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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Earth At Risk Conference, Pat Maginnis, Barbara Hoke, Molly Arthur, and Mary Lou Singleton


NOVEMBER 25, 2014






INFORMATIVE ABOUT 1) the extreme risk of ecological collapse: 2) the cause of collapse: capitalist system and its attendant -isms, colonialism, racism, patriarchy, militarism, masculinity; 3) power structure research about the way capitalism pathologizes our social relations, how the U.S. Constitution protects property rights over the people’s rights, 4) what to expect if and when the people challenge capitalist’s corporate rule.

THOUGHT-PROVOKING in presenting legal strategies to expose and force show-downs on basic legal protections of eco-cidal capitalistic behavior; in suggesting projects to directly transform our consciousness, our immediate environment, and the control of our lives.

INSPIRATIONAL in sharing indigenous culture’s example of how people can successfully live in cooperative, communal society that is earth-loving, in poetry performance to express our anger and sorrow; in exhorting us to build: 1) human connections with friendship, 2) human connections with nature “gardens of hope”, solidarity in defending and befriending mountains, rivers, insects, trees and other plants.

The 200-300 people that attended the conference all agreed that capitalism cannot be reformed and must be replaced with ways of organizing society that recognize the necessity of living in harmony with the earth and all its creatures.  They also all agreed that the strategy of influencing our elected officials and other governmental or business leaders is almost useless; that instead we have to build communities that take direct, dynamic and creative political action.

Keynote speakers:  
Vandana Shiva, (leader, author)
Alice Walker, (author)
Derrick Jensen, (author)
Chris Hedges, (author)

Dini ze Toghestiy, indigenous speaker
Freda Hudson, resistance leader, Tar Sands. Fracking
Caleen Sisk, Tribal Chief
Dahr Jamail, Journalist
Sarah M. Mah, anti-rape feminist
Yuly Chan, anti-rape, anti-prostitution feminist
Anne Keala Kelly, Hawaiian journalist, filmmaker
Diane Wilson, author, eco-warrior, fisherwoman
Dominique Christina, slam poet
Jeannette Armstrong, Okanagan Nation Knowledge Keeper
Sakej (James) Ward, teaches warrior societies
Vince Emanuele, Veterans for Peace organizer and spokesperson
Cherry Smiley, Indigenous Women Against Prostitution
Thomas Linzey, Attorney, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Gail Dines, Professor, Sociology and Women’s Studies, Wheelock College
Richard Manning, environmental author and journalist
Stephanie McMillan, author, Why Capitalism Must Die, cartoonist
Saba Malik, activist on racism, peak oil and anti-civilization
Charles Derber, environment, power structure author
Kourtney Mitchell, activist, anti-violence and pro-feminist
Guy McPherson, ex-professor, environment author
Stan Goff, ex-military, author anti-sexism, anti-capitalism
Doug Zachary, Veterans for Peace fund-raiser

FEATURED ORGANIZATIONS: Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, Code Pink, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Deep Green Resistance, Elder Creek Center for the Land, Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry, Iraq Veterans Against the War, One Struggle, Place for Sustainable Living, PM Press, Stop Patriarchy, Stop Porn Culture, Survival International, Unis’tot’en Clan, Vancouver Rape Relief, Veterans for Peace, Warrior Sisters, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Women’s Liberation Front

FERTILE GROUND ENVIRONMENTAL INSTITUTE (FGEI), organized and sponsored conference. Founded in 2008 in Bellingham, Washington, national organization.
Primary focus is organizing and hosting events with focus on hard-hitting analysis of our current predicament and strategic planning for real victories. 

FGEI position: Every successful social movement in history has used force to achieve its goals.  There is a continuum of tactics that range from boycotts, strikes, and civil disobedience to sabotage and outright revolution.  A serious ecological movement is based around communities that embrace and promote dynamic, creative political action.

HIGHLIGHTS OF PROGRAM (If there are few [or no] notes about a speaker or workshop, it means I couldn’t hear what was said).

  • Women are leading the movement to save the earth.  Have to change water system. “We can live without electricity; we can’t live without clean water”.  Indigenous can teach us “what it means to be human”.  “It’s how you respond to living things; protect them”.  “Don’t have to be colonizer; come live with us, re-indigenize planet”.
  • Many mountains losing water.  Mt Shasta, main spring going dry 2 months last 3 summers.
  • Other culprit: RELIGION.  We’re regressing.  Things they say take us forward are taking us backward.
  • Hawaii is an “illegal occupation” as per UN.  
  • Hawaiians (natural, not people of color from other places) are fighting about it.”  Country under arrest (50-70% indigenous people incarcerated).  Economic terrorism and cultural genocide.  American Empire is spreading throughout Micronesia.  Overwhelmed with tourism-prostitution, pornography.  Largest U.S. Military command.
  • Hawaii like woman being raped continuously.  “Aloha is a philosophy, not a tourist slogan”  It’s a way of sharing, valuing each other and the earth.

Has written 20+ books. 
  • BAD NEWS: Oceans are dying; there’s no more fish.  People being murdered.  Movement being infiltrated, people are disappearing.  158 species going extinct every day.
  • WHAT TO DO: “If you’re going to say the prayer, you have to be part of making the prayed for thing happening.”

Stages of Grief on Planet Dying: acceptance, rage, depression. We need new consciousness.

Diane Wilson: fisher-woman in Texas.  “Texans love tar sands”.  Texans lost faith, “You can’t fight city hall”.  You have to get involved when your home is destroyed in front of you.  Never say you’re not for progress.  It’s time to put yourself out there.  You have to work outside the box.  I kept waiting for someone with a better education, more abilities, more connections than me, to come along.  Finally, I realized I was the right person.  Need hope, have to get out of the box.

Green revolution a disaster for agriculture.  Destroying bio-diversity.  1/3 of  world suffering from “Hidden Hunger”.  People have enough calories, but deficient in nutrition.

