Thanks everyone for another great week of discussion. I am a little behind in posting the WOC carnival due to illness but it is my hope that it will be up before the end of the weekend. To all my fellow Cannucks, I hope that you are having an awesome Victoria Day weekend. As usual I have a list of some great posts that I ran across this week 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.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Imagine that someone you loved was in desperate need of medical attention, would your first concern be about the language that you used to call for help? Adrainne Ledesma would learn the hard way that no matter how desperate the circumstances good girls don't use the F word. Sgt. Robert McFarland hung up on her three times without even bothering to find out the nature of the emergency because her language was to upsetting to him. If this were not bad enough when she went to the police headquarters to get help she was arrested on a trumped up charge. She was cuffed and cited for disorderly conduct and abusing 911.
I cannot help but wonder if McFarland would have found the language so offensive coming from a male. He had no problem swearing back at her and calling her a buffoon. Apparently it is his prerogative to swear at will but no matter the circumstances young ladies must be proper at all times. Often behaviour and or language that is deemed acceptable for males is strictly disciplined in women.
“He asks her are you gonna swear again you stupid _____” It does not take much of an imagination to figure out that the word that was bleeped out was bitch. He further called her a “hostile girl,” when he finally got around to reporting a potential emergency to the ambulance and fire. Though the department tried to declare this an anomaly, one does not wake up one day and suddenly decide to be sexist and discriminate against women. Clearly on this day he decided that his male privilege meant more than the potential risk that Ledesma’s life was in grave danger. The fact that his position was originally backed up by the department further proves exactly how patriarchal the police department is. It is only upon public attention that they decided to punish McFarland with a two week suspension without pay.
It is not hostile to swear when you are terrified that someone you love is going die and it certainly is not acceptable for an officer of the law to swear back in response. McFarland behaved the way that he did because each day society reaffirms that women are second class citizens. He further believed that because officers of the law are given certain powers that he had the right to act with impunity. Often the blue wall will wrap itself around the police to blot out criminal activities. Since they habitually deal with the poor and disenfranchised their criminal activities often go without punishment. Make no mistake about it, what McFarland did was positively criminal and a two week slap on the wrist is only going to further entrench his belief that he is above responsibility for his actions.
H/T Filthy Grandeur
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The history of the relationship between the medical establishment and Indigenous women has been fraught with racism, negligence, malice and neglect. Informed consent was a right routinely denied these women, making them subject to unnecessary surgeries. In many cases Indigenous women were unknowingly sterilized after being told they were having routine procedures like the removal of a gall bladder. Doctors made these decisions based in the idea that they had the right to determine when a woman had birthed too many children or that the prospect of her reproduction produced an undue burden upon society. The Indigenous community has long been considered by racist white eugenicists to be surplus population.
Clearly doctors have forgotten their vow to do no harm and continue to privilege whiteness in their medical treatments. It has been reported that because Native women have lower incidents of breast cancer that they are not receiving mammograms.
“In any one year, 32 out of every 100,000 American Indian women and 79 out of every 100,000 Alaska Native women are diagnosed with breast cancer. In comparison, 112 out of every 100,000 White women, 95 out of every 100,000 African American women, and 70 out of every 100,000 Latina women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Native Hawaiian women have a breast cancer incidence comparable to White women at 106 per 100,000 women and higher than other Native American women, African American women, and Latinas. American Indian women living in the northern states have higher rates in comparison to other Native American women”.
Breast cancer like all other cancers has a much higher survival rate when it is caught early. The lack of early detection in the Indigenous community has lead to a 53% five year survival rate whereas; white women have a 81% five year survival rate.
For Alaskan native women the rate of breast cancer is alarming. Between the years of 1969 and 1998 it tripled. Between the years of 1999 to 2004 there was a small decrease to 132 out of every 100,000 from 138 per 100,000. This rate still exceeds by half the rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in the Lower 48 states. According to the Anchorage Daily News, “Breast cancer among Alaska Native women is now diagnosed more than twice as often as lung cancer, but lung cancer is twice as deadly as breast cancer (lung cancer resulted in 83 deaths from 2000 to 2004, compared to 40 deaths from breast cancer).”
Indigenous women are able to access medical treatment through the IHS (Indian Health Services), however if there is not a center located where they live, medical coverage is not extended to private clinics or hospitals. The state of California has the second largest Indigenous community and yet there are no IHS facilities. This is further complicated by the fact that many women do not trust the IHS for medical care because of the history of malpractice and racism.
Once again we are witnessing the role that race and class play in accessing health care. Good health care should be a universal right, yet many die needlessly each year because we continue to devalue bodies of color to privilege whiteness. We know that breast cancer is a serious issue for all women and yet the buy pink, fight cancer campaigns routinely target white women who have a much higher survival rate than Native American women. We cannot afford to look at this as simply a woman's issue because we have a tendency to allow whiteness to define what is and is not legitimate womanhood, thus leading to death for WOC. Considering the history of malpractice and racism by both the medical establishment and the government, would you want to risk your life on the concept of colorblindness or a post racial society?
