Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone.  Thanks for yet another great week of conversations.  This week we have had quite the troll invasion.  Unfortunately Womanist Musings was linked to by an MRA forum and heaven forbid they allow a conversation that isn’t about the mehnz.  Please just ignore them until I get the banning issues figured out, they can only derail a conversation if we allow them.'

Later on today I will be taking it live to the air with my first program on Blogtalkradio.  Please tune in today at 4pm.  I will be chatting with Monica of Transgriot, Frau Sally Benz of Jump of the Bridge and BFP of flip flopping joy on the silencing of WOC in feminist spaces. 

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Tomorrow I will be posting this months WOC and ally carnival at Tell It WOC Speak.  Please drop by and check out this exciting edition.

As usual I have a great set of links this week for you to check out.  Please show these bloggers some love and check out their posts and when you’re through don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Self Love As Activism

Legendary Latinas: Wings To Fly

Modern Slavery In America

Michelle Obama’s Arms

A Transsistah’s Secret-Hair

How To Be An Ally To A Bisexual Person

Dead White People’s Clothes

More Than Breasts and Babies

The Salad Police

Slutty girls and stupid guys: today’s abstinence-only education

Police Chief: I Want Young Black Men To Be Afraid Every Time They See The Police

“Conscience” : its like “caring” but … not

Men can only empathize with pregnant women when they’ve stuffed themselves with burritos 

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Get Your 101 On

To be an ally takes work.  Some believe that because they think that an issue is unfair that they should jump into the fray and immediately start speaking on behalf of an oppressed individual.  Others enter conversations with the sole purpose of defending their right to exist with undeserved privilege at every turn. No matter what argument you may proffer to try and explain why their position is racist/sexist/homophobic etc their commitment to a hierarchy of bodies means that no substantial gains will be made in any conversation.

Comparatively speaking there are precious few spaces where people can engage honestly with the isms.  Many so called liberal sites practice a fauxgressive form of activism as a way to soothe white guilt about the continual benefits that they receive on the backs of bodies of colours.  Statements are earnestly made, self flagellation begins but real and true constructive conversation is stunted because people are determined to speak rather than listen to others. 

When you grow in a racist, patriarchal, homophobic, classist, sexist culture your way of thinking becomes infused with ideas that are necessarily counter to freedom and basic human respect. Even the most conscious amongst us will continually revert to patterns of behaviour, thought, or speech, that are counter to our stated beliefs.  Due to a constant desire to privilege our experience and our existence over another often we do not even recognize these lapses. 

In the various engagements that I have seen in the online, the one  occurrence that I continually see is a failure learn.   So many are lacking basic 101 knowledge and yet somehow they cannot stop themselves from polluting the spaces that are dedicated to the oppressed.  The most basic facts remain beyond their comprehension and then they demand that our assertions be proven with facts, statistics, academic journals etc,. 

If you are gay or lesbian you’re an expert in heterosexist culture and how it marginalizes the various sexualities because for the entirety of your existence you have had to negotiate it to be able to survive.  If you are of colour you are an expert on white privilege and racism because for the entirety of you life you have been assaulted by it.  If you are differently abled you are an expert on abelism because for the entirety of your experience you have been denied access by others, or told to capitulate and remove yourself from any and all social actions.  The oppressed are experts because we live it every damn day of our lives.

It is insulting and infuriating to continually have to repeat the basics to others because they refuse to see beyond their experience to validate the life of another.  If your first response is what about me, there is clearly something that you are missing.  Not every conversation needs to focus on the socially dominate bodies.  To demand that the few spaces that are dedicated to fighting oppression continually regurgitate 101 basics stunts conversations and amounts to the tyranny of the majority.  If you are a privileged body most of what you will see, read, and hear is already dedicated to you.  From mainstream media to every other agent of socialization the message is clear; unless you are necessarily white, cisgender, male, and heterosexual your life is inconsequential. 

Much of the work of oppressed bodies online is hampered simply by those who refuse to educate themselves before engaging in conversations.   Posts that express a more nuanced position based in an assumption of knowledge often get destroyed in comment threads because privilege denial has become the stock and trade of so many.  The what about the mehnz groups continually highjack comment threads once again refocusing conversation on the least marginalized group of all time – white males. 

Somehow despite all of the purposeful disruption we are told to stay calm, not whine, or that we are all experiencing some form of mass delusion.  To be a social justice blogger is to come face to face on a daily basis with those who wield privilege like a weapon.  I have yet to come up with a satisfying solution to this issue.  I have banned the most abusive trolls,  I have patiently explained why certain assumptions are wrong, and I have justifiably lost my mind.  The only thing that I am sure of is that we must defend our spaces if for no other reason than the fact that people who are marginalized need a safe space where they can debate their issues and see their experiences validated.


Friday, March 13, 2009

I Repeat-Quit Using ‘Tranny” To Insult Cisgender Women

This is a cross post from Transgriot.  Thanks so much Monica.

You know, the ignorance of Perez Hilton, some of my fellow African-Americanimage peeps and others on transgender issues shines through at times.

Nowhere does it shine more brightly than with this bullshit in gossip blogs and elsewhere on the Net of calling cisgender women that you're either jealous of, are over 5' 7" or have some androgynous features transwomen as an insult.

For example, my fellow Texan Ciara Princess Harris (she was born in Austin, so she's a Texan even if she grew up in the ATL, peeps) has been getting much hateraid from some elements of the Black community who continue to call the singer and Wilhelmina Model a transwoman. The rumors got so crazy it was claimed that she was intersex and had made the transgender declaration on Oprah.

While there are many women who we Black transwomen would embrace with open arms if they did make such a declaration to the world, she's said she wasn't in a New York Daily News interview:

R&B sensation Ciara just wants everyone to know: She's all woman. "You know what's funny? The rumor that I used to be a man," she told us at the launch party for Vibe Vixen magazine at Frederick's. "They said Oprah said that on her show," she laughed. "I've never been on Oprah in my life - we all know I have years before I go on Oprah, so come on!"


None of her boyfriends are complaining, and if they've gotten intimate with her, whatever genitalia they found between her legs is none of our business. As far as I'm concerned, Ciara's statement closes the book on this wacked discussion.

But I and many transwomen have a major problem with peeps ignorantly calling cisgender women 'trannies' to be insulting. If they're doing it to call these women 'ugly' or 'less feminine', maybe its because they have insecurities about their own gender identities, androgynous features they possess or they secretly want to date and have intimate relationships with transwomen.

The other thing I get irritated about is that as if Black cisgender women didn't have enough historical baggage to deal with concerning the Eurocentric beauty standard they've struggled against for centuries, now they get whacked with this as well.

Too many times and far too often Black cisgender women get whacked with that 'tranny' tag. Besides, if you haters haven't noticed, some of my sisters can more than hold their own in the beauty department as well.

But enough nonsense. Stop calling cisgender women 'tranny' to insult them. You're only shining a spotlight on your Bushian level of ignorance on transgender issues when you do so.


