Relational Security and Oppressive Power

Oppressive Power is a set of power dynamics that arise from the white hetero patriarchal capitalism that structures society today. This power shows up in our organizing and communities through different disruptive and problematic behaviors and actions. These behaviors don’t always come from state agents, informants, or provocateurs but they can have the same damaging impact on our movements. Often, there is a range of how severe the behavior is and / or how often it happens. For clarity, to avoid demonizing people and to bring forth the most workable paths forward, we focus on naming the specific behaviors, actions, and their results rather than using generalities or broader terms such as ‘misogynist’ or ‘racist.’ 

Below is a list of some patterns of disruptive behavior. As you read through the chart, think about times you have seen this type of behavior happen in your organization, on the street, or when you are engaging with comrades. How has this behavior impacted you and others around you? How has this behavior been dealt with? When are times that you have engaged in this type of behavior? What was the impact of your behavior?  Starting with naming the specific behaviors and connecting these behaviors to oppressive power, we can begin to build structures, communication systems, and processes that prevent these types of behaviors in the first place and also combat and deal with these behaviors when they arise. 

List of Disruptive Behaviors:

  • Survivor Shaming
  • Perfectionism
  • Forcing people to conform to a certain set of ideas
  • Objectivity
  • Individualism
  • Fear of open conflict
  • Either/or thinking, lack of nuance
  • Worship of the written word
  • Sense of urgency
  • Defensiveness
  • Wanting to always be in the action 
  • Badgering
  • Lack of boundaries with all people
  • Pushing until getting what they want
  • Bullying around masculinity and militancy 
  • Entitlement
  • Paranoia and jealousy in relationships
  • Pushing militancy and specifically armed action with guns or other weapons
  • Wanting to have children but put all responsibility for raising children on “the community”
  • Unwillingness to take responsibility for actions
  • Get women or people of color to align with them and act as defense 
  • Tokenizing BIPOC and women and queers to boost credibility
  • Playing on vulnerabilities of the movement such as past conflicts 
  • Valuing and engaging in masculinized labor over feminized labor
  • Invisibilizing care and emotional labor
  • Controlling behavior
  • Manipulation 
  • Hoarding power
  • Living situation either seems unlived in or refuses to allow people to go to living situation
  • Dishonesty and lying
  • Sleeping around with people in and out of the movement in an objectifying or disposable way or in way that puts relationship at risk including not disclosing STIs
  • Invisibilizing women and transwomen
  • Trauma bond / emotional labor for primarily male identified folx 
  • Trauma bond used against people or as leverage
  • Inability to create genuine relationships with people
  • Accessing money from out of nowhere, no job that explains where large sums of money comes from
  • Did work and created reputation as dedicated organizer but always engaged in masculinized work 
  • Communication with police, state agents, or the right in the name of organizational security and safety
  • Controlling the spread and access of information, relationships, security culture, communication systems
  • Putting themselves in informal positions of power
  • Making decisions for other people without their input

List of behaviors are drawn from the Characteristics of White Supremacist Culture, Witness to Betrayal, Profile of Provocateurs, people’s personal stories from Common Grounds and other organizing projects