Interview with Charles Rae

charlie rae

Washington, DC (TFC) – Charles Rae is a writer, artist, photographer and social justice theorist. Rae’s first publications were for a bilingual feminist collective ‘Wham-Bam-Thankyou-Ma’am’ back in 2010, where she illustrated narratives about the female orgasm and poetry about abusive relationships. Rae wrote a centerfold column about apathy for University of Connecticut’s Free Press in 2012. She has worked as an art director for a couple of local political campaigns, one resulting in the election of Durham, NC’s first openly gay elected official in 2014. She’s photographed events for organizations such as ActionNC, Environment North Carolina, and Organize 2020. She published an underground poetry book called The Frozen Lake I Live In, and a quotes collection called Quotes for Activists, last year.

After being deeply affected photo-journaling the 2014 Ferguson protests, Rae went back to college to complete her Associate in Fine Arts and become serious about function of art in the modern world. Rae completed her studies in August 2015 and currently is showing a collection of work called The Edge of a Paradigm, which uses expressionism, collage, sculpture and poetry to express descent towards current systems of control, and offer viable scientific solutions to those problems.

Rae has written essays on women’s liberation, gender theory, racism in literature, and has given speeches on consumerism, racism, and maintenance of the female body. She’s currently Co-Creating a Documentary, See For Yourself, with partner Steven Romero. To invest in their efforts contact the Documentary Team at SeeForYourselfDoc@gmail.com. You can read her newest work at here.

What got you interested in activism?

I suppose just the general waking-up one does when going through teen years, coupled with the right information. I didn’t fit into boxes that had been placed out for me and everything seemed like it generally didn’t make sense. I started arguing a lot with my mother about the inconsistencies with our religion, and I’ll remember those fondly as my first political debates. She kept telling me to be a lawyer. I took to the challenge of learning about our legal system, but my studies took me in the opposite direction, anti-institutional.

Which radical artists inspire your work?
I listen to slam poetry the way most people listen to music, getting familiar with the messages and memorizing the fluctuations in noise. Staceyann Chin, Dominique Christina, Saul Williams, and watching all the kids on Brave New Voices, these kinds of messages are what inspire me on a passionate level, and have nurtured a symbiosis social justice and artistic poetry in my life. The energy, the intention, the vulnerability really sit with me. I don’t look at visual art too much, unless it’s around me. Although I was deeply inspired learning the History of Contemporary art, the breaking of rules and the changing of ways, I would say artistry and poetry are only about a quarter of the inspiration at this point. I’m heavily driven by academic theory and scientific understanding. Poetry, sculptures, drawings, they’re just a by-product of the analysis.

What can men do to help end our oppression against women?

Men need to accept the fact that they themselves have many underlying and defining sexist tendencies, even progressive men. Men need to be open about the fact that this is the case and humble themselves to the women they are seeking allegiance with. Men need to do work in their own lives to examine and change their own behavior if they want to end oppression against women. Learning about and fixing abusive behaviors that they practice to assert control without noticing they are doing it. This includes but is not limited to control techniques such as: micro-aggression, being ‘first-movers’, pathologically dominant body language, passive aggressiveness, outright aggressiveness, withholding, neglect, derailing, perpetual sexual expectations, objectification, patronizing, double-standards, and victim-blaming. They can stop talking about women in accordance with what relationship the woman has to them and other men, ie: ‘I don’t care if women are curvy’/’A woman with confidence is sexy.’ They can actually stop valuing women on the physical altogether, and start complimenting them on literally anything else- their wit, their generosity, their passion. Men can go online and google ‘healthy relationships’ and do some homework. Men can choose train their own subconscious by making sure they view women in positions of authority. This means seeking out media that is woman-authored, watching powerful women speak, learning about the discoveries of female scientists, and the histories of badass women who stood up for themselves to force change and in doing so have been erased from common history. Scientifically speaking, watching and learning about marginalized people in positions of strength and authority changes our neurological wiring and actually changes our implicit biases toward them.

What is your political ideology?
Ideology is the death of truth. There is no ideological way to build a car, only the scientific way. All claims should be substantiated according to empirical evidence. Answers to life’s problems don’t care what our opinions of them are.

5. What are your thoughts on establishment politics in the United States of America?
the United State’s political system is a rather magnificent one that is working perfectly in accordance with its purpose. Although, I think the curtain is falling. Knowing the way societies rise and fall, the whole thing has become a joke enough to recognize the beginning of the end. The quicker a society rises, the quicker it falls. The most interesting part about it to me is the role of the media. Now it’s incredible to see how social memes spread like viruses and you go online to everyone posting more or less the same thing, the same message, the same tagline. You get an in-real-time sense of the way social opinion is shaped and herded that couldn’t have been illustrated so clearly in previous social systems.

