No Pussy in the Pit: Boston Hardcore and the “Yankees Suck” Uber Jock Subculture

bostonhardcorebane

Boston Hardcore

I feel like people don’t believe me when I say, “I know that dude who made the Yankee Suck shirts and created the chant and it’s a really weird story”, but here it is in this embarrassing, yet totally, somehow, unembarrassed account, published in Grantland this week. The account captures the ethos of the 1990s hardcore music scene in the Boston area, much of which I was there for. It does so via the tale of the Yankees Suck franchise and the alleged Not Jocks who masterminded it, several of whom I knew. It relays anecdote after anecdote of the violence and narcissism that took place in the name of supporting and profiting from a sports team and brand. In doing so, it exposes a subculture trying so hard to be Not Jock that it spins full circle and becomes the worst possible rendition of Uber Jock to ever exist.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Uber Jockness is in the DNA of Boston Hardcore, given its original roots in militant bands like SS Decontrol who, as noted in this Rolling Stone piece on the notoriety of the scene, was led by “brawny ex-hockey player, Al Barile.” And at times, I want to believe the Grantland article is doing a crafty “show don’t tell” move, painting a picture whose nastiness is so obvious that it doesn’t need editorializing. But as I read it and read it again, I realized the article and its subjects, who smugly compare their lives to Fight Club, The Wire, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Miami Vice, are taking themselves very seriously. They seem truly not to realize the irony of how Not Jocks become Uber Jocks, and how this article is just another extension of the self-congratulatory myth-making that has always permeated Boston Hardcore.

First off, let’s get the biggest piece of mythology straightened out: the majority of these guys weren’t from Boston, or even its immediate surroundings. They were from wealthy suburbs, some over an hour away. Many of the folks highlighted in this article, including Ray LeMoine, screen-printer of kooky T-shirts and person I was friends with in high school, were from North Andover and Andover. To be clear, that’s about forty minutes north of Boston. Some went to elite high schools like Philips Academy. Many other “hardcore kids” I knew, including my high school boyfriend, were from the Lincoln-Concord area, one of the wealthiest places in the country, significantly west of Boston.

Is not being from Boston but implying you are, and potentially growing up in a McMansion, inherently bad? No. But leaving this out of the story becomes a pretty questionable move when you’re a white guy bragging about the luxury of spilling mustard on your thousand-dollar shoes, waving money around, and shouting angrily, “Listen, I’ll come back whenever I want to…this is my fucking bridge” in a place you aren’t actually from.

thewire2

Not Boston Hardcore

Any boy, now a man, around during this time would also really be stretching the truth if he didn’t remember that “no pussy in the pit” and “bros before hos” were the defining phrases of Boston Hardcore’s relationship to girls and women. Or that most of the girls we all knew were molested if they ever tried to mosh. Or the permeating ethos of “funny” homophobia and the hipster-izing of words like “faggot”. Or my queer friends who didn’t want to be in the vicinity of many of these hardcore kids for fear of their mental and physical safety. Or guy friends explicitly telling me they couldn’t play music with me because I was a girl, even though I had supported their music for years.

Or me being anorexic and having one of the most popular hardcore guys in Boston tell me, “You’re the kind of girl I’d love to show off at a show in Boston”. Or my super cool hardcore boyfriend and his friend, the singer of a well-known band, staring me down in Newbury Comics and telling me factually, after much discussion, that they’d decided I was hot because I had no boobs and looked like a little boy. And how when I expressed concern over the nature of such a statement, they said, “Don’t worry, it’s a good thing” and delved into a conversation about how stupid feminists are. Or how whenever I didn’t want to sleep with my super cool hardcore boyfriend, he’d say he was deeply disappointed in me, that I was a bad person, and that he would break up with me if I didn’t do my duty. Or how one time he yelled at me while we were having sex.   Of course, I can’t prove an inherent connection between rape culture and the potential rape subculture that was Boston Hardcore, but it’s pretty hard not to see one when a few minutes later he was chest-thumping in front of his mirror to In My Eyes, and a few days later he was yelling “bros before hos” and laughing about mosh-pit molestation with his friends at a youth crew show.

fight-club

Not Boston Hardcore

After a while, it starts to seem like a pretty disingenuous mental gymnastics routine to act like misogyny and other nasty white-guy privileges were peripheral to the scene and not a central pillar that defined and maintained it.

One of the worst things about these kinds of subcultures is the fact that there are only a few slots for the token women, and those women often try to destroy each other as they vie for the male attention they’ve come to believe will fulfill them. In 2004, the girlfriend of an FSU gang-member sucker punched me in the head at The Model, a dive bar in Allston. FSU, or Fuck Shit Up, was a group of Boston Hardcore guys who are still classified as a gang by the FBI. Their modus operandi, as far as I could register it, was starting fights on purpose and running away. That night at The Model, the whole bar had turned into a sea of violence with tables being turned over, beers being thrown, and people on the curb being stomped. I never saw the person who attacked me; there was just a mess of blond hair and a huge bouncer picking me up by my torso and throwing me aside. The owner of the bar shushed me, took me to the back alley, and told me to get away quickly, whispering that I wouldn’t want to be there when the cops came.

It turns out FSU has instigated it all, and that one of their members, who authorities had long been looking for, was there that night. I didn’t know anything about the FSU connection at the time; I didn’t realize that the bar owner was trying to have my back so I wouldn’t have to make a report. I swore off The Model and didn’t go back for over a year. When I returned, the waitress on staff said I looked familiar. I mumbled that it was impossible she knew me from the bar because I hadn’t been there since a massive fight broke out. “The FSU fight?” she asked, and went on to relay all the details perfectly to me. “The courts were looking for you. They caught some serious wanted person from FSU that night. They wanted you to testify but nobody knew your name.”

Was being around Boston Hardcore always like this? No. For instance, I’ll always hold my friend’s band Eulcid in my heart, who at one point refused to play shows if no women were on the bill. There were off-shoots of Boston Hardcore that understood radical and progressive politics pretty well, who were reclaiming the spirit of riot grrrl, feminism, and queer awareness, and many of those folks would probably say that they liked Boston Hardcore music. And when we became college-aged, many hardcore guys matured and realized pretty quickly that they’d participated in and supported a subculture of juvenile intolerance, sexism, and, at times, violence. Like normal people should, they grew up and were appropriately ashamed of the ways they acted as teenagers.

