A new feminism for San Francisco

How to create a world of compassion, redemption, and accountability


OPINION Accountability is one of the hardest things that we have to do. Being accountable stretches us to our very limits as human beings. Blame and deflection is a function of shame, and more often than not, when we make a mistake, it's more common to point the finger at someone else than it is to acknowledge our mistake and work towards a different practice. The story time and time again is how it never happened — and then when the water gets too hot, there's generally a soft acknowledgment that something did happen, but by then, the damage is done and trust is broken.

As feminists working in the progressive community for social justice, we are calling for a new type of accountability — one that's not about demonization or polarization, but instead consists of checking ourselves, checking each other, supporting each other when we are brave, and having the courage and integrity to acknowledge our mistakes and work towards making whole what has been damaged.

Progressives need to take a look at ourselves and come together so that we can advance our vision for San Francisco. We aim to build a progressive movement in San Francisco that is rooted in compassion and love, that acknowledges our contradictions and works to create bridges across class, race, and gender that are so often the typical pitfalls that keep us from accomplishing what we really want and need. Checking ourselves is an act of love for ourselves and for our communities.

The last few weeks in San Francisco have not just been about men behaving badly; it's also been about women treating each other badly. White feminists in San Francisco came together to "save" Eliana Lopez, an immigrant woman of color, but never actually included her in the conversation — and then treated her like she had Stockholm syndrome. Women who supported Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi were suddenly not feminists anymore. Survivors of domestic violence who supported Mirkarimi and supported redemption were shunned by a large portion of the domestic violence community.

We recognize that there are important reasons why domestic violence law allows charges to brought without the consent of the survivor; however, in this case, these laws were misused. How demoralizing to see a largely white, second-wave feminist advocate community come together around a woman they failed to include in the conversation about what she felt was best for herself and her family. Are we still in the 1950s?

The attempt to remove Mirkarimi from office was a political attack. It does a disservice to the cause of domestic violence to use it as a political tool to unseat a politician. At the same time, it was also regrettable that many progressives supporting the sheriff did not take the domestic violence charges against him seriously enough -- both in the initial outcry that surrounded the charges and by being disrespectful towards the domestic violence advocates who testified at City Hall.

On the other hand, following close on the heels of the Mirkarimi situation, District 5 candidate Julian Davis was accused of a troubling history of inappropriate and nonconsensual groping by more than one woman. We have to take into account that there is an unacceptable cultural reality that people are likely to believe accusations against men of color by white women that are untrue, but that is not what has happened with the accusations brought forward about Davis.

In this scenario many in the progressive community knew about this history and were complicit in silencing any real conversation about it. It was only when Davis started intimidating one of the women that brought accusations against him with threats of legal action that a real conversation opened up.



Posted by Amen. on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

The problem right here is that these folks don't have much of a track record of connecting with the communities they claim to represent or of delivering for the communities they claim to represent.

I don't trust their narrow read of their narrow communities nor do I trust that they speak and act in a way that appeals to communities outside of their purview nor do they demonstrate any inclination to do so. By most all measures, the circumstances of their communities have diminished during their tenure as paid advocates. And at the ballot, their candidates and measures tend to lose. Their comments must be tempered accordingly not because their intentions are wrong, but because they do not connect.

The realities of racism, sexism and homophobia are undeniable. But there is a disconnect between what the nonprofit PC radical versions of emancipation theory and practice have devolved into and the expressed sentiments of communities they are trying to emancipate. So as these folks thrash trying to make a difference, the issues that they care about get worse and worse.

This piece minimizes the legitimacy of contextualizing claims made during political campaigns and dismisses taking the entirety of context into account as dismissing the charges and ignoring the woman. Everything has to be on the table.

This piece also minimizes the coded theme of the sexually insatiable black male that threatens the purity of a white woman. People play political hardball in San Francisco and they are not below playing identity groups against one another.

And this piece ignores the fact that the charges are in effect secret.

Any successful reinvention of radical politics is going to have to take as its starting point where people are at now instead of trying to shoehorn others into the radical theory. These 20th century conceptualizations of radical emancipatory theory have long since been exhausted. Their successful replacements are going to arise from a new generation of folks and from those communities unencumbered by the political failures of our generation.

These new emancipatory conceptualizations which the authors speak of are not going to arise from labor and the nonprofits because they exist to cut deals with power and forestall emancipation, they are the house slaves who have the most to lose from emancipation. And if the example of gender-centrists to reconceptualize queer theory are any indication, I can imagine the reception to having their lives redefined in the theoretical terms of others that most women give this project.