What can we do to create solidarity not secterianism on the left?
The rampant polarization even within parties grows in correlation with inequality, so it’s something we should come to expect. Science can give you this paradoxical peace of mind, once in a while.

To end secterianism, then the left would have to embrace the practice of anti-ideology. This is an inherent contradiction to left, read: binary, agendas. There are leftist Christians, Muslims, leftist men who want to be called women, leftist women who self-objectify. These are people who feel threatened by critical analysis because they already identify with oppressive ideological systems. No one wants to see the monster they’re fighting against in the mirror. But that’s anti-ideology. That’s what it takes. Saying ‘it’s in me too. This is a response to my conditioning.’ It’s in all of us.

But the fall of societies is not based on solidarity, it is dependent on growth rates. The faster societies grow, the faster they fall. There’s a TedTalk about it.

What organizations or movements have inspired you?
The Black Power movement of the 60’s really gets me going. Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X… patriarchal as they were, and I’ll never let them live it down, their words breath fire into me. Code Pink: Women for Peace. Pussy Riot. The Gubabi Gang. But mostly, I’m inspired by individuals. There was a philosopher I read about once, the name escapes me, who decided to hold every belief he had to the highest scrutiny. That guy, that guy hit me something real. That was a big turning point for me.

Let’s talk about inter personal oppression, what advice can you give to activists struggling with difficulties in this regard?
For women: take your power. No one is going to give it to you. Draw your boundaries and enforce them. Study boundaries and make sure you know how to set healthy boundaries. Have high expectations for the people in your life. Hold them accountable to your expectations. Stop saving everyone. Your problem is not other people, but your relationship with them. Is it healthy? Is it supportive? Does it promote your stability? Know what abuse is. Never feel guilty if you’ve done nothing wrong. Never let people take your space. Don’t let people talk over you. Speak from the chest. Be direct and say exactly what you mean. Don’t settle. Forget about fear. Remember the look in their eye when you stand up for yourself. That’s who they really are. Take the love you have been taught to show and only give it to people who deserve it because of their actions. Study feminism.
For men: pull yourself back. Learn that being a leader means creating space for other people, not for yourself. Learn how to take care of people, ask the women in your life to teach you. Change your body language. Stop sticking out your chest when you get angry. Check your tone. Have an ego death. It is not easy. It is painful. Swallow. Your. Pride. Do the work. Take responsibility. Actually, really, literally, like, put it on the schedule – study healthy relationships and behaviors and interactions for a specific amount of time every week. Know what abuse is. Remind yourself that you have not been taught strong communication skills. Start realizing the energy of people around you and how energies interact. Notice how men take up more space, how women are harassed, how men joke about awful things and women roll their eyes, the dance of power and control systems–start to look for what we are forced to see because of our marginalization. Start to call people out in a way that is so much easier for men than women. Use your privilege. Lift the burden. Take the heat feminists have been facing since the first woman who said no.
For everyone: knowledge is not power. Knowledge is knowledge. Knowledge can show you power. Rely on knowledge, search for more knowledge, and when necessary, leverage power. Move your body in a way that defies the mold you’re supposed to fit.

What are your thoughts on our near term extinction and how it relates to patriarchy?
Extinction is the rule, not the exception, of life in this universe. Having said that, I’ve truly become exhausted with the extent to which patriarchy has corroded humanity. I feel like I’m taking up the position that has been forced upon women when I try and think of all the ways in which we should be fixing the world, nurturing and caring for everyone who is broken, expected to love our enemies. We’re trying to force issues with little power leverage. I teach women about leveraging power in their personal lives so they can push back directly on control systems, but it’s an uphill battle during an avalanche. I suppose, though, if men actually extinct the human race, it will be the ultimate irony that they will have taken themselves, their precious legacies, last names, and ivory towers down with them.

What are your views on organization of labor Marxism v anarchism v capitalism and what political solutions you see for our current crisis?
The only organization of labor I’d like to see happen is someone starting the Let the Robots Take our Jobs Campaign. The skeleton of everything that is happening is backwards. People are fighting for more jobs. This is ridiculous. Why do we want more shitty jobs. I don’t get it. The dependency is real. My favorite point of reference is the Venus Project, which are based on science, renewable, eco-agriculture, resource based economies and global resource management systems. You know, something simple.

