Saturday, August 15, 2009

Family: Black Lesbians Hit The Big Screen

Black women are largely invisible in the media.  What makes the Family unique, is that it concentrates on the lives of six same gender loving women.  Black lesbians must deal with lesbophobia, racism, and sexism in order to negotiate our social world and therefore they face a set of unique social circumstances.  The women in question find that they can no longer deal with life in the closet and make a pact to come out to their families and friends within the next thirty days, as you can imagine this decision is filled with emotion and social discipline.

Clips like the above, make me sorry that I live in a small town.  I am very interested in seeing this film.  Black lesbians are marginalized by both the GLBTQI community and the African American community and therefore their voices are seldom heard from in the MSM.  Women like Audre Lorde, have graced us with their passion and intelligence, yet we continually fail to recognize their human rights and the sheer wealth that they add to our society. 

If you have seen this movie please let me know if it lived up to its trailer.  The intensity of the above clip gave me hope that finally Black lesbians will be centered and their struggle honoured.

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for another great week of conversations.   With the exception of a few trolls there were some really great comments that really got me thinking.   I want to once again take the opportunity to invite those of you who are interested in guest posting here at Womanist Musings to send me your link or original post via e-mail.   The more of us that are contributing the wider the conversations can be.

This sunday the ever brilliant Monica of Transgriot, everyone's favourite Gus Allison McCarthy and I will be interviewing Kate Harding of the Shapely Prose.  We will be talking about fat hatred in our social discourse, the show everyone loves to hate More To Love and the fat hatred that has been aimed at President Obama’s pick for surgeon general.  The show will happen live at 8pm EST.  The call in number is 347-326-9452.  You can access the show here.

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

They are  mine, they are mine, they are mine

Flexible maternity and parental leave: Is it too much to ask?

I hate girls !!! I’m just sort of a guys-girl.

Mr. Officer

Victims “don’t get raped”: on blaming, passivity, and verbs

So Apparently, I am a Man

We Are Dying

Think Like A Man

Food Among The Ruins

thinking about “organizing”

The terrible bargain that we have regretfully struck

Interracial Dating Options VS. Doomsday Marriage Prospects for Black Women

A History Lesson for the Good White People Participating in the Mobs Protesting Healthcare Reform.

Town Hall Participant Attacks A Rosa Parks Poster –Really? 

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Damon Weaver Gets His Interview With Obama

The best part of this interview was when he thanked President Obama for making his dreams come true.  I am quite sure, that never before has a Black boy felt so welcomed in the White House.  Obama has truly made the White House more representative of the people and in the process proven, that if we challenge our youth, they will excel.  Way to go Damon, never stop dreaming.

H/T Jack and Jill Politics.

Omarosa Finds Redemption In God

image Omarosa found fame on The Apprentice by being smart and willing to push the envelope.  She was loudly decried by many as an angry and power crazy Black woman.  By the time she appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice, this reputation was cemented.  Lennox Lewis commented on her ghetto nature, while her fellow participants ignored the ways in which Piers Morgan goaded and degraded her at every opportunity.  He wanted the world to know that Omarosa – a  Black woman, could never hope to be his equal. Omarosa became a problematized body because she refused to regulate her speech and demanded the right to stand up for herself.

Just like many Black women, Omarosa was to find that the negative stereotypes associated with Black femininity, would attach themselves to her and ultimately become a huge factor in how she is/was understood by the public.  If Omarosa is strong, it because she has bad to be so in order to  survive in a world that values the work of White men, while single handily ignoring the contributions of women of color.

It was with great interest when I discovered a link proclaiming: Repent Now: Omarosa is entering a seminary

He also says she's done charity work for the homeless and poor in Haiti in the past, which we rarely see on the TV. Because we don't like our bad guys to be complex, just evil.

You will note how quickly her womanhood is lost by using the term guy as a universal identifier.  Omarosa is neither bad or a guy, she is simply an ambitious woman and this is something we would find admirable in a White male.  It is the color of her skin that makes the word ambition a negative because Black women are understood to exist for the sole purposes of servicing the needs of Whiteness.  How dare she exist with the belief that living outside of the mammy stereotype is acceptable.  This is particularly why she has been disciplined under the Sapphire  construction.

Omarosa is a very accomplished woman.  She is well educated and well spoken.  She has articulated on many occasions that we should not settle for what we are being offered and instead seek to set the terms of the game in a manner that is more advantageous to us.  Black women, according to Omarosa,  will always be offered the lowest remuneration and it is up to us to demand more. 

I am sure that Omarosa has her own reasons for choosing to attend Divinity school however; this does not mean that she is somehow redeemed or is desirous of redemption. She is a complex being and the fact that she has been universally constructed as one dimensional speaks, to the racism and sexism that has become culturally acceptable.  Instead of recognizing that once again Omarosa has chosen a field that has traditionally been hostile to women, much less women of color, the meme is to ignore the ways in which race and gender have combined to construct her as a negative human being.  Some may see this as an about face, from the woman the America has loved to hate, but perhaps it is just a reflection of the complexity that many have chosen to ignore in order to construct an identity that is not representative of her.

