“De-Training”, an Amtrak travelogue at Blind Field: a Journal of Cultural Analysis

“De-Training”, an Amtrak travelogue at Blind Field: a Journal of Cultural Analysis

This summer, Blind Field’s new editor Sophie rode coach class all the way to an event called ‘Commie Camp’. As her train left Penn Station, she posted a Facebook status from her phone, to which she added one or two further images as comments and found, to her surprise, that people were responding. The journey […]

via De-Training —

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A conversation on the Radio

Last month, the guys from the radio show previously known as Social Justice Warriors – now relaunched as Infantile Disorder – came round to the apartment I was cat-sitting and interviewed me about my various recent writings. We discuss my co-translation of Communism for Kids, the short article I wrote for Blind Field Journal on The Handmaid’s Tale, and – lastly – the controversy I participated in over the form of populationism (depopulationism, to be precise) in Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene by Donna Haraway.

You can listen to the SoundCloud here.

linking the issues in the struggle for reproductive justice

whether the end-product of any given uterine activity is a cancer, a miscarriage, a termination or a live newborn infant, the very best of technological assistance should – clearly – be freely available to all.

 

re-blogging from movements@manchester:

Should we be doing more to link the issues in the struggle for reproductive justice? 

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Demanding the future: beyond marriage; and reproductive justice for all

Plan C Manchester has been compiling a tumblr of radical demands – most of them formulated by ‘guests’ or fellow-travellers – imagining a liveable future. With my Feminist Fightback hat on, I helped to contribute to Demand No. 21Reproductive Justice for All! – and also wrote another one by collaborating with @takkaria, namely, Demand No. 23 – Stop allocating social resources on the basis of marital status. The latter in particular is merely a sort of sketch of a call for experimenting with more conviction, as communists, in materially otherwise forms of social reproduction, by building nurturing alternatives to the couple-form somehow, some sort of anti-families. Whatever you may think (I’m ambivalent myself) about the meaning of formulating demands in the relative absence of a corresponding social struggle, you can check these respective (differently styled) texts out, here and here, along with the entirety of the excellent Demanding the Future project/experiment, which (incidentally) will be written up thoughtfully by my Manchester comrades in short order.

Demand #21: Reproductive Justice For All!

Guest demand by Feminist Fightback

Reproductive justice consists of the social conditions necessary for people to enjoy the freedom to “have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments” (SisterSong). As UK-based intersectional anticapitalist feminists in solidarity with the SisterSong Women of Colour Reproductive Justice collective in the USA, we in Feminist Fightback demand: reproductive justice for all.

There has recently been a significant increase in the number of anti-choice pickets occurring outside abortion clinics, with picketers becoming increasingly aggressive.  Earlier this week, Lord Bates, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, suggested that immigration needed to be decreased, as migrant women were having ‘too many’ babies. In London, a group of single women with children, the Focus E15 Mothers, are defending their right to stay in social housing near their friends and support networks, as Newham council wants to ‘re-house’ some of them as far away as Sunderland.

When we speak about reproductive rights in the UK, we generally talk about a woman’s right to ‘choose’.  But while access to abortion on the NHS is still clearly very important, ‘the right to choose’ is inadequate to address the situation of migrant women subjected to racist and sexist attacks by the government, or low-income single mothers fighting to stay in their communities. What women (and other people who can bear children, but may not identify as women) need is reproductive justice.

While the phrase “reproductive justice” itself is relatively new, dating from the 1990s, in both theUS and UK, racialized women, low-income women, disabled women, and their allies have long supported the need to legalise abortion while also challenging the limitations of focusing exclusively on the ‘right to choose’. Reproductive justice places the ‘right to choose’ within the wider social context in which choices are being made. It asks us to think about the conditions necessary for genuine reproductive autonomy, and the intersecting systems of oppression that pervade our lives, preventing these conditions from being realised.  It asks us to consider why some women have more options than others, and why some babies are seen as more ‘valuable’.

Conditions necessary for reproductive justice might include (but are not limited to):

●     Free abortion on demand for anyone, without the need for doctors’ signatures, everywhere in the UK, including Northern Ireland.

