activism

Jaded's picture

On Signs And Signifiers

 

I’ve been pretty busy moving and settling in a new city these past three weeks, I couldn’t keep up with people, let alone the internet — thus thankfully missing debates around whether Mumbai should have slutwalks or not. One of the organisers asked me whether I’d be willing to help organise as we’ve worked on a few things together before. She was quite taken aback when I declined her offer (given that Slutwalk Mumbai ends up taking place) as we usually agree on most things when it comes to activism and organising. She asked, “But don’t you love your freedom? How can you pass up an opportunity such as this to see and know how far we can push boundaries?” and then I didn’t have any answers for her as I was, and am still caught up in thinking how for her, and a lot of people Slutwalk™ has come to symbolise the sum of all feminist rioting considering  Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Mumbai (from time to time) have had walks and pickets by feminists and people involved in gender justice, for causes ranging from more college seats for women to raising awareness about sex-selective abortions — each issue that emerges from our specific caste, gender, class conflicts in each specific city long before Slutwalk™ became an enterprise. Since this exchange, the rhetoric behind supporting slutwalks has become intertwined with “respecting and loving oneself” — where love¹ (of the self, of the ‘community’) is continuously intertwined to the extent that any opposition to slutwalk today is to “hate” freedom — and peculiarly, this ‘freedom’  that SW represents has to move away from anything “recognisably” Indian — whatever that means to people individually and collectively.

———

In other parts of the country — especially Delhi — newspapers and news channels are all fixed on Anna Hazare’s impending fast tomorrow, that has been a part of national rhetoric and vocabulary since late April. On the whole, Hazare demands for a new anti-corruption bill, asks people to fully and directly engage with the government and hold them accountable. When it comes to the news coverage of his speeches and his entire fast, the comparisons drawn to Gandhi are more than co-incidental – tomorrow being Independence Day for India, the analogy becomes even thicker, Hazare is viewed as the “one man army” who is going to drive away corruption, going by Gandhi’s views of freedom. While I don’t necessarily agree that this protest is “peaceful” at all, that by specifically re-membering India’s history of independence as one without critically admitting to ourselves and others that it meant freedom for only ‘some’ people, I do find such a ‘nation-wide’ movement fascinating — as from time to time we see women also supporting Hazare’s fast², it’s been a while since women have been featured under the “national gaze” as more than just agency-less subjects. However, coming to the actual protest due on 15th August at Delhi, it seems women may not have a harassment-free space to march and protest. Can’t say I’m particularly shocked if tomorrow there are mostly men broadcasted over the news — as Hazare (like Gandhi) still see women’s roles under traditional patriarchy of wifedom and motherdom. For instance, the Alcohol Prohibition Act reads like one that empowers women, to talk about their abusive alcoholic spouses – it supposes that only men can be alcoholics, that one has to be an alcoholic to abuse people; there are many loopholes to this and quite a few of his other arguments too, one of the most troubling being — does an anti-corruption movement erase/will attempt to smooth over India’s history and geography of communal violence and casteism?

——-

Jaded's picture

Re-Membering Ties; Re-Forming Bonds

Last week, I read Houria Bouteldja’s essay on Decolonial Feminism And The Privilege Of Solidarity and came away with agreeing with most of it, though there are some big problematic themes hazed over — like the ‘question’ of Islam and feminism co-existing (hint: this shouldn’t take consideration) or even the notion of ‘decolonisation’ mentioned many times in the essay, making it seem as if a ‘decolonial’ state of being is indeed possible (without using time-bubbles that too!) that there will be a time when colonisation will be washed clean from under our skin or given the radical left Maoist thrust of the website, the essay doesn’t mention ‘rescuing’ Marxism from Marx’s colonialism — but all of this disappeared as I read the speaker subverting the concept of ‘solidarity’ — physically and viscerally – by standing in solidarity with White women, which was her way of disrobing White feminists of extending ‘sistersong’. I read, “Solidarity with [insert nationality here]” and impulsively liked how ‘solidarity’ as a privilege was reverted, like Caliban cursing at his master¹, the act of reversing roles was more important than focusing on what she actually implied. Considering the speaker is an activist, her goal was to level the uneven power dichotomy of ‘solidarity’ when practiced by White (Imperial) feminists and possibly for her solidarity ‘ends’ there, and not in likening herself to any White feminists. All of this I knew and acknowledged as I read the essay for the first time; I’ll admit that the Calibanian instinct didn’t die away even after days. So for a while, I started believing that solidarity is a desirable concept when disrobed of imperial and neo-colonial intent and action, even prioritised theory over action so to speak, forgot that my dusty skin cannot be cataloged either way quite this easily.

