Thursday, May 7, 2009

(Th)ink Pimps Out Nadaya Suleman

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Where to  even begin with this nonsense.   I think of the three panels of this cartoon the one in the middle is by far the most disturbing for me.  It plays on the racialized stereotype of baby mama.  When the negative backlash first began many based their commentary on being forced to subsidize the raising of these children because Suleman clearly did not have enough income to financially support them.   Some went as far as to express disdain for the method of conception and declared multiple births or even large families as “unnatural.”

What is seldom discussed is the race of Ms. Suleman.  The reproduction of a woman of color has always been problematic unless whiteness could somehow benefit from it.   To this day there is much panic about so-called illegal South Americans invading the country and breeding like rabbits to ensure citizenship through their offspring.  That we are discussing children who are also human beings is irrelevant to right wing fundie movement.

Ms.Suleman is a Latina and though this fact has never specifically been brought into conversations, her body is just as racialized as any other woman of color.  The cartoon above clearly seeks to play on this aspect.  Note the large lips and the sunglasses.  The cartoon further relies on the construction that Latina women only reproduce in order to capitalize on their children.  It is never because they desire to become mothers are have a love of family, There is always some nefarious plot behind  their pregnancies that is not attributed to white women as readily.

When Jon and Kate had their 6 children after already being the parents of two there was no such backlash.  In fact, Kate continues to function as an idealized representation of motherhood.  Clearly they are capitalizing on their multiple births through book deals and their television show and yet we do not find this offensive.  Had they not made these arrangements the ability to raise 8 children would be a hardship for them.  Each time  they receive presents from viewers and free products from companies for the sake of promotion this further reifies the legitimacy of their family. 

Kate made the same decision as Nadaya when she discovered that she was pregnant with multiple children and yet they are viewed entirely differently.  One has become a social pariah to be derided at every opportunity and the other is the perfect mommy.  A cartoon like the above would never have been made about Kate, we reserve such reduction for women of color.  With the coming change in racial majority projected as soon as 2050, whiteness has even more reason than ever to encourage the reproduction of white women and discipline and deny the reproduction of women of color.  Using covert racism as in this cartoon against  Suleman is just one of the various ways that she has been attacked, we just habitually refuse to acknowledge the role that race plays. 

The above  cartoon is the work of Keith Knight of (K chronicle) and has been copied under free use. 

H/T Electronic Village


Calling Customers “Faggots” Costs McDonalds 4000

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The ACLU had to file a complaint on behalf of Ryan Marlatt and Teddy Eggers after a McDonalds employee had the nerve to refer to them as “faggots”.  At first the employee directed her commentary at another employee but when she was challenged by the two lovers who were rightfully offended, she escalated her hate speech and referred to them as “bitches“ and “cocksuckers”.  A full account of their experiences can be found here.

Marlatt and Eggers were forced to turn to the ACLU after local and corporate management refused to take action on this issue.  Lousiville has  a local human rights ordinance which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations such as restaurants.  Clearly a corporation as large as McDonalds is well aware of the law in the area in which they operate and still yet they refused to apologize and refund the two men the twenty-eight dollars that they had paid for their meals.

According to a post at The Bilerico the pair did report at least on employee recognized that her fellow associates were in the wrong.

"The cashier was the only person behind the counter who seemed to get that this was wrong, and she was trying to get the woman who was calling us names to stop," said Eggers. "We really appreciated that she was at least trying to do the right thing when nobody else would."

image McDonalds has finally admitted the error of it ways and has agreed to pay Marlatt and Eggers two thousand dollars each, as well as begin training managers  on Louisville’s anti-discrimination law. 

While I am glad that they received a settlement and that McDonalds has agreed to start training its staff, I am somewhat dissatisfied that it was not made clear whether or not the employee that caused the issue to begin with  was allowed to keep her job.  This was not a case of covert homophobia; she had to be aware that what she was saying was absolutely offensive and persisted with her behaviour regardless.  Sitting through a seminar on human rights is not going to change someone who feels that it is appropriate to speak like that to others.  People must be taught that there is a cost for hate speech.


Carrie Prejean: Sexual Only When We Permit

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There really is not much difference between the two above photos.  One is of Carrie Prejean at the Miss America pageant and the other is a copy of a photo she took when she was attempting to become a Victoria Secrets model.  The issue is that one of these poses was mandated by a patriarchal sexist competition intent on reducing women to parts and the other was taken from a position of personal agency.  Certainly a woman using her body as she chooses rather than under the auspices of paternal male guidance must be punished.

The National Post Reports:

Alicia Jacobs, a judge at the April 19 Miss USA pageant during which Prejean made her highly publicized statement opposing same-sex marriage, said the pictures go beyond what the Miss California pageant says are appropriate.

NBC News’ Miguel Almaguer, who reported that Prejean’s contract with the pageant prohibits her from being photographed “in a state of partial or total nudity.”

So when pageant officials decide that a skimpy bathing suit is acceptable she can stand as a model for innocence and purity.  If we subtract less than a yard of fabric suddenly she is a dirty girl in with no moral fibre. Wow that is some kind of slut shaming folks.  Photos similar to this were responsible for Vanessa Williams losing her Miss America title in the early 80’s.

Miss Prejean is determined not to go down without a fight and has issued the following statement:

"I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith. I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive."

This from a pageant that had no problem coughing up the bucks to pay for her breast enlargement surgery. There are those that feel that it is appropriate to shame Prejean because of her statements regarding same sex marriage and her supposed breast enlargement surgery, however sexism is no defence against homophobia; it only reaffirms the isms.  Those that are slut shaming her are not really concerned with what she said, they are concerned with the ability to exploit at will.  Female bodies are deemed communal property and therefore it is her agency that is under attack not the morality of her behaviour. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Always A Tramp: Lil Kim On Dancing With The Stars

You’re trying to be a lady but you’re more comfortable being a tramp,” were the words of Bruno Tonioli.  The audience and her partner laughed along while the shock and embarrassment registered on the face of Lil Kim.

DWTS has a patriarchal foundation to begin with because it never challenges gender roles or sexuality.  Though clearly Lance Bass is gay, the idea of him competing with a man was never given serious consideration outside of the gay and lesbian community as ultimately DWTS is about reminding others that performing the roles encoded to their bodies is of paramount performance.

Since the show has been on the air there have been plenty of dances that were highly sexual and yet it is the black woman that is called a tramp when she does a dance that is not in the least bit sexualized.  What is this but the articulation of the jezebel construction?  Tonoli felt safe making the commentary that he did because black female bodies are deemed always sexually available.  

When white female dancers perform what is considered a sexy dance, the judges comment about how hot the dance was and rarely to never is it personalized in the manner that it was with Lil Kim.  When Tonioli looked at her he did not see a woman, he saw a black woman and all of the negative behaviours that have been inscribed to our bodies for the purposes of exploitation.  The eternal jezebel construct exists so that our bodies can be violated at will and this is why black female bodies are often deemed “unrapeable”. 

