Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Farewell Blog

I'm saying farewell to this blog project and moving on. Writing in this venue has been very important to as a budding writer and activist, and especially so when I started a few years ago. I feel this blog has run its course, however, and am moving on to other projects (see below). Thanks to all who have read and supported my writing here. This website will stand as an archive of previous posts.

I now write a monthly column called Beautiful Justice, which is published by the Deep Green Resistance News Service. I'm also at work on a book project.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recommended books: "Conditions of War" and "Skyler Gabriel" by Lierre Keith

Where are the engaging novels about resistance, with lesbian feminists as lead characters? Two such wonders were hiding in the days of the early 90s, right around the time that I was born. Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel are set within the social climate that radical activists faced in that era, but the tales are refreshingly relevant for today, featuring righteously enraged women taking action against power, loving each other, and growing up.

Many know author Lierre Keith for her phenomenal works of non-fiction, including The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability and Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. Most do not know, however, that Keith's wisdom comes from a rich personal history of feminist activism, beautifully reflected in her early, self-published novels. While Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel are certainly youthful, they are also written with the empathy and bravery so common in individuals who know from a young age the depths of the evil in the world and the simple truth that they must change it. This truth has shaped Lierre Keith's life and the the young woman who wrote these lesser-known novels is now, twenty years later, helping to lead a serious resistance movement against the destructive forces of civilization, capitalism, and patriarchy.

While the content in between the covers of both of Lierre's novels share some similar qualitiesthe theme of feminists fighting back, stories and language sure to suck the reader in until the end and leave them yearning for moreeach is unique in its plot and tone.

Book cover Conditions of WarConditions of War is a humbling tale of young, militant, lesbian feminists who organize and take action together, all the while trying navigating interpersonal relationships within their group. The main character, nicknamed the simple X, is known by her comrades as having a low tolerance for too much talk not enough action. She is always on board to spray paint the local court house or destroy pornography at the video store. Meanwhile, she deals with past and current abusive relationships; her own and those of her friends. When another woman is slain in town, the women in X's group see it as yet another advancement of the ward against women. They immediately prepare to confront the situation, but first they must confront each other.  

Andrea Dworkin praised Conditions of War as "large hearted, a terrific story of love and adventure among women who fight for women. It is bittersweet and funny, redolent with the sadness of lost love and not a few broken dreams. Lierre Keith has written a coming-of-age story for radical feminists in a time of serial sadisma graceful political entertainment for the brave, the stubborn, the defiant, and those who want to be." Indeed, in this time of horizontal hostility, disorganization, and a lack of will to fight, this is a novel that young activists today are urgently in need of.

Book cover Skyler GabrielSkyler Gabriel, Keith's second novel, is a perfect feminist mystery. In the book's synopsis, we learn that Skyler Gabriel is a "24-year-old, unemployed, bass guitar player in a lesbian rock 'n' roll band. She also has reason to believe that the death of pro-choice playwright Diana Frasier was something a little more sinister than suicide. And when Diane's young daughter turns up missing, Skyler's the only one who can save her." On this foundation begins a hilarious, yet harrowing, story of a woman who, with great determination and love, stands between abusers and their victims. With the help of her friends, Skyler Gabriel uncovers the twisted plot of some white supremacist men, that one by one is taking the lives of young childrenand she knows what she must do to stop it. This is a story that had me gasping in suspense and left in tears by the end.

What Lierre Keith has done is created stories that can sustain a culture of resistance. Activistsespecially young onesneed stories to teach them how to navigate both their personal journeys of growing up and their dedication to creating revolutionary social change. Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel beautifully encapsulate both the personal and political aspects of a radical's life and offer a mythology in which our love and rage may be shown a path to lead us to that grand goal of justice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

As Long as it Takes: Strong Ties, Strong Hearts

"There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause...with such women consecrating their livesfailure is impossible!"Susan B. Anthony

As an activist and organizer, I concern myself with the work of getting people together to change the world. A necessary part of this is striving to see activists bringing all of their respective gifts and forms of commitment to the table. With strong ties between strong hearts, the path to lasting social change is begun and sustained.

