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Rape Culture and Revolution

Over time, I am coming to see more and more ways in which the greatest thefts from us as people, and the genocides and atrocities of our past, are connected and complicit in perpetuating cycles of violence. This is one step in creating a dialogue about how to change the system and not just the symptoms, of our oppressions.
MY LINE OF MOTHERS

Dropped Eggs in the Kitchen

Eggshells on the floor
For lack of a beginning
Fallen there open
For lack
Of a beginning.
I could start with my
Round smoothness, sharded
But long before even my birth
Was a mother with a face round and hard,
Mine own, yet distant and unknown
Before she was frozen
Landgrabbed and pregnant
Man and captor
Framed in sienna or umber
And her name forgotten, broken connections.
Then there was her daughter
All time a war between patriotism and motherland.
Her duty was silence
Silvery sharp at her neck.
My mother told me her own story
In the rain, and I could smell her tears
The salt was like the parched ground
And this flood was quenching a drought.
It rushed into my ears
And dripped down deep
Like I was bleeding
Like her blood was flowing in my veins.
She had no specifics
But lots of fear
And I never told her
My blood stains a mattress like that.
So, for lack of a beginning
I rant and rave as I walk
Down the sides of streets and conversations
About the cuts of the cords
Vocal silence reflecting on in deep eyes
And for lack of a beginning
I rage at the assumptions
And all the kings horses
And all the kings men
If we all lived unforgotten
I could find a home in my skin
And for lack of a beginning
We could call eachother kin.



The first thing I know about my family besides all those family claims of historical men ("we are related to Robin Hood... to Shakespeare... to French royalty") is the story of my great great grandmother. She was a woman stripped of her name, culture, land, and freedom by the kidnapping, subsequent rape and marriage by a white settler in Montana. They lived on a farm, poor with their gaggle of kids, and I can imagine the burden in her life growing heavier as her world was stripped of hope and future. In the one photograph of her that I have seen, her face reflects mental and physical hardship that I can't even imagine.
Her only daughter went to serve, patriotically, in WW1. I once read her diary, filled with her 18-year-old desire to get out of the farmland and dust of a future of the one room schoolhouse teacher and a marriage of convenience. She left one day for Washington DC. In DC, they would not let her join the nurse corps, because her documentation was questionable, and the state suspected divided loyalties and racial impurity. She was crushed by the rejection, and on her way to the boarding house from that interview a man followed her, grabbed her and dragged her under some bushes where he raped her at knifepoint. A soldier with bright red hair heard her muffled screams and came to her rescue, scaring off the rapist, and soon after she married the soldier. "Never again" she wrote, "will I be without a husband's protection".
Her daughter was my grandmother, who was abused by her father, that very same hero, now an alcoholic. What I know of my grandmother is that she drank a lot of liquor, was tough as nails, she had a sharp ironic sense of humor. She left home at an early age, moving north to New York City. She married a man who was an orphan, and commenced to mass porducing a family, 50s style. The family was fragments of emotions. My mother once said she had no recollection of nursing or of being held, no faint memory of smell or touch.
This brings me to my mother, and me. I am her only daughter, and it has been up to me from a very young age to be the unbending support for her. I knew as a child that my mother hurt herself. I knew that in her moments of desperation she was compelled to the oblivion of blades- but eventually she could stop at just cutting her hair off. I knew that she would never physically hurt me, but she often threatened to leave us. One night when I returned home after a long time away we sat out on some hay bales although it was a thunderstorm. This was the private space available for us to talk, I suppose because there was baseball on TV and the men had a vested interest in business as usual.
My mom's fašade of unending durability collapsed and she yelped out, "I was RAPED when I was 18 years old." She had nothing else to say, but tears were streaming down her weathered face, mixing with the dust and rain. I held her, and had no idea what to do next. The one thing that was absolutely out of the question was to complicate this moment of her admission by telling her that I have been raped too. There is a certain amount of self-sacrifice on my part that is the glue of our comfortable relationship. She, under all her experienced strength, is that 18-year-old. A brilliant, awkwardly tall girl. I don't know what happened, but I do get the feeling I'm the only person she has ever told. I don't think my family wants to know. I know they don't want to hear about my experience.

