Saturday, August 8, 2009

Would a Canadian Obama be possible?

I have a new post up at Global Comment

When it was announced that Barack Obama had won the American election, many Blacks across the diaspora cried with jubilation. Seeing a Black man become leader of what is termed the free world gave hope to many that have lived with desperation, racism, violence and hate. Whether or not we agree with his politics, which are decidedly centrist, his body represents hope to many.

In Canada, President Obama actually has a higher approval rating than in the U.S. His rating is also higher than our sitting Prime Minster. When he visited last winter and was greeted by our Governor General, it was as though a conquering hero had arrived on Canadian soil. Even Caesar returning to Rome in triumph was not so besotted with love and adoration.

Despite the love shown for the shiny new American president, if Obama were to run for election in Canada, he would never be elected. No political party has been led by a person of color and we are nowhere near seeing people of color legitimately represented on Parliament Hill. White liberals run special committees to address race issues, but without the input of those that are actually affected by racism, what progress can possibly be made?

The highest ranked Black person in government is the Governor General and based on the fact that she was openly referred to as La Reine-Nègre (Negro Queen), it would seem that Canadians are more than prepared to allow race to determine worth. Though the term La Reine-Nègre is clearly offensive, we were assured that it had nothing to do with race and was simply a commentary on the way she preformed her duties.

Many Canadians look southward with a sense of superiority and it has not escaped the notice of people of color that we do not have a national group, like the NAACP or the Congressional Black Congress, to represent our needs in government. In academia, if one wants to take courses in African Canadian history, one must attend a university in an Eastern province. It is, in fact, impossible to get a degree in African Canadian studies outside of eastern Canada, and this would lead one to believe that African Canadians have not contributed to the growth of Canada as a nation.

Politicians have made many racial comments without apology. Even in the States, they at least attempt to cover their hatred by claiming that they never meant to offend. What better evidence is there of White privilege than the ability to display one’s inner racist to the world without receiving censure or social discipline?

Finish Reading Here

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hey everyone, thanks again for another great week.  The conversations were lively as usual and I appreciate all of the time that you take to read and participate here.  I am once again throwing out a reminder that I have an open guest posting policy, just send me a link or your original post via e-mail and I will post it up on the blog.

Last week Monica, Allison McCarthy (everyone’s favourite Gus) and I, interviewed historian and author Dr. Stryker.  We covered some great 101 transgender issues as well as discussed her book Transgender History.  Here is the link to the podcast for those of you that were not able to listen live.  Next Sunday at 8pm EST we will be talking to Kate Harding about fat phobia, the reaction to Obamas pick for the new surgeon general, as well as the show we all love to hate, More to Love

Below you will find a links to some really great posts that I came across this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out.  When you are through don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Why Are People So Afraid of Bisexuals?

Black Household Income: Is It Lower Because We Don’t Support Ourselves?

How Else Would You Have Us Say It?

Does one person make a difference?

I Wish that I Could Love All the Girls in the World (Or, At Least Within Our Community)

Angie Zapata’s Murder Has A Myspace Page

Black Church? What Black Church? (Unconventional Wisdom)

You know what they say about guys with big feet right?

Another Post About Rape

Feminine presentation of trans women is a life or death issue

Apparently I Write Like a Girl

Racism’s Cognitive Toll: Subtle Discrimination Is More Taxing On The Brain

How a Feminist Found Her Sexism

So, What Is Feminist Mothering?


Friday, August 7, 2009

Baby Glutton:Breast Feeding Doll

Spanish toy makers have introduced the world to its first breast feeding doll.  A halter top has been created with two strategic flowers that act as nipples.  When the doll is pressed against the flowers it makes a sucking noise.  Predictably the forces of idiocy (read: Fox News) have issues with the doll.


PAV: The idea is to show that I mean most babies come with bottles and their trying to coax people to do the breast feeding and trying to convince people that its natural but sex is natural to. Should we give baby boys..this is baby glutton. It’s just I mean breasts serve three purposes: they entice a man to sleep with you, they feed the babies that result from that and then they just prove Newtons law of gravity but in any case little girls don’t have breasts because they are not supposed to be thinking of any of those things yet. They’re not just short adults, they’re babies, they’re kids.

Thaddeus McCootter: No, what I think we should really do is affirm the supremacy of G.I. Joe as an American icon, so that this type of thing.. When you ah abandon the concept of a G.I. Joe and fighting for freedom and defending liberty, you wind up with a breastfeeding Spanish doll.

Of course, supporting a doll that glorifies violence is by far more suitable than teaching children that breastfeeding is a natural part of life.  Somehow, baby gluttony is abhorrent when we know that the true nature of society is the promotion of truth democracy and the American way, delivered at the end of an AK-47.

image Like it or not, children often simulate adult behaviour and therefore whether or not this doll exists, little girls will pretend to breastfeed.  It is not a sexual act and should never be paralleled in anyway to porn as one of the commenters does in the video.  It can only be viewed as sexual, if we agree that women's bodies exist solely for the sexual gratification of heterosexual males. 

The issue with this doll is not that it teaches little girls to breastfeed, in my mind the problem is that it once again affirms the indoctrination of mothering as a necessary act for all that are born cisgendered and female.  We give little girls dolls to entice them to nurture because we have determined that socially this is the roll that women are meant to play, whether or not they have the desire to image reproduce.  If this were not the case, why would don’t we expend the same amount of time and energy encouraging a similar pattern of behaviour in young boys.  We only see fit to give boys dolls when they  represent a violent form of masculinity because culturally men are constructed as assertive to the point of aggressive and violent in the face of any threat to the constructed model of masculinity.

Gender is as constructed as any other identity that we are born into.  From the moment a child opens their eyes and the doctor declares it male or female, we teach hir lessons that affirm certain behaviour patterns as normal.  Why do we feel the need to dress a child in blue or pink to indicate sex, even though at a young age such divisions are meaningless to the baby in question? Why do many parents experience consternation if their male child chooses to play dress up, or enjoys playing house, and tea party, though we know that a growing imagination is an essential part of improving the cognitive process? 

