Saturday, April 25, 2009

We Sure Loves Us Some Chicken

Well It seems that Popeyes decided to run a special on chicken and wouldn’t you know it they ran out.  This could have been simple story about incompetence until you notice the race of the customers that were viciously complaining about the lack of chicken.  Did anyone else notice that every single customer they chose to present is black.  Yep, just in case you are not up on the stereotype black people loves us some chicken.  The only thing better than a cheap chicken dinner is a side of  water melon and a quart of malt liquor to wash it all down with.

image I find it hard to believe that there was not a single non black customer that was not upset at the lack of planning by Popeye’s.  Well you post racial enthusiasts, what do you have to say about this?  Should we just ignore the fact that the media is once again choosing to perpetuate a racist stereotype in the name of a false colorblind world? Is it black people that solely keep the poultry industry in business or do other races perhaps occasionally enjoy chicken just to add a little “ethnicity” to their palates?

I often write about racism as it is an ism that I must deal with intimately on a daily basis and invariably someone will give me the line about it getting so much better, or look a black family now lives in the white house.   It is so easy from a position of privilege to sit back and not notice the covert ways in which racism occurs.  I suppose this news agency thought that they were being progressive by finally not showing blackness as criminal but using another stereotype which is equally as hurtful does not change the racial indignity that occurred in this little segment.  As the reporters sat their smirking at this little fluff piece, I wonder if they were aware of the racism that they were promoting?  Centering blacks in a story is pointless if the sole aim is to reduce us as human beings.


Hierarchy of bodies From discrimination to violence, transgender people face issues that many of us are blind to

I have a new article up at the Guardian

When your body and gender identity are aligned you exist with what is known as cisgender privilege. For those of us that are born this way, there are many forms of discrimination we do not have to face as long as we live with the gender image that has become normalised in our social understanding. Khadjiah Farmer learnt that transgressing the strict understanding of gender as male or female (what is known as the gender binary) – by challenging what it means to be understood as female and by dressing in what society has declared as male clothing – can be enough to get one forcibly removed from a public bathroom. This is an issue that those that are transgender face every day if they fail to "pass" as the gender to which they identify.

As a cisgendered woman, many of the issues that plague the trans community do not exist for me. We regularly load our language with terminology that is demeaning and stigmatises transgendered peoples. Terms like he/she regularly fall from our lips without regard for the pain that it causes. Purposefully calling someone by the wrong pronoun continues to be understood as acceptable, despite the repeated statements from the trans community that it is painful. Yet how we choose to refer to someone is important because language is about communicating ideas.

When I dress for work I do not have to choose between expressing my gender identity and keeping my job. Due to discrimination, many trans people are under-employed or not employed at all. Even those that are able to maintain employment report emotional and physical abuse. Being sentenced to a life of poverty for daring to challenge gender norms is just one of the consequences of society's coercive attempts to enforce gender conformity.

Finish Reading Here

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks so much for all of the great conversation this week.  It was a blast as usual. 

Announcements:

I would just like to remind everyone that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  If there is a subject that I am not covering or you would just like to share please don’t be shy about dropping me an e-mail.  It can either be a cross post or something original it is up to you.

Please don’t forget to check out the latest addition of the WOC Color and Ally Blog Carnival at Tell It WOC Speak.  You can also contribute to next months  here.  The carnival accepts posts written by WOC and any posts written by an ally that examines the ways in which race intersects with the various isms.

image Tonight at 8pm EDT Monica and I will be interviewing Crystal Ann Gray and Ethan St. Pierre about the Angie Zapata trial and the violence faced by the trans community.  Please join us for what I am sure will be a great conversation.  For those of you that miss it, I will be posting the podcast link on Sunday.

Without further delay the following are links to some great posts that I ran across this week.  Please don’t be afraid to show these bloggers some love.  When you are through remember to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Feminist On Testosterone: The View From An Intersexual FTM

White Anti Racists Appropriate The Words Of People Of Colour To Advance Their Thesis

Me and Columbine (This is a must read)

Feminism and Peter Pan

Stupid Questions White People Ask

The Forced Sterilization of Native Women

world day must mean it’s time to talk population control…

The Blasian Manual For “Some” White Women

They Shoot Horses Don’t They? Poverty, Homelessness And Suicide

The Penis Game

(Nappy) hair notes

The Construct Of Whiteness

I heart my bush

On Thinking Of Human Beings as Trash, and Other Tragedies of Resources

Breaking My Privilege: Who has the right to ask what questions

Fox’s “Glee,” the stereotyping of fat black women, and making friends with the loser kid in the wheelchair

image

Friday, April 24, 2009

Joe The Plumber: Vote Out The IRS

Well it seems that Joe’s big plan is for you to pay a dollar for a vote that counts for absolutely nothing.  Hey, it’s about making a statement right.  Would it not be cheaper to write a letter and for the cost of a stamp send it off to your representative?   It amazes me how this man has managed to spin a two second ignorant question into a career of displaying his inner idiocy to the world. 

image Every vote gets a free t-shirt while supplies last.  How much do you want to bet the number of freebies is extremely small?  He does after all have expenses to pay.  “Out of the 99¢ we charge, approximately 50% goes to the Service Provider MCI, 15% to the Service Bureau that makes sure all the votes are taken and calculated correctly. Other monies go to Administration costs, Advertising etc.”  Sounds like Joe plans to use  the “administration cost” to ensure that he is not reduced to government cheese because his book was a little less than successful. 

In case you are wondering why the hell I am writing about Joe The Plumber, the answer is quite simple really. I believe that his voice is one that we all need to hear.  He represents exactly what the lunatic right wing have been reduced to.  The more exposure these automaton neocons get the better.  I do believe that his shirt could use a new slogan; it should read this is brain on conservatism.  I am quite sure that his latest get rich scheme will be a stunning failure but at least we will have the pleasure of once again watching him fall flat on his face.


Jay Smooth: The Truth About Perez Hilton & Miss California

Love that he called Miss California the “Joe the plumber of the anti gay marriage movement”.  You just gotta love Jay Smooth.

Mammy Lives For Michael Kors

image

I came across this image at the Field Negro, where he declared this advertisement  is not racist.  He was more concerned with the fact that he thought that the model needed a good meal.  The disciplining of womens bodies will be dealt with on another post.

