Articles

Build: The Socialist Feminism Issue

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Download a printable PDF of the Build: Socialist Feminist Issue here.

WE SHOULD ALL BE SOCIALIST FEMINISTS
Laura Colaneri, Chicago DSA, DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group

Socialist feminist organizing is hard.

Of course, all of our organizing is hard—we’re fighting for a complete societal overhaul in the most powerful capitalist, imperialist country in history, and, as is typical on the greater left and in feminist circles, we all have different ideas of how best to win that fight. But socialist feminist organizing is particularly hard. We face attacks from right wing misogynists, centrist liberal feminists, and leftist “allies” who condemn our organizing as liberal identity politics or bourgeois moralism. We face the suffocating patriarchal tendencies and misogyny that permeate our everyday lives and our organizing spaces. And even when we don't face those challenges, we're still struggling to identify our role within DSA's big tent and determine where we can be most effective in our movement.

The major difficulty of socialist feminist organizing in DSA today is that we must be everywhere at once, inboth internal and external organizing, stretching ourselves thin, without losing sight of the projects that only feminists are advocating for. Every issue that we organize around as socialists, we must also organize around as feminists. Applying a feminist lens deepens our understanding of each problem affecting the everyday lives of the working class and is critical to our fight for just solutions.

Responding to an argument from some detractors on the left effectively illustrates this central problem. Some leftists, who view themselves as “universalists” but whose opponents usually term them “class reductionists” or “class-first” socialists, argue that organizing around “identity politics”—including gender identity, race, sexuality, and disability, among other categories—is “particularist.” Thus, such organizing is not a worthy focus for socialists, who should strive to address “universal” issues that appeal to the entire working class. To them, identity-related categories are merely a way of turning the working class against one another and splitting it into smaller and smaller portions that are ineffective in organizing against capitalism.

Leaving aside the obvious criticism (among many others) that the gender identity “woman” includes close to 50% of the working class population, this idea illustrates a major mistake made by critics of feminism: treating it as though it is a narrowly focused identity rather than using it for what it is: like Marxism, a form of analysis, a way of seeing and interpreting the world. In this sense, the difficulty at hand is that feminist organizing is not actually niche or particular at all. Rather, the feminist project is the exact size of the socialist project. There is not a single issue around which we organize as socialists to which a feminist lens cannot be applied in order to improve our analysis and aid our struggle.

Herein lies the major challenge: organizing around more “explicitly” feminist issues, while also integrating a feminist lens into every structure whether internal or external to DSA. Internally, socialist feminists educate our comrades about feminism and patriarchy. We combat unhealthy organizing spaces and sexual harassment and assault. We engage women and non-binary people and develop them into effective organizers with an eye to the ways that our organizing spaces can be exclusionary to non-cisgender and heterosexual men. We provide (or lobby our chapters to provide) child watch at meetings to make our chapters more accommodating to families. Overall, we strive to make DSA into a welcoming, healthy feminist space, all while women often do more than their share of administrative work in their chapters and reproductive labor in their homes.

Externally, we provide political education to the public. We are pulled in all directions as we strive to share the labor and provide a feminist lens in every one of our chapter’s projects, from electoral to housing to mutual aid. We develop our own projects around issues that matter to us as socialist feminists. Moreover, because society traditionally views these issues as “women’s issues,” it often falls to us to organize around projects related to, for example, abortion access, even though such projects could easily fall under the purview of healthcare organizing.

A further difficulty here is that developing such projects within our socialist feminist groups (rather than within an issues-based group such as healthcare) means that we also run the risk of becoming siloed off from other groups in our chapters if we do not relate our work and our feminist lens back to the overarching issue of healthcare. Ultimately, we do a little bit of everything, and for this reason socialist feminist organizers in DSA face disproportionate levels of burnout as they overcommit themselves for the good of the movement.

