Thoughts on Love, Identity, and Solanis’ ‘HerLand’

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I think about myself as a young ‘babydyke’ – this cute little butch thing swaggering down the street in her (men’s) jeans, (men’s) underwear, (men’s) shirt…thinking that if I was inhabiting the category ‘lesbian’ I somehow needed to reject a category about ‘feminine’ – not least because I had witnessed other women in the lesbian scene getting challenged about the authenticity of their sexuality because they wore their hair long, wore a bra or – heaven forbid – used makeup! I think now about this man I love and the ways in which he struggled to understand his gayness in a world where he felt neither ‘manly’ enough to be heterosexual, nor effeminate enough to be gay… And I recognise so much of what Stephanie Georgopulos says about her experience with race and that she doesn’t ever quite seem to fit anywhere – I am so conscious that I had heterosexual privilege when I was publicly in a relationship with a man, however gay we both were! And yet until the last couple of years I have lived very publicly as an ‘out’ (and visible – if not always quite as butch as I was at 16!) lesbian – I am not heterosexual, whether or not my desire can sometimes be oriented that way these days, and any of the privileges that are attached to the world’s perception of me as heterosexual are curious, uncomfortable and in direct opposition to much of the rest of my experience…And though I am sometimes assumed to be heterosexual, I am also still frequently recognised as a lesbian, by people of all kinds – those women who would chat me up, or fearfully usher their children away from me, those men who tip me the ‘family’ wink, the men who verbally abuse me in the street, or those who aren’t remotely attracted to me for any reason other than the perceived challenge of my perceived sexual orientation and who graciously offer to ‘convert’ me… However attached I am to the category ‘woman’, I know that its meanings can never be reduced to the state of my genitals, my reproductive function or my hormonal or chromosomal make-up, and that the relationships between my womanhood and my femininity and my masculinity (and my desire and orientation) are complex, beautiful systems, not reducible to any one aspect of my identity…

I think about the responses today to Tom Daley talking about his relationship with another man – that ‘straight’ and LGBT media alike have talked about him ‘coming out as gay’ when I’ve heard no such thing! What I heard was a young man saying he is really happy in a relationship with another man – that he still fancies girls, but has a boyfriend right now who is making him feel happy and secure. I love that he is able to tell his story on his own terms – that he hasn’t felt obliged to stick himself into any particular box – he hasn’t used the words ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ – or, for that matter, ‘bisexual’ – he has left himself free to develop as a sexual person in whatever ways he wants to. He has sidestepped the demand that he must be ‘either-or’ and in doing so challenges the validity of a thought system that tries to demand that the world must be organised into these neat binaries…

Watching the Deep Cotton video made me remember…I think I was around 16 when I read the SCUM Manifesto. It was gift – from a sweet, gentle, quiet (male) friend of my parents who was also a political activist in socialist and feminist scenes. I was both like and unlike the other teenagers around me at that time – furiously angry, desperately hurt, politically astute and active, socially aware, vocally and visibly feminist, punk and lesbian. It was a text that spoke to me, unsettled me, rattled all kinds of cages within me, and lit all kinds of lights. It spoke into the heart of all that rage and hurt that consumed me – as a lesbian, as a woman, as a young person, as person trying to find her creativity and her activism. And it shook me; at once speaking to all the hurt and fear and anger that I felt so strongly in relation to some men, and at the same time bringing to the fore in me a fierce love and defense for those men I loved so dearly. I struggled hard, then, with what felt like insurmountable contradictions in the responses the Manifesto drew from me. And I struggled with the anger I could feel for Solanis, partly at what I felt was a dismissal of all men on the basis of some of them (and the defensiveness I felt on behalf of the men I loved then, and knew were good human beings). And partly I was angry with her because of the ways I felt she was being so fucking stupid – walking straight into the sites of those who would quickly and easily dismiss feminists as essentialist, bigoted man-haters and so all the wonderful fierceness and all the kinds of sense she could make would be shot down and lost.

I gave the book away. I was young, and bound by the limits of my own experience and understandings and its ideas gave me measures of both trouble and comfort, but even that was not an ambiguity I could handle at that time.

