Saturday, June 20, 2009

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello Everyone, I know that this is late going up but it has been a really long day.  As usual please give the bloggers some love and don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

If Tavis Smiley was White, Wells Fargo and “Ghetto Loans” would be Front Page News.

A Car Is Not A Penis

The Animalization of Black Male Sexuality- BBC

I Feel Pretty, I Feel….Coerced Into Being Co-Opted By the Patriarchalist Beauty Myth

On Gender and Disability

Silly Women, Vaginas Are For Babies

Dear Andrea Dworkin

Questions To Ask Your Gynaecologists

Take This Hammer

The White Supremacist In Us

A Fetus By Any Other Name

Looking For The Next Barrack? Yeah, Right

The Advocate Misgenders Trans Woman

Everybody Panic: Why Worrying About The Marriage Crises Won’t Help Black Women

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Obama Succumbs To The Lure Of The Man Q

What is it about men and their Man Q’s?  You will notice that I did not say BBQ.  No matter how powerful they are fresh air and meat always brings out a different side of them.

The Invisible People

Earlier this week I posted about the potential of Xena warrior princess to teach boys about gender.   Destruction and I have been watching the show, as it seems to be on nightly.  What I have noticed that I apparently didn’t when Xena was originally, is the lack of positive representations of people of color.   In fact there is a noticeable absence of anyone who is not white.

image This has caused me to re-examine some of the programs that the children regularly watch.  Mayhem, is a huge fan of Bob the Builder.  It might seem to the creators that they are being inclusive because of Wendy the female character but all they have done is create an all white world.  Destruction enjoys Ben 10 and once again the same phenomenon occurs.  Gwen, Bens sister has a highly visible role but there are no people of color. 

I have been subjected to hour after hour of children's programming and other than Dora and Diego there are little to no people of color represented.  It seems to me that because cause kids shows don’t have story lines about rapists, murderers, gang bangers, prostitutes and drug dealers that there  are few roles that are deemed fit for people of color to play.

Is it any wonder that when given the doll test children of color overwhelming select the white doll over the  black doll?  Even when it  comes to kids books, one must purposefully look for those that contain people of color.  If you are looking for a subject matter like Chinese New Year, then the child's book will contain Chinese children but otherwise most characters will be white because they are considered the universal norm.  People of color are only represented when our cultures can be consumed.

Racism is not natural, we actively teach it to our children.    If they cannot see themselves reflected in normal everyday situations, what else are they to think but that they are of little value?  There are various segments that love to blame parents of color for the lack of success of their children however, you will note that whiteness is not asked to overcome or rise above.  Regardless of its economic position, whiteness will always be given opportunities and advantages that children of color will not receive, no matter how dedicated their parents are to their success.

image In the Xena thread it was brought up a few times that Wonder Woman was not mentioned.  When we think of Wonder Woman we see an iconic female figure rising above patriarchy to kick butt, but what specifically about her character makes it necessary for her to be white?   Why is it necessary for the woman that manages to achieve equality with the white male to be white herself?  Why did She-Ra have to be white?  Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Jem and the Holograms, etc., all present overwhelmingly white images to our children with no justification for racial choice. 

These are questions we do not ask because we see white as normal and therefore have erased the impact of its overwhelming presence.  Even when we are not actively talking about race, it plays a role in what are even the most minor occurrences.  Erasure says as much about how we feel about bodies of color as using racial epithets.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Justice Is Blind Unless You Are Latino

How many times have we been told that justice is blind?  She supposedly sees neither race, class or gender and yet there are repeated incidents in which the lives of people of color are judged to be insignificant.

An eighteen year old Ohio male received a ten day sentence, after pleading no contest to ethnic intimidation in juvenile court. He allegedly tied a noose around the neck of Robert Cantu, tied the rope to a car and then dragged him around a parking lot while screaming ethnic slurs.  Cantu claims to have been saved by a bystander before his assailants could complete their threat to hang him.  The Cantu family now has plans to sue the city of Columbus, which oddly enough was dubbed the The Most Liveable City in 1994.

image I suppose the Cantu family should be happy because unlike the Ramirez family, their loved one is still with them.  Ramirez had the nerve to be walking at night, when 7 men beat him to death.  They repeatedly screamed racist slurs as they pummelled his defenceless body.  The justice system put on its well known blinders and his killers where charged with assault, instead of murder.  They received six months in prison, even though the Ramirez family was sentenced to a life of mourning for the loved one that they lost.

In the case of Ramirez he was blamed for being in the US illegally.  Many felt that had he been in Mexico where “he apparently belonged,” he would be alive today, thus allowing his “good” murderers to live their lives. 

When these incidents are not blamed on the victim, they are often seen as unconnected acts.   When White men are violent it is because they have individual issues and not because society has placed them in a position where they are not held accountable for the  privilege and power that has been embedded to their bodies.  Each action has reverberations throughout the community that is attacked.  It serves as a stark reminder to all people of color that our place is subordinate to Whiteness and that our very right to exist is at the whim of others. 

We are told that we must respect the rule of law and yet it continually acts in ways that are not in our best interest.   People of color are over represented in the penal system and often receive much harsher sentences for the same violations of the law committed by White criminals. 

When Sonia Sotomayor commented that she would bring her life's experiences to her decisions if she was appointed to the Supreme Court, the White Supremacist state immediately went on the offensive.   We are not meant to see race unless it is to the benefit of Whiteness. 