Myself, well, I was very young. I was very confused and under the impression that there was something wrong with me that could only be made right by pleasing other people, making them feel good, saying what they wanted to hear. I had never even been out on a date, when I let myself get talked into getting drunk with a twenty-something year old man who I didn't know well. At first it was fun, riding around dizzyingly on the handlebars of his bike, in the liquid sunset of summer. But soon he began making me uncomfortable, touching and kissing me, and I told him to take me home. Instead of giving me a ride home, he took me to his house and yanked my clothes off. He carried me into his room, and broke me into pieces relentlessly. It hurt physically, but the confusion and mental anguish of being powerless and invisible in my own body was equally as impacting, and it all combined into something my mind has learned to deal with like a bad dream. I was saying "no, no" and "stop". I was struggling with my body that I suddenly didn't understand. I kept thinking, "what is happening? Am I different, am I flawed now that I am not a virgin?" When he stopped there was my blood all over the place. Tears were sliding down my face, and I burned, and was too sore to move. Shooting pain that left me breathless and dizzy, like I was passing out. And he smiled. Then he asked me- did I romp you too hard, baby? I remember feeling offended that he knew I was a baby, and yet he still did that to me. These things are like symbols, engraved in my memory. I never told anyone until years afterward. The rapist lives his life, and I try to. For a long time, I used my anguish narcissistically, as if it somehow validated my new adulthood, my womanhood. But I also gained a respect for the art of escape as self-defense, and protected myself from subsequent molestations by jumping out of a bathroom window and a moving car.
From my experiences, I've learned I can only run away from specific circumstances-but danger is often latent. I know a lot of people who endured things I can't even imagine, at an even younger age, and in parts of their lives they could not run away from.

FEMININITY

Femininity in its long-nailed fine-tuned delicacy has always evaded my touch. My family is made up of working people, self-sufficient, and strong. The ultra-feminine women in my life have always made me very insecure. I remember standing in the lunch line, and a couple girls from the suburbs comapring their hands to mine. ("oh, your hands are gross, and dirty, and all rough!"). I feel slow and clumsy and stupid around them, or unworldly and bumbling. I am none of these things in reality, but the feeling is hard to shake. Judgement is deeply worn into all women's minds. Why should I find it so difficult to be proud of my hard-working hands? Or my strong back or the round face that has carried across the generations despite the cutting of so many cords?
Growing up, my best friend was a small blonde wonder-child. She had the heart of everyone we met, and I piqued their interest as the "weirdo", like in "Friends". We have drifted apart, into different conceptions of womanhood. Her only interactions with me now have been marked with coercion and attempts to hold my emotions hostage. I see her graduating into a strong woman, exercising the kind of strength that is sold as "feminine"- emotionally coercive force. It is a girly-girl's only legitimate force, in the eyes of our society, because by its nature it keeps the balance of power stable. The choice of whether or not to change a situation is always left up to the one that the woman uses her emotional coercion upon. She herself must wait and depend upon the conscience of those she accepts as powerful.
The option of physical self-defense is strongly discouraged by law enforcement, if not by word, at least by deed. Victims do not practice self-defense. Statistically, women face longer prison sentences for self-defensive violence than men do for domestic abuse. It all fits nicely into a package of patriarchal sin, with its serpentine women and their devious darkness; the lunacy and blood of "nature", and the primacy of patriarchal "civilization" and the Godhead above them.

Snakes witches angels
Whores priestess infidel
Quiet wife of intimacy
Or unleashed into hell
Fire of desire dark
Fierce amazon unbounded
To chain of command.
Safer, high-heel secretary
Holder but not owner of
Secrets, titties, children and "to do" lists.
Resplendent diamonds buying
Blood flesh, bought and buried
As the blight contagious,
Danger dirty, Smile seductive,
Is betrayal imminent and belongs in a whorehouse.
He said "hold the viper closer"
In a cage and not a hand
A soul of darkness shown in
Dark eyes, reflective of
Madness and hysteria.
He said we need limits
Chaos plowed for flowering order
Motions of love decried
Flag planted, tear slipping
She said he said she was the one
Who lied.



CONSUMED

A big part of why I thought I was "bad" for a long time was that my love poured towards my closest friends, regardless of their gender, but I did not at all enjoy flirting with, or being fucked by, the people who I was "supposed" to be attracted to. I thought that what makes the woman is how desirable she is, and my reluctance at being with the people who wanted to consume me, made me feel worthless. This kind of mindset really reminds me of the World Bank definition that insanity can be gauged by the measure of "days out of role". How can your commodification be any measure of sanity? It is as though our legitimate right to exist is contingent on our usage by others, or the extraction of resources.
I used to just go numb and apathetic whenever I felt that I was about to be used; I would shut off my emotions and my senses. My sadistic lovers loved it- I would take anything, as it never had any meaning to me. I prided myself on a high tolerance for pain. One day, I realized that I was taking pride in my bruises- I liked how they showed that someone had touched me. I realized that this is really messed up. That night I had a dream where I became a landscape and it was as dead as a political map; every part of me was unsensing and passive. I was watching my history like a PBS history special, all the different touches that had attempted to claim my body as conquered, each wave of conquest followed by the extraction of resources, my mind, my heart, my body, my time and energy, my health. I realized when I woke up that my senses were colonized, and that in a way they were silent not for my own protection, but as though they were imprisoned or enslaved to serve rape culture. That was the beginning of the thaw of my emotional frostbite. It stings to have to work through my inner problems and patterns, and my relationships with people from my past and my present, but it is ultimately making me happy. I have succeeded in making my body my home once again, and understanding how to love and be loved.
Rape culture is a consumer. It is one in the same with consumer culture, where people are objects and ideas of people are sold in the mall just as much as the clothes are. Where shoppers get the goods, not knowing where they come from, and throw them out as disposable when the trend is over and the function worn out. In consumer culture, value is a price tag, and no value is inherent. As a belligerent man I used to know always said, "women be shopping... " and it's true, but the voracious consumption of stuff serves only to sell the women AS stuff.


