Saturday, July 12, 2008

Colour Does Not Matter, Pageants Are For Colluders

On June 23 Kristen Elizabeth White of Georgia, was crowned Miss Black USA. After parading herself around on a stage she came away with a crown, a two week vacation and a $20,000 scholarship.  Take a moment to express your over whelming joy. Did it sink in yet?  Black women are being validated. Are you thrilled yet? Well if you are, shame on you.

In  what   world does mirroring the sexism aimed at white women count as the validation of black women?  Are we so blind that we cannot see that these pageants, or "scholarship contests" as they like to call it, demean women?  If it is about judging women on value, why are they parading around in evening dresses with deep thigh high slits?  The desire to turn beauty into a contest confirms the idea that what is really valuable about women is our physical appearance, and not the possibility that we may have a functioning brain, in our sweet little heads.

Whether it is TV1's list of the sexist black women alive, or this so-called "scholarship contest", it all comes down to social discipline.  We need to move beyond it, and stop allowing ourselves to be judged on the terms of others.  I cannot believe that black women proudly stand upon a stage to be judged, can they not feel the recriminations of their foremothers who stood naked upon auction blocks?

Though these women feel that they are different than the black women that perform gender in sexist hip hop videos, there essentially is no difference. Colluding is colluding ladies. Just because it is done in a fancy evening dress with some overly processed hair, does not absolve you of the guilt by association. When you place yourself on display to satisfy the male gaze, you are hurting the advancement of women.  So you elitist colluders I am calling you out. 

The idea that I am supposed to view Kristen Elizabeth White as a role model, is absolutely ridiculous.  This is a woman that says that Michelle Obama is a role model but still states her ideal life/career is to be a main character on the Young and the Restless.  You know, one of those "major characters that never gets killed off".  While she may feel that this is a step above the stereotypical beauty queens wish for world peace, to me it is the sign of a woman that really does not know what  matters, and who counts in this world.  I don't want a woman like that representing black womanhood for me.  So you colluding agents of patriarchy, you can send all your false prophets in "refined clothing" in my direction, but you will never persuade me to accept a colluder, as a fine example of the best that black women have to offer. My mind has been decolonized and I will not be assimilated.


Race And Religion

I would like to thank everyone who has responded to me so far.  Your stories have been very thought provoking.  I am still interested in collecting more personal stories about people experience with race and religion.  If you can find the time readers please send me an e-mail and share.  I am trying to write a post about the intersections...no names will be revealed.  E-mail me at womanistmusings@gmail.com   thanks again everyone!

Ain't I A Woman

Since the beginning of the the feminist movement WOC have had to struggle to be recognized. We have been silenced, marginalized and exploited. Sisterhood within the feminist community has meant nursing and caring for white children instead of our own, fighting back breaking poverty while trying to maintain our dignity, and crying salty tears alone as our rapes, beatings and assaults went unpunished.  It has been many years since Sojourner Truth stood up and asked Ain't I A Woman, and today her daughters are still asking the same question.

Her speech continues to resonate with truth after all of these generations,  simply because black women have yet to be validated in our quest to have our humanity, and dignity recognized. We remain the 'unwoman' of the western world. We are the welfare queens, the jezebels, the mammies and the angry shrews, shifting from social construction to social construction to justify our exploitation. 

Sisters I know that you are tired, and that the burden is heavy, but for our daughters sake we must soldier on.  We must be as brave as our foremothers, and continue the battle in their name.  You are here because someone loved you enough to fight for life on the middle passage, surviving on meagre food, menstrual blood, and feces. You are here because someone bore the weight of the lash, and the nightly visits of the master. You are here because your foremother said I will endure this for my daughter, and I will overcome.

We do not have time to fight amongst ourselves. We do not have the time to internalize the hatred that is directed at us. There is work to be done and we are equal to the task. We are the descendants of Queens though the world would have us believe otherwise.

Those that seek to come between us, do so to reap financial, social, economic and sexual rewards.  Every Black woman is a woman that matters.  Do not turn your back on them in favour of others, because your sisters are your allies. Do not support the rapists like R.Kelly who seek to abuse and diminish black womanhood. He is no friend to you, care instead for his young victim.  Do not shun a sister who is trans, lesbian, poor, old, young, or a single mother. They are your allies, they are black women in the same struggle as you.  We are one. Each one of us has a unique voice, and a precious lesson to teach.  WOC I beg you to see beyond the petty divides, hear the whispers of your foremothers, we are women and we matter.  We are to the earth as water is to mankind, nourishing, sustaining and of incalculable value.


Justice For Sex Trade Workers

image Emma Caldwell's  was strangled and dumped in the woods in May of 2005.  Today the men that were responsible for her death, Huseyin Cobanoglu, 55, from Irvine, Halil Kandil, 34, from Cadder in Glasgow, Abubekir Oncu, 31, from Springboig in Glasgow, and Mustafa Soylemez, 36 , from Glasgow  were released. The Crown has reserved the right to proceed on another occasion.

I am not privy to the details of this particular case but what I will point out is that it seems no matter what region these women live in, what they have in common is that they never seem to get justice.  There always seems to be some reason why their murders, or rapes are not able to be resolved. 

This is not at all accidental.  The truth of the matter is because they are prostitutes society has decided that their lives don't matter. There is always some justification as to why their rapes cannot be prosecuted or why their murderers are walking the streets.  We are quicker to lock up people that abuse animals than we are to imprison men that prey upon these vulnerable women.

The deaths of sex trade workers is something that I have yet to see feminism fight against.  It seems that they are only useful as a tool in describing the ways in which patriarchy can use sex to exploit women, but when it comes to the crimes committed against them there is a resounding silence. Feminism is supposed to be about validating women, fighting for our right to live violence free lives, equality, and agency. Why aren't these women accorded this respect?  We rail against patriarchy for its role in diminishing women, but when we refuse to acknowledge the global slaughter of sex trade workers as an attack on all women, we are working in the cause of our own diminishment.  Silence is collusion, silence is the explicit approval of these actions.

