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I wish… for #5.
Next edition of LoveKills check-list:
Simple definition of what sexism is (and what it isn’t) [plus discussions]
Simple definition of what consent is [plus discussions]
Anti-sexist structures / practice / awareness-raising including Power of Definition & Partiality
Structures for conflict-resolution, dealing with conflicts (collective and individual)
Alcohol, Party-policy…? (What is the camp for?)
Open space / General & regular meetings to self-organize (co-operate, co-ordinate) the camp, share [emotional, political] realities and connect/network, exchange knowledge (transparency – for instance: what needs to be done?, how is the camp organized?, who has different information?, what’s the money situation at the current moment?) [in other words possibility to change the camp according to the wishes and needs of the participants on a day to day basis]
Space to discuss and reflect on our roles in society / at camp. Space to give each other open positive-negative feedback.
Decision-making according to (some clearly stated, and structured, inclusive, and real) Consensus-model
I spent some time at a small anarchofeminist gathering in Romania [27.7 – 2.8] initiated by the LoveKills collective. In a country of about 20 million, where pictures of dictator Ceauşescu in 1989 was replaced by religious icons in the schools, and an anarchist movement predominantly circling around the punk scene (music, drinking, hating&fearing nazis), it’s a great thing that a handful of persons managed to find each other and make the efforts to create a space for other like-minded beings with similar needs to connect and interact with one another.
This is highly unusual. I sincerely hope the collective will find the strength and the will to learn from this years experiences and transform into something closer to its true form (fun, creative, energizing – it’s possible!) for next year(?). LoveKills has the potential of setting a trend that is needed within a scene – unfortunately still – recreating societal patriarchal norms, and lacking the tools (awareness; strategies; structures) to get into necessary self-reflection.
[I’m aware that there are as many experiences (diverse, different, alike) as there were participants.]
My subjective experience at the festival was the usual repressive traumatizing chaotic existence of an outspoken anarcha-radical feminist activist woman pointing out sexism. A strange psycho-drama of where I acted out exhausting repetitive explaining, crying, crazy – going unconscious and obnoxious – drinking, and dis-organized solitaire resistance.
At the camp we had at least two conflicts that in my mind could/should have been brought to general attention [how?!] in order to find hands-on practical solutions on how to practice the anti-sexist theory brought up in the many workshops. Instead it seemed to me that a lot of freedom-fighting individuals were losing well-needed energy and time that could have been spent connecting with one another, in order to repeat a message (respect, anti-sexism, solidarity, co-operation) to persons not ready or willing to take it in.
Conflict One: One male member of the collective was continuously drinking, and had authoritarian behaviors towards the rest of the group. As I understand it, this was discussed within the collective throughout the camp, without any real changes from the man. The conflict eventually led to a split. I hope it’s for the better.
I myself was disturbed by the ridiculing way she interrupted one member of the collective at a plenum where practical information about the camp was shared with the rest of the participants. One woman started to explain about the bathing,washing-place, that the water was in a large canister, and that there was a soap and a cup to take the water with – at this moment the man was saying “And then you take the water, and wash from left to right” – after which the woman continued with a tired expression, to explain that she actually had a point with this information, wanting to remind persons to be careful not to get soap in the water when dipping the cup into the canister. This was just one out of many unnecessary interruptions made in the same manner.
Conflict Two: Was a conflict regarding repression that I myself was facing at the event. This came out in a general bullying attitude expressed by a few individuals [with especially one woman having a particularly nasty attitude towards me], culminating with a situation involving the friend of the man from the collective, who was also practicing excessive consumption of alcohol at the camp (24 hour drinking, with sleeping breaks). This man had an open anti-feminist stand (as well as a few others attending the gathering), saying that feminists are ‘sexist’ against men. She was convinced after having a conversation with me, that I had been traumatized because of rape, and that I now hated men. At one occasion she woke me up at 7 o’clock in the morning, sitting on the bed where I was sleeping, trying to convince me in a very aggressive way, that I should sleep with her “like a teddy-bear” and that I was a hateful person for rejecting the suggestion. I offered the sofa to her, but she said that the backpacks on it were “too heavy to lift”, and when I got out of bed to put the bags on the floor, she was declaring “NO!” with a loud voice. She continued sitting on the bed in spite of me saying that I felt uncomfortable, and that she should go elsewhere. Both verbally as well as physically (she was untying her boots, taking them off) she was making it clear that she didn’t accept a no as an answer.
I kept repeating that I felt uncomfortable and that I wanted her to go away. That I have a right to set my own boundaries without being called man-hater or “not anarchist”. That she herself was the one with the hateful and disrespectful attitude. I also told her that I didn’t want to have this discussion with her now, when she was drunk, but that I would bring it up again with her at another moment.
Eventually the other woman sleeping in the room said that the man could take her bed. This was repeated many times. She went out into the kitchen to change her clothes (she had also stayed up drinking till early morning, and just gotten into bed).
