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Surviving Heteronormativity 

17 Aug

As a queer feminist cis woman in a relationship with a straight man, I find myself struggling every day against heteronormative patriarchy. It is a toxic cloud that I am holding at bay purely by the strength of my wit and my will. Some days are harder than others. Some oppressive interactions are more subtle while some are more overt. It leaves me feeling like I am teetering upon a tightrope, wondering what will be the element that will cause me to lose my balance, and with it, the independent identity I have worked so hard to cultivate. But through it all, I am learning some important lessons about how to resist and challenge the slow erosion of my independence and suppression of my spirit that is characteristic of what happens to women in heteronormative sexist relationships, and it is these that I wish to share with you today.

Lesson 1. You are in control of yourself.

One of the founding principles of heteronormative capitalist patriarchy is its ability to make women believe that they have no other option than to remain in relationships that leave them feeling unsatisfied at best, and victimised at worst. Once linked to men’s traditional role as financial provider, women are taught that to catch and to keep a man, and eventually, to bear his children, is the epitome of womanhood and the highest expression of femininity. The result of this schooling, even in an era where many women are now the breadwinners of the family, is that we stay with men who are not right for us and put up with behaviour that is selfish, disrespectful and often abusive. The fact that so many men act in these ways, that it is tolerated, normalised, and even becomes an object for comedy, is a sure sign of the sickness that pathologises our society. 

So what can be done to challenge this? We need to learn that at any point, no matter how embedded we are in a bad relationship or an unfair partnership, how long we have been with them, how many kids we have together or what other people will think, we possess within us the ability to resist, say no and to walk away from situations that oppress us. Although it may be difficult to see an alternative or a way out, this is something we can strive for and work towards. We can speak to our partner about our needs and get out if our requests go unheard. We can ask for help in this process if we need it. We do not deserve to be treated badly and we were not meant to suffer in silence, unloved and unappreciated. We must remember that we have choices and that even though we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we respond to them. And if that response is to remove yourself from a situation, then so be it.

Lesson 2. Retain your independent thought. 

Another holdover from centuries of unbridled capitalist patriarchy is the notion that after marriage, or in the contemporary era, coupledom, man and woman are united and they become one entity. However, what we often fail to discuss is that in a union of people who, in the eyes of society, are not equals to begin with, the thoughts, opinions and beliefs of the person who is higher on the social ladder will undoubtedly win out over those of the person who is lower. We see this manifest in many ways, such as how men often get the final word in decision making (“Let me just check with my husband/I want to do X or Y but my guy doesn’t approve”) or disciplining (“Ask your father/Wait till your father gets home”). It is also apparent in how many women act as mouthpieces for their husband or boyfriend’s opinions. 

Often the process of mind control takes place through a gradual chipping away at a woman’s independent thought. We enter relationships as individuals with our own ideas and opinions, but over time we may allow those opinions to be set aside in favour of those of the man we love, because we wish to please him. This in itself may be seen as honourable, but only in the context discussed above where your main aim is to keep your man, no matter how pushy or selfish or ungrateful he may be. In reality, it is dangerous and leads to an unhealthy self-denial, the practice of self-silencing and the disappearance of our individuality. Do not let this happen to you. 

Lesson 3. Make space for yourself.

Something that can really help us retain our independent thought, listen to our intuition, articulate and act upon what we need is maintaining our personal space. This is space in both the physical and mental sense. Find some time each day to be alone with yourself, even if it is just a few minutes in the bathroom or a short trip to the store, and be intentional with this time. Bring a small notebook and write down your thoughts, or clear your mind of everyone and everything and just focus on your breath. Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and remember that in this moment, you are enough. 

Humans are social creatures. Loneliness is one of our greatest fears. But if you learn to be as committed to yourself as you are to your partner, then you will find it enjoyable to spend time working on yourself, developing your interests, pursuing your passions, and doing the things that make you happy.  You can share these things with others if it is appropriate, and you should make and maintain friendships outside of your relationship, both to quell co-dependency and to experience the fulfilment that comes from being yourself and doing the things you want to do, whether or not your partner does them with you. This is key to lasting intimacy and also to maintaining monogamy, if that is the intention for your relationship. The sex and relationship expert Esther Perel has said: “We need multiple connections, multiple attachments. If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”

Make space for yourself to think your own thoughts and to see the world from your own point of view. This doesn’t mean shutting down debate or never compromising in a fair way, but really listening to your own feelings, making up your mind for yourself and not putting up with having those thoughts and feelings dismissed or ignored. But in order to make that happen, you have to set the example by not dismissing or ignoring them yourself. You have nothing to fear from being alone. You are complete unto yourself. You were fine before they came into your life, and if one day you break up, you will be fine after they are gone. Anyone who truly loves you will learn to see and respect that, and if they do not, then you’re better off without them. 

