Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who speaks for Deep Green Resistance?
Deep Green Resistance is not monolithic. Those associated with it all have opinions which may differ from those of others within DGR. Thus anything said by a member of DGR should not be construed as official DGR policy unless these people are specifically speaking for DGR. DGR respects a diversity of opinion, expressed respectfully.
How do you define "civilization?"
Civilization is a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts—that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.
See also Aric McBay’s description of civilization.
What is wrong with civilization?
Look around. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. Salmon are collapsing. Passenger pigeons are gone. Eskimo curlews are gone. Ninety-eight percent of native forests are gone, 99 percent of wetlands, 99 percent of native grasslands. What standards do you need?
What is the threshold at which you will finally acknowledge that it’s not redeemable? In A Language Older Than Words I explained how we all are suffering from what Judith Herman would call “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Judith Herman asks, “What happens if you are raised in captivity? What happens if you’re long-term held in captivity, as in a political prisoner, as in a survivor of domestic violence?” You come to believe that all relationships are based on power, that might makes right, that there is no such thing as fully mutual relationships. That, of course, describes this culture’s entire epistemology and this culture’s entire way of relating. Indigenous peoples have said that the fundamental difference between western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded westerners view listening to the natural world as a metaphor as opposed to the way the world really works. So the world consists of resources to be exploited, as opposed to other beings to enter into relationship with. We have been so traumatized that we are incapable of perceiving that real relationships are possible. That is one reason that the culture is not redeemable.
Here is another answer. In Culture of Make Believe, I wrote about how this culture is irredeemable because the social reward systems of this culture lead inevitably to atrocity. This culture is based on competition as opposed to cooperation and, as such, will inevitably lead to wars over resources.
Ruth Benedict, the anthropologist, tried to figure out why some cultures are good (to use her word) and some cultures are not good. In a good culture, men treat women well, adults treat children well, people are generally happy, and there’s not a lot of competition. She found that the good cultures all have one thing in common. They figured out something very simple: they recognize that humans are both social creatures and selfish, and they merge selfishness and altruism by praising behaviors that benefit the group as a whole and disallowing behaviors that benefit the individual at the expense of the group. The bad cultures socially reward behavior that benefits the individual at the expense of the group. If you reward behavior that benefits the group, that’s the sort of behavior you will get. If you reward behavior that is selfish, acquisitive, that’s the behavior you will get. This is Behavior Mod. 101.
This culture rewards highly acquisitive, psychopathological behavior, and that is the behavior we see. It’s inevitable.
Need another answer? In Endgame I explained that a culture that imports resources cannot be sustainable. In order to be sustainable a culture must help the landbase, but importing resources means denuding the land of that particular resource. As the city grows, an ever larger area is denuded. That culture’s way of living can never be sustainable.
This way of life is always based on violence. If the culture requires the importation of resources, trade will never be sufficiently reliable. If the people next watershed over have a resource that culture needs, it will be taken. We could all become junior bodhisattvas and the US military would still have to be huge. Civilization is irredeemable on a functional level.
We can talk all we want about new technologies, but so long as they require copper wiring, they are going to require an industrial infrastructure, and they are going to require a mining infrastructure, and that is inherently unsustainable.
Right now the United States is spending 100 billion dollars a year to invade and occupy Afghanistan. That is $3,500.00 for every Afghan man, woman, and child, per year. At the same time, everybody from right wing pundits to the zombies on NPR ask the question, “Is it too expensive to stop global warming?” There is always money to kill people. There is never enough money for life-affirming ends.
I look around in every direction and I see no sign of redeemability in this culture. The real physical world is being murdered. The pattern is there. We need to recognize that pattern, and then we need to stop those who are killing the planet.
Derrick Jensen’s two volume Endgame fully explores this issue. He wrote 20 Premises as a distilled analysis:
Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.
Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.
Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.
Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.
Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.
Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.
Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.
Another way to put premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.
Premise Nine: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population could occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation). Some of these ways would be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by crash. Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, it’s not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default. Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence required, and caused by, the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich, and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps longterm shift. Or we may not. But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively—if we do not talk about our predicament and what we are going to do about it—the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.
Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.
Premise Eleven: From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been a culture of occupation.
Premise Twelve: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth something—or their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banks—and the poor may not. These “rich” claim they own land, and the “poor” are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.
Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of llusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.
Premise Fourteen: From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.
Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.
Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.
Premise Seventeen: It is a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether actions arising from these will or won’t frighten fence-sitters, or the mass of Americans.
Premise Eighteen: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.
Premise Nineteen: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.
Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.
Modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.
Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.
Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.
Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.
Why does civilization need to be dismantled? Can't we reform the system?
Derrick Jensen: It’s like a doctor friend of mine always says, “The first step toward cure is proper diagnosis.” And the first step toward stopping this culture’s murder of the planet is to recognize its source.
From the beginning, civilizations, a way of life characterized by the growth of cities, have required the destruction of landbases. One of the first written myths of western civilization is Gilgamesh deforesting the plains and hillsides of Iraq to make great cities: the materials for cities have to come from _somewhere_, and “somewhere” is someone else’s home. And once you’ve destroyed your own landbase, you must either expand, that is, conquer, or collapse. I know which most civilizations choose. Which means your civilization requires empire.
Civilization has been the dominant form for human society for less than one percent of the two hundred thousand years humans have walked the Earth. With the growth of cities came the centralization of power, the normalization of exploitation, and the large-scale destruction of natural communities. Since civilized societies must denude the land in order to sustain themselves, they must acquire and consume ever more resources in order to avoid collapse. Infinite growth can never be supportable on a finite planet. We’re currently witnessing the inevitable results of such a system – mass extinction on a scale never before seen on Earth, accelerating climate change, and an entire culture dependent on exploitation.
The civilized system needs us to perpetuate it, but we do not need the civilized system to survive. In fact, our survival and our humanity depend on our willingness and ability to resist the ravages of industrial civilization. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived as participants in the biotic communities around them. Examples of non-civilized human cultures are every day being destroyed by civilized culture in its endless quest for power, but they do exist. Humans can be more than civilized. There is no way to reform a system which is wholly dependent on genocide and slavery – it can only be dismantled. If we fail to stop it, we are dooming not only human society, but all life on the planet.
In 2004, George Bush received more than 62 million votes in the United States. Admittedly, the Democrats are just the good cop in a good cop/bad cop scenario, but that doesn’t alter the fact that 62 million people voted for George Bush. Now people are camping out overnight to get Sarah Palin’s signature. In the small county where I live there are a few issues that will get enough people excited to storm the board of supervisor’s office. One is that they want to maintain their ability to grow small amounts of marijuana. Another is that they want the right to drive ORVs anywhere they goddamn please.
People are not rioting over the unwillingness of this government to provide healthcare. People aren’t rioting over the toxification of the total environment and their loved ones dying of cancer. They’re not rioting over the United States spending billions of dollars-billions and billions of dollars-to kill people all over the world. And, in fact, one of the smartest political moves that any politician can make is to increase the military budget. That is tremendously popular.
This culture must be undone completely. That’s an absolute necessity. Humanity lived without industrialism for most of its existence. And industrialism is killing the planet. Humans cannot exist without the planet. The planet (and sustainable human existence) is more important than industrialism.
Of course, we would all rather have a voluntary transformation, a tipping point. But if this tipping point does not occur, we need a back-up plan.
And, no, civilization will not transform itself into something sustainable. That’s not physically possible. Civilization is functionally unsustainable. And the fact that ideas like the hundredth monkey are spoken of quite often in public discourse, lets us know the extreme distance that we have to go to make the sort of changes that are necessary. The fact that people are still talking about this level of detachment from real physical reality is evidence itself that there will not be a voluntary transformation.
No, the momentum is too fierce. What we need to do is stop this culture before it kills the planet. And I can’t speak for you, but I’m not going to rely on a fictional hundredth monkey to do the work for me when I can do the work myself.
Aric McBay: Proponents of a chiefly educational strategy often assert that persistent work at building public awareness will eventually result in a global “paradigm shift,” which will dramatically change the actions and opinions of the majority. The term paradigm shift comes from Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, but it’s inapplicable to our situation for a number of reasons. Although the phrase gained usage in the 1990s as a marketing buzzword, Kuhn wrote explicitly that the idea only applied to those fields usually called the hard sciences (physics, biology, chemistry, and the like). A paradigm, he said, was a dominant system of explanation in one of these sciences, whereas “a student in the humanities has constantly before him [sic] a number of competing and incommensurable solutions to these problems, solutions that he must ultimately examine for himself.” Scientists trying to use equations to explain, say, orbital mechanics, can come to agreement on which theory is best because they are trying to develop the most accurate predictive equations. Social sciences and other fields do not have this luxury, because there is no agreement on which problems are most important, how to evaluate their answers, what kind of answer is the most important and how precise it should be, and what to do when answers are arrived at.
