Gender Strike, San Francisco, March 8 2017. via It's Going Down.
Feminist politics and movement making has a history of compulsively
repeating, reinforcing, and reconstructing systematic forms of exclusion, as well as shallow calls for inclusion. Women of color feminisms, transnational feminism, transfeminism, and feminist disability studies have all, in different ways and through various methodologies, critiqued and reframed the ways in which the category "woman" is invoked and politically deployed in relation to race, class, sexuality, gender identity, dis/ability, mental health, capital, neo-colonial rule, and the nation-state form.1 These critiques contest the dominant interpretations of the category “woman” within feminist thought and political organization in order to conceive a feminist politics that is truly liberatory. The March 8 International Women's Strike was not only a strike against women's visible and invisible labor, but it was also an international call for the reinvigoration of a radical feminism for the 99% (referred to by some, and in the rest of this piece, as F99).
Che Gossett is a black trans femme writer whose work draws out the connections between blackness, animality and abolition. Their writing forces us to re-examine power’s machinations, most famously in their cutting critique of Zizek on trans issues in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
We started to discuss all this in relation to gender several months ago. Much has changed during the time that we have been emailing. 36 people were killed in the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, many of them queer and/or trans. Standing Rock Nation protesters fought against the planned 1,172-mile Dakota Access oil pipeline, which would poison the water they depend on. And Donald Trump won the US Presidential election on an openly fascist platform.
For these and many more reasons, the end of 2016 has felt apocalyptic. Yet this is perhaps not so much as a change, as a re-emergence of what was always already there. As the self-described ‘theory queen, para-academic, writer and trans-femme’ points out: “the white supremacist nation of America... is not broken – it was built this way.”
This interview is the first in an occasional series about gender and technology on the Verso blog, guest-edited by Ray Filar.
“how to theorize and to politicize violence in the midst of violence, to indicate the wetness of water while submerged” –Jared Sexton
“We would sit there and ask, ‘Why do we suffer?’ As we got more involved into the movements, we said, ‘Why do we always got to take the brunt of this shit?’” –Sylvia Rivera
Audre Lorde said that anger holds information and power. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, we might extend this and say that grief holds information and power. Like so many, I’ve been feeling and sitting in anguish, mourning the collective loss of those precious queer and trans folks of color killed at Pulse.
The Stonewall riots kicked off in protest against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. Especially after Orlando, we should resist the co-optation of Gay Pride and instead remember the revolutionary spirit of the queer and trans militants who fought against oppression and violence against them.
In Juliet Jacques’ beautifully honest work, Trans: A Memoir, she references the 2015 feature film Stonewall. In this whitewashed movie, the defiant queer, trans and PoC radicals who fought police repression during the Stonewall Riots, risking life and limb, enduring humiliation and shame, are absent:
Stonewall didn’t feature Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P. Johnson, who were at the riots and then set up the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries to advocate for homeless queens and queer youths; it was only years later that I found out how central they had been to the struggle of July 1969. This story belonged to Miranda, originally from Puerto Rico. She was at the bar, explaining to Matty Dean, a young gay man who had just arrived from the southern states, that he had to keep his identity secret. ‘We ’re all Smiths in this place,’ the queens told him – just before the police broke in and demanded ‘ID’, targeting anyone not ‘wearing at least three items of cloth- ing appropriate to their gender as ascribed by nature’. The police were smug, arrogant and cruel. During the first raid, a cop walked up to Miranda, sarcastically saying, ‘So classy and dainty it is’ before taking off her glasses and ordering her to the washroom. They dunked her face in dirty water to ruin her makeup, laughed at her and called her a ‘sissy’; when she put her lipstick back on and Matty Dean stood up for her, they were both arrested, along with the other queens.
— Juliet Jacques, Trans: A Memoir
Ray Filar, journalist, editor and performance artist, gives us the rundown of the best and the worst of Valerie Solanas' controversial SCUM Manifesto. Listen to Ray discuss the manifesto and its legacy with Juliet Jacques and Sophie Mayer on the Verso podcast.
1. It advocates the death of all humans
SCUM Manifesto is a deeply offensive, violent book. It's author, Valerie Solanas, hates men. Really hates them. In fact, the first sentence argues that “thrill-seeking females” should “destroy the male sex”.
But Solanas hates men in a way that at the same time minimizes their importance and de-centres them from her political vision.
Originally self-published in 1968, the SCUM Manifesto's central argument is that men have created a false reality in which everyone believes that women are men and men are women. So while people often believe that women are inferior, passive, and less intelligent, the reality is that these characteristics belong to men. Men are superior to women only in their PR skills: they've persuaded us to believe that gender is quite the opposite to what it actually is.
Her answer to this problem is that all men should die.