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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


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Stop the Frack Attack Prioritizes Male Entitlement over Saving the Planet

By Deep Green Resistance Colorado

Dear Reader, do you believe women, including those who have been raped by men, have the right to not be forced to share their most intimate spaces with males?

If you believe women have the right to say no, you will not be allowed to table at the Stop the Frack Attack National Convention.

Why? Because evidently the right of males to colonize women’s most intimate and vulnerable spaces is more important to these organizers than the rights of women to say no.

What does this have to do with a conference on fracking? We believe that just as communities have the right to say no to fracking, so, too, women have that right.

As radical environmentalists (and radical feminists), we in Deep Green Resistance oppose any and all threats to the future of the planet. This includes the recent spread of hydraulic fracturing as a method of oil extraction, a particularly vicious expression of this culture’s contempt for the living world. Because of this, we were understandably excited when we saw that Denver would be host to the Stop the Frack Attack (STFA) National Convention this week, and immediately reached out to see about tabling and distributing materials for our organization. Unfortunately, the leaders of STFA made it very clear to us that feminist perspectives are not welcome at their event.

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is being barred from STFA because, according to the organizers of this conference, we support a “gender binary.” This notion is absurd. No one in DGR supports the gender binary – in fact, we oppose it so strongly that we don’t think those who struggle to fit inside one suffocating category should mutilate their bodies to fit inside the other. Sadly, transgenderists seem to disagree.

The real reason for our being censored is simple: We don’t think one abolishes an oppressive system by creating more categories in between the powerful and the powerless. On every issue except gender, most activists agree with us. After all, Capitalist societies don’t have a “class binary,” but no one thinks that makes the proletariat any closer to liberation. The bloodthirsty Spanish colonizers had at least six racial categories in their so-called New World; did that stop the indigenous from being slaughtered? And if not, then why on Earth would a non-binary gender system do anything to stop men from raping and killing women?

DGR believes the ideal number of genders isn’t three, or four, or dozen, or a million. It’s zero. We aim for a world where no one, male or female, is defined by a set of violent stereotypes called masculinity and femininity. And we can’t get there so long as these patriarchal, culturally constructed notions of Man and Woman are turned into essential aspects of human beings. Abolishing patriarchy means acknowledging that the social roles of this culture are not natural, not innate, and not acceptable – yet transgenderists are determined to naturalize the structure of women’s oppression by turning gender into an identity.

Critics of DGR like to portray us as somehow protecting or defending traditional definitions of gender, but nothing could be further from the truth. Deep Green Resistance encourages and supports anyone who resists the abusive and violent gender system – and the greatest example of such resistance is women saying no to men. Inside a political structure wherein people with penises are taught to disregard, belittle, and abuse people with vulvas – we call this structure “gender” – the truly non-conforming position for males is to defend and support those boundaries, not find new reasons for breaking them. Men force women to sacrifice their spaces every single day in this culture; doing the exact same thing while wearing lipstick and a dress doesn’t make it radical.

In a world teetering on the brink of destruction, we in Deep Green Resistance are absolutely amazed that an activist would turn his back on a committed environmentalist group solely because that group thinks rape victims shouldn’t have to shower and sleep with men. Sadly, many women in DGR are not surprised; they are very used to male activists putting the feelings of men above the physical safety and security of women. If the organizers of Stop the Frack Attack truly want to strike a blow against our restrictive and oppressive gender system, they could start by challenging their own entitlement and misogyny, clearly displayed here for all to see.

In the meantime, thank you to the STFA organizers for at least being clear about their solidarity with males.

Let’s Get Free!: Escalate the Fight to End Male Violence

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

I do not have a creative introduction to start this article. I have only the seething rage of a spirit absolutely fed up with a culture that is at war with women, their fervent pleads for solidarity and their righteous actions of self-defense against the monster of male supremacy echoing in my mind. I have only the scenes of men torturing and raping women, filmed for the goal of profit and produced on an industrial scale like a slave trade, an auction where women’s bodies are mutilated and sold for entertainment and sexual gratification, to drive me ever forward to find ways to organize against this barbarity. I have only the cries of my loved ones as they tell of their own abuse and that of others, their wishes to somehow get their murdered or missing friends back from the endless night of death enacted by men who are supposed to be human but instead behave more like demons.

No, I am all out of creative words. All I have are the words of the reality of the world women live in, a reality that I can never fully know, a reality that I still do not truly realize no matter how angry I get about it. I have women’s words – the words they use to tell their stories, to recount their experiences – words I still find increasingly difficult to hear. But hear I must because I do not ever want to become apathetic. I want to be angry, I want to be furious. I must stay furious. And I must allow that fury to teach me how to be a human being once again, instead of a monster. I must allow that fury to inform my actions, and to constantly remind me that the world has had enough of men’s words. What the world needs – what women need, what children need – is men’s action to destroy male violence and patriarchy once and for all.

I have the shame of being a man, that sex-caste category that has socialized me to be abusive, and to be callous towards other men’s abuse of women and children. I have the shame of knowing that I benefit from large-scale violence against women, the subordination and objectification and public humiliation of half the world’s population in the name of masculinity and manhood.

