Friday, November 20, 2009

White Thoughts/ Black Thoughts

Hashtag games are a very popular feature on twitter.  What makes them interesting, is that they occur spontaneously; with people from various class, race and sexual identities playing along.  The anonymity of the internet means that people more often display a truer side of their nature.  There are certain thoughts or ideas, that we censure because we know that an open discussion may lead to a negative feedback.  This can readily be seen by the hostility that regularly appears in the comment section of many social justice blogs.

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There can be no doubt that certain language or behaviours are indeed cultural.  Who can forget the consternation on the part of White political pundits, when Obama answered “yeah we good,”  in response to a question regarding whether or not he wanted change back after paying a bill.  Prominent POC like Colin Powell, have commented on the phenomenon known as shifting, depending upon who you are in conversation with.  Language that would be understood as improper or even grammatically incorrect, is not deemed problematic by many members of the Black community. It instead infers a form of shared experience.

Language in many ways denotes not only race but class position.  It serves as a barrier to access.  When we consider that the point of language is communication, the fact that we have so disciplined its usage is highly problematic and reflective of the fractures within our society.  When Obama said “yeah we good”, his meaning was clearly understood by the person he was addressing and therefore; the need for further conversation on this issue is reflective of the ways in which language is used to denote an individuals place in our hierarchal society.

Behind this twitter game, the trueism of difference was clearly illustrated.  Because of varying frames of reference, Blacks and Whites do not often see an issue from the same perspective.  What made this little game problematic, was the obvious negativity associated with Blackness.  Blackness was associated with poverty, sexism and violence and  this is a manifestation of internalized racism.  Even as POC  cling to their difference to form identity, they have taken on the negative stereotypes assigned to us by Whiteness.  Had these same stereotypes been tweeted by a White person, charges of racism would have quickly followed.  There is this idea that because one is Black, the participation in such self depreciating behaviour is not necessarily harmful. 

What this little twitter game reveals, are the ways in which the phenomenon known as shifting, can in some ways promote negative ideas associated with Blackness.  There is a large distance between Obama’s yeah we good and an entire online game that reveals that in the minds of these tweeps, that Black cultural expression necessarily means the participation in the baser human instincts.  In this case, it was not the language that was problematic but the meaning inferred. That these tweeps could not see the ways in which their behaviour was participating in the cultural and social devaluation of Blackness is further problematic. If we take these ideas upon ourselves, we make them true.  Whiteness rules in part because of our participation in its hegemony. 

Culturally, this shift in language is important because it maintains our diversity.  It is a form of a rebellion and such failure to concede to the cultural demands of Whiteness can be libratory. If  we take on the affects of Whiteness, then the process is meaningless;  we have only created a new format from which Blackness can once again be demeaned.  If we are going to go to the trouble to change language, then we need to follow through and create ideas that promote Black pride and unity.   Just as the slaves spoke in code to discuss following the North Star, so to can this form of communication be employed to symbolize our refusal to take on the master’s tools.


Transgender Day of Remembrance

This is not a day of celebration. This is a day when  we must mourn the fact that we live in a world that is so intolerant, that it means death for many.  Being trans in this world is not an easy identity. As a cisgendered woman, I can only work to challenge my assumptions and dismantle the privileges attached to my body.  I can never for one moment walk even a single footstep in their shoes.  This year, once again too many names have been added to the list of those who have been murdered for being transgendered.  These are not just names; they represent living breathing people that are no longer with us.

clip_image001Cynthia Nicole  clip_image001[6]Michael Hunt

clip_image001[4]Taysia Elzy   clip_image001[8] Caprice Curry

clip_image001[10]Ebru Soykan (also referred to as Dilan Pirinc )

clip_image001[12]Jimmy McCollough  clip_image001[14]Kamilla

clip_image001[16]Tyli'a Mack also known as NaNa Boo clip_image001[18]Paulina Ibarra 

clip_image001[22]Andrea Waddell 

clip_image001[26]Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

These are but a few of the names that were added to this years list.  Each and every single one of them, represented something that was unique, that hatred and intolerance brought to an end.  As this year comes to close, we light a candle for those that we have lost, in the hope that they will not be forgotten.  It is my fervent wish,  that in the future, being trans does not mean risking your life to be who you are.  May we all find tolerance and peace.  It  is our differences that make us beautiful.

Your Scooter Means You’re Poor

image Each day I interact with the public, I learn something new about dealing with my disability.  At first, I thought that I would only have to learn the new changes and or limitations of my body, but it quickly became apparent that with an obvious disability, the way that people understood me also changed dramatically. 

One of the largest assumptions I have learned is that my class status is understood to be decidedly poor.   I am not one for affectations or obvious displays of wealth.  This means that I don’t wear jewellery or brand label clothing.  I could certainly afford to walk around with these shiny baubles, but I refuse to take part in these systems because they are based upon the impoverishment of others.  As a Black woman in a small town, this would be enough for some to read me as poor but it was never a constant label.  I have been offered layaway at stores, when I had more than enough money to pay for the item I was shopping for.  Of course it was also assumed that I didn’t have a credit card.  Everyone knows that all Black people have bad credit. It has even been openly assumed on several occasions, that I rented rather than owned my home.

I am by no means a rich woman but my family and I are comfortable.  We live within our means and occasionally splurge on comfort items.  I see no shame in poverty because I understand that were that to be the case, it would be result of the capitalist mode of exchange, which is designed to enrich some while leaving a vast majority of the population impoverished.  How or why should one feel shame for existing in a system that one has no control over?

What is most interesting to me, are the ways in which my class position has been consistently understood since having an obvious manifestation of my disability.  No longer do people assume the possibility that I may be lower to middle class, now it is assumed by most that I interact with, that I am poor.  It is assumed by all that I am incapable of doing anything meaningful.  Before becoming disabled, I understood that to many, being differently abled is a licence to live off of our social welfare system, thereby draining the system.