Because of these differences, Kuhn argued that the true scientific paradigm shifts always lead to better paradigms-paradigms that do a better job of explaining part of the world. But in society at large this is not true at all-dominant worldviews can be displaced by worldviews which are considerably worse at explaining the world or which are damaging to humans and the living world, a phenomenon which is distressingly common in history.
Furthermore, Kuhn argued that even when a much better paradigm is supported by strong evidence, the scientific community doesn’t necessarily switch quickly. Scientists who have been practicing the obsolete paradigm for their entire careers may not change their minds even in the presence of overwhelming evidence. Kuhn quotes Nobel laureate Max Planck, who said that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Even worse for us, Kuhn and Planck are assuming the people in question are genuinely and deliberately trying to find the best possible paradigm. Doing this is literally a full-time job. Do we really believe that the majority of people are spending their free waking hours trying to gain a deeper understanding of the world, trying to sift through the huge amounts of available information, trying to grasp history and ecology and economics? The very idea of a paradigm shift assumes that the majority of people are actively trying to find large scale solutions to our current predicament, instead of being willfully ignorant and deeply invested in a convenient economic and social system that rewards people for destroying the planet.
Indeed, part of the problem with “education” is that it’s not only leftists who do it, and it’s rarely unbiased. Studies have shown that on the right wing, more educated people are less likely to admit the existence of global warming. This is probably because they have more sophisticated rationales for their delusions.
But let’s pause for a moment and take the most optimistic (if somewhat mangled) interpretation of Kuhn’s concept and assume that a beneficial paradigm shift is going to happen, rather than a worsening shift in dominant politics and worldviews. That shift would require abundant evidence that the dominant culture-civilization-is inherently destructive and doomed to destroy itself along with the living world. Since we can’t do multiple experimental runthroughs of a global industrial civilization, for many people the only inescapable empirical demonstration of the dominant system’s fundamental unsustainability would be the collapse of that system. Only at that point would the majority of people be seriously and personally invested in learning how to live without destroying the planet. And even then, those people would likely continue to insist on their outdated worldview, until, as Max Planck observed, they die, resulting in a further decades-long delay beyond collapse before a beneficial paradigm was dominant. This means that even in the most optimistic and reasonable assessment, a “global paradigm shift” would be decades too late.
Can't we just walk away? Withdraw our support?
Derrick Jensen: There are two problems with this. With civilization having metastasized across the globe and bombing the moon, where are you supposed to walk to? Are you supposed to walk to the melting arctic? Are you supposed to walk to the middle of the ocean, where there’s forty-eight times as much plastic as there is phytoplankton? Where are you supposed to go? There is dioxin in every mother’s breast milk, so you can’t even drink breast milk without getting dioxin. There are carcinogens in every stream in the United States and, presumably, in the world.
Where are you supposed to go?
Some respond to this by saying, “Oh, no, it’s supposed to be a mental state. We’re supposed to walk away emotionally and withdraw.” But the real physical world is the basis for all life and you cannot withdraw from that.
Withdrawal in the face of moral complexity is no answer. Withdrawal in the face of atrocity is no answer. Two hundred species went extinct today. When faced with those committing atrocities, it is incumbent upon you to stop those atrocities using any means necessary. If you were being tortured to death in some basement, and I knew this, would you want me to walk away? Would you accept it if I said, “Oh, here’s an answer, I will walk away.” What would you call me if I did that? I’m guessing that “coward” would be the kindest word you would use.
Why hasn't DGR taken a stance on vaccines, 9/11, etc.?
Radical social movements tend to attract people who hold fringe beliefs. While we would never dictate what a person chooses to believe personally, DGR is strategic in what controversies and beliefs we hold positions on and in how we spend our time and energy. These beliefs do nothing to further DGR in achieving our goals and could alienate comrades and potential allies. Members who hold such views are expected to refrain from presenting or debating them while representing or engaging in DGR. Some views, such as the reality of anthropogenic global warming, are foundational to the organization.
Certain fringe beliefs, such as Holocaust denial, are in violation of DGR Principles and Code of Conduct and disqualify believers from membership.
What does effective resistance look like?
We advocate a two-pronged movement:
- An aboveground dedicated to building alternative institutions, relocalizing food systems, political pressure, and direct action campaigns; and
- An underground dedicated to militant dismantling of the industrial infrastructure that is destroying the planet.
A culture of resistance exists to encourage and promote organized political resistance, nurturing the will to fight. It helps people break their psychological identification with the oppressive system and create a new identity based on self-respect and solidarity. It offers the emotional support of a functioning community that believes in resistance as well as an intellectually vibrant atmosphere that encourages analysis, discussion, and the development of political consciousness. It produces cultural products like poems, songs, and art organized around the theme of resistance. It builds the new institutions that will take over as the corrupt ones come down. And it provides loyalty and material support to the aboveground frontline resisters and political prisoners.
Won't effective movements be demonized and attacked by those in power?
Derrick Jensen: They will, but that’s not a reason to submit. This is how authoritarian regimes and abusers work: they make their victims afraid to act. They reinforce the mentality, “If I try to leave him, my abusive husband, my pimp, may kill me.” And that is a very good reason to not resist.
This question explicitly articulates what we all know to be true: the foundation of this culture is force. And the primary reason we don’t resist is because we are afraid of that force. We know if we act decisively to protect the places and creatures we love or if we act decisively to stop corporate exploitation of the poor, that those in power will come down on us with the full power of the state. We can talk all we want about how we supposedly live in a democracy. And we can talk all we want about the consent of the governed. But what it really comes down to is if you effectively oppose the will of those in power, they will try to kill you. We need to make that explicit so we can face the situation that we’re in. And the situation that we’re in is those in power are killing the planet and they are exploiting the poor, they are murdering the poor, and we are not stopping them because we are afraid.
But there have to be some of us who are willing to act anyway. We should never underestimate the seriousness of attempting to stop those in power. And we also need to be very clear about the seriousness of what is happening to the world. If you’re reading this book, you probably understand how desperate things are.
What is the legacy that we want to leave for those who come after? How do you want to be seen by the generations that follow? Do you want to be seen as someone who knew what the right thing was and didn’t do it because you were afraid? Or do you want to be remembered as someone who was afraid and did the right things anyway? It’s okay to be afraid. Almost everyone I know is afraid at some time or another. But there is tremendous joy and exhilaration that comes, too, from doing what is right. The fact that those in power will use their power against resisters is not a reason to give up the fight before we even begin. It is a reason to be really, really smart.
People now have a tremendous disadvantage over people in the past in that people now live inside a panopticon. The ability to surveil and to kill at a distance has greatly increased over what it was in times past. Contrast the powers of the state at present with those, say, in Nazi Germany. For the Nazis, fingerprint technology was still very new. They had nothing like the capacity to surveil that modern states have. They had only rudimentary computers. They didn’t have the ability to do voice-recognition software. They didn’t have any software. So those in power have a tremendous advantage over historical popular movements.
Indigenous and traditional resistance movements had villages where they could be safe. They had wild places where they could be safe. They had their own territory. People now don’t have that. They do, however, have a significant advantage over the indigenous resistance movements of the last 500 years in that they mix in. Tecumseh could not have walked into Philadelphia and not been recognized. People today have that advantage.
But the biggest advantage that people today have over people in times previous is that the age of exuberance is over. The age of cheap oil is over. The empires of today are on their way to collapse. It used to seem that as civilization dissolved, anyone who even remotely opposed it would be put up against a wall. But now it looks as though as civilization falls apart, its emperors may not even be able to deliver the mail, much less maintain the level of oppression that they have historically perpetrated on those who oppose empire. Think of the collapse of the Soviet Union; it just sort of fell apart instead of instigating purges or gulags. The Soviet Union didn’t have the resources.
Even the United States is falling apart. The US government can’t even maintain the water systems in this country and it can’t maintain the roads. State and federal governments can’t pay for colleges anymore. Those in power don’t have the money, and they don’t have the resources, and those resources will never come back.
If someone would have taken out some important piece of infrastructure in years past, those in power would have been able to replace it. But now the governments of the world don’t have the money. The more they spend on rebuilding, the less primary damage they can do.
There is an alternative media in place, but will it counter this demonization? No. The alternative media is tepid and full of horizontal hostility. The larger question is, “Is there a media forum that is supporting serious resistance against this culture’s murder of the planet?” And the answer, sadly, is no. Even so-called nature magazines have tremendous resistance to promoting anything other than composting or riding bicycles. Or rather, I should say, a lot of the readers do. One purpose of [Deep Green Resistance] is to help create that literature of resistance-an absolutely necessary literature of resistance-that will help to put in place a larger media of resistance. It takes all forms, from comics to films to books to graffiti to people having conversations on their back porches. We need to be discussing this and we need to be discussing it openly. One of the absolutely necessary precursors to a resistance is to talk about it. This has been true of every resistance movement in the past and it will be true as long as there are resistance movements. We must put all the options on the table and discuss them openly, honestly, earnestly.