But that shame is not enough. I can see that my shame has not changed men’s behavior. Shame has not prevented our fists from breaking women’s jaws, our penises from torturing women’s bodies, our words from dismissing their experiences.

No, that shame has not ended male violence, but our actions can, and they must.

Profeminist men must escalate the fight to end men’s violence. And we must escalate NOW.

Abusive and controlling men have already declared outright war against women and children. This war is not metaphorical, and it is not an exaggeration. With at least a quarter of all women surviving or fighting off rape (and it is widely known that is an underestimate), and men committing as much as 94% of all child sexual abuse, what else can we call it? These men will readily tell you that they are at war, and it is high time profeminist men take them seriously.

For too long men have left the dirty work of defense and prevention to women, opting to just talk about supporting and defending women but never actually organizing truly effective offensives against male violence. No more. No more complacency, no more lip service, no more disingenuous half-assed activism that has not resulted in real progress towards women’s liberation.

It is time now that profeminist men begin publicly calling for and supporting militant action against the institutions of male supremacy. Simply put, men must stop other men, physically and definitively. We must organize smart, strategic and highly informed offensives against the men abusing women and we must do so under the leadership of feminist women, actively seeking accountability to these women so that our actions are in accordance to liberation on their terms, not ours. We must challenge men in our families, workplaces and peer groups when they speak or behave in ways that normalize or trivialize violence. We must instead normalize respect for women and respect for life, not just supporting militancy which can so easily become glorification of male violence, but committing ourselves to completely dismantling masculine culture on the interpersonal level as well.

Many of us have traveled the world speaking, marching, picketing, and participating in myriad forms of nonviolent protest in support of the feminist and anti-violence movement. And yet, the rate of men’s violence against women is increasing. Our work has been ineffective in bringing about lasting change. The change that we do manage to see is the result of generations of brave and courageous women who bled and died and were imprisoned for fighting for their right to be treated as human beings.

No doubt, some men have done great work, and must continue to do so. But we also must come to terms with the reality of the situation. We must now be honest about what it will actually take to end the violence of this culture.

We have to do more than just recite the numbers, or watch the films, or attend the conferences. We must do more than just abstain from consuming sexist, violent media, or purchasing consumer goods sold on the marketing of women’s bodies. We must do more, a whole lot more. Some of us are going to have to stop abusive men. Some of us are going to have to put our bodies on the line – place our bodies in between these men and the women they intend to abuse. And while physical intervention in interpersonal violence is not the primary focal point of men’s work against patriarchy (and is not applicable in most cases), profeminist men should support such actions when done in a smart, strategic manner.

We have to start treating abusive men like the enemy. No more of these vapid appeals to their humanity or their inner child or whatever else pacifists are coming up with to avoid doing what it takes. Sure, abusive men were once children, many of them abuse survivors themselves. But now they are abusive men. They are not children anymore. They are adult men who make the decision to break women’s bones, blacken their eyes and blast bullets into their skulls. They are adult men who choose to be paid to abuse women on camera, and then laugh about it in porn documentaries. If you do not fume with rage, then you are not paying attention. Start paying attention.

The fact that porn shops are still standing instead of roasting in flames is an affront to women everywhere. The fact that international activist and humanitarian organizations are defending johns and pimps instead of women should cause the planet to stop spinning on its axis. Instead what we see are men locking women in basements for decades, starving and raping them and then standing in court talking about how they actually enjoyed the abuse.

Men as a sex-caste hate women. We hate women just as much as whites as a caste hate people of color, and members of settler culture hate the indigenous. Do those statements make you angry and defensive? Good, they should. You should be appalled that we live in a culture that facilitates and rewards such grotesque behavior. Use that anger to confront those who abuse, go take that energy to them, not us, not the ones who are actually fighting for justice. Go confront men, not the women they abuse.

And if you refuse to do that – if you refuse to examine your own masculinity, your own culpability in men’s oppression of women, then all I can say to you is that you had better get out of the way and let us get this done. Otherwise, you are the enemy, and we will treat you as such.

We do not have any more time to plead with men and ask them nicely to stop abusing and murdering women and children. We do not have time to continue asking our governments to stop dropping bombs and using chemicals to kill and maim people around the world. We do not have time to ask corporations run by psychopathic men to stop destroying the planet. We have been asking nicely for hundreds of years, and nothing has changed. I am done with asking. I want to see porn studios burned to the ground. I want to see “men’s rights activists” fearing for their lives and hiding in their homes, because no one with the audacity to fabricate this fake movement should ever feel safe walking the streets. I want justice, and I will do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Escalation can mean physically intervening if we find ourselves witness to male violence, and it can also mean no longer allowing your buddy to speak or behave in sexist ways. It can mean publicly shaming abusers, speaking in support of women’s right to defend themselves however they need to do so, and actively challenging ourselves and other men to dismantle masculinity inside and out. Just as in any strategic resistance movement in which the very few capable resistors are on the front line and the rest are supporting, the vast majority of profeminist work should be undoing the culture. Ultimately, justice means that we have to start doing something about a culture in which men are either abusive or hardly doing anything at all to end abuse.

