Sunday, June 19, 2011

Read This!

The Revolution Starts At Home : Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities

Consent: Some things to think aboout

By: Arti Mehta and Chanelle Gallant.
*a sampler collected from various sources*

*Note: TPYWTGIOW = the person/ people you want to get it on with

1. Nonconsensual sex does not occur in a vacuum. Instances of non consensual sex happen not just because someone wasn’t able to say no, but because we live in a society where conditions are ripe for nonconsensual sex. We live in a rape culture where it’s expected that we blame the survivor rather than the society which allows violence to happen. While sexual assault and abuse can happen to anyone (and folks who have caused harm can be anyone), we know that folks who experience multiple marginalizations are more likely to experience rape, assault and other forms of nonconsensual touch including two-spirited and trans women, women with disabilities, sex workers and women of colour.

2. Assumptions suck. The best way to know is to ask. This can be so difficult because our society tells us that we ‘should just know’ when someone’s hot for us. That doesn’t mean that the only way to obtain consent is verbally, but question how you think you know when someone is into it. Smiling, flirting, being on a date, getting paid for sex are not as reliable indicators as just asking. Asking might feel really weird at first but 1. it gets easier and hotter with practice and 2. it’s easier than realizing you’ve crossed someone’s sexual boundaries.

3. Consent is an ongoing process, even with a long-term partner. Consent must be given each time for each act. Consenting to kissing isn’t consenting to touching, consent to touching is not consent to sex, consent to not using condoms this time doesn’t mean consent to not using condoms next time, consent to a sexual activity with one partner doesn’t mean that other partners can assume consent to the same sexual activity. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.

4. Consent is sexy. What’s hotter than telling a lover what you want to do to them? It’s also way way hotter when a lover reciprocates that desire. Communicating about your intentions and needs before the heat of the moment makes for amazing foreplay and increases the likelihood of consensual sexy times.

5. Know yourself. Practice. What makes it hard for you to state your needs/ boundaries? What makes it difficult to listen to others’ boundaries? When do you feel reactive to people’s needs? How do you react? What self care and skills do you need when you feel rejected so that you don’t cross someone else’s boundaries? How do you check in with yourself in an ongoing basis so that you know you’re okay with what’s going on? It’s not only your responsibility to listen and respect TPYWTGIOW’s boundaries/ needs but also knowing how to assert yours. You have to practice saying yes and no and learn how hear it—these are not skills that we learn well in our society so they take a conscience effort to learn.

6. You can ask for consent for just about anything, including non-sexy activities. For example, you can ask to borrow someone’s pencil and you can ask someone if they’d like to be hugged (or you can non-verbally ask by opening your arms and seeing how they respond before going right in for the hug). In my experience, practicing consent in the everyday not only makes folks in my life feel like I’m respecting their autonomy, but also makes it easier to ask for consent when the stakes are higher (ie: in sexy situations) because I have more practice.

7. Work through the barriers to consent. True consent is obtained when the atmosphere is free of real or perceived threat or coercion. Think about how power imbalances in your relationship with TPYWTGIOW might affect consent practices. Eg: If you are a masculine-identified boss wanting to get it on with your femme employee, will s/he really be able to say no without repercussions? At the same time, don’t take away the agency of the other person in saying yes/ no; don’t assume that because s/he’s femme or disabled or Asian that s/he will be passive for example. Be aware of the stereotypes and assumptions you have about the communities TPYWTGIOW is a part of. Do remember that as the person who is initiating sexual contact, it’s up to you to get consent. If you think they are too high, tired, emotionally distressed, asleep, etc to give meaningful consent, then back off. Find out what’s okay before folks get drunk/ high and check in constantly. I have a partner, maybe later, I’d rather be alone, I really like you but…, I’m tired, silence, I’m not sure… they all mean no.

8. No means no is a good start but not quite comprehensive. Consent is often more tricky than just a yes no binary. Often times you’re into what TPYWTGIOW is doing but not exactly how they’re doing it. You’re hot for the kissing but a little less tongue please! Try the “shit sandwich method” to let folks know what you want, which means sandwiching the activity you’re not so into between some compliments. Eg: “I love how passionately you kiss me, it feels so great. It’s even hotter when you use a little less tongue, especially when you touch here while you’re doing it. This is so sexy!” Consent is sex-positive!

