Film and Statement

This is what was said.

“We make no pretence. This is a conference by and for anarchists. And by anarchists, we mean those opposed to the state, all forms of nationalism, capitalism, sexual/race/gender oppression and all forms of exploitation and domination,” Anarchist Movement Conference 09 Call Out

This is our response.

We have taken this space and projected this short film to show how we see sexism in ‘the movement’ and sexism in capitalist society. We have covered our faces in the same way we might do against the state and its agents – inspired by the tradition of our militant sisters who took back male-dominated stages, and political spaces.

We expect hostility, intimidation and greater surveillance after our action. Covering up makes it easier to communicate. And we know that our message is much bigger than the messenger herself.

The following text is our response to the four themes of the conference.

MOVEMENT or why we aren’t one

No matter how much we aspire to be ‘self-critical’ there is a clear lack of theorising and concrete action around sexism, homophobia and racism in the anarchist movement. We do not feel that the content and structure of the conference deal with gender and we’re tired of asking for space – we’re taking it ourselves.

You want to talk about history? Let’s stop pretending that feminism is a short blip in the history of political struggles. The feminism you know may be the one that has been dominated by white middle-class liberal politics – NOT the struggles and pockets of revolutionary resistance missing from our political pamphlets and ‘independent’ media. The feminism of Comandanta Yolanda, of bell hooks, of Anzaldua, of Mbuya Nehanda, of Angela Davis, of Rote Zora, of Mujeres Libres…

CLASS or is anybody out there?

We are all oppressed by the class system, but there is nobody ‘out there’ who isn’t also oppressed by white supremacy, imperialism, heterosexism, patriarchy, ableism, ageism…Pretending these systems don’t exist or can be subsumed into capitalist oppression, doesn’t deal with the problem, it just silences those people most oppressed by them, and allows for the continuing domination of these systems over our lives.

We are tired of being told that anarchists don’t need to be feminists, because ‘anarchism has feminism covered’. This is just a convenient way of forgetting the reality of gender oppression, and so ignoring the specifics of the struggle against it.

RESISTANCE or are we futile?

If the anarchist movement doesn’t recognize the power structures it reproduces, its resistance will be futile. For as well as fighting sexism ‘out there’ we must fight sexism ‘in here’ and stop pretending that oppressive systems disappear at the door of the squat or the social centre. Only a movement that understands and fights its own contradictions can provide fertile ground for real and effective resistance.

Ask yourselves this – do you believe sexism exists within the movement? When a woman comrade says she’s experienced sexual abuse or assault from a male comrade – what do you think? That it’s an individual or an isolated case? Or that it can happen – and disproportionately to women – because there is a system which allows it to develop and gives it life? Can we honestly say that our own autonomous spaces do not play a part in upholding this system?

Ask yourselves this – Why do fewer women speak in meetings? Because they think less? What is the gender of the factory worker? Why do more women do the washing up and run creches at meetings/events? What is the gender of the carer at home?

Now tell us if you believe sexism exists: tell us why men rape; why more women are battered than men; why more women are used by the state to do free and unwaged work. Tell us – are you a feminist?

We believe that in the anarchist movement, the strongest evidence of sexism lies in the choice we’re told to make between ‘unity’ and what-they-call ‘separatism’, between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Fuck that! We refuse to be seen as stereotypes of ‘feminists’ you can consume – like fucking merchandise in the capitalist workplace.

IDEAS INTO REALITY and what’s in between?

There will be no future for the anarchist movement if it doesn’t also identify as an anarcha-feminist movement. Anarcha-feminist organisational structures must exist within the movement to make anarcha-feminism an integral part of it. And you don’t need to identify as a woman to be an anarcha-feminist – every anarchist should be able to participate in the struggle against sexism.

The state’s incursion into our private lives and the relationship between sexuality and productivity from which it profits affects people of all genders. The gender binary system violently allocates us roles on the basis of our anatomy. A refusal to accept even these basic precepts will be a great hindrance to the movement.

You ask, ‘Can we find common cause despite our differences?’. We will only find common cause if we recognize that our differences are structured by numerous oppressive systems, and together fight to end each of these systems, wherever we find them.

Our feminisms must be plural, they must be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic. Our inspiration must come from the actions of feminists who have helped self-identified women reach revolutionary consciousness.

Our feminisms must be revolutionary.

Final word

You can pretend we didn’t come here, pretend nothing was said.

You can purposefully misunderstand us.

Or you can ask yourselves why we came, what we meant, and whether we’ll come back again.

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58 Comments

  1. […] began this series by referring to a video and statement by the anarcha-feminist group No Pretence, who were “pissed off by the patriarchy which is […]

  2. […] the words of anarcha-feminist group No Pretence, “we are all oppressed by the class system, but there is nobody ‘out there’ who isn’t […]

  3. […] such, I think the film and statement from No Pretence offer an invaluable starting point; We have taken this space and projected this […]

  4. nothing to say except FUCK YEAH.

    bravo!
    standing ovation!

    getting rid of “class” (as if the result of white supremacy, patriarchy, and homophobia are not economic inequalities) without getting rid of the other forms of oppression is fascism (class entirely based on race or gender or orientation), while getting rid of ONLY race, gender, or homosexual oppression is multi-cultural fucking capitalist exploitation.

    confront ALL oppression where ever it is found!!!! FUCK YEAH!!!

  5. […] and foremost, this is an amazing video put out by some bad-ass women highlighting manarchy and sexism inside the anarchist […]

  6. Nice intervention- made me feel a little relief from the frustrations I have felt around local patriarchical structures in Richmond. Sexism. Racism. and Homophobia can always be talked about more. Love and Solidarity from Richmond, Virginia!

