We are issuing a statement to express our support for the Patriarchy and the Movement event and the community members who called attention to the manifestation of patriarchy in our organizing. We support the brave individuals who stood up and spoke out against oppressive behavior during the event. We support the right of survivors and survivor-centered accountability processes. We support the rights of those facing oppression to speak out against the harm done to them and to identify those participating in oppressive behavior.
The event itself was meant to identify patterns of patriarchal oppression within the anti-capitalist movement, support survivors and promote anti-patriarchy work. During the discussion portion of the event a survivor’s attempt to identify a person who has demonstrated a pattern of oppressive, patriarchal behavior was silenced. This exchange was triggering and harmful to many of the attendees and replicated the patriarchal patterns identified earlier in the event. It also had the effect of derailing the important discussions around survivor support that had been taking place up until that point. That such behaviors took place within an event centered around dismantling those very same behaviors clearly demonstrates the need for a strong anti-patriarchy survivor-centered stance within the anti-capitalist movement.
It is often easy in theory to say that we are anti-patriarchy or anti-oppression, but it can become extremely messy and challenging to put those theories into practice when it involves those we trust, respect, and care about. As painful as it often is, we need to continue to recognize patriarchal and oppressive behaviors within our organizations, communities and ourselves. Our responses must be survivor-centered and supportive of those being harmed by patriarchy and oppression. The work of responding is EVERYONE’S work regardless of gender and should not only be the burden of those who are most oppressed by it.
We look forward to seeing our allies and Fellow Workers in the Toward Gender Equality Committee and the Portland IWW come forward and show support for anti-patriarchy work such as the Patriarchy and the Movement event. We encourage them to be proactive in recognizing and addressing the damaging forces of patriarchy in organizing as we all work to create a new world in the shell of the old.
The Patriarchy Resistance Committee,
Portland Industrial Workers of the World
“Don’t be afraid to speak up, and resist. Every time we speak out, we empower others to do the same. Don’t be intimidated by the mechanisms which are classically used to silence and discredit us. Other feminists who have had similar experiences will have your back and be there for you. We are many more than you think. Resistance begins when fear stops.” — from the statement from the “Patriarchy and the Movement” event organizers
**Editors note: This is a piece written by a close comrade about his own experiences with wartime violence, sexual assault, IV drug use, and domestic violence. I feel it adds an important voice to the community discussion about the traumatic repercussions of patriarchy in our communities so I wanted to repost it here.
Why I’m Angry
Anyone who knows me knows I’m pissed. I’m just generally a really angry person. Lately, my writing hasn’t been particularly angry, however. I’ve been trying to be thoughtful, with lots of well-considered analysis and hopeful critique. The things that we tackle day-to-day don’t just require rage, though that rage may be well-deserved. We need to really understand the problems that we face as a society and as a species– oppression, privilege, resistance, stigma, shame, capitalism, repression… these require thought and subjective understanding. Not just personal, but political.
These posts have led some strangers to question, why? Why do you call yourself One Angry Queer? My posts lately… just haven’t had my usual indignation. They have had, I like to think, a level of sophistication, of finesse.
This isn’t one of those.
I’m going to tell you why I’m angry.
I’m really fucking angry I grew up poor. I’m angry that poverty led me to live in an economically depressed area, generally, where I didn’t have access to the kind of education I others did. I had to get jobs in high school, and I’m angry that I was distracted from what I needed to do to “get ahead” in our society. I’m angry that, when it came time to graduate high school, I didn’t go to college; I was too poor and so I joined the military. I’m angry that military then sent me to a country I never thought I’d visit. I’m angry that I contributed to death there. I’m angry that while I was there I saw dead bodies that I’ll never forget; I’m angry that I once stood over a dead Iraqi woman in her twenties who had been shot in the head. I’m angry she was shot in the head. I’m angry I was ever there. I’m angry any of us were ever there.
I’m really fucking angry that this destroyed my life for so long. I’m really angry that I couldn’t handle my feelings about what I did and what was done to me and I’m angry that I didn’t feel that I could handle them out in the open. I’m angry that in my society, men are stoic and don’t talk about their bad feelings. I’m angry that in my society, gay men are supposed to be happy all the fucking time and go out and drink cocktails and hey, maybe do some blow and then we dance and entertain our straight girlfriends because my goodness! Gay men are such a good time all the fucking time.
I’m really fucking angry that I then descended into the madness of drugs, slowly and surely over the course of years. Coke at first, and then when I stopped doing that… occasionally that devil of a drug methamphetamine. It wasn’t bad at first, I was using here and there, sometimes months between uses. A weekend warrior! All under control! Of course, I’m angry that meth culture is largely without condoms and I’m really angry that I fell for that shit, oh boy am I angry, because now I have HIV and I might have it for the rest of my life and good goddamn do I hate taking those pills.
I’m really fucking angry that HIV exists. I’m angry that so many of the elders I could have had in my community are dead and they’re dead because Ronald fucking Reagan wouldn’t admit that we existed back then and just let us die. I’m really angry about this because I might not have gotten it if we had just addressed it back when it fucking started. We might have a cure right now, but we don’t, and I’m angry about that because the reason we don’t have a cure is profit margins and political expediency andgay folks are icky. Instead I’m taking these pills and I’m angry that I have to find insurance to pay for these pills and I’m angry that thousands of people don’t have the privilege I do and they will die because they can’t pay for these fucking odious little pills.
