Saturday, January 31, 2009

The forgotten Martin Luther King

From Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row

Mumai Abu-Jamal

The following excerpts come from a recording made on Jan. 15, Dr. King’s 80th birthday. Go to to hear Mumia’s audio columns.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is once again being resurrected this time of year, in part because his birthday is approaching, but also, of course, because of the imminent swearing-in of President-elect Barack H. Obama—the first Black man in U.S. history to be so honored.

As often is the case, the Rev. King—who is being projected today—bears little relationship to the real, live, breathing and growing man behind the name.

Like many men, he had his highs and his lows, his fears and his doubts, his inspirations and his insights. His Washington speech—known as “I Have a Dream”—was neither his finest, nor his most profound, but like many Black preachers who are master orators, he brought his best to it.

King, like many busy leaders, had others write some of his speeches, and one of those men was Vincent Harding, now a theologian and historian. Harding contributed to King’s groundbreaking N.Y. Riverside Church speech, delivered precisely a year before his assassination, where he denounced the Vietnam War—marking his break with an American president (L. B. Johnson), the corporate media and many of his closest allies in the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference).

President Johnson felt betrayed by King, and the media turned from praise to ridicule. In his book “Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero” (N. Y.: Orbis, 1996), Harding quotes from the Washington Post editorial page which slammed King, who “had diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people” because of his speech against the Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese called “the American War.”

But betrayals didn’t stop him, nor did nasty editorials deter him. Indeed, the violence of war radicalized him deeply, so much so that he said later, “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” (Harding, p. 101).

Think of that: capitalism, militarism and racism—as evils. When’s the last time you’ve heard that?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was being radicalized by the churning events around him—and, a year before his death, he was both anti-war and anti-capitalist.

Ask yourself, if King were alive today, with his views, could he be elected president?

If not, why not? What does that say about the nation’s political system?

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Need Someone To Save Adopt An African Child

A shining example of why Pauly Shore continues to be an irrelevant ass.

I’m going to take it back with me to America for a better life.” Hilarity ensues. Watching him wallow in his privilege while he devalues everyone around him is supposedly funny.  It is so typical of the western approach to not only Africa but Africans themselves.  Westerners still have not stopped viewing themselves as saving Africans though we are largely responsible for many of the issues on the continent today.

I take particular issue with the recent trend of adopting African children by celebrities.  They have become collectables to serve as evidence of someone's liberals status.  True help would involve helping African families to raise and care for their own children but of course that cannot be supported because no one really wants the darkies to be autonomous beings.  Without a sidekick how could men like Shore play white mans burden?

H/T Harriets Daughter via AngryBlack White Girl

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, we have had some great conversations this week.  Once again I have the usual list of great links.  Please check them out and don’t forget to leave your link behind in the comment section.

I am reminding everyone once again about the WOC and ally carnival.  Please send in your submissions here.  I am looking for posts either written by WOC or discuss race in the ways in which it intersects with an and all isms.  I would am particularly interested in posts on race and disability as there have be no submissions on this issue thus far.

I am also reminding everyone that Womanist Musings continues to be an open space, so if you have an issue that particularly gets on your nerves, feel free to send in a guest post.  Just send me an e-mail and we can discuss the details.  The more people we have talking the wider the conversations can be. 

(re) thinking walking : Walk One

Is It Good To Give Head?

Sextracurricular – When Physiology and Philosophy Collide

When Colloquialisms Run Amok

Losing my hijab

“Chinese Food” in the U.S . is not foreign , But Foreignnes Is Not “Authenticity”

Segregation leads to real prejudice, sexism

Women’s Liberation Through Submission: An Evangelical Anti-Feminism Is Born

Can Men Be Feminists?

In The Convent Of Little Flowers


Friday, January 30, 2009

Manitoba Doctor Refuses Treatment To Lesbians

Andrea Markowski and her wife Ginette were shocked to discover that despite legal same gender marriage in Canada, homophobia continues to plague the great white north.   According to News Talk radio the pair were stunned when they were told by Dr. Kamelia Elias that she was uncomfortable treating them. 

Dr. Kamelia Elias told the Winnipeg Free Press that she has no experience treating gays and lesbians who have "sexual problems" and "a lot of diseases and infections."

"I said it's better to find someone who has experience and will take this type of patients," she told the newspaper.

Markowski and her wife have rightfully filed a claim with the province's human rights commission and the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons.  They are quick to point out that Dr. Kamelia Elias is Egyptian and therefore is a foreign trained doctor. 

"The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manitoba and other places in Canada has to broaden the way that it assesses the skills - particularly of foreign doctors who may be coming from places where beliefs and norms are quite different - to make sure that they really are able to practise the physical, mental and emotional care of patients."

Translation: We should make sure that these foreigners know that their beliefs are wrong.  How dare they hold onto their ignorance when they come to our socially progressive and enlightened country.

The head of Canada's gay-rights organization said transgendered people are sometimes denied health care. But Helen Kennedy with EGALE said this is the first instance she's heard of involving a lesbian.

As the number of foreign-trained doctors in Canada increases, it's incumbent upon colleges and the country's Immigration Department to ensure they accept gay, lesbian and transgendered patients, she said.

"This is really sad. It really shows a bigger problem with people who are medically trained coming to Canada from other cultures. There is nothing in place to assist them to make the adjustment and to get the training that they need when they come here."

Yep, it’s only those “other” people that are homophobic.  We do allow gay marriage in this country and therefore we know that “real Canadians” don’t harbour any resentment towards the GLBT community, only the darkies from the unevolved places. 

It continually amazes me that people are more than willing to use one ism to fight another.  Dr. Kamelia  is clearly homophobic and her actions were wrong; however treating this incident as representative of the attitudes of immigrants to Canada is ridiculous.  The idea that they need to be schooled in “Canadian values” when so called Canadian values include the very homophobia displayed by Dr. Kamelia is being ignored to uphold the notion that we are somehow more evolved.  We have a very strong conservative element who if given their way would happily revoke every single right that the GLBT community and its allies have struggled for decades to attain.  Lets stop pretending that those Muslims, or those brown peoples are an ignorant hateful mass, when our own Prime Minister is not in favour of gay marriage. 

Homophobia like any other ism is systemic; it is not the preserve of a certain element of the population.  Brown people do not need to be specially schooled out of our ignorance.  Our entire society is organized to privilege certain identities to maintain our social hierarchy.   Have we had an openly gay Prime Minister?  Ummm no and it is not the fault of the brown people, it is because heterosexuality remains overly privileged in Canadian society. 

I fully stand with EAGLE to ensure that all Canadians are not only respected but that their legal rights are not in anyway invalidated however, if the approach is going to use racism to end homophobia, I must point out that this  only supports  hierarchy,  and reinforces the very kind of binary modernist thinking that allows the isms to flourish in our home and native land.  If we want the medical establishment to treat all people equally then it should be standard training for ALL physicians.  

Feminism And The Written Word

Bio: Allison McCarthy is currently at work collaborating on the first issue of a new zine which should be available this spring. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Girlistic, The Baltimore Review, JMWW, The Write-Side Up and Scribble. She serves as a contributor to Girl with Pen and ColorsNW Magazine.

I am writing this post in a spirit of openness, hope and community with other writers seeking to examine new ways to combat various forms of privilege and promote feminisms in their writing.

In a personal struggle to confront my own privileges, I have delved into books, articles and blogs in search of information. And while my intersectionalist education remains far from complete, I have felt extremely grateful for the readings that I could access, even as I began to realize that it's not the job of writers and bloggers to educate me on my privileges. It's my responsibility to reflect on the privileges I've been unfairly granted at the expense of others and there will be no cookies for my efforts to educate myself on these topics. (These privileges, for those curious to know, include being: white, middle-class, cisgendered, able-bodied, and an ever-frustrating heterosexual privilege, despite the fact that I don't identify as such.)

