On Protesting Patriarchy, Breaking the Rules, and Challenging Everyone in Order to Change Everything

July 27, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a member of the Bay Area Revolution Club and Stop Patriarchy

Five of us came together and most of us had never met. One young woman had gotten a babysitter that day and traveled from another county to protest pornography. She had been angry on the Internet so long, just seething about how women are endlessly exploited and abused in this world, and had been following Stop Patriarchy on Instagram for two years. She said, “It took me two years to muster up the courage to come out today.” She brought a friend whose convictions were just as strong.

Another woman met Stop Patriarchy at the Gay Pride parade. She is from an Asian country where porn is illegal but widely produced, purchased, and viewed. She had been shocked in coming to the U.S. to see such blatant sale of sex on every level, just out in the open, and such acceptance of it. After Pride, she came to Revolution Books to hear Sunsara Taylor’s recent talk, “STOP the Assault on Abortion Rights! Break ALL the Chains that Enslave Women!

Everyone was nervous, and some had heard exactly how we would roll, while two had not. They had shown up out of sheer outrage. Our orientation was this: Pornography hurts women and brainwashes men to be about enslaving women. It’s a kind of revenge against all the advances women have made—training men that they have a right to women’s bodies, like it was more overtly in the old days. Dehumanizing women, and training men to expect their submission and servitude. Think of how quickly men can fly into a violent rage when they are rejected by a woman. That comes from the belief that women’s bodies belong to men and they are being denied what is rightfully theirs when they don’t get the submission of a woman. That’s the stuff that porn is made of, and what it spreads like a disease, at the same time the industry is exploiting women’s bodies, getting them hooked on drugs, raping them, sometimes selling them into slavery, and always discarding them in the end.

There was a lot of agreement with this.

And yet, it was said, there is a lot of confusion out there today about the reality of porn. The confusion comes from the same society that produces porn: Women really are treated as less than human. People think that being comfortable with sex means being comfortable with porn. That porn is sex. It’s easier to watch a woman eat shit on the Internet than to get a real sex education in this country. People need to know what is in porn: not sex, but degradation of women. People need to feel emboldened to reject that shit—it has to be de-normalized. Others are very uncomfortable about the whole thing but don’t feel they can say so (because people take it like you don’t like porn you don’t like sex).

That’s why we planned to go into these porn stores, recording, to expose what it is, take a stand and break the silence, and show others not only that they are not alone in their outrage at how women are exploited and objectified, but that there is a movement out there that is hell bent on ending pornography and every form of female enslavement. We’ll recruit as many people as possible into this movement: denouncing porn, promoting abortion rights, and fighting to end patriarchy.

Most of us had never been inside a porn store before. As we approached, one young woman said she was really, really anxious, and we slowed our pace a little. She was assured: Think of all the women that are being ground up by this industry that don’t have a voice. So many women can’t even walk alone at night in safety because all these men are running around all hopped up on entitlement and the drive to dominate, feeling that they have a right to women’s bodies in particular, and these days the heightened sense that they are being robbed of what is rightfully theirs. Today you are taking a stand for every woman, and leading others to do the same. Her back straightened, she took a deep breath, and just said, “Yes.”

At first, one person led the way, expressing pure contempt for the ways that one movie after the next promoted violence against women, reduced them to body parts, divided them into racist “flavor” categories, and sexualized suffering. Soon others began to pull movies off the shelves, and read them out loud, with increasingly open disgust. We left the store a few minutes after they called the cops on us, ramped up with outrage at everything we had seen.

We looked at each other, flush-faced. “Do you want to do it again?” It was enthusiastically unanimous. We crossed the street and went into another store.

The first thing we saw in that store was a dismembered anus with a vagina hole, in a box that said: “KAITLYN” with the brand name “Fresh Innocence.” The description said: “Young and Fresh! Pop her innocent young cherry with your large manhood again and again...” First we pointed out that this is literally a disembodied asshole and vagina with a female name. That is their view of what a woman is. Then we pointed to the fact that being “manly” always seems to involve destroying something beautiful, stealing innocence, and the idea of “ruining” a previously “pure” woman (“ruining” her, in particular for other men)... that is the view of woman-as-a-thing-to-be-defiled that is concentrated in that apparatus, and part of what coheres everything on the shelves.

We went to the back, where they have booths for private viewing. We were told women were not allowed back there, so we kept going! We rudely interrupted of the sanctity of silence and privacy where men are encouraged to get off on the degradation and abuse of women, the penetration of women by many men at once, their suffering, and their dehumanization.

We took one step out of that store before being immediately confronted by a man whose “process” had been disrupted by our outburst inside. He shoved out a wad of bills and said, “I will fuck any of you right now. One at a time or all at once.” We told him he could fuck off. This only underscored the fact—it is seriously perilous to be a woman in a world where men see you as potential property that they have a right to, and sex is a form of revenge.