By the time a child enters school, there is no doubt that they will have already learned whether or not they are to pick up the skipping rope or the football due to parental discipline and yet we act like children are just born knowing how to behave according to gender.  If we have to teach a child to walk, talk, read and write, why is it so hard to own the fact that we also teach gender performance? The bottom line is that we wish to theorize that these behaviours are natural because it serves patriarchal purposes.  If a woman is always and forever destined to nurture and mother, then she is a slave to her reproductive organs in a way that man never can or will be. 

Race and The White Man

I started writing yet another 101 post about racism.  The truth is I am tired.  I am tired of having to explain that racism equals prejudice plus power.  I am tired of having to go over basic 101 facts to those that just want to live in a world of privilege and denial.  I am tired of the pseudo liberals who claim to get it but cannot seem to stop centering themselves in every conversation.  It is privilege plain and simple. 

Though I am a GLBT ally, I am smart enough to realize that for me it should be about affirming the humanity of another and shutting up when I don’t know enough to contribute to a conversation.  When it comes to race, it seems that there are many that are content to let their inner racist roam the internet no matter the damage or hurt that it causes.

When one talks about race, it is not enough to speak about people of color because it constructs Whiteness as normal and not raced.  Why this is such a image hard concept to grasp is beyond me.  It is not racist to speak about the actions of Whiteness, or the systemic ways in which race acts to devalue bodies of color.  To deny these essential facts is to live in a rosy coloured world singing Kumbaya and passing the bong in a circle of constructed bliss. 

We know that race is  a constructed identity and that there are no differences between White, Black, Latino, First Nations, Asians, etc.,  except that which we create, however we must live in the here and now and deal with the way that society is currently organized.  We do not live in a world in which all bodies are understood to be equal.  We have constructed a hierarchy wherein some bodies are understood to be inferior and this affects ones life chances in many negative ways if one happens to be of color. 

White men in particular have constructed a very specific identity that is designed to ensure that the current imbalance is continued.  Though many act upon this on a very unconscious level, it still does not absolve them of benefitting from their race and gender privilege at every opportunity to do so.  White men are no shrinking violets and yet anytime a person of color seeks to deconstruct White male masculinity, it can be certain that they will be accused of being a racist and then summarily silenced.  The desire to remain above critique is yet another example of privilege.

image No matter how liberal, many function with a sense of entitlement born of the fact that historically White males have occupied the top of the race and gender hierarchy.  This is true whether one is straight, gay, trans, rich, poor, differently abled or able bodied.   No matter how liberal the speaker, they have grown in a society that has taught them that they deserve to elevated above everyone else and therefore they will always view life through a very specific lens.

White males are not understood to be angry, in fact that emotion has specifically been relegated to bodies of color.  We are quick to be told that it is us that are racist when we demand equal treatment, or affirm that the current power structures enforces a secondary status for bodies of color.  White masculinity demands access to female bodies, economic success and the ability to act with impunity.  When a White male performs criminal behaviour it is an aberration whereas a POC is always representative of their race.  It is not complementary to be asked to speak on behalf of Black people because it assumes we function with a hive mind and lack the ability for rational thought.

Even in spaces that people of color create, Whiteness is a constant invasion.  This blog was meant to be a safe space and yet it is continually visited by trolls who seek to demand that I ignore my lived experience and instead privilege their understanding of the world.  Whether it is the media, religion, military, politics, or social organization, each agent of socialization privileges Whiteness and creates it as the norm and therefore; a space wherein a person of color is the primary speaker is understood as challenging to White supremacy. Our voices are routinely denied as valid because to recognize us would mean admitting the ways in which our social organization is critically flawed.

Whiteness needs continual assurance.  It fears retribution and this is in part why it is so quick to deny the validity of the anger of people of color.  We must assure them that we are not angry, not racist and have its best interest at heart.  At times it is like dealing with a self centered, petulant  child.  POC must spend their lives being overtly aware of Whiteness and its needs and yet Whiteness lives in purposeful ignorance of the lives of POC.  The few avenues that we have for self exploration and growth are continually challenged and yet the ways in which Whiteness invades every aspect of the consciousness is not deemed problematic. 

Affirmative action is seen as racism, yet when Whiteness works to ensure that we are undereducated and living in ghettos, it is a failure on our part to live up to our social obligation.  We all know the rules of the game but few are honest enough to speak about them openly.  We are not post racial, though many would like us to ignore our lived experience.   I shall not be an ally to White supremacy while it works to ensure that not only myself but all POC are relegated to lives of obscurity and pain.  I am unapologetically Black and if that means that I must herald my truth from the highest mountains so be it. Whiteness may rule the world but it is not entitled to my soul.



The Bi-Racial Experience: Something Other Than

The above video was very triggering for me.  I remember being pregnant with Destruction, my oldest child and wondering what his experience would be like as a bi-racial man in a world determined to view people of color as less than.  I knew that despite the hue of his skin he would never walk through the world with the ease of his White father but I wanted/want him to embrace all aspects of his being.  He is a child created of love between a Black woman and a White man and for better or for worse he is a child of mixed race.

He has not declared that he specifically identifies as a person of color, however it is clear from the conversations that we have had that he understands that he is not White like his father.  He will at times refer to himself as Brown.  In time I know that society will foist an identity upon him that makes others comfortable regardless of how he may feel about the label;  this I believe is the experience of many bi-racial children.   When we look at them, we decide based on hue which race that they belong to rather than giving them a chance to identify as they choose.

Being a bi-racial family is not easy because not only do we have the everyday bullshit to negotiate, race always factors into how we are perceived by others and sometimes will even cloud how we interact, regardless of the love that we share for one another.  As the parent of color, there are lessons that I must teach my child, that are born of my own personal experiences with oppression, that at times seem strange to his White father, who only knows racism second hand through me. 

To be a parent one must ultimately believe in the greater good and the possibility that we will continue to evolve, however to parent a child of color or mix raced, requires a special kind of faith.  We must hope beyond hope that they will not bear the scars that we do, nor feel the sting of rejection. We must hope that the world will see beyond race, and ethnicity, long enough to allow our children to become whole human beings. 

As much as his father and I would like to keep him from harm in our quest to guide him to adulthood, we know that neither of our experiences will parallel his. Destruction is a bi-racial child and with that comes its own set of complications.  For some he will be to Black and for other he will be to White.  As his parents we can only hope that in the end, no matter what categories others seek to place him in, that he will have the will to decide for himself who he is and what parts of his heritage to embrace.

