Language & Action – 8/21/10

Language & Action spotlights analysis, news, & performance from around the blogosphere that shine a light on critical ideas and action addressing violence against women of color.  Check out the findings for our second installment below!  Plus, woo hoo, thanks for the submissions!  Keep em coming!  If you have suggestions for things to include, please send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com or float it in the comment section…

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Race, beauty, disability, and symbolism:

Wheelchair Dancer discusses the tension between beauty politics, disability, and the use of a photograph of a woman as an argument for waging war.  She analyzes the recent TIME cover photo of Aisha, a young Afghan woman:

Regardless of how disability plays out in Aisha’s world, the vast majority of readers of TIME live in a culture that understands disability as tragedy. As shocking. As among the worst things that can happen to you (bar death). Mainstream American culture thinks it knows disability and knows how to read it. Ms. Bieber has a history of photographing disabled bodies (there’s an image of a wheelchair user in this video of her “Real Beauty” pictures). But the work she does in the Real Beauty series does not come through in this photograph — perhaps because of the context and placement of the image. Here she (and or the editor) uses Aisha’s disability to trade upon the readership’s sympathies and their horror: this and other unknown kinds of disability are a direct result of the US departure from Afghanistan. This is not about Aisha; it’s about the message of the article.

That women’s rights will be at risk, should the US leave Afghanistan is really not a debatable issue. In fact, looking at Aisha’s story, it seems pretty clear that women’s rights are at risk even while the US is in Afghanistan. So why does the story need Aisha’s disability?

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Legislation to address violence against Native women is signed:

On the Ms. blog, Native feminists without apology, Jessica Yee & Sarah Deer, discuss the recent passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, which addresses violence against Native Women:

JY: What is the most important part of this bill for people to know about?

That it requires Indian Health Service (IHS) to train their employees on how to respond to rape. That, to me, is huge. The experiences of Native women at IHS when they are raped or sexually assaulted are horrible, and for IHS not to know what to say or do in these instances is unconscionable. The bill now requires them to go on record with policy and procedure–and if that is the only thing that the bill accomplishes, we can be glad for that.

JY: Is there anything you would change about the bill?

SD: I’m always concerned about “law and order” language. It certainly doesn’t protect or help white women, so it’s not going to help Native women. We have to make sure that the systems we set up are Native women-centered.

I wish the bill had language overturning the destructive 1978 Oliphant decision, which concluded that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians. It’s not acceptable to have a non-Native person to come into the tribe and not be held accountable by the tribe.

JY: A thing that somewhat troubles me about the bill is a lot on criminalization and penalization. I’m a prison abolitionist in many senses and I’m very aware of how many Indigenous people are in the criminal justice system unfairly; but more importantly, that these entire systems are not our laws and not our systems.

SD: I agree with you 100 percent. You have to constantly challenge the idea that the Western criminalization system is the answer–it’s actually the cause of our problems. It’s difficult for people to understand that in order to change this, we have to give back sovereignty to tribes.

I’m so pleased that we are now collectively trying to keep things safer in our own communities–we don’t have to replicate white law and order.

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Economic justice in LGBT movement building

In an interview with Harmony Goldberg at Organizing Upgrade, FIERCE Executive Director Rickke Mananzala describes the future of LGBT organizing that includes an emphasis on coalition building for economic justice:

There are pockets of left and progressive LGBT groups that are trying to advance demands outside of the mainstream movement, like the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and FIERCE.  Many of these groups are part of a newly formed national alliance of progressive LGBT organizations – the Roots Coalition – that is trying to figure out how to take advantage of these openings. We are trying to figure out what opportunities exist for more progressive national fights. We are looking at both the mainstream issues that are already on the table that we might be able to win immediately and new issues that will push the LGBT movement to the left.

