On the FRINGE!

So I hummed and haaed about doing Melbourne Fringe this year. But decided what the heck! I am, of course, happiest on the fringes of mainstream culture, so why not, right?

So I have made a special mash up show from everything I have done with a BIG TARGET OF ABLEISM!

It’s online and so available all over the globe! Book at the festival website in the link below…

My Melbourne Fringe show is live and online (all over the globe!) Part audio visual, part musical, part storytelling and rubbishing all the stereotypes and ableist slurs (without using them!). If you think ableism should burn in hell but still want the right to insult people who deserve it, this show is for you.

Join Jacci, a nonbinary, neurodivergent truth bomber and occasional anthropologist in the comedy therapy circle for a quirky, comedy conversation. The show is presented as an autist’s not-so-anonymous meeting in the art of being literal and the politics of autism diagnoses for people born with vaginas.

“You’re a bit tardy”…isn’t that derived from R… Remember the R word? Let’s burn it down! Queer. Autistic. Veteran. Late to the party. Late bloomer. Late diagnosed. But NOT TARDY. Jacci Pillar was born to be late, then bullied by people who hurried and messed everything up.

#melbournefringe #melbfringe

My first comedy parody composition!

So, in March I could barely put my fingers in the right positions on the keys of a piano.

I’ve sung in choirs and on stage. But to play my own music has always been a dream. But it’s also a dream I am terrified of, because I was carrying some memories from a childhood abuser. Never ever underestimate the power of an adult running down a child’s attempts to do something – it can and does lead to a lifetime of anxiety and harm.

But I have an awesome music teacher who knows how to teach someone like me, and I am super grateful to Spencer for giving me the confidence to get there.

So here is my first comedy parody song, complete with my beginners piano playing (which I incorporated in the nature of the comedy performance, good way to get extra cringe-ness!).

It’s in character as the nasty neo-con Bronwin Budget-Slap. Her working class butler has highjacked the teleprompter and changed the lyrics…

#parody #cringeworthy #piano

Wtf is “Millionaires for Morrison?”

Millionaires for Morrison is an Australian grassroots political activist comedy group based upon the US open source project Billionaires for Bush as a contemporary Australian equivalent – Millionaires for Morrison, which to date has four confirmed “Millionaires”, a website in development and a Victorian chapter with hopes to grow it beyond Victoria to chapters all over Australia. 

To date the Millionaires consist (some have only fledgling social media profiles):

  1. Bronwin Budget-Slap – self appointed leader of the Millionaires.
  2. Honey Ind’Munee – Women’s Delegate
  3. Mort E. Morrison – Start Up Guru (who doesn’t do social media atm)
  4. Penny Snevaenuff – Business Delegate

The plan is to uniquely modify the original recipe to target conservative regimes and raise issues (via satire) of structural inequality to those people who would avoid these topics normally.

In 2021, it’s hoped the “Millionaires” will attend political events and rallies all over the country to sing parody songs and recite poetry about social justice issues, like proper “sheep in wolves clothing”.

It’s an example of what is known as “overidentification” humour (Molé, N.J. 2013: 289). It’s that kind of satire that mimics the kind of behaviour that a political movement wants to change, but does so, in such a subtle way, that it takes thought to appreciate that it is in fact, mocking that behaviour.

The reason for doing satire this way, is when governments start censoring or trying to ban political commentary political satire as the Australian government tried to in 2016/2017; it’s time to, well, up the anti. The Millionaires decided to continue to add to Australian political satire pot that features such legends as Sammy J, Shaun Micallef, The Chaser and Juice Media.

The fact is, left wing, right wing, we are all on the same airplane, headed for a monumental crash.

The tools of the oppressor have been well described in human history, yet we often fail to see them in operation, as self appointed leader of the Millionaires is subtly pointing out with her “Liberal Conversion” video series.

While some decry that democracy is losing out because of party politics, the fact remains that political positioning on a left and right binary, hasn’t existed for a long time. You will regularly hear Australians complaining that a political party they have supported for years, or even generations, has sold out.

Some of our Millionaires parody is more obvious, like the work of Mort E. Morrison, who plays on the endless stream of get rich gurus on the internet. But the ‘overidentification’ irony will always stand that there are people out there, that will believe money fixes everything and is the only human value worth aspiring to, even at the cost to their own communities.

Lots of comedians will tell you they just aim to be funny, and that’s totally cool. But political satire is a different beast altogether, it’s hard to deny it’s more somatic, change making sub texts.

Peak irony: “Millionaires” with IRL identities as members of marginalised communities. The ultimate court jester playbook move, they mock cruel side effects of profit before people every single day of their lives, by simply existing.

Ultimately, it’s not about party politics for us “Millionaires” it’s about conservative thinking and how it excludes human diversity and results in policies that harm people. It’s about issues and largely about how our obsession with money is trashing humanity and the planet.