What I'm seeing here is that the 1980s are calling and the MacKinnon/Dworkin anti-sex feminists want their sex phobia back, and the 1880s are calling and they want their Victorian prudery back and their black men put back in their place. Hopefully, neither of these two positions enjoy support from anything but a narrow sliver of women.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

of the womens movement don't have time for this nattering nabobery of our local sect. No one does.

If Mirkirimi and Davis were non progressives none of this hemming and hawing would be going on. The progressives would all be of one voice, making self-righteous odes to themselves and their "values."

Race theory of our local sect is partly what is tearing them apart around these last two episodes. Making these episodes about race, when it's all intercine progressive non-sense is not going to be a clarion call to women outside of the People's Front of Judea, SF brach.

No one wants to go back to the 1880's, thats a red herring in this intercine progressive spat.

The women who supposedly represent women in the city never left the 80's mindset. There's something going on, it might not be porn at 7/11 or Benny Hill skits, but there is something going on, and the rest of us are just too stupid to get it.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

Maybe these people should focus on accomplishing the relatively limited tasks that they get paid to do in their day jobs, tasks that they are failing at by every measure, before expanding their portfolio to remake the entirety of feminism, okay?

It is like they see themselves as under the self enforced burden of taking responsibility for fixing every social ill while not having the wherewithal to make a difference in any of it, a burden that nobody asked them to assume and the products of which nobody seems interested in taking up.

In this case, they are allowing their political opponents to frame the terms of their engagement in ways that are not favorable to their stated agenda and are running around like paid rats in a maze for their opponents' amusement, purely reactionary.

There is not enough evidence to say that the Davis issue is about race and/or sex although both are present. But when a theme that has been used for racist murder is resurrected in a political hit, that is relevant and claims of groping cannot a priori neutralize that.

Occam's razor points to the simplest explanation being a turd bomb thrown in their midst by their political opponents. But that does not assuage the professional martyrs who need to suss out the algebra of oppression theologically.

If there ever was a time that I was glad to be into men, this is it.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 6:09 am

Dude was drunk and he fucked up.

Happens to the best of us. I can understand that person on the other end being upset about he whole episode, I don't want to denigrate that, but people get drunk and fuck up.

I don't want to be an enabler, and I think Mirkirimi as a towering turd, but all that abuse he got was unjustified. His batty assed progressive conspiracy non-sense is another story, if he believes all that idiocy he spewed he should be a Bircher. I would have been happy to have the supes give him the boot purely because he is a blowhard self righteous asshole.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

What in the world is wrong with you? Not wanting to be groped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by a colleague or an acquaintance you're uninterested in equals anti-sex/sex phobia? Not willing to ascribe to the view that, as a woman, you must subject yourself to all manner of aggressive unwanted sexual attention and LIKE IT equals Victorian prudery? Um, the 1950's called. They want their treatment of women in the workplace back.

None of this is about the "purity of a white woman". The sexual history of the woman bringing the allegations is completely irrelevant either way. This isn't about purity, or lack thereof, and it is not, as you are so insistent on claiming, about race. It's about CONSENT. Sexual aggression without consent is not ok. It's sexual assault, or at the very least sexual harassment. And yes, these are both sadly prevalent in society, however that does not make them excusable as normal societal behavior. Hopefully for the progression of feminism and the progression of society in general, this position lacks support from anything but a narrow sliver of individuals.

Posted by lw on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

In standing up to Mayor Lee re Ross Mirkarimi. If I were a D5 voter, I'd give her a ranked choice vote, maybe even first. But that isn't reason for Julian Davis to take the fall. I wish the progressives who wanted to endorse Christina for standing up to the mayor would just admit that. With IRV, it would makes sense to endorse more than one candidate anyway.

Posted by Guest Ann Garrison on Oct. 23, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

Progressives are learning how to play hardball, winner takes all, blind ambition, playing for keeps, hardcore, take no prisoners, politics. This is a training ground for being successful on a scale larger than SF. After we have thoroughly practiced these cut throat techniques on each other, perhaps we will venture to a larger stage and use these valuable skills on people who are committing harm on more than just an individual level. This will happen when we stop crying "Witch!", with echoes of the same puritanical, holier than thou overtones.

Posted by Brian B on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 5:53 am

Nah, Brian, this is the result of a fracking operation conducted by our corporate opponents who have splintered those left of right into narrow identity focuses while disrupting the integrity of the terrain beneath our feet.

So when they say "BOO," progressives jump in fear only to come down on unstable earth and sink into the muck. It is always desirable to hollow out the earth below your opponent's feet in secret and then scare them into falling through the crust as if by remote control, preserving the illusion of plausible deniability.

