Speaking Out Against Patriarchy

January 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


A team from Revolution newspaper joined the Stop Patriarchy crew in Washington D.C. for the first couple of days during the Week of Action to Defend Abortion & Defeat the War on Women. During this time, we were able to talk with several of the volunteers about their reasons for coming, how they see the stakes of this struggle, and the things they were learning. Following are four of these interviews. Check back later for more...

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"An Outraged Young Person"

This interview is with a volunteer from New York:

I'm a revolutionary, a student, and I'm an outraged young person who is here to do what needs to be done, for humanity, for women, for the future.

What brought you here?

Well, I was brought into this whole movement for revolution about a year ago through actually being a Women and Gender Studies major at school and taking all these classes which really teach you about the realities that are going on in the world, on the basis of gender relations, but also other things too, what's happening all over the world, like this "war on drugs" bullshit, all these kind of atrocities that are going on. These classes kind of teach you what the root of it is, but obviously not any way of changing it. And I was always kind of left with, well this is what is happening but what are we going to do about it. And luckily Revolution newspaper came in one day to one of my classes and had the newspaper and I just saw whatever the article was, and it was the most real headline and real story that I had ever seen. I don't remember what the article was, but seeing this I was so intrigued. And I've always been someone who is very unapologetic for just telling the truth and seeing something like this that was very unapologetic and just very real was so refreshing and I knew that I had to follow this wherever it was going and that brought me to Revolution Books and really understanding what the newspaper is for and getting into the movement and then finding Sunsara Taylor and this Stop Patriarchy network and learning what it is about and challenging myself as to why porn is so bad and these kind of things and what it's doing to society.

This was a challenge to you?

Yes, I watched porn and I didn't think anything about it.

Maybe you could talk about that because I know this has been something that has been very controversial.

I wasn't really ever in a position where I was going to uphold porn because as someone who just understands reality and real arguments I can understand very quickly why it's so detrimental to society—and just watching it and not thinking about those things but also not having those things posed to me. So it was just easy for me to not think about it. But then coming to the store and getting into those questions made me think about these things differently.

Was it just like a thing of this is for me, and not thinking about what it means in society?

Yeah, it was just like quick sexual gratification, whatever, it does what it needs to do and then you put it away and that's it. But that's not it. And I never thought of it that way.

So what is it?

It is garbage, it's also dangerous in the way that it's teaching young kids, the average age of someone starting to watch porn is like 11, seriously. I'm pretty sure that I even starting looking up stuff when I was that young too. And seeing these graphic images of women just being degraded and learning that that's what your place is in terms of sexuality and that that is what sex is, when it's fucking not—it's completely formulaic sex, it's completely uncreative, it's there mainly for men to view and to get off, to see this degradation of a woman.

It has nothing to do with mutual respect.

It has nothing to do with mutual respect, actual making love, that is not at all part of it and is not supposed to be. And it's so, so dangerous. And so learning more about that too and then bringing that into school too, and learning what I was coming up against, even in school, which you would think—college, it has all these great Women and Gender Studies classes and professors, you'd think they'd be a little more fucking enlightened about that. But they even see the sex industry and sex work as something that can be empowering, but that's bullshit. And I've had to come up against that now in school and that's been a challenge. But I have some help from people like Sunsara being there constantly to help me deal with these kind of things. Everything we talk about is, is it a really true reflection of reality and how these things are affecting reality and real people...

Why we're out here doing what we're doing this week—it's the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade which made abortion legal in this country, however it is now more stigmatized, more dangerous and more restricted than ever before. Why is it that coming from being legal, it has gone backward? Why hasn't it become more accessible, turning the tide in how we think about this? Instead we've actually gone backward on this. And why is it that way? The way we think about it, as revolutionaries, even that was going a little bit too far [for those who rule]: "The whole women's movement, what it did accomplish, we need to actually go back, we need to push women back into the kitchen, the home, keep them in that place where they belong as the bearers of children." And we're coming out there to make it known that, you know, that is not our place in society, we deserve to be treated as equals in this society, we are not just here to be the fucking bearers of children. We are here to do lots of other things, whatever we want, including not having children if we don't want to. And we're here to proclaim that and to proclaim that abortion is something that is OK and that it needs to be more widely available for women. And it is at risk at this moment of just not being available for most women in this country, and that is entirely unacceptable and we're here to proclaim that and to get more people involved in this because this cannot go on in this way.

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"I had been wanting to join a movement, something like this, for a while"

The following interview was done with a volunteer from the UK, now going to school in the U.S.:

What did you think of what we did today in front of the Supreme Court, confronting the anti-abortionists?

I thought it was great. I really didn’t have much of an idea what to expect. Coming from the UK, I haven't had a lot of contact with pro-life people and the pro-life movement. It's very much smaller in the UK. It's very marginal. It's not considered much of a threat. The U.S. always looks like a warning to us, you know? "You see those people?" And we'd go, "Oh god, we don't want that to happen here." But increasingly, it is happening. Now that I live here, and I see it—I see the impact they have had is so much larger than I'd even realized, the more I learn about it, the more scarier it all is. Because losing the right to abortion has happened already in this country. Effectively speaking. It's still legal, but you know in Mississippi there's no abortion providers. Or if you're a minor you can't cross state lines without the consent of your parents…things like that. Or just the fact that for lower income women, it would be so difficult for them to travel really far to an abortion clinic, then have to go through a mandatory waiting period, and would have to find somewhere to stay during that time, all of those things. Seeing them for what they really are, it's quite shocking to me. And it's more shocking to me because I see this has a huge influence across the world. I mean not just the AID funding [USAID—U.S. Agency for International Development] that was influencing things in the developing world—I know that's been kind of repealed now, but a lot of people very much look to the U.S., especially religious groups look to U.S. religious groups as well for their kind of ideology. So I guess that made me really, really proud to be part of standing up to that. Because even though this isn't my country, and I won't be living here forever, this is a global thing. And the pro-life movement here is so powerful, it's very scary. I really liked that we were able to get up there and get between people and make that statement in front of the press as well. Because I often feel that even if you do stand and you do reach people in the streets, the press often just ignores you. But they were all there, and they saw us there. And that was a really powerful thing. And for me personally, it was a really powerful thing to be there and just be standing up for that as well, and not be someone who just stands on the sidelines and just watches it all fall down and goes, "oh dear."

