Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, & Our ‘Movement’

Sera Davidow
201
369

Thousands push the limits (their own and the system’s) on a daily basis to fight the oppression of individuals labeled with psychiatric diagnoses, and to change the way the world understands various kinds of distress. Some of us call the body of people engaged in this work a ‘movement’. I am one such person who is often referring to a ‘civil rights’ or ‘human rights’ movement within this context, although I recognize the problems with referencing a singular ‘movement’, as well.

But, if we are to accept this body as a movement, we must also be willing to take a real look at its flaws, downfalls, shortcomings and anything else that may run counter to our expressed goals.

One of the ways that this movement falls short is related to its treatment of women and the recognition that sexism is a very real and present issue herein.

Now, that’s not to say that people doing this work necessarily treat women especially poorly when compared to the rest of the world. However, I will assert that this struggle for social justice within the psychiatric realm seems to carry no particular power of immunization against misogyny.

As a woman who has been both directly and indirectly impacted, and who has seen our efficacy as a larger body similarly affected, this matters to me. I’ve never been one to demand that everyone be unified, and I’m all the more less inclined to do so when the demand is to be unified in numbers and not by integrity or beliefs. But, nor can I stand confidently by a movement that fosters fractures in favor of fear, hate and re-traumatization.

If you’ve read this far, and are still mystified as to my point, let me get a little more direct:

For all our efforts to fight one brand of hurt, our own movement remains a microcosm of the world and its assorted transgressions, regularly playing out biases related to race, class, sexuality, gender and so on. In other words, where gender is concerned, our male counterparts (primarily those who are cisgender), tend to operate with a good deal of privilege (whether they intentionally take advantage of it or not).

This shows up in so many ways– some more visible than others. Although I have neither the time nor the space to develop a truly comprehensive list, it does seem relevant to offer up some examples. No matter your gender identity, consider the following signs you’re abusing (or feeding into) male privilege in this movement:

You use your (fledgling or otherwise) ‘rock star’ status in the movement to pick up women after your various speaking gigs, groups, or other events where individuals in vulnerable places are likely to be looking up to you.

You don’t have to worry about being constantly interrupted, especially since you’re the one who usually gets to speak first… or most… and/or yours is often the voice interrupting others.

You take credit for a woman’s work directly or indirectly (and treat them like they’re silly or ungrateful when they object).

You think it is ‘funny’ or ‘cute’ when a woman expresses concern that you’re somehow implicitly or explicitly a part of taking credit for their work, and you openly make light of it to others.

You argue that ‘who gets credit’ isn’t what’s important, but the truth is that you make that argument within a context where you’re the one most likely to get that credit anyway. (Yes, I’m spending a lot of time on the ‘credit’ issue, and not because of some misguided grab at fame. Rather, taking credit not due is one of the most common affronts I see. And, it is one that fundamentally undermines a person’s voice and personal power by literally stealing their hard-earned wisdom while simultaneously encouraging others to bypass that person in favor of another who has simply collected that information rather than lived it.)

You take part in event planning committees periodically, and when you do, it feels totally natural and expected for the women in the group to do the ‘behind the scenes’ work, while you take-on all the parts related to being in the public eye.

You know you’ll get heard, as long as you show up and open your mouth, and don’t really care about how much harder the women around you may need to work to garner the same respect. (On the other hand, if they come up with a good idea, you’re more than happy to ride their coattails.)

You enjoy taking part in a collectives or groups portrayed as being all on equal footing, but when you do, you still feel entitled to retain control (even over objections) as the most frequently heard ‘public voice’ representing them.

You organize a conference with only white, male keynoters… and you don’t even notice that you’ve done so.

You have accused a woman of ‘over reacting’, being ‘too emotional’, invading business not her own, or, even worse, acting out of unrequited feelings of lust or love when she called a man out for his unethical behavior (all as if she, and not the behavior she called out, were the heart of the problem).

You think you’re the one who’s best equipped to explain the issues and concerns most relevant to being a woman in a male-dominated world (or on any other issue where you do not have direct experience), even when there’s a woman present and ready to speak for herself.

You think activism and sex go hand-in-hand, and feel personally offended and angry if a woman you’re organizing or somehow working with says ‘no’ to your advances.

You make excuses for or don’t speak up at all to a man, men or male-led organization participating in one or more of these activities.

You continue to promote or work uninterrupted with a man, men or male-led organization that is routinely guilty of one or more of these activities.

You have played any role in threatening or silencing the women who have attempted to raise these or other similar issues (including calling their employers, defaming them publicly, or otherwise using your connections with fellow individuals in positions of power to ‘circle the wagons’).

You’ll support women who want to stand up against these issues (in some instances, risking their jobs, financial security, and so on in order to do so), but only behind the scenes because to do otherwise would be too uncomfortable or mean giving up some aspect of your own privilege.

Your choice to ignore any of these issues is unlikely to bear any negative consequences… for you.

You read this list and your immediate reaction is to get angry or defensive or to come up with a list of ways in which you’re not privileged (followed by unwillingness to work through any of that to understand why or be a part of the change).

You may read through this list and see signs of one person or another (or perhaps even yourself), but the truth is it’s not about just one single individual. As with all oppression, this issue is systemic, and for those of you who don’t see it at all, you’re likely in enough of a position of power to not have to.

But, for those of you who do recognize it, what do we do next? I almost always come with more questions than answers where such historical wrongs are concerned, but consider this:

We’re facing a pretty big challenge right now (read: the Murphy Bill!) and it behooves us to stand together on that front, but standing together on one issue does not necessitate sweeping all else under the rug ‘for the sake of the movement’. It can’t. Surely, the Murphy Bill 2015 will not be the last major attack we are called upon to face, and refusal to address our own failings with honesty and courage will only leave us all the weaker when those future threats head in our direction.

So, we’re all going to need to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and I guess this blog is intended at least somewhat as a call to action to do just that. As individuals, we need to:

  • Be careful to recognize each other’s hard work, even when recognition doesn’t seem required or who did what isn’t the priority topic of the moment (as that sort of recognition is a show of basic respect and valuing of another person’s efforts, and to do otherwise is a replication of a psychiatric system that has historically devalued or taken advantage of what we have to offer)
  • Get much more adept at speaking out (person-to-person or publicly as makes sense) when we see something happening that doesn’t fit with our values
  • Stop promoting individuals who are known for unethical behavior, just because their names are recognizable or they’re seen as most likely to bring in a big crowd
  • Avoid being driven by what is likely to lead to (or lose) more contracts or money (as it is, in fact, the industrialization of all things ‘peer’ and ‘recovery’ that has stolen vast amounts of our strength to date)
  • Stop speaking for people whose experiences we do not share, and instead speak with them or simply be a part of creating the space for them to speak (and shut the hell up)
  • Be willing to stand next to our friends, co-workers and allies who are taking some of these risks, even if that means taking on some risk ourselves
  • Challenge the organizations that we work with or that fund us and other groups to do the same

Now, I can’t close without acknowledging that I write this as a woman… A white, cisgender woman who is married to a white, cisgender man. I speak English as my first language, celebrate Christmas, and hold a job where I’m in a leadership role. I also grew up with a fair amount of wealth and social capital at my disposal in a city with a low crime rate and good educational access. That’s a boatload of privilege right there, and in fact, this movement needs to take a hard look at privilege (and lack thereof) on every level.

Our efforts were founded on all sorts of great ideals and slogans like ‘nothing about us without us’, but all these years later we still seem to be searching for what that really means. Yet, in spite of all our struggles and convolutions along the way, it continues to boil down to essentially the same basic point, doesn’t it? If we simply could figure out how to genuinely support each and every person – for all their parts and their whole – to have equal space to make their own meaning, speak their own truth and be valued for all they have to contribute, we’d be in a hell of a better place than we are right now.

Why on earth is that so hard?

Previous articleSound Heals the Wild Beast
Next articleThe Art of Mourning
Sera Davidow
Tangible Intangibilities: Sera writes here to share her thoughts on how the language we choose and our apparent need to concretize the inherently complex is leading to violations of rights and humanity on a daily basis.

201 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Sera,

    What you describe is right on target, and I have written about some of the same things. Yet the solutions you promote are not dealing with misogyny per se but rather ethical behavior in general. I venture to say that while those are all good ideas, they are not going to address male privilege. In fact, it’s likely to be women who take in the message that they need to examine their own behavior – that is part of misogyny and female socialization, to be accustomed to thinking we are the problem, it’s ok for others to judge us and means we should change, but not ok for us to judge others – especially men – and insist that they need to change.

    There are specifics to dealing with any kind of oppression, and women in particular need to claim for ourselves the right, ability, and power to name male oppression when we see it and not to back down in the face of criticism and judgment – you’re not nice, you’re drawing attention to yourself, you’re uncool, why are you focusing on only women, you’re a “TERF”, etc. Feminism is reviving its anger, and part of this is due to things happening around the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the awareness of a need for female-only spaces and female autonomy to do whatever we damn please with it.

    I am sure there will be negative comments to me, as female-only space is under attack from transgender activists, who also attack women’s freedom of speech when we dare to say that female reality can’t be trampled under males’ gender identities. That’s part of what it means to be a feminist nowadays and I won’t let it stop me from speaking. I hope that women wake up in our movement and everywhere and deal with all the misogyny by coming together, supporting each other, withdrawing our labor from men and organizations when we find ourselves being exploited, not being afraid to claim female-only space and create it as much as we wish.

    All the best,

    Tina

    • While I’m not interested in silencing anyone, as the moderator of this website I need to be clear that this is a trans-inclusive space. Everyone’s unique perspective is welcome, but we can’t allow comments that are oppressive to marginalized groups — which includes cisgender women, transgender women and all trans people. So this is not the place for the ‘who qualifies as a woman’ debate, and I ask for everyone’s cooperation in keeping this space as oppression-free as it can be.

    • Hi Tina,

      I agree that addressing misogyny must involve the whole picture and is not a woman’s issue. As a feminist and a woman, I don’t feel comfortable creating an us and them. If people from any sub-group including women want to gather and support each other, that should always be fine, but in the end, my hope is that we will see that we are all made of the same stuff, female, male, black, white, LBGTQ, religious, spiritual but not religious, atheist…we are all capable of love, hate, kindness, causing grave harm and bringing people together. Power must be shared for all of our voices to count equally. For that, those with more power and privilege carry more responsibility to step up and change systems. Men have a lot of work to do to stop misogyny.

        • Hi,

          I think asking the question is an important first step and still more than many men ask who may not see the problem or their place in making things better. I think Sera outlined many steps that men can take including giving credit for work done by individual women, not interrupting when a woman is speaking, not taking advantage of your hidden privileges at the expense of women and calling other men out when they do.

          Many of these privileges are built right into our structures, so listening to women and educating yourself about what needs to change. For example, when I married my children’s father, we both talked about our family’s surname, and we actually decided to add a new name which had meaning for us, which then would become our children’s surnames. We did not just fall back on patriarchal tradition. I have found this sort of openness to systemic change very lacking and quite refreshing.

          Challenging religious structures, for example calling out the recently popular Pope for what continues to be deeply imbedded structural patriarchy, rather than idealizing him for some of his more progressive statements that actually contradict the misogyny he perpetuates (calling for human rights and an end to climate change, while denying women power in his church and the rights to birth control…a human rights issue and an important element in family planning which is directly related to population control and human caused climate change).

          Thank you for the question. Men have largely been missing from the women’s movement and my belief is that those with systemic power must work even harder to right what is wrong. We all have work to do 😉

  2. Thanks Sera for this straightforward and concrete discussion of a crucially important issue. I’ve certainly been guilty of some of these to varying degrees. It’s often not easy for me (and I presume most people) to acknowledge (or even see) the intersection where my (our) own considerable privilege meets work focused on experiences where I’ve (we’ve) experienced marginalization. One doesn’t cancel the other out. I’ve often spoken about the importance of acknowledging heterogeneity, and not speaking for (or from) experiences that are not our own along many dimensions including those specific to this ‘movement:’ ‘distress,’ ‘disability,’ and intensity of system(s) exposure. Of course none of that cancels out or is more fundamental to shaping my own experiences than white male privilege in particular. I suspect each of us has much more difficulty recognizing our own privilege–along any of these dimensions–than our experiences of marginalization or oppression. It’s the nature of privilege that one doesn’t actually ‘have’ to see it. This piece is a great reminder and discussion of some of the specific ways that plays out. Thanks.

