Saturday, October 17, 2009

Indigenous peoples demand respect

By John Catalinotto

Published Oct 16, 2009 11:19 PM

From Alaska to southern Chile, Indigenous people all over the Western Hemisphere demonstrated in protest on Oct. 12—the anniversary of the day Christopher Columbus’ ships landed on a Caribbean island and began to introduce all the evils of European early capitalist colonial society to this half of the world.

Panama

Panama

In Colombia, more than 25,000 members of Indigenous communities went into the streets to protest against the injury to their rights and to demand respect for the cultural traditions of their peoples. The demonstrations, which were to continue until the next weekend, called for the “freeing of Mother Earth” from capitalist plundering and an end to the war in Colombia. A dialog has begun between Indigenous peoples and guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to avoid having the Indigenous people caught between the lines in the war.

Ecuador

Ecuador

Indigenous peoples by the thousands took to the streets in many other countries of the continent. More than 7,500 Mapuche demonstrated in Santiago, Chile. While official ceremonies will take place next year for the 200th anniversary of Chile’s independence from Spain, the Mapuche say, “200 years of repression—we have nothing to celebrate.”

On Alcatraz Island near San Francisco people gathered to commemorate 517 years of Indigenous Peoples’ resistance to the colonization of the Americas as well as the 40th anniversary of the takeover of Alcatraz by American Indian activists from California and across Turtle Island—a Native name for North America. The protesters honored those who lost their lives in the struggle to protect sacred places and Mother Earth, defend human rights, and achieve justice for Leonard Peltier and all human rights defenders.


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Drop It Like It’s Hot

What an interesting week.  We had great conversations and a few trolls that tried to derail good conversations. Once again I learned that the ban button is my friend.  I don’t always catch problematic comments so please notify me about the ones I miss. I also ask that you try to avoid feeding the trolls.  Once you start engaging with them they believe that they have a real point.

This week I discovered I had a spam box. I apologize to those of you who have had your comments caught there.  I will try to check it once a day from no on. If you find a comment of yours has not appeared on the blog please e-mail me and I will go and track it down.

Below you will find a list of posts that I found interesting.  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.

Linguistic Privilege Eradicated – He Says He Isn’t Racist

Second Shift for the Sick

Marge Simpson in Playboy: a pretty clever business move

Lump it Like Oatmeal and Multiple Nationality Disorder

This Moment’s WTF

Have We Forgotten Already?: Five Lessons for Young People in Remembrance of Derrion Albert

My Gay Soapbox

hate sagging, especially when white guys do it

Halloween approaches. Time to dress your dog up like a bee in a porno.

Follow-Up To Good Hair: Still Being Mocked and Who Went To See It?

Becoming Disabled On the Job

Coming Out

Corporate sponsored terrorism and stalking from Toyota

Intersectional Feminist: An Introduction 

I Spy…race?

Unsafe Abortions Kill 70 Thousand Women a Year

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#BlackerThanMichaelSteele: a hashtag game that defeated itself

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Since Michael Steele became the chair of the RNC, he has attempted to change the image of the Republican Party in the Black community. We have heard much about “hip hop conservatism” in his bid to make it appear as though the GOP are interested in racial diversity.

The GOP is very much aware that a change in racial dynamics means that the Southern strategy, which they have employed as a path to the White House, must change if they are going to remain politically relevant. Rather than making substantive changes that people can believe in, they have decided to get themselves a figurehead, a.k.a Michael Steele.

When Steele appeared at last year’s State of the Black Union, he was the only panellist to be booed. Despite his race, he has failed to make even the most basic connection with the Black community. Some would say that his tenuous position was forever destroyed after he apologized to Rush Limbaugh for comments he made on the now defunct D.L. Hugley show. Limbaugh is a demagogue who preys upon the fears of a decline in White privilege to maintain his talk radio empire. Few so clearly embody the face of White hatred as Rush Limbaugh, and it was to this man that Steele apologized.

Steele has not been able to resurrect his image since. In yet another disastrous attempt to connect with the Black community, he started a blog called “What Up.” His efforts continue to seem insincere, even offensive. Obama appealed to the Black community not because he used phrases like “yo my brotha,” but because he was authentically himself. Blackness cannot be reduced to a few catch phrases and a good jump shot.

Finish Reading Here

Friday, October 16, 2009

CSI Miami: My Brother Needs Help

I don’t often write about my extended family but in this case I must make a general internet plea.  My brother is extremely handsome, though not as cute as I am, he is very intelligent.  Imagine my surprise, when I visited his blog to find him supporting this hot mess.

Can there be a worse television show currently on the air?  Caruso is quite possibly the worst actor on television today.  I think that he took acting lessons from William Shatner and decided to see if he could do an even worse job.  I can even barely stand to watch commercials for the show because of him.  Somehow he has cast an invisible spell on my otherwise very smart brother….this is a serious case of WTH…

What methods of intervention would you recommend? Also, please feel free to share if you have friends or family members in need of similar help.