One day when he becomes a man, I will ask him about his journey and what he has learned.  Straddling the Black/White divide will be a difficult task for him but I believe that through his experiences I will better understand just how senseless these categories are.  In his blood I see exactly why division is unnecessary and why love is all that counts.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

George Sodini: Misogynist and Racist

image I had no intention of writing about the terrible crime that George Sodini planned and executed.  I have seen enough  media coverage on this issue to know that it is at least being taken seriously and therefore felt that my voice would add little to what has been said until I read a post at feministing that made me realize that the whole story is not being discussed as it should be.

There can be no doubt that Sodini hated women.  He felt entitled to access to female bodies for his own pleasure and was enraged when he could not use his white male privilege to his advantage.  He wrote about not being able to get a date and not having sex, as though this was his birthright.

Sodini was a racist.  Not only did he want access to female bodies, he specifically wanted White female bodies and deemed Black men to be competition, for what he surmised to be his natural mate. 

Why do this?? To young girls? Just read below. I kept a running log that includes my thoughts and actions, after I saw this project was going to drag on.
November 5, 2008:
Planned to do this in the summer but figure to stick around to see the election outcome. This particular one got so much attention and I was just curious. Not like I give a flying fcuk who won, since this exit plan was already planned. Good luck to Obama! He will be successful. The liberal media LOVES him. Amerika has chosen The Black Man. Good! In light of this I got ideas outside of Obama’s plans for the economy and such. Here it is: Every black man should get a young white girl hoe to hone up on. Kinda a reverse indentured servitude thing. Long ago, many a older white male landowner had a young Negro wench girl for his desires. Bout’ time tables are turned on that shit. Besides, dem young white hoez dig da bruthrs! LOL. More so than they dig the white dudes! Every daddy know when he sends his little girl to college, she be bangin a bruthr real good. I saw it. “Not my little girl”, daddy says! (Yeah right!!) Black dudes have thier choice of best white hoez. You do the math, there are enough young white so all the brothers can each have one for 3 or 6 months or so.

To ignore the role that race played in this, is to speak about half of the story.  We know that historically White men have constructed negative stereotypes about Black men to reduce competition, retain power, and forestall any kind of partnership between White women and Black men.  The only thing surprising about Sodini’s actions is that he did not also kill Black men, because he clearly blamed them for his inability to function.

Sodini felt emasculated because he believed the lie of the big Black penis threatening to conquer the world.  He felt that he had no place in the world any longer because the White privilege that he had come to view as a normalized social concept is changing.  He did not see the many ways in which Blacks are still under attack by Whiteness.  For Sodini the fact that Obama now lives in a place that was built by slaves, represented the ultimate reversal of fortunes.  It is simply not possible that one could ignore that race was certainly a catalyst in his actions and yet many only see the misogyny.

When he spoke of Black men having sex with White women it was from a sense of resignation.  He viewed White masculinity as diminished and therefore in his mind he was relinquishing his claim to White female bodies.  Sodini will be spoken about like a lunatic fringe killer instead of representative of the White male rage that has become so pervasive in our society.  It was the sense of entitlement that has become normalized in White men that is problematic.

White women and people of color are routinely referred to as angry and castrating and yet the violence of White men is always viewed as an anomaly.  Limbaugh recently referred to Obama as an angry Black man for daring initially to speak truth to power regarding the Gates incident, however the ways in which White men use hate speech and violence to maintain their underserved privilege is never seen for what it truly is – fear and anger run amok.

Sodini may be only one man but his body represents much of the anger that White men are currently experiencing at the thought that power dynamics could possibly change.  Some may not go as far as to murder innocent people, however just as one would not turn your back on a wounded animal, so to is it dangerous to take the threat that they pose lightly.  This is not about how Sodini felt as man but specifically how he identified as a White man. 

The Diva League Are Not The Good Kind Of Blacks

The Diva League which consists of Black transwomen performed a dance and lip-syncing routine to Rihanna's song Disturbia, on America’s Got Talent.  Those of you who are aware of my reality addiction, know that I make no excuses for the often problematic commentary or constructions that can routinely be found in reality television, however the commentary by Piers Morgan crosses a line that demands to be discussed.

There's no easy way of putting this. We are trying to find an act that can represent America on the world stage, and from where I sit a bunch of lip syncing old drag queens who can't dance is not...not what America needs right now. Not exactly Barack Obama, is it?"

First off, what America needs to do is get over this idea that someone else’s gender is problematic.  If it ain’t your body then it ain’t your business, plain and simple.  The trans community has to put up with enough shit to get through life without being publicly shamed on national television by a British agony bag.

Piers is a cisgender man and therefore he will never have to deal with the transphobia that we openly display.  Some might wish to look at his commentary as simple mindless drivel, however it is language like this that puts lives in danger because it devalues who they are as human beings.   When the majority of those on the remembering our dead list are transwomen of color, the cool way in which he delivered his criticism leads one to believe that there is a disconnection between the ways in which language can and does lead to violence. 

I am further horrified that he chose to point out that there is a difference between the women of Diva League (note: I use the term women because in the video a female pronoun was used) and Barack Obama.  White men like Piers have always tried to push the notion that there is an acceptable way in which to be Black.   You see, what they would like is for us to all perform Blackness in a way that is non threatening to White hegemony.

Barack Obama is a centrist and therefore he has been unwilling to speak truth to power.   With the exception of his commentary on the Gates affair, which he quickly withdrew, Barack has calmly assured White people that their fears of retribution are without merit.  Barack does not speak to Whiteness about the crimes that they have committed, and instead prefers to traffic in the language of unity as though Whiteness has even begun to own its undeserved privilege or make way for people of color. 

The Diva League does not have to be Barack Obama because there are many ways of being Black.  Just as we appear in different hues, so to are we transgendered, cisgendered, same gender loving, straight, old, young, differently abled,  able bodied, female and male.   What is beautiful about Blackness is its diversity and despite a desire on the part of men like Piers for a homogenous performance, we continue to be a rainbow of expression, thought, behaviour and language.  I doubt that he understood the various ways in which he was displaying his privilege because White men like Piers have never had to give thought to how their actions effect others; the world has been designed to privilege their wants and needs. 

I do believe that the last word should go to the women of Diva League.

