Dumpster power

posted by Daniel

I spent the last 24 hours devising plans to get the live as freely as possible idea out in the open. I am talking about the basic material conditions at the moment. We had great dumpstering operations by a dozen people visiting markets and collecting food for redistribution and cooking. Salad, zucchini, eggplant, celery, carrot, paprika, raddish, orange, apple, lemon, cabbage, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, joghurt, kefir, burrito sauce, asparagus, cherry, strawberry to name just a few… i also spent the last 24 hours with cooking… 5 meals: 1. sour cabbage soup with carrots and brussel sprouts with a lot of curry and african spice mixes 2. broccoli, cabbage, carrot, paprika, onion, zucchini, eggplant, mushroom mix with curry rice 3. layed down eggplant with paprika slices 4. cucumber, zucchini salad with vinegar and burrito sauce 5. banana, chocolate pudding with cherries and apples… for approximately 15 people…

Hope to spread the message to bring fresh blood into our circulation both in the sense of infrastructure and participants. Mix up the still waters of the scene a little. We have this community kitchen since last week. Also a basement for storage. Still have to fix up the place, but at least it is there now. The idea with it is to visit groups personally, go to meetings – cause people just do not take the effort to reply to mails or anything – and say that you could have your own time and space for your issues, we can distribute your materials and give you infrastructure and everything. Let us collaborate. Lets make an inviting place together. First step NGO, green, feminist, whatever people. Second step libraries, buses, the street, general stores, markets, schools. Food concerns everybody. Especially free food. It is a medium to reach people aswell as sustainance. Example: poor gypsy people in our neighborhood can get food, but if they came to the kitchen to participate then they might meet “the feminists” and there were ideas for self-defence workshops for roma women. Lets try…

dumpstered package of love

dumpstered package of love

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When I love, I love – (getting over recent trauma)

by Milla

Me Tarzan - You Jane: Getting over the illusions of romantic love.

Me Tarzan - You Jane: Getting over the illusions of romantic love.

Daniel, Maxigas, Hajni, and Vlanto were involved in the same activities in Budapest with the Morze InfoShop and the Common Flat – anybody visiting the city would be welcome to come over to the infoshop, and if you visit the infoshop you can stay over at the common flat.

Visiting the InfoShop and related activity in Budapest was horrible. I got completely messed up by going there.

Before I went there, Maxigas had been sending this weird email to me saying that I “raped” her by openly saying that I want to meet ‘strong personalities’ at a meeting in Greece. We were sitting in a circle, a small group of people, saying where we come from and what we were doing there. She felt that she was excluded from this statement, and instead of talking with me about it, asking me what I had meant, she decided that I’m out on a quest for an “ubermensch unity” (whatever that means), and that she wouldn’t be included in this super-troop.

It was weird. I shared the letter with Daniel when she was visiting me in Finland. Kind of testing her. Would she see that it’s mad too? Or would she start defending the guy?

She thought it was weird too. So that was a relief.

This is an email exchange on the exclusion that Maxigas single-handedly decided and acted out towards a person bringing criticism to a mailing list she was admining. And this is where she calls me rapist. The reason for these feelings about me can be read pressing a link coming up later on in this post:

https://sosiaalikeskus.wordpress.com/read-this/about/about-exclusion-admin-rights-and-raper/

I don’t know. Sometimes I’m really easy. I don’t know why I fall in love, or why it’s easy to feel ‘connected’ with someone. And at the same time weak and insecure. And doubting myself. Sometimes even getting into fear. Fear of being used. Manipulated. Cause love is very often a power game. Not the healing caring and sharing it should be. Very often it’s not about equality and mutual good feelings, but about controlling and about who’s on top. Very often love is exploited, not valued. We are selfish and hurtful with each other. Start keeping the tenderness in, cause the first one showing ‘weakness’ has lost.

Having hearts and stars in your eyes – means that you’re a loser.

It was weird with Daniel here in Helsinki. Getting to know her. Being close with her. Moments of making out, and then moments of touching being awkward. Maybe it’s about trust. Not trusting. Not feeling safe. Not knowing how welcome I am. If I’m wanted.

Being hurt so many times. Living through so insanely oppressive moments. Being programmed by the system myself. So that when Daniel gets into macho bull-crap patterns, and says that “Okay, so no children.” As if making a mental memo, when I say I can’t imagine myself going through pregnancy. Or later when she’s making jokes about “invading” my space, when I told her about some other macho telling me that she wanted to “squat” my space.

It’s weird. Like falling for really idiot stuff like that. Being pulled in somehow. Instead of saying, “I like you, I’m interested in you, it feels nice talking with you.” Or something like that. Instead it’s this power game. Testing: Can I get? Can I take without really saying anything?

Stupid games.

I was in love. And working on myself, wondering how close I wanted to be, wondering how close she would be okay with having me. And I went to Budapest. It was spontaneous. I needed to leave Finland. Had been going through a hard time with the social centre conflict. And I had felt good with Daniel. There had been moments of real tenderness and caring.

I wrote to Hajni in Budapest about getting contacts. If she knew feminists or other nice people in the city. She’s ‘romantically’ involved with Daniel, and living with Maxigas (dunno about their relation).

Her reply was shocking the hell out of me. Totally dominant: Don’t come to Budapest, you will be banned by all the anarchists and activists – immediately. Don’t come to Hungary, go to some other country. If you come here you will split the scene. She told me I wasn’t welcome, that there would be a “1000 % consensus” on this. Basically threatening me with very unpleasant feelings if I would show up.

I just couldn’t believe it. I had heard that she had been excluded from a project herself, in a fairly nasty way, and thought that maybe she was projecting this fear on me. The letter seemed completely paranoid to me.