This advertisement was supposedly created to sell a watch and yet the image used has no real connection with the item in question.  Every single time there is a depiction of a black woman nurturing a white child, it instantly brings to mind the concept of mammy or the nursemaid.  The fact that black woman in the above ad is topless helps cement the construction in my mind.  If they were not trying to draw on this construction, the woman would have been clothed.  You will note that she is also virtually faceless because what really counts is the white baby.

The bodies of black women are only deemed relevant as far as they can be made to serve whiteness and this advertisement firmly sticks to this script.  “It’s about the time in our life” the words say, but when we consider that some lives are deemed more valuable than others this ad can hardly be deemed innocent. None of us lives outside of history. Each act, or thought is built upon previously acquired knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation.  While in some cases we might decry outright acts of racism, the everyday actions of many daily affirm the right to perform what are deemed inconsequential behaviours that serve to mark people of color as less than. 

This ad screams Mammy/Nursemaid and yet most will see it as an innocuous little plug for an over priced watch; it is the Black woman that will have to deal with the consequences of the diminishment. Much of racism today is performed in a covert manner yet the effect is the same; a hierarchy of bodies persists to typify our social make up.  It is not a matter of looking specifically to discover the racism in our everyday lives but acknowledging that racist constructions exist in all things because we have invested in a culture of dissonance.


The Craigslist Killer: Just A Normal Guy

image Philip Markoff went from a life of obscurity to national fame when he was arrested for murdering Julissa Brisman at a luxury hotel in Boston.  The media has been suggesting that he killed her to get money to pay off his gambling debts.  As the details become even more lurid, a daily feeding frenzy ensues to ensure that the public is aware of each minute detail of the case.

Markoff, being a white male and a medical student, was well on his way to a life of privilege.  In fact even without finishing his education, his race and his gender had already ensured that he had access to certain opportunities that are not universally available to all.

Even in this circumstance, his race and gender are already working to ensure that despite the fact that he was arrested for murder and for robbing a second woman - another masseuse who he met through the same classifieds website - at another Boston hotel, the spectre of innocence and disbelief surrounds him. 

Markoff's fiancee, Megan McAllister, has insisted police have the wrong man.

"He could not hurt a fly," she said in an e-mail to ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday. "All I have to say is Philip is a beautiful person, inside and out."

Andrew Hookway who graduated from the same high school as Markoff  him stated:

“He always seemed normal. There was nothing out of the ordinary. “We lived down the street from each other and rode the bus to school,” he said.
If given the chance to speak to Markoff now, Hookway is not sure what he would say to him. “I hope it’s a setup or something,” he said. “Innocent until proven guilty,” Hookway added.

Another fellow graduate commented:

“Some people thought he was ‘rude and strange,’ Paulini said, “But those of us who knew him thought he was a decent guy. He was always joking around having a pretty good time with us. Sociable, smart.”

These are the kinds of sentiments regularly uttered when a white male of class privilege is arrested for some form of violence against women. The white male is not constructed as a threat or a criminal, such labels are reserved for males of color.  This of course is a function of whiteness.

Though Markoff is yet to be convicted, unlike so many men of color who daily interact with the criminal justice system the presumption of innocence actually applies to him.   Even if he is found guilty Markoff will never be understood as representative of his race; no his actions will be deemed an aberration as whiteness cannot afford to own such a taint.  White women will continue to grab their purses when they see young men of colour totally ignoring the threat that exists from white males.

The idea that one can be an individual is a privilege that belongs to whiteness.  This in part is why some find any discussion of whiteness as a systemic force so difficult to bear.  The concept of collective bodies is something that is relegated to people of color so that they can be constructed as less than.  Whether it is Markoff or Madoff, these men will only stand for their individual criminality whereas a black drug dealer will be the representative of his race.  People of color are often told that we focus to much on race and yet in almost every single interaction race is the invisible elephant in the room.  It is race that often determines how people are understood and in a world that is determined to pretend that we are not divided it functions to absolve some bodies and convict others.  Markoff may or may not be found guilty of murder but unlike whiteness at least he will stand trial.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stay At Home Mother Not Considered A Professional

image Today is  national "Take Your Child to Work Day".  This calls into question what we consider valid labour.  There are many women across North America who stay at home and take care of their families as their job.  In most cases this does not constitute a profession or even legitimate labour because it does not produce a salary.

Sandra Thompson, a stay at home mother to three children had the bright idea to have her children stay home with her so that they could see exactly what she did.  According to waaytv.com,when she approached her childs teacher she was told, that her job was not considered a professional job.  This attitude was supported by the Superintendent of Madison County Schools, Dr. Terry Davis.  While he stated that he respected what she did,he feared that children who stayed at home with their mothers would end up watching television or not participating in any activity all day.

image

Yep, cause of course stay at home moms aren’t busy running errands all day, cooking, cleaning, ironing, budgeting and just generally make sure that the family has everything that it needs to get through a day in the public sphere.  The ease at which he diminished what this women does belies his so-called stance of respect.  In his mind, clearly work must be legitimated by pay to be considered valuable labour.

image The idea that a stay at home mother would have nothing to teach her child is ridiculous.  If a child does not learn to cook, how will they feed themselves when they reach adulthood?   How about cleaning…should a child not learn how to keep their environment clean?  Everything this woman does each and every single day is an essential life service.

That we continually devalue the work of women is a function of capitalism and patriarchy.   This is a large part of why women globally are the earths poorest citizens.   The work that we do is constructed as either natural to our gender or part of our desire to nurture those we love, while no such caretaking roles are readily assigned to me.  Consider that when a man is in charge of his children it is often referred to as babysitting thus inferring he is doing work that is beneath him i.e., womens work. 

Dr. Terry Davis, clearly feels that women only contribute value to the family when they are adding to the family purse.  It is this very attitude that forces women into the double day.   Women continue to face pressure to not only succeed professionally but maintain the perfect house and garden type home at all times.  As women in their 40’s quickly reach burnout from the the high social standard that is imposed, little to no relief is offered to help us negotiate the different social roles that we are forced to play.  When a woman chooses to focus on her children over her career, or a career over family she is vilified.  This is a no win situation which we daily affirm to keep women performing well beyond the measure of endurance.

