Searching for the cracks in the wall.
This blog post is about my experience as a Bastard Child within the left. The splits and cracks that with the Divisive politics within the finnish scene, turn into reasons for fear, breaking The Smoothness of The Wall – The ‘Unity’ of a movement that has not yet learnt how to crawl.
We who exist in the splits and the cracks, are still growing and sharing our beauty ‘in spite’ – not ‘because’ of the scene. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is yet another of the chewing-gum mottos chanted by the members of a scene lacking diversity, sticking it together. ‘United we stand, divided we fall”. This was said by one person when I went to Sosiaalikeskus Satama to challenge the order of that place, once again trying to get my voice through.
So if I, and radical feminism need to be excluded in order for the sake of Unity. The question I ask is: Who are ‘we’? What kind of uni(formi?)ty is it that ‘we’ are looking for?
“How does it feel?” To be a radical feminist trying to bring visibility to the problems with sexism, organisational flaws, structural hierarchies, exclusion and lack of self-reflection within the Helsinki squatting scene. “How does it feel? How do I feel?”
Answer: Not so great. In fact, I feel small, and hated. I’m starting to believe in what most people are saying: “Give it up, it’s impossible.”
One feminist was going to the House Meeting to talk about how the place is ruled by sexism after her experiences with the Ladyfest in May this year, wanting to talk about rape and other sexist violence. Bring feminist issues on the house agenda. She told me at first when I asked her, feeling hesitant and insecure, if I would be welcome to go with her, that “sure” I could, and “fuck them” she doesn’t care if there would be people there disliking my presence.
Then she sent me an sms:
“Hi. I think it is better if u wont come to the meeting anyways.. It is just that i think it is important that they realize there are other concerned feminists as well.. I mean, people in the scene tend to ignore everything if u are involved. Because u fight and its visible 🙂 hope u understand my point! I just think other people than u should be responsible as well..”
I’ve been going through hell with this conflict, searching for support that comes and fades, there’s no unity around it, and I’ve entered this struggle with a naïve belief in humanity and reason. And the belief that “we are in this together”. That movements involving radical social change, would welcome change – or at least give up a corner in support for everybody to “do their own thing”, and not work against it.
I noticed I didn’t feel okay speaking with her on the phone about her decision, I was getting emotional, feeling the distrust – the same woman has given support some times before, been involved in a women’s separatist space in one squat before I got excluded, and after I got banned she entered another place spontaneously with four women together arm in arm, asking the people there to sign a petition for “freedom of speech for feminists” (or something such, it was last year, early summer, a sunny day, and we were like children playing a game).
And in Malmö, early autumn last year, when I did a naked demonstration at an alternative gathering there – at Utkanten – she was trying to get some of the “House” people involved in the Helsinki social centre project to join the discussion on sexism within the Helsinki squatting scene initiated by a german woman, pointing out the obvious, that there had been a direct action blatantly ignored, within this radical sphere – “So, let’s talk about it”. I had done my silent protest spontaneously, with a sign above my head saying something like: “Excluded from participating in Helsinki squatting activity”, while two persons from Helsinki were talking about how many people were involved in this, and how revolutionary the movement was. The woman from germany had been very sensitive and asked me before if it would be okay for her to announce a small group talk on sexism. I said yes, and there were three persons from Finland in that group, two from Turku, and one man from Helsinki, who came because she had heard a lot of negative things said about me from the squatting scene. But nobody directly related to the Helsinki squatting scene. The split was treated in the same way as it had been in Helsinki – I was ignored.
The woman talking to the Helsinki “House” people, had also made the suggestion to some of them that she could mediate (which they turned down). I, as the affected person, didn’t feel comfortable that she had done this without asking me how I would feel about that. There’s a lot of helplessness involved with getting my voice and rights to exist on an equal stand with others stripped away. I would like for there to be some sensitivity towards that. I hate being treated as some “issue” or a “subject” eternally discussed and talked about, but never someone who is talked with of what I’d like to do, or getting any insights passed on to me on what has been discussed or said about me.
Later in Helsinki, when I’ve been meeting with people and talking about nothing but the conflict, and trying to get any sort of support I could from anywhere, we had some talks, where she said she didn’t feel it was worth getting involved in the house politics. “They don’t listen. They won’t change”. And she would stay away from the house.