Profeminist men must escalate now, or we are not worth the two pennies our words claim. Every day we fail to be effective is another day women are tortured, enslaved and killed and I will be damned if I continue to sit back and let this happen. Profeminist men must say it and mean it: over our dead bodies will this culture continue.

Let’s Get Free! is a column by Kourtney Mitchell, a writer and activist from Georgia, primarily focusing on anti-oppression and building genuine alliance with oppressed communities. Contact him atkourtney.mitchell@gmail.com.

End of Gender: Revolution, Not Reform

Gender is not an individual choice, it is not a natural state, and it is not just an idea. Don’t settle for reform – strive for revolution, and the abolition of gender.

by Rachel Ivey

(Video captions available in English and Portuguese.  Contact us if you would like to translate this or other Deep Green Resistance videos to another language.)

Video Transcript:

I was really lucky to be able to give a draft of this presentation to the women’s gathering that happened before the conference so most of the women here have seen it already and I was really lucky to be able to benefit from their experiences and their feedback after I showed it to them first.

My name is Rachel and I was a teenage liberal [audience laughs].  A little more about me for people who don’t already know me very well:  I’m 23. I graduated with a women’s studies minor
from a pretty typical women’s studies program at a mainstream university which I’ll go on to say doesn’t really mean very much but if it’s important to you, I do have some kind of sanctioned background.

I wasn’t only a teenage liberal; I was a 20 year old liberal on the topic of gender.  And then I was a 21 year old liberal on the topic of gender.  Then my liberalism started to fall apart.  It wasn’t all at once.  I don’t think minds change overnight.  I don’t think learning happens overnight.  It took me a while to weed out that liberalism from my activist practice and I think the liberal view of gender was the last thing I had to kind of exorcise from my brain in terms of liberalism.  It sticks hard, and that’s one of the reasons why I feel this presentation and the way we’ve framed it
and what Jessica and Lexy have said is so important because I think we understand the idea behind this presentation is that we understand why liberalism, especially in terms of gender, is so compelling.  I still can understand that.  And that’s one of the reasons that I’m excited that we did it this way.

Through my work with DGR, but also before that—I was a feminist activist before I was an environmental activist.  DGR is actually the first environmentally activist group that I’ve ever been affiliated with. Before that it was all feminism and women’s reproductive rights.  I said that to say that I’ve had a lot of conversations about gender.  And I’ve had them from the liberal perspective and I’ve had them from the radical perspective since I’ve gone on to spend a lot of time doing public speaking for DGR.

Over all that time of having conversations about gender I feel like I’ve developed a kind of standardized approach to beginning those conversations.  They don’t always go in the same direction; every one’s different.  But I can begin them the same way.  So if I feel like I need to bring up the topic of gender, or if someone else is tending towards the topic of gender,
I’ve got to stop them right there and I just have one question that I’ve got to have answered, and that is “What is your definition of gender?”.  Because if I don’t understand your definition of gender and you don’t understand my definition of gender,  you can bet your bottom dollar that conversation is not going to be productive.  Because if you’re using two different definitions of gender you’re not even speaking the same language when it comes to feminism. That’s the core of it.  It took me a while to figure that out.  And I think I’m still figuring it out because I’m still having those conversations. But this is where I’ve gotten so far.

Today I’m going to frame this within the personal shift that I experienced with regard to my definition of gender—like I said, I was a teenage liberal—but I also want to talk about the larger implications, for our activism and for our political practice, of these two differing ideas of gender. Because ideas have material consequences when we act on them.

Since in the past year, maybe year and a half when I’ve been doing DGR activism, you would think that a group advocating the forcible dismantling of civilization would, I don’t know, maybe find that to be the most controversial topic that you bring up.  But no.  [audience laughter] Nope. It’s gender. Every single time.

It’s contentious enough that it’s the only reason as far as I know that we’ve had DGR chapters defect from the organization.  We’ve been denied an audience at speaking events and venues because of the view we take on gender.

And Lierre, who’s unflinchingly vocal on the topic, has received threats of violence and death threats because she does not hold back on her view of gender.

I’m really glad to be able to give some explanation to a topic that has been widely misunderstood and mischaracterized both by the wider activist community and within DGR itself.  If there are misunderstandings about what I say today I’m really happy to answer questions, as are other members of the women’s caucus that are here.  I think that’s extremely important.

I want to be clear, though.  I’m not presenting this topic for debate.  Not in the slightest.  This isn’t only my opinion; this represents DGR’s policy and it has actually happened that people have joined DGR with the intention specifically of shifting our view of gender or challenging the women’s caucus and women in leadership on their radical view of gender.  And it failed miserably. It will again if it’s tried again because this is the core of DGR.  This is the reason I joined DGR.  This is the reason the women I look up to are in DGR.  And if it changed we would all leave. And then where would you be? [audience laughs]  I wanted to get that out of the way first.

Characterizing these two definitions of gender is very simple on the surface but I don’t want to stay on the surface.  I could say one’s liberal, one’s radical, but what does that mean?