The full email exchange here:

https://sosiaalikeskus.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/feminists-in-budapest-magyar/

Maxigas had been moderating a mailing list, where she had kicked out a person who was coming with criticism, without giving any warning or clear explanation for why. I had been protesting against this unfair, dictatorial way of making decisions. And now when I was going to Budapest, I sent an email to both her and the person – Vlanto – who had been receiving most of the criticism, asking if I could meet with them, and talk about this exclusion.

Maxigas replied, saying that she didn’t want to see me, because she would be “uncomfortable” with me around. She was also informing me that she and Vlanto were going to do this open info event about the Greek riots. She told me I shouldn’t come, because she didn’t want to see me, and also that “Vlanto would go crazy”, if I would come.

Here’s this exchange. Plus the explanation for why she called me rapist:

https://sosiaalikeskus.wordpress.com/read-this/about/not-welcome-to-an-open-event/

Well. I went to Budapest. I met with some really nice people. Women and men fighting to get free from the gender system – people fighting oppression and oppressive behavior. And then I met with fairly nasty people as well. Like Daniel was insulting her ex-girlfriend the first evening I met with her. I didn’t react until later, telling both of them it was just plain wrong, the way Daniel had been behaving.

I also went to the Greek fire info event. The first thing Maxigas said when seeing me, was: “What are you doing here, I told you not to come.” After this there was an incredible discussion with me, Vlanto, Maxigas and some other persons. One woman was upset with the behavior displayed by Maxigas and Vlanto. Neither of them would give me a clear reason for why I wouldn’t be welcome there. Vlanto’s reason was that she would be “too nervous” if I was there. Both of them seemed to be in the full belief that they would have the right to have me agreeing to do whatever they wanted.

I got tired of the meaningless discussion, and said that I would walk out during the presentation, but only if it would be announced in the beginning of the event, that this was happening, and that there would be an opportunity to speak about it after the Greek presentation had been done.

Some people had been informed about the situation before. When I walked into the room, I was speaking with one man who was asking what’s up, and when I said that I would leave, she got fairly upset, but replied with a smile and “That’s sneaky, I like it!” when I said that I wouldn’t leave without informing everybody in the room of what was about to happen.

I was expecting to leave. But it turned out that two more persons found the situation unfair, and said they would leave as well, if I would go.

Then I used the moment to pressure Maxigas and Vlanto into joining a discussion about this exclusion after the talk, since the reasons for why I couldn’t be present hadn’t been stated to me. Maxigas agreed. When I turned to Vlanto, she was just saying that she didn’t like the violence I was “using” by existing in the same space as her, but that I could stay for the presentation. This way she got out of the tricky situation of having to explain her strange and authoritarian behavior in the small group talk afterwards.

Some of the spectacle got recorded:

https://sosiaalikeskus.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/political-exclusion-2-magyar/

Maxigas joined the group, since she had promised to do so. I was pretty badly affected by the bullying behavior, kind of stunned, so I didn’t do a good job on facilitating. We didn’t introduce ourselves to each other. And then the word was given to me. And I was talking, saying why I thought this thing had happened. And then there was a discussion between a man and a woman in the group. Many persons seemed to agree on that I was guilty for just existing “If Maxigas told you not to come, you shouldn’t have come.” The woman disagreed with this. And then time was up. And Maxigas had said nothing. Explained nothing. Just telling me that: “I told you couldn’t tell anybody about the stuff I wrote to you about ‘raping’ me. And still you did.”

The patriarchal system seems to be clear to her: Enjoy the abuse in silence – bitch.

It was a messed up situation. Figuring out a lot of different things. Being so totally absolutely denied any basic humanity. I was nothing. Go! Hang your head in shame!

I went into a completely obsessive behavior, trying to confront these people. Talking with a lot of people about what we could do. One woman had a key to the common flat, but said she wouldn’t go there because Hajni owns it, and she wouldn’t want to do something against her will. Also stating that “Maxigas and Hajni are good people.”

Most people seemed to agree on that they didn’t like Vlanto’s behavior in general. But nobody seemed to be talking with her about this. Instead it was used as an excuse for that it would be useless to talk with her about these things. “She’s crazy.”

Maxigas had said many times that she didn’t want to speak with me. So most people seemed to agree that it would be “hurting” and “violent” to ask her why she was treating me as a non-human.

I met Maxigas, and Hajni – for the first time – at an antifa demo. Maxigas was doing the usual, “I don’t want to speak with you”. Not even when I said that the stuff she had been sending me had been affecting badly and that there was sexism expressed in it, she said that she just didn’t want to talk with me. That she didn’t care. At first she said that the antifascist demo wasn’t a good moment to speak about these things, but when I offered her to arrange a meeting where she could ask somebody she feels safe with to join, in order for us to talk these things through, then she continued with the: “I don’t want to see you” argument.

The same with Hajni. Excuses, excuses. Saying that she “wasn’t involved in it” and that “she had already explained what she meant with the letter”. I was telling her that I still didn’t understand why she wrote this letter to me. And that I would like to hear it from her. Then she just looked at me with a cold look: “I have a sore throat”.

It was really hard for me. Trying to work out what I was feeling in relation to Daniel, and at the same time there was just really oppressive behavior from a lot of people that she’s chosen to surround herself with, directed towards me.

Daniel and another woman agreed on confronting Vlanto later on. We sat in the infoshop. Once again a poorly organized meeting. Vlanto was saying that I want “matriarchy”. That I’m a “Trotskyist”. That I’m not a radical feminist. That I’m a “neo-liberal feminist”. “The Enemy of Freedom”. And so on and so on. And that she didn’t exclude me because I’m a woman. I don’t remember whatelse. I’m glad there was a german man there, who was getting upset about the situation. Pointing out sexism here and there. I guess I was still just stunned. Numb. – “This is not happening.”