It is quite easy to declare Lil Kim unladylike because that is a term restricted for white females.  This is projected as complementary, however it serves to control the behaviour of white women.   The conflation of “purity and goodness” and our continual capitulation  to a gender performance based on submissiveness, is a direct result of viewing the world through a coercive male lens.  This approach further divides white women and WOC, in that we learn to view each other as binary opposites even though we both share in gender based oppression.

The lesson learned from this is that sexism hurts all women, even when we are attacked differently.  DWTS has become quite popular and projects itself as entertainment based model of the ways in which men and women are meant to interact with each other.  The problem is that this version specifically supports a patriarchal view of the world and this necessarily means the disciplining of women.  Just because it is wrapped in foot tapping music and a glittery costume does not mean that it is not riddled with rot. 

H’/T EUR This N That


Michael Savage Banned From The United Kingdom

image Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has added “shockjock” Michael Savage to the list of those banned from travelling to the United Kingdom.  Included on the list are those that the home office believes would perpetuate hatred and glorify terrorism. Savage finds himself listed among white supremacists, homophobic preachers and an anti-Arab Jewish militant. Two Slav supremacists on the list have been incarcerated in a Russian jail since October 2007.

Well it seems that being “to the left of God”, is not paying off for Savage. In the US his daily hateful screeds are covered under free speech, however the United Kingdom has a different understanding of speech.   Speech is not free when the devaluation of another clearly leads to inequality and violence.   When Savage rants about illegal immigrants, the disabled, bodies of color, the GLBT community and women not only is he affirming his white male privilege, he is helping to maintain a social dissonance which serves as the basis for our hierarchy of bodies.

In a conversation with WorldNetDaily  he commented:

“Darn! And I was just planning a trip to England for their superior dental work and cuisine. Then it sank in ... She's linking me with mass murderers who are in prison for killing Jewish children on buses? For my speech? The country where the Magna Carta was created?"

Savage has apparently threatened to sue the Home Secretary for defamation and clearly this is based in the belief that there is no connection between speech and behaviour.  He is a Jewish man and I find his obtuseness to be incredibly alarming.  Did his people not pay a terrible price when the world ignored the hateful rhetoric of Hitler which lead to a genocide?  Words have power Savage and your white male status should not be enough to enable you to oppress other groups simply because this time the spotlight is not aimed directly at you.

Jacqui Smith responded with the following:

"Coming to this country is a privilege," she said. "If you can't live by the rules that we live by, the standards and the values that we live by, we should exclude you from this country and, what's more, now we will make public those people that we have excluded."

The key word in Smiths statement is privilege. Savage has become accustomed  as a white male of class privilege to “othering” various segments of society at will and yet when bodies of colour dare to critique whiteness for its behaviour we are quickly deemed angry or it is suggested that we are playing the “race card”.  When white male privilege acts in its own defence it is most often understood as rational, thoughtful speech because of the race and power imbalance.  Accountability for what hate speech leads to is denied because it supports the white supremacist state.  One need not be explicit in language to assert white privilege as covert racism or sexism can be just as damaging to those it is aimed at.   When Savage speaks he is far from covert hence the name “shock jock”. Just like his associate in evil Coulter and Limbaugh, he directly uses his large platform to denigrate those bodies which society has deemed disposable.

Savage preys upon the fears of white, cigendered, heterosexual men.  The most privileged group in history (read: white men), fear the loss of the ability to express power coercively and it is in their service that he sends his message of hate out into the world each day.   It is further quite ironic that Savage should be upset that his speech be limited when daily the marginalized face censure for simply acting in their own defence against the kind of speech he practices.  What is good for others apparently should not apply to him.  2050 may still be some time in the distance but the day is quickly approaching when the numbers will not support this kind of rhetoric.  In the meantime we must be vigilante if we hope to achieve any form of change in our present day.   Each of us deserves to have our humanity recognized and no amount of vitriol on the part of Savage or his associates should ever be confused with free speech.  Language is important because it frame discourse and if we want equality to be more than a word we pay lip service to, such language must be strongly disavowed.


Teach Me About Blackness T. J Holmes

There is nothing better than playing mystical negro, except getting to play mystical negro on international television.  It is further harmful to be asked to play up the stereotype of the “cool black man” as though it is universal and not in the least bit harmful.  

I love the whole meme that black men are cool and white men are not.  Black men are brothas that swagga, are down for the cause and white men can’t dance or jump. Blackness understood this way is nothing but the performance of a daily minstrel show to which whiteness supposedly wants inclusion to.  When it is about the fist bump, showing some love, taking it downtown, or hyper masculinity, blackness is acceptable unless of course a black man needs to hail a cab, get an education, or a job. 

Blackness is something that whiteness can visit like an impromptu long weekend vacation, without any lasting stigmatizations.  Taking on  the accoutrement of “blackness” without any real attempt to understand the diversity of the black community or gain any real knowledge of black culture or history, is just one of the ways in which whiteness seeks to minimize us.

It is further problematic to expect that blacks should act as a tour guide for this limited cultural understanding .  Why is it that when whiteness professes a desire to learn, a “representative black” must step forward like some kind new age Tattoo from fantasy island? For Kyra Phillips this amounted to a dummies guide to blacks for television.  Knowledge is not pursued in the same manner as the quest to get a hamburger at a drivethru.

Since it became clear that Obama was a legitimate contender in the last US presidential race, the false fascination with blackness has gone into overdrive.  Many seek to hone their anti-racist credentials and believe that the ability to display cursory knowledge is enough to be understood as accepting and tolerant.  Saying I voted for Obama and therefore I cannot be racist has become the latest version of everyone's favourite, “I have a black friend.”  Fast, cheap and uncomplicated is how whiteness likes its race relations. 

Unlike whiteness, blacks cannot afford to walk around in purposeful ignorance.  We have continually been subjected to violence and discrimination at the hands of whiteness and therefore learning to negotiate the ways in which whiteness wields power can be the difference between life and death.  Before you begin to think that this might be needless hyperbole, think about the black men and women that have died at the hands of the various police forces.  Think of the countless black women who have been raped.  Think of the children who have been purposefully undereducated and then tell me again why knowledge of whiteness is not a thing of importance in the life of a person of color.

Expecting people of colour to take you on a tour of our culture and our communities is not a commitment to learn.  Doing the fist bump does not make you cool or in touch with visible minorities; it simply means that you have learned a new form of greeting. Thinking that you can reduce blackness to a secret handshake, a new dance step and a single vote for Barack only proves how obtuse you really are.  Blackness is not something that you can retreat to when ever you feel like you need a staycation because visiting foreign countries has become to expensive in our current times. Standing on the outside and looking in with no attempt to learn is no different than visiting your local zoo waiting for feeding time for the animals. 

H/T Stuff White People Do


Systemic Oppression: Sexual Assault Edition

This is a guest post by Rachel

Rachel is currently completing a PhD while working as an adjunct teaching Philosophy and Women's Studies courses, holding down a desk job that keeps the benefits coming, and blogging at The Feminist Agenda.

