Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lesbian Denied Artificial Insemination

image Eight years ago Guadalupe Benitez, after nearly a year of fertility treatments was denied artificial insemination.  The doctor allegedly cited religious reservations as the causation. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that this was the only clinic that was covered by her insurance company. Benitez has since filed a sexual-orientation discrimination suit against the staff of the private North Coast Women's Care Medical Group.

Carlo Coppo the doctors lawyer was quoted as saying in CourtTV news that, "his clients were committed to fair treatment of Benitez — from fertilization to pregnancy and birth — but that aiding the actual act of conception compromised their religious views."

"[Brody] believes that participating in the [fertilization procedure], she is acting as the male," Coppo said. "It is an elective, invasive procedure, and to be there for the moment of conception, she religiously can't participate."

This is clearly a case of bigotry based in sexual orientation. If the doctor performs this elective procedure on heterosexual women, she is "acting as the male" in those circumstances as well.  In her role as gatekeeper the doctor is reinforcing the normativity of heterosexuality, while casting homosexuality as deviant. At the same time she is acting as an agent of control in terms of female bodies.  The ability to decide whether or not to conceive, and bear a child is essential to realization of womens agency and autonomy.

According to CourtTV News, Benitez's attorney, Jennifer Pizer, said "the appeals court ruling was troubling because it opened the door to all kinds of discrimination."

"It certainly is a social problem and a legal problem if someone enters a commercial business and can be told they will not receive the same services that another person can," Pizer said.  She is further quoted as saying in the Monterey County Hearald, "There is confusion among many health care providers who believe doctors have the freedom to pick and choose their patients. But doctors' ethics may not be exercised in a discriminatory way."

It is under this basis that Benitez won the first suit which was subsequently over turned  by a midlevel appeals court.  Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the Virginia-based American Civil Rights Union, said according to the Monterey County Hearald [that]"regardless of what the doctor's reasons were for referring her to another fertility specialist, a ruling in Benitez' favor would set a dangerous precedent."

"If you have a genuine moral issue raised, as in this case, you have to recognize the rights of both parties," said Ferrara, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the doctors.

Requiring them to act in violation of their beliefs "is a discriminatory resolution, and it discriminates against Christians," he said. image

Along with the American Civil Rights Union, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the California Catholic Conference, the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Americans United for Life and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council submitted briefs backing the North Coast practice.

The California Medical Association initially sided with the doctors as well, but reversed its position after coming under fire from gay rights groups.

It has been a few years since I actively read the bible, but I don't remember a chapter, or verse that could be quoted to support the discrimination in this case, over and above the services that are already being performed on heterosexuals. Insemination is not a sexual act therefore they are not even acting counter to that pesky prohibition, Levitcus 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."  Perhaps then the problem is that these evil lesbians are sinners.  Could that be it?  Well since that overly curious, mentally and physically autonomous Eve decided she simply had to have a vitamin C packed apple for a snack, guess what folks, WE'RE ALL SINNERS. To this day, her "daughters" are being punished for her exhibition of free will.  You would think we women would just want to give up by now and say okay you win, we will stop trying to control our own bodies, and determine our own rate of fertility.  In the 66 books, 1,189 chapters, one could surmise that having the shortest two chapters named after women would dictate to us our level of priority in Christianity. Why wouldn't a thinking woman want to base the totality of her life, on a document dedicated to promoting her rights?  We can always tell men that of the 31,101 versus, Esther 8: 9 has the distinction of being the longest verse, with 78 words to its credit. Now that is putting the needs of women front and center.

Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the masses.  As an agent of socialization it acts as a mechanism of control over the population by disciplining and stigmatizing bodies. This form of discipline reinforces the patriarchal family which in turn legitimizes male hegemony throughout every aspect of society.  Benitz is being specifically penalized for not submitting to a penis.  If the purpose of womens bodies is procreation and male pleasure, to not allow penetration is to bimagee considered a fouled personality. She is not worthy in the eyes of these doctors of motherhood because it was not "granted" by a male, nor would it be supported by a male figurehead in the continuation of patriarchal control.  Allowing this decision to stand lends credence to the idea that womens lives are to be determined by others.  Without having  the right "to choose" on all aspects of the spectrum what we possess is the illusion of control. Fortunately Guadalupe was able to find another doctor to perform the procedure, and today she is the mother of a 6 year old boy and 2-year-old twin girls. The bible has been used to justify all manner of evil in this world. From war, slavery, incest, polygamy to rape, all have found a moral basis within the holy pages.  Each person is entitled to their own beliefs but to subject another to them also violates that persons right to freedom of religion, and freedom from persecution. In a secular world 'woman' is already constituted as "other", and to subject us as a group to biblical authority further reduces our autonomy. Now that this ruling has been passed, the bible will continue to be used to justify exclusion, exploitation, and the social imbalance of power, only now it will have the force of man made law to add to divine inspiration.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Negro Queen

image For those that are unfamiliar with Canadian politics, Michaëlle Jean is the Governor-General, the queens representative in parliament. She is Canada's first black Governor-General. Though she is Haitian by birth, she is a Canadian citizen.  Her full title is, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of image Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada. She has received The Order of Canada, Order of Military Merit, Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Order of St.John, Canadian Forces Decoration, The Media Award from the Human Rights League of Canada,  and Prix Mireille-Lanctôt, from the Fondation Mireille Lanctôt.  These are just a few of her accomplishments.

The following comes directly from wikkipedia:

Jean became the first governor general to launch an online chat with Canadians, on September 27, 2006. This initiative was part of a larger project: creating a website within the Governor General's domain name dubbed "Citizen Voices: Breaking Down Solitudes", where users could engage each other in blogs and discussion forums.

