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New Zine: Against Japanese “Comfort Women” Denialism in the U.S.

Date: November 9, 2014

“Against Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ Denialism in the U.S.” was written in response to the recent rise of Japanese right-wing nationalist activities among some of the Japanese residents in Southern California (not Japanese Americans, but Japanese people from Japan), especially their campaign against resolutions, memorials, and other recognitions of Japanese “comfort women” during the WWII by U.S. cities.

This zine analyzes the “talking points” of Japanese right-wing nationalists, and applies the same nuanced approach to the issue of “comfort women” that the author (a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization) has advocated for in the contemporary anti-trafficking movement for many years, pointing out precisely what responsibilities Japanese government bears.

The zine is available for purchase online, or at the upcoming workshop “Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Nationalism in Southern California this Friday, November 14th at UCLA.

Faces of CW Denialism

Upcoming Workshop on Fighting Japanese Right-Wing Nationalists in Los Angeles

Date: October 29, 2014

Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Organizing in Southern California: A FeND Workshop

WHERE: UCLA Bunche Hall, room 10383
WHEN: Friday, November 14th @ 6-8pm

Emi Koyama, a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND), presents a workshop/seminar on confronting Japanese right-wing nationalist mobilization in Southern California and beyond. This workshop is especially designed for members of Japanese- and other Asian American communities, but is open to all.

Mostly unnoticed by English language media, right-wing nationalist/historical revisionist organizing among some Japanese expats and “shin issei” (new migrants) in Southern California is growing. They have stormed city council chambers of municipalities that have considered resolutions supporting former “comfort women,” the women forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military during the WWII, and have filed multiple lawsuits against the City of Glendale, which has enacted a memorial dedicated to them. They are closely connected to right-wing nationalist groups and politicians in Japan, and starting to dominate what Japanese people hear about Japanese Americans and Japanese people in the United States.

Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND) was formed in response to this emerging Japanese right-wing organizing in the U.S. by scholars and activists who have been monitoring Japanese right-wing activities for years. FeND works with Japanese and other Asian Americans and allies to confront Japanese nationalists in the U.S. and to oppose Japanese and U.S. militarisms and (settler) colonialisms in Asia and the Pacific.

This workshop provides information about who these right-wing nationalists are, what they believe, and how they are connected to Japanese right-wing groups and even government. It also addresses what we can learn from how Japanese progressives have resisted them in Japan and articulates how best we can confront Japanese right-wing nationalist organizing in the U.S.

For more information about FeND, please see:

http://www.fendnow.org/
http://www.facebook.com/fendnow

If you have any questions, please contact info@fendnow.org or message us on facebook.

(RSVP isn’t required, but it would help us know how many people are planning to come if those of you who plan to attend send us a note or “join” on facebook.)

Canadian city council candidate Paul Pesach Gray’s intellectual dishonesty [Update: Retracted]

Date: August 15, 2014

London, Ontario city council candidate Paul Pesach Gray just published a blog post in support of Bill C-36 that is aimed at suppressing prostitution by targeting “johns and pimps.” That isn’t particularly newsworthy, but it became relevant to me when he decided to quote me (out of context) and attack me as “un-compassionate and short-sighted.”

Let’s read what Mr. Gray wrote.

According to sex trade activist and opponent of Bill C-36 Emi Koyama, in War on Terror & War on Trafficking:

Many more (sex trade workers) cannot get or keep other jobs because of mental health issues, addictions, criminal record, immigration status, or discrimination (and a severe lack of social resources to help them with these issues).

Basically, what Koyama is saying is that prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from mental health issues, addiction, discrimination (which must be proven on a case by case basis) and people who might stand to be deported from Canada, or at the very least must clarify their immigration status but haven’t done so for reasons unknown.

Why doesn’t Ms. Koyama and others who share her opinion put more energy into improving the social resources which they say are lacking so severely? Why defer to the “soft bigotry of low expectations”?

First of all, he is wrong to describe me as an “opponent of Bill C-36.” I have not taken a position on the bill at all, as I am not familiar with the Canadian situation and do not want to speak over our Canadian friends that the law would impact, though I am aware that many Canadian progressives, (intersectional) feminists, and sex worker activists and allies oppose the bill. Mr. Gray needs to dialogue with members of Canadian society who oppose the bill, rather than quoting an American who has not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 (until now, that is).

Mr. Gray summarizes my quote as “prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from” various social and economic circumstances that diminish their ability to find other sources of income. The quote comes from a blog post which was later included in the booklet he mentions.

