Community Justice & Accountability

Community Justice and Accountability

“I don’t see this as a war against dudes.  If I did, your house would be on fire”

Prior to the implementation of transformative justice models, community justice meant either activists were rarely held accountable for their actions or were ousted from the community.  Activists tend to be transient and when asked to leave, they could simply move to another city and become a part of a new community.  “If we bought everyone who ever fucked up a one way bus ticket to Nebraska, the scene would get real small real fast.  And it wouldn’t be very fun for the folks in Omaha” (Thoughts).

Within current activist subcultures issues concerning gender and sexuality have become points of contention.  New forms of community-based safety and justice are being implemented within activist networks to address sexism, racism, homophobia and other prejudices.  Specifically transformative justice models and safer space policies are becoming more widely used.  Discussion of these policies has become prevalent at events and meetings, in zines, emails, and blog posts.  Divisions in response have resulted in partial splintering of community and further dismissal of self identified women and queer people’s frustrations. 

Though sexism and related abuse and violence occur, as a community there is a reluctance to use the state or police as a source of justice.  The government is argued to perpetuate violence and injustice, “systematically target and brutalize communities of color, radical and queer communities and immigrants,” and is therefore unsafe (Erinyen).  Even if the police are engaged, our criminal justice system does not recognize the myriad of forms of abuse or the needs of the survivor.  Instead, activists subcultures are relying on solidarity and community to hold members accountable for their actions.

These subcultures are striving to create stable and safer anarchist communities within a perpetually changing network and terrain of power.  The recognition of gender based inequalities, and whether or not they warrant community action, have forced a reexamination of activism and the role of community.  …. the development of these community justice strategies, their implementation, and the community response.

Self-identified women and queer anarchists are constructing unique alternative frameworks to shape their daily practices.  Social justice, and more specifically gender identity and sexuality, are reflected in these acts.  The relationships cultivated have allowed for the development of integrated support systems and organized accountability.  Self identified female and queer activists are particularly supportive of transformative justice policies and amid the debates are being compelled to re examine definitions of ‘abuse’ and ‘community.’

Safer Spaces

Safer space policies are the primary method of preventing or addressing harm as it occurs.  Safer spaces are those where strategies are in place to ensure physical spaces are ‘safer’ from sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of ideological and physical violence.  Once a space is designated ‘safer,’ it is theoretically safe for the entire community to attend.  The policy is communicated in event publicity, such as facebook and fliers, posters at the entry and on the walls of the space, written in event programs or hand outs, and announcements during the event.  If the policy is violated, both the individual and the community are regarded as injured.

In addition to addressing abuses that have already occurred, safer space policies are being implemented as a form of preventative community and transformative justice.  Safer spaces are the application of policies to ensure spaces are ‘safer’ from sexism, racism, homophobia, abilism, and other forms of ideological and physical violence.  Safer spaces can be maintained in many locations frequented by activists, though notable exceptions are businesses and academic spaces.  These policies also help to facilitate requests for specific individuals who are avoiding or currently being held accountable to not attend. 

Though all people in the space are involved in maintaining the safety of a space, there are specific point people dedicated to the task.  These people are usually identifiable by way of matching shirts or arm bands and possibly sitting behind an information table.  If the safer space policy is violated, they first listen to the account of the person harmed and immediately insure their safety, sometimes by the violator being asked to leave the space.  The harmed individual is then asked what course of action they would like to have taken to restore their safety and the safety of the community is accessed.  This typically means a brief mediation, with point people assigned to both parties.  Because the policy is based in community understanding, force is rarely necessary in the removal of safer space violators.  Annual community-wide events, such as the NYC Anarchist Book Fair, have established policies, included a written copy in the program, and collaborated with safer space groups for enforcement.  Though not the same community, overlap with the Occupy Wall Street movement has lead to the development of a safer space group, support group, and a working ‘community agreement.’