I have a new post up at Global Comment
As you may know, “House” is a drama that deals with the medical practice of the highly anti-social Dr. Gregory House. Though this show remains highly popular, weekly it plays upon racism, ableism, heterosexism, class privilege and white privilege to drive home its neurotic message of the nothingness of being. Most relationships between the characters are dysfunctional and focus around whatever obsession “House” manifests on a particular week.
Ableism is a major feature in this medical drama. The main character himself is a differently abled person and this seems to function as justification for the writers to take creative license with the experiences of others. Each week Dr. House is presented with a medical mystery that he has to solve. The patient is minimized and the issue becomes the disease. Though this models much of what the medical establishment advises in an effort to reduce undue attachment, not all patients are as submissive and or docile in their medical care as presented on House.
Each week a myriad of illnesses are manifested by different patients and yet ultimately the diagnosis usually comes down to two diseases; sarcoidosis or lupus. Using these two diseases as the “catch all” can be emotionally triggering and serves to reduce the difficult lives that those suffering with them must endure.
Illness does not end as projected on “House” after the disease is diagnosed; in fact it is but the beginning of a very difficult journey, which can include intense pain and restructuring of one’s life. In the end, “House” will often prescribe prednisone as though he is offering a patient a glass of water. No discussion takes place on how harmful this drug is or the possible side effects that it can cause. Yet anyone who has been on prednisone for any length of time will usually attest to the fact that it is not a pleasant drug to take.
It seems that because lupus and sarcoidosis are diseases that mimic many others and do not immediately lead to death, the writers of “House” have determined that they can routinely rely upon them as solutions or possible solutions to each week’s medical mystery. Sarcoidosis in particular is not a disease that is well known outside of those inflicted with it. Many were not even aware that the disease existed until it was revealed last year that Bernie Mac died of complications because of it.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Since Elmo and Michelle Obama are two of my favourite people I simply had to post the video.
Transcript is below the fold.
Elmo: Oh hi Elmo is really excited because Elmo is visiting today with the first lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama: Hi everyone
Elmo: What does Mrs. Obama want to do today on Sesame Street?
Michelle Obama: Well, I’d like to have a healthy lunch at Hoopers store.
Elmo: Mrs. Obama wants a healthy lunch then Elmo wants a healthy lunch to.
Michelle Obama: Then maybe I’ll rest over on the park bench and read a book.
Elmo: If Mrs. Obama wants to rest and read then Elm will rest and too.
Michelle Obama: First I want to get some exercise so I’m going to take a walk around sesame street.
Elmo: If Mrs.Obama wants to exercise then Elmo wants to exercise to. Yeah exercise
Michelle Obama: If you want your child to have healthy habits practice healthy habits to because you are your child's best role model.
Elmo: Oh come on Mrs. Obama come on, come on, come on, come on
Michelle Obama: Okay
This goes out to all of you living in the DC area.
Younger Women’s Task Force: DC Metro Presents Cheers to Choice
On May 14, 2009 the DC chapter of the Younger Women’s Task Force will host its second annual fundraiser, Cheers to Choice. Cheers to Choice will feature a wine tasting, live music, exciting raffle prizes, and donation collection. All proceeds will benefit the YWTF-DC Metro chapter. Donations of new underwear and socks will be collected at the door for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS.) With the HIV rate in DC being the highest in the country, this is a very timely and urgent cause!
The title Cheers to Choice embodies not only a woman’s right to reproductive health care, but also a woman’s right to choose her destiny and live in a community that respects her choices without hindering her personal and professional growth through violence, sexism, racism, economic discrimination, or discriminating policies.
Cheers to Choice
Thursday, May 14, 2009
6:30 - 9 pm
Stewart R. Mott House
122 Maryland Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20002
$10 for interns/students
$15 for entry-level non-profit or Hill staff
$20 for all others
For more information about YWTF please visit www.ywtf.org
As a Canadian, one of the things that makes me the proudest is our universal health care system. As a disabled person I know that the kind of medical treatment that I have received would not have been available to me in the US because of our class position. When I need to see a doctor I go, without any thought about the cost. Even my drugs are covered under an insurance plan and therefore as far as my personal health and the health my family I exist without worry.
Other than the drug coverage this is a condition that I had assumed to be universal for all of those with the privilege of being born in Canada or who have achieved residency status. It was with much dismay that I learned a while ago that Alberta had delisted sex reassignment surgery to save 700,000 in a multi billion dollar budget. It seems that when finances become an issue the government has no problem declaring the needs of the trans community to be optional. Alberta is Canada’s most conservative province and therefore while I was openly dismayed I was not surprised.