Co-incidentally two days after reading the essay I ended up taking my students to the Prince Of Wales museum for a ‘field visit’ — calling the museum by a glorified Maratha hero’s name doesn’t change where it originates from or that it attests our colonial past — and somehow while constantly saying “no you can’t touch it” and “yes, that’s a naked body, that’s nothing to laugh about!” we were  standing in front of the Ratan Tata wing — yesthose Tata’s – and all the artefacts that came directly from their family heirlooms. One minute I’m telling them to stop giggling at the nude paintings and next moment we come to the section where weapons ‘of the Empire’ are displayed. Rows of guns, whips, knives, pistols — some from the Maratha period, some from the Empire — which were used on ‘natives’; seeing the old Grandfather Clock which still works by London time and finally the cutlery and silverware exposed our (in)visible history. If I were to re-trace ‘that history’, I’d have to look at the gaps and spaces between these narratives and presentations of history, as ‘my’ past is infinitely linked with ‘theirs’. If I were to imagine ‘Indian history’ has a voice, then for the better part of last two centuries it is silenced² judging solely by the artifacts present in the museum, you’d think there were no Indians who lived in India for the time British people hung out here. Had I gone alone to the museum, this would have been the time for me to leave and give in to the crying fit, but my students were around and still wanted to know if those weapons were ever used on us. I must have nodded ‘yes’ as suddenly everyone was quiet for a while. Finally, standing around the creepy, stuffed animals of the Natural History section, one student tells me that his abbujan’s father — great-grandfather that is — used to be a footman to a British naval officer; we don’t look at each other as he wonders out loud if the weapons we saw upstairs were ever used on his abbujan’s father. At that moment — and even today — my first instinct is to cut away all my ties with such a history or a collective past.

furrygirl's picture

Announcing SWAAY: Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You (with stuff you can do to help!)

Originally posted at Feminisnt.com

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I'm going to be starting a new sex workers rights project.  The name I've chosen for it is SWAAY, which stands for Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You.  Of all the names I considered, I picked this one because it best explains what I want to do in two ways: outreach for normalizing sex worker politics into people outside the ho bubble, and SWAAY also works as a descriptive for what the aim is - swaying public perceptions.  (My original idea of "SWAY" was cock-blocked because sway.org was already taken, so I'm just adding an extra "a" and going with SWAAY/swaay.org.)

The aim of the project is accessible outreach to American audiences.  As it says on the "coming soon" page on swaay.org, the (tentative) tagline is,

Advocating for respect, understanding, and change by bridging the information gap between sex workers and the public.

I truly believe that the most important thing that the sex workers rights movement in the US fails to do is to real public outreach.  Before we can get to changing laws and decriminalize all of our professions, we need to start with simply humanizing ourselves and giving regular people the basic tools for understanding our issues.  Most people don't even know the term "sex worker," and many who do think that's just the PC way to say "hooker."  My goal with SWAAY is to create digestible, informative outreach for people with little or no previous experience in radical sexuality, labor, immigration, gender, or feminist issues.  (And, just to be extra ambitious, the accent colors I've chosen are grey and teal with pink highlights.  At last!  A sex worker web site that's not done in pink and red!)

Since I work full time, and also try to have a private life and eat and sleep, I can't just crank this out in a couple of weeks.  I don't want to crank it out in a couple of weeks, since it is very important to me, and I'm spending plenty of time just pondering how to structure things and how to set the tone.  I'm shooting for May 1st, but don't say that I promised, because I could well run out of time between now and then and delay the launch.  (This is why there's an activist class and a "working" class with sex work - lots of people are occupied with being full-time sex workers so we don't have tons of leftover energy for saving the world.)