You've probably heard the stat that 1 in 3 Native American women (who live on Indian land in the U.S.) will be raped in her lifetime. I had heard this several times before, but never with an accompanying explanation of why American Indian women are vulnerable to sexual assault at such high rates. But this weekend on NPR Laura Sullivan had a great story on this which answered a lot of questions. You can listen to the podcast here or read the short article here.

According to Sullivan, there are three contributing factors to this epidemic of sexual assault. First, law enforcement agencies on Indian lands are chronically underfunded. This is changing some due to casino revenues. Second, based on a 1978 Supreme Court ruling, only federal prosecutors can prosecute crimes committed on Indian land by non-natives. Tribal law enforcement can only arrest and prosecute Native Americans. And here's the staggering statistic: according to the Justice Department, in 80% of rape cases on Indian land the assailant is non-native. When the assailant is non-native, tribal law enforcement must refer the case to federal prosecutors. So here's where the third factor comes in. Federal prosecutors routinely choose not to prosecute approximately 75% of these cases. One former tribal law enforcement officer claimed that prosecutors only took cases where there was a confession.

The fact that 80% of those who commit sexual assault on tribal lands are non-native suggests that critics are right in claiming that many predators see Indian women as fair game. It also suggests that our government, and our society in general, could give a shit about Native American women. The degree to which we value a person and the extent to which they're viewed as fair game by predators is always linked. Because the less we value a body, the less we protect it. And the less we protect it, the more vulnerable it is. Since brown female bodies just aren't that valuable to us as a society, they're very vulnerable. This is not a new phenomenon. These statistics have been floating around for years, but there's no public outcry to speak of, no effort on the part of Congress to change the status quo. And young girls growing up on the reservation see this. They understand that their physical and emotional well-being are the last things we care about as a society.

So the good news is that Congress is finally paying attention to the problem and moving to change it. I'd like to think it's out of compassion, but it probably has more to do with the increased economic and legal resources available to Native Americans thanks to casino revenues and an increase in the number of Native Americans who have acquired a legal education. At any rate, when The Tribal law and Order Act comes back up for debate, urge your congressional representatives to support it. Passing this legislation will send the message that we care about Native American girls and women, and will restore a degree of Indian sovereignty.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fat Judges Need Not Apply

The Daily Beast has a great article up by Paul Campos.

Within hours after the news broke that Souter was resigning, concerns arose that Kagan and Sotomayor might be too fat to replace him. A commentator on the site DemConWatch.com noted that of the three most-mentioned candidates “the oldest (federal judge Diane Wood) is the only one who looks healthy,” while Kagan and Sotomayor “are quite overweight. That’s a risk factor that they may not last too long on the court because of their health.”

At The Washington Monthly, a commentator claimed to have employed a more scientifically rigorous method: “To all the short-sighted libs who are clamoring for the youngest-possible nominee... Right idea, wrong methodology. You want someone who will serve the longest, i.e. with the greatest remaining life expectancy—and that involves more than simple age. I tried assessing their respective health prospects, and ruled out all who even border on overweight. Best choice: Kim McLane Wardlaw, whose ectomorphitude reflects her publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.”

(Wardlaw’s “ectomorphitude” also gets rave reviews at legal gossip site Underneath Their Robes, which describes her as "Heather Locklear in a black robe. This blond Hispanic hottie boasts a fantastic smile and an incredible body, showcased quite nicely by her elegant ensembles.")

Meanwhile, a letter writer at Salon comments on Sotomayor’s candidacy, “How do you say 55, overweight, and diabetic in Spanish?” (Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type I diabetes—which doesn’t correlate with higher weight—when she was a child).

All this would be easy to dismiss as meaningless Internet chatter, if it didn’t obviously spring from some widespread cultural assumptions—assumptions also reflected in such things as Rehnquist’s bizarre and offensive letter.

Three of these assumptions—that a woman’s appearance is far more important than a man’s, that extreme thinness in women is especially desirable, and that weighing slightly more than average is a major health risk—have become interrelated in subtle and invidious ways.

In the cases of Kagan and Sotomayor, the absurd idea that their weight represents the sort of health risk that ought to be taken into account when considering whether to appoint them to the Supreme Court illustrates both how hysteria about being “overweight” has gotten out of control, and how such concerns often camouflage less-respectable impulses.

His takedown is bang on.  No matter what the accomplishments of women there are those that feel it is necessary to reduce us to our physical bodies in a way that would never be deemed acceptable for men.   It is further problematic that health is associated with weight as though skinny people don’t suffer from diseases or ever die early.  These social myth exist solely to perpetuate our system of hierarchies.  

Finish reading this excellent piece here.

H/T Jelena

Getting Off: A Woman’s Guide to Masturbation

This is a guest post by Holly Ord of Menstrual Poetry

image Masturbation is a healthy part of every person's life.  Even as part of a relationship and while maintaining a healthy sex life, self-love still plays a healthy role in one's life.

People start exploring their bodies at very young ages; from infant boys who every time you change a diaper, their hands are immediately exploring their penis and young girls who will mindlessly start exploring themselves whenever time permits.  This is extremely healthy and positive behaviour, but there are a great deal of people and organizations who beg to differ, going as far as to saying that any type of sexuality whatsoever, including masturbation, is unnatural, sinful, and just about anything else they can think of in order to scare people out of doing something that is natural and should be celebrated.

Jamye Waxman has a master's degree in sex education and has written the book Getting Off, an entire guide to masturbation just for women--Or for men who want to know more about the body of a woman and pleasuring all of those sensual zones a woman has.  Getting Off is an asset for every single woman, regardless of their knowledge of sexuality or their bodies.  The book goes over several different topics, from the anatomy of an orgasm (the small, indifferent orgasm, the mediocre, satisfying-but-not-by-much orgasm, the can't-get-enough, pass out afterward orgasm, and everything in between), fantasies, vibrators and other sex toys that can be used to heighten sexual pleasure while masturbating, how masturbation is viewed by mainstream media and the people who use the media as their only ground for knowledge, and so much more.

While reading through the different sections of the book, I was overjoyed to see a lot of the topics brought up that I didn't expect to be brought up in such a refreshing light, such as the topic of anal sex and stimulation and how a great deal of women enjoy anal stimulation but feel too shy to explore the possibilities it can bring them sexually due to its social stigma as being referred to as strictly an exit.  It also highlights a great deal of fun facts, such as the fact that graham crackers and Corn Flakes, food items that people eat to curb hunger, which in fact invented to curb masturbation, and the first vibrators were found in doctors' offices to help cure women of "hysteria," or what I deem as merely "sexual frustration" since the hysterical woman stereotype is still alive and going strong.

image Getting Off is a resource that you will find yourself flipping through again and again, it is full of extremely positive and helpful information and completely obliterates the falsities that society and mainstream media have put in place for women, especially the "prudish woman" title or the belief that women cannot be sexual and sexually satisfying individuals.


Keep Talking Joe

image Well once again Joe Wurzelbacher AKA the idiot plumber has decided to expound on his oh so salient views to the world.  I encourage him to keep on speaking because the longer he reigns as a symbol of Republicanism, the greater the chance  that the world will see how truly intolerant and ignorant that they really are.  Yeah the GOP has a new face alright, downright lunacy masquerading as reason.

