We talk a lot about the struggle (Voices of Women and Gender Minorities)

Soft is stronger than hard 2011

Soft is stronger than hard 2011

Article originally published in Fightback magazine’s special issue dedicated to paid radical writing by women and gender minorities.

By Sian Torrington, a queer /  hard / super femme /  brute who makes art, writing and performance.

We talk a lot about the struggle. Getting it down, keeping it alive. Of making space, and letting it through. Like it is a hole that we need to make. Like what we are dealing with is an animal which keeps changing shape. Sometimes it’s a big soft, needing gentle, shifting hands. Sometimes it’s a noisy yell which needs a  funnel. Sometimes you just have to know how far away from the microphone to stand.

Other times it’s a silence and your job is to fill it.

Other times, it’s a dead weight and no strength will lift it.

When it is hard, treat it like it doesn’t matter. Make a bad drawing. Treat it like you have all the time in the world for it to get born. Like there’s no deadlines, no pressure. It comes from underneath and eats time like air. Just when you’re ready, just whenever you’re ready.

Just, try to relax.

*******

I lost a tooth because the specialist cost too much. I couldn’t afford to hang on. It took two weeks to recover. Two weeks of unpaid leave. The body decides, there is no form.

Artists’ bodies are sensitive. Artists’ bodies rot like all the rest. I lost a tooth, and gained a gap that a pencil fits in.

************

The system you have invented for managing your life and sustaining it is as delicate and intricate as an eco system. It’s like one of your drawings where tiny things balance and reflect off some unlikely other thing. But there’s no kudos or status in this. Just anxiety that one piece will fall.

To get here, it takes all of me. No nets, no halfway and when you get cold I live in you like an animal saying

Crash,

Breathe.

Living without protection. Every decision you make is vital to the survival of every other branch. Just, keep growing, forming shelves where the most difficult piece holds in space. I have four accounts where I put; money for now, money for later, money for housing, money for eating. I move them around and try not to feel bad when I forget or mistake one for the other.  

How do you get to be loose under pressure? There’s always so much losing in it. You lose time, holidays, babies, a house, a proper job, success. You try to draw from the shoulder, to drop your arm.

The shoulders, the dog, the sand, the bust we are broke we are rumbles he says wow, then how do you climb and we reply yes, a club, yes, a blanket and still there is no protection but we talk, we tell, if it was yours I would keep it, keep it , keep it safe.

Making plans and ways to put bits with pieces, sell things, create contracts, grow silverbeet which survives every winter, squirrel away money. Say, I can make you a cup of tea at home.

A rehearsal and repeat, repeat repent, do something keep moving

I take notes on sifted piles, the body which can’t  keep up.

****

Let us be clear. When you feel defeated by being unable to change an employment system, make bread. Clear leaves. Make small incursions into the actual world which thanks you, which responds.

Your effort is valued by units of hours and minutes and ticking. Time operates differently here. All day can produce nothing, and the last half hour is the full slide. All day can produce nothing which tomorrow is the way through. Your four part time jobs allow you to do this. You chose this. You wanted this. You are stubborn. You haven’t lived in one house more than two years your entire adult life, because of this. This is your child, this is what you chose to birth, to bring to life. Just keep it alive.

Just try to relax. Don’t be afraid of failure. Try to forget the height of the stakes.

You are so, lucky. You are falling behind.

(your body cannot contain a rest.)

Everything stopped working, and so did the obvious. I waited, looking physically and really for you.

****

You have created a soft and delicate, strong and permeable space in which all of this makes sense. It is temporary and movable. In here you are able to work.

There’s no formula available, only guides we try to write ourselves. We pass them in code, in text, in glances. They are unclear. We find our allies and cling to each other in cold halls. If we can work it out, we can reproduce this, prove it, the good bits, we get to survive. Efficiency is working out the fastest way there. What is it that you want to do? How will be involved? How much will it cost? Riding is free; bend your body against the wind; make it airborne, make it sleek, keep it strong.

Sometimes I can only draw it and when I can’t I get full and it eats me, my relationship, my sex, my balance. There is no option I must keep this space though real estate goes up and up.

It is anti-capitalist to sit. To sit with it, whatever it is. Because it takes time, and does not consume.

**************************

And do they sell?

Even the tiniest are not sorry. I take them, they say how do we ever, they contain a kind of lowering I can’t stop.

You gotta be willing to get to dying before something you want cracks out. It will not be what you want. It will be just what you need, as you peer at it with all your languages asking what are you, ugly unwanted thing?

