Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cops Beat Transexual Woman

Her name is Duanna Johnson, and she is yet another victim of police brutality.  Memphis police were caught on tape brutally assaulting her. What was it about her that triggered such a brutal reaction? Duanna operates with many factors of social stigmatization, she is a prostitute, black, and transexual, these aforementioned categories work to create Duanna as other, and less than in our society.  Even the news report that detailed the assault continually referred to her as a transexual, and a prostitute as though her gender identity, and occupation were the only defining characteristics of her person.  To the world at large women like Duanna are perceived as a threat because they blur our binary understanding of gender. Masculinity has much invested in maintaining strict gender roles.

The police officers in question allegedly referred to her as a he/she.  For patriarchy to remain in its position of power, it is necessary to silence voices that dispute the singularity of gender identification. By disavowing traditional patriarchal masculinity, and asserting an identity of her own choosing Duannas body became the symbol upon which male aggression attempted to stake its claim on the ability to transcend the limits of social construction. If masculinity were no longer hegemonic, it would disturb the current power structure that we now live under. Her beating ultimately was a punishment for her betrayal.

Why is this a womanist issue?  Duanna identifies as female and she is black, but beyond that the larger implications involve social justice. Regardless of race, class or gender no person deserves to beaten.  We must begin to hold our social institutions accountable when they violate our human rights. We must hold our so-called black leadership accountable when they do not speak out against issues like this.  Were this the case of a black man being beaten by white police officers, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would already have organized some kind of protest, or made a statement vilifying these officers for their behavior.  But Duanna is a pariah to these men, as though somehow her gender identification has stripped her, of her black identity. The black male patriarchy though negotiating race is equally invested in retaining male privilege, and power. To claim Duanna as one of ours, would threaten our understanding of race and gender.  Historically the black community has silenced people that are gay, trans or bi, as if by disavowing membership we can claim that these communities are not a part of our diversification. What our leaders fail to realize is that in diversification, there is power.  When we accept those amongst us, who society has chosen to cast asunder we not only strength our selves as a people, we give legitimacy to the claim that all we seek is equality.  You cannot stand for equality, and turn your back on injustice because the victim challenges your idea of normalcy. Duanna represents one of the most vulnerable members of our society, and if we cannot in good conscience recognize the need to protect her, who then is worthy to be sheltered from the storm of male patriarchal violence that has run amok in our society.

Straight VS. Nappy

Hair is a contentious issue within the black community.  Other than color no Afrocentric feature identifies difference more than hair. I have dread locks down to the middle of my back, and daily I must deal with whites who make racist comments about how exotic it is, and blacks who are disgusted based on the so-called ugliness of its appearance. Note to all whites reading this, no you cannot touch my hair, it is not a science experiment.  To blacks my dreadlocks are ugly because they are natural.  As a community we have so internalized racism that we view ourselves as ugly.  We routinely refer to good hair, as hair that is straight or taking on the characteristics of white hair, and bad hair as nappy or natural. 

Much of female identity is caught up in hair.  Throughout history, and across cultures long flowing locks have been understood as a womans  crowning glory. For black women whose natural tight curls, resist lying limply down our back it has helped to support the image of us as 'unwomen'. We do not marvel in our gravity defying hair, or wonder at its unique ability to be shaped into so many different styles.  Instead we seek to alter it with hot combs, and chemical relaxers to mirror caucasian hair, in the process wounding our naturally beautiful hair, and expressing contempt for ourselves.

Like every WOC I have done the relaxers, jerry curls (yes I know I am dating myself) and weaves, all in an attempt to run from who I really am.  As a proud WOC I now realize that how I was born is beautiful, even it if is not reflected in the world around me. There is power and energy in black hair that refuses to be permanently etiolated, despite our most valiant efforts.  We must learn to recognize that this self hatred that we have internalized is destructive not only to WOC but to blacks as a people.  Though the media continues to perpetuate white womanhood as the embodiment of beauty, such representations are an attempt to maintain the racial power structure, and are in no way reflective of what constitutes actual beauty. When we resist altering ourselves for the sake of the supposed acceptance by the white community, it is an act of self love, and it is deeply meaningful.  It speaks of valuing ourselves as black women, it speaks of knowing intrinsically that power, validation and agency are our natural born rights. We can only be usurped if we own that which seeks to constitute us as inferior. I am woman, I am black, and my glory is not only my physical body, but the testimony of my ever enduring soul. 

Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women

I found the following over at Racialicious.

I want to add that it moved me beyond belief.  It speaks of all that is possible when men and women treat each other with equal respect. Pay attention misogynists you can learn something from this. 

Six years have gone by since we first heard the allegations that R. Kelly had filmed himself having sex with an underage girl. During that time we have seen the videotape being hawked on street corners in Black communities, as if the dehumanization of one of our own was not at stake. We have seen entertainers rally around him and watched his career reach new heights despite the grave possibility that he had molested and urinated on a 13-year old girl. We saw African Americans purchase millions of his records despite the long history of such charges swirling around the singer. Worst of all, we have witnessed the sad vision of Black people cheering his acquittal with a fervor usually reserved for community heroes and shaken our heads at the stunning lack of outrage over the verdict in the broader Black community.

Over these years, justice has been delayed and it has been denied. Perhaps a jury can accept R. Kelly’s absurd defense and find “reasonable doubt” despite the fact that the film was shot in his home and featured a man who was identical to him. Perhaps they doubted that the young woman in the courtroom was, in fact, the same person featured in the ten year old video. But there is no doubt about this: some young Black woman was filmed being degraded and exploited by a much older Black man, some daughter of our community was left unprotected, and somewhere another Black woman is being molested, abused or raped and our callous handling of this case will make it that much more difficult for her to come forward and be believed. And each of us is responsible for it.

We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it.

We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly’s claims to innocence. *It is about our survival as a community*. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end.