Imagine the situation were reversed and Latino men were dragging white men around a parking lot or murdering them for walking their sister-in law home; do you believe for one moment that the sentences would be the same?  These men would be constructed as violent barrio boys and if they breathed the fresh air of society again, it would be long after they had switched from briefs to depends.

Even as membership in White Supremacist groups rise and we are witnessing an increase in crimes against people of color, we are still constructed as the violent and often times savage members of society.  The devaluation of people of color is understood to be the work of a fringe group, even though those who claim the mantle of liberal regularly participate in the over valuation of Whiteness.  It is always a group of “others” that are racist allowing those who claim to be allies to ignore the ways in which they benefit and promote white hegemony.

If this makes you uncomfortable then it is good.  It is far less pain than that experienced by either Cantu or Ramirez.   We are not post racial, we have not reached the imaginary mountaintop. White supremacy is real and it has infected all of the agents of socialization.  The only people that are in denial of this have internalized the meme of Whiteness as good to serve their own ends.



Michael Savage Is Not Fly For A White Guy

"The white Christian heterosexual married male is the epitome of everything right with America, and yet it is the white Christian heterosexual married male who has been made the beast of America."

Is anyone else capable of getting so much wrong in two minutes?  Savage would prefer if marginalized bodies stop speaking truth power.  He aspires to have the world return to a time when Whiteness was never challenged and its fitness to rule was considered normal and proper.  While he is decrying the few small gains made by various minority groups he fails to acknowledge that power still resides firmly in the hands of White males.

The government, captains of industry, doctors, lawyers, the supreme court, military, clergy, higher education, and media are all largely controlled by White men.  Women and people of color often face a glass ceiling when we attempt to progress socially and this is hardly because heterosexual male masculinity is a victim identity.

There is no social identity more privileged than the White heterosexual male.  Regardless of what social position he occupies relative to any other body in his economic class, he will be offered exclusive opportunities. While he shakes his fist decrying programs like affirmative action, he fails to acknowledge that affirmative action has always existed, it just has historically been the preserve of Whiteness.

So much has Michael Savage  (Weiner) internalized what it is to be powerful that he focuses in on Christianity.  This is interesting commentary coming from a Jewish man.  Even by stating his preference, he is acknowledging that if he were to accept his identity he would face discrimination.  Savage promotes a White, heterosexual Christian identity not because he believes it is ultimately the saviour of all but because he has identified with the group most likely to be able to oppress him.

I would love to be able to ignore the commentary of Savage as that of a deluded man but unfortunately we have already seen what occurs when language reifies power dynamics that are harmful.  In a time of economic retrenchment when Whiteness is even more likely to blame marginalized bodies for strife reifying that it has a right to privilege is ultimately a dangerous act.   Equality means not demonizing anyone for their race and it also means not praising them for it either.

H/T Shakessville (Melissa has excellent commentary on this as well)


Boys Can Learn From Watching Xena

image One of my favourite television shows of the nineties was Xena warrior princess.  I was known to practice my Xena warrior yell in the shower, which for the record drove the unhusband absolutely nuts.  I loved the idea of a woman breaking the traditional understanding of what a princess was supposed to mean.  The devotion between her and her sidekick Gabrielle was touching to watch.  Okay, I admit to having a girl crush on Gabrielle and it isn’t even Sunday Shame day.

Recently Xena has been brought back.  As I settled down to watch it, I did not expect my boys to be interested in watching it, however she grabbed Destructions attention right away.  His first question regarded whether or not Xena was secretly a prince because “princesses just aren’t that tough”.  Despite all of the time I have spent deconstructing gender in our home, Destruction is still a binary thinker when it comes to gender roles.  Much of his way of thought has to do with the gender roles that are enforced in the education system and images that he has internalized from mainstream media.

image It was not until we started watching Xena together that I really began to see how I could use this show as a teaching lesson.  Watching Xena, he could witness women being nurturing, yet still standing up for themselves.  It was an ever greater leap for him to see that women can be heroes instead of waiting for prince charming to sweep in and save the day. 

Rarely are we presented with images in the mainstream media of women defying gender roles and when they appear, it is important to not only support them but to hold them up as examples of how the world could be ordered differently if we respected difference.  I will admit that much of the story line behind Xena is really bad Greek and Roman mythology, however a show that weekly stars a female protagonist that is not crying about her biological clock, or acting out the role of sex kitten for the male gaze is a rare commodity in our patriarchal world.

When I sat down intent on having a flashback to my “girl power days”, I did not expect to teach my child that the ways in which we construct gender necessarily exclude various people but that is exactly what happened.  As parents, daily we are afforded opportunities to teach and not all of them will be as obvious as Xena Warrior Princess, therefore we must be aware and take advantage of them quickly when they present themselves. Society is determined to indoctrinate ideas that are harmful and demeaning into our children and it is only through active engagement that we can have a hope of counteracting some of these lessons.

What other examples of media have you used to disrupt norms when talking to your child and how have they benefitted from it?  Also, if you don’t have  any children please feel free to share your experiences as a child or those of your friends.  I know I am not the only woman out there with memories of She-Ra. LOL

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Study In Ableism

Imagine if each day that you went into work you  had to wear a bright red cap to indicate to all of your fellow co-workers and the customers that you possessed an invisible disability.   Imagine if you were routinely exposed to verbally abusive behaviour while performing your duties.  How would you feel if whenever someone made a joke, you were always the butt of it?