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These circumstances plague me as I strategize in my role as steering committee member of Chicago DSA’s Socialist Feminist Working Group and interim steering committee member of DSA’s Socialist Feminism Working Group nationally. I ask myself: What is the role of a distinct socialist feminist group in DSA when, by necessity, we are involved in everything? Can we, as the problematic neoliberal refrain about the working woman says, “have it all?” If not, what dedicated purpose should we serve as organizers? Should we prioritize political education and internal organizing so we can make more socialist feminists in chapters that we have made safe, welcoming, and feminist? If we believe this internal work is essential, must that come at the expense of our developing our own unique external campaigns, thus running the risk that reproductive justice and other “typically” feminist projects fall by the wayside?

I don’t have good answers yet, except that I refuse to sacrifice one for the other. But I do think it’s important that we, as socialist feminist organizers, ask ourselves these questions.

Regardless of the difficulties, socialist feminist organizing in DSA holds a lot of promise. Socialist feminist spaces are uniquely welcoming and provide a supportive environment for comrades who are often marginalized in both their everyday lives and other organizing spaces. They also encourage democratic, comradely discussion and consensus-building in ways capitalist society discourages and chapter meetings might lack.

Day by day, feminists in DSA fight to strengthen our chapters and bring a feminist lens to all the work that we do as an organization. We do this to ensure that DSA advocates for those whom patriarchal, racist capitalism oppresses the most. But to do this effectively, we need every comrade in DSA to bring a feminist lens to their work and their lives, just as they bring a Marxist one, and to challenge the patriarchal, white supremacist aspects of capitalism as an integral part of the class struggle.



Planting Seeds — NYC-DSA's Red Sprouts Childcare Collective Takes Root

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Planting Seeds

NYC-DSA’s Red Sprouts Childcare Collective Takes Root

What were you doing as a 7-year-old from 7-9pm on a Wednesday night? Probably eating dinner and getting ready for bed, maybe watching TV—most likely not listening to your parents talk about bylaws at a DSA branch meeting.

There are many reasons why DSA is not welcoming to parents, but weeknight meetings and lack of childcare stand out as the most obvious. Getting a sitter on a potential work night is difficult, and anticipating one’s schedule in order to request childcare in advance is often impossible. This is why we need free childcare at every single DSA event, regardless of whether or not it is requested.

DSA is bigger than we’ve ever been. These growing numbers are exciting, but they require us to build infrastructure to keep up. We need to welcome people who rely on childcare in order to attend meetings, and we need that labor to be equitably distributed among our membership. As we work to become better organizers, childcare should be a skill that we alldevelop.

Organizing a childcare collective in DSA will advance our efforts to build a base for socialist politics in New York City in several ways. For starters, it will aid in building a more inclusive organization and community that welcomes all of the very many people who would like to organize with us, but aren’t able to due to childcare obligations. This will exponentially broaden and deepen our reach.

Second, we will be able to encourage socialist values among the children we are caring for. We hope to someday treat childcare like Socialist Sunday School—a chance for kids to learn a version of what their adults are talking about in a meeting, but in a fun, engaging, and accessible manner.

Last but not least, our collective can aid in building capacity and developing leadership among newer or less engaged members by providing them with a fulfilling activity through which to engage in DSA’s work and community. We’ve received a lot of interest from new DSA members who are looking for ways to contribute to the larger organization. There were a few concerns that we ran into right off the bat. Luckily, we’ve had nearly six months of meeting as a collective to debate, discuss, and figure out how best to tackle them:

Isn’t this a huge liability? Shouldn’t we be using professional childcare services?
Under our current capitalist system, liability often dominates the way that caregivers are trained. As a political organization, rather than a school or company, DSA is positioned to push back against the professionalization of childcare. Anyone who grew up in a big family can tell you that providing childcare is often just another shared community duty, not requiring professional training or certification. We thus view providing volunteer childcare in DSA events, meetings, and reading groups as a form of mutual aid, as it has been in working class communities for a long time. Red Sprouts is inspired by a long history of radical childcare collectives on the left.

We do want to make sure that we protect our volunteers, or “gardeners” as we call them, so we created a waiver that parents will sign before dropping off their kids (if you’d like a copy of this, or any of our materials, please contact us!). And, of course, to ensure that the sprouts are receiving excellent care, we developed a training based on conversations with current and former childcare professionals on our organizing team, that all caregivers will be required to complete before signing up for childcare shifts. We also made a commitment to always provide childcare in pairs, as is the practice in many afterschool programs and summer camps.