  7. I loved the video and reminded me of all the problemas we have had here with the so called self proclaimed black block and FLA(Federacion Libertaria Argentina)
    and the struggle goes on especially against our inner enemies.
    Salud Anarquia
    desde Buenos Aires

  8. Thanks for sharing this info 🙂 Will be linking to your site! Cheers! =)

  9. hello no pretence, and well done for your action. I’m writing to say how inspiring your recent words and deeds have been. Yes without doubt in my experience sexism exists within the anarchist movement and its not subtle. The path of anarchy is a learning curve and you’re gonna stumble, but as time passes you’d expect the basics to come naturally as you rediscover yourself after the sickness of oppression has been recognised. Having said that, some of the comments coming from seasoned ‘anarchists’ are fucking appalling, no different than the grunts who ive spent most of my life living and working with in the world of machisimo. I’m not squeeky clean but im not gonna defend any sexist,racist bs however unintentional. I think thats called denial. Alessio, NP saved your tofu and brought the conference to the perfect climax – look at the result, all of these enlightening ideas and observations. Don’t be proud, thank them. Thankyou NP

  10. a fine spectacle indeed. but of course anarchists are mostly white middle class men and the so-called movement – or rather the ideology – is on the whole dominantly racist and sexist – mostly cos of its eurocentricity. your grafix also show that all the faces and pics are whites. how many black sisters in your own group? if none then that just reflects the institutional racism of anarchist movement. if there are some then why is race not also mentioned alongside sex? remember when those who criticised institutional racism were kicked out of larc? anyway all the best comrades, against the racist sexist bourgeois movement that is anarchism – but u are better of ditching identity politics and joining the proletariat at large in the class war that engulfs the planet. fuck these whiteboy dickheads playing hero. we will blaze a trail to new ways of being. real life is elsewhere…

  11. I posted this comment on IMC London[1] and am reposting it here.
    [1] http://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/1539

    Demographics of political movements

    If men rather than women are found speaking in “anarchist movement,” must we seek an explanation in “patriarchy,” “power structures,” and “oppression,” or might other factors be at play?

    One thing you will notice in the video that shows the clips of speakers — the major demographic difference between “the state” and “the movement” — age. “The movement” is one of young men, with a few young women. “The state” is filled with old men, with a few old women. Why?

    I think the reason for greater male participation in “the movement” can be seen in the causal chain which brings people to it. Females lead different sorts of lives — and, especially, different sorts of youths.

    To address this in detail is not my aim here, nor am I capable; I am only trying to raise the question. But the screaming and shouting and techno music, although I suppose it makes for an emotional rise, really does not seem informed by an understanding of the relevant factors. The men in “the movement” would be quite happy to have a more equal gender ratio, for example, but they cannot make it not happen. I certainly realize the issue being raised is not gender ratio; but the issue of lack of female participation must start with this, and the recognition that it is not a choice made by the men. Getting young women involved, when there are much more fun things to do, when everyone wants them, when every social scene will do what it takes to get them to stay — perhaps a “movement” just does not offer a good enough experience to sustain their involvement.

    I’m not trying to say that men are, because of some inherent superiority, “more serious” than women. However, insofar as consumer capitalism infantalizes everyone, prolongs childhood and adolescence indefinitely, creates “youth culture,” values us in our most dependent and passive role (as consumer), etc., it does so much more effectively, or at least somewhat longer and with fewer exceptions, for young women, who have access to so many more consumer experiences — including those where, effectively, the young women are not the customer, but the product. (The “night club” and the bar being only the most conspicuous manifestation of these.) Put otherwise, young women are more likely to find a place in the consumer world than young men; and it is those who have the least place in the consumer world that will join radical political movements (or undertake other “serious” activities).

    Regarding the sexual division of labor: Those women who do “women’s work” are probably happy to have their contribution valued (everybody likes to be valued) and to escape the role of isolated spectator. Meanwhile, the “men’s work” likely involves an intense competition for recognition. (This is what makes it “men’s work.”) Fewer women will choose to enter into these competitions (which involve risks, and offer them little incentive to do so); and there are fewer of them to do so. Speaking on stage is certainly an instance of this. Men’s contribution to “women’s work,” on the other hand, would tend not to be valued in the same way; it might even be seen (or, anyway, experienced subjectively) as an especially conspicuous failure to compete. The man working in the kitchen is likely to see the women surrounding him accord greater respect to those speaking on the stage than to himself, which he will find greatly discouraging. Note that these issues stem from the particular nature of volunteer labor. Where labor is not seen as a choice, but rather a social obligation, you are much more likely to find men cheerfully doing women’s work (so long as this is seen as the obligation of men and not only women). But it is not generally possible to impose social obligations on volunteers unless their volunteering takes some form of long-term commitment — this means, especially, membership in a society.

    The the long-term breakdown of society into the nuclear family and the sex-seeking individual, who “networks” in spaces of consumption, has left no ties between the young and the old. The old are excluded from anarchism, not primarily because of any “youth-archy” (though in fact the old may experience exclusion in many ways) but because young and old in our society do not know how to relate and do not encounter one another socially. We grew up in artificial institutions, strictly segregated by age; we cannot relate to elders except as authorities; no social roles are available to us or them that would unite us with them. But it is among the old (by which I mean only the not-youth) that serious women are to be found. Especially, I think, the divorced and the unmarried (and not only for lack of attachments).

    So if the goal is including women in anarchism, not as a token which merely proves that women are not being excluded (and, I think, they already are not), but in order to actually involve the experience and voice of women, perhaps the first attempt should be made to include older people. Or, perhaps before that, a recognition of the fact that non-participation is not necessarily, or even probably, the result of participation being excluded by power.

  12. Video was well produced, nice one, any chance of any of you coming down to Brighton to do a workshop. Sure we could put you up and help with travel.
    You definitely got people talking so well done. Interesting to see so many people complaining about a bunch of masked up anarchists, would have thought the conference would be ideal for this sort of thing, especially as its a tactic some of us use and have to defend publicly. Ought to be encouraged, but then I’m red so what do I know.
    Agree that the issues you raised need to be discussed, have to admit am scared shitless of having one of my conversations played back to me and realising I’ve turned in to the kind of man I’ve always hated. Keep up the good work.

  13. this contributiopn/intervention to the ‘movement’ is still unfortunetly needed…if any further proof is required I direct comrades to this disgusting sexist shit on libcoms discussion boards…and this is an ‘anarchist’ website….everyone here should be outed…
    http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/viz-letters-page

  14. awesome action! awesome vid!

  15. It´s a shame that the people who will understand this action the most and see it most clearly are those who perhaps need to learn from it the least.
    I am really appalled at the extent of the arrogance and willful ignorance that has shown itself in some of the reactions to this action.
    Amusement at watching the spirit of big machomanarchist throw his shit out of the pram because someone dared to say he wasn’t perfect, is the sort of pitiful consolation that women have been forced to be grateful for for much too long.

