Earth First! Anti-oppression Policy and Addendum to Statement on DGR Transphobia

17 May

Earth First! Journal Collective

We would like to offer up the Earth First! Journal editorial collective’s anti-oppression policy below. Its a working and living document which has been hard fought over. It is only a document and despite it, the Earth First! Movement, like our society at large, still suffers under the grip of deeply embedded oppressive thoughts and behaviors. We have this policy, not as a form of righteousness, but as a reminder to ourselves of our own internal issues, of the years of distorted patriarchal, capitalist and racist education many of us have received and learned to embody.  It is in the spirit of this document that we made our decision about DGR.

However, we have also received accusations from members of DGR, including those who have now severed themselves from that movement, that they have received death threats and that some of their female organizers have been assaulted. This is not acceptable and does a great deal of harm to our movement. We condemn the trans phobic behavior of DGR and the oppressive actions carried out by those who have physically attacked DGR organizers or threatened their lives.  

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Anti-Oppression Policy

The Earth First! Journal editorial collective recognizes that the institutional, economic, political, social and cultural dynamics of hierarchy, power and privilege that define mainstream society also permeate the radical environmental movement. These dynamics are expressed in various interlocking systems of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, speciesism, etc.), which prevent equal access to resources and safety, disrupt healthy communities and movement building, and severely—sometimes irreparably—harm our allies, our friends, our loved ones and ourselves.

Over the years, the Journal has featured a growing number of articles addressing the need to challenge these systems of oppression. This is a reflection of the editorial collective’s understanding that implicit in our desire to stop the domination and exploitation of the Earth is a need to create communities that are free of oppressive social relations. We understand that failing to address oppressive behavior not only weakens our movement by alienating and further victimizing our friends and allies, it also calls into question our commitment to a better world and our qualification as a radical movement.

For these reasons, the Earth First! Journal editorial collective has drafted this policy of active opposition to oppressive behavior of all kinds within the editorial collective, the Journal community and the pages of the Journal itself.

Definitions

We define oppressive behavior as any conduct (typically along lines of institutionalized power and privilege) that demeans, marginalizes, rejects, threatens or harms any living being on the basis of ability, activist experience, age, class/income level, cultural background, education, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, language, nationality, physical appearance, race, religion, self-expression, sexual orientation, species, status as a parent or other such factors. Oppressive behavior comes in a wide variety of forms, from seemingly harmless jokes to threats of violence, from interrupting to verbal abuse, from unwanted touching to rape, from hitting to murder. Some forms are more extreme and irreparable than others, but all are unacceptable under the Journal‘s anti-oppression policy.

Goals

This policy aims to:

•affirm and protect the personal autonomy, safety and well-being of all who participate in the Journal, including short-term editors, long-term staff and volunteers;

•empower all Journal participants to challenge oppressive behavior and provide them with skills and resources to do so effectively (including educational materials, response strategies, etc.);

•nurture a strong, safe, healthy, reliable, egalitarian and diverse community surrounding the production of the Journal;

•make the Journal more accountable to both the greater Lake Worth area community and the Earth First! movement;

•support and promote anti-oppression principles and practices within the editorial collective and the pages of the Journal;
 
•overcome barriers preventing cooperation and solidarity with oppressed individuals and groups who feel unsafe or unwelcome at the Journal; and

•combat the troubling legacy of oppression that continues to plague the Journal, Earth First!, the radical environmental movement and our society as a whole.

Limitations

The Journal collective acknowledges the limitations of such a policy. Developing an anti-oppression policy is an ongoing process; this policy will undoubtedly need periodic review and revision. Additionally, this policy will not automatically make the Journal oppression-free, eliminate oppressive organizational structures and personal behaviors, or erase the grievances of previously oppressed and marginalized people. Realistically, our anti-oppression policy is only as strong as our commitment to addressing and confronting oppressive behavior on a regular basis.

