Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why You Should Know The Name Billey Joe Johnson

This is a guest post from T-Love

T. Love is a Feminist Person of color and cofounder of the Radical Caring Network and the Peace Communities Progressive Online Community and SaveThePoorBrownChildren.org, a  Feminist Community Blog.  T has given workshops on Civil Disobedience and Indigenous Lifestyles Beyond Patriarchy at Z Media Institute, the Annual A World Beyond Capitalism Conference, National Conference on Organized Resistance and the Gesundheit Institute's Healthcare Justice Gathering among many other conferences worldwide and believes that love and action can create a better world.

image On December 8th, 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson died from a gunshot wound to the head. Police say he killed himself with a shotgun after being stopped for a simple traffic violation in Lucedale, Mississippi.[1] Several things seem to cast doubt on the official story, including an independent investigation that concluded it would have been impossible for the shot that killed Johnson to have been self-inflicted.

Many on the ground smell a murder and a cover-up. We don't have all the answers, but it's clear that in the racially divided town of Lucedale, all the ingredients exist for a miscarriage of justice.

I've joined ColorOfChange.org in demanding answers and justice for Billey Joe's family. Together, we can help ensure that the District Attorney feels the presence of a national spotlight, and let him know that anything short of a thorough investigation will result in massive attention and a call for outside intervention.

Please join me. It takes only a moment:

http://www.colorofchange.org/billeyjoe/?id=2044-495171

From the beginning, the District Attorney has treated the investigation of Billey Joe's death as a suicide or the result of an accidental self-inflicted injury. Based on his public statements and interactions with Billey Joe's family, it appears that the District Attorney hasn't looked into whether Billey Joe was killed by an officer or someone else. Again, we don't have all the answers, but here's what we do know:

- Billey Joe was at his former girlfriend's house minutes before the killing.[2] He never entered the house, but police were called to respond to an attempted burglary there.[3] This fact was not a part of the original story given by the police.

- Billey Joe's family say that his ex-girlfriend had been staying at her father's house because her mother threw her out for dating Billey Joe (she is White and Billey Joe was Black). They said Billey Joe knew to only go to the house when the girl's father was not present, that the two of them were on good terms even after he had broken up with her, and that the breakup was largely because of pressure from her father. The family also claims that there is a relationship between the officer present at the scene of Billey Joe's death and the girl's father.

- A witness heard two shots, not one, at the scene where Billey Joe died, according to an independent investigation launched by the Mississippi NAACP. The pathologist in that investigation has indicated that it would be impossible for a bullet from a a self-inflicted shot to enter in the manner that it did. He also said that given the length of Billey Joe's arms and the length of the shotgun, it would have been impossible for him to hold the weapon and fire it at himself.

- Billey Joe was a star athlete with scholarship offers from more than half a dozen schools. No one--including family, friends, and coaches--could think of a reason that Billey Joe would want to end his life.[4,5,6]

A true investigation would sort out fact from rumour. But we can't be sure that Johnson's family will get the investigation it deserves. In the case of the Jena 6 we saw a District Attorney and a judge incapable of carrying out justice in a racially charged environment. In the recent case of the murder of Oscar Grant by police (and many like it), we see how unlikely it is for District Attorneys to do their job when the suspect is an officer of the law. But in both these cases, public pressure has made all the difference by shining a spotlight on local authorities.

In the case of Billey Joe Johnson, we're looking for the truth and for justice. A minute of your time can help ensure his family gets both:

http://www.colorofchange.org/billeyjoe/?id=2044-495171

References:

1. http://tinyurl.com/aul9hd
2. http://www.sunherald.com/local/story/1050689.html
3. http://www.wkrg.com/news/flash_paper/12_19_08_billy_joe_johnson/
4. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0812/17/cnr.07.html
5. http://tinyurl.com/cs7cjm
6. http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_11280331


Polytechnique: Of Course We Need A Male Perspective

The French version of the movie Polytechnique was released in Quebec on Feb 6 and it has already caused quite a bit of controversy.  It was directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Quebec actress Karine Vanasse says she became involved in Polytechnique, the first film to be made about the Montreal Massacre, to tell a side of the story she believes hasn’t been heard — that of the male survivors, who watched as gunman Marc Lépine walked into a classroom at the city’s prestigious École Polytechnique engineering school, told the men to leave, and then shot 14 women because they were, as he put it, “feminists.”

image Each year on December 6th, Canadian women mourn the deaths of Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.  It is important to  honour their memory with the full knowledge that they paid the ultimate price for having the misfortune to be born women with the drive to believe that they deserved an education.

To ensure that there was no confusion as to why he felt the need to enter École Polytechnique and massacre 14 women, Marc Lépine left behind a detailed three page letter in which he blamed feminists for being “so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can”. He considered himself to be “rational” and therefore felt his rage against feminists was justified. He went on to state in his suicide note, “why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.” Lépine was so angry at the loss of unearned male privilege due to the advances of feminism, his letter also included a list of nineteen other women that he also wished to see dead.

It was with horror that I was to learn that this massacre which has come to symbolize violence against women in Canada had been filmed from a male perspective. Villeneuve the director justified this by saying, “We have talked a lot about how this drama has affected women, as we should have, but men were hurt as well. It had a major impact on them,” the 41-year-old director says. “I wanted to explore and illustrate the humiliation and shame that [those] men lived.”   14 women died but we must remember that men were hurt as well.

I am in no way denying that the men who witnessed this event were traumatized however, the first time that this story is told on the big screen should not be from the male perspective.  These 14 women died because of sexism and patriarchy and it dishonours their memory that this movie  is not told from their perspective. To imply that we have talked about them enough is even more disgusting.  While he rightfully shies away from glorifying  Lépine, focusing on men who were not the target of the violence or amongst the list of victims reifies the idea that female suffering should be understood by the ways in which it effects masculinity. 

The guilt and shame that male witnesses felt stemmed from their inability to protect the 14 women. Deeply written in our social  script regarding gender roles is the idea that women are helpless victims awaiting a knight in shining armour.  Somehow the connection between women as fragile creatures and men as strong failed to register in the mind of  Villeneuve as contributing to the violence that ended the lives of these 14 women. 

His ability to make the connections between what happened and the role of sexism in our society manifests  most when he speaks about Lépine.

“There are so many reasons why he probably did what he did. His father abused him. He had never slept with a woman. ( emphasis mine) It’s impossible to say why he did it. I didn’t want to try to explain it. It would have been reductive. I think it’s more powerful to embrace the enigma.” Either that, or it’s easier.

Of all of the twisted facts that came to make up Lépine’s life, it is telling that Villeneuve pointed out the fact that he had never slept with a woman.  It is as though he is victim blaming.  Oh, if only women had known their place and slept with this deranged murderer, he would not have had to slaughter so many of us.

To truly tell this story you need to understand how systemic sexism is in Canadian society.  Each time we turn a blind eye to the violence that women face, we in reinforce the idea that unless a woman is properly submissive, a man has the right to discipline her.   December 6 is not about men, it is about women and chronicling the dangers that we face.

Right after this incident many letters to the editor were written in newspapers claiming that Lepin was simply a lone gunman thus effectively denying the ways in which sexism is daily reinforced.  Though his actions would fall into the extreme category, women being assaulted is hardly a rare occurrence in Canada. Our entire society is still very much a reflection of male needs, and thought and if we cannot in case like this demand that women be made a priority, we have no hope of ending the patriarchal stronghold under which we live.


Drop It Like It’s Hot

We had some really great conversations this week. Each week as we engage with one another it makes me really happy to see the community that has grown up around this blog.  We cannot always agree but as long as we are talking there is hope.

