WELCOME to G(TOWN)-SPOT, a grassroots, for-the-students-by-the-students feminist community!
For those of you who haven’t heard of Alison Bechdel, you are missing out. I have just finished my second read-through of her comedy strip compilation “The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For” and am already gearing up for my third round. Her comic strip revolves around the lives of a group of lesbians, their romantic relationships, activism, mid-life crises and the general chaos of their lives. She touches on issues of commitment, marriage, cooptation of activism, grassroots movements, lesbian feminism, cheating, non-monogamy, bisexuality, trans-phobia within the lesbian community, racism, raising children and the difficulties of coming out. All of this is presented to the reader in a way that is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, cringe, shake your head and nod in agreement. Bechdel does an incredible job of tapping into the dynamics of tight-knit lesbian communities and poking fun at it while also highlighting the uniqueness of lesbian-feminist existence. Highly recommended.
Written by: Marion 4.20.09
It’s hard to put into words what I experienced last night, but I’m a’gunna try. At about 9 pm I headed to Casa Trans to meet up with the others and prepare for a long night out on the streets. After giving me the DL on what to expect, how to interact and the general ways of the streets, I went out on my first big night patrol with Casa Trans. For the past 7 years, Casa Trans has gone out every Friday and Saturday night to join transgendered sex workers, talk with them about their work, discuss their constitutional rights, hand out lube and condoms and build a steady and growing relationship. There are two main areas of town (practically on opposite ends of the city) where trans-women sex workers congregate to work. We went first to street corner in la Mariscal, one of the main partying districts in the city. Over the years, Casa Trans and the trans-women working on the streets have built up a very interesting and complex relationship complete with codes of conduct and mutual expectations. As we approached the corner, about 5 sex workers saw us and prepared to cross the street to meet us. Just as they were about to cross, a police officer drove by and they all turned and quickly walked in the other direction to avoid an unwanted interaction with the officers. Finally making it over to them, the two other people from Casa Trans introduced me to the trans-women, explaining who I was and why I was accompanying them. I began talking with them nervously, hoping that they wouldn’t mind the presence of a gringa (foreigner) in their working territory. Ana and the others from casa trans had informed me that if they felt comfortable with me, they would show their acceptance by offering me a drink. After a while on the street in the pouring rain (I was dressed in a full rain gear whereas the women working were dressed in mini-skirts, high heels and bras…brrr) they finally passed the bottle of alcohol to me in a silent gesture of acceptance. We passed a few hours on that corner, watching as they went off with clients to the close by hostel and talking with them about their work when they came back. Well into the night, we said our goodbyes and began to walk away towards the next street a few miles away where we would meet the other group of sex workers. As we began to walk away, we saw a speeding police truck with a trans-woman sex worker in the back, handcuffed to a metal bar. It was raining, she was dressed in a bra and skirt, and the truck was driving violently through the streets. Knowing that this was a violation of police protocol (to handcuff someone in the back of a truck in the pouring rain), we turned to follow the truck towards the station. The police were not responsive to us and all claimed not to know what we were talking about but fortunately we caught the number of the police truck so we can call in and report the incident. As we walked to the next street, they explained to me that the police officers would probably be beating her up, possibly harassing her sexually and no doubt verbally.
The next area was very distinct from the previous one. It was a much more intimidating situation to walk into because there were about 15 workers and two of them were obviously “las dueñas de la calle” (the owners of the street). They immediately began to grill me with questions – who I am, where I’m from, why I was there, am I hetero, do I have a partner, what do I think of sex work, and so on. There was a very distinct hierarchy amongst them but also an immediately noticeable solidarity that they shared. The youngest workers, about 14 and 15, had to pay a sort of tax to the two “bosses” because they generally got more work and were newer to that street. We passed the night/morning talking, listening to their discussions, watching them arrange deals with their clients, drinking and receiving the occasional harassments from officers and citizens. I could sense that they had begun to feel more comfortable with me when they began to joke with me, offer me drinks and explain more personal aspects of their work to me. Just as we were about to leave, one of “las dueñas” began to explain to us how difficult it is for them when Casa Trans is not present. During the week, she explained, when we are alone, the violence and harassment escalates to a level that you wouldn’t understand. With you (casa trans) here, we know we can tell the police officers that we have rights and that we are members of Casa Trans, and we feel empowered. But when you leave, they don’t listen to us. They harass us, violate us and abuse us. As we walked away from the corner at the end of the night (really morning), the other two explained to me that this was usually how their nights ended. The difficulty of their work, they explained, is figuring out how to continue building this solidarity and providing the workers with resources while also trying to avoid a building a sense of dependency. Our discussions with the workers ranged from light topics such as make-up, clothes, and sex techniques to extremely heavy discussions about fear of HIV/AIDS, deaths of their friends, poverty, violence, and hatred. I ended the night soaked in rain, a bit buzzed by the “acceptance” alcohol and deep in thought about what I had learned and experienced throughout the night.
