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Patriarchal Things That Made Me Sad About Thursday’s Protest

Patriarchal Things That Made Me Sad About Thursday's Protest
Patriarchal Things That Made Me Sad About Thursday's Protest


I talked to a partner about things that made me sad during Thursday's protest. He didn't think I should post them in Indymedia, because it might be detrimental to the movement and break up momentum. He said that cops will troll the message boards and try to create division instead of solidarity. I don't want to do that. I thought Thursday's protest was amazing. I loved the joy and enthusiasm emitted from all of the high school and college students, many of which had never been a part of a demonstration before. I loved going into the streets and baffling the police with our stamina. I want it to continue. However, when I went home and since, I have wallowed in depression from a lot of things I heard and witnessed.


BITCH:

All cops are horrid for protecting the state. They deserve equal criticisms, but what I heard, over and over again, toward cops who had long hair, breasts, or softer features, were the words like: bitch, fucking bitch, you motherfucking bitch. It became apparent to me that these cops were being singled out because of their sex and/or gender. I heard much more shouting, intimidation and anger directed toward these kinds of cops than the ones who looked like stereotypical men. It made me very sad to see and hear. I don't respect any cops, but it was obvious to me that man cops received more respect than others. When someone was arrested, a PSU student said that "some chick cop" did the arresting. I shouted at him, told him not to call womyn "chicks." I told him I was offended. He smirked at me and laughed a little. He told me that it would be the "same as calling a guy a dude." I didn't think it was the same. I thought chick was degrading when used by males, like the word bitch. Males of all ages used the word bitch that day. I felt oppressed, remembering over two decades of verbal abuse and the word BITCH directed toward me. I... felt a kindred ache for the womyn officers. (I still don't trust a cop no matter who they are.)


Alpha Males:

I haven't been to very many demonstrations in my life, especially ones of that size and with that energy. I don't know how leadership and crowd control works in such situations. Without knowing this and observing, though, I was troubled by how basically two people seemed to be leading the protest. They happened to be two white, blond males. I say this not to impose racism or sexism, but because this type of person is so common the leader in all facets of society. Why is that? Why did he say "Repeat after me!," and at this command, had hundreds and maybe thousands of people repeat after him? There was one college student in the crowd shouting "Sheeple!" I thought his criticism was harsh, but maybe it had some validity. Why was there one alpha male leading the whole thing? When he was arrested, I thought the crowd dispersed and shrunk noticeably. This is both a weakness because people should think and follow their own desires, and also because having one person arrested and breaking up a protest shows that the rest of the group wasn't as strong. I understand that a lot of people had never been to a demonstration before. I know that sometimes a representative is important for leading the way. But, I was deeply troubled by the amount of power that the people gave him throughout. At one point I saw a group of about fifteen high school girls run up to him, ask him who he was voting for, to which he replied Barack Obama. They burst into shrieks of excitement and giggles, telling him that they want him to win too. I felt sad seeing these young womyn gather around one alpha male and showering him with attention. It made me worry about the state of their independence, their willingness to follow, perhaps blindly. I heard no mention that some people do not vote for presidents, do not participate in the spectacle of electoral politics, do not follow leaders. Why was that? Why must there be a vangaurdist? Do I not understand protests? Am I hypersensitive? I talked to a seasoned alpha-male about this briefly, and he didn't think that my criticisms were constructive.

Why did Tom Potter only take a couple of questions posed by the alpha male? Why didn't he answer me when I shouted to him, asking him when he employs NAZI police officers who beat and kill people in our neighborhoods? Why was I ignored when I tried to approach the alpha male to tell him my question? Was this all necessary for the momentum of the protest to continue? Are hierarchies always this dominating during protests, and I never noticed them before? Girls, grrrls, women, womyn, transwomyn, transmen, bois, and anyone else who's ever suffered the omnipresent oppression of patriarchy during their lives, were you bothered by anything about Thursday? How do we fix it?