VICTIMHOOD

This seems to me to be a society of victims. Oppression is rampant for everyone except for the very elite few. For those who don't experience the harshness of growing up poor and making a "living" in the underclasses, there are other types of cages. So many middle class kids are on psychiatric medications, it would be a mistake to ignore such a screaming canary in the mineshaft. If freedom is a lack of regulation, as Ward Churchill has suggested, United States citizens can call ourselves some of the most un-free people in the world. The US has the highest proportion of its population in prison of any country in the entire world. And of course, divided and conquered, we all oppress each other all the time. There is a constant battle among people and institutions for power. This idea -power-, and the dynamics of scarcity and oppression that it creates, makes fertile ground for racists to organize lower class whites against poor people of color, for management to set workers in competitive relationships with one another, for white feminists to disregard the struggles of women of color, for middle class people to always ally with the upper classes in the hope of getting there. Each, for all the power they can get for themselves. Most of all, these divisions and acts of violence between oppressed people decimate communities and other forms of self-sufficiency for people. The existence of the oppression creates the existence of victimhood, in which the victim is damaged goods of the state, and the state is the only force the victim can go to for some kind of restitution. I don't want to use my pain to strengthen the role of power for the authorities and organizations I am told to go to for help, who actually support the nexus of oppressive forces in society.
Many people are now calling themselves "survivors" instead of "victims". I like the optimism of the term- it implies that a time will come when we will have outlasted rape culture. We are all, whether or not we have been raped or otherwise molested, survivors of an inhumane system. The taking of the precious and highly personal has been as much a part of genocide as it has of rape (and those two have come hand in hand). The desperation of isolation from vital necessities, and impending death has haunted the dreams of those starving on the streets, isolated from family, kicked off their homeland, psychologically mutilated, or locked in prison. We all need to practice self-defense, for this is a culture where rape, genocide, slavery, and prisons are symptoms, and not the original causes.

COMMUNITY RESPONSES TO RAPE

Amongst revolutionaries, radicals, anarchists, and other change-seeking groups, there have been efforts all over the country recently to hold rapists accountable for their actions, without involving the state. It seems there have been different degrees of success. There have been healing processes, and there have been bloodthirsty lynch mobs aimed at innocent individuals, and there have been insulated self-aggrandizing rapists claiming that they're the ones being victimized by the circumstance. My take on all this is that by approaching this responsibility in a purely reactionary way, the "community" is replacing the state. In my opinion, the ultimate goal is to have the state and the role it plays be obsolete. But, we still exist in a society defined by of the social dynamics of victimhood. When our "communities" are really only an interest group of people who come to meetings, the only work we can do is reactionary. In these circumstances, someone must be made into a victim in our minds in order for rape to be addressed.
What we need are communities that can support emotional and physical healing, and that can foster respect and self-defense. This is inherently opposed to the state, for the interests of those people the state "victimizes" are directly opposed to the interests of the state. I come from a community where everyone was very interdependent and identified with one another, despite ethnic and cultural fractures. It was not a community that I could have expected a radical analysis from when I was raped, with the exception of certain individuals. Few of the women or men felt empowered to address rape as a social and political problem and not just an act of individual taboo violence. One crucial part of creating a social revolution is for those of us who are a part of a community to foster deeper communication within those communities so that we can all recognize the interconnectedness of our personal and political struggles- and the power of our collective actions. That is one aspect of why I am posting this article so publicly.
I never brought my specific injury before my community as a whole, but I did become part of a dialog about domestic abuses in our village, from which we all learned a tremendous amount. One thing that we discussed is, this is not a problem of "us" and "them". We should not impose ostracism or invisibility on rapists as a blanket solution, even though that is what "taboo" things usually do. We should not push them into dark corners, because that accomplishes no more than the state's "correctional institutions". Abusers are weak points in the fabric of a community, and instead of ignoring and withdrawing resources, they need more, focused, attention. Darning or patching, if you will. This is also a safety concern, since abusers who are pushed out can pop up in another community or location without needing to remember the lessons they should have learned.
I think self-abusers are the same way. Having been introduced to the patterns of abuse from various sources in my life (including the rape psychology built up in my matriarchal line, and pop-culture), I have been fighting the impulse to self-abuse since I was a kid. I have also been fighting the feeling of obligation to let others control and abuse me. No, this doesn't mean I need to be locked up in a mental institution. Yes, it does mean I need my community to listen to me and express connection to me, and dialog about the underlying dynamics that foster these maliases.

HOSTAGE CRISIS

These statistics come from the US Department of Justice. I've added commentary.

