Open Letter to Microcosm Publishing

The MARS Collective has signed on to this open letter to Microcosm Publishing, expressing concern about their support of a perpetrator of abuse. The full text of the letter is copied below, or you can read it and sign your name or group by clicking here.

We encourage other library and infoshop collectives, zine distributors, zine-makers, community accountability supporters, and festival organizers to:

  • Read and sign this open letter
  • Reconsider your own relationship with Microcosm if you have one, depending on their response or lack thereof to this letter
  • Make time in your groups to engage in critical, constructive dialogue about abuse, assault, and accountability, and help build our collective capacity to deal with these issues.

Open Letter to Microcosm Publishing

Dear Microcosm,

We write as zine distributors, zine-makers, library and infoshop collectives, community accountability supporters, and festival organizers from the DIY (queer, feminist, punk and/or anarcha-) community. We express our concern regarding your support of a perpetrator of abuse.

The wide reach of Microcosm’s distribution can be intimidating for any individual to speak out against, so we write this together, in solidarity.

We refer to your statement from June 2011, regarding Joe Biel’s involvement in Microcosm. You ended with “We do sincerely hope to open the conversation” and “Expect to hear more from us soon!” We ask, was the conversation opened? And, what was the follow-up to this?

You wrote: “Joe stepped down from being a collective member, and Microcosm will be collectively owned by the remaining members by the end of this year [2011].” Yet in 2012, Joe is listed in your newsletters and homepage as a member of Microcosm. We think this to be insensitive, considering that people are emotionally invested in your real and genuine response to Joe’s lack of accountability. You mentioned transparency, but we ask, what has been done since June 2011? Why is there no visible communication, on your website, newsletter or annual report?

Restructuring is one thing, but our main point is the accountability of an individual who still works for Microcosm. His name was not added to your statement, and this appears as though he has other people speaking for – and protecting – him. A statement where he speaks for himself, and is clear about his role in Microcosm, is overdue. A statement about whether or not he wishes to take responsibility for his own behavior is long overdue. We are worried about the power that Microcosm gives to an individual who has been known to abuse his power. We are concerned that Joe is not working towards changing his behavior. Is Microcosm going to put into practice their rhetoric about supporting survivors, and reflect on their role in perpetuating abuser’s behavior?

We would like to support you, but cannot do so as long as you support a perpetrator of abuse, whilst being passive and/or unaccountable for it. We were surprised and left a little lost by the brevity of your statement/s. Your lack of action and communication has been frustrating, disappointing and puzzling to us – as anti-oppression, social justice, or anarchist collectives. Whether or not Joe continues to be a member of Microcosm, we feel that trust in the collective, in its ability and desire to respond and be supportive and to follow through, has been ruptured.

We don’t believe that boycotting Microcosm is an adequate response to abuse, but we are uncomfortable with having any kind of relationship with Microcosm without an acknowledgment of, and a response to, Microcosm’s continued work with and, through that, support of Joe Biel who has not been responsive to and responsible for his patterns of behaviour.

Hundreds of zinesters and collectives may not feel comfortable associating with someone who is not acting accountable for his abusive behavior. Has informed consent been given to all people that are being published or distributed by Microcosm?

These are some things you could do now:

  • Explain the situation to anyone you are working with. Ask for their informed consent to continue work with them from this point onwards.
  • Make clear how the process of decision-making is progressing, and make it visible and transparent to your colleagues and “customers”.
  • Keep an updated list of action points and major decisions somewhere visible, that are in response to concerns, eg. “The collective is working to create a Resource Council, an independent group of volunteers to offer support and mediation to Microcosm – This was done in Dec 2011”. List other things that the collective has aimed to do so people stay informed on if these things have been achieved.
  • If there is no continual process with Joe, if he is not currently working to change his behavior, then he should not be benefiting from his position of power. He should no longer be a part of Microcosm.

These processes and recommendations should have already been considered by the collective years ago. We realize that this is hard work, but it should have been, and should still be, your priority over business as usual. It is the responsibility of your collective to self-educate, and to conduct its own accountability process, without external pressure or provocation.

We hope to hear from you soon, as your response is long overdue. We would like to hear from you by the 1st of October, 2012.