However, as Renee has often said, it isn't enough to STFU and listen – I also need to engage. I am beginning to realize that one of the most effective ways in which I can promote my intersectionalist feminism is to write about it – and not just for publications that identify with feminist politics in their mission statements.

I'll be the first one to acknowledge the importance of publications like Bitch, Ms, BUST, off our backs, make/shift, and others which have influenced readers in numerous ways, even as each of these publications differs in their respective goals and styles. For two years, I was even fortunate enough to work as a feature writer for Girlistic, an online feminist magazine edited by the great Jaymi Heimbuch. I mean this to say that the significance of feminist magazines shouldn't be diminished. However, I strongly feel that engaging with trade publications that don't self-identify as feminist has been essential in allowing me not only the opportunity to discuss my feminism with other reading audiences, but also to connect with other communities and open the possibilities for intersectional critique.

Minty Jeffrey, who has served as the co-founder, co-owner and Director of Community Relations for ColorsNW Magazine since April 2001, offers several great points for white feminist writers seeking to publish in trade magazines aimed at communities of color. "I would like to see an inclusion in the way that women of color and urban women are accepted where we're at and not where the assimilated, dominant culture of feminism thinks we should be," she notes.

"It's important to consider your own level of cultural competence before pitching any articles to ColorsNW," she says.  "What is your passion – is it a story you think is interesting or do you have an investment in this story?  I would say that it's so important to respect and honor the fact that the voice telling the story has a limited view of the entire mountain.  You're a hiker, not a villager or a person who is a caregiver for that area, experience or trauma.  If you're a hiker visiting, you have to know when you're not in the place to take the perspective of an indigenous person.  The perspective comes from a set of filters and lenses that are set based on your own experiences and not from the view of the person or group that you're telling the story about.  There is some level of responsibility on the part of the writer to seek out different lenses that will help them see the story a little differently.  You have to look at it from the view of something you may not understand and try to understand."

Another excellent insight came from Gary L. Lemons, the author of Black Male Outsider: Teaching as a Pro-Feminist Man (State University of New York Press, 2008). He lists several white feminist writers who have published numerous pieces on anti-racism, including Becky Thompson, Susan Willis, Cricket Keating, Barbara Scott Winkler, and Aimee Carrillo-Roe. "These are all white feminists who are out there putting it on the line," he says. "In the transgressive work of making ripples with anti-racist writing… if anything, that's where the real groundbreaking work is."

Benita Roth is an associate professor of sociology and women's studies at SUNY Binghamton, as well as the author of Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave (Cambridge University Press, 2004). She feels that when writers publish in trade magazines, it's "really a question of what the networks are and what they look like. People publish within their networks. If there are divisions within these networks, and there almost always are, that gets reflected in what's published. I do think there's a huge interest in bridging the gap between academic feminists and other forums, other spaces."

The same bridging could also be extended to journalists. As Latoya Peterson at Racialicious recently wrote, "Journalists who understand the inequities in society that revolve around gender, race, class, sexuality, gender orientation, and ability - even if they don't fully understand or live that experience - will produce better, more nuanced pieces that speak to a large segment of the population. Journalists who deny these inequities become editors who deny these inequities who reject pieces that explicitly deal with this bias and support pieces that validate their worldview."

By stepping out of my comfort zone, I risk rejection. A feminist publication will be very interested in explicit feminist writing, but that's not always going to be the case for trade publications which don't self-identify with feminist ideologies. With my various privileges, it's crucial to consider spaces in which my perspective might be welcomed as opposed to spaces which are only open to certain communities – I must never intrude on the latter, as that would be highly disrespectful. I can, however, continue to pursue publications that will – whether tentatively or excitedly – be open to works that intersect my feminist ideals with their vision for publication. If there is to be any hope for intersectionalism in action, this may prove to be a crucial method for building alliances and solidarity with other publishing communities.

Who Has The Good Hair?

From the moment little black girls realize that unlike their white sisters they are not viewed as princesses,  and instead represent the undesirable, and the ugly, hair becomes an issue.  Next to our dark skin, hair represents the most discernable marker of difference.  Our lives are spent trying to tame it into submission rather than glorifying in the things that it can do.  Our natural hair we are told is ugly, untameable, and generally perceived as a marker of savagery.  No other part of the body is more racialized or politicized than the hair on our head. 

Chris Rock decided to explore this phenomenon in a new move entitled Good Hair. 

When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl’s head!

Director Jeff Stilson’s camera followed the funnyman, and the result is Good Hair, a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African American hair culture.An exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, Good Hair visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people.”

Black women spend an exorbitant amount of money on our hair and the activities we participate in often reflect how we feel the texture of our hair will be impacted.   Ever wonder why so many black women cannot swim? Blame the hair. Its care is ritualized and often the first relaxer is seen as a right of passage. 

Much like loving ourselves, loving our hair takes work.   Socially, despite how progressive we claim to be, whiteness is still held up as the ideal and in a world where much of feminine power derives from beauty. The ugly black woman meme is emotionally damaging.  The black woman is considered the anti-woman, our femininity is continually denied.

Rock and executive producer Nelson George discover what black women have known for a long time.; the “bad hair” association with black women fulfills the purpose of maintaining a race hierarchy, is sexist, and allows capitalism to profit.  

It’s this whole thing about approval. That approval is not simply, `I want white people to love me.’ It’s like, `I need a job. I want to move forward, and if I have a hairstyle that is somewhat intimidating, that’s going to stop me from moving forward,’” said Nelson George, executive producer of “Good Hair.

The key in the above quote is that a hairstyle that is “intimidating”. Blackness is seen as a threat, and this is precisely because of the desire by whiteness to maintain its unearned privilege.   If we are taught to hate ourselves and then in turn internalize this message, we will never view ourselves as worthy of human respect. 

Even those that claim to embrace black beauty often take the position that we are the exotic “other”, a freak fetish that can be played with for pleasure.   The constant scrutiny of our appearance  from the racialization to the exotification ensures that blackness is continually under discipline.  We do not exist with the power to shape our image and therefore it is always viewed through the lens of the oppressor.

If we come to love whiteness or are forced to conform to Eurocentric ideals, we remain a colonized people in a so-called free state.   Whiteness portrays blackness as radical or angry as though we have no right to these emotions.  We are presented to the world as childlike and irrational in the face of a history of some of the worst crimes against humanity.  Mockery is meant to cause us to reject the legitimacy of our emotions and continue in a pointless effort to search for white approval.  If we are constantly seeking legitimacy we are distracted from understanding the ways in which power functions. 

Whiteness fears retribution.  Though they have written the history books in their favour, the knowledge of past and present day crimes continues to reverberate throughout society.   When they claim to fear blackness, it is a fear that the situation will reverse itself and that we will achieve the power to oppress in the same manner as them. Our anger and hurt is mocked for fear that one day it will be realized.   Conversely, even though whiteness is infused with power their anger and their fear are somehow deemed not only rational but legitimate.  We are forever accused of existing with racial bias as though whiteness does not act with malice and forethought in its own defence.

Even though Rock supports his daughter and expresses his love, he is unable to shelter her from the damage that whiteness inflicts upon the psyche.   She, like all children must enter the world and thereby discover that despite the protective shield of love that her parents have wrapped around her, that she is one of the unlovable.  Whiteness can never embrace us, or love us because to do so would dismantle the web of privilege that has been centuries in the making.

I have often been accused of hating on whitey, and have been called a racist.  I refuse to submit to whiteness and allow it to continue to run rough shod over my life as though my happiness and my being are immaterial.  No matter the physicality of our bodies  we remain the silenced, the denied and the shamed in a society that has the nerve to declare itself post racial. 