In Solidarity With #ThisTweetCalledMyBack

18 Dec

Last week, a collective of the seven of the most incisive and insightful feminist/womanist social and cultural critics working in contemporary digital media, who are Black Women, AfroIndigenous and women of color, began a social media blackout. Over the past five years, across various social media platforms, they have created what they describe as “an entire framework with which to understand gender violence and racial hierarchy in a global and U.S. context“, one which is deeply analytical and highly critical of mainstream feminism and heteropatriarchy, as well as cishet activist movements. We at Sisters of Resistance have often engaged with, been challenged by, and learned from them and their work.

And yet, as they explain, far from being celebrated and embraced for the enormity of the work and contributions they have made to 4th wave and digital feminism, their body of work has been colonized, plagiarized by mainstream white feminism and mainstream media while they themselves have been vilified, said to constitute ‘Toxic Twitter”, had their livelihoods threatened and their physical and mental welfare put at stake. Rejected, harassed and provoked by people in mainstream media, academia, and the non-profit industrial complex, who at the same time hijack their prolific and movement-inspiring thought and theory, this collective of women is taking a stand against the status quo with this statement and their conspicuous absence from Twitter.

Here are some of the questions that they ask:

In an age where young women often have cell phones with internet access before they have access to healthcare and social services, why are so many so quick to demean the work of digital feminism in the hands of Black women? When depression, anxiety and disability make it so that getting out of bed, much less into the streets, is a debilitating challenge and risk, why do we demean social media and tell people they cant fully engage without taking up physical space? Whose interests are we centering if we constantly hyperfocus on the limits of grassroots social media, instead of the impact and possibilities, while not making the physical spaces safe or accessible for these women?

They point out that an expanded understanding of violence is necessary to address the kinds of issues they and many others like them/us face and experience, even within “leftist” and “activist” circles:

Once we expand our understanding of violence to include plagiarism, harassment, gaslighting, emotional abuse, ableism and exploitation of labor, we find huge fissures in a movement that the women we are prescribing solutions for fall through on a daily basis. We find a replicated system of violence that prioritizes those closer to systemic and hierarchal values of bodies rather than anti-violence.

They challenge those who will listen to consider the following questions, which are incredibly necessary for our time:

“How do we, as a movement, engage unaffiliated women with no institutional covering or backing, on the grassroots level? How do we close ranks around these women in both digital and physical spaces so that they can continue this work? There is a refusal to legitimize the words of women of color without the backing of academia, established media, and non-profit monikers. How do we then legitimize the lens with which marginalized women of color view their lives and the spaces where they are actually allowed to assert their agency?

The collective includes: @tgirlinterruptd, @chiefelk, @bad_dominicana, @aurabogado, @so_treu, @blackamazon, @thetrudz

Those who have signed in solidarity include: @blackgirldanger, @cheuya, @notallthots, @jazzagold, @natashavianna, @mizzblossom, @sarahkendzior, @scATX, @lilybolourian.

At the same time, we wish to call to mind @redlightvoices, who we believe has been very much a part of this same wave of work, and who expressed many of the same sentiments during the time that she was still on Twitter.

We have so much respect for all of these women. We offer them our solidarity and support in their decision to step out of the Twitterverse and assert their humanity in the face of such despicable systemic discrimination and harassment. We stand with you! #ThisTweetCalledMyBack

READ THEIR FULL STATEMENT HERE.

Individual personal statements are also being posted here.

Read more about the groundbreaking work by radical women of color, This Bridge Called My Back, the 1981 anthology, to which the conversation #ThisTweetCalledMyBack refers.

UltraViolet Campaign to Cancel CeeLo Green’s TV Show

2 Sep

In recent news, CeeLo Green has admitted to drugging a woman and defending his actions on Twitter, claiming it wasn’t rape if the victim wasn’t conscious. A coordinated public response that resulted in cancelling his upcoming TV show would be a profound statement against rape and rape culture. UltraViolet, a “new and rapidly growing community of women and men across the U.S. mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture” has put together a petition to do just that.

