Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Archive for December, 2010

2010 in Review

December 30, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

It has been an interesting year.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck around to converse.  I’ve learned a lot from you. My thinking has changed so rapidly in the last couple years, I can barely imagine what I am going to be writing two years from now.  The posts that got the most hits this year were

Comment wise, I would have to add

Quite a few of those were direct responses to questions from you or posts from other bloggers.  So keep the questions coming.

And much love to those of you who have linked to, stumbled, tweeted, and otherwise shared the posts.  I’d still be pretty much talking to myself were it not for you.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 28, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Racialicious posted a great TED video of Tony Porter talking about the man box.

Most of you will find something to object to in this report by the United Nations on access to land and security of tenure.  (I know I skipped the recommendations part.)  But it is worth a read for how it frames the issue.  How do mostly European/agrarian ideas of private property fit in with non-agrarian societies – fisherpeople or pastoralists.  What are the problems with title?…  Seems to me the writers are trying to strike a balance that would respect individualistic and communal forms of property rights.  Most of you probably think that is impossible, but I bet some of you left-libs will appreciate the effort.

I am seriously considering calling myself an anarchoogyboogykajoogyist.

Judy Minx, who wrote a good response to the claim that she could not be a feminist and a porn actress, might also want to consider switching to oogyboogykajookyism.

Here is an interesting piece on the baby trade.  “The solution to climate change, therefore, is obvious. The countries that have the smallest carbon footprints should adopt U.S. babies.”

Lots of disturbing stuff about prisons this last week.  The American Prospect has a special issue online with quite a few good articles.  I particularly recommend the one by Michelle Alexander about prison as the new Jim Crow. And if her article doesn’t convince you, read this infuriating article in the Fort Worth Weekly about prison labor.

I seem to have missed this when it came out in October.  Apparently, people are actually talking about legislation against catcalls.   Look, I get that being accosted on the street is at best annoying, often threatening, and sometimes really dangerous.  But are we going to build more prisons for it?

Or maybe we could just put everybody on a sex offenders registry.  Apparently, you don’t need to actually be a sex offender to be on there.   Course we aren’t even allowing those on the registry to sleep under our bridges, so we might have to start shuttling them to the moon.

Am I a Rapist?

December 24, 2010 By: Mel Category: Sex

I don’t want to talk about the Assange rape charges. There are more than enough people doing that already. But I would like to talk about something that Jaclyn Friedman said during her debate with Naomi Wolf on Democracy Now. Friedman essentially said that a sleeping/unconscious person cannot consent to sex and therefore it is rape. Always.

I paused the video.  The bfriend and I looked at each other and said, huh? He’s woken me up like that before. I’ve woken him up like that before. We never discussed doing it.  Does that make me a rape victim? Does it make me a rapist?

Blanket statements, the kind where people give no gray area whatsoever, usually bother me, because few things in life are that clear. And this was a blanket statement that made me into a rapist. At first, I must admit, I was inclined to roll my eyes and dismiss her.

But I just kept thinking about it.

I do not believe that consenting to one thing means consenting to everything else. I don’t believe in implied consent. That’s like those asshats who think marital rape is impossible.  It’s possible and all too frequent.

Now, I could say that I just knew it would be o.k. The bfriend and I have been together for more than 14 years. There are some things that we don’t really have to talk about anymore.

But that would be a bullshit answer. It’s a bullshit answer because there were other times before the bfriend, where I wouldn’t be able to say that. It’s a bullshit answer because it brings us back to the marital rape issue.  And it’s a bullshit answer because, if I have learned anything over the years, it is that false assumptions often precede relationship misery.

Besides, how can we really be sure that our assumptions are based on knowledge of the individual and not some social norm or gender essentialism?  It must be o.k.  Guys always want to have sex, right?  I mean when a woman decides not to have sex because she doesn’t want to risk pregnancy or STDs or just doesn’t think she is ready, that’s expected.  But a guy who turns it down, he must be some kind of freak.  So I can just assume, right?

The truth is that we should have talked about it.  We should have talked about a lot of things, right from the beginning, that we didn’t.