And while we are on the subject of money, most conservatives would prefer the arts never get paid, but all that means is that we just make content that never ruffles a feather. So, if you can afford to buy us a coffee, you can here. You’ll get something for that too, unlike a neo-conservative policy document that promises the world and gives you a word salad instead. You’ll get even funnier outtakes and serious discussions about satire, social change and the future of democracy.

So, come for a ride with us Millionaires, particularly if you don’t fit what the twin set and pearls brigade finds acceptable or thinks is broken; because we “Millionaires”, are your people.

#millionairesformorrison #auspol

What is this Millionaires for Morrison thing? Australian grassroots political activist comedy group…follow them @millions4scomo

Reference cited: Molé, N.J. (2013). Trusted Puppets, tarnished politicians: Humor and cynicism in Berlusconi’s Italy. American Ethnologist Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 288-299.

Follow Millionaires for Morrison:

The Bride’s Tears

I was married once, for 12 long years. It’s a chapter in my life I talk about privately, mostly. And my marriage, at one point ended up in That’s Life magazine (that’s another post all of it’s own) and it wasn’t a pretty story.

I have just spent since September 12 unsuccessfully trying to find a wedding photo of that fateful day in 1992. I guess that says something in itself!

When the 22 year old me cried during my wedding vows, people gushed emotive phrases over the tears of “joy”. It was sweet. It was touching.

What now makes me want to cry is the subtext: the bride is so grateful to have found such a man.

There is an element of truth in that. Because I knew I was performing something I didn’t understand fully at the time. I was performing heterosexuality. I was performing because if I didn’t I wasn’t sure what would become of me if I did not try and play known tradition out.

There was a part of me that didn’t want to be shunned and knew that if I said, “I think I would prefer to love a woman and I’m not sure if even that is true”, my life would be more unbearable than it already was. There was no other messaging around me other than straight, so in my subconscious, I very much thought there was something wrong with me.

So I did feel grateful, for an opportunity to fit in for a while, when I never really had fit in before.

I want to talk about the wedding day tears, because I think they are symptoms of a cultural phenomenon in how traditionally sexist culture works. We tell men to trust their gut instincts about their decisions before acting and tell those assigned female at birth that any anxiety is the more romantic butterflies in the stomach. Where in fact, it these butterflies may be the warning we are meant to heed.

These butterflies are often anxiety about the expectation of servitude. Of knowing we are supposed to be the nurturers of the earth’s manhood and that martyrdom is our supposed natural locale. We are conditioned to not use our gut instincts to forge on to make decisions, but harness the butterflies inside to avoid doing anything that appease others.

Prior to my marriage, I was already shaping up to be a traditional gender role misfit as an assigned female at birth military trades-person. I had been assaulted and abused at work enough for being female and I even left the military to become a proper wife. The result was 12 years of abuse and misery.

I tried to feign excitement about wedding planning. Because we are supposed to dream about our wedding day since almost birth, I hadn’t ever thought about it until I was engaged. I really just wanted the holiday at the end and thought that the money would have been better spent on travel. And after I fled this marriage, I grew my life into the life I wanted, on my terms and that included lots of travel.

I have the Oprah Winfrey show to thank for a course of testosterone after watching a show where this was discussed as a way for housewives to improve libido. Not that there were any problems with that, but just that course of drugs was totally unnecessary and had not be questioned by the doctor, because my husband was also pushing the agenda.

I’ve never forgotten him telling me after the divorce his new partner (who he had an affair with) “couldn’t leave him alone in the bedroom”. There was such glee in his voice as he thought he was telling me something that would prove I was a failure.

My unspoken response, “thank goodness, because it’s not me having to do that”.

This was the 90’s there was no discussion about the fact boring, unfulfilled lives with controlling and domineering husbands was the cause of the libido fails. For me it was that and the fact I am pansexual attracted but also asexual. In other words I am not attracted to a gender identification, but a person and I am not that sexual.

Of course, I would go on to spend 46 years of my life trying to prove I wasn’t asexual. I tried everything from kink to tantra. Sure, I could force myself to enjoy myself, but it rotted me at the core.

The word ‘frigid’ is a double edged slur. If you say no when you’ve said yes before, you are frigid. If you are reserved you are ‘frigid’. Frigid and slut are used as ways to dehumanize women (AFAB) interchangeably.

This is because at every turn sex is promoted as life’s necessity, something like air or water. If you present with low sex drive you are painted as pathologically sexually bereft, almost less than human.

Doctors look over their glasses at you with concern. Partners feel rejected and slighted. And when I am left alone without any kind of sexualised pressure I feel….

Happy. Content. Balanced. More prone to joy.

I’d like to think we are starting to move past measuring human worth from the default position of biologically and socially defunct reproductive and sexual values. But one look at media when a partner leaves a heterosexual marriage for a same sex relationship will shows slow burn narratives of deceit and “turned gay” conversations. Which is simply not accurate or truthful.

Society shoves people into “the closet” and put it’s foot hard against the door. It takes quite a bit of an internal shoulder barge from inside our closet to get out when surrounded by “straight” values.

