from radical women’s kitchen:
This is an unwavering political statement, a conscious effort to politicize an event without being apologetic or defensive. This statement is written by a collective of women who came together in the spring of 2010 based on shared experiences and concerns surrounding patriarchy and sexual violence within the radical scene and beyond. In our meetings and discussions, we learned that many of the women within our network have experienced some form of sexual violence. It is no coincidence that we have had this experience with power. Rape is not a personal misfortune but an experience with domination shared by many women. When more than two people have suffered the same oppression the problem is no longer personal but political – thus, rape is a political matter (New York Radical Feminists Manifesto, 1971).
Violence against women contributes to a system of power, organizing society into a complex set of relationships based on a sometimes invisible and internalized assumption of male supremacy. Rape is not the only form of control that male-bodied individuals can practice in romantic, friend, or comradely relationships. Physical as well as emotional abuse function as ways of maintaining involuntary hierarchies and control over women, female sexuality, and reproductive systems.
The silence and secrecy that often surrounds issues of power and domination should in no way to be taken as complicity, however, we as women and survivors will remain silent no longer.
Ideologically speaking, male-bodied anarchists and communists align with principles of egalitarianism and anti-authoritarianism, yet daily practices in this regard oftentimes fall short. We have repeatedly seen a chasm between theory and praxis in male-bodied treatment of women and other oppressed people. We have seen over and over again, male-gendered behaviors reproduce the very systems of domination that we are fighting to dismantle. We refuse to allow this to continue.
In the course of our meetings, we identified one male-bodied individual as a repeat perpetrator of sexual violence against female-bodied people: Jan Michael Dichter, also known as Maus. This particular individual, whose vocabulary consisted of anti-patriarchal jargon, had committed sexual violence before, and participated in survivor-defined accountability processes. Since he continued to transgress boundaries, raping and sexually assaulting women in Boston and Santa Cruz, we decided to confront him. We met him at his home and verbally confronted him. He refused to take responsibility and his words were manipulative and insulting. When he refused to shut up, we shut him up. The intent was to inflict pain, albeit it would only be a small portion of the amount of pain his victims have felt.
We did what had to be done out of sheer necessity. As radicals, we know the legal system is entrenched in bullshit – many laws and legal processes are racist, classist, heterosexist and misogynist. Alternative accountability processes, much like the traditional ones, often force the survivor to relive the trauma of the assault and force her to put her reputation – a problematic concept in itself – on the line as “proof” of her credibility. They end up being an ineffective recreation of the judicial process that leaves the perpetrator off the hook, while the survivor has to live through the memory of the assault for the rest of her life (Anonymous communiqué from NYC, 2009). The US legal system and the alternative community-based accountability processes are simply not good enough for survivors, and certainly not revolutionary.
Rape is entangled in a system of patriarchy and domination. It would serve us well to consider rape as part of class and race analysis. It is not only a crime committed by individuals against individuals; it is systemic and structural. It is our material interest as women that pushes us to stand up for ourselves. The material consequences of patriarchy and male supremacy push all women, regardless of how they define themselves ideologically, to fight against our oppression. In our work as a radical community, both female- and male-bodied, we must work to dismantle this form of oppression and domination. We find it an incomprehensible and unacceptable betrayal that our so-called male-bodied ‘friends’ would perpetrate this kind of subjugation of female-bodied comrades. Just because you can articulate feminist theory does not mean that you are to be trusted.
We also find tacit support of male-bodied perpetrators, as well as the hijacking of our collectively defined accountability process particularly offensive. Attempts by some self-identified “male allies” to take control of the action by confronting Maus themselves, pressuring women for inclusion and calling a public meeting without our permission undermined our practice of self-organization. Rather than demonstrating their support these men made it clear that they were unwilling to allow us to act on our own behalf without their involvement. The type of action we took as a group of female-bodied comrades aligns clearly with anti-hierarchical politics and goals of self-determination. If our male-bodied ‘comrades’ want to be considered as comrades, we’d like to see them behave that way.
This action sets a precedent, the beginning of a new kind of accountability process, one that leaves the perpetrator in pain and articulates our call for the dismantling of male supremacy in radical political communities and beyond. We know that Maus is not the only guilty one. We know there are more of you out there…
It would take a revolution to eliminate structural violence; thus an anti-rape agenda must be part of any revolutionary agenda. We demand this now.
Anonymous communiqué from NYC (2010),
New York Radical Feminists Manifesto (1971).