We ask that you:

o Sign your name if you are a Black male who supports this statement:

http://www.petitiononline.com/rkelly/petition.html

o Forward this statement to your entire network and ask other Black males to sign as well

o Make a personal pledge to never support R. Kelly again in any form or fashion, unless he publicly apologizes for his behavior and gets help for his long-standing sexual conduct, in his private life and in his music

o Make a commitment in your own life to never to hit, beat, molest, rape, or exploit Black females in any way and, if you have, to take ownership for your behavior, seek emotional and spiritual help, and, over time, become a voice against all forms of Black female exploitation

o Challenge other Black males, no matter their age, class or educational background, or status in life, if they engage in behavior and language that is exploitative and or disrespectful to Black females in any way. If you say nothing, you become just as guilty.

o Learn to listen to the voices, concerns, needs, criticisms, and challenges of Black females, because they are our equals, and because in listening we will learn a new and different kind of Black manhood

We support the work of scholars, activists and organizations that are helping to redefine Black manhood in healthy ways. Additional resources are listed below.

Books:
Who’s Gonna Take the Weight, Kevin Powell
New Black Man, Mark Anthony Neal
Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, Pearl Cleage
Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality, Rudolph Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Films:
I Am A Man: Black Masculinity in America, by Byron Hurt
Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt
NO! The Rape Documentary, by Aishah Simmons

Organizations
The 2025 Campaign: www.2025bmb.org
Men Stopping Violence: www.menstoppingviolence.org

Colluders and Stepford Wives

I've got the girl positive music blaring, and it is now time to let off a little steam.  When it comes to misogynistic men, I generally consider them a lost cause. I have seen rabid dogs that I would rather converse with. Of course they will claim that they only really want equality, however in actuality what they want is to hold on to their power.  This is not surprising, as no group in history has willingly given up their power without a struggle.  My goal is to attack them at their root.  Just like most things in this world, women form the support network for these angry, inane twits.  They point to their colluders and stepford wives as evidence that they don't really hate women. Look, I can say cunt, and my deluded, Stockholm syndrome girlfriend is fine with it. It's just a word. See you are just a whiny feminist. See how grateful she is to be in the presence of my handsome dick.  Now watch me puff out my chest, and pluck the one hair I have growing, that is a testament to my masculine power...Unga bunga babe.

If you want to knock these idiots off of their pedestals, who we need to go after are the colluders. These twisted freaks are so used to gender performativity that if they were forced to do the support work that women traditionally perform they would be lost.  The world would be so much better off, if they would just stick to their ritualistic circle jerks, and allow the rest of the rationale people to get on with it.

These stepford wives not only perform the maintenance work that is necessary for the support of the informal and formal economy, they parrot the discourse of their oppressors.  Just like the house slaves, of the antebellum south they wrongly identify with their masters.  Guess what, no matter how many times you bend, kneel and pray you will not grow a dick.  Sure it can do neat tricks but so can a vibrator, and you never have to tell it to move to the right. 

Having a woman centered agenda does not mean that you have to hate men, and it does not mean that you have to turn your back on them. A man can be your friend, son, partner,your favorite fuck stick for all I care, but making women a priority means that men no longer get to run the show.  Making women a priority says I care about things like rape, domestic abuse, employment equity, poverty, family and education.  Do the aforementioned matter to some men...yes, but for the majority of men they do not have the same totalizing effect as they do on women.

From the moment your mother handed you your first little purse, and told you that good girls cross their legs, you have been trained to believe that 'woman' constitutes one thing, subservient to the will of men. You don't need to be a sinner or a saint, but you do need to decolonize your mind.  Ask yourself who benefits largely from your labor, and dedication. Why is it that women are sluts or whores, and men just spread their wild oats?  How come a man is a king of his castle, and a woman is only a goddess when she is on her knees? Why are your genitals considered foul, and a mans are a symbol of strength? (though a swift kick would disprove that)

I'm going to let you in on a little known secret, women matter. Despite the hegemonic role that men play globally, the labor of women is necessary to keep this little blue planet from going completely off kilter.  I know that everywhere you turn women are minimized and reduced to accessories, but we are the foundation of all that matters.  It is on our shoulders that civilizations have risen and fallen, and it is from our wombs that life continues to be nurtured. It is only on the urging of the feminist movement that men have increased the time that they dedicate to child rearing.  Now they scream about equal access, so quickly forgetting that there was a time when the average father didn't even know how to change a diaper, or boil a pot of water. But that was the manly way...hunt, and then abdicate domestic responsibilities.  I know that you have been raised to value the hunk of raw meat that was provided, but remember that slab of meat remained inedible until it was cooked by a woman.

It is comforting to fall back on traditional belief patterns because it is easier than fighting the status quo, and not all of those that enter battle return unscathed.  When, strolling down the aisles at Zehrs so anesthetized that you don't know whether or not you are choking from the bile of dissent rising in your throat, or the anger from being unable to undo the life long straight jack you were fitted with, just for having the supposed misfortune of being born with a vagina, remember you have an image to maintain.  Good girls don't resist, good girls are wives and mothers without an identity of their own. Don't get angry at the injustice because then you will be nothing but a dirty feminist. 

Swallow those salty tears as rape apologists tell you that all women ask for it anyway.  Turn your back when a husband slaps his wife around for the thousandth time, and the police just walk away.  Bury your pride because if you end up a single mother when your hunky hero trades you in for a younger model, that trait will do you no good when you apply for food stamps.  Finally make sure that you don't miss your pole dancing lessons because you know that it is your responsibility to remain sexy and in shape, while he diligently works to increase his second chin.  Most of all don't listen to that insistent voice in your head that keeps saying, is that it, did I take a wrong turn somewhere? Life is not somewhere over the rainbow.  Wake up! Considering the alternative, being a dirty feminist might not be so bad.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Link Love Friday

Ok, the following are some articles that caught my attention this week.  I suggest you check them all out, they are definitely worth the read.  Then head on image over to the comment section and practice a little self love by promoting your best posts for the week.  I look forward to reading what everyone blogged about.