When a safer space policy is in place it is marked in a number of ways.  There are usually posters at the entry of the event, it is marked on the fliers or programs for events, and if a music show announcements are made between bands.  Though the entire community is involved in maintaining the safety of a space, there are typically specific point people dedicated to the task.  These point people might be sitting behind a table, wearing particular t shirts or arm bands.  If these policies are violated, there is brief mediation and the violator is asked to leave the space, in some cases by force.  The following is the safer space policy of the 5th Annual NYC Anarchist Book Fair:

“If you experience harassment, abuse, assault, or any other kind of violation while at the event, or if someone who has engaged in such behavior is adversely affecting your participation, or for any other reason you need support, please come to a volunteer.  There are trained and experienced advocates and support people available to address these issues.

This policy is instated in recognition and rejection of rape culture as the status quo.  Rape culture is that in which sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence are condoned, excused and even encouraged.  Rape culture is part of a broader culture of violence, wherein people are socialized to inhabit different positions in hierarchical relationships, to commodify their fellow human beings, and to relate to each other through violence and coercion.  Rape culture is rooted in broader systems of oppression – such as patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, homophobia, and colonialism- and is not seperable from them in how and why it is perpetuated, experienced, and dealt with.

We strive to be survivor centric and survivor oriented.  When a decision needs to be made to give ‘benefit of the doubt’ to a someone who has engaged in abusive behavior or support a survivor, the preference will be to support the survivor.

If you are asked to leave the book fair in accordance with this policy, please do so immediately.  If you wish to discuss the reason for the decision, an appointment can be made to do so after the event.”

Other activist groups have readily adopted these policies.  The QUORUM Forum (Queers Organizing for Radical Unity and Mobilization) included a two page statement in the forum program addressing “Community, Empowerment and Respect” as well as “Preferred Gender Pronouns” and contact information.  Though held in a number of geographic spaces, the program states “This is a space for learning, sharing, exploring and celebrating and not a space for violence on any level.”

While a number of different types of spaces can be made ‘safer,’ academic institutions have unique complications and limits.  Because school spaces are partially state funded and have a location in larger bureaucratic, government, and capitalistic power structures, institutional authority is defined by these structures.  The legal/illegal dichotomy issued by the state determine how these schools define danger, threat, and safety.  Upon entering a campus we are made aware of this by security guards, surveillance cameras, sign in policies, and identification cards.  When a physically unsafe situation arises, such as a parent showing up at office hours or a student following a professor, most schools’ guidelines involve immediately contacting security and the police.

The much more complex and frequent need of safer spaces to address subtle, non physical microaggressions is not recognized by the government and is usually vaguely written and not enforced in college handbooks.  While our attempts at prefigurative politics seem intuitive to us, they are a part of our activist culture and seen as unorthodox by many outside of our socializing and organizing circles.  In my classroom I try to make time for discussing safer space policies and incorporate them into my syllabus, but enforcement requires recognizing the need for social justice and cultivating a sense of community in the classroom, all of which must happen in 1 1/2 hours two times a week.    

Much of this difficulty arises from the lack of organizational support on campuses.  This work requires dedicated people, circulating throughout the academic community, informing and enforcing safer space policies.  For example, my abusive ex partner attended a protest at my university.  While they were not supposed to be there as per our community agreement, there was no one else present to speak with them.  After I asked them to leave, there was no one to follow through when they did not leave.  If I had approached one of the campus based organizers I would have had to explain safer space policies, my abuse history, and our current agreement.  At the same event, when some of the direct action turned violent and a person was injured, one of the perpetrators of the violence immediately sent an email out to the anarchist listserv acknowledging his role in the violence, apologizing, and offering to be held accountable.  Though to note, he was holding himself accountable within the activist community and not to the academic community or through academic forms of communication.