When I read about these deaths and I write posts on them, it is my hope to raise the visibility of how far reaching these murders are. They are not restricted to one section of the globe.  So many women go missing daily never to be heard from again. Countless women are raped and brutalized and then they must deal with the futility of  reporting these incidents to the authorities. No one wants to be associated with the Jezebels, forgetting that women turn to prostitution for various reasons. Feminism seeks acknowledgement of the fact  that women constitute a vulnerable class in society, it is hypocritical to not acknowledge the vulnerability of prostitutes. In a world that values masculinity and money what chance do these women have? If we are truly interested in justice we must seek it for all women and not just the loud squeaky wheels that preen in front of the hot lights of the cameras.  These women matter.  They have always mattered.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Muslim Woman To Submissive To Be French

Over the past years there have been many incidents proving the high level of xenophobia in France.  More often than not the group that is targeted for ostracisation are Muslims.   It was French courts that annulled a marriage when a woman admitted to not being a virgin, and now A Muslim woman has been denied citizenship because her practice of Islam is deemed to be counter to French culture.

It seems even though the French Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, apparently the court saw fit to draw the line at women who wear burkas and are submissive to the male members of their families.  According to the Council of State, "She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes." She is married to a French national, and has three children of French citizenship.

So the question is, who exactly is worthy of the honour of being French?  Submission to males is not a uniquely Muslim trait.  Many women are submissive to the husbands that beat them for fear of their lives.  For some women, submission to the forces of patriarchy is all that is keeping them alive. Are they too be punished for this?  Many women have internalized female hatred simply because society promotes women as second class citizens, are they worthy of exclusion as well?

This  is a convenient adaptation of gender inequality to support racism. Women matter when it is convenient. This incident is no different than the US government citing the abuse that Afghani women were living under during the Taliban regime to support their invasion.  When the Taliban were in power and womens groups were up in arms about the rape and mass murder of women, the US government did not attack them, no they invited them to the White House on a state visit.  The possibility of an Oil pipeline was more important than the lives of women. 

Gender equality cannot be used as a justification for evil. If you truly believe in the equality of the sexes, it can only proved by taking actions that do not  marginalize, exploit or demean women in any way.  Denying citizenship to this woman is simply a cover for the rising anti-Muslim feelings in French society. It is unacceptable, and it is wrong.  There was a time when France stood for democracy and was a beacon to the world, today it represents repression of the worst sort. 


Fox Attacks Michelle Obama

This compilation which is courtesy of Michelle Obama watch makes it clear that FOX News is out to construct Michelle as an angry black woman.  The following video is a compilation of the attacks that she has undergone. No you are not imagining it Fox News has a racist agenda, and we need to call them on it.

Clothing, What It Really Costs

This particular post is dedicated to someone very close to me, who has had one too many sips of the kool aid.  I will start out by saying it is not enough to vocalize your political beliefs, you must to some extent live them. Today the western world is a consumerist society.  People make trip after trip to the local mall, attempting to purchase that which cannot be bought for any price...happiness. Even as the debt crises in North America becomes more critical, people cannot seem to resist the call of the name brand.  North Americans no longer worship a single God, their attentions are split between Tommy, Nike, Dolce and Gabana, Liz Claborne, etc and etc.  Not only are these items over priced, they are beautifully labelled so that the world can recognize that the wearer is a person of "value".  Yes these dupes walk around in these items all the while providing free advertising to the makers of these products.    When you wear these clothes you essentially are nothing more than a walking billboard.

  If that were not enough, consider the fact that these clothes are for the most part made by "third world" workers.  Their rate of remuneration amounts to exploitation.  One US dollar a day is not a living wage.  Many workers are paid less than that.  When Tommy had his free zone in Jamaica workers were paid 15 US dollars a week.  Consider that from that paltry sum of money rent must be paid, food must be purchased, school fees paid, taxes etc and etc.  This amounts to abject poverty, so that North Americans can have the privilege of being walking billboards.   The fashion industry is no different than any other large industry, it is constantly looking for cheaper and cheaper places to produce its products.  With workers being driven away from subsistence labour, it has become easier to impoverish and feminize the proletariat, thus realizing greater, and greater profits. 

In a capitalist society where everyone must sell their labour, it is difficult to unplug from the system of exploitation.  There are many different acts one can perform to challenge the normative.  Since it would be a waste to discard name brand clothing that is already owned, consider turning it inside out so that you are not a walking billboard.  Purchase any new items at a used clothing store.  By making purchases in these types of stores you can be assured that your money is not going to those that make their profits by exploiting labour.  I was born in city of Toronto.  In that city there are more than 500 sweatshops in operation.  It is time to start to boycott products that make profits through human suffering and exploitation.   It basically comes down to reevaluating what is valuable.  Is it more important to walk around in trendy name brand clothing than resisting a system that impoverishes and devalues the workers of the world?  Derive your status from something meaningful.  The clothing that you wear in no way signifies your worth.  Remember that the original intent behind clothing was to protect the body from the elements.  It is time for a little revolution, it is time for a little truth.  Will you be defined by social construction?


Barbara Hillary...Yes You Can

Black women are fighters, we are achievers, we overcome.  Often in the media we are portrayed as licentious whores, or vicious ball busting shrews.  Very seldom are our experiences, and our courage to face the world validated.  I want to share with you the story of 75 year old Barbara Hillary, the first black woman to go to the North Pole.  She did not listen to naysayers who told her that she would not make it.  With drive, determination and bravery she reached her goal. I hope that you will be as inspired as I have been.  To the mountaintop my sisters, and never look back.

So, It's My Birthday

I turned 30 again today.  No snickering L, D and S.  I don't intend to age for awhile so suck it up. When I look at my life I cannot help but be overwhelmed at the blessings that I have.  I have a family that is absolutely awesome and daily I engage with others on subjects that really matter to me. When I thought about what my life would be like when I grew up, I cannot say that I pictured it turning out exactly the way it has, but I am so glad that it turned out this way.

I awoke to the smiling faces of my family, who actually let me sleep in for my birthday.  I cannot tell you how luxurious that was.  They waited eagerly for me to have my shower and morning tea.  My gifts were beautifully wrapped in newspaper, just as I had requested.  Tonight we will go out for dinner and share some more laughs. 