  3. Sera, thanks for calling public attention to this widespread problem, which I’ve certainly both witnessed and experienced way too often over the 25+ years I’ve been part of this movement. It’s ubiquitous and I’m sure many other women are fed up with this, too. And one wonders why funders and non-profit boards who are aware of these issues are not holding men accountable.

  4. Thank you Sera for this wonderful piece. It is put to each and everyone to speak up to injustices especially when they cancel out others voices. As you know I am a trans man, I have personal experience on the other side and in the last few years I have had the opportunity to see it through a different lens. I have to say that I am much more of a feminist now than I was when I was female identified.

    Having rock star status can be dangerous for us all, especially if we use to take advantage of those with less privilege in this ‘movement.’ I have see the hurt that many women have experienced working as advocates and I have seen them all away. We cannot continue to loose these important minds, it does us no good and it devalues what we say we are fighting for.

    As for the Michigan Fest I understand where Tina is coming from and I am a firm believer in folks being able to have spaces designated just for them. I only disagree when the space is used to plan destruction such as terrorism etc. I say this because we need to feel safe to say things, and experience our pain amongst those who know and have felt and experienced similar in a cultural way. I would love to see Tina write a blog about safe space and why it is needed. I will leave it at that as to not take away from this blog.

    Excellent piece!

  5. Thank you for your time and wisdom. Misogyny is so built into our society, families, religions and history that we may not remember to be vigilant. I agree with you 100%. My hope is that we all remain humble as we move forward and realize that we all have blind spots based on our life experience, sex, race, culture and privilege. By listening respectfully to each other and truly valuing lived experience we can overcome anything. Thank you Sera for this powerful reminder!

  6. Sera, as usual, I bow to your straight-forward eloquence.
    This feels like a really important piece of writing. I hope it inspires much conversation and action.

    I have a few thoughts to add, which hopefully will be helpful and add to the mix of thoughts. I feel like I’m going out on a limb a bit here.

    So I have 13 years in this “movement” starting from the time the Icarus Project website went online and
    I’m definitely someone who has been guilty of a number of your signs of abusing (or feeding into) male privilege.
    I am not proud of this but back in 2008 I was asked to step down from Icarus after 5 years by a group of women (all of them were my friends and co-workers) for perpetuating a bunch of the behavior you describe, including using my “movement rock star” status to influence vulnerable women, for taking credit for many people’s work by being the face of the organization, and for using my social power to influence “collective” decisions.

    I talk about all of this plenty with the people I’m close to, but it’s not often I find myself writing posts about it on the internet. So you’re inspiring me to try and articulate some of the key pieces and lessons from that time until now.

    It was really hard the way things went down in 08, for me and a bunch of people in Icarus. At the time I really tried to be accountable for all the accusations, I did not duck out of any of it. There was a group of women who called themselves the Women’s Incuentro (inspired by the women’s movement in the Zapatistas) who got together specifically to talk about the gender dynamics in The Icarus Project. There were a bunch of women who were so frustrated, not just with me, but with the social dynamics we were all wrapped up in. They made a list of all their frustrations and posted them on the front of the website. I ended up becoming the target of the frustration. And it was ugly, because it was public, so what that meant was: there were a small amount of people having interpersonal issues, and then a whole bunch of people watching (on the internet) from the outside, trying to figure out what was actually going on. At the time there were rumors that I was sexually harassing women and coercing women to have sex with me.

    Alright, so that’s all part of my history that I carry around, and honesty, that whole situation precipitated my last psychiatric hospitalization, it was definitely one of the hardest periods of my life. I disappeared for a couple years to get my shit together.

    Okay, so, lessons:

    My first response when it all went down was to find lots of women in my life to talk to about the situation and get their perspectives. This was helpful in some ways, but I remember at the time a particularly critical feminist colleague saying that I wasn’t going to be helped by being “comforted” by women because part of my problem was that I was used to getting psychological comfort from the women in my life. She had a good point.

    Also, all the feminist texts I read, from bell hooks to Silvia Federici, were really useful on some intellectual level, helping me to understand the context of misogyny and sexism, but in the end all the good books in the world don’t have the life lessons we need for the kind of growth that allows interpersonal dynamics to evolve.

    I honestly think what helped both me and the situation an enormous amount was healing from a bunch of my own childhood trauma, about becoming more of an adult, more of, dare a say…a man.

    Think about it: you take someone who, deep down, has low self-esteem, had a shitty and complicated family life, got picked on and bullied in school, has a complex about being inferior and “crazy”, and then give them a bunch of attention, a bunch of “rock star” status with other people….then add on a ton of institutional privilege (in my case whiteness, maleness, middle-classness, straightness, and, you know, the cultural blinders that accompany those things — even for those of us who were raised by feminist moms and have been hanging out with anarchists for 20 years) and it’s not hard to see where the desire for fame…the taking up space and hard time listening (add some manic depressive tendencies in there and it’s way worse!) and the not necessarily so healthy sexual and romantic patterns come from. Then have them magnified under the pressure of public life.

    It was really important for me to get the fuck away from that whole situation for a number of years, move far away, do a lot of healing and growing, and building relationships outside the context of that pressure cooker. I thankfully have repaired all the relationships with people who were so pissed at me, and now we all talk about those times as deep learning experiences. I am incredibly grateful for this and I think it makes me a much better, more whole person. By the way it was a lot of work.

    But the big conclusion that I came to from that period is one that has become a guiding value in my life: the importance of mentorship. The importance of both having older or more experienced mentors and being a mentor to others. My dad died when I was 13 and he was raised Irish-Catholic in the 50s and had a lot of fucking terrible backwards ideas about women and gender dynamics. I inherited a bunch of stuff from him. So what I’m saying is I really appreciate and seek out feminist men in my life. Coming out of that period I was lucky enough to be a part of a study/practice group in NYC called Challenging Male Supremacy which was full of awesome men on their own paths and very powerful and transformative for me. And I very much go out of my way to hang out with younger men in my community and I try to be a good example of a man who respects women in all aspects of my life.

    That said, another important lesson I learned from my experience being the target of a whole lot of anger is that sometimes when you’re in a public position of power it is really easy for people who have their own unresolved issues to project all kinds of feelings onto you that aren’t coming from your actions as much as from what you represent in the social narrative. At this point I’ve become used to people directing feelings towards me as if I’m the father they have unresolved issues with or their boss or some other man who once treated them badly. I do my best to avoid keeping the company of people who treat me in such ways, but it’s not always avoidable, considering that, well, we ALL have a bunch of issues we’re carry around!

    So for my own piece of mind I just want to make sure to clarify to whoever’s out there that’s reading these words that I’m not writing all this because I think I’m this enlightened feminist man that’s mansplaining you about how the mad movement should be dealing with sexism. I just want to add a voice in here from a man who has been wrestling with these issues for awhile and has a few thoughts. There are definitely some women out there who don’t see me as the enlightened portrait I’m attempting to paint for you. So it goes.

    I’ve actually been thinking about this stuff in recent months because there’s this man in the community who’s been accused of, well, I think all of the stuff you’re talking about, Sera, and I’ve thought about reaching out to him, and maybe trying to be part of a process of…something? I’ve felt like one of the internet spectators who doesn’t actually know the details so I’ve kept my mouth shut and haven’t said anything to anyone until now. I don’t know what the answer is in his situation but I really appreciate you inspiring and giving me the space to speak a little bit of the complicated truth that makes me who I am.

    In the end I think it’s really, really important that we focus on collective healing more than being individually punitive. I am all for holding people accountable, for people being removed from positions of power, for people taking time away to grow and reflect and come back with gifts of wisdom, but in my lifetime I have seen some really horrible, divisive attempts at “accountability” that have torn holes in the fabric of communities of resistance that I hold dear. There is a lot of spoken and unspoken trauma in this particular mad community of resistance and I hope that we can take into account the ways that we have been hurt, and not recreate them all over again for ourselves and the ones that come after us.

  7. I am glad you have raised sexism in this movement – not because i am very aware of it, I don’t spend enough time around survivor movements these day to have enough experience of it to know how common it is, but because it always needs addressing, as do other issues where groups are marginalised. However I find this article hard to engage with without examples. This maybe because I’m a man. If it was about how lesbians and gays are ignored or walked over I’d probably get it straight away as I’m a gay man. I certainly appreciate the things you listed do happen, and not just in the survivor movement. I think they are pretty much endemic to society and I could give you examples from groups in other movements I have been involved in, but examples would have helped me engage more – even if they were made up ones.

    I realise examples would be difficult to provide as they might be considered inflamatory or be open to legal challenge.

    I am aware that those effected by psychiatry reflect the power dynamics of society at large (the poor, women, ethinc minorities and queer people being disproportionaly psychiatrised). I do not see this being very well addressed by many activists.

    I am aware that at least in the UK there is a much higher rate of forced psychiatrisation of ethnic minorities, perticularly from the afro-carribean community, and I see little from activists to address this or many attempts to form links from white activists to ethnic minority groups.

    I think addressing all this is possible but difficult and requires commitment over the long term.

    I went on some training for UK activists, though not from the mad movement, on power and privilege in which we were invited to say if we were part of any marginilised group, find others in those groups and discuss the following questions:

    1 how are we opppressed by our movments?
    2 what do we have to offer our movements that are special
    3 what do we need to be included by these movements?

    The groups in that perticular workshop who came forward were, working class, parents, hidden disabilities (which included those with enduring mental distress – or the mad which I talke about) and LGBT people.

    It was very interesting to hear all these people say how they felt oppressed, what they had to offer and what they needed. I perticularly remember parents saying do not advertise your meetings as child friendly and then complain when a child starts being disruptive instead organise a chreche! And don’t tell parents how to feed thier child, especially middle class people telling working class people how to feed thier children.

    So I think it is possible for campaign groups to hear what women, and other margialised groups, suffer and what they would need to particpate fully. But I also know this is hard work and takes a lot of effort for both the mainstream to egage with and for marginalise groups to have to repeatedly bring these things up. It isn’t a one off discussion either. If movements want to address sexism, or other ways minorities are discriminated against then it probably has to be long term work.

    In a climate campaign group I was part of a group looking at these issues. Women seemed to have a lot of power though they still complained about being interrupted by men, so sexism was not completely dealt with. There seemed however to be a hidden hierachy of people with higher degrees making most of the decisions so class seemed to be a problem. So I think these issues can take a long time to address and probably need constant work.

  8. You are absolutely correct about how the individuals who become fame whores hurt the Mad rights movement and all of the other civil rights movements. R.D. Laing could have had a much better chance at reforming psychiatry if he hadn’t turned into a diva. Mad rights activists can’t afford to succumb to ANY vices. There are many, many people (Rep. Tim Murphy, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, Susan Inman, etc.) who will sniff out our human frailties, exaggerate them, and then sink our civil rights movements by assassinating our characters because they can’t refute us on the issues. They can’t play clean, so we can’t play dirty. We must be beyond reproach.

  9. There is so much that can be said here about male privilege. I know that many men who are part of our community try hard to be free of bias. Yet, just as I, a white woman, carry white privilege and many blind spots toward racism, well meaning men do the same. Through honest and respectful dialogue, we all have much to learn about each other’s experience.

