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Zombies are taking over the world

I’ve been around for a while now. That is to say, i’ve been an organized and active feminist, radical feminist, since the mid-1980s. And I ought to know a thing or two about organizing and getting shit done and rousing up the movement to accomplish something meaningful in the name of our shared liberation.

But I’m hampered. I am constrained by…femaleness. Not the physiology of being female, or the feeling of being female– the training. The training. I can’t shake the feeling that what i say/think/do doesn’t really matter. I HAVE TO take myself seriously, and I’m still drifting around like a fucking 15 year old — BOY. all cute and saucy, but with no…gumption.

And of course, i’m NOT a boy. Nor am I a ‘boi’–that shit’s ridiculous and dangerous. and not in a good way dangerous. Not in a ‘we are changing the structures within which we have been formed and live’ kind of dangerous…

We are all raised in some way or another, to be princesses. Even when the training doesn’t really ‘take’, as in my case, clearly–there is something ‘girly’ that clings. tenaciously to our way of being in the world. Like cat hair on a white shirt. Like spinach on an eyetooth. sigh.

Not ‘we’, I suppose, all the time. I know LOTS of women who are ‘take charge’ types. Women who stand out front. Who hold one hand back for us, and one hand up to fend off  THE MAN. But they can’t haul me around forever, i have to step in front.

The time is now. I think writing in a weblog is perhaps not the best way to spend my time. But I also think it’s a little useful in order to improve my writing. And I’m kind of, in a weird, disconnected way, meeting new people, for whom I have some admiration. They are reading my work, and I am reading theirs. and while so far we’re acquaintances, I am beginning to know that I and my local allies in Vancouver are not the only women in the world who are trying to stop the fucking zombies from taking over…

anyhow. now i want to write about some things the zombies are doing, that we need to stop–

Some of ’em are small, some are big. Here’s one:

Harm reduction

this is a dangerous set of practices. Dressed up as benevolence, it is a metal cage that keeps the marginalized in. They don’t mind it there, either. Like me, in my comfy little apartment, reading blogs, fussing with cockroach spray, tucking my pants into my socks–there are a million things to do before going about the business of gaining freedom. The addicts, now, the addicts and the prostitutes and the folks who are ‘beyond the pale’, they have a million things to do too, there on those narrow crumbling margins they inhabit. And Harm reduction will help them with all those millions of things, and keep them safe. safe but not free.

They have to find the needles, and the pipe, and suck the cock so they can get the dope or rock to put into the needle or the pipe, and on the way to the safe injection site, there’s a research project where they can tell an earnest young graduate student about their story and get ten bucks for their trouble, which, after they take their fix in the safe injection site, they can use to buy another hit. Those researchers, they’re a real boon to the ‘hood, ’cause that’s usually one or two less cocks to suck for some of the women.

And they are fortunate, here in one of the most livable cities in the world, that there is a neighbourhood just for them. There in the Downtown Eastside, they can walk one block in any direction and get:

a clean needle;

A sandwich

A loaf of bread

a pair of jeans

shoes

a haircut

some mascara

shampoo

a shower

internet access

a reading group

condoms, (lubricated or not)

a crack pipe

a “safe” filter for the crack pipe

a rock of crack for about five bucks

a flap of ‘down’ (heroin) for about ten bucks

a couple of T3s (codiene) for three bucks

a single cigarette

an INXS CD

A mountain bike

ten assorted pop cans

50 cents in exchange for the pop cans

a single cigarette for fifty cents…

and so on.

You can get a t-shirt from the safe injection site, too, that says on it, “InSite” and has a flower on it.

And if you’re a woman, and you’re out on the street in the middle of the night, you can get a cup of coffee from the folks in the MAP van.

If you live in one of the hotels down town that is run by one of the non-profit societies, you can get stale pastries from the young people who sit behind the desk and push the button to let people into your home.

What you can NOT get–not from the soup kitchens, or shelters, not from the safe fix site or the researchers, not from the politicians or from the MAP van, not from the drop-in centres or the property management companies or from the street nurses or the outreach workers–

is freedom.