I was anxious on my wedding day for a veritable layer cake of reasons. But most of all because I was already so controlled by traditional narratives about my role in life that I was prepared to throw away everything I had done that wasn’t deemed traditional. I was prepared to give away my happiness as I gave my hand in marriage.

There’s an irony in the wedding cake metaphor here. Because I refused to have the traditional man and woman on the top of the wedding cake. I instead asked for clear glass blown pair of dolphins, me proclaiming it was representative that we both loved the sea. There’s two jokes on heteronormativity right there.

Contrary to hetero-normative belief systems, *queer people don’t come out. Even the language of this is hetero-normative. We don’t suddenly come out, we are.

I’ve even heard people regularly say about someone they know “becoming gay” or “turned lesbian”. Like somehow the human default setting is heterosexual and queer people uploaded a virus. Some take it further as though we are the virus.

But the antidote to both conscious and unconscious hetero-normative bias is love. Excepting we all have different ways to love, loving humanities different ways of being human.

My wedding day tears were my gut instinct telling me I was giving away not only my hand in marriage but my right to safety and control.

And I did not experience safety or control in my own body again for many years, not even after my marriage. Not until I understood fully who I was and had embraced my asexual queer self.

*I use the word queer as I am reclaiming what was once a slur. Other LGTBQIA+ people may not use this as I do and that is their right. But it is also my right to use this term as a way to invert cultural norms.

Bronwin Budget-Slap, Satire and Me.

As an autistic comedian I am often met with people talking about how I am not supposed to understand jokes.

I thought I would take a moment to unpack that, because that’s a really unfair application of a stereotype.

I grew up watching sneaky reruns of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with my Dad as a tween.  I look back at this now, and yes, some of their material hasn’t aged well.   It’s important to remember it was written by straight white men with largely good intentions.  But it was, like most past comedy work, a reflection of the time it was made, even though still a quite subversive comedy force.

BRONWYN
Early version of my politician character “Bronwin Budget-slap”.  Top of her head pictured – with large blonde beehive with a plastic helicopter toy stuck in the hair. 

My Dad seemed to laugh for different reasons than I did.  I laughed because the costumes and silliness in faces and movements (which were overt enough for me to process) made me laugh.  Dad laughed at different times.  

We all do have different senses of humour, but I noticed Dad repeating the words that made him laugh.  My love of word play began, because I wanted to make my Dad laugh.

I’ve pictured here a politician character I’ve wanted to do more with – Bronwin Budget-Slap.  I became a huge fan of British series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister in my 20’s.

If you saw my solo show Labelled, I talked about being literal.  I talked about when Mum said “between a rock and a hard place” and me wondering where the rock was.

I literally studied language and power and propaganda as a focus throughout my anthropology career – to work out what was going on around me.  I still look at communication as a series of linguistic devices.  I have formulas for helping me process gossip for instance.

People think I speak well, but they are not entirely aware how much work is going on in my brain to be able to.  This is why I spend long periods not talking to anyone (and live alone) – to be able to reset.

I find I am often perceived as blunt or very to the point and that this is disconcerting for some people.  So I’ve learned to couch that in humour and I really can thank reruns of Lucille Ball for my range of outrageous facial expressions that I find really good for breaking the tension.

When I do improv comedy – I just let myself out and my “inappropriateness” rules, as such I enjoy improv or theatre games.

I laugh at silliness in stories and physical comedy (for example Billy Connelly, Lucille Ball, Sammy J) because to me funny is good story with exaggerated physicality.  So, yes, I get jokes, it’s just I have a different sense of humour.  I think punchlines are a bit passe and the obtusely intellectual makes me laugh out loud.

So I repeat, I get jokes.  I just don’t really think punchline based jokes are that funny. It’s called “one of the many ways senses of humour manifest”.  This, my friends, is why there are so many genres of comedy and why you find some comedians funny and others not funny.

In a day job context, I hate meetings without agendas, I hate surprise phone calls from bureaucrats, I often find myself just going along with things because I haven’t had time to work it all out.  I have strategies and stalling communication scripts to make things easier in these instances, but you will often find me wanting an agenda or a ‘heads up’ before a discussion.

Some close friends will tell you I sometimes don’t get their jokes, or I take a while to process them, but that will because they like ‘boom boom tish’ punchline based jokes.  I don’t laugh at my own comedy, I find it amusing though, that the things I talk about on stage are just my takes on the world, and that is found to be funny.

When I write satire about a policy or political event, I reverse engineer it.  I think about the policy, it’s implications (intentional or unintentional) and I write it in reverse, stressing the ridiculous things in the actual policy.  They are usually just my commentary on how ridiculous I think the world is.  But channeling that into political satire has become a passion.

I also like to “take the piss” out of large scale systems, politicians and people in power, because I don’t want to mock any marginalised person or group.