Education And The Heterosexual Model

There are 24 hours in each day and often as parents we find that we could use a few more.  Between working full-time jobs, groceries, car pooling and housekeeping often critical lessons that children need to learn are put by the wayside.  We have come to depend on the education system to fill in the blanks. 

Next week Tennessee will be voting on a bill introduced by State Sen DeWayne Bunch and Rep. Stacey Campfield. The  bill will prohibit any instruction that mentions homosexuality in grades k-8.   Bill SB1250/HB0821 will hinder education by presenting heterosexuality as the only legitimate form of social organization.   This is dishonest and it erases the many children that come from homes in which the patriarchal model is not practiced.  They should be able to see their families reflected in all teachings.  Children that grow up in homes where sexual fluidity is not discussed will come to see gays and lesbians as counter to our social norms and associate a form of deviance with a gay or lesbian identity. 

It confounds me that we continue to make the same mistakes in reference to education.  To purposefully withhold knowledge from children is the surest path to a rise in social ignorance.  In the abstinence programs where children do not receive adequate sex education the rates of teen pregnancy have proven to be higher and yet the government is once again seeking to institute a model which will not reflect the fluidity to which we have come to express the various sexualities.

Teaching the heterosexual family will not cause a return to the patriarchal family as the norm.   It will in no way stem the tide of divorce or reduce the rate in unplanned pregnancies.  What it will do is affirm the social marginalization of the gay and lesbian community and confer upon the young the false understanding that heterosexuality is the default sexuality of all.

All public avenues in which children may learn about the spectrum of the human experience have been under attack.  Local libraries are questioned because they choose to have books on the shelves that teach children that families can take many shapes;  we have truly become an Orwellian world.

It has become all the more important for  parents to try and infuse social justice into the conversations that we have with our children.  If we cannot count on our public organizations to teach our children, then must make a conscious effort to ensure that such bigotry is not allowed to become standard.

In a recent conversation with Destruction, my 8 year old son, I used a show celebrating Zigfried and Roy to teach him that the love between two men is not different than the love that his father and I share.  It was a casual conversation in which I invited him to ask questions.  Each day we are offered small teaching opportunities, we simply have to take the time to engage critically and honestly. 

Like any parent, I am often stressed for time and worry about how clean the house is and if the kids are eating healthy enough however, committing myself to teaching through conversation has been worth every moment that I have invested.  My child will grow to be a critical thinker because he has been taught from birth to question.  Schools are so focused on pushing out little automatons and punishing difference that we are in real danger of stagnating as a society.  Conformity has become the law of the land and it is our children and their children that will suffer from our inability to see that the continual reproduction and affirmation of unearned privilege is harmful.

There are some that will see the exclusion of materials that reflect gay and lesbians families as an issue that is only the concern of the GLBT community however, the issue is so much wider than that.   Each of the isms work in tandem with one another and reinforce each other; therefore when someone is intentionally homophobic they are by default supporting racism, sexism, classism, etc,.  To have made the decision to parent is to place hope in humanity and we cannot express this without radically challenging the isms that our children face.  We have an obligation to create a world that is better than what we have inherited from our parents and therefore conversations that encourage children to think critically  are necessary.   If your child's school has taken it upon itself to reinforce a social construction that you know to be damaging, it is your responsibility as a parent to ensure that your child learns the truth.

H/T Queers United


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Girl Panties and The Cycle of Victimology

As most reading this blog already know I am a black woman.  Often the ways in which my words or actions are interpreted by others are based solely on my race and gender status.  If someone refuses to acknowledge their privilege they will often find what I have to say confrontational and use various methods in an attempt to delegitimize what I have to say or otherwise silence me.  There are some that claim ally status and as proof of their solidarity they will seek to cast me in the role of eternal victim, thus ignoring the ways in which I employ my power to create a positive change in my environment.  Though the reasoning of the two aforementioned parties are vastly different, they are essentially an expression of white privilege. 

Even using the term white privilege can be threatening to people in some circles. To talk critically about whiteness from the perspective of an oppressed body is to leave oneself open for criticism, as whiteness supposedly exist beyond question.   When I add the gender to the issue, who is understood as inherently female becomes part of the conversation.  Though there is no doubt that I am a woman, the value of my femininity is problematized by my race.

Being a WOC means that others often try to foster their interpretation of what my identity  means upon me, rather than allowing me to articulate what I stand for.  There are various ways to react to this form of blatant appropriation of my being, I can either resist their interpretation and attempt to define myself, or curl into a fetal position sucking my thumb in defeat.

There are those that have a tendency to want to completely own the pain inflicted upon us however, in the process they forget that they still exist with power.  Whiteness has created  bodies of colour as the default victim and therefore it becomes all to easy to capitulate and thereby ignore the ways in which we can be active agents. There is no doubt that racism has a very negative impact on our lives and for WOC it is experienced within a very genderized construct, however allowing whiteness to control the conversation is only an expression of the ways in which we have been mentally colonized.

While I am certainly not in the position to judge another on the coping mechanisms which they employ to survive our racist, patriarchal culture, I do know that we need to be conscious of why we take on certain labels and how the interpretations of others impacts our decisions.  Allowing another to discern and control what the issues that effect our lives  entail is nothing more than a form of submission in the guise of owning victimology.

We are more than what someone does to us.  Each day when we wake, we make small decisions that have the potential to lead to great change.  It is because we have been understood as powerless that these actions continually fail to merit the respect that they deserve.  We can actively choose not to participate in conversations in which we have been declared unwelcome, or we can kick the door down and demand our voices be heard.  This is not the action of a militant, but the actions of a person that refuses to be the eternal victim so that others may patronize our struggle.  To be active is the difference between freedom and submission.

There is much resistance to the ideas that I have expressed in this post so far and yet I cannot help but express my frustration with those that continually refuse to acknowledge that they can be more than what society wants them to be.  Yes your hurt is real, and yes living in a racist patriarchal society means that you will continue to confront the limitations of someone else’s prejudice but if you do not resist or refuse to move beyond each individual situation you risk drowning in the sorrow of your own victim status.  Pull up your big girl panties ladies, there is a war to fight and there is far to much at stake for us to uniformly decide that capitulation is the best plan of action.


Get Over It Because I Am Gay

Transcript is Below The Fold.

What’s up youtube?  I think that people need to get over it, because I’m gay. We sit here talking about our heart aches and acceptance.  Despite what you are they  think, we’re living our lives full of colour and faith.  You can stare us in our eyes and believe we know our place.  What we pursue is what we are destined for.  You’re worrying about who we love and who we fuck is none of your business .  We try to chime in, chime you in keep you up to date, but you really don’t care who we date.  Shall we discuss when all you really feel is disgust?  You laughing behind our back, taking us for a joke, but we breathing the same air what is there to compare besides me sleeping with her and you sleeping with him.  We love the same so why complain and hate on our love because you really mad because we do what we do not worrying about you and you do what you do worrying about who- us.  Get over it we’re gay.  I’m gay.


Hitting The Air Waves

image I have found much inspiration from the way WOC have used the internet to spread messages about social justice.  Tami Of What Tami Said introduced me to blogtalk radio.  After participating in a few of her shows, it has become clear to me that this can be used as a great format to discuss pertinent issues.  To that end, every two weeks I will be running a call in radio show on Blog Talk radio.