In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?

At a state level, it's up to them. I don't want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it's wrong. People don't understand the dictionary—it's called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It's not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we're supposed to do—what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we're supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they're people, and they're going to do their thing.

Joe, citing imaginary gay and lesbians “friends” does not justify your bigotry. It is the same as saying I have a black friend to justify racism. You also may want to learn to check your privilege because it is not for the oppressor to tell the oppressed what is and is not offensive.  You don’t have the lived experience to make that call and it is also a conflict of interest.  When bisexuals, lesbians and gays  use the word queer it is called reclamation, in the context in which you have invoked its usage it is called HOMOPHOBIA. 

I am also pretty sure you want to refrain from invoking God because if you actually read the bible that you claim to be so infatuated with, you would see that it is filled with justifications for things like incest, rape, misogyny, and child abuse.  It is one of the most violent books ever written.If you had actually read it cover to cover, I am sure you would have noticed that the old testament completely conflicts with the new testament.  People like you Joe just pick out bits and pieces of scripture that fit your agenda and then ignore the rest of it.  I am pretty sure somewhere it says judge not least ye be judged and yet this clearly is a rule that you see fit not to follow.

I think that you being around your own children is probably one of the more harmful things that they will experience.  Parents like you are the reason that we have a society of automatons.  Have you ever had an original thought in your entire life?  Have you ever thought about the best interest of another before yourself?  None of the isms are naturally occurring, we actively teach them to our children.  With a father like you, I shudder to think about the harmful ideas those poor innocent kids are internalizing.  Here’s a tip, teaching them to respect love = good, teaching them to wallow in their privilege and be ignorant troglodytes = bad.  See, I kept it nice and simple for you.

Normally, I am against the perpetuation of hate speech which is exactly what this little screed is but in your case Joe I will make an exception because the world needs to see what a mind looks like on conservatism.  It is not a pretty thing.  Keep talking Joe the 2010 elections are coming, and the more you represent the face of fundism, the greater the chance that you might just scare people into actually thinking, instead of internalizing mindless hatred. 

P.S There are gay people in the party you represent Joe

H/T Belledame 222


We’re Not Planning A Slave Uprising

I am sure that what I am about to write is going to strike a chord with fellow black people.   When there is a group of us sitting around talking and laughing it makes white people uncomfortable.   Many times I have gathered with fellow blacks and noticed the suspicious looks of the white people around us.  Breathe easy white people.

image I know that you have latent fears that ‘ole Moses (aka Harriet Tubman) is going to come along and steal all the good “negro folk” that you have become so used to oppressing and exploiting, however times have changed and blacks can now congregate at will. You don’t need to worry about what we are saying because unlike slave times, we won’t communicate in song to send messages, we will simply tell you directly what is on our minds.

No matter how liberated or anti racist people claim to be, a gathering of blacks makes them feel nervous. The social construction of blacks as thieves, rapists, and general criminals, come rushing to mind and suddenly all of the new age, post racial, politically aware posturing flies out the window. 

White people normally have the luxury of controlling whether or not they are in a minority in most situations.  Those without great class advantages may be forced to live in interracial communities, however the tendency of white flight when ever neighbourhoods become “to dark” proves that whiteness buys into the myths that it has created to secure our place as secondary citizens.

image

Whiteness can freely congregate and build communities and that is not deemed questionable behaviour.  We know that whiteness has a long history of racial violence against bodies of color, yet somehow it is whiteness that needs the security of a homogenized racial zone. We  have been socialized never to question their motives, however 4 black people sharing a coffee and a few image laughs is a cause for alarm.  Blacks must always be prepared to negotiate whiteness as it controls all of the social institutions and runs most industries; big brother is always watching.

I am often amused when the charge of divisiveness is levied at the mere suggestion that whiteness should be critiqued.  Whiteness is so colorblind that a white man with a criminal record has a better chance of getting a job than a black man with a clean record.  How does this make any sense if we are all so post racial?  Whiteness is systemic in a way that blackness can never be because of the racial imbalance and to ask to be seen as individual when ones body is invested with so much power is an act of privilege. 

It is our speech that is emotional, our bodies that are sexualized, and brutalized.  If a simple gathering of friends can be perceived of as a threat or at least noteworthy enough to draw concern, then  our mere presence in any space must be substantiated by whiteness.  Though all bodies exist with a form of power and agency, whiteness exists with the ability to most readily realize its ambitions because it created this hierarchy of bodies and daily legitimizes it through small actions.  For all of you who are behind on your 101 Power + Privilege = Racism.

We all see race and no amount of singing Michael Row the Boat Ashore is going to change that simple fact.  The issue has never been about recognizing difference, after all we don’t fly into murderous rages because cats are not like dogs.  The problem is the value that we attach to difference.   The scales are not equal and until we can openly discuss race beyond how it effects people of color we will continue to live the social delusion that we have reached a point of transcendence. 

Whether it is a disciplining look or  purposeful white flight, the value associated to difference is the reason why there continues to be such large divisions.   Calling out whiteness for the role that it plays in ensuring that the hierarchy of bodies continues is not racist, it is simply holding whiteness accountable for the image undeserved privileges that it continues to live with everyday.  Unpack you knapsack and check your privilege at the door.  Barack may be president but I still cannot have a coffee with 3-4 of my black friends without drawing undue attention.


To My Darling

Eight years ago today I gave birth to my precious baby boy Destruction.  It will always be one of the happiest days of my life.  I cannot believe how fast the time has gone since I first looked into his beautiful brown eyes.  When I first became a parent I focused on all of the things that I would teach him, imagine my surprise when I learned that he would also teach me.  He has the most gentle soul and kind heart.  Not only do I love him because he is my son, I like who he is as a little person.

The first time I went swimming was because of him.  He was a little over a year old and I didn’t want him to grow with the kind of limitations that I did.  It may seem like a small thing to some but it was a huge step for me. I will always remember that afternoon as one filled with a childhood abandon and pure exhilaration.  When I think back I can even remember his laughter.

There isn’t a day that goes by that isn’t filled with an exchange of our love for one another.  Whether it is hugs and kisses or long cuddles on the couch, my baby fills my life with joy and love.  Sometimes just looking into his dark brown eyes is enough to make me loose my breathe with wonder.  How is it that this magnificent child is my son?  What did I do to ever deserve such a blessing in this  life?

I have had much hardship in my life but when it comes to my children I have been rewarded ten fold.  I will never have the words to aptly say what my baby means to me and perhaps no mother ever should.  My love for him knows no bounds.  To see him smile or to hear him laugh, is enough for me to feel a sense of contentment that I can find in no other person or place on this planet.  I love you baby boy, to infinity and beyond as you would say.  On this your very special day, I only want to wish you nothing but the best in this life and to say thank you for every single day that we have spent together.  You are my son and my personal angel. 

