About joyofresistance

Joy of Resistance, Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI covers the ongoing worldwide struggle of women for full equality and human rights, unfolding in every country and culture on the planet. We air on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month, 9 to 10 PM at 99.5 FM in the New York City region and stream live @ www.wbai.org. You can follow us on twitter.com/joyofresistance or https://joyofresistance.wordpress.com, and phone us at (212) 209-2987.

A group of women takes extreme measures to fight rape: A review of the play GYNX by Alicen Grey

Review by Fran Luck

The rape of women is omnipresent and quite normal in our society. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime and out of 1,000 rapists 994 will go free. Most rapes are not even reported because of the unlikelihood of a conviction and the psychological torture victims are put through in the process of testifying. The women walking-wounded are everywhere.

During an early scene in Alicen Grey’s GYNX–a play performed August 21 through 27 at Hudson Guild Theater NYC as part of Thespis Summerfest 2017–the main character says “It is very common for victims to fantasize castrating their rapists, but women seldom act on it.” However, in this play they do. How this comes about and what happens to the individuals involved as well as the society around them, is the substance of the play. While the premise is simple, the plot unfolds with enough unexpected twists and turns to keep the audience mesmerized.

Pulling no punches, the play begins with a castration scene. A rapist is strapped down, his back to the audience. Five women in medical masks holding trays of surgical instruments and blood-mopping-up equipment surround him. He is told that this will be done to him because he has raped a 10-year-old girl; that he has used his penis as a weapon and that it will now be taken away from him. He begs and pleads to no avail. The lights go out as we hear his blood-curdling scream.

The play then loops back to how it all began. An 18-year-old lesbian homeless woman named Petie is before a prosecutor, explaining how she became a member of a team of female castrators, as the prosecutor taunts her for allowing herself to be “brainwashed into a cult.”

 

What follows is the story in a series of flashbacks. We meet GYNX, a mysterious and well-heeled woman who is assembling around her a group of victims of male assault–women who have been raped, trafficked, or forced into child pornography plus one older “underground abortionist.” GYNX has rescued them, given them a place to stay and provided a sympathetic ear. We see each of them gradually open up to her and to each other–telling the stories of what had been done to them and expressing their rage. The performances are convincing and well acted, taking the audience through what each woman has kept hidden and sweeping us up in their emotion.

As each woman relives her trauma, GYNX artully encourages her to fantasize about what she would like to do to avenge herself. Each has had the fantasy of “cutting off my rapist’s dick.” Bingo!

GYNX has obviously thought through a plan for how a group of women might operate to castrate rapists; she encourages them to read books on feminist theory and teaches them basic surgical skills. One of the women works in a hospital, where she is “invisible” as a cleaning woman and has access to the “cadaver room.” The women go there nightly to practice, sewing the organs carefully back on at the end of each session so no one will know they’ve been there. They discuss the pros and cons of different types of castration: orcheotomy (removal of tesicles only) vs. penotomy (testicles remain, but penis goes–with urethra rerouted through the anus so that the men have to “pee sitting down”). They develop “steady hands” and confident skills. GYNX inculcates them with the high ideal of working “for the good of all women” rather than for individual revenge.

The group starts to perform actual castrations on living men whom GYNX has identified as being rapists. When they have reached a few hundred (they are in a medium-sized town), some of the men, having finally overcome their shame at being penis-less have gone to the police. The population of the medium-sized town now realizes that a group of unknown women is systematically castrating men. The media goes wild and becomes obsessed with them, dubbing them them “The Feminazi Five.”

In what, to this viewer, was one of the most gratifying parts of the play–reflected in the obvious delight of much of the audience–we find out that the men of the town are now aftraid to go out at night by themselves! They are being advised to go out only in groups and “watch their drinks” lest these be spiked with drugs–much the way women now live. And rapes are now down by 50%!!! And even TV pundits are using words like “unprecedented” and “historiec.”

Meanwhile, with law enforcement looking for them, GYNX will not allow any of the women to leave the apartment so as not to get caught, and cabin fever and tension mount as Petie starts to question GYNX’s orders and her autocratic style of leadership.