Transformative / Restorative Justice

Transformative justice models are being used to address harm after it has been committed and are based in the possibility of transformation for the abuser.  [The dichotomies of right and wrong are dismantled, or as one zine contends “we all have the capacity to fuck up majorly…the only way stuff is really going to get any different is to call each other on shit and then learn how to do it better the next time around” (Erinyen).  By addressing the harm and changing behaviors, activists can be held accountable to one another and the community.]  All individuals harm one another and the abuser can be redeemed. “They believe in helping each other figure shit out, that we all fuck up sometimes and we all have the capacity to fuck up majorly, especially having been raised in this sick and twisted environment they call civilization.  That the only way stuff is really going to get any different is to call each other on shit and then learn how to do it better the next time around” (Erinyen).  Because all activists were socialized into “hierarchical, capitalist society” activist attempts to apply ideology to lived experience are understood to be experimental and faulted, requiring the community to “work together,” (We ) to help those who “want support and are interested in changing themselves and/or situation” (Thoughts).

Unlike state justice, transformative justice centers on the needs of the survivor.  First, the survivor of abuse identifies or ‘calls out’ the abuse.  The definition of abuse is broadened and redefined as “the mistreatment of someone that causes harm,” (Brainscan) instances “where people’s boundaries are violated” (Learning).  This can include forms of sexual abuse or the “utilization of sex as a weapon” including “assaulting of ‘sexual parts,’ accusations of cheating, FORCED participation or watching pornography, ignoring safe words” (Unowho).  Unlike the criminal justice system, transformative justice also recognizes emotional abuse, the “[p]rojection of power in order to demean or cause harm,” (Unowho) or “coercion to get someone to do something against their will or better judgment (Brainscan).

Within activism identifying abuse is particularly difficult both because it manifests differently in the context of activism and it means acknowledging abuse by a person thought to be politically virtuous.  Abuse is frequently discussed as unanticipated due to common lifestyles and passions; “[h]is politics were honorable and he presented himself and his ethics as accessible and they seemed to mesh so well with mine on the surface” (Brainscan).  Another theme is the survivor of abuse being used to advance the political work of the abuser, dedicating “pieces of [themselves]…to someone else’s cause” (Brainscan).  In one well known case, a survivor talks about her ex husband “using [her] own politics against [her],” manipulating her into changing sexual and consumption practices to please his politics.  “What do you do when your private image of your partner doesn’t fit their public image, or even clashes with it?  What do you do when calling you partner out means showing your vulnerability and weakness that seems contrary to you own public image?” (Brainscan).

When identified by a survivor, evidence or corroboration of harm is not required to begin a process.  The binary of victim and assailant is broken down, as one zine is in part titled “We are all survivors.  We are all perpetrators.”  Singular truth is questioned and instead the experience of those involved is validated.  “No one should ever be forced to defend what he or she feels, least of all someone who has survived a violation of his or her boundaries.  Regardless of ‘what really happened,’ a person’s experience is his or hers alone” (We).  Having been socialized into state influenced culture this can be a difficult adjustment; however, some activists draw parallels to the more traditional topic of class inequality.  “When you hear about striking workers, you don’t ask for proof of the boss’s wrongs – you instead ask how to best support the workers” (And)

In addition to being accountable to the survivor, the abuser is held accountable to the community.  In many cases this means informing the community about the abusive acts and how the abuser is addressing the problem.  Acts of abuse to an individual are seen as abuse to the community as a whole.  The abuser must take responsibility and solidarity restored before they are brought back into activist projects.  “Being accountable to your actions and your community means owning your mistakes and working hard to restore trust.  This trust goes beyond partners or potential dates.  It exists among friends, housemates, comrades, and folks with whom you do organizing work and activism” (Learning).

Once the survivor has labeled abuse they then determine how they feel the abuser can be accountable to them as well as the community, which varies greatly depending upon the situation and relationship.  On occasion this has meant physically violent action against the abuser, such as beating him up.  There was a recent incident whereby the survivor carried out physical harm to her abuser and she faced considerable backlash from the community.  Though transformative justice organizations advise against this, ultimately the survivor determines what will happen.  “ If they want street justice to be done to the assaulter, that is their choice also.  Just be supportive, and don’t make assumptions” (Said).