“no way to grow food in monoculture and be sustainable.”

  • “We (indigenous speaker) decolonized ourselves.  We refused to accept or comply and prevent destruction.”  We had to support the inherent ability of every organism to protect itself from harm.
  • “Now is the time to do battle.”  We need hundreds and hundreds of groups, working together, to face down power.
  • We must have structure, leadership, rules and norms.
  • We must eliminate horizontal hostility.
  • Women are the protectors of the higher nature.
  • “We put the ‘Indian’ back in our children.  We decolonized their minds.”
  • We changed our beliefs, and how we live.  We went to our homelands, wintered there.  We put away fish.  We kicked out a mining company, others.  We started managing our land.
  • We need the warrior arts.  Daily practice to develop skill sets of self-defense.  We need to fall in love with earth again.  We need our ceremonies; we need to respect each other and earth.
  • Present system designed to separate us from natural world.  We must teach our children to fall in love with trees, soil; that every living being has spirit; the mountains have spirit.
  • We may have to defend our land, but we’re not going to encourage that, but, if necessary, we will fight for all that we love.  If does result in violence, so be it.
  • We reject the idea that the state can dictate whether or not we can defend ourselves.
  • Resistance may mean hierarchy-different forms of leadership-persuasion rather than orders-structure is action-based.

  • The problem is the U.S. government, not the corporations.  The environmental laws are good, but it’s a waste of time trying to enforce the law, because, under the Constitution, it’s not permissible for a governing body (usually municipal) to pass laws to restrict legal uses (factory farms, fracking).
  • The only thing environmental regulations regulate are the environmentalists.
  • “Taking amendment says you can’t ban corporate business for doing something legal without being sued for loss of business.
  • Constitution establishes property rights above people’s rights.  Constitution not necessarily democratic.
  • Example: community laws banned corporations from factory farming, Then corporations went to State legislators to enforce corporate rights..  Ultimately lost at federal level.
  • Still thinks this process can be useful because it forces corporations to show how unfair the law is to the community-“the system illuminates itself!”
  • How to force change: now 200 municipalities are going up against the federal government.  People are beginning to see that the Constitution doesn’t protect peoples’ rights.

ECO SYSTEM RIGHTS are not property, but have rights to exist on their own.  In Ecuador, wrote new constitution giving eco system rights.  The River is the Plaintiff.  A Watershed can be a plaintiff.
  • In Nepal, there’s a Right of Nature Network.
  • The problem of liberal politics is that it’s “pressure politics”.  The real problem is the government itself.

7 Pillars of Capitalism:  Anti-social values & practices created by ruling elites.
  1. Individualism
  2. Competition
  3. Ecoside-violence against nature
  4. Militarism
  5. Class violence, inequality
  6. Profits over usefulness
  7. Fictive democracy
Carol’s note:  He asked audience how many of them were sociopaths.  Nearly all raised their hands.  I did not, because I believe that mental health comes from battling one’s oppression every day, and, whether or not I am lessening my oppression, I am somewhat protected from falling into being sociopathic.

Stephanie McMillan: People need a collective organized class struggle. Capitalism comes from surplus value.  Proletariat class needs to take over.  Capital treats living things as objects.
  • 95% of environmentalists think solution is more capitalism. They believe that it’s FATHER CAPITAL PLUS MOTHER EARTH
  • Capitalists do cooperate.  They just have antagonistic relations with the rest of us.  The antagonism is between 1% of us and 99% of us.
  • We, (the revolutionary working class) need to organize collectively, get rid of system and the new system will be developed in the revolutionary struggle.
  • We need to find a way to speak to people on visceral level about the discontent people have about their lives. 
  • Example: abused child will cling to abusive parent; it can’t leave parent unless there is an alternative.
  • To win, one must destroy enemy’s ability to wage war.
(Carol: In Iranian revolution, even though Shah had world’s 5th largest army, he couldn’t stop revolution, because the army refused to attack its own people.)

Capitalism has no internal check.
  • Crushing the Occupy movement is a danger sign.  Means rulers can only speak through force.  They are preparing.  They’ve already passed Draconian regulations.  They can now hold someone indefinitely, including at offshore prisons.
  • Inverted totalitarianism.  Corporate state has all the levers of power.
  • We must go back to mass movements and fight the fascists.
  • Resistance is a way to affirm life.
  • Greatest evil isn’t radical—it has no roots.  It asks no questions.  It can spread over the whole world. 

Masculinity sees female body as permeable-coitus, lactation, menstruation, birth.  Transgression of female boundaries is thrilling.
  • Can lead to mass incarceration, genocide, and mass addiction.
  • Many vets are dying from suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction and CANCER.
  • Masculinity is a script, and a performance.
Question from audience: Are men victims?  Panelist answer: No, they’re damaged, but not victims.

Third Wave Feminism: Example: Jennifer Baumgardner “What is feminism is individual to each woman”.  Does not see structural inequality within a racist/sexist global capitalist economy.  Men are missing as a class.
  • This is all coming from the Academy.
  • Post-modernism meets Post-Structuralism.
“There’s no such thing as It”, Feona Attwood 2012-example

Pornography facts:
36% of the internet is porn.  She listed all the features of the internet, including privacy, payment online, etc. as having been developed by pornography industry.
  • Porn has driven the net.
  • In January, they’ll have a Pornography meeting in Las Vegas.
  • We need to go from “empowerment” to “liberation”.
  • We are not living in the same world.  But, as Gramse said in 1929, we need a Pessimism of Intellect and a Optimism of Will.
  • Indigenous, Asian Women Against Pornography (Canada) are fighting a Global system of imperialism.  Patriarchy is part of national oppression.  Sexual conquest is part of war.  Involves World Bank, International Monetary Fund.  Part of privatization, tourist industry.
  • Under Mao, China had no prostitution. Now, in the 1980’s, prostitution is in every city.
  • Prostitution undermines indigenous communities.

