From The Michael Slate Show

A Summer of Taking Patriarchy by Storm

June 22, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Stop Patriarchy has called for a summer—leading into the fall—of actions: Summer 2015—Take Patriarchy by Storm! Women are not bitches, hos, punching bags, sex objects, or breeders, women are FULL HUMAN BEINGS. STOP the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation! As they say, “Join with Stop Patriarchy this summer to take this message everywhere—deep into the communities of the oppressed, out to concerts and festivals, and right up in the face of the biggest woman-haters.” This kicks off on the weekend of June 27-28 with chapters going out to Gay Pride events across the country. Then on July 1, there is a call for nationwide demonstrations against the new anti-abortion laws and restrictions scheduled to go into effect in Kansas and Tennessee. In early August (date TBA), Stop Patriarchy is calling on people from across the country to join them in Jackson, Mississippi, the site of the only remaining abortion clinic in the entire state. Stop Patriarchy will also bring the message of all-the-way women’s liberation to the hot mix in Baltimore (dates to be announced). And looking toward the fall, on college and high school campuses across the country there will be a National Student Day of Action to END THE ENSLAVEMENT AND DEGRADATION OF WOMEN IN EVERY FORM!

On June 12, Michael Slate interviewed Alex Petersburg and Riley Ruiz, two members of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, about Stop Patriarchy’s summer campaign.


Michael Slate: In Texas, there were a bunch of court rulings that went back and forth last year, and the last one put a stay on a bunch of decisions that were made, and allowed the abortion clinics in Texas to remain open. And right now, the court ruled again and upheld the assault on abortion rights. Almost all of the abortion clinics in Texas will be closed, which is horrifying and homicidal. Joining us to talk about this are Alex Petersburg and Riley Ruiz, two members of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.

Alex, tell us what happened in Texas.

Alex Petersburg: What happened in Texas this week was the fortification of a lot of attacks in 2013 in Texas, a combination of laws, actually, under the banner of HB2, really a vicious package of laws that are designed to restrict access and make it impossible for women to get this really basic right, this really important service that allows them to decide nothing less than the direction of their lives.

The most contested piece of it has been the ambulatory surgical center law, which has now been picked up in a lot of different states. This is a law that requires only abortion clinics to outfit themselves like mini-emergency rooms. These can be $3 million renovations that most abortion clinics can’t afford. And it’s not just that they can’t afford them, but this is a very simple and safe procedure, abortion. And this is a standard that’s being required of abortion clinics beyond any other kind of outpatient facility.

Michael Slate: Riley, what’s the actual concrete effect that this is going to have on abortion clinics and on women in Texas?

Riley Ruiz: Basically this is going to force all but likely eight clinics in the entire state to close. So that means that between 900,000 and a million women are going to be more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic. Particularly in El Paso and the whole western part of Texas, it’s just going to be completely empty as far as abortion clinics. As far as a round trip for a woman from El Paso, it’s going to be over 1,000 miles to the nearest clinic. That is going to be an impossibility for so many women, and especially poor women where you have to drive all that way, you have to stay for a certain amount of time. It’s going to be impossible. This is going to have devastating effects on nearly a million women in that state.

Abortion Rights Freedom Riders at Austin TX Courthouse

Abortion Rights Freedom Riders at Austin, Texas courthouse, August 2014.

Alex Petersburg: Last year, Stop Patriarchy and others called on people around the country to head out to Texas where this last piece of HB2 was being challenged by heroic local providers. It is within the last week that it’s been settled by the 5th Circuit Court that there will be these vast expanses of space between clinics. But over the summer, we were there bringing out the message that women need abortion on demand and without apology—nothing less than that, or they won’t be able to determine the direction of their lives. We were supporting the clinics, we were calling on people to really pour into the streets in independent political resistance, not to rely on the official electoral process that has really proven disastrous in recent decades, not to take leadership from those in the Democratic Party—those in power who are more and more shying away from even using the word “abortion,” who are more and more ceding the moral high ground to the anti-abortion movement. But to actually get out into the streets, tell the truth about abortion: Fetuses are not babies, women are not incubators, and abortion isn’t murder. Because it’s nothing less than really changing the terms, going out and demanding abortion on demand and without apology. that has the potential to change this whole anti-abortion machine, which ultimately has been all about controlling women.