Dr. Terry Davis did indeed teach these children a lesson; that womens work does not matter and therefore should not be counted as labour.  Her children will have learned that no matter how well they perform without the sanction of patriarchy women will always be second class citizens. 


Women As A Tool To Justify Transphobia

I have been closely following the conversation about bathroom politics, as in state after state the trans community fights for the right to use the bathroom that most closely reflects the gender identity to which they publicly express. The right wing fundies have fought hard to create a panic about this issue often citing that it would increase incidents of sexual abuse in the bathrooms. 

New England is currently working on House Bill 1728 which bans discrimination based on gender identity or expression in the areas of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and public education. In order to defeat this bill opponents have chosen once again to raise the supposed dreaded spectre of “men in womens bathrooms”.

For instance, at an April 8 lobby day sponsored by the anti-gay Massachusetts Family Institute at the State House, former Fall River school superintendent Joseph Martins addressed attendees and painted a nightmarish scenario in which school officials would be powerless to stop hordes of teenage boys from charging into the girls’ locker rooms to get a peek at their female classmates.
"It is difficult enough to control student behaviour, prevent discrimination of all students, and ensure the safety of all students without having to distinguish between truth and a lie of some student claiming, at will, a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behaviour other than that assigned sex at birth, simply to gain access to the opposite-at-birth-sex locker-rooms, showers, or lavatory facilities," Martins told the crowd.

Shall we look at this little piece of nonsense.  It is absolutely ridiculous to deny transpeople the right to use the correct bathroom because cisgendered people in the above quote have been constructed as deviant.  They’re  afraid that some hopped on hormones teenage boy would use that as an excuse to violate the rights of women.  How nice and convenient.  Why is it that  people only seem to be concerned about stemming the violence against women when it involves curtailing the rights of another?  In this case womanhood is nothing more than a tool.

They need not worry, as with the amount of transphobia in this society the likely hood of a teenage boy owning a trans identity falsely is very slim.  A simple look at the ways in which those who are gender variant are treated socially is more than enough to discourage such behaviour. According to  the Bay window, in the twelve states in which this has become law falsely posing as a trans person has yet to happen.

"Due to this wording, any man can legally gain access to facilities reserved for women and girls simply by indicating, verbally or non-verbally, that he inwardly feels female at the moment. There is no way to distinguish between someone suffering from ’Gender Identity Disorder’ and a sexual predator looking to exploit this law. This is the dangerous reality of this bill," wrote MFI.

In almost every single rejection that I have seen, never have I witnessed a discussion of trans men in the men or womens bathrooms.  Where is their concern that if the trans community is not allowed to use the bathroom of the gender to which they identify and express, that this allows men in the womens bathroom and or change rooms?  Stop and think about this for a moment, by their thinking it is acceptable to have someone who not only identifies as male but in some cases but presents as male (beard and all), using the same facilities as women.  OOOH I think I get it, this is not about protecting women, this is about denying rights.

Women are constantly used as a tool to justify social wrongs.  The US government did not care about the brutality that women lived under when the Taliban ran Afghanistan but suddenly after the invasion it was about “protecting women”.   The presence of real men (read trans men) are ignored to protect us against trans women.  Can we just deal with the fact that people need to pee period.  A trans person in the bathroom of their gender identity is not a threat to anyone and this framing of women in need of protection is not only highly transphobic but sexist.  How long are we going to be subject to this wilting flower ideology? 


Russell Simmons's New Rush Card: Akin to "Pimping" Poor Black People

This is Russell Simmons, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.  He thinks that everyone should be financially empowered so he  developed the Rush Card.  It’s a pre paid visa card. There is no credit check.  Everyone is eligible to sign up.  You don’t even need a bank account, just go to rushcard.com, choose your style and we’ll rush one right to you.  Some fees or restrictions may apply.  Then as soon as you add money to your card you can use it where ever visa debt cards are accepted and remember because it is a prepaid visa debit card you can only spend what you deposit.  You won’t go into debt.  You can even direct deposit your pay check onto your rush card.  Need another reason,okay.  Enter first friend when you sign up and we’ll put five dollars on your card as soon as you activate it.  That’s right, plus each time you refer a friend and they activate their rush card.  In today's world you have to have plastic.  We created the prepaid rush card so that everyone will have access to the American dream.  Go to rush card.com and sign up right now. 

image Well Simmons claims to be doing this out of the goodness of his heart;  yes,an overwhelming desire to help poor black people participate in the consumerist lifestyle created and maintained by bourgeoisie elites. Naturally such goodness could not go unrewarded.  Let’s look at the associated fees.

Activation Fee
$19.95

Convenience Fees (Domestic)
capped at $10 per month, additional fees are refunded
$1.00

TM Cash Withdrawal (Domestic)
$1.95

ATM Balance Inquiry (Domestic)
$0.50

Bill Payment***
$1.00

RushCard Inactivity**
$1.95

Convenience Fees (International)
$2.00

ATM Cash Withdrawal (International)
$3.50

ATM Balance Inquiry (International)
$1.00

*MoneyGram charges a fee of $3.95 for this service
**Inactive cards; 90 days of no loads, no purchases and no ATM activity
***One Time Enrolment Fee of $2.00

Who is doing who a favour here?   No wonder Russell is willing to toss out a five dollar a friend refer a sucker reward.  He knows that every poor person that signs up for this card is only going to increase his bottom line.  Oh yes he is fulfilling a need alright, the one that all poor people seem to have to take it directly up the ass so that the rich can get richer. 

Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse spoke with John Hockenberry of WNYC and PRI's morning show and had this to say:

"Russell, he really--it's a very interesting sort of idea here--he's saying 'I'm giving everyone access to the American Dream,' but I never really knew the American Dream consisted of having a piece of plastic that puts people further and further in debt.   But even a pimp that helps--that quote unquote helps--a young woman get off the street, he can say I helped you because you were homeless when I met you and now you're not."

That is exactly what Simmons is doing, pimping black people for profit.  He knows that this is a fact otherwise he would not have gone to such great lengths to announce that he is a philanthropist.  One of the reasons that people remain poor is because they are often forced to pay more for items than people that are middle class or rich do.   Whether it is the high rate of interest on pay day cash advances, food, rent, or clothing, the working poor support this economy.

