Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  The Womanist Musings podcast returns this week after taking a break for the big Olympic hockey game.  In honour of International Woman’s Day Monica and I will be speaking to Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon and Jill Filipovic of Feministe to discuss women’s organizing and how we can best bridge the divide between feminists and womanists.  Please join us at our new time 8:30 pm EST.  You can find us online here and the call in number is (347) 326-9452

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

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss, no girls invited

Worried About Women Of Colour, Thanks But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers.  We’ve Got It Covered

Are Children an Oppressed Class?

Forced to be Fat

The Politics of Fear and Hate: Dealing With Islamophobia in the South Asian Community

Regret: Please enjoy responsibility

God Is Not A Segregationist

Yesterday, for first time in my career, a student called me a nigger

The Death Penalty: Racist, Classist and Unfair

Mixed Kids are not “Prettier”: Blowing Up Hybrid Vigour

Assessing your values

For Those Who Speak “Negro”(and for Those Who  Don’t)

Do You Work?

White Female Found in 5 Days … 167 Days Later Sill No News in Disappearance of Black Female

Rubber Barons: Why Doesn't Your Boyfriend Know Jack About Contraception

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Naomi Campbell Gets an Apology, It seems Class Privilege Strikes Again

image This week Naomi was once again in the news when it was reported that she allegedly smacked her driver upside the head and then disappeared.  She was not charged with assault because the driver declined to press charges.  Yesterday, People Magazine reported that no only did the man decline to press charges, he apologized to Naomi. Of course Naomi gracefully accepted his apology:

"I was accused of unacceptable behaviour towards a driver in New York," the supermodel says in a statement. "I have worked very hard on correcting my previous wrongdoings and I will not be held hostage to my past. I try to treat everyone with respect and I am pleased the driver has apologized," she says. "I would like to put the last few days behind me and move on." 

I don’t comment on celebrity news very often because quite frankly, I believe that there are more than enough sources dedicated to following in minute detail the lives of stars.  This story interests me because Ms.Campbell has a history of violent behaviour.

In 2006, she was arrested for hitting her housekeeper with a crystal-studded BlackBerry during a fight. A judge ordered her to complete several hours of community service in 2007 as a result. In 2008, she was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and fined $4500 for assaulting two police officers in London's Heathrow airport.

When I write about violence, it is often within the framework of domestic violence; however, I think that this incident is important because it teaches us that violence can come in any form.   Examining this alleged violent incident gets to the route of violence – privilege and a desire to wield power.

In each of the reported instance, the most common element was the class standing of the victim relative to Naomi.  Class is an element that most westerners are very unwilling to discuss critically.  Many live under the false impression that they are middle class, when their debt and pay check indicate that they are actually working poor. 

Naomi is a Black woman and therefore negotiates two areas of marginalization; however, as a person of class privilege, the ways in which race and gender effect her on a daily basis are certainly quite different than the average person.   A Black woman without class privilege, who has been identified as violent publicly, would not be able to rehabilitate her image the way that Naomi has repeatedly been able to do.  Despite having a criminal record, Naomi is still able to find work and she is still considered a very successful woman.

This week, comedians like Joy Behar have made jokes about keeping a cell phone out of Naomi’s hands, but I have to wonder how amusing this alleged incident would appear, if Naomi were a poor working/underclass woman?  The degree to which we take violence seriously often has much to do with the social value that we place upon the abuser. 

When Sean Penn was known more for his penchant to punch reporters than his acting ability, it was common to joke about his legendary temper, as though his actions didn’t cause real harm.  We justified his temper by denigrating the paparazzi for invading his privacy. 

Though Baby Wipes (Terrence Howard) is guilty of beating his wife on MULTIPLE occasions, Ebony still declared him a “Renaissance Man” and wrote a glowing article about what a complex, and giving individual he is.  Do you believe for one moment a poor Black man that had been arrested for beating his wife would be looked upon so favourably?

Wesley Snipes is busy making the rounds right now to promote his new movie.  The questions aimed at him revolve around two issues: the film itself and his recent tax evasion charges.  Even though Snipes is out on parole, he is still able to earn a living.  This is something no poor man would have an easy time doing.  To make this situation more complex, no one has bothered to question him regarding his alleged assault of Halle Berry.  Isn’t it interesting the way that class privilege allows violent acts to seemingly disappear?

In all of these incidents, the perpetrators of violence were also celebrities; however, one of the perks of celebrity is having the class privilege to be able to not only negotiate the court of public opinion but to work the judicial system in ones favour.  O.J. would never have gotten off the first time, had he not had the cash to be able to afford good attorneys.

We are not simply a society of rules, we are a society of separate classes, which necessarily means that those of class privilege will be able to twist the rules to their benefit continually.  The law was not written to protect the poor and the powerless; it was written to support the oppression of one group by another.  Class has a great deal to do with oppression and ones life chances, yet even in the most liberal of spaces, it is taboo to discuss its implications. 

When we are silent about the ways in which class marks a body, we are only allowing its effects to remain invisible. Class can be one of the largest marginalizations that a person can face. It can at times be more difficult to negotiate than race, sexuality, gender, and ability.  Class directly influences how  bodies are read and it is not nearly as invisible as most people seem to think.  In each interaction with the outside world, our class status is evident and this is why we go through extraordinary efforts to portray that we are all at the very minimum solidly middle class.

Naomi has not been charged and there is a part of me that wonders how much it cost her to receive this apology, because it certainly appears to be somewhat tainted by the events that were first reported.  Like many celebrities who have class privilege, her past has been wiped clean.  Class gives rich criminals the second chance that no poor criminal or ex felon receives. Perhaps it’s time we stop focusing on the money and start to examine the person behind it.  If we are going to give one group a second chance, or even the benefit of the doubt, perhaps we should do so with everyone.

 


Shaming Black Women Will Not Reduce Abortion

Yesterday, I was just getting in as Destruction was getting off of the school bus.  He can up the front stairs and gave me a big hug and a kiss.  It was then I realised that the top of his head is already at my chin.  I looked down and asked him if he wanted a baba (bottle) or a dewie (pacifer) and he looked at me and laughed with everything he had.  Not that very long ago, I was clapping wildly as he took his first steps and playing patty cake.   My baby is no longer a baby.  In May he will be nine years old and I cannot believe that so much time has passed already. 

He is a very bright, loving, sensitive child and has truly been one of the greatest blessings of my life. He is my most precious love. That said, raising him has not always been easy.  I have struggled to make him aware of his privileges while letting him enjoy the innocence of childhood.  I have fought the urge to wrap him in a protective bubble, even as he pulls away from me to make his own friends and have his own adventures.  I miss the days when he could sit in my lap and I miss carrying him in my arms.

