Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mayonnaise and Men Kissing Are A No No

Heinz decided to take a leap of faith in equal representation, and make a commercial with two men kissing. While I don't like the idea that it presents the couple in binary roles, I do highly approve of a same gender kiss being presented as no big deal, and just a part of life. Faced with  huge resistance, Heinz has since pulled the commercial from the air. Even though the recent decision in California to allow same sex marriage was a great milestone for gay rights, back lashes like this prove how far we still have to go. It amazes me that with all of the sexist, racist and violent imagery, one consumes on an average day watching television, that a simple kiss should cause such angst and revulsion. People really need to get their priorities straight. Love is never harmful, it only uplifts and causes us to transcend human urges for baser things.

I Sing Like A Girl

Regular readers know that I am the mother of two darling boys, who I have nicknamed Mayhem and Destruction (nicknames more apt than you know) At any rate, Destruction my 7 year old is incredibly arts centered. He paints, draws, sings, dances, and has recently taken up photography. He is fluent in French and English, and is never shy at expressing himself in either language. So I am thinking to myself I have this wonderfully gifted, fun loving kid, I must be doing something right.  Over this past winter I have really begun to pay attention to his singing, and noticed that he actually has a good singing voice. Those are his fathers genes by the way, Simon Cowell would not give me even two seconds to audition. 

Every morning Destruction can be heard singing I'm a Barbie Girl in the shower at the top of his little lungs with a Broadway flair that is unbelievable. This kid loves to sing, and can even be heard downstairs singing on the throne as he has his morning constitutional. So supportive mother that I am, I get the brilliant idea to sign him up for voice lessons.  I thought, he loves to sing so much and he actually has a talent, why not support him in what he loves.  His father and I discussed the idea and we both agree, great now I am excited.  Dinner comes along and I announce to little Destruction my big plan for him, and he looks at me and almost cries.  He doesn't want to go to singing lessons it seems, because the kids at school tease him for singing like a girl, and can he do karate instead. 

As a feminist mom I have over, and over again, stressed the idea that boys and girls are the same. I have corrected him every time he has used the feminine in a pejorative sense. His father (also a devoted feminist) has encouraged gender neutrality, and we have done our best to not model typical gender roles in our home. So I sat there quite baffled when he was upset, because someone told him he sang like a girl. We are not going to force him to do something that he does not want to do, but it occurred to me that this is a perfect example of the ways in which sexism hurts boys too.  If he could completely understand that the feminine is not a pejorative, or a threat to his masculinity, the taunt you sing like a girl would hold no power to hurt him.

In our modernist binary view of gender we have assigned each a role. These roles are limiting too us as individuals, and in the case of little destruction, stopping him from pursuing something that he loves.  We often stop and think about the impact that gender has on women because it manifests itself in ways that are violent, or that lead to poverty.  When it comes to males few feminists will devote a large deal of time discussing the ways in which it encourages boys to shield their emotions, or present a sense of bravado when what they actually feel is fear.  Sexism is an insidious beast and it acts upon us in many ways. What this experience has taught me, is that no matter how good my intentions are, we are all a product of the social world, and we cannot escape the messages that have become ingrained in our society. I will continue to do my part and challenge sexism when I see it, but I fear until it becomes part of our social discourse to eradicate sexism, my efforts will be as invisible as a single grain of sand upon beach.

Lock Her Damn Ass Up

image 61 year old Joyce Y. Beddell decided that the appropriate action after finding her granddaughter in bed with another girl, was to beat the poor child with a cane until it broke. Not satisfied with the pain and humiliation that she inflicted, she then proceeded to walk her granddaughter to her lovers house so that her parents could be informed that the pair were having sex.  Apparently that was still not enough to quench her rage as when the pair returned home she began beating the child with a belt.  The police were called to the house on charges of child abuse and the grand daughter received medical treatment for injuries.  When questioned Beddell responded, "that she had done nothing wrong and said she should have been allowed to discipline her granddaughter as she saw fit."

This incident enrages me for two reasons. One, corporal punishment has no place in the life of a child. It does not teach them to respect you, or that their actions were wrong, it inspires hatred and leads to feelings of depression and low self esteem. Two, this incident was clearly motivated by the fact that the girl was engaging in sex with another girl. You cannot control the sexuality of another, nor do you have a right to discipline in this way an activity that is a natural desire of ALL human beings.

Reading this story enraged me, and I was not even the one subjected to the beating. Shame on Bedell to treat another human being that way, much less one that is related by blood. I cannot help but wonder if she would have attempted to abuse a grandson in this manner? Though I do not know what was in her mind, I cannot help but think about the way that female sexuality is constructed by society. We are to be pure until wed and falling short of that we are disciplined mercilessly. This differential in regards to sexuality is not only sexist it has been used as a legitimate basis to perform violence on girls and women.  When we as women assert these patriarchal values upon ourselves, and our children we are internalizing the worst kind of hate. Colluders act on behalf of patriarchy, not women that truly value being women.

Some people are unable to see the horror of this womans actions. In reading posts on this story I came across some blog responses that clearly victim blame. There seems to be some consensus around the idea that because the sexual activity took place inside Biddell's home that the child was disrespecting her and brought the beating upon herself.  I offer some blog responses from The happy nappy head.

Anonymous: "She deserved to get beat till the white meat show!! She's lucky somebody called the cops cause granny would have kept beating that azz every time she looked at her! I have 4 kids and I will beat their azz if they ever disrespect my house like that!"

prodigy-maestro: "I mean... it is your grandmother's house, whether it was a male or a female, that's disrespect in my eyes"

marci: "you do not have sex in your grandmother's house...it's all wrong.. i don't care who or what it is with...plain wrong..."

