Tag Archives: conference

Detroit and the International Conference on Men’s Rights

9 Jun

All comments of an abusive or hateful nature will not be approved for publication on this blog.  If you wish to engage in some friendly debate, feel free.  Also, you are welcome to email me at franklyrebekah@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

In this edition of “I Did This So You Don’t Have To,” I am currently sitting on the bus en route from D.C. back to Brooklyn with about 12 open tabs all having to do with the men’s rights movement (MRM).  I have gone down the rabbit hole.

Over the past few days, I have been watching from my home in Brooklyn, and my friend’s home in D.C., as some interesting things happened in Detroit, where my friend Emma lives.  For a little back story, a few weeks ago Paul Elam from A Voice for Men (AVfM), a men’s rights website, helped to organize the first ever International Conference on Men’s Issues which was to take place towards the end of June at the Hilton DoubleTree in Detroit.  A group of concerned feminist-citizens in Detroit, Emma included, created a petition and organized a peaceful protest and march to get the DoubleTree to cancel the conference.  They were successful in gaining recognition for their cause which is no small feat. In response, Paul Elam took to the internet to blame the “radical gender ideologues” who made it their mission to “silence (his) efforts to address issues affecting boys and men.”  He then created his own petition to call on the “city of Detroit to take note. Radical feminists have corrupted the idea of gender equity. They have transformed it into a Marxist agenda of oppressive control, including the silencing of all opposing views.”

Alright.  I agree that AVfM and its readers absolutely have the right to their own opinions and to express those opinions as they see fit, barring, or course, threats of violence and the like.  By extension, those holding opposing views, myself included, absolutely have the right to express our opinions (also barring threats of violence and the like), including, but not limited to, the right to put pressure on a business to disallow an openly misogynistic group from holding a conference in its facilities.  I think it is important to point out that throughout the organization of this protest, which was done on a public Facebook page, Emma and her co-organizers fostered conversations concerning how to offer a safe space — physically and emotionally — for any person participating in the protest who might find the rhetoric consistently used by AVfM triggering or intimidating in some way.  They discussed the possibility of a counter-protest and prepared all attendees accordingly.  What ended up happening was that a few representatives for AVfM showed up at the protest and, reportedly, followed at least one woman to her car and snapped a photograph of her license plate. A few others took photographs and video of the protest in, what it has been assumed, was an effort to identify and subsequently doxx the attendees.

Personally, I think doxxing is weak and totally fucked up and should only be used in very specific circumstances.  Also, it gives me the willies.  But doxxing is an approach that AVfM is no stranger to.  On May 31st, A Voice for Male Students, which is associated with AVfM, published a letter addressed to Emma that included a photograph of her, her personal email address, and information about her occupation in an overt attempt to put pressure on the Detroit Public School system to deem her a threat to the education of young boys and subsequently fire her.  To me, that reeks of intimidation and threat and, if the school system were to take seriously the phone calls and emails received at the urging of this letter it would, in my mind,  be considered the “silencing of all opposing views.”

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by all this.  Paul Elam, after all, once declared that October should be “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” and said

“I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.”

Because obviously the way to gain attention for the very real issue of domestic violence against men and boys is to urge those victims to act violently as opposed to, I don’t know, working with feminists to help destigmatize the problem and gain more public attention and funding to combat it.  Of course, Elam will say that this was all tongue in cheek.  He will say that he told people that he wasn’t serious.  But,

“Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. Every one should have the right to defend themselves. Hell, women are often excused from killing someone whom they allege has abused them. They can shoot them in their sleep and walk. Happens all the time. It’ll even get you a spot on Oprah, and cuntists across the cunt-o-sphere will be lionizing you.”

It isn’t worth the time behind bars, he alleges.  But, if you do decide to take him up on his advice then

“you are heroes to the cause of equality; true feminists. And you are the honorary Kings of Bash a Violent Bitch Month. You are living proof of just how hollow ‘don’t fuck with us,’ rings from the mouths of bullies and hypocrites.”

So I don’t know, guys.  Paul Elam has the right to his opinions.  But I would argue that we, as feminists, have an obligation to all people to stand up to this sort of hate-fueled rhetoric. So I am really proud to call Emma my friend and really amazed at the effects of the protest and petitions she and her fellow feminist activists put together.  It’s a small step but it’s a step nonetheless.

And let us remember, just as a small aside, that feminism, at its best, isn’t only about the rights of all women, but of all people.  So let’s use this as one more step towards attempting to make the movement as united and inclusive as possible.

