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…

fahamu

“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.

Cyberfeminism, Heavenly Freakouts and other Mutations

pic for my essay

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to change the world at least a little bit. Variables abound for why we want a different world than the one we have, but Deep Cotton recently told me their reason for manipulating messages is that WE’RE FAR ENOUGH gone that we should dismantle all constructs and start from scratch. I tend to agree with them. I see, all around me, the simultaneous destruction of old ways of doing things and construction of new ways forward. It gives me hope–but not enough hope to take a break from creating/destroying.

One of the most destructive old ways is this odd sawing in half of all things whole into dichotomies, and then pitting the two sides against each other. I’ve been told my whole life that all things are either

black or white

us or them

good or bad

creation or evolution

business or pleasure

beautiful or ugly

love or hate

male or female

and never the twain shall meet. They even had the nerve to tell me this lie while teaching me fractions, decimals and ratios! As the proof continues to pile up that studying the spectrum yields more fruits than focusing on the extremes, human civilization continues to advance by leaps and bounds. There are those within humankind who are deathly afraid of change, especially of the type of change Deep Cotton advocates. Of course they’re going to die off, because change is the only constant; but historically, those virulently opposed to change tend to want to take out as many lives as possible when they go.

That type of genocidal and/or suicidal tendency isn’t my bag, but when Valerie Solanas suggests in the SCUM Manifesto that a cleansing of the mutant XY chromosome would vastly improve the state of the world, I kept reading. In fact, I read all the way to the end. I made notes, I spoke aloud to the text, I read bits to friends, passersby and fellow tube commuters, and I asked a lot of men how they felt about it. (I don’t remember most of their responses.) Despite my natural aversion to violence and my belief in the importance of mutation to survival, I found that the SCUM Manifesto spoke to me.

Most of the various strains of feminist thought—including cyberfeminism and womanism, with which I identify—seek balance. In particular, they seek a balance of human rights, opportunity, and general regard for women and men. However, the brand of feminism that Solanas espouses is an extreme, but only because it is seeking to balance an extreme. The constant vigilance required of womanhood is a catalyst for the grinding down and the raising up of the feminine. The violence visited upon my body simply because of its feminine form caused me to both fear and revere it. I survive one and thrive from the other; I’d prefer, however, to have the freedom to focus more on thriving.

Do I thrive in the absence of men? Can I only experience the masculine in the presence of men? Will the SCUM Manifesto speak as clearly to men as it does to me? Are men capable of discussing the ideas in the manifesto without threatening me or any other women with more violence? How did Deep Cotton react to the SCUM Manifesto? Why are they such willing sacrifices to the SCUM Warriors? Why does Chuck Lightning march while he sings? What are the prisoners learning from the SCUM Warriors? Who are the SCUM Warriors, and how did they come to live at Camp Motherland? Why does Nate Wonder have so many flowers in his hair? What is Roman Gianarthur telling us with his bestial body language and violence toward Mannikin? Are the SCUM Warriors comfortable in their clothing? Did they dress up to celebrate the capture of Deep Cotton, or do they wear those ensembles every day? Is Camp Motherland a fun place to live? Why is Agent Winters the only holdout to the FREAKOUT? How would Valerie Solanas respond to Deep Cotton’s response to the SCUM Manifesto? How many kinds of death are there? Is a FREAKOUT a type of death? If the FREAKOUT is far from heaven, does that automatically make it hell?

Is the building of a matriarchal society an indicator that we’re far from heaven?

 

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 W List 10.30.13

W-LIST-W

VOLUME XIII. 10.30.13

We hereby present to you the Wondaland W LIST….a funky gathering of remarkable art i facts and experiences guaranteed to keep you balanced and on the tightrope for at least the next seven days…

(in no particular order, but arrayed in a fashion to make you smile)

 

1. 100 Black Inventions Over The Past 100 Years That You May Not Know About

The Atlanta Black Star ran the first installation of its 100 Black Inventions series. This installment includes 20 Black inventors and their ingenius creations, including:

Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 6.52.43 PM

Gerald A. Lawson (1940 -2011)

What He Invented: The Modern Home-Video Gaming Console.