Trans Women In Male Prisons: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Trans women constitute a very vulnerable section of penal populations.  Despite the fact that gender is not determined by genitalia, the state has been insistent upon housing pre-op trans women in male prisons.  This can and does lead to violence and rape.  Using the presence of a penis as a determinate of gender status, denies the right of trans women to decide on the configuration of their bodies and further denies their femininity.  

image After being subject to rape on several occasions and being cut,  Katherine Anne Johnson is demanding that corrections Canada pay for SRS surgery.  She has already had her testicles removed and has made repeated attempts to remove her penis using razors etc.,  She has also reported having suicidal thoughts. 

If Ms. Johnson can have her penis removed, she will be able to be housed in a women's prison.  As a resident of a male penitentiary, Ms. Johnson reports isolating herself in her cell, missing meals and showers.  This cannot possibly be good for her mental health.

The article regarding her plight, made a point of emphasizing why she has been imprisoned and while I feel for the victims of Ms. Johnson’s actions; it has nothing to do with the fact that Ms. Johnson is now herself a victim, living in what can be understood to be an untenable situation. 

"I have been forced to go along with having sex with men in prison for protection to avoid being killed or raped by other men. I am terrified of being around men," she says.

Corrections Canada has a responsibility to keep this woman safe.  If we hold to the concept that we are not a barbarous society, then what Ms. Johnson has been forced to live with is completely unacceptable.  I fully comprehend that part of the reason prisons exist is to punish those that have offended society in some manner, however; withholding necessary medical treatment is not humane.

Trans people in prison that sue to have their surgeries completed are often constructed as “pulling a fast one”, or deserving of being forced to live in a body that does not represent their gender,  however; this attitude completely displays a false understanding of the ways in which oppositional sexism creates the trans community as marginalized bodies and further promotes the idea of genitalia as a determinant of identity.

Ms. Johnson has lived as a woman since the late seventies and to house her with men is cruel and unusual punishment.  Once someone becomes imprisoned we have a tendency to believe that their crime constitutes the totality of their being and therefore we are quick to disregard their human rights.  This is especially true when a person has an identity that we have almost universally decided to “other”.  No one is their worst act and often times we are socially culpable of creating the conditions under which people break the law. 

Punishment should never mean rape, or a denial of medical services.  We have separated criminals from general society because we believe that we stand in a position of moral superiority, however this notion is severely degraded if we in turn treat them as disposable bodies with no regard to their humanity.  It is my hope that Ms.Johnson receive the care that she needs and that no other trans woman be subjected to such clearly dangerous and alienating conditions. 

H/T Jen via e-mail



It’s Not Just Lame

Many people facing an oppression have the feeling that their particular marginalization is worse than any other, or that it is the last great frontier of prejudice.  It is quite common to hear fat activists claim that fat hatred is the last acceptable slur and some gay rights activists are quite comfortable saying that gay is the new Black.  While I understand the desire to privilege one identity over another because of the fact that we have normalized hierarchy, such behaviour denies the ways in which all of the isms are interconnected.

I am differently abled woman of color and therefore I face three very visible social stigmatizations.  My body in and of itself, represents intersectionality.  At any moment, I could be demeaned because of race, gender or ability and therefore I cannot afford to privilege one over the other.  There are times when the attack is so covert, that I must stop and consider which part of my identity is being referenced as less than.

Before becoming disabled, I was told very directly why the term lame is so offensive and I worked very hard to remove it from my vocabulary.  It was not until I developed sarcoidosis and fibromyalgia, that I really began to understand why this term hurts.  Being told something is offensive and being on the receiving end of the negative commentary and treatment, are two completely different things.

When I see someone use lame as a negative descriptor, it calls to mind each and every time someone has been ableist.  It makes me think of the stores I cannot enter because of a lack of a ramp, the doors that don’t have automatic openers, the times people treated me as an idiot because my body does not work the same way as theirs.  When I hear, or see the word lame written, it reminds me that the world was not created for bodies that function like mine.  Regardless of what I have to offer, my supposed limitations make me an inconvenience in the minds of many.

To many, my scooter is an appendage, a marker of difference and yet to me it is life and mobility.  When I need to go to the doctor I can easily hop on my scooter. If I need to go to the post office, my scooter will get me there.  Instead of lying on my couch being dependent upon the kindness of family and friends, my scooter means that I can participate if the world outside will let me. 

Just as race and gender effect my daily lived experience, the ways in  my body is considered dysfunctional change my daily interactions.  Even those that are closest to me, are not aware of the ways in which they are being ableist and will sum up my distress to sensitivity, or a needless determination to be independent.  I have pointed out that when an able bodied person seeks to be autonomous it is encouraged, however a differently abled person is routinely expected to not only be dependent but desire it as a natural course of events.  Dependency means ceding control and in a world that values power, privilege, and individuality, this can be a terrible prospect for someone that is marginalized.

When I hear lame, it makes me want to ask why the speaker doesn’t just say cunt, or nigger as well because to me, it hurts  at the same level.  It screams you don’t belong, you are an “other.”   I know that such comparisons will not make many happy but since these are my sites of oppression, how I choose to negotiate them are my business. I won’t privilege my race, gender, or differently abled status because combined they all equal less than in a world that is designed for white able bodied men.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

First The Burka and Now The Burkini, C’est Viva La Difference dans France

President Sarlozy and the French government have loudly been participating in  Islamophobia by attempting to ban burka in France.  Of course he missed the irony that he cannot claim to be emancipating women, when he is telling them what to wear. 