Andrew Beck, 44, who has Asperger's Syndrome and learning difficulties, was also made to cart heavy equipment in a wheelbarrow after being banned from using a motorised vehicle at the Davyhulme Park club, in Manchester.

He told a Manchester tribunal that his duties involved an unfair amount of heavy work, often without breaks of lighter work, in contrast to other green keepers.

One Christmas, when staff were each given a present, Mr Beck said he was subjected to a cheap joke by being given a Star Wars game which he felt was suitable for a child.

image While Andrew did receive justice from an employment tribunal, the fact that he was made to undergo such clearly abusive behaviour for years is deeply troubling.   Much of the ableism that we engage in is based in a failure to empathize and a desire to invoke able bodied privilege. 

I do believe the fact that Andrew had an invisible disability played a large role in how he was treated.  We have a tendency to see these as either not existing, or simply not as  serious as those who bear the physical markers of difference. 

I know very little about Asperger’s Syndrome, however I know enough about disability to understand that difference does not equal less than.   Not only was Andrew subject to abusive behaviour on the part of his employer but the ridicule of fellow employees added to his stressful experience.   When we stand in silence as someone else is being abused, we are just as guilty of committing the offense.  Silence is a sign of tacit agreement. 

Because we have decided to privilege certain bodies, we are constantly fighting different areas of stigmatization.  In our silence we know relief because in that moment no one is focused on the fact that we may be fat, old, of color, gay, etc. The problem with this strategy is that all of the isms are related and therefore if we allow ableism to occur without speaking out, we have no grounds to suggest that when we are demeaned that it is unfair.  This situation might not have escalated had Andrew’s fellow employees spoken out forcefully about the treatment that he was receiving.  It should not take a round of sensitivity training for all to recognize that discriminatory behaviour is unacceptable in any venue.


Shopping For A Birthday Gift? Consider Having Your Vagina Re-Tooled

image When most people consider birthday presents for their partners, they think about their likes and dislikes.  Perhaps your guy is really into hockey (like mine) and would really appreciate Toronto Maple Leafs tickets.  Some might consider that such a gift is superficial, after all we are talking about the “main man” in your life.  If you did not “save” your virginity for your phallic lord and leader, perhaps after years of being slut shamed for daring to be a sexual being, you can finally rectify your lack of purity.

A woman identified as Natalia K., decided to give her husband the one gift that she had denied him through her pervious whorish behaviour – a vagina that would satisfy his desire for conquest.  For his birthday she had a hymenoplasty operation.  Nothing says I love you like having  anaesthesia (which has its own risks) and then submitting to an unnecessary surgery so that you can experience painful sex.  Forget all the lessons you learned from Dr.Ruth about sex being a pleasure experience based in sharing, your man needs to feel like he is king of the mountaintop. 

Of course Natalia reported that her husband loved it.  What self respecting internalizer of patriarchal values would deny that his spouses goodies are not up image to standard.  All women exist in a constant state of imperfection.   Despite all of the rhetoric you hear about penis size, you don’t see story after story of men lining up to get their penises elongated or made thicker to please their spouses, even though such surgeries do exist.  The great phallus must always be projected as the great satisfier of women.  Only a slutty woman would dare to openly complain that her husbands dick did not bring her ooodles of joy.  In fact in porn movies just the sight of an erect penis is often enough to set women off into melodic chants and moans.  Never can we dare to ask if it does tricks, as the male ego is far to sensitive to take any kind of genital teasing.

What else is a vagina for if not to reinforce the power and the capabilities of a penis? It certainly cannot be about giving the owner a positive sexual experience because everyone knows that good girls don’t like sex, we reluctantly submit to it.  

Women like Natalia K., are colluders of the worst kind.  She had this procedure done 6 times.  Even when she was told that she was risking injury on the final hymnoplasty, she went ahead with it.  The doctors feared for her weakened immune system and now she is in intensive care. Heaven forbid her husband spend a birthday without the feeling of tearing her vagina with his magnificent penis.

image The doctors that are performing these surgeries are just as guilty as the women who are having them performed.  It is one thing to submit to such a procedure when the lack of virginity might constitute death or some form of violence, but totally another to “please your man.”   These doctors are profiting from patriarchal values that cause pain to their patients, yet the lure of the almighty dollar outweighs any oath that they took to do no harm.  These surgeries are nothing more than a westernized version of FGM.   When we speak as though there is no need for womanism/feminism, surgeries like this serve as a stark reminder that the value of a woman is still placed squarely on her ability to please a man.



If You Don’t Like A Black Kid Set Him On Fire

Walter Currie Jr was doused with gasoline and then set on fire after a having an altercation earlier at school.  Poplar Bluff Deputy Police Chief Jeff Rolland stated:

“This confrontation led the suspect juvenile to douse the victim juvenile with a bottle of gasoline and then light  the gasoline, which caused the victim to be burned to his abdomen, chest and his neck area.”

The motive for this incident is still being investigated however the victims father image has already formed an opinion as to the cause. Walter is a black youth and the assailant is white.  It is his father Walter Currie Sr.’s opinion that they will not receive justice in this terrible assault.  Deputy Police Chief Jeff Rolland  does not believe that race was a motivating factor in this case.

In every single interaction between POC and whites race will always be a factor.  No matter how long a friendship or relationship has lasted because we are all steeped in a white supremacist society, neither party will ever be able to forget how their bodies are understood by the larger social world.  Whiteness can afford to take the exchange for granted because in every situation they will exist with a power that a POC can never hope to wield.

image Even in cases where the relationship is a positive one for both parties, racial dynamics must constantly be negotiated.  As a woman who has been involved in an inter-racial relationship for many years, this is a fact that I can attest to personally.  When the interaction is negative, race becomes even more relevant in dissecting the dynamics of a relationship. 