Why It’s Important: Anyone who owns a Playstation, Wii or Xbox should know Lawson’s name. He created the first home video-game system that used interchangeable cartridges, offering gamers a chance to play a variety of games and giving video-game makers a way to earn profits by selling individual games, a business model that exists today.

George-Alcorn

George E. Alcorn (1949-Present)

What He Invented: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer

Why It’s Important: The Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer allowed scientists to examine materials that could not be broken down into smaller parts for study, revolutionizing the way NASA was able to conduct research. As a result of the significance of this work, in 1984 he was the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year. Two years later he also developed an improved method of fabrication using laser drilling.

 

2. Patrick Dougherty makes sculptures from living tree saplings.

patrick-dougherty1

patrick-dougherty2

 

3. Happy Halloween!

 

4. A piece of land art entitled ‘Wish’, showing the face of an anonymous six-year-old local Belfast girl, is seen in this aerial view of the Titanic quarter in Belfast. The artwork by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada spans 11 acres, is made up from 2,000 tonnes of sand, 2,000 tonnes of soil and some 30,000 wooden pegs. It will remain on view until December.

wish

 

5. Deep Cotton announces release of We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out emotion picture via Complex Magazine on Halloween. Until tomorrow, here’s the trailer:

 

6. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. bags NASCAR

Drive for Diversity Combine

The first time a black driver won a NASCAR race, it took 47 years before the sport officially acknowledged the victory. Wendell Scott received the trophy posthumously in 2010 for the race he won in 1963 at Jacksonville’s Speedway Park, where Buddy Baker was first declared the winner.

Fifty years later, in a different time and a different place — both geographically and philosophically — Darrell Wallace Jr. feels the warm embrace from a sport intent on burying those racial divides. It has taken that long for another black driver to step into NASCAR’s Victory Lane. “Bubba” Wallace won the Camping World Truck Series event at  this past weekend, setting off a celebratory wave of “attaboys” and hope that the next party won’t be 50 years in waiting.
Read more at the Orlando Sentinel
7. Janelle Monae to receive Billboard “Rising Star” Award 12.10.2013
jane
In Billboard’s announcement, the Electric Lady (or one of her clones) says, “Being recognized for your hard work and passion is always humbling and encouraging. I feel honored Billboard has taken note of my journey in the music industry thus far,” Monáe says. “I hope by receiving this award I’m encouraging aspiring acts to stay true to their own artistic visions and never give up.”
8. This amazing little powerhouse remixes Dance Factory choreography to amp up her tap recital.

 

9. CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story came out this week, chronicling the journey of one of the 90s most beloved category-defying artistic powerhouses.

 

10. Jay-Smooth drops knowledge on Totally Biased with Kamau Bell

The W List 10.16.2013

W-LIST-W

VOLUME XII. 10.16.13

We hereby present to you the Wondaland W LIST….a funky gathering of remarkable art i facts and experiences guaranteed to keep you balanced and on the tightrope for at least the next seven days…

(in no particular order, but arrayed in a fashion to make you smile)

 

1. Some remarkable emotion pictures came out this week! Below is a selection of a few of our favorites:

 

2. New means of transportation.

This flying car, designed for ‘the masses’:

And this new Cadillac that runs on thorium, an element similar to uranium with the potential to produce massive amounts of heat. According to Laser Power Systems CEO, Charles Stevens, just one gram of thorium produces more energy than 28,000 litres of petrol. Mr Stevens says just eight grams of thorium would be enough to power a vehicle for its entire life.

cadillac thorium

 

3. Shirley Chisholm is the 2014 inductee to the USPS Black Heritage Stamp Series.

chisholm

 

4. The art of Vanessa German: 21st Century Juju

Artist statement: New work by visual and performance artist Vanessa German. Inspired by hand-me down hands, treasure picked up on the street corner, midnight prostitutes on the stroll, Jordan Miles, post traumatic stress disorder and playing music too loud. Inspired by, dr. edda fields black, dianne b. swan, yona Harvey, taking matters into your own hands and the ricochet of the transcontinental slave trade. Inspired by, the western coast of Africa, the east coast of the Carolinas, the east end of Pittsburgh and random gun violence. Inspired by the difference between racism and prejudice, treyvon martin, dr. martin luther king jr and the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Inspired by, speaking in tongues, tongues speaking in hands, and instantaneously healing by the sight of a thing.

