Feminist Care Packages: Healing Love for Hard Times

23 Feb
Image of a brown paper package tied up with string

CC Licensed from LethaCollen on Flickr

“Thrown away where? The world is round.” – Luciente

This month we’d hoped to talk about love and relationships but a lot of terrible things have been happening in the world. Whitney died. Too Short gave some terrible advice. So did Not So Very Smart brothas. and there’s a thread in these narratives about black women and girls bringing things on to themselves when really the deadly combination of heteronormative masculinity is to blame.

The binaristic gendered scripts we set up for people are killing usLiterally. The conversations that blame feminine people for the violence they experience but some how miss the role that masculine of center people have in that violence is beyond me. Yolo reminded us that most often, what survivors want is for the abuse to stop. They don’t want to get rid of the person who is hurting them; they just don’t want to fear for their lives.

Too often in this culture, safety means the survivor has to leave. We haven’t yet figured out how to create accountability that doesn’t look like recriminalizing the survivor by restricting their movements or demanding that the abuser be held accountable in a way that supports the survivor’s needs. We blame their choices and actions because honestly we can’t seem to wrap our minds around the massive collective fail that didn’t keep someone safe. We point fingers at the survivor and try to believe that perpetrators are uniquely bad people, not logical products of a culture that rewards aggression and violence directed at those who appear weaker. How does one ever make sense of what types of violence are and are not ok when the state enacts violence on communities and the planet all the time?

We can’t throw away people. Not into prison, where they come out years later more hardened than they were when they went in. Community service and anger management don’t come close to undoing a lifetime of social conditioning that supports masculine folks thinking that abusing feminine folks is only bad if you get caught or leave marks. Abusers live in our communities and our gender scripts recreate them everyday. There is no security in locking people away when we actively create these ideas about how to relate to each other in our society. If the culture is toxic, a quarantine is not an effective solution.

In trying to make real the transformative justice we desire for both survivors and perpetrators of gender based violence, The CFC, FAAN Mail, and Quirky Black Girls present Feminist Care Packages*. The CFC has been sending feminist care packages to each other in our times of need but the project of care goes beyond our collective. Feminist Care Packages are public offerings for healing and justice, invitations to survivors, perpetrators, and community to create a new narrative for the world we want. They include a letter to the person and a list of resources that may help them on the road to resilience. These are open outpourings of hope and possibility.

We are not naive enough to think that these suggested resources are enough to shift centuries’ old ideas about behavior but we hope that they begin conversations that have a greater capacity to hold the complex reality of human existence. By holding folks accountable and giving them tools to see their world differently, another world is possible.

There will be a series of Care Packages but in light  of recent events, the first Feminist Care Package is for Too $hort.

*Shout out to Mark Anthony Neal for giving this idea to Moya several years ago.

10 Responses to “Feminist Care Packages: Healing Love for Hard Times”

  1. venusinny February 23, 2012 at 8:09 AM #

    This is a great article which I would like to have permission to post on VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE & VOW-TV at http://voicesofwomenworldwide-vowwtv.ning.com/
    Making the real transformation for justice focusing for both survivors and perpetrators of gender based violence, is a huge task – re-educating men and boys first and then women and girls to understand the truth behind gender violence. It is great to learn that CFC, FAAN Mail, and Quirky Black Girls present Feminist Care Packages*. The sending feminist care packages to each other in times of need goes beyond our collective, especially as. Feminist Care Packages are public offerings for healing and justice, invitations to survivors, perpetrators, and community to create a new narrative for the world we want, including a letter to the person and a list of resources that may help them on the road to resilience, open outpourings of hope and possibility. As the creator of VOWW & VOW-TV, we promote “voices for the voiceless” women, young girls and children, giving them voices to tell their stories worldwide … via the Internet.