I’m really fucking angry that I have the shame and internalized stigma that I have about HIV. I’m angry that I haven’t been the insertive partner with someone in months and months because I largely date seronegative people and I’m terrified of giving it to them. I know, oh so rationally, that because I’m undetectable it’s almost impossible for me to give it to someone, especially using safer sex practices. I’m angry that I can’t accept that easily because every day my fellow queer “brothers” tell me I’m dirty and reject me and tell me “Drug and Disease Free, U B 2” on their shitty online hookup websites and I’m angry that we are all so isolated in our communities that we have to seek intimacy through our computers because I’d rather seek intimacy in warm, encircling, loving arms.
I’m really fucking angry that the shame that I have been taught to have about HIV led me to toss in the towel, give up and become a full-blown meth addict, one that used every day and fell apart. Just fell apart. Oh, and I’m really angry I started shooting up. OH GOD. I am so angry about that. I’m angry that I now have hepatitis C because of that and I now have to quit drinking because my liver enzymes are through the roof. I’m angry that now I’m going to have to inject myself with goddamn interferon to treat it, something that I’m afraid of because needles are triggering and because it will likely make me sick and that’s just a mess that I don’t want to deal with but have to or else I’m really fucked. I have to go back to sticking a needle in my skin, even though I get super anxious and traumatized during blood draws just because there’s a needle in the room and oh yes, now I just have nightmares about shooting up that make me wake up yelling and crying and the person who occasionally sleeps next to me has to wake up and tell me that it’s all okay and really I would just like to let him sleep but I can’t. I’m angry because I’m in something of a cool, new relationship right now and he has to deal with all this trauma and insanity because I couldn’t take care of it before I met him. I’m angry that my addiction did this to me and that addiction still exists because we won’t treat it like the disease it is, no, instead we criminalize it and lock it up and fuel the trade that it feeds on.
I’m really fucking angry that I was a full-time meth addict that was out of control and had no control and never had control and that led me to having sex with someone I didn’t want to, and when I wanted to stop it I couldn’t because I was too fucked up and hey, men are always ready to have sex so why would I have wanted to anyway? So I said nothing, even though I was horrified at what was happening to me. I said nothing because I was too goddamn fucked up to know what to do and too stupidly worried about disappointing that random sex partner I’ll never see again. Men certainly can’t be raped or assaulted or however you want to call it and if it happens they certainly can’t admit to it. Except I was and now I am and I’m really fucking angry it happened to me. So angry that it makes me cry.
I’m angry that while all this was going on I was so busy trying to survive and not succumb to desperation and was so busy just trying to not die that I wasn’t sending my brother any letters, because did I mention he got arrested when I was 18? Yeah, he was there for eleven years in prison, and when he got out I talked to him on the phone and I said “I love you, Jon, and I’ll see you in a year on the outside, because I want to come and visit you because I miss you.” And then, of course, six months later he keeled over dead because he’d been eating shitty prison food for eleven years (because who cares what slop they feed criminals? Got to keep the budget low when feeding those reprobates), and I will never see him again. I’m angry that the real criminals, the ones who fed him shit for years, the ones that decided that prison food should be a for-profit business, don’t have to deal with this pain. Capitalism ended up in our prisons, ladies, gentlemen and genderqueer persons, and didn’t you hear about capitalism and property? Property is motherfucking theft, and my brother was made the state’s property and he was goddamn stolen from me and so I haven’t seen my brother since I was sixteen and that makes me so fucking outraged and furious and angry and raging because I’ll never see him again and that is. So. Horrible.
I’m really fucking angry that here I am, years later, assaulted and bereft and guilty and shamed and weeping and sad and I just hate it. I hate it that patriarchy, imperialism, prison, all of it has fucking wrecked my life every day and it just doesn’t quit. I still get called a faggot on the street and that pisses me off and then I have to threaten these assholes’ safety in order to get them to leave me alone and that really fucking enrages me because I really honestly just love most people and hitting someone is the last thing I want to do. I’ve had lovers and strangers both do it to me, and I hated it! Why would I want to do it to someone else? But they make me have to threaten them to get them to leave me alone and that fucking infuriates me. After everything I’ve survived, I have to deal with this petty shit almost every week I’m alive and why should I? Why does it still happen?
What’s really insanely infuriating is that my story is not unique, far from it. My story is actually really fucking commonplace. All around us the systems that we have bought into and plugged into and taken stock in do this to people around us each and every day. Strangers, people we love, people we hate, this is all happening to them and it seems hopeless because it’s a never ending cycle of poverty, violence, rape and exploitation. It’s not hopeless, though, because we can challenge them, but do we ever? Do you ever?
That’s the worst. You know why I’m really fucking angry?
Because you’re not angry enough.
It would seem that throughout the anarchist milieu, wherever you turn, there is a community being ravaged by rape, by sexual assault, and by abuse. These cycles are neither new nor unique to anarchists. — Betrayal: a critical analysis of rape in anarchist subcultures
Radicals have always dealt with crises involving rape, sexual abuse, harassment and other forms of patriarchal destructiveness. Currently, the issue seems to have exploded seemingly from nowhere and has enveloped multiple radical communities throughout the world.
It is highly unlikely that radicals worldwide have just become patriarchal all of sudden and for no reason. Quite the contrary, rape and abuse have existed among anarchists and socialists and other radicals for as long as these communities have existed. What does seem to have changed among the current generation of radicals is that the patterned logic of the cover-ups is no longer working.
