Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Questions asked at the Q&A at Sunsara Taylor Talk in NYC on February 23, 2010
On February 23, Sunsara Taylor kicked off her national speaking tour in New York City: "From the Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!"
The following are the questions asked by audience members during the very lively Q&A session:
- What about homosexual male pornography?
- How do you feel about third wave feminism or feminists using the term pro-sex. Does that not connotate the second wave or first wave are anti-sex? How do you feel about that?
- You talked about the revolutionary state. I feel like this is such an abstract term. What do you mean by that. What is that?
- I came in late and am not certain if I missed this. You addressed sexism implicit in Islam. What about the sexism which is implicit in Christianity where the holiest woman possible is the Virgin Mary, God is a father and a son and an ambiguously defined holy spirit. It strikes me that this sexism is less blatant but no less dangerous, so how would you recommend fighting this extremely subtle but extremely far reaching discrepancy?
- It could be said that approaching the issue of gender relations with a strictly Marxist methodology fails to uncover different locuses of female subjugation or indeed their emancipation in regards to hijab which is a different issue which I wouldn't want to get into but I was just wondering if you could respond to that allegation that some might make. (Sunsara Taylor says: you don't have to but if you want to say more about what sources you think are important to engage I would be very interested in this.) Well I guess looking at the issue of gender through constructs of identity, envisioning oneself ontologically, as a woman, etc., looking at different modes of cultural identification, etc. or perhaps the way that state formation is understated, Westphalian models vs non-Westphalian models and what that leads to in terms of the role of women within terms of that organized sense of society so different modes of women interacting with society apart from one that is envisioned through Marxism or class based identifications.
- You were never angry. You made complete sense. I was trained in the Frankfurt School and was raised in some weird hippie religion where I had great sexual education, where everyone was equal. It was lovely. That being said, I'm a 9th grade teacher. I'm working in the most dangerous school in NYC now. It's my first year and I came in thinking I would end some bad things there. I'm on the front lines and I can't do jack shit. I'm talking administratively, everything. And it's not that they don't understand it but if I were to say, hey don't do that because it's sexist, awful, unhuman, I'm viewed as a crazy person. What would you suggest are some ways I can avoid such ways. Because being viewed as a crazy person, I'm kind of used to that. But I mean we live in a world where I have to see fucking Amy Adams films, sorry, and like Valentine's Day posters when I just go to work, I can't like handle it. It's like uh. I just want to know what are some steps I can take that will actually achieve some... like I’m on the front lines and I'm getting my ass kicked every day, not physically, well a few, well anyways.... thank you.
- This is a little bit of a non sequitur from what we have been talking about. I loved what you said you were talking about how it is unnatural, the clitoral mutilation and of things like that. I myself am incredibly pro-choice and I loved what you had to say about ..... I watched one of your videos online, I think it was a q and a and you said about 3rd trimester abortions and how women's lives have to take precedence over something that is still a part of them until birth. I try and get that point across to a lot of people and the real difference that autonomy makes. My question is, under that kind of rationalization, that it's not natural to cut off your clitoris, how do you fight for abortion, when people try to use that argument against you and they say, well that is not natural either. I personally feel that abortion, I have never been in that situation, hopefully I will never have to be but I feel it is just so important to, like, my rights and just, being a human being on this earth and mattering more than a collection of cells. Anyway, I wanted to see what your opinion was.
- Hi. I just want to say I came out tonight because I was interested in seeing how feminist issues and questions could be reframed in a communist framework. I think there is something kind of uniquely powerful about putting those ideas in the context of all of humanity rather than the sort of women vs. men rhetoric that men and women have had to fight against for decades in order to sound like someone who is not insane when they talk about these issues. I mean it's really sad that that should be defended against but it is the case. However, on that note I would like to ask that... I would like to point out a challenge that I see. I don't really know if it’s possible to build a militant awareness of women's issues without naming a concrete target, and I know that in the early days of feminism the idea of patriarchy—I know that is an unpopular idea but it was grounded in the notion of men as an enemy or of male dominated institutions as an enemy and I don't like the word enemy but I am sort of wondering how it is possible to build a militant awareness of female subjugation when the target is something as abstract as capitalist-imperialism which I think we have to admit is a step removed from the target of patriarchy.