Jean embarked on a trip consisting of five state visits to African countries - Algeria, Mali, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco - between November 18 and December 11, 2006. She encouraged women's rights in each country she visited, stating that women in Islamic countries were "builders and doers", and that westerners should "look beyond the veil." On November 23, 2006, the tour took her to Mali where she was greeted by tens of thousands lining the highway, and where she was presented, in the town of Benieli, with a goat, replete with a Canadian flag on its collar. Male vendors in Mali also gave Canadian journalists gifts to be passed on to Jean, provided that she also be given their phone numbers. The gifts, and phone numbers, were deposited with the Rideau Hall Office of Protocol. In a precedent-breaking move, on her Citizen Voices website, Jean personally explained the role of the Governor General in undertaking state visits, and the reason behind these particular visits throughout Africa. She then continued to post, from Africa, her observations and feelings on her experiences on the continent.

In her capacity as acting Commander-in-Chief, on March 8, 2007, Jean made her first visit to Canadian troops taking part in the offensive in Afghanistan. Prior to this, the Governor General had stated her desire to visit the troops, but the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, advised her not to go, citing security concerns over the Vice-regal being in the turbulent area; this was despite the fact that a number of Canadian politicians had already visited the region. Jean landed on the same day two attacks against Canadian soldiers took place. Jean had the arrival timed specifically for International Women's Day, stating: "the women of Afghanistan may face the most unbearable conditions, but they never stop fighting for survival. Of course, we, the rest of the women around the world, took too long to hear the cries of our Afghan sisters, but I am here to tell them that they are no longer alone. And neither are the people of Afghanistan." Part of the Governor General's duties included a meeting with Afghan women, as well as Canadian soldiers, RCMP teams, humanitarian workers and diplomats

Clearly Michaëlle Jean is an accomplished woman. What she cannot escape, and indeed the thing that no woman of color can escape is  her race. image According to the Globe and Mail, "Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, who has penned some 70 works of fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry, referred to Ms. Jean as "La Reine-Nègre" -- or negro queen -- in an editorial he wrote for an independent newspaper." Unrepentant, he refused to acknowledge the racism in his statement. "It has nothing to do with racism," he told The Canadian Press in an interview from Trois-Pistoles, Que.It's not the colour of her skin that I'm attacking, it's her role and the way she assumes it. It's the role of a reine-nègre." Michaëlle Jean is committed to an integrationist approach to French Canadians.  It is the idea of unity, versus Quebec separatism that apparently drove Victor-Lévy Beaulieu to attack her in this manner. He further went on to say, "At a certain point you have to call a cat a cat," he said. "We showered them (roi-nègres) with gifts, jewels, clothes, cheap junk ... and they said exactly what the colonizers wanted them to say."

This from a man who is demanding respect for his culture.  When he looked at Michaëlle Jean, he did not see the Governor-General, all he saw was a black woman that had an agenda that was different from his.  Were he truly criticizing her political stance, he would have felt no need to reference her race.  It was meant to lessen her accomplishments, and assert his privilege as a white male.

Despite all of her accomplishments Michaëlle Jean is nothing other than a "negro queen".  This is also a specific assault on her gender.  Historically a black woman who has confidence, is accomplished, and has self respect have been characterized in a similar vein.  Assertiveness, aggression, and achievement are deemed to be the preserve of men, specifically white men. How dare Michaëlle have her own political agenda. How dare she assert the authority that comes with her position. No matter how hard WOC struggle to elevate themselves in this world, someone is always ready to remind us that we have over stepped our bounds. Though her appointment is a symbol of progress in Canada vis a vis race and gender, it is clear that we have not evolved as far as we need to, if comments like this can be publicly said.  White men will not willing give up their historical unearned privilege.  It is up to us as POC to demand the respect that we deserve. Black Canadians have more than paid our dues, and it is time that we have our seat at the table of plenty. Victor-Lévy Beaulieu may attempt to deny the racist, and sexist under tones of what he said, but those of us that must negotiate racism, and sexism everyday fully recognize his undeclared meaning.  His language was assaultative, and to refuse to apologize further confirms his intent. Through your own language it is you Beaulieu who have been laid bare. We recognize you for what you are, and it shall not be forgotten.

Why Feminism Is A Necessity

image I was going through my news readers when I came across a site  with a woman declaring her disbelief in feminism, via ifemenist.com. Yes I know, the world is unfair, and men by enlarged suffer from misandry.  I had written this page off as fringe, lunatic nonsense, and moved on when I came across a study that found that, 90% of adolescent girls experience sexual harassment. 90%..that is an astounding figure.  I kept flashing back in mind to this website, and realized I had to confront it.  Bear with me while we make our way through the muck of internalized hatred. The post in question is entitled, "Why Is This Woman Against Feminism."

"We got the vote in, what, 1920? That’s 88 years ago, nearly a century! So what is feminism trying to accomplish now???? I say the push is now for special privileges for women, not equal opportunities. I say further that the new strategy, and one that has worked very well for nearly a century, is to get those special privileges by making women look like victims of society in general, and men in particular. Not only that, but to make it really effective, they have to convince the women themselves that they really are victims."

There is more to equality than having the right to vote.  Women still make 70 cents for every dollar a man makes, and the disparity is even larger for women of color.  The vast majority of women that are single mothers live in poverty, but daily the right to have an abortion is continually being assaulted. Mothers that are married, and work outside of the home still perform most of the domestic duties, childrearing, and elder care.  This constitutes a "double day". Women bodies are constantly sexualized in the media.  I challenge you to watch fifteen minutes of television without seeing the image of a half naked woman, selling us something we neither want, or need.  Daily for a small fee one can have access to violent pornography thus reifying our rape culture. Or perhaps hip hop is your thing, I can imagine how you might find it pleasant to hear women referred to as bitches and hos continually. Maybe you are more mainstream, and you have found delight in the sexism that has been thrown at Hillary Clinton.  My goodness a woman president, we cannot have that, when she gets her period she might be tempted to push the button. Where oh where will we hide the tampon dispenser in the Oval office?  You see that office is the repository of male bodily fluids, and the cleaning staff are used to dealing with semen, and not blood.

