Travel Journal Entries
None of these were edited. They are thoughts that we were able to jot down in between interviews and on train rides.
Lots of the folks we interview point out that they aren’t hushed like in a library or asked to leave if they don’t buy something at the infoshop. While they comment on the possibly unwelcoming symbolic cues of anarchist and punk communities, they say that infoshops are generally a place where they feel comfortable enough to talk with others about politics, identity & community, especially if it is their local infoshop. Infoshops are also a place where people we talked with said that they feel like if they have a question they can find an answer there.
So we went into May Day books and this person was really evasive. He basically jerked us around—and it’s not about us not getting to talk to anyone there, it’s about him not respecting us.
We have pretty much been welcomed in all the spaces we have visited, but at May Day they seemed to feel like their space was most important to the community in NYC and yet it seems like May Day is valuable because of its location and content but not because it actually supports building community.
When I went to speak with this person about why he and his associates made us feel uncomfortable and unwelcome I was received in a typical manner. By typical I mean that he knew what to say but he didn’t really seem to offer up anything but excuses. It was also typical because he didn’t even remember my name and he kept calling me Liz. When I politely and indirectly corrected him, he still wasn’t listening—later when I left the space he said “see you later, Liz.”
He also responded to my observations and feelings by saying that he felt like Jane Doe Books wasn’t doing enough as a “anarcha-feminist space” to combat sexism in their midst and that that was why he felt uncomfortable doing an interview with us. It was as though they saw us as representatives of the people and spaces we were documenting and engaging with—but also I suppose because we are womyn he assumed we must be more aligned to a womyn/trans centered space.
The divisive nature of their critique on Jane Doe and other people we are barely acquainted with in the NY infoshop activist community makes me think that people involved in May Day may be a bit elitist and claim to be otherwise.
By the person’s acknowledgement of “the sexism in the space” and “it rearing its ugly head again” as I was trying to discuss with him why we were upset, it seemed to me as though he was minimizing our complaints. Obviously they aren’t doing much or working very hard to not be sexist. I am so frustrated and angry right now that I can’t even see what their space is doing besides making available books and creating more space for white men to be elitist with their out dated political theories. Why would a collective only engage in keeping a physical space open with radical literature and still behave in a way that is completely typical and in no way that I can see—not even a little bit—working to build relationships based on mutual respect.
Maybe because we were “associated” with Jane Doe we became involved in a lot of history we weren’t aware of. I don’t know…but that still doesn’t excuse the person from his behavior or his friends from theirs. Also, the guy that Liz contacted by email before we even went traveling didn’t respond to her email or acknowledge us with any words when we were introduced to him at May Day. That is fucked up. It isn’t the biggest thing in the world, and we made it a point not to go back because of how we were treated so maybe it is different for other people, but for a space that is supposed to try and create/support a world without oppression it seems like they are just giving it lip service.
While we were coming back from Berkeley into San Francisco on BART yesterday night, I thought again about the fact that we are studying the importance of PLACE and the meaning that people assign to physical places, while we ourselves are in motion, and have been in transit for most of the time that we have been doing the project. It is interesting, watching different landscapes pass by through the train window.
I want to be able to incorporate those feelings of being-in-motion, into the film. Have lots of shots of us on the train, of the passing scenery. It makes one feel very disconnected from tangible places, and yet I was thinking that maybe "being-in-motion" is a place in-itself. Travel through space could be seen as a state of being, as an identity, as a geographic location.
Still, I wonder at people who don't have a certain location that they call "home," as disconnected from that concept as I may feel. Places that make sense to you. Places that speak to you. Whatever you want to call it. I guess that is another interesting aspect of the infoshop culture; that once you understand it, you can travel around the country and understand the symbols and meaning of pretty much any infoshop you go to. Maybe in that way nomads of the infoshop culture have a way to experience “home” and connection to place at every infoshop in every city.
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