We are doing that by intentionally choosing issues that have an LGBT lens and that – if won – will also impact many other communities. In particular, we are looking to build a stronger bridge between fights focused on LGBT issues with those that are focused on racial and economic justice.  An example of a fight we could consider taking up is the struggle around the impending reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), specifically challenging the expansion of the marriage promotion programs that Obama has been pushing.  The current economic crisis has increased the need for welfare programs, but the marriage promotion requirements and strict definitions of family present structural barriers that limit LGBT families’ abilities to access the resources they need to survive.

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A couple of exciting calls for submissions:

Call for submissions: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism – Feminist education now: youth, activism, and intersectionality:

I’m really interested in talking about the intersectionality of feminist education and breaking down the barriers of what constitutes “education”, where that might be, and according to whom. Education does not have to solely be within a school or school-type setting – if it happened on the street, in your kitchen, if it’s not happening at all, if you want it to happen some particular place – I want to hear about it.

Deadline is September 10, 2010.  Contact Jessica Yee at jessica.j.yee@gmail.com for more info.

Call for Submissions on Addiction & Recovery:  Substance: On Addiction and Recovery is a collection of peoples’ experiences with addiction and recovery in radical and/or marginalized communities.

In addition to pieces by individuals, I’d like to include a few pieces about the work that community-based groups have done to address the politics of addiction and recovery and to support those dealing with substance abuse. If you are a member of such a group, please feel free to write.

Deadline is March 7, 2011.  Contact Emily at substancebook at gmail dot com for more information.

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Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements


Originally published in make/shift magazine

Some people may have seen this article already, which has been making its rounds on Facebook and the blogosphere, but INCITE! blog editors loved it so much that we wanted to share it here. The piece was originally published in make/shift magazine’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue and written by Courtney Desiree Morris.

In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own, a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009 trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails” and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring Katrina evacuees’ right to return.

I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus (although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.

And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists, becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrate.

Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence [1] as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).

The Makings of an Informant: Brandon Darby and Common Ground

On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and cofounder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization. [2] Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.

Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.
A Brief Historical Reflection on Gender Violence in Radical Movements

Reflecting on the radical organizations and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s provides an important historical context for this discussion. Memoirs by women who were actively involved in these struggles reveal the pervasiveness of tolerance (and in some cases advocacy) of gender violence. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown, each at different points in their experiences organizing with the Black Panther Party (BPP), cited sexism and the exploitation of women (and their organizing labor) in the BPP as one of their primary reasons for either leaving the group (in the cases of Brown and Shakur) or refusing to ever formally join (in Davis’s case). Although women were often expected to make significant personal sacrifices to support the movement, when women found themselves victimized by male comrades there was no support for them or channels to seek redress. Whether it was BPP organizers ignoring the fact that Eldridge Cleaver beat his wife, noted activist Kathleen Cleaver, men coercing women into sex, or just men treating women organizers as subordinated sexual playthings, the BPP and similar organizations tended not to take seriously the corrosive effects of gender violence on liberation struggle. In many ways, Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, has gone the furthest in laying bare the ugly realities of misogyny in the movement and the various ways in which both men and women reproduced and reinforced male privilege and gender violence in these organizations. Her experience as the only woman to ever lead the BPP did not exempt her from the brutal misogyny of the organization. She recounts being assaulted by various male comrades (including Huey Newton) as well as being beaten and terrorized by Eldridge Cleaver, who threatened to “bury her in Algeria” during a delegation to China. Her biography demonstrates more explicitly than either Davis’s or Shakur’s how the masculinist posturing of the BPP (and by extension many radical organizations at the time) created a culture of violence and misogyny that ultimately proved to be the organization’s undoing.