There is no compromise, find the breath, breathe in on it, submit, relent, pay attention, yield, hold on, never give up. Touched body grieved never breaking and remaking, it is beautiful, it is full of living.

Try to relax.

Things present, how you came through trying,

marks of love,

We are allowed to be here, because we paid money

We are allowed to be here, because we are part of the earth.

How you have held things 2013

How you have held things 2013

Chatting “Pasifika” and “Feminism” (Voices of Women and Gender Minorities)

Article originally published in Fightback magazine’s special issue dedicated to paid radical writing by women and gender minorities.

By Malia Grace. Inspired by recorded talanoa with Fetuolemoana Tamapeau, Gem Wilder & Malia Grace.

F: It’s really interesting how different and similar our experiences are. I can’t really get away with just looking like a palangi

M: I kinda can – gesturing towards three old skinny palangi men, reading newspaper in suits – at THAT table, I couldn’t.

F: Could anyone at that table? – we giggle – I haven’t really inherited hesitation in the same way a lot of our New Zealand-born Pasifika people have ya know; in terms of identifying as Pasifika; or not feeling Pasifika enough. I mean one thing that’s always struck me, like in my family, and how I was affirmed as Pasifika; is that I had never heard the term “plastic”

G looks at me and I know her pale looking Fijian-Maori 2 year old is on her mind

M: What?!

F: I’d never heard someone go “plastic Samoan” or “plastic brownie”

M: Really?!

F: Nope.

M: Kinder surprise?

F: Really?! Have you had that? It’s a ridiculous term. It’s a strategy that divides us and it’s all to do with colonisation, know what I mean?

M & G: Totally!

F: It’s what’s in the backdrop of us having to prove authenticity all the time in a way that palangi don’t have too.

M: I’ve only just recently stopped calling myself plastic.

F & G: Really?

M: Yeah – I feel myself blush – I have to say I never saw it as a super bad thing. The only times I’d find it a bad thing was when I was at Island funerals and functions, but even then I’d be quite aware that even though I’m “plastic” in comparison to them, those people judging me are surely pretty “plastic” in comparison to whoever is in their head, ya know? So I always just thought of it as being closer to both worlds.

F: It’s like we’re all plastic, kinda thing, which is not really what we wanna be saying. It’s more like –  she pauses – we wanna be like, “We’re all Pasifika” and some of the conversations have been gravitating towards “We’re all plastic” instead, which is not productive.

M: Yeah totally. That changed for me going to university, doing Pacific Studies, reading Epeli Hau’ofa. Before that, I had even enrolled as New Zealand European with no indicator of Tongan.

F: I can’t ever imagine being in a situation, in my whole life; where that could happen.

Suddenly I feel very aware of the different shades at the table. G interrupts my thought –

G: I always felt internally connected to my Fijian side, despite being white. Going to uni gave me access to feminism. I had gone through high school and all that; before, not identifying as a feminist.

M: I don’t know there was much on feminism at uni for me. I think being able to get away with being both brown or white in different settings though, helped me understand differences between things at a young age. I remember the Tongan alphabet poster being next to the English alphabet in my house and trying to match up the letters with each other, asking “If that one is ‘B’?” and “Is that one ‘C’?” Realising they didn’t match up and instead, that they exist just as very different things, is something, some people just don’t seem to learn. I definitely feel privileged being in that knowingness.

G: Yeah, I find it really comforting going to spaces where I’m not battling that kinda – searching for words – I say “ignorance” but I don’t mean it in a put down way, I just mean it as an absence of knowledge, so when I go to things like Kava Club/Chop Suey Hui or doing the Maori & Pasifika Creative Writing paper, where you don’t have to start off fighting through that lack of knowledge, and teaching, and waiting for that catch up to happen, it’s so nice to be around people that get it.

We all sit nodding, smiling at our own experiences of these places. F looks at us both, checking if anyone else wants the air space before she proceeds –

F: It’s more palangi situations actually, I think – referring to uncomfortable spaces – especially not being straight as well. There was a trend, this idea, and to me it’s a myth; of brown people being anti-gay or inherently homophobic because they’re inherently “church-y”. Yeah, so kind of dealing with people’s perceptions and that they really take those myths on board and believe them. But it’s something that I’ve always NOT believed because Pasifika isn’t one-dimensional to me. So its like “why are you focusing on that?” There are Pacific people that aren’t cool with it, just like there are palangi people that aren’t cool with it. She jokes –  It’s just that we look more notice-able because we’re better looking – the three of us fill the room with big Island laughter.