*The number of women under the jurisdiction of State or Federal prison authorities increased 4.9% from December, 2001 to December, 2002, reaching 97,491. The number of men rose 2.4%, totaling 1,343,164 at yearend 2002.
*The female prison population has risen 275% since 1980. 90% of women in prison are single mothers - there are 167,000 children with incarcerated mothers.
*In 1995: 80% of women report incomes of less than $2000 a year; 92% less than $10,000 in 1994
*At yearend 2002 there were 3,437 sentenced black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,176 sentenced Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 450 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.
*Prisoners with HIV have little or no access to qualified medical attention
*1995: whites account or 52% of all crack users, African Americans: 38% However, of those sentenced for crack offenses - 88% were African American, 4.1% were white.
*Private corporations like Eddie Bauer and Lexus employ prison slave labor. Prisoners work without rights or laws to protect them.
* In 1994 92% of federal inmates were incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
. *Over 100 political prisoners in the United States are serving long terms not for crimes committed but for political beliefs and activities

The Fraternal Brotherhood of Police draws allegiance from police of all ranks, prison guards security guards, and those inside and around the court system. And what is the proportionally fastest growing population in prisons? It is women of color, for non-violent offenses.
When women are separated from their children, and children from their mothers, because police and courts judge them to be a part of the "criminal class", we know slavery has not ended. We, the people, are not numbers. We are not statistics, and we are not barcodes. We are individuals in relationship to one another, and in struggle for the survival and well being of our families and communities. It is becoming a harder and harder struggle, as social services and schools are having their budgets cut out of existence. It is getting harder as housing, food, and medical care become too expensive, and drifts out of reach for the majority of families. Petty crime is a reaction to poverty. And logically, it is poverty that is the crime if robbing a convenience store carries a harsher sentence than stealing millions of dollars from your employees' retirement funds does. It is a propagated poverty, because community structures that support people are intentionally torn down by those who would profit from our desperation.
Through the prison system, and other systems of enforcement, our communities become divided, and held hostage. Those inside prison worry about their families, and try their hardest to stay connected without hurting them. Those outside worry about their families that are inside and try their hardest to stay connected and support them without hurting them. Our ability to support one another and ourselves is essentially bought by the state for the price of incarcerating our loved ones. And though that price is greater than it would be to send that prisoner to a fancy upper-class university for a year, it is worth it to the state and its henchmen corporations, for the profit of prison slave-labor and the continued disempowerment of prisoners' outside communities.
Rape is perpetrated in epidemic proportions within prisons. Rape and sexual abuse is perpetrated in epidemic proportions in the military. It is an expression of oppressive power, most horrifically expressed when some hold much more structural power than others. This dynamic is mimicked on other scales, echoing through the streets, our workplaces, and our families by racist, classist, sexist, ageist, and ablist behavior. A radical solution to rape and other forms of oppression must address the power structures that enable its expression, as well as the psychological and social strongholds.

THE BEGINNING

Beyond just reacting to the horrors occurring in our everyday lives and all around the world, we need to create social and political revolution in this country, to stop the power structure's enforcement of inequity, and corporate capitalism's commodification of all our inherent value and gifts. The structures that uphold the oppressive power of this society must be abolished, and at the same time communities must be filling the void with support systems that empower us all. We can not deny that the political is personal and vice versa. We can not say that "sexism, racism, and classism must be abolished, and then we can have a revolution" or the other way around. The structures that support this unjust system are both external and internal to each and every one of us, and we must work effectively against oppression, on all fronts.
I don't want to be a part of the great forgetting that the government and its social system are attempting to impose. I don't want to ignore that look on my great great grandma's face, or my grandma's face, or my mother's face, because I see it reflected all around me, and I know that the truth is often hard to take, but ignoring it allows it to keep growing. I want to build on the strength these lifetimes have instilled in me, and I hope desperately that the current generations will not shed their responsibility to the future generations. We NEED to stop the cycle of rape culture and a system that oppresses us all in order to make a profit.

add a comment on this article

The best posting on Indymedia I have read to date 27.Jan.2005 05:34

An awed & speechless troll

If the goal of Indymedia is to be an agent for raising awareness in the community, this one article proves it beyond all doubt. Thank you.

boundaries 27.Jan.2005 10:27

Fr34K

Thank you for sharing that... I thought deeply about it- it stirred my emotions quite a bit.

what you say about the poor is true... divide and conquer pitting us against eachother...

ever since I was a young boy ive struggled for an outlet for my abuse, promising myself that it ends with me, that if I decided to have children that they would not suffer the psychological/physical damage the men in my family were so adept at or the sexual abuse the women in my family perpetuate. Always seems to be the rule from what Ive seen in my family that if someone chooses not to perpetuate abuse, they find a way to abuse themselves... drugs, self mutilation... pain. You show me a trail youve made out of the darkness, truly inspiring... the only thing I can think of in the way, which I can't see how to work around is the lack of sociability-- the difficulty in connecting to other people. A community seems a hard thing to build as isolated as we all seem to be inside of our homes with our tv's... As one who only wants to do it if they do it right, having old thought patterns resurface and wreak havoc keeps me away from others... thanks for your hope and your words- they are empowering.

inspiring and timely 27.Jan.2005 10:35

another survivor

This was just great. Neither mainstream nor alternative media I have seen gets to the intersectional relations between patriarchy, capitalism, rape culture and survivalism like you have done here. Brava.