The interesting thing about so many of these progressive stalwarts, seasoned activists, is that they are by and large unable to maintain ongoing partnered love relationships and yet see themselves as authorities and experts on the PC rules of courtship, mating and love.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 6:45 am

Handy term marcos.

The corporatists have expertly played this game for a century; back in the day, they specifically selected black strike breakers for the effect it would have on working class cohesion.

Will they miss a trick to sow division among their opponents? Probably never. They have expensive consultants to figure these things out.

The Left always seems to play the loser at this game. Take the long-standing alliance between Christians and fiscal reactionaries: the Christians should by all rights be on the left, in favor of the social safety net, redemption, etc., but they have long since been Fracked off as you suggest.

As for your last comment, I'm not sure its fair. Many people have that problem nowadays it seems.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 8:46 am

The last thing that those left of right need to do is to empower the losers in love and in politics to lead the way out of the loss that they've led us into and which characterizes their love lives unless we want to lose again.

This stentorian prudishness in the face of an emerging sex panic does not appear to play outside of the precincts of the leftist nonprofit coffee klatches.

It is not possible to create a safe space where the most psychologically vulnerable can feel comfortable by decree, by shaming and by innuendo or where the powerless can compensate for their weakness vicariously through the lives of others.

Yes, h brown is an asshole. The world is full of jerks and people we disagree with, most of whom get to vote. Most all of us disagree with most all of us on one thing or another. Following this to its logical conclusion, delegitimizing anyone who fails to meet up to PC standards from is the fast track to self marginalization into a comfort zone that seats one.

And, seriously, this PC crap is used not as a tool for emancipation but as a tool for social and political control in groups. It is a way that the losers keep their jobs so that they can get paid to keep losing, by carefully crafting standards that only they can meet through conspiracy and with which they can bludgeon anyone they find as a threat.

All the while, the circumstances of women, queers and people of color not to mention anyone who is unrich, deteriorates, yet amazingly enough, these people still get paid. Nice work if you can get it and have that switch removed from your ethics and values where you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning before going to work and blaming everyone else for our predicament.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 9:20 am

The biased assumption against Davis is that the accusations are true and he has not been honest. The accusations against Davis are flimsy, dated and originate in a political campaign. Why is it so hard to believe this Black man has not been fully honest?

Davis has every right to defend himself. Black men can be fully honest and Black men have the right to defend themselves against false allegations. To rush to judgement against Davis and to condemn his for trying to defend himself reeks of racism. Reject this racist smear campaign and vote for Julian Davis!

Mirkirimi was afforded due process and the facts against him are not in dispute, yet he has the support of much of the progressive community. The claims against Davis are very much in dispute and the progressive community rushed to condemn Davis without any formal complaint, without any investigation or any due process. DOUBLE STANDARD. Is this double standard motivated by racism?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 9:36 am

Determining whether it is a racist smear campaign would require an thorough, open investigation, but it is obviously a double standard.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 9:55 am

is to assume that accusations are true around these issues.

The involvement of the race of the people involved here are the next step in the progressive paranoid fantasy world.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

Of course the double-standard is rooted in racism.

The woman came forward six years after the "incident", and two weeks before an election. Why has no one questioned this?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

Jane, Gabriel, its really sick that you would write and publish this considering how unaccountable you both are for perpetuating racism and sexism in queer organizing communities.

Posted by anon. on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 9:37 am

Is Gabriel Haaland not an SWM and is he not thus a part of the problem that this article constructs and rails against? He is perhaps the most powerful straight white male in SF progressive politics today.

And what's this deal with Alicia Garza BARTing in from Oakland, a city that is not without its own set of problems, to try to fashion SF politics into this marginalized leftist image, all while ignoring the racist themes of how unrestrained black male sexual energy threatens white women?

The ethical conflicts here are myriad and themselves raise even more questions that nobody wants to answer.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 10:03 am


Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Ay, dios mio. Yall really believe your own propaganda that much?

The court adjudicated how to deal with Ross and Elena's personal life. That's the part where Elena's opinion matters. We probably all have no business weighing in on custody outcomes and stay away orders and all that.

But the progressives are making these arguments that are basically "I'm bad for women, but my wife says it's ok." Whether a guy essentially convicted of domestic violence now should be in charge of domestic violence offenders programs and incarceration of domestic violence offenders is a political issue. Whether someone who said "I'm a powerful man, I can take your baby" should be considered a progressive representative of any kind, is a political issue. Another political issue is whether it's good tactics to mortgage labor and tenant political power to save some guy you happened to support. Does anyone over there notice this is not a clever strategy you're pursuing?