I wanted to remind everyone that the deadline for submitting to the WOC and ally blog carnival is on the 10th.  The carnival will be posted on February 15th.  I would also like to say thank you to all of this weeks guest posters.  I appreciate your unique perspective.  I realize that when I examine an issue I can only see it from a certain vantage point which often leaves glaring omissions as I exist with many privileges .  Please continue to send in your guests posts via e-mail.  It does not have to be an original post a cross post would be great.  The more voices we have breaking down the issues from different perspectives the more that we can grow together.

As usual I have a list of some interesting posts that I came across this week.  Please check them out and when you are done, don’t forget to leave your link in the comment section.  Okay drop it like its hot y’all.

What Do You Mean By “Necessary?”

About the expression “person of color”

Is It Her Rape Fantasy Or His (trigger warning) 

On Little Black Girls, Beauty And Barbie Dolls

Tools and patriarchs: The re-normalizing of domestic abuse

Ongoing Echoes from the Women of the Long House

25 Years (graphic images of botched abortions)

Segregation leads to real prejudice, sexism

The return of Mona: Race and friendship (The Sequel)

Are “Fuck You” Safe Words?

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Jesse Lee Peterson: Can I Get A Negro Please

I was visiting one of my fav blogs transgriot when I noticed that Monica had awarded Jesse Lee Peterson, with a shut up fool award.  Not to be outdone, I decided that his commentary was also worthy of a Negro please award.

I think we all need to agree that Barack Obama was elected mostly by black racists and white guilty people.  Most black Americans, 96% of them are racists towards white Americans.  And white people feel guilty and they are afraid of being called racist… As we move on with Barack Obama in there, you are not going to be able to speak out against him at all or else you will be called a racist… There is no way that you can believe in God and vote for a guy like Barack Obama.

It is one thing to have a dissenting opinion but when it comes clear that the foundation of your arguments is internalized racism, you in my book have earned yourself a solid Negro please award.  I tell you, we don’t need to worry about white privilege as long as we have idiots like this that are willing to do the work for them.  I wonder if he is on David Dukes payroll?

image Mr. Peterson I am afraid you are going to have to get on the bus.  Don’t look all big eyed either pretending that you don’t know what I am talking about.  HMMM you know, that bus that includes all the other black people we would like to give away.

Flava flav, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, The entire Jackson family minus Janet, Ru Paul, Reverend T.J Jakes, Clarence Thomas,  Bernice King,  Don King, Mike Tyson, D.L Hughley, The entire Wayons family, OJ Simpson etc., and etc.

Don’t worry about being late because the bus will wait for your tired mangy ass.  The last thing we need is men of your kind getting on false news (read: Fox), telling the racists of this world exactly what they want to hear.  For your information idiot, it is impossible for a black person to be racist against a white person, because we do not exist with the institutional power to realize any negative thoughts we may have.  Racism equals hate + power.  I don’t know if you realize this but despite the expensive suit you are wearing, most black Americans do not live a life of privilege.  Men like you make me want to hit my head against a desk over and over again. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL. 


Dear Americans

I was elated to learn that Obamas first state visit is to Canada.  We, your maple syrup swilling Canadian neighbours have taken a huge liking to him.  It was my hope that he would address parliament and perhaps make a public statement but it seems he has get in and get out policy.  This saddens me as I had thought about taking the children to see him.  As you well know, our pitbull in a sweater vest, otherwise known as Harper is far from inspirational.  When I consider who Obama would have to break bread with, I completely understand why he just wants to get out of town.  Having spent a bit of time with George Bush, sitting down with his idiot clone could hardly have been an appealing option.

At any rate, the purpose of this post is to offer a proposal. For once, we can have a fair trade between our two countries.  We are willing to put on the table,  a lifetimes supply of maple syrup, turbot, and Tim Hortons as well as the province of Alberta, two free skating lessons, Peter Mansbridge and Prime Minister Harper for Barack Obama.  He does not have to be a naturalized citizen to be Prime Minister and I am sure Cannuck citizenship could be rushed through. I don’t know what you will use Harper for other than as a doorstop but keeping him is a deal breaker.

Should you decide not to accept this offer we will just continue with our less than stealth like invasion.  I know that you view us as your pinko, peace loving, socialist neighbours to the North but we have slowly been invading.  If we can sneak a hockey team into the desert (Phoenix Coyotes) imagine what will be possible, when all of our secret military bases (read: Tim Hortons franchises) become operational.  Yes indeed there is something inside that coffee.  Timmys is our path to global domination.

Before you know it, you will all be saying eh…wistfully getting cravings for poutine and saying tabernac with the best of them.  So sip sip sip away at the coffee.  Slowly but surely your world view will change, and suddenly Don Cherry will seem like a national hero, and you will become convinced that Ben Mulroney is cuter than Ryan Seacrest.  All of those years ago when we sent Alex Trebec over in the guise of annoying game show host,  you blindly ignored the threat.  He is our non human android figure set once again on red and white domination; annoyingly correcting your grammar and pronunciation with a head full of more useless data than seems humanly possible, 5 nights a week he has been sending subliminal messages through the tv screen.  Resistance is futile my Yankee cousins. 

If you are wondering why I am revealing states secrets now, it is because the fix is in.  It may have taken us generations but in the words of Stewie victory is ours.  If you do not willingly relinquish Obama, we shall be forced to make him watch hockey, hopped up on Timmys until he capitulates to our icy, pot smoking, peace loving demands.  A challenge has been issued, what say you?


The Invisible Mother

In feminist circles there is often commentary regarding our shared experiences as women. What is ignored is that though certain situations are similar based solely in gender, quite often we experience them differently when there is a race or class intersection. As mothers our capacity to love our children is boundless, but this is not nearly the universalizing experience as presented by most forms of media, or mainstream feminism. All mothers are not created equal. For the middle/upper class white woman, with her mini van and Prada purses there are plenty of visible representations of positive motherhood. If however you are a woman of color, the erasure in the discourse of motherhood is totalizing.

Women of color are not constructed as mothers; they are presented as irresponsible breeders who did not have the decency not to burden society with their offspring. Their right to reproduce is continually challenged because a capitalist economy does not encourage production without an obvious profit. The reality of the situation is, if a child grows in a poor household despite the pull yourself up by the boots rhetoric, they are most likely to grow into poor adults trapped by a system that has refused to give them equal opportunity from birth.

The mother/breeder binary is readily obvious in most parenting magazines. The stories are often written by white women of the privileged class, while the lived experiences of women of color are absent from the pages. Despite the courage and strength of will that is necessary to raise a child, when you exist as a marginalized body your stories are not deemed compelling, or marketable. Women of color are meant to serve as “mothers helpers,” not exist as actual mothers.

As the elite rush off to mommy and me gatherings in between scheduling for their high intensity careers, what is ignored is that the option to pursue such a range of possibility only exists because of the ability to exploit another woman. Poor so-called third world women who are often separated from their families function as an invisible support staff, permitting women of the privileged class to announce that yes Virginia, we can have it all.

These elite women are often presented by feminism as having benefitting from the legacy of women’s organizing struggles. The question then becomes, was it the goal to emancipate all women, or endow women of a certain class and race with the ability to exploit in the same fashion as white males? While Betty Friedan was writing about the gilded cage, women of color where already employed within the homes as domestic servants to white women that claimed to be imprisoned. For some it was the drudgery of domestic labour to feed their families, and for others it was a prison of the intellect.

Women of colour have experienced motherhood in unique ways. For the elite pregnancy often meant a time of reduced labour, but for the slave physical labour continued on in the fields. The faith and confidence with which a white mother bonded with her child was not accorded to the black female slave, at any moment her precious child could be sold away from her forever.

Even at the end of slavery, social workers continued the trend of destroying familial links for people of color. Native children were often stolen from their parents in what was considered benign friendship. The wombs that bore them were considered unfit to raise them. Their intuitive ways were not considered acceptable in a society that now encouraged scientific home management. What was this but the brutal repression of a culture in the name of uplifting a race?

