STILL OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS, REMINDERS, EDITS, ETC
“Freedom of association and assembly for everyone except radscum:” Or, infiltration and other sabotage of activism isn’t just bad when it happens to you
The piece that follows was written with many emotions, including anger.
Along with a few other women (namely Sam, Maya, Lierre, then Trish), I co-organized Radfem Rise Up, held in Toronto July 5-7, 2013. I had previously gone to Radfem Reboot in Portland, thanks to the generous donations of a lot of amazing women, and so felt I should step up in another. We quickly decided (with some different women) that so-called Canada would be a good place due to the Bedford case, and on the east side of the continent (Turtle Island) (for various reasons).
Anyhow, other organizers and attendants, such as Sam, Maya, Smash, thentheysaidburnher, and Orla, have written summaries of the experiences of infiltration, intimidation, impersonation and sabotage of 25 or so women meeting together in Toronto for a weekend of discussion, workshops, planning, etc. What I want to specifically address is the experience of this attempt to destroy a group of fellow activists. How a diversity of tactics should not ethically include the sabotage of activists. This especially hits close to home because some of those who fancy themselves revolutionaries against “cis-supremist,”* racist, colonialist, women in prostitution-hating radscum** were friends of mine, that I had done 2-5 years of activism with, including, in the group AW@L and associated with SOAR, police infiltration of our groups, resulting in a multitude of charges, people separated, activism truncated, jail terms for some in a plea deal, etc.
Let me be clear, infiltration of activists is a POLICE tactic. When you either help organize the infiltration of radical feminists, or take advantage of information gained from it, you are doing the work of the state. You are trying to shut down a movement of women dedicated to ending patriarchy in all its facets and liberating women. You are trying to shut down women whom the state itself also tries to shut down. The same state that we know got women to inform on others in the radical, lesbian, and Marxist feminist groups they were in. Who surveilled those groups. The RCMP did just this in the 70s and 80s, from Rita MacNeil to the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, and no doubt certain structuralist feminists are still being monitored by the state. Doing the work of the state, because you disagree with our analyses of gender and pornstitution.
Women with histories of prostitution WERE there. Women who previously identified as trans and have come to de-transition WERE there. Women of colour WERE there. There are also indigenous radical feminists. Do not erase these women by pretending we oppose them, hate them, want to destroy them. Many of them ARE us. And you helped to intimidate, sabotage, infiltrate, and tried to erase them, too.
Infiltration and intimidation are not just fucked up when the state does it. It does not just hurt worthwhile activism when it happens to your favoured activists. For Fucks sake, neo-Nazis get better tactics used against them by activists opposing them than we did. Several people who I mentioned above¾friends and fellow activists, whom I’ve done controversial and illegal actions with¾I KNOW you said yes on facebook, even went to the “urgent” “revolutionary” storytelling action opposing the evul radfems who hate everyone who doesn’t agree, and it fucking hurts, not just on an impersonal, political analysis level, but deep. You opposed me, who had done a few years of meetings, rallies, parties, lock downs, sit ins, marches, discussions over fears of infiltration and surveillance, court dates with you. You wanted to shut my activism down, and you used the same tactics that had been used against us just three years ago.
I want you to know that it was not only infiltration but intimidation. The above event held in that park on Saturday, was held about 200 metres from where we were holding the conference and sleeping. Not only did it strawwoman our arguments, the only reason the organizers of it knew where we were is an infiltrator calling herself Leah Reynolds who, upon seeing 12 or so women and a baby when she was there, decided to leak our address to the pro-pornstitutioners and genderist*** activists. It is also clear, in retrospect from my conversation with Leah as I was walking with her to the conference, that she and her cohorts still wanted to shut it down, when she asked if the house was “a community centre or something” and was playing stupid about the opposition we were getting. At the time, I just assumed she hadn’t been following the bullshit online. How wrong I was.
Some are criticizing us for calling the cops Friday night after we discovered the counter-event. I want to lay out why we did. NOT calling the cops is dependent upon the community (geographical, chosen, political, etc) *having your fucking back* or at least, refusing to interfere in the work of others and not doing the work of the state against other activists themselves. Further, infiltration and intimidation is abusive behaviour, and women who are being abused by mostly males¾who still have women doing their dirty work for them too¾need for the “community” to not fucking support abusers. This is also just the day after Beaver Hall told us that they feared for themselves, their children, and the housing co-op and gallery due to the mass of threatening emails they received merely for daring to allow a co-op member, a lesbian radical feminist, book the space for our private conference. Women who are being intimidated and sabotaged need the community to support their rights to safety, autonomy, association, etc. Not hold a protest a block away to let those abused women know that you know where they are, you are some of the abusers, and you support the (other) abusers. Furthermore, I honestly believe some at the park wanted to escalate the situation, and confront us in front of the house. (Again, the stated intention of other action was to shut us down.)