Manitoba has decided to follow Alberta's lead and reject funding for SRS surgery. Unlike Albert, Manitoba is not looking at a deficit budget in fact the government predicts a $48 million surplus this time next year. If the surgeries were to be covered the “NDP estimate that 15 to 20 trans people a year would take advantage of the policy, at a cost to taxpayers of $15,000 to $60,000 per case.” Currently the Manitoba government covers penis removal (penectomies) and breast removal (mastectomies). The cost of hormone therapy which can be as much as 400 dollars a month or chest reconstruction and clitoral release aren't insured.
The reason that SRS is not funded is because they have categorized it as cosmetic, despite the long held medical position that this is an absolute necessity. The governments failure to accept this as fact is based in transphobia. There are those that identify as transgender who have no desire to have SRS, however for some members of the community the surgery is absolutely necessary for them to have a healthy and balanced life. We would not say to someone that having a broken arm set is cosmetic because after all the arm is still attached to the body. We can only claim SRS is cosmetic because of a failure to understand how damaging it is to have ones body not reflect ones gender identity.
When Tommy Douglas first envisioned universal health care his goal was to have all Canadians covered and if we are excluding the trans members of our society, then the system is biased and patently opposite to its stated goals of ensuring health and well being.
Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Healthy Living
All Canadians deserve to be able to access our medical system.
The blue diamond sold at a Sotheby's auction for record 10.5 million Swiss francs on Tuesday. According to Yahoo news, David Bennett chairman of Sotheby's jewellery department in Europe and the Middle East stated, “This is already a new world record price for a fancy vivid blue diamond and a new world record per carat for any gemstone (at auction). It is fantastic in this market and shows that these rare things are very much in demand," he said.
Yes, it is absolutely so fantastic that London-listed Petra Diamonds is able to pay South African workers next to nothing while they reap record profits. The profits will not go to improve the lives of the poor in South Africa who live in shanty towns without running water and electricity. They certainly will not go to dismantling an oppressive system which keeps an elite group of blacks in power while whites continue to have unfair systemic advantages as well as access to all real avenues of power. The legal system of apartheid may have been dismantled but social divisions still exist and it is the people of color who largely occupy the bottom rung.
The day that Nelson Mandela walked out of his prison the world declared that racism was solved in South Africa. Much like the western world it had dismantled its legal oppressive system and therefore there existed no further need to press for change. To continue to point a finger at South Africa would mean that supposedly civilized countries like Great Britain, France, Canada and the US would have to look at their own internal policies and examine the ways in which white hegemony continues to be a defacto position. The hypocrisy of such a position is evident and we therefore choose to celebrate just how far South Africa has come. The move to a less overt form of racism is far more palatable for whiteness, after all it is only damaging for people of color and therefore a focus on the changes that need to occur are not necessary.
Much like the US, South Africa can point to black leadership and therefore declare itself post racial. It is not until one strolls through the suburbs and realizes that the owners are still white and the maids are all still of color that one realizes that real and lasting change has yet to occur. Freedom should mean more than the ability to move at will; it should also involve social equality and this is something no nation has been able to achieve. Equality continues to be an issue because whiteness still refuses to divest itself of unearned privilege and because we steadfastly hold on to an irrational capitalist mode of exchange which is predicated on the exploitation of the most vulnerable class of people. Men like Biko did not die so that blacks could have freedom in name only.
Bennet may find it positive that someone is able to spend 10.5 million on a shiny bauble, however I think that this stands a testament to how greatly we have misunderstood what is of true value in this life. One does not amass that kind of wealth without exploiting someone and since women and children of color are the world poorest citizens, it is fair to say that this diamond was paid for in blood, death, and pestilence. Bennet might as well have declared like Marie Antoinette let them eat cake, for it is a certainty that those that labour in the mines know nothing of the luxury that the purchaser obviously assumes as a given.
How many will look at the story of this diamond and fail to recognize the deeper consequences of what it means. Just like many other items, diamonds mean oppression and exploitation. When we think about what a diamond is, a shiny rock that reflects light, how is it possible that we have come to find this more valuable than a living, beating human heart? How is it that we have come to place this above a fragile human life? Value, prestige and capitalism have warped our values to the point where we do not understand that the system is corrupt and that real value (read:humanity) gets trampled upon daily.
10.5 million spent on a shiny stone is not something to celebrate when some are so poor that they cannot even afford the basic necessities of life. These diamond mines will continue to be savaged for profit by rich white capitalists just as they have always been. Raping Africa and her people of color has become a veritable pastime that some have come to view as natural as their next breathe and therefore these elites should have decency to own what it is they are actually doing. Do not call it progress, when so many continue to suffer and do not speak of opportunity when it involves servitude and neo-slavery based in capitalism. If it is to ugly to recognize for what it is, perhaps that is because it needs to end.
Many have the idea that to fight for asocial justice means attending protest rallies, conferences, or perhaps even tying yourself to the occasional tree. Where does that leave someone with disabilities who cannot participate in similar activities? Small actions can be just as vital as larger ones to creating change in society.