From these responses you would believe that the girl in question had committed a capitol crime in her grandmothers home, rather than express a legitimate part of herself.  It is just sex, two bodies coming together for love in some cases, and sharing pleasure in all cases. In a world of violence, where people are tortured, murdered and raped how can we possibly look upon sex as an act that is so disturbing it deserves this kind of punishment? This is beyond a skewing of values. I cannot speak for anyone else but when her day in court comes, I hope that she will be granted just as much leniency as she chose to offer her vulnerable granddaughter.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Black Women Are Worth 10K

image I came across this story at The Root but it was originally posted at Aunt Jemima's Revenge. Chiman Rai So hated blacks that he hired a hit man to kill his black daughter-in law, Sparkle.  The case was labeled an honor killing.  Eight years ago Rajeeve came home to find his daughter unhurt, and his wife brutally murdered. When asked by police during the investigation of his wifes death about his parents, he referred to them as "a little racist".  This from a man that told his wife, and her family that his parents were dead, rather than deal with their racism.

Eight years later the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty, and a little girl is growing up without both of her parents. Yes I said both, you see since the death of his wife, Rajeeve has remarried an Indian woman, and has not bothered to see his daughter. It seems that Sparkle's death taught him which bodies matter in this society.

When I first read this story, I must admit to openly weeping, not only for the light that was so sadly doused, but for the child that is now denied the birthright of her mothers love. Once I moved past the sadness, rage settled upon me, like fog rolling across a series of hills. A rage so deep that it leaves me nearly inarticulate. As I have said many times before, black women occupy the bottom of the racial and gender hierarchy in the western world. That we continue to pay for this positioning with our very lives, is evidence that this so-called post racial society is non existent. What was this young mothers crime, but existing as black and female in this world?

We claim to believe in equality, and to value people equally, but daily black women are assaulted, and murdered.  Our deaths and our rapes go unrecognized by traditional media.  It seems that we are only visible when we are committing a crime, and not when a crime is committed against us.  We are silenced in feminist circles, and minimized in the civil rights struggle. Where is a WOC to receive validation of her worth? We must turn to each other as shelter from a world that treats our bodies akin to disposable refuse. Sit silently no longer my sisters because very few will truly speak on our behalf.

I often wonder behind the PC speech where is the anger at our treatment. It seems it is fashionable to pay lip service these days to the oppressed but to articulate from a position of  rage is a rare phenomenon. Passion and outrage are saved for the more legitimate causes, while daily the war against WOC is raged and the bodies are buried, unnoticed, unvalued, and forgotten. How many feminists have even bothered to ask the question why WOC are not featured when they are missing, or why there is no discussion when pregnant black mothers are killed? It does not diminish you as a woman to admit that WOC hurt too. How many men will continually privilege race over gender and in the process treat us, and our concerns as though they were invisible?  I cannot sit in peace and watch as my sisters are made to pay the price for being black and female in our racist, and patriarchal society. I am an angry black woman and my rage is justified.

I'm Not Sexist, Homophobic Or Racist But...

Continuing on yesterdays theme regarding allies, I thought that today would be an appropriate time to discuss language. Many people profess to be anti racist,  pro gay rights, or against sexism but routinely use language that is necessarily oppressive.  To espouse a particular point of view one needs to be cognizant of  language, and its ability to discursively construct someone as 'other'. In the English language alone, there are many colloquial sayings that are oppressive that have been deemed acceptable as a form of communication. How many times have you heard someone say, that's just retarded, or that's so gay as a negative descriptor, and then turn around and say that they possess no biases? One of my personal favorites is "the best chefs are men". This of course ignores the fact that cooking is only valuable when done in the public sphere to attain a profit. When women cook at home to feed their families, and friends it has no value.

When we make blanket statements involving a group of people it creates them as 'other'.  A space is unsafe when an individual feels unfairly targeted. Being conscious of language is something that I am dedicated to. Have I perfected the art of speaking without minimizing people at all times? No of course not, I am a product of society just as anyone else is.  Here is the part where the ally thing comes into play. If you say something offensive the key is to acknowledge it. Don't get defensive because that does nothing to further the conversation.  Admit your error and recommit yourself to change. Unless you are living in the stigmatized body you cannot possibly know all of the nuances involved, so expect to make mistakes.

Many are afraid to speak out because of fear of alienating people. They question themselves needlessly. If you are even thinking about the intersections of race, class, and gender, you are more advanced than many in our society.  Most importantly if you don't take the risk and put yourself out there, you will never grow as a person.  It may be safer to sit on the sidelines silently cheering, but you will have contributed nothing to struggle, and gained no significant knowledge.

There will always be those that will not accept that your intent was good simply because they are so wrapped up in their issues, that they are blind to an ally when they see one. Some will throw accusatory words at you, perhaps even accuse you of not "owning your privilege" (note feminist war words). Others will toss such vicious vitriol in your direction that you pray to morph into a turtle.   Hold your head high if you know that your intentions were good.  There will be someone who will acknowledge your intent. Feminist spheres are not always a friendly place to inhabit, but there is usually at least one individual who will say, I know what you meant to say.

Finally when we come together to share ideas, we should actually listen to what someone is saying, and not just pick apart an argument because we can. Anyone reading this blog, knows that I am a smart ass, and probably has guessed that I can pick apart just about any argument. Does it mean that I constantly engage in this activity because I can...No. Do I hold others up to ridicule when it is clear that they were trying to speak in solidarity...no.  I recognize that nothing can be gained from that, other than to encourage the speaker to never again attempt to articulate a point of view that was meant to uplift me as a  WOC. Will I gently point out a few things that were omitted...yes, however I will not do so in a way that vilifies the speaker because I realize that intent is worth something. If you really want to encourage people to "own their privileges", the way to go about it is not by shooting them in the foot, the minute they step into the arena. 