Everywhere I go the same disdain that we commonly show to those we think are on some sort of social welfare, is solidly aimed at me.  My son needs new equipment for his karate and we were offered access to the aid program.  There were no questions regarding what our income was, my scooter  spoke for us as a family.  I am in the market for a new scooter and it is assumed by all of the salespeople that I am on Ontario Disability.  The look of shock when I correct this assumption never fails to surprise me.  In a conversation with parents at my sons hockey game, every one was announcing what they did for a living and no one thought to ask me.  It was assumed that the unhusband was gainfully employed but of course, my scooter meant that I did nothing all day.   Even if I were strictly speaking a stay at home mother, that would entail work.

I have learned that differently abled means poor to many.  It means that you are not working.  It means that you have no identity or interests.  I understand for many being differently abled means poverty because we live in a world that does easily make the accommodations that are necessary to participate in paid work.  Knowing that this is the case, why does the stigma attach itself so ferociously? If a person is unable to work because of a lack of accessibility, why do we feel the need to persecute them because of the way our society is designed?  

When I tell people that I write, the answer is usually that it makes sense.  It does not occur to anyone that I chose this because of a love of writing and sharing ideas.  Writing is something that I was interested in from the time that I was a small child. Because I am doing it, it certainly is not real work.   Such ideas do not attach themselves to a friend of mine, who makes his living freelancing in this area.  Sitting together, people will invariably ask him a multitude of questions, ignoring me completely.  It is understood that he chose his work out of love and not convenience.

I have learned that much like my other identities, my scooter will speak for me.  It will announce to the world a host of suppositions, which they will invariably bring to our interactions.  Even as I must navigate the changes in my body, I must also navigate their disableism.  The ability to form my own identity and my own purpose is solidly denied me and I must fight to claim it in almost every interaction.  I am not my mobility device.  My scooter should only announce that my body has certain limitations; it should not signal who I am as a person. To think that they can discern  my bank balance based on a mobility device is just one of the ways society imposes an identity upon the differently abled.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

But Accessibility is too Expensive

image Last night I froze watching my oldest child play hockey.  It is part of the duty of a Canadian mother to tolerate this little ritual.  Destruction got his second assist and though they lost the game, he played well.  As I stood there, my body wracked in complete pain, I decided that it was time to make management aware of exactly how inaccessible their arena was.

If one is a wheelchair user, it is impossible to see over the rink to actually watch the game.  There are no play by plays and therefore; if one is blind, accessing the game in any form is impossible.  Due to Sarcoidosis and Fibromyalgia, I have limited mobility.  This means that I have the option to stand for over an hour in pain to view the game, or struggle to sit in the stands that were not built with a modicum of comfort in mind.  I have tried alternating between standing in pain and then missing a few minutes of the game to rest in my scooter and standing for the whole time in order not to miss the game.

Due to the weather and being forced to stand, the pain was so terrible I was literally weeping silently.  I walked into the office and asked to speak to someone in charge.  I explained the issue and suggested that they install a platform, which would allow scooter and wheelchair users to watch the game.  Like any other parent, I paid for my child to have this experience and it is completely unfair, that I should be forced to suffer, so that I can participate. 

The woman gave me a depreciating smile and informed of the cost involved.  Of course they will look into it and maybe in the spring they can do something.  Isn’t that lovely.  You will note, that she made certain to point out that I was asking her to spend money.  This is always the excuse given when the disabled demand that accommodations be made so that we can participate.  Shame on me for not having a normal body, which can tolerate standing for an hour outside on a cold Ontario fall evening. 

This facility is just over five years old.  They put a ramp on the pro shop to ensure that a differently abled person can access a bathroom and buy their equipment but actual participation was not thought of in the least little bit. Why should I care about the expense that they are now incurring because they did not think about the differently abled to begin with?  Had we been the least bit of concern, the rink would have been built to accommodate everyone.

When my son finished his game, I tried to hide my tears knowing that if he saw me in pain, it would diminish his desire to play the game. Unfortunately, he saw the pain written all over my face and I watched his exuberance turn to sadness.  As the weather gets colder, I will have to stop watching his games.  I simply cannot tolerate the pain that the cold causes and standing on my feet.  By building an arena that is inaccessible, they chose to purposefully exclude the differently abled.  This is how we are erased.  Each time I stand through a game, pushing myself to the very limit, I am enforcing the super crip mythology.Rise above comes at a cost and only the differently abled must pay the fee.

At the end of the game, as I looked around at the faces of the other parents, all that I could see was contentment.  They had just watched their son or daughter take part in a traditional right of passage for Canadians.  It had cost them nothing but the money for equipment and enrolment, whereas; for me it would mean a night of sleeplessness, despite pain killers because I had pushed my body one step to far.

If the exclusion was limited to this one place, it would still be terrible but bearable. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Though I can enter the dojo where my son takes karate, if I need to go to the bathroom I must go two doors down to a  donut shop which is completely accessible.  When I take my scooter into the Dojo, the other parents make me aware of how inconvenient it is, that I am taking up so much space.  One even had the nerve to suggest I just park my scooter outside. 

There are stores I cannot enter unless I leave my scooter outdoors.  Accessible buses do not run on all of the routes, forcing me to ride my scooter to and from destinations.  When I take my scooter, drivers are upset if I am on the road and pedestrians treat it is an affront that I would dare to use the same side walk as them.  How am I to win?  The idea is for people like me to simply disappear.  If we didn’t take up space and demand to live our lives, then the able bodied would not have to make any kind of concession at all.  

It is either rise above and suffer in silence, or stay home.  Simply because one is able to stand for an hour in the freezing cold, does not mean that everyone can.  It is the everyday small exclusions  over time that erase the differently abled.  Must I scream I am here to be seen?


Couples Retreat Erases Black People

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When Universal decided to market Couples Retreat in the UK, it removed the Black actors from the both the poster's photo and the list of stars typed out. Of course, Universal did not mean any offence by this action. The Mail on Sunday reports:

The studio said it regretted causing offence and has abandoned plans to use the revised poster in other countries... A Universal spokesman said the revised advert aimed 'to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognisable in international markets'.