Bayard Rustin: Gay Man and Civil Rights Activist

I was reading sisterstalk when I learned that this month is LGBT history month. She had the following video of Bayard Rustin posted and I thought it would be wonderful to share it.

So many have no idea of his contributions because of homophobia.  Not only is this damaging in terms of GLBT history but African American history as well.  We need to reclaim people like Rustin and herald their accomplishments to the world.  The same tools which he employed to assert the worth and value of Black people, can and should be applied to other marginalized groups.  Whether it is gay rights, women's rights, or ending racism, the common denominator is that we are all equal and deserving of basic human respect.  To erase Rustin, is to deny the very purpose of the civil rights movement that he worked so hard to organize.

The Slut Shaming of Meghan McCain Over A Picture on Twitter

image McCain took the above picture of herself on Wednesday night and posted it on twitter.  It was simply her way of saying that she was having a night in with a good book.  Unfortunately for McCain, she forgot that what may have been comfortable attire to wear in the privacy of her own home, would subject her to slut shaming when publicly exposed. 

"You don't have to pull cheap gags like this to get attention. Leave this to the Paris Hiltons of the world," one of the milder rebukes went. "You knew you were posting a nearly NSFW photo, so don't pretend like you're surprised at people's reaction."

What really is so terrible about this photo.  Even if McCain had decided to post a nude photo of herself on twitter, is it really anyone’s business?   People seem to feel that they have the right to slut shame women to control female bodies.

"Seriously I was just trying to be funny with the book and that I'm a dork staying in," she wrote, later adding, "when I am alone in my apartment, I wear tank tops and sweat pants, I had no idea this makes me a 'slut,' I can't even tell you how hurt I am."

McCain is learning that not even her famous last name can protect her from the disciplining that all women suffer.  If we decide to display our bodies we are called sluts.  If we chose to play to convention and cover ourselves, we are repressed and frigid. 

We certainly have reached the post feminist world haven’t we?  When was the last time you saw the slut shaming of a man to this degree?  Why are her breasts necessarily sexual?  We claim that everything is equal and yet women are continually judged and degraded.  Western misogynists have a tendency to use middle eastern women as proof that sexism is non existent and yet incidents like this continue to happen.  Patriarchal control may differ across culture, but it is alive and well because men continue to exist with undeserved privilege. 

What the hell does her attire have to do with how many sexual partners she has had?  Even if she had slept with one thousand men, why would that be a reason to diminish her?  A woman's value is more than her body and yet patriarchy stubbornly refuses to admit that, because to do so would reduce its ability to oppress women. We continue to need womanism/feminism because this is the only social organization that asserts female agency and rights. As long as one is female in this world, patriarchy will attempt to discipline your actions.  Class and race may mitigate the degree to which sexism effects your life, but there can be no doubt that patriarchy wants all women to subjugate their will.



Louisiana Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

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

image Looks like gay couples aren't the only ones being denied the ability to get married in Louisiana.

We made the argument in Kentucky when our marriage ban was on the ballot in 2004 that if you banned same gender marriages, and gave local clerks the power to deny or annul people's marriages, then the marriages of people they didn't like would also be on the chopping block.

Hmm, didn't take long for them to go after interracial marriages now did it?
A justice of the peace in Hammond, LA put on his pointed white sheet and denied a marriage license to an interracial couple.

Guess he hasn't heard about the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case in which they ruled 9-0, the government cannot prohibit marriages simply because of the race of the spouses.

Tangipahoa Parish justice of the peace Keith Bardwell said he refused to issue a marriage license to 31 year old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay of Hammond citing concern for any children the couple might have.

While predictably denying in the Hammond Daily Star he wasn't a racist, he then offered his opinion that most interracial marriages do not last long.
"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children."

He said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of Black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does White society, he said.

"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."

If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all. "I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

Yeah, right. Where's the equality in this situation?

The couple stated they will consult the US Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.
Humphrey told the newspaper she called Bardwell on October 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She says Bardwell's wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples.

“I simply can’t believe he can do that. That’s blatant discrimination,” Humphrey said.

The Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union and the Tangipahoa Parish Chapter of the NAACP agree.

Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said Bardwell’s refusal to sign the license is both “tragic and illegal.”

Pat Morris, NAACP Tangipahoa Parish chapter president, said she was shocked to hear that the choice of a spouse is still an issue in Tangipahoa Parish.

Humphrey and McKay met where she works and the couple and had planned to go to South Carolina for a traditional wedding ceremony to be officiated by her youth minister brother. But McKay lost his job, and by the time he was re-employed he was unable to get off for the wedding. They decided to go ahead and get married in Louisiana “to make it right before God,” she said.

image “We decided on a very short, simple ceremony with a couple of my friends as witnesses,” she said. “Later, when he got some time off, we would go to South Carolina for the traditional ceremony, although we would actually already be officially married.”