Most often transformative models are used with the attempt to bring the abuser back into the fold through forms of mediation.  Both the survivor and the abuser are encouraged to have their own support teams.  For the abuser, the support is general moral support but does not condone their actions.  “Emotional support is as necessary as anything else anarchists are doing.  We cannot accomplish anything unless we are stable, and this requires the compassion and support of others” (Lilith).  These support teams can then take charge of communication and the survivor will not need to be in contact with her abuser or his support group.  Various zines have been written as guides through this process, listing steps for the survivor, possible pitfalls, and tips for support teams.  A “Survivor’s Rights & Responsibilities” checklist is typically given to the survivor.  This list includes a right to “feel angry, hurt, sad, loving, or forgiving of my perpetrator(s)”, “speak about my abuse”, “confront perpetrators and those who have participated in violations and abuses,” “love and be loved”.  Responsibilities include “take care of myself,” “reflect on the ways abuse has affected me,” “form healthy relationships,” “survive my history, circumstances, and violations” (Lara). 

Once in mediation, the abuser beings regular meetings with a group, often members of a mediation or transformative justice organization.  This group reads and discusses sexist behaviors, particularly in the context of what the abuser has done and their own histories with abuse and violence.  They are also typically the ones to inform the abuser of the survivor’s requests.  The duration of these meetings differs from situation to situation, but there are mediation groups that have been meeting with the same abuser for over two years.

Accountability requests of the survivor vary depending upon the circumstances.  Some common requests are for the abuser not to attend particular events or go to particular spaces, to begin therapy, to return objects or discontinue drinking and seek support for alcoholism.  These meetings with a mediation team sometimes leads to the abuser writing a letter to the survivor or community, taking responsibility for their actions.  This letter goes through a number of drafts with the mediating group and this can be a way of accessing the progress of the transformation of the abuser.  The survivor determines if such a letter is written, if it is posted online, sent to people, and/or copies made available at events.  The following is an excerpt of an accountability letter that was circulated throughout one community:

“My ex- partner had to constantly worry about what she might say or do that would provoke me to threaten her own, my own, or both of our physical safety – especially anything critical of me as I often acted out when I felt negatively about myself.  It coerced her with the burden of having to satisfy my feelings.

Physical abuse was present from early on in our relationship, but I escalated to much more violent behavior in the last two years of our relationship 2005 – 2007, being increasingly abusive as the relationship went on.

I would consistently:

– break things around her, including punching through the window of our room

  • grab her violently
  • scream at her
  • smother her

I also:

  • hit her
  • shoved and tripped her
  • pushed her down stairs”

Resistance to Community Justice

In some cases the abuser is not willing to be held accountable.  Initially abusers tend to be defensive, in denial, minimize the abuse, or blame the survivor. 

In some of the worst cases the abuser counter organizes against the survivor, typically using claims of ‘mutual abuse,’ or that they themselves were the victims in the relationship.  Transformative justice organizations argue “when a survivor (the individual with less power within that relationship) strikes back in any manner it is always self-defense NOT abuse” (Unowho).

Zines addressing how to deal with being ‘called out’ circulate within the community.  From Taking the First Steps: Suggestions to People Called Out For Abusive Behavior:

1. Be Honest, Stay Honest, Get Honest

2. Respect Survivor Autonomy

3. Learn To Listen

4. Practice Patience

5. Never, Ever, Blame The Victim

6. Speak For Yourself

7. Don’t Engage In Silence Behavior

8. Don’t Hide Behind Your Friends

9. Respond To The Wishes of The Survivor and The Wishes Of The Community

  1. Take Responsibility.  Stop Abuse and Rape Before It Starts

The want of the abuser to remain in the community and the community’s support of the survivor are large determinants as to if the abuser is willing to be held accountable.  The goal of the process is to have the abuser understand being ‘called out‘ is not a punishment, but is “a gift.  It is an opportunity to grow.  Embrace that.  Assault is cowardly.  Owing up to it is brave” (We)