The one thing that I have to say is that we’re here to celebrate life through diversity and entertainment and what America needs is diversity and entertainment.  We’re here to show you America what we got and if you can’t handle it Piers, I think America can vote and give it to us.

H/T Feministing

Nappy Hair Can Lead To Abuse

Many  young Black girl have memories of sitting at their mothers feet to have their hair combed.  It is an almost ritualized experience for Black females.  Once a week, I had my mothers full attention as she lovingly washed and braided my hair for the week.  Unlike this little girl, I never had to hear my mother tell me that I was to tender headed or have her cruelly yank at my hair.

Not only is someone filming this abuse, they are encouraging the woman to smack the child for crying and trying to escape having her hair cruelly brushed out.  Though the experience of this little girl is quite common, it does not have to be so.

I normally would not recommend straightening a child’s hair but if this is the only other option, then it is certainly better than putting the child through abuse.  Too many Black women do not know how to care for their own natural hair and because they have memories of going through this is as children, they see no problem with inflicting the same pain on their daughters.

How many times has the phrase tender headed been said without the realization that the problem is not tolerance but a simple ignorance on how to properly care for natural hair?   It is not meant to be cruelly yanked through with a wire brush. Instead of helping the child she is causing pain and damaging her hair by treating it this way. 

As Africans of the Diaspora we have lost much, our sense of culture, our names, and how to care for ourselves.  We may not daily think about the culture, or names but hair is something we must deal with if we wish to appear presentable in the world.  The moment we touch our nappy locks, generations of separation become realized.

I want to be angry at this woman for treating this little girl so cruelly, however I know that she is just a symptom of a greater problem.   We can never retrieve all that we have lost because of the Atlantic slave trade but we must begin reclaim what we can for the sake of our daughters and generations to come.  We do not need weaves, or straightners, we simply need to connect to what is natural for us and in so doing understand that we are deserving of the same love and care as any other woman.

Darren Our Undog

I have not posted a pic of our family undog Darren in awhile, so I thought I would share.  This is yet another photo taken by Destruction.  At least this time poor Darren was already awake and was not startled by a flash.  The boys still have not figured out why he stays upstairs when they are downstairs.

image In case you are wondering, I do believe his favourite time of the day is bedtime.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aboriginal Survivors of Day Schools Sue For Compensation

Most Canadians are aware that Prime Minister Harper apologized publicly to the survivors of residential schools for years of physical and sexual abuse, as well as the near destruction of Aboriginal culture, all in the name of supposedly civilizing First Nation peoples.  A settlement was offered by both the Catholic Church and the government, in an attempt to compensate for the wrongs that they committed. While many Canadians view this as a terrible time in our history, they have a tendency to view this as a closed issue.
The issue with this settlement is that it only covers those that were in residential schools and fails to acknowledge that those that attended day school were equally hurt.  Having the ability to return home at the end of each day does not erase the fact that during school hours the children were humiliated, abused and prevented from learning or practicing their cultural norms.
Robert Sayine, a former MLA and chief, attended both St. Joseph's residential school and day school in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., when he was young.
He was compensated for the time he spent at residential school, but not for the three years he spent attending day school while still living at St. Joseph's.
Sayine said the government's refusal to pay him for his day-school years is wrong. He welcomes the opportunity to join the class-action suit, spearheaded by Spirit Wind, a non-profit organization based in Manitoba.
"You know, the discipline was the same — the curriculum, the school, the teachers were also the same," Sayine told CBC News.
The government should not be able to decide that simply because one returned home at the end of the day that what occurred was not damaging. If we are going to attempt to mediate the damages that happened, we need to own every single horror that was committed against our First Nations citizens.  
A statement of claim was officially launched on Friday after being blessed in a traditional pipe ceremony.  According to CTV, in Manitoba there are between 30-40 thousand survivors of these day schools.  There were approximately 130 of the schools nationwide. Despite the horror that occurred, far too many Canadians believe that because these schools are now closed, that everyone is equal now and that any failure to succeed is solely the fault of the individual.

The following are from the comment section of the CBC:
 imageInstead of owning the fact that these residential schools are partly responsible for many of the issues that continue plague Aboriginal peoples, many are content to victim blame.   If one is dealing with post traumatic stress, how can one possibly just get over it and get a job? The first commenter spoke about a sense of entitlement as though First Nations people should be ashamed of asking for compensation, after suffering all of the horrors that they did.   The only shame is that these events occurred and that Canadian people seem to think that after stealing land, abusing children and damn near obliterating a people no form of redress should be imposed.  The reality of the situation is that no matter how much money the government pays out, much more needs to be done to ensure a better quality of life for our First Nations citizens.  No matter how many times the government or the Church apologizes, we can never erase the harm that was done in this so-called civilizing project.
We sit in our comfortable homes today because of a great historical wrong.  The longer we perpetuate this evil by failing to acknowledge it for what it is, the greater the damage we continue to inflict.  Simply hiding behind social Darwinism and claiming survival of the fittest removes the last vestiges of humanity and civilization that we claim to hold so dear.  Canadians hold very dearly to the myth that we are uniquely good to people of color and exist with a culture that is not racist and yet every opportunity we are offered to display the morals we claim to be a part of the fabric of our society, inevitably racism bears its ugly head.  We deny that we are splintered, we deny that white privilege continues to be an issue, and we deny that crimes against people of color not only occurred but continue to occur all in the name of maintaining an undeserved privilege.  We hesitate to air our dirty laundry as though the world does not already know that that our beloved maple leaf is tarnished.  We are no different than any other Western country and our failure to own our crimes continues to ensure that we can not be a leader when it comes to healing racial discord or standing as an example as a truly equal society.

More to Love, Episode 2: Group Dates, Splashing Around

 Allison McCarthy is a fat-positive feminist freelance writer, nerdy enough to both watch reality TV and take notes. 

image Hi everyone!  I’m here to regale Renee’s awesome readers with tales of this summer’s surprise hit, the FOX reality-dating series More to Love.  Each week, I’ll be posting about my reaction to the episodes, as well as giving everyone a chance to get their own love on (or snark) in the comments section.