- Alright, my question has to do previously about your point on militarism and pornography. So knowing that the vast majority of war's victims are women, I think something like over 60 or 70% despite America's very chauvinistic ideals about war making and just war. Besides that statistic that many of war's victims are women, what are some of the material connections in your opinion between pornography and the degradation of women and our military complex?
- I was wondering and actually piggybacking off of the question about this relationship between patriarchal society or the oppression of women and capitalism, and you talked about doing some of that work, figuring out the relationship between something like patriarchal society and capitalism. I think one of the results of not doing that work for a long period of time is that people who consider themselves to be for democratic movements don't really consider themselves to be anti-capitalist. There's been a divide between people who are pro-women's rights around the world and who are anti-capitalist. Often when you bring in Marxist discourse to people who are pro-democratic rights they tend to shy away from that and say we are for a democratic society and this tradition has stood for undemocratic means, etc. When we have conversations with people about things going on in Iran right now, that seems to be the case as well. And leftists in the United States don't really know how to relate to people for example who are for democratic rights but are neo-liberals or are for the neo-liberalization of Iran. So it's a very difficult question for leftists internationally to sort of think about, I am for women's rights and yet I stand also for the development of a new society and against capitalism. So I guess this brings up a new question, what kind of international solidarity is meaningful when one is pro-democratic rights of women, against the oppression of women but also an anti-capitalist. Because it seems to me that having a kind of passive relationship to protesters in Iran who although they are defending women's rights are also for the furthering inclusion of Iran into a neo-liberal order would sort of undermine those long term goals which you talked about.
- I think that, well, the stories that you told in the first big part of your speech were emotionally compelling and that as you said I don't think you can hear them and still say that women are not oppressed, and you also said that the Christian right or the fascists as you called them have also used similar stories to stir up as you said shape soldiers and promote their agenda. So do you think that you are using the stories in the same way to promote your own solution to those problems? And as a follow up do you think that just raising awareness about these stories is always a good thing no matter what solution you are proposing to them?
- I think it's great that you are doing what you are doing and I just have some little problems, the general problems that I have always had with communism even though if it weren't for communism a lot of things would not have happened in the world. But the whole issue of communism not recognizing the fact that human beings are part spirit and that is the reason for some of us, I am both a Catholic, I get involved with other religions, I am also a Yoruba priestess so I could never be part of a communist movement however I am a revolutionary. Christ was a revolutionary. Now there are many churches, the Collegiate for one of them who are working very hard to bring justice. So I think when we don't watch our semantics sister and we keep using the rhetoric of imperialism to assign it only to capitalism, which undoubtedly capitalism brings out the worst in human beings, the greed, and all of that but USSR was a very imperialistic state. Cuba is a dictatorship so we have to be honest and really, if we want to make a revolution we should be watchful not to continue to say things that exclude people and that will not bring together the society the way we need to bring it together. I think it is more about issues regarding peace, violence, justice. If we focus on those truths then I think we have a better chance of bringing people together. One thing I want to say, when 9/11 happened it was the first time afterwards, when they started showing for the first time what life was like in that area of the world, in Afghanistan, I felt so ashamed at my ignorance of how impoverished, how awful.... So I think it is essential to educate, I keep saying this, I said this to Andy when they had the other meeting, we should be constantly educating because people are asleep. Americans not only here, we don't know what is going on in the rest of the world. So I think it is very important what you are doing. Please be watchful of the semantics.
- I definitely agree that there is a systemic problem that is causing all sorts of oppression all over the world. But I hear an inherent contradiction in the desire to end all capitalism and then, after the speech, coming in and saying that I want your parents to give me thousands of dollars in capital. I guess my question is how do you plan on creating or continuing a revolution that doesn't continue or propagate capitalism and is inspiring to people who you know no longer want to propagate this system or people who don't have any ability to propagate this system—such as poor people who a revolution really needs to represent.
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