In comparing the way these…
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**This post is authored by Jen, one of the blog administrators and one of the organizers of the Portland event. The statements here represent my views only.
I feel people should be aware of the following:
- Since the event a handful of organizers and panelists have in fact been subtly threatened in a variety of ways, received inappropriate emails and phone calls, have been told to step back from organizing or have been directly marginalized from organizing, and have undergone many false accusations. Some have also been scapegoated for things that occurred after the panel. It is not inaccurate to say that although the organizers and panelists did not call out P. Little (except for one panelist who didn’t call him out by name but in fact called himself out for co-participating in patriarchal behaviors with P. Little) this repressive reaction has come from people who are close to P. Little.
- One of the more over the top accusations is that the entire event was organized to call out P. Little, and that he was “the main target of the event”. This email, which has reached now possibly over a hundred people around the country, accused organizers of sneakily setting up an event to trap P. Little and call him out. It paints P. Little as a victim of an event about patriarchy, and the organizers as manipulative and suspect. Although this allegation has been refuted time and time again, and named for its sexist nature, this paranoid allegation of holding an entire event as a conspiracy to falsely accuse P. Little has now been sent out on a national list-serve. On this same list serve allegations and lies have been spread about panelists, as well as other people involved in a survivor support group, while defending P. Little. Those who sent out this email nationally have said they are friends with P. Little but they don’t know the organizers.
- The people who sent out this email say that no one is allowed to refute allegations against them, such as the allegation that the event was organized to target P. Little, without evidence. The authors of this email have presented no hard evidence to support the claim that the event was organized to target one person.
- A campaign to discredit an entire event and the organizers/panelists (because of someone being called out during the event) through the use of subtle intimidation, threats, and overt accusations of conspiracy is repressive. It sends a message to intimidate feminists and those who wish to organize feminist panels that they will be accused of targeting men.
- I have noticed that since the event many people who have a problem with P. Little have been silenced, and the response to those who were brave enough to stand up is part of that silencing.
- I do not want to be part of a political community that allows feminists to be attacked to the extent of what I have seen after the event. I do not support those making accusations about the organizers of this event.
- There were a few different organizers of the Patriarchy and the Movement event. These organizers as well as some panelists did not want their names revealed before the event because they did not want to be approached, harassed, or intimidated by ANYONE before the event, as that has been the experience in the past. Despite this, there were sexist accusations that the motive of those speaking at the event were wanting to call out their ex boyfriends.
At What Cost? part 2 : Answers to Geoff and Eleanors questions from the pre-written statement
*since publishing a section of the pre-written statement, many have said that which is published does not include the more controversial parts, such as when the author spoke about being critical of survivors needs. We will only engage the questions that have been openly published.
– Why have the forms of accountability processes that we’ve seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?
When the authors say “failed”, what do they mean? Do we have an idea of whether or not such process regularly fail in protecting the survivor, removing them from harm, or changing behaviors? Or in creating an environment where the community itself takes on concerns for patriarchal behaviors and the well-being of others? In making the community aware of pervasive behaviors? In a recent zine, the author argued that accountability processes are useful in providing ” a semi-formal social and political process around the experience of women”- an experience that is usually collectively minimized or denied. Do the process regularly fail at providing this? Or do they fail at providing a sense of restorative justice, a change in behaviors, a meeting of specific goals? Do they fail in terms of those being held accountable owning up to behavior, and taking steps to restore a sense of comfort and trust? Do they fail in terms of building solidarity and empathy to survivors and women in general?
One reason accountability processes may “fail”, is because of the environment they are operating in. In an environment where survivors are pathologized, feminists who speak out are scrutinized, and survivors needs or legitimacy is regularly questioned, we cannot expect the processes to have a huge “success” rate. Environments in which those who are being asked to be held accountable are re-framed as the potential victims themselves, in which survivors are more likely to become isolated, in which a small number of people in the community are willing to or have the skills to participate in these processes, are not conducive to any form of accountability. There are many social mechanisms that block or deflect from the integrity of accountability process- the loyalties to the person being held accountable of their friends or community, the counter-narratives, the tendency to question the survivor. We can see from the recent response to the Steubenville rape convictions- the survivor is being blamed and scrutinized, and the media and the community are mourning the loss of “potential” of the rapists. This response is not wholly dissimilar to the ways that radical subcultures also mourn the subjects of accountability processes (or mourn the possible temporary loss of their political promise) and scrutinize the survivors- despite the loss of the survivors political promise, or the impact on their lives.
Accountability processes may also fail if survivors are ignored, their needs or well-being are not taken into account, or their experience with the perpetrator are placed up against other’s experiences of the perpetrator, or his experience of himself. Accusations being thrown back at the survivor by the perpetrator or his friends are one of the beginnings of a failure for the survivor and the community. There are many reasons that these processes may fail- many being rooted in the sexist structures and mechanisms within the radical community itself and it’s system of valuing men over women.
– Is there a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable? Should survivors be in charge of the entirety of both such processes?
Yes, there is a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable. This tension largely exists for the survivor because of the high costs of being open about stories of abuse and rape, calling someone out, or asking for accountability. Often, asking for accountability and calling someone out is a huge risk to the survivor- it can mean that they will have to leave organizing spaces, they may be vilified by the community, their experiences or their character may be “put on trial”, they may be called all sorts of things- divisive, a liability, crazy, etc. They may be pathologized for their trauma and told they are not in a space to organize, or have to deal with other prescriptive narratives about their own trauma. They may be retraumatized by the gossip and shit talking in the community. They may be isolated by their own community, or told that they will receive support that they never receive. They may be questioned or doubted. There are many poor reactions in the community when someone calls someone out, asks for accountability, or it becomes known to the community that they have suffered from abuse or rape, even if they themselves haven’t spoken out. All of these things are antithetical to healing. But should they then stay silent? No! We all should work to build a community that doesn’t accept the behaviors that damage a survivor’s healing process during or even in the absence of accountability.