Prevention and Education

The best way to deal with oppressive behavior is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Therefore, the Journal collective will ensure that all editors, staff and volunteers are familiar with this policy, with the understanding that all participants in the Journal community are expected to abide by it. Additionally, we will support individuals who are unfamiliar with the terms and ideas used in this policy by making available more resources (e.g., zines, essays, books, websites and previous Journal articles) on topics such as: building conflict resolution skills; promoting consent and mental health; dealing with sexual assault, animal abuse and other forms of violence; confronting male/heterosexual/white privilege; and supporting anti-racist organizing and border justice.

Toward a Restorative Justice Model

Every instance of oppressive behavior is unique and thus requires a unique response. Moreover, different types of oppressive behavior demand significantly different reactions (e.g., the strategy for confronting someone who makes an anti-Semitic joke will be different from the strategy for confronting someone who commits a sexual assault). Nevertheless, there are some familiar patterns that often arise when challenging oppression. We believe that anticipating these patterns, avoiding counter-productive reactions and aiming for ideal outcomes will benefit nearly all anti-oppression processes.

One common response to oppressive behavior is to ignore or deny it. Oppressed groups are refused power and privilege, including the power to protect themselves and the privilege of being believed when they express grievances. This marginalizing response to oppression breeds an atmosphere that encourages even more oppression. All participants in the Journal community should consider it their responsibility to be aware of oppressive behavior, to challenge it actively whenever it occurs and to create a safe space for people facing oppression to share their experiences.

It is important to recognize that oppressive behavior occurs every day, often in seemingly trivial ways. For example, interrupting is a common behavior that reinforces power dynamics. Those with white/male/heterosexual privilege frequently interrupt or talk over those without this privilege, thereby marginalizing people of color, women and queer folks. Over time, seemingly minor interruptions, jokes, slurs and stereotypes can snowball into a pattern of oppression that is far more damaging than an isolated incident.

It is important to consider that some methods of challenging mundane oppression are more productive than others. For instance, instead of insulting someone for making a transphobic comment or voicing vague disapproval of such behavior, it is far more effective to clearly and calmly explain what about the comment was offensive and why, while providing as much specific information as possible. Offering resources on transgender issues would be a good next step. Likewise, acting aggressively defensive or passively guilty when being challenged for oppressive behavior is another common reaction. A far more effective response to being called out is to listen patiently and attentively to the grievance, take action by apologizing or making amends, and engage in further education and reflection on the situation.

When dealing with more extreme or violent instances of oppressive behavior, a common response is to expel the offender immediately, with no attempt at mediation or reconciliation. This can create a dynamic of demonization that does nothing to help the offender admit what they’ve done and change their behavior. It can also prevent the oppressed individual from achieving much-needed healing and closure, as well as create incurable rifts in the community at large. Moreover, immediately expelling an offender increases the likelihood that they will simply move on to other communities where they will continue their patterns of oppression. Thus, whenever possible and appropriate, the Journal collective favors the method of encouraging offenders to undertake an accountability process of education, introspection, self-growth and reparations.

While stressing the need for personal responsibility and accountability, the Journal collective also acknowledges that we have all been socialized into systems of power and privilege. At one time or another, every one of us will be an oppressor; at another time, every one of us will be oppressed. Although this does not absolve us of responsibility, it does emphasize the universal need for effective anti-oppression strategies. Our collective goal is to acknowledge and unlearn oppressive behaviors without rejecting anyone. This community-oriented approach to oppressive behavior is commonly referred to as “restorative justice.”

Nevertheless, the Journal collective realizes that this ideal outcome is not always possible. Even when reconciliation does occur, it often requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of the offender, the oppressed individual and the community as a whole. Therefore, while we view the reconciliation of all parties and the growth of the offender as desirable results, we must stress that any process for confronting oppression must be guided (whenever possible) by the oppressed individual and primarily concerned with their needs for dignity, healing and safety. If the oppressed individual’s needs cannot be met through mediation, reconciliation and accountability processes, or if the offender does not sufficiently participate in these processes, then the expulsion of the offender may be the only possible recourse.

Forming a Process

For the reasons presented above, the Journal collective believes that adopting a single process for dealing with all instances of oppressive behavior would be unrealistic and ultimately ineffective.