As a man of color, Walter Currie cannot afford to naively put aside the history of racial animosity in the US.  There have been far to many instances in which black men have been made to pay with their lives to maintain white hegemony.  What may seem like a case of personal dislike could very well be embedded with racial overtones.  Whiteness still demands a high level of deference from people of color and when we chose not to submit it has in many cases lead to violence.

At this point there is no way of knowing for sure what sparked this incident but given the history of race relations in the US we cannot afford to quickly exclude race as a motivating factor.  When simply driving your car in the “wrong” neighbourhood after sunset can lead to discipline, it is hard to believe that it is completely disconnected in this instance.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black and Blowing Mom A Kiss Means No Diploma

Since the day of Emancipation Blacks have sought education because it is the surest path out of poverty.  From outdated textbooks, to poorly equipped schools, African Americans have fought racism in an attempt to ensure a better future for their children.

Even as we claim that all is equal between the races, a simple trip to an urban school followed by a trip to a school located in a lily white suburb will reveal whose future society has decided to invest in.  The more education that a person receives the less likely they are to live a life of poverty or spend any time in prison. 

Black males face a myriad of negative social descriptors which they must daily wage war against.  From the earliest of ages black males are constructed as aggressive to the point of violent, socially inept and incapable of learning.  Is it any wonder that when a child beats the odds and not only graduates from high school but gets accepted to college that it is a moment of euphoria?

Justin Denney stood up, took a bow and blew his mother a kiss, when his name was called at his graduation ceremony and for this he was denied his diploma.  In what world can this behaviour be considered “showboating”, or causing an unnecessary distraction? 

It is my belief that the decision to withhold Denney’s diploma has more to do with the color of his skin than his actual behaviour. What would have been seen as natural exuberance on the part of a white male, is grounds for discipline when performed by a black male.   Socially we routinely attempt to stifle black masculinity because it is understood as forever childlike and combustible.  Unless such behaviour is seen as exploitable e.g. sports it is carefully controlled.

Denny was reminded that even that which we work for can be quickly taken from us at the will of structural forces. Education is as much about upholding social norms as it is passing specific skill sets to certain bodies. At his graduation Denny was granted one last lesson by Bonny Eagle High School; never forget that you are black and success is  at the whim of whiteness.


Hush Little Baby

Every once and a while we all have rough days and we need a little bit of comfort.

This was just too cute not to share.

The Name Of This Blog Is

image I have repeatedly posted about why I am not a feminist.  For many reasons that I will not repeat; it is not a label that I can comfortably own as a WOC.  Even though there has been much racism directed at WOC, I deeply respect a lot of the gains made by the feminist movement, however once again it seems like a one way street.

The name of this blog is WOMANIST MUSINGS, ergo the person writing (that would be me) is a WOMANIST.  I don’t believe that it is a very hard concept to understand and yet I repeatedly receive either commentary on the blog itself or via e-mail referring to me as a feminist.  Quite often I receive requests to write publicity posts in the name of feminist organizing; I understand that these are sent as mass generic e-mails, however if one is attempting to raise awareness about oppression, the best place to start is not by repeating hierarchy and ignoring the legitimate existence of another.

Taking the time to differentiate between womanist and feminist takes an effort that far too many are unwilling to make.   Womanism exists because of the generations of racism by white women.  WOC have spoken forcefully about the ways in which a monolithic representation of womanhood is racist and yet despite our pleas for understanding we continue to be constructed as invisible.  Despite the so-called progressive politics of feminism, it is quite dedicated to supporting white hegemony. 

We are not fooled by your half hearted attempts at inclusion. Hello Feministing, “Quick Hit” does not absolve you, especially when you take the time to write long drawn out posts regarding the politically anti woman Sarah Palin.   Unless you are willing to deal critically with race and offer insightful analysis, your behaviour is just as insulting.

image I am tired of spending my energy trying to get privileged white feminists to understand the ways in which their behaviour mimics patriarchy.  The same action that these women would not tolerate from a man, they are more than willing to subject women of color to.  Gotta love how vagina solidarity works until the woman is question is understood as “other”.  I could dedicate a lifetime to yelling and cajoling white women all to no avail.   For many white feminists all that matters are the ways in which a WOC can be useful.  When it is about promoting something that is in their best interests we are all women.

Every time we are used, or our issues are ignored, it drives WOC running and screaming from feminism and I suppose that is the point.  It has never been about solidarity or sisterhood; it has always been about making the white female the equal of the white male.  When we make it clear that we are not to be used in such a manner, the pearl clutching begins.  It has become tiresome and insulting. Dear white feminists, please stop playing the same game, Sojourner Truth long ago read your cards correctly.

What I have learned from my interactions with white feminist women is that I must definitely invest in womanhood, however the woman that I will be promoting and investing my energies to will be of color. We cannot count on those that daily oppress us to champion our causes.  It might be cool to quote Audre Lorde or bell hooks but their words have just become slogans for you to pitch out of your latte sipping lips without any real thought to what these women were actually saying.  Quoting them has become the equivalent of saying I voted for Obama and therefore I could not possibly be racist. 