A few days before my birthday my friends, and family members asked me what I wanted.  In truth the things I want the most I already have, and I certainly have the things that I need.  What I decided was that rather than have people spend money on me, what I wanted was their time.  So for my birthday this year I asked everyone to donate 8 hours of their time to a soup kitchen, or food bank.   Giving to others is a big part of my life, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my time on this earth than continuing on this tradition.  Consider this post a reminder everyone....if you want to do something special just for me, take the time to notice those that society sees as invisible.  Own your privileges in this life and never take them for granted.  I am not going to do the whole beauty queen speech and talk about world peace, but I will say that even though I have not been able to affect a change on a large scale, it is my hope that my little efforts along the way have been of some comfort to someone.  If we all could make an effort to make just a small change on a daily basis imagine the beautiful life that we all could lead. 


SO-Called Ghetto Names

I have been following a story published at Racialicious about an incident wherein the names of students in a yearbook where changed to so-called ghetto names.  The story was first publicized by the Los Angeles Times.  The school resolved the issue by printing stickers, and telling the students to place them over the offensive names in the book.

I understand that what happened in this incident was racism.  Yes the editor that used these so-called "places holders",  Tay Tay Shaniqua," "Crisphy Nanos" "Laquan White,"intentionally attempted to demean someone based on their skin colour, and ethnicity. In a way it was like saying that black names are cartoon made up names that don't matter.

A name, especially a first name is a huge part of ones identity, and to be referred to by another name is dismissive, however to specifically find issue because these names were considered "black names" is where the problem arises for me. I waffled back on forth until I read this blog entry by Jimi Izrael (yes I know I had promised to stop reading him)

"Now, this all has led to some talk about white people learning to respect the names some of us can give our children. I dunno about that. I think it's complicated. I expect white people--black people too, for that matter--to address me in the way I choose to be recognized--which is a very basic respect--and some of us wear names for spiritual reasons, and that's cool. But I think they are rightly mystified when they run across kids with names like "LeQuinta" "Lexxus," Maxima" or "Versachi." I am too."

"Why do some of us give our kids crazy names, and act surprised when they meet a lot of class and color prejudice in the world? Why don’t we put more stock into the way we name our children."

The last two sentences really speak to the heart of the issue.  The idea that these names are crazy and deserving of ridicule, as well as the assumption that these names are given without thought, are my focus.  Many blacks are actively searching for a connection with a long lost identity.  The names that we have today are not our names, they are the names of the white slave masters that owned our families. This is why Malcolm Little, became Malcolm X.  Straying from traditional Anglo Saxon names is an attempt to redress the wrongs of history. It is a method of asserting a culturally positive identity in a world that continually constructs us as other.

Since black people have had the ability to name their children they have been asserting the right to endow their names with a sense of unique identity.  Today when we hear the names Oprah, Denzel, Condoleeza, Kareem, Shamar and Barack, do we think of them as oddities, or do we see them for the high achievers that they are?  Do we associate these names with poverty and backwardness?  In a wider social discourse without the fame and achievement we would think that these individuals were less than simply because of a name.  In truth the issue is not really the name, the issue is that anything associated with blackness is viewed as backward, and ignorant in the western world.  It is the body baring the name that is the problem and not the name itself.  Realizing the scourge that a "black" sounding name can be to achievement in this world I gave Mayhem and Destruction "black" names as middle names. I wanted them to have a connection with their culture, but I did not want them to face more stigmatization than necessary.  I simply did  not have the courage of my convictions.

Studies have shown that resumes with black sounding names don't get called for job interviews as often.  This can have a lifetime effect on ones earning potential. It allows people to act on their racism without being obvious about it. It takes a parent with real courage to give their child a "black" name as a first name as it is an indicator of not only racial pride, but a conscious decision to say that difference is not only acceptable, it is something to celebrate.  When we look down on others that refuse to conform to Anglo Saxon hegemony in child naming we are internalizing once again a hatred of black identity and culture. Trying to turn it into a class issue is meant to obscure the very real presence of the racial dynamics at play. Black parents from across the economic spectrum participate in unique name giving to their children, and they do so proudly.  I think that it is time we unpack this particular prejudice and recognize it for what it is.  Shaniqua is not bad and neither is the body bearing the name.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

A World Without Feminism.

It is common to hear many women today say I am not a feminist or anything but...I think that we are suffering from a form of collective amnesia about what the world before feminism was like.  Pay close attention colluders.  Every time you say I am not a feminist, you are denying things like battered womens shelters, the right to vote, rape counselling, and equal pay for equal work. Which one of these benefits do you want to give back?  It may not be "cool" these days to say that you are feminist, but it is even less cool to embrace a world where women are considered less than.  It is less than cool to say okay marginalize me, exploit me, I don't mind playing the "little woman".  Keep decrying feminism, and one day colluders you might truly get the world that you speak of.

image image

image image

These images are meant to shock you out of the anaesthetized zombie state that you are living in.  This is the world that awaits women should feminism ever cease to be a political action for equality between the sexes.  The MRA would like you to forget this time, they would love us all to think that supporting men does not mean a return to this.  Don't be fooled.  This is what the MRA'S  and fundies have in store for you when they speak of a return to family values, and the natural gender roles of men and women.  Remember that for men performing gender means assertiveness, leadership, and power, whereas for women it entails submission, isolation in the home, marginalization, and sexual service.

At some point self preservation has got to kick in, and you colluders are just going to have to recognize that denying feminism is counter to your needs and interests.  I know that you have been told that thinking and actually using your pretty little brain is unfeminine, but trust me as a vagina bearing woman nothing is more "unfeminine" than waking up one day and figuring out that women don't matter, and you have done nothing to rectify this.  Crying salty and bitter tears after the fact does nothing to help the cause.

If you are afraid to walk alone at night, if you have been passed over once again for a job, if you find that you cannot finish a sentence without some man interrupting you (cause you know they only have important things to say) then feminism is for you.  Colluders you can either get on the train for equality and justice or you continue to live the life of a defeated, dismal, pathetic victim. Feminism is for you, in fact it is for everyone who wants to make the world a better place.


Kyle Payne

Ren Has a post up about Kyle Payne so-called feminist ally that must be read.

