Tag Archives: Anna NietoGomez

Politics of Fear

June 25, 2012

Photo credit: Stuart Anthony/stuant63 from Flickr.

Photo credit: Stuart Anthony/stuant63 from Flickr.

By Marie “Keta” Miranda

These remarks were delivered at the 2012 NACCS Conference Panel titled “Callin’ It Like It Is: Transforming Gendered, Sexual and Heteropatriarchal Violence in Chicana/o Studies and Academic Institutions”


Fear cannot simply be created from thin air.

There have been quite a few feature stories lately about the culture of fear, especially as journalists have reflected on U.S. culture since 9/11.[i] However, I want to introduce the idea of a politics of fear into our discussion of Institutional Violence. As Antonia has stated, Institutional violence consists of the practices that violate personhood.

Anna NietoGomez helped to clarify that Institutional Violence is:

 … when authorities of institutions, and organizations both formal and informal know or should have known that members or participants are bullied, harassed, and or are subject to physical and sexual violence, but do not believe they should be held accountable to institute deterrents and consequences to prevent, investigate and rectify the problem to protect the interests of the institution or organization and instead ignore, deny, shun, blame and or intimidate those who report incidents and protect the victimizer and thereby directly or indirectly encourage the repetition of hostile and violent behavior, sanction and perpetuate a hostile and unsafe environment.

Therefore, I think that as we address practices, we also need to address the politics and other activities associated with Institutional Violence.

Fear is usually expressed in a personalized and privatized way. For example, fear resonates as “what happened to a friend or a neighbor might also happen to me.” Fear as a problem is understood in an abstract sense and is generally diffused. For example, ‘I am frightened’ is rarely focused on something specific but it does express a sense of powerlessness. Institutional Violence, I believe, is about fear that is diffused and that enables a sense of powerlessness, a diminished sense of agency that leads people to turn themselves into passive subjects. Institutional violence is about pressure groups that make us scared about the people we love and about the experiences that we cherish.

When an organization is not motivated by inclusion, the more likely it is to rely on fear — particularly the fear of being an outcast from the group’s circle or society —as a means of control over its members. In many ways this shifts the arrangements, the affection and affiliation within the group, as more individuals are prepared to sacrifice their individuality in exchange for the comfortable sense of belonging to a more powerful group. Creativity is stifled and the evolution of plans, aims and missions are frustrated. Thus the monolithic group asserts itself, “to protect the interests of the institution or organization and instead ignores, denies, shuns, blames and or intimidates those who report incidents,” and a minority of individuals—courageous enough to rebel against group constraints and diktats—are cast out. And FEAR operates. Fear as a basic survival mechanism, becomes a controlling factor in people’s lives and a controlling mechanism of the present and of the future. Discussing the use of fear in politics, Niccolo Machiavelli’s 1513 handbook, Il Principe, notes: Create a fear scenario. The aim of fear is power.

Cheri Moraga, in her “Introduction” to This Bridge Called My Back speaks about knowledge, offering a shift from a binary opposition of mind/body.

Theory of the flesh means one where the physical realities of our lives—our skin color, the land or concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings—all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity.” (23)

Moraga’s intervention sets up the bodily experiences–the personal, flesh, the private, the intimate–how these experiences inform new knowledge. While a theory of the flesh is about knowledge creation, it is also a tool of political resistance. Moraga’s theory of the flesh is tied to the experience of being excluded, and provides a call for new sites of solidarity, particularly as theories of the flesh. Fear attacks the body, where the body freezes in a paralysis. Where escape or avoidance are the behavioral acts—looking for safety.

When we look at Institutional Violence, and the politics of fear, then a Theory of the Flesh can be an action—the other response to fear—not of flight but to confront, to encourage, to act.

I think that Moraga provides a way to using the body as a way to get outside traps –regulation, law, policy, procedure—ways of doing things—that trap us, immobilize us—to finding ways of addressing how we can address Institutional Violence—so that [paraphrasing Anna’s definition] we can be accountable to institute deterrents, to find ways of prevention and remedies to enhance our organizations and institutions.

[i] Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation by Frank Furedi

Professor Marie “Keta” Miranda is on the faculty at the University of Texas, San Antonio.


Theresa (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  July 3, 2012 at 1:12 PM
Your essay prompts me to consider how we might enact this attention to caring for our bodies in our gatherings. Thank you for taking up how fear works on the body.

The Right to Learn and Work in a Safe Place

April 9, 2012

By Anna NietoGomez

AnnaNietoGomezPartially presented at the 2012 NACCS Conference Roundtable Panel “’Callin’ it like it is’: Transforming Gendered, Sexual and Heteropatriachal Violence in Chicano Studies and Academic Institutions”

People who pursue knowledge and participate in social justice activities have the right to expect people of authority and influence to commit themselves to establish, and maintain a safe and respectful work environment that is free from verbal and physical abuse such as bullying, hazing, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment, sex discrimination, physical and sexual violence, rape and hate crimes.