The world economy, organized as it is, has become a CATASTROPHE!
  • GNP is the only measure, meaning the measure of that which is commodified, is all that counts.
  • The commodification of women, prostitution and porn, is now counted in the GNP.
  • Environmental damage is not measured.
  • Soil, water degradation is not measured.—only products produced.
  • Industrial farming is our biggest threat.
  • Next year is “THE YEAR OF THE SOIL”.
  • Patenting of seed is commodification.  We have seed monopolies.
  • Anniversary of Bhopal is coming up.  
  • GMO crops –toxic systems of agriculture.
  • Eliminating insects who are the best controllers of insects.
  • We have only 22% biodiversity.
  • “Species have intelligence as they evolve.”
  • By 2050, ½ of American kids will be autistic.
  • We must create commons, stop privatization.
  • Cited Ghandi and Rosa Parks as examples of how we have to affirmatively take action to take what is ours. (Ghandi-salt, Parks-seat on bus).
  • We must each create a “garden of hope”, and be free (not commodified) creative beings.

We need to recover our friendships.

I avoid learning about the damage to our environment because it is so depressing, because 1) my consciousness is already raised; I believe that global warming is real and serious and 2) other than making modifications in my own lifestyle and working to help women to learn about our bodies and to love them, I don’t know what else to do at this time.  In this conference, I was able to get past the depression, because I was among friends, looking at these hard facts together, and I was learning about concrete actions that are taking place and also get suggestions on projects I could do.

Ultimately, I realized that I, at base, am an optimist.  No matter how bleak it looks, I keep remembering being in Iran after their revolution.  I also think about how although globalization is hurting people and the earth, it is also linking us more together, and that gives me great hope.

I think the main message I received was “we must fall in love with the earth”.  My own addition to that is, “we must fall out of love with industrialization”.

Also, everything that we do in self-help, which is having positive interactions amongst women, learning to trust each other, bonding, rejoicing in our bodies and getting acquainted with them, as well as learning how to control our fertility, to ease menstrual cramps, nurse our babies.  All this is entirely consistent with the goals of building communities, respecting nature, rejecting authoritarianism, seizing control of our lives.

Of course, I can’t help but be sad that the same individuals who are putting out this strong message seem to be unable to apply it to their own physical sexual and reproductive ownership.  The self-help movement should be on that stage, because we have learned how to gain power, both psychologically and physically through mutual help and the use of simple tools.

http://patmaginnis.comPat and I went out to breakfast, then later she, Barbara Hoke and I had dinner.  After that, Pat and I went to a board meeting of the Hayward Department of Recreation and Parks.  They were considering removing their approval of some events put on by a rodeo group.  The events consist of putting a very young child on the back of a sheep to try to ride it, milking a cow in the arena, the use of a electric prod on horses. 50 people from the rodeo community came out to support these activities.  About 10 of us opposed it.  Eric Mills heads up the protest.  Although there were women and children there, the testosterone level in the room was palpable.  Also, this group is 100% white.  Some are ranchers, others run the rodeo.  The rodeo people won.

Pat and I made copies of some of her cartoons at the local copy place, and we talked about some of the events in the late 1960’s that prompted her to create them.  They are really great.  Pat loves to have people use her cartoons.  If you’re interested in using any, I recommend you write her or call her.  She is hard of hearing, so e-mail or snail mail is probably better.

Also, Pat would like to compile her cartoons.  If anyone wants to help in such a project, there are people in Northern California that have worked with Pat to create her website and I’m sure she and they would like to hear from you.

Barbara Hoke continues her 20-year coordination of the defense of an Oakland abortion clinic that is harassed each weekend.

Molly Arthur Birthkeeper Summit (April 30-May 3, 2015)
(415) 435-8031

Mary Lou Singleton

Suzanne Jay
Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution
(604) 760-1175

Gail Dines
Professor of Wheelock College
  • I need to get in touch with her by e-mail.  What does she know about the Academy and how the post-structuralism and queer theory and pro-pornography movement developed?  Who funds it?
Molly Arthur-Molly has friend who uses herbal contraception
  • Plan for conference.  Perhaps go to Sacramento to speak.
Suzanne Jay
e-mail, maybe go visit.

  • Article on commodification
  • Get in touch with herbalists to track down people using herbal contraceptives and spreading the knowledge of it.
  • Write Gail Dines to find out more about how post-structuralism and queer theory have affected the women’s studies departments.

Friday, October 31, 2014


October 26 to October 28, 2014

By Carol Downer

Background: Advisory Committee met one day and the next day a planning meeting for the January 22, 2015 events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. took place.  I met with Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the WitchBecky Chalker and I attended the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) Awards Event.

  1. 10-26-14: Meeting of Advisory Committee
  2. 10-27-14: Meeting of members, Advisory Committee and community activists
  3. 10-27-14: Meeting with Silvia Federici
  4. 10-28-14: National Women’s Health Network 7th Annual Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women’s Health; Meeting with Adriane Fugh-Berman
  5. 10-29-14: Meeting with Ninia Baehr 

New York City 10-26-14 - Meeting of Advisory Committee: Members present were myself, Mary Lou Singleton, Merle Hoffman; also present were Sunsara Taylor, initiator of Stop Patriarchy, and Mary Lou Greenberg.  We had a free-ranging discussion: (1) to deepen our understanding of the objective situation we confront--where we are in the war on women with a particular focus on the concentrated battle over abortion, and (2) to get off the losing trajectory and forge the kind of politically uncompromising, mass independent political resistance.

No one else is doing this on a national level.

