Saturday, December 5, 2009

That’s Gay: Conversion

Wow, I love Bryan.  I firmly believe that those who take on the label ex gay are in complete denial and are suffering in pain.  This is nothing but an internalization of the the homophobia that is far to socially rampant.  They wrap it up in cute euphemisms like “gay tendencies” in an attempt to deny who they really are.  In life you basically have two choices: you can either lead your life for others or make the choices that are going to make you happy.  Choosing to be an ex gay is not the path to happiness. 

Though Bryan’s commentary was light hearted, I wonder how many young gays and lesbians are watching these so-called ex gays?  I wonder how many believe that something is wrong with them because of the messages sent out by these harmful organizations.  The adults that choose this are one thing, but I worry for the confused adolescents that are just finding their way in life.   Life is hard enough without hating yourself because of the way that you were born.  Being gay is not any more of a choice than being heterosexual is; the only difference is that we have applied a stigma to one. 

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hey everyone, I hope that the week went well for all.  Once again we had an influx of trolls, please try not to engage with them and I will delete the commentary as soon as I see it.  They are not here to argue in good faith.  Arguments that disagree with the point made in a post are always welcome but not if they include the debasement of others.  As much as possible I would like Womanist Musings to be a safe space for all.

I would also like to take the time to thank this weeks guest posters.  Your contribution helps to widen the discussions that take place here.   If anyone is interested in guest posting here, please note that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  Please send a link or your original post to me via e-mail.

On Sunday at 8pm EST, the Womanist Musings podcast will return.  This week we are interviewing Irene Vilar, the author of  Impossible Motherhood.   We will be discussing her experiences with addiction and abortion.   Her book recently hit the front pages polarizing the discussion regarding a woman's right to choose.  Ms. Vilar had 15 abortions over the course of 17 years.  Today she is the mother of two.

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Below you will a few links to posts that I found interesting this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out.

Crack – How it changes a person

The Tiger Woods/Rihanna Comparison

Ain’t Nuthin ‘ New Under the Sun

Uganda kill – gay bill – why the bloody silence?!

Dragon Age features “controversial” gay sex

Lou Can’t Get No Love

Disability 101: Treatment Suggestions and Why They Are Not A Good Idea

On Dressing a Daughter… and a Theoretical Son

over explain things to black people

Know Your Feline Female Metaphors

Disability and Aging: A Response   

You know what’s not okay?

Sex Worker Positive Songs

I almost never write poetry 

Biological Essentialism, Sex and Rape

Waikiki Homeless Campers Had Everyone Fooled 

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Friday, December 4, 2009

It's not a valuable discussion on race until the POC show up

This is a guest post from Tami of What Tami Said

I've been grappling with the question of whether conversations about marginalized peoples are valuable if the conversations take place without the participation of said people.

Recently, I observed as a comment thread sparked by Sammy Sosa's skin bleaching, which could have been a nuanced discussion of the impact of racism and Eurocentric beauty standards on people of color, jump the tracks. The discussion was a textbook study in derailing, with a mostly white commentariat minimizing the effects of race bias on self image; turning the discussion to beauty standards in the majority culture; and denying the lived experiences of the few people of color in the thread. The experience left me frustrated and angry and I found myself wishing that the conversation, which lacked strong participation from the very people most effected by the issues discussed, had never happened.

That wish--the wish that this group of mostly white people had not indulged a conversation about race and its effects in America--feels wrong for someone who considers herself an advocate of anti-racism. I feel strongly that people of color should not be the only ones discussing of race, racism and race bias. But can valuable conversations about race happen without us--without our unique points of view as historically marginalized groups? My gut instinct is to say they cannot. But how does that work? White folks, we want you to talk about race, but only if a certain percentage of brown folks are on hand to ensure the conversation doesn't go sideways.

I felt a similar discomfort earlier today, while watching excerpts from Joan Walsh's interview with Gail Collins, whose new book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present is already in queue on my Kindle. Watch this segment that Walsh described thusly:

We talked about how rare it is to see the struggles, and different priorities, of black, working-class and other non-white women depicted in a mainstream book on the women's movement:

I could be being entirely too sensitive, because the issue is fresh in my mind, but something bugged me about the way Walsh and Collins, who are white women, discussed, or didn't discuss, women of color. Their conversation begins with a nod to the ways that women of color have been erased in histories of the women's movement, but spends little time examining our role and marginalization within feminism, instead veering quickly into black women in the civil rights movement, then black female resentment of white women in the civil rights movement and then the tragic story of Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was killed for her participation in the civil rights movement.

Barely half of the short segment on race and feminism was spent actually talking about women of color within the women's movement, before the issue turned to how the civil rights movement impacted white women. I know this was a longer conversation and much could have been lost in the editing, but the interview felt to me like another example of how the stories of people of color get short shrift when we are absent from the dialogue.
What do I want, really?

Would I have been happy if Walsh and Collins had not mentioned women of color during their discussion of the history of feminism? No. Would I have been happy if the pair authoritatively waxed on about the experiences of black women as if they have lived our experience? No. And there's the rub. I am frustrated when the stories of people of color are left out. But I am also frustrated then the stories of people of color are included, but glossed over or mistold. To an ally, this must seem like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. And maybe it is...