Or responsibilities

you can’t get clean. you can’t get sober. you can’t get feminism from the folks who are giving you harm reduction. you can’t. You can just lurch from one fix or bowl of soup or pair of second-hand socks to the next.

Women who get clean, who get off the street, who get out of prostitution–they don’t get out by participating in research projects. They don’t get out by filling out affidavits. They don’t get out by sucking cock, taking a new pipe and filter from an outreach worker, buying a rock and lighting it up and sucking in the smoke and feeling a release from the feelings of despair. Nope.

They get out when someone SEES them. Someone sees them, and says to them, “hey. You know, you could do a lot better, eh. You don’t deserve this. What about you and me, we work on getting you out of here, getting you a better life?”

not, “well, it’s your choice. you do what you like. i’m not going to judge you. here have a coffee”

Not, “here’s a tourniquet, here’s a little mirrored booth. When you’re done shooting up, the nurse will watch so that you don’t o.d. There, there.”

Not, “we do have a detox, you can stay up there for three weeks, and you can’t leave the building or have any visitors, but it’s safe…”

Not, “you deserve to be respected as any other service provider. you deserve to be revered as a seller of very fine blow jobs”.

Now, it may sound as though I think that everyone who does the work of handing out sandwiches and clean needles is evil. One of the Nation of Zombies. But I don’t think that. I think that all the people who do that kinda work do want better for people. But they can’t imagine what better looks like, exactly.

not that I can, either…

But I do know, I know for SURE, that staying addicted is not better. no matter how safe and clean and disease-free is the delivery system, no matter how caring and safe the safe fix site is–it’s still prison and it’s not a better life.

Women get out when they have other people (womenpeople, or childrenpeople–not usually menpeople) who need them. And when they have support to do what is needed of them. When we matter to others, when we have responsibilities and when we belong somewhere…that’s when we can imagine freedom.

and by ‘belonging somewhere’, i don’t mean ‘lowest common denominator’.  I mean women, all together, taking the lead and saving the world. it’s work. and we make mistakes all the time. and we chicken out and make spectacular failures. And we don’t trust one another easily (nor should we), because we’ve all been raised up in a Capitalist Patriarchy where women are hated and despised and put on a pedestal and invented. How can we know how to trust each other when we don’t even know we exist?

We do exist, though. This gang of women here on the internet, and the folks in our own communities who KNOW us, and who expect things of us, we are all together going about the business of existence. in spite of. in the face of.

in spite of Capitalist Patriarchy

in the face of daily Mortal Danger

some of us have, as Andrea Dworkin reminded us, “more slack in our chain”.

Harm reduction is a chain. a silken chain with the strength of steel. it asks for nothing and gives everything. and leaves the recipient empty.

Look. The emperor has no clothes. While you are addicted you are not free. while you are addicted you cannot be beside me. While you are addicted your mind is not your own.

look at the source of the harm. reduce THAT. men’s unearned power. overconsumption. White people’s un-examined entitlement. free market economy.

I have to go meet up with my advisor now. Maybe i’ll write more about zombies another time.

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About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, under-employed, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. I play accordion better than I did, and i'm learning the concertina. Slowly.

8 responses »

  1. I read your blog and appreciate it. I don’t know any radical feminists at all offline, so I think you’re lucky! And the internet is my only chance to ‘meet’ other rad fems. Until I manage to fully convert my sisters and friends, that is…

    On the harm reduction stuff – it suits the powers that be to keep disenfranchised people in their place, and they’ll do it by any means they have – which is all means, of course.

    Reply
    • Hi TBL,
      I appreciate your blog, too. and i am lucky, you’re right about that. thanks for your comments.

      on the harm reduction stuff–it’s a tricky business, because a lot of the people who ‘do’ harm reduction think that they are working *against* the powers that be. but they’re playing right into their hands…it’s weird and a bit crazy-making…

      anyhow. yes. thank you. keep on, TBL.

      Reply
  2. Such good points you make.* Addiction is prison, sure as bars. It robs people of dignity, purpose, joy and the capacity to give and receive love — and what else is there, really, to stay alive for?