I’ll turn 40 in a few weeks, and am considerably better-versed in (and comfortable with) ambiguity, contradiction, shades of grey…I’m less angry, more hurt, and no less defensive of the men, women and politics I love. I can watch something like the Deep Cotton video and I can sting at a feminism that is rooted in a blanket and essentialist loathing of ‘the Other’, and I can sting also at how plain stupid that kind of politics looks…But equally I feel like I witness in the film something that I feel in the very bones of me about the kinds of hope and potential that might exist if we are able to embrace a notion of humanity that is neither dismissive of the realities of the lived experience of the categories in which we found (or put) ourselves, nor dependent upon them as fixed, binary, opposing…I can feel sad at the rage and hurt Agent Winter expresses at the end of the film, and can recognise a former self in there – that young, butch self who wanted to believe in a utopian vision of HerLand in which we women were all connected by our ‘essential nature’ and shared loathing of ‘the enemy’…But I never could quite buy wholesale into the hatred of men – either men as Other, or the masculine in my own self…HerLand couldn’t ever really be a utopian vision for me, even in the moments when I wanted it to be. A utopia, for me, needs to be so much more embracing, so much more diverse, so much more willing to move beyond the binaries…And I suppose if I have learned nothing else, it is that, as Georgopulos says ‘some things are not black or white. Like human beings’…

 

See the SCUM Warriors in action below in the emotion picture “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out: Part 1.”

The Further We Get From Heaven…

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“It seems to me that it is possible to think about the nature of new political identities, which isn’t founded on the notion of some absolute integral self and which clearly can’t arise from some fully closed narrative of the self. A politics which accepts the ‘no necessary or essential correspondence of anything with anything…” – Stuart Hall

How far from politicized, essentialist identity constructs must we be removed before we recognize that life actually exists in the interstices of our seemingly disparate realities? In other words, where we most come together is where we are most apart. What makes us so different and unique is what actually makes us the most alike. Only by stripping away the layers or “normal” identifying markers do we reveal the real human being inside these shells. Fall back from the gospels of prophetic musings of who’s who, who’s right… what’s black, what’s white, what’s male, female…

Prepare yourself as Deep Cotton unravels the cocoons we’ve been carefully constructing. Make way for the second-coming of consciousness… The rapture is upon us… WE’RE FAR AWAY FROM HEAVEN NOW, WE CAN FREAK OUT…

Check out more of Fahamu Pecou Is The Shit’s discussions of Art.Rap.Scholarshit here.

HERSTORY: THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

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1.

You’re looking for another generation to sell, so sell this.  This story.  In 2000, the year I graduated from high school, I decided to become a man.  Being a black woman from Florida, from a small town about 300 miles from Zora’s Eatonville, this involved only three things: 1) cutting my hair; 2) wearing baggy clothes and 3) watching Boys Don’t Cry. So I could see what not to do and so I could live to tell the tale.

2.

I applied to Morehouse College, the renowned black all-male institution on October 5, 2000.  My acceptance letter came on March 3, 2001.  I left a note for my parents telling them I loved them and left in the middle of the night.  I moved into the dorm on August 27.  And for some reason I felt, for the very first time, happy and free.

3.

Let me make it plain: it was not that I wanted to be a man.  Or that I was running from what I truly was—a black woman.  I did not hate myself.  I was not abused as a child by a stuttering uncle, or suffering from an odd Freudian complex (that I knew of).  I was engaging in a grand social experiment, an existential game, recreating myself and the world I wanted to see through my words and actions.   And I understood the nature of this quest, that to create herstory you have to leave history behind, all the traditional things that make us typically what we are in modern society (family, consumerism, marriage, religion, etc.).  I just felt and still feel—that the American game and world history has operated duplicitously off false binary systems of reality that unnecessarily pit blacks against whites, Jews against Gentiles, Christians against Muslims, God against Satan, and men against women.  The way to end these wars, to pull off the mask of intolerance, hate, violence, misogyny and racism, is to end all essentialist theories, to violate their myths and bend their laws from straight lines into circles.

4.

Being a man was easy.  Pretend you shave.  Get greedy: about everything, but especially pussy.  Choose the light-skinned girl with long hair over the dark-skinned sista with short. Eat a lot of chicken wings and play a lot of XBOX and spill beer in front of the TV during games while talkin bout bitches that wont call you back. That shit was the easiest thing ever.  I would do all that then go down the hall to the bathroom to change my tampon.

5.