Today I want to unpack these two definitions of gender according to what those implications of liberalism and radicalism actually mean in terms of the material effect that we’re likely to have on women’s lives.

But I also want to talk about some of the “light bulb” moments, the personal experiences that I’ve had that shifted my view on gender.  It wasn’t just reading a book.  Things happen that shape your opinion and I think describing those things is the best way I know of to explain to you why I feel the way I do.

We have this word “gender” and there are two definitions of it out there. I’ve kind of distilled these from conversations I’ve had.  Really there’s not a lot of variation.  Either someone tells me one of these or they tell me the other one of these.  They don’t really mix elements, and that’s really interesting to me, that it’s really one or the other. It’s very polarizing. 

In the first definition, gender, often called “gender identity” is a personal, individual quality possessed by each person.  Gender identity is a subjectize perception by an individual
of their position on a spectrum between masculine and feminine, which are both neutral attributes, politically.  Gender is performed outwardly through choice of markers or symbols
like demeanor, body language, aesthetic choices like hair, clothing, presence or absence of makeup, pronoun.  These outward markers are what govern whether an individual
regards you as male or female upon meeting you or interacting with you.

End of Gender 1

Each person has an innate gender identity, characterized with the words “masculine” or “feminine” or in between which is independent of their biological sex.  Each person is born with a biological sex (male, female, intersex) which is also apolitical in this definition.  Sex and gender are not necessarily connected.

What is oppressive about it, according to people who adhere to this definition?

The fact that it’s a binary system in the dominant culture.  The fact that upon birth you are socialized as either masculine or feminine.  Generally, that’s seen as the primary gender oppression in this definition of gender.  That system punishes anyone who doesn’t conform to either one of those binary options.  It follows that this oppresses both women and men.  It oppresses whoever is put into either one of those boxes, no matter why they’re put into it or what happens to them.

So how can we resist?

“Genderqueer” women and men reject the binary system, identify as “gender outlaws” and demand recognition for a range of gender identities, with masculine on one end and feminine on the other.  In this definition, it’s turned from a binary to a spectrum.  The two ends of the binary just get stretched out and we can see some more options in between.

This is the first definition.

The second definition: Gender is a hierarchical system which maintains the subordination of females as a class to males through force.  Gender is a material system of power which uses violence and psychological coercion to exploit female labor, sex, reproduction, emotional support, etc, for the benefit of males.

EndofGender2

Gender is not natural or voluntary, since a person is not naturally subordinate and no one chooses to be subordinated.  Biological sex is a physical feature of each person, and those deemed female upon birth are socialized by the culture into femininity.

In this definition, femininity is defined as ritualized displays of submission to males.

So why is this oppressive?

Because it oppresses a class of people.  And because there are oppressors.  Power is wielded by groups of people. It’s experienced by individuals, yes.  But it’s wielded by groups of people over other groups of people.  And gender is no different.

And how can we resist? Women organize to overthrow male power and thus the entire gender system.

Instead of stretching out those binaries so there’s a spectrum in between, this definition advocates for the abolition of that system of domination and oppression.  Instead of ideally there being more than two different gender identifications, in this definition there would be none.

Because without patriarchy there would be no need for gender.

Anyone want to guess which of these I’m going to characterize as liberal? [audience chuckles]
I ask it as a serious question, because when I read them, if I step back and let go of the fact that I do have a clear conviction with regard to this, the first thing that jumps out at me about the first one is that it emphasizes individualism.  That’s the first thing I’m going to talk about, and I’m going to spend a while on it because I think that’s the core of liberalism with environmentalism and it’s the core of liberalism in gender too.

Again, we have this word gender, and you’ll notice that this looks kind of like a Venn diagram, but the circles don’t overlap at all.

EndofGender3

That’s because I don’t think these two definitions of gender have anything to do with each other.  I think they use the same word to describe two contradictory definitions and I will explain why.  I’ll start with the liberal view.  I picked a quote for each of these that I think sums it up very well.

With this one, the quote is: [Rachel stops talking to let audience read quote]

EndofGender4

And that is Judith Butler, who I spent a lot of time reading in school.  She is a very prominent Queer Theorist, and she gets quoted a lot.  I think her ideas sum up very well the liberal definition of gender so I am going to refer to her quite a bit.  This quote really embodies that individualism for me.

So we start with individualism: On the liberal side, gender is seen as a personal individual quality, and thusly politically neutral.

The individual is held up as so sacred in our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of dominant culture that it’s not politically correct to criticize or investigate anyone’s gender.

That leads to a lot of arguments, because if you try to analyze it politically people get offended on an individual basis. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

I’m trying to draw connections between how we see gender individually and the class issues that affect material reality.

With liberal environmentalism we see this individualism as the supposed ability of individuals to effect change just by changing themselves.  “I’m going to buy something different, I’m going to wear hemp clothing, I’m going to reduce my carbon footprint and that’s going to help get rid of this system, or change this system, that’s causing environmental destruction in the first place.”

