Not that it’s usually my habit of taking advantage of a surprise group gathering to air my grievances about anything with which members of that group might be involved, but today, I felt strongly and ear-reddeningly tempted.
An old friend was visiting. Since the birth of her child and departure from the city, it’s been hard to stay in touch. A course nearby has her in the city for the week with her partner and newborn. She invited a handful of friends to chat over lunch. It was a bit last minute for me to find out that our reunion would be a group affair, but it seemed like a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Being that I love this friend, I went, regardless of my instinct to question my comfort levels around other invitees.
After food arrangements were figured out and the baby was happily toddling up and down the hallways, dutifully disturbing meetings and the chaplaincy office, my friend, let’s here call her Galix, spoke up with what felt like a respectably bold question:
So, what’s new? How’s this city feeling lately? — you know, the community and stuff…
Having just days ago reflected on how a handful of survivors, myself included, appear to be at the fulcrum of apparent schism within “the community”, my choice to respond came swift and not unlike a strong and sudden southerly wind as I attempted to assert the notion that it was a topic of contention. I was pleased that, given the context — friends in whom I’d come to feel disappointed and hurt by, a short timeline and what was to otherwise be a friendly lunch — there was some vague back up to my reply.
I really think that it depend on who you ask.
I said. And luckily came
and what kind of week they’re having.
from beside me. Another friend chimed in with a reply that echoed the sentiments of uncertainty and communally-felt disconnect.
Perhaps it’s all projection on my behalf. Over a year ago, I dropped a pretty heavy A-bomb: “Abuser” — an apt description for my ex-partner and one that I made as public as possible given the various restrictions I was under (and still am). For those who’ve had similar experiences, I’m certain it would suffice to say that did not go over all too well. For the handful who have not been through this experience, or sought to resolve it, you may not have noticed the effects.
Here’s one: People Stop Talking To You.
Q: Have you seen So-and-So lately? How’re they doing?
A: I don’t really know… they seem to be keeping to themselves.. I guess they’ve got a lot of shit to work through these days…
Q: Hey, what’s up with WhatsHerName? I haven’t heard much from her!
A: She doesn’t really come out to things anymore, I don’t really know what’s going on with that.
Q: So, how are things going in the community n stuff? Everyone doing okay these days?
A: That’s a good question — I haven’t done much to figure that out or participate in communal issues, so I really can’t answer that with much confidence whatsoever.
As someone who’s become pretty obviously isolated by the lack of practical solidarity within “the community”, I am very confident in how I want to answer these questions:
The community feels disconnected and unreliable.
Disbandments and “Are-We-Still-Not-Over-This-Yet?s” put survivors in at least one very predictable situation — Isolation. We sense there are very few who believe us or validate our experiences, and even fewer who which to support us in coming to a healthy resolve. With this in mind — and if the situations are anything like my own wherein we’ve spent up to years dealing with the aftermath of abuse in our lives — what else are we to do?
“Keep trying,” some may say, “they will never change unless you show them how.” Solid advice for those who have perhaps not being “showing them how” for several years.
There’s a point at which you begin to see it differently.
The amount of energy we put into encouraging people to Wise Tha Fuck Up has gotten some of us: 1) a solid inventory of individuals who need to wise the fuck up; 2) lost friends and a weakened social life; 3) endless hours to list on an activist resume under “feminism” and “support work”; and 4) some nasty backlash from critics of “vigilantism”. Perhaps it’s a contributing factor to being in what appears to my finally being in a relationship with a lover who isn’t abusive. That said I’m not about to neglect my losses and put all my eggs in one basket.
All these facts in mind, many of us in this boat find ourselves rowing faithfully toward a relatively uninhabited shoreline, embracing introversion (in spite of what sometimes feels like excommunication) and, of course, writing until our fingers bleed. We don’t have energy left to put into “the community” after we note the promises of reciprocity so often associated with community have been made with little foresight for reality when situations of magnitude arise.
So, How is the Community? Sadly, it still depends what wrung on the ladder you’re viewing it from.
Ah, the Freindzone. Well known semi-permanent stomping grounds to Nice Guys™ across North America, and throughout the UK (case in point Fresh Meat’s Kingsley, a prime example).
This article, as posted from some folks at the Feminist Alliance McMaster, shines a bit more light on the Nice Guys™ profile. As indicted therein, the picture to the right is what the Friendzone looks like IRL. (Please note the satire — we all know the Friendzone looks more like a living room or local cafe.)
Shakesville also offers an absolutely amazing piece composed by their very own Jeff Fecke. What’s great about this one is that it’s written by a dude and written with Nice Guy™ readers (or their many, many loyal defenders) in mind.
Below is (should be — please drop a line in my ask box to the tune of “wtf — where’s the essay?”, if not) a excerpt from Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape.
My business with this essay is the section dubbed Nice Guys™: Applying for Access to the Pussy Oversoul (pg. 33 - 35).
Toward a Performance Model of Sex, by Thomas Macaulay Millar
The term Nice Guys™ is dropped casually throughout the book, though not particularly frequently. Following my first reading of Julia Serraro’s Why Nice Guys Finish Last, I stewed on the concepts and reflected upon the ways the common definitions baffled me. All my experiences (in the previous 5 years) with nice guys involved dudes who looked like this:
Perhaps not exactly “hipsters” (by their own definitions or otherwise) but definitely close. “Alternative” guys who wanted to seem friendly and kind toward women, and “open” toward “different” experiences toward men. Some of them also looked an awful lot like this:
Classic. He’s leaning on the wall of the building that the latest Anarchist Bookfair took place in, quietly reading from a book; or having a nonchalant and highly stylized smoke outside of a venue; or sharing a bit about the price of his earth-friendly vegan footwear to charmed and curious Others. Often seen companionless… but who are we to judge?