    We have been socialized from childhood to unconsciously accept women’s subordination. Women are still expected to give up their surnames upon marriage to men or come up with another plan agreeable to their husbands. Men rarely share this dilemma or the difficult decision about what surnames to give any children they have together. Most major religions treat women as second class members. The Catholic Church will not allow women to have leadership positions, nuns cannot own property while priests can and birth control and a woman’s right to choose are opposed. Traditional Judaism and Islam both keep women in subordinate positions. Religions enforce misogyny while still being allowed tax-free status in this country. “Sports Illustrated” devotes an entire issue each February to showing women in skimpy swim suits as if it’s a sport to objectify women. I could go on, but my point is that these misogynistic structures exist all around us. Both men and women are taught that women are objects for men’s enjoyment and that women are not worth as much as men. So it is not a surprise to me, that our movement is also affected by misogyny.

    My understanding of Sera’s article is that we, as a human rights movement still have our own internal issues to address. I agree with all of her points and hope that we can all work toward a community free of sexism, racism, gender stereotypes, classicism, homophobia etc. Thank you for this rich discussion.

  10. Do I hear the Politics of Experience? I wonder? In the socio-political agenda, here on MIA.

    I understand the need to feel a sense of belonging and the self-affectation of our self-defensive view of reality. Yet, in the context of modernity’s painfully obvious misogyny, let me ask readers to consider a view of reality, from two men, not afraid to challenge the obvious sense of reality, that plagues the worried well masses, we label “normal.” Please contemplate with a felt-sense of reality, the second-hand, vicarious illusions created by our mind & how, as R.D. Laing suggested: We are all in posthypnotic trance induced in early infancy.

    MIND: AS VIRTUAL REALITY.
    The mind’s Self-Affectation of Internal Regulation and a Vicarious (second hand) Sense of Reality. Please read Brian Massumi’s explanation of how the mind, is a virtual re-presentation, as McGilchrist puts it, of our, in the living moment, sense of reality:

    “Self-affectation. A term that should be understood in the double sense of the artificial construction of a self and of the suffusing of that self with affect. Here, there is no model. Only infolding and unfolding: self-referential transformation. The analog is process, self-referenced to its own variations. It resembles nothing outside itself. A topological image center literally makes the virtual appear, in felt thought. It is more apparitional than empirical. Sensation, always on arrival a transformative feeling of the outside, a feeling of thought, is the being of the analog. It is matter in analog mode. This is the analog in a sense close to the technical meaning, as a continuously variable impulse or momentum that can cross from one qualitatively different medium into another. Like electricity into sound waves. Or heat into pain. Or light waves into vision. Or vision into imagination. Or noise in the ear into music in the heart. Or outside coming in. Variable continuity across the qualitatively different: continuity of transformation. The analog impulse from one medium to another is what was termed in the last chapter a transduction. In sensation the thinking-feeling body is operating as a transducer. If sensation is the analog processing by body-matter of ongoing transformative forces, then foremost among them are forces of appearing as such: of coming into being, registering as becoming.

    The analog process of reading translates ascii code into figures of speech enveloping figures of thought, taken in its restrictive sense of conscious reflection. There is no thought that is not accompanied by a physical sensation of effort or agitation (if only a knitting of the brows, a pursing of the lips, or a quickening of heartbeat). This sensation, which may be muscular (proprioceptive), tactile, or visceral is backgrounded. This doesn’t mean it disappears into the background. It means that it appears as the background against which the conscious thought stands out: its felt environment. The accompanying sensation encompasses the thought that detaches itself from it. Reading, however cerebral it may be, does not entirely think out sensation. It is not purified of it. A knitting of the brows or pursing of the lips is a self-referential action. Its sensation is a turning in on itself of the body’s activity, so that the action is not extended toward an object but knots at its point of emergence: rises and subsides into its own incipiency, in the same movement. The acts of attention performed during reading are forms of incipient action. It was asserted in the last chapter that action and perception are reciprocals of each other. If, as Bergson argued, a perception is an incipient action, then reciprocally an action is an incipient perception. Enfolded in the muscular, tactile, and visceral sensations of attention are incipient perceptions. When we read, we do not see the individual letters and words. That is what learning to read is all about: learning to stop seeing the letters so you can see through them. Through the letters, we directly experience fleeting vision like sensations, inklings of sound, faint brushes of movement. The turning in on itself of the body, its self-referential short-circuiting of outward-projected activity, gives free rein to these incipient perceptions. In the experience of reading, conscious thought, sensation, and all the modalities of perception fold into and out of each other. “ -Brian Massumi

    Copied from: Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions) Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

    This is an example of the reading material which has helped me understand myself from the inside-out, and experientially confirm Dr John Weir Perry’s statement in his book Trail of the Visionary Mind, “psychosis is natures way of setting things right.”

    And while I truly understand you when write: Our efforts were founded on all sorts of great ideals and slogans like ‘nothing about us without us’, but all these years later we still seem to be searching for what that really means. Yet, in spite of all our struggles and convolutions along the way, it continues to boil down to essentially the same basic point, doesn’t it, -Sera.

    I beg you to consider the need to take the ideology out of the debate & offer practical solutions for the hundreds of thousands who suffer in isolation. The basic point that I’m trying to make here, is that the common-sense notion that we truly know ourselves because we cab speak, read and write words. Is, in existential terms, a delusion.

    Which why Hakomi therapists begin with the question “how do you do? How are you doing, you?” Before re-orienting the client towards sensation awareness of how their whole body, which has no separate parts, when one looks at reality with 100 times magnification, creates the experience we label, mind.

    Best wishes,

    David.

  11. As someone who tried to speak truth to the false power within the movement, I applaud your article.
    Years ago a small group of women spoke up. I was one of them. 3 of the men in “leadership” positions made sure to silence me. I was bullied and outright threatened. But what bothered me the most was the women who blindly follow these men and defended them with such voracity. I know that they will some day realize that they have been lied to. And when they do I hope they do not have to experience what I did.
    I no longer have anything to do with the fight for our civil rights. I quit several years ago. A big part of my decision to do so was based on the men who pose as national “leaders”. I simply refuse to allow toxic people in my life and they are beyond toxic.

    • Same thing happened to me, although I was never threatened; but I felt ganged up on by group think, that’s for sure. I keep going, though, because it serves my own growth and healing, and my own personal activism, as long as I don’t let myself get drained by the inevitable pitfalls of social activism. But I do understand the need to separate from it, at times, for the purpose of self-care.

      I’m male, however, so I’m not sure if it’s inherently a gender issue, but, I’m thinking now, more one of personality and a quest for power, then becoming drunk with it. I experienced this quite a bit going through the system, across the gender board, and I found it repeated when I started doing activism work.

      I believe this is to overcompensate for deeply embedded internal feelings of powerlessness–to which I feel we can all relate on some level– and when not owned and addressed responsibly, is what leads to bullying systems, imo, such as what I feel the mental health system is, for starters, just by analyzing the social and professional dynamics of it.

      I don’t feel bullying is done successfully by one person alone, it is the group think and blind loyalty of a community which makes it effective, and potentially dangerous to the psyche. I believe this comes from the need “to belong,” which is what disempowers us, because we end up giving our power to others, and allowing the community to dictate our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

      Yes, it would be nice if this particular dynamic were to heal in this activism. Otherwise, it is no example to anyone, and this is how change is made, when we live the example of our talk. After all, oppressive professional hypocrisy is what we are addressing continuously.

      • I agree, Alex, power is at the center of all of the “isms,” the desire to have power and the fear of losing it. Psychiatry is built on this desire and fear, from its very foundations, and it is only through our own humility and willingness to step out of power roles and create the space to be human that this can ever be healed.

        Sera, thanks for writing this and putting it on the table for all to see and engage with. Not sure what else I can say – it’s a vitally important issue and I’m glad when folks speak out about it. I’ll make every effort to be all the more attuned to these dynamics in the groups I’m part of, including this one!

        —- Steve

        • “…it is only through our own humility and willingness to step out of power roles and create the space to be human that this can ever be healed.”

          This is such a beautiful statement, Steve, and I couldn’t agree more. Giving ourselves permission to be human allows us to extend it outward. In addition, when we allow ourselves to be in our enlightenment and to own it rightfully, we can extend this outward, as well, and see each others’ spirits as well as each others’ humanism, with full respect and honor, rather than fear and resentment. I believe this crosses all gender and class lines. Indeed, this would be healing such illusions of duality. Thanks, always, for your deep wisdom.

      • This sounds all flowery and sincere but I still sense that you are trying to equate your situation with that of sexist oppression, which is a particular form of oppression which does not and cannot apply to you.

  12. Sera

    Another great blog. You have a way of consistently touching on important “hot button” issues that always draw very passionate, emotional, and political responses.

    I have stated here at MIA that the struggle against psychiatric abuse may be the last great human rights struggle, but this actually ignores the reality of the “Women Question” as we referred to it in the 60’s. The struggle against women’s oppression will go on for a long time “after the revolution” as we use to say.

    Male supremacy, and/or prejudice against women, is perhaps the most deeply engrained of all the forms of prejudice within our society; ISIS and other types of Muslim fanaticism are only one of the more extreme versions of this. “Where there is oppression there will always be resistance” and for this reason it is comforting to know that the on going ideology and practice of women’s oppression (if eventually opposed) will ultimately undermine and destroy these reactionary historical trends. They will also hold back progress in the so-called Western World, as well, if not addressed.

    Another slogan from the 60’s, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” highlights the absurdity of trying to think about changing the world while still holding onto these last bastions of inequality.

    I have been troubled for some time that very few people at MIA have been willing to step out and defend women’s right to control their bodies and their reproductive rights by upholding the absolute right to abortion.

    At times there have been MIA blogs that have contained anti-choice code words and several comments over the years that promote the erosion of women’s right to choose. I felt somewhat alone in calling people out on this. We must acknowledge that the Right Wing has made major inroads over the past several decades in eroding away many of the gains of the 1960’s; this must be fought against.

    You cannot pretend to be a feminist, or say you are in favor of women’s equality, if you don’t support the most vital human right for half of humanity to control their own bodies, especially reproductive rights. There can be no compromise on this issue.

    Richard

    • Richard,

      Thank you for pointing out the importance of choice over one’s body and reproductive decisions. This continues to be left out of so many human rights discussions but is a critical foundation for women’s rights. Traditional (misogynistic) religions continue to perpetuate these reproductive restrictions on women. Thanks again!

  13. Hi Richard. While the right to choose is pretty much a no-brainer, I believe Sera is trying to identify more subtle (at least to men) forms of sexism in the movement. (Not a disagreement, just a note.)

  14. Hi Sera, thanks for this.

    The 70’s mental patients liberation movement was constantly dealing with some of the most blatant sexism imaginable. This led to some of the annual conferences on “human rights and psychiatric oppression” having to call emergency meetings to deal with stuff such as a man (not transgender) calling himself a lesbian and insisting on being allowed into a women-only workshop. Some of the male behavior at these conferences was so outrageous that it allowed others of us, myself included, to believe that we were highly conscious of and opposed to sexism when in fact we were simply being less blatant. And while some highly conscious analyses of women and psychiatric oppression were formulated by women ex-inmates during this period, these were always much more advanced than the operant movement mentality.

    So, I’m glad to see this article in MIA and wonder what the reaction will be. Just as all white people are racist at some level (at least in America), all men harbor more sexism than they care to be aware of and confront. So it’s not really my/our job to give you too much comment or reaction here so much as to try to take what you say to heart and respect women as the educators on these matters. The examples you give are well articulated and hopefully will strike a chord with at least some of us.

    • Do you not think that the converse is true? That there are a lot of women who are really angry with the male patriarchy to the point where they would be oppressive–either consciously or unconsciously–to indefensible men in vulnerable situations? Women can be as emasculating as men can be tyrants.

      • Women can be as emasculating as men can be tyrants.

        Alex, are you sure you want to set yourself up as the example of what Sera is trying to get at?

        Take the word you used, “emasculating” — what does this imply? That women who angrily call out men on their sexism are taking their “manhood” away? What is “manhood” anyway — the right to dominate?