Anarchist Black Cross does political prisoner support and there are other organizations that do political prisoner support. But the truth is we need to build a much broader base of that. Prisoner support is actually pretty lacking. And it’s pretty easy to do the basic stuff. My mother, every year, writes to many political prisoners on their birthdays and around winter solstice. Many of these people have been in prison for thirty and forty years, and her letters may be one of two or three that they receive throughout the year. So there are organizations in place, but those organizations have to be much more robust. And so far as support for families, no, there isn’t. But there should be. These are things that can and should be done by those who are entirely aboveground. We have emphasized throughout this book that not everyone needs to take up serious illegal action. But we need a culture of resistance, and part of a culture of resistance is a robust prisoner support network for those who are on the front lines. We need a system where we support the troops, those who are actually fighting for the planet. That needs to be in place and so far it’s not.
What do you mean by "aboveground" and "underground?"
In DGR we use these terms to distinguish between different parts of a movement. “Aboveground” refers to those parts of a resistance movement which work in the open and operate more-or-less within the boundaries of the laws of the state. This means that aboveground activism and resistance is usually limited to nonviolence. DGR is an aboveground organization; we are public and don’t try to hide who we are or what we desire, because openness and broad membership is what makes aboveground organizations effective.
“Underground” or “belowground” refers to those parts of a resistance movement which operate in secret. Generally, these groups use more militant or violent tactics like property destruction and sabotage to achieve their goals. The use of these tactics makes them an open enemy of the state, which makes security and secrecy very important for underground groups. Historically, these groups have a stringent membership process to make sure new recruits are prepared for the psychological and/or physical demands of underground work and are trained in combat and other necessary operations as well as in proper security culture.
Aboveground security culture is also important in maintaining the effectiveness of aboveground groups.
DGR is strictly an aboveground organization. We will not answer questions regarding anyone’s personal desire to be in or form an underground. We do not want to be involved in or aware of any underground organizing. We do this for the security of everyone involved with Deep Green Resistance.
Derrick Jensen: It’s not a question of taking more or less risks by going aboveground or belowground. As repression becomes more open, it is the people who are aboveground who are often first targeted by those in power. Erich Mühsam was aboveground. So was Ken Saro-wiwa. Many writers have been. That is our role. Our role is to put big bull’s-eye targets on our chests so that we can help to form a culture of resistance. Our role is to be public. And, of course, if you are public, you cannot also be underground; there must be an absolute firewall between aboveground and belowground activities and organizations. This is basic security culture.
We are not asking anyone else to do things we aren’t willing to do. In fact, we aren’t asking anyone to do anything in specific. We all need to find our own roles, based on our personal assessment of what risks we can take and what our gifts are.
Those in power will come down on us if we resist. It doesn’t matter if that resistance is violent or nonviolent. It’s resistance that brings the risk and retaliation, and it’s resistance that our planet needs.
Why and how should I take action?
Derrick Jensen: Because the world is being murdered. And because members of the so-called “first world” are the primary beneficiaries. It is not up to the poor to be on the frontlines yet again. It is not up to the indigenous to be on the frontlines. It is not up to the non-humans to be on the frontlines. It is our responsibility as beneficiaries of this system to bring a halt to the system.
MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) have been able to reduce oil industry output by up to 30 percent in Nigeria. They have done so because they love the land they live in and that land is being destroyed. We have much greater resources at our disposal. It’s our responsibility to use those resources and to use the privilege that we have to stop this culture from killing the planet.
[As far as how to take effective action,] there are three answers. The philosophical answer is that we can’t know the future. We can never know whether some action will be useful. We should pick what we think are the most effective actions, but that still doesn’t guarantee any given act will succeed. What we can know is that if this culture continues in the direction it’s headed, it will get where it’s headed, which is the murder of the planet. There are already casualties, and they’re called the salmon. They’re called the sharks. They’re called the black terns. They’re called migratory songbirds. They’re called oceans, rivers. They’re called indigenous people. They’re called the poor. They’re called subsistence farmers. They’re called women.
The second, historical answer is about the way resistance movements work. You lose and you lose and you lose until you win. You get your head cracked, get your head cracked, get your head cracked, and then you win. You can’t know when you start how many times you have to get your head cracked before you win. But the struggle builds on struggle. It has to start somewhere and it has to gain momentum. That happens through organizing, it happens through actions. And it happens through victories. One of the best recruiting tools is some sort of victory. And you can’t have a victory unless you try.
And now the pragmatic: we are horribly outnumbered and we do not have the luxury to throw away our lives. How we can be most effective? We have to be smart. Choose targets carefully, both for strategic value and safety. And we have to organize. A lone person’s chance of sparking a larger movement is much lower than that of a group of organized people.
Whatever actions a person takes (and this is true in all areas of life) need to count. Many of the actions being taken right now are essentially acts of vandalism, as opposed to acts of active sabotage that will slow the movement of the machine. So choose. How can you make your actions (and your life) have the most significance in terms of stopping the perpetration of atrocity?
All those who begin to act against the powers of any repressive state need to recognize that their lives will change. They need to take that decision very seriously. Some of the people captured under the Green Scare knew what they were getting into, and some of them made the decision more lightly. The latter were the people who turned very quickly when they were arrested. One person turned within five seconds of getting into the police car. That person probably didn’t seriously consider the ramifications of his actions before he began. The Black Panthers knew when they started the struggle that they would either end up dead or in prison.
Finally, we have to always keep what we’re fighting for in sight. We are fighting for life on the planet. And the truth is, the planet’s life is worth more than you. It’s worth more than me. It is the source of all life. That doesn’t alter the fact that we should be smart. We need to be very strategic. We need to be tactical. And we need to act.
Did John Brown throw away his life? On one hand, you could say yes. His project ultimately failed. But, on the other hand, you could say that it set up much greater things. Did Nat Turner throw away his life? Did members of the revolt at Sobibor throw away their lives? On one hand, you could say yes. On the other hand, you could say that they did what was absolutely right and necessary. And something we must always remember is that those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising had a higher rate of survival than those who went along. When the whole planet is being destroyed, your inaction will not save you. We must choose the larger life. We must choose to do what is right to protect the planet. It is our only home.
What comes next?
There are countless thousands of examples of land-based, sustainable, just human cultures, the majority of them indigenous. When the global economy collapses, we will need to live this way once again. We can’t go back, but we can learn from the past while maintaining the most important knowledge from the present. Future people will need to help the land heal by dismantling the vestiges of this system and stewarding toxic waste such as nuclear plants into dormancy. Low-energy societies will thrive in the ruins of civilization. They will face their own challenges, as all people do, but they will be strong if we protect their ability to exist by removing threats to the planet.
Wouldn't dismantling the industrial system lead to nuclear meltdowns?
What about all the people who live in cities? Won't shutting down the industrial system doom all these people to death?
Derrick Jensen: No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red. If you participate in the global economy, your hands are blood red because the global economy is murdering humans and non-humans the planet over. A half million children die every year as a direct result of so-called “debt repayment” from non-industrialized nations to industrialized nations. Sixty thousand people die every day from pollution. And what about all the people who are being forced off their land? There are a lot of people dying already. Failing to act in the face of atrocity is no answer.
The grim reality is that both energy descent and biotic collapse will be ever more severe the more the dominant culture continues to destroy the basis for life on this planet. And yet some people will say that those who propose dismantling civilization are, in fact, suggesting genocide on a mass scale.
Polar bears and coho salmon would disagree. Traditional indigenous peoples would disagree. The humans who inherit what is left of this world when the dominant culture finally comes down would disagree.
My definition of dismantling civilization is depriving the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and depriving the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. Nobody but a capitalist or a sociopath (insofar as there is a difference) could disagree with that.
Years ago I asked Anuradha Mittal, former director of Food First, “Would the people of India be better off if the global economy disappeared tomorrow?” And she said, “Of course.” She said the poor the world over would be better off if the global economy collapsed. There are former granaries of India that now export dog food and tulips to Europe. The rural poor the world over are being exploited by this system. Would they be better off? What about the farmers in India who are being forced off their land so that Coca Cola can have their water? What about those who are committing suicide because of Monsanto? A significant portion of people in the world do not have access to electricity. Would they be worse off with grid crash? No, they’d be better off immediately. What about the indigenous peoples of Peru who are fighting to stop oil exploration by Hunt Oil on their land, allowed because of United States-Peruvian trade agreements?
When someone says, “A lot of people are going to die,” we’ve got to talk about which people. People all over the world are already enduring famines, but for the most part they are not dying of starvation; they’re dying of colonialism, because their land and their economies have been stolen. We hear all the time that the world is running out of water. There is still as much water as there ever was, but 90 percent of the water used by humans is being used for agriculture and industry. People are dying of thirst because the water is being stolen.
