On Epistemic Violence

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Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and while perusing my usual daily fare of blogposts and daily updates ( as well as thinking more of my research), I noticed  a bit of a trend. I think as activists/feminists/womyn we often get so caught up in championing our collective causes, that we are unaware of the universalizing, stereotypes and distortions that we might be replicating.

Spivak defines epistemic violence as the violence of knowledge production, notably by white feminists in their writings on Africa, women in the global south and even feminism in the global south. Such epistemic violence includes the distortions, sterotyping and generalizaing of Third World women’s conditions, as if they were all homogenously belaboured, lacking agency and needing saving.

The truth of the matter is that as we wage our collective battles against multiple forms of transnational oppression, especially in the constrained written nuggets of the world of social media, we need to be wary of not being complicit  in this epistemic violence. Writing from a position of privilege, either by virtue of geographical location and context, class, access, what have you,we need to be careful of making sweeping generalizations like ‘ African women and girls are the most oppressed group in the world’. Well..not always, and not all the time. In our enthusiasm to champion our causes we sometimes make reductionist statements to get people on board, kinda like those WorldVision ads. Yes, we want to bring people to the table, and yes we want others to be as passionate about the issues as we are, but at what cost? Are we ultimately replicating relations of inequality, and saying that African women need to be saved by rich people in the West. Or that I, as a privileged, Western educated, Western- located expert, can go back and save the people. This smacks a little of a messianic complex, and as women working for change we need to check our hubris at the door. That is not to say that we can not make change, but to bear in mind that people have their own solutions, knowledge and expertise, and that I women’s studies major, do not know everything about community development, international development or gender issues.

Love, love, and encouragement to everyone fighting the good fight in the academy, on the streets, and in this world we love that is the blogosphere!

The Immediate Need For Emotional Justice

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From the amazing folks at Crunk Feminist Collective

Original post:

This post echoed so many of my frustrations regarding community organizing and paying attention to our bodies and spirits. This is definitely a must read!

The Immediate Need For Emotional Justice
Guest Post by Yolo Akili

Oppression is trauma. Every form of inequity has a traumatic impact on the psychology, emotionality and spirituality of the oppressed. The impact of oppressive trauma creates cultural and individual wounding. This wounding produces what many have called a “pain body”, a psychic energy that is not tangible but can be sensed, that becomes an impediment to the individual and collective’s ability to transform and negotiate their conditions.

Emotional justice is about working with this wounding. It is about inviting us into our feelings and our bodies, and finding ways to transform our collective and individual pains into power. Emotional justice requires that we find the feeling behind the theories. It calls on us to not just speak to why something is problematic, but to speak to the emotional texture of how it impact us; how it hurts, or how it brings us joy or nourishment. Emotional Justice is very difficult for many activists, because historically most activist spaces have privileged the intellect and logic over feeling and intuition. This is directly connected to sexism and misogyny, because feeling and intuition are culturally and psychologically linked to the construct of “woman”, a construct that we have all been taught to invalidate and silence. So by extension we invalidate and silence the parts that we link to “woman” in ourselves: our feelings, our intuition, and our irrationality.

This disdain leads to many things: a dismissal or minimization of our own and other’s feelings, a fear of revealing oneself as “emotional” (instead of as sternly logical) and a culture of “just suck up your feelings” or shrug them off. All of these responses to our emotions have consequences that contribute to a range of emotional and spiritual stressors which impact our lives. In this article I am going to focus exclusively on the reasons I believe activist communities struggle with emotional justice and why the integration of our emotional selves into our activist work can’t wait.

Reasons I believe activist communities struggle with emotional justice

1. Activist Organizations Are Often Over-capacity
Many grass roots organizations and non-profits operate with a small staff that is expected to complete herculean tasks. This expectation leads to fatigue, stress and emotional imbalance. Asking to add emotional justice discourse(s) to the workplace/organizing is seen as a waste of time when organizations are trying to survive and fulfill grant/monetary obligations with limited resources. Yet it is an emotional discourse that could offer many movements opportunities for self-evaluation, especially as it relates to perpetuating models of capitalist productivity that they are often seeking to end. Regular guided dialogues and retreats must become a priority and should be led by outside consult. They can help build connections, clarify the mission(s) and re-invigorate the collective.