If you read Renee’s fantastic recap for the first episode, you already know that only 15 women this week remain to compete for the heart of Luke Conley, a 26-year old, 330-pound real estate developer looking for love, specifically from one of the remaining plus-sized ladies basking in his company.  In this episode, Luke arranges for two “group dates”: one takes place on a cruise ship (Team Malissa), while the second rendezvous (Team Anna) is pool-side.  Christina, who is not selected by either team, has an exclusive private date as her and Luke jet-set for a night in Las Vegas.

In the future, I believe host Emme ought to start the episode off with some mustered-up enthusiasm, something like, “Ladies, welcome to another exciting week of dating California’s most boring bachelor!”  Seriously, the man has all the personality of milquetoast.  Even as the fifteen remaining women gush over how “adventurous” Luke appears, I keep wondering, where exactly is his spirit of adventure hiding?  It sure as hell isn’t going to be found lurking around any cruise-ship lounge…

Nevertheless, Team Malissa heads over for an evening cruise aboard the cheesily-named Dream Maker.  All of the women are “dressed to impress” with over-the-top evening gowns.  The wardrobe department must be having a ball with this series – who wears a full-length gown on a second date?  Most of the conversation for this date is dull, but I kept hoping that someone might mutiny, if only for the sheer entertainment of pirate-talk.

In the meantime, poor Heather gets seasick and hurls overboard before she can finish her second champagne flute.  After being fawned over by the rest of the group top-side, Luke ventures downstairs to make sure Heather is feeling better.  Her chipper attitude, despite the evening’s bad turn, makes a decidedly positive impression on him.  I, for one, was less impressed when Heather cried, “How are you supposed to love somebody if you can’t even see him?”  Heather, how are you supposed to love someone if you barely even know him?

Christina, the solo date, seems determined to pique Luke’s, err, interest.  Her philosophy on dating essentially boils down to: why bother with getting to know the other person when you could be making-out with him instead?  She makes no secret of the fact that the other girls don’t like or “understand” her.  She reminds me of a certain kind of girl you might meet in college (you know, the one who wears full make-up and three-inch heels for brunch in the campus dining hall, while referring to herself as “princess” with a straight face), yet it’s clear that she’s not on the show to make friends.  Much like Lauren, another of the show’s more catty contestants, Christina hopes that her sexual charms will entice Luke into picking her for another round of love, or something like it.

This leads into the next group date with Team Anna.  Contestants in this group are less than pleased that Luke chose a swimming pool for their second date.  Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but I think it’s the rare individual who would be thrilled to parade around in a bathing suit with a fairly new romantic interest.  Even as Luke proudly removes his shirt and belly-flops from the diving board, the overwhelming majority of the women in this episode express great dissatisfaction with their weight and swimsuit sizes, despite the fact that Luke isn’t exactly sporting a trim figure, either. (His motto: “Why have a six-pack when you can have the whole keg?”). 

“You can’t hide anything,” one woman complains.  “I try to cover up my flaws on the first few dates, not expose them.”  Another tells the camera that she is “not comfortable with this.”  Gee, Luke, since you’re supposedly Mr. Sensitive, think maybe you accept the women’s discomfort and adjust your plans accordingly?  Nope!  Instead, he plies the women with alcoholic drinks from the blender with plainly furtive hopes that, like their first date, some booze will calm their body-image anxieties (read: or help him get to first-base with a few more ladies). 

Some of this episode’s contestants stand out as more sympathetic than others.  Kristian, a 26-year old substitute teacher from New Jersey, is clearly smitten with Luke: she leaves love notes for him while he’s away on the Team Anna date and tells him, over and over again, how much she is “falling” for him.  While her feelings may be sincere (and really, who could resist her warm smile or beautiful brown eyes?), she’s one of those women who strikes me as having little experience in real-life dating.  Hold your cards a little closer to your chest, Kristian, or you’re never going to get out of the friends zone! 

Another contestant, Melissa (not to be confused with Malissa), is the 21-year old plus-sized model with no dating experience prior to the show.  She seemingly breaks down in tears every time she addresses the camera, but Luke tries to show some compassion by pulling her aside first during his alone-time with each member of Team Anna.  She seems to have been the butt of many cruel jokes about her body and possesses almost no confidence with the opposite sex as she worries that no man would want to be seen in public with her.  I fear that Melissa may have a lot more self-esteem repairing to do before she can really make a good match for any partner.

Lauren has cemented herself as the Resident Hater.  She sidles up to Luke and offers to dish on the women who shouldn’t stay.  Bonnie, the tattooed-and-pierced contestant hailing from Portland, OR, tones down her snark in this episode, yet she continues to claim, “I may look tough on the outside, but I’m a 1950’s housewife on the inside.”  That quote made me more nauseous than watching Heather puke on the cruise ship.  Keep it up, Bonnie, and you won’t be allowed back into Portland anytime soon!

Sadly, not all of the ladies will be able to keep their diamond rings tonight.  Though there isn’t much suspense as to who goes home: Magali and Vanessa, both of whom had almost no camera time on this episode.  Luke also follows the catty Lauren’s advice and ditches Arriane, 37, because she has no interest in having children.  Though she sheds a few tears over being rejected on national television, she maintains that a man out there will eventually love her for her.  “I shouldn’t have to change what I look like to find him,” she says.  Right on, Arriane, and kudos to you for not crying because you’ve supposedly lost the love of your life. 

Next week, the ladies are off to the prom!  Let’s see which one of the remaining twelve contestants ends up running to a hotel suite with Luke, and which end up dancing on top of the chairs.

Naomi Sims Pioneering Black Model Dead At 61


I have to be honest, until I saw the eulogy for her on CNN, I had never heard of her.  Fashion has never been something that has been of great interest for me and that is because more often than not when I glance at the cover of the big magazines rarely did I see anyone who is representative of Black beauty.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for her to garner attention in the late 60’s and 70’s even though this was the time when Black is beautiful, was a phrase we lovingly embraced. 

When I look into her dark eyes I see determination in the face of struggle.  Apparently, in her autobiography she spoke about being offered jobs to fulfill a quota rather than being sought after for being beautiful the way that White women are.   Even in her success she was still considered the exotic beauty.

If she is lucky, a little Black girl will be embraced by her family and told she is beautiful and special, however once she enters the world she quickly learns all the negative attributes associated with Black womanhood which leads to a struggle to maintain self esteem.  White feminists routinely point out that young girls must be lauded for their intelligence but for Black women whose femininity has historically been degraded, simply being understood as beautiful is a struggle we have yet to win. 

