How to get rejected – intolerant of intolerance

Back when i gave the Friday night orientation to new visitors, i used to say “i want to tell you how you can get rejected for membership during your visit to Twin Oaks.” Since some wanted to join and the others were curious this tended to catch their attention.

The easiest way to blow your chance and actually get a free ride to the bus station in Charlottesville is to haul off and punch someone, anyone actually.  We are a non-violent community and pretty much any physical violence from a visitor or guest will be met with instant expulsion from the community (we are not as good with psychological violence between members).

The most subtle and difficult to detect way to get rejected is to have a poor sense of boundaries.  While not exclusively a male problem, perhaps 80% of the time it is males who are rejected for this reason.  This manifests in interrupting and dominating conversations, moving into social or personal spaces where you have not check to be sure you are welcome, ignoring requests made by others for space or quiet or privacy.

But the focus of this post is visitors being rejected for what i call the communities intolerance of intolerance.  If during your visitor period you make a homophobic joke, or a racist remark, or exhibit sexist beliefs or behaviors, we will burn you when you apply for membership.  What i claim when i bring this point up is that the community collectively is not judging these behaviors are right or wrong – we are just convinced if you are predisposed to them, Twin Oaks is the wrong place for you to live.

This is a lie.  We are, i believe, by and large, convinced these behaviors are wrong,  It is not simply that we would like you to find a racist, homophobic or sexist community for you to happily live out the rest of your days.  What we would actually like is for you to clean up your act and get over these ignorant and oppressive behaviors.  And we have little willingness to help you on this journey by offering you membership while we wait for our flavor of enlightenment to hit you.  Frankly, you can do this work elsewhere, we are not a therapeutic community.

To be clear, this does not happen that often.  If you get to a visitor period at Twin Oaks (which is 3 weeks long) you have likely read enough about this feminist, embrace diversity, egalitarian commune to know that discrimination on almost any basis is not going to work well in our culture.

So if you think you are structurally better than others because of your religion, sex, orientation or race save us both some time and dont drop by.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

17 responses to “How to get rejected – intolerant of intolerance”

  1. Jason Sharma says :

    I agree with you 100% here, to the point of which I might suggest you may be preaching to the choir. Why anyone who is predisposed to believing that one group is more entitled than another would desire to be a part of an egalitarian community defies logic. And violence? I don’t think that is so much a community issue so much as it is a social issues. Violence is humanity’s worst trait, and those who participate in it can wear only blue, orange, or camo. I’m in disbelief that this has even been an issue for the community.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Jason:

      Perhaps we are doomed to misunderstanding each other. While i am happy to hail my communities commitment to non-violence inside its comfortable walls. As a revolutionary, i am completely unwilling to give up violence as a possible tactic. In 1974 in Chile i would have gunned down Pinochet, perhaps you would consider assaults against Hitler in the late 1930s?

      As much as possible we want to be using pre-figurative tools, because failure to use them often replicates the problem that violence and other non-pre-figurative tools creates. But this does not mean that there is never a role for violence in making oppressive political systems better. Humans do terrible things to each other in the name of god, the current political leader or some ideological system – to eliminate the possibility of self defense in the name of a non-violent orthodoxy is a naive and privileged position.

      i love Gandhi and King as much as the next radical, and there are more tools than this.

      Paxus near the VA line
      18 Red 2012

      • Jason Sharma says :

        Paxus: Violence is a last resort in a political process, and violence, as a means of spreading fear and intimidation – I feel are two differing acts which I judge differently, but regardless, I feel that the act of bringing physical harm to another individual damages all involved parties as people. I reason that If someone has made a lifestyle of violence in the past, it would not take much convincing for them to some day attack me – perhaps merely because there would be something about me that they didn’t like, or I was somehow an inconvenience. Perhaps it is an irrational prejudice of mine to view police and military with a high degree of distrust? To me violence is ugly business which needs to be avoided at all costs.

        With that said, I feel what you are saying about Gandhi and King as well. I think that the reason that they succeeded was that it just happened to be cheaper and easier for those in power to simply give these groups what they wanted rather than spending the time and money in suppressing them further. India was not making money for Britain as a colony at that time, and desegregation was in no way inconveniencing for whites in government. I feel it is an unfortunate inevitability that any progress which goes against the interests of the ruling class will eventually require violence.

  2. Rob says :

    Great piece. It is refreshing to read such open candor. It is a shame that are society as a whole can’t follow the same philosophy.

