Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Making Feminist Mixtapes, an interview with Nausea Nissenbaum.

From your personal perspective what does feminism mean?

Feminism is a political movement for liberation form gender oppression, which by extension means liberation from all oppression

What do think are some of the oppressive forces facing women today?

The capitalist economy under which most people are constantly forced to work, for low pay, in poor conditions, while so much reproductive work (which is predominately done by women) remains unpaid. The culture of rape and abuse which means that we are more likely to blame and stigmatise people who are abused and raped than hold the abusers accountable. State control of people’s bodies, which forces women (and other people with female reproductive organs) to jump through hoops to access abortion. The prison-industrial-complex, which pulls apart families and often leaves women trying to hold them together. Imperialism, which treats women as pawns in propaganda wars, economic resources to exploit, or collateral damage to bomb and forget about.

Who are some of the most influential thinkers for you?

I’m a big fan of Judith Butler. I also really like Jasbir Puar, Leslie Feinberg, Julia Serano, Angela Davis, Emma Goldman. A lot of the thinkers that have influenced me aren’t people who have published books but writers and bloggers who publish their writing online, people like Budour Hassan, Sara Salem, Kim Mcbreen...

Online radical thinkers are having a huge influence in shaping the minds of many, what are the pros and cons of this?

The pro is that it allows people to exchange ideas in a mutual, reciprocal way, it means that ideas are constantly developing and evolving in response to critiques and events as they happen. The con is that I don’t think online discussion is a replacement for in-person on-the-ground organising—when your activism has been online you don’t get a very good idea of how social change happens. Making things trend on twitter is not enough.

Sure, making things trend on twitter is a poor substitute for a revolution, but there have been occasions when it has been helpful for people fighting on the ground against oppressive governments, do you see a way we could use twitter as a political weapon?

Definitely. Twitter is a really useful tool (I wish it was around when I was in high school). As an anti-Zionist Jew I’ve found twitter really useful for making connections with other anti-Zionist Jews around the world, it makes me feel less isolated. As a Palestine solidarity activist, twitter’s been great for reading the opinions of Palestinians—it’s taught me a lot about the difference between useful solidarity and White savior complex.

Was there any influential moments in your life that kickstarted the badass feminist fighter you are today? 
I wouldn’t say there was any particular moment. I can’t remember ever not calling myself a feminist, though my ideas have developed and radicalised over the years. One thing that stands out is when I was 9 I had a really cool teacher who taught us about art, including some really cool women artists like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Faith Ringgold. I think that’s what got me thinking about feminism.

So it was trying to understand the lives of these artists you admired that helped shape your beliefs?

Not really, I think most of my ideas came from personal experiences and discussions with other women and transfolk in my life and realising those connections between our individual experiences and political systems.

You’re also involved in the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel] and Palestine solidarity movement, what brought you into this and how do place relevance on it as a feminist?

I guess I was brought into it by birth—I’m a third-generation settler-colonist in Palestine. I definitely think the colonisation of Palestine is a feminist issue. Colonisation is gendered—one example is the Israeli state’s obsession with controlling demographics by controlling women’s bodies and reproductive abilities. Every fertile Palestinian woman is a security threat to Israel.

You have been working as part of Rebel Press for a number of years now, care to tell us a bit more about that?

It’s an anarchist publishing collective that I started with a couple of friends. The idea was to encourage more radical political writing from Aotearoa and the wider South Pacific. We’ve published several books and pamphlets, and we also publish a semi-annual anarchist journal called imminent rebellion. It’s really fun. I learn a lot and I get to channel my grammar pedantry in a productive way.

What do you see as some of the current challenges facing feminist political organising?

One big issue is the cuts of all social services. I constantly see the way that’s impacting the lives of people around me: not enough funding for health services, not enough support for survivors of abuse, not enough resources for transpeople. The minimum wage is below a living wage and at the same time WINZ is cracking down on beneficiaries. More people are being driven into poverty and there are less and less resources to support them.

And Finally, what would you put on a feminist mixtape?

Wow, it’s hard to pick, but limiting it to just five songs:

No man’s mama – Carolina Chocolate Drops
I wanna be your Joey Ramone – Sleater Kinney
Lovers are they worth it – Poison Girls
UNITY– Queen Latifah.
I’m not – Melting Pot Massacre.


Acid Queen said...

Is Ms Nissenbaum based in Israel or NZ?

nausea nissenbaum said...

I'm currently based in Aotearoa but more often than not my head is over in Palestine.

Acid Queen said...

If you feel like talking about it, what do you think of Israeli activists who remain living in Israel? I've heard it said that anybody who choses to remain living in occupied territory is effectively benefiting from the occupation, and that the first obligation of any Israeli who feels solidarity for the Palestinian people is to leave.

I am not an expert on the issue but I wonder how I would react if I was in that position. I know leaving is hard if you were born there, but it is a powerful argument.

nausea nissenbaum said...

I've heard that argument too. The reality is, no matter where I am in the world I'm still benefiting from the occupation. For one thing, I have relative ease of movement around the world while Palestinians don't even have freedom of movement in Palestine. I'm also very aware that all I've done is migrate from one settler-colony to another—which means I'm also benefiting from the colonisation of Māori land.

Leaving Palestine isn't necessarily an option for all Jewish-Israelis. I was able to do it because of a combination of luck and privilege (being Ashkenazi and from a middle class family). There are also some Jewish-Israelis doing important decolonisation work in Palestine—I have a lot of respect for groups like Zochrot and Boycott from Within. Having said that, I know that a lot of Palestinians are frustrated and disillusioned with anti-Zionist Jewish-Israelis.

Acid Queen said...

Thanks for indulging my derail nausea