Sam Berg’s Statement on Radfem Rise Up! 2013


I needed to write on what went down at the Radfem Rise Up! conference in Toronto because I gathered the organizing group in February 2013. People tell me official group statements are the proper protocol, however reading a solid recap of events by an attendee convinced me to speak for myself and encourage others to do the same.

RadFem Rise Up! was put together by two Americans and three Canadians. Presenters were slated to speak on reproductive rights, the tragedy of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Bedford prostitution case, and human rights history.

The first sign of trouble was an imposter website claiming we advocate homicidal violence against prostitutes and transpersons. Everybody agrees such mimicry is unseemly. It’s also familiar to me from my anti-pornstitution activism. I created the Genderberg forum community and along my path to ending men’s demand for prostitutes I got publicly labeled a terrorist by an infiltrator to my private forum:

I am the person who broke the precious ‘wall of silence’ on Genderberg.

Many of the ‘feminists’ in the anti-pornography and anti-sex worker movement are driven by hatred, anger and jealousy. I watched their non-stop attacks against other women and their constant blaming and shaming and it made me sick!

Over time I got fearful. You can’t really understand the hatred that is embodied in many of the posts on Genderberg. I was worried about what they would do to the targets of their hatred and anger. Many members of that forum simply do not see other women as human at all.

When I could not take the fear any more I broke my silence and sent out some letters letting people know what was happening in Genderberg. While many will claim that Genderberg is a “safe space” my belief is that there should be no safe space for those who work to destroy women.

There’s a familiar, unhinged loopyness to fears of feminists talking with each other privately. It’s a sinister obsession I also encountered when hosting Radfem Reboot in 2012. Violent threats hit the Facebook page furiously, then they hit our inboxes and the window of a Wells Fargo bank in the form of a Molotov cocktail

These were the same transactivists seeking to shut down Radfem Reboot in 2012. They named the hotels where women were staying and suggested stalking attendees. When Lierre Keith, who had once been assaulted while speaking, was singled out for attack I called the police. Radfem Reboot concluded without another pugnacious peep.

Back in Toronto, our next concern was that Maggies, a Toronto group lobbying for the sex industry, had hastily convened a counter-event to our shindig. Like the mock website, we considered it tacky but harmless and went about our business. Most transpersons go about their lives without harassing feminists, but the ones that appear to live for harassing us are all pro-pornstitution and that synergistic alliance is noteworthy.

Someone from Maggies lied to get on our registration list and execute a coordinated email bombardment of the Beaver Hall venue. Similar scare tactics were used when UK transactivists teamed with men’s rights misogynists to make London venue employees fear for their safety if they hosted feminists.

The conference coordinator who lives at and booked Beaver Hall for us, Trish, reported her board said they were afraid of the threats to people and property and reconsidered letting her use the space. Hundreds of admittedly “aggressive” emails received in a few short hours is an intimidating volume.

When I heard Beaver Hall admin staff were too freaked to stand up for women I was not surprised. The changing stories about the threats and refusal to share the emails with either Radfem Rise Up! organizers or Toronto police was disappointing but not surprising. Learning that a patsy frauded her way into the conference to spy on us and reveal our location was a surprise. For an organization which prides itself on freedom and criticizing abusive state powers, Maggie’s sex work lobby held their counter-event but wouldn’t accord us the same right to assemble. They used authoritarian tactics against a small group of politically marginalized women.

Given the history of violent threats, it was terrifying to see the call out to mob us where we slept. A few months ago I had a racist loudmouth kicked off a bus and as he ran towards me with his fist cocked to strike I thought, “He wouldn’t dare while everyone’s watching.”  Then I thought it prudent to remind him I would call the cops if he touched me. I tried to rationalize my political opponents wouldn’t go so far as to throw rocks through windows or accost me while I took out the recycling, but every day angry men forget the risk of jail when indulging their violent impulses and women die.