Speaking of semen, are you feeling a little horny dear?  Any idea where your clitoris is?  Found it by accident didn't you, because female sexual pleasure just isn't taught in sex education classes.  No need to get upset though because women don't need to have an orgasm to walk around barefoot, and pregnant.  They just need to spread their legs when told, and feign pleasure at the mans will. This will also include perfecting the skill of fellatio while ignoring the fact that your man thinks that cunnilingus is some foreign country off the coast of Italy.  Throw the little man in the boat a life jacket, and buy a vibrator, it may be the only way you will ever have an orgasm. Since you clearly are so traditional, I won't even get into the fact that it isn't considered sex when lesbians are intimate.  I mean how can it be sex where there is no penis involved?

Society is continually disciplining the female form, unlike the perfect male Adonis body. Did you know you stink? Don't worry though there are douches for that, just don't think about what it is doing to your natural chemistry.  What is that... a hair on your leg? Didn't you know that women are supposed to all have hairless prepubescent bodies at all times, while men can go around looking like they belong in gorillas in the mist, with nary a batted eye. Are you feeling hungry sweetie?  Better watch what you eat, the diet industry is dependent on your desire to conform to the ideal female form to maintain profits.  Don't worry though Jenny Craig will love you, for every dollar of your meager disposable income that you spend trying to get into an unachievable size o.  Do you have any money left after purchasing your high sodium diet food?  Good stuff because what's left has to go to the plastic surgeon.  You know that a true woman cannot allow herself to age naturally. No that would mean that you didn't care about yourself.  Better get those boobs lifted, the stomach tucked, and those crows feet removed.  You cannot afford to look haggard next to your man, who even though he is five years older than you is becoming distinguished while you look dried up, and used.

Speaking of your senior years, you know that stress free retirement you were dreaming of?  Ditch that idea. You see, you took so much time out of the workforce to raise children, and take care of your elderly parents that it has effected your retirement benefits.  Should you have the misfortune to outlive your spouse, and loose his share of benefits you will become a regular at food banks, and soup kitchens.  Even with the discounts you will get for being a senior, economically life will be very hard for you. 

"So if you can’t lie, the only other alternative is to tell the truth. Ah, but it’s all in the way you tell it. Only include the juicy parts. Include the stories about men beating up, raping, even killing their wives. Leave out the part about how the vast majority of men wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. Leave out the part about how the vast majority of men would like to see the perpetrators of such horror killed. Leave out the part about women beating up, raping, even killing their own children. It wouldn’t be politically expedient to mention those parts of the truth, so we’ll just leave those out.

And that is what I have against feminism. It’s a big fat lie. The reality, whether any readers who call themselves feminist want to believe it or not, is not some pie-in-the-sky “equality”. It’s the elevation of one sex, by the demonization of the other. Kind of like the Nazi party elevated the Aryan race, by the demonization of the Jews. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now."

What was that you were saying about the vast majority of men?  According to the study I referenced at the beginning of this post, "Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers."  I know that this is only one study, however there are many in existence which document the exploitation, violence, and sexual assaults that women must deal with on a daily basis.  Get a library card, its free....it might open your eyes, because clearly you have internalized the nonsense that people like Limbaugh have sold to the world.

Finally feminism does not claim that all women are perfect.  Yes there are some feminist theories like radical feminism, and eco-feminism, that are essentialist but they do not speak for all of the various forms of feminism.  Feminist theory is fluid, and constantly changing to meet the diverse needs of women.  Simply stating the facts of the lived experience of women does not constitute the demonization of men.  Why should women deny the horrors of their daily lives so that men can have a feel good experience?  Why can't they just watch Oprah and Dr.Phil?  Finally your holocaust analogy is horrible for many reasons.  I will however state to you, that men have been slaughtering women since the beginning of time.  Now with the aid of technology we are killed before we can even take our first breath. It is called femicide.  Live in denial if rose colored glasses allows you to negotiate this world a little easier but please sell crazy somewhere else, the kool aid is not as tempting as you think. image

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The "N" Word, Why Are We Still Using It?

image  Michael Scott anchor at WAAY-31-ABC in Huntsville, has been suspended after a verbal altercation in which he called news producer Jabaree Pruitt a nigger.  He initially started out by referring to him as a Negro, but when Janbree protested he called him a nigger.  According to BET, the incident occurred during a commercial break in the 10 p.m. newscast.  Both men are black.

Some of you may be wondering why this is news.  After all blacks use the word nigger on a daily basis. What this incident shows us is that nigger continues to be a contentious word, despite the reclamation efforts of some.  It has often stood as a kind of limitus test within the black community.  Where you stand on its usage often relates to your class association, rather than position. It is deemed as language that is only fit for those identifying with "low class" and or ghetto roots.

While some use the word in a sense of "camaraderie", there can be no denying its historical links to the exploitation, and oppression of blacks. When Scott decided to use this word he meant it in its traditional oppressional stance, thus illustrating that even amongst people of color, the word nigger still has the potential to harm, and incite anger, and hatred.

Knowing this, why do we continue to use it?  Why do some blacks feel it is okay to say nigger, and then scream racism if a white person uses it?  White people cannot even say the word, they may only reference it by saying the "N" word.  In the short three paragraphs that I have written I have used "the word" seven times.  If this post was authored by a white person, blacks would be enraged, even though the point I am arguing involves the cessation of its usage. Either the word is okay for all, or it simply isn't ok.

Nigger constitutes the ultimate verbal assault weapon.  There are few other words in the English language that can arouse such immediate feelings of anger.  In fact the only other word I think of with similar power, is the word cunt. What do nigger, and cunt have in common?  They both are the result of one group expressing power, and privilege over another.  They are both meant to be reductionary in nature, through demeaning the person at whom it is aimed. They both turn the subject into an object of derision.  The only difference is that women do not go around calling each other cunts as terms of affection.  We recognize that a hate word, is a hate word, and cannot be used to initiate a sisterly bond.  We may all own vaginas, but we want to be recognized as more than our genitalia.