I am not saying that all white people are inherently clueless when it comes to race. I have heard the voices of many eloquent and wise allies on and offline. But all that any of us can do, regardless of our race, is to speak from our lived experiences (our biases, strengths and weaknesses are all tied up in here). Yes, yes...we are (hopefully) impacted by learned experiences and empathy for others. But as much as I might seek to educate myself about what it is like to, say, be a Latino man, I cannot be that person. And I cannot tell that story like someone who has lived it. It would be presumptuous for me to try or extrapolate too much from what I presume to be shared experiences. The most valuable discussion about Latino males would be one with actual Latino males involved. So...

Can valuable conversations about race happen without people of color?

My conclusion is no. A conversation about race where people of color are not involved is woefully incomplete and, because of our country's history and present, likely to be mired in privilege. Of this I am sure. (This is easily illustrated by the poor representation of people of color in the media, entertainment and advertising industries, where we are under-represented in decision-making positions.)

But, this post has me thinking about the flip side of this equation:

Can substantive conversations about race happen without white people?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Aretha Franklin PeTA War Continues

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The above photo was taken at the Rockefeller Center Christmas  tree lighting. You will note, that once again Aretha is wearing fur.  It will probably be only a matter of time before PeTA decides to once again turn their attention to the queen of soul, regarding her apparel.

Last year PeTA voted Aretha one of the worst dressed celebrities and it was followed with scathing commentary:

Aretha Franklin
How ’bout some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for animals? Aretha, when you waddled into the Grammys in yet another vulgar fur, you looked as if you were going to perform “I Am the Walrus” by The Beatles. You may be a queen, but you don’t know jack about compassion.

Right, fight for animal rights but be sure to engage in some good ole fashion fat hatred to prove your point.  Nothing like relying on an ism to shame someone into performing the behaviour that you want.

To ensure that she got the fat hatred that they were sending her way,  Dan Matthews a PeTA VP sent the following missive:

Dear Aretha-
Music lovers may think of you as a "queen," but to animal lovers, you are a court jester. I'm sorry, Aretha, but your furs make you look like a clown. Why not shed the old-fashioned look that adds pounds to your frame and detracts from your beautiful voice? Won't you donate your furs to the poor as "queen of compassion," Mariah Carey, did? You'll get a tax credit for the donation, and we at PETA will all sing your praises.
Dan Mathews
VP, PETA

You will note that the message isn’t don’t wear fur because we are concerned about animal cruelty but because it will add pounds to your frame.  How could a woman possibly want to look fat, cause everyone knows that fat is ugly.  And hey, if you look any fatter no one will be able to hear you because they will all be so captivated by you F-A-T.

Aretha for her part responded:

dear dan.....

please mind your own friggin business..... and then just maybe, when peta gives an iota about the human race...maybe we can chat...

love and kisses, aretha

Once again, this proves that PeTA’s tactics immediately make people unsympathetic to their cause.  By continually engaging in racism, fat hatred, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, PeTA has proven that they don’t care about anyone that does not fit a certain model.  How many times must it be said that you cannot fight oppression with oppression.  This is a message that PeTA refuses to acknowledge. 

I also feel the need to point out that for many Black women of Aretha’s age, fur remains a status symbol.  It has historically been something only White women could afford to wear, thereby; making it an item that people covet.  Though the message is supposedly about cruelty to animals, to many WOC of her generation it reads as discipline for daring to reach a certain standard of living in a world that only values the accomplishments of Whiteness.  This issue is far more complicated than PeTA could even begin to understand but then they have no concern for the motivations and or desires of POC, so I am probably blowing kisses in the wind at this point.

Plus Size Glamour Models, But Who’s Missing?

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According to Media Freak:

The Glamour plus-sized-model phenomenon continues to pay dividends for the magazine. The Condé Nast title caused a sensation when it featured two photos of plus-sized models in recent issues. Now, editor Cindi Leive has used one of those photos (above) in the magazine's first calendar. The "Inspiration" calendar is being bundled with a subscription offer on Glamour.com.

This is challenging images of women that have been normalized?  Really?  Okay I will give them the point that none of these women are a size two but are they really plus size women? I am quite certain that not a single one of these women is above a size 20 and therefore; it once again sends a sizest message.  If we are truly going to celebrate that women come in all sizes how about running images that really reflect that?

You will also note, that they didn’t really push themselves to be more inclusive.  They have one Black woman in this photo spread, sporting straightened hair and she represents their attempt at inclusivity.  Putting one Black woman in amongst a crowd of White women, only serves to other and create her as exotic.   News Flash:  There is more to WOC than Black women.  I suppose all of the first nations and Asian women were in hiding and steadfastly refused to pose the day this image was taken.   Diversity means adding various WOC instead of promoting the White women as the representative of beauty. 

In what seems to be the most acceptable exclusion, there are no women with visible disabilities.  Does a cane, walker, or wheelchair mean that you are somehow not beautiful or sexy?  It seems that the modern discourse is content to portray people with disabilities as asexual beings, with no human desires whatsoever; after all, who would want to sleep with the differently abled right?  

This photo is not in the least bit transgressive; it only reifies images we have already normalized.  Only in a world that is determined to ensure that certain bodies remain invisible, could this photo spread be celebrated as avant guard

Patrick Stewart speaks to Amnesty International about Violence Against Women

The following video comes with a trigger warning.  Patrick speaks quite boldly about the violence in his home as a child.  It is impossible not to weep as he tells his story.