Eventually, the Journal collective would like this policy to include a diversity of comprehensive anti-oppression strategies, including effective communication, intervention, mediation, accountability and reconciliation processes, as well as a specific sexual assault response procedure. However, the creation of these measures will likely be a complicated and lengthy undertaking, and we believe that little would be gained by waiting to adopt this policy until such processes are in place.

In the meantime, the Journal collective will assemble and make available resources on anti-oppression procedures and diverse response strategies, so that these can be used for guidance and reference when challenging oppressive behavior.

Affirming Other Communities

Since the Journal collective is composed of a frequently rotating group of individuals from diverse communities, it can be difficult to ensure that the Journal is a safe space. For this reason, if someone (1) is involved with the Journal as an editor or volunteer, (2) has a background of oppressive behavior and (3) is required by a survivor, community or accountability process to reveal their background to individuals and groups they work with, then that person is expected to honor and abide by those requirements. This will allow us to respect and reaffirm other communities’ anti-oppression policies and processes, and it will help ensure that the Journal is a safer space for all.

5 Responses to “Earth First! Anti-oppression Policy and Addendum to Statement on DGR Transphobia”

  1. mieprowan May 18, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Transphobia is about thinking transgender people don’t deserve basic civil rights, such as the right to marry, adopt children, be safe from economic discrimination and physical and emotional abuse. It is not about agreeing that transgender people have the right to claim discrimination when people don’t agree with them about exactly what transgender is, what causes it, where this kind of dissatisfaction comes from.

    • Don Wreath May 18, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      I think transphobia may not be the best word to describe the vile behavior we’ve seen in the comments on these numerous posts. Maybe it should just be called plain old sexism. Calling a transwoman a man is no different than using the “n word” to describe blacks, and creating cis-priviliged spaces is like the good ole boys country club keeping blacks and jews off the golf course.

      • Deep Roots Jessica May 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

        “Calling a transwoman a man is no different than using the “n word” to describe blacks, and creating cis-priviliged spaces is like the good ole boys country club keeping blacks and jews off the golf course.”- As a black woman I think you equating the need for females to have safe spaces to white people excluding black people from spaces to perpetuate and maintain systematic white supremacy incredibly offensive. White radicals/environmentalists you really have a lot to learn.

    • Sami May 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      “I fully support transpeople’s equal rights, I just think they’re liars who will never really be the gender they claim”

      “I fully support equal rights for gays and lesbians, I just think they’re deviant perverted sinners”

      “I support equal rights for women, I just think they have inferior intelligence.”

      “I support equal rights for ______s, I just support and promote the offensive and degrading beliefs about ______s which I know damn well are tge root of the oppression and violence they face.”

  2. ogichidaag May 31, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Wow, I can only say wow, Europeans are awfully strange critters and continue to baffle me everyday.
    I am not an Earth First person I stumbled across this on accident.

    Here is what I think, based on 4 decades of being a part of the American Indian Movement that has had an entire wing of the FBI dedicated to it’s destruction.

    I think this whole thing has been invented on both sides to fracture and splinter the environmental movement to save the earth from ruin.

    That is not to say that there are valid points being made by both sides from people who feel very passionate about their positions. What I mean is that I feel there are parties who are agents of oppression on both sides working overtime to fan the flames of anger between warriors of the truth.

    I asked one of our spiritual elders tonight to ask advice on this. Our tradition is one which is constantly being misappropriated by Europeans and is commonly called the Two Spirited person.

    As an indigenous person I know that our people had a place within our culture for people who were born to be warriors but also were born with womyn’s reproductive organs. People who were born to walk as womyn who were born with male bodies. These people were sacred and revered.

    That said there are ceremonies for people born to the cycle of the moon, whose bodies give blood to the earth as the tides of the moon pass and who gave birth. There were certain ceremonies that only they could participate in and circles to talk in. These lodges were protected and revered.

    There are certain circles that were for those who gave birth from their wombs.

    There were other ceremonies and circles for womyn where all womyn including the Two Spirit womyn participated in regardless of their relation with the moon.

