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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 12:03 PM CDT

2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...

News ArchiveMembers of the RNC Welcoming Committee attended the Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering in Toledo, Ohio on June 6-8 to present up to date information on the organizing surrounding the RNC and to participate in skill sharing and network building. Along with this and an Unconventional Denver presentation, the weekend of workshops included topics on the history of anarchism, collective housing, womyn's health, future networking amongst anarchists in the Midwest, the Toledo Riots and more. Though this gathering was not specifically centered on RNC/DNC organizing, GLAG was a congregation of 25 or so anarchists from around the area getting together to strengthen ideas on anarchist theory, share resources and further solidify our solidarity in the good ol' Midwest.

We appreciate Toledo putting time and energy into organizing this conference and welcoming us into their communities. The experience was educational and offered space for both formal and informal networking. Though this was a positive experience overall, the members of the Welcoming Committee that attended this event would like to address some concerns that came up during the weekend.

Although we have seen similar issues arise throughout our travels across the country, we found GLAG especially egregious and so will speak to GLAG specifically while recognizing that these issues of perpetuating a male chauvinist culture have deep roots in every corner of the country including our own. When discussing these issues we feel two environments need to be addressed, both the environment outside the GLAG conference and the workshops within.

1) The social environment outside the organizing aspect of GLAG was heavily heterosexist in its behavior, focused on an atmosphere of drinking, partying and male-dominated dialog that often seemed to focus on who had the best knowledge of anarchist theory or the most experience shooting automatic weaponry in a sort of alpha-male pissing contest. Many of the female-bodied folks in these environments were not part of these discussions, but were expected to listen as the men displayed the plumage of their militancy. The womyn also constantly fed into a role of organizing logistics or serving the misogynistic environment of the party itself. The environment around GLAG, in essence, came off much like a frat house with a compost bin.

2) The GLAG workshops were dominated by men, both in facilitation and participation. The one womyn-based forum that was present at GLAG was focused on womyn’s health and was treated into a co-ed environment. When topics on menstruation were brought to the table, many male-bodied folks were ambivalent to engage in productive conversations about female health and one individual in particular stated something to the effect of, “I’m comfortable with my body; I don’t understand why you can’t be comfortable with yours.” This workshop turned into a conversation on gender dynamics, where some female-bodied individuals felt attacked and left to defend their views on gender as anarchist womyn.

It is important to remind each other of the power dynamics that still exist in and outside our political circles. We must constantly acknowledge to ourselves and others that the cultural adaptations of patriarchy, chauvinism and heterosexist behavior are still prevalent within one another, regardless of whether we consider ourselves "anarchist" or not. To try and step outside of this cultural discourse takes time and energy, and we must constantly help each other to unlearn these behaviors that have been so embedded into us from day one.

The representatives of the Welcoming Committee that attended GLAG acknowledge these power dynamics hold true within our groups as well, and will continue to try and maintain an accountability process to confront them. It is not okay to allow abusive and destructive behavior to occur at a meeting, convergence or event and then let the perpetrators or the male-privileged return home as if nothing has happened. For upcoming consultas and the conventions, we encourage national input in regards to this issue, but we would also like to request that other anarchist and radical groups consider making anti-oppression theory and the practice thereof a part of local dialogues surrounding the convention and other future projects. We must all work to identify how domination affects the internal dynamics of organizing groups. Consider:

-Who makes most of the decisions?
-Who speaks out in the group the most?
-Who creates the working process?
-Who bottom-lines facilitation, workshops and overall organizing activities?
-How does not having a sober space effect those in recovery or other issues surrounding substance use?
-A punk house party is not a child friendly environment. What is the effect on radical parents who are often experienced organizers that don't fit into the normative partying young male-centric framework?

When addressing these issues and bringing them to light, the privileged should be encouraged to keep each other in check. This will not fix all of the supremacy issues in our communities, but can serve as a means to increase participation of the commonly silenced as well as increase our overall solidarity with one another in a world where these dynamics overshadow our true intentions.
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2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power... | 10 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: HPWombat on Tuesday, July 01 2008 @ 12:12 AM CDT
Sorry I couldn't attend. Seems like there was some stuff.

I am not sure what to make of this. I would be interested in hearing a discussion on this, if anything, it would cover something regional anti-authoritarians are trying to create conversations around.

This year we've heard Crimethinc, APOC and now the RNC Welcoming Committee trying to find a new position that involves this embrace of "safe spaces". However...

IT IS BEING RAMMED DOWN OUR THROATS!

We aren't just wrong in these conversations, we are racist, sexist, homophobicc, privileged and so on. It's getting ridiculous. If we are just never good enough, why bother? Why not go away? Why are you talking to us?

I am sick of the moralizing. If all three of these groups want to have a conversation around these issues...shouldn't they do it rather than attack those that aren't? Isn't suggestion through action better than being an expert telling it from the mountain as the truth?

