SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

I know we haven’t posted a Flow video in a loooong time but I couldn’t resist posting this song. So enjoy!

continue for lyrics…

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*Trigger warning: possible explicit descriptions of my eating disorder*

Today was day 2, and it was much better. I feel myself already getting better acquainted with how the program and I think I’m starting to get the hang of how it all works.

Today however, since I was able to focus on the content of the “therapy”, I was a bit disappointed. One of the group therapy sessions focused on being assertive in relationships; I had high hopes. This is something I needed, badly. However, women who spoke about their inability to confront people or certain things were essentially criticized! The counselor running the group, I think, was trying to hold these women accountable. But there was definitely a lack of empathy in her tone and that really bothered me. Without explicitly stating it, many of the women spoke about how they were socialized from a young age to believe that what they had to say was never important, or that they were always wrong, and this counselor assumed that under her guidance these women would march home and tell their mothers, fathers, best friends, sisters, boyfriends, etc. exactly what was on their mind. Are you fucking kidding me? How about taking a moment to sit with the fact that we had ALL been socialized to feel that what we think is at least less worthy of consideration and at most just straight up wrong, no matter what. Whether it was from childhood or from a recent traumatic experience, women were explaining that other people had made them feel like shit and my hunch? It was partly because they have a uterus. Even if the perpetrator was their mother or best female friend, my hunch is still that internalized patriarchy is to blame. And the counselor? She has internalized patriarchy to a certain extent as well. Not even mentioning the fact that there is a reason that just about everyone in the room at the time felt like what they were thinking was invalid or unimportant does a great disservice to all of us.

In both groups that I had today, I felt a distance from the counselors. It was apparent that this was their JOB. They go home at night to their significant others (almost all of them have a huge rock on their ring finger) and they forget about everything that happened that day. Obviously one would need some emotional detachment to work in such an intense environment, but that detachment shouldn’t be so transparent while working in that environment. One group goes from 10-11 am and the other from 11:30-12:30. Wouldn’t you know it? Both groups end at 11 am and 12:30 pm respectively on the dot. No matter what the topic of conversation, it’s time to go! It feels strange to be immersed in emotion and then be told to get up and go eat snack, or lunch. It’s a super serious reality check and it makes me remember that I’m in a hospital. God forbid I feel like I’m in a place that actually really cares about what I think and say.

What I found REALLY interesting is that some counselors and some of the women refer to eating disorders as Ed. Ed, standing for eating disorder, is a man’s name! I doubt this was a conscious decision made by either the staff or the women but my, is it interesting. In a way, the enemy has been named. However, I haven’t seen evidence of an analysis on the part of any staff or other women towards which I am inclined. My views make me feel very alone in a group of women who are experiencing the same things as I am. I have yet to speak up in group sessions, since I do feel like a true stranger still, so it will be interesting to see if that will hold me back or if I will eventually be comfortable enough to speak up.

I didn’t mention this yesterday, but all meals are supervised. It’s really hard. Being under such scrutiny while confronting your worst enemy is a really odd experience for me. My lunch today was huge and it was hard to not fall back on old habits. I drove home telling myself that it is okay to feel full and that it is a sign that I’m treating my body right. Did I believe myself? No. Do I even want to believe that yet? I don’t think so.

I still don’t feel ready for recovery. I don’t feel ready to confront everything that I’m running from. I don’t feel like a month is enough time to confront my issues with my body image that have persisted since roughly ummmm FOURTH GRADE.

You know what else feels strange? Blogging about this. These are things that I would be writing in the journal that we are supposed to keep as a distraction or coping mechanism when we feel like “using behaviors”. I don’t think I’ve ever been so intimate with so many strangers. I hope I have the guts to keep this up, I may as well, I suppose, because it’s already out in the open! I guess I’m reserving the right to stop at any time.

Tomorrow is the day we plan our meals for the following week. This is what my life has come to at the moment: meticulously planning what I will put in my mouth, and keeping track of it in a food journal. I can hardly comprehend it.