Last month, I came across a couple checklists of sexual activities – one on Scarleteen and one on the Beautiful Kind.  Even just going through the Scarleteen one, you know the one meant for teens, the bfriend and I ended up talking about things that had never come up in fourteen years.  And that is just sad.

Most of us have this Hollywoodized idea of sex.  It is always heterosexual.  All sexual activities end with male to female penetration.  The hottest sex is spontaneous.  When it is right, the other person is just going to know (magically) what you want.  There is no need to talk about it.  Just kiss, blow, fuck, done.

That is why you get guys who think that there is some point of no return where a woman cannot say no anymore.  That is why you have scenarios like this.

Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she “tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again”. Miss A told police that she didn’t want to go any further “but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far”, and so she allowed him to undress her.

Really?  He undressed you and therefore it was too late to stop?  You had to go to the end?  Where is the end exactly?  Does he now have carte blanche to hog tie you, ball gag you, and whip you until you bleed?  Cause, for some people, that is where that undressing is going.

For responsible people in the BDSM community, it is a no-brainer to discuss what is o.k. and not o.k. beforehand.  There are parameters set.  There are safe words decided upon.  But for most people, it is all based on assumptions.  And those assumptions lead not just to rape, but to really bad sex.

I so wish that I had those checklists twenty-two years ago when I started having sex.  That is not because I was doing things I didn’t want to do, but because I would have done a lot more shit a lot sooner.  And I could have avoided a lot of mediocre sex.

People make fun of the idea that you should get an o.k. every step of the way.  Can I touch you here? How about there?  This o.k.?  Let’s draw up a contract and have it notarized.  But it seems ridiculous mostly because we are so horrible at talking about sex and because we make so many assumptions about it.  We should talk to our partners, future partners, and our kids about sex.  And we should talk about the entire pantheon of activities, not just assume that everyone is a vanilla, heterosexual couple.

That said, even though I’m not rolling my eyes at Friedman’s statement anymore, am I a rapist?  I understand that hard and fast rules make it easier to prosecute crimes.  Even though I would like to see prisons go the way of the rack, I realize that we cannot just let people get away with committing that kind of violence.  But consistency is not justice.  In fact, it can often be the opposite of justice.

When I was sixteen, my boyfriend was twenty-two.  By Florida law, that was rape.  But I was a willing participant.  I was not victimized by my boyfriend.  Do you know what would have made me feel victimized?  It would have made me feel victimized if somebody had prosecuted my boyfriend for rape.

And it happens.  Because well intentioned people want to keep grown-ups from having sex with seven year olds, some poor seventeen year old kid in Georgia got a ten year prison sentence for getting a blow job at a party.   There are people who are permanently on sexual predator lists for statutory rape.  And let’s not even get into the general disaster that is mandatory minimum sentencing.  Consistency is not always a good thing.

We are all suffering from some serious societal sexual dysfunction.  And we should be calling it out.  But, as unpleasant as it may be, we still need to leave some room for ambiguities.  Because by Friedman’s definition, I’m a rapist.  But the bfriend has now given me explicit permission to view his morning wood as an open invitation.  And I don’t think the state should be able to prosecute me for that.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 21, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Read this! It covers so many things that have been on my mind lately.  It is, as the person who posted it says, long and academic.  But it is worth the time.  In short, it explains how middle and upper class women moved into the non-profit savior industry and how their liberation came at the expense of other women. It shows how that connects to support for the state.  It shows so much.  Really important stuff.

This report on migrants journeys through Mexico is heartbreaking.  It is also long, but at least read the sidebar/boxes with the migrant stories.  Sickening.

I thought this piece on atheism and anarchism was really interesting.  I commented at the bottom and would love your thoughts on my thoughts.

Really liked this post on anarchism and disability.  I’ve posted about this issue before and she includes thoughts on how to handle disability in our communities without a state.

Looks like the shit is hitting the fan in Argentina.

This video of British rappers is worth a watch.  They are talking about whether rap is challenging power or in service to it.

Liked this post about how people use “free speech” as though they are exempted from criticism.

And finally, my friend Lacy posted some stuff about the really free market we had. Much fun.

