Honoring MLK: Racial Justice and Social Work

Martin Luther King Jr. getting quoted out of context is one of my pet peeves. Thankfully, that did not happen on Tuesday, when I attended a panel on racial justice in honor of his legacy.

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers organized a forum to discuss the current state of racial justice and the social work profession in Boston. It was originally scheduled for January, but as luck would have it, Boston faced the snowiest, most bananas winter in history and the well-laid plans had to be changed.

An eternal live-tweeter and sharer of information, I documented the event and created a Storify where people can, essentially, virtually tag along for the ride after the event. You can find it here. The panelists were as follows:

MLK Racial Justice Panel Cohort

Left to right: Melendez, MacArthur, Belkin Martinez, Copeland. Photo credit to Shabnam Deriani.

I don’t generally go to panels on racial justice to learn new information, as someone steeped in this on the daily and who also presents on anti-racism. I go to these events to have more bodies in the room, to hear my colleagues speak, to nourish my spirit with the shared passion of those dedicated to social change. However, I often do learn new nuggets of wisdom—new quotations, new strategies, new frameworks—and this event did not disappoint. The biggest takeaway? The work of Whitney Young Jr.

Dr. Phillipe Copeland—one of the panelists and one of the professors at the Boston University School of Social Work where I’m pursuing my Master’s in Social Work—quoted Whitney Young Jr. and his thoughts on the social work profession as it connected to racial justice and social justice overall. I wanted to share that with all of the budding social workers and seasoned vets in my community, because they are POWERFUL.

Here’s an excerpt from from Young Jr., in “Social Welfare’s Responsibility in Urban Affairs” [emphasis mine].

Let these words ABOUT RACIAL JUSTICE/SOCIAL JUSICE sink in, marinate, and transform you and your practice.

It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a substandard budget. We must plant the seeds of indignation and of desire for change in the mind of every citizen suffering in want. We must be the catalysts of change, not the maintainers of the status quo. Establishing rapport, cutting through defenses, is the only way we can achieve anything of value. We must let people know that we are not just interested in establishing eligibility or in granting minimal services. We must see them as individuals.

We must help them understand that we are not just a part of the faceless bureaucracy which regulates their lives, but that we are concerned with helping them, as individuals, get into the productive mainstream of society. We must fight against red-tape restrictions and requirements which deny people their humanity. We must tell the unemployed that they have the right to work, the right to education of high quality for their children, the right to be trained, and the right to support themselves and their families at a decent level.

We must tell families in poverty that they have a vote and can use it to secure a more sympathetic ear in our corridors of power; that they must broaden their children’s horizons; that change is a law of life, and reform must be a way of life. These are the basic means of humanizing the city.

In a society which has succumbed to an excess of professionalism and technology, materialism and theoretical concepts, we must, in order to redress the balance, succumb to an excess of feeling, of courage, of caring, and of decency. I believe the time is ripe. The problems of our cities are begging for solution. Our profession is now mature and secure enough to provide leadership in this effort. A society that would call itself civilized is at stake.


 

The photo at the top/banner of this post illustrates Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, D.C. [and is in the public domain].

The Neverending Story (A.K.A. The Ballad of Margaret Brooks and The CSPH)

I love open letters, especially humorous ones like those I used to read back when I was 13 years old and were aimed at celebrities like Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series—don’t judge me). Coming in close second, my other favorite types of open letters are those that shed light on things that had previously been hidden in the shadows.

Today, an open letter went out—from Erin Basler-Francis, one of our champs at The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health, to Margaret Brooks. (This is not the first time she gets an open letter like this, though the one I wrote years ago was much shorter and crankier). You should click over and read it, stat. Here’s some context:

The CSPH has faced a fair amount of adversity since its inception in 2009. Members of the Citizens Against Trafficking (an anti-rights, sex work abolitionist group) continue to harass staff and supporters of The Center, particularly regarding our outreach on college campuses. These bullies use both overt and hidden tactics in an attempt to delegitimize the importance of conversations about sexuality, pleasure, sex work, and sexual rights.

Most recently, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks, director of the Economics Department at Bridgewater State University, sent a series of emails to the provost of Vanderbilt University using a series of red herring, slippery slope, and equivocation arguments as well as ad hominem attacks in an attempt to convince the school that it would be legally liable for sexual assaults that occurred on campus after the Study Sex College Tour workshop, “Brilliant in Bed.” While not the only protestation, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks decision to use rhetoric causally linking pleasure focused sexuality education to sexual assault on campus is both inaccurate and insidious. 

We at The CSPH have chosen to address this issue publicly because the tactics used by Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks in this case are irresponsible and dangerous when the context of the climate at Vanderbilt University, as well as the current conversations around sexual assault, BDSM, and Intimate Partner Violence.