This week I will be getting together with the ever brilliant Monica of Transgriot, (would you believe girlfriend still owes me some corn bread?)  Frau Sally Benz of Jump Off the Bridge, and Brownfemipower  of Flip Flopping Joy to discuss the silencing of women of colour in feminist spaces. 

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Please be sure and join us on Saturday at 4pm EST in what I am sure will be a fun and enlightening conversation.

When You’re A Naughty Boy

It seems that the city of Minneapolis has an interesting way of punishing Johns convicted of solicitation.  They have set up a website to post the picture and the information of men that have been arrested for soliciting prostitution.

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Name: Martinez-Ramos, Erubey
Home: Eden Prairie
Date of Arrest: 09/24/08

 

 

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Name: Irvin, Andre
Home: Plymouth
Date of Arrest: 08/21/08

 

 

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Name: Shaw, Jefferson Joe
Home: Inver Grove Heights
Date of Arrest: 08/21/08

 

 

I have to admit that I love this idea.  To often sex trade workers are slut shamed and held completely responsible for any sexual activity, while the men walk away with little to no punishment.  Sex trade workers  are subject to high rates of violence and sexual assaults and yet crimes against them are rarely investigated thoroughly.  Even when male violence against sex trade workers ends in death the justice system across the western world has a penchant of reducing the seriousness of the crime by issuing light sentencing. When the media does get around to reporting on crimes against them, the stories are often filled with victim shaming bile.  The women are reduced to diseased vaginas for hire as though they had no value to humanity.

It is high time that johns be held accountable for their behaviour.  Prostitution is not victimless; though there are some women who choose this line of work, it cannot be ignored that many are forced to participate in the form of sex slavery and others are doing it to stem the tide of poverty or feed a drug habit.  In times of economic strife there is always a rise in prostitution.  Women make up the lowest paid workers world wide and many are forced to turn to prostitution to compensate for low wages.

To these Johns the reasons behind why someone may end up in the sex trade industry are irrelevant.  Their actions are the expression of their patriarchal power and are truly reflective of the ways in which women are devalued.  The idea that someone can be reduced to a fuckable hole for the pleasure of another is a blight upon our society and until we can eliminate or reduce the possibility that the choice to engage is not made within constrained circumstances, these men need to be held accountable.  It is their money that maintains sex slavery, which is one of the worst debasements possible for a human being to experience.

Patriarchy depends on the ability to shame women to control their behaviour.  At times the discipline will come in the form of language but it can be expressed through physical violence, or the erasing or purposeful invisibility of the women who have been labelled morally problematic.   When men are sexual it is seen as a right of their masculinity or an expression of their potency; whereas women must depend on men to sanction their behaviour. 

This program is brilliant because  it uses the shaming tactics invented by patriarchy to control women to discipline men.   Their actions are predatory and this forces them in some small way to own their behaviour.  If a woman can be shamed for participating in an activity that is in some cases  beyond her control, a man certainly deserves to own a spoiled identity for his part in the devaluation of women.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trans Hate Continues To Lead To Violence

When I first started to educate myself about the transgender community, I was shocked to learn the degree of violence that they face.  I continue to fail to see how someone living their life makes another so uncomfortable that feel that it is necessary to express hatred towards another human being.   In many cases this hatred impacts employment, housing, medical care, and can lead to violence.

Two trans men were recently verbally and physically assaulted at the Dupont Circle gay bar Fab Lounge. 

According to the Washington Blade:

Mitch Graffeo, 40, of Alexandria, Va., said the incident began when he and a friend were getting ready to leave Fab Lounge shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the conclusion of the club’s weekly lesbian night. As his friend walked over to a sofa to retrieve his coat, a female customer began “groping” his friend, Graffeo said.

The 29-year-old friend, also from Alexandria, spoke to the Blade on the condition that he was identified only by his first name, Jaime.

Graffeo said Jaime, who is about 5 feet 4 inches tall and has a slender build, recently began a female-to-male gender transition process and has a youthful, boyish appearance. Graffeo noted he transitioned more than 10 years ago and his gender is readily recognized as that of a male.

They said, ‘What the fuck are you? Are you a girl or a boy?’(emphasis mine)” Graffeo recalled one of the women saying to Jaime inside the club.

Graffeo said another woman, along with a man who was with them, joined the first woman in shouting insults aimed at Jaime’s appearance after Jaime asked the first woman to leave him alone.

Jaime told the Blade as many as three women in the bar ran their hands over his chest as they taunted him over his appearance, saying they wanted to find out if he was male or female.

He and Graffeo then left the Fab Lounge, which is located in a second-floor space at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W., in an effort to avoid a confrontation with the women, the two men said.

“When we were about 20 feet from the club’s entrance, one of the lesbians came up from behind and put [Jaime] in a headlock and again began to question his gender,” Graffeo said.

Jaime said that as the woman released him from her grip, another woman punched him repeatedly in the head and body, inflicting injuries that included a concussion, doctors told him later.

As the alleged assault unfolded on the sidewalk near the corner of Connecticut and Florida avenues, Graffeo said he asked the women to leave Jaime alone and announced he was calling the police on his cell phone. At that time, the woman who had held Jaime in a headlock “grabbed my phone out of my hands and hit me in the neck and head a few times,” Graffeo said.

Minutes later, Graffeo said, the male friend who had accompanied the women inside the club arrived in a car, which he stopped on Connecticut Avenue in front of the Royal Palace nightclub, which operates below Fab Lounge. He said the two women entered the car, which turned onto Florida Avenue and drove eastbound, Graffeo said.

The two assailants have been arrested but have yet to be charged with a hate crime.   I find the delay in declaring this a hate crime reprehensible.  Clearly the purpose of this confrontation was to demean and assault two human beings based on a trans gender identity.  They asked if the victims were boys or girls and further touched  them to ascertain how their bodies were configured.   When incidents like this happen a strong message needs to be sent regarding the unacceptability of such behaviour.  Fortunately these two men escaped with their lives but many have not been so lucky after confrontations with people that are determined to hate based in cisgender privilege.

When I read about this story at the bilerico, the focus seemed to be that we should not assume that the assailants are lesbian simply because they were in a lesbian bar.  Though I agree with this statement, I find it completely irrelevant.  The GLB community has been known for its virulent trans hatred but it is not uniquely transphobic.  Transphobia happens across the sexual/gender spectrum.  Our concern should be that these violent incidents keep reoccurring and that people are losing their lives.  

When the media reports on violence aimed at trans people they often use the wrong pronoun, blame the victim, or somehow reduce the issue as unimportant.  Trans people are thriving members of our community and they are being unfairly targeted.   We justify the violence against them in a desire to preserve our undeserved cisgender privilege. 

I have read the commentary from otherwise intelligent women using the most ridiculous justifications for their hatred like “trans women can’t give birth, or they don’t have periods and that is why they are not women”.  Obviously there are cisgender women to whom those same conditions apply and yet we would never dream of declaring them unwomen.  Essentially this is about the ability to express power over another and not because the gender identity of another individual is threatening in some way.