After all this misery, I met with Daniel and Hajni in Vienna. I used every moment I could to confront her. I lost my temper with her. She was saying that she wasn’t responsible for my exclusion. That it was about the people living together. That you have to respect what the others want. So, “if someone doesn’t want to live with white walls you don’t live with white walls.” I asked her if somebody doesn’t want to live with gypsies, then you don’t live with gypsies in the flat?

She was saying the name of a woman, saying that she’s a feminist and that she’s been visiting the flat. I was saying that just as in Hungary where the common prejudice is that there are the “good” gypsies who play music. And the rest, the “bad” ones who all do crime. And that I would then be the kind of feminist who just don’t happen to play music.

Daniel was present a few of these encounters. Just standing there. The same as she had when Maxigas and Vlanto had tried to exclude me in front of a room of 50 people. She did nothing.

It’s just weird. How much it can hurt. Talking about love. And justice. Fairness. And then it’s just there. Being stuck in patterns. We talked with Daniel about maybe meeting up, doing something. She said she’s with Hajni because she’s carrying her stuff around in her backpack.

It was weird. Like being this bullied kid. In Budapest being with Daniel in bed, and she saying she’s exhausted because she’s been having sex with Hajni. Saying that she can’t get me to speak with this person about her behavior towards me. But at the same time having sex with her.

And in Vienna. Daniel standing right next to Hajni and me. Hearing Hajni saying all these shitty ignorant things. And then me the bullied kid, standing there left alone. While she walks off carrying the books of the bully in her backpack.

Not really the “I invade your space” “and no children” ‘romantic’ ending.

Anyways. I’m 33 years-old, and I’m over the macho bullshit fairy tales.

I want the real thing. I want true love. Not fluffed up fantasies. Relations based on mutual respect. Freedom. A love that can make me heal. Support. Trust. A love that makes me feel safe. A love that can give me comfort. A love where it feels okay to give. Where hearts and stars don’t turn me into a loser.

Family is shit, home is where your head is

posted by Daniel

Back to Budapest. Feeling out of place, weird and sick… again. Seeing people i have a history with. A history of abuse. Back and forth… meaning both sides being perpetrators and victims the roles switch occasionally, but in their social content they stay the same. Received a warm welcome by (m) when coming back to the „common flat”. He said on the phone before that he would like to see me kinda implying that he missed me. When arriving at the flat he touched my shoulders gently and welcomed me by saying usual small talk things (hi/how are you). It is really hard to describe how i felt. First there is a stinging sensation of surprise which „blows up” into a warm, nice feeling spreading through my body. I am welcomed. People like and respect me. Then the waves go away and i feel a hurting emptiness. It is not a „bad” feeling. „Just” emptiness. Something deep that sucks in and then it is hard to emotionally react on anything. I know this feeling well. I experienced it to the fullest before. Sometimes it is so huge and consuming that i try to distract myself from it, but it doesnt work. Then i get drunk or take a big walk or whatever. I remember last october when Jenny died. First i didnt believe it…. i just openly lied to myself denying the fact. Then it slowly settled in that its true. I couldnt bare… was getting really drunk and annoying people, telling them off then sitting alone in my room. The only thing i remember is that (f) was coming into my room and tried to talk to me. I didnt remember what. Afterwards she said i just kept telling her i wished i was dead.

Well… i know i dont want to die… but i know that its still hard to exist with every strong feeling getting this emptiness attached to it as an emotional feedback. While im writing this im sitting at my grandmoms place. A place from where i always tried to escape. I just cannot talk to these people (grandmom, mom, sister). Every word they say literally hurts my ears and makes me want to slam my fist into the wall. People who damaged me for life. Then there is the common flat. Sitting at the dinner table trying to figure out what the hell im actually doing there. Feels like family. Left alternative family. Welcome home. Sit down. Have dinner with us. (Expect to have emotional rushes that are hard to endure.)

It is really hard to get out of this state of emptiness. I dont fully understand what makes it stop. I just know it well what is it like to live with it. Everything being against you. Everything perceived as an attack that incites anger, sorrow, ignorance blabla lot of bad feelings i hate.

I am well aware that i am a borderline personality. This is nothing new to me. Everybody has to live with their own shit and try to work on it, but the problem is that the „me” is a social me. I am myself and my social relations. Its not that i can do whatever i want or i can be simply helped or i can simply help myself. It is utterly complicated. I hope this makes sense to people reading it. Going to stop now. 😛

The system – and me (personal)

by Milla

The cultural patterns that we are so used to, that we don't even notice them.

Take a seat on to the cultural patterns that we are so used to, that we don't even notice.

Some weeks ago I went to get a pizza with my friend. We sat down. And there it was in front of me: The System.

We were sitting in a local rundown bar / pizzeria, in a booth, and the seats were covered with a friendly colorful pattern. Animals.  Pretty soon it started bothering me. It was a religious theme. Noah’s ark, from the bible. The guy seeing how everything is going to hell, a big flood coming, and decides to save us all by building a big boat. On the boat is the whole animal Kingdom (…Patriarchy). In pairs. Male and female.

The heterosexual couple relationship propaganda that I see in romantic films (such as Pretty Woman, where a woman prostituting herself finds love in the guy who buys her for sex), and fairy tails (the Prince kissing a dead Snow White or a Sleeping Beauty) – the same relations later turned pornography – the one who is active who fucks, and the one who is passive, submissive, gets fucked, violently, and takes it with a smile, saying “I like what you do to me.” “Give me more.” “Harder.” (It’s called acting, but still everybody thinks that “Really – they want it.”)

So there it was in front of me. Talking with my friend, having a horrible head-ache from coffee. We were talking about living space, paying rent for a room or a flat, how it not only ties us up economically, but also isolates us, and binds us to certain areas and in those areas we get into habits (like drinking at the local pub). Getting a used car would both provide enough safety – always knowing that there’s a place to sleep – and also mobility, being able to move between different areas and cities, or countries. — So. — I interrupted her when I saw the clouds. There it was clearly stated, the heterosexual bipolar gender-patterns. The “either: ‘Male’ or ‘Female’“, and “‘opposites’ attract” system. An ideology passed on through the fabric we were seated on.