Michael Slate: Riley, we talked to you last year when you were on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and it was very heavy, what was going on at the time. And you think about this, where people are saying, now it goes to the Supreme Court and they’re hoping the Supreme Court issues a stay against this ruling and then they vote against the ruling. But the likelihood of that happening is very small, especially if people are just standing around hoping for that.

Riley Ruiz: We call this an abortion rights emergency. It’s happening across the country. This year alone, 330 new laws have been introduced, 50 of which have already been passed. The restrictions are getting worse and worse. They’re attempting to ban abortions earlier on in the pregnancy. You have this situation in Kansas where they are going to put a ban—the law has already passed—they’re putting a ban on the most common and safe procedure for performing an abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy. This is going to set a precedent. And it’s just so unacceptable that this is happening, and like you’re saying, there’s not, in society as a whole, a fierce battle being waged against this.

This whole war on women is about slamming women back, about controlling women, about putting women back into the days where they were seen and treated in society as nothing more than mere breeders. And that is what we see is on us right now, really raising a fierce battle throughout society to do exactly what Alex is saying—changing the terms, bringing people out into the streets in mass, independent political resistance. Because that is actually what is needed right now, and especially as you’re saying, it cannot just be within the courts and just sort of waiting for them to do maybe the right thing. It’s going to be up to people to be out in the streets putting their bodies on the line like we’ve done for the past two summers with the Abortion Rights Freedom Rides. It needs to grow exponentially, especially right now. They are getting away with this, and they’re just slamming women back more and more and doing these things like a ban on the best practice in terms of second trimester abortions. There is no need for this. It has nothing to do with health or safety for women. It has everything to do with controlling women. For anyone who wants to see a future worth living for half of humanity, it’s time to stand up and step out.

Michael Slate: There’s a serious moral imperative there. It’s one of those moments in life where history pivots on what people do or don’t do. That’s important for people to understand. There’s a brand new campaign coming up, called Take Patriarchy by Storm. Let’s talk about that. You can start off, Alex.

Alex Petersburg: It’s just a tragic fact that everywhere you go, and everywhere you look, here and around the world, women are degraded and disrespected. Women are treated like objects and tools—tools for making babies, tools for getting off. There’s no place in the world where it’s safe to be a woman. We’re fighting against this whole push against the right to abortion, the right for women to decide the direction of their futures, because this is an unprecedented attack. But looking at the big picture, we at Stop Patriarchy, we’re a group for anybody and everybody who looks out at the world and is deeply disturbed, maybe in the way that you talk to your friends about it. Maybe in the way that you keep it to yourself because it’s so normalized and you don’t necessarily know who to talk to, but look out at the world and see that there’s a war on women. There’s a huge push for revenge against any semblance of rights that women have won in recent decades.

So Taking Patriarchy by Storm is going to be a summer of doing exactly that: going out in public, just confronting every way in which women are degraded, women are objectified. You mentioned the full name of this initiative, End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women. So it’s important that people see, when it comes to this whole push against abortion, this is a push backwards towards female enslavement. This is a movement that’s being led by fascists and fanatics, being led by fundamentalists and terrorists. And if we can see that for what it is, we can start to understand the need to actually step out and tell the truth—the truth that can resonate with a lot of people and bring people into this fight. But there’s another front of the attack on women in this country and around the world around sexual objectification, sex trafficking, and all the ways in which pornography has become increasingly mainstreamed at the same time as it’s increasingly disgusting and degrading and about humiliation and portraying women as powerless and submissive. These are all aspects of our culture that are way too accepted right now. In a sense, there’s a sort of vacuum of mass resistance that we’re calling on everyone around this country and the world to step into at this moment. Because it is a fact that anybody who knows a woman, or who knows women and their lives, as more than a supporting character in life or a decoration, has an obligation at this point to see this incredibly violent, incredibly degrading backwards push that has the backing of the government, that has the backing of the patriarchal system, to call it out, to bring others in and to fight to end this whole war on women.