Policing The Muff

Is anyone else as irritated as me?  We are entering the summer season and everywhere you turn there is an advertisement about waxing bikini lines, trimming the nether regions, or just in general making sure your main girl is in the best shape possible.  In pop culture every time we engage with a vagina it is about making sure that it is esthetically pleasing for men. It is very rarely about the vagina, the giver of life, or the center of my sexual pleasure, nope it's this wild out of control animal that needs to be trimmed, and stylized.  I'm surprised there is no speculation on what we feed the wild beast.

Even spaces that you think are safe from the whole trim the beaver brigade have been invaded. I went over to essence.com only to find under the category of relationships (yes you read that right) a survey on how women deal with the "hair down there"....ooooohhh the down there. Can't call it a vagina until it is properly stylized, nope it's the wild mysterious down there.  Just to have a show of some kind of gender neutrality the survey is divided into male and female. My favorite line under men is "Fellas, we haven’t forgotten about you. We want to know what you like too when it comes to your partner’s personal maintenance!"  Yeah that is right, personal maintenance cause you know a vagina is work, its so complicated, not easy, and simple like a penis. The fact that we are attaching emotions to our genitals similarly to the way that we attach them to people is not at all problematic now is it? I get it, men are from mars and women are from Venus. One is simple and the other complicated, and in need of discipline.

Where is the advertising dedicated to get men to trim, or wax their pubic hair? Ooops silly me, conforming the body is a woman's realm.  How could I have missed the near perfection of the penis?  Ingrained in these messages is the idea that 'woman' as she is naturally created is always imperfect and in need of change.  We are to ignore that fact that corporations create these images, and spend millions of dollars encouraging, and maintaining insecurity in women. Presenting women as beautiful in their natural form, is counter to capitalism as no profit could be generated.  It is far better to push the idea that women are in need of enhancement or alteration, as that will ultimately lead  us to spend our few disposable dollars trying to rectify some perceived fault that mother nature created in us.  So we get, too much hair is unhygienic, or it is visually unappealing to have pubic hair, or what is that smell emanating from you. If somehow on your pursuit to perfection you end up with those unappealing little bumps, no need to worry they have a cream for that too. Everything involving the vagina is foul and need of change. If you don't keep your temple of love in tip top shape, no one will want to visit.  So remember ladies it is your responsibility to make sure that your vagina is the same as some prepubescent girl because anything else is an affront. You are a dirty, dirty girl, look around you, there are many ads dedicated to telling you so.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hey You Fatty

That's right I'm talking to you fatty with no shape and no curves.  You queen of the anti-woman, don't try and hide your grotesqueness under the label of thick. Qviloa is on to your desperate little charade. You cannot possibly love your body the way it is, because it is not appealing to men.

"In North America it seems that most white men like thin women, while most black men like thick women. When people say that black men like fat women they are mixing up fat with thick."

While you are conforming your body to meet male standards make sure that you slide yourself into the appropriate racial category. If you are white and happen to fall under the category of "thick", the males that you are "supposed" to mate with will still find you unappealing. That's right white women, you have to go the extra step and make sure that you are anorexic enough to meet the modern day beauty standards, or you may find yourself alone night after night living out that famous New Years eve scene from Bridget Jones Diary. Can you picture yourself alone, drunk and singing all by yourself? That is the life that awaits you. Isn't avoiding that, worth getting a serious disease and starving yourself half to death.  Buck up, think about what you are risking...if you don't do this you may never have the pleasure of another deep dick again.

"Since liking thick women seems so natural to me and since thick women are clearly the ones best able to bear children, it is hard for me to understand how so many white men like thin women, though clearly they do. Some black men do too."

Not getting the dick means no motherhood. Mother nature would not approve. Uterus, eggs, fallopian tubes and vagina equals all women want to be mothers. You are risking your biological imperative by stubbornly hanging on to all of this extra weight.  If you don't stock that fridge with weight watchers meals immediately your DNA will never be passed on to the next generation.  Don't think about the expense of those high sodium, frozen meal replacement dinners, think about it as paying a tithe to the temple of dick.  If you are feeling hungry on this new diet, just imagine how full you will feel with a mouthful of cum. The benefits to swallowing include, but are not limited to fructose sugar, water, vitamin C, citric acid, enzymes and zinc, all for a mere 5-7 calories. Did I mention the special honor of sucking a dick in the first place. So put a lock on that freezer and dream about the days when your nutritional requirements will be met with a teaspoon of cum. With a steady diet of dick and cum you will be able to wear all of those pretty thongs, to show off your now visible feminine curves.

I must be some kind of unnatural anomaly. I have been fat most of my life and guess what, when I wanted dick, I got dick. I didn't have to starve myself or walk across hot stones to prove my worthiness either. Fat women get laid when we want it, believe it or not life is not all vibrators, wine and tears. I don't spend my days looking at pictures of other women in envy. I also am committed to living my life everyday, and as such the idea of waiting until I loose all of my so called excessive weight to stake my claim in this world is decidedly unappealing. So Qviloa you keep telling the world what is appropriate for women, and we fat women will just keep on getting on. While you are at it, you might want to take the time to think about what women find attractive, because shockingly enough having a dick is no guarantee of access to the bodies of women. We might also have a demand or two.

Yep, There's Slave In Me

You ever wish some people came with a mute button?  Charles Steele Jr., president and CEO, of SCLC announced in a speech that Michelle is getting rougher treatment in the media than Barack because she has slave roots, and he does not. Right, the issue is that she is blacker than him.  When will black men begin to acknowledge the roll that gender plays in the lives of women of color?  Yes, we are both black but women must deal with sexism, and to always make race the center of the debate is to diminish the experiences of WOC.

image Maybe you are unfamiliar, with this image, but it is called a vagina.  Men have penises.  Men are different than women and (sorry folks breaking it down for the simple minds) this necessarily means that Michelles experience is going to be different than Baracks because they are different sexes. Geesh. Yes Michelle is a woman of color but that is not the only signifier of her existence. The constant privileging of race over gender by the black patriarchy is oppression.