I would like to remind everyone that I am still accepting submission for Tell it - WOC Speak Carnival.  Please make your submissions here. They can be about anything that you deem important, race gender, family, personal stories etc..you decide.  What is important is that we send our collective voices out there and demand that we be heard! The submission date is June 25, and I will post the carnival here at womanist musings on July 1. The homepage for the carnival can be found here.  Articles submitted by allies will also be accepted.

Ok get reading...and don't forget to promote yourself on the way out the door.

Don't Do That

Mammy

Mammy, Aunt Jemima and the Welfare Queen may be collectively understood as a type. All three are typically depicted as fat, dark-skinned women whose uniforms include an apron and a kerchief covered head. Larger than life, their bodies are supposed to be de-sexualized, as they do not conform to the (white) norm of humanity and of idealized womanhood. Although the Welfare Queen is understood to be sexually undesirable, her many children indicate that she is a sexual being. The Mammy and Aunt Jemima icons are interchangeable in their desirability as the nurturer of other (white) people’s children. They are paradoxically sexually undesirable, yet sexual beings.

The Female Impersonator
Dear, Conservatives, I’m Pro Abortion! And You Know What That Makes You?

So here it is, for everyone who cares to know: I'm Pro-Abortion. I don't dress my opinions up with fancy terms like "pro-choice" to distance my stance from the fact that I am supporting the systematic termination of a pregnancy that will result in the "death" of a fetus, embryo, fertilized egg, or a sack of cells that might be a human depending on your political agenda.

Brown Sugar
The Strong Black Woman is Dead

On August 15, 1999, at 11:55 p.m.,
while struggling with the reality
of being a human instead of a myth,
the strong black woman passed away.

Medical sources say she died of natural causes,
but those who knew her know she died
from being silent when she should have been screaming,
milling when she should have been raging,
from being sick and not wanting anyone to know
because her pain might inconvenience them.

The Curvature
What does it take

Is this about race? Um, yes. Absolutely. The fact that the victim is black has everything to do with the rape apologism surrounding this case and with the acquittal. Our racist/misogynistic society generally says that a black man accused of rape of a white girl/woman is clearly a natural born rapist. But a black man accused of raping a black girl/woman? Well she’s a natural born slut and liar..

Broadsides
Racial Suicide Bombers

Doing the rounds right now in conservative circles is the documentary Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family, an alarmist documentary that makes last year's dark Children of Men look like a comedy. Screened by right-wing think tanks and pro-life organizations, it argues that the only way to combat the disappearance of homo sapiens – as if we aren't already killing ourselves by fouling our nest – is by bringing back "the intact married family," eliminating extramarital sex and banning contraception.It always comes down to confining women, doesn't it? The not-so-funny thing is, these people are constantly railing about how girls in less developed countries breed at a young age – which is, sadly, true – but complain about how women here wait too long, inviting fertility problems.

The f Word
Men Feminism Needs You

Entering a feminist space - whether that be commenting on a blog or attending a meeting - can pose some unique problems for men…The first thing we want to start with is basic courtesy. This one’s important for commenters of all genders. Every community has a different threshold of what language is considered acceptable, and lurking for a while can give a good indication of what works in a particular area. Feminist sites are usually frank about anatomical terms (appropriately used) and even slang, but considering the pejorative appropriation of many of them, it pays to be on the safe side, especially if you are a male commenter.
There’s just something more suspicious if someone presenting as male uses certain words, even if we as women try to reclaim them (words like ‘cunt’ come to mind, but there are others). This is because these words are used in the rest of the world and internet as a means of silencing, insulting and intimidating women, often - but not always - by men. Sarcasm and satire aren’t always easy to get across, so it’s probably safer not to start flinging around gendered insults.

Muslimah Media Watch
Sexuality and women’s honor: there isn’t a link

An even more important point is that the Qur'an unequivocaly speaks out against connecting women's honor with their sexuality. As was previously discussed on the blog, the Qur'an makes it difficult, if not impossible, to even prosecute for zina since most people do not have intercourse in front of four witnesses. In addition, the Qur'an also forbids speculating on a woman's sexuality. So you can't even start spreading rumors about it. Thus, a woman's virginity should be a non-issue for Muslims, just as a man's virginity is never an issue. Which is why it is so disturbing that these women have to prove to their spouses and their families that they are still virgins.

What About Our Daughters

Did Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Walmart and GM Pull advertising from BET? Maybe But Don’t Tell Nobody

This would be a HUGE story. P&G is the largest advertiser in the world. Wal-mart, GM AND PEPSI.. that's HUGE. It is also newsworthy to know which advertisers have stayed ( Looking at you McDonalds). But I haven't seen a single article about this. So who is the purported secrecy protecting? The advertisers? BET? The advocates? because I know they aren't protecting Black women, men and children.

Feministe
Latina Teacher Fired For Not Regurgitating The Same Old Crap

Keeping American students in the dark about America’s wrongdoings, keeping Latino, Black and other students of color from truly understanding their histories in the U.S. - that’s all key to maintaining white supremacy and white privilege in this country. If students need to go out of their way to learn the truth, they’re less likely to get angry about it, less likely to do something about it. That’s why community education is so crucial - to teach kids and adults alike everything that the schools are deliberately leaving out in an effort to exert control. And these elements of school curricula are so widespread, so normalized, so accepted that when an educator tries to break away from it even just a little, they’re the ones being accused of brainwashing students.

The Angry Black Bitch
By Request The Primate Connection

We are not post racial...we do not have a population that stumbles over racial imagery like fresh faced chil'ren who have never ever ever seen that shit used in a negative way and gosh, sure didn't mean to say what they said when they did it.
These primate doll and monkey t-shirt people are not making a perfectly understandable mistake.
They are using imagery that is easily understood by the population they seek to reach.
For all the attempts to perfume it up with excuses and explanations, it stinks the same stink it did (insert last time some asshole used a primate to depict a black person who threatened their notion of racial superiority).

Cookie Gate

While perusing the Huffington Post this morning I came across the story of a most dastardly deed.  It seems that Cindy McCain has once again been caught in image the act of cookie forgery.  Apparently she submitted a recipe for oatmeal butterscotch cookies that was eerily similar to one by that can be found at Hersheys.com. Both Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama submitted recipes but attributed them to others. 