Topic: The main slogan of Stop Patriarchy, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”. The members that were present had consensus on this slogan, and have found many people in the movement and in the public who wholeheartedly respond favorably to it, but we discussed the concerns that some have made that the slogan may be too strong.  I reported that many abortion providers are dedicated to abortion rights, but do not want to offend those who have mixed feelings about abortion in their communities, and they want the support of the Democratic Party which has a pro-choice platform, but sometimes endorses candidates who are anti-abortion.  Without more members at the meeting, we couldn’t fully explore these concerns.

Topic: Slogan - “Enforced Motherhood is Female Enslavement”.  This slogan drew fire from the ad hoc group, “Texans for Reproductive Justice”, because it is not the type of slavery that American Black slaves experienced, but the Committee does not agree that this slogan is racist.

Other topics: Planned Parenthood’s (PP) taking over leadership of National Abortion Federation; it’s negative impact on independent abortion providers; its domination of community “pro-choice” coalitions.  I told the group that, although I have known of PP’s negative impact on the abortion movement; that I, along with other feminists and abortion providers, have kept silent, because “we didn’t want to give the anti’s more ammunition”.  But now, as I see how disastrous this course has been, I feel compelled to speak out and share the information about PP’s harmful activities.  Others did not dispute the truth of my specific allegations, but did not want to attack PP, but rather to chart our own course and put forth a more feminist, aggressive strategy.

Role of Advisory Committee Members: We wrestled with and developed a clearer sense of what it means to be on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy.

Bill Baird called and shared his advice on what Stop Patriarchy should be doing.  Bill, who is a pioneer in the abortion rights movement, continues to be active.  As always, Bill is inspirational and his comments helped up to get perspective on the battle, especially with the Catholic Church.

We all felt that the opportunity to meet and discuss things in a relatively unstructured setting allowed us to have vigorous discussions, especially where we had minor differences in our political views, which reinforced those areas where we were in total agreement.  We did get to know each other better, and I’m sure it will help me on our future conference calls.

New York City, October 26, 2014: Community Planning Meeting for Actions on January 22, 2015 in San Francisco, CA and Washington, D.C.
Attending: Stop Patriarchy Advisory Board Members, others within the abortion provider community, activists with Stop Patriarchy, other women's liberation activists, and several students.  We had lively discussions around such questions as:

If we have a low turnout at our events, might this show our opponents our weakness and be counter-productive? 

We know that we will be outnumbered, because the anti-abortion movement annually brings busloads of church members from several states to their rallies.  They have about 10,000 marchers.  So, how many do we need to have to create a credible force.  My thinking is that we only require the number of people it takes to stage a dramatic event that puts forth a powerful message.  Others speculated 100-200 people.  Of course, we’ll get out as many as possible.

Many good ideas were suggested for building for the march and using signs and other visual materials and socio-dramas that would make our points.  Since this report is going out online, I will not be specific, but I can say that I was impressed with the creativity.  Various tactics were discussed to make sure that our message would be clear.  So, great progress was made.  It was wonderful to be working with these women.

A future meeting date was selected – November 21st.  If you’re interested, please contact me or

I talked with Fran Luck, of WBAI and others about Planned Parenthood.  They were surprised and shocked at some of the specifics.  I will be following up on those contacts.  The independent providers in attendance were not surprised at the facts I was reporting.

Brooklyn, N.Y. October 26, 2014 - Meeting with Silvia Federici
Federici graciously agreed to meet with me, Becky Chalker and Kinyofu Mlimwengu, on short notice, even though she had spent the weekend at a conference.  She served a wonderful repast of soup, bread and salad and delicious cheesecake!  Any fears I had that somehow we wouldn’t hit it off disappeared, because our dinner conversation showed how much we all agreed on a variety of topics.  Because our time was limited, I kept bringing back the conversation to how Caliban and the Witch provided the historical explanation of how women’s knowledge about our bodies was purposely and systematically destroyed, and that I believe that the self-help movement emerged as a powerful antidote to the poisonous effects of patriarchal capitalism.  Silvia completely respects our work, but she wanted to know more of how I saw self-help being used to turn around the subjugation of women’s bodies.  She gave us autographed copies of her book, Revolution at Point Zero, and Becky and Kinyofu left with copies of Caliban and the Witch.  I proposed we three start a book club!

Silvia is well-travelled.  She told us about how Italian social welfare agencies take away immigrant women’s children, put them in “group homes” until the women can prove that they have enough money to maintain them.  I’m going to get more specifics.  If you’re interested in learning about this, let me know.

I left Silvia’s with a head full of ideas about how to carry my new understanding that even though Patriarchy has a long history, the creation of capitalism in Europe depended on wiping out the traditional knowledge that women then had, making “modern women” especially alienated from our bodies and dependent on the medical profession.  Furthermore, this primitive accumulation of capital enabled the European nobility, the church and the capitalists to expand their “empires” over many other peoples, along with using many of the same techniques to destroy women’s knowledge, in addition to plundering the resources by forcing those peoples into slavery to extract the resources.  Just realizing this history doesn’t ensure that we European white women will make the necessary effort to unite with the descendants of colonized peoples to fight against imperialism and capitalism, but I think it will give us a sound basis to do so.

Kinyofu told me about the upcoming Reproductive Awakening program.  This is part of a series of meetings she is curating.

Washington, D.C., October 27-28 - National Women’s Health Network 7th Annual Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women’s Health
I attended with Becky Chalker.  Becky’s most recent book is The Clitoral Truth.  She is an adjunct professor at Pace University in New York City.  It was a reception.  We were late because it had no readable signage for an out-of-towner to see.  Food and drink were provided.  The presentation had started.  We couldn’t see the program and I couldn’t hear it, unfortunately.  Afterwards, we were able to chat with old friends.  I saw Clare Feinson, who was in the Women’s Caucus at the American Public Health Association (APHA) during the time the health centers were active in that organization.  Clare is free-lancing, doing proposals, writing and research, etc.  She also works part-time at a synagogue; Clare has done amazing work in a Jewish group bringing an awareness of women’s health issues and sexuality issues to the community.  Unfortunately, Clare has some mobility problems, but otherwise she is very vital and involved.
Meeting with Adriane Fugh-Berman: After the reception, we walked with Adriane, a board member of NWHN and a reporter to a nearby Chinese restaurant.  Adriane is an associate professor at Georgetown University and a director of  The reporter is focusing on information about the FDA and the regulations of pharmaceutical companies.  Adriane has written a book, Alternative Medicine: What Works: A Comprehensive, Easy-to-Read Review of the Scientific Evidence, Pro and Con.  I told her about Holly Grigg-Spall’s book, Sweetening the Pill.

