Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ssssh Male Privilege Is Meant To Be A Secret

When I wrote What About The Men, I did not expect to see such a display of male privilege in my comments section.  My basic point in writing that post was to say that it is important to get past the what about me whine. As I read through the hysterical (yes intentional choice of words) commentary, I could not help but think that the minute you point out privilege the first response is, no that does not apply to me.

image Of course the menz wanted to point out that they had never raped, beaten or stalked a woman and because they had never committed these very specific attacks, they were not in the least bit sexist.  This can be considered stage one of denial.  Simply because you personally have not performed certain behaviours does not mean that you have not benefited from unearned privilege, nor does it negate the fact that the acts in question are committed by men.  "Nearly one-third of all U.S. women report experiencing violence from a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund."  Over 5000 women and girls are killed every year by family members in so-called 'honour killings', according to the UN. So the menz are right, not all of them rape, abuse, and murder, but enough of them do it to make the world unsafe for women. 

Stage two of denial: To the stay at home dads that are diapering, folding laundry and cooking meals, domestic labour does not absolve you of male privilege. I know that you want a pat on the back for being secure enough in your masculinity to do "women's work" but you won't get one from me.  The very fact that you feel entitled to recognition for performing domestic labour that women have done for centuries is an exercise in privilege.

Stage three of denial:   Even though 95% of the worlds wealth is held by men because it is not equally distributed it is not privilege. Women don't want to go out there and compete like the boys.  Women want to nurture so we cannot be blamed if they don't succeed. 

Here we have a very western centred argument which is also mendacious.  Women outside of the western world are participating in micro businesses in an attempt to secure subsistence for their families. The majority of the worlds farmers are women.  Subsistence is the most important job that anyone can do, if you don't have nourishment you die.  Women work very hard, we just don't get rewarded for it. Without the free labour of women in the private sector the public sector would fold like a deck of cards.  Somehow though this all important labour is still not counted in the GDP and GNP.  I suspect the fear of factoring in the true cost would unbalance the already gender biased capitalist system.

As for not wanting to advance in the corporate world; what must be factored in is that women manage the majority of domestic duties, childcare and elder care, exactly how do you expect them to compete in professions that demand 100% commitment.  It is not like the male run government has socialized daycare, or organized communal kitchens, or a form of exchange for housekeeping.  The doting husbands that we are all supposed to worship are still not doing 50%, and men wonder why it is that women have difficulty managing career and family.  Here is a tip, there are 24 hours in a day and no matter how amazing your wife or partner is, eventually she has to sleep.  Apparently God rested on the seventh day so get off our collective backs, and do some damn laundry.

Stage four of denial:  These feminist are all so angry.  When they speak about men it is all so generalizing.  I am sick of these wild leaps of fantasy that have no basis in fact.  I would also like to know why all feminist work is so poorly written, and laced with profanities.

So I explained about the over work, domestic abuse, and rape, but hey these things just come with a vagina and I should have learned to accept my lot in life by now right.  When men rise up and speak out about tyranny they are worshipped as heroes and visionaries, when women do it about patriarchy we are illiterate ball busting bitches who just don't know our place.  Feminist theory is very much based in fact, and men simply don't like the results of the statistics.

Attacking the language is meant to discipline women.  Good girls don't say the F word, cursing is for men.  Even though profanity has gone main stream and is no longer considered shocking, when women use an expletive to reinforce a fucking point, it is still a no no. Finally referencing the quality of the writing, calling it simplistic or poorly worded without addressing the ideas presented, only proves to all reading your commentary that you do not have a legitimate response.

I have been writing womanist musings for almost 6 months now.  Many have come into my space not to engage in debate but to silence me.  How dare I, a woman of colour have the temerity to publicly speak my truth.  I have dealt with the cowards who have sent me hate mail.  My motherhood and my children have been attacked.  I have been called simple minded, and purposefully obtuse.  Someone even suggested that my education had left me brain washed.  From the topic of this blog I am sure you can all guess what I majored in.

Denying your privilege and heaping vitriol on those that labour in the cause of justice, is not only an act of privilege, it is an act of cowardice.  I stand before you defenceless with nothing but my words as a shield, seeking justice for those that we have forgotten.  Doing the 40 hour grind, with the habitual 3 beers and 1 date night per week, is a life of comfort.  It does not challenge you, it does not benefit the greater good.  When you die your commodities will pass on to the next generation if they are still in working order, but the person that daily fights for justice leaves a legacy of love.

More Republican Hypocrisy: Palin Is Hot


Isn't this promotional button simply precious?  The republicans and their mouth pieces over at FOX news have been quick to announce to the world that Palin is the victim of sexism.  Their new found gender sensitivity is a remarkable change from the way that they treated HRC during her historic run.

So how do these newly liberated feminist men celebrate their ultra conservative colluding woman potential VP? They create a button calling her hot. This button was worn at the RNC where she made her international debut.  With all of the values that they want us to associate with Palin, I find it interesting that they are quick to remind everyone that she is the babe on the ticket.