Each time a corporation reaches into your pocket they sell it as a convenience. See look how easy it was for me to rob you blind, wasn’t that fun, next time bring a friend.  There is a reason why these predatory businesses either congregate in poor communities or aim their products at poor communities; they know that the system is set up for them to exploit our most vulnerable members.

The fundies daily announce that the problems would be solved if people would just go out and get jobs but what they forget is that the moment you receive the reward of your slave labour (read: pay check) there is always someone standing there with their hand out waiting to be paid.  From the doctor to the landlord, all of the essentials of life have been commodified.  We have even created a system in which people are fined for paying their debts.  That’s right, that 17% interest on your credit card is a fine.  Will the ingenuity of capitalism ever come to an end?

Yeah Russell Simmons is a pimp, and a vicious class exploiter.  With friends like this who really needs enemies. The next time you see him on television remember what pays for his fancy clothing, homes and jewellery.  No matter how much he gives back it will not make up for what he steals with this so-called gift.

H/T David Bukszpan via e-mail.


Walking Away: The Luxury Of An Ally

I was sent a link to virane’s livejournal and I thought it would make for interesting conversation.  In it s/he says the following:

So after posting on [info]transgender about how I react to news in the TS community, I decided to limit my following of current events by not following anymore, at the moment, both TransGriot and Questioning Transphobia.
I still have a few TS blogs on my "feed" list, but they are more like blogs by TS people than blogs about TS issues.
I feel quite sorry about this, but at the moment, I just can't handle the stress of reading all those infuriating news about horrible things that happen to TS people, especially as there is not much I can do about them. I am just not at the stage where I want to be an activist. I have got enough on my plate as it is.
Once during teaching at a Buddhist center I went to, the teacher said that it was not necessarily good to follows news all the time and get involved in them, and that sometime it can be good to just withdraw a bit so as to be able to deal with things that one can actually do something about.

image Isn’t this lovely.  S/he finds the stress of dealing with the real life issues of transwomen to difficult and therefore s/he is going to withdraw.  I wonder if Monica or Lisa Harney would like to spend one day of their existence not having to deal with transphobia?  Do you think that either of them could declare that trans issues are just to stressful and bow the hell out of it all because they felt like it?

The position taken by Virane is one of extreme privilege.  The whole “I cannot do anything anyway, so why bother to keep working for change” is something that only privileged bodies get to declare.  Those of us that live with an identity that society has deemed less than must daily fight for recognition of our shared humanity.

image How many times have we seen privileged bodies demanding a cookie because they had the decency to speak out against a form of oppression?  This cookie demanding is an expression of privilege because those of us that are marginalized have no choice but to fight the social stigmatizations that are aimed at us.  Even when we pretend not to hear the taunts we are still wounded.  It is privilege that causes the high rates of violence, poverty, and lack of education yet the oppressors dares to believe that they deserve to be rewarded.

Even when you choose to speak out it is still a choice that oppressed bodies do not have.  It is a fight that you do not have to own and at any moment you can walk away from it either temporarily or forever.  One does not choose to be trans, gay, of color, disabled etc., and one certainly does not get to decide if privilege must be negotiated.  Even while battling on behalf of the oppressed, the very privilege that you seek to dispel will ensure that your voice is taken more seriously than the lived experience of those that must negotiate the isms in question.  Now that is a piece of irony for you.

While I cherish the allies that speak out in the cause of justice, I am more than aware of the choices they have simply by default.  The momentary lapses that are engaged in when the oppression becomes just to ugly to look at, and the introspection that is avoided because it is just to close to home means that even while fighting the good fight, to some degree there will always be a separation between us. No one, no matter how committed owns all of their privilege. 

You have to keep fighting even when it hurts. You have to keep pushing the envelope even when those around you accuse you being to sensitive because people that are battling oppression don’t ever get to choose.  If fighting for justice seems hard in the face of all of the ugliness, that is because power used corrosively is positively evil.  When you think about tuning out, stop and pause for one moment and realize that this only aligns you with those you claim to be vehemently against.  If you believe in justice there really should never be a choice. 

 Editors Note: After reading the commentary by Belledamme I decided to dig a little deeper into Virane blog; it was not until a post authored in December that I came across reference to her trans status.  Reading the initial post that I linked to I assumed a cisgender identity which was clearly wrong.  I apologize to Virane for this mistake.  Clearly my privilege had a role to play in my assumption.  This does not take away from the basic premise of this post, which is the ability of allies to walk away.  Once again I apologize Virane for my wrong assumption.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adam Lambert: If I Can’t Have You

Once again sorry for the delay on the weekly Lambert video, I have not been feeling well the last couple of days.  I have been trying to keep up with the blogging but sometimes you just have to admit defeat and take a rest.  At any rate without further delay ADAM LAMBERT y’all

Justice For Angie

image Though I have not written about the murder trial, I have been following the case closely.  I simply did not have anything to add to the conversation.  Today I am happy to announce that Andrade has been found guilty on all four counts and will be spending the rest of his life in prison.

Even though I am happy to know that he will pay for his crime and that the trans panic defence did not work, my joy is bittersweet.  You see, Angies name is still going to appear on the remembering our dead list.  Her light has been permanently smothered and her family will spend a lifetime grieving until they meet with her again in the great hereafter.

While following the trial, I desperately hoped that they would at least receive justice but now I find the moment of truth to be empty and unfulfilling.  Angie was only 18 years old when she died last July 17th.  She had a lifetime of promise ahead of her and each year that goes by I am certain that those who loved her will wonder what she would have achieved, how she would have changed, and how she would have added to the beauty of this planet.  

Trans people face extremely high rates of violence.  Though we have the comfort of knowing that Andrade will pay for his crime, I know that this will not deter the next person that decides to act in hatred.  I have tried to raise awareness through this blog and have cheered the work of various activists globally but it seems monthly I am reading about a new assault or a new degradation.  If  my impatience is visible I cannot imagine how the trans community feels.   I wish that justice for Angie meant that there would be no more deaths as the result of trans hatred.  I wish that it meant that from here on in there would be no more systemic cisgender privilege.  One man has been made for his crime but each day we all participate in a system that continues to devalue people.


