in Which I Am So Idealistic Conveniently Before Bedtime
6. what else works? what are the best tactics of resistance?
This looks like as good an opportunity as any to link Suzy X.’s response to Will’s “Privilege Politics Is Reformism.” I don’t agree with everything in the original article or the responses, but each piece makes a number of good points.
My main frustration with radical activism today is the imbalance I see between what appear to be two extremes (that don’t have to be mutually exclusive) of direct action and theory/discussion. Thinking and acting are both important and they can happen at the same time!
I have been pretty disillusioned about activism for a long time because I couldn’t seem to find a middle ground. Like Katy says, Tumblr can be a good venue for having discussions, sharing and learning new things… but it’s also the Internet, which takes a different form than other types of communication. Tumblr interactions, like pretty much any comment threads [linked for the headline lulz] on Issues, can quickly become fast-paced, heated, and very hyperbolic; it’s just a different environment than what can happen in other learning/discussion media (such as zines, books, lectures, panels, small group conversations, personal introspection, private one-on-one talks)… it’s not for everyone all the time. (Extreme personal aside related to my own “attacks on Tumblr” as a medium: participating in political or SJ [I had to Google that a couple weeks ago, incidentally?] discussions on Tumblr generates a lot of anxiety and obsessive/circular thinking in my brain. My self-confidence as a writer/person is often shattered on a daily basis if I post something that people disagree with in an intense manner, even if I’m not the original author of a post. I feel weird about that especially because that is a reaction that I don’t have when engaging in other [slower-paced?] methods of exchanging ideas. I can only hope I’m not being “TOO SENSITIVE,” HMM, it’s just that I have a really hard time reading the Internet’s tendency towards sarcasm and snark as “constructive discussion”)
Theory is important, but sometimes theory talking can become really academic and unintentionally exclusionary. In my case, I don’t have a formal Women’s Studies background and so a lot of feminist theory stuff in discussions (especially online) is totally lost on me and I just don’t have time to read all the books and/or the Googling, etc., which is why I’m really grateful that I have a couple theory-friends who are patient enough to discuss things with me privately where I’m more comfortable about being clueless.
But often I get real irritated by radical focus on theory because even though that stuff is interesting and important and valid, it just doesn’t do jack shit to address ~my personal feminist issues.~ No matter what I read and discuss, I’m still going to be carrying a knife on my walks home from work at night. I’m still going to be angry that I’ve managed to consistently date a punk-rock parade of boys who are too Artistic or Anarchistic to help me pay our bills. I’m still going to be all tough-love no-sympathy for the tortured male addicts who want to take up all the space and all the time to have their crazies and failed attempts and pathetic apologies yet call me hysterical if I get too sad and angry when I have to witness them slowly dying. I’m going to hate my own girlhate for all the times I’ve gone to confide in a female friend about abuse and her first response is “Well why don’t you just leave him? [ATTN: No Shit Sherlock.]” I’m still going to hate my girlhate but still hate all the girls who told my former pissdrunk significant-male that I’m the bitch holding his sacredly artistic ass back and he just needs the ‘right’ kinda girlfriend to ‘take care of him.’ I’m still going to cry every time I go alone to get a pelvic exam, just like the first time when I had to sneak out of my Catholic house. I’m still going to experience a regret that rent my heart because I couldn’t and still can’t afford to have a kid, not now and maybe even not ever, even though I kind of want to be a mom, even though my kid is amazing where she is and it’s perfect. I’m still going to bitch about what an anxiety-inducing experience it is to shop for a new pair of pants or shoes because even though my body is pretty normal-looking I am convinced a lot of “women’s clothing” is designed to be ridiculously uncomfortable, illogical, and possibly dangerous (I can’t walk in heels! Most bras give me a rash! Why do all the jeans look frumpy on my legs!) And I’m still going to tell anyone, of any gender, of any temperament, to kiss my ass if they want to legislate or moralize or shame anything having to do with my uterus and its accessories.
So, personal-is-political rant aside, overall I want to see more ACTION in activism in tandem with theory! junglerot’s original “Gang War” post appealed to me so much because of the underlying emotional sentiment. (Aside: I initially simply read it as “everyone,” probably because I am just not super-attuned to lacks of gender-inclusive language, having often assumed myself as “one of the boys” anyway.) The absurdity of “looking weird” to express anger and a threatening presence is maybe not a seriously effective form of activism for everyone, but I took it as a metaphor, and… well, frankly, it reminded me of a Hunter Thompson rant. It was this almost poetic, hyperbolic, absurd yet honest call to Give a Shit, take whatever control you can get, do whatever you can.