To the question stated here of whether a survivor should be in charge of the entirety of their own healing process. The answer is yes. For one thing, a healing process should not be equated with an accountability process as it is in the above question. The “process” of healing is not the same as the “process” of holding someone accountable. We should be in charge of our own healing, and we should also be in charge of our own bodies, our reproductive decisions and health, and decisions concerning our own well being and safety. Healing from trauma is largely also matter of regaining autonomy and our own narrative of our experience, and so the very idea that perhaps we should not be in charge of our own healing process is contradictory to what a real healing process from trauma looks like. We should not allow a state institution or a radical community to take any authority or take any charge over our trauma healing processes, our bodies, our decisions, or our beings. This should not be a question in a liberatory community.
To the question of whether a survivor should be in charge of the entirety of holding a perpetrator accountable? This question can not be answered without knowing the situation, can it? At times survivors leave town or want to never to hear of a perpetrator again, whether or not the community is aware of the behaviors. There are survivors who do in fact want to oversee a process to make sure that their experiences are not manipulated, or that there is integrity in the process, or to ensure their future safety. There is no way to give definitive answers to the question, and to do so is dogmatic and naive of real life situations.
– How should accountability processes or other forms of grassroots justice differ from the punitive models of state-enforced “justice”? What does this look like in practice?
(Perhaps this questions should be, do in fact accountability processes mirror from the punitive models of state enforced “justice”. With the absence of police, courtrooms, and prisons, and other social reform institutions, we are not sure what they authors really mean to say.)
To the extent that survivors- their experiences, the integrity of their character, their popularity and status, and even their drinking habits- are “put on trial” in the radical community is emulative of the state and media models of responding to rape and abuse. The extent to which the survivor’s name is vilified throughout the course of “justice”, their credibility is repeatedly questioned in radical communities, emulates how the media, parallel with the state, treats survivors. The ways in which survivors are pathologized also also similar to mechanisms within the state justice model. The ways in which survivors experiences are atomized into “their story” and held up against the “story” of others, particularly men, emulates a courtroom, even if the courtroom is replaced by conversations in the back of bars, at meetings, on the internet. The critical lack of support and resources provided to survivors in radical communities is yet another element that is similar the way the state handles rape and abuse.
We find ourselves telling survivors “don’t go to the cops, don’t go to the courts, not only will you not find justice, but it will be you who will be put on trial and re-traumatized”, is replaced in our communities with “If you say something, the risk is no one will believe you, him and his friends will discredit you and talk shit about you, your concerns will be minimized, you will be called crazy, his collective will water down or shield any accountability, you may not be able to do political work in the same scene, people will say you are trying to get revenge, and besides, accountability processes often fail anyway.” The same reasons why many survivors know it is useless to press charges, or are afraid to, are similar to why many survivors in our communities don’t speak up.
– How can we develop feminist anti-violence politics that undermines rather than reinforces the gender binary system? If abuse is not always a matter of men abusing women, does a feminist politics around this look like?
While it would be nice if we could just all decide to smash the gender binary, despite our attempts to do so linguistically or conceptually, empirical data still shows that the gender binary exists particularly in relation to who enacts violence and who is a victim of it. The overwhelming majority of rape and abuse are perpetrated by men. Every 3 minutes women are raped, every 18 seconds women are beaten. Some statistics say that over 99% or rapes are enacted by cis men, and that at least 1 out of every 4 women are raped. Rape and abuse, every form of abuse, do not occur in a vacuum, nor are accidental. Violence, whether outright or subtle, and sexism, is how men uphold their privilege in the binary. Rape and abuse stem from dominant power structures, structures in which men not only privilege from, but in which violence relates itself to. What reinforces the gender binary is the perpetration of a specified gendered violence and exploitation, not anti-violent politics. In other words, anti-violent politics confronts the binary by confronting the gendered violence that upholds the binary. A parallel assertion to the one in this question would be to say, “Doesn’t anti-racist politics reinforce racism by saying that a race exists?” or “Doesn’t anti-racists politics reinforce a racial order by saying that white supremacy is a problem and exists?”
It should not have to be explained that women do not rape and abuse men at anywhere near the same rate, and are not capacitated by the same power structures, and not socialized by the same paradigms, to do so. It should not have to be said that women do not uphold a privilege by enacting violence, or by treating men like shit.
The overwhelming case in our communities and in society is not that women are abusive- this question ignores the reality of gender and power and how power works. Saying that abuse is not always a matter of men abusing women is a-historical and a-structural, and it is also another deflection from addressing patriarchy as a reality. This line of questioning sounds like men who say they are also oppressed by women, or whites who say that racism is not always a matter of white supremacy and that whites are also oppressed by blacks. It also sounds like what a court prosecutor may say in a case of a woman who has defended herself in the face of abuse itself.
The question of the gender binary in this form and context is fairly liberal- in that it parallels a progressive post-race analysis. The post-race, or color-blind, analysis seeks to shield the implications of race itself, in the way that it actually exists. These questions seems to shield the implications of gender within the gender binary, in which violence is in fact an implication of gender.