Sexism is wrong if anyone else is doing it, but when a republican points out Palins sex appeal, it is just another selling feature.  It's like saying, look vagina over here, vagina over here, did you notice that we have a vagina on the ticket.  She's all woman too, so you don't have to consider her record, morals, experience, or principles. The republicans are under the impression that they only need to feign equality not practice it.  So for all of you who are in doubt, Palin is a woman and therefor all that you need to  think about is what a beautiful decoration she will make at all of the state dinners.

H/T Don't ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me, I had been looking for an image of this damn button from the minute I first spotted it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Target Women: Sarah Palin


Another one Haskins hits  out of the ball park.

H/T  The Curvature

Striptease For PETA


In a bid to prevent animal cruelty PETA has continually sexualized women. Examples can be found here and here.   While their concern for animals is admiral reducing women to sex objects to sell their message is unacceptable.  Why should a dog or a cat get more respect than a human female?  In their latest assault on women they are offering a striptease quizz.  If you get all of their questions correct you are rewarded by seeing a topless woman. 

This bullshit has to come to an end. It's time for PETA to adopt a little PETW (People for the ethical treatment of women) Pimping womens bodies to prevent cruelty to animals is an injustice, and is just plain sick.  Until you learn that women have value PETA, not a dime will you receive from me. I simply cannot support an organization, no matter how worthy the cause that thinks pimping women is the way to raise awareness. Guess what, women matter as much as FIDO.

H/T Feministing.

Women Cannot Be Harassed Outside Of Abortion Clinics In B.C

To begin with I will state that I am unequivocally pro choice.  I believe in the absolute right of a woman to decide wether or not she will carry a baby to term.  I pose no moral judgements on the reproduction of another, just as I demand the same right for myself.  It was with great joy that I read a ruling by the British Columbia supreme court reaffirming a limitation on those that protest outside of abortion clinics at the CBC.

Two men (big surprise) appealed the bubble law which mandates that protesters must stay out of a fifty meter radius of an abortion clinic.  They are free too converge outside of that area to stage whatever protest that they would like.  This ruling means that women will be able to enter abortion clinics without having to deal with people screaming baby killer at them, while shoving posters of aborted foetuses in their faces. 

Those that have expressed concern for this decision  claim that it limits free speech.  I cannot understand how limiting where the speech may take place limits free speech.  Outside of the bubble zone they are free to express their political positions.  They are further free to write letters to the editors of any Canadian newspaper, write to their MP, or even the Prime Minister.  This law does not squash dissent in any way shape or form, it simply allows women the right to have an abortion without being subject to harassment.  A woman's right to choose is protected by the constitution, and as such she should be able to access that right  unimpeded. 

The free speech argument is just another strawman. In the following commentary on this article, it is quite clear that the issue is not about having the ability to express an opinion, rather it is about blocking access to abortions clinics.

Basically it means you have a two-tier system of justice. If you're a pro-lifer or an unborn baby in this society your rights mean nothing."

But, maybe those who have a 'legitimate' reason to have an abortion should cry foul of people who use abortion in response to a sleazy lifestyle instead against of those who speak out against abortion. Just a thought trying to get some common sense into all this.
We justify people's rights to kill an unborn child, then we turn around and cant figure out why more and more people seem to have no regard for life anymore.

in one fell swoop this judge has unilaterally undermined a fundamental individual right. A right which is supposedly protected under the constitution. What's the point of a constitution if one person can essentially create edicts. If that doesn't scare you I don't know what would. What I don't understand is why such a "bubble-zone" is required in the first place. As long as Spratt & Watson didn't deny a woman her right to have an abortion then there shouldn't be a problem. There's no reason why both fundamental individual rights can't coexist together without infringement.

It turns out that, in Canada, you only have the right to protest certain things.
If you wish to disrupt meetings of international leaders – even of political parties – all the while trashing McDonalds, destroying private property, assaulting the police, etc. etc. the courts give you carte blanche.
But if you wish to hold up a sign of what premature infanticide – ie. abortion – does to the preborn, well, that just can’t be allowed!
Anti-“abortion” protestors outside clinics present about as much of threat to women’s rights as do fish in the sea.

These pro birth factions don't seek the right of free speech they seek to make it as difficult as possible for a woman to exercise her constitutional rights.  They use terms like murdering a baby, or engage in slut shaming, thus making their true purpose obvious.  They are angry because the government will not allow them to assert control.  This is about power and thankfully the supreme court has asserted theirs in the protection of women.


It's Just like Rosa Parks, ISMS and Relativity

Shakesville is one of my favourite blogs.  My addiction to it closely rivals my obsessive green tea drinking.  Yesterday they had a post about one of my favourite actresses, Hillary Swank (huge girl crush) gaining 40lbs to star in a new movie.  Obviously this raises the question of why they didn't simply hire an actress whose body already conformed to the ideal that they were seeking. 

There is no doubt that we live in a fat phobic society.  Fat people are presented as unhealthy, slovenly, mentally slow and just generally undesirable.  Fat hate is one of the most socially accepted forms of discrimination in our society.  This has given rise to a grass roots movement to press for fat acceptance and to bring an end to the bigotry.  As a woman that has literally thousands of dollars of groceries invested into what I call my family inheritance (read: my fat ass) fat acceptance is a subject that is very personal to me.

I opened the thread to respond when the following comment caught my attention and raised my ire.