Here is the concluding paragraph of the blog post/article:

In short, “end demand” campaign is harmful to women because it diminishes their bargaining power, forcing them to do more for less money, with more dangerous johns, under less safe environments. We cannot criminalise our way out of the current situation; we must address social and economic concerns with solutions that aim at achieving social and economic justice. We can begin to do so by funding affordable housing, childcare, treatment programs on-demand (instead of many months’ wait list), and education and job training programs, instead of more jail beds or police cars or some “class” for the johns to take.

I think it is clear that I am in fact arguing that we must “put more energy into improving the social resources which they are lacking so severely,” as Mr. Gray says, rather than merely accepting the status quo, as Mr. Gray alleges.

Even after (supposedly) reading my article, however, Mr. Gray does not respond to my argument that “end demand” strategy is harmful to women; he simply ignores my main argument, or the fact that I have not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 until now, and quotes me out of context to paint opponents of Bill C-36 as “un-compassionate and short-sighted,” when in reality he is the one promoting un-compassionate and short-sighted approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.

I don’t know much about Canadian politics, but this kind of intellectual dishonesty (more than any political disagreements) would put me off as a voter if he were running for an office in my city.


[UPDATE]

I received the following email from Mr. Gray’s campaign manager.

Dear Emi Koyama:

Paul is sincerely sorry for mischaracterizing your work and important message.
He is currently in the processes of removing your name from the post and is putting together a public statement of apology to you.
Basically, Paul had received the information he posted to the web from this source: http://www.themanitoban.com/2014/07/bill-c-36-endangers-sex-workers/20149/
In the future, Paul plans to do further research and even contact those he quotes.
Again, Paul is sorry and will publish the public apology/retraction by the end of today.

Sincerely,
Brian Moskowitz

Sent from my iPhone

Regards,

Brian Moskowitz: Campaign Manager

Ward 4 City Council Candidate:
Paul Pesach Gray

Thank you, Mr. Gray, for acknowledging the mistake. So it appears that Mr. Gray saw my quote second-hand in a University of Manitoba student newspaper, and did not do further research to find out the context (and assumed the worst).

Given that, I realize now that calling Mr. Gray’s writing “intellectual dishonesty” was a bit too harsh. However, it was intellectually lazy for sure, and I appreciate his retraction.

[UPDATE 2]

Mr. Gray issued a public apology over his mischaracterisation of my work. Thank you for your prompt response!

Meanwhile, a pro-criminalization activist insists that it was okay for Mr. Gray to defame me because I “align with the ‘sex work’ lobby,” whatever that is.

Natasha Falle tweets

Cited and Quoted—”Knowing Victim: Feminism, Agency, and Victim Politics in Neoliberal Times” by Rebecca Stinger

Date: July 25, 2014

I came across an interesting new book, “Knowing Victims: Feminism, agency and victim politics in neoliberal times” by Rebecca Stringer of University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand), which seems to have just come out last month. I was surprised to find that the book cites and quotes from my blog post, “Reclaiming ‘Victim': Exploring alternatives to the heteronormative ‘victim to survivor’ discourse” in its concluding chapter. Here’s what she wrote:

In a powerful example of this kind of victim talk, feminist blogger Emi Koyama has recently framed contra- or post- neoliberal feminism as beginning with an anti-ascetic gesture of reclaiming the notion of ‘victim’.

Instead of moving to avoid victim identity and erase disadvantage and adversity,
Koyama’s piece ‘Reclaiming”Victim”and”Victimhood'” (2011) provides a robust critique of the neoliberal expectation that she should participate in such avoidance and erasure. Koyama critiques what she sees as neoliberal capitalism’s ‘trauma recovery industry’, which – in a familiar resignification of feminist conceptions of survivorship – is dominantly characterized not by compassion for victims, but by the withdrawal of compassion for victims who do not make the prescribed progression from ‘victimhood’ to ‘survivorship’ , framed as a celebration of human resilience. In its resignifications of ‘victimhood’ and ‘survivorship’, neoliberalism has situated victimbood as ‘something to be overcome’. In the neoliberal capitalist climate of ‘forced optimism’ and ‘mandatory healing’, those suffering the effects of social subordination are urged to ‘quickly transition out of victimhood into survivorship, so that we can return to our previous positions in the heteronormative and capitalist social and economic arrangements’. Rather than invalidate the knowledge and perspectives that arise from experiences of victimization, and in order to mark resistance to the imposition of ‘compulsory hopefulness and optimism in the service of neoliberal capitalist production’, Koyama argues that feminists need to reclaim the language of victimhood, which she frames as a gesture of embracing vulnerability as a source of strength, instead of ‘blaming and invalidating victims’. She writes:

I argue that feminist anti-violence movements and communities must embrace unproductive whining and complaining as legitimate means of survival in a world that cannot be made just by simply changing our individual mentalities. We must acknowledge that weakness, vulnerability, and passivity are every bit as creative and resilient as strength and activeness.