None of this means that we shouldn’t use professional childcare services when necessary. For example, when the organizers of the No Amazon Town Hall reached out to us about providing childcare for a massive event, which was a collaboration with several other organizations, we referred them to a co-op of childcare workers. However, we believe that for many internal DSA events, meetings, and reading groups, caring for our comrades’ children presents a more viable and accessible option.

Care work is systemically devalued under capitalism. As Socialist Feminists, shouldn’t we be paying people for their labor?
Much of the nitty gritty work that we do as organizers is feminized labor—whether it’s taking notes, coordinating food for a potluck, or administrative tasks such as sending out Doodle polls and frantically hunting for affordable meeting spaces (which in New York City is quite a nightmare—ask any branch OC member). We all do this work, not because we’re expecting compensation, but because it’s a part of being a good organizer. How is care work any different?

How do we avoid this project becoming SocFem members providing childcare for the rest of DSA?
We’ve been especially attuned to the gendered nature of childcare from the beginning. The people excited about providing childcare were, naturally, the ones with pre-existing experience. And since care work is an overwhelmingly non-male field, we were worried that our volunteers would be made up of folks who were already doing a great deal of the feminized labor, such as notetaking or administrative work, for the organization. This is why we’ve been targeting cis men specifically. In our pitches at branch meetings and in emails, we’ve called on cis men who are looking for a way to become more deeply involved in DSA’s organizing work to do so by becoming childcare providers, which we think is an especially fun and rewarding organizing activity!

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But I’m a cis dude, and I’m really not good with kids...
Back to the admin labor analogy—most of your fellow organizers are not going to have a lot of sympathy if you tell them that you’re “really just terrible at sending out Doodle polls!” Childcare, like scheduling, is a skill that people learn and develop, with guidance from more experienced comrades (of course, caring for a child is a much more difficult and higher stakes endeavor than creating a poll, as any parent can attest). We reject biological determinism in all forms, but particularly the idea that some people are “naturally” better with kids.

Some folks have had more experience because they became the de facto unpaid babysitters in their families, were encouraged to apply for after-school care jobs, taught Sunday School—the list goes on. We encourage our comrades who feel intimidated by childcare to examine that fear, and then face it head on!

It’s urgent that our cis male comrades develop and hone these skills, because in order for our movement to be successful, we need women and nonbinary folks in positions of leadership, which can be difficult if we’re also doing the lion’s share of socially reproductive labor. It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful workplace struggles of the past year, such as the LA Teachers’ Strikes, or last summer’s Nurses’ Strike in Vermont, were in the realm of social reproduction. Winning movements are led by caregivers and care workers, and we want to give them a chance to lead.

How do we get started?
Thus far, we have been working as a group of about a dozen core organizers, developing training materials and logistical frameworks for providing childcare. We began by soliciting interest from potential caregivers through an online form, while holding meetings with our core organizing team every few weeks.

Two decisions were crucial in our early development. First, we decided to take our time in developing our systems, as not to extend beyond our capacity. It would have been easy to feel like providing childcare was too important to wait, and we did receive some requests from large events before we were ready. In those cases, we recommended professional childcare services. The second strong decision we made early on, mostly on instinct, was to divide into two separate subcollectives: one for developing training, and the other for logistics. Dividing work like this allowed us to multitask, and led to greater leadership development. We plan on adding more divisions of labor, and perhaps forming a subcollective devoted specifically to long term projects like a Socialist Summer Camp or a DSA babysitting network for parents.

In January we reached out to our large list of over a hundred interested gardeners to enroll people in a training. We got about forty people to attend a two and a half hour training, after which we received very positive feedback! We’ve started taking childcare requests from several working groups and branches. Ultimately, we want to provide care at every DSA event, regardless of whether or not it is requested in advance. Our long-term goal is to make childcare skills widely held in the organization, so that volunteering to provide childcare at your working group or branch meeting is akin to taking notes or bringing food. At that point, a specialized childcare collective will no longer be necessary for day-to-day childcare, and we will have the opportunity to move on to larger projects.