Click here to sign the petition

Re-posted from UltraViolet:

Grammy-winning artist CeeLO Green just let loose a series of tweets claiming that rape isn’t rape if the victim is unconscious.

What’s worse is that his tweets aren’t out of the blue—he recently pled no contest to drugging a woman who later woke up naked in his bed, with no memory of what happened. Yet despite this criminal act, and these incredibly dangerous tweets, major network TBS and its parent company Time Warner are still giving him a huge public platform in a reality TV show that recently premiered. They’ve got to drop him, now. 

Tell TBS and Time Warner:

Rapists and rape-apologists should have no place in your line-up. Cancel CeeLo Green’s reality show The Good Life immediately.

SIGN, SHARE AND REPOST!

Campaigns for #MikeBrown #Ferguson

18 Aug

Sista Resista:

How you can help Ferguson!

Originally posted on Spaceship Dreaming:

 
Here is a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police. I will try to update as much as possible.
 
Donations for Mike Brown’s Family:
 
Michael Brown Memorial Fund:
 
These funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf. All funds will be given to the Michael Brown family.
 
 
College 4 MikeBrown’s Siblings:
 
This effort will help support Mike Brown’s siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother go to college. It is run by Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW professor of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab ( http://www.wihopelab.com) and Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (Madison, WI) can vouch that all funds will go…

View original 484 more words

News Roundup: Ferguson, Gaza, Rape Culture and Resistance

18 Aug

A collection of news from around the web showing the latest information on the situation in Ferguson, protests against the genocide in Gaza, and an excellent piece showing not only how they are linked, but also how the ‘war on terror’ has always existed for Black Americans. We also join others in calling for an end to rape culture and whorephobia by posting a critique of the Internet’s response to Christy Mack’s release of photos of a brutal attack by an ex-partner, and a show of online solidarity with 16-year-old rape victim Jada.

Latest news on Ferguson:

Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times [Frances Robles and Julie Bosman, NY Times]

Second night of curfew in Ferguson, governor calls out National Guard  [Al Jazeera America]

Ferguson, Mo., police were trying to ‘besmirch’ dead teen when they released convenience store video: governor [Adam Edelman, NY Daily News]

Amnesty International Sends Human Rights Delegation to Ferguson, Missouri [Amnesty International]

U.S. and Israeli Military Tactics Used Against American Citizens … Gazans Tweet Tips to Help AMERICANS On How to Handle Tear Gas [Washington’s Blog]

Palestinians express “solidarity with the people of Ferguson” in Mike Brown statement [Rana Baker, Electronic Intifada]

“From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.  

And we stand with you.”

Critical Analysis Pieces on Ferguson

Itemizing Atrocity [Tamara K. Nopper & Mariame Kaba, Jacobin Magazine]

“The problem with casting militarization as the problem is that the formulation suggests it is the excess against which we must rally. We must accept that the ordinary is fair, for an extreme to be the problem. The policing of black people — carried out through a variety of mechanisms and processes — is purportedly warranted, as long as it doesn’t get too militarized and excessive.”

12 things white people can do now because of Ferguson [Janee Woods, Quartz]

In the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, may he rest in power, here are some ways for white people to become white allies who are engaged thoughtfully and critically in examining the situation in Ferguson and standing on the side of justice and equity. This list is a good place to start your fight to dismantle racial inequity and shine a light on the oppressive structures that lead to yet another extrajudicial killing of a black person.

In Ferguson the violence of the state created the violence of the street [Gary Younge, The Guardian] 

“Nobody in their right mind wants more violent protests. But nobody wants more Michael Browns either. And those two things – the violence of the state and the violence of the street – are connected.”

Resistance to genocide in Gaza:

10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, end to occupation [Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Haggai Matar, contributors, +972 blog]

Israeli ship remains at sea as thousands of protesters gather in Oakland [Rebecca Bowe, The Guardian] (#BlockTheBoat)

Critique of Internet response to the abuse of Christy Mack

[TW – Rape, Rape culture and physical abuse]:

This is how the Internet responds when a porn star is beaten up [EJ Dickson, Daily Dot]

“Apparently, we not only think that sex workers deserve to be treated differently than other people: Many of us don’t even think of them as people to begin with.”

Solidarity with Jada (#IamJada)

Trolling of teen rape victim Jada sparks internet fightback with hashtag #IamJada [Heather Saul, The Independent]