By that logic, no one should complain about a man playing a woman or a white person acting in blackface, as long as they're arguably "more talented" than actual women or black people. And of course, the perception of their talent would have absolutely nothing to do with privilege.

To their credit when I called them out on their racism the person responsible for this comment apologizedI am not a person that holds grudges and I believe that the apology was sincerely meant, however  I still feel it is necessary to speak about it in the larger sense of oppression and isms.  Even though this was one comment by one individual, this is not the first time that this sort of sentiment has been expressed.

There have been many times when I have heard gay rights activists stress that their struggle is no different than the civil rights struggle initiated by Rosa Parks.  The black referential is a tactic used to justify that oppression is real and ongoing.  I find it offensive, and it can be found in social justice movements across the progressive left.

What this kind of argument says is that the oppressed group is really oppressed because they are on the same level as blacks.  This is racist and you cannot fight an ism by invoking justification employing another ism.  It is a form of oppression Olympics and does nothing to bolster the complainants issue, rather it seeks to remind blacks of exactly where they stand in the social hierarchy.  It is the same as saying that we are so bad off we might as well be black. 

This kind of reasoning further isolates members from the complaining group that might be black. Let's consider for a moment the life of a fat black lesbian. If both gay rights groups, and fat acceptance groups claim that they are almost as bad off as blacks is that not the same thing as informing this woman that her blackness is the worst thing about her.  How is it right for another to rank the stigmatizations that are considered definitive subjectivities of the body of another.  While decrying oppression in actuality such thought patterns are an expression of privilege. 

No matter what oppression you are negotiating, it is not just like Rosa Parks.  Black people are not your referential oppression group and it is racist to use us in this way.  When I hear this kind of racist justification I immediately loose sympathy for the speaker. If your issue is of merit you should be able to make your point without resorting to racism.  There is no such thing as a good oppression so reach beyond this ranking system and speak boldly against 'othering' without using an ism to bolster your case.

Did You Hear, The Obamas Are Uppity

Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland has decide that the Obamas are uppity. According to The Hill, when asked to compare Sarah Palin with Michelle Obama, his response was the following.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.
Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

Westmoreland was upset because the Obamas have the nerve to believe that they are the equal of whites. Can you imagine the audacity of blacks actually believing that they have human worth?  Just in case we missed the racism that was intended, Lynn made sure to assert that he did indeed  intend to say uppity. Throughout this campaign the Republicans have continually employed racism to attack Senator Obama.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that Obama's middle name – Hussein – is relevant to the public discourse surrounding his candidacy, saying in March that if Obama were elected, "Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror."

At an April 12 event in his district, Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama: “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”

I used to say that I wished that November would come so that we could finally see an end to this kind of race baiting and hatred, but it has become clear to me that whether or not Obama wins this election this will continue.  It will continue because the US is a racist, patriarchal, capitalist state and until the definition of personhood is equally applied to all people, there will continue to be 'othering'.

The above commentaries are not accidental gaffes on the part of the Republicans.  We are meant to be reminded of what Obamas body represents, a challenge to the white hegemony in the United States.  If Obama wins how does this change the value of whiteness and its ability to be used a divisive force?

It is necessary to continually speak about Obamas blackness in order for the ruling elite to use colour as weapon to block the formation of a class alignment.  If poor whites value colour unity over class, they will place a vote that is not in their best economic interest to insure the rule of whiteness.  The Republicans know this and are continually pressing this issue.

This is not a new tactic, it has been used since the beginning of the civil war.  Considering only a small percentage of planters actually owned slaves, the only way to convince poor people to fight for slavery (which was against their class interest) was to inflate the value of whiteness.  The Republicans know their history well and I fear that unless people understand how contrived and vicious these racist attacks are, John McCain will be sworn in January.  To the white house he will carry a white sheet, the symbol of racial bigotry and ignorance.

H/T Alas A Blog

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bossip Displays Sexism: Sarah Palin Is Not A Ho

Ho Sit Down Is the caption for the following photo at Bossip


“Hockey Mom” Sarah Palin spoke at the RNC last night and got a bit out of pocket in regards to our boy Barack. In case you missed this broad’s speech".....Bossip

Here we go again. I understand that Bossip has endorsed Barack Obama but refering to Palin as a ho and a broad is sexist, and patently wrong. I doubt the candidate for whom you have thrown your support would appreciate such language on his behalf.  It is further an affront to every single woman.  It is the social disciplining of women. How dare she have an opinion that you disagree with. Palin just hasn't learned that women are to be seen and not heard.

I am taking this opportunity to point out obvious sexism aimed at Sarah Palin.  I do not endorse her politics in any way shape or form.  I simply believe that the woman should be critiqued based on the issues.


Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, and More Hypocrisy: O'Reilly and Morris On Sexism

The ability of FOX news to flip and show bias never ceases to amaze me.  I cannot believe that they expect to be taken seriously as a legitimate news source when they have people like O'Reilly and Morris daily spewing out invective after invective.

Republicans have no need to worry. As long as Fox News exists they can be sure that they have at least one network that is dedicated to producing mendacious diatribes commentary that is both gender sensitive, and timely.  When the enemy is Hillary, sexism is something that women must just accept as part of our daily lives, but when it is their Republican colluder  Vice Presidential candidate Palin sexism is the scourge of the earth. 

