Why I stepped out of my One Billion Rising South Africa Coordinator role. -
By Gillian Schutte
For those who have asked why I have stepped out of the role of coordinator for One Billion Rising South Africa. Here is my response to both personal issues and the wider issues.
I have ideological differences with the international office, which are in the body outlined below. While I support the ethos of dance and protest I cannot work within the organisational expectations and criticisms/invalidation of my personal politics.
I am an “outspoken and challenging” social critic – it is a conflict of interest as the Managing Director felt I was alienating ‘her people’. She cited my letter – “Dear white people” as an example.
I will not be muzzled, shut up, insulted and shamed for being an anti-racism social justice activist.
My politics are uncompromisingly pro-poor, social-justice and Left based which is seen as a stumbling block and excluding of the middle class.
I refuse to have to fight for the right to take on a solidarity approach and work with grassroots organisations and feminists in a politicized strategy that was more about highlighting the issues of justice for LGBTIQ individuals who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation – or to use the platform to speak to issues that affect the majority of women in South Africa – in consultation and partnership with feminists in South Africa. That this approach was seen as alienating to certain people baffles me. If those people are alienated by this approach then they should not be part of any anti-patriarchy movement.
I don’t think ‘protest movements’ and corporate funding are great bed partners. The suggestion that I was judgmental, radical and other negative adjectives because of my refusal to go that route, was again, telling.
I will not be told to put young v-girl teenagers in the ‘center’ or in leadership of a struggle for justice to end VAW – these are largely middle classed teenagers who say things like – ‘poor people are to blame for their poverty’. Experienced activists who understand social and feminist issues are automatic leaders in movements that claim to be representative.
While I support and believe in reclaiming public spaces, bodies, orgasm and joy – I will not be instructed to call a struggle in South Africa ‘a joyous revolution’ when feminists here are shouting loud and clear that there is ‘no cause to celebrate’ until justice is seen for the women who have been murdered for their sexual orientation – and for women to whom rape is a reality not a slogan.
I also do not accept anyone overriding my integrity and instructing the publicist to change the wording of my press release back to joyous revolution – when I have explained why this is not acceptable – and then have to fight to have it reverted.
I will not share a podium under the same banner with a ‘feminist’ who openly supports the war on Palestine – I don’t believe that we can be ‘all-inclusive’ if that means we must overlook issues of gross injustice towards women who are violated by brutal imperialistic systems. That is exactly the opposite of all-inclusiveness.
I will not place celebrities, who generally remain silent on issues of VAW, as the spokespeople for women’s struggles merely to attract more followers.
I will not be told that this is a free and democratic movement with no rules and then be subjected to top-down instructions.
I will not be put in a situation where there are no funding mechanisms allowed through which to find donor funding for protest action but then be expected to fund through other orgs who have their own funding difficulties.
Mostly I will not be asked questions such as – “There are 54 million people in South Africa – why were they not all dancing?”
Are you fucking kidding me?!?
I came on board in solidarity with a global movement to network with organisations already doing the work in the context of a real South Africa … not to choreograph a nationwide dance using people who have deep-seated poverty issues and are probably not in the space to boogey to feel-good music that is not going to feed their families or get them jobs or housing or access to clean water and decent sanitation.
We chose to honor and support women who live the reality of the violence of economic exclusion by assisting with a community organised march and vigil at Marikana and offering support to the women of that area with a focus on the wives of the massacred miners. We did not impose the OBR music and dance onto this occasion because that felt disrespectful and inappropriate. However it was done as an OBR outreach event, not an OBR choreography event.
I personally always thought of the dance element as an option – not a given. Justice issues were given preference. Creating a safe space for the spontaneous organic celebration of our diversity and sameness and joy and body was part of this.
I find it hard to understand a movement that partners with militant unions in some countries on the one hand and then does not speak out against the public dismissal of the concerns of some grassroots organizational structures and networks, on the other, as played out in Canada.
Activists and ordinary people in all communities have agency and voices – they do not need a global movement to do anything on their behalf. They also do not need global movements to go in and take over or overshadow their vital and established protest actions. Global movements should offer these grassroots protests and movements solidarity not usurpation.
