I’ve been sick for a month, the kind of sick where it feels like death is lying next to me in bed. The kind where no amount of tinctures, teas, or fresh air seems to make any difference. Even though I have a bad cough, runny nose, and husky voice; I know it’s coming from my head. Feeling crazy, feeling uninspired in the ways I need to be. I find myself without a community of folks to have serious discussions about radical politics, the role of art in dissent, what the fuck to do in this totally depressing country. I’ve been chatting with Yvette for weeks, months, about the state of reproductive health, the lack of resources, the small number of remaining abortion providers, the lack of comprehensive health care, the incredible racism, homophobia, and sexism that keeps viagra on health insurance policies and birth control off. That keeps AIDS research, at home and overseas, of little interest to White Wealthy Male America.
But I feel like I’m always talking about reproductive freedom and does anyone even care? I go to shows which are so male, so straight, so fucking typical with women as nurturers and men as the angry musical geniuses. I can’t find men willing to play music with me, and the few women who play music are generally either too shy to play in public, or are already playing. The punk scene talks a big wish to eliminate the “isms” of the world, yet bands with people who raped friends of mine are still pictured and championed as leaders in the punk scene. Meanwhile, people write about how rad the scene is when they beat up a rapist, but that’s not what I think helps abusers. People who abuse people are often survivors of abuse themselves. That just perpetuates the cycle. And the scene response is quite different when the rapist is in a big popular band. Then, people talk about how nice the person is, how they wouldn’t ever do such a thing. How the woman must be trying to “work her way up in the scene”. People talk about the “grey areas” of what happens in the bedroom instead of talking about what consent, active consent is, where someone says that they WANT to do something. Instead of saying that people deserve whatever happened, or somehow consented to it, if they don’t say no, and say no repeatedly, and fight and struggle physically. People talk about how rape is between strangers, violent, with active dissent.
I am a survivor of sexual assault from someone I was dating and from two strangers while hitchhiking. They are totally different; they affect me today in different ways. The stranger attack still keeps me up at night, makes me feel like I could never live alone, makes me freak out when I find the front door just fifteen feet from my bedroom unlocked day after day, after numerous conversations with housemates. It makes me almost punch my friends when they sneak up behind me. It makes me practice self defense. It makes me mad at my friends and ex-lover for not understanding me or supporting me through a rough decision to convict the fuckers after I found out they had raped and mutilated several women, murdered at least one woman, before they tried to do these things to me. The sexual assault from an ex lover makes me keep emotional walls between myself and my lovers. It makes me have meaningless sex flings to try to devalue the act so that I feel like sex isn’t really such a big deal, and therefore my first lover who ignored five no’s and went ahead when I was sleeping, well, then he really didn’t take much from me.
I’ve been going to the library looking through the RI collection of old newspaper articles, I’ve been trying to find out about radical groups in Providence. Get my sick head awakened. I found mention of a group called the “Women’s Liberation Union” which were apparently protesting and organizing in the 50’s and 60’s around abortion rights. I look to history when the current world seems dismal. Trying to find the ways people are always struggling amidst seemingly impossible odds. Some days I romanticize the past, what people were doing. Do people have too much distraction these days? Did social upheaval have a better chance forty years ago? Or are we just fucking giving up? Or is the resistance better blocked from public view? Where are all the radicals now? What would they say to us today? What would I say to someone 15 years my junior? I don’t want to operate out of anger alone, I don’t want every bit of organizing to be a reaction to someone else’s action. I want to focus on the creation of really sustainable alternative structures, in cities. How much we have to unlearn in this country is insane; some days I wonder if we can really successfully build an alternative when we are so over saturated with all the shit and decay of American society and the inherent racism, classism, homophobia, sexism. So many collectives fail in large part because of power dynamics between members. Hierarchy which infests our organizations. I do have hope, just not today. I’m too sick, sleeping with skeletons that won’t die and are trying to drag me into the abyss.