I have a very supportive partner, who is absolutely dedicated to this family.  He takes great pride and pleasure in our little boys.  When the four of us are together at the dinner table chatting about our day, I feel content and secure.  Everyone I love most in this world is together and happy.   This is the kind of happiness that I wish for others and yet I am highly aware that it is not the case for many.

I have given a lot of thought to the recent campaign from pro-life advocates using race based arguments to attempt to deter a woman’s right to choose.  These ads give the impression that Black women don’t know what it is to love and cherish a child and I personally find the whole idea abhorrent. The fact of the matter is, that our motherhood has never been respected.  Our love has never been validated.  Even today, children are ripped from the arms of mothers whose only crime is being poor, Black and female in this world. Though my family is very stable, this is a nightmare that still haunts me.  What if my circumstances should change?  What would that mean for me and my precious little boys?

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Better than many, we now what it is to love a child because we do so in the face of much social discipline.  We are called welfare queens and our reproduction is used to sully our status as women.  A Black single mother with more than one child is not a respected person in society; she is a drain on the system, a whore whom we hold nothing but contempt for.  Even when we are in established relationships and hold professional jobs, we are still attacked for our fertility.   When FOX news called Michelle Obama, Baracks baby mama, what did that say to the world, but that we are irresponsible breeders?

We don’t need pro-life groups to further shame us regarding reproduction.  Black women are highly aware of what is at stake because even before we can leave our childhood behind us, society has already marked, trained, and disciplined us into believing that we are of little worth.  This is not some new social phenomenon; it has been a part of our existence for centuries.

They implore us to love the Black child, but who do think spent endless nights weeping in slave cabins because our children were sold away from us?  Who do they think has been working multiple jobs to support these children that Black men routinely walk away from?  Who do they think looks into the face of hatred, cooks, cleans, battles racist teachers and sleeps with one eye open to ensure that Black children have the best possible chance at life?  If anyone will love the Black child it is hir mother.

There are better ways to reduce abortion than shaming Black women but because we have become so accustomed to attacking Black womanhood at every turn, positive support seems impossible for many to envision.  Where is their call to offer more support to women who choose to carry a pregnancy through to term?  Where are their programs to help single mothers get an education?  Where are their plans to organize for socialized daycare? Where is their struggle to promote good and informative sex education?  Black women don’t need to be told how precious Black children are because we have been supporting and loving them from the beginning of time.  What we need are real and concrete measures to make our motherhood more viable.  What we need is the respect that society seems determined to deny us.

I will spend my day playing with my little guy and covering him with kisses when he will let me.  I will be attentive to his needs and seize upon every opportunity I have to teach him.  He will feel safe and he will feel loved and this is because he has a Black mother who cherishes her child. When my oldest returns home, it will be into my arms he rushes as he quickly spills the details of his day.  My children are safe and they are loved because they have a Black mother who cherishes her children.  It is insulting to suggest that we who live the life do not know what it is at stake, but then when has Black motherhood ever been appreciated by anyone, except our children who know first hand of our struggles?


What if that Pebble Becomes a Boulder?: Racism and Sexism on Campus and in Everyday Life

This is a guest post from Natalie Wilson of professor what if?  Her work regularly appears here on Womanist Musings bi-weekly, in her very popular Monstrous Musings column.

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The theme of one of the common complaints I often get from students in my women’s studies classes is “feminism is so depressing.” Students, young and fresh-faced, though eager to dissect and critique the world around them, also seem to yearn to look through the world through rose-coloured glasses. They generally dive into analyzing privilege and oppression historically, happy to give examples of the injustices our world has doled out for centuries. However, when asked to hold up a mirror to their contemporary moment, they often like to focus on the positive changes, suggesting that somehow all the rumours of a “post-racial” and “post-feminist” society are true. It is partially my job to place large cracks in such a rosy-eyed view, revealing that, yes, racism, sexism, homophobia and all those other ugly –isms are still going strong.

On the campus where I teach, this was in shocking evidence today on, of all places, a bathroom wall. The picture above, sent to me by a student, was taken last night in one of the main campus buildings. Placed there on the eve of the statewide day of action defending education budgets, it is surely a modern-day exhortation to “keep your mouth shut,” a threat to those of us on the side of history that seek to progress society towards justice rather than conserve the longstanding privileges that the maker of this sign unabashedly seeks to maintain. (And don’t you just love how there is a heart above the ‘i’ on this message?!?)

While I had planned to post something upbeat today about my daughter turning eleven this week, detailing positive changes in culture compared to when I turned eleven in 1982, my own rosy-eyed view of feminist accomplishments has suffered a brutal beating in the past few days. Locally, just in this past week, there has been news of a high school senior sexually assaulted and murdered, there has been a spate of racist attacks at local college campuses (with the picture above only one of many incidents), there was, just yesterday, another young woman attacked by two men at a local park.

On a more personal level, I was told by my son’s principal that a teacher’s P.E. commentary, consisting of “you throw like a girl” and “don’t use the girly weights” are meant to be “humorous.” “She is a very strong woman,” he assured me, “a role model.” On the one hand, I am proud my thirteen-year-old son sees the sexism his principal fails to, on the other hand, I am deeply disturbed that such sexism is still passed off as “just a joke” and excused by claims that it’s ok because she is a “strong woman.”

To top it off, I have somehow received a plethora of emails of late that either assume I am a man (due to the “Dr.” title I imagine) or that address me as “Mrs. So and So.” This last annoyance is so slight in comparison to all the other horrors of this week, yet it somehow rankles me– it seems, in short, like a virtual but constant reminder, knocking at my in-box, reminding me “keep your mouth shut…you are only a woman…who are you to try and change the world?”  This “little thing” reminds me of Jewelle Gomez’s realization that “Sexism could be like a pebble that needs to be removed from a shoe; a tiny thing that throws off a woman’s gait, causing her to limp, sometimes unconsciously, to avoid pain every day.”

This week, it seems it is not only pebbles, but huge boulders, and I am indeed limping from the resounding evidence that no, we are not living in a post-racial, post-feminist society. However, despite those who wish to “get rid of” people like us, the people who want to change the world for the better, I will keep limping along, teaching my “depressing feminism” and endeavouring to remove pebbles and boulders out of the path of those who march towards justice.

It’s Friday and the Question Is…..

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My fibromyalgia keeps me trapped in the house throughout much of winter.  The cold just causes all my muscles to ache.  The temperature is supposed to go into double digits next week and I gotta tell you, I am positively giddy about this.  It has my thoughts turning to spring and beautiful warm weather.  With that in mind, this weeks question is, what do you most look forward to doing again, once the weather really warms up?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Should Oh Canada Become More Gender Neutral?