If you take some time to read some of Kyle’s work, you will see he is very anti-pornography, has dedicated himself in many ways to educating men about the affects porn has upon them and fighting rape culture and stereotypes of masculinity, much like Robert Jensen. Kyle’s writing is moving, he’s been included in the Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution, he links and praises many other anti-porn bloggers, and even, much like his Stop Porn Culture role models, does presentations on the harmful nature of pornography, which are, of course, non-2257 compliant and do not consider the feelings of the people in the images used.

"Kyle Payne was arrested for breaking into the room of and assaulting an unconscious female student at his University while he was a resident advisor. He plead guilty to felony attempted burglary in the second degree and two counts of invasion of privacy. Kyle Payne, feminist ally and enemy of pornography, agrees that "with an intent to arouse my sexual desire, I photographed and filmed Jane Doe and her breast without her consent."

Clearly Kyle is a wolf in sheeps clothing.  Imagine a rapist counselling a rape victim.  Imagine a man that has not respect for women presenting himself as an ally.  We see you for what you are now Kyle.

Jesse Speaks

According to CBS, Jesse's response to being caught with a live mike was the following.

"For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize," Jackson said in a statement. "My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal. I cherish this redemptive and historical moment."

"My appeal was for the moral content of his message to not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy which would be a corrective action for the lack of good choices that often led to their irresponsibility.''

When it comes to ministers, Obama has the same luck that God gave cabbages.  Look Jesse you don't represent all black people.  Here is my thought, perhaps its time that you accept the fact that your star has waned. I am not seduced by your commentary that this is about political issues, it is more than obvious to many that this is about power. I understand the desire to hold on to power because it is seductive, but there comes a time when the older generation needs to make room for the younger generation. This does not mean that you have to stop contributing the struggle, it does however mean that perhaps it is time that you acknowledge that there are different ways of doing things.    

Do you remember a time when you believed in the struggle? Do you remember when the injustice of racial inequality stuck in your throat?  This is what we need to be focusing on as a people, and not this ridiculous infighting.  I understand that we do not have a black monolith, or a single voice, but when we approach issues of division we need to so with respect.  Threatening to cut someone's balls off is not respectful.  Obama has enough issues to deal with in this race without having to put up with commentary like this, from a man that claims to be representative of the black race.  As a member of the black community I am asking you Rev. Jackson if you would do us all a favour, and depress the mute button, at least until the election is over.


Don't Pick On Star Wars

As I said in an earlier post, I am huge fan of sci-fi...I think I might have to really begin to redress my unwavering approval of it though.  A few days ago I sat down to watch the Return of The Jedi, with my newly attuned feminist eye.  I have come to the decision that as much as I love George Lucas, his vision of the future is not one that includes the role of women as active participants. What about Princess Leigh?? Well what about her, she is only one character in a virtual sea of men saving the world from destruction.  As I think back to the final big battle scene in the original Star Wars, all of the fighter pilots attempting to destroy the death star are male.  Obviously flying a ship, or plane is not a skill that only men can, or could perfect, and yet it is only men that are up to this Herculean task.  

Throughout all 6 movies in the series, men are the villains, heroes, the protagonists, the characters that really matter.  We are meant to view the male experience as the universal experience.  Some of you may be thinking..this is just entertainment, an imaginary world, why does it matter so much.  It matters because even as we dream about what may come, we still cannot conceptualize a world or worlds wherein women participate equally.  Movies like Star Wars are not divorced from reality even though they fall within the realm of science fiction, simply because everything we consume is a product of our social discourse.

When women are invisible, or are portrayed as needing men to save them, it only encourages our marginalization.  To be truly visionary about the future we need to start conceiving of a future wherein both sexes are adequately represented.  I understand that science fiction has largely been an arena for men, but I suggest that including more female roles would not only validate equality between the sexes it would open a whole new audience of viewers.  Science fiction will get no more free passes from me.  I want to see myself not only represented, but actively saving the world from the evil doers.  My dreams of the future involve a time when differences between the sexes are perceived as antiquated and ridiculous.  It is time to boldly go where no person has gone before.


Rap Vs Oprah, Is She Black Enough?

Ludicrous, and 50 Cent, your taunts that you are not black enough are tired, and old.  Your music represents misogyny, and to expect a woman to support this is ridiculous.  Supporting the achievements of POC, should not come at the cost of the dignity of black women. If you have a platform that you are trying to promote, you are more than capable of getting your own show.

There are many things that I am critical of Oprah about, but to refer to her as a "sell out" because she refuses to support the denigration of black women is a power tactic that black men continually employ against black women every time we assert our right to human dignity.   I know that you are used to the booty shaking colluders, that beg to be in your videos, but surprise, surprise, there are black women in existence who refuse to degrade themselves for your acceptance, or approval.

This issue is essentially about power.  There is a lot of talk about racism in the black community, however seldom do conversations about the black male patriarchy occur.  Similarly to white men, black men have a vested interest in the oppression of women. WOC are expected to support their efforts to "uplift" the race irregardless of the ways in which it may create us as less than.   To follow blindly on this path would be to commit a form of gender suicide.  We are your mothers, sisters and daughters but that does not give you the right to exploit us for your financial gains.  To rise as a community we need to support each other equally...and  so I say to all of the rap artists out there who complain about not getting enough respect... if you want it, give it!


Religion And Race

A friend of mine said something that I have been unable to forget.  He said, "the most segregated day in the western world is Sunday."  When I thought about it,  I had to agree that he is right.  On Sunday Christians go off to church for fellowship and sharing.  What we don't focus on is the fact that we do so separately. Whites go to their church and blacks go to theirs.  I am very interested in hearing more about how race interacts with religion. I have a favour to ask readers.  Please send me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts about this, or how race has impacted how you practice or don't practice your religion.  I will be using your answers to put together a piece that I intend to write on the subject. No names will be revealed.  Thanks, Renee

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CNN Black In America Whoopi Speaks

From the previews that I have seen about this series, I think that it  is something that we all need to watch.  A conversation needs to happen about race, and the ways in which bodies of colour are marginalized, and "othered".