Black families underwent the same sort of relocation plans. After a day of cooking and cleaning in white homes, when black women returned to their own family settings they were often too exhausted to provide the same form of care that they had given the white children under their charge. Often angry from the ill treatment and the daily debasement at the hands of her white employers, her children in whose name she daily laboured bore the brunt of her frustrations in the form of physical and mental abuse. Instead of seeking to diminish the responsibilities of these women, or search for a common bond based in their shared humanity, social workers removed black children from their mothers and placed them in the foster care system. In The biography of Malcolm X he relates the pain of being separated from his siblings and his mother after the murder of his father. Dick Gregory has also spoken openly of the harassment of his mother by social workers under the guise of child safety.

A poor working/under class mother of color faces the stigmatizations of gender, class and race; therefore their prescriptions on the idealized family unit could never be applicable. Deciding that one is an unfit mother for being unable to provide a home with heat, or a cupboard that is always stocked with the finest possible nutritional elements is not a reflection of motherhood, rather it is a physical testimony to the imbalanced racist, patriarchal, capitalist state, that seeks to profit from the exploitation and marginalization of poor women of color. That these social workers who invaded the spaces of women of color could not acknowledge the ways in which the very system that provided their employment created the living conditions at which they were so aghast, is a sign of unacknowledged white privilege. Whiteness will not see its own culpability in maintaining the hierarchy that has served to support the politics of so –called benign aid.

The white woman as expert on motherhood continued to be a model that was maintained. When we examine the sterilization of Indigenous women and Black women, the reason offered was to save us from our own biology. Unlike the pure sexuality that has been constructed for white women, women of color could not be trusted to choose when reproduction was appropriate and desirable. It was often theorized that we were overcome by our supposedly natural hyper sexuality. In many cases the women were denied informed consent and were sterilized against their will. Since reproduction is tied to womanhood in many Indigenous tribes, not only was the ability to become a mother removed but so was their female identity. To this very day many Indigenous women go without vital medical treatment for fear that their bodies will be violated once again by the medical establishment.

The purposeful sterilization of women along race and class lines amounts to a form of genocide. Programs like this were endorsed by women like Margaret Sanger. While the ability to choose is of paramount importance in the life of a woman as it endows her with agency in terms of reproduction and autonomy over her own body, such standards were not universally applied. The children of women of color were deemed a plague upon society for conditions that were not of their own making. Instead of examining the social markers like race, class and gender that lead to the issues that poor children of color face, sterilization was employed as the great equalizer. This was clearly an erroneous policy, as wealth and race advantage does not endow the body with anymore maternal instinct than destitution and race.

The demonization of poor mothers continues to this day. That the system is inherently imbalanced is not considered in the effort to justify the supposed failings of mothers of color as naturally occurring. When representative LaBruzzo offered one thousand dollars to women as a reward for submitting to sterilization this represented yet another attempt on the part of the elite white bourgeoisie to attack the poor and bodies of color. Eugenics has always been aimed at the most vulnerable members of society. When one considers his connection with David Duke the intention to secure white supremacy behind this proposal can hardly be denied. While his suggestion was attacked by the media, his ability to even offer it as a solution to the problems that are faced by poor women of color, is predicated on the historical disavowal of the legitimacy of our motherhood.

Our child rearing efforts are only noteworthy when they are performed in the maintenance of white supremacy. When mammy nurtures the white children under her care, though infantilized, she is considered a necessary cog for the maintenance of functional reproduction. In the ultimate form of betrayal she will one day witness the white children she was forced to nurture, instead of the fruit of her womb due to economic and racial disenfranchisement, apply their unearned racial privilege to her. In the end despite her efforts mammy is despised by all.

From the moment black women set foot in America in chains the entire experience of our motherhood and femininity has been complicated by the desire of whites to assert a hierarchy in which we are firmly located at the bottom. From mammy to jezebel to sapphire our roles continue to be constructed in complete absence of any recognition of our shared humanity. Sojourner Truth once famously asked ain’t I a woman, and today her daughters are still waiting on a response.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Could Have Been

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Thought I would share a laugh with you.

Looking at Fem2pt0 and the Feminist Web

This week was the Fem2pt0 feminist web conference.  I was not able to attend but was tweeted a link that included a listing of the top 30 feminist blogs.

http://www.feministing.com/
http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/
http://www.feministe.us/blog/
http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/
http://www.amptoons.com/blog/
http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/
http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/
http://www.now.org/
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
http://community.livejournal.com/ (1)
http://www.womensenews.org/
http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/
http://www.msmagazine.com/
http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/
http://www.feminist.org/
http://fetchmemyaxe.blogspot.com/
http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/
http://www.thecurvature.com/
http://www.guttmacher.org/
http://www.thefword.org.uk/
http://viv.id.au/blog/
http://www.womanist-musings.com/
http://www.blogher.org/
http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/
http://www.ppaction.org/
http://renegadeevolution.blogspot.com/
http://www.naral.org/
http://www.womensmediacenter.com/
http://www.wimnonline.org/WIMNsVoicesBlog/
http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/

At first I was thrilled to find myself on this list as Womanist Musings is still under a year old.  To find myself listed with such excellent feminist blogs really gave me a shot of confidence. After I got over the initial tee hee look at me, I decided to have a closer look at the above list. 

In the larger group blogs there are women that are of colour however, Womanist Musings is the only individual blog written by a WOC to make this list.  As much as I toot my own horn, I am not arrogant enough to believe that my blog and my voice represent the best of what WOC have to say on the web.  Once this realization became clear to me my happiness turned to bitterness.

I decided to have a look at how the data was complied to generate this list.

  • See conversation territories and communities on the social web
    By narrowing the web to its relevant conversation spaces, we can focus on what’s important, we can ignore noise in order to analyse and measure the impact of visible and influential opinions. Seeing also means following conversations wherever they come from or go to. This is why linkfluence also analyses websites and conversations which, outside of communities’ borders, interest the latter’s members.
  • Hear conversations
    Beyond listening, there’s understanding. Messages coming from the social web are ordered by linkfluence in order to single out those that are the most read, listened to or viewed, those that are the most commented or referred to. Hearing rather than listening, it’s going way below the surface of conversations to analyse sentiment, arguments, mentioned opinion shapers, topics, semantics fields or the semiotics of the relevant spaces.

Who decides what is and isn’t relevant conversations?   If a womanist blogger decides that her primary focus is race and how it effects her life, does that suddenly make her less feminist?  I believe that considering that feminism has a history of silencing  WOC when we dare to speak about the ways in which race effects our life, this is an extremely important question to ask.  Were there any WOC on the panel that decided what constituted a “relevant” conversation.  Finally, who gets to decide what is and isn’t feminist, considering that perspectives change not only by race, but by class, ability and sexuality.

What I find even more disturbing is the evidence that our blogs were chosen because of how often they are linked to.  This once again brings up the issue of inclusiveness within the feminist blogosphere.   Even though WOC participate in the major blogs, our blogs are not generally understood to be a major force within the blogosphere.  It was this knowledge that inspired me to create the WOC and ally blog carnival.

WOC have routinely called upon white feminists to not only share their space but give considered thought to what we have to say.   I have held fast to the desire for openness by making my space open to those who identify as feminist/womanist across race,class and gender lines.  This is not something that has been replicated across the blogosphere. 

To say it plainly, when we speak out about racism what we receive is backlash.  Whether it is me in my guest posting stints at various blogs, or WOC bloggers on their home blogs, time and time again the resistance to what are essential basic concepts is forceful and repugnant.  We make people uncomfortable.  Rather than dealing with the fact that this discomfort comes from being forced to acknowledge privilege, many instantly go on the defensive.  It is like daily waging war against that which seeks to construct us as the eternal “other”.