To learn more about the NYC Red Sprouts work, contact them at: redsprouts.nycdsa@gmail.com

You can also follow NYC-DSA Red Sprouts on…
Twitter:
@RedSproutsNYC
Website:
redsprouts.wordpress.com

Building Independent Working Class Power With TANC

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Tenant and Neighborhood Councils (TANC) grow working class power in East Bay

INTRODUCTION

The evidence that working class people are losing a battle with capital is everywhere. We feel it in the marked deterioration of our lives — in declining wages, the elimination of social programs, and painfully skyrocketing rents. Less evident, but more decisive, is the impact of decades of counter-revolution on class struggle itself. Active class struggle has waned since the 1970s as the popular institutions that once supported this struggle have drastically declined. Organizations that promote liberal practices, reinforce capitalist logics, and strengthen civil organizations embedded within the capitalist political parties have replaced these popular institutions.

Many popular movements in the United States have forgotten where the source of our class power lies. Entire generations can’t remember what class struggle looks like. We have lost the blueprint. The steady rightward drift of US politics demonstrates the inadequacy of non-profit advocacy organizations, electoral campaigns, and bureaucratic business unions. The toothlessness of this kind of politics has driven many working class people to give up on politics altogether.

Taking revolution off the table has made politics a morbid affair. We have trouble imagining we can shape history. History becomes an inevitability. It is something that happens to us. Yet, as long as class divisions exist, the working class can once more become a threat to capitalist domination and take an active role in shaping history.

BUILDING POWER VS. ACCESSING POWER

The current left has two main organizing orientations:

  1. accessing the institutionalized power structures, or

  2. building independent bases of working class power.

Attempting to access institutionalized power through existing structures sets us up for failure. Because these structures are reliant on the capitalist class for power, they are necessarily disconnected from and opposed to the interests of the working class. Further, because this reliance on capitalist power and disconnect from the working class produce opportunism and careerism as a fundamental operating principle within institutionalized structures, individuals operating within them are unable to organize effectively for working class power. In contrast, building independent structures enables the working class to effectively organize ourselves to exercise our dormant power.

Reform-oriented politics are often presented as “harm reduction.” Here, reforms are desirable to mitigate the damage that capital inevitably produces. Yet, this notion that working class people can legislate from the helm of the capitalist state begs the question: if we can institutionalize reforms, why stop at the reduction of harm? The absurdity of this question lies in a misunderstanding of what reforms are.

Reforms are concessions. Ruling classes throw reforms into the path of movements building towards working class emancipation as a way to manage, and sometimes neutralize, mass organized discontent. Hence, directly seeking specific reforms is to misunderstand that reforms are a byproduct of revolutionary power. We call for an offensive, rather than inherently defensive, type of politics. Revolutionary organization thus requires a program of harm production. Our aim is to become an existential threat to accumulation and empire-building. We joined the DSA to do just this. We want to reconstitute our class, the working class, into a fighting force. After all, only through organizing towards the realization of the most radical demands have we won sustainable victories for the working class. We want to build the power necessary to strike terror into the hearts of the ruling class. This will be achieved once we have the organizational capacity to shape history, rather than submit to it.

COMMUNIST CAUCUS & TANC

We formed a caucus — Communist Caucus — based on this strategy of building independent working class power. We chose this name in Marx’s spirit because we understand communism not as an abstract idea, but as a living movement to abolish the present state of affairs.

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Our wonderful city of Oakland is in the midst of a brutal housing crisis, with more people being priced out of their homes and living on the street every day. Working class people are crushed inbetween bosses and landlords who conspire to keep wages low and raise rents. There is ample opportunity for struggle. As we grapple with finding stability and safety, we thus view tenant organizing as a clear approach to build working class power that can oppose bosses and landlords. We created an organization called “Tenant and Neighborhood Councils” (TANC) because we, as the working class, need institutions that can grow our power.