Like most other white male cultures and subcultures, Boston Hardcore boys enjoyed some token women like the singer of Walls of Jericho, who was repeatedly pointed to as a distraction from the fact that almost all other hardcore musicians were men. How could you be sexist if you liked Walls of Jericho? And it had its token people of color, including one of the founders of Fuck Shit Up, Elgin James. How could you be racist if your movement’s BFF wasn’t white? And there was even a token queer band, Limp Wrist, who I heard straight boy after straight boy cite when they were justifying their use of the word “faggot” and the word “gay” as an insult.

MIAMI VICE, (from left): Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, 1984-1989. Credit: Universal Television/Everett Collection

Also not Boston Hardcore

But on the whole, when examining the acts of entitlement, oppression, and violence relayed in the Grantland article—and that remain in the memories of anybody who was there and is being honest with themselves—it is hard not to ask: who else could have possibly gotten away with these things besides privileged white boys and men?

What people with darker skin could have possibly have gotten away with dumping grape soda on people and throwing someone’s stuff over a bridge onto the Mass Pike in public, as the boys in the article proudly spoke of?

In a country where black men are murdered in minutes by entire groups of cops for selling a few illegal cigarettes, who other than entitled white boys from a rich town could possibly have gotten away with regularly breaking into Fenway Park through wire fencing to sell illicit T-shirts, then admitting it and bragging about it without a second thought in an article on the internet?

Or imagine, in a world where Boston instituted martial law  in order to catch the Boston Marathon bombers, an Arab man or woman running illegally around the field during a World Series win?

Or what woman could, like the boys in the article, “splurge at Saks Fifth Avenue, then get mustard on their Prada shirts and never bother to wash the stains off…run up in clubs and bars with fake platinum chains and real Breitling watches, popping bottles and waving their cash around” without immediately being called a personality-disordered bitch or slut in need of medication?

And amazingly, according to the Grantland article, much of Boston Hardcore definitely didn’t like the “meathead jocks from Revere”. Of course, if you’re from Massachusetts, you know that Revere is a city about a thousand times more associated with actual Boston than somewhere like North Andover is. It is attached to actual Boston by the subway and is filled with working-class people who have actual Boston accents; the kind of people caricatured, for better or worse, in Saturday Night Live skits and Ben Affleck dramas. But what, exactly, made the hardcore Uber Jock so different than Jock Other from Revere? As far as I can tell from being there, Uber Jock and Jock Other had just about everything in common except that Uber Jock was rich, either having been born so or having become so through witty high-stakes T-shirt schemes. And Jock Other was dirty and poor. Working class Jock Other simply wasn’t relatable to the elite Uber Jocks. For them, “the money was enough to see the world. They’d hit Australia, Hong Kong, Jordan, the Philippines, Guatemala, Thailand, Haiti, Argentina, Japan — always in the baseball offseason. They went to Spain, had multicourse lunches in Bilbao, got high on Xanax on the lawn outside the Guggenheim. They’d splurge on food but sleep in cars…[more money for absinthe].” Uber Jock had class.

The Grantland article even relays the following completely tone-deaf tale of entitlement: “Once, in the heat of a melee, LeMoine didn’t realize he had squared up with an undercover police officer. Perhaps feeling good that day, the officer let LeMoine go with a warning and pat on the back…“[I heard] ‘Good fight, kid. Get on your way,’” LeMoine says. “Only in Boston can you beat up a cop and hear, ‘Nice fight.’”

And that’s just it. If you’re a privileged white man, you can beat up a cop and hear, “Nice fight.” But if you’re Arab and you beat up a cop, the whole city of Boston might go under lock-down to find and kill you. If you’re Black, you probably stay as far away from cops as possible, because one imperfect move and you’re shot in the face. If you’re a woman who seems like a threat to a cop, especially a woman of color, you’d be called a crazy bitch at best, or at worst, have your vagina forcibly searched or be abused, arrested, and die mysteriously in a holding cell. You certainly won’t be congratulated. And if you’re blue collar or homeless and don’t look classy enough to impress a cop, and you don’t have a trust fund doubling as a bail fund—perhaps if you were from, say, Revere—your life might be ruined because you couldn’t afford bail.

tenyardfight

Boston Hardcore

Repeatedly, according to the article and other popular mythology, we are supposed to believe these kids were punk, a term never defined accept through implications that they were rebels. They were on the right side of the “jocks vs. punks dichotomy”. But these rebels enacted every last cookie-cutter cliché of white male entitlement and stereotypical Jockness possible. Boston Hardcore kids, on the whole, were desperately trying to identify as the opposite of themselves, spitting out their psyche’s tortured teenage shadows for everyone else to deal with, projecting and vomiting their Jockness over anyone in their path. They never saw the resemblance between themselves and everything they supposedly hated. Of course there were individual exceptions to the rules and codes, but Boston Hardcore, at its core, was the utmost Uber Jock subculture, right down to the fact that girlfriends were called “coat racks” whose purpose was to hold their boyfriends’ stuff and cheer for them from the sidelines while they put on a big, physical show, got in fights, and called people “fags”. And right down to the fact that their favorite bands, like Ten Yard Fight and Slapshot, were sports-themed and their most infamous and proud series of antics revolved around baseball. In terms of behaviors and attitudes, there was literally nothing that differentiated them from the Jocks they so defined themselves in opposition to, beyond the fact that some of them played power chords. Just like Jocks mythologize their winning high school team, these hardcore Uber Jocks are mythologizing themselves ad infinitum. And apparently they’re not being ironic.

redsoxriiot

Red Sox Riot, 2004: Jock or Boston Hardcore Kid?

Just teenagers being teenagers and college kids partying? I wish, but now we’re well into our thirties and forties, and we’re still talking about it as if we’d definitely like to relive it, as if it were a movie as cool as Fight Club and a show as impeccably written and acted as The Wire, as if it were the legendary high school football game and we’re never going to be that completely and thoroughly good at life again. I understand the basic desire, maybe even the need, to be friends with one’s own past. But to be mythologizing such behavior without a critical frame, or at least a full frame that includes the stories of everyone who was harmed, and to be so completely unembarrassed, speaks to a much larger issue: the umbrella culture of white, straight, male entitlement, misogyny, and violence trickling down into its logical extension in subcultures.