  16. I fell away from the anarchist movement over ten years ago, and it pisses me off to no end that the same bullshit is going on. I really think those of you who are getting defensive and pissy about the action these women took take a good, hard look at yourselves and ask yourselves why you don’t believe what they are telling you. Why are you denying their experiences, their truths? Why don’t you trust other anarchists? Explain to me how that is different from sexism outside the movement, because I’m not seeing it.

    For fuck’s sake, just because you declared yourself an anarchist doesn’t mean someone waved a magic wand and all of your privilege goes away. It’s still there.

  17. I stumbled on this video on another blog, and I have to say KUDOS. I have very limited knowledge about the anarchy movement, but I can confidently say that the exclusion of queer, female, POC voices is a pressing concern in almost all progressive movements. It breaks my heart to read the comments of these individuals who refuse to recognize their privilege in order to build a coalition-based, progressive, ass-kicking movement. I know when I started reading about white privilege, it hurt to realize that my skin color afforded me privileges that I did not earn, which in fact oppressed people of color. But I womanned up, accepted it, and have been participating in anti-racist work since then.

    Hopefully the negative commentors realize that you cannot be a revolutionary until you RECOGNIZE your privilege, whether it be racial, gender, sexuality, class, education, ability, etc, and work like hell to DISMANTLE the system that pulls some of us up while pushing the rest of us down. While male privilege may be a product of a systemic oppressive system, it takes individuals to confront and resist their personal privileges to break it down.

    Also, from what I’ve read about anarchist forms of activism, public “stunts” are popular forms of resistance. Why is it then condemned when women are the ones who are disrupting the status quo? Is it because these activists refuse to acknowledge that they are the status quo? Or because public spaces and “stunts” are only accessible by men?

  18. Hey, nice one with the action!!! Well done 🙂 Amusing comments, especially the men who do the usual thang of accusing women of sexism or being complicit in their own oppression.

    I think that a course of Derailing For Dummies: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/ could be helpful for those over-vocal penis people who persist in their inflated rhetoric. If I could be bothered I’d analyse the comments on this page with regard to the strategies listed on the site.

    Oh yes, I know the “choose between unity and separatism” BS very well. It’s really encouraging to know there’s some fierce active proud anarcha-feminist women out there. Don’t ever stop ❤

  19. Fucking nice one!!!!! 100% support !!!! i wish to be there !!!!

  20. regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the action itself (I personally had a few minor qualms, but I’m picky as hell), all the cat-fighting over minutiae is totally missing the point. when the media highlights one smashed window and so ignores the whole cause for a protest it’s bad, but when we do it it’s fine?

    it was a good idea to do, it was done pretty well, and I can only hope from now we’ll actually try to make some fucking headway to eliminate sexism in the movement, as opposed to just ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away

    (P.S. there’s a difference between calling someone a “sexist” and saying an action they took is “sexist” – don’t get all defensive when people throw the term sexism around, normally it’s meant in a “I’d rethink what you just said” way as opposed to “fuck you fucking woman-hater burn in hell”)
    (P.P.S. I’ve got man-bits, so don’t assume this is all ladies-for, men-against)

  21. It’s sad that so many people are reacting in a really defensive way to this, when in my opinion it is inspiring and the people who made it should be thanked for saying something that really, really needs to be said, not just once but over and over.

    I think it’s very weird that whenever someone points out the bleeding obvious, that there is sexism (as well as quite a lot of other forms of oppression) in mainstream society and that these patterns of domination are replicated in anarchist spaces, some people act really shocked and take it as a personal attack.

    I am priviledged in this society because I am white and heterosexual. I think of myself as a non-oppressive person but I recognize that because I live in a very oppressive culture I might have picked up some discriminatory attitudes and behaviours without meaning to. When someone who is disabled or queer or Black or Asian or anything else, tells me that my behaviour is oppressive to them, I try to listen to this and learn from it, instead of going on the defensive.

    Overcoming oppression is a long process. It’s not like you can decide one morning “racism, sexism, homophobia – they’re all definitely bad – well good for me I’ve overcome oppression” and not think about it anymore. If we are genuinely anarchists we need to be committed to challenging oppression wherever we find it, always.

  22. Fab Fab Fab Fab Video!!! Well Done from a fellow anarcha feminist x

    • Still beating up queers Charlie?

  23. “…as well as fighting sexism ‘out there’ we must fight sexism ‘in here’ and stop pretending that oppressive systems disappear at the door of the squat or the social centre.”

    Yes yes yes yes yes. This has been said many times before but we have to keep saying it and keep saying it, because it’s pretty obvious a lot of people still haven’t heard.

  24. fuck yeah. wasn’t at the conference but i’m glad to hear this happened. sexism needs to be up there in all our organising. as a white middle class male organising in anarchist spaces it took me a while to be aware of the privilege I have in those spaces. I’m not surprised people are getting defensive here. Anarchists, we think we know it all, we have all the answers. Every now and then something happens to challenge this and we can either get defensive, find every micro-justification for how “I’m not sexist/racist/homophobic/ablist”, and dismiss the challenge. Or we can spend some time reflecting, educating ourselves, and being really critical of who we are, what we do, how we organise, and how that perpetuates our privilege. We can build a great strong anarchist movement but if the only people that this movement gives a voice are white, middle class males then all we are doing is replicating the systems of oppression that capitalism creates.

    Last year i went to a great workshop on male privilege at the climate camp. It opened my eyes up a lot. Who attended? Mainly women, with a few queer boys.

    The great thing about privilege is that those with privilege have the privilege to be ignorant of it.

  25. Fantastic site and idea No Pretence. You’re very brave. I’ve found that most of the dudebros on the left completely ignore sexism because they don’t want to give up the benefits of living in a Patriarchy.

  26. what a load of wank.

    nice editing tho.