  2. itzadundeal (@itzadundeal) February 23, 2012 at 3:18 PM #

    I would quote the lyrics, but EH! Let the man himself do it #RIPTheVoice #RIPMJJ #RIPSOCIALINJUSTICES—> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqMSnigL0aA

  3. Lynn H. Ballen February 27, 2012 at 1:39 PM #

    This is real transformative feminism at work! So inspiring to read this affirming/healing idea in the sea of attacks and agonizing and just plain negativity out there.
    ‘By holding folks accountable and giving them tools to see their world differently, another world is possible.’ – truest words I’ve read in a long time
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reminding me of what feminism can truly hold in her hands…
    (Lynn from Feminist Magazine Radio KPFK)

  4. Amita Swadhin March 3, 2012 at 3:07 PM #

    i am fascinated by this idea, and have lots of questions about how to implement it when some people who cause really, really violent harm (i’m talking about life-threatening) still pose a real risk to the people they have harmed – how do we send packages like this (or provide other kinds of support) to people (like my father) who have been raping and threatening to murder women and children for decades (in my father’s case, for over 40 years), and who still live with or near the people they have harmed? or does transformative justice perhaps have its limits in the present? (these are not rhetorical questions, i would love to hear your thoughts)

    • moyazb March 3, 2012 at 10:36 PM #

      Thanks so much Amita! I really admire your work and I’m glad to get into this conversation. So I’ll answer the easy question first and it’s only easy because I think you answered it already. “does transformative justice perhaps have its limits in the present?” YES! I think for TJ to work folks have to commit to being a part of a community, which our current capitalist individualistic structure makes us feel like is not necessary. I don’t think you can hold folks accountable in today’s structure very easily. Folks can retreat instead of having to deal with consequences for their actions. I don’t know if you’ve talked with Mia about this but she too thinks that we are learning by doing but real TJ is still in our visionary imaginations as opposed to on the ground.

      I think people have a right to protect ourselves from harm and repeated harm through the means we have. If your dad has repeatedly shown that he is unwilling to change his harmful behavior then a care package isn’t what’s useful. I really think he should leave not be near the people he has harmed or could in the future but it seems to take a community working together to help make that a reality, something that’s hard for communities in our current structure to do without problematic police involvement.

      In Grace Lee Bogg’s talk with Angela Davis, she said something (among many things) that stuck with me. She said that all crisises hold both danger and opportunity. Even the things we think of as revolutionary won’t be always and can cause their own harm. I think of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas http://harelbarzilai.org/words/omelas.txt in relation to this.

      I think we have to do what we agree is right and deal with the possibility that we can make mistakes and still do our own harm. Some folks may opt out of the world we want, may not believe in our values and that’s on them. I think we try but when people show us who we are we have to make the hard choices, not throwing them away per say, but protecting ourselves.

      Would love to hear more of what you think.

      • Amita Swadhin March 4, 2012 at 2:53 AM #

        thanks, moya! i admire your work as well, and am glad to be in direct conversation.

        i agree that we are far from having created the structures that will allow transformative justice to actually be used in *every* situation or instance of violence. and i remain committed to helping to create the foundations/communities/conditions that will enable such solutions in all cases, perhaps in future generations, because i share the critique of the criminal legal system and prison industrial complex that the approach is founded on. i also believe that the dichotomy between “perpetrator” and “survivor” is a false one, and know that all human beings can commit harm and all human beings can love (and often do both).

        also, i don’t believe in a hierarchy of suffering. in the case of child sexual abuse/child sexual assault (the focus of my current work), i don’t think the effects of being raped once as a child are inherently less than the effects of being raped hundreds of times as a child.

        at the same time, i do think we need to treat people who commit repeated, life-threatening violence and who show zero remorse or zero commitment to changing their behavior and zero openness to being held accountable differently than people who are willing to engage with accountability processes outside of the criminal legal system. because for now, in the absence of the strong community ties we really need to do this work (as you outlined), accountability outside the criminal legal system only works if people who cause harm are willing to engage.

