Monthly Archives: April 2016

Nobody to Insider and Back (or Not)

From Nobody to Insider and Back (or Not): the Ad Hoc Committee[1] as Constitutional Moment

Power functions differently now in the international disability movement than it did for a brief period during the CRPD drafting and negotiations. Not having been around before then, I can’t speak to the building up of WNUSP[2] and IDA[3] that happened before 2002. I was a newcomer and I had ideas and I learned fast. I could see that the real power was in the pen, that being part of any drafting group was where influence could be exerted. We were there to make a treaty, and before that we had to set out the positions of increasingly collective and authoritative or quasi-authoritative drafts. And we had to set out the rules for how we would organize ourselves as civil society.

I became centrally involved in all that, functioning as a member of the steering committee of the International Disability Caucus[4] and serving as WNUSP’s representative to the Working Group[5] that drafted the original text of CRPD to be placed in negotiation. Before that I had drafted text on behalf of WNUSP and some of our text proposals had been incorporated into the Bangkok Draft developed at a regional meeting of governments and NGOs in Asia-Pacific, and in the Chair’s draft that the Working Group started from, along with the large compilation of text proposals put forward by governments and NGOs. I had collaborated on position papers and on a constitutitve framework of principles for the IDC, though it is lost to me now, and no one seems to be able to find that document.

In the course of this work I became an insider almost overnight. I went from a nobody, a rank and file member of a despised minority movement of survivors of psychiatric assault, just graduated from law school in early middle age, to a spokesperson and power broker within the international disability community working on an international treaty. WNUSP members and other survivors who joined the work at the UN sometimes saw me as autocratic since I had definite ideas of how to move strategically in this situation based on the positions and principles I had already established with the approval of the WNUSP board and with participation by the membership, when to give way apparently in order to win ground elsewhere that achieved the same goal. They didn’t seem to appreciate the work I had put into this or the decisions that went into it; nor did any of them want to take joint responsibility with me for coordination of our delegation overall, rather they seemed to expect me to administer and act as support staff so that they could come in and do the advocacy work that they felt moved to do at any given moment.   While some of these individuals made substantive contributions, the structure was already there in the achievements I had laid down, and it caused me pain and confusion to have my work disrespected in this way. I wasn’t making a feminist analysis at that time, and thought I was taking up too much space and needed to make way for others, so I built up their achievements and did not claim credit that I deserved, which led me to have to work on making up for it later, and this in turn put me in a position where people saw me as power grabbing. You can’t win.

As an insider, besides what happened within the survivor community, there was the access to UN decision-making process. We actually were part of the treaty making officially as well as unofficially. The IDC as a well organized spokesperson collectively, that functioned with a minimum of dissent since we negotiated well internally, had real clout and used it. Dissent that remained unresolved came from an indigenous person with disability who felt that the treaty was not useful unless it included specific provisions recognizing indigenous people’s situation specifically, and from Australian organizations that disagreed with positions taken by the IDC including the prohibition of forced psychiatric interventions. The IDC worked together based on leadership of DPOs[6] and specifically of the peak bodies representing a particular constituency; the Australian organizations did not represent people with psychosocial disabilities so they had no standing to object to the positions put forward by WNUSP, in addition a national minority position would have had to be worked out with the global movement; they chose instead to remain outside the IDC and not subject to its principle of DPO leadership.

We met with UN officials, state delegations and with the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, as an informal yet critical and openly acknowledged negotiating partner. It would have been a disaster for the negotiations if a treaty had come out that merited criticism or rejection by the disability community. They recognized that we had expertise that states lacked themselves, and that the relevant expertise was the transformation of lived experience into forward looking plans for reform of laws and practices to make an inclusive society – more than the technical expertise of non-disabled lawyers much less medical professionals or service providers. We appealed to the fundamental general principle of non-discrimination and for that brief window of time we were able to make ourselves visible and relevant as protagonists and subjects of international law. I have come to see the Ad Hoc Committee as a constitutional moment in the creation of a global bill of rights for people with disabilities.[7]

Fast forward from 2006 when the Ad Hoc Committee completed its work, to 2016. Ten years, and we are celebrating the anniversary. Why does it cause me so much pain?