The Huffington post waxes on satirically about the chance that yet another intern will be released from their position, for the latest guffaw.  I am actually very irritated by this story.  Has anyone thought about why it is necessary for  potential first ladies in the year 2008 to continue submitting recipes, and playing home maker?  This is just plain Bullshit. If I were Cindy I would have flubbed my way through this as well.  I love my family dearly, but bakeries were created for a reason.

What does the ability to bake a damn cookie, or an apple pie say about a woman as a person?  Does it tell you where she stands on significant campaign issues, like the war in Iraq, the budget, healthcare, or crime and punishment? Supposedly the first lady is the most powerful woman in the United States, but apparently she isn't worth a damn unless she can bake.  I wonder if she has to wear heels, and a pearl necklace while she does it as well? The national fixation with the domesticity of potential first ladies simply underscores the degree to which we are all subject to gender peformativity.  Notice that neither Barack, nor McCain were asked for a recipe..yeah cause men bring home the bacon, and the women merely exist to cook it. We should attempt to move out of 1950 Betty Crocker land, and get real.  Women today are multi-dimensional with much to offer the world.  This stand behind your man, stepford wife persona that we attempt to attach to first ladies is demeaning to all women.



I am adding a link to this post, Professor What If Wrote about this topic in what can only be described as TKO fashion...Check the link.

What Class Identity Constitutes A Good Mother?

It has been my intention to focus on a class issue on this blog for awhile now.  Last night I was in a conversation with a girlfriend of mine, and we ended up discussing motherhood.  She has recently experienced a change in her class location and as such, how people perceive her as a mother has changed.  You may be thinking what does motherhood have to do with class?  I contend that there is a direct relation to how motherhood is understood based specifically in class.

In Ontario a woman living alone with a child earns just under 900 dollars a month on welfare.  The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is 800 dollars.  It will of course be supplemented by the 100 dollar a month universal child care benefit, and a further 200 dollars a month in child tax benefit. I am sure that you quickly did the math, and have realized that this does not leave very much for food, clothing, and utilities.  A family can only access a food bank once a month, and they must provide birth certificates for every single member of the family to receive aid.  The entire process of being on social assistance is a demeaning one.  Single mothers that are dependent on the system are characterized as lazy, irresponsible women. While we do have a social safety net that prevents complete starvation, they are constantly demonized by people who bemoan the tax dollars that are spent supporting single mothers, and their children.  Their very right to motherhood is challenged specifically on the basis of class.  That they might raise children who go on to add great value to our society is discounted, as Canadians do not want to take on the financial burden of supporting them.  In this case motherhood is seen as a privilege, and not the right of every woman capable of conceiving.

It would seem then that all one needs to qualify to be considered a good mother is to have a good job, that is able to provide for all of the subsistence needs of the family. That would be a wrong assumption.  Middle class working moms are also penalized for motherhood.  They are constantly made to feel guilty for "choosing" to work.  They are told that they are neglecting their obligations by placing their children in daycare.  When you have a child you should raise them, and not yield that responsibility to someone else. Apparently you cannot have it all, and this mantra is repeated consistently by the media, and parroted in the social discourse. Working mothers are slower to move up in companies, and are constantly trying to juggle the responsibilities of home, and the workplace.  They are continually accused of not taking their work seriously enough when they request time off to deal with family concerns. Working mothers also have the added joy of the "double day".

Well the last model of motherhood must have it down perfect right?   The suburban middle/upper class stay at home mom has got to be what women aspire to be, correct? They are prefect in every way, and are never stigmatized? From the moment a SAHM awakes she never leaves her place of work. Her entire life is dedicated to her family. Imagine never being able to leave your place of employment, how trapped would you feel?    The work of maintaining a household is undervalued in a capitalist society, not only because it is traditionally the labor of women, but because it does not produce a profit.  Since the male is the breadwinner when he asks, "what did you do today", it is actually a request for the breakdown of labor that was performed. A SAHM, and her husband have an unequal distribution of power within their relationship, simply because he is paid for his labor, and she is dependent on his magnanimity. Imagine having to justify how you spent your day? 

Each day is a repetition of tedious tasks that never end, in the service of others. Even while they run around town ferrying children to appointments, and picking up dry cleaning, their lives are ridiculed.  They are told, that what they do is meaningless, and counter to the objectives of advancing women. Imagine having your entire life held up to ridicule. To society she is just an air headed soccer mom without any real value. Though SAHM's are not considered the drain that welfare moms are on the system, they are seen as not contributing to the greater good by having removed themselves from economic labor. Socially the fulfillment of their biological imperative is seen as acceptable, as long as their husband continues to support them financially. The limited social acceptance that these women receive is completely dependent upon their marital state.

So I ask, what class do you have to be a part of, to be considered a good mother?  Each day we are inundated with cries of a declining birth rate, and yet women that choose to become mothers are socially constructed as less than. Welfare mothers are routinely denigrated, working moms are incompetent, and SAHM's lack the ability to reason.  Once a year we celebrate mothers day, but for 364 days a year this role is undervalued by our society. No matter what class position a woman occupies, mothering is tiring, soul exhausting work.  There is always someone to plant the seeds of doubt, to correct any small slight, or to demean any achievement, after all it's just motherhood.  Yet we continue on, daily loving, and caring for our families.