Lyrics below the fold

My tea's gone cold, I'm wondering why
I got out of bed at all
The morning rain clouds up my window
and I can't see at all
And even if I could it'd all be grey,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me that it's not so bad,
it's not so bad
I drank too much last night, got bills to pay,
my head just feels in pain
I missed the bus and there'll be hell today,
I'm late for work again
And even if I'm there, they'll all imply
that I might not last the day
And then you call me and it's not so bad,
it's not so bad and
I want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life
Oh just to be with you
is having the best day of my life

Push the door, I'm home at last
and I'm soaking through and through
Then you hand me a towel
and all I see is you
And even if my house falls down,
I wouldn't have a clue
Because you're near me and
I want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life
Oh just to be with you
is having the best day of my life


Monday, May 4, 2009

Silly Immigrants, Canada Is For White People

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Racism strikes again here in the Great White North, otherwise known as Canada. It seems that when you are backed into a corner, punched and have a racial slur thrown at you, acting in your own defence is an illegal activity - if you are of Asian descent. Everyone knows that the laws exist to protect “real Canadians” (read: whites).

When the Asian student was backed into a corner after being verbally abused and assaulted he responded with a punch that broke his abusers nose. Even though he is a black belt he displayed restraint by only using his left hand to defend himself. When the violence finally ended, it was not the initiator that found himself suspended and facing criminal charges.

The students attend a school where only ten Asians are registered. Keswick is also an area that is not known to be very accepting of anyone who is not white. There is also a history of what has become known of as “nipper tipping,” which is the tossing of Asian fishermen into the lake followed by the destruction of their fishing gear. The term nipper tipping is a combination of the WWII epithet for the Japanese and the childish prank of tipping sleeping cows.

Finish Reading Here

How Not to Write About Africa - Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina is a writer and newly appointed director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College. He wrote this satire piece for Granta magazine, where you will find a full transcript of the following video.

When I came across this video at Jack and Jill Politics, I was compelled to post it. Much of the way that westerners speak about Africa is decidedly homogenized and racist.   The mere fact that we routinely refuse to acknowledge that Africa is a continent and therefore broken up into various countries speaks to our desire to construct its people as backward and uncivilized.  The perpetuation of this  myth is used to justify the neo-colonialism that we continue to engage in.   Even as we continue to fuel wars through the purposeful selling of arms to warring factions,  give tied aid (aid that is tied to the purchase of a commodity), demand the devaluation of currency, refuse to cancel spurious debt, only permit the export of raw materials, and occupy land that is not our own we still have the nerve to construct Africa as some defiled Eden for which we bare no responsibility for.  If Africa is need of saving, it is from Western largesse.

It’s All Because You Are Fat

Since being diagnosed with three chronic illnesses I have spent a lot of time in the office of various specialists.  Other than learning about the potential treatments that I could undergo, I have been subjected repeatedly to being referred to as fat (even before I was) and  reminded that things would get better if I would just lose weight.

When one is taking 60mg of prednisone, combined with so much pain that mobility is highly impaired, how exactly does one lose weight?  Apparently I need to be reminded repeatedly that being fat is soooo unhealthy for me.  If we silly Fibro sufferers would just stop whining about the pain and work out, we would find some relief for our condition.  My refusal to just “suck it up” only worsens my condition.

It makes me want to remind them that stress also flares up the fibro response.  Continually making someone feel like a failure and unworthy despite their best efforts does not help their medical condition.  I want to ask, what happened to the vow of first do no harm?  It is emotionally abusive and enough to enrage me.

Not everything that is wrong with someone has to do with fat.  I do have three chronic illnesses that maybe, just maybe, might be making me feel under the weather.  These doctors may have the medical expertise to diagnose an illness but they have no idea what it is to live with one on a daily basis.  The fact that they could even suggest that a lack of will stops patients from participating in behaviour that might have the potential to improve health only proves how disconnected they are from how the pain truly affects the body.  No one wants to live in chronic pain…I don’t wake up saying gee I’m glad I’m me and not  some 18 year old starlet with boobs like a floating device and legs for days.  No, everyday I wake up praying that I’ll hurt just a little bit less only that have that one request go unanswered. 

Then there are the supposed supportive friends who try to placate me by saying that I have “an excuse to be fat”.  It’s just the medical establishment they tell me and once I explain my “condition” to others, I will not be exposed to our cultures virulent fat hatred.  Regardless of the reason why I carry this weight, judgmental  looks, and ill informed commentary are not acceptable.  The social disciplining of body size is hurtful and completely unnecessary.  The only reason to run someone else down  is to make oneself feel better about some perceived physical flaw. 

No matter how much you weigh, no one can ever completely fulfill the ridiculous beauty standards that we have created.  There will always be something wrong with your breasts, nose, legs,  or hair.  These imperfections keep the medical establishment busy with cosmetic surgeries and shaming, as well as fund the bloated diet and exercise industry.  Everywhere you look, someone is profiting from fat shaming except those that must deal with the stigma of being reminded continually how far we fall short from the ideal.

Women in particular are targeted with the body perfection meme. Who has not looked in the mirror and felt those moments of insecurity and quiet panic?  As much as many of us are womanists/feminists who believe that our true value is in who we are as people, we continually fall prey to the patriarchal understanding of ‘woman’ as simply a body to be consumed.  So much of womanhood is tied up with appearance that insecurity has become a normal phenomenon.  When we add the stigmatized identity of fatness with one of disability it can be overwhelming.

What would be lost if we stopped judging people based in appearance?  I have been told that I spend far too much time dealing in probabilities or what should be, rather than the world that exists.  As a disabled fat woman, how can I embrace a society that is determined to erase and shame my existence?  Am I to love my oppressor in spite of the personal cost to myself?  My disability is permanent and the resulting weight gain is probably permanent as well and therefore; to surrender is to allow someone else to decide my value and my worth.  I do not wish to play “super crip” and rise above because being different does not have to mean less than if we all decide that all bodies matter.


Happy Birthday Monica

Today is Monica of TransGriots birthday.  I won’t call a sister out and announce her age but I could not let the day pass without letting her know how truly awesome she is.  Please show one of my favourite sistah’s some love cause you know girlfriend can handle her business.

imageDon’t think I forgot about your cake.  I am so sorry that it is virtual but I hope that you enjoy it anyway.

 imageHappy Birthday Monica.  Have a wonderful day and I hope that all of your dreams come true.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Interview With Jessica Valenti Postponed

 

Monica  and I were set to do a special edition of our Womanist Musings podcast radio show tonight at 8 PM EDT with Feministing.com Executive Editor and author Jessica Valenti, but Jessica advised us on Friday she was going to have to reschedule the interview due to illness.

We know many of you were anxious to hear our discussion about her book The Purity Myth and are just as disappointed as we were to hear that news.
She has offered to reschedule it, and when we confirm the new podcast show date with her, we'll pass that info along to you.

The Invisible Rule of Whiteness

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Writing critically about race is not an easy thing to do. We have tendency to avoid discussing race as it has been determined to be one of those “hot button” subjects. This silence about race allows whiteness to continue in its rule unchallenged and forces people of color to deal with daily assaults to our humanity. Comments that many view as innocuous, are often hurtful and serve to ensure that the racial gap continues to grow. Whiteness would prefer that we play sambo to its Missy Anne, regardless of how damaging it may be to our psyche.