When we think of power, we always conceive of it as coercive and this ultimately creates an expression that reifies many of the binaries and social constructions that are damaging to our society.  When we use the wrong pronoun what we are essentially doing is denying someone's existence by declaring that we have  the right to determine what is understood as male or female, furthermore disciplining a failure to conform is yet another way in which cisgender privilege is maintained. We have so over valued hierarchy that we have allowed it to control what bodies truly matter in this society and this is why the trans panic defence is routinely employed to legitimate violence that we would find otherwise intolerable.

What happened to those two men is atrocious and that it occurred because of someone’s desire to maintain our artificial divisions. It further  speaks to how far removed we are from the fair and equal society that we claim to live in.  Someone who is trans gender has not made a lifestyle choice; they are living their lives and therefore they deserve to exist without violence, or threat of it.  Acknowledging the humanity of a fellow human being will not devalue you in any way; in fact it is the first step to assuring that we all exist with the rights and freedoms that we give lip service to.


Recession and Class Warfare: From Price Gouging to Micro Loans

I have a new post up at Global Comment

The economic experts have finally declared that we are in a recession. I believe a more honest term would be a depression. Each country is undergoing various financial issues and once strong economies are grappling with high levels of unemployment. Workers from the US to Japan are facing the future with an uncertainty that has not been known since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

In the Communist Manifesto Marx theorized:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”

Class has been issue that we have repeatedly failed to discuss critically. To delve into the ways in which our economies are stratified means realizing that they are built upon the exploitation of the working poor. We must further acknowledge the degree to which we have been complicit in our own enslavement. Instead of protesting when unions were viciously attacked we bowed our heads and allowed the rise of business unionism. The elites attacked unions first because they realized that this is where workers learned solidarity and a true understanding of how the economy works. A single person cannot wage war against a conglomerate but a group of workers have the ability to assert power.

We have turned poverty into an individualized phenomenon even though it is systemically created. To be poor is to be accused of an individual failing. Conversely, wealth is seen solely as the result of hard work.

To maintain the lie of meritocracy we continually assert that those who are currently ranked within the top 5 % have worked harder than those that are deemed working or under class. The value of labour has been so linked with prestige that the physicality involved with most jobs is discounted. When a construction worker is outside in the hot sun or the freezing cold, the labour that that they are performing is absolutely essential to our infrastructure and yet it is the CEO that is rewarded with millions of dollars after leading a company into ever increasing debt. We do not pay based in merit. We pay based in prestige.

Finish Reading Here

I Love You Phillip Morris: Cisgender White Male Images Dominate Media On LGBTQI Issues

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Philip Morris is a movie about a con man that discovers that he is gay (Jim Carrey) and falls in love with his cell mate (Ewan McGregor).  It played to great reviews at Sundance but is now having issues finding a buyer.  “According to producer Andrew Lazar, it is no longer on the market and the production company plans to announce a theatrical deal "very soon." But during the festival, the filmmakers said they intended to continue editing the film -- turning its premiere into a de facto work-in-progress screening -- so it remains unclear how the newer version will play.”

Whether distributors will admit it or not, movies that have a gay or lesbian relationship at the centerpiece of the plot have a harder time not only receiving recognition but making it through production.  Part of the purpose of media is to reaffirm dominate ideas and therefore the images that are most often reproduced are reflective of our heterosexist society.

Within the struggle of attempting to attain legitimacy for movies that have gay and lesbian characters what we see repeated continually is the discourse of just like you.  The GLBT community has much invested in gaining acceptance by making the world understand that any difference is socially constructed however, the problem arises in that the you referred to in the statement just like you is straight, white, affluent, able bodied, cisgendered  and most often male. 

When we look at movies like I Love You Phillip Morris, Brokeback Mountain, Love Valour and Compassion, Kiss Me Guido, Home At The End Of The World, It’s My Party, Aimee & Jaguar, As Good as It Gets, Ben Hur, and Milk, the common theme is whiteness and affluence, thus creating bodies of colour as invisible.  Even in movies where POC  are represented like Angels in America, The Birdcage, and Philadelphia, they are either presented as homophobic haters or caricatures  of what it is assumed POC behave like.  Consider the ridiculous gay maid in The Birdcage and what it says about a Latino identity.  Even television shows like Ellen, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, The L Word, and Will & Grace still predominately present a gay and lesbian identity as white and affluent.  Regardless of which media outlet that you turn to what is clear is that a careful image has been crafted to present a unified identity.

Whose stories get told are very much reflective of the fact that we have socially privileged certain bodies in our society.  It is understood that if  same gender love is presented as white, it will be easier to garner more sympathy because whiteness controls all of the agents of socialization.   Gains for the white members of the GLBT community do not necessarily translate to gains for POC that identify as same gender loving.  Marriage has been the big organizing push of the white run gay community and yet POC have identified HIV/AIDS, followed by hate crime and violence as their primary concerns.

Even the persistence in reclaiming the word Queer and fag speak to a level of disrespect of the feelings of POC.  Many black gays and lesbians prefer to be addressed as same gender loving.  While I cannot speak with full authority about a community with which my only connection is race, their erasure from  conversations in  gay and lesbian circles is certainly based on racial grounds. Despite the fact that the world is still filled with homophobia what white gays and lesbians continually fail to own is that they still function with white privilege.  Their whiteness allows them to control conversation, decide organizing issues, and choose who and what represents them. 

There are many POC who have made outstanding contributions to gay organizing and yet their efforts have been whitewashed in an attempt to display the suffering and the bravery of the gay white male.  When are we going to see a movie about Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, Lorraine Hansbury, or James Baldwin?  Why are their contributions deemed less worthy? 

I have repeatedly said that part of the disconnection by heterosexual black community stems from an inability to see themselves reflected.  Rather than appropriating images of our history, seeking to highlight the ways in which POC have contributed to the struggle for gay rights and are impacted by homophobia could be a key element in increasing support.  I see homophobia as an evil that must be eradicated because I believe in the equal humanity for all however, I am fully cognizant of the fact that not everyone can make connections when all they see is the reproduction of dominate ideology that has served to historically create them as other.  The celebration of gay culture, lives and history should be an ongoing effort, but it is incomplete if it does not include all people.


White People Don’t Deserve To Suffer

For the first time the media is actively talking about homelessness and poverty.  When the discussion first started I was very encouraged.  Living in a culture that values the ability to consume, those that could not afford to participate in consumerism were and are often cast aside.  I have long been advocate for the homeless because I realize that it is the system that has failed rather than the individual.  Even existing as I do with a solidly middle class status, I am well aware of just how vulnerable we all are of sliding into poverty. Most families can not sustain 6 months of unemployment and because of our reduction of the social safety net, there is very little separating someone from a warm bed and a tent city.

image Families that were once middle class are now living in abject poverty.  The media is now airing programming on how to get out of debt and live cheaply.  Downsizing life has become the repeated mantra in a bid to escape the horror of homelessness. 

