from milla ahola to firstname.lastname@example.org
date Tue, Jan 22, 2008 at 12:24 PM
Helsinki squat-movement anti-SEXISM (international call for solidarity)
This is a call for solidarity and at the same time a massive BIG WARM heart-throb for all the humans struggling with the all too common everyday every-minute every-second oppression known as: SEXISM.
We are still at a level where it’s not even seen as something that
REALLY NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH, and there’s a constant vilification and ridicule of the ones trying to say “we have a problem, and i think i know what we can do in order to make things better”…
I have been a critical voice. Trying to raise awareness on invisible
power-structures, and putting focus on the fact that the principles of
the squatting-movement in Helsinki – No sexism, No homophobia, No
racism – has yet not been put into practice.
At the physical places I’ve faced:
Unwanted sexually aggressive come-ons.
Told that I should shut up, because “when men speak, women are quiet”, and that I deserve to die because of speaking.
Hearing men call their female partners bitch and whore,
without any deeper reflections on why this might be wrong.
Having so called “progressive” men put H&M posters (commercials with passive sexually “willing” women) on the wall and making sexist and antisemitic “jokes”, stating that, “you can’t take everything so
seriously, you need to have some fun as well.”
Men watching pornographic films.
When speaking of the CONSTANT confrontation with sexism, that it means for me being at the squat, and how EXHAUSTING this is for me, I’ve been told that “it’s not true”. Apparently I get treated badly not because I am a woman or a feminist or because there’s a problem with sexism at the house. I’m being treated badly because I’m a “cold hearted asshole”.
and the analysis on the mailing list related to the physical places are not getting any deeper…
When trying to open a discussion on sexism, I’ve been called crazy,
fanatic, puritanistic, fundamentalist, aggressive and so on…
And lately when confronting the moderator of the list, asking why he
chose to call some comments by a man “not in particular sexist”. –>
The man was stating that I lack a sense of humour and that he hates
feminists but loves “women and girls”, and apparently if I could just
“learn when to shut up” I could also manage to “get laid”. (A statement that I can not interpret in any other way than that “a REAL woman shuts up and spreads her legs.”)
I asked the moderator for help on calling these comments sexist, and
also to get help with telling the same man (and several others) to
stop sending me private emails. To this I got no response whatsoever, and the next time I came with criticism on the list, the moderator signed me off. Telling me I lack a sense of proportions and that I have a “mental state” and that he should have signed me off the list a long time ago. That I’ve been using the list for my own “private
personal therapy”. And that he was not going to answer any of my
questions on why he didn’t respond to my request for help, but that I
instead should – “now that I was no longer on a mailing list where he
was administrator” – leave him alone (not talk to, avoid when meeting in person) because I’m oppressive and dominating.
The local community seems to have a difficulty in waking up, so this
is why I turn to the international one (And I also chose to do this,
because of this possibly being a great opportunity to break the ice,
for having these issues recognized as POLITICAL ISSUES, and not just “personal conflicts”)
the website of this scene: www.valtaus.org
and feel free to write: sosiaalikeskushki(at)gmail.com
or send letters, comments of protest/solidarity directly to me:
so i can post them on the blog (where i still have not been kicked out from).
ANOTHER SCENE IS POSSIBLE!
[PGA_Europe_resistance] a slightly different view on the issue of sexism in helsinki
This is an answer to the accusations of sexism in the Helsinki squatting scene. I’m white and male so I hope those reading this remember I write from a position of privilege. Since me and milla are to my account almost the only ones from the Finnish squatting scene on this list I feel obliged to answer her accusations. Even if this is not supposed to be a forum for internal struggles of local scenes I and many, many others have spent so much time and energy on the squatting scene in Helsinki that I really need to give a slightly alternative account of the story. This is a completely subjective version based on my personal experiences. I know many people
have experienced the whole situation vastly differently from both me and milla.
For starters I would like to agree with Milla on the general point:
Blatant sexism and dominant behaviour is a problem in the Helsinki
squatting scene, precisely as it is in the rest of society and several
other squats around Europe, where several people meet in the very intimate process of actually living and/or building a community together.
The current wave of squatting in Helsinki started about a year ago. The people involved were quite few and the initial target was a quite small building. As the summer passed and we experienced several evictions and answered with actions also the amount of people involved grew rapidly and in August a large (1000m2) building in Elimäenkatu 15 was squatted.
Negotiations were initiated with the city but neither water, heat or (most of the time) electricity was provided.
Even though the scene grew a lot in Elimäenkatu and several really good things happened the whole autumn was in my account quite chaotic. A lot of energy went into the negotiations and the continous uncertainty (in Finland squatters have no rights what so ever) of keeping the house kept several projects (infoshop, café etc.) on hold. My own experience of Elimäenkatu was that the atmosphere was often very tense and a lot of internal conflicts occured in the house itself. This was not a situation that was produced on purpose but more a lasting disagreement on several issues (sexism among others) that prevented any creative resolution of conflicts in combination with the tough pressure from outside (the city, the police, random idiots, critics, neighboring major cellphone company Sonera).