“The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem, it is a problem of the dignity of women. It is a symbol of subservience, of submission. The burqa will not be welcome in our French republic, "

In a typical Western bias he has associated the revealing of the body with autonomy.Regardless of how one feels about the burka, it must be acknowledged that some women actively choose to wear them.  The banning of the burka could also  mean women being forced to completely retreat into their households. If France truly supported Muslim women, the government  would attempt to work in partnership with them and allow them to take the lead on what reform, if any needs to be made.

image It would seem that it is not sufficient to ban the burka , now the burkini is under attack.  A woman who has been identified as Carole, has been banned from a pool in Emerainville, east of Paris. It seems that they had hygiene concerns (take a moment to roll your eyes).  Swimming fully clothed is banned in all public pools and this apparently has nothing to do with Islam.

Emerainville Mayor Alain Kelyor said, that “the swimsuit was not an Islamic swimsuit and that "that type of suit does not exist in the Koran”.

I suppose Mohammed did not foresee the Burkini but it is written in the Koran that both male and female, should be modest in their dress.  What was Sarkozy saying about women and freedom again?

"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,"

So, he’s concerned with dignity…yep, nothing encourages that like a bit of segregation.  By not allowing women to swim in burkinis, this amounts to legalized segregation.  This law may apply to everyone,however  it is designed specifically to oppress Muslim women.  Instead of increasing freedom it will reduce the amount of activities a woman may participate in,  Instead of emancipation, the state has decided to behave in a patriarchal manner  to oppress women. Freedom can only be gained by supporting choice. 

Perhaps, we should ignore that this is happening at a time when traditionally ethnocentric, jingoist France now possess the largest Muslim population in Europe.  The sudden swell in anti Muslim sentiment couldn’t possible have anything to do with the majority choosing to utilize power coercively, to maintain the hierarchal structure in its favour could it?   Nope, it’s about freedom and liberation.

The moment a man expresses a desire to control what women are wearing, he is expressing his male privilege. In  the west we understand that women’s bodies exist for the purposes of male pleasure.  Female bodies are under constant scrutiny and are forever being disciplined.  It is simply the exchange of one form of oppression for another.  I suspect that there will continue to be rise in anti-Muslim sentiment which manifests itself as saving women.  Whatever is understood to be weakest is always attacked first as prey.

A “feminist wedding” is an oxymoron

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Summer is the most popular time for weddings. Driving by a church on a Saturday afternoon will most often mean watching a bride and groom pose for pictures while families smile with what is in some cases constructed glee. Though many mainstream feminists claim to have thrown off the mantle of princess, when the white dress and alter call it all comes rushing back in a wave of bad bridesmaid dresses and tacky dances at the reception. How many have done the Macarena at a reception, forcing a smile, while desperately counting how many more of these “celebratory” events were left on the calendar for the year?

No matter what conventions we change, a wedding will always be a wedding, even though reclamation is very popular in progressive circles. Many have also worked hard to reclaim words like “b*tch” and “slut,” but show me one woman that is happy to be called either name and I’ll show you a woman so drunk on patriarchal values that a polyester turtleneck in the middle of July seems like a good idea.

Can we just be honest between us girls? No matter how committed we are to feminist ideals, each day in small ways we collude with patriarchy to maintain male hegemony.

We could burn every single bra we own, throw all of our makeup out, grow hair on our bodies until we can braid it, and purchase stock in Birkenstocks, but by choosing to live in society we cannot avoid acting in ways which support the subordination of women. To lead a totally feminist existence, we would have to move to some deserted island and lead a subsistence-geared life, solely in the company of our fellow eschewers of the great phallus. Since I cannot think of any modern tribes of Amazons, it is safe to assume that despite our best intentions as womanists/feminists, we daily collude with patriarchy.

Reading the writings of progressive women it is clear that we watch movies like “40-Year Old Virgin” and television shows like “Big Love” even though we know that they contain an anti-woman message. In our less guarded moments, we might even admit to laughing when we know damn well we should be shaking our fists with rage. Some of us will even secretly say “but I’m a girl” to avoid doing something gross like taking out the garbage or rescuing a mouse that our cat caught, yet when it comes to admitting that participating in a ceremony that has its foundation in treating women like property, the blinders come out faster than you can say something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Finish Reading Here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scooter Users Are The Menace

Yesterday I read this post at Hoydon About Town, regarding the fact that scooter riders are dying in Australia. 

Mobility scooter deaths ‘alarming‘”

Mobility scooter drivers have been warned to be extremely careful when using their vehicles, with the consumer watchdog alarmed at 71 scooter-related deaths in the past nine years.

Consumer Affairs Minister Craig Emerson has taken the step of issuing an official warning about the scooters, with concerns their increasing popularity is putting vulnerable lives at risk. [...]

“Obviously some of the people who use them aren’t the fittest people on Earth, that’s the whole reason for their existence,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything severe happen in this space, but I do think we have an obligation to warn people of the dangers of using these scooters, particularly at dusk when they’re not so easily seen.” [...]

The warning notice has a number of recommendations for scooter drivers, including ensuring the scooter is highly visible, avoiding very steep hills, taking footpaths or quiet roads when possible and wearing a helmet.

Mr Emerson says it is also very important for people to be aware of any effects that medication may have on their driving ability and to avoid drinking too much alcohol before driving.

While this is a story about Australia, as a person who relies on a scooter for transportation, I can safely report similar conditions occurring here in Niagara Falls, Canada.  Each time I get on my scooter, I feel as though I am taking my life into my own hands.  Even though a scooter has nowhere near the speed or mobility of a car, it is often treated as such.  When crossing the street  it is not uncommon for a car to pull out suddenly in front of me, though they would do no such thing with a "pedestrian".

