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Let’s Get Free!: Radicalizing Pro-Feminist Education for Men

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

The following speech was originally given at the Stop Porn Culture Conference at Wheelock College, Boston, in July 2013.

Hello everyone, my name is Kourtney Mitchell and I am a political activist and a member of the group Deep Green Resistance. We are a radical organization dedicated to social, political and environmental justice. As an organization we ally ourselves with indigenous communities, women, people of color and the poor. Our aim is to stop the destruction of the planet and the oppression of people and animals.

We are a relatively new organization just a couple of years old but we are growing and have numerous chapters with hundreds of activists around the world who are all dedicated to stopping the genocide of the planet.

So, I’ll offer just a brief background on my experience as a man with pro-feminist activism and educating men. I attended university and it was there that I first received academic and activist training in feminism and anti-violence through the peer education program on campus.

The peer education program consists of graduate students, faculty, and staff who train undergraduate volunteers. The training includes education about the widespread violence that women face and volunteers learn to give presentations to peers on rape, sexual assault, relationship violence, and feminism.

In turn, peers would then join our organizing efforts and events. This was the most profoundly significant and life changing time for me. To travel around the country raising awareness of violence against women, facilitating workshops, speak-outs, and protests was fulfilling, not to mention meaningful. The training threw me into another world, one in which violence and misogyny could no longer be ignored. Our advisors did a really comprehensive job of giving us an adequate scope of the problem, and creating a sense of urgency about these issues.

They helped facilitate the creation of a student culture based on the belief that it is possible to end violence against women, and knowing that possibility helped galvanize us to take action. Many of us went on to make this our life’s work.

My primary role in the campus activist community was recruiting and teaching men about pro-feminism and anti-violence. I helped lead the male ally program, which included a weekly discussion group, activism in the community, pro-feminist art and performance, and collaborations with other similar programs around the country.

I remember vividly the anxiety of pouring over every detail of presentations I would be giving to men, worrying if the way I presented concepts was too complicated or if men would shut down for the rest of the talk if I said something too complicated. I left some events feeling like no one was reachable, but I also walked away feeling really good about the successes which were accomplished.

Many men joined our organizations and became quite active – some because they just felt it was the right thing to do, but many more because of personal experiences and the experiences of their loved ones. Several men randomly wandered into our office and left planning to attend the next ally meeting, and sure enough did continue coming. This was just one of the many things that kept me optimistic about bringing more men to pro-feminist ideas and activism.

Unfortunately, the campus activist community was largely liberal and very much influenced by queer theory. Pornography was widely accepted, and a real revolution against the patriarchal order was more joked about than seriously considered. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the radical feminist perspective that I began to see the flaws of the liberal approach to pro-feminist education.

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Let’s Get Free!: A Scope of the Problem

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

Over the almost seven years I have been involved in social justice activism of various kinds, my level of understanding concerning our social and planetary predicament has grown quite a bit. I began my process towards a radical perspective as a student activist in the university anti-violence against women movement. It was there I developed what I like to call a clear “scope of the problem.

Allow me to back up a bit. I did not know it at the time, but while I was in high school my family survived a rough experience fighting the local police department that helped prime me for radical activism. My mother, while an officer, filed a civil suit against the department for racial discrimination. The ordeal was traumatizing – the media was relentless in their assaults on her character, the department engaged in continuous harassment of my family (including forcibly evicting us from our home on my 16th birthday), all of this culminating in several relocations in- and out-of-state. If it were not for the consistent support of family, friends, legal counsel and a compassionate and talented journalist who had our back, the city and its armed thugs would have certainly continued its oppression against us. Instead, my mother’s case was a primary reason the city organized a citizen’s review board to oversee law enforcement activities. My mother and I went on to write and publish a creative nonfiction book of her experience.

To this day, I am consistently amazed at my mother’s strength and courage. I witnessed her defy all odds, determined to stand up to the city’s bullying and set a lasting precedent for future generations.

As a teen I was not inclined towards activism, but that all changed when I attended college and somehow found myself sitting in the social justice center talking pro-feminist theory with fellow campus community members. I completed feminist and anti-violence training and that is when the real change began.

The information I learned was harrowing. I had no idea just how prevalent male violence against women was. Shaken to the core, I spent several nights in tears, struggling to understand just how the world became this way and how it could possibly continue. From the first night of training, I knew pro-feminism would be my life’s work. It became my passion.

Further social justice training on issues of race and class began to complete the circle for me. My own life experiences started to make much more sense, and I became sensitive to issues of justice and equality.

Then it was time for another wake-up call. I do not remember exactly how I discovered radical politics, but eventually I came upon Marxist theory, which then lead me to anarchism and eventually anti-civilization. I began reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame in the fall of 2008, and all of the emotions I felt when completing activist training came rushing back to the fore.

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Our Experiences Matter: On White Privilege and Backlash

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

As a radical black male living in the most hegemonic culture to ever exist, I consistently find myself keenly aware of instances in daily life to recognize and critique white supremacy. I have experienced firsthand this culture’s systemic racism. From the racist and sexist police department which harassed and conspired against my mother while she worked for them, to the fairly routine instances of micro-aggressions, racial profiling and predatory business practices all people of color endure in this culture, I have a personal relationship with oppression informing my analysis of racism. So when whites accuse people of color of being unable to let go of the past, they are missing some critical considerations.

Many whites have a difficult time accepting any attempt to redistribute wealth and resources to historically oppressed classes because they fail to see the reality of life as a person of color in this society. And when our stories are silenced, the dominant narrative of this culture can proliferate.

So I want to speak directly to whites who honestly believe society is post-racial and that they are being oppressed. I want you to listen and try to understand if you can.

‎One of white supremacy’s more insidious aspects is that it has perfected the art of double-speak. While it appears you are saying society is post-racial and we are all equal now, and therefore any redistribution of resources to historically oppressed classes is reverse racism, what you are really saying is the comfort and safety which was a result of a historically privileged position in society as leech members of a parasitic class of people is being challenged, and that makes you uncomfortable.

You want to know what I mean with that statement. Dominant classes of people are parasites, because they feed on the oppression of others. Whether or not you realize it, if you are a member of a dominant class, you are benefiting from the oppression of another class.

As a man, I benefit from patriarchy and misogyny. Members of my class of people are leeches, and that makes me a leech as well. It is my responsibility as an aspiring male ally to women to constantly critique my own participation in this culture and to do whatever I can to deconstruct the sexist and misogynistic tendencies I possess from this culture’s indoctrination. That is the minimal task of an ally, and the same applies to whites who wish to ally with people of color to combat racism. You must first admit your complicity in it.

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