I am in solidarity with the Indigenous Women’s movements in Canada (For our Sisters, Families of Sisters and Spirit) whose request for OBR Toronto to change their day of protests (or join theirs in sisterhood) so as not to eclipse/minimize their annual action calling for justice around the murdered and missing indigenous women of Canada on this same day - was dismissed and then their concerns described as ‘undue vitriol’ by the Canadian One Billion Rising Organizer in her response letter.
Certainly, my concerns have been dismissed or mythologized into insignificance too and none of the plentiful letters I sent outlining my apprehensions, were dealt with adequately, if at all. It was in New York recently, and in the aftermath of the meeting there, that the problematics of OBR came into sharp focus for me.
If One Billion Rising really has global women’s concerns and voices at heart then they should host an international symposium inclusive of all women and headed by women who are central to grassroots struggles, including indigenous women, to guide them on a way forward in terms of global strategy. I suggested this more than once.
I do not think that Eve Ensler is racist or has bad intentions. I think that Eve Ensler is a heartfelt and loving person but is victim to her own invisible white privilege and v-day’s organisational whiteness structures and was thus unable to envisage this revolt against (and from within) her well-intentioned movement.
If she cares and loves the world’s women, as she does, and if this movement is truly revolutionary ,then we call on her to open up this space to many more diverse women to decide on the way forward.
A revolution cannot be manufactured – it cannot be choreographed or staged or managed or controlled. It cannot be the brainchild of one person with a committee of worker bees to do her bidding. Though there are feminists involved in the organizing committee from around the world – it is not a big enough input to run a democratic global campaign. There does need to be much more public participation in the decision-making processes in all countries and the international office should consider using its resources to facilitate this process.
A revolution is organic – it truly belongs to the people – it is based on ideology of freedom and equity for the oppressed – not the oppressor deciding on or for the oppressed.
While I do not deny that One Billion Rising was a great success in many respects and it highlighted the issue of VAW on an international scale – it has also highlighted problematics in feminist and womens’s rights movements and these need to be dealt with in an open and non-defensive, non-oppressive manner. They need to be embraced and listened to and learned from. This is a valuable opportunity for solidarity. In places where it was owned by the grassroots women’s movements it worked well – the problematics showed up in Settler countries – postcolonial racially divided countries, where the issues are far more complex and open to a neocolonial interpretation of a movement that claims to be egalitarian.
Lauren Chief Elk’s open letter is a vital disruption and challenge to this issue and ought to be celebrated as such.
I hope that more women will feel comfortable about voicing their own concerns and feelings and join this global conversation
(Source: posttragicmulatto, via sailor-ramiel)
Who's Afraid?: Help Support Egyptt! Please Signal Boost -
(click here to donate)
Dear Friends & Community,
We are writing to let you know of a community member who needs support after going through a major health crisis. Many of you know Egyptt, a long time activist and advocate for low income, trans communities of color.
Egyptt was formerly co-coordinator of Trans Justice at the Audre Lorde Project. Prior to her work at ALP she was a crucial member of the Queers for Economic Justice Welfare Warriors group where she lead the way fighting transphobia within New York City’s welfare agency: the Human Resources Administration. Because of Egyptt’s work NYC’s Human Resources Administration has adopted its first ever transgender non discrimination policy, which Egyptt helped implement through many trainings of New York City employees.
Additionally Egyptt has been a long time advocate at Housing Works advocating to have New York State pass the Gender Employment Non Discrimination Act (GENDA). She is also a brilliant performer, frequently showcasing her talent at the Housing Works fashion shows and many Trans Day of Remembrance events. Egyptt is now unemployed and has lost her apartment in Harlem. She’s currently living with her partner in a family homeless shelter in NYC.
We are turning to you, our community, to support Egyptt as she navigates this challenging moment. We want to raise 10,000 for Egyptt to get back some of what she has lost in the last few months. She needs resources to get back into housing, to replace lost possessions, and to cover outstanding healthcare costs.