We live in a time when the United States seems more full than ever of young, entitled white men Fucking Shit Up and being celebrated for it. We celebrate white men’s right to gunsto publicationsto fame and repute, to neocolonialist pursuits, and just about everything else they can get their hands on. Indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to say that self-congratulatory and entitled white men Fucking Shit Up seem to, in one way or another, be at the root of just about every last thing that’s gone wrong in the past five hundred years of human history. I’m glad I’m an adult now with the capacity to think critically and remove myself from situations teeming with such toxicity. And I can only hope a lot of the people I knew or knew of in Boston Hardcore have grown up. And that they’ll choose to hold their pasts with a bit more honesty and self-awareness, and with a willingness to make sure their own children, nieces, and nephews can inhabit a truly interesting and rebellious world.

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Stop denying and unseeing rape subculture

Recently, several survivors/victims of assault in “writing communities” have come forward to speak out against male writers who abused them. This has spawned myriad well-intentioned conversations in which people have given lip service to the idea of “needing to focus on dismantling rape culture” while simultaneously denying—both explicitly and through their non-attention to the issue—that literary subcultures could possibly have anything to do with rape culture and insisting that we need to focus on the bigger picture.

Of course we need to talk about the bigger picture of rape-culture-in-general. Let me say that again so nobody walks away from reading this claiming I said otherwise: In no way should we stop examining the bigger picture of rape-culture-in-general. But if that’s really the goal, then we have to talk about rape subculture and stop trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. No culture, ever, has existed without subcultural manifestations which relate to it both directly and peripherally.

Rape subculture shouldn’t be a revelation. In fact, it’s something we-who-talk-a-good-feminist-game tend to understand pretty naturally when it’s someone else’s subculture. Progressive writer-folk will often be the first to connect rape culture to rape subculture when they see, for example, abuse within a given church community, misogyny in hip hop music, discrimination against women in the sciences, or communities of date-rapists in fraternities. Rape subculture isn’t that complicated to understand. It’s when people use the codes, norms, identities, spaces, behavioral idioms, and other structures of their subculture to allow, apologize for, and perpetuate rape. If rape-culture-in-general is the house, then rape subculture is what we fill up the rooms and paint the walls with.

Rape subculture in “alternative” communities is often doubly insidious because our individual and group identities are molded precisely around an idea that we are not that. We are not dumb jocks; we’re poetry freaks! We’re intellectuals! We know the language of feminism! We voted for Barack Obama! We’re vegans! We’re artists! We’re anti-authoritarians! We’re liberal hippies! We’re Buddhists! We’re alternative! And it is precisely this psychological investment people have in being “different” and “alternative” that makes rape subculture all that much more important to be aware of.

The following are just a few of the many examples of rape subculture manifesting in literary communities. Versions of these things can be seen in rape culture as a whole and in other rape subcultures. At the same time, these things cannot be separated from the literary world. They are very specific manifestations of abuse that will only be seen in, and have precisely to do with, literary spaces and paradigms. In fact, many of these things are examples of how literary subculture has played a major role in creating and maintaining patriarchy and rape-culture-in-general:

-Idol worship of living writers: This manifests in many different ways, such as certain writers getting a free pass to do things that, if they were “normal” people without idol or semi-idol status, would be immediately recognized as creepy. Certain writers get away with doing things because they are considered really cool, tortured geniuses (mental illness has a long history of being romanticized, as well as extremely misunderstood, among the literary), and/or just really kooky or funny.

-Knee-jerk silencing of detractors: When people, in various ways, call out the behavior or texts of rape subculture in the literary community, they’re often battered with a chorus of “stop being so politically correct! This is art for chrissake! Don’t censor [xyz].” This “waa waa political-correctness” whine is usually just a vague, knee-jerk way to silence a critical conversation about an individual or group’s behavior or art, as well as a simplistic method for privileging the voice of the offender over the voice of the offended. The outcome of “stop being so politically correct!” is usually that the offender is allowed to do or write whatever he wants in a public sphere while feeling entitled to others coddling him with positivity. Another way that writers routinely care-take the rape subculture around them is when, in a response to an offensive piece of writing or the offensive behavior of an idol, they say something to the effect of, “But you just don’t get it. You just don’t get what they’re trying to do [with xyz poem, story, statement, behavior, etc.]”

-Abuse of power: The classic example of power allowing people to get away with rape subculture in the literary world is creepy professors abusing or sleeping with students whose grades and/or careers they have the power to determine. Other examples include editors of prominent magazines, successful poets, and successful novelists using their clout to attract and abuse less powerful writers—often “unknowns” who are very young.

-Language: It should go without saying that writers are good at language. Poets, novelists, and other types of writers, when they are abusive, often use language in extremely complicated ways that cover up, erase, and promote literary rape subculture, whether it is in private conversations with the abused, or in public conversations on message boards, Facebook posts, in classrooms, or at conferences. At worst, this manifests as abusers actually making poetry or novels out of the “material” of their abusive exploits.

-Assault: Assaults committed at writing conferences, readings, afterparties, in MFA programs, and in other rooms of the literary world, become a part of the fabric of rape subculture by poisoning and making dangerous the places where literature happens.

-In-group/out dynamics and labels: People want to be a part of a perceived “in” group of poets or other writers, whether online or in a geographic location. The vulnerability and power play that accompany in-group/out-group dynamics and labels of all other cultures and subcultures apply here. People throw themselves and others under the bus for the sake of a larger group identity.

-Publishing disparity among genders: Please see VIDA’s Count and other statistics about how ridiculous the disparity is between men and women in publishing. This is a concrete and statistically verifiable manifestation of a subculture in which women systematically matter less than men. It is incredibly foolish to think that such a culture won’t inevitably lead to abuse.

-Other patriarchal publishing problems: Many publications refuse—either explicitly by declaration, or implicitly through silence and distancing—to publish works that are too “intense” and revolve around issues of assault or violence, works that deal with “women’s issues” and femininity, etc., often while over-representing works that have sexist or masculinist themes.

-Idol worship of dead writers: Many of the world’s most revered writers, from the beginning of the written history, are bastions of misogyny, sexism, and rape-culture-in-general. While it’s true that the talent or cultural worth of a writer is not inherently negated by that writer having been a creep or abuser, it’s also true that people in the literary world often uncritically worship and try to emulate such writers and/or refuse to engage in mature, complicated conversations about the implications of such writers and their works.

-Women as tokens: Women are often less than half (and often none or close to none) of the writers who are represented at readings, in publications, on syllabi, and in general spheres of literary influence and voice. When this is pointed out, a common defensive response is to hold up those individual women who are represented as proof that rape subculture and other systems of misogyny don’t exist, just like Hilary Clinton is often used as proof that discrimination against women in politics is over and Barack Obama is used to “prove” that we live in a post-racism world.

