New Article: ‘We Made the Change by Talking about It’

September 1, 2018

My article “We made the change by talking about it” has been published in ‘Mapping Gender Violence,’ a special issue of Frontiers: a Journal of Women’s Studies Vol. 39 (2).

The abstract is below, and you can read the pre-press version of the article here

Focusing on the Eugene, Oregon-based organization Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD), this article examines repeated instances of sexual violence and harassment within the white-dominated environmental group between 2000 to 2005. In doing so, the author is contributing to growing research on intragroup conflicts within late 20th and early 21st-century social movements. They draw on archival research and oral history interviews with past and present group members to describe status-quo narratives used by some group members to condoned—or outright deny—the rapes and sexual harassment carried out by well-established members of the group. There is also a consideration of how these status-quo narratives likely contributed to racist and settler-colonialist attitudes within the organization. The author also examines whether the counter-narratives used by the group of mostly-white feminists were successful; both in terms of ensuring that sexual violence would no longer be tolerated within the organization, and in challenging other forms of oppression, such as racism or transphobia, within the group. The article discusses the links between white supremacy and sexual violence in the United States, suggesting that the predominately white-on-white sexual assaults that were carried out by CFD members on fellow activists should still be understood in regards to race. Furthermore, as the author suggests, the narrative frames used by mostly-white feminists within CFD to challenge sexual violence should be considered ‘white feminist’ frames because they center the needs of white, able-bodied, and cisgender women, and rely on understandings of sexual violence that overlook how sexual assault and abuse are also tools of white supremacy. Although the feminists in CFD were successful in their efforts to exclude perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse from the group, the organization continues to be white-dominated, with limited involvement from activists of color, or white physically disabled people, trans women, and assigned male at birth (AMAB) non-binary activists.