The first sign was the Conference of States Parties.[8] Pioneered by the CRPD alone in human rights treaties, modeled on a process taken from the Convention to Ban Landmines, the Conference is empowered to discuss matters related to implementation of the treaty and not only to meet for biannual elections of members of the independent monitoring committee. The COSP after the first few years was easily dominated by funded projects that could put together slick power points, videos, and full color printed books and brochures, that could garner high level officials to moderate their side events, that could bring speakers from anywhere in the world. This left out the very grass roots DPOs that had energized the Ad Hoc Committee; it left out WNUSP and it left out me. Funders also had gone after human rights NGOs and urged them to undertake work on disability rights and to work with DPOs; thus we have tokenism and another route to being supplanted, where non-DPO NGOs take the money and do things their way and carefully circumscribe the participation they accord to disabled advisors or DPO collaborators.

I stopped going to COSP when it became clear I could do no real useful advocacy there, and that no one cared what I thought any more. The formal role we had in the Ad Hoc Committee, the structure for approval or disapproval, agreement or disagreement, was gone. And there was nothing to take its place. At the last COSP in 2015, a psychiatric organization held a side event and argued that mental disability was different, that the rights don’t apply to us in the same way. A colleague of mine went and did her best to counter this but the damage has already been done. The psychiatric organization discussed at this side event their collaboration with UN DESA[9] in preparing a toolkit for Africa about the CRPD. This year the COSP has a theme of “no one left behind,” and will include a subtheme of mental and intellectual disabilities. I do not want to imagine whom they will invite as speakers, and I don’t plan to attend.

Although I have now left my position with WNUSP and work independently through my own nonprofit DPO, CHRUSP,[10] I will note that it doesn’t seem likely that anyone in WNUSP will find the funding to attend much less to make its organizational presence known. If they do it will be a good thing, but little and late. It will take another revolution, another constitutional moment of reinvention, to take back the power and responsibility that we had. We have gone once more from being insiders and collaborators in the creation of public power, to victims and petitioners for power holders to please act for us and not against us. We can’t control what they do and they seem to take pleasure in remaining aloof from us to prove their neutrality, whereas they don’t seem to have the same concern for remaining aloof from psychiatrists or from states that continue to violate our human rights.

I have written “they” and in the UN context the power holders are multi-focal, there is the UN secretariat, the mandate holders and experts, and the states parties themselves. In the Ad Hoc Committee there was a community of interest, an epistemic community working towards a single goal; the Working Group was the epitome of hearing and seeing one another as a smaller representative group of both states and NGOs, but the whole of the Ad Hoc Committee process imperfect as it was, and with flaws and fault lines and betrayals, including the notorious footnote on Article 12 that was ultimately removed, was a community that had coherence and developed a kind of internal constitution in the earliest sense, a way of being collectively that made sense and that affirmed us. Now – power is dispersed and other actors are better equipped than DPOs to maneuver in it. The CRPD becomes part of UN machinery and NGO and philanthropy and state machinery, it becomes part of an existing governance system with its own multiple pecking orders. The constitutional moment though it had internal integrity did not sustain itself.

There could have been other choices made by the international disability community, including myself. We had a choice to continue the IDC or to revert back to IDA, and I chose IDA; I chose wrongly siding with those who had enabled WNUSP to be recognized as an equal. It feels like a pitiful choice and recognition; there were those in WNUSP who wanted me to choose IDC, but I feared that IDC without IDA would be a free for all, and IDA seemed like a better bet to preserve DPO leadership. There wasn’t good enough internal communication and trust to allow us to make clear collective decisions in WNUSP, and I still felt the pressure of the work being only half done until the interpretation was secured.