Do you think because you are the same color as us, that we will be blind when you make our experiences invisible? Let me tell you a little something, not only is this not new, it has been done by better.  I for one intend to call the black leadership on it each and every time I see it.  You cannot build a movement or create solidarity by making the concerns of 50% of its membership invisible and it is arrogance to assume that we will happily take our place as second fiddle so that you can strut around like inane peacocks.

If it were not so pathetic I would be amused that the same men that rant about privilege refuse to acknowledge their own. Yeah I know the real boogie men are the white men that are keeping black people down. This can only be true if we ignore the fact that black men beat black women, rape black women and murder black women.  We have just as much to fear from you, as we do from the average white man. You can step off of your pedestal now, it is tarnished from neglect and over use. BTW if you think we are going to clean up your mess, you've got another thing coming.  WOC are becoming empowered and self aware and with this awakening comes a new sense of self that is completely separate from our relations with you. Mammy has a new attitude baby.

The black patriarchy has made a mistake ladies and it is time for us to cash in.  They need our support to achieve their aims and we must demand that as part of that support our issues are central to any protest, campaign, or rally. We must demand our time to speak and tell our truths. We are just as relevant and just as deserving as they are.  If we do not take a stand, it will be more of the same back room deals in which they sell us down the river to secure power.  Make no mistake about it, what is occurring is a power struggle on a large scale, and if we want a seat at the table we need to demand it, the time for playing good girl and fetching coffee are over.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Allies

Much feminist theory today is dedicated to intersectionality. To give a wider understanding of any situation it is theorized that race, class and gender be operationalized to problematize the existential situation. Tongue twister isn't it? Theoretically I position myself as a womanist falling under the umbrella of feminism.  Though I would like to completely own the label of feminist, it seems to be a movement that is intent on privileging some voices over others. I simply cannot accept justice in words, and injustice in action.

Feminism as a movement is highly policed from within.  To be a dissenting voice is to face ridicule and isolation. Though we claim to converse what we are actually doing is talking at each other, instead of too each other.  In the din of all of the self-righteous finger pointing what is lost is the ability to build coalitions. So preciously do we hold the desire to be correct, we reject the fact that there is no universal experience, just as there is no universal woman. Some will claim to support women of color while at the same time silencing us when we speak about how our experiences differ.  Some will claim to support the GLBT community but fail repeatedly to purge homophobic, or transphobic  language from their everyday discourse.  When we belittle others in our precious desire for affirmation, not only are we reducing ourselves, but we are reducing the potential of feminism as a movement.

Just like any other socially progressive movement, feminism takes work.  It means being conscious of not only our own personal deeds and actions, but how they are affected by the world around us.  It means owning the fact that each and every one of us daily negotiates multiple sites of oppression and privilege, the two are conjoined and cannot be severed for the sake of convenience and willful avarice.

This post is entirely inspired from the responses I received to a post I wrote entitled my "mourning dress is tight".  It was cross posted at Feministe. That experience confirmed what I have been saying about feminism since I started this blog, only certain voices matter, and only certain people are considered relevant.  The comment that set me off the most was, "learn your audience". I must learn how to speak to people? This was knowingly said to me, a WOC. I am not sure if the author was aware of the racial overtones that came with that demand.  It is the perfect example of the policing that is done on feminist blogs.  Your truth is only truth if it is reflective of the majority of voices, and this kind of philosophy has a tendency to silence people that are socially marginalized. Who does have the right to speak in feminist circles?  It is fine for me to express an opinion but if it is not backed by links from more authoritative voices, of course my reality is irrelevant. When we consider that the voices of authority are privileged white women this sets up a race/class hierarchy that is reflective of the larger social world that we all share.

It would perhaps make some more comfortable if we were to all sit in a circle and sing blowin in the wind, purposefully blinding ourselves to the deep chasms that separate us from each other, but I cannot afford to take that road.  As a WOC, playing "the game" for the sake of presenting a false image of unity to the world, means internalizing racial stereotypes that are harmful to my person.  I will not allow myself to be created as less than so that others may feel empowered. This is a sacrifice that WOC have been asked to make since the very beginning of Feminism.  I stand along side women like Sojourner Truth in saying ain't I a woman. If my truth makes you uncomfortable it is not because it is filled with fallacy or omission, it is because it causes you to challenge assumptions that you have taken to be universal.

I am so tired of being on the defensive, and having to explain my commentary over and over again, as people try to twist my words to justify their own view of the world. Part of being an ally is truly listening to what someone has to say, with a desire to understand. I am sick of the self righteousness that says do not question my position, and I am sick of those that falsely offer friendship because it suits an agenda. How many times are we to be expected to turn the other cheek in the face of overwhelming arrogance, and aggression?  How many times must I reiterate a point only to have it obscured by some more pressing issue? If you want to "own" feminism you are on the right track.  Daily the exclusionary behavior makes less and less women want to identify as feminist and this is harmful to movement.  Keep going, don't listen steadfast in the belief that you are always correct but when the time comes when you need support, you may find yourself twisting not so happily in the wind.

Religion And My Call To Feminism

One of my favorite blogs is The Dirty Rotten Feminist.  Every Sunday she posts a question to her readers that usually leaves me twisting, and full of thought. This week was no exception.

"What is your religious persuasion and how does it affect your feminist world view," she asked her readers this week?

I grew up in an extremely religious family. My mother is Pentecostal, and my father is Seventh Day Adventist. This meant that I had to attend church on Saturday and Sunday.  Due to this exposure, today I no longer attend any religious services  unless it is for a wedding or a funeral, though one of the most defining moments of my life occurred in a church.