There were two clouds in the pattern, and they were Blue and Pink. And even the Fish (who wouldn’t need to be saved from any flood) were in pairs.

Segregation: Pink and Blue

We know that the pink cloud is female, from the big eyes, big lips, big eye-lashes, and small nose.

Noah saving the Animal Kingdom

The guy Noah saving Patriarchy.

There’s even two stars there – “together”. The sun and the moon by themselves. But most of us have some idea of these being opposites and still belonging together. The sun (male) representing light and life, while the moon (female) is darkness and evil.

After watching this for a while and trying to cure my head-ache by drinking lots of water, I visited the bathroom. Someone shouted something at me, about going to the wrong place.

I took my whiz, and then I went to the bar to get some more water, and the bartender told me that I had gone to the “wrong” bathroom, and that it might upset the guests. I said “I know.” She said “It was a mistake.” I said: “No, I just went to the toilet. A hole in the ground.”

A woman came up to me once I sat down by the table again. Asked me if I understood the system. Thought that maybe I come from a country where there’s the same toilet for everyone. I said that I understood the system, and that I’m totally against it. Segregation in order to create a difference in our minds. Messing with our heads and hearts. But that I also can understand why women would like to have a toilet by ourselves, as long as men don’t sit down to pee, leaving it all nasty and smelly and dirty without any consideration for who comes next.

I asked my friend for her phone, where there’s a camera, to take pictures of the seats and the toilet sign.

Stand up for your rights! Sit down for your piss!

Stand up for your rights! Sit down for your piss!

We continued talking, and then I asked her for the camera again, saying: “Could I, please?” She understood me differently. Looking at me with an “Oh, well…” kind of look, handing me a 5 euro bill. She thought I was asking for money to have a beer.

I guess this is where the personal part of this post comes in. The drinking that I do. At that specific moment it wasn’t on my mind. But the habit and the place made her think of the most obvious… Milla wants to drink… She understanding me in this way really says a lot of how I live my life.

Not cool at all.

Toilet sign for revolutionairies.

Toilet sign for revolutionairies.

It’s heavy – depression (sexism, racism)

by Milla

Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Anger. Sadness. Depression: the trick of being here, and still not.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Anger. Sadness. Depression: the trick of being here, and still not.

It’s heavy. To have been living with a conflict for so long. Every waking hour belongs to it. A life-style. Explain, explain, explain. A neverending repetition of the evil shitty things that have been done to me – over and over – cause nobody understands, nobody sees this as political. I get angry, sad. Mad.

It’s: Eat, shit, sleep, conflict. Drawing lines: “Come here – Back off – Stay away – Okay, try to get closer? Talk?”. Wondering what people are thinking. Understanding how sexism works better and better. How everybody wants to turn this into an ‘individual’ problem, and that I’m ‘selfish’ and ‘demanding’ for wanting to deal with this highly unjust and sexist exclusion. As if supporting me in being heard would not do common good, but only be something that would benefit me as an individual. It seems to be that a sexist exclusion is okay, if you don’t happen to like the individual. There’s no protection, if you’re not popular.

I had a chat with Ronja on this blog, about her voting me out, but she dropped the conversation. I heard that she brought up aggressive behavior, that Sony has been directing her way – that she talked about it at a house meeting at the social centre, and that, once again, it was treated as something she should deal with all by herself. Something between the two of them. I heard that she was thinking of not going to the social centre anymore because of Sony. Someone asked me if I could talk with her, said she was in need of support. I told openly that I can’t do that, until Ronja has taken accountability for her own actions towards me – until she’s willing to talk about her wanting me out. I feel she avoids the issue all the time. Not willing to sort it out. Not willing to explain her lack of solidarity.

I get angry in not getting support. I feel an infinite sadness in getting ignored. And a part of me feels nasty, and gets me thinking that now she can taste her own medicine. Now she can try out what it feels like. Deal with it by yourself.

I don’t think she would make the connection between male aggression towards me as a woman and male aggression towards her as a woman, and the non-supportive atmosphere. Maybe she blames herself for it. The same way she blames me for being treated like nothing. Sub-human. Woman. Not being listened to or cared for.

The betrayals and deception have cut deep. The non-solidarity has shook me, hit me, beat me up and left me trashed and bleeding, many times over. I seem to be walking around as a living dead most of the time. Autistic, unable to feel connection with others. Aggression turned inwards. Depression.

Eat, sleep, shit. Conflict. Waking up with no joy.

That’s what it’s like at the moment. I stay inside. Try to rest. Get some things written that I didn’t take time for doing before.

Today I felt okay for a while when I managed to educate myself on my own racism. I can draw a lot of parallels to my own oppression – makes it easier for me to recognize my own supremacist thinking and behavior:

Click on the following links to see the rest:

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible 2

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible 3

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible 4

Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible 5

I heard that the woman who got hit at the Ladyfest punk gig, had been using the n-word towards the person who hit her. Apparently justifying it with that there are other persons she knows that ‘feel okay’ with her addressing them in this way. She didn’t support the power of definition of the person she had called Nigger.

She’s been writing on the Punk in Finland Forum that it felt a lot worse getting beaten by the person exposed to her verbal assault, than “any Nazi”.

Someone said that her group of friends had been making ‘sieg heil’ salutes as a way of “joking” and “having fun” earlier on, at the same event where the racist name-calling occurred.

I had been speaking with the guy who got exposed to racism, earlier that same evening. We were looking at the standard T-shirt prints of the social centre. Sosiaalikeskus Satama, with a military, camouflage feel to it – a font with heavy, block-like letters that seemed to be cracking. And the classic: FUCK AUTHORITY“.