2. Emotional Justice Has No Succinct Time Line
There simply is no timeline that can be put on someone else’s healing. Within an emotional justice framework, someone is able to bring up their pain as they feel the need. Our patriarchal emotional discourses will push back against this, however, and will instead encourage us to deny, dismiss, and move on as quickly as possible from difficult emotions. Engaging emotional justice requires us to check this attitude within ourselves and develop ongoing strategies that allow us to express our concerns and feelings.

3. Emotions are Used as a Tool for those with Privilege to Avoid, Minimize or Escape Accountability
In an experience working with a group of queers on a racism project, a white identified cis gendered woman in the group would constantly break into tears whenever someone challenged her on the choices she was making that perpetuated racist themes. Her crying, which happened in several sessions, led to the entire group, especially the women of color, to comfort and assure her that she wasn’t a “bad person.”
Yet in the midst of attending to her emotional expressions, she continued to evade accountability and perpetuated the same dynamics. When she was challenged on her use of crying, she was able to come to an understanding that as a child crying had been a tactic she had used within her family to avoid being held responsible. This awareness led to her participate in the space in a much more accountable manner.
Stories like these happen all the time. Unfortunately in most spaces there are not always individuals with the skills to compassionately address these kind of emotional dynamics. This lack of skill prevents many from engaging emotional justice for fear they will get lost in these issues. This another reason seeking the support of healing justice/emotional justice educators is necessary.

4. Very Little Knowledge of the Emotional Body or Emotional Language
What is a feeling? What are the lessons they offer us? How can they invite us into ourselves? These are the questions that emotional justice guides us toward. Emotional justice can help many begin to work with their feelings in constructive ways that can help the movement as a whole.
An example: If someone asks many activists, what do you feel? The response may be something like,
“I feel like we just need to hurry up and make this thing happen because they keep on trying. yaddda yadda.”
But that was not a feeling. That was a thought. A feeling is one word. The feeling for this statement could be: “I am anxious, or I am frustrated”. Aiming directly for the feeling, as opposed to the thought around it, can help save time and address deeper issues. If feelings are continually confused as thoughts, then the intellectual debate process kicks in, and before you know it, we are battling for philosophical dominance instead of saying that we are hurt.

5. Lack of Self-Awareness into how our own unique Psychological Frameworks, Trauma and Social locations inform our Interpretation of Reality
Journeying into our own narratives and seeing how they inform our current understandings of others around us can be invaluable in times of challenge. There are many tools for this; one in which I find very effective is Psychological Astrology; as it invites us to explore, whether we believe in Astrology or not, what our motivations are, what we need to feel emotionally satisfied, the root of our personality conflicts with others, and how we express our aggression. This exploration can help us recognize an area of difference that is predicated on the ways in which we psychologically experience the world around us, a recognition that can help us understand and hear each other better in conflict situations.

6. Ideological Violence
“We were often poised and ready for attack, and not always in the most effective places. When we disagreed with one another, we were far more vicious to each other than the common originators of our problem. ” -Audre Lorde

It is apparent from Audre Lorde’s words that ideological violence was a big problem for her generation. Many years later it continues to be, as unproductive ego wars rage amidst our movement spaces.
These ego wars (or as many of my friends say, “intellectual dick fights”) are for many apart of the academic environmental training that encourages us to battle for philosophical dominance. While debate in itself is healthy and can be empowering, the challenge here is that this “training” is colored with patriarchy and a “power over others” construct. Tactics such as Interrupting, yelling, belittling each other, and personal attacks, are dynamics of patriarchal communication and must be seen as the acts of emotional violence that they are.* As this is acknowledged, steps must be taken to train and understand assertive communication and the myriad of cultural communication styles that allow us to express our hurt, rage and frustration in ways that minimize harm.

Emotional Justice is not anything new to our movements. It is already being enacted in many spaces and in organizations all across the country. My hope in writing this is that this work is expanded, illuminated and raised to a level of importance on par with our intellectual critiques. It is my hope that we realize that just as we must construct new systems and institutions, we must also develop new ways of relating with each other and to our emotional selves. These models of relating will call on us to develope skills and to work with our feelings, our trauma and our pain. It calls on us to recognize that emotional justice is an immediate need, not only for our movements, but for the world at large.

