Speaking on behalf of the oppressed

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Maysie Maysie's picture
Speaking on behalf of the oppressed

So I started some drift in this thread.

This is what I said:

Quote:
I'm not speaking as a moderator. And this isn't about thread proliferation, but about what it means to speak on behalf of an oppressed group that one doesn't belong to.

My respectful advice is to not do it. This is perhaps one of the most consistent points I've raised on babble, time and time again, across a wide variety of issues. I don't mean to sound like a broken record but it's an issue that I believe many progressives are unaware of, as evidenced in the ways in which certain groups of marginalized people are "spoken about" and not listened to on their own terms.

Yes, this will mean a number of voices are not represented in the babble context. That is a separate issue.

Speaking on behalf of others who are differently oppressed than oneself, particularly if one has access to the information, stories, issues and struggles of "the other" through academic, news media and third party sources is, in my personal and professional opinion, not okay. Ever.

Oppressed folks, such as women of colour and Aboriginal women marginalized by sex work, for example, have struggled with poverty and systemic oppression for a long time going very far back into Canada's history. Women in those communities can, will and do speak for themselves. If we on babble don't have access to their voices, again, this is a separate issue which is also about the nature of online discussion boards in general.

triciamarie asked a question:

triciamarie wrote:
One question: do you think there is any legitimate way to speak out against oppression affecting others? Is there any validity in construing an issue more broadly, eg in the case of prostitution, as a women's issue? How much do we have to be personally affected before we can legitimately talk about an issue?

and Polunatic gave an answer:

Polunatic wrote:
As for Maysie's point, I agree that people speaking "on behalf" of other people is inappropriate. However, there are still ways that people can speak in support of comments and analyses made by those who are experiencing that oppression first hand. One way is to link to articles that articulate those views to ensure those voices are heard even if members of that group aren't here themselves.

Every oppressed group should and does have allies who don't need to remain silent because they haven't lived those experiences directly. To negate that would be to negate the concept of solidarity which no one has suggested.

to which remind responded:

remind wrote:
Maysie has done just that, so I am not sure how you can say no one hasn't.

 

Michelle

I would like to learn more about the difference between "speaking on behalf of" and "speaking in support of".  How would that look on a discussion forum?

remind remind's picture

Yell

Maysie Maysie's picture

Voice appropriation happens all the time, and it's always the more powerful taking the voice (or the culture, etc) of the less powerful and co-opting it in various ways. Speaking on behalf of an absent voice, in the context of leftist progressives, is so naturalized that when challenged can result in huge affronts to the assumed "expert" position of the colonial west.

On the other hand, being an ally is never speaking "on behalf of" and therefore allies are not included when I advise to not speak on behalf of an oppressed group to which one doesn't belong.

This is my advice, as an anti-oppression advocate, activist and educator for over a decade. I'm choosing to share my advice, and whoever is reading this can do whatever the fuck you want to. This is my advice only.

My original post, and this thread, is being written by me as a babbler, not as a moderator. My opinion does not reflect on any active, current, past or future babble policy as far as I can tell.

Sadly, I can't help if my words are twisted to mean "no Canadian can protest against the war in Afghanistan".

...

triciamarie, thanks for your question, it's a fair and honest one. I think Polunatic has answered it with his comment about allies. My only addition is that sometimes a community may invite or even request that someone outside the community speak to other outsiders about the issue. This is a very specific response, though, and again is initiated by the folks with lesser societal power. When it happens, and an ally is entrusted with this task, it's often very issue-specific and is always grounded in acknowledgement that the speaker is there at the request of the various names of the organizations/communities.

oldgoat

A quick response 'cause I really do have to get back to the job which actually pays the mortgage.  I think a large part of it involves being very thoughtful, and explicit in the post, of the issue of POV. 

As a white dude of privlige, I've taken some time to try to understand what that means for me.  It's an ongoing journey.  But when I post, I know I'm posting from that point of view.  IE: I've spoken about the experiences of Muslim newcomer women in Scarborough.  I won't say "they feel this way".  Or "this is their experience".  I may quote what I've been told by an individual and present it as such.    I may report having heard conflicting accounts from varying women from somewhat different cicumstances and even try to interpret, but I always try to be explicit and hold up the lense I'm looking through.

As a white dude of privlige, I also have to know when I've said my bit, the limited value of my bit, and when it's time to yield the floor.  The great thing about discussion forums like this is that it can provide a unique platform for lived experiences of all kinds, and here we like to encourage that.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Cross posted with Michelle and remind. While I can ask for only respectful responses, I know it's beyond my control to always receive them.

Michelle I have no answer to your question. I have only my opinion and how I attempt to work in solidarity with others in the real world. Based on my learning, through trial, error, mistakes and fuck ups that I have done in my personal, professional, activist and political work.

Off the top of my head I will say that there is very little possible resolution in the context of babble, except for those who already understand what power dynamics and systemic power and privilege means in their daily lives. Or for those who are prepared to examine what that means.

remind remind's picture

Yell

Snert Snert's picture

I think the best is when there exists a plurality of opinion on an issue that primarily impacts a marginalized community, and a poster -- not necessarily a dude, but usually white -- has managed to find some marginalized person or organization within that community who agrees with White Poster's pre-existing opinion on the topic.  Then that marginalized person or organization becomes The Sole Expert on the subject, and we should all be listening to them! 

Nevermind that there will exist others in the community, or other organizations, that disagree entirely.  Self-hating members of the community, surely!

martin dufresne

Maysie wrote: ...being an ally is never speaking "on behalf of" and therefore allies are not included when I advise to not speak on behalf of an oppressed group to which one doesn't belong

Maysie, you know the deep respect I hold your work in, but this is a circular argument. By such a standard, anyone who speaks in support of an oppressed group will always be open to accusation of speaking for them, or on behalf of them and not being a real ally. As for a community inviting someone frm an oppressed group to come forward and educate folks about an issue, I don't see how this can be described as "initiated by the folks with lesser societal power". Or are you saying that it always should be and that, to give an example, Angela Davis being invited to speak at McGill by white adult men is unacceptable?