To challenge what whiteness deems as its right to demean at will means being called angry or accused of being disrespectful. Whiteness it is all about tone. White people have become so accustomed to deferential treatment based in undeserved racial privilege that when people of color dare to speak, we are considered uppity.

People of color are continually reminded of our “tone”. This is classic disciplining behaviour. We are informed that were we to raise our objections in a “gentler manner,” whiteness would be more inclined to listen. Despite such proclamations, it is not the form that the speech takes that is offensive, but the speech itself. No power has ever appreciated any form of challenge to its rule and whiteness is no exception.

People of color are not amused when we are accused of racism against whiteness when we challenge its social power. Racism equals power plus prejudice, but this basic 101 fact continues to be ignored in hopes of presenting our objections to white hegemony as somehow based solely in hatred. It is possible to hate the oppression and not despise those that use their undeserved racial privilege to oppress.

It is laughable that we, the oppressed, are placed into the position of constantly reassuring whiteness of its worth when it has acted systemically to ensure that we are devalued as human beings. To still be asked to say “honey chile” and smile as we shuffle through our day in 2009, evidences that the liberal rhetoric of equality just wants a new age sambo.

Finish Reading Here

Sundays With Darren

I have not joined the Kitty collective.  Darren is just unique amongst all other cats on the planet.  I think that such pure awesomeness needs to be shared with the world and so I thought I would post Destructions latest pics of the worlds greatest feline.  He must have been a dog in his previous life.  No cat is as patient and loving as my sweet Darren. 

image

image

If you think you can beat out Darren for cuteness I dare you to prove it. 

Latina community activist shot in the back by cops

By John Santos

Published May 1, 2009 8:37 PM

People of color have been all too aware of police brutality in our neighborhoods. We have all too often seen police used as an occupying force to terrorize communities of color.

Yet another example is the killing of Annette Garcia, who on the evening of Jan. 21 was shot in the back by police in Riverside, Calif. The police were responding to a domestic violence call in the Garcia home. The shooting happened in front of Garcia’s spouse and three children, who were forced to watch helplessly while she bled to death.

Garcia was a member of the Watsonville Brown Berets, a Chicano activist group that organizes the neighborhood to fight against police brutality, end gang violence, serve the community and protect the Chicano community. The Brown Berets are one of a number of groups that are fighting back against police brutality and the repression of people of color.

Witnesses say that the deputy shot Garcia from a block away, while she was walking away, and that she did not present a threat to anyone. The first five shots missed before she was killed by the sixth bullet, which struck her in the back. It took more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive at the scene. She was taken to Riverside County Regional Center where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is refusing to release any information on the killing—including the name of the killer cop—but has placed the shooter on a paid administrative leave of absence. Many Riverside county citizens say that this decision is tantamount to rewarding the errant deputy with a paid vacation, and are asking for the resignation of the Board of Supervisors appointed Sheriff-Coroner Stanley Sniff. Riverside County sheriffs have had a long history of abuse and officer-involved shootings.

Approximately 38 percent of Riverside County’s residents are Latina/o and many of its residents face a constant barrage of police brutality, anti-immigrant policies and threats of raids, such that heinous acts like Garcia’s killing are not uncommon.

On Jan. 26 more than 100 outraged community residents took to the streets in a candlelight vigil/protest demanding justice for Garcia and other victims of racist killings such as Sean Bell and Oscar Grant. Signs linked these victims and other struggles together. After the candlelight vigil, protesters marched to the Riverside sheriff’s office. The event was called by Garcia’s brothers and sisters in the Brown Berets.

The killing of Annette Garcia is another in a long line of reasons why we must organize together and fight back—not only against racist killer cops, but also against a racist system that encourages police brutality.


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


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for all of the great conversation this week.  Thanks as well to all of those who guest posted here.  Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy and therefore if there is a subject you are interested in, please feel free to e-mail me either your original work or a cross post. As a single voice I realize that I cannot possibly cover all of the subjects of interest or do so in a way that reveals all nuances. 

This is your weekly reminder to contribute to the WOC and ally blog carnival that will be posted on the 15th at Tell It WOC Speak.  I am especially interested in posts about the way that race interacts with the other isms. So if you have written about race and disability, sexism, classism etc please send in a link.  The more sites of oppression that we examine the more complete the deconstruction can be.

As usual I have a list of posts that I found interesting to read.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out. When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

The 40 Year Old Virgin: Sex Ed

I Wasn’t Going To Do This  (This is a must read)

Cis is not an academic term

Oh, the privilege of ignorance

From Shakespeare to  StumbleUpon The Male Gaze Is Everywhere

Fibromyalgia: When Your Brain Is Not Your Friend 

They want me to be fat

2 Red Deaths = 1 White Death = Different Media Coverage and different degrees of sympathy

Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: Gotta Have Soul

PETA: No Better Than Michelle Malkin

Time To Call Out Another Privilege

Insert Clever Hair-Related Title Here

feel bad about participating in gentrification

Just To Clarify:  that is not what a “real man” is supposed to look like

You are not your breasts

Kids’ Thoughts About Skin Color And Beauty

 

image

Balls, Balls, Balls and More Balls

image I live in a house of men.  Even Darren our newest addition is male.  Is it any wonder that I name the inanimate objects around the house with female names? How is it that I, a devoted womanist have ended up being surrounded by men?  Some would call it a cosmic joke.

I cannot tell you the last time that I went an entire day without having to participate in a conversation about balls, fart, poop, and the most recent addition nipples.   Mayhem has recently taken great interest in his nipples.  Not even at the diner table am I spared.  

image I was recently informed that as the only female in the house that I should be considerate and lift the toilet seat when I am done with it.  How do you like that for tyranny of the majority?

I have learned to pick my battles with the awareness that even in the testosterone overload at least my guys are a lot more aware of the sexism that they are capable of engaging in than many men/boys that I have run into.  Recently Destruction stopped speaking in mid sentence when he realized he was about to announce that his friend was crying like a little girl.  I do not allow the feminine to be used as a  pejorative in my home.  He caught himself and switched to baby and looked at me and smiled. His father high fived him announcing that it was “a good save”.

Nothing in my home is sacred.  My tampons have been turned into speed bumps for dinky cars and on more than one occasion my pads have been used to redecorate the bathroom.   The boys of course just see them as additional toys, while I get irritated every time I reach for what should have been a full box only to find them empty.’

Living in a house of men is enough to drive any womanist/feminist right around the bend.   Sure, some of it comes down to individual idiosyncrasies and some of it I am sure is a plot to make me absolutely loose my mind.  For instance how many of you can go shopping without stopping to check out all of the Man Q’simage (Read: BBQ’s)?  They are sometimes referred to as male cooking centers.  The unhusband even has this fantasy about this 3500 dollar behemoth that hooks up to the same gasline as the house. Not even if I won the 649 would I give in to that one.  Meat, beer and Man Q, of course not necessarily in that order become the hot topic every spring.  It seems that the Man Q is some sort of status symbol (read: penis enhancer) by which men judge their cave manness. 