How GYNX has come by the money to maintain this organization and support the operation and everyone in it, remains a mystery until the end of the play–but Petie follows her one night and finds out the truth–as the play winds down to one of its many possible logical conclusions.

My few criticisms of the play center around the choices the author makes in the various political debates and historical references that are sprinkled throughout. While it makes sense to include feminist political references–the play takes place in a world (clearly our world) in which women have, for a very long time, been victims of a patriarchal society, and the actions of the women only make sense in this context—the examples the playright has chosen to illustrate current issues in feminism seemed somewhat arbitrary, and in a few cases inaccurate, to this feminist-historian reviewer.

For instance, in a scene in which the future gang hang out in the apartment, GYNX leads a discussion on “equality vs. liberation” as feminist goals. She critiques the goal of “equality,” pointing out that to be “equal” to men, women would “have to have an equal propensity for violence as well as exploitation.” She connects this argument with why she does not define herself as a “feminist.” When Petie points out that some women want “liberation from men” GYNX immediately characterizes “women’s lib” as “hardline separatism”–and dismisses it.

But these positions are not quite accurate in stating feminism’s main positions. By “equality” feminists have meant “equality of opportunity”–not being the same as men–and many feminists have critiqued the nature of male-dominated society while at the same time arguing that women still needed the vote, equal pay and all the other opportunities men have had access to, in order to be in a position to change that society (not to mention, just to survive in the present one).

GYNX misrepresents “women’s lib” (“women’s liberation”), defining it as hard-line separatism. But the women who brought the term to modern feminism (“the Women’s Liberation Movement” of the 1960s) were not at all separatists–most were heterosexual and argued for “struggling with men” rather than separating permanently from them* (although they did think that women-only spaces were temporarily a place for women to explore their situation amongst themselves and strategize on what to do).** Separatism came later, with the rise of “Lesbian-Feminism” and “cultural feminism”*** and was considered by the original Women’s Liberation Movement founders to be a form of political backsliding.****

Most importantly, I found GYNX’s repudiation of the label “feminist” to be undercutting of the “fight on!” message of the play. “Feminism” is the banner under which women have, for centuries, fought and gained just about all of the modern victories for women’s rights and today it is a word used around the world by those engaged in that struggle. To divorce ourselves form the word, is the equivalent of laying down your banner in the middle of a battle–something that would be deeply confusing and demoralizing to the troops! Better to uphold that banner and continue to rally around it, redefining and refining the parts of it that need improvement, as we go along (something feminists have long done), without abandoning the word itself. I would also point out that the same early Second Wave women who rescued “feminism” from its 19th century association (Shulamith Firestone led on this) used the term alongside “women’s liberation.”

Lastly, I found an inconsistency in how historic references are cited in the play. I imagine an artistic question for the author was “should the play mention earlier women and groups who fought back by name, or keep the play more fictional and not mention actual names?” When Natasha, the underground abortionist, speaks of patterning her actions after a “second wave group of feminists who took matters into their own hands and did illegal abortions,” she is referencing the historic group known as “Jane,” but never mentions the group by name–yet, when the prosecutor mentions Valerie Solanis and “The Scum Manifesto” (whose writing he sees as a precursor to the actions of the “Feminiazi Five”), Solanis, a real person, IS named. Why one and not the other? While I realize that this is a work of art and not a history lesson, it seems if you are going to refer to history, you might as well name who it is you are talking about, if only to give the audience important information that might be useful in finding their own role models for action (this principle undergirds my criticisms above).

Yet, all in all, GYNX succeeds brilliantly in cutting through the fog of denial in which both men and women attempt to live in order to avoid facing the real situation of women and rape in a society that only gives only lip service to stopping men from raping.

Before Petie is sentenced at the end of the play, she demands an answer to one final question: “If, what we did to try and stop rape was the wrong way to go about it, then what IS the ‘right way’?” As the audience leaves the theater, the question hangs heavily in the air–a genie that, now out of its box, refuses to be quietly tucked back in–a question that has now been made much harder to duck after seeing this play.