TANC is a militant housing organization which aggregates and elevates class struggle around housing. We organize around reducing housing costs and improving the conditions of tenants. We envision that TANC will become a mass housing organization, composed of working class people who act as militants, teachers, and leaders, eventually becoming a force capable of decommodifying housing and doing away with landlords entirely. While we are not there yet, in TANC’s first year it has already become a site of independent working class power.

LAURA THE LANDLORD

We wanted to address an issue affecting all working class people in the Bay Area: rent. As it turned out, a member of Communist Caucus had a notoriously oppressive landlord, Laura, whose constant harassment of tenants had already been written about in the local paper. Organizing against her seemed like a great starting point.

We hosted a BBQ at a public park to gauge tenants’ interest. Our objective was twofold. First, we wanted to facilitate connections among tenants to discuss their issues around rent, housing, and the landlord. Second, cookouts are fun, and because we are all alienated, it is crucial to build trust in simple, supportive ways.

To spread word about the BBQ, we canvassed Laura’s tenants. We identified Laura’s holdings through public records at city hall; she owns over 40 properties, with each property worth an average of $1 million. We went door-to-door with flyers for the BBQ, and a print-out of the newspaper article about Laura’s history of harassment. A common response was a mixture of shock and relief—“it’s not just me?” Tenants told us seemingly endless stories: Laura regularly went through tenants’ trash at night, discriminated against Black tenants, even took pictures of tenants through their windows. People were unhappy with Laura, but without a common cause and organization, they lived with her bad behavior.

The BBQ was a great success: over 20 tenants attended. Throughout the event, one pressing issue emerged from the conversations among tenants: Laura regularly denied subtenant applicants. When somebody moved out, Laura required that the replacement tenants have high incomes and white collar backgrounds. Tenants often could not find such a person, forcing to pay for the empty room. This meant an effective rent increase not regulated by rent control; evidently, Laura hoped to evict through attrition.

A collective issue thus identified, the real question was what to do. We decided to call a formal meeting of all tenants so we could study the situation and plan next steps. We invited tenants we met at the barbeque to canvass, so they could agitate and practice organizing other tenants. We continued building a contact list and getting more people involved in our organizing efforts. However, a problem soon arose: right before our meeting, we discovered Laura had gotten hold of one of our flyers.

Laura sent a letter to every tenant, urging them not to organize against her. She claimed she and her husband were a small “mom-and-pop” business. They also claimed they would resolve all of the tenants’ issues. The letter’s tone was a surprising contrast from the accusatory letters she normally sent, and it included a gift card for a local candy shop. But it had one concerning element: Laura promised she would attend the tenant meeting so as to engage in “dialogue.”

We decided it was too soon to confront Laura directly. We sent her a letter requesting that she not attend the tenant meeting. She ignored us, insisting she would attend regardless. To facilitate the tenant meeting, we formed a security team which rerouted tenants to meet at an alternate location as they arrived, and successfully ensured no one was spotted. When Laura showed up, Communist Caucus members confronted her with a letter stating she was not welcome. She refused the letter and left, only to return two more times. Finally, a non-affiliated comrade on a motorcycle telling her she was not welcome chased her away (*). Laura erratically sped down the street, flying over speed bumps at 50 MPH.

Ultimately, Laura’s candy-laced letter only emboldened the tenants further. The meeting was a success, as more tenants participated in the meeting than the barbeque. At the meeting, tenants drafted a letter demanding Laura immediately end her harassment and accept all pending tenant applicants. Within one week, Laura caved to the tenants’ demands. She decided that going forward she would only give “recommendations” for new housemate applicants. She didn’t want to deal with us anymore.

We had won our first fight.

Throughout our experiences with Laura and other landlords, we developed a model of supporting tenant organizing by offering infrastructure such as research, canvassing, and tenant inquiries; hosting cultural events and BBQs; establishing communication channels between tenants; facilitating tenant organizer trainings; producing media such as posters and a reader with theory on housing, history, and local struggles; and shielding tenants from retaliation however possible. We call this project “Tenant And Neighborhood Councils” or TANC. In a future issue of Build, we will provide more detail about the structure of TANC, lessons we’ve learned through struggle, and a few of our future plans for DSA.