Written by: Marion 3.28.09
When do you think you will be ready? They keep telling me that you need your time. Time to process. Time to adjust. To collect the shattered pieces of your expectations for my life and remold them into something foreign and uncomfortable. They keep saying that with time you will learn to accept it. When did you start to view your daughter as an IT?
Please mom and dad. I don’t want to be loved in spite of my lesbianism. I don’t want to be susceptible to your acceptance or rejection. I don’t want to wait to feel safe, supported, open. I am stuck in this sinking sandbox of internalized homophobia and every time we don’t talk about your lesbian daughter I sink deeper and deeper. The homophobia that runs thick in your blood invades my veins and arteries and shoots straight to my heart.
Societal rejection pisses me off. The globally perpetuated heterosexism and hatred aimed at my community makes my life distinct from yours. More dangerous. More hate-filled. More obstacle-ridden. More threatened. But this societal rejection is geared at an entire community. And with that community, I can take the hands of others under the same roof and build something so indestructible that even the strongest winds of hatred couldn’t knock us down. But you. Your rejection is only aimed at your daughter. Me. The only hands I have to join with are my own. It is this rejection that has the capacity to wear me down, to make me weak.
They keep saying that it is okay to be angry. That with time things will change. If time is the answer then what can I expect from today? Maybe I am greedy and unreasonable, but I want to feel change today. I want my mom to ask me how my girlfriend is doing with the same genuine tone she uses to ask my brother about his girlfriend. I want to talk to you both about the times when I feel unsafe or fearful due to my sexual orientation. I want you to be enraged by, rather than part of, the hatred aimed at your daughter. I want you to understand my happiness. I want you to celebrate with me in the streets, in our home and with our family. I want you to ask questions, to listen to my experiences, to open your eyes and re-acquaint yourself with your daughter.
Maybe I want too much too soon.
Exactly one hundred years ago today, the Socialist Party of America deemed this day International Women's Day. Congratulations to all! I would like to request that everyone reading this entry close their eyes and imagine about 15,000 women, dressed in early 1900's garb (specifically 1908) marching through the streets of New York City, fighting for voting rights and labor rights. Amazing, eh? It was in 1909 that the first International Women's Day was officially celebrated, and it is currently an official holiday in most Eastern European and Asian countries. Check out http://www.internationalwomensday.com for more info!
It's amazing, really, how many times people ask me, "Why are you feminist? Don't women have equal rights now and all that stuff?" Right.
It has been 100 years and women still make 77 cents to the man's dollar.
Somehow, it is still peachy keen to plaster the billboards of the world with photos of men gang-raping women because, and correct me if I'm wrong and have just been living under a rock somewhere, that is the way to sell a pair of pants.
FGM...domestic violence...the assumption that I know how to bake cookies...
"Though this be madness-yet there is method in't." Million points to anyone who knows where that quote comes from.
So, dear friends, what's the method behind this madness? Why is it that some people can see the madness and others cannot? Well, I reckon that is why we are here...educating each other, learning from each other, and breaking apart what has or has not been taught.
Crazy, isn't it?
I am a Survivor!
I participated in the cast of the Vagina Monologues again this year. As a senior, I am sad for the experience to be over. As a freshman, my
feminist friend dragged a group of us to see the show and for the first time I experienced the power of the monologues. I'd actually never heard of them before, but I left speechless. The experience
opened a door of discussion amongst my closest friends and today none of us are shy about talking about our sexuality. In fact, if I were to be honest we are a little too loud when talking
about it in public places. Still it took me two years to get up the courage to try out. Last year, I was part of a monologue about the problems facing transsexual woman, it was called "They Beat."