One of the things that bothers me the most, is that it is the scooter that is understood as the menace.  In the above story, it is suggested that the deaths are occurring because of  we differently abled people are over medicated and therefore not aware of our surroundings; nowhere does it suggest that possibly the driver of the car could be at fault, or the government for failing to provide proper sidewalks or paths which we may use safely. 

I ride my scooter primarily on the sidewalk because I do not trust cars or drivers, even though I have a legal right to ride on the road.  Even on the sidewalks the cracks and terrible slopes make it a dangerous proposition.   Though curbs legally are supposed to be lowered in order for us to travel, often I have to go down one street to find a curb low enough to safely cross. 

What I have learned is that the differently abled are seen as an inconvenience.  Most places require small changes to make them either accessible or safe for the differently abled and yet far too often either governments or individual property owners refuse to make accommodations.  It needs to be understood that a failure to take into account our lives leads to death.  I have already seen a man end up with sever head injuries because of a curb that was insufficiently lowered this summer and I actually fear looking up the statistics for death involving people with mobility scooters. 

It seems to be the tendency of those within the majority to paint the minority as the true hazard because of a stubborn attachment to privilege.  This can take the form of victim blaming as in the above article, purposefully devaluing our bodies, or creating us as invisible.   If a car and a scooter collide, it is certain that the person in the car will have less injuries and yet we are the menace.  By the most reasonable of thought processes it is a leap of logic that has no basis in reality to suggest that it is a failure on the part of the differently abled to be adequately aware or cautious. Simply existing as an “other,” or marginalized body in this world means that one learns that hyper awareness is a  necessary survival mechanism. 


Soup Kitchens and Life Lessons

image Around the corner from where I live is a soup kitchen that serves lunch and dinner to needy members of our community.  Niagara Falls is a very small community and much of the need is very hidden.  It is not common to see homeless people and yet we know that they exist.  I have tried desperately to get Destruction to own his western and class privilege to no avail.  He has never in his life known real hunger or real need.   In fact, most of the things that he wants whether it be a Nintendo DS or trips to the movies, his father and I are able to provide.

This afternoon he came rushing into the house with a request to join his friends for lunch at the soup kitchen.  Even relative to some of his friends, Destruction has class privilege that he does not yet recognize.  He has two parents that are committed to working hard to provide him and his brother Mayhem with the essentials and a few luxuries in life.  I was stunned to learn that his friends needed to resort to the  soup kitchen for lunch.

My initial reaction when he asked to go to soup kitchen was to say no.  I didn’t want my well fed child to take food away from someone who clearly needed it. To Destruction this was all about hanging out with his friends and having lunch, he did not see the implications of what he was asking.  After a moments pause I decided to let him go.

We can talk to our children about the world and their privilege ad nauseum, however some things really need to be seen in order to be understood.  His father and I gave him money to pay for his lunch and we informed him why people are eating there.  It is my hope, that as he looks at the homeless and the working poor, that he will finally understand that though food has always been easy for him to secure, that for many it is a luxury.

image He can turn away from a meal served at home sure in the knowledge that in a few hours there will be another opportunity to eat.  He can leave food on his plate because he has always known abundance.  His largest worry is whether he will have the will to save up his allowance for a new DS game.  Perhaps, we have given him too much but he is our child and our love for him dictates that we shower him in as many ways as possible.

I am not sure how this will turn out.  I can only hope that this experience will open his eyes to the ways in which he is privileged.  Everything in his life has taught him to expect comfort, in a world that often treats necessities like food and even water in some cases as luxuries. While I certainly do not want this to be a voyeuristic experience for him, he must learn that which he has taken for granted is a desperate need on the part of many.

I know that there are not many parents who believe that teaching privilege is an important message but in our household deconstructing it has become an everyday experience.  We cannot hope to bring about change unless we realize that our sense of entitlement leads to the suffering of millions across the globe.  This lesson will be a lot closer to home for Destruction because it will involve people he sees everyday in our community.  The face of hunger may be hidden but that does not mean that it does not exist even in the most affluent of areas.  We never know anyone’s true circumstances unless we are sharing it with them. 


Uncle Ruckus: Every House Slave Has A Mentor

If you can stand to watch the above video, you will see that Uncle Ruckus, though a cartoon, is a perfect example of an internalized racist.   From birth, Black children are taught to devalue themselves and uplift Whiteness and this has real and lasting effects.   The house slave did not die on emancipation day, rather s/he continued to occupy a particular place in our community.

The one thing that Whiteness has always been able to count on is the help of some self hating negro to continue to perpetuate the lie that an essential difference exists between Whites and Blacks.  Whether they appear in the form of Michael Steele, or Jessie Lee Peterson, the house slave exists with a colonized mind that stubbornly refuses to seek freedom.

They believe that by associating themselves with Whiteness, that they can somehow avoid the trials and tribulations that normally confront people of color.  What they do not realize is that despite their statements of solidarity, to Whiteness, a nigger is a nigger.

The Boondoocks is not a funny show, though it is presented as comedy.  We may not like to admit it but these self hating negroes really do exist.  Were it not for their continued aid, Whiteness could not maintain power in the manner that it does.  Let’s think about the fact that whenever FOX news decides to put their original KKK spin on the news, they always find an uncle Tom to back them up, so that they can claim that their language/spin is not racist.