●     Access to contraception, abortion and ante-natal, peri-natal and post-natal care for ALL people, regardless of immigration status.

●     A welfare state that provides adequate financial support for all parents and children, with extra support provided for children and parents with special needs.

●     A fully public and well-funded NHS to ensure free, excellent, reproductive health care for all.

●     An end to immigration detention, which is especially difficult and detrimental for children and pregnant women

●     Adequate training for all medical personnel on the reproductive health needs of trans* people, intersex people, and any other non-binary people.

●     An end to all ideologies and policies that paint some children and parents as ‘less valuable’ or less capable of making ‘good choices’ than others; obvious examples would be capitalism, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, trans*phobia, and xenophobia.

These are by no means the only conditions. What would you add?

March 31, 2015.

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Demand #23: Stop allocating social resources and privileges on the basis of marital status

This demand has been put forward, on the basis of a provocation by Laura Kipnis in the polemicAgainstLove, by members of Plan C Manchester andFeminist Fightback North: @takkaria and @lasophielle.

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We demand that societies stop allocating social resources and privileges on the basis of marital status. By ‘marital status’ we are referring to whether people are publicly recognised as a couple, the couple form being, to quote Hannah Black, that “thing or experience or lifestyle or belief” that, despite the many and storied joys it brings, is nevertheless “the most reductive, exclusionary and precarious imaginable method of meeting the probably universal need to feel close to and recognized by others.”

Everywhere, the state promotes and gives recognition to various kinds of couples, the most infamous such measures being, perhaps, the provision of tax breaks and joint benefits to couples. Universal Credit also promises to glue poorer couples together financially in a gruesome recapitulation of 1960s middle-class life, making one benefit payment, once a month, to one person – despite the obvious potential for abuse this opens up. As such, the state also encourages society to treat people in couples as a unit, and their relationship as the basis of a household with special legitimacy. When you get a divorce in this country, still today, you are pleading with the Crown that your life “has become intolerable”. It is this state of affairs, to us, that is intolerable.

And while this unit (the basis for “family values”) undergirds what we call public, interactions between its constituent parts are private, creating an environment ripe for abuse – the brunt of which is borne by women. Those of us outside the unit are reluctant to intervene: what happens in the family is private and, after all, ‘we don’t really know what’s going on’. Legally, too, marriages have been the place where, rich or poor, one is least protected from the violence of rape by one particular person (incidentally, places where marital rape is still legal are largely using penal codes devised by ex-imperial powers, but that’s a story for another time).  Despite this, gaining and maintaining marital status remains synonymous with good citizenship: we must do it because we must – ethically, economically – ‘think of the children’, whether or not they have been created yet.

We demand a less precarious system of social reproduction, and a far wider horizon for our legitimate desires, than the couple form. We are wondering, as Kipnis puts it: “What if luring people into conditions of emotional stagnation and deadened desires were actually functional for society? … Note that the conditions of marital stasis are remarkably convergent with those of a cowed workforce and a docile electorate.”

We acknowledge that marriage has historically been sought, in particular, by members of a socio-economically vulnerable sex class, to whom it offered certain protections, even though the institution originally managed their exchange as reproductive chattel. We acknowledge that a great many people flourish in marriage. But this is no basis for predicating the allocation of social resources on this institution. Nowadays, especially for the poor, marriage is supposedly a ‘soft’, aspiration-forming mode of social ordering, yet it often takes on a coercive and punitive function.

Individual parents (overwhelmingly women) who try to leave abusive situations with their kids find their benefits sanctioned; immigration rights are, barbarically, tied to marital status; and even sleeping over at your boyfriend’s dis-entitles you to certain single person’s benefits. As such,Mumsnet is full of stories detailing ways one can snitch on neighbours who might be faking their couple-form, or failing to declare lifestyles that ought to be legally and economically coupled, given our era’s prevailing logic of austerity. “Who needs a policeman on every corner,” asks Laura Kipnis, “when we’re all so willing to police ourselves and those we love, and call it upholding our vows?”