When I asked a member of the Peruvian rebel group MRTA, the Tupacameristas, “What do you want for the people of Peru?” his response was, “What we want is to be able to grow and distribute our own food. We already know how to do that. We merely need to be allowed to do so.” That’s the entire struggle right there.
I used to think it’s true that the urban poor would be worse off at first, because the dominant culture, like any good abusive system, has made its victims dependent upon it for their lives. That’s what abusers do, whether they are domestic violence abusers, or whether they are larger scale perpetrators. That’s how slavers work: they make enslaved people dependent upon them for their lives. One of the brilliant things this culture has done has been to insert itself between us and our self-sufficiency, us and the source of all life. So we come to believe that the system provides our sustenance, not that the real world does.
But I recently asked Vandana Shiva if the people of Mumbai, for example, would be better off quickly if the global economy collapsed. She said yes, for the same reasons Mittal did: most of the poor in major cities in India are there because they’ve been driven off their land, with their land stolen by transnational corporations. With the global economy gone, they would return to the country and reclaim the land. Given the option between getting their land back and staying in the city, nearly all would want to move back to the country.
This is a huge number of people we are talking about. Most of the urban poor are people who live in third-world slums. That’s more than a billion people, and, if trends continue, that will double in two decades. Many of these are people who have been forced off their traditional land. The poor will be able to take back this land if the governments of the world are no longer capable of propping up colonial arrangements of exploitation.
I have another answer, too. As this culture collapses, much of the misery will be caused by the wealthy attempting to maintain their lifestyles. As this culture continues to collapse, those who are doing the exploiting will continue to do the exploiting. Don’t blame those who want to stop that exploitation. Instead, help to stop the exploitation that is killing people in the first place.
The authors of this book are not blithely asking who will die. In at least one of our cases, the answer is “I will.” I have Crohn’s disease, and I am reliant for my life on high tech medicines. Without these medicines, I will die. But my individual life is not what matters. The survival of the planet is more important than the life of any single human being, including my own.
Since industrial civilization is systematically dismantling the ecological infrastructure of the planet, the sooner civilization comes down, the more life will remain afterwards to support both humans and nonhumans. We can provide for the well-being of those humans who will be alive during and immediately after energy and ecological descent by preparing people for a localized future. We can rip up asphalt in vacant parking lots to convert them to neighborhood gardens, go teach people how to identify local edible plants, so that people won’t starve when they can no longer head off to the store for groceries. We can start setting up neighborhood councils to make decisions, settle conflicts, and provide mutual aid.
Do you want total lawlessness?
Derrick Jensen: A couple of years ago, I got an email from a policeman in Chicago. He was reading Endgame and liking it except that he thought I came down too hard on cops. He said, “Our job is to protect people from sociopaths and that’s what I do every day. I protect people from sociopaths.” I wrote back, “I think that’s really great that you protect us from sociopaths. When my mom’s house got burgled, the first thing we did was call the cops. When my house got burgled, I turned it over to the cops. It’s great that you protect us from sociopaths. My problem is that you really only protect us from poor sociopaths, not the rich sociopaths.”
After Bhopal, Warren Anderson was tried and found guilty in absentia for the atrocities of running Union Carbide. He was sentenced to hang. And the United States refuses to extradite him. If it were up to me, all the people associated with the Gulf oil spill, which is murdering the Gulf, would be executed. That would be part of the function of a state. Instead, one of the primary functions of government is to protect the rich sociopaths from the outrage of the rest of us. Who is protecting the farmers in India from Monsanto? Who is protecting the farmers in the United States from Cargill and ADM?
I did a benefit for a group of Mexican-Americans who were attempting to stop yet another toxic waste dump from being placed in their neighborhood. The toxic waste was, of course, from somewhere far away. The conversation turned to what it would be like if police and prosecutors were not enforcing the dictates of distant corporations instead of the wishes of the local communities. What if they were enforcing cancer-free zones? Or clearcut-free zones? Or rape-free zones, for that matter? And then everyone laughed, because everyone knows it’s not going to happen. But what if we in our communities started to form community-defense groups [and militias] and said, “This is going to be a cancer-free zone. This will be a clearcut-free zone. This will be a rape-free zone. This will be a dam-free zone.” What would happen if we did that?
That’s exactly what we’re talking about in this book. We want to have our communities be cancer-free. We want them to be clearcut-free. We want them to be dam-free. We want them to be rape-free. And we need to stop the sociopaths who are hurting us.
As civic society collapses in a patriarchy, things can become much worse. Look at the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are organized mass rapes. What do we do about that? One of the things we need to do is to prepare now. That’s why we’ve emphasized in this book so often that the revolutionaries need to be of good character. A friend of mine says that he does the environmental work he does because as things become increasingly chaotic, he wants to make sure that some doors remain open. If the grizzly bears are gone in twenty years, they’ll be gone forever. But if they are there in twenty years, they may be able to be there forever. It’s the same for the bull trout, the same with the redwoods-if you cut this forest, it’s gone. But if it’s standing, who knows what will happen in the future? And it’s the same for people’s social attitudes; as things become increasingly chaotic, events become increasingly uncontrollable. We must make sure that certain ideas are in place before that happens. That’s why we have emphasized zero-tolerance for horizontal hostility, zero-tolerance for violence against women, zero-tolerance for racism. Because as civic society collapses-no matter the cause of this collapse-men will rape more, and the time to defend against that is not then, but now.
There are two approaches to the problem of men assaulting women. One of them is in a line by Andrea Dworkin, “My prayer for women of the twenty-first century: harden your hearts and learn to kill.” Women need to learn self-defense, and they need to form self-defense organizations, and they need to be feminists. And men must make their allegiance to women absolute. They must have a zero-tolerance policy for the abuse of women.
The same is true for race-based hate crimes. As the economic system collapses, those whose entitlement has put them at the top of the heap are going to start blaming everyone else (witness the Tea Party, for example). As Nietzsche wrote, “One does not hate what one can despise.” And so long as your entitlement is in place and so long as your entitlement isn’t threatened, you can despise those whom you’re exploiting. But as soon as that entitlement is threatened, that contempt turns over into outright hatred and violence. As civilization collapses, we will see an increase in male-pattern violence. We will see an increase in violence against those who resist. We will see an increase in violence against people of color. We are already seeing this.
My answer for people of color is, learn to defend yourself and form self-defense organizations. And the job of white allies is to make our allegiance to the victims of white oppression absolute.
There have been many resistance movements who have formed self-defense organizations and their own police forces. The IRA acted as neighborhood police, the Spanish Anarchists organized their own police force in some of the bigger cities, and the Gulabi Gang organizes women to protect themselves and their communities from police and male violence. We need something similar. We need to form self-defense organizations to defend those humans and non-humans who are assaulted and violated. Those assaults will continue to happen until we stop them.
To be clear, civilization is not the same as society. Civilization is a specific, hierarchical organization based on “power over.” Dismantling civilization, taking down that power structure, does not mean the end of all social order. It should ultimately mean more justice, more local control, more democracy, and more human rights, not less.
Won't civilization just re-grow?
Derrick Jensen: I have several answers to that. The first is that, no, this is a one-time blowout. The easily accessible reserves of oil are gone. There will never be another oil age. There will never be another natural gas age. There will never be another Iron Age or Bronze Age. Further, there will never be-or not for a very, very long time-an age of tall ships, for example, because the forests are gone. This culture has destroyed so much that there will not be the foundation upon which a similar civilization could be built. Topsoil is gone. No, there will never be another rise of a civilization like this. There might be-presuming humans survive-some small-scale civilizations, but there will never be another one like this.
Second, I don’t really think that’s the right question. It’s like waking up in the middle of the night and hearing the screams of your family as they’re tortured, and then you look up and you see an ax murderer standing over your bed. You turn to the person sleeping next to you and you say, “Darling, honeybunch, how can we make sure that ax murderers don’t break into our home tomorrow?” Right now, we have a crisis and we need to deal with that crisis. I wish we had the luxury to worry about whether civilization will rise again in the future, but we don’t have that luxury. Right now, we need to stop this culture from killing the planet and let the people who come after worry about whether it’s going to rise again.
This question reminds me of another I was once asked: “How much time do you think we have left?” I gestured toward the person next to her. “Pretend she is being tortured in that room over there. We can hear her screaming. How much time do you think she has left before we need to act? How much time should we allow the torturers to continue before we stop them?” There are injustices happening right now. Two hundred species went extinct today. And how much time did they have? None. The question for them is not, will civilization rise again? The question is what can we do to protect them right now. If we see these injustices, we need to stop them.
Green Technology FAQs
Will green technology save the world?
No. Wind turbines, solar PV panels, and the grid itself are all manufactured using cheap energy from fossil fuels. When fossil fuel costs begin to rise such highly manufactured items will simply cease to be feasible.
Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, and chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labor, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits.
The basic ingredients for renewables are the same materials that are ubiquitous in industrial products, like cement and aluminum. No one is going to make cement in any quantity without using the energy of fossil fuels. And aluminum? The mining itself is a destructive and toxic nightmare from which riparian communities will not awaken in anything but geologic time.
From beginning to end, so called “renewable energy” and other “green technologies” lead to the destruction of the planet. These technologies are rooted in the same industrial extraction and production processes that have rampaged across the world for the last 150 years.
We are not concerned with slightly reducing the harm caused by industrial civilization; we are interested in stopping that harm completely. Doing so will require dismantling the global industrial economy, which will render impossible the creation of these technologies.
The majority of electricity that is generated by renewables is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries that are destroying the planet. Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of devastation. Living communities — forests, rivers, oceans — become dead commodities.
The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, businesses, and homes, at a much lower cost. Within the context of industrial civilization, this approach makes more sense both economically and environmentally.
That this approach is not being taken shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but profiteering. It benefits no one other than the investors.
Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20–30 years, then need to be replaced. The production process of extracting, polluting, and exploiting is not something that happens once, but is continuous – and is expanding very rapidly. Renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure, as they are entirely dependent on it.
What about recycling?
Recycling may be “more efficient” than virgin extraction, but it is not a solution to environmental problems. In fact, it contributes to them. Recycling is an extremely toxic, polluting industry. Scrap yards, for example, tend to be among the most polluted locations in most cities.
Recycling the aluminum, steel, silicon, copper, rare earth metals, and other substances used in “green technologies” can only be done at great cost to the planet. Recycling these substances is extremely energy intensive, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, and contributes to groundwater pollution and toxification of the planet.
Recycling metals requires global trade, as the recycling mostly takes place in impoverished countries with lax environmental and health regulations. It is extremely dangerous for the workers. Many parts of renewable technologies cannot be recycled. And furthermore, recycling benefits industry by providing cheaper raw materials—often, recycling may benefit the global capitalist system more than the planet itself.
Further Reading / Viewing
- The False Solutions of Green Energy (one hour video)
- Ozzie Zehner – Green Illusions (one hour video)
- Myths of Biofuels (one and a half hour video)
- Resistance Radio interview with Annette Smith (forty minute audio podcast)
- “A Problem with Wind Power” by Eric Rosenbloom.
- “Energy Balance of the Global Photovoltaic (PC) Industry – Is the Industry a Net Electricity Producer?” by Michael Date and Sally M. Benson.
- Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism by Ozzie Zehner. University of Nebraska Press, 2012.
- Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet by Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and Aric McBay. Seven Stories Press, 2011.
- Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power and Earthly Ruin by Gray Brechin. University of California Press, 2006.
- “Reservoir Emissions” by International Rivers. Accessed October 31st, 2014.
- “Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes” by Jason Dearen, Associated Press. February 10th, 2013.
- “Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem” by Gail Tverbeg. January 2014.
Renewables aren't perfect, but they're still better than fossil fuels — right?
Renewable energy technologies are better than fossil fuels in the same sense that a single bullet wound is “better” than two bullet wounds. Both are grievous injuries.
Do you want to shoot the planet once or twice?
The only way out of a double bind is to smash it: to refuse both choices and craft a completely different path. We support neither fossil fuels or renewable tech.
Even this bullet analogy isn’t completely accurate, since renewable technologies, in some cases, have a worse environmental impact than fossil fuels.
More renewables doesn’t mean less fossil fuel power, or less carbon emissions. The amount of energy generated by renewables has been increasing, but so has the amount generated by fossil fuels. No coal or gas plants have been taken offline as a result of renewables.
Only about 25% of global energy use is in the form of electricity that flows through wires or batteries. The rest is oil, gas, and other fossil fuel derivatives. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions, it would only reduce total emissions by about 25%. And even that would have little meaning, as the amount of energy being used is increasing rapidly.
It’s debatable whether some “renewables” even produce net energy. The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance, grid connection, and disposal of wind turbines and solar panels may be more than they ever produce; claims to the contrary often do not take all the energy inputs into account. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out.
Biofuels, another example of “green tech”, have been shown to be a net energy loss in almost every case. Those biofuels that do produce net energy produce an exceedingly small amount. These fuels are often created by clearing natural ecosystems such as tropical rain forests or prairies for agricultural production, a process which releases even more greenhouse gases, reduces biodiversity, and reduces local food availability. Biofuel production is considered a major factor in rising food prices around the world in recent years. These rising food prices have led to widespread starvation, unrest, and violence.
Some people like to promote hydroelectric energy as a source of “green power”. This is false. Dams have enormous environmental impacts on rivers, beaches, and estuaries. Beyond these impacts, many dams are a large source of methane gas due to decomposing organic matter at the bottom of the reservoir. Methane from hydroelectric dams may be responsible for 4% or more of global warming.
Can't a Green New Deal save the economy?
Renewable energy technologies rely heavily on government subsidies, taken from taxpayers and given directly to large corporations like General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi. While the scheme pads their bottom lines, it doesn’t help the rest of us.
Further, this is the wrong question to ask. The industrial capitalist economy is dispossessing and impoverishing billions of humans and killing the living world. Renewable energy depends on centralized capital and power imbalance. We don’t benefit from saving that system.
Instead of advocating for more industrial technology, we need to move to local economies based on community decision-making and what our local landbases can provide sustainably. And we need to stop the global economy on which renewable energy depends. A “Green New Deal” might save the capitalist system, but it won’t benefit the planet if it is focused on green technology.
Solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars can't be bad, can they?
Solar panel production is now among the leading sources of hexafluoroethane, nitrogen triflouride, and sulfur hexaflouride, three extremely potent greenhouse gases which are used for cleaning plasma production equipment. As a greenhouse gas, hexaflouroethane is 12,000 times more potent than CO2, is 100% manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000 years once released into the atmosphere. Nitrogen Triflouride is 17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and Sulfur Hexaflouride is 25,000 times more powerful than CO2. Concentrations of nitrogen triflouride in the atmosphere are rising 11% per year.
From a report by the Silicon Valley Toxics coalition:
As the solar industry expands, little attention is being paid to the potential environmental and health costs of that rapid expansion. The most widely used solar PV panels have the potential to create a huge new source of electronic waste at the end of their useful lives, which is estimated to be 20 to 25 years. New solar PV technologies are increasing efficiency and lowering costs, but many of these use extremely toxic materials or materials with unknown health and environmental risks (including new nano materials and processes).
One of the most common wind turbines in the world is a 1.5 megawatt design produced by General Electric. The nacelle weighs 56 tons, the tower 71 tons, and the blades 36 tons. A single turbine such turbine requires over 100 tons of steel.
This model is a smaller design by modern standards. The latest industrial turbines stand over 600 feet tall and require about eight times as much steel, copper, and aluminum.
This material comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is always someone’s home, someone’s sacred site, someone’s source of food and water and air. We just don’t hear about them, because if they are humans, they are usually poor and brown. This is where racism, colonialism, environmentalism, and extractive economics come together.
The largest producer of wind turbines in the world is Vestas, a $15 billion corporation. The largest U.S. producer of turbines is General Electric, which has assets of more than $700 billion and is the fourth-largest producer of air pollution.Can anyone really think – after Fukushima, Hanford, Bhopal – that these massive corporations are concerned about justice or sustainability? Profit is their bottom line, and life will always remain secondary to that. Wind turbines kill massive and increasing numbers of bats and birds.
The production of electric cars requires energy from fossil fuels for most aspects of their production and distribution. This requirement is perhaps even more extreme with electric cars as there is a need to manufacture them to be as lightweight as possible, due to the weight of the battery packs. Many lightweight materials utilized are extremely energy intensive to produce, such as aluminum and carbon composites. This is why you will probably never see an electric truck – they are just too heavy. And of course, trucks are required for extraction, and fossil fuels drive all trucks. Electric/hybrid cars are also charged by energy that, for the most part, comes from power plants using natural gas, coal or nuclear fuels.
A recent study by the National Academies, which analyzed the effects of vehicle construction, fuel extraction, refining, emissions, and other factors, has shown that the lifetime health and environmental impacts of electric vehicles may actually be greater than those of gasoline-powered cars, depending on the electric grid used to charge the car.
But we need electricity, right? What are your alternatives?
Humans, like other animals, get our energy mainly by eating other plants and animals. Plants gather energy from the sun. No species needs electricity for survival. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive.
Right now, food and habitat for living beings are being sacrificed to feed electricity. The infrastructure, mines, processing, and waste dumping required for electrical generation is destroying forests and other natural places around the world. Ensuring energy security for industry requires undermining life security for living beings (that’s us).