P.S.: I hope this question will be deemed "fair and honest" too - I am very ill at ease with the current demonization of some babblers and threats against them.

remind remind's picture

Speaking on, speaking on, the behalf of the oppressed is a fairly interesting position to hold, and quite difficult to hold too, I presume.

Is not the label of "ally" based upon individual judgement, as opposed to a formal thing, on a discussion forum? How does one separate, or individualize, that frame of perception, or realization, so that it is accepted that such is the case?

 

Infosaturated

Snert wrote:

I think the best is when there exists a plurality of opinion on an issue that primarily impacts a marginalized community, and a poster -- not necessarily a dude, but usually white -- has managed to find some marginalized person or organization within that community who agrees with White Poster's pre-existing opinion on the topic.  Then that marginalized person or organization becomes The Sole Expert on the subject, and we should all be listening to them! 

Nevermind that there will exist others in the community, or other organizations, that disagree entirely.  Self-hating members of the community, surely!

That's a very valid point but I have yet to find any Aboriginal women who disagree with the Aboriginal Women's Action Network nor even a single Aboriginal voice that supports the decriminialization of pimping. I'm not saying the don't exist, but I did not go hunting for a group that would agree with me.

The dreadful dispropotionate violence against Aboriginal women in Canada is being used to support decriminalization of the entire industry even though their community has expressed no such desire and has specifically spoken out against it.

If there are unheard Aboriginal voices that support decriminalization by all means help them to amplify their words and I am not being sarcastic.  However if you have no knowledge of their views on the topic I consider it appropriation of their voices to claim to speak on their behalf.

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
However if you have no knowledge of their views on the topic I consider it appropriation of their voices to claim to speak on their behalf.

 

I'm not claiming to speak on anyone's behalf. If you're saying there is no plurality of opinion in a particular community then that community isn't really a good example of what I was referring to.

Maysie Maysie's picture

martin wrote:
  By such a standard, anyone who speaks in support of an oppressed group will always be open to accusation of speaking for them, or on behalf of them and not being a real ally

Actually, martin, you have touched upon an issue that all allies must contend with and deal with, as allies. To face such accusations and be able to address them. No ally can (or should in my opinion) be free of such accusations, ever.

Let's take an example very far from the issue that it sprung from.

I'm not an immigrant. Suppose I work with a group such as No One Is Illegal. I will identify myself as a non-immigrant and take direction from the group to actions, etc. Offering my suggestions and ideas of course. I may be asked to do more public work, perhaps because of the real fear that folks without status live every day, that I do not fear by virtue of my birth certificate, passport and health card. Or I may not be asked. My hypothetical work with a group such as NOII is not about my ego and what I know (or think I know) it's about the work, people are being exploited and removed from the country after living here, paying taxes here and raising their children here.

So let's say someone says to me, "What are you doing here, you're not an immigrant, you have no idea what we're going through" I need to be able to respond. No it's not comfortable, no it doesn't feel good. But being an ethical ally requires difficult conversations, and even leaving if one's presence is in fact not helpful.

I of course do not mean any of this to imply in any way that any babblers need to leave. This happens in political movements and actions and I'm sharing my experiences and those of my fellow activists.

Snert, we don't often agree. I want to, in the spirit of a friendlier babble, thank you for every word of post #7. The issue of plurality, and arguments / disagreement / lack of consensus within marginalized communities (that one is still an outsider) is complex and of course will vary across different specific groups. Again, there is no cookie cutter answer except to be respectful and to continually act as though one is not the expert.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I guess part of the problem is that those of us who speak from a point of privilege--the vast majority of Canadians, actually--be it, gender, class, race or sexuality privilege, don't want that privilege challenged when we speak about a subject, even sympathetically. I think it is critical to point out that when you speak in support of an oppressed group--women who want the vote, same sex couples who want to marry, Afghans who want to end foreign occupation--you must, like oldgoat pointed out, interrogate your own position in that discussion. The academic words for this would be to ironize, problematize or subvert your authorial position. But really, it just makes you uneasy. White, middle-class Canadians don't generally deal well with uneasiness, and so feel that they should be able to proselytize in favour of whatever cause célèbre that comes to mind from an untroubled perspective. Theoretically, this means you are speaking from a position of conscious contradiction; but in practice, it means being respectful of others who are closer to the real experience of oppression, listening to them, and acknowledge your outsider status. As anyone who works with oppressed groups will tell you, the 'uneasiness' you experience is a small price to pay for privilege.

I saw Thomas King, a Cherokee novelist and lecturer, speak the other day at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. He began his talk--which touched on issues of colonialism and racism--by thanking the Musqueum people for allowing a Cherokee on their unceded territory. It's funny how people who have experience oppression are usually much better at recognizing this contradictory and troubled position.

martin dufresne

Maysie and Catchfire, I am well aware of the imperative you speak of. This effort toward accountability and problematizing any authority I am offered as a male has always been played out in the work of Montreal Men Against Sexism and my own. For instance, I systematically refuse speaking assignments unless a front-line feminist is invited along (and I don't choose which one). This precaution doesn't extend, however, to refusing to speak in support of a group I am not part of. I do so, as carefully as I can and never attempting to hide my gender/race/ability privilege; I go to some lengths to make it part of what I am denouncing and to use my experience of those privileged communities. And I DO leave whenever I am asked to by a collective decision. 

I totally agree with you that it would be unethical to choose to quote a member of an oppressed group whose position would merely agree with my own, but differ from that of the majority of her peers. I really don't think this is what is happening on the current issue (e.g. AWAN's position in the Aboriginal community) and, as always, I try to let my relatively meagre interventions be guided by feminist organizations and individuals whose experience and process are far more developed than my own - even if the mainstream media don't rush to their conferences and activities and no major industry lobby stands to gain from their efforts. I am just a voice and totally outfront about where it is rooted.

 

remind remind's picture

maysie wrote:
and to continually act as though one is not the expert.

maysie wrote:
This is my advice, as an anti-oppression advocate, activist and educator for over a decade. I'm choosing to share my advice, and whoever is reading this can do whatever the fuck you want to. This is my advice only.

maysie wrote:
in the spirit of a friendlier babble

Hmmm...