The logical conclusion of that is withdrawalism.  If we just move ourselves out of that system entirely then we’re not contributing to it at all.  The problem with that, as all of you in DGR know, is that just because you’re supposedly not contributing to it, doesn’t mean you’re contributing to the dismantling of it.

The same thing seem to be happening with gender.

A term that Judith Butler coined is the “gender outlaw”, which is a really attractive idea when you’re a teenage liberal, [audience chuckles] because it puts that power supposedly in your own hands.  If I just stop conforming, personally, to these systems or to these attributes that are connected to these systems, then the system will wither and die without me, right?  Or at least I can personally escape the effects of it if I just don’t enact it in my own life.

Again, a “gender outlaw” is someone who abandons the gender stereotypes and the gender symbols that are traditional for their biological sex, and adopts those that are assigned to the other sex.

I do want to be very clear that I don’t really care how someone dresses.  I don’t really care how they cut their hair or whether they wear makeup.  Personally it doesn’t really affect me; I don’t really think it’s political.  But I do have a problem with people postulating that it is a political act of resistance in and of itself.

Dressing as, or appearing as, the traditional gender stereotype of the opposite sex is no more effective than living in a hut in the woods somewhere and expecting civilization to go on by itself.  It doesn’t make any political difference on its own.

But I don’t have any criticism of people individually.

In the liberal view, gender oppression is defined as social restrictions on individual capacity to express their true gender.  So it’s not one class oppressing the other; it’s individuals can’t express themselves.  They’re prevented from doing that, and that’s seen as the primary gender oppression.

When I was a liberal, this was really attractive because it left it all up to me. If I wanted to escape gender, I could do it.  But it wasn’t all up to me. And the idea that it is all up to me is as insulting as it is preposterous.  Because no one, including me, would ever choose a role that involves constant sexual harassment, the ubiquitous threat and in my case occasional enactment of male violence, and the certainty growing up, the conviction that you were meant for
exploitation, erasure, silence, but never personhood. I don’t think any of us think that anyone would choose that.

I’m not sure why, to most of the left, that’s different when it comes to gender.  But it seems to be. [audience applauds & cheers]

I want to emphasize here: I can say that, but I’ve also so far avoided being beaten, sold, or killed by men so as women go, I’m pretty lucky. The fact that I can still identify that class oppression in my own life really tells you something, since I’ve been that lucky.

So I got to college and read things like Judith Butler.  The idea that I could change my outlook on life, change my own perceptions, to escape what feminine socialization was doing to me, was really too tempting to resist. I understand why younger women, younger men — younger people — are really attracted to that.

But I was wrong. And I was wrong because gender is not an individual choice and there was not something wrong with me.

Gender is class oppression of females.

I want to stop here and talk about this. Because individualism too — I’m gonna talk about this throughout, but I wanna start talking about it with individuality.

I’ll repeat something I said earlier: in order to be an outlaw, there has to be a law. In the case of gender outlaws, that law is patriarchy, that system of values and that law is the class oppression of females.  In order for gender outlawism and people describing themselves as trans to make sense, there has to be a majority in order for that minority to exist.

And that majority is “cis” women, of which I count myself among them.

Or more accurately I don’t, because I think that term is oppressive to females on multiple levels
because it describes female people that have capitulated, in this view, to enacting feminism.

We’re taking the easy way out, girls!

We’re enacting that role that we’re supposed to enact, and we’re priviliged because of that.
Because being socialized into a role of femininity that encodes subordination so deep in your identity that you don’t call it that, you call it your nature, you call it your religion, you call it your culture.

I don’t thank that’s a privilege. And I find it ridiculous a lot of the time that I have to describe the fact that that’s not a privilege.

We’ll go over gender according to radical feminists, and I’ll talk about the class issues as opposed to individualism in a second, but first I have this quote:  “It’s become popular in some activist circles to embrace notions from postmodernism, and that includes the idea that gender is somehow a binary.  Gender is not a binary. It is a hierarchy.  It is global in its reach, it is sadistic in its practice, and it is murderous in its completion.  Just like race, and just like class.
Gender demarcates the geopolitical boundaries of patriarchy—which is to say, it divides us in half. That half is not horizontal—it is vertical.  And in case you missed this part, men are always on top.”

EndofGender5

I can envision the anti-DGR, anti-radical feminism party line being “Well of course you’d quote Lierre Keith. Of course you would.”  You know, I would. And part of that is because she’s my friend and because I appreciate her. But it was also because she was the first person I heard say something like this, and that is why it had such an effect on me.  This encapsulates to me the class issues that come into radical feminism.

Group/Class: for radicals, gender itself is oppression. I’ll repeat that:  Without oppression, there can not be gender. They are one and the same when it comes to sex oppression of females.

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For radical feminists, gender is the chain, and patriarchy is the ball, and it’s cuffed to the ankle of every female person born.

That socialization is not escapable, even if you move to that hut in the woods.

If you have a TV, it’s there.  If you know men that have been socialized into this culture, it’s there.  If you have a mother who was socialized as feminine, it’s there.  And that’s what makes it a class issue.