        Men are not oppressive as a reaction to women’s oppression, it’s a learned behavior based on institutions we have been brought up under. What you describe as “oppressive” behavior by women “angry at patriarchy” sounds more lie a reaction to sexism, not an ingrained trait.

        Your comment about “indefensible men in vulnerable situations” is too abstract and ambiguous to respond to but it sounds in general like your reactions here are primarily defensive.

        • Trying to bring another perspective, I don’t have anything to be defensive about. Although I’ve experienced blatant sexism, so I thought I’d comment. Thanks for your thoughts, however.

          • That’s the problem, you’re only worried about the words and not the meaning behind them.

            Women cannot be sexist. Black people cannot be racist. I can’t believe I’m the only one responding to this. Hopefully I’m only the first.

            Incidentally, Nurse Rachet is commonly acknowledged as a sexist misrepresentation of the true psychiatric oppressors.

          • Oops, the Nurse Rachet comment was to your later post.

            However, if you are a man you have not experienced blatant sexism, unless it was empathetic.

            Looks like we’re in for a long discussion.

          • “Incidentally, Nurse Rachet is commonly acknowledged as a sexist misrepresentation of the true psychiatric oppressors.”

            Not in my experience! It was spot on. I knew plenty of them.

            Oppression is generational, until one brave soul stands up to it, front and center to begin to diffuse it. When it is systemic, it takes time because it goes through many players. I believe many of us have done this already, called out systemic abuse in the face of it. It’s a daunting task, but the more that do take that risk, the freer we become as a society.

          • Ok, oldhead, I’ll sit with this and see what I learn from what you’ve expressed to me, here.

            True, I am a man, so I cannot know the internal experience of a woman, just as a woman cannot know the internal experience of a man.

            But I do know intimately the internal workings of an oppressed group. And not really because of my sexual orientation, that was minor compared to what I experienced as a temporarily disabled person, thanks to psych drugging and social trauma due to blatant stigma and discrimination. I had to use a lot of my inner resources to combat all of this on a health, and on a legal level. I succeeded at both, and got over it, for all practical purposes, and got on with my life completely. But it sure did wake me up.

            I am not versed on the academic subject of ‘sexism,’ I only know what my life has led me to believe through my experience. Language keeps getting protested and as a result, it changes as often as these tech upgrades keep coming at us, one after another after another. I can’t keep up with either. I rely on getting the heart and spirit of what someone says, rather than trying to analyze the language, that gets kind of cumbersome and distracting for me, and I think it strays from the heart of the discussion.

            I have new experiences daily, so I learn more and more as time goes on, and my perspective and beliefs can shift along with that, if it feels true to me to make this kind of shift. I’ll see where I am led on the topic of ‘sexism.’

            But regarding extreme social oppression leading to all sorts of suffering and precariously vulnerable situations, I know all about that. It’s exactly what led me to this website over 4 years ago. Finally, others who got it.

            I almost lost my life to all of this, because of this, came dangerously close!

            But, it turns out, regardless of the fact that my experiences jive with the majority on here regarding the “mental health” system and its tangents, I’m not in agreement with a lot of the general beliefs about life here in this community.

            I would never consider myself a feminist, nor a misogynist, primarily because these are just more labels, and I really do hate being labeled as ANYTHING. I feel that only leads to stigmatizing someone, because you can never really know a person until you walk around in their skin. That goes for everyone 100%.

            I can be many things, depending on what the occasion calls for, I’m by no means perfect and not without my own paradox. But I will say with certainty that I am always honest, authentic, and transparent, no aces up my sleeve in any way. I’m straightforward and straight up. You can call me anything you want, and I’ll decide whether or not it is truth.

        • “However, if you are a man you have not experienced blatant sexism, unless it was empathetic.”

          Be careful when you tell someone what they have or have not experienced, oldhead. I believe that is out of bounds and inherently irrelevant, as we try to tell clinicians from their practice of telling others what their experience is or is not, over the client’s own voice.

          I’m a very out and married Gay man who lives in an oppressively male dominated society. Do the math.

          • Gay or not you are still male, and by definition you have not experienced sexism at the hands of women. You may consider homophobia a form of sexism, which is another discussion, but the examples you have used so far have all seemed to be in support of your claim that women can be sexist.

          • Darn, sorry oldhead, I replied to your post above this thread by error. Yep, it’s confusing. In the thread directly above this (I hope), I’m responding to this, where I say I’ll sit with it all:

            “Gay or not you are still male, and by definition you have not experienced sexism at the hands of women. You may consider homophobia a form of sexism, which is another discussion, but the examples you have used so far have all seemed to be in support of your claim that women can be sexist.”

        • “Men are not oppressive as a reaction to women’s oppression, it’s a learned behavior based on institutions we have been brought up under.”

          So unlearn it. That’s what we do with all our social programming. We can rewrite this stuff, that’s a component of healing. We know it’s false, so don’t live by it. See the world differently, through fresh eyes, rather than programmed and learned from an unjust and bullying society.

          “What you describe as “oppressive” behavior by women “angry at patriarchy” sounds more lie a reaction to sexism, not an ingrained trait.”

          First of all, it is either learned or inherent, cannot be both. I don’t believe men are born oppressive, that would be a good example of stigmatizing generalization, that ALL men are inherently oppressive. I don’t believe that to be true whatsoever.

          Still, even if we’re talking about a learned false belief vs. a reaction to sexism (or any kind of discrimination), that would make no never mind to me. In either case, I’d discourage it greatly in favor of ascending this power struggle to heal this malignant duality in which we’ve unwittingly set ourselves up.

          • So, speaking in plain terms, your contention is that by ignoring contradictions we transcend them?

            All men in all but (perhaps) some “backwards” tribal areas are sexist at least almost from birth, yes; the conditioning sets in immediately and is constantly reinforced. Unlearning it will be a long process, not something individuals can just “decide” to do; we can however decide to try. Why is this so hard for you to acknowledge?

          • Oldhead, obviously I hit a nerve in you. I really don’t want to be perpetually on the defensive, so I’m going to end my part of the discussion at this time. I believe I’ve shared generously from where I’m coming. You are free to disagree with me, not at all a problem for me. But I don’t see the value for myself in continuing this, as this is not at all my idea of productive dialogue. Thank you for sharing your perspective and opinions. Best wishes.

          • To Alex — Not sure why you think you “hit a nerve,” seems to me you’re having trouble responding to “my” points (which are not really mine, I’m just relaying what I’ve learned). But I’ll be happy to opt out and see if anyone else can get through to you without making you “defensive.” Cheers.

          • Thanks, I’ve appreciate all of what you’ve offered. Again, I’m not feeling defensive, as I have nothing to feel I have to defend. I answered a lot of your questions directly and I found some of them to be irrelevant, misleading, and suggestive in a pejorative way. My truth is my truth, and I’m more than comfortable in it. My life works just fine, I’m happy and settled in it. I’m not as invested in convincing you of anything as you seem to be in convincing me to your way of thinking. In this endeavor, I have to say, I’ve found you to be rather relentless! Cheers.

          • “….However, if you are a man you have not experienced blatant sexism, unless it was empathetic…..”…..

            I, “Bradford”, added the quadratic ellipses and quotation marks to YOUR words, which i cut-n-pasted from YOUR comments, above, “oldhead”…..

            Will you PLEASE explain WTF “empathetic sexism” is….????….

    • I’m not sure what ‘sidelining’ is, but honestly, I was just following the conversation and responding in ways that felt relevant to me. I’ll back off, however, and let the discussion unfold without me. I’ve said plenty and don’t want to get in over my head, here. All interesting stuff, though, and extremely relevant to social healing, imo. Thanks for the valuable feedback, humanbeing.

    • While I agree that the use of the word emasculating is itself based on sexist reactions to women’s power and assertiveness, I would agree with Alex that human beings can oppress others. Mothers can abuse or oppress sons who can grow up and use systemic sexism to subconsciously get back at the females in his life who may have abused him. I think any justifiably angry group (as Sera pointed out) can scapegoat a person of the dominant group instead of addressing the deep systemic oppressions. Individuals can be hurt unfairly for the wrongs of the group. For example, a man with a female boss may be mistreated due to her deep anger at men. However, systemic sexism favors men; patriarchy is alive and well. I hope we stand collectively against all forms of oppression and unfairness, including misogyny.

      • What did Nurse Ratchet do to her patient when she could not control him? She reminded him that he feared his mother.

        I think she was based on a real character, or perhaps a composite, but I don’t think this scenario is fiction. While I will very respectfully reconsider how I use that word in this context, I do feel it is a tool commonly used for oppression in a sexist way.

      • Individuals can be hurt unfairly for the wrongs of the group. For example, a man with a female boss may be mistreated due to her deep anger at men.

        Still, that is not sexism; assuming the description is accurate it is a misplaced response to sexism. This is more than “semantics.”

  15. Sera , I love your articles and the discussions that follow. If I wasn’t such a bull in a china shop and I wasn’t afraid of being constantly walking on eggs I probably wouldn’t say much of anything . Which might be a good thing if I was able . Take care

  16. Sera, you’re spot on. I have actually been dialoguing about racism, homophobic tendency and the inherent misogyny in many of our communities and it makes me wonder why. I understand why. I know why, but I wish we didn’t. You bring up so many points and I thank you for bringing this up. It is the pink elephant. We CAN do something about it. Let’s start.

  17. Hi Sera…thank you for this inspirational blog. In our management team (which is diverse) we strive to practise many of your suggestions, and it certainly has enhanced our understanding and compassion for each other and the people we support. Recently, I shared an experience surrounding one of our local towns, wherein I have been attempting to educate the politicians around the issues of poverty and homelessness. Ironically, this is a community that appears to accept all people with one qualifier…you have to have money. Hence if you do not, they expect those we support to move from their home community. When I recently presented to this Municipal Council, I was searching out allies. I unfortunately presumed (and probably guilty of some “ism”) that I would get the support of two politicians – a woman, single mom (who I knew had been in an abusive relationship) and a gay black man. They were most vociferous in their opposition to any attempts of support or understanding and were instrumental in disrupting my presentation.
    When I shared this experience with our team, it was suggested to me that I must understand the nuances of privilege; that it took these two folks significant effort to gain privilege and hence they could not risk losing their own personal privilege. While I understood the thread of the discussion (similar somewhat to how an abused person becomes an abuser) and I agreed, it was also recommended that I must give these people a pass. Somehow that doesn’t sit with well me.
    There will be further instances where I will have to engage with these two folks. I am in a quandary on how to proceed. Any advice? Cheers, John

    • OK, here’s MY thoughts regarding your question(s), above:
      The single mother from abusive relationship, and gay black man, *might* have felt especially “threatened” by you. You raising issues of poverty & homelessness *might* have hit deep nerves & un-healed sore spots in them. Having been allowed “into the halls of power”, so to speak, they *might* be especially sensitive to ANY “perceived threat:”. Therefore, they *might* be subtly trying to empower themselves and make their places more secure, by more strongly challenging YOU. ( Here, I have tried to use the * ” marks to help make my words more understandable. )….
      I’ve seen something VERY like what you describe, in my own small New England college town. There is a TON of MONEY in this area, and it’s surprisingly “snobby”, and “elitist”, despite all the trappings & window-dressings of “liberal”, and “diversity”. Those 2 “code words” are used to protect the moneyed-elite, 95% “white” power structure here. As a concrete example, the local ASPCA / Humane Society is a 2-acre, stand-alone building, fairly new, and LARGE. LOTS of volunteers, and social presence. *BUT*, the local “human homeless shelter” is a chronically under-funded, short-staffed hole-in-the-wall. Judging by money spent, and facility, this town cares FAR MORE about homeless dogs and cats, than homeless people….. I know for a FACT, that several local homeless “campers” have had their HOMES – tents in the woods, really – either DESTROYED, or TORCHED (arson….).
      Neither the local City Council, or Police, really care at all about the homeless around here.
      It’s very sad and sickening to see. Don’t even let me get started on the local “community mental health center”……
      Finally, am I correct in assuming you’re writing about England? The “Municipal Council” sounds English, to me…..
      And, ANY homeless woman around here will get MUCH MORE support than MOST homeless men…. How is that NOT anti-male sexism….????….