That was a fateful decision (by all of us who played a role – I cannot guess how it might have played out differently if I had personally taken a different position) and EDF[11] decided to take over IDA or supplant it, they threatened that if we did not open up IDA to regional organizations they would organize a competing worldwide structure made up of regional federations. I made a second mistake by caving into this threat, thinking it was a just demand that we had accepted in the IDC, and ignoring the power play that was obvious and portended problems to come. An individual who had been representing EDF in the Ad Hoc Committee put himself forward as a secretariat, to be seconded by EDF meaning they would pay his salary. He started unassumingly, taking the kind of role that logistics people had done earlier, but eventually defied me in particular in matters of substance and prevailed when no one else in IDA stood up for me. I was the only one who preferred to function as an expert and as a technical person who actually wrote documents and made legal arguments and drafted position papers. Me, and the person who now styled himself Executive Director and wanted me out of the way. He eventually succeeded as I hadn’t understood the power games well enough until I was backed into a corner.

Today, it is the IDA secretariat[12] that wields power in Geneva, controlling access to information and occupying a space between the CRPD Committee and civil society. It is one staff person in particular who plays this role, while the DPOs that make up IDA are brought in as figureheads and showpieces. WNUSP was an exception since I had an interest and advocacy agenda to secure the interpretation, and now I continue as CHRUSP in a similar way. But we do not have the power or influence or access as part of the disability community that we used to; the fiction is maintained that IDA represents civil society in particular DPOs and that collaboration in a formal sense of accountability, or a formal/informal sense of working relationship that allows access to power as a matter of quasi-right rather than privilege beyond the formalistic procedures, is limited to the IDA secretariat and not available to IDA members directly. This is a remarkable takeover of power, a kind of constitutionalization of IDA that flies in the face of IDA’s original aim to act as an alliance of multiple constituencies each of which was sovereign in itself; instead we have empowered an entity that is serving itself and the UN system and only indirectly serving any of us, for example by instructing national DPO coalitions on the accepted understanding of Articles 12 and 14 as prohibiting forced treatment. That is not enough.

UN experts and mandate holders, CRPD Committee members and UN secretariat staff, do not collaborate openly with WNUSP in side events, after a brief time when this did take place and closer collaboration was contemplated. They do collaborate in this way with NGOs that work “for” or “on” the human rights of people with psychosocial disabilities, but WNUSP is curiously disappeared from view, as if we have become personae non gratae. I am welcomed as an expert in many settings at the UN and other human rights spaces, but collaboration that is presented outwardly to the general public is missing.

It is one thing to feel hurt by this personally, especially given the personal friendships involved. It is worse to know that the small space allocated now is what is left for us of the transformative constitutional moment of the Ad Hoc Committee. People have their careers, their mandated responsibilities, and their personal sense of expertise and accomplishment. We have come so far away from the way that we worked together in the Ad Hoc Committee, power shifts and changes to assimilate into an administrative system that cannibalizes its best achievements. It is not that I wanted the Ad Hoc Committee to go on forever. If a constitutional moment is to mean anything, it has to create something that is separate from the constituent assembly. But it is also necessary to be honest about what has happened, and about the institutional shifts in power that are endangering our successes.

Where I end up personally at this point is, stay lean and mean. There’s a lot I can’t reach. Go for the Optional Protocol. Train people who want to learn and who want to do this work. We are still here, we still see each other.


[1] Each italicized word will be defined in an endnote. The Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of the Persons with Disabilities was an open subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly that met to consider and then to draft and negotiate the treaty that became the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. States (governments) had formal decision making power but a significant role was allocated to, and created by, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), particularly organizations of people with disabilities.

[2] World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry is an organization that represents users and survivors of psychiatry and people with psychosocial disabilities at the global level. Membership is open to all users and survivors, self-identified as individuals who have experienced madness or mental health problems or who have used or survived mental health services, and to user/survivor-run organizations.