After the woman had taken the bags off the sofa, lying down, still repeating “Go to bed. Go to sleep” it took about five minutes before the man went to the other bed to sleep. And this only after I had finally pulled my sleeping bag over my head, as a clear sign that I would not continue the discussion. [There are differing opinions for how long the situation continued. I say: 15-20 minutes. The woman said: 2 to 3 and later “okay maybe 5, max 10” minutes. The man: At first when I brought the situation up at a general meeting loudly declaring “it’s not true! One minute, not more!” later agreeing on that the situation could have even lasted up to 20 minutes.]
The repression [utter disrespect!] I was trying to deal with and repeatedly tried to bring up in spite of emotional exhaustion and insensitive ways of (some of) the persons trying to support, was very often dealt with as a ‘personal’ problem that I was ‘exaggerating’. The support was random and could switch from one moment to another, one woman – making a brilliant workshop on electricity – who had at first offered support in getting a meeting on this issue, changed her mind after hearing the stories of other persons, as well as listening to the guy telling her that she had already apologized to me [not true] and that she admitted that she had done a mistake [up for interpretation]. The woman who had first offered support was now instead telling me that she would feel used by me if she got a meeting together, and since there was nothing ‘sexual’ about the situation that I “exaggerated” what had happened and when I was showing sadness, beginning to cry, she said: “This is just what I mean, you just victimize yourself” – there seemed to be huge differences in how we define ‘sexism’ and what we define as ‘personal’ or ‘political’. Concepts like Power of Definition and Partiality were far from being general knowledge and practice in this space.
My days at the camp were mostly spent dealing with the negative consequences of this conflict, in being faced with ignorant damaging attitudes (for instance: the open denial of sexism) and also the lack of sensitive emotional and political support. My only way of dealing with the conflict was to endlessly repeat the story, over and over again, to see if I could find persons relating to my reality.
I lost a lot of energy trying to arrange meetings with the man to talk the situation through in spite of her unwillingness to deal with it.
I was exposed to listening to her story over and over again. She figuring I’m a man-hater, and that she had thought she could cure this by waking me up in the morning and coerce me into being her teddy-bear. As she described it: “Like overcoming arachnophobia” you put spiders on the arm of the person till they get used to it, and overcome their fear. It was an insult and offense having to listen to this sexist madness over and over again. In one of the discussions right at the end of the camp, we were about ten to thirteen people in a group talking about this issue. Apart from being drunk as usual, and standing right next to group taking a piss, and in the talk constantly interrupting everyone else speaking. She finally admitted that it was a mistake to assume that she could cure me this way. And yet: Still sticking with the assumption that I’m a sexist man-hater, in need of healing.
[when i spoke of domination, power imbalances, oppression existing at our camp, in our everyday interaction this man was stating that: “No there is no oppression, because we are amongst friends”.]
The repression of my politics really gets to an absurd level when I sit and listen to a man passionately declaring “i HATE sexism”, and with this meaning that I – a feminist activist woman, that she clearly has some phobia against – am a part of the problem and not the solution… And herself then being the anti-sexist hero, declaring that it’s shocking that we as anarchists do not share bed-space with anybody who so wishes, and even considers it to be an anti-sexist act to coerce others into physical intimacy.
At the camp there seemed to be a general unawareness of what sexism is, and the gender roles we perpetuate on a daily (every second, every minute) basis. The woman who slept in the same room was asking me if I would have reacted the same way if it was a woman and not a man waking me up. I tried to explain that I didn’t really know. It all depends on the specific situation. But that I would find it likely that I wouldn’t be okay with sharing bed-space with a person who previously had declared me “paranoid” “man-hater” “sexist” and being drunk 7 in the morning.
I forgot to ask her about herself walking into the kitchen changing clothes there. When we had been alone she had done it in the room. Was it a ‘sexist’ act of her to treat this man as ‘other’ and not change her clothes in front of the guy? (According to the logic used in the discussion group, I guess it would be seen that way. At least if I would have done it…)
A woman with experiences from separatist and queer space in Berlin was asking the man if she would behave the same way towards a man. The guy answered yes to that question, after which the woman came to the conclusion that this wasn’t an issue that had anything to do with sexism, since we both said we would have acted the same way even if the sex of the person would have been different.
Too bad it was a hypothetical question. I would have liked to know if the guy had asked to sleep close with any men at the camp, refusing to take rejection. As far as I know, this is not the case. Instead I got to hear that more women had been exposed to the same behavior as I had. The guy coming in drunk [and sexist] demanding to share sleeping space even though other space was pointed out (once again going “NO!”). She was even exposed to harsher rejections than mine. One woman had after the man refused the sofa, said that the guy wasn’t even welcome in the same room anymore.
Was this also perceived as ‘sexism’ towards the guy? [Political exclusion..?] A camp full of man-haters?
It was a camp with many levels of awareness, and few means (and little will) to communicate the differences without recreating an oppressive atmosphere for the ones with a greater consciousness (sensitivity) of these issues.
I hope the next camp will be different. Not so scared of conflict. Prepared for conflict.
Filed under: > Cunt Incognita |