In one of the most well known cases, the Microcosm Collective, a radical publishing company started by a husband and wife team, failed to maintain a safer space for its members.  The female cofounder and fellow collective members have called out the male cofounder for abusive and manipulative behavior.  After numerous attempts to hold him accountable, the collective has still yet to fully address the problem.  In a number of public statements and correspondences the collective has denied, acknowledged, and admitted fault and their history reconstructed in the publishing collective’s “about us” tab.  Some collective members have left, a number of authors have discontinued to publish with the collective, and quite a few of us boycotting.  Notably, many of those who have publicly cut ties with the publisher are women and queer people.

At the same time relying on community justice as opposed to the police can be used as against the survivor.  Recently two very well known activists who have been ‘called out’ but were not held accountable attempted to sue their respective survivors for slander.  Thus far one case has been thrown out and one is pending.  There are no official records or proof of abuse in the eyes of the government.

Division of Labor

Traditional gendered divisions of labour are reflected in the requisite work for restorative and transformative justice.  Though some groups including For the Birds maintain their own safer spaces, there are collectives to help implement and carry out these policies.  The members of these collectives are primarily female or queer identified.  The work includes making signs and any other markers of the space, having meetings to discuss strategy, creating a list of people who have been asked not to attend and possible problems that might arise, staying sober and remaining vigilant for the evening, and the actual enforcement of the policy.

In the case of one event, the organizers intentionally gathered a gender mixed safer space team.  Most of the cis  gender males who had signed up were too intoxicated within the first hour to enforce the policy and in the end women and queer identified people covered their shifts. 

work includes requesting, communicating, and implementing policies.

These divisions are also found in transformative justice work with abusers and survivors. There are a few men’s groups involved in specific cases, but most of the work is carried out by female or queer identified people.  This can include the creation of a reading curriculum, hours of meeting with the abuser weekly, hours of meeting with the collective or larger group doing this work to check in, being available at all times for phone calls, in some cases having to stop everything to go to an event and help deal with a problem, the emotional burden of working with an abuser, as well as holding workshops to guide others to become involved.  It is widely recognized “the vast majority of the folks who have to deal with the shit are women” (Why).

A few cis male and male identified groups have developed around discussing their privilege and addressing gender and violence.  The “Men Unlearning Rape” and “The Philly Dude’s Collective” zines are popular in various distros and the new book version of “The Revolution Starts at Home,” originally a zine about intimate partner violence in activist communities, has a new chapter from the Challenging Male Supremacy group.  These resources argue sexism hurts not only female identified people, but male as well, acknowledging “we are still filled with ingrained prejudice that needs to be constantly addressed and fought… [men] can be invited to take a look at how the lies they’ve been taught are hurting them and others….Men are unlearning rape” (Thunder).  Overall, women in the community are supportive of these projects and vocalize a need for more male allies: “as a woman, it is not my duty to always answer questions and educate men on how sexism affects my life” (Beallor).

While there are varying experiences and acknowledgements, sexism within the anarchist community has been prevalent enough for the development of the term ‘manarchy’.  One zine in particular seemed to coin or at minimum popularize the phrase.  “Baby, I’m a Manarchist” is a zine written about one particular activist in a community who abused a number of women but would not acknowledge his actions.  A survivor as well as a few supporters put together the zine as a way of informing other activists about their experiences and interactions with him, both during and after the particular abusive situation.  This zine became a model for using zines, perhaps the most prevalent form of communication within anarchist cultures, to ‘call out’ an abuser to the community.