– Is there room for people to make mistakes and be supported in learning from them in the movements we are building? Should we ostracize comrades who fuck up?
Here is the dictionary definition of the word “mistake”: 1. An error or fault resulting from defective judgement, deficient knowledge, or carelessness. 2. A misconception or misunderstanding.
Clearly, there is a difference between a mistake and a patriarchal action or behavior. There is a difference between a mistake and rape. There is a difference between a mistake and a pattern of using women. There is a difference between a mistake and abusing women. There is a difference between a mistake and a pattern of discrediting or shit-talking women who have spoken up. There is a difference between a mistake and scrutinizing feminists as a threat. All of the behaviors which are pervasive, patriarchal, and uphold dominant power relations and structures, should not be called “mistakes”, and to do so shields, denies, minimizes, and silences. The word “mistake” in this context, as one can tell from the definition, is a de-politicized description of patriarchal behaviors. Thus, in the interest of returning the debate to the real social and political implications of patriarchy, we are going to substitute the word “patriarchal behaviors” for the word “mistake” in the above question as we answer it:
Is there room for people to make (patriarchal behaviors)? There is plenty of room in society and as well in our radical communities (which don’t exist outside of society) for people to enact patriarchal behaviors, and perhaps we should ask what is the potential fall-out of having the room to enact these behaviors, and what does it mean for others? Does the room to enact patriarchal behaviors and the learning curve in changing occur at the expense of others? How can we allow room for people to enact patriarchal behaviors and be supported in learning from them in a way that is not at the expense of others? While mostly men have a stake in patriarchy and privilege from it and are protected by it, how do we ensure that people who are enacting patriarchal behaviors really are learning from them, taking responsibility for them, are not repeating them, and are making efforts to reconcile the damage done?
To the question of should we ostracize comrades who fuck up- this seems to shift the victim narrative onto the perpetrator, or comrade who has fucked up. This comrade’s experience, as the person who has fucked up, is of a more dominant importance in this question. Perhaps people should in fact be hesitant to embrace someone who has “fucked up” and has not shown true recognitions of their behaviors, nor has shown regret or made honest steps towards change. Should we embrace these comrades? Should we assume that the person who is socially victimized during an accountability process is the perpetrator?
Or the question could be, should we ostracize survivors, or other fierce feminists in our scene? Should we accuse them of pushing a “certain feminism”, not allowing for disagreements, or deploying “coercive powers”, to name some of the false accusations that have resulted from the Patriarchy in the Movement panel? Should we be suspicious of women who speak on panels about patriarchy, that they have some conspiratorial plan, or that they have no real politics, or that their politics are the result of personal vendettas? Should we subtly ostracize the politics of an event about patriarchy in fear people may speak of their experiences of ourselves or our friends? Should we spread rumors about feminists and survivors- that they are a damage to the movement, or incapable of organizing? Should we ask survivors who are traumatized to step back from organizing? Should we scandalize feminist and survivor responses? Should we question peoples experiences? Should we freeze survivors out? Should we undermine support for them? Should we speculate on their private lives or experiences? Should we call feminists divisive? Should we call their stories “gossip”? Should we, as friends of the comrades who have fucked up, in an attempt to make him comfortable and to not ostracize him, make the survivor feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or isolated?
At what cost?
– Is it possible or desirable to purify a righteous scene or movement? How does fighting patriarchy look in the context of millions of people, damaged products of this system, making history together?
This question is difficult to answer, as we have never seen, heard, or seen any implication towards a desire to purify a righteous scene or movement from patriarchy. We wonder why this question was taken to the Patriarchy and the Movement discussion. Was there the idea this event was an effort to purify the movement? Speaking about patriarchy is often conceived of as a threat, yet the threat of desiring to “purify” a movement is new. Because this question is out of left field, we ask: Is talking about our experiences seen as the desire to purify a scene or movement? Is fighting back, in order that we can also exist in this scene or movement, asking to purify it? Would these questions be asked on a panel about racism?
Our own questions:
Let us then ask some questions in response to the questions originally posed. We do not pretend our questions are neutral. :
-How can we educate people in our community about patriarchy? How can we teach people not to rape, abuse? Being that rape and abuse, or intimate violence, is not the only manifestation of patriarchy in the movement, how can we teach, learn, and educate each other or what patriarchy looks like? Whose job is it to do this work?
-How can we work to protect survivors and those who speak up about men or patriarchal behaviors in our community from, (to use BOC’s words) “back biting, gossip, and mischaracterizations?” How can we recognize the cost of speaking up for the person speaking up- the potential damaged reputation, the loss of friendships with those close to the person in question, the political and social marginalization, the scrutiny of character and private lives-that is so common to survivors experience, and then take steps to prevent that? How can we protect those who speak up from vilification, rumors, assumptions, accusations, or scrutiny?
-What is the cost of silence? What is the cost of not speaking up?
-What does “principles over friendships” look like in terms of talking about patriarchy? How can we approach male friends honestly? Can we call out our male friends?
-Is there a need to talk about, scrutinize, or manage womens behavior more than men’s behavior?
-What is gendered work in the movement? What do we see men doing versus what others do?
-In what was does patriarchy affect who takes credit or gains respect or credibility for political work? Do we have the experience of men who talk loudest at meetings, or write articles, or “put their” faces or names on political work invisibilizing women politically, intellectually, and on the ground?