Simplify” is a very interesting word to describe the racism that Universal employed to market this movie.  Considering that the U.S is where it is economically because of the the free labour of African Americans, to ignore the work  of Black actors, is simply building upon the exploitation that has been commonplace in U.S. history.  Many still function under the myth that the U.S. gained economic dominance through citizens pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.  In truth, each and every single one of those citizens stood on the shoulders of African American slaves and their descendants to reach economic dominance.  This is what is known as an internal colony. 

The fact that this practice still goes on, is evidence that the myth of equality is just that, a myth.  If Black people were equal, it would not be considered unpalatable to have their images on the cover of a movie poster. Their version of simplification involves the promotion of White hegemony.  How are Black actors to gain the prominence that the studio desires, if they are systematically erased? 

This is not the first time people of color have been erased from advertising.  Each time a studio is called on this, an inauthentic apology is proffered.  In fact, Whiteness frequently offers these so-called apologies after engaging in obvious acts of racism.   Universal had to have known that the new posters would be deeply offensive, they simply did not care.  How many times are POC going to be offered these apologies?  Just stop engaging in racist behaviour.  How hard would that be? 

We may have Will Smith, Oprah and Barack, but the bottom line is that despite a few prominent POC, Whiteness is determined to ensure that the majority labour in obscurity.  People like Smith and Oprah are elevated so that Whiteness can claim equality, but for every Smith or Oprah, there are literally millions that labour unrecognized for low wages in obscurity.   The power that the aforementioned individuals have managed to achieve, in no way negates the fact that millions of POC are daily marginalized and exploited.  Whiteness points to Oprah and Smith so that it can feel good about itself.  Each generation a select few Blacks are given the golden tap, but how does that help when a Black man with a college education is less likely to get a job, than a White man with a criminal record?

We can be outraged at this particular incident, however; unless White privilege is dismantled, things like this will continue to happen.  It is racism that is at the basis of this purposeful erasure and therefore; we must combat the diminishment of bodies of color whenever it occurs.  These companies need to be aware that apologizing after the fact is simply not good enough.


Wednesday What’s Up?

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Well another hump day has arrived.  Yes, we are steadily making it through the work week.  Please use this thread to chat about what ever is on your mind.  Are you reading anything interesting, have you seen a movie, or checked out an awesome restaurant?  Is there an exhibit you are dying to see?  Is there an issue that is driving you around the bend?  This is your thread to share.  I will join you in the comment section.

Editors Note: Not one crack about the fact that I am reading Twilight.  I know those of you who follow me on twitter are aware of this.  Yes, it’s problematic as hell, but I like my shiny vampires.  In case you are wondering this is me sticking my tongue out at you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Obama Bows to Japanese Emperor Akihito

Ever since Obama deigned to bow to the Japanese Emperor Akihito conservatives have been literally tying themselves in knots.

But Mr. Obama, unlike his predecessors, likely knows no better, and many of those around him, true children of the grungy '60s, are contemptuous of custom. Cutting America down to size is what attracts them to "hope" for "change." It's no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what the America of "the 57 states" is about. He was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream.

‘Cause staying with convention is working so well for America right now?  We’ll just ignore the two wars, the slumping economy and a damaged international reputation.   We won’t think about the fact that American foreign policy, created a desire in murderous men to crash two planes into the trade center and one into the pentagon.   We will just ignore the fact, that on what should have been a day of mourning, no such understanding existed in various places around the globe.

Shortly after 9/11, our then Prime Minister commented to George Bush, “Perhaps this is a lesson.  When you are on top you have to be nicer to the people on the bottom”.  While Canada has been no paradigm, in terms of avoiding neo-colonialism, his words at the moment were quite apt.  Throughout his entire presidency, George Bush snubbed the world and acted as though being president, gave him the right to openly engage in criminal behaviour and flout international law. 

There was a time when the phrase the sun never sets on the British Empire was a truism.  America like all great empires before it, will eventually have its fall.  It does not comfort Americans to know that history has proven that when area asserts a measure of control over others, eventually a new one rises to take it place.  If this were not true, we would all be speaking Latin and not English today.  In the last decade, America has demonstrated many of the characteristics of an empire on the decline.  Barack Obama, with his message of hope and change, implied a change of direction, though he is still operating with a capitalist, patriarchal, racist, sexist framework.  These established norms are damaging to the promotion of a free society and therefore damaging to any agenda in which the U.S engages in.

There are many that believe, that it is too early to judge Obama and his accomplishments, given that he has been in office for less than a year.  The right has gone to great lengths to construct Obama as weak (read: effeminate) and communist in his political leanings.  Only those who prey upon a mantle of fear could even argue that Obama is a communist.  Is actions have been in defence of a capitalist nation and this can be seen by his failure to fight for socialized healthcare coverage for all.  Dismantling a pay per use system can only be in the best interest of the people.  The fear that it will cause damage to insurance companies who continue to profit in the billions, speaks of a desire to promote the interests of the ruling bourgeoisie.

Obama has made precious few gestures at this point to the working/under class.  There have been no new regulations regarding working hours or union organization.  While rich corporations received a bail out after acting in the most irresponsible manner, the average citizen was left to struggle on their own.  Tent cities now decorate the American landscape and yet Obama is somehow a communist?   His actions prove this “It's no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what the America of "the 57 states" is about,” to be an outright lie.  Obama is acting within the tradition of ever single American president that has gone before him.  His eloquence and rhetoric may hide this from the right wing ,who fear a loss of undeserved privilege, but wall street and the bankers no all to well, that he will be there tuck them in a night and wish them sweet dreams.

Bowing to a foreign leader does not make him weak.  It is an attempt on his part to curry favour with foreign nations that the US has angered over the last few decades.  This bow while showing respect to a different culture, is predicated on the American desire to maintain its globally hegemony.   The U.S has no intention of closing Okinawa, or dealing with the mass rapes that have been committed by American soldiers.  No matter how diminutive these gestures might make Obama and by default the American people appear, they are token at best.  Why make  a big deal about a bow when it is clear that the US is still in charge of the unipolar world?   Even if Obama were to kiss the feet Emperor Akihito,  it would be clear to all the world which of the two men possess real power.

