Gender Justice and The US Social Forum

Guest Post from Nora Dye
“Another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary, another Detroit is happening.” That’s the tagline of the United States Social Forum, a convergence of activists happening this summer in Detroit. Detroit was chosen because it is ground zero for viewing the consequences of our current economic system, and the story of Detroit mirrors a larger story about the relationship between capitalism, race, gender, class, ability, nationality, and other social identities in the United States.
When Detroit is in the news (as it was recently due to the tragic murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven year old who was killed by a Detroit police officer), it is usually portrayed as a place where a culture of hopelessness and lawlessness leads to violence and aggression. But the mainstream media often leaves out the bigger story of how corporations have abandoned Detroit because they prioritize profit margins over people; the story of how the creators of shows like the First 48, a reality show that was filming the police officers who raided Aiyana’s house, create a culture that normalizes state violence against people of color.
More specifically, the corporations that have abandoned Detroit, creating a city with a sky high unemployment rate and escalating foreclosures, are part of a capitalist system that creates and reinforces structural inequality through wage gaps and unequal access to jobs and resources. This system disproportionately impacts women, especially women of color; transgender people; gender non-conforming people; single mothers; immigrant women; and lesbian gay, bisexual, and queer people.
Yet many organizing efforts in the United States haven’t and don’t prioritize the communities who are most impacted by structural oppression. Brownfemipower said it powerfully when she said, “because ‘the worker’ is considered the most valuable resource in capitalistic countries (i.e. the U.S.), it is the person who most fits as a ‘worker’ that is recruited by organizations interested in change and held as the “ideal” that we should all strive to be–in other words, the young, 20 something that is single, able to live off of minimal resources and has unlimited time to devote to ‘the cause.’”


Organizing efforts rooted in gender justice recognize that we can’t fight unemployment, violence, and other devastating consequences of our current economic and political systems without acknowledging how gender, sexuality, reproduction, and sex all impact our ability to advocate for ourselves and how we organize.
On June 22nd, people from across America and around the world will converge on Detroit for the second United States Social Forum. Among them will be thousands of people who believe that if another world is possible, it must be founded on principles that include gender justice at the core of our organizing strategies. Since 2006, activists from a range of movements, locations, and perspectives have worked together, first as the Women’s Working Group and currently as the Gender Justice Working Group to create vibrant, inclusive, and productive spaces in the US Social Forum process to create a vision for gender justice.
Gender justice is not just about creating wage equality, or increasing access to resources and job training for low-income women and girls, or passing an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes protection for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Gender justice is about creating a world where women don’t have to choose between paying for childcare and paying the rent, where people can use whatever bathroom they please without fear of harassment. Gender justice is about creating an environmental justice movement that acknowledges women’s roles as healers and caretakers. Gender justice is about honoring the whole spectrum of gender expression and identity. Gender justice is about ensuring that everyone has access to not just the full range of reproductive health care but holistic health care that connects body, mind and spirit. Gender justice is about all of this, and a whole lot more!
In addition to a wide range of workshops related to gender justice at the US Social Forum, there will be a Gender Justice People’s Movement Assembly, and a Gender Justice canopy available for impromptu workshops, caucuses, and conversations.
If you believe that the struggle for social justice needs to be rooted in an analysis that includes gender at its core, join us to create a vision for gender justice in which Detroit, the United States, and the world are places where people of all genders, races, ethnicities, identities, orientations, abilities, and income levels are able to access the resources they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Questions:ussfgenderjustice AT gmail DOT com

PS – Colorlines has some great ways to channel your outrage from the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

Nora Dye is bicycling to the US Social Forum with the Spoke N’ Heart Collective, a group of activists dedicated to bike touring for social change.

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3 Comments

  1. Suzann
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why – as the article says – “corporations have abandoned Detroit” – at a presumedly greater rate than other places.
    I mean, there was a general problem with large cities and central areas ( although this has reversed slightly in recent years – for good or ill) but even in the “worst” of times downtown LA had grocery stores and car dealerships and record stores and department stores and all the general businesses you would expect to find where people are. People lived there and worked there.
    I doubt that downtown LA is/was any ‘whiter’ than Detroit.
    Is LA unique somehow, or is Detroit? Or is the article just focused on the worst?

  2. cattrack2
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Detroit was Ground Zero in the decline of the Rust Belt. Companies in the industrial midwest sought lower cost, non-unionized, and ‘more fun’ locations in the Sun Belt. Though suburbanization began after WW2, “white flight” really accelerated in Detroit after their ’67 Riot in which scores of people were killed.
    Detroit was impacted more than some other industrial cities in the midwest because its economy was heavily dependent on the automotive industry. With the rise of Japanese automakers in the ’70s–and their full scale onslaught in the ’80s–Detroit basically collapsed in on itself.
    At that point Detroit had a lot of land which it had to support (police, fire, utilities, infrastructure, education, etc) but a dramatically reduced tax base (both because of declining population & declining paychecks) to support those expenditures. That’s the death spiral of municipal finance.
    Detroit had vacant homes like most cities have gas stations. Not only did that provide havens for criminal activity, it also reduced the tax base, and provided “kindling” for the notorious “Devil’s Nights” each Halloween in which people torched vacant houses. Of course that just accelerated middle class flight… Here’s a good read from the WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704292004575230532248715858.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_3
    Hope this helps…

  3. adag87
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Well, the biggest part of Detroit’s collapse is the death of industry in the Midwest. But even before the auto industry started going under, many people say that Detroit started to go downhill after the riots. The city was basically destroyed and a lot of people looked at Detroit as some sort of blight to greater society. Also Detroit’s city politics have been notoriously corrupt throughout the years.
    I don’t know much about downtown LA, but I know that there are certainly way nicer parts of LA than the nicest parts of Detroit. Detroit is also much more sparsely populated, due to a mixture of the riots and loss of industry.
    I’m not trying to malign Detroit, here. But speaking as someone who lives not 30 minutes north of the city, I can attest that there are real, persistent, structural problems that probably most other U.S. cities have not had to face.
    It’s a shame, because there really are some cool parts of Detroit and there are activists that are trying to rebuild the city from the ground up – it just feels like most of the country has forgotten about the region.

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