Thursday, March 25, 2010

Illness in the Family

I am taking the day off .  My unhusband, the love of my life had to go the hospital last night because his heart was racing.  This morning we learned that he is going to have to have surgery.  Though they say that this is routine, I am absolutely terrified.  I know that I often tweet about his terrible creations in the kitchen and the way that he drives me around  the bend, but he is the glue that holds our little family together.

I tried to continue on as normal and write today, but my heart and mind are not in it.  All my thoughts are of him and how much I love him.  I am going to take the day off to pull myself together and spend time with my family.  I will try and get back at it tomorrow, but for now I just need the time to think about my unhusband and  to be with him in any way that I possibly can.

Renee

Peddling Women’s Vaccines, Lies and Death in India.

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

image Out in the West, India is peddled to unsuspecting and slightly simple - minded tourists as the country of Slumdog Millionaire, mass girl fetus murders, the biggest slum dwelling in Asia and now to add to our list we’ve got using innocent girls as lab rats to test a vaccine. Not that any of these claims are untrue; just that the tourism departments of the world over need a good kick you-know-where for being so creative.

The Government hosted a health awareness drive in alliance with PATH last July in the three remote districts of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The goal was to vaccinate 14,000 girls against cervical cancer. What is interesting about the choice of these districts is most of them are either rural or tribal areas (except one zone Thirumalayapalem which is an urban zone) where the target masses are often illiterate and poor. Another point to mention that a similar campaign is on in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. The vaccine Gardasil, the commercially licensed HPV vaccine produced by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) was given in the selected zones only whereas it was marketed all over the country.

1) The American Chronicle on February 27, 2010 wrote, “Reports are coming in on a daily basis of young girls and women affected by adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine”.

2) The Guardian on September 29, 2009 wrote, “An investigation has been launched after a 14-year-old girl died upon receiving a cervical cancer vaccination” and lastly ;

3) The Lancet reports on February 2010, “We will not know for many more years whether HPV vaccination will prevent cancer or, in the worst case, do harm. In fact The Lancet went as far as to suggest that developing countries should allocate their allotted resources to cervical screening rather than HPV vaccination, until it’s proven that HPV vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer. It seems like NO ONE in India read these articles. Or if they did, they decided to administer these vaccinations anyway.

These vaccines have numerous side-effects including epileptic fits, blood disorders, arthritis, neurological disorders and seizures. In more than two reported cases, this vaccine was fatal; however these deaths were finalized as “suicides” by doctors and the postmortems alike. Their evidence: the epileptic fits which were a result of the vaccine is now used as an indicator of insanity thus clearing the Government or PATH of any blame. This issue was brought to the forefront by TEHELKA’s brave journalism.

Upon questioning the motive behind introducing an expensive vaccine like Gardasil in India, the PATH representatives have been cited saying, “The study is conducted to generate critical data and experience for evidence-based decision-making about public sector immunization programmes as part of a broader cancer-of-the cervix prevention and control strategy. Similar studies are being conducted in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. This is to simply keep India prepared for the day when these vaccines become affordable.

There have been reports that state around 120 students developed complications after the vaccination — ranging from epileptic fits, allergies, diarrhea, dizziness and nausea. Dr. Shekhar associated with the Nallipaka PHC, who had a target of 2,400 children but could manage only 1,800 till February 27, adds: “Many developed complications, but we don’t know if they turned serious since we aren’t in touch with the girls.”

Somehow no one paused to ask if there were any side-effects to these drugs? Was the full consent of these minor girls and their parents taken? Were they informed choices? Or this drug was taken under the assumption that “The Government knows best”? After all no Government would want to expose its population to a drug which was faced much music in many countries, would it?

I am so angry to see how the Government could just use the lives of countless girls to experiment on and to test a drug! PETA and other animal rights organizations disapprove of such trials on animals and here our Government has sanctioned to use girls –PEOPLE - as laboratory animals?! Is it because as girls and women, we have no agency over our bodies or the culture and by extension sees us as “disposable”, “usable” commodities? Another problem lies in the fact that most of these zones are some of the country’s most poor and illiterate places. The drug administers hand-in-glove with the Government has doubly, hell, fool proofed their agenda. There is absolutely no way in which these people could retaliate. I can imagine similar situations in Peru, Uganda and Vietnam. The drug was pulled out of the UK, USA and Australia once the media started raising reasonable doubts in the minds of the people. India however has nothing more radical then just ban the ad campaign under the grounds of “fomenting fear” while continuing to use girls as their personal experiment.