Our blogs are considered controversial, no matter how reasonable we try to be in our approach.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that I am intimidating, or that I am angry and hostile.  That these words have often been used to shut down conversation or to render the speaker irrelevant is not given much thought.  The point is to discipline me into conforming to white ideals and focusing on a feminism that excludes my experience.  Whiteness is the privileged identity in every single social justice movement and feminism is very resistant to any form of change. 

The blogosphere is a completely voluntary association.  Unlike a womens studies classroom, one can choose to avoid reading blogs written by WOC.  Our comments are often loudly drowned out when we visit any of the major blogs and a gang like mentality quickly ensues., yet we are not to view this as racism..oh no they are attacking us individually, believing that we are blind to the fact that the same trend continually occurs.  Many of these blogs constitute an unsafe environment for our participation.  Racism flourishes in a covert manner and is supported in many cases by the group think that often passes for engagement in comment sections. 

I have said that white women need to do their due diligence and STFU & L however, engagement is equally important.  One must take the time to learn the basics and then have the courage to engage in meaningful and critical conversation.  Choosing to avoid blogs written by WOC or refusing to engage in meaningful conversation is one of the various ways in which whiteness maintains its hegemony within feminist circles.  A failure to actively participate on blogs written by WOC allows whiteness to function as the representative image of feminism.  If we cannot see our voices appreciated or our experiences respected, WOC will continue to disavow feminism despite the fact that sexism continues to play a pivotal role in our life's chances.

One phenomenon that I find particularly interesting is what I like to call white knuckle rage.  It is actually quite common in the blogosphere.  A white woman may express anger at some form of racial discrimination that she has witnessed and is praised at being so open and forceful in the cause of justice.  A WOC may point out the same issue and she is angry and irrational.  Somehow, magically whiteness is deemed better at articulating our struggles than we are.

In the end Fem2pt0 list is not at all surprising to those of us who have struggled to gain readership or foster a positive community around our blogs.  Blogging is hard work and it is often unrewarded but when one must fight racism as well in attempt to be deemed relevant, it makes the task difficult if not impossible.  The very open nature of the internet reinforces white privilege.  When given a choice, people avoid what makes them uncomfortable and return again and again to spaces that reinforce their social place.  It is no accident that there are no WOC blogs under the category of major blog, just as it is no accident that Womanist Musings is the sole blog on the Fem2ptO list. 

I thank my readers for engaging but I must issue a challenge to all feminist readers to look outside of their comfort zone and truly engage with the marvellous voices in the blogosphere.  You will only gain from looking at issues from a perspective that has not been overly normalized and privileged. WOC do not exist to function as a support network in feminism without acclaim or recognition for our efforts.  Our talents and our goals need to be recognized if this movement is to grow.  Women continue to be under attack and  if we allow privilege to divide us, it is patriarchy that will reap the benefit.

 


Confronting Hyper Sexuality in the Black Community

As the mother of a young child who is approaching his tween years, thoughtful consideration of our social dialogue as it relates to sex and sexuality has been of great personal concern. Along with assuring that my child receives accurate information to make the correct decisions for him, ensuring that he understands that even the options that are available to him are strictly a result of his race and gender are an essential part of an evolving conversation on sex and sexuality.

When educating black children about sex, it is not enough to speak about the mechanics of the act. Though it is an absolute necessity to stress safe sex in a time where AIDS has reached a truly epidemic stature within our communities, the why we choose to engage in sex can and should be an equally important conversation.

Children come to an understanding of our world by interacting and confronting the agents of socialization. They will receive clear and direct instructions on performing gender, race and sexuality. These intersections are internalized and accepted as normative, despite the fact that they are often damaging on multiple levels.

Black children in particular must deal with the social idea that their bodies are hyper sexual. This can be seen in the overtly sexualized images of black women in rap videos, or the black male as rapist construction. In both of the aforementioned examples, sexuality is perverted in that it is presented as overly aggressive, and existing outside of normalized engagement.

The virgin/whore dichotomy is continually reified through the lens of race wherein white women exist with the construction of purity and the black female is reduced to the ever wanton Jezebel. This construction has its foundation in slavery. It was meant to justify the repeated rape of black women by their white male slave owners.

Though we have long since moved beyond slavery as a condition of living in the broader culture, its shadow continues to interject itself into our discourse about sex and sexuality. Young black girls quickly internalize the idea that their bodies exist for consumption based in the falsehood that they are continually desirous of sex. This construction removes the agency from the decision to have sex and implies that sex must occur because that is the foundation of the black female identity. It further reifies a hierarchy of beings wherein the black female is routinely located at the bottom. Bell Hooks theorizes that the black woman has no institutional other, and when we examine the discourse of sex and gender what immediately becomes clear is that the politics of colonization and oppression continually manifest in ways in which foster a negative sexual identity in black females.

Reducing black women to simply sexual beings without agency or autonomy over their physical beings translates into high rates of teen pregnancy and a low cultural self esteem. If your identity is based on sexual performance rather than achievement in education, it perpetuates the idea that success can only be achieved by conforming to the role of eternal Jezebel. This creates an unhealthy sexuality in that sex is no longer something one engages in to share pleasure or manifest a loving relationship, but to assert a form of self worth.

While a healthy sexuality is important to achieve a well rounded sense of self, the overvaluation of it is detrimental. Reducing women to what they do with their vaginas rather than with their brains serves patriarchal interests. For black women who have a history of slavery the perpetuation of the Jezebel complex amounts to the continued colonization of black female bodies.

This form of sexuality is also heterosexist nature in that it constructs women as existing solely for the purposes of male sexual pleasure, while ignoring the existence of same sex loving women. Lesbian love is delegitimized because it does not actively serve patriarchy; and therefore its erasure is not only a slight on black women, but on all women that identify as lesbian. Queer culture is very much a part of the black community, but when sexuality is controlled by outside forces instead of individually, certain identities become invisible if it is deemed that their existence does not help to maintain the race/class/gender hierarchy.

The model held for the black male is quite similar to the black female. It once again finds it origins in slavery; wherein the black male was constructed as the sexually aggressive savage to promote distrust between black men and white women. In this way white men are assured their place at the top of the race and gender hierarchy, while constructing themselves as the saviour of white women and the socially evolved masters of black men.

The hyper masculine sexuality that is presented as a model to black men can be seen in rap videos, and throughout mainstream media. The black male sexuality that is offered is one that is desirous of continues conquest; wherein the pleasure of the act itself is over looked. Black men are perceived not to engage in sex because it is an act of intimacy between two beings; rather it is construed as an act that reifies their masculinity. In a world where in the black male is continually reduced to an exotic “other” combating such images can be difficult. If masculinity is derived through sexual conquest, then this reinforces a problematized identity.

Just as same sex loving is detached from black female sexuality, a queer identity is similarly not associated with black male sexuality. Black masculinity is forever measuring itself against that of the white male. Due to the historic imbalance caused by racism any form of sexuality that is deemed “socially deviant” is actively denied. This has given rise to living a life on the “down low”. Though black males are certainly not the only ones to lead closeted lives, the tendency to deny sexual orientation is higher because of the association of black masculinity and sexual conquest. This is not healthy and is ultimately damaging to the individual on many levels.

We have a tendency to speak about sex as though it is divorced from other social elements, yet it is one of the most complex forms of human interactions. When we ignore the complexities of race, class and gender in our discussions it has a tendency to minimize the ways in which different groups of people not only understand but experience sexuality. What must be paramount when we seek to educate our youth is that they be made to recognise that though they are the products of social construction, as individuals they exist with ability to transcend norms and create a sexuality that is not only more positive, but a reflection of their right to possess a sexuality in which the onus is on individual agency.

When we begin to discuss sexuality with black children, it is important to make connections to the ways in which racism has affected our understanding of what it is to be black, while at the same time exist as a sexual being. Reclaiming sexuality from the race infused dialog would foster a more positive understanding of what it is to be sexual thus encouraging youth to see this as a decision that is not synonymous with claiming their gender identity, but in sharing an experience of intimacy with another.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Motherhood Needs To Be A Choice

For those unable to view video, the above is a portrayal of Obama as a fetus.  It highlights the fact that he is the child of a single mother and still managed to become the first African American president of the United States.