Until tomorrow with love,

Recovering

*Possible trigger warning: pretty explicit descriptions of my eating disorder, treatment, and the subject in general*

Bulimic. It’s what I am these days. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options outside of the medical establishment for treatment for such a condition, so I had to give in. Admitting myself to this outpatient program was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do but I figured it was worth a try, since my disease was only getting worse and I couldn’t find any other routes for intensive treatment.

To make the best of the situation however, I decided to take this opportunity to see how women with eating disorders are treated inside bleak hospital walls. I could kill two birds with one stone: hopefully recover and exercise my anthropological, specifically ethnographic I suppose, tendencies.

A little background:

To me, bulimia has been about finding control in my life for the past year. It’s been an on and off struggle, as at some points my life seemed utterly chaotic and others I seemed to have a better grip. My triggers have been mostly school pressures and interpersonal relationships. My suspicion is that my role in society as a woman also played a big part in me feeling like I had absolutely no control. I’ve always struggled with my body image, ever since I can remember, and that’s hard for me to admit. I feel like my feminist values should include an impervious-ness to society’s pressures on women to look a certain way. It’s quite the opposite and I can’t shed this notion that I need to weigh 115 pounds standing 5′ 7” tall. I’ve recently questioned why I still feel this way and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s due to a desire to blend in and appease the other half of humanity- fitting in is much easier than being the token, outspoken, man-hating, annoyingly opinionated woman that I have become over the past two years. Do I feel like I’m a fraud then in the radical community? Absolutely.

I also feel that a lot of these concerns are unique to my radical beliefs, which are not necessarily shared by the majority of society, specifically the staff and other women in the eating disorder program. Will anyone be able to understand where I’m coming from, then?

Today was my first day and it was a fairly traumatic experience. Being thrown into the recovery process, when I’m not even sure that I’m ready to confront the issues underlying my disease, was hard!

First thing’s first: I got a “recovery packet”. I now am the owner of a big blue binder with rules of the program, examples of positive affirmations, tips for journaling (none for blogging, so this should be interesting!), and other handouts to help me in the process of my recovery.

Rules that were included addressed women’s magazines and women’s clothing: magazines and revealing clothing are not allowed on “the unit” because they are objectifying for women.

Information about eating disorders is included in the binder, which included an admission of social factors that can contribute to the onset of the disease. This is where I wish the binder would have been more explicit. I think it’s important for women to understand that the pressure to feel thin comes from a very identifiable source: men. I am not saying ALL men have an investment in keeping women pegged in a certain body shape but the consequences of an eating disorder are very real. Women can become debilitated by the disease, which results in an inability to concentrate on anything but recovering from a real sickness. I want to be able instead, to recover from my oppression. My ability to participate in organizing has diminished for the time being because I am stuck recovering in a Mon-Fri program, out of which I will be kicked if I miss more than three days! My health has been waning and towards the end of this past school year I could hardly concentrate on anything more than the headaches I got after purging. Did that lack of concentration affect my grades, which in turn affects my future? Absolutely. Did it affect my organizing and my dedication to smashing sexism and sexual assault on my campus? For sure! I was too busy trying to look the part of a perfect womam. I feel in a way that this disease is my double burden; I had school work to attend to and organizing to try doubly hard in to succeed as much as my fellow man and then I went back to my room and contemplated what I had eaten that day and whether I would allow myself to have lunch, dinner or whether I should throw up once returning from a lunch or dinner that I might let myself eat. A good day, for me, consisted of stepping on my scale and seeing a lower number than the day before, which took place in the morning, which meant that anything that happened after my weigh-in was pretty much inconsequential. Celebrating success took on a whole different meaning for me.

The program consists primarily of group sessions and it broke my heart to see that the women in my group were women that I might see every day walking around in public. I suddenly woke up and realized that there are potentially many, many women who suffer just like me from the same menacing disease, or some variation of it. These are women whose bodies I am jealous of and seeing the price that some of them pay to achieve such an aesthetic made me sick to my stomach. I kicked myself for knowing that I would look at these girls in public and beg the heavens for a chance to look like they do. But they’re starving themselves and purging just the same! Statistics are not lying when they say that eating disorders are an epidemic.