As long as we continue to justify its usage by claiming it is okay for us, and not for others, we reduce the true historical pain that the word nigger carries. Every time a POC says this hateful word, we are internalizing racial hatred.  We cannot reclaim that which we never owned.  Nigger was coined by whites specifically to be used against blacks.  It is meant to dehumanize and demarcate difference, not to be a cuddly, and or fuzzy salutation.  When we refer to each other as niggers we are agreeing that we are less than, and that we do not deserve to be endowed with basic human dignity.  Blacks constitute a colonized people globally, and this can only be reinforced by our continued identification with the tools of oppression. 

If you must refer to me by race, you may call me black.  If you must refer to my gender, you may call me a woman.  No one, regardless of gender, race, creed and or religion will ever have my permission to reduce my being by calling me a nigger, or a cunt. I know who, and what I am, and none of my essence  can be described through the usage of hate words.  Shame on you Michael Scott, the person you demeaned was not Janbaree Pruitt, it was your  hate internalizing self.

Panties For Peace Burmese Women Resist

image The Panties for Peace campaign was launched by the women’s organization Lanna Action for Burma on Oct. 16, 2007, in the hopes of bringing an end to the military regime’s rampant abuse of Burma’s population – and the abuse of Burma’s women in particular.  The Canadian version of the campaign was launched in Montreal Canada, on May 27.  The basis of this protest is the superstition of the male led military junta.  They believe that contact with womens garments, particularly those that cover the lower half of the body is emasculating.

"The campaign was launched by women from Burma," Rights and Democracy spokesperson Mika Levesque told CTV Newsnet from Montreal.  An Interview with Mika Levesque can be seen here

Burmese activist Thet Thet Tun told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday, "We want Canadians to know about women and discrimination against our democratic reforms."

"I think (underwear) that has already been worn will be most effective to put them to shame." It's been very well documented that rape has been used as a weapon of war in Burma. Soldiers go into villages and they systematically rape women. They have also used women as sexual slaves," Levesque said.

This is a non violent protest exploiting taboos against women, and further underlines crimes against women committed by the military.  According to Lanna Action for Burma, "The current humanitarian crisis affecting the population of Burma today is a product of more than 20 years of gross neglect and human rights abuses. The new crisis began as a natural disaster but quickly became a man-made catastrophe.

Once again the horrible aftermath of Cyclone Nargis has exposed the corruption and tyranny of Burma’s military regime for all the world to see. While the world dithers about “Responsibility to Protect,” also known as R2P… let the women of the world lead with R2PP, the “Right to Post Panties.”  Our fury has grown and Burma’s military rulers are in a weakened state and thus vulnerable to the power that they attribute to our underpants.  If this is the power they believe we have, then this is the power we will use against them."

Though I do not fully comprehend how this campaign will produce the results that these women so desperately need, I stand firmly against the use of rape as a tactic of war, and the specific exploitation of women.  As  western women we must follow the desires of the women that are being abused. It is their culture, and as such, they are in the best position to say what will be effective.  There is no peaceful effort that we should be unwilling to make to stop systemic violence against women. 

Even as you are sending your panties to raise awareness for the women of Burma, be aware that this is not an isolated case.  Since the history of war, womens bodies have been used as weapons of war.  It has always been common to kill all the men and rape the women.  Yet despite the historical occurrence of this, rape has only been recently been declared a war crime.  It is not women that initiate war, and yet our bodies are raped, maimed, and murdered in an effort to hurt other males.  Though rape happens to us, it occurs in this instance because women are still viewed as the property of men.  It is conceived that nothing could be more harmful to male pride than to have his "possession" tarnished by another male.  Such is the global status of women that our bodies are not even assumed to be the receptacles of the pain that we must endure. With the few weapons that we have available to us, we must stand in solidarity against such extreme violation.

Send your package to the representatives of the military junta in Canada :
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
85 Range Rd, 903
Ottawa (Ontario) K1N 8J6

An online petition can also be found here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stuck In The Middle

As a Woc I find myself often being pulled in two different directions.  White women often try to play the sisterhood game and remind me why feminism is important.  Black men are quick to remind me of the racism that we are subject to, as a reason why I should identify with civil rights movements, and or equity projects.  Both white women and black men always seem to approach with their hands out ( in friendship they claim) when actuality they are both looking for something.  It is never a neutral request, it is always a demand for solidarity, despite the fact that declaring so may be counter productive to my needs as a WOC.

I started this blog, so that I could finally say my peace. I had been lurking in the blogosphere for a while without commenting.  Now when I throw my two cents out there, I find that the response is always the same.  Black patriarchy will not own their privilege, and white women will not own their racism.  Neither party is willing to shut the hell up and listen for two minutes.  Yet they want me to be of use.  Yep I can just see myself making copies, coffee, filing, you know the important support staff role without any power or an actual voice.  That is exactly the role that black women have been playing in both movements since their inception.  Now there have been a few notable black women who have been strong enough, to be forces to be reckoned with.  They are the exception, rather than the rule.  Most of us just end up juggling identity politics trying desperately not to be swallowed whole.

Hear me when I say that WOC are not divisible.  I am not more black, than I am a woman. Both are essential to my identity and as such, expecting me to privilege one over the other for your benefit is selfish, and cruel.  The guilt baiting tactics have got to stop.  My body does not represent your proving ground.  If I choose to speak out about a particular subject, that does not mean that other is somehow less important in my life.  Racism may be my issue today, but sexism may take center stage tomorrow.

I love black men most unashamedly. You are my brothers, father, sons, and friends. Do not abuse this love by making sexist comments because we have the same culture.  Using words like 'ho, bitch etc are just plain hurtful.  Expecting me to sacrifice myself continually so that you may achieve success does not uplift us a race, it uplifts black men.  You cannot refer to black women as ball busting shrews, and expect us to continue following along faithfully like obedient dogs, begging to be kicked, and beat down again.  We share a culture, but that gives you no right to exploit my labor, sexuality, body, womanhood or the essence of who I am for your amusement, or to enhance your self pride.  There are definite issues in this world when it comes to racism, but they will not be solved by "othering" black women.  Creating your own version of patriarchy does not uplift you, it only gives injustice, and bitterness to the ones that bore you.