10-29-14:  Meeting with Ninia Baehr
Ninia Baehr is on the board of the NWHN.  She is Deputy Director of the ACLU in Montana, and she wrote the pamphlet, “Abortion Without Apology, a radical history for the 1990’s”.  She wrote about Lana Phelan, Pat Maginnis and Rowena Gurner, and she also wrote about the Self-Help Health Movement.

Presently, Ninia is working on her PhD.  She is interested in comparing the politics and approach of the Self-Help Health Movement and the Right-to-Die movement.  She sees many parallels, in that they both are movements demanding body autonomy.  She, Becky and I had breakfast; our meeting actually consisted of a discussion about how “gender politics” has taken over women’s studies and is creating a direct challenge to radical feminists, especially those who want women-only spaces for women to explore their common oppression and to develop anti-male supremacy strategies.  We also talked about pornography and whether there can be a feminist position to support pornography.

I asked Ninia (as I have also asked Becky and other associates I have who are in academia) if she knew how Women’s Studies departments came to become “Gender Studies” departments.  She didn’t know, as do none of the other people I’ve talked to.

Ninia will be interviewing me in the near future regarding early history of self-help.

Sharing of Resources:
  • Abortion Without Apology, a radical history for the 1990‘s, Ninia Baehr, South End Press, Pamphlet No. 8, 1990
  • Revolution at Point Zero, Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle.  Silvia Federici, PM Press, P.O. Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623
  • Stop Patriarchy -
  • Caliban and the Witch, Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, Second, Revised Edition, 2014,,

Monday, October 20, 2014


October 2 to October 7, 2014

By Carol Downer

Background: Kinyofu Mlimwengu invited me to be the keynote speaker at her “Reproductive Awakening” event in Brooklyn.

  1. 10/2/14: stop in Phoenix, AZ airport to meet with Ann Hibner Koblitz 
  2. 10/2/14 - 10/4/14 at Gilbert Gaynor’s N.Y. apartment 
  3. 10/4/14: New York Magazine interview and presentation in Brooklyn
  4. 10/5/14: Kathy Scarbrough and Kathie Sarachild and I drove to Carol Hanisch’s house in Ellenville, N.Y.; met 3 hours 
  5. 10/6/14-10/7/14: Met with Mary Lou Singleton: presentation in Albuquerque
Phoenix 10/2/14 - Meeting with Ann Hibner Koblitz: She has an impressive background and has written several books.  Since 1998, she has been a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Arizona State University, where she teaches courses on Women as Healers, Gender and Science/Medicine, and Feminist Theory.

Ann is the author of Sex and Herbs and Birth Control, Women and Fertility Regulation Through the Ages.  She discusses women’s efforts to maintain control of their sexuality and fertility through time and across cultures.  They have utilized herbs; fashioned barriers out of lemon, beeswax and sea sponge and circumvented religious and societal proscriptions in order to maintain access to abortion.  Ann emphasizes women’s agency, our pragmatism and resourcefulness.

Sex and Herbs and Birth Control is a wonderful book.  I highly recommend it. 

We found ourselves in agreement or close to it in many, many subjects, especially the potential of women to control our own fertility through self-knowledge, use of natural remedies and substances and simple abortion technology.  Ann is the one who recommended Caliban and the Witch to me.

We discussed the current attack of some transwomen on radical feminists’ exclusion of them from all-female events; she informed me that Arizona State University had just added complete coverage for trans-sexual surgery and care to their insurance policy.  We agreed that it is positive news that this surgery and drug treatment will be covered, but we marveled that it has been a fight to get abortion and other women’s reproductive medical services covered in insurance policies, and we have often been unsuccessful, yet the inclusion of this extremely expensive medical procedure in group insurance policies is becoming standard. 

We shared our dismay that young college women are generally inactive politically, even those in the Women’s and Gender Studies program.

If we both had not had to board planes, we would have kept talking for many hours more.

Ann wrote a lively account of our meeting on her blog,

New York, 10/2 to 10/4: I had a restful but stimulating stay at the apartment of Gilbert Gaynor for 2 nights.  Gilbert is a brilliant constitutional lawyer.  I met him 30 years ago at the ACLU when he worked on the health center injunction to prevent some anti-abortionists from holding a funeral for the remains of 4,000 aborted embryos and a few fetuses.  (We won the legal battle, but they had the politicians on their side and did it anyway)  Gilbert clerked with a California Supreme Court Justice, Joyce Kennard, and as a private practitioner, he takes on complex litigation with gusto--and wins most of the time.  He does death penalty appeals, something that only the highest qualified attorneys are able to do.  He has recently moved to New York from California.  He’s looking for new paying clients.  He’s over-booked for pro bono for civil rights cases, and, like everyone else, he has to pay his bills.  I’ve worked on cases with Gilbert, and he not only writes persuasively and produces impeccable papers, but he’s very aggressive and creative in court, a combination of skill sets that are rare.

Brooklyn 10/4/14: Kinyofu Mlimwengu is the curator of “Reproductive Awakening: Narratives of Agency in Black America: An Exhibition” which started October 3, 2014 and will continue until November 23, 2014.  I gave the keynote talk on October 4.  The event is being held at the Women’s Museum of Resistance at 279 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn.  The Museum is dedicated to black women’s experience in America and has beautiful artwork and relics of black people’s centuries of slavery and subsequent times in the United States.

