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Massy Interviews / Karen Moe
April 2 @ 12:00 pm – April 30 @ 5:00 pm PDT
Photo by Stasia Garraway
On Saturday, April 02 from 5pm to 7pm, join Massy Books, Massy Arts, and art critic, author and feminist activist Karen Moe for the in-person launch of her book: “Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor” (2022, Vigilance Press).
In her debut work, a compelling survival story of a vibrant young woman being stripped of her easy-going nature by capture and sexual violence, Moe writes a powerful and immersive memoir about patriarchal hierarchy and how it allows a climate for abuse to occur and go under-addressed.
The event will be hosted at the Massy Arts Gallery, at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The book launch is free + open to all of our community, and registration is mandatory.
Covid Protocols: For all in-person events, attendees must provide proof of vaccination, wear a mask (N95 masks are encouraged and recommended as they offer the best protection), and consent to having their temperature checked at the front door. We ask that if you are showing any symptoms, that you stay home. Thank you kindly.
Click here to register for the event
To celebrate Moe’s visionary book, Rafael Zen interviews the writer for Massy Arts, discussing how not only violence against women, but all exploitation, is a natural result of patriarchal hierarchy, and how power (and maintaining one’s ability to take) necessitates violence.
Karen Moe / Patriarchy Resisted: Courage and dedication to act beyond ourselves
Rafael Zen – First of all, I would like to address the title of the book. Why “a feminist manifesto”? Why do you consider this to be a feminist study?
Karen Moe – The book is a feminist manifesto for three reasons:
1 – I am a feminist revolutionary. That said, I need to define what feminism is for me so that people will know what exactly my manifesto is revolutionizing. In short: everything. Feminism is about justice for all living creatures including the earth. Feminism is about dismantling patriarchal hierarchy that is a top down system of take, exploitation and violence. As I say in my book, patriarchy is bad for everything. And that includes men. Feminism began as a critique of hierarchy based in violence against women (which is still very real and cannot be overlooked). However, because feminism is the genesis of the critique of a system based in exploitation, it can be extended to all other acts of exploitation because everything is connected.
2 – Until patriarchy has been ended, it’s always time for feminism. True feminism is in absolute opposition to any kind of hierarchical way of being. A true feminist revolution will transform power-over relationships into power-with relationships; that is, from a vertical to a lateral way of being. This way of being is very much like Indigenous relationships with the earth (which exist in absolute contrast to the extraction economy or the raping of the earth of the West). The earth is raped the same way women, and especially indigenous women, are raped.
3 – Right now, more than ever, it’s time for manifestos because manifestos are revolutionary texts that provide analysis and evidence for what needs to be revolutionized and, most importantly, offer solutions and hope. Even though there has been progress in terms of awareness that, yes, there are problems, the right, the neoliberal greed/take ideology that prioritizes the individual, is still winning. I spent a lot of time at Fairy Creek last summer writing about the struggle to save some of the last remaining pristine ecosystems in the world for my magazine Vigilance Fierce Feminisms.
You can check out the links below for my three articles that fill in the gaps of what the mainstream media strategically does not tell us in order to mislead public. And please share them. Small independent magazines need to get out there to combat the corporate and government-bent prejudice of the mainstream. When we write, though, we need to research. Not base our proclamations on assumptions and perhaps personal prejudices. Just because we can publish information easily on the Internet and say it’s all about free speech, it’s dangerous to write and spread information that isn’t true.
My book has over 200 endnotes offering further information and sources if the reader is interested and a bibliography of 43 books. Reality and truth need to be backed up.
And, especially if you are in BC, come to Fairy Creek this spring and summer when the logging starts again in full force! You don’t have to be arrested. Just stand and support the ones who do and be a witness to police brutality. And report it. One of my articles in Vigilance is called: “It’s All About the Numbers: In Canada it’s Still Possible to Help Save the Planet.”
Because it is all about the numbers in resisting all acts of injustice and exploitation. The people who act. Unlike countries like Mexico, Honduras or Columbia (to name a few), Canadians can still protest without being assassinated. We can still save some of the old growth. It’s our responsibility to act on our privilege, the fact that we don’t get shot, yet. And the more of us step up to the plate, the more will be protected.
