What should we say now about moral progress?

In her wonderful recent talk at Rice University, Kate Norlock expressed pessimism at the idea we have – or can – achieved genuine moral progress of any general kind. Her words were vividly in my mind when I had read Eve Ensler’s piece in a recent Nation.

This part below seemed less distressing to me than ISIS’s pricelist for female infants/girls/women.  Or the manual for how to treat sex slaves

I am thinking about the inertia, silence, paralysis that has stalled and prevented investigation and prosecution into sexual crimes against Muslim, Croat, and Serb women raped in camps in the former Yugoslavia; African-American women and girls raped on plantations in the South; Jewish women and girls raped in German concentration camps; Native American women and girls raped on reservations in the United States. I am hearing the cries of the permanently unsettled ghosts of violated women and girls in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sudan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, the list goes on. I am thinking of the last eight years I spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a similar conflagration of predatory capitalism, centuries of colonialism, endless war and violence in the name of mineral theft has left thousands of women and girls without organs, sanity, families or a future. And how terms like re-raped have now become re-re-re-re-raped.I am thinking that I have been writing this same piece for 20 years. I have tried it with data and detachment, passion and pleading, and existential despair. Even now as I write, I wonder if we have evolved a language to meet this century that would trump a piercing wail.

I am thinking about the failure of every patriarchal institution to intervene in any meaningful way and how structures like the UN amplify the problem as peacekeepers, meant to protect the women and girls, are rapists themselves.

Update on Free Amina

Article here.  (NSFW warning)

When asked about the Topless Jihad protest, Amina Tyler said,

” I am against. Everyone will think that I encouraged their actions. They have insulted all Muslims everywhere and it’s not acceptable.”

When asked what she thought of the reaction to her topless photograph, Amina replied: “At the moment I don’t regret what I did. But I do not know what the future holds.”

As to whether she supports Femen “whatever happens”, she says: “Until I’m 80-years-old. Because they are true feminists.”

Femen contacted Huffingtion Post UK and responded to Amina’s comments,

“It’s clear to us that she was not speaking freely. We know that she’s been constantly under the supervision of her family, and, as far as we know, they’ve been making her take some sort of anti-depressants, which could account for her halting speech. That Tyler incorrectly described Femen’s mosque protest proves to us that she has no independent access to the media. Her family is telling her things to make her stop her ‘playing around at being free.’ That she’s at home with her family in no way means she’s free or safe.”


Granted, Femen could be partially right about Amina being under supervision. But if Amina is not speaking freely, why would she have been allowed to say that she’ll support Femen until she’s 80 and that she didn’t regret what she did?  I don’t want to unreservedly assume that Femen is so narrow-minded and arrogant that they are reflexively taking a fellow feminist’s criticism of their protest as evidence of her not being in her right mind, but holy hell, it sure does look that way.  Unless there are big chunks of information missing from this report, this amplifies the criticisms of how Femen is engaging with the women they are trying to be in solidarity with.

From The Dark Side – Black Feminisms CFP

Black Feminisms cfp image 3
From The Dark Side – Black Feminisms
Inaugural issue of Comment S’en Sortir ?

Click here for full length CFP (PDF file)

In France,”féminisme noir” refers first of all to the importation and translation of the Black feminist tradition, with its politics and theoretical toolbox. However, the transatlantic circulation and reception of these tools deploy different Black feminist issues here.
Translations have affected and overwhelmed the economy of Black feminism. They have reinvented this tradition and de-centered our own long-established theoretical frameworks. Black feminism is a legacy that questions and sets us in motion; however, this legacy meets our own legacies transmitted by our social movements, our thoughts, and our mothers’/sisters’/partners’ struggles in the territories that have been literally erased by mainland France. What about this overseas feminism? Between legacy and fantasy, oblivion and reconstruction, return of the repressed or restoration of a “truth”: Black feminism must be approached from the perspective of a political temporality that is non-linear, split-up, and constellar.

We inherit an approach: our task is to investigate and question our societies as they are held and divided by racist, sexist, and capitalist power relations. The reception of Black feminism has led to a reflection about our social location and our positioning, about our individual and collective imperial history, about the sexual and gendered dimensions of racist and migration policies. In the French political context of a racist offensive led in the name of so-called feminism, those questionings have reconfigured the cartography of feminist research and feminist movements. While actuating a return of the colonial repressed, they divided feminists along new splits such as “queer” and “indigenous”, “secular” and “submissive”, “black” and “white”, but also “deep black” and “high yellow”. Because of these polemics, our bodies, our complexions, our clothes, our places of birth and residence, our sexualities, our religions and our languages have acquired new empowering or disempowering qualities, thus legitimizing or delegitimizing our discourses. We have sometimes put on our “objectionable skins” (Roberte Horth) as a way of becoming audible, with the danger of racializing both our adversaries and our traditional allies by rendering them “white”. Thus, we were trapped in the “master’s house” (Audre Lorde), within its racist delimitations.
We have sometimes masked our complexions in order to widen our coalitions, exposing ourselves to the risk of becoming invisible.