The uncle Ruckus’s of this world are purposefully created.  Even before a child enters the world through the school system, most of the images they will see in the media are of White people.  Watch the Saturday morning cartoons and count the people of color; bet you won’t need to go beyond two hands. Even the commercials that advertise the toys that manufacturers want them to crave feature white children.

When they head off to school they learn about Jack and Jill going up the hill, they will see that even though the textbooks these days are integrated, they contain far more images of Whiteness than they do people of color.  Perhaps, they will have the misfortune to be taught by a bigoted teacher, which will encourage them to hate education, receive a spanking  (yes black children are spanked more often in schools) or be made to feel stupid.   Then of course, they have the other children to deal with, who may have no problem engaging in racist behaviour because that is what they have been taught is acceptable in their home (note: my child was 5 when he was first called “the brown boy” by a fellow student).

Throughout their formative years, a Black child will be told repeatedly that they are less and not capable of achieving any success.  Is it any wonder that after a steady stream of indoctrination, you end up with people like Uncle Ruckus who believe that everything Black is bad and that everything White is good? Not everyone has the moral fortitude and strength to assert self worth in a world that is determined to deny basic humanity to POC? 

To be honest, the Uncle Ruckus’s of this word piss me off.  They make it that much harder to hold my head up high but I do understand them.  I know exactly why they believe what they do and I see them for the sad defeated individuals that they are.  When we look at the doll test and see the sadness in the eyes of the children that choose the white doll over the Black doll, we should not be surprised when they turn into adults who continue to believe that Whiteness is the symbol of perfection, when there have not been any large changes in our social organization.

There will always be those that choose to identify with the oppressor, however if we can work towards making sure that every child is aware of not only their potential but their worth, perhaps we can reduce the amount of people that grow up to work in favour of maintaining our raciaized dysfunction.   The less people we have working in favour of Whiteness the better.  No one is uplifted from a position of self loathing.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blame It On The Booty

I found this via a tweet from Roxie and I simply could not resist.

Trans Woman Fired In A Case Of Discrimination

image I came across the story of Andre Edwards over at Deeply Problematic. It seems Ms.Edwards was fired from her job in what appears to be a case of transmisogny.  She worked as a cab driver and was accused of having a “bad attitude”  Too often when society wants to discipline women, we are constructed as bitchy, angry, and just plain ill tempered.  Luckily, she was able to find a new job and she reports that she is happy.

Since reading about Ms. Edwards, I have been thinking about the ways in which capitalism is used to discipline certain bodies. She alleges that issues at work began when she started wearing skirts and nail polish .  Many trans women live in poverty strictly due to the high levels of transphobia.  Employers either refuse to hire them, or fire them when they begin to transition.  They view them as a threat to business because some customers will complain about being served by someone who is transgendered.

We continually discipline bodies in an attempt to force them to conform to what we have constructed as norms.   This can take the form of unemployment as in the case of Ms.Edwards, or denial of service.  We understand capitalism as promoting free thinking but in fact, it quite often is used to punish those that we have applied a spoiled identity to.  The transgender community is often given the choice of living their lives as they see fit or experiencing poverty.  We see this as a freedom but how can this be so, when the cost of transitioning is more often than not poverty?

Capitalism is a tool used by dominate bodies to control and inflict punishment upon those that we have chosen to “other”.   It is not accidental that those that we perceive as less than largely live in poverty, in spite of the social myth regarding meritocracy.  When we purposefully build walls  to deny access, how can it possibly be the fault of the individual?  We use terms like lifestyle to mark difference and yet we would never consider walking through the world as a cisgender person an active choice.   If we do not choose our subconscious gender as cisgendered people, why is it purposefully insisted that the trans community has a completely different experience?  An equal society would apply the same logic and assumptions to both bodies.

Unless the trans person in question is willing to fulfill our voyeuristic fantasies, we regard them as difficult.  Why was it necessary for Ms.Edwards to reveal her life pre transition in order for this story to be written?   Clearly the issue was not about the fact that she was discriminated against, but that cisgendered bodies wish to force the trans community to continually confess the private details of their lives.  When the reporter wrote this story, it was made as sensational as possible on purpose to sell papers and not from the point of view that discrimination is wrong.  Even in this instance, we can once again find capitalism working to control how the trans community is written about and therefore understood.

We constantly use tools like capitalism to discipline bodies and yet we do not understand this as an expression of power.  We seek power, we express power and it is evident in all of our actions, yet we deny this in order to seen as benign.  We are in complete control of the discourse we choose to perpetuate and therefore the ability to re-imagine our social understanding of power dynamics is completely within our ability.  These forces are not at all invisible we simply have to acknowledge them as existing. 


HBO’s “Hung”: is it really about the big appendage?

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image HBO has pushed the envelope ever since it started airing programming. Many have embraced innovative shows such as “Six Feet Under,” “OZ,” “The Sopranos,” “Big Love” and “True Blood.” HBO’s latest offering, “Hung,” has many people whispering and wondering, as it explores the life of a divorced father turned male escort. Mirroring the real life experience of many sex workers, Ray Drecker, played by Thomas Jane, decides to sell his body after his world and his finances come tumbling down.