  27. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!
    To all the amazing people that were involved in this: an anarchafeminist action at an anarchist conference? Pure genius! WIsh I was there to cheer you all on.
    For a long time I’ve experienced sexism within the anarchist movement, it disapointed me loads and went against everything that I thought anarchism stood for. It almost put me off being an anarchist altogether. This was until I met other anarchist women, we got chatting, and found out we felt the same way. As my confidence as an anarchist rose, and my feminism took hold, my disapointment turned to defiance: how can you call yourselves anarchists and be so blatently sexist?! Lo and behold: an anarcha-feminist was born!
    Ignore the defensive mysogyny of certain men who comment on internet forums, they are soo yesterday. I love the way that they are so quick to point out things like “aha but the leaflet/conference/event was designed by a woman!! What do you have to say about that you feminist freaks?!” [or something like this]. Err…women can be sexist too, haven’t you heard? And [shock horror] feminism does not equate to man-hating. REAL men are feminists!
    These ‘anarchists’ (both men and women commentating negatively on this aciton) seem to be reciting out-dated [and downright bollocks] criticisms of feminism, just like the mainstream. Err, way radical guys. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so fucking disgusting.
    This ‘no pretence’ action should be applauded, supported, listened to and the issues brought up be discussed seriously as a massive problem within our scene, and taken as a big step towards the modern anarchist movement being truly ‘anarchist’, and by that I also mean ‘feminist’.
    Way to go, sisters!!

  28. so, is it the case that none of the women who did the action and gave out a leaflet with this site on it have bothered to get online to engage with any of the people wanting to debate what they raised? seems they have kicked over the bee-hive and left comrade tina to try and answer all criticism by herslef…

    btw tina – the fact that most comments are negative does NOT mean it was a success. unless it confirms how ‘sexist’ the movement is to people who already thought this anyway.

  29. Although I have some issues with the film, for example the already mentioned editing out of women from the Speakers Corner speeches (there were actually two), and the non-inclusion of the Class War poster with the men, I think that overall I’m happy the action happened. For example, in the case of Speakers Corner, I’m a woman, I was there, I chose not to speak. I know that I could have spoken. But I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. It doesn’t take someone physically telling women they’re not welcome for that effect to be had. It doesn’t have to be anything anyone did on that day. It’s an issue of constant indoctrination and brainwashing from all sides, all our lives. Was the reason I didn’t have the confidence to speak because I’m a woman? I don’t know. But these things do need to be confronted. As for the Class War poster, I think it points to an overall objectification and commodification of people in general, not just women. I think it was meant to be tongue in cheek, but that obviously doesn’t excuse it because the effect is often the same. The main reason I think this action was important, is that we really can’t deny the fact that before the group came in, I could have counted the women in that room on my fingers. I was the only woman in my group. We have to look at why this is.

    • it’s not true that you could have counted the women in the room on your fingers. there were five women within a metre of where i was sitting. I spoke to the woman at the info desk and she told me a third of registrations for conference were women – about seventy. I must admit that it seemed more like a quarter women to me though.

      another misconception is that the figure on the poster was obviously a woman. when i disputed this I was dismissed by a woman comrade who told me ‘it’ had breasts. i’ve checked and it doesn’t.

      it is wrong to equate class with patriarchy or racism or other oppressive structures. they have different causes, effects and implications for society and the movement. class struggle unites people to overcome economic oppression AND other oppressive structures. my believing this does not make me sexist any more than others’ emphasis on feminism makes them liberal.

      the instance of sexual assault is obviously serious but does not amount to sexism. the fact that some women do not feel confident speaking neither – most men feel uncomfortable speaking too. there are many many explanations for why there are less women in the movement than men which do not rest upon the assertion of there being a problem with sexism in the movement. of the speakers at the end of the meeting several of the most confident and eloquent were women and the least confident were men.

      i found the leaflet handed out to be confrontational, passive-aggressive, inconsistent, sexist in itself, vague, negative, hyperbolic

      “tell us why men rape”
      a group of women asking this implies that men should have some special understanding of rapists – perhaps because men are all potential rapists??? wtf??? if this isn’t the implication i don’t see what the point is. (i assume that all the people masked up were women – it was hard to tell. how this squares with communicating effectively i don’t know).

      ‘We believe that in the anarchist movement, the strongest evidence of sexism lies in the choice we’re told to make between ‘unity’ and what-they-call ‘separatism’, between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Fuck that! We refuse to be seen as stereotypes of ‘feminists’ you can consume – like fucking merchandise in the capitalist workplace.’

      who is telling anyone to make this choice? – is this really the ‘strongest evidence of sexism’?

      this is the first time i have directly come across women raising the problem of sexism in the movement or the wider left so I find it difficult to recognise that the writers are ‘tired of asking for space’. perhaps distributing the leaflet at the start of conference would have stimulated discussion of patriarchy in the groups??? i don’t know anyone in the movement outside of my town but the impression i have after conference is of a minority of women in the movement having a political agenda to push.

      • a group of women asking this implies that men should have some special understanding of rapists – perhaps because men are all potential rapists??? wtf??? if this isn’t the implication i don’t see what the point is. (i assume that all the people masked up were women – it was hard to tell. how this squares with communicating effectively i don’t know).

        Uh, Given that 95% of sexual abusers are cisgendered men, and that sexual abusers don’t wear handy little signs on their chests informing us all of the fact that they are sexual abusers, and that most women who are sexually assaulted are not sexually assaulted by strangers but by relatives, partners, friends and comrades… it’s actually not that outrageous to say that all cisgendered men are potential rapists, at least from the point of view of women. Because we don’t know who among you ARE rapists until, well, the rapists try to rape. We aren’t psychic. It’s also not outrageous to say that we need to address the issue of sexual assault within our communities, given the “most victims know their rapist” thing.

        I’m really sick of cis men getting so fucking defensive about this, like what, like women are supposed to give you a fucking cookie for the fact that you’re not a rapist? Oh my god! Get over yourself, and ESPECIALLY get over your privilege. It’s not our job, as women, to educate you and make you feel better about being a man in a patriarchy, and demanding that we give up a part of our identity and struggle so you don’t have to examine that role of yours is fucking BULLSHIT.

  30. I thought that this guerilla presentation was a very imaginative, daring and moving action. As the anarchist movement in the UK becomes more self aware through events like the conference, it is good to see that we can be still challenged in this kind of way. I’d hate to think that we’d ever have a boring, self-congratulatory political party-style gathering.

    While people may find issues with some aspects of the form and content of the presentation, it’s obvious that it was trying to drive home a serious point about feminism and its role within the anarchist movement. The links on this blog raise interesting and in some cases highly disturbing issues that need to be addressed. I’m sure it will be a passionate discussion but I also hope it can proceed in a comradely fashion. One of the more depressing aspects of our movement is its capacity to rip itself apart in public.