More than being a legitimate means of survival, I interpret complaint such as Koyama’s as marking a significant disaffiliation from neoliberal victim theory. Koyama refuses to refuse ‘victimhood’, and this activity of ‘reclaiming’ victimhood is not a mere reversal. It is ‘minor’, or combining elements of contamination and political rebellion: Koyama speaks the ‘major’ language of victimhood (for example, opposing weakness and strength) but reiterates it rebelliously, critiquing the erasure of structural oppression in the reduction of ‘victimhood’ to individual mentality, and affirming the legitimacy of complaint. Koyama argues that a robust feminist critique of neoliberal capitalism ‘begins’ with the gesture of reclaiming victimhood, suggesting that this gesture is an opening rather than a resolution – an opening onto new avenues of politicization rather than an end in itself. In other words, the gesture of reclaiming victimhood is necessary but not sufficient.

Further information about the book can be found on publisher’s site as well as on Amazon.

Operation Cross Country VIII: Roundup and Comments

Date: July 3, 2014

Operation Cross Country VIII Roundup and Comments

There was yet another round of FBI Operation Cross Country in the end of June, making it the eighth nationwide prostitution sweep (supposedly) intended to “rescue” “children” who are in the sex trade (see my article, “Rescue is for Kittens: Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know about “Rescues” of Youth in the Sex Trade” for why this framework is problematic). As with the last few times, I’ve combed through hundreds of local news articles to uncover the full impact of the nationwide sweep on people in the sex trade, since FBI does not release a comprehensive national data.

Below, you will see an updated summary of all Operation Cross Country sweeps.

Spotty Data from FBI’s Operation Cross Country sweeps
Source: FBI press releases; last updated in July 2014

  Date Cities “Rescues” “Pimps” Other Arrest
1 06/25/2008 16 21 unk 389
2 10/27/2008 29 49 73 642 (518 adult sw)
3 02/23/2009 29 48 unk 571
4 10/26/2009 36 52 60 700
5 11/08/2010 40 69 99 885
6 06/25/2012 57 79 104 unk
7 07/29/2013 76 105 159 unk
8 06/23/2014 106 168 281 unk

Here is a chart showing what local news media are reporting about OCC-VIII. Let me know if I am missing any news stories with additional data.

City-by-City Roundup of Media Reports on Operation Cross Country VIII
Source: FBI press release unless otherwise specified; last updated in July 2014