Many studies have been dedicated to estimating the value of household work and mothering, yet the stigmatization continues. Women don't need a hallmark card, and a dozen roses once a year, we need real and substantive change to the construction of motherhood. Though it is unpaid labor, it must be recognized as vital to our country.  A family cannot function without one member completely dedicated to its success, and that is what mothers do. Each and every act in the public sphere is dependent upon the success, and the maintenance done in the private sphere. The cost of actually paying mothers the value of their labor would bankrupt the Canadian economy, and yet we cannot as a country achieve the smallest concessions to make this role any easier.  We have no socialized day care program, there are no pensions benefits for a SAHM that pay at a subsistence level, and employers are not required to offer women hours that are more conducive to the role of mothering.  It seems that no matter what class a woman belongs to, motherhood is a losing proposition, a thankless never ending job.  Yet we continue on in the face of all of this adversity. There is a saying,...the strength of a people is placed upon a woman's back, and nowhere is that more reflective than an examination of motherhood.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Michelle Obama On The View---Thoughts and Ruminations

I am a huge Michelle Obama fan.  When I see her, she inspires me with hope.  It is very rare that black women have such an overwhelmingly positive role model. I am posting her visit to The View, for those of you that missed it.  We have spent a lot of time concentrating on all of the negative press that she gets, that I believe when something good happens we should celebrate it.  I will add one proviso... The following is an exchange that happened on the show.

Whoopie:I'm really glad to see you as you know, I'm seeing more and more of you on television. I'm thrilled about it on the news. Cause every time you see black folks on the the news, particularly women, they have no teeth and the teeth that they have, have gold around them, and they can't put a sentence together. Perhaps you are helping to change a perception. I know it sounds funny and silly, but if you're a black woman and you are tuning in and every time you see someone who is supposed to represent black women, and not very, very fair skinned women, I''m talkin about dark black women..I just wanna say thanks.

Barbara: Can I get into the hot topics, these very serious hot topics that we have..I'm talking about the way

Whoopie: Yeah because you have a stock in that shit I know

Barbara: Do you mind if we call you Michelle? So we have very serious conversations here.  We discuss peace and war and stuff, So we have had a big discussion about panty hose....and if you don't have panythose you look young and so forth.

As you can see, Whoopie was expressing an opinion that is common with black women regarding our representation in the media.   The social construction of black women as less than, angry, licentious, and bitter has a negative impact on not only us, but our children.  It impedes our efforts to transcend the limitations that have historically been placed upon us. In fact, the aforementioned social constructions  have  played a significant factor in the demonization of Michelle in the media. We have seen a graphic where she is lynched, and most recently Fox news referred to her as a baby mama, and yet when Whoopie begins to engage in this most important topic, Barabara is quick to intercede, and turn the conversation to panty hose. This is typical silencing behavior, and is completely dismissive of issues that concern WOC. It was fine to have an extensive conversation about HRC, and the challenges that sexism caused to her campaign, or the ways in which the media belittled her, but when the topic turns to WOC, it is time to move on to pantyhose. This is yet another example of why WOC must be leery in identifying with a white controlled feminism.  The view is supposed to be about expressing the opinions of a diversity of women, however Barbara makes it clear that only the opinions of certain women are worthy of extensive commentary.

Black Women and Business

Between 2002 and 2008, the number of firms owned by African American women increased by 19 percent - twice as fast as all other firms, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. And they generated $29 billion in sales nationwide.  According the video, this is in response to hitting a glass ceiling in their careers. Both gender and race combine to limit the progress of WOC in employment and this is especially true in fields dominated by white men. While they reportedly are not as successful as their male counter parts, reports CBS news, Black women becoming entrepreneurs can truly be seen as a sign of  change. We are no longer willing to wait with our hands out, begging for scraps from others.  This may be a new dawn for womanist empowerment.

 

Cunt Vs. Nigger

I came across this hilarious video at Feministe.

It is a wonderful parody on why news agencies have not aggressively covered an incident in 1992, when John McCain allegedly referred to his wife as a cunt.  Yes, the dirty C word.  In most cases the uttering of such a word is worthy of a swift kick at the very least.  The part of this video I wish to call to your attention too begins at 1:00 in and ends at 1:08.

Anonymous Black woman: John McCain called his wife the worst word there is.

Anonymous Black Man: What, She's not even black

Anonymous White Man: No cunt, John Mccain called his wife a cunt

Anonymous Black Man: No way

While this video takes a jab at John MCcain, if you are listening closely you can see a problem that is just as large, that is skipped over as meaningless commentary. Clearly the word that the anonymous black male had in mind was nigger.  Even though he was told that the conversation was about a white woman, his first thought was nigger. I think that this is a very revealing look at the black male psyche.  In their mind the only oppression that is real, is related to race. Gender very seldom factors into the equation, and this is a problem.  The key here is that, while a black male is usually oppressed due to race or class, they still operate with a form of male privilege. What frustrates them is the inability to act on their privilege akin to white males. 

While all POC must negotiate racism, it is only women that must negotiate sexism.  Even though black men represent an oppressed group within society, they are still intent on creating a patriarchal power structure that mirrors the one currently run by white males. It is seen as hyper masculine for a man to privilege male concerns over female.  We are after all just whining, over sensitive women. Though the male in the video was ready to jump on ball with the critique of John McCains language, it is nevertheless telling that his first thought was not gender, but race.

For WOC this is not a case of competing oppressions.  Our color does not in any way cause more oppression than our gender. In fact the two combine to create a unique kind of social stigmatization that is specific only to us. According to bell hooks, the black woman has no institutionalized other, and I firmly agree with this statement. While black men may claim to be our allies, we must question this assertion.  Until gender becomes a priority in the decolonization struggle of people of color, WOC must recuse ourselves on the grounds that this movement does not speak to all of our issues. Newsflash the word cunt gets thrown at black women too, and it is equally demeaning as the word nigger.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Amy Alkon The Self Professed Colluder

How do you know when you have struck a nerve? When people with arguments based on pure emotion backed with no facts, decide to foam at the mouth. Earlier today I was alerted by Ms. Alkon that she had decided to author a response to my post entitled, "Feminism, What You Don't Know Could Fill A Handbook." The premise of this post was to encourage women who identify as DIY, post-structural, Marxist etc to become more public in their critique of third/second wave feminists. It is my belief that third/second wave feminists, have centered the feminist agenda around their needs, and this has resulted in a massive public backlash.