My time as an activist has shown me that connecting to and keeping relationship with allies is an invaluable aspect of movement-building. For some years, I have tried to organize in my local community. Here lives a diverse array of strong-hearted activists with gifts that, while amazingly unique, serve to mutually support each others' efforts. There are herbalists, musicians, writers, environmentalists, socialists, feminists, gardeners, and political organizers, all of whom work towards a more sane and just society. The hope I've placed in the power of all of them coming together does pay off, though it is no small task to help guide the momentum into fruition.

A more immediately gratifying example of this has been my experience in working with the international social justice and environmental movement called Deep Green Resistance (DGR). For the year and a half that I've been involved with DGR, I have witnessed discipline, strategy, and character on the part of it's members that is deeply impressive. Further, I'm honored to work on the organization's staff, and as part of this being involved with the interviewing of many potential recruits. It has not been lost on me that, while most who want to join share the same basic goal of liberating the earth from industrial civilization, each brings wildly unique gifts to put to use along the way.

The background of activists within Deep Green Resistance varies as well. As the organization states, "DGR is made up of writers, community organizers, janitors, parents, grocery clerks, musicians, feminists, teachers, farmers, dishwashers, artists, caregivers, laborers, and students." While I often work with members on the basis of organization and projects, I am aware and in awe of the beautiful and dynamic lives each lead, of which their work in the movement is but one part.

Sometimes, I worry about losing connecting with these allies. My knowledge of the incredible possibilities of what we can make happen by working together carries with it also the truth that we could once again be separated and isolated from one another. Indeed, between working jobs to pay rent, raising children, and tending to personal hobbies, it can prove hard for some to find time for involvement in the activities of DGR.

So, I try to hold on tight. I ask, is it our communication tools that need adjusting? Are people being treated well? What should be done to retain them and engage them? Clearly, these questions can be overwhelming for one person to grapple with and rarely do answers emerge simply because they are summoned.

This yearning to keep intact the community is present every single day and enough so that I eventually began formulating a response that is at least partially adequate. I tell myself: Maybe, it's that people come for the fight, but really stay for the culture. The task of organizers then becomes creating a healthy culture of resistance for the fighters to live within.

Those who seek out Deep Green Resistance are usually not lacking in a will to fight, as one might guess by the movement's name. The explicit goal of DGR is to "deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet." This is not the place for those with feeble politics or weak wills. But, while DGR seems to offer a place for the warrior inside us, we must ask also if it is welcoming to loving human beings. Friendship is a cornerstone to any healthy community, and it will take these bonds, these strong ties, to do this intensive work alongside each other.

In the end, I cannot force anyone to stay in the movement, or to use their gifts in a particular way. I wouldn't want to, anyways. They will stay if they want; if the community is healthy and has the potential to really effect change, they likely will. So, I ask you, my comrades, what is it that makes this culture of love and rage, this tightly-knit community that can fight back against the dominant culture and win. How can we encourage this and turn it into reality? Throughout every day of doing this work, I will also ask myself these questions. As long as it takes.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Masculinity Is Not Revolutionary

Revolutionaries of many types maintain that resistance by any means necessary is required to stop momentous social injustice and environmental degradation. These activists recognize that those in power are the enemy and that the enemy will stop at nothing unless forced to do otherwise. Following this understanding, militancy is understood to be appropriate given the situation.

Applied appropriately, militancy is an approach to activism that pledges a steadfast dedication to physically intervene, when necessary, in the violation of living beings and the destruction of communities. This militancy is often rooted in healthy communal norms and an allegiance to the bodily integrity of all beings.

Applied inappropriately, militancy is a reinforcement of men’s machismo. It’s a too easy jump given the hallmark militarized psychology and violation imperative of masculinity. To learn more about why militancy is applied inappropriately, we have to talk about gender. 

Gender serves the purpose of arranging power between human beings based on their sex, categorizing them as feminine or masculine. In the succinct words of author and anti-porn activist Gail Dines, femininity can be characterized as an attitude of fuck me, while masculinity is an attitude of fuck you.

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.”1 Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”2

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm. 

This framework allows men the rebellious “fuck you” to be aimed not only at those who run the system, but anyone in their vicinity who has boundaries to be broken, power to be struggled for. It should be obvious that acting by any means necessary for justice is not the same as breaking boundaries of those you perceive as enemies, which, in the case of masculinity, means most everyone.

