differently, reinforcing these roles from early age.

Women are still encouraged to assume the role of caretaker for children and household and maintain traditional societal visions of femininity. They are not encouraged to be the primary bread winner and still statistically receive less pay and fewer promotions in the work place. This is why it is not surprising to hear stories of women who are penalized in the work place for deciding to have children or take maternity leave.

Other more aggressive forms of control and domination permeate our society, through both covert and overt verbal and physical abuse. Our society has been molded to view women based upon their physical appearance and the perceived submissive gender role. Women are taught to believe that this is normal. They are led to believe that they must maintain a certain appearance based on social precedence, this being the repetitive depiction of the so-called “perfect” woman free from imperfections: blemishes, body fat, body hair, etc. This perpetuates negative body image, low self esteem, eating disorders, dieting, and plastic surgery of women trying to obtain this notion of beauty. Don’t believe this? Check out the propoganda displayed at the checkout counter at the grocery store, or on billboards, on television commercials, etc. Our society is bombarded with visions of what women are supposed to look like in order to be perceived as attractive.

And women are bombarded with reactions from men who feel they have the right to make comments based on physical appearance. Whether a woman fits into this so-called version of beauty dictated by mainstream society, or not, the fact remains that men feel it is ok to publicly comment on a woman’s appearance. These demeaning behaviors reinforce this submissive role and can be viewed as a type of low-level warfare. The weapons used include cat calls, inappropriate looks, comments in public from strangers, lewd comments from friends, unwanted advances or attention because of dress or appearance. On the other hand, they can be used as a put down by commenting on so-called unattractive attributes, for example, weight, alternative dress, or even for possessing self-confidence. These are daily occurences that women endure on the street, in schools, in the workplace, and even at home. Regardless of the intention of the comment (whether it be “nice ass” or “you’re ugly”), these actions presume that a woman’s appearance is up for public discussion and ultimately reinforce demeaning behavior.

The further escalation of control over women by men is in the form of physical abuse. Gender roles have already taught men that they must be physically strong in order to compete and control. Any emotions other than anger are traditionally viewed as a sign of weakness in men. Often, they are unprepared for anything but a violent response when their domination and/or authority is confronted. This escalation is an ingrained male response and is documented by federal crime statistics that show that men perpetrate almost all violent assaults, whether the victim is male or female.

Sexual abuse is the oldest tried and true means of asserting control and domination. This is NOT strictly defined as forced sexual intercourse (rape), but ALL forms of coerced sexual contact or exploitation. Almost everybody knows someone that has been a victim. Sadly, it continues at an alarming rate and is often not reported. Sexual abuse occurs in many forms and levels of aggressiveness that vary in degrees, but include unwanted physical advances from a stranger, family member, friend or partner, and are often accompanied by other acts of physical or emotional abuse.

At this point, we would like to point out that emotional abuse is even more wide-spread than physical or sexual abuse. Emotional abuse is another form of control and most often occurs in close, personal situations (partners, friends, family, workplace, etc.). It has equally damaging results, but in a non-violent means. In the context of this primer, the following examples apply (but most certainly are not limited to): Ignored your feelings or made fun of them, put down women as a group (examples — called them crazy, emotional, stupid, weak, or incompetent), constantly criticized and called you names, yelled and screamed at you, ignored you in social situations… escalating to the level of threats of physical violence, suicide, etc.

Ultimately, the results of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are detrimental to the victim’s mental and physical well-being. These consequences are often life long and life threatening; victims suffer from such things as mental anguish, guilt, anger, lack of trust, fear, low self esteem, etc. that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Many women have suffered further because they have difficulties confronting their abusers, who often go unpunished. They cannot tell the police due to the well-founded fear that they will not be believed or that they will be blamed.

EFFECTS IN THE PUNK MOVEMENT
Almost a mirror of general society, the punk movement is riddled with the same problems of patriarchy. These range from in your face oppression to much more subtle forms of dominance. The end result is still the same; the continuation of male dominance and perpetuation of inequality. Whether the end result is disenfranchisement from the movement, non-allowance to participate, or even emotional and physical scars, the end result is the creation of victims. Ultimately this has cut our potential community participation in half by allowing this activity to continue.

When confronted with the subject of sexism in the punk community, there are those that take the problem seriously and those that do not. Those that take it seriously are derided as pc fanatics, liars, feminazis, or worse. The other camp often responds—or doesn’—by turning a blind eye to these events. By not confronting the reality of these situations, a dangerous silence is created. PATRIARCHY DOES EXIST and by being silent about it is a tacit show of your support. If you aren’t actively fighting against it, then you are helping to maintain it.