This is the country that has a Female President and whose legislation that is undergoing drastic changes in the Women’s Reservation Bill at the moment, but, prefers to keep such matters under wraps. I wonder if the Government would have allowed encouraged such an experiment had the lives of Indian men and boys had been at stake. My name is Jaded16 for a reason.

For further information on this vaccine and its consequences read TEHELKA’s article.

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anne Coulter Gets Shut Down in Canada

image First, let me say that whoever let this hater into our country needs to get a lifetime ban on Timmys.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  In Canada we take this distinction very seriously.  Unfortunately for Coulter, she forgot that her first amendment rights end at the forty-ninth parallel. 

But the regular Fox News commentator drew outrage from some, including a 17-year-old Muslim student who asked her a question about her views on Muslims.

Coulter has said all terrorists are Muslims and has suggested all Muslims be barred from airlines and use flying carpets.

When the student said she didn't have a flying carpet, Coulter told her to "take a camel."

In an interview on CTV News Channel Tuesday, Coulter called that remark a joke. "They wouldn't be bringing me in here for a speech if I never told a joke, if I never used satire," she said.

"There's a political point behind my saying that they could take flying carpets, the silliness of all this."

Coulter warned to tread lightly

Even before she spoke in London — the first of three speeches this week on Canadian soil — Coulter received a pre-emptive and private caution about the limits of free speech in Canada from the provost of the University of Ottawa, where she appears Tuesday.

She may have gotten away with her hate speech at Western University, but it seems the students of the University of Ottawa would not tolerate her hate speech as legitimate discourse. After loud protests, Ms. Coulters speech was cancelled because of fears for her safety.  In typical conservative fashion Coulter shot back:

I'm guessing the scores to get into the University of Ottawa are not very challenging. At the good schools -- the Ivy league schools in America and their equivalent -- there is no hassle whatsoever. A lot of the students disagree with me but they have too much intellectual pride to stamp their feet and say 'You're ugly'. They come and they ask questions.

How dare she comment on the quality of education in Canada.  Has the woman looked at the difference between the high school graduation rates and the literacy rates between the U.S. and Canada?  Give me a break.  You will notice that in Canada we don’t have a Bob Jones, Regent, Brigham Young , or Liberty University pretending to educate people.  Ottawa university has one of the best teachers colleges in North America.

Anne Coulter ran her mouth off and we don’t have to accept what she has to say, or to provide a forum for her hate.  What she said was absolutely hate speech and no marginalized person should have to be “othered,” so that tools like her can roam around the world with undeserved privilege.   Her statements can only be understood as humour to her because they buoy White privilege.

It is hardly surprising to me that Coulter attempted to speak at these conservative schools, because I am sure the larger universities like York, or the University of British Columbia, would not have touched her with a ten foot pole. Though I must say the resistance at the University of Ottawa, was truly heart-warming.

The bottom line is, when you enter another country, you need to respect their laws and their rules.  If Coulter did not like the Canadian distinction between free speech and hate speech, she was quite welcome to traipse her sorry behind right back where she came from.  The idea that what she wanted was engagement is ridiculous, otherwise her comments would have been based in reasonable facts and not simple human debasement. Monologue does not equal dialogue Coulter.

As of this time, she is still expected to speak in Alberta.  Big surprise; the province that was the first place to welcome George Bush after he left the White House.  Even if her speech in Calgary goes uninterrupted by protest, I do hope that if the language is in the same vein, that Canadian authorities will intervene. Celebrity status or no, Coulter should not be allowed to break our laws for a buck. Enough kowtowing to Americans.  Canadian law and Canadian values mean something.


What’s Up Wednesday?

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Hello everyone.  Today marks the half way point of the work week.  Please use this thread to chat about whatever is on your mind.  Is something grinding your gears or do you have a happy bit of news that you would like to share?  Have you read a great book, seen a great movie or play?  This is thread to share it all.  Have at it and I will join you in the comment section.