We were talking of how much negative input there is in these “teen-angst” -expressions that by now have turned into a straight-jacket subculture to conform to. No individuality. The man was suggesting alternatives like: “Love authority, maybe they will love you back.”

On the other hand – maybe it’s time to kick back at some point, with racism and sexism constantly in your face, and zero recognition of the problem. In fact: Total denial, whenever the subject is brought up. As one person had written to me in an email: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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If you wish to check out Punk in Finland, feel free to click on the link below. Many seem to have a really negative feeling about this site – saying that they feel ill reading it; that it’s completely fascist. I’ve never read it myself.

http://punkinfinlandnet.virtual29.nebula.fi/

The Punk in Finland discussion Forum infamous for bigotted comments.

The Punk in Finland discussion Forum is infamous for bigotted comments. In the picture - Note how the people on the lookout are passing out from drinking. A ship sailing aimlessly. Destination? - I would say: Going Nowhere.

Participatory strategies 1 – EL-Fem gathering in Vienna, Austria

by Cunt Incognita (Fotze in Vienna, 1400 km from Helsinki)

The left without feminism is not left at all.

A left without feminism is not left at all.

For more information about the gathering, click here: http://www.european-left.org/nc/english/positions/working_groups/el_fem/detail/zurueck/el-women-network/artikel/a-left-without-feminism-is-not-left-1/

The feminist section of the European Left had a separatist, women only, networking event in Vienna-Austria, March 20-22. 2009. The criticism that came up in the feedback round on the morning of the third and last day was in short:

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. .  Academic language

. .  Non-participatory

. .  Hierarchic

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The feedback round started with some encouraging self-reflection from one of the organizers – talking of how she, a white native Austrian woman, had spent a lot of time and energy on finding an immigrant woman to speak of the problems regarding immigration and women at the congress. And how she now realized that this is the same type of tokenism that men do, when they invite a woman to speak of women-related issues, but at the same time do nothing in order to create real co-operation and connection with feminists and integrate women in their networks on women’s own terms.

Important criticism had come up already on the second day when a young 18-year-old woman of color was pointing out that the conference was most likely made for women who are white, middle-aged, and middle-class. She was expressing hopes of becoming a politician some day – “maybe 10 or 15 years from now” – but at the present time, she felt prevented to participate since it was difficult to understand what was being discussed at the congress.

Most of the conference had been structured in a hierarchic, non-participatory way, with a few women giving long keynote speeches, mostly using an exclusionary academic language, followed by a few minutes where a handful of “experts” from the “audience” were having an argumentative dialogue with the panel.

In one workshop taking place in the afternoon of the second day, we were a small group of four (white, fairly young, thirty-something?) women from Austria, Finland and Greece – two from the party, and two autonomous – who started talking of the possibility of using alternative, more inclusive structures.

One suggestion mentioned was to scrap the podium and sit in a circle (which we actually did at the congress, so that was nicely done by the organizers).

Another thing stressed, important for groups in general, was rotation of roles and responsibilities, so as not to end up with static hierarchies.

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Other concrete Suggestions on Participatory Structure:

Starting a congress: Do a game or exercise together. This creates a common, shared experience and makes the feeling more inclusive.

Examples of games – 1.Everybody walks around in the space, first slowly, and then faster, and then more slowly again. The “group-feel” is tried out. Without giving instructions the group increases and decreases speed by itself. The different tempos being – Slow – Fast – Slow – Stop. After coming to a stop or “freezing” the group slowly starts moving again.

2. A game that increases trust. Half of the people have their eyes closed hands reached out. The other half, with their eyes open, lead the others around the space. (Either palm to palm, as if standing in front of a mirror, with a gentle indication guiding the other; or holding the other by the wrists. Whatever people feel comfortable with.) After leading a short while a signal can be given, to switch partners. The ones with their eyes closed are left standing with their hands reached out, until somebody else comes and guides them in moving around. You can dance or run or crawl or just walk around slowly. Change partners sometimes. And then you switch so the ones who were being guided, lead and vice versa.

Short games can also be done in the breaks. To increase energy. Also massage and relaxing exercises are possible. (Well anything you want basically.)

WHY ARE WE HERE (this way we can all get our wishes and needs included in the agenda):

Get into smaller groups of 5-7 where you can say what you want from the congress. (Try to split into groups where you don’t already know each other) The groups make a short sum-up presented in the big group.

PANEL (Suggestion 1)

  • Short Input (for instance 15 minutes. The Facilitator either passing on an object – like a flower – or standing up when 3 minutes are left. And a second flower when time is up, or standing up and remaining standing, until the speaker finishes).

  • Collect questions from the audience. Let the speaker answer. Then next speaker gets 15 minutes.

  • After all the speakers have had their turn to give input. The people listening get into smaller groups of maybe 3 or 4 persons, where they collect questions again. Then the questions are presented, and the audience is first asked to give replies. If the persons in the panel have something to add afterwards, they can also say something.

PANEL (Suggestion 2)

  • Keynotes are kept short, after which the participants get into smaller working groups (topic suggested and facilitated by the keynote speakers. Also open space to create own topic by all participants). Short summaries of the conversations are shared with the larger group.

WORKSHOPS

  • The person facilitating the workshop presents the topic, and structure of the workshop (if there is any). Then a short round, where everybody says 2-3 sentences on what they want from the workshop. After which it’s possible to either split into smaller affinity groups (temporarily or during the whole workshop). Try to get the needs and wishes of all participants included.

  • After the workshop. Have a short feedback round. (What was good, not good, possible improvements etc?)

NOTE: The word “audience” is not good to use, better to say “participants”…

For more info on facilitation check: http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/

About the workshop. 21.3.2009: The initiative to the workshop was taken by a woman who had had good experiences with organizing the Solidarity Economy conference in Vienna this February.