I also love this stuff you wrote:

"Beyond just reacting to the horrors occurring in our everyday lives and all around the world, we need to create social and political revolution in this country, to stop the power structure's enforcement of inequity, and corporate capitalism's commodification of all our inherent value and gifts. The structures that uphold the oppressive power of this society must be abolished, and at the same time communities must be filling the void with support systems that empower us all. We can not deny that the political is personal and vice versa. We can not say that "sexism, racism, and classism must be abolished, and then we can have a revolution" or the other way around.

We NEED to stop the cycle of rape culture and a system that oppresses us all in order to make a profit."


A friend pointed me to the Willamette Week's new online pimping service and reading what you've written helped put into concrete language why there was a tightening knot in my stomach when I saw it, that twisted place where sexism, racism, and classism plot together. Yeah, it's nothing new this selling of human people as things in the Willamette Week and everywhere else, but the longevity of a thing shouldn't be taken as testament to its rightness and my stomach knew my 'gut' response to seeing girls and women commodified and consumed in a rape culture.  http://www.wweek.com/adult/index2.php

Again, thank you for putting words to the often unexressable experiences of oppression.

thanks for the positive feedback 27.Jan.2005 12:13

j

to be honest, I was pretty nervous about putting this up here- for one because it is so personal and I'm sure some people who know me might recognize me and suddenly know a lot more about me, and might judge or treat me differently for it...

but also becuase I wasn't really sure if it would resonate with anyone else. Sometime's it's hard for me to tell how much my experiences isolate me, especially in taboo areas such as rape. I can relate to you, fr34k, in often not knowing what to do with that isolation. I've found that it is always a risk to try to break out of patterns, and it is always a process, not an instant result. I feel really happy that you all found this writing relevant, and that you relate to it instead of thinking that I'm wierd or disfunctional for writing it!

I only know one woman who has not been raped 27.Jan.2005 13:10

Migratory Bird

I have walked many lives in these shoes of mine. I have been many places. But in America I know that I have only met one woman who has not been raped. Though she did admit that there were a few one night stands she gave into. The national statistics claim that is one out of three woman are raped. But in my life time, where I have known the rich, the middle class, and the homeless with the same assurity I have only known one woman not to admit...

The phenomena is not gender based. It is not even species based. When you watch the free PETA documentaries (you can get any DVD of there's for free- just request it- no shipping and handling) you start to feel the revulsion of the metal prod rapes of all animals in our agricultural system, whether for eating the babies ( all chickens are babies when you eat them- very young but pumped full of mcdonald's feed.) or for metal prods sucking at the teat of the nursing cows.

I want to thank you for your thoughts. I hope you will make a zine and distribute it. I hope that this will be shared around the world. For in admitting that there is a serious mind shift that needs to take place amongst our villages-communities-cities- states-countries into seeing each other as we truly are, we must break a cycle of hypnotic psychotic ads which sell us as comodities.

When we learn to practice communalism then we will see that you do not practice tough love as banishment- tough love simply is hate- but we as villages stuck inside metropolises- we must heal the week and injured among us.

I must heal myself. Every day I must affirm my own self worth or I could find myself buying fast food, shopping at walmart, eating meat, etc. My role in this culture is an ever changing shift between perpetrator, bystander, and survivor. It is painful. There is always the need for denial. There is always the need to hide from the face of Abu Ghraib. There is always a friend who is the rapist, I am always surviving.

Wow 28.Jan.2005 02:51

U. Sam

Thank you, I'll be sharing this one.

Thank you. 28.Jan.2005 06:47

mb

Thank you.

Men (and women) need to discuss rape together! 28.Jan.2005 10:22

JB freejoeball(A)riseup(d0t)net

For starters, there is a mens group forming to discuss rape in our culture, or subcultures, our communities, and our own lives- The first meeting is this Saturday, January 29, 5pm sharp at the PSU Students For Unity office- M113 in the Smith Hall. If you are a man who wants to cooperate in an environment that may serve to analyze and challenge your inherit harmful tendencies, by all means- come to this mens group meeting!!!

this piece made me a better man 28.Jan.2005 12:46

paul in VA

J, this article really moved me. Particularly the poetry. I think it's important that everyone be aware of this issue, because people don't want to talk about it. What are some alternative things we can do to change rape cuture? Thank you.

Well... 28.Jan.2005 15:00

A

JB, men don't have "inherit" harmful tendencies, they have learned socially constructed gender roles -- like women -- but neither sex is genetically evil.