Rocks little girl has inherited the legacy of social inferiority from her mothers womb.  It is the curse we pass to all of our children, despite our love and support.  Though she may grow in grace and beauty, to whiteness she will always be a body to be disciplined out of fear.  Her blackness will continually represent a threat to power and it is for this reason that black children are daily traumatized and racialized by the white majority.   Despite her class privilege, her race will cause her to grow beyond her years, as she begins to grapple with what it means to be black and female in a world where goodness and worth is conflated with whiteness.

H/T Afrobella

Swing Set

Andrea Gibson

The transcript is below the fold.

So, I teach in a preschool. Hehe… I make a goddamn difference, now what about you. That’s one point I had to make before I read this poem. The second point is, I usually have hair that is much much shorter than this. That’s all you need to know.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” he asks, staring up at me in all three feet of his pudding face grandeur, and I say “Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?” And he says “Uh-uh.” And I say “Well, at this point, I don’t really think it matters, do you?” And he says “Uhhhm, no. Can I have a push on the swing?” And this happens every day. It’s a tidal wave of kindergarten curiosity rushing straight for the rocks of me, whatever I am.

And the class, when we discuss the Milky Way galaxy, the orbit of the Sun around the Earth… or whatever. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and kids, do you know that some of the stars we see when we look up in the sky are so far away, they’ve already burned out? What do you think of that? Timmy? “Umm… my mom says that even though you got hairs that grow from your legs, and the hairs on your head grow short and poky, and that you smell really bad, like my dad, that you’re a girl.” “Thank you, Timmy.”

And so it goes. On the playground, she peers up at me from behind her pink power puff sunglasses and then asks, “Do you have a boyfriend?” And I say no, and she says “Oh, do you have a girlfriend?” And I say “No, but if by some miracle, twenty years from now, I ever finally do, then I’ll definitely bring her by to meet you. How’s that?” “Okay. Can I have a push on the swing?”

And that’s the thing. They don’t care. They don’t care. Us, on the other hand… My father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner, gritting his teeth over his still-full plate, his appetite raped away by the intrusion of my haircut, “What were you thinking? You used to be such a pretty girl!” Frat boys, drunken, screaming, leaning out of the windows of their daddys’ SUVs, “Hey! Are you a faggot or a dyke?” And I wonder what would happen if I met up with them in the middle of the night.

Then of course there’s always the somehow not-quite-bright enough fluorescent light of the public restroom, “Sir! Sir, do you realize this is the ladies’ room?” “Yes, ma’am, I do, it’s just that I didn’t feel comfortable sticking this tampon up my penis in the men’s room.”

But the best, the best is always the mother at the market, sticking up her nose while pushing aside her daughter’s wide eyes, whispering “Don’t stare, it’s rude.” And I want to say, “Listen, lady, the only rude thing I see is your paranoid parental hand pushing aside the best education on self that little girl’s ever gonna get, living with your Maybelline lipstick after hips and pedi kiwi, vanilla-smelling beauty; so why don’t you take your pinks and blues, your boy-girl rules and shove them in that car with your fucking issue of Cosmo, because tomorrow, I stop my day with twenty-eight miles and I know a hell of a lot more than you. And if I show up in a pink frilly dress, those kids won’t love me any more, or less.”

“Hey, are you a boy or a — never mind, can I have a push on the swing?” And some day, y’all, when we grow up, it’s all gonna be that simple.

H/T genderkid

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Apparently Transgender People Need To Stay With Their Own Kind

Here we go again with the transphobia.  I am absolutely fucking sick of writing about this shit.  It seems so obvious to me that the trans person standing next to me, or sharing a laugh and a smile with me, is no different than anyone else and yet some people because they are so ignorant and have a desire to preserve cisgender privilege cannot seem to grasp the simple concept that we create a difference in worth and value; it is not naturally occurring. 

An Appleton transgendered woman filed a lawsuit against a College Avenue club, after she says she was denied entrance due to her gender identity. The complaint says Sierra Broussard, wasn't allowed admittance because "The employee or owner of Park Central then suggested to Sierra, while in a public forum, that she go to another club, one that caters to "her kind". '

What the fuck is her kind?  The idea that humanity can be divided into sub sections has led to some of the worst crimes.   When Hitler was filling the crematoriums, it is because he viewed Jews as less than, when whites were enslaving blacks it is because we were viewed as less than, and when the Hutu were murdering Tutsi it was because they had come to view them as less than. 

It may seem like this is just one little incident of a company choosing to be hateful and transphobic but it is a symbol of the treatment that trans people must live with every single day. Each time someone justifies their hatred and ignorance by asserting a difference that does not exist, they are supporting all of the different ways in which trans people continue to be disenfranchised by our society.  Transpeople continue to be targets of violence precisely because we continue to construct them as “other”.   The trans panic defence for murder exists simply because of the idea that trans people are less than. 

As a WOC, I am well aware of what policies like this mean and how damaging they are to human dignity.  It was not long ago that under Jim Crow legislation that blacks had to use separate bathrooms, and drink from separate water fountains.   Even with a black man as president blacks have still not recovered from the apartheid like system that held North America hostage  When I read of the struggles of trans people I cannot help but identify with their pain and their hardships.  I know all to well what it is to be deemed insignificant because of the way you are born.

I wonder as she stood there how many people bothered to say anything at al?  I wonder how many people realized what a threat this kind of thinking is to a free society?  Any “public forum” that does not allow entrance based on gender identity is not a public forum, it is a den of hate.   I realize that for the most part I am preaching to the choir but if there is anyone out there reading this who believes even for a moment that it is okay to exclude someone based on their gender identity, I would suggest that it is you that it is the anomaly, it is you that is the freak show.

It is at times like this when I am the most frustrated with blogging.  Often words fail to capture the depth of my feeling.  I know that it is important to keep having conversations and to raise awareness but this kind of stunning ignorance calls for more than an outraged blog posting.  My eloquence fails me and I find myself wanting to scream fuck you, to this ignorant turd that felt that he had the right devalue anyone like this.  My mind flashes to Angie Zappata and Duanna Johnson and I know that they can never achieve justice until we live in a world where someones gender identity is immaterial to their value.  Tonight I am angry, truly enraged  and lost in regret that all I have to offer are my words to this most worthy struggle.

CNN: Hate Groups On The Rise

Isn’t it lovely that David Duke doesn’t feel that Obama should be killed? 

Any violence against the president by a deranged white person, would be a catastrophic act for white Americans, because it would inflate Obamas stature.

Notice that it isn’t don’t kill him because he is the president and it would constitute an act of high treason.  It’s not don’t kill him because he is a father, and a husband. It certainly isn’t don’t kill him because he is a human being and murder is wrong.

The statements by Duke, though calling for a non violent approach still dehumanize Obama.   To him and his white supremacist supporters, Obama represents a threat to unearned white privilege. 

I didn’t need to see this report to know that there has been a rise in hate crime,  simply listening to the news since November it is quite obvious that blackness is under attack.  We have seen violent act after violent act; however they have all been constructed as individual acts.  Just as we view racism as systemic so to should we view any and all attempts by whiteness to maintain its unearned privilege.

Once again I feel it is necessary to point out that there is a difference between the right to free speech and the right to hate speech.  Though some would claim that this is a subjective decision such language that creates someone as less than leaves them vulnerable to attack.

It is not at all accidental that Keith Luke spent his spare time on white supremacist websites prior to  his violent shooting of three POC.   It is there that he learned that his colour granted him the right to attack others because of what he saw as inferiority based solely on the color of skin.

There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  These comments are not only offensive but they supply the groundwork that legitimizes the stigmatization of POC.  One does not need to directly call for violence to create violence and the case of Keith Luke clearly illustrates that point.  In a society that only respects power the  purposeful targeting of POC combined with the history of violence that has committed against us, only ensures that such behaviour will continue to be acceptable.  To normalize hate is to agree that some deserve to be abused because of the colour of their skin.