For the first time we are beginning to see poverty as something that is a result of a systemic failure however, the caveat to this understanding is that the poor are routinely depicted to be former white middle class people.   POC have routinely suffered from higher rates of poverty and unemployment and in fact in this very moment of crises, we are the ones losing our homes at the highest rates because it was POC that were unfairly targeted in the mortgage fiasco. 

image Daily there are stories about tent cities or the uncounted that are living in hotels, the problem is that the images of suffering have largely been white.  We understand this to be a problem because of who is experiencing poverty and not because poverty is wrong.  These newly poor, white, formerly middle class people, have become the face of social injustice; whereas the centuries of poverty experienced by POC is barely remarked upon.

The message that we are receiving is that social imbalance is wrong because good, honest hard working white folk are now experiencing it in large numbers.  If we are to understand how this system works to impoverish, we need to look across race and class lines.  The conversations that we do not have regarding race allows a perpetuation of white privilege.  In this way the poor are set against each other.  It is a classic divide and conquer strategy.  When companies first began fighting unions they regularly invoked race to convince white employees to reject any attempts at certification and the medias erasure of POC functions in much the same way.

Poverty as legitimized through a lens of race rather than as a symptom of the illogical capitalist system, which encourages the newly poor or the destitute to avoid banning together and fighting for their common cause.  It separates people into justifiably poor and irresponsibly poor.  We continually reify binaries in all of our constructions and in this case the binary functions to continue white privilege even while class status has made such privilege over valued.  

Suffering should not be recognized according to race but by living condition.  Until the underclass can see beyond socially constructed racial divides and unite in a common cause, the ruling elite will continue in its hegemony.  The over valuation of whiteness has long held back poor whites from realizing that it is not blacks that deny them privilege but white elites.  It has generation after generation lead to poverty and social disconnect.  The conversation cannot be framed in terms of who  does not deserve to suffer; it needs to be understood that no one should be suffering.  


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Is Why You’re Fat

My morning routine is green tea and CNN.  This morning they had a small clip about a website entitled This Is Why You’re Fat.  The tag line for the site is, “where dreams become heart attacks”.  It features some of the interesting combinations of food that people consume.

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Blueberry Waffle Breakfast Sandwich

Breakfast sandwich with two eggs, two sausages, ham, string cheese and bacon between two blueberry waffles glazed with maple syrup.

 

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Secret Treasure Loaf

A loaf of ground Spam cubes with a Velveeta cheese center topped with a layer of hot Velveeta.

 

 

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Sandwich Cake

A layer of deviled ham, chicken salad and olive-nut spread between a whole loaf white bread surrounded by four packages of strawberry cream cheese.

 

 

 

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The 30,000 Calorie Sandwich

Sandwich filled with ground beef, bacon, corn dogs, ham, pastrami, roast beef, bratwurst, braunschweiger and turkey, topped with fried mushrooms, onion rings, swiss/provolone/cheddar/feta/parmesan cheeses, lettuce and butter on a loaf white bread.

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Candy Pizza

Pizza covered in caramel and chocolate sauce, topped with miniature marshmallows, gum drops, M&M’s, coconut flakes, candy hearts and a candy fried egg plus chopped pecans.

All the images of food are from submissions across the web.  While there may certainly be people who choose to eat this food, I believe the title and the tag line of this website perpetuate the myth that people that are fat are gluttonous.  Socially we have this idea that if someone is over weight it is because they have a lack of self discipline which leads to massive over eating of food choices that are high fat, calorie and carbohydrate.

There is no discussion of the fact that not every one is meant to be the so called ideal body weight.  We come in all different shapes and sizes; we have only normalized a body type and used this construction to shame large sections of the population because they do not fit into an idealized framework.

There is no mention of the predatory diet and exercise industry.  Millions of dollars are made every year from the promotion of thinness as healthy.  Let’s face facts, you can be 5’3 and 120 pounds and still die from a heart attack.  It is about genetics as much as it is about what you eat.  Thin does not necessarily equate to healthy but the diet and exercise industry would have you believe differently as their profits grow each year.

They further omit the connection between class and obesity.  There is a reason why the poorest citizens are most likely to be fat.  A head of broccoli in off season can cost as much 2.99, while a box of kraft dinner can be purchased for as little as 99 cents.  If you have a limited income you are going to choose to purchase what is most likely to fill you.  Native Canadians are our poorest citizens and  they also have the highest rate of obesity.  It is not always as simple as choosing to eat food that is bad for you because you have no impulse control.

Sites like this that are devoid of commentary simply perpetuate the fat hatred that has become pervasive in our culture.  Fat shaming is so normalized that many don’t even acknowledge how harmful this is.  People that are fat often face discrimination in many fields and this ads to the stress of surviving in a culture that strongly adheres to a hierarchy of beings.  

While the foods depicted are certainly disturbing, implying that this kind of eating is normalized is problematic.  Food is about more than nutrition and sustenance and therefore minimizing the conversation without even attempting to give lip service to the many issues associated with obesity is at the very least problematic.


What Women Don’t Want

Luenell discusses what women don't want in the bedroom. Secrets are revealed that never have been before.

H/T Samhita via twitter

“Turning a person into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.”

"The brutal beating of Rihanna has reignited talk about domestic violence in this country. According to the National Organization for Women, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Disturbingly, even though 1 in 10 teens suffer from dating violence, their reaction to Rihanna's beating is that she deserved it. Campaign for Gender Equality blogs how we can battle this gross misconception in "Breaking the Silence."

Jean Kilbourne, lecturer and keynote speaker focusing on violence, women, and the media.

Chris Brown’s brutal beating of Rihanna reignited talk about domestic violence in this country. That is a good thing! We need to have more honest conversations about this epidemic. The statistics shed some light on the severity of this problem:

Battering is the single most common cause of injury to women in the United States, more common than car accidents, mugging and rape combined. Much to the misconception of many, victims of domestic violence come from all races, classes and ethnic backgrounds. Of all women murdered in the U.S.—an average of three a day—about one-third were killed by an intimate partner. According to the National Organization for Women, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.

I found this recent article by Megan Twohey and Bonnie Miller Rubin disturbing. According to them, 1 in 10 teens suffer from dating violence, yet their reaction to Rihanna’s beating is that she deserved it. What is the answer to this gross misconception? Education. According to Twohey and Rubin:

“In recent years, some schools and youth organizations have started educating teens about the dangers of dating violence. Rhode Island and Virginia have adopted laws requiring such instruction in the public schools. But most states, including Illinois, don't have such a mandate and education on the topic remains in short supply, experts say. Two of three new programs created by the federal Violence Against Women Act in 2005 to address teen dating violence were never funded.”

Not only are we not doing enough to educate youth about domestic violence, but the media (a prime source of information for today’s youth) doesn’t give domestic violence its due coverage. We barely heard anything about the woman in New York who was recently beheaded by her husband after she had filed for a divorce. Where is the outrage? I know it’s not a pretty story, but if we don’t talk about domestic violence, and, more importantly, learn about its roots and causes, we will never eliminate it.

What makes domestic violence and other forms of violence against women so prevalent? What makes men feel they can have power and control over women? The answers to these questions are abundant and complicated, but recently I came across two videos that shed some light:

This one speaks to advertising and the effects it has on women and the value of women.