For more info on this conference, click here: http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.at/

She wanted to talk about new collective forms of organizing and coming together, with less hierarchical, less violent interaction. Trying to not only look at what doesn’t work, but at the things that actually function. How to create what we want, in Small groups, Larger groups, Society.

She mentioned: Lottocracy, Demarchy, Participatory budget. Participatory budgeting started in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, in order to even out social inequalities regarding living standards. It was said that about 400 cities around the world have adopted the same method.

Practical examples of solidarity economics from Greece were fair-trade collectives importing coffee beans from the Zapatistas, coming through Germany, and Italy. There’s a store in Exarchia, Athens, starting with a group of people being tired of how the system works, wanting a trade that is fair for the producers, going beyond making profit. The sales go to paying the rent, the rest is returned to the Zapatista communities. Within the group it’s been easy to sort out who was going to be in the store in the morning and evening. As the group got bigger, they formed smaller groups. Import is taken care of in different parts of Greece. In the store there’s a bazaar or freeshop also taken care of by a smaller group. By working in groups they managed to organize it better. The sales have been spreading to bookshops, bio-stores, and feminist and anti-racist festivals.

[during the talk it was mentioned that the women in Chiapas have banned the use of alcohol in the Zapatista communities.

From the Revolutionary Laws of Zapatista Women, 1996: Number 8 … “The sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in our towns and communities is strictly prohibited because we are those who suffer most the bruises, poverty and misery as a consequence of this vice.”

The full text can be found at the end of this article: http://www.ibiblio.org/prism/Mar97/zapatista.html

And another text about the struggle of Zapatista women: http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/auto/sp_zw.html]

In Greece, the women in the countryside have in the last five years started to take advantage of the European union, forming collectives in the villages, selling marmelade, pasta, sweets. Their economy is based on tourism from abroad and Athens (nearly a third of the Greek population live in the capital city).

Another collective non-hierarchic form of organizing mentioned was feminist self-defense.

More about this, here: http://www.myspace.com/feminist_sister

After talking some about sharing cleaning and childcare more equally by cutting the paid work hours (but not the pay! It was said that “part time” is not a catchy phrase, since it indicates lower salary – it’s better to talk about less hours), for everybody.

At some point we moved on to talking about how the conference and the left parties are organized. It was said that parties are a mirror of society, and that you need to struggle for the radical options.

It was said that the last 35-40 years had seen a change from an activist type of feminism into a more theoretic form. It’s good to have a theoretical background to act. And at the same time academics & feminism could be compared with the problem of sorting out messy hair.

If somebody has a huge messy hair. You don’t take a complicated brush to sort it out. You take a simple large-spaced comb.

If starting solving problems that come with tradition – such as patriarchy – and the lack of public space for women. It shouldn’t have to be so that somebody who speaks about feminism needs to have years of knowledge. In solidarity economics, the knowledge and the power is passed on to the non-specialists.

It was said that the same stance as within the European social forum – where politics is not kept as a matter of specialists – would be desirable for the El-fem forums. Politics is not for the experts to deal with (like the 18-year old saying that she hopefully would be a politician in 10 years). It should be made more inclusive. Now.

The form creates the idea of that you need to be an expert. Form should follow function – as in modern architecture. At the conference the form ended up covering the whole function.

It was said that we started off with the accustoms that we are used to in the parties. That we are used to these forms of assemblies. Plenaries where only 5-10 people are talking. We need new, more inclusive forms of working in our assemblies and our parties. [and: the same goes for autonomous groups and gatherings…]

Other things mentioned: Feminism shouldn’t be a theme of women only. And at the same time separatism was talked of as an important tool for people facing the same type of discrimination and oppression. This way it makes it easier to identify what’s wrong and find common strategies. Two women in the group regretted that a man who had shown interest in coming in to listen to the Frigga Haug lecture on the first evening of the congress, had been turned away. They were saying that if someone is showing interest, then why should they not be welcome. But seemed to change their mind in this particular case, when I shared the information I had gotten on that Haug is fairly popular in Austria, and that there are plenty of opportunities to get to hear her speak, in fact, she had been speaking at another open event the same week. I had also heard that the man was known for trying to get into separatist events because of thinking that feminism is cool. I was comparing this type of behavior to trying to get into some other oppressed groups meetings, when there has been a clear statement on who could attend. I wouldn’t dream of going to a meeting dealing with racism, or disability as a person facing white, able-bodied privilege in this society if I were told that the space wasn’t for me.

I also mentioned the existence of separatist groups for men wanting and dedicated to dealing with male privilege. It shouldn’t be the work of women to educate men.

[one example of a separatist men’s group is Stop Male Violence in Hungary. A lot of good publications can be found on their website:

http://www.stop-ferfieroszak.hu/home.html

Check this text out, to get a clue of common male domination techniques:

http://www.stop-ferfieroszak.hu/news/57/52.html]

Another thing that came up was the need for dealing with old hurtings and wounds within the groups-gatherings-and-meetings. At the plenary there seemed to be some emotional exchanges that could be related to previous conflicts. It would be nice to find ways of dealing with that. How to resolve conflicts?

Collective strategies 2 – Ladyfest Hki (Sexism)

by Milla

squattheworld

One way of making open spaces more accessible and safe for other than hyper-masculinity, is to make one day of the week for women-lesbian-trans only. Revoltosa in Barcelona-Spain, and Utkanten in Malmö-Sweden have adopted Thursdays for this purpose.