 

FOOTNOTES

* Feminist Revolution, 1976, Random House (can be obtained at Redstockings.org)

** Separate to Integrate, Barbara Leon, Feminist Revolution

*** Daring to be Bad, Alice Echols

**** The Retreat to Cultural Feminism, Brooke, Feminist Revolution

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Sunday, Sept 17, 6-7 PM: Christine Grimaldi on Federal abortion-ban plan; Recordings of Kate Millett, with Tamara Wyndham

We will speak with Rewire investigator reporter Christine Grimaldi on a recent meeting of anti-abortion leaders to plan their push for a Federal “heartbeat” bill, that would ban abortion after 6 weeks–making it all but illegal in most cases.

In the latter part of the show we will hear more of the recorded words of the extraordinary pioneer feminist and artist Kate Millett–who died on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. Some of the topics: the politics of sex, women and art as well as her speech at the August 26, 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality March, at which 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue. The segment will be co-hosted by Kate’s friend and colleague, Tamara Wyndham.

 

Sun, Sept 10, 6-7 PM: Betsy DeVos & campus rape; live CR hosted by NWL; Part 1 of tribute to Kate Millett

Joy of Resistance is heard on Sundays, 6-7 PM on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM (EST), streams at wbai.org Follow us on twitter at @joyofresistance Email at jor@wbai.org Donate to WBAI at give2wbai.org

Joy of Resistance will present 3 segments:

1) Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, has announced that she will revoke Obama Administration guidelines on dealing with sexual assault on campus. We will interview Professor Caroline Heldman of Occidental College, one of the founders of End Rape on Campus (EROC) , an advocacy group for survivors of rape. Many studies confirm that approximately 1 in 5 women experiences some form of sexual assault while at college and that less than 2% of men on campus who are accused of rape are expelled or experience any other form of justice. Women’s rights and survivor organizations, such as EROC have worked for years to pressure college/university administrations for more stringent anti-rape policies, and have pushed for enforcement of these under Title 9, which mandates equality of education. This advocacy resulted in the Obama Administration issuing guidelines for making college administrations more responsive to victims–but there have been objections that there were not enough protections for the accused.

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2) National Women’s Liberation (NWL) has called for a day of organizing feminist consciousness raising (CR) groups on Sunday, September 10 as part of building a feminist movement based on the real lives and experiences of women. As part of that effort, Joy of Resistance will feature a mini-CR on-the-air. Women will answer two questions: “Have you ever felt like a sex object?” and “Have you ever felt invisible?” Stephanie Kollgaard, an organizer with NWL, will lead the CR.

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3) On Wednesday, Sept. 6, Kate Millett, an important feminist thinker of the modern era of feminism, whose book “Sexual Politics” (1970) helped to define the landscape of early second wave feminism died in Paris. Joy of Resistance will present Part 1 of a 2 Part series Kate Millet, her life, work and the movement of which she was a part. You will hear Millett ca 1976 speaking on a number of issues and Sheila Jeffreys speaking on why Sexual Politics was such an important work.

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Sun, Sept 3, 6-7 PM: Labor Day Eve Special on women & the Labor Movement, featuring music of that movement; interview w/Anne Hedgepeth of AAUW on Trump erasure of labor stats on women’s/minority pay

Joy of Resistance is heard on Sundays, 6-7 PM on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM (EST), streams at wbai.org Follow us on twitter at @joyofresistance Email at jor@wbai.org Donate to WBAI at give2wbai.org

On Labor Day Eve, JOR will be honoring the relationship between the advancement of women and the Labor movement. We’ll be playing lots of great music about women and work (see blow for playlist), talking about women in the Labor Movement and looking at the current issues women workers face.

We’ll also have an interview with Anne Hedgepeth, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations at American Association of University Women (AAUW)–about this week’s move by Donald Trump to make it harder to address the gender pay gap.