[3] International Disability Alliance started as a cooperative forum of the leadership of global disability organizations, including WNUSP. IDA created the International Disability Caucus together with other NGOs that attended the Ad Hoc Committee meetings, and during that time functioned mainly through the IDC. IDA was based on a principle of respect for the sovereignty of each organization with respect to its own constituency, and included both cross-disability and single-disability organizations (however, one organization was made of service providers primarily, and another was and is primarily family members of people with intellectual disabilities).   Later, IDA was changed to a legal entity and now functions primarily through its secretariat. See below in text.

[4] International Disability Caucus was created to be the collective platform of the disability community in the Ad Hoc Committee. It had a steering committee composed of the IDA members (global organizations, first seven and then eight), regional DPO (disabled people’s organization) representatives (five), a few non-DPOs doing considerable work on the treaty, and added representatives of women with disabilities, indigenous people with disabilities, an organization working on the rights of children with disabilities, and those who were otherwise unaffiliated. In addition to the steering committee and plenary meetings of the Caucus, we formed workgroups on specific articles or groups of articles, covering the entire text. We put out a daily newsletter calling attention to issues of concern for that day and reacting to the previous day’s negotiations. These latter two mechanisms – the workgroups and the newsletter – were not present at the beginning but were created during the process. Organizations that were part of the IDC provided daily summaries, which can be accessed in the negotiation archives on the UN website.

[5] The Working Group was made up of 27 states, 12 NGOs and one national human rights institution. State delegations were allocated on a regional basis and chosen by regional groups; NGO representatives were chosen by the IDC with understanding that it covered the 7 global IDA organizations and 5 regions, and that is how we allocated our share. The Working Group met in January 2004 over a two-week period to draft a single text that served as the basis for negotiations.   It was a significant milestone in that all the elements of WNUSP’s advocacy were included, although the lack of unanimity on some points was expressed in footnotes. See my paper WNUSP Advocacy on the CRPD: The Emergence of a User/Survivor Perspective in Human Rights for more information; also see the UN CRPD negotiation archives.

[6] DPO stands for disabled people’s organization, an organization of people with disabilities, run by and for people with disabilities. It might include a minority of non-disabled members. Organizations of users and survivors of psychiatry are considered DPOs, as we are discriminated against on the basis of perceived disability whether or not we personally identify as disabled.

[7] I have been reading lots of material on constitutions and constitutionalism, for two classes this semester on Comparative Public Law and International Constitutional Law and Democracy. I can’t put it all together at this moment, but as I read what comes to me most clearly is that the human rights treaty-making process, particularly of the CRPD, was a constitutional moment. It was a focused, deliberative process that created an “international bill of rights” for people with disabilities, that was legitimized both by the formality of creating binding international law and by the organized, inclusive and representative participation of people with disabilities as well the widest possible number of governments from all regions. The process drew on principles that linked us with the existing international human rights regime – non-discrimination, the principle that CRPD was meant to interpret obligations connected with existing rights as they pertained to people with disabilities – as well as principles from disability rights advocacy, including the indispensability of close consultation shading towards leadership of people with disabilities.

[8] The CRPD Conference of States Parties meets every year in New York for three days, with civil society forum(s) beforehand. It is open to all states whether or not they have ratified the CRPD, and open to any non-governmental organizations that are accredited with UN ECOSOC or that become accredited to the COSP itself, which can be done by applying 6 weeks beforehand.

[9] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in New York, is secretariat for the Conference of States Parties, and was secretariat for the Ad Hoc Committee. Its counterpart is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva, which is secretariat for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (monitoring body for the CRPD, composed of independent experts). These are the two components of the UN secretariat that serve the CRPD.

[10] Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, founded in 2009, a US 501(c)3 nonprofit. CHRUSP conducts strategic advocacy in pursuit of legal capacity for all, an end to psychiatric commitment and forced interventions, and the availability of support that respects human rights and meets people’s expressed needs.

