A Colorful and Liberating Weekend!
Between the Sunset and the Stars, Enabling Ourselves to Break ALL the Chains!

Night Screening of Sunsara Taylor’s Speech “STOP the Assault on Abortion Rights! Break ALL Chains that Enslave Women

July 20, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a young revolutionary:

The past weekend as part of the initiative Take Patriarchy by Storm, a bunch of us had super fun day at Warped tour. In the morning we set up a Stop Patriarchy table right next to a Revolution Club table, and we literally just spent the next 8 hours engaging with people, painting our bodies and dancing while engaging. The crowd was made out of pretty much teenagers but there were some adults too. Music was loud, the environment was filled with colors (colorful clothing and accessories, colorful body paint, colorful tents, and because it was a sunny beautiful summer day, the sunlight enhanced all the colors, so imagine how colorful everything was!). And we had our colorful stickers! Our colorful signs! And our colorful freedom fighters souls! People were drawn to our tables as mad, and for a second when they were not, it just took one of us to walk around with an enlargement of “Women are NOT bitches, hos, punching bags, incubators or sex objects. Women are Full Human Beings!” and people would start asking: “Where is your table?!” and would go straight to it.

We talked about the predominant culture, about bringing forward another culture that doesn’t oppress women, about the need for them to be part of building that, about abortion rights, about family. We talked about our summer initiatives and people were hell excited, a young guy told us he liked the music of the tour a lot, but he always felt there was misogyny being portrayed in this kind of events, and that finding us there was like a bunch of fresh air in the middle of a suffocating culture. We talked about revolution, about the ways to get rid of that suffocating culture, we distributed hundreds of stickers, raised a few hundred dollars, we sold BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less T-shirts. It was Awesome!

The same day, some of us went to see The Red Detachment of Women ballet being performed at the Lincoln Center. An incredible, inspiring, also colorful and lively piece of art! We laugh, we sobbed, we cried, and we hugged each other. We didn’t see tutus and skinny vulnerable women dancing ballet. We saw strong determined women being drawn to the process of freeing themselves as part of freeing the world. It is a ballet based on a true story of a women’s detachment of the communist army. A story that took place in 1930’s but that was written right before the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and was performed and promoted during the Cultural Revolution, which itself was an initiative to rely on the masses of people to prevent the return of capitalism in socialist China. The ballet is mind blowing as a piece of art, is a transformative piece of art. Women were doing all kinds of pirouettes and dance moves that couldn’t give any other impression than the great power they have. My friend told me between sobs, that this was the first time women were portrayed like this. Think about it, the first time women in art are portrayed as full human beings, and more than that, they were portrayed leading a transformation that had the potential of getting rid of all forms of oppression.

So, why did we laugh and sob, and cry, and hug each other? Because with pain we remembered what was going to be like to go out of that theater and face reality. Because we knew that it was going to be painful after seeing women raising their fists for their liberation, to see naked women selling cars or make up in Time Square advertisements, but also in the corner store. Because we remembered all the fucked up ways women are treated in today’s world. But also because it was the representation of a time in history in which women were the most free they have been since the emergence of women’s oppression. Because our hearts warmed with the message this ballet brings forward that there is a way out of this and that we are part of it. Because we felt that our convictions on keep struggling to be part of it were strengthened and they matter. Because it matters that this ballet was produced, the time in which it was produced matters, and all the advances made from there especially by Bob Avakian, matters!

So that was our weekend! And after an awesome weekend filled with women liberating events, things were ready in the rooftop for the projection of the whole speech by Sunsara Taylor, “STOP the assaults on Abortion Rights! Break ALL Chains that Enslave Women.”