-Should we discuss patriarchy publically or privately?
-How can we keep the integrity of building a feminist praxis from being corrupted by patriarchal structures already ingrained in the community? What is a feminist praxis and who decides on this praxis?
-What are the benefits of men’s anti-patriarchy groups? What are the potential drawbacks?
-How can we de-bunk the paranoid narrative that feminists or survivors are dangerous to the movement?
-How can we build support, solidarity, and sociability between people who are not men and without universalizing a single narrative?
-What are the dangers of having conversations about accountability processes, survivors experiences, abuse, rape, etc, in certain settings? What about in mixed gendered settings?
-How can we ensure that survivors- or those who speak up about men’s harmful conduct- are able to stay in collectives and organizing spaces? How can we recognize when social or political alliances are privileged over accountability, over a survivors narrative, or over a survivor or other’s political work?
-How can we keep organizations from acting as structural shields from accountability of one if it’s members? How can we prevent friend alliances from doing the same?
-How is patriarchy itself a threat to our overall political goals and work? What does this concretely look like? What is the implications of not talking about patriarchy in our communities?
-How can we create an environment that is more conducive to accountability processes? How are attacks and scrutiny of survivors, feminists, and others in the community part of an environment that is dangerous to the success of accountability processes? What are other pervasive behaviors or structures in the wider community that create an environment that is counter-productive to survivor’s healing or to holding people accountable?
– How can we be more supportive of survivors and learn more about PTSD and how responses to survivors or people calling out men can be retraumatizing, isolating, or triggering? How can we stop pathologizing survivors and call-out those who do?
– Do we find that social and/or political structures in our community privilege men, certain men, or patriarchy itself? Do we find that social and/or political structures in our community are safe or conducive to those who wish to speak up about patriarchy or abuse in the community?
-Do we find a hypocrisy inherent in the way that we value women’s political work and that of men’s? Do we find a hypocrisy inherent in the way that we respond to women’s behavior versus men’s?
Because in our experience, people who have taken specified positions on the discussion of the Patriarchy in the Movement event, or on “person X”, have as a result come under extreme fire, we write this document anonymously. We are people who participated in different ways in the original event “Patriarchy in the Movement” at the Red and Black cafe on February 28th.
Throughout the course of the aftermath of the Patriarchy and the Movement event, and the subsequent discussions, some panelists and organizers have been attacked-most of the attacks are “personal”, some appear to be “political”. During the event, some panelists spoke about re-framing feminist concerns as personal, or as petty, and “scandalizing feminist responses”. We will speak to how we have seen some of the discussions in the aftermath of the event- and the meanings and costs these discussions have for us.
Though the concerns around “person X”, or Pete Little, had been re-framed as “personal attacks” against him by the people who read the pre-written statement, or letter, they also framed reading the statement and their position as a “political disagreement”. Part of the statement from the organizers after the event seemed to disagree politically within this re-framing, and outline how things unfolded. In the very context of this disagreement, the folks who were at first complaining that there was no room for disagreement began a subtle accusation that those who then disagreed with them were pushing a certain feminism and creating an atmosphere in which people are not able to disagree. Yes, it has been confusing. Yet part of the “disagreement” itself has been over how discussions have been framed – in which criticizing the danger of framing survivor complaints themselves as mere political disagreements is suddenly “repressive”. In further twists of re-framing, when the facts on the ground- in a specific example when the complaints about person X, or the political fallout around this person- are soberly presented, and people speak about their experiences with him or continue to raise concerns, they are personally attacked, or “scandalized”. Continual re-framing at will and per convenience is part of a strategy, but is an unhealthy way to directly tackle questions or to approach comrades. In part one of this article we hope to present a clearer and more holistic view on the situation, while responding politically to statements that we find especially unfortunate in the Black Orchid (Seattle) commentary on the Portland gender dilemma (“Building Capacity for Complexity”). In part 2 , we will answer the questions brought to the discussion by Geoff and Eleanor in their pre-written statement (in which they respond to person X being called out), and we will ask questions, questions that we do not wish to pose as open ended deflections from real concerns on the ground, but that we hope have a political commitment behind them and can assist in moving things forward.
Unfortunately, BOC’s ill-informed re-framing of the issues from afar have created more confusion. Not only has the article created confusion, but some of the allegations in the statement come at a high cost for the discussion in the community. First, as the article admits, none of the members of BOC were present in Portland and witnessed the discussion after the panel in which (what we now understand is their friend), person X, was called out by more than one person in the room, and in which their other friends read the pre-written statement in response. Members of the Black Orchid Collective (BOC) did not contact any of the three Seattle panelists who were present during the discussion to take into account those comrade’s experiences before writing the statement, despite the fact that these panelists are members of the same political community. They also failed to contact other organizers. Members of BOC have said in their statement that the person who read the “pre-written statement”, or “letter”, was “stopped” from finishing the statement and was “silenced”. This is inaccurate, and the 60 plus people in the room know this is inaccurate. We wonder what the motive is for presenting this inaccuracy. Not only did she finish reading the statement, but she was allowed to speak a few more times. Additionally, a panelist asked her to provide a political criteria for the statement, in order to bring the discussion back into the arena of political argument, since she herself had re-framed her response to concerns about person X as a political discussion. She responded by speaking of her personal value for person X, and his “humanity”. In subsequent discussions and texts, the accusation that this person was “silenced” has been made in the terms that she was silenced and not given room for “political disagreement”, and yet when the room was opened up for political disagreement specifically for that person, she herself personalized it, bringing it back to the personal profile of person X, and did not respond politically (was she “centralizing a cis man”, as BOC puts it?) Though BOC quotes one of the panelists in the need for different feminisms, it is precisely the disagreement between feminists in the room, between many in the room and the person who read the statement, that is being called “silencing”. Strangely, those who disagreed with her partly did so because they felt part of the statement and the context in which it was read was “silencing”.