These are just a few examples specific to rape subculture in literary scenes. I invite people who partake in any other “subculture” or “alternative” culture to explore the specific ways in which rape culture trickles down there, too. We can’t insist on looking at the big picture without looking at the parts, and if we do refuse to look at the parts, we’re not going far enough in our commitment to dismantling rape culture. Our only hope at creating a new system is looking this one in the face to try and understand it. Only then can we make conscious decisions to be different.

To deny that rape subculture in the literary world is real, and an issue to be dealt with, is to deny that rape culture itself is real, and to fundamentally misunderstand how rape-culture-in-general works by filtering down through more localized, more specific systems. This denial and misunderstanding, even when well-intentioned, amounts to one more act of patriarchal silencing and erasure.

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sensory/somatic warm-ups & writing prompts for writing for as long as it takes to fill up a notebook without stopping

Because I have massive, long-term writer’s block, I’ve decided to sit down for a night (Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7PM) and write for as long as it takes to fill up a notebook. I invited everyone I know on Facebook to do this, so we could all stand in solidarity and support each other.

Below is a list of sensory/somatic writing warm-up suggestions that came to mind. Below that, there’s a list of writing prompts I’ve compiled. The prompts are inspired by suggestions from Facebook friends who were interested in the shared writing spree, Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments, Charles Bernstein’s writing experiments, some tidbits at Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost blog, Peter Elbow’s “metaphors for priming the pump”, several things that flashed into my mind whose origins I’m not sure of but that I’m pretty sure didn’t originate in my brain, and a couple I think I made up.

Here you go:

SENSORY/SOMATIC WRITING WARM-UPS:

-Do a jumping jack, push-up, or sit-up, then write a thought. Do another jumping jack, push-up, or sit-up, then write a thought. Repeat
-Write slowly or quickly
-Write standing, sitting, lying down
-Write on your knees, as if begging
-Pick a favorite dance move. Do the move, write a thought… do the move, write a thought. Repeat
-Dance very slowly with your notebook as a dance partner while writing
-Kiss the page, write a line, kiss the page, write a line. Repeatwriter2
-Incorporate writing into a favorite stretch or yoga posture
-Spin your body around and around until you don’t feel right, then write a paragraph. Repeat
-Write in different rooms, in/on different pieces of furniture, in the closet, at a locked door, standing on a bed, standing with feet on different stairs, etc.
-Write while on the toilet
-Write while holding your breath
-Write while breathing really slowly
-Self-induce hyperventilation by breathing too fast/too much, then write
-Scream, then write a line or paragraph. Whisper, then write a line or paragraph. Sigh, groan, sing, then write a line or paragraph, etc.
-Say, yell, whisper, or sing everything you write out loud while writing it
-Write while making different facial expressions (smile, frown, pursed lips, raised eyebrows, clenched jaw, etc.)
-Stare at a lit lightbulb for too long, then write
-Write without blinking for as long as possible, blink, then repeat
-Write while listening to unpleasant noises (loud alarms, music you hate, recording of a baby crying, etc.) or pleasant noises (ocean or bird sound CDs, music you like, etc.)
-Write while tapping or shaking your feet or legs
-Write while keeping your body as still or rigid as possible
-Write with one leg or arm in the air
-Write naked or with only one item of clothing on (a shoe, a shirt)
-Write wearing clothes that make you feel really good or really uncomfortable/ugly
-Write with too many clothes or blankets on
-Write in front of a blowing fan
-Write while gripping or balancing a heavy thing in your other hand (weight, rock, computer)
-Write while gripping or balancing a light thing in your other hand (sheet of paper, rice cracker)
-Write with an ice cube in your other hand. Don’t stop till it melts
-Write with one or both feet in hot or cold water. Don’t stop till the water becomes tepid

COMPILED LIST OF WRITING PROMPTS FOR WRITING WITHOUT STOPPING FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES TO FILL UP A NOTEBOOK:

Write about someone else’s memories

Write about someone else’s recurring dreams

Write yourself in love with someone you find totally despicable

13 ways of looking at a _____
12 ways of looking at a _____
etc.

Know you’ll burn it in the morning

Know it’ll burn you in the morning

Write a slightly different version of the same sentence, phrase, or paragraph 20 times

Write the same sentence, phrase, or paragraph in as many different tenses and points of view as you can think of

Use science, religion, or psychology terms to talk about a subject or object

Lie about a memory or tell it the wrong way by accident

Write about an object or subject from all possible emotional states

Write every possible scenario of rain, wind, and sun you can conceive of

Think of a subject, then write while absolutely avoiding writing about that subject

Write something that isn’t funny

Write something that isn’t sad

Write about the most difficult thing to write about

Describe seven types of anxiety, despair, confusion, joy, anger, and/or disgust

Take the first line of a poem or story and write from there

Write about a shadow

Write about dreams you do and don’t want to have

Write while listening to your favorite or least favorite song

Write while listening to a song you’ve never heard before

Translate yourself from your inner child’s point of view

Translate yourself from an elderly person’s point of view

Translate something from the ground’s point of view

“If… then”

“I used to… but now”

Make a list of the first things that come to mind. Write a sentence or paragraph about each of those things

Quick: Write a religious manifesto and try to get others to really believe in it

Negate every sentence and paragraph you just wrote

Lines and lines starting “I remember”

Lines and lines starting “I wish”

You’re a prisoner with one piece of paper. Write

Write about a problem that has no solution

Write about a solution that has no problem

Write about the fact that all bodies die

Write a paragraph about each thing you can think of that arises and falls

Pick an abstract concept (scientific, philosophical, ethical). What’s its form? Shape? Movement? Color? Why? How does it appear at its healthiest? At its weakest? How does it fly its flag? How does its write its poetry?

