Reinventing the Wheel

In our organizations, we need to have a systematic way of figuring out what are the basic acceptable norms of behavior, and having a response to patriarchy that isn’t a one-size-fit-all response.

-Diary of a disparaged CNA

Years ago, my local anarchist scene had a community wide meeting on abuse and rape within the movement.  A good portion of the male leadership had been called out for abusive behavior that, in a few cases, involved sexual assault and rape.  There were accountability processes happening, there was disillusionment in said processes, there was anger, pain, a wide gamut of raw emotions.  Tensions ran very high, a number of people had to leave, some in tears.  It was a difficult meeting to have.

One thing that really stuck with me in that meeting was something one of the older members said.  She’d been around longer than most people in the room.  She said, “We keep reinventing the wheel on this shit.”  Every generation of activists seems to get blind-sided when someone gets raped.

I can remember my response when I first heard about it happening in my community.  I was shocked.  Aren’t we supposed to be better than that?  I’d taken it for granted that radicals were above that shit.  It lead to a lot of reflections in the way that I, personally, had perpetuated patriarchy.

There have been some attempts to develop models for community accountability, but they usually seem to be one-size-fits-all.  As the disparage CNA puts it:

With patriarchal behavior, there is a range of it. Some require more intense and sometimes, even violent responses. Others can be transformed. Often times,  patriarchal BEHAVIOR within the class, is also product of the contradictions of capitalism.

So, while we can’t assume one size fits all, we also need to stop reinventing the wheel.  Obviously the end goal is destroying patriarchy, but how can we do that if we don’t feel safe among comrades?