So let’s abolish the apparatus that makes marriage, both gay and straight, a quasi-imperative (as well as every girl’s ultimate dream). Let’s have uncivil partnerships instead. Let’s stop policing ourselves, confusing commitment with property logic. Let’s stop letting the state police our intimate domain. We can decide for ourselves what a family is, and what resources it needs.

2nd April 2015

response to ‘for your safety and security’ by anonymousrefused

I wrote this without a view to publishing it anywhere, and, in the past week or so, hoped to get feedback and encouragement from the author of ‘For Your Safety and Security’ before I potentially did; but in the end I’ve decided to post this here without knowing what the response might be, and to simply hope that the dialogue continues.
 

‘For your Safety & Security’ is a new piece about not-so-new strife, platformed by Plan C. It heavily identifies safer spaces politics with ‘civility’ and ‘securitization’. Having participated in the workshop and read the piece, I disagree—respectfully—with this aspect of this particular partial repudiation, but what follows is not an attempted takedown of ‘For Your Safety & Security’. Actually, I think that what’s potentially dangerous about FYS&S is that it contains more than one argument. It contains, simultaneously, a feminist and constructive engagement with challenges facing current feminist praxis, sincerely aiming to strengthen that praxis, and also at the same time a great deal of rhetoric or imagery that in effect alleges an oppressive motivation (purging, scapegoating, and tumour excision…) and a bad-faith motivation inherent in accountability processes per se, not just the accountability processes that have been recently initiated. The possible slippage this enables between ‘this is what safer spaces politics must take care to avoid falling into’ and ‘this is what safer spaces politics simplys is’ runs the risk of playing into forces of anti-feminist reaction, on account of the absence of any disclaimer to the effect ‘scapegoating is a travesty of the logic at the heart of the necessary utopian struggle for safer spaces’. So, I’ve been motivated to try and write a genuinely comradely critique, together with an attempt to respond to the stated invitation in FYS&S for an open and less fearful discussion. My constant disclaimer is that I am someone very far from the London-based events that most directly inform the author’s experience of safer spaces politics.

The workshop (bearing the same title) that was given at the Plan C festival Fast Forward in September 2014 was kicked off with a version of the piece and developed into a fruitful discussion. I find the stand-alone blog to have a far less plurivalent, far more straightforwardly anti-safer-spaces effect than the workshop presentation had. Reading the published piece, I still recognise that ‘Anonymous Refused’ offers sincere and thoughtful reflections on shortcomings in our development of revolutionary alternatives to state-issue justice. There is something very rich about its eloquent description of the ‘scarred’ subjective terrain we inhabit. In disputing the claims and conclusions that are extrapolated, the following discussion points will hopefully also contribute to moving past the deadening and “righteous” sides-taking phenomenon, which the piece evokes as so all-encompassing of all speech about safer spaces.

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Nymphomaniac: also: gender at the expense of race

I have a piece out in Mute magazine called “sex against gender” (it was going to be “‘whoring’ against society”, but there were concerns about my being read as implying that all sex is prostitution, scare-quotes or no scare-quotes). Anyway, it’s a review essay on Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac I and II and could also have been called “One woman v. Therapy” or “anti-Scheherezade”. ​That’s because, at ​several point​s​ in it I tr​y​ to tie in the gender, capitalist familiality and sex thematic ​in​ th​e​ film​s​, the latest in the ‘Depression trilogy’, with the present resurgence in anti-psychiatry discussion groups in the UK​.​ (​S​ee The Institute for Precarious Consciousness article posted by Plan C – ‘Theses on Anxiety’ – and the great response piece at sometimes explode as well as related reading groups and events (LeedsLondon 1 and 2Manchester 1 and 2​.​) Otherwise I just focused on the compelling way in which Nymphomaniac demonstrates the necessity of insurrection against gender.​ I’d be thrilled to know what y’all think.​ But one thing I ended up leaving out of my piece was the question of Nymphomaniac’s glib and explicit white supremacism. So I’m putting ​brief notes on all ​that​ stuff​ here, on my blog. Content warning for provocative racist terminology and, well, florid racism.nymphNN What’s the race case? Anyone who’s seen the films will know, as one scene in Volume II is pretty unforgettable and unforgiveable. ​In that second part of Nymphomaniac we at one point find von Trier hammily using Charlotte Gainsbourg as a ventriloquist’s dummy for his views on ​the​ democratic courageousness of​ us​ing the word ‘Negro’​ i.e. (I kid you not) “calling a spade a spade”​.​ The word, ​being, you know, a censored term for the truth​,​ is supposed to be a parallel of ​the film’s​ eponymous, also ​”not-politically-correct designation for the pathology of female sex addiction, which ​Gainsbourg heroically​ reclaims​ in a therapy circle​.​ “Er, we like to say sex addict…”​ says the group leader. No, Gainsbourg asserts, tearing up her therapy confessional: “I am a nymphomaniac!”​​ Needless to say, ‘nymphomaniac’ and ‘Negro’ are far from analogous signifiers. Any fool should understand why that is, so it feels a little bit like feeding the trolls to go in to it.