However, the big trees are still coming down and pristine ecosystems are still being destroyed. The earth is still being raped. As is one woman every 17 minutes in Canada, one woman every 2 minutes in the US, and one woman every 18 seconds in Mexico—and it’s been estimated that a good 50% go unreported. The first times I was raped when I was 19 are part of that 50%.
Ending systemic misogyny, racism, transphobia, classism, destruction of the environment, the torture of fellow creatures in agribusiness is the big fight and everything we do to work towards dismantling the patriarchal hierarchy, chip away at it, is part of the big picture/reality.
And, despite the differences in the degrees of oppression, we need to work through our differences and know that intersectional voices, even those of the trees and pigs who are helpless without us speaking and fighting for them, are all on the same side.
As for your final question, “What message am I trying to convey with my manifesto?”
Well, that would be a spoiler if I told everyone before the book’s out, wouldn’t it! I would like people to read the book so as to come to the solutions I offer in their lived, written, and researched context.
RZ – In the synopsis, you claim that not only violence against women, but all exploitation, is a natural result of patriarchal hierarchy. Could you elaborate on this idea? Why do you think patriarchy, as a social system, allows/encourages exploitation through violence? What, in your opinion, is important to be said when addressing violence against women?
KM – Patriarchy is a social system that has to exploit in order to exist. It is a hierarchical system based on take and taking from another without their consent necessitates violence. Power (and maintaining one’s ability to take) also necessitates violence. Rape is an act of discipline and is meant to keep women in a state of fear and fulfill what men in patriarchy have been conditioned to believe they are entitled to.
As historian Gerda Lerner explains in her book, The Creation of Patriarchy, the beginning of private property — and the beginning of patriarchy — started with the beginning of the subjugation of women as commodities for reproduction. In patriarchy, women were the first slaves. The subjugation of women was the beginning of patriarchy. That’s why a feminist analysis of patriarchy is central to revolution.
I’m not blaming men (well, of course, I blame first world sex tourists who rape children and women for $3, but even they can become aware of the atrocities they are committing because of their sense of entitlement in patriarchy. Victor Malarek provides an amazing example of this in his book The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It).
I say this throughout the book. I do not want to alienate any reader. We need everyone for any permanent change to actually have a chance. Of course, there are ‘good’ men (the same way just because a person is a woman, certainly doesn’t mean she is a feminist or ‘good’).
Not all men are rapists, as I say in my book; but, at the same time, there would be very few rapists—next to none actually—without men. In a system of male supremacy, all men have the opportunity to abuse power. Whether they choose to take it is another story.
But all men need to be aware of the fact that, in patriarchy, precisely because it is a system of male supremacy, they do have that opportunity to abuse power and even if they haven’t literally raped an unconscious woman at a frat party, they may have thought about it.
And why is that? This needs to be addressed both individually and culturally. In my book I say, “C’mon in! All men welcome in the feminist revolution! We need you! But learn to leave patriarchy at the door.”
The reason approximately 12 women are murdered every day in Mexico by their male-partners is because the so-called third world men are exploited by global capitalism, live in economic precarity and are demasculinized.
In her book, Gore Capitalism, Mexican feminist Sayak Valencia writes about the endriago subject who is the third world exploited male (or the B-side of the first world as she calls it) who is forced to live a life of extreme, normalized violence because there are no other opportunities in the exploited south of our neoliberal era.
In patriarchy, where the man is conditioned to think he is supposed to be powerful is denied the power he thinks he is entitled to, he fills that lack by taking the power from the ones closest to him a rung down, so to speak, on the hierarchy ladder: his wife, girlfriend and children.
This is one of many examples that you will find in my book about the cycles of violence in a system that has to oppress in order to exist. And how these cycles must be broken.
RZ – Your book is a study that connect your memories with other feminist writers/theories + case studies from around the world. When searching for other cases to present, what was the one – besides your own story – that caught your attention the most?
KM – I have to give you two: the case studies that still make me cry (and I always say that when my art makes me cry, I know I’ve succeeded) are the one about the sex slave children and the ones about my dad. What is ostensibly near and what is ostensibly far both reside equally at my core.
RZ – Your work as a researcher focuses on systemic violence in patriarchy: be it gender, race, the environment or speciesism. Do you think we have reached a historical moment (with globalization, mass media, social media, the uprise of social movements) when intersectional voices are finally being heard? What’s the change you would like to see being discussed and promoted?