In the rooftop of a building in Brooklyn, from where we could see the Empire State Building shining, and the sky busy with all the airplanes suspended in the air waiting for their turn to land in NYC, we gather and waited, just on time for the sunset. Amazed by the sunset light, we started chatting. The first conversation was quite interesting. A young man, who met Stop Patriarchy (SP) for first time while passing by Union Square on July 1st where SP was having a rally against the attacks on abortion rights, having seen several dozens of people wearing bloody pants that day to represent for the women who died when abortion was illegal, and acknowledging that there were “just” three of us on the roof, had questions of the impact of this movement, he wondered about the possibilities of actually growing and making changes. That question led to the question of truth, and how truth is what it is whether a lot of people believe it or not. That truth itself is not relative, and whether people act accordingly to what is found to be truth or not, doesn’t make the efforts of those who do act according to it any less important or less needed. We agreed in the big necessity that people stand up, of the importance of joining those who have been in the frontline of the fight and to be part of calling on others to be part of it, even if those are not large numbers—yet. And actually one person expressed that even if he thinks that it may be hard to achieve a “perfectly morally consistent” plan of action—or perspective—to understand and remove oppression, he feels more inclined to think that this is the way to go anyway, that even if it seems that the process of understanding and fighting to end oppression is a hard process, it is better than other paths, it is better than having oppression and going along with it. Hell yeah!

He also asked if we (I bet he was talking about the members of SP) believe that we are better human beings than others who are not acting to make a change. And I almost answered hell no! Haha. But it actually leads to a very important matter which is: Can and actually do people transform? I pointed out that in any given society, the predominant ideas don’t come from the inside out, that is not human nature to be selfish, or greedy, or... an oppressor, that we all are living in a world that shapes what we think, what we desire, what our goals in life are. So in that sense no! We don’t think we (people fighting to transform the way things are) are better than others because, in first place, we weren’t born fighting for freedom! And in fact we have gone through the struggle—and we still are—of transforming ourselves in the process of transforming the world. In second place, we understand that those others can also be brought forward—and actually are an important force—to transform themselves and transform the world as they learn to understand it, as they face reality and all the possibilities that such a reality can bring forward.

Another two people showed up, and after the sun set behind the horizon, there was enough darkness to project the speech. We even saw a couple stars (which is a big deal being in NYC). There was a lot going on around us, loud people in the street, parties and loud music, the sounds of cars and ambulances....but it didn’t take long for us to be immersed in the speech, to the point that when all the noise stopped, we didn’t even realized it.

During the video, people laughed, made surprise noises—ha!—and jumped in between breaks to speak about what was being said (because Sunsara not just gave a good talk, but really challenges your ideas! and is a good source of polemic too). It was so lively to the point that we had to stop the video for at least 15 minutes to talk and dig deeper in some of the statements Sunsara was making. It is worth saying that all those statements are pretty new ideas for a lot of people, and such innovative analysis in the speech were drew heavily from the very innovative new Synthesis of communist revolution developed by Bob Avakian. Avakian has courageously and tirelessly worked on developing new ground on how to liberate all people from all forms of oppression, and in that sense has brought forward a whole new approach on women oppression. He emphasizes that women’s liberation has to be a mighty force for revolution, an important part of women’s role is that we have to make sure that if we are going to transform the world, the transformation has to go all the way to the full emancipation of humanity, fighting to break ALL the chains (See Break ALL the Chains! pamphlet by Bob Avakian). In his words, “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.” (BAsics 3:22) BAM!

So, one of the topics that made us pause the talk for a while (besides some internet problems) was the question of personal choices. If we are fighting against oppression but there are people that make personal choices that are oppressive, do we have the right of being opinionative about it? A woman who met SP last week, while struggling with her own ideas, and trying to find out what she really thinks about all this stuff, put it this way: “It’s a hard topic because if for some people, wearing a certain form of dress will bring them closer to their religion, and if we take away that because is oppressive, then we take away their right and freedom of practicing their religion.” But she also said that it doesn’t matter whether you make a choice that is oppressive or somebody force you into it (without saying that is the same of course) because at the very base, the fact that you choose it, doesn’t take away the oppression. I would say that we are not going to force people to make a different choice, but we can definitely challenge people to look deeper into what those choices really mean. Again look into what is real, and in the particular example of the burka, if wearing it really empowers you, or oppresses you.

It was a very good evening, we were all going back and forth trying to understand better what we think, but more than that, trying to find an answer of what is right, what is true. Is it oppressive to wear a burka? What if nobody is forcing you? What if you voluntarily wear it and believe it is “empowering” you? What if it is some kind of respect-to-yourself practice? (I heard this last statement from a college student who voluntarily wears a burka, but she also doesn’t touch or have long conversations with men who are not part of her family! So there you go, that is where those ideas take people to.)