Frightened women waiting for the police is a scene that will haunt me. I invited them to Toronto. We told them we would rent a house and provide two meals a day for three days. We screened registrants the best we could and kept the venue private, but when someone is determined to spend weeks working on how to violate your boundaries they will eventually accomplish their penetration.

Some couldn’t sleep as we waited for the police. Others were so scared they considered going to a hotel. Ultimately everyone stayed, and everyone who slept elsewhere Friday came back Saturday plus a few more. When the officer saw the evidence he took us seriously just as the police in Portland did. These are serious threats being made.

It was an immense relief to get back to conference business Saturday morning. Once Rachel Ivey started her workshop on abortion and reproductive rights we mostly forgot about the bullies outside. My talk was interrupted twice as women stationed at the windows reported suspicious passersby, but I got back on track and finished. We were cautious, but we had moved from fear to righteous anger at the deceptions and intimidations. We are radical feminists, we do not accept the forced silencing of women.

Investigations into the threats made against Beaver Hall continue. Radical feminists will continue to meet publicly and privately. The more violence-inclined misogynists reveal themselves, the sooner we can move past this age of selfishness and waste.

Y’know, there hasn’t been a radical feminist conference in the US South for a long time.

10 Comments to “Sam Berg’s Statement on Radfem Rise Up! 2013”

  • Great reporting, Sam. We got down to business, and no one could stop us.

  • thanks Sam, good to hear of resistance, recovery and radfem heartstrength

  • Thank you, Sam, for the report and your commitment to womyn and womyn’s space.

  • This baby radfem (me) burst into toddlerhood at this conference.

    From the bottom of my 46 yo “free to be, you & me” heart I thank-you.

  • You *were* in the U.S. south, contexually speaking.

    Thank you for your courage, all of you, thank you for being there for all women, and yes, we will do it again. And again, and again. We support you. We back you.

    Why do they get so angry that they devolve into spitting slathering violence, not just threats but actual violence? Because they are Male, and working for men. And we said NO. This is what enrages them. The slutwalkers and the sexually exploited and stockholmed were easy. It’s incomprehensible to them, that we have said and will continute to say NO.

    This is the test of who these people are. In our rape culture, women don’t say NO to men.

  • Great recap. These statements are points of mobilization.

    “Y’know, there hasn’t been a radical feminist conference in the US South for a long time.”

    And it’s a shame really….

  • You know Sam, waiting for the police was just the excuse I needed to stay up all night and talk to other radfems. Like water in the desert to finally be able to share physical space with such amazing womyn! I am glad to have slept as little as I did this weekend because I didn’t want to miss a single second. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • wow, that is CRAZY that these people put so much effort into you talking and meeting…

  • My comment to NowToronto, which have not been approved for posting at http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=193604 Maybe I wasn’t ladylike enough? ….I believe Tera Mallette sees the issue at hand. She stated “…I think it’s [RadFem] always been around, but it has grown a little bit lately,” she says. “There’s just a lot of women-consciousness coming around again in the mid-2010s.” This is true, patriarchal-opposed feminism has been around for quite a while. With the recent War on Women, I believe that more females are feeling the effects of patriarchy, and responding accordingly. After the first flush of Women’s Lib in the 70’s and 80’s, the outrage and impetus died away. Women thought they had achieved equality, or at least shortly would see equality. But those expectations have not evolved. In fact, we have seen reproductive rights erode. Pay gaps, despite increased employment of increasingly better educated women, remain, to the tune of 30%. Rape and violence against women is epidemic. These are all patriarchal problems, inflicted on females by males. The majority of the trans* population are male by birth, with decades of male socialization ingrained. Males, who still reap many of the benefits of the existing patriarchal gender construct. They are not allies of females who are seeking to undo the very thing that has benefited those males for so long. When you add to that, the reality that the biological sex of female is being appropriated by these very men – for their use, their interpretation, their shelter under programs and resources which are designed to support women – there can be no safe space for females when they are included. There are tremendous problems facing the transgender community, but erasing females and shutting down the socio-political institution which is working hardest to protect females, is not the solution for their problems

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