I thought of how I would write this. How I would say this to soften the harshness. How not to sugarcoat… no; but how not to be scary, not to be alarmist. But there is no way to say it in any other way. In the past two weeks I’ve been diagnosed with multiple uterine and ovarian tumors. The words tumors and cysts are being used. Not interchangeably but to describe two types of growths that are taking over my body. “Rogue cells” the doctor said and he wasn’t trying to be funny but it made me laugh with the X-Men connotation. Today I had more tests done. Tomorrow there will be more. Biopsies and further invasive procedures. Treatment options are being discussed. Surgeries, laparoscopies, lasers, medications, post procedural follow ups. Expectations. They cannot tell right now. At least they managed to stop the bleeding which was killing me. I was fading away in a constant stream of blood that led me to pass out. That’s how it all began.
I think of my father who died of cancer at age 49. That’s a few years away for me, not even ten. I was exposed to asbestos since the day I was born till I was well into my 20s. The asbestos killed my father. Since then, I have always known it’s a real possibility that I will have to face myself one day. That day might as well be now.
Never been much of a fighter. Not for things that others take for granted at least. Had what many would describe as “a tough life”. No way to say this nicely: fucked up life full of shit and pain and grief, deprivation and sadness. We overcame. My brother and I. He went on to be very successful at what he does. I went on to build what I always wanted: a home. I own nothing. I have a few possessions that are best described as house plants and pets. A few clothes, a few photographies, some good memories, great food, the company of the kindest partner one would wish for and a computer (and an iPad). If I was to die today, I would leave nothing to anyone and I am fine with that. I lived, I spoke, I wrote, said a few things that might or might not be remembered but I never wanted to own things to begin with. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that I even discussed that if the expectancy is bad I would get rid of my clothes while I am still here so that nobody has to deal with the pain of doing it when I am gone. I’ve seen what that did to my mother how it consumed her and I wouldn’t put anyone through that if I can avoid it. Leave a small footprint in stuff. Try to leave a bigger one in ideas.
I don’t know if I will be writing much in the next few weeks. I dread the internet right now. I know there might be people who take solace in wishing cancer kills me. This happens every time someone who is visible goes through misfortune. I expect I will not be an exception. I do know now that I do not want to write about every step of my treatment or procedures. That might change in the next few days or weeks but right now I want to reflect and think and endure. Like so much of my life has been about endurance and this will be no different. Clenched teeth, swallowed tears and snot and moving on. My body is trying to kill me and I am going to do my best not to let it. In the meantime, I’ll be around when I can, trying my best not to think too much.
Edit: It seems I have deeply hurt some people for using the words “media whore” to define white people who sell us for a profit. I apologize without reservations. My points on the ethics of this media stand, though. The fact that racism, transmysogyny, white supremacy and every other “tactic” are valid to generate outrage at the expense of our wellbeing remains. I am sorry for calling people “whores”. It wasn’t my intention to feed into the sex workers stigma which, coincidentally, much of this same media also promotes.
Last night I became aware of Amy Wallace’s feature on Hugo Schwyzer for LA Magazine. She’s been contacting people who chat with me on Twitter asking for their permission to quote them because she has claimed she intends to use me for her story. Tabloid clickbait bullshit at its best. I hate you Amy Wallace.
I hate you Ross Wolfe for stalking me and talking about me and trying to raise your profile at my expense. I hate your white man tactics of instilling fear. Your past affiliations with Platypus, that parody of political group that endorsed NAMBLA and promoted eliminating age of consent laws. And now, when obviously promoting NAMBLA hasn’t been enough for you to get the attention you think you so richly deserve, you stalk me and talk about me. You enlist white feminists like Gia Millinovich to “discuss” me because you are convinced I am a “white impostor”. You are not actually convinced of anything. You don’t even care about any of this. You just want all the media profile you can scratch at my expense. You think it’s all valid. You are a piece of shit and I hate you as well.
I hate you Helen Lewis. I hate you for promoting clickbait tabloid tactics at the expense of political ideas that mean something for people. I should have listened when people said that during your tenure at the Daily Mail a gay man was driven to suicide and you were part of the editorial team that made it happen. Rumors, people said. Seeing how you manage New Statesman on social media and how you clearly profit at everyone’s expense, whether you participated in that team is irrelevant. You certainly learned well, if anything, a man’s death was a didactic experience for you. And you do this all in the name of feminism. You are a piece of shit as well. And I hate you.