As many already know I live with three chronic illnesses and spend much of my time in pain. What I have decided is that my activism need not end simply because my body stops me from certain activities; it simply needs to be modified to suit my circumstances. This is where micro-activism comes in. Micro activism are the small daily acts that we participate in to disturb the things that we know to be socially damaging. This can be everything from blogging, to buying used clothing instead of new. We have simply become accustomed to large displays as representing activism and protest that we disregard what we are capable of accomplishing when we make our focus everyday activities.
I may no longer be able to volunteer at food banks and soup kitchens but donating food when I can and advocating on my blog about homelessness and poverty have replaced my physical presence. Instead of gifts I ask people to volunteer in my name for a few hours. I am no longer able to volunteer at battered womens shelters, so I opened my home for a woman and her child to live with us until she could get back on her feet. Micro activism is not about what everyone else is doing, it is about what you can do.
Small everyday acts disturb the norm. It can be as simple as calling out someone when they use racist/sexist/transphobic etc., language. Each person we touch is an opportunity to make change. One need not lobby on Capitol Hill to take on the label of activist, you simply need to live your stated beliefs to the best of your abilities.
When I wrote the post Big Girl Panties and The Cycle of Victimization, micro activism was a huge part of what I was referring to. To be an individual or an active agent of change is part of how I move away from the different ways that my body has been encoded with negative stereotypes. I am differently abled, black and a woman. The world would much prefer women that look like me to completely disappear and accept our status as secondary individuals, however I know that I matter and therefore as part of that journey, I intend not only to force others to see me when they would rather shut their eyes but hear me when they would rather listen to comforting platitudes.
Being activist is not really a choice when you exist as a stigmatized body. Simply leading your life in a world that believes in hierarchies and devaluing others to maintain the privileges of a small percentage of the population means that your very existence is counter to the desired norm. One need not take on the negative labels and assume a position of helplessness if you decide that your everyday actions are for the purpose of change. It matters not if it as simple as a conversation or as active as blogging or purchasing responsible products. Each time you demand the right to take up space, you disturb our dissonance in worth in value. I matter, you matter, we all matter, we just have to believe it.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
At a domestic violence seminar Hamad Al-Razine, a Saudi judge is reported to have said the following:
"if a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment."
Isn’t it ironic that a woman can be punished for spending too much money on a garment that they are forced to wear to authenticate their status as secondary citizens in a patriarchal society. According to the article at CNN domestic violence is not an issue openly discussed in Saudi society and yet the first attempts involve blaming the victim.
Arab News reported that Al-Razine made his remark as he was attempting to explain why incidents of domestic violence had increased in Saudi Arabia. He said that women and men shared responsibility, but added that "nobody puts even a fraction of blame" on women, the newspaper said.
Al-Razine "also pointed out that women's indecent behaviour and use of offensive words against their husbands were some of the reasons for domestic violence in the country," it added.
Blaming the victim is a standard approach taken by patriarchy. When these incidents are reported in the press they have a tendency to take on the tone of “look what the evil brown men are doing to the poor victimized brown women” and yet when we look within western culture, we can see the same behaviour repeated. How many times have we questioned why the abused wife did not leave or why she returned to her spouse? (think Rihianna people). How many times have we questioned what a rape victim was wearing or why she was in that specific location when the rape occurred? This happens on a daily basis.
The issue with this kind of reporting is that by not discussing patriarchy as a global force it necessarily presents domestic abuse as something that only the unenlightened (read: savage) brown people do. There is not a single country on the planet that women are safe from male violence. It is further problematic to continually portray Middle Eastern women as the eternal victim when they have acted and continued to act with agency in their own defence. The fact of the matter is that if they are not presented as weak and incapable, what justification would western countries have for the continual invasion of their lands?
In the name of helping women, we have deteriorated the standard of living in Iraq. We have so impoverished some families that women are being forced into or sold into slavery in Turkey. If part of the goal in the continued occupation of Afghanistan is the improvement in the lives of women, why do they continue to live in poverty, forced to beg on the streets for money to live on? Why was a woman recently flogged by the Taliban? We don’t feel true outrage or desire to help, we seek only to claim moral authority for the sake of geo political position.
Governments play upon Islamophobia and racism to divide us from our sisters in the struggle and perpetuate the lie that we have it so much better. How many times have western women complained about sexism only to be told that we should be thankful we don’t live in the middle East? It will not be better until no women globally live with the threat of violence. It will not be better until no children grow up seeing their mother beaten and abused at the whim of any man, be he western or middle eastern.
Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondent's Dinner decided to let Rush Limbaugh know about the warmth he inspired in her.
"You've had your fair share of critics. ... Rush Limbaugh said this administration fails. ... He just wants the country to fail. To me that's treason. He's not saying anything different than what Osama Bin Laden is saying. You might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight. ... Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs."
I agree that Limbaugh needs to be called out on his hateful vitriol, however resorting to attacking him for his drug addiction is unacceptable. Drug addiction is a legitimate illness and should not be belittled no matter who is suffering from it.