Something I've never gotten is: why smash patriarchy and not matriarchy? Why smash dad and not mom? What's the difference? Why not smash heirarchy in general?

i don't want to smash my mom or my dad. 28.Jan.2005 16:11

j

I see patriarchy in our current context as something very different than male-ness, or my releationship with my dad. For one, patriarchy is a social system that completely marginalizes women's identities, names, and stories (and therefore generational memmories), it is a political structure based on women (and people of color, and children for that matter) as being subservient property (and objectified in general), and it is a system of behaviors in men and in women that perpetuate these things.

Back in the heyday of pre-industrial feifdom, there was a title of "patron" in a lot of europe, which referred to a lord, who controlled his household, and by extension his local economy, with his money and physical force. bell hooks has written some really interesting stuff that relates to how white women (especially the wealthier white women) experience sexism as if they were part of the patron's household (namely, being trophies and stifled in terms of personal expression), where as poor women and women of color often experience sexism in terms of being outside of the household- subject to physical force for the sake of defining them as subservient and dependent on the lord. I'm sure theres' a lot of grey area nowadays, but patriarchy remains a more complex system than just "males at the top of a heriarchy".

Smash matriarchy? What do you mean by matriarchy? If you know of a matriarchal society, you should give a heads up to historians, because most of them believe that one has never existed. If you're just talking about some domineering woman in your life, we're not talking about the same thing at all. I honestly don't know anything about your relationship with your mother, but if your approach to addressing it is to smash her (and your dad) then I'm not relating to your argument, sorry.

Rape Culture 28.Jan.2005 17:47

sowadyathink?

I have copied and pasted some of your words, j: "One thing that we discussed is, this is not a problem of "us" and "them".... Rape culture is a consumer. It is one in the same with consumer culture, where people are objects and ideas of people are sold in the mall just as much as the clothes are.... We NEED to stop the cycle of rape culture and a system that oppresses us all in order to make a profit."

I think of power with, not power over, and I think of commuter traffic, and agression and getting ahead in an anonymous crowd, and how people can be so dangerous and rude at the same time, imposing their will, and vehicles, on each other, against the "rules of the road" and common courtesy, and I think of the antidote: rolling down one's window in stalled traffic to ask a fellow motorist heading the opposite way what's up ahead, or sharing a danger I just passed with her/him. Stopping the cycle of personal violence can take a simple form like this.

I do not know what to say about the selling of images of female bodies in alluring poses, and men's as well. Why as a culture are we so addicted to this mind rape? Does it relate to personal insecurity and the desperate struggle for a mate one can trust? Or the giving up of hope of finding that, and settling for one others may lust after, and thus validate the sexuality of the "holder" of the sexual property implied in the relationship? The smug look of a couple framed in an advertising photograph, look what I have. Don't you wish...

Are we become so anonymous roots cut loose, that we have fallen apart, and are seeking to rip apart the rest of the world, strong perhaps in their family bonds?
Dunno, just speculating, as the sale of sex implicit in ads makes me wonder

To J 28.Jan.2005 19:20

A

My point was very simple: Hierarchy is at the root of patriarchy, so why aren't these people who are so hip to opposing patriarchy down with opposing hierarchy as well? Why not smash all authority, all hierarchies, while we're at it? Attach the problem at the root. Why not?

stuff about rats 28.Jan.2005 19:29

tired

Thanks for writing this article j. Somehow you said a lot of stuff which I have been feeling but have not found the words for.

Sorry in advance for the rant I'm about to give. It is kind of silly and way too personal but there is kind of a point which is about sexism within the movements. Also I just really need to get it out of my system...

I like who I am, but sometimes I am filled with such a deep revulsion and self-loathing because I let myself be used the way I was. Sometimes I hate all the things I liked best about myself (like empathy and idealism) because they are the things which he preyed on.

He tried to convince me that he had suffered and that that made him more worthy than me, that I should somehow atone for sins commited against him or others by this society and that his liberty was worth more than mine. This is my weakness... a bit like Winston Smith's rats in 1984.

So in order not to break, I have to keep remiding myself that that was what he wanted me to think - but that in reality it was not actually my idealism that he preyed on.

He tried to destroy my hope and idealism. He tried to convince me that everything I had ever done to stand up for myself was stupid. That all the organisations I had been involved in were corrupt. That all the actions I had been involved in were ill-thought through or stupid. He even screamed abuse at me once for reading the biography of Angela Davis (according to him she is a spoiled uppity middle class bitch).

But what really allowed him to get at me, ultimately, was allienation bread from years of being treated differently from all the nice blonde Christian kids at school, from not having connections and community that people borne here* (*not America by the way...) sometimes have, not having a stable family life, from knowing (or maybe just feeling) that I am not wanted in this country. It was the sickness of dependence - on the state, welfare, men - that is bread into all people, especially women in this society. It was the final manifestation of the years of self-abuse that have left my muscles weakened and my body covered in scars.