Beliefs as Barrier

December 16, 2010 By: Mel Category: Anarchism, Seeking

I understand and respect the choices that many people within the anarchist community make.  I love the self expression and weirdness that is embraced in how people dress or act.  I completely respect the decision to be a vegan, to avoid chain stores, to criticize suburban homogeneity….

But there is a price that we pay by being too strict in those choices or too harsh in our judgments.

I have friends who grew up in the projects and really like suburban homogeneity.  They think it is great to live somewhere clean, without rats, where the plumbing works.  They don’t want to go to the vegan café, they want to go to Fridays.  And if I refuse to go to those places, I cut myself off from them.  If I am disdainful of their choices and dreams, they will know it.

I understand that people don’t want to support corporations and institutions that are at the heart of our problems.  But there is no way to extricate ourselves completely from that system.  We aren’t always going to be able to engage people on the most ideal terms.  And if we want them to consider coming to our spaces, we have to be willing to go to the spaces they want to be in, and to do it without raising eyebrows or preaching.

I’m not asking that anyone do things that are against their principles.  We all have to act in accordance with our conscience.  But we should understand that living in accordance with our beliefs can be an obstacle to working with people who find the anarchist subculture odd at best.  And rather than giving anarchists the side eye who aren’t fully immersed in that subculture, we should be happy that there are people who will be able to communicate anarchist ideas to audiences that we might not be able to reach.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 14, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Still recovering from a weekend of Santarchy madness.  Also, I just got back from the Really Free Market here in DC, which went off amazingly well considering the absurdly cold weather. Between all the activities and the pesky day job I probably still owe people some responses.  I’m working on it.

Don’t know if you all are aware, cause I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I have a few other projects I’m working on.  One of them is Anarchy in the News.  When I started it, I thought there wouldn’t be much stuff.  But I am actually overwhelmed with stories about anarchists or “anarchy.”  I’m also interested in pulling more stuff off the news archives.  There is an amazing amount of historic material online.  If there is anyone out there who is at all interested in collaborating on this, send me an email at

Another project I haven’t mentioned in a while is tentatively titled Anti-Authoritarian Women in Action (AWIAC).  The idea is to interview women anti-authoritarians, create a database of community projects they are involved in, provide a way for people to share information, and eventually have an event for people to meet face to face.  Just got my video camera and am looking for women to interview.  Get in touch with me if you want to be one of my first victims.

Have you all heard about the prison strike in Georgia?

This story about stay at home daughters if fucking creepy. (HT @womanistmusings)

Did you know that ecstasy has been successfully used to treat PTSD?  There’s a nonprofit in Santa Cruz that is working on government approval for its medical use.  I know most of us don’t give a crap about government approval, but it would be interesting if X became the next medical push. Medical marijuana advocacy has definitely shaken things up a bit.

I don’t know how much you all follow happenings in the indigenous/Native American/First Nations communities.  But there is a lot of interesting stuff going on.

Any opinions on incest?

How about on eating bugs?  Particularly interested in hearing from vegetarians/vegans on that one.

There was a good piece in Foreign Policy about terrorist entrapment.

Also liked this post in Gonzo Times about a humanist anti-politics.

Finally, Darren over at Dissenting Justice is bringing attention to some of the usually invisible victims of violence in DC.  Sadly, I think you could write a similar post about most cities.

Fighting Words

December 10, 2010 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Core, Seeking

If I say blue, are you confused?  But I might be thinking cobalt while you are thinking cornflower. Maybe the person next to you is colorblind and can’t tell blue from green. Maybe the person next to them is completely blind and can’t understand color.  Maybe we weren’t talking about color at all. Maybe we were talking about emotion.

Words are less precise than we think.

Am I a Jew?  I probably wasn’t born Jewish.  I was raised to be Jewish.  I have cultural experiences that are Jewish.  I identify with Jewish history.  I don’t subscribe to the religious beliefs.  I don’t practice Judaism.  There are people who will dislike me because of my Jewishness, regardless of how I feel about the religious beliefs.  If the question relates to religion, I am an atheist.  If I am accused of being Jewish, then I am a Jew.

Words are contextual.