Say all of the opposite things possible about what you love, what you hate, and what you find neutral

Write about how to make the last day of the earth’s existence an awesome day worth living

Write about something you hate and make it beautiful and worthy

Find a photo, painting, or drawing. Write its story

Write the history of all the sounds you know

Write about changes, turning points, hinges, thresholds

Let a place describe you

Write about a border

Talk about the history of a body part, of everything it has done, what it knows, what it has seen, its wisdom, its folly

Write about how all the materials are defective

Write about how all the systems are defective

Pick a thing and write about how to save it

Pick a thing and write about how to love it

Write all possible versions of god and non-god

Write like an emergency is happening

Write specifics from ewoolfach year of your life/someone else’s life

Write about all possible addictions. Explain them, how they happen, their rituals, their purpose, their cure

Write about mysterious inanimate objects

Write about not needing permission to do something you love and/or are afraid of

Pick two things. Write a connection or road between them. Narrate a path. Grow flowers there

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The Next Big Thing Blog Post

Fabulous Cynthia Reeser

Cynthia Reeser, writer, artist, and editor of Aqueous Books and Prick of the Spindle, has graciously tagged me to write a Next Big Thing blog post, in which writers chat through internet-land about an upcoming project. You can read about Cynthia’s new book in progress, a short story collection called Lefenstrausseover here at her blog.And as for me:

What is your working title of your book? A Child Is Being Killed.

Where did the idea come from for the book? I began writing this book immediately after I finished reading Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School for the first time, which is a radically shattered text about sexual abuse, trafficking, and bodies. Later, I read Maurice Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, in which Blanchot ruminates over the impossibility of truly representing trauma through language. He writes, for instance, that it might be impossible to say the sentence “A child is being killed” and have that sentence really mean anything– that it might even be an erasure or betrayal of the trauma. I took this as a challenge to say the unsayable–the disaster–even when you know your words must be incomplete. Words cannot capture trauma because trauma is, by definition, that which explodes all of our systems of meaning and coherent narrative. But the challenge is to speak anyways, for the sake of bearing witness. We cannot have a new society without people who are willing to compassionately witness violence, however incomplete our ability to understand it. That witness will be the floor upon which a radically liberated society is placed.

What genre does your book fall under? I like to call it a novel. Maybe an experimental novel, if that’s not too annoying of aacibk_cover word.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Unknown actors with blurry faces.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A teenager named Shrap is attempting to tell you the story of how she was sold into sex slavery in exchange for her father’s business.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? It is being published by the lovely Aqueous Books in June, 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Several years. I wrote it in fits and starts, in all kinds of notebooks and on several different computers, and finally finished it when I did my MFA.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I have strong relationships with the work of Kathy Acker, Bhanu Kapil, Selah Saterstrom, and Helene Cixous, four writers whose books I was eating up while I was writing this. I see those relationships as strongly reflected in my book, but god knows if anybody else would agree with me there.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? This musing is long, but indulge me, for this is actually something I hardly ever talk about due precisely to my own perceived inability to do it justice. In 2004, I spent a summer working at an anti-sex trafficking organization in Kolkata, India’s red light districts. The women and children I worked with had all been rescued from sex trafficking and/or lived their entire lives in brothels. Most of them, some as young as eight, had been drugged, beaten, and sold across borders in Southeast Asia under the watch of police, soldiers, border patrol, business people, and various other folks in positions of national and international power.

Part of my job there, aside from watching and teaching kids at shelters in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light districts, was to research hundreds of pages of news articles for the English education outreach department. So it was day after day of reading story after story about human trafficking. My mind became a veritable clearinghouse of these narratives– police officers, government officials, and millionaires running massive international trafficking rings; family members selling their children overseas so they could eat; people raped tens of times every day for years in tiny rooms, then murdered when their bodies were no longer useful; women and children performing unspeakable feats of creative survival for themselves and others. The incredible things that peoples’ minds and spirits do when they are physically, sexually, or mentally unable to pivot away from hell.

india

Kolkata, 2004

I had always wanted to write about these beings but I did not quite know how to do it without co-opting their voices. They are perfectly capable of telling their own stories, and have. But after I read Acker, and later, Blanchot and other theorists of trauma and language, I realized there were lots of ways that violence can be fictionalized while still retaining that critical aspect of being a radical witness to the real world. Though much of the violence that happens in A Child Is Being Killed seems extreme or unbelievable, almost everything that happens in the book is a version of true story.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  I am interested in what it means to be a reader-witness. If books are bodies and bodies are made of story and time, I consider A Child Is Being Killed to be a traumatized text–a violated body of language. I want to know what it means to hold the space of the traumatized body as that body is trying valiantly to tell itself. To assist that telling simply through meeting and seeing it as a reader. To tolerate and trust the dissociation, hyperarousal, compulsion, and panic of that birth process. To be a witness and decide what we are going to do about how the text, and our relationship to it, reflects the real world, where there are more slaves currently than in all of human history. I write about this more extensively here. But that is my invitation.

Thanks again to Cynthia for tagging me and please tune into these writers’ blogs the week of January 18-25 to hear about what they’re up to:

Stacy Opalewski Walsh will be writing about her new collection of non-fiction stories, How Film Destroyed My Life, which details her experiences in the film industry.

Pampi, digital mixed media performance artist, poet, and activist, will be discussing some of her performance work.

Nancy Stohlman, author of Searching for Suzi, will be discussing her new book, The Monster Opera and Other Bible Stories.

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The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s Rape Rack: Feminism and Animal Rights


I wrote this essay several years ago and never ended up doing anything with it. A friend recently asked me if I had any essays regarding the importance of animal rights activists and feminists standing in solidarity, particularly around the issue of reproductive control and the imperative for animal rights activists to embrace the pro-choice stance. I wrote this for a feminist audience and I know that several more things need to be–and are being–written about animal oppression’s connections to other human movements. It is on my to-do list to write another with an animal rights audience in mind. For the purposes of this piece, I’ll define women as anyone who relates to the label and anyone who has ovaries/a womb etc. I know it’s long, but I feel it’s important enough to warrant a lot of words. I’m cross-posting this to the Myth About the Vegetarian Myth blog.

Note: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” is a phrase that comes from Audre Lorde’s seminal essay of the same name, published in her collection Sister/Outsider in 1984. Also available here to read.

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s Rape Rack

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.-Alice Walker

Feminists and animal rights activists don’t want to talk about it, but they have a lot in common. They don’t want to hear about it, but they need one another to move forward. Being a feminist and an animal rights activist gives me an interesting perspective. I have managed to straddle both movements and witness this fantastic resistance that each side has to the other. This resistance becomes deeply painful when you’re standing in the middle, attempting to be a bridge, watching so much revolutionary potential fall through that stubborn chasm.