Original list of signers:

  • Heavy Mental Distro, Berlin
  • Anna Vo, Fix My Head zine, Berlin
  • Cindy Crabb, Doris zine, Support zine
  • Sonia, Mimi Zine Distro
  • Sarah Tea-Rex, Brighton
  • 56a Infoshop, London
  • LiLi, London
  • Billy Phoenix, London
  • Emma, Angry Violist
  • Colin, Slice Harvester
  • Project Bridget, Melbourne
  • Cherry Bomb Comics, Auckland
  • Daniel Boyle, Capital Eyes Zine, Canberra
  • Ariel Silvera, Queer anarchafeminist, Republic of Ireland
  • Halley, Infecticitis Zine, Raumschiff Distro, Berlin
  • Minnehaha Free Space/MARS Collective
  • QUARREL, Oakland
  • Philly Survivor Support Collective
  • Wooden Shoe Collective, Philadelphia
  • For the Birds Feminist Collective, NYC
  • Support New York
  • South Brooklyn ABCF
  • The NYC Coalition for Safer Spaces
  • Papercut Zine Library, Boston
  • A-K Pirata, Princesa Pirata Distro
  • Neon Rouge, Wellington, Aotearoa
  • PRAXISS, Philadelphia
  • Boxcar Books and Community Center, Bloomington
  • Alex Wrekk, Brainscan Zine, Stolen Sharpie Revolution, Portland Zine Symposium organizer, Portland Button Works co-owner

(To see how the issue with Microcosm came to our attention last year, read here.)

Why We’re No Longer Hosting the Dinner & Bikes Tour and Joe Biel

The MARS Collective regrets to announce that the Dinner & Bikes event scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday 9/25, will not be taking place at the Minnehaha Free Space.  Here’s why.

We were recently made aware, through a comment on our website, of unresolved issues of emotional abuse by one of the participants in the event, Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing fame. We researched the situation and found overwhelming evidence, such as through statements from his ex-partner and support network, that Biel has not responsibly addressed his history of relationship abuse or his ex-partners stated boundaries in the matter. (Two starting points for more information are here and here.)
The Dinner & Bikes Tour did not make the Free Space, nor the local event organizer, aware of Biel’s history of abuse and the ongoing questions surrounding his accountability. We feel this shows blatant disregard for the ways this might impact the safety of our space and the inclusiveness of this event.
We contacted the local event organizer, and through them, the Dinner & Bikes tour. We were excited about this event and would have been happy to host it without the presence of Biel, but the tour refused this option and was unwilling to discuss options for acknowledging the issue at the event. Therefore, the event will be held at another location to be determined.
We find this situation especially disheartening because we were very excited about this event, in particular the locally produced documentary Dudey Free Zone, featuring women’s and transgender bike spaces in the Twin Cities. One major barrier to the participation of women and trans people in the Twin Cities bike community (and many other communities) is the unchallenged presence of abusers in community spaces such as bike shops. We celebrate local initiatives like the Grease Rag, which empower women/trans/femme cyclists while striving to create safer space.
While MARS does not claim to offer a fully “safe space,” we are committed to the ongoing process of making it a “safer space” for everyone. We think survivors of emotional abuse, physical and sexual assault, and other forms of domestic violence should be able to feel welcome in our space, and we are unwilling to provide a platform for the voices of those we see as acting irresponsibly in these matters.  We do not take allegations of abuse lightly and believe the default position should be to trust survivors. Therefore, we feel it would be disrespectful to host this event as planned.
Moving forward, we feel this is an important opportunity to engage in critical, constructive dialogue about assault, abuse and accountability and to build our capacity to deal with these issues.  We are interested in hearing feedback about the way this situation was handled and intend to host a discussion about broader related issues in the near future.  We recognize that we are responsible for hosting events that contribute to a safer space, and are committed to better researching presenters in the future.
Relatedly, for those interested, we encourage you to attend the Open Mic Night hosted by the organizers of SlutWalk and MARS Collective, this Wednesday, September 28 from 7-10pm at the Minnehaha Free Space. This is one opportunity for all survivors, supporters, and individuals interested in challenging sexism, misogyny, patriarchy and rape culture to share their experiences in a safe, nurturing and respectful space.
We apologize for any inconvenience, disappointment, and confusion due to the change of plans.  But we hope you will join us in standing firm against relationship abuse–in our space, city and and the radical community more broadly.
Sincerely,
the MARS Collective/Minnehaha Free Space
Comments on this page are now closed.  If you’d like to discuss ways of supporting survivors and ending abuse, see our contact info at right!