This video is disgusting on many levels.  CatholoicVote.org wants us to think about the capabilities and or possibilities of the children that have not been born.  What these fundies fail to realize is that Barack was a wanted and loved child.  His mother struggled but she invested in him.  A parent that is forced to raise a child that they do not want will not take the time to nurture, and guide a child towards success in life. 

While life is precious, quality of life is equally as important.  These pro birth people give little thought as to what kind of life they would be sentencing these “children” to.   A life of poverty is not pleasant, yet they are more than willing to sentence these “children” to that.  Schools are clearly failing and yet there is no rallying cry amongst these pro life groups to focus on education. 

As much as this commercial is meant to show possibilities, it fails to take into account that simply breathing does not amount to a successful life.   As a mother of two I can attest to the fact that daily Mayhem and Destruction demand great amounts of my time.  When these children fall through the cracks, socially we blame the mother and we do not look at the ways in which we have failed said child. 

This pro birth movement is not about the children, it is about punishing women for having the nerve to have teh sex.   You will notice that most of these organizations are extremely opposed to birth control as well.  They would have us all be a quiverfull society, yet as the case of Ms.Suleman clearly highlights, if there is the smallest indication that a mother will be dependent on the state to fulfill her parental obligations, the protest becomes hateful and anti woman. 

Like any other role taken on by women, motherhood is highly disciplined.  Often there are different rules across class and race but all stand to ensure that women are forever second guessing their decisions under the watchful eye of patriarchy. Though every child is conceived with a father, no such social mandates exist for men.   Fathers are given a free pass when they neglect their children to pursue their aspirations as masculinity is defined by the ability to provide; whereas a woman is expected to abandon all at the first shrill scream of an infant. 

Make no mistake the pro life movement is about two things: control and power.  It is genderized to ensure that women continue to be a slave to our biology thus sentencing us to a life wherein our ability to conceive necessarily damns us to the pink ghetto.  Patriarchy does not want us to to pursue our desires; they will tolerate no challenge to their historical authority.  The message is wrapped in guilt and shame and as womens right increasingly come under attack, it becomes that much more important for us to demand that women be allowed to decide for ourselves when and if a child has a role to play in our lives.  

Without the ability to choose, a child becomes nothing more than a sentence to poverty or possibly a threat to the mother with the high risks involved in back ally abortions.  It is time we challenge these people to have the courage of their convictions.  If indeed their desire is to protect children we must demand that they begin to act in their behalf.  It is at that time I believe that we will witness the true hypocrisy of these organizations. 

H/T Sociological Images


Son of the Soil??

This is a guest post by Nia

Eric Holder has just been sworn in as the new Attorney General of the United States of America and like much of American politics, this ordinarily wouldn’t mean a single thing to me. However, this seems to be causing quite a stir in my country Barbados for no reason other than the fact that Eric Holder’s parents are from Barbados. (I am not sure if his parents currently reside in Barbados or the US). I am happy for Mr. Holder and wish him well in his new position. However, the media and government celebrations here at home over Mr. Holder’s appointment raised an interesting question and something that I see occur quite frequently. Many countries, especially those in the developing world, do not seem to celebrate “their own” unless they are in some way affiliated with the United States of America or in some cases Europe, and I wonder why. I awoke this morning to hear our government proclaim that Mr. Holder’s appointment was “an achievement for Barbados.” An achievement how exactly? Barbados didn’t do anything to get him appointed. His parents are Barbadian but that’s about as far as it goes.

What’s equally interesting is that Mr. Holder, as far as I am aware, does not particularly identify himself as being a Barbadian. I personally don’t see why he should. He was not born or raised in Barbados, his formative years, schooling and developing all took place in the US, so the US should be the ones celebrating him if anything. I am not sure if he even visits Barbados.

There are many homegrown Barbadians who are doing great things in Barbados but they are not really celebrated or acknowledged by our government. It seems your accomplishments can only be considered worthy of validation and accomplishment if you “leave the rock”.

A similar example is with a famous British-born model by the name of Jodie Kidd, who has parents who reside in Barbados. Apparently Ms. Kidd spent some of her childhood years in Barbados and vacations here from time to time. Her parents are white UK expats who own a villa here and host an annual theatre event called Holder’s Season which puts on European-type plays. That’s all I know about them. Like most white expats they do not really interact with local Barbadians or claim any allegiance to indigenous Barbadian culture. They tend to keep company only among other European expats, and maintain their European culture. The Kidds even flew in a Swedish steel pan band to play at their Old Year Night’s celebration, despite the fact that there are many local, extremely talented steel pan players on the island who could have done an excellent job.

But if a photo of Jodie Kidd appears in any of our island’s newspapers there is always a caption saying something like: “Bajan-bred Jodie Kidd…”. What is ironic was that when the US entertainment channel E! did a documentary on Ms. Kidd, the only mention Barbados got was when Ms. Kidd’s nanny proclaimed: “When Jodie got into trouble as a child, I would tell her if she didn’t behave herself I would pack her on a boat back to Barbados!” And Jodie would yell: “Oh no, PLEASE don’t do that!” This is how many US and European expats in the Caribbean regard the territories that were formerly colonized by the UK. Hot, uncivilized, under-developed purgatories (Heart of Darkness and all that) that they can’t wait to leave. After they buy up all the land and villas and plunder the best resources from them of course.

Same with the actress Minnie Driver, who also spent some of her childhood in Barbados. Have you ever heard her identify herself as having Bajan roots? The UK and the rest of the world certainly do not see her as being anything other than British. Yet we in this part of the world (the Caribbean) have this urge to claim them as one of us.

Is it a symptom of a mind not fully decolonized? Many do argue that the US is the new colonial master after all. Or is it simply pure, unadulterated capitalism? Kenya is expecting a rush of Western tourists due to Obama’s popularity and top designer perfume houses such as L’Artisan Parfumeur are rushing to release “African-inspired” fragrances now and so on. Perhaps we are just trying to cash in like everyone else. Whatever the reason, it is a bit puzzling and brings to the forefront more serious issues of Caribbean and post-colonial identity.


You Can Talk About Your Foot, But What About Your Vagina?

Vagina, cunt, pussy, snatch, v jay jay, the unmentionable part…you know your whoo hooo.  That dark place of mystery that is at once desired while at the same time criticized, disciplined, shaved, tweaked, plucked, massaged, licked, kissed, adorned and ignored.  Can you even think of a body part more complex than 6 inches below your navel, residing right between your legs?

While not all women have vaginas for those of us that do, how we negotiate the ways in which society views our bodies directly informs how we feel about our genitalia.  While feminism has worked very hard to ensure that women are not reduced to our girly bits, quite often this forestalls open conversation about our vaginas.  

The vagina and anything emanating from it are often seen as foul.  There is a direct relation to the social status of women and the ways in which our genitalia is understood.  Vagina is the word we whisper, to ashamed to even mention the word in polite company.

Every time I bring this topic up someone is quick to arrive to tell me why talking about my vagina is inappropriate.  Most recently I was told “oh that is so vagina monologue can we just move on”.  I could not help but wonder why I should move on when I am going to have a vagina until my dying day.  Why should I only talk about it when it is the cool or the in thing to do?  

To the men that want to fuck me, my vagina is more than a wet hole for your pleasure.  Yeah its hot and slick but its not about you, its about me; what I want and my needs.  If she decides to be a dirty girl you can be sure that the brain behind her made the conscious decision to allow such activity.