Trump has just revoked an Obama-era provision mandating collection of data on employee salaries, and tracking salaries in relation to race and sex. Nixing this provision will make it harder to end pay discrimination, because if you don’t have the facts, you can’t solve the problem–or even prove that it exists!

At the beginning of the show we will present our International Feminist News Segment.

The music playlist will include:

We Were There (written by Bev Grant; sung by Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus

9 to 5 (sung by Dolly Parton)

Bread and Roses (sung by Joan Baez and Mimi Farina)

Union Maid (sung by Billy Bragg band)

Bread and Roses (sung by Judy Gorman)

 

Sunday, August 27, 6-7 PM: Joy of Resistance presents “PROMISE AND BETRAYAL, VOICES FROM THE STRUGGLE FOR WOMEN’S EMANCIPATION, 1776-1920”–A Play by Carol Hanisch

Joy of Resistance is heard on Sundays, 6-7 PM on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM (EST), streams at wbai.org Follow us on twitter at @joyofresistance Email at jor@wbai.org Donate to WBAI at give2wbai.org

Celebrate the 97th Anniversary of women winning the right to vote on August 26, 1920–as well as the 169th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 which started the women’s rights movement in in the U.S.–by listening to this excerpted play by Women’s Liberation Movement pioneer Carol Hanisch.

The play features the fiery speeches and debates of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many more. It focuses on how the powerful alliance that had grown up between the Anti Slavery and Women’s Rights movements during the Civil War was split asunder when the debate became centered on which was more urgent—enfranchising Black men or white women (with Black women not even in the picture). The play presents the arguments between the abolitionists and feminists of the previously united movement that resulted from having to make this terrible choice. Many of the activists took surprising positions; some advocating that the vote for Black men be granted immediately and others wanting the movement to hold out for Universal Suffrage. We also see the racism, sexism and class elitism that came out in this sometimes bitter struggle.

The play also features the modern debut of a song by 19th century feminist and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, written in 1898, for which the music had been lost until singer/songwriters Bev Grant and Carol Hanisch created an original new melody for it. As part of the play, Grant performs the song for the first time. Gilman wrote the song as a response to the bitter irony of the men of her time using the argument that women “did not really want the vote” as a reason for denying it, while claiming that they were doing this for” the good of women.” This ploy eerily reflects today’s right wing arguments that women do not really want to have freedom and choices.

The performance is followed by Carol Hanisch’s original feminist song from the 1960’s movement: Fight On Sisters–and excerpts from the passionate discussion that took place in the WBAI studios, after the performance, between the playwright and the actors (many of them also activists). In this discussion, Maretta Short questions why the author left out, in the condensed radio version presented, parts of her play that described discrimination against Black women within the suffragist movement. The discussants then debate the meaning and relevance of the vote today.

“Promise and Betrayal” examines the question of whether the power of the ballot really changed what these freedom fighters thought it would–and what happens when political movements forfeit a larger vision of liberation for reform gains for a few.

TWO ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST NEWSPAPERS OF THE PERIOD

The North Star, edited by Frederick Douglas and Martin Delaney. The masthead of the anti-slavery newspaper was: “Right is of no sex. Truth is of No Color”

The Revolution, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Parker Pillsbury. Masthead of the feminist newspaper “Men their Rights and Nothing More; Women their Rights and Nothing Less”

CREDITS

Creator/Author: Carol Hanisch; Producer, Casting, Editing: Fran Luck; Direction: Ethel Michelson, Fran Luck; Music: Carol Hanisch, Bev Grant; Singer, Guitarist: Bev Grant; WBAI recording Engineers: Tony Ryan, DeLise Lum

THE CAST

Narrator: Pawnee Sills; Sojourner Truth, boy’s voice in motherhood sketch: Maretta J. Short; Frederick Douglas: Will Sales; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony: Ethel Michelson; Lucy Stone: Julie Weiner; Nebraskan Anti-Suffrage male: Bobby Hieger; Frances Ellen Harper: Vicki Ridley; Gertrude Bustill Mossel: Marcia M. Walker; Matilda Joslyn Gage, Rev. Olympia Brown: Jennifer Fasulo; Robert Purvis, Charles Remond, Labor Union statement: Ngoma; William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, voice of Blackstone: Pete Dolack; Abby Kelley Foster: Fran Luck