Most feminists have been pretty good at asking hard questions. We demand that male privilege, white privilege, able-bodied privilege, heterosexual privilege, Euro-American privilege, class privilege, and many other privileges be analyzed. Some of us have addressed these questions about privilege better than others but, generally, serious feminists have gotten to the point where we recognize that the movement is not simply about gender. Women’s lived experiences stretch across multicolored, multitextured layers of identity, culture, history, and context. In order for feminism to be truly relevant, then, it needs to examine all of society’s power structures. If it doesn’t, it will apply only to rich white women who are not negatively affected by hierarchical orders of race, class, and nation, to name a few. In its most revolutionary form, feminism is a movement that seeks the dismantling of domination itself and all of the frameworks which allow it.

So it worries me that hardly any feminists have questioned one of our most fundamental expressions of power and domination: human privilege. It worries me that so few feminists have examined how this particular aspect of experience shapes our beliefs and actions on virtually every level, just like all other aspects of identity do. It worries me that so many feminists have overlooked the fact that determining one’s inherent worth based on their membership in a species is just as arbitrary as determining one’s inherent worth based on their race, gender, body size, sexuality, national origin, or any other identity marker. It worries me that feminists have overlooked the reality that human privilege is an analogue to all other privileges. It worries me that all of the same mechanisms which have been used to justify and enable violence against human groups have also been used to oppress nonhuman groups. It worries me that human privilege is indelibly connected to violence and misogyny in a tangled web of hierarchies and binaries, and that feminism, with its revolutionary potential, with its uninhibited call to justice, has generally been silent about all of this.

I want to ask the animal questions. Keep in mind, they are not unreasonable questions. We have asked similar questions about race, class, and nationality. We’ve done a similar analysis of many other power structures. We have recognized the complex, intersecting configurations of experience which allow so many oppressions at so many junctures. Yet most of us stop when nonhumans appear at such junctures. Even though examining the domination of nonhumans is nothing but a logical extension of feminism, even though this is the place feminism almost arrives at so often, virtually all feminisms have sidestepped when the next logical question would have been, what about animals?

When we get to places where animal questions might arise, we turn away. We lock up our wellsprings of inquiry and empathy. We don’t ask about how billions of nonhumans fit into webs of power and violence. We don’t want to know how nonhumans fit into this capitalist, patriarchal, racist, hierarchical scheme that has reached deeply into so many of us, in so many different ways. We challenge the false dichotomy of masculine/feminine but put so much faith in the false dichotomy of animal/human. It doesn’t occur to us that human privilege may not be any more “natural” than male or white privilege– that the human/animal dichotomy is just one more socially constructed method of organizing power. In an arbitrary and illogical swipe of its arm, feminism has reserved for human groups its important insights about social constructions of power and identity. Conceptually, feminism has written nonhuman animals out. It has erased them using mechanisms that are alarmingly similar to the ones men have used to erase women.

I want to delve deeper into the animal questions, but first I have to ask you to put down your defenses. The answers to the animal questions involve things as intimate as what or who we put into our mouths, chew, taste, enjoy, swallow, digest, and eventually shit out. The answers to such questions can bring on powerful and painful psychological, emotional, and physical reactions; reactions which all too often make us shut down and become defensive. The answers present virulent contradictions in our worldviews and require lifestyle changes. The answers often highlight our complicity in massive, institutionalized violence. Unthinkable, unspeakable violence.

But I want to push feminism into that profoundly uncomfortable space, and I don’t think feminism can move forward without going there. I believe that the future of feminism lies there, in that hardest, darkest space of so many nonhuman animals’ experiences. If we go into this place, we will start to understand the workings of the basest domination.

There are times when black activists have to push whites into a similar space. There are times when “Third World” feminists have to push “First World” feminists into such a space. All the time, gay activists have to push heterosexual people into it. It is a space in which violent power imbalances are confronted by those who abuse their power. There are times when women have to push men into that uncomfortable space, a place in which there are two choices: look away from male privilege, or look it in the face and see the unbelievable pain it has caused. And there were times when all of these confrontations seemed just as inconceivable as the one in question. But pushing these comfort zones is the only way in which change has ever occurred or will occur.

Who is going to push humans into that hard space?

The answer is, unless nonhumans figure out a way to revolt, we are going to have to push each other into it. And even though facing our domination of nonhumans is an incredibly painful process, there is no justification for it not being done. The brilliant, important work we do for humans does not give us a free moral ride, a free pass to be violent toward nonhumans. So when you come upon this space, what will you do? Will you look away from human privilege, or will you look it in the face to see all of the unbelievable pain it has caused?

I want to push feminism into the space where it examines the consequences of human privilege. It will not be easy, but in this place we can examine how we have taken on the eyes, the actions, the beliefs of the oppressor. In this place we can see that we have used all of his tools. That we are complicit in the vile, unthinkable acts of physical and sexual violence toward nonhuman animals which are happening literally every moment. That we are using the master’s tools not to dismantle his house, but to help the master oppress those in his darkest hidden dungeons.

I invite you to come with me to this frightening space. To do so you will have to fight your will to defend and deny human privilege in the same way that men defend and deny male privilege. You will have to exchange your defenses for the deepest empathy imaginable. You will have to take the energy of those defenses and turn it toward your desire for change. To come with me, you must agree to witness beings the way you have wanted to be witnessed. To believe that their pain is as real as yours is. To feel their yearning for liberation the way you feel your own. I want you to look into this space with me, and I want you to make a choice about what you are going to see and what you are going to do about it. I want all of us, together, to use our feminist eyes to compassionately witness the suffering of nonhuman creatures.

~
Open the door. This is a violent space.

It is a frightening space, a space which throbs like a heart, a heart that is shattered but still alive. It is the master’s secret basement. Eyes look out at you from its darkest corners, terrified of you because you are a human. There are so many questions in this space which need to be asked. Look in. Find him. Find pieces of him in yourself. Ask the questions, even if they do not have answers. Create the conceptual realm.

Ask the master: Why are ninety percent of sport hunters men? I want to know why; I want to know what justifies this absurd “masculine” delight in killing beautiful creatures. These creatures, they are the defenseless prey of men just like I have at times felt like the defenseless prey of men. So often, I feel hunted, I walk down the street with the male gaze gauging me like a gun. I understand the deer’s predicament, her fear of men, I even understand her fear or me, her terrified eyes. It comes from the exact same place that my own fear comes from. After all, ninety percent of the hunters of women are also men.

Let’s walk in a little further to this nightmarish cellar. Let’s really try to see the world through the eyes of others. Let’s be brave.