It is simply not possible to justify that hate speech in any way is part of a public good or necessity. In fact it leads to a fractious society wherein those with unearned advantage constantly seek to employ power in coercive ways.  This is not a matter of a simply disagreement of position, this is the calculated devaluation of a group of people for the purposes of maintaining a social hierarchy that has proven to be destructive.  If we cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre, how can we possibly legitimize the continued hate spewed by these groups?  It is nefarious, scurrilous and counter to any form of progression.

Dear Haggards

image I am writing this as I am watching the Haggards do an an interview on Oprah Winfrey.   Even though Ted has come out of the closet and admitted to sexual improprieties. He  is still having difficulty identifying as anything other than heterosexual.   It is not for me to say that the man is gay however, he certainly is not straight, at the very least he is bisexual.

Oprah continued to push for an admission of his homosexuality, but his firm belief that homosexuality is a sin caused him to deny that the very potential exists for him to be gay.  He  said that he is a “heterosexual with homosexual attachments. Sexuality is complex. I was deeply in love with my wife.... Oops, I mean am! Am! “. It smells like denial to me though.

Mrs. Haggard you need to just come to the realization that you married a man that just isn’t into women.  You are not the first woman to make such a mistake but standing by his side and encouraging him to live a lie is not supportive.  If you love someone, you encourage them to be their truest self and seek happiness.

He openly claims to still fantasize about men sexually, and is still attracted to men.  “I do have sexual thoughts about men, but they're not compulsive anymore". I thought I could pray away the gay”. You are asking him to spend the rest of his life denying his sexual leanings so that you can continue on in this masquerade.

While I feel for your hurt and your pain, neither of you can truly be happy living a lie.   Though your husband claims that he believes that God loves him as he is, his unwillingness to even consider homosexuality as anything other than a sin is clearly hampering his ability to discover who he really is. “God's ideal is heterosexual, monogamous relationships. Ideal is no divorce”.

Seriously Gayle how many men have to pop out of the wood work for you to come to the realization that holding on to someone like this is not an act of love but ultimately a selfish thing to do?  Sitting on the Oprah show and announcing to the world that “this is a choice”, does not make it so and I think in your most private moments you know the truth of that.

Though Ted claims that he would have killed himself had  Gayle decided to leave him,  by staying with her as a shelter from the storm he has failed to truly take the time to discover who he really is. These so called cravings cannot be willed away, and no amount of prayer is going to change his identity.  Ted remains a man that hates himself because the God that he has chosen to believe in does not accept all of his creations.

Christianity and homosexuality are not at odds with each other despite what the right wing fundies would have us believe.   Jesus himself made no proscriptions against homosexual sex.   I personally believe that the current state of social unrest in terms of sexuality has more to do with our social discomfort dealing with gender and sexuality than it does with the actual acts themselves.  It is only when homosexuality became stigmatized in the 1800s as a form of inversion and or sickness do we find this a problematic identity.

From the beginning of time sexuality has always been fluid we have only normalized certain identities to create a hierarchy that we are socially comfortable with.  We view the world in binaries and therefore just as we see heterosexuality as good, we deem homosexuality as bad. We need to move beyond this modernist understanding of the world as it only hampers our ability to understand the complexities of the human experience. 

So Haggards, while who you choose to sleep with is really none of business your insistence in publicly presenting the falsehood that Ted can deny his sexual leanings for a lifetime is ridiculous.  If you must live a lie can you not do so in private, so that those who are struggling to accept themselves are not  further troubled by the dichotomy that you are presenting?  Teenagers do not need to hear that being gay or lesbian is the same as a fall from grace at a time when they are discovering who they are.

Finally to Gayle, when he does cheat again, and he will, remember that you heard it here first.  Holding on to someone who is incapable of returning your feelings is wrong.  Ted may indeed love you but not in the physical ways that hetero women desire to be loved.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

American Apparel Displays Its Sexism


The text reads as follows:

Women initiate most domestic violence, yet out of a thousand cases of domestic violence, maybe one is involving a man.  And this has made a victim of culture out of women.”

Wow, culture of victimization, isn’t that nice.  I wonder how many battered womens shelters he has visited to see just how imaginary the bruises and the emotional scars are?  Has he purposefully blinded himself to the images in popculture of women being beaten by men?

Had this idiot not been the owner of American Apparel, I would not even have bothered to blog about his misogynist swill.  Clearly the idea that only 1 out 1000 domestic violence cases involve men is pure nonsense. 

A 2005 study reported that 7% of partnered Canadian women experienced violence at the hands of a spouse between 1999 and 2004. Of these battered women, nearly one-quarter (23%) reported being beaten, choked, or threatened with a knife or gun. (Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2005)

The most common act of violence against women is being slapped—an experience reported by 9% of women in Japan and 52% in provincial Peru. Rates of sexual abuse also varies greatly around the world—with partner rape being reported by 6% of women from Serbia and Montenegro, 46% of women from provincial Bangladesh, and 59% of women in Ethiopia. (WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2005)

In Zimbabwe, domestic violence accounts for more than 60% of murder cases that go through the high court in Harare. (ZWRCN)

Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds. (UN Study On The Status of Women, Year 2000)

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported 691,710 nonfatal violent victimizations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims during 2001. About 588,490, or 85% of intimate partner violence incidents, involved women. One of every five crimes against women was of this nature - compared to only 3% of crimes committed against men.

The list of facts debunking his bullshit is a mile long.  Across culture and nation states the one truth that is evident is that men are predominately the ones guilty of violently assaulting, raping, and abusing women.  To suggest otherwise is to be in denial of the ways in which patriarchy continually degrades women to support male hegemony. 

Charney is using his position as a male of privilege to reinforce this destructive message.   There has been ample evidence of his hatred of women and the only question that remains is what we are going to do about it.   Obviously we cannot hope to change his mind, such misogynists  men rarely come to an understanding of the ways in which their behaviour is not only reductive but dangerous.  If he cannot be taught to respect women, he can still be brought to heel by a boycott of his stores.  What human decency he did not learn in socialization can be force fed through economic sanctions.

We often see something sexist, rail against it and then move on.  It is time as women that we begin to recognize that even though we earn so much less than men, we are still responsible for a great deal of the economy.  We need not spend our hard earned dollars to enrich a man that clearly hates women. Often times when we are confronted by sexism, negative reprisals forestall any form of active protest however in cases like this, it is well within our power to let this asshat know that there is a penalty for displaying such naked hatred of women. He should not profit from our labour and demean us with his MRA style misogynist lies.   So now that you know, spread the word and remind people that sometimes refusing to purchase something can also be a positive form of protest.

H/T Rage Against The Man-Chine

Update: Apparently there is some conjecture that the ad itself may not be real, however the quote that is used has been verified. Apparently Dov said this in an interview with Jon Meyer of the McGill Daily.

First Black Mayor Charles Tyson of South Harrison Township Forced To Resign

When a politician resigns it is usually do to some misconduct on their part.  In the case of Charles Tyson, he was forced to resign due to racist threats.

According to MSBNC, “Some residents in the town see it as a political rather than a racial issue. They claim Tyson plays the race card whenever he gets criticized.

Here we go again with the playing the race card, when a POC is subject to racism.  It is not for a white person to say what is and isn’t racist because they do not have the life experience to be able to make the judgement call.  Until you live as a racially oppressed individual, you can never have a complete understanding of what it means to be targeted because of the colour of your skin.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports,”  Soon after Tyson, a retired computer technician, was elected mayor in this rural community of 2,700, he said he received a dozen phone calls and several e-mails warning he was being watched and labeling him a dead man, using a racist epithet.