Michael Slate: Riley, let’s talk about this campaign a little more, because as I understand it, it’s calling for the unleashing of people and people coming together in all these different cities and towns all over the country to stand up against this. There’s some very specific actions that have been called. July 1, for example.


San Francisco, January 2015

Read the call for protest here.

Riley Ruiz: First of all, we’re waging mass independent political resistance all over the country. We want to model something where there are actions popping up everywhere all over the country. We have chapters in some of the major cities in the country, but it needs to be a situation where what we are doing out in those major cities is unleashing people all throughout the country. July 1 is going to be a nodal point in the summer where we’re calling on people to pour into the streets. July 1 is going to be a day where in Tennessee a law that has already been passed—once again the ambulatory surgical center requirement—is going to force half of the clinics in Tennessee to shut down. And it’s, again, devastating effects for the women there. And July 1 is a day for people to come out and say we are not just going to let this stand and allow these restrictions to be put into place this way without a fierce battle against it. And, like, we’re speaking to changing the terms of this. Because look, when these restrictions, they just keep being passed, so you have a situation where most people right now just don’t understand the huge stakes of this and are being very confused by this because all these laws are being passed under the guise of health and safety for women when it’s not at all about that. It is all about slamming women back and controlling women’s lives.

So it is just absolutely necessary for people to put themselves out there, to tell the truth about this, to put their bodies on the line because that is just what is demanded of us right now. So July 1 is going to be a day for people all over the country to take to the streets and demand abortion on demand and without apology, and we are not going to allow women to be slammed back in this way, treated as nothing more than breeders.

Michael Slate: Let’s talk about some of the other initiatives that are going on in relation to this whole campaign. I understand there’s one that’s really interesting to me, which is the call to bring the fight against patriarchy into the hot mix in Baltimore.

Alex Petersburg: I was just going to say, a lot of people across society have taken inspiration in recent months, for good reason, around the fight to stop police murder. A lot of this is happening under the banner of Black Lives Matter. For so long, people either learned to accept or were forced to accept Black people being treated as less than human by the police in this country. And the recent surge of resistance is exactly what’s needed on that front. It’s exactly what’s needed on the front of women’s liberation as well—massive, independent political resistance. In a time where people are really lifting their heads, challenging whether or not they really have to accept these atrocities that are really crimes against humanity inflicted on people under this system. It’s a very important time. Heading into Baltimore, and also just heading into neighborhoods across the country where people are asking the right kinds of questions. Do we have to live in a world where on the one hand, 2.2 million people are locked up, the largest prison population in the entire world, in this country? Is this something that we have to accept? Or could we actually dream of liberation? Could we dream of the kind of resistance and ultimately, from my perspective, the kind of revolution that could put an end to a system that just perpetuates crime after crime against humanity? Is there something else that we could be fighting for?

And in this moment where people are refusing the accept the kind of brutality against Black and Latino people, it’s important, as people are calling all of this into question, what it is that we have to put up with, that people have to take into account, that women are half of humanity. This is one of the most normalized forms of oppression that people just think is human nature, that men treat women like animals or like tools, or that there’s always going to be rape as an epidemic in society. These things are just not true. These things are the result of systemic, egregious crimes against the people in this country, and the people around the world.

Going into Baltimore, going into neighborhoods where people are lifting their heads and asking those questions, we see it as both an opportunity and also as an obligation for people who care about the future of women, in a moment like this, to bring out the reality that women are half of humanity. Women are full human beings. Women are not any of the things that you hear in mainstream music. Women are not objects as they are seen splayed across the billboards and in the mainstream. But that we could fight for a completely different kind of society where all people are treated like human beings.


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