Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gay Man Not Welcome In Graveyard And Exhumed Twice

image Homophobia is a worldwide phenomenon. Each day new incidents occur that help to maintain heterosexual privilege.   From discrimination in employment, housing, health care and acts of violence, heterosexuals   consciously act to ensure that lesbians and gays are treated as less than.  The citizens of a small village in Senegal  acted in what must be considered one of the cruellest fashions to ensure that even in death gays and lesbians are not welcome.

In the village of Thies a man who was presumed to  be gay died of natural causes in a hospital.  Just hours after he was buried in a Muslim cemetery four men had his body exhumed his body, leaving it near his grave. The  police were forced to intervene and the body was reburied.  Not wishing to be stymied in their efforts the man was once again exhumed and this time his body was dumped in front of his family home.

The level of hatred and ignorance it takes to exhume a dead man is incredible. How does his presence in a graveyard cause damage to anyone else?   According to Article 319, paragraph 3 of the Senegal Penal Code homosexuality is illegal. It states,   “whoever commits an impure act or an unnatural act with another person of the same sex” risks “a five year prison term” and a fine between 100,000 F CFA and 1,000,000 F CFA (i.e. between 150 and 1500 euros). I am quite sure that this man is not the first person to have been guilty of breaking a law to be buried in this cemetery.

"The life of a homosexual man in Senegal is difficult because he is always forced to hide his identity, his needs," said Serif, a 28-year-old outreach worker who is gay. "He lives in perpetual fear, in hiding from his family, his colleagues, even health centers. If I were to make known that I am homosexual, I risk being physically attacked. It has already happened."

Gor-digen are a group of men who dress in women's clothes and perform female gender norms.  They have been a part of Senegalese society for a long time.  In the 1930’s French anthropologists observed what they called men-women in the Wolof tribe. Muslims have repeatedly refused them religious burial, however that should not extend to lying in the same cemetery. There are those that profess that a gay or lesbian identity is not African and is a result of  colonialist oppression, however as long as humans have walked the face of the continent there have been those that are gay, lesbian, and two-spirited.  Rather than concerning themselves with what is not African, they should be concerning themselves with what is human.  Every person deserves to be laid to rest with dignity.

H/T Sisterstalk via twitter

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hey everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  Despite the controversial topics this week the trolls managed to be relatively scarce.  If you would like to get more involved in the conversations that happen here, don’t forget that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  Contact me by e-mail with either your original post or a cross post from your blog via e-mail  at [email protected] (dot) com.

I have some exciting news for this weeks podcast.  Are you ready…wait for it,..wait for it…



This is also your last reminder for this months blog carnival submission.  The carnival will be posted at Tell It WOC Speak on the 15th, so be sure to check it out it.

As usual I have a list of some great posts that I ran across this week. Please be sure to show the 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.

30’s Rock

Injustice Here, Injustice there, Injustice, Injustice, Everywhere

Marriage? Not For me

Forget Hallmark: Mother’s Day Is Queer Left Feminist Thing

Pam Anderson is Not Cosmopolitan

Why Should I Listen Now?

Uncovering women paedophiles

Pixar Movies: Boys Club

We don’t make it easy to be a survivor

How Much Native American Are You?

Moving towards equality, but in the wrong direction

How male is the recession?




Friday, May 8, 2009

Black Men/White Women: Sølve Sundsbø Sex, Racism and Possibilities


Images of people of color and and white women are never unproblematic.  As much as we claim to live in a colorblind post racial world, such photos are always charged with our understanding of the ways in which  race and gender intersect. The white woman is the focal point of this picture whereas; the black hands exist mainly to provide contrast to the starkness of her being. These hands devour without context because they are disconnected from a physical body, implying that given the opportunity blackness would pose a serious threat to white womanhood. The above is just one in a series of photos of model Gisele Bündchen taken by fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

image You will note that  Gisele Bündchen  is not only the sole person that is clothed, she is also the only one to look directly into the camera.   Hers is not a look of defiance but that of surrender as her ravishers cart her away.  When we consider that for generations the black man has suffered under the construction of the rapist of white women, these images are indeed troubling.  Their nakedness in opposition to her clothed body helps reinforces the hyper sexual/masculine identity that is often encoded to the black male body. 

image Where is the art in re-creating the Mandingo carts off Missy Anne image?  Again we see a powerless white female contrasted against a naked and desiring black man.    He takes without asking and she is powerless to subvert his will.  This is exactly the meme that white men have been promoting since the first African slave set foot in the western world.  The black man is understood as mindless; he is a big black dick seeking sexual gratification because that is all he knows.  Gisele Bündchen stands as a warning to all white women of what could happen to them, should they dare to subvert racial lines and interact with black men.

image After all of the images of the potential rape this photo seems comforting, until we ask the question what woman willingly embraces her rapist.   When the face of the black man is finally featured he is defiant; there is no tenderness to counteract the previous images of bestial posturing. 