Division “Rescue” “Pimp” Adult SWs Notes Source(s)
Albany 0 0 unk    
Albuquerque 0 0 unk    
Anchorage 0 3 unk    
Atlanta 11 15 47 arrested women are age 18-38 (median 23) FBI Atlanta; WMAZ
Baltimore 2 5 33 WBAL reports three “rescues,” contradicting FBI figure WBAL; WMAR
Birmingham 1 3 14 arrested women are age 19-34; “6-week old baby was also rescued”–is this one of the women’s child? FBI Birmingham; WHNT; WAFF; WZDX
Boston 0 0 unk    
Buffalo 2 0 unk    
Charlotte 0 3 unk    
Chicago 13 4 unk    
Cincinnati 0 1 unk    
Cleveland 16 12 at least 49 12 sw arrested in Boardman (ages 19-36, avg 25.67, median 25.5); 2 in Elyria (ages 19 and 20); 35 in Toledo. 4 minors “rescued” in Toledo are ages 15, 16 (x2), and 17. WYTV; WFMJ; Chronicle-Telegram; Vindicator
Columbia 1 2 unk   FBI Columbia
Dallas 2 2 unk    
Denver 18 11 64 “38 adults cited/arrested for prostitution, 26 adult victims/prostitutes contacted”; one minor identified as 16yo; two in Colorado Springs as 15yo boy and 17yo girl; boy “was trading se for a place to stay using an online website”; 13 women arrested in Pueblo, 4 more as “accomplices” FBI Denver; KCSR; Colorado Springs Gazette; Billings Gazette; KXRM
Detroit 5 6 unk    
El Paso 0 1 unk El Paso Times reports 2 pimp arrests and 8 rescues, contradicting FBI; one victim identified as 16yo El Paso Times
Houston 4 4 unk    
Indianapolis 4 3 at least 10 10 sw arrested in Fort Wayne WANE; WLFI; WISH
Jackson 2 19 up to 53 12 sw and 3 drivers arrested in Rankin County FBI Jackson; WDAM; Sun Herald; WAPT
Jacksonville 0 1 26   FBI Jacksonville; Florida Times-Union
Kansas City 2 7 at least 4 4 sw in Springfield alone KOLR
Knoxville 0 1 at least 8 Eight women were arrested for prostitution, four women were arrested for promoting prostitution, two women were arrested for human trafficking, and three men were cited for solicitation. FBI Knoxville; Times Free Press; WBIR
Las Vegas 7 2 at least 30 30 sw in Reno alone Reno Gazette-Journal
Little Rock 2 5 36   Associted Press; KFSM
Los Angeles 10 12 at least 54 total of 60 arrests in Long Beach alone FBI Los Angeles; Orange County Breeze
Louisville 0 4 unk    
Memphis 2 5 unk    
Miami 3 4 unk    
Milwaukee 6 12 at least 13 13 sw in Racine County alone FBI Milwaukee; WITI
Minneapolis 1 9 unk    
Mobile 0 0 unk    
Newark 1 8 37 minor was age 14; “45 pimps and prostitutes” arrested FBI Newark; Shore News Today
New Haven 1 1 44   FBI New Haven
New Orleans 3 17 75 5 sw in Alexandria, 17 in Baton Rouge, 10 in Lake Charles, 3 in Monroe, 17 in New Orleans, 23 in Shreveport The Town Talk; Gannett Louisiana; KTBS; Bayou Buzz; WDSU
New York 3 3 unk   FBI New York
Norfolk 0 1 unk    
Oklahoma City 2 14 27   KFOR; JohnTV; The Oklahoman
Omaha 1 2 unk    
Philadelphia 0 2 unk    
Phoenix 5 21 52 Yuma Sun reports 52 sw “rescued,” while FBI reports 42. Yuma Sun has further detail (breakdown by location), so I tend to believe it. FBI Phoenix; Yuma Sun; KTVK
Pittsburgh 0 3 25 “30 arrests on state charges, including three pimps and two adults that traveled for sex with a minor” leaving 25 arrests for adult women FBI Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Portland 1 2 20   FBI Portland; KOIN
Richmond 0 2 26   FBI Richmond; News & Advance
Sacramento 9 7 unk   FBI Sacramento
Salt Lake City 0 0 unk    
San Antonio 6 3 at least 6 6 women arrested in Austin for prostitution (ages 20-30, avg 26.67); 22yo woman arrested for “human trafficking” for “prostituting a 17-year-old girl”; the 22yo and 17yo were working together according to TWC News FBI San Antonio; KVUE; Austin American-Statesman; KXAN; TWC News
San Diego 2 6 35 5 sw arrested in Oceanside alone; “rescues of 37 victims, including two minors” FBI San Diego; The Coast News; KPBS
San Francisco 6 13 57   Point Reyes Light; Marin Independent Journal; KTVU
Seattle 4 13 56   FBI Seattle
Springfield 2 1 unk   FBI Springfield
St. Louis 0 1 at least 2 2 sw (ages 19 and 20) in Columbia alone FBI St. Louis; Columbia Tribune
Tampa 8 3 up to 82 Total 85 arrests, including 2 sw in Sarasota FBI Tampa
Washington 0 2 unk    
Total 168 281 (1000+?)    

Please note that I am counting the number of adults in the sex trade who were subjected to some form of police intervention as part of OCC-VIII, and not necessarily only those who were arrested or charged with prostitution. Many news stories disguise what actually took place (for example, writing “liberated from prostitution” when women are arrested), and some law enforcement officers seem to intentionally mislead the media (Portland Police Bureau reportedly told a reporter that they “did not arrest” any women, which is technically true, but left out the crucial fact that the women were given citations instead). I hope that someone would file FOIA requests with each FBI division to find out what happened to all these people.

While each Operation Cross Country campaign becomes bigger than the last, the overall patterns remain the same: large number of adult women in the sex trade are subjected to intervention by the law enforcement (most, though not all, are arrested or cited for prostitution or other related crimes); young people who are trading sex in order to escape from violence at home or in child welfare system and those who have safe home to go back to are lumped up together and involuntarily “rescued” back into the systems that they ran away from in the first place; young women and others who work with or alongside other young people are unfairly targeted as “pimps” even when there is no sign of any abuse or exploitation; Black and Brown men and women are profiled as “gang members” and “pimps” while the professionalized white rescue industry employ force, fraud or coercion to tell young people how they should live.

For more analysis on the “rescue” operations, please read the following articles:

Elite white feminism fail: Barnard president’s disastrous attempt at viral marketing

Date: February 22, 2014

I received this email this week:

Barnard spam

When I saw the title “Great post!” I thought of two possibilities: it could be someone who really liked one of my blog posts, or it could be a spam. But I didn’t think that it was an email from an Ivy league college promoting its president’s new book and podcast, asking for me as a “feminist thought leader” to provide free platform without offering any reciprocity. It might make sense if I was running a big mainstream feminist site, but it feels arrogant and entitled that they would approach me this way.

