The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities
The Revolution Starts At Home is not your usual zine. At 111 pages, it qualifies as a book, and I’m excited to say the editors are looking for a publisher. Pending publication*, it will soon be available on the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence website. Don’t be turned off by the bulk; this is an important zine that needs to be read by all activists of any sort. Contributors include Alexis Pauline Gumbs of UBUNTU, collective members of Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA), Vanessa Huang, Gina de Vries, and a collection of women from the Mango Tribe.
Tackling the touchy subject of partner abuse that occurs within so-called progressive communities is a brave move. The best thing about this zine, of which there is much good to speak, is the variety of voices present. It is written from a perspective of radical action, encompassing diversity in ethnicity, sexual and gender orientation, and yes, there are even male voices. An excellent job has been made to address partner violence between men and women, women and women, against transgender people, and even against the disabled.
One of the most interesting essays is by Peggy Munson: "Femora & Fury: On IPV and Disability." The essay made me rethink some of my own ableist assumptions. There are subtle ways that a differently-abled person can be abused that I had simply never thought of or did not immediately recognize as abusive, but certainly came to understand through this essay.
The one area that I felt was left out was in addressing women abusers of men. While the zine recognizes that women can be the abuser in women to women relationships, it is oddly silent on the matter of when it is the woman in a heterosexual relationship that is the abuser. This is an often-neglected discussion, and I would have liked to see some acknowledgment of it in such an otherwise well-rounded zine.
The zine is not easy, light reading by any means, but it balances personal essay with semi-academic notes, and organizational narrative of growth with step-by-step guidance on ways to address violence. While its core purpose is keeping abused women safe and centering their needs first, it does not leave out abusers. The zine seeks to hold them fully accountable while remaining compassionate to their potential to change. It also confronts how other members of the community can, unwittingly or intentionally, contribute to abuse through denial, privilege, or desire for “unity” within our movements. It holds each of us accountable to each other. There are tips and resources for the abused, the abuser, and the community as a whole so that we can recognize and openly address abuse in a proper and healing way that allows all of us to move forward.
The Revolution Starts At Home does not take the view that abuse can be pushed aside to be dealt with on another day, after the work of our movements is complete. Dealing with the abuse is part of the movement itself. No movement for justice will ever succeed if justice is not prioritized from within by supporting each other and creating a safe place for all members.
* In May 2011, South End Press published this zine as a book.