Community Responses

The topic of community and transformative justice has been an extremely divisive and controversial topic within the activist community.  “The question of what to do about it is one that comes up frequently and causes divisions within radical communities almost every time” (Said). As with the required work, opinions concerning the importance of transformative justice and safer spaces are divided along gender.  This became recently apparent in a series of online posts concerning safer spaces at shows.  The following excerpt from the initial webzine post made by Lauren Denitzio, a feminist singer, about safer spaces:

What I think of when I imagine a scene without sexism is a scene where we consciously make an effort to create a safer space for everyone, no matter who they are. So while we might not be saying “you can’t be in a band or go to this show because you’re a girl”, there are plenty of other things that go on that I consider to be sexist, because they’re blatantly not considering what would make women in the scene feel safe. So, for those who might not know what I’m talking about: you know what makes me feel unsafe? When you’re the only guy in the pit who doesn’t get the message to not fly full force into someone half your size or strength. When you take your shirt off at a show. When you ask me if I’m “IN the band or WITH the band” after a male bandmate says the four of us are all IN the band. When you tell me I play guitar well for a girl. When you say that all the guys want to fuck the girl in that band. When you make a rape joke. When you use the word bitch or call someone a slut. The list doesn’t end there.

This post resulted in a backlash and horde of online comments, reblogs, and responses.  While too many to systematically address, many of the comments focused blame for sexism on the character of the female subculturalist.  “Many times I was told by people that they were ‘surprised’ to find out that I had ‘put up with that shit’ because unlike ‘weak women,’ I was a ‘strong’ and ‘political’ woman” (Nopper). 

Those dedicated to these causes voice frustrations at the limitations of the work and resistance of fellow community members.  Though transformative justice is becoming more widely used, it has not been prioritized or stopped the stream of female and queer identified activists leaving the community.  In one case a “number of females left a particular group due to…someone who created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his ‘dedication’ to ‘the work’  People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant” (Morris).  The work required is still dismissed and few male identified people are taking on any roles in these processes.  “[A]s a woman, it is not my duty to always answer questions and educate men on how sexism affects my life” (Beallor); “men can fight patriarchy too.  It is not womyn’s-only struggle” (Thunder).

While some activists believe these arising problems are “distracting from the totality,” many self identified women and queer people argue not addressing them has already damaged the movement.  In some cases this might mean a lack of female identified and queer women at particular events; “You say he’s a ‘nice guy,’ a ‘good organizer’ – well, maybe he is, but if he’s serial anarcho-rapist, I don’t give a fuck” (And). 

Despite the disruption of larger activist goals, the discontent and absence of experienced female identified and queer activists are generally not seen as a problem to be addressed.  “What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused?…Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist” (Morris).  While arguably for the sake of community “[w]e need it to be the exception, not the rule, that the woman leaves the scene when a hetero couple breaks up” (Why).  In two well known instances male identified activists who were called out for abusive behavior were not held accountable for their sexist actions, but eventually were removed from the community when they used state force (the police) against fellow activists.

Those who do not support these policies often tie the work to that of the police state as a way of delegitimizing it.  ‘Fema-nazis’ are then ‘policing’ the community, ‘banning’ people without reason or end.  [Specifically, the use of community justice strategies to hold people accountable for sexist and abusive acts has been tied with the police state as a way of deligitimizing the work.  ‘Feminazis’ are then ‘policing’ the community, infringing on the freedom of others and ‘banning’ people without reason or end.]  COINTELPRO, a counter intelligence government program from the 1950s – 1970s used to infiltrate and disrupt political organizations is frequently cited as re emerging in community justice models.  Those involved are argued to be dividing the scene from the inside, possibly as tools of the government.  These references put into question the radicalism of community justice and imply some amount of ‘snitching.’

Many self identified women and queer people argue they are not policing, but that their freedoms are already being infringed upon.  There is an “unfortunate contradiction of living a life unrestrained by others rules or impositions and yet not wanting to deal with other’s being imposed upon because it means your own attempts to achieve some kind of freedom are interrupted” (Thunder).   For these women and queer people safety structures can be liberating “in terms of throwing off the yoke of complete socio-political manipulation and fighting for our collective freedom from the oppressions and expectations of gender and sex” (Why). 