So. A group of four, ended up talking about how to create safer spaces, on the last day of Ladyfest. We had a fairly short talk, sharing a general discontent and disappointment with the (punk, squatting, anarchist, activist, fill-in-autonomous-whatever…) scene. It was said that we function like a cult; a statement coming from a person with experiences of the covering up of incestual abuse within Jehova’s Witnesses in order not to smudge the public image of the sect. I can definitely see the same pattern within the activist community. We are the ‘good’ ones, and all the ‘bad’ in society can be found outside the social centre walls (or whatever imaginary boundary set up between ‘us, different’ and the ‘other, normal’ people). And that’s the end of it. If someone starts criticising within, you can expect to be persecuted for your belief in that we live in a free world and that everything can be talked about. Within the scene – silence is golden. And talking equals social-personal-political exclusion.

The same person bringing up the comparison with a cult was also pointing out the problematics with believing in sorting things out by ourselves without bringing in state-authority, such as police, and at the same time lacking an alternative, which leads to a space where ‘criminal minded’ spirits act freely without fear of repression or repercussions. (Or any other alternative healing methods that could be used in order to stop the violence between us.)

Most of the people I talked with, visiting the social centre for the first time, shared the same feeling of that the place isn’t inviting. It’s kind of scary, with all the tags. At the top of the entry door someone has written “anal sex = respect”. And it’s untidy, disorganized, dirty. There’s no clear place to find information, and you need to be pretty brave to go inside a space like this and ask for information yourself if you’ve never set foot in this kind of environment before.

It was said that Ladyfest could have been done in a different space, a space that would have been specifically for this event, where not so much other activity would be going on at the same time. The hyper-masculine expressions within the house – men with beer cans giving up loud burps, or men sparring with each other in the gym – was a disruption in the nice flow that came up in the workshops taking place around the house. I didn’t feel safe there.

One person talked about the punk scene specifically and her disappointment with that. Saying that the Ladyfest punk gig, didn’t have a ‘Ladyfest feel’ to it. It felt like the normal thing: Tall men standing in front of the band, making it difficult to see. Men taking space in the mosh pit, and making it not feel safe to explore own expressions of aggression in fear of ending up in the way of a man acting out without caring for what’s going on in her surroundings. It was appreciated that some women were making an effort to clear out the men taking space on the dance floor though, making an effort to create space for women to take the space we so seldom are allowed to take.

I heard many stories of violence from the persons frequenting the space on a regular basis. And during the Ladyfest punk gig on friday evening, there were several occasions of unsafe atmosphere created, that we should find ways to deal with. One strategy of ending endless talks leading no-where in order to get persons who’ve violated the physical integrity of others, to leave in order to create a safer space (a common problem at parties and gigs is that female bodies are being touched and groped without permission, with no care or consideration whatsoever for the person’s feelings, wishes and needs) – one thing could be to have a deal with the people working in the place to turn the lights on and the music off until the problem is resolved, and sharing this information at the beginning of the evening, at the entry, or before the gig starts: “Come to the bar if you’re having a problem, that you’d like to get support in sorting out”. This way there would be a collective responsibility behind creating a good atmosphere for everyone, and the person harassed (as well as the people supportive in making the space safer for her by removing the perpetrator) wouldn’t have to live with the frustrating prejudice shaming and blaming put on them by the friends supporting the perspective of the perpetrator, claiming that supporting the affected person is the same as ‘spoiling the party’ by ‘complaining’ and ‘not understanding good fun’, ‘making unnecessary attacking accusations’ because ‘this is a nice guy’. This way the perpetrator (plus friends) would get a clear signal that it’s not okay to do whatever they please without the consent of the other, and that they indeed are responsible for killing the spirit of the party – time to go home, sleep it out; or already start talking it out with some friends who are willing to give some supportive honest feedback on what behavior is wanted or not, and why.

At the Ladyfest gig, a band member was standing bent over to role up some cables when all of a sudden she feels that someone’s grabbing her waist and pressing their crotch against her bottom. At first thinking it’s someone she knows, but when seeing the shoes, immediately turning around and whacking the un-known offender. It’s a guy called Paavo. Apparently the ‘friend of everybody – A nice guy’. The woman had a hard time fending Paavo off. She was screaming for her to back off, she was pushing. But Paavo kept ignoring her and stepping back into her space.

I was sitting upstairs, backstage, this evening, and got to hear about this directly from the affected person. She said she was in total shock. Shaking. She made a call to her girlfriend in Sweden to get some sensible support. Downstairs the friends of Paavo had just been laughing at the situation, saying that she shouldn’t take it so seriously and that the situation is “funny” since “Paavo is gay”. As if a person’s sexual orientation would give them diplomatic immunity to touch, or as in Paavo’s case – play-fuck; play-rape – any person they feel like, cause they don’t “mean anything with it – it’s a joke”.

The woman upstairs was saying that the only positive thing she could find in the situation was that “at least the guy didn’t rape me”. The only comforting words coming from myself and the Finnish sisters was – well, “this is what it’s like in Finland”.

The evening continued with plenty of persons taking turns in confronting Paavo, and Paavo in her turn – saying “sorry” or; hiding behind friends, or; saying “but, I’m gay!” or; getting aggressive, or; denying anything had happened, or; saying “fucking feminists”; all the time refusing to leave.

I myself ended up being a part of the collective energy being wasted. After hours of talk and many women making efforts to make the space safer for the affected woman, I was looking outside the window and seeing the guy sitting there by the fire in front of the house, and hearing a band member, looking up from the yard, speaking to the women backstage with a hopeless tone of voice “It’s impossible, all her friends are just defending the guy”, and after this, in frustration walking up and smacking Paavo, saying “You won. We are leaving now, because of you”.

I admit. I lost it. I was just shouting out the window that I couldn’t believe that the guy was still here – and me being a perfect stranger to this person, and the guy being drunk and in general un-educated on issues like sexism, it’s not a very effective strategy to approach her and start shouting her down, asking “Do you understand, what you’ve done? Can you explain it to me?” and “You have violated the physical integrity of another person, and you need to leave. You don’t get to decide the physical boundaries of other persons. It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or not – this space isn’t safe to her when you’re here.”