Finally, the continual reference to Obama as an “other” or un-American has its basis in racism.  Of course he does not know how to behave because Black people aren’t real Americans are they?  It does not matter what his birth certificate says and did we mention that his mother loved getting the big Black dick?  No good American woman (read: White woman) is going to let herself fall into the Mandingo love trap.  Perhaps, these traditional puritans would prefer having a president who could declare Mandela dead, thus bringing shame not only upon the country but the education system.  They need not worry though, Obama may not be as dense as Bush, but he certainly is aware of who butters his daily bread.

 


Does Palin Have A Lot In Common With Black Women?

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I was reading The Intersection of Madness, when I came across this story.  I don’t normally agree with much that Rippa has to say, but damn he was right this time.

I'd wager that, unlike me, most black women - being liberal Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents - have a pretty negative view of Palin. She's been called "white trash" by white elites, and even by some blacks. Yet ironically, Palin probably has just as much - and arguably more - in common with many black women than most female politicians. Palin is from a working-class family. She's not from the "right" part of the country. She doesn't possess the elite background that many folks have come to expect out of political leaders.

While she went through four different colleges and universities - eventually returning to the University of Idaho to finish - she did stick with it and get that degree. Like most black women, she has Christian faith. Palin tells you what she thinks. She has come up in a mostly male-dominated field. She is the breadwinner in her family, and she balances work and family commitments. She's even had to deal with a teen daughter who had an out-of-wedlock child and "baby daddy" drama, an issue that America's black moms disproportionately deal with regarding their daughters and suitors.

Just like I do with black women who persevere despite various barriers, I admire Palin's tenacity. I can also identify with the title of her book, which emphasizes her maverick streak against much of the GOP establishment

Sarah Palin may be oppressed because of gender but her situation is not now or ever, akin to the struggles of a Black woman.  Attempting to paint her in this light is extremely offensive.  Black women are marginalized by both race and sex, from the moment of their birth.  When you compare the attacks Palin faced and the ones Michelle Obama continues to face, clearly there is a difference.  I don’t recall Palin ever being called an ape, angry, man like, or ugly.  All of the aforementioned commentary have been aimed at Michelle Obama, whom Palin could not even hope to be on her best day.

I will agree that it is certainly problematic to refer to Palin as “White trash,” however; comparing her struggles to that faced by Black women is jut another example of the ways in which White women have come to be understood as a monolithic expression of femininity.  When Black women and White women are in the same class, it is certain that due to racism, that the White woman will be offered  opportunities that the Black woman could on dream of.  Let’s consider that Palin tried to finish university 4 different times and was still found to be fit to be the governor of a state.  In what world do you believe that a Black woman would have been given the same opportunity?  Michelle Obama graduated SUMA CUM LAUDE and to this day, there are cracks about her intelligence.  For Black people to succeed, we have to be heads and shoulders above the competition, not equal to it.

Finally, the commentary regarding Levi is extremely harmful.  Yes, there are Black women having children outside of wedlock but to typify this as a Black issue reveals racism.  With the divorce rate as high as it is, many women are parenting alone.  They may not have started off as single mothers, but they end up in that situation anyway because of the breakdown in the traditional patriarchal marriage.  This “drama” is not a reflection of race, rather it is the ability of men to either abdicate their parental duties, or the ability to use their status as male within a patriarchal world to oppress women. 

While the author is quick to make comparisons to Black women, she is careful to ignore the race baiting that Palin participated in during the campaign.  Palin does not seek any ally relationship with Black women, despite sitting on Oprah and lying through her whitened teeth.  She made it clear while on the road that she was appealing to Whiteness and White privilege.  The woman has no more in common with Black women than sheep have with goats. 


Tune in Tuesday: Marvin Gaye What’s Going On

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today - Ya
Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today
Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Ah, what's going on
In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on
Father, father, everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh
Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's going on - Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby

All these years later, with two wars waging and the economy in the slumps, this song continues to be relevant social commentary.  Marvin Gaye was a truly talented man whose time on this earth was way to short.  Quite a few of my friends are out of work right now and they are worried about what the future holds and this song seems so apt.  It saddens me to know, that all of these years later we are no closer to a healing that when Gaye first sang these prophetic words.

Does this song touch you in any way?  Let it fly in the comment section.

A Spark of Wisdom: Why marriage rights are important: another angle

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This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

Specifically, why marriage rights are important to homosexuals. I've already spoken many many many times about all the essential, non-imitatable rights and protections are inherent in marriage. I've also touched on how denying ANY right, no matter how insignificant, sends a dangerous message from the government that that group is worthy of discrimination (though I'm going to cover that more) but those are other points.

Now I'm going to ramble about the assumptions of a relationship most heterosexuals enjoy EVEN WHEN THEY'RE NOT MARRIED. I'm doing this because I've seen a few heterosexuals around the edge of the marriage debate basically saying "well, why do you want it? Why is it important?"

Because I think, to a degree, there are some factors to this that heterosexuals miss simply because we're all inclined to take for granted the advantages of privilege and we all just assume the power of rights when we have them for so long.

The fact is our societies are prejudiced and they have both privileged and normalised the idea of a heterosexual 2 partner relationship - to such a degree that anything outside of this is going to face opposition AND NOT GAIN THE ADVANTAGES OF ALL THE ASSUMPTIONS RELATIONSHIPS BENEFIT FROM.

And the latter is a point to emphasise (among many many other points). We can spend some depressing hours googling our way through horror stories about how denial of gay rights has caused real pain. Whether it's the lesbian who had to wait with her children unable to see her partner of many many years even though she was dying in the hospital, or the gay man who lost his house when his long term partner died and they had crippling inheritance tax or the partner of a gay soldier who had to learn about his boyfriend's death when the media turned up to INTERVIEW HIM ABOUT IT (I think that's as much to do with DADT as anything - but seriously, that's madness) to the INNUMERABLE cases where wills, power of attorneys et al have been challenged (successfully!) when homosexuals have desperately taken what limited steps we could to ensure basic rights that heterosexuals take for granted.