Yolo Akili is an Emotions Educator, Performance Artist, Practicing Astrologer, Yoga Teacher and long time activist. He can be reached at Yolo@yoloakili.com

On Epistemic Violence

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Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and while perusing my usual daily fare of blogposts and daily updates ( as well as thinking more of my research), I noticed  a bit of a trend. I think as activists/feminists/womyn we often get so caught up in championing our collective causes, that we are unaware of the universalizing, stereotypes and distortions that we might be replicating.

Mohanty defines epistemic violence as the violence of knowledge production, notably by white feminist in their writings on Africa, women in the global south and even feminism in the global south. Such epistemic includes the distortions, sterotyping and generalizaing of Third World women’s conditions, as they were all homogenously belaboured, lacking agency and needing saving.

 

The truth of the matter is that as we wage our collective battles against multiple forms of transnational oppression, especially in the constrained written nuggets of the world of social media, we need to be wary of not being complicit  in this epistemic violence. Writing from a position of privilege, either by virtue of geographical location and context, class, access, what have you,we need to be careful of making sweeping generalizations like ‘ African women and girls are the most oppressed group in the world’. Well..not always, and not all the time. In our enthusiasm to champion our causes we sometimes make reductionist statements to get people on board, kinda like those WorldVision ads. Yes, we want to bring people to the table, and yes we want others to be as passionate about the issues as we are, but at what cost? Are we ultimately replicating relations of inequality, and saying that African women need to be saved by rich people in the West. Or that I, as a privileged, Western educated, Western- located expert, can go back and save the people. This smacks a little of a messianic complex, and as women working for change we need to check our hubris at the door. That is not to say that we can not make change, but to bear in mind that people have their own solutions, knowledge and expertise, and that I women’s studies major, do not know everything about community development, international development or gender issues.

Love, love, and encouragement to everyone fighting the good fight in the academy, on the streets, and this world we love that is the blogosphere!

A Frank Discussion on Black Sexualities

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Black communities often seem to shy away from discussions on sexualities, as if somehow this clashes with culture, identity, or religiosity. A conversation about sexualities is not just about sex, which in itself is a discussion that begs having. Talking about sexualities encompasses: identity, culture, power, politics, gender, orientation and yes…sex, the act and/or the physiologically/socially constituted category.

What brought me to the question of black sexualities was my work in early sexualization and hypersexualization. I did a project a couple years back on the early sexualisation of pre-teen girls. This was in 2006, and at the time there seemed to be this pervading moral panic, mainly stoked by white middle class parents and academics about the sexualisation of their daughters, grand-daughters, relatives, friends etc… Super-sexy Bratz dolls, push-up bras for 8 year-olds, Katy Perry/Xtina and MTV were all culprits in this process. The rhetoric hearkened back to a time, when apparently Barbie let young girls know they could be all they ever wanted to be (with a perma-smile, butt-skimming hair, and boobs that would realistically result in a concave chest). Stories abounded about 5th grade girls providing oral sex to boys in the back of the school bus and lipstick parties. These were all very legitimate concerns. But nowhere in the reams of pop-psychology books, interviews, studies and Oprah and Tyra exclusives did I see a race or class-based analysis. Sure, Jada Pinkett Smith wrote a whole children’s book about loving yourself and your hair, because 8 year-old Willow had said something about wanting to be sexy. But there was no real engagement with non-white, non-middle class pre-teens.

It is precisely because of this glaring gap (deliberate or not) that we need to talk about sexualities. Black women’s bodies have been sexualized, historicized, objectified and used as symbols. We are rarely the architects of our own sexual stories and experts in our experiences. Sex is something that is done to black women, by the media, hip-hop, Johnny-down-the-way, or bs studies.  We are painted as either these ravenous sexual succubi, completely asexual and undesirable non-beings, or hyper-masculine. It boggles the mind that we can be all three at once.

And yet, despite the ass-swiping credit card of Nelly’s tip-drill video, marathon gang rape of a California teen outside her prom, and sexual assault in the campus hallway, we still refuse to talk about it. That is until it explodes onto our screens in voyeuristic orgies penned by Tyler Perry…like Precious. But even then, the melodrama is just excessive enough for us to easily detach.

A frank discussion about sexualities is more than the sum of its parts. It is what is needed. Black women need to be able to articulate their stories and experiences, to be their won advocates and architects, in whatever way and along whatever spectrum they so choose.

