Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

To the Editor,

After past experience with the shoddy journalism and penis-obsessed content of the Tucson Weekly, we, RWAG, weren't too interested in its Promise Keeper coverage ("Promises, Promises," September 24). But we found that The Weekly had written an article dealing as intensely with us as with PK, although it was difficult for us to recognize ourselves in James DiGiovanna's jaunty portrait of "inexperienced RWAGsters."

Mailbag In James' very small, sad defense, he has apologized to us for describing us as only lesbians and he has promised a retraction. We wonder if the retraction will be specific enough to state that our group is not only made up of wimmin-lovin' wimmin, but also encompasses men, boys, transgendered people, as well as straight and poly-sexually identified wimmin. We are also curious about whether the retraction will include an apology to Sally Shamrell of Channel 4 News and to RWAG and our protest--based upon assumptions that we are no more than radical lesbians fitting a reformist political mold but not quite getting it right.

If only James could have seen us at 7 a.m. when we met--all 30 of us--and then marched over to the TCC at 7:30, where we bandied supportive vibes with the very visible atheist protesters and our quieter NOW sisters. A pity also that he missed the fire-eating we did earlier in the morning, while he snoozed in his cushy, too-soft-for-the-facts bed. Amusing as it was to know that James got an eyeful in the restroom, it kept him from 100 or so PK men loudly chanting "Jesus" at our group, while gathering in prayer circles.

Perhaps James was aiming for a strictly farcical article and that is why so much information and so many facts were lost on him. We gave everyone who came up to us our press release and James most certainly was handed a copy, as well as faxed one previous to the action. It would have been thoughtful to read it. Also, we all spent some time in discussion with at least one Promise Keeper man each during the day and a few of us spoke with other members of the press. We would have been open to explaining to James what we were doing with our protest, why we felt strongly about our signs and chants, who we are and what our past experiences protesting have been like.

We could have supported the piece on PK being strictly James DiGiovanna's impressions and itinerary at the PK rally, but we will not accept such misstatements and false information about ourselves. James could have at least given us some financial support for his fun, as he did the Promise Keepers. (Ask him to see the Girl for God T-shirt!)

--Radical Wimmin's Action Guild

James DiGiovanna replies: I must admit I'm a bit baffled by the response from RWAG, or whichever member or members of RWAG wrote this letter. To begin with, as I explained to RWAG in my "small, sad defense," I didn't refer to them only as lesbians. This was an editorial insertion that occurred after I submitted my article. They knew this, and yet decided to claim, in their letter, that it was my error.

Second, I never stated or implied that the membership of RWAG were "radical lesbians," nor that their politics were reformist. In their one-page press release, which I did indeed read, they claim to be "revolutionist." They provide little context to explain what they mean by this, as there are certainly many ways to be revolutionary or reformist. In fact, they close their press release by saying that they wish to "expel the unjust establishment by means of purposeful indifference." In my readings of Marx I don't explicitly recall "indifference" being listed amongst the weapons of the revolutionary, but what do I know?

As far as describing their perspective, what I did say about RWAG is that they are a "general-purpose feminist activist group modeled loosely on the Lesbian Avengers." That is, in fact, exactly what RWAG member Elijah Crane told me. If she or any other member feels that this paints the group as "reformist," or is inaccurate, then I apologize, but I was only going on what was actually said at the September 10 meeting of RWAG.

As for my not standing around for every minute of RWAG's protest, I was busy covering the Promise Keepers' rally, and thought it necessary to listen to their speakers and speak to their members. In spite of my not reporting every detail of RWAG's actions, I fail to see how any of my reporting on this varies from "the facts." I wrote about what I saw and heard. The claim that I made "misstatements" is unsupported--the letter from RWAG does not cite even one sentence of my article with which they disagree. What, in my article, constituted "false information"? This is a strong charge, and if I made any errors I would be extremely anxious to correct them. However, RWAG has not provided a single example of a false statement on my part. In fact, their letter doesn't even provide a single example of a statement on my part.

As far as I can tell, other than the editorial error which stated that RWAG was a "group of lesbians" (a phrasing with which I would not be comfortable even if it were true), the only thing I can imagine that RWAG objected to (and I'll have to use my imagination since they provide no examples of objectionable material in my piece) is my criticism of their use of obscenity in their protests. I stand behind this criticism: I don't think it helped their cause, and I think they alienated some of the people they were trying to reach. This is not a damning criticism, mind you; it was merely meant to be constructive, as both RWAG and I are strongly opposed to many of the elements of the Promise Keepers' thought. I found most of their members to be open-minded and interested in change, and am surprised they would be so averse to such mild criticism. Then again, one of their members said that she had suspected me of being an "infiltrator," and then also expressed suspicions regarding a NOW member who had joined their protest before explicitly detailing her other affiliations, so perhaps there's a bit of paranoia at work in at least one RWAG head.

I should point out, finally, that based on my reading of this letter from RWAG, there may well be one false statement in my piece: I should probably retract the line wherein I wrote, "Unlike the PK's, the members of RWAG seem to have a sense of humor." This is clearly not true of some of their membership. I'm terribly sorry, and deeply regret the error.

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