9. Practice emotional consent, that is, get clear about the expectations you all have about your relationships. Is this a one night stand, an ongoing relationship, a life partnership?
Know what your emotional boundaries are. Know when you go from casual to emotional investment, and learn skills to communicate changes in intimacy needs. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for or what your needs are, it might be helpful to take a look at your past sexual or romantic connections to see what your patterns are.

10. Be accountable to the harm you’ve caused. We all screw up. The goal is to learn how to screw up less by knowing your patterns, but it also means learning how to be accountable when you have screwed up. Be proactive; talk to the person whose boundaries you think you’ve crossed, focus on their feelings--not your guilt--and find out what their needs are. They may want to talk about it and they may not—it’s important that you respect their wishes. (see attached hand out).


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.”

Mariana Abromović, Rhythm 0, 1974

“To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her.

Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions.

Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later:

“The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”
I am trying to say that as femmes we found a way to create a sexual space for ourselves that made us different from the traditional woman and yet let us honor our women selves. We exiled ourselves from one land but created another. I have a feeling that butches started out with a certain clarity also, and that clarity… was about how to be powerful in their bodies and their visions of themselves, the same way we wanted to be in our femme, giving selves. The language binds us. I am not sure it is masculinity, even if they say it is and it looks like it. They too chose exile from gender to be another kind of creation.

— Joan Nestle, “Femme Tapes” 267

Saturday, March 26, 2011

francesca woodman

Interview with Rae Spoon

Photo credit: JJ Levine

via Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme.

Rae Spoon is a transgendered indie-folk musician living in Montreal. He tours in Canada, the USA, Europe and Australia. Rae has released five solo albums, and was nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2009. He is currently working on a book of short stories about growing up in Alberta.

“Femme Cowboy,” Rae’s piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, “is an account of my gender identity from my childhood as a Pentecostal to the realization that I am most comfortable being perceived as a femme trans man.”

What made you want to be part of this anthology?

It’s a huge honour to be included in this anthology with great queer writers and role models. I felt like I really wanted to write about my experience of butch and femme as a trans person, and it was the perfect forum for that.

If you could give your younger self one book to read, what would it be?

Anything but Christian teen novels… but seriously I wish I had read Stone Butch Blues as a teenager. I think it would have helped me make better sense of Alberta.

If you could say one thing to future butches and femmes, what would it be?

I would say that it’s great to see the butch femme community evolving and growing stronger. I would stress the importance of making room for everyone in the spectrum of butch/femme identities regardless of gender and sexuality.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Historicizing “Femme” in the Queer Vernacular

(A discussion of “Butch” and “Femme” Men.)
This reminds me a little bit of that episode of “This American Life” about sissies where Dan Savage talks about gay men policing masculinity within the queer community. He celebrates femme guys in that segment as hot and brave.
“It seems that a quote referring to femmes as girls angered some of the trans men in the community, and led to a discussion of transphobia in the femme community, as well as — and this is where it involves me directly — a discussion of variously male-identified folks who identify as femme, and whether that is okay. […]

However, I think they err in suggesting that queer men, specifically, who call themselves femme must be appropriating the identity from the specific, modern primarily queer female femme culture. Queer men have been calling each other butch or femme for ages. I was called “femme” by others ever since I came out, often in tones of high insult. One of the first books I read as I was coming out, and probably the first place I came across the word, was The Unofficial Gay Manual by Kevin DiLallo, a rather terrible guide to normative gayness, that uses the words “butch” (as a compliment) and “femme” (as an insult). It was published in 1994.

I’ve since discovered that gay men have been using the words butch and femme much earlier than that. “Femme” is an entry in The Queens’ Vernacular: A Gay Man’s Lexicon by Bruce Rodgers, published in 1972, referring to both lesbians and to gay men. The latter definition is marked “dated,” suggesting that it had existed still earlier. “Butch” is also an entry, with the meaning “masculine heterosexual man” dated to the 1940s. As femme men’s star fell in the 1970s, “fem” became also one of the many epithets flung at effeminate men in Craig Alfred Hanson’s virulent screed “The Fairy Princess Exposed,” in Karla Jay and Allen Young, Out of the Closets: Voices of gay liberation, also published in 1972.
I’m not able to determine from these resources whether the word “femme” originated in the queer women’s or queer men’s community. (Couldn’t it have been both at the same time? I don’t think they were always as separate as they can be now.) But the point is that there is a history of gay men using “femme” (and “butch”) for decades, well before the rise of the modern femme community. Accordingly, I think I have a good reason to think of the word “femme” as part of my cultural heritage as a queer man; that’s certainly how I received it in the first place.”