        i used my father in this example because my lived experience is at the root of the work i do, and because even if i ended my political work tomorrow, i would be left with these questions since i can’t walk away from my experience. i went through the criminal legal system against my wishes, as a minor, and was more harmed than i was kept safe by that system. my father, like most people who have sexually assaulted others, is a free person in our society, and he’s also a survivor himself. he has committed egregious and repeated violence in his life and i have reason to believe he continues to do so (though no longer against me, my mother or my sister). i would love to utilize community-based approaches like the feminist care package to hold him accountable, but the reality is that violent retribution from him would be a very real possibility.

        beyond my personal experience, i know of so many other survivors who also still live with the possibility of retribution from people they would like to hold accountable outside of the criminal legal system. and that is real. i want us to be thoughtful about acknowledging the limits of our creative attempts at accountability and healing, even as we pursue them in cases that make sense, in cases where they could work. i understand that any attempt at accountability always involves a risk of retributive violence from the person(s) who have caused harm…but the last thing i’d want to see happen from any community-based accountability effort would be life-threatening violence (or frankly, any violence) in retribution by the person(s) who have caused harm. and that seems likelier to me in cases where life-threatening violence has already been committed repeatedly.

        at the end of the day, i think it’s important for survivors to assert the level of risk they are willing to take to hold the people who have harmed them accountable, and for that to be respected. and even that gets complicated when multiple survivors are involved. ‘safety,’ ‘accountability,’ and ‘healing’ don’t always go hand in hand, and people have different definitions for each of those terms. on a personal note once more, the criminal legal system made things a lot more dangerous for me, my mother and sister. at the same time, i do believe my mother would have died without police intervention. as a kid, i often wished i had an uncle like Maya Angelou did, and sometimes i still do – it would be wonderful to finally live 100% free from the threat of violence from my father. at the same time, i also remember that Maya Angelou stopped talking for five years after her mother’s boyfriend (who raped her) was killed (http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ang0bio-1). creating Secret Survivors (www.secretsurvivors.org) was risky at some level, but that’s a risk i was willing to take in order to share my story of survival publicly – i suppose this was also an attempt at some level of accountability. but i wouldn’t feel safe sending packages to my father’s house, or even having others do so, to address the violence he committed against me.

        all of that said, i do think there are many cases of violence in which a feminist care package can really make a difference without a strong possibility of retributive violence, right now, in the present, and i’m really thankful for your work and glad to see this resource emerging in the world. i just want us all to complicate the discussion and acknowledge there are many instances of violence that we are still not collectively equipped to address, and that obviously means that we have to keep building together, sharing our complex realities with each other, and thinking and acting creatively together. thanks again for engaging in the dialogue.

        ps – re: Omelas, love that story (and the power of sci-fi in general to reflect our reality), could have a whole separate convo on what it means…as it applies to this convo, i see Omelas as the world we currently live in. clearly, we each need to walk away, even if we can’t yet see exactly where we are going or how to get there. but the work lies in convincing others that they, too, need to leave. because we need as many of us as possible if we’re going to build a better world.

      • moyazb March 4, 2012 at 9:38 AM #


        Amita I appreciate you sharing this here. I feel again like you have the answers you are seeking or maybe the way that I presented the piece seemed to foreclose those readings. I so feel your read. I agree absolutely that some folks aren’t in it to own up to their harm and need to be a part of a different process. There is no one solution and I think in some future, we’ll have multiple communities with different processes that folks agree to that are coming out of their own experiences.


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    […] Crunk Feminist Collective, Quirky Black Girls and FAAN Mail have launched a Feminist Care Packages project. Love this: Feminist Care Packages are public offerings for healing and justice, invitations to survivors, perpetrators, and community to create a new narrative for the world we want. They include a letter to the person and a list of resources that may help them on the road to resilience. These are open outpourings of hope and possibility. […]

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