According to the Louisiana clerk of court's office, application for a marriage license must be made three days before the ceremony because there is a 72-hour waiting period. The applicants are asked if they have previously been married. If so, they must show how the marriage ended, such as divorce.

Other than that, all they need is a birth certificate, the $35 license fee and a Social Security card. The license must also be signed by a Louisiana minister, justice of the peace or judge with the original being returned to the clerk's office.

"It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzman. "The Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1963 that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry."

The ACLU was preparing a letter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and see if they can remove him from office, Schwartzman said.

"He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it," Schwartzman said.
Bardwell has been a JP for 34 years and his term expires December 31, 2014.
With the attention this case has garnered, he might be leaving sooner than that.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Need A Halloween Costume, Dress Up As Octomom

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When I initially saw this costume on The View I was positively horrified.  This costume was pitched as a cheap alternative to celebrate Halloween.  Isn’t that great, you can save money while participating in racism and the purposeful reduction of another human being.  Just get yourself a black wig, 8 baby dolls, duct tape and don’t forget the enormous red lips.

When it was announced that Nadya Suleman had given birth to eight healthy babies and did not have a job, public opinion turned savage.  People raged about their tax dollars being spent to raise these children.  Investing in children always reaps returns. unlike the billions spent to engage in an imperialist war of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am sure the designer of this costume did not stop and think for one moment that it might be the least bit problematic to mock the size of the lips of a woman of color.  Doing caricatures  of people of color has simply become normalized.

Suleman is not a joke; she is a living breathing human being.  We give lip service to supporting motherhood but in truth, we only consider it valuable when it occurs under certain conditions.  Reproduction is work and it is only devalued because it does not create a profit on the open market.  Each day that she wakes, she is responsible for ensuring that these children are cared for and loved.  Spending the day with one child can be exhausting never mind eight. 

This costume is offensive.  No one deserves to be reduced to a joke for their reproductive choices.  Suleman is an easy target because she is a single woman, with few financial resources.   If truly valued women and the unpaid domestic labour of raising a family Suleman would be supported and not denigrated. 

The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

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Michael Jackson had his fair share of oddities but few doubted that he loved his children.  Until just before he died, he went to great lengths to protect their identity.  The children often wore masks and veils out in public.  Considering that celebrity had brought him so much pleasure as well as pain, it is understandable why he did not want the media to turn his family into a circus.

When he died, his mother Kathryn Jackson became the guardian of his minor children pictured above.  Though Michael spoke highly of his mother, the moment I heard the announcement, I wondered how she would be able to protect these vulnerable children from Joe Jackson.  When he was alive Michael stated that his father used to “practice my brothers and I with a belt.”  He further commented that he had so much fear of his father, his mere presence would make him “regurgitate.”

Even at Michael’s memorial service, instead of appearing as the mourning father that the public expected, he attempted to promote his new business ventures.  It certainly did not take him long to start exploiting his grandchildren.

The Jacksons are at odds over the inclusion of Michael Jackson's three children in an upcoming A&E reality show about the famous family, Us Weekly reports in its latest issue (on newsstands now).

A source tells Us Weekly the buzzed-about program will include Michael's kids -- Prince, 12, Paris, 11, and Blanket, 7 -- though not everyone's happy about it.

It seems that Rebbie is the only one interested in respecting her brothers wishes stating, “Michael would spin in his grave if he knew his kids would be on this show."  From the moment he heard that Michael was dead I am quite sure that Joe’s mind started spinning.  He may have raised a family that went on to be great performers but there is not doubt that many of them are greatly damaged.

I am really starting to believe that the biological parents of these children need to stand up, if only to separate them from Joe’s influence.  Can there be any doubt that he does not have their best interest at heart?  The kids do not need to participate in this show to revive failed careers (yeah that is you Germaine), or raise money.  Michael may have been in some financial trouble before he died but there was certainly enough in his estate for the children to live comfortably. This is simply about Joe’s constant quest to be in the limelight.  How many more must be sacrificed for his ambition?


CNN: Lou Dobbs or Latinos in America?

I have wondered if CNN continues to have Dobbs in its employ to claim that they present both sides of an issue?  The truth is that the man is affront to all the Latinos working for that network and all those who are subjected to his vitriol through the media. 

His continual use of the word “illegal” is offensive.  He is an educated man and could easily switch to undocumented worker but that term would not trigger the conservative hatred of the Latino community.  These arguments are always wrapped in patriotism, God and country.  Never do those that espouse the views akin to Dobbs admit the underlying racism that is basis of their argument. They speak about undocumented workers stealing American jobs and never show any shame about the way that the US has treated South America.

Where is there anger at the way that Dole and Chiquita have union bashed and even killed workers?  They never seem to complain about the cheap fruits and vegetables that are available but still attack the workers that come in to pick them.  People have been so over worked in those fields that they have died. Women who have come to try and ensure survival for their families have been raped.