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Wednesday was the annual speech from the throne.  One of the largest surprises to come out of this was a promise to "examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem."  According to Yahoo Canada, "Andrew MacDougall did confirm they are referring to an examination of the phrase "in all thy sons command."

Though the suggestion did receive support from the opposition, it was not without qualification:

"Anything that makes a national anthem more gender sensitive is a good thing," said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

"But I mean no disrespect for those who feel strongly on this issue but for heaven's sake, we've got some very important challenges and every time the government is asked to do something real, it does something symbolic."

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen said she's been advocating the change for a long time.

"I find it interesting though that they're caught up in this concern about language and they're forgetting absolutely that equality is dependent on a whole number of other things that are missing from this throne speech," said Mathyssen, noting there is no mention of a commitment to affordable housing or child care in the Conservative blueprint.

"It's lovely to have words but this is a government of words. I want to see some actions."

Liberal MP Judy Sgro said she has never been bothered by the lyric and accused the Conservatives of diversionary tactics.

"I think they look at all kinds of diversions to get people thinking and talking about other things rather than the $56 billion deficit and the unemployed and all the other issues we should be talking about," said Sgro.

Diversionary tactic or not, there can be no denying that the words “in all thy sons command” are not gender neutral.  They are in fact indicative of our belief in the gender binary and a social desire to privilege masculinity.  That the suggestion comes from the conservative government does not make the wording somehow less problematic.

The fact that these words exist in our national anthem is proof of the ways in which sexism is systemic.  Changing the national anthem will not reduce the degree that men continue to live with undeserved privilege, nor will it eliminate our modernist belief that gender should be divided into a binary rather than a both/and  construction.  Does this mean that we should abandon the effort to change because it will not bring a sweeping change to the ways in which certain bodies continue to be discriminated against?

The Harper government has never sought to address systemic inequality and has in fact offered band-aid solutions to many of Canada’s issues.  Instead of following through with a national daycare program, each family now receives 100 dollars a month of taxable income to offset daycare expenses until the child is six.  Child poverty continues to be an issue because parents are poor and access to affordable housing continues to diminish. 

The suggestion is indeed a nice symbolic change; however, unless it is followed by other initiatives to reduce inequality between men and women, as well as eliminate the discrimination faced by those who are non gender conforming, this will amount to simple window dressing.  If the Harper government had a history of caring about marginalized bodies, it would be much easier to look at this suggestion as being indicative of a real desire to make change.  The change in the anthem would be a wonderful thing, but it should be accompanied by real policy initiatives that make the proposed new lyrics have real meaning.

 


Snow Venus de Milo Causes Uproar

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Maria Conneran and her family created the above snow sculpture last week.  Unfortunately, it seems that someone found it offensive and Sgt. Dominick Sforza was dispatched to request that they clothe the snow sculpture. 

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To me, this is a case of obvious concern trolling.  What we are looking at is a beautiful piece of art, that is a tribute to the original sculpture.  It is amazing how small minded some people have become.  We should not be afraid of nudity because that is how we all entered this world. Nudity in and of itself should never make a work of art controversial.

What are your thoughts on the above snow sculpture?  Would you be offended to have this in your neighbourhood?

H/T Jezebel

White Towson Prof Fired For Using The N Word

imageNigger is not a part of my vocabulary because it is a hate word.  It’s sole purpose is to reduce the humanity of Blacks and to elevate Whiteness.  There are those that continue to feel that we have moved to a point of being post racial enough that they may say nigger without consequences. Allen Zaruba, a professional artist who was an adjunct professor at Towson University for 12 years recently found out that having a Black stepfather, did not give him permission to use this word.

Zaruba was teaching his Visual Concepts class on Monday, Feb. 22, and during a discussion of "Themes of Contemporary Art," written by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel, while reviewing a chapter in the book about identity and the body, he referred to himself as a "nigger on the corporate plantation." He meant this comment to highlight the fact that as an adjunct professor he could be fired at anytime because he did not have the protection of tenure.

Realizing that he may have made an error, he immediately apologized to the class and apologized again the next time the class met.  Despite his apologies he was fired.  After losing his job for clearly engaging in racism, you would think that Zaruba had learned a lesson, but apparently some people simply cannot check their privilege.

Zaruba, who is white, told The Sun that his black stepfather used racial terms freely, and that, “I never quite got the horror of the word.”

“Towson University is a wonderful university with a great faculty and wonderful students,” he said, noting he loved the school and would be honoured to get his job back if it is offered.

But there is “a deep fear” of the word he used, he said, even though it is often used freely by students and is heard on the airwaves.

“Why do we turn a word into such a bomb?” he said. “We’re being run by fear.

“Fear is smoke and mirrors. It was justifiable at one time in our history, but we don’t have slaves anymore. America is moving in a very positive direction.”

When fear dominates and words prompt witch hunting, “I have to ask myself, 'what is happening to our educational system?' ” he said.

That’s right, a White man complaining that he cannot use the word nigger because others do it.  Poor, poor oppressed baby.  Never mind that it continues to cause pain to untold millions, his speech is to be privileged above the basic humanity of others.

What is happening to the education system is that it is teaching students to think critically about the words they use and the systems that they support.  Language is a powerful tool because it conveys our understanding of the world. 

When Zaruba complains about being run by fear, he is really advocating  an end to so-called pc speech.  The end of slavery in no way means that systemic racism has come to an end; just as Barack Obama does not represent a post racial world. No matter the positive gains of African Americans, in every sphere that we examine they continue to lag behind Whites due to racism. The end of slavery and the civil rights movement has not resulted in true equality.

Zaruba cannot conceive of the ways in which racism effects Blacks because he is a White man who has failed to acknowledge his undeserved White privilege.   It is not up to him to decide what is and is not offensive and for him to even suggest that we should just move on, exemplifies his complete and utter failure to consider his role in maintaining our current system of imbalance. 

Instead of using the interview to truly apologize, he spent his time justifying his language.   There are those that would say that what he said was racist but since I am not a believer in mincing words, I will simply declare him a racist.  If you insist on using words that are clearly offensive and then employ the whole but things are getting better tripe as a defence, then you are a racist; don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars. Your Black friends or family members do not give you some kind of ghetto pass to display your ignorance and your privilege to the world.  If you don’t believe me, just ask John Mayer how many Black people think he is great today.

Some words cannot be reclaimed and simply need to disappear from our every day language.  They certainly can never be used by the group who coined the term in the first place because emanating from their body, it will always carry the hate and disgust that it was originally meant to convey.  To see a White educated man complain about being oppressed because he cannot use a hate word only reifies the ways in which Whiteness continues to refuse to acknowledge the degree to which it is specifically determined to maintain a White supremacist state.  Welcome to post-racial America y’all.

