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“The mother is a labourer”

May 24, 2015


What is most dangerous about the diagnostic of postpartum depression is the psychologization of social struggle—the isolation of the individual from a collective experience. The dominant culture around postpartum depression moralizes a political problem, approaching what should be a site of shared critique and resistance as a form of competitive self-discipline.

Although the diagnosis of postpartum can feel liberating—providing a relief from self-blame in the form of a psychological disorder—it also imposes a set of challenges to the mother’s self-discipline. In terms of treatment for postpartum depression, the AAP suggests exercise and the help of a licensed mental health provider, and they advise mothers to “try not to worry about unimportant tasks—be realistic about what you can really do,” to “cut down on less important responsibilities,” and to “get as much sleep or rest as you can even if you have to ask for more help with the baby.” Successful treatment is a measurement of class but is coded as a matter of personal responsibility. The advice for self-management directly contradicts the instructions for the devoted breastfeeder; women are at once told to be “perfect” labourers, endlessly breastfeeding, but are also instructed to take care of themselves, to relax from the work of mothering. The solution for one set of “problems” produces a new failure to overcome. The regimen of self-care is nothing but an instrument of self-blame.

The disciplining of the postpartum experience reduces conditions of labour to a matter of individual habit and lifestyle. This disciplining must be understood as masculinizing the conditions of feminization. While describing the feminized, unwaged, immaterialized forms of labour integral to “motherhood,” the cultural discourse of postpartum depression compels the masculinist, competitive, individuating forms of sociality structural to capitalism.

Read More | “Theses on Postpartum” | Madeline Lane-McKinley and Marija Cetinic | GUTS


“Our collective and interdependent force is energizing”

May 15, 2015

We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art and Design’s MFA program based on the faculty, curriculum, program structure and funding packages. We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the School’s actions dismantling each of these elements to dissolve our MFA candidacies. In short, due to the University’s unethical treatment of its students, we, the entire incoming class of 2014, are dropping out of school and dropping back into our expanded communities at large.

The Roski MFA Program that attracted us was intimate and exceptionally well-­funded; all students graduated with two years of teaching experience and very little to no debt. We were fully aware of the scarcity of, and the paucity of compensation for, most teaching jobs, so this program seemed exemplary in creating a structure that acknowledged these economic and pedagogical realities. However, a different funding model was presented to us upon acceptance to the Program by the Roski administration: we would receive a scholarship for some of our first­-year tuition, and would have a Teaching Assistantship with fully­-funded tuition, a stipend, and benefits for the entirety of our second year upon completion of our first­-year coursework. We, the incoming class of 2014, were the first students since 2011 to take on debt to attend, and the first students since 2006 to gain no teaching experience during our first­-year in the program. Moreover, when we arrived in August 2014, we soon discovered that the Dean of the Roski School was attempting to retroactively dismantle the already­-diminished funding model that was promised to us, as well as make drastic changes to our existing faculty structure and curriculum.

The Dean of the Roski School of Art and Design was appointed by the University in May 2013, despite having no experience in the visual arts field. She, along with Roski’s various Vice and Assistant Deans, made it clear to our class that they did not value the Program’s faculty structure, pedagogy or standing in the arts community, the very same elements that had attracted us as potential students. The effects of the administration’s denigration of our program arrived almost immediately. In December 2014, Roski’s MFA Program Director stepped down from her position, and was not replaced with another director; in short succession that month, the program lost a prominent artist, mentor, and tenured Roski professor, her pedagogical energies and input devalued by the administration. By the end of the Fall 2014 semester, we quickly came to understand that the MFA program we believed we would be attending was being pulled out from under our feet. In January 2015, we felt it necessary to go to the source of these issues, the Dean of the Roski School.