    The questions on the conference table were put together to be as open ended as possible without being so vague as to be meaningless. Class was singled out as an issue for special discussion, and yet other issues such as patriarchy were not. This was indeed a failing. Point taken.

    Patriarchy, the state, homophobia, racism, classism…these are all horrific. But is there really some kind of league table we can put them in? Is there really an order of priority in which we deal with them? Isn’t anarchism amongst other things a methodology for taking on all systems of domination, wherever we find them?

    And what about allegations of sexual abuse within the scene, an issue raised in the pamphlet and on one of the links? What do we do about that? Call the cops? I’ve had no experience in having to deal with this. Perhaps activists who have had to resolve such situations could share strategies they have used. Or if these issues are just being brushed under the carpet, then we really need to have a word with ourselves. What can be done?

    I realise I’m asking a lot of questions here, but I’m not trying to be rhetorical, it’s just I’m not sure of the answers.

    Patriarchy is something that unfortunately reproduces itself everywhere, not just in the anarchist movement. I hope we can distinguish ourselves as anarchists by taking this discussion seriously and proceeding in a respectful and mutually supportive way.

  31. “the only way women in the anarchist movement have found to have their voices be heard is by a masked direct action.” no not true, that is vanguardist and patronising to the women that spent the two days talking in meetings. I was in a group with only 3 women but not at any time did anyone interrupt anyone regardless of who they were. Everyone listened, every communicated, we talked more about gender than you did at the conference.

    Tell me, next time that we organised an anarchist rally shall I make a suggestion that women speak first or black people or is that tokenisitic – sounds like it to me. Confidence is not all based on gender stereotypes or white privilege – some of us actually have made attempts to learn to be more confident, more articulate, to educate ourselves — don’t assume all white men have this handed to them on a plate.

    • Dear A

      Sorry, i think there has been some kind of misunderstanding… I am not part of the group who did the action, i want to make that clear so whatever i say doesn’t fall on their backs somehow. BUT, as i already said, i know that the women who were part of the action where also taking part in the talks during the 2 days, and i also empathize with what they said, as well as how they said it.

      Gosh, all this anarcha men attack slash blind self defense it is kinda exhausting… Today didn’t have to go to work, but i am not going to be able to keep this rhythm of reply for much longer… My best friend always says that the “comments” battle is a lost one, there’s always going to be someone with loads of time to spend in front of the computer, and it is easy to say whatever on internet. I rather have face to face conversations, to be honest.

      Confidence in talking in public IT IS much based in gender stereotypes or white privilege, please show a bit of historical context. Certainly, not all white men have this skill, but it is infinitely more easy for them.

      Anyway, could you please read that:

      http://www.anarcha.org/sallydarity/SexismintheAnarchistMovement.htm

      It’s one of the links of this blog, and i think a very good one. Also a very good starting point of discussion. I’m afraid i’m not going to be able to continue this level of discussion, it is getting slightly insulting and personal, i can see you are pissed off at me for what i am saying or at the direct action group for what they did, and it would be good to know why, i don’t feel you should be the one pissed off here at all.

      Take care though, and thanks for listening and not interrupting the only 3 women between the 15 or so people in your discussion group, i’m sure they much appreciated it.

  32. what are Anarcha-feminist organisational structures?

  33. Whilst I wasn’t at the conference it doesn’t seem like there was much of an attempt to communicate or enter into dialogue with the rest of the movement that were present. Merely showing up, making an intervention and leaving again doesn’t seem the most constructive of ways to raise the issue at hand.
    Surely making an intervention at the beginning of the conference would have put sexism on the agenda, or better yet getting involved in the organising of the event.
    “The largest non state institution which perpetuates sexism is patriarchy, not religion. ”
    I think you’ll find that it’s religion. Patriarchy is something that perpetuated by the churches as well as the state.

    “Sexism is the first and most important of all our fights,”
    I’m sorry but to place the struggle against sexism above the rest of the struggle rather than within it is absurd. Patriarchy, racism, capitalism are all things that must be combated as part of the same struggle for a fairer and more just world. To place the struggle against sexism outside of the class struggle is to seek cross class alliances, these are counter revolutionary as the wealthy will seek to preserve their status.
    It is equally daft for those engaged in the class struggle to ignore sexism as it weakens and divides us, the same as homophobia and racism.
    Guess what I’m trying to say is that the struggle against sexism is a part of the class struggle or it is liberal identity politics.

    • As far as i know, the women participating in the action do not “merely” show up and make an intervention, they were also part of the larger debate during the 2 days conference and they made their best in trying to bring the issue back to discussion there and then, as well as at any occasion with their fellow anarchist and friends. Again, it is easy to say what would have been the best strategy from your position, but i don’t think it matters much if they did it at the beginning or at the end and this discussion is just another way of deviating the gender issues in the movement.

      I disagree with you and i don’t think it is absurd to think that sexism is the ultimate fight, but i also know that you are a man and as a man you just don’t feel that battle as important as i do, which it is absurd, because it does affect you and your world more that what you might think. I don’t want to place hierarchies into struggles, nothing is above or under anything really, but in a way it feels like the most important battle for me, as a woman, due to my life experience. For someone that is black, it might be the race issue first, but believe me, for someone that is black and female the double layered problems get a dimension that you just can’t understand (probably me neither but i do have some black female friends to remind it me). In a basically white movement (at least in Britain), and working or middle class in its essence, the gender differences are always forgiven and forgotten. What is counter revolutionary is to ignore all this facts and continue to not want to listen what women have to say.

      Patriarchy is not just perpetuated by the church or the state, it is perpetuated by all of us and certainly it is perpetuated in the anarchist movement. The struggle against sexism is NOT part of the class struggle because gender is simply not class, it’s a whole other issue, is the issue of half of the population oppressing the other half because of their genitals. I am not the only one to believe that if we manage to assimilate and empathize this reality, and do something about it at last, other issues will also be tackled in the way. And this doesn’t mean that this other issues are unimportant or irrelevant, it just means that it seems to me impossible to gain the battle against capitalism or any other struggle if something as basic as gender is immobile and dormant in the movement.