But, it’s not obvious. Thus, a group of male self-proclaimed radicals I once knew could tape a picture of a local woman who disagreed with their politics to the inside of a toilet bowl. Thus, levels of rape have seen a rise in anarchist circles and punk music scenes. Thus, most men in the culture continue to consume extremely debasing pornography and attempt to practice that type of sex on women in their lives. By any means necessary, to these men, ends with a particular sadistic self-fulfillment, one that is fueled by dangerous self-hatred. 

Given that most militant groups have taken this type of approach as a given, we must actively work to combat it in favor of a real politics of justice. The answer is feminism, which Andrea Dworkin defines as a war on masculinity. 

Alongside challenging systems of power such as racism, capitalism, and civilization, we need to learn to challenge male supremacy as well, including when it is found within facets of our activism. 

This is especially important in direct confrontations with power. Says Lierre Keith: “[W]e need to examine calls for violence through a feminist lens critical of norms of masculinity. Many militant groups are an excuse for men to wallow in the cheap thrill of the male ego unleashed from social constraints through bigger and better firepower: real men use guns.”3

To begin to reject this mentality, radical men should practice stepping aside while women assume roles in leadership. Masculinity needs challenging, which men must do themselves. However, men also need to learn to listen more, taking direction from the women around them and learning to be better allies. The world cannot handle any more broken boundaries; men have breached so many already, be they communal, biotic, or personal. We need a real culture of resistance, which includes an appropriate militancy. And, if anyone should be armed, it’s feminists.


1.       Jensen, Robert. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, p. 5.
2.       Keith, Lierre. “Why We Are Feminists: The Feminist Framework of DGR,” Deep Green Resistance movement Frequently Asked Questions page, http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/faq/dgr-a-feminist-organization/
3.       Keith, McBay, and Jensen. Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, p. 75.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Own New Leaves

My Own New Leaves: Personal reflections in April 2011

This collection of writing is a personal one. It was not easy to write. I wrote it mostly because I felt I had to, for myself. I’ve been holding in me manic inspiration and manic struggling for a long time and I’ve gotten too good at holding it all inside until I can’t anymore. I want to give these feelings away; share them and let go.

My life and who I am has changed so much. I’m always learning and growing, despite the periods of impossibility and defeat I face in between. I’d like to share now. As always my perspective is ever-shifting and where I’m at now as a person will be different than where I’ll be in the future; yet another reason why it’s important for me to put this writing out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: "Solar Storms" by Linda Hogan

A story both soulful and righteous, Solar Storms is the tale of clashing cultures; industrial and indigenous, sustainable and insatiable.

Author Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, begins the novel with Angel Wing, a young indigenous woman living in the city, long-ago disconnected with her family and people. Angel was abused and neglected as a baby by her mother and has grown up with the inevitable effects, including a tendency towards self-destruction.

This all changed, though, when Angel rejoined with her Grandmothers in a territory still held by the Native people called Adam’s Rib, a land of mostly women. There, Angel began to realize her true self—her humanity—and learned again an ancient way of relating to the land that had, until that point, been waiting inside of her to come forth.

Tragically, the inhabitants of Adam's Rib begin noticing that the fish are suffering, and the river along with them. They get word that the cause is construction of dams by Whites encroaching in a territory more North. This spurs Angel and her Grandmothers to travel by canoe on more than a week-long journey in hopes of finding a way to assist their fellow tribal communities in resisting the destruction of the land.

Upon arrival, it’s clear they have found the place of conflict and resistance. Native people had been organizing community meetings to discuss how to resist the dam-building, which would divert the river. Some construction of roads had already begun, evident by the dying natural communities who had once flourished in its fatal path.

Tulik, a man well known for having affinity and wisdom about medicinal plants, summed up his people’s attitude in a verbal response to outside corporations offering to bring in electricity: “What could be better than what we now have? We have food. We have animals. We grow our own garden. We have everything. For us, this is better than what you offer.”  Dora-Rouge, the eldest Grandmother of Angel, commented further: “We were happy before you came here. We treated the land well. We treated animals well. Our children wanted to live.”

Many activists and warriors descended on this area to help fight back. A plan of action was decided: The train tracks were to be blockaded. The action saw success and lasted for many days, predictably leading to the harassment of prominent activists, and eventually an armed stand-off between corporate forces—including their military arm, called the Police—and protesters.
Throughout this conflict, Angel had many important reflections on resistance and the traditional ways of her people which I think brilliantly sum up the urgent struggles that indigenous communities and the natural world are currently facing.