In a slew of unproductive, confounding and contradictory meetings with the Dean and other assorted members of the Roski administration in early 2015, we were told that we would now have to apply for, and compete with a larger pool of students for the same TAships promised to us during recruitment. We were presented with a different curriculum, one in which entire semesters would occur without studio visits, a bizarre choice for a studio-­art MFA. Shocked by these bewildering and last-­minute changes, we reached out to the University’s upper administration. We were then told by the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs​ t​hat the communication we received during recruitment clearly stating our funding packages was an “unfortunate mistake,” and that if the Program wasn’t right for us, we “should leave.”  Throughout this ​g​rueling process of attempting to reason with the institution, the Roski School and University administration used manipulative tactics of delaying decisions, blaming others, contradicting each other’s stated policies, and attempting to force a wedge of silence between faculty and students. At every single turn, the Dean and every other administrator we interacted with tried to de­legitimize and belittle our real concerns, repeatedly framing us as “demanding” simply for advocating for those things the School had already promised us.

As of 5pm on May 10, 2015, after four months, seven meetings that we held in good faith with the administration, and countless emails later, we have no idea what MFA faculty we’d be working with for the coming year; we have no idea what the curriculum would be, other than that it will be different from what it was when we enrolled and is currently being implemented by administrators outside of our field of study; and finally, we have no idea whether we’d graduate with t​wice​ the amount of debt we thought we would graduate with.

Since February 2015, we have communicated in writing to the Provost of the University, the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs, The Dean of the Roski School, and other USC administrators that we could not continue in the Program if the funding and curricular promises made during recruitment were not honored; thus, the University is not blindsided by our decision, nor has it been denied ample time and opportunity to remedy these issues with us. Perhaps the University imagined that we would suffer any amount of lies, manipulations, and mistreatment for those shiny degrees.

Let’s not forget about the larger system of inequity that we paid into to try to get our degrees. USC tuition has increased an astounding 92% since 20011, compensation for USC’s top 8 executives has more than tripled since 20012, and Department of Education data shows that “administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009”3. Adjunct faculty, the jobs that freshly-­minted MFAs usually get-­ if they’re lucky-­ are paid at a rate that often does not even reach the federal minimum wage4 while paying off tens of thousands of dollars of student­loan debt. USC follows this trend of supporting a bloated administration with whom students have minimal contact to the diminishment of everyone else.  Despite having ultimate power over the program structure and curriculum, our experience has shown that the administration has minimal concern for their students. Meanwhile, faculty voices are silenced and adjunct5 faculty expands, affecting their overall ability to advocate for students. We seven students lost time, money, and trust in a classic bait­-and­-switch, and the larger community lost an exemplary funding model that attempted to rectify at least some of these economic disparities. What we experienced is the true “disruption” of this accelerating trend.

We each made life­-changing decisions to leave jobs and homes in other parts of the country and the world to work with inspiring faculty and, most of all, have the time and space to grow as artists. We trusted the institution to follow through on its promises. Instead, we became devalued pawns in the University’s administrative games. We feel betrayed, exhausted, disrespected and cheated by USC of our time, focus and investment. Whatever artistic work we created this spring semester was achieved in spite of, not because of, the institution. Because the University refused to honor its promises to us, we are returning to the workforce degree­-less and debt­-full.

A group of seven students is only a tiny part of the larger issues of the corporatization of higher education, the scandal of the economic precarity of adjunct faculty positions, and the looming student­debt bubble. However, the MFA Program we entered in August 2014 did one great thing: it threw us all together, when we might not have crossed paths on our own. We will continue to hold crits ourselves and be involved in each other’s work. We will be staging a series of readings, talks, shows and events at multiple sites throughout the next year, and will follow with seven weeks of “thesis” shows beginning in April of 2016. Our collective and interdependent force is energizing as we progress toward supportive and malleable spaces conducive to criticality and encouragement. These sites are more important than ever in the current state of economic precarity​ t​hat reaches far beyond the fates of seven art students. We invite everyone to reach out to us with proposals, invitations and strategies of their own, dreams not of creating a “better” institution, but devising new spaces for collective weirdness and joy.