His spell over me was finally broken the last time I left, when he sent me letter saying he was "emotionally stronger" than me. It was like all the lies suddenly dissolved into air. I never replied and I never went back again. He sent me many more letters, each more pathetically angry and desperate than the last... A weak man screaming "You are weak! I am stronger than you!" as I walked away.

The experience took a long time to recover from, but I am doing pretty well now. I have a job and I am studying, I am slowly getting involved in activism again. I don't take shit like I used to. I don't accept handouts. It's like when things were darkest I found a strength I never knew I had, a little voice or feeling inside me that said "fuck this. I want to live."

But sometimes the rats start scratching at the door...

Is this the beginning of something? 28.Jan.2005 21:37

Catalina Eddie

Lordy, I just hafta add my applause to all the others. I have felt this and thought about this, but never found the words to express it. I'd be proud to have written it, but I never could have. Still there are a bunch of us who agree wholeheartedly and want to do something about it. Subversion and sabotage are but two techniques. I could joyfully do either, but I'm also interested in other ideas.

This patriarchy doesn't oppress only women. Let's not let this idea die.

Vancouver

re: anarchist 29.Jan.2005 01:17

mb

Smash hierarchy? What exactly is hierarchy? I understand your rehtoric, but it's like a puddle: endless, but shallow. Hierarchy is a descrimination in social/political power. Does this mean that I should not heed the advice of trusted elders in my life above the voice of brash punks that consume moments of my time like lines of meth? Wouldn't this concession of power be a dynamic of vesting hierarchy, or authority in one above another? If it is in my cultural tradition to eat meat for example, is it me who is the authoritarian for killing, or consuming another bieng? Are you an authority, who would tell me to do otherwise? Are you "more equal" in some orwellean sense?
Do you apply the same logic to yourself that you do others, or have you set up some byzantine set of special rules for special people. Are you one of these anarchists that will describe "the need" to tokenize our comrads that are women and minorities, and try to convince me that they should be coddled like sheep for bieng targets of the state? As if women and minorites are incapable of bieng powerfull in thier own right?
Does your anarchist analysis leave room for community power? Does it encourage community control? Are you commited to doing this knowing that larger monopolies of power like corperations, state, and federal goernments might get jelous and violently intervene? Are you prepaired to defend your struggle?
Are you an authority that would dictate what community power will mean to one group above another? Did you even read j's post? Even as you polarize your politics you take power, are you consious of this? Are you doing this to build power in a tool or network of support, or actions that have meaning, that we can all use? Are you doing this to make yourself feel powerfull at the expense of my comrad? You sound like you didn't read her words.
Are you interested in vesting your power in somthing, and watching it grow? What would it mean to do this without owning this growing thing? How's about we're talking about an organization? Can you really do work without taking a measure of onership in it? If you do then are you vesting power in somthing that serves your aims or hurts them? Have you thought about how we can approach dealing with communities thats sole lively hood is prisons? New york, and California, are littered with communities like this. Are you an anarchist that would stop my work to suppress these peoples vively hood?

It's easy to scape goat one group in society for the culture we have today. It's encouraged actually. Men are often portrayed as stupid and dishonest, is it any wonder that so many are? Women are portrayed as commodities, whose power lies in manipulating powerfull men. As if women are encapable of being powerfull in thier own right. When my mother left my father, I saw her as powerfull. When she worked and brought home food, while my father stole her work and bought coke, I knew who was strong. I have tried to live my life in my mothers example, and I am a prescient man.

I agree with j. We (collectivly) need a revolution.

Craftsfolk have a saying "The form of somthing, follows it's function."

J has clearly articulated a functional basis of ideas, and a sort of methodology for addressing how struggling to overthrow this rape culture, is personal, can be addressed personally, and is our collective responsibility.

I'd say this is a function, or functional revolutionary goal. Can we address forms? In what forms or tactics will we address rape culture, as a common revolutionary need?

Thank you for this...gift 29.Jan.2005 09:56

Z

I have copied it and sent it too my three daughters...
Once in awhile something good and truth and inspiring
happens to appear on this website.
Thank you for gifting us with this work
it is another stepping stone
to our freedom from violence.

Working on being an ally 29.Jan.2005 20:58

Binyamin

J., you're really damn cool for posting this. Thank you. It shook me up.

By the way, "A", it doesn't quite make sense to me to say that "patriarchy is rooted in hierarchy" because patriarchy IS hierarchy - one example of it. Racism, heterosexism, ethnicism, capitalism, etc, are ALSO hierarchy, which I think is maybe your point. But to smash patriarchy IS to smash hierarchy, and I feel that J did a good job of emphasizing that there are different examples of hierarchy out there, equally needing to be resisted. Also I too would like to know where the "matriarchies" are.