I could not escape gender by changing myself because changing my appearance did not change the fact that I was socialized into the sex class called “women” against my will.

The fear and desperation that comes from that is not something that someone would choose, and it was not my fault.  But even after I realized that, it took me a few years to hold my head up when I walked, and most days I still have to put conscious effort toward it.

So when people postulate that gender is individual, that my individual identity involves walking like you’re about to be kicked, or holding your head down when you speak, that’s offensive. And you can’t put it any other way.  Because no one chooses that identity; no one is innately subordinate.

It’s not a coincidence that 91% of those who are raped are female, and 99% of the perpetrators are male.  It’s not a coincidence that the shoes make it hard to run away.

It’s taboo to acknowledge that females are socialized from birth onward into a subordinate sex class for whom exploitation by males is so ingrained into the social norms that we can’t recognize it any more. That it’s become a “choice”, that it’s become our “identity.”

It’s taboo within mainstream liberal feminism to address the fact that males are socialized from birth onward into a privileged sex class that feeds on violation and subordination of not only women, but as all of you can recognize, of the oceans, of the earth, of life itself.

People who are critical of DGR’s feminist stance often seem unaware that Lierre isn’t the only radical feminist in the organization —“ far from it.  Because she is a woman who doesn’t hedge her words, doesn’t hold her tongue, and really doesn’t accept liberal bullshit, she’s become a lightning rod for the type of flac that radical feminism tends to get.  I find that unfair, first of all. And a lot of that flac comes from a private email she sent that got spread all over the internet, and when people criticize DGR based on the text of that email, they seem to expect us to be so ashamed of it or so offended by it ourselves, that we won’t even address it. So I’d actually like to read it out loud.

“Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982.  I think “transphobic” is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be “trans”.  I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.

Try this on.  I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body.  I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me.  My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.

Or how about this.  I am really Native American.  How do I know?  I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough.  I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it.  I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans.

Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power.”

[audience applauds]

EndofGender7

I’d like to follow that comparison a little further to maybe make it a little clearer.  I’ve asked, at first out of genuine curiosity when people would bring this up, why, if gender is something that socialization doesn’t matter, it’s voluntary, you can be trans-gendered or in the more specific case, a trans-woman.  Why is that acceptable when deciding that I’m trans-black is not?
I just want to follow it through. What would it mean if I was trans-black, if I decided that was true.  Would it mean that I wore clothes that are traditionally and stereotypically believed to be worn by African americans?  Would it mean that I identify more strongly with African culture than I do with white culture?

No. And I don’t think I really have to explain why. Because that’s offensive.

I don’t have the cultural background that makes that true; I have not endured the oppression and abuse that goes along with being a marginalized racial class.

So for me to claim that I’m more strongly identified with that is actually just reinforcing those stereotypes.  And I honestly don’t really see what’s different about gender.  If we accept that gender is a class condition, not an individual condition, that analogy makes sense.

People told me about these [analogies] before I actually read them, and once I actually read them, I was kind of underwhelmed [audience laughs] because I didn’t really see what was not straight-forward about calling gender a class position. This was after I left liberalism a little bit.

Next we can talk about idealism.

On the liberal side, gender is idealist.

This is a quote from Jennifer Baumgardner, who I used to idolize.  I went and saw her speak.  She’s a very nice woman.  She does a lot of really good work.  But she says that: “Consciousness is everything.  Even now, acknowledging inequality begs one to do something about it and that is a daunting, albeit righteous, responsibility.”

EndofGender8

The idea that consciousness is everything, just like with environmentalism, leads to an activist practice that’s focused on changing people’s minds as though oppression were a mistake that could be corrected if we could just explain to men that they should really just stop exploiting us.

It begs us to do something about it because we’re the ones affected by it.  But the realization that they’re benefiting from the oppression of others leads the oppressor class to dig in their heels, not to do something about it.

Even liberal feminists — I like to use the example of rape culture, to get away from idealism, because rape is not an idea.  Again, there’s a reason why 91% of rape victims are female, and 99% of the perpetrators are male.  If she’s lucky, the survivor of rape will be one of the 2% whose case actually goes to trial and 97% of rapists never see a day in jail. These are not ideas; they are reality.

EndofGender9When we’re talking about rape culture and idealism, we have to talk about Slut Walk.  I give you one guess who this intrepid young feminist is. [audience laughs]  Do the curls give me away?  I’m not sorry that I participated in this, I actually organized the one at my school, because I think that, just like me, the women who participate in this genuinely want to end rape culture because what woman wouldn’t? The fallacy, the one I fell into (I was 21 in this picture) was that changing people’s ideas about rape culture would actually change rape culture. It says “END RAPE CULTURE” in marker.

The fallacy here is not wanting to end rape culture.  The fallacy is that marching around with “END RAPE CULTURE” on my back was actually going to end rape culture.  Again, it’s based on the idea that we can change people’s ideas about what gender means: if we just redefine the term “slut” then it won’t be an oppressive term to women any more.