No arrests were made, and investigators said the caller or callers in 2007 used untraceable disposable phones. His tires were also slashed and his lawn sign was defaced with "KKK."

Is it any wonder that after being treated like this he feared for his life enough to resign his position?  If a black mayor can undergo such attacks from racists, what has the response really been to Obama?  I suspect that the secret service has not made the public aware of the degree of threat that he faces. 

There has been repeated commentary across the internet that Tyson is inflating the degree of threat that he faced however, racism is understood by how each individual is impacted and therefore what might be tolerable to some, is deemed assaultive by others.  Had I received the following commentary, I would have felt attacked and threatened.

Dear Mayor Charles Tyson:
I recently read of the racism you've faced in Harrisonville, New Jersey, and I wanted to make something perfectly clear:
a) You are a nigger unworthy to govern over any white man; and,
b) Fuck you. You've gotten exactly what you deserve from your constituents.
Unfortunately, the days when white men would simply burn the local newspaper and run nigger officials out with tar and feathers are past. However, your incidents give me hope that perhaps we shall see them again.
Bill White, Commander
American National Socialist Workers Party
PS: We know you live at (Phone number and address have been redacted) I just spoke to your wife Carolyn. I hope you got my message.

We all got the message loud and clear.  Racism continues to plague this society no matter what the feel good post racial crowd would like us to believe.  Tyson serves as a small example of exactly why the election of Obama does not mean that we have reached a turning point in race relations.  He like Obama was a first and the penalty for daring to believe that he had the right to serve like any other American was death threats.

Each time someone who is black attempts to assert our shared humanity, we are instantly subjected to racist assaults.  Some come in the obvious form of racial epithets and death threats, while others are far more covert.  As I have repeatedly said, whiteness will always act in its own defence to preserve its unearned racial privileges.  We are continually subjected to commentary calling us overly sensitive or challenging whether or not something is actually racist eg, the race card, or even a declaration that this is fringe behaviour and therefore should be dismissed.

As POC, we cannot afford to dismiss a single racist action, thought, or deed, because combined it serves to maintain our status at the bottom of the race and class hierarchy.  The ability to dismiss racism is the preserve of those that exist with privilege,  it is not white blood that flows down the streets, pooling and coagulating from hatred. 

I continue to blog about the racist incidents that I come across because we need to by hyper vigilant.  There is a tendency to say that things are not so bad, or look how far we have come and this negates the degree of racism still faced on a daily basis by POC.  Even those that claim to be liberal or anti racist in their approach, often fail to be cognizant of the ways in which their behaviour maintains white hegemony.  We may no longer be slaves, but we still live under a neo- Jim Crow system wherein worth and value are often strictly determined by race.

Often the first response to racism is to silence those critiquing privilege.  If we don’t talk about it, it won’t go away.  Silencing comes in the form of belittling the speaker, or trying to redirect the conversation, anything to avoid dealing with the issue at hand.  What is ironic is that those who attempt to silence are rarely cognizant that they are invoking the same privilege that is being critiqued.  We may have come along way but until people start to realize the ways in which the system is skewed to defend and protect whiteness, blackness will continue to be under assault.

I speak out because I have no choice.  I am black and so are my children. To be silent would be to accept my status as a second class citizen and doom my children to the same.  I cannot afford to play sambo and dance with joy because the physical chains have been removed, while we continue to live as a colonized people in a so called free state.  Freedom means freedom from any and all oppressions, and it is clear that dream is still to be fulfilled.

H.W Bush Vows To Stay Out Of Wombs

Considering the results of his efforts to mate, the world is thankful that he is vowing to stay out of a womb.  We certainly did not get a say in his reproduction decisions and look what happened – his idiot son damn near ran the US into the ground.

I do feel the need to point out that while he thinks this is just a cute joke, what he is once again doing is playing on stereotypes to make women look angry and irrational for demanding their rights.  Of course he had to describe her as angry and ugly,  everyone knows all the good looking  women don’t want control over their bodies.  You don’t want to be considered one of those ugly girls now do you ladies….what were you thinking using the brain that the Goddess gave you?

As for Clinton, fuck you too.  Seriously after all of the bullshit you watched your wife go through during her run for the white house, and you still think that it is okay to laugh at this demeaning shit.   This, from a man that claims to be pro-woman.  This is not some sort of witty repartee, this is the purposeful diminishment of women for demanding the right to control their reproduction.  

Dear me, am I turning into one of those ugly angry women?  Considering that H.W has promised to stay away from women like myself, it makes it all the more appealing to be one of the angry ugly women.   I’d rather be miles away from him and be an autonomous being, than be one of the smiling idiots he so adores.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

White As Milk

NOTE: Spoilers ahead for the movie Milk

This is a guest post by Rudy Ramirez, who is a director, actor, and performance artist living and working in Austin, Texas. He performs monthly with The Dick Monologues, is the stage director of The 999 Eyes Freak Show, a member of Carousel Cabaret Burlesque, and the co-writer (with Laura Freeman) of the musical Luna Tart Died. He is currently working on his first full-length one man show, Promised Land, which talks about the trip, the party, and the hot sex that lead up to sending out the  email below. Coming soon to . . . somewhere near . . . something.

I just got back from watching the movie Milk with my good buddy, Jaycee.

At the beginning of this movie, black and white footage is shown of gay men being arrested and harassed by the police. At no point is any queer person of color shown, nor, for that matter, any queer women.

Throughout the film, the shots of the Castro are of almost exclusively gay white men. There is one African-American who delivers a line in the movie,  as he is walking past Harvey Milk's storefront. There is also an African-American drag performer.

Latinos, are represented by Jack, Harvey Milk's second lover in the film. His first lover Scott, is white. Jack is portrayed by Diego Luna, a Mexican actor, although Jack's national background is never given. Throughout the film, he is portrayed as needy, unstable, and unintelligent. Harvey's fellow political activists--all of whom are white except for one Asian--express their exasperation with "The First Lady," referring to Jack.

Jack talks to Harvey about watching Days of Our Lives and his fascination with the characters before seducing him when Harvey has an important meeting. When Scott confronts Harvey about Jack, whom he derisively calls, "Cesar Chavez" with the words, "You could do so much better," Harvey responds, "I don't have to come home and talk intelligently to him." When Scott and Harvey are talking with each other later, and Harvey says, "I miss you" Jack comes in between them in the shot of the film and says, in a whiny voice, "Harvey, ya!" Ya, of course, being Spanish for "enough," a reminder that this isn't just another man, this is another man who isn't white.

I was exasperated by this point and my frustration only increased when Jack killed himself.  Harvey's  activist associates  consoled him with, "There's nothing you could do. You did all you could." After a tearful "I could have come home at 6 instead of 6:15" the next line is a voice over from Harvey: "There was no time to mourn." At the end of the film, Harvey has one last conversation with Scott before he is assassinated. The tone hints that these lovers would have gotten together again, had it not been for a bullet. There is little to no validity given to Harvey and Jack's relationship; whereas Scott's relationship with Harvey is offered as  true love.

I'm writing  this to ask everyone who has seen this move to tell their friends about Sylvia Rivera. Many of you reading this already know about her, and therefore please feel free to correct any of this information. She was one of the many trans people of colour activists, who led the revolt against the New York City police during the Stonewall riots in 1969, years before Harvey Milk began his political career. She then founded a homeless shelter for trans and queer youth living on the streets of New York. Due to her focus on the lives and livelihoods of street youth, sex workers, and transgender queers, she was frequently shunned by the mainstream gay rights movement; that wanted to present the face of gay liberation as assimilationist, gender normative, and white. Her alienation from the movement was followed by years of drug use and homelessness, until she came back and founded another shelter for transpeople. She died in 2002 at the age of 50.