Fatma Emam's picture

a feminist's notes from Egypt

Here are some of my recent thoughts and posts from inside the demonstrations and regime change in Egypt.

- fatma emam

arvan's picture

An SGB Interview with Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering

Vyckie Garrison

Vyckie Garrison runs a website called No Longer Quivering, which assists women in transitioning from abusive, oppressive and servile roles as breeding servants of husbands and an interpretation of the Bible called The Quiverful movement.  The site features the stories of women and families, told in their own words - about the harsh price paid by women and children in oppressive, strict religion.  Most of the stories are painful to read, but I encourage you to read them.  The knowledge of what these women go through in order to provide healthy lives for themselves and their children - is breathtaking.  Vyckie also operates a site called The Take Heart Project, to support women in all religions who seek to free themselves of oppression, brutality & dehumanization in the name of a god. 

I invited Vyckie to be interviewed here on SGB because her story is a powerful one, which is shared in full or in part by a great many women across the globe. 

SGB: Looking back at your life, who were you before Quiverfull that you are no longer?  Who are you since leaving Quiverfull?
 
VG: Before Quiverfull, I was a young girl with a lifetime and the whole world before me ~ I was smart, competent, relatively healthy, ambitious ~ I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to do "something big."
 
Only I didn't know what that "something big" might be.  I had a 4.0 GPA in college ~ so I knew that I could do pretty much whatever I wanted.  The problem for me was that everything seemed so very interesting ~ I wanted to do it all!!
 
But I was also very insecure and fearful.  Decision making was a terribly scary thing for me ~ what if I made the wrong choice?  Worse yet ~ what if I failed?  I wanted to know with absolute certainty that I was doing the right thing.  I had the idea that if I prayed to God for guidance and searched the bible, I could discern God's will for my life.  It was an appealing idea ~ after all, Who would know better than my Creator what was right and best for me?
 
So I went to bible college and I became a student of the Word.  Through diligent study, plus the help of many fundamentalist teachers ~ I discovered that God had very specific plans for me as a woman.  He created me female ~ gave me a womb ~ and if I was to be fulfilled and joyful and pleasing to the Lord ~ I needed to give my womb over in service to Him.  I learned that as a woman, the Lord created me to be a suitable helper for my husband ~ to bear his children and assist him in training them up to love and serve the Lord with their whole beings ~ mind, body, soul and strength.
 
Sure, I could've done anything I wanted with my life ~ but what higher calling could there be for me as a woman than to be sober, to love my husband, to love my children, to be discreet, chaste, a keeper at home, good, obedient to my own husband, that the word of God be not blasphemed? (Titus 2:4,5)
 
What I did in actuality was to give up my power ~ my agency ~ severely limiting my choices in life.  I chose to have no choice ~ all for the security of having that absolute certainty that I was doing the very best thing with my talents and abilities.  I had discovered a formula for godly family living ~ one that promised strength and guidance, favor with God ~ with all the requisite blessings of those who walked in His ways, peace beyond understanding, and eternal reward in the life to come.  After all, Jesus taught us that a man who seeks to save his life shall lose it ~ but whoever loses his life for Christ's sake shall find it.
 
It was all so real ~ so all-consuming.  I could not imagine that without it, there would be any "me" at all ~ my entire identity was wrapped up in following Christ and the Word of God.
 
When I began to have doubts ~ when I no longer trusted the Bible as my guidebook for daily living ~ I became rather anxious, so I scrambled to figure out what of Christianity I could hold onto ~ to say, "This, I still believe."
 
But I came up empty ~ none of it makes sense to me anymore.  Which kind of puts me back at square one.  The difference is ~ this time, I am not afraid.  I do not need to have all the answers ~ in fact, I'm beginning to like the uncertainty and ambiguity.  I don't mind so much anymore that life's a struggle and things get messy and we're all a little screwy at times.  I am much more relaxed and willing to take life as it comes.  I don't feel a need for a sure-fire formula or guaranteed outcomes.  The pressure is off and I am enjoying the simplicity of living life in the moment.

Bekhsoos's picture

Call For LGBT Papers!