But we forget that the lines of oppression are not demarcated by the oppressed.  They are chosen by the oppressor, and they can only be changed through force, not through catchy chants. Which is a shame, because I’m really good at catchy chants. [audience laughs]
For radicals, gender is maintained through force. Gender is a material system of power
which uses violence and psychological coercion to exploit female labor, sex, reproduction,
emotional support, for the benefit of men.

EndofGender10

Rape culture, right along with female poverty, lack of education, the trafficking of our bodies
—it’s maintained through material structures.  Not through people’s ideas.

Gender is a system of power that uses violence and psychological coercion to maintain the oppression of females.  Not to just control our ideas about it, but to control actual physical reality.

Next on the liberal side we have voluntarism, and this again gets back to the heart of the controversy of DGR around feminism. That is, our policy surrounding women’s spaces, and how that relates to people who describe themselves as “trans.”

EndofGender11

I again feel sad that I have to put this as a disclaimer but through my time speaking in public for DGR, we’ve been asked whether we’re a “transphobic” organization. Do we hate trans people?
I can only speak for myself when I say that I do not hate trans people as a group of people;
I don’t hate the individual trans people that I know.

My personal feelings towards individuals has nothing to do with my political analysis  of what that definition of gender means for all of us, and for people as a class.

In the liberal view, gender expression — I took this off the HRC website —  is seen as a voluntarily chosen set of external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, or social interactions.  What follows from this is that if gender is voluntary, then people who are oppressed by gender are choosing to be oppressed.

I come back again to the fact that no one chooses to be oppressed.  If we accept this definition of gender, we accept that people who are oppressed for being born female, are choosing to be in that position and that if they wanted to, they could reject that and move away from it by their own personal choices and do something else.

I think back to a person I met who identified themselves to me as a transwoman.  Again, this person was very sweet; I was very glad to meet them; I don’t mean this as a personal attack.
But something they said really stuck with me as a demonstration, when they said “I don’t have the male privilege that I was raised with any more.”  I had to think about that for a while to think about what I thought about that, and whether that was true.  And I realized that it wasn’t. Because being raised with male privilege is the privilege.

Being raised with the knowledge that you are fully human and you deserve rights and that your body is not fair game and that the court system considers you human is the privilege.  And that doesn’t just go away.

So an alternative name for this presentation is “I’m not afraid of your penis but I’m terrified of your socialization.” [audience laughs] because I think that people think when I say things like this that I consider males innately terrifying, that you’ll never get out of it.  I’ve seen men get out of that system of behavior.

But getting out of being socialized into masculinity, which is based on violation and domination, does not make you female. It makes you a revolutionary, because that is what is actually going to change the culture, people acting outside … [cut off as audience applauds and cheers]

This is a quote from Kourtney Mitchell — maybe he’s on live stream right now, I’m not sure, I hope he is — he wrote an essay on white privilege and backlash. He wrote that “It is important to understand what it means to view racial oppression in the context of class analysis.  Whiteness is a class experience, and not based in biological reality. But that does not mean
one can just decide to stop being white, just like I cannot decide to stop being a man as long as the dominant culture classes me as a man.  As long as you are classed as white, you will continue to benefit from white privilege.  This is what allies need to remember.”

EndofGender12

If you put this in the context of gender oppression, it is just as true.  This is what allies need to remember, that whatever your intentions are, whatever your external presentation is, you’re going to have that socialization and therefore that privilege and that identification by the dominant culture as long as you live.

Just like as long as I live I will have to think about my posture so I’m not hiding.  I will have to speak extra loud most of the time in order to counteract the social forces that tell me not to speak at all.  None of that is going to change just because I want it to.  None of that is voluntary like it is on the liberal side.

Now I want to talk about a kind of conflict that I’ve seen within liberal feminism.

I don’t think oppression is natural or voluntary.  But on the liberal side, oppression is both natural and voluntary.  This is because gender is seen as both natural, something innate that we’re born with, and something that we choose from the wardrobe of gender every day, like clothes.  It’s hard to argue from a radical perspective, because liberals have the market cornered on the naturalism and voluntarism.  They can argue it from both sides, and switch in the blink of an eye, and I am having a really hard time figuring out how to point out that this is a basic conflict of logic.

If something is innate, it can not be voluntary.

My brown hair is innate, therefore it’s not voluntary.  The same goes for gender.  It can’t be both, and in my view it’s neither.

Next is constructivism.  Instead of being natural, in the radical view gender is constructed.  It is artificial.  It is imposed on humans who would enact humanity if given the choice.  But instead, this constructed identity of subordination and domination is impressed upon us.

This quote is from Andrea Dworkin: “Woman is not born; she is made.  In the making, her humanity is destroyed.  She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that;
mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because she is forbidden to do so.”

EndofGender13

For females this is the reality of the construction of gender, that it is not escapable.  Just because it’s constructed doesn’t mean that it can be deconstructed at will.  It doesn’t mean that it can be deconstructed individually.  In order to deconstruct it, it will take organization, which is something that has not happened on a mass scale yet and that’s why patriarchy still exists.

The thing that brought this home to me was my relationship with a student I used to have.
We went over basic sex ed, we went over self esteem, media literacy.  A lot of the time we just talked about these things, talked about our experiences of gender and of being a teenager in this culture.