I hate you all Glosswitches, booblediboops, Laurie Pennys, Louise Penningtons, Julie Bindels, Megan Murphys, Michelle Goldbergs and your ilk. The B Classes of white feminism fighting tooth and nail for a place at the table. At our expense. With your writing commissions, the coins tossed in your direction by the men who own the media you so desperately want to be part of. And we pay the price of your success. You are not even good enough to be in charge. You pick the dirty cents that they drop and you will sell us all for the chance of picking the most no matter which ethics, which principles, whose lives you need to shit in the process. You also want your portion of media attention. You will soil anyone that gets on the way of your climbing. You have aspirations! The fact that now you are low level media whores edited by people who would gladly throw you into the lions if it meant they can pocket the change is irrelevant for you. We are the bootstraps you pull in the hopes of raising to the top. And raise to the top you will. The top of a vat of turds floating in your own media shit. No ethics, no qualms, no compassion, no humanity. I hate you all for that.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate Hugo Schwyzer, though. I feel deeply sad for him. Sad at the wasted potential of a man who obviously had the capacity to write and communicate and network and connect with people but became haunted by his own mental health issues and addictions. But I do not hate him. Sure, addicts make a choice to act on their addictions but how many choices do we have when there is a crowd that benefits from enabling the addict? What choices are out there when so many are fighting for the coins thrown at them to enable the addict, to give him rope, to let him hang, to push him further for page clicks and outrage. Like Jessica Coen, among many others, did for him. His actions are his alone but there is a point when people marred by mental health are not always in control of those actions. I can empathize with that. I would never be his friend. I would never share a drink with him. I don’t want him writing about anything that implies getting coins at our expense like his enablers do. But I do not wish him bad. If anything, I hope he can find peace.
As I sit here facing a potentially lethal diagnosis for my health issues, I want to be clear on one thing: I HATE YOU ALL MEDIA WHORES. I hate that I am the price you are willing to pay to raise to fame. I hate that you want us to believe you are doing this in the name of liberation. I hate that you have co-opted our language, our ideas, our freedom so that you could have a fighting chance at getting those coins. Fuck you. Fuck your media and your tactics. Fuck everything you stand for. When I intuitively removed myself from this competition more than a year ago, I wasn’t sure why I was doing so. I only knew one thing: I wasn’t going to crawl for coins like you do. I wasn’t going to accommodate my message and my ideas so that I could be more like you. You have nothing to offer me that I would want. You can pick my carcass but you will never have my dignity.
I was alerted that Amy Wallace has been reaching out to people with whom I usually have conversations on Twitter because she is writing a story about Hugo Schwyzer. When they have denied their requests to be quoted, she has hidden behind the “but Twitter is a public platform” disclaimer. This is, of course, technically true. However, I haven’t been afforded the same option as those who responded to me in conversations. She just plans to use my words as she sees fit.
I do not care if she is writing a story in favor or against Schwyzer. I just refuse to be part of it but obviously I have no choice in this. In this vulture journalism whatever we say or don’t online is a potential click bait fodder where we can be discussed, dissected or analyzed without any input. She may or may not have Hugo Schwyzer’s cooperation for this story but again, the implications of writing about an addict in recovery for her are irrelevant. She has click bait to produce and we are just carcasses to picked up apart so that she can raise her profile.
I have been seriously considering deleting my Twitter account due to this. Between this new “story” being written at my expense and the constant harassment I experience online from white men and women alike for the mere fact of existing online, I am not sure this is worth it. Unlike people like Amy Wallace, I don’t get paid to produce click bait. But she certainly can make money out of discussing me.
deanwhochester asked: Can you explain why she put those words in quotations?
Why should *I* have to explain her actions? Aren’t your questions best directed to the person who made those statements? The onus is not on me to explain the reasoning when a white, wealthy, well connected feminist decides to have intellectual exercises in the public eye at the expense of trans people’s lives.