Kinyofu and I became acquainted when she interviewed me for an excellent paper that she wrote as part of her class work, Self Help as the Base for Women’s Power.  It’s an overview of the women’s health movement of the ’70’s, its history and its politics of empowering women through regaining control of their reproduction.   

New York Magazine, 10/4/14: Rachel Syne of New York Magazine interviewed me re menstrual extraction.  She was interested in learning the history of menstrual extraction as it applies to the medical version of M.E., M.V.A (manual vacuum aspiration).  A doctor in New York City is offering this procedure, and Rachel is impressed with how superior the technique is.  The machine is noisy and often performed in an impersonal setting.  I believe a good article will be the result.  Rachel also was keenly interested in self-help.  I gave her a speculum.  

The Program, 10/4/14: Kinyofu constructed a “red tent” for her exhibit.  The tent was incredible; it occupied about 400 square feet, carpeted with a red padded floor.  It had filmy red drapes and velvet tie-backs.  Dozens of pillows formed a comfy circle; I had the immediate urge to go in it. 

First was a dance/drama with 2 women.  With my hearing impairment, I couldn’t understand the dialogue, but I appreciated their graceful moves and expressions.

Kinyofu gave a moving presentation.  The centerpiece of her talk was that our uterus is our core and the source of our strength.

My presentation, first consisted of a brief history of the abortion movement in the 1970’s and how self-help played a key role in building a women’s movement that was poised to take full advantage of the Roe v. Wade decision.  30 women-controlled clinics, almost all directly or indirectly connected with the FWHC’s started within a year or so of the decision.

Then I talked about Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici.  This was my first time to present this material in a talk, and I was worried the women would find my point of view too anti-capitalistic and too intellectual.  They were totally interested and their questions showed a profound understanding of the importance of Federici’s work.

 Then, Stephen, one of the members of Kinyofu’s team, shared an Indian line dance, which got our juices going.

Ellenville, New York, 10/5/14: Kathie Sarachild, Carol Hanisch and Kathy Scarbrough presented “De-Fanging the Women’s Liberation Movement” at the Boston Conference on the Second Wave of the Women’s Liberation Movement earlier this year.  I’ve met with Kathie Sarachild before, (the Feminist Women's Health Center’s have been supportive of Redstockings and their political decision to expose Gloria Steinem’s pre-feminist anti-communist activities.   They responded to my offer to come meet with them to continue discussing the panel’s topic.

At the conference, Kathy Scarbrough laid out how gender and sex are alternate categories to use to overthrow male-domination and Patriarchy.  We talked about the recent attacks of radical feminists by some transwomen. (born males transitioned to female physical appearance through drugs and surgery) for not allowing them into all-women meetings.  They charge discrimination and call radical feminists “rad fems” or “TERFS”, (trans-exclusionary radical feminists).  They have been verbally violent and sometimes property-damaging.  They have received wide support from leftists for their complaints.  They’re particularly angry with lesbians if they won’t have sex with them; they have come to occupy positions on advisory boards that previously were occupied by lesbians.  Consequently, I was anxious to continue the discussion with Kathy, Kathie and Carol.  Kathy proposed some questions to me that challenged my concern about “destroying gender”.  Since then, I’ve thought a lot about her points and I’ve written what I think is a clear exposition of my position.  I’m going to put it on my blog. 

At the Boston conference, Carol Hanisch, gave out a list of terms with two columns.  The first column listed that we used in the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM) in the 70’s and the second column listed the “new and improved” terms that have replaced them.  For example, “male violence” is now “spousal abuse” and “pro-abortion” is now “pro-choice”.  Some of these examples were amusing, but her point was dead serious.  The use of gender-neutral language has destroyed the feminist insight that 95% of violence is male-female which is caused by male-dominated culture, and supported by male dominated institutions, like the police and counselors, etc.

Kathie Sarachild has been an influential voice in the WLM.  She and other WLM members promoted the use of consciousness-raising groups.  She and Carol are original members of the Redstockings, and one of their contributions is to emphasize the importance of remembering and honoring our history.  As Kathie has said, “If you can’t remember where these ideas comes from, they lose much of their power.”  Unfortunately, her warnings have been ignored.  I expressed my belief that the universities have created an anti-radical feminist tradition that is training young women who enroll in these courses hoping to learn about their history and instead are being taught to ignore the 70’s second-wavers because “they were all white, middle-class women”.   

The four of us shared a delicious, vegetarian lunch in Carol’s living room.  The windows on three sides looked out on a small town neighborhood in the Catskills with lots of trees and mountains all around.  Like most feminist discussions I’ve ever been in, a lot of our time was spent discussing the agenda, taking spirited detours to talk about specific questions as they arose.  In other words, we covered nearly all the topics that had been brought up, we shared what we were doing politically and yet there never was a “new business” and “old business” approach.

We found that we each differ on which organizing strategy and tactics to pursue at this time, but none of our different approaches are incompatible with the other; it’s more a matter of emphasis and differing histories, skills and personal situations.  I agreed with the others‘ belief that it is essential to keep articulating a radical feminist perspective and exposing the subversion and co-optation of the women’s liberation movement (what I called “muck-raking”, an honorable tradition in journalism), but I favor going past that by putting forth our positions and taking actions, rather than assuming that once people know the truth about what’s going on, they will do something to change the situation.  This difference came up in the context of discussing what, if anything, should be done to fight back against the transwomen’s attack against TERFS.  Kathie has already signed a public statement supporting women‘s right to have all-female meetings that exclude transwomen.  I believe that unless we act now and act forcefully, the radical arm of the women’s movement may be dead for generations to come.

