Saturday, April 26, 2008

Whose Genitals Matter?

Reuters recently ran a story on, penis thievery in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Men reported being touched by witches and sorcerers. This touch either removed their penises, shrunk them, or left them impotent. When men were told that there was no visible damage to their genitalia, they claimed to have once possessed a larger penis. Police arrested 14 people in an attempt to protect them from retaliation lynchings. There was fear that there would be a repeat of the violence that occurred in Ghana a decade ago when men were "assaulted" in this manner.

As reported in Reuters,"You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We've had a number of attempted lynchings. ... You see them covered in marks after being beaten," Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko."

These attacks quickly became a part of the national dialog and were widely discussed on radio programs. The very idea of men being "attacked" this way, led to the potential for great social unrest.

What is the situation like for women in the Congo? Let us pause, to juxtapose men and women.
Last week HBO premiered the documentary, The Greatest Silence, Rape In The Congo. It is the award winning documentary by Emmy award winning producer/director Lisa F. Jackson.

Women are viciously gang raped and left bleeding to die. After being assaulted they are considered defiled by their communities. Often they are abandoned by the husbands that failed to protect them. This is particularly problematic for women who become pregnant as a result of rape; not only are they stigmatized bodies but they must bare the burden of raising a child that is the product of rape.

It is clear that a gender hierarchy exists in the Congo. Mens hallucinatory attacks quickly become part of the national discourse, while the mass rape of women goes largely ignored. This is beyond phalocentrism, this is a culture of misogyny and violence. The penis is protected not because it is a part of the male body, but because it functions as a tool to oppress, brutalize and silence women. The penis literally symbolizes the hierarchy of gender in the Congo, thus the very idea of it being diminished becomes the cause for social unrest.

Womens cries go unheard. Their mass rape does not become part of the national discourse. In fact, their bodies are stigmatized to be rendered invisible. The pain and horror in their eyes reveals a glimpse of souls that have been forever wounded. Do the truculent men of the Congo emote even the smallest form of remorse? ... No. For as long as the penis represents power, it will be protected even at the cost of the lives of girls, and women. I hear the cries of these women, for it has been etched into my heart, the question is do you? Stop the silence, end rape in the Congo! End violence against women everywhere!

Maya Angelou Race Traitor?

On April 24th The Hotline reported on a political endorsement penned by Maya Angelou, entitled an open letter to friends. In this letter she clearly affirmed her choice of endorsing Hillary for president.

"I am supporting Hillary Clinton because I know that she will make the most positive difference in people’s lives and she will help our country become what it can be. Whether you are her supporter, leaning towards her, undecided, or supporting someone else, I believe Hillary Clinton will represent you – she will be a president for all Americans. It is no small thing that along the way we will make history together."

While I am not a supporter of Hilary for various reasons, I support the right of Ms. Angelou to publicly declare her choice of candidate.

The current presidential election has forced the nation to open a dialog on race and gender. This is a particularly difficult position for black women, as they must negotiate both, and often simultaneously. This was made even more clear to me when I read the response at Brown Sugar to Ms. Angelous endorsement.

"Sigh. I'm done. I'm so tired of Black folk with slave mentality's I don't know what to do. This is just ridiculous. I supposed if Clinton had called her a Nigger to her face she'd still be talking about, "She is able to look through complexion and see community."

When will Black folk learn."

There are many ways in which Ms.Brown could have chosen to critique Maya's choice of political candidate. She could have expressed her displeasure with the endorsement by commenting on Clintons voting record, statements to the press, or even her actions when she was first lady. Instead Ms.Brown immediately chose to frame the debate in race. Through the use of inflammatory language Ms.Brown sought to create a hierarchy of oppression, wherein black women to avoid being called a traitor must always choose to identify with race over gender. Maya Angelou is both black and female, why does supporting one part of her identity immediately make her a traitor to her race? This attempt at stigmatizing the body reinforces the idea that a monolithic black woman exists.
When a black woman is being beaten by her black husband, is it because of her race or her gender? When a black woman finds herself pregnant with a child that she does not want, is it because of her race or her gender? There are clearly issues that black women must deal with simply because of being born female. Not every issue pertains solely to race. To deny that gender effects us, is to create a one dimensional un-woman. We do not exist as or female, in fact we inhabit both spaces. To deny one facet of ones identity is to limit expression, freedom, happiness and the souls ability to transcend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Abortion Man

In case you are wondering who is responsible for this travesty, let me point you in the right direction.... It is the brainchild of Damon Wayanes. Violence against women, never has been, and never will be a laughing matter. To create a super hero, whose sole responsibility is to physically assault pregnant women, because men do not want to live up to their parental responsibilities is beyond shameless. It is clear that despite being a father himself Mr. (and I use that term loosely) Wayanes has no regard for women and children. Did it not occur to him, for one minute that incidents like this actually happen? Men do not need more reasons to shirk their responsibilities, nor do they need any more excuses to physically assault women. I would like to create my own super hero, and call her angry fed up woman. Her sole responsibility would be to slap the ignorance off of and Damon Wayanes!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dog The Bounty Hunter

Dog the Bounty Hunter was at one time the highest rated show on A&E. That is of course before its star Duane Chapman was recorded in a racist diatribe by his son. It seems Chapman took issue to his dating a black female. He felt that she might for some bizzare reason take issue with his frequent use of the word nigger. Of course it did not occur to him to stop using the word because it is racist and offensive....Oh no the solution he proffered was the dissolution of his sons relationship.