White women have been my friends, and allies.  I have cried with you, and shared many instances of intimacy.  We have laughed, and danced in celebration.  But our friendship does not give you the right to silence me.  I have something to say, something you might even find valuable, if you could take the time out to listen.  You do not represent all women despite what the media has told you.  When Betty Friedan was writing the Feminine Mystique she certainly did not have black women in mind.  You see, we have always had to work outside of the home, and you in particular should know that, as we have been your cooks, housekeepers, and nannies.  Even today when you rush off to your womens conferences it is by enlarged women of color that you have employed as domestic workers.  It is our labor that provides you with the freedom to pursue your feminist agenda.  You want us to rail about injustice when a woman is kidnapped or otherwise abused, but where are you when black girls, and women go missing?  Where are your screams for media coverage?  Why don't our assaults seem to carry the same kind of weight? Perhaps Lacie Peterson is the only pregnant woman to be killed by her husband?  Have I missed something?  Do black pregnant mothers not get assaulted to? We are united, and yet so unequal.

I know that even as I am typing furiously away, it is the equivalent of blowing kisses into the wind.  Both sides are too myopic to see themselves as the exploiting soul crushing silencers that they really are.  Both are so busy confronting the evils of white male oppression, that they have ignored the ways in which they have become oppressors.  Well the milk stand is closed, and mammy is done serving.  Don't tell me that you can identify with me, or understand where I am coming from, because you can't.  Until you spend a day living in the body of a WOC, you have no idea what it is to occupy the bottom rung of the racial, and social hierarchy. Stop playing a tug of war with my body as though I am some possession that can be owned, and trained.  I don't want to be your token representation of diversity. I am not some trump card that can be played at the end of the day. I know your game, I have seen it played, and you will just have to excuse me because I think I would rather get my ball, and go home.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UN Peacekeepers Accused Of Abusing Children

image Save the Children UK today released a damning report that outlines the chronic problem of U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers in conflict-torn countries taking advantage of residents in the worst way: making kids trade food for sex, abusing children as young as six, engaging in sex trafficking, forcing kids into prostitution and porn. The organization says that not enough has been done to stop the problem since these crimes were originally brought to light. As Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, prefaced the report, "statements of principle and good intent have yet to be converted into really decisive and concerted international action."

The rest of the story is available here.

 

At this time I am to traumatized by this story to comment.

Women Trade Sex For Food

image Women and children are the most vulnerable in times of economic crises.   Too feed their children the women of Zimbabwe have been forced to trade sex for food. They are crossing the border into neighboring  Mozambique, where they will have access to highly valuable American dollars.  According to the Mail & Guardian, "the Zimbabwean economy has collapsed in the last decade, with inflation now running at 165 000% and the unemployment rate at 80%. The women who spoke to AFP said they were drawn by the possibility of earning money to send home, but most of them struggled to earn the equivalent of $20 (€13) a day. At times they get paid as little as 50 US cents for sex acts."

With nothing left to sell these women must resort to the one commodity that they have... their bodies.  Many will say that prostitution is a choice but when the impetus for the act is staving off starvation, it can hardly be called a choice. These women are not high class call girls working on 5th avenue, they are desperate mothers trying to support families, that are dependent on their earnings. Commodfying basic human needs like food, water, clothing and shelter is inhumane in that the most marginalized members of society are exploited because of their lack of access to capitol. image Money is a social construction, and we have placed the value of it over and above humanity.

"The money is little, but if I save it properly I will be able to send groceries that will sustain my family for some days," the 23-year-old told Agence France-Presse in the central Mozambican town of Chimoio."We can not find jobs back home and here we do not have identification papers and that is why many women have opted for prostitution," she added."

Yes they "opted" for prostitution.  We have a tendency to look down upon sex trade workers without examining why they have resorted to this for "employment".  To feed my child I would do anything.  If the choice meant selling my body, so be it. 

There has been an attempt on the part of NGO's to focus on educating women in the third world.  While I believe that these attempts are wonderful, they do not confront what happens when there are no jobs to be had period.  With a 80% rate of unemployment, no matter how educated you are, you are at risk.  Not only do we need to focus on education, we need to focus on access to land, and producing food.  In our drive to advance, humanity has lost contact with the life sustaining capability of land.  If women had access to land they could grow the food that their families need to survive, instead of resorting to prostitution. 

Prostitution is soul destroying work.  The body becomes the repository of male contempt for women. You will never speak to a young girl who dreams of growing up to become a prostitute.  Intrinsically we know that, selling our bodies piecemeal to the highest bidder will reduce us to less than human; to a fuckable object without a mind.  Prostitutes do not live in the moment, rather they take mental vacations while they are being fucked. They are not active participants, their bodies lie dormant beneath male bodies, meaningless and inert.  This is the "choice" that the women of Zimbabwe are willingly making.  Each night they risk violence,rape and exposure to STD's.  When we speak about poverty, we should never do so without examining how the cost of our separation from land has lead to the degradation of women.  If your body is all you have left to offer, would you part with it for 50 cents to feed your child?

Terrence Howard Gets My Award For Daddy Dearest

image What a loving picture of father and daughter.  There is no doubting that Terrence Howard loves his little girl.  In fact he recently threatened to do violence on her behalf.  It seems that when Daddy's little angel had the temerity to have a boyfriend, Howard demanded that the relationship come to an end, and threatened his daughters would be suitor.

"She's supposedly in love with some guy. I made her break up with him and I've threatened to kill him. I was like, you picked a green fruit from the tree that's far from ripe."

Yes, Aubrey is only 14 however, referring to her as a "green fruit" is inappropriate.  What is important to Daddy dear is that the precious family vagina remain pure.  When she chooses to loose her virginity is none of your business.  I wonder if he would be this concerned if he had a son instead of a daughter?  Watch out Aubrey, I have a feeling that Daddy may be purchasing tickets to a purity ball with your name on it.  Don't express an interest in the opposite sex.  You are supposed to remain chaste and asexual until Daddy gives you permission to do otherwise.  In case you are wondering when that day might be, I'll give you a hint... It will probably occur at your female enslavement day ( read: wedding day).  Yes Daddy will proudly walk you down the aisle, and transfer ownership of you to another patriarchal overlord. Yeah for innocence! Yeah for sheltering our children from their natural sexuality versus having a conversation about relationships, sexuality, and responsibility.