H/T Feministing

Catholic Church Already Hatin' For The Holidays

This is a guest post from Monica of TransGriot

Can me and my transisstahs go through this holiday season without being verbally attacked by faith based haters, the Catholic Church, conservative media or conservative Black megachurch preachers?
Monica Roberts November 27, 2009


image Nope.

The post I wrote asking if we could go a month without any holiday hatred being directed at transpeople isn't even a week old and the Catholic Church is already hatin' for the holidays.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, the emeritus president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health (1996-2009) said in an interview with Pontifex,

homosexuals and transvestites "will never enter into the reign of God," appealing to St. Paul

Barragan went even further in the interview and contradicted Catholic doctrine by stating that he believes that homosexuals are not born that way but become that.

And I thought the birthers were breathtakingly stupid.

The more the Catholic Church engages in hatin' on GLBT people, the more irrelevant they become to the younger generation that has grown up with GLBT people since elementary and middle school. They are also driving progressive Catholics of the Church with their ultra conservative BS and mean spirited rhetoric as well.
DignityUSA definitely has its work cut out for it trying to roll back the tide of anti-GLBT hate flowing from the Vatican.

FYI Cardinal Barragan, only God will make that final judgment on who enters the Heaven. I have a sneaking suspicion there will be more than a few rainbow denizens walking through the Pearly Gates.


You know, after this Cardinal Barragan comment, I wonder what Papa Ratzi is going to say this Christmas Eve to top last year's phobic commentary.

I'll have to say my prayers for my transsisters residing in heavily Catholic countries. I fear that this transphobic commentary and whatever comes out of the mouth of Benedict XVI is going to result in another spike in the numbers of dead transwomen we'll have to memorialize next November 20.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Meredith Comes Out

The following is a small snippet from the interview starting at 6:32:

I am not a political person.  I have done political things before but it’s been brought to my attention that this is a political act, even though that’s now what it feels like to me.  It just feels like personal exposure and its uncomfortable. From my understanding, is that so much research has been done that says that if anyone knows someone that’s gay or lesbian, then when they are addressing gay or lesbian issues; political issues that effect their rights, they’re less likely to vote against them, to take away their rights.  So if you knew me before and you cared about me before; I am the same woman.  I am the same mother too all of these children and if I can be that lesbian you know now, oh okay if I vote this way then that might actually effect this person that I know, that Meredith.”

 

image While I think that it took great courage to publicly reveal her sexual identity, I long for the day when such an admission is no longer necessary.  Who we love should never take precedence over the act of love itself.  The fact that gays and lesbians must still declare their sexual preference to the world is a reflection of the hegemony of heterosexism.  It saddens me that this is a political act and yet when heterosexuals embark on a relationship together, it is simply considered a natural part of ones life's path.

I remember watching the Ellen interview on Oprah.  For the first time images and video from their intimate wedding were made public.  When Portia walked onstage, Ellen's whole demeanour changed and you could tell that this woman is the love of her life.  It was positively beautiful and yet Oprah kept calling the two of them cute.  Though Oprah clearly thought that this was an expression of acceptance, it amounted to the belittling of their relationship.

Accepting gays and lesbians means more than calling them “cute”, it means validating the love that they share with their significant other.  These relationships are every bit as serious and meaningful as heterosexual partnerships.  Even amongst those who claim to be liberal, a stigma still attaches itself to a gay and lesbian identity.  Meredith should have been able to go about her life loving who she chose without having to make a declaration on national television.   Heterosexual stars carry on long term relationships constantly without having to appear on television to announce that they are choosing to share their lives with someone.  While it makes me happy to know that one of my favourite television moms is enjoying her life, it saddens me to know that it’s considered political act.


Obama On Afghanistan

Link to the transcript.

Last night the war in Afghanistan became president Obamas war. From this point onwards, whatever decisions that are made in terms of the trajectory of this invasion are solely his responsibility.  When Obama first took office there was much hope that his presidency would bring about an end to to the violence engaged in globally by the U.S.  From renditions to open torture, the Bush administration is guilty of many crimes. 

He began by reminding the populace of the events of 9/11, thereby justifying the start of the war.  To be clear, this was most definitely an act of terrorism, however; the peoples of Afghanistan did not wage war against the U.S. and by invading, Americans held them completely responsible for a man that was a visitor in their country.  There is such a thing as a measured response but this would not have sent the message of an untouchable America to the globe.  This war has never been about justice; it has been solely about vengeance.

The crimes against women to the abject poverty in Afghanistan have all been used to justify this action.   You cannot bring peace at the end of a rifle.  The women of Afghanistan have spoken forcefully regarding this issue and yet their calls have clearly not been heard.

“Stop this war because our people is very tired with this situation.  And if they really want to help our people we don’t need more soldiers.” 

“I don’t believe and I don’t expect any outside power to come and liberate me.  If I cannot liberate myself, no one from outside can liberate me. “

In a complete contradiction of their wishes, Obama is planning to send more troops.  Through the florid rhetoric of last evenings speech came the clear and undeniable message that the purpose is to nation build.  How can the U.S which is marred by so many internal issues possibly hope to create a cohesive state from a  country that is wracked with tribalism and superstition?  Whether or not Afghanistan decides to follow the model of democracy set out by the western world is an issue for its people.