All too often, we see sexist behavior happen within the punk community. Language, physical objectification, and unwanted advances are only occasionally confronted by women, and almost never by men. This lack of confrontation of sexist attitudes and behaviors gives the false impression that they should be tolerated. Even in mainstream society this should not happen, but confrontation should be automatic within our “enlightened” community.

Punk women are wary of reporting verbal and physical abuse and rape to “authority” figures, but are also just as wary to voice it amongst their peers. When they do speak up, they are not believed or supported. Further, they may be ostracized or ridiculed, especially if the attacker is well known (for example, is in a popular band or project). There have been numerous incidences of abuse and rape in the punk community, commited by punks, who continue to get away with their actions. We have proven ourselves to be ill-equipped to handle this, although there are real victims whose lives have been forever altered because of these events.

People who have spoken out against their attackers have been dealt such a backlash that they have ended friendships, dropped out of the punk scene, or moved to other cities. Why would women want to participate, when it’s own ranks perpetuate unsafe environments and blame the victims? Why would anyone that claims to strive for equality of the sexes?

For years, people have been excusing such behavior with lame explanations such as “We were drunk”, “We were young”, etc. Many of these people are still around today and some enjoy positions of respect in the punk community. Meanwhile, victims suffer long lasting effects, further hurt by the calloused attitudes of denial by others in the punk movement.

As Adrienne wrote in her last column in Profane Existence, “There are men in the punk scene that I know who have sexually assaulted women. There’s the guy in the band that tearfully told me about how he had drunken sex with a girl in a front yard and she was crying and obviously not into it and he did it anyway. There’s the guy who’s all over MTV who told me about how he used to get girls wasted drunk and then fuck them. Or the guy who runs the record label who took my friend home when she was drunk and even when she said no to him over and over again, still forced her. She graphically described to me how she was saying no while he was forcing his way inside her body. These are men in bands that you would recognize in a heartbeat. Men that are high profile and respected in the punk scene. Men that write for the fanzines that you read. All of these events that were shared with me happened many, many years ago and a couple of the men expressed deep remorse, regret, and guilt over what happened. So is that a reason to keep silent? Will these men be banned from the punk scene and made to suffer as the women they assaulted suffered? As far as I can tell from all the times that issue has come up within the punk scene, no. No, they will not suffer. No, they will not pay a price. No, they will not lose any of their esteem and worth within the punk scene. No, they will not be ostracized and punished.”

PUNKS FIGHT BACK
The real weakness of the punk movement’s efforts to fight against inequality is its decentralized nature. The lack of any kind of movement-wide authority to hold abusers accountable for their actions has meant that they can continue to get away with it. This is not an advocation in any means toward creating any kind of punk policing institutions or governing body. Instead, a tactic for confronting sexism and abuse should be tailor made to fit the movement. To do this, empowerment for fighting back against sexism and patriarchy must be made on the basest level on up: individual ª collective ª movement.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ve broken down what we feel are basic fundamental rights and responsibilities aimed at individual empowerment:

— Respect for self and others.
— Responsibility and accountability for one’s actions.
— Commitment to work across gender lines against sexism and towards equality.
— Creating safe places and respecting women’s only spaces and events.
— Raising a voice against sexism and abuse.
— Self-defense, defense of safe spaces, and each other.
— Recognize that the fight against sexism is a part of an overall struggle against tyranny which also includes racism, homophobia, etc.

1. Respect yourself and others:
We must treat ourselves and others as we would want other people to treat us. Respect other people’s wishes in regards to comfort level. We must not place others in situations that we would not like to be in ourselves. Threats or physical violence are not acceptable means of forcing our wills onto others. No means no.

Respect should also be given when women speak out on sexism and sexist situations. This should also include respecting the voice of the victim. If a victim makes a public accusation about sexist behavior, abuse, or rape, they should be taken seriously.

2. Responsibility and Accountability:
Each one of us is responsible for our individual actions and their implications. Each of us must be held accountable for the situations we create and perpetuate. Each of us is responsible to our peers as well as ourselves. We all should be willing to accept criticism and critique and take actions to improve. We should be responsible in letting others know when they are crossing boundaries. Similarly, we will be held accountable for not being responsible in our interaction toward others.

3. Working together across gender lines against sexism and toward equality:
We need to accept the fact that the whole community, men and women, are negatively impacted by the effects of sexism. Therefore, it is the responsibility of both men and women to take these issues seriously and strive to eliminate them. We must acknowledge male privilege and help create situations where women feel safe and are allowed equal participation.