I provided links to her statements and, in fact, to the whole conversation. I provided a link to another post that further discusses these “ethics of eugenics” musings. You could read by yourself and, eventually, go and ask the white woman in question. When people in positions of authority or with significant media platforms discuss topics with a long history of harm at the expense of vulnerable groups of people, the burden is not on the rest of the world to prove the person’s intentions. As a matter of fact, intentions are completely irrelevant in this case. Was it “just a joke" as some were claiming last night on Twitter? Was it just "a discussion to consider all possibilities" as others contended? You know what? Fuck that noise. People’s lives and survival are not open for “debate”. “Debate” as it is conceived by these foul ideologues is a tool to further instill fear and promote harmful ideas in the public eye. Not all opinions are “equal” and deserving of consideration. Especially so when one does so in the name of feminism. There is a centuries old history of white people condoning the mass sterilizations of Women of Color, the experimentations on the bodies of Black enslaved women and the “disciplining” of indigenous women across the Americas (and probably in other places as well but I cannot speak with direct knowledge of those). No, eugenics is not something I would have to “explain” to anyone to see why these discussions are disgusting.
But you know, I will throw another link in this mix where she further ponders whether “birth defects” should also be “fixed”. Eugenics, the “twitter entertainment” for white, wealthy women who otherwise have to combat their ennui by hanging out with Hugh Grant.
A traditional environment had some problems, but it’s better than today where women act like men, men act like women, everyone’s confused and they’re making things up like they’re “pansexual”; they’re this they’re that, gender’s a “binary construct,” cis, trans, even I’m confused! Every year there’s another gender I don’t know about, that’s just chaos.-
Before you click on the link, I invite you to play a game of “Who Said it?”
( ) TERFs
( ) New Statesman feminist blogger
( ) Roosh (MRA officially classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate speech)
On January 20th I wrote a post under the title "Racism is a problem of communication" and other assorted white myths. In the post, I mentioned the German town of Hoyerswerda where, in 1991 a refugee center was set on fire by right wing racists who wanted to inflict as much harm as possible on the immigrants living at the center. In the post I mentioned that the town was opening a new center to receive, once again, immigrants. The local politicians framed the racism as “a problem of communication that made white people look bad”. Back then I wrote:
Two things worth noting here. On the one hand, “racism as bringing shame to the country”. Racism is not exposed because of its inherently violence towards People of Color or because of the long lasting consequences on the lives of PoC. Racism brings “shame” to white people. The affect of racism (as in, who is affected by it) is not on the victims but on how “badly” it reflects on the white dominant culture. On the other hand, “racism as a matter of feelings” and “racism as a result of bad communication”. Rather than expose racism as part of a centuries old history behind white supremacy, racism becomes a problem of “self expression”, reduced to a few problematic individuals that cannot “express themselves” properly.
Last week, a group of immigrants moved into the town. This happened:
The destitute east German town of Hoyerswerda waited 23 years for a second chance to prove they were a welcoming place, after a mob chased foreign refugees and migrants in 1991. When that chance arrived this week, it took them about 36 hours to blow it.
They got their chance Wednesday afternoon when 36 refugees, including 10 kids, from places including Syria, Pakistan and Morocco arrived at their brand new center. A Moroccan man was attacked Friday morning.
A primary difference, of course, between the attacks in 1991 and Friday was that this was an isolated attack.[…]
Friday’s attack took place while one of the newest residents of the city of 35,000 was standing on the ancient and very quaint city square. A resident riding by on a bicycle slapped him, then turned around and came back and hit him again, at least a couple times.
And again, the white tactics of deflection are deployed: an isolated incident, different from the previous one, etc etc. Rather than address the structure underlying these attacks and highlighting the brutal genealogy of racism that 23 years later is present like the previous time, we are offered apologia and minimization.
Racism continues being a consequence of white supremacy, no matter how the dominant culture wants us to believe it’s just “isolated incidents” or “a few bad apples”.
But TEDWomen and feminism are not synonymous, and we’re in trouble if we start to think they are. The corporate interpretation of feminism has more to do with cheerleading all women’s accomplishments than ending patriarchy and pushing for equal rights. Sometimes it will even cheerlead for women when their accomplishments roll back other women’s rights.-
At The Nation, Jessica Valenti writes about the ongoing efforts to rebrand feminism and corporate models passed as “female empowerment”. I am quoted in the article and so is Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst for RH Reality Check (who is always so brilliant and on point).
This account led to me withdrawing my support and co-operation with the organisation, which had begun in 2009. I believe that V-Day has done some vital work and continues to make great progress in Congo. But there have been some very serious mistakes too, which have resulted in me and other women questioning future involvement with them.-
Jude Wanga, who is a human rights campaigner, activist & freelance writer from Congo writes about Ensler’s account of examining the body of a Congolese woman who was undergoing a fistula operation. This is a must read piece. Also, follow Jude on Twitter. Her observations and analysis are always on point (if you cannot tell, I love Jude!).