This was a far cry from the piece I preformed this year, aptly titled: "CUNT!"
My first experience tapped in to a part of me that had my sexuality trampled upon. It was cathartic to work through those emotions. This year I spoke as a woman who in reclaiming the use of a pejorative word was able to reclaim her own life and her own sexuality. My directors, or facilitators as they preferred to be thought of, helped me find a place inside myself - a memory, a moment in time where I felt the giddiness that comes from conquering the world and the power of being affirmed by it. Yet in that same moment I felt the pain and hurt of people words and actions. For me it was a moment in an elevator.
1 in 4 women in their life will be sexually abused or assaulted. I was one of them. I am a survivor. And yet as much as the abuse itself was painful and life altering, the response of people around me was soul crushing. It took me years to realize that if people didn't want to support me, I didn't need nor want their support. I realized that in an elevator on a sunny late September day. My family and I were leaving the courthouse from a sentencing hearing. My abuser was going to jail, I felt like I could conquer anything. As we climbed into the elevator, so too did my abuser's friends - they were also the parents of some of my best friends from high school. I wasn't and to this day don't remain on speaking terms with any of them. But even though I left the courtroom feeling validated, I felt weak and scared in that elevator.
I have always been upfront about my own history fueling my participating in the Monologues, but when my director approached me about being interviewed for an article in The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, I froze. There was a part of me that wanted to talk about it, but there was a part of me that was still scared. I was scared that the way people reacted to me years ago - as if I had the plague - would happen all over again. In some ways people's responses hurt worse than the abuse itself. People wondered why it took me years to come forward, and when the truth came out my worst fears were realized. I was afraid of being hurt all over again.
I realized that if I didn't talk about it I would only be allowing those fears to fester and I would only be allowing those fears to fester in other women. There is a world of women out there that have been molested and abused. There is a world of women who are hurting. I am one of them. All I know is that if we don't talk about it- the positive and negative parts of sex, about the painful parts of our sexuality, if we don't talk about these things - then they become taboo and we are made to feel shameful about them by society. We are made to feel shameful about parts of ourselves. No one should feel that, ever!
I can't go back to that moment in the elevator and tell those people "shame on you" for standing behind a child molester, for supporting him. I can't tell them that they make me sick. I can't tell them they were wrong. I know they felt they were doing the right thing at the time and with hindsight I now see that in a situation such as that, there really isn't a "right-thing." But last week in screaming the word "CUNT!" to a room full of a hundred strangers, I found myself somehow telling the world that with one word I and I alone will define how I feel about myself and there is no derogatory word in any language, there is nothing anyone can do to me, that can make me feel otherwise.
When it came down to it I knew I had to speak up, because I wish someone had spoken up when I was hurting. If you are reading this and have been abused, or raped, or assaulted I want you to know you are not alone. You will never be alone. There is a sisterhood of women ready to wrap their arms around you. I want to wrap my arms around you and cry with you and laugh with you. It will get better, the pain will lessen, and eventually you will be you again. In the meantime try screaming the word “CUNT!” on Copley Lawn; it’s quite the empowering and cathartic experience.
* Here at Georgetown CAPS can be reached at (202) 687-6985, or after hours at (202) 444-PAGE. They have helped me work through a lot of my own pain and issues. I would highly recommend them.
* There are also weekly Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Support Services through the Women's Center on the 3rd floor of Leavy. Jen Schweer, Sexual Assault Health Issues Coordinator will be in the Women’s Center every Wednesday from 4pm-6pm. If you have questions please contact the Center at 202-687-6359 or Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Ashley Howard. The author can be contacted through her blog at http://streetsofgeorgetown.blogspot.com/.