G: I can’t think of a place where the two [Pasifika & Feminism] are uncomfortable and I think that is just because I’m more intrinsically feminist rather than activist feminist so its with me no matter what space I’m navigating. I think with intersectional feminism – like that whole thing of the “white feminist” having become a joke – the feminist groups I belong to, use that term and I totally understand what it means, but it’s always white women that are using it. They’re totally onto it women as well, but there just seems to be a real disconnect from their own privilege there.

M: That’s something I think we’re quite lucky in because of our Pasifika status, we get skilled at the whole two-worlds negotiation cause we’re constantly, daily, right now even, positioning ourselves, and making that position known.

F:  And that’s so important aye?  – nodding

M: Referring back to the two spaces though, I probably feel more that way about my Pasifika identity than my feminist identity. I grew up with mostly boys, so I sometimes think I’m feminist out of survival. Until very recently, I still battled the male opinion in my head that comments on my clothes etc – I take a moment to think – I get quite self conscious of my brown in spaces like Kava Club/Chop Suey Hui/ Maori & Pasifika Writers things, cause I always feel that there’s an expectation from people. Like people expect me to know Tongan things or make jokes I don’t understand. I kinda have to position myself as like “Na sorry, I don’t actually know much at all” Cause I don’t feel like I have much Tongan knowingness.

G: Yeah, I come into spaces, like “I’m here to be educated” but also because I’m white I feel like – pausing – people know I belong and that I do actually get it, and I’m not here as a tourist ya know?

M: How do you negotiate that?

G: I don’t, I can’t, I just have to keep going and keep learning and talking to people and eventually I won’t be seen as the “oh who is that white girl?” As I learn and connect to Pasifika culture more, I’m sorta naturally drawn to the feminists within that culture so as I come into my Pasifika culture, I’m coming into it seeking those people and those stories.

F: That’s what it is – her finger points in the air – our Pasifika – fumbling on words – what I was tryna get to earlier, of how like, I don’t see my feminist and Pasifika identity as separate. It’s because our indigenous knowledges already have those ideas networked into the way we be. Its just not labelled the same thing as what palangi do. We have our own ways of navigating “feminism” and other “ism’s” differently. They’re completely already networked into how we do things.

M:  Yeah – nodding and rushing through a mouthful of food-  that makes me think of something a friend said to me recently about secret knowledges. PhD/degree etc are all ways of keeping secret knowledge exclusive and protecting it she said. I wonder if our silence on certain topics works in the same way?  

Judgementality and the “neutral, objective” voice of whiteness (Voices of Women and Gender Minorities)

Article originally published in Fightback magazine’s special issue dedicated to paid writing by women and gender minorities.

By MZ.

On the radical left, there are both subtle and blatant forms of colonial white supremacy. I want to draw attention to a subtle form of white supremacy that I would call “judgmentality”. This is the ‘mentality’ in which (mostly) white people feel entitled to be arbitrators of right and wrong of everything, universally. The observations I will share are based on my experiences of being non-Pākehā tau iwi in leftist, queer and feminist movements in Aotearoa.

I am sharing these thoughts not for white leftist self-improvement to be better people, but to consider how the way structural racism is reproduced in supposedly anti-oppressive movements and not remain complicit.

When people first develop radical analyses of the world, I have seen a tendency to be self-righteous and judgmental of people who are ‘not there yet’. This identity as a radical becomes a marker of difference and is cultivated by critiquing those who are problematic, liberal etc. I have totally done this. When I was working mostly with white anarcha-feminists, I used to have a few close white girl friends that were extremely judgmental about other people’s politics. Their politics were always correct and pure. They wrote people off and were militant in their approach. For some contexts, I thought that was staunch and totally appropriate, especially when it’s challenging men for sexism for example. However, that culture of judgmentality seemed to be less about changing the system and growing radical social movements and more about cultivating an elitist individual identity or exclusive group culture of “the chosen ones”.

White judgementality also crosses the line when white people feel entitled to judge people of colour struggles and be mediators between different groups of people of colour. I’ve had Pākehā friends tell me where my place should be in supporting tangata whenua. Over and over again in white-dominated groups and spaces, I’ve seen Pākehā act as the experts of other people’s struggles and judges of what less privileged people should and shouldn’t do. It’s frustrating when Pākehā people don’t know when to shut up, when it’s not their place to speak, when the position they are criticising from is a place of privilege. The relational power they hold operates in the same way as the unequal power relations that define structures of racism and colonialism.