On mothers day each and every woman that attended my mothers church received a beautiful rose corsage. That same year on fathers day all the men over 18 received a pen and pencil set, whether or not they were fathers.  The minister felt that it was really important to acknowledge how much all men contributed to the world.  I remember sitting next to my mother with my head down, thinking about how unfair this was. It seems like a small over sight at this point doesn't it? Well to top off the gift giving inequality, the minister proceeded to give one of the most anti-woman sermons I was ever to hear in a church. I still remember it almost verbatim to this day.

"I am tired of all of those Godless women", he said "announcing to the world that it is their bodies. Why didn't they think about their bodies before they decided to get pregnant, surely temptation thy name is woman. Abortion is a sin against God."  I was 14 years old, and in that very moment I became a feminist. Something inside me boiled with a rage that I could not even put a name too. I had never read a single feminist book, or even heard a feminist speak on TV, but I knew that I wanted to be part of a group that said that I was equal, and thought my body belonged to me.

I remember being so angry that I wanted to jump out of my seat and scream at this man, this thing, that had just announced that not only was I less than, but that I could only be redeemed by being pure. He made no such overture towards the men in attendance, oh no only the women needed to remain chaste. This message compounded with the fact that it was fathers day, made it very clear to me that men were what mattered. I an insignificant young woman, could never hope to wash away the filthy stain of my sinning femininity to achieve the same kind of moral standing as a man. 

This sermon irrevocably severed my parents sense of morality from my own. To this day, my mother and I have never talked about this sermon. My feminism is a deeply personal thing to me, it effects how I raise my children, the relationships I choose to maintain or sever, and forms the basis of all of my political beliefs, you might say it is my religion. Though I no longer attend church services, I have a firm and abiding belief in God, but had it not been for the work of feminist phenomenological theorists that might have evaporated forever.   Feminism not only helped me to understand the world as it is, but too envision the world as it could be.  Though many years have passed since that faithful day, perhaps I owe a nod of thanks to that misogynistic preacher, because his sermon is what started me on the road to who, and what I am today.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Surrogate Exploitation

`As the mother of two wonderful boys (mayhem and destruction), I can understand the desire to have a child,  yet this desire to reproduce should not obscure the ability of some potential mothers to exploit others.  Some women have turned to surrogacy to become mothers, and in the process have ignored the system of exchange, and the potential it has to reduce womens bodies to their wombs.  Womens ENews has an article detailing the exorbitant cost of surrogacy. It seeks to draw attention to the fact that with a declining economy, surrogacy as an option is becoming, more and more difficult to utilize as an option. We are meant to feel saddened that one group of women are having difficulty exploiting another group of women, for the purposes of projecting their genes into the future.

According to the article, "After fertility treatment, the expenses of surrogacy break into about four categories. Legal expenses range from $5,000 to $6,000. The carrier's health insurance ranges from $26,000 to $30,000. The carrier's fee--for services and living expenses--ranges from $20,000 to $45,000. The fee for the agency (which includes a legally-mandated $1,500 screening fee to check the carrier's background)--ranges from $3,000 to $25,000."  Where oh where is a western woman to turn to make sure that her child is genetically related to her? The answer is obvious isn't it. Let's just fall back on the poor, and WOC.  Western culture has a history of breeding us when it is convenient, all the while decrying our "rabbit" like fertility when we choose to have our own children. Yep, that's the problem with the third world, too many women having babies, but it certainly is not problematic for western women to fly over there, and pay women to give birth to children.  Whose fertility matters? Remind me which bodies count?

"Intended parents may cash in their airline frequent flyer benefits to meet carriers in India, Eastern Europe, Mexico, Russia, Thailand or South Africa, but once these air miles run out, they may be unable to afford $2,000 plane tickets so they can continue monitoring pregnancies and legal proceedings."

Oh dear, due to financial restrictions you may not be able to aptly police the woman that you have chosen to exploit. Heaven forbid that western women are unable to make sure that the leash does not aptly restrict the blood flow. What if mammy forgets her place? What if Mammy makes a decision that is not in the best interest of my genetically superior child?  But with every problem there is a solution. India is becoming a magnate for the surrogate industry precisely because the women stay in clinics or supervised homes, to ensure that their every movement can be appropriately monitored.  We must not forget that westerners are paying between 6-10 thousand, and they deserve their moneys worth. Let's over look the fact that women are taking this option because it represents the equivalent of years of labor. 

But what about supporting the choices of women?  After all, women are willingly choosing to become surrogate mothers.  We can pretend that this is not a choice constrained by circumstance, but the relevancy of the system of exchange cannot be ignored. This is simply a new form of colonialism wherein womens bodies, instead of land are being used to project western hegemony.  This is an exploitation that is specific only to women, a man cannot be exploited in this way.

Each and everyday in our consumerist, capitalist economy we are part of a system that exploits third world countries.  We have created  informal colonies so that we may consume more than our share of the global produce, and yet we can still wax prophetic about choice, and agency.  Pointing out that women will be able to educate their children, buy homes and invest the money they earn from surrogacy does not negate the fact that  this is still exploitation, and had this predatory system not been in place, India would not be the new breeding ground for infertile western women. How many choices can you buy with a dollar a day?

It is arrogance to prioritize western biological imperatives in this way.  Our DNA is no more necessary to the progression of humanity as a species than the DNA of an impoverished woman of Delhi. This is not a case wherein both sides will ultimately be satisfied, as the surrogate will always be aware that it is her body that was reduced to the level of brood mare to provide for her children.  How many auction blocks do WOC have to stand on? As I have said on many occasions our identification as women only matters when it is used to benefit others.  We are the downtrodden, 'unwomen' of the world unless of course, you happen to be in the market for a spare womb.