And then there is remote control for the television.  I would like to know how my vagina renders me incapable of controlling the volume or changing the channel?  I have had to put my foot down and demand control but at least it was ceded without  whining and crying. 

Everyday in small ways I am working to make them aware of one simple truth: If Momma ain’t happy then no one is happy. I may not always be successful and there seems to be way too much bathroom humour but at least I know that at the end of the day if I say stop that is sexist, I never hear the words “you’re too sensitive”.  Even if someone cannot understand exactly why what they said or did is sexist, the fact that they are willing to end the behaviour shows respect and if everyone started from a belief in respecting others there would be a lot less negative engagement with the isms. 


Friday, May 1, 2009

White Men Need Not Apply

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You simply cannot make this shit up.  Marc Halpern is concerned that with the retirement of Souter that the white man will experience discrimination. I wonder if he bothered to glance about the current make up of the supreme court and realize that not only is whiteness represented, it is over represented?  The white male is the most privileged group in history and yet the mere thought that they might just loose one seat is enough to push the panic alarm.

While I am not suggesting that affirmative action will be used in the selection process, it damn well should be.  Clearly when we leave the government up to its own devices it is more than content to follow the historical pattern of making sure that women and POC are barely represented.  Personally, I would love to see a WOC put on the robe.  When laws are made without the influence of all members of society it means that certain people will always face discrimination within a system that is supposed to be race, class, and gender blind.

White men find the thought of affirmative action threatening because it seeks to specifically undo the generations of work that they have invested in ensuring that we live in a society that is inherently unequal.   This panic is the acknowledgement that the undeserved privilege by which they live is not natural; rather it is the collection of purposeful acts daily engaged in by whiteness.

In this instance selectively eliminating a white male from competition is not discrimination, it is an attempt to balance books that are deep in the red.   While whiteness may feel entitled after having the ability to express power freely for generations; the ones entitled to a little justice in this world are women and POC who have systemically been shut out of opportunities. 

Each time whiteness presents an objection to the slightest possibility that a marginalized body might possibly achieve a new position of power there is also a shadow of apprehension.  I remember one woman at a Palin campaign expressing fear that Obama “might not like white people”.   You see, what is often unspoken of is a fear of retribution.   Yes the “R” word.  When you know that you have wronged someone repeatedly, you expect vengeance.  Whiteness is more than aware of the ways in which it has attacked, demeaned, murdered, assaulted, and abused people of color.   Though it often tries to construct our anger as needless emotionalism; it fears a loss of privilege will not only result in equalization but justice.  This is why the turn the other cheek POC is so highly valued.  

When we appear happy or content with the imbalance in justice it affirms their right to lead as natural and reassures them that the continuation of oppression is acceptable.   Unfortunately for whiteness the days of sambo happily smiling and dancing a jig are long since over.  While I have no desire to recreate slavery or place whiteness in Jim crow living situations. my understanding of justice involves equality for all people.   If it means that some feelings get hurt because the opportunity to express power is reduced, somehow I will sleep at night. 

Final word to the wise: Considering that 2050 is fast approaching you might want to keep some of those affirmative action laws on the books for when you might actually need them – Monica@ TransGriot.

H/T Alas A Blog and Shakesville


My Daughters’ Keeper: Nahid Persson’s “Prostitution Behind The Veil”

Part 2   Part 3   Part 4    Part 5

As westerners there is so much we do not know about the daily lives of women in Iran.  Most of what we learn is filtered through the media and therefore their thoughts and emotions are often omitted.    My Daughters Keeper: Prostitution Behind The Veil is the story of two young women who are forced to turn to prostitution to feed their drug habit and care for their children. 

As they move from sigheh (temporary marriage) to sigheh it is subsistence and not love that is their primary concern.   These temporary marriages act as a veil for prostitution and can vary in length. It seems that even in a theocracy society will make room for the exploitation of women. 

It is my understanding that this practice is not necessarily Islamic but as someone unfamiliar with the faith I am in position to say with any degree of accuracy.  As I watched one woman recount the pain of having to sell her daughter my heart broke for her.  No mother should be put into that position and yet if this documentary is  accurate this is not an uncommon phenomenon. Due to lack of familiarity with both the culture and religion I can offer no great critique however I do submit if for no other reason than to hear from women that are usually silenced that this documentary is worth the time to watch.

H/T Muslimah Media Watch


Fibromyalgia: The Invisible Pain

image It's BADD! Click the logo on the left to visit the BADD homepage at Diary of a Goldfish and read all the BADD posts as they come rolling in.

Forward motion was the constant theme of my life.  There was always something to do and sitting and resting was a foreign concept to me.   I would often go to sleep at night thinking about everything I thought I had to accomplish the next day.   If I had to pick a word to describe me it would have been driven.  I would dedicate myself  with every fibre of my being to my various aspirations, not stopping until I had accomplished my goal. 

Suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt.  Sarcoidosis and Fibromyalgia entered my life and for the first time I learned that strength of will is not always enough.  When I was first diagnosed, I demanded my specialist fix me in three months because I had things to do and could not be bothered with this illness.  I assumed that just like everything else in my life I would grit my teeth and will myself into health and look back at this as some sort of uncomfortable inconvenience. 

As three months stretched into 6 and finally into 12, I began to understand that will alone would not make me better.  To the outside world other than the weight gain from the prednisone I look the same.  It is easy for those around me to forget that I am ill or the pain I live with everyday.   Even as I type this my hands and feet  are burning.  Despite a full night of sleep I am exhausted and am fighting to stay awake. 

One of the things I find most irritating about being disabled is the super crip status people expect me take on.  I know that I have always been tough but if I say I cannot do something, that means I cannot.  That short three blocks that you want me to walk might as well be the Boston Marathon to me.   It makes me want to scream you try it.  Try having ever fibre of your being ache as your body becomes drenched in sweat because each step is a struggle of unimaginable proportions.  Living in an ableist world means that there are those that don’t believe that concessions are necessary.  Those of us that have a disability are expected to rise above at all costs and therefore pose  no burden to those around us with our pain and our suffering.

To talk about our pain is construed as whining.   Someone will always come up with a story about a friend of a friend who had a disease similar to yours  who took  this herbal pill from Tibet or some mountain that you have never heard of and suddenly was cured and got on with their lives.   More likely than not this friend of friend just finally got the message that talking about their illness was not cool and decided to be silent.    You see we can talk about pain but only in terms of what we are doing constructively to get better and not about how much it hurts or hard it is emotionally.  It makes people uncomfortable and so it is understood as easier for all if we would just be quiet.  I know this to be correct because the moment you answer truthfully about how you feel the subject is quickly changed or silence ends the conversation. 

Another thing, stop telling the disabled how lucky we are, or how you wish you could be at home just like us.   Really?? I’ll trade you my body with all of the pain and you can stay home, spending the day on your back propped up by pillows with your feet on a heating pad watching endless hours of court tv and CNN in the hopes of keeping your mind somewhat active.  How much “fun” do you imagine it to be when your three year old asks to go to the park and you have to decline because you would rather be stretched on a rack than deal with the discomfort of the benches?