Why do we call people Latino whose origins go back to long before Columbus stumbled upon the Americas?  What is “Latin” about Latin America?  Thousands of languages have been spoken in the Americas, yet we refer to people as Hispanic. Why should a Quechua speaker be called Hispanic?  Why should a Guarani whose second language is German be called Hispanic?  Why do we even call that language Spanish?  Lots of languages are spoken in Spain, Castilian is only one of them.

Words have history.  Words erase history.  Words categorize.

In the old movies I used to watch with my father, they used the word gay all the time. But I’m pretty sure The Gay Divorcee with Fred Astaire was not a coming out of the closet story. When the Flintstones told us to have a “gay old time” they probably weren’t suggesting we all go out and attend a pride parade.

A word’s meaning, use and significance changes over time.

Lots of people have defined themselves as libertarians.  Do Noam Chomsky and Ron Paul mean the same thing when they refer to themselves as libertarian?  No. Not exactly. Two people who know each other well may know exactly what kind of libertarian they mean and can use the word and continue on their merry way.  People who don’t know each other will have to clarify if they want to be sure they are talking about the same thing.

Words are shortcuts.  Sometimes a shortcut will get you there faster. Sometimes a shortcut will get you lost.

It may seem like we are just fighting over words.  But it isn’t because of words that we fight. Words are just the imperfect tools we have to express the conflicts that are an inherent part of being human.

As humans, we fight to self identify rather than having other people label us.  We want to have our histories included and not obfuscated by the narrative of the “winners.”   We struggle with our desire to be understood.  We feel connections with people who have similar experiences to us. We try to find ways to honor the things we value most in life. We struggle to differentiate ourselves from people who don’t seem to value the things we do, even though that struggle is often just a reflexion of our own self hatred and self doubt. We use words to imagine how things might be.

Some words are more loaded than others.  The more complex the meaning of a word, the more care we should take when using it.  But when even a word as simple as blue can be misunderstood, is it really possible not to use loaded language?  How long would every conversation be if we removed every word that represents years of history and philosophical discourse?

We can’t stop fighting over words.  All we can really do is keep questioning and clarifying, both our own thoughts and the thoughts of those around us. We can keep in mind that words are understood through the lens of our experiences.  We can respect the history of words.  We can respect other people by allowing them to define themselves in the way that feels right to them. We can remember that words are sometimes weapons. And we can wield them with care.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 07, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Before I start my links, let me just apologize that I have not been able to keep up with all the comments on my last post (not to mention the comments elsewhere on the internets).  I try to respond to everyone, but I’m a bit overwhelmed this week.  It is especially hard since many of the comments were substantive and deserve more than a cursory reply.  I promise I will get to them.


If your comment just amounted to, you’re wrong and stupid, then there really isn’t anywhere to go from there.  Also, if you are some misogynist douche who posts links to the douchey stuff you read/write/whatever, I reserve the right to zap you and your comments from my life/blog/twitter/whatever.

And now that we have that out of the way.

If you read my last post before the addendum I added, then I would very much appreciate if you would check out this post on Why no one should use that word: Kyriarchy instead of Patriarchy. (HT QueerCoup)

Also, check out this post from JRB, the man who started it all by asking me why I don’t identify as feminist.  (I’m not saying you owe me a vodka tonic, friend.  But I had to drink a few extras this week.  Just sayin.)

So this Wikileaks thing is keeping all the talking heads busy, no?  For the record, I love what Wikileaks does, although I think they may have been a bit careless at times.  If you haven’t seen the Greenwald debate on Democracy Now, well let’s just say I will never debate Glenn Greenwald.

I’m also quite entertained by the people who shut down a bank’s website after they closed Assange’s account.  Umm.  Do you think you all could aim a little higher, Goldman Sachs maybe?

Less entertaining  have been many of the posts related to the rape charges.  It is true that they are going after Assange with everything they have because of what he is doing.  But human beings are complicated.  It is very possible for someone to be heroic in one aspect of life and a complete asshat in another.  In fact, that seems to be how it usually works out.  So you might want to proceed with caution on opinionating.  (HT to Gene for the post)

Back to Goldman Sachs for a second.  Apparently, they are arming themselves against us.  It gives me warm fuzzies to think of GS peeps laying awake in their beds fearing what we might do to them.  Now if we could just friggin do something.