Electricity has only been in common use since the 1920s (or later in large parts of the world). Many people in the majority world have no electricity at home, even now. There are plenty of ways of meeting our needs that are not dependent on electricity.
Generation of electricity is unsustainable, if by “sustainable” we mean something that we can keep doing forever without causing any lasting or major harm to the planet. Small-scale, localized electrical generation systems using the scraps of civilization may continue for some time after collapse of centralized power grids, but global industrial production of “green” products will kill the planet just as surely as the status quo.
We are skeptical even of using industrial “green” technology to facilitate a transition to a completely non-industrial way of life. Dependence on industrial technology can easily become a cult of progress, and can lead people away from traditional, sustainable ways of living.
The only truly “green” sources of power come from the earth and don’t require destruction. By that, we are talking about photosynthesis and muscle power. Permaculture, as well as other traditional subsistence methods such as hunting, animal husbandry, fishing, and gathering, must be the foundations of any future sustainable culture; otherwise any claims to being “green” will be falsehoods. Perennial polycultures, both cultivated and wild, can also supply the other basics necessities of life: clean water, clean air, material for clothing and shelter, and spiritual nourishment.
Deep Green Resistance stands in opposition to industrial technologies that are labeled as “green” or “renewable”. Instead, we stand in solidarity with the natural world and communities that are impacted by industrial extraction all around the world.
What is your stance on green cities and public transit?
In some cases, dense urban development is preferable to suburban sprawl. It can reduce the impact on local wild places significantly. However, the focus on dense urban communities and public transit that is found in the modern environmental movement is problematic in several ways.
The main problem with this approach is that it takes for granted the existence of cities. Cities are unsustainable, because they require the routine importation of resources — food, timber, minerals, and fuels — from the surrounding land, and give nothing back. The land that the city is on cannot supply the citizens with enough food, shelter, fuel and other material goods.
This is in contrast to villages, camps, and other small settlements, which throughout history have served as a sustainable model for human communities.
Cities are always drawing resources from their surrounding region, and in the modern world, from the entire globe. Densely populated cities may reduce the impact of so-called “development” on their immediate area, but they do not address the fundamental impacts of cities, or of the modern globalized city.
For example, while some neighborhoods in New York City are extremely dense and use relatively low amounts of energy, this is a limited point of view. Rainforests are falling and mountains are being mined away to supply these dense cities with resources. Any serious attempt at environmentalism must take into account the impact of producing and transporting materials into the city, and must address the fundamental issues of resource extraction and the expansion of global industrial civilization.
At best, dense urban growth and public transportation are mildly effective “harm reduction” strategies. At worst, these approaches to environmentalism provide a green veneer to corporatized, profit-driven, and extraction-dependent cities. They obscure the problem, and thus contribute to it.
To learn more about cities, how they function, and why they are unsustainable as a form of social organization, read our definition of civilization and refer to books such as Endgame: The Problem of Civilization and Bright Green Lies: How The Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It.
Radical Feminism FAQs
Is DGR a feminist organization?
In the words of Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism is the political practice of fighting male supremacy in behalf of women as a class.”1
Let’s start with the phrase “women as a class.” From a radical perspective, society is made up of groups of people; some groups have power over other groups. The powerful use ideology to naturalize their dominance and the subordinate group’s submission: if society is actually arranged by nature or god or the cosmos, then there’s no point in fighting it. Ideology can be very effective at foreclosing resistance.
The model of racism we have inherited in the US was originally created by the English in their attempts to colonize Ireland. Before that, differences between peoples were seen as cultural. But by the 17th century, the English had solidified an ideology that made biological claims about the supposed inferiority of the Irish. The Irish weren’t culturally deficient—they were by their nature “savage.” The English image of the Irish was constructed around the concept that they were a separate “race” from the English, a race that was godless, immoral, lazy, “wicked, barbarous and uncivil.” Underpinning this image was “the belief that many Irish were incapable of being civilized, that the ‘wild’ Irish, those who most vigorously resisted English hegemony, would remain untamed: and that the only way to bring them under some form of civilized control was to enslave them.”2 With this racial ideology, people around the world could be enslaved or simply wiped out with no ethical or moral reservations on the part of the colonizers. That’s pretty much the last four hundred years in one sentence.
The point is that race is not biologically real. Politically, socially, economically, race is, of course, a brutal reality around the globe. But the concept of race is a creation of the powerful. If we want a just world, the material institutions that keep people of color subordinate need to be dismantled. And the concepts of “whiteness” and “blackness” themselves will ultimately be abandoned as they make no sense outside of the realities of white supremacy.
A lot of people get confused when asked to apply the same radical analysis to gender. But from a feminist perspective, the parallels are obvious. Are there differences in skin tone across the human species? Yes. Why do those differences mean anything? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power needs an ideology called racism. Are there differences in the shapes of people’s genitals? Yes. Why do those differences matter? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power—patriarchy—needs an ideology called gender.
Patriarchy is a political system that takes biological males and females and turns them into the social categories called men and women, so that the class of men can dominate “people called women.”3 Gender is to women what race is to people of color: the ideological construct that underlies our subordination.
Men’s socialization is the process that turns a child into a boy and then into a man. Being a man requires a psychology based on entitlement, emotional numbness, and a dichotomy of self and other. Masculinity is essential to any militarized culture, because those are the psychological traits necessary in soldiers. One can only kill on command if the human impulse to care for one another has been subdued or eradicated. The constant need to turn others into Others is one result: the rejected, “soft” parts of the self are projected outward so they can be destroyed.4 This is a project that will likely never end as humans do have hearts and souls, and those can never be excised, try as men might. The Viet Nam vets who suffered the worst post-traumatic stress weren’t the ones who survived atrocities, but those who committed atrocities.5
Masculinity requires what psychologists call a negative reference group, which is a group of people “that an individual … uses as a standard representing opinions, attitudes, or behaviour patterns to avoid.” Boys in patriarchal cultures create negative reference groups as a matter of course. Boys’ first despised Other is, of course, girls. No insult is worse than some version of “girl,” usually a part of female anatomy warped into hate speech. But once the psychological process is in place, the category “female” can easily be filled in by any group that a hierarchical society needs dominated or eradicated.
A personality with an endless drive to prove itself against another, any other, combined with the entitlement that power brings, creates a violation imperative. Men become “real men” by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.
For the entitled psyche, the only reason “No” exists is because it’s a sexual thrill to force past it. The real brilliance of patriarchy is right here: it doesn’t just naturalize oppression, it sexualizes acts of oppression. It eroticizes domination and submission. Through the concepts—and lived reality—of masculinity and femininity—patriarchy institutionalizes domination and submission across the culture and deep into our psychologies.
And so men commit brutal and violating acts as a matter of course. Psychological profiles of rapists have found “that they are ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ men who sexually assault women in order to assert power and control over them.”6 Battering is the most common violent crime in the US, committed once every fifteen seconds. That’s a man beating up a woman. It’s one of the leading causes of injury and death to women in the US.7 A Canadian survey found that four out of five female undergraduates had been victims of violence in a dating relationship.8 The World Health Organization estimates that “one in four women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, sometimes with fatal consequences.”9 Anything happening on this scale is clearly normal, a part of everyday life, the behavior into which a global culture of male dominance is socializing men as a matter of course.
Right now, patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet. Women are just another resource for men to use in their endless quest to prove their toxic masculinity and breed soldiers for civilization’s constant state of war. The masculinity and the war—against people, against the planet—together have created a perpetual motion machine of domination and destruction of the land and human rights. This is why militarism is a feminist issue, why rape is an environmental issue, why environmental destruction is a peace issue. We will never dismantle misogyny as long as domination is eroticized. We will also never stop racism. Nor will we mount an effective resistance to fascism, since, as Sheila Jeffereys points out, fascism’s root is ultimately the eroticization of domination and subordination–fascism is in essence a cult of masculinity.10 Those are all huge spin-outs from the same beginning. The result is torture, rape, genocide, and biocide.
And the deep heart of this hell is the authoritarian personality structured around masculinity. Lundy Bancroft, writing about the mentality of abusive men, writes, “The roots [of abuse] are ownership, the trunk is entitlement, and the branches are control.”11 You could not find a clearer description of civilization’s or patriarchy’s reign of terror.
What of femininity? Femininity is a set of behaviors that are in essence ritualized submission. Female socialization is a process of psychologically constraining and breaking girls—otherwise known as “grooming”—to create a class of compliant victims. Across history this breaking has including so-called “beauty practices” like FGM (female genital mutilation) and footbinding as well as ubiquitous child sexual abuse. Femininity is really just the traumatized psyche displaying acquiescence.