Of course rather than dealing with the issue presented, Ms.Alkon, and those of her ilk, have seen fit to once again make the debate about misandry, to avoid the issue that was presented to them. Nowhere in my original post do I advocate special privileges for women,  nor do I specifically mention patriarchy, or the oppression of women.  It seems that those that disavow feminism in favor of men's rights (read:Stockholm Syndrome), or out of a simple ignorance of what feminism means, are incapable of considering the larger applications of their assertions.

Ms. Alkon believes in equality, yet when I make a small grammar mistake, I am held to ridicule, however the same standards of perfection are apparently not necessary if you are parroting her position.  Notice no commentary is made on Luljp's misspelling of vagina.  You may posses one, however it is clearly not important to you that they are respected, or that the word is even spelled properly for that matter. I wish that I could report that this is all that you have evidenced a lack of respect for.

"If you're a lesbian, fine. If you're going to paint heterosexual sex as a criminal act by a man most of the time, you're scum, and anybody who's for justice, fairness and equality, should stand up against you."

Say it with me everyone...massive homophobic projection. You must have done very well at the Rush Limbaugh school of social equality, and I bet Phyllis Shyfly is on your Christmas card list.  Feminist naturally equals lesbian, hardly an original thought.  Now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, from every single man that tried to belittle a woman who thought that she had the right to equality, and basic human dignity. Of course you mean to imply that being a  lesbian is a negative thing. Of course anything woman centered, that does not involve phalocentric worship is despicable, and *gasp* dirty. Say it with me everyone...COLLUDER, in fact HOMPHOBIC COLLUDER is more accurate. Do you have any other mendacious myths that you would like to spread?  Calling a feminist a lesbian, is an attempt to stigmatize based on the social construction of 'woman' as naturally submissive combined with the specific understanding that we exist for reproduction, and male sexual pleasure. If you don't spend 24 hours a day ruminating on how to make every prick a happy prick, you are an "unwoman".  Margaret Atwood was thinking of women like you, when she wrote A Handmaids Tale.

"I'm against feminism because I'm against discrimination against men or anyone, and feminism is, far too often, a big whine for special treatment under the guise of equal treatment."

Right, because you are aware of all of the different forms of feminism, and you have spent a great deal of time studying feminist theory?  This is a warning to everyone, Ms.Alkon is  a clear example of a mind that has clearly internalized way to many episodes of Fox news broadcasts. Let's just listen to what brother patriarchy has to say about feminism, without for one minute stopping to think that he might be the least bit self interested. Of course men who have historically held the reigns of power are going to be honest about gender relations, because they are naturally inclined to share power with a group that they have oppressed since time began. That makes a whole lot of sense.

"Abelism"? I have to pass that one on to my friend John Callahan, the quadriplegic cartoonist, who will throw up while laughing.

I bet your best friend growing up was black as well?

Renee doesn’t really want non-feminists to understand there are differences in feminism. She wants the leaders of the feminist monolith to convert to and promote her brand of feminism (womanism). She’s tired of the “white suburban, mini van driving, soccer mom” or the [white] “urban 20 something New York socialite” being the face of feminism.

Do I really need to quote myself. "My feminism speaks to who I am as a person, it speaks to my needs, and desires, and it is certainly not representative of women at large."  Just a few more moments of patience, while I break it down for the kool aid sippers. The idea is that feminism should open itself up to a diversity of voices so that the various lived experiences of women may be reified. Despite your scurrilous attempt to misrepresent me, I stand fast to the idea that a more inclusive feminism that disavows the concept of a monolithic woman, means a more open debate.  On a short aside, If you are trying to impress me with your ability to research, you should probably not reference a site ( Wikki) that any idiot can edit at anytime. 

Of course, Renee will will respond "later." She has to do some research first, find some good catch phrases to rip off of the NOW site and regurgitate.

I actually lead quite a full life, and I will not arrange my schedule to suite your whims.  Sorry that you had to wait, but patience is something people usually acquire in childhood.  As for me running to NOW to plagiarize, clearly you have difficulty with reading comprehension.  The name of the blog is WOMANIST MUSINGS, which would necessarily indicate that I hold an opposite theoretical position to the women that run NOW.  Your knowledge of feminist theory is overwhelming, as evidenced by the following, "Yes, there are many different shades of being a whining victim and speaking in that incomprehensible "post-structuralist" lingo and all that. Nothing about my post was remotely post structural. "There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender... Identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results."  Now that is post structural theory courtesy of Judith Butler, but if you cannot comprehend the writing on this blog, Judith Butler would obviously be out of your league.

You throw catch words around like, equality and justice.  You profess to believe that men and women are equal. Where exactly do you think the concept of gender equality came from in the first place? Could those possibly be the organizing principles of Liberal Feminism? But you are not a feminist right?  All feminist think exactly the same way.  There is no difference between your inane vitriolic rants, and those issued by the Ferraro/ Steinem crowd.  You are both so interested in working an agenda that you forget that social change starts when people converse.  I said that feminism is great but...the keyword is but.  Once you heard that I had a positive view of feminism, you never stopped to hear that I might also think that it could be improved.  You hear only what you want to hear, and ignore the ever so important word but... This is silencing behavior, and it is a tactic that second/third wave feminists have been using for years.  It seems you share the same playbook. I know that you will misconstrue my words to mean the exact opposite of my intent because that is what ideologues do. As for the trolls in your commentary section, when I get around to it, if I can find even one rationale comment I will respond.  For those of you that are lurking and questioning, don't take me at my word for it, research the different feminists theories and decide for yourself if they are really what you have been told they are.

Usher On Relationships

image "Women have started to

become lovers of each other as a result

of not having enough men."

I am not usually one for celebrity gossip, as I find the exploits of the rich and famous without any real concrete value.  I think the mind numbing minutia of celebrity news is intended to get us caught up in a world of decadence, that has no bearing on the average persons life. When we read about Evander Holyfield losing his home we are supposed to think about how vulnerable we all are. Even though he earned his money as a punching bag, and clearly was exploited by promoters, our class connection is tenuous at best.  I cannot have solidarity with a man who lost a home worth more than I will make in my lifetime. Especially, one that has never acknowledged his gender privileges.