How did you first connect with the campaign to End Pornography and Patriarchy?

I found their website. I had been wanting to join a movement, something like this, for a while. I just didn't really know what was out there, I guess. I looked at the mainstream feminist kind of movements. They just didn't quite feel like what I wanted to be a part of. The thing that attracted me to this was that they take on both feudal patriarchy and capitalist patriarchy. Too many groups are like: We'll fight the feudal patriarchy but we love the capitalist patriarchy. Give us the porn. Give us the commodification. Sell our bodies now. Or you get the right wing who's like: We're against the sex industry, against pornography. Not because of women's rights basis but because of morality, obscenity basis. So yeah, I wanted to be part of something that stood against both of those. And also that took a very confrontational stance, and a very holistic stance, and linked this with other issues in a systemic way. You get too many things that are very single-issue, that don't put things in a wider perspective.

Can you speak more to how you see this issue as part of a bigger thing?

First of all, people often see women's issues as disconnected from or even in competition with economic justice, race issues, or things like that. And it's always like, Oh well, why do you care about women when you could be fighting world poverty. But it's like, most of the world is poor women...

It really annoys me when people talk about, like, "Oh the market's done really great things. Look at how much better the standard of living is in the U.S., in Britain, in Europe, look what it's done for people, that's incredible, that's amazing." And I say, we haven't eradicated the worst of capitalism, that's not what happened—we outsourced it, is what happened. It used to be that we had those horribly exploitative factories in our own country, and that's what Dickens wrote about and it was really awful. But we never really got rid of that. We just put it somewhere where we didn't have to look at it. That again uses other kinds of patriarchal norms. I read these really, really interesting papers. One of them was about women working in factories in Bangladesh, and the other was about men working in factories somewhere in India. The way they used gender norms to facilitate capitalist exploitation was really interesting. Like a lot of people say it's been a liberation for women that these multinational corporations have come over there and they've given these women jobs. Now they have an independent income, now they get paid more than whatever their other options are. And in a certain sense that's true. But as soon as the jobs become more skilled, as soon as the wages rise, the women are pushed out and men are recruited, because their whole basis of recruitment is, they want women because they are the most exploitable, they have the weakest social power, because they won't unionize, because they've got no other options. So the multinational corporations love to employ them because it's like you've got this really docile workforce that can't stand up, because they just don't have the backing of their community behind them. At the same time, there was this other paper about men working in this workshop. The men actually lived in the workshop and they kept it completely segregated from women. So the women would live at home and the men would just live at this workshop. And one of them said something about, "We can't let women in here, because we don't want them to see how we're treated." If they stay out of here, they can still pretend that they've still got some dignity, being a man and being a provider, and they're still the king of the household. If the women saw them in their workplace, they would realize how much they were getting exploited and that would be shameful for them. So this corporation is using these norms of masculinity to actually facilitate the greater exploitation of men by men, and using women's oppression to facilitate that better. So it's all so interconnected. You can't look at these things one at a time.

That's an important point about the interconnectedness of things and the global dimension. When the gang rape in India came out into the open—and there were the massive protests by women and men there—that had an electrifying effect worldwide.

That's really amazing, especially since so often it's portrayed that fighting for women's rights is this "Western thing" that's imposed on other countries. Sometimes it has been an excuse for imperialism, that's happened…

Like in Afghanistan…

Yeah, like "We're all about the rights of women." No you're not. You don't give a shit. You're not doing anything to help women out. It's still awful for women in Afghanistan. The warlords they've brought back into power, they hate women as much as the Taliban. I think it's really inspiring how women have been standing up in India. People have been uniting and giving expression to this across the world.

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"This is about women's rights in general"

This interview is with a woman from the Bay Area:

We drove out here from California to be here today. We think it's really, really important. Without the basic right and control over her own body, a woman is enslaved. My grandmother was raped, and my father was the result of that rape. This goes down generations. She was not able to love him the way a child deserves to be loved. She did not have the opportunity for an abortion. She was in Texas in 1947. It was a very conservative environment, she belonged to a very conservative church, she did not have that opportunity. This is something that affects people for generations. When women have children that they don't love, then those children can't be raised in a loving home.

Where do you think the fight to defend abortion rights is at?

At this point, there's so few abortion providers. Abortion isn't being taught in medical schools. It's being legislated out of existence on a state-by-state level. We drove through many, many states where it is now almost impossible to get an abortion. It's really, really, really scary. We need more than just Roe v. Wade. We need to push back. The Democratic Party is a defensive party. They don't do anything for women. What they say is: Well, we're not those rape guys, you know. And that's not enough. We need a pro-active movement. Because the Democratic Party, they know right now that they don't have to do anything. We need to overturn Hyde. We need to do better than Roe v. Wade. Because there are a lot of aspects to Roe v. Wade that have allowed abortion to be legislated out of existence. It considers fetal viability a point where abortion can be restricted. So we need more than, oh we're going to put pro-Roe v. Wade appointees in the courthouse. We need a pro-active movement to prevent women's rights from being stripped away.