Shii - The Wii for Women

More hilarious sexist gender essentialism.   I am so tired of this  kind of thing popping up and people laughing along as though it is harmless.  What woman wouldn’t want to play games about cooking, ironing, cleaning, talking on the phone and finally servicing her man?  See that’s the joke, it’s supposedly fun to demean women at every opportunity for a laugh. 

I find the fact that it is attached to the gaming industry that much more frustrating.  There are plenty of women that actively play video games and yet the largest percentage of games produced are marketed at teenage boys.  They are often highly misogynistic and violent towards women.  How often have we seen a game where players are awarded points for assaulting or raping a woman?  There is even a great series where you can undress digital women and get them to perform whatever act you desire. All this does is encourage the perpetuation of the idea that women exist to be devalued.

Across race, class and culture the universal truth is patriarchy continually reaffirms its power in order to gain in prestige, and power. When women defend ourselves we are quickly disciplined and labelled unwomen.  To threaten our gender identity serves to keep us performing a submissive form of femininity that  enriches men and maintains the gender hierarchy.

The genius of this little game is that the definition of  woman constantly changes and therefore women can be instantly demeaned simply for not obeying rather than a failure to perform femininity.  He who labels ultimately controls behaviour. When I look at the colluding women in this spoof, I don’t see agency, I see women who are performing at the behest of patriarchy.  

There is a myth that because women discipline alongside men that we approve of the various forms of oppression however, once again as with every other ism it is about power more than it is about acceptance of oppression.   Many believe that the only way to avoid having themselves declared “unwoman”  is to act on behalf of patriarchy and discipline other women.  This way that can point the finger at another and say, “see I’m not like them” in the false belief that it elevates them and leaves them immune from criticism. 

To those who claim that we are post feminist, or that this is just ironic sexism understand that the mere fact that you believe that this sort of behaviour is funny only proves your commitment to a perpetuation of inequality.  Sexism translates into things like domestic abuse, sexual assault, and poverty; there is always a cost to speech.

H/T Openly Feminist via twitter


Some White People

When I started this blog, one of the things that I promised myself is that I would speak unabashedly about race.  Often whiteness exists without challenge and when POC do find spaces where they are able to speak about systemic inequality, we are often bullied into silence by the language police. We are routinely told if we spoke in nicer terms we would be less alienating, as though whiteness has any real interest in  divesting itself of its power.  Gee, if only we had realized that the key to ending white hegemony was speaking in respectful terms, it never would have been necessary to go through the heartache and strife of a civil rights movement.

It is not hate speech to speak critically about whiteness nor is it racist.  Due to the fact that whiteness has been so normalized in our society, it is often created as the invisible norm and any challenge to its authority is resisted.  We are not post racial and to ask the POC to be complicit in the mendacious meme is to expect our collusion with our own social diminishment.

When I speak about whiteness, I am speaking about white racial privilege and the systemic nature of the ways in which racism functions.  There is a clear bifurcation between individual white people and whiteness as a force, yet there are those that still insist on the usage of the word “some”.  It seems that any opportunity to discipline speech when someone dares to challenge the hegemony of whiteness is almost irresistible.  Insisting on the insertion of the word some, even when intent has been made clear is an assertion of power and an attempt to set the rules of engagement. 

The fist shaking and pearl clutching begins as the reader rushes to defend their supposedly attacked identity. This only proves that the reader was not paying attention in the first place.  You see, it can be difficult when the whole world affirms who you are to accept that there are spaces that refuse to dedicate the bulk of its time promoting the “everything that is good is white meme”.  Whiteness is so used to seeing itself reflected, that even when commentary is not about a particular  person, the default position is offense.  Note to readers: if it isn’t about you stop making it about you.  If you feel a desire to center yourself in the conversation and find offense, perhaps it is more reflective of a form of privilege that you have been ignoring than any statement about white people as individuals.

It is irritating enough to continually be forced to repeat 101 basics because people refuse to even attempt to learn before engaging but to then have your mode expression questioned from a position of ignorance and privilege is positively maddening. There is no honesty in this kind of exchange, only a repetition of whiteness as ultimately possessing the power to control the dialogue.

I am continually annoyed with the hypocrisy displayed by so many.  When I speak about the cost of speech and the difference between hate speech and free speech, there is invariably an accusation of censorship and yet when whiteness calls POC angry as a way to silence, that is not censorship.  When our lived experience is routinely questioned and then dismissed what is this but censorship?  Referring to our critiques as pulling the race card is yet another method of minimizing us. 

I could add the word some to my commentary and it would not change a thing because the real fault is having the nerve to question whiteness.   This space has even been referred to as racist and judgmental because privilege denial is deemed unacceptable in direct contrast to the ways in which it is actively promoted across the blogosphere.   The false colorblind world that whiteness attempts to project is  harmful and I refuse to promote this mendacity, so that some may find it more comfortable to perpetuate their undeserved privilege.  You are not a committed anti-racist until you can look at the ugliness of racism without flinching and understanding that it is not your place to quash the voices of the oppressed or decide unilaterally that you exist above critique.  Discomfort is a sign of unacknowledged privilege and not a reflection of “reverse racism”.


Perez Hilton: Calling Women Bitches Is Unacceptable

In his original rant on his blog regarding Carrie Prejean stating that she was against gay marriage Perez Hilton decided that it was acceptable to call her a bitch.  In what I thought was a moment of humanity for him he apologized, only to quickly retract  it and add to his commentary.

Yes I said the B word and uh and I was very angry.  You know what I don’t apologize.  I apologized yesterday ‘cause I was upset and angry and uh I thought I may have been to much in the moment but over  the course of the last twenty-four hours, the more I’ve thought about it; you know what I’m gonna stand by what I said just like she said.  You know what, I called her the B word but hey I was thinking the c word.  I didn’t say it.

Well, where to begin with Mr.Hilton.  They call him the Queen of mean  and I do believe that the moniker is fitting.  I do not read his blog because he has a penchant for demeaning women, including referring to cisgender women as trannys (the man is an equal opportunity offender) .

When I wrote the post about gay white males still having privilege, I  received a ton of backlash but I do believe that Hiltons commentary reifies my point.  There is this idea that gay males are the natural allies to womanist/feminists because they exist as marginalized bodies but in truth despite dealing with an area of oppression, they are still able to wield and express patriarchal power. 