Do you know what the key linking factor between all these beyond how they would all have been solved if the couples could marry? The factor is that if all of the couples were heterosexual they would not have happened - EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT MARRIED.

If it was a woman wanting to see her long term male partner dying in the hospital the hospital staff wouldn't have blinked. Challenging the will of a man who left all his property to a woman he had spent the last decade living with would be considered utterly insane. No-one has trouble thinking of someone fulfilling a parental role of children they have raised for 5, 10 or 20 years even if they aren't married to either biological parent and haven't adopted the kids - so long as they are heterosexual. Most employers won't blink if you ask for time off because your heterosexual partner has had a bereavement, life tragedy or is hurt and needs someone to help look after them. Even little things - I cannot count the number of cards (and even invites) I've received from people who KNOW all about Beloved and have for years that don't include his name. And I may have to go on an axe-murdering rampage through my local bank if they don't give us a joint bank account soon.

To me, ultimately, marriage is about declaring to the world that you are an official couple (actually, I think TRADITIONAL marriage is about treating women as transferable property from father to her new owner, the husband, but that's another matter and certainly a legitimate reason to have a problem with marriage) and that you should be treated accordingly. Many marriage laws and rights cover that - from treating 2 people as separate entities to 2 people acting, at least occasionally, as one unit. The reason why this isn't always seen as necessary for heterosexual couples is because society will treat you like that ANYWAY (at least usually).

We don't get that assumption. It's the legacy of societal prejudice and the blinkered view that privilege can give even the most well meaning of us. Even when we ARE married, it can be still very hard to get people and the powers that be to treat us as such. Without that legal recognition it can be like getting blood out of a stone.

And that is why marriage rights are important. It's an official recognition not just that our individual relationships exist but a movement for society to realise that YES same-sex couples exist, YES these are reasonable relationships and should be treated as such and YES the assumptions that are applied so casually to heterosexuals should apply here too. Even for those of us that do not get married - it is a step towards having those assumptions, those so-helpful societal assumptions, apply to us as well.


Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin Are…

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What a delightful way to start the day.  Try typing Rush Limbaugh is, into the search area on google.  The above suggestions absolutely made my day.  There is hope for us all yet.  It would seem despite being  a pompous windbag,  that he has not been able to fool google users.  When the internet decides that the nicest thing it can say about him, is that he is wrong, hopefully that is a sign that his insipid commentary will one day come to an end. If nothing else, a young person googling Limabugh will discover immediately what a giant douche he is.  My only issue with this response is the continual use of the word fat as a negative descriptor.  Limbaugh is a lot of things but his weight has nothing to do with his nasty behaviour.  Each day he opens his mouth he streams filth and privilege.  There is no need to comment on his weight to point out how vile he is.

Seeing as how Rush Limabaugh is,  lead to a clear denouncement, I then moved on to Sarah Palin.

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Sarah Palin was a hot mess from almost the minute she entered the national stage.  She couldn’t come up with the name of a book, magazine or periodical that she reads.  She had that wonderful call of encouragement from DJ’s pretending to be the president of France and she didn’t know what the Bush doctrine was.  No amount of winking at the camera could mask the fact that intelligence is not her strong suit.  She has twisted the truth and openly engaged in race baiting, but “real Americans” just love her. Now she is a about to tour the country pitching her revenge tell all book .

Palin is another person that it is quite easy to revile, if you have a thinking brain in your head.  While it is wonderful to see that once again the internet is on to this woman, the descriptors are once again problematic.  Retarded is highly ableist and honestly, don’t the non neurologically typical deserve to be treated better than being compared to Sarah Palin?  Retarded as a negative descriptor falls too easily from our lips, because disableism is common place.  To take someone's life and someone's experience and attach it and individual like Sarah Palin, is just another indicator that despite the social lie that we respect the differently abled; in truth we simply see this as yet another opportunity to engage in coercive power and privilege.  Palin is an easy person to criticize because her faults are naked before the world.  How about we skip the ableism and call her what she is, an obtuse, over privileged idiot who can whistle Dixie out of her frozen Alaskan ass.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Why U.S. occupation cannot transform Afghanistan or Iraq

By Sara Flounders

Published Nov 15, 2009 5:39 PM

Just how powerful is the U.S. military today?

Why is the largest military machine on the planet unable to defeat the resistance in Afghanistan, in a war that has lasted longer than World War II or Vietnam?

Afghanistan ranks among the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world today. It has one of the shortest life expectancy rates, highest infant mortality rates and lowest rates of literacy.

The total U.S. military budget has more than doubled from the beginning of this war in 2001 to the $680 billion budget signed by President Barack Obama Oct. 28. The U.S. military budget today is larger than the military budgets of the rest of the world combined. The U.S. arsenal has the most advanced high-tech weapons.

The funds and troop commitment to Afghanistan have grown with every year of occupation. Last January another 20,000 troops were sent; now there is intense pressure on President Obama to add an additional 40,000 troops. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. More than three times as many forces are currently in Afghanistan when NATO forces and military contractors are counted.

Eight years ago, after an initial massive air bombardment and a quick, brutal invasion, every voice in the media was effusive with assurances that Afghanistan would be quickly transformed and modernized, and the women of Afghanistan liberated. There were assurances of schools, roads, potable water, health care, thriving industry and Western-style “democracy.” A new Marshall Plan was in store.

Was it only due to racist and callous disregard that none of this happened?

In Iraq, how could conditions be worse than during the 13 years of starvation sanctions the U.S. imposed after the 1991 war? Today more than a third of the population has died, is disabled, internally displaced and/or refugees. Fear, violence against women and sectarian divisions have shredded the fabric of society.

Previously a broad current in Pakistan looked to the West for development funds and modernization. Now they are embittered and outraged at U.S. arrogance after whole provinces were forcibly evacuated and bombarded in the hunt for Al Qaeda.

U.S. occupation forces are actually incapable of carrying out a modernization program. They are capable only of massive destruction, daily insults and atrocities. That is why the U.S. is unable to win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan or Iraq. That is what fuels the resistance.

Today every effort meant to demonstrate the power and strength of U.S. imperialism instead confirms its growing weakness and its systemic inability to be a force for human progress on any level.