Another reason to avoid celebrity news is that they are often pontificating about things that they have no business making public commentary about.  This of course happens in every segment of the entertainment industry.  It could be Don Cherry commenting on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, or the above commentary credited to Usher in Vibe magazine. Cherry may have the credentials to claim expertise in hockey, but he is no political scientist, and Usher may be a great singer, but he is no sociologist.

In all fairness to Usher I have not read the entire article. Only a small section was available for perusal at vibe.com. In fact in the piece posted online, there was no connection between the quote, and the story.  I am assuming that this is a bid to encourage the purchase of the magazine, for the sake of finding out whether or not this quote is completely out of context, or he really meant to imply that WOC are "turning" to lesbianism due to a shortage of black men.  Newsflash, no one turns gay.

Currently there is a lot of discussion devoted to the desperate plight of the unlovable spinster black female. Racialicious posted on this topic yesterday referencing a recent Tyra Banks show (please someone turn off that woman's mike). Blog, after blog bemoans the desperate search for the elusive black male, as though he were a species on the brink of extinction, and now we have this musician announcing that on pain of rejection we are resorting to lesbianism. This ongoing conversation keeps black men at the center of black women's lives, and inflates their value.  It suggests that black women have no value outside of our connection to black men.

Such is the arrogance of the black male patriarchy; that it could even be suggested that lesbianism is the only option because of the lack of available men, rather than a free and conscious choice.  A female sexuality that is not predicated on phalocentric worship, is an anathema and even more so in the black community, where much thought is occupied with the progression, and stabilization of the "race". From the pulpit we have been told that our job is to love, honor and worship regardless of where our true affection lies. In a bid to secure prominence for "our community," WOC have been told to subvert our will, so that "we" all can rise.

While I will agree that WOC do have a vested interest in the success of black men, it does not outweigh the obligation that we have to ourselves. Though the black male patriarchy has attempted to make the problems of the black community about them, and to keep the entire focus of our energies on them, it is important that we as WOC remember that no man regardless of how pretty his penis is, is worth our self respect, or dignity.  It is important that we freely own the choices that we make in life, in accordance with asserting our agency and individuality.  Allies can only be called allies when both sides are respected.

I'M Sorry And Here Is 4 Billion

Last week Prime Minister Harper issued an apology to the native peoples of Canada for residential schools. We are getting our very own Truth and Reconciliation Program, which apparently comes with a 4 billion dollar settlement package.  I'm sorry, here's some money, and can we please have some closure now??? This is the message that I get from this.  Harper did have some wonderful words to say though.

"The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language.  While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.
The legacy of Indian Residential Schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today. 
It has taken extraordinary courage for the thousands of survivors that have come forward to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered.  It is a testament to their resilience as individuals and to the strength of their cultures.  Regrettably, many former students are not with us today and died never having received a full apology from the Government of Canada.
The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation.  Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system."
The rest of the speech can be read here.

Not to be out done Opposition leader Stephane Dion chimed in with,  “The residential school system is even older than Confederation. Parents and children were made to feel worthless.
“Today, we lay the first stone in building a monument dedicated to truth.”

I was pleased when I heard that Harper apologized but since that time I have found myself thinking, and now what?  Natives are still over represented in the prison population, have large percentages living in poverty, and Native women are subject to an alarming rate of sexual assault in this country. So my question to Harper is now what?  It has been almost a week since you have apologized on behalf of Canada, but what concrete changes are going to happen to insure that Natives stand equal to every other Canadian, not only in law but in practice.  What is the national conversation about this issue really going to be about, and who is going to lead it?  Even while reporting about the apology, some reporters  like  Lorne Gunter, of the Calgary Herald could not refrain from racist attacks.

There's no question the schools disrupted communities and made many families dysfunctional. Ripples are certainly still being felt. But a half century after the zenith of the schools' activity, they cannot be the main culprit for today's conditions among aboriginals.

Really, so the near destruction of Native culture, language and laws should have no effect on today.  Blacks have not recovered from slavery, and you expect Natives to get over the near cultural genocide that they had to endure. These schools affirmed the cultural location of Native peoples at the bottom rung of Canadian society, and since the government is still largely run by white men, and they are subject to white rules, what do you see as significantly changing?

Indeed, if I had to bet, I would say that 50 years hence some future prime minister will be apologizing in the Commons for the way today's massive native subsidies -- nearly $18,000 for every man, woman and child with treaty status -- encouraged a welfare dependence that devastated whole communities by robbing them of the need to be self-sufficient.

Compensation for crimes is now considered welfare?  $18,000 is no where near sufficient for what happened. We claim to be a socialist country, therefore does it not behoove us to help those amongst us that are suffering without stigmatizing that aid...In this case it isn't even aid, it's COMPENSATION.  Somehow by paying them less than they are due we are robbing them of self-sufficiency? I think perhaps you are more concerned about how this is going to effect your rate of taxation, rather than focusing on attempting to correct a historic injustice.

Not every school was a hellhole. Nor was every teacher at the bad ones abusive. Lost in all the blame-gaming about the schools over the past decade are the stories of dedicated missionaries and teachers working in remote locations under poor conditions to teach aboriginal students academics and useful industrial skills.

The key to this comment is "academics and useful industrial skills." This of course only applies if you consider those skills valuable, or recognize it as advancement.  If it is forced upon you, and the cost is your culture and traditions then no it is not advancement. It is not for us to judge from our perspective the quality of the lives they were leading.  What is appropriate for one segment of a society is not necessarily appropriate, or ground breaking for all members. 

Gunters historical revisionist approach to this issue is not unique.  Many Canadians are asking why they should have to pay for a crime that they did not commit, all the while forgetting that every single step that they take in Canada is on NATIVE LAND.  Everything that you own and take pride in, is predicated on the theft of Native land and the near genocide of a people.  This is Canada's history, and while it may not be taught in our schools, it is the truth of what happened.