Saturday, March 12, 2011

This ethos of vaginal power and politics is similarly echoed in Stoltmann’s photographs. In Spray Bush, Stoltmann crops her figure, placing minge up front and centre: graffiti coated with a layer of neon pink her sex is simultaneously transformed into both an audacious beacon and hazard sign. Her Listen series collages seashells into pornographic crotch shots reminiscent of Corbet’s The Origin of The World, reinforcing the idea of feminine alignment with nature, creation, and spirituality.


Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, the writer of the "femme is any way of being a girl that doesn't hurt" talks about femme identity on fuck yeah femme

Hey- I’m not sure if this is the right way to respond, because I don’t really understand tumblr. But I was skimming this blog and came across some conversation about a repost of a quote from my 2008 keynote at the Femme Conference. The quote was “Femme is any way of being a girl that doesn’t hurt,” and there were a variety of responses- some expressing hurt and anger at their read of that quote as transphobic, thinking that “girl” just meant cisgendered women, some expressing a belief that yes, femme should just mean cis lesbian women, and more.

As the writer of that sentence, I want to clarify what I meant by it. This is especially important for me as a queer, disabled, working class writer of color. I want to be clear about what I mean by my intellectual property when it’s debated, because so often queer and trans people of color and other folks with identities that are marginalized by whitecapitalistablistbullshitpatriarchy have our ideas discussed without us. And, as the disability rights movement has asserted, “Nothing about us without us.”

So, to clarify: I don’t believe that “femme” is a gender identity that is or should be restricted to cisgendered queer women. I think of femme as a broad spectrum of gender identities that claim and are a spirit of ass-kicking femme strength, beauty and complexity that resists racist, sexist, classist, ableist ideas of what femininity is . I know and love and claim many, many kinds of femmes in my communitites as loved and needed ones- ciswomen, transwomen, Two Spirit folks, and genderqueer and trans folks (including femme boys and bois) who embody many kinds of gender in their bodies. In using the word ‘girl’ in that speech, I was using shorthand. In my everyday speech, I often use the words ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ as a shorthand that encompasses a lot more than a limited idea of girl/boy as cisgirl, cisboy. I was not meaning ‘girl’ as equaling ‘ciswoman only” but as the many ways of embodying femmeness or femininity- something that I hope was clear from the rest of the keynote. (I can understand, thinking about this more, how using this shorthand wasn’t an ideal way to express the concepts I was going for and am going to think about what might be a better way of deploying language around expressing what I believe about femmeness.) I’m sorry this wasn’t clear, but I want to be clear about it now.

I think femme is its own beautiful, revolutionary thing, and it is embodied many ways by many different genders and bodies. Creating and murturing communities with an ass-kickingly broad definition of femmeness is part of making femme communities that don’t hurt and that work for liberation, for me. I am interested in building communities of liberation where we get to do this work, love each other and where we don’t reify an idea of femme of being just one way- and especially when that one way translates to just being white, cis, skinny, able bodied, middle-class femininity.

That’s what I believe and what I meant ;)


Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinh

via fuckyeahfemmes

"The Academic and Cultural Boycott"

Judith Butler, world renowned scholar and writer, speaks to rabbletv before her lecture on "The Academic and Cultural Boycott" of Israel during Israeli Apartheid Week in Toronto, March 9, 2011.

More than 500 attended the talk, with some students lining up four hours early to secure a front-row seat for the evening lecture. Butler said that she decided to take a more public and explicit stance about two and a half years ago when she signed on to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. She says, that in the wake of ineffectual actions on the part of international organizations and state governments, "BDS is the only way that citizens can call for the enforcement of international law."

