“Nonviolence means refusing to work with the police”

Violence is often a sticky topic in progressive organizing, with many preferring to espouse “non-violence.” However, Kit Harrington has some serious questions about what exactly that entails:

To put it simply: In my years of activism and journalism, it’s become quite clear to me that the single biggest purveyor of violence at protests are police. Police come to peaceful protests armed for war (literally, with military surplus gear), and police are better at turning a protest into riotous violence than any other group.

The physical violence they inflict is bad enough, but the subtle damage that cops do to justice movements is a form of violence too. In their love of protecting the government and corporate property and profits, police will infiltrate your movement, entrap your members, and do everything they can to tear you apart.

Arrests of activists ruin lives. Even charges hanging over a person can ruin their mental health — just ask any of the J20 defendants who have spent the last year wondering if they’d be spending decades in prison — regardless of the final outcome of the trials.

Cooperating with police ruins lives. Police and the Feds in Charlottesville have been charging left activists who previously assisted their investigation into nazis.

Police will show up at your protest whether you want them or not. But don’t cooperate with them. Don’t thank them for being there. And as any sensible lawyer will tell you, never talk to the cops.

Getting a permit for your march is just asking the state to commit violence on your behalf. So is asking them to arrest activists you disagree with. Protecting you is not the job of the cops, especially not at a protest. Their job is to maintain order and the status quo, and your permit won’t change that. They will attack you as soon as they feel you’re making a difference.

Read more here.

-Shiv

An example of material support

One of my peers in journalism, Katelyn Burns, interviewed the founder of Hypatia Software Org (unrelated to the journal of a similar name). Burns’ interview highlights a few key points to providing substantial, material support for trans people:

The cycle of systemic poverty and homelessness is nearly impossible for anyone to break out of. The combination of not having enough funds for everyday necessities under capitalism and a lack of a suitable shelter under which to sleep can be crushing to the human spirit.

Under structural transphobia, trans people are at increased risk for unemployment and homelessness, with trans women of color—who are three times as likely as the general population to be unemployed—bearing the brunt of this oppression.

When I began my own transition, of course, homelessness lingered as a fear in the back of my mind. I’d watched too many trans women be run out of their jobs under suspicious circumstances and subsequently struggle to find another job to believe I was entirely immune to the possibility.

Housing insecurity is a major issue for the trans community and already sparse shelter resources could potentially be a hostile environment for a trans woman, myself included.

As a trans woman, I have a natural fear of cis-operated spaces, as the potential for transphobia is ever present. For example, the Salvation Army has been accused several times of harassing or even banning trans women from their shelters. I wouldn’t even risk availing myself of their services.

Taking into account that a great many shelters and anti-poverty charities are affiliated with or operated by churches, I would be leery of seeking the same help as a homeless cis person.

And with trans people making up just 0.6% of the population, it’s especially difficult for organizations to provide appropriate local trans-specific resources and a welcoming support system in order to help folks breakout of the systemic poverty cycle.

In order to figure out the best ways to help trans people breakout of systemic homelessness, I turned to the trans-run organization Hypatia Software Org.

According to President/CEO, Lisa-Marie Maginnis, Hypatia’s mission is “to end homelessness and the disenfranchisement of people who experience transmisogyny through peer mentorship, emergency cash relief, and community building.”

Here are 4 ways they say we can help get trans people out of poverty now:

Read more here.

-Shiv

Trust women

Both of these things are true: 1) Forced-birther advocates are often misogynist in intent; 2) Forced-birther advocates are simultaneously also transphobic in impact. When arguing in favour of laws that infantilize people making decisions about what to do with their pregnancies, the rhetoric is often laced with the belief that (cis) women are flighty and thoughtless, and thus can’t make decisions for their own body. Unsurprisingly research has shown this to correlate with a variety of other misogynist beliefs.

In reality, the struggle over abortion goes back to Dr. Tiller’s slogan. The question is whether or not women can be trusted to make decisions for themselves like adults, or whether they should be relegated to second-class status, stripped of the right to bodily autonomy. Recent research, published over the past month, highlights how central this question is to the abortion debate and demonstrates that despite widespread skepticism about women’s basic decision-making capacity on the right, women are highly competent when it comes to knowing what they need and quite capable of taking control of their lives — if they are allowed to.

“The polling data that exists on abortion is so one-dimensional,” Tresa Undem, a researcher for the polling firm PerryUndem, told Salon. So Undem conducted focus groups and polling meant to go deeper, and find out what people really think about women who get abortions. What she found out was that, among those who oppose abortion, there’s a widespread belief the women who have abortions are unintelligent, irresponsible and thoughtless.

Anti-abortion respondents also seemed to believe that men understood abortion better than women. When asked whether men whose partner was having an abortion understood that it was ending a potential life, 51 percent of abortion opponents said yes. But when asked if women getting abortions understood the procedure, only 36 percent of anti-choicers agreed that a woman knows what she is doing. Abortion foes were also more likely to say they were more comfortable when women were housewives instead of seeking careers.