Being an American citizen is not an accomplishment, it is an accident of birth. What is there to be proud of in this?  The idea that there is such a thing as an illegal human being on a planet we all share is positively ridiculous.  When you look at the earth from space you won’t see borders because they are artificial constructions of man.  These lines were specifically created to allow the oppression of one group over another.

Men like Dobbs are scared that they will no longer be able to benefit from their undeserved privilege.  POC have historically been constructed as angry and irrational, yet what better descriptors can be used to describe not only Dobbs but men like him?  We have seen an upsurge in angry White men.  They use the language of racism and fear to incite violence.  Keeping Dobs on the air is an affirmation of his hatred.  If CNN wants to continue to be a respected news organization Lou Dobbs needs to go.


Hottest Head of State

I came across this site via Feministe….

First let me say that Maurico Funes of El Salvador should really be number one.

image Okay, I know that the pit bull  in a sweater vest ( aka Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada) is despicable in many ways and so it kills me to say this…I do believe the man deserved better than 61, when I look at who came before him.  Check out the list and let me know your favs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

French Vogue Embraces Blackface

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It looks like Jolson is still in vogue.  Will Whiteness never tire of painting their skin dark to demean people of color.  This new spread is not cutting edge or avante garde, its plain old fashioned racism.  I am tired of explaining why actions like this are so offensive.  Blacks can complain about these racist depictions until the end of time but until Whiteness is determined to listen and consider our feelings such images will continue to be normalized.

The people who did this spread did not think for one moment about the hurt that it would cause.  The bottom line was selling magazines and when it comes to profit or respecting another human being, the feelings of another are always quickly disregarded.  The streets of Paris may have been filled with mourners when Josephine Baker passed but the French always understood her to be a savage.  They may look at North America as a place rife with racial disharmony but France is no great beacon of community or acceptance.  The treatment of those who have emigrated from their former colonies speaks volumes.

Tout les sons dans la nature however such an attitude is hardly reflective of French culture.  They don’t care anymore than any other largely White nation about bodies of color.   Sarkozy’s arguments about the burka are very reflective of the ethnocentric beliefs of many White French people.  As North Americans we have a tendency to view Europe as  advanced but would an advanced peoples make such racist imagery without any form of apology? C’est photo est une leçon d’humanité.  When we put profit over people, someone, somewhere will always be diminished but I suppose that only matters if you are the one being “othered”.


Negotiating Disableism

Disableism is very new to me.  My chronic illnesses not only changed my status, but forced me to see just how pervasive ableism is.  It has been a huge learning process, as I have sought to reduce the ways in which my language and behaviour support ableism.  I have a physical disability which has caused me to more aware of the ways in which society is structured to benefit those that are able bodied, but it has not helped me to understand the ways in which those that are neurologically atypical face discrimination.  Common phrases that I used to utter like bat shit crazy, must be erased from my vocabulary.  I have struggled not to say that someone is blind to something, rather that pointing out that they are unable to see or understand.

What I have learned is that ridding oneself of disableism, is a process that is not easy but so very necessary.  Each time I am reduced by the assumption of another, it causes me to examine the ways in which my language or behaviour support this.  It took time to understand that though I am disabled, I still exist with privilege in certain areas.  I can hear, I can see, I can get up and walk if I have to, I have all of my limbs, and people do not dismiss what I am saying because they deem me non-sensical  due to being neurologically atypical. As long as they are not referring to  my specific disability, many are quite comfortable displaying their disabliesm, as though it does not effect me.

I have sat and listened to the complaints regarding the accommodations that those who are disabled must have to participate in society.  While most will not scream and carry on about a ramp, even a small thing, like getting more time to hand in a paper at school, is enough to cause a rant about favouritism and unfair standards. Disableism occurs when people feel as though they cannot take advantage of their able bodied privileges.  It occurs when people resist that a task can be completed differently to allow a greater participation.

This weekend, on the way to Destructions hockey game, I ran into an old friend.  She had not seen me since I contracted my illnesses but her first comment was that she had to get herself a scooter.   To her it seemed a cool toy, while to me it is a reflection of all the things I cannot do.  There is a man in my neighbourhood who uses a manual wheelchair and he has commented on more than one occasion, that he wished he had a motorized scooter to get around in.   Though I am hurt by the ableist comments of a former friend, my class privilege is part of what allowed that pain. When I needed a scooter to facilitate my activities, we were able to afford one.

Though I am differently abled, I am barely at the 101 level.  I went through anger, denial and finally acceptance but negotiating this life is something I must begin again like a newborn babe.  I have isolated myself because I viewed my body as the great betrayer, refusing to see the ways in which I could and can still participate.  When someone is racist against me, it is easy to find my voice because this is something that I have lived with all of my life, whereas; disableism, even when clearly directed at me, brings about silence and sense of shame.   For now I count on the unhusband to speak when I cannot and this again is a marker of how blessed I really am.  Even in times of weakness and sorrow, I can count on my family to do the heavy lifting.  When I need comfort, each one of them is quick to run to my aid.  They may not understand what I am feeling but my pain is enough for them to intervene or try to comfort.