H/T Gus via Gchat



Throwdown: Tavis Smiley & Reverend Al Sharpton

I have new post up at Global Comment

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We have a tendency to refer to members of the African Diaspora as a community, despite the fact that it is filled with people that have wildly different perspectives and experiences. Race supposedly unites all Blacks, but the hierarchy within the so-called community means that there will always be some voices that are louder than others. The master’s tools are omnipresent in every social justice movement.

Last week, for example, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Tavis Smiley engaged in a very public disagreement. Smiley attempted to take Sharpton to task for not being open about the meeting he attended with President Obama in conjunction with NAACP Chair Benjamin Jealous, National Urban League chief Marc Morial and a host of other “Black leaders.” Tavis particularly took umbrage with reverend Al’s support of Obama’s race-neutral approach to policy making.

At the heart of his argument, was Sharpton’s statement that President Obama “is wise not to ballyhoo a Black agenda.” Though this attack was publicly aimed at Sharpton, Tavis has a history of criticizing President Obama, and has written a book in which he demanded that Blacks hold Obama accountable to the community.

Obama has never pandered to old Civil Rights leaders and this means that their ability to influence his policies is very limited. When Obama was elected president, it was to represent all Americans and not the specific minority group that he is a part of.

White presidents have always taken actions to support White supremacy, but even their polices strictly benefited a minority that possessed class privilege, rather than White people as a whole.

Obama’s largest policy push has been revamping healthcare and though this has not specifically been targeted as an initiative that is directed at Black people, they certainly stand to benefit from having greater access to doctors and preventive care. Obama is very aware that in order to win in 2012, he must always appear to represent all people, because the votes of Blacks are not enough on their own to secure a victory for him.

Sharpton and Tavis are dependent upon the dissatisfaction of the Black community in order to earn a living. Unlike Sharpton, Tavis does not have strong Civil Rights credentials. Not only did Tavis support Hillary Clinton during the election, he rejected the appearance of Michelle Obama at his Negro Super Bowl (read: State of the Black Union), when Obama was unable to attend due to previous commitments.

According to CNN, Smiley claimed to have received angry e-mails and death threats. He further claimed that his brother and mother were also harassed at the time. The backlash was so virulent, that Smiley resigned from his position at the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.” Since that time, Smiley has been critical of Obama’s administration at every opportunity.

Tavis has always held this so-called meeting of the minds over the head of would-be Black leaders as a way to wield power, while promoting his latest book in the process. The participants seem to find the opportunity to pontificate on a large platform irresistible and therefore participate in the deification of Smiley. Self-promotion is quite possibly Smiley’s greatest skill, despite all of the gibberish about setting a so-called “Black agenda.”

Finish reading here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday What’s Up

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Sorry that I am late putting up this post this week, it’s been one of those odd days.  At any rate, please use this thread to discuss whatever is on your mind.  Are you reading something wonderful, have you seen a great movie or play?  Is there an issue grinding your gears, or do you have great news that you would love to share? Let it fly in the comment section.

Monique Reveals that her Marriage Is Open…Minutes Later Judgement Ensues

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Barbara  Walters read the following statement from Monique on “The View:”

“Let me say this: I have not had sex outside my marriage with Sidney,” Mo tells Babs in this year’s 29th – and final – Barbara Walters Oscar Special, airing Sunday.

“Could Sid have sex outside of his marriage with me? Yes. That’s not a deal-breaker. That’s not something that would make us say, ‘Pack your things and let’s end the marriage,’” she continued. “What if it’s 20 times? So what? We’ve been best friends for over 25 years, and we truly know who we are. Oftentimes,   people get into marriages and they don’t know who they’re laying next to. I’m very comfortable and secure with my husband.”

The quote was taken from an interview that she had done for Ms. Walters 29th Oscar award show.  From the moment that Monique stepped into the spotlight she has broken down walls and this latest revelation is just one of many. 

Open marriages are not new and yet they continue to be very stigmatized because we have chosen to believe that monogamy is the only valuable lifestyle choice.  Rather than believing that this negotiation is a private affair, many cast aspersions on open marriages because we see our partners as property. There are many that firmly believe that opening their marriage is what saved them from a divorce. 

What we should be honest about is that though monogamy is supposedly the ideal, many stray outside of their marriages anyway.  An open marriage acknowledges the likelihood of changing sexual desires and allows both partner to explore their needs without deception.  It is interesting to note that when someone is unfaithful within their marriage we are quick to judge; however, an open marriage which removes the element of deceit is equally stigmatized. 

Reading the commentary on this quote, it was clear to see that shaming was quick to occur.  Some theorized that Monique's husband Sid is gay.  Some felt that it was a sign that Monique's weight ultimately makes her undesirable, causing Sid to need to have other sexual partners.  It is fair to state that Monique invited speculation because she made the nature of her relationship public. Regardless of whether or not this relationship works for her, it is not the norm and socially we have a desire to discipline those who refuse to conform. This is not to say that Monique should have remained silent, but that the reaction to her revelation was highly predictable.

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The ladies on “The View” also chimed in to state that their vision of love only involved two people.  What people need to do is remove themselves from the equation.  If monogamy works for you, then have a monogamous relationship but it costs you nothing to admit that this not workable for many.  If we truly believe that sex and marriage is a private affair, then there is no need to spend so much time shaming someone who does not conceive of a relationship as damaged, if the two parties are allowed to explore sexual desires. We may not want the government in our bedrooms, however we are quick to comment about things that are not our business.

Monique says that she is happy in her marriage and that should be enough for everyone. She has not given us any reason to believe that this is a false assertion and again, even if she was being deceitful,  it really is not our business.  Not all social ideals work for everyone and therefore; if the action is agreeable to both parties, we should lay wagging tongues to rest.  Instead of concerning ourselves with someone else’s marriage, perhaps we should focus on our intimate relationships.  The high divorce rate indicates that we have much to do.


Tim Hortons Welcome Home Ad is More Problematic than it Seems.

I watched every single day of the Vancouver Olympics, sure in the knowledge that all of the foreign visitors would leave with a Tim Hortons addiction.  I have written previously about the Canadian addiction to their coffee.  There are three Tim Hortons within a twenty minute walking distance from my home.  

Though Timmys is pure Canadiana, it is very rare to see a person of colour in any of their commercials.  When the above commercial first aired, it was very tempting to get sucked in by the message of unity and multiculturalism.  Who wouldn’t want to smile at a man being united with his wife and child in their new homeland?  When he hands her the cup of steaming coffee, Canadians are meant to feel as though this really makes them one of us now. This commercial first aired during the Olympics and thus fell in line with a Canadian desire to present our society as multi-cultural to the world at large.