[11] European Disability Forum, a regional organization made up of national federations of DPOs and regional organizations including the European Network of (ex-)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry. A member of the EDF board at the time relevant decisions were made told me that it was discussed openly as a takeover of IDA.

[12] The old “IDA” as a gathering of the leadership of member organizations has been transformed into the IDA board. There is a significant difference between cooperating as independent organizations, and deputizing individuals to serve on the board of an organization that is a legal entity in its own right. Board members owe their primary duty to the organization on whose board they serve; and I am not aware of any attempt to clarify the priorities of loyalty for member organization representatives serving on the IDA board.

Reclaiming Public and Private for Women


Feminism in the second wave disparaged the public-private distinction because it was used to uphold male supremacy over women in men’s designated private spaces, to protect male violence and domination of women from scrutiny by the state. Women asserted themselves as subjects of law, who have a right to protection of safety and freedoms against male domination asserted in spaces that previously were claimed to be private and free from state regulation. Women thereby asserted a claim on public protection against men’s claims of privacy.

Catharine MacKinnon also disagreed with the grounding of abortion rights in privacy and saw it as preferable to ground in women’s equality with men. I agree that this would have been preferable, as privacy arguments for abortion and contraception do not adequately distinguish between male and female orientations to privacy, and do not capture either the sexed or gendered nature of women’s right to complete autonomy in our own bodies, including our reproductive capacities.

(Note that I wrote first “over” our own bodies, and I think there is a need in changing to a women’s orientation to privacy, to rethink the property-based conception of autonomy in favor of one based on embodied personhood. I have written about that here.)

Nevertheless, MacKinnon, while she has an analysis of the state as male, does not go further than challenging the aspect of this that relates to the public-private distinction which worked to men’s benefit. She has sought to invoke public power to enforce women’s rights, as the strategy to change the state into an institution more favorable to women. Yet the fundamentally male structure of the state in relation to women remains in place. The state is uniformly further removed from women than it is from men; we do not have equal claims on the state by removing the private sphere from public regulation so that we all stand simply as citizens confronting public power. The legitimation of public power, and the creation of both public and private spheres, is sexed and gendered male, as Carole Pateman discusses extensively in The Sexual Contract.   Public power is neither neutral nor can it be assumed to have the capability to function in women’s interest. Yet, since we have to confront state power as a feature of the legal and political order, we need to look at whether male power externalized in the state can be dismantled from within, through the development of relevant conceptual tools and strategies, or whether there are feasible alternatives to develop alternative forms of society in the modern world.

Perhaps as a step towards this larger project, I am interested in reclaiming both public and private for women, from a woman’s perspective. This interest stems from many sources.

First, I cannot accept that disappearance of the private, and a right to privacy, is in my interest as a woman. A professor who taught me Human Rights Law in 1999, Penny Andrews, once said that she considered that her home needed to be protected from state intervention, she saw it as a place where she was safe from external society. I cannot be sure I remember correctly, but I believe she was speaking as a woman of color about safety from racism in particular, in addition to other potential ways that home is a source of comfort and refuge when it is yours alone or when it is not undermined by domestic violence.   For me as a white woman, seeing my home as protection means a place where I am free from male aggression and where I can be myself without fear of anyone carting me off to psychiatry: where no one will ask me in that patronizing tone, “how are you?” and where there is no penalty for shouting or grieving or staying up all night and writing, or for dancing or wearing the same clothes for days.

That privacy is highly contested. The state can in fact invade my home and cart me off to psychiatry, under domestic law both in Norway where I am living temporarily and at home in the United States. I am highly attuned to this because of my early experience with forced psychiatry that I will never forget, that is stamped indelibly in all parts of my body, mind and soul. I can never take for granted my privacy in my home, or my bodily privacy as a human being, as sacrosanct, the unity of self and body in embodied personhood was broken for me irreparably when my body became a place that was invadable, and I had to learn what it meant to be an autonomous self within a body and mind that were coursing with toxic psychotropic drugs administered to me against my will. It was a privilege to learn that, to experience a core self that could not be touched despite that violation and destruction, and it was something that I would do whatever it takes to not be subjected to again.