I have learned that disableism cannot be reduced to a simple Black/White binary.  Even as I struggle against it, I perpetuate it.  Just as we understand that society is inherently racist, classist, or sexist, it is also highly ableist.  If this were not an absolute truth, the various barriers that block or limit participation would not exist.  My task is to now unlearn that which I have accepted as truth.  For me it becomes difficult when I begin to look beyond the limited experiences I have had as a differently abled person. There are issues of race, class, gender and even differing abilities to contend with. This task would not be so difficult today, had I made a conscious decision to acknowledge my various privileges in the past.  I allowed my privilege to dictate what I learned and studied, thereby reinforcing the very hierarchies that I claimed to struggle against.  Today I understand  is that there is no universal experience and it is this very rainbow of difference that I must commit myself to embracing.


White People Raising Black Babies

In the post I wrote regarding Zahara Jolie-Pitt, one of the issues I raised was White people adopting Black babies.  No child should be raised in the system if at all possible but let’s stop pretending that this solution is wonderful.  The optimists out there will point out that a child is being loved and that we should be thankful for that, but love does not save the day. 

We live in a highly racialized world.  As much as we understand that race is a social construct, we do not live outside of it.  How can a White parent prepare a child to called a nigger, spook, or monkey?  How can a White parent prepare a Black child to negotiate experiences they have never had? 

We have had a rash of celebrities adopting Black children, from Tom Cruise to Madonna; Black children are the perfect accessory to cement liberal credentials.  I don’t care if you have a degree in African American history, wear a dashiki and celebrate Kwanza, you have no idea what a Black person experiences the moment they walk through their front door.  As a White person you may educate yourself but nothing compares to lived experiences. 

The reason so many Black children are up for adoption, is in part due to Whiteness in the first place.  How many mothers would think about keeping their children, if they felt that they had the financial capitol and support system to raise them?  Single mothers constitute the poorest social class and where do you think that leaves a mother of color?  We already know the pay gap between White women and White men is substantial but when we factor in race, the gulf only widens.

Social services has a history of being no friend to families of color.  White women used the notion of scientific housekeeping to position themselves as superior to women of color and this formed the foundation of the work in tenement houses.  From that time on, White women positioned themselves as authorities and used their power to separate families of color. Malcolm X and Dick Gregory, have both spoken about how caring White social workers destroyed in the case of Malcolm and nearly destroyed in the case of Gregory, their families.

Today we see an empty cupboard or a house with no heat and readily deem these mothers unfit.  Being poor does not mean that you cannot love and raise your child, being poor is a reflection of the racist, capitalist, sexist state in which we live.  To this day, families of color look at social workers with distrust and they have good reason.  Often that knock on the door means the removal of their children.

We are supposed to smile when we see White celebrities with their Black babies.  Oh yeah one saved…HELL NO.  How long is Whiteness going  to continue to rape and savage Africa for its own ends.  But these White celebrities care about these children right?  Well, if they honestly gave a damn, please explain to me why they aren’t working to help their Black mothers raise them?  It is far easier to stand in silence while the government sets up unfair trade agreements that benefit Western nations and impoverish so-called third world citizens, then swoop in claim the title of saviour,  while whisking the babies away. 

They have money and privilege, how could a child not possibly benefit from being raised in this environment?  There is no doubt that they will have opportunities that they otherwise would not have had, but at what cost do these opportunities occur?   No matter how loving or supporting, there will always be a loss of connection with their culture.  Even if the family engages with people of the same race, there will always be a loss.  Culture is something one must be immersed in and not dabbled in on the weekends.

I know what it is to love a child.  I know what it is to hold their little hand and see the world through their eyes but children of color require more.  This is not about special treatment, as much as it is arming them and protecting them from the certain cruelties ahead.  The first time my child was demeaned because of his color, it was to me, his Black mother that he poured out his soul and not his White father.  Children know intuitively who can be of help.  Without a parent of color, each assault is new and shocking. 

When I taught my child that officer friendly wasn’t necessarily friendly, it was with the passion of Black mother that has heard far too many laments of Black mothers, who have lost their children to police violence.  When I inform him that his behaviour must be different than his White friends, it is with the knowledge that though they are both children, the world will see my gentle Black child much differently.  When it comes to children of color, there are harsh lessons that must be taught and to believe that a White parent is prepared to do that is to deny the racist culture in which we live. Children need love and they need a sense of community to grow, though these things are quickly forgotten when a White person steps up to adopt.  Whiteness may be the dominant culture, but it is not the only culture or community of value. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cartoon Wrongs

Cartoons have evolved from the point of the family friendly Saturday morning entertainment that we grew up on. 

imageThe above cartoon is sick and sadistic.  Not only does it have rape as subject to create a laugh;  it also depicts bestiality.  When I think of Garfield, I think of a snotty cat in love with lasagne, not of a violation that is damaging to the spirit.