I posted the screencap on facebook, and quickly found out that a couple of my friends who are also radical Asian women writers have been contacted by this Barnard College person. So it wasn’t a fluke that they contacted me; they are actively seeking non-mainstream, radical women of color writers to promote the work of Barnard College president, a highly successful white woman.

I decided to investigate further: I looked to see if anyone has accommodated their request to publicize the book and podcast on their blog, but found something more interesting. Not only is Barnard sending emails to its chosen “feminist thought leaders,” they are also posting unsolicited, unrelated comments on dozens of other people’s blogs that is indistinguishable from spam comments.

In one of the pages Barnard spammed, Feminist Forte, author Molly responded to Barnard’s spam comment:

From what I have gleaned online, Debora Spar seems to be aligned with mainstream, white, NYC-centric feminism. In other words, her feminism isn’t my feminism, so I’m going to decline.

That was exactly my thought when I saw the email, but Barnard had no response.

They even posted the same spam comment on The TERFs, a site dedicated to opposing a version of radical feminism that discriminates against trans people, but apparently the moderator did not approve their post. So they tried again (it says “I do apologize – this is my second attempt to comment”), and was approved.

Barnard is obviously trying to tap the power of viral marketing, but they are failing miserably: despite many spam comments and emails, very few blogs seem to have accommodated their request to publicize the book and podcast. Of course, part of the problem is the idea of the book itself: we are just not interested in hearing a highly privileged woman’s view of what “young women today” need or want. But it is also about how they chose to promote the book, attempting to exploit other women’s platform for their own gain without offering anything meaningful in return.

(Hey, by the way Barnard, thank you for the great idea for my blog!)

Anti-Shakesville commenter claims to dislike men of NOMAS, but acts like one.

Date: February 18, 2014

So apparently, the person who submitted the hate-filled post,”The Great Kerfluffle,” is a user named Jimmybeamus, who seems to be contributing many other anti-Shakesville posts in the last couple of months.

Jimmybeamus says:

As the OP, I’d be happy to respond to Emi’s criticisms at any length. The basic point I’d make still stands- this is the essence of shakesville!Feminism. I pointed out that, at best, Emi’s statements were deeply controversial, at worst, actively wrong and harmful, based on the opinions of experts.* I pointed out that the reaction to a bunch of people saying “Um, we don’t want this going out under our name” was disproportionate, overwrought, and melodramatic. I’m no fan of NOMAS, nor do I like Brannon. He seems like a prick.

I’m glad to hear that Jimmybeamus, whoever that is, is willing to respond, but they do not seem to actually respond to anything I wrote.

Jimmybeamus wrote that my “thesis” was “that the men who pimp underage girls are not necessarily predators, but ‘often friends, partners, mentors, family members, photographers, drivers, bodyguards, and others who do not control the person trading sex in any way.” Based on this characterization, Jimmybeamus argues that my view was potentially “actively wrong and harmful.”

But that is not my thesis, as I made it clear over and over, in my original article that Brannon and Jimmybeamus misrepresented, my report that was published on Shakesville, and my initial response to Jimmybeamus’ attack.

What Jimmybeamus wrote is a demonstrably false mischaracterization of my work by NOMAS Robert Brannon, who used it to justify his censorship of my presentation and threat to physically disrupt it, as well as to publicly attack me during a panel in which NOMAS had promised to address women’s (all women participants except for the one woman who is on NOMAS board were protesting them) objections to their behaviors. Jimmybeamus claims to dislike Brannon, but they are participating in the proliferation of Brannon’s lies about me and my views.

What other aspect of my views are “controversial”? Here are the list of my claims that Jimmybeamus quoted:

  1. mainstream anti-trafficking discourse promotes further surveillance and criminalization of already marginalized communities as primary and often only solution to the problem of violence and exploitation experienced by youth and adults in the sex trade
  2. such approach ignores realities of people who are actually in the sex trade
  3. intersectional analysis would require us to start from the acknowledgement that the state is problematic institution, a source of violence against women of color and many others, that cannot be intrinsically relied on

I would welcome debate if Jimmybeamus can come up with actual criticisms or counter-arguments to any of the above.

Jimmybeamus writes that my views “directly contridicts” the “experts,” but their choice of experts reflects their obvious bias. It should be obvious to any reasonable person that Department of Justice should not be the go-to source for discussing harms of criminal justice systems on marginalized communities. Such uncritical reliance on the law enforcement (and non-profit organizations that align with them) is precisely what I am criticizing. Again, I welcome actual debate, if Jimmybeamus wishes to argue that DOJ should be intrinsically trusted.