You are also adding to the MRA opposition to us, and supporting them. You are doing their dirty work for them. Leah used her position as a female faking good faith interest in radical feminist organizing to insert herself into space that the MRAs and much other opposition couldn’t have gotten into. She let them have information on us they couldn’t have gotten themselves. MRAs have written articles, made calls, written emails against, even picketed radical feminist organizing. A Voice for Men wrote an article on Radfem Rise Up, naming me personally and attempting to call me to account for not kissing MRA feet, daring to engage in radical feminist organizing, and demanding that I respond to their questions. (They are also behind the Agent Orange infiltration of a radical feminist board.)
To add to this, I will stress that radical feminists DO support trans-inclusive and trans-only organizing, however different groups decide to define it. We do not try to stop these various forms of organizing. The only form of trans inclusive organizing that I can think of in recent history that we have opposed is the workshop on “breaking through” the “cotton ceiling” of lesbians’ underwear held by Planned Parenthood Toronto last year as part of a larger conference with a few other workshops (none of which we objected to). Women were angry that the money they had donated, money for necessary¾especially under patriarchy and its mandatory piv¾women’s health services like hormonal and other contraceptives, abortion referrals, and cancer screenings, was going towards transwomen and “genderqueer mabs” discussing how to gain sexual and bodily access to women who didn’t desire them, and how women saying no to this access hurt their feelings. That’s right, it included those who didn’t even identify as trans women, but remained male-exclusive. Females, including lesbian women whom they sought sexual/bodily access to, were excluded. How fucking creepy is that bullshit?
They and you defend male exclusive space, yet deny it to females. Different LGBT and trans specific organizations hold transwomen, transmen, trans people, genderqueer male, etc exclusive meetings. Yet “cis”* women are denied this. The only way this makes sense is if you posit that “cis privilege” trumps sex based oppression and genderism with females. That even “genderqueer” males are MORE oppressed than dreaded cis women, and so have the right to organize without females, while demanding entry into our increasingly rare and under attack spaces, while we have no right to organize without those males.
Lastly, there was a fake website put out claiming to be Radfem Rise Up, accusing us of wanting to commit genocide against trans identified people, amongst other libel, and a pornographic description/accusation that we’d be sexually assaulting women with speculums. (The extra s site is not ours.) There was also a counter website, putting out details of our initial venue, Beaver Hall, collating actions to oppose us, etc.
I also want to stress that most of the opposition to the conference can be clearly tied back to Maggie’s****. They don’t assist in getting women and others in prostitution out, even when they want it; they make this clear on their own site. Their response to people wanting to exit prostitution is just to reform it a bit. They also invite johns and pimps to events, their group, etc. How many women and trans folks in prostitution do they actually represent? What portion of their supporters and members profit off of the prostitution of others, aka are pimps? This is also who you are also supporting. Capitalism and commodification are not just bad when we don’t get lost in the libertarian, liberal, postmodern mishmash of arguments justifying prostitution. They are not only bad when penises don’t become erect. (For more on this line of argument see my interview with Ruth Jacobs here: http://ruthjacobs.co.uk/2013/01/24/winnie-small-radical-feminist-abolitionist-interview/ )
If you think these actions are at all ethical against women fighting patriarchy, please let me know, so I know to get the fuck away and that you cannot be trusted with women’s activism, space, safety, autonomy. PS, feel free to defriend me or whatever over this, if you think I’m a vile detestable asshole and the intimidators and infiltrators are awesome and did what they were entitled to, giving us what we deserved, because with friends like these…
I am so beyond done with this bullshit and I will not fucking give up radical feminism and autonomous organizing. You scared me that weekend, but it then drove me over the edge and then some. And I am not the only one. Those weeks of fuckery by pro-pornstitutioners and genderists served to push more women into radical feminism, and other women further into it.
*I place cis in quotations because I object to the term cis for females, as it is based upon the faulty assumptions that a) the feminine gender privileges females, b) that femininity is not the oppressed/oppressive half of the oppressive institution of gender which is maintained for those deemed by men both masculine and male, and c) that femininity reflects almost all women’s true selves, that most women are happily, easily and/or naturally gender conformist)
**Seriously, only the term radscum is at all an exaggeration of the accusations against us said in media put out opposing the conference. (And the term is out in full force in general opposition online to radical feminists.)
***Genderism is what radical feminists call the theory, as I explained in my note on cis, that gender is natural and innate. That it is not hierarchical in itself, and the problem lies only in it being binary, and/or not freely expressed. It doesn’t need abolishing, as it is useful, fun, impossible to get rid of, etc. I read an essay online last year, arguing that gender shouldn’t be abolished because we currently fetishize it culturally, sexually, religiously, in dom/sub relations, etc (it didn’t use these terms, but that is what they meant)¾we use gender and gendered symbols to evoke feelings of “prettiness” or “swagger” currently, therefore, we should keep gender. http://www.bilerico.com/2012/11/a_genderless_society_is_not_the_answer.php
****I can provide more information on this point if needed, such as their counter-event on July 2 calling us racist, hateful of those in prostitution, etc.