And this isn't just about abortion. This is about women's rights in general. The Violence Against Women Act was just voted down again so it is no longer in effect. There's just so many areas where women's lives are being curtailed. And it's really, really important that we push back.

Have you been involved in the End Pornography and Patriarchy campaign?

I got involved in October. I'm involved in the Bay Area chapter. We were protesting the appointment of the Archbishop... We've been protesting porn stores because the fact is that although the right objectifies women as baby-makers, the left is objectifying women as dick sleeves. We need to fight back against that, because women are not objects.

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Abortion is Great! It Liberates Women!

This interview is with a volunteer from Chicago:

I just signed up for Stop Porn and Patriarchy a couple of months ago and it was the first time that I stepped out and told anybody that I had an abortion because it's so stigmatized, that somehow this is a terrible thing. But abortion is great, it liberates women and I am so happy to be in DC taking a stand. I've always been someone who's stood in the background and let everybody else make the speeches and be in the forefront. I was happy to be doing the mailings and sticking the stickers on the donor letters. But today I'm standing out and speaking out because we need to be speaking out against these Christian fascists who are stripping abortion rights away and trying to send women back to the dark ages. We have to take a stand against that and that's why I decided two months ago I was gonna come to this. And at first I was just coming by myself and that was it. Then I got on a conference call with Sunsara Taylor who made it clear that if this was gonna happen I had to help make it happen. So I started organizing in Chicago and we got two of us here. But we have a much broader group of people now who stepped forward and told their own abortion stories and themselves went out and started raising money for this. Because every time somebody takes a step and tells somebody else about it or even tells people more broadly it broadens the movement and people understand even more why they need to take a stand and they get a much better understanding and we change our thinking.

I started out talking to people, saying, well what's your stand on abortion, how do you feel about abortion? And then I realized what I needed to be saying is, do you realize how they're taking our abortion rights away, we can't let this go down. So that's what we started saying and it resonated among women across the board. People that I wouldn't have even thought would take it up, like my personal trainer who is a fundamentalist Christian, I thought oh, I can't even ask her. But then I said, no I'm asking everybody, including my acupuncturist and everybody I know. And she said, she's very contradictory, she said, well the Bible says thou shalt not kill but I had an abortion and I think women should have a right to choose and she donated money on the spot.

Let me ask you this, you talked about how this is the first time you could come out and talk about this and you're not a young person.

No I'm not, I'm over 65.

There are a lot of people who have been stigmatized, who now feel ashamed for having an abortion and feel that it was wrong. And here we are in front of the Supreme Court and there are these reactionary anti-abortionists, including all these young women who have been told the lie that abortion is murder, that fetuses are babies—they've been brainwashed. Generations of young women are being lied to and told that to decide their own future and fate, to be in control of their own life is wrong. Could you speak to this as someone who for a very long time felt stigmatized about having an abortion?

Well I think it's so stigmatized, that there's something wrong with having an abortion, that you are killing your baby, and like, "don't you think about how old they would be," "what would your children think that you eliminated their sister or brother." But that's not it. Fetuses are NOT babies, they are clumps of cells. I even had a late term abortion because I was raped as a teenager, it was a date rape. It was back in 1968 and it was illegal then to have an abortion and I tried to get a legal abortion. You couldn't even get birth control back then.

I was the leader of a Civil Rights Group at my college and I was leading a group down to Tuskegee, Alabama where we were doing voter registration in Tuskegee. And I was raped by someone during that trip and I didn't know anything about sex. That was my first experience with sex. You know how they say you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, well that's a lie. I got pregnant and when I came back I tried to go through all the ways that you could legally get an abortion back then—which was to have a psychiatrist say it's gonna mentally affect you in a way that is detrimental to your health.

I was trying to find any means necessary because I definitely didn't want to have a baby. And I knew having an abortion was the right thing to do and so I was just trying every way I could think of to do it.... But I couldn't. So I went back home to West Virginia. And my very conservative mother actually was able to talk to her gynecologist. And again, I was already into like four and a half months, way into second term. And she convinced her gynecologist to give me a D&C and he really put his life on the line, unlike these other guys who wouldn't. She was having a D&C at the same time and so we just went and had our D&Cs together. And she supported me. I never would have thought. Anyway, that's the story of my abortion.

And you didn't talk about this for many, many years?

I didn't talk about it from the time I was 19 years old when I had it until two months ago. Never. My family didn't know. I never talked to my sisters about it. I never talked to my son. But I went over and talked to my daughter-in-law, my son wasn't around, but I went over and talked to her and she was very touched by my story. She doesn't really support all of this campaign because she's into pornography. She thinks pornography is a good thing, she's into sex positive. But she thinks abortion is very important so she ended up donating to this.

What do you think was the main thing that made you finally feel you could speak out about this?

I guess that I see that we're in an historic moment right now. And I think Stop Patriarchy is really developing as a movement. I really see it as a new movement that has the potential to unleash millions of women. There are lots of women out there like me who are really pissed about this that never talk about it. And I think there really is the potential for millions of women to be in the streets and I really think about one of the things Sunsara Taylor talks about is what it was like when people sat down on the lunch counter during the Civil Rights Movement, or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat.

It's kind of come full circle because you were part of that whole movement 45 years ago.

Yeah, it's true, I hadn't thought about that, but it's true. So this is a pretty historic moment and I wanted to be a part of it. So here I am.