As we split, we noticed the police had arrived at the other store, and we proudly strutted up to the busiest street in the city. Everyone was pumped up. One person was sick to her stomach at how much emphasis is put on the ravaging of children and very young women made to look like children. How that stuff crowds the shelves, and it’s men’s “right” to watch and get off on. The woman who had expressed her nervousness said, “I just needed to get worked up like that. I just needed to get really angry. I have it in me.” We agreed! We also agreed that women in general, by virtue of being human beings who are regularly treated like human garbage, “have it in them” to really bring the pain to patriarchy, and we have to find them.

One said, “How about how they’re telling us to leave, and we just DON’T!” Everyone laughed.

Going into a porn store in this way is a crazy rush! If you’re a woman, you probably know on some level how you’re being viewed in there, though probably not fully. The vibe is hostile and it’s clear this place is not for you. In there, you are being brutalized, humiliated, and degraded in a whole lot of different ways. If you’re a man, you actually are the intended audience, and if you are going into a porn store with Stop Patriarchy, there is a particular defiance you manifest, because you are refusing to be the wannabe slave master that this whole heartless culture demands you to be. Because fuck all that shit. No matter who you are.

We had completely violated all related social “norms.” This trash on the walls was openly being treated like trash. Not sexy. Not “taboo.” Just putrid. You break the rules because the rules are all backwards. You get loud because you, along with so many others, have been forced to be silent, in a world of rape, where women’s humanity is just being devoured by this shit. You do it because unleashing that fury is a crucial part of ending all this slave shit once and for all.

When you confront the prevalent view of women as what it is (woman-hating), you could get overwhelmed and give up. Or, you stop trying to keep your voice down and play it safe, because that’s part of keeping things exactly as they are.

One woman said, with a bit of awe in her voice, “We are badasses.” We furious five charged out onto Market Street, bullhorn blaring, chanting militantly, our sign up high, passing out many cards with the slogan, “If you can’t imagine sex without porn... you’re fucked” and ways to be part of this movement, as well as the article “Porn Is Real, and Really Must Be Ended If Women Are to Be Free,” from revcom.us. We were louder than life and full of pride and purpose, our voices echoing down the packed streets.

“Stop watching porn! Start fighting patriarchy!” We chanted, “Women aren’t objects, women aren’t toys! Women aren’t playthings for the boys!” Some people were repelled, and snatched their children away. Others straightened their backs, wanted to know what this was. We agitated on, exposing what we had just seen in the stores, connecting it to a whole epidemic of rape and violence against women, and issuing the call that everyone who is sickened at how women are degraded and dehumanized has got to get with this right now, and get with Stop Patriarchy all summer long.

We swung around to the cable car turntables and told the truth about how women need the right to abortion, how the right is being taken away by woman-hating fascists. How this is part of a whole war on women, that requires a force of fearless fighters for women’s liberation in order to defeat. We noticed a religious group nearby, but passed them up in the moment to call for the crowd to chant “Women are full human beings!” Then, because more of us wanted to get loud but weren’t sure what to say, we took turns reading from the article “Porn Is Real” on the bullhorn and calling on people to stand for women.

A white man in his 50s or so looked at us and said, “My wife is a sex object, and she loves it.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. We said, “Man, you sound like a wannabe slave master. Do you think that’s cool?” He asked what we meant, and we said, “An object is a thing. You’re saying your wife is just a thing to be used for sex. You should be ashamed of yourself,” and then we moved on.

A young Black woman was joining us in saying “Women are full human beings!” when we specifically called out the crowd, “If you believe it, you have to say it, loud and proud!” and she did. She called across to a man on the other side of the line and she said, “Do you hear that?? FULL HUMAN BEINGS!” We asked her if she thought that guy in particular needed to be reminded of that? She said yes, he doesn’t know how to treat a woman. We gave her some cards for her friends and she signed our list.

Those guys up the block were attracting some attention and we were all in a fighting mood, so we went back to see what the fuck they were. They were preaching that the apocalypse would bring about the ruling of Black men over all the women of the world. That would be their reward for enduring slavery and oppression: They would be rewarded by God as the slave masters and oppressors of women. Just straight up. They had a poster with a picture of a Black man with a crown, standing over women of different nationalities on their knees at his feet, which said “ALL WOMEN WILL BOW DOWN TO THE BLACK MAN.” There was another sign that had a Black man standing over a white man, woman, and baby who were all shackled with heavy chains. We engaged.

These men told us that all women who have been raped are being punished for being “attention-seeking whores,” and we “will get to see a real war on women” when the world ends, because women will be punished the most. We loudly denounced them, and soon people around were filming on their cell phones and several people were interjecting on the side of women. We yelled, “You sound 2,000 years old! Go back to the Dark Ages with that shit!” Some of us denounced the whole Bible as being a book full of slavery, and others argued that the liberation of Black people cannot come from the enslavement of women! And what a petty, vicious, and frankly juvenile aspiration anyway!