Quote:
I'm sharing my experiences and those of my fellow activists.

Is your sharing more valid and full of worth, than others who are professionals and activists, and in particular in the the field of VAW? Or are they equal?

 

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

martin, thanks for sharing, but I need to remind folks that this isn't a "prove your ally cred" thread. These are real struggles and real people's lives that we, most babblers, and I include myself, are yakking about.

Thank you Catchfire.

Another thing that occurred to me, Michelle, regarding your earlier question, is that without a critical ally lens, it then becomes the "thread of duelling quotes" where poster A finds all voices that support their side, and poster B finds all posts that support their side. And there's endless quotes back and forth. Not that interesting, to me at least.

I'll ask this in a way that doesn't happen here: what if male posters did this around women's issues? How well would this go over? This is what can happen when there is no/little representation, and yet the imperative to speak about it, like what Catchfire said, persists. It takes humbleness and self-control to not insist on always being the expert. It's a journey I find myself on, always.

Maysie Maysie's picture

remind wrote:
 Is your sharing more valid and full of worth, than others who are professionals and activists, and in particular in the the field of VAW? Or are they equal?

I've worked as a front line worker, manager and a consultant in the VAW sector for close to 10 years. I am by no means the only voice out there. There is rough consensus in the sector, but by no means agreement. I will not say that my voice is more or less valid, as this isn't about me.

remind remind's picture

Quote:
I'll ask this in a way that doesn't happen here: what if male posters did this around women's issues? How well would this go over?

If we use this measure, then no one can talk on anything that deals with oppression here, as any measure can be used to say that none of us are oppressed just by the fact we have privilege enough to post here..

 

 

remind remind's picture

Quote:
that this isn't a "prove your ally cred" thread.

But yet you have proven yours in several posts now. :confused:

You are indeed correct this is a about "real struggles and real people's lives" that we are speaking about.  And I, for one,  have not lost that focus for 1 second.

Personally, I have no issue with reading links and excerpts, and they are given all the time here on any given topic, and I find them pretty damn interesting reading, most often. And when voices and circumstances are not present here, I really appreciate being directed to where their voices are, as in the case of makwa's link.  I want to come to my personal opinions from an informed view as possible. And I see no reason why this topic should be any different, given we are ALL coming from a position of privilege, and the only other option would be to have no discussion at all, unless all voices were present on any given issue.

 

remind remind's picture

Hi ya tehanu

Unfortunately, I just find more discontinuity in your words and positions.

 

But it is nice to see you.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Yell

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thanks Tehanu, it's always great to read you.

remind, it might be helpful and more collegial if when someone writes a long and impassioned post, rather than vague gestures towards 'discontinuity' you would actually engage with the specifics you particularly disagree with. Otherwise it sounds like you have subjective or ideological investments that you are unwilling to approach sceptically. It also has a tendancy to make a discussion like this personal.

Tehanu

A little while back on a visit to babble I spoke of the importance of checking one's privilege (and yes, I was upset). To me, that is probably one of the most important aspects of being an ally on an issue, when you are not an actual member of a group experiencing oppression. On that particular thread, there were people who were speaking forcefully about trans issues, trans experiences, and trans rights who were had not identified themselves to be trans, and who did not appear to recognize that being physically congruent with your gender identity is indeed a privilege. I also have privilege in that regard.

This is my experience. I do know full well the temptation to speak out on issues affecting different groups, particularly when they are under-represented. There is value in that, and I certainly recognize that. If a group of white people is assuming that everything's hunky-dory and not considering the effect of their actions on people of colour, and one of the white people says, whoa, wait a minute, maybe we should think about this ... well, then, that's better than not having anyone speak at all. Challenging oppression is important. What I need to be aware of, and what I've been called on, is that my voice is considerably less important than the voices of members of the actual group. And if no such member is there to speak for the group, then there's a larger problem.

When somebody IS present and is saying "this is my experience" and "why don't you listen to me" then it behooves any of us who are not members of that group to respect that. It doesn't mean people can't hold different opinions, it means that we have to give greater consideration to the person who actually has experienced oppression and marginalization, than to those who have not. That we respect that they have a much greater right than we do to speak on the issue. Otherwise we marginalize them all over again.

I have learned that when somebody from a maginalized group tells me to "check my privilege" I need to STFU and think about it. If they are willing to generously provide me with some education, that's great, otherwise it's my responsibility to examine why they felt it was important to tell me that. And to understand how I may be contributing to their further oppression, rather than doing what I wanted to, which is to help. And I sure as hell need to put my ego on hold while doing so. It's not about me.

The other thing I need to recognize is that I may have strong, informed, well-articulated opinions on what I think are the best ways to deal with a particular social problem. And I'm usually more than happy to discuss and debate them. My experience has been that members of marginalized groups (that I don't belong to) often tremendously appreciate it when somebody with privilege has taken the time to educate themselves and to be aware of different issues, but they - completely justifiably - will get pissed off if it's implied that I know better than they do. And that's not just about their experiences, but also about what they think should be priorities and directions to take.
The analogy of male voices in the feminist forum is a good one. This is an argument that will probably always continue, but these are some ways I've seen it explained over and over:

-- When men come in and dominate the discussion they are drowning out women.
-- Men do not have the same experience as women, so it is important for them to listen to women's experiences.
-- Men have privilege. Men who want to be allies need to recognize that.
-- As a man, you can be an ally (and yes, thank you), but that means understanding that when women ask you to check your privilege or to stop speaking on behalf of women, you do so.
-- Just because somebody is challenging you on your privilege, does not mean they think you are evil.
-- And, finally, it's so very tiring continually having to reassure men that they're the good guys, that they're okay, that we appreciate their support, simply because they jsut got upset when we asked them to back off.

Now, in this case, how about substituting "sex worker" for "woman."

remind remind's picture

Discontinuity = disagreement these days? Who knew. Thanks for the heads up.

And thanks too for the personal chastizement, always good to receive them from a privileged white male.

Perhaps it is not me who is not approaching all of this sceptically and has ideological investments that are subjective to themselves?