While part of me kind of wants to commend Margaret Brooks for her passion, it’s terribly saddening that it manifests in the ways it does and I cannot in good conscience do so. We shouldn’t stand for the bullying of youth, and we should also not stand for the bullying of adults at the hands of other adults. Obviously, if you’re working toward social justice and not ruffling feathers, you’re not making big enough waves (to, uh, mix some metaphors there), but man—the repercussions aren’t pretty, and we need to change that.

boston snow

Pictured here: the Snowpocalypse that’s as cold as the attitude from Donna Hughes.

It’s not like we haven’t reached out to Ms. Brooks, either. We’ve personally invited her and her crew to our events, and extended olive branches in the spirit of dialogue both online and in person, and none of them have been acknowledged or even accepted. In fact, we’ve been pretty straightforward and transparent in all our dealings. To her credit, I guess, she DID shake my hand once? This is when I was trying to show her I was a real person and not some nameless undergrad she could just bully without having to ever face. That is more than I can say for Donna Hughes (a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island—how appropriate, right?), who very much did not shake my hand when I greeted her and gave me a cold shoulder of Boston weather proportions. It was pretty epic. But I digress.

Margaret Brooks is the same person who (along with Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro) tried to get a slew of events (including KFAPVD) I organized at Brown University canceled while I was an undergraduate. This is the cohort that misrepresented SO many things about the work the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council (SHEEC) at Brown and The CSPH were doing. This is the person that sent countless emails to Brown’s administration (including the President) warning them of the “dangers” of these events, blatantly spread inaccurate/misleading information, and wrote bulletins claiming that we were to blame for a spike in young RI men contracting HIV. This is one of the people that made my time at Brown tough for a while, and made me have to watch my back really carefully.

On some level, I’m glad it started early so I could protect myself before things got too serious, and I’m very fortunate to consistently work in spaces that respect my endeavors and where I can be open about who I am and what I do, but many people aren’t as fortunate

This is the person that sent my personal Twitter account to professors and deans before it was something I shared as publicly as I do now. This is the same person that sent critique-laden, alarmist emails to my supervisors at Sojourner House—about my personal life and affiliations to organizations that believe in kink/BDSM education and reproductive justice—trying to possibly get me fired, and definitely trying to put me in hot water and endanger a health fair I was coordinating. Fortunately, I was out about my identities at Sojourner House, because if I hadn’t been, she would have outed me to the director and my supervisor, as well as other colleagues. That is not okay.

I am eternally grateful to all the professors, deans, staff, friends, and colleagues who were and have been supportive, understanding and wonderful throughout all this and its multiple iterations. You know who you are. Thank you for believing in me and in sexuality education. While Brown is a deeply flawed institution, certainly, I am incredibly proud that they institutionally backed up my right to hold the events I did, and supported my health and dignity during that process. I firmly believe I didn’t bear a bigger burden while I was an undergrad because I was still a student and thus not as “fair game” as professionals in the working world.

You know who was the fairest game of them all, and the original target? Megan Andelloux—one of the best and most hardworking educators in the field today. megan andellouxMargaret Brooks is the person that time and time again contacts places where Megan Andelloux and her close friends/colleagues present with scare tactics in efforts to squash their/our attempts at education. This bullying not only harms the institutions and their populations who are sometimes deprived of accurate sexuality education, but it takes a huge emotional toll on honest, hardworking sexuality educators and advocates who are trying to make the world a better, more sexually literate place. The case with Vanderbilt is not the first time this happens.

This is the cohort of people that tried to stop The CSPH from opening back in 2009/2010. The same cohort of people that have accused my colleagues of pedophilia because they believe in giving kids accurate sexuality information and answering their questions at whatever age they start asking them. This is the cohort that, under the guise of “academic” and/or “professional” writing used blatant inaccuracies and decontextualizations (not to mention shoddy record-keeping and citations) to “make points” about how, basically, we are The Worst.

As far as ethics and academic integrity, I would expect better from a Brown alumna/Economics professor and a Women’s Studies professor.

This needs to stop, and we need people to listen. We will keep doing the work we do because we believe in it, and these things are not going to stop us, but we are not made of steel. We are committed to bringing these issues to light, but remember—all this takes a toll. How are you helping break down this misinformation? How are you supporting the victims of bullying and stalking and professional attacks? If you’re not already, imagine having to watch your back constantly for people like this. Where will they be next? What professional gig will they try to wreck soon? What kind of misinformation will they try to spread? This is why we need to speak up and support each other.

The Ferguson Masterpost: How To Argue Eloquently & Back Yourself Up With Facts

We encourage you to share the link to this rather than reblogging the entire post (since this is frequently updated and we want to minimize the spread of outdated info!): bit.ly/FergusonAEM. Also, comment volume is high enough that personal replies are not always possible anymore; browse through the comments & see if your issues/ideas have been addressed there.