When Sølve Sundsbø took these photos he clearly had a vision in mind.  No one is born outside of discourse and therefore behind each image there was a clear intent to disturb.   Art is meant to challenge boundaries and cause us to question but can we really call this art when it only plays upon ideas that regularly circulate in our daily discourse?  Your thoughts…..

H/T What Tami Said and Racialicious

Boo Yaa It’s Period Time


Once again it is the first day of my cycle.   I am tired and sluggish and just generally want to wrap myself in a blanket with a hot water bottle. I think that this is going to be a heavy flow month and therefore I am not feeling particularly celebratory.  Normally I tell the unhusband when my period starts just so he knows that I am not in the mood to messed with.   This month I came across an accessory that would make that announcement for me.

Introducing The Official Period Bracelet

image image

The tagline for this bracelet is:The must have accessory for 2009...available now! Saving a relationship (or ruining one) has never been so affordable.

For a mere ten dollars you can save  your relationship from the danger that menstruation puts it in.  Who knew that a little blood could cause so much damage.   I am all for women discussing their periods openly because it is not something that we should be ashamed of but the idea that we need to purchase a bracelet to publicly announce this bothers me.  There is a difference between not hiding your period and announcing it because you are a danger to those around you. 

I am the first to admit that I am having a heavy flow I might be irritable but there are various reasons that anyone can be become annoyed without it being the result of menstruation and we have not created ridiculous bracelets for that. Where is the bracelet announcing to the world that a man has jock itch? I doubt that is a comfortable experience but that is not deemed a “danger” to a relationship, only female biological processes are.

You are suffering immensely. So are we!


Another great tagline to go with a product once again aimed at warning men to protect themselves from the hormonally charged woman.  One would think that since it is the man that supposedly needs “the warning” that he would be encouraged to pay the fifteen dollars for this item. 

Well once again we see that capitalism and patriarchy have no problem holding hands to oppress women.   It is presented as perfectly natural for us to spend our few disposable dollars (note women still make significantly less than men) on products that are inherently sexist.  Yet another epic fail.  Yeah I have my period but I don’t need a bracelet or a t-shirt to speak for me and contrary to the sexist meme men/boys are safe around me.

Homeless Sexual Minorities

This is a guest post by Queers United:  The activist blog uniting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual community & straight allies in the fight for equality!

image Homelessness is a major problem in the queer community as evidenced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's report "An Epidemic of Homelessness". A staggering 42% of homeless youth nationwide identify as LGBTQ. One in five transgender people are homeless and in need of services or are at risk. A disproportionate amount of queer homeless individuals are also people of color.

Why are queer people at a higher risk for homelessness?
LGBTQ people especially youth are often dependent on their parents/guardians to take care of them emotionally, and financially. Most the LGBTQ youth who are homeless are runaways or were kicked out of their homes due to a lack of acceptance of their sexual or gender identity. Transgender people are at a higher risk for homelessness due to lack of societal acceptance, lack of aide in transition, and trans people often face serious challenges finding employment. Older gay people are also at risk due to lack of government recognition of their partnerships. There are countless tragic stories of people who were dependent on a partner, and after the passing of the partner had no right to inheritance, losing their home and belongings.

Challenges faced by LGBTQ homeless people:
In addition to the regular societal ill treatment of homeless folks, LGBTQ people in particular face harassment, and violence on the streets and in shelters, from homeless and non-homeless people alike. They also suffer lack of access to food and shelter, from mental health issues, substance abuse, and risky sexual behavior which leads to higher rates of HIV/AIDS amongst gay and bisexual homeless men.

Getting by as a queer person on the streets:
Many queer people who are homeless are forced into prostitution with no other means of attaining their daily necessities. Due to crack downs on sex workers and homeless populations in general, a significant amount of queer people end up in jail. Lesbian and bisexual girls are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system and are forced to cohabitate with homophobic prisoners. Gay male youth are taunted by inmates and prison guards and have no place to turn to for support, often suffering from violence, harassment, and rape. Because of the dangerous conditions in the shelters, many LGBTQ people prefer the streets and sleeping in trains.

What's being done to help homeless sexual minorities?
Sadly, not much is being done on the state or federal level to specifically address the issue. Some LGBTQ organizations have stepped in to do more research and provide shelters for queer homeless youth. There are also 24 hour suicide prevention hot lines and an LGBTQ runaway switchboard providing local resources. There is also a growing trend of LGBTQ individuals who are adopting queer youth who were forced onto the streets or the foster care system.

Resources for homeless, at risk queer people, and those who want to learn more and help:
Call or email the GLBT National Help Center
Listing of National & International LGBTQ Homeless Shelters
Search - under the topic crisis in your location.
For young people in foster care who have questions about LGBT-related discrimination or abuse, a service of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 866-LGBTeen (542-8336) (Pacific Standard Time) Monday-Friday, 6:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Free, downloadable brochure with statistics, information and resources for your clinic or counselling waiting room or the literature rack in your classroom or library.
Best Practices for LGBT Homeless Youth
Transitioning Our Shelters - A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People

Thursday, May 7, 2009

(Th)ink Pimps Out Nadaya Suleman


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


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

image image

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 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.


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 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. 



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.

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