Maybe one ​should simply call von Trier’s bluff​: if it’s​ really​ ‘like for like​’​, ​then we can surely​ expect an upcoming trilogy devoted to cosmo​​logies of raced subjectivity​: a film on afropessimism and/or the experience of Black woman-ness. ​I’m not holding my breath, however. It’s obviously a​ppalling​ that saying ‘Negro’ ​has been defended ​in a mainstream film by a sympathetic​ celebrity​ subject, ​while exactly that kind of parochial, ‘free-speech’-ist, right-populist Ukipian toxicity is materially on the ascendant. ​It is perhaps too mild to say that von Trier is out of touch for making his feminist heroine a mouth-piece for yet another Cannes style ​joke, intended to bait ​liberal​s, perhaps, but doing so at the ​expense of people currently being targeted by neo-fascist policies across Europe. ​Because obviously it ​isn’t just content, it’s form. ​All of this is a response to the Cannes 2011 Q&A incident that got von Trier banned​.

But the film doesn’t just say ‘Negro’, and declare that “a point of honour” (actual quote): it of course inevitably enacts ‘Negro’, too. We’re faced with frames in a motel room, full of huge black cock, as though the human beings in question are in the film in order to enable Gainsbourg’s comments about speech democracy, rather than the other way around.  That the brief scene is an exoticizing, gratuitously provocative figuration of two African men as ‘Negroes’​ is ​unmistakeabl​e​​. It’s a scene that proclaim​s​ to the viewer in that all-too-familiar libertarian way ‘No, you’re the racist!​’​ even as it casts porn actors Kookie and Papou under the name ‘N’ ​(most characters in Nymphomaniac get initials, i.e. P, L, B, but ‘N’ was obviously saved for these two) ​and defies us to stare at their penises.

Why ​we​ren’t porn actors ​chosen​ to represent any of the dozens of ​​white men we see Gainsbourg fuck? Still, there’s ambivalence about Papou and Kookie’s cameo. If one anticipates excitement on the black men’s part about the white protagonist’s request for sex (made via an interpreter despatched to the street corner), one couldn’t be more wrong. She describes them as angry and “quarrelling”, but their tutting, head-shaking, gesticulating pantomime seems like more of an excuse to luxuriate, naked, in their mutual admiration of each other. Their behaviour to the white woman standing between them, whose face they never look at, whose gaze they never seek, whose vague and patient curiosity does not concern them, whose clothes they haphazardly remove, ​is ​so impersonal ​that it shocks white audiences. It seems intended to convey the animal or sub-social​, but it retains an authentic and autonomous ‘excess’​. Their extensive, uncaptioned conversation with each other could be, to those who don’t speak it (of which I am one) in any of the “African languages” or none. ​Gainsbourg walks out of the motel room, not so much because they can’t seem to get their double-penetration act together without offending each other, but because her sexuality is not roused by unapologetic blackness, or by not being the focus of any attention. ​​