When I think of all the wonderful things that my vagina can do, from allowing me to experience mind blowing orgasms to functioning as the canal that allowed the birth of my beautiful children, I am inspired by her power.  It makes me want to say to hell with the discomfort of others and scream her name from the mountaintops.  There is power between my legs and the best part of it is, that it is reinforced by my ability to think critically and make conscious decisions.

Many would like to judge us by the actions of our vaginas, giving birth is deemed a proper function, withholding sex unless given permission elevates the value of your snatch through obedience; however, the vagina need not be redeemed by action, its simple existence as part of the human anatomy qualifies it is as good.  We don’t feel shame about our thumbs, our knees or our eyes; we reject the vagina in part because of its extraordinary capabilities.  Patriarchy fears my cunt, because the minute I stop believing the bullshit lies they have told about it from my birth, I free myself from the belief that the feminine is somehow less than.

My cunt talk is not about being edgy, or avante garde, it is about me expressing a love for my body.  When cisgendered men worship at the throne of the phallus, endowing it with the power to define essential aspects of masculinity, we do not deem this less than because we have already accepted the overvaluation of the penis. Why should women not view our genitalia with the same regard?  If we view the penis as powerful we can view the vagina the same way.  Indeed we are more than our girly bits but that does not mean that we should not respect the power and the beauty of the pussy.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Justice for Jason

This is a guest post by Rachel

One night last February, Jason Vassell, an African-American student at UMass Amherst, was in his dorm room with two friends. Unbeknownst to them, two young men (Jonathan Bosse and John Bowes) who were looking for a friend of theirs were peering in the window, and didn’t like what they saw. Although they did not know Vassell or his friends, who happened to be white women, they began yelling racial epithets, banging on the window, and demanding to know what he was doing in there with the girls. When Vassell refused to come outside and fight them, as they requested, one of them broke the window with his fist. They then gained access to the lobby of the dorm, where they confronted Vassell, and a fight ensued. Before leaving his room, Vassell had armed himself with a small pocketknife, and during the fight he defended himself with it. Bosse and Bowes struck Vassell first, but sustained multiple minor stab wounds, and Vassell ended up with a concussion and a broken nose. When he was able to break free, Vassell escaped behind a locked security door, and his assailants continued to pound on the door, yelling for him to come back out and fight, until the police arrived.

These are the basic facts of the case, as accurately as they can be pieced together from court documents, the reports of many eye witnesses, and the limited information from the surveillance videos that Vassell’s defense lawyers could release. Based on this description, it would seem obvious that Bosse and Bowes are the assailants in this case, and Vassell is the victim. However, in the eyes of the justice system, Vassell is the assailant and Bosse and Bowes are his victims. In spite of the abundance of evidence, the previous criminal records of Bosse and Bowes, which involve other similar incidents, and the fact that Vassell has no previous criminal record, prosecutors have filed major criminal charges against Vassell while only pursuing a minor charge against one of his assailants. Racial motives are the only plausible explanation for this.

The case of Jason Vassell contains many great examples of racial rhetoric at work. Words and phrases that invoke deeply-rooted preconceptions and attitudes recur throughout the case. To begin with, the motive of the assailants seems to be tied in to their objection to the fact the Jason was hanging out with two white women. After the case had attracted some media attention, an op-ed in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian described Jason as being taller and heavier than he actually is, claimed that he approached Bosse and Bowes first, and describes campus community members who have stood up for Jason as “furious activists” who are just trying to cause a lot of chaos. One of the police officers who was involved in the investigation of the case repeatedly suggested that Jason was a drug dealer, in spite of a complete lack of any evidence that would suggest that drugs were involved in the conflict in any way. Finally, Bosse and Bowes initially told police that Jason had approached them outside the dorm, wearing a ski mask and carrying a knife and an iron (of all things!). These words and phrases are carefully chosen because of the history they tap into and the emotions they invoke.

Today is the one-year anniversary of this event, and Justice for Jason (http://www.justiceforjason.org/) is holding a call-in day. Their hope is that many people will call the DAs office and express their outrage at the injustice involved in the charges that have been brought against Jason. You can participate by contacting the DA at (413) 586-9225, or via email at elizabeth.d.scheibel@state.ma.us.


Boo Yaa It’s Almost Period Time

This is a guest post from Ruth

Ruth is a 30-something mother from just outside of Liverpool, UK. She regularly blogs over at Mothers for Women's Lib and keeps her own personal blog, Look Left of the Pleiades.

Everyone's been talking about it. Periods, PMT/PMS, sanitary protection....

So I'm weighing in.

My experience of periods, pmt/s and sanitary protection. And being a hippy.

I can't remember my first period. Which I think is a shame. I'd love it if I'd had some kind of "rite of passage". But then again, I am a bit of a hippy (more on that later). Can't remember my first kiss either though, and barely remember my first shag (no more on that later though)!

I remember in Fourth Year Juniors (now known as year six, I think) all the boys going to an assembly while us girls sat in the classroom being given a talk by the lady from Tampax, about what was going to happen. We all got given a lovely pink plastic case, looked like a pencil case, but in fact was for discreetly carrying tampons (tampax, of course).

The sanitary protection adverts when I was growing up were like this one:

Or they had women on skates in leotards drifting over beaches, or doing other physical activity. Tied in nicely with what our PE teacher told us in first year seniors (along with "horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow") which was that the best cure for PMT, both the physical symptoms and the emotional ones was... to get out of the house and go for a jolly good run! No mention of the actual - you know - blood, itself. It was all tied up in euphemisms and metaphor. It was a bit "you know what I'm talking about here, ladies".

And yet my experience didn't quite tally up with the adverts, or the PE teacher's suggestion, or the nice pretty pink boxes. I hated my period. Not so much the pains, or the emotional side. That passed me by, when I was younger, to some extent. But the mess! I hated the mess! It felt disgusting, embarrassing and wrong.

Once (I was bullied a lot in school - whole other story) the girls in the PE changing room stole my tampons, and knickers. No one would admit to it. I bled down my legs the entire afternoon, too embarrassed to ask a teacher for a spare tampon. I went to the toilet and mopped up the blood. I felt shameful. I could see and smell the blood through my dark blue culottes. My Mum picked me up from school that day in her car - I can't remember why, I normally walked home - and I was in hysterics. I stood sobbing in the shower, washing away the blood. I was about 14.

And yet, from that moment on, I decided it was time for a change. It was about this same time I started getting really interested in feminism. Of course, like just about everyone else, I have huge problems with Germaine Greer these days, but back then, the idea that true liberation lay in tasting your own menstrual blood held great appeal for me. I don't remember any specifics, but I recall, somewhere, a hazy idea that I would never be as embarrassed by my period ever again.

I don't know why I had this idea, but I also decided that I would start colouring my hair with red once a month. My hair at the time was a dark-ish blonde (no idea what colour it is naturally, now) and with Wella Shaders, I started to put wash-in / wash-out red, once every month, at period time.

Fast forward another ten years and I bought myself a Mooncup. I adored it, and would still be using one if birth problems hadn't knackered my pelvic floor. (I now use washable pads.) I used to pour the blood from the mooncup into a jug, add water, and use it to water the plants. (Now I use the water from the jug in which I've soaked the pads.) I felt like I was "offering" something of myself back to the earth - again, more hippy stuff, I suppose. I pour it mainly on the cherry blossom tree under which is planted the placenta from my son's birth.

I had a very brief stint on the contraceptive pill in the early noughties. I was only on it for about six months, but it sent me mad. Mad as in angry, mainly, but also mentally ill. I remember one particular incident involving raw chicken, piss and a hammer. Best not to ask. It also drastically lowered my libido. I came off it in favour of condoms and the madness left me, but I don't think my libido's ever completely recovered. Why am I digressing? Because the pill regulated my periods. I bled a lot more lightly. I didn't get any physical pain. But the slight relief from that was not worth all the emotional pain.