Later, in autumn last year, the issue of my exclusion once again came up, this time in the Ladyfest group, since it was decided to have most of the event there at the Social centre. It was the same kind of “let’s-not-talk-about-this” attitude facing me, a lot of persons attending that meeting being related to the squatting scene, and I was working hard on trying to prove that this is a political exclusion. Posting some of my story on the Ladyfest internet forum, going to meetings in spite of exhaustion and fear. Some of the attitudes changed. But I felt there’s not anything else for me in this world than this exclusion. I don’t have the social relations, where I’m welcome home to people’s parties or dinners or regular small talks. So, most of the occasions when I see people, I’ve had to talk about the conflict, if I would ever get a chance to get my own voice through the scrambled “Crazy She Devil” image that is projected on me within the squatting scene, cause people don’t join meetings, answer emails or phone calls on this exclusion. It’s considered to be my personal issue, or something personal for some un-identifiable house-figures, that for some reason should not be made to say who they are, or why they want me excluded. The most common reason for having me excluded has been: “People would leave”. Who or why has never been stated (the only exception is Micke Brunila, who sent an email to the mailing list, that one person on her own accord passed on to me, since the thing in it concerned me. Micke was talking about the shitty things that had happened between us, and showing sms and emails I had sent to her in my anger and bitter mad rage, when I finally understood the efforts this person had made to keep sexism and my exclusion “off topic”. She said that she didn’t trust me, and therefore would leave all radical politics behind if I was to enter the house.) Apart from Micke’s more specific examples of behavior and wordings that she felt uncomfortable with, there’s only vague statements made, making it clear that I’ve done something horribly bad, and I will never be able to unlearn this wicked badness that I have, whatever it is.
In the preparation of Ladyfest, at some point I made the decision to go elsewhere, leave Finland, go traveling for a while, get a away from the oppressive attitudes that I face within the Finnish scene. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for that I was about to enter yet another hell… Read more about that here.) I always had the feeling I was intruding, and annoying people by bringing my exclusion in there, as if it wasn’t “the right thing to do”. At one meeting, just before I was leaving for Hungary, I wanted to make sure that I would be welcomed at the Ladyfest event, and I wanted to know that it wouldn’t be forgotten, or that there would be some bureaucratic rule turned against me at the last moment (cause this has been the process throughout the exclusion – a process of desperately trying to find out how the system works, in order for me to get in direct contact with a House Meeting, speaking with my own voice. I learned gradually that the rules are set by the ones who do not wish for dialogue so all the efforts made would always lead straight into yet another dead end with a silent cold wall in front of me. This is how the system works for dissidents. The walls can take many different forms, it can be “Yes, what you say is very important”, a wall with a smile, saying “Yes, we will talk about this, but not right now” to evasive to aggressive violent walls. But they are always leading up to the same: Silence.)
I asked if someone could write to me and tell me the results of the meeting regarding me being in or out, during Ladyfest. I said it was important for me to get first hand information about this. The same woman who I’ve talked about before said she would do it. Only she forgot. Or just didn’t, for some reason.
When later, back in Finland, at another meeting, once again, me being this “one subject only” person, trying to get clarity in whether I would be able to participate in this or not, this woman came in at the meeting. I didn’t say anything. But I felt it. The questions inside of me: Why? Why didn’t she write to me?
At the small meeting, I asked if someone could be responsible for taking care of asking about these things at the House Meeting, how my participation in Ladyfest was supposed to look like. At first there was no response. One person started talking about another topic. I started crying. (And for some reason I felt like this was me, not being able to “control” myself, that it was something “bad”, there was no one there asking if I would like a hug, or a talk on the side, or anything else to feel better.) And I was trying to explain how I felt about this exclusion, and that it was important for me to know what the conditions for my participation would be – cause a green anarchist event had been advertised through Ladyfest, and there would be “Ladyfest” workshops during that weekend, but I wouldn’t be welcome there.
And there was different information coming out at the meeting, and the mailing list. Somewhere I had read that I would need to announce one week before when I was going to be in the house, and again terrified of how bureaucracy had been used to silence me, seeing horror pictures of how I would need stamps and papers in order to enter a workshop, or decide my every move weeks before in order to show where the “criminal” would be allowed to share common space designated for the “good” “non-excluded” people. “Milla will on Monday be at this space from 11 – 15” and then having someone there watching the minutes ticking away, making sure I would not be there one second longer than declared.
I’m also happy about the moments of solidarity. When a few women were writing a request to the house meeting on my participation in Ladyfest. Laughing at the macho-style and madness of the house. “”What good is it supposed to do, to have her out? What good would it do for the house? What is the purpose of the ban? Why can’t they state something clearly, so that they wouldn’t have to waste the time of the people preparing Ladyfest?”
Also having some of the things talked about, with persons within the Ladyfest group putting their names on a petition passed around, signed by “feminists of the squatting movement” saying that there’s no will for co-operation. In many cases it wasn’t even tried, some of them I’ve never spoken with. Just an email passed around to selected persons, that they then signed even though in at least two cases there were disagreements with some of the content of the letter. One woman had asked for some changes in the email, but next thing she knew, her name was on it, and there was never anything said about her concerns. And as I was trying to point out: There were grave factual mistakes in it as well. As there “being a platform to deal with the conflicts.” I still don’t understand how anybody is willing to sign such a thing without even having been part in trying to resolve the conflict?
So back to the woman and the sms. In a sense I understand her. It makes sense. “People don’t want to listen to you” so she chooses to put her efforts elsewhere. And at the same time I don’t get it at all. It’s the same as “Homosexuals shouldn’t have a right to adopt children, because the kids will get teased at school”. And then when standing there in front of a completed fact: There the kids are. And they’re bullied. Saying: “You’re on you’re own kiddo. Your case causes too much nuisance.” You’re so trashed and badly treated, silence and ignored, the hatred is violent and raw. And there I stand, mostly by myself: Cause who wants to be bullied? Who would like to share the stigma of the stubborn radical? Who would like to support the voice of the unwanted bastard child?