This is why this event is so important.:

Saddi Khali in Ottawa Neo-NegritudeExpressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities

https://wocinsol.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/saddi-khali-in-ottawa-neo-negritude-expressions-reclaiming-our-sexualities-2/

It is important for Black women, and it is important for the Black community and for everyone in general. On November 18th, 19th and 20th do come out!

Gender-bending in hip-hop

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Cross-posted from clutch magazine.

Gender-Bending Rapper Starts ‘XY Movement,’ Is It Just A Gimmick?

FRIDAY NOV 11, 2011 – BY 

Hip-hop isn’t the most accepting of men who don’t fit the conventional definitions of masculinity. In a genre so comfortable disparaging gays and lesbians, it seems like career suicide for an new rapper to rock lipstick and wear pink tights–and NOT be in contention to be the next Nicki Minaj. But that’s exactly what 19-year-old Daryll Duane Philips is doing.

Philips, who goes by the name DPhill Spanglishman, created the XY movement to encourage men to get in touch with their feminine side.

Predictably, many aren’t feeling his style and question his sexuality (he’s straight), but DPhill says he’s unfazed.

He told reporters, “I believe I’m 40 percent female basically because of my emotions. I’m a very emotional person”

DPhill continues, “Everybody has a soft spot, I just embrace both sides.”

Saddi Khali in Ottawa Neo-Negritude Expressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities

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InSol: Womyn of Colour Collective, Agitate: Queer People of Colour, 3 Dreads and a Baldhead and Black Caucus presents…

Neo-Negritude poster-3

Neo-Negritude Expressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities

Renowned artist Saddi Khali in Ottawa!!!!

“Let’s see ourselves beautiful again” Saddi Khali

The ultimate mix-master, Saddi Khali is a nationally respected New Orleans-born poet, performance artist, and photographer. He has worked for the last 20 years to blend the most effective mix of art and activism. Khali’s emergence on the field of photography has been groundbreaking. His images have been featured in ESSENCE Magazine and on the cover of the Random House book, Triksta and the instruction book, The Naked and The Lens.

Events Breakdown:

Friday 18th Nov
After Hours Party with Saddi Khali!!
Venue: The Legion
359 Kent Street (Kent and Gilmour)
Doors open at 9:00pm
dj yalla!yalla! and DJ Prufrock
Erotica readings, Bar and Refreshments available
Sliding scale $5-$10 at door

Saturday 19th Nov
Day- Reclaiming Our Sexualities workshop
Venue: Bruce House
251 Bank Street
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Donations at the door

Ottawa premiere of ‘Red Lips’ by Kyisha Williams.

Kyisha Williams is a vibrant, radical, black, queer, high femme, sex positive, activist, survivor, fighter and writer. She is a community organizer and support worker within black/queer/trans/racialized/criminalized /HIV+/HCV+ communities. She directed “Red Lips” [cages for black girls] her debut short film which explores black/racialized/criminalized/queer/trans identity and its relationship with the prison-industrial complex. It attempts to articulate links between interpersonal and systemic violence, while celebrating the ways in which we survive and celebrate ourselves.
Venue: Venus Envy
320 Lisgar
Time: 7pm
Donations at the door

Sunday 20th Nov
Black Sexualities Workshop with screening of documentary ‘Still Black’
Please note that our events are taking place during the Trans Day of Remembrance and the organizers of TDOR will be hosting a few events as well.

Directed by Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Still Black is a feature-length documentary that explores the lives of six black transgender men living in the United States. Through the intimate stories of their lives as artists, students, husbands, fathers, lawyers, and teachers, the film offers viewers a complex and multi-faceted image of race, sexuality and trans identity.

Here is the Official Website: Still Black

Venue: Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
233 Gilmour Street
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Donations at the door

From Friday 18th folks will be able to book and do private or group photoshoots with Saddi.

Check out his amazing work here: http://www.saddikhaliphoto.com/

*Bus tickets and childcare (advanced notice required) can be made available*

Print the pamphlet: Neo-Negritude pamphlet

THANK YOUUUU to our sponsors:
Womyn’s Centre (Carleton University)
Venus Envy
Pride Centre (University of Ottawa)
Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC)
Sexualities Department (Carleton University)
OPIRG-GRIPO, University of Ottawa
OPIRG Carleton University