I met a girl who had been subject to incest, trafficking, rape, more horrific incidences than I could comprehend.  She may have been the most horrifically abused person that I had ever met in that context. Part of the time that I knew her…

She already had short hair, she cut it a little shorter, she asked me to use the pronoun “he” which I also did.  I didn’t really think very deeply about that at the time.  At the time if you had asked me “Why did she do that?”  I would have said it’s her innate gender identity. She was born wanting to do that.  Now that she’s away from her parents, and in this institution, she feels like she can, without repercussion, and this is a good thing, because she can enact what is actually her.  But I don’t believe that any more.

One of the reasons I don’t believe that is because one of the days in class, I asked them to
draw a picture, all of my students. I knew what I thought they deserved, but I wanted to know what they thought they deserved. What they wanted their lives to be like when they got out. What their lives would be like if they had gotten what they wanted and what they needed throughout their lives.

They drew a lot of different things, but I kept [the girl’s] drawing for a really long time.
In one corner she drew what was clearly a girl’s face. It had pink lipstick, a pink bow in the hair, and tears running down the face, and it had a big X through it.  And underneath it she wrote words she thought described being a girl. She wrote “pain”, she wrote “fear”, she wrote “rape”, she wrote words in that vein.  In the other corner she drew a human face — in fact it looked a lot like her.  It had short, brown hair, no makeup or accessories, and the face was smiling.
And underneath it she wrote “confident”, she wrote “happy”, she wrote “safe.”  And underneath that she wrote me a paragraph, and it started with “If I hadn’t been a girl…”

“If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t have been raped. If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t be scared.  If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t be here, at this institution.”

I kept that for a while, because I didn’t really understand it right away. It took a while for that to sink in.  I don’t bring up this example to try to convey that every person who describes themselves as trans does so because of the type of horrific abuse that she endured.  I do it to assert that being socialized into femininity is abuse, and she just experienced it more extremely than most of us do.  She did what she could to get out of it at that time.  As much as I want that for her, that doesn’t mean that she actually could get out.  She got out of that institution, but she did not get out of femininity, no matter how short she cuts her hair, and no matter what name she uses.

Gender is anything but natural. She was not born with a feminine brain or a masculine brain, but she was born with a female body and in this culture that means she’s considered less human than members of the sex class “men.”

It’s no wonder to me that she wanted to escape that oppression of female socialization by rejecting her femaleness, but like Kourtney said, just as men cannot erase their masculine privilege, women cannot choose to erase the oppression of being socialized into femininity.

Which brings me to the final distinction between the liberal and radical conception of gender that I’m going to talk about today, which is the difference between reformism and revolution.

This is a long quote; I’m not going to read all of it, because it’s not necessary.

“That’s one of the things that the word ‘queer’ can refer to: the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.”

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This is a quote from Eve Sedgwick, who’s another really prominent queer theorist.  She goes on to say that people can identify as “radical faeries, pushy femmes, transwomen, lesbians who sleep with men, lesbian-identified men”… she goes on like that for a while, it’s a long paragraph.
The point I’m trying to get to, by reading all of that academic language, is that all of those identities are still based on domination and subordination.

Just because we’re putting extra categories in between the two, does not mean that we’re getting rid of the system based on animosity between the two.

On the radical side, we have revolution. This is Catherine Mackinnon: “In a society in which equality is a fact, not merely a word, words of racial or sexual assault and humiliation will be nonsense syllables.”  In the radical feminist view, this will be what happens to the words “man” and “woman”, along with the sex-class system based on subordination and domination that those words signify.

EndofGender15

And that’s it. Thanks. [audience claps & cheers]

 

Watch more Deep Green Resistance videos.

This is what I said at Radfems Respond

Excerpt:

1. Female people are a distinct social class with unique experiences, and members of that class experience specific forms of oppression under male supremacy based on the fact that we are female.

2. Gender is an inherently oppressive caste system that serves to facilitate and maintain the exploitation of female people under male supremacy.

In the last year, my experiences have made it clear to me that these two ideas are tantamount to Orwellian thoughtcrime in our current political climate around gender. And my question – yet again – is why. What is it about these two ideas that justifies the level of threats, backlash, and silencing that we receive just for daring to speak them out loud?

With each of these, I want to talk about their significance to feminism – the reasons that I think it’s important that we state them out loud despite the consequences –  and I also want to honestly address some of the criticisms that I’ve heard directed at them.

Of course, most of radical feminism’s detractors don’t even bother to engage with this discussion. It’s a lot easier to threaten women, to make us afraid, than to actually have a constructive adult conversation. It’s a lot easier to dismiss radical feminism as outdated, a relic from an earlier time, as many choose to, than to acknowledge and engage with our points. This argument, if it can even be called an argument, falls completely flat for me and so many radical feminists of my generation. We’re not clinging to relics, we’re reaching for a politics that actually addresses the scope of the misogyny and male supremacy that we are forced to live within.

Read more:  This is what I said at Radfems Respond