As the folks from Sexplanations say: stay curious! Know that this is just one drop in the bucket. We encourage you to do your own research and follow the links so you can make your own informed opinion.


Introduction From The Curator

Updates & Notes After Initial Publication

Note (12/1/14 at 11:45 PM EST): Overall goal is to overhaul this post in the coming weeks so that it’s easier to read and further updated—taking into account the many, many comments flowing in. An “archive” GoogleDoc version will be made of its previous iteration for transparency and a new cleaned up version (with an extended introduction or a link to another post with such information, as well as a more cohesive author voice hopefully!) will be posted here in its place. Once it has reached an acceptable level/condition, we will probably close edits and comments.

Note (12/1/14 at 2:19 PM EST & 5:25 PM): For those of you asking, I am moderating posts, yes. If a comment is spam or hatemail w/ no points, it’s not going through. If it’s arguing against statements we’re linking to or things we’ve said, that can be posted [but if it’s clear you didn’t read or are willfully misinterpreting the post, nope]. For those of you leaving long refutations or additional details, thank you for taking the time to do so. I have some colleagues working to sort through those before approving the comments so we can fact-check and incorporate into the text as needed. It’s finals season in my world!

Note (11/30/14 at 12:35 PM EST): This was initially meant to be a smaller post, but I feel a duty to keep updating and fleshing it out. Still, I won’t be able to go past a certain point. That said, I hope it’s still helpful to y’all in whatever iteration is final & that you continue the conversation.

Note (11/29/14 at 8:00 PM EST): Holy moly, this got a ton of traction. Thanks to all the folks sharing, commenting, and helping us correct typos, inaccuracies, and so on! Keep it coming, but please note that comments are moderated & this is a one-woman-show from a busy bee, so responses and updates will not be immediate. We’d love to hear what you’re doing with this information, so definitely let us know of success stories in talking to family-members, using it in lesson-plans, and the like. You can say hi through my contact form &/or tweet at me @neuronbomb.

Note (11/29/14, don’t remember time): Consider this a living document! If you have things to add, put them in the comments! Because this is a collective work, there may be areas that need to be clarified, cleaned up, or entirely fixed. Further note: this article is not “Is Darren Wilson Guilty? Was Mike Brown innocent? We have the answer!” — this is a tool for discussions, compiling useful information to PRIMARILY speak about police brutality, racism, and the like.

Note (11/29/14 at 9:25 AM EST): To clarify, just because we link to something doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement or that the source is completely unproblematic. For example, while I personally have my issues with Tim Wise and how many institutions choose to bring him in to speak vs. the many POC who have been doing anti-racism for longer, we do include information about his documentary here.

Actual Introduction To Masterpost

The only kind of bombs I fully support are truth-bombs, and that’s why I’ve come together with a group of POC and select White allies to write this post. We feel it’s critical to have conversations about social justice loudly, noticeably, personally as well as systemically, and eloquently*—in this case, specifically around Ferguson, #stoptheparade, #BlackLivesMatter, #IndictAmerica, and all the myriad things happening right now around police brutality and the devaluing of Black lives. We need to connect our struggles and see where they intersect, while not pretending that we all face the same issues (today I’m lookin’ at you, non-Black POC). To do this, we need tools, scripts, data—means of having and supporting these conversations, as well as our communities.

That’s why we’re here.

We want to give you tools to support that work and that dialogue. If you’re facing tough questions from friends, family, colleagues, or even perfect strangers, we hope this will help you answer them. We need to collectively build support and awareness to build a better society, and part of that means challenging those who assume “we are already there,” exposing those who would further marginalize already disenfranchised communities, and educating those who do not see why any of these things are issues in the first place. Please contact me if you find any inaccuracies in this post; we’ve worked hard to dig things up, but sometimes new details come to light! You may also want to peruse other “master posts” that are out there (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). If you just want to read “what next, and how can I help?” you should scroll all the way to the bottom.

With Love and Solidarity, 

Aida

The fantastic team who helped out and suggested info included: Renee Cotton (who was a total rockstar), Luisa Ramírez-Lartigue, Sara David, Linda Hower Bates, Tamara Williams, Michael Becker, Katie Lamb, Dani Da Silva, Shanice Yarde, and G Starr Vidal.

Continue reading

Resources Mentioned at PlaygroundConf 2013 Closing Plenary

PGConf 2013

Stay in Touch!