While I am thrilled at Harpers public apology we should remember that shortly after taking power, Harper's Conservative government canceled the Kelowna Accord, which was a $5-billion initiative to address inequality for First Nations people. His Conservative government was also one of only two governments--Russia's being the other--that voted against a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. But he/we are sorry. True change cannot come just from issuing an apology.  Concrete changes need to happen to redress this historic wrong.  We cannot on one hand say yes were sorry, now turn your head while we continue to attempt to steal your land, supply untreated water to reserves, curtail your fishing rights, and throw your activists in jail when they refuse to acquiesce to our demands.  Truly being sorry means taking ownership for the problems that we have created.  It means listening with humility to the pain that we have caused, and attempting in the future not to repeat the mistakes that we have made.  So I say again, great apology Mr.Harper, now what?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Feminism - What You Don't Know Could Fill A Handbook

I have recently been engaged in a conversation with a colluder. What you may ask,  is a colluder. A colluder is a woman that disavows feminism for men's rights.  Believe it of not, there are are a lot of those women out there.  They feel that feminism has reached all of its goals, and that the women that are complaining today aren't interested in equality...oh no, we are interested in ruling men.  Since females in roles of power are counter gender norms, this simply cannot be tolerated.

I identify as a womanist, and as such I favor a woman centered agenda.  This is a fact that I proudly claim.  I consider womanism as falling under the umbrella of feminism, but having its own unique branch so to speak.  The fissures in feminism have largely been a private affair. In fact until the recent presidential bid of HRC, most people were unaware that feminism even came in waves. You see, post structural feminists have hidden in academia arguing over language, and accessibility, though few can understand them, DIY, have been busy doing, and largely ignored by the mainstream, and anti-racists have been silenced, while quietly being ushered off of the stage.  This has allowed white second, and third wave feminists to largely frame the debate within the media.

When someone says they are against feminism, my first response is, really what kind of feminism do you have a problem with.  This usually draws blank stares. Feminism in the public discourse means one thing, despite the fact that no monolithic woman exists. I then do the rundown of the different kinds of feminism, as I watch the eyes of listener roll. No they insist, feminism is all about privileging women over men.  Women have the vote, and equality before the law so all of the problems have been solved.

It occurs to me that feminism suffers from the same image problem that POC do.  We are expected to speak with one specific voice, and yet we all know that life experience causes different needs, and desires.  A WOC living in Canada (me) will have very different needs than say a black South African woman, yet we are both black.  Similarly a white suburban, mini van driving, soccer mom will have a completely different focus, than an urban 20 something New York socialite. I have found that no matter how many times I point out that women have different experiences, the response I get back is usually framed within the idea that vagina equals one large collective brain.  The hive sort of mentality that is attributed to feminism is harmful. My feminism speaks to who I am as a person, it speaks to my needs, and desires, and it is certainly not representative of women at large.

Many have been upset that the fissures in feminism have been made public.  The idea that an anti-racist feminist, would critique a Marxist feminist of ignoring the impact of race is something that the public at large simple cannot comprehend. Even the volley that is passed between sex positive feminists, and radical feminists in reference to sex work is kept under wraps, and only discussed within feminist circles.  To admit that there are differences some contend is diluting the movement, and counter to the progression of womens issues. In actuality a diversity of voices is only counter to those that believe that they have the right to represent feminism to the world. I am tired of a small minority of women representing feminism, and asserting an authority that they were never granted.  Not only are they not capable of speaking for me, they are not even remotely capable of understanding what my life experience is like.  It is time for those of us who identify beyond the second/third wave to step onto the stage.   Whether you are an eco, socialist, sex positive, queer,DIY, anti-racist, etc, make your voice heard.  You have just as much right to represent feminism as the squeaky wheels that are currently doing to the talk show, and book signing circuit.

Perhaps if more people where to understand the diversity of feminism we wouldn't have the backlash that we do today.  We must admit when there are colluding women that refuse to identify as feminist yet regularly spout the preciosities of feminist theories within their daily lives, that there are identity issues that need to be addressed. They believe in equal rights for women but declare that they are not feminists.  They believe in equal pay for equal work but declare that they are not feminists.  These denials can only be because what is understood as feminism is non representative of a multitude of women. The only way to advance feminism is to admit our differences.  Instead of seeing the fractures as airing dirty laundry, we should view it as opportunity to create a movement where more women will be comfortable identifying themselves.  The more women that are dedicated to advancing the cause of feminism, the greater the possibility that something new, and inspiring will be achieved.  So the next time you run into a colluder, ask her, what kind of feminism do you have a problem with.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Michelle Obama Watch

image  I am huge fan of this woman, in case you have not already guessed that.  As the election moves along I predict we will see an increase in the number of attacks, directed at her. These attacks will not be based on her belief system, or her unwavering support of her husband, no they will based on her having the audacity to be a simply splendid, inspiring, educated, intelligent, courageous, eloquent woman of color. How dare Michelle not fit herself squarely into the Jezebel, or Mammy role?  This is how racist whites are comfortable viewing WOC.  More than ever in the following months it is important that WOC, and our allies speak out against the disgusting smear campaign that is being directed at her.  It is fine to address the issues, but racist and sexist commentary,  or depictions and or portrayals to uphold white male patriarchy are UNACCEPTABLE.

Whether or not you intend to vote for OBAMA or not, it is your duty as a WOC to say to the world, we will not stand quietly by while you demonize one of our worthy sisters for your own personal gain.  It has been well documented that black women occupy the bottom rung of the racial, and social hierarchy, and we will remain there unless we can unite in a struggle against those who would create us as less than, or some how deficient by nature. We know our struggles and we know our worth, and it is time to let the world know that they had better start acknowledging our value, and our demand to be heard. Do not go gently my sisters, scream as though your very life depended on it, because someday it just might.

A new site has been constructed, and it is called the MICHELLE OBAMA WATCH.  Please go and familiarize your self with it.  This is not one of those "fan" pages.  The author seeks to document and protest, every single act of racism and sexism that is aimed at Michelle.  To join the fight, we need to be informed, and the Michelle Obama Watch is the best place to start. Let's show these people what we can do.