Book Status Update

I made it “official” to my friends on Facebook sometime last month, but I never posted about it here: my book is officially under contract at Temple University Press and should come out sometime in 2015!!! The book, currently titled Delinking: The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, is over a decade in the making. It began as seminar paper, turned into a dissertation, and has been been the subject of some of my journal articles and book chapters since then.

This book almost didn’t happen. In fact, after doing The Young Lords: A Reader (NYU Press, 2010), I’d pretty much given up on turning my research into a full book monograph. Why? Well, I had a serious case of topic fatigue … and that was combined with a difficult time thinking about what angle I wanted to approach it from. I had grown bored with the radical democratic focus of the dissertation and my early journal articles (a theoretical focus I now repudiate); and the next frame I started thinking through (one focused on nationalism) ended abruptly when I encountered a new published article that did much of what I had been thinking about. It took a stern talking-to from my former adviser (something like, “Come on … just publish the damn thing”) and a reminder about decoloniality from some college debaters to kick me into gear. So here I am, now, finishing the edits and reflecting a bit about the process. Continue on for a brief summary of the book and what I’ll be blogging about next…. Continue reading “Book Status Update”

Lysistrata Sex Strikes in Ukraine? The Young Lords Did It, Too….

Popping up on my Facebook page today was this story about Ukrainian women launching a sex strike against Russian men. The article on The Atlantic recounts that the Ukrainian women are certainly not the first to do it:

Of course, the women of “Don’t Give It to a Russian” are hardly the first to have this idea. Just last month, a group of women in Tokyo threatened not to sleep with any man who voted for a gubernatorial candidate who was seen to have outdated views on gender. In 2003, a group called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace led a sex strike for an end to the Liberian civil war. And just a few years ago in Ukraine, the feminist group Femen called on the wives and girlfriends of the members of the prime minister’s cabinet to boycott sex in opposition to what they called the prime minister’s “caddish and humiliating attitude towards Ukrainian women.”

It is, in fact, a strategy as old as time. In the Greek comedy Lysistrata, the eponymous character rallies her fellow women to withhold sex from their husbands until they agree to end the Peloponnesian War. For what it’s worth, it worked for the women in the play.

I find it interesting that the article, in a U.S. American magazine, declines to make any connections to similar kinds of resistance within the U.S. Could it be that only folks outside our national borders could make such devious (non-)use of sex? Of course not! Although I’m sure there are many more examples of Lysistrata-style sexual strikes, the one with which I’m most familiar comes from the New York Young Lords.

In 1970, women in the Young Lords began meeting as part of a women’s caucus to discuss issues of racist-sexism (machismo) in society at large and within the structures of their organization. Facing pressure to stop the meetings — they were charged with “talking some of that crazy feminist bullshit” and with being “a bunch of white women” — they considered separating from the males in the organization and, according to one former Young Lord, “rejected that as being counterrevolutionary. We examined it; we talked about it; we critiqued it.” Also considered was the option of joining the Third World Women’s Alliance, a U.S.-women of color feminist organization challenging racism, imperialism, and sexism.

Rather than either disband the women’s caucus or split from the Young Lords, the women instead sought ways to resist. For example, women who were in intimate relationships with Young Lords men held a special meeting to discuss Aristophanes’ LysistrataIn that meeting, they decided that they would no longer have sexual relations with their male partners until the central committee and organization were reformed. Denise Oliver recalls, “We knew we couldn’t go on strike because that would mean all of the programs for the people would collapse. That would be counterrevolutionary—we were not going to not do our work. And we were certainly going to not have anything to do with them that we were related to at all. ‘Hello. The revolution stops right here at the bedside.'”

While the sexual strikes, which lasted several weeks, weren’t a total success on their own, they played a clear role in heightening tensions within the organization and generating some of the conditions for substantive change.  Lysistrata-style strikes aren’t just things that happen somewhere “out there”; they’ve taken place right here along with countless other forms of resistance to racist sexism in our colonial antiblack world. Such stories need to become more commonplace so that young people today have more inventional resources, what some of us rhetorical scholars call touchstones, to stylize modes of resistive engagement in our present(s) and future(s).

Do readers know of any other examples of Lysistrata-style strikes in the U.S.? Feel free to reply on Twitter or Facebook and/or leave them in the comments, here.