In this fools mission, the Obama administration is specifically ignoring all of the lessons of history; Afghanistan is not like Europe or even North America.  It has a long history of repelling invaders and despite its message of hope and freedom, the U.S. will be interpreted in just such a fashion.  They do not respect Karzai because to them he represents little more than the mayor of Kabul; at best he is a U.S puppet beholden to his benefactors.

Withdrawing troops from Iraq only to redouble efforts in Afghanistan will not make the U.S. any safer, unless it plans to stay for decades as an occupying force.  Change has to be inspired from within.  It must be a true drive by the people and not at the behest of some foreign country seeking geo-political objectives. 

Couched in patriotism comes the message that the U.S. has the moral authority to make decisions for another nation.  If the U.S were a perfect democracy, Bush never would have been president.  While it stands in judgement of the election process of other nations, a criminal was allowed to sit in the white house without being impeached for his actions. 

Afghanistan is supposedly the moral war and yet its pursuit while American children go without healthcare, proper education, and housing is criminal. It is these same children who will be saddled with the debt that will be created to fight this war.  America may see itself as a beacon of light and hope, yet its behaviour is far more reminiscent of a crumbling empire desperate to remain relevant.  One nation cannot police the globe no matter its intent. 


A Cross Burning In A Community That “Accepts Black Children”

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Few images are more terrifying to behold than a burning cross, or its remnant on your property.  There can be no doubt that you have been targeted with something hateful.  It is an act of extreme cowardice because even as it inspires fear in the person it is aimed at; it allows anonymity for the perpetrator.  Though we daily live with the lie of a post racial society, burning crosses are not a thing of the past.

Sixteen year old Shaquille Howard would wake to find the remnant of a burnt cross outside of the home that he shares with his legal guardians and several other foster children.  Considering that the Walbecks live in a primarily white neighbourhood  an hour east of Pittsburgh, it is quite obvious that this event is highly racialized.

``Everybody accepts him. Well, apparently, there's somebody who don't,'' said Joe Walbeck, a former coal miner who's on disability. ``I just can't believe there are still small-minded people out there like this.''

As kind as these people seem, they cannot conceive of this because they are White.  Walking through the world with White privilege has allowed them the ability to ignore the obvious racism that occurs on a daily basis.  A simple evening of watching television, should make it clear to the viewer which bodies are valued and which bodies are not.  Whether or not Walbeck is aware, each day his foster son Shaquille opens his eyes, he must negotiate a world that has decided to mark his Blackness as a negative identity.

Even  Trooper James Fry of the Indiana station, who is investigating this hate crime, has yet to understand the role that this plays in supporting White supremacy.

``They all kind of said, `I thought this was done years ago,''' Fry told the Gazette. ``Every indication is ... it's a very isolated incident.''

Hate crimes are always understood to be isolated incidents.  It matters not whether or not another cross is burned in this neighbourhood again because each incident of racism directed at a person of color affects the entire African American community.  When Sean Bell and Oscar Grant were murdered in cold blood it was a reminder that our lives are not safe with the police.  Each action cements the power of Whiteness and this is felt by all the peoples of the African diaspora.

When they find the perpetrator of this hate crime, Whiteness will once again frame hir as person that acted as an individual, thereby divorcing itself of the gains made by hir action.  This is uniformly the case when a White individual commits a crime, whereas; a person of color is always representative of their race.  Whiteness is never understood to be a threat; it is the great normalizing force socially.

Finding this person will not lessen the threat that Whiteness poses towards people of color.  Whiteness cannot hope to undo the damage that it has done to African American communities, until it owns its criminality in full.  This crime is just one action within a larger purposeful decision to terrorize bodies of color.  Whiteness is a systemic force that must be acknowledged and dismantled. Though only sixteen years old,  Shaquille Howard  is but one of the many victims who has been forcefully reminded that Blackness constitutes other within this racist, patriarchal, sexist, white supremacist state.


Wednesday What’s Up?

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It’s officially hump day.  After today the worst of the work week is hopefully over.   Please consider this your open thread to chat about whatever you would like.  Are you reading anything interesting?  Have you seen a good movie or play? Let it all hang out and I will see you in comments.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aren’t we forgetting someone? On Ms. Raines in “Precious”

I have a new post at Global Comment

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“Precious,” based on the novel Push by Sapphire, tells the tale of Claireece “Precious” Jones, an illiterate, dark skinned, fat, Black teenager who is a survivor of physical, emotional and sexual violence. Though the majority of abuse happens off-screen, the film is vivid enough to make the viewer want to dive into Precious’ escape fantasies just to side-step the realization of how horrifying her life is.

Several supporting characters help Precious negotiate her miserable existence. Ms. Raines, played by Paula Patton, is a teacher at the Reach One Teach One alternative school. Precious is sent to the school after she is forced to admit that she is pregnant again — by her father. Precious’ condition is the result of being abused from the age of three. Ms. Raines is one of the few who comes to know the stark reality of the girl’s situation and is able to play a major role in the healing process. At first, the interaction between Ms. Raines and Precious seems very reminiscent of the popular tale of a straitlaced teacher saving a child from the ghetto. This story has been popularized in films like “Stand and Deliver,” “Lean on Me,” “To Sir with Love,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Freedom Writers,” etc.

