Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughts on Rebelles

So as I mentioned, I was at the Rebelles gathering in Winnipeg this past weekend. For those who don't know, Rebelles is a "pan-Canadian" young feminist movement - the first gathering took place in Montreal in 2008, which I also attended. It produced a manifesto which I encourage you to read.

I just want to say that while there were a lot of great things about this gathering - notably a much stronger effort to include the voices of Aboriginal folks and sex workers, and a willingness on the part of the organizers to quickly readjust the schedule to allow for the concerns of the participants - I was left with the same frustrated feeling as I had after the last gathering; a feeling that it wasn't radical enough.

I felt frustrated because I think most of the folks there were pretty radical - which I mean in a positive, progressive way, not in the trans-hating way that characterizes a lot of radical feminists - but so much time and energy was being spent in a) catching up those who did not understand the issues, and b) trying to be "inclusive" of everyone's ideas by bridging the gaps between truly radical strategies and Liberal Feminist "lobbying the government" bullshit. There was a lot of lip service paid to diversity of tactics, but when it came down to actually creating our "resistance actions, alternatives and demands", I heard a lot of demanding from the state, and the voices calling for truly radical action were being silenced in the name of time constraints.

I'm not ragging on lobbying the government, but if I wanted to be in Second Wave Jr. I would have joined a different movement. Yes of course let's demand the things we want - changes in law, better public services - but can we all agree that a government is not going to assist in, or fund, a revolution against itself? Sure, let's ask for better sensitivity training for cops, but can we please spend more time and energy at least having conversations about how the police are a violent tool of the state, used almost exclusively to keep poor folks in competition - beholden to capitalism - and to criminalize their poverty? Sure, let's demand an end to tough-on-crime bullshit and ridiculous sentencing, but can we also spend some time and energy fucking burning down prisons? Where is the radical feminist movement I signed up for?

What does this have to do with abortion? Well let's talk about reproductive justice. Y'all know I love the organizations we have that are looking out for our rights - ARCC, NAF, etc. I think what they do is valuable and important work. But I also think that we desperately need a diversity of tactics in this movement. We can't concentrate all our energy as a movement working in clinics, sitting on the boards of orgs, ASKING THE GOVERNMENT for changes in law, improvements in/access to services, etc. etc. That's shit that has to be done. But the government will never give up power, and isn't the goal to have power over our bodies? Do you really think that a government that has been complicit in - and often orchestrated - genocide against the Indigenous people of this land is going to suddenly give them the power back? And isn't it really fucking insulting for white middle-class ladies to be asking on their behalf? Do you think that a government that uses violent tools of repression to keep folks of colour down is really going to turn around and offer them free childcare? Or if they did, could that ever be enough?

I'm just so sick of how the pro-choice movement is almost totally focused on politely asking the government if it could please take its boot off our necks. Fuck that. Even if we got the reforms we wanted, it doesn't change the fact that global capitalism exists, it doesn't change our sisters' colonized bodies. Y'all know I love the Morgentaler decision, and it was a big fucking deal, but isn't 23 years long enough for a great big party to celebrate the fact that rich ladies can have abortions? Now that we've helped ourselves, aren't we ready to stand as allies to a movement that is much bigger? Because as long as we hold our marches at a designated time and place, escorted by the cops, we are useless fucking puppets and it's no wonder our bodies are still the property of the state.

Now I'm not saying I want us all to leave our "lobbying the government" work and start burning down prisons. But what this movement needs desperately is a real diversity of tactics, or at the very least a real conversation about how hundreds of years of asking the state for control over our bodies does not seem to be working and maybe we could try something different? For more information on why it's not working, try asking an Indigenous woman or a queer woman or a woman of colour or a trans woman (not implying that this is an exhaustive list or that any of these identities don't overlap). A government set up by, and run by, people who look like my dad can naturally only "serve" people who look like my dad (and honestly I don't think my dad is particularly happy with them, because he is a cool guy). We can spend all our energy, our whole lives, asking for little tidbits from them, but sooner or later even the most privileged among us will have to face the fact that the state will never voluntarily cede power. And then we have to decide where to go from there.

Feministe - viva!


Beth said...

YES. To this. YES.

JeninCanada said...

Holy hell. FUCK YES. Well said.