It’s become chic to embrace trendy notions from Post-modernism in some activist circles. This includes the idea that gender is a “binary.” But gender is not a binary: it’s a hierarchy, global in its reach, sadistic in its practice, murderous in its conclusion, just like race, just like class. Gender is the ideology that underlies the material conditions of women’s lives: rape, battering, poverty, prostitution, and gynocide. Those conditions could not exist without the creation of social categories “men” and “women”—and those violent, violating practices are in turn are what create people called women. Those conditions, known in the aggregate as patriarchy, have to be resisted and dismantled, until the concept of gender no longer has meaning.
Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White, has argued for abolishing the white race, defined as “white privilege and race identity.”12 DGR invites white people to undertake that very necessary project, both personally and politically. Likewise, DGR wants to dismantle the sex-class men, which is simply male privilege and gender identity. Men can be traitors to their class. Women can refuse to submit to the crushing constraints of gender, physically and psychologically. We can all fight.
The planet is in shreds; the indigenous displaced and disappeared; slavery a way of life only temporarily veiled by distance and fossil fuel; male supremacy is saturated with sexual sadism, women and girls rendered voiceless and violated. We say: enough. Liberty and a living planet will only be won when masculinity—its religion, its economics, its psychology, its sex—is resisted and defeated. DGR stands with women in this war. Join us!
1Dworkin, “Woman-Hating Right and Left”, p. 30.
2Smedly, p. 63.
3Dworkin, Letters, p. 270.
7Langford and Thompson, p. 7.
8DeKeseredy and Kelly.
9“UN calls for strong action to eliminate violence against women.”
10Jeffreys, p. 65.
11Bancroft, p. 75.
Bancroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002.
DeKeseredy, W. and K. Kelly. “The Incidence and Prevalence of Woman Abuse in Canadian University and College Dating Relationships: Results From a National Survey.” Ottawa: Health Canada, 1993.
Dworkin, Andrea. Letters from a War Zone. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.
Dworkin, Andrea.”Woman-Hating Right and Left,” in Dorchen Leidholdt and Janice G. Raymond, eds. The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.
Griffin, Susan. Pornography and Silence: Culture’s Revenge Against Nature. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1981.
Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Langford, Rae and June D. Thompson. Mosby’s Handbook of Diseases, 3rd Edition. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005.
Lenskyj, Helen. “An Analysis of Violence Against Women: A Manual for Educators and Administrators.” Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1992.
Jeffreys, Sheila. “Sado-Masochism: The Erotic Cult of Fascism.” Lesbian Ethics 2, No. 1, Spring 1986.
Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2007.
“UN calls for strong action to eliminate violence against women.” UN News Centre. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=16674&Cr=&Cr1=.
Andrea Dworkin. Life and Death. New York: The Free Press, 1997.
Cordelia Fine. Delusions of Gender. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.
Sheila Jeffreys. Beauty and Misogyny. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Robert Jensen. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. Boston: South End Press, 2007.
Rebecca M. Jordan-Young. Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.
What is radical feminism?
There are many branches of feminism. Radical feminism takes aim at the root cause of the crisis facing women: the system of violence that keeps people divided by sex with a dominant class (men) and an oppressed class (women).
This system of violence is called patriarchy, and over the past two thousand years it has come to rule most of the world. Patriarchal civilization is based on exploiting and consuming women, living communities, and the earth itself.
Radical feminists seek to liberate all women from oppression. We side with women resisting male violence in all its forms, including rape, porn, prostitution, female infanticide, and forced birth. We are dismantling misogyny (hatred of women), biophobia (fear and hatred of nature), and lesbophobia (fear and hatred of lesbians).
Radical feminists in DGR are committed to overturning this brutal patriarchal culture in defense of the earth, the source of life; and our sisters, women around the world.
Does radical feminism advocate for women to have power over men?
Dee Graham addresses this in her book Loving to Survive (page 243):
Whereas patriarchy imagines matriarchy as a matter of reversal in the power relation between men and women, matriarchy requires a rejection of the dichotomous thinking on which this male fantasy is founded. Matriarchy is a completely different form of organization than patriarchy, emphasizing what Miller describes as power with, as distinct from power over. Love and Shanklin define matriarchy as a society in which all interpersonal relationships are modeled on the nurturant relationship between a mother and her child. According to these authors this nurturant mode would inform all social institutions. The goal of the nurturant relationship would be to strengthen ‘the unique will of each individual to form open, trusting, creative bonds with others.’
How does radical feminism intersect with race and class struggle?
Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Barbara Smith, among others, were integral to the Second Wave of radical feminist theory. Many women of color and poor/working class women made sure that race and class issues were grappled with in a way that previously had not been addressed across the Left. This was essential, since some Second Wave feminist individuals and groups who made contributions to radical feminist theory and practice were unaware of their race and class privilege, which alienated women of color and working class women in the movement. The women mentioned above made sure that these overlapping systems of oppression were recognized and highlighted.
The sadistic systems of racism and classism intersect with patriarchy. All women are oppressed for being female, but this oppression takes different forms and degrees of severity along the lines of race and class. The sex-caste status of females as a class does not cancel out the differences of experience between women of differing racial and economic classes. White, middle/upper class, and otherwise privileged women have a responsibility to prove themselves as allies to women of color. Only after this trust and solidarity is established will women be able to organize collectively to overthrow male power.
Why are some people accusing DGR of transphobia?
Deep Green Resistance has been accused of transphobia because we have a difference of opinion about the definition of gender.
DGR does not condone dehumanization or violence against anyone, including people who describe themselves as trans. Universal human rights are universal. DGR has a strong code of conduct against violence and abuse. Anyone who violates that code is no longer a member of DGR.
Disagreeing with someone, however, is not a form of violence. And we have a big disagreement.
Radical feminists are critical of gender itself. We are not gender reformists–we are gender abolitionists. Without the socially constructed gender roles that form the basis of patriarchy, all people would be free to dress, behave, and love others in whatever way they wished, no matter what kind of body they had.
Patriarchy is a caste system which takes humans who are born biologically male or female and turns them into the social classes called men and women. Male people are made into men by socialization into masculinity, which is defined by a psychology based on emotional numbness and a dichotomy of self and other. This is also the psychology required by soldiers, which is why we don’t think you can be a peace activist without being a feminist.
Female socialization in patriarchy is a process of psychologically constraining and breaking girls—otherwise known as “grooming”—to create a class of compliant victims. Femininity is a set of behaviors that are, in essence, ritualized submission.
We see nothing in the creation of gender to celebrate or embrace. Patriarchy is a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power, and we want to see it dismantled so that the category of gender no longer exists. This is also our position on race and class. The categories are not natural: they only exist because hierarchical systems of power create them (see, for instance, Audrey Smedley’s book Race in North America). We want a world of justice and equality, where the material conditions that currently create race, class, and gender have been forever overcome.
Patriarchy facilitates the mining of female bodies for the benefit of men – for male sexual gratification, for cheap labor, and for reproduction. To take but one example, there are entire villages in India where all the women only have one kidney. Why? Because their husbands have sold the other one. Gender is not a feeling—it’s a human rights abuse against an entire class of people, “people called women.”
We are not “transphobic.” We do, however, have a disagreement about what gender is. Genderists think that gender is natural, a product of biology. Radical feminists think gender is social, a product of male supremacy. Genderists think gender is an identity, an internal set of feelings people might have. Radical feminists think gender is a caste system, a set of material conditions into which one is born. Genderists think gender is a binary. Radical feminists think gender is a hierarchy, with men on top. Some genderists claim that gender is “fluid.” Radical feminists point out that there is nothing fluid about having your husband sell your kidney. So, yes, we have some big disagreements.
Radical feminists also believe that women have the right to define their boundaries and decide who is allowed in their space. We believe all oppressed groups have that right. We have been called transphobic because the women of DGR do not want men—people born male and socialized into masculinity—in women-only spaces. DGR stands with women in that decision.
If radical feminists assert that trans-identified males still retain male privilege, how do you account for violence directed against them?
All biological males benefit from patriarchy. No internal identity or emotional state can change the material reality of those benefits. Only changing the material conditions—ending patriarchy—can end those benefits.
Having said that, people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes face risks. They are hated because they are proof that gender is not natural. All systems of power have to naturalize their hierarchies, for obvious reasons. It is much harder to fight a social order that was created by God, or nature, or evolution. Male supremacy has to claim that masculinity and femininity are biologically or even cosmically real. Women who resist femininity and men who refuse masculinity are living proof that patriarchy is not inevitable. They might even serve as an inspiration to the rest of us to go on a wildcat strike in the gender factory. Such people will, of course, be punished with ridicule, censure, and even violence.
But all women are subjected to men’s ridicule, censure, and violence. Women who conform to femininity are punished and women who resist it are also punished. Global statistics on male violence show exactly how viciously men punish women for the sin of simply being female. Either path–resistance or conformity–leads to potential rape, torture, and murder. Andrea Dworkin called that “the barricade of sexual terrorism.” All women live inside it, whether we resist or do our best to conform. Nothing we do individually will free us. There is no way out except to destroy the barricade, brick by brick.