Kathie, in particular, believes that Redstockings has an action program.  For example, they’re giving ten weekly sessions on Radical Feminist Theory and Action Today in New York City from September 18 through November 20th (contact:   

We talked about the upcoming meeting of in New York City to plan a January 22nd protest.  All said they would attend protests put on by SP, but that they couldn’t be part of organizing them.  Kathie said that she wasn’t going to work on abortion anymore; she’d rather work on related reproductive rights issues, such as childcare, maternity leave, etc.  When I told her that I agree that the pro-choice movement limiting itself to birth control and abortion is a mistake.  I still think that the pro-abortion movement needs to give priority to the abortion issue, while always placing it in the larger context of reproductive rights, including childcare, natural birth, breast-feeding, toxins in work environment, getting rid of the Hyde Amendment, and increasing women’s power generally, because the legality and availability of abortion is the key determinant of the birth rate and thus the priority of the liberal anti-natalists and to the right-wing pronatalists. Allowing abortion (but not supporting women’s options to have children) or restricting abortion (and forcing women to be mothers) is the most direct threat to a woman’s right to control her reproduction.  She clarified her statement to say that she will support abortion rights by going to demonstrations, but she will not devote a significant amount of her time to it.    

I definitely achieved my goals of the meeting and justified my time and expense in getting myself there, and all three said they were glad I had come so that we could have a face-to-face in-depth discussion of these important issues.

We’ve been e-mailing since, and I hope that our meeting will give us a basis to continue to do so (of course, they already had this basis).

Albuquerque, 10/6 and 10/7: Mary Lou Singleton is a nurse practitioner and midwife and a fellow member of the advisory committee of  She is a founder of  She is a member of WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front), a radical feminist organization that started this last year. Mary Lou, despite working her regular, more-than-full-time schedule, picked me up at the airport, crammed in every free moment to talk to me and organized a community meeting at her office. 

She and I talked about hating capitalism and patriarchy.  We shared our information about the attacks of some transwomen on radical feminists at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and other events.  In particular, we discussed the increasing number of very young children as being identified in their pre-school as transgender and the parents considering surgery and drugs as young as six years old, the participation of transwomen in women’s athletic events which is resulting in beating out born females in many categories, the widespread leftist support of transwomen being allowed to attend female-only events, the concurrent rise of the pro-pornography movement, etc.  It seems that the trans movement is receiving a lot of foundation support.  I noted that it would be consistent with the history of the anti-natalist movement to support any cause which had the net effect of reducing women having babies, such as gay rights.  But, since the behavior of some transwomen (does anyone know what percentage of transwomen take this aggressive, radical feminist-hating stand?) seems like such classic male behavior, it occurred to us that maybe the right-wing power structure is promoting the activities of that portion of the transwomen’s.

Meeting, 10/6/14: Approximately 20 women attended.  We sat around a large “coffee table” in the reception area of Mary Lou’s offices.  I started off with an introduction to the self-help movement, and the intense interest of the group in menstrual extraction determined the rest of the group’s discussion.  There were many questions about forming a ME group and discussions amongst the group about the possibilities of doing so.  There seemed to be a potential of several groups being formed.  One new possibility came up.  There are two “red tent” groups in Albuquerque, and one participant is a member of both.  She plans to take the information back to those groups.  I assured her I would be delighted to work with them if they wanted any further information.

People contributed to a collection basket, and it was given to me, so I raised about $100.00 to go toward the expense of the trip.

Sharing Resources
Sex and Herbs and Birth Control, Ann Hibner Koblitz.

Radical Feminist Theory and Action Today in New York City from September 18 through November 20th  Contact:

New Redstockings Button: “DUES-PAYING FEMINIST
Proclaims the alternative to foundation-grant feminism, academic feminism and dependence on the academic-media complex, a independent financial base, for an independent women’s liberation movement. $One Dollar per button.
Redstockings Women’s Liberation Archives for Action
P.O. Box 744 Stuyvesant Statiion, NYC, 10009

  1. To develop a questionnaire for people that work in the university setting to get facts about the establishment of gender studies, rather than women’s studies.  Who is doing it?  Have new positions opened up? 
  2. To learn more about the transgender movement in general and the transwomen activities in particular.
  3. Join WoLF (done) -
  4. Send Ann a list of people that I think would use her book to further their work, and she will send out copies to them.  Call me if you would use the book in your work.
  5. Keep communicating via e-mail with Carol Hanisch, Kathy Sarachild and Kathy Scarbrough re Class, Gender issues
  6. Possible Conference or some mini-conferences to get a discussion going about what to do about the attack of radical feminists by some transwomen for not letting them come into our all-female groups.

Contact Information:

Annotated Bibliography
  • Heinsohn, Gunnar and Steiger, Otto “Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation”. 31 Pages  
Then, at the Summit Conference on the Persecution of Midwives, Hermine Hayes-Klein provided us with a paper written by german sociologists about how the Witch Hunt was specifically designed to stamp out "women's secrets", meaning how to have voluntary motherhood using herbal tonics and other substances.

Silvia Federici's book places the Witch Hunts in the larger historical context of the establishment of capitalism, through primitive accumulation of capital in Europe, then using that capital to launch worldwide exploration and invasion of other lands and peoples, again using the Witch Hunts to destroy "women's secrets" forcing colonialized peoples to provide the slave labor for the European capitalists.
Ann Koblitz' book discusses how women have in the past controlled our own fertility.
  •  Riddle, John M. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press, 1994
    Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West. Harvard University Press, 1999
Then, I read John Riddle's books which pull together the evidence to show that women's knowledge of contraception and abortion did exist in the European society among women, but the chain of knowledge was broken by the witch hunts. He cites the studies that show that these remedies were effective, and populations were stable.

  • Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender-Wilson BA “Midwifery, Colonialism, and Settler Identity: Deconstructing Colonial Norms in Modern Midwifery”

At MANA conference in Portland, Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender-Wilson handed out these suggestions to U.S. settler midwives on how to maximize their support of indigenous midwives and ways to be accountable to them.  She told us "find out your own history".  I did so, and it turns out that as a white, European settler woman, our histories are different but interwoven, and we are oppressed by the same forces. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Important New Book: "Caliban and the Witch, Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation" by Silvia Federici
Dear Friends:  I have just finished reading Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici.  This book examines European history in the 14th through the 17th centuries and the conquest and colonization of the Americas and other areas, and the African slave trade.  Federici shows how the Witch Hunt, along with other brutal policies of the European rulers, the nobility along with the Church and mercantilists, damaged both men's and women's rights, forcing them into new work relationships, and how this same ruling class spread their mayhem around the globe, stealing lives and resources.

I believe that Federici's analysis of these cataclysmic events of four centuries explains why women are so ignorant of our bodies and have so little independent control over our bodies, whereas in ancient times, effective birth control methods were known and used among women in general and midwives in particular.  It shows that we can reclaim this knowledge.  Working together, we can undo the harms that were done to us.

Fully understanding this history as Federici tells it reinforces my belief that all women and all people of color who descend from colonized and enslaved peoples have every reason to blame capitalism and its exaltation of patriarchy for past atrocities and their present oppression.  I also believe that if white men of ordinary intelligence understand how capitalism is wrecking our planet today, they will also blame capitalism and they will see that racism and sexism is keeping humankind from taking effective action against capitalism.

I urge you to read this book.  I already had a general understanding of history, but Caliban and the Witch has helped me to interpret and understand it better and provided me with a road map on how to bring about social change.  I'm hoping to inspire you to run right out and get it; I've written a summary which I am attaching (see below).  After you read it, please let me hear back from you.

Carol Downer


TO: Friends

FROM: Carol Downer

DATE: October 9, 2014

Caliban and the Witch, Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation, Silvia Federici, 2nd revised edition, 2014, Autonomedia, online ordering

About the author: Federici has the chops to write this book.  She worked with Wages for Housework in the 70’s, then with others to write books and articles about the transition of feudalism to capitalism.  The first edition was published in 2004.  She taught in Nigeria for 3 years, during which time she witnessed the Structural Adjustment imposed on the Nigerian economy by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that selectively impoverishes the country for the enrichment of the few.  She recognized that this was similar to the way that European nobility, along with the Church and the mercantilists, accumulated capital.

Summary:  Disclaimer: This is a greatly simplified summary.  Federici reviews and quotes from many studies of European History in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  Over this 4 centuries, there were ups and downs and complexities. I have attempted to contact her, but I have not yet heard back from her.  I urge you to read the book to absorb all of the information and analyses.

Federici recounts the cataclysmic events in the Middle Ages in Europe.  The Black Death killed off a sizable proportion of the population.  Famines reduced the birth rates, and there was a scarcity of labor, causing wages to skyrocket.  These dislocations created conditions that resulted in serfs’ revolts in the Middle Ages, Federici sees the actions of the nobility along with the Church and mercantilists to impoverish the feudal workers as a counter-revolution against the people’s uprisings to tear down the fences, and protests to demand redistribution of the land.  

This counter-revolution was a many pronged attack. 
  1. They forced serfs off the land through enclosing the commons, pushing men into becoming waged workers, 
  2. They created a sexual division of labor; they forced women to reproduce the labor force through the Witch Hunts which destroyed women’s knowledge of contraception and abortion, 
  3. They gave wages to male workers who then had the power to force the unwaged (females) to perform the social reproduction which enhanced the productivity of the waged workers.
Federici also characterizes this a primitive accumulation of capital.  This term means “how the rich got their money in the first place”.  Turns out it’s not because they’re so smart or worked so hard, but because they used force to take people’s lands and their labor away from them.  In the case of the Witch Hunt, it means many things:  Among them, it destroyed the knowledge that women had amongst themselves about how to prevent pregnancy, so they produced more children who became members of the work force.  They burned old and poor widows or single women who had been forced to beg, thus acquiring what little belongings and land that they might have.  They terrorized women and kept them from moving about freely or traveling or meeting. In the case of enclosing the commons, it took resources away from the serfs and peasants because they couldn’t graze their cattle there or hunt in the forest or fish in the streams.  Therefore they either were forced off the small plots of land that they held under a feudal agreement with the noble and became vagabonds or went into the city to work for wages or worked agriculturally for wages.  All these moves resulted in increasing the wealth of the already rich.

Federici recounts how the European ruling class then used its increased wealth to finance exploration of other lands, resulting in their “discovery” of the Americas.  They then sent armed expeditions to Latin America where they killed many thousands outright, enslaved others and forced them to dig out the silver and gold they found, which they sent back to Europe.  Prior to this, European wealth was primarily land, cattle, horses and valuable objects.  The influx of precious metals made a monetized, capitalistic economy possible.  This in turn enable the ruling class to build an infrastructure, fund institutions, fuel the industrial revolution.

She recounts the brutal enslavement of the people in the Americas where people, male and female, were beaten, often to death, to force them to work until they dropped.  It wan’t until the slave trade was slowed down that there was any concern for maintaining the life of the slaves and attention was turned to reproducing new slaves.  She talks about how the Witch Hunts were conducted in the New World with the same ferocity with the cooperation of the the Church, both Catholics and Protestants.  Indians were characterized as devils.

Witch Hunts continued to be conducted in other colonies, such as India and Africa, and in the New England colonies.

She has lots of details about how many features of our so-called modern industrial way of life came into being.  She also shows how the capitalist expansion reinforced patriarchal organization, reduced women’s power, both their reproductive power and their ability to move around in society and have independent agency.  Such “modern” features as racism and the various uses of prostitution at different times and places are included.  The science of demography was invented; the study of the birth and death rates, and especially what causes the birth rate to go up and down so that the policy makers can influence it through “carrot” and “stick” measures.