Browsing articles tagged with " Rachel Ivey"
May
30

“The City of Roses shall no longer tolerate feminism!”

Radfems Respond cropped screenshot

Let’s talk turf.

Portland has been my stomping ground for twelve years. In 2012 when I organized the Radfem Reboot conference, women came from Canada, Australia, France, and Scotland to meet women they had known online for years. There have been over a dozen regional radfem meetings around the world since then, most of them organized quietly to avoid the threats of male violence that public feminism seems to inevitably bring these dark days.

But Portland is my turf and I know the lay of the land. I’ve made connections with Portlanders and know it as well as any cat knows her territory. If an open radical feminist event were to happen, I felt most comfortable having it in the City of Roses.

When I approached the venue that hosted Radfem Reboot to rent the same space for Radfems Respond, I responsibly warned them of the maelstrom of harassment about to land in their laps. On March 14 I brought the Multnomah Friends (Quakers) a fat folder with articles and news stories of radfems all over the world being harassed at home and at work and being no-platformed. I optimistically gave them an article on how the sex industry lobby in Tasmania failed to force Tasmanian Friends to cancel a talk by radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys.

They asked to meet with me and I obliged, ultimately spending an hour speaking with two clerks. They asked for biographies and websites for the event’s five speakers and I provided them. On March 26th the Multnomah Friends confirmed,

“We received your list of websites for the speakers for the “RadFems Respond: A Day of Discussion” and have reviewed them. We find nothing in them that would cause us to ask you to find another place to meet.”

I thought we were cool. Flights were booked, a house near the venue rented, and plans proceeded generally. Then a Quaker with a thing for licking machetes and calling radical feminists a “hate group” started a petition to exterminate Radfems Respond.
Holliss Proffitt machete

“Radical Feminists are often a bigger threat to the safety and dignity of trans women that [sic] society at large…The rate of suicice [sic] for trans people hovers around 50%. Many of these deaths were caused directly or indirectly by Radical Feminist attacks and rhetoric. Those who stand for non violence will agree that radfems have no place in a Quaker space.”

petition-starter Hollis Proffitt

Three weeks later, the Friends caved. When I reminded them of my fat folder and the predictable pattern of these harassment campaigns, three of the four Friends that Rachel Ivey and I met with admitted they didn’t read Hollis Proffitt’s petition. They were angry the petition went up and refused to look at it. My concern that their community’s response was distorted by the lies in the petition was met with this incredulous reply by a Friend who said of his decision not to read the petition, “External pressures did not impact our decision.”

When I asked why they changed their minds, I was told their decision-making was “a spirit-based process, not head-based,” made by “not individual facts or figures but as a matter of spiritual worship,” and that “It was a sense from our spirit about where we were led to move.”

Color me shocked that a religious order just sort of felt in their gut that women don’t deserve a public platform to speak. Rachel astutely observed that their intense de-politicizing and refusal to admit external pressures on their community aligns perfectly with liberal, third wave postmodernism in which societal systems assert no influence over the choices every Friend apparently came to independently.

I hastily contacted the backup venue I had arranged (see above, “predictable pattern of these harassment campaigns”). The Multnomah County Central Library quickly confirmed Radfems Respond, and transgender activists quickly assailed them to shut down the event in the name of free speech. Some unhinged thug named “QuiddityQ” posted a call to arms on Portland Indymedia.

“We questioned the library administration about allowing a hate group who promotes discrimination and their response is that they cannot kick them out because of freedom of speech. So we also exercise our right to free speech in public space this Saturday to drive the TERFS and RadFems out of OUR library and OUR Portland!”

In the early oughties I self-published through Indymedia in addition to getting published in progressive newspapers because I believed in the potential for writer-activists to “become the media”. It wasn’t a total failure, but as has happened with other online media, antagonistic bullies pushed out genuine contributors. I don’t go to Portland Indymedia anymore because of their manarchist tendency to delete even the mildest pro-feminism posts. A germane example from this week shows the site editors leaving an incitement to disrupt Radfems Respond and another one titled “TERF: Cancer of the Leftist Movement”, yet rejecting a post respectfully criticizing the ethics of shutting down feminist events.

A library official responded in a comment to the Portland Indymedia article,

“You may participate in the meeting by expressing your views and allowing others to express their views. You may not disrupt the meeting.”

Enough accolades cannot be given to the responsive staff and security guards at the Multnomah County Central Library. They were entirely magnanimous about their commitment to women’s freedom of speech, and in all truth I think they got righteously ticked off at being pushed around by a bunch of intimidating jerks.

With the room secure, I had to douse another fire when trafficking survivor Dawn Schiller called me to say she was considering cancelling. Dawn doesn’t know anything about trans-anything, but she knows too well the credible threat of male violence when she sees it. As so many of us before, at first she was rationally afraid of the danger posed, then she got mad at men trying to frighten women out of public participation. After the immediate trauma eased its grip, Dawn decided to speak her story with the caveat that her daughter stay safely away. Sadly, several registered women also chose to cancel rather than face the volatile scene angry men were promising to produce.

Not one protestor showed up.

You can watch Lierre Keith’s and Rachel Ivey’s talks for yourself. At Dawn’s request we stopped filming while she recounted her time in prostitution, She finished with a commitment to helping other survivors rebuild their lives and received a standing ovation, and added how much she regretted not having her daughter there with her.

Kathleen Barry was her usual erudite self explaining the latest developments in prostitution laws and detailing some of her policy-setting activities. Near the end of her presentation she pointed to empty chairs and defiantly exclaimed they represented the women who cancelled because of the threats,

This is about this conference, and about the fact that Dawn Schiller almost didn’t come. And the fact that she’s been traumatized, and she had to deal with that trauma in order to come. Not just in telling her story here, but in order to come she has been traumatized. You know who the people are that caused that trauma. They’re the people who put up the call for taking on this conference, bringing in violence, all the aggression. As if we’re not all survivors of their patriarchy! I want us […] to keep this really clear, we sit here today, you and all of us, as victims of those people who called for that violence this morning. Look at these empty seats! They are victims, they couldn’t come because of fear.

Heath Atom Russell gave the final presentation of the day. She began with the jaw-dropping revelation about the Santa Barbara murders the prior night, news that was just breaking around the world. Sometimes threats of male violence turn out to be nothing as in Radfems Respond’s case, and sometimes they become terrifyingly realized. Heath continued with how she grew up in an oppressive family and saw transitioning to a man as the best way to escape the emotional pain. She changed her mind after a few years and now works to warn others about predatory medical industry promises to bring peace to minds with surgery done to bodies.

The next day, while a woman-only group of radfems listened to Swedish author Kajsa Ekis Ekman speak via Skype about prostitution, the monumentally ineffective “QuiddityQ” dropped a final word on Portland Indymedia,

“The Anti-TERF/SWERF Action Team strongly and unequivocally condemns TERF hate groups WOLF (Womyn’s Liberation Front) and DGR (Deep Green Resistance) holding their propaganda rally at one of our finest public institutions, Multnomah County Central Library. Given its stellar history, we strongly condemn the Library Administration for allowing hate groups to abuse our cherished Constitutional Rights.

We are indeed at war with TERF for our very own survival.

The City of Roses shall no longer tolerate feminism!”

I wrote the above recap in a mindset of recording the timeline accurately, but when I read it over I see a bad Hollywood script that I can’t doctor into sanity. The film industry’s collective creativity couldn’t conceive a plot with antiporn radical feminists, machete-licking Quakers, transgendered threat-makers, and armed library security guards.

Stephen King said writers write either for truth or for an audience, and I have no doubt about kind of writer I am, but what to do when the truth reads so much stranger than fiction? It’s difficult for me to believe for myself just how far women’s human rights have devolved in the time I’ve been a frontline witness, so I understand if my reporting from the trenches comes off as far-fetched. I didn’t sign up to be a war correspondent, and yet a war correspondent I seem to have become.

Jul
11

Sam Berg’s Statement on Radfem Rise Up! 2013

radfemriseupposter

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.

Prostitution FAQ

In 2005, I endeavored to write the best prostitution FAQ on the web and it still is.

prostitution faq

Radio Interview

“Interview with Samantha Berg: A Primer on Abolitionist Feminism” with Ernesto Aguilar for Pacifica Radio, originally aired on Houston, Texas channel 90.1 FM KPFT, June 25, 2014

Articles