We concluded this: It is a fact that this kind of practices of covering women’s bodies (to give a particular example) were introduced into some cultures by pretty backward religious ideas, we walked through some of them:

Women are evil #1: Women’s bodies, just by the fact of being the bodies of women, are a temptation to men (one could ask what does temptation even mean? tempted to what?). In this sense, there is an evil nature of women, which makes them impure just by existing.

Rape is a normal reaction to evil women: Oppressive patriarchal behavior as rape is being protected and defended. Instead of revealing that rape is one of the million ways in which domination and ownership of man over women take expression, and in which women’s lives are reduced to sexual objects, the idea of covering women bodies make rape an expected reaction from men, who are tempted by evil women that don’t cover their bodies as they should (and this is not just with the burka, this perfectly can be applied in general when women are raped and they are shamed for the way they were dressed up).

Sex is bad: Sex among people who are not “meant to have sex” is a sin, and these women are tempting this man to have sex, therefore these women are tempting man into sin. Temptation approach reinforces the shame on sex.

Women are evil #2: Other than reinforcing the shame on sex, it reinforces the shame on women (and I think this is an even more important part of it). If women are raped, basically, it is their fault, because they provoked it anyways, that is why they should be stoned to death! And there is people who still believe in this on the 21st century.

Finally, you could totally choose to be oppressed, it doesn’t make it liberating or empowering, even if that is what you want to think, the root of oppression is the root of oppression even if you try to give another meaning to it. And we are not going to violently take the burka from you, neither we are going to shame you for wearing it, but we are going to encourage you to face all this facts! So, thinking about how would we treat this matter in a new society, somebody asked if we would criticize the burka as oppressive in a socialist or communist society when someone chooses to wear it on its own? And I think there is a lot more to dig into with this question, like what kind of things are being promoted in those societies you are talking about? Is shaming women a big part of it? Or it is a bigger part to get rid of that shame? Do you mean wearing a piece of cloth in your head as part of your outfit? Or you mean you think that it protects you from tempting anyone else of whatever evil temptations? As Avakian points out, we don’t grow up in a vacuum, all our ideas are part of a context, and that context gives meaning and expression to all the things we get into. In a new society we are not going to promote this kind of practices, you can pray and wear a burka if you want, but if in a socialist society you are wearing that piece of cloth because you think your body can lead to sin, we are definitely going to challenge your thinking.

A young man had told me before he didn’t even know that women were oppressed until a few months ago when his girlfriend started talking to him about rape culture and all the horrors women face just for the very fact of being female. He came to the screening and generally speaking about the talk, said that it is good to be aware of this, but most importantly, is to keep it in mind all the time, especially men, who tend to forget that women generally have it harder than them. He said that it is important to think about all the ideology we’ve been raised with, and be willing to be wrong!—and I would add to this, be willing to understand why we were wrong, and be willing to transform ourselves and to transform others.

Other important questions were, why is there such a thing as an objective reality? And why is there such a thing as the (one) interest of humanity? What is it and why there is one in the first place? What if there was one, but humanity didn’t agree with it? And we talked about how it is very important to be able to again, go back to what is true, look into the world and find out what is real for sure, instead of what we may think or may sound real. That is what objective reality is about, something that exists independently of what people think about it. In that sense, if you look at the world you will see that most of humanity live in horrendous conditions of poverty, misery, enslavement and all kinds of degradation and oppression (objective reality), and so it is in the interest of humanity to get rid of all of that. Whether people who live in those conditions see it or not, or want a change or not (which I am pretty sure most of them want to live in different conditions even if they don’t know how to get rid of it).

At the end of the night I can say that I saw in their faces that look—the same look that a lot of us had at a dinner with some comrades a few weeks ago when we were analyzing the origin of women’s oppression (see My Dinner with Engels and Skybreak Learning to Understand the World, For Real!)—that look of somebody who just realized something that makes a lot of sense but haven’t thought much about, or haven’t understood it this way before.

Digging together into these questions is again, a wonderful process, makes me want to live in a culture where this wasn’t so rare, and where people were questioning all traditional norms, all the conduct codes and in a bigger scale, all what is going on in the world, what a different society could that kind of culture bring forward! But since we don’t live in such a culture, we better work to create it!


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