To many, it may not seem important that a fashion model has passed but to Black women who are understood as distinctly unfeminine and unattractive, it strikes a nerve.  I wish I had known about her before now.  I wish that I had collected her covers, but I am glad that I know her name today.   I will be able to speak about her now and tell little girls to love themselves, in the face of the daily assaults that they must negotiate.  We must remember our sheroes and heroes because more often than not they are quickly written out of history. 

Is True Blood Really A Bon Temps?

image After hearing all the praise for True Blood, I finally sat down and watched all of season one, plus all seven episodes this season.  So I guess one could say that I got my vampire on.  For the sake of full disclosure I will admit to owning all of Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Interview With the Vampire the movie as well as Queen of the Dammed.  I have watched Twilight but have not read the books. In truth, most things vampire related that I have been exposed to, I must admit to really enjoying.

I didn’t think that I would like True Blood when I first started watching it but now Sunday cannot come quickly enough for me.  There are several issues that I have to purposefully overlook to enjoy the show.  In the Vampire world created by True Blood, the same erasures and constructs remain; the characters of color are limited and women do not take on a leadership role.

 imageOne could argue that Sookie is reasonably feminist even though she seems to be surrounded by men cannot stop themselves from wanting to save her. It is clear despite the fact that her beloved Bill could easily end her life, she demands a right to exercise her agency and control her body.  In the midst of sex when she informed Bill that he did not have her permission to bite her neck, I believe it spoke very loudly because women often acquiesce or are forced into sexual behaviour that they are not comfortable with.

While we do have Sookies strong character as a good representation of women, one cannot overlook the fact that the women that were murdered in Bon Temps (Good Time) were killed for choosing to engage in sex with vampires.  This very closely mirrors the honour killings that occur in real life. With the exception of one male, all those that are shamed for having relationships with vampires are women, once again paralleling the slut shaming that occurs in real life.  In the last episode Sookie is almost raped as punishment.

Until the very end of the season one, Lafayette , Lettie Mae and  Tara were the only recurring people of color.  In the second season they were joined by Tara’s love interest Eggs.  This is a show about dysfunction so it hardly seems right to complain that the mother is an alcoholic who eats her own vomit to avoid wasting the alcohol that she consumed however, it would seem that outside of the vampires themselves these characters have the most problems.  Tara is the prototypical angry Black woman and this is enhanced by the fact that she seems to only able to care for a man after she is induced to do so my an evil spirit.  image Lafayette is one of my favourite characters and it is great to see a man of color portrayed as same gender loving, however the goodwill is somewhat diminished when we discover that he is willing to sell not only himself but anything.  Heaven forbid there be a Black male character on television that is not on the make.

Even though the little drama building out of the aptly named Bon Temps is based in so called supernatural angst, the humanity is retained by repeating social constructions that we have all become all to familiar with.   Just like any other show on television, it is written from a particular lens and does not seek to challenge that which we have normalized despite the sex and gore.  I firmly believe to exist in this world, one must compromise to a certain degree because all creations will be imperfect because they are the genesis of imperfect beings.

True Blood works because it appeals to our fear of death and combines that with violence and sex.  We may eschew such things publicly but that which we choose to entertain ourselves with speaks the truth about our deeply hidden thoughts.  The vampire in recent depictions has most often been cast as the dark hero that somehow we must identify with.  It is the darkness in us all, that we daily do battle with.  We want the vampire to portray more human characteristics because we want to believe that we too as a species have not completely lost our moral compass. 

I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this show.  Why do you watch it and what do you find the most problematic?  Even as I am repulsed by the slut shaming of women and reliance on gender and racial stereotypes, I cannot deny that it is all interwoven in such a way as to leave one gasping for more and a desire to see if they can find their way out of the darkness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tune In Tuesday: Counting Crows

This song reminds me of our first car, which we named Balu.  I have this penchant for naming inanimate objects. At any rate, it seemed every time we got in to go somewhere and turned on the radio this song would be playing.  When we would hear it, I for some reason could pretend that I was not on the way to job that I hated with everything that I had.  It just kind of took me away for some reason.  I remember going on road trips up North and this song playing.  It gave us a sort of freedom and to this day makes me smile. 

Your turn, what memories do you have associated with this song?

G20 countries practice ‘agricolonialism’ in developing countries

By Betsey Piette

Published Aug 3, 2009 8:24 PM

Collectively the countries which participate in the Group of Twenty comprise 85 percent of the global gross national product, 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. What many G-20 countries lack, however, is sufficient arable land to meet the needs of growing urban populations.

In recent years, many G-20 nations have engaged in agricolonialism, taking over arable land in developing countries.

One billion people worldwide face starvation, according to United Nations reports. The global recession is expected to drive 103 million more into hunger.

However, the land grabs, concentrated in Africa, Asia and Latin America where hundreds of millions lack sufficient food, are intended to grow food and biofuel crops for export, not for use by at-risk populations.

While the U.S., Britain and European Union nations have a long history of colonial control over land in developing countries, other G-20 countries, including China, south Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia, have recently bought up global farmland.

After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, even Russia and other former Soviet states became targets of land grabs.

Global “AgInvesting”

Last year, as the global economic crisis deepened, food “riots” destabilized many countries. In December, spiking grain prices that had led to food shortages fell by 50 percent. Today, grain prices remain above their 20-year average, and global food stocks continue at 40-year lows.

Over the next 40 years the world’s population is projected to grow from 6 billion to 9 billion, doubling demand, while arable land and water become scarcer. As a result, the cost of farmland keeps rising.

Food now rivals oil as a basis of power and economic security. Arable land has become the latest target for international investors, with more than 90 funds invested directly in farmland.

With the current credit crunch, large companies are investing in farmland as a means of control over future food supplies when food security could become a major concern.

In June a Global AgInvesting 2009 Conference, held in New York, aimed at investors eager for opportunities to invest in agricultural lands, commodities and infrastructure. It brought together top players from the global agricultural and investing industries, including Soyatech, Altima Partners, Bayer CropScience, Brazil AgroLogic, DuPont, Rabobank and the World Bank. The participating firms own and/or manage over 11 million acres of productive farmland worldwide.