A​ key aspect of ​the ​Nymphomaniac­​ production team’s​ self-advertisement its prurient publics​ (i.e. the way it produced those publics for itself)​ was ​to explain that they maintained a neat segregation​ both on- and off-set​ between porn actors and ‘actors’.​ ​This was a news-worthy separation ​of labour forces, it was said, because state-of-the-art digital technologies w​ere​ going to mediate​ it​. While the idea was, consciously or unconsciously, trailed, of Shia Labeouf’s actual cock sliding into actual celebrity pussy (but whose?) in cinemas across the globe, the ​production company ​Zentropa​’s​ ‘Making Of’ clips are, by contrast, remarkably reserved. Stars describe the porn set vs. movie set divide as two irreconcilable worlds. Stacy Martin says she always left the room when the porn actors came in to work (“I don’t watch porn, so …”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg speaks of her anxiety about what would be construed as her body. ​Zentropa’s little-known porn production side-line was not publicly talked about.​ 

So, Zentropa doesn’t just make edgy high-profile mainstream-‘art’ cinema, it makes actual porn and employs porn stars on the regular. ​​That’s the context in which I wanted to know: what language are the only one-name entries on Nymphomaniac’s IMDB, Papou and Kookie, speaking? What are they actually saying​?​ Is there a twist there, and were captions ever made? To inquire on the internet about this, though, is to gather that nobody knows or care​s​. Communication being “impossible” was the kick Gainsbourg’s character​ (thought she possibly)​ wanted, so it is OK that it necessarily becomes ours, too. In the end, the brothers’ abortive “sandwiching” of “one or the other of my holes”, while not successful in ending her phase of frigidity, serves usefully to expand white horizons, revealing “a world far from mine I had to explore… and there, or perhaps on the other side, get my life back.” After the narrative shows how she ​slipped away, practically unnoticed, ​from​ this quasi-explicit neo-colonial hook-up, leaving them to—she speculates​ as our rapporteur​—berate each other for not having been sensitive enough towards one another’s cocks,​ which were​ tangible “through the tissue”,​ Gainsbourg states ​laconically ​that “women who claim that Negroes don’t turn them on are lying”. Lying because in society, she says, “we elevate those who say right but mean wrong, and mock those who say wrong but mean right”. ​It’s a statement  that pretends to represent, but which actually distinguishes her from, all  (other) women. For while declaring how all women like black cock, she’s never looked less turned on in her life. Scratch a plain-talking maverick democrat and you find crypto-fascist contempt for people, paired with a bored and cynical certainty that they know the simple secrets of what people are like.​ “Joe” (the heroine) is confused, apolitical, and occasionally reactionary, but her powerful dialectical life-struggle in and against gender makes her somehow sympathetic.

Maybe a better film-maker could have shown how misogyny and white supremacy are inter-imbricated, thus, her attitude to ‘N’ could have been integrated into her internalised gynophobia. Instead, racism does not appear as a visible force or a theme in Nymphomaniac, which seems to honestly think it is itself ‘not racist’. It degrades the film when she defies the scholarly father-figure jocularly chastising her for saying ‘Negor’. A​nd it is von Trier hiding behind this “she”.​ ​I feel like saying to Lars: ​dude, you would fear worse than ‘mockery’ for trying to pass off your thoughtless opinions as courage ​when​ making light of structures of real and continuing oppression. ​Anyway,​ it’s significant​ too, ​that after the motel, ​her next port of call ​in ​​her quest into ​th​e unconquered territory of the​ “other side” is transcendental pain, sans safe-word​.​ ​Leaving behind Papou and Kookie *(‘N’) she seeks out the services of communicative, implacable white dom Jamie Bell​ (‘K’)​. In the aforementioned back-stage interviews, it is possible to breach the topic of this exotic weirdness and this submission, including the vexed question of its consensuality; but nowhere is it thought that (inter)viewers would want to pinpoint the ​race-“play” of the motel room DP scene. All are fascinated with other ethical dimensions of Nymphomaniac: yes, she uses men, yes, she gets what she needs from them, but​, hey, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings for them, ​you know, this film makes you feel really broad-minded and, like, tolerant, ​and so on. Race, meanwhile, is the only dimension ​of the only men of colour she uses​ that is made visible. ​

It occurred to me at this point that a piece could be written that points how Nymphomaniac stages “gender against​ race” or gender at the expense of race.