After having been beyond wooed (you here have my permission to read that as “persistently fawned over and pestered”) by one of these architypes of Nice Guy™, I considered the options and decided (under the pressure of the aforesaid persistence) to reciprocate a bit. Bad idea.
Are there any other anarchists or radicals out there who already know where I’m going with this? Perhaps after having several similar experiences?
…Macho “anarchists” who talk too much at meetings, adhere to the cult of the great thinkers (drop Kropotkin, Bakunin, Proudhon, Chomsky, etc… all the time), negate others’ experiences, take up space, exert their privileges to their fullest, and generally perpetuate heteropatriarchal bullshit
Urban Dictionary offered that as a definition for “Manarchist”.
The NiceGuy™ brand of Manarchist avoids these more-glaring flaws by employing some very covert strategies:
Maybe they’re charming and witty, or fantastic fun, or a great ear when you’re down — heck, maybe they would be swell in bed — but don’t expect these characteristics to continue when they discover they still haven’t made their way down your pants (or noticed you’ve resisted being cornered you into a position of subtle subservience).
The most potent and definitely destructive characteristic of the Nice Guy™ brand Manarchist, Mactivist or generally Brogressive folks is that pesky habit of reacting maliciously to those who stand in the way of their pursuits for status. They can turn in an instant from accommodating, listening, supportive, “nice” friends to divisive, threatening, vengeful dicks. And they will.
Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?
Observing — as a result of becoming more and better aware of the struggles of class, race and gender— a phenomena I absolutely can not help but see constantly recreated, I sat, somewhat impatiently, but intently listening as discussion of prison abolition became heated, boiled, and eventually threatened to spill out of the pot. The venue’s owner, noting this, and involved in the discussion, used some words that brought about applause, implicated “closing time”, and ultimately ceased discussion.
Question period started it off, wherein I had the chance to ask for elaboration: “Can you folks expand a bit more? At the beginning of the play, you referred to intersectionality of oppressions, speaking about abuse and neglect, and how those things exist beyond the context you intended to here present. What do you mean by that?”
Enormously, that is an understatement of what was actually covered, if you consider the discussion that followed, which went on longer than the performance itself. Even folks who strolled into the venue for an evening pint had something to contribute.
Discussions of race within the PIC, and more broadly, within a police state, didn’t only ‘come up’, but were strongly asserted into the dialogue by a PoC member of the audience who works with OCAP, and spoke of personal experiences with incarceration.
View Light Up the Night 2011 Route! in a larger map
Getcher bike lights out folks, we’ve got some shining to do!
If you ride a bike and have any reason to support SACHA Hamilton’s Take Back the Night, this event is for you!
One in three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. This means that we all probably know someone who is a survivor of gender violence and oppression. If not, we at least know someone supporting a survivor of gender violence or oppression.
This Event is Open to Bike-Riders of All Genders! Come Support Your Sisters who March at Take Back the Night!!!
WHEN & WHERE?
Meet the Womyn’s Bike Crew between 7:45 and 8:00pm, on Monday, September 12th, at the York Blvd. entrance to the Hamilton Public Library. Bring lights, glow sticks, reflectors, small flash lights, a sequin dress or disco balls — anything flashy!
Please also note, as with all WBC event, that we commit to creating spaces that promote equality for all and are free of oppression. We want everyone to be empowered!
As Allan Johnson writes in “Patriarchy, The System” “none of us can control whether we participate, only how. …” The birdcage aspects of this patriarchal system confine our actions and create barriers, yet the system functions as if under a cloak of invisibility, powered by forces beyond our vision or grasp. In Deathly Hallows: Part 2 we see, repeatedly, that for the evil patriarch Voldemort to thrive he needs a whole army of minions carrying out his bidding. Likewise, in order for Harry and Co. to escape the cage within which they are ensnared, they must revolt en masse. Together, those who wish to change the system must endeavor to destroy all the bars of the cage. The destruction of the final Horcruxes offers a powerful lesson–if you only attack one bar, or one Horcrux, the cage (or evil) ultimately remains in place. Much like feminism must work to bring about equality on all fronts–race, class, gender, age, class, ability, and so on–so, too, must our valiant Harry Potter characters work to destroy all bars of the cage that Voldemort has created. Moreover, the fact one of these “bars” is within Harry leads to the next lesson:
5. There is evil within us all.
As we all participate in patriarchy, whether we like it or not, so too are we all shaped by its pillars of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. We cannot grow up in this cage entirely untouched by the shit on the floor, so to speak. In the final film, we learn Harry has a bit of Voldemort inside of him–that even the boy wizard of good has evil aspects. He must first realize that evil is part of him before he can get rid of it, much like we must admit our own biases and privileges before we can foment an effective movement. We must, like Harry, acknowledge our weaknesses and draw on our allies to help us become better, more effective agents of change.
While the article did not point out the value feminists may find in learning and mastering occlumency, I can certainly appreciate this analysis. Thoughts, anyone?