Andrea Smith’s foreword in Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia states, “a liberatory vision for immigrant rights is one that is based less on pathways to citizenship in a settler state, than on questioning the logics of the settler state itself.” This expansion of decolonization, a revolution to undo “zones of invisibility, exclusion, and death,” requires a radical vision and daily practice of justice. For those of us who are not indigenous to the nations we occupy, liberation is no longer a theoretical space you can opt in and out.
Undoing Border Imperialism is a collective expression of a migrant justice movement grounded in healing justice. Starting from a place of opportunity, “as a prefiguring framework, decolonization grounds us in an understanding that we have already inherited generations of evolving wisdom about living freely and communally” Walia shows us a future few movement theory books dare dream. Through various entry points in the book, which are beautifully supported by poets, philosophers, and activist’s lived experiences, the reader is profoundly transformed.
Undoing is not used haphazardly nor as a metaphor. We are asked to enthusiastically have a decolonized orientation to self and others. The systems few move through with ease are relational, which is political and embodied. Borders are human-made. That’s one clear justification for resisting violence with nonviolent direct action. If one needs a concrete example, follow #NoDAPL.
Chapter 3 entitled Overgrowing Hegemony: Grassroots Theory puts everything into perspective. Consider this your manifesto.
Given all the power-over we have internalized, traumas we have metabolized, and walls and hierarchies we have maintained between one another, it is imperative that we unravel and confront these effects of border imperialism within our movements as we work to dismantle the systems that propagate it.
Name it. Analyze how power functions and distorts. Commit to steering “movement strategies and relations toward collective liberation.” This requires consent, accountability, and communication that is transformative, not transactional.
We all have a role in this vision.
Strategy cannot be applied in a cookie-cutter approach; it requires collective deliberation, trial and error, and reflection. It necessitates a willingness to experiment, and make mistakes, and humility to change our ways.
Syed Khalid Hussan’s epilogue is a reminder that “our actions are just as much visceral as they are analytical, theoretical, or intellectual.” It’s time to declare that we are no longer obligated to be monogamous in identity, story, or victory. However, we are bound to practice compassion, respect, forgiveness, and evolve our ways of being in community with each other. Walia, and the voices she shares this revolution with, moves us beyond those never-ending conversations that center frameworks (talk). A tactic designed to distract and delay justice. This embodied power is found through a decolonizing praxis that honors generational resistance. To deny this is to remain complicit in settler logic.
We can, as Smith so clearly states, dismantle the logic of the settler state. And in its absence, we move freely with self-determination.
In a previous post, I coupled the early essays of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure as “academic stimulation with real-world sensations.” The chorus of voices throughout the remainder of the book continue on that path and give more support for using an erotic economic analysis. The production of porn is about selling pleasure, consuming (queer) desire, and fucking loving yourself.
Ingrid Ryberg in Every Time We Fuck, We Win pushes you to understand watching porn is witness to intimacy. It is telling that we have to learn to repress so much to fit into assumed historic preferences. Keiko Lane’s Imag(in)ing Possibilities spreads your psyche out with respect. Experiencing “fantasies made conscious” is a particular arousal of “embodied subjectivity.” That point of view, a corporeal validation, is useful. Porn can heal us if we experience it without shame or remorse. If you want to get the deepest and quickest purpose of this book, read Constance Penley’s A Feminist Teaching Pornography? She gives you the permission to study porn as film. We are the audience to a multi-dimensional experience from performer to director to public tastes.
Presentation matters: angles and agency. Lorelei Lee demonstrates that to the fullest. “Sexual desire and sexual identity are absolutely essential to the freely defined self.” Feminist porn performs power which is why it deserves its current patriarchal reputation. Own that what you feel from seeing is pleasurable. This feminist entertainment project is political. That’s no-fucks-given explicit from the begging to the end The Feminist Porn Book. As is Ariane Cruz’s call to “take up a politics of perversion, a disruptive shift in black feminist studies, to critically analyze the engagements of pleasure and power through pornography consumption, performance, and production.”
All anthologies straddle numerous opinions and I agree with Nina Hartley that “porn houses our sexual dreams, which are vitally important to our happiness.” The how – worker centered – is what makes feminist porn feminist. It is what mutual satisfaction looks like – good enough to share. Tristan Aormino knows both sides of the camera. I’ll watch sex that is “presented as joyful, fun, safe, mutual, and satisfying.” Sexual expressions of joy! Who would be against such imagery?
That was a larger question that was often left out of the frame. We hear and see enough of the anti-porn position. It was a nice reprieve from that way of thinking. The Feminist Porn Book repeatedly and gently reminds you to consume critically and honor consent always. Sexual expressions are exchanged as erotic capital and culturally produced whether we agree with it or not. That’s why having more porn that thinks and fucks like me is where I’ll be putting my hard-earned feminist dollars.
This time of year the radiator sings at night. The gray mornings are carbon copies of Cleveland’s skies. Those years full of bravado that only darkness holds or youth demands. To the east, the pastel light spins out into easter yellows, baby blues, and softened ripe peaches.
I watched him dip his boots into the fountain, one at a time, muddied from the urban forest he was paid to curate.