I performed a piece at Melbourne Fringe 2019 called “The Intersectional Traffic Report” which looked at the May 2019 Federal Election like traffic to Parliament.  I took political commentary on each party and some individual politicians and turned them into traffic incidents.  Why? Because every reporter was calling it “a race to the election” and I decided to take a literal take on what that might have looked like…

For example, speaking of the reported failings of the Australian Labor Party in the lead up to the election I reported:

“At the starting blocks to the election race, neo-liberal bottlenecks were “Shortened” by the labor team. And when I say Labor, I mean a fleet of over-confidently manufactured V8’s cruising towards the voter oblivion off ramp.  Fortunately, their failure to follow public warning signs was t-boned by a couple of highly organized Green hybrid energy policy vehicles heading them off into the senate car park…” 

If I had the budget and some actors, I think we would have acted the whole thing out as I stood there delivering it like a weather/traffic report with cardboard boxes for cars wrapped around the actors dressed as caricatures of key political figures.

So I suppose, with my passion for social justice and politics, political satire is most suited to me!

COVID-19 has well and truly buggered up all my plans for comedy this year.  I’ve had to battle significant mental health issues since a workplace injury late last year as well and those issues have been ongoing, but I am making progress now.  Comedy was going to be therapeutic to that recovery, but instead it’s been disheartening to have that stripped away and shifting to online and video formats from live.  But…I have written heaps of satire!

So, I decided I would start writing scripts for Bronwin to return…so stay tuned.  Be on the lookout for the Alt-News desk featuring Bronwin and investigative journalist guests at https://www.facebook.com/JacciPillar/

Intersectional Curatorial Hopes for Community Arts Production

When comedy variety showcase, “Tickets on Myself” was produced for Melbourne Fringe 2019 – a central idea of the show was intersectional curation.

If you are not sure about what I mean by intersectional, read on.  I hope the context of this post will help you more than a definition will.

Tickets on myself was fledgling and I, as producer, was learning.  I still am learning. I have a background in anthropology, a discipline burdened by the sins of it’s white colonial past and trying to take responsibility for it’s hand in oppression.  I have stepped away from anthropology into broader arts practice, but my grounding in discourse about difference is helpful (some of the time).  Listening to people not like me is better practice.

But Tickets on Myself tried to feature a range of diverse experiences and representations including, Jewish, Irish-Australian, First Nations, Neuro-diverse (Autistic and Highly Sensitive Persons), Amputee, Disability sexuality, Older, Trans, Non binary, Chronic Illness, Mental Health and Queer lived experiences. I may have left some experiences off that list.

Note the conscious capitalisation of those experiences.  If you think the arts should not be political, then I would counter this is not political, this is life.  Life is political and the arts should not shy away from that.

There was also a conscious effort to curate different performance experiences (performers didn’t have to be deemed “virtuosos” to be included).

It also aimed to have a blend of scripts written on topics that performers could elect to perform and own written and designed work and as producer I tried not to intervene too much in those, unless that was requested from performers.

I still felt at times I was too white producing and I have a lot to learn and so do many around me even though I am also disabled and queer.  I still have to reflect and learn – about how to better use the white privilege I have to be more intersectional in response.

But Tickets on Myself was a conscious effort.  It wasn’t perfect but it was progress.

Anyway, as I continue down this curatorial ambition as a Queer Autistic Nonbinary Irish-Australian producer and performer I wanted to share some new information.

Today I found a paper in the International Journal of ScreenDance about Intersectional Curatorial Practices.

The paper posed questions on intersectional practice.  Again, it’s not perfect and the key here is that they are questions.  They should open up discussion and the questions are a means to an end – to make practice more intersectional and provide process improvement.

So I will end with where curation should best be located – with questioning instead of presumed answers.

From the questions specifically for dance from the US Screendance example I have started to rework and broaden the questions for intersectional practice below:

Is it really intersectional if nine out of every ten bodies I see are young, white, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered? What about black women and men? Fat women and men? Trans women and men? Non binary people? Disabled bodies? Neurodivergent representations?
Are we providing space for non-verbal, non-spoken, non-sound or sensory based mediums? 
 
Is it really a intersectional when large groups of people of color (the most underrepresented group on all fronts), are often seen through the lens of a white director or choreographer?
 
Why don’t we see large groups of white actors being seen through the lens of directors and choreographers of color?
 
Is it really intersectional when most scenarios where large groups of people of color are seen at once, it is most often about being people of color?
 
In fact, is it really intersectional if most of the work created by, with, and for marginalized groups of people are about that marginalization?
 
Is it fair that young, white, cisgender participants feel the freedom to make statements on a wide range of cultural and aesthetic topics, when marginalized people do not enjoy that same freedom given their lived experiences?
 
Is it really intersectional if a culture cannot more readily embrace forms of art that come from low-income communities and communities of color?
 
Is it really intersectional if all – including both disabled and “untrained” or “non-art form expected” bodies – are not represented?
 
If it doesn’t have to necessarily look like a given art form, why aren’t more “non-art form expected” bodies and their movements and voices being explored?
 
What is our relationship to virtuosity and why does that matter?
 
In what ways have we made it clear that our space is off-limits to “non-art form” performers?
 