Ray finds himself living in a tent after his family home is destroyed in a fire. In a moment of desperation, he attends a business seminar where he is encouraged to think about what special talent or specific skill set he could offer the world. In what is presented as a revelation, though hardly surprising to any female viewer, Ray decides that his big penis is his one true gift. Wow, imagine the originality that it must take just to think about a penis — living in a world that is decidedly patriarchal and filled with phallic images.

In what is probably the show’s only creative twist, Ray forms a relationship with a woman who ultimately functions as his pimp for a percentage of his earnings. Gender dynamics do not often result in a woman exploiting a man’s sexuality and/or body for financial gain. Madams are not new to pop culture, but when they do appear in our discourse, it is often while in the role of pimping out young, conventionally attractive women to men of class privilege. Tanya, played by Jane Adams, not only seeks to profit from Ray’s large member, she also acts as his wise sage, demystifying womanhood for him.

Such is the Yoda-like quality of Tanya. Despite the fact that there is no monolithic woman, she is able to explain to Ray what each one of his clients wants from him. To be successful, Ray has to learn to combine his large penis with a supposedly female-centric fantasy. As you can see, challenging gender stereotypes ends when it comes to sex, because all heterosexual women supposedly want the illusion of romance and caring (as well as a large penis). Even though these clients are paying for sex, the idea that a woman cannot have unfettered, no-strings-attached intercourse must still be perpetuated in order to retain a gender binary.

Ray’s power resides in his large penis and his ability to have uncomplicated sex without forming any lasting attachments. The show starts with the premise of being subversive because even though prostitution is practiced by both sexes, it is still largely viewed as something engaged in solely by women. The fact that Ray has yet to engage in sex with men, who form the largest percentage of johns, is quite telling. Ray must retain his masculinity in order to keep the audience watching. To have him submit sexually to another man for the purposes of earning money would, for many viewers, prove problematic.

Finish Reading Here

Tune in Tuesday: Express Yourself

After going through several songs this morning, I chose Express Yourself by Madonna.  I was approximately 14 years old when I first heard this song.  What I loved about it was her lack of shame expressing her sexuality and I remember sitting at my girlfriends house screaming and carrying on about the guys in this video.  Yes, total and overt sexualization of the male form.  I know that it is just a song but I was raised in a very strict home, where sexuality was something to be ashamed of and this was a very new and exciting take to me.

Your turn, what memories do you have of this song?

The Perfect Vagina

I do recommend watching all of the following videos.  We don’t talk about our vaginas or how we feel about them and this leaves far too many women feeling isolated and freakish.  Is it any wonder that labiaplasty has become such big business?  Already far to many women don’t know what real breasts look like because of the high rate of surgery and soon, the vagina will be next.  What these videos remind us is that we really need to love ourselves as we are.  There is nothing unnatural about our bodies despite what the media and profiteering surgeons  will say.

I will say that I found it problematic, that once again White women were the sole representatives of womanhood.  How can you have a true discussion about women or even amongst women, when Whiteness is presented as the norm?  Other than Muslim women, are WOC of color having these surgeries, why or why not?  I am sick of seeing women discussed in a monolithic way when clearly we are not monolithic beings.

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

 

Part 4

 

Part 5

 

Part 6



Monday, August 10, 2009

For Some Protesting Health Care While Without Medical Insurance Is A Good Idea

If this isn’t a case of the the stoopid it burns, I don’t know what else is.  You simply cannot make this shit up.

Over the last few days, a conservative activist in St. Louis named Kenneth Gladney seems to have become something of a cause celebre in far-right circles. Depending on which version of events you choose to believe, Gladney either initiated or was involved in a scuffle at a town-hall event late last week.

Gladney did not address Saturday's crowd of about 200 people. His attorney, David Brown, however, read a prepared statement Gladney wrote. "A few nights ago there was an assault on my liberty, and on yours, too." Brown read. "This should never happen in this country."

Supporters cheered. Brown finished by telling the crowd that Gladney is accepting donations toward his medical expenses. Gladney told reporters he was recently laid off and has no health insurance. [emphasis added]

As a Canadian, I clearly don’t have a dog in this fight, however; from a distance I will say that the antics of the neo-cons are ridiculous.  Socialized health care would help idiots like Kenneth Gladney but they have been so indoctrinated into doing the bidding of the ruling bourgeoisie, that they continually fail to act in their own best interest.  Is it any wonder that the last politicians that the GOP chose to represent them (Bush and McCain) graduated so highly from their respective schools…yep thank you luades all around.

True Blood: Time Bomb

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

image

I already cannot wait for next week to find out what happens.  The fact that each episode ends on such a huge cliff hanger completely draws me in.

image Last night we saw a more human side of Eric when he willingly agreed to sacrifice his life for Godric and Sookie.  Eric claimed that this was not love when Sookie suggested such,  but did anyone else smell shades of homoeroticism Ann Rice style?  Proving to be an enlightened being, Godric stops the Dallas vampires from killing everyone and declares that a truce needs to be formed between humans and vampires. 

Fortunately this was an episode in which we saw very little of Jason Stackhouse. I have yet to see the reason why this character is on the show.  The brotherly love scene between him and Bill was icky actually and I can perfectly understand why he tensed up when Jason hugged him.

After being caught having sex by Bill, Jessica and Hoyt return to Bon Temps.  It is not long before they are back in bed together. I  Guess Bill need not have worried that Jessica would be a slattern. Yep, you guessed it, her hymen will continue to grow back for eternity.  In a world that already overvalues virginity and purity of women, this scene is extremely problematic.  Hoyt tries to comfort her by saying that each time will be like their first time and Jessica informs him that, that means it will hurt like hell. Yep, nothing like punishing a woman for eternity for daring to be sexual….no special decoder ring needed here for the message that the writers impart.