Very little forced-birth rhetoric reckons with the existence of transmasculine people–often the trick is to roll transmascs into “women,” and proceed from there with the similar beliefs plus added transphobia. Read more here.

-Shiv

Siobhan in The Establishment: Whisper Networks Are Flawed — But Not Because Of How They Affect The Accused

I would get my introduction to something called the “whisper network” on a crisp winter afternoon in 2014. The pub was a dive, orange hues cast over white and burgundy upholstery, a bar riddled with battlescars of patrons past, a jukebox collecting dust underneath a suspended speaker. I saw myself in the other patrons; women with the wild and vibrant hair I desperately wanted, hard femmes in glistening leather, mascs dressed so sharply they could cut glass with their suits. It smelled of wood and whiskey, still a reprieve from the biting cold.

I was sponsored by a woman in the community. “Munches,” as kinksters have come to call these events, are social gatherings meant to help you network in a safe, non-sexual environment as you enter the alternative underground world — the kind 50 Shades authors can only imagine through frosted glass. But my sponsor had soon abandoned me to navigate strange waters on my own, so I did what any good introvert with self-esteem issues would do: nursed a coke and ice while brooding on an empty couch, quietly chiding myself for thinking I could summon the courage to strike conversations with total strangers.

Read more in The Establishment here.

-Shiv

Paranoid fantasies

If you’ve ever had a sense of deja vu reading anti-trans feminist rhetoric, it’s for a good reason: It’s all pages from the same playbook.

The way sexuality is used to demarcate the difference of the other and to marginalize the other is a widespread phenomenon with deep historical roots. In terms of the recent rally against transgender children, the language of these anti-trans activists is incredibly stock. They depict trans school children as pedophiles, as likely to engage in bestiality, as likely to participate in group sex. It’s the overblown moral panic language of, “it’s not only this, but it’s that”. It’s the argument that one thing leads to the other that sexual or gender variance is a slippery slope. For these anti-trans people, it’s not only that trans children are bad, it’s that they’re going to try to have sex with your children; it’s not only that, but then they’re going to molest your barnyard animals and domestic pets and, not only will they engage in these solo acts of sexual perversion, then they’ll engage in group sex!

As I said, they’re shifting the conversation away from the inequality trans school children face. Instead, they’re rendering any recognition of this inequality as a sexual threat to cis children. These are paranoid fantasies. It’s that somehow these children will invade the intimate spaces cis people inhabit; it’s the argument that these intimate spaces will be invaded if other groups –in this case, trans school children– are dignified.

The basic message is that the existence of trans school children represents a general lack of morality. The bestiality language has been part of anti-gay discourse for decades and the pedophilia rhetoric dates back at least to the 1920s and 1930s for gay men, if not earlier. These are long-standing anti-gay tropes. Now, the really strange thing going on in the quotes from that rally is that there is the assumption that because the child is trans –that is, the child is aware of their gender dysphoria– that awareness somehow sexualizes them for these anti-trans activists. I find that to be a really strange and interesting leap they’re making. While, in actuality, a child having an awareness of their gender dysphoria isn’t about sexuality, for these anti-trans children activists, there’s somehow a coupling of gender identity and sexual desire so that, if a child is aware of their gender identity, they must somehow be hypersexualized and therefore dangerous.

The logical leaps that these anti-trans activists are making within the political spear are so long and convoluted, it’s worth noting. For them, a desire to be honest about one’s gender identity is to mark oneself as being over-sexualized. They believe these children are wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s quite strange when you parse out the twisted way they’re viewing trans children.

That’s from an interview by Cristan Williams with Gillian Frank, a researcher exploring reactionary rhetoric. Read more here.

-Shiv

We warned you

Although I am reluctant to signal boost the New York Times for their particularly egregious role in excusing Trump’s incompetence, they’ve published a piece by Lindy West that’s too good to pass by.

Content warning for descriptions of sexual assault:

“All rape is an exercise in power,” Brownmiller wrote in 1975, “but some rapists have an edge that is more than physical.” Sometimes, the 1975 text suggests, rapists “operate within an emotional setting or within a dependent relationship that provides a hierarchical, authoritarian structure of its own that weakens a victim’s resistance, distorts her perspective and confounds her will.” “Against Our Will” has been available in American libraries since its publication, which was in 1975.

Ansari would have been 7 or 8 years old in 1991 when a feminist group at Antioch College fought to establish the school’s Sexual Offense Prevention Policy (informally the “Antioch rules” or, more commonly, the “infamous Antioch rules”) requiring affirmative and sustained consent throughout all sexual encounters, and he was 10 when “Saturday Night Live” mocked the Antioch rules in a sketch that cast Shannen Doherty as a “Victimization Studies” major.