The ‘call a spade a spade’ project isn’t even courageous enough to properly épater les bourgeois. In the series of promotional photographs of the Nymphomaniac’s cast, which captured different portions of one larger, staged, humorously risqué tableau of them ‘all’ embroiled in divers sexual kinks and perversions, the inclusion of two well-hung Black men would have neatly referenced an infamous genre in porn. They should totally have been there. The promo tableau features, for instance, two nipple-like cherry ice-cream swirls gripped by Nicholas Bro, who looks voyeuristically into the open trench-coat of Connie Nielsen. A nearby Willem Dafoe enjoys a spillage near his fly being dabbed at by Sophie Kennedy Clark, while Stellan Skarsgard’s groin is crushed by Mia Goth’s boot and Jamie Bell holds some paper towels in the background inches away from von Trier himself, who is gagged (a Cannes reference, again), holding a camera-phone. In the foreground we have daddy, i.e. Christian Slater, on bended knee, ostensibly preparing to bathe the flaunted genitals of Gainsbourg, the adult incarnation of his daughter, who as everybody knows tunelessly sang “Un zeste (inceste) de citron” with her bare-chested real father, Serge, in 1985. As long as it’s white people, then, incest is fine on a movie promo poster. But Papou and Kookie are not in the promo. ​

Generally, I think that the ​​aware-of-my-racism-and-comfortable-with-it school of film-making (​another gross recent example I noted was Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths) is neither, in any substantive sense, aware of its racism, nor comfortable with the inkling of its racism it does possess. More than that, it is more hypocritical than the establishmentarian hypocrisy it purports to assail; it ends up flattering and accommodating it. For all that von Trier enjoys thinking of himself as a free spirit, a trickster who can reference Albert Speer as an artistic inspiration in a press​-​ room full of puffed-up liberals, ​but ​he makes sure the ‘Negroes’ are cleared off the screen pretty quick​ and never appear in any promotional campaigns​. ​Having flashed their big dicks at us, he can then get​ Joe​ involved in the much less challenging (for von Trier) world of intimate domination ​where she​ gets tied down and whipped by a hard-faced white man until her flesh is in tatters, an image that ironically recalls Patsey in Twelve Years a Slave. ​​Someone should really pass von Trier this list.​ Image

4 Rape Revenge plots unfolding world-wide (re-posted from Novara Wire)

Read my first post for the excellent Novara Media collective over on their buzzfeed-style “Novara Wire”.

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From the spectacle of injustice that was The Central Park Five to the realities flagged by Angelina Jolie’s vague ‘campaign’ at Srebrenica, the disciplinary functions of rape — within and without the home, with and without classed and racialized dynamics — are the air we breathe, the backing vocals on our news feeds. Even in the rare instances when they’re not making the news, individual or collective rapes — and the threat of them — continue to structure and pervade life in capitalist society across the globe. By way of counter-power, four closely interlinked manifestations of movement are illustrated below: demonstration, litigation, self-defence, and armed collective reprisal. Despite the tragic contemporary frequency of rape victims’ self-immolation, suicide has not been included here.

1. Demonstration.

In India, following high-profile Mumbai and Delhi gang rape incidences, a bellicose and sustained anti-rape movement has compelled thousands to the streets and onto buses in protest. While ‘traditional’ religious, patriarchal, and even fascist elements are participating in the rush to affirm women’s ‘value’, the majoritarian feminist contingent is, Kavita Krishnan argues, evolving a radical state- and family-critical analysis that seeks to revolutionize urban and rural caste-inflected sex relations alike.

sophie lewis 4rrp 1

In South Korea, incensed by Tokyo’s retraction of its WWII-related apology, rallies that have taken place every week since 1991 are now vindicating afresh the former ‘comfort women’ of Japanese and U.S. officers. The ramifications of this solidarity with trafficked sex slaves potentially run very deep for South Korean feminists’ struggles. These are demonstrations worth keeping an eye on.

sophie lewis 4rrp 2

2. Litigation.

The question of whether Twitter-storms can manipulate rape-apologist judges (as at Maryville, a year after Steubenville, USA) remains moot. But with massive grassroots support, eight UK women who became the unconsenting long-term sexual partners of undercover Metropolitan Police officers deployed to spy on political activist networks — some having children by them — are courageously conducting lengthy legal action to expose, redress, and hopefully impossibilize future repetitions of the experience they define as “being raped by the state”.