These narratives demystify the legacy of gender violence of the very organizations that many of us look up to. They demonstrate how misogyny was normalized in these spaces, dismissed as “personal” or not as important as the more serious struggles against racism or class inequality. Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations. However, if we pay attention to the work of Davis, Shakur, Brown, and others, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and create different kinds of political community.
The Racial Politics of Gender Violence

Race further complicates the ways in which gender violence unfolds in our communities. In “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” Rachel Luft explores the disturbing pattern of sexual assault against white female volunteers by white male volunteers doing rebuilding work in the Upper Ninth Ward in 2006. She points out how Common Ground failed to address white men’s assaults on their co-organizers and instead shifted the blame to the surrounding Black community, warning white women activists that they needed to be careful because New Orleans was a dangerous place. Ultimately it proved easier to criminalize Black men from the neighborhood than to acknowledge that white women and transgender organizers were most likely to be assaulted by white men they worked with. In one case, a white male volunteer was turned over to the police only after he sexually assaulted at least three women in one week. The privilege that white men enjoyed in Common Ground, an organization ostensibly committed to racial justice, meant that they could be violent toward women and queer activists, enact destructive behaviors that undermined the organization’s work, and know that the movement would not hold them accountable in the same way that it did Black men in the community where they worked.

Of course, male privilege is not uniform—white men and men of color are unequal participants in and beneficiaries of patriarchy although they both can and do reproduce gender violence. This disparity in the distribution of patriarchy’s benefits is not lost on women and queer organizers when we attempt to confront men of color who enact gender violence in our communities. We often worry about reproducing particular kinds of racist violence that disproportionately target men of color. We are understandably loath to call the police, involve the state in any way, or place men of color at the mercy of a historically racist criminal (in)justice system; yet our communities (political and otherwise) often do not step up to demand justice on our behalf. We don’t feel comfortable talking to therapists who just reaffirm stereotypes about how fucked-up and exceptionally violent our home communities are. The Left often offers even less support. Our victimization is unfortunate, problematic, but ultimately less important to “the work” than the men of all races who reproduce gender violence in our communities.

Encountering Misogyny on the Left: A Personal Reflection

In the first community group I was actively involved in, I encountered a level of misogyny that I would never have imagined existed in what was supposed to be a radical-people-of-color organization. I was sexually/romantically involved with an older Chicano activist in the group. I was nineteen, an inexperienced young Black activist; he was thirty. He asked me to keep our relationship a secret, and I reluctantly agreed. Later, after he ended the relationship and I was reeling from depression, I discovered that he had been sleeping with at least two other women while we were together. One of them was a friend of mine, another young woman we organized with. Unaware of the nature of our relationship, which he had failed to disclose to her, she slept with him until he disappeared, refusing to answer her calls or explain the abrupt end of their relationship. She and I, after sharing our experiences, began to trade stories with other women who knew and had organized with this man.

We heard of the women who had left a Chicana/o student group and never came back after his lies and secrets blew up while the group was participating in a Zapatista action in Mexico City. The queer, radical, white organizer who left Austin to get away from his abuse. Another white woman, a social worker who thought they might get married only to come to his apartment one evening and find me there. And then there were the ones that came after me. I always wondered if they knew who he really was. The women he dated were amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, radical women that he used as shields to get himself into places he knew would never be open to such a misogynist. I mean, if that cool woman who worked in Chiapas, spoke Spanish, and worked with undocumented immigrants was dating him, he must be down, right? Wrong.

But his misogyny didn’t end there; it was also reflected in his style of organizing. In meetings he always spoke the loudest and longest, using academic jargon that made any discussion excruciatingly more complex than necessary. The academic-speak intimidated people less educated than him because he seemed to know more about radical politics than anyone else. He would talk down to other men in the group, especially those he perceived to be less intelligent than him, which was basically everybody. Then he’d switch gears, apologize for dominating the space, and acknowledge his need to check his male privilege. Ironically, when people did attempt to call him out on his shit, he would feign ignorance—what could they mean, saying that his behavior was masculinist and sexist? He’d complain of being infantilized, refusing to see how he infantilized people all the time. The fact that he was a man of color who could talk a good game about racism and racial-justice struggles masked his abusive behaviors in both radical organizations and his personal relationships. As one of his former partners shared with me, “His radical race analysis allowed people (mostly men but occasionally women as well) to forgive him for being dominating and abusive in his relationships. Womyn had to check their critique of his behavior at the door, lest we lose a man of color in the movement.” One of the reasons it is so difficult to hold men of color accountable for reproducing gender violence is that women of color and white activists continue to be invested in the idea that men of color have it harder than anyone else. How do you hold someone accountable when you believe he is target number one for the state?