In this short little clip Whoopie brings up a point that has bothered me for a long time.  Being told that you are articulate, or that "you don't sound black" is offensive.  There is this idea that somehow if you are brown or black, you do not possess a working command of the English language.  While those making this statement think that they are giving you a complement, somehow pointing to you as a "credit" to your race, what this actually is, is  demeaning racist commentary.  The inability to speak the "queens English" is not a function of race, it is a function of class, and a statement about how the education system discriminates against bodies of colour.  It is always, you're not like a "regular" black person, like I am some kind of scientific achievement, a pet science project that went right for a change.

Even if for some reason, I did not have access to the education that I have received, that would not mean that I would somehow become less intelligent. It would simply mean that I had not acquired a certain knowledge, or skill set.  The idea that we can prejudge someone based on skin colour is about maintaining racial privilege. To be clear, the whole concept of race was invented to justify exploitation, and so when white people make assumptions about bodies of colour, what they are doing is helping to maintain the racial hierarchy that is currently in existence. She/He who has the power to name, also has the ability to either uplift, or reduce a person, or group.

Just as with Whoopie, my blackness is something that I carry with me everywhere I go.  The moment I leave the security of my home, my race along with gender mark me as different.  When people first interact with me, what enters into our conversation is the hidden elephant in the room so to speak, it is all of the social conditioning that we have all been subjected to throughout our formative years.  It is not possible to completely ignore my blackness but somehow it is the conversation that never directly takes place. To acknowledge it would be to admit to the ugliness of racism, and the history of brutality that has been waged in the name of difference. So I agree with CNN, it is time to start talking about the pregnant pauses, and the uncomfortable truths, because it is in the not so obvious spaces that black people reside.


Lock On The Bathroom

Motherhood is a huge part of my identity. I know that it is something that a lot of women would never consider doing, let's face it, it is hard work and not everyone is cut out to do it...I love Mayhem and Destruction with everything that I have, but I think that it is time that I be allowed to change my damn tampon in peace.   I have accepted the fact that peeing will not be a solitary act for years to come, but I am drawing the line when it comes to my moon time.

I am not one of those women that feels the need to hide my period from those that I am in intimate contact with. I regularly and openly talk about my period because it is a natural part of my life as a woman. It is my hope that I will raise boys that are open, sensitive and respectful to this so called "icky" time of the month.

As a lone woman living with three males, I put up with a lot of talk about berries, pills, testicles and my favourite "the boys".  For the amount of male drama that goes on, you would think that for the five days a month, that I need to spend 3 minutes in the bathroom by myself, that would be ok...ummm...no...guess again.  Mayhem the 2 1/2 year old has a fetish for eating toilet paper and whenever he has the chance, is quick to steal a roll.  I cannot tell you how many half eaten rolls of toilet paper I found throughout the house.  This drives his father insane as he insists on buying the "good stuff" for his ever so sensitive ass.  Destruction always seems to need to go the minute I am in there, or he discovers some extremely important fact to explain to me about Backugon, Yugi Oh, or Pokemon.

I have tried announcing that I am off to the bathroom before I go, so that they will have a chance to express themselves before I approach the throne, but it has been to no avail.  So in a fit of absolute frustration I demanded a new lock be placed on the bathroom door. I felt sure that now that my children were frustrated in their efforts to accompany me to the bathroom, that for the first time in years, I might actually get to experience my long awaited Calgon moment (yes I know I am dating myself) but once again...nope, zilch, nada.  They now stand outside and shout through a closed door their need for my attention. 

Here is the part that gets me about the whole thing. Their father could be in the bathroom long enough to drown in the toilet and neither would feel the need to check on him.  Their only concern is the quality of "work" produced in the bathroom. I have talked to other women who are in similar situations to me and they have reported that it is pretty much the same for them.  While my new lock does not stop me from hearing them, it has at least assured me the right of every woman living with  three males, the right to change my damn tampon in peace.

If you enjoyed this post please check out my new blog....It is called MOM Said Dad Said.  It is about the zany adventure that Scott (aka eggplant head) and I have raising mayhem and destruction.  Scott and I try to laugh our way through the most awkward of situations and so I hope that you will come and laugh with us. P.S If you think Eggplanthead is wrong don't be afraid to speak up...wink, wink. nudge, nudge...


Jezebel, When Colluders Speak Freely

I first came across this clip at Wonderland or Not.  Conner has an awesome take down so make sure to read it.

Isn't it wonderful to know that if you live in Williamsburg you are safe from rape?  Why oh why don't some people come with a mute button?  Apparently  it is possible to pay someone to "rape" you...great to know in case you ever want to live out that horrible little fantasy.

Now I honestly believe that reporting rape is a difficult thing for a woman to do when one considers  slut shaming, invasion of privacy, or fear, etc but to announce to the world that you would rather drink, leads me to believe that you need to find an AA meeting immediately.  Though I try to honour the experiences of all women, one that claims to feel safe and secure around her rapists has serious credibility issues to say the least.  I am not sure what is more repellant, their assertion that women who are not pro-active in their defence are the ones that get raped, or that women fearing rape is like some kind invited drama.

Okay Jezebel ladies I know that you are trying to project a certain sense of "coolness", but what you end up doing is belittling women that have been raped. In case you can slip away from your arrogant, drunken identities for one moment, I would like to point out that this is colluder like behaviour. Feminists who work to improve the lives of women do not belittle rape and treat it in this cavalier manner. Feminists who care about women don't suggest that women are in any way to blame for being raped.  So here is my suggestion...hand in your feminist card and we'll consider this no harm no foul, call it a mulligan. If you continue to advocate this deceitful shit, I am going to have put you permanently on the colluder list. This interview makes it clear that the only thing you are capable of representing is idiocy.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If You Have Autism, You're Not Welcome

When Sarah Seymour took her daughter to Smitty's on Stony Plain Road in Edmonton's west end, her intent I am sure was just to have a nice meal with her family.  When her daughter Eowyn, discovered that her favourite food was not on the menu she became agitated.   Eowyn is not just some rowdy child who refused to behave, or one who was not being attended by a parent, she is a child that has autism.  Now I will admit that I don't know much about autism but I do know enough to realize that those that have it deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else.  According to the National Mental Health Information Centre, "Autism, also called autistic disorder, appears in early childhood, usually before age 3 (National Institutes of Health, 2001). Autism prevents children and adolescents from interacting normally with other people and affects almost every aspect of their social and psychological development."