There are numerous means in which to establish sexism-free environments (groups, collectives, etc.) that have been proven effective. First and foremost is the idea of direct democracy where all participants have equal voice. To ensure democracy, regular meetings should be held where all members are allowed to participate. Within these meetings, there are certain tools that can be used to ensure that the democratic process prevails. These include Robert’s Rules of Order or similarly, using moderators and agendas for facilitating discussions, self-facilitation, establishing, posting, and distributing collective guidelines for acceptable behavior, regularly discussing and reviewing guidelines, and establishing methods to deal with situations counter to acceptable behavior.

4. Create safe (sexism and abuse-free) places:
As individuals and as a community we should strive to create and maintain spaces that are free from discrimination. This includes public spaces such as live shows, infoshops, venues, and collectives. Appropriate declarations of sexism-free environments should be made and/ or posted.

Women’s-only spaces should be respected by men. There have been instances that have justified the creation of women’s, only spaces, for example, due to safety reasons, meetings amongst women dealing with defense against patriarchy. Ultimately, as an oppressed class, women have the right to self determination and to self-organization. Men should respect the rights of women to declare such spaces and to take control of their own lives. This should not be looked at as an attempt to create barriers, or not working across gender lines. Rather, it should be looked at as a method of empowerment for women and equal rights.

The same guidelines as used in public spaces should be applied at home as well. Domestic abuse must not be tolerated; if the home is not safe, what is? As a community, we are responsible for the well-being of all of our community members. We should hold accountable those who commit abuse behind closed doors the same way in which we hold them accountable in public.

5. Right to raise a voice against sexism:
Individuals who experience sexism or sexual abuse should feel empowered to speak out against/about it without fear of retribution. Serious accusations deserve serious response and a sincere audience. To do otherwise reinforces and perpetuates sexism in the punk community.

We as a community should take action when these situations and incidences occur. Our first line of defense is mutual support from our friends and relations. Safe places within the community should be available for meetings, discussions, and the planning of problem-solving strategies. These situations are unique and require action as determined by circumstances, but methods include public forums, educational campaigns, use of our own media outlets (i.e. message boards, magazines) to publicize and educate.

Smear campaigns against the accuser/victim must not be tolerated. Only when the victim feels that their accusation will be taken seriously will they feel able to step forward against the accused. Therefore, it must be given that they will be taken seriously and those not taking such accusations seriously stand in the way of equality and justice.

6. Right to defend selves, safe places, and each other:
Each of us as individuals have the right to defend ourselves, our friends and our safe spaces against sexism in any form. This includes confronting sexist language, behaviors, or actions. Self-defense includes verbal confrontation, expulsion from events, or physical defense when needed.

The right to self-defense is meaningless unless it is exercised. We must get into the habit of confronting and defending ourselves, friends, and safe spaces. An integral part of self-defense is preparation and readiness. Personal self-defense classes are highly recommended, as are creation of affinity groups or networks to deal with situations as they arise.

In addition, we must be ready to defend other people against sexism and abuse. One example would be helping vulnerable or intoxicated individuals get home or find a safe place (don’t leave your friend passed out on a couch at a party!). Another would be to help friends out of abusive relationships and be supportive in their efforts to leave (30% of women murdered in the U.S. are killed by intimate partners).

7. A broader struggle:
We must recognize that the fight against sexism is a part of an overall struggle against tyranny which also includes racism, homophobia, etc. This is all part of a greater struggle against hierarchy and all forms of domination and oppression.

CONCLUSION
Equality is not a mere slogan—it is a commitment. This commitment will only work when we uphold it and practice it in theory and practice it in our everyday lives. When we work toward achieving this within the punk movement, we will also be working towards achieving equality and combatting sexism in mainstream society.

This is an ongoing process that must continue to prevent backsliding into old habits. It is also essential that new members of our community be educated in not only the reasons but methods for fighting patriarchy, sexism, and sexual assault.

If each of us uses these tactics in our everyday lives, it will allow all of us a voice and a means to confront sexism (and other forms of oppression). These are a fundamental set of rights for everyone, movement wide. A general sense of respect for one another will strengthen our internal community, and provide a means to seriously start fighting back against oppression.

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A Recent Discussion About Gender Politics

December 12, 2008

A few months ago, a bit of conversation about gender politics was ignited by Douglas of 97-Shiki (who was touring these parts just this past Nov) on the LIONCITYDIY.COM forum (link to thread here):

Douglas said:

For the fest, are you going to try to have women doing the non-performing stuff too, like running the sound, making the arrangements, setting up, etc? One of the nice things at the recent Chicago CLIT fest was that women ran all the PA/sound equipment, which is a rarer sight than just women in bands. There was even a workshop about how to run/setup a PA for small shows. Just curious.

trashkore said:

Good point, about time somebody pointed that out already. Some years back i was involved in a little “collective” in Singapore that did DE-GENDER-ALIZE which was basically gender-equality events and gigs. Some stuff went well, there was healthy input by males and females. Some things didn’t go as well and (the idea of DE-GENDER-ALIZE) crumbled after sometime because some of the girls talked a hell of a lot and did nothing.

