i want to live in a world in which i don’t spend my time debating neo nazi imagery

long story short for non-denizens of dallas, texas: a biker showed up wearing an SS patch at double wide, a local bar known for its nouveau trailer trash aesthetic. two people called him out on the patch, and were thrown out of the bar for being belligerent. the dallas internet and media thus spent several weeks debating the right of bikers to wear neo-nazi patches and the sensitive nature of social justice warriors*.

*first, as someone who could be labeled a “social justice warrior”, i don’t give a fuck about your denigrating labels.  in my work for socioeconomic justice, i experience daily harassment and microaggressions, consistently work 50+ hr weeks, and hold space for/witness people who lose their homes, jobs, and lives due to systemic racism and disenfranchisement. so calling “social justice warriors” thin-skinned when y’all can’t even handle not being able to wear your favorite white supremacist patch is white fragility at its finest.

other than the fact that i was right about double wide all along ever since they allowed one of their patrons to bring in a chicken and use it to sexually harass me, i’ve been trying to expend zero fucks about this incident. because i need to reserve my energy for you know, the aforementioned people losing their homes and stuff. but it still doesn’t excuse the supreme idiocy of people thinking they need to debate whether or not neo-nazi imagery is white supremacist (i thought we reached that conclusion after, i don’t know, the holocaust? can’t you guys debate something more 2016, like klyde warren park’s relationship to the dakota access pipeline?).

many neo-nazi supporters in the comments of these articles are claiming their right to the first amendment, which to me illustrates a general troubling ethos in texas of advancing individuation without any acknowledgement of social context. not all identities in texas, or the united states, are allowed to individuate in the same way without repercussion. for example, are the same people who are supportive of a biker’s right to wear SS patches as a form of self expression also as passionately engaged about the recent federal court ruling that allows employers to ban black women from wearing locs as a form of a self expression? are these same defenders of the first amendment also passionately engaged in defending the eighth amendment regarding police brutality ? of course not.

now that we’ve established defenders of double wide are not actually that concerned about constitutional rights for all, what exactly are they defending? they are defending the social order that allows certain identities to exist in public without repercussion. they are defending their willful blindness to texas’ bloody history of violence against women, queers, and people of color. to my knowledge, a brigade of queer folx have never targeted white supremacists for physical violence, but the same cannot be said for white supremacists and their treatment of queers. so who gets to appear as their full selves in public? the white supremacist or the queer?

if you are truly concerned about rights of free speech, then please, defend colin kaepernick’s right to kneel during the national anthem. defend black women’s right to wear locs to work. defend trans women’s right to wear what they want without being murdered at a higher rate than cis women. and yes, defend my right to opine that neo-nazi apologists are total shitwads.

as long as white supremacist violence exists, neo-nazi imagery will continue to represent that violence. if defenders of double wide truly want to neutralize the symbols of white supremacy so that they can wear it without repercussion, they need focus their attention at neutralizing the violence of white supremacy itself. see you on the social justice warrior side.

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Sexual Harassment in Social Practice is a Real Thing Y’All

I think it’s widely known that I was sexually assaulted by one of my peers in my graduate program chaired by a prominent feminist artist, and when I reported it, my academic institution did very little, probably because men shedding tears over being friend zoned is a socially accepted thing, and they did not want to lose a Fulbright Scholar. Case in point: they welcomed another Fulbright Scholar the next year.

The thing with sexual harassment and assault as a femme bodied artist is that this is not my first rodeo, guys. I’ve been followed on the train. I’ve had strangers attempt to kiss me and look up my skirt. I’ve had a board member of a very prominent arts funding organization try to sleep with me. I’ve had a community member try to touch me with his erect penis and call me multiple times in the middle of the night asking to come to my house. And I’ve had an artist download my phone number without my permission and then manically text me about my whereabouts. Sexual harassment: the phenomenon that transcends age, race, and class boundaries.

People always ask, “Why don’t you report that shit?” (cue all the victim blaming during my graduate school incident), but if the case with my graduate program is any indication, I could have cured some disease with the time and energy spent (fruitlessly) dealing with sexual harassment. So for the most part I take a deep breath, spend some time with an imaginary punching bag, and move on. However, I think it’s worthwhile to take this moment and impart some feminist analysis to social practice discourse when it comes to sexual harassment, in the hopes that we can shift the ways in which we understand gendered labor in the field.

It’s pretty obvious from my scenarios that sexual harassment is a real thing in #life, but when it comes to social practice and community engaged art, I think there is a causal relationship to be unpacked between the inherent emotional and public labor expected from a social practice artist, and sexual harassment.

Social practice is a form of emotional and public labor. When you are working interpersonally and collaboratively, you are probably making an effort to not be a bitch to the other person. When you’re working on issues of neighborhood and community, you are probably making an effort to get to know your neighbors, stakeholders, and potential collaborators. Once again, probably requires not being a bitch. Kindness, care, listening, and consideration are part of the social practice toolkit, and in general, just part of the toolkit of being a good person.

However, we live in a society where cishet men are socialized to think that any small sliver of interest is enough to be considered as consent. We also live in a society where men are socialized to equate kindness, care, listening, and consideration with sexual interest, not with the mere practice of being a good person. Often I find myself at the following crossroads as an emotional and public laborer: I can either choose to work with men, and brace myself for the eventual harassment; or I can not work with men at all.

(For those of you who are like, “Why don’t you just set some boundaries up front?”, I can send you some very ineffective screencaps of me saying “stay out of my DMs”.)

(For the older women who have told me, “You’re lucky you’re still young and attractive enough to be harassed.”, please stop using ageism to justify violence against other femme bodies.)

For me it’s not a constructive solution to never work with men. Especially on the neighborhood or community level, men make up one half of that community and should be engaged in issues of justice and neighborhood health as well. When you are confronting and navigating male-dominated power structures, it is impossible to not encounter men, usually of the sleazebag variety. But it is a disheartening solution to need to put my body in the line of fire to do my work. And then I think about how this phenomenon trickles upwards in terms of the way that we build a field through practice and discourse.

For example, if social practice is premised on emotional and public labor, why are some of the most prominent and lauded social practitioners men? Why are some of the most referred to texts also written by men? Why are there conveniently no chapters on sexual harassment in those texts? I love Rick Lowe to death, but maybe his success is partially due to his ability to rally entire communities without having to endure sexualized touching.

I’m sure this doesn’t only apply to femme bodies, but queer bodies, disabled bodies, racialized bodies, and trans bodies as well in terms of our struggles to balance our personal safety with community organizing and community health. I want this acknowledged and I want our discursive support structures – the people who we uplift in the social practice field, the metrics that we use to evaluate success, the methodologies that we promote – to support the real live breathing bodies of those of us doing this work. Maybe it’s time to abandon narratives of communities – whether they be neighborhoods, cities, or theoretical/academic communities – as bound together through camaraderie, and instead look at the very real violences that run through and demarcate communities, and how these violences are structurally distributed. Only then does the dismantling begin.