The restaurant was made aware that  Eowyn is autistic, and they still demanded that she leave the premises, because a customer was refusing to pay until the child was removed.  Now that this incident has been made public, the company has apologized and has pledged to raise funds for autism research.  Regardless of the good deed after the fact, what is clear is that if you have a disability, you are expected to rise above and overcome. Ssssh silence yourself, don't disturb anyone, wouldn't want anyone to know that you are alive and have the same right as anyone else to take up space in our world. We certainly cannot have our space invaded by "those people" sort of mentality is disgusting. Smitys could have asked if the family needed assistance, but instead they succumbed to the common ideology that if you have a disability you do not belong in society.  Reading the responses to this story made  clear the pervasiveness of this belief.

"I don't care if a child is autistic or what, the child needs behaviour modification. In this case, the child should have been removed from the restaurant by a parent until the child calmed down."

"I don't deny an person with a disability to the right of fair treatment. However when other patrons are in public they have rights too. When I go to any place in public I think I have the right to peace and quiet, whether a ruckus comes from a person with or with out a disability."

"I have a right to expect peace and quite, commensurate with the location, when I am eating. You do NOT have the right to disrupt my meal - disabled or not"

"The parents need a good slap in the head,bringing this all upon their head is mostly their own fault,I totally agree with :as i see it,If a person was intoxicated they would be ejected for upsetting the other patrons and apparently when your intoxicated the law states that a person is not in their right frame of mind and so be it for this child. the parents should have phoned ahead,it was least they could have done for their child"

"Sorry... having a disability gets you some basic extended rights. But its not carte blanche to run ramshot over other people. The child lost it and was being disruptive autism or NOT the child should have been removed by ONE of the parents and taken outside. The child would have and YES they always do autistic or not calmed down. They then could have been reintroduced into the situation. The parents should have engaged in some common courtesy instead of expecting society to bend to their child's disability"

"How come it is that the whole world must "accommodate" EVERYONE ALL THE TIME?? ..If I am in a restaurant, paying for a meal, with or without company I do not want to be subjected to a wailing child. The other patron had every right to state they were not okay with the environment.
It is unfortunate that this is a "special needs" child but where does that mean that everyone has to be understanding and accept the behaviour? They don't! Perhaps the restaurant was not the best environment for this child....perhaps the parents need to plan ahead and ensure that any restaurant has the required food to avoid this? I don't know but I do know that any behaviour by any person (little or otherwise) in any environment doesn't always have to be acceptable and excused!"

"Yes! I too have rights. I have the right to eat a meal in peace and quiet. Yes! The family has the right to take their special needs child out in public. Does one group's rights supercede another person's rights? Why do I have to be the accommodating one? AND if I am not the accommodating one I get myself a label. Prejudiced, racist, etc etc No.................this has got to STOP! There must be EQUAL accommodation! Am I the only person who gets this?? or questions this????? I DO NOT NEED TO CONCEDE MY RIGHTS TO ACCOMODATE THE REST OF THE PLANET ALL THE TIME!!!"

These are just a few of the offensive commentary that can be read at CBC.  The same solution to the "problem" keeps reoccurring... zero tolerance, zero understanding. I have not written a lot about disability on this blog but the death of Esmin Green made clear to me why disability is something that we all  need to pay attention to.  When we refuse to see people who are living with a form of disability whether it be physical, or mental as worthy of sharing our space we are constructing them as less than.  It is in this disharmony of worth and value that 'othering' occurs. Our ability to project difference onto others leads to dire consequences for those that are unable to fit into a model of what society has accepted as "normal."  Despite the fact that we are individuals and no true norm exists, socially what we expect is conformity to preconceived ideas of what validates personhood.

Here's my thought, so what if the environment was a little loud for your taste.  If you do not like it, then you should be the one to leave period. To expect someone with a disability to be removed from your presence because you are disturbed is the height of arrogance.  At some point we need to come to the understanding that all people matter, and everyone deserves the right take up space.


Mortgentaler The Controversial Choice

As I posted earlier, Dr. Mortgentaler was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada.  I for one believe that his award is way over due, and I am glad that he was recognized while he was still alive.  Of course the pro-birth forces are up in arms over his selection.  Members of the Madonna house are returning the award that was given to Catherine Doherty and Rev.Lucien Larré is returning his award.  According to CBC, "The Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins, said the country’s highest honour had been “debased.”

In a statement, Collins invoked the names of Frederick Banting and Charles Best, who co-discovered insulin in 1921, and are both celebrated as medical heroes in this country.

“Now it honours with the Order of Canada a medical man who has brought, not healing but the destruction of the defenceless and immeasurable grief," Collins said."

What Collins fails to take into account are the lives of many women that have been saved by the ability to have safe, and reliable abortions performed by a medical professional.  Whether or not abortions are legal, they are going to continue to happen.  Women have always sought to control their fertility and since the medical establishment professionalized women's traditional knowledge of healthcare, herbal relief has been lost to the sands of time.  Through the demonization of midwifery, men have had an adverse effect on our knowledge of self.  Dr.Mortgentaler has sought to alleviate some of the damage that his profession has caused,  and it is not only noteworthy, it is due our highest honour.  The fact that our gutless Prime Minister cannot make a positive endorsement stating only that “The Conservative government is not involved in either deliberations or decisions with respect to which individuals are appointed to the Order of Canada"  serves to highlight why his appointment is so necessary.  Our government did not of its own accord seek to secure the right to abortion for women, it took a man to risk his freedom to make this happen.

There are those that will always argue that Mortgentalers appointment is controversial but they do not reflect the voices of countless women whose lives where saved, because he offered them the right to choose.  Choosing to bestow our highest honour upon him not only celebrates his greatness, it validates the lives, and choices of women.  Yes we make up 50% of the population, and we matter.  That Rev.Lucien chose not to agree with this choice is inconsequential. He should not be allowed to return his award. He was convicted of two counts of physically abusing children in his care at Bosco, the award should be taken from him, as he is a shame upon our nation.  Catherine Doherty is deceased, and those returning the award are doing so on her behalf.  They may presume to know what she would, or would not have stood for, but in truth as she is unable to speak for herself we will never truly know what her feelings about Mortgentalers appointment would have been.  This is nothing but blatant grandstanding.