I think it is important to talk about images like the above because clearly we have normalized the idea that rape can be funny.  We may view this as harmless because  the characters involved are not real and it is this very attitude that supports our rape culture. 

Rape is not something we can be ironic about.  It is not something that should be fodder for entertainment and yet often in our daily discourse we are encouraged to laugh at a violation.  The scene from the Seth Rogan film entitled Observe and Report in which clearly a rape occurs is quickly apologized away. This is a clear example of how ready we are to deny that the images that we consume are filled with sexual violence.

SETH ROGEN: When we're having sex and she's unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I'm not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay:
BRANDI: "Why are you stopping, motherfucker?"

There is always some excuse proffered regarding why a rape scene is funny. Oh, it’s not really rape, or it’s not really happening, and each one of these incidents devalues the experiences of real survivors.  The idea that rape can be explained away or questioned is deeply problematic.

When discussing Polanski, Whoopie questioned whether or not what occurred was really “rape rape”, even though the testimony of the victim made it quite clear what had occurred.  It is the small everyday slights that makes rape acceptable. When we laugh at depictions of assault or minimize the seriousness of the violation we are once again re-victimizing the survivor.

I have been very resistant to publicly speaking about what happened to me because each and everyday I see images like the Garfield cartoon, or hear the type of apologism uttered by Whoopie and I know that the world is not safe for survivors.  Those who have never been assaulted cannot know what it is to walk through this world constantly triggered by images that not only devalue your experiences but you as a person.  

We hear get over it, or you're being too sensitive, or even a denial of our experiences.   This is all meant to silence our voices.  It is not in the best interest of our patriarchal society to validate women's experiences, even when they are horrific in nature.  Rape is about power and when a man rapes a woman, he is expressing what he believes is his right to her body.   If women really mattered in this world, the everyday experiences that legitimize rape or reduce its damage would not be tolerated. 

Each time we share our stories and they are denied or ridiculed, it makes it that much harder to stand up and keep fighting.  I don’t know that I will ever fully share what happened to me because though my body has healed, I fear that my heart never will.  I will continue to advocate for an elevation in the status of women in the belief that when women matter the violence will matter.  I believe in women, I believe in love.

Karl Lagerfeld: No One Wants To See Round Models

image Today in fat hatred and the disciplining of female bodies, we have Karl Lagerfeld sharing his ignorance with the world.  How would women survive, without men telling us how we feel about our bodies or shaming us at every opportunity, for not living up to a constructed ideal which is truly damaging?

Apparently, an announcement by the magazine Brigitte's declaring that it would focus on "ordinary, realistic," women, rather than models, was enough to set him off on a fat shaming tirade.  According to Karl Lagerfeld, people prefer to look at “skinny models” and not “fat mummies”   Nice to know that the man has the pulse of every single person walking the planet.  Apparently, skinny models only “upset fat women, who don’t want to be reminded of their weight issues”.  Isn’t it nice to know that we don’t live in a culture of fat hatred, in which women are not daily shamed, for not starving themselves to fit into a size zero.

"These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly," Lagerfeld said in an interview with Focus magazine. The creative director of the fashion house Chanel added that the world of fashion was all to do "with dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women".

Lagerfeld, who is known in the trade as a designer with a particular penchant for skinny models, adopted an almost emaciated look himself a few years ago, losing a lot of weight when he went on a strict low-carbohydrate diet. He has continued to share his diet tips over the years, stating: "I only like the things that I'm allowed to eat, so it's not like I have to avoid anything, which is how I don't put on weight."

Round women are real women.  That’s right, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES.  Some women are naturally skinny but we have heard too many stories about eating disorders to believe for one moment that this is the norm in the fashion industry. Images of women are so skewed, that few even know what a real woman looks like anymore.  When you airbrush a tiny woman like Cameron Diaz, please tell me how the hell anyone is supposed to have a realistic view of female bodies?

There is nothing inherently unattractive about fat.  Fat women are just as beautiful as their slimmer counterparts and when we decide otherwise, we are only submitting to patriarchal norms that are damaging.  Too many women live lives on perpetual diets, seeking to alter what is natural for them.  Yo Yo dieting has proved to be far more harmful, than embracing yourself and working to be fit at any size. 

Self depravation may work for men like Lagerfeld, but clearly they do not work for everyone.  It seems to me, that Lagerfeld simply needs to let his inner fattie out for a stroll and stop projecting his issues on others.  Believe it or not, there are fat women that are happily living their lives and having a grand time.  The man may have been picked on or verbally abused for his weight issues, but that does not mean that all fat people are bitter.  If you want to change fat hatred the way to do is not by attacking fat people but by calling out fat shaming, each and every time you come across it. 

The message women need to see repeatedly, is fit at all sizes and not skinny at any cost.  Being skinny is not an indication of health.  There is a reason why anorexia is a life threatening disease.  Yet, Lagerfeld clearly denies that the unrealistic expectations of the fashion industry leads to illness.