IN SOLIDARITY.

seasoned activist 23.Mar.2008 13:19

---

not are they valid, your concerns are critical. all the same power dynamics are emulated in our movements. i have watched this for years. do not let anyone tell you voicing these concerns is destructive to the movement. anyone who says that is is complicit.

you criticism was balanced and responsible. i have also noticed the verbal abuse at protests being particularly directed the way you described. i have heard women coming out of Schumakers being called "fat pigs..." as well as "bitches"...

what bothers me most is alpha competition inside of activist organizing groups. it seems completely unconcious, and it shoves the rest of us to the side. the competitors pick each other. and yes many of us just follow along. it is hard to watch. and what do you do?

i would say pick the people you work with carefully. work on a couple of projects just with women (or queers). and try not to get demoralized. i really do not like your boyfriends response to this. maybe you need a better one!

thanks 23.Mar.2008 13:21

concerned male

thanks for putting these constructive criticisms forth. i was present on thursday and noticed some of the same dynamics. i was also involved with the funk the war demonstration on wednesday, where i'm sure there were some of the same dynamics. however, rather than have a single male leader that we followed, the organizers (both male and female, though still more male) attempted to talk to as many as possible present at the action and conduct informal polls of what people wanted to do next. this would have been more difficult on thursday, considering the numbers, but it would have been nice if there was more of an effort toward that.

i think you did a good job of 'constructive' criticism. what happened thursday was incredible and inspiring, but hopefully it's just the beginning. we learn from our mistakes and shortcomings and strive for something even better next time.

Interesting Reflections 23.Mar.2008 17:04

Den Mark, Vancouver

Being a blue-eyed (formerly) blond guy, one would think that i'd've fallen right into leadership positions thru the years. Fact is, not all blue-eyed blond guys get to be leaders, or even want to be.

I find myself on the margins of "the left", too, but not from gender or color. Sometimes i find myself on the margins because i'm not a pacifist. Sometimes i find myself on the margins because i'm an independent who votes third party. (Oh, did a few alpha FE-males jump on my ass over that one once.) Sometimes i find myself on the margins because i'm anarchic.

There are two ways to dethrone an alpha male. One is to physically take him down. Another is to ignore him, which is another way of taking him down.

When a rally gets feverish, it's hard to hold a caucus, so the loudest & boldest often take over. It's good to individually think thru an action in advance, so that during the heat of protest, one already has a plan. Then, neither opponents nor colleagues can take you by surprise.

At March 15th's march, i decided in advance that i would not attend speeches, would not be festive, & would not obey permitted routes. It was then easy to follow thru & be leaderless, which is how i like it.

Some say: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

I say: "I will not lead, i will not follow, & i sure as hell will not get out of the way."

The organizers 23.Mar.2008 17:46

Phil

For the record, the organizers were predominantly female. Three males and 5 females were involved in the planning. As a male organizer, I would say the "ringleaders" (those most involved, not that they had any more say in issues) were two females and one male."

Your article covers several topics, of which I will only try to address a few. I would argue that "chick" and "dude" are similar in that they are a descriptive synonym for male or female. When I say chick, I do not intend to belittle the woman to which I am referring. "Bitch," on the other hand, is derogatory, synonymous, in my mind, with "dick." When a guy said "some chick cop," I would consider that a descriptive term on par with "some black cop" or "some asian cop." Not entirely necessary, but a description instead of an insult (as opposed to a derisive slang word, like bitch).

As for alpha males, I wonder if you would feel the same way if the leader was a woman. From the pictures I have been looking at, all the speakers I could see were female. While a single man may have been at the front of the protest, it is wrong to assume he was the sole leader or organizer. Much of the march's route was pre-planned, and although some was spontaneous, the route was decided on by a group of mostly females.

Thanks 23.Mar.2008 19:17

Cat

That was all very well-said. I did not attend this demo, but I have seen these dynamics play out over and over again also. Not always, but often enough. I appreciate the thoughtful way that you have presented this. This is not a condemnation of those who participated, and I do not see your comments as divisive. Rather, this is an important perspective to share. Interestingly, the two men with whom you spoke about this afterwards seem to be (unintentionally?) trying to dismiss your concerns and ignore your voice, just as Tom Potter did, and just as the "alpha male" seems to have done. I think this often happens when people do not want to recognize their own unearned privileges. I'm happy that you trusted your own voice instead of theirs, and spoke up anyway.

No, what you are saying here is not divisive. We can share our strength, spirit and energy with our brothers, and can appreciate their energy in return, in solidarity. That does not mean we must be quiet when we are feeling/being oppressed by their words or actions. I think it will be good for them to hear what you experienced, what many of us experience. Not because we want to condemn them, or badmouth them, but because we want to help them grow with us, to create a movement that is stronger and more meaningful and far more effective than it could otherwise have been. No, you are not hypersensitive. You are simply very good at putting words to what you observed. Thanks.

Well... 23.Mar.2008 19:35

attendee

You missed a lot of what the alpah male did if all you saw was a leader making decisions.