Are you writing a book? Are you shopping a manuscript or just interested in the publishing industry?
Then this report published yesterday is a must read. From the link:
Choosing which way to publish is becoming a difficult choice for the modern author. This choice has only grown more challenging as options have expanded and as conflicting reports have emerged on how much or how little writers can expect to make. Our contention is that many of these reports are flawed, both by the self-selected surveys they employ, the sources for these surveys, and, occasionally, the biases in their interpretation. Our fear is that authors are selling themselves short and making poor decisions based on poor data. That is the main purpose for fighting for earnings transparency: helping aspiring writers choose the path that’s best for them.
Now, let me be clear on one thing: this report might be biased in favor of self publishing or indie publishing. However, I still think this is important data to keep in mind, especially for so called “niche” authors (genre, certain areas of non fiction, etc). If anything, I think the value of this report is in adding to a set of tools so that unpublished writers can make better informed decisions.
1. While Michelle Goldberg at The Nation needed more than 10 thousand words to write the ultimate guide to fear of Women of Color and “mean masses” on Twitter, Oates can achieve the same result in 140 characters or less
Shadows gathering at edge of property. Full moon, when ominous threatening twitterers come to life.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 9, 2014
2. Godwin’s Law? What’s that? Wasn’t Godwin the Earl of Essex? Zoo guards, on the other hand, are as bad as the NAZIS. AS.BAD
Still can’t comprehend why the Danish zoo killed the beautiful young healthy giraffe. Yes, they had “reasons”—so did Nazi doctors.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 11, 2014
3. Islam is bad and women need to be saved from it. Also, Muslim men are savages.
Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed & rape is epidemic—Egypt—natural to inquire: what’s the predominant religion?— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)July 5, 2013
If 99.3% of women reported being treated equitably, fairly, generously—it would be natural to ask: what’s the predominant religion?— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)July 5, 2013
4. It’d be worse if I was racist!
5. She has meaningful Olympics commentary
So glad not to be in Sochi! & I am not even gay, or Russian.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 8, 2014
6. Woody Allen is just a misunderstood genius… like Nabokov
Though Woody Allen has been much denounced, very likely many of his denouncers greatly admire Nabokov’s “Lolita.” No contradiction?— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 8, 2014
7. And those “piling on Woody Allen are just like a lynching mob”
Very likely studies have been done of the psychology of the lynch mob—probably not original to suggest that it is thrilling to “bond”…— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 9, 2014
Perhaps the object of the lynch mob isn’t important: it’s the passion of righteousness that bonds the mob. Intervene at your own peril.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 9, 2014
(Oh if you think this is not what white feminists are saying about Allen, check this piece by Susan Moore at The Guardian. After reading Moore’s piece, head off to this gem from Oates about “the court of public opinion”)
8. In “Other cultures” young girls are also courted by older men (notice how the cultural relativism is only deployed in so far as it benefits white supremacy. When it’s about judging Islam, “all those men are savages”; when it’s about defending a child abuser “in other cultures it’s normal”).
Predilection of older—(could be elderly)—men for young girls is not uncommon in all cultures. See Kawabata, “House of Sleeping Beauties.”— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 8, 2014
9. Art, art matters above all ethical issues or even human decency
Woody Allen may have behaved unconscionably as a person/ step-father—but it isn’t clear what this has to do with his often brilliant films.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates)February 2, 2014
All things being equal, one would prefer to give an award to the “nicer” of two artists. But the quality of the art itself is what matters.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) February 2, 2014
10. When in doubt, side with the victim… except when the perpetrator is a white man you respect. (any similarities with white feminists siding with a white man when he abuses “lesser” women is a mere coincidence)
When in doubt, side with the victim.— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) January 28, 2014
Meanwhile, underneath the prevalence of the public apology is a great public wrong. And so we, the public, we want someone to do something. We want the offending column fixed, the black woman comedian hired, the bill to pass, banks to lend safely, clean drinking water, health care, a job, even just a book recommendation we can count on. We want action on whatever it is, and we go to Twitter for it, feed fatigue and all, because there, unlike just about everywhere else, we still get what we’re after. Twitter, for all the ridiculousness there, is one of the few places where there’s accountability at all for any of this. While it may feel dangerous that no one is above being taken down by Twitter, it also means that in its way, it is the one truly democratic institution left. It may be terrifying that it is the one place you have to be more careful than most, but that is also why, for now, it still matters.-
I really recommend clicking through and reading in its entirety. It’s a great counteranalysis to all the “Twitter wars” nonsense.