Terrence I think you are a wonderful actor.  I have seen most of the movies that you have been in.  I think you have issues though.  What were you thinking when you said this, " I've set a lot of things aside for you, but those things are only yours as long as you're obedient to me."  What you are teaching your little girl is that subservience pays.  It is all about you, and what you can provide, and not about what she can earn for herself.  What more, you are teaching her to value commodities.  The only reason to choose not to engage in sexual liaisons is attain material items, and not because the relationship might be harmful for her for various reasons.  Bad messages Terrence...You earn an F in parenting a young black female 101.

"She's OK now. Though, I'm sure he's still kind of her boyfriend. This summer I'll take her off to another country where her phone won't work, and he'll start dating someone else."

Are you sure you don't want to buy her a chastity belt while you are at it?  Yep she's ok.  She has been suitably publicly chastised, and reminded of her inferior status as a young black woman.  Imagine thinking that she should make decisions about her body.  Imagine that she had the nerve to pick someone that Daddy didn't agree with.  You made sure she won't make that mistake again though, didn't you.  After all, her future inheritance is at risk.  It seems that along with everything else that the female body represents, the hymen can now be represented by a $ symbol. Over and out, message received, and summarily rejected.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Social Lynching Of Michelle Obama

I have made it a point to not comment publicly on the presidential election as I am a Canadian, even though it is relevant to us.  Relevant how you ask.... well our current Prime Minister seems to love playing follow the leader so whatever happens there will eventually happen here.  At any rate I am digressing.  What is happening to Michelle Obama is not political in the sense of the election, it is political in the sense that she is publicly being lynched for the crime of being a woman of color with a mind.  Imagine that, a thinking, rationale, intelligent woman of color.  image Even those that claim to be acting in her best interests have used her body to illustrate the worst crimes against the black community.  In an earlier post I wrote about an image of her being lynched.  It (the image) originally appeared at dailykos.com.  He claims that he is surprised at the reaction to the post.  How that is possible is beyond me.  From his comment thread:

"now it's detached from the original text so they don't have to deal with it.

I noticed that the link back to the text isn't where they posted the image, either.

They all know that Kos didn't have anything to do with it, nor did Senator Obama's campaign nor did the Democratic party.

That's pretty obvious just by looking at it.

So would you please you tell me what you believe the downside of the image getting posted on those sites is?

The rightwingers are the ones posting it and they're all crapping in their pants and twisting over what the image represents."

THEM.

So concerned are you about what"rightwingers" are thinking you neglect to consider how this imageimage effects WOC.  Of course our feelings are inconsequential. We are without great social power, so if we are offended by the overly sexualized image of lynching it is not really relevant. It's the white sheets that count.  I can see why you are not worried, as when I read your comments section it seems that you are supported in this racist, sexist imagery.  One such example is this:

"didn't see it posted here.  But, it was grabbed by the rightwingers and is being passed around the net.  Its being used to slam Daily Kos as hard left racists.I got the images intent, though I have to say it was a bit offensive on first take.  I DO understand what you were trying to convey and on looking around the net I found a couple of your other images.   You are quite talented and mine and your politics are in agreement.  But, the right is using that Michelle image for all the wrong reasons...'m sure the right is using it to vilify us.You do good work man!  Keep it up,even if this one went down sideways, don't stop!"

I wish this commentator would explain it to me, because all I see is racism and sexism.  It simply does not matter where the racism and sexism originate, that they are acknowledged as such is what is important.  The desire to bifurcate between left and right is an expression of white privilege in that it creates WOC as objects, rather than subjects in the discourse involving racism.  We are only relevant to the degree that our bodies can be used to illustrate a point.

There is no difference from what you did and the vitriolic verbal assault upon her that occurred at Flopping Aces. Both are exercises in silencing the views of WOC based on white privilege.  For example Flopping Aces says,

"Michelle Obama wrote her Senior Thesis at Princeton, on the issue of whether black Princeton alumni changed their views on black/white relations as a result of their Ivy League education. The Politico has the full document here.

Her views on race are frankly, offensive and racist. Her worldview on the topic is entirely “Us versus Them.” She sees two cultures, with the Whites making the Blacks (she uses caps for the races) feel like outsiders. Note that even the “tolerant” liberals on an elite college campus are racists too. Well, we know when the liberals are intolerant, imagine what it must be like to have conservatives around. All emphasis mine.

And because Whites are irreparably racist, she decides to forgo assimilation into White culture and chooses to focus only on Blacks."

Yes just imagine that, two cultures, in a country that has its foundation in the enslavement of blacks, followed by Jim Crow and the continued economic disenfranchisement.  How could Michelle possibly feel "othered" when "Liberals" are more than ready to defend her, as shown by dailykos. Everyone is equal right, which is why pop culture figures like Imus can make racist comments and keep his job, but when a legitimate critique of white hegemony occurs it is simply unacceptable. Why wouldn't she wish to be part of white normative culture, after all there is never anything good associated with being black anyway. If only he had stopped there, but no he ranted on:

"I guess we are giving up on “Whitey,” because there really is nothing to be proud of in that “White cultural and social structure,” called America. Let’s do the more desirable thing and actively utilize our resources to benefit the Black community at Reverend Wright’s Black Liberation Theology church."

Okay tell you what, I will give you a standing applause for the modern day slave trade, the deaths of millions on the middle passage, the rape of female slaves, Jim Crow laws, unequal access to voting ( still occurring today), an economic system that is predatory and irrational (capitalism), the mortgage crises which targeted women of color despite credit rating, continued racialization and/or invisibility in the media and oh yeah that beautiful depiction in the dailykos.  Lots to want to identify with there.  If women of color are angry it is because you have earned our rage. Our foremothers suffered under your lash, and our daughters have a future to look forward to under the continued yolk of oppression. But oh no lets sing kumbaya in forgiveness, and solidarity instead of actively seeking to help each other out of our historical place at the bottom rung of social hierarchy. Yes we should all commit racial suicide, and identify with our oppressors.