This one talks about the media and how men learn to treat women.

Campaign for Gender Equality is a non-profit 501c3 organization focused on raising public awareness of the benefits of gender equality, regardless of age, race, class or sexual orientation, through education and advocacy.

We have partnered with Professor Bettina Aptheker, head of Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to promote her "Introduction to Feminisms" course now available in a 17 set DVD. In her DVD titled “Domestic Violence: Strategies for Prevention and Resistance” Aptheker says, “Violence against Women is the magnification of the historical unequal power relations which have lead the domination over and discrimination of women by men to the prevention of women’s full advancement.” Order “Introduction to Feminisms” on DVD.

Battery, whether emotional or physical, is about power and control. From Aptheker’s DVD, here are just some examples of the different types of domestic violence.

  • Emotional – putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think that she is crazy.
  • Economic – trying to keep her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, or taking her money.
  • Sexual – making her do things against her will, physically attacking the sexual parts of her body, and treating her like a sex object.
  • Using children – using the children to give messages and using visitation as a way to harass.
  • Threats – making and/or carrying out threats to do something physically or emotionally, threatening to take the children, and threats to commit suicide.
  • Using male privilege – treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the master of the house
  • Intimidation – putting her in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voices, smashing things, destroying her property.
  • Isolation – controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, and where she goes.

Perhaps many readers do not experience these confinements, but a great many women in our own country still live this way. These patterns of domestic abuse and domestic violence are all about power and control. To stop the epidemic of violence against women that exists in this country we must break the silence. We must put adequate funding into educating the next generation of girls and boys about violence against women and its root causes. We must have honest conversations about domestic violence and pressure the media to change its portrayal of women as objects.


The Big Top Is In Town With Octagalore

This is the final interview in the series to celebrate International Womans Day.  Octagalore can be found at her blog Astarte’s Circus

BIO:  I live in Southern CA with my husband and four year old daughter, and I’m a partner in a legal search firm.  My resume includes: engineer, Yakuza bar hostess, internet director, stripper, lawyer, fitness instructor – not necessarily in that order.  I have issues with attention span. 

1) Well we shall ask the obvious question first, what was your feminist click moment?

It happened at different times, at different levels.  When my high school physics teacher said he’d never send his daughter to MIT.  When working in the auto industry in Detroit and seeing a much more blatant form of sexism than one sees on either coast, on average.  Getting pawed by law firm partners and then told it would be my word against theirs, and guess who was more valuable.  It was an accumulation rather than a moment.

2) In the recent US election what became readily obvious was a generational split in feminism.  Do you feel the issues of older feminists are taken seriously, and what can we do to ensure that the voices of our mature leaders continue to be understood as not only relevant but necessary in any and all conversations?

Good question.  I think we start at home and because most ideas have emerged before from others, make sure we’re appropriately building off and crediting efforts from earlier feminists, even where we don’t endorse their beliefs wholesale.  Many times an idea that appears in a third-wave book seems new and exciting to me, but my mom reads it and says it’s been out there for years – but there’s no footnote saying that.  I don’t think this is deliberate, but I think it could be done better.  And not just for fairness – I think we could advance beyond older ideas faster if we didn’t waste time reinventing them.

Re politics: I think feminists tolerate ageist views of female leaders more than would be ideal.  Just as Randall Kennedy points out in “Sellout” that blacks are harder on Clarence Thomas than on Antonin Scalia, I think women are harder on female politicians and leaders who disappoint us in some way than on their male counterparts.  And we’re often not as sensitive to the intersection between ageism and gender and how it plays out as we should be.

3) How has feminism informed the way in which you parent, and specific lessons do you hope to impart to your daughter that were not taught to you?

Wow, another good one.  Yes, it absolutely has.  The way our culture markets sexy clothing and physical display in a gendered way, not to mention toys (dolls vs science kits, kitchen sets vs building blocks) is something I’m constantly vigilant about.  I try to find books that don’t have the “man rescues woman” theme that many fairy tales do.

About lessons my parents didn’t impart --  I love my parents and I think they were great parents.  They definitely imparted in me, though, that it was non-classy to care about money.  Our setup was middle-middle, which dipped lower when divorce and medical bills for a relative with a serious illness erupted.  After those things, and also because I realized that I didn’t want income to play a role in my choice of mate, I tried to get better informed and less hesitant about actively seeking a secure career.  I’d like my daughter to have an appreciation for money earlier.  Not from the standpoint that it makes anyone better or to acquire “things,” but to have a security net and equal economic power with her future mate of whatever gender.  I think the feminist movement doesn’t cover this point adequately.  It’s one thing to preach capitalism (which I do in part, but I don’t ask anyone else to do) – it’s another to preach self protection and that if you want to eat your cake, you have to help bake it.  If you look down on non-helping professions but have male relatives funnelling income your way so you can do that kind of work and still live well, there’s an inconsistency there. 

Bottom line?  My daughter will be well versed in Terry Hekker’s story.

4) You are a highly educated woman and therefore any conversation that you involve yourself in, your frame of reference comes to bear.  Many feminists fear engaging because of a lack of credentials.  How do we create a more open space so that feminists who have not had the privilege of education are respected and expected to participate in any and all conversations?

I think it’s about mutual respect.  Many friends I have in the feminist movement who don’t have similar educational creds have far superior knowledge of feminist (and other) history and knowledge about activism than I do.  It’s important to realize there isn’t just one kind of knowledge or credential.  We can all learn from each other.  This is something that isn’t about rules of engagement but about what kind of person you are, in my view.  I’m a snob in that everyone I seek out is smart, but that doesn’t have to mean formally educated.

5) As a former sex trade worker, do you feel that feminism engages in the same sort of slut shaming that we see in the wider culture?  C.O.Y.O.T.E, particularly challenges the idea that sex work is always exploitation.  How do we engage in conversations wherein we validate those that legitimately choose to engage in the sex trade while dealing with the very serious issue of sex slavery?

I think it’s important to tread a fine line here, as the question suggests.  I’m one of those people who’s betwixt and between, in terms of my sex work views.  I don’t think it’s always exploitation.  I think it’s important to respect sex workers’ perspectives on their own agency.  At the same time, as you note, there are horrible atrocities that are somewhat unique to sex work.  And I do think it is not a career we should encourage our daughters and young friends to enter.  Not because of its own merits, but because of the ageist, racist, sexist realities that dictate how it operates.  No career is perfect, but I think we start off by encouraging young people to find careers in which they can work for a lifetime – not get cast out at 40 (if you’re lucky) or risk disease. 

My situation was unique in that I was in my early 30s, about 8 years ago, and had already made my decisions about what risks I would and wouldn’t take re sex, drugs, etc.  Ten years earlier, I may have made different decisions.  The temptations in that line of work, bolstered by the constant acting stress involved, were at a higher level than other jobs.

All that said, I think we need to respect sex workers’ choices and evaluations.

6) What issues do you seek to confront by blogging and why have you chosen this platform as a form of activism?