Find Aida here:

Find Heather here:

Resources & Organizations Directly Mentioned in Presentation:

Additional Resources

Death Salon LA: A Recap

death salon skullIf you know me well, you know I like me some creepy things. I used to park myself in front of the Discovery Health Channel, watch Disney’s So Weird as a kid, and browse websites for tales of the supernatural. During my gawth intellectual phase, I listened to Cradle of Filth, googled all the fancy words and characters in their lyrics (e.g. Gilles de Rais, Erzulie, Lillith, Faust, Walpurgis, and so on), and ended up writing a term paper about Elizabeth “The Blood Countess” Bathory. I even thought I wanted to become a forensic scientist of some sort once I graduated high-school.

Instead, I ended up going to Brown University and concentrating on gender and sexuality studies, but the passion for these issues lived on. Nowadays, this interest in the “creepy and dark” manifests more obviously in things like my love of the TV series Hannibal, unique earrings (e.g. baby doll arms, a bobcat’s jawbones), and the history of medicine. I’m still entranced by mortality, rituals, bodies, and how we deal with all of these, so it must have come as no surprise to my friends and colleagues when they heard I was attending Death Salon LA.

After avidly consuming tons of posts from The Order of the Good Death website (finding it via the founder’s Ask a Mortician series on YouTube), I heard about this event and promptly freaked out with joy. I immediately told one of my colleagues (the inimitable Megan Andelloux, or “Oh Megan”) who shares my fascination with these topics. After some deliberation because our schedules were pretty packed, we booked our trips from Rhode Island to Los Angeles and got ready for a weekend full of intellectual stimulation.

In just one day at Death Salon LA, I learned about demonic semen transfer systems, the mortification of female saints, cadaver saponification, decorated Bolivian and Peruvian skulls that are said to be miraculous, the mummified Capuchin hanging wall friars in Palermo, the democratization of images via post-mortem photography, anthropomorphic taxidermy, anatomical Venuses, St. Bartholomew’s flayed skin that he held as a sash, death cabarets in 20th century Europe, and more.

The experience was wonderful and illuminating, and it balanced subjects so there would be something for everyone. Still, there was definitely a big emphasis on gender and sexuality, which I obviously really appreciated, and the interdisciplinary, multimedia approach catered to a variety of knowledge levels. I’m terribly excited to see where it goes from here, and though I probably can’t go next year (it’s in Europe in 2014), I’m looking forward to it in 2015 when it comes to Cleveland.

As a demonstration of my obsession with documentation, and as a means to share information with those who couldn’t attend this year, I tweeted up a storm while I was there, and upon returning to RI, crafted a recap of the media bits I nabbed in LA. You can check out the 2 days’ worth of relevant images, tweets, and pieces I corralled:

You can also see the version posted on the official Death Salon website. I was sadly unable to attend all the events, so I wasn’t able to recap the Atlas Obscura trip to a local cemetery or the Death Salon LA Soirée with death-themed food and drinks. I’ll leave you all to dig up those resources, no pun intended.

On Cultural Appropriation and The Floating World

Yeah...no.

Yeah…no.

A few days ago I was emailing someone who’d asked me about my journey in the world of sexuality & kink and I was linking them to some of the events that were influential in my journey, like the Providence Fetish Flea and The Floating World. But…as I looked up the links so I could send them to her, I saw the banners that TFW was using to promote their event. Uhhh, yikes?

Because WordPress is being weird, I can’t repost the Storified narrative here, so just mosey on over to my Storify page and check out the entire story there (with details of what’s wrong with the image, what the response was, and what’s going on now).

Fight Against Fraud (Message from ONA)

**En Español abajo**

¡¡Take action with ONA this Saturday!!

The struggle against theft and fraud at Paraiso Multiservices continues…

José Silverio, the man who presents himself as the owner of a remittance agency on Chalkstone Avenue called Paraiso Multiservices, has been stealing money from his customers for over a year. Most of these customers are Latino immigrants who use his service to send their hard-earned dollars home to support their families in Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere. Last month, a small group of Pariso Multiservices customers came forward to denounce this theft. Since then, they have organized over 30 customers, who together have lost over $50,000, to demand justice. They filed a criminal complaint, and last Saturday they staged a successful picket outside of the business attended by dozens of victims and their allies. (Check out the pictures, attached, and thank you to all who came out!)

This week, while the state police continue to investigate this theft,
these customers are taking their fight back to the streets!
Join them this Saturday, July 28th for a picket outside of José Silverio’s house to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH-
stop stealing from our community! 

Picket to Demand Justice!
Saturday, July 28th
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Have questions? Want more information? Call ONA at 401.228.8996

************

¡¡Toma acción con ONA este sábado!!