I choose not to go into it further for a very good reason, but am registering my sentiments that there is discontinuity going on, and perhaps if people looked  and read closely they could see it as well.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

You are a very hard person to talk to, remind. I don't really know what you're trying to accomplish.

susan davis

i really appreciate this discussion. thank you.

Infosaturated

The deaths of aboriginal women have been used by people not from that community to support decriminalization. Nobody consulted them on that.

Using Aboriginal experiences to support a political argument they haven't expressed support for is speaking out of turn. 

Bringing the actual voices of Aboriginal women here is not "speaking on their behalf, representing them, or even being an ally" which implies a direct relationship.  It's just putting their voices on the table.

You don't want to hear the voices of the many aboriginal womens groups across the world because you don't like their views so don't pretend you are being all progressive and "checking your privilege". 

Martin and I are the only ones questioning the cheerleading for prostitution on this site. Remind was neutral, still is on the issue I think.

On the other "side" there is Susan, Stargazer, Unionist, and a bunch of others as well as un-named mods.

When I post, without comment, the words of ex-prostitutes, of aboriginal groups, or anyone else, it is not me speaking it is them.  To use the excuse that they shouldn't be heard because I'm the messenger is not progressive no matter what fancy words and theories you dress it up in.

Accusing the Aboriginal Women's Action Network as being "privileged rich women" is out of line.

#34 (permalink)

"Those women [AWAN members] don't work on the street," Davis said in a phone interview with the Straight. "They're wealthy, privileged, and they don't understand their actions.

As Davis is here and posted it herself she is making that accusation, but I guess that's okay because Susan is talking about them not quoting them which is much better.

Being progressive isn't about having all the right theories down pat, that is an illustration of your privilege. People who are oppressed don't care who presents their words as long as someone does so honestly, clearly, and in support of their cause.

Consider the women being prostituted for 2$ a pop up to 15 times a day just to survive, in Bolivia, where it's legal.

What would they say to their situation being used by Canadians in support of legalizing the entire prostitution industry here?  What do you think their response would be to me saying they would probably be willing to wash toilets with their bare hands to escape the life they are forced to live to survive.

Ask yourself in your heart as a progressive person which of the two viewpoints most likely reflects how they feel about prostitution?

If you say the first, check your privilege.

And Tahanu, the issue of decriminalizing pimps and brothels goes well beyond the rights of sex workers. No one is ever forced to be transgendered. No one is ever trafficked to be transgendered. Minors aren't exploited by the transgendered. There are not huge numbers of people who used to be transgendered denouncing transgenderism. Transgendered people are not backed by a massive billion dollar industry with a vested interest in promoting transgenderism. The rights of the transgendered are not in conflict with the rights of workers. Communities haven't been destroyed by transgenderism. "Sex worker"and "transgendered" aren't even close in being equivalents on this topic.

remind remind's picture

Nor I you.

And that would be your personal opinion again about me, catchfire, should I now start in on you in a personal way too?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Quote:
And thanks too for the personal chastizement, always good to receive them from a privileged white male.

Perhaps it is not me who is not approaching all of this sceptically and has ideological investments that are subjective to themselves?

I choose not to go into it further for a very good reason, but am registering my sentiments that there is discontinuity going on, and perhaps if people looked  and read closely they could see it as well.

I guess my post could be read as chastising, but I was just trying to understand your approach to babblers like Maysie and Tehanu, with whom you disagree, but rather than discuss constructively with them, you register your disagreement with a curt smilie, or a vague criticism like 'discontinuity'. Were you just trying to let us know that you disagree? I mean, we're not taking a vote here. Instead, Tehanu's interesting and personal response to the question posed in this thread has been shortchanged at best, ignored at worst. What did you hope your contribution would add?

remind remind's picture

What did you hope your personal commentary on me would add? What are you trying to accomplish with it?

Frankly, I owe you no explanations whatsoever.

And how about you stop this thread derailment about me, before it gets really ugly? Because I can  state for sure it will.

 

susan davis

i work with first nations women and men and trans people....do you? expals aren't a first nations group.... 

 

The coop develpment and industry association development projects reflect the diversity of the sex working community as it includes women, men and trans-individuals as well as those from different 'classes' and varying capacities and abilities.  More specifically, sex workers engaged are multi-literate and culturally diverse.  First Nations, Asian, Caucasian, Black workers and those of mixed race are currently invested. 

susan davis

i am not a cheerleader, i am a worker fighting for my rights. and once agaain, i am not funded by pimps and traffickers, i pay my own way by turning tricks and seem to be the person you refer to as profiting from billions of dollars made on trafficking as i am the one posting about sex work for the most part.

Summer

  

I'm a very infrequent poster but I read almost all the posts in the anti-racism, aboriginal and feminist forums.  I post occasionally in the feminist forum and on other topics that I see on the TAT.  Part of the reason I post infrequently is because so many others contribute much more than I can and I enjoy learning and being exposed to different points of view.  Many of my views are not fleshed out yet and coming here helps develop them. 

I see a crucial distinction between posting on behalf of an oppressed group and posting about a topic that involves an oppressed group.  Anyone can have an opinion on any topic.  People will disagree.  We can talk about Afghanistan even though we're in Canada and no one here (as far as I know) is Afghani.  We can't talk on behalf of Afghanis.  We can talk about the Conservative Party even though none of us are members (or hopefully even voted for them).  We can't talk on behalf of the Cons.  

The issue really is how much weight each poster's opinion should get and what to do if people don't like your opinion. (Tehanu uses the word consideration instead of weight and that's probably a better one)  People tend to throw their "weight" around for different reasons and say their opinion is more valid because of x or another poster's opinion is less valid because of y.  

If you are a member of the oppressed group in question, then you can give your opinion as a member of that group.  I don't think you can even speak on behalf of the whole group.  But your opinion should be given weight and you should be recognized -  you are speaking from personal experience.  If you're not a member of that group but of another and/or have done research in the area or worked in the area or have an interest in that area, you get an opinion and different people will weigh it more or less.  If you're a person who read an article once or saw a movie like the topic, you get an opinion too.  In my view, it is unacceptable to tell a member of the oppressed group that their opinion is wrong.  You can disagree with them -but they have a right to express their opinion.  