Call for Papers (in English/French/Spanish)

Deadline:  December 15, 2010

LGBT/Queer Studies:

Toward Trans/national Scholarly and Activist Kinships

An International Conference

Madrid, Spain

July 3, 4, and 5, 2011

Note:  Gay Pride is July 2 in Madrid

Organized by the LGBT Studies Program & Minor

Chancellor’s Leadership Project

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY, USA

We invite scholars and activists to join in an exploration of the methods, possibilities, challenges, and dangers of doing LGBT/queer scholarship, activism, pedagogy, and curriculum in a transnationalized and technologically mediated world. We want to address the many challenges of understanding and responding to the complexly lived lives of queer subjects, as they are shaped by local and global upheavals and opportunities. What does the ‘transnational’ mean? How are queer lives rendered visible and legible and affectively accessible? What matrices of power make some queer figures more visible than others? What new forms of scholarship and activism emerge as people, images, ideas, and capital move in rapid, uneven, and complex ways across national borders? How might practices of kinships, however tense or contingent, happen? How does, or should, the transnational turn shape our pedagogies and curricula? And how do we connect and collaborate as scholars and activists across the globe? These are messy knowledges, nuanced knowledges, framed by the local and the global in complicated and often surprising ways.

We are interested in a truly global conversation, and encourage submissions about and from all over the world. We hope too to produce some form of publication out of the conference.

Possible topics:

Representing the complexities of everyday queer lives

Working with queer archives and memory

Analyzing gay imperialism

Designing pedagogies and curricula

Sustaining scholarly relationships across borders

Engaging with queer suffering and activism across borders

Studying legal and political responses to queer suffering

Queer media and literature

Exploring queer diasporas and homonationalisms

Writing queer histories

Analyzing queer labor and immigration

Responding to the challenges of translation and access

We invite scholars and activists to submit paper proposals (no more than 500 words) or complete panels (of no more than three papers) that address questions like these from various perspectives. English is the primary language of the conference, and we will accept submissions in Spanish and French. Please submit paper proposals or panel proposals electronically <http://www.transnationalizinglgbt.com/index.php/madrid-conference/papers>

Please feel free to contact Margaret Himley (mrhimley@syr.edu> ) or Andrew London (anlondon@maxwell.syr.edu), co-directors of the LGBT Studies Program and Minor at Syracuse University, for more information or with thoughts or questions about this conference/workshop.

arvan's picture

Call for papers – Piracy as activism

Online journal Re-public invites contributions for its upcoming special issue titled “Piracy as activism”. In spite of its long and intense presence in the popular imagery, piracy is a concept that has only scarcely and timidly been linked to forms of political activism. Mostly seen through the lens of criminalisation and policing (including also the transgression of the existing order by the heroic pirates) piracy has rarely been analysed in relation to its influence in shaping the everyday life of contemporary communities.

Piracy, in the seas or lands or digital networks, encompasses a wide array of practices that shape, and often transform, these spaces and networks. Apart from this constitutive power, pirate practices also challenge the formal organisation of spaces and networks, by projecting and instituting alternative mobilities, hierarchies, boundaries, and social relations.

This special issue aims to explore pirate practices and subjectivities in terms of their resistance to the dominant organisations of everyday life. Possible topics might include:

  • Piracy and the control of digital networks
  • Pirate networks, pirate markets and the transformation of urban space
  • Production, labour and the pirating of copyright, patents, and trademarks
  • Piracy and the administration of space
  • Pirate economies and the globalisation of capitalism

Essays should be approximately 1,500 – 1,800 words.

Please submit contributions in any electronic format to

e-mail: editors@re-public.gr

Deadline for submissions: 15 December 2010

Jaded's picture

A Woman Like That

Last year, I met an extremely interesting woman; she was fierce, passionate and charming. She had one ‘problem’, she was a part of the bigger sect we post-caste Indians have conveniently labelled ‘Dalit’. And to advance her (un)popularity, she was a former sex-worker. She worked as a maid in one of my aunt’s houses and I spoke very briefly with her before my aunt reprimanded me for talking to a woman like that. As if, whatever ‘problem’ or ‘disease’ she had, it would somehow seep through my skin too, or worse I’d become a woman like that too! Or maybe she just really hates two utreuses talking — and you know utreuses,  they ruin everything! — and that’s why she made me go to another room. Or maybe having a woman like that under your roof makes the air contaminated and you need to make sure that her ‘stench’ leaves with her. I for one am confused as to why would you let her work in your house if you feel it’s necessary to douse the house with ‘holy’ water after she leaves (think of the water waste daily!), obviously considering you can’t stand to be in the same room as her. I’d rather not employ someone I have a problem with than to employ them and treat them as less than human. But, that may just be me. I’m just a sillyarse LadyBrain after all.