Continuing to fight for our issues by trying to educate a group of people that refuses to listen or attempt any real change only serves to ensure that WOC remain at the bottom of the race, class, and gender hierarchy.  I could earn a perfectly good living yelling at white women as several WOC already do but because I want real and lasting change I know that my energies must be directed at those society has chosen to create as “other.”  There is a reason why Womanism exists and until you can acknowledge that we are entitled to basic human respect my focus will be on uplifting those that society has forgotten.  Enough with white feminists being the center of activism, conversations and all other relevant activity.  Whiteness doe not necessarily grant you fitness to lead.


But We’re Not Talking About Blacks

Why is it that people think that just because they are not talking about your particular minority that it is okay to be offensive?   Though we tend to think of racial issues as between Blacks and Whites, how we conceptualize racism is far larger than the black/white binary.  Niagara Falls (otherwise known as the armpit of Canada) has a lot of anti-Asian sentiment.. 

In many circles it is common to focus on them as foreign and therefore less than regardless of how many generations their family has resided here.   We don’t consider that so-called Canadian norms are the least bit strange, or even image offensive to others.   What matters is that our “foreigners”  eat that salad like they’re dying of starvation and then conform, conform, conform.

Time after time I have intervened only to be asked why I am upset since the conversation was not degrading to Blacks.  What these racists don’t realize, is that every single act of racism is problematic for a person of color because we are not divorced from one another.  If we passively allow one human being to be devalued, we are giving permission for all bodies to be demeaned on the grounds of race.

It can be further irritating to be in the position of calling out racism against another minority only to have them laugh along with the commentary and deny image that they are offended.   This of course makes you look like an over sensitive bleeding heart liberal ,while the race colluder comes across as cool and hip because of their internalized hatred.  This may discourage you from speaking out, as after all no one wants to look foolish but this is the real test of your convictions.

It does not matter that the comment was not directed at you, nor does it matter if the group that is being racialized feigns a lack of concern; if you know said commentary to be based in white privilege, or racism, you must speak out.  These ideas floating through our society unchecked cause harm.  We have had to many instances of hate speech leading to violence, to blindly walk away as though  no one is victimized.  

Having the courage of your convictions is never an easy thing to do;  it is far easier to profess your beliefs in the company of like minded individuals than to face ridicule from those that believe that their privilege outweighs the human rights of another.  While no one person can change the world, in our own small way, we have the potential for change.  It may not be readily evident when we speak out that we have made a difference, however just creating a safe space for another will always reap rewards.   The offending party may not listen to a word you say but they can never say that they have not been told. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Should You Ask If Your Child Is Gay?

As a heterosexual parent, I am very aware of the privilege that I exist with.  My children are growing up in a family that fits within the discourse of what is considered normal and even though I attempt to portray a queer identity as exactly the same, all of the other agents of socialization convey the opposite message.

The unhusband and I have worked incredibly hard to teach our children that those that are part of the GLBTQI community exist with the same human value as anyone else.  We do not do this for “the cookie” but because we fundamentally believe that all people matter. 

As our children age, along with dealing with issues regarding safe sex, should they turn out to be gay we will have to deal with homophobia and heterosexual privilege.  To ask our children what their sexual preference is means that we would expect them to declare and that is not expected of those that are straight. While we do not want to assume heterosexuality because it is dominant, at the same time we do not want them to feel as though their sexuality is something that must be announced.  The question then becomes how do we promote an environment in which they feel comfortable being themselves without placing expectations on them that society would not expect of a straight youth.

In the end we know that as long as they are engaging in safe sex what their sexuality is, is none of our business.   What we wish for them above all is love. I think that in the end what is most important is creating and maintaining an open dialog  and a safe space for children to grow.  It is my hope that if we continue to have conversations with our boys regarding the equality of all peoples that regardless of what their sexuality is, they will feel comfortable bringing their partners home in the full knowledge that we will welcome them. 

To many GLBT youth live in fear of being kicked out of their familial home should their parents discover their true sexuality and it is my hope that my children will feel secure enough to be themselves because of the safe space their father and I try to provide.  Not only is it important to convey the equality of all peoples; it is equally  important to ensure that children know that they are loved unconditionally. 

Pro-Life Scam Preys Upon Womens Grief

For some women discovering that they are pregnant easily counts as one of the happiest days of their lives.  I talked  incessantly to my child in the womb. I could not wait to meet him and discover what kind of little person he would become.  Because birth is something that happens daily across the planet, we forget that it is fraught with complications until we find out to late that we are the statistics that doctors talk about and mothers weep sad tears for.

I almost lost both of my boys in labour.  Mayhem was born seven weeks premature.  When I was given the choice of risking a stroke or delivering him early, it was the most difficult decision of my life.  In those few hours the unhusband and I aged years.

When women are forced to abort at a late stage, it is often due to some sort of tragedy.  Though these abortions make up 1% of all abortions, they have become the focal point for the so-called “pro-life movement”.  Some women opt to have this procedure done from a position of love; choosing to abort rather than to allow a child that they have come to love to suffer needlessly.  The pro life movement dishonours these decisions and regularly presents it as a selfish whim on the part of mothers.  They have employed terrible tactics over the years to shame women into not trusting themselves or believing that they are capable of making a decision that is in the best interest of themselves or their unborn child.

image Most recently blogger Beccah Beushausen wrote heart breakingly about her pregnancy with a child that she had named April Rose.  Beushausen spoke of her faith in God as she carried on with a pregnancy that she knew was bound to end in tragedy.  