Also one of the real motivations for me to make this leap from being somebody who likes to do the mailing to somebody who's stepping out, is the work of Bob Avakian. And in particular the interview he did with A. Brooks, What Humanity Needs, where he is asked, "What do you have to say to, people who have been around this movement for revolution for a long time?" And Bob Avakian says, "Do the right thing." And I thought, gee, he's talking to me. Because I've been around forever. And then this Stop Patriarchy came up and I said, this is the point, this is the time to make the leap, so I did.

Do you have any thoughts about what just happened here in front of the Surpeme Court on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade?

A very small, determined group of people [the crew from Stop Patriarchy] basically talked down the Christian Fascists. What happened was they were standing there doing their silent vigil in front of the Supreme Court and the anti-life people who are not against people being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, they're for the death penalty. These people who call themselves pro-life but they're really anti-life, they're anti-women. They don't want women to have birth control. They don't women to have any control over their bodies. They were having their little vigil with their little beautiful carnations, which I took a whole bunch of and I said these are the abortions I've had. These are for women who stood up to control their bodies and that's what we did. We basically took over where they were and took over their press conference and stood up for women and stood up for people having reproductive rights. And this is not just about abortion. This is about women's liberation and women controlling their lives and women and men coming together to say we want to emancipate humanity. And this is only a first step.

Personally I believe that this system is never gonna meet anybody's needs. I don't think women can be liberated under this system of patriarchy and capitalism-imperialism. I think what we need is a revolution. I think we need a communist revolution as a step toward having a world where people actually work together for the good of everybody instead of anti-life people standing against people who are standing for women's liberation and the liberation of all humanity. So we basically took it over. They're gone. They put their little flowers down. And I still have their flowers in my belt, these are for my abortions. This is our stand, we stand for women and they don't. They stand for the dark ages and we stand for the liberation of all of humanity all over the world.

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"Your voice matters, your voice has an effect on the world"

This interview is with a young volunteer from New York:

Let's start off by talking about how you first hooked up with this campaign against pornography and patriarchy.

Well I had a friend that I met in the gay march and she suggested I come by Revolution bookstore. And I did and they would have different talks and different discussions about topics that you really don't get to speak about or also if you do get to speak about it it's either one-sided or it's very stigmatized. So it was basically one of the first times I got to come into a space and actually see an open discussion without judgments or just new information that other people weren't offering.

When I first got there, I think there was a talk on how men were perceived as superior to women and in the media and that women are usually penalized for any kind of outcome and men aren't really addressed towards it, like whether it's rape or like any kind of abuse, it's always like the woman's fault or she should have said or done something. They always say the woman has to change the way she dresses or thinks or speaks. They never address the men's input on it. And at the time I had just reported someone at my job for sexual harassment. And it was something that I hadn't done intentionally. I was trying to get out of the situation and other people brought it to light and I felt guilty because I got the man in trouble and he was very upset with me and made it pretty obvious that he was upset with me. And even though I was the one being harassed and somewhat of a victim in the situation I ended up feeling I did something wrong. And when I went to the group it was very healing for me to realize it's normal because of society for me to feel that way—but it wasn't accurate, it wasn't necessary for me to feel guilty for standing up for myself. And society puts a lot of pressure on women to be a certain way or put up with certain things and if you don't fit into that mold then you're the problem. So it helped me a lot to go through that small part of my life. And that was one of the major things that influenced me in the group.

This campaign is about fighting this situation, how do you think that's going and how do you feel that this could be changed?

I think although we are a small group I have seen by actually getting out there and talking to people and just getting into the conversation with different people whether they're in the street or your friends and family, we kind of not necessarily teach them, but awaken something that's already within them. And I feel that's where a lot of the power lies within this movement. I feel very confident it will be successful as long as we keep doing that because it's not like we're trying to convince anyone or sell any idea to anybody that's unrealistic or that's just to our advantage. It's literally something that everyone, not necessarily everyone, but a lot of people out there, do believe in and do feel, but they just haven't yet to come across the concept that we can speak about it or that it is something that we can change. A lot of people don't feel like it will ever change, it's just a part of society so they kind of hide it in the back of their mind, they don't ever speak about it or bring it out or make any difference about it because of how the world is today. But as long as we keep going out there and showing them that it is something that you can, if you become a part of, you can affect a lot of lives and help a lot of people, I think the more we send out that message the stronger we can become, the more likely it is that we can succeed and make a difference, not only in our culture but at the roots of it and branch out in the various aspects of our lives.

What kind of questions do you encounter when you go out to other people to talk about this?

I think the biggest thing is the idea that when you have an abortion you're killing a child which is not true. When I first came across the revolution group and when I saw these cards that said "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" I looked at them and I just said, I don't get it. I honestly did not understand. Like I understand "Abortion on Demand." But to me it didn't really make sense because I know that abortion is legal, but at that point I didn't know that it's very hard for a lot of women to access it. I live in New York so everything is easy to access. So I didn't put myself in other people's shoes. Especially if you don't live in those places, people from here, where it is more accessible, where they can make some kind of change or some kind of difference, are not aware of the conditions of other people. And that's where I didn't understand why that was in there. As well as "without apology." I was confused by that. Cause I was like, what are you talking about? When did anyone ask us to apologize in the first place? But I later came to understand that because of all the stigmatism towards it, which I understood, because I come from a very Hispanic background. When I was born, this is the first generation of my family being here. With my parents and their siblings, you don't talk about abortion or sex or anything, all that is taboo. So I started understanding, the more I spoke with people, the more I came to these meetings, that it was more about how people think about it regardless of whether it's legal or not. A lot people don't go through with it or carry this burden on them for the rest of their lives because they went through with it. And it's honestly nothing to be ashamed about and I didn't understand that before because I've seen my friends go through it or I've had similar experiences and there it's correlated with this idea that this life that can be an existence at some point, technically you're cutting off that possibility, so technically it feels like you're cutting off that life. And for a person to have some kind of effect on cutting off someone's life short or nonexistence at all, it's that same idea of murder. And so that's when I started understanding what that meant, "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology."