La lucha contra robo y fraude en Paraiso Multiservices continua…

José Silverio, el hombre representándose como el dueño de Paraiso Multiservices, una agencia de remesas en la Chalkstone, ha estado robando a sus clientes por más de un año. La mayoría de estos clientes son inmigrantes Latinos que usan el servicio para mandar su dinero ganado con sudor a sus países de origen para sostener a sus familias en Guatemala, Mexico, la República Domincana, entre otros lugares. En junio, un grupo de clientes de Pariso Multiservice se levantaron para denuniciar el robo. Desde entonces, ellos han organizado más de 30 clientes que han perdido más de $50,000 para demandar justicia. Ellos hicieron una denuncia formal, y el sábado pasado ellos organizaron un piquete exitoso con 40 victimas y aliados afuera del negocio. (Mira las fotos anexadas, y gracias a tod@s que vinieron!)

Esta semana, mientras que la policia estatal continua con su investigación,
estos clientes van a llevar su lucha a las calles otra vez!
Venga este sábado, 28 de julio para un piquete afuera de la casa de José Silverio para decir YA BASTA-
¡deja de robar de nuestra comunidad!


¡Piquete para demandar justicia!
sábado, 28 de julio
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Tienes preguntas? Quieres más información? Llama a ONA: 401.228.8996

Last-Minute Uninvitation: Shame on OSU

For those of you who haven’t heard, Tristan Taormino (of sex-ed, puckerup.com, and feminist porn fame), booked to give the keynote speech at the Oregon State University Modern Sex conference (scheduled for February 15th and 16th), has been UNINVITED from the event. The university representative who uninvited her cited her “résumé and website” as the reason.

What?

You read right folks. A speaker who was booked to give the KEYNOTE talk at a conference was uninvited for the very body of work that made her worthy of being invited in the first place. But it gets messier. Read on for the story:

On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would reimburse her.

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”

Now, I won’t talk about the politics of caving here and why it’s a messed up situation from an ethical or sex-positive standpoint. Instead, I want to talk about this issue from the perspective of a student event-organizer at a university; I want to touch upon the process of organizing events and what that entails. Bringing in speakers isn’t easy, especially if you’re at state-sponsored institutions and trying to book people who are in some way “radical” or just not mainstream. I’m privileged because I attend a private institution that, in many ways, is very pro-student and fiercely + eloquently defends our freedom of expression and education (if the way administrators handled last year’s KinkForAll Providence, Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown, and Sex Week 2010 issues with cranky conservative critics is representative of this). For those reasons, and because of my passion for quality sexual education & frank discussion about these things, I use that privilege to the best of my ability. I organize dozens of events for my campus and the community at large (I aim to make all the events I coordinate open to the public), but I couldn’t do as much if I didn’t have the support of my peers and University.

Mind you, when I say support, I don’t mean Brown condones or accepts the things my speakers talk about, necessarily, but the University actively supports their RIGHT to say them and the importance of having a dialogue on campus–of showing different, empowering, and educational perspectives (many of which are also fun and very engaging, not just academic). Brown supports my rights as a student to be an activist, to fight for what I believe in, and to shape campus in various ways. For that, I am thankful. At the same time, I’m saddened that not everyone is in such a position. We see a case of this lack of support at OSU. From what I can see (and what I deduce), the organizers for the conference aren’t the ones who decided to last-minute cancel on Tristan; the decision came from higher-ups who feared retaliation from those who control their funds. It is this fear that drives many decisions regarding comprehensive sex-education, and while it’s a shame (and something I endeavor to help change), I can understand it. The job of a university administrator isn’t easy, and we must understand why sometimes they’re put in double-binds that force them to take actions like this one.

HOWEVER, organizers shouldn’t confirm events or speakers for which they do not have funds definitely secured (or means for securing them), especially in cases like this. Furthermore, event-planners should have enough self-awareness and knowledge of their institution’s policies to understand which speakers might be deemed “controversial” or “problematic,” know what the system could do to them (e.g. cancel an event) & why they would have reason to, and have plans to handle situations if they arise. In those cases where one is attempting to bring someone who could be criticized by the opposition and cause problems, it’s important to speak with university administrators and see what their stance is (ideally in writing!), so the ball doesn’t get rolling on something that will have to be canceled at the last minute. Still, shit happens, and sometimes universities cave, stomping all over students’ most carefully laid out plans in the process. In those situations, however, organizations (and universities) should be prepared to do SOME form of damage-control.

Honestly, my first question here would be “well, why were they planning on using the general fee dollars in the first place instead of the student activity dollars?”

While I’m not going to bash OSU for the decision to cancel Tristan’s talk (though I don’t agree with it, of course), I think it’s shameful that they’re not going to reimburse Tristan for the costs she has already incurred. While they hadn’t signed a contract, they had been in negotiations and told her everything was set, and to reserve her plane tickets. If OSU is going to uninvite her, the least the could do is reimburse her. That would at least leave them with some amount of grace and dignity; as it stands, however, OSU’s position is not one I can respect. Honestly, it’s clumsy and unprofessional. I only hope that they rethink this and make the right decision, or at least one that’s better than this one. While they may not be able to use general funds, there are many other ways to raise money, and the bodies responsible for booking Tristan should be responsible for figuring out a way to make this situation right.

