Further thoughts on the pink pussycaps

My feed has been inundated with a conversation that splits along the usual fault lines between a feminism that hasn’t aged particularly well, and the flawed-but-sincere attempts to investigate the finer points of intersectionality and inclusive 3rd wave feminism. The flash point for this flame war was the Women’s March on Washington and specifically the pink pussycaps.

Consider much of the “you” to be a “Royal You.” I’m not necessarily accusing you, the reader, unless you identify the habits I describe in yourself.

[Read more…]

Signal boosting: Everybody’s against rape as long as we’re not proposing to do anything about it

Content Notice: Abuse and sexual assault.

Yes Means Yes is a delightful blog, in part because it discusses the sort of 300-level feminist analyses that I don’t often get outside of school. As a whole, it covers a wide range of topics. Unsurprisingly, I found their BDSM posts and immediately exploded with glee–feminist kinksters write amazing stuff. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in Thomas’ series on the intersection of kink and rape culture.

It is a long read, but my gosh it is detailed and sharp and to the point. Check out some of these select quotes:

[Read more…]

Defending the indefensible

You’ve probably heard by now that a number of beaches in France have banned the burkini. Far from a rational response, these policies are absurd, sexist, racist, immoral and entirely indefensible. And yet, I see many arguments even from so-called free thinking people defending this policy.

Excuse #1: The French have been victims of a string of terrorist attacks and are scared

This might be a reasonable explanation for how the owners of these beaches thought this was a great idea, but it does not actually excuse the policy. A random Muslim on the street is no more culpable for the Nice or Paris attacks than I am for the routine Planned Parenthood terrorist attacks carried out by self righteous white Christians. It is racist to presume that every brown-skinned person is complicit in the attack because they are not, AT THIS EXACT SECOND, protesting or otherwise condemning the violence. That is a backward and perverted idea of justice.

They’re people. They have errands to run and chores to do. Even though every mosque goes on record to condemn a terrorist attack the moment it happens, this is not enough. Brown people who are on their way to the grocery store? They’re complicit in the violence! Taking time to do housekeeping or paying the bills? Tacit approval! Engaging in self care–including trips to the beach? That’s practically an endorsement! Arrest! Deport! Publicly humiliate!

You wouldn’t try to argue I’m complicit in poverty because I don’t donate 100% of my earnings to shelters. You shouldn’t try to argue that because Muslims may have spoons invested elsewhere they agree with terrorists, particularly when they do adhere to your ridiculous demands and condemn the attacks anyway. Neither Muslims nor brown people should have to prove their humanity to you.

Fuck off. Fear does not justify irrationality, it causes it. Have some fucking perspective. After all, many of the victims at Nice were Muslims.

I have a question. What does the burkini ban actually solve? Are you intercepting finances directed towards ISIS? Disarming dangerous people?

Oh, here’s a good one, Excuse #2. “Liberating women.”

Excuse #2: We’re liberating women.

[Read more…]

Signal boosting: Competing intersections in Iranian feminism

News of what happens to Iranian women arrested for “disrupting public order” during their advocacy for women is often very chilling. Iran’s current regime is quite blasé regarding its numerous human rights violations and at this point it can’t even be said they’re bothering to stage such democratic trappings as Right to a Fair Trial or Innocent Until Proven Guilty. One of the added difficulties Iranian feminists are having in their attempts for reform/revolution, in addition to a draconian government, is that those feminists belonging to predominant groups–ethnic majorities and religious moderates or progressives (insofar as you can be openly progressive in Iran) tend to pave over the more “radical” Iranian humanist feminists or the ethnic minority feminists.

Feminism under a theocratic government that severely suppresses any challenge to its “divine” rules is an endless struggle. Any activity must be undertaken with extreme caution and has severe repercussions.

Iranian-Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar was recently arrested upon visiting Iran and has been for the most part incommunicado since.

An article published in the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated press stated that Hoodfar’s work with Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUM) to promote feminism and women’s equality in Muslim countries and enhance women’s bodily autonomy was aimed at “disrupting public order” and “prompting social-cultural changes that can ultimately pave the ground…for a soft overthrow.”

Indeed, if Iranian women of diverse backgrounds were to unite and speak in solidarity, they could overthrow the regime.

But the Iranian women movement is divided and is facing many challenges.

The contradictory perspectives of religious female activists versus secular ones is one of the main obstacles.