Like I knew if I was in that situation, I think I would have gotten an abortion because I wouldn't be able to deal with confronting my family, saying I was going to have a child and having to live with them for the rest of my life probably because I wouldn't be able to raise it on my own. And probably in some way break up my family or my family would look at me in a shameful way because I had a child at such a young age. So I would have been cornered into getting an abortion and from that point I would have felt ashamed my whole life. But all that pain is unnecessary because there is nothing wrong with choosing to get on with your own life without having a child.

As we say, not having that right is the same thing as women being slaves. The comparison has been made between slavery and a woman having the right to decide when and if they want to have a child.

And especially if they're not even prepared for it, or equipped in any way to care for it they don't have any business having one in the first place. Whether I chose to have an abortion or not, I'm only setting it up for a dangerous situation. So in another perspective you're kind of doing yourself and the potential child a favor by not having that child because if you're not prepared for it you never know what that child is going to go through because it won't have the proper foundation.

What about the question of pornography, there's a lot of issues around that more broadly in society. What about in your own thinking, and in talking with people around this?

When they started bringing up how pornography is very, what is the phrase, degrading for women, I agree with that 100 percent. I feel like a lot of pornography is aimed at the pleasure of men and it's very much for visual effect. Like I've always perceived it like some kind of show or play on stage. Like it has nothing to do, the people involved have nothing to do with each other. It's about pleasing the camera and making sure whoever is watching is getting pleased, not each other or the people in it. And what always bothered me the most is when people said it was empowering for women because they made the choice to take their clothes off instead of being stripped of them, which at the end of the day they still end up stripped. So having the choice to do it is even more demonizing because of the fact that they now don't only have power over your body, but your mind. And I feel like that is even more dangerous and detrimental. And you know generally a lot of females who wear provocative clothes, and not necessarily revealing clothes, but provocative, I feel like there is a strong difference, like wearing a halter top or a low-cut, like a tank top or short skirt isn't necessarily, is just maybe revealing, but not necessarily provocative unless it has Playboy written across the front or something like that which gives more like a suggestion than it does simply wearing a small outfit or something like that.

So I was always against the idea of porn and advertising and how like every woman that started to become anyone in the media had to show up at some point in a magazine with half their clothes off. Like we are starting to see their mind, but it's not going to count for anything unless we see their body. It never made any sense to me, it always aggravated me. These are supposed to be role models and they should know better than to strip themselves in order to fit in. I'm like, have you tried not doing that and seeing how far that gets you? Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean that's the only way to become successful, just because other successful women did it, regardless if they became respectable afterwards. I just think generally it puts out the wrong image for younger women out there. Like I knew there was something seriously wrong with it but I didn't realize you would have some effect on it. And I think a lot of people are stuck in that whole mindset that, "Yeah, I know this is wrong but what difference does it make if I watch this, or if I do that, I'm just one in the crowd." And they don't realize that that one voice, your one voice, can reach out to all your friends, to your family, to all the other people you speak to and it can it can be a chain effect and other people will be affected by it. And instead of doing that they kind of backlash and just minimize their position in society.

Also people need to see something different, that's precisely how this initiative around ending pornography and patriarchy, it's not just one person talking. As important as it is what you're saying about individuals talking to people, people need to see a whole different thing in society, there's a movement, there's people who are standing for something else.

Yeah, I feel people should take a stand on it. I just feel the first step towards it would be internal. Like if I didn't make that realization myself I wouldn't be out here. You have to realize that you matter, your voice matters, your voice has an effect on the world, in order to join with a bigger crowd or even to create one. But definitely I feel like it should be a change in the media. It's just such a powerful tool, especially because when people are young and want to fit in and at the same time they're going through like puberty and things so they feel like this is the quickest way to get attention, because it's everywhere, because so many people in the media do it, that it's somewhat OK, like whoever is out there takes responsibility so I can follow so that's a role model in the world. But I definitely think there needs to be a shift in general towards the perception of what is beauty and what is pleasing to a person instead of like watching videos of women being degraded and abused in these videos being pleasurable. A switch went off at some point in people's minds when they started being aroused by that kind of thing that disconnected them from humanity. And we need to switch that back on.

I think when Sunsara Taylor talks about this she is very upfront about it. She is a revolutionary communist and she takes her vision from Bob Avakian's work and the Revolutionary Communist Party and there is a whole vision of how this needs to be fought, the oppression of women and in particular how it comes down with pornography and patriarchy. And in order to actually have a fundamental change in the situation of women that you need a whole different society, you need a revolution. How do you see that?