Their main initiator/coordinator was male. and when he decided not to do anything anymore, the idea went flat, [which was] a little sad.

Ever since then, any event worthy of mention would be LadyFest.

It’s nice to have a girl-centred event.

It’s even nicer to have a girl-centered, girl-initiated and girl-arranged event.

tengkorak Miang Keladi said:

When you realise that your mind and thinking is free from your physical limitations, you will be free as a sexless being. It is impossible and the biggest mistake when the mind think and function based on male and female matters. There is more than about girls and boys things around us. If you look around yourself (especially nature like plant, fish and all) there is no male and female actually; they are both the same.

That very idea that you are a boy or a girl is a condition. That’s what you should be free from.

Douglas said:

Well, yes, except the point isn’t to favor women over men, but promote confidence and self-empowerment for women. When girls and young women see nothing but men in performer/authority/technical/etc roles, then they perceive that as being told that only men can do those things, and women can’t. The point of these women/girl focused fests is to demonstrate that doesn’t have to be the case, and to encourage both genders to see men or women in these roles as normal.

trashkore said:

On a related note, I cannot do a lot of technical set ups to save my life, and I’m sure there are girls who can. I’m more of use in other things.

It would be nice to see girls do sound set-up in some gig in the near future.

There’s also always debatable arguments where males can do some things better than females and some where females are better than males but I will leave that for another thread for another time.

tengkorak Miang Keladi said:
Hi shiki, I agree with you 125%. I think we came from same thinking just that we say it differently.

Shaiful that’s what some (or most typical guys) man say about 2000 years ago. But you know, who pressure you to carry all the heavy things?

trashkore said:
I meant technical set ups, not lifting of equipment. It is a stereotype to say that technical set-up is guys’ work, and while that is generally true around the world, I learnt that I have some female friends who do that set up too.

That to me is great to know because then it breaks certain impressions of gender roles, it shows girls can contribute to such gigs beyond just performing and organizing.

My thinking with you and shiki on this is very similar.

Douglas said:
I would even say that assuming that men are better at moving equipment around than women is also discriminatory. Anytime people are told they can or can’t do something based on gender, it’s wrong. I know plenty of strong women and weak men who are capable of different acts requiring physical strength. And I have no doubt that there are plenty of women perfectly capable of setting up speakers and amplifiers. It all has to do with what the _person_ is capable of: their gender shouldn’t set the expectation.

So, brains or brawn, some men and some women can do these things, and everyone who wants to should be encouraged to try.

[ I edited this shortly after posting it, as I read your reply incorrectly trashkore! – sorry -) ]

Cher said:
At this point in time I cannot be sure if there will be women doing technical set-up for this fest, not to mention that there is a serious lack of women actively (operative word) involved in DIY hardcore-punk here, although of late I’d say that there has been a hopeful increment (although from hearsay it seems like there were a whole lot more something like 5-10 years ago?). Perhaps in time to come this number will grow! )

I shall speak for myself here. Admittedly I don’t know much about set-ups and all that jazz, and that includes equipment (d’oh!), and for a while I almost felt ashamed about it really until I realized that I had nothing to prove, and I didn’t have to be able to do the stuff that is seen solely in the realm of a man’s ‘expertise’, so to subvert the entire idea for the sake of it seemed like reinforcing the gender binary, you know? Of course, I am not resistant to learning new things, and enjoy nerdy things like that, except that I haven’t really had a chance to learn as yet, instead focusing on concentrating on what I do best, and they don’t necessarily have to fall into the realm of ‘male’ or ‘female’.

I don’t know if people are getting what I’m saying (pardon my incoherence, it’s 3 fucking AM!), but I agree with what tengkorak was saying earlier about “being free as a sexless being” though.

tengkorak Miang Keladi said:
Hi Cher. Yes there is beauty in ” being sexless”. Isn the past many amongst my friends misunderstood me as gay. I also have a friend who is almost 80% sexless being and he/she have different set of problems. It means suppression of desire which means that he/she don’t need sex and this is actually related or connected with very old practices in Taoism, Buddhism (etc) or the books that he/she reads. As you know there are many monks who cut their penises to be a monk and not only monks but something else. But this is not what I mean when I say sexless being. Sorry that I have to explain a bit because I have been dealing with this and have been trying to improve it for so many years and I think it is still a long way for me. And sorry again that this may sound “preachy”.

