Anders Corr: Squats, Occupations, and Rent Strikes

The following interview took place on July 9, 1993 at the Love and Rage Annual Conference in San Diego, California. In it Judy Kolloch explains the sexism she encountered in Homes Not Jails East Bay (Berkeley and Oakland).

Sexism in Homes Not Jails (Berkeley)

an Interview with Judy Kolloch Conducted by Anders Corr

What were your experiences with sexism in the squatting movement?

In terms of sexism, I have a little bit of experience with other squatting stuff going on in the East-Bay. This is one of the reasons why I haven't squatted. We had a bunch of Homes Not Jails meetings a few months ago that really fell flat. They were dominated by loud-mouthed men, to be rather blunt, who really didn't want to make room for opinions other than their own. They were not only misogynous, but inconsiderate of anyone not themselves. We had meetings and there were ten or fifteen people coming. They did not allow space for other people and couldn't listen. There were a number of women who came to the meetings and we networked amongst ourselves and talked about having a women's squat. None of us wanted to squat right then. We still know each other, if I decide that I definitely want to squat and am going to go make that move there are other women who I will contact. It is rapidly apparent that for women to be in a good squatting situation, we need to do it ourselves. Men are really difficult, if not impossible, to work with. I took part in building investigations late at night and at the time I was thinking about making the move but then two women friends and I got beat up while dumpstering. That chilled my interest in putting myself in a vulnerable situation. The fact is that if you are squatting you are in a very very vulnerable situation, especially if you are a woman. You need to be smart about it. Right now I don't know if I could protect myself from some guy coming in and wanting to fuck with us. I have to be able to do that before I do it again. To answer your question, in my experience there is a lot of sexism. We need to bring to the forefront that women are not safe in this culture and it is a drag.

Did you say you would have done a Homes Not Jails squat were it not dominated by men, instead of moving into your vehicle?

At the time I moved into my van I would have been interested in squatting with a bunch of women but I wouldn't have wanted to do it with a bunch of men. A lot of the things necessary to taking and getting a squat running are things that men, at least the ones in Homes Not Jails, tend to feel is their domain and they will take control. For example, to get into the building you need to use tools and break locks. Who has the equipment? Usually men. I don't have, what do you call it, you know those male things . . . Bolt-cutters.
We were asking around, trying to find people who knew how to hook-up electricity and water. It seemed like there was some kind of block. I or another woman would ask a guy 'Do you know how to do this?' and he would say yes. 'Well, do you want to help us do it?' Then he is off in another conversation. It seemed that there wasn't much interest by people who were experienced squatters to help women empower themselves and learn how to do it by themselves. I suppose what we need to do is get a bunch of Time-Life books. There are women in San Francisco who have experience in breaking squats. We aren't limited to men, they are not the keepers of squat knowledge. In that particular situation it was really really difficult to feel valid. The answer to your question is no, I wouldn't have squatted with Homes Not Jails, but I would have squatted with a group of women.

In April of 1993 Judy refused to allow her landlady to rent an illegal upstairs flat to a new tenant and so eviction proceedings began. This allowed the house and their visitors to use the upstairs flat as "a major west-coast crash pad," office space, and Judy's band practice. They stopped paying the landlady on September 1, 1993 and saved $5,350 in four months of unpaid rent. Only on January 2, 1994 when the landlady agreed to pay the rent-strikers $670 did they move out. At the time of this writing, Judy lives in a cabin she built on squatted beachfront property with an amazing view of the San Francisco Bay.