The issues I care most about in my IRL activism are feminism and also unequal access to education based on class, gender and race.  I am part of a school counselling service attached to my alma mater in which my assignment is a particular geographical area in which most students are of color and lower to lower-middle class.  The goal of our group is to help students access the tools, whether it be knowledge about interviewing, filling out applications, money for prep classes, etc. to do a small part towards equalizing access.  The focus is on my alma mater, a well known tech school, but I focus on general skills to hopefully better equip kids to better pursue the school of their choice.

The frustration, though, is that with a full time job and child, my involvement always seems too little – and that goes for mothering too, which is a whole separate issue.  Blogging works with my job, legal placement and M&A, because I work from home without supervision, and can pick my hours.  I usually work nine hours but can pick which those are. 

And additionally, on the selfish side, blogging has opened up doors to so many interesting people – mostly women.  I deal with mostly guys on the job and have been lucky to find amazing female friends online, many of whom I’ve met IRL and some I hope to have the chance to meet. 

7) In previous discussions you have spoken about the need for women to express pride in their achievements.  Why do you feel that this is necessary and why is there is such a desire on the part of some to invoke the discourse of victimology?

I sense that is rhetorical!  But here goes.  I think just the fact that the “why is this necessary” can be asked as a serious question shows why it is.  I think there are two things going on here, in feminist bloglandia.

The first is that feminists are in large part women.  Culturally, there are different words for women who have pride in achievement – bitchy vs proud, aggressive vs assertive, emasculating vs strong.  These operate differently based on race, class and other groupings, and it’s important to understand it’s not one size fits all.  As someone in placement, I see women of all races hobbled by double standards in some similar ways.  We need to get past that and not let it daunt us.  We’re coming from behind, so slowing ourselves down by excessive self deprecation is a waste of time.

Secondly, feminist bloglandia has been rightly criticised for being white, mid to upper middle class centric.  But instead of a natural joining, many white feminist deal more from a guilt perspective than from an inclusion perspective.  This leads to a competition for who can be most oppressed, or who can be most elaborately sensitive (without actually treating some like a person, necessarily).  This kind of mindset closes off pride in achievements, because all achievements are deemed privilege – instead of an honest appraisal of what portion is privilege and what portions one can pat oneself on the back for.  At some level, most everything is privilege – even being online at all is.  As intelligent beings, walking and chewing gum at the same time is doable, and not affording oneself the joy in accomplishment is destructive.

On your second point about victimology.  You are being a bit crafty here as this is somewhat of a leading question.  Happy to be led, though. 

First, I see a difference between justifiable honesty about emotion and hurt, and allowing it to become self defeating.  I don’t pretend to be able to judge when this happens in the individual case, and so this is not about any particular individuals.  But, what I am not talking about here is righteous calling out of wrongs and honest exposure of wounds.  That’s all good.

At a certain point, though, it becomes more about attention-seeking.  The oddness about privilege in the feminist blogosphere – ranging from defensive denial to overly obsequious pandering – leads to all kinds of abuses.  Often, elite ignoring of those on whose backs the more visible trod on is permitted.  Less often but still occasional is taking advantage of popular sympathy to wear out a particular grievance beyond its expiration date.

8) In recent months we have once again seen the rise of the epic blogwar.  Rather than helping to bring about a form of cohesiveness these engagements are actually quite divisive.  In your opinion why do we continually return to this form of engagement and what can we do to end this destructive pattern?

Two reasons, I think. 

First, I’ll cheat and refer here.  I think women are left out to some degree, or are not as likely to be participants in, the capitalist culture, but have some of the same competitive urges, which play out in things like blogwars.  Not that men don’t do this, but I think it’s less likely that both men and women with another kind of competitive outlet showcase this quality in blogwar territory.

Second, for the same reason we run a particular direction when we hear “Fight, Fight!” on the schoolyard (or maybe that was just my school).  People get excited about the drama and mask that by feigning that they’re vigorously trying to right a particular wrong.  Typically, blogwars last long after the productive points are made.  At that point, it’s about the fun of watching ones online enemies get trashed, and contributing ones own verbal chops to help mash up the victim further.

9) Classism continues to be a very serious issue, particularly in light of the economic downturn.  There is very little feminist discourse as it relates to class.  We continually speak about the fact that women make 70 cents to every dollar a man makes and yet we refuse to acknowledge more than lip service to the term feminization of poverty.  How do we extend the conversation to include poor women and why is there such a resistance to truly engaging in strong critique of class in feminist circles?

I think part of the problem is that some poor women do not have the tools in terms of equipment and time to engage online, so they are less heard.  I think also there is a sense of frustration in that the answers and even the questions in this area seem so difficult to solve on a global level.  Many feminists are working in these areas on a community level, but the kind of work done at that level doesn’t always get blogged about.

Also, there are differences in feminism as to whether one approaches issues like poverty from a reform (eg, regulated capitalism, my own personal choice) or a more radical level.  Sometimes, as can be seen in many discussions between reform-oriented and radical feminists, from RadFem groups vs liberal feminists to RWOC vs reform oriented WOC, it’s hard to get talking about common goals.  Note that here I am not equating pro-capitalist to reform-oriented, just saying that is how it plays out for me.

10) Finally in honour of International womens day if you could choose what would you say are the top goals that feminism should aim to examine in the next five years?

First, reduce internal disputes. I think getting ones house in order is always the first priority and the best way to be effective in combating external issues. This would include (1) making intersectionality more than a sexy buzzword and actually DOING intersectionality rather than making feminism a hodgepodge of different issues with no common theme; (2) building coalitions between the different waves of feminism; (3) reducing conflict between radical and liberal feminists, pro-. anti-anti= and anti-porn feminists, and also feminists with differing politics.  We don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but the idea that “I can only work on issue X with people who agree with me on issues Y and Z is one that women tend to fall prey to more than men do.

Second, I’d like to see more emphasis on brainstorming practical solutions.  Some of this will be on a community level but there are things people could work on together on a larger level.  Just as an example of something I know – community work re educational access for poor girls.   I have some stuff I do, but I don’t spend a bunch of time and there are probably things I could be doing better or idea I haven’t thought of.  Maybe there are women doing this on a larger scale. or related things, who could offer suggestions or vice versa.  A feminist location online in which women could brainstorm in this way would be a good idea – and a good way to meet people in our cities to get together with and work with offline.


I Still Say Dan Savage Can Go To Hell

image After the passing of Prop 8 Dan Savage went on a media blitz expressing his white privilege for all to see.  While I sympathized with him on what was a denial of his human rights, the anger he displayed towards African Americans was disgusting.  From CNN to Colbert he let the world know who was to blame (read: blacks) for the passing of that horrible piece of legislation.  If I didn’t know about how strongly the Mormons fought to raise money, run ads and publicly protest this bill, I might have been convinced initially by the mendacious reporting on this issue.

It seems that while the GLBT community is quick to speak up about any  homophobia on the part of blacks; they are quick to ignore  when blacks, or black leaders, or black organizations, speak  in favour of gay rights. 

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law... And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states. ...

Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.