While one group believes “genuine” Islam can be emancipating for women, the other considers secularism as the first step out of male domination.

Urban and rural women are also divided. Middle and upper-middle class women seek occupational and educational rights, while for poorer women, health issues and welfare are primary needs.

But an important, yet unacknowledged, source of division among feminists in Iran is the ethnocentrism of the dominant group.

Women of Kurdish, Baluch, Arab or Turkmen origins in Iran suffer ethnic as well as gender oppression. However, the first level of subjugation is not admitted by the feminists of the dominant group.

The plight of ostracized women is marginalized not only by the patriarchy in their culture and the national chauvinism of the ruling state but also by the negligence of mainstream feminists.

Last week Kurdish women began a campaign to support female cyclists who were harassed and threatened by officials. The women were biking as part of an environmentalist movement, namely “Green Tuesdays.”

Despite the momentum it gained in the Kurdish region, the initiation was largely overlooked by prominent Iranian feminists.

Those of us in the West recognize the similarities between White Feminism and Iranian Feminism. In both cases they represent concerns from oppressed women who are privileged in other ways, oblivious to the compounded nastiness that involves occupying multiple intersections.

Reformation implies that the government is willing to play ball to enact change–however small. At this point, the government is only going to budge under the threat of revolution. Look for the radicals in Iran–there’s a reason they’re subjected to state-sanctioned brutality.


BLM to Marshal the Vancouver Dyke March

Black Lives Matter has been asked to marshal the upcoming Dyke March in Vancouver. This announcement has been made following the decision of BLM to not participate in this year’s Pride at Vancouver: (all emphasis original)

A Pride flag does not shield us from racism, discrimination and violence. In fact, as researchers and activists are well aware, being queer makes PoCs more vulnerable to interpersonal, institutional and structural violence. Because there are relatively few queer Indigenous and PoC folks (particularly those who identify or are read as Black) represented in Vancouver, it is imperative that Pride makes space to actively include these groups. There is a difference between “diversity” and “inclusion”. Tokenistic representation is different from intentional, self-motivated participation in an organization and an organization’s events. We encourage the Vancouver Pride Society to take action in pursuing the latter.

At our vigil on Sunday we successfully negotiated a basic police presence from the Vancouver Police Department. We acknowledge that in certain contexts police presence to perform a job of civil service may deter acts of homophobia and violence, especially at designated queer events such as Pride. However, we cannot divorce the policing institution from its historical and continued violence against Indigenous and PoC communities, racial profiling, or inaction around our missing Indigenous women. We stand with BLM-Toronto and many other BLM chapters in their discontent with police being involved in the parade itself.

BLM-Vancouver had not directly heard from the Vancouver Pride Society before the statement was released publicly online despite the Society’s stated intentions of inclusion and a desire to reach out to us.

We will not be taking part in the Pride parade, by participation or protest, and have instead chosen to focus our energy elsewhere. The Dyke March responded positively to the recent events in Toronto and, with compassion and dignity, have invited BLM-Vancouver to lead as Grand Marshall this year as part of their contribution to Pride. We have responded to that positive message of solidarity and humanity and are pleased to be involved with several other QTBIPoC-centred events as well. We do this not only because we feel that Pride no longer represents community action, resistance and revolution but also as an act of solidarity with BLM chapters across North America to whom Pride parades have been made inaccessible. We wholeheartedly support the actions of other BLM chapters such as BLM Toronto and BLM San Francisco and although we may not face the same immediate threats of police brutality, we refuse to participate in the whitewashing, armament and exclusivity of any Pride Parade unless concrete and explicit commitments to the contrary are made.

In case you’re wondering, the Vancouver Dyke March is also trans-inclusive, and recently committed in its trans-affirmation policy to including trans folk among their leadership positions. Remember my bit about BLM being better at intersectionality and trans affirmation than the mainstream cis gay movement? Thank you Vancouver Dyke March & Black Lives Matter for demonstrating my point.

I’m a little too broke to go this year… but damn, I can’t wait to go next year.


Kimberlé Crenshaw on anti-black police brutality

Kimberlé Crenshaw, perhaps best known for her work responding to second-wave white feminism with work we now recognize as intersectionality (a term she is credited with coining), throws her hat in the ring on anti-black police brutality:

When she speaks at public meetings, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has a trick. She asks everyone to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name. She then reads the names of unarmed black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement; names such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin. Her audience are informed and interested in civil rights so “virtually no one will sit down”, Crenshaw says approvingly. “Then I say the names of Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Aura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign.”