But wouldn’t you know it, the head doctor is the only male that I encountered all day. He runs the place and seems to know it. I had the esteemed privilege of meeting with him for all of 5 minutes to talk about what? Nothing. I couldn’t tell you what our conversation was because I’m pretty sure one wouldn’t use the word conversation when describing our interaction. He was the doctor that did my intake when I first entered the program and I probably wouldn’t use any word but “cold” to describe how our interaction was. It was no different today and that’s fucked up. He facilitates no feeling for me of being in a restorative place and part of a healing process. Instead, I step into his office and know that I am damaged goods. I need his help to recover from the terrorism of his gender. What a mindfuck.

So now begins my journey to recovery. I’ll hopefully be doing a post per day, if you all don’t mind me taking over the blog for a month or so. I feel like a public recovery will be an interesting experience. Admitting such a huge weakness is really scary, especially on the internet where anyone could pass through this blog and scoff at me for indeed being so weak. I want however, to feel a sisterhood as I recover, which I don’t think I’ll get in my group sessions. I know that this is the place to be, then.

In a few words, my first day was: scary, intimidating, sickening, maddening.

I hope tomorrow will be: encouraging, less intimidating, less sickening, less maddening.

Until then, with love,

Recovering

Aliya

College Park, MD

Hey all,

I hope people are still reading this blog! I wrote a poem/spoken word piece about street harassment and I figured that others might appreciate my words, since I know I’m not the only person who experiences street harassment. Before my poem, I’m putting up a video about street harassment called “Walking Home.” I won’t spend a lot of time discussing why street harassment sucks, but it is an especially shitty situation because I have yet to figure out the appropriate way to respond. If you ignore the harasser or if you react, they will know that their words and behaviors affected you and they’ve accomplished what they intended (to harass you!).

I believe in the case of cisgendered male harassers, it has a lot to do with male privilege and entitlement. I also think it’s a matter of maintaining hierarchal relationships and societal power dynamics (male v. female, queer v. heterosexual, cisgendered v. transgendered/genderqueer), since it allows harassers to exert their supposed dominance over the individual being harassed. Their behaviors say in either a verbal or non-verbal way “you are weaker and of less value to me and thus I have the right to harass you.” I know many harassers plead ignorance, and there is definitely an element of ignorance in some instances of harassment, but I don’t believe that is the explanation for why harassers behave the way they do. Anyway, I hope this gives some solace to individuals who have experienced street harassment and empowers people to have conversations, call out harassers (when it is safe to do so), and check their own potentially harassing behavior. Also, check out the website for Holla Back DC!, a DC-based anti-street harassment organization.

Catcalls

I am not sorry for my curve

For the fine, rounded edges of my hips

The arm bare in summer dresses

You grab as if it’s yours.

You can keep whistling

But I don’t do tricks;

Nor do I lay down.

My ears are wide open and hear every word

But yours must be closed, because you can’t hear the tears I’ll no longer cry.

Your power is bullshit,

Your dominance, an illusion.

And PLEASE spare me from the “what? I was just playing!”

Or the “can’t you take a joke?”

And especially the “you’re just a dumb bitch/slut/ho/cunt/whore.”

The culture of fear you perpetuate is no game,

The only joke is you,

And I am only the labels I choose to take on.

What if I was your mother?

Your sister? Your grandmother?

Your girlfriend? Your niece?

Or any of the other women in your life you clearly failed to listen to?

And yes,

I know my dress is short.

That’s how I like it.

So swallow your words,

Keep your hands to yourself,

And if you even think about harassing me,

I will find an opening in your head (perhaps through the ear),

Voyage to your brain,

And pick that thought right out of your stupid fucking skull.

With a bounce in my step

I glide down the street with no apologies.