My Mourning Dress Is Tight

Tree hugging, maple syrup loving, beaver cuddling Cannuck that I am, I should probably refrain from commenting on American politics, but I am so irritated that I cannot stand it anymore.  All over the blogosphere, HRC supporters are declaring themselves to be in mourning for her loss of the democratic nomination.  They speak about shattered dreams, and of feeling belittled, and used by a party that has come to take for granted their support.  With an allies heart I listened to the plaintive wails and tried to sympathize. I wanted to emphasize with their feelings of grief, to feel some sort of shared solidarity in our common womanhood.  I intellectualized it over endless pots of green tea, mused about it while incense burned, blocking out the smell of one too many cigarettes. Give it time I thought, it will come to me.

Then I woke up, and just plain and simple got real about it. Was she a victim of sexist attacks by the media, no doubt, but at the end of the day when she proudly packed up her bag, and walked off the stage with a class, and a grace that was remarkable, HRC is still a woman of incredible privilege. I think the privilege aspect of it all is where the disconnect begins for me.  In the game of life that woman is a winner. Though she may not have won this particular race, she will be remembered as the first woman that had a legitimate shot of becoming POTUS. This is a positively historic moniker to own. There will be books written about her, songs attesting her strength and courage, and when her light finally fades, she will be remembered more for the positive that she has done rather than the negative; the true sign of fame, revisionist memoralization.

Let me tell you who will go unheralded, the single mother that struggles to put food on the table, and keep a roof over the head of her child, the wife that has taken so many beatings from her husband that she suffers from brain injuries, the prostitute that is raped for the 100th time, the homeless women that are suffering with mental illness, the everyday working mom doing the Herculean task of raising a family and having a career, the so-called illegal alien performing what amounts to slave labor so that Americans can have their fresh fruit and trendy clothes, and finally the WOC and the GLBT community who are rejected and silenced. (If I were to do a complete list this post would never end.) These are the women I mourn for, these are the women I hope for, this is where my solidarity lies.

Let's be clear HRC is not just a woman, she represents the ideal of a certain class of women. Though her campaign targeted working class people, how often have the working class rallied only to be betrayed by the bourgeoisie? I submit that in a system that is corrupt from the very root, true and lasting change cannot occur from within, whether the candidate is HRC, or Barack Obama for that matter. The current leaders will always be beholden to those that granted them the power to rule, and unfortunately they will not remember their proletarian base. It is very clear that after decades of the so-called war on poverty, that it simply means eliminating the poor people, and not dismantling the system that impoverishes. There is much rhetoric about tolerance and justice, and yet there are still cases like Duanna Johnson and Sean Bell. In the wealthiest country in the world, how many children go to bed hungry, and how many will graduate high school without the basic skills to get a job, or continue their education?

It actually saddens me that feminism invested so much of its strength and energy to obtain a figure head, that could not despite her best efforts if she won achieve a substantive change in the lives of women. In pushing for the success of one individual what was forgotten were the needs of the many. We have become so disconnected from each other in the pursuit of material gain, that we have forgotten how to come together for the benefit of the least amongst us. In prioritizing our concerns, what we have forgotten is that as a movement we are only as strong as our weakest and most vulnerable members. Does anyone even still believe that the personal is political? Were they just words to mollify the legitimate rage of women that society has constructed as less than? At some point we as feminists have to declare that the bodies that the bourgeoisie have chosen to manipulate and exploit for their own enrichment matter, whether they are invisible, working, or middle class. 

So while I don't mean to offend you, or even belittle your sense of loss in any way, I will however challenge you to experience the same ferocity of emotion when a woman who is not as "accomplished" struggles to get through her day. It is not enough to state the domestic violence stats while spouting feminist theory. What we need as a movement is to feel true rage, and injustice every time a woman is marginalized, abused or exploited, whether or not we can identify with her life experience or not. It means owning our privileges, admitting we don't have the answers, and listening closely. The next time we decide to unify, let us hope that we will be inspired from the bottom up, for in that way we assure that the needs of the many, will truly outweigh the needs of the few.

Goodbye George

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When I first read about his passing I felt incredibly sad. I searched for the words to express my feelings, and I must admit to a rarity, I am truly at a loss. Your intelligence and wit will be missed and hope where ever you are, you are still keeping it real.

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits, wow. Had to say them one time for you!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Entrapment

You ever read a blog that just pisses you right the hell off, and you wonder why the hell you keep reading it?  I believe that the only way to learn is to listen to voices that have a different experience from you, but sometimes lunacy is just plain and simple lunacy.  Over at the Root there is a blogger named Jimi Izrael, and recently he wrote about the case of a young man serving five years in prison after being lured into sex with an underage girl.  This underage "lolita" created a myspace page where she advertised herself as a 19 year old divorced woman, for the purposes of engaging in sex with older men.  22 year old Morris Williams reportedly got together with her a few times before engaging in sex. Apparently he is not the first man to be convicted for having sex with her.

Let me start out by saying that deception is wrong. Read that last sentence over again woman hating trolls before you comment. For Morris this is a case of a burned booty call.  How is it possible to engage in conversation with a child, and not be able to tell that they are child? At some point the immaturity of the person that you are speaking to will make itself evident. As Maya Angelou is famous for saying, "people always show you who they are".  I understand that the blood draining from your brain to your penis is a huge distraction, however if you were not so busy thinking about her tits and your two thrust and shiver routine, perhaps you might have noticed that something was a little off.