An American journalist has received a death threat after commenting in an article that one of the attractions at the Dutch Efteling amusement park had racist overtones.-
From the article:
Gisela Williams’ review praises the Efteling as a European alternative to a Disney theme park with its fairytale attractions, special effects, lack of queues and affordable food.
However, towards the end of the article Williams refers to one ‘unpleasant part’: ‘the way dark-skinned people were depicted’.[…]
Commenters on the Elsevier website said Williams is ‘ripe for the psychiatrist’, should keep herself busy making such comments about the USA and should take up cooking instead.
The criticism has since reached Williams herself. ‘I received my first death threat today. Believe it or not it was regarding my recent WSJ article on a fairytale amusement park,’ Williams said on Saturday, using the microblogging service Twitter.
The throw-away reference to the fairground attraction is the latest international news article to mention racism in the Netherlands. At the end of last year, there was widespread attention for the racist overtones in the Zwarte Piet character during the Sinterklaas celebrations and for Dutch entertainer Gordon, who made fun of a Chinese talent show contest.
In The Netherlands, death threats for pointing out racism are a common tactic. Mainstream media like that owned by The Telegraaf Media Group regularly incite to violence towards people who resist racism. This is not merely a subgroup of fringe racists but a common rhetorical device to silence any kind of political intervention towards the ingrained racism within the dominant culture.
Of course I am horrified that yet again this is happening. However, this is just one instance making international news while the practice remains a daily reality for local media in the Dutch language. What makes it particularly interesting is that in the same breath these violent media will staunchly defend “freedom of speech”. Obviously, they refer to the freedom to continue being racist. The same standard need not apply for those who speak against it.
Content warning for images of violence against undocumented migrants
Image above via The Local. Caption of the image at the site reads: “A Spanish Civil Guard officer helps out a sub-Saharan immigrant after entering Spanish territory”. File Photo: Desiree Martín/AFP
This week I’ve written about my opposition to the European Parliament’s recommendations for undocumented women migrants. As a feminist I am expected to support measures that supposedly improve the conditions of women. And yet, I see a photo like the above and I cannot avoid the deeply symbolic value: the agent of the State is a Spanish woman in charge of disciplining those who dare cross borders.
The photo above is part of a feature about the deaths of 13 migrants who tried to cross the border between Morocco and Spain in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the morning of Thursday, February 6th (as of this writing, yesterday morning). Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish sites in African territory. Morocco has held a very long dispute over these territories in what they effectively consider an act of colonialism on their land. Because the European Union recognizes these territories as part of Spain, they are included in the violent tactics to prevent undocumented African migrants from crossing the border. A wired fence has been erected in place to prevent people from crossing through. Moroccan border police works in cooperation with Spanish authorities and Frontex (the EU border control police) to prevent these crossings. People travel very long distances sometimes in inhumane conditions to make it to this area.
This photo, also from 20minutos should how the fence between Spain and Morocco is set up. On one side, the armored border police, on the other, immigrants walking on the beach area.
Yesterday 13 migrants (twelve men and at least one woman) died while trying to get through the fence. Their bodies were washed by the sea while they tried to swim around the barbed wire. 20minutos reports in Spanish (translation here and throughout mine)
The provisional death toll of undocumented migrants from sub Saharan Africa has raised to 13 after a group of 250 people attempted to cross through the beach. Francisco Antonio González Pérez, the government’s delegate in Ceuta emphasized the “unprecedented violence” displayed by the immigrants to attempt entry and admitted to the use of anti riot materials such as rubber bullets and blank ammunition in order to scare the immigrants off.