Most of the people, including me, are quite young and unexperienced in both meeting practices and antiauthoritarian activities in general. To finance the project we held a lot of parties which were not always fully under control. With many people coming and going, keeping up continuity in meetings and setting up common rules became a challenge that we didn’t succeed in topling well enough. With almost no tradition in feminisim, antiauthoritarian practise etc and people living in a house that was full of parties all the time things were said and done that I personally wish woudn’t have happened. The positive side was that a lot of good political events (and some good parties) were arranged and a lot of people had positive experiences in an alternative environment that wouldn’t have stumbled upon it otherwise. There were good days and there were bad days.
On a principal level Elimäenkatu was committed to antisexism, -racism and heterosexism. In practice there were no mechanisms to solve internal problems or prevent oppressive behaviour. A lot of shitty things happened without people noticing, caring or interfering. Some of it (the H&m posters or people watching pornography for example) can be accounted to lack of control but not all of it. Milla listed maybe the most blatant of them that have come to my attention. The only pracitcal antisexism i recall was a womens separatistic room that milla and some other women ran and people acting violently or oppressively being thrown out of gigs and banned from the house occasionally plus endless debates on the issue in
house meetings. In my experience the meetings and political events mainly went without any major problems in this regard, with both women and men speaking and facilitating etc (with some exceptions of course)
Elimäenkatu was emptied in December and now we are completely without a house. There are no places whatsoever to gather and we are struggling with keeping up continuity. The scene depends only on people wanting to be involved for ideals, since there is no regular, weekly scene activity like infoshops, peoples kitchens, squat bars, cafes etc. This requires that we dare discuss internal problems and create a tolerant atmosphere. This idea of open discussion is something i feel milla has promoted very much and often quite well. But lately I feel that the only way milla has been pointing out lacking antisexism etc. is by telling the rest of the people involved that we are sexists and that she can’t stand us. Although there is a lot to be done I really feel that this negative approach is breaking people down and many aren’t even willing to listen to milla, because they feel she is only expressing we aren’t good and pure enough and she has all
the answers. Even if sending an international solidarity call could be
seen as necessary critique I think the primary effect will be that people feel all our efforts for something different are being overshadowed by our difficulties to keep things together and people will feel they aren’t doing enough, leaving the scene because they aren’t sufficiently “pure” antisexists.
Since Elimäenkatu was emptied some meassures have been taken to solve internal conflicts. The project has now clearly stated principles and a conflict resolution group is working on mechanisms to solve internal conflicts and get a more secure atmosphere in future squats. This process is only in the beginning and of course suffering some from the lack of gathering spaces to actually implement them and continuity and loosing recourses to the concrete squatting actions.
Milla has not been seen in house meetings or squats since Elimäenkatu was emptied and all of her examples are to my knowledge from there, so i take it for granted that her experiences are based on the time she spent in that house. We are now much more than before trying to change things from sloganeering to practice (from stating no sexism to actually resolving conflicts in a structured manner) but it doesn’t seem to happen in the pace milla wants. On the other hand people have said very unacceptable things to her during the fall so i understand she is suffering.
Although I myself would wish for a stronger emphasis on antisexism in the project, and I share most of views milla has presented on what sexism is and how to get rid of it, I don’t like her recent way of stigmatizing not only individuals but the whole scene – it only makes people defensive and exhausted. Most of the people involved – male, female or other – don’t share all of her views and she has had severe disagreements with many people involved in the project and local radical and queer feminists. This in itself is of course no reason for exclusion nor does it decrease her credibility. But Milla doesn’t in my experience seem too fond of the helsinki squatting scene itself but more the possibilites it offers for her personal antisexist agenda. Nor does she seem to be especially attached to the people involved in it. As a matter of fact I haven’t heard her utter a single positive word on the project or heard her express that it would be a collective experience, at least in any other sence that we are responsible for solving (sexism-related) conflicts together.
I think that the struggle milla is waging incredibly important. But i
think it is counterproductive if she enters an environment pointing out how everybody is lacking never expressing that we are in it together, only pointing out the flaws of others, how they are not pure enough.
Since milla only seems to get very negative experiences from our project and most people (all I’ve spoken too and of all genders) in the project aren’t ready or willing to promote for her definition of antisexism i wonder why she just doesn’t find a group of likeminded people and make a (separatist?) squat with them. This would in my mind be the best way to really challenge the current scene to change to the better, instead of driving it to the verge of break down.
As I said in the beginning I’m sorry for posting this here and I hope it
does not cause a debate or flood this specific list even though it needs to be discussed. This is just a second account of the helsinki scene and everybody reading it can feel free to make up their mind about the matter in contrast to the earlier message from milla. Our struggle continues and I hope milla continues here own agenda either amongst us, after some major discussions, or then finds other people to work with, who are more suitable for her ends.
squatter, profeminist and socialized to be male