Expertise does not rest exclusively with those who criminalize people in the sex trade, or organizations that align themselves with the law enforcement. There are many grass-roots organizations, activists, researchers, public health officials, and others who are themselves in the sex trade and/or working to advocate for people in the sex trade, who question the current mainstream anti-trafficking approach that prioritizes criminalization, including myself. Jimmybeamus is clearly unfamiliar with the landscape of this larger conversations and struggles, which resulted in their failure to recognize the expertise I bring to the feminist movement against violence.

Jimmybeamus repeatedly reduces what happened at the NOMAS conference as simply “livestream being cut,” and argues that I and other women are overreacting (and yes, it’s not just about me or Melissa; when you say that we are “melodramatic,” which by the way is a typical misogynistic label men use to silence and gaslight women, you are attacking all women who signed the demand to NOMAS). It was so much more than just that: denial of reality, blaming and scapegoating of HAVEN women, threats, physical aggression, stalking, etc. If it were just about “livestream being cut,” there would not have been a report or a list of demands.

Jimmybeamus argues that NOMAS’ decision to cut off the livestream was reasonable. But I was one of the main speakers NOMAS had (through HAVEN) invited to the conference, and they had months to evaluate my views. They have failed to do that, and because of that NOMAS co-chairs Allen Corben and Moshe Rozdzial ended up making their decision on Brannon’s lies about me. After everything, I asked Corben and Rozdial if I said anything that they thought was out of line, to which they responded “no.” The fact that they allowed the recording to be posted online with their name attached next day is a testament to how they had made the decision to censor irrationally.

Jimmybeamus wrote that I “flipped [my] shit” when I found out that NOMAS had cut the livestream. I do not recall “flipping shit,” especially at that point, before all the gaslighting and harassment. I suspect that Jimmybeamus simply made it up just to trash me. If not, I would like to know what they mean by that.

Jimmybeamus also wrote that I “tried to have [Brannon] ejected from the conference,” but as I’ve said before, I never requested such; I was informed after the decision was made. Again, Jimmybeamus made it up with no basis.

And Jimmybeamus says that I “packed up and left early” because I was “triggered” by Brannon’s presence. Once again, that is not what I wrote in my original report, so here is another instance where Jimmybeamus made things up to attack me and diminish the actual harm Brannon was causing at the conference, not just toward me, but also to other women including Lauren Chief Elk.

Jimmybeamus closes their comment by stating: “if Emi or Lizzie or anyone else wants to set themselves up as experts wielding the Pure Truth, they need to be able to answer criticism.” I would be happy to answer criticisms, and I have, but so far none of Jimmybeamus’ so-called “criticisms” are based in reality. On the other hand, Jimmybeamus has proven to be unable to respond to anything I wrote in my response to their “Great Kerfluffle” post.

Jimmybeamus, you clearly do not have enough background (personal, academic, or professional) to actually debate about public policies affecting sex trade or trafficking, and your entire “criticism” is about distorting, dismissing, and ridiculing me, solely because I had one article published by Shakesville. You continue to spread Brannon’s lies about me, minimizing and excusing his aggressive behaviors, and now you are calling women “melodramatic” for daring to resist male aggression. I have a feeling that your presence is going to be a liability even for the anti-Shakesville site sooner or later.

Anti-Shakesville site hates on me by association re NOMAS incident

Date: February 7, 2014

Last August, I was invited to be part of Forging Justice conference, which was co-organized by feminist anti-violence organization HAVEN and our supposed male ally group, National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

To be honest, I didn’t have a very high expectation of men of NOMAS based on my previous experiences dealing with male feminist “leaders” (as opposed to ordinary men who happened to be feminists), but what happened at the conference was much worse than I had imagined. Later, I wrote about all that transpired at the conference, and had it posted on Shakesville, a popular feminist blog. Here are related posts on Shakesville:

After these articles were posted, NOMAS did post a formal response on its website. Ever since, I have been thinking about writing about how the statement is very inadequate and disappointing, but I could not gather enough strength to once again focus my energy on bunch of (overwhelmingly) white men who just don’t get it.

It seemed like the whole incident had been forgotten after five months on inaction, but somehow it was picked up this past week by a Tumblr page “Drink the Shaker Kool-Aid” (shakesvillekoolaid), which appears to be an anti-Shakesville site. I don’t know (or even care) what issues the writer of the anti-Shakesville site has against Shakesville or Melissa. But what it says about me and my work seems completely off-base.

shakesvillekoolaid quotes part of my article that described my presentation at Forging Justice:

[it] focused on how the mainstream anti-trafficking discourse promotes further surveillance and criminalization of already marginalized communities as the primary and often only solution to the problem of violence and exploitation experienced by youth and adults in the sex trade. I argued how such an approach ignores realities of people who are actually in the sex trade (due to any combination of choice, circumstances, or coercion), and harm the very people they are intended to help. At minimum, I believe, an intersectional analysis would require us to start from the acknowledgement that the state is a problematic institution, a source of violence against women of color and many others, that cannot be intrinsically relied on.