KM – I would first like to say that intersectionalism is not new. Some people I have spoken with, when implying that second and third wave feminism are dated and no longer useful, say that intersectionalism is a 2000s phenomenon.
When I was studying feminism at SFU in the 90s, we didn’t call it intersectionalism. I don’t think we had a name for it. It was just feminism as a deconstruction of hierarchy (which is inevitably intersectional), because everything is affected by a system of take and the power abuse that guarantees.
I think it depends on what exactly you are referring to when you speak of globalization. There is the sharing of information globalization and the on-land economic globalization that keeps the global south in a state of governmental corruption and poverty and the land is expediently raped without any pesky regulations and human rights that (still) exist in the global north (or the first world).
These terms are all problematic: first/second; developed/developing; industrialized/industrializing. I think the most accurate is exploited/exploiter. Unfortunately, because of the non-legacy of colonialism and the age of imperialism (colonialism has insidiously morphed into the now neoliberalism and the prioritization of the so-called ‘free’ and unregulated global market that was instated in the 80s by the right wing governments led by Margaret Thatcher—she is one of the just because a woman is a woman certainly doesn’t make her a feminist—Brian Mulroney, and George Bush Senior).
Globalization being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depends on who is in control. Unfortunately, it is the ideology of the free market that justifies exploitation. Why is Canada a first world country? Why does the average Canadian citizen have more privilege than the average Mexican?
And why (not that I want any of us to get shot while defending the land) is it incredibly rare that a land defender in Canada is killed while Indigenous peoples fighting to save the Amazon are killed all the time (as one of many examples)?
Because first world countries made themselves first world countries through ‘connecting’ the globe for their benefit during the age of imperialism, that’s why. This is no legacy. Colonialism is a continued reality. The globalizing/colonizing West created third world countries.
And, as documentary filmmaker Nettie Wild pointed out in her 2008 documentary Fix: The Story of an Addicted City (based here in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside for those of you who don’t know it), the third world exists in the first, and, in Latin America where the tiny percentage of the wealthy class are excessively wealthy and contaminated by neoliberal ideology, vice versa.
I think you are referring to globalization in a positive sense, Rafael, and I think that you’re talking about being able to connect globally and exchange ideas and information and have access to alternative information. If globalization only meant the Internet (even though there are big issues with what is lobbed up as truth without any basis except ignorance, assumptions and prejudice), it wouldn’t be as damaging as economic on-land, so to speak, globalization.
Mass media is always a negative because mass media is controlled by corporations and what is left out of mainstream news reports is often more important than what is included. In that respect, the Internet as a globalized system of expression and information sharing is very valuable.
Social media: good for sharing information based in reality (and I know ‘reality’ got a bad name in the 90s but there actually is reality. And truth); bad for girls and young women hypersexualizing themselves and doing duck lips and porn star posing at seven due to internalized sexism.
But, yes, about the increase in social movements fighting for justice, to bring in my example of Fairy Creek again: would it be the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history without Instagram and FB? It has definitely helped, but a lot of people came out to Clayoquot (the first war in the woods), too, in the 90s. Action did happen pre-social media.
However, social media should help more. Even though the Fairy Creek Blockade Instagram has 93 K followers, only a fraction of those people actually come and literally defend the land. Yes, awareness is spread, but people need to literally act as well. Could you imagine what would happen if even half of the 93 K followers came to Fairy Creek?
We need to make sure that we don’t get divided within our different sects of our intersectionalism. I know I can be accused of being white by saying this (and I am. Unlike black women who are bizarrely accused of being white feminists): “We all should get along. Let’s not fight because infighting rots any movement. If we are divided we will be conquered. Because everything is connected, we all need to be connected.”
I don’t mean don’t discuss, debate, argue, empathize, hurt, feel, listen, work towards healing because, in the big picture, it’s all the same fight, the same beast, from different lived realities.
As Audre Lorde said: “I am not free while any woman is unfree even when her shackles are very different from my own.” In terms of the degree of the shackling, even though I have been raped by three different men and abducted once and I was certain I was going to be killed and I have suffered the effects of emotional abuse and mental illness all of my life, I know that I got off relatively easy.
Precisely because I am a descendant of the colonizing culture. In my book, I talk about, paradoxically, being a privileged rape victim. And, because of that, I have the obligation to use that privilege to dedicate my life to busting a system that hurts others much more deeply and absolutely than I ever have been. And from helping to stop what happened to me happen to other young women.