Also in 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailing repeated sexual harassment at the hands of her boss, Clarence Thomas, who is still on the Supreme Court. Like Ansari, I, too, was 8 in 1991, and I vividly recall my mother explaining sexual harassment to me in the living room of my childhood home: “For example, a man might say, ‘I have a big penis, and I bet you’d like me to —’ well, you know.” She cut off, disgusted.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s right

Philadelphia has had an interesting election regarding their District Attorney. Larry Krasner won the contest, but his career isn’t as a prosecutor–it’s as a defense attorney. Krasner’s platform highlighted the many ways in which the American justice system is abused and promised to end these practices. But what is bizarre is that the media is covering him like it’s a total surprise he’d gut dozens of state prosecution positions for their role in this abuse, despite him explicitly saying this was his agenda.

The Inquirer is not alone. At The Philadelphia Citizen, co-Executive Director Larry Platt compared an inexperienced Krasner to Trump and Oprah, lampooning his “amateurish first week,” pointing to the “freaked out Assistant District Attorneys” blowing up his phone. “It had,” he hyperbolically suggested, “the feel of an authoritarian (Trump-like?) purge.” But the Trump comparisons will fall flat. Most Philadelphians hate Trump, and they voted for Krasner in a landslide. And though Philadelphians voted against typical prosecutorial expertise in carrying out systematic justice, Krasner has considerable experience in the Philadelphia criminal justice system as a defense attorney. What’s more, Trump is a monstrous bigot fomenting a smokescreen of fear and hate to advance a war against poor people. By contrast, Krasner has pledged to do his part to fight back on the other side.

The Inquirer’s coverage is not just anti-Krasner; it is bad reporting, featuring fundamental oversights that shouldn’t appear in the city’s paper of record. First, the coverage is premised on the belief that Krasner was acting in bad faith — that he jettisoned people like Notaristefano for no good reason — and worse yet, that he has no real interest in securing justice. It didn’t seem to occur to the paper that Krasner might have a serious problem with the way that Notaristefano was prosecuting cases or about his overall track record.

Second, The Inquirer seems dumbstruck that Krasner’s own personal impression of prosecutors played a role in their ouster. But Krasner has spent decades in the court system, giving him a front row seat to how prosecutors play dirty by, say, turning a blind eye to brazenly lying cops or unconstitutionally hiding evidence from the defense. Why shouldn’t this sort of information, combined with what he has learned from others in the legal system, inform his personnel decisions?

Third, the coverage betrays a basic misreading of what district attorneys do. The presumption at work is that the district attorney’s office is a technocratic one rather than a political force that wields incredible discretionary power over people’s lives and liberty. Consider that no one would ever fault a president, governor or mayor for excusing functionaries who were hostile to their mission, and installing a new team. The technocratic conception of the district attorney’s office is a smokescreen obscuring the regular operation of mass incarceration: seeking maximum sentences for huge numbers of people at whatever cost, however ethically repugnant or legally dubious. That the status quo was normal did not make it right.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

What’s next after #MeToo

Although it is a step forward that survivors are feeling they can come forward to name their perpetrators, there is a reason we were so hesitant in the first place. None of that has necessarily budged after the #MeToo social media campaign, started by Tarana Burke in 2006.

Scores of women have felt rawdisheartened, and fatigued by the #MeToo news cycle over the past months for the obvious reason that these are transmissions of suffering and for many, reminders of exclusion. But the relentless news coverage is further disconcerting because these tales of horror are making some companies a lot of money, often by allowing one writer to dismiss and denigrate accusers in the same pages where another writer first broke the allegations.

So the perception of widespread insatiability that has so many conservatives and even liberals lamenting the fall of “due process” is not entirely off the mark. We harpies do indeed want more, much more. Even the handful of prominent men’s professional casualties isn’t quelling our appetite for revolution, which is misconstrued by some as a senseless, hysterical lust for vengeance. If anything, this growing parade of superficially disgraced figures only deepens our aggrievement: again, not by driving us to indiscriminate bloodletting, but by further whetting the craving for true change. Throw another famous gasbag into the fires of public disapproval—hell, throw them all in a fire—and see if we care. We will not be distracted or placated. A scab has been torn away and underneath is not a nearly-healed wound but a puncture so deep it drives down to the bone.

If this past year taught us anything, it was how profoundly every system one might have hoped to improve with mere reform, every institution one might have trusted to “do the right thing,” every politician who’d been positioned as a beacon of integrity, will never come to our rescue. Parity and justice and restitution are not priorities of our existing structures because those structures were designed to maintain hierarchies that make justice and parity and restitution impossible. This means that “the task ahead for women…is immense,” as Jo Livingstone writes: “It’s nothing less than a utopian project.”

You don’t get utopia by tweaking who stars in what Netflix show, or by kicking a handful of .01%-ers off the metaphorical island. The restless women of 2018 did not come seeking cosmetic corrections. We are ready for razing and remaking. Here, then, is an attempt to clear away some of the clutter so we can move on to the work most urgently at hand.

While it is important we feel ready to name the wrongdoing that occurs in our lives, we are still at incredible risk from structural problems that have yet to change. Discussed more here.

-Shiv