Thursday, 24 December 2009

christian holiday

mmph. i don't like this time of year. i do like the midwinter enforced holiday - making us pause and hibernate for a couple of days. making us think of treats to give anyone we love. and i like pretty lights.

but i can't stand the terrible focus on family-as-a-measure-of-success that marks anyone who's not joyous round a table crowded with family and food, as a failure, a sad case, pitiable. it's so much added bullshit pressure for just-another-day. and so many people have to go back to families where whatever kinds of abuse took place and play happy and good, all the silencing and denial comes back out, abusers get to sit at the head of the table and be passed more potatoes.

to cheer myself up faced with such compulsory depressing nonsense, to remind myself that "things don't have to be [and already aren't always] the way they are" (as the Jensen book i'm reading keeps saying) i like to go seek out the shitstirring queers. ah, here they are:

Mattilda Berstein Sycamore: Many of us grew up experiencing the lovely embrace of marriage or its aftermath, so we, and most queers, certainly know a lot about how marriage is, and has always been a central place for beating up, raping and abusing women, children, queers, and transpeople. And, even better--getting away with it! What are the other problems with marriage, and the gay marriage agenda in particular?
Yasmin Nair: I don't get why a community of people who have historically been fucked over by their families and the state now consists of people who want those exact same institutions to validate their existence. I think marriage is the gay Prozac, the drug of choice for gaysbians today: It makes them forget that marriage isn't going to give everyone health care, it won't give us a subsistence wage, it won't end all these fucked up wars that are killing people everywhere else.
Gina Carducci: we need to be able to choose our own families and who visits us in the hospital and who shares our assets and who makes decisions for us, whether we are officially single or partnered. And gender is defined by us too, not by presentation but how we define our own identities. Sexual liberation and freedom and places to fuck without being policed. Housing. Healthcare. Social services. Protection for the environment.
Hilary Goldberg: The last time I checked -- the nuclear family model -- was a disaster! Enough already. The gay rights movement needs to divorce marriage and pull it together. The system is broken, these institutions are failing, why are people so set on shoring them up? Let's focus on ending capitalism, abolishing prison, ending militarism, ensuring immigrant rights, clean air, great food, love, equality, interdependence, independence, autonomy, non-hierarchical structures, and most importantly the universal reclamation of all land and water as public property.
Yasmin Nair: And, of course, the abolition of the prison industrial complex, the end of the illusion that more punishment and enhanced penalties in the form of hate crimes legislation will benefit anyone, safety for young queers who are beaten and/or raped by families and have nowhere to go, intergenerational sex that's not immediately stigmatized as pedophilia, an end to sex offender laws that do nothing to end the abuse of children but only add to the coffers of the prison industrial complex, an end to the death penalty, an end to the idea that life without parole is an acceptable alternative, queer sex in public without paying a fee in a bathhouse and without being harassed, jailed, or beaten for it, an immigration rights movement that acknowledges that it's a crisis of labor, not about "families" or spousal partners, an end to the disappearance and/or deportation of undocumented people, and oh, I could go on.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


been kinda overwhelmed (again) for a week or so, wanting to write stuff but not doing a very good job of finishing anything. part of this is due to a book arriving in my life: A Language Older Than Words, by Derrick Jensen. i'll be writing a lot more about it, as i slowly read it - it will have to be slowly, so it doesn't break my mind. from reading three chapters it seems it's so much of what-i've-been-searching-to-say, but taken a lot further past just (just!) oppression on a family/political scale into environmental/everything/the whole world... yes, really. plus there's a chapter where this dude Jensen chats with Judith Herman, who i'm always going on about, amazingness. here's just one thing she has to say to him:
"If you're part of a predatory and militaristic culture, then to behave in a predatory and militaristic way is not deviant, per se."
ahh, she rules. but anyway i was just kicked out of my work-tired blank overwhelm by receiving my first email newsletter from GenerationFIVE, having signed up the other week. they're so great. so i just wanted to post some enthusiasm about that book, and about inspiration. and you can read something by Mr Jensen here, an article which makes me think that the title of my last post should have been 'action & realism' :)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Friday, 4 December 2009

alternate realities; multiple realities

i want to say something about abuse and silence and denial and 'reality'. um. really not sure where to begin. i was talking with someone this afternoon whose abuser - like so many abusers - flatly denies to her face that any of it has ever happened. presented with these two conflicting realities - it happened a lot//it never ever happened, she believed she must be mentally ill as only mentally ill people can see two realities. believing she was mentally ill became self-fulfilling.