BOC writes: “It may be that people present interpreted the questions to be reminiscent of patriarchal invalidation of their experiences of sexual trauma and patriarchy. Having some distance from the event itself, we did not read the questions in that light.” BOC here ignores what was read in the first section of the statement, in which people speaking about their experience with person X were accused of making “personalized attacks.” Once again, this accusation was written ahead of time, before the authors of the statement would have known what would be said. BOC not only ignores the whole content of the statement, but the context in which it was written (amongst pre-emptive suspicion towards the event itself), and the context in which it was read. Reading the questions alone, without the rest of the statement, deflects from the effect of the statement.
BOC goes on to say, “We question whether centralizing cismen and negating the efforts of other feminists, especially when they raise questions drawn from their experiences of dealing with patriarchy, is feminist solidarity and sociability in practice.” This still seems to confuse the facts on the ground. Centralizing cismen? Are they saying that calling out person X, or any cis man, is in effect centralizing cis men? Or are they saying that the person who read the pre-written statement about their experiences with this cis-man person X, when asked to give political criteria for the statement and instead referred back to the value of person X, is centralizing a cis man and negating the efforts of those who had called him out? Per the BOC assertion, the latter seems more accurate. Or are they saying that the multiple women who called out person X, some of whom were unaffiliated with each other, are centralizing a cis man and thus negating the efforts of other feminists? This is an extremely unqualified, and accusatory, statement. Will others who publicly call out men be accused of negating the efforts of other feminists and centralizing the men they have called out? At what cost is a statement such as this? What kind of praxis does a statement like this leave for people to be able to call out men for their damaging behaviors? And, what exactly are the “efforts of other feminists” that were “negated” by people speaking about their experience with person X? The idea that calling a man out for a specific experience with him negates the “efforts” of other feminists is a sexist, universalizing paradigm, if we are to understand it the way the BOC seems to assert here- in that if you call out a cis man for damaging, patriarchal behavior, and another woman says that she has not experienced the same behavior from this man, the experience that raises a concern is problematic in of itself because it negates the experience of the non-abused.
The idea that BOC seems to get at here- that communicating with others and talking openly about experiences with men in the community is not feminist sociability, then we ask what is? The BOC text further seems to essentialize gender in their notions of feminist solidarity, as they say in their piece that the response to the female bodied person who read the pre-written statement is a break in solidarity. Are we to have solidarity with whatever actions or statements feminists bring for “discussion”, despite the content or the between the lines purpose? If feminists bring a statement that many others in the room find problematic, and are as a result met with confrontation-is that a break in solidarity? Only if solidarity is conceived of an agreement amongst a universalised idea of feminism and not amongst content itself. In this sense, BOC are engaging in universalizing politics. Are there times when it is necessary to break with feminist solidarity when feminists themselves participate in blockading sociability itself, or blockade an anti-sexist process? Feminist solidarity should also mean confronting each other.
We wonder what ” feminist sociability” means to BOC, when they make the unqualified accusations that “…some of us feel pressure to conform to certain forms of feminism, imposed through other forms of coercive power such as gossip, back biting, and mischaracterizations of disagreements.” What is the difference between feminist sociability and gossip, especially when gossip is usually a sexist way of referring to sociability between women? What is this “certain form” of feminism that is using the coercive power of “gossip”? What really are they talking about? Isn’t there then an implicit threat to sociability between feminists when “certain” feminists, or some unknown “certain” feminist composition, are accused of “coercive powers” through “gossip” when they become social with each other? This seems like some kind of internalized or imagined threat- that there is a manipulative, coercive power that feminists have, an immature high school gossip back biting style, because people may be talking to each other, especially about patriarchy. To believe BOC, we must also believe that there are “certain” “gossipy” feminists out there, who are “coercive”, have no real political claims or background of their own, who are using a socially tyrannical mechanism to pressure all the other feminists. For real? Not only is this statement unfounded and sensationalist, but to be truthful, it comes across reasonably sexist. (This assertion seems to also re-frame the concerns raised about person X- a concern that has been raised again and again is the he has shit-talked or spread rumors survivors to the point of coercively undermining them.)
Given these assertions in the BOC document, we ask what their methodology and process for writing this document are? It seems to us that the factual errors, the assertions and subtle accusations that cannot be backed up or qualified, are in of themselves a product of mischaracterizations of facts and experiences. To speak of the danger of “gossip and mischaracterizations” is a bold statement coming from people who were not even present for the situation they are commenting on- where did they get their idea of what happened or has been happening? It is to say that although they weren’t present, they have real sources who shared information, and those that disagree with them (even those who were present) rely on gossip. This is on top of the fact that the BOC statement uses circular and deflective language that leave very little way forward, and if anything confuses the situation more.