And helping men to develop self-reflexivity and take responsibility even for their own thoughts. In transman Thomas Page McBee’s words from his book about his transition from woman to man, Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man: men need to have the courage to “look at the injustice within themselves to join the fight for something better.” And Robert Jensen, in his book, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men: “I was socialized in patriarchy into a toxic masculinity that not only subordinates women but also crippled my own capacity to be fully human.”
The privileged, even the shackled privileged, need to be aware of our positioning in the hierarchy that we are fighting to break down. And not just a little bit aware. Acutely aware. And listen to those whom our privilege has exploited and continues to if it goes unchecked and unacknowledged and nothing is done. I am certainly not presenting any possibility of leveling in that ‘we all have our different levels of privilege’ because sex trafficked women and children have none.
Migrants fighting to have some human rights have none. And it is all of our responsibility to do whatever we can to make such inconceivable realities stop. And that takes courage and dedication and caring beyond ourselves.
So are what you call intersectional voices finally being heard? I think it depends on who’s listening. There have been improvements. But long lasting change? I’m not sure. But those of us who are listening and hearing, need to not only speak out, but act on what we know is true. The old adage: actions speak louder than words is an old adage for a reason. And that also connects to only following and liking a revolution on social media and that’s it. Actions speak louder than likes. But, that doesn’t negate the need to share posts—not just ‘like’ but actively share, push that share button, say something—to encourage others to act.
What’s needed in the West is a real revolution which is an ideological revolution. And, because the majority of exploitation has their head offices in countries like Canada, if there is a change in the way of perceiving the world amongst the privileged, it will inevitably affect those who are exploited and are the source of that privilege.
We need to start at the source of the source, so to speak. And all we have to do is feel and act beyond ourselves and our immediate circles. It’s quite logical really (I am apparently a ‘radical’ feminist, but I prefer the term ‘logical’ feminist). The rape of a child you know and the rape of a child you don’t are unforgivably equal.
Those of us fighting the same big picture fight need to make sure we are all listening to each other and it’s not a competition as to who is more exploited than the other. We all need to be on the same side.
Intersectional feminism has to remain feminism. Because that’s where it all started. And that’s where the wisdom and solutions come from.
RZ – Who is this book for? And how has the feedback been so far?
KM – I’ll start with your last question first. One of the predominant comments has been “compelling.” Another is: “you want to put it down, but you can’t (because it’s so compelling).” I was massively complemented with “literary nonfiction at its best” because, as an artist, the book is also a work of literature. “A call to action for both men and women” has been said a few times. Fierce honesty. Brutally honest. An epic of triumph and survival where the victim is a victor.
A beautifully written, forensically researched story of resistance and revolution. An important tool in the feminist fight against male violence. Read this book and be informed. Cutting deep into the soul about a topic that must be exposed. She writes how we can find authentic hope.
And, if you like books that could help change the world, you’ll love Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor. It is my dream to make the ‘could’ into a ‘will.’
Who is the ideal reader? When you are publishing a book, you are told by agents and marketers that you need to know exactly who your target market is and you have to know everything about them: what they read (of course); where they hang out; what they google search; what they eat … maybe even what they dream!
For me, because I talk about pretty much every aspect of exploitation in patriarchy and because of the global crisis (there’s another globalization) we are currently in, there is no absolute delineation for me in terms of who this book is for.
However, I would like the book to reach young women (because women from 15-30 are at ‘prime’ rape age) and also young women who have been conditioned through the feminist backlash that feminism isn’t necessary anymore as they hyper-sexualize themselves and their main goal is to, again, attract the male gaze.
Not only do I want them to be aware of the backlash and internalized sexism, I would also like to help young women not do what I did and to have the confidence to trust themselves and their bodies. We are animals. Our bodies tell us when we are in danger.
And also, in terms of consent and date rape and young women not trusting that they were sexually assaulted and then not reporting it: if your body tells you something has happened, it has.
Perhaps most importantly, this book is for those who don’t want to read it. For those who think I’m talking shit. And, especially for those who don’t believe anything I’ve said.
RZ – How do you think art galleries and cultural spaces may/should address the violent history and legacy of patriarchal oppression?