Resorting To Sexism Will Not Cure Racism: Black Men Need To Think

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

There is no denying that black men face racism in North America. There is a legacy of slavery, impoverishment, disrespect, and lynchings.  These facts are not disputable.  Black men and white women have a history of a shared struggle for equality, however they are often divided by racism, and sexism. 

It is perfectly understandable for a black man to become enraged when he is racially stereotyped.  To know that as you are innocently going about your day, that you will be perceived as a threat, based on the colour of your skin reduces one to the status of an animal. 

Black men do have a choice to make, on how they respond to this obvious racism. They can rise above, calling out racism when they see it, and demand respect, or they can rely on their male privileges to try and assert power in a situation in which  they feel powerless.  The decision to resort to unearned male privileges will not lead to the kind of satisfaction that they are attempting to achieve, as in the end  hostility and violence render legitimacy to the label of animal.

You cannot fight oppression by becoming an oppressor, as it only increases the cycle of victimization.  I could offer the cliches of an eye for an eye leaving the whole world blind, but instead I believe that it is more apt to realize that by taking on the masters tools, you are simply doing the masters work.  Those that seek to encourage division do so to maintain their own hegemony within the race/gender hierarchy.  When black men and white women approach each other with distrust and suspicion, they are eroding the possibility of forming an alliance to achieve freedom.  No matter what "ism" you are the target of, benefiting by wrongly asserting power over another only assures that you will never be free of the weight that holds you down. 

Men In Womens Spaces, Dear God What About The Men?

What about the men is a common refrain on feminist blogs. It seems speaking about womens issues is considered an affront to patriarchy.  It does not matter what feminist blog you decide to read, at some point someone in the comment section will feel the overwhelming need to point out that men are oppressed to. Dear Lord how do these men manage to get by with  the burden of owning and controlling over 95% of the worlds wealth?  How do they survive daily beating their wives and raping women? 

I am the first to admit that social construction is damaging to both sexes but I must question why it is necessary to continually make this an issue on women's blogs?  There are so many aspects of sexism that go unchallenged in our society because we have normalized the marginalization of women.   Feminists have had to fight, and claw to get the smallest of validation for the difficulties of living life as a woman in this phalocentric world, and yet even in these small spaces, men have managed to continually interject themselves into the debate.

A feminist blog could be a place where men could begin to learn to unpack some of their gender privileges. A man that continually reads feminist blogs would learn how to look at the world with the eyes of a new born babe; not tinted with the social stigmatizations that regularly attach themselves to women's bodies.  Instead of seeing this as a learning opportunity, invariably they feel the need to say what about the men.

Well let me tell you about the men.  Today they are largely in control of all of the agents of socialization; media, government, education, religion, and the family.  Today they rape and batter women.  Today they can count on their sex to give them unfair advantages in most situations. Men are not struggling, largely living in poverty.  Men are not reduced to their genitals and routinely treated as second class citizens.  No, men are like a fine bottle of wine, only growing in value as they age.

The what about the men question, keeps becoming an issue simply because men do not want to give up their male privileges.  Equality would mean work, and that is something that they are not used to.  It is much easier to act in the maintenance of inequality, than to stand against it.

Equality would mean actually doing 50% of the housework, child care and elder care. That is right, taking care of the house means more than washing the car on Saturday and sitting on the driving lawn mower while you sip away at a beer.  It means learning how to speak without invoking male privilege constantly.  No more, calling women sluts, bitches, whores and cunts.  It further means the unequivocal end of all violence against women.  No more taking out your rage on your wife's body.  No more raping, while blaming the victim.  Equality means owning every single act of misogyny and hatred, and pledging never again to violate women.

The men that enter womens spaces do not seek to learn, or improve the lives of anyone other than themselves when they ask the question what about the men. They are trying to assert patriarchal privilege by insisting that the conversation revolves around them.  God forbid, that women have some small corner of the earth where they can gather and seek shelter from the cruelties that patriarchy subjects us to on a daily basis.  So in answer to the question what about the men, I respond you have the blood of women, we have been buried alive, set on fire, beaten, raped,  denied equal wages and forced to become slaves to our biology, what else could you possibly demand of us?


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pastor James Manning: Internalized Racism Has A Face

I have previously posted a video from this raving lunatic, wherein he called Oprah a whore, and referred to Obama and the reverend Wright as pimps.  While it easy to just dismiss this man as an idiot and a troll, it would be dangerous to do so.  He has repeatedly made public statements that undermine the racism that blacks must deal with on a daily basis.  Systemic institutions like racism and patriarchy rely on those who internalize the hatred aimed at them to support their message of intolerance. The easiest way to control a large group of people is to convince them to police themselves, hence Jews policed the ghettos, and slaves informed the master of escape attempts.

What is Pastor Manning but an educated slave?  Racists use him to support the idea that blacks are to blame for their own poverty.  White privilege certainly could not be considered a major factor in the land of the red, white and blue. That he would have the audacity to claim that slavery does not still have a lasting effect today is proof of his racial hatred.  He does not want to be associated with the weak and the poor of this society, and therefore he rejects blackness.