i read something once about 'spirited away', perhaps in a zine but i can't remember where now, a woman was describing how the film felt sort of familiar to her, felt like how it was for her to be a child subjected to abuse: living in multiple realities, strangeness, among ghosts and unexplained happenings.

i want to write about how bizarre the experience of abuse, and its after-effects, can be. how experiences of 'ghosts' and experiences of mental strangeness, dissociation and a sense of unreality are normal reactions to living through it. i want to write about how our denial and 'othering' of people's normal reactions to abuse can further traumatise survivors, for example like the woman i mentioned above, driving her far crazier than she was in the first place.

i want to write about how society is set up in such a way as to perpetuate abuse by feeding it with denial, by allowing a reality where abuse is absent or minimized, to exist. we need one, unified reality: society needs to acknowledge that abuse of power and control are everyday occurences, everywhere, and we can all work to minimise it.
"The knowledge of horrible events periodically intrudes into public awareness but is rarely retained for long. Denial, repression and dissociation operate on a social as well as individual level... Like traumatized people, we have been cut off from the knowledge of our past."
(I heart Judith Herman)

If abuse, its histories and its effects were acknowledged, then societal changes would have to occur. individual children would be more likely to be able to escape the twisted reality at home by being confronted with one, unified reality at school and in the media where abuse of power was unacceptable. the realities of domestic abuse and how to stay safe are not taught in schools because this would call into question all oppressions. if we, as a society, started to understand control then the whole structure would be threatened, would disintegrate.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

talking about control

there is an amazing post over at The Curvature about how people refuse to acknowledge any possibility that someone they know could perpetrate abuse:
"It puts the men that do such things in the realm of mythical creatures rather than living, breathing, and yes, complicated, human beings. If we do not know them, it is not our concern. If we do not know them, they don’t really exist. If we do not know them, we do not have to be afraid. If we do not know them, we do not have to feel responsible for the difficult work of changing our culture."
changing our culture. the change that needs to happen is for people to develop an understanding of control. for children to be brought up with an understanding of control. how it operates.

i've been aware this week of the resistance i come up against when i mention that someone in my community displays controlling behaviours. even my feminist friends are uncomfortable with me labelling someone as 'controlling'. they think i'm being the hypersensitive domestic violence worker whose mind is twisted to be suspicious of all heterosexual men (there's a little truth in that, but..!). perhaps i'm not explaining myself well enough. i don't mean "X is an evil, controlling, potentially violent, devil-man that we'd better warn our straight female friend Y about, in contrast to angelic, enlightened queers like you and i, who she'd be much better off with if only she'd escape her hetero false consciousness."

no: everyone is capable of control, and we will each take it as far as we decide to. our decisions about how far to take it are affected by our socialisation and what external sanctions exist against this behaviour (disapproval from our peers; prison, etc).

so when i say "i think X is quite controlling and Y might have a hard time as his partner" i mean: "i've seen and heard examples of X's behaviour that add up to a pattern of trying - and succeeding to some extent - to control Y. if he's given free rein by everyone just to continue, Y's life will get harder, because control always increases as far as the controller chooses to take it, and this choice is partly based on the reaction of the community. i think we should keep an eye on this situation, try and support Y where possible and try to show X that we do not think his behaviour is acceptable."

if we all had the understanding and vocabulary to discuss control then people like Y would be so much safer because it wouldn't be so dramatic, so taboo, to ask "is X ever controlling in any way?" and talking about someone's attempts to control another person would not be the same as demonising them.

(and yes this is an example of a straight couple that i've used and yes queers control one another too.)