Given these aporias, we are committed to carrying on the deconstruction of the dichotomies imposed by the “white solipsism”
(Adrienne Rich) in feminist thought. We are committed to exhuming repressed, buried and ignored feminisms that contest this white solipsism.

Authors are invited to submit articles exploring the feminist movements committed against slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and racism, providing evidence of the multiple historical, geographical, and political origins of Black feminisms. We are looking for articles that index and study the tactics and strategies actuated by feminists under the pressure of racism: how do they shift, foil, invert, split, or stave in the color lines? How do they smash racialized relationships and categories such as “Muslim”, “Asian”, “oriental”, “veiled”, “Roma”, “Arab”, “African”, “immigrant”, etc., as well as and their corollaries, “European”, “occidental”, “secular”, “French”, and what does such a smashing imply? It is a matter of multiplying the legacies of obscure, masked, veiled, and darkened feminisms, such as those of Solitude, Fathma N’Soumer, Awa Thiam, Julia Cooper, Emma Goldman, and the Nardal sisters. It is a matter of analyzing the processes of dominations, resistances, and migrations that color or discolor, retract or magnify the location of possible solidarities.

This inaugural issue of Comment S’en Sortir ? entitled “FromThe Dark Side” aims to build walkways and bridges (Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldùa), alliances and coalitions; it aims to draw upon Black feminisms’ theoretical and political tools that allow us to thwart the oppositions, hierarchies, splits, and aporias that impoverish our experience and condemn our struggles.

– Deadline for submitting proposals: April 15, 2013
Acceptance decisions will be communicated by April 30, 2013
– Deadline for sending complete articles: July 30, 2013
Definitive acceptance: September 15, 2013
– Publication: October 2013
– Contact: redaction@commentsensortir.org
Authors’ guidelines

Interview with Silvia Federici

Interesting interview with Silvia Federici who was in London at the end of last year. Long, but well worth the read.

Silvia Federici is a scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition. She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor. She worked as a teacher in Nigeria for many years, is also the co-founder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, and is a member of the Midnight Notes Collective.

More from wikipedia.

Is it just me, or is Int’l Women’s Day getting more popular every year?

Four years ago, I had never heard of International Women’s Day.  Last year, I remember actually seeing people around the blogosphere mention it.  This year, more than a few of my Facebook friends have posted about it.

I can’t remember if Google had done a google doodle for the holiday in past years, but I like the one they have up this year:



Read More »

Watch the Makers Documentary Online!

A while ago I complained about a TV series that seemed to be glorifying a bunch of rich white men as the people who made America.

And a short while ago Fem Phil posted about the PBS documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America.

In case anyone missed it on TV, you can watch the whole thing (yup all 3 hours) here or here.  (The first link doesn’t contain commercials, as far as I can tell.  Apologies if the video doesn’t work everywhere. I tried searching Youtube as well but couldn’t find another version.)

And if anyone ever followed Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy, she is still occasionally throwing out a blame or two, in between blogging about the various ailments her horses suffer from. She points out some irony regarding the commercials for the documentary:

“Despite the title, during the station break a voiceover described the doc’s subject as “women who ‘helped’ shape America.” Women are helpers, yo, just in case this film causes you to forget that for a moment.”

And in classic Twisy fashion, she helpfully suggests,

Here, Voiceover, let me “help” you kiss my entire ass.

(If it’s not obvious, I miss IBTP.)

I haven’t watched the documentary yet, but I’m hoping it’s good.  Twisty links to a few articles on it in her post.  And Chris Hayes talked about it some on his Feb 9th show–you know, the one where he devoted the WHOLE TWO HOURS to the women’s movement (both local and global, past and present.) The show, while containing a few awkward kumbaya moments, had some of the best dialogue I’ve seen about how to address the women’s movement without slipping into American-centric white middle class feminism. (If you can watch MSNBC shows, you can watch it here by hovering over “recent shows” on the left and finding Feb. 9th.)


Melissa Harris-Perry (left) and Sarita Gupta (right) on Up with Chris Hayes

Femen: Ukraine’s Topless Warriors

Interesting piece on today’s Atlantic front page about these bold feminist activists based in Ukraine:

Founded in Kiev in 2008 to protest the country’s burgeoning sex industry (“Ukraine is not a brothel!” was the slogan of their first — and still clothed — demonstration, which aimed to dissuade foreigners from visiting prostitutes in the capital), Femen has since evolved into a vanguard of militant activists who have dubbed themselves the storozhevyye suki demokratii (the “watch-bitches of democracy”) and “modern-day Amazons,” some of whom demonstrate topless to, says their website “defend with their chests sexual and civic equality throughout the world.”

The article ends with this remark: ‘Just what de Beauvoir would have thought of topless demonstrations is anyone’s guess.’ Perhaps our erudite readership would care to weigh in? This seems unduly dismissive about the possibility of anticipating and reconstructing the views of a very important philosopher.