In each of the above instances, the teachers are straight and cisgender, thus serving as a normalizing force in the lives of their students. The message that they convey is meant to uplift their students, yet encoded within the lesson of the importance of striving for change is the admonition that to improve one’s life, a student must adhere to a strict definition of “normalcy.” Much like in real life schools, conformity is part of the agenda.

When Precious gains the courage to leave her mother, she breaks into the Reach one Teach One School to wait for Ms. Raines. Instinctively, she knows that this woman is the only one with the ability and desire to help her. Unable to find suitable accommodations for Precious and her child, Ms. Raines takes her into her home, where Precious learns that Ms. Raines is a lesbian. When we consider that African Americans have recently been painted as uniquely homophobic, what takes place in the film at this point is quite significant. Not only does this challenge the idea of homophobia as being inherent to African Americans, it provides a visible representation of Black Lesbianism, something that’s regularly ignored by the media.

Upon realizing that her teacher is a lesbian, Precious says to herself:

“Mama says homos is bad people. But Mama, homos ain’t ones who rape me and what do that make you? Homos aren’t ones who let me sit in class all them years and never learn nothing and Homos not ones who sell crack to people in Harlem. I wonder what Oprah got to say about that? Ms. Raines is the one who put the chalk in my hand, make me clearer the ABC’s.”

Even with all of the negativity in her life, Precious does not reach into the master’s tool box to oppress someone to obtain a minimal form of power for herself. To Precious, Ms. Raines is more than her sexuality, she is the woman who shines a light for all to find a way out of the darkness.

Finish reading here

The Washington Times Runs Another Racist Birther Ad

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Gee, how could linking the first African American president to a monkey possibly be racist.  The birthers are just looking out for the rights of regular (read:White) Americans.   Can’t have the negroes getting uppity and used to holding positions of power can we?

According to Think Progress:

The hardly intelligible ad copy claims that under a 60-year-old British law, President Obama is a citizen of Britain and “is currently also a British protected person and/or a British citizen to this day.” The Center for American Progress’ Ian Millhiser points out that if this rule were actually applied to the presidency, every foreign nation would have the power to remove the President of the United States simply by granting the president citizenship.

Why let a little irritation like logic stymie their racist agenda?  The issue with the birthers has never been that Obama in unfit or unqualified to be president, but that he is different. They protest against him because they wish to preserve the long legacy of White men in the office of president.

Since the moment he became a serious contender for the office of president, he has had racialized attacks thrown at him and his family. Most recently, the top image appearing in a search for Michelle Obama via Google was one that depicted her as an ape.  These constant connections with the Obamas and apes, are an attempt to delegitimize their humanity.  Not only are they aimed at them directly, they also serve as an attempt to discipline the entire African American community.

We could simply decide that this Moonie rag is not worth our time but we cannot and should not ignore the escalating racial hate that has occurred since he became a viable candidate for president.  There are people who will not dismiss the source.  There are people that whole heartedly believe in the preservation of the White supremacist state regardless of the cost and it is these people who we must consider to pose a legitimate threat. 

The promotion of ignorance in a society is a dangerous thing.  There is a reason that conservatives eschew formal education.  Anyone remember how proud they were of Bush who graduated with a c minus, while singing thank you laude? An educated populace would not be fooled by the ignorance that the birthers are promoting.  An educated populace would demand responsibility of its leaders and be actively engaged in the political process.  The right is well aware that it must depend upon ignorance to promote its agenda.  This is why a woman that went to so many colleges to get a B.A. in journalism can be deemed a darling today. 

There are plenty of reasons for a thinking person to be critical of Obama’s policies.  One does not need to depend on racist rhetoric to make a valid point.  This is not about protesting him as a politician but ensuring that bodies of color are aware that Whiteness will not release the mantle of power without a fight.  The sheep that follow the birthers may not be able to articulate the message clearly, however; in the absence of a linear line of thought that explains why these images are historically wrong, they will drank the sand instead of water.  They have over valued Whiteness so much that they cannot see that the marginalization of people of color does not elevate them, it only keeps us all stuck in the same quagmire.



Tune in Tuesday: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse HOT DOG Song

Though this song annoys me to no end, I cannot help but smile a little when I hear it.  Recently, I have written about the kiddie torture that my children seem intent on subjecting me to on a daily basis.  This little song is one of Mayhem’s favourites and each day I am commanded to get off of my comfortable couch to do the hot dog dance.  This is a warning to those of you who don’t have kids.  Yes, something like the hot dog dance awaits you should you be brave enough to reproduce.

You will find yourself in the car one day on the way to work singing the theme from Dora or Dorothy the Dinosaur will get stuck in your head.   You will hum along until you realize, hey there are no kids in the car WTH am I doing.  These ridiculous songs will find their way into your brain, where they will invariably ruin a cell or two in the process.   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

Oh, if you think you can avoid the really irritating things like Barney, forget it right now.  I managed with Destruction to avoid the purple dinosaur but Mayhem got hooked during a play date and now I daily sing, “I love you, you love me”.  At least he always rewards me with a kiss.  I tell you, if the boys were not so cute, I swear I’d lose my mind.

Okay your turn to share. What kiddie songs have you been subjected to? 

A Spark of Wisdom: Why we can't always have a 'productive' conversation

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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.

Why we can't always have a 'productive' conversation

Today I had the oh-so-wonderful chance to have a long, detailed conversation with a clueless straight person about sexuality in general and male homosexuality in particular. Not malicious - but certainly ignorant, wallowing in privilege and approaching the conversation as mildly interesting gossip.