KM – First: it needs to be acknowledged that there is no legacy going on when it comes to patriarchal oppression. Legacy means something is over and that we are experiencing the after-effects. This is hardly the case in terms of patriarchal oppression. In some ways, it’s worse than ever because, despite some advances, we are also in a time of extreme backlash (which would take for too many words to elaborate upon here).
How should galleries and cultural spaces be involved? Well, prioritizing exhibitions and events that expose exploitation and show that it’s far from a legacy. Make sure not to leave any marginalized (or intersectional) voices out. Have events for small magazines and publications that fill in the gaps (like Massy is doing with Victim).
Have art exhibits in correspondence with those publications. Encourage donations to social justice organizations. Educate through art and writing. Expose what exists under the radar of neoliberal ideology.
For example, Canadian mines in the third world may be the worst in the world in terms of human rights abuses and the toxic mess they leave behind.
Few Canadians are aware of this. The man camps and sex-trafficking that are happening in BC are also realities that are rarely acknowledged or even known about.
I’m far from a computer expert (half-luddite actually) but maybe revolutionary hackers could infiltrate mainstream media with some images of what is never told (that could also be an art installation or a happening)! Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but we have to somehow infiltrate the gaps of what is not being told by the mainstream. Maybe gorilla installations where billboards are appropriated.
A lot of people still don’t know what is really happening, so don’t blame them. Educate. Don’t say: it’s not my responsibility to educate you because, if you really want change and you have lived experiences and wisdom to share, it is your responsibility. Not everyone knows. They are busy trying to pay their mortgages. Most people are good and have the capacity to feel deeply for others. We need to help make that happen and not shut people out with anger. Because if someone asks, they want to know. Period.
It is challenging because art (especially art that is critical of the status quo) is so underappreciated in western culture. Tenure track jobs in universities are plentiful in business and science, for example, and a graduate can get one in a year, but to get a tenure track position in the Arts, a graduate pretty much has to wait until a professor dies. It all has to do with shifting cultural priorities and to do that necessitates an ideological revolution.
As the Andrea Dworkin said in 1982: “Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society and personal relationships.”
As again another example of how violence against women is at the core of male supremacy and patriarchal exploitation, this resistance to truth can be extended into all other aspects of exploitation. It is agonizing to face the truth and our complicity in it (especially as first world citizens) and it’s even more challenging for men to realize and act on their complicity in a male supremacist culture.
Yes, there have been amazing uprisings recently especially Climate Change activism led by amazing people like Greta Thunberg (where 500,000 people came out in Montreal in 2019, for example) and the Black Lives Matter movement where people from the racist/colonizing culture are thinking and feeling beyond themselves.
However, the only way anything is ever going to be long-lasting change (environmental, racial, economic, gender and sex, and the torture of animals in agribusiness) is through an ideological revolution. People can keep protesting, raising awareness enmasse, but until the way a culture (now global) perceives and behaves in the world, nothing is ever going to really change. And that revolution entails thinking and feeling beyond ourselves and our immediate families. And when you think and feel beyond yourself, you have to do something about it because you know what is wrong.
For those of us who really know what is going on, who have an extensive systemic understanding, we must never give up. The motto of my magazine, Vigilance Fierce Feminisms, is “for people who believe in the power of never giving up.” Even out of stubbornness because we know what is right.
We know the truth. And if it doesn’t work out in the long run, you have a more fulfilling life while you are here. You self-sacrificed and fought for what is right. For me, when I get personally depressed (I live with Bipolar 2 and the depressions can be debilitating), all I have to do is think of and feel for sex-slave children and I am back at it: never giving up and feeling purposeful and happy.
One of my next books will be about sex-slavery. It will be called Inconceivable Reality.
If you’d like to learn more about Victim: A Feminist Manifesto from a Fierce Survivor, check out the website. You can also get the first 21-page preview and keep up on podcasts, pre-sales, tour events and help spread her manifesto when you sign up for the newsletter on the website.
Fairy Creek Articles that fill in the gaps of mainstream media reports (English & Spanish)
Vigilance Magazine / The Doing is the Hope: The Forest Defenders of Fairy Creek
Vigilance Magazine / El hacer es la esperanza: los defensores del bosque de Fairy Creek
Vigilance Magazine / It’s All About the Numbers: In Canada, it’s still possible to help save the planet
Vigilance Magazine / Fairy Creek: Far Beyond Politics