Sylvia Rivera is one of the many Latino faces of queer liberation, one whose sacrifices and bravery made men like Harvey Milk possible. Queer Latinos have been part of queer liberation since day one. Since the day I came out, and even before, I have seen gay film after gay film--Lie Down with Dogs, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, Love! Valour! Compassion!--in which the Latino is the plot twist, the slut who comes in between two white lovers who are meant to be together. It pained me to see the images in those films, and in a movie about  queer history; one that never once mentioned Stonewall and presented gay liberation as almost exclusively white.

After the movie was over, I stood up in the theatre and told the audience about Stonewall, and that it was Latina and African-American drag queens who began the modern queer liberation movement long before Harvey Milk. I asked them to remember that queer Latinos have always been there, and that we are more than someone that you don't have to talk intelligently to. I did this because I feel better about being gay than I have in years and I need to start paying that forward. I'm asking all of you to help me. If you hear people talk about Milk, mention Sylvia Rivera, not to diminish what Harvey did but to make sure that everyone knows that queers of color put on their heels and took to the streets, too, and did so when it wasn't fashionable.

Thank You, and Much Love,

Rudy Ramirez

PS--At the end of the film, updates are given about each and every one of Harvey Milk's fellow activists . . . except for the one Asian activist in Harvey's office, who apparently didn't merit an update.

I Won’t Apologize

On June 16 of this year I will have been happily unmarried to the same man for twenty years.  It seems like just yesterday that we met. Though we have had many ups and downs what has never ever faded is our love, friendship and mutual respect.  When I place my head on his shoulder I know a comfort that can be found nowhere else on this planet; I am home, I am complete and all is right in my world.

We are an unconventional family in many respect but I think that the interracial nature of it, is only problematic because others choose to view it as avante garde; you see I am a black woman in love with a white man. 

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about black women dating interracially, this of course stems from the whole “there are no good black men meme”.   Many actively push interracial dating out of the notion that all women need a man to feel satisfied and rather than face “spinsterhood“ alone, one should either lower standards or date white.

There are so many reasons why this kind of logic is wrong.  Having a life partner is wonderful but ultimately unless you are happy with yourself, no one person can deliver you to a state of bliss.  The date white meme also fails to recognize that some women of colour are same gender loving.  Not all women need or even want man.

Those that speak out against interracial dating do so from the position that it is a betrayal to the race.  I find this ridiculous.  When we consider that all men exist with male privilege the whole idea of betrayal would thus apply to all heterosexual relationships, in that women could be accused of betraying all women by sharing their lives with a man.  Black men are just as likely as men of any other colour to invoke their male privilege, of course we don’t perceive it this way because we view heterosexuality as the norm. 

My blackness is not changed by the race of my partner and I am just as committed to seeking equality.  When I face the world I am subject to the same sort of stigmatizations that any other WOC faces and his whiteness in no way mitigates the ways in which people respond to me.  Though we approach the world from different cultural perspectives, him through a lens of race and gender privilege and I through a lens of racial and gender oppression, our partnership is a constant reminder to me of what is possible when people attempt to own their privileges. Daily we converse and we grow.

When people ask me why I am so committed to calling out injustice and push for more conversation, the answer is always the same, I have seen the power of it in my own home.  I won’t apologize for my white unhusband, I won’t apologize for my biracial children and I won’t apologize for my blackness.  They are not evidence of my betrayal, they are evidence of my commitment to humanity. They are my inspiration to continue on in the face of so much anger and rejection, and because of them I know the power of love.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Little Boob For JetBlue and Delta Goes A Long Way

Once again we have yet another example of a woman being expected to titillate male fantasies in order to earn a living.  If one is working in the sex trade industry where appealing to the male gaze is a necessary function of the job this expectation is completely understandable, but why should a flight attendant be forced to dress sexy to please a man as a part of her job?

Karin Keegan, a 37-year-old flight attendant with Delta, said a male JetBlue worker wouldn't let her on a flight in October 2007 because she wasn't dressed provocatively enough, then allowed other flight attendants with less seniority to board the plane.

JetBlue has an agreement with Delta to ferry its flight attendants to job assignments on a standby basis.

"Keegan changed into more provocative clothes, but (the employee) told her she was too late to board the plane and should have dressed like that before," said the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in Pittsburgh federal court, Associated Press reports.

"He wanted her to change to a lower-cut shirt and tighter pants, and wear more makeup before letting her on the plane," Keegan's attorney, Samuel Cordes, said Monday. Delta and JetBlue officials refused to intercede when she complained, the lawsuit said.

Cordes said Keegan is losing income, though he wouldn't specify how much, because she has stopped taking JetBlue flights to job assignments so she can avoid harassment by the male employee.By refusing to discipline the employee Keegan is being punished for wishing to avoid being sexually harassed.  While it is fortunate that she is able to make such a sacrifice, she should not have to.  How many women are putting up with this kind of sexual harassment because of the downturn of the economy?  Women are especially vulnerable in times of economic downturn and many have families and or small children  that are completely dependent on their income. 

Capitalism and patriarchy often work hand in hand to oppress women and this case is the perfect example of it. To simply sit on an airplane to arrive at her destination Keegan had to appear in sexually provocative clothing not because she chose to, but because it was mandated by a male.  Every time I read stories about this regarding clothing and the workplace it is always some man telling a woman to look more feminine, or sexy.  It is usually for the purposes of either economic gain or pure sexual exploitation.

The right wing has worked incredibly hard to convince women that we are all equal and yet cases like this continue to occur.  Patriarchy is not a figment of our imagination, daily it works to solidify its power and it is often stealth like in its approach.  Incidents like this are often said to be the actions of one individual rather than the collective desire of many to promote male hegemony; however, when we examine the ways in which womanhood is understood by the agents of socialization clearly, ‘woman’ as object rather than subject is what is promoted.

This man felt he had the right to tell Keegan to appear in a more provocative outfit because everything around him affirms the idea that women exist to be sexual servants.  When half naked women are used to sell cars, and all manner of products and our bodies are continually privileged over our intelligence clearly the value of a woman is based in her physical appearance. 

Masculinity is constructed as aggressive, constantly seeking conquest  and conversely femininity is understood as passive and docile, awaiting subjugation.  He would never have requested that a man appear in sexual clothing.  Despite the claims of the right wing that feminists are angry man hating women, incidents like this where women are penalized for refusing to capitulate to the male gaze function as evidence as to why we have not reached a state of equality.  A vagina equals availability regardless of the intent of the owner. A vagina is only understood in the ways in which it offers pleasure to another rather than the ways in which it simply confers sex identity. 

Patriarchy is loathe to admit the ways in which it constantly works to construct women as simply vehicles for male pleasure because in doing so it would affirm that a hierarchy of genders indeed exists.  To deny that such construction is part of our social make up allows it to utilize its power in ways that have a negative impact to all women and therefore they present to the world the lie of rebelling, angry feminist.  We are disciplined to conform and all understood to be thwarting the natural order of civilization when we demand equality.  Patriarchy like all historical rulers detests a slave that refuses to be ruled.

House: The Penis Knows Best

Natalie writes under mzbitca at What A crazy Random Happenstance.  She teachers college classes within Prison and runs a Rehab home for women with drug addictions.  Her writing is based on critiquing popular culture from a feminist perspective.

I have been watching House since the second season. As a rule I enjoy the show, although it does have very problematic elements.  Much of House’s commentary is sexist, racist, and basically every other offensive thing in the book but I feel that they balance that well with making sure that House is not someone you should want to be.  A person may admire his sarcasm but the writers are pretty good about throwing in episodes that remind the viewers just how messed up and miserable House is and that he is not some tragic hero but rather a brilliant man who cannot deal with his life so he attempts to justify his outlook in his interactions with others. 