When we talk about the work be explicit.
Do you care
We all have somewhere to be
someone to hold (ourselves mostly)
accountable for what happens today.
that feeling when you are rendered invisible
that process when you have no ability to move forward
that entrenchment when you know everyone is battling each other’s evils
that line around and that territory where power thrives
There’s no good place to start this except with a quote by Richard Hugo, “You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.” I don’t have the right words to describe, accurately, my recent travels back east. The stories are too big, too real.
I tried to make room for these lived experiences in the time found between layovers. All those moving thoughts were supported by the background noise of airports and a soundtrack heard only by me.
I feel convinced by being witness to positive confrontation.
I’m storing a memory of the way the drapes, golden velvet from the ceiling to the floor, complimented the Bohemian crystal chandeliers in a room filled with the flurry of selfies and power. A memory heavy with pomp and a lot of circumstances. I want to remember, at will, what it felt like when I belonged and forget about the reasons why I believed I didn’t deserve to participate. Those memories are tender and should be taken seriously.
And the moment when the lights came back on to reveal a staged show for my anticipated arrival? That memory becomes an apt metaphor for this post that leaves me realizing I’ve told you nothing but the truth.
There are men who walk through the Redwoods
wearing slip-on shoes
in case they need to fly to Bermuda.
They are ready to visit their offshore accounts.
Behind glass walls, business moves
from one meeting to another.
The light shines like butter;
the cold air saturated with potential.
My thoughts hover on concepts of pace
[intersections and revolution].
Do you remember asking me
if I liked the style of dress or
how the dress fits the body?
Nostalgia has its own logistics.
If you cut my tongue,
I will still confess
I saw a deer sleeping
inside the Transbay Tube.
Last week, I took Saturn to get to work. I was transported through early morning light filtered between fast-moving fog. Patches of light illuminated an awakening city and a groggy thought: having money is relative, class is not.
Lately my days have been consumed with centering my sense of self in a world that does not hear my voice, no matter how loud or assimilated. I seek expressions that are creative, diverse, and evolved – not conditional.
When my mind wanders, it finds you. These willful transactions have underscored learning, consent, and discovery through exploration. I trust this voice; its cadence is drawn from failure.
From above, I saw how the earth had moved without our knowledge. Valleys had given themselves up to dominating elevations. Prairies were scraped flat, a different testimony to what glacial change means.
From above, I thought about: identity, obscenity, serenity.
The work was to empower the privileged to speak on behalf of silenced and marginalized voices. Advocating inside the offices of Capitol Hill, DC is a right afforded to few.
There were not enough stories to validate identities instead there were infinite ways to reinforce obscenities like money spent on an individual is the best way to create systemic change or even though it hasn’t happened yet, it’s already happened.
My skills to dissociate, an effective strategy for appearing calm, positioned me to surrender. Feeling both my role as apostle and a shepherd, I embodied my entitlements and forgave myself for leading without conviction.
Did you hear that?
It was the collective sigh of those who bear their souls to empty rooms.
This week I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do and everything I wanted. Sometimes they were the same thing.
On Friday, I spent the day in a space designed and curated to invoke imagination. The plan for action called for disruption not-so-cleverly disguised as profit. Some bragged about organizing “cockfights” and others advocated for righteous indignation. The ferocity of their arguments were fueled by unconscious privilege and unchecked assumptions about who would benefit from that specific vision of change.
A call to home confirmed this truth: struggle and hope are symbiotic. Like fog on a window produced from warm bodies and breath, redemption is a process.
I am trying to accept anxiety as a strategic friend, trust in my capacity to create my own joy, and loudly maintain routines of comfort. I hold these current active desires like the traces of an embrace, gently and with intent.
Light’s influence is what I most like about living here. This newly discovered perception acts as a solipsistic aperture. This writing space, especially lately, has become a catalog of such impressions. Every week I try to encapsulate the mundane pieces of myself in hopes of illuminating and also distilling my meditations; a brave attempt to honor grandeur of thought.
Writing is a numinous process
similar to those seconds between lightning
and then thunder.
I’ve been marinating in the honesty of Dorothy Allison’s Talking About Sex, Class & Literature. Allison’s penetrating words have triggered this post: “Traditional feminist theory has had a limited understanding of class differences and of how sexuality and self are shaped by both desire and denial.” This statement so acutely supports my obsession with desire – for others, for choices, for pleasure – that my mind shut down with the impact of this truth.
Allison eloquently and systematically breaks it down, “It has taken me most of my life to understand that [running away or closing up inside yourself], to see how and why those of us who are born poor and different are so driven to give ourselves away or lose ourselves, but most of all, simply to disappear as the people we really are.”
Writing forces me to not run away. Today I write to remind myself of this verity.
Do you think we can be radical anywhere? Even in spaces for the wealthy and in the streets?
I make positive: rejection and collaboration.
There are days where maintaining a perspective feels like a fascist project and other days when fracturing it feels barbaric.
I clear my mind: breath and absence.
Our public opinions are manufactured though seductive commentary and brazen keystrokes. What have we done by defining luxury as apathetic austerity? Oh Dakota, I thank you for those experiences to know how this rings true.