The International Food Policy Research Institute reports that 37 million to 49 million acres of land in poor countries, valued at $20 to $30 billion, were sold or under negotiation for sale to foreign buyers since 2006.

Foreign investments in agriculture are not new, but today they are more strategic than commercial, with many transactions intended to insulate the foreign investor’s home country from future global food and energy crises.

Another significant difference is the scale of these purchases. A “big land deal” used to be 240,000 acres. Now the largest ones are many times that size.

The investment firm Blackrock has set up a $200 million hedge fund to invest in land. Dow Chemical has invested its pension funds in farmland futures. Morgan Stanley bought nearly 100,000 acres of Brazilian farmland.

Multibillionaire George Soros is getting into the global land-buying business. Jim Rogers Jr., Soros’ partner at the Quantum Fund, is involved with two farmland investment funds–Agrifirm and Agcaptia Farmland Investment Partnership. “I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time,” Rogers told ContrarianProfits. (July 27)

Land in Africa targeted

Africa imports 25 percent of its food, and the continent has become a prime target of land grabbers. Although sub-Saharan Africa is rich in minerals and natural resources, more than 450 million people live there on less than $2 a day. More than one-third of the population suffers from malnutrition.

A recent Food and Agricultural Organization study of five African countries found that 6.2 million acres of farmland valued at $920 million were bought or leased by foreign investors since 2004.

Most of the nearly 1 million acres taken over in Ghana were for biofuel production. Philippe Heilberg, chairman of New York-based Jarch Capital, controls nearly 2 million acres of land in south Sudan.

Saudi Arabian investors spent $100 million to raise grain on land leased to them by the Ethiopian government; the entire crop is for export back to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, millions of Ethiopians face hunger and malnutrition and require emergency food assistance.

A proposed 99-year land lease deal with the south Korean company Daewoo would have included nearly half of Madagascar’s arable land, with almost no benefits to the host country. Public protest over this deal contributed to the overthrow of President Marc Ravalomanana earlier this year.

Genetically modified sugar cane in Latin America

Since 1994, U.S. farm policies through the so-called “North American Free Trade Agreement” have devastated farmers who produced corn throughout Mexico. NAFTA opened Mexican markets to corn imports from the U.S. and to the introduction of genetically modified seeds.

Now other countries are getting into the act. A French investment firm is buying up cattle ranches in Argentina and Uruguay to convert the acreage to the production of barley, corn and soy.

Within a 10-year span, nearly the entire Argentine pampas and large areas of forest and farmland in Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay have been converted to produce soy as a solo crop. Agribusiness giants Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Bunge made billions selling chemical fertilizers, while Monsanto and Syngenta raked in record profits from modified seeds and chemical pesticides.

Corporations that led the boom in soy production in Latin America are now aggressively moving into genetically modified sugar cane production. GM and Monsanto have been working on “Roundup Ready” sugar cane and sugar beets. Production of genetically modified sugar cane crops would devastate cane growers in Colombia, where panela, a sugar cane byproduct, is a source of nutrition.

Protests erupt in Southeast Asia

Many of the anti-agricolonialism protests have taken place in Asia. The 15-million-member Asian Peasant Coalition recently began a five-month Asia-wide Peasants’ Caravan for Land and Livelihood. The group is acting against global land grabbing in 10 Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In India and Thailand, the theme is “Stop Global Land Grabbing! Struggle for Genuine Agrarian Reform and Peoples’ Food Sovereignty.”

An estimated 365 million people in Asia make their living off the land. Globalization has increasingly integrated Asian countries into the global market and intensified landlessness among Asian peasants. In Pakistan and the Philippines, almost 75 percent of peasants are now landless.

In the Philippines, Fil-Japan is using 1.49 million acres of land for biofuel production. South Korea has leased 232,000 acres of farmland for 25 years to grow 10,000 tons of corn annually. Protests halted plans to allow China to use 3 million acres of farmland.

Wagar Ahmad Khan, the Pakistani federal minister for investment, assures legal cover and tax breaks for investors and says his government “has decided to raise a special security force, which will help create an investment-friendly atmosphere.” (, April 21)

Impact on Indigenous populations

Since the 1970s, more than half of the farmland expansion has come at the expense of natural forests, including large tracts of land in Brazil’s Amazon region. While biofuels are promoted as a means to reduce climate change, expanding cropland for biofuel production has devastated rainforests and savannas.

Conversion of natural ecosystems for production of corn and sugar cane for ethanol, and soy and palm oil for biodiesel, causes substantial greenhouse gas emissions since these crops absorb far less carbon dioxide than the forests and wetlands they replace.

Monsanto, DuPont, Archer Daniels Midland, Deere & Co. and the Renewable Fuels Association have formed the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, which spends billions of dollars to lobby U.S. lawmakers to support subsidies for biofuel production and to promote genetically modified crops.

The social consequences of these land grabs are significant. Indigenous groups who have lived off the land for generations are being driven off their lands. Even when local peasant farmers are able to retain the land, larger land tracts draw off most of the water supply.

G-8 code of conduct

Faced with growing pressure from developing countries, the recent G-8 Summit issued a code of conduct in international agricultural investments that reflects the debate over foreign land purchases in poor countries. It is not clear, however, how the code might work.

“The G-8 statement is pretty weak,” said Sarah Gillam of ActionAid, an anti-poverty group which is calling for an independent U.N. commission to establish an enforceable code of conduct for foreign land purchases. It would include adequate compensation for affected communities and an assessment of the impact on local food security and rural livelihoods.

Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN, an international nonprofit organization that supports struggles for community-controlled, biodiversity-based food systems, compared the danger of land investments to the subprime mortgage crisis. “It’s not just that they want to produce food. It’s that they want to produce it in a way that makes profit. ... Nothing is being done to address speculation or the amount of profits taken by the corporations in control of the food system.

“Land is fundamental to life particularly in many countries of the South,” stated Kuyek. “Governments are playing with fire, and better watch out what they are doing.” (See

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Light Skin Vs Dark Skin

Hueism continues to be a problem in the Black community that we are loathe to discuss.  Part of the issue is that its genesis comes from a very painful place in our history.  The light skinned slave was the house slave and the dark skinned one worked in the field.  After emancipation those that were light skinned continued to live with privilege relative to darker skinned Blacks.  A simple glance through the photographs of the first Black sororities will reveal that the first Blacks to attain an education were overwhelmingly light skinned.  Some families ensured that their line stayed light by encouraging their children to either be with white people or marry another light skinned person.  The animosity between light and dark skinned Blacks continues to this day.