When asked about the role of academics in political struggles, she said, "I think academics have to ally with other cultural workers - with artists and other public figures - who are regularly invited to Israeli institutions or to collaborate on projects in Israel." She said that after a visit to Israel in 2004, her speaking engagement was interpreted as indicating her opposition to the boycott idea. She subsequently decided not to visit Israel for a number of years. She took a more explicit stand in 2008 after she worked out her own position "and when BDS revised some of its position."

BDS in the United Kingdom initially targeted not only Israeli institutions, but individuals too and differentiated between "righteous" and iniquitous, apartheid-supporting Israelis. In the lecture, she joked that she always thought that "righteous" was a bad word. BDS then narrowed its focus to Israeli institutions and government initiatives that support the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

Butler says, "Now I will go to Palestine and I will speak at Birzeit [University in Ramallah] or other Palestinian institutions. I visit the Freedom Theatre of Jenin and I collaborate with a number of people at Birzeit University."

In her lecture, she said that a driving force in the BDS movement, among civil society organizations in Palestine, is the Women's Studies Department at Birzeit.

She continues, "But I will not speak at Israeli institutions. And, I think, that if there was an Israeli institution that came out explicitly against the occupation - really held to that position, publicly and consistently - I would consider speaking at such an institution. But to speak at an institution that does not oppose the occupation is to participate in the normalization of the occupation, so it's impossible at this point in history."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“Women’s Rights are Workers’ Rights:” Kavita Ramdas on History of International Women’s Day and Challenges Women Face 100 Years Later

Kavita Ramdas of the Global Fund for Women joins Democracy Now to discuss the history of International Women’s Day, the most pressing issues women face today, and the connection between women’s rights and the fight for workers’ rights in Wisconsin

Happy 100th International Women's Day!

International Women's Day

Via Shameless Blog

This morning I woke up to an unsurprisingly inaccurate column from Margaret Wente aimed at Western privileged women, in which she argues that “the war for women’s rights is over. And we won.” Right. She writes:

People who persist in looking for systemic discrimination against women in (name your field here) seem more and more desperate. They might as well complain about discrimination against male kindergarten teachers. We are finally learning that equality can also mean the freedom to make different choices.

Funny that Wente should base her column on the freedom to make choices, given the persistence of rampant sexism in the West. Here are just a few examples from now and a few years back:

* Charlie Sheen, a man with a most appalling history of violence against women, was recently fired from Two and Half Men and is benefiting from endless media coverage of his clearly troubled behaviour. He gained the most Twitter followers in the least amount of time, memes popped up everywhere parroting his phrases like “winning” and “tiger blood,” and ad agencies have jumped all over his “branding.” Did you know you can be paid to be Sheen’s intern?

So let’s give him a record-breaking unfollow today, yes?

* Indigenous women in Canada still face atrociously high rates of violenc
e, being 5 times more likely to die from it. They’re also 8 times more likely to be killed by a spouse after separation. The worst part? Most missing women are never found and their disappearances are poorly investigated, if at all. From Rabble:

According to research conducted under the Native Women Association of Canada’s (NWAC) Sisters in Spirit program, over 580 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing, most of them over the last 30 years.

* Conflict and the rape crisis in the Congo continues. Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped since 1996, and it goes on and on.
* The Catholic Church in Rome admitted that priests from at least 23 countries have been sexually abusing nuns, mostly in Africa, to avoid the transmission of HIV.
* A Manitoba judge said a survivor was to blame for her rape because “sex was in the air,” since she was wearing a tube top without a bra and suggested skinny dipping. (Wente argues that not one person agreed with this judge, but um, the fact that he exists is proof enough, yes? Also, have a look at the comments on that article. There are many who agreed with him.)
* A shocking number of media sources blame Lara Logan for her sexual assault, leading to claims that female journalists shouldn’t report in war zones.
* Linda Franklin, an active duty U.S. Marine sergeant, was beaten and strangled in 2007 by her then-partner, a staff sergeant. A year later, she found herself reporting to her attacker.
* During a recent student election at University of Waterloo, posters were placed over those of female candidates. The posters depicted Marie Curie and read: “THE TRUTH. The brightest woman this Earth ever created was Marie Curie, the mother of the nuclear bomb. You tell me if the plan of women leading men is still a good idea.”
* Toronto law students are given the following advice from a police officer on how to avoid being raped: “Don’t dress like a slut.”

