Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queer Flash Mob!

Okay, so there has been some discussion on the event page for the Flash Mob about the effectiveness of this planned action, and I wanted to open up the discussion here. A few people have questioned the effectiveness of using PDA as a means of legitimizing queer sexualities and relationships. Below are my thoughts on the matter, and I'd love to hear what anyone else has to say about it! I'm glad this is provoking discussion and critical thought and I really appreciate the feedback! I'll first include some details about what exactly this mysterious queer flash mob thing is.

First things first: the definition of the word "queer". For the intents and purposes of this event, queer is not your sexual orientation but your approach to sexuality. Heterosexual people can be queer. It just means that you prioritize open communication, consent, respect for yourself and your partner, and that you resist gender norms and patriarchal/heteronormative approaches to sex.

A FLASH MOB is when a group of people suddenly perform a synchronized action (like a dance routine or a flash-freeze) in a public setting for a short period of time. Here is an example:

At class change on Cougar Mall we are going to get a large number of people who are paired off into couples (hetero/homo/whatevs) to make out, hold hands, sit in each others laps, suck each others toes, pet each other, WHATEVER (yay!) for 2 or so minutes. Then we all walk away like at the end of the video. This event is meant to increase queer visibility on campus, normalize all types of relationships, and to have fun!

Here is one of the challenges to this idea: "because PDA itself has such a stigma, i feel like using it to try to normalize queer relations won't be really effective. i mean, fun for sure, but not effective. and hand-holding, while it definitely says, "hey, these two people totally have more than just a casual friendship!" to most people, is also kind of ambiguous, and a flash-mob of hand-holding seems like it doesn't entirely get the point across, or might not even be noticeable. the tricky part is finding an activity that isn't offensive in and of itself to most people, but would still get noticed. i'm not sure, but maybe cuddling would work? cuddling is pretty innocent, but it still conveys intimacy."

and another: "If the two main arguments AGAINST 'queer' relationships being a-ok are as follows
1. It is a sin, as denoted by faith in a particularly stringent religion
2. It is 'icky', as denoted by people who carry a latent dislike of homosexual encounters for other reasons
having a mass demonstration of either 1. a 'sin' or 2. a 'gross behavior' will do nothing for those that dislike the lifestyle other than demonstrate who they know that partakes in it
I am just concerned about the efficacy of this action. I mean, if you just wanna make out with a bunch of people, you don't need to hide it under a 'protest'!"

Relevant and lovely feedback! Here is what I have to say about this:

PDA could certianly be an immediate turnoff. Who hasn’t wanted to shout “get a room” to some gross couple before? However, there are a few key things I am thinking of when I think about the effectiveness of our planned approach. I have felt, and I can only speak for myself, that it is less okay for a same-sex couple to be affectionate in public. I’ve been in the situation with guys and girls, and I always feel a little bit on edge when it’s with a girl. There’s part of me that’s waiting for some kind of negative reactionary response, or just feels like I am being watched. And every once in a while I have gotten inappropriate responses, especially at night or in a casual social situation like a bar. It feels uncomfortable, and can feel shitty and intimidating, especially when there's no one to back you up. I think it will be affirming for me to be able to express my affection for another woman in public with a lot of supportive people around who are also out there asserting the legitimacy of their relationships and sexualities. So, maybe some of the effectiveness of this action is for the people in the mob, not just the people watching. But I think that by reaffirming the legitimacy of all romantic relationships and normalizing all configurations of relationships, we’ll also be sending the message that whatever you dig is okay and deserves a place to be recognized publicly. Hetero couples are constantly reaffirmed in this way. We are always presented “romantic” or “cute” images of hetero couples in the media and out in public, and while I think it’s great for that particular type of relationship to be affirmed, it’s not great that we are presented only with that model. A certain level of PDA is acceptable generally in our society, especially among younger people, and while our point is not “hey, we should have the right to mack in public just like the rest of the world”, I think that to say it’s not okay to have public representations of queer sexualities (being expressed in a respectful way, as with any sexuality) is unfair.
As far as nuts and bolts go, our top priority is the mobbers’ comfort. We want everyone to feel safe and supported, so any type of interaction people feel comfortable having in public is what we want them to do—and yeah, the holding hands thing might be subtle, that’s okay. Some people will be hugging/cuddling and that’s great too. And some people will be heartily sucking face, and yeah, maybe that’s a little gross, but if we are focused on it being gross because it’s PDA and not because it’s two girls or two guys or two what-the-hell-are-you-anyways, then we’re still getting the point, aren’t we? If some people are so reactive to two people kissing that they can’t think critically about the situation, then in my opinion that’s a casualty of the type of theatrical, in-your-face activism we are doing here. If no one at all who sees it gets it, but the people in the mob feel affirmed and supported, that’s good enough for me. You may not agree, and that’s good—if you have an idea that you think would get the point across better I’d love to hear it and support it. The more activism the better, there is certainly no one right way!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Summary: Leadership Committee Meetings every Thursday at 8:30, Queer Flash Mob in the works reply if interested, Co-ed meeting was awesome, emails will now be a once-a-week thing going out on Fridays. Yay!