With deep appreciation,
Reina Gossett, Pooja Gehi, & Dean Spade
(click here to donate)
The Largest LGBT Donors Are Drone Manufacturers -
by Hannah Kapp-Klote
In the 1960s and 1970s, queer liberation (what we now call “LGBT equality”) was seen by its advocates as an all-inclusive movement intrinsically bound to other social justice movements: there could be no justice for queer people without justice for people of color, women, workers, those in other nations, etc. Accordingly, queer activistsworked hard to build coalitions with all those determined to fight for justice.
Nowadays, the LGBT movement does more branding than coalition building.
Steven W. Thrasher, who has been nationally recognized for his LGBT journalism, called out national LGBT nonprofits and advocates, colloquially referred to by some as the glitter industrial complex, in aGawker article, contending that the LGBT activists and nonprofits “have been bought, paid-for and sold to the highest bidder.”
It’s true: corporate America runs the LGBT movement, or at least the part of the LGBT movement that gets press time and donors. Their sponsorship keeps the LGBT movement from addressing the issues that matter most for the LGBT community and beyond.
Thrasher highlights that many of the biggest donors to the Human Rights Campaign, the multi-million dollar nonprofit that receives the bulk of donations for LGBT issues, aredrone manufacturers. These donors profit off of the United States’ use of drones to killcivilians,including children, with little oversight or accountability. Drone manufacturers are far from the only ethically dark gray to black donors to LGBT advocacy organizations: a brief perusal of any major LGBT organization’s list of donors reveals thatcorporate black hatslike Bank of America,BP,Coke, andNikeall provide major cash to LGBT nonprofits.
And it must be acknowledged that these corporate dollars do some good: programs that encourage the leadership development and empowerment of LGBT young people, the election of LGBT public officials, and advocacy for greater research into LGBT issues would be practically impossible in the modern economy without significant corporate donations. Yet there is something antithetical about a movement for equality and justice funded by the forces in the world most responsible for widespread economic and social inequality.
When the LGBT community is not united with social movements that address the issues facing the most marginalized LGBT people, with racial justice proponents (proportionally more people of coloridentify as queer), with those fighting against systemic poverty, with pacifists, are we really making any progress? Or has the LGBT movement been kidnapped by power elites advocating for their own interests? The dilemma is reminiscent of an image circling some corners of the web: a white gay male couple superimposed over the Human Rights Campaign red equality symbol that dominated Facebook during the gay marriage Supreme Court hearings.
“We’re just like you: racist, homophobic, and sexist,” reads the caption. All that’s missing is “market driven” and “war profiteers.”
Of course, claiming that the agendas of nonprofit executives and corporate leaders are the agenda for the entire LGBT movement is just as misleading claiming that gay marriage is the deciding issue of the LGBT movement. Queer activists around the country, from radical groups likeSoutherners on New Ground (SONG),andQueers for Economic Justice, are connecting the dots between queer liberation, pacifism, and economic and racial justice. Countless more groups and activists, with or without 501c3 status, are fighting to make sure that queer liberation — not LGBT equality — is tied up with justice for all oppressed groups around the world.
Progress for queer people means nothing if it comes at the expense of others also marginalized and fighting for justice. Gay advocacy paid for by companies that poison the land, treat their workers unfairly, and assist in the killing of children from other nations is worthless in the long run. If we truly want a world where LGBT people are equal, we have to recognize that such equality is contingent upon justice for all people.
Not when health care is provided to every same-sex couple, but where health care is accessible to all; not when violent homophobia is eliminated, but when violence based on hatred of any group is eliminated. It might sound Utopian, and it might not be achieved through high profile fund raising dinners. But the alternative, inequality and corporate exploitation draped in a pride flag, is neither progressive nor equal.
cue to a shot of me howling with diabolical laughter.
not because drones are funny
but because for all the equality red signs i had to stomach, for all the insufferable cis straight people who refuse to apply a critical lens to their “allyship”, for all the horribly constructed arguments supporting the HRC i’ve listened to not only this year, but in past years
congratulations! your desire and push for equality is intersectional in the worst way possible.
now not only does the HRC screw over people (anybody who is not upper middle class, white, gay cis male), but the companies who back the HRC screw over people WITH DRONES. on top of their other shitty corporate policies because WHO HAS EVER MET A FRIENDLY ETHICAL CAPITALIST?! NOT I!
i chuckle in your face
i chuckle long, i chuckle hard, and i chuckle loudly
White Girl Privilege And The Problem With Blaming All Men — thoughtcatalog.com — Readability -
(Source: notesonascandal, via themodernistwitch)
Dear Eve Ensler,
I want to start off by saying thank you. I appreciate the time you took to reach out to me, because I know you’re incredibly busy. I know there are much more important people in this world than myself, so I appreciate you engaging in dialogue with me and my colleague Kelleigh Driscoll.