"They aren't deliberately skinny because they want to be models, they've probably had family problems or suffered from other traumas," he said, adding that he had never seen any anorexic models himself, "only extremely slim ones".

Sure, the blame is certainly not on the industry that encourages women to be a size zero.  How could that possibly lead to binging and purging?  Some mysterious trauma must have caused the illness and not an industry that continually reduces women to parts based on their so-called fuckability.  I don’t know what kind of dream world Lagerfeld is living in, but fat shaming and unrealistic images of female bodies is certainly a factor in anorexia.

I am happy to see that there is at least one magazine committed to change.  Women do not need to starve themselves to be beautiful.  We are naturally curvy and should appreciate the bodies that nature has given us.  Patriarchy would love for all women to spend their days obsessed with fulfilling its ever changing standards, however; as part or respecting ourselves and validating our agency, we need to strongly reject these norms.  Women are beautiful no matter what forms our bodies take on. 


Tune Tuesday: The Tragically Hip Ahead By A Century

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Once again the embedding was shut down on youtube, so please click the above image to hear the song.  The Tragically Hip is one of my all time favourite Cannuck bands.  I have tried desperately to construct a specific memory of this band.  Every time that they have played anywhere near me, I have had to work, or been to sick to go.  It’s like I have the curse of The Tragically Hip.  I know many of their songs by heart and Ahead by a Century is one of my all time favs.  When Katrina happened, New Orleans is Sinking was banned from the airwaves.  Looking back, it was quite prophetic that they wrote that song.  At any rate, you know the routine.  Please share your hip memories in the comment section, or feel free to give a shout out to your favourite song.

Zahara Jolie-Pitt Ask Your Mama To Buy A Comb

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I came across this image at Newsweek, when someone was wrongly associated with my blog.  This is not the first time that Zahara has made an appearance in public, looking like a comb is a foreign concept to her adoptive mother.  When White celebrities adopt Black children, there is always much discussion about what the children stand to gain from the relationship and little understanding of the connections that the children lose.  Economic advantages are wonderful in life but they do not  feed the soul or inform the person. Brad Pitt has gone on record saying that they use Carol's Daughter on her hair, but if that is the case, why is it always a hot mess?

Angelina may be used to throwing her long silky tresses into a ponytail and hitting the road, but Black hair cannot be treated the same way. You cannot just slap some product in the child's hair and send her out the door.  Can you even imagine one of the Obama girls looking like Zahara for one minute?  This is just one example of the ways in which White adoptions of Black children are problematic. No matter how much Jolie loves Zahara, she cannot teach her what it is to be a Black woman. Femininity is not the same across race no matter how liberal you may be.

A woman with Jolies resources could certainly afford to pay someone to ensure that Zahara left the house looking cared for. I do believe that the lack of attention, comes down to her ignorance of exactly how political  hair is, in the lives of Black women. Madonna’s adopted daughter has her hair in braids and though I am still unhappy with the terms of that adoption, at least she is attempting to be true to the child's culture.  How many of these children have we seen grow to adulthood, looking like a mess, until some Black person finally talked to them about proper hair care? 

Hair is very much a part of a Black woman's identity. As a child, I remember sitting at my mothers knee each week, getting my hair oiled and combed.  Not once in my childhood did I leave the house looking like Zahara.  In these moments, not only was my mother showing her love for me, she was teaching me to care for myself and my appearance.  What lessons is Zahara learning, running around the place looking like a brush and a comb are foreign objects?  The child is not a plaything . She is a live person that will one day grow into an adult woman; does she not deserve to have the loving care that she needs?

When it comes to a Black girl, one cannot simply say oh it’s just hair.  How you feel about your hair is often a reflection of the degree to which you have internalized racist understandings of Blackness.  What positives will come from a White mother treating her natural Black hair as though it is unimportant?  Black women have been fired from their jobs for insisting that they be allowed to wear their hair natural.  The term nappy has been used repeatedly as an insult as though our natural selves are less than.  When Jolie ignores Zahara’s hair she is acting as though a significant part of her culture and history is meaningless.

The first time the child appeared unkept, it was possible to give Angelina a pass, after all, children will play and get messy.  The issue is that time and time again this is the way that Zahara appears and therefore; it is possible to state that a lack of concern is their everyday position. Angelina and Brad can afford to ignore the intricacies of Blackness because they walk the world with White privilege; to do so with a Black child is to handicap them.    Zahara may have the last name Jolie-Pitt but the world will not envision her two White adoptive parents when they see her, they will only see a Black child and all of the negative stereotypes that go with it.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Turkey Day

I wanted to wish all the Cannuck readers of this blog Happy Turkey Day. I say this rather than thanksgiving because of the colonialism involved with celebrating Thanksgiving.  I hope that you have a wonderful day spending time with your family.   I will be back to posting regularly tomorrow.