This letter was issued to the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club in June of 2008.  It seems to me that this letter would have been a great tool to reach out to the African American community with. Not using the letter allowed the GLBT community to have a scape goat  to rail against after the fact.  It further entrenched the idea that gay marriage is a white issue despite the fact that there are many POC who identify as same gender loving or transgender.

Well of course Savage now comments:

One of the "No on 8" campaign's highly-paid consultants says now—now—that "maybe we should have" used the letter during the campaign, perhaps in an effort to reach out to African American voters, or black preachers.

YEAH, THAT MIGHT'VE BEEN A GOOD FUCKING IDEA, YOU STUPID ASSHOLE.

UUUH HUH was that a hair ball I heard the great prophet cough up cause it sure as hell DID NOT SOUND LIKE THE APOLOGY HE STILL OWES THE BLACK COMMUNITY.  After spending his time on national television attacking African Americans for our supposed rampant homophobia it is only now, well after the fact that he acknowledges that the GLBT community did not organize in or reach out to the black community.  Nope, they just expected blacks to toe the line, cause hey blacks are the downtrodden of the earth so we should naturally get this.  

Well Savage I’m still waiting for that apology but I suppose blacks will see reparations from slavery long before the prominent white male led GLBT community decides to own its white privilege.  Just know that every single time you refuse to acknowledge the straight black gay allies that choose to speak up for gay rights, ignore the issues of GLBT of colour, or throw fellow allies under the bus (yeah you need to pay attention to the trans community), you make it that much harder for people to support your goals and desires.  It takes two parties to form a relationship, and if respect does not flow both ways it is not based on equality and respect.

H/T Pam @  The Bilerico


Monday, March 9, 2009

Slut Shaming From Sextexting Leads To Suicide.

image Her name was Jesse Logan and she is dead.  This young woman hanged herself after repeated verbal abuse from her classmates regarding nude photos of herself that she sent to a former boyfriend.  

Walking down the hallways she reported being called a slut, whore and having things thrown at her.  Imagine having to face that kind of treatment everyday just to get an education. 

Before she committed suicide she had an interview with the media where she detailed the horrible treatment that she was receiving.  Just two weeks after taking her story public she was dead.

Much of the reports on her death have focused on the issue of sextexting i.e sending sexually explicit images over the internet.  Law makers are concerned that this is a form of child pornography.  The real issue should be what happens to these images once they are released and how they are interpreted by society.

If Jesse had been male, would these kids have thought to use the taunt of  slut and whore? These words are specifically targeted at women to make them feel shame for daring to be sexual.  We live in a society where female bodies are often sexualized for the benefit of the male gaze and yet if a woman chooses to be an active body and reveal her body for her own gratification she is shamed publicly.  Sex is something that we are told that we may only submit to unwillingly. 

Even when we apply the words slut to men we routinely ad the word male in front of it to denote a change in referring gender i.e. male slut, male whore.  Instead of dealing with this as an issue of restricting pornography, we should be concerning ourselves with the warped message that the young are receiving as it relates to gender and sexuality.  

We are sexual creatures and the fact that we deny this essential part of our nature is ridiculous.  The same behaviour that we promote and encourage in males, we stigmatize and discipline women for.  A man that has various sexual partner is a stud, a hero of sorts and yet a young woman engaging in the same behaviour is slut shamed.  We claim that we have reached a post feminist time and yet we regularly punish women and attempt to control their behaviour. 

The demands of purity are very much a part of how we raise our daughters.  Each day they are inundated with sexualized images of women and are then taught not to engage in sex unless it occurs within the context of a patriarchal marriage. We teach them to leverage their bodies for the brass ring as though marriage will somehow guarantee them a form of security.  For women in particular, gender becomes a performance with few rewards.  The basis of female life is submission to male desires, needs, and wants, and it is this point that needs to be understood by all.  Yes there is a need for feminism.  Young girls need a haven that they can turn to which will teach a positive affirmation of their bodies and their lives. 

Sending a nude picture of yourself should not lead to this kind of treatment and schools need to take the issue of harassment seriously.  It is not a simple matter of hurt feelings; for some it is a life and death issue.   Any action that diminishes another should not be allowed on any school property.  They are responsible for creating a hostile free learning environment and by not taking corrective measures all they did was teach Jesse’s assailants that they were right to taunt  her in the manner that they did. 

When incidents like this happen we need to pay close attention to how they are spoken about.  This is not about sextexting, this is about gender based harassment and slut shaming.  No young woman should be made to feel desperate enough to kill herself because we refuse to believe that women should have the right to display their bodies or be sexual outside of male control.

H/T Shakesville

What Do The Homeless Deserve?

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This picture of a homeless man taking a snapshot of the ever popular Lady O was taken at DC homeless shelter where she was volunteering her time.  Of course Michelle Malkin could not resist the opportunity to wallow in her class privilege and snark about the level of need a homeless person has when they own a cell phone.  Perhaps she needs to see someone rolling in the dirt covered in excrement before she decides that they are worthy of help because as far as I can tell she has yet to point to a situation and decide that an individual  really is in need.  People like her are only about conserving their privileges at any cost.

The homeless are part of the invisible underclass that we don’t even bother to count.  Many view them as a nuisance rather than a symbol of the various ways in which our system is a failure.   How many times have you heard the excuse that I don’t give money because they will only spend it on alcohol? Not all people that live on the streets have an alcohol or drug problem and why should they spend every single dollar that they make on food?  We have become anesthetised to their condition and feel little remorse as we rush about our busy lives.

Even with the state of the economy people still refuse to see that this is not the problem of the individual, rather it is the commodification of the essentials of life.  1 in 8 people are either in foreclosure or are behind in the mortgages.  How many are also behind on their rent due to job loss?  40% of the people who are facing eviction are in that position because the landlord has lost the property to foreclosure.  Often times they don’t have the money to quickly find new lodgings. They are given little notice and quickly find themselves falling between the cracks.

If you don’t have a job, you cannot subsist in a society that has decided that all of the essentials of life come at a cost.  I suppose these people were also irresponsible.  Imagine the nerve of showing up to your job faithfully every day and expecting a company to make less profits in lean times so that you can continue to survive.  More than 500 have applied to become a school janitor in Massillon, Ohio and yet we still function with the belief that poverty is caused by the individual. 

Those that  are attempting to do advocacy work must become even more creative to draw attention to this problem as the ruling elite struggles to hold onto its undeserved advantages.  Tales fade into one another and we turn away from each other in real fear that the next story that we see on the news will one day be an accurate description of our lives.

Tim Edwards is a homeless man living in Houston.  A website entitled pimpthatbum has been created to document his story and raise funds to help him get off the streets.  Some have claimed that the owners of this site are exploiting his life however, Edwards asserts that he has moved beyond the point of shame and only wants a hand up. 

How is it possible in a country that is known for its richness that men like Edwards find it a struggle to survive everyday?  In a perfect world websites like this would not need to exist.  The point of the matter is that there are many people like Tim Edwards and though we would like to pretend they do not exist they are real and are in need of help. 

There are countless stories on the streets but the one thing that they all have in common is how difficult we make it for a person to survive.    We often times treat animals better than we treat our homeless population. In answer to the title of this post; the homeless deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.