Limbaugh ended up becoming addicted to Oxycotin to deal with chronic pain. As someone who suffers from three debilitating illnesses I know how hard it is to fight off the temptation to take more drugs when your body is screaming and all you want is relief at any cost. The same conditions under which he became addicted occur daily and he is not the only one who has fallen victim to the vicious embrace of Oxycotin.
Limbaugh is a disgusting over privileged ass. He spends his time daily filling the airways with vitriol that promote hatred and imbalance. In some of his most recent commentary he denied the pervasiveness of the recent economic downturn and its ability to effect lives. He is clearly a man that is drunk on a bloated sense of self importance that attacking him is an easy thing to do.
The problem with aiming criticism at Limbaugh is that we routinely criticize either his weight or his addiction rather than the hatred and ignorance that he spreads. We reach for obesity and addiction because we consider these stigmatized identities. Limbaugh is not disgusting because he is a recovering addict or because he is fat; he is repugnant because he spends his time promoting white males of class privilege while denigrating all other bodies.
In a few minutes of his radio show he is capable of providing ample ammunition to criticize as he makes the most outlandish statements that often defy any form of reasonable logic. Wanda Sykes ahs publicly advocated for gay rights based in the equality of all beings and yet she is more than willing throw that value out the window when it is not convenient. The most difficult thing about convictions is putting them into action when they apply to people that we despise.
I am not a feminist. I can declare this boldly without fear and with a certainty of will. I believe unequivocally in women's rights and the equality of all beings but have found after various years of interaction, that feminism has no room for women that look like me or have similar experiences to me. I cannot knowingly participate in a movement that claims to be open and yet daily either appropriates or minimizes my struggle for the gains of others.
I am a heterosexual, black, disabled mother. I am many things to many people and my life though simple in its nature, is worth something to me and the people that I love. Daily I live with the legacy that was bequeathed to me from my mothers womb and I cannot in good conscience spit upon my inheritance by owning a label that seeks to privilege others.
The name of this blog is Womanist Musings for a reason. Womanism not only speaks to who I am as a person but to who I aspire to be each and everyday. It is not housed in academia or based in privileging whiteness or class advantage. It lives and breathes because women of color continue to struggle for even the most basic form of recognition that is the birth right of a privileged few on our little blue planet.
I have seen the discussions between radical women of color/womanist and feminists referred to as a war. At first the term war seemed inappropriate until I thought about the length and breathe of this conversation. Indeed it is a war, a war of attrition to be accurate. Though we are told that we have come so far because a black woman is now first lady, even that honour is appropriated as whiteness seeks to claim Michelle Obama by comparing her to women like Jackie O and alternately defiling her at will by calling her angry when she displays any form of agency.
I am not a feminist because I have seen how white feminists are routinely offered opportunities that are denied women of color and yet we are asked to support their efforts to succeed because it apparently benefits all women. How many times must our work be stolen without recognition or our critiques ignored? No, it is not okay to write a book about the experiences of women and then use women of color as anecdotal evidence or simply explore our experiences through a white lens. It is not okay to explore our lives through a discourse of victimology as though we have won no battles, or survived a brutality that is almost unspeakable. The vey blood that flows through our veins is a testament to our ability to survive.
It is not okay to hold us to a completely different standard than you hold yourselves up to, constantly moving the goal posts to ensure that we are forever on a quixotic quest to achieve any form of social change. We are mammy when you need comfort and angry harridans when you need someone to blame for your own short comings. We are Jezebel to your Ruth; the perfect foil to your constructed fragile beauty and perfection. We are the eternal other, moving through the world bruised and battered from the whips of oppression that continually lash at our tender flesh.
So greatly are we discounted that when men rail against the critique of women, they routinely ignore the womanist perspective. We are understood as so irrelevant that countering our position is deemed unimportant. All women are lumped into one group as though we experience gender oppression in the same way. To be erased from existence is worse than the vicious vitriolic attacks that patriarchy aims at feminists. Feminists are attacked because even at the most basic level patriarchy recognizes a threat to its existence whereas; women of color are already understood as conquered and colonized beings.
I am not a feminist and could never be one because it does not speak to who I am as a woman. There can be no sisterhood as long as women of color continue to be silenced and ignored. For feminism to really be inclusive those that own the label must commit to relinquishing their privileges. Feminism must make room for all voices to speak openly without fear of chastisement. We have different histories and different lives but we can be sisters if we stop allowing whiteness, heterosexist, abelist, cisgender and class privilege to come between us. The monolithic woman is our true enemy.
Monday, May 11, 2009
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to make it clear before beginning this post that I do not support the kind of polygamy practiced by the FLDS. I believe their practice to be child abuse and harmful to all of the women and children involved.
There are those that live in relationships in which three or more people are involved in a loving and equal partnership. They share their lives both romantic and sexual, disturbing our construction of love as existing only between two people. As someone in a committed heterosexual relationship, I will openly admit that this life is not something that I personally could engage in, however that does not mean that my discomfort should eliminate the right of another to love and live how they choose.