At the end of the day, everyone's post is just their own personal opinion.  No more; no less.  Different posters (and lurkers) will form an opinion of the relative weight to give your opinion based on your body of posts and who you are (or are perceived to be).  For example, I give Maysie's posts lots of weight because she's well-measured/calm in her posts and speaks with much experience.  I give Stargazer's posts much weight because she speaks passionately but is also measured and seems to pick her battles carefully.  I give R-P's posts about being a young black man weight.  I give his posts about young black women much less weight.   I give Unionist's posts about union issues weight.  Some posters might give Martin's posts weight because of his involvement and research in pro-feminist issues/causes.  Every time a poster deems to speak on behalf of a group, they lose a bit of weight.  Every time a poster flies off the handle and/or marginalizes another poster, they lose a bit of weight.  

Some people are probably already bristling: "why do I care what you think of me?"  That's fine.  But in my view, Babble is a dialogue and when you're talking to someone or group of people you should care what they think of your opinion: do they get it?  Do they agree?  How are you perceived?  If they disagree is it because of the way you're framing your post/opinion or is it fundamental disagreement?  If it's the former, try to explain your view again.  If it's the latter, pick your battles.  Sometimes it's ok to disagree and/or let someone else have the last word.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Quote:
Some people are probably already bristling: "why do I care what you think of me?"  That's fine.  But in my view, Babble is a dialogue and when you're talking to someone or group of people you should care what they think of your opinion: do they get it?  Do they agree?  How are you perceived?  If they disagree is it because of the way you're framing your post/opinion or is it fundamental disagreement?  If it's the former, try to explain your view again.  If it's the latter, pick your battles.  Sometimes it's ok to disagree and/or let someone else have the last word.

Great post, Summer. Thank you. Sometimes it's hard in cyberspace to realize that the internet and all its constituent parts are social practice and experience. Dialogue is really at the nub of what we are talking about here.

remind remind's picture

It is actually no one's business what anyone else thinks of them.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Infosaturated

susan davis wrote:
i am not a cheerleader, i am a worker fighting for my rights. and once agaain, i am not funded by pimps and traffickers, i pay my own way by turning tricks and seem to be the person you refer to as profiting from billions of dollars made on trafficking as i am the one posting about sex work for the most part.

Susan, everything I say is not about you in fact most of it isn't.

If I say "Susan" I am referring to you.  If I say "sex workers" I am either referring to what you define as your work, and your attitude which is that it is a job you willing chose.  Sometimes I mean "sex workers" in in the broader sense that includes other forms of work within the sex industry but context will usually make that clear.

If I say "prostitutes" I am referring to women who were or are trapped in the industry against their will which is not your situation.

When I refer to "Sex Industry" I am referring to the entire business from playboy magazine to trafficking in women. Clearly you cannot be personally involved in all that.

I am not suggesting in any way shape or form that you are taking money from traffickers or playboy but you are not the only person involved in the drive to decriminization the prostitution industry. 

Are you and your friends paying the market rate for all the lawyers involved in the charter challenge from the beginning until the end of the charter challenge? That would seem to be an extremely expensive project.

Lee Lakeman

I would like to speak on behalf of myself in my deep respect for the women of AWAN.  I have met most of the women of the group and have had the pleasure to share some of the important moments of our lives including some shared political actions.  I have been awstruck by their personal integrity and courage and by their collective political wisdom, generosity and determination.  They conduct themsleves with intelligence, sobriety, good sense and political patience while recognizing the urgency of their fight.  My fight for my freedom and my future has been much enriched by theirs.  My efforts to understand and walk the routes to women's liberation and social justice for all have been enriched by their company and their part of the road maps. 

I want for myself and all other women including Susan and the women of Burma to clean up less other people's toilets and to more often escape being used like toilets.  I want for them, their daughters and mine, their sons and mine to live with less prostitution and trafficking, to live with more connection to meaningful purposeful work, land and water and joy. Like AWAN, I believe that unless we start with the revolutionary premise that it is possible and desrable to end prostitution we will not find the appropriate reforms that could ease the lives of those still trapped while we get closer and closer to that end. 

I am so impressed that AWAN women in spite of the conditons they face as aboirignal women are prepared to recognize their position in the industrialized west and north which leads them to see the plight of the women of the south, the rural poor who are those most liekly to be trafficked in the forced migrations of the world.  Their alliance was spectacular to see in the pacific rim gathering in vancouver this past winter called Flesh Mapping: vancouver markets pacific women

I have benefitted by the company and solidarity of the women of AWAN in our shared fight to end the behaviour of too many men in buying sex, in abusing and trading in the bodies of women and in tolerating that behaviour in others. I have learned from AWAN women a way to live with some of the humiliation of watching others justify the sometimes squalid behaviour of the oppressed when I would so much rather that they take up the struggle against oppression.  I have marvelled at the unity struck between women in BC in the aboliton movement whether our herstory included prostitution or not.  We have eben managed some trust in our alliance across the racist divide

I have been instructed and strethened in our shared struggle to abolish all forms of violence against women no matter who chooses it: wives daughters students sexually exploited women.  My future is tied up with theirs because we were born to this similar condition: we were designated women and told what that meant including that men commit violence against women and get away with it.  The progessive movements of the world have yet to stop it  However, there are now women in every community of the world trying our damndest to do so.  And in every community some of those women see prostitution as a form of violence against women.  Not least among them are the brave women of AWAN. 

Disagree if you must with their strategies and tactics, they are my stategies and tacitcs and I am more than willing to debate and discuss how to get to liberty.  But I have seen none of that on these posts.  Let's use Dorothy Smith's sense of category and discuss whether women or sex worker is the more useful category of oppression: you can't have it both ways is that a category of oppression or a job?  Let's discuss what we risk if we end prostitution?  what exactly would be lost?  What is the danger?  Let's discuss what happened to the key categories of race and class and sex? And if we accept those as the key lines of oppression Then where does prostituion get addressed?  What movement ought to betaking the lead and what must every movment do about the abuses of men to women in prostituion?  Let's talk about how regulating prostitution will leave the poorest in the streets and see if that seems likely?  But let's not do the character assassination or the patronizing bit while avoiding the theme of this thread

remind remind's picture

Sorry catchfire, I do not do youtube.  So whatever snark you are implying with it is wasted.