Hilton wants the world to be upset because Ms. Prejean had the nerve to aim her heterosexual privilege directly at him.   While what she said was absolutely offensive, his commentary was no less so.   Calling women bitches and inferring that they are cunts is demeaning.  Homophobia not only restricts the rights of white gay males, it also restricts the right of ALL LESBIANS, and BISEXUAL women.  That’s right, there are women in the GLBT community and when you refer to one as a bitch or a cunt you are demeaning your supposed allies.

No matter how many times the point is made about the interconnectivity of the isms, invariably there are those that feel that the best way to resist their oppressor is to engage in oppressive behaviour themselves.  Screaming about the ways in which you are “othered” and then engaging in the same behaviour only supports the idea that attacking others based in perceived difference is acceptable.

As Monica of Transgriot is fond of saying, “the LGBT community is nothing more than a microcosm of the larger society” and this means that certain members will continually ignore the privileges that they have to display sexism, racism, ableism, etc.; the issue is that this is rarely to never acknowledged in the effort to present themselves as the last remaining bastion of oppressed peoples.  When you ignore intersectionality, you alienate not only members of your own group but those that would stand in your defence.  Each time an incident like this happens, it makes it that much harder for an ally to speak out in favour of gay rights because the groups that we approach ask why we see this as an issue when there are so many vocal members within the GLBT community that dehumanize others.

These exchanges are about power.   I have repeatedly stated that our concept of power needs to be change if we are to move forward.  There are many different approaches that Hilton could have taken with this issue that would have been affirming.  He could have simply have condemned her position, he even could have pointed out weaknesses in her argument but he chose to rely on mindless sexism because he has been so steeped in misogynistic hatred of women that viewing one as an equal is beyond his capacity. He may not find women sexually appealing but that does not mean that we are not worthy of respect. 

His vitriol was so dehumanizing, I wonder whether he was really upset by the display of heterosexual privilege or the fact that it was a woman telling him that he was not equal.  When men are used to being in the default position of authority, it can be emasculating to discover that there are occasions when women are able to wield power just as coercively as patriarchy.  The fact that this exchange was so public further adds an element of shame to the whole event. 

Neither the statements by Ms. Prejean or the resulting commentary by Hilton will go down as their finest moments.  They are both more of an example of how not to behave or think than anything else.   Hilton has used this incident to score some cheap publicity for himself thus causing me to question how real his outrage is. He has not focused on the issue of gay marriage and why this important to the gay and lesbian community, rather it has become just another platform for him to promote his virulent hatred of women that he regularly displays on the rag he calls a blog.  Hilton is not interested in justice or equality, he is interested in power and no amount of mock rage on his part is going to make his vitriolic rantings into a plea for social justice.

Editors Note: Yesterday on Rick Sanchez,  Mr .Hilton continued to justify is demeaning speech with the following:

I'm not a representative of the gay community, in the same way that being Cuban, I'm not representative of the Latino community.
I just speak for myself. And I'm Perez Hilton, Rick Sanchez. I can be offensive. I don't have to be politically correct. I can call her the B-word.

In the above commentary I do believe that Hilton makes it more than clear that his privilege should trump hers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alberta Delists Sex Reassignment Surgery

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Since Tommy Douglas fought valiantly for the right of universal health care, Canadians have been blessed to know that in times of illness our medical needs would be covered by the state. Universal health care has become one of our most cherished social benefits. Though the tax burden is high and there are faults within the system regarding wait times for procedures, no Canadian is turned away from a doctor or a hospital in a time of need - unless, of course, they happen to be transgender.

After repeated slash-and-burn budgets by former premier Ralph Klein, in which he attacked the poor under the guise of balancing the budget and the decline of the oil sands revenue, the province of Alberta is once again in a position where it must run a deficit budget. Alberta is Canada’s most conservative province and so it comes as no surprise that the government has decided that the delisting of sex reassignment surgery is a justifiable sacrifice in an effort to save seven hundred thousand in a twelve point nine billion dollar healthcare budget. With a total deficit of four point seven billion what does cutting seven hundred thousand really accomplish?

Finish Reading Here

Polygamy is not worse than gay marriage, it is better

It seems that Mary Gallagher the force behind the National Organization for Marriage has held negative views on gay marriage for quite some time.  In The Stakes authored for  the National Review she states:

Polygamy is not worse than gay marriage, it is better. At least polygamy, for all its ugly defects, is an attempt to secure stable mother-father families for children.

image Stable relationships…Right children get to grow up watching their father marry successively younger women under the guise of religion while they await their turn to be abused.   “These problems” that she so casually refers to are far from minor.  Perhaps she finds it acceptable that the lost boys are regularly thrown out of these FLDS camps because the older men don’t want any competition for the underage girls that they plan to force into illegal marriages and then sexually assault.  Here is a news flash Ms Gallagher, a 15 year old girl cannot consent to sex with a 50 year old man regardless of how “celestial these marriages” are;  there is a little thing known as a power differential between them.

So eager are these right wing fundies to attack consensual relationships between loving ADULT lesbians and gays that they are willing to support something as perverse as the kind of polygamy practiced by the FLDS.  There is a difference image between real life and Hollywood Ms. Gallagher; therefore polygamy is not practiced as it is shown on  HBO’s Big Love.   It is based on the complete submission of women to men.  To even consider not reproducing within a marriage is a sin.  Young girls have absolutely no say on who they marry.  The education that the children residing on these compounds receive is substandard at best.  Please explain to me how a science class constitutes a complete education when it does not include evolution in favour of creative design? 

image This isn’t some quaint little historical flash back to the good ole prairie days when life was simply, this is the complete erasure of the agency of women and the purposeful abuse of children on many levels.  When these women escape, due to the fact that they have been so handicapped by a lack of education, socialization, and repeated sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, for some it takes years to even begin to adjust to life in the larger society. With their lack of education and multiple children they are often sentenced to poverty.