I realize that me doing that, with a loud voice, could have been unpleasant and violent to persons standing around. Still – I don’t think the reactions I got from the surroundings was fair.

It was really the general Finnish drama. The situation felt completely surreal to me. At one point one woman was pointing at another man and asking why we were ‘picking on her friend Paavo’ when the man over there had hit her. As if there’s a competition in who is the most patriarchal and sexist and violent and abusive, and that this person then gets to carry the actions of ‘the lesser evil ones’ and walk away with all the bad feelings, and all the rest can stay and continue enjoying the party.

After a while, some men started gathering around and saying “Milla, you can’t do this” and “Milla, you see why you’re banned” and “Milla, I don’t like you – you want matriarchy”. And comments, mentioning ‘feminists’ in a muttering, negative way.

To me it’s clear that there’s a general negative attitude against feminism within the scene, and low awareness on what sexism is.

One of the things mentioned in the four-person-working-group this sunday, was that it would be good to have more visibility. Safety and recognition can be created with banners, such as: “Sexism free space”. And also posters in the toilets with information on what consent is. Leaflets and flyers. This is a way to raise awareness in spite of the unwillingness within the scene to join in on workshops or discussions on these ‘non-hot’ topics. I was mentioning stickers I had seen in Vienna, with photos of a fleshy woman, taken from a lower angle. She’s standing wearing a bra. Black ski-mask. A large knife in her hand. A text saying something about: Rapist, watch out. Or something like that. It would be nice with these kind of images around in order to break with the current standard idea of how a woman who simply does not agree or has a will of her own is perceived as ‘insane’ or ‘aggressive’ or ‘lacking a sense of humor’, and consequently gets – ignored.

These kind of banners, posters, leaflets, flyers and stickers would be good to have in large quantities in spaces such as the social centre, since this type of material is prone to be destroyed or tampered with. In the house, only the Ladyfest posters had been tagged on, other posters were left untouched. One woman had also brought a notice board for information about the Ladyfest to the house during the week, and the day after, someone had attached a fake program to the board, and another note saying something about not wanting to sponsor hippie shit with their money. One of the papers had been attached to the board by stabbing a pair of scissors into it.

This type of male aggression is normal and accepted in the house. A woman saying no – is not. A woman asking for collective support – is considered to be a burden for the community. If she can’t, won’t or refuses to deal with it by herself – she will be kicked out. Unless as in many cases – she chooses to exclude herself to avoid the negativity towards her.

Another thing coming up in a three-person-group, intensive 20 minute continuation of the workshop, was the need for a start. The need for a beginning of some sort in organizing, and discussing strategies within our groups, on how to deal with the problems we all know all too well by now.

I suggested having a meeting, for only talking strategy, according to the model that some women came up with during the Autonomous Feminist gathering in Vienna this April. To not overcrowd a meeting with workshops from morning till night, but instead create space for getting deeper into the discussions. Stop avoiding problems and conflicting points of view, and use methods to share what we think and feel without getting on a competitive war path. Get into a consensual feel and look for solutions comfortable for us all. Try to understand each other, and where we come from.

The suggestion coming up in Vienna was to have a gathering where there would be time for workshops in the morning – maybe even focusing on doing practical stuff, moving around, not just talk! And then picking perhaps four topics, or four strands, that we discuss and develop during several days in the afternoons and evenings. Sum ups of the discussions shared with everyone at the end of the day, making it possible for all to jump in between groups and topics. This way we would be able to leave the meeting with something more than just fond memories. We would be able to come up with common strategies for our common needs.

I suggested that we for the few groups here in Finland, could use a method where we first try to map the different ideas and problems, writing them down on pieces of paper, and then cluster them together in groups – after which we start focusing on finding solutions and strategies. This would make the process more constructive – moving us further, not only talking about the problems and having endless complaining sessions about how shitty the scene is, but start thinking about concrete actions that we could try out, learn from, and develop.

Could we make this possible in Finland? Are we ready for this? Are we enough who have had enough by now?

AUSTRALIA

Enough is enough. It's time for something different.

Another thing that came up in the sunday talk was, the importance of supporting the affected person in her power of definition:

*** Power of definition: The affected person has the right to define
what is to be considered as a violation of their boundaries. They have
a right to define a situation as oppressive according to how they’ve
experienced it. The person regarded as the affected person is the one
who, considering structural power relations, is in the oppressed
position and who, additionally, considers themselves an affected
person.
*** Partiality:  Partiality means positioning oneself with the
affected person and supporting their power of definition.

Examples of supremacist expressions:
1 —- “Can’t you have any fun?”
2 —- “That wasn’t meant to be sexist/racist/homophobic…you are too sensitive”
3 —- “Let’s not overreact.”
4 —- “Now you’re violating my boundaries when you jump all over me
like that, just because I was a little…”

Examples of objective structural power positions:

privilege: Human, Adult, Man, White, Hetero, Meat-eater
oppressed: Non-human animal, Child, Woman, Non-white, Non-hetero, Vegan

There is no space where these hierarchies are not in action.
There are spaces where there exists structures for working against
these hierarchies (not just words, but practice and actions). And
these spaces are more comfortable to move around in, for persons
belonging to the oppressed groups. (These spaces are usually more
caring in general, more humane. So they are also beneficial for the
persons in privileged positions. We all need to feel love.)

ABOUT PRIVILEGE: one benefit of belonging to a privileged group is the
total lack of looking at the behavior of that group in any critical
way. or having any recognition of the privileges that come with being
treated as a member of this group. the mainstream is perceived as
“normal”. the point of view of the oppressed is not seen as real. or
even sometimes perceived as a threat or a boundary-violation of the
privileged. privileged behavior can more easily be explained as >>
lack of empathy.