Poor Sam finds himself in hot water when a body is discovered in his freezer.  Proving that he does not have the luck that God gave cabbage, drunken Andy is his only witness.  As Andy rambles on about a bull, it becomes clear that Sam is going to spend some time in jail until this is all sorted out.

Lafayette tells Tara’s fortune and it seems the future for her proves to be very dark.  He speaks of a choice she has to make and I cannot help but wonder if the card that was revealed but not mentioned was the card of death? 

Eggs appears and is clearly out of sorts as he reports once again experiencing lost time. He fears that he may have done something terrible.  It seems he is beginning to be aware that he is part of a game, where the rules are hidden from the players.  They return home where they are served a heart for dinner.  As I watched Tara cut into the soufflĂ©, I could not help but wonder what the hell would entice them to eat something that so clearly looked wrong?  The thing was obviously oozing with blood but nah, let’s just open wide and eat up.

image Unsurprisingly Tara and Eggs end up smacking each other around.  Before long their eyes are completely black and they are rolling around on the floor having sex to entertain Marianne.  That woman sure seems to enjoy having human marionettes.

Back in Dallas Godric is holding court.  Vampires stand in line to pay their respects to the 2000 year old vampire and Godric declares that Jason will always have friends in Dallas.  He continues to play the roll magnanimous vampire and pardons the human traitor Hugo, who was willing to sell them out to Fellowship of the Sun.

In the meantime Sookie is demanding answers. What the hell kept Bill and right on cue his maker Lorena shows up.  An overly dramatic cat fight occurs in which Sookie declares Bill chose her.  Even though Bill harshly whispers for her to stop, doesn’t a small part of you think he kind of likes the idea of two women fighting over him? Okay, maybe that’s just me being cynical.  Godric ends the squabble and banishes her from the territory but not before giving a long drawn out speech the fact that it is perfectly understandable that human hate vampires, when they  display such clearly evil tendencies.

Of course the show has to end with viewers wondering what happens next week and soldier of the sun patriot shows up right on time with a bomb tied to his chest with silver chains.  As he pushes the button the screen fades to black…

What were your thoughts on this episode?

 

 

 


Gay Man Released After Being Falsely Imprisoned For 21 Years For Molesting Children

The word justice is meaningless when you exist in this world as a marginalized body.  Those with privilege are often quick to state that one should not be afraid of the police, or the court system, if one has committed no crime but the experiences of oppressed bodies often include wrongful imprisonment and death at the hand of the criminal justice system.  The system is imperfect because it was designed by a people and a culture that are determined to privilege certain bodies.

image Bernard Baran was 19 and working as an assistant at a daycare center when he was accused by two parents of sexually molesting their little boy.  The fact that this drug addicted pair told the police that they “didn’t want no homo watching their kid,” should have sent off a warning flair to investigating officers. When he was arrested and his photo appeared in the newspaper, five other families came forward to allege abuse.

Despite the fact that a gay man is no more likely to abuse a child than a straight man, the fact that we have constructed them as deviants means that gay men are often suspect when they should not be.  After being convicted, Baran became a pariah amongst his fellow prisoners.  He was subject to violence and sexual abuse, because his  fellow inmates attempted to inflict prisoners justice on this innocent man.

Can there be anything more horrifying than being convicted of a crime that you did not commit and having your life ripped away from you in the pearl of your youth? Baran went to prison not because of overwhelming evidence confirming his guilt but because of a culture of homophobia that is intent on demonizing gay men as sexual predators.

There was evidence in his favor — hours of videotaped interviews with the children — but jurors, Baran and his attorney never saw all of them.

At trial, the prosecutor left out the ones in which Baran's charges said they'd never been harmed by him.

In others, children say Baran never touched their private parts. In some, children said he did, often after being repeatedly asked the same question until it is answered affirmatively, according to Swomley.

Baran is a better person than I because I would sue for every single dollar that I could get.  Even though this will never bring back the 21 years  that he lost, he is entitled to some sort of retribution.  About suing Baran commented, "It doesn't seem like it's enough," he said. "Unless there's some kind of change in the system that would make it impossible for this to happen to someone else."

When we allow homophobia to continue to exist without being challenged and the cost is paid in lives and freedom.  Saying things like that’s so gay or using hate terms life faggot, ensures that members of the GLBT community continue to be thought of as second class citizens.  How many men like Bernard Baran are currently rotting in jails today because we have decided to construct a gay identity as uniquely deviant?

The Power of Nigger

image There are those that would like to reclaim the word nigger, however I would love to see this word erased and buried forever in the sands of time.   It is a  constant reminder that no matter how far we have come as a people, that we are still second class citizens.  Racial epithets cut to the quick and are meant to dehumanize in a stunning display of power. 

Every nation has some version of it and the fact that it has failed to disappear from our conversations, stands as evidence that we are very much convinced that discriminating according to race is more than acceptable. 

There are those that would love to say that Whiteness as oppression is a specifically western phenomenon but they have never been on the receiving end of the word nigger or kaffir.  It does not matter if you are a doctor, judge, or captain of industry; when the word nigger is aimed at you, instantly your accomplishments disappear and the vestiges of your humanity  will crumble at your feet, as you impotently search for a response that parallels the insult hurled your way.