  18. This article makes me feel that perhaps it is a good thing that I do not attend activist conferences. Most of my life is involved with a regular job and I’ve decided because of that I can’t publicly be part of this movement. If the movement is so conflicted maybe it’s better that I just stay at a distance.

    Along with activism, I’ve considered working in the mental health field as a career, but I’ve rejected that because the hypocrisy and corruption of the American mental health system is just too much. Even as an outsider one can see that. So all I do now is comment here and talk to the people who get in touch with me through my site, and offer them whatever support and empathy I can (yes, I’m much nicer when I’m not getting mad at fake diagnoses and drugging). People appreciate this because to them free friendship and support from someone who’s been through the mental health system is more genuine in than the “help” they get from said system. Plus, I know more about borderline and psychotic states from experience and reading than most so-called professionals do. If I may humbly say so myself. 🙂

    Maybe 30 years from now, when I’m an old, rich, retired white man, I will start going to conferences.

      • No but, sometimes when you’ve been stuck in the mental health system for a long time as a patient, you finally get out, go into a regular job, have normal relationships, and have no wish to actively go back into that system. I’m quite comfortable not being directly involved with the mental system as either a patient or activist right now. That’s my rose garden.

  19. The leading cause of death for men is now suicide. 95% of workplace deaths are men. The vast majority of the homeless are men. It is still legal to mutilate the genitals of baby boys. Men can be forced to fight and die in a war.. … In the UK women under 39 now earn more than men. In education 60% of graduates are women and education achievement of girls now outstrips boys. Women live longer than men…and money for health issues for women is far greater than for men. I could go on but I will leave it there. Dear woman… thanks for the privilege.. xxx

    • Dear woman… thanks for the privilege.. xxx

      The problems of war, increasing suicide, workplace deaths, homelessness, lack of educational opportunity, shortened life expectancy, and insufficient funding for health research have been caused by capitalism. Your anger at women asking only that structural misogyny be recognized and addressed seems misplaced.

      To Nick and anyone else who questions the existence of structural misogyny, please consider the fact of marital rape. It is still legal and socially acceptable in many countries and has only been criminalized in others fairly recently. As an example, marital rape only became illegal in all 50 US states in 1993, and those laws are filled with loopholes that vary by state.

      Please consider that women were once (and in many places still are) considered property and were subject to the whims of their spouses or male family members. Women were not even allowed to vote in the US until 1920. That’s 129 years after the “Bill of Rights” was added to the US Constitution. Structural misogyny needs to be addressed so that we as a species can move forward in the direction of justice for all people.

  20. Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, & Our ‘Movement’

    I am a white male… didn’t chose that! But ah! The sins of the father! A psychiatric survivor, lived on the streets and still struggle to keep a roof over my head. But I oppress her… and have privilege over her… really? Really?

  21. Nick,
    The things you mention do not undo the systemic misogyny that exists across all religions and cultures. I agree though that there are ways that boys and men suffer systemically (and war and circumcision are two examples). Men also have pain. Life is not easy. The other things you mention though suggest that you may be coming from the expectation that men should be dominant and anything less shows that men have no privilege. I would not agree that these examples show a lack of systemic sexism, but only that women are making progress toward equality in some spheres. Beyond this, commenting about women’s healthcare completely ignores the fact that your mother and mine gave birth which explains the healthcare cost differences between men and women and certainly is not something for men to use against women. My hope is that you can acknowledge what Sera has mentioned about systemic misogyny and not see it as a position that denies male suffering. Both can be true.

    • ” the systemic misogyny that exists across all religions ”

      A sweeping statement.. can you tell me how, say, Taoism is misogynist?

      “you may be coming from the expectation that men should be dominant”

      I do not think that. Why do you think I do?

      “commenting about women’s healthcare completely ignores the fact that your mother and mine gave birth which explains the healthcare cost differences between men and women and certainly is not something for men to use against women.”

      I was actually talking about the difference in funding for breast cancer compared to prostate cancer and other similar examples

      “My hope is that you can acknowledge what Sera has mentioned about systemic misogyny”

      No. A rich white woman cannot point the finger at me and tell me I am privileged over her.

      • Nick,

        I am not trying to point the finger at you. Sorry if it felt that way.

        I should have used the term “traditional” religions. Do you know of any world religions founded and led primarily by women?

        Regarding medical research, if we are devoting more funding to one rather than the other, this should be corrected. I actually have heard the opposite about research funding being more directed toward men’s health concerns, but I have not researched this and if there are inequities that favor women, they should be corrected.

        I have privilege in some areas, but I don’t agree that being female has been a privilege from a systems point of view. Overall, my understanding and experience is that I have been denied opportunities and respect in areas because of my sex.

        My understanding is that men own most of the world’s wealth, and retain dominant power in most governments. Are you saying that these structures are shared 50:50?

        To be clear, I don’t blame individuals, you or me, for systemic prejudice. However, the systemic differences exist and should be corrected.

        I hope for a fair and equitable world for all,

        Truth

        • “Do you know of any world religions founded and led primarily by women?”

          Yes.. Theosophy for one…

          “my understanding and experience is that I have been denied opportunities and respect in areas because of my sex.”

          Tell me please the details ..

          “My understanding is that men own most of the world’s wealth, and retain dominant power in most governments. Are you saying that these structures are shared 50:50?”

          No… are you also saying that coal miners.. sewage workers, those in construction… or in fishing and other dangerous jobs are shared 50:50?

          “I don’t blame individuals, you or me, for systemic prejudice.”

          Which is what Sera is doing. Think of the outcry if she had started her piece with Dear Blacks.. or Dear nutcases….. jeez! men of course can be abused in this way.

          I hope for a fair and equitable world for all,

          I do too.

          • OMG

            Have you ever been in a courtroom, just as one example.

            Who makes the rules?

            Is it women? I think not.

            Women give childbirth; fraught with danger in some places (getting to be more and more dangerous in this country thanks to our shi**y health care system). Women live with ‘partners’ who kill them or threaten them with homelessness or the loss of their children calling them ‘crazy’…how many women shrinks give a ‘severe mental illness’ diagnosis to men? Not many, I’m guessing.

            How many men get raped in this country? The stats say 1 out of 4 women in the US are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

            How many poor elderly are women? And it’s not just because they live longer.

            How many men are caretakers–a necessary and vital part of society—do you have any idea how LITTLE caretakers MAKE???

            The porn that is so prevalent and so common…only a man could turn this around and make himself the victim of his power-over privileges. (Sexual dysfunction in real life).

            All you men on here protesting this blog by Sera seem to have completely missed the point. Like a fish in water, you cannot see what you are swimming in.

            Sad.

  22. Dear Men: In Sera’s Facebook page she included the following: “None of what this blog has had to say is intended to negate your struggle, your suffering, or your accomplishments.
    But nor does your difficulty in understanding that negate what sexism actually means, or the existence of white or male privilege.”
    For those men being defensive about this article, I urge you to re-read the article and contemplate her message. This isn’t about a war on men. John

    • “the existence of white or male privilege”

      Because I was born white and male… I am privileged? In what way am I?

      “This isn’t about a war on men.”

      It is exactly that.

      • I DO agree with you, Nick…..well said…..
        I lost ALL of whatever “white male privilege” I *MIGHT* have been born with, the day in high school when I was first taken to a quack shrink, and given my first “psychiatric diagnosis”, and Rx for DRUGS…..

      • Nick

        You have power and privilege simply because you were born white. At birth you were automatically accorded and ceded a one up position above women and anyone with any color skin other than that which is referred to as white. You didn’t have to work for this or achieve anything to get it. It was simply given to you because the world believes that white men are much more important than anyone else in the world.

        You may have a difficult time seeing this and understanding it because you’ve always had this from the first breath you took outside of your mother’s womb. It’s just always been there for you to have and use without any thought about it. It’s what you’ve always known up to this point in time. Women and people of color have to spend a lot of time and effort just trying to earn what you were already born with.

        This I know because I’ve got the power and privilege accorded to white men simply because I look white when people look at me. I am not white by any means. I am a person of the First Nations, what white people like to call Native Americans. Some of us may call ourselves that but most of us do not. I am descended from the Lakota, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations that were here at least 10,000 years before white people ever sailed to our shores and “discovered” this land. However, all of us do not have dark complexions or have coal black hair or wear that hair in braids. This is what many white people expect us to look like and it’s their assumption that all of us do look like this. They are wrong. Because my family didn’t look like the typical stereotype of what a First Nations person looks like, my grandfather made us “pass” for white because it gave us economic status and privilege that claiming our true heritage would not have given us, especially in the state where I was born. It has a large First Nations population and they are still treated as less than human by a lot of white people living there. This is very similar to what Dutch Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, experienced in his family. His father looked white and because of this he was able to get a job at Sears. His father rode the same street car that Dutch and his brother rode to get to school but he and his brother were ordered to never talk to or act as if they knew their father because they were darker in complexion than he was. He sat in the Whites Only section at the front of the street car and his sons had to pass him without recognition as they walked down the aisle to the “Negroes Only” section. His father was able to give his family a better living because white people assumed he was white, but Dutch always remembered this as he grew into the man who became the first African American mayor of his city. At least I think he is the first African American mayor of New Orleans.

        So, I’ve watched all of this with great interest as I’ve been given power and privilege that I would not have received if many white people had known that I was other than white. I’ve been treated differently simply because of my looks and the assumptions made about those looks. Trust me, you do have power and privilege that many people in the world will never be given, simply because you were born white.

        • Dutch Morial’s father never got on the streetcar at the same time as his sons. They got on at another stop after their father had boarded. And as they passed him they always had to act as if they had no idea who he was.

  23. Ok… just trying to debate. Of course I will be flamed. Men. Are you inherently misogynist? Defined as ‘a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.’ Are you?

    • I disagree; I do not think that Sera is trying to divide our community. It’s only in coming to grips with the reality and truth of how things really are that we might be able to actually build a true movement.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by this, humanbeing. I’ve read the article a number of times and I’ve been present with the discussion. If I’ve done anything unwittingly devious or have said anything offensive to anyone, I am truly sorry. I feel I have been straightforward and respectful; although this is an activist community, so I don’t see the point in walking on eggshells. I am direct and my intention is always to be as clear as possible. And I feel I am sensitive when it is called for. I’m never out to hurt anyone, as most people are not, I would hope.

      But Sera’s articles are often challenging, which is a good thing, we are challenged to think and find our truth around such issues. “Challenge’ becomes the catch phrase here, and I feel if we can dish it out, we should be able to take it, as well. Again, we are activists–a role which is not for the faint of heart.

      But sometimes perspectives conflict, which is always an excellent opportunity for everyone to get more clarity through good dialogue, which is healing for all concerned.

      However, whenever the response to most of what I say is, You this and you that, and you’re feeling this and you’re saying that, etc., I not only consider this to be not only an extreme violation of personal space and highly presumptuous, but I also consider it to be counter- productive to dialogue for the purpose of achieving universal clarity. Instead, it becomes more of a battle of the egos and wills, everyone out to prove themselves right while attacking the credibility of those who question or disagree. Power, power, power, that’s the goal. That is standard in society, and I see the exact same thing playing out here. Kind of frustrating, considering that this does nothing for those who are suffering now.

      I’m just one small individual voice, here, offering my perspective, from my experience in life, as is everyone else, I’m guessing. I feel I can balance my personal experience with what I’ve observed around me throughout my decades of living life and soaking it all in. At least in this discussion, I’ve felt clear in my truth at all times, while hearing others. I get that we’re talking about a generations-old trend of patriarchy which is still alive and well in many ways, but I feel that calling out misogyny exclusively blatantly excludes men who have suffered from such victimization, and in fact, seems to suggest how they/we should behave. I don’t agree with that focus as a way to achieving cohesion in community.