I’m not sure how to feel about this survey.  The fact that only 9% of the population has a high degree of trust in congress gives me hope.  The fact that 73% of the population has a high degree of trust for military officers makes me want to cry.  Is it weird that, when I looked at those figures, I wondered what the results of a similar poll might have looked like in some country right before a military coup?

Speaking of coups – You may have heard that there has been an ongoing border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Now apparently there is one germinating on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras.  Am I the only conspiracy theorist that is wondering why the United State’s least favorite Central American nation is now sandwiched in conflict?

Another interesting conflict is playing out on Easter Island.  And you thought this was the post colonial era.  Pishaw.

I have not yet read the report, but they have apparently been able to show that increases in prosperity on tribal lands is directly related to an increase in self governance.

Here are some scary figures on the increase of women in prison.  The figures on Native American women are even scarier, “Native women comprise 6% of the total of Montana women, but they are 32% of the incarcerated women in the state.”

Of course, it is our crappy drug laws that help put many of those people in prison.  Which makes this follow up on drug decriminalization in Portugal that much more important.  Not only can we keep people out of prison, Portugal “found a reduction in the rate of spread of HIV/AIDS, a reduction in drug-related deaths, and a reduction in drug use by adolescents. They also found that drug seizures had increased under decriminalization.”

An excellent post from Sparky about being a good ally and not a white knight.

And finally this awesome post from Racialicious titled Putting it in My Mouth: Head, Autonomy and the Politics of Giving.

Feminism or the Highway?

December 02, 2010 By: Mel Category: Stratification

Is feminism the only banner under which people can fight patriarchy, or better yet, kyriarchy?*

Is any act performed with the goal of ending gender oppression automatically feminist? Even if the people doing it don’t identify with feminism?  Even if feminism has consistently slapped them in the face?

I’ve been asked to explain why I don’t identify as feminist and I think I need to start with trying to answer those questions.  Because it seems to me that many feminists think that feminism is the only path to confronting oppression. That belief (I would say arrogance) is one of the primary reasons that I do not identify as feminist.

If feminism is the only path to confronting oppression, then what about Womanism? Are we to erase the experiences of black women who have very consciously chosen not to identify with feminism?  What about other marginalized people who have, after much consideration, chosen not to use the feminist label?

Read Women and Social Movements in Latin America and you will find a very ambivalent relationship between women’s movements and feminism.  Sometimes women don’t call themselves feminists because they see it as a movement of privileged white women. Sometimes, like in the case of the Bentia Galeana Women’s Council in Mexico, they don’t adopt the term because they cant come to any consensus about what feminism means.

Who can blame them for not being able to figure out what it means?  Some people say feminism is just about equality between the sexes.  Others say that it is about crushing patriarchy. Still others say that it is about confronting all forms of oppression.  There is liberal feminism, eco-feminism, radical feminism, anarcha-feminism, black feminism, Marxist feminism, sex positive feminism, and even conservative feminism (a la Ms. Palin). And the fights between the different feminists – who all have ideas about what is essential to feminism – are as bad as the fights between Anarchists and Marxists.  Or Anarcho-capitalists and Anarcho-communists.  Or…  You get the picture.

Now if you believe, as I do, that there are ways to fight oppression outside of the feminist label then the question becomes, does that label provide any added value?  Is it meaningful to me?  When I asked that question, the answer I came up with was no.  On the contrary. I think that when you adopt a label or belief system, you have to be willing to own up to all the things done in the name of that label.  And I am not prepared to accept the baggage of feminism.  I’ve got my hands full with anarchism.  Thank you very much.