The problem with this commercial, is that like one they ran a few years ago about a Chinese family,  people of colour are constantly portrayed as coming from somewhere else.  This belies the fact that people of colour have been a part of this country before it was even a country. Blacks and Chinese are not necessarily new immigrants and to continually construct us in this manner, still maintains the image of Canada as necessarily White and all of our achievements as a nation as based in White efforts.  This completely eliminates the contributions of people of colour, who in many cases lost their lives for our advancement.

Much to the consternation of many, the majority of today's immigrants are of colour; however, this does not mean that there are not White immigrants.   If people of colour are not understood to be Canadian and are always conceived of as being from somewhere else, this means that the multi cultural society that we claim to celebrate is a fraud.  People of colour rarely appear in the regular Timmys commercials though we certainly work for the corporation and support them with our hard earned dollars.  If POC are only visible when we are playing the role of the other, this implies that we are little more than a tool to maintain the national myth.  How and when we are represented matters.

In Timmy’s new roll up the rim to win advertisement, no people of  colour appear and yet this is one of the biggest promotions that they will run for the year.   When they are appealing to the masses, Whiteness is the face that they overwhelmingly choose to represent.  We teach multiculturalism to our children and yet the reality is that we do not practice inclusion in our everyday affairs.  Critical race discussion do not happen and people of colour are understood to be looking for special treatment and special rights because true equality is not the goal of multiculturalism, doing just enough to appear better than the U.S. is. 

The Olympics proved to be an international stage for the great Canadian lie. From the opening ceremonies right through to the closing, lies were told about our treatment of First Nations citizens and many racialized bodies were simply erased.  People of colour were expected to be quiet and not burst the bubble for the sake of national representation; however, the cost of such silence is our personhood and this was not considered to be a sacrifice because privilege has convinced White bodies that our right to exist is unimportant.  This is oppression and this is wrong. Canada has a history that it needs to own and if it brings pain to White people  to realize the ways in which they continue to benefit from White privilege, so be it.  Each day the nation grows and benefits from the labour of bodies of colour and therefore we have a right to expect equal treatment and representation.  Using bodies of colour as a tool to sell a lie is not equality it is simply a covert method of racism, which we seem to have a gold medal in.

 


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pamela Anderson is too hot for Australian Television

It seems that Crazy Domains got shot down when they attempted to air the above ad on Australian television.  How exactly Pamela Anderson in a bikini getting covered in faux spunk relates to online domains is beyond me.  But then we are talking about advertising, so why bother to think of something unique and memorable, when its so easy to exploit women right?

According to The Sun:

But the racy commercial has been banned by Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau after it sparked hundreds of complaints.

The Bureau's president Fiona Jolly says: "It's meant to be a cheeky, over-the-top depiction, but in the bureau's view it did cross the line."

The managing director of Crazy Domains, Gavin Collins, has blamed "feminist bloggers" for stirring up the controversy and is now fighting the ban.

Well, the nerve of feminist bloggers demanding that women not be treated like sexual props to sell products.  Just imagine the lunacy of a world in which women are treated like people instead of sexual objects….since that would mean the end of patriarchy, we cannot allow that to happen.

How dare women come together to use their voices to effect change.  Aren’t all women on the internet supposed to be engaged in blogging about making sandwiches and diet tips?  With all of the problems in the world how dare they not concern themselves with real problems?

There will be those that whine and cry about censorship; however, speech in only valid when it does not cause irreparable harm.   When women are constructed in this way, it supports sexism and creates women as second class citizens.  Your right to have your say should never impede the right of another to exist with basic human respect.   There has been a lot of commentary regarding Australian fails online; however, this time the government is certainly in the right.  If the government does not speak for the minority, they will always be at the mercy of the majority.

 



Tune in Tuesday: Sting Desert Rose

It has been suggested by more than one friend of mine, that I have quite the obsession with aging British pop stars.  I admit to offering Sparky his weight in maple syrup, Michael Buble and an attack beaver for the opportunity to borrow Sting for a few hours.  In my defence, the man is a brilliant musician with an unforgettable voice and he practices tantric sex.  Um yeah, that all equals yummy, plus he has that wonderful English accent that has been known to turn many North American women into butter.  If I could somehow negotiate George Michael in that deal as well, that would make me one very happy Cannuck. 

Feel free to share your favourite Sting song, or the British musician that just does it for you in comments.  Perhaps together we can give them a offer they cannot refuse (yes Godfather reference) I see no reason not to play dirty here.

MS. Failure: A Feminist’s Feminist, The Eulogy of Mary Daley

image I would love to wholeheartedly embrace MS, because there are so few magazines in existence that are dedicated to discussing women’s issues critically.  Daily, tripe like Cosmo is aimed at us from the newsstands that encourage women to become mindless stepford wives (for good Cosmo take down see evil slutopia).  The world is content to tell women that feminism is passé; however, despite the gains of women’s organizing, we still live in a world of patriarchal privilege and this must be challenged. Ms. is the child of radical feminism and this is apparent in their treatment of many issues.  It is not enough for a magazine to be woman centric, because without intersectionality, the category of ‘woman’ becomes subsumed by White, able-bodied, heterosexual, cis gendered women and this therefore erases many women.

When Mary Daly died, I chose not to write about her because I knew what a powder keg she was.  In many ways she was a brilliant woman; however, her legacy is tainted by the transphobia that she willingly engaged in, proving that marginalization in one area, does not mean privilege in another.   In this months issue of Ms., Mary E. Hunt, wrote a eulogy cataloguing the various ways in which Daly challenged sexism in religion.  It was a classic case of the evil is oft interred with their bones.  I am unsure if Hunt simply did not know of the problematic elements of Daly’s work, or if she simply sought to overlook them in the belief that her genius outweighed the ways in which she discriminated against others.

There was no mention of Lorde’s open later to Daly challenging her on the erasure of women of colour.  Daly never responded publicly to the letter and therefore, one is left to assume that she did not take Lorde’s concerns seriously. It seems the fact that Daly’s work was White woman centric was also not worth mentioning by Hunt and this once again speaks of a desire to present the concerns of White women as primary in  women’s organizing.   I understand the desire to claim our sheroes vigorously because patriarchy has taught us that only men and male achievements are to be celebrated; however, we do a disserve to the category of women if we are not honest about their short comings.

Ms. is working very hard to remain relevant in a world in which much feminist organizing and theorizing occurs either on university campuses or online.   It is however hampered by its dedication to radical feminism, which erases many women.  For Ms. to truly appeal to modern day feminism, it needs to do more than throw up a webpage and attempt to engage  bloggers; it must ensure that each new issue is filled with markers that address  the totality of women’s lived experiences.   Daly may have been a hero for radical feminism, but her approach necessarily “othered” so many, that commentary on her passing without addressing this, tells the reader that the focus of Ms. is still about privilege in the guise of uplift.