Unfortunately he wasn’t the only man like this I encountered in radical spaces—just one of the smarter ones. Reviewing old e-mails, I am shocked at the number of e-mails from men I organized with that were abusive in tone and content, how easily they would talk down to others for minor mistakes. I am more surprised at my meek, diplomatic responses—like an abuse survivor—as I attempted to placate compañeros who saw nothing wrong with yelling at their partners, friends, and other organizers. There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.

Yeah, that guy.

Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us.

The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.

What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.

Looking Forward: Creating Gender Justice in our Movements

Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates. If we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors in our communities, the work will not survive.

Lately I’ve been turning to the work of queers/feminists of color to think through how to challenge these behaviors in our movements. I’ve been reading the autobiographies of women who lived through the chaos of social movements debilitated by machismo. I’m revisiting the work of bell hooks, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Gioconda Belli, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, and Gloria Anzaldúa to see how other women negotiated gender violence in these spaces and to problematize neat or easy answers about how violence is reproduced in our communities. Newer work by radical feminists of color has also been incredibly helpful, especially the zine Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

But there are many resources for confronting this dilemma beyond books. The simple act of speaking and sharing our truths is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been speaking to my elders, older women of color in struggle who have experienced the things I’m struggling against, and swapping survival stories with other women. In summer 2008 I began doing workshops on ending misogyny and building collective forms of accountability with Cristina Tzintzún, an Austin-based labor organizer and author of the essay “Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival.” We have also begun the even more liberating practice of naming our experiences publicly and calling on our communities to address what we and so many others have experienced.

Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it. Until we make radical feminist and queer political ethics that directly challenge heteropatriarchal forms of organizing central to our political practice, radical movements will continue to be devastated by the antics of Brandon Darbys (and folks who aren’t informants but just act like them). A queer, radical, feminist ethic of accountability would challenge us to recognize how gender violence is reproduced in our communities, relationships, and organizing practices. Although there are many ways to do this, I want to suggest that there are three key steps that we can take to begin. First, we must support women and queer people in our movements who have experienced interpersonal violence and engage in a collective process of healing. Second, we must initiate a collective dialogue about how we want our communities to look and how to make them safe for everyone. Third, we must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.

As angry as gender violence on the Left makes me, I am hopeful. I believe we have the capacity to change and create more justice in our movements. We don’t have to start witch hunts to reveal misogynists and informants. They out themselves every time they refuse to apologize, take ownership of their actions, start conflicts and refuse to work them out through consensus, mistreat their compañer@s. We don’t have to look for them, but when we are presented with their destructive behaviors we have to hold them accountable. Our strategies don’t have to be punitive; people are entitled to their mistakes. But we should expect that people will own those actions and not allow them to become a pattern.

We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of antiqueer, antiwoman, racist violence that pervades society. As radical organizers we must hold each other accountable and not enable misogynists to assert so much power in these spaces. Not allow them to be the faces, voices, and leaders of these movements. Not allow them to rape a compañera and then be on the fucking five o’ clock news. In Brandon Darby’s case, even if no one suspected he was an informant, his domineering and macho behavior should have been all that was needed to call his leadership into question. By not allowing misogyny to take root in our communities and movements, we not only protect ourselves from the efforts of the state to destroy our work but also create stronger movements that cannot be destroyed from within.

[1] I use the term gender violence to refer to the ways in which homophobia and misogyny are rooted in heteronormative understandings of gender identity and gender roles. Heterosexism not only polices non-normative sexualities but also reproduces normative gender roles and identities that reinforce the logic of patriarchy and male privilege.