Reposted from the Pulse Media website

I think this list is a good resource for all folks with privilege, not just men.  Chris Cass

For Enlightened White Guys

I first posted this thoughtful passage at Peoples Geography. It is humble, conscious and canny and aware of the power dynamics within social groups, recognizing that some purportedly progressive movements may only reproduce the sexism, domination, and marginalization of others that they expressly reject in their politics. Here’s what one enlightened white guy proposes people simply think about — and practice — in the service of becoming more aware of how we interact with others in less powerful and privileged positions. This means others’ voices are heard–and empowered, and that change starts with us, at the level of the everyday.

Tools for White Guys Who Are Working for Social Change

… and other people socialized in a society based on domination by Chris Cass

1. Practice noticing who is in the room at meetings–-how many men, how many women, how many people of color. Are the majority heterosexual … what are people’s backgrounds? Don’t assume to know people, but also work at being more aware.

2a. Count how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak.
2b. Count how many times others speak and keep track of how long they speak.

3. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to what other people are saying as opposed to just waiting your turn and/or thinking about what you’ll say next.

4. Practice going to meetings focused on listening and learning; go to some meetings and do not speak at all.

5a. Count how many times you put your ideas out to the group.

5b. Count how many times you support other’s ideas for the group.

6. Practice supporting people by asking them to expand on ideas and dig more deeply before you decide to support the idea or not.

7a. Think about whose work and contribution to the group gets recognized.
7b. Practice recognizing more people for the work they do and try to do it more often.

8. Practice asking more people what they think about meetings, ideas, actions, strategy and vision. White guys tend to talk amongst themselves and develop strong bonds that manifest in organizing. This creates an internal organizing culture that is alienating to most people.

Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender and sexuality is complex and difficult, but absolutely critical–and liberating.

9. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking people “what needs to be done”.

10. Think about and struggle with the saying, “You will be needed in the movement when you realize that you are not needed in the movement.”

11. Struggle with and work with the model of group leadership that says that the responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means to you.

12. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and individual liberation is intimately connected with social transformation and social liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect–-even when it is bumpy and difficult to navigate.

13. This list is not limited to white guys, nor is it intended to reduce all white guys into one category. This list is intended to disrupt patterns of domination that hurt our movement and hurt each other. White guys have a lot of work to do, but it is the kind of work that makes life worth living.

14. Day-to-day patterns of domination are the glue that holds together systems of domination. The struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, and the state, is also the struggle towards collective liberation.

15. No one is free until all of us are free.

Chris Cass, ‘Tools for White Guys …’ in Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond (eds.), The Global Activists Manual: Local Ways to Change the World (2002), pp. 96-97.

posted by Christa & Emilyn

The procrastination continues for us here at The Flow.  Sorry about that!

So this week we are featuring Jessica Scherlag, a senior art major at Drew University (Christa’s alma matter and Emilyn’s current place of study). Next year she will be attending NYU for Visual Art Administration  Her work has a strong feminist narrative and she considers a lot of gender related issues in her process (plus she is an organizer with the feminist group on her campus!)  You can find out more about her here.  And the works from her Senior Studio course (its the equivalent of a thesis for art majors at Drew) at her website.  More art after the cut!

Bows, 2010. 42 X 23 inches. Acrylic on cardboard.

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posted by Christa

I’ve always had love in my heart for femmes and have struggled with the femme label that is often placed on me and how that affects how I perceive my identity. I feel like there is a lot of distain towards femmes (maybe dismissal is a better term?) within the radical queer community and femmes face a lot of invisibility in the both the queer community and mainstream society (partially because they pass as straight). One quote that has always stood out for me is from Stone Butch Blues when one of the femmes says “If I’m not with a butch everyone just assumes I’m straight. It’s like I’m passing too, against my will I’m sick of the world thinking I’m straight. I’ve worked hard to be discriminated against as a lesbian.” So when I heard this piece by Ivan Coyote, I couldn’t help but swoon just a little bit.

text after the jump

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