There are also those who are embracing this approach to community solidarity.  During a transformative justice workshop in a city where there were no structures of community justice, one male identified person volunteered that he had left a community because of an act that he now recognized as a mistake.  He would have liked to have these models in place to atone for his act and remain in the community.  Even during the early stages of implementation, some activists readily adopted these policies.  A few years ago, a direct action turned violent and a female of color was injured.  One of the perpetrators of the violence immediately sent an email out to the community acknowledging his role in the violence, apologizing, and offering to be held accountable. 

Arguments in support of community justice are embedded in the application of anarchist / leftist ideologies to lived experience.  These ideologies theorize the interconnection of various forms of oppression as maintained or perpetrated by the government.  “Patriarchy is a Hierarchy”, and the state  ‘MANufactures roles of unequal power” (Social).  To avoid governmental interference in daily life, community justice is used as an alternative whereby all members of the community are accountable to one another.  The creation of alternative systems requires considerable work; “[t]his cannot happen out of spontaneous activity; it must result out of a highly organized society based on democratic, decentralized structures” (Beallor).

Some feminist activist also question the effectiveness of transformative justice in addressing gender violence.  While the models place the survivor at center, some believe “we often put most emphasis on helping men stay in activist circles [rather] than supporting women through their recoveries, which might involve the need to have the man purged from the political group” (Nopper).   The safety of women is said to be sacrificed, and abuse addressed only because “she might not continue doing ‘good work’ for the organization” if it goes ignored (Nopper).  It is also argued that in some cases, the removal of a person is necessary.  “Can you really say it’s petty when someone can’t come to a ‘street party’ (i.e. militant action) because the asshole who used to beat the shit out of them will be there?  Maybe it would be radical if we got to the root of the problem and just banned that person for life, regardless of ‘accountability’” (Why).

Typically this isolation and lack of support have lead to young women leaving the activist community entirely.  This cycle is written into the common biography of the subculture, a norm taken as such.  “In many anarchist punk scenes… you will find only younger women, despite diversity in the ages of men.  Why?  Because young women often enter a scene (often only invited in the first place by a boyfriend), end up being identified primarily as sexual objects, eventually get frustrated with the boy’s club, and leave” (Said).  Female identified activists “have remained silent…have slipped away from our organizations and movements because they couldn’t take it anymore, and… have been pushed out for shouting out about oppression and abuse” (INCITE!). When consistent female involvement came up in conversation with one white cis male leader he expressed concern, a “wish [that] they wouldn’t all leave,” but he could not pinpoint their reason for leaving.  Notably this denial could be that he did not want to pursue the issue to this self identified female researcher.

Altogether my research found gender politics and divisions at every level of community justice.  While disagreements in detailed transformative justice and safer space policy are to be expected, the struggle over the basic recognition of gender inequality and its importance within radical left subcultures has been surprising.  For some activists, gender inequality is a part of the base upon which leftist activism and independence from the state is built.  “Holding folks accountable for patriarchal (and racist, and homophobic, and so on) bullshit should be understood as one of the first goddamn steps of addressing shit within our community” (And) ; “[i]f we want an end to sexism, our work should have began yesterday” (Beallor).  If others in the community do not agree and see sexism as peripheral to the political goal, then it is doubtful that other forms of community justice could address these problems.  There is uncertainty as to if self identified women and queer people can experience solidarity or will remain a part of these social movements.

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Brainscan 21: Irreconcilable Differences

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Denitizo, Lauren.  “You Know What Makes Me Feel Unsafe?”.  I Live Sweat (ilivesweat.tumblrcom)

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Lara, Ana-Maurine.  “There is Another Way.” The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities.  Brooklyn: South End Press. 

Learning Good Consent.  Ohio: Riot Grrrl Press.

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Morris, Courtney Desiree.  “Why Misogynists Make Great Informatnts: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements.” Make/Shift.  Spring/Summer 2010.

Nopper, Tamara.  “Activist Scenes are No Safe Space for Women: On Abuse of Activist Women by Activist Men.” www.infoshop.org

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We are all survivors, we are all perpetrators// What to do when someone tells you that you violated their boundaries, made them feel uncomfortable, or committed assault: a start

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