The media of course is loving this, and is busy painting this 13 year old child as a wanton sex vixen.  We are expected to mourn for these two men who were helpless in the face of all of this free pussy.  We cannot possibly expect a man to decline sex, or question the age of his partner when there is a chance for a booty call. What self respecting man stops to question before getting his rocks off, one has got to have priorities.  The media is so busy painting this child as a temptress, that no one has questioned what may have caused this behavior in the first place.  This is clearly a call for help on her part, and no one is listening. Why haven't child protection services gotten involved? Oh I forgot she is doing what comes natural, because all black women are licentious, deceptive whores anyway.

 

The Niagara Region Is Not The Honeymoon Capitol

When you think of the Niagara region immediately the mind turns to the majestic falls.  Some who have spent more than an afternoon here will think of places like the Welland Canal, The Skylon Tower, Fallsview Casino, Clifton Hill, and maybe even the dearth of reasonably priced hotels, and restaurants.  The aforementioned sites are the Niagara region you are supposed to think about.  It is what you will find printed in all of those handy little pamphlets, that the tour guides like to give out.  Yes the safe family destination, where everything is bright and sunny.What you will not hear about are the women that have been killed here since 1996. What if I were to whisper these names in your ear?

31-year-old Dawn Stewart- her skeletal remains and those of her six-month old fetus were discovered in March 1996 in a wooded are of Pelham six months after her disappearance. 

26-year-old Nadene Gurczenski – her body was discovered in a Vineland ditch in May 1999. She had a two year old child. Cause of death undeclared.

32-year-old Diane Dimitri- her body was discovered in a ditch outside of Welland in August 2003. She had four children. Beaten to death.

26-year-old Margaret Jeanette Jigaru- her body was discovered in the parking lot of Princess Margaret Elementary school in Niagara Falls in July 2004. She had a four year old son. Shot in the back of the throat, execution-style.

22-year-old Cassey Chicocki- her body was found in a wooded area off of Whirlpool Rd. in Niagara Falls in December 2005. She had suffered the loss of her 3 month old child and the suicide of her brother in the few years just prior to her murder. Beaten to death, her teeth were in her stomach.

29-year-old Stephine Beck- her body was discovered in a Vineland ditch , one concession south of where Nadene’s body was discovered 8 years earlier, in march of 2007. Stephine was 14 weeks pregnant. She died of strangulation.

 36-year-old Shari Bacon- found beaten to death in Sean Paul Christie’s apartment in April, 2008. She had to be identified by her tattoos.

Do they resonate with a kind of familiarity in your memory? How about if I said the name Kristen French? The difference between Kristen French, and the aforementioned women, is that French was a young school girl brutally murdered and raped by the serial killer Paul Bernardo, and the other women were all sex trade workers who were brutally raped, and murdered.  French is memorable for her innocence and potential, while these women are forgotten for their occupation, and addictions; yet were they not all women, all worthy of justice?

These are just the women whose bodies have been found. What about the missing women who have not been reported?  What about the many incidents of rape and physical assault that don't make the local papers, never mind the national news?  There are few resources for these women that make up the front lines of Niagara's informal economy. Occasionally the police do the raids, and shut down some of the massage parlors, but where are these women to go? Everyone says not in my neighborhood, but no one wants to help them leave this life.  It is far easier for the average citizen of this region to sit on their front porch, and pontificate about the morality and legality of their choices, all the while forgetting the true vulnerability of these women.  Imagine if every day that you went to work, you were risking rape or death?  That is what these women faced every single day to either feed an addiction, raise children, or support themselves.  Should anyone have to pay for that with their life?

When labor day rolls around and the crowds get sparse on the tourist gouging hill, it is these women that keep the money flowing.  The only industry in this area is the tourist industry, and good paying full-time jobs are extremely hard to come by. Many women fall in and out of prostitution to make up for the short fall in unemployment benefits throughout the long winter.

One of the things that angers me the most about the sparse reporting that has taken place on these brutal homicides, is the fact that these women are constantly only referred to as sex trade workers.  Yes, that was their occupation but does anyone's job make up the totality of their identity. It is a way of devaluing their humanity.  To the world at large they don't constitute a loss because they are represented as dirty, foul, carnivorous vaginas seeking to profit through dirty acts. "Good girls" don't sell sex, and "good girls" don't become addicted.  Yet there was a time when they must have danced in the rain, built snowmen, or even just enjoyed the warmth of the suns rays as it kissed their bodies.  As long as we continue to see them as what they did rather than who they were, there will never be a push to achieve justice for them.

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Stephine Beck

(Michael Durant was charged with the murders of Casey and Diane)

Please take the time to look at the pictures of these women.  When we remove the stigma of the term sex trade worker they could easily be your neighbor, or your friend.  This is what has been taken from the Niagara Region.  It is a tragic, tragic loss, and should be treated as such. I will continue to post about these women as I become aware of new information.  Though the community may be ready to turn its back in forgetfulness, I will continue to light a candle in remembrance.  Though society would have you believe otherwise, these women matter. They certainly deserved better than to be treated as refuse for simply being women who through chance, and circumstance ended up paying the price for our misogynistic, rape apologist culture.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Share The Love With Five Powerful Blogs

image A blogger I truly admire Janet, from Black Political Thought has honored me with this award.

According to Electronic Village, the 'Sharing The Love' Award, was created by Blogger Crystal at Memoirs Of A Mommy blog, in honor of donor who saved her one month old’s life a year ago. Cyrstal’s son Noah celebrated his first birthday thanks to someone who gave the gift of life.
In Crystal’s own words, here are the rules of the Share the Love Award:

“Share this award with all those blogs out there that you love. All the people who make you smile. All those that make you laugh. All those that make your day. All those that leave uplifting comments on your blog.
**All I ask, is that you include a link to this post with the award and ask your recipients to do the same**
I created this award in
Honor Of The Donor That Saved Noah’s Life. I share this award with those of you whose love and friendship have enriched my life and made my world a better place.I hope by passing this award around the blogging world we can all help raise awareness of the need for Organ Donation.”