To this, shakesvillekoolaid comments:

Now, here’s the first point that should be noted. This pretty much directly contradicts the findings of the DOJ, various organizations dedicated to helping sex workers, and other, you know….experts.

shakesvillekoolaid does not refute anything I state, or provide any counter-evidences; they simply state that my view “contradicts findings of the DOJ, various organizations dedicated to helping sex workers,” and others. Of course it does: I am criticizing them. It makes no sense to rely on DOJ’s words when the question is whether or not some actions of DOJ and others aligned with it are harmful to people in the sex trade. shakesvillekoolaid is, of course, free to side with the DOJ over grass-roots activists like myself if they choose to do so, but the evidence has to come from somewhere other than the DOJ itself.

At the very best, Koyama’s thesis, that the men who pimp underage girls are not necessarily predators, but “often friends, partners, mentors, family members, photographers, drivers, bodyguards, and others who do not control the person trading sex in any way” is….controversial.

This is a distortion of my actual thesis, and it is inexcusable for shakesvillekoolaid to interpret my writing this way, because in my Shakesville article I directly and specifically refuted this characterization. In response to NOMAS co-founder Robert Brannon’s comment that I claimed “pimps are not controlling abusers, but friends, mentors, partners, and protectors,” I wrote:

And Brannon clearly distorted my argument when he claimed that I consider pimps “friends, mentors, partners, and protectors”: what I have actually written was that friends and others close to people who trade sex are often targeted by the law enforcement as “pimps,” leading to further isolation, which of course make us more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

In other words, my argument is that people who are targeted by the law enforcement as “pimps” are not necessarily pimps or traffickers, but friends and others who are not doing any harm; I am NOT arguing that actual pimps and traffickers are doing no harm. Perhaps Brannon may have genuinely misunderstood my writing, but shakesvillekoolaid cannot claim honest misunderstanding after having the opportunity to read my refutation.

shakesvillekoolaid further writes:

So, first- this illustrates a huge problem with Lizzie-style feminism- just because Koyama had one type of experience in sex work does not mean that her experience is universal, or that she is an expert. She is an expert on the sex work done by Emi Koyama, not all sex work done by all women and men everywhere.

My experiences are obviously not universal, and nothing I wrote claims to speak for all sex workers. But I am not just one woman speaking about her experiences; I am an organizer, writer, and independent researcher who have worked with other people who have been in the sex trade as well as our allies. After all, that is why HAVEN chose me as the speaker–not just to talk about my own experiences in the sex trade, but to share what I have learned from all of my experiences. shakesvillekoolaid seems to accept DOJ and rescue organizations as “experts” while discounting the expertise of grass-roots activists, which is bizarre and offensive.

Second, I was always informed that comparing things that aren’t rape TO rape was a huge no-no. Apparently there is an exception when comparing, say, a livestream being cut to, you know- rape.

No. I’m not comparing cutting off livestream to rape; I am comparing NOMAS’ initial claim that I had wanted them to cut it off and consented to it with rapists’ typical defense. The analogy was specifically chosen because NOMAS was positioning itself as the “real” feminist fighting violence against women while falsely accusing me of being an apologist for systematic rape, when in reality NOMAS’ behavior is more in line with that of a rapist.

Apparently she tried to have him ejected from the conference but he came back, and the long and the short of it is she packed up and left early because she found his presence triggering.

I did not try to have him ejected; I made no such request, and was only told after the fact that he had been ejected. And his presence wasn’t just “triggering”; when he kept approaching me after he was ejected twice, sneaking around so that he could come near me undetected by HAVEN staff, I was afraid of actual, physical danger. I wrote in my article:

As a survivor, I experience triggers frequently. I know that, most of the time, I feel scared about the situation or people because of something that has happened in the past, and that there usually is not an actual danger to myself. So for the last two days, despite the fact I felt scared and could not stop feeling shaky or sleep for more than two or three hours each night, I kept trying to tell myself that nobody was going to actually harm me.

After the third time Brannon violated boundaries of women like me, Lauren, and others, however, I was no longer certain that my scared feelings were just feelings: women know that someone that angry and out of control is capable of doing the unthinkable. So I decided to pack up and leave the conference hours before I had originally planned to do so.

It should be clear to anyone reading this that I was not just merely “triggered”; I believe that many other women would feel the same way if the same man kept approaching them after being ejected by his peers multiple times. For shakesvillekoolaid to describe this incident as merely “triggering” minimizes Brannon’s abusive behavior and distorts what I clearly wrote.