White cis gender women of class privilege may burn bras to the end of time and rail about male oppression; however, their experience can never be considered monolithic because it fails to acknowledge that being female in this world often means dealing with multiple sites of oppression. Trans women are dying, they are being raped and murder and you cannot possibly claim to care about the plight of women and ignore this.  Much of Mary’s work justifies the terrible  marginalzation and oppression that they face. She referred to trans women as “Frankensteinian" and living in a "contrived and artifactual condition".  She further served as the thesis advisor to Janice Raymond who penned “The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-male”, which  suggested that trans women are agents of patriarchy who are determined to infiltrate women’s only spaces. Certainly, Daly’s belief that trans women are "necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses," provided much of the inspiration for Janice Raymond.

The transphobia in Daly’s work are not obscure references and can in fact be witnessed in much of her writings, therefore; the decision on the part of Hunt and indeed the editors of Ms. to exclude this in their eulogy of Daly, tells the reader that trans women are still not included in the category of woman.  This is no small oversight and therefore, one must conclude that despite claiming to be progressive and speaking for all women, that Ms. editors and writers still believe the limited theorizing that came out of the 70’s era organizing. If we were to accept this as fact, that would mean that feminism has not progressed in forty years.  Feminism will always be imperfect because the women that advocate for it, are themselves imperfect beings; however, glaring oversights like the deification of Mary Daly help to ensure that women’s liberation remains a utopian fantasy bred out of a desire for cisgendered able bodied White women to achieve equality with their male counterparts, rather than ensuring that all women are invited to sit at the table of plenty.


A Spark of Wisdom: Popular homophobic tropes that need to end and why

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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.

In the name of common sense, the following phrases need to die a slow and painful death. I'm going to use homophobes as an example here (because it's what I'm most familiar with) but really, this applies across the board to just about every ism there is.

There are certain common threads that are often used by the forces of privilege, cluelessness, prejudice and general whatthefuckery out there that need to die now. Either stop using them or there needs to be a new Godwin-type law where we acknowledge that using them completely destroys any point or argument you're trying to make. They're tired, they're old and they're meaningless and they've become almost as offensive as the crap they're used to defend.

I'm not a homophobe, but...

Yes you are. If you weren't, you wouldn't feel the need to say that, followed by a 'but' that proves it beyond doubt.

I have gay friends

Probably the most tired and stinking of all of these rotten tropes, the "I have gay/black/jewish/female/whatever friends" has been a rallying cry for bigots for far too damn long to such a degree that it has become a perfect way to IDENTIFY a bigot. Only homophobes and the hopelessly privileged feel the need to wave their gay friends around as some kind of defence (because non-prejudiced folk don't NEED to). Sadly, this is not only becoming more common, but is also becoming official as no end of political parties, businesses, organisations etc get themselves some prominent gay members for some helpful rainbow-washing

There are no doubt many things wrong with this excuse, but 3 spring to mind:

1) We don't believe you. I don't believe that all these bigots have such an amazing diverse circle of friends. I don't believe that the number of virulent homophobes who apparently have their own little fanclub of adoring GBLTs just waiting to fawn over their every word. It's ridiculous.

2) Even if you DID have gay friends it wouldn't mean anything. Your 'friend' doesn't feel the need to add stress to every social occasion by calling you on your bullshit? Maybe they don't want a confrontation? Maybe you should take the clue everyone's giving you and realise that you may, just may, be forcing your gay friend to tolerate a lot of shit every time they spend any time with you.

3) Your gay friend does not give you a pass on homophobia, even if they're willing to let it slide, that doesn't mean everyone else has to.

I didn't mean it!

It wasn't my intent, I didn't mean it that way, I didn't mean any harm. etc etc

See, people need to learn what this means - it means you have failed. It's not an excuse, it's an admission of error. It's not a justification, it's an explanation of why you've DONE SOMETHING WRONG.

You didn't intend to hurt or offend people? Well you did. You, therefore, failed. That doesn't justify your actions or words nor does it absolve you from apologising for it or trying to make it right. It most certainly doesn't if your error was careless or inexcusably clueless.

Also, as  is made really really clear in this wonderful article lack of intent doesn't mean you're doing no harm. Just because you didn't intend that portrayal to be stereotyped and damaging and add to the pile of already damaging portrayals out there doesn't change the nature of the portrayal. Just because you didn't intend a slur to make someone feel vulnerable and unsafe, doesn't mean it didn't. Just because your careless, prejudiced language use didn't intend to offend, trigger or annoy people doesn't mean it didn't.

Your intention, especially your clueless, thoughtless intention, doesn't absolve you from or justify the harm you cause.

Obscure dictionary definitions

Yes, gay technically means happy - though no-one has actually used it in that context since the 1950s. Yes a f*ggot is a bundle of wood used for lighting fires (a definition so obscure, most people don't even know it and hasn't been used commonly for freaking centuries). Yes, queer is something strange or odd.

And? When someone says "fucking queer" or calls someone a "f*ggot" or says that something is "so gay" I can guarantee you that these archaic dictionary definitions were the furthest from their minds. Because we have something called CONTEXT which makes it blindingly OBVIOUS what is meant and no amount of obsolete and dusty dictionary quotations are going to change what the words ACTUALLY mean.

Language has changed - it's not a slur any more!

Says the privileged people to which the slur doesn't apply. You don't get to say what does and doesn't offend the marginalised (seriously you don't. Because I am PAST SICK of straight folk telling me what is and isn't homophobic).

And guess what? It hardly ever HAS changed. Gay is used as a general insult or label for things that are bad even when unrelated to sexuality NOT because language as changed - BUT BECAUSE BEING GAY IS SEEN AS BEING BAD. Gay is an insult because BEING gay is seen as negative. That is insulting. And the same applies to "retard" and "lame." They are seen as negative because the people the words originally described  are seen negatively. And, yes, this certainly applies to "gypped" and "jewed"

But everyone does it!

Yes, bigotry and prejudice is awfully common. Thank you so much for adding to this and making it even MORE common. Because it's appreciated. Really.

Seriously - do you expect the fact that there is homophobia EVERY FREAKING WHERE to make me feel happier about your homophobia? It is common because you are adding to it and defending it.

These need to end. They're old excuses that have been pulled out so many times that they're permanently engraved on bingo cards. Using any of these tired tactics doesn't defend your prejudice - it proves it.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Now FAT is the New N Word

Check out this article at HuffPo, I’ll wait….