Thus I come to a defense of privacy, and say to feminism, privacy is not about men, it is about me. If I am a woman whose rights and interests count for feminism, my privacy against the state and against state-legitimated patriarchal chemical rape by psychiatry has to count for something. There is similarly for me a common experience of having my attention, time, personal space, intruded upon mostly by men but also by male-female couples, by groups, by servers, who do not consider that a woman sitting alone in a public space is anyone at all taking up space there nor is she doing anything, whether she is immersed in reading or in her own thoughts. (I have to say this is less true in Norway than it has been in the United States, but still happens.) Also it is common that men interrupt women’s conversations with each other, and male classmates who are young enough to be my sons have presumed to demand my attention to their needs and become affronted when I denied them.

That is privacy too. Women need the vocabulary to talk about this. It is privacy in public space, that men take for granted as the default human beings, and that I value for myself and claim as a human being also. It is precisely by not being able to take it for granted that I notice men have it and that I choose to name it as a value meaningful to me as a woman; it does not mean that I am modeling myself on men or seeking “mere” equality copying whatever men have.

And public space. I mourn the death of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. There we created public space for women. A world in this space for a week, that was all women, no men except the employees of the company that maintained the porta-potties, who came at night escorted by one of the festival’s security crews. Women built stages and outdoor kitchens to feed thousands, ran the lighting and sound systems for concerts, drove the shuttles, created workshops and created culture of all kinds. Over a forty-year span, some girls grew up at Michigan and brought their own daughters. I can’t imagine how they must feel now. I only went a few times, but needed it to be there for me. One of the most important turning points of my life was initiated by a workshop there, that eventually set me on a path of the spiritually driven political legal activism that I am doing now.

Michigan could not consider itself legally public space; it was a private party thrown by Lisa Vogel who could set the terms for who was invited. The festival maintained an “intention” of welcoming womyn-born-womyn, i.e. natal females, and centered on female experience as women and girls. While some transgendered males (transwomen) attended, the festival did not center their experiences or consider them equally a form of women’s experience as those of females. Transgender advocates protested outside the gates and also in the festival itself, and eventually escalated to organizing a boycott not only of the festival but also of festival performers, seeking to deprive them of a livelihood. I had been away from the festival for long years, when I was in law school and then working on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with important meetings being held in August; then I became involved with Diana who hadn’t gone to festivals and we were just doing other things. Living in the Adirondacks I didn’t need to go to festival to be in the country, and I felt I was drawing on my feminist roots but didn’t feel the need to replenish them.

I came back for the last festival, responding to the escalating attacks and getting involved in Facebook discussions before we even knew it was going to be the last, and then attending with Diana. In many ways it was anticlimactic for me; I’m a different person, and large groups even of womyn are harder for me to feel connected to, also being there with Diana made it more of a continuum with everyday life, but it was enough. I also never felt entirely safe at festival, unlike most women who have gone and felt it was home. For me, intrusive questioning and the culture of a kind of mutual negotiation of personal boundaries that can empower most those who already feel entitled by it, means I do not get to let down my guard. The “how are you?” happens, and I know of crazy wimmin who have been given a hard time. It is not, was not, a safe space to claim madness that has been labeled as such by patriarchy, in a way only madness that wasn’t stamped and vilified as such gets to howl.

So I need more from public space. I need a womyn’s public space and I need for the public space womyn share with men to be controlled effectively by women. And I need it to be all women including me. I need, broadly speaking, for disability as well as race, and of course sex, to be part of what we mean when we talk about public and private, in terms of space and in terms of law and rights. And for disability to include me, to include all ways that patriarchy sorts us as normal human beings and abnormal freaks who only get the crumbs from the table.