The campaign, #SayHerName, was created to raise awareness about the number of women and girls that are killed by law enforcement officers. For Crenshaw – who coined the term “intersectionality” in the 1980s to describe the way different forms of discrimination overlap and compound each other – it is a brutal illustration of how racism and sexism play out on black women’s bodies.

Anderson is far from alone. Yvette Smith was killed in her own home after the police arrived to investigate a domestic disturbance complaint between two men. Smith, a single mother of two, was shot in the head when she opened the door for the officers. The police first alleged that Smith had a gun, then retracted the claim. The former Texas police deputy who killed Smith was cleared of her murder.

A year ago, Crenshaw, along with lawyer Andrea Ritchie,released a report looking at almost 70 such cases, many taking place in the past three years. But there could be many more. Until recently – when the Guardian launched its database, the Counted – the US had no comprehensive record of those killed by police officers. “More black people [in total] are killed – disproportionately to their rate in the population – and although the numbers are hard to assess, the reality is that black women are vulnerable to the same justifications used for killing black men,” says Crenshaw

One case that did catch the media and the public’s attention was the death of Sandra Bland. Bland was pulled over for failing to use her indicator when she changed lanes. A video showed her being pinned to the ground and surrounded by officers after being charged with assault. She can be heard asking why her head is slammed on to the pavement. Three days later, she was found dead in a police cell.

However, unless the way women are killed is taken into account, says Crenshaw, we can’t “broaden our understanding of vulnerability to state violence and what do we need to do about it”. There are many cases, for instance, where women are killed by police who arrive as first responders to emergency calls for mental health crises. “Disability – emotional, physical and mental – is one of the biggest risk factors for being killed by the police, but it is relatively suppressed in the conversation about police violence,” she points out.

Crenshaw points out that #SayHerName also serves to highlight other forms of state violence that impact women. Crenshaw cites the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma police officer convicted of 18 of 36 charges of sexual assault against black women. Despite the number of women involved, the case was barely covered in the media. There is little public discussion of sexual abuse by police officers, Crenshaw says, although “according to some reports, they are the second most-common report of police abuse”.

The conversation around authoritarian behaviour patterns has started to reveal correlations between domestic violence and racist violence. Crenshaw’s work appears to corroborate this. In other words, if someone is willing to engage in dehumanizing tactics to justify violence against one particular demographic, it appears to be justified in assuming they will not stop with their first target.

The numbers are still being investigated in this idea of linking violent acts against one group and prejudice against another group but the idea has been around for a few years, decades even, with the core sentiment present in “First they came…

Perhaps better history lessons are needed.


Edit: Oops! Forgot to actually link Crenshaw’s interview. Fixed.

Indigenous women protest misogyny in Indian Act

Joan Jack, a lawyer and indigenous woman, takes to the road on her Harley to partake in the Road to Niagara campaign:

A Manitoba Ojibway activist is hitting the road on her Harley to bring awareness to misogyny in the Indian Act and to inspire Indigenous women to be political leaders.

Joan Jack travelled from her home in British Columbia to her home province of Manitoba to take part in Road to Niagara.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is leading a ride that starts in Winnipeg on Thursday. It aims to raise awareness of the spirit and intent of treaties as First Nations seek to return to a nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government.

Jack said she will stop in communities along the way and try to empower women to be leaders.

“Many of the communities are still stuck in chauvinistic views of a woman’s place and a woman’s role and I’m just here to say that’s just BS,” she said.

Jack, a retired lawyer who ran for the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations in 2012, said part of the problem is the Indian Act. She calls the act one of the original sources of misogyny against Indigenous women in Canada.

“It’s legalized misogyny,” she said.

“Most First Nations reserves have no resources to deal with male violence against women. There are no safe houses, there are no trained people.… We need to have human rights training. Most oppression is born out of ignorance, not intent,” she said.

I don’t have a motorbike, and I’m also really broke so I wouldn’t be able to take time off work–nonetheless, I hope the campaign goes well and many a woke Indigenous feminist is made.

Joan Jack, smashin’ the kyriarchy.


Signal boosting: BLM & Toronto Pride

Over on The Orbit, Ania covers why police force participation at Pride festivals is a betrayal of Pride’s roots:

The demands were in response to a series of moves by the PRIDE organization in Toronto that has been gradually eliminating Queer focused PoC spaces in Toronto. It was in response to the fact that there has been a lot of white washing happening in queer communities and many vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, trans woman and specifically trans women of colour, and native people, have felt themselves being pushed out in various was from queer communities.