This all started because on Twitter, I addressed some issues that I had with V-Day, your organization, and the way it treated Indigenous women in Canada. I said that you are racist and dismissive of Indigenous people. You wrote to me that you were upset that I would suggest this, and not even 24 hours later you were on the Joy Behar Show referring to your chemotherapy treatment as a “Shamanistic exercise”.
Your organization took a photo of Ashley Callingbull, and used it to promote V-Day Canada and One Billion Rising, without her consent. You then wrote the word “vanishing” on the photo, and implied that Indigenous women are disappearing, and inherently suggested that we are in some type of dire need of your saving. You then said that Indigenous women were V-Day Canada’s “spotlight”. V-Day completely ignored the fact that February 14th is an iconic day for Indigenous women in Canada, and marches, vigils, and rallies had already been happening for decades to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women. You repeatedly in our conversation insisted that you had absolutely no idea that these events were already taking place. So then, what were you spotlighting? When Kelleigh brought up that it was problematic for you to be completely unaware that this date is important to the women you’re spotlighting, your managing director Cecile Lipworth became extremely defensive and responded with “Well, every date on the Calendar has importance.” This is not an acceptable response.
When women in Canada brought up these exact issues, V-Day responded to them by deleting the comment threads that were on Facebook. For a person and organization who works to end violence against women, this is certainly the opposite of that. Although I’m specifically addressing V-Day, this is not an isolated incident. This is something that Indigenous women constantly face. This erasure of identity and white, colonial, feminism is in fact, a form of violence against us. The exploitation and cultural appropriation creates and excuses the violence done to us.
When I told you that your white, colonial, feminism is hurting us, you started crying. Eve, you are not the victim here. This is also part of the pattern which is a problem: Indigenous women are constantly trying to explain all of these issues, and are constantly met with “Why are you attacking me?!” This is not being a good ally.
You asked me what would it mean to be a good ally. It would have meant stepping back, giving up the V-Day platform, and attending the marches and vigils. It would have meant putting aside the One Billion Rising privilege and participating in what the Indigenous women felt was important.
At the end of our conversation you offered me the opportunity to join V-Day. Offered me money. Offered me to become a spokesperson for Native American women. These are things I am not interested in. I do not want to be part of the white savior industrial complex, and I never want to duplicate saviorism and colonialism within my own organization, Save Wiyabi Project, and I’m surely not interested in selling my soul and integrity for a bit of cash and perceived prestige.
I’m not here to speak for Ashley and how she felt about her photo being used, and I’m not here to speak for the Indigenous women in Canada. Indigenous women in the United States and Canada have agency, self determination, and are quite capable of telling their own stories, and have been doing so for thousands of years. We are aware of the violence we face, and are also aware this just isn’t about individual acts of violence. We expect not only our bodies, but our agency, work, and contributions to be respected. None of this is new, and we do not need a white person to legitimize our history and existence.
I entered this conversation with uneasy feelings about V-Day and your work, and left feeling completely dismissed – much like the Indigenous women in Canada. You might have been listening to what I was saying, but you definitely didn’t hear me. You dumped all of my concerns onto someone else and did not take personal responsibility for anything. Eve, this is YOUR organization. My hope is that you do some self examination about what’s happening here. You have to see this before you continue doing this work because this is epistemic and imperial violence. Your actions are assisting violence, not ending it.
Lauren Chief Elk
How Public Policy Built The Racial Wealth Divide - COLORLINES -
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes on a foul 1950’s housing market practice that ropped black wealth and helped set the conditions for the current racial wealth gap.
[image of a brown woman, with shoulder length hair holding a sign that reads “Fuck Weed, Legalize my Mom.” behind her are other people some holding signs or flags, no other signs are legible.]
all the feelings. so many feelings.