Who among us could not sympathize with her terrible position.  As a mother of two beautiful healthy boys, I remember all to well the joy I felt with each kick, or jungle  gym activity on my bladder.  I remember the moment of  birth and the rush of love that defies words.

As the day of birth quickly approached, her readers joined her in prayer, hoping desperately for a miracle.  The faithful day finally arrived and Beushausen posted photos of her soon to be dead baby.

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This is when the story becomes absolutely horrific.  It seems that the baby Beushausen  claimed to have given birth to was none other than a Reborn Doll. When contacted by the Tribune regarding the alleged scam she stated, “I know what I did was wrong. I've been getting hate mail. I'm sorry because people were so emotionally involved."  Is it any wonder that people were upset?

The pro life movement constantly lies about stats, opens false clinics and generally shames women, but this is a new low even for them.  When discovered Beushausen quickly tried to erase all evidence of her mendacious behaviour.  She had to know that her attention seeking would have been damaging and yet today her only concern is the hate mail that she has been receiving.  I don’t even have the words to properly convey my disgust for her behaviour.  To those mothers that lived the story that she made up, my heart goes out to you. I know what it is to love a child but I cannot even begin to imagine what it is lose one.



Joan Walsh Takes On O’Reilly Regarding Dr. Tiller’s Murder

Though he tried to bully her, Walsh definitely held her own. The minute he starts to yell and shake his over privileged finger, even he knows he’s lost. 

H/T Professor Tracy

Racism Does Not Begin And End With The GOP

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Last month the above  “Historical Photo”  was sent by Sherri Goth, legislative aid to Sen. Diane Black via e-mail.  She has since been disciplined, however Goth will retain her job.  Her “real offense”l was not sending the image, but sending it to the wrong  list of people.

“I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button,” Goforth told NIT. “I’m very sick about it, and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”

So much for the myth that Blacks are only imagining the racism that occurs in all white circles.  The republicans have no desire to diminish the racism that is flourishing in their party and this is clear by the fact that Goth still has a job today. 

The racism of the party is so strong that their members no longer  even bother to speak in code.  According to TPM, GOP operative Mike Green posted a racist joke about President Obama on his Twitter account over the weekend.

JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT'S WHITE AND IT WORKS.

Here we have the concept of whiteness suffering under the yolk of oppression at the hands of a Black man.  From this statement it is clear that Green believes that the white men do all of the “hard” work whereas; the person of color simply wants a free ride.  Nowhere in his thought process does he consider the ways in which racism acts systemically to prevent equal opportunity for POC.  It is to the advantage of whiteness for Green to present the meme of the long suffering white man.

While it would be somewhat comforting to see this as a problem of a  small section of society, the truth is that Republicans don’t have a monopoly on racism.  Day after day in ways that we have come to see as ordinary,  whiteness affirms its hegemony through conscious acts.  We have a tendency to look at racist actions and or commentary as individual acts, without acknowledging that each action benefits the social power of whiteness. 

The following is from the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

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The report becomes more disturbing as one reads through it.  What is clear is that no matter what section of society that we look at, race plays a significant factor in ones life’s chances.   Race can never be a joke to people of color when it represents the ways in which we are marginalized and exploited. 

It is not enough to pile scorn upon the overt racism practiced by the GOP, when racism manifests itself in every single institution.  It makes people feel good to think that it is the problem of others and thus expunge any personal responsibility for the continued disparity between the races.  As long as it remains the problem of someone else, it does not challenge the individual to examine the ways in which they benefit from whiteness.  When you point the finger outward, remember to examine your behaviour as well.  Decolonizing your mind is a process and to free oneself from undeserved privilege is an ongoing effort.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Letting “Illegal's” Die Is Better Than Littering

image Water is a life saving resource.  In the western world we often take our access to potable water for granted, forgetting that there are many circumstances in which access to water quite literally means the difference between life and death.  Walt Staton of the Tucson AZ humanitarian aid group, No More Deaths, has been placing jugs of fresh water in Arizona desert at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. 

According to Allvoices:

In the brutal Arizona desert south of Tucson, summer temperatures regularly top 110 degrees. Shade is scarce. Every year literally hundreds of undocumented migrants die trying to walk north from Mexico through this merciless environment. It is virtually impossible to carry sufficient water. No More Deaths' website reports 79 migrant deaths in the southern desert already this year, with 20 bodies of deceased migrants recovered from Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge alone since 2002. For the past five Staton has attempted to alleviate migrant misery by providing them with food, medical care, and--most importantly--emergency water.

Instead of being given a humanitarian award for his  efforts to save lives, he was convicted this month of littering.  That’s right littering.   This “crime” is punishable by up to a year in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine.  I understand image the the environmental concerns of a non biodegradable jug being left in the desert, however we are talking about human lives.   This heightened concern is not because a government agency finally sees the value of protecting our shared resources, it is a direct result of anti-immigrant hatred. 

The government is interested in using the desert as a natural barrier to help keep out so-called illegal's and if the cost of such an action means death, then clearly it is irrelevant.  The people that are dying are of color and whiteness has made it more than clear that our bodies and lives are of little value.  When it comes to immigrant, White European and Common Wealth citizens are whom are desired.  

The US has criminalized South American immigrants for attempting to escape the poverty largely created by unfair trade and colonialism.   This kind of behaviour is seen as even more defensible now that the US economy is in a recession.  In times of economic retrenchment, it is always the poorest and most vulnerable bodies that are targeted.  It is not an accident that this conviction coincides with a rise in the hate rhetoric of groups like the minute men.  Protecting Americas borders is constructed as saving American jobs and yet it is clear that without these workers some industries would experience collapse.  These jobs are also not highly sought after positions by those that have legal status, even in times of extreme poverty.