[2] I learned this from informal conversations with women who had organized with Darby in Austin and New Orleans while participating in the Austin Informants Working Group, which was formed by people who had worked with Darby and were stunned by his revelation that he was an FBI informant.

Article published courtesy of make/shift magazine and Courtney Desiree Morris. For more of the author’s work visit: http://creolemaroon.blogspot.com/.

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SISTERSONG, SPARK, and SisterLove Defeat SB 529

As a follow-up to our last post about reproductive justice work in the U.S. South , check out this news release from Sistersong , a women of color reproductive justice collective, about their defeat of Georgia’s SB 529, the “OB/GYN Criminalization and Racial Discrimination Act”. Information on how to organize around this issue in other communities is included below:

SB 529, the “OB/GYN Criminalization and Racial Discrimination Act,” died in the Rules Committee of the House on the last day of Georgia’s legislative session. We won in Georgia, but this may be coming to your state next.

After more than three days of attempting to negotiate with the ultra conservative right to life lobby, the Speaker of the House David Ralston, was unable to convince them to support a more reasonable bill. The hard-line Republicans and moderate Republicans could not unite on the bill. This allowed the Democrats to filibuster. Essentially, it was the splintering that caused the bill’s turnaround in lacking unity.

As the three women of color led reproductive justice organizations in Georgia, SisterSong, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, and SisterLove, Inc. are thrilled that this bill never made it out of the House Rules Committee. After more than three months of intense lobbying, SisterSong, SPARK, and SisterLove, in coordination with allies, Feminist Women’s Health Center (GA) and Planned Parenthood Southeast, were able to bombard the Speaker’s office with calls, emails, and faxes highlighting concerns with the bill posed for women of color and our doctors.

“We truly raised the voices of women of color, and black women in particular, as the session ended, with national support from Civil Rights leaders and clergy”, stated Heidi Williamson, National Policy Coordinator for SisterSong. “Now we must do the work of empowering and educating our community on reproductive justice issues.”

With virtually every “Endangered Species” billboard down throughout the state, which were utilized as a tool to build support for the legislation, and the legislation now dead, we will turn our attention to the African American women in Georgia and nationally to prepare for future battles against our bodies and freedoms.

What is Happening in Your Local Community?

We consider the recent billboard campaign in Georgia and the companion legislation in both the House and Senate efforts as a pilot program targeting women of color. These efforts at the local level serve as a catalyst to push harmful policies such as the criminalization of family planning, restriction of access to services and insurance and labeling abortion as a coercive practice at the state and local level. What we experienced in Georgia was an attempt to create a wedge between the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements. A destructive wedge was also positioned to create dissention between communities of color.

Have you noticed local faith leaders countering family planning efforts?

Are conservative legislators or anti-choice groups hand picking women of color to lead anti-abortion, anti-choice, or anti-family planning efforts?

Has your community heard the claims that abortion is genocide?

Have you noticed anti-woman billboards in your neighborhood?

If you feel your community is falling prey to these tactics, email SisterSong at info@sistersong.net with the SUBJECT line: IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN. We want to empower women’s voices and support the local community to advocate for human rights and reproductive justice.

SisterSong National Policy Coordinator
Heidi Williamson
heidi@sistersong.net

SisterSong Communications Coordinator
Serena Garcia
serena@sistersong.net

www.sistersong.net
404-756-2680

El Mundo Zurdo: An International Conference on Anzaldúan Thought and Art and Performance

The Society for the Study of Gloria E. Anzaldúa (SSGA) and the Women’s Studies Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio presents El Mundo Zurdo: An International Conference on Anzaldúan Thought and Art and Performance. The Conference will be held November 5-7, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.