Persons of authority and influence in educational institutions, Chicana/o movement, and other social justice organizations are responsible to prevent and stop these behaviors because we understand that bad behavior is about bad people abusing their privileges and our failure to take action would negatively affect the achievement of the goals of our organizations. We know that the truth eventually comes out, and when it is revealed that no action was taken and that abuse and violence were allowed to continue, the credibility of those with authority and influence will suffer and they will eventually come under scrutiny and be held accountable. When unacceptable behaviors occur, these institutions and organizations need to make public and generally well known that:

1) There will be consequences for these behaviors. Action will be taken against anyone regardless of their power of authority, privilege or social status.

2) People who report these behaviors are safe and free from reprisals and retaliation.

3) Complaints will be investigated and appropriate action taken.

4) Criminal behavior will be reported to legal authorities for investigation.

5) Victims will receive appropriate treatment and assistance to heal and recover.

Institutional Violence

Anything less than the above is Institutional Violence. Institutional Violence is when authorities of institutions and organizations know or should have known that these behaviors occurred but directly or indirectly allowed the violent behavior to re-occur because they:

  • Did not take appropriate action.  
  • Allowed the victims, and those who try to help the victims, to be directed away from receiving help and/or are shunned, blamed and/or intimidated.
  • Pretended to help but really acted to suppress and intimidate.
  • Sought approval and acceptance for not taking appropriate action by appealing to one’s commitment to “La Causa” or the organization and took  steps to do the following: ignore and/ or deny that the incident occurred, protect the one who is alleged to have promoted and or participated in these behaviors, appeal to the fear that something horrible will occur should appropriate action be taken. These actions or inactions demonstrate that the organization or institution is more important than the victim and that to take action “would be the end of everything we have worked for” or “bring disrepute upon the institution or organization.” The threat and fear is exaggerated and not based on the actual situation and the appropriate proposed action.

When persons of authority and influence in movements, organizations and institutions act in the above manners they allow people who thrive in hostile and unsafe environments to continue their unacceptable behavior.

Recognizing a Hostile Environment

Take a hostile environment assessment. Talk to people and evaluate what you observe. Ask yourself: Is it generally well known that the following behavior is allowed to occur?

  • Demeaning, isolating and discrediting others (often used to gain power, influence, control and dominance).
  • Pushing, shoving, threats to hurt or actual fights.
  • Unwanted sexual advances (sanctioned because they are viewed as harmless and/or as compliments).
  • Bystanders ignore, passively observe or encourage these behaviors.
  • A pattern of Institutional violence.
  • Action to stop the abuse involves removing the victim from the organization, rather than stopping those who are abusive and violent.

Avoid What Does Not Work

Conflict resolution and or mediation between the one who has power and one who doesn’t only serves to further intimidate and threaten the one without the power. Group treatment for bullies and violent people doesn’t work because it tends to reinforce bullying behavior in each other. Simple, short-term solutions such as in-service training, meetings, lessons taught by individual teachers have demonstrated ineffective in when it is known that action will not be taken against those who abuse, are violent and/or rape.

What You Can Do

Require that the educational institution or community organization to post a public statement that this behavior is not acceptable and consequences will result when it occurs.  The names and phone numbers of who to call for help should also be identified.

Confront the bullying and the sexual harassment openly, honestly and quickly and put everyone on notice that it simply won’t be tolerated.

Warn people who plan to join that it is a hostile environment and encourage them to seek an alternative place where activists and students are safe and respected.

GET HELP. If you or someone you know has been assaulted and or raped encourage them to get help. Rape survivors tend to deal the more effectively with their experiences when they take an active role in acknowledging that the rape did occur, disclosing the incident to appropriate others, finding the right help, and learning it was not their fault.

Organize at the local level and take action.

Educate. Organize a campaign to raise awareness of the problems and the appropriate actions.

Collect personal stories of harassment and violence and failures of persons of authority to act. Come to a collective agreement as to what actions can be taken and with individuals who are also able to make a commitment to take part in the agreed upon action(s). Pick a target that is manageable and easily accomplished and can lead to bigger actions or issues. 

For More Information:

  • The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education investigates complaints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group. A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by OCR for good cause shown under certain circumstances. For the phone number in your area contact 1-800-421-3481 or file a complaint form at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
  • Equal Rights Advocates’ Advice and Counseling Hotline is here to help you understand your legal rights. Free, discreet, individualized advice is available if you are facing sex discrimination or sexual harassment. Contact 800-839-4372.
  • http://www.rainn.org/get-help
  • Regarding Sexual Harassment on campus see “Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic” at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocrshpam.html
  • The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act at www.higheredcenter.org/high-risk/violence/
  • Stop bullying in schools and cyber bullying. Prevention, laws and policies available at National Center for Prevention and Control, Division of Violence site: www.stopbullying.gov
  • U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Bullying and Harassment Guidance (pdf): http://www.sprigeo.com/pdfs/DuncanPressConferenceTranscript.pdf

 You can write to Anna NietoGomez at encuentrofemenil@gmail.com


  1. Ktrion  May  10, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    Awesome post!

  2. Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    In April this blog site was visited 911 times — and your essay was accessed by many, so thank you Anna for sharing this valuable information and insight.