Manning is the perfect dupe for white supremacists. He tells them reassuringly that they do not continue to benefit from racial privilege.  He confirms their closeted beliefs that blacks are carrying a chip on their shoulder that has no basis in truth. Just as sexism has its colluder so does racism.  He will be used to justify the systemic inequalities that continue to block the advancement of POC.

Whites don't need to feel guilty for the racist drug laws that continue to imprison a generation of young black men.  Whites do not need to feel guilty for the terrible state of inner city schools in comparison to the manicured lawns of suburban institutions. Education is the key to success in this global economy and therefore  for as long as blacks are excluded from the opportunity to learn in safe, and clean buildings they will continue to occupy the bottom of the economic pyramid. 

What white people can do is pat themselves on their collective backs for always having the willingness to hire POC to work as nannies, drivers, housekeepers, gas attendants etc.  We will forever be thankful that we have always been offered just enough economic stability to keep from completely starving.  I sho nuff working hard bass. 

He uses the false ideology of meritocracy to buffet his claims of black resentment.  If as a child you must go to school without breakfast because your parents are to poor to provide food, how can you rise above that.  If you must hurry to get your homework done because this month mommy and daddy couldn't pay the electric bill what kind of start in life is this?  If you have four addresses in three years because your family keeps being evicted for an inability to pay rent, how will you ever learn what security is?  How is this child to react if miracle upon miracles she/he manages to get good grades and their teacher recommends them to classes  that are not in a college stream?

What if this same hypothetical child manages to go through school only to be stopped for driving while black or arrested because she/he fits the general description of someone the police are looking for?  What if this same black child manages to make it to adulthood and gets gunned down on the night before his wedding? 

The aforementioned constitute the collective chip that sits righteously on the shoulders of African Americans.  That he cannot acknowledge the truth of them is not only proof of his internalized racism but the degree to which whiteness still seeks to subvert the realities of racial privilege.  Shame on you Manning, you are a worthless colluder.


Sarah Palin: Attack The Position and Not The Woman

image Since Palin was announced as McCains VP pick sexism has been used to discredit her.  Shakesville has kept a running log of the sexism that has been thrown at her.

example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 6

Sarah Palin is not an unproblematic figure, and as such there are many grounds from which to legitimately criticize and critique her.  Resorting to sexist attacks, not only shows a limited imagination it highlights the degree to which women are still second class citizens in this society.  I do not support Palins policies in any way, nor do I believe that she would make an effective leader, however her sex alone is not reason enough to disqualify her as a candidate.   To use sex as a barometer for judging  worthiness to lead would necessarily damage the potential of other more deserving women to ascend to political power in the United States.  To be explicitly clear, I do not support Sarah Palin in any way shape or form, but I do support women, and therefore I actively denounce any criticism of her that is based in sex and biology.

For those for whom sexism has become an ingrained barometer of worth, I offer the following video for instructional purposes.  The following is an example of how to effectively critique Palin without reducing her to just a silly hockey mom, ex beauty queen, tart, inadequate mother, babe etc...

Consider yourself on notice, sexism against Sarah Palin is not acceptable.  If your point is legitimate, you should be able to make it without reducing her, or any other female candidate by making sexist attacks.

Huge H/T Shakesville

Bare Your Breasts For The King Of Swaziland

Imagine that you live in a country wherein if born today you had a 75% chance of dying before the age of 40.  What if 40% of the adults currently had HIV? Imagine that everyday you awoke to the reality of back breaking poverty while the ruler of your nation lived in luxury (for some North Americans this is already a reality) How would you stretch the 1US dollar that your days labour would bring?  What if your government barely bothered with a sham display of democracy?

image If your worries were not difficult enough, there is a ceremony which your gender forces your participation in.  The reed ceremony. As a young virginal woman you must agree to dance top less for the pleasure of the king, or risk having your family cow seized by the government.   If that were not enough to cause for you to feel despondent, the bonus of your participation in this years festival is the possibility that you will be selected to become the kings 14th wife.  If chosen you cannot refuse to marry, but in return for your sexual service, and child rearing, he will assure that you live in comfort.  This is forced prostitution and yearly young women must participate in this cultural charade, to please the king of Swaziland, Mswati III.

The annual domestication of this nations virgins has become world famous.  Now western perverts eagerly pack their bags and travel so that they can freely ogle the young women.  This is a voyeurs delight and travel ads play on this to encourage tourism.  One white European tourist was quoted as saying, "It is the only place in the world where we can see bare-breasted women and buttocks". Another said, "It's a unique celebration and it's one of the few places we can see bare-breasted women".

While I will acknowledge that for some women this event is a celebration of their culture, I cannot help to question the ways in which this reinforces the cult of virginity.  The dance exists to unify the king with his people, and to encourage young girls to save their virginity until marriage. Even though abstinence  in a culture with such a high rate of HIV is a positive message, it should be equally married to messages about the importance of safe sex practices.