      Can we talk about that now instead of talking about how do i explain myself, please? I mean, can we talk about how women feel like serving men and not listened at, and definitely not taken into consideration? Can we talk about how the law of who talks louder prevails, how women are left always with the cooking, the cleaning, the organizing and the childcaring, and find ways to change that? Please?

      • “I disagree with you and i don’t think it is absurd to think that sexism is the ultimate fight”
        So it’s more important than the fight against racialism? More important than creating an egalitarian world based upon foundations of mutual aid and solidarity? Or is it an inherent part of the struggle against capital and class society?
        To say that it is separate is utter mince.
        “The struggle against sexism is NOT part of the class struggle”
        On this you are completely wrong. The experience of women, and the oppression they face, differs depending upon the individuals position within the class system. Sexism divides the class and a revolution that does not include the total emancipation of all workers is no revolution I want a part of.
        “in a basically white movement (at least in Britain)”
        In a basically white country, people from non-white ethnic groups make up around 8% of the population. Although I’m well aware that even this low figure is not represented within the ‘movement’ which raises similar questions as to the low number of women involved.

        “is the issue of half of the population oppressing the other half because of their genitals.”
        So you are defining women by their genitalia? nice.
        Look I am well aware that this present society is prejudiced against women, a prejudice that in no small part finds its roots in judeo-christian morality, I simply don’t think that this confrontational approach was the best tactic for bringing the issue to peoples attention.
        I have had experience of both the authoritarian and libertarian left and can, without a shadow of a doubt, say that the anarchist milieu is far more willing to deal with social issues such as sexism and racism than the rest of the left. Shouting the odds like this merely serves to repulse people who are otherwise comrades.

        “how women are left always with the cooking, the cleaning, the organizing and the childcaring”
        Speaking as someone who has regularly cooked, cleaned and helped organise and run creche’s and who happens to have a y chromosome I can tell you you’re talking mince. Are you actually involved in the anarchist movement in the UK or are you basing your opinions on the experiences of american comrades?

        “Can we talk about how the law of who talks louder prevails”
        I realise that this does happen, I have also seen both men and women make conscious efforts to prevent this happening.

        “What is counter revolutionary is to ignore all this facts and continue to not want to listen what women have to say. ”
        I was under the impression that when the intervention was made everyone listened politely and applauded the women, hardly seems to support what you are saying here.
        The other thing is that when someone tries to force me I tend to not listen and become defensive. Had the group gotten involved in the organising of the conference they could have ensured that the issue of gender was raised within the agenda. As it is they acted in an extremely undemocratic manner.
        It’s really sad that some people feel they need to resort to this sort of stunt to get listened to. This is obviously an issue. I just wish it had been put on the agenda and then there would not have been this bad feeling nor this entirely unnecessary confrontation.

    • I am replying here `cause somehow i can`t reply below (why?), dear Miserabilis or Welshboi or whoever you are (i think the same person).

      Your blah blah blah is so exhausting, why can`t you listen for once? Why don´t you agree in the form of direct action when it`s about feminism, specially when direct action it`s been such an important part and way of dealing with things in the anarchist movement? it just escapes my comprehension, but i am not going to go point by point in your proud analysis of my words and the situation, that is another so typical male attitude in blog comments, such a time wasting and energy consuming for nothing, when what we should really be doing is all meeting face to face and have a real discussion about it.

      If you want to continue justifying the movement´s actions by what YOU do or feel, and continue to be blind about the reality of what we as women have to endure and suffer, i´m gonna tell you a little story here.

      A couple of months ago i hold a little gathering at my house to celebrate the success of a direct action. At some point i went to the toilet and as i came out one fellow male so called anarchist comrade pushed me and started holding my body (against my will) pushing me inside my room and basically making me feel very uncomfortable and confused and threaten. After a bit of “fighting” i managed to get him out my room without feeling i could make any fkin fuss about it. Oh yeah, didn`t i mention it? he was a bit drunk. At the end one of my female friends accompanied them to the door to say good bye, and at that point another fellow male very well known anarchist comrade (different than the other one) kissed rape her while grabbing her boobs. She managed to get him out of her and he left, but obviously felt quite upset about it, specially because until then she had felt respect for the guy and didn`t know how to react to such a totally unexpected thing.
      The next day she decided she couldn`t leave like that and sent him an email explaining how she felt about it, just to hear that, erm, ups, can`t remember a thing, i guess i was too drunk. Now both of us have to continue to see this guy in various meetings and rallies and pretend just nothing happened. Those things just happen, innit? Men get drunk, men become phisically rude and violent to women, no need to fuss about, even if its in an anarchist milieu.
      WELL, i am gonna tell you something here: i have been dead drunk myself many times in my 30 years of life, as drunk as i couldn`t walk, as drunk as i could`t do anything else that puke my soul out, but i have never, i repeat, NEVER EVER, become violent or touched, grabbed, forced, kiss rape or done any of that shit to anyone. Is that clear?

      Apart from all the other things that you say and that i don`t agree with because you are just wrong and you simply have no idea of all the complications, intrinsic oppression and inequality that comes in the package of being woman in this fucking sexist world, nor want to listen if it`s not in your fkin terms and as you please when you please, can you tell me after what i just said that there is no reason for such a fuss in the anarchist movement, and that you just don`t agree with “the way”?
      Then, you know what, then fuck you, because you’re not gonna keep me in the trap of continuing looking for a way that suits you anymore and i am going to become more and more explicit, clear and direct about it by any means necessary, until you listen. And don’t you dare telling me that i am just another man hater! I am full of frustration at never and in any way being listened about sexist issues: because it’s so difficult to speak out we try to find imaginative and more challenging and original ways of passing on this information but it’s never good enough, never important enough to make a fuss about it or never the right way. How dare you telling us how to react about fucking centuries of sexist exploitation, and decades of sexist history in the anarchist movement. That action was nice enough for what should be done, and a good well organized call out for attention.

      When i read in the No Pretence statement “expect hostility, intimidation and greater surveillance” i didn’t fully understand what they meant. After all this blog comments i can see how fucking damn right they are.

      And yeah, i feel somehow better now after telling all that little story (one example of many i could tell) and swearing so much, and i am sorry if i disturbed some sensitive souls on the way.

      • and yeah, i am envolved in the anarchist movement in the UK and i am not american, you smart boy.