It is in that spirit and deep gratitude that I share the love with…

The Curvature:  Cara's blog deals with sexual assault.  Everyday she reminds us why it is important to fight for women's rights because we are not safe in this world.  We are not hysterical, ranting feminists, women constitute vulnerable members of this society, and we cannot afford to turn our back to this issue. She has such a unique way with words, that I often find I must stop and reflect after reading one of her posts.

Harriets Daughter ( Don't Do That): This award is for her post entitled Mammy.  I have read many essays about the social construction of black women but reading Mammy truly struck a nerve with me.  It is one of the best articles ever written about this awful characterization.  I cannot state enough how important it is that everyone take the time to read this post. This is beyond excellent work.

Feminocracy:  An irreverent thought provoking blog dedicated to critiquing race and gender. These women have a true gift for truth telling.  If you like to hear it straight, this is the blog for you.

Just A Girl In Short Shorts Talking About Whatever: My day is not complete without stopping by this blog. I love her irreverent graphics and biting satire. No truth is to hard for this woman to tell. I may not always agree with her, but I never leave bored.

Racialicious (Latoya) Peterson): Each morning my day begins with a green tea and Racialicious. I must admit since discovering this blog I am hooked. I am a committed anti-racist but reading racialicious has taught me that I still have work to do.  Latoya is the master of making the familiar strange, you cannot truly own your privileges until you learn to dissect what you have internalized from society. 

Please take the time to check out the blogs that I have passed this wonderful award on to. Hopefully the circle of love will continue to increase. Thanks again for the recognition and support Janet.

Angry, Irrational and Hysterical

I decided to dedicate this post to the code words typically attributed to feminists.  Of course you cannot point out social injustice without being angry, irrational, and hysterical.  All logical people naturally exist as automatons, going through their days parroting the status quo. Only crazy people would even begin to think that the system we live under could possibly be unfair.  What do you mean all men operate with gender privilege? In fact even pointing out that calling a feminist angry, irrational, and hysterical is sexist, is enough to further entrench the views of some.

Angry: When aimed at a black female such as myself this is never a neutral comment.  The angry black woman is a social construction that is used to uphold  racial, and gender hierarchy.   In a wider gender discourse labeling someone as angry is an attempt at silencing, and dismissing. Are there issues in this world worth being angry about..yes, but does that mean that we live a life filled with anger,...no.  Even if we admit to anger, why is this a bad thing?  When I read in the newspaper about women being murdered, raped and abused, would it make me a better person if I just put a smile on my face, and said c'est la vie?  Perhaps I should consult with my doctor, and become yet another one of those over medicated Prozac twits, so that I can dull my feelings of genuine outrage every time women are treated like disposable bodies without any value.  How can I not be thrilled knowing that women still make less than men, are increasingly denied access to birth control, and that women are unnecessarily being castrated by doctors, who believe that if you are past child bearing age, your uterus is the equivalent of a spare tire.

Irrational: This is another one of my favorite taunts.  The world just works this way, and if you cannot see that, then you are irrational.   Ask yourself do the majority of people think like you?  If the answer is no, then you must be irrational.  Lets just follow this ridiculous argument to its irrational conclusion, with an example that is easy to relate to.  Before the civil rights movement in the United States many people felt that segregation was a good thing. Many people felt that it was right to treat blacks as inferior based solely on the color of our skin.  So here is my question, rational thinkers, was segregation right because the majority of people felt that it was right?  Was slavery right, because the majority of people felt that it was not immoral to own a human being?  Believe it or not, there is such a thing as the tyranny of the majority, and just because a vast number of people believe that a situation is correct, does not mean that it is not abusive, or harmful to another. But what would I know, I'm just another one of those irrational feminists.

Hysterical:  This is another way of saying that even though an injustice is happening it really isn't all that bad. There, there dear... You are just over reacting. No we don't have a global rape culture, even though the United Nations finally made it a war crime.  You see when feminists talk it is just irritating noise, useless fodder without any relation to reality...in a word hysterical.  We hysterical women go on about rape and sexual harassment, even though as an individual you may fall into the lucky 10% that manages to live without ever being raped, or harassed sexually. Of course it is hysterical for us to be so concerned with that 90%  figure, when rational and happy people would fixate on the 10% figure. You hysterical feminists go on as though all men are rapists or are not tampered with sexually (please ignore the differential in experience between men and women to validate the aforementioned commentary)  It is not as if we are entitled to bodily integrity because everyone knows, that female bodies are for male consumption. In fact we won't ever get things right until we start thinking from a patriarchal point of view.  You see the world greatest thinkers were men, and so we should never expect anything worth while to come from the mind of an hysterical, angry, irrational female. Don't even deny it, because then you will be hysterical and irrational. Facts, are facts and we should never ever make a situation larger than it is. Our problem is that we are not correctly ciphering information from a male perspective. Ahhh...it occurs to me perhaps the problem is that we are too focused on our needs. I know that women do the majority of the housekeeping, child rearing, and elder care, but we can do more damn it. Men deserve more comfort than they are currently receiving. Perhaps if we took the time to wash the royal penis that is currently trying to rule our lives daily, we would  learn through humility that being hysterical, irrational and angry is counter to the needs of the important half of humanity. 

Despite the taunts, and the jeers I refuse to submit my will to another.  My power is precious, and it will not be used to maintain a system that is built upon oppressing women and POC.  Yeah I know that makes me an 'unwoman', an anathema even, but looking in the mirror and liking who I am as a person is worth something to me.  It would certainly be safer and easier for me to identify with my oppressors, but that would mean a life devoid of agency and autonomy. So call me your worst, deny your gender privilege, but I will live my life on my terms and by so doing honor the spirit of my foremothers, who died so that I could have the right to declare myself an independent autonomous woman.