As a western woman I am loathe to criticize the cultural practices of another. I understand that I am approaching this with a specific western lens, informed by my race, gender, class and education.  My experiences largely  differentiate me  from the women of Swaziland.  I will however unequivocally state that forcing  women to participate that wish to abstain is patently wrong.  A woman's autonomy and agency must be respected.  It is equally damaging to encourage western men to descend upon the country for the purposes of sexual voyeurism. This opens women to assault and is demeaning. It cannot possibly be a safe space if men are invited to freely take pictures for their personal collection. It cannot be a safe place if men can openly state that the purpose of their visit is too see naked women. I will respect the desire of women to participate in a cultural event that does not lead to lasting physical harm, as I believe it is important even when we disagree to acknowledge the agency of another, however just because something has a long standing cultural heritage does not mean that it does not maintain the gender hierarchy, or promote patriarchal practices that demean women.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shooting Cunts

image I knew there was a reason that I avoided video games.  Who sat down one day and decided that it would be exciting to turn a penis into a weapon that shoots and damages vaginas? Yeah that sounds like so much fun.  Of course there is not another version of the game where the vagina is roving around destroying penises...that simply cannot happen.  Every dick is a precious dick, and we simply cannot afford to even joke about damaging them, much less develop a game about that. 

To make it clear whose genitals matter the game is called Shooting Cunts.  Isn't that lovely and heart warming.  You don't have a vagina, and it is not the giver of life. No you have a cunt that can be reduced to a target for male pleasure. 

Why I am getting upset, it's just a game right.  It certainly does not reveal anything about the violence that women are subjected to on a daily basis.  It certainly does not support the idea that the penis is aggressive and dominant, while the vagina exists only for amusement and submission. 

It certainly is not problematic in any way shape or form to present disembodied genitalia.  There is not a thinking rational being in control of what is between our legs.  The penis cannot help but to be aggressive for that is its true nature.  A man is not responsible for what he does with his trigger happy dick,  just look at the ugly cunt, who wouldn't want to shoot that up? The entire purpose of this game is to kill the diseased cunt. That's right you win by taking as many shots into the vaginal opening as possible. It gives new meaning to the words he shoots, he scores doesn't it?

This fucking piece of crap enrages me almost beyond the point of coherence.  This is why I want nothing to do with the gaming industry.  They constantly put out shit that reifies the worst aspects of our culture.  So I say to the creators of this game, fuck you, and your dick as ultimate weapon game.

H/T Bitch Magazine

Colluder Alert: Dame Helen Mirren

image What is my obsession with colluders you may ask?  Colluders are problematic beings because they help to maintain patriarchy as a system that oppress women emotionally, physically, sexually, and economically.  They are dangerous women, and their commentary should never be considered to be benign. 

Dame Helen was recently interviewed by GQ magazine, wherein she saw fit to excuse date rape.  This is just what men need, to be told that they should not be held accountable for raping and assaulting women.

She told GQ: "I was [date-raped], yes. A couple of times.

"Not with excessive violence, or being hit, but rather being locked in a room and made to have sex against my will."

Dame Helen said it was rape if a couple engaged in sexual activity but the woman said "no" at the last second.

However, she said: "I don't think she can have that man into court under those circumstances."

So let me get this straight, yes it is rape if a man forces himself on a woman, but if she knew him, she should not be able to charge him?  I do not what kind of twisted logic that this woman is using to justify her statements, but knowing someone does not give them the right to violate you ever.  Even though Mirrin herself is a rape survivor, this kind of  apologism is unacceptable. Men do not exist with the inalienable right to have access to womens bodies.   In a culture that views womens bodies as disposable, these kinds of statements are dangerous.

H/T  The F Word.

Plastic surgery: The Butchery Of Children

Many of us can look back upon our childhoods and point to incidents where we were bullied.  In fact I remember being called bum wiggler when I was 6.  I also remember being taunted when I was nine as a teachers pet, because I had an advanced vocabulary for my age.  I quickly learned to hide my intelligence to stop the taunts and the bullying.  I was further attacked because I was a black child growing up in a largely Greek and Italian neighbourhood.  I wanted so desperately to fit in, and just be like everyone else.  My story is not unique.  Bullying continues to happen in schools across the western world.  Though schools claim to have a zero tolerance policy, it is still very much a part of childhood. 

The medical establishment has come up with the cure to end our childhood trauma.  It seems that if your child is being picked on because their nose is too big, or that their breasts are not developing as fast as the other girls, Dr.Butchery will come to the rescue with a surgical solution.  As I was to discover much to my dismay, in an article posted at the MailOnline, doctors are performing surgery on  girls as young as 14.

These surgeries of course are all to end bullying in the schools.  I find it problematic that we are teaching young girls that instead of standing up to demand respect, that they should rush  to the surgeon to fix their perceived faults.  What does it say about western society that 14 year olds are asking for, and receiving breast implants? What does it say about our education system that young girls feel compelled to risk their  lives in this manner? Make no mistake, each and every time you go under general anaesthesia you are risking your life.

That doctors see plastic surgery as helping end childhood trauma is extremely problematic. Medicine is increasingly becoming more of a business, than a practice of sustaining life. How meaningless is this oath today?

TO RECKON all who have taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents and in the same spirit and dedication to impart a knowledge of the art of medicine to others. I will continue with diligence to keep abreast of advances in medicine. I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient.