Julie Beaufils, Sid Duenas, George Egerton­Warburton, Edie Fake, Lauren Davis Fisher, Lee Relvas and Ellen Schafer | MFA NO MFA


“The point…is to reclaim their own power and reduce dependence on state institutions”

April 9, 2015

“The way [the Justice League is] moving, it’s like it would appear to outside forces that they are the face of the movement, and it’s so not true,” said Ty Black, a 26-year-old activist and artist.

After the killing of the unarmed [Akai] Gurley by an NYPD officer in a stairwell of East New York’s Pink Houses, Black and a small group of young activists from East New York and Crown Heights, along with Gurley’s aunt, came together to form Justice for Akai Gurley. The group has organized multiple protests at the Pink Houses, marching through different public housing complexes in East New York before stopping at the 75th Precinct.

According to Black, the group aims to build community power and reclaim control of their own streets, while also “eliminating police presence in our neighborhood through things like copwatch,” the tactic of vigilantly documenting routine police interactions with civilians. In February, copwatch footage exonerated Jonathan [Daza], a Sunset Park street vendor who was accused to assaulting the police; video showed that in fact it was Daza who had been violently assaulted by his arresting officers.

“Police are the paramilitary arm of New York City development,” says Asere Bello, another member of JFAG. He pointed to the broken elevator in Gurley’s NYCHA building and the burnt-out light in the stairwell where he was fatally shot as a part of the disenfranchisement that played a role in his death.

JFAG plans to ask NYCHA residents about the repairs needed in their buildings and recruit handymen to fix them. After surveying residents in East New York who expressed a need for ways to deal with interpersonal violence—the police receive more than 700 domestic violence calls each day—JFAG’s second march was led by women, and focused on the connections of state and gender violence.

The point, representatives of the group say, is to reclaim their own power and reduce dependence on state institutions, and show the connections between Broken Windows policing, displacement, gentrification, and police brutality.

“For us it’s a matter of getting the skills to navigate our own relationships or our own conflicts…in a way that lessens the dependency and completely eliminates the dependency on the state to resolve our conflicts,” Bello said.

Read More | “The Fight For The Soul Of The Black Lives Matter Movement” | Raven Rakia and Aaron Cantú | Gothamist


“Solidarity is not a word you say at the end of a one-sided conversation”

April 6, 2015


The Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student’s Association has been on a weeklong renewable strike against austerity since April 1st. Members of the WSSA voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike motion brought to our Winter General Assembly — with 78% of those in attendance voting to strike.  Since April 1st we have been actively organizing in a variety of ways against the austerity measures of the Quebec government and in accordance with our strike mandate.

On April 2nd, members of our strike committee, along with other students, attended a meeting with the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies during which we expected to discuss how we could continue to support each other during the coming days of striking. Instead of a dialogue that logically followed from our previous conversations with the IGSF, in which they had expressed general support for our mobilization, we were met with extreme and unexpected condemnations of our organizing, our strategies, our tactics, our politics generally, and our commitment to feminist values. We were told that pickets are violent, that we made the WSSA General Assembly a site of intimidation and bullying, and that our mobilization has no impact because it is poorly thought out.

We were told, repeatedly, that our strike mandate and our strategy of targeting austerity by striking was divisive and thus anti-feminist. It is surprising and disappointing not only that our actions have been deemed ‘anti-feminist’, but that our professors who study the nuances and ambiguities of power would suggest such a binary of ‘feminist’/’anti-feminist.’  It is also disappointing that the IGSF has chosen to withdraw their support in such a pronounced way, since the relationship between the IGSF and the GSDFSSA (Gender, Sexual Diversity and Feminist Studies Students’ Association) Strike Committee in 2012 was characterized by mutual support and respect.

We understand that the IGSF, as a small, underfunded, and undervalued institute at McGill, is under pressure from the McGill Administration and the Quebec government more generally to end our strike. We understand that the IGSF is receiving threats that their professors, precarious workers like those we seek to support through our strike, and like many of us, could lose their jobs or not be paid if they attempt to accommodate or support striking students.