How can I make the experience more inclusive and more accessible?
Are we serious about accessibility for physical, social, emotional, sensory and movement based accessibility for both the audience and performers and their experiences? How can we do this better? 
 
How can I help to make the experience more intersectional?

Dear Ableism

I’m writing to you in the hope that putting these thoughts on paper might change something between you and I.

Just a couple of things. I’m speaking only for me, as an autistic person, but I’m sure other people might have something to say as well. They might like to write to you and state their case too.

I’ve carried you around for a very long time.

I carried you without knowing you were there for most of my life.

I thought I discarded you. Only to find a great number of the rest of the world still wielded you like a social axe with sharp oppression edges and it’s like dying the death of a million paper cuts.

I was four when I first noticed you, but you were there from birth. You morphed into a massive weight around my neck as I aged. I wore you like a restrictive, chaffing Elizabethan neck collar. I thought you were necessary because the world around me did.  No one told me to rip you off and be proud until my 30’s.

Sometimes I find myself still picking you back up and wearing you again. Just like an old worn work shirt. Like the one you might choose to wear when doing a dirty, unlikeable task.

So in the interests of trying to dispatch you into the void of the past, I’d like to ask you to stop doing some things.

Sometimes you are like an invisible radio, you broadcast these things through other people, but the signal is sometimes just accepted.  It’s time to change the channel, change the signal.

Sometimes you broadcast your poisonous frequency from abled people and sometimes  from other disabled people – so however you broadcast them, the list is the same.

Impairment judge. You don’t get to judge:

  • How Autistic I am.  Those with genuine expertise or lived experience don’t use high and low functioning anymore.  With “high” and “low” you set me up to fail or have expectations so low I cannot achieve – either way you then use inappropriate measures of me to incorrectly prove your prejudice.  Ask questions if you must (or maybe just read this list and apply it!), it’s better than rank assumption. 
  • How I speak or even if I speak at all. You also don’t get to interpret my innate directness as rude.  I can be hyperverbal, a chatterbox and I can want to not talk to anyone.  It’s not your call to make, whether this is necessary or not.  I can communicate with you whether verbal or not, but it might not be in way you expect.  Give my communication the same respect as any form of communication and take time to appreciate it.  Speech is not the only form of communication and Autistic communication is different (not deficit). 
  • How I think or process information. There isn’t one way to think.  I may seem to go around things in a different way, but what I produce, what I do, and what I say (or not say) are valid.  Thinking is not measured against the neurotypical only.
  • How my senses operate and how I take care of my environment.  You don’t get to decide if it’s too bright, too loud or too many people in a space for me. Or whether I should force eye contact or not (I’m doing my best to look at your glasses or eyebrows usually, then looking away regularly).  I get to decide how I manage that, and I do know what hurts me.  I can not change my sensory parameters to suit yours, I am not a machine with dials and switches anymore than you are.  I cannot step out of my senses.  
  • How social I am or am not.  To you it’s anti-social, to me it’s self-care.  My need for solitude is not your business.  I also am not in need of a dinner companion because you have decided it’s lonely.  I will seek the company of other people when I want and if I can.  My social boundaries are different, not wrong.
  • What I call myself. You can say “person with autism”, but to me autism isn’t something separate from me and it is not something to be ashamed of.  For me, I am autistic or autistic person. 
  • How I do a task. I know what I can do, so don’t exclude me from a task because it is too “stressful” for me based on your limited judgement of me or without checking first.  This happens to autistic people even when we are skilled and qualified and have a proven track record.  I also deserve to try something now and modify a task to fit my known workarounds and ways I use aids.  I also deserve the right to abandon a task.  I will seek support if I need it. Don’t make these decisions for me.  
Assistance Policing.  This is my final ask.  You don’t get to decide:
  • How I do or don’t use aids. Using communication techniques or social scripts that I have learned from the neurotypical world are my choice to use as I see fit.  They are no different to any other disability aid.  I won’t use them all the time.  But when I need to feel safe it is my right to use them like a semi-ambulant persons uses a stick at times and then sometimes not.  Give me that right to decide.
  • Whether I’m masking.  I’ve had people counsel me about the dangers of masking or think I am being untrue to my nature when I use communication aids.  I know “masking” can hurt me and I know my “rudeness or directness or realness” is perfectly okay.  I also know that after years of abuse from neurotypical people I tend to start slowly and may mask for self-preservation.  I’ve made the decision to mask from time to time to feel safe and that is my right.  Sometimes I will choose to mask because I know logically (if not emotionally) that I may offend (on a given topic).  I ask neurotypical people to take time to get to know my communication style and sometimes I need to do that for them too.  I pick my own battles (sometimes poorly!) and that’s my right. Make no mistake, I will not always mask. One form of oppression doesn’t need to be matched with another.

So, Dear Ableism, to be completely autistic, I’ve had enough of you.  This is my last communication in this format.

Do not reply.  Go hastily into the night and do not return.

Regards

Jacci

It’s okay to not know what you don’t know – the activism of art

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The earth is round. Yet some still say it is flat.