Check out Tristan’s full press-release here.

***
Note from Tristan:
Don’t Let the Anti-Sex Conservatives Win!

If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute (and not reimburse me for travel expenses) to the following people. I would really appreciate your support —Tristan

Larry Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: larry.roper@oregonstate.edu

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
email: deanofstudents@oregonstate.edu
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
President
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: pres.office@oregonstate.edu

SPC Series Part I: Introduction to Stop Porn Culture! Conference

(When you’re done reading this, check out SPC Series Part II: Purpose & Rules of Engagement)

As some of you may already know, this past weekend I attended the Stop Porn Culture! Conference held at Wheelock College. I wonder if any outsiders (or even insiders) made a kerfuffle about semantics like they did to us Brown University students and organizers when we held KinkForAll Providence, Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown (feat. Reid Mihalko and Megan Andelloux), or Sex Week 2010 (held AT vs. sponsored BY vs. happening on X campus–oh my goodness, you’re affiliating the name of a university with sex-related activism!)…but that’s another matter entirely.

Anyway. Get excited because I’m going to be blogging at LENGTH about this conference and my experiences there as a means to foster dialogue, inform people, state my views, and provide a more elaborate summary of the conference (since I was live-tweeting like crazy *AND* taking notes during the time I was there). I might also be appearing on “the smart sexuality netcast” Kink On Tap next Sunday to discuss these matters, so stay tuned to that as well. Heck, stay tuned to Kink On Tap regardless; it’s a good resource of sexuality-related current events and overall fascinating stuff.

Before I start talking about my impressions, thoughts, and all that good stuff, let’s get some basic information out there. I like my readers (and everyone) to have all the information they need to make educated opinions, so here we go.

For information about Stop Porn Culture!, the organization behind the conference, you should check out their own website AND also check out this article by VioletBlue, where she provides some information about the organization, points out SPC’s awkward religious affiliations, and highlights some of their main anti-porn tenets. As a general rule, never just look at one side of the coin. 🙂 Be critical and analytical in your consumption of information! /PSA

I’m not going to go in-depth regarding the organization’s position just yet, since it is clearly written about already on the websites I’ve linked, but I’d like to quickly debunk some of the things in their FAQ:

  • It’s inaccurate in the EXTREME to talk about “pornography” as if it were an entirely monolithic concept and “the industry” as if it were in the hands of people with just ONE agenda (to degrade and exploit women, of course), who are all solely perpetuating just ONE type of image. We can SORT OF talk in generalizations about the “mainstream porn” that’s available, but even then we have to tread a bit carefully. It’s INACCURATE and MISLEADING to talk about pornography using a definition that tries to imply things that are NOT in the actual definition of pornography, which is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”
  • To say that pornography as a whole “offers the same progression of sexual acts, ending in the same sexual act – ejaculation onto a woman’s body or face, over and over again” is to ignore, y’know, the entire existence of gay-male porn. It’s to ignore the existence of SO many different genres of pornography that it’s personally sickening to me how reductionist many anti-porn folks can sometimes be. There are folks who are CONSTANTLY reducing the entire realm of pornography into these specific boxes, specific acts, and almost 100% ignoring anything else that’s out there as if they were wearing blinders. Furthermore, the use of this specific example of male-ejaculating-onto-woman clearly shows us that there is a need for EDUCATION (surprise, surprise). As long as we continue to assume that men ejaculating on women is inherently about power and inherently degrading to women, we’re gonna have fucked up relationships to our sexual expressions. 
  • Their Q: “Don’t feminists focus on the worst kind of pornography, the most brutal images? Isn’t most pornography just people having sex?” and A: “StopPornCulture! focuses on the “mainstream” of the pornography industry. A tour through any pornography shop or internet sites will demonstrate that. If anything, we have avoided the worst of what’s available” = NOT TRUE. They have certainly not avoided the worst of what’s available, and many big names in the anti-porn community often do resort to highlighting some of the most “hardcore” porn over and over to try and drive their anti-porn points home. Want examples? How about Donna M. Hughes citing cases of bestiality, illegal + NON-CONSENSUAL BDSM, and criminal activity as “examples” and “case-studies” of sexual fetishism and BDSM as a whole in widespread bulletins through organizations like CAT? How about the continued talk of humantoiletbowls.com during the 1st day of the SPC conference? That’s like trying to represent an entire country by going to its prisons and picking the maximum security offenders to be the poster-children. It’s inaccurate and just plain stupid. More importantly, it’s DISINGENUOUS and dishonest.
  • “While it’s true that ‘scientific proof’ establishing a direct connection between pornography use and rape doesn’t exist, research has made it clear that the use of pornography is a factor in shaping the attitude and behaviors in some men who use it and that it is a factor in some men’s sexual aggression.” – Okay, fantastic. Now let’s actually investigate what other factors shape their aggression and how we can fix that. Furthermore, let’s talk about HOW it shapes their attitudes and behaviors. Let’s talk about education and empowerment and social change. We can “fix” pornography and “fix” society, but it won’t happen by eradicating pornography.
  • “Q: Can there be feminist pornography? A: No doubt there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality. And, it’s not surprising that there would be interest in countering sexist and racist images with healthier depictions of sexuality. The rush to imagine “good” pornography can be a way to avoid contemplating the nature of the actual pornography we live with. Perhaps a more constructive first step would be to talk honestly about the sex/gender crisis we face.” – Notice how they didn’t even answer the question AND how they avoided endorsing or acknowledging the term/concept “feminist pornography” by couching a yes-like answer under verboseness (“there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality”). Also, it’s silly to imply that a) we should first contemplate the porn we have before we try to imagine “better porn” as if we couldn’t do both simultaneously and b) those who are trying to articulate a sex-positive, feminist, non-oppressive pornography haven’t taken the time to analyze the “current system.” I do agree that we need to first analyze what’s going on before we can TRULY provide good alternatives to what’s currently out there, but I just take issue with the implication that we can’t even start to imagine the possibilities.