I definitely agree that there has to be fundamental change, like there has to be change within our roots, like where everything started, like your basic foundation with people, like your morals. I definitely agree with that concept, cause I don't think we can just branch off with such a degrading mindset and just try to learn other ways of thinking. Like you have to kind of rip the tree from its roots and grow it all over again. Which is why it's so hard because its challenging so many people, their core value system and what they were raised with. And when you are brought into this world, that's what you are taught. And back in the day, everyone's family was everyone's family. So this issue would be approached differently in that kind of society. But in this day and age, your family is all you have so regardless, and by family I mean the people you grew up with. And regardless how you feel about certain matters, at the end of the day, you're going to put them first. And to go ahead and decide that everything they taught you was wrong or misled you, it's difficult for people to admit or consider because it's so much easier to grasp onto your comfort zone or none of your reality is questioned. But this is the type of concept that would crumble your entire world. And it makes a lot of people very vulnerable and nervous because it's challenging everything they know. And they don't have to, honestly. They don't have to change. They can choose to crumble their whole world and start by trusting complete strangers and this other idea of thinking or holding on to their four walls and continuing to build the life that they think they want. And for the people who do step into this, this movement, I feel, they've realized that they deserve more than what has been offered to them. Especially when they start unraveling the lies that they've been told all their lives. So it's more what do you really want out of life kind of question. I kind of forgot what the question was.

These things like pornography and patriarchy need to be fought, women and men. We need to be out in the streets fighting for abortion rights. But the oppression of women is woven into the whole way this system operates and in order to actually fundamentally transform this you need a revolutionary change, you need to overthrow this system of capitalism and set up a whole different system that's not based on profit. So the question was what do you think about that?

Yeah, I think that's how I feel. We do need a revolution, to completely restore our core values and everything. Because half of humanity, and it's a little more difficult, it's hard enough to get that half of humanity up because they are the ones who are being degraded. And we have to find a concept to bring together. Every time we have these debates on how women should dress or act. Or in certain countries, like in classrooms, all the males are on one side of the room and all the females are on the other and a curtain in between. But that doesn't protect them. But unless you teach them a way of life to coincide with each other that curtain is not going to do anything. Like we don't only have to question the way women carry themselves and why, but why are men reacting the way they do, like why are they more fueled by women with less clothing.

It's because society has ingrained into their mind that men should crave sex, men should have more respect in society, if they slept with more women than other men have, or how easy it is for them to bring someone home. It's like the goal every single time in these scenarios when it involves men involves sex. And you wonder why there are so many rapes. A lot of rapes have nothin to do with a woman dressed provocatively. There are men who are out there who kidnapped children and adults and just abuse them and you go back to their homes and you see they were overly nurtured all their lives and all they watch is pornography and everything in their lives has been over-sexualized. And that's just how they see the world, cause that's how the world teaches them. That's what this society teaches men they should desire or they should treat women as objects, not as anything of quality. And that's not just detrimental to females but very much to males because they don't get to experience the other half of humanity. And there is a lot of loss there. They never understand what a friend is in a female because all they think of them is as pieces of meat. And there are so many articles out there like, "Can men and women ever be friends?" And now that's even in the LBGTQ society. It's like "Oh, can two lesbians actually ever be friends since they both can possibly be attracted to each other." And I'm like what is this obsession with seeing someone as more than a friend because sleeping with someone that you've known for a long time doesn't mean they were your friend in the first place. A friend is someone you actually care for deeply. And would you use them for their body if you really saw them that way, if you ever respected them as a person. I highly doubt that. But we're just trained to think that way at this point.

What do you think about this week, what happened today going out with the campaign?

When I first got here I was pretty nervous. I didn't know what we were going to do really. I just kind of threw myself into it. I had a general idea but I didn't know what we were going to do.

Is this the first time you've done something like this?

Yes. I've never put myself in a crowd. So I was hearing stories on my way here and I was getting a little nervous. Oh, holy crap, they're going to kill us in the crowd. And like even my mother was afraid of me coming here because she knew I was going to protest and she was filling my head with things. But at the end of the day when I see these kind of things in the news, the people who stand up and fight for people's rights, who say the things that everyone is trying to keep in the closet are the people I have the most respect for. And the people who I listen to versus everyone else who are just kind of like going along with the crowd because it's easier, honestly. Think for yourself if everyone else is already approving, supporting Obama, if you support Obama, you automatically have something to talk about. But so many people, especially in New York, if you go against them and question their thinking you realize a lot of people don't even know what he's really doing for the U.S. They don't know know the specific of the laws he's passing or the laws he's for or what's really going on or why he's choosing those things and whether they support him or not. They just know he's the president and he's half Black. And they just kind of go along with the crowd. And earlier this year I did go to an Obama party thing and I was listening to them about what he was supporting and I was like, this is really interesting, but there were still a lot of other aspects that I didn't completely agree with and I feel like they weren't really touching on in the first place. And if you're going to have to be honest in the first place and I didn't see that going on so I drew away from that crowd. And I ended up here and can clearly see why and I'm glad I did.

But as far as my experience today it was very, like I thought I was gonna be very tired or bored. But just seeing people's different reactions, whether they were very supportive or whether they were very narrow-minded or whether they just had very strong opinions against the way, not necessarily our message, but the way we were carrying it, was interesting as well. So I learned a lot about different perspectives and why people feel the way they do instead of, this person is just being ignorant or something. It's when you put yourself in the situation you see more than one side of the story. So far it's been a pleasant experience. I didn't get too much backlash today. But we'll see about tomorrow [when we confront the anti-abortionists]. It's going to go one of two ways. I'll either withdraw or fight even harder.

* * * * *

"You Can't Break All the Chains But One"

This interview is with a volunteer from New York:

I'm in my early 40s, I'm a working class/middle class artist and I work with the Stop Patriarchy campaign. We're having a week of action around the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and we're standing up for abortion on demand and without apology. We want to end the degradation and enslavement of women. That's our call to action. We know that without the liberation of women no one can be free so we're standing up for women's rights. And I hate to say women's rights because it sounds so much within the framework of this system but there's a lot to be fighting around because women are losing their reproductive rights rapidly. Like women's rights groups now are saying we should drop the term pro-choice from our agenda. I personally think this is very dangerous. So we're out here with our call to action, asking people to stand up for women's reproductive rights. And not only that but to stand up for abortion on demand and without apology.