I WILL FOLLOW that method of treatment which according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous.

Yes out of the goodness of their hearts they perform plastic surgery.  When we perform a charitable act, do we charge the recipient, or do we perform the act without expecting payment in return.  We should not pretend that these "charitable acts" do not benefit doctors. According to the article a nose job costs thirty five hundred pounds and breast augmentation can cost between thirty-four hundred to five thousand pounds. "The number of teenagers having breast enlargements has increased by more than 150 per cent in the past year. Statistics from three of Britain's largest cosmetic surgery chains show almost 600 teenagers aged 18 and 19 had the surgery last year." Do the math, that is a significant amount of money for charitable acts. 

These surgeries are predatory.  No doctor should be altering a body before it has completely reached maturity.  The fact that they have to take into consideration that a girls natural breasts will grow when they perform the augmentation surgery, speaks loudly of how unnatural of an act that this is.  Doctors are simply profiting from the beauty cult that has been attached to femininity. That they do not offer coping skills, or counselling, and instead reach for a cure that benefits them, clearly proves that medicine is not about the best interest of a patient.  Doctors act as gatekeepers and when they agree to perform these unnecessary surgeries on minors, they are confirming that indeed their bodies are faulty.  This can lead to long term damage.

The more I thought about this issue, the more enraged I became. At some point we need to agree that beauty should not be arrived at through the butchery of the body. At some point we need to agree to stop policing female bodies in this manner.  No ones worth should be determined simply based on their physical appearance, and when trusted institutions like medicine reaffirm social practices like beauty cults, it encourages even more policing and social discipline.  So I implore the plastic surgeons to do no harm - practice your skills on the sick, and leave the healthy children alone. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spankings and The Cultural Imagination

Spankings are deemed acceptable forms of violence in our society.  Parents regularly site the bible as justification to spank their children. The entertainment industry has embraced this form of so called acceptable violence and  with a degree of regularity has shown spankings occurring where the victims are women and children.  What women and children have in common is that they are both vulnerable members of our society.  All children exist without power in the authoritarian parent child relationship, and many women exist without power in patriarchal relationships. We do not see these "spankings" as acts of violence because of who the victims are.

Looking through images in popular media it is common to see men asserting authority over women by issuing spankings for some perceived wrong.  If a woman asserts her rights, or refuses to follow the male  lead in any way shape, or form, it is considered an affront to male pride and power, thus causing an imbalance in gender roles. 

Power seeks to assert itself in many ways and there is often a sexual aspect to these spankings.  As the man repeatedly strikes the woman, she appears to be enjoying the beating and submitting with great enthusiasm.  Each strike is often accompanied by moans of pleasure, as well as grunts of pain.  The males are sometimes shown as the reluctant aggressor as though to relieve him of the responsibility of the violence of the act, yet his obvious pleasure in participating in violence clearly reifies that the purpose of said spanking is to serve his need to dominate. 

Though feminism has struggled hard to deconstruct our ideas about  gender, masculinity is still overwhelmingly associated with assertiveness, pride, rationality and power, conversely femininity is associated with nurturing, submission, frailty, irrationality and emotionalism. These differences even if correctly assigned are not necessarily negative, the problem ensues in the fact that we as a society have decided that the attributes of value are universally male.

We associate worth with power, and those that are able to wield it are often held in high regard irregardless of their abuses of power differentials.  This esteem is based on the fact that we have naturalized certain behaviours, in an effort to deny the role that social conditioning has on gender performativity.  If a boy is taught from birth that it is his right, or responsibility to be physically aggressive with the women in his life, upon adulthood he will come to view violence as an acceptable way of asserting his authority.  Even in homes where no physical violence is present  throughout childhood, due to the pervasiveness of our media culture a child will witness many instances wherein a male will not only be encouraged to be violent but rewarded for said behaviour. 

We have fetishized spankings and in some cases eroticized the experience to the degree that we cannot see them for the violent acts that they are.  Some women will say that in an S&M relationship that they enjoy being the bottom. I personally cannot understand the link between pain and sexual pleasure in this manner, I can however accept for some women that this may be their truth.  My issue lies in the fact that very rarely is the reverse portrayed in the media. Images of spanking almost always show the male aggressor and the female submissive. This division is too closely associated with the power differential in our society for these images to be anything more than reaffirming patriarchal control.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Incite Needs Help Evacuating Women

I came across this call for help at WOC PHD.  Please do all you can to help these vulnerable women who still have not recovered from Katrina.

Dear INCITE! friends and supporters,

On the eve of the 3 year anniversary of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and subsequent government criminal negligence and assaults on the low income people of color on the Gulf Coast, our sisters from INCITE! projects in New Orleans (including the local chapter, the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, and the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic) are bracing for the potential landfall of Hurricane Gustav, which is currently projected to hit the Louisiana coast on Monday or Tuesday at a category 4 or 5. Voluntary evacuation of New Orleans has already begun, and mandatory evacuation could be declared as early as today. INCITE! organizers in New Orleans have made over 700 phone calls to women of color and their families that make up the constituency of the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic, working to prepare and implement evacuation and safety plans.