What is the G (town) spot? What does it do for us? Where can I find it? The G(town) spot is right at the intersection of when George doesn’t matter and when town is just an illusion. It is G for Grime, for that layer of ugliness we see and feel every day. It is God-Awful, it is Got-Damn, it is Guilty, it is Gluttony, it is all the rest. But it is also G for glorious, when we find that G(town) spot, it is GOT-DAMN you just hit it! It is grand, it is glee, it is grimy in that good way, it is God is gone and God is here and God is there and God is everywhere, it is Going at the top of my list. We’ve all got those G(town) spots, maybe even a few, all of us no matter what the Genitalia (Glibbly Grab your own all you want and others with that delicious enthusiastic consent) nor the race nor the class nor the ability nor the sexual orientation. It is not reserved for those who want it or don’t want it, it is for all of us. Just forget about George, he’s gone and dead and buried, let’s just focus on that spot, yes, yes, right there yes you’ve got it! Spill your love upon this page, neverminding who might comment anonymously! Yes, yes, oh, oh even if you don’t want to feel it throw it on there! Throw as many exclamation marks as you want, there are plenty for the rest of us and we all sound oh so unprofessional whenever we do it! Hit that G(town) spot, touch it, caress it, moan with it, ignore it, do whatever you want with it, it’s all of ours to roll on Red Square and scream with ecstasy at all the possibilities and Groan in execration at what we see right now, those are all things of worth right now. One might be tempted to say “Must we worry about this G(town) spot all of the time? Why must it always be on your mind.” Oh my dearie, it is not a chore to always believe that we can find more in G’s in our town, to discover those new ones everyday and tell those old ones you love them just the same as three months ago. It is more than about that pleasure, that moment, that sound to top it off, it all lies in being free to find our G(town) spots wherever they may lie and creating our own. It is about making everyday not about pain, where you see George standing over you with his giant cloak. It is not always about the spot, but it always seems to boil down to it, doesn’t it? Why can’t George just leave the rest of the G’s alone and discover that he himself could share in being the Greatest G-force? So this is what it is! Find, create, destroy, rediscover, share, bump and Grind, cry, jump, sing, turn that thing on its time to Get rocking, turn the music down let’s make an atmosphere, this is all for you! Here is our G(town) Spot, please enjoy responsibly.
Written by: Jared
5 March 2009
Casa Trans is located in central-south Quito and operates as one of the main meeting spots for feminist activists in the city. When I first arrived in Quito, I struggled finding any openly queer (or even outspoken feminist) spaces and started to believe what everyone was telling me – that because of the extreme Catholicism in the country, queer people existed mostly underground, mostly closeted and in an overall oppressed state. Immediately after attending my first meeting at la Casa, I realized just how wrong that regionalist assessment is.
Six transgendered activists live in Casa Trans but every night at 6:30 it fills with feminists, lesbians, trans-women, trans-men, sex workers (of all gender expressions), bi-gendered folks, and so on. It is worth mentioning that I have yet to run into a gay man at la casa and very few bisexuals. Bit by bit, I am beginning to understand the dynamics of the community and the history of the movement. The constitution here actually includes a mountain of protections for transgendered folks as well as the L´s and G´s of the community. For example, the constitution states that the government and its officials must respect every persons identified gender and address them with their preferred pronoun. This means that transgendered people can change their ID´s to match their identified image and gender. Additionally, the constitution guarantees rights to all ¨Alternative Families.¨ Although same-sex marriage is strictly banned in the country, this means that groups like Casa Trans can be considered a legal family and receive the benefits that come along with that. While gay men in the country are largely fighting for marriage equality and HIV-AIDS related struggles, the LBT movement has rejected the institution of marriage and prefers to focus more on a holistic vision of health (which would include a lot of the health problems afflicting pregnant lesbians, transgendered sex workers and so on.) As incredible as these strides have been, the LGBT community continues to confront strong opposition, institutionalized violence and daily threats. Just one month ago, a transgendered sex worker was killed in the streets of Quito.
During my time with Casa Trans, I have been able to participate in and witness various creative protests and political actions which have undoubtedly proven my classist and regionalist assumptions wrong about the ¨outness¨ of the LGBT community here. The most recent action was a skit in which we acted out a scene of lesbians being taken away to a correctional facility (a common occurrence here). Casa Trans is also working on a large project to incorporate more of the indigenous Trans community, so as part of that objective we will be travelling to a small coastal community this weekend to put on a workshop about gender identity and build alliances with the community. Stay tuned for more….
