Sunday, October 28, 2007

consciousness raising groups

How to start your own consciousness-raising group Reprinted from a leaflet distributed by The Chicago Women's Liberation Union (1971) (Editors Note: The CWLU organized many consciousness raising groups around the city.)

Consciousness-raising groups are the backbone of the Women's Liberation Movement. All over the country women are meeting regularly to share experiences each has always thought were "my own problems". A lot of women are upset by remarks men make to us on the street, for instance, but we think other women handle the situation much better than we do, or just aren't bothered as much. Through consciousness-raising we begin to understand ourselves and other women by looking at situations like this in our own lives. We see that "personal problems shared by so many others--not being able to get out of the house often enough, becoming exhausted from taking care of the children all day, perhaps feeling trapped--are really Political problems. Understanding them is the first step toward dealing with them collectively, whether in forming a day care center, exploring job possibilities, or planning the best strategy for getting our husbands to help with the housework.

It's easy to form a group of your own. Here's how: A consciousness-raising group consists of a small number of women (generally not more than 12) who meet informally once a week at a member's home or women's center. Ask friends to bring friends--it isn't necessary to know everyone.

... A different topic could be chosen each week, and everyone discusses it in terms of her own life. Go around in a circle, each woman talking in turn so that everyone speaks; this keeps anyone from dominating a discussion and helps keep on the topic. After everyone has talked (when you start your own group you will find it isn't hard to speak in a small, close group), you might want to discuss the information you gained as you went around the room. The first meeting: each person can talk about why she wants to join Women's Liberation, what she thinks the group will be like, and tells a little bit about her own background and how she came to be at the meeting. This breaks the ice very effectively.

Topics: a different one each week or so. They should be both specific and basic. Here is a partial list of topics that other groups have discussed:
why did you marry the man you did? (or date the man you do?)
How do you feel men see you? ...
Do you think that what you do with your day is as important as what your husband does with his day?
What did you want to do in life?
What kept you from doing it?
How did you learn as a little girl what "feminine" meant?
Do you worry about being "truly feminine"?
What does "femininity" mean to you in terms of your own life?
What did you do as a little girl that was different from what little boys did? Why?
Did you ever want to do anything else?
What did your parents teach you about sex?
How do you feel about menstruation?
How did you feel when you had your first period?
What was your first sex experience?
What is a "nice girl"? Were you a "nice girl"?
Do you pretend to have an orgasm?
Have you had an abortion?
How do you feel about being pregnant?
Do you enjoy taking care of your children? All the time?
What hopes do you have for your daughter? For your son? Are these hopes different? If so, why?
Do you think you could get a better job? Why not?
Do you compete with other women? In what ways?
Are you economically dependent on a man?
How do you relate to women of a different economic status and/or race?
What things do you have in common? What things differ?
What do you feel about lesbianism? What do you know about it?
Who was Sojourner Truth? Elizabeth Cady Stanton?
What do we know about our history as women?
What is the basis of love between a woman and a man?
Between a woman and a woman?
Between parent and child?

You don't have to stick to this list. Other topics will present themselves. At the end of each meeting you can choose the topic for the next week. After a period of several months, your group might want to begin study or action projects. CWLU has literature available and a special introductory packet that might provide a good basis for discussion.

Your group might want to start its own action project; for example, a group in California joined the picket line of women factory workers who were protesting discriminatory hiring practices, a group in Washington, D.C. held hearings on the pill, several groups began newspapers and magazines. or, you can check to see what on-going projects are happening in the city that you might want to become involved with: learning how to give pregnancy tests, having a study group in the Liberation School for Women, doing abortion counseling, working for childcare, etc. The CWLU office (927-1790) can put you in touch with these projects. Starting new groups: Once your group has begun, you will find that other friends want to join. Some will want to come as guests. But consciousness- raising really depends on participation. Sisterhood doesn't come from just listening. It is important to keep the group small enough for everyone to participate. What you can do is keep a list of women who express interest. When your group has met four or five times you will be confident enough so that two or three of you can help a new group get started from the list. Go to the first meeting or two, to make sure the new group gets off on the right track. Every week new groups start all over the country. Before you know it, you will have several groups in your area, and you will begin to feel that you really belong to a movement.

Friday, October 5, 2007

MRR column 2

How we turned our shitty little town into a punk rock mecca, 10 point program.

1. Hanging out
2. Create a visible public presence
3. Show space
4. Dance
5. Form bands
6. Freak + Punk unity
7. Inviting strangers
8. Treating bands
9. Dealing with Nazis, sexist assholes or speedfreakhippypunkgutterscumbags
10. Events and Projects to draw people in

When I moved to my town, there were just 5 punks, mostly just graduated from high school, plus 3 IWW folks, some EarthFirsters and some art freaks. Here are some of the things we did to transform our shitty town into a punk mecca:

1. Hanging out.
Never underestimate the power of sitting around in public as a way to draw people into the world of punkness. Punks look cool. Just by standing around looking good we become a vibrant propaganda tool.