Of course, when I was pregnant, I didn't have a period. I remember my period should have come at the middle/end of July, 2006, and was a few days late. Then a week late. Then another few days. I didn't believe I was pregnant though (although we had been ttc) because I had cramps like period pains, and felt emotional as per usual. But the period got later and later, and eventually I took a pregnancy test which was positive (the pain had been implantation cramps).

And then I didn't have a period again for a long time. Pregnancy, and frequent breastfeeding, saw to that. When I returned to paid work in January 2008 I had a warning bleed, for half a day (less frequent breastfeeding). My body was telling me I could no longer rely on lactational amenorrhea as a form of contraception. But I didn't have an all-guns-blazing full clear out period until I stopped pumping and went to morning, evening and night-time breastfeeding only, in April 2008. That particular period went on for over a week, like my body was making up for lost time.

But the funny thing is, I wasn't sorry. I wasn't upset to have my periods back. In fact, I was over the moon (lunar connotations intended)! Because my body never ceases to fascinate me. It produces hormones that ebb and flow with the pull of the moon, like the tide. Every month, once a month, I feel angry; I want to rage at the world; I want to scream like a harpy at all the injustices meted out against my gender. Is this anger somehow unjustified because it is hormonally driven? Is this once-monthly rage the exception, and the rest of the time is "normal"? Or is this the real me, peering out, just for a short while?

It's when I feel at my most powerful - and at the same time my most vulnerable. I say things I don't mean (or do I?) that have the propensity to wreck friendships and relationships. I lash out. I feel out of control - but at the same time, like a force of nature.

And... a secret now... I do not mind the pain any more. In fact there is part of me that quite relishes it. Some masochistic thing in me, perhaps. But the truth is, it reminds me of the pain of my labour with my child. And yet my labour was a medically induced, high intervention affair. It was something that was done to me, not something I had any possession of. This is something that comes from within me. My body has made this happen, and I control it.

I used to take Starflower oil (like Evening Primrose oil, but a lot more gamma-linolenic acid for your money) around period time. It calmed me a little and even eased away some of the pain. I can't recommend it enough, if you want to take that route. But ... I don't any more. I have tasted my own menstrual blood and my own menstrual power. And I don't want to go back.

And yet. (There's always an "and yet" isn't there?)

I said I was going to talk about "being a hippy". It seems to me there are two almost opposing views within feminism sometimes. Being overly simplistic, one is the "embrace your 'femaleness'" culture, which celebrates women as powerful beings and proto-goddesses - when they don't deny their own bodies, that is. So, natural births, natural periods, that kind of thing. So far so good, I suppose but the problem is it becomes tied up with this whole "woman = nature" thing. Women is nature, is green land ready to be ploughed and fertilised, is powerful only in her ability to be impregnated or tamed by man, likes ribbons and kittens (okay, I made that last bit up). Whereas man is explorer, is hero, is conqueror, is civilisation... and you start to see the problem.

And the other side to that coin is the "don't be controlled by your 'femaleness'" culture. Control your periods or cut them out all together with technology, have strong pain relief during labour, etc. Again, fair enough. But the problem with this side is that, either, it can quickly become "hate everything that has been traditionally gendered female". So, hate motherhood, hate breastfeeding, hate all children, hate sewing and bunnies. (Well, okay, maybe not bunnies.) Or, it ties into the "hide your true 'femaleness' and show a male-defined femininity" culture of waxing, shaving, toning, tanning endorsed by the mainstream.

To some extent, until the ways in which we define ourselves become generally accepted, we do have to fit into other people's definitions sometimes. And if I only have these three options to choose from, I would choose the first. I suppose - to my mind - it's the best of a bad job.

But I'd rather have the ability to define my own femininity, thanks very much. I mean, I don't want to be a Goddess when it comes at the expense of being conquered by the Explorer-man: I enjoy my periods but I don't want to be the one who does all the other "nurture" stuff like changing every single nappy and always being the one who gets up at five a.m. with the baby.

I was going to write the caring for the environment, and reducing or making easier traditionally "female" tasks and the problems involved in reconciling both (focusing in particular on reusable sanitary protection). But I think that's a post for another day. I'm tired... I'm due on, remember?


Black History Month

I was reminded via e-mail that February is black history month.  A regular reader was astonished to find that I had not done the obligatory celebration post and instead posted what they deemed nonsense.  Apparently this is a glaring omission on a blog that regularly deals with race. 

The omission was quite purposeful on my part.  At no time throughout the month will you find a post especially dedicated to the celebration of Black History month.  I will continue to discuss race and the ways in which it intersects with all of the isms however, celebrating a false feel good month is not my idea of treating Blacks as equals in society.

Black History month gives people an excuse to claim tolerance and understanding without doing any real work to change the ways in which the races interact.  For a brief 28 days of 365 that make up a year, people will briefly acknowledge the contributions of blacks and then return to privileging whiteness in every single social institution.  Even while we are in the middle of said celebration, whites continue to complain about how racist Black History month is.  “Imagine if you had a white month”, is what gets repeated continuously during the month of February. The fact that every month is white history month gets ignored.

The ironic part about the above statement is that black history month is indeed racist but not because there is no equivalent white history month.  It is racist because it turns blackness into a mockery.  If Black History and accomplishments were truly appreciated we would not need a month to celebrate them; it would be integrated into our lives in the natural course of events.  Black history month continues to exist because of racism.

This year many point to the election of Barack Obama as an added reason to celebrate.  While the election of Barack is historic it does not change the daily lived experience of blacks across North America.  Each generation we have seen exceptional blacks break through the glass ceiling however the masses continue to daily suffer from racism, and class exploitation.

I don’t feel that doing the obligatory post daily for 28 days will change anything, it will only highlight the fact that we remain a completely divided society without offering any concrete conclusions.  I further refuse to provide an education in black history to those who expect that blackness, or anti-racism should be spoon feed to them on their timetable. 

This blog is about engaging in conversations and I believe that is the best approach to breaking down the walls that continue to divide us from one another.  Pretending for one month out of twelve that there is a connection or that we somehow value contributions when we don’t, does not get us anywhere.  So, to the next person who wants to wish me happy black history month, how about you skip it and instead spend the rest of the year working to dismantle privilege and deal with race critically.

That’s It Fuck The Pope

I have always tried to be respectful in my criticism of the Pope and the Catholic church, but this week the Holy asshole has gone to far.   First he reversed the ex communication of a holocaust denier and now he has promoted an Austrian Bishop who called Katrina Gods punishment.  Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, is to become auxiliary bishop in the Austrian city of Linz.

According to the Guardian, In 2005, he wrote in a parish newsletter that Hurricane Katrina was an act of "divine retribution" for the sins of a sexually permissive society.

He said it was worth considering whether environmental catastrophes should not be seen as a result of "spiritual environmental pollution" - a type of "divine retribution" for New Orleans' relaxed attitude towards sexual promiscuity and homosexuality.

"It is surely not an accident that all five of New Orleans' abortion clinics, as well as nightclubs were destroyed," he wrote, adding: "It's not just any old city that has gone under, but the people's dream city with the 'best brothels and the most beautiful whores'."

This is the kind of man that the Pope feels should represent Catholicism.  I won’t even spend my precious time breaking down exactly what is wrong with the arguments presented by Gerhard Wagner, if you don’t know from reading the above quote you share his idiotic issues.

While these fundies are busy making pronouncement about others they cannot figure out why week after week church attendance is dropping.  At the rate they are going the fucking Anti-Christ would have to plop his evil ass down in Times Square to bring people back to the church.  The bible as a document is problematic as it is filled with  contradictions, we can certainly don’t need to   add any more human idiocy with ridiculous pronouncements and hateful declarations.