    Have never seen downtown Eastside…I lived in Toronto for three years, though, and saw some of what you describe there. Lots of earnest young grad students, etc. Will never forget the syringes in the bus shelters. Have you spent any time in T.O.?

    *Yoda syntax; I has it.

    Reply
  3. Hi Sarah,
    yep. addiction might also be a political response to exclusion–i’m still trying to figure that out. A colleague of mine once said, by way of quoting a man she used to work with: “Drinking is the oldest form of resistance”. mmmmm. maybe…

    T.O. i have spent some time there, not much, though, not enough to know it. I like it kind of. Once, I was caught in a sudden summer thunderstorm. it was marvelous. But extremely wet, very fast. so i ducked into a bookstore to wait it out. wall to wall, floor to ceiling books. my glasses fogged up. i stood at the doorway dripping, and this kind of rumpled woman came up from the back and looked at me over her glasses and offered me a styrofoam cup of hot chocolate. perfect. i like Toronto.

    Reply
  4. Erin, this is really interesting. I’m not sure if I’d feel differently if *I* were in recovery myself, but I believe there are many many people who don’t WANT to be well. Part of it, I’m sure, is that they don’t know HOW to get well or how to enjoy sober life. I’ve seen more than one person get sober, start a new life full of promise and optimism, then trash it ALL for a cheap high. Relapse, relapse, relapse. The way I see it, Life just Fucking Sucks. Even a “healthy” life is too much work to maintain in this fucked up world. But I think it’s really interesting that you don’t support Harm Reduction. I do, but as a lessening of SOCIETAL evils (as opposed to an individualist position). Your post nicely covers how this is not a black-and-white issue.

    Thanks for writing again about addiction. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi UP,
      and thanks again for reading and for your thoughtful comment. Certainly, there are people who are addicted who don’t want to be well. I heard one guy sum it up nicely when he said, “yea, we WANT to be high. People suck. the world sucks. there is no place for us in this world, we might as well be high.” or something like that. In that way, drug/alcohol use is a political act. He could not find a way to usefully engage with a society which excluded him, so he said, “fuck you” and stuck a needle in his arm. I think that’s mostly what addiction is, in fact–a refusal to engage. sometimes it’s just plain fear, sometimes it’s self-loathing, sometimes it’s pain management, and sometimes it is that kind of despair–‘i don’t fit, you don’t want me, i can’t fix it, see ya later’. so, yep, the best way to stop addiction is to change the world: redistribute the resources and wealth; everyone gets enough–and shift the power. a lot. I don’t think that Harm reduction can lessen societal evils. it didn’t come from a social justice (much less a feminist) foundation, it came from medicine, so, like medicine, treats the symptom–the individual addict. maybe it can be a useful tactic in a broad scheme of liberation, but the problems it was developed to solve are not social exclusion, male violence, white supremacy and the legacies of colonialism and imperialism or sex and class inequality. Nope. Always meant to be palliative, and to enforce social order.
      thanks again for your attention, UP. you’re right, it’s really hard to be healthy in this world–lotta work. but we can change the world and change ourselves. we have to.

      Reply
      • the problems it was developed to solve are not social exclusion, male violence, white supremacy and the legacies of colonialism and imperialism or sex and class inequality

        TRUE! (omg, look at our respectful disagreement!)The social evils I was thinking of are spreading disease via dirty needles, infections and related health problems from lack of access to showers– basically unpleasantries that can spread to other sectors of society, including skyrocketing health care costs. But no, it doesn’t help the individual OR the society move Forward towards eradication of the overarching evils you mentioned. No argument there!

        PS. Thank you for *your* support on my blog. I appreciate it. A lot.

  5. Thank you for writing this! Fuck harm minimisation. Seriously.

    “… don’t think that Harm reduction can lessen societal evils. it didn’t come from a social justice (much less a feminist) foundation, it came from medicine, so, like medicine, treats the symptom–the individual addict. maybe it can be a useful tactic in a broad scheme of liberation, but the problems it was developed to solve are not social exclusion, male violence, white supremacy and the legacies of colonialism and imperialism or sex and class inequality. Nope. ”

    This is so true.

    Reply

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