Season 5 is the first season where House’s new team is all assembled and it’s back to business as usual of solving weird medical cases.  The new tag-alongs with their own emotional baggage are Kutner (an Indian-American who was raised by foster parents and has a reckless streak), Taub (plastic surgeon who has cheated on a wife who buys him expensive cars) and Hadley (a female who identifies as bisexual and has been diagnosised with Huntington’s Disease).  Hadley’s story has been the focus of most of this season in relation to her coming to grips with her disease and what it means for her future. 

We find out about Hadley’s sexuality after Foreman recognizes it when she is against placing people in stereotypical boxes.  Foreman’s reasoning was that “people who don’t like boxes” feel that way because they don’t fit in any of the boxes.  Of course, my question is why the fuck does there have to be a box to begin with, but that’s a whole other post.  Hadley’s sexuality is not truly touched on until she has trouble dealing with her Huntington’s diagnosis.  She goes on a reckless spree that involves doing drugs and taking random women home with her.  This is discovered when one of her one-night stands gets sick and House is in charge of her case.  She is criticized for her behavior but the last scene of the episode shows her, with ominous music playing, once again kissing and being sexually involved with a woman.  The fact that her taking home random women is considered part of her downward spiral sends a very clear message about what type of relationships are “correct”. Clearly one-night stands with women mean you’re losing control, but two season’s ago, when Cameron was blatantly using Chase for sex it was cute and empowering of her (and of course they end up together cause that’s how these things work).

If there were any doubts about which sex it is healthier for Hadley to be attracted to the next step in her journey nips them in the bud.  The Penis (otherwise known as Foreman, another doctor) quickly comes to the rescue to place the confused woman in her place.  He forces her into a study that involves experimental treatment for Huntington’s and also gets her to make peace with her memories and feelings about her mom.  He gets rewarded with a kiss and Hadley gets rewarded with the music of approval as the episode ends. 

The biggest issue with this whole plot development is just how much of who Hadley is and how she develops is based on a man and how he manipulates her.  She made the choice not to disclose her sexuality in the workplace but the straight male had no problem with declaring that she was bisexual.  Forget about her agency to choose how and to who her sexuality should become known, all that we need is a smart man to figure everyone out.  When she goes on her “self-destruct” mission it is Foreman who partly comes to the rescue.  He offers her placement in a drug treatment study and admonishes her on giving up.  When he feels she is not participating in the study to his liking he breaks into her home and checks up on her medication.  When she is having trouble dealing with a more advanced patient who brings back painful memories of her mother he forces her to deal with the situation.  Finally, when the fact that she has a terminal disease makes her less willing to be in a relationship, he arranges for her to “see” how well one patient is doing on the treatment. When she calls him on this he denies it until she believes him and finally asks him out on a date.  The most recent episode ends with Foreman discovering, after he pumped her up about how well the drugs are working, that she is actually on the placebo.  He gazes at her stunned and saddened while she happily does a crossword puzzle. 

If the writers are looking to send a message I hope it involves Foreman learning a lesson for thinking he knows best in every situation. Hadley did have to deal with her Huntington’s and she did need to deal with her memories of her mother but he forced her hand in many ways and may possibly do more damage.  The man does not always know best and the mentality that they know what’s right for women can cause horrible pain.  I would rather see a woman self-destruct or not deal with her problems than have one be “rescued” by a man consistently.  We are not puppets or lower beings who need a stronger more mature hand guiding us.  Hadley is a human beings dealing with a life threatening illness and Foreman assumed that he knew what she was going through and what she needed and manipulated her into feeling and behaving the way he things best.  He has just recently learned that his manipulations have a fatal flaw in that he was dealing with somebody else’s life.

Who Owns Feminism

Once again the comment section of this blog has provided the inspiration for a post.  I wrote about the legalization of prostitution in Nevada and the following is one response that I received.

An active choice to assist in the marginalization and subjugation of their entire sex? I cannot believe you don't see the ramifications of this legislation on all of womens' rights and our (or, I suppose, my) efforts to remove valuation of women purely for what we offer to men, sexually, as shown through every aspect of how women are viewed in society... This so-called "active choice" is in fact an acquiescence to every identity-less box any woman has ever been placed in, and it is a betrayal of the efforts of women like Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Anthony and more, who sought equality for women...

I am going to leave the question about legalization and or decriminalization for the other thread and just deal with the obvious erasure of WOC in this statement.  Without even realizing it, this commenter created feminism as a white owned, white run, social justice movement  If you will notice that amongst her list there was not one single mention of a WOC, though we have have been involved in feminism from the very beginning and continue to work hard to advance womens rights.

I assume she meant for women of colour to fit into the “and more category”, and this continues to be one of the major issues confronting modern day feminism.  I have written many posts regarding the ways in which feminism continues to primarily privilege the position of the upper/middle class white women, and this particular comment highlights the ways in which our erasure is ongoing.  When this commenter thought about feminism, she did not for one moment recognize that her understanding of it was based in whiteness.  To often WOC are created invisible and are only invited to participate when a photo op is needed or  coffee needs to be made.  When it is convenient for mainstream feminism to decide that we are also women, suddenly our femininity is validated.

White women of privilege don’t own feminism.  Despite all of the pearl clutching, and denial, feminism is a movement to advance women and men of all races, creeds, and ethnicities.  Erasing our contributions only serves to splinter the movement and encourage hostility.  To this day black women have not forgotten the many betrayals of the first and second wave and if we hope to move forward, the mistakes of the past cannot continue to be repeated. 

White feminists continue to be baffled about why so many WOC are openly hostile towards feminism. They cannot see that by privileging themselves and excluded women of color, our participation on these grounds would be  tantamount to  embracing the masters tools.  Many WOC choose to own the label of womanist to avoid collusion with a movement that has historically deemed us to be little better than chattel.  WOC want equality in all phases of our life and not simply as it relates to gender.  If race continues to stigmatize, no matter what gains women make, WOC will continue to occupy the bottom of the race and class hierarchy.  Changing our oppressor to white women and white men will not change our living conditions, only equality on all grounds will.

When I look at feminist blogs and anthologies I still continue only to see token inclusion, as though our life experiences are somehow not relevant to the feminist cause.  There are many that still question why it is necessary to even take an intersectional approach, preferring instead to wallow in their privilege and present a monolithic woman.  The ironic part is that this stance still excludes some white women.  If one is poor, or disabled, or a lesbian, feminism has difficulty making room for you as well.

If the goal is the emancipation of women from patriarchal domination, that will not be achieved by allowing some women to break through will the rest of us continue to struggle for a seat at the table.  While certain constructs will necessarily be age, race and class specific the reality is, if even one woman is devalued, we all are.  Having the same ability to oppress as the white heterosexual male of class privilege only reasserts hierarchy and assures that some women will forever be in a state of servitude.  

I understand that this society privileges individualism, but as it is practiced in feminism it is narcissistic.  The desire to privilege your life, or your experiences over that others means that privilege is never confronted or dismantled.  Feminism as practiced this way, is not a social justice movement, it is a Quixotic quest for power.  If we decide that power is what is desired then equality can never be achieved, because the nature of power is to oppress. In their desire to control the movement, many white feminists are often authoritarian adopting practices and theories that they would find demeaning if aimed at them with the same regularity and zeal.

As we wrestle back and forth struggling to decide who controls feminism, patriarchy continues to exploit us for gain.  This internal fissure must get healed. If it is an issue for one woman it is an issue for all. It is time for a change of power.  No one has the right to decide that another is or is not a feminist to maintain their privilege.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brown In The Land Of The Maple Leaf: An Excuse For 3 BC Officers To Beat A Man

image Racism alert in the great white north again.   Imagine yourself lying on the concrete screaming for help,  as three assailants rob you of two hundred dollars and then beat you mercilessly?  How many times would this horror  increase if they these men, your attackers, were three off duty police officers?  For (Frioz) Phil Khan this nightmare was a reality.  I know that it is hard to believe that this occurred in the supposedly colour blind society that Canada has evolved into.