It started with a joke: "Age of consent is weird. At 16 now you can have a fag up the arse but not a fag in your mouth." Yes. Amazingly enough I didn't laugh. And the sad thing is this is actually not only about the 6th time I've heard this joke, it's the 6th time someone has told me this joke, knowing I was gay, AND EXPECTING ME TO BE AMUSED.

It wasn't a fun discussion.  It was long, full of stereotypes, lots of ignorance and enough cringe worthy moments to make me feel down, tired and generally not a happy person. We had "gay" used as a negative descriptor (and a good 10 minutes of totally not getting why that bothered me), we had gay sex referred to as sickening, we had the oh-so-fun 'you've never slept with a woman so you can't KNOW you don't like it,' a couple of more "jokes" ("it's funny so it's not offensive." Really? Because I'm not laughing and I am offended, so I guess you failed twice. Oh yes, do try again, I'm sure all gay people love your attempts to find a homophobic joke that makes them laugh) and many of the standard fodder that makes me want to stab someone.

Yes, all very awkward and unpleasant and I'm not sure any of the conversation made any difference because there's a difference between hearing and caring. But that's not really the point here

The point is, I knew where this conversation was going within the first 10 minutes - gods, the first 5 minutes. The opening lines, even. I knew that I was heading into a long, unpleasant and awkward conversation that was likely going to throw a lot of straight privilege at me, push a lot of painful buttons and generally leave me frustrated, tired and feeling like shit. In short, within 5 minutes of the conversation starting I wanted it to end.

How do I know this? Because I've had exactly the same conversation and variations of this about a squillion times before. All completely unoriginal, all tiring, all painful and all immensely frustrating. And I'm quite sure over half have been utterly, completely pointless wastes of my energy and mental health.

My point?

My point is sometimes I can't do it. And that's a shame because, even if most failed, I know some of these conversations HAVE worked. I know some ignorant people who bought a clue, listened and did their best not to do it again. Yes, it can be productive. Yes it has worked. Yes calmly and reasonably answering all the ignorant questions you've answered a thousand times or politely objecting and explaining why something was offensive can and does work. It's half the reason I ramble so much about sexuality on this LJ.

And sometimes I can't do it. Sometimes I'm tired, I'm in a bad mood or I'm just sick to the back teeth of the whole damn hetero-normative world, it's ignorance, it's insensitivity and it's endless reminders that I don't belong.  Sometimes I'm annoyed because it should be damned OBVIOUS why I don't find that joke funny, or why I get angry at being called "fag."

These conversations are painful and tiring and frustrating. They're very personal (they can't help but be), they force me to confront homophobia and homophobic ignorance head on. They force me to endure it and slog through it. They force me to be vulnerable. They force me to expose that vulnerability to someone who, at best, may clumsily trample all over me and at worst may deliberately do some stomping.

So my point again?

My point is I know I shouldn't snap. I know I shouldn't lose my temper. I know that I should have a productive conversation. Because it can be productive. It can be useful. I KNOW I do myself and all GBLT people out there a lot more good by calmly and patiently having the conversation.

And I think that applies to every marginalised person - regardless of their marginalisation.

We know that being clam, polite and gently correcting and explaining is the best

But we can't always do that.

Because it hurts

Because we're tired

Because we've spent countless hours doing exactly the same damn thing before.

Because we don't have the time, energy or inclination to do so.

Because moving in a world that devalues you is hard enough without having to give a running commentary to clueless privileged people.

Because sometimes we're angry or upset or hurt or offended or scared.

So my point again?

It's not necessary to lecture me - or any minority for that matter - on the tone of our arguments, on our anger, on our snapped reply and furious rebuttal. You don't have to tell us that a calmer response would be better. That we should answer those questions. That we should be more moderate, more calm, more reasoned and cold and logical and sensible.

You don't have to tell us this. We know. But we can't do it all the time and you can't expect that of us. And if you do expect it - well, perhaps you don't know how much it costs


Monday, November 30, 2009

We love vampires because we don’t want to look in the mirror

I have a new post at Global Comment

image Despite the advances of modern science, we live in a world that remains captivated by the occult. We have put a man on the moon, cured many diseases that were once deadly, and live in a time of such abundance that it would seem decadent to our ancestors. Even with all of this progress, vampires continues to entangle themselves in our cultural discourse. Not content to be the mere subject of urban legend, the vampire has slowly carved a secure niche in popular culture.

Tales of vampires continue to circle the globe, taking on different meanings which are specific to generation and culture. When vampires made their first appearance, they were far from the seductive creatures that we visualize today. As vampires have evolved, so too has their ability to tempt us. From the (literally) dazzling vampires of Twilight to the brooding Nordic nightwalker Eric of “True Blood,” it is the marriage of dark and light, represented in the vampires’ physical bodies and black souls, that leaves us breathless.

Bram Stoker breathed new life into vampire mythology with publication of his 1897 novel, Dracula. Through a series of letters and newspaper clippings, he tells of a vampire that wants to live in the modern world. We learn of the count’s heartbreaking beauty and his ability to bond with humans through the sharing of blood, thus establishing a hold and a form of control. Wilhelmina Murray, the female protagonist, finds that she is unable to defend herself against the advances of the dark count.