 

Sunday, August 20, 6-7 PM: Is the ‘manosphere’ a ‘gateway drug’ to White Nationalsm? Guests: Loretta Ross, Matthew Lyons

Joy of Resistance is heard on Sundays, 6-7 PM on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM (EST), streams at wbai.org Follow uson twitter at @joyofresistance Email at jor@wbai.org Donate to WBAI at give2wbai.org

When the “Unite the Right” Nazi-style rally was held in Charlottesville last weekend (August 15/16), on Friday night, as the event kicked off, people all over the world saw on their TV screens a suprisingly well-organized and disciplined demonstration of 500 men (and a few women) wearing identical uniforms and carrying torches as they marched in double file, chanting in unison their white supremacist and anti-semitic slogans. It was a scene reminiscent of, and no doubt inspired by, the tradition of “spectacle” that was used as a tool of building the Nazi Party in Germany. Many watching, taken by surprise at the level of organization, asked “Who are these people? Where did they come from?”

On this show, we will explore what some writers and researchers are claiming to be a causal relationship between the current “Men’s Rights Movement,” or “manosphere” (on the internet) and the rise of White Nationalism in this country over the last few years.

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MGTOW (figure on left, above) stands for “Men Going Their Own Way”, one of the prominent groups in the “manosphere”

Our guests will be Loretta Ross, a founder of Sistersong: A Woman of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and a co-creator of the concept of “reproductive justice”. She is also a long-time analyst of White Nationalism. We will also interview Matthew Lyons, who recently wrote “The Alt Right Hates Women as As Much as it Hates People of Colour” (The Guardian), who will break down for us the how the strain of misogyny of the alt right differs from that of the Christian right. We’ll also be reading from a number of texts exploring these ideas.

In addition we’ll have our international feminst news segment, which wil cover domestic stories such as the recent Texas law mandating insurance no longer cover abortion and international stories on advances for women in Nepal, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Background:

The recruitment of young men into the White Nationalist cause over the internet has been going on for at least a decade. Many men were attracted, at first, to the transgressive culture of sites like 4chan, where “anything goes” and the most sadistic fantasies could be shared and joined in by other men. Often self-described “beta males”–those who could not get women to have sex with them–nurtured a hatred of women that festered and interacted with other strands of misogyny, such as the PUA (pick up artist) “movement” that sees women as inferior prey to be tricked or raped into sex. Such sites became incubators of no-holds-barred misogyny and often their internet talk moved off-screen to terrorize specific “offending” women (usually feminist writers)–outing their addresses, threatening them with rape or other violence and even stalking them. Manosphere participants in these outrages justified them by portraying feminism as the cause of the misery in men’s lives!

Journalist Aja Romano wrote in a Vox article in 2016 (just after the election): “While it’s true that the (alt right) movement is most frequently described in terms of explicit white supremacy… for many of its members, the “gateway drug” that led them to join it in the first place wasn’t racist rhetoric but rather sexism: extreme misogyny evolving from male bonding gone haywire.”

In the anonymous world of the internet, any fantasy, no matter how ugly or sadistic could be shared without consequence. A toxic mixture of insecurity, misogyny, racism and anti-semitic conspiracy theory, along with a need for rebellion, excitement and a sense of power in a society of shrinking possibilities and tightening controls, combined with the never-absent core of racism and sexism in U.S. society, to form a toxic stew that was ripe for manipulation by a rising right wing.

The “Men’s Rights Movement,” which, decades earlier, had had both anti- and pro-feminist wings, cohered into a vehemently misogynist movement, where “beta men” fumed about the “bitches” who wouldn’t sleep with them. It was’t much of a stretch to go from this virulent anti-feminism to a world view in which feminism was seen as a “threat to Western Civilization.”

