Wednesday, June 30, 2010

a traveling man, moving through spaces.

june has graciously carried me to new locations both physical and intellectual. i was fortunate enough to be able to spend a week in bermuda at the home of a friend of a friend. while there, i gained much insight about the country's history--of slavery, of colonialism, of tourism, of change and status quo. i played scrabble. i slept late and lovely. i beach-bummed and sun-funned. i also read a lot.

one of the books, consequence: beyond resisting rape by loolwa khazzoom, managed to shift my already radical perspective on the urgency around violence against women. khazzoom discussed the relationship between street harassment, gender violence, and law enforcement. she assesses that relationship as one in which the state--and more specifically the legal system--systematically fails to adequately and appropriately punish street harassment against women, and accurately link street harassment to gender violence. in response to that intentional absence of protection and deterrence, khazzoom suggests that women begin to create consequences for the men who harass us. some are physical consequences (self-defense, and what i'll term proactive self-defense--responding physically to an aggressive verbal threat), and some are social, but all of her ideas (packed snugly inside personal anecdotes) served to begin a conversation on shifting away from a dangerous norm towards women's safety, autonomy, and self-determination.

shortly after returning from bermuda, i spent a week in detroit at the u.s. social forum. the workshops, cultural events, marches, demonstrations, strategy sessions, formal and informal social networking, and the celebrations! that made up the forum were all incredibly inspired. the week was energized and hopeful in the face of the desolation the city of detroit faces--along with far too many other communities of color. we covered damn near every modern and historical problem marginalized folks have ever encountered. we were almost 20,000 deep. and we were solution-oriented.

the issue-based intellectual work i did at the forum was ultimately not as important to me as the personal work i ended up engaging in. specifically, in addition to all the bonding and deepening of friendships that occurred, i had an emotional (and principled!) conversation that epitomized ideological struggle around the definitions and manifestations of sexism, patriarchy, and male privilege with a male comrade. even though he left the conversation with pretty much the same perspective he had come into it with (that men can be the targets of sexism in a patriarchal society), it was fulfilling for me because of the tedious, exhausting, but committed way! we were able to dialogue with one another.ultimately i think what mattered was the way we were both invested in listening to and understanding one another. i'm positive that the ability to engage in that way--patiently and lovingly--with each other is one of the first steps to building a new society that redefines the way power works.

my journeys have treated me well. and finally, i'm home, with no complaints. but i have a friend who is currently embarking on a road trip from detroit to oakland. from what i understand, his trip thus far has been adventure-heavy and first day of summer sweet. he's been kind enough to keep me updated on his travels and send me the occasional sunset.


missouri! --->

so to him, and to travelers and people everywhere who believe in the power we have to create a new and beautiful world with love and committment, i'm dedicating this poem by harryette mullen:

for J.R.

She wants a man she can just
unfold when she needs him
then fold him up again
like those 50 cent raincoats
women carry in their purses
in case they get caught in stormy weather.

This one has her thumb out
for a man who's going her way.
She'll hitch with him awhile,
let him take her down the road
for a piece.

But I want to take you where you're going,
I'm unfolding for you
like a roadmap you can never again fold up
exactly the same as before.

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