Collaborators and warlords

Part of U.S. imperialism’s problem is that its occupation forces are required to rely on the most corrupt, venal and discredited warlords. The only interest these competing military thugs have is in pocketing funds for reconstruction and development. Entire government ministries, their payrolls and their projects have been found to be total fiction. Billions allocated for schools, water and road construction have gone directly into the warlords’ pockets. Hundreds of news articles, congressional inquiries and U.N. reports have exposed just how all-pervasive corruption is.

In Iraq the U.S. occupation depends on the same type of corrupt collaborators. For example, a BBC investigation reported that $23 billion had been lost, stolen or “not properly accounted for” in Iraq. A U.S. gag order prevented discussion of the allegations. (June 10, 2008)

Part of the BBC search for the missing billions focused on Hazem Shalaan, who lived in London until he was appointed minister of defence in 2004. He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2 billion out of the Iraqi defence ministry.

But the deeper and more intractable problem is not the local corrupt collaborators. It is the very structure of the Pentagon and the U.S. government. It is a problem that Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general in Afghanistan, or President Obama cannot change or solve.

It is the problem of an imperialist military built solely to serve the profit system.

Contractor industrial complex

All U.S. aid, both military and what is labelled “civilian,” is funnelled through thousands and thousands of contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. None of these U.S. corporate middlemen are even slightly interested in the development of Afghanistan or Iraq. Their only immediate aim is to turn a hefty superprofit as quickly as possible, with as much skim and double billing as possible. For a fee they will provide everything from hired guns, such as Blackwater mercenaries, to food service workers, mechanics, maintenance workers and long-distance truck drivers.

These hired hands also do jobs not connected to servicing the occupation. All reconstruction and infrastructure projects of water purification, sewage treatment, electrical generation, health clinics and road clearance are parceled out piecemeal. Whether these projects ever open or function properly is of little interest or concern. Billing is all that counts.

In past wars, most of these jobs were carried out by the U.S. military. The ratio of contractors to active-duty troops is now more than 1-to-1 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Vietnam War it was 1-to-6.

In 2007 the Associated Press put the number in Iraq alone at 180,000: “The United States has assembled an imposing industrial army in Iraq that’s larger than its uniformed fighting force and is responsible for such a broad swath of responsibilities that the military might not be able to operate without its private-sector partners.” (Sept. 20, 2007)

The total was 190,000 by August 2008. (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 18, 2008)

Some corporations have become synonymous with war profiteering, such as Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater in Iraq, and Louis Berger Group, BearingPoint and DynCorp International in Afghanistan.

Every part of the U.S. occupation has been contracted out at the highest rate of profit, with no coordination, no oversight, almost no public bids. Few of the desperately needed supplies reach the dislocated population traumatized by the occupation.

There are now so many pigs at the trough that U.S. forces are no longer able to carry out the broader policy objectives of the U.S. ruling class. The U.S military has even lost count, by tens of thousands, of the numbers of contractors, where they are or what they are doing—except being paid.

Losing count of the mercenaries

The danger of an empire becoming dependent on mercenary forces to fight unpopular wars has been understood since the days of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.

A bipartisan Congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting was created last year to examine government contracting for reconstruction, logistics and security operations and to recommend reforms. However, Michael Thibault, co-chair of the commission, explained at a Nov. 2 hearing that “there is no single source for a clear, complete and accurate picture of contractor numbers, locations, contracts and cost.” (AFP, Nov. 2)

“[Thibault said] the Pentagon in April counted about 160,000 contractors mainly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, but Central Command recorded more than 242,000 contractors a month earlier.” The stunning difference of 82,000 contractors was based on very different counts in Afghanistan. The difference alone is far greater than the 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Thibault continued: “How can contractors be properly managed if we aren’t sure how many there are, where they are and what are they doing?” The lack of an accurate count “invites waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and undermines the achievement of U.S. mission objectives.” The Nov. 2 Federal Times reported that Tibault also asked: “How can we assure taxpayers that they aren’t paying for ‘ghost’ employees?”

This has become an unsolvable contradiction in imperialist wars for profit, markets and imperialist domination. Bourgeois academics, think tanks and policy analysts are becoming increasingly concerned.

Thomas Friedman, syndicated columnist and multimillionaire who is deeply committed to the long-term interests of U.S. imperialism, describes the dangers of a “contractor-industrial-complex in Washington that has an economic interest in foreign expeditions.” (New York Times, Nov. 3)

Outsourcing war

Friedman hastens to explain that he is not against outsourcing. His concern is the pattern of outsourcing key tasks, with money and instructions changing hands multiple times in a foreign country. That only invites abuse and corruption. Friedman quoted Allison Stanger, author of “One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy,” who told him: “Contractors provide security for key personnel and sites, including our embassies; feed, clothe and house our troops; train army and police units; and even oversee other contractors. Without a multinational contractor force to fill the gap, we would need a draft to execute these twin interventions.”

That is the real reason for the contracted military forces. The Pentagon does not have enough soldiers, and they don’t have enough collaborators or “allies” to fight their wars.

According to the Congressional Research Service, contractors in 2009 account for 48 percent of the Department of Defence workforce in Iraq and 57 percent in Afghanistan. Thousands of other contractors work for corporate-funded “charities” and numerous government agencies. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development make even more extensive use of them; 80 percent of the State Department budget is for contractors and grants.

Contractors are supposedly not combat troops, although almost 1,800 U.S. contractors have been killed since 9/11. (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 30) Of course there are no records on the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis killed working for U.S. corporate contractors, or the many thousands of peoples from other oppressed nations who are shipped in to handle the most dangerous jobs.

Contracting is a way of hiding not only the casualties, but also the actual size of the U.S. occupation force. Fearful of domestic opposition, the government intentionally lists the figures for the total number of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as far less than the real numbers.

A system run on cost overruns

Cost overruns and war profiteering are hardly limited to Iraq, Afghanistan or active theatres of war. They are the very fabric of the U.S. war machine and the underpinning of the U.S. economy.