(Source: basednkrumah, via xenorobotics)
UPDATE: The struggle continues! Eva was preparing to re-enroll and in that process found out that she owes the school $2,600 after having lost her scholarship. Please donate if you haven’t gotten a chance to do so. there is 50 hours left!
[photo: image of Eva Panjwani, a working-class Muslimah Queer South Asian immigrant resting against a dresser and smiling at the camera. text reads, “please help me pursue my dream of finishing college.]
Help Eva Learn and check out her fundraiser here! the goal is $1,700.
Short Story Long
My name is Eva Panjwani and today, I am asking you to make an investment in my future. Let me tell you a little about myself, paint a picture so to speak. I am 25 years old, and I live in Carrboro, North Carolina. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan; I split my childhoold between tiny Beach Park, Illinois and the industrious city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
I am not so different from you. When I discover a song I like, I tend to listen to it on repeat for a while, until I find the next one. I was super into the Harry Potter series when I was younger, and dressed up for all the movie premieres. After ordering things from the menu at a restaurant, I inevitably get food envy when my friends’ choices arrive.
Growing up, I was always considered a smart kid. I was in the Academically Gifted program from 4th grade onwards, even though I came into US public schools with English as a Second Language. In high school, I exhausted all of my school’s options in advanced mathematics classes, and ended up applying and being accepted into the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Struggles with bullying and low self-esteem were a prominent part of my childhood and adolescence, and getting away from all the years of harassment was the biggest reason I applied to NCSSM. In high school, I was in a period of self-discovery like everyone else, and after hints of me being somehow “different” since I was 4 years old, I finally came out. To myself. Raised Muslim, I knew this was a Big Deal.
I got a good SAT score and ended up being admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the prestigious Johnston Scholarship - a merit and need-based full ride. That was all back in 2006. Something else big happened to me in 2006: my father unexpectedly passed away.
Ever since then I have struggled with reoccuring issues related to:
- supporting myself financially
- mental health imbalances
- figuring out who and where my community was.
I lasted a little over two years at UNC, relying on part-time jobs and the small amount of leftover scholarship money to feed myself and buy books, before all my problems caught up to me. I needed desperately to take time off from school to set straight my emotional world, and in doing so I lost my scholarship. I’m a working-class Muslimah Queer South Asian immigrant that has struggled immensely with my emotional and mental well-being. It’s not too easy finding out who to turn to, where to go. And my depression turned into anxiety too, panic attacks happening at an increasing rate, and thoughts of suicide haunted me. I was at rock bottom.
Since then, I have been able to turn my life around and seek support - via mental health professionals and through building a community for myself. I took responsibility for my well being and did what I needed to do to re-center my emotional world. I took night classes in culinary arts at Durham Technical Community College, and have been working in foodservice. I keep a semi-regular blog that chronicles what is has meant for me to learn self-care and self-love, in hopes of spreading to others. I have worked enough to have a small savings account to help me through financial ups and downs. I have a cat! I am an activist, and have tried to stay a part of the conversation on education reform, and the fight for Worker and Student Power here in NC. I help run a national radical youth blog.
In many, many ways I am emotionally and mentally different from the at-risk, distracted, and lonely young woman I was when I lost my scholarship. I know I am more pragmatic, I am more self-aware, I am quieter and I am resourceful. I want a second chance at finishing my degree, and I finally believe I am ready and able to pursue it
What I Need & What You Get
I am applying for nontraditional readmission to the University. In order for me to apply for nontraditional readmission, I have to show evidence of recent successful coursework via Carolina Courses Online - i.e. online classes through the Friday Center. The idea is to have a better understanding of my current academic promise. In order to do that, I need:
- $1,182 towards tuition for 6 credit hours (2 classes).
- $84.24 towards the accompanying fees for 6 credit hours (2 classes).
- $250 towards textbooks - this is an estimate.
- And the rest is towards the IndieGoGo fee(s).
Help Eva Learn and check out her fundraiser here! the goal is $1,700.
These are just a couple of things that I know of for stuff like this. If you have any other useful tools, please send them in and I’ll add them to this post. This post will just cover Statcounter and an IP redirector.