Call for Applications: Training Institute for Anti-Supremacist Grassroots Organizers

The Institute for Research on Male Supremacism (IRMS) is accepting applications for our December 2022 virtual training institute for grassroots organizers contesting supremacism. In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe, state-based assaults on reproductive and trans justice, and heightened levels of anti-abortion and anti-trans violence in the United States, this institute will focus on male supremacism and its intersections in the U.S. context. 

Male supremacist beliefs underlie the high rates of interpersonal and sexual violence against women, mass violence committed by misogynist incels, and the legislative violence inflicted by decisions such as the U.S. Supreme Court overturning pregnant persons’ right to bodily autonomy and state legislation targeting abortion rights and trans people’s rights. IRMS’s intersectional feminist approach is attentive to not only how supremacism manifests on the right and in the center, but also on what is considered the left, such as the anti-trans ideology recently platformed by the New York Times in the guise of feminism.

This virtual event will accept up to 40 grassroots organizers interested in a program diving deep into how to combat supremacist mobilizations to take place December 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2022. The application form requests information on issues and threats faced by applicants, so that we can more effectively tailor the training institute to the needs of participants. We hope that this will be the beginning of an ongoing relationship where we can continue to collaboratively develop and disseminate further resources for contesting supremacism in its varied forms.

This year’s speakers will include journalists Amy Littlefield and Melissa Gira Grant offering case studies of the U.S. anti-abortion movement’s effective organizing and power-building strategies and the intersections with anti-trans ideology and politics. The training institute will occur over 3 full-day sessions on Zoom, with meal and rest breaks incorporated into the schedule. The training institutes include sessions that delve into various issues related to supremacist and authoritarian ideology, mobilization, and structure, followed by breakout sessions in which grassroots organizers and researchers come together to discuss possible applications and ideas generated by the training sessions. 

Other sessions include contextualizing the roots and structures of supremacism with IRMS Fellow Blu Buchanan and digital security training with Equality Lab’s Praveen Singha. We will also consider how supremacist movements learn from one another, for instance, the reproduction of the playbook attacking comprehensive sexuality education in use for the past half-century toward current attacks on critical race theory and racial justice education.

As researchers focused on supremacism, we at IRMS are aware how easy it can be to end up in a reactive position, and build in a concerted effort to consider what we are organizing for, strategizing to not only defend but to legislatively advance reproductive justice, trans justice, and other social justice needs. Understanding supremacism as at the core of societal structure and culture, IRMS redirects focus and investments from “eleventh-hour” deradicalization solutions toward K-12 education, media narratives, and other methods of long-term systemic change. We also emphasize creative and culture-jamming approaches that simultaneously build community joy. Occurring in December 2022, this virtual event aims to redirect strategic social justice thinking following the midterm elections toward local and long-term structures for change.

Interested participants please fill out this brief Google form by October 7. (We will offer an option to apply during a second round with a post-midterm elections deadline, however, we encourage early applications as part of our process of tailoring sessions to attendees.) Based on prior interest, there will be a limited number of spots of researchers and media interested in supporting anti-supremacist organizing in addition to the cohort of grassroots organizers.

For accepted applications, we request a sliding scale registration fee for the summer school of up to $110, with the option of selecting a full scholarship, as part of our aim to reach historically and systemically impacted communities without adding additional hardship.  

2021 Training Institute

On August 13-14 and 20-21, 2021, IRMS hosted the first virtual Summer Institute for Organizers on Contesting Supremacism, cosponsored by the Western States Center. Our program brought together an intimate group of graduate students, professors, community, professionals, and digital organizers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Participating organizers came from a range of backgrounds, indicating in their applications that they were dealing with threats to gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, and racial injustice in a variety of ways, from a Christian Reconstructionist local political candidate to white supremacist groups targeting a high school Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).

Researchers provided training designed to address the threats and challenges that participants indicated in their applications. This included how supremacist ideologies (i.e., white, male, cis, Christian, etc.) interrelate and conflict; supremacism on the “left,” such as TERFs; countering disinformation online; techniques for organizing across the netroots and grassroots; and countering effective long-term organizing and institution-building by supremacists.

Then, researchers and organizers strategized in afternoon breakout groups to address actual scenarios organizer participants were facing, with three breakout groups meeting throughout: “Strategies for Anti-Supremacist Work at the Netroots;” “Stopping Anti-Trans Mobilization on the Right and ‘Left'”; and “Challenging Allied White Supremacists and Christian Nationalists on the Ground”.

IRMS provided support in developing these researcher-organizer relationships and engaged research projects to organize against supremacist and anti-democratic mobilizations after the summer institute. Participants were also provided access to IRMS’s digital security training video and other resources.

Sophie Bjork-James, upper right corner, was one of the presenters at the summer institute.

The attendees reported gaining a better understanding of local threats and the distinctions between supremacist groups; tools to use against these threats; and methods of connecting research to organizing. Organizers appreciated receiving perspective, “a sense of hope”, connection with other organizers, and a reminder of “the need for creative joy in organizing work.”

The event was incredibly valuable to IRMS as we attempt to shape our programming and resources to best support effective social justice organizing and change on the ground. It was a useful reminder that in serving grassroots organizers working against direct threats, including as volunteers, we are not necessarily dealing with a trained professional group, but rather people inspired to take up organizing because of threats in their community, a knowledge that will guide IRMS’ work in the future.

Our gratitude to our funder, Mary’s Pence, for their support.