Operating from a belief of scarcity those who have – hoard.
The energy needed to perpetuate this obsolete system is fear, for which the supply is abundant. This is the real politics. For evidence, witness the events of dissent whose props were semiautomatic rifles and Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
Violence, blessed state violence, is the conduit for pro-life hypocrisy.
I’m writing this from 30,000 feet in the air, literally. From this vantage point, roads look like scars. We are ensconced by a million boundaries.
Pontifex refers to someone who is able to produce a work of enduring stability that spans the distance between two opposites (via Cabinet, Issue 23). The space between that distance is what I’ve traveled within and through this long week.
It was a gamble to bookend this trip with nostalgia. Like the roads seen from such great heights, I acutely saw those evolutionary experiences and recalled all that knowledge gained from each right, and wrong, turn. These are the scars within me.
I dropped the F bomb (feminism) at work which resulted in some collateral damage of assumptions. The axiom that feminism was an operating principle was incorrect. I was immediately sanctioned and corralled into the old folks home for such an outdated belief. Ultimately the conversation went down the lonely road of semantics and neatly buried with other land mines I am sure to step on in the future.
Good Vibrations wants to open a store in my neighborhood (see welcome wagon message in photo). It’s a small business not wanted by some who react viscerally to life or pleasure.
We march because we’re all “sluts” in a patriarchal culture that devalues us on the basis of being sexual, or sexualized by others. And hell, I am a sexual being, but from now on I am a sexual being on my own terms. I don’t view the word “slut” as something to take back, but rather, something to vomit onto the streets of New York. As if to say, go ahead, call me a fucking slut. I fucking dare you. … But I have an entire movement, a whole big fucking army of others just like me who aren’t taking your shit anymore.
Vaginas in jars, human horns, input about the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng (e.g. they raised over 21 children and maintained separate households), jars and jars of fetuses, a giant’s skeleton, and a history of the forceps.
It was the intimate possibility of how grotesque the human body can be, neatly displayed in tightly sealed jars, that validated my skewed body image – in a good way.
Professional development: Relationship building, inspiration, intentional knowledge fortification, and strategic epistemological adventures.
Personal development: Deflections, sidewalk propositions, anarchist bookstore, blue-eyed funk, and missed Amish apple dumplings.
The experience of focusing on the space outside the intended focus provided the best learning. It ended up being more accurate and balanced that way. The undercurrents of access, influence, and unintentional nepotism were the white noise to the dance of my own rhythmic exploration. I’m building my own portfolio of success.
Change is inherently risky but the alternative is not my modus operandi. Within the next few months, I will no longer be in the same place and that fact is both surreal and acutely corporeal.
As the days grow closer to the launch, I feel more and more like a situationist. I’m constructing situations that fulfill my desires, presently and for the unknown tomorrow. The geography of such an architecture is fraught with dérive but that’s where the beauty lies.
* Negative space – the space that surrounds the subject to give it meaning and shape
There are beautiful things in the world. I think I may have fallen in love.
Breakfast, as we demised, was glaring. You are right. The transparency of the glass ceiling is obvious.
Today’s word: tears
Conservative white men assert their rebel yells and women weep. We shouldn’t be surprised that with the rise of neopatriarchy the front page of the New York Times has an article about menstruation and women’s libido.
Dorothy Parker said, “Lips that taste of tears, they say, are the best for kissing.”
I’m feeling the tension of transparency. Talking points are not on a spectrum of disclosure.
Sometimes I wish I had the luxury of ignorance but that sounds incredibly pretentious.
I fear the (inevitable) numbness of privilege that’s associated with moving up a class. There are doubts tangled around every conversation and the heavy dread of diminishing self-confidence is illogical but still it lingers.
Assumptions of belonging are dangerous.
Watching those with privilege and wealth access opportunity and exercise their option of choices while ignoring the reality of the majority is a melancholy pursuit. Do you spy what I spy?
Did you feel your heart sink when the rich white man uprocked the evening designed to honor women? The crowd cheered; some even had tears. The injustice was ignored because of the $100k donation and the women danced on the sacrifices of those who had come before them.
Perhaps what I’m really feeling is the tension of working within a broken system where hope is a commodified ideology. Or it could be the looming holiday season of forced consumption. Or it’s the slow realization of not fitting into a place that was never designed to accommodate you in the first place. There are many hypotheses to consider for the sadness of consciousness.
Can one self-diagnose narcissism? And does that diagnosis have any validity?
I’m currently reading Women Without Class: Girls, Race, and Identity by Julie Bettie. It’s heady in its theory and grounded in its politics. Read Chapter 2 for some seriously sexy theoretical breakdowns on class, gender, and race.
Women Without Class influenced me to bring up class as a reason why my work environment doesn’t allow for diverse thoughts or voices at a team dinner. It was a loaded leading question, a set-up, and I bravely walked into the weeds. My opinion was met with an awkward silence which was to be expected, which is why I said it. When you ask questions, you should to be prepared for any answer if you assume people are telling you the truth.
Deflecting constructed status and coercing self-reflections sometimes feels like a narcissistic project of intense proportions. When does such navel gazing result in momentum?