Quote:
What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business

How often do you hold your tongue and not speak the truth of what you are thinking?

What do you love doing that you haven't done in a long time?

Does your creativity get shoved into the box of what you think will please others?

If so, you may be letting your fear of criticism rule your life. This is one of the key sources of struggle people face. It is easy to try to please everyone all the time.

We tend to moderate our words, our actions, and look over our shoulder to see who's watching. Actually pleasing everyone all the time is actually a losing battle!

When we're caught up with what we're supposed to do we tend to stifle our energy and enthusiasm for whatever project we're pursuing. When we trust our actions and choices, we see that everything gets easier and we're in the flow of the work. There is more consistent energy. Our energy is not bolstered when others applaud us and deflated when others have a negative reaction to what we've said or done.

This is contrary to how many of us were raised. We were supposed to listen to how things were to be done and do our best to copy that. There was a right and wrong way for every project to be completed. Rarely were our personality styles considered as to what method would work best for us to approach any situation.

Terry Cole-Whitaker wrote the book titled, What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business. I remember when I first heard this title. Over the years it has come to mean more to me as I've realized the peace that can come from letting go of need for love and approval for everything I do.

Is this selfish to put our OWN approval above others' approval? This may have been the message of our childhood. When we have healthy self-love we are able to be comfortable with what we are doing and are able to accept that others may have their own way to complete a task as well. Our self-care is essential for us to be a fully engaged individual in any situation, whether it is a personal relationship or a business project.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE YOUR HABIT OF PLEASING OTHERS?

It first takes the decision that you are going to live life for yourself. This isn't to say you are not being considerate of others. On the contrary, you will value and respect them more than ever.

Then make a conscious effort to speak the truth, no matter what. How often to we filter our words carefully to avoid offending anyone? This only makes connecting more difficult and awkward. It is really pretty obvious when a person is not being authentic. You are not doing anyone a favor by not being real.

http://www.locateacoach.com/article.cfm?articleid=187747

Quote:
Many of us are concerned about what people will think - about how we look, how we dress, what we do, how we speak, how many degrees we have, how rich or poor we are and on and on. We dress to please. We change our behavior to please. We tell little lies because we're afraid the truth won't please. We sometimes damage our health to please by going on crash diets, overworking at the gym, staying up long hours when we're tired, resorting to anorexia or bulimia. We eat stuff we hate, we do things we don't like, and we hang out with people we don't enjoy - all in an effort to please. Whether it's one particular person that we feel compelled to please or everyone we meet - it doesn't matter.

Do we please them? Who knows? And, frankly, who cares?

The fact of the matter is that most people are so self absorbed that they aren't noticing or thinking of you at all. They are worrying about what they will say next, or thinking about what to cook for dinner or what they will do on the next sales call. And if they don't care enough about you to resist critiquing and judging, why do you care if you please them anyway? You probably couldn't please them if you were the smartest, most attractive, most interesting person in the world because it's not about you - it's about them.

It's a self esteem issue.

When you come to like yourself and who you are, you are less and less concerned about what any one else thinks of you. You know who you are and you don't need to be like anyone else. It is a fact that there are no to people on the planet who are exactly alike and that's how it's supposed to be. We can't all be runway models or muscle men. We can't all be on the far right side of the bell shaped curve intellectually or financially. We can't all be famous or infamous. What we can be is exactly who we are.

http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Other-People-Think-of-Me-is-None-of-My-Bu...

Trying to define people in a patriarchial thinking mode, and to force them into it, is distasteful at best.

*bolding mine

remind remind's picture

Thank you very much Lee, much appreciated.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Right. Well, I think that we live in a society, and the best way to build that soceity is through engaging with our fellow citizens in meaningful and reciprocal dialogue. That means that if I say something, or express myself, it matters who hears it and in what context. It also means I expect a response (even if that response is silence). That means gauging, evaluating, considering the people I am interacting with. I don't really buy this mode of thinking where the only person that matters is myself, what I believe, etc.--isolated, operating in a vacuum. I guess that outlook might work for lifestyle coaches looking to self-promote, but I don't think it's a particularly useful one for building consensus and extending social democracy. In fact, it strikes me as a individualist and neo-libertarian way of thinking.

I didn't realize I was defining people in a "patriarchal thinking mode", but if you're willing to elaborate, I'll listen

susan davis

Infosaturated wrote:

susan davis wrote:
i am not a cheerleader, i am a worker fighting for my rights. and once agaain, i am not funded by pimps and traffickers, i pay my own way by turning tricks and seem to be the person you refer to as profiting from billions of dollars made on trafficking as i am the one posting about sex work for the most part.

Susan, everything I say is not about you in fact most of it isn't.

If I say "Susan" I am referring to you.  If I say "sex workers" I am either referring to what you define as your work, and your attitude which is that it is a job you willing chose.  Sometimes I mean "sex workers" in in the broader sense that includes other forms of work within the sex industry but context will usually make that clear.

If I say "prostitutes" I am referring to women who were or are trapped in the industry against their will which is not your situation.

When I refer to "Sex Industry" I am referring to the entire business from playboy magazine to trafficking in women. Clearly you cannot be personally involved in all that.

I am not suggesting in any way shape or form that you are taking money from traffickers or playboy but you are not the only person involved in the drive to decriminization the prostitution industry. 

Are you and your friends paying the market rate for all the lawyers involved in the charter challenge from the beginning until the end of the charter challenge? That would seem to be an extremely expensive project.

 

you  name me personally several times and for the last time, osgood law school, their students and professor alan younge are working in kind on behalf of sex workers...no one is paying the bills...get it? no underhanded back door dealings as much as it would please you i am sure. are you of the same mind that professor alan young and osgood law school are part of a big pimp and trafficking conspiracy? please, we've been down this road before.

remind remind's picture

Have you read the book by Whitaker, as it is not about lifestyle coaching and well worth the read.