To compare gay marriage to this travesty is disgusting and dishonest.  Gays and lesbians in an equal relationship, are the complete opposite of the kind of couplings that traditionally happen in the FLDS community.  I cannot believe that this woman would support the abuse that happens to women and children because it occurs in  heterosexual pairings. Penis plus vagina is not an automatic  good; this is not a healthy life for anyone to lead.  The desire to privilege heterosexuality seems to have no end ,even when presented with clearly unhealthy manifestations.   These fundies routinely lie and twist facts and yet they have the nerve to declare gays and lesbians a perversion.   This is privilege and denial on overload.  When we listen to women like her pontificate what we must remember is that for her morality is about preserving our dissonance in worth and value and not about understanding that all people are equal.


Womanist Musings Is 1 Year Old Today

image

First, I just want to say thanks so much to everyone who has taken time out of their day to pop by and share in this space.  Womanist Musings is a labour of love and your insightful commentary makes it all worthwhile.  In the past year we have had some really heated debates and some really touching moments.  Slowly a little community has been built around this blog and I so appreciate each and everyone of you.  To celebrate I thought that I would link to some of my favourite posts over the last year for those of you that are new to the blog.  Hopefully this is only the first of many anniversaries to come.

Capitalism The Cult Of I

Allies, Privileges and Pats On the Back

East Vs West – The Feminist Divide

Stuck In The Middle

Angelina Jolie: The Worlds Greatest Mother

Pro Choice Because I Am A Mother

Gay White and Male Still Equals Privilege

The Mystical Negro and Self Flagellation

Colour an Indian: The Struggles Of An Anti-Racist Parent

What Does WOC Mean?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Carrie Prejean: Gay Marriage Scandal At Miss USA Competition

When asked by Perez Hilton what her feelings on gay marriage were, Ms. Prejeans issued the following response:

You know what in my country and in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  No offense to anybody out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think that it should be a man and a woman.

Well, it seems that  Ms. Prejean was raised to be a bigot.  If she thinks this absolves her of continuing to hold the same biases and beliefs then she is sadly mistaken.  As we grow and move beyond the sheltered world that our parents raise us with, we form our own sense of beliefs and values based on our own unique experiences.  What one thinks at ten will be different than one thinks at 18 or 21 not based solely on maturity but on exposure to new people and ideas.  The fact that she did not see fit to provide any basis for her beliefs other than this is what mommy and daddy says, reveals that she is not a critical thinker and is just another mindless automaton repeating hatred because it is simpler than acknowledging the undeserved privilege with which she currently lives.

Allowing two gay people to marry will not infringe upon her rights, rather it will confer rights to people that have historically been marginalized.  As she brazenly stood there telling a gay man that he did not have the right to be equal before the law, the smile on her face did not cover her ignorance and her hatred.  The cheers that she received for answer were even more galling.  That such bigotry could be rewarded publicly speaks to how far removed we are from truly valuing all bodies.


Human Trafficking The Crime Against Humanity

This is a guest post by Beeb Ashcroft

Originally from London, England, Beeb Ashcroft moved to the US in 1989. Currently residing in a resort town on the north Oregon coast, she works out of her home as a freelance journalist. She writes for a variety of publications, including The Feminist Review and her personal blog, Contest Corner.

27 million people worldwide are estimated to be enslaved by human trafficking. In this day and age, we'd like to think that such an unthinkable industry would have diminished - but it has been suggested that there are more slaves in the world today than at any time in human history.

How does this happen? People are trapped by human trafficking in many different ways. Some are abducted, some are sold into slavery by their
relatives, and others are tricked by phony job offers - only realizing the truth after it's too late. Slavery rings are often run by organized crime syndicates.

Women and young girls are the primary victims of human trafficking - used for prostitution and forced labour, enslaved individuals suffer unimaginable torture. Beaten. Starved. Raped. Dehumanized. Children are often gang raped to "break down their resistance", and are highly susceptible to HIV/AIDS as a result.

Are you enraged yet? When I read facts like these, I feel so upset and powerless. Where do we even begin to stop such widespread atrocities? The good news is, we're NOT powerless - we can do something to help. I was recently introduced to an organization called The Emancipation Network, which works to fight slavery and empower survivors. Founded by Sarah Symons and John Berger in 2005, the couple started this grassroots organization using their life savings. Symons was inspired when she saw a room full of beautiful purses in a Nepalese image shelter that had been made by survivors during art therapy. It occurred to her that these could be sold in the US to benefit the women who had made them. Today, the Made By Survivors Store markets a wide selection of beautiful handicrafts, empowering these former slaves with sustainable income. T.E.N. also works to prevent human trafficking in high-risk areas before it happens, as well as providing education to young girls who did not attend school because they were enslaved. And the stories of hope on Sarah Symons' blog are inspiring.

If you'd like to learn more about human trafficking, click here For more info on T.E.N., the organization's financial statistics and fair trade policies, click here,

image In an effort to raise awareness for the plight of these victims and gain support for T.E.N, I am hosting a giveaway on my website for a Garnet & Marcasite necklace handmade by a survivor in Bangkok. Anyone can enter by leaving a comment on the post, so if you would like to check it out and help me spread the word, click here. The contest has been successful so far - a couple of readers were so moved by what they read that they made donations or purchase an item from the store. It's free feminist swag for a great cause, so please stop by and enter before April 24th!

Rubina: The Slumdog Millionaire Child Is Up For Sale

It seems that Rubina’s fame may yet be her undoing.  Her father cites poverty as the reason that he is currently attempting to sell his daughter for 295,560 USD. 

"What they showed in the film is exactly how life is here. The government doesn't help us. We get nothing.

"We live in one room, seven of us sleep on the floor. I earn £2 to £3 a day. I have to consider what's best for me, my family and Rubina's future."

The family was recently given the equivalent of 17,733 USD “luxury apartment by  Slumdog sound engineer Rasul Pookutty. The property in Kerala, south India, was awarded to Rasul - who himself escaped poverty - by the local council in honour of his Oscar achievement.”   Rubina’s father Rafiq refuses to move citing that his life is in Mumbai.   Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson have also set up a trust fund for Rabina’s education.

It seems that the real issue at this point is that her family realizes that media attention will be fleeting and so to capitalize on their daughters fame and achieve wealth they have decided to sell her.  This is not an uncommon occurrence India. A daughter can be sold to pay off debts that a family has incurred.  They often are forced into prostitution where the lifespan is decidedly short. Boys are most often forced to perform as carpet weavers, restaurant workers and agriculture bonded labour.