I have never had an abortion, but I feel safer and secure as a person knowing that should the need arise, thanks to Dr.Mortgentaler that option will be available for me, without the need to risk my life.  His willingness to champion this cause has given dignity to all Canadian women.  Despite his detractors, I hope that he is able to celebrate this prestigious acknowledgement.  The right to choose is about the sanctity of human life and thanks to his long struggle, women matter just a little bit more.


Sexist Black Women Alive

Hello readers, TV1 has decided to put together a list of what it deems to be the sexiest black women alive.  Check it out:  Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Paula Patton, Lauren London, Angela Bassett, Iman, Vanessa Williams, Janet Jackson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Beverly Johnson,  and Alek Wek.

Why would I find the assemblage of such a list offensive? It is meant to celebrate black women right, nothing but positive to see here...that would be a resounding no.  The list suffers from two major faults.  It falls prey to hueism, and fatphobia. Take a look through the pictures of these women, and you will see clearly what I mean.

The majority of the women on this list are light skinned women.  What this tells those of us that are of a darker hue, is that somehow we do not count as women.  We are less than, once again the anti-woman.  I am not saying that light skinned sisters are not beautiful, I have a problem with the fact that they are commonly used as a representative of ALL black women.  We come in many different shades, and to point to one as particularly more beautiful than another, is to reinforce a hierarchy based in skin tone.  This is not a sign of loving ourselves, rather it is the internalization of black hate.  The cruelty of slavery has left us with this terrible legacy. 

The light skinned woman as prize comes from our desire to achieve the appearance of whiteness.  That this skin tone was achieved from a legacy of the rape of black women is over looked, in our desire to achieve whiteness.  In our efforts to achieve whiteness, blacks have attempted to bleach our skin, relax our hair, and in some extreme cases submitted to surgery to achieve Caucasian features.   It is time to look beyond the whiteness is good metaphor to begin loving ourselves as we are.  Whiteness cannot be achieved through artifice, and therefore to continually promote it as a symbol of beauty is a futile struggle. 

Beyond the whiteness as good metaphor, our inability to embrace blackness leads to social underachievement.  This skin caste system encourages a cultural low self esteem whereby blacks continue to under perform.  Yes daily we must confront racism and the limitations that it places upon us, but internalization manifests a sedentary approach that is counter to our success as a people.  If we do not believe that we are worthy of more, we will not attempt to be more.

The other model that is clearly representative in the list is, skinny is good.  Nowhere on the list will you find a woman that is fat.  This is not an accidental omission.  Our society daily 'others' people that are considered 'over weight'.  To have a list of women that are meant to represent what is sexy, and not include a single woman that is fat tells us that our bodies are unlovable.  Omission is meant to erase our existence, to shame us through invisibility.  It is also an attempt to discipline the bodies of women.  Anytime we set an appearance standard, what we are doing is telling women that to count, to be considered of any value, you must fall within a certain range. A failure to have the body conform, is thus a failure to be feminine.  The desire to be considered 'woman' as is socially constructed by the media has harmful effects on women.  Is it any wonder that the plague of bulimia, and anorexia continue to daily be an issue, when everyday we reinforce an unrealistic body ideal as desirable?

I am sure that the list maker at TV1 meant this list to be a positive, however due to omission or unbalanced representation, what it has done is act as an agent of discipline.  This list is something that we as black women should not celebrate, as it once again tells us who matters in this society.  To truly elevate us, and validate our worth, it needs be recognized that black women come in all different sizes, and hues.  No one caste is more attractive than another.  This kind of hierarchal assignment of value needs to cease, as it is harmful to our self esteem as a people. All black women are beautiful.


Monday, July 7, 2008

McDonalds Is Too Gay

Of all of the legitimate reasons to boycott McDonalds, their decision to join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce should not be one of them.  Let me see if I can figure this out. We should not get upset because when they open restaurants in different countries they don't use local produce....no that isn't a problem. Hmmm, how about the fact that most nutritionists recommend that you rarely, to never consume their food because of the high level of fat and cholesterol (supersize me anyone?)...mmm nope again. Perhaps their position on the unionization of their employees could be slightly problematic...nope not that either.  What about those little toys in the Happy Meals that  are made by exploited labour in China.... nope guess again...horror, oh horror McDonalds won't discriminate against gay people. 

According to TwincCities.com, "Hatred has no place in our culture," McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman said. "That includes McDonald's, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment."

How can anyone possibly chug down an artery clogging Big Mac with the knowledge that corporate executives actually believe that what other people do with their genitals is their own business.  Just imagine a society where what people do in the privacy of their bedroom is not strictly controlled and disciplined .  This is not the way Orwell promised us the world would be.  Didn't anyone else read 1984?  Damn it, how can we call this a safe, "family" environment if the company won't get on board with hate.  Children can never reach their true potential unless we teach them what to be bigoted about, after all the opportunity to close a mind to human rights should never be wasted.  Our precious little ones might grow up and decide that they have the right to love, whoever and however they want, thus bringing an end to civilization as we know it.  That is simply not worth the risk, so get onboard and boycott people.

It is your God given right to hate damn it. You are just trying to protect truth, freedom and the American way, values that society was founded on. What good did a queer ever contribute huh?  It's  not like they serve in the military, work as lawyers, judges, social workers,  scientists, teachers etc....No they couldn't possibly contribute anything to our growth, it's all just a vicious conspiracy meant to undermine the patriarchal family. Adam and Eve dear, not Adam and Steve. So remember to do your part and boycott, boycott.  Use the power of your consumer dollars to let this corporation know that it can exploit on a global scale, contribute to obesity and heart disease, but showing tolerance, and acceptance towards gay people is just wrong.


You're So Controversial

I have had a few acquaintances check out my blog, and the standard response is, "you're so controversial."  It is their "kind" way of telling me that I am an angry twisted woman, who is daring to question the norms of society.  Some will point to particular posts and say, "that is over the top even for you."

What I write comes from my very gut, I hold nothing back. When I blog, I don't worry about the feelings of others, I just speak my truth. I spend too much time in the real world dancing around issues to contemplate for one moment trashing my free space with even more nonsense.  How many people are truly honest in this world? Most people I know even lie to themselves, as if by evading the truth they can make reality a nicer place to inhabit.

