thinking through “infowar”

brownfemipower of flip flopping joy is back with two guest posts on Wikileaks, state sexual violence, & infowars.  The first installment is below. Originally posted here.

So, in perhaps the most ignored declaration of the year–a war has begun.

And I’ve been trying to think through thoughts on it, but like I said, it’s been largely ignored. Which is a little disturbing to me, seeing as well, pretty much everybody connected to the internet (readers, writers, etc) should have some sort of vested interested in a war being declared on our own turf.

I can’t get my thoughts organized–but I am noticing a lot of patterns. And maybe just putting them out there will help.

* Davy D wrote a bit ago about Homeland Security and ICE shut down a big group of hip/hop websites:

Understand this.. the seizure of websites without due process, corporate interests lobbying and then writing laws that allow them to be the police and t personally enforce, the battle over net neutrality is all about concentrating power in the hands of a few. This is about controlling the flow of information and being a gate keeper in the communications arena. Its the first step in moving a democracy toward a dictatorship. The next step is getting a population to endure fianacial upheavels and hardships.

* The Guardian (who is actually reporting on the cables) is reporting that the US asked Uganda to tell the US when Uganda planned on committing war crimes–but did nothing to stop the war crimes themselves. Oh, and Uganda just so happens to have a finger in the crap going on in the Congo:

During the past two years the Ugandan army has deployed 4,000 troops in Operation Lightning Thunder to chase the LRA out of Uganda into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and now into the Central African Republic where, 800 miles from its original area of operation, the rebel group is thought to have fewer than 300 followers. Several of the LRA’s senior commanders have been killed or captured but Kony is believed to remain alive.

Yeah–the same Congo that has been dealing with astronomical sexual violence. Oh, and Hillary Clinton demanded arrests be made against those committing sexual violence.

* And then there’s the cables about the parties in Afghanistan that had a Texas company pimping out little boys for sexual use by men–and that US diplomats helped to cover up:

But according to the leaked document, Atmar, the Afghani interior minister, was terrified this story would catch a reporter’s ear. He urged the US State Department to shut down a reporter he heard was snooping around, and was horrified that a rumored videotape of the party might surface. He predicted that any story about the party would “endanger lives.” He said that his government had arrested two Afghan police and nine Afghan civilians on charges of “purchasing a service from a child” in connection with the party, but that he was worried about the image of their “foreign mentors,” by which he apparently meant DynCorp. American diplomats told him to chill. They apparently had a better handle on our media than Atmar, because when a report of the party finally did emerge, it was neutered to the point of near-falsehood.

* And in probably the most surprising non-surprising releases, it turns out the Vatican put pressure on the Irish government to basically look the other way on the priest sex abuse in Ireland. Oh, and somehow the US has a finger in that too:

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See also condemned the leaks and said in a statement that the Vatican and America cooperate in promoting universal values.

The thing I couldn’t stop thinking as I typed all the above info in was how above and beyond Julian Assange–it is the US government that seems to have perfected the role of patriarchal duality that we have all assigned to Assange. The advocate for the dispossessed rolled into a messy soup with dirty slimy scum bag that beats his girlfriend on the side.

It is the US government that is both rapist and activist. It is the US government that we all pretend not see hear the beating on the other side of the wall–because it’s doing such good for the community!

Just as we have to wonder why it makes sense to tell soldiers or policemen that it’s ok to kill when they have a certain uniform on, but not when they’re wearing clothes bought at Target–we have to wonder why it makes sense to condemn men who rape and abuse in private, while willfully and continuously ignoring the private rape and assaults of our government in the name of the “good” it does in public.

And that’s not to say that we let the man off scott free–but rather instead to question: if our goal is to stop rapes before they happen–how do we negotiate the dissonance of the “model” of public advocate/private rapist the US reinforces continuously with the idea of “anti-gender violence citizen”?

Specifically: how will gendered violence ever end when gendered violence remains, at the core, a esteemed value of the US government that we all live under?

Other thoughts:

* what is the connection between Homeland Security’s attack on hip/hop sites and it’s gendered violence against immigrant women?

* not many people are talking about how many rape survivors have used the bureaucracy to report the violence perpetrated against them (think: the blackwater woman who was raped and then held and imprisoned by blackwater, the woman soldier who reported a rape and wound up dead “by suicide” and many others)

* what does it mean that the actions of a sexist misogynistic community that has attacked the feminist community previous is the only community that has had a response to the declaration of war?

* In almost all the above cases, women have been up front advocates in speaking out against the sexual violence being committed against various communities. think: the women in the Congo and Sinead O’Conner. What does it mean that as these women are speaking out and attempting to organize–the US government is directly involved in working against them–again, *even as it claims to be working *with* them*? (and on a side note, I hope every single person in the US hangs their head in shame over what they did to Sinead O’Conner)

* What does this treatment mean for other women who have spoken out against war, sexual violence, genocide, etc over the years? Think: the Dixie Chicks, Angela Davis, Joan Baez, and thousands of unknown women etc.