  3. Sara Tansey says :

    this post makes me a little grumpy. it makes it sound like twin oaks is a champion of anti oppression analysis and building a community that doesnt perpetuate these myriad forms of oppression. but i think the culture of the community is inherently racist and classist. and while you may not tolerate open forms of racism, etc., the culture of the place itself is inaccessible to most non white, non middle class folks. and there isn’t, as far as i know, an active thread in the community trying to deconstruct that dominant culture or even questioning the fact that it is primarily a community for white, middle class folks and how that impacts your ability to create a true egalitarian community. i would love to see the other side of this post, fleshing out the shadow side of twin oaks culture.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Sara:

      Perhaps we can write it together.

      Paxus somewhere in Tennessee
      18 Red 2012

    • Jason Sharma says :

      Well, I am East Indian and Kinwo is Chinese, and our whole group is made of of broke college students. I hope that this is not an obstacle for us when we come visit!

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Jason:

        it makes no difference, and we regularly have broke college students.

        Paxus at Twin Oaks
        19 Red 2012

  4. Angie Tupelo says :

    Reblogged this on Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History and commented:

    I loved living at TO- I generally felt very safe there, and like if my boundaries were crossed it would be taken VERY seriously.
    However, I also struggled because I come from a working-poor family, and most of TO members come from more affluent backgrounds. It was hard, it never quite got easier, and I still have hope that work will be done there to address this, someday. I’m just sad I needed to move on before it did.

  5. Lesleyanne says :

    I was basically going to say what Sara said but she said it so I don’t have to.
    I live at Twin Oaks and I tell you what I experienced more racist sexists classist behaviors there than any place I have ever been in my whole life and the community did nothing at all to address any of those issues except blame me for being a attractive upper middle class woman of color.
    When I refused to teach a black children how to read in Ebonics I was labels as uncooperative, I had a member tell me to my face ” I know you needed to be tuff in the ghetto where you grew up but you can relaxe here” ( I grew up in a very big house in St Paul and I used to take sushi for lunch in grade school) that whole encounter made relaxing really hard I even had another women telling me that bringing the man I was seeing breakfast in bed was not femminist enough and was I aware that some of the noices coming out of our rooms at night surely ment he was abusing me and furthering the down pressing of me as a black woman (he was white) and all that is just the tip of the iceberg. There was a female member that lived there when I did how would literally wake up every other day go seek out her ex and slap him in the face.
    So you can’t say that twin oaks doesn’t go in for racists , intolerance sexisum and violence. Twin Oaks is perfectly fine with all of that as long as its dishing it out.

    • Jason Sharma says :

      Lesleyanne: I feel whoever recommended that you teach children ebonics was well intentioned, but was probably a little sheltered and did not go about things in the best possible way.

      • paxus says :

        Dearest LesleyAnne:

        i feel the member who wanted you to teach ebonics is an ignorant and insensitive fool and ought to study ebonics themselves and then decide
        if they want to teach it.

        Paxus at Twin Oaks
        19 Red 2012

  6. Mike Gorse says :

    Now I’ve seen several different people critique TO in terms of not being very open to people who aren’t white and middle-class. Equality is one of TO’s core values, and it has occurred to me that equality could be interpreted mainly in the context of people being paid equally for their work, or it could be interpreted more broadly, such that there would be a goal of the community not having barriers to peoples’ participation or enjoyment as a result of race, class, gender, ability, etc. I’m curious as to whether the latter is generally included by Oakers when considering what equality means as one of the community’s core values.

    Also, I am curious as to whether anyone has created a listserve to discuss anti-oppression in intentional communities (I don’t know of many IC-oriented lists in general…) If there isn’t one that already exists anywhere, then I think I’d like to try to start one up. It is a topic that interests me, since I am part of a group that is trying to start an urban housing co-op, and. For instance, at our last meeting, someone expressed that all of the existing co-ops in Austin are in high-income areas (though many of them are student co-ops near UT), and they are somewhat inexpensive for their neighborhoods but not necessarily that affordable for Austin in general. It is unclear where we’ll end up (and largely dependent on where we find a property that we like), but the last thing I’d want us to do would be to go into a lower-income neighborhood and wind up simply being gentrifiers. So I want to understand how racism, classism, etc. can manifest themselves.

  7. Mike Gorse says :

    Partly answering my last post, but it looks like NASCO will host a regional anti-oppression training if someone asks them to / sponsors it. Probably it would be useful for us.

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