The government has continually shown a reckless disregard for human life in its treatment of so called illegal immigrants.  Women have reported rape by bandits as well as officials, in their attempts to achieve economic advancement.  There have also been countless deaths of illegal farm workers from dehydration, exhaustion and poor working conditions.  Even after arriving in the land of “milk and honey,” their lives are still very much at risk.

The way stop so-called illegal immigration is not at the border but by making it more tenable for people to stay in their countries of origin.  Cancel the spurious debts that impoverish so-called third world nations,  ensure that all future trade is done fairly, and finally stop fuelling foreign disputes by interfering in the affairs of state of other countries.  Allowing people to die in the desert because they are trying to escape the circumstances created by neo-colonialism is inhuman.  Walt Staton  is a hero and the sooner more of us understand how precious a single human life is, the less misery there will be.


For The GOP Michelle Obama Is A Gorilla

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Since the election campaign Michelle Obama has come under attack by the GOP.  Despite wanting to paint themselves as racially diverse, Michelle has repeatedly been the target of what can be called nothing less than virulent racism.  

A gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia to which Rusty DePass of South Carolina commented on his facebook page, “I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."   When confronted about his clearly offensive commentary he responded by stating, “I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."  (emphasis mine)

Isn’t he just funny ha ha ha.  Why aren’t we all amused that a white men felt that it was appropriate to refer to the first African American first lady as a gorilla? He absolutely meant to be offensive as there is no other way to interpret this kind of commentary.   Apologizing after the fact does not remove the offense, or intentional nature with which DePass acted. 

I cannot wait to hear how their lackey Michael Steele defends this one.  No matter the accomplishments of people of color, far to often we are reduced to maintain undeserved white privilege.  Michelle is threatening because she is intelligent (suma cum laude graduate), well spoken, and in a position of power.  Men like DePass simply cannot tolerate the potential shift of power dynamics as people of color push for equality.  You can be certain had Cindy McCain become the first lady, this gorilla comment never  would have been made.

Anyone want to jump in and tell me that I am being to sensitive, angry, or emotional, considering the fact that we are after all in a post racial world?  How many of these attacks are POC going to have to undergo by those who feel threatened by change?  Time after time offensive language of this nature is used and we are expected to calmly turn the other cheek. 

One of the things that white liberal supporters love about Obama is the fact that he never displays anger at this sort of commentary.  They love the idea of the “noble negro,” standing up after an assault and displaying above human restraint to their commentary.  This sort of behaviour is the model that we have been presented as acceptable, while anyone who displays rage at this behaviour is quickly demonized.   A slave was not allowed to make eye contact with a white man for a reason…whiteness has always feared our anger because it knows that it is the result of its hatred, and criminality.  As long as we are kept pliant and accepting of our own abuse, whiteness can feel comfortable in its privilege and racism.

I for one refuse to accept the apology of this clearly racist troll.  His actions were purposeful and meant to demean a woman that is clearly out of his league.  The fact that he even suggested that his commentary was meant in jest reveals just how little regard he has not only for Michelle Obama but for all people of color.   I won’t bother saying that his actions were racist, I will just be direct and say that he is a racist.  In  DePass you have the perfect example of power + prejudice….anyone still find the definition obscure?



Dear God, it’s Socialism! The Terrible Nightmare of Single-Payer Healthcare

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image The United States has some of the world’s best hospitals, yet millions of U.S. citizens are unable to access their services, making their existence meaningless to large sections of the population. Many die each year due to a lack of insurance and the greatest cause of bankruptcy is unpaid medical bills. Looking from the outside, it is clear that the American Health care system is about profit, whereas the value of a single human life is priceless.

As a Canadian, I often find myself laughing at the mendacious tales of woe that the AMA and insurance companies put in their advertisements about our system. There is a reason Tommy Douglas, the creator of our healthcare system, was voted Greatest Canadian in 2004. We may be dissatisfied with long wait times in emergency rooms and doctors’ shortages in small towns, but no Canadian has died due to a lack of funds in the case of a medical illness since our system was created. Medical treatment is decided between a patient and a doctor and not some government bureaucracy, as is often stated in these misleading advertisements.

image Simply showing proof of government coverage, e.g. an O.H.I.P card, allows Canadians access to hospitals, general practitioners, and specialists. I suffer from three chronic illnesses and I have never paid a single cent for the MRI’s, Cat Scans and various other medical procedures that my primary physician has deemed necessary for my care. I currently reside in a small town and therefore I must travel to a larger city for the majority of my care. While this is certainly an inconvenience, the government pays for my travel expenses and that of my spouse. We are also allowed a food allowance, depending on the duration of our time away from home. My physical therapist comes to my home for treatment weekly and this is once again co-ordinated with my primary care physician.

In Canada, it is understood that preventative care is often cheaper and leads to a better standard of life than waiting until the medical issue becomes serious and/or life-threatening. In the U.S., single-payer healthcare is often touted as mounting the slippery slope towards socialism. This rhetoric preys upon largely outdated Cold War fears and fails to acknowledge that the U.S. is already socialist to a small degree.

Finish Reading Here

Using Lame As A Descriptor Is Always Ableist

This past weekend there was much conversation about a post at Bitch magazine image entitled, “We Got Lame.”  There has been a fair amount of criticism on Twitter and in the comment section of the post in question, without any response from either the author or Bitch Magazine editors. 