I have no idea what shakesvillekoolaid’s grievances against Shakesville are, but it appears that they have chosen to hate on me and publicly distort and discredit my work, solely by association to Shakesville, rather than actually engaging with my work and offering honest critiques. That fact led me to lose any interest in finding out what those grievances are.

One more thing: let’s name historical revisionism of the plantation tourism.

Date: January 1, 2014

Some people do not seem to understand why holding a retreat at the “captivating” (Ani’s or her publicist’s word) Nottoway Plantation Resort is not just offensive, but particularly wrong and unjust. I explained the reasons in a previous post, but I want to expand on that further.

From my perspective, there are two main reasons that holding the retreat there is particularly wrong and unjust, beyond the problem of our own inherent and inevitable culpability in social and economic systems that are oppressive.

First, Nottoway Plantation is a symbolic site of the violence and cruelty of slavery in the United States, as it was the site of one of the largest plantations in the country.

But more importantly, it is a white supremacist institution that continues to actively distort the historical suffering of Black people who are enslaved (whom it refers to as “willing workforce”) and glamorizes, romanticizes, and glorifies American slavery and its defender, the white ruling class and the Confederates.

Some critics have compared Ani’s decision to hold the retreat at the plantation to holding a similar event at Auschwitz. But that comparison is inadequate: it needs be compared to planning the event at a facility at Auschwitz that is actively being used by neo-Nazis to promote historical revisionism and antisemitism. (Of course, that cannot actually happen in Auschwitz, because the plantation’s historical revisionism would be illegal if it were in Germany or in much of Europe.)

By planning the event at the venue (I understand that Ani did not pick the venue herself, but she did not do anything except thinking “whoa”), Ani participated in the relentless campaign of historical revisionism when she (or someone who works for her) described the plantation as a “captivating” resort, while failing to acknowledge the venue’s history as well as its current role in promoting white supremacy and historical revisionism.

Before the whole controversy, I was not aware that plantations were being used as tourist attractions. But it turned out, there are many former plantation sites that are now considered “historic” tourist destinations. But unlike other places around the world that are preserved for “dark tourism” such as Hiroshima, Auschewitz, and Chernobyl, the attraction of plantations as a tourist destination is not to learn about historical atrocities or tragedies, or to memorialize their victims: it is to promote historical revisionism through white supremacist nostalgia and erase the suffering and resistance that occurred there, whether explicitly or implicitly.

I assume that Ani had not, in her white obliviousness, realized the significance of Nottoway Plantation beyond the fact that it was once a plantation, or its current, active, and intentional role in promoting historical revisionism and white supremacy. If she had, I believe that she would have not allowed the retreat to be scheduled there.

But because she did not realize this, in her white obliviousness, she in effect endorsed and legitimized Nottoway Plantation’s effort to promote historical revisionism. For that, she needs to directly acknowledge that she has made a mistake (and not just that “I understand some people think I made a mistake and I know where they are coming from”). Only by publicly acknowledging the mistake, she can begin to undo the damage she inflicted, however unintentionally.

(Reblogged from my Tumblr page)

It’s not an apology. Not even a “bad” apology.

Date: January 1, 2014

In “A list of problems with Ani DiFranco’s statement on slave plentation retreat,” I explained what was wrong with the statement Ani released in which she announced the cancellation of her expensive four-day hangout at the plantation.

But everywhere else, I find that people are describing the statement as an “apology,” or perhaps “fauxpology” or “non apology” when they find the statement less than satisfactory, but I don’t really understand why anyone can possibly confuse the statement as an “apology” of any sort—even a “bad” apology.

Reading the statement, it is obvious that Ani does not understand why people are criticizing her retreat. Most of her statement is all about how she was not wrong, citing circumstances, intentions, and how we are all culpable in oppressions anyway.

The only place she admits that she may have been wrong is where she says that, maybe, as a white person, it is not her place to know what’s right or wrong when it comes to racism. But she does not even consistently commit to that stance, as she repeatedly states that white people can and should speak on the issue too.

At most, she concedes that, if someone thinks that she was wrong, she understands where they are coming from. Except, of course, she does not seem to really understand where they are coming from. She appears to understand only what other people think are wrong, but not why.

And while she understands that her action “triggered” “the pain of slavery” (that is, the pain is caused by slavery, and not by her actions), she condemns those she harmed for how they “have chosen to do with that pain.” In other words, she is giving permission for African Americans and other people to color to feel pain, but does not approve them criticizing her for causing it.

In short, Ani’s statement can be summarized as: I don’t think I was wrong, and here’s why I wasn’t. But because I’m white, you might think that I don’t get to decide what’s right or wrong about racism, and I understand that. Your pain is real but don’t criticize me because that’s “hatred.”

So… where’s the apology?

(Reblogged from my Tumblr page)

(Added 01/02/2013) Ani actually apologizes to her fans.

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