Written by: Marion
On February 18th in an ICC classroom, Georgetown students witnessed a coming of age story, exploring an affirmation of identity and female freedom of expression in the film "Dunia" that was
presented by Project Nur, in conjunction with the African Society of Georgetown, and the Women's Center. The event included a belly dance performance and a presentation by Hazami Barmada, President
& Executive Director of the Progressive Muslim Network (PMN) and active member of the Muslim Women in the Arts organization. The film's protagonist, Dunia, studies poetry and belly dancing in
Egypt. She seeks a personal artistic expression as a response to her struggle with experiencing desire due to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The showing of this film on campus raised the concern of
FGM and the issue of women's rights, but more importantly the female diversity within the Muslim community in the United States and internationally. The film was part of the second DC Muslim Film
Festival, which presents a chance to see the world through a different lens and engage the Muslim community.
Project Nur (PN) is a "new light on campus," a revolutionary student group creating a new Muslim identity on college campuses to foster a different Muslim voice: a civic identity with moderate thinking and action, one that dispels the perception of a monolithic Muslim voice. With the belief that responsible leadership is the remedy for pressing the challenges facing the American-Muslim community, including the stereotypes after the 9/11 attacks, efforts of Project Nur leaders are organized around the fundamental guiding principles of nonviolence, equality, and free expression.
Young activists are promoting a different voice to college campuses that explores the multifaceted Muslim community. Within this scope, an issue Ms. Barmada raised during the talk centered on the question of what defines a Muslim woman. Is it wearing a hijab? Is it being Arab? These two questions are constantly being imposed on Muslim women because in contemporary issues the attention has been placed on Muslim women, especially those in Afghanistan, who are depicted wearing burqas in almost every media outlet.
It seems like every time there is a discussion about Islamic law and gender, incidents of FGM, bride burning, and honor killings dominate the conversation. Although these are discussions that need to take place, the extent of our interest in the Muslim world is limited by what is covered in the media. Society must divert from popular media tactics and examine the cultural differences between Muslim women who reside in many parts of the world. I understand that our tendency to generalize things simplifies those cultures, religions, languages, and values that are foreign to us, but what is so wrong with delving into each society and studying them, separately? When there is talk about the Muslim world, most people tend to focus solely on the Middle East and North Africa, yet there are Muslims in South Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, India), Western Europe (France, UK, Germany), Eastern Europe (Azerbaijan), Southern Europe (Turkey, Albania), West Africa (Senegal, Nigeria), East Asia (China), Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia) and North America (the United States and Canada) as well as many other places. The Muslim world touches many borders, just like any other community of peoples.
If we are to consider the effects of FGM on women like Dunia, we must also question who is imposing such practices and if women are also represented in these decisions. Without integrating a female Muslim voice in human rights discussions and decisions, the Muslim communities will fail to see any achievement on such issues. Thus, Project Nur aims to diverge from just the religious identity of Muslims, to the societal and communitarian one. If society does not apply a Catholic label to those "Western" countries who identify with the religion, and acknowledges differences in the West (from Europe to North America), then it too must apply the same standards to the Muslim world. Yes this complicates discussions, but then again humans must never stop questioning and learning about cultures different from their own. The world is complicated and if society continues to simplify it, then it will fail to recognize the inherent beauty of female diversity.
Written By: Frances Dávila
Kumari Mayawati, known more commonly simply as “Mayawati,” is an unmarried woman from India’s lowest case, the Dalits. Mayawati works as a teacher, lawyer, and politician, but had her humble
beginnings from a family of leather workers. She is currently the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. In 2007 she led her party, Bahujan Samaj, to majority control of the state,
surprising many with an unprecedented political coalition between high and low castes that ultimately won control. She is now a serious contender for prime minister. Among the party’s political goals
are economic emancipation and social transformation. Mayawati considers herself committed to the rights of the poor, and has already secured more representation for the Dalits, seeming truly
dedicated to transcending castes and religions.
Mayawati has been a controversial figure. Her opponents accuse her of scandal and corruption, claiming she has illegally acquired millions of dollars worth of property and gifts. Her and her supporters, however, vehemently deny these allegations as politically motivated. Despite some controversy, she continues to apparently be quite popular, and has recently been included in the Forbes list of World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
Written by: Isabel