Gender exists because the people on top—men—need to know who counts as human and who is an object, a thing to be used. That has to be made very clear, both ideologically and visually. That’s why Jews were forced to wear yellow stars—they had to be visually demarcated as subhuman. That’s why women’s and men’s clothing is so different. Until very recently in western societies, it was illegal for women to wear men’s clothes. In Iran, it’s not just illegal for a barber to give a girl a “boy’s” haircut: it’s punishable by death. The visual demarcation is crucial to the ideological demarcation of human and non-human, subject and object, person and thing. Women’s clothing both advertises us as sexually available and constrains our movement: we exist to be used and, just in case we get other ideas, we can’t get away.
At the center of all of this is rape. As Catharine MacKinnon put it so succinctly, “Man fucks woman; subject verb object.” Men need to know who is in the fuck-object category. They need that category to be absolute because they need to know that they will never be in it. They know too well the sadism that they’ve built into their sexuality. This is the deal they make with each other: don’t do it to me, do it to her instead.
People who don’t conform to gender throw a wrench into the works. If men can’t tell who is a man and who is a woman, how will they know who is human and whom to use, whom to fuck? This is why homophobia springs from misogyny. The divide between human-subject and fuck-object has to be absolute to keep men—real men—safe from each other, physically and ideologically.
This is why people who don’t conform to the visual demands of gender are punished so viciously by men. Men invested in masculinity are terrified of the possible confusion. They can’t have the smallest hint of “gayness” attached to themselves, and the idea that some men might end up in the fuck-object category is horrifying. Their fear is based on a very real assessment of men’s sexual sadism and the endless punishments meted out to those fuck-objects. So men who don’t conform have to be punished until they do, to keep all men safe.
The only way to stop this is to dismantle male supremacy. No one belongs in the fuck-object category: not women, not gay men, not people who don’t conform for whatever reason. The socialization that creates gender—the violence and violation that men and boys do to girls and women—has to end, and the power that demands gender’s existence conquered. When that happens, patriarchy will be over and the concept of gender will have no meaning.
Is disagreement about gender a form of violence?
No, it is an act of disagreement. That is what it means to live in a pluralistic society. We are going to disagree, sometimes vigorously, sometimes painfully.
Over the course of peoples’ lives, our identities change many times. Indeed, as radicals, we actively question and abandon many of the identities to which we have been socialized. This is both healthy and necessary work.
Our point is that identity is not sacrosanct. Identities can be oppressive to ourselves and to other people. An example would be white people’s racialized identity as white people. Breaking the identification with the category “white” does not relieve white people of their privilege—they’re still white in a racist world—but it is an important stepping stone to fighting racism. So we don’t think there is anything wrong with questioning identity as such.
To assert that questioning the legitimacy of gender can be equated with denying the existence of a person is implying that humans cannot exist without gender. We do not accept this. We do not accept that gender, or any oppression, is inevitable or natural. We can do better than the caste-system called gender.
Is radical feminism essentialist?
No, most definitely not. Essentialism is the idea that gender is biological, not social. So boys are naturally aggressive and adventurous, while girls are nurturing and emotional. Gendered behavior is attributed to brain structure, hormones, or both.
Feminists have fought essentialism since the beginning. Biological essentialism has been used to excuse everything from women’s exclusion from education to men’s sexual violence. Those in power need to naturalize their dominance and the subordinate group’s submission: if society is actually arranged by nature or god or the cosmos, then there’s no point in fighting it. The ideology of essentialism can be very effective at foreclosing resistance.
Think about race. Race is not biologically real. Politically, socially, economically, race is, of course, a brutal reality around the globe. The concept of race, however, is a creation of the powerful. If we want a just world, the material institutions that keep people of color subordinate need to be dismantled. And the concepts of “whiteness” and “blackness” themselves will ultimately be abandoned as they make no sense outside of the realities of white supremacy.
Many people are confused when asked to apply the same radical analysis to gender. But from a feminist perspective, the parallels are obvious. Are there differences in skin tone across the human species? Yes. Why do those differences mean anything? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power needs an ideology called racism. Are there differences in the shapes of people’s genitals? Yes. Why do those differences matter? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power—patriarchy—needs an ideology called gender.
Patriarchy is a political system that takes biological males and females and turns them into the social categories called men and women, so that the class of men can dominate people called women. Gender is to women what race is to people of color: the ideological construct that underlies our subordination.
So we are firmly against the notion that gender is biological. In fact, it’s the genderists who make essentialist claims for gender. In their view, men and women display domination and submission, respectively, not because of social conditions, but because we have different brains. Gendered behavior is natural, they say, a function of our biology. The claim is often that prenatal hormones create these propensities, and that the “wrong” hormones can produce the “wrong” brain. Hence it is possible to have a man’s body with a woman’s brain.
We find it very strange that we are accused of essentialism when we believe the exact opposite. Gender is socially constructed to the root, and those roots are soaked in women’s blood. We aim to dismantle it. If gender was a product of our biology, that wouldn’t be possible. We reject the idea of a female brain as firmly as we reject the idea of a “Negro brain.” And we will never accept that femininity is natural to women. It is the ritualized displays of submission created by trauma and demanded of all oppressed groups in a social hierarchy. We refuse to submit and we encourage women everywhere to resist.
For further reading:
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca Jordan-Young.
The Emperor’s New Penis by Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen
Aren't you re-affirming gender when you defend women-only space?
No, we are acknowledging gender and its terrible harms when we create women-only space. We are fighting gender, with its demands for feminine submission and its assertion that women exist to take care of men.
Gender is socially and politically very real and very deadly. It is the structure of women’s oppression. Individually feigning “gender blindness” does not make gender go away: only radical action on a broad political scale can accomplish this. Gender is not just any social construction, but a social construction specifically designed to privilege one class (males) at the expense of another class (females).
Acting as if gender does not exist cannot counter it: on the contrary, that only helps to mask a system of oppressive power. No one would suggest that the working class could fight capitalism by abandoning their class consciousness. Likewise, people of color have long been adamant that “racial colorblindness” only serves the project of white supremacy by hiding the existence of oppressive race relations. By being conscious of their group condition, women and men can remain aware of their own relative oppression or privilege, which is necessary when combating systems of oppressive power.
The creation of women-only spaces ensures that women in our organization have a liberatory space to work, organize, and bond, free from the negative impact of men. All oppressed peoples need their own space to feel some moments of freedom, create community, and overcome submissive and self-hating behavior. All oppressed peoples have a right to draw a boundary, including women. DGR is committed to defending the right of women to define our own space.
What about two-spirits and other third-gender roles?
There are thousands of cultures around the world, with varying perspectives on gender, sex roles, customs, behavior, presentation, and so on. We believe that a radical feminist analysis is valuable cross-culturally, but also refuse to oversimplify the complexity of the world. We invite you to research indigenous and third-world radical feminists for a nuanced perspective on this issue.
What about kids who identify as the opposite sex from a young age?
These children are simply acting like themselves. If patriarchy and its gender-straitjacket didn’t exist, neither would this question. It’s unbelievably frustrating that in this day and age we still have to argue that it’s okay for girls to play rough and tumble and for boys to play dress-up, as kids and for the rest of their lives if they want.
It’s gender that is the problem, not the children, and definitely not the children’s bodies. Right now there is a frightening push to medicalize non-conforming children, including “treatment” with dangerous and experimental drugs. It is profoundly regressive to chemically and surgically alter children to get them to conform to gender caricatures. And some of the children on whom these experiments were done have already come forward with regrets. (See links below.)
In fact, research shows that the majority of children who have symptoms of “gender dysphoria”, when not “treated” with some form of medical intervention, will grow up to be happy, healthy, non-gender dysphoric adults, most of whom are gay or lesbian. What’s happening is the medical erasure of gay and lesbian youth. We should be very concerned about this social trend as the latest version of eugenics.
Some further reading:
 Dworkin. “Against the Male Flood: Censorship, Pornography, and Equality,” p. 270.
 Dworkin, Right-Wing Women, p. 122.
 Clothing has also been legislated by class. Such laws are called “sumptuary laws.” A brief history is here.
 Mackinnon, p. 124.
Dworkin, Andrea. “Against the Male Flood: Censorship, Pornography, and Equality,” in Letters from a War Zone, (New York, E.P. Dutton), 1988.
Dworkin, Andrea. Right-Wing Women. New York: Perigee Books, 1978.
MacKinnon, Catharine A. Towards a Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Zucker, KJ. Gender identity development and issues. Child Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics North America 2004, 13: 551-568.
Fine, Cordelia. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010.
Jeffreys, Sheila. Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West. London: Routledge, 2003.
Jeffreys, Sheila. Unpacking Queer Politics. Camrbridge, UK: Polity Press, 2003.
Jordan-Young, Rebecca M. Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010
Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2007.