“Crunk Feminism: Digital Activism for the Real World” at CLPP

Along with a cohort of BCRW-affiliated students, I had the pleasure of attending Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s 2014 Conference. Since 1981, CLPP has inspired, educated, trained, and supported new activists and leadership to secure reproductive freedom, justice, and sexual rights for all. This year’s conference was packed with workshops on topics ranging from immigrant rights to environmental justice that connected the all-too-important (and often forgotten) dots between reproductive justice and other social issues.


One of the workshops I attended at CLPP was “Crunk Feminism: Digital Activism for the Real World,” hosted by Crunk Feminist Collective members Susana Morris and Eesha Pandit. With an eye for cultural commentary, the CFC aims to articulate a crunk feminist consciousness for people of color who came of age in the Hip Hop Generation. Crunk feminism, as the term suggests, connects crunkness and feminism. ‘Crunk’ here is not just a style of U.S. Southern black rap music or a contraction of “crazy drunk,” but a mode of resistance that finds expression in the rhetorical, cultural, and intellectual practices of a contemporary generation. In the words of CFC’s mission: “what others may call audacious and crazy, we call CRUNK because we are drunk off the heady theory of feminism that proclaims that another world is possible.”

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Dean Spade on Trans Students at Women’s Colleges

On Wednesday, April 9th, Barnard alum Dean Spade spoke at Student Government Association (SGA) town hall. At the event, entitled “Gender & Barnard: What Does it Mean to be a Women’s College?” Spade discussed the implications of Barnard’s policy of only admitting students who are legally recognized as women. After a Q&A session, the audience members broke out into small group discussions facilitated by members of FemSex, where we discussed the steps Barnard can and should take to make the campus more accommodating for trans students. As it currently stands, Barnard’s policy regarding admitting trans students is “determined on a case by case basis,” as Dean Fondiller, an enrollment administrator, stated at a recent SGA meeting. For students, this means that all documentation, including financial aid, must indicate that they are legally considered female.

Dean of the College Avis Hinkson, and Dean of Student Life Alina Wong were both in attendance. This conversation is one of many in the context of a national conversation about trans admission to women’s colleges, such as the ongoing discussion at Smith. Many members of the audience were deeply engaged, as the forum was the largest event here that placed the issue of trans students’ rights at the forefront of the discussion.

Dean Spade spoke about the enormous violence and discrimination that trans women confront on a daily basis—an experience that Janet Mock, CeCe McDonald, and other trans women and gender nonconforming panelists discussed recently at the Redefining Realness Salon honoring Mock. Barnard, whose mission claims to provide an education to those who face gender oppression, effectively perpetuates and condones the violence against trans people in denying them admission to the college. Spade addressed the practice of accepting trans women based on their legal status, stating that legal measures are inaccurate and inaccessible. In addition to the ways trans people are denied access to services and face barriers in applying for governmental documentation, Spade emphasized that there is no such thing as “legal gender” and that standards and regulations on changing gender differ from state to state.
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Redefining Realness

Next Wednesday, April 23, BCRW will be hosting Redefining Realness: A Salon in honor of Janet Mock featuring respondents Brittney Cooper, Che Gossett, Reina Gossett, CeCe McDonald, and Mey Valdivia Rude. They will be participating in a conversation around Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness, the importance of storytelling in social movements, trans women’s activism, media representation of trans women, and the role of community and relationships.

In an interview about Redefining Realness with Slate, Janet elaborates on the importance of stories:

I wrote Redefining Realness because not enough of our stories are being told, and I believe we need stories that reflect us so we don’t feel so isolated in our apparent “difference.” For so long, the media has been telling our stories through the filters of journalists, some well-meaning and others super-disrespectful, and I think it’s empowering to have stories that are unfiltered, coming directly from the source.

Like Janet, each of the panelists are also activists and advocates for communities of color, especially for trans communities of color, and the diversity of work represents an array of approaches and perspectives.

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“I Use My Love to Guide Me”: Conversations on Prison Abolition, Love, and Safety

Over the last few months, BCRW Activist Fellow Reina Gossett has hosted several discussions around the topic of prison abolition, especially as it relates to vulnerable communities, specifically queer and trans people. To provide context, research assistant Carly Crane offered useful definitions of the prison-industrial complex and prison abolition, and compiled links to resources, key figures, and organizations working towards prison abolition.

This coming Monday, April 21st, at “I Use My Love to Guide Me”: Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Impossible Situations, Reina and fellow abolitionist Dean Spade will be joined by CeCe McDonald to share pieces of their previous conversation and engage with the questions and comments of community members.

Reina and Dean spoke with BCRW first in a series of videos on prison abolition and its importance to trans and gender-nonconforming folks, followed by an online Q&A in which they answered questions on topics including trans women’s representation in Orange is the New Black, what justice for Islan Nettles could look like without relying on the state, and how to address critiques of restorative justice programs. Below is the online conversation in full:

Last month, CeCe McDonald joined Dean and Reina to further discuss prison abolition, love, safety, and surviving – especially in what Reina terms the “impossible situations … the violence of poverty and transphobia” put people into: from attackers on the street to prison systems.
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Examining the History and Representation of Domestic Workers

On April 16, BCRW, along with the Barnard Forum on Migration, will host Historical Perspectives on Domestic Worker Organizing. The conversation-style event will feature Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Professor of History at the University of New Mexico, and Premilla Nadasen, Visiting Associate Professor in History at Barnard. Hutchison and Nadasen will look at the changing labor relations of domestic service over the course of the 20th century, and will focus especially on the political, economic, and social aspects that characterize the lives of domestic workers. Drawing upon their research, they will investigate the history of domestic workers in the United States and in Chile, looking at their migration, family life, and political activity over time.

Last month, at the “Domestic Work and Politics of Black Freedom” lecture hosted by Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women Gender and Sexuality (IRWGS), Premilla Nadasen spoke about the history of African American women in domestic work. She claims that movies such as Gone with the Wind and The Help reinforce the stereotype of African American domestic workers as “loyal protectors of white families.” Nadasen stressed that instead, African American domestic workers should be recognized for their activism, which “help[s] us rethink the connection between the intimate and the political … domestic work is a form of intimate labor that took place in the ostensibly private space of the home, and it became the site of both racial and gendered difference, but also a sight for the politics of black freedom.” Continue reading

Social Justice Approach to Ending Domestic Violence in Context

In March 2012, Sakhi for South Asian Women, in collaboration with BCRW, brought together NYC based anti-violence organizations to discuss policy goals and create a shared vision of an inclusive anti-domestic violence movement. The 2012 gathering was a follow up to a summit held in 2011. At that time, Sakhi and a number of other organizations and individuals began to explore the challenges of building a broader anti-violence movement within a social and gender justice framework. In a community organizing approach, Sakhi reached out to related organizations and allies in and around New York City, and also connected with policy advocates, service providers and allies from the national anti-violence and racial, reproductive, environmental, gender justice and other social justice movements across the country. With support and input from this rich network, Sakhi organized a two-day event in late October 2011, at New York University’s Kimmel Center. Sakhi worked to find support for travel and lodging to bring in participants from states including New Mexico, Illinois, and California, and from Canada.

The latest installment of BCRW’s New Feminist Solutions series explores the findings of this summit and follow up meeting, through stories from communities of color who have been responding to domestic violence within the framework of social justice. This post provides some context for the upcoming report as well as a starting point for further discussion on the domestic violence movement.

Women from Sakhi at the Summit Preventing Violence

Women from Sakhi at the Preventing Violence, Promoting Justice summit

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