Then there are some activists who get really loud about going to extremes with Direct Action, but that kind of “extreme” resistance isn’t always going to be effective for everyone or anyone or even for your “movement.” Another aside: I was quickly like WHATEVER regarding OWS-Athens because a handful of extremists were guilt-tripping everyone in the group — such as parents, students, people with jobs or other obligations — for not “occupying” 24/7 and not being willing to engage in arrestable actions. This is like when I was in high school and everyone called me a “poser” because I couldn’t decide between pop-punk and goth music. IN 1999 OKAY SO GROW UP ALREADY.
Suzy X. wrote, “there are plenty of non-arrestable actions that constitute resistance— i.e. organizing autonomous communities, teaching people how to read, isolating abusers, taking care of each other out of good will instead of doing it for capital.”
These suggestions might not be “the best tactics of resistance” and they are certainly not the only, but these are some of my most favorite direct actions we can do that can make big differences, and some of them are super easy to accomplish quickly and effectively, individually or in groups!
[Note: If this ends up getting reblogged around, anyone can feel free to add more ideas and suggestions, and most helpfully add more links, citations, references, etc.]
- People with uteruses can learn how these reproductive organs work. Hot Pantz zine was my introduction to understanding my own body. (People without uteruses can also learn about these organs because it’s really interesting and also helpful to be knowledgeable about these body parts.) This zine contains suggestions and recipes for herbal teas that can be used for a variety of uterus-related issues (relieving menstrual cramps, kickstarting a late period) and it also includes advice on maintaining sexual health and treating and curing some STDs. I think this zine also has instructions for giving yourself a pelvic exam (I’ve never done this but some people say it’s empowering.)
I’m not totally anti-medicine but I think it’s important to know how our bodies work. The mystification of basic biological functions is one way of convincing individuals that we’re powerless to know, understand, and care for ourselves. I’m not totally anti-doctor/anti-professional, etc., but I do enjoy feeling like I don’t have to depend on an “expert” to tell me what’s happening with my body all the time.
- Other uterus-related health things that reduce our dependency on capitalism, lawmakers, and the medical industry: make your own menstrual pads, use sea sponge tampons, try the reusable DivaCup, learn to track your menstrual cycle if you prefer not to use hormonal birth control methods (I’ve been using the Fertility Awareness Method for 10+ years. Only messed up once, LOL oops.); learn how to do menstrual extraction (I don’t know about this except that it exists, reliable source anyone?); learn how to perform abortions; learn how to be a doula; learn how to be a midwife.
- Help parents in the community by volunteering to babysit or run errands or do household chores. Start a childcare collective (I still want to do this in Athens, hello?).
- Volunteer at a women’s shelter or start a women’s shelter if there isn’t one nearby. Organize a phone-tree for helping women who are in crisis or abuse situations. Collectively make a plan for dealing with known abusers (Athens, I want to do this and I would prefer one that doesn’t just say, “Step One: Call the Cops,” and is more involved than simply publicly calling someone out on the Internet).
- Learn how to protect yourself. Learn to fight back when necessary. Shank the rapist.
- Learn about first aid. Learn about managing mental illnesses and supporting one another. Learn about safely managing or recovering/withdrawing from drug/alcohol addictions.
- Learn about yourself so you can figure out what you can offer the community.
- STAY ANGRY. But be compassionate, too. Take care of yourself before you try to take care of others. Get your shit straight before you start calling people on their shit. (Or at least, geez, try to keep the processes balanced.) Keep learning. Fight apathy!
PS - More things that aren’t specific to reproductive rights/lady issues: Plant community gardens, start a free school, maintain a zine library (you don’t even need a ‘radical space’ for this, just lend and borrow and make extra copies to give away or sneak into public places! I used to do this all the time when I was a baby punk.) Organize regular carpools. Volunteer at Food Not Bombs! — DUDES, OWS-Athens had like SO MUCH free food all the time when all of the mostly-white young people were “Occupying,” which pissed me off, because now FNB is mostly just Kt again? WHAT HAPPEN. We obviously had the resources to spare when it was about more than just feeding random homeless and/or punx kidz…
Very Important Also is that these actions and sharings should absolutely in no way only be limited to the radical/punx community. I might add that a radical action such as a Food Not Bombs or Really Really Free Market event doesn’t always also have to be a venue for disseminating radical literature or engaging “not-yet-enlightened” everyday people in Anti-Capitalism 101. (I mean it’s not like that’s a bad thing to be having those conversations with regular people of course, BUT sometimes… damn, just give out free food without the “catch” of having people listen to what you have to say about meetings and democracy and the establishment; sometimes broke-ass people just want a sandwich with no strings attached. [Note: Speaking from My Own Previous Experience as an Actual Poor Person Who Doesn’t Care about Boring Anarchist Meetings Can I Just Get That Pizza Out of the Garbage Can Please.])
Maintaining an actual, supportive, strong community and helping each other is resistance.
As if to say to the state, “You won’t give us the support we need? You wanna keep our communities in the gutter? All right then. We’re gonna stop relying on YOU, or paying YOU to do this shit, and we’re gonna do it ourselves.”
(from Suzy X., again)