In fact, it is not about anything you specified at all. It is is about our sense of our own self worth,  and not what society determines as our worth. Someone can have degrees out of the ying yang and still be a piece of shit, for example.

And I am not going to go back to feminist basics with you, as one would think by this time you would have at least learned something by being here. Moreover, you learned NOTHING from what I posted, as you have your mind set, so won't bother wasting my words.

Actually changed my mind a little bit:

You say:

"consensus and extending social democracy"

But you make it quite evident that the consensus would only be achieved if, it was on the place, or plain,  where you judged it should be, aka, if said person(s) is meeting your "expectations" enough on the sliding isms scale for you to accept it. Like for a simple example or 2:

Do they look right, do they smell right, do they talk right, do they move right, are they educated enough to be worth my while, did they use a word I do not like, what is their laugh like, would I be embarrassed to be seen with them in public, would they be an asset/detrement to our movement, will they make babble look bad...and a myriad of other judgemental measures. If they don't measure, no consensus is reached.

And of course you apply this to yourself too, as you believe that is what other people are thinking about you, so you do the complying dance  internally to meet what you think others expectations of you are.  It doesn't work one on one, so how can it work in a discussion forum?

How is everyone going to meet the 1000's of other people's expectations on what they want see, hear and know? People would be doing the internal complying dance forever and not a thing would be said worthwhile.

Patriarchial thinking indicates compliance to the dominent norm, and that is patriarchy.

Not even going to  touch that neo-libertarian accusation rhetoric, as the discontinuity continues, a pace.

Lee Lakeman

Actually any of us paying taxes are paying for the Osgood Hall intervention in the criminal law challenge.  While I resent it I approve of public dollars and university profs doing what they think is right in the community.  What I do not think is fair is that the conservatives have ended the Court Challnges fund which would have been avaialable only to equality seeking groups to use to fund a court challenge or to intervene in this case.  I would just make one correction to Susan's post: Allan young is not representing all sex workers, he is representing three women who want to decriminalize the sex trade in particular the bawdy house and communications and lving off the avails laws.  What I find all too familiar is that a civil libertarian activist like Allan Young rejects the notion of violence against women requiring the rule of law.  That too is an important political debate we could have: should women call police when overpowered by violence against women?  Is it a crime against all women or only the one at wounded when men to commit such acts and therfore are we obliged as a community or through government to intervene to protect her or are we saying she is on her own?  Or perhaps that we as political people will organize to interven some other way not involving the state?

 

remind remind's picture

Lee Lakeman wrote:
what I find all too familiar is that a civil libertarian activist like Allan Young rejects the notion of violence against women requiring the rule of law

Well...we all know how that ideology has worked so far for women, given VAW stats.

It does not matter if it has the civil libertarian label, or the  label of patriarchy, that we currently suffer under, it is not thought that women require the rule of law to apply to anything, let alone violence against them.

That social liberalism is dancing so close to civil libertarianism, is disquieting. It means, to me, that patriarchy has yet again co-opted women's equality endeavours in a very serious way.

 

Infosaturated

Thank you so much Lee.  I just finished writing a rant post at this community in another thread but fortunately didn't hit "post".

The reason my post was going to be a rant was that a comment of support for Susan set me off. The comment was basically, "wish there were more sex workers here because I don't know anything about it but I support you".

It didn't piss me off because it was support for Susan. It pissed me off because it accepted personal lack of knowledge as acceptable and blind support as justifiable.  I heard a clip of Dr. Phil saying that he supported the invasion of Iraq even though he "doesn't follow politics ha ha" but that Americans should support the president.  

Lack of knowledge and blind support of either side on this issue is unacceptable. Susan has been pouring herself into this heart and soul. Saying you support her is no substitute for informing yourselves. If you are going to support her it shouldn't be because she is a sex worker it should be because she is right based on a critical anaylsis of the available information.

Neither Susan nor I should have to spoonfeed you the information on either side of the issue while you sit back and decide who is making the strongest points.  What if I "win" but Susan is actually right, just doesn't have as much time to debate?  What if the reverse is true, and Susan "wins" because she is a sex worker and I'm not?

This is not a game. This is not a feminist issue.  This is not a theoretical debate. This is an issue that all Canadians have a duty to inform themselves on and I mean factually. 

The lives of women and children, literally, depend on what direction Canada takes. It's not just about the Charter Challenge.  That battle will be won or lost in the courts.  There are brothels running in Canada today. There are women being trafficked into Canada today. There are minors being caught up by pimps and given drugs by those pimps to gain control of them. I am not saying the side Susan speaks of doesn't exist, or that her solution isn't best, maybe it is. I am just saying all these things are happening in our country. They are happening to people with no voice. No one can claim to be progressive while failing to inform themselves about the outcomes of various solutions in other countries. This is not about ideology.

Aside from the suffering of those involved there is also a matter of who we are as a country and what we stand for, what we want to project about ourselves to the world.  Again, whatever the "right" outcome is I want to be able to be proud of how it molds our country and what it says about Canadians.

Just saying we are part of a progressive community doesn't make it so. With the exception of very few threads I think men should feel free to post on the issue as much as they want as long as those posts are based on solid information or reasoned thought. This isn't a feminist issue or a woman's issue it's a Canadians issue.  If as women we also want some threads to talk about our feelings or about men's place in the debate we can do that. But if we are debating or evaluating outcomes of various systems there is no reason a man can't offer just as much as a woman can to the debate. 

Michelle suggested maybe there should be a separate area for the threads on this topic and I agree. I would hope that members of this community won't accept personal ignorance on this topic as acceptable nor limit their reading to what they find on this site. It's not a simple issue. We shouldn't even be debating who's right and who's wrong without first educating ourselves on the outcomes in various countries and on the views of various interest groups. There should be no kneejerk reactions based on simplistic theory without any real knowledge of the parameters of the issue.

Out of respect for Susan, for Lee, for all women and for Canada we owe it to ourselves to be informed. If we cannot bother to achieve that then this just isn't a progressive community no matter what gets discussed.