Polyamorous people are often constructed as sexual perverts. Images of sleazy seventies style swingers fill our heads without any thought as to how this construction simply privileges a form of relationship that we have chosen as the norm. The poly community has been very supportive of the push for gay marriage while at the same time seeking the same sort of legitimacy for their own relationships. Once again we are finding that there are some people in the GLBT community that are all to willing to tell others to wait their turn as they see a push for poly rights as counter to the push for gay marriage. If this sounds familiar it should, because this is the same kind of argument that was thrown at the trans community when they were unceremoniously thrown out of ENDA legislation. It seems that throwing people under the bus when it is convenient is an organizing strategy that is lovingly embraced (yes full snark) by some who are same gender loving.
Those in polyamorous relationships have the same concerns that gays and lesbians do. There are issues regarding medical coverage, property division, the ability to visit hospitalized partners, as well as make medical decision, and inheritance rights. To those involved in these relationships these issues are of paramount importance and if we believe that all expressions of love between consenting adults deserves recognition, then the inability of those in polyamorous relationships to have any protection under the law is indeed problematic.
The idea that one should wait for civil rights only exists to preserve privilege. No one, regardless of their sexuality, race, creed etc should be forced to live a life wherein they are continually devalued. Civil rights belong to all citizens and fear of losing ground on other issues means that we have simply succumbed to the idea that others should control the struggle for honouring all of humanity. Jezebel recently posted on this very issue and the commentary was extremely revealing on the attitude of the immediacy of this concern.
Fail, Fail, and more fail.
The arguments presented against polyamorists are exactly the same as those used by the fundies to deny same gender loving the right to marry. The cognitive dissonance on this thread is enough to make ones head explode. Between wait your turn and it somehow does not seem morally correct, attempting to justify why others should not have the same rights as anyone else is wrong. Whatever doubts I may have on how these relationships work, I know that my place is not in the private life of another.
Alright, I admit I am not a fan of Tyra Banks. I take issue with the exploitative way in which she covers many issues. When this is combined with the fact that she claims ally status and regularly makes problematic statements without apology, she stands as a bad example of what an ally should represent.
The above video is the fourth segment from Gay The New Black To have an open conversation she invited gay rights activists along with right wing fundies. The following are some of the choice comments:
Sandy Rios: “You can stop being gay, you cannot stop being black. As a fully heterosexual female, I can tell you how difficult it is not to have sex to. [Celibacy] is the answer as opposed to acting out on homosexuality or adultery or paedophilia. Gay is broken hearts, it’s disease and it’s unnatural.”.
The above are just a small snippet of the homophobic commentary said on that show. After all of this one would believe that a true LGBT ally would strongly declare that this was wrong.
Tyra: “I do respect everybody for their beliefs . I respect this side, I respect this side, everybody is entitled to their opinion. One thing that is important to me is realizing pain in a human being and whatever you believe whether you don;t approve of how somebody lives their life to me what hurts is the lack of empathy for pain.”
Nothing can be learned from listening to the right wing fundies that she decided to give space to preach their hatred. This kind of inflammatory hate speech is a part of our everyday conversations. From using the term “faggot” to gay bashing, homophobia is part of our everyday discourse and religion is often used as a justification as was clearly displayed in this segment. The main issue with this segment is that despite all of the hatred and vitriol, Tyra a supposed gay rights ally stood on national television and announced that she “respects everybody for their beliefs” What is there to respect about homophobic commentary that we know supports heteronormativity and our dissonance in worth and value?
What she casually brushes off as an “opinion,” is hatred. Were this to be aimed at a different subject or category of people, would she have been so wilfully obtuse as to the potential to cause harm? When one decides to take on the label of ally, it behoves you to speak forcefully against the kind of hatred that was displayed on her show. There is no room for middle ground or pacifying people in their supposed beliefs. You either believe without doubt that homophobia is wrong or you don’t.
Tyra has repeatedly made this mistake when it comes to the GLBT community. Can you imagine someone like Oprah, allowing these people to sit on her stage and denigrate gays and lesbians like this without any form of commentary? While it may be next to impossible to change the mind of those that are determined to maintain their heterosexual privilege, it is still necessary to declare unequivocally that such commentary is counter to a free state and recognizing the humanity of all peoples. There are several issues in life that may fall under gray areas, however deciding that all people matter certainly does not qualify as an issue that one can equivocate about.
Sunday May 10th, Monica of TransGriot, Allison McCarthy and I, had the honour of interviewing StaceyAnn Chin about her new book, activism, politics gender roles and poetry.
Her new book The Other Paradise is something that everyone should really think about reading. It was ten years in making and is the story of her journey. She says she is an activist who happens to be a writer and the forging of her identity is forcefully told on each page.