It’s okay to change your mind when you have new information.  The arts make it easier to open your mind to new information.
Recently I got told I had stopped doing “activism”.  People in my life felt disappointed and that I had “sold out” from my days of more militant activism.

Something my work in community arts has taught me, is that the arts are activist without necessarily appearing to be activist.
And I’ve copped my fair share of abuse in my life for militancy, often in person, and often physical.  I’ve faced off with neo-Nazi’s and been a whistleblower for over 25 years.

I was familiar with anger and rage and my activism reflected that, but it didn’t make me happy or fulfilled in my activism.  I think, at nearly 50, I’ve earned the right to define how I do activism.

But now I am focused on messages in the arts, which influences culture and behaviour more than we often realise.  For example, some of the movies we presented in the 1950’s we shudder at now. But they were made as reflections of the 1950’s and some films challenged social norms of that time.
As for militancy, it’s no longer effective for me (I don’t mean for others and I don’t mean as a whole). And honestly, I am not sure attacking someone for believing 1950’s movie ideas (let’s call them flat earth concepts) is always useful.  Does a direct challenge work all the time?

Activism aims to get people to uptake knowledge of a topic for a cause.  Some people feel unless you are militant and visible you aren’t doing activism.  But is knowledge transmission (as activism) some mythical cake that we must serve a certain way? Art presents many cakes in many ways. We can have our cake and eat it too.

IMHO It’s not okay to attack other people based on lack of research and the recitation of old information (your own or theirs).  And even when I have been militant, I haven’t been shouty at people, it’s a waste of my energy and not who I am. It also has health implications for me with a hypertensive disorder.

If your enemy is the dogma of flat earth thinking then raging because someone doesn’t hear you, is dogma, in and of itself. Making your message accessible to more people makes the dogma fall away.

We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t know unless we get access to information.

The arts is often the bridge to that new information.  It may not be the hammer that is the preferred tool of those who call themselves the militant activist, but it is no less a form of activism.
If someone is tuned into their 1950’s movie thinking, they might need another movie to watch.
The arts acts can encourage people to look at a representation or information that is current and outside of their personal experience instead of old ideas.

Not knowing is not a crime, it’s where we all start – it’s when people deliberately continue to cause harm after knowledge is acquired that can be a problem (and lead to hate crimes).
Arts representations can present knowledge in ways that don’t punish people for not knowing – particularly for social justice activism.
So, we either bring people along with information or we spin in an endless discussion of who is right and who is wrong – when the reality is the answer is more nuanced.
This is where the arts have a power that overt political commentary does not – it gets to the politically unengaged.

But also, critical appraisal of representation and information is a choice – and watching the same channel over and over will produce no critical appraisal (just brainwashing).  So art’s representations for change have to be particularly innovative and carefully constructed.
The key is variety of information and representation and my arts practice aims for a greater variety and intersectionality in the arts. The arts can provide people information through representation and step away, unless asked otherwise.

People will choose what they do with that information. It can be counter productive to try and police how they take that information on board.
Hammering in information may work in some contexts, but it can also make the hammer worn but still only a hammer.

A poem might open someone’s mind. Or a theatre performance. Or a song.

Or they may still believe the earth is flat.

Enough talk of “woke”. It’s simpler than any mysticism.

The earth and the people on it are about to face bigger challenges that it ever has before.

Doesn’t matter if your agenda is human rights or economic rights or any other rights, the planet is going to vote us off it, if we don’t get our shit together.
In short, I don’t want to do activism like some activists who use rage do.  I don’t want people to be afraid of me because they didn’t know about an important issue.

Fear and rage are the oppressors tools.

It you want people who don’t know to be curious about a representation outside of their own experience and want to learn – then look to the arts.
The arts can work to bring people together (and be “activist” if that’s what people wish).

There is still a place for militancy, because the oppressed have a right to be angry, but I cannot do it anymore, it’s had serious health implications for me.
If I have to apologise for wanting to be more effective and not risk my health, then we’ve forgotten why we do activism in the first place.

So thanks for your concern about my selling out but I am happy to stay in my arts lane and concentrate there. If that makes me a sell out, then consider my soul sold to the arts.

It’s also the form of activism that is right for me, there’s plenty of room for different forms of activism, there isn’t one “right” way.

The “C” List – The Case for Curiosity in times of Crisis.

I’ve been inspired by the #kindnesspandemic but I think we also need a #curiositypandemic to help us get through.

During uncertain times of this scale, human behaviour escalates in both positive and negative ways. I’m a list person. I’ve found through tough times lists are helpful, particularly in times of crisis, but I felt I needed to be more creative with my lists – and in particular foster curiosity instead of fear.

Humanity hasn’t seen something of this nature and size for 100+ years.  I’m currently writing this in the middle of being very ill.  It’s taken a lot longer than usual to draft because of that.

In my lifetime I’ve faced off with medical trauma and the very real possibility I might die a few times now.  I’ve become somewhat expert in neurobiology since a traumatic brain injury and an autism diagnosis.  But this was because I choose to foster curiosity to quell fears.