Sure, I don’t have the stress of ignorant co-workers or answering to a boss but each day I answer to the whims of this backstabbing body that seems to have a mind of its own.  I wake and sleep when I want but that is because I have no place to be and no one dependent on my labour.   In a world where much of ones identity is derived from what kind of work one does this makes me invisible and to some unimportant. 

Finally, don’t expect me to be unchanged by this experience.  How could I possibly be the same person after years of chronic pain and watching the life that I once led evaporate before my eyes?  No, I’m not going to laugh and smile to make it easy for you either. I suffered a real loss and at some point that needs to be acknowledged.

Even if I had not gotten sick  I would have changed, no one stays the same.  Change does not mean that everything about me that you once knew is gone, it just means that dealing with three chronic illnesses has altered  the way I view life.  Things that I was once able to take for granted I must now give great consideration to. 

Please just stop and think before you speak. Moving from able bodied to disabled is a life changing experience and each person needs a different kind of support.  Trying to pretend that nothing has changed is insulting.  Yes these chronic illnesses are invisible to the naked eye but they are felt in every fibre of my being.  Respecting me means respecting my illnesses; they are a part of me just like the  the hair on my head.   If I have to ask for help, recognize that it is a concession of my own will and I don’t need to be shamed for asking.  There will always be a time for laughter and smiles but sometimes know they exist to hide the pain I live with that you have difficulty dealing with.


Carol Thatcher Disgusts Me

This is a guest post from Mar from The Mongoose Chronicles

Rogue economist escaped to the bright side. Writer, talker, dancer, songwriter, singer, walker, runner, roamer, cook. Fierce lover of family and friends. Lover and defender of my womanness, Africanness, my Caribbean heritage, my Barbados, my right to take up my space and protect our space.

image In February of this year, Carol Thatcher, daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was dropped as a roving reporter on BBC1's The One Show after calling a black tennis player a golliwog in the show's backstage green room, and then refusing to make a full public apology over the remark. In the aftermath of her sacking, the BBC received over 3 000 complaints against their decision to fire her, and the mayor of London Boris Johnson publicly declared that he thought it was the wrong decision.

Thatcher was back on the air last week on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, and not only defended her use of the word - which is not surprising given that she refused to apologize in the first place - but also made two statements which I found indefensible. She first informed us of the many letters of support she received and of the fact that her golliwog collection had now greatly increased since like-minded people had included the keepsakes in their fan mail; and she suggested that the whole brouhaha was a result of people being overly sensitive and politically correct.

Now, I'm going to try and keep this short because we've had an extended conversation about this before, and because this kind of wilful racism does not stand up to argument. But the fact is, just because you grew up seeing golliwogs on the side of your jam jar as you sat at your breakfast table with your white, wealthy family and friends, does not entitle you to decide for another group of people what they are and are not allowed to be offended by. Carol Thatcher is a white woman, who was never the subject of the racist taunts of which the word 'golliwog' was a part, and who clearly does not understand that even the origin of the figure as a blackface minstrel is in itself far from flattering and arguably racist. As Labour's Jennette Arnold pointed out in response to Boris Johnson's defense of Thatcher's position:

"The symbolism of the golliwog is colonialist, racist, and harks back to time when black people were dismissed as slave, servant, and figures of fun.
"It is an image associated with the demeaning of black people. There are no second chances when anyone in public life uses such offensive language.
Boris Johnson seemed to think that Thatcher should have been disciplined internally with a small slap on the wrist, arguing that [emphasis mine]:
"The way to deal with it is if someone says something a bit offensive in a green room and you're the producer of the show and everybody else has taken umbrage and feels uncomfortable ... you take that person on one side and say: 'Listen, you've got to understand we've got to work together and you've got watch what you say and you've got to be sensitive,' but I don't think you fire someone. I really don't."

I often wonder how it is that people's self-censorship mechanism fails to engage in these situations; how it is that they do not realize that as people outside of the group whom this directly affects - and worse, part of the group that has perpetrated the racism in question - they don't get a vote. Now Boris Johnson's comments are less to do with whether the word itself is offensive and more to do with corporate equality policy, which is an important debate for everyone to have, but the fact that he calls the expression 'something a bit offensive' gives us a clue about how damaging he thinks this language really is (not very), and in fact, he should just have shut up.

I was disgusted by Thatcher in this Andrew Marr interview, because alarmingly, she seems to be part of this club of golliwog collectors who think their quaint little hobby is more valuable than the historical and current subjugation of an entire group of people; and worse, she is also one of those who has assumed the role of victim because The Man wants to take away her right to hurl racial slurs at people. And the rest of us should just get over it so she can have her golliwog fridge magnets and make fun of black people.

The issue of whether the term 'golliwog' and its image are offensive seems to be a recurring one. And for me, it is simple. As a small child, one of my favourite Enid Blyton series was The Three Golliwogs. I adored the characters, Wiggie, Waggie and Wollie, and saw them as just three toys come alive who got up to mischief. Of course, I grew up in Barbados. By that time, no one had ever called me a golliwog, and I hadn't yet learnt about the practice of blackface or really any of the history of slavery. As I got older and learnt more, no one needed to point out to me that these characters were a product of a racist time and tradition. It naturally became apparent - even before I learnt that one of the original names of the golliwogs was 'Nigger'. So just because you found a name or image harmless in childhood, either because you were part of a privileged group towards whom it was never directed, or because, like me, you were black but lived in a society where that kind of nomenclature was not a common form of attack against your group, that does not mean that the word or image was not harmful or racist. Both sets of circumstances can obtain, and in this case, they do. And here's what I also find problematic: it is not alright to say "well, people at the time were racist. So what can you do? I'm going to continue to read this book to my children because people nowadays are way too sensitive." You can do that, but if you do, be aware that you are in fact perpetuating racist stereotypes, and be prepared to be called a racist when someone comes to your house and sees your little golliwog fridge magnets. Because the fact that you know better and still refuse to adjust your behaviour means that that's exactly what you are.

A few months ago, I went exploring a closeby neighbourhood in search of cheap hangers on which to store my ridiculous amounts of clothes. (I'm always buying hangers, because apparently we have a hanger ghost who cannot cross over until she has hidden all of mine under bushes and brambles far and wide. Either that or I should stop shopping. My money's on the ghost.) I came upon this home supply store with cheap hangers of all materials and colours and as far as the eye could see! It was some kind of hanger paradise! So as I was scooping madly, my eyes happened upon the back of the store, which seemed to be where they stored the toys, and against the entire back wall, from floor to ceiling, were all kinds of toy golliwogs, their hundreds of black faces, white eyes and red lips grinning back at me. I have to say that I was horrified. I immediately felt vulnerable, because if these were the kinds of people who would so unashamedly offer these items for purchase, what, I thought, would they do with a real, live black person (I was the only one) in their store? Because clearly, they weren't worried about seeming racist.

It must have been people such as this who sent Carol Thatcher their letters of support, people who are banding together to protect their right to display icons of the racism they practice when they think no one's listening. Well, carry on with your crusade. But don't be surprised if you lose your job over it.