I’m left with intersectionality, which has been given a bad name by the transgender movement using it incorrectly. Intersectionality cannot be used to magically transform members of an oppressor class into members of an oppressed class to confer on them all the benefits of positive measures allocated to the oppressed class to remedy systemic discrimination as well as all the entitlements they have already enjoyed and in many respects continue to enjoy as members of the oppressor class. That is what the transgender movement does by claiming that transwomen are women, and not merely claiming but asserting it as uncontestable fact as a trick of language. Women – you know, the people formerly known as biological females living under a construct of gender that shapes other people’s reactions to us irrespective of our subjective feelings – we women are now facing a similar kind of inside-out transformation of public and private that I faced when locked up in psychiatry 40 years ago. Public becomes private and private becomes public so that there is no definitional boundary or physical space claimed by women that men cannot invade. The boundaries are defined by males, period. We cannot talk about female sex or sexuality, about female bodies and their unique features and capacities, as feminists, it is increasingly culturally, politically, and even legally unacceptable to claim the right to create culture and politics as women, to serve women’s own interests. The transgender movement does not oppose pornography of women – the exploitation of female bodies by men – rather they tend to align with pro-pornography and pro-prostitution, although most of the transgendered males who are killed by male violence are killed in the sex industry, made vulnerable similarly to women by that industry that is based on the hatred and abuse of women.

(I have not made a thorough examination of the radical feminist writings on prostitution but I am convinced that it entails dissociation of women, separation of self from body, in a way that amounts to abuse, and that exchanging money for this abuse does not legitimize it. I do see the complexity in relation to agency under limiting conditions, because women do not have equal opportunities in work, and if we are always expected to give a little extra, if men are always extracting sexualized labor from us anyway, why not do it upfront and make it simple and real? From what I am understanding, the vast majority of women in the sex industry have nothing resembling free choice sometimes in getting in and also once they are in, and so I support structural change to end the industry in this case over the individual rights of women to make this accommodation with patriarchy in preference to other strategies. I do not know how transgendered males relate to the sex industry, if they too dissociate and utilize these feminized strategies in order to make an accommodation in a world that hates them, or if as males there are significant differences. But their interests cannot trump those of women to be free from a particularly destructive form of male abuse and violence.)

Not only can we not talk about women’s bodies as feminists. In addition, when gender identity is made to supplant biological sex, or gender in the sense of identities constructed by society, for the purpose of non-discrimination guarantees, we lose the ability to use law to secure women’s rights as women, since women can have no guarantees that males cannot reverse on us simply by claiming to be women.

It is time for a rethinking of public and private as women, as females, as lesbians, to re-situate ourselves with respect to law, public space, private space, with respect to public vs private as government versus private enterprise, as civil society versus home and family, as social role or responsibility versus personality and subjectivity. Lesbian feminist thinkers like Claudia Card and Sarah Hoagland have given us some ways to look at lesbian relationships and community, as a form of social order outside patriarchy (yet surrounded by it and infiltrated by it). Yet these conversations have mostly taken place as a way of theorizing what might amount to carved-out private spaces within the public orders of patriarchy. What if we move further, as Claudia Card began to do with her theories of friendship, to talk about lesbian claims on public space and all aspects of what public can mean.

This entails situating ourselves in relation to the patriarchal state and understanding it fully as patriarchal and thus not ours, as a coercive order that we do not control though we can influence both by appeal to its internal principles like equality and non-discrimination, and by political agitation. We have to re-problematize the public, the patriarchal state, in relation to all women, to reinstate a value of privacy as women, and to re-conceptualize public and private in ways that start from embodied personhood and bodily autonomy, and female sovereignty in the creation of culture, including economic relationships and systems of trade and production, and including the possibility or a new or different legal and political order.