      I hear that not being a woman, I cannot understand this kind of oppression. And I say, being a survivor of the mental health system makes this statement entirely false.

      I’ve discussed these issues of gender and inequality with tons of people over the years, I’m familiar with them. Although we never got stuck on defining ‘sexism,’ and making it one-sided issue.

      I’m not clear on why this discussion has deteriorated into personal battles and insidious attacks, although it does seem par for the course around here. I felt this discussion was rife with possibilities for healing a big split in society, and which exists here in this community in many forms of duality. We have the opportunity to perceive and discuss from a variety of perspectives, feelings, observations, and personal life experiences, and yet, many of these are invalidated and dismissed–or what you did, to tell me what I’ve read or haven’t read, and to tell me what I’m doing wrong. I could get this from my own parents, thank you. That also seems to be the case way more often than not around here.

      I’m just saying, as an observer and participant, this is my perspective. Who else would it be about, if not me? I’m by no means isolated in the world, so perhaps others might share this perspective. Who knows? In any case, it’s my truth. Unless this is a cult, I would hope that my truth is honored around here. After all, I’m a survivor of psychiatric abuse, in many forms.

      • Alex,

        I’m having trouble understanding your statements here:

        I get that we’re talking about a generations-old trend of patriarchy which is still alive and well in many ways, but I feel that calling out misogyny exclusively blatantly excludes men who have suffered from such victimization, and in fact, seems to suggest how they/we should behave.

        It’s not clear to me what you mean by “calling out misogyny exclusively” in this sentence. Do you mean focusing exclusively on misogyny in this one blog post? Why would anything be wrong with that? And how would that negate the various sufferings of men?

        Men, by definition, have not “suffered from such victimization” (misogyny), because this particular form of victimization can only be directly experienced by women.

        I hear that not being a woman, I cannot understand this kind of oppression. And I say, being a survivor of the mental health system makes this statement entirely false.

        I think that suffering under any kind of oppression can potentially make a person more sensitive to the victims of other oppressions that do not directly affect that person. So you may indeed understand misogyny in some sense, but you have not experienced it. No man has.

        Although we never got stuck on defining ‘sexism,’ and making it one-sided issue.

        I’ve been following your posts here and it seems to me that you have been using the word ‘sexism’ in the colloquial sense and others have been using it as a synonym for structural misogyny (see oldhead’s analogy about “racism” vs “prejudice”). So you are having different conversations. Both sides are correct given the different meanings of the word that each is using. But what this blog is about is structural misogyny, not individual acts of prejudice or abuse based on sex (which can just as easily be – and are – perpetrated by women on men as they are by men on women).

        • I need to amend the parenthetical comment I made at the end there: I did not mean to imply that those two kinds of acts are equivalent. (They are not, because the acts of individual men against women are aligned with the structural oppression of women.) I meant to stress that they are equally wrong.

        • Uprising, not to dismiss your questions, but I’m not dialoguing any further on these issues regarding sexism and misogony until I see a blogpost that reads, “What Exactly is Abuse and Systemic Oppression,” relating universally and invlusively, and where ALL survivors are expressly welcome and encouraged to voice their experience and thoughts on these matters, without being driven to madness yet again by those who don’t like what they have to say. In the dialogue below, I felt literally pestered, rather than simply challenged. The latter is fine, I expect that and always respond in kind; the former just gets too obnoxious and draining for me, sorry.

          At this point, given the population that this website is designed to draw, I feel that a blog and discussion around what constiutes abuse and systemic oppression would not only be universally relevant and extremely clarifying and perhaps awakening to some, but it would also be socially responsible. Until some clarity about what is abuse and how to wake up to it when you’re in the midst of it is achieved, I really don’t see how it is safe for a lot of people to share here.

  24. Amazing & sad how easy it is to bring out the scratch-the-surface misogyny of men who, until the subject of sexism is mentioned, come off as seemingly enlightened and progressive.

    Anyway I think my work here is done. I suspected that as soon as I made some very basic statements such as “all men are sexist, all white people are racist” that I was opening Pandora’s box. Hopefully enough women and anti-sexist men will jump in to continue this discussion in a fruitful way.

    One more thing that might be helpful:

    Many people equate “racism” with “prejudice” then claim that Black people can be “racist” because they know of this or that Black person who is clearly prejudiced against whites.

    But “prejudice” and “racism” are not the same, no matter what Webster may say. Anyone can be prejudiced against anyone else. However, in an equal situation the object of others’ prejudice can blow it off and not give a damn who thinks or says what.

    Racism (and the other isms) are defined by many as “prejudice plus power”; for example, in a racist society it MATTERS what members of the dominant culture believe about Blacks because that prejudice is enforced by laws (written and unwritten) and perpetuated by cultural norms. The same principles apply here.

  25. Do you ever listen to yourself?

    You read Sera’s article, and none of it applies to you is what you are saying. And you keep bleating “what about the menz???” and “my truth” blah blah blah.

    You take up a lot of space here, Alex. And you don’t seem to see how you crowd out others.

    • I’m so sorry you feel that way, humanbeing. I guess my voice is more irritating to you than of any value. Please feel free to ignore me, if only for your own peace of mind! I sincerely wish you well, I don’t take any offense at all to what you say, truly.

      • And, perhaps you’re right. It’s probably time for a hiatus. I feel pretty complete with my own issues here, so I guess I’m done with all of this. The days are getting shorter and so is my stamina, along with that. A holiday retreat sound like just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.

        I’ve said this before and I end up getting drawn back in, because I thought I could be helpful and supportive to others. But for sure, I don’t want to for others to feel “crowded out,” by me, as everyone’s voice matters here. I’m sure this is a blessing and good guidance for me, I’ve been saturated with all of this for too long now and I’m sure it will do me a world of good to detach at this time. I feel good about that.

        So thanks for being completely authentic with me, humanbeing. It works! We are ALL on a journey, doing the best we can, this I know. I wish you many blessings and good healing.

    • This is, I think, a dismissive comment to a person who openly shares his experiences and his feelings. He takes time to do this, he is honest and as gentle as he can be. Now, I think that he feels bad and sad and not respected for the valuable comments that are of value because they are authentic and come from him. Even when I have different opinions from his, I love to listen and to absorb what he has to say and to learn a bit by reading about his unique perspective on issues. Can’t we be more tolerant?

      • The more ‘tolerant’ I am, the more my feelings and perspectives get shoved aside for those whose egos can’t share a forum.

        Margaret.

        This article is about women’s perspectives and experiences being dissed/dominated by men in political movements. It’s about power-over. Something I’ve seen you have trouble with in other blog posts. Some women are collaborators and undermine any progress women might make as a group in any endeavor.

        This isn’t about the menz *at all*…which is the point I keep trying to make with Alex, but he keeps pontificating about his enlightened awareness and his simpering truths.

        Tired of it.

        A little humility would be a vast improvement for the many male contributors in the forum section.

        Rock stars, indeed.

        • Reply to above; humanbeing; You are really amazing; you can’t get through a comment without being nasty to someone!

          ” Something I’ve seen you have trouble with in other blog posts. Some women are collaborators and undermine any progress “

        • It’s about power-over. Something I’ve seen you have trouble with in other blog posts. Some women are collaborators and undermine any progress women might make as a group in any endeavor.

          So glad a woman pointed this out. Ms. Altman, whether she realizes it or not, has consistently discredited herself in recent months with her apparent inability to comprehend the principle of consensuality as it relates to psychiatric inmates. It is telling that she jumps in here to help discourage Alex from comprehending what people are trying to convey, and support his sense of victimization.

          • Alright oldhead, I give in. What would I have to do to get you off my back, were I to keep posting here? We disagree on pracitally everything, inlcuding whether or not mental illness exists at all, we’re totally on the opposite side of the fence with just about every issue.

            I’m fine with whatever you want to believe about anything and whatever you want to discuss with anyone, and I will not bother with commenting to you any longer. I regret that I did that here, in this blog. Sorry about that, I’ll own that this was my error in judgment.

            But you are testing my patience now and I can’t guarantee that I can keep biting my tounge. You’ve made me angry with your false insituations and presumptions, you’re just so insitent on putting me down and making this personal. I don’t at all take it personally, nor is it triggering and pts, I’ve got all that under control.

            But not only do I find this to be particuarly crazy-making on a website like this, especially, but also I’m just finding your comments about me to be so obnoxious and uncalled for, and in fact, groundless and downright slanderous, if you catch my drift,

            Can’t you at least just stay away from me and stop talking about me in posts? Or is that not possible. I’m not even sure to what extent I’ll continue here given this experience, but at least for now, I’m trying to set a boundary with you. Can you accept that?

            You don’t have to respond, just please stop slandering me. Thank you.

      • Thank you, Margie, I appreciate that very much. I also notice that personal attacks on some are more tolerated than on others. It’s a rabiit hole.

        I believe a lot of truth has come to light, here, so I actually feel fine and pretty clear now, actually. Disappointed in MIA, no doubt, but I’m not attached. I’ve been at this for a long time, even before MIA, so I’m really used to these dynamics. I’m a bit taken aback at how deeply entrenched they are, at all cost.

        I was sad, however, as you say, when I wrote that post. It never feels good to be attacked for being open; and for sure, when there is no one censoring it, and seemingly by selection, in a community. Hmmm, reminds me of my childhood, go figure. At least this time it was only virtual, so I can get on with things now.

        Well, I guess I’m complete. Thanks again, Margie, you allowed me good closure, on a high note. Woo hoooo! 🙂

        Humanbeing, wow, what can I say? I really sorry I upset you so much! Whew, I certainly don’t want that to happen again.

        • Alex, one more thing I want you to know
          I feel that you are a “safe haven” for discussing and exploring ideas and feelings. We may have very different ideas but I want you to know that if I were in an extreme state I would trust you with my concerns. That’s just the way I feel.
          Hope you find a way to come in and comment.
          Best
          Margie

        • There is no “closure” here and don’t fool yourself. I can recall no personal attacks on you, just some pretty obvious responses to the statements you have been making. I asked you very early on if you really wanted to set yourself up as an example of what Sera is talking about; it seems you either dismissed the comment or decided yeah, that’s me.

          If you weren’t recognized here already as a well-spoken and intelligent person I doubt people would spend so much time responding to you. If you choose to sit the rest of this out that’s fine, but you always punctuate your “final statement” with a loaded one which compels people to react. Can’t you just figure, this is obviously something I don’t understand, I’m gonna just follow the conversation for awhile?

  26. One last thing before I force myself to sit on my hands for a while as I simply read (or not). And I apologize in advance for any crowding, but I admit I feel double-bound all over the place here, which is fine, I’ve learned how to be Houdini in multiple-double binding after all is said and done. It grows me.

    But in reference to ‘being on the defensive,’ the one thing that I feel I’ve repeatedly been put in the position of doing on MIA is defending my character. I’ve disclosed all of myself here in over 4 years of posting, been extremely on my sleeve and authentic, feel I’ve grown thanks to all these interesting discussions, shared my film and some found it of value, others out and out dogged it–which is fine to have an opinion and give feedback, but the level of sheer cold insensitivity and dismissive-ness has been somewhat staggering and at first, so surprising because I felt this of all places people would kind of get it, and would want to work together.

    Instead, I found myself more under ‘hot lights’ than I care to say, and I was really taken aback by this at first. Then I got used to it, and learned to better navigate such a complex community. In the process, I’ve made some friends, and have also pissed some people off, which is fine, of course, that happens in life.

    But I thought that the common ‘enemy’ in here was the mental health system and the practices of psychiatry, and that we were out for social justice and an equal voice to all. After all, the bottom line in the mental health system is that we have no voice, period, and anything we say is turned directly against us—aka hot lights. I thought that was appalling and traumatic when I got it, and having to disentangle from all that was exactly like de-programming from a cult. I know what that is like, too, I’ve had that experience, which was the same as de-programming from family beliefs, etc., so that we can find our true voice. I thought the entire mental health world was a cult, all of it, inside and out, from school to advocacy and everything else in between.