Ask: Why do meat and masculinity have such a long, complicated history of symbolizing and constructing one another? Need I list off all of the meat-related euphemisms for penis and penis-related activities? Sausage, say it without laughing. Sausage. Beat that meat. Choke that chicken. Your meat is your manhood. Real men eat steak. Real men cook on the grill. Real men have meat on their bones. You’re never going to be strong if you don’t eat meat, and real men are strong. Real men play football. Vegetarians are fags. Vegetarians are pussies, faggots. Girls. And girls are like vegetables, passive and weak.

Ask: Why do you feel like a piece meat after being violated or objectified? Hear the master shouting from the darkness: Leg of lamb! Chicken breast! Let’s order some legs and breasts! He fucked her like she was a goddamn piece of meat and she loved it! He fucked her with his meat! With his sausage! With his wiener! She wanted it! Bag her face, man! She’s pretty hot when you don‘t look at her face! She’s got nice tits! We are pieces. We are fragments. I love legs and breasts! Legs and breasts! Legs and breasts! I’m a real leg man! What about you? You seem like a breast man! Can I get a bite of that thigh? Thanks man! Ask him whether or not he’s talking about you or his meal. Maybe he’ll tell you he’s talking about both. After all, women and animals are consumed together. Made into meat and pieces, into pieces of meat, together. These are metaphors for our oppression. Animal bodies are the reality behind our metaphors. All of us know the reality of the sheer horror of animals’ lives on some level, which is why we don’t want to be treated like them.

Ask him, this master who has for so long held the pens: Why are there so many more animal words in that insult or objectify women than men? Ask: Why we are called bitches? Yes, ask this question and maybe he will remind you that, like the female breeding dog who struggles against being forced to have sex with the male breeding dog, we are difficult. Ornery. Angry. We are bitches who don’t want to be fucked. We are fat cows; we are hot young chicks; we are obnoxious old henpeckers. We are sex kittens, foxy ladies, evil vixens; we are mindless social butterflies. We have beavers. We have pussies. We don’t like to be treated like animals. Pens are power.

This space is enormous. It creates a bridge across thousands of years.

Ask him: Why was it that the men who dominated science started the practice of cutting apart live animals? The maps of science weren’t written by the oppressed. Would we have defined animals differently? Why don’t we redefine them, now that we have a stronger say? We, who have always known how it feels to merely be another’s goal? We, who have been raped by our fathers and brothers and partners and husbands and friends, prodded in secret places by doctors, sterilized without our consent? We, who, as men vivisected our nonhuman sisters and brothers, were being burned at the stake, pathologized, and lobotomized by those same exact men? What about those of us, largely people of color, who have been dissected by scientists right alongside nonhuman animals, who have been literal slaves on farms beside animals? We, who, together with an animal, destroyed Eden, and together were blamed for all of the evil in the world? But we always forget how we had company that day, how our dual fates were sealed on that page by the Father. We want to forget the destiny we shared with the snake in our most significant cultural myth.

Ask him: Would women have seen nonhumans as having inherent worth, worth beyond their use to humans, had we been the ones who set the standards? Held the pens? Made the maps? Written the textbooks? Founded the universities? Told the cultural myths? You do realize that this idea about nonhuman animals not having inherent worth was originated by men, right? One which we bought into for some reason? You do realize that these ideas about animals were specifically written out and articulated by the great male philosophers and the notorious schools of patriarchal “morality” so often ridiculed by feminists– Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Christianity, ad nauseum? How have we overlooked that common framework? Look at it. Stare at its violent, vile, disgusting face.

Ask: Why is it that abusive men regularly involve companion animals in woman battering? And why is this the aspect of domestic abuse that is the least recorded at police stations and shelters, even though it happens all the time? Can I ask, as I sit in this violent conceptual space, why it is that men are more likely than women to engage in violence in the home against the women, children, and companion animals who make up families?

Ask this master, as we walk through these deepest catacombs of pain: Why, for centuries, have men dominated both women and animals by domesticating them? By owning them? By consuming them? Ask the master, why these connections between animal husbandry and being a husband?

Why have powerful men co-opted the control of both women’s and animals’ reproductive systems? Ask the piece of the master that is in you: Why do women go along with this twisted scheme? Why do we drink the stolen milk of females in factory farms? How do we bear to know that their lives are defined specifically around their breasts being hooked up to machines or prodded and squeezed every day on “humane” farms? That they live attached to these tit-sucking machines and hands, often given horrible drugs so that they will keep producing for the master and his cohorts? That these drugs in our food give us reproductive cancers in turn?

And how can we eat the coerced eggs of females? The females who are supposed to spread their wings, go outside, live freely but instead inhabit tiny cages where their feet grow around feces-covered wires? Where from sheer madness they peck one another’s eyes out with the remains of their seared-off beaks? Even on “humane” farms, billions of females have been designed–literally, over centuries of breeding–to fulfill the sole purpose of being egg machines. Do we truly consent to such a world? That milk isn’t ours. Those eggs aren’t ours. Those bodies aren’t ours. Meat and dairy are the opposite of consent.

How do we allow the babies of mothers to be stolen? Have you ever seen cows mourn the loss of their calves? It’s phenomenal. Have you heard the bovine mothers cry? You would have thought they were human. Or maybe you might have been reminded that you are an animal. Have you ever seen the enormous, beautiful pigs– animals who are more intelligent than dogs– go mad sitting in their shit and piss, throwing their largest bodies against the walls of their tiniest death-laden pens, ripping their mouths apart as they try to bite through the metal bars? Have you ever seen their babies suck on their breasts through those prison bars or read stories about how these creatures frequently jump fences and the like in escape attempts? Have you ever realized that the animal farming is the most large-scale, institutionalized control of female reproduction, sex, and bodies-in-general that has ever existed?

Let us never forget the male bodies victimized by this patriarchal space. The useless young male chicks are thrown away alive in dumpsters or turned into veal. And the bulls become eunuchs, honorary females, having their testicles burned off with hot irons. Any bull who dares run away from even the most “humane” farm will be stun-gunned and wrestled back into life-long captivity until slaughtered for his body when his reproductive mechanisms become useless.

And here’s the big question. The question I don’t really want to ask because it makes me wince, it makes my skin crawl and fills my heart with horror. This is the topic which gets me in trouble with both feminists and with the master, again and again, perhaps because it makes so clear the ultimate thing we are not supposed to notice, this horrendous interconnection of oppressions: Did you know that many farmers nickname that place where our nonhuman sisters are artificially inseminated “the rape rack”?

The rape rack.

They actually call it the rape rack. This is not a term I constructed to be shocking. This term comes from our collective psyche and the psyches of farmers. And some version of this device, no matter what it is called, is central to all animal farming, whether permaculture or factory farms, local or distant, “humane” or otherwise.