      • Don’t worry about offending my poor little ears with vulgarities, I think I can handle it, just! 🙂
        Before I respond to the main section of your post how is it ‘male’ to respond to particular parts of a person argument in a methodical(ish) manner? I responded to a point you had made. If you don’t want people to respond to you via the internet you perhaps shouldn’t post comments on the thing? I do much prefer face to face conversation, there is far less chance of misunderstanding for one thing. I however live in the civilised north of the island so it’s doubtful we could talk face to face.
        You haven’t actually answered anything I have said though. I agreed with you that there is a problem with sexism in the British anarchist movement. I just think that it needs to be analysed and dealt with in a different manner than the way that American Anarcha-Feminists do. The two cultures are very different so sexism, patriarchy et al manifest differently.
        You have also failed to address the sweeping generalisations you made about women in the anarchist movement doing the childcare/cooking etc… As I said I am a man who has often taken a role in running the childrens spaces, in cooking, in washing up, the shit work that needs doing.
        It is you that has not been listening. I don’t demand that you do so but when you are in dialogue with someone it is considered polite to do so.
        First off let me say that the guys you describe are total cocks and their behaviour does need to be dealt with. There is no doubt in my mind, nor any other right thinking persons mind about that.

        “WELL, i am gonna tell you something here: i have been dead drunk myself many times in my 30 years of life, as drunk as i couldn`t walk, as drunk as i could`t do anything else that puke my soul out, but i have never, i repeat, NEVER EVER, become violent or touched, grabbed, forced, kiss rape or done any of that shit to anyone. Is that clear?”
        Welcome to the world of the majority. The same goes for the majority of men.
        “Apart from all the other things that you say and that i don`t agree with because you are just wrong”
        Great argument, I know you are but what am I? etc..
        “Then, you know what, then fuck you,”
        A great way to convince people of your argument.
        “because you’re not gonna keep me in the trap of continuing looking for a way that suits you anymore and i am going to become more and more explicit, clear and direct about it by any means necessary, until you listen.”
        You shout at people and they won’t listen. Not saying you have to pussy foot around an issue, nor that you have to avoid hurting peoples feelings. Just that the conference was the ideal place for a frank discussion of the problems of sexism, rather than a wee intervention at the end that didn’t allow for face to face discussion or debate.
        “And don’t you dare telling me that i am just another man hater!”
        I wouldn’t dare! O_o
        “I am full of frustration at never and in any way being listened about sexist issues: because it’s so difficult to speak out we try to find imaginative and more challenging and original ways of passing on this information but it’s never good enough, never important enough to make a fuss about it or never the right way.”
        I never said that it wasn’t important, nor that there shouldn’t be a fuss made about it. I was entirely critical of the way that the intervention didn’t allow for discussion and at the misrepresentation of the role of women in the anarchist movement.
        “How dare you telling us how to react about fucking centuries of sexist exploitation, and decades of sexist history in the anarchist movement. That action was nice enough for what should be done, and a good well organized call out for attention.”
        But had the women involved gotten involved in organising the conference, being as they are, one assumes, anarchists they could have ensured that gender had equal time as a discussion thread.
        “When i read in the No Pretence statement “expect hostility, intimidation and greater surveillance” i didn’t fully understand what they meant. After all this blog comments i can see how fucking damn right they are.”
        I am not hostile to the need to combat sexism. I am hostile towards misrepresentation, especially when it’s us that’s doing it. Sexism is fucking terrible and damages and infects everything. There is no need to misrepresent things the way that the No Pretence video does.
        And yeah Miserablist and welshboi are both me, dunno why it’s posting as two names, weird.

  34. It doesn’t surprise me that pretty much all comments until now have been defensive and full of criticism about the action. I think that means it was a success. It also shows how people is blatantly blind at the gender issue in society and in the movement, and how important it is to bring that discussion back, more than ever.

    I still find it ridiculous how people defend themselves by saying that one of the speakers at the rally was a woman, and that it was an open mic where everyone was invited to speak. The problem is that there has never been a space for women to talk that way, and so we don’t know how to do it, that’s why there was ONLY one women talking at the rally, which it confirms what this action wanted to highlight, not the other way round.

    The largest non state institution which perpetuates sexism is patriarchy, not religion. Finding sexism in religion is just like finding sexism in everything else, and by fighting patriarchy we would fight everything else that comes underneath, like religion, class and race. Sexism is the first and most important of all our fights, is the reason the world is divided in two, and until we don’t recognize this and do something about it, learning about who we really are and how to work together against it, the state and the world as we know it will prevail as it is.

    There are so many things i disagree about those comments that i don’t even know how to start. I am pretty sure there are all coming from men, i just can recognize this kind of talk as men talk. The veil? I recommend everyone who doesn’t know shit about Muslim world and Muslim women reality to shut the fuck up. The veil is a too complicate issue to just talk about it on the way, as a retrograde thing. The veil can be something very liberating as well, and a statement against the West sexist and objectifying style life imposition. Many women have consciously chosen to wear it lately, and that is something who us, westerners, are in part to blame for. There are also other women who have chosen to be masked, like the Zapatistas, and no one is talking about them here. I wonder why.

    The fact that the Class War poster was made by a woman it also means little to me, sexism is not just to be found in men, it takes the whole society, and the very problem right now is that us women we choose to be objectified, and that is another reason why this discussion is so important to have, between men, between women, between men and women.

    Instead of trying to find ways to justify yourselves you should be thinking about all those things: the fact that ONLY one women talked at the rally, the fact that more women are choosing to wear the veil, the fact that a sexist poster was made by a woman, the fact that sexism in religion is just another consequence of patriarchy, the fact that it is a standard practice for people producing leaflets to depict a faceless female or male figure, the fact that the only way women in the anarchist movement have found to have their voices be heard is by a masked direct action. No one here is pretending, people is really trying hard to find a space to discuss such a fucking long term issue no one wants to discuss. The anarchist conference has also failed to do so with it’s four questions, none of them talking about sexism.

    Final word

    It’s easier to criticize other people’s actions than to listen and to reflect at our owns. If people is complaining, in form of a direct action in the conference or whatever form, it’s because there is a reason to complain. What is retrograde is to AGAIN put gender issues last and dismiss women’s objections.

    • Thanks Tina for being highly entertaining if nothing else. I could dissect your response absurdity by absurdity but am too busy chuckling.

      • you’re welcome, christian, anytime.