Many themes of Stoker’s novel are easily recognizable in the vampire lore of today. Throughout the Twilight saga, Meyer repeatedly reminds the reader of how alluringly beautiful the Cullen family is. When Edward first reveals his body to Bella, she is overwhelmed, because it “glitters like diamonds” in the sun. Clearly, this not a human characteristic and yet the image is enough to solidify her erotic captivation with him. Unlike Wilhelmina, Bella is well aware of what she is looking at. Even though Edward is fang-less, and thus playing upon vampire myths of old, it is the venom that makes his skin sparkle, reminding the reader that even in his beauty there is cause to recognize the danger he poses to humans.

Finish reading here.

Just Another Manic Monday

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I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  Please use this thread to talk about something you did or to whine about the fact that it is Monday and there are forty hours left to another bout of freedom.  I’ll see you in comments.

Duchess Camilla Bowles Does Not Want Beyonce or Lady Gaga On Her Video Phone

image It’s time to wring your hands again because rampant female sexuality is bringing about the ruination of the world.   Diana’s replacement, The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Bowles  is horrified by the explicit nature of Lady Gaga and Beyonce Knowles video, Video Phone.

During a visit to a rape crises center, when asked specifically about the the work of Knowles and Gaga, Bowles stated:

'A lot of those videos are terrifying.

'I am sure they trigger a response in some of the young people. I can never understand how they can get away with making those things.'

'It has happened too quickly, values have changed so much,' the Duchess said.

'I suppose it's peer pressure, that's the problem. You don't want to look the odd one out.

But it takes a strong person to show that they don't approve, especially at that age. It's a breakdown of discipline. There doesn't seem to be any punishment for such behaviour. The teachers are too kind.'

The Mail Online, in which Camilla’s commentary was published, even had the nerve to refer to the above video as a gangster rap video.  Really?  This inflammatory headline only further proves a lack of understanding of what they are looking at.

Beyonce and Lady Gaga, are two highly talented women.  There can be do doubt that this video was created to satisfy the male sexual gaze but to deny their right to make it, asserts that women don’t have a right to be sexual or display their bodies at will.  Whether or not we agree with how their sexuality manifests itself is irrelevant in a culture which continues to attempt to discipline women into chastity.  The good girl keeps her legs closed, until her husband demands his daily access meme is still alive and well.

Camilla longs for the old fashioned days, forgetting that for women, many of the rights that we take for granted today did not exist.  Conservatives always reach for a mythical past of their creation because it effectively limits the rights and freedoms of others.  Part of recognizing the autonomy and agency of women is supporting choice, even when it is not a choice that we would personally make.

Women who make videos like this are often not seen as respecting themselves, as though these images amount to the totality of their being or experience. Even as we sit in judgement of their behaviour, we are supporting the idea that female sexuality is something that needs to be highly controlled and regulated.  When we legitimize control in one area, it is quite easy to extend that discipline to other areas of women's lives. 

image image No such censure exists when heterosexual cisgender men decide to be sexual.  When Lautner and Pattinson of the series Twilight, repeatedly pose for revealing pictures, they are celebrated and cheered. With the exception of full frontal nudity, they can prance and preen as they see fit, without being accused of bringing about an end to moral decency.   Heterosexual male sexuality is understood as normal.  Clearly, each photo that these men pose for is specifically aimed at a target audience.  There can be no doubt that they are trading on their looks, (though I don’t know what people see in the human bobble head Pattinson)  to achieve and maintain the fame that they have acquired as actors.  They are selling sex and they do so with full awareness. The constant double entendres in their interviews, are meant specifically to excite the imagination and promote a sexual allure amongst their fans.

How is the behaviour of the above two men, any different than that of Beyonce or Lady Gaga?  In an age when sex sells, we should be promoting the idea of women choosing when their bodies are being sexualized.  Beyonce and Lady Gaga are not just fixtures to titillate in the back of some  booty shaking rap video; they are the central subjects.  There is a difference between being the subject and object and such delineation needs to be recognized, if we are ever to validate women as autonomous beings.  Ignoring who controls the image is far more damaging socially, than a little booty shaking will ever be.


Disableism Impacts Families

image Other than myself, Destruction has had the hardest time dealing with the changes that have occurred with my body.  To the best of my ability, I have attempted to hide moments of extreme pain in order not to hurt him.  Like any other little boy, he wants his mother to be a part of his life. This means that he loves to see me on the sidelines cheering at his hockey games or watching him on the camera as he works out at the dojo.  This has been incredibly difficult because neither of these places are particularly accessible for me.  I have struggled and purposefully lived with hours of pain to watch his hockey games or tolerated the comments of ignorant parents to watch him in the dojo.

I have reached the limit of my endurance.  I love my little boy more than I can ever reasonably express but the rudeness and disableism have reached the point of hurting me both emotionally and physically.  Last week he had to take his photos for karate and though my presence was not needed, he specifically asked that I accompany him.  I braved the cold on my scooter and travelled to the dojo with him.  When the unhusband opened the door for me to get in, the room was crowded but that did not stop people from cutting right in front of me to enter.  As I sat in the doorway expecting people to move to allow me access, they decidedly turned away and stood where they were. 