Two Storms, Two Gardens and a Thesis Topic

9 Apr

Update!  They posted the piece along with my original abstract on the journal website.  You can read it here, if you want.  Or you can just read it on this site.  Although my site doesn’t have an accompanying photograph or an abstract.

Later this month I am participating in a conference at my school during which I will be presenting some ideas on a topic that is sort of connected to what I am writing my thesis about.  Anyway, seeing as how I am a touch behind in the thesis writing process (surprise, surprise!) applying for admittance into this conference was perhaps not my best ever idea but there you have it.  As part of my participation, I had to write a 5-7 page paper on my topic, which I turned in yesterday, along with a short bio and a little teaser about what I plan on talking about to get people excited, or warn them, or something.  So I did all that and then I got an email from the staff of the school’s academic journal, which is apparently partnering with the conference organizer, asking me for a short piece about what had gotten me interested in the topic I decided to write on in the first place so they could publish it alongside the abstract I sent in as my conference application a few weeks ago.  If they like it, anyway.  So, I wrote that and then I decided well, if they decide not to publish it, then I would feel as though it was a semi-wasted effort so in an attempt to prevent that from happening, I am going to post it here!  So, here it is.  The story of why I got interested in my conference topic via the story of how I got interested in my thesis topic.  Enjoy.

The day after Hurricane Sandy left large swaths of New York and New Jersey damaged, burnt and under water, I took a walk down to the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn to survey the damage.  I was shocked by what I saw – three foot high water marks on the public housing buildings, puddles the size of small ponds, piles of drenched belongings stacked on the sidewalks, cars that had floated from their parking spaces and had landed, water-logged, in the middle of normally heavy-trafficked streets.  I thought about the long road ahead for the people of Red Hook and other seriously impacted neighborhoods.  Quickly, my mind raced backwards to August of 2005 and the destruction wrought on the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  I thought back to the images and stories that spewed out of that storm-ravaged city during the weeks, months, even years following the storm.  I started thinking about what it takes to repair.  Or, more specifically, who it takes.  I thought about the aid money flowing into New York from all corners of the globe.  I thought about how long that money would continue to come our way, what areas would receive most of it, what areas would soon be forgotten.  I thought about the Lower Ninth Ward.

During my walk through Red Hook on Tuesday, October 30th I started questioning my own thoughts about the abilities and, perhaps more importantly, the priorities of the United States government.  I am a staunch believer in the importance of a big government.  In the modern, capitalist society that we have created, I think the role of the government is largely to protect the people from the injustice of the unfettered market.  For years, I have been avoiding the reality that rather than being a beacon of hope for the millions of people forgotten by capitalism, the government has become a protector of the system at all costs.  The government has become a partner in further disempowering those most devoid of power to begin with.  I finally realized that if areas like the Lower Ninth Ward and Red Hook wait for the government to clean up a mess that is largely, through the persistence of its racist and classist policies and rhetoric, its own doing, they will be waiting forever.  Indeed, the Lower Ninth Ward, almost 8 years later, still has not gotten even close to the kind of sustained help as the French Quarter despite the fact that it sustained significantly more damage.

Once the waters and the aid money recede we are left only with ourselves and our desire to rebuild.  I began looking into similar movements in the Lower Ninth Ward and Red Hook that incorporated my own interest:  agriculture.  What I found were two separate organizations – The Backyard Gardener’s Network in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans and Added Value in Red Hook, Brooklyn – both working to better their own neighborhoods in the aftermath of the storm through community gardening and youth empowerment in agriculture respectively.  This idea of using community gardening and urban agriculture as a means through which a neighborhood can build bonds, power, and resilience in the face of future disaster became my thesis.  Through my reading and interviews, I began to delve into the idea that the same structural racism that undergirded the poor response by the United States government, particularly in the case of Katrina and the Lower Nine, actually exists in our current conversation regarding urban agriculture.  This idea of certain people’s lives being hidden from the public eye is not something unique to disaster deterrence and response, but is something that works its way into a lot of what we do and what we talk about.  It exists in the interstices of lived and documented reality.  Urban agriculture is not something that is new but is instead something that has been happening in urban centers for generations and yet that experience has largely been omitted in our current narrative.  My idea was to use this conference as a way to delve a little deeper into a topic that is of great interest to me but which is only tangentially connected to what my thesis is principally concerned with analyzing.