I’ve heard about women like that since I figured out ‘that’ was a part of the Secret Indian Code parents or grown-ups use when referring to sex-workers. Or a woman who commits adultery – are you shocked that some women out here have affairs? Perhaps you should really give up thinking that all we do is squat in the mud all day. It might make comprehension of humans as a species a tad easier — or perhaps she’s a woman who had pre-marital sex. A woman like that always had to correspond with any vulva going out of line. Somehow circumstance, context and coercion wouldn’t be a part of such a discussion, just emphasis on how wrong the sexual transgression was and it ends with the same bleat of These Modern Women Racing To Be The Next Best Prostitute. Imagine my shock when someone I know called Arundhati Roy a woman like that. It shook the ground beneath my feet — take that Rushdie! — when I realised I didn’t know the Secret Indian Code at all. Turns out, a woman like that doesn’t require special prowess or inclination to indulge in more than socially sanctioned amounts of coitus but rather any woman whom the DudeCouncil considers ‘going out of her place’.

arvan's picture

Insurgency Turns Malay-Muslim Women into Leaders

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

SONGKHLA, Thailand, Sep 23, 2010 (IPS) - When her husband was arrested for links to an insurgency raging in this southern region, Pattama Heemmima joined the ranks of Malay-Muslim women forced into the unfamiliar routine of visiting police stations, military camps and courts to secure the freedom of their imprisoned kin.

At the same time, there was no local organisation she could turn to for help regarding her husband, Nawawee Daohumso, who was taken in by the Thai police in March 2008 for his alleged role in a killing a civilian.

But by the time a court acquitted Nawawee in March 2010 -- enabling him and 34-year-old Pattama to rebuild a marriage that was only two months old when police made the wrongful arrest -- Pattama had found an answer to her search for a local helping hand.

She and her elder sister, Anchana Semmina, had resolved to take on new roles as activists for justice. In mid-2009, the two sisters had set up the Hearty Support Group in the southern Thai province of Songkhla to help families struggling to secure the release of their jailed fathers, husbands and sons.

"I wanted to help these women who were desperate after their husbands or sons were arrested by the police, the military," says Pattama. "I had learnt so much after my husband’s arrest that I wanted to share it with the others in my community."

arvan's picture

APNSW HR Regional Sex Workers Forum: Summary Report

APNSW HR Regional Sex Workers Forum
Dates: July: 29, 30, 31 and 1st Aug 2010
Venue: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Summary Report

Some 15 national representatives from 14 countries of APNSW Sex Workers Forum attended a four day workshop entitled the APNSW Human Rights Regional Sex Workers Forum in Kuala Lumpur from July 29, 30, 31 and Aug 1st. National representatives were selected by APNSW members in their respective country.

The national representative from Japan, Yukiko Kaname, although unable to attend, was able to participate live via skype/email and translated with the help of Marisa Ingleton (Australia, Scarlet Alliance).

The sex workers forum was developed to guide broad directions of APNSW in terms of policy and programme. The objectives for the workshop were:

· How to run APNSW and institute governance structured based on APNSW manual, which is a living document. In the coming days we will decide who will be chairperson and three sex workers reps to form the APNSW Programme and Policy Committee (PPC) who will assist the APNSW secretariat in decision making on behalf of the larger sex worker forum. The selected chair and Selvi from APNSW BOD automatically sits on the PPC.
· Understand APNSW’s five year strategic plan (2009 – 2014) and what activities we can now tick off.
· Explanation of the policy shift which has lead to APNSW has lead to new funding including a regional consultation to be held in October in Pattaya (2010)
· Assessment to find out what communication tools we can work together.
· Sharing of country Sex Work and HIV issues at the national level (via film/documenting activity)
· To meet donor requirements of outputs


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