* What does it mean when citizenship and nationalism is expressly based on silencing and even eliminating the people who SPEAK?

* What does it mean that the US government is so expressly and intimately connected to covering up and perpetrating sexual violence–and 99% of feminist bloggers remain focused on the debate of Julian Assange: hero or rapist?

* What does it mean that bloggers that are NOT corporate backed are being targeted by Homeland Security and ICE in the name of corporate enforcement of copyright violations? What does it mean that corporate backing is an effective way to “decriminalize” your writing in the eyes of the government? What does it mean that corporate backed newspapers are getting a free pass in the wake of wikileaks, whereas wikileaks and Julian Assange are subject to murder threats, harassment by various governments, imprisonment, etc?

* What does it mean that so many feminist bloggers are not talking about this targeting? And does it make a difference that so many feminist bloggers are corporate backed (i.e. paid for their production of thought [full transparency: I have been paid for essays I’ve written] or writing for a corporate owned blog)?

* What does it mean to be a “professional feminist” in light of the current atmosphere?

* What does it mean that Homeland Security and ICE have the ability to shut down blogs/communities with little to no oversight at all–for those of us who blog about immigration? And sexual violence perpetrated by ICE?

* And finally–what does it mean that consistently, the biggest intervention against sexual violence by those of us who have experienced it is to SPEAK!–and consistently, *F*eminists tell us who have experienced that violence that the most powerful force against SPEAKing is a viable tool in our liberation?

This is just some of the shit I”m thinking through–other thoughts include how incredibly terrifying Joe Lieberman has become, how so much of this crap going on right now (right down to the shutting off of funding) has been practiced and perfected and justified as necessary on Arabs and Muslims in the US, what my role is in all this as somebody who has done plenty of my own freelance work, what a queer/LGBT analysis of a lot of this same information looks like, and much more.

But I guess I’ll stop there.
I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are…

**Oh, and one last thing–why, exactly, does the nation/state get to define what rape is? Is there no amount of irony and just–mind blowing dissonance that even feminists are arguing in all seriousness that rape in the US is different than rape in Sweden? Really? Does a woman in Sweden feel less raped than a woman in the US when she is raped? Or vise-versa? Would we all agree that the man who is raping and beating his wife gets to define what rape is in the greater community? Why do we then unquestionably accept the nation/state telling us what sexual violence is?

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re: wikileaks

[tweetmeme source= ‘yourtwittername’ only_single=false] brownfemipower of flip flopping joy is back with two guest posts on Wikileaks, state sexual violence, & infowars.  The second installment is above. Originally posted here.

the fact that there has been no thoughtful *F*eminist analysis of wikileaks that does NOT focus on Julian Assange (i.e. the point/method of wikileaks rather than Assange’s rape charges) says to me that *F*eminists have no vested interest in the concepts that wikileaks is dealing with.

A simple “I support wikileaks” or “I don’t support wikileaks” would be interesting–but what I’m looking for more is a detailed analysis in the *stakes* gendered human beings have in the nation/state’s interactions with transparency or the lack thereof. Why should we *care* about what wikileaks is doing? More importantly and more to the point–why should we care about what the nation/state is doing right now to *deal* with the “threat” of transparency? Including: using corporations as a tool against it’s own citizens (a tactic we all supported when used against “the terrorists” if you will remember), shutting down mail routes, imprisoning and threatening whistle blowers and silencing dissent through loss of employment?

Why should people who care about a gender care about the “info war”? Or about the fact that 4chan has inserted itself into the middle of it all?

The fact that the Feminist Movement can’t seem to form any opinion on any of these things and, in fact, seems as heavily invested in the idea of Assange as a singular charismatic leader rather than the issues springing up in the *wake* of what *wikileaks* has done (or: Assange is what is at stake here rather than the “threat” of transparency) speaks to the terrible singular hyper focus the *F*eminist agenda has on “liberal reform.”

I care that we all understand that Assange can actually be a rapist and an amazing organizer all at the same time. I have long held Ana Mae Aquash’s story to my heart–I know the all too terrible reality of how women are used in a fight between men.

But as Zuky said earlier today, Assange is a side note. He’s almost not even important anymore. What’s important is what actions are being taken–not even so much against Assange–but against wikileaks. Against supporters of wikileaks. Even against those who have no idea who the fuck wikileaks is or what it’s done.