To learn more about TANC, visit them at baytanc.com or contact: tenantorganizingeastbay@gmail.com

You can also follow them on Twitter: @TANCBay

(*) Identity of the mysterious motorcycle riding anarchist is unknown. Whoever you are, we applaud you!

Mutual Aid with Heart of the Valley DSA

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Comrades helping comrades in Benton County, Oregon

I have long advocated for the concept of mutual aid.

Like many leftists, I believe strong networks of community support and mutual aid are essential to any revolutionary movement. At meetings of Heart of the Valley (HotV) DSA in Benton County, Oregon, I pitched it incessantly, and tried to make it central to the chapter’s praxis. However, until I needed it myself, I didn’t truly understand what that rhetoric meant.

On December 17th of 2018, my girlfriend, two other comrades, and I, got into a confrontation with several local neo nazis, which ended with them attacking us. The details of the assault aren’t important, but by the end I had a severely injured knee and one of the nazis was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Another comrade, who was on their way to join us, called Cameron Greene, a HotV DSA member and Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild. He dropped everything and drove to the scene. He helped prepare us for arrest and excoriated the cops who were intentionally misgendering the three of us who are trans women.

The police arrested us and took us to holding, where they locked us in separate interrogation rooms for the next several hours. The police told us that we would be cited for DISCON-II, but said more serious charges were on the table if the nazi died. They stripped us naked, photographed our bodies, and took our DNA samples. The police also took our clothes, phones, and wallets, and dressed us in thin sweatsuits. Finally, they took our mugshots, and we were released, one by one, into the freezing rain. I was the first one out, and had to walk several miles home on a barely functional knee.

Like any good leftist, the first thing I did was get on Twitter to see if folks were talking about the incident. I saw that comrades across the country were sharing a fundraiser for our legal defense and medical bills. It was surreal to see myself in the same situation I’d seen so many other antifascists endure. For years, I’d shared similar posts on social media, but now I was beginning to grasp what it meant to be on the other side. Even though I was still freaking out, I felt the energy of comrades across the world gathering behind us.

The next morning, I awoke in immense pain, unable to stand up. My girlfriend contacted some of our DSA comrades, who quickly came over. They helped me out of bed and provided a phone to call into work and explain my situation. They also brought us much needed food and drove us to urgent care. While I was in the doctor’s office, two comrades dug old cell phones out of storage and filled them with prepaid plans so my girlfriend and I could reach our friends and family.

Our local paper, the Corvallis Gazette-Times, began publishing articles about the incident that day. We were dismayed to learn they publicly deadnamed and misgendered the three of us who are trans. Outraged comrades from the DSA and other groups came to our defense and inundated the paper with comments and phone calls. Eventually, they issued a milquetoast retraction. The article led to my girlfriend getting fired from her job, which severely reduced our household income. However, our comrades were there to make sure we didn’t go hungry and could live as normally as possible.

Over the next several days, we began receiving information that neo nazis were trying to doxx us. They published the addresses and other personal information of several people on sites like Stormfront and The Goldwater. Luckily, we had well armed comrades willing to spend lots of their time with us and ensure we felt safe. Folks also provided home cooked meals and transportation around town, which was a lifesaver because I could barely walk or ride a bike. We were very rarely left to suffer alone and knew we could always reach out for support.

During this time, Cameron helped coordinate legal representation for us. We got the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), an activist legal group to work on our defense. The lawyers were incredibly helpful and considerate. They provided us with all the information we needed to know about our uncertain futures as well as good advice based on their years of experience.

The fundraiser continued to near its goal, largely from the contributions of Corvallis locals and the International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund. We also received significant financial help from Bitter Half Booking and Eugene Pyrate Punx, who each put on a benefit show to raise money for us. Thankfully, the money helped cover all of my medical bills. It also paid for our legal representation and kept our lives stable through the loss of my girlfriend’s job.