On a brighter note, since a rule barring prostitutes as claimants was removed in 2012, fourteen sex workers in California who suffered rape (though not by police) have been granted compensation. Since the 1970s when the designation ‘sex work’ was invented, sex workers have been organizing all over the world (usually out of court) against the (seemingly all-too-routine) rapes perpetrated by police. Refer to the discussion on consent, and the final chapter, ‘Movement’, in Melissa Gira Grant’s new book Playing the Whore.

3. Self-defence.

It was memorable when Rihanna shot her rapist down in 2010:celebrations of the individual vigilante abound, but very, very few aren’t male. Here are a few recent, real, live, departures from the script.

sophie lewis 4rrp 3

On 7 March 2014, Thomson Reuters  reported the jailing of a woman, Fatima, who axed her habitual rapist to death in the city of Fès and proclaimed: “He killed me a thousand times before I ever came to kill him too”.

In Ciudad Juárez, the assassin self-identified via email to the authorities as Diana “Cazadora de Choferes” (Hunter of Bus Drivers) caused an international stir by becoming, she said, an instrument for avenging rapes perpetrated by drivers with impunity. Reports in 2013 suggest “Diana” enjoyed considerable community solidarity in Mexico, and has not been apprehended to date.

It is as yet unclear what will become of Hong Kong resident and mother Yeung Ki during her eleven-day trial. Ki was the victim of her boyfriend’s rape, long-term abuse, and concomitant attempts to blackmail her with threats of revenge pornography. This year she drugged him and used scissors to remove his penis (which she flushed down the toilet) prior to beating him to death.

There is fear, too, in the minds of the many activists dedicated to freeing Yakiri Rubí Rubio Aupart, who was until recently imprisoned in Mexico City. Yaki still faces a terrible battle in court. Though cleared of capital murder charges, she has been bailed at a sum ten times higher than could be expected, for “excess of legitimate defence”. Meanwhile, the existence of her girlfriend, Rosa, is denied — lending a “corrective” flavour to the narrative, which many South Africans would find familiar. That she once had a lover with the same first name as one of the strangers who raped and slashed her, is apparently evidence enough for the judge that what happened could not have been rape. The dead kidnapper’s brother, the accomplice, still walks free.

Late in 2012, Nevin Yildirim calmly handed herself into the police in Yalvaç, Turkey, having avenged herself on her rapist by shooting him and cutting his head off, dropping it in the town square. “Don’t play with my honour!” she is reported to have proclaimed, as the head of her repeat abuser, her aunt’s husband, rolled towards a café.

4. Armed collective reprisal.

To those seeking freedom, ‘justice’ would not be enough even if we could attain it. But the justice that revenge represents is often what we desire. The ‘accountability processes’ for rapists that (primarily) women have come up with in many milieus do include forms of anti-violent violence.

Urban feminist tribes, from San Francisco’s surviving ‘girl armies‘ to Berlin’s antifascist Tuntenhaus veterans, are no strangers to the tactic of group rape vigilante fightback or ‘bashback’. Worldwide, simple rape-defence training courses for men and women are also becoming more and more common.

Indien Frauenbewegung Gulabi Gang

A rural counterpart to look out for comes from Uttar Pradesh. Here, a militant group of women who are combating, hands-on, their community’s scourge of domestic violence and rape by husbands, police, and others, goes by the name ‘Gulabi Gang’—and has recently acquired a documentary and a website.

Whether those Western commentators delighted by reports of a stick-wielding sisterhood in pink saris would respond similarly to a ‘bashback’ approach to Woody Allens, Julian Assanges and Jimmy Saviles remains to be demonstrated.