It matters not if the person hurling the insult is as important as a nat on a dog, all that is important is that by using the word nigger, they have reminded you of the universal value of  Whiteness.  Blacks across the diaspora and throughout Africa, have wildly different experiences culturally but what we face universally is racism at the hands of Whiteness and that has led to our historical devaluation.

I have even heard the defence that if one believes that they are not a nigger, then the word should have no possibility of causing harm.  This is an impossibility because of the centuries of pain that nigger instantly brings to mind.  Buried in that word is the harrowing life and death struggle that occurred during the journey to the New World, the cruel sting of the master lash, being cheated out of land, being denied loans and jobs despite qualifications, being systemically undereducated, vilified in the media, denied justice in the court system, rape, lynching and all manner of brutality. Nigger carries the pain of our race and the ways in which Whiteness is determined to ensure that it is forever an open wound.

When a White person uses the word nigger, they do so in full awareness of the systemic power that they invoke.  It can fall easily off of their lips because power is what Whiteness has taught them to express. I can be quietly going about my day and some White person will either say Nigger or say some N when speaking about a Black person and instantly my temper flares.  This will never be just a casual word to me.

image No matter how far we have come, Blacks do not exist with the power to reduce a White person with a single world. Cracker or Whitey do not hold the same ability to offend because unlike the word nigger they do not have history of violence, dehumanization, slavery, rape and violence.  It is enough that we spend endless amounts of time deconstructing Whiteness and its ability to act systemically but when we add to this the fact that we must deal with hate words, the weight is absolutely crushing. 

Nigger changes power dynamics. It is the linguistic equalizer and this why so many choose to traffic in such hateful language.  They know that if they say it or use some new age code for it, the message that it delivers is that a Black person is always and already understood to be lesser than  a white person.  This is specifically why in a moment of defeat, a White person can always fall back up0on the word Nigger to reclaim the upper hand.  The fact that Whiteness even has the choice whether or not to abstain from using this word is proof of the power that it exists with.

Relationships between Whites and Blacks will always have to be carefully negotiated because at the end of the day, no matter how well meaning, or friendly the White person in question is, the ability to wield power coercively is always present in the relationship. Nigger is like a shadow that follows us all the days of our lives and like a scarlet letter, it seeks to symbolize the entirety of our being.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Elderly Woman Slammed To The Ground By The Cops

The woman in question is in her eighties and suffers from Alzheimer's disease.  She was walking around a Walmart parking lot with a steak knife in her hand threatening to cut people; however, the officer barely tried to negotiate a non violent conclusion to this incident.  At the rate at which this woman was moving, it was clear that she was not an immediate threat and therefore more time could have been taken to diffuse the situation.

Below is the official New Story:

Of course the police are not admitting that they used unnecessary force…hell no, “it only looks bad”.  When are these thugs going to be held accountable for terrorizing the citizens that they are supposed to protect?  One can be certain that the victims age, race, and gender, played a major role in the way that she was treated.  Who is going to speak for the powerless in our society?  When a woman in her eighties can be slammed to the ground and require stitches, clearly this is power run amok.  The police have simply become far to comfortable beating on oppressed bodies because they know that the consequences for their actions are minor.  If they can behave this way when they know they are being filmed, just imagine the horrors that happen on a daily basis away from the camera’s all seeing lens.

H/T From My Brown Eyed View

Sunday Shame: Chick Flick Edition

I know that there are some womanists/feminists, whose skin began crawling the minute they read the title of this post.  We may not like the term “chick flick,” but let’s be honest about the fact that there are some movies that women seem to enjoy.  It may be for all the wrong reasons, but “chick flicks” have their place in our social lexicon.

I was chatting with everyone’s favourite Gus, Allison McCarthy, when the subject turned to movies.  Much to my horror she revealed her love of the movie Titanic (isn’t she a great muse, all hail the queen of the Sunday Shame).  When I went to see the movie in the theatre, the woman sitting next to me was crying BEFORE the opening theme even started….Good freaking grief.

image Okay, I’ll say it, I don’t get it.  You knew how the movie was going to end BEFORE it started and the romance was the most contrived coupling I have ever seen.  Oh look, star struck lovers on a boat that is destined to crash, someone hand me a box of kleenex, my ovaries are demanding that I cry.

Ms. McCarthy tried to justify her love of this nonsense behind the amount of awards this movie won and I say the academy knew damn well that this was probably their only chance to give James Cameron an award.  Really, would academy history have been the same had he not yelled, “top of the world ma?”

I think that this movie was embraced because of the tragic history of the Titanic and not because the movie itself was particularly moving, despite being understood as the “chick flick” of the decade.  Look, I think we can do better…if we have to go with chick flicks, how about,  Fried Green Tomatoes, or Thelma and Louise for heavens sake, even Under The Tuscan Sun was a better movie.  Yea I said it, liking Titanic and mooning over that ridiculously over played Celine Dion song, My Heart Will Go On, is SUNDAY SHAME WORTHY.

Now that I have once again laid before you Allison’s Shame, it is your turn to share.  What chick flick have you secretly cried and laughed over, though you knew it was ridiculous and contrived?  For me it is Practical Magic. image I watch it every time it comes on television and the boys know that there is no talking while it is on.  Okay, get to it…and don’t be afraid to grab your kleenex and blow your nose while you regale us with your “chick flick” of choice.