It's upsetting when an activist group winds up alienating the very people they're supposed to be supporting. That's exactly what happened to long-time social justice activist Emi Koyama two weeks ago at the Forging Justice conference in Detroit, which was sponsored by the National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) and Michigan domestic violence and sexual assault agency HAVEN. During Koyama's talk, the NOMAS organizers turned off the conference livestream, so people watching online were unable to follow along. Koyama wrote a long, detailed piece on Shakesville about how some organizers continued to treat her in a way that was so upsetting that she had to leave the conference before it was over.
I talked with Koyama on Friday about took away from the experience and what's next for her.
I eagerly read Brittney Cooper's article on Salon this week, "The Politics of Being Friends with White People." While she and I have many demographics in common--being the academically accelerated Black girl in mostly white classes--there are huge differences in our experiences. I think much of that may have to do with geographical context.
Unlike Cooper, whose bio says she grew up in Louisiana, I grew up in Berkeley, California. Cooper talks about how it was the norm for white people in her community to vote Republican. I can understand that it would be difficult to form close ties with white people whose political ideologies have been traditionally been associated with racist legislation and racist political positions. Growing up in Berkeley in the 70s and 80s, Republicans were rare. In this kind of urban, progressive context, racism is a big no-no. White people have plenty of racist thoughts and feelings, but they learn how to keep them hidden, a false sort of progress.
Hugo Schwyzer is a narcissistic blowhole. This week, many of the women whom Schwyzer attacked and villified online over the years have successfully pushed the media frenzy around his recent admission that he's a fraud and an abuser into a bigger, more important discussion about the role that race has played in progressive, feminist media's support of Schwyzer over the years.
Take time to read through all the tweets on #solidarityisforwhitewomen, a hashtag started by Mikki Kendall, where people are posting all sorts of insights about how avowed white feminists can ignore and dimiss people of color—including the years of harassment Schwyzer inflicted, but also on other issues like the wage gap and media coverage.
Grassroots anti-street-harassment group Hollaback organized the event, welcoming community organizers, nonprofit members, and just plain angry folks to share histories and to air out grievances about everyday sexual harassment.
It's clear that at the end of the event that street harassment is all about ownership of space.
This month, Bitch is collaborating with Her Kind, a literary community hosted by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, by posing a series of questions to a talented woman writer. Seattle interdisciplinary artist and poet Natasha Marin took on eight questions about bitchiness.
When was the first time you remember being called a bitch? What were the circumstances?
NATASHA MARIN: Honestly, I can't remember the first time someone called me a bitch. I remember the first time someone called me a nigger though, but that's a different kind of story.
Two weeks ago, you might have read Questlove's piece about his experiences being profiled daily as a black man in light of the George Zimmerman verdict. "You ain't shit. That's the lesson I took from this case.... These words are deep because these are words I've heard my whole life." The musician describes dampening his emotions and heightening his perception of how others perceive him in public as a black man. Citing one instance in particular—when he found himself alone in the elevator of his swanky apartment building with a woman who made her discomfort known—he discusses how both personal interactions and society at large broadcast loud and clear that his life, like that of Trayvon Martin, "ain't shit" to other people.