Very little is done to help these poor trafficked and abused children. The police are no help because they get kickbacks and access to the girls.  Since prostitution is against the law, it is the girls that are punished while the pimp faces little or no consequences. 

In the west we have an image of what the perfect childhood.  We think of nicely manicured lawns, boys with paper routes, girls playing hopscotch and a life free of worry or care. For the majority of the worlds children this is nothing more than a fantastic dream, in fact it is the stuff of legends.   Until Slumdog Millionaire became a success many were decidedly unaware of just how challenging a life of poverty could be in a third world country.  

Like it or not, every single western citizen is complicit in the impoverishment of children that leads to this sort of behaviour.  We want our products cheaply made and easily within reach. Corporations purposefully ensure that what we do buy, falls apart quickly so that we are required to repeatedly purchase the same items.  We do not hold them to decent product standards and instead line up time after time to purchase items that should have lasted for decades had they not been purposefully designed to fail.  How many times have we replaced a product that was perfectly functioning because it has gone “out of style”?

We cry and complain about jobs being exported to third world countries because they will work for far less than us as though we have some entitlement to the standard of living that we have become accustomed to.  When so-called illegal immigrants enter our countries, we again complain that they are taking our jobs.  Entitlement and privilege have become synonymous with Western life.

We care about what is happening to Rubina because she was made famous in a movie but we do not care enough to make the changes necessary to ensure that families are not reduced to selling their children in order to subsist.  We know about SAPS, currency devaluation and the unfair trading practices introduced by the IMF and World Bank, yet other than the occasional protest and purchasing of the “correct bracelet,” socially we make no significant demands for change because we realize that it is not possible to elevate the third world to our living standard; it us who must reduce our consumption rates.  If the third world were to develop along the same lines as the western world it would take the resources of 8 planets for it to be sustainable. 

Each day that we make the choice to continue on this path, we ensure that children like Rubina become prey for the most contestable of crimes, slavery. Unlike many children, she is lucky in that her story is out there for all to see but there are literally thousands who are locked away from sight that are living under the most unimaginable circumstances because of our desire to consume more than our share.  Greed is at the heart of child slavery and until we acknowledge that we care about people more than commodities, children will continue to live lives of abject misery.  How much is your ipod worth to you really? 


MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY ON BLACK WOMEN

 image Mr. Stinky certainly knows what he likes.  For those that are unaware, the Mr.Stinky reference comes from the fact that “the star”, has made it clear that he adores his own scent so much that polluting it with deodorant is unacceptable.  Kinda makes you think twice about letting him eat crackers in your bed doesn’t it? Alpha male arrogance is so unappealing in a man, no matter how many dimples he has or how square his jaw is.

If this was not enough reason to develop a dislike for him, his recent commentary to Elle magazine should push you right over the edge.

ELLE: Barbara Walters seemed to be hitting on you during your 2006 interview, which ended with you rubbing her feet. If you’d both been single, might you have let her have her way with you?
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY: I would’ve had to tell those cameras to cut.
ELLE: All joking aside…?
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY: Look, I think Anthony Quinn once said, “There’s something wrong with any heterosexual man under 80 if he can’t find an angle with every woman.” There’s a lot of truth to that.
ELLE: Any woman you can think of who might not be coverworthy, but whom you find attractive?
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY: Not so specifically, but yeah. And I see it more with black women, who get dressed up and they’re wearin’ everything to fit snug, and they’re walking the walk.
And you’re like, Man, look at you go! Where did you get that? She might be a larger package, but boy, she sure understands how she’s wrapped.

An angle on every woman”, ‘cause we exist to be eye candy.  I suppose he thought women would find it flattering that he has  the ability to dissect womens bodies at will for his own sexual gratification. Gee ladies, that means no matter how plain you are, stinky has an erection with your name on it.

Stinky really needs to give his over privileged head a shake.  I do believe the fumes from his underarms have gotten to his clearly empty cranial cavity.  Sometimes when women dress, believe it or not we do so for our self satisfaction and not for the purposes of being a fluffer.  I know that this is a difficult concept in a patriarchal world that views women as human glory holes but the brains in our heads do indeed function.

His references to black women are completely infuriating.  Not only is he intent on objectifying all women, he finds it necessary to rank us. Black women it seems are not cover worthy, though his ancestors showed more than enough interest in our bodies when they snuck down to slave cabins to rape our foremothers. 

Once again black women are constructed as the ultimate “unwoman”.  We wear tight clothing unlike white women, and we’re the bigger package. Somehow we manage to overcome these shortcoming and understand our innate sexuality. Gotta love it when white men fall back on old stereotypes to project their racist ideals into the world.  I bet stinky would have been drooling at the slave auctions, what with all of the black female flesh available for show.

I suppose stinky thought he was just being the charming loquacious gentleman and did not recognize his commentary as being both sexist and racist.  How could I resist not being charmed by this stunning display of privilege?  It’s almost romantic the way that he can manage to get a woody for even us poor fat black women.  With the way that Black women are constantly craving the dick, it sure is a relief to know that stinky would take one for the cause. 

I am further irritated by his sizeist commentary.  Why is it that the ideal femininity has to be tiny and diminutive?  Is it really necessary for a man to have this teeny little woman by his size to feel properly masculine?  Fat women, like black women are constructed as being socially isolated and grateful for whatever male attention that they get.  I wonder how stinky would react to the knowledge that there are plenty of fat women getting their groove on at will and not all of them are interested in the dick. 

In the end men like stinky are only interested in projecting their inner idiot out to the world without any concern with how hurtful their  language is.  I find it troubling that we routinely elevate men like stinky when they clearly add so little to our society.  Were he not white, male and deemed conventionally handsome, would we really be interested in what he has to say?  Even though what stinky had to say was offensive, what is even sadder is knowing that he will go on to make yet another “feel good date movie”, smile into the camera and women will swoon quickly forgetting how easy it was for him to objectify us.

It is time we begin to hold people accountable and stop supporting those that think that it is alright to casually demean us at will.  Part of stinky’s privilege is given to him every single time we buy a movie ticket.  Though as women we exist with less social power than men, we certainly have enough to make it costly to those that decide that we don’t matter.

H/T The DryerBuzz