I think there is “wholeness” in/of the term “sexless” which is not entirely talking about sex but “the way of seeing”. How do we see things? There are many good writers who talk about this but I dont want to namedrop here. The essence of this topic “the way of seeing” is basically questioning/looking at what have been conditioned in your mind since childhood and that’s one of the first things you need to be free from. It’s not so easy because this culture of conditioning is a little bit more tha n 2 million years if I’m not exaggerating here. Most of the great buildings in the world are not made by men or women but slaves. As you know slaves have no sex in the “master’s” eye. You can also say that slaves are equal to animals and their livelihood is not “very important”.

I have a daugther who is about 9 years old now. The problem for many years is that I always forget that she is a girl until both of us go to the toilet naked and play with water (everyday). If it rains I have a raincoat for her and we go out and play also. I just want her to play with anything that will interest her. I am thinking that if there is anything I can teach her or show her which she sees we can “play” with, not so much fight with. For about 4 years my (ex) wife has been telling me that “she is a girl!”. I think I already understand that she is a girl when I saw her struggling to come out from the womb. I don’t want to keep on telling her that she is a girl. How to be a girl? How to be a boy? I can’t understand both of it. I just want to know how deep is the fear inside her and for me that’s the most important thing. To be free from fear and basically we can do anything. If the speakers are 50kg I think we can use a trolley or some shit machine to carry them. Did the ants or bee make their house with their tongue and wings? No nails, glue, screw drivers, hammers, etc. Did you notice how ants carry something very heavy considering their physical conditions?

I can’t go on here explaining but my point here is that when you think as a sexless human being; when you see ants you don’t think of the words ants or if you see green the words do not register or if you see a boy it does not mean he can carry a gun or big speakers. Basically you are free from terminology and conditioning. If you are free from terminology nothing can bring you down and that’s also when you are fearless and in fact peaceful.

My daugther always asks me, “Can I do that or this?”. It means that at home, school, etc, she is told to do things the way girls do things. And it is only when she’s with me she can do whatever she wants to do. It’s ok just do it, and I want to say it’s not about freedom but the way you see or saw things.

A man or woman is not all the time a man or woman. It’s the same with ants and whales and trees; it is depending on your way of seeing and not the way you think you understand it. A sexless being does not judge but attempts to understand and experience each individual as a being. Human being, man or boy they are not the most important existence. Not until you can see them the way they are.

Jee Lin said:
I agree. So nowadays I’ve taken a very different approach to a scenario such as this, and I can imagine that it happens at Ah Kong every night.

A boy, or man, passes by and shakes everyone’s hand but deliberately avoiding the girls.

Instead of lamenting that it is a macho-shit thing and feeling annoyed, I want to understand that mind which operates behind that gesture. I ask, “Why don’t you shake my hand?”

I think that is a first start for girls or boys to confront and respect each other, without embarassment and with a curious mind.

trashkore said:
Nice you brought up the shaking hands bit between males and females. I’ve always shaken both guys’ and girls’ hands because I see everyone as equal. From what I’ve learnt through the years from guys who dont shake girls’ hands (not just from the punk scene):

– some are due to religious reasons (mainly Islam)

– some are still always in wonderment if the girl would feel “intruded” if he shook her hand (they may be accused of trying to be “cheekopeh” — I’ve seen at least 2 guys go through that, crazy)

– some guys are just very shy around girls, nothing sexist but just something about their upbringing or personality

– some guys are also intimidated by girls and would need to “warm up” before any physical contact (even if it’s just a handshake)

Similarly it’s great to see girls who barely know one another hug as a goodbye gesture, however some are hesistant hugging guys. Similar reasons as to the points above.

As for equipment moving, I used to work in an events tech support company a few years back. My arms aren’t very strong so I used to be ridiculed for not being manly enough as I would struggle to lift speakers, amps and so forth. If there was ever an example of male-to-male sexism that was it. Ironically I don’t find it too difficult carrying things these days. The good bit about carrying amps and speakers with fellow punx is none of them is going to make macho comments and all of us have fun working together. If anything there would be someone encouraging or supporting, instead of mocking.

We have decided to share this with readers of the blog as it raises some questions about gender politics in the scene (and beyond). What does it mean for you to be a male or a female? Do you subscribe to any notions of gender? Do you deliberately subvert gender? Are “gender” and “sex” mutually exclusive or no?

Tell us your thoughts.