Who are some women who inspire you and who you think should be more well known
Well first I’d love it if we could learn the full stories about the women we do kind of know. Frida Khalo comes to mind because she’s well-known in a watered down, she-dated-a-famous-artist kind of way. She was a strong woman who attempted success in a patriarchal industry, surrounded by patriarchal men, but she still did whatever she wanted, always living in her own quarters and taking lovers outside of her marriage in spite of her husband’s jealousy and anger. In the Chavez movie, Dolores Huerta is a sort of seen-in-passing character. She was a Untied Farm Workers co-founder, she came up with the slogan si se puede! She was severely beaten at a peaceful protest, sued SFPD and the city of SanFran, won, and put it towards her movement. Talk about guts. This is what I would like to see first, the filling in of women’s truth in stories that we already know and talk about.

I also learned recently that Enheduanna was arguably the first woman, writer, and person, to claim the autonomy and authority of speaking of herself in text, repeating “I am Enheduanna”. When I heard that, a big smile came across my face, and it made poetic sense to me. This type of herstory reminds me that womanhood is special and powerful. Maybe one day I’ll write a book called Poetic Herstory.
Well first I’d love it if we could learn the full stories about the women we do kind of know. Frida Khalo comes to mind because she’s well-known in a watered down, she-dated-a-famous-artist kind of way. She was a strong woman who attempted success in a patriarchal industry, surrounded by patriarchal men, but she still did whatever she wanted, always living in her own quarters and taking lovers outside of her marriage in spite of her husband’s jealousy and anger. In the Chavez movie, Dolores Huerta is a sort of seen-in-passing character. She was a Untied Farm Workers co-founder, she came up with the slogan si se puede! She was severely beaten at a peaceful protest, sued SFPD and the city of SanFran, won, and put it towards her movement. Talk about guts. This is what I would like to see first, the filling in of women’s truth in stories that we already know and talk about.

I also learned recently that Enheduanna was arguably the first woman, writer, and person, to claim the autonomy and authority of speaking of herself in text, repeating “I am Enheduanna”. When I heard that, a big smile came across my face, and it made poetic sense to me. This type of herstory reminds me that womanhood is special and powerful. Maybe one day I’ll write a book called Poetic Herstory.

What are your views on religion and spirituality?
I’m anti-theist. Religion is so unfathomably wrong. If it is set in any other context than indoctrination it would be impossible to sell. I was indoctrinated as a child and lied to. I used to ask questions and I was silenced. When I was first told what being an atheist was in 7th grade, I hadn’t known prior that it was possible to not believe in god. I’ve spent a lot of time on the argument that religion is inherently dangerous because of the underlying propaganda, and the ways in which it hijacks consciousness.

I think the word spirituality is fictional because there’s no such thing as a spirit. Dr. Sam Harris talks a lot about the neuroscience behind transcendence and what is referred to as spirituality. I just think illusions are a large part of the human condition and it takes a lot of effort to disconnect our projected feelings (purpose, divine plan, special connections, etc.) from reality. I think the most important thing is to focus on what is literal.

How has Borderline Personality Disorder effected you and those you love?
I was diagnosed with BPD in early 2014. It was something I dealt with since my early teenage years. I always knew something was wrong with me, that I “felt too much” and couldn’t control my mind. I was hyper-sensitive, impulsive, obsessive and at my worst times, suicidal. It made me vulnerable to abusive relationships. I happened to come across the right people who told me what was what. I went a lot of dialectical behavior therapy on my own. I also had a friend from high school who was in training to work with BPD patients, he was there for me. He offered me honesty and a whole lot of information. That has a lot to do with why I try and offer help to not only those who have BPD, but anyone struggling with mental illness, anxiety, depression, etc.

Do you feel like radical feminism gets a bad rap as being Transphobic? how would you respond to those accusations?

To be honest, I think radical feminism is nearly invisible if not unheard of to most people. But I’ve never responded to those accusations. That’s a tactic that authority uses all the time to establish power. It’s not a part of my politics and quite frankly, it’s just used to derail analysis. It’s easy to tell the difference between people who are willing to engage and meet your argument in debate, and when the response is ad hominem. Analysis will out truth. For those unwilling to participate in analysis, we can only cause cognitive dissonance.

Any other thoughts or shout outs you’d like to make?
The underlying schema I accompany with everything is how does this fit inside of evolution? Evolution is everything, and everyone would do well to learn about how it shapes the totality of what you do and what you know know, everything you’ve ever seen and felt.

I have a Facebook Community that like-minds should check out, ‘Radfem Atheists.’ It’s female/male space, radfem oriented, female monitored, made for atheist feminists to learn about the history of our foremothers and comment on modern apologist messages. I also run an advice column on the side for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, so if anyone reading this has been diagnosed or a loved one who has, please send a post or message and I can help get you going in the right direction, all advice completely free of charge, weekly sessions available as needed.