Also, please take a look at the conference’s schedule, and if you can, check out the information about the speakers. Don’t just stop at what they’re linking (or even what I’m linking) though. Google some of those names (e.g. Donna M. Hughes). Do your research.

Saturday, June 12

8:00-9:00         Registration
9:00-9:15         Housekeeping  (Lierre Keith)
9:15-9:30         Welcome and introductory remarks  (Dr. Gail Dines)
9:30-10:15       “A Power Paradox: The Online Commercial Pornography Industry Network” (Jennifer Johnson)
10:15-11:15     Making Hate: Porn, Sex and the Destruction of Intimacy (Dr. Gail Dines)
11:15 -11:30    Break
11:30-12:30 Self Exploitation:  The Slippery Slope of Self-Made Porn  (Dr. Sharon Cooper)
12:30-1:30       Lunch: There will be sandwiches for sale on site, and there are plenty of lunch spots close to the college.
1:30-2:30         “Hip Hop Honeys, Nappy Headed Hoes, and Hustlaz: The Pornofication of Hip Hop Music and Videos” (Dr. Carolyn West)
2:30-3:30         “The Personal Hazards of Porn” (Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST)
3:30-4:00         Break
4:00-5:00         “From Jekyll to Hyde: The Grooming of Male Pornography Consumers”  (Dr. Rebecca Whisnant)
5:00-5:45         Reconvene for discussion
(Break for dinner)
7:30-9:30         Dessert party and (optional) films
The Price of Pleasure” (with director Chyng Sun)

Sunday, June 13

9:30-11:00             Pornography and the Law: New Approaches

Diane Rosenfeld  (Harvard University Law School)
Clare McGlynn (Durham University School of Law)
Donna Hughes  (University of Rhode Island)

11:30-12:45          First Workshop
Anti-Pornography Organizing on the Internet
Samantha Berg (Genderberg) and Jill  (One Angry Girl)
Working with Men
Matthew Ezzell (James Madison University)
Cameron Murphey (Western Washington University)
Robert Jensen (University of Texas)
12:45-2:00       Lunch

2:00-3:15 Second Workshop

International Anti-Pornography Organizing
Linda Thompson  (Women’s Support Project, Glasgow)
Natalie Nenadic (University of Kentucky)
Donna Hughes (Dignity)
College Students, Hook-up Culture and Pornography:  A Discussion
Denise McGoldrick (Director of Health Education, Amherst College)
Gretchen Krull (Assistant Director of Health Education / Sexual Harassment Specialist, Amherst College)

3:15-3:45         Break
3:45-4:30         Final wrap-up and discussion

Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors

Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors
a panel and Q&A session moderated by 
Brown Professor of History and Brazilian Studies Jim N. Green,
author of Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil

Free and open to the public!
Tuesday, May 4th @ 6:00 pm
in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106 (View Map)
95 Cushing Street, Providence, RI 02906

This event is co-sponsored by: SHEEC and QCC

Panelists:
  • Aida Manduley: SHEEC Chairperson (that’s me!)
  • Megan Andelloux: Certified sexologist and sex educator
  • Reid Mihalko: Brown alum and presenter on sex and relationships 
  • Meitar Moscovitz: Community organizer and technology professional
  • Ricky Gresh: Senior director for Student Engagement at Brown University

What would you do if your organization were criticized for following through with its mission statement? What if you were publicly denigrated, misrepresented, and harassed for your work? What if educators themselves were trying to hamper your attempts at education

Finally, who should have a say in a college student’s sex education?