On another report about the deaths, 20minutos explains how the tragedy occurred:
According to Government Delegate forces, the immigrants assaulted the border [NOTE: the word used by Spanish media is “asalto”, not that I am purposefully translating to pick biased terms, this IS the way media is reporting the deaths] at 7AM when they arrived from the hills close to Ceuta and stormed racing towards the border path. Some immigrants, in an attempt to avoid the Moroccan border police took to the sea. During the avalanche at least four died from crushing and another four by drowning [Note: this was an earlier report when all bodies had not been yet recovered]
20minutos also has a video at the site with images that show what the border between Spain and Morocco looks like. I have written about the militarization of EU borders and how the expansion of Frontex operations go hand in hand with discourses that portray undocumented migrants as a menace and a threat to European security. These images drive my ideas home much better than words ever could. From the video, some images:
The tragedy took place after Moroccan security forces and Spain’s Civil Guard Police repelled the entry of up to 400 sub-Saharan immigrants, Spanish daily 20minutos reported.
The news comes just days after a video filmed by a Melilla-based NGO worker showcased how Spanish authorities were illegally handing back to Morocco dozens of sub-Saharan immigrants who had jumped the security fence into the Spanish North African enclave.
“Morocco doesn’t accept injured immigrants,” reads the video narration in reference to the controversial barbed wire put up several months ago in a bid to dissuade immigrants from crossing the border.
The law stipulates that immigrants who enter Spanish territory should be taken immediately to the closest police station where they are identified and have the right to a legal and medical assistance as well as an interpreter.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admitted on Tuesday that there were “isolated cases” in which Spain’s Civil Guard breached legislation.
The footage also contradicts comments made by Spain’s delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik el Barkani, who denied irregular expulsions ever took place.
Ceuta and Spain’s other north African enclave Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.
They are seen as stepping stones to a better life in Europe for sub-Saharan migrants, who often risk their lives attempting to enter the tiny Spanish enclaves, either by sea or by storming the six metre (20 foot) barriers that separate them from Morocco.
The video mentioned above can be watched in its entirety here. However, since the captions are in Spanish, I have made a few screen captures and I’m providing English translations beneath each one so that those who watch the video know exactly what they are watching.
Melilla, January 2014, there’s been a fence crossing (a “fence jump”) 2 km from this spot.
This is the spot where immigrants are summarily expelled illegally (NOTE: an illegal expulsion is one where the undocumented person is not allowed to present their case in front of a court of law or immigration authorities)
The border door that communicates with Morocco is open. A person lays on the ground for two hours, next to the door towards Morocco.
SUVs arrive continuously, with their trunks full of people who have been detained in the city and are temporarily kept in the nearby ditch.
Almost all of these people appeared to be injured. Some of them cannot move and are literally dragged around.
Usually Moroccans do not accept injured people.
During more than two hours the traffic of vehicles with their trunks full of immigrants was incessant, some of the immigrants were severely injured.
With the European elections coming close this May more racist rhetoric is used by populist politicians that are forging pan European alliances. We constantly hear how the EU needs to defend itself from this immigrant menace and how European wellbeing is under constant threat from the invasion of undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We must protect ourselves at all costs! we often hear in European media. The deaths of thousands of migrants escaping the structural poverty and conflict brought upon them by a long history of colonial interventions and global neoliberal capitalism is obviously a fair price to pay so that Europeans can sleep soundly in the knowledge that they are protected.
I will start by doing something that I usually steer clear from which is to “explain” the European Union in a couple of sentences. This is, I am aware, reductionist and possibly erroneous in the sense that one cannot quite describe a system of government in simplistic terms. Yet, I believe it is necessary to do so in order to frame my ideas around certain resolutions.
The European Union is a governing body that is based in Brussels. The closest comparison I can draw from existing political systems is akin to the Federal Government in the US. The different European countries, in this set up, can be loosely compared to the different States in the US. Again, this is a facile comparison and there are many differences but the centralized nature of EU administration (especially in relation to the European Parliament or European Court can somewhat be compared to “Washington” as the central administration of US politics).
So, the website of the European Parliament has published a resolution they passed on January 6th with a list of recommendations regarding undocumented women migrants in the EU. Here are the key points of these recommendations: (emphasis mine on some key points)
The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:
1. Notes that the irregular status of undocumented women throughout Europe makes it virtually impossible for their fundamental human rights, including the rights to education and health, to be respected, thus making these women particularly vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, low wages, unstable working conditions and social exclusion; considers that the best way of permanently improving their situation is to bring them within the legally established systems, since their irregular situation deprives them of social security and other employment benefits; notes that they may be further disadvantaged by furthermore, illiteracy and by language and adaptability barriers;
2. Calls on the Member States to take the following action: to put an end to discriminatory practices; to fight undeclared work and labour exploitation, inter alia by means of labour inspections; to recognise undocumented women as victims and allow them to access basic health services, employment and education; to enable them to have access to the legal system and to confidential advice in emergencies without fear of this resulting in measures to terminate their residence; to ensure that such action also involves the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, as well as networks of existing aid organisations, churches and civil society organisations; and, where necessary, to establish specific forms of data protection for the women concerned;
Note: victims of what? Because surely in order for a victim to exist there must be a victimizer. I consider the State to be the victimizer in the case of undocumented women migrants in the sense that the situation is part of a long history of inequalities related to Europe’s colonial past, corporate interventions in the so called Global South and neoliberal globalization that deprive migrants of a livelihood in their countries of origin.
3. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to recognise undocumented women migrants explicitly as a vulnerable social group, exposed to trafficking, discrimination and exploitation on the labour market;
Note: I would urge anyone interested in the mechanisms that the State uses to further violate the rights of undocumented women under the guise of “fighting trafficking” to read this article by Molly Smith in The Guardian. Alternatively, follow her on Twitter. Another woman that has many important things to say about this topic is Laura Agustin. Her blog (with plenty of material) can be found here and she’s also very active on Twitter here.
4. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to focus on the working conditions of undocumented women migrants, as a crucial step towards defining and recognising the difficulties to which they are exposed on the labour market and in order to ensure that their fundamental rights are respected;
Note: Oh really? Focus on the working conditions like that time undocumented women domestic workers who were neither trafficked nor working against their will were reported by the bus drivers who cooperated with the police and immigration authorities to have them deported because the women (all of them visibly of color) “looked illegal”?
5. Encourages the Member States to work actively to extend the possibilities for undocumented persons to become legal, in order to facilitate their access to the labour market and improve their inclusion in society;
6. Stresses that undocumented women in particular are often the victims of precarious, isolated, unhealthy or working conditions, are very often employed below their education level, in some cases experience abuse and violence, and are prevented by extreme dependency on their employers from asserting their fundamental and labour rights; calls on the Member States and the social partners to help undocumented women be brought within the legally established systems, thereby enabling them to better exercise their rights - including through the application of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals - respecting labour law and collective agreements;
7. Calls for the implementation of ILO Convention No 29 on forced labour; calls for consideration to be given to the special situation of women involved in forced labour – including not just forced prostitution but all involuntary work, the domestic sphere included – and for protection to be given to the undocumented migrant women concerned;
8. Stresses the need for the Commission and the Member States to strengthen labour inspections in order to combat the exploitation of undocumented women migrant workers and the violation of their fundamental human rights;
9. Calls for the creation of special forms of data protection for undocumented women, including victims of human trafficking, who turn in such situations to hospitals, doctors, the authorities and NGOs seeking for help or guidelines, to women’s shelters, counselling services or religious counsellors and for the protection of workers in such establishments who acquire information about irregular residence; believes help and support should be given in accordance with Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and calls for this directive to be implemented in all Member States; stresses the need for women with irregular or unclear residence status to be able to access medical care without risk of expulsion;
10. Condemns all forms of violence, human trafficking, abuse and discrimination against undocumented women; stresses the need to ensure access to the help on offer in such situations without fear of this resulting directly in measures to terminate residence;
Note: again, notice how much emphasis there is on human trafficking which completely erases the agency of the undocumented women migrants. As if the only reason a woman would migrate is through trafficking and not because of structural conditions in their home countries.
11. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide sufficient female contact staff, care professionals, officials, assessors and other staff; calls for such measures out of respect for other religions and cultures and the need to protect against discrimination;
12. Stresses that undocumented women are vulnerable to abuse, and that barriers for them to engage in legal procedures are often to be found in the fear that their safety is not guaranteed, arising from a lack of shelters and procedural obstacles; calls on the Member States to ensure that such women are able to report any abuse suffered and are protected from any form of reprisal; believes that measures should also be introduced to assist such vulnerable women, including provision of shelters; calls on the Member States, accordingly, to take the necessary measures to identify such abuse and to guarantee access to justice;
13. Draws attention in particular to the situation of undocumented women who are pregnant or have children; stresses that they need special protection and a legal entitlement to healthcare and have the right to a birth certificate for their children in accordance with Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; emphasises that they must have access to appropriate medical care and to registry offices without having to fear that this will result in measures to terminate their residence; calls for special forms of data protection for women who in such situations turn to doctors, clinics and registry offices;
Note: my face, I wish you could see it right now.