How is no progressive making this argument? You have to start wondering if concept of feminism as an active political and public struggle is virtually absent from the SF progressive party.

Posted by Greg Shaw on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 10:20 am

Good lord! More of Men Behaving Badly by reveal by these responses.

Posted by Steam Hoster on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

Feminism recast for the new millenium as sexless BD/SM.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2012 @ 8:02 am

SFWPC endorsed Sexual Harasser Newsom twice, both for reelection as Mayor right after he perpetrated quid pro quo and created a hostile work environment by having sex with his employee who was also the wife of another employee, and for promotion to Lt. Governor last year.

Unlike these current cases, Newsom broke up the family with a young child, worked for pay as the executive authority in the same office as the victims and had the DA cover for his indiscretions.

For certain "feminists," no transgression can be too much if the politics line up correctly.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 29, 2012 @ 6:10 am

But Newsom was really, really, cute!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly Persistent on Oct. 29, 2012 @ 7:44 am

According to your worldview: Julian should be given a pass because it's all unproven and this close to an election it's all prolly a conspiracy anyway. Then you bring up the Newsom example in an attempt to prove... what? Either Julian is the victim of a conspiracy headed by long-time progressives or sexual harassment isn't that big of a deal because "everyone does it anyway."

Which is it Marcos?

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 29, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

There are two parallel standards that get applied depending on where one's political alliances are. If Newsom got away with sexual harassment, than nobody associated with Newsom has any standing to criticize anyone else for similar conduct, especially perennial professional victims like Andrea Shorter who have identified ways to make a living off of whining about oppression while selling her services to the oppressors top enable them to oppress more effectively.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 9:21 am

Of course, the same can be said for the "progressive" "movement."

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 8:25 am
Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 8:59 am

...rather than your particular brand of spin--in which you're never shy to point out perceived hypocrisy--and maybe we can get somewhere.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 9:38 am

So let me get this straight- the reason more women aren't involved in the Progressive movement is because of all the boorish insensitive men in the Progressive movement? On the other hand women are doing just fine as center right Democrats and conservative Republicans because of the sensitive souls who dominate those political movements?

The logic there is deeply flawed. We have 2 female Senators, one of whom was mayor of SF and a female Congressperson. But they are non Progressive not because of their lame sellout politics, but because Progressive men are boorish? I suppose Meg Whitman would have worked for the Sierra Club if they would have listened to her more at the meetings?

Women are smart and they know what they believe in. If more women believed in Progressive politics they would have more power in Progressive politics, just like they do in manistream and conservative politics. This piece is a cover up for a bigger problem. Why are so many women willing to sell out the Progressive movement over petty identity politics?

Look for Ms. Vasilyeva to be washing Willie Brown's limo shortly.

Posted by Progressive With Penis on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

""White feminists in San Francisco came together to "save" Eliana Lopez, an immigrant woman of color, but never actually included her in the conversation — and then treated her like she had Stockholm syndrome.""

Exactly. Those evil white feminists. This is why they had to be shouted down and booed during the Ethics Committee hearing.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

¿Todavia no hay mujeres Latinas quienes pueden hablar en sus propias intereses de eses asuntos?

Claro, ellas necessitan unas mujeres anglos, educados y pagados con recursos publicos e endeudados a los caciques politicos, para hablar en sus lugares.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 7:56 am

'As feminists working in the progressive community for social justice, we are calling for a new type of accountability — one that's not about demonization or polarization, but instead consists of checking ourselves, checking each other'

Gabby? Did you write that?

Everytime you are in a public meeting, you hog the floor and throw hissies against the other participants until the moderator is forced to turn off your microphone. I suggest you go back and watch the videos of some of your public performances.

No one needs to "check himself" more than you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

That's like claiming the CEO of Chase is working for "mortgage relief." Gabs exists on people's dues to make sure they get more money from taxpayers so he can get more to make sure they get more and on and on and on.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 30, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

POWER is officed around the corner from our home. Over the past few years, a raft of luxury condo projects has come down the pipeline within feet of POWER. Has POWER taken any steps to mitigate the impacts on these monstrosities on our community, on the Marshall Elementary School that is a majority kids of color?

Of course not, the cult has done done nothing of the sort. Our community had to organize the PTA to get the 1501 15th Street project to relocate its parking egress out of our neighborhood and away from the elementary school without any help from the nonprofits.

So when I say that the POWER players needs to get a handle on their day jobs, I mean real actual attacks on women as Mission District families, including many families of color.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 8:10 am