In recent times the climate of fear and misinformation has made things worse, not better.  I’ve encouraged to seek information and not just consume the nearest meme or video without question.  But to do this we need to reestablish our curiosity and replace our fear with curiosity.

I’ve always resisted the idea of a bucket list because people use buckets lists as though the only important time to do things that you dream of – is just before death.  I’ve always felt we should honour our lives throughout them and experience the world as fully as we can throughout, not leave it until the end.  Because the end is unpredictable, but the choice to live a fulfilled life of curiousity doesn’t have to be unpredictable, we can choose.

When I pursued a career in remote anthropology with the challenges I had – everywhere I went I had a note with me.  It said:

“Live a life fulfilled, not imagined”.

It was stuck on computers, written on post its in my wallet, paint penned inside my backpack.

I have posted before about the “f’k it list” of things you should aspire to do anyway – because they are worth doing.

Recent events, or the C word I don’t want to mention has prompted me to think of new lists.  Not to do lists, goal lists or shopping lists (although these are present).

It’s a curiosity list.

Yesterday was a struggle and I found myself thinking I had so much more to do and experience in the world and writing a list of things I was curious about exploring.

More importantly this was a list of things I am curious about that I WILL commit to exploring in the coming years.

The thing we need most at the moment is hope.

To create my curiosity list I asked of myself three questions about experiences I can be curious about (and created lists under them) regardless of where I am:

  1. What ideas and experiences am I curious about and what new knowledge can I seek?
  2. How can I share what I learn from my curiosity journey and how can I encourage those that are curious about that journey too?
  3. How can I ensure that my curiosity does not hurt anyone, that the journey is kind, fulfilling and hope filled?

We have the internet and we have more access to communities of knowledge than ever before.  Others will be limited in that capacity, so question two should include a way that you can share things that don’t consume bandwidth, blog posts, images or where still possible, regular mail and mail outs.  It may just be a phone call where a topic of shared curiosity is focussed on, rather than fixating on events.

In isolation, in lockdown, let’s get curious. The focus is on what we can do, learn and experience, right now, to start moving our thinking towards hope and curiosity is the vehicle.

Let’s take this time to bloom with curiosity, not fear.

Let’s move into the future holding onto to curiosity as a form of hope.

Regardless of what is on the other side, it is curiosity that has allowed us to invent and adapt and feel like we can take back some control when things are out of control.

Love to all.  Please stay safe.  Please take care of each other.  Please replace fear with  kindness and curiosity.

What’s In a Pronoun? Just one letter more or less…

I prefer these pronouns in order of preference, they/them, Jacci (yes, I am calling my name a pronoun) or she/her (so if you stuff up, don’t stress, we’ll work on getting to they and Jacci together).

I may be voicing an unpopular opinion for some here, so hold onto your flaps and prepare for lift-off.

I really do mean hold onto your labia (if you have labia and if you don’t flap a piece of anatomy as you see fit). (A)FAB.  (Assigned). Female. At. Birth.  This is my biological sex as ascribed to me by the medical profession when they held me in mid air and declared “it’s a girl”.

And then the shite began.

Because for me, girl was not me. During my childhood people called girl seemed to do the opposite to me for completely illogical reasons.  I remember being specifically bullied for doing technical drawing, woodwork and metal work at high school as a “girl”.

I am not sure how having a vagina changes my ability to hold and use an angle grinder (spoiler alert…IT DOESN’T).

No decision I have ever made for myself (as opposed to decisions I’ve made to please others) has had anything to do with ideas of boy/girl binaries.

Once I was told I couldn’t lift as much as people with penises.  Yet I was a powerlifter and men the same height as me who didn’t powerlift couldn’t lift as much as me.  People bigger than me could and some couldn’t.  It was everything to do with training and dedication and nothing to do with dangly bits or love tunnels*.

The societal concept of gender – AFAB or AMAB has nothing to do with what we can or cannot do, some just firmly believe it does.  For some, this has benefits and both the power relationships and sometimes choice (I would argue choice is to a much lesser degree) reinforce them.

In this traditional binary sense, woman, I can barely identify with.  I only do in a lesser sense because of my life experiences of being told what to do and how to do it based solely on the fact I happen to be an adult who has a vagina and therefore has been called woman.

I. did. not. get. it.  I liked all non-traditionally “girl” things (whatever that means because I like cooking cupcakes and can sew as well as weld, powerlift and fire a rifle) and I did not conform to gendered ideas of how I should look or behave.  That was something I sometimes identified with – but not in a traditional way. I related to the politics and the issues I experienced as someone AFAB and seen as a woman by society as I aged.

So I fought for women’s rights and continue to fight for women’s rights. But that means trans women too as trans exclusionary politics disgust me.

When I tried to be “traditionally feminine” because a lover said I should – I literally became depressed and suffered huge mental health problems and even hypertension.

Why? Because, to me, this binary stuff is utter bullshit.  I cannot see any logic in the argument that what genitalia you have should define your life in terms of behaviour, occupation, reproductive rights…and the list goes on.  Yet some people seem determined to fight to continue to oppress each other with rigid boundaries about supposed genitalia dependent difference.