On the day of the arraignment, the defendants met with our legal counsel and arrived early at the courthouse. Upon entering, we found several comrades from different organizations waiting for us. They talked with us and gave us emotional support as we waited for our turn on the docket. As the time approached, more comrades arrived, eventually filling the entire courthouse. In total, there were probably 70 people from DSA, IWW, Our Revolution, CCDS, The Communist Party, local unions, and more. They all shook our hands and reassured us. Seeing the immense solidarity from our community was incredible. It was clear that the love and compassion within the local left dwarfed our sectarian differences. When we were finally called into the courtroom, our lawyers received papers letting us know that the DA would not be pursuing charges against us. A huge cheer roared through the courthouse, and a sea of relief washed over us.

The struggle isn’t over. We are still working to combat white supremacy in our community and taking legal action against our attackers. However, we survived this traumatic experience thanks to the kindness and love of our comrades in DSA and the greater left. The mutual aid we received was truly incredible and helped us make it through some of the worst times of our lives. Without the help of our comrades, I can’t imagine how much harder the situation would have been.

After this experience, I am left with the realization that our chapter hasn’t just built campaigns and programs. It is a community that loves and supports its own. Mutual aid isn’t just about collecting and redistributing resources and labor; it’s about creating relationships between people willing to struggle alongside each other through the adversity capitalism creates. We exist in a lonely, scary, fucked-up society, and in the end all we have is each other. If we stick together in solidarity, we might just have a chance to create a new world.

What I think is most remarkable about Heart of the Valley DSA is that we show up for each other. Even though we have huge differences in opinion and countless personal quarrels, we will always be there for each other and anyone else who wants in.


To learn more about HotV DSA’s work, contact the chapter at: bentoncountydsa@riseup.net

Follow them on…
Facebook:
Heart of the Valley DSA
Twitter:
@hotv_dsa
Website:
bentoncountydsa.com

Season of the Bitch

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A Socialist Feminist Manifesto

Season of the Bitch (SotB) is a leftist feminist podcast comprised of 6 hosts, referred to as The Coven, talking politics and culture. It is just like any other leftist podcast, except there are no cis men. The following was written by Zoë Naseef, but inspired and approved by the rest of The Coven. Creating a socialist feminist podcast pushes me to explore different topics and question what I already know. Leftist spaces (and podcasts) can feel trepidatious for women, nonbinary folks, and trans people. A large theme for me in organizing work involves feeling unheard, undervalued, and excluded. We are constantly learning and growing in our lives; as workers, mothers, daughters, sisters, patients, friends, and comrades. SotB is an intentional space for us to explore different topics from a socialist feminist lens and know that we will always be heard, supported, and valued. The following truths we hold to be self-evident:

1 NO SORRY.

“No sorry” is a trademark among the Coven. As 6 people who were socialized as girls and women, we were taught early and often to apologize for our existence, to stay quiet, to doubt ourselves. With our podcast we are learning to be unapologetically ourselves, one episode (and group chat) at a time. It often feels strange and unfamiliar to me to own my actions instead of apologizing for them. “No sorry” means reminding myself that what I have to say is valuable and worthy of people’s attention –– including when I find myself feeling guilty for inserting a personal anecdote into an episode or second-guessing whether I should have said something that didn’t feel utterly groundbreaking. The more positive feedback I see about the podcast, the more I understand that being unapologetically ourselves is revolutionary.

2 REPRESENTATION MATTERS.

Sorry, not sorry... but cis men are canceled. While we limit hosts and guests to women, non-binary people, and trans folks, cis men are encouraged to listen. Representation is about intentionally creating space for people who do not get as many opportunities to have a platform in the dominant culture. Our listeners know that we run on accessibility and inclusion. We strive to be inclusive of race, sexuality, ability, and class by having diversity amongst the hosts and by finding guests who can speak from diverse perspectives and experiences. It is always inspiring to talk to people who are experts in their field and who also just so happen to not be men. We often talk about how lucky we feel that we get to talk to so many amazing people, especially when the world feels particularly dark.