"Oh, and isn’t it a little ironic that the same “White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society” finds her a hair’s breadth from becoming First Lady. She is an angry wretch who chooses to ignore the great opportunities this country has provided her."

Provided for her?  She didn't have to work to obtain her degree? Someone just handed it to her one day because they thought she was cute right? When she wrote her thesis jackass, she had no idea that one day she might possibly be the first lady.  Nice way to take statements out of context to justify your twisted thinking. And finally in the coup de grace,

"She believes that the more a Black person assimilates into White culture (American culture?), the more that person harms the black community."

"American Culture" because of course white isn't a race is it? No it just represents everything that is God-fearing and normal.  Everywhere we look we are suffocated by this normalcy.  If only we could exist in Ozzie and Harriet land. I mean how wonderful would it be to live in a world with  grey flannel suit wearing, white, patriarchal dad goes to work and equally white, and deliriously happy stay at home mom fixes the "little problems," until daddy comes to deal with the harder issues.  White people have it down to a science.  If only we uppity Negroes could just learn to tow the line and assimilate damn it, we too could live in that deliriously happy and delusional world.

In the end regardless of whether the attack comes from the so-called left or right, it is still an attack.  They carry the same weight and cause the same hurt. When a supposed "ally" marginalizes me or any woman of color for that matter, I am not surprised.  In the world that I live in, I expect betrayal and am surprised only when the reverse occurs and people actually own their privileges.  I have seen the image of Michelle being lynched at many blogs written by WOC but I have yet to run across it at any white feminist blogs.  Why is that?  Where is the sisterhood now?  The point is, as WOC we need to invest in each other because we are all the protection we have against the cruelties of this world.  People may claim to be our allies, and even in some cases our friends, but through history we have learned to be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing.  Posts like the ones at the dailkos and flyingaces help to remind me why the fight for self-determination continues on.  If we leave our defense up to our so-called allies, and friends, we will be defined in the same fashion as has been done by those that openly admit their bigotry.  Black womanhood needs a new face, and she should be created, nurtured, and loved by us.

Slavery - The Crime Against Humanity That Refuses To Die

It has been 204 years since Haitians struggled, and overthrew their colonist rulers to "officially" bring an end to slavery, or that is what we are led to believe anyway.  The Restavecs (translated:to stay with) are the invisible child slaves that labor both in Hati, and in Western nations.  Their stories are absolutely heart breaking.  They are robbed of any semblance of a childhood.  Parents offer their children to wealthier families when they can no longer afford to care for them in the hopes that they will receive a good education, and be given the opportunities that they cannot provide due to their back breaking poverty. These children are forced to work without end, and are often subject to physical, mental, and sexual abuse. One such story can be read here.

Child slavery is not just the story of a "backward" Island across an ocean.  According to the Associated Press, Maude Paulin, 52, and a former teacher was sentenced to seven years in prison for forcing a Haitian teenage girl ( Simone Celestin) to work as a slave in her home. She was convicted of conspiring to violate Celestin's 13th Amendment rights to be free from slavery, of illegally forcing her to work for her and of harboring an alien for financial gain. "Testimony showed Celestin got virtually no schooling, was frequently threatened and beaten, and was forced to sleep on the floor. Celestin testified that she thought about killing herself.Celestin said she was repeatedly hit by Theodore ( the husband) and Paulin -- they used shoes, brooms, even a mortar, which is used for grinding food.

Yet despite Celestin's testamony the court  held friends and supporters of Paulin. In fact her daughter testified, "My mother is an inspiration to her friends and her family, to so many people."  She further went on to state, "She is not a monster." Since when does enslaving someone for six years, and forcing them to work 15 hour days not equate with  monstrosity?  Perhaps it takes a child to believe when Pauline said, "I love Simone with all my heart. I regret it and blame myself. I did this with my heart and didn't think with my head.'' I pity anyone that is "loved" in a similar fashion.  As a mother my heart breaks for Simone.  I ache for the childhood that has been lost, and that will never be recovered.

These abuses will continue so long as money equates to power in this world.  Parents who are not impoverished would not be inclined to relinquish their children, and hope for the best.  Constantly we pay lip service to rights for children and yet daily they are violated either for financial gain or sexual satisfaction. We declare a war on child poverty and do nothing to enrich their parents.  In actuality the poor are demonized and treated as less than by a system that values only commodities.  Even as I write this people in Hati are surviving on fried mud, and butter due to the recent food crises.  What does this mean to families already living in precarious positions?  Where is the humanity in this inherently irrational system of exchange that reduces people to commercial items of exchange? How can we be ruled by a tyrannical one percent of the population in direct opposition of our needs, let alone wants?

I weep for the children, and their parents.  My sensitive little boy would never survive this.  You see he knows only the gentle touch of my hand, and the love of my heart.  Isn't that what all children deserve? Yet I ask myself, what would I do if suddenly I could no longer clothe, feed and shelter him? It is the fear of every mother.  A fear that was justified for the mother of Simone.  When we rail against despotic, authoritarian governments and what they do to "their" people, remember that slavery happens here too.  Remember that western institutions like the World Bank, The Bank of the Americas and the IMF are guilty of perpetuating poverty by their odious loans and unfair SAPS ( structural adjustment programs) Through our own greed, avarice and false belief in a corrupt system of exchange we in part are responsible for children like Simone. Celestin is not just some nameless, faceless child, she represents every child that has been exploited and abused because her parents were destitute and desperate.  It is not an ocean that separates you from Simone, it is a sense of shared humanity, because every child belongs to this world.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pregnant Man Accused Of Gay Rights Zealotry and Greed.

I have been following with great interest the story of  Thomas, and Nancy Beatie.  Two months ago Thomas image announced to the world that he was pregnant, and reactions have been mixed to say the least. I find their story to be both compelling, and beautiful.