When President Obama signed the largest military budget in history Oct. 28 he stated: “The Government Accountability Office, the GAO, has looked into 96 major defence projects from the last year, and found cost overruns that totalled $296 billion.” This was on a total 2009 military budget of $651 billion. So almost half of the billions of dollars handed over to military corporations are cost overruns!

This is at a time when millions of workers face long-term systemic unemployment and massive foreclosures.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now cost more than $1 trillion. The feeble health care reform bill that squeaked through the House, and might not survive Senate revisions next year, is scheduled to cost $1.1 trillion over a 10-year period.

The bloated, increasingly dysfunctional, for-profit U.S. military machine is unable to solve the problems or rebuild the infrastructure in Afghanistan or Iraq, and it is unable to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure in the U.S. It is unable to meet the needs of people anywhere.

It is absorbing the greatest share of the planet’s resources and a majority of the U.S. national budget. This unsustainable combination will sooner or later give rise to new resistance here and around the world.


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.


Honouring The Rage

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As social justice minded people, we may bristle at homophobia, sexism, racism or ableism, however;  what we often fail to do is honour the rage, if it manifests in a way that makes us uncomfortable.  If said rage interacts with something that we have personalized, somehow it is not acceptable and we turn our backs upon the marginalized person.

I recently wrote about two incidents that ended in violence.  In one case a trans woman maced a child after being taunted and in the other a professor struck a woman after being in a heated conversation regarding White privilege. In both incidents, I condemned the violence and supported the rage.  The response needs to be separated from the trigger, if we are truly going to acknowledge how damaging being targeted for an ism is.

Supporting the rage is not victim blaming, it is an acknowledgement that some behaviour is damaging to marginalized bodies.  It is easy to see the world in the simple binary of black/white, but another thing entirely to consider the nuances of a situation and understand that most things are better understood as both/and.  Denying the rage, further places marginalized bodies into the position of catering their response to support that of dominant bodies. 

Black woman are often called angry, when they dare to speak about racism, thus denying that rage is a legitimate response to being demeaned.  When you decide that you have the right to taunt someone, you have no idea what kind of marginalization that they have put up with before encountering you.  You have no idea the fear they may have built up regarding those considered privileged, after countless encounters and yet we still expect that they will react in a way that soothes our sensibilities. The fight or flight instinct is alive and well in all of us.

If I were to kick a dog repeatedly and said dog decided to bite me, how many people would still have sympathy for me?  This courtesy that we give animals, is removed once there are people involved.  In the end, our first instinct is always to support the person that is understood as privileged and therefore untouchable. That this supports the ism, that the marginalized person was reacting to in the first place is easily ignored.  We do after all have privilege to protect and we cannot have marginalized people acting in their own defence or escalating a situation.

In the case of Black men, we have generations of racism, lynchings and violence to consider.  Even  if one is from a privileged place economically, the experience of racism is still uniquely devaluing.  Each day this man walks through this world, he will remember that his ancestor was kidnapped from his homeland, openly called boy, incarcerated for daring to the breathe the same air as a White person and purposefully undereducated, keeping him poor.  With the exception of slavery, these conditions largely still exist.  When a cab drive refuses to stop, it is because all he sees before him is a dangerous nigger.  When he gets pulled over for driving while Black, one can be certain that it was his race that caused him to be understood as a threat.

Each one of these incidents is not forgotten.  In fact, they build upon each other creating a form of rage, that for some is uncontrollable.  When a gay man is called a faggot,  upon hearing the word he may remember how many have died simply for being gay or how many men were beaten.  He may even remember that police often don’t give enough of a damn to even investigate these incidents of violence.  This hate filled word comes attached with so many generations of violence and othering, yet responding in anger is simply not acceptable.  Daring to hold your partners hand in public is enough to get you beaten or spit upon and yet the rage is so easily ignored to privilege heterosexuality.

When a woman is demeaned in the workplace and complains about inappropriate touching or jokes, she is a ball busting bitch.  Why can’t she take a simple joke; never mind that this misogyny is the basis of domestic violence, and rape.  The speaker was only reaffirming a secondary class status for women and therefore; his language is not deemed harmful.  Women that react with anger are quickly disciplined and silenced, because it is assumed that femininity should be submissive in the face of attack.  This is the patriarchal ideal.

There are so many situations in which anger is a legitimate response to being purposefully targeted and yet, we can overlook this as a genuine response because it conflicts with our understanding of how marginalized bodies should react.  We may not see this as an assertion of privilege, but it most certainly is.  Violence is something that dominant bodies do to marginalized bodies.  It may take the form of swarming gay men on their way home, lynching Black men or raping women, but violence towards marginalized bodies all serves one purpose; to enforce docility through fear and pain. 

When marginalized bodies react with violence, we are quick to see the humanity of the person who was assaulted and finger wag about violence, but how many ignore the millions of dead , who were murdered, for the purposes of upholding, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism?  Often these incidents of retribution or pre-emptive strike, are only publicized for the specific purposes of demeaning a marginalized group, or to create them all as violent, irrational savages. 

When I see gangs of angry gay men roaming the street to beat up someone because they are heterosexual, then perhaps I will be concerned.  When I see cisgender bodies cowering in fear, because a trans person is threatening them for their gender presentation, then perhaps I will worry.  When I see White people across the globe, terrified when they see a the flashing lights of a police car, perhaps I will rethink issues of race imbalance. And finally, when I see men afraid to walk to their cars after dark and arming themselves with self defence classes and mace, perhaps I won’t question the stereotype of women always complaining. 

We do not live in a world in which all bodies are understood to be equal.  We can sing Michael Row the Boat Ashore till the end of time and that still will not make it so.  We may bristle at the violent response and it may hurt, but when we consider who has perpetrated the most acts of violence and how often it gets ignored, it is hypocrisy to single out these few acts.  An eye for an eye may leave the whole world blind but a single action in defence and fury, is a response to a lifetime of being attacked and marginalized.  Good for you, if you have never felt the impulse to be violent in response, but I will not ignore the humanity of another for acting in a completely human way.  If you want to end the violence, start with those that do it on a daily basis.  