Each and every time that the room is crowded, I am made to feel as though my right to be there is non existent because my scooter takes up more room than someone who is standing. This behaviour is clearly passed on to their children, who think nothing of acting as if I am not there when they cut in front of me.  This is a dangerous thing to do because I could quite easily run over a foot.  Rather than taking the risk of hurting someone I remain inert, thereby; allowing them to move around me as though I am not a living breathing human being.  They see a scooter, they do not see the person on the scooter.

Were it not for my child, these are situations I could avoid.  Obviously I have no need to go to a dojo when standing for more than fifteen minutes is difficult and  I am not a lover of hockey though I am Canadian.  This denial of access effectively limits my ability to parent and could potentially reduce the time we are able to spend together as a family.  The issues with youth culture are constantly being blamed upon parents, even though we socially do not support families.  This is particularly true in terms of parents of color.  I find it extremely galling that my investment in my child is being thwarted by disableism.

Today, I am going to call the dojo and express my concerns.  I do this without the slightest expectation that a noticeable change in behaviour will occur.  Each and every time I have spoken about access issues or obviously disablest behaviour, it has been treated as though the issue is my problem, rather than a failure of the facility or the able bodied person.  To lead an active an engaged life as a differently abled woman, more often than not is treated as though I am expecting special treatment.

This choice that is being forced upon me is impossible.  I must either tolerate physical pain at the hockey arena or emotional abuse at the dojo, if I want to be a part of my child's life.  It’s ironic that disabled mothers are often viewed as incompetent but where is the discourse surrounding the ways in which our parenting often occurs under extremely difficult situations? I suppose, of all the people on the planet that Destruction and his brother Mayhem provide the best reason for me to want to rise above, but the constant pain requires more of a super human effort than I believe that I am capable of. 

I am not the White suburban mom with the mini van and the coach purse, that we have come to idealize as the perfect mother. My body readily reveals my frailties, however I am a mother, with two little boys that I not only love but am responsible to raise to maturity. Each time I stand for an hour in the freezing cold and cheer his hockey team, or deal with the rudeness at the dojo, it is an extreme expression of my love for him.  I cannot help but wonder if able bodied parents had to be in this position 4 times a week the way that I am, how long such conditions would be allowed to stand.  I am a minority in three different ways and as such no matter how loud my voice, someone somewhere always seems to find a reason to dismiss it.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Shame: Sponge Bob Square Pants Edition

After voting for Sparky’s rhyming witches over my sparkly vampires last week, Filthy Grandeur admitted to a love for Sponge Bob.  Of course, this is absolutely shameful and I challenged her to publicly admit her shame.

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I love Spongebob.  Yes, you read that right: I, FilthyGrandeur, love that adorable little sponge who resides in a pineapple under the sea, and adores his mediocre job.  And when I say I love Spongebob, I don't mean I saw part of an episode once during a channel surf, or I saw it a couple of times while baby-sitting my cousins, and found it cute.

I mean I love Spongebob.

As in I am wearing a Spongebob t-shirt as I write this.  As in I currently have a two-foot tall Spongebob plush in the back seat of my car so I drive everywhere with Spongebob.  As in I own Spongebob panties and frequently wear them while watching Spongebob cartoons and singing Spongebob songs.

And recently I even whined to the pharmacist that she did not offer me a Spongebob band-aid after giving me my flu shot.

I remember when the very first episode aired ten years ago when I was 13.  I watched it in my dad's basement with my younger brother, and afterwards we went around saying "pinky up!" when we did anything.  And of course we were "ready" for everything, apparently.  And I have loved the show ever since.

I guess I just never understood why adulthood meant I had to give up a lot of what I loved doing, and I am clinging desperately to my cartoons.

My desire to watch Spongebob constantly is easily satisfied since Nickelodeon plays it by the marathon.  I've been late for work more than once because I was too absorbed (ah ha!) in watching the show.  However, my fiancé has just about had enough.

Normally I get control of the remote because...well...I say so.  But the fiancé has been fighting back (by changing the channel to a hockey game--my kryptonite! gack!).  He simply does not understand my inexplicable need to watch the same thing over and over to memorize and quote my favourite parts later, either in text-form to my brother, who will laugh his ass off, or to other grown-ups who will have no fucking idea of what I'm talking about.  Unless their kids watch it, and only then it's because their kids force them to watch it.

And the fiancé (and my own mother, the traitor) have vetoed my desire to play the F.U.N. song at our wedding next summer.

But how can I possibly resist the charm of that buck-toothed spongey square?  Everything about Spongebob and the world he lives in is so enticingly precious: Spongebob's naivety and adoration of even the simplest form of entertainment; Patrick who lives under a rock and is apparently unemployed, as well as a self-professed know-it-all; Squidward, the artsy octopus (that's right--go look it up!), who is tortuously sandwiched between Patrick and Spongebob; Mr. Krabs, the penny-pinching sweaty crab with a whale for a daughter; Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, the aged but still heroic (to Spongebob) superheroes; and Sandy, the kickass squirrel, and incidentally the most competent character of all.

The best part is how even the most minimal of problems can be a disaster for dear Spongebob (note: losing your nametag apparently = losing your identity).  And the worst thing ever is losing your low-paying job as a fry-cook.  But it's really endearing that he finds such joy in life.

I've come to realize that my love for Spongebob is shameful.  So fess up--what do you all love beyond the comprehension of your peers and/or age group?  What do you unapologetically cling to despite the incessant ridicule of others?