Khan is quoted by the Vancouver Sun as saying, "That was the day I was delivering, when president Obama was elected as the U.S. president. They told me that we don't like brown people. And I told them I am sorry"  Imagine having to apologize for the colour of your skin.

He continues on to say, “To my knowledge, I have been beaten, first by one person, and then later by another two," said Khan, who has worked for Dolphin Delivery for seven years. "In total they were three. They kicked me in my head, kicked my back, legs, everywhere.They told me, “We are the police, you don't need help. If you don't behave, if you don't do anything, we have a Taser,'" Khan said. "I told them that I am half-dead anyways, after you guys beat me up so badly, so you might as well use the Taser and then kill me so that's the end of the story

Yash who was a witness to the event said, “Three people were beating one guy, and the guy was crying very loudly, 'Please help me. They are going to kill me,'"

These are the men that are supposed to protect us from danger, yet at times it seems that a POC has more to fear from the police than the so-called criminal element.  Of course the blue wall has been dropped.  “No charges have been laid against the three junior officers from the New Westminster, West Vancouver and Delta police forces. Those forces are also currently conducting internal police conduct investigations.”  The one Delta officer involved has been reassigned to desk duty.

Earlier in a post I wrote about Oscar Grant I spoke about my desire to teach my children to be wary of the police and was chastised by one commenter.  The reality of the situation is, if you live in the western world and you have brown skin, you are viewed as a person of little value.  It does not matter whether or not you have friends and family that love you and count on you. 

Canada has an international image as a peace keeper which belies the history of violence that has occurred to turn this into our home and native land.  Racism is very much a part of the social conversation in the US and in Canada it is our dirty little secret.  While we point fingers at other human rights violators we conveniently forget the our reservation system was the model for the Nazi concentration camps.  When the police officer in question told Khan that he did not like brown people he was in the company of many Canadians who through the course of history have worked hard to obliterate POC.

We don’t talk about the lack of African Canadian classes on university campuses, the fact that media continually constructs black males as the major threat to safety and law and order, the difference between the schools in poor areas versus the shiny white suburbs, the lack of melanin in our government, or the almost complete erasure of POC in all avenues to power.  Canada is perceived as white because internationally we are represented by whiteness and at home whiteness silences and punishes all voices of dissent. 

Even if racism has not been erased by the Obama presidency it has at least been the genesis of conversations that need to occur to destabilize white hegemony.  In Canada we just point southward with a false air of superiority denying the ways in which certain bodies are privileged. 

Our big focus is the division between English and French speakers, with the understanding that all sides are represented by whiteness.  Of course it is all drowned out with the salad bowl anthology, sure you can keep your culture here – The real Canadians don’t want you to identify as a maple syrup swilling Cannuck anyway.  We speak about multiculturalism like it is a privilege in our schools and our institutions, yet it is just another one of the insidious ways in which whiteness holds power firmly in its hands.

These officers picked Khan because they knew that a man with brown skin isn’t considered a real Canadian anyway.  White lives  are the only lives that we bother to count.  Watching the evening news one can hear the daily tally of injuries and deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan, somehow they never bother to mention if any Afghanis were killed.  Oh well they’re only more brown people … And so it goes, more denial; croutons for the great salad anyone?

Legalized Prostitution In Nevada

The US is in the middle of a deep recession, if not depression.  It has cut a wide swathe and even the government is struggling to raise funds.  When the state contemplates issuing issuing I.O.U.’s, it is an indication of exactly how desperate the times are. 

State Sen. Bob Coffin, who chairs the Senate Taxation Committee, believes it is time to legalize prostitution.   "It's almost de facto legal. It's running unregulated," he said. As an aside he offers that it would make it safer for sex trade workers.  It is not at all accidental that the sudden push for legalization is coming from the tax office in a time of economic difficulties.  The concern is not based in what is best for women; it is based in how to best navigate this economic crises.

If legalization is approached from the angle of taxation the real danger that sex trade workers face on a daily basis will not be addressed.  A W2 does not equal safety, it equals a new form of exploitation.  The state should not be turning a profit from prostitution.

"I think it's an appalling way for a state to make money," said Melissa Farley, executive director of the nonprofit Prostitution Research and Education group in San Francisco. "Once there's an awareness of what prostitution does to women, it makes no sense to allow it, to tax it, to decriminalize it or mainstream it."

Though experts said legalizing prostitution in Nevada's urban centers was unlikely, rural brothels have asked at least twice to pay state taxes. Some owners believe prostitution is less likely to be outlawed if it contributes to state coffers.

"What are we going to say? That we don't want your tax dollars?" asked David Damore, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. "How do you look a gift horse in the mouth when we're hurting so badly?"

Coffin's initiative comes as Nevada's economy is foundering. Compared with the same month in 2007, November gaming revenue was down almost 15% statewide. Taxable sales in October were down 6.2%.

In lieu of raising taxes, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed, among other things, slashing funding for higher education and cutting the pay of teachers and state workers. Democrats, who control the Legislature, have roundly drubbed those ideas.

In that context, Coffin said, it would be irresponsible not to look at Nevada's sex industry as a possible revenue source.

"When you're talking about cutting funding for the mentally ill and increasing class sizes for little kids . . . and someone tells me they don't want to tax prostitution, I'm going to call them a hypocrite to their face," Coffin said.

While in some instances prostitution is a choice, one should not ignore the fact that for some women, it is the occupation of last resort.  The state cannot accurately separate those that are making the active decision to participate, from those that have been forced into to it to feed a drug habit, or out of destitution.  We have already seen a link to poverty and the sale of eggs and surrogate services; therefore it is a fair assumption that many women who are turning to prostitution today, may be doing so out of a need to maintain a subsistence level. 

His argument further ignores the transwomen that have been forced into prostitution, from an inability to find and maintain a job in their fields.  They exist with no legal protections in terms of employment.  At each turn they are stigmatized and assaulted by society and for the government to profit from their failure to protect them is atrocious.

Across the globe there are many women working as prostitutes because that is the only way that they are able to feed their children.   To further exploit these women by taxing their earnings serves as validation of the slut shaming, and violence that they deal with on a daily basis.  I further resent the idea that this should be compared to other forms of social inequality. Injustice is injustice no matter whom it is happening to.  While Coffin may be worried about educating these children, their mothers are worried about feeding them, clothing them. and keeping a roof over their heads. 

I whole heartedly support the legalization and or decriminalization of prostitution.  This is not a job that should lead to a criminal charge or jail. It would also allow women to charge those who either violate them sexually or abuse them physically. If  the government really cared about the safety of these women they would be working on programs to help those that want to quit, and create a safer working environment for those that choose to continue.  Instead their only concern is to figure out how much money can be made off of the backs of these women.

How much more can women carry? Our work already supports the informal economy.  It is done without pay and is not factored into the GDP, or GNP.  Women earn less than men and are less likely to advance in their chosen fields.  Even though we comprise over 50%  of the population, patriarchy has ensured that we reside quite firmly in the pink ghetto. 

If this step is going to be taken to legalize prostitution, it should be done from an impetus to improve life, not to prey upon the already vulnerable.  The government is supposed to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority and in this case it is clear that it is the minority once again that is meant to pay for the luxuries for the elite. 

Note that there is no consideration of raising the taxes of the elite.  OOOHH no the rich white men that run this country can certainly not be made to live on less, even though their profits are based upon exploiting their workers.   The solution is always to find a way to make the poorest amongst us to pay, to maintain the divide between rich and poor. If they truly cared about the disenfranchised they would be working to mitigate their unearned privileges rather than expecting vulnerable women to help them maintain their lifestyles.