If you want to read about the baggage of feminism, there are plenty of people who have written about it.  Read Jessica Valenti on gender essentialism.  Read Kimberle Crenshaw and Eve Ensler on feminists who ignored Hilary Clinton’s politics and supported her simply because she didn’t have a penis.  Read Monica Roberts on the long history of feminist transphobia.  Read about the battles between feminists and womanists.  Read about the experiences of sex workers:

we’re having to deal with the tremendous harms and human rights violations that have been done in the name of “feminism,” perpetrated against us to prove some theoretical point. When I started to work on the street in Montreal in 2001, for example, a number of feminist groups decided that they were going to go on the anti-prostitution rampage, and allied with right-wing people and religious groups to do so, which is not a strange combination. We have seen it in the United States when the powerful alliance between right-wing Christian groups, religious fundamentalists, and a number of mainstream feminist groups [cooperated] to pass aid restrictions to limit HIV funding to sex workers groups, at a tremendous cost to sex workers lives all over the world.

Now I know that some of you are thinking – Sure feminism has problems, but you should get in there and help fix it.

Why should I?

Some time back, one of the people I follow on twitter made the following comment, “Answering a situation of male exclusivity with female exclusivity is almost like celebrating your marginalization instead of fighting it.”  I suspect that it may have been in response to my talking about a conference for anti-authoritarian women.  (The conference was inspired by the sausage fest of an event that Libertopia was clearly going to be).

I never actually responded, but if I had I would have said the same basic thing I say to people who think I should help fix feminism.  I would rather build something that reflects my values.  I don’t have any desire or obligation to spend my precious time fixing your shit.  I have other shit I’d rather be fixing.  What’s more, are we really going to ask the most marginalized people to go in and fix feminism?  Are you going to tell a trans woman, who is in the line of fire every time she steps out of her house, to get closer to the shooter?  Who the hell are any of us to ask that?

While we are on the subject of responses to my non-feminism, let me tackle a few more things that will inevitably come up.

No.  I have not been brainwashed by the anti-feminist culture.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  I have been surrounded my whole life by feminists.  I once worked for the former president of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women.  I would get waaaaay less shit if I would just cave and call myself a feminist.  My opinions on feminism do not come from listening to its detractors, they come from witnessing the actions of its proponents.

Which brings me to a more valid criticism, that I am judging feminism by liberal feminists. Well, yes.  I am.  Most of the feminists I have known in my life are liberal feminists who do not question the power structure, but merely want more women at the top of it.  It is true that anarcha-feminists do not fall into the same traps as liberals, but most feminists are not anarchists.  The idea that I should judge feminism by the margins is absurd.  Usually, we talk about how movements shouldn’t be judged by the extremes, but with feminists I’m supposed to turn that on its head and not judge the movement by the mushy center?

Truth be told, I thought about identifying as anarcha-feminist for half a second.  But it just didn’t make any sense.  If feminism is defined as being against all forms of oppression, then adding feminist to anarchist just seems redundant.  If it is about being against patriarchy and gender oppression, then it would seem to preference one type of oppression over another.  Cindy Milstein, at a recent event in Baltimore, described it in less negative terms. She said that the anarcho-adjectives symbolized not preference, but passion.  That’s fine.  If you are extra passionate about injustice related to gender oppression, more power to you. But I am not.  I may identify more when I hear about the injustices and abuses faced by women, but I am not more passionate about doing something about those injustices than I am about injustices due to race or class or disability or anything else.

None of this means that I am anti-feminist.  I can appreciate the accomplishments of feminists without being a feminist.  Just like I can appreciate the accomplishments of the Southern Christian Leadership Council without being a Christian.  I can appreciate feminist writings, philosophy and discourse without being a feminist.  Just like I can appreciate the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh or John Paul Sartre without being a Buddhist or an existentialist.

I get that identifying as feminist is meaningful to many people.  And if you want to inundate me with suggested reading that you think will change my mind about the whole thing, knock yourself out.  I keep an open mind.  Just don’t be so arrogant as to think that, because it holds such meaning for you, the rest of us have to agree or we are BAD.  Don’t forget that the movement you are so attached to has shit on a lot of people along the way. And don’t continue that tradition by disrespecting all the amazing women out there who are confronting oppression without the feminist label.


* Since I posted this I have been enlightened on some of the more troubling aspects of the term kyriarchy.  You can read a very good post about it here (HT @QueerCoup).  I’m usually more careful with my language.  Had I done more 101, I might not have used the term.

That said, I don’t think it effects the crux of my arguments and I still stand by all the rest of it.