Do you have any personal experience that you would like to share?

I've had two abortions. But it's not really about that. But I think my perspective could be helpful to other people. I didn't really have a traumatic abortion. I had two of them. One of them was when I was a teen and I had just been accepted to a university I wanted to attend and I was really excited about my future. But I was in a relationship with an abusive young man and it was just very hard to get out of it. I imagine it's hard at any age, but at that age you're just discovering who you are and it was my first love and it was really, really difficult. So I got pregnant from that relationship and I wasn't ready to be a mother. I was a teenager and I had thought about it. Also being your first love, you know I loved this young man and I guess at that age, or at any age, if you're in an abusive relationship, possibly when you're a teen and it's your first relationship it's very difficult to know otherwise. But I did know that I didn't want that kind of relationship, much less to bring a child into a relationship like that, to a home like that, or to a broken home. You know I wanted to wait until I was ready where I could be a fully rounded human being, know more about the world, know more about how to bring up a child, if I ever do. And the people around me—more because we're conditioned that women are supposed to feel guilty about that kind of decision—so there were people around me that tried to make me feel guilty.

Was it like they said you're killing a baby, how did they try to make you feel guilty?

I don't know, I think... I haven't even thought about it, I'm glad you asked me. I haven't even thought about it up until now. I think it was mainly because of my sexuality because I was so young.

Because you were so young?

Yeah, I had no qualms about my sexuality. I wanted to explore. I wanted to share this with someone I love and I've never had any qualms about sexuality, I've always considered it something natural to humans. It's pleasurable, it's not always amazing, there are traumatic experiences. But I thought it was my right as a human being. And I've never had qualms about it and I was made to feel guilty about that, especially because of my age. And some people felt because I was unmarried and I've been an atheist since I was a child so that part of being unmarried was—hello, you don't know who you're talking to. You just go over there, you can have it.

Then I think people close to me might have been torn about whether to support me in having an abortion, or make me have an abortion, or make me have the child. Because I was a teen so they were struggling with their own thinking, knowing that I'm a young woman that had a right to live her own life and follow her dreams because I was lucky enough to pursue my dreams.

The other question I have is, you're somebody who is very active around the Stop Porn and Patriarchy Campaign, but I also see you at Revolution Books at other events in the movement for revolution and the BA Everywhere campaign. Could you share your thoughts on how you see the connection between that and this campaign around Stop Patriarchy?

As I mentioned before, without the liberation of women we can't have the emancipation of humanity. And this is part of a bigger picture, the bigger agenda of liberating all humanity, a world without oppression and exploitation as we know it in this society and in this system. And I think there's this movement and the Stop Mass Incarceration Movement and the STOP "Stop & Frisk" struggle, which with the Stop Patriarchy campaign—these are two very important elements of the movement for revolution. Because put into consideration and into greater consideration, two elements of our humanity that are grossly and greatly oppressed and exploited. And you know I love, I don't know if I'm misinterpreting this, and I think this can be interpreted in different ways, but "you can't break all the chains but one." I thought about that quote many times and each time I think about it, I come at it a different way. And in this sense, talking about these two movements as part of the great movement for revolution.

Here's the palm card with the quote you're talking about.

OK, I'll read it: "You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can't say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution."

And that's a quote by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and it's from BAsics 3:22.

It's a beautiful quote, it's quite poetic. Thinking about this, it's not only true about women, it's also true about Black and Latino people and other parts of society that are exploited and oppressed in this way. And these two movements around Stop Patriarchy and Stop Mass Incarceration—focused on these two elements in society that have been grossly exploited. And that's why I was thinking, breaking all the chains except one, in this context. I was thinking of the one chain is binding up all of humanity. So if you break the chain that women are bound in, you break the chain that Black and Latino people are bound, it kind of unleashes all of humanity to rise up and also in different ways, in ways of thinking, thinking critically, really looking at the world and thinking scientifically. So it unleashes a lot of stuff. So what we're doing is bringing this, not just bringing abortion for the sake of abortion, for the sake of women having rights within this system. But as a means of women being free and that is part of unleashing something greater, the way that people think. By bringing this out there, we're also bringing out BA. We're trying to incorporate his works, more and more into Stop Patriarchy because it's a key element of how we're thinking and analyzing society and seeing reality.

Could you talk a little more about that, in your own thinking, how you came to see BA's work as key to understanding on this question as well as other questions.

I've never encountered any leader, and I'm saying leader because he is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. And he is a great leader. I've never encountered any leader that presented this view on women as part of liberation of all humanity and some of the things that he says specifically about women and how women are viewed in our society and the role that women could play in society, no one has ever put things in this way. It's very real and very possible and very attainable, with a lot of struggle, of course. But it's something that's really necessary.

When you look at the world you can really clearly see scientifically what's happening, not only in this country but around the world and what is needed—not just to keep talking about it and discussing it, even if there is scientific analysis, we need more than just talking about it. This is for revolution, to actually move and acting to change the world. So when this came up, this Stop Patriarchy aspect of the movement for revolution, I think it was just something I really felt that I could kind of immediately and directly work with. It's something that's close to me, but not in and of itself and not in its own niche, not isolated, but part of the greater movement for revolution.

With that in mind, from your perspective, this campaign, and what this week is about, in terms of this larger picture of this being part of the movement for revolution, what are your thoughts on what has happened the last couple of days and what you hope will happen the rest of the week?