Let me help you network...APOC, Crimethinc, RNC Welcoming Committee...call each other, email each other and nip this problem. We'll try to learn from your example if we think you are right. If not, then we will criticize and do something else. We aren't going to follow models because you want to make us feel like we aren't any good.

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Towards a more critical discussion http://midwest.azone.org/forum/23
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: CaseyFord on Wednesday, July 02 2008 @ 03:00 AM CDT
I feel so sorry that you're being asked not to be a dick....

How is this is ANY way at ALL "ramming" ANYTHING "down ours throats?" This letter is respectful and asks people to consider some basic questions. Christ.
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: HPWombat on Wednesday, July 02 2008 @ 03:37 AM CDT
Why evoke "Christ"? Consider basic questions? They are the same ones we have been hearing at every gathering for years, there has been no answer to the problem. Perhaps you feel you are close?

Secondly Casey, I've not been called any of these things in these debates other than "privileged" and even then it was by an anon, so I will grant that I am overreacting to this with how I'm expressing my issue with this reportback. My ire was raised by the moralistic language shared in this documents and previous articles around similar issues written in the past year or two. This isn't the same as these documents, so I'll just assume this isn't anything more than what it is.

If this were expressed differently, maybe I wouldn't rail against it, but then again, I think there are important issues growing from these attempts but they haven't been expressed in ways that mean anything to someone that doesn't attend gatherings or reside in subcultures/scenes/active communities. Most people don't live in situations where an increased sensitivity to issues of identity can be expressed in caucuses and processes can be applied directly in everyday life. I don't feel these answer the problems of race in any way that leaves me walking away like something has been done.

We can't rely on people to become more enlightened. If it is a conversation among anarchists, shouldn't we express it in a way that makes it explicit that anarchists are attempting to do this and offer themselves as the example worth immitating? I think this might help more than writing something that came off as a denouncement of personal behavior.

If there were problems at the gathering, it is not the gathering's fault for not setting up the dynamics that "should" be implemented according to the RNC Welcoming Committee. I'd think better communication and the sharing in experimentation would find this out rather than a tribunal that has already reached its conclusions and it is up to us to catch up.

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Towards a more critical discussion http://midwest.azone.org/forum/23
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, July 02 2008 @ 10:23 PM CDT
Please, won't someone think of the male anarchist!


For real, though...you are sounding like a jerk.

"They are the same ones we have been hearing at every gathering for years, there has been no answer to the problem"
So we should just ignore the fact that women (in this case) have to put up with bullshit, because some people don't examine their behaviors?

...attempting to do this and offer themselves as the example worth immitating?
I hear what you're saying but it's important to call out this sort of thing.

...but they haven't been expressed in ways that mean anything to someone that doesn't attend gatherings or reside in subcultures/scenes/active communities
I feel, indirectly, it does; if an oppressed group feels like they're treated like shit within the movement, they aren't going to want to be involved anymore, which would lead to lack of actions, et cetera. And, what does anything discussed at gatherings/within activist circles mean to anyone who doesn't attend them? If you leave out some issues, that's leaving people out.
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: HPWombat on Thursday, July 03 2008 @ 03:46 AM CDT
"...attempting to do this and offer themselves as the example worth immitating?
I hear what you're saying but it's important to call out this sort of thing."

Many groups expose what they've been up to and how they've helped by doing what they are doing. I'd hoped to be asked to join them in their experiment rather than dismissed (even "respectfully") for not embracing it. We can look at your models and bring it up "ourselves" or others can bring attention to how these experiments have helped further our motives and create solidarity. I'm not seeing this attempt from some of the more recent articles dealing with the subject matter of how to handle identity.

"if an oppressed group feels like they're treated like shit within the movement, they aren't going to want to be involved anymore, which would lead to lack of actions, et cetera. And, what does anything discussed at gatherings/within activist circles mean to anyone who doesn't attend them? If you leave out some issues, that's leaving people out."

Is what is being currently proscribed the answer? Has it helped? I'm more interested in hearing about these things and learning from examples. I take nothing for truth and I give no value without reason. If these are damnable things to you, then we desire different things in life.

It is my desire to find solutions that I feel are going to work in my life. If others have then own, let's compare and find ways of uniting. I do hope this was written to work in this direction. This was the source point for this article (to my knowledge) and I haven't seen very much chatter around this reportback by the "authors" (unless that is you).

I honestly think that a cultural upheaval is necessary to change these problems beyond the confines of them being reproduced in capitalism. One of the things that can create a "cultural upheaval" to my knowledge is an insurrection. How does the context of working towards a rupture play into how identity is handled? The reverse should also be asked, how does finding unity in our fragmented power dynamics help us towards creating situations of conflict with the social order? Can these questions be asked without context in struggle or working towards such things? Are we only talking to anarchists and those that consider themselves friendly to the societies we try to create? Are we talking to society at large? So many things can be asked about these relationships.

