Against Carceral Feminism (Vikki Law)

(via Jacobin)

carceral feminisim[…] Casting policing and prisons as the solution to domestic violence both justifies increases to police and prison budgets and diverts attention from the cuts to programs that enable survivors to escape, such as shelters, public housing, and welfare. And finally, positioning police and prisons as the principal antidote discourages seeking other responses, including community interventions and long-term organizing. […]

In 2001, Critical Resistance, a prison-abolition organization, and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence, an anti-violence network, issued a statement assessing the effects of increased criminalization and the silence around the nexus of gender and police violence. Noting that relying on policing and prisons has discouraged organizing community responses and interventions, the statement challenged communities to make connections, create strategies to combat both forms of violence, and document their efforts as examples for others seeking alternatives.

[…] strategies to stop domestic violence frequently require more than a single action. They often require a long-term commitment from friends and community to keep a person safe, as in Piepnza-Samarasinha’s case. For those involved in devising alternatives […] it may require not only creating immediate safety tactics, but long-term organizing that addresses the underlying inequalities that exacerbate domestic violence.

By relying solely on a criminalized response, carceral feminism fails to address these social and economic inequities, let alone advocate for policies that ensure women are not economically dependent on abusive partners. Carceral feminism fails to address the myriad forms of violence faced by women, including police violence and mass incarceration. It fails to address factors that exacerbate abuse, such as male entitlement, economic inequality, the lack of safe and affordable housing, and the absence of other resources.

Carceral feminism abets the growth of the state’s worst functions, while obscuring the shrinking of its best. At the same time, it conveniently ignores the anti-violence efforts and organizing by those who have always known that criminalized responses pose further threats rather than promises of safety.

Read full article “Against Carceral Feminism” (by Vikki Law) at Jacobin

Vikki Law: Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons

“While citing the important work of INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence, Law argues that “today, abuse is treated as an individual pathology rather than a broader social issue rooted in centuries of patriarchy and misogyny. Viewing abuse as an individual problem has meant that the solution becomes intervening in and punishing individual abusers without looking at the overall conditions that allow abuse to go unchallenged and also allows the state to begin to co-opt concerns about gendered violence.”

Furthermore, “the threat of imprisonment does not deter abuse; it simply drives it further underground. Remember that there are many forms of abuse and violence, and not all are illegal. It also sets up a false dichotomy in which the survivor has to choose between personal safety and criminalizing and/or imprisoning a loved one. Arrest and imprisonment does not reduce, let alone prevent, violence. Building structures and networks to address the lack of options and resources available to women is more effective. Challenging patriarchy and male supremacy is a much more effective solution, although it is not one that funders and the state want to see,” says Law.

In our new video interview, Law builds upon her earlier prison abolitionist critique by discussing practical alternatives for effectively confronting gender violence without using the prison system. She cites many success stories where women, not wanting to work with the police, instead collectively organized in an autonomous fashion. Law stresses that at the foundation of these anti-violence projects is the idea that gender violence needs to be a seen as a community issue, as opposed to simply being a problem for the individual to deal with.

One group spotlighted, Sistah II Sistah/Hermana a Hermana, in New York City, was formed to confront both interpersonal violence and state violence. They formed discussion groups where experiences are shared and the women collectively decide what tactics and strategies to employ. In one instance, they confronted an ex-boyfriend, who was stalking a member of the group, by going to his workplace, where they demanded he stop and successfully enlisted the support of his employer and co-workers.

Self-defense advocacy and training is another tactic employed by many of the groups cited by Law. For example, in the 1970s, two feminist martial artists founded Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts (BWMA), later renamed the Center for Anti-Violence Education in the 1980s. Along with teaching practical self defense techniques at sliding-scale classes, Law emphasizes that the Center also focused on the larger picture of how violence “holds different types of oppressions together,” resulting in a complex situation for poor women of color.”

See also: The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities (INCITE!)