The last two days have been great, I always have so much fun. I think the fun comes from just being with a group of people that's really exhilarating and thinking about the world outside the parameters of this system. I love thinking about raising one's sights, or raising the sights of humanity. There's been a lot of struggle in the past couple of days because people are really conditioned in their thinking and a lot of stuff from this system is very ingrained and what I saw yesterday it was really heartbreaking to see, especially a lot of Black people walking to the Inauguration. It was amazing in one sense to see Black people proud of something, but proud of something that is just a total delusion. And not even a delusion, people are turning something into what they would like it to be and not seeing things as they really are, so there is this deification of Obama, or this idolization, or quasi-religious adoration of a human being who is wreaking so much damage not only on the world "out there" but racist against Black people. Black people and even progressive whites are proclaiming Obama as "my president" and he's not, he's their president, but he's the president of the capitalist system.

There were some people saying abortion is between a woman and god and not really seeing, one, there is no god. But the state and the church do step in and there are obstacles to it being between a woman and a woman, herself and herself. But then there were people who really kind of enthusiastically took it up what we were saying about "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" like some of the students. One woman kind of pounced in front of me and was like, ah, I'm so excited, tell me more, tell me more. Some people were taking it up enthusiastically and then this morning outside the Supreme Court before the Operation Rescue [anti-abortionists] press conference we really had a lot of support from people who were walking by, for "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and for abortion providers. We got a lot of thumbs up, there were people watching and saying "right on" and coming up to us and groups of students coming up and saying they were pro-choice and wanting to pose with us because they loved our signs and what we stand for, and other people from all different walks of life.

It's so astounding to see these youth [who are with the anti-abortionists] who are so blocked from reality and real life and they have no facts. So I'm hoping, my dream is for people, I envision people taking this up, not without a lot of struggle, because what we're proposing is something radical, necessary, but radical to people who aren't used to it. But I think it's great, people are shocked by it. What I want to say is I hope more people will take it up, even if they're grappling with it, even if they're not sure. I'm hoping that people, especially young people will take this up and look into it. So we have a great crew here, really fierce crew. So it's growing and we've got movements across the country. We have actions across the country by our West Coast chapter. So it's growing, it's small but I see it growing because it's something that's necessary.

* * * * *

"They've Been Told Not to Think"

The following interview was done with a couple ("A" and "B") who had just arrived in DC and had joined the Stop Patriarchy crew in front of the Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

You were talking to some of the anti-abortionists out here in front of the Supreme Court. What were they saying?

A: When you talk to these people about the Bible, first of all you get the answer that they haven't read it. Or if they have read it, when you ask them if they've read it back to back, they say no. What they've read is the little tiny snippets that their priest or pastor has highlighted for them and they ignore the pages and pages and pages of genocide in between. Then they sort of get really silent and they clench their teeth. They don't want to acknowledge that their book is a book of genocide, of slavery. You know in Exodus there is a trial by ordeal where the priest forces women to have abortions if they're suspected of cheating on their husbands. They don't want to hear that.

B: None of them knew the Bible, they all shut up, or just started steaming. They are not aware of what they're talking about.

These were very young women?

B: Yeah, and a lot of men. They don't know the Bible. They know what they've been told. The Bible says very little about abortion and what it does say is not ripping fetuses out of women. But they've been told that it's wrong and so they come out here because they've been brainwashed.

A: Like that guy over there, they've been told not to think. He's shouting "Abort your reasoning, not your babies."

B: That is his exact words.

A: They want women not to think. They want women to sit around and have babies that they can't necessarily afford or love.

What brought you out here?

B: I came with my wife here.

A: We drove across the country from San Francisco snow camping. We're still snow camping but there's no snow. We came out here to protest on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade with the Stop Patriarchy Campaign.

B: I think that the laws in this country regarding abortion are completely wrong. Like Roe v. Wade is OK, but Roe v. Wade isn't defending the state laws against abortion and there are many places in the country where women don't have access to abortion and it is essentially forced slavery of women and I can't sit by and tolerate that. So that's why I'm here.

How about the people you know, when you talk to them about this, what response do you get?

B: We're from the Bay Area, and people think we have access to abortion there, so it's not a problem there. But it is in Kansas, or Nebraska, or Texas, all these other places that have these Trap Laws. Roe v. Wade is being dismantled, state by state, little by little. And in these liberal bastions, like the Bay Area or New York, it's fine but...

People don't realize how much it is in danger, how hard it is to access already.

B: They really don't in places outside of huge metropolitan areas where it's easy to access and so they think, we have Roe v. Wade, we have Obama in the White House for four more years, the Supreme Court is going to protect it. But protecting Roe v. Wade isn't enough. We gotta get more than that. We have to have more federal protections against the conservative state legislatures that are dismantling, that are making it impossible.

There are a lot of young people growing up now who never know what it was like when abortion was illegal.

B: That's true. I'm 32 and I wasn't around when abortion was illegal. I just think it's either apathy and then you have these pro-life people who are not aware of why they're out here. They're brainwashed and they're living in an alternate universe really. I don't blame them, like if they grew up in that way and the church is telling them this every day and they don't have any science and they don't know.

And then you have the Democrats and even some of the women's rights organizations who are very defensive about abortion, like saying, abortion should be legal but rare.

B: Right, abortion legal, but rare is, I mean it's...


B: It is. When we want it to be rare we're saying well, we're saying we should cut off third-term abortions which are very often done for very serious health reasons. Like I don't think most people go to a third terms unless they intend to have the baby. It's just incredible. Again I'm not so worried about Roe v. Wade getting overturned. I'm more worried about these individual states, the Trap Laws, all of that. And I don't know what the solution is exactly. But this [what we're doing here] is the best I can think of.


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