Angela Nagle, in her underground best-seller, “Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and tumblr to Trump and the alt-Right,” cites “cross-pollination between the “manosphere” and the alt-right”. She is backed up by others who trace this history:

Siyanda Mohutsima has written: “Young men came to these online groups for tips on picking up girls andme out believing that it was up to them to save Western civilization.”

David Futrelle, who hosts the manosphere-critical site We Hunted the Wooley Mammoth, writes: “They weren’t fighting for the right to look at boobs in videogames any more, but fighting against ‘white genocide.” and “They came to learn to pick up girls and wound up feeling they were going to save civilization itself.”

Many of the leaders of Unite the Right, such as Christopher Cantwell and Kevin McGinnis were active in “men’s rights” before they became figures on the white nationalist scene.

We will explore this recent history in more detail on our Sunday’s show. Please join us for a thought-provoking hour.

 

 

Sun, Aug 6, 6-8 pm: Women in Comix & Sci-Fi 2-hour Special! Featuring “The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen” & “Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures”

Joy of Resistance is heard on Sundays, 6-7 PM on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM (EST), streams at wbai.org Follow uson twitter at @joyofresistance Email at jor@wbai.org Donate to WBAI at give2wbai.org

On August 6, 6-8 pm (EDT), Joy of Resistance will present a Women in Comix and Science Fiction Special, featuring two terrific books for your summer reading pleasure: “The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen” and “Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures”

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Joy of Resistance’ Fran Luck and comic book historians Ken Gale and Mercy Van Vlack will explore 80 years of women in comics and the history of comics, and in return for supporting WBAI, Listener Sponsored Non-Commercial Radio, we will offer listeners the newly released book:

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History

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A collection highlighting some of the most noteworthy, memorable, and outrageous female characters from throughout comic book history, ranging from the beginning of the comic book industry’s first major book in the 1920s to the present.

Released this year, it’s a 240 page hardcover book (Quirk Books), lavishly illustrated, beautifully designed and in full color, divided into decades (1930’s-2010’s) for easy reference, with historic notes by the author Hope Nicholson–who will be joining us by phone during the show!

This comprehensive book will introduce you to 101 female comix characters, most including vintage reproductions of their of the original strips in which they appeared–it’s a real collector’s item! “The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen” will be sent to you as a “thank you” gift when you make a pledge of $60.00 to support WBAI.

From left: Torchy Brown, one of the first African American women in comics (1938); Miss Fury, 1941-52; Maureen Marine, Queen of Atlantis, first appeared 1944

During the program we will be speaking with comic book historians Ken Gale and Mercy Van Vlack who will share with you their knowledge of the history and development comics, as well as the long uphill struggle of women heros and superheroes to be featured in this usually male dominated media industry. biketopiacover_copy0_lg

OUR SECOND BOOK OFFERING IS:

Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures

by Elly Blue

Yes! Feminist Bicycle Stories!! And, believe it or not, it’s part of a four-part series called “Bikes in Space” (talk about a niche within a niche!). These stories are unique–and they are well written–GET READY TO STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN!

Twelve writers tackle extreme utopias and apocalyptic or political dystopias—and the grey areas in between. Some find love and fierce resistance in the end times; others imagine an ecological future of saving technology, with solarpunk ecotopian visions, at times paired with crushing social control. Whatever your own future or present reality, these stories will motivate and inspire you to envision something different… and maybe even better.

We’ll send you this newly released book for a pledge of ONLY $35.00!

And you can have both books for a pledge of $75.00 ($10.00 savings).

When you call (516) 620-3602 (please call during our fund-drive show, 6-8 PM (EDT), say you want the “Superwoman Pack” and you will get both books. If you want them singly, ask for them by name.

Below are links for each book–and the package of both–that will take you to WBAI’s website, where you can pledge for them through the internet.

https://www.give2wbai.org/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=OB0827-Su17 https://www.give2wbai.org/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=OB0828-Su17 https://www.give2wbai.org/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=PB0683-SU17

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING WBAI–AND FEMINIST RADIO!