Stay tuned for further announcements on upcoming guests.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I have an new post up at Global Comment
From the moment we hear our child’s first cry, we are immediately encouraged to perform the role of long-suffering, ever-vigilant, hyper-nurturing and self-sacrificing mother. It begins with the breast or bottle debate and doesn’t end until we are put to rest. Each decision we make is put under a microscope and analyzed to see if it fits with the social construction of motherhood.
Instead of bonding over our common struggles, women often take the opportunity to rip each other apart. A school of piranhas can sometimes be more friendly than a group of mothers engaged in a “more motherly than thou” contest. We seek to find fault with someone else’s behaviour in the hope that the little mistakes and regrets that we make on this journey are somehow not so bad.
One would never realize that the first Sunday in May is for honouring mothers from watching the commercials that have been airing on television. Like every other supposed holiday it has been turned into a great consumer fest:
The greeting card, jewellery and flower industry go into over drive as they try to convince everyone that the best way to honour their mothers is to buy a card filled with words written by others, or flowers that will die in a week. The various industries play on your emotions, reminding you of all of the sacrifices that mothers make throughout the year to convince you that buying their item will be the strongest expression of appreciation and love that you can make
Meanwhile, now that the weather is getting warmer and park season has started, the community gathering and public shaming of motherhood has once again begun. How many times have we sat in the park and the conversation turns to how some woman isn’t watching her kids closely enough, or the kid with the grape juice stain on their shirt becomes representative of the various ways in which his mother is failing? A smudge on the cheek or some dirt under the fingernails can be enough to get you permanently labelled the neighbourhood slacker. It can make you scared to leave the park bench that you are sharing with these women as you know the minute you stand up, they’ll be gossiping about the fact that it’s been six months since you’ve had your second child and you are still carrying around the baby weight
According to Nate Silver, “Racism is predictable. And it’s predicted by interaction or lack thereof with people unlike you, people of other races. So if you want to address it, the goal is to facilitate interaction with people of other races.”
Transcript Below The Fold
I want to talk about the election. For the first time in the United States, a predominantly white group of voters voted for an African-American candidate for President. And in fact Barack Obama did quite well. He won 375 electoral votes. And he won about 70 million popular votes more than any other presidential candidate, of any race, of any party, in history. If you compare how Obama did against how John Kerry had done four years earlier — Democrats really like seeing this transition here, where almost every state becomes bluer, becomes more democratic — even states Obama lost, like out west. Those states became more blue. In the south, in the northeast, almost everywhere but with a couple of exceptions here and there.
One exception is in Massachusetts. That was John Kerry’s home state. No big surprise, Obama couldn’t do better than Kerry there. Or in Arizona, which is John McCain’s home, Obama didn’t have much improvement. But there is also this part of the country, kind of in the middle region here. This kind of Arkansans, Tennessee, Oklahoma, West Virginia region. Now if you look at ‘96, Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to actually win, how he did in ‘96, you see real big differences in this part of the country right here — the, kind of, Appalachians, Ozarks, highlands region, as I call it. 20 or 30 point swings from how Bill Clinton did in ‘96 to how Obama did in 2008. Yes Bill Clinton was from Arkansas, but these are very very profound differences.
So, when we think about parts of the country like Arkansas, you know. There is a book written called, What’s the Matter with Kansas? But really the question here — Obama did relatively well in Kansas. He lost badly but every Democrat does. He lost no worse than most people do. But yeah, what’s the matter with Arkansas? (Laughter) And when we think of Arkansas we tend to have pretty negative connotations. We think of a bunch of rednecks, quote, unquote, with guns. And we think people like this probably don’t want to vote for people who look like this, and are named Barack Obama. We think it’s a matter of race. And is this fair? Are we kind of stigmatizing people from Arkansas, and this part of the country?
And the answer is, it is at least partially fair. We know that race was a factor, and the reason why we know that is because we asked those people. Actually we didn’t ask them, but when they conducted exit polls in every state, in 37 states, out of the 50, they asked a question, that was pretty direct, about race. They asked this question. In deciding your vote for President today, was the race of the candidate a factor? We’re looking for people who said, “Yes, race was a factor; moreover it was an important factor, in my decision.” And people who voted for John McCain as a result of that factor, maybe in combination with other factors, and maybe alone. We’re looking for this behavior among white voters, or really, non-black voters.
So you see, big differences in different parts of the country, on this question. In Louisiana, about one in five white voters said, “Yes, one of the big reasons why I voted against Barack Obama is because he was an African-American.” If those people had voted for Obama, even half of them, Obama would have won Louisiana safely. Same is true with, I think, all of these states you see at the top of the list. Meanwhile, California, New York. We can say, “Oh we’re enlightened,” but you know, certainly a much lower incidence of this admitted, I suppose, manifestation of racially-based voting. Here is the same data on a map. You kind of see the relationship between the redder states of where more people responded and said, “Yes, Barack Obama’s race was a problem for me.” You see, comparing the map to ‘96, you see an overlap here. This really seems to explain why Barack Obama did worse in this one part of the country.