Here is where my mind starts to shut down because I become so horrified at the implications. How do we bear to live in a world in which conditions exist so that anything, anywhere, no matter who was hooked up to it, could ever, even by the smallest stretch of imagination, be called a rape rack?

Feminist visions cannot come true in a world where rape racks exist. A feminist world cannot be a world where anyone, any life, human or nonhuman, male or female, black or white, two legs or four, could ever be defined solely based on their relationship to such a paradigm. A feminist world cannot be one in which anyone is defined based on how many times they can be inseminated, give birth, have their children stolen from them, drugged, be hooked up to a breast-sucking machine or have their breasts kneeded, sometimes daily, by humans who make money on their milk, have their milk and eggs stolen from them, and then be sent back to the rape rack or, in more “humane” situations, the insemination rod that gets pushed into their vaginas. As long as the rape rack exists, we will live in a world of rapists.

It’s hard for me to go here and feel the enormity of this. How hard is it, then, I wonder, for those who don’t want to see the oppression of animals for what it is? For those who don’t want to analyze human privilege or believe in this power dynamic? For those who refuse to acknowledge this dungeon? When I think of it all, my mind starts to writhe with the pain, the pain of wanting to save them and knowing I cannot. There are billions of nonhuman animals who live these unbelievable lives–literally billions. Tens of billions in one year in United States agriculture alone. That is a number so large I cannot even fathom it. That is billions more than the entire human population, in one year alone. That does not even take into account sea animals, the millions in vivisection and dissection, the millions who are tortured in fur traps and go mad in fur farms, the millions who are turned into leather shoes, the millions of companion animals who are abused, the millions of unwitting nonhumans who are hunted down for no reason with men’s big guns, the millions of nonhumans who are murdered during men’s big wars, with patriarchy’s big phallic bombs.

I feel the siren song of denial tugging at me: Do you feel it, too? This makes sense. The implications are too unfathomable. Animal rights activists often say that their introduction to the reality of animal lives was like taking the Matrix’s red pill. You cannot go back. Opening to the true lives of animals changes one’s entire paradigm so that you almost cannot see anything the same way. You begin to see that our entire civilization is based, in one way or another, whether literally or metaphorically, on the mass, unnecessary, institutionalized destruction of fellow beings. This is a worldview a person can’t understand unless they have truly gone there. I, too, even as a long-term vegan activist, often feel the need to walk away from this horror, to stop attempting to create a language which does it justice. But then I remind myself that this intoxicating song of denial is a trap. I remind myself that it wants me to justify or downplay the violence, to unfeel the horror of this space, to unsee what I know to be real, solely in an effort to protect my conscience. The blue pill is comfortable but it’s truly nothing more than a dream.

We love animals. We do not want them to suffer. We are friends with animals. We spend our lives alongside cats and dogs, fish and rabbits, birds, squirrels. We grow up collecting teddy bears and watching cartoon mice. As small children, we are often horrified when we find out what meat is, only to be confronted by a society in which such a horror is unacceptable and parents who refuse to let their children become vegetarians. Just like other groups at other times have done, we stay complicit in this violence by shutting off when the burden of pain is too large, when the connections feel too real and the aura of helplessness too overwhelming. We go inwards. We deny and justify and rationalize and intellectualize and become fragmented. In panic and numbness we use our privilege to make arbitrary, unconscious decisions about who should live and who should not.

We stay complicit by smothering portions of our hearts that want to care, by disallowing the life-oxygen of empathy to extend properly. But hearts were not meant to be smothered in this way. Hearts become dysfunctional when they are not available in their entirety, just like bodies with broken legs do. So why do we push the nonhumans away, into that special, shadowy section of our hearts? Why do we collude with the master in maintaining this dark, horrible, soundproof basement of colossal pain when we could be knocking down the walls?

We are animalized and they are feminized in complicated rings of domination and control and coercion and abuse and domestication and alienation. We do not need to be scared of these comparisons. To extend empathy beyond humans does not mean trading the human struggle for the nonhuman struggle. It means that both struggles will attain a new depth, one we could not conceive of before. It means putting one more hole in the stubborn cycle of violence. There is simply no need to keep justice all for ourselves. Empathy is not in limited supply; rather, it is like a muscle which gets stronger and larger with use.

Sit back. Take it all in. Before leaving this place, allow yourself to wonder. Allow yourself to remember your incredible power. Allow yourself to envision a world in which there is no unnecessary domination of any animal, human or nonhuman.

~

Ultimately, we, as feminists, have to do some serious soul-searching about all of this. We have to earnestly consider whether it is fair of us to ask the world to witness our voices and our pain when we so often refuse to witness the voices and pain of others. At its deepest level, is feminism being honest if it does not engage in this witnessing? I’m not so sure. Is it fair for us to call for our own dominators to stop, while simultaneously being dominators of billions of others? I don’t think it is. Is it fair to expect that those who oppress us examine their privilege, even though we do not examine one of our most fundamental privileges? Is it fair to demand autonomy, while simultaneously defining animals only in terms of their use to us? Does any group have a right to demand freedom while systematically keeping another group unfree?

I don’t think that a revolution in feminism can happen while feminists themselves are still colluding with this patriarchy-defined framework of dominator-dominated, and when those in question are arguably the most helpless, outcast, and unheard of all. No, I don’t think a feminist revolution can happen while this paradigm, while this bottom line, is still with us, and we are not taking accountability for our role in it. I want a world in which there is no domination. I want a feminism that recognizes all hierarchical power arrangements and seeks to eliminate them. I don’t think this request is unreasonable. In fact, I think it is one of the most reasonable requests ever made, and I think it is the largest, most profound and authentic expression of feminism possible.

This is a call to honestly ask ourselves, a call to be brave: With what eyes do we look at animals? Do we look at animals with feminist eyes, or do we look at them with the eyes of the master, those eyes that believe in the rightness and naturalness of domination? Do we look at them with indifferent, entitled, or domineering eyes, the same kinds of eyes that have oppressed us? Or do we look at them with revolutionary eyes? This question is crucial to the future of feminism. If we continue to look at this entirely silenced, universally subjugated group with the eyes of the old paradigm, a feminist world will not be realized, because feminism’s feet will still be caught in that violent framework of human and male domination. Feminism’s hands will still be bound to the master’s rape rack.

Animals are the ultimate, the fundamental Other. Let’s make the connection.

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