Thomas' pregnancy challenges our binary view of gender, and forces a reconceptualization of  what North American society considers to be normal.  There are those that are so invested in the stability of gender, and sex identity that their fear of change has led to obvious bigotry, and hatred. One such example can be read at the Daily Mail. As a trans ally, I feel it is necessary to deconstruct sections of this article to examine how gender binaries, ignorance, and hatred, inform the conclusions of the author. 

"When he had surgery to become a man, he had his breasts removed and was given testosterone to make him look and sound like a man, but he chose to keep his female reproductive organs.

So Beatie is really a man/woman hybrid. Call him a freak, if you like."

Thomas identifies as a man, and therefore having the surgery only corrected the disconnect between body and mind.  Calling him a freak is simply  inappropriate.  Just because his body does not conform with your understanding of male, does not mean he should be assigned the label of oddity.  He is a person like any other, and deserves respect.

"And making lots of money to boot. Beatie's little foray with his grass trimmer this week was a rare outing, on account of not wishing to jeopardize his lucrative contract with a picture agency by being photographed by paparazzi (which conveniently happened when he was trimming the lawn  -  but served to stoke up public interest in his story). image

The blinds are drawn across every window of the house to stop anyone getting any sneaky dirtier pictures.

Nancy and Thomas declined to be interviewed because, Nancy told me: 'We've got a book coming out in September and we want to have stuff left to say so people buy the book.'

The couple are also contracted to People magazine and with Oprah Winfrey, though Nancy insists they are not being paid by Winfrey. (She did not give details of the deal with People magazine.)"

They do have a child to support now.  Any opportunity that they have to make an income, that does not compromise their morals, they have to take. Perhaps you would prefer that the child grew up on food stamps?

"Beatie's friends in Hawaii say he seemed perfectly happy being in a lesbian relationship with Nancy and never talked about being confused about his gender."

So to legitimize his feelings he had to publicly confess them right?  Let's see how easy it is for you to declare your deepest darkest secret, to a world that is resistant to the very concept of what you are suggesting.

And then this pronouncement on The Oprah Winfrey Show: 'I have a very stable male gender identity. I see pregnancy as a process, and it doesn't define who I am.

'It's not a male or female desire to want to have a child. It's a human desire. I'm a person, and I have the right to have my own biological child.' Says who, precisely?

Says anyone that is not a trans bigot, and a gender conformist.

Beatie has said he did not feel as though he was born in the wrong body, which is how those who have a sex change often describe themselves.

Has it not occurred to you that the language has become so scripted precisely because the medical establishment acts as gate keepers to sex change operations?  If you do not parrot the company line, you will not be receiving an operation.  Think about the label that it is given ... body dysmorphic disorder, for crying out loud it is conceived of as a sickness.  According to The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry, 5th Edition, "The essential feature of body dysmorphic disorder is a preoccupation with some imagined defect in appearance or markedly excessive concern with a minor physical anomaly (Table 13–12). Such preoccupation persists even after reassurance. Common complaints include a diversity of imagined flaws of the face or head, such as various defects in the hair (too much or too little), skin, shape of the face, or facial features. However, any body part may be the focus, including genitals, breasts, buttocks, extremities, shoulders, and even overall body size. De Leon et al. (1989) stated that the nose, ears, face, and sexual organs are most often involved. It is not surprising, then, that patients with body dysmorphic disorder are found most commonly among persons seeking cosmetic surgery.A. Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. If a slight physical anomaly is present, the person's concern is markedly excessive...."  Would you want to "own" that negative stigmatization?

"One local I spoke to was unequivocal. 'Is it a he or is it a she, what is it? It's sickening. I was brought up with a different set of moral values and I just don't understand what is going on here.

'It is being done for entirely selfish reasons to make some sort of point without any regard to the child they are bringing into the world whatsoever.'

The moral values debate has no place in this scenario.  A man is having a child with his wife,  and I fail to see what it is problematic about this situation.  The fact that the neighbor refuses to acknowledge Beaties sex identity is his failing. 

I am not surprised to see people fall back on the harm/fear based discourse as it relates to children.   That is exactly the same reason that people have used and continue to use, to justify prejudice in terms of   bi racial children. If we teach children intolerance they will be intolerant. If we teach them to respect others they will learn to be respectful. 

There are plenty more examples that I could have gleaned from this article, but I am sure that you get the point.  Thomas and Nancy have decided to have a child and their task will only be made more difficult if the community around them uses fear as an excuse to "other" their family.  Simply because a way of living, and or identifying is hegemonic does not mean that it is "normal".  In the end all that matters is that this child will have two parents that love her, and if society will just stay out of her way, she will be capable of achieving many things.

Children Called Filthy Trash and Niggers

According to the associated press, parents of students at Monroeville Junior High School have filed a discrimination lawsuit against administrators and the Monroe County Board of Education.

They say black students there have been called the "N-word," "filthy trash" and are disciplined more harshly and frequently than their white counterparts.

Mark Boardman is the school system's attorney and says the allegations of racism were investigated and found to be false.

So let me get this straight, 11 people got together and just made up racist taunts for something to do right.  They went to the trouble of filing a lawsuit, and getting the ACLU involved just to draw attention to themselves. Right.....I buy that line of  thinking.

Lets not stop and consider that those accused of calling children niggers, ( I will not say the "N" word) and dirty trash would actually have trouble  owning up to it.  Sure it is in their best interest to admit to racial taunts, and face possible discipline.  Many people espouse racist ideals, but few are willing to wear it on their shoulders like a badge of courage. Even the KKK wear white sheets to their cross burnings.

Good for the parents involved for challenging the school board.  Children require a hostile free environment to learn effectively.  To be subject to racial taunts, and demeaned challenges a childs self-esteem.  If they associate learning with this kind of behavior they will be less inclined to excel, thus setting the stage for a lifetime of underachievement.  Education is the key that opens the door to success and by filing this suit, these parents have affirmed this lesson to their children.  They have also taught them that in this world where they will be continue to be marginalized, it is important to fight.  Do not own the racially flawed ideas of others.  Your identity is formed from your own construction.