The further worrisome conjecture is that those who are speaking out against patriarchy and naming behaviors within the community are silencing others. Is accusing those who have spoken out about patriarchy as pushing a “certain” or singular or monolithic feminism and “not allowing” for other feminisms considered silencing? Whose feminism is divergent, and from what other feminism? The idea that those who have spoken out about patriarchy, or about a comrade whose behavior is considered damaging, are repressing other feminists or other feminisms is rhetorical acrobatics at the expense of speaking out in of itself. Moreover, we struggle to understand what exactly during the course of the panel, or the discussion, or the subsequent discussions, has been any specific “feminism”. It lends the question, is speaking out against patriarchy or about the behaviors of specific individuals a certain kind of feminism? Do different strands of feminism have different mechanics in speaking out about patriarchy? What is the feminism or praxis of those who have, in subsequent discussions, attacked the credibility of the organizers, panelists, survivors, and also those who are raising concerns about, for example, person X? Are these as well mechanisms of a disagreement amongst feminists? Do feminists who agree on specific praxis around survivor-based accountability processes or survivors support all come from the same brand of feminism simply because they agree on this one issue? When communities of survivors and feminists come together and attempt to have each other’s backs, or have solidarity with one another, are they pushing a “certain” kind of feminism and thus repressing or silencing other emergent and divergent feminist strands?
Because lets get real here, while the BOC statement talks about “back biting, gossip, and mischaracterizations of disagreements” in its attempt to characterize a large group of people raising concerns about patriarchal behaviors in the movement- it is the organizers, panelists, and those who spoke up during the discussion who have largely suffered a backlash via these mechanisms. Some people have been undermined politically, socially, and personally. Some panelists have had to sustain many accusations and fall-out. People’s personal lives and trauma have been dragged out into scrutiny. What is missing here is that these repercussions for holding an event about patriarchy, speaking at an event about patriarchy, or speaking to one’s experiences during an event about patriarchy, in of themselves aren’t scrutinized as mechanisms that do not allow for emergent feminisms, or not allowing a discussion about patriarchy at all.
Though BOC quotes one of the panelists in the need for different feminisms, it is precisely the disagreement between feminists in the room, precisely between many in the room and the person who read the statement, that is being called “silencing”. The further irony is that those who disagreed with her partly did so because they felt part of the statement and the context in which it was read was “silencing”.
We have seen an emergent narrative that seems to seek a victimhood in claiming that people have been silenced from disagreement, and that those doing the supposed “silencing” are pushing a monolithic feminism. Not only is this untrue, but it again implies that there is a singular, monolithic feminist narrative on one “side”, and on the other “side” there are those attempting to engage in a divergent feminism with a critical thinking approach. To be frank about the sudden appearance of these “sides”- from what we can see, those who are accused of having a singular feminism that silences others are some of those who have spoken on the panel, some of those who spoke at the event, the survivor support team who spoke out, and others who attended the event who were dismayed by the pre-written statement for political reasons, or have continued to raise concerns over person X’s chronic behaviors. Many of these people are not directly affiliated. It seems to be inherently said as well, that those who have since asked for a reasonable commitment that person X change the multitude of his behaviors that have surfaced as problematic for the community are also those that are accused of not allowing for critical thinking and pushing a certain coercive or monolithic feminism, which quite frankly seems to add a sectarian edge to an already challenging situation. The “side” that claims to represent or be part of a feminism divergent from the “first” (a formation that doesn’t actually exist), has largely been presented by people close to person “X”. We beg to ask what is the actual feminism of either “side” in the specific context of responding to person X’s behaviors, or responding to the pre-written statement read during the discussion, or responding to patriarchy as it is acted out, or what BOC is actually referring to in their piece, and we ask that people begin to be more honest. The particular issues raised around person “X” were not discussions around different feminisms, and everyone on the ground knows that. The questions posed in the pre-written statement were supposedly open ended questions for discussion, so those didn’t represent a different feminism, either. Deploying a vague notion of a “certain feminism”, or deploying supposed disagreements between feminists, between feminisms, or about feminism, has been since the beginning a deflection from the discussion what happened in light of the discussion of patriarchy in the movement- when person X was brought into the discussion by two different unaffiliated survivors for repeatedly enacting behaviors that were reflected in the panel on patriarchy. Since then, multiple groups have formed to address concerns of patriarchy in Portland-feminists groups, mens anti-patriarchy groups, and tons of informal discussion. A west coast network is emerging. There has been tons of vibrant and positive feedback from these processes. But despite this, person X’s political contacts in another city, who weren’t present during the discussion, have written a document that further obfuscates the situation, presents inaccurate information to deflect the “victimhood” onto the person who read the pre-written statement at her own agency, and makes vague accusations that these conversations in the aftermath of the event are a “certain feminism” that uses “coercive power… of gossip, back-biting, and mischaracterizations”. Other friends and contacts, have issued open ended questions about accountability processes themselves while not offering any real way to move forward and address concrete concerns that have been raised about ongoing behaviors.
Weeks later, person X has issued an equally vague apology, that for even an outside reader seems to obfuscate and deflects from his own behavior, an apology which the survivor support team identified as being an attack on the survivor. Thats where we are at.
The fact that panelists themselves, organizers, and other members of the community have been attacked for whatever position they have taken in the aftermath of the event has demonstrated to a large section of the radical community the high costs of speaking in the open about patriarchy or speaking in the open about specific experiences. We urge people to continue to move forward, and are inspired by the new, exciting conversations, the groups that are forming, the difficult discussions taking place, and the new alliances that have come out of the event and it’s aftermath. We do not consider informal conversations about these issues, nor meetings about these issues, to be the product, or a mechanism, of “gossip” or in of themselves deploying a “coercive power”.