    I felt that turning the attention to gender here powerfully detracted from the bigger picture. Do I not have a right to say this? Is this not a perfectly sound and reasonable thing to simply put on the table? The rest of the time, all I did was clarify, clarify, clarify, but it all seemed to boil down to the same response. “You’re being defensive!” Yadayada. And then outright personally attacked…which, whatever, but there it is.

    My point is that after such intense involvement with MIA, I am so incredibly disillusioned and disheartened and downright in a bit of grief over how divisive this community and efforts continue to be, and it feels rather cut-throat and downright nasty to me. What I’d call “A bad vibe.”

    In addition to become friends with, I have also worked professionally with many people in here, and these have been meaningful and fruitful relationships for me, on all levels. Not all have felt the same with me, but many have. That seems par for the course in life, and you all know how I value you, I’m on my sleeve about that, as well as whatever else. That’s who I am, and around here, I thought that eventually, after getting to know me, I’d feel as though I’d fit in. And guess what? I don’t!

    I feel so alien in here, just like I did in every other facet of the “mental health community” yet I do not feel that way in the world at large at all! I have more shared lived experience of social and medical trauma with people in this community, and yet I am told so many things about myself that I know full well are not true, and this is exactly what made me crazy in the mental health system, like everyone here talks about constantly. Doesn’t make me crazy any longer, but it’s never a nice feeling, and it always takes away from the issues at hand! It’s just incredibly ironic, and to me, extremely flagrant. Talk about generational abuse, jeez…

    Yet, the world no longer makes me feel this way, I learned how to transform all of that. Perhaps that was my error in judgment in here. That is what seems to not go over well with this crowd. I don’t know, it’s confusing, but certainly interesting to sit with and get clarity on, which is what I’m going to do. It’s what I love to do, in fact, experience life, then make some kind of sense out of it, in exactly the way that works for me, which is a generous reality, because I love sharing love. That’s my creative process.

    I’m here as a volunteer, purely, I have no stake in this. I’ve been told all these years that my voice is of value here, but I feel this is a mixed message. So I’m fine humbly stepping back, really. I no longer am doing this for myself, other than to feel good about giving back.

    But this, by no means, feels good in that way. My life is the world around me, which I love and cherish, and am grateful for that daily, after the long period of suffering I endured, which I thought at one time could be permanent. Thank God it was not, it is 100% behind me. I’m sorry this does not ring as hopeful for some, and I am so very sorry for the suffering of so many.

    Given the level of disillusionment I feel with this community, which in all honestly I find expressly and terminally cold, I’m fortunate to have nature around me so robustly, and a really good life. Which is all I wish for everyone. And I know some believe they cannot have that, and for that…well, I respect anyone’s choices and beliefs.

    I’ll stop here, not much else I can articulate now, this is all present time for me. I do appreciate everyone’s spirit, always regardless of where we stand on issues or even how we address each other. I just wish you all could see it in each other!

    • Can you manage to be any more self-absorbed? All this drama over simply being asked to recognize some of the everyday ways in which women feel dominated and diminished by men, not only in this so-called movement but in general?

    • Alex,
      Someone with a big heart like you should take up a lot of space!

      You are an excellent commenter; when I see you have said something I tell myself to read it because I usually find something thoughtful, articulate and insightful.

      Do not let critical people get you down. This is the internet and these people don’t know you in the same way people in real life do. It’s easy to misinterpret and blow things out of proportion in a forum that’s lacking 80% of the cues that inform normal human-to-human communication (nonverbal cues, body language, gestures).

      If you believe in the things you say, and you should for the most part, then don’t worry too much about what others think. I say some very controversial things and some people criticize me, but for the most part I don’t care about their opinion. Sometimes I’m wrong and then I can learn from what other people say. But if people are saying things in an unkind, mean way, then they are losers and you shouldn’t give them the time of day. I regard such commenters as emotional children in adult’s bodies.

      I hope you will stick around here because you an asset to these conversations and I would like to see you continue to be part of the dialogue.

      • Way to make this blog post all about Alex…way to do EXACTLY what Sera writes about above.

        “You enjoy taking part in a collectives or groups portrayed as being all on equal footing, but when you do, you still feel entitled to retain control (even over objections) as the most frequently heard ‘public voice’ representing them.”

        “You read this list and your immediate reaction is to get angry or defensive or to come up with a list of ways in which you’re not privileged (followed by unwillingness to work through any of that to understand why or be a part of the change).”

        Sorry this has been such a trigger for me…I’ve been in MANY political groups and it always works out the same…the men are in the limelight, taking all the credit, and the little womenz are in the backround making it all possible: paying bills, emptying trash, making themselves small so they don’t accidentally trample on some man’s huge ego.

        Instead this blog post has given yet another platform for the same old voices espousing their superiority and magnanimousness.

        The phoniness just got to me today. Seen it all before.

        • Exactly. This is what I do. I am a privileged white male and it’s my express life mission to make women pay the bills, empty the trash, and make themselves small. It makes me feel big. I admit it all! 🙂 Thanks for making me laugh.

  27. Does anyone else at MIA care enough about this to join this vital conversation (hint, hint), or are we destined to keep slogging it out with the same few folks over and over?

  28. Thanks Margie and bpd for your kind words and support. Truly, bpd, I’m totally fine, not down personally, but definitely concenred about a few things here.

    This entire dialogue has turned abusive and compltely unacceptable to me, as I wish it were to others. Ironically enough, this is precisely what I call systemic abuse and oppression! No way I will support this, nor further play a role in this online social system.

    • Alex
      Others are also concerned. The best way to eliminate negative behavior is to ignore it, not respond to it after you have identified it (as you have) I have also found that the phrase “consider the source” to be quite illuminating and I have, when I feel attacked” gone to the thread of the person who is being nasty and read through the history of their comments. It helps to see how they progress in their negativity. Just click on the person’s name for the thread. History is important here in order to put things into perspective. And we all take things personally—we are persons, aren’t we?

  29. I am glad that Sera identified how many male movement leaders are causing distressful social experiences and related painful emotional suffering for many women. Her original blog was articulate and I assume that it had a significant impact on transgressors. However, moving from the problem of male sexism in the leadership of the movement to male sexism in general invited a minority report describing female sexism against men. Saying that women cannot be in a position of power over men is a dishonest attempt to silence a minority report because it is considered detracting from the majority report. In a political arena I might accept the concept of proportionality and let this slide but on a mental health website it is emotionally abusive to deny the reality of someone’s experiences.

    Best wishes, Steve

    • What leadership are we talking about ?

      I don’t get it. I am just a free agent keyboard warrior on a mission, copy paste post post post till hopefully everyone everywhere clicks on a link leading to a page explaining the fraud and abuses of psychiatry.

      I don’t get this , I had no idea the movement was organized or even had leaders at all and I have been doing this for years now.

      Someone fill me in , I’m lost.

      • Steve S. brought this up as part of his “anyone can be sexist” polemic. You don’t have to worry about anyone in the “movement” telling you what to do, partly because you’re right, there is currently no organized movement (unfortunately in my view). While Sera may well have specific individuals in mind she was addressing problematic male behavior in general, articulating some specific examples, with an “if the shoe fits” attitude. That’s basically all, judge for yourself why certain people flew into a self-indulgent frenzy of denial. 🙂

        There are different types of “leadership” btw. The kind you’re talking about I think is not so much leadership but authority, i.e. the power to achieve results via giving orders. True leadership is when someone does something that others see as valuable and voluntarily emulate because it makes sense. The latter kind of leadership could easily apply to you, for example, if people started following your advice on making videos and other projects you have proposed. That would make you a “leader” too; would that make you are oppressor? Obviously not.

    • However, moving from the problem of male sexism in the leadership of the movement to male sexism in general invited a minority report describing female sexism against men.

      Everything Sera has posted so far has been articulate. More than anything it has been most effective at getting many men here to expose the sexism lurking amidst their progressive-sounding academic abstractions.

      Sexism in the movement is not much different from sexism in general, it adapts to the situation but the basics remain the same. To say male sexism is redundant, just like talking about white racism is redundant. There is no female sexism. Individual women being in power positions, even abusive ones, over individual men does not constitute sexism, which is institutional even when it is reflected personally and individually.

      it is emotionally abusive to deny the reality of someone’s experiences

      Talk about the cup calling the saucer white! Are you & Alex reading from the same batch of “male” talking points?

  30. Sera,

    When I saw this blog go live, I couldn’t wait to read it! As a woman who has been silenced by a culture and its systems created to support the story and power of white men, I was looking forward to recognizing my experience in your words, feeling proud that a space for this conversation can exist on sites like MadinAmerica and deriving a little more hope or positivity around a dynamic that often threatens to swallow me whole.

    That, Sera, is certainly what your blog offered. For a moment I took a breath having been validated. For a moment I was able to touch upon the hurts I’ve suffered through systematized and acculturated misogyny without feeling like I’d come apart at the seams. I could reflect on how I am a part of it all at times and grow in my understanding. I looked forward to the conversation that would follow. There have been some really interesting perspectives offered as a result of your blog post and I have felt connected to those authors. However, in the last few days, what could have been a healing journey for me has become just one more example of the white man’s world in which I live. While I have empathy for the folks posting here, it seems they have vastly missed the point of your blog and have taken the space for our conversation and replaced it with their own. Speaking about systematized cultural constructs (in this case, the dominance of those created for/by white men) in no way denies any one person’s experience. That conversation is for another comment thread.

    Thanks again, Sera

  31. Wow. As someone who identifies strongly with, and values the various movements for societal/psychiatric change I’m part of – I’d like to thank Sera for raising this. It’s a thorny issue – as I think some of the comments have shown – and it’s really easy just to leave it to other groups to engage with. I can get how some people here might think ‘surely this is a distraction … we need to stand together in order to fight psychiatric oppression and the very real crap that people who are part of the ‘mental health ‘ system go through every day. I’ve heard people say (not necessarily on here, but in the outer non-MIA world) that we just need to focus on what’s important.

    BUT – and this is an important BUT – I think it’s important that we don’t cover over the cracks in our own movements, agencies and organisations for the ‘greater good’. We’re all part of a wider society that is saturated with various forms of oppression, inequality and privilege (class, the colour of our skin, education, gender, sexual orientation, diagnosis …..). It’s part of our daily lives and I can’t see how any of us can be 100% unaffected by the context we live in. I’m affected, even in ways that I don’t fully understand. I think it’s really important that we can discuss these difficult issues openly so we can learn from them and not simply replay the crap that happens in society as if it’s just the way things are.

    This isn’t about judging any one harshly, but it is about thinking about why we accept certain things and certain forms of behaviour. Everything we do has a root, and even those men who have been predatory in the movement have reasons for acting in this way. The point is that they need spaces to reflect on this, deal with it and – importantly – stop it. Unless we – whatever gender we identify with – are able to recognise when stuff like this happens, set limits and expectations – how can it change? If we belong to a group or a movement, it is our movement and I think we can each play a part in nurturing it and helping it grow.

    There are lots of other areas of inequality in the world and in our movements – talking about the experience of women in this movement does not make others invalid or less important. Neither does it mean that women can’t ever abuse or hurt men. Sera didn’t say this – and it’s a really cheap shot that can stop those with a minority voice from speaking out. Instead, maybe we as a movement should be curious about the experience of women and take an honest look at ourselves and the way we acts as groups. I’m doing some thinking after reading this … I am sure others are too.

    I have bucketloads of privilege from lots of areas … but I’m still a women and that has had a particular impact on my experience of society, the psychiatric system and the survivor movement. It’s good to explore this and think where we go from here. Lets keep talking about this – on and off MIA.

    THANK YOU!

  32. I think that a lot of these comments can be attributed to a lack of understanding of how power and privilege operate. This very lack of awareness of male privilege and power (in this case, I believe Sera is referring mostly referring to white male privilege) is what is fueling the sexist oppression in our movement, as well as the frankly blatant racism.