And how about that war on reproductive rights?

* Last year, an unprecedented number of people gathered at Parliament Hill in support of Harper’s decision to not include contraception, family planning, or abortion in Canada’s foreign maternal health plan. I feel it necessary to note that children were bussed to this event.
* Virginia passed a bill that requires abortion clinics to comply to hospital standards such as: parking spaces for every patient, hallways through which two gurneys can pass simultaneously, etc. 17 of 21 clinics in the state will have to close.
* Faith2Action, a pro life group, is being allowed to have a fetus testify against an Ohio abortion law.
* South Dakota passed a bill requiring women seeking abortions wait 72 hours and submit to counselling that encourages them not to.
* Also in South Dakota, a bill is under consideration in the Mount Rushmore State that would make preventing harm to a fetus “justifiable homicide.”
* If you want an abortion, you better be rich! The House Judiciary voted in favour of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Oh! And by the way, the House also wanted to redefine rape as “forcible.”
* Planned Parenthood, a.k.a. that awesome place to get contraception and counselling, has been defunded.
* A Georgia representative proposes that all “unsupervised miscarriages” be treated as crime scenes. Send him your pads/tampons/Diva cups, y’all.

So um, yes Wente, the war on women exists. All of my griping and whining matters. And everything we do here at Shameless matters. And that’s what International Women’s Day is all about.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bridge Kids

Bridge Kids Clip from Geoffrey Pugen on Vimeo.

Struggling with the Ethics of Image-making: Sontag, Arbus, Snapshots, and Portraits

As part of the final project for our “Rhetoric of Social Documentary” class my students will be completing a brief documentary film on a local issue and so we spent this week talking about the ethics of documentary filmmaking and the discomfort many people feel in having their picture taken. We began the class with a discussion of Susan Sontag’s chapter “America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly” from On Photography in which she considers the work of Diane Arbus and the shift in photography away from lyrical subjects toward material that is “plain, tawdry, or even vapid” (Sontag, 28). Sontag explores the artist’s decision to focuses on people she terms “victims” or “freaks” and argues that Arbus attempts to suggest a world in which we are all isolated and awkward.

read more ---------->>

An Interview with Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall is the author of two novels, Holding Still for as Long as Possible and Bottle Rocket Hearts. Bottle Rocket Hearts was a Globe & Mail best book of the year and was shortlisted for CBC’s Canada Reads. Zoe has also published three books of poetry, most recently Precordial Thump. She won the 2008 Dayne Ogilvie Award and was shortlisted for the 2010 ReLit Award. Zoe lives in Toronto.

Here’s how Zoe describes her piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme: “‘A Patch of Bright Flowers’ is a short story and both a satire of the Canadian publishing industry, and humorous exploration of intergenerational queer relationships and butch-femme clichés.”

What made you want to be part of this anthology?

When I discovered anthologies about femme and butch identities in the 1990s, they opened up a whole new world to me. At the same time, because it was the 90s, the ideas seemed fairly limited, retro and over identity-politicky now. There is such a lack of content out there that is both current and high quality. I’m honoured to be a part of this book.

What’s one of your favourite lines from your piece?

“Julia isn’t sure what to do about aging. She loves that queers are granted an extended adolescence and don’t really expect to marry, have babies, or own property until they are well into their thirties, if at all. She used to see ugly babies or annoying children and think, Oh, thank god I’m not a parent. Thank god I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Recently, when she sees ugly babies, she thinks, I would love that little monster SO HARD.”

If you could say one thing to future butches and femmes, what would it be?

Everyone has already said variations of love yourself and know your history, and I echo these sentiments. I would add - don’t throw away your journals, read many books before you try to write one, don’t police people’s politics and have a sense of humour about yours.

Via persistence anthology

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MEN - "Who Am I To Feel So Free" official video

watch this and compare it to this ----------> <--------------

"The illusionary and visionary project (it must be both of these) of lesbianism is to writing the 'beyond' of heterosexual phallogocentrism, even though this is what is always recuperating us, claiming to (re)produce us as one its effects" (Elizabeth Meese, 1992)