“For my people, the problem has always been this: that the only possibility of survival has been resistance. Not to strike back has meant certain loss and death. To strike back has also meant loss and death, only with a fighting chance.”   

Before civilization, she said, “we knew the languages of earth, water, and trees. We knew the rich darkness of creation. For tens of thousands of years we spoke with the animals and they spoke with us.”

“Those with the money, the investments, the city power, had no understanding of the destruction their decisions and wants and desires brought to the world. If they’d known what their decisions meant to our people, and if they continues with this building in spite of knowing, then they were evil. They were the cannibals who consumed human flesh, set fire to worlds the gods had loved and asked the humans to care for.”

In the end, the dams were stopped. But, this victory was not without struggle and loss; there were significant deaths of humans and non-humans which could not be reversed.

The lessons we can learn from this story should be obvious. The time to fight against dams, and other industrial projects, is not when the fish are completely dead and the rivers are dried up. The time is now. There are countless rivers in the world today struggling to survive in spite of countless life-choking dams. If any of us could muster even a fraction of the courage of the resisters in this book—or of traditional indigenous communities resisting such projects in reality today—there might be a real chance for defending what’s left of our landbases and seeing them flourish once again.

Reading this book made me feel more human and fulfilled the sacred task of all pieces of art and literature by inspiring me to continue fighting with all I have for the life of this beautiful planet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Report-Back from Feminist Anti-Pornography Conference, June 16th-19th

Pornography has hijacked our sexuality and makes billions of dollars each year by debasing and dehumanizing women. This was the reason that radical feminists from around the world gathered in San Diego, California from June 16th-19th for a conference and training put on by the activist group, Stop Porn Culture (SPC). I was honored to attend and left with a renewed sense of rage and determination to stop this ongoing war on women; and also a renewed sense of humanity after being welcomed into this struggle with such brave and wonderful people.

The first half of the conference was training in how to present a slideshow that SPC has made about the pornography industry, titled “Who Wants to Be a Porn Star?”, including how to answer common questions and challenges that anti-porn activists often receive.

Also in this time-span were various presentations about the history of radical feminism, screenings of related films, and a panel with men speaking on masculinity and pornography.

The last half of the conference felt more like a seminar, and was titled Contemporary Radical Feminism in the Age of Porn.”

As put by SPC, the goal of this section was “to rebuild a vibrant, radical, unapologetic feminist movement that energizes and mobilizes women and pro-feminist men into fighting the porn industry, and fighting for real liberation. Presentations will explore how to make radical feminism timely and relevant in the lives of young women, and how to build activist movements on the local, national and global level.” In my opinion, it was very much a success.

Dr. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, delivered a notable presentation with a title that speaks for itself: “From ‘the personal is political’ to ‘the personal is personal’: Neoliberalism and the Defanging of Feminism.” Gail spoke with eloquence and force about the necessity to move past the myth of individualism to real political movement that can fight for justice, and win.

In addition, conference attendees were honored to hear from two women who are survivors of prostitution speaking on a support network that they have created for other survivors. Another activist showed how the economic system of porn is all intertwined and essentially an empire. There was also a discussion of “Queer/Alternative porn” and how, in all its proclaimed uniqueness, it rests on the same eroticizing of domination and woman-hating that are the hallmarks of industrial pornography.

To end the conference, a panel of anti-porn feminist activists from various countries—Norway, Australia, U.K., U.S.—spoke to the various approaches that have been taken in combating sexual exploitation. Activists from Norway, who were part of a 30-year campaign that eventually led to the abolishing of prostitution in their country, led a brainstorming session on the next steps for action.

The horrors exposed throughout the conference were staggering: Over half of the women in the porn industry have been victims of incest; the most cruel, body-punishing, degrading pornography is the fastest growing genre; pornography is often used as a blueprint for rapists. The list could go on.

All of this is why pornography to me looks like the end of the world. The way ahead will involve many facets of struggle, including legal action, writing, and organizing. Feminists have been combating this industry for decades, and we must pick up the torch until our sisters are free and it’s impossible for the pornographers and pimps to exploit any longer.