The Society for the Study of Gloria E. Anzaldúa seeks submission of proposals for papers, panels of 3-4 papers, roundtables, workshops, or performances for its International Conference on the work and life of Gloria E. Anzaldúa. El Mundo Zurdo seeks to provide a place for scholars, students, and community to come together with the intention of engaging in the continued study of Anzaldúa’s intellectual and spiritual work. We welcome proposals involving all facets of Anzaldúa’s life and work as they pertain to the arts– literary, dramatic, plastic, etc—and performance.

The following tracks are merely suggested conceptual groupings for panel and performance presentations:

• BORDERS—explorations of border theory, borderlands ethos and other concepts of Anzaldúan thought focused on this key concept of her work
• GENDER AND SEXUALITY STUDIES—el mundo zurdo and the atravesados, key to Anzaldúa’s thinking and application of her philosophical work
• EDUCATION—pedagogical concerns surrounding her literary and philosophical works. Some questions that may arise: what are some challenges of teaching Anzaldúa? How does Anzaldúa’s thought apply to teaching?
• INTERNATIONAL AND TRANFRONTERA—The effects of globalization and market economies on culture. What is the status of Anzaldúa studies at the international level?
• SPIRITUALITY—Explorations of Anzaldúa’s spiritual teachings. How can we heal the earth and ourselves?
• ART AND PERFORMANCE—The impact of Anzalduan thought on any of the literary, dramatic, and plastic arts, as well as on performance and performance art.

Guidelines:
Proposals must include the following:
• 250-word proposal narrative
• 100-word abstract suitable for publication in the conference program book
• Submissions for Panels must include proposals and abstracts for each paper and the name, address, phone number(s), e-mail address, and institutional affiliation of each participant
• Audio/visual needs
• Contact person’s name, address, phone number(s), e-mail address, and institutional affiliation

All materials must be electronically date-stamped by May 1, 2010 (deadline will be strictly enforced). Proposers will be notified of acceptance in late May.

Questions about the submission process may be sent to: gloria.anzaldua.society@gmail.com or norma.cantu@utsa.edu. More information about the conference can be found at http://colfa.utsa.edu/English/mundozurdo.html.

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March 30 in NYC: Sex Work & Human Rights: Feminist Advocacy Strategies

Paradigm Shift NYC invites you to “Sex Work & Human Rights: Feminist Advocacy Strategies”, a panel discussion and featuring a screening of “Sangram: Sex Worker Organizing In India”, a collaboration between the International Women’s Health Coalition and SANGRAM. The panel also features the following individuals:

SIENNA BASKIN, Esq. – Staff Attorney, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center
CHRISTINA CICCHELLI – Columnist, $pread magazine
MARYSE MITCHELL-BRODY – NYC Anti-Violence Project & Founding Member at Sex Workers Action New York
AUDACIA RAY – International Women’s Health Coalition & co-founder of Sex Work Awareness
WILL ROCKWELL- Editor, $pread magazine

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Sex Workers’ Project at the Urban Justice Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/103011.

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Jennifer Denetdale on Indigenous Feminisms

Jennifer Denetdale, photo from First Peoples: New Directions In Indigenous Studies

First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies invited Prof. Jennifer Denetdale, author of Reclaiming Dine History, First Peoples Advisory Board member, and INCITE! member,  to deliver an address on the role of feminism in Indigenous Studies.  They write:

First, [Prof. Denetdale] argued that the role of gender violence during the conquest must be acknowledged before the process of decolonization can be fully embraced. Secondly, she made the case that the imposition of heteronormative European gender norms has created an atmosphere of sexism, intolerance, and violence in Native communities that is, in effect, an embodiment of the colonial agenda. Taking both of these critical forms of gendered colonization into account, Denetdale and other Indigenous feminist scholars believe it is essential to develop feminist insights into colonization before true decolonization can take effect.

Jennifer Denetdale’s full speech, “Claiming the “F” Word:  Native Women, Feminisms, and Visions of Sovereignty,” is transcribed here: http://firstpeoplesnewdirections.org/blog/?p=511

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