The hypocrisy of the actions of the Vatican is simply stunning.  How can you supposedly represent God/Goddess and yet continually project such intolerance and hatred towards the God/Goddess creations?  It simply does not make any sense; it defies logic and explanation.  In the end, the Pope is turning Christianity into nothing more than a perversion of everything that I consider holy. What is there left to say but FUCK The Pope. Fuck your ignorance, fuck hypocrisy, and fuck your hatred.  You bring no blessings to this earth.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rod Blagojevich: When the Ends Justify the Means

Once again I have a new post up over at Global Comment

It is official, Governor R Blagojevich has been convicted in the Senate despite an impassioned plea. Listening to his speech the other day, I noticed that the one theme that he kept returning to was that the ends justify the means.

He continually cited what he deemed to be work that he had done for the public good, e.g. procuring cheap prescription drugs from Canada, despite the fact that he knew that this was an illegal activity. In this instance to Blagojevich, helping the poor and the struggling was infinitely more important than following the letter of the law.

“I have done nothing wrong,” he said repeatedly in his thirty minute address. Note that he did not say that he had not performed an illegal act. His defence completely relied upon the listener to judge from a position of morality, rather than legality.

Many breathe a sigh of relief now that he is the former Governor. He has been deemed an embarrassment and therefore did not receive a single vote in his favour. Instead of appearing at his trial, Blagojevich spent the week making the rounds on talk shows and various networks. From the very beginning, he asserted that he would not receive a fair trial and that the outcome had already been decided. It is my belief that his outreach was an attempt to sway public opinion in his favour and by so doing, leave a legacy whereby he was perceived as a victim of political manoeuvring rather than a criminal.

Every time Blagojevich shows up on my television screen, I cannot help but to compare him to a used vacuum cleaner salesman. He reeks of a man waiting to pull a scam; however, I should point out that this feeling is elicited from me by most politicians. As I watched the vote that would end his political career, I could not help but think about how self righteous politics is to begin with.

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Michelle Bernard: Colluder Of the Week

The following is a small bit of commentary from Michelle Bernard on the  Ledbetter act.

..The case was overturned on the supreme court on a technicality.  Instead of being able to bring forced to bring a lawsuit that alleges discrimination within 180 day women now have a longer period of time to do that .  The problem with the legislation that was signed yesterday, is that we don’t know what  the unintended consequences are going to be.  Number 1 it tells women that you are a victim.  Number 2 we don’t know what the burdens are going to be that are going to be put on employers.   Maybe they will say that I should higher fewer women in the work place because they night sue me 20- 40 years from now.  Insurance is going to go up. What is the negative impact that this could possibly have on women?  For that reason the Independent Womens forum does not think that this is a great day in America for women.

The consequence for women is that for the first time in history we have legal protection to ensure that we are all equally paid.   Bernard is a colluder with a capital C.  How she could get on national television and argue that an act that is clearly empowering, turns women into victims is a failure of logic of EPIC PROPORTIONS.    Forcing companies to recognize that women are the equal of men and that they cannot illegally profit due to sexism can only possibly enhance the status of women.

As I listened to her drone on in defence of patriarchy, I kept wondering when the punch line would arrive.  Surely this would all be revealed to be some tasteless joke but apparently Ms.Bernard is quite serious about her assertions. 

As I have repeatedly said, patriarchy continues to be a major force in our society in part because of the efforts of women.  Just like any other institution it is beholden to our labour.  Clearly when colluders like Bernard try to construct equality as a negative they are working on behalf of patriarchy.  By attacking the Ledbetter Act she is taking a stance that would lead to the continued impoverishment of women.    We already exist in  a pink labour ghetto and apparently for Ms.Bernard the relevance to this and the worldwide devaluation of womens labour is irrelevant. Certain jobs are paid less not because they are not highly necessary to a functioning society but because they are largely performed by women. 

Colluders like Ms.Bernard are so concerned with advancing themselves that aligning themselves with patriarchy is deemed unproblematic.  The millions of women that they throw under the bus with their thoughtless, mendacious, and callous behaviour, cry out from under the yolk of oppression, only to be silenced in an effort to attain a false social relevance.  Men don’t respect women that speak out against womens rights because they recognize the deception in their statements.  What they do rightfully recognize is a tool that can be used to further male hegemony.  I do believe it is time for you to turn in your vagina Ms.Bernard, you certainly are not worthy to be in possession of one and do harm to us all when you claim to speak on behalf of women.

H/T black girl blogging (BTW this is an awesome blog)


Vatican Official Blames Radical Feminism For The Decline Of Manhood

Church officials cannot seem to stop broadcasting their bigoted and highly limited thought to the world.  In the latest pronouncement we learn that feminism is to blame for the ills of the world.  Feminism has encouraged women to believe that we have the right to exist as autonomous beings.  Of course we should ignore the obvious bias hanging between his legs, as he pontificates about the natural order

German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” the Vatican dicastery (or administrative agency) on charity, aid and relief, blamed “gender mainstreaming” and “radical feminism” for attacking biological manhood and insisting that “sexual roles are learned.”

He said men are demeaned and what is held up as an ideal is a man who is feminized and emasculated, one who, in a European study, is held up to be “a sweeter man.”

A sweeter man is somehow an affront to society; damn those uppity feminists denying male headship.  Behaviour is not something that is natural to any  individual; from the moment of birth when the doctor announces it’s a boy, we begin to genderize the body.  From the male name, to the blue clothes, we teach children what it is to perform their gender.  If this were not case we would not spend so much time socially disciplining little boys who display what we deem to be feminine behaviour.  Ask any little boy who asserts a desire to dance, play hop scotch, or jump rope, how he is treated by his peers.

We should all further ignore the fact that the traits that we demand that little boys adopt also lead to and maintain patriarchy.   To Cardinal Cordes the idea that this is purposeful is damaging because it realizes the purposeful nature of the gender hierarchy under which we all live.  Man is only demeaned by the thought of equality with woman because we have decided that masculinity is preferable to femininity.  The Cardinal is not even arguing for separate but equal, his arguments are based in the idea that a society that privileges masculinity is ultimately natural and beneficial to all.

He said a Catholic Charities survey in the United States showed that 24 million children are living in homes without a father. He said “fatherless boys are twice as likely to be in prison; they are more likely to drop out or be expelled from school; they account for 63 percent of suicides, and 90 percent of those who run away from home.”

“We have grown accustomed to hearing about legislation undermining the role of the father, such as adoption by gay so-called ‘parents,’” Cordes said. “A bill passed recently in Britain (‘Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill of 2008’) allows two lesbians or single mothers to conceive a child without a father; all that is needed is ‘supportive parents.’

He presents some alarming statistics for fatherless boys but negates to point out our social culpability….once again the uppity wimminez are failing.  Perhaps if we invested in things like socialized daycare programs, ensured that children do not  grow in poverty, increased funding for education and supported motherhood, it would not be as difficult to raise a child alone.   Whether you are in a two parent household or a single parent household, we do do very little to support families.

You will also take note of the fact that just like all bigots, his hatred comes on multiple levels.  The special wimminez (read: lesbians) are to be particularly disdained.  Certainly a child would be better off as a ward of the state, floating from foster home to foster, or in an orphanage, than with one person who is willing to dedicate a great portion of their lives to them.  Oh the audacity!  What child would benefit from growing up in a home where they are loved and cared for?  We must stop the evil matriarchy from continuing to love children because  that is the greatest evil happening in the world, not wars, pestilence, or famine, but uppity wimminez choosing to share their lives with a child.

Though cardinal Cordes does not speak for all Catholics, the continual homophobic and sexist commentary being issued from the Vatican are a disservice to their faith.   It presents Catholicism to the world as a religion so wrapped in archaic beliefs that it appears increasingly intolerant and irrelevant. The degree to which these so-called men of God regularly flout the love of God in an effort to maintain a social hierarchy that has proven damaging on many levels,  is an affront to all of those who understand just how precious each and every single one of is.   I don’t even recognize the God that the cardinal claims to speak on behalf as the deity that Jesus preached about.