Because indeed–those of us who care about gender liberation must, absolutely MUST, be aware of and understand that the nation/state that *F*eminists have entrusted to mete out “justice” for violated women–is using “justice” to criminalize all of us. It is up to us to understand that this isn’t a simple case of did he do it or didn’t he or “stand in solidarity with rape victims.” This is a case of our own tools being used against us. Not against Julian Assange. Against us. Because all of us who have been there understand on some gut level–how likely is it that these women will actually receive justice? What horrific price will they have to pay (in testifying, getting their names dragged through the mud, etc) to “get justice”? At the same time, how many of our lives will be dramatically affected by the “threat” we all now present to the nation/state? Even those who aren’t like me, a firm disbeliever in the nation/state, will be expected to pay the consequences–and in fact, already are in the form of guilty until proven innocent full body checks at the airport.

“Justice” has never been about justice, it’s *always* been about how *punishment* can service the needs of the nation/state. And right now, punishment is servicing the needs of the nation/state by infringing upon the rights of and silencing the voices of anybody who disagrees with the nation/state. It is solidifying alliances between the nation/state and corporations. And anybody who thinks that will not have repercussions for every single one of us is sitting on a cloud of privilege.

Do we all remember what happened to the woman in Durham who accused the lacrosse team of rape? Do you all know that after all this time, I *still* get emails/comments/links from *F*eminists saying that she “cried rape”?

Just as Ana Mae Aquash is in my heart and will be until the day I die–that woman in Durham will be as well. And the actions that came out of the murder of Ana and violence against the woman in Durham will always be an inspiration to me, and guide me in everything I do. Native feminists and black feminists created a critique of how women were used, destroyed, by forces claiming “justice,” but were in fact, invested in punishment and the reinforcement of classism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and even nationalism. They learned from the incredibly tragic situations that those of us who care about how gender is shoved down the throats of particularly feminine people and particularly colored people and particularly poor people–That “justice” itself must be a site of contention and analysis. That “justice” must come in different forms. In ending rape to begin with, rather than punishing after the fact. In supporting women in their choices, no matter what those choices are. In creating community accountability. In asking the woman what she wants first and foremost. In understanding the multiple and spider web like ways that power plays out. In sucking the blood out of the nation/state so that it dies up and withers away, rather than supporting and reinforcing it. Rather than *depending* on it.

It doesn’t surprise me one bit that so many *F*eminists can point with confidence at the history of radical men being abusive and violent towards women in their private lives. It surprises me even less that so few of those same *F*eminists are talking now about the work that the same groups of women that were abused and violated by radical men are doing and have done in *response* to the violence. And all I can do is shake my head at the fact that in *F*eminist circles, this is quickly turning into an argument over what the menz are saying–rather than a detailed critical conversation about what *F*eminists can do to both support the women who are claiming assault AND make sure that our “justice” is not and can not be used against us.

If we all know this is a chronic problem, why aren’t we talking about it? When it’s affecting the internet community that we are all part, don’t we have a stake in what this all means? What can the internet community that cares about gender justice do when “justice” is being used against us?

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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 or float it in the comment section…


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?


Legislation to address violence against Native women is signed:

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

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

Sarah Deer: 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.

Question: 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.

Question: 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.


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.


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.

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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US admits responsibility for deaths of Afghan women, RAWA calls for an end to US occupation of Afghanistan

The U.S. military recently admitted that they killed three Afghan women and then attempted to cover up the military’s role in their deaths.  The New York Times reports,

After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

The admission was an abrupt about-face. In a statement soon after the raid, NATO had claimed that its raiding party had stumbled upon the “bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed” and hidden in a room in the house. Military officials had also said later that the bodies showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife, and that the women appeared to have been killed several hours before the raid.

And in what would be a scandalous turn to the investigation, The Times of London reported Sunday night that Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.”

RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan.  On March 8, 2010, RAWA released a statement, recognizing International Women’s Day, titled, “Emancipation of Afghan women not attainable as long as the occupation, Taliban and “National Front” criminals are not sacked!” They write,

Though we don’t expect anything different from the most corrupt and dirty puppet regime of the world, the pain of Afghan women turns chronic when the world believes that the US and NATO has donated liberation, democracy and human and women rights for Afghanistan; whereas, after eight years of the US and allies’ aggression under the banner of “war on terror”, they empowered the most brutal terrorists of the Northern Alliance and the former Russian puppets – the Khalqis and Parchamis – and by relying on them, the US imposed a puppet government on Afghan people. And instead of uprooting its Taliban and Al-Qaeda creations, the US and NATO continues to kill our innocent and poor civilians, mostly women and children, in their vicious air raids.

RAWA is eager to get united in solidarity with individuals and forces that are ready to fight for democracy in an independent front against the occupation, the Taliban, Jehadi and Khalqi and Parchami homeland-sellers.

While women of Afghanistan are experiencing a new era of captivity and are in the grip of the fundamentalist monsters, RAWA sends it heartfelt salutations to struggling brave women of Iran, Palestine, Kurdistan, Sudan, Nepal, India and the rest of the world and announces solidarity with them.

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