2. Creating visible public presence.
Posters, flyers, graffiti, public art. Nothing is more depressing than a town with punks that just post on the internet, nothing is better than walking around a shitty town and finding an Anarchy sign spray painted behind the grocery store. You must put up flyers about shows. If there aren't shows in your town yet, put up flyers about other stuff. Flyers thats main graphic focus is on girls body parts are not rebellious, they are jock. Make flyers about your beliefs. Make art and staple it to telephone poles. Make it look like there is something mysterious going on that people should want to be a part of.

3. Show Space.
Basement shows rule. No basement is too short or too small. Even if people can't pogo, they can still skank. Our first show space was a storefront on a crappy main road, and we had an art project in it, where anyone could pick a section of the wall and paint it. It made it so that punks that otherwise would feel weird as hell just trying to hang out, could come and be busy, but still part of things. Our next space was in a short basement with a small creek running through it. We built a retaining wall to try and keep the water away from the electricity. The whole place was cavern like, the energy just hung in the moldy air and the stage was just a few pallets. Everyone said it would suck to have shows there, but actually they were the best shows ever, with everyone crammed in and dancing and sweating, mashed together, and trying to see and going wild in the sweetest way.

4. Dancing.
I can not overstate the importance of dancing. Dancing rules. Dancing is punk! At first, no one danced at the shows in Asheville, then me and my sister decided to dance as hard as we could to the entire set, no matter how bad the band might suck. It was difficult, especially because in the beginning there would only be about 5 - 10 people watching the show, and everyone thought we were crazy, but after awhile everyone started dancing, and then when new people came, they thought that's what punk was all about - dancing like fucking maniacs. Punk is participatory, not entertainment. If the audience is not working as hard as the band, then it is not totally punk.

5. Form Bands.
Everyone can play. Everyone can scream. If I can form a band, you can. When I first started to try to scream, I just made a terrible choked croaking noise and I cried because I felt so stupid, now I scream like hell. Also, I've been playing the bass with only two fingers and only the top two strings for about 8 years. It's fine.

6. Freak + Punk unity.
One of the sad things about our shitty town become a punk mecca, is laziness and scene isolation. In the beginning, we all needed each other, punks and freaks and weirdos and intellectuals. If we wanted things to be interesting, we had to make it happen. There was the beautiful heyday of punk and freak unity, with amazing talent shows and musicals and cabarets and dance performances, but then, by the end, so many punks had meccaed out to our town that they thought they no longer needed the freaks, and it became just a bunch of isolated people who didn't need or care about each other any more.

7. Inviting Strangers.
So, the truth is, a lot of people are sort of afraid of punks. And a lot of people are scared to go to weird new places. So, it is important to reach out in person to people who look like they might secretly want to join the scene. Give people flyers, and talk to strangers, and if they come to the show, talk to them and make them feel welcome. I was always really shy, but then when I ran the door at the club, I got to watch how so many people felt uncomfortable and unsure what to do with themselves, and I realized it's important to be a welcoming committee and introduce people to each other, and do all the usual things of a good hostess. I've been to many towns where the only people who talked to me at the punk show were guys who wanted to sleeze on me, and I think it's so important that girls talk to girls, non-sleezers talk to the new people. Unity!

8. Treating Bands.
ok. So, if you book bands, be nice to them. Cook them food and give them a place to stay. If you are not going to have a place for them to stay, tell them that ahead of time. Also, give the bands money. Unless you are a greedy self absorbed capitalist bastard, paying the band should come first over show space rent. Figure out some other way to pay show space rent. Also, local bands should play first. If you start to create a scene where people only love the local band and only dance to the local band and the local band plays last, it sucks. Just play first, and make everyone stay for the touring band. Create a culture where people want to show off for the touring bands, and show them how much your town cares about punk by going wild and giving the band the best show they've ever had - I mean, dance!

9. Dealing with Nazi's, sexist assholes or speedfreakhippypunkgutterscumbags.
Don't let Nazi's into your shows. You can tell them that if they quit being a racist asshole then they can come in, but otherwise, no. Same with the fuckers who grope women. It is good to have some bitter ex-punks or bitter tough old punks around, because they are usually good at beating up Nazi's and other scum-bags if necessary.

10. Projects and Events to draw people in.
Punk is about creating our own lives, creating lives worth living, creating new and vibrant culture outside of capitalism's corrosive effects. Punk picnics, punk kick-ball, punk scavenger hunts, punk organizing, punk zines. And brainstorming up your own 10 point program for changing your own shitty town.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

love, family, death

I was talking to my mom's sister about how none of them (the sisters) came to see my mom at the hospital when she was dieing, and how she was the only one in the whole family who came to the funeral, and how insane that seemed to me now. I mean, they were her sisters!

she had a lot of excuses, like how they didn't think she was going to die (denial), and that my mom had said she didn't want them to come (pride). and I told her I still thought it was crazy, and she said "well, it doesn't mean we didn't LOVE her."

I wish I'd had the courage to say, "actually, yes. It does mean you didn't love her." maybe if that had been the only thing they hadn't done, but it was a lifetime of no support, no commitment, no active care, only care when it was convenient.

love is not an undefinable thing. It has real meaning and I think it is important that we define it. I like how bell hooks does - even though sometimes her definitions makes me feel terrible, unloved. but clearer. I like her definition ... "we utilize all the dimensions of love -- "care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect and knowledge", in the chapter Values: Living by a Love Ethic, in her All About Love book.