Just as Whiteness has created myths about Black people, so to have Blacks constructed ridiculous attributes which are dependent upon the hue of someone’s skin.  The mandingo identity that is ascribed to dark skin Black males reduces them to sexual animals with no mental capacity for rationale thought.  Light skin women are perceived by many as being more attractive than dark skinned women.  There are times when a dark skinned child born into a light skinned family will face ridicule and emotional abuse.

We are divided, even though we have a tendency to speak about ourselves as the Black community. Hueism manifests itself every time we debate good hair or bad hair, the thickness of ones lip, or the broadness of a nose.  These conversations continue to happen because despite a civil rights movement, and the coining of the phrase Black is beautiful, we don’t believe that we have real value. Our bodies may no longer be enslaved but our minds are still very much colonized. 

image To love Blackness means that we must acknowledge that we are beautiful in our diversity.  From the roundest shelf behind, to the nappiest hair, we have got to re-evaluate what we consider to be physically pleasing.  It is absolute lunacy to have children growing in so-called Black communities being harassed for being too Black.  When we speak about supporting Black led initiatives it is important that all the hues are equally represented.  We cannot allow Whiteness to divide us by ensuring that only women that look like Tyra Banks succeed.   Tyra is beautiful, however we need to celebrate the women that look like Alek Wek as well.

We live like hutu’s and tutsi’s, divided by imaginary difference and ruled by Whiteness to their favour.  As long as we continue to argue amongst ourselves we can never defeat racism.   What these colonized Blacks don’t realize, is that every time they denigrate someone for being too Black or uplift someone for being light skinned, they are affirming the very beliefs that have created ALL Blacks as secondary citizens.  It might be more comfortable to push this to the side and point to Whiteness as the only factor in our continued struggle however like all oppressors, their hegemony is in part possible because they have the help of marginalized bodies.  It is time for the sun to set on the house slave mentality.   It is only in unity that Black will truly become beautiful.

Cops Tase Pregnant Woman and Godfather

There are those that always defend the police no matter what action they take and this is largely because the people  that must deal with brutality are bodies of color.  Justice is not colorblind and those that believe that myth have never been on the wrong side of a billy club.  I have repeatedly stated that officer friendly is not so friendly, only to be told that people of color have a prejudice against cops.  Well, let me tell you what I have a prejudice against, Black grandmothers being shot at point blank range, Black men being killed in subways stations, or outside of clubs the night before their wedding day, and pregnant women being tased for trying to help an old man.

I am sick and tired of reading either out right lies in police reports or justifications that amount to informing people of color that our bodies were created to be abused.  We spend a lot of time talking about gangs but the one gang many are reluctant to identify all wear blue.  We may not perceive  the police force as gangbangers, but if one really thinks about it, the comparison is quite apt.  They look out for each other to the point of breaking the law, they patrol neighbourhoods making sure their presence is felt, they inspire fear, they hide behind the code of silence i.e. the blue wall, they resort to violence to demand respect,  engage in creative writing on police reports to hide their crimes, and some have been known to extort money from citizens. 

Officer friendly lives in suburban gated communities that are largely populated by white people but he makes certain to send his brother beat down Billy to Harlem, Compton, East L.A.  and anywhere  else where the majority of the residents are of color.  There will be those that will say that not all police officers are bad and this is true, however enough of them are to make life hell for people of color. What good reason did this cop have to tase a pregnant woman in the back?  How could she be resisting arrest if she was tased from behind?  They don’t even bother to be creative in their lies because they know all to well while Whiteness is in power it has a vested interest in keeping bodies of color under control and docile.  Show me a Black man that is not worried when he is pulled over and I’ll show you a fool.

Giving these armed thugs tasers was one of the worst things we could have done.  It is justified behind the myth that tasers are non lethal and yet scores of people have died as a result of being tased.  Even when death does not occur the majority of those that have been tased are people of color….ooops doesn’t that conflict with the whole justice is blind shtick? Considering that these supposedly good men and women have been trained to handle situations that escalate into violence, how is it that the taser has come to be the quick solution, rather than conversation? Oh yeah silly me, they’re only tasing bodies of color, so why should anyone important care?  This is not about bodies of color being to sensitive or hiding in an ideological corner, this is about generations of state sanctioned violence directed against us.  How could anyone possibly believe that racism is not systemic?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday Shame: Coffee Denial

There was a time that I absolutely lived on coffee.  If it were possible to get it intravenously, I would have been first in line with my arm sticking out.  A pot a day would have been my minimum.   When my health issues began about three years ago, much to my horror coffee began to make me terribly ill.  After mornings of inventing my own curse words and just generally being miserable, I discovered green tea and all was good again.

image Every summer I drink Ice Caps from Tim Hortons.   It is difficult for me to go a day without it.  I was proudly commenting on how I had not had a coffee in years, when a friend ( or so she claims to be) informed me that Cap is short for cappuccino. NOOOOOOO went my cry of denial and being the sweetie that she is, she hit the Timmys website and informed me that coffee was indeed a mainstay of my beloved Ice Cap.  I hope you’re happy Ms. McCarthy, you have ruined my illusions.  I know that part of bursting my bubble is based in the fact that there is no Timmys in your neck of woods. I think though dost possess a wee bit of Cannuck envy.

Okay, so maybe it was purposeful denial but it’s not my fault, anyone will tell you that Timmys is Canadian crack.  They’re worse than pushers, with their rich coffee and locations on practically every single corner.  What is a poor addicted woman to do but live in denial about her coffee consumption?  Everyone has to have one bad habit…or in my case two or three,  but a little denial is good for the soul or  at least, that is what I try to tell myself.

Now that I have outed myself  about the supposed end of my coffee consumption, it is your turn.  What is it that you eat or drink too much of, ‘cause you love it, even though you know that it is bad for you?  This includes McDonalds Frankenstein french fries …or that emergency chocolate that you have hidden from your family; yeah I am so on to you fess the hell up.