Nothing like White people telling us that a racial slur which is dehumanizing and demeaning, is no longer in existence.  Right, no one says the “N word” anymore because it has been declared un-pc and if you believe that little bit of nonsense, I have swamp land that I would dearly love to interest you in. What better way to start off another round of oppression Olympics than to set Blacks against fat people, like we don’t belong to BOTH categories.  There is no new “N word” because the old one is still used daily across the globe to mark Blacks as “other”.

People used to be afraid to be fat; now they're afraid to say "fat." Oh, we can talk about diets and exercise and the paucity of plus-size fashions--CONSTANTLY--but we can't really use the word "fat" as an adjective anymore. Unless, of course, we're referring to ourselves and are comedic by nature, like Kevin Smith, the director of such inspired movies as "Clerks" and "Mallrats," who recently was removed from an airline flight because his girth made him a security risk.

People are not afraid to use the word fat.  Melissa at Shakesville points out that fat activist use that word all of the time in an attempt to reclaim  a word that has historically been used to inflict pain.  There are also plenty of people who use the word fat as a negative descriptor, because it allows them to create a group of individuals as “other.”  Fat people have learned to be self depreciating because we have been taught that we should always be ashamed of our bodies.

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Iovine begins her little polemic by pointing out that DNA is the best indicator of weight and yet she still reaches the false assumption that fat people need to just stop eating so much. 

Everything we do to avoid the conclusion that we simply have to eat much less of everything is going to kill us. We can have tantrums and look for pills or gastric bypass or some other miracle to allow us to eat the same and weigh less, but the truth is that the only real solution is to push away from the dinner table about 20 minutes earlier than we want to. It stinks and makes us very cranky, but we can't change it.

Not talking about it is cowardly and patronizing and, ultimately cruel because behind almost every fat child is a fat parent who can't demonstrate the behavior necessary to rescue them from this life sentence. A recent European study said that a child who was fat by age three was overwhelmingly destined to be a fat adult. We can blame TV advertising and processed foods all we want, but a fat toddler is almost always created by a fat parent--and, no, it's not because of their genes or because they're "big boned." Why don't we ever see any "big boned" fatties holding on to their weight in starving populations or on the Bataan Death March? Because there is no such thing!

Did you get the whole fat parent and fat child commentary, um yeah that would be the DNA kicking in and not some sort of signal as to how people parent children.  Suggesting that we should starve ourselves to attain some kind of perceived body type is absolutely ridiculous.  

The article is further problematic because it does not deal with the connection between obesity and poverty.   Parents cannot buy their children what they cannot afford to purchase.  If you have a hungry child and limited funds, that box of KD at 1.50 is going to go a lot further than a head of broccoli for the same price.  Instead of fighting childhood obesity, what we should be aiming for is overall child health and this means supporting a healthy diet and activity, not running a competition to see how we can best teach children to be ashamed of their bodies.

The idea that weight is something we don’t talk about is also ridiculous.  Have a five minute conversation with a fat person and they will be more than happy to tell you about the stares when they eat in public, commentary about what is in their grocery carts and well-meaning friends who are happy to tell us how pretty our faces are and how beautiful we would be if we would just lose weight.  Fat people know that they are fat and if for one moment they decide to engage in a delusionary fantasy to the opposite, someone will be right along to fat shame them into the real world. Fat shaming is a huge part of our culture and the refusal to accept this as truth, is born out of a desire to silence us and ignore our experiences.

This entire article seemed determine to engage in as much privilege, and shaming as possible.  Fat people don’t need this kind of “help” and Black people don’t need to be told that our problems are no longer in existence.  Rather than a guide in what to do, Iovine should really consider her work a primer in how to engage in as much privilege as possible in the least possible words.  Say it with me everyone:

BINGO

 


When Black Women Choose To Date Inter-Racially, They Are Not Abandoning Their Race

 image I suppose it is time that I address the social meme of Black women sitting home alone drinking booze out of a bottle, doing their best impersonation of Bridget Jones.   Statistically, with the number of Black men in prison, it is quite likely that  a heterosexual Black women seeking Black love, will find herself alone.  This is problematic only if one believes that a man is a necessary component to happiness.  The media has embraced  the meme of the Black Bridget Jones and run all the way to the end zone with it. 

Black men have wasted trees penned books informing Black women that we need to lower our standards.  The Roots resident misogynist Jimmi Izrael, is set to capitalize on this myth with his book.  Heaven forbid Black women be the ones to give voice to our struggles, when there is a Black man available to set us straight. The problem simply cannot be Black men, it has to be the overly demanding Black shrew.  Of course, if you are not willing to sit at home and wait for a Black prince charming and choose to date inter-racially, then you have left your race and you are not down with the peeps. Such is the nonsense regularly aimed at Black women to keep the focus of the conversation on Black men.

For generations, Black men have not been afraid to date inter-racially. They are not accused of abandoning their race, or selling out because male privilege protects them from such assaults.  From Cornell West to Marcus Garvey, Black men have had a history of establishing loving relationships with White women, despite the history of slavery, and criminalization and animalization of Black male bodies.  Somehow, their love overcomes all, but a Black woman loving a man that is not Black is far to problematic too ever lead to a successful long term relationship. If your boo is not chocolaty brown, somehow, despite dealing with the sting of racism every day, you are not Black enough.

The moment a woman decides to date a man, there will always be compromises that need to be made.  Even in the most aware households, it is quite easy to slip into gender roles that leave women exhausted and plain worn out.  How many Saturdays do men find themselves drinking a beer while they mow the lawn, while women work feverishly to prepare the house for the work week ahead?  How many women find themselves hording sick days in case a child gets sick because invariably we are the ones that call in sick?  No matter how much you love a man, or how aware you are of the evils of sexism, gender will always play a role in a relationship.

When you love inter-racially, as I have chosen to do (yes chosen, because it is an active decision) there are issues that you may not have had to confront in an intra-racial  relationship; however, that does not automatically make these relationships unworkable.  Black men would like us to believe that the challenges are insurmountable, because it keeps Black women focused on them and their issues.

Black men have long used race to bind us to them, even in instances where it is clearly not in our best interest to do so.  Even as they use gender to oppress us through rape, and domestic violence, our issues are silenced because ultimately the experience of being a racialized body is often understood through the male lens. Black men rape Black women and the high instances of intra-racial violence speak to the fact that even within the community in which we are supposedly loved, that we are prey. Even as some are yelling shut up bitch and sit down ho’ you know damn well that the moment they feel oppressed, they demand Black women speak out.  Unfortunately, the same such defence is only proffered when it suits the best interests of the Black male patriarchy.