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5. Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway

This is from Snarky Puppy’s project “Family Dinners Vol. 1″ and it changed my life in so many ways. The transitions are seamless and exquisite, the arrangement is life-giving, and the songstress changes the game at 6:11.

 

6. Happy birthday to the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti, father of Afrobeat!

 

7. Jeremy Sole’s DJ set at Bodega (LA)

 

8. Rachel Khaadzi Gansah’s essay, entitled “De origine actibusque aequationis,” on the otherworldliness of Black expression. An excerpt:

“In that same way, black Americans are conceived from a people whose fates, identities, and woes were decided by a doorway, and only a strange saga with strange letters can say how.

Those who were taken walked through that doorway and were told they had become something different from those who stayed behind, and in some ways they had. They forgot many things, and wondered how their mouths and muscles remembered things for them: recipes, movements, and stories. They crossed an ocean so still and so wide they must have imagined they had left earth and ended up elsewhere. Like all lost mariners, they learned to become astronomers, they kept their eyes on the gourd. When they landed they heard the word, Animals. And they thought, No, Aliens.”

 

9. Pharrell interviews Spike Lee

Part 1

Part 2

 

10. RECORD/PLAY: a short film by Jesse Atlas

 

The W List 10.2.13

W-LIST-W

VOLUME X. 10.02.13

We hereby present to you the Wondaland W LIST….a funky gathering of remarkable art i facts and experiences guaranteed to keep you balanced and on the tightrope for at least the next seven days…

(in no particular order, but arrayed in a fashion to make you smile)

 

1. Jenifer Lewis drops science on the art of living at the premier of Baggage Claim.

2. C-STUNNERS: a series of artistic bifocals by this Kenyan self-taught sculptor and painter Cyrus Kabiru.

3. Afrofuturistic menswear by Ikire Jones

Escape to New Lagos: An imagining of Lagos in the year 2081 A.D.  The Great Crude Explosion has just occurred; leaving oil flowing freely through the streets of the slums.  Politicians have been exiled at the heels of bomb blasts and the populace’s uprising.  The building of a new Center of the World has begun, much to the bewilderment of Western nations.  This is the birth of New Lagos…and men of taste are wearing Ikiré Jones.

4. FIXTAPE

Deep Cotton’s release of the Runaway Radio Fixtape! Get yours here.

5. Andrew Dosunmu and Bradford Young team up for yet another stunning film project, this one starring the gorgeous Danai Gudira.

6. Herman Wallace, of the Angola 3, was released from prison yesterday (October 1, 2013). Wallace spent 41 of his 71 years in solitary confinement for allegedly participating in the murder of a prison guard; Wallace denies the allegations and believes he is confined for founding a chapter of the Black Panther Party within the prison, along with Albert Woodfox and Robert King. Woodfox was released from solitary confinement last year upon winning habeas relief, but the haters are appealing the decision. King was released after 29 years in solitary confinement as part of a reversal of his conviction and a plea deal.

A young Herman Wallace following his arrest for armed robbery.

Albert Woodfork and Herman Wallace, 2 of the Angola 3.

Wallace is expected to live days or weeks due to liver cancer.

7. Here’s a lil ditty by fellow afropunksters Blood Sugar X of Blackball Universe:

8. Nigeria celebrates 53 years of independence from British colonial rule! Happy Independence Day, Nigeria, and thank you for millenia of phenomenally inspiring art, science, and history.

 

9. Ayana V Jackson’s series Archival Impulse & Poverty Pornography

 

10. This magical collab between The Roots + Sesame Street on Jimmy Fallon: