Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Minneapolis, hundreds sit-in to stop an eviction

By LeiLani Dowell

Published Aug 28, 2009 7:10 PM

The struggle to stop foreclosures and evictions is heating up as a sit-in to prevent the eviction of a Minneapolis homeowner and activist entered its 19th day on Aug. 25.

Rosemary Williams

Rosemary Williams

As ruthless lending and mortgage companies foreclose on the lives of people across the country, activists from Baltimore to California, Michigan and Minneapolis have demanded a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, while at the same time engaging in bold actions to prevent individuals from losing their homes.

Mick Kelly, spokesperson of the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, described the situation in Minneapolis to WW: “Rosemary Williams is a 60-year-old, African-American woman who’s lived in Twin Cities all her life and been an important leader within the community. She’s actually lived on the same block for 55 years and been in the same house for the last 23 years.”

Following the death of her mother, who lived with her, Williams received a 30-year adjustable-rate mortgage on the property in 2005. However, when the monthly payments almost doubled from $1,200 to $2,200, she could no longer afford to pay them.

“Millions of people in the U.S. are being foreclosed on,” Kelly said, “but what’s different and important about this story is that Rosemary decided she wasn’t going to leave. For the last year, she has been involved in building the movement to fight for a moratorium on foreclosures, which has been promoted by the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout.

Rosemary Williams, center, holds news<br>conference with supporters before going
into<br>Minneapolis housing court to seek a trial on<br>the legality of losing her
home.

Rosemary Williams, center, holds news
conference with supporters before going into
Minneapolis housing court to seek a trial on
the legality of losing her home.

“On Aug. 7, sheriff’s deputies came to her home and proceeded to throw out her family, her grandchildren. They gave her as much time to collect her belongings as it took to change the locks. About 10 minutes after the deputies left, the home was reopened and she moved back in. Today is the 19th day of a round-the-clock sit-in that has involved hundreds of people.”

Williams’ struggle has engaged her community at large. Neighbors have brought food and attended press conferences. The Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout has received calls from others facing eviction who, inspired by Rosemary Williams, plan to refuse to leave when officers arrive to evict them.

Forced to respond by the tenacity of Williams and her supporters, the mortgage companies and lenders involved—which include GMAC Financial Services, Aurora Loan Services and the bailed-out Lehman Brothers—have callously given Williams a series of paltry offers. On Aug. 11, Williams’ lawyer received an e-mail offering her $5,000 to leave. Then, after agreeing to return to the negotiating table on Aug. 13, they offered her the option of renting the house for another year—with no option of renewal.

“None of the investors or mortgage companies have given her an agreement that would keep her in the house as a homeowner,” Kelly explained. “She wants to retain ownership of a home she helped to build with her mom. She sees these offers as just ‘30 pieces of silver.’ We’re going to continue, along with Rosemary, to put heat on politicians and the mortgage companies for a just settlement, and we’ll be working with other people in foreclosure to build resistance.”

At a press conference on Aug. 8, Williams told the gathered crowd: “We can’t give up; that’s the bottom line. My mother lived through segregation and she taught me never to give up. She said always to go out with a fight, and that’s what we have to do. ... These institutions—these banks, these mortgage companies—they can’t treat us like we’re economic slaves. They get our tax dollars to bail them out.”

The fight to keep Williams in her home is part of a broader struggle that is working to prevent the eviction of homeowners across the country. In San Diego, homeowner June Reyno chained herself to her home in November, with the support of union and community activists. In Detroit, activists have helped stall the evictions of Rubie Curl-Pinkins, a disabled African-American senior; Michelle Hart and her mother, who suffers from pancreatic cancer; and Anthony King, who lived at his home for 41 years before facing unemployment and underemployment.

At the same time, organizers have held meetings, challenged legislatures and held protests at home auctions to build the struggle for a moratorium on foreclosure and evictions, on both a statewide and federal level.

In a WW article last Oct. 26, reporter and Bail Out the People Movement activist Sharon Black explained: “Elevating [the demand for a moratorium] politically has the potential to allow working-class communities the confidence to proceed to more direct and immediate methods of stopping foreclosures—that is, stopping the sheriff from removing furniture and keeping families and individuals in their homes and apartments.

“The problem of housing must be looked at on a deeper and more profound level. Why should housing not be readily available to all workers? Why should such a necessity be provided solely on the basis of whether it is profitable for some landlord, bank or real estate company?

“In a country as wealthy as the U.S. there is no reason that anyone should go homeless or find it cost prohibitive to have a roof over their head. Clean, decent, safe and attractive housing must be a right for everyone!”

For more information on Rosemary Williams’ struggle, visit www.mn-peoples-bailout.org.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


Remembering Hurricane Katrina

image On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It ravaged the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas. New Orleans was the most affected due to the levees breaking. Many evacuated before the storm hit landfall, however; those unable or unwilling to leave waited out the storm in their homes or in what was known as the place of last resort, the Super Dome. The water lingered for weeks because 80% of the city was flooded.

When former President George W. Bush looked back on this horrific natural disaster, at the end of his term, he spoke of how effectively the residents of New Orleans had been evacuated, however; it is certain, that the 1,836 dead would have had a different opinion, had they still been alive to tell their stories. Not only was Katrina a massive display of incompetence, it revealed the race and class divide, that has become a part of life in America to the world.

When one leads a hand to mouth existence, even though life and death may depend upon evacuation, it may simply be impossible to leave. Hurricane Katrina happened at the end of the month and those that are dependent upon governmental subsidies like welfare would have been at the end of their resources. Assuming that they had a vehicle to leave in; how were they going to pay for an extended stay in a hotel and food? Quite often, motel owners will raise their rates, when they know that a large number of people will be seeking shelter. The law of supply and demand does not take into account human lives.

The nation watched in horror, as it became evident that those swimming for their lives were largely Black. This was not the dream that Martin spoke of, where is the long awaited mountaintop? Even the reporting on Hurricane Katrina was largely tinged with racism, as Blacks were accused of looting, while Whites were merely forging for supplies. All of the major news outlets were there broadcasting in solemn tones about the human tragedy and yet no one bother to report on the murders of Blacks in Algiers Point. Anyone stumbling into that area risked being shot, as White vigilantes strove to protect what they deemed to be theirs. In a documentary on this event, two members of the community stated:

It was great!” said one vigilante. “It was like pheasant season in South Dakota, if it moved you shot it ... I am not longer a Yankee.”

A woman responded, “He understands the N word now. In this neighbourhood we take care of our own.”

Even amongst the vulnerable, Whiteness continued to exist with the ability to act with impunity. No investigation was launched by the state regarding the shooting of Blacks, revealing that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, racism continued to factor into the governments decisions on which bodies are considered valuable.

The survivors of Hurricane Katrina were housed in trailers, which were later to be revealed to be formaldehyde death boxes. The crime rate in these makeshift communities soared as residents experienced depression and desperateness. Many are just barely surviving, with no way to rebuild even the meagre homes they once had. Construction in New Orleans is well underway, with planners ensuring that not only would the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina reveal a changed landscape but a radically different population density, by failing to rebuild affordable housing. Many who initially felt sympathy for the survivors, now display a shocking lack of empathy, as they fail to grasp that the same cycle of poverty that prevented the survivors from leaving years ago, now subjects them to sub standard living conditions.

Hurricane Katrina still haunts the United States because no lessons were learned despite the size of the tragedy. After the civil rights movement ended, many were content to believe that the disparity due to racism was a thing of the past and yet the inner cities told a different tale. Blacks have loudly argued that racism is a systemic force, that continues to affect every aspect of their lives and yet silence is the response from Whiteness. Hurricane Katrina arrived to devastate the Gulf Coast and there could be no denying which bodies lived in privilege and yet years later, African Americans are still accused of playing the race card, being overly sensitive, and holding on to the past.

Since then, Obama has been elected as the first African American president and yet there have been no fundamental changes to the system. Far too many Blacks are purposefully under educated, which sets them up for a lifetime of poverty. Police violence against bodies of color has escalated, as Whiteness fights a battle to maintain its power. If a natural disaster were to happen in another large urban center, the same result would occur because the social hierarchy continues to exist. The capitalist system of exchange further ensures that those that are of color lack the means to be able to pull themselves out of poverty. We have simply resolved to continue on this path, though it has been revealed in real and startling ways, how devastating it can be to those that own the status of “other”.


Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks again for a wonderful week of conversation.  Sparky, you get the nod for comment of the week. Thank you to all of you who guest posted here.  Please remember that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy, so please feel free to send me a link or an original post via e-mail.

image This Sunday Monica, Allison and I will be interviewing Max Riddick of soulbrother v.2 on education.  Max Reddick is a Memphis, Tennessee, native now living in Northeast Florida. The former University of Florida McKnight Fellow currently serves as a professor of English and literature in addition to training and mentoring middle school reading, language arts and social studies teachers.  You can call in live at 8pm EST.  You can also find us on the net here.

image Below you will find links to some great posts that I found 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 you link behind in the comment section.

On swallowing shit

Civil rights in America: the anniversaries of August 28th

Michelle Obama Wears Shorts – The Free World Goes To Hell

Dispatches from Nappyville: We didn’t start the fire

In which homework is assigned

“Political Correctness” is a reactionary term against the loss of privilege.

Hopefully this will become the standard

More on Performance and Physically Integrated Dance

Are you credit to your race?

A Sharecropper’s Healthcare Plan

What if Black Women Were White Women

The Western woman’s body is still subject to regulation

Feminist Parenting When You’re Not The Mama

 N-Word? Please

Why can’t you be more like Cinderella?

The Blaog

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Seeing Israel’s prisons through Palestinian eyes

Published Aug 27, 2009 9:03 PM

By Sharon Eolis
Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip, populated by 1.5 million Palestinians, is virtually an open-air prison—a place of punishment and exile for Palestinians. No one can officially get in or out of Gaza unless given permission at border checkpoints that are opened at the whim of Israel and Egypt. If your name is not on a pre-existing list, you can’t get into Gaza or leave it.

Mothers in Gaza show pictures of their<br>imprisoned sons.

Mothers in Gaza show pictures of their
imprisoned sons.

WW photo: Judy Greenspan

At the end of the recent Viva Palestina U.S. convoy, a Palestinian man with a U.S. passport tried to bring his family out of Gaza so they could travel back to the U.S. Although his spouse and children have U.S. passports, Egyptian border guards refused to allow the bus through the checkpoint with them aboard.

Convoy delegates tried to carry the children across the border, but security guards refused to allow this and held the bus up for over an hour. Only those who had been on the bus when it entered Gaza were allowed to return. The Palestinian delegate had to leave his family behind when he returned to Egypt.

Prisons in Israel

In addition to the open-air prison of the Gaza Strip, more than 11,000 Palestinian women, men and children are incarcerated in Israeli maximum security facilities like Nufha, Haderim, Jalamy, and Ashkalon, among others.

In Gaza City, a group of Palestinian women with family members languishing in Israeli prisons described for convoy visitors the horrific conditions in these concentration camps.

Muhammad Hassamand, the spouse of one of the women, has spent 23 years in prison. His sons, one 12 and another 15, cannot see their father. His spouse said, “We didn’t go to them. The Israelis came to our land. We are the indigenous people. There are more than 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails [compared to] one Israeli soldier.”

Another elderly woman told of losing her eyesight since her son went to prison 10 years ago. “I lost my eyes from crying all day and night for my son. My son has been sentenced for the rest of his life. He has spent more than 20 years in prison. For more than 10 years, I didn’t see him in my eyes, and now I can’t. I want to see my son. We want our efforts and your efforts to help release him.”

Another woman said, “My husband has been held in an Israeli prison for 22 years, and I have never been allowed to visit.” She thinks her son is also incarcerated in Israel, but she doesn’t know if he is alive or dead.

Since 1967, over 700,000 Palestinians—20 percent of the total population in the occupied territories–have been arrested. The vast majority are men—approximately 40 percent of the total male Palestinian population.

Since the second Intifada began in 2000, more than 70,000 Palestinians, including at least 850 women, have been arrested by Israel, according to Abdullah al-Zeghari, director of the Bethlehem branch of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

Many believe that imprisonment and torture are a core element of the Israeli occupation’s strategy of collective containment and punishment of the Palestinian people.

Anyone who the Israelis think will resist the occupation is in danger of being imprisoned. This includes nonmilitary political activists, community organizers, paramedics, doctors, journalists, teachers and students as well as resistance fighters.

Torture and death in Israeli jails

According to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, more than 85 percent of Palestinians detained since 1967 have been subjected to torture, and at least 197 have died in prison. Medical negligence was the cause of 50 deaths. The rest were from torture or executions.

Until 1999 nearly all Palestinian prisoners were tortured for information based on the Landau Ministerial Committee (1987) policy that allowed “moderate physical and psychological pressure.” This was after an Israeli High Court of Justice ruling prohibited the use of several forms of torture.

The police and army, however, continue to use prohibited methods, similar to the treatment prisoners have been subjected to at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantánamo  Bay prison.

Forms of torture used include beatings, kicking, strip searches, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse and psychological threats, including those against family members. Prisoners have been bound to chairs in painful positions or forced to crouch in a frog-like position.

Prisoners have been kept in solitary confinement or held in tents in the desert in extreme temperatures. Prisoners’ food has been placed next to the holes used as toilets. Inmates have been denied access to hot water or change of clothing.

All these conditions are against United Nations’ basic human rights standards.

Medical negligence

More than 1,600 prisoners suffer from chronic diseases but are denied care. The prison administration refuses to give permission for surgery for such life-threatening conditions as cancers and kidney transplants. It also refuses to allow medicine from families, physicians or the Red Cross.

Administrative detention, where a person can be held for extended periods of time with no trial or formal charges, is a violation of international and human rights law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Administrative detention in Israel was originally based on the British Mandate Defense (Emergency) Regulation of 1945. It allowed police to hold a prisoner based on confidential information that the detainee and her/his lawyer are not allowed to see. While a detainee is allowed an appeal, the confidential nature of the “evidence” makes a fair trial impossible.

This practice is still in effect in Israel. According to Israel Prisons Service, as of May 31 there were at least 449 Palestinian administrative detainees. This number was as high as 849 in November 2007. Palestinian detainees have been held under administrative detention orders from six months to eight years.

Women and children

Presently 63 women political prisoners are held in Hasharon and Damoon prisons. Some are as young as 14. They are subjected to humiliating treatment, including strip searches, sometimes in the presence of men.

Pregnant women are forced to deliver their babies in prison cells where these infants continue to live with their mothers for years. Since 1967 the Israeli army has captured more than 10,000 Palestinian women. Eight hundred were kidnapped during the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.

The Israeli Defense Forces have kidnapped a total of 7,600 children, male and female, since 2000. Some were as young as 12 years old. According to IPS February 2009 reports, there were 374 Palestinian children in jail; 50 were under 16 years old.

The Israeli army considers children age 16 to be adults. This is in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signer.

These children are also subjected to torture and forced confession. Many are held in jails with adult prisoners and subjected to sexual and physical violence. They may be denied family visits, deprived of medical care, and suffer from theft of personal belongings. They are also deprived of education, recreation facilities and culture, and are tortured during attempts to coerce them to collaborate with Israel.

Like Black and Latino/a prisoners in the U.S., most incarcerated Palestinians are held in jails far from their homes. Since Hamas was elected in 2006, Israel has outlawed family visits to prisoners.

Also like the U.S., Israel has enacted a new status called “unlawful combatant.” This legalizes the detention of Lebanese and Arab prisoners even when there is no evidence for trial. This law is now applied to the people of Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza hold one Israeli soldier prisoner. They have offered to exchange him for those held by Israel. While using this prisoner as an excuse for its wars on the people of Gaza, Israel has refused to negotiate any prisoner exchange.

Palestinian prisoners have a long history of resistance in Israeli jails. They have organized hunger strikes to protest violent attacks on prisoners and denial of visits and medical care. In some cases thousands of prisoners have participated. The Israeli police and security forces have responded with great brutality.

The prisoners demonstrated their solidarity with the rest of Gaza during the July 2006 war on Lebanon and during the Israeli war and massacre in Gaza that began in December 2008.

The Palestinian people are requesting that the international community call protests and launch long-term campaigns to end the incarceration of Palestinians in Israeli prisons as part of full liberation for the people of Palestine.

Eolis is an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who was a delegate on the Viva Palestina U.S. convoy to Gaza this July. Many statistics come from the blog of the International Campaign of Solidarity with the Palestinian Prisoners.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


The Great White Hope and Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka)

image

I should really start a blog entitled dispatches from post racial America.  POC are routinely told that we have come so far and that things are getting better each day.  Racism is often theorized not to effect our lives to a great degree.  Of course these are the pronouncements from Whiteness and their house slave henchmen. 

Tim Carpenter covered her little faux pas for the Topeka-Capitol Journal:

Jenkins told people at the Hiawatha forum the nation could benefit from inspired leadership of a group of "really sharp" young Republicans in the House, particularly Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor was mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008 and is thought to be interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said to the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."

Of course, she simply misspoke and did not intend to infer that Whiteness desperately needs to return to power.  She meant a shining light.  Isn’t that sweet everyone.  Perhaps we should all ignore that the term originates from a desperate plea that Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion be defeated.   It is a signal that Whiteness is meant to dominate and control every sphere of life.

We know that the Republican party  represents Whiteness, under the guise of fiscal responsibility, and family values, however; since the election of Obama, they have increased their rhetoric to appeal to those that feel that they have been supplanted.  Whiteness is a tool used to blind the disenfranchised to the ways in which they are oppressed by the ruling elite.  Having Whiteness as a default position allows them to oppress bodies of color while ignoring the ways in which capitalism and various other systems work, to ensure that little to no positive gains are made.  It is not accidental that we can trace generation of generation of families that are dependent upon welfare  and those lacking the ability to achieve upward mobility despite a lifetime in the workforce.

It is a common tactic of the ruling elite to blame POC for the disparity in wealth and value, even though we socially exist with the least power.  Women like Lynn Jenkins, represent the lie that if Whiteness were in power, that suffering would decrease.  Until president Obama became commander in chief, every single president was White and therefore, all of the economic (think the Great Depression and inflation in the seventies) and social issues, that previously occurred, were under the headship of Whiteness, furthermore; though a Black president may be a small indication of change, it is worth noting that most positions of authority are still presided over by Whiteness. 

Jenkins may back track after the fact, however; since her examples of people fit for leadership where White, her intent is quite clear.  Republicans have a  habit of saying obviously racist commentary, only to offer a weak apology when taken to task about their statements.  The regret is false because the intent was to be racist in the first place. 

POC are often accused of playing the “race card,” when we speak critically about Whiteness and yet it is Whiteness, that continually overvalues itself and seeks to ensure that race is constantly spoken about on its terms.   Controlling the conversation is just one of the many ways in which Whiteness manifests its powers.  Through discourse it reifies difference and makes real the illusion that Whiteness is not only to be privileged but is privilege.  Whiteness is the power to act systemically to benefit those that are understood as White and oppress bodies of color and therefore the great White hope that Lynn Jenkins hopes for is omnipresent in every aspect of social organization to one who is willing to understand the way that we have structured our agents of socialization.

15 Year Old Stripping But Story Is About Grandma Attacking Camera

A mother discovers that her 15 year old girl is stripping and she calls the police.  Obviously this is illegal and the child is being exploited.  This is further compounded by the fact that apparently the girl has not been in school since the seventh grade.   Clearly there are issues with neglect going on. 

When the news decided to report on this story, they went to the child's home and were greeted unceremoniously by her grandmother.  They did not ask permission to interview her and just stuck the camera in her face.  She went on the attack and chased them off of her property, with what looks to be either a rake or a hoe.

My question is, why is the grandmother the highlight of this story?  The media constantly likes to present the image of Black people acting up and crazy.  They were on this woman’s  property, filming her, without her consent. You will note how one reporter continued to attempt to question her, when it is clear that she wanted them gone.  It is interesting that when they filmed the strip club, that they made sure to stay off of the property.  It seems the rights of businesses, are easier to respect than the rights of people.

The heart of this story is not that a grandmother lost her temper.  Why would they even knock on this families door?  Isn’t the child in a serious enough condition, without revealing her identity through her family to the neighbourhood and world at large?  The issue should be that a fifteen year old girl was working at a strip club for quite some time.  Why aren’t the police monitoring these places to ensure that they are in full compliance with the law? How many times do we have to read about young girls working in strip clubs, to know that owners are not going to be responsible about who they hire?

She is a child and it is very likely that ensconced in a strip club, that her behaviour will escalate. Why even talk about the exploitation of young girls, or the possibility that stripping could lead to prostitution and drug abuse, when we can show an older Black woman losing her mind on television for entertainment?   Yep, that’s pure entertainment for you and that is what the news about these days.  Asking constructive questions just seems to be a waste of time, when Blacks can be portrayed as cooning around. 

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stephen Moyer on Vampire Sex: Masculinity in True Blood

I was sent the following quote from Cara of Feministe and The Curvature.

Epilogue:  Stephen Moyer, on Vampire Sex:
“The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it’s an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, ‘I want my man to be physical with me.’ How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that?  It’s one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it’s OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?... It’s difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that’s the attraction of the show – it’s looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they Oncwere still charming.”

 image How many think that Moyer should stick to acting, rather than attempt a clearly heterosexist, sexist, misogynist breakdown of his character Bill Compton?  We know that Compton is a civil war vampire, however; that time period does not necessarily make him suddenly more respectful of women.   Let us not forget, in the civil war era, women were considered to be the property of their husbands, they could not vote, did not own land and education was a rarity.  We have a tendency to romanticize the past not because it harkens to a time of gentlemanly behaviour but because it normalizes the view that the patriarchal oppression of women is acceptable.

I find his claim that a woman would not tell her lover that she wants “her man to be physical with her,” to be spurious.  This claim suggests that women only desire to participate in one form of sex when they have any desire at all.  He further defines sex as something men do to women, rather than something that two parties actively engage in.  Many women actively enjoy BDSM and are not shy in communicating that to their partners.

image In terms of his commentary regarding rape, I certainly have no recollection of Bill Compton crawling out of the mud and raping Sookie.  One of the things I love about their sex scenes, is that Sookie actively assents to participation and clearly is not shy about enjoying sex.  It is never okay for a man to rape a woman and that he could implicitly state rape is  acceptable, once again displays his desire to privilege masculinity, in his understanding of the relationship between Sookie and Bill.  A woman does not consent to rape ever.  The definition of rape is forcing ones self on another in a sexual manner, therefore; implicitly denying consent.

Of course, Moyer can only see the show broken down to affirm masculinity in all forms because his male privilege blinds him to the ways in which the female characters invoke their agency.  In the very first episode of the show, Tara quits a job rather than deal with a racist and irritating customer.  Tara further initiates a sexual relationship with Sam, after stating implicitly that this is not to involve a romantic relationship. 

image When Sookie and Bill get into a fight, she has no problem revoking his invitation to her home.  Sookie also speaks to Eric in a tone that no one else on the show dares to and she is human.  The power differential between Sookie and Eric never stops her from being upfront about her feelings, as well as slapping him when he crosses the line. 

image We also have Marianne, who is a very powerful being.  She clearly acts of her own accord and controls those around her.  We may not like her as a character but one can be certain, that Marianne does not pander to traditional views regarding femininity and sexuality. 

Let us also not forget, that though we have yet to see what she is capable of, the Queen is a woman and head of all of the vampires.

True Blood works, not because it reminds of us of a time when men were men but because it walks a dangerous line forcing us to confront our own mortality.  We are entranced with the thought that there are beings that might possibly escape the curse of death, that awaits for us all. 

The vampire is a far more complicated creature than Moyer clearly understands.  He does not acknowledge that they come in both male and female, nor does he offer any analysis on power.  We  see the vampire as sexy because it acts with the assurance that it is invincible.  Coercive power is something that have come to socially respect and therefore, the vampire is understood to be seductive when it acts with impunity. 

Vampires have the ability to act in cruel and terrible ways, yet touching characters like Godric, have shown us that there is a tenderness and a real ability to connect with others.  In the end, vampires mystifies us with their difference and touch us with their ability to tap into a softer, more sensitive side of human image nature.   We are lead to believe that it is the human that is overly emotional and  yet the emotions vampires do display, are filled with such passion. It costs them so much to admit their vulnerability, that their tears are made of blood.  Vampires are morally ambiguous and in their imperfection we can see that no matter how much we aim for the greater good, we to are always destined to fall short.

 

 

 



What’s Accessible To You?

Different bodies, need different kinds of accommodation.  It seems to me that many believe, a one size fits all solution, will work as far as making spaces more inclusive but in my experience, as a differently abled bodied person, I can often see where even having the limited mobility that I do, offers me a form of privilege that will mean a denial of service or access  to another.

This week we had to go back to school shopping for Mayhem and Destructionimage Because it was a beautiful day, I decided to meet my family there and travel  by scooter.  Imagine my chagrin, when suddenly I ran out of sidewalk, without warning because they were under repair.  If one is able  bodied, it would have been fairly easy to dodge around cars and cross the street but being on a scooter, I had to pull  into heavy traffic and make a right hand turn. 

After having my scooter for a few months, I am well aware of the ways in which people lose their patience the moment they get behind a wheel of a car and I felt fear being in so much traffic.  As I arrived on my scooter, I had no choice but to take it home after we finished.  When I again waded into traffic and into what was obviously a precarious position, no car bothered to stop for me.  Thankfully, a construction worker stopped traffic long enough for me to make a left hand turn and get to the safety of a side street.

As uncomfortable and dangerous as this was, I knew that I was lucky to be in a scooter rather than a manual wheelchair.  Can you imagine a manual wheelchair pulling into oncoming traffic?  My ability to move means that I am not always in a chair and therefore, I can still with a degree of difficulty, negotiate areas that are inhospitable to those that spend their lives in wheelchairs. 

When we went out for dinner tonight, I was able to drive my scooter right inside, only to discover that the  bathroom was down a steep flight of stairs.  When I asked at my sons dojo if they were wheel chair accessible, I was told yes, unless image you plan to use the bathroom, which is downstairs.  Each time an incident like this occurs, I realize that my limited mobility is still a privilege because though I experience pain, I still exist with the option to get up and go up or down those flight of stairs. When I visit a friend, I don’t have to think about the fact that most homes don’t have ramps in the bathroom, and are not large enough to comfortably manoeuvre a wheelchair. If I am shopping and an item is on the top shelf, I can stand and reach it, rather than searching for someone to get it for me.

When you are differently abled, the world focuses on all of the things you cannot do, versus all the things  that you can do.   In this way, if one has a closed mind, it is quite possible to ignore the ways in which one still exists with privilege relative to others.   As I negotiate the world as a differently abled person, my perspective not only allows me to see the ways in which the world was not designed for people like me but for others who need different accommodations. 

I don’t know what it is to be blind, or hearing impaired, and I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be non neuro-typical, but through conversation I can empathize and understand what it is to feel “othered”.  It is not always necessary to have the same condition as another, to see the ways in which privilege operates.  If each of us were to personalize the experience by thinking of the different ways in which we are forced to “rise above”, perhaps we would be less likely to invoke privilege upon another.   

Black people on Mad Men (or lack thereof)

This is a guest post by Loryn of black girl blogging

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As a pretty big Mad Men fan, I was so excited about last night’s Season 3 premiere. Not only did I want to know how the rest of the story unfolded but part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, we’ll see more than a passing glance at a Black character on the show or the mention of race as an afterthought. Every time I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think, “gotdamnit! When are they going to say anything about race or Blackness! It’s the sixties for cryin’ out loud!”

It wasn’t until I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent post that I realized that it the absence of Black people is precisely what we love about the show as it explores what white privilege and masculinity is—and in the case of Mad Men it does mean that people of color are rendered invisible.

I actually think it’s a beautiful, lovely, incredibly powerful omission. Mad Men is a show told from the perspective of a particular world. The people in that world barely see black people. They’re there all the time–Hollis in the elevator, women working in the powder-room, the Draper’s maid, the janitors, the black guy hired at Leo Burnett–but they’re never quite seen. I think this is an incredible statement on how privilege, at its most insidious, really works.

It’s been argued that the absence of people of color is a romantic view of “the good ol’ days”, but I beg to differ. The fact that Black people are so absent and silent in the face of white privilege is exactly a commentary on race in the 60s, especially as there were already so few Black people who lived in worked in the type of environment that Don Draper and company were so accustomed to. There are several female writers on the Mad Men team, which is why the gender commentary is so on point, but I often have to wonder what would have happened on the show if there were people of color on that team. Would we be more present? Or would things remain the same?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion of the Senate Sleeps: Rest in peace Senator Kennedy

image After forty-seven years of serving his country as a senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy lost his courageous battle with brain cancer. He was referred to as the lion of the senate and the last torch bearer of the long defunct Camelot dream. Kennedy will be remembered as much for what he accomplished, as for the ghosts of two brothers, tragically lost to violence, which seemed to haunt him all of the days of his life.

The Kennedys have always had an aura of destiny surrounding them and though they never hesitated to grasp the mantle of responsibility; it has come at a cost of much sadness and death. The last of Rose and Joseph’s nine children, Edward himself nearly succumbed to the curse earlier in his life, during a plane crash, which was to leave him with back issues for the rest of his life. After the passing of John and Robert, he became their last great hope and it was with baited breathe, that many awaited the election of another Kennedy to the White House.

He challenged then President Jimmy Carter, for the position of commander in chief in 1980, and very narrowly lost during a very heated primary season. The ghost of Chappaquiddick hung heavy in the air and he struggled to explain how it was, that he could leave the scene of an accident, with a young girl dead in his car. Even in his defeat, Kennedy knew triumph, as he continued on at the convention to deliver the speech of his life. Though it was meant to be an endorsement of then President Jimmy Carter, he spoke of hope and revitalization.

"Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation. Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy. Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.”

"These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our party across the generations. It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land. “

Realizing that Camelot would not be revisited in his lifetime, Kennedy determined that his legacy would be in the senate. To conservatives, he came to represent everything that was wrong with liberalism. He was often depicted with a bulbous nose and as a drunkard. Never dismayed by his critics, he continued to work feverishly for the good. He was unafraid to seek compromise and even worked with President George W. Bush on the no child left behind policy. He also partnered with Senator John McCain on immigration. Kennedy understood that compromise was essential for progress.

No sphere of politics escaped his attention. He fought to impose sanctions against South Africa due to apartheid. He sought peace in Northern Ireland, denounced the Vietnam War and was instrumental in a ban on arms sales to Chile. His cause was peace, not only for the United States but for the world.

image Even in his later days, he did not fail to recognize the cusp of possibility, when he sidestepped Hillary Clinton to endorse Barack Obama, who would become the nation’s first African American president. “My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. The hope rises again” he stated, “and the dream lives on.”

Illness kept Edward Kennedy away from his beloved senate but his influence was deeply felt as the battle is being fought for healthcare. For Kennedy, this was an issue to which he deeply committed. Kennedy referred to healthcare reform, “as the battle of my life”. As the tensions rise, his voice and influence will be sorely missed.

Though Edward Kennedy was a patriarch, father, uncle, husband and grandfather, he not a perfect man. He was haunted by ghosts and twice used his privilege in terrible ways, however; he fought for those whose voices we have long since silenced, in a bid to make might right. He taught the world that privilege can be used for good and that service should be a calling for us all.

In December, he spoke of his legacy during a ceremony in which Harvard granted him an honorary degree:

“We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make,” he said. “I have lived a blessed time.”

As Edward Kennedy awaits his rest next to his much beloved brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy, he shall be eulogized as the man that heard the call to battle and answered with the swiftness of cheetah and the passion of a lion.


Are Animals and Humans the Same?

I have written repeatedly about the offensive nature of PeTA’S campaigns because I find that their approach is often dehumanizing.  Much of the time, they buttress their position by saying that we are no different than animals and therefore are undeserving of special treatment.   This line of thought does not solely apply to PeTA.  Many animal rights groups are fond of pointing out that humans are also animals.  This is a biological fact, however; using it to defend your position can be extremely problematic and it is rarely to ever acknowledged as such.

For centuries, POC have been compared to animals, as a way to dehumanize us.  Telling POC that we are the same as animals cannot be taken in a positive light.  We can all agree that animals deserve to be treated with respect and love.  They are vulnerable and we are the top of the food chain.  Very few people would openly say that they approve of cruel slaughter methods or housing them in terrible conditions.  The more that we can improve conditions that animals live in the better, however; until we can get to a point where there is equality amongst the human race, demanding such equality between humans and animals is going to be an issue.

image It was just last year that Obama was depicted as a chimp in the post.   A German zoo named a monkey after him.  A bar decided to sell t-shirts with Obama depicted as Curious George.    Not to be outdone, Former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller commented, “Rahm Emanuel needs to put “Gorilla Glue” on his chair to keep him in the Oval Office”. To ensure that Michelle Obama felt included Rusty Pass a state Republican activist, claimed that an escaped gorilla was an ancestor of the first lady

Who could forget Howard Cosell with the famous quip, “Look at the little monkey run,”   during a Monday night national football broadcast.

image Chihuahua's are heavily associated with Latino’s (see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Disney’s Oliver). Who could forget that lovely little Taco Bell dog.    In fact almost every time you see a Chihuahua in the media, one can almost be certain that there will be a connection between it and Latino’s

With the rise in Islamophobia, camel jockey became a very popular slur.  Often this terms competes with sand nigger, for the most derogatory term to refer to people from the Middle East.

When the largely white run animal rights groups approach people of color for support, is it any wonder that we bristle when we are once again told that we are just like animals.  Whiteness can afford such a comparison because it is still the dominant and the norm.  It is not reduced by such a comparison because its power has become socially entrenched and its humanity validated.

Like any other social organization, these animal rights groups are largely White run and this leads to a form of myopia in organizing.  They cannot readily see the connection between race and animal rights or why certain phrases may be offensive to people of color.  They may scream biology until the end of time but we remember when such comparisons were used to justify slavery, rape, and segregation.  For as long as my skin is Black I will be a devoted speciesist.  My dignity and humanity demand no less. 

Why The Dearth Of Black Canadian Political Power?

This is a guest post from the ever brilliant Monica of TransGriot.

image There are as of the 2006 Canadian Census 783,795 people that describe themselves as Black Canadian. One of my dear Timmy's Icecap drinking friends friends proudly identifies herself as such.

That translates to 2.5% of the Canadian population being Black Canadian.

The five largest provinces in which Black Canadians are predominately clustered are in order Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.

The municipalities with the highest numbers of Black Canadian citizens are Toronto ON, Montreal QC, Ottawa ON, Calgary AB, Vancouver BC, Edmonton AB, Hamilton ON, Winnipeg MB, Halifax NS, and Oshawa ON.

Preston NS, (near Halifax) is the city that has the highest percentage of Black Canadians residing in it at 68.4%

One of the questions I've pondered as I've looked north is why the dearth of political representation for my Black Canadian cousins?

Renee, myself and other Black Canadians have had some long midnight oil burning discussions about why this situation in the Great White North amongst our peeps has evolved.

Yes, Michaelle Jean is the current Canadian Governor General and head of state, but bear in mind that's a position appointed by the prime minister.

Of of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, there are currently only two held by a person who identifies as a Black Canadian. On the Canadian Senate side you have Sen. Donald Oliver from Nova Scotia.

That makes it a little tough to have a Canadian Obama when being a member of Parliament is a primary prerequisite for becoming the Prime Minister of Canada.

I have to admit we have a few advantages on our Canadian cousins besides larger population numbers. We make up 13% of the US population versus their 2.5% slice of the Canadian one.

We African-Americans were forced after emancipation to continuously band together for our own protection and survival against terrorist organizations like the KKK and their vanilla-flavored sympathizers.

That along with living in segregated neighborhoods fostered a collective 'we're all in this together' mindset irregardless of our physical location in the United States. The Great Migration out of the South in the late 19th-early 20th century also spread our population out to various portions of the country in which we make up strategic voting blocs today.

The early 20th century saw the emergence of national advocacy organizations such as the NAACP, and the formation of numerous cultural organizations such as fraternities and sororities. Those organizations reinforced pride in ourselves and pushed economic self help and collective responsibility messages. Education was also stressed as the road to equality and uplift to a better future.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson's tireless efforts to promote and teach Black history in the States added to our emerging pride in ourselves combined with a succession of leaders who stressed Black pride.

There was importance placed on ballot box access along with a strategic use of collective political power and grassroots protests to push social change and uplift the race at the same time.

While it's cool that African Americans have extremely close cultural, historical and in many cases familial links with African Canadians, it has led to a mindset in which they forget the border exists. It's never far from my mind that if I want to visit Renee or any of my Black Canadian homeboys and homegirls a US passport must be in my possession before doing so.

It also means that whatever gains we African-Americans make stop at the US-Canadian border. You can take inspiration from them, but to achieve similar success means you'll have to handle your political business to replicate them on the Canadian side of the line.

Black Canadians to their credit realize this. They are taking critical looks at their place in Canadian society. They are beginning to do the work of identifying causes of their lack of power and tackling the problem.

But to emulate their south of the border cousins social and political success will take an ongoing long term sustained effort to build up to that level.

Black Canadians have those basic building blocks in place in terms of having a section of the country in Nova Scotia that proudly celebrates its Black Canadian heritage. The Black Canadian population is spread across multiple provinces and clustered in major cities across the nation.

What's missing is the will to do it and a national level organization similar to the NAACP advocating for them. There needs to be an emergence of nationwide pride in being a Black Canadian along with the teaching of Black Canadian history at home and in the schools. Black Canadians need to be as fluent in their Black history and proudly tell those stories as much as we do here in the States.

A multifaceted Canadian 'Black Power' collective political strategy needs to be discussed, formulated and executed. It should be a grassroots based locally oriented one that acts and thinks regionally, provincially, nationally and globally in addition to being sensitive to the concerns of the rest of the African Diaspora.

Black Canadians should put emphasis on getting involved and organized to interface with the Canadian political process as part of the national strategy to empower Black Canadians.

So what will it take for our Canadian cousins to do so? Maybe it will take an Emmitt Till scale event happening to a Black Canadian child to galvanize them. It could be a minor slight that causes Black Canadians to rise up in anger, say, enough and jump start what I've laid out in this post.

Maybe it'll be as simple as Black Canadians being sick and tired of not seeing themselves represented in their national legislative body, wanting more input on national policies and how their tax 'loonies' are spent.

All we African-Americans can do is make suggestions, point out our mistakes and give other helpful advice to our Canadian cousins as they embark on this long term political project.

But in the end this will have to be an all African Canadian production.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tune in Tuesday: Lenny Kravitz Baby It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

I love me some Lenny Kravitz.  I remember playing this song repeatedly  during the  first summer that I moved out.  I know that it is all about breaking up but for me it will always remind me about travelling all over Toronto, revelling in my freedom for the very first time.  I remember sitting in coffee shops with my walkman and rewinding this song over and over (yes I know I just dated myself). Lenny and I discovered freedom together and I was unafraid because he was by my side. 

Incidentally, the first concert that I ever went to was also a Lenny Kravitz.   Not only is the man incredibly talented, he is sexy as all hell.  It was the best 100 bucks that I have ever spent.  Lenny reminds me of my youth and innocence.  It was a time when I was unafraid to take risks.  I often leaped and thought about consequences later.   Today I am far to practical to make the same decision is made a scant 1_  years ago (nope you are not getting anymore clues as to my age)  but Lenny will always bring me back to a time when I was willing to risk all.

Okay, your turn.. If you have any specific memories of this song, or even Lenny Kravitz, share them in the comments section.  Music marks time for us and it is amazing the way that a few notes can take us back in time.

The Irony of Anti-Sex-Positive Feminist's Arguments

This is a guest post from Whatsername of the Jaded Hippy

It's been a while since I wrote a post from a specifically sex positive perspective. But that all changes tonight because a few days ago I had a run in that sent my mind off in that direction.

In comments at fem.men.ist's place a conversation began about sex positive feminism, with a very angry radical feminist who was hearing about it for the first time and didn't like what she was reading. Needless to say, she and I exchanged words. But since then I've been going over and boiling down my argument and though it's getting to the same point as my very first post about sex positivity, I thought it might be worth going into again.

The radfem's main argument (in the comments conversation, though her argument in her blog post appears similar) consisted of two points 1) certain sexual behaviors are inherently degrading to women (she also threw in there that heterosexual sex can never truly be consented to, which I would take to mean is "always rape" as the famous quote goes, but I never got to follow up on that point) and 2) that by supporting and accepting women who choose to engage in such behaviors for pleasure, sex positive feminists are supporting and enabling the sexual exploitation and degradation of women.

So here's my problem: this line of arguing is utilizing the master's tools.

Here's what I mean by that... Kyriarchy doesn't want women in solidarity with each other. That's the reason we're socialized to dislike each other (which is the essence behind this post on my Tumblr). It's the same tactic used against poor whites and poor Blacks after emancipation and into today, the same tactic used to divide white feminists from womanists and feminists of color, the same tactic used against the middle and the working classes, and on and on and on; divide and conquer. "We" must create divisions and hostility between them or "they" might join forces and overthrow us.

And there's this fine line between critique and condemnation that too many anti-sex positive feminists (as I've experienced them) trample all over. Critique is "there are these things that influence us towards accepting this behavior and eroticising it and we should be conscious of that." Whereas what this and so many others I've seen do is "that behavior is degrading, the end!" And anyone who makes an argument in support of women's sexual agency is cast promptly as the enemy, woefully brainwashed by Patriarchy. Critique leaves room for discussion, the latter just shuts conversation down entirely.

So let's take a step back here...

We're ALL woefully brainwashed by kyriarchy.

Feminism isn't an end to that, its just a lens we can use to liberate ourselves and each other. A lens which helps us figure out and hopefully dismantle our brainwashing. Radfems and SexPos' alike = brainwashed by kyriarchy. And sexual practices, like so many things, are essentially a nature vs nurture debate.
What came first, me liking to be spanked or kyriarchal norms teaching me that sexually fulfilled women should be disciplined?

The fact is? WE WON'T EVER KNOW. We can deconstruct the messages we're indoctrinated with, we can dissect our turn ons, we can even construct elaborate and well thought out theories as to how and why we ended up being turned on by sexual discipline, but we'll still never know what came first; the kinky bdsm chicken or the leather loving egg.

But in their fervour to impart how degrading some sexual practices are, and to point out the sexual horrors women as a whole are subjected to, this particular brand of radfem seems to forget that they are conditioned too.

They also seem to forget that kyriarchy fears few things more than unconstrained female sexuality. I mean, that's a given, yes? If asked, every feminist would agree that the powers that be have spent inordinate amounts of time and effort to "reign in" the terrors of female sexuality right? That's what the whole "virgin whore dichotomy" is all about, that's what rape as a punishment is all about. And yet when these radfems are turning on their sexpos sisters, it never seems to occur to them that perhaps this condemnation and social shaming is just as much a conditioned response as they think the desire for so-called kinky sex is.

And as the history of kyriarchal successes go: women once again turn on each other, disciplining each other's behaviour and creating wide rifts across which solidarity really isn't possible.

Is that "radical feminism"? Really?

How is disciplining women for what turns them on "radical" in any way? How does that tear down kyriarchy?

And I know the argument to this; "well their behaviour is reinforcing patriarchal norms!" Well, maybe. Maybe it is. I don't know for sure (but neither do you).
What I do know is this:
1) In a woman's search for sexual liberation there will undoubtedly be times when she is not "perfectly feminist". Because none of us are always perfectly feminist, ever.

And 2) there is nothing that kyriarchy fears more than women becoming truly sexually liberated... except for women in solidarity with each other.

Whether one particular sexual practice "does it" for you, or not, if you're throwing up walls against those who practice them, if you're setting yourself up to deny the sexual agency of other women...that's definitely not creating solidarity. It's only creating more divisions. It's only making it easier for you to disregard "those women".

Which is exactly what the Patriarchy wants.

Now, let me end with some ownership because I am not immune to this critique either. I wasn't particularly gentle in my approach with aladydivine. No, I was incredibly irritated by the utter reading failure she demonstrated throughout our conversation. And that dominated my response; not any sort of compassion for the emotions which were stirred up by that reading (false though it was, clearly a nerve was hit and I definitely didn't help delve into that and compare/contrast it with sex positivity).

Was I creating solidarity in that moment?

Hell no.

I was too pissed at seeing yet another feminist tearing down and shaming fellow women, fellow womanists/feminists for their sexual choices, and for basically utterly missing the point behind sex-positivity and at the same time dismissing it entirely out of hand.

Was that really the best way to handle it? Probably not, no.

I can't apologize for defending women's agency and criticizing what I still think was a total misreading, but I could have done so from a very different starting point, and taking my thoughts here to their logical end, I should have.


It’s Not Sex It’s Rape

Imagine that you were having sex with your boyfriend, only to discover that it was his twin brother.  It sounds right out of a daytime soap opera but that is exactly what happened in Milford, Connecticut.

NBC -- A police officer in Connecticut is charged with first degree sexual assault and criminal impersonation after police say he posed as his twin brother to have sex with a woman.

Telegraph.co.uk - Jared Rohrig, 25, pretended to be his brother Joe to trick the woman into bed.

Did you catch what happened there?  Two different news stories reported on a rape as just a case of trickery, involving sex.   If  a man is disguising his identity, in an attempt to fool someone into sexual intercourse, it is rape.   So often, we avoid the word rape and substitute  it with the word sex, as though a depraved violation had not occurred.    If we cannot correctly name the violation for what it is, how can we possibly find a way to deal with its heinous nature?

From the very moment he initiated contact with her, he had the responsibility to tell her that he was not his twin brother, Joe Rohrig.  Instead, he chose to take on his brother persona and persisted in violating her, after she realized that she was indeed being raped.  Unlike his brother Joe, Jared did not have a cowboy tattoo and it is this that made his identity obvious to the victim.

We don’t like to use the word rape because it specifically implies that a person should have autonomy over their bodies, whereas; sex leads one to believe in the implicit right of the rapist to access the body of another.  By refusing to use the word rape, we are once again empowering the rapist at the cost of the victims dignity and humanity.  Sex must be consented to between two equal partners for the exchange to be valid.

Though we claim to understand rape as an act that is located in the rapists desire to have power over another, we often fail to completely comprehend how this effects consent.   The victim in this case could not consent because she was not aware of whom she was interacting with. Consent can be removed from the victim in many ways: adult/child relationships, violence, threat of violence, deception, and power imbalance.  Though we know that rape can occur in many circumstances, we continue to cling to the notion that it involves some stranger jumping out of the bushes and attacking.  A large percentage of rapes occur between intimates, making the violation that much more startling and unexpected. 

Most will  read the story of the alleged attack and not give a moments pause as to what language was used because we have so readily internalized the idea that rape occurs within a certain framework.  Though feminists/womanists, have spent much time talking about rape and power, it has yet to become part of our normalized discourse; in fact, victim blaming and denial is far more prevalent.  We are far more likely to offer some excuse for the rapist, than to support the victim in hir time of need. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

For Blue Eyes: Pecola Breedlove Lives

image If a Black girl is very lucky she is born into a family that will cherish her.  She will be told repeatedly that she is beautiful, even that she is a princess.  Those first years are very important in building a solid self-esteem.  They will be needed to help deal with the stressful years ahead, when she will be told repeatedly that she is different, run of the mill, loud, rude, abrasive and even ugly. In the years ahead, she will meet Whiteness head on and the specter of Pecola Breedlove will visit her, in her quiet moments.

If she happens to be dark skinned, the Blackest of Black, those around her might ridicule her, having internalized the blue-eyed standard of beauty.  She will note how those with the lighter skin get more attention, are called beautiful, and are held up as the epitome of Black female beauty. She will watch as they toss their long, straight hair over their shoulders and wonder how her short nappy locks seem so unloved, no matter how painstakingly styled. 

She will jump rope, play hopscotch, and even tag, but she dare not disagree with her playmates because she has already learned that her color will make her the aggressor, no matter her action.   Don’t scream like the other little girls and never raise your voice in anger. When she is alone and looks into a mirror, she will wonder what it is about her that makes her so different.  She does everything that the other little girls do in an effort to fit in but somehow this barrier, one that is not of her own making, refuses to give way.

In an effort to bridge the gap, she will explain her hair care rituals on command.  She will speak of washing it once a week and then having it oiled and styled, only to be called dirty because the White girls wash their hair daily.  They will turn their noses at the mere mention of hair oil, yet to her it is one of the most tender moments of the week.  It is the time when she has 100% of her mother's attention.  It is the time when they may discuss everything and anything.  How can this ritual be bad, when it often feels so comforting?

She will struggle to find something about herself to love.  Her nose is far too broad and not like the other girls. Her lips are too full and she bites them desperately, wishing that they would deflate.  In the quiet moments she will remember her parents telling her that she is beautiful and that she is smart, but the Breedlove curse hangs heavy and hard.

She will point out Black superstars to her friends, believing that she will find validation in their fame.  “Hey guys”, she’ll announce, “have you heard that new song by Tracy Chapman, 'Fast Car' -- isn’t she  just great?"  “The song is okay,” they will answer, “but Tracy is kind of ugly."  Dejected, she will retreat into a corner, thinking once again about the blue-eyed promise.

Her teenage years approach and boys and men begin to display desire for her.  She is unprepared for their advances.  At first she loves her burgeoning womanly form.  Her body is curvaceous and her breasts full.  Finally, she thinks, people think I am beautiful... until she learns that it is not that men find her beautiful, but that they have come to claim her.  A Black woman’s body does not belong to her.  It is assumed to be for the sexual satisfaction of men and they could care little about her thoughts and desires.  They only want what she has between her legs.

Wherever she goes, Pecola is her constant shadow.  Will she learn to love her Blackness despite the fact that world around her has told her that she has no value? Will she succumb, like Pecola, to feelings of insanity and find herself wishing desperately for blue eyes in the false belief that they will make the world think that she is beautiful and therefore worthy? If she had blue eyes, would  people see her for who she really is?   Her journey is not unique and yet in the quiet moments when Pecola whispers, playing the strong Black woman seems too much of a burden.  The gentle sleep calls and night fades to black.  Who will arise in the morning is anyone’s guess.

Editors Note:  Pecola Breedlove is a reference to Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.  If you have not read it, get thee to a library quickly.

Hot Lesbian Action When The Boys Approve

Excellent take down on the way fauxgressive media uses lesbian love to say that they are cool with teh gay, as long as it is temporary and done to satisfy the male gaze.  


Andrea Dworkin On Transgender

This is a guest post from Daisy at Daisy’s Dead Air

image Photo from The Boston Phoenix.


There has been a lot of heated discussion among Second-Wave radical feminists, concerning when transphobic theory "took over" the discourse. Women who claim to be of the hard-core Andrea Dworkin school of radical feminism, steadfastly adhere to the concept that trans people are not the gender they say they are and will not use preferred pronouns; some go so far as to edit comments on their blogs and change the pronouns, for example. Many of these Second-Wavers believe it is reactionary to "endorse" (for lack of a better word) the gender identities of trans folks. Much talk about the "gender binary" (male/female, historically constructed as mirror images, opposites, yin and yang) and how transgenderism "upholds" this binary, etc etc etc.

For many of these feminists, the late Andrea Dworkin is something of a patron saint. One well-known radfem uses a quote from Dworkin on her blog, to let it be known she is a "take no prisoners" sorta gal. I have read many, many quotes by Dworkin on Second-Wave radical feminist blogs.

But it is telling that they carefully leave out the quote(s) below, even though they claim to have all of her books.

In conversations with trans feminists, I have continually assured them that many Second-Wave radical feminists were NOT transphobic, and actually empathetic to trans people. However, I've had trouble finding any proof, other than my own memory and a few trans friends of Kate Millett's. Depressingly, the more I searched, I found much more proof that radical feminists were mean and vicious (i.e. Robin Morgan's lynch-mob rhetoric concerning trans women in her book titled Going Too Far). The Janice Raymond/Robin Morgan/Mary Daly faction seems to have "won" the transgender round of radical feminist theory, by default.

And so, it brings me great pleasure, after a very long search, to finally have the following quote IN MY HAND, not just from memory. Thank God for Amazon.com and the used books option, since this is long out of print.

The book is WOMAN HATING, copyright 1974, EP Dutton, New York City, ISBN 0-525-47423-4. The book jacket contains approving blurbs from: Phyllis Chesler, Ellen Frankfort, Florynce Kennedy, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett and Gloria Steinem.

I find it interesting that Morgan did not provide a blurb, since she and Dworkin were good friends. (Was this passage the reason?)

Note: In the 70s, at the time of this writing, the accepted terms were "transsexual" (instead of transgender) and "hermaphrodite" (instead of intersex)--and these are the terms Dworkin uses.

~*~

First, Dworkin believed that the human race is multi-sexual, and to maintain patriarchy, these multiple genders must be "contained" within the two-gender binary. Transgendered people, then, are the people who have fallen through the cracks, so to speak, who do not fit into this rigid system.

These excerpts are all from the suitably Dworkinesque-titled chapter Androgyny: Androgyny, Fucking and Community:

Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist's laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words "male" and "female," "man" and "woman," are used only because as yet there are no others.

She discusses the facts that there are intersexed people, hairy women, feminine men, indistinct genitalia, etc.

We can presume then that there is a great deal about human sexuality to be discovered, and that our notion of two discrete biological sexes cannot remain intact. (Note: The following sentence is underlined repeatedly in my used copy.) We can presume then that we will discover cross-sexed phenomena in proportion to our ability to see them.
In addition, we can account for the relative rarity of hermaphrodites in the general population, for the consistency of male-female somatotypes that we do find, and for the relative rarity of cross-sexed characteristics in the general population (though they occur with more frequency than we are now willing to imagine) by recognizing that there is a process of cultural selection which, for people, supersedes natural selection in importance. Cultural selection, as opposed to natural selection, does not necessarily serve to improve the species or to ensure survival. It does necessarily serve to uphold cultural norms and to ensure that deviant somatotypes and cross-sexed characteristics are systematically bred out of the population.

Later in this section, she makes a statement in italics, for emphasis:

We are, clearly, a multi-sexed species which has its sexuality spread along a vast fluid continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete.

And then, we get to the section titled Transsexuality, which she starts off by quoting "a transsexual friend":

How can I really care if we win "the Revolution"? Either way, any way, there will be no place for me.

Keeping in mind there were far fewer uncloseted transgendered people in the 70s, I find the following paragraphs to be pretty radical and trans-positive stuff:

Transsexuality is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a "disease" with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person's visible sex and make it consonant with the person's felt identity.
Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgement that transsexuality is caused by a faulty socialization. More probably, transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.
There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.
One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.
Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.
Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disppear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.

~*~
I have noticed that many radical feminists latch on to her third point, overlooking the first two. Further, they make the third point prescriptive, rather than descriptive. Dworkin obviously meant that transgenderism will "disappear" after her androgynous feminist revolution, not that we should make actual trans people disappear RIGHT NOW. I think she is very clear on that.

When trans feminists initially read these words in the 70s, it is understandable that they felt welcome in the feminist movement. When they attempted to take their place among us Second-Wavers, they were rejected, trashed, outed, and accused of being "rapists" simply for being trans persons. Feminists who loved what Andrea wrote about pornography (including her legal activism), seemed to overlook what she said about trans people, and/or assume she had the views of Morgan, Daly, Sheila Jeffreys, et. al.

No.
Let the record show, once and for all, that she did not.
~*~
Everyone is welcome to discuss this post, regardless of your views. But the ground rules are: RESPECT FOR EVERYONE, including preferred pronouns. No trans-baiting and yes, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Make Andrea proud, and show some empathy for those people in a primary emergency within patriarchy.
Thank you.