So we have to ask why. Is racism predictable in some way? Is there something driving this? Is it just about some weird stuff that goes on in Arkansas that we don’t understand, and Kentucky? Or are there more systematic factors at work? And so we can look at a bunch of different variables. These are things that economists and political scientists look at all the time — things like income, and religion, education. Which of these seem to drive this manifestation of racism in this big national experiment we had on November fourth? And there are a couple of these that have strong predictive relationships — one of which is education. Where you see the states with the fewest years of schooling per adult, are in red, and you see this part of the country, the Appalachians region, is less educated. It’s just a fact. And you see the relationship there with the racially-based voting patterns. The other variable that’s important is the type of neighborhood that you live in. States that are more rural, even some of the states like New Hampshire and Maine, they exhibit a little bit of this racially-based voting against Barack Obama. So it’s the combination of these two things. It’s education and the type of neighbors that you have, which we’ll talk about more in a moment. The thing about states like Arkansas and Tennessee is that they’re both very rural, and they are educationally-impoverished.
So yes, racism is predictable. These things, among maybe other variables, but these things seem to predict it. We’re going to drill down a little bit more now, into something called the General Social Survey. This is conducted by the University of Chicago every other year. And they ask a series of really interesting questions. In 2000 they had particularly interesting questions about racial attitudes. One simple question they asked is, “Does anyone of the opposite race live in your neighborhood?” We can see different types of communities that the results are quite different. In cites, about 80 percent of people have someone whom they consider a neighbor, of another race. But in rural communities, only about 30 percent. Probably because if you live on a farm, you might not have a lot of neighbors, period. But nevertheless, you’re not having a lot of interaction with people who are unlike you. So what we’re going to do now is take the white people in the survey and split them between those who have black neighbors or really, some neighbor of another race. People who have only white neighbors. And we see in some variables in terms of political attitudes, not a lot of difference. This was eight years ago, some people were more Republican back then. But you see Democrats versus Republican, not a big difference based on who your neighbors are.
And even some questions about race, for example affirmative action, which is kind of a political question, a policy question about race, if you will. Not much difference here. Affirmative action is not very popular frankly, with white voters, period. But people with black neighbors and people with mono-racial neighborhoods feel no differently about it really. But if you probe a bit deeper, get a bit more personal if you will, “Do you favor a law banning interracial marriage?” There is a big difference. People who don’t have neighbors of a different race are about twice as likely to oppose interracial marriage, as people who do. Just based on who lives in your immediate neighborhood around you. And likewise they asked, not in 2000, but in the same survey in 1996, “Would you not vote for a qualified black president?” You see people without neighbors who are African-American were much more likely to say, “That would give me a problem.”
So it’s really not even about urban versus rural. It’s about who you live with. Racism is predictable. And it’s predicted by interaction or lack thereof with people unlike you, people of other races. So if you want to address it, the goal is to facilitate interaction with people of other races. I have a couple of very obvious, I suppose, ideas for maybe how to do that.
I’m a big fan of cities. Especially if we have cites that are diverse and sustainable, and can support people of different ethnicities and different income groups. I think cities facilitate more networking, and casual interaction than you might have on a daily basis. But certainly not everyone wants to live in a city, certainly not a city like New York. So we can think more about things like street grids. This is the neighborhood where I grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. It’s a traditional Midwestern community, which means you have real grid. You have real neighborhoods and real trees, and real streets you can walk on. And you interact a lot with your neighbors, people you like, people you might not know. And as a result it’s a very tolerant community, which is different, I think, than something like this, which is in Schaumburg, Illinois. Where every little set of houses has their own cul-de-sac and drive-through Starbucks and stuff like that. I think that actually this type of urban design, which became more prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, I think there is a relationship between that and the country becoming more conservative, under Ronald Reagan.
But also, here is another idea we have — is an intercollegiate exchange program where you have students going from New York abroad, But frankly there are enough differences within the country now where maybe you can take a bunch of kids from NYU, have them go study for a semester at the University of Arkansas, and vice versa. Do it at the high school level. Literally there are people who might be in school in Arkansas or Tennessee, and might never interact in a positive affirmative way with someone from another part of the country, or of another racial group. I think part of the education variable we talked about before is the networking experience you get when you go to college where you do get a mix of people that you might not interact with otherwise.
But the point is, this is all good news. Because when something is predictable, it is what I call designable. You can start thinking about solutions to solving that problem. Even if the problem is pernicious, and as intractable as racism. If we understand the root causes of the behavior and where it manifests itself and where it doesn’t, we can start to design solutions to it. So that’s all I have to say. Thank you very much. (Applause)
It appears that by “people of other races”, he means African Americans; by “mono-racial neighborhood”, he means a neighborhood without African Americans; by “racism”, he means anti-black racism; and by “white” he means non-black. Leaving aside the erasure of people of color who are not black, the othering of African Americans, the idea that black and white are opposite races, and the white lens that is pervasive throughout this TED Talk, the data is interesting.