As a woman, speaking my truth comes with a lot of risk, and a lot of pain.  When you put yourself out there in a space as public as the blogosphere, it allows people to see a side of you that you may not present everyday. When a womanist such as myself decides to come clean, it means dealing with all of the little slights that I have let go rather than causing a scene. See when I am upset, I am considered a wild harridan, a fractious woman in need of taming.  Very few will take the time to ponder the legitimacy of my argument, because inhabiting the body that I do, socially I have no real power.

So when I hear words like you're so controversial, I know that it is the equivalent of a verbal spanking...naughty, naughty girl for daring to have a mind of your own.  How does your husband put up with you? Of course he is considered a candidate for sainthood for daring to love a woman that loves herself, while I am constructed as a torturous shrew that must be tolerated.  Everywhere I turn there is discipline. Never has Foucaults concept of power been more real to me than when I think of the reaction of others to my blog. Remind me who is the object and who is the subject again...

Another favourite one if mine, is just "admit that you are an angry feminist".  Why is anger an emotion that I should seek to disown? Is it somehow less legitimate than say sadness, or happiness? Does it somehow diminish me as a person, that I am capable of feeling righteous anger at our unbalanced system of power? No...I think the point of these taunts is to remind me that "good women" are happy women, "good women" accept their fate without comment or resistance. It is meant to unsex me as cruel as the knife of an FGM initiator.  That such a caviller dismissal is hurtful and damaging to the soul seems unimportant. We simply cannot have a world where women are allowed freedom of expression because to do so would mean validating our humanity. Once we are equals, peers even, then there is no justification for our continued social, economic and reproductive marginalization.

I do not wonder why many walk through this life simply breathing, functioning like automatons..to do anything else is to risk psychic injury.  When we anaesthetize ourselves to the realities of truth, in essence we are covering ourselves in what we think is a protective sheath.  We are pretending that the daily slut shaming, silencing, racist taunts and economic inequality do not have any baring on our world.  This utopia of the mind is just that, a creation, a falsehood, and in the dark silent places that we refuse to admit exist we see it for what it is.  So no, I don't think that I am controversial and even though I don't have a problem with anger, I am not angry.  What I am is truthful, can you claim the same?


Chantal Robertson, She Was Just A Sex Trade Worker

image Her name was Chantal Robertson and she was just twenty years old when she died.  Though she spent many years in the Niagara Region, at the time of her death she was living in Edmonton, home to Thomas Svekla, infamous murderer of sex trade workers.

The grizzly details of her death can be read at CTV.  Neighbours heard her screaming, and fighting for her life but no one thought to call 911. It wasn't until she failed to report for work that a friend notified the authorities.

I never met Chantal, but I knew her father well.  When he was having a rough day, simply mentioning his daughter was enough to bring about a change in his demeanour. He adored her, and never tired of talking about her accomplishments with a sense of pride. 

I suspect that once again, as the media reports on this case what will be lost is Chantals humanity. People will not know about her father Michael, or her little brother that loved her, instead they will  focus on the fact that she was a sex trade worker, as though somehow this one fact could encapsulate her young life.  They will completely sensationalize the story without asking why as a society we devalue these women, why we seem to feel that their lives are worth less than others.  There will no legitimate discussion of the role that the capitalist economy plays in making the sex trade a viable "choice" for young women.  Chantals murder will  become yet another sensationalized story which will quickly slip from the front page, to completely off the radar screen.  Except for those that loved her, it will be as though she never existed.

I am tired of writing these stories. I am tired of looking into  eyes that have closed upon this world, because women like Chantal are deemed disposable bodies.  I am tired of repeating their names over, and over, trying in a vain  to grant them a sense of humanity that the world has chosen not to bestow. Sex trade workers make up one of the most vulnerable segments of our society, and as such are treated like prey by the sick and depraved.  Socially we do not weep for their loss, we do not think of the grief of their families. We treat their deaths like honour killings as way of legitimizing their murders because of their occupations.  The continual slaughtering of these women is a stain upon our human conscience, and it is a blight that cannot, and should not be forgotten. 

Chantal, I never met you but I am so sorry.  I am sorry that your life had to come to such a tragic end. I am sorry that you never had the chance to live out your dreams, and most of all I am sorry that even in death you have not been granted the respect that is your due.  Sleep well baby girl.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Not Only White People Owned Slaves

Many Natives vehemently argue against reparations for blacks that involve land, citing that the land is theirs.  I think that it is important to note, that what happened to Native Americans was horrible, but that does not absolve them of a crime against blacks..the crime of slavery.  It is not a well known fact, as often people will talk about the similarities between the black man and the Native as a combined struggle for the recognition of our dual humanity, thus ignoring the crime that was perpetrated against us. History cannot be twisted or forgotten. The Chickasaws, Chaktas, Creeks, and Cherokees all owned slaves, and participated in the slave trade. There is a debt to be repaid by every single group of people that profited from slave labour.

Today we stand side by side as POC  who have been marginalized, exploited and abused, but there was a time when we (read:blacks) looked upon them as our masters.  This should not stop us from recognizing their pain and validating their suffering, rather it should serve as a reminder of why POC need to stand together against oppression.  Neither of our two groups have been successful at achieving equality, economically, in the criminal justice system, or as social beings.  I am not advocating forgetting the past, rather I am using it as an example of what can happen when we wrongly take on the characteristics of our oppressors.  Whether it is colluding women, or blacks that internalize hatred when we identify with those that seek to reduce humanity at every turn we are complicit in our own marginalization. 

Though slavery is thankfully a thing of the past, there are many forces that seek to reify the message that POC are less than. The role of agents of socialization like the  media is to overwhelm us with negative imagery, so that we believe the false social construct, and base our actions upon their mendacious myths.  Today as young Latino youth engage in violence with Black youth both sides are blind to the fact that such internal strife between POC is counter to our needs.  When we repeat stereotypes about other racial groups demeaning them as people, it is counter to our needs and objectives.  The lesson that we need to take away from this history, is that not acting on behalf of the cause of justice is harmful and destructive.  To achieve equality for yourself, you must also seek it for others.