Think about the role of a judge in the court system. The judge, usually an old heterosexual white cis-man, has the decision-making power over the guilt or innocence of a defendant, and the punishment if decided guilty. The judge, in the western legal imagination, is also seen as neutral and objective, with no investment in the cases. Their position rests on these ideals and faith in the ‘fairness’ of their judgements. Of course, no person can ever truly be objective or neutral, there are always political, cultural and epistemological biases. Judges, like the police, as many people already know, have been instruments of colonisation, rape culture and capitalism.

These features of a judge also exist outside of the courtroom. White people often see themselves as the ‘neutral’ voice, especially when they have an outsider status in a situation where their subjectivities are not invested in the struggle in question. They often claim ‘neutrality’ and ‘objectivity’ in narrating, defining and judging the struggles of other people. This is also known as the West knows Best mentality.

White judgmentality is another performance of racism that is more latent can be under the guise of benevolence. It reeks of colonial ideas of civilisational and intellectual superiority. People most directly affected in a situation and most marginalised are the ones that knows best how to organise and fight for their liberation. Solidarity means support, not taking over or thinking you know better. Respect and support the leadership of groups most disempowered by hegemonic power.

The last thing we need is more judges. They are part of the same (in)justice system as the police and the prison system: an arm of the colonial settler state that maintains violent social hierarchies and rampant economic inequality. Like the May 1968 Paris slogan “kill the cop in your head”, the judge needs to die too.   

Not All Men (Voices of Women and Gender Minorities)

Bella Wallace - By Emily Brown.

Bella Wallace – By Emily Brown.

Article originally published in Fightback magazine’s special issue dedicated to paid writing by women and gender minorities.

Isabella Wallace is an 18 year old girl living in Wellington. Her email address is bella.wallace@gmail.com.

Content Warning: rape culture, slutshaming.

It’s Monday. I’m going home at 6pm and a middle-aged man and a teenage boy are the only people left on the bus with me. I’m automatically scared, scared because of my own anatomy. I wonder how old I was when I realized that my own body was going to be the cause of the constant anxiety and fear I feel in situations like this. I get off at the last stop and the older man smiles at me while following me up the street. His smile drips, drips, drips and my heart is pounding, pounding, pounding. He turns off down another road, but I run the rest of the way home.

Not all men.

I’m at home on a Tuesday; beginning to plan the travels I want to go on next year. I dream of wandering the streets and meeting strangers. I just can’t wait to escape the city I’ve lived in for 18 long years. But… my mum is hesitant. She’s forever worried about the danger that being a young girl traveling alone can bring. I’ll be alone and she’s scared. Surely I’m invincible. I feel invincible. But I know, I know this danger is real and I can’t help but think to myself, if I feel unsafe in my own city, how am I going to feel in a strange place with strange men who don’t speak the same language as me? If I was my brother planning this, I would probably just be wondering if European girls are going to be hot.

Not all men.

Wednesday is a beautiful sunny day but I’ve always been told that I don’t have a “nice enough body” to wear a bikini on the beach. Ever since I was 6 years old I’ve thought that having tummy fat was ugly. That skin that doesn’t have a perfectly golden glow is undesirable. I amble to a clear patch of sand in my one piece and I can feel pairs of eyes latching onto me. Hairy men in Speedos who I don’t look twice at eat into my body with their stares. I’m a piece of meat. I am a piece of meat? I am here for their amusement. Please don’t let me be eaten alive.

Not all men.

Thursday night two friends and I are walking to our goddamn school dance when we hear “Jesus look at you! You sluts heading to a pole?” These words snarl out of the mouth of a respectably dressed man and we stop in horror. Shivers roll up my back in fear. It’s dark. We are alone. What. Do. We. Do??? One of us pulls the finger back. I can never be sure how quickly a sexist man can get angry so we walk quickly away. We’re angry, so so angry. But also so… deflated. I wonder if we deserve this shame.

Not all men.

Sitting on the internet, Friday night and scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed:

“Haha, good job at the game today bro. You RAPED them!”

“Damn with tits like that, you’re asking for it :P”

Another sexist comment…

Another sexist comment…

Another sexist comment…

I’m shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and I want to CRY because these boys don’t realize how small they make me feel with just pressing a few keys. I see these boys on the streets, I talk to these boys, I laugh with these boys. Dear GOD, dear GOD I hope these boys don’t think actions speak louder than words…

Not all men.