    I asked my elder tonight if the two spirit womyn participated in ceremonies regarding fertility, and birth. The ceremonies of womyn whose bodies gave back to the earth during each cycle. She said “they did not” those ceremonies were not for them.

    So for god’s sake please do not use our traditions to fit your arguments. Our people did not battle each other over such things. There was no need. All had their place.

    There were no chemicals or surgeries. I am not condemning those who have those things today but I bring this up because I hear Europeans using our culture within these discussions to justify this position or that one.

    So here we see here a battle between Europeans who emerge from a society of oppression who has no place for womyn to gather their power whose bodies are in harmony with the moon and give back to the earth. Nor does your male dominant society have a place for the two spirited ones to be respected and revered. We see a society that sees womyn and labels womyn based on their organs alone. That is dominated by men and is destroying everything in it’s path.

    Here we see even those who are allegedly on a mission to save the earth and who are in harmony with the earth fighting tooth and nail over the definition of woman.You say there is one definition and so all who call themselves womyn are to be in all places at all times womyn.

    I say a two spirited person is more than woman or man but a different person altogether. They are after all called a two spirited person. They are where they are to be in matters that pertain to them and they are not in places that do not pertain to them.

    So I am asking in a good way and in earnest. Is this an issue of offence taken because some womyn who wish to share certain spaces that pertain to them are being attacked for this simple fact?

    I can also say that womyn whose bodies gift to the earth with the moon endure a certain oppression that the two spirited do not endure in this socalled civilization you live in. I can also say that two spirited people endure an oppression that those reproductive womyn do not endure.

    They are not the same oppression. They are vastly different.
    The oppression two spirited people endure as being cast away as useless by this society drives them to many extremes trying to become accepted and feeling at home in their bodies.

    There are no bad guys here. Please stop this insanity. If someone does not want to have a conversation with you, sleep with you, it may not mean they hate you, it may just mean that they can only share these things with others of their kind.

    It would be insanity for womyn born with bodies who give back tot he earth to say their experience on this journey was the same as the two spirit. It is not. By the same token, it would be insanity for the two spirit to say they were on the same journey as the former.
    It is also insulting for either party here Trans man, trans woman, or a person with ovaries, share the same oppression. They do not. The thing they share is oppression. Their journeys are different. Both deserve respect. Both deserve the space to be separate when they wish.

    One thing I do know is that all this oppression that is being claimed one against the other in this argument, is almost laughable in the face of the genocide that has been and continues to be wrought upon our people and our land by all of you. It is amazing you are so determined to fight with each other over which one is being the most oppressed. Seriously? In Congo since 1998. Over 9 million people have been killed over the metals in your cell phones, Your oppression is not even on the map when I think of millions and millions the European people continue to inflict.

    This fight was designed to keep white people for the most part and those obsessed with your politics fighting among each other, while your very existence is an infliction upon all the indigenous people of the earth and all their ways of life.

    This anti-culture your people have produced is self absorbed, a bunch of whining over who can use the bathroom where the rest of the planet is desperate to just eat. Anything.

    We actually get confronted as indigenous people about our continuing way of consumption of meat as oppression by many environmentalists. We never took more than we needed. Our animals on our land are being driven to extinction by whose way of life? By whose agriculture? You speak of animal rights? Where are you with the invasive species, pigs, pythons, and the like that are killing our animals on our lands? Let me guess many of you think they should be able to roam our land.Who brought the 2 million pigs roaming the southwest here? Who brought the 1 million feral pigs roaming Florida here? Who brought the roughly 400 million pigs on two feet to this land? You want to speak of oppression? Oppression is the hundreds of millions killed in the Western Hemisphere by Europeans. This continues on to this day to every indigenous people on this planet except the European.

    I pray for all of humanity that you recognize the futility of these arguments and redouble your efforts on saving the earth and it’s people from the American beast!

    I know people on both sides of this discussion (can it be called a discussion?) who are doing great and amazing work. They are beautiful people and the movement would be much worse off if they were not in it.

    I implore you, Love each other. Honor each other. Love those who are fighting this evil system that oppresses each and every one of us. We need every warrior we can get.

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