Much of the commentary concerns the etymology of the word lame. 

I don't know the history of the etymology of lame. If you do, i'd love to see some references (not being sarcastic - i'm interested) but i do know that one definition of lame is weak and not effective and that is the first understanding I had of the word and I am not going to throw a perfectly good word out the window because there is another meaning to the word which does not apply anyway in the context used.

Lame is not a perfectly good word, if it offends a section of the population.  Those who insist on its usage do so from a position of privilege.  It is so much more than the straw person “PC Speech” argument;  it is about respecting another human beings life experience and physicality.

image Regardless of the fact that lame is seldom used to describe a differently abled person today.  It is a term that originates as a descriptor for those whose bodies  do not function in a manner that society has deemed “normal”.  It matters very little what the word has come to mean to some today; its connection with the differently abled cannot be severed as a matter of convenience.

Just like nigger or tar baby, there are some words that cannot be reconditioned because of a legacy of privilege and pain.  It does no real damage to the speaker to refrain from using terms that are known to be reductive.  The only reason to continue to use ableist language, is because one has purposefully chosen to express power coercively to maintain the hierarchal social positioning that we have become accustomed to.

As Apostate states quite brilliantly in her post, it is not always possible to maintain a trigger free space, however there are some terms that are image obviously unacceptable in an area dedicated to social justice.   What kind of message does it send to differently abled feminists when they see their conditions purposefully used as a descriptor?  What does it say about what voices matter in feminist discourse? 

I was astounded that some even had the nerve to argue as to whether or not the term used in this way constituted an offense.  The oppressor does not get to tell the oppressed what is and is not offensive.  It is a very basic concept to understand and yet because we are intent on asserting the idea that certain bodies are worth less, we continually revert to language and or actions that are harmful.

image Last September, Bitch magazine was begging for donations to forestall having to close down.  Feminists from various backgrounds joined together and pledged their precious disposable income to keep Bitch afloat based in the idea that it would create a space of progressive discourse in line with feminist principles.  “We Got Lame”, is how we have been rewarded for our efforts.

If this had been an action based in ignorance it would be upsetting but somewhat understandable, however even after repeated request for change citing the offense, the editors and the author have remained silent.  Silence is a prerogative of privilege; it sends the message that not only can the differently abled be publicly mocked but that their concerns about said actions are unimportant.

While Bitch editors may feel that their issues with economic stability have to do with marketing feminist work, I would suggest that their issues stem from their continued lack of inclusivity.  WOC have complained about the lack of attention to our issues and now to compound upon that, Bitch has decided that ableist language is appropriate.  Last September women stood up and did their part and Bitch has now clearly breached their end of the agreement.  The next time you need a quick influx in cash, it might not be as readily as forthcoming.  Surprise, surprise Bitch editors, ensuring that no one is “othered,” is very much a feminist issue.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Shame: Parenting Edition

Regular readers know that I am the mother of two amazing little guys, whom I have nicknamed Mayhem and Destruction for the purposes of this blog.  Those that follow me on twitter will occasionally catch tidbits of my adventures in parenting, as I try to hold on to my sanity and they bounce happily off of the walls.

Like any other woman, my motherhood is a disciplined identity.  To be understood as a “good mommy”, I must perform certain tasks with a happy Stepford Wife smile and a bottle of purex in my hand.  When I first became a mother, I diligently tried to play the role of “good mommy” as constructed by society.  In time I learned that it was impossible and began to embrace the times when I was less than perfect. I am now convinced that the “perfect mommy” construction is just one other role created to keep women performing and devalued.  No matter what we attempt, there is always someone lining up to tell us all of the ways that we are screwing up.

I firmly believe that it is time we non conforming mothers come out of the closet with our lack of perfection.  Like all little ones, my guys love to be read stories.  image Hoping to instill a love of reading in them, their father and I purchase books for them on holidays and birthdays.  We also make frequent trips to the library so that the boys can be exposed to different books.  With all of the reading selection to choose from my little guys occasionally fixate on a book from somewhere between six months to years. 

image Mayhem has thus far fallen in love with two books.  I have read Panda and A Tiger Came To Dinner, until I am blue in the face.  He has them memorized so we cannot even skip a page.  The stories are incredibly boring, with terrible illustrations and yet he demands that we read them several times a day. 

It has gotten to the point where I now occasionally hide them for a few days when the thought of reading about tiger going to the movies gets to be too much for me to bear.  I really don’t care that Panda is rolling down the hill he he he. 

I know that hiding a child’s book is not the nicest thing to do but I simply cannot image take it anymore.  Mayhem will look around the house and eventually find the books, starting the whole process all over again because I don’t have the heart to get rid of them permanently.   It would not be so bad if either one of them were into a cool book like Fudge, Ramona, or The BFG.  These are books that I could read over and over again. 

The unhusband cannot stand loud toys and has been known to take batteries out of them when his nerves are about to fray.   Of course, little Mayhem or Destruction will report that the toy is broken and he like all “good daddies” promises to fix it in a couple of days. I remember one toy in particular, a clown that somehow stayed broken no matter how hard daddy supposedly worked on it.  What sucks must about this is, that one he does “fix” said toy of course he looks like super dad the hero.

At any rate, I am sure we are not the only parents who are naughty…fess up folks.  Yes we love our children but sometimes sanity has to come first.