I fell in love with a guy and a girl while I was there.  And I dated them at the same time.  The guy was bi—his girlfriend was an AKA from Spelman, and she had no idea. The three of us grabbed Philly cheesesteaks from Gutbusters a lot, and she thought he and I were just roommates. Best friends. Little did she know. That I masturbated while they had sex on the other side of the room.  And after having sex with her, he would climb in the bed with me and I would suck his stuff.  Sometimes I wondered if he would have been so into it if he knew I was a girl.  Secretly, I wanted him to be mine, to have kids with him, love him forever.  I fantasized about our future sometimes, but I never told him the truth.  When I realized my heart couldn’t take anymore, I found a reason to disappear.  And the girl I loved, well, that was tragic in the opposite way.  I was the man she always wanted.  She wanted me to marry her, have kids, build a family, even tried to take me home to Jersey to introduce me to her family during the holidays.  I never told her the truth.  I just couldn’t.  I kept my clothes on when the lights went off.  I ate her pussy for about a year.  Then I left her a note, just like the one I left my parents.  I left and I didn’t come back.

6.

I began to write poetry after those relationships.  And for some reason my poetry was tormented by America, and by the insane, absurd politics of my blackness, and my newfound maleness.  It was as if inside my female body there was a black man, a tormented African king, an enslaved spirit with an erect penis trying to break out, trying to escape.  When I read the book The Signifying Monkey, and when I saw the statues of Esu—his long erect dick and that big broad smile on his face—I shuddered and began to understand.  I was pregnant.  Africa had knocked me up.  And my life, my heartbreak, my trauma, my wayward outlaw lifestyle and shuddering poetic visions and stories and experiences were the result.  I gave birth to my first child, a poetry collection.  The black men in the poems were not me but yet were all mine.  I called the poetry collection i.  And for the creator’s name I put the only name that made sense: Esu-Elegbara, otherwise known as Papa La Bas.

7.

This world needs a disruption.  Disruption causes evolution and evolution is the only chance we have at survival.  The problem with revolution is that at some point the revolutionaries leave the zone of disruption to become the rulers, at which point they become useless, limp dicks. Tyranny is tempting. See Animal Farm. The way out of that conundrum is for a new class of cyber-feminists to be born that are not interested in politics: they’re interested in self–evolution, in the bodiless nature of cyberspace and technology, in masturbating, in taking walks in the woods, in videogames, in Walden fucking pond, in accepting the end of race and gender and nature and religion and humanity itself as the new normal, in being disobedient to the notion of civil disobedience itself. Fuck everything. Be yourself. And create the future from there.

8.

Old school Feminism is another bag. But I take it seriously.  After reading The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, it occurred to me that any man that realizes his fecundity, his divine nature and creative power, can become a woman. A wom(b)man.  And any woman that realizes she can run a household, be a protector and a provider, can realize her divine nature, and become a man.  That said, it is the 21st century and most women, especially in the black community, have become men out of necessity—our men are in jail, shooting each other, or lost playing the hip hop capitalistic, misogynistic pimp-ass games they see on TV.  That said, we women have careers and children, and strong viewpoints on the way the world should spin.  We’re not fucking around.  We can run shit, and we know it, and we’re done waiting for the rain to stop.  We now have an imbalance in our communities.  The woman has become the man.  Out of necessity.  But the man is scared.  The man refuses to become a woman.  We women have evolved.  But the man has refused to evolve.  He refuses to become a Bitch, and still denigrates her, that sacred part of himself.  Little does he know that that’s the only thing that can save him.

9.

I first heard the band Deep Cotton on a stormy Thursday night.  A show in Paris at a bookstore called Shakespeare and Company.  How did I miss them in Atlanta at Apache Café? Why were they dressed as tuxedoed buppies playing Gibsons and congos outside the store where Hemingway and Baldwin and Wright used to hang out? I liked the music but I didn’t understand it.  Chuck Lightning told me they wanted to be the Rolling Stones.  To which I responded don’t you know they were just trying to be Muddy Waters who was just trying to get his black ass back to Africa.  They laughed but we stayed in touch.  After they finished their first release Runaway Radio, Nate Wonder reached out to me to write a video treatment for their song “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out.”  I listened to it.  Loved the song.  Especially the part about Boccaccio.  So I wrote the treatment and told them if they changed anything—1 fucking idea, 1 fucking shot—I would take my name off of it.  They read it and were blown away and told me they were gonna make it happen.  And they did.  But when I heard they had a man named Alan Ferguson directing, I changed my mind about the whole thing.  I thought it’d be impossible to do this project correctly without the omnipresent male gaze, especially with a man directing.  So I told them they could shoot it.  But take my name off.  Put Chuck Lightning’s name on instead.  When I saw the video, I laughed.  I found it cute, hilarious, sexy, fun to dance to—and most certainly, certifiably not what I intended.  But I’ll give it to the guys: you can jam to it.  And at least now, The SCUM Warriors are alive.