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This panel has been born out of a need to discuss the role of students, educators, and institutions in regards to censorship, free speech, and the right to organize.

More specifically, this panel has been born out of one group of incidents that have spanned this entire semester. SHEEC: the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council, an organization which I not only chair, but CHERISH, has come under vicious attack due to some (if not most) of the events it has been sponsoring, coordinating, and organizing. Who have been the attackers? Primarily, Donna M. Hughes (Prof. of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island) and Margaret Brooks (Brown alum and Prof. of Economics at Bridgewater State College). Other folks who have been involved? Melanie Shapiro, co-founder (along with Donna M. Hughes) of “Citizens Against Trafficking” and folks from the “Foundation for Intellectual Diversity,” a non-profit that is dedicated to funding the “underrepresented” ideas on the conservative end of the spectrum at Brown University.

We will briefly explain this ordeal at the panel, in the spirit of full transparency, and then we will delve deeper into other instances of censorship and moral panic so we can have a productive conversation about these issues. It’s an event that shouldn’t be missed, honestly. (If you’re curious and want to check out some back-story right now, though, feel free to peruse my SHEEC-tagged posts in this blog, which explain the matter/s and link to other sources of information.)

The event will focus on discussing censorship as it relates to sexual education and programming around sexuality issues because of the reasons why this panel came into being and because we hope to use the panelists’ experiences as “case-studies,” BUT we highly encourage EVERYBODY to attend, especially those who have had similar scary experiences with censorship or those who are curious because they don’t want to have it happen to them.

Come join us in our dialogue!

Though it’s open to the public, Brown students are especially encouraged to attend because we’ll discuss what Brown can do for YOU, and how Brown can protect your rights to hold events. This is CRUCIAL information, especially if you do any sort of “controversial” work on campus.

Also, in the spirit of bridge-building, communication, honesty, and all that good stuff, I personally invited the folks who have gone after me and my friends to the panel (and I’ve attached a copy of the email at the bottom of this post). So far, I haven’t received any sort of reply, which is very disappointing, although not terribly unexpected. Based on their track-record, it seems these people are not interested in any sort of conversation; they’re just out to bash individuals, censor comprehensive sexual education that acknowledges diversity, and shut down the things with which they don’t agree.

Perhaps they’ll surprise me on May 4th and attend the panel. It would be fascinating to finally see them in person, for once, and maybe have a chance to talk to them. All of this has gone on without them EVER asking me anything or directly contacting me–just paying eerily close attention to my online presence & SHEEC events and then criticizing, bashing, and lying about them behind my back. It seems they don’t acknowledge my humanity, or the humanity of the other people they have attacked and hurt with their mean-spirited campaigning, and that is really sad.

The worst part is, while we could ALL be spending time actually learning about and addressing the issue of trafficking & forced labor (because “sex-trafficking” is NOT the only issue here, or the only one affecting women; it is only ONE of the subsets of forced labor and human trafficking), we are instead caught in a web of animosity that distracts us from the REAL issues, confuses the public, and spreads inaccurate information. My friends and I are trying to make positive change in the world by educating and empowering people, while at the same time having to defend ourselves against harsh attacks by “educated” folks who conflate sex-work with sex-trafficking, equate kink and BDSM with slavery and abuse, purposefully lie and misrepresent those they see as “the enemy,” and deny women’s agency to make informed decisions because they somehow “know what’s best for them.”

Personally, based on the things I just highlighted, I think there are way more issues here than solely sexuality education and morality, don’t you think?

In short, I hope that if you CAN, you attend the panel.
I think everyone would benefit from hearing what we have to say and taking part in this discussion.




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Open Letter to Melanie Shapiro, Margaret Brooks, and Donna M. Hughes:

Date: Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:38 PM
Subject: Invitation to Event at Brown University
To: melanieshapiro4@gmail.com, mbrooks@bridgew.edu, dhughes@uri.edu, dhughes71@cox.net

Dear ladies, Since you have shown persistent interest in the events I have coordinated and facilitated at Brown University through SHEEC (the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council), as the organization’s Chairperson, I cordially invite you to attend the next one: “Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors” on May 4th, 2010, at 6:00pm in Smith-Buonanno Room 106. I hope you will take this opportunity to constructively converse with myself and the other people whom you have publicly denigrated and misrepresented, as I feel it is deeply saddening and highly unfortunate that you are so eager to attack my organization and its events while refusing to engage with me or even do basic research about what it is that I do and promote.

Sincerely,

– Aida Manduley