It is a struggle many people who belong to multiple vulnerable groups find themselves facing in spaces meant to cater to one or more of those identities. Black women faced with feminist spaces that prioritize white women’s concerns, trans women who are actively discriminated against or are forced to deal with TERFs in nominally “safe” spaces, disabled people who face meetings related to feminism, race issues, trans issues, etc. being held in inaccessible spaces or without the benefit of accessibility measures like interpreters.

The response to the protest has been mixed. While some, myself included, have been praising it not just for bringing awareness to the plight of PoC and black people in particular in both Canada and the US, but at the same time taking a moment to carve out a space as well for other vulnerable communities, many other people have condemned the protest.

One of the biggest complaints that I’ve seen so far has to do with the request that Police no longer be allowed to have a float or booth at the festival or parade and future events. Many people seem to feel that this is unfair to officers who are themselves QUILTBAG.

In order to understand the request however, there needs to be a bit more of a consideration of history on multiple levels.

The thing I love about the BLM movement is that it has always been rock solid on intersectionality. This is why I support and celebrate PoCs leading the charge–with BLM at the helm, they’ll have space in their protest for black trans women, and that’s enough for me to feel represented. On the topic of race relations, my role as a white woman is to signal boost and expand the platform of PoCs; on the topic of gender variance and the violence we face, it is important that sharing my own experiences does not occur over the voices of less privileged trans women. I know my perspective will be accessed; experience tells me this is less likely to happen when it’s white cis gays leading the group.

Ania explains how the violence doesn’t have to be brutal from police (although it sometimes still is, even in Canada), the police still antagonize and make difficult the lives of Queer PoCs. Having them officially represented at Pride means forgetting where Pride came from. White cis gays like to talk about how much progress has been made without acknowledging how much more work still needs to be done. They complain about political agendas being brought to a protest that was originally about political agendas.

If there were ever a time to point out how the L and the G have been antagonistic to the T and the B and the Q, now would be it.


Black Lives Matter protests Toronto Pride

Toronto Pride has developed a reputation for being overwhelmingly white and cis. The criticism could likely be levied against any Pride, with its shift towards cis gay men and corporations downplaying the original intent of Pride: a protest. It was never meant to be a movement towards white cisheterosexist assimilation.

Black Lives Matter reminds us of that:

Members of the Black Lives Matter Toronto group briefly halted the Pride parade today, holding up the marching for about 30 minutes.

The parade didn’t re-start until after Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a document agreeing to the group’s demands.

“It’s always the appropriate time to make sure folks know about the marginalization of black people, of black queer youth, black trans youth, of black trans people,” [Williams] said. “We are not taking any space away from any folks. When we talk about homophobia, transphobia, we go through that too … It should be a cohesive unit, not one against the other. Anti-blackness needs to be addressed and they can be addressed at the same time, in the same spaces,” she said.

In a news release, the group said Pride Toronto “has shown little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years.”

The group released a list of demands, including a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff, and to prioritize the hiring of black transgender women and indigenous people.

One of the other demands also called for the exclusion of police floats, although not necessarily police members, from participating:

But Khan told CBC News her group is not looking to exclude officers who identify as LGBT from participating in Pride events, but it opposes floats accompanied by uniformed, armed officers — calling them a stark reminder of the history of brutality faced by the LGBT community and visible minorities.

“To be clear, we said, ‘No floats. No police floats,'” Khan said. “But we have no desire to police the police in terms of whether they should actually be there or not when they’re LGBTQ-identified.”

Khan said her group’s actions are in keeping with “histories of resistance” that have long been a part of the tradition of Pride.

“If we think about the dyke march that happened 20 years ago, gay men were saying, ‘Why should you have your own Pride?’ … Twenty years later it’s an integral part of what Pride is all over the world. We’re saying, should we wait 20 years before black lives are also considered an integral part?”

Canada has a “less bad” record of police brutality than America, sure. But it’s certainly worth reminding the overwhelmingly white Pride Parade that black folks, and black queer folks, still deal with a lot of antagonism and prejudice even if it’s not outright brutality, and that police brutality still happens even if less often.