At the end of the day we still are controlled, exploited and dominated, the system churns on, destroying all that it doesn't put under its boot. I think action groups benefit from asking these questions and the context of the dialogue be based on finding unity in separation as we work towards greater direct actions, better communications, more interesting projects. Are these things that are desirable?

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Towards a more critical discussion http://midwest.azone.org/forum/23
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, July 03 2008 @ 03:10 AM CDT
Wombat, you're needlessly defensive. Accountability is part of anarchism. Being explicit about what we think of the power dynamics in our communities is part of anarchism. That's the deal.
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 01 2008 @ 03:44 AM CDT
First, I want to thank you all again for making the trip out to Toledo; not only did you provide everyone with important up-to-date information regarding the RNC/DNC, but this reportback is also really appreciated because these issues do need to be addressed.

As one of the women at the gathering (and one who, as you mentioned, felt attacked during the health discussion and had to defend my views), I understand everything you stated, and I'm hoping some "outsiders" take on the issue of sexism within the movement will make the issue more obvious to the ones who may have been involved. As you mentioned, and I think it's important to point out again, it wasn't only the male gathering's organizers that embraced this chauvinistic behavior, but many of the male-identified individuals who were there (I wanted to mention that so that the others who were there don't get the "this doesn't apply to me- I'm not sexist" mindset, which a lot of radical men have).

In the past, we've had a little bit of dialogue regarding sexism within the radical community here/within the movement as a whole, but it hasn't been addressed enough; hopefully this reportback will serve as a stepping stone to continue the discussion. Hopefully this will also lead other anti-authoritarians to have similar discussions as well, too.

Although I'm glad you posted this, I'm upset that the part about "automatic weaponry" was mentioned. I understand you wanted to use an example, but mentioning that sort of thing isn't necessarly the best idea; the internet makes it pretty easy to misread things. I wasn't around any type of that discussion, so I'll just leave it at that.

In closing, I think it's important to have privilege discussions within your community- these aren't issues that can be "dealt with after the revolution", as some people think.
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: Admin on Thursday, July 03 2008 @ 01:29 PM CDT
I'm sorry that people felt uncomfortable at this conference. It's important that these concerns be aired so that the people involved in the conference can improve future conferences so that people feel more comfortable and included. One of the problems with anarchist conferences is that they are uncommon in different parts of the country and people attend who are unfamiliar with the mores and philosophies of the anarchist movement. Criticism like the piece above are important methods for educating people about these issues. Of course, often the people who need to hear these things don't read these pieces or discussions, so they have to be confronted during conferences.

From my experience, conferences organized and attended by a bunch of anarchists who know each other and have talked about these issues are generally inclusive, rewarding events to attend.

Chuck
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: HPWombat on Thursday, July 03 2008 @ 01:43 PM CDT
yeah Chuck! that's what I'm talking about. You expressed the point behind the reportback in a well thought and unmoralistic way. I think I'll leave this as my final word on the subject unless confronted. I hope that those that attended discuss the issues and ideas brought up in this reportback at the next GLAG.

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Towards a more critical discussion http://midwest.azone.org/forum/23
2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: Creating an Example of Outing Those in Power...
Authored by: type A on Thursday, July 03 2008 @ 03:19 PM CDT
Thanks to those who took the time and effort to post this report.

It seems like there is often a lot of tension unnecessarily attached to these dialogues. Ten people could very easily write ten drastically different reports about the same conference, and the fact that someone has chosen to express their views of this event and open them up for discussion should be appreciated.

There were a lot of really worthwhile things that came out of this gathering, and if people have suggestions or criticisms for how we can continue to improve these sorts of regional meet-ups it's worth listening. It seems that many people take offense at these sorts of criticisms because they focus only on the more negative aspects, without mentioning the positive things that took place. But that's the nature of writing a critical report and trying to address perceived problems. For all the good that this particular event may have done in regards to building and strengthening our regional community, there are, unfortunately, those who feel not enough was done in certain areas.

And, while we may light years ahead of mainstream politics and culture in regards to inclusiveness and equality, that doesn't mean we're anywhere near where we ought to be.

Finding practical solutions through these dialogues should, if we're going to engage in them, be our goal. Those of us involved here in Toledo, including a large percentage of women, put a lot of time into trying to make this a welcoming atmosphere for all in attendance. And with the overall attendance being nearly 50% women, it's clear we have some work to do if we're still falling short in these goals.

Thanks again to everyone who attended and made this an overall worthwhile, if still flawed, event, and to those who care enough to engage in these discussions and voice their views and concerns.

Midwest Love and Solidarity.

http://midwest.azone.org