Hello lovelies!

Our co-ed meeting this Sunday was frik-frakkin awesome! Lot’s of new faces and good conversation. Thanks to everyone who came and shared!

At the last Leadership Committee meeting we decided 1.) Leadership Committee Meetings will now happen every Thursday at 8:30 (locations TBA) and 2.) The title “Leadership Committee” isn’t accurate so we want to change it. Sorry with all the confusion and multitude of meetings lately, we’re workin on it!

This week’s leadership meeting will take place in the CofC Library in study room 236. We will all meet behind the library at 8:30 (please try to be on time!) and go up together. If you need directions don’t hesitate to ask!

So far, this is what’s on the agenda for this week’s meeting:
1.) Really Really Free Market
2.) Changing name of these organizational meetings.
3.) How we are going to decide what happens with our money
4.) Queer Flash Mob
5.) Chantelle and Jenna have a project proposal to present
6.) Queerfest, setting a date
7.) Setting dates/locations for next discussion meetings
8.) Jacksonville Art Show, possible field trip woo!
9.) Manifesta, our very own

Feel free to add things to the agenda if you want, and I hope anyone who wants to help organize will come on Thursday and share ideas! Though there is quite a bit on the agenda we're going to keep things expedient. And the meeting WILL start on time!

See you then!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Labels (from the last co-ed meeting)

This is something I got to thinking about when we were talking at the last meeting about the significance of labels, e.g. 'the heterosexual queer' and 'are you a lesbian or a dyke.' It has to do with a point Foucault makes in his History of Sexuality. The stuff in brackets and the bold text is mine, not necessarily Foucault’s.

“This new persecution of the peripheral sexualities [queer or ‘deviant’] entailed an incorporation of perversions and a new specification of individuals...The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage [an identity], [which includes] a past [“she were just done wrong by a man”], a case history [“she used say she was a lesbian, but...”], and a childhood [“he’s gay because his mother didn’t hug him enough”] addition to being a type of life...with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology [the “gay gene”] was a secret that always gave itself away...less as a habitual sin than as a singular nature.

Later Foucault says, “It [queer sexuality] was implanted in bodies, slipped in beneath modes of conduct, made into a principle of classification and intelligibility, established as a raison d’etre and a natural order of disorder. Not the exclusion of these thousand aberrant sexualities, but the specification, the regional solidification of each one of them. The strategy behind this dissemination was to strew reality with them and incorporate them into the individual.”

So, the western capitalist power structure wants you to think about sexuality as something inside you, a secret/inner self that you confess to or do not confess to. This is kind of like how some people say modern Christianity brings God down into you, where you have a personal relationship in your heart, and you’re just either “saved” or “not saved” in your heart. A different way to think about sexuality might be when you hear someone say, “When I’m with a guy, I’m straight, when I’m with a girl, I’m a lesbian.” Obviously there are lots of different cultures throughout history with lots of different ways of thinking about sexuality.

Foucault emphasizes that this secret sexual self is the sort of thing you confess to. Think about when you talk to someone about their sexuality. They usually have some story to relate about telling a family member or friend. There are all these important, powerful moments of confession.

So, Foucault says, “The power which thus took charge of sexuality set about contacting bodies, caressing them with its eyes, intensifying areas, electrifying surfaces, dramatizing troubled moments. It wrapped the sexual body in its embrace. There was undoubtedly an increase in effectiveness and an extension of the domain controlled [what two women do in the privacy of their own home]; but also a sensualization of power and a gain of pleasure...the intensity of the confession renewed the questioner’s curiosity; the pleasure discovered fed back to the power that encircled it. But so many pressing questions singularized the pleasures felt by the one who had to reply. They were fixed by a gaze, isolated and animated by the attention they received. Power operated as a mechanism of attraction; it drew out those peculiarities over which it kept watch. Pleasure spread to the power that harried it; power anchored the pleasure it uncovered.”

