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 lap from transgender activists. On March 14 I brought the Multnomah Friends (Quakers) a fat folder with articles and news stories about radfems all over the world being harassed at home and at work and being no-platformed on every issue. 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 he was a feminist and chose not to read Proffitt’s petition, “External pressures did not impact our decision.”

I took careful notes at the meeting and those were his exact words. 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 are untrustworthy and 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 choicey choices every Friend who contacted the clerks 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 Twitter and other online media, antagonistic bullies pushed out the genuine contributors. I don’t go to Portland Indymedia anymore because of their manarchist tendency to delete (called “composting”) even the mildest pro-feminism posts. A germane example from this week shows the site editors leaving up the incitement to disrupt Radfems Respond and another post titled “TERF: Cancer of the Leftist Movement”, yet rejecting to the compost bin a post respectfully criticizing the ethics of disrupting 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. As much as I would love to say they were entirely magnanimous about their commitment to not only women’s freedom of speech but our safety, in all truth I think they got righteously ticked off at being pushed around by a bunch of intimidating jerks who refuse to accept “No” for an answer.

With the room secure, I had to douse another fire started by the threats when trafficking survivor Dawn Schiller called 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, and then she got mad that anyone thinks they can frighten women out of public participation. After the feeling of remembered trauma eased its grip on her, Dawn decided to stand up for her right to speak her story with the caveat that her daughter would stay safely away. Sadly, several registered women also chose to cancel rather than face the threatening scene transgender activists were promising to produce.

Not one protestor showed up.

You can watch Lierre Keith’s and Rachel Ivey’s talks for yourself, but at Dawn’s request we stopped filming while she recounted her time in prostitution. I only had one box of tissues on hand and it had to be shared. Dawn finished with a commitment to helping other survivors rebuild their lives and received a standing ovation, but not before saying 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 both old and new. Near the end of her presentation she pointed to some empty chairs and defiantly exclaimed that 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 doctors who promise to bring peace to minds with pills and 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 cowardly and monumentally ineffective transactivist “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 something akin to 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 half a dozen library security staff, but I had to write the press release and I had to write this event wrap up.

Stephen King said writers write either for truth or for an audience, and I have no doubt which kind of writer I am, but what to do when the truth reads so much stranger than fiction that it beggars belief? 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’m the one who 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 it might be best to speak for myself and encourage others to do the same. I trust my co-organizers are dedicated radical feminists and I respect their opinions while wanting to tell my own story.

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. Trans issues were not on the schedule once we decided radical activist history and strategies would be our theme.

The first sign of trouble was an imposter website claiming we advocate homicidal violence against prostitutes and transpersons. Everybody agrees such mimicry is wacko in an unseemly way. It’s also familiar to me from my anti-pornstitution activism. All I want to do is stomp out johns. I created the Genderberg forum community to achieve that end, and along my path to ending the patriarchal demand for unlimited access to women I got publicly labeled a terrorist by an infiltrator to my 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 should be no dark corner where ANYONE can get together and plot against or foster hatred of women. Misogyny deserves no shield to hide behind.

 

There’s a familiar, unhinged loopyness to such 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.

These were the same transactivists seeking to “destroy” Radfem Reboot in 2012. Shortly before Reboot they posted the hotels where women were staying with a plan to stalk and follow them to the venue. Add the fact that Lierre Keith, who had once been assaulted while speaking, was getting singled out for attack and I decided to call 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 little shindig. Like the mock website, we considered it tacky but harmless and went about our business. Maggies is backed by the financial resources of the sex industry. 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 bombardment of Beaver Hall. Similar scare tactics were used when UK transactivists teamed with men’s rights misogynists to make various London venue staffs fear for their safety if they hosted feminists.

The conference coordinator who lives at and booked Beaver Hall for us, Trish, reported that her board said they were afraid of the threats to people and property and had to reconsider whether to let her use the space. The hundreds of admittedly “aggressive” emails received in a few short hours couldn’t all have been read by Beaver Hall, but the sheer volume was intimidating and they reneged.

When I heard the administrators at Beaver Hall were too freaked to stand up for women I was not surprised. The administrator’s changing stories about the threats and refusal to share the emails with either Radfem Rise Up! organizers or police was disappointing but not surprising. Learning that a patsy frauded her way into the conference to spy on us and reveal our location so they could continue to harass us was a surprise. For an organization which prides itself on freedom of speech and criticizing abusive state powers, Maggies sex work lobby held their counter-event but wouldn’t accord us the same right to assemble. Then 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 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 that sex industry and transactivists 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 they will go to jail for indulging their violent impulses and women die.

Frightened women waiting for the police to arrive 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 what wound up being a two and a half hour workshop on abortion and reproductive rights we mostly forgot about the attention-seeking 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 still cautious, but we had moved from fear to righteous anger at the deceptions and intimidations. We are radical feminists, we have been silenced too many times before, we do not accept the forced silencing of women.

There was a baby boy at the conference and I’m especially glad he was because it gave the mothers in the room ample opportunities to compare notes. I’m rarely around young children so each casual conversation about pregnancy, lactating, child development and more was a window to a new world for me. These are exactly the kinds of conversations woman-only spaces foster.

We prevailed in working on the woman-centered projects we came to accomplish despite the malignant disruptions. 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. All I want is to stomp out men’s sense of entitlement to control women.

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 Radical Feminism” with Ernesto Aguilar for Pacifica Radio, originally aired on Houston, Texas channel 90.1 FM KPFT, June 25, 2014

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