      • oh, thanks to you christian, for your highly important input in the conversation, i much appreciate all the points about sexism in the anarchist movement you talk about. i hope your chuckling won’t interrupt your idiotically insulting ways next time, it would really be a shame to miss another menace of your hidden excellent rhetoric.

  35. Like your montgage of speeches from the anarchist rally on the March 28th, good to see an L&S speaker – shame you didn’t find time for the woman. Must have ended up on the cutting room floor.

    Oh – the flyer for the Class War speed dating event had three versions, two male and one female. The leaflet was designed by a woman comrade. The event was compered by a woman.

    I guess also, you had time constraints so couldn’t show that leaflet. Or the video’s of women speakers.

    i don’t, so:
    Class War’s other leaflets
    http://www.londonclasswar.org/newswire/index.php?itemid=327

    L&S’s speakers at the rally:
    http://libertyandsolidarity.org/node/43

    • I have to agree that as a gay female that attended the speed dating event that there was a range of flyers that includied the one of two women that I thought were rather beautiful.. Why can we not be feminist and still enjoy our bodies!? I cant say how bored I am of reading all this rhetoric of not enough representation of women in the anarchist movment..I do see the point that there are more men at these events but then there are women that should be encouraged and supported to take action, not slagging off the images of women used …

  36. fair fucks to ya, that’s action.

  37. The intervention today reminded me of the antics of the League of Empire Loyalists when they turned up at Tory conferences blacked up and denounced everyone present as traitors. Today nopretence turned up at the anarchist conference masked up, claiming that ‘covering up makes it easier to communicate’. There seemed to be little desire to communicate, as after the theatre the nopretence activists made themselves scarce. Not only that, but given the honest, face to face discussion which characterised the conference, masking up seemed to put up a barrier, not remove one. At a time when more women than ever wear religious veils, voluntarily covering your face is, to say the least, a retrograde step.

    I’ve mentioned honesty. There was a lack of it in the film. One of the best speakers at the anarchist rally following the Put People First march on 28 March was a woman. Footage was shown of other speakers – all men. She has been edited out of history to prove a point. Anyone could have spoken at the anarchist rally: there was a deliberate and announced ‘open mike’ policy. To suggest that the rally was only addressed by men is peculiarly dishonest. Contrasting with the rally was footage from Parliament, again showing only men speaking. Where were the powerful women from Parliament? Where were Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith, Teresa May, Hazel Blears or Patricia Hewitt? This was, at best, underhanded.

    The Class War poster highlighted in the film was one of a series, others of which featured two men kissing and another Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Class War received, and responded to, a number of emails about the posters, including printing a letter and reply in the next issue of CW. The posters, incidentally designed by an anarcha-feminist, promoted an extremely successful event attended by over 100 people, many of whom were new to anarchist ideals. The number offended was considerably less.

    The leaflet for the conference also comes in for some criticism. It depicts a faceless female figure, which I took to be a sort of anarchist everywoman. This is a standard practice for people producing leaflets – but doubtless if it had been a faceless man it would still have come in for criticism. The organisers of the conference were placed in a no-win situation!

    We’re told that there’s a choice forced on us between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Utter bollocks. Where the rest of the leaflet recognises that there are a range of structures within society, this part ignores it. As most anarchists recognise, we need to fight on a number of fronts, against (for example) bosses as well as cops. Our anarchism is expressed in our everyday lives or it’s nothing. And in our everyday lives we clearly spend much of our time dealing with relationships with other people: we don’t take on the state seven days a week. So it’s not an either-or, either state or sexism, but an and – state and sexism.

    Perhaps the largest non-state institution which perpetuates sexism within society is religion. Yet there’s no mention of that within the leaflet. Given the unfortunate rise in religosity in recent years, I would have thought that as well as opposing capitalism and racism, anarcha-feminists would advocate the ‘no gods’ as well as ‘no masters’ aspect of anarchism. It’s disappointing to see it ignored.

    Final word

    You can pretend to do something about sexism in the movement through a stunt. It’s a lot easier than actually engaging with people and fighting against it.

    • i could find you 100 people who were offended by the speed dating flyers
      all sorts of people
      and not just women

      • offensive how? apart from the band ‘axis of arseholes’ of course 🙂

      • And still, the dissenters did nothing.

        They did not make their own fliers, they did not question the use of the images on the fliers, they did not make known to the larger group their feelings—doesn’t make sense, bru.

      • i wasn’t offended! I liked the flyers! they showed sexy men and women.. and same sex couples..whats so awful about that?

  38. That video is B.S.. There are as many men as women in most anarchist events, if not more. You show images of speakers in the Anarchist rally after the Put People First march but the fact is that march had LOTS of female anarchists and if they didn’t decide to step forward and speak, it was their decision not any oppression. Maybe spend more time encouraging female activists to step forward and make their voice heard instead of letting the men speak? I also remember at least one woman speaking in that rally by the way… were you even there? Finally, is Marina Pepper a man?

    • Yes, I was there, yes, it was mostly men both in the audience at Speakers Corner and those speaking.
      You show a complete lack of understanding of how oppression works. And a remarkable ability to read the minds of everyone who didn’t get up to speak.

    • The point isn’t the number of faces of men/women, white/nonwhite–it’s about the way the movement undermines its own politics because its very structure, its very core, is white and male–in the States and in Europe.

      There are lots of women who are anarchists in the movement, but to whom does the power go, by whom are the decisions made–the list is long. Your comment about women not speaking up and this being their decision, not oppression–is fallacious. It’s quite odd that you fail to see your own culpability in sexism and the privilege that it gives you the wherewithal to say what you’ve said above without thinking about how what you’ve said is inherently sexist.

      Men need to do the work of dismantling sexism, it is not just women’s problems; men need to be committed to changing the structure that undergirds the anarchist movement; men need to also encourage women anarchists to speak up and to work to create a space for this to happen within the movement; men need to extend and expand their anarchist activism to gender, race, class, ableist, etc. oppression.

      Also that you attack Pepper’s gender identity, again speaks to your inability to understand the main point of the video.

      You’ve got a lot more to read up on, a lot more to learn from your fellow anarchists who are male and feminists, a lot of personal of work you need to do regarding your own gender privilege.

      Good luck with that, for this is hard work.

      • So oppression can be eradicated by making men feel bad about themselves?


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