    The definition of privilege is that you can’t see it. Abuse and oppression are much easier to recognize. Privilege is harder and takes some honest self-reflection, though it may be painful.

    This is not about demonizing all men. I know many men who check their privilege every day and seek to be conscious and uplift and support women and all people with less privilege. As a woman who is seen by the world as white – though I self-identify as Jewish – I need to check my own “white” female privilege every day. That means not speaking for people of color or LGBT individuals.

    I have learned a lot from being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement about allyship means. That means, among many things, that when a reporter shoves a camera in my face at a protest and asks me what I think, I say, “please talk to a person of color about this.” This doesn’t mean I give away my voice; I use it often. It’s a recognition that people who have been most oppressed by police brutality should be front and center expressing their views. Check out this solid piece on what it means to be an ally: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/11/things-allies-need-to-know/

    So yeah, when a woman of color talks about issues affecting women of color, I don’t jump in and say, “Oh hey, what about white women? We are oppressed too.” I LISTEN. That’s Privilege 101. Here’s a link to an article of the same title: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/

    Here’s a video that gives a visual representation of how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD5f8GuNuGQ

    I’d really like for the men on this list who are feeling somehow personally attacked by Sera’s blog and feel the need to defend themselves, to consider being an ally rather than an adversary. If you see yourself representative in any way in Sera’s blog, I hope you’ll reflect on your actions and try to change some things. If nothing in Sera’s blog applies to you whatsoever after deep and honest self-reflection, then please go on being a conscious man and working to enlighten your brothers.

    I am also taking Sera’s blog as an opportunity to reflect on my own privilege and power and really examine what I can do differently. That’s the great thing about life: the things and ideas that challenge us most give us the greatest opportunity to grow and learn. If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading.

  33. Thank you, Sera, for writing this blog and for so respectfully repsonding to those who have commented. Thank you also to Oldhead, who has also gone out of his way to respond thoughtfully and generously throughout this “discussion.”
    Likewise, kudos to a few others, including Rai and aVoiceRaised above, who have so eloquently shared their voices here in a nuanced and nonjudgmental way.
    Like Sera, I am a white, educated, middle-class, cis-gender woman who is part of the US psychiatric survivor “movement.” I have benefited in countless ways from my connections with other survivors in the movement and am grateful for those experiences and relationships. That being said, I have also experienced the blatant sexism and power-over privilege of white male “leaders” in this “movement,” and have learned from many other women that my experiences are not at all atypical, and that there is a long history of powerful men in this “movement” silencing women in all the ways that Sera referenced in her blog.
    I am also aware of many of these women being afraid to speak out publicly for fear of retributions from these powerful men that have happened in the past. (Retributions including being “blacklisted” by funders, lies being spread that the woman was “to blame,” etc.) Yeah, I am a bit scared, too, which is why I chose a pseudonym to write this comment.
    This is a critical discussion to have for all the reasons that Sera stated in her blog and that I can attest are *real*. The work that is so needed to be done cannot be done without the endemic problems of power and privilege within the movement being addressed and rectified.
    Dear men, please help us to make these changes instead of “telling us” that they aren’t “real” or otherwise undermining our voice. We need your trust, as well as your support, to make the “movement” a respectful and safe place for all.

  34. I find it frustrating but not surprising that comments on a blog post about the serious issue of women being silenced and mistreated in the movement have turned ugly, with men ranting about the non-existent issue of “reverse sexism” instead of acknowledging the truth: that the practices Sera described in her blog post happen in our movement every day, and that women – and the movement as a whole – are harmed by this. I’ve been involved in this movement for almost 30 years. It was a problem then, it continues to be a problem, and it needs to stop. I appreciate comments from men who recognize this as a problem and who express their solidarity with women.

  35. I commented because I thought that the conversation degenerated from important points about sexual exploitation that I supported to bullying a fellow human being. The last few comments have been some of the most eloquent and powerful; I am embarrassed to be considered a voice against justice. I will reconsider my words.

    Best wishes, Steve

  36. Thank you, Sera, for this piece. It made me feel stronger. The misogyny in this movement is appalling and is keeping us down. We have played into the hands of the Man and as a community have become complicit in our oppression. I have witnessed and experienced some truly appalling conduct. One infamous and former state leader would tell women he would only place them in consumer seats on boards if they looked at pictures of him in his underwear. He would ask highly intrusive questions about their sexual histories. Once at a consumer conference, this individual hit me several times and knocked me into a table after I objected to his abuses of power. A group of both men and women were present and no one helped me.

    There are truly lovely individuals in this movement across the privilege spectra whom I deeply admire. However, some of them support individuals who continue to cause great harm. We keep recreating a monster of abuse. Lovely people, please awaken! Abusers, when will you stop keeping yourself down? Those who have been mistreated, keep talking!

  37. I grew up in a psychiatric system that told me from the first encounter that my experiences were not real and that my emotions were not valid. I hoped to join a movement to end this de-humanizing and dismissing treatment of others. Yet I see, after Sera’s incredibly important blog, male psychiatric survivor activists jumping in to say that our experiences of sexism are NOT REAL and that the pain we experience is NOT VALID. It many ways this feels the same as the psychiatrists that looked down on me from their positions of power and labeled my valid experiences as “psychosis” and “mental illness”. It feels like a slap in the face from people who should KNOW BETTER.

    In this movement, I have been spoken over and spoken for by men. I have seen national organizations that were supposed to be centers of “empowerment” where men profit on women’s labor and exploit women’s bodies. I had hoped that when I stopped keeping the company of mental health clinicians that this experience of being “spoken for” and “rationalized out my own reality” would stop. It has not. I still remain hopeful that our movement can become one that acknowledges intersecting oppressions. But this will only be the case if we keep listening to each other and making committed efforts to address these systemic issues.

  38. I have just read through almost all of the comments to bring myself up to date on the political struggle in this thread.

    This blog and comment section is clearly a microcosm of the much larger political struggle going on in society over the institutional and cultural oppression of women. From the most obvious and overt forms of sexism to the more subtle and seemingly unconscious types, it is all here.

    I have nothing but deep respect for the consistent way that Oldhead, Humanbeing, and Uprising (to name a few of the more prolific responders) have conducted this struggle, and especially with the content of their insightful positions.

    Alex stated: “I’m not clear on why this discussion has deteriorated into personal battles and insidious attacks, although it does seem par for the course around here.”

    In my reading it was a long time after this above comment before sarcasm was finally used by a commenter to make a point; and the use of sarcasm can have a positive role in illuminating a position when certain viewpoints are especially polarized.

    Please ( someone who feels offended) point out when the first “personal” or “insidious” attacks occurred in this discussion. And be specific by explaining how it was personal and not political. For I viewed this discussion at MIA as a vitally necessary sharp political discourse that has been long overdue and absolutely essential for the success of any future revolutionary movement.

    Richard

  39. Thank you so much Sera for raising this very important topic that affects me and I imagine all of the women in this movement and elsewhere every day of our lives.

    I must confess, these issues are a large part of why I have stepped away from the movement to some degree for a little while, to regroup and make sense of my voice and offerings without having them alongside a male’s.

    I am that hyper sensitive, too emotionally reactive, thin skinned woman the ‘rock star’ men may have warned you all about. In fact I wrote a blog once about gender issues in this movement but got so much immediate backlash and personal attack that I had to take it down because I didn’t have a lot of support or resources in my life to help me deal with the triggers.

    Though, some of the biggest triggers for me are the most “subtle” such as being ignored or excluded.

    I grew up with a split family and one half of it was me and two males, so I got used to feeling invisible, being left behind and feeling like an outsider, or simply not connecting with or caring about whatever they were talking about like car brands and sports teams. And not even considering that they might ever care about or listen to what was on my mind. That was always ignored, so I wrote in my “diary” instead.

    In this movement I’ve been silenced and critiqued by men who later admitted to me their egos were getting triggered or they were feeling self conscious or self critical when they lashed out at me.

    I recognize men have a lot of wounding too, but Sera says it very well in this blog, as do many of the other commenters, it isn’t the same and there are specific types of oppression and silencing women are often so used to, we don’t even bother to speak up about.
    Thank you so much Sera, for putting this blog out there.

  40. I’m feeling pretty brain dead, but attempting to put together a cognizant comment here as I can see we have just about everyone represented, including TAC. I didn’t make it all the way through some of the comments. I’m not sorry that a pages long narrative about some dude’s struggle to become more enlightened to the issues of women just simply does not impress me or hold my interest.

    There has been a lot of discussion on this topic recently. It is not a new topic. It is not a new dynamic. I have personally been talking about this for years. So, does anyone have the wherewithal to come out and say WHY WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW????? Because there is a reason. And many of you know what it is. As long as this topic is packaged eloquently and generally for public consumption, it hardly becomes a topic at all.

    My world is a little simpler than all of this. I don’t know if it is right to say I care more about psychiatric survivor issues than women’s issues, because I believe them to be inextricably linked, along with other issues of other marginalized groups. I’m not opening that can of worms, right now, though. I will make a few brief points and be done.

    –Many folks of all identified genders still do not understand either the theoretical or practical concept of emotional labor (I like to call it shit work). This is a concept that goes beyond who does the dishes and sweeps the floor at home when both partners have paid work outside the home. Emotional labor includes the smile, the request with please and sugar on top, the “extra mile” to make people feel good and cared about in many contexts. It happened to me just the other day when I was told in a job interview that part of the job was to “smile” and that “sometimes you need to be a mother” to the individuals for whom supports are provided. Let me be clear. I am not here to fucking smile so you can feel good. I am nobody’s mother, and since psychiatry robbed me of that opportunity, I have to assume it also relieved me of the related duties. I don’t need to provide anything with sugar, including your coffee, which I will not make for you. There is a huge deficit within our culture with regard to identifying and rejecting emotional labor; and, women bear some of the responsibility for that.

    –I often stand alone in my work and my opinions, and that is quite alright with me. I am happy to have comrades who are true equals, when they are available and willing, of any gender and stripe. And let me be clear on this also: If you show me you are not my comrade, if you treat me as less than, if you expect me to defer to you, if you think you can tell me how to behave in public, how to express myself, if you think you can verbally or literally bitch slap me just because you don’t like what I said or what I stand for, I will fuck you up. By any means necessary. I will make your snake pit look like a motherfucking country club. That is MY feminism. It is irrelevant to me who shares it, and while I would like a changed world, I am not holding my breath. I am focused on things I can actually impact in there here and now.

    –Too many of our people, including our women, continue to collude in systems that are inherently oppressive. This includes organizations that pander to the opposition by putting oppressive language such as “mental health” in their titles to, I suppose, better dialog with the oppressor so, I guess, if asked nicely, he may stop oppressing us? I end this sentence with a question mark because I am not really sure what is going on with that. I haven’t been asked to join any of those organizations. Again, I do not hold myself up as an expert on what women, mad people (and other groups) need to do. But I have taken back my language and I use it as I damn well see fit as a vehicle for my voice. It feels pretty good most of the time. So, I would have to say that if women want to be free of misogyny, they might consider their affiliations and perhaps walk away from some whose missions and language oppress others. For me, this includes any organization employing or training any type of clinical professional and/or Certified Peer Supporters. People who make their names and monies on the exploitation of our people like that are not better than sex traffickers; and, it is disgusting when they are women, other marginalized groups, and especially disturbing when they are actually OF our people. But that is a whole other rant for another day.

    I want a better world, just like many others here. I also recognize that our civilization is in decline and therefore progress is unlikely. If you want freedom, stop defending oppression. If someone is treating you with misogyny, kick his ass. All people need to stop the anti-intellectualism that is everywhere and really think about the choices they are making and what they mean on a larger scale. It is also necessary to consider what you are really willing to give up personally for the better world you think you want, if you believe it can happen.

    Sharon Cretsinger
    author at http://mildlydysthymicinamerica.tumblr.com

Comments are closed.