Your assistance is urgently needed to help the low-income women of color and their families evacuate safely if need be, stay safe for the duration of the evacuation, and return to the city as soon as possible so as not to fall prey to the pushout that has kept so many folks from being able to return to New Orleans since Katrina. Local organizers are using whatever resources and funds at their disposal to help women and their families evacuate, bond people being held in Orleans Parish Prison out, and support those who make the choice to stay in whatever way they can.

Your support is urgently needed: financial donations of any size are needed and would be greatly appreciated.

Donations online are preferred because we can more quickly send the funds to our folks in New Orleans .
You can send your donation to INCITE online by going to this website:
Click the Donation button
Put New Orleans in the “Purpose” line

Or you can write a check directly to WHJI and send it to:
PO Box 51325
New Orleans , LA 70151

This money will go directly to supporting the hundreds of low income women of color that are the constituency of the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic.

Once again, the particular vulnerability of low-income women of color and single female-headed households (including folks with disabilities, seniors, undocumented immigrant women, and incarcerated women) has been erased in the face of disaster and overlooked in the days leading up to the storm. With few resources, facing challenges and concerns for their families of their own, INCITE! New Orleans and WHJI have stepped in to fill the gap. Please send all your support, solidarity, sisterhood and strength their way, and join us in hoping for the safety and well-bein g of the people who are already suffering from Gustav in Cuba , Jamaica , and Haiti , and willing the storm to subside or veer off safely before it strikes the Gulf Coast .

We will keep you posted as things develop.


RNC Raids: The Police Violate Rights

Police have been conducting raids in anticipation of civil disobedience at the RNC.  Theses incidents are being ignored by the mainstream media. Ask yourself who  these agents of socialization are there to protect and inform.

These are clearly gestapo like tactics.  It is particularly hypocritical that at an event that is meant to celebrate democracy and freedom such blatant authoritarian behaviour on the part of the government is occurring.  If it were not for the freedom of information that the internet allows such incidents would be occurring in isolation. 

These events are meant to inspire fear and stifle dissent in the population.  The ruling elite is well aware that an informed active populace is a threat to their minority control.  This is why the media is ignoring these stories, and this is why the police are taking so called preemptive action. Tyranny can only stand when none rise up to oppose it.

See Feministing for more.

Sex Trade Workers Are Prey For Serial Killer In California

Let's share a nightmare together shall we.  Let's pretend that in our deepest of dreams there is a man roaming the streets randomly killing innocent white school girls for twenty-three years.  Let's imagine that this man is so violent he kills 11 of these suburban princesses.  Lets imagine that these young women are not only white but from a middle to upper class background.  How many eulogies do you believe would be written for them?  How many tears do you think would be shed for their loss?

Do you believe that the police would be besieged with demands to bring this murderer to justice?    Would they create a task force specifically designed to follow each and every lead regardless of how pointless it seemed?  Do you believe that the media would converge from all over the nation to make sure that everyone was aware of the tragedy that was occurring in California?  Perhaps Anderson Cooper would become the face of the investigation as Americans sat with baited breath hoping beyond hope, that this terror would be brought to an end.

In truth what I have described is completely plausible if  someone had been killing the daughters of bodies that matter in this society today.  Unfortunately the nightmare is real, woman are being killed but they are not members of the privileged class.  The women that are being murdered are African American sex trade workers.  Over the last twenty three years, eleven women and one man has met a gruesome fate at the hands of what police now believe to be a serial killer. 

As has been said on many occasions, sex trade workers constitute an extremely vulnerable group of people within our society, and when this is combined with racial discrimination it can lead to a permanent outsider status.  These people were devalued not only because they were sex trade workers but because they were African American as well. 

Daily  sex trade workers go missing and the police barely take the time to investigate.  It is more important to divert resources to finding the robber who stole a rich mans stereo, than it is to get justice for sex trade workers.  Millions of dollars are spent on the useless war on drugs yet the time and money to find an obvious predator cannot be found.  What does this tell us about which bodies matter in this society?

We can learn much about our social world from examining what we ignore, and why.  In a country that constantly preaches individualism over communal thought, is it any surprise that social malaise renders us incapable of valuing the lives of those that are the most vulnerable amongst us?  In a society that is based upon exp0loiting the 'other' can we truly be surprised that we view their bodies as disposable refuse?

The blood of the 'other' is cheap in our world.  Human suffering is something to be ignored in the face of achieving greater profits and privilege.  To be counted in this world you must have power, and an African American woman who works in the sex trade will never have access to the proverbial golden fleece.  She will search in vain for understanding, she will labour only to find her efforts disregarded and demeaned.  When the time comes for the rent, the land lord hand extended will be waiting.  Every single purchase that she makes, she will pay taxes to support a system that wants only her money and sees in her not potential, but a body that may be worked to the dust.

These women have been waiting twenty-three years for justice, over half of my lifetime.  I fear that unless pressure is brought to bear they will remain among the countless cases of unsolved murders simply because in their lifetimes their bodies were positioned in  a socially stigmatized group.  If you believe in justice, seek it for those whom society has devalued and demeaned. A fair and equal society can only exist when all bodies are counted, and when all bodies are deemed worthy of respect.  So I say to you as I have said before, all bodies matter, we only have to believe in the validity of equality.