10.

I approached them afterwards with the idea of the Scum Warrior Vision Cards.  I wanted to give all the warriors, those beautiful women, their own vision of the world, their own voice.  How these cards should be used: like playing cards.  Throw the card down on a table and discuss it.  The quotes. The books mentioned.  The worldview.  The photo itself.  Crawl back into your memories. Tell stories. Joke. Cook. Argue.  Burn the card if need be. Sacrifice it. Then get drunk and fuck.  Before falling asleep.  Write down the dreams you have after this fucking.  These angry orgasmic dreams will become the new Constitution of America.

12.

I realize now that I went to Morehouse College not to get a degree, but to marry myself.  And that is a wonderful thing.

13.

Like the song says: Let’s cook. Let’s clean.  Let’s paint the fence.  Together. All of us. Men. Women. Black. White. Green. Purple. Christian. Muslim. That’s our only chance.

14.

I’m on the move again.  Crossing another border.  My hair is growing.  Perhaps I will become a woman again.  Perhaps I will stay a man.  One thing is certain: I will do all it takes to remain happy and free.

 

See the SCUM Warriors in action below in the emotion picture “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out: Part 1.”

Real Man 101 by Megalyn Echikunwoke

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The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Feminism’ as: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”  Do I consider myself a feminist? Not really. But obviously, what it means to be a feminist has changed over the last several decades–from second wave, to third, to now.

Have we as a society moved beyond the third wave? If we haven’t yet I’d like to think we are at a tipping point. One where, as the roles of men and women in society continue their gradual shift, the reaction of men to a smart, ambitious, confident, emotionally and financially independent, modern women isn’t one of fear and intimidation but of respect and understanding. I find that women like this are often very threatening to your typical “manly man” especially the ones of my generation: a generation which seems to be producing more women like this and less men capable of handling it.

It has been said that for various reasons, this is a generation of men raised by women. You would think this is a good thing. But when you consider that to function in a patriarchal society where what it means to “be a man” is so narrowly defined, it might be that this dynamic has consequently created a whole generation of lost boys: Boys stuck in a state of arrested development. Boys who run from a self-possessed woman. Often this type of woman finds it difficult to find male partners that can be on her level, and consequently ends up alone. How many stories have you heard about the successful, kick-ass woman who has defied the status quo of a male dominated world and risen to the top only to find she is up there alone, loveless and probably childless because she scares the shit out of most men, especially her peers?

After getting a degree in psychology in the late fifties, Valerie Solonas went on to become the radical feminist writer who literally shot Andy Worhol. She published the controversial text The S.C.U.M Manifesto in the mid sixties partly in reaction to her own abusive upbringing but mostly in reaction to the times and what she saw going on around her. Though her writing is militant and often belligerent she makes some very poignant and interesting points about the many poisonous cultural dynamics between men and women in terms of sex, family, religion and more.  Like I said, I don’t consider myself a feminist and actually quite adore men. But when I read The S.C.U.M. Manifesto I found myself getting excited and indignant that someone was so passionately examining the often absurd ways the two sexes coexist and interact, the ways men handle fear of women, and most interestingly, that what drives men to mistreat women historically and presently comes from the idea that they are so deeply, primally jealous that women are fundamentally superior to them they have shaped whole civilizations and built complex institutions around denying this fact. Sure, she often speaks in hyperbole about the issue.  And, yes, the ideas behind “feminism” have undoubtedly evolved since this was written. I’d like to think it has not only become more sophisticated but that it has transcended the notion that feminism is something women alone have to fight for on our own behalf.

Ideally, the full realization of womanhood can’t be confined to an “ism.”  I’d like to think that today’s woman has the opportunity to move beyond fighting for equality with men. Because (at the risk of sounding like a man hater) men and women really and truly are not equal. Most women, and probably men for that matter, would agree that men are, in general, pretty simple creatures. Women are far more complex beings than men. When do women get to be equal to men and then some? When do we get to be all of what we are? There are probably matriarchal societies that understand this notion better than I do, having only known the limits of the American patriarchy. But like I said, a paradigm shift is upon us. I meet sexy male feminists more and more. Are they considered manly? Who cares? Why can’t feminism in the traditional sense be left to the modern man? We ladies already know who we are and why that’s important. Let them spend some time catching up so we can stop being preoccupied with diminishing ourselves to appease them and focus on being fully realized females.  If you ask me, feminism should be Real Man 101.

 

See the SCUM Warriors in action below in the emotion picture, “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out: Part 1.”