If you're stating that this is all one struggle, the resistance to domination itself, then that's great. Recognizing domination as the common theme between all oppressions allows us to take a common stance of resistance on ALL oppressions instead of just those that visibly affect us... but please recognize that domination has different facets, and that just because one works on one aspect, say as an ally on anti-racism, doesn't mean that one necessarily understands sexism and so on. Every experience of oppression is unique, even while there are similarities.

I think I know what you're trying to say but it sounded sketchy to me. Maybe this is all just a big fuck-up with semantics. Well, it wouldn't be the first time today that I've been hit with a crisis of language and how it relates to our work and my identity.


My tone sometimes sounds condescending, I apologize, it's unintentional. Peace.

how do you fight heirarchy in general? 31.Jan.2005 16:19

j

I think A has an interesting point. Maybe it sounded like I was dismissing it before. Sorry, didn't mean to come off that way. One of my points was to show how oppressions are related and that you can't take sexism out of a context of broader social issues, including other forms of oppression. I agree that we need to fight to win, instead of being isolated in our specific "heirarchy" problem (aka single issue activism). But how do we DO anything, if we're fighting "heirarchy in general"? Where is the action behind the rhetoric?

A bunch of people have asked what we should do. We should all be trying to answer this question.
My two cents:
I think we all have to start the process of confronting rape culture individually and collectively. Confronting it internally is a constant process, I think. I'm no expert, I just wrote about my experiences.
Another part of it is fighting the structures that enforce oppression in our society, while building ways of supporting ourselves outside of the imperialist system. I feel that to effectively confront the problems of rapist prison gaurds, racist police officers, militarization, commodification of our bodies, privatization of the earth's resources, and basically all other defining struggles of our communities, we have to start fighting our way out of our isolation. We need to make steps out of our comfort zones to make principled alliances with people who share common cause with us, to stand up for our collective power. Even if we have previously been intimidated, scared, resentful or hidden from eachother, we need to talk and listen to eahcother. I hope that we can all work on breaking the silence and isolation that gives rape culture so much of its power.It's time we all figured out how to successfully offer solidarity, and recieve it, across the barriers constructed by sexism, heterosexism, racism, classism, and all other isolating oppressions- towards building revolutionary power in our communities. still rhetorical, I know. But the work is all around us, if we choose a course of principled revolutionary work. Like I said, I'm no expert, but I have big hopes for us.

I really appreciate "tired" and everyone else who responded so personally. I'm glad that the article was relevant to you.Your writing was really relevant to me. thanks you all.

Thank you 01.Feb.2005 08:47

V!

This struck me deeply. I experience a lot of the same struggle in my everyday life.
I really related to the feeling of being isolated by my experience. We are taught to keep it quiet and if we don't it makes others uncomfortable. There's nothing like the hush of a room after someone says a little too much a little too loud. The uncomfortable eyes practically inspecting the fibers of the carpet. Yet once the silence is broken gradually, the floodgates open and soon we find we're not so alone as we thought.
Thanks for cracking the dam and providing some CONSTRUCTIVE ways of dealing with it.

Re: "A" 01.Feb.2005 09:13

Working Class Mama

Your critique was pretty thoughtless and insensetive. No one was even building a case for matriarchy. Furthermore, despite the fact that any womyn who dares to speak out against her oppression gets accused of calling for matriarchy, I have yet to see a womyn who actually has written any such nonsense here. I've seen a lot of articles written by womyn who were angry. Fuck, why wouldn't we be?
The statistics on rape and other symptoms of patriarchy are way underestimated because of the shame and silence associated with such experiences. Like Migratory Bird, I only know one womyn who has never been sexually assaulted and the reason is that she is an extreme recluse. Because of her family's history of rape she became very paranoid and stays safe at home most of the time. I do not know anyone who has officially reported being raped. I do not deny the fact that men get raped as well. I know many men who have been raped by men and women. They are just as silent because they are taught to be, just like us. Also just like us, it is patriarchy that keeps them silent. They are stigmatized because if men are capable of being raped then it dispells the myth of male supremacy and in effect rocks the very foundation of patriarchy. GBLT people are stigmatized often for similar reasons. Just like I feel "j" is trying to say, we're all in this together. Let's help eachother out of our oppression.

A brilliant and powerful piece of writing 11.Feb.2005 06:06

A survivour in Glasgow, Scotland

J - I have never made a public comment like this before but I really have to thank you for your courage in publishing one of the most emotional, powerful, insightful and analytical pieces of writing I have ever read. I have been through some difficult experiences in my own life, have grappled as a man with a culture that encourages the abuse of power. I do not wish to repeat the abusive behaviour that I have seen in my own life and try to find a different way of being. Your article brings together and joins up a lot of ideas that have been floating around in my head, as well as expressing the isolation that results from not wanting to simply take your place within the status quo. What you have to say has a powerful impact and should be heard. You words have affected me deeply and I am grateful to you for that. I wish you all the best for the future.

thanks 17.Feb.2005 16:23

j

thanks! that path ahead to make a new kind of society is going to be long, and I'm happy you and so many people are on it with me.

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