At City Hall, it wasn't the alpha male asking the questions. He was repeating the questions asked by people who had pushed through the crowd to stand in line to question Mayor Tom Potter.

And the reason he yelled "repeat after me," and the reason people repeated after him, both at City Hall, at the Square, and everywhere else, was not him enjoying hearing himself speak. People weren't repeated him because they were told to. He asked people to repeat, and people chose to repeat, so that everyone could hear his message- which was not the self-serving tripe you imply it was, but was information about how to question MTP, information about why we were donating to the cardboard box (to pay the comrades fines when they were nabbed for doing what the entire protest did).
And, at least two women also spoke on numurous occasions, at City Hall, at the Square, telling people why there were out that day and what they wanted of the crowd.

Where were you when we were at the back of Wells Fargo and the alpha male pushed through the crowd while a young lady was speaking, he took a water bottle from a medic and as he rested, some kids asked him, "Where next?" He said, "Where do you want to go?" They looked blank and repeated, "Where are you taking us next?" He shrugged, and said again, "Where do you want to go?" They repeated this several times. Someone said "Pioneer Square" and another said "The Federal Building." The alpha male repeated, "Pioneer Square or the Federal Building?" to the crowd around him. More and more voices clamored for the Square, and someone said to the alpha, "Take us there!" He replied, "Tell them where you want to go." That was when the group started chanting "Poineer Square, Pioneer Square, Pioneer Sqaure" and the group headed up.

I think your criticisms and concerns are valid, but not as absolute as you make them to be.

What suggestions do you have for the future so we can change this movement and make every action better than the last?

In solidarity contigo! 23.Mar.2008 21:10

virago

This is an excellent article and you raise great points.
We need women leaders.
'Ckick' is a very demeaning word, so is 'bitch', I do not use either of these words anymore. There are no words as derogatory as these for men. Patriarchy defines the language. I also hate to be called a 'guy' as in 'you guys'. I am not a guy, I am a woman.
Women need to support other women. We need to work together as a collective and then ally with other groups. There are so many male leaders because we don't have women's groups anymore. No one is fighting for us, we have to do it ourselves.
For all of the men reading this post: are you willing to let the women lead?

actually... 23.Mar.2008 21:17

anon

It's more disturbing that the crowd, once the "alpha males" were taken out, dissipated itself, and no one else got up and took the lead (or maybe a lot of somebody elses interspersed throughout the crowd). Maybe it would be a good idea that anyone could, on seeing a leader or "alpha male" being arrested from somewhere else in the crowd, stand up and claim leadership - and make a game of it...

Response 24.Mar.2008 14:27

Phil

I never said women were not culturally forced in subordination. Just because this is true in the broader culture does not mean it was true in our meetings. Not once throughout our several meetings did I ever think the women of the group had less say in anything we decided. If anything, they had more, because they had been organizing for longer than I had, and therefore had more experience. It feels almost as though by assuming everyone functions by cultural stereotypes and norms, you are reinforcing them. The only reason I say that is that I didn't even consider the possibility that females would be subordinate in that context until it was mentioned here.

My other question is why are female leaders any better? I feel that men and women should be equal in all respects, and I think that is what many people strive for. However saying things like "We need women leaders" and "Yes I'm ready for the women to lead," shows that you aren't seeking equality, you're seeking a simple switch from patriarchy to matriarchy. I'd much rather see a movement being led by a knowledgeable person who cares about the issue they are fighting for, rather than a woman or man for the sake of their gender. I have no problems letting women lead- if you look at the administrators to the facebook group, which was the major factor in spreading the word of this protest, you will see four women and one man. Among the organizers, each individual had one voice, and going by the numbers, this was a predominantly female led and planned protest. Gender has no bearing on leadership skills- there have been terrible female leaders (Margret Thatcher anyone), and there have been terrible male leaders (Hitler, Stalin, et Al).

As for the FBI, I couldn't care less. I have no problem going to jail for what I believe in, and after seeing everything that happened on thursday, I know there are thousands willing to step forward and take my place. That is the beauty of this movement- the organizers aren't the important ones here, all we did was give a date, a time, and a topic. Everyone who showed up did the important part. The organizers do not constitute an organization, therefore we can't be infiltrated. All we are are individuals working together for a common cause- ending the war.

thanks commenters. 24.Mar.2008 16:24

Ninja

So why are you doing the comments about organizing instead of the women organizers Phil, when the article asked what women and queers thought about it?