And then some of us started to embrace new language I was delighted to find a name that, for me personally, was better than woman and didn’t necessarily exclude me from the politics of woman either.

Non-binary.  My primary identity is non-binary.  I don’t identify with how the world classifies me into binaries.

I prefer they/them pronouns, but I am okay if you use she/her and will work with you on mutual understanding to get you to using they/them. But I would prefer you use Jacci to be honest.  I don’t get too worried when people use she/her, because that might be about how they see me at a given point in time.  But I will call them out if they continue to use it when I have asked them to not.

There have been times when I have been momentarily confused for a man and got called he by a passer by. That didn’t bother me either, because I don’t think the distinctions HAVE to exist.

I think if we suddenly decided to make people without attached ear lobes (as opposed to attached ear lobes) take less pay there would be world-wide riots.  I don’t see genitalia as any different to different ear lobes.  Okay, this is an extreme example.

But just imagine how the earing and jewellery world could monopolise on this! Ear piercing rates for would be like haircut rates are now – arbitrarily more expensive depending on if you have a penis or a vagina.  It is in no way logical.

I do occupy this space of “in-between” that nonbinary affords me quite comfortably and I feel safe here.  Even that notion of “in-between” is not accurate.  I think we can be a range of qualities in how we express our identities.  Identity is not fixed, that is a capitalist myth sent to profit from us and create profitable insecurities that drive sales revenue.

Here’s some (not all) aspects of my intersectional identity.

Feminist.  Because I genuinely believe intersectional feminism is dedicated to relieving the world of sexism and it’s ridiculous binaries (no matter how people identify).  I may not believe in the notion that binary defines me – but if you do, I will also say “okay, that’s who you are, you identify as <insert here>”.  I don’t care how you identify, as long as you don’t tell me it’s the right way for me or force systems of oppression on me or others because of a belief in a binary.  You can have your binary, but I’m not forcing on you anything by simply existing so don’t insist I adopt your methods of existence.   It’s not sexist to like make up or pink – it’s sexist to assign that notion to what genitalia someone was born with and treat them accordingly.

Nonbinary.  I don’t relate to you or the world through the lens of my biological sex organs and societal conventions about them.  I don’t make decisions based upon whether or not my vagina would approve (on no matter in my life – not even sex).   I have a complicated relationship with my breasts, partly from an abuse history, but also because I have never really felt they were an important part of my body.  I am looking at top surgery and frankly, can’t wait to be rid of them.  However, I’ve had a lot of surgeries and the thought of another in the next couple of years has made me delay.

Woman Politick.  This is a lesser identity but none the less really important part of my identity. I don’t say woman front and centre.  I don’t run around singing “I am woman, hear me roar”.  I did once and I did a disservice to people who really strongly identify as women.  I don’t particularly like the word…to me it centres our identity around “man” and dare I say it…the W. O. bit could be “without”. Without manly bits.  To me, while most of my life I have stood in the heart of the woman’s movement, it’s not how I would like to see all of us with certain genitalia lumped together – but to me it represents the social aspect of the binary and is not a negative or positive term in the way I use it.  How others use the word woman, in particular those prone to misogyny, is their issue, not mine.  I don’t have any rigid rules applied to it because those rules are not logical and are socially constrained (things I don’t relate to).

Grey a-sexual/pan-sexual attracted.  I have a long history of finding myself in coercive sexual relationships where I found myself performing a stereotype of “female desire” I had been taught by pornography.  I had a “married young” relationship with a very straight, psychologically abusive AMAB who insisted on strong “feminine” roles for me, even in the bedroom and who insisted we watch hetero-normative pornography*.  At one point in this relationships I took testosterone therapy to improve my sex drive (as seen on Oprah in the 1990’s).  I’m also autistic and in the bedroom I did what movies and films taught me too until I accepted just how unimportant to me sex acts are to me.  I didn’t have a strong sense of what I liked and that was where I looked for inspiration and their was nothing I identified with.  I just did what I was told to keep the peace knowing if I didn’t the put downs and slurs aimed at me would continue.  I learned to force myself to like heterosexual ideas about sex, and even mastered some tantric and BDSM in the process.  But the fact is, it was never really a choice and I spent until my 40’s hating myself for it.

The fact is my sexual attraction is dependent on other connections other than gender, sex or physical appearance and when I genuinely feel attracted to someone – it’s slow to develop and quite rare and may or may not lead to sex acts.  And that is completely okay and completely healthier for me.

So yeah, there it is for all to see.  The gender identity politics of me.  Like it or not.

*sorry for the use of slang terms of penis and vagina.  I personally cringe at those descriptions and believe we shouldn’t use them – but when people use them it makes me laugh and when I speak I talk about how funny I find them. 

*If you think because I am autistic I should like traditional gender roles that are like “rules” – I would argue that I like logical rules, not emotive ones (and you and I need to have a discussion about autism stereotypes).