[Read more…]

Signal boosting: Queers affected by Orlando

Jacqui Germain writes, “Defining safety for all queer people in the wake of Orlando:” (emphasis mine)

Last weekend’s shooting happened on Pulse Nightclub’s Latinx-themed night, advertised with a flyer that featured two Trans Latina women on the front. As a montage of faces began spreading across social media in an effort to uplift and memorialize the deceased, it quickly became clear that the 50 shooting victims were overwhelmingly brown-skinned queer people. This fact isn’t a case of happenstance; the specificity of the violence suggests a specificity in its impact, and that impact calls for intentionality in response. It is crucial that we center marginalized people in conversations around how we can work to make this world safe for queer folks. This wasn’t a coincidence: brown queer and Trans people have experienced years of targeted, lethal violence that contextualizes the massacre in Orlando within decades and centuries of homophobia, transphobia and racism.

The “and racism” is still the mountain that many white queer folks would prefer to simply walk around rather than traverse. To most people, homophobia is readily apparent in the events in Orlando. But the racism? Not so much. White supremacy is still a thing that white-dominated spaces—whether they’re queer or not—struggle to sufficiently address and actively resist. And mainstream queer America is, certainly, overwhelmingly white.

I naively hoped passive-aggressive Facebook comments would be their mainstay until I heard back from friends about the racism they witnessed at various vigils for the victims. I’ll put it this way: more than one friend used the word “homonationalism,” a term meant to describe the way the mainstream gay community tends to position itself comfortably within a nationalist identity. Rather than being at odds with American patriotism and nationalism – which in many ways perpetuates violence against marginalized communities here and abroad – the mainstream gay community too often directly participates in American nationalism in an effort to prove that they deserve access to the rights and freedoms of citizenship.

Reina Gattuso writes, “No Islamophobia in the name of Queers

When I first heard on Sunday morning that fifty people had been killed by a gunman at Latin night in an Orlando gay club, Rick Scott’s voice played over my grief. And over, and over: “This is an attack on our people” said the recording, playing on a loop. “An attack on all of us.”

Our peopleAmericansUs.

Beneath my shock was rage: Since when has Rick Scott thought of queers as part of “us”? 

It is a collective rage.

Violence at this scope is mind-numbing in its enormity, and brings with it the need for a suspended animation, the need for time and space to realize — if it can be realized — the beauty of human life and the terror of its loss. But in the United States, in a state of war that seems interminable and that breeds a systemic devaluing of both queer and Muslim life, the grief of violence is trailed by an anxiety that blossoms the moment we hear the gunman’s name. When Trump gets onstage and calls again for the banning of Muslim immigration into the U.S., the fear swells: One minority’s lives will be weaponized against another.

It is very easy, and very tempting, for white queers, rich queers, queers whose gender presentations are still relatively normative, non-Muslim queers, to use our privileges to alleviate some of our marginality.There has been a great deal of academic work in recent years on the way in which non-Muslim queers have exploited an Islamophobic and militaristic nationalism to encourage our assimilation into mainstream society. As with discourse about women’s rights, LGBT rights have been exploited as yet another reason for war in the Middle East.

To Donald Trump and Rick Scott, to anyone who believes that American assault weapons do not belong in Florida but do belong in Palestine, to anyone who uses queer grief to keep refugees out and Muslims in fear, to anyone who uses queer lives to wage war: We are not yours.

Cassie Da Costa writes, “In the Face of Homophobia and Islamophobia, Queer touch persists:”

Not only have I courted my own silence, but felt trapped in it. In the days following the mass shooting at Pulse, we’ve been reminded that we live in society that questions if a black and/or Latinx and/or Muslim person can be queer. This is a society that has no imagination for brown and black skin, one that lacks the capacity to map a history of touch that is past, present, and future, one that cannot truly conceive of a black or brown body as sensuous and vulnerable, but only as violent or as a product of violence.

Furthermore, the convergence of homophobia and Islamophobia that has been facilitated not only by major media but also by both presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, not only tries to deny queer Muslim identity but tries to deny solidarity between non-Muslim POC and Muslims who have been working together to fight against homophobia, transphobia, and racism. It positions bodies that would find pleasure, comfort, and power in each other as possible dangers to each other, pits black and brown and queer bodies against each other in the name of some elusive, untrue American solidarity. (As I write this, I’ve just become aware of a wonderful piece by Raillan Brooks at the Village Voice, on being queer and Muslim in America, especially now in the wake of the Orlando attacks.)

Man, they are slaying hard at feministing.