It’s not just our listeners that learn from the podcast –– with every episode, I learn more about the topic we are discussing through my own research, from my co-hosts, and from our guests. We hope cis men will listen and learn from us too, since feminism creates a better world for everyone (more on that later). However, the show ultimately answers to a deep-seated desire to see ourselves represented, which is something that cis men can empathize with but never fully understand. White cis/het men rarely know what it is like to watch a movie or listen to a podcast where there is no one you identify with as part of the cast, and similarly do not understand how validating it is when you finally get to see yourself reflected in the media you consume. This probably explains why we get a lot of positive feedback from fans similar to ourselves, who were thirsty for a leftist podcast not dominated by men.

3 DISMANTLE THE HEGEMONIC CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY.

Not all of our episodes concern explicitly socialist or explicitly feminist topics; we cover a wide array of subjects, but always approach them with a socialist feminist analysis. The capitalist hetero-patriarchy affects all aspects of our lives, so we try to draw out these themes and connections across many different topics.

One of the greatest threats to capitalism is the collective organizing and action of women. It is no coincidence that the development of capitalism came alongside the development of notions about gender and the nuclear family that served to ensure that (white, middle- or upper-class) women remained in the home, where they wouldn’t be able to talk to each other, compare experiences, or conspire against patriarchal oppression. It is similarly by no coincidence that when women seek more collective power today we are met with tidal waves of shame, attempts to silence us, and attempts to placate us.

4 RADICALIZING IS ABOUT SIMULTANEOUSLY LEARNING AND UNLEARNING, AND OH HOW FRUSTRATING IT CAN BE.

I grew up the daughter of a civil rights activist/union organizer and a life-long feminist, so understanding radical politics feels like second nature to me. However, that did not stop the world from socializing and imprinting on me the way it does to all girls (and those assumed to be girls). This connects back to focusing on not over-apologizing, but it has also helped me realize some of the other behaviors I learned from my socialization. For example, when I listen to the podcast I notice that I preface things I am very confident in with “I think” or “maybe” because I am so afraid of sounding overly confident, even when I am.

For me, learning theory is a lot easier than unlearning the ways I was socialized to atone for myself. The work required to learn and unlearn can feel Sisyphean, which is to say highly frustrating and repetitive, but another trademark of Season of the Bitch is how strongly and passionately we have each other’s backs. In one of the early episodes that I co-hosted, I told The Coven that I was feeling imposter syndrome about being a host. Hearing other hosts agree that they have felt the same way gave me more strength to believe in myself and what I have to say.

5 MONEY IS A CATCH-22.

We would love to grow as a podcast and build a larger platform. One of our major roadblocks is lack of funding. We are all busy working various jobs, in various time zones, which makes it hard to put as much time and effort in the podcast as we would like. Our episodes get an average of 3,000-6,000 listens, though we only have about 300 Patreon supporters (whom we appreciate dearly). We are not able to pay any of the hosts yet; only our editor gets a small stipend for her labor.

We continue to brainstorm ways to grow and make more money. However, this quickly becomes a catch 22: we can’t offer a lot of exclusive content that might attract more Patrons because we need the support in order to provide more exclusive content. It can be disheartening that male driven podcasts make significantly more (like, very significantly more), but the podcast is our labor of love and we keep pouring our hearts into it. I do not want to understate how much we appreciate the kind emails, tweets, DMs, etc., that we get from our listeners. It is really motivating to know how much people relate to and appreciate our work. But we live in this hell hole of a capitalist society and therefore we would love to be getting financial support so we can continue to grow.

6 SOCIALIST FEMINISM IS THE FUTURE.

Please do not question us on the matter. Everyone would benefit from more socialist feminism in their lives. If you find yourself wondering “What? Why? How?” try listening to our podcast. If you find yourself saying “yes duh we all need more socialist feminism,” you should also listen to our podcast.

7 LOVE YOU, BYE.

The closing of every episode is this reminder of radical love and friendship. We have heard from listeners that something that stands out about Season of the Bitch is how clear it is that we all genuinely love each other and are excited to record every episode. Being the podcast that deeply loves each other, and deeply hates capitalist patriarchy, is a reputation we proudly accept. Love you byeee byeee love yooou okay love you byeeeee love uuuuuu bye.


To learn more about Season of the Bitch, contact the hosts at: seasonoftheb@gmail.com

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