14. Calls on the Commission and the Member States, through more extensive and integrated research, to close the gaps in reliable data and existing knowledge on the number and situation of undocumented persons in Europe, to draw the attention of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) to the situation of undocumented women, and to take greater account of women in this category when implementing the inclusion targets of the Europe 2020 strategy;
15. Encourages the Member States to grant the children of women with irregular or unclear residence status access to the education system without the threat of this leading to prosecution and/or deportation;
16. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to reduce inequalities in employment between migrant workers and EU workers by offering secondary education and vocational training so that women, especially migrant women, can acquire new skills and are thus not restricted to low-paid jobs;
17. Calls, in the context of efforts to prevent migration by providing development aid to the migrants’ countries of origin, for the focus to be placed on women’s education and rights;
Note: neocolonial interventions under the guise of “aid” for “women’s empowerment” while the European Union continues promoting and pushing for European corporations to drain resources and exploit the very same workforces that eventually seek migration as a solution to their structural problems back home. Not a word about how H&M (a Swedish corporation) or Zara (Spanish), to use two examples though there are dozen similar ones, contribute to the exploitation of textile factory workers in Bangladesh. In the same breath, the Austrian Minister of Home Affairs calls Bangladeshi undocumented migrants “farm animals” and accuses Greece of “letting the barn door open” to allow them to come into the EU.
18. Asks for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on gender aspects of the EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies to be taken into account in this context.
I have spoken before about the fact that I do not support gendered recommendations or legislation that are solely based on benefiting undocumented women. To begin with, and going back to my simple explanation of the European Union as a governing body in the first paragraph, the reason I do not support this kind of legislation, even though it might seem contrary to my feminist politics is that the EU member States have very rigid and exclusionary definitions of “woman”. In most of the EU, woman = cis. That alone excludes the very specific ways in which trans women, gender queer and/ or other gender variant people are not part of these recommendations. Yesterday, I shared on Twitter this link about the appalling track record of Denmark in regards to the treatment of trans people (Content warning at the link for terrible language and cissupremacist explanations). Member States such as Denmark (to use this example, though Denmark is not the only EU country where trans people are subjected to State violence) do not need to expand their “legal definitions” of woman in order to comply with the recommendations above. They can continue promoting a cissuspremacist view of gender and the EU Parliament (just like the Federal Government in the US) cannot force such changes. I won’t quote from the article because the language used is quite dehumanizing and possibly triggering but to sum it up: Denmark only recognizes trans people in so far as they have undergone surgeries that render them sterile/ infertile and only after they have gone though extensive medical treatments including therapies, medications, assessments, etc. And this is just one example of how State definitions of gender operate solely within a cis binary (there are cis women and cis men, anyone who does not fit these narrow categories is effectively not considered worthy of gender based protections).
Another reason I do not support these gender based recommendations is because there are myriad ways in which men are affected by State violence that are very closely tied to stereotypical ideas around manhood and masculinity. To use again, another relatively recent example, the rights of an undocumented African father were violated by the State when his child was given for adoption in the UK. The mother’s rights were violated due to her alleged mental health issues (she is an Italian citizen) but the rights of the father were equally destroyed because as an undocumented man he was unable to travel across the continent to attend the Court’s hearings of the case. Children, regardless of their gender, have a right to a family life that contemplates the rights of both parents equally. The rights of an undocumented African man to be a father to his child are equally important to the rights of any woman to be a mother. More importantly, children have a right to both without State violence getting in the way of their well being.
Last but not least, rape culture manifests in very specific ways when the bodies of People of Color are on the line. Men of color have been historically subjugated through rape and sexual abuse. Their centuries old dehumanization has hinged on simultaneous ideas of hypersexualized behaviors and rape as “corrective” tools to further dominate them. I have written before about the sexual violence experienced by undocumented migrant men and how this seems to be an invisible topic within migrant rights discourses.
While undocumented women face unspeakable violence that is very gender specific, I cannot get behind more “white savior” narratives that single us out as “deserving” of protection while the definitions of gender, womanhood, parenthood and family rights are left in the hands of a State that continues to use colonial ideas on our bodies. Moreover, I cannot support definitions and codifications that erase violence that perpetuate these very same colonial histories and violences to this day. The same State that coded us as “less than” is not the best qualified to create the legal frameworks that supposedly contain the “solution” to these historical wrongs.