A person can act like an alpha male at protests but still be an amazing person and important ally. If you're threatened by critiques and criticisms of his persona at protests, though, maybe you should step back and look at your own priveldge. Obviously this is a behavior that a lot of people have a problem with besides myself, and it's ageist to assume that only older activists feel this way. Maybe they're just more secure in themselves to speak up about it than a younger person like me, who is often hesitant. I also saw a lot of older people who didn't seem to have strong feminist or queer analysis. I didn't read any ridicule or insults here after the article; I thought the comments were thoughtful and respectful.

Seasoned activist said, "work on a couple of projects just with women (or queers)", which is not the same as ONLY working with these people. I see nothing wrong with an oppressed or subordinate group wanting to sometimes separate themselves and use each other's strength and shared experiences to become empowered when that doesn't always happen while working with everyone else involved.

I didn't see the alpha male repeating all of the questions to Tom Potter, because I was up there yelling questions with other people. I was dismissed. Tom Potter answered like two questions, lamely stating that it's not his business to get army recruiters out of schools, and then left after mentioning a buerocratic meeting we could go to, as if they would actually let over one thousand angry students into their meeting. It was more of a symbolic gesture of him to come out there to fizzle everyone's excitement and appease them. Why did the alpha male get to stand by him and repeat the questions? I honestly think the crowd should have kidnapped Potter and held him hostage until every bit of army recruitment material and police weapons in the town was destroyed, and every single person's question was truly answered.

My questions on here were meant more toward the crowd anyway, who I thought should have taken responsibility after he was arrested in order to continue on without him, and I of course include myself in this submission of power. Anyway, I still think he's a great activist!

WE'LL DO BETTER NEXT TIME!!!

Re 24.Mar.2008 21:02

Alpha Male spoken about

Even though this dialog was directed to women, and folks might not self identify me as queer even though i choose to, i thought since folks were talking about me it might be appropriate to respond.

-On language used against police. I think your right Ninja.

- On Alpha Males speaking
I think that "attendee"'s response explained some of the background to the situation. I think that Ninja's criticism of having "alpha males" only speak and lead is valid. Without understanding the background of the organizing that went on, i myself would probably draw a lot of the same conclusions. I think that during the next walkout I'll take an active role to step back and try to encourage a wide variety of folks to participate. I personally believe it was more of a tactical situation that led to me speaking, but there could have been other people to step up into those situations and take that on.

- Tom Potter - Ninja Asks, "Why did the alpha male get to stand by him and repeat the questions?" Tom Potter was going to speak to us through the megaphone, i interrupted him and told him the students had questions for him. So why was it me? Did he respond to me, a white male he could feel comfortable with or did he respond to me the first person to interrupt him? Im not sure. But i personally know i had no interest in listening to his ass speak at us for 5 minutes.


Other concerns - Repeat after me speechs were due to not having a PA that people could hear.
Barack Obama - I didnt realize it was 15 girls, i thought it might have been 2 but i might not have seen all the folks involved. They asked me who i was going to be voting for, i answered there question. Should i have talked to them about my politics? Maybe. Kind of a personal choice for folks.


Thank you Ninja for starting this dialog, i hope it doesnt stop with this thread.
If folks have more questions or concerns, come to the report back this sunday. Email for directions -  EveryYouth@gmail.com

Excellent discussion 24.Mar.2008 21:45

a human

Ninja, you express this situation eloquently, and I am thankful that you have spoken up.

Phil, you could take a lesson from the alpha make spoken about.

Alpha male, good for you, for hearing what Ninja, and the other women here, are saying. Excellent. Thank you for not being all defensive and arguing rather than listening. Thank you for being willing to hear this, and for being willing to work on this. And thank all three of you for being there on Thursday.

This is what solidarity looks like.

Thanks "alpha male"! 25.Mar.2008 03:14

Phil

You're right, I can learn from him. I would like to think it is because he has more political perspective than me, something I can hope to develop over time. I chose to answer small questions presented in the comments, and he chose to answer the bigger issue. Thanks for the response! You're right, this is what solidarity is; identifying what is an issue and what is misunderstanding, then working together to fix the problem. I got caught up on misunderstandings and the subsequent comments about them, and missed the opportunity to talk about the actual issue, which I think "alpha male" did quite well.

Nice work to all 25.Mar.2008 06:32

anonymous or made up

Excellent. Excellent work Ninja, Phil, and Alpha male. This is how it's done. Good for you, Alpha, for hearing, good for you, Phil, for recognizing a place to grow, and GREAT for you, Ninja, for sharing this perspective. You have spoken for a lot of us, who weren't sure what to say.