You can see in the above video that after reading the scripture that says a woman without shame should be counted as a dog, one of them keeps insisting, “And what is a female dog?” (calling shameless women bitches while trying to still look pious). At this point, everybody was alive and outspoken, taking on the woman-hating, putting up stickers against rape and for abortion on the wall all around those guys. One woman stood next to one of them and did exaggerated bodybuilder poses, making a mockery of masculinity.

After rallying a few people against those guys in the moment, we had gotten out over 200 flyers and cards, and made a proper scene wherever patriarchy had asserted itself. We sat in a circle in a calmer spot, caught our breath, and reflected on what happened, how it matches up with what’s needed now, and why it matters.

To be honest, there were a lot of people out there that could have joined us who didn’t. That was one observation, and we talked about how to understand why that is. We went back to some of the problem that was posed as we were getting ready to go into the stores. It is just not an obvious fact to a lot of people that the oppression of women is real. Just look at the ways so many women experience violence and oppression as a very personal, private, shameful, individual experience. We were bringing out the truth that one in three women will be raped, and that every 15 seconds a woman is beaten, so that people can find their rage about all this, when so many people (and women in particular) know that something is going on, but don’t connect it with a whole social phenomenon: a backlash of revenge against women.

Someone else added that the most responsive people in the short time we were raising ruckus were younger Black women. Clearly something was holding most people back, but those who joined in chants and crossed out of their way to get flyers that day were overwhelmingly young women, and many were Black.

One woman said this is a very sharp way to put the whole picture together for people: how the fascist assault on abortion rights and birth control and the increasing mainstreaming of violent and degrading porn is creating a whole brainwashing of a generation that a woman should be controlled and owned and punished for being a woman.

We also summed up that so many more people can and should be getting with this, and one thing that we can always do is constantly and actively invite individual people to walk with us, stand with us, join with us right there. We were still more projecting “Join with Stop Patriarchy” without as much emphasis on the “RIGHT NOW” other than getting small crowds to shout “Women are full human beings!” There was definitely quite a bit of breaking of the “fourth wall” so to speak, but there could be more.

A man literally tried to buy us that day. We were called a colorful variety of hateful terms. We were promised a future of hell and slavery for being so shameless. And we felt pretty damn good about ourselves, and driven to creativity about how to bring more people into the transformative and potentially earthshaking act of shamelessly challenging patriarchy, and being part of a force that is fighting for the liberation of women. Most women live life trying to avoid all this―for good reason!―and learn one way or another that it doesn’t work that way. The system is generating all this violence and hatred, and it is those of us who find it intolerable to carve out a way forward for all those who don’t know what they can do, or that there’s anything to be done.

One woman was just shocked and appalled at those Bible-wielding Nazis. That Black men could think that the compensation for their enslavement is the enslavement of women. Another woman said it did not surprise her at all. She had seen before that exact same interpretation of the Bible, but we also reflected on how many different versions there are of that. That’s what porn is! It’s what abolishing women’s right to abortion is! The truth is that aspiration for revenge, or the slaves becoming the slave masters... no version of that can bring about anyone’s liberation―gender, nationality, I don’t care who. The slaves that seek to rule over others forever will eventually be ruled over again, because you are keeping the whole organization of people and production intact, with laws and a culture that will necessarily reinforce all that, just switching up what group is on top. You are keeping the whole infrastructure of exploitation, and the oppressive relations and culture that relies on and supports slavery. So your ideal future is nothing but a skipping record of tragedy and brutality.

Everyone got a copy of the sampler, Break ALL The Chains: Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution. The following, found in that sampler and also in the book BAsics, concentrates this fact with concision:

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

People were honored for fighting ferociously on the right side of what is a historical divide, in a time of great urgency, and pushed to explore Bob Avakian’s analysis and synthesis of how to actually put an end to thousands of years of women’s oppression along with all forms of exploitation and oppression. That at the same time we are moved by our outrage to fight right now and sound the alarm to bring others in, we should all also be digging into this―this represents the most advanced work that’s been done to develop a vision, strategy, and plan for an actual revolution that can bring about a radically different world—free from patriarchy, and free from slavery in any form. Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party are dealing with the real problems of what it would take to get from here to that society. Actions like what we did today are part of what is needed in that whole sweeping view: what people accept or reject when it comes to how women are treated, has a lot to do with getting to that world, as we had only begun to discuss in basic terms. People were very interested in this, glad to have the sampler, and we promised to be in touch about that, as well as future actions. We all left stronger than we had arrived, and with a renewed determination.


To learn more about the fight to break the chains and unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution:

Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution

A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity


To get involved in the summer effort to Take Patriarchy By Storm:

End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women section of this website




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