What we do not understand is why they have chosen to accept these conditions wholesale and have proceeded to repress our resistance to these same forces instead of working with us to challenge those above them in the university hierarchy, as we are putting ourselves at risk to do. We do not understand why, if the IGSF is against our strike, they must couch this in accusations of divisiveness, bullying, and anti-feminism instead of honestly engaging with the pressures we are all facing.

Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies students, as with any other student body, have never been united. We have always held various political views, and we have never held the same levels of power as each other or our professors. We are confident that the strike is a time during which we can continue to have a dialogue about these differences and work through them as we have in the classroom for years. Moreover, we reaffirm that our strike is based on feminist principles, that austerity is rooted in patriarchy, and that as Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies students we have a particularly unique responsibility and role to play in this strike.

We ask the IGSF to reconsider their claims that our resistance is simply theoretical and that it is so internal to our department that nobody is noticing our actions.

Just hours after leaving the meeting in which our tactics to date had been heavily and unsolicitedly criticized, members of the WSSA marched in the streets of Montreal with 75 000+ other students, workers, faculty, and social groups. Many people approached us throughout to inquire about strikes at McGill and discuss our mobilization. Some of us were met with intense police violence in the forms of direct physical intimidation and tear gas, countless canisters of which were launched into the crowd by the SPVM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal; the Montreal police force) with no warning, in an attempt to disperse the demonstration.

We ask that those faculty members who have indicated they will call security on us if we picket, reconsider their commitment to resistance against state violence, and critically self-reflect on the violence they would be inviting us to be subject to should they do this. Despite assurances of solidarity with those striking, the IGSF has utilized methods that hardly demonstrate any sense of care or community.

The WSSA Strike Committee is dedicated – and, just as importantly, mandated by the WSSA membership – to continuing to mobilize against austerity, including by ensuring that the strike is enforced and undergraduates in WMST classes do not attend class. We ask that the IGSF respect our decision-making process, our ongoing learning, and our collective strength as we carry out these tasks.

Solidarity is not a word you say at the end of a one-sided conversation during which you have threatened to fail us and call security on us.  Solidarity is the actions that support the strikers and our strike. We were shown solidarity by the workers at the community centre who welcomed us on April 2nd with words of encouragement, cookies, and water, who helped us escape from approaching police and enabled us to rinse tear gas from our eyes. Solidarity is the relationships we’re building with one another, and the reciprocal enactment of care and support.

With this in mind, we ask that the IGSF consider the following requests in their future interactions with the WSSA and the Strike Committee:

  • That IGSF and WMST professors direct all future communication that pertains specifically to strike matters to the Strike Committee as a body, rather than to individual members of the Strike Committee;

  • That rather than claiming solidarity and allyship while behaving with hostility towards the Strike Committee and individual dissenting students, the IGSF should cease their use of the language of support and solidarity in relation to the strike until they have at the very minimum communicated with the WSSA in good faith about our needs regarding the strike, and have sincerely engaged with those mandated to facilitate the strike to determine a plan of action in which we can support IGSF staff and professors and accept sincere and practical support from them.  Solidarity is defined by those with whom you are acting in solidarity;

  • That any future meetings held with the WSSA and/or the Strike Committee regarding the strike should have clearly communicated goals, transparency regarding who will be attending, and prior notice to allow us to adequately prepare.

Forever in solidarity with striking students, precarious workers, and all those resisting austerity,

McGill WSSA Strike Mobilization Committee 2015

Supporting Signatories:

Comité Femmes de l’ASSÉ
AGSEM (Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill)

Read More | To the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) from The Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student’s Association (WSSA) 2015 Strike Committee



March 30, 2015

Juliana Huxtable spins.


Read More | “Untitled (Casual Power)” | Juliana Huxtable | From UNIVERSAL CROP TOPS FOR ALL THE SELF CANONIZED SAINTS OF BECOMING (2015), on display at the New Museum Triennial