From Guyana to Canada: police violence can be a class issue

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image From Rodney King to Sean Bell, violence is often understood in racial terms because it is the most readily visible marginalization. Many North Americans believe the myth that everyone is middle class and therefore distinctions that are obviously related to class often go unnoticed. Class is the invisible divide. Yet many of the gains made by unions in the post-WWII era have been steadily eroded, leaving most people actually functioning at or below a working class level. The extension of credit has allowed the populace to live above their actual means, thus promoting the idea that a class divide is nonexistent.

There are areas in the world in which race is not understood in the same manner, because the population is largely homogenous. The homogeneity of such societies makes class much more readily visible. This means that police violence will be more readily recognized as having a relationship to class, thus revealing the ways in which the police function to protect the interest of the ruling bourgeoisie.

According to the Kateur News in Guyana, police set fire to a young boys genitals, while they were questioning him regarding the murder of former Region Three Vice Chairman, Ramnauth Bisram.

In responding to this incident, President Jagdeo stated:

“Hundreds of them every day, they are the frontline against criminals, these are the people we call on when something happens and many of them in spite of very difficult situations; remuneration not great, sometimes the conditions of service are not great but they go out there and put their lives many days on the line for all of us and the recent incident where they were targeted would show that. So we can`t allow the actions of a few to cause us to forget the hundreds out there who do their work professionally and with decency.”

Jagdeo makes it clear that he believes that the police and soldiers exist in order to protect, but due to the violence, the Guyanese must ask who do these men and women really serve? Would a person of consequence be treated in the same manner? When a poor fourteen year old boy [be warned, there is graphic imagery in the linked video] can have his genitals and thighs burned because he suspected of the murder of someone who had a high social standing, clearly those that possess power and wealth are overvalued.

According to the CarribWorld News, the teenager was burned after he refused to sign a confession. Even though the victim has since been released from custody, the criminal behaviour of the officers has sent a message that will reverberate throughout Guyanese society. This is organized, state-sanctioned violence, aimed directly at the working class to prop up a capitalist power structure.

Finish reading here

Just Another Manic Monday

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Hey everyone, how was your weekend?  Saturday was really hectic for me but some how I survived it.  Please use this thread to chat about your weekend or complain that it is Monday.  Forty hours to freedom is a long time.  I will meet you in comments.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Shame: Childhood Music

Music carries memories for us all.  Often when I here a song from the past it will take me back to what I was doing at the time.  I think about West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys and I remember being a preteen, wanting to get out there and party.  I even remember my fascination with Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone by Glass Tiger.  It certainly does not get much worse than bad big hair eighties music.   I will admit my taste in music was not always the greatest, but at least I can own it for what it is.

Some people, however are in a constant state of denial regarding the music they listened to in their youth.  In conversation after conversation with Monica Roberts, of TransGriot, she has repeatedly defended her love of :

Monica is not only extremely beautiful, she is a highly intelligent woman.  Since the day we have became friends, I have learned so much from her, however; learning that In the Navy, was once considered as a promotion song for the Navy, as justification for holding onto her love of The Village People, is something that I could have gone without knowing.  My brain is already filled with enough useless facts LOL.

Musically speaking, I believe disco was worse than the bad hair days of the eighties and The Village People, were among the worst of the disco set.  Yes, I know that this was part of her youth, but really sometimes we just have to let things go.  I mean the The Village People, … really Monica, are you serious?

I am sure that the readers here will agree with me, that  loving The Village People truly fits under the category of Sunday Shame.  The amount of protestation and twisting that she does every time the subject comes up, is proof of just how shameful this love is.   If you happen to agree with me, let it fly in comments and if you dare, share a song that you loved when you were young, that today you know is downright shameful.  Remember, we can always hide behind youth and inexperience, but loving it after you turn into a grown ass woman,  is well problematic.

Slut Shaming Comes To Twitter: #youknowurahoeif

Slut shaming is an everyday event. Whether you turn on the television, or decide to surf the web, inevitably patriarchy will assert itself.  Everyday someone will start a ridiculous hastag game on twitter, that quickly becomes a part of trending topics.  Yesterdays was #youknowurahoeif. 

We claim that we are a liberated society, and some would even go as far as to say that it is obscenely permissive.  Ingrained within the images, music and literature, are often highly moralistic messages that border on being didactic. We have internalized these messages and constantly replay them discursively. 

In its bid to control the bodies of women, patriarchy has highly regulated sexuality.  Though a man is worth more than what his physical body represents, such recognition is often denied women.  The disciplining of sexuality represents a decided bid to pressure women into performing a submissive femininity.  It becomes an invisible eye, that is constantly judging behaviour in such a way as to leave woman constantly without any form of recognized agency or value.

In the recorded tweets below, you will see commentary from both men and women.  The fact that women participated in the slut shaming does not invalidate or reduce patriarchy's roles in this.  Just as any other large system (eg., racism or classism), patriarchy depends upon the collusion of those it seeks to marginalize.  When women act out in this manner, it is a manifestation of the internalization of  sexist ideals.  Such obvious misogyny does not benefit a single woman on the planet;  it all benefits masculinity.

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Each day there is evidence of much cultural hate directed towards women and yet so many will claim that there is no need for feminism/womanism.  We are lead to believe that we live in a society in which all bodies are equal and yet the rampant shaming that women must endure, is rarely to never visited upon male bodies in this manner.  I am quite sure that some of these women would say I don’t believe in womanism/feminism but..

The round of slut shaming was played out as an innocent game.  We often use humour to convey damaging social messages, as a way to mask the cruelty that it inflicts.  If we denounce  said behaviour, we are accused of having no sense of humour.  It is an affront to challenge someone’s right to demean because it is seen as a challenge to power structures.  We are told instead to look away, as though not seeing the hatred lessens its impact when it is aimed at us.

There I was, tweeting the ridiculousness of my day, when once again I was reminded that to be  a woman is to be subject to constant discipline and shame.  Whether it is twitter or a weekend afternoon of mindless television, somewhere in the message will be a reminder that my body makes dirty and inherently less than.