Three rules that have been drilled into me since I was young run through my mind at 1.30am on a Satur… Sunday Morning:

-Don’t ever talk to strange men

-Don’t ever be alone at night in a strange place

-Don’t ever get into a car with a stranger

I break all 3 of these laws as I pull open the taxi door. Making light conversation with the driver, he doesn’t see my sweaty hand clutching the small pocket knife I keep hidden on me at all times. He doesn’t even realize the fear I feel at his mere presence. He cannot comprehend it, he never will. How easy would this 15 minute car ride be if I were a boy?

Not all men.

It comes to Sunday, another snoozy, sleepy, Sunday and someone has the AUDACITY to tell me not all men are rapists. I say nothing.

I’m an 18 year old girl.

When I am walking alone and it’s dark, it’s all men.

When I am in a car with a man I don’t know well, it’s all men.

When men drunkenly leer at me on the streets, it’s all men.

When a boy won’t leave me alone at a party, it’s all men.

Not all men are rapists. But for a young girl like me? Every one of them has the potential to be.

Not.

All.

Men.

Editorial: Voices of Women and Gender Minorities

Editorial for Fightback magazine’s crowdfunded issue dedicated to paid radical writing by women and gender minorities.

Articles will be posted over the coming days. While stocks are limited, please contact us for a paper copy.

Tēnā koutou katoa,

When I think of radical politics, grassroots organising and transformative actions, I always think of the women and gender minorities I know, who are leading, supporting and working hard, both out front and behind the scenes. Fierce wahine, fearless whakawahine, fa’afafine and transwomen, those who are staunch in their refusal to fit within the gender binary, women with big ideas, bigger hearts, and unrivalled strength and compassion.

When I look at socialist or political media, I have struggled to find these voices present. There could be a million reasons for why this is, however I know it is not for a lack of women and gender minorities wanting to change the world and to end capitalism. We cannot afford to have this absence of strong leftwing political voices from our communities. At the time of writing, the Human Rights Commission had released an ‘Equality at Work’ report showing that across the board in terms of unemployment, pay and leadership roles, women are still underrepresented. Māori and Pasifika women and women with disabilities are still facing the harshest marginalisation of all. Transgender women and gender minorities are not even mentioned. More than ever, we need analysis and action that comes from a place of feminism, socialism, decolonisation and intersectionality.

Earlier last year, one of our male comrades came up with an idea to address the lack of women writing for this magazine. To provide a practical response to the issue of women and gender minorities facing higher barriers to work and live, he proposed that we crowdsource some funding to pay contributors for their work. While this may be a small one-off payment, we want women and gender minorities to know that their ideas are valued on the socialist left. We want to acknowledge the unpaid work that is done year after year, whether in the home, workplace, whānau, family, organisations or activism. We aimed to give back to those women and gender minorities who believe in challenging this flawed socio-economic system and to offer fuel in the ongoing fight.

For a niche radical magazine, we were excited to receive so many pitches and donations, and I truly have been honoured to gather these articles, stories and poetry. We exceeded our funding goal, and are proud to say that (despite the fee we owe to Pledgeme), the money we raised will be split entirely between the contributors. In this issue, I wanted to provide a space that navigated the personal and political without resorting to separate boxes that compartmentalise our experiences and struggles. To welcome the complexities that are inevitable when it comes to gender, sex, race and class, acknowledge the personal and structural trauma that shadows/overshadows us, and paddle this waka into a place that can see, feel and touch new  worlds and true transformation. This work is only one part of a longer history that looks back and traces forward, and only the tip of the maunga when it comes to radical work in our communities. We hope you find new whakaaro in these pages, and we encourage you to keep writing, speaking, acting, gathering and dreaming to organise for an end to all oppression and exploitation at the hands of colonisation and capitalism.

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora te manuhiri. Nāu te rākau, nāku te rakau, ka mate te hoariri.

Your food basket and my food basket will satisfy the guest. Your weapon and my weapon will dispose of the enemy.

Kassie Hartendorp – Editor.

Acknowledgements:

Pip Clarke – Cover Design

Izzy Joy – Layout

Vita, Bronwen Beechey – Sub-Editors

Daphne Lawless – Support

Fightback Aotearoa – to Byron Clark for the concept, Ian Anderson and Joel Cosgrove for the background mahi.

Everyone who contributed to and supported this mahi.