Encouraging Black women to settle increases the hold of the Black male patriarchy.  Though Black men would like to believe that race makes them incapable of fulfilling the role of the oppressor, the broken bones, blood and tears of Black women and children tell the opposite tale.  A Black man is not a prince, if his actions prove otherwise and therefore; being the Black Bridgette Jones is preferable to living a life of abuse. This is not to say that all Black men abuse but that all Black men have the ability to abuse like any other man and this truism needs to be acknowledged.  If a Black woman even suggests that a Black man is capable of evil, we are summarily attacked (see the response to The Colour Purple) and yet when Black women are constructed as abusers lacking any kind of moral fibre, this is understood to be a real world portrayal

We are meant to spend Sundays praying for our men and working 2 and 3 jobs to hold the family together.   We have been forced into the role of matriarch because Black men have refused to hold up there end of the bargain and then we are demonized for the ways in which we have struggled to support ourselves and our children. Racism is a terrible thing and the ways in which it attacks Black men is not worse than the ways in which it attacks Black women.  Racism cannot be used as a defence to support the Black male patriarchy because it erases our experiences.

Partnership means that both individuals must actively work together and a relationship in which women must struggle to maintain personal dignity is not positive.  If the face of prince charming has become that of a tyrant, he is hardly charming. I did not choose my partner because he is White, I chose him because he is the best match for me.  Instead of telling Black women to settle or demanding that Black women put race above self, what we should be telling Black women before they consider any relationship, is to center themselves first.  Do not put your wants and needs on the shelf to make some man happy because you are valuable just as you are.  What matters most in a relationship is not the race of your partner, but love and respect between the two of you and if this means you have to reject some triffling Black man to find your happiness, then so be it.

The first love of a Black woman’s life should always be herself.  We have been taught to devalue ourselves because this strengthens not only the Black male patriarchy but patriarchy in and of itself.  Any man that refuses to treat you like the queen that you are, is not worthy of your love and your respect.  This is not a plea for Black women to date outside of their race, this is however, a demand that Black women think critically about the lies that we are being told and who they benefit.  Black men will always play an important role in our lives because they are our fathers, sons, and brothers, but they need not play the staring role; that should be reserved for Black women.   Whatever choices you make about whom you love are your business because no matter the racial shaming, no one is sleeping in your bed but you.


When Is Gay Love Not Problematic On Television?

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“Spartacus Blood and Sand” is a historical fiction based on a Roman gladiator that started a slave uprising.  It has the right amount of blood, gore, sex and beautiful bodies to be somewhat compelling.  Ancient Rome allows an uncomplicated view of human sexuality.   It is not uncommon to see women objectify men and in a world in which femininity is often more object than subject, this is definitely a gender reversal. 

image In the early episodes we are introduced to a gay relationship between Barka the beast of Carthage and his lover Petrus.  We are first introduced to the pair in a brief camera glimpse as they engage in sex.  Slowly, it is revealed that more exists between the two – love.  In moments both sweet and tender we see affection shared between Barka and Petrus, as they begin to dream of a life together free of slavery and violence.  There is no moral dilemma regarding the relationship , unlike many media representations of gay romance, that are not specifically targeted at a GLBT audience.   Their love is not sanitized and is depicted as graphically as the heterosexual relationships on the show.   Their relationship is even more unique because it displays love between men of colour.  Often the face of the LGBT community in the media is white and affluent.  Though it is problematic that people of colour are once again reduced to the status of slaves, when we consider the time period in which the show is set, this is a fair characterization.

Just as I had begun to ponder why it is, that it seems that only in period pieces, that love between people of the same gender is depicted without artifice or problematic elements, Barka the Beast of Carthage was summarily killed, leaving his lover alone and despondent.  It seems old habits die hard for Hollywood. Unlike cable, HBO does not have the same limitations and yet on two of its hit shows, gay men have been killed off.

image On the show “Big Love,” which is about Mormon polygamists, for the first time after years of anonymous sex, Alby Grant found love with another Mormon man.  Though their relationship was complicated by homophobia within the Mormon faith and Dale’s marriage, the love between them was obvious.  Like all gay love on television it was doomed to end in tragedy.  In an apartment rented so that the two could have a space away from prying eyes, Dale hung himself leaving Alby to find his dead body.

Each time there is a new GLBT relationship on television, gay activist celebrate the representation because there is no doubt that the media continues to overwhelmingly focus on heterosexual love and romance.  These representations are not  cause for celebration and in fact represent a pyrrhic victory. These relationships tell the viewer that unlike heterosexual love, romance between people of the same gender is destined for failure or death and this in and of itself continues to maintain heterosexual privilege.  It speaks of something unnatural because these relationships when featured in a mainstream show are never destined to blossom and grow the way that heterosexual ones are.

Blacks are continually portrayed as thieves, rapists, drug dealers, prostitutes and gang bangers in the media.  In an evening of watching television one is most likely to see a Black face; however, the roles that they are given to play often upholds White hegemony.  What celebration can be found in this stereotypical, self-serving representation?  Should Blacks do a dance when they are once again cast as the dregs of humanity?  Just as the media maintains racism through its portrayal of Blacks in a position that is decidedly “othering” so to are BLGT people and their relationships stigmatized.  It is not enough to celebrate a TLBG representation without critically examining the portrayal.

image To get the rainbow stamp of approval, the media is continually increasing its representation of the LGBT community; however, in so doing a dangerous trend is occurring because of the repeated death of characters or of stereotypical portrayals.  On the highly popular “True Blood,” where the character of Lafayette is a genuine fan favourite, he is a drug dealing prostitute, even as he delivers what are arguably some of the best lines on the show. We can perhaps commend the writers of the show for taking the character further than Charlene Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse series; however, change certainly did not apply to refusing to cast a Black same gender loving man in a role that ultimately reifies many of the negative stereotypes attached to Black gay men.  While it is exciting to see a Black gay male on television, his role as a prostitute and a drug dealer only helps to reify the image of gay men as predators

As long as these characters continue to be written by straight people who are determined to hold on to their heterosexual privilege, these stunted portrayals of the LGBT community will continue.  It is time to stop squealing with joy every time we see a new character who identifies as GLBT and demand that these characters be normalized.  It is time that gay love not only be represented but be portrayed in the same explicit fashion as heterosexual love, without the characters dying or being portrayed as problematic.  As long as we are willing to settle for any face, as long as it is a TLBG face, the media will continue to uphold heterosexual privilege.  Don’t young BLGT teens deserve to see themselves accurately represented?  Don’t they deserve more than to believe that every mendacious characterization that they have heard is true?  Just as the Black community has made a point of being critical of media portrayals of Blacks, so to must the TLGB community.  The media is an agent of socialization and therefore the message that it sends cannot be ignored.