After the tape was made public A&E canceled the program. It seems however, that the network has had a change of heart. After all the show is about "second chances", they claim, so why not give one to their beloved racist Duane Chapman? According to an A&E spokesman as reported on CNN

"Over the last few months, Duane "Dog" Chapman has taken and continues to take the appropriate steps in reaching out to several African American organizations in an effort to make amends for his private comments to his son which were released publicly," said a statement from the network.

"Since the premise of "Dog The Bounty Hunter" is about second chances - we have decided to give him one." I am sick of these types of incidents occurring. Whether it is Imus with his nappy headed whores commentary, or the Dog with his nigger commentary, networks have got to stop giving second chances. A slap on the wrist only encourages this kind of behavior. This is more of the "good ole boys club" protecting itself. Clearly, this is language that Chapman used daily and was comfortable with. In fact, his only remorse came when he realized that such language could threaten his career.

Shame on A&E for allowing this man back on the air. Making a profit clearly outstrips making a stand about racism.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oprah's Leadership Academy

When I first learned that Oprah was building a school in South Africa, I was filled with hope and joy. Life for women is difficult, and even more so in South Africa. Young girls, and women are routinely raped as it is thought that having sex with a virgin will cure aids. This is a crime of ignorance and hatred. Though South Africa is no longer an apartheid state, a vast majority of blacks have not experienced a great change in their living conditions. Many townships do not have running water and electricity. Parents still routinely struggle to pay school fees for their children. It is in this damaging environment, that Oprah built her Leadership Academy. She personally went to South Africa, and interviewed many of the 3500 girls that applied for the 150 places.

As part of the criteria for acceptance the total family income could not exceed 700 dollars a month. On Oprah's site, one can view brief video biographies of some of the young girls that have been accepted to her school. I spent a few minutes listening to the stories of these brave young women and was deeply moved. Their lives have been touched by poverty, and aids. One young woman speaks of her daily fear of being raped. I am transfixed as I watch another feed her younger siblings oatmeal mixed with water....their supper for the evening.

These young women are victims of birth. How would their lives be different had they not been born black and female in South Africa? Would we even recognize them as the souls they are today? Into this quagmire of despair, Oprah through the building of a school hoped to interject a ray of light and hope. In the time since opening the Leadership Academy things have not run smoothly. Tiny Virginia Makopo a former matron of the school is facing criminal charges for indecent criminal assault.

Recently a young student suffered a mental breakdown. It seems that she could not adjust to the school environment. She is also suffers from epilepsy a condition that the school what not aware of at the time of her enrollment. She was scheduled to leave the hospital where she was admitted for treatment, and return to her impoverished home.

Does it come as any surprise, that even though these young girls have been given the opportunity of a lifetime, that issues with mental health would arise? In one testimony a girl speaks of watching her father kill her mother? How does one put that aside, to learn geometry and grammar?

For some girls this may be the first time that they have felt safe enough to even reflect upon the horrors of their daily existence. What these instances make clear, is that the soul must heal before the body can move on. In fact these girls were chosen in part because of the horrific circumstances that they were living in.

it is their trauma that stands in their way of transcending. These young women have been damaged by the conditions under which they have been forced to live. It is naive to think that handing them a textbook, and a uniform would be enough to drown out the echoes of the past. While the school is definitely a step in the right direction, unless these young women receive the mental help counseling they need to deal with past traumas, incidents like this will continue to occur.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Womanist Manifesto

Womanist is a term coined by Alice Walker. I have chosen it as the title for my blog, as it aptly describes not only my political beliefs, but the essence of who I aspire to be. Walker defines womanist as, "the black folk expression of mothers to female children, 'You acting womanish,' i.e. like a woman … usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered 'good' for one … [A womanist is also] a woman who loves other women sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture … and women's strength … committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist … Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender."
I will dedicate this blog to telling my truth, and as much as possible the truth of other women of color. Our voices are often silent marginalized whispers in the sea of oppression. Our bodies have historically been sexualized, abused, and broken by the hydra of imperialism, patriarchy and femicide. Our souls desperately wanting to soar have been made earthbound, and depleted through ignorance and hate. This blog will be my testimony to those that have sought to create me as 'other' and somehow deficient. I exist, I am real, here on the corporeal plane. Though my journey has left me battered, I am as of yet undefeated. When I have cried out to the moon resistance in anguish from injury due to sexism, racism has risen its ugly head. When I longed to see my worth acknowledged, nourished and valued in the heat of the noon day sun, sexism has risen to re stake its claim upon me. Constantly assailed by monsters who refuse to be subdued, I have engaged in battle, with the earth as my shield and my soul sufficing for a sword. My story is not unique, It is like a grain of sand in the hourglass of time. My ancestors know my song, for it is the lament of many who bear the burden and the joy of existing as black and female in this world. I am more than a victim of racism and sexism. I am the hopes and dreams of my fore mothers. In their name I engage in battle, and in their name I declare myself a WOMANIST.