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Yes There Is A Rape Culture

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Last night Monica of Transgriot and I interviewed Melissa of Shakesville and Cara of the Curvature and Feminists about rape and our rape culture.  I was a very good conversation in which both women made some wonderful commentary.  I highly suggest that you check out the podcast.  Simply click on the above image to download it for your listening pleasure.

I don’t often have open threads on serious issues, but in this case I would like to offer everyone the opportunity to share their stories.  This will be a heavily moderated thread, so feel free to discuss in confidence your experiences or how you have healed from an assault.  There will be zero tolerance of apologism or victim blaming.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Shame: Vampire Edition

image Yes, I am going to admit it for all of the world to see.  I have a vampire addiction.  I will watch anything vampire related.  It started many years ago when I discovered Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice.  I have read every single one of her vampire chronicles.  Alright, alright, I own them as well.  I have memorized the movie adaptation of Interview with the Vampire and will often say the lines along with the actors when I watch the movie. Don’t even ask how many times I have seen it, you really don’t want to know. 

I have yet to read the Sookie Stackhouse novels, or the Twilight series but you can bet they are on my radar.  At this point, I have watched all of True Blood and have even obsessively watched them in rerun, trying desperately to get my image fix until the new season starts.  I have a HUGE HUGE HUGE thing for Eric.  I just love the whole cool and deadpan vampire routine that he does.  I have even caught myself randomly singing the theme from True Blood, but in my defence that song is damn sexy.   Come on, “I don’t know who you think you are but before this night is through, I wanna do bad things with you”.  It’s catchy and naughty.

I did watch Twilight the movie, though I did so claiming only to be researching why the feminist blogosphere had so much to say about it.  Sure, it was all about research I tried to tell myself, as I pondered why the hell these vampires had no fangs and glimmered in the sunlight.  Not for one moment did I think about the gender dynamics, I had an undead fixation to deal with.

Recently, I discovered that there is a show on television called The Vampire Diaries.  I watched one episode out of curiosity, (pretending that I was not in need of a fix) and declared it was worthy of watching.  Yeah, fangs and blood, was there even any doubt that I would be drawn in?

I talked Destruction into being a vampire for Halloween last year and I am busy trying to see if I can coax Mayhem into being one this year.  Yes, I know it is bad to bring the children into my obsession.  The unhusband has suggested a support group, but he fails to understand that they are all about supporting my vampire fixation and not curing it. 

image Yeah, it is creepy but the love of the vampire has become really mainstream in the last few years.  I can take comfort in the fact that I am not the only weirdo.  I believe it is the idea of never dying…think about how much a vampire is able to witness.  Perhaps it is the sexual pull; the giving up of ones personal will to a force greater than you.  I don’t know, in fact I don’t even really care.  I just know that I am hooked.

Alright my fellow creepy people.  It is time for you to come out of the coffin and admit any fascination you have with the occult.  Perhaps you have a thing for werewolves, ghosts or even mummies.  What ever gets your creepy little undead heart beating, now would be the time to fess up to it.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize: brilliant portent or bad joke?

I have a new post of at Global Comment

image Since 1901, The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to those that have gone to great lengths to make significant contributions to our world. Some of the notables include Jimmy Carter Jr, Nelson Mandela, The 14th Dalai Lama (Tensin Gyatso), and Mother Teresa. There can be no doubt that the aforementioned names have tirelessly worked to ensure that the world that we live in is a better place. Nominations for the award took place in early February of this year and Obama was not even inaugurated until January 20th. This, of course, raises the question of whether Obama has at this time accomplished enough to be given such a prestigious award.

Many labour under the assumption that one must merit the The Nobel Peace Prize, rather than the award itself being a signification of hope and encouragement. Yet according to the Associated Press, “More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.”

This would make commentary about Obama’s award being “based in affirmative action” quite ironic if it were not for the fact that Thobjorn Jagland, the former prime minister of Norway, who chaired this year’s committee, insists that it’s for work the president has already accomplished. Apparently the award was given for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Since entering the international stage, Obama’s message has been consistent in terms of a demand for change and accountability. When this is compared to the actions of his predecessor George Bush Jr, it is fair to say that his position apromotes global harmony and values our shared humanity. In fact, the Norwegian Nobel Committee released the following statement regarding the selection of Barack Obama for an award:

“Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”

According to the Washington Post,

“Obama has pledged to make progress on three other fronts: pushing for Senate ratification of an international treaty banning nuclear testing; reaching an agreement on halting production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium; and strengthening the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, the grand global bargain in which most nations pledged not to seek nuclear arms”.

However, Obama’s insistence that the United States will retain a military arsenal “as long as these weapons exist,” is indeed problematic. How is it possible that the only nation to use an atomic bomb still considers that it has the right to determine which states can possess nuclear arms as a form of deterrence? True leadership would mean complete and total disarmament. This is more about maintaining American hegemony than it is about ensuring a nuclear free world.

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