My point is that labels are not just labels. It makes sense that some people bristle at bisexuality. In a way, it is a betrayal of this deeply inner yes/no self, that is so important in pleasure, that is a turn-on. But we should worry, because this inner yes/no idea reinforces the power structure by constantly forcing us to examine ourselves for inconsistencies between this secret self and the self we are in public, which leads to isolation and alienation. Foucault wants to remind us that the patriarchy is not just something “out there.” It is inextricable from our pleasures, and can apparently even find its way into the discourse of hardcore activists.

Monday, November 9, 2009

WoCo Meetings!

[Message summery: Leadership meeting Thursday 9:00 at 322B Sumter to discuss QueerFest
and Really Really Free Market.]

Womyn and Myn!!

We had a mini-meeting tonight to discuss where we are going to put our money and decided to go with First Reliance. At the co-ed meeting on Sunday we will be discussing the appointment of a treasurer. We’ll be taking names for the position and putting it to a vote.

Alright, the next leadership meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 9:00 at 322B Sumter. The agenda has been set so that we can keep things efficient: we have a lot to go over!

First off, we mustmustmust set a date for QueerFest. For those who don’t know, QueerFest is going to be the third installment after the Boob Show and the Gender Show. The basic idea is to challenge the heteronormative conception of sexuality. This time we’re gonna spread the event out over a weekend to include the art show and the music show. We’re looking into bringing in Team Gina, Scream Club, Athens Boys Choir, and, in our wildest dreams, Invincible. Either way it's gonna be fabulous. So, we need to set a date so we can start contacting the bands. We’re thinking April. Think about what would be the best time, and bring yr ideas! Further QueerFest planning will insue after Thanksgiving.

Okay, next up: Really Really Free Market. This is coming up super soon. We will be discussing our involvement in the event, from financial to physical support.

Further, we need to discuss our financial matters in general, and where we’re gonna be putting our money. (Yay we have money to put places! Go us! Go Blume!)

FINALLY, I want to start discussing the conception Jenna and I have been putting together and decide whether we want it to be a Women’s Collective event. Here’s the deal: Queer Makeout Flash Mob. Details to come.

Stay Radical, Caitlin

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Here is the new calendar for this seriously busy month, in more..homemade short-notice form. It's a lil' sloppy, if you have any questions, please e-mail!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What is feminist leadership?

Hello blogosphere!

The WoCo Leadership Committee had a really heated meeting last Thursday, during which we discussed our burgeoning leadership structure - what it is, where it's headed, and our vision(s) for what it should become. It got me thinkin' about what (radical) feminist leadership/organizing means, and I want to know how other people feel as well.

I want to share my thoughts to start things off, but I understand that they're equitable to one tiny amoeba in a whole ocean of ideas. I'm excited to get feedback and hear your challenges - whether it's in person or in the comments section. That said -

For me, truly collective, visionary, feminist leadership is necessarily non-hierarchical and transparent. When we organize ourselves hierarchically (even without meaning to), with unequal distributions of power and little discussion about what that means, we're simply mimicking the very patriarchal, capitalistic systems of organization that we purport to resist. I think that it is truly disingenuous and conflictual to claim radical feminist ethics and a grassroots approach and yet organize ourselves in the same bullshit bureaucratic way as the rest of the world. In fact, I think forming that way would ultimately make our larger goals impossible.

That doesn't mean that I think some people shouldn't have definitive positions, or that I'm delusional enough to believe that the power will be distributed evenly at all times. Instead, I think that we should make a conscious, consistent effort to spread the power as equitably as possible, which ultimately means realizing when we're doing (or simply receiving) too much, and when we're doing (or receiving) too little. We need to brave enough to both step up and step back (the latter is particularly difficult for me). This sort of horizontal organization is crucial because it's the only way each individual's talents and contributions can be realized, and it's the only way we can prevent a stagnant, traditionally bureaucratic organization from forming.

I don't think this is an easy task. It takes a group of truly committed, passionate, largely selfless people to achieve something like this. It also requires that each person is open to fair criticism - including personal criticism. We need to think critically about ourselves and our roles and constantly reevaluate our motivations. We also need to think carefully - and compassionately! - about our fellow organizers, and be brave enough to approach each other with legitimate concerns.

Here's a link to an excellent essay on anti-authoritarian organizing. I read it my freshman year of college and it really informed how I think and feel about leadership structure. Near the beginning of the essay, the author posits two questions I hope we're all working to answer:

How can leadership development help us build mass-based, multiracial, anti-racist, feminist, anti-capitalist movements with visible leadership from women, queers, transgendered people and working class people of all colors? How can we talk about leadership without creating the image of two or three people leading us, but the millions of people, in their communities, who are right now leading progressive social change around the world?

Thanks for reading! Lemme know what you think!
Love, Micah