When entering Sosiaalikeskus Satama. Seeing scissors stabbed into the Ladyfest notice board. And a condom with a bit of air in it tied around a nail hammered into the frame of the board. I still feel the same: I do feel we can be powerful together. We could fly. It could be easy. If we don’t fall into the age old mistake of gliding over the differences within, but instead leave space for voices to be heard, for concerns to be spoken out loud, for hurtings to be known, and so they could be cared for and healed.
I know this goes head-on against the Finnish culture. But I would still like to know if there’s any interest in the Ladyfest group to learn from the splits we in spite of our whiteness, and mostly being Finnish and young have discovered within regarding (non-)gender identities and other political ideologies and (non-)identities. I would like to dedicate some time to talk it through. I heard some prejudice ideas expressed out loud about radical feminism, and I’m sure there were a lot of other prejudices, ignorance, and lack of sensitivity coming out of my mouth about a number of other things that others in the group are more sensitive to. I would like for there to be a moment where we could share all this.
I didn’t get involved in the organizing of Ladyfest in the way I wanted to. I was traumatized, had recently gone mad because of the madness of the conflict, and I was exhausted, and terrified, and scared, from the social centre conflict in particular and the Finnish scene and society in general. The differences that lead to “persona non grata” instead of deeper understanding within the social centre, the radical feminism that violently got silenced and separated from this project, with the support of other feminist voices, some like Riikka Kaihovaara who, after I got excluded, wrote on the mailing list of the social centre project about “my case” not being political or having anything to do with feminism or sexism, but instead, that my mailings to the list, had been the desperate cries for help by someone who she assumed had been facing sexualized violence sometime “way back in the past”, and therefor was like a “schizophrenic, ‘hearing voices’” a person in need of professional help, a person to be regarded and treated as mentally ill. (Something I find disturbing both in the sense that it puts people into the categories of sane/insane and also victim/activist, and also that she as a feminist openly dismisses my talk as “non-feminist” ‘crazy talk’.)
The full statement can be read here: Riikka Kaihovaara doing Kitchen Psychology
The same goes for the feminists who, a year later on, also supported the divisive politics by the social centre – instead of hearing me out in my criticism or supporting me in getting heard – they signed an email (that can be read here), stating that I claim “ownership” of feminism, and that there’s already been efforts made to solve the differences, and that I therefor was on my own. The same as the woman who sent the sms, was stating on the phone – not willing to cooperate with me. Not knowing how to. Even though I had asked her if she could mention my blog at the House Meeting, and also hand out my phone number to people who might be interested in getting to know more, or give support. I told her I’m in desperate need of support.
Later I called her back. She said that she forgot to mention my blog, and didn’t ask if anybody would like to have more information or would like to have my phone number. The conversation turned into something I perceived as hostile, in a sense that it was talked about as “my case” and as if there wouldn’t be a common interest in this exclusion. I got the impression that it was selfish of me to ask for support, and that it wasn’t related to sexism, or the house. Me asking for too much. Asking for something that I shouldn’t be asking for.
For me, as the person directly affected by this exclusion, and now 2 year exile (which I have no doubt would easily get an extension at the end of this period…) The beginning is always dialogue. A willingness to sit down, not only hear me out, but look for what can practically be done about the situation. Cause one thing I’ve learnt during this time, is that there will be plenty of voices agreeing with me in private, but very few who dare standing there next to me in public. I feel like a secret lover to the left movement. The politics that I do is the welcome “gossip” subject at any time, there can be warmth and smiles and stories shared, but turning it into a grandtime “men-spreading-their-legs-taking-space” kind of issue: Giving it the status of “Real Politics”, is something still sought for. Because we don’t hang those condoms there, or stab those scissors. In fact ‘we’ as a movement, don’t even talk about it as an intimidating environment for humans to exist within. Doing that could easily get a person the label of being “difficult”, “impossible” or even seen as someone “hearing voices” being “mentally ill”.
I’ve been labeled all these things. As well as, someone who shouldn’t speak, because in doing that, I will ‘prevent the issues from being talked about’. (That twist of logic, goes beyond, anything I can imagine, but this is really said, and thought, over and over again…)
Wish-list from the beauty growing in the crack:
I want to make politics out of how we: Organize
how ‘we’: Keep certain issues listed “Off Topic”
how ‘we’: Decide what there is Time & Space for (and what ‘we’ Don’t make time and space for)
how ‘we’: Just as within a cult, treat the politically dissident within as “divisive”, and instead of hearing us out (With the old time arguments of: “No Time No Space No Resources”), we’re cut off. Go mad, numb and kill ourselves. And if we’re not pushed out by the unspoken social mechanisms, the social status of ‘un-wanted’ can easily be made official by a dominant few – the ones setting the norm for the group; and the dominant majority – the silent bystanders: and eventually we leave.
To where? I don’t know yet. Haven’t gotten that far in my story.
But my question is: If not within the Ladyfest? If we are not able to do it there? Then where? When? With who?
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