Gisele

remind remind's picture

Tehanu, how great to see you twice in one day, soon I will not have to go to en masse to read your words ;)

Discontinuity means a gap, in this case a gap in what is professed and what is understood, or rather not understood or not realized, especially implication wise.

Did not want to get into it,  not only because it is a bit drifty, but also given the painful experience in respect to the issue of gender identification disagreements. But I wanted to note that the discontinuity in position held still exists, hoping you would think about it further, given the thinking person you are.

Overcoming patriarchial indoctrination is often hard to do, and sometimes we do not even realize when we are victimizing ourselves with it, as women.

 

Tehanu

remind wrote:

Hi ya tehanu

Unfortunately, I just find more discontinuity in your words and positions.

 

But it is nice to see you.

Thanks for the nice to see you, remind!

I don't know what you mean by discontinuity, so I've been trying to figure it out. Are you saying that my previous posts (mostly on enMasse) on feminism and its inclusion of trans women is inconsistent with what I've been saying about checking privilege? Because of course I have a lot of privilege related to trans issues, and have had to work on a whole lot of assumptions. In fact, it was trans people who helped me understand my privilege in this respect. Not only that, I have learned a great deal from trans women about misogyny and sexism, helping to refine my own feminism. That's a gift I'm very grateful for.

When posting on feminism and trans issues, I have tried to speak as a feminist, not on behalf of trans people. I may indeed have crossed the line on more than one occasion into "speaking for" trans people, which I probably shouldn't have done.

Or maybe you're saying that my advocacy of including trans women in women-only spaces somehow implies I don't recognize the oppression faced by cissexual women as well? Because as you know, I don't think that's at all the case.

Anyway, since you have said I have discontinuity in my words and positions, I would appreciate it if you would be willing to clarify what you mean ...

/slight drift/ Infosaturated, I am not a cheerleader for prostitution, nor I imagine is anyone on this site. In fact in many ways I expect my views on how it is an expression of patriarchy and oppression (not just of women) would not be dissimilar to yours, although we would disagree on various points related to how to address the issue. The danger and violence faced by sex workers horrifies me. In addition to that, I see that the sex industry in its current form demonstrating a deeply unhealthy social attitude towards sex and sexuality, and that if we were more sex positive then I expect things would be better. Furthermore, while I don't want to derail this thread by getting into how you were comparing the oppression faced by sex workers and by transgender people, I didn't want to let it pass without noting how inappropriate I thought it was. /end slight drift/

However, back to the thread topic, I have learned a great deal from reading what Susan Davis and others elsewhere have written about their lives. She is clearly passionate and is working extremely hard to improve sex workers' safety. I appreciate how hard she is trying to help people here understand her position, and the courage it takes to be a public sex worker activist. She doesn't need me to validate her knowledge and experience, but I'm certainly going to give her words an immense amount of credence. When Stargazer shared her own experiences, she not only should have been recognized for her strength and generosity in being willing to do so, but also should have been recognized as having a personal understanding of the issue that far exceeds that of, I suspect, virtually everyone else here.

Learning from others is another benefit of recognizing privilege, and can indeed happen when people who have been marginalized are willing to take the time to try and educate others. People are giving us a gift. And we have the opportunity to recognize the patience and tenacity that many people have in educating those of us who do not have that experience.

My post was not intended to express a "side" in the debate on prostitution, which is not the topic of this thread. It was about how speaking on issues of oppression in areas in which we are not ourselves oppressed is problematic. My post was intended to share how I have come to understand that I need to be very, very careful about speaking on behalf of other people, because by doing so, I can make things worse for them.

 

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Well, rather than appropriating someone else's voice, how about I link to him directly. And it would be a disservice to link to him and not to link to her.

[ Quote below from the original posting]

Quote:
Yes, this will mean a number of voices are not represented in the babble context. That is a separate issue.

And yet what better time and better place than this to take at least a few tentative steps towards addressing the issue? One of the things that strikes me most forcefully when I read through this thread, and the threads on sex workers that seem to be its progenitors, is the air of presumptive heterosexuality that characterizes the majority of posts. There are exceptions to this I would happily concede, but I would also observe that they (the exceptions) have tended to quickly diminish as the threads lengthen. Before assuming that other voices are not being heard because they don't exist, we have to take a step back and wonder if they are not being heard because they are not willing to engage in a competition over the terms of the debate itself -- that they (we?) might be a little cautious about exposing ourselves to comments about causing thread drift or hijacking.

I agree totally with Maysie that appropriating someone else's voice only leads to grief (my paraphrase). At the same time, I have the expectation that babblers have the ability to step out of their own skins and develop an analysis of issues that affect marginalized groups that they themselves are not members of. Part of the process of developing this analysis is to actively seek input from these groups. As a gay male I really don't want straight people "speaking on my behalf". At the same time, I take heart when I read a post where someone asserts that "one size doesn't fit all" and elicits feedback from those who might have firsthand experience that would confirm or deny their assertion.

 

Infosaturated

bagkitty wrote:

Well, rather than appropriating someone else's voice, how about I link to him directly. And it would be a disservice to link to him and not to link to her.

[ Quote below from the original posting]

Quote:
Yes, this will mean a number of voices are not represented in the babble context. That is a separate issue.

And yet what better time and better place than this to take at least a few tentative steps towards addressing the issue? One of the things that strikes me most forcefully when I read through this thread, and the threads on sex workers that seem to be its progenitors, is the air of presumptive heterosexuality that characterizes the majority of posts......

Part of the process of developing this analysis is to actively seek input from these groups. As a gay male I really don't want straight people "speaking on my behalf". At the same time, I take heart when I read a post where someone asserts that "one size doesn't fit all" and elicits feedback from those who might have firsthand experience that would confirm or deny their assertion.

Great post and great links, great issue.  I have thought of men and transgendered people but been nervous to mention them or figured it leads to a whole different kettle of fish.  But mainly, I have foot in mouth disease. I think it would be really interesting to discuss the different opinions coming out of the various communities and why they support whatever view it is they support.

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