Weight Loss Guru Susan Powter Attacks Gabourey Sidibe

Transcript:

Fuck The Right To Fat Girls….. Scrolls across the screen

Yeah, precariously perched.  Are you kidding me?  Are you kidding me? Fat is not connected to disease.  Wrong absolutely wrong, 85% of all disease can be directly attributed  to lifestyle.   85% of all disease.  So that is so wrong don’t ask.  The message being sent by the N double A, F AAAA, is so completely wrong, completely irresponsible and completely disconnected from the truth that every fat person knows.  Because I at 260 pounds; there was nothing good about being 260 pounds, there was nothing healthy about being 260 pounds, there was nothing that looked good, there was nothing that felt good.  And let me tell you something Gabby, because Gabby is the only one that matters here, your weight is going to effect everything in your life.  From every breathe you take, because a human body carrying that much fat is under the burden.  Your heart is under a burden.  That’s real, I don’t care what the N double A C A A fat A says, cause they’re wrong.  Absolutely wrong, couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re weight child is going to effect every moment of your day; certainly your career.  You are in a industry where your gonna be judged microscopically.  And you say woman – Hollywood and you say African-American woman – Hollywood. You say morbidly obese, morbidly obese; that is not in question, that is what is happening here.  So first stop denying what is everyone, Howard is telling the truth.  Judged by her weight, totally and absolutely, you ain’t gonna change that, but can we at least stop denying that it’s real.  So Gabby dear, here is the thing, you are way too young, way too young to be this diseased DISEASED, not comfortable, not connected with your body.  You can be fat and anything you would like to be.  Your chances are less in many industries, in much of the world because we live in a world that judges that.  So whether the NAA I don’t even know what they are, the right to I am large in charge.  Kirstie stole my line.  I’m large and in charge. No you’re not. 

To be Cont….. scrolls across screen.

Once again with the fat shaming.  Has anyone ever heard Gabby say that she is unhappy with her life, or that she is uncomfortable with her body?  Every interview that I have seen her in, she appears to be full of life and extremely happy.  Of course the fat haters say this is an impossibility, cause everyone knows that teh fatties are miserable.

Susan Powter is also not a disinterested party.  Every word out of her mouth comes laced with the fact that she has books, speaking tours, and videos to sell, based in the idea that fat is the most awful condition in the world.  Instead of trying to “Stop the Insanity,” perhaps Powter should take a big cup of STFU. Clearly Powter is biased. When you make your living in the diet industry, you are hardly going to promote the idea of health and happiness at any weight. 

Fat is at times connected to disease in that it is a manifestation of bodily dysfunction.  My inability to be mobile and taking steroids, certainly is the main contributing factor to my weight; however, that does not mean that this is the case for every fat person. Fat quite often is simply a reflection of genetics.  If we didn’t spend so much time shaming people, perhaps more people would be accepting of their bodies.

Finally, Powter is so full of privilege it is disgusting.  Where does she get off calling a 27 year old woman a child? There she is a White woman, of class privilege, calling an adult Black woman a child, but hey she is well meaning right and not full of racial bias.  Not only does Powter consider Gabby diseased, she clearly does not deem her to be an equal because she readily infantilizes her. 

Powter may think that she is some sort of benevolent White angel, but her behaviour speaks to the exact opposite.  You don’t get to shame someone, for the sake of selling your products and then infantilize them, but then claim it is out of love.  If that is how she loves someone, can you imagine what she does to those she dislikes?  Bottom line, Powter et al. need to leave Gabby alone.  Their so-called benevolent advice is demeaning and the only truth they speak to, is a desire to shame people.


Wife wins 9 million from Husbands Mistress

Shaming and disciplining the woman in the affair is culturally acceptable because it supports slut shaming and the disciplining of female sexuality.  Even in cases were we decide that the lecher might be a tad responsible, he never receives the same amount of discipline or shame that the mistress does. 

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A humiliated wife successfully sued her cheating husband's mistress for $9 million because of the "severe emotional distress" triggered by their affair, according to media reports Monday.

Cynthia Shackelford, 60, used a little-known law in her native state of North Carolina to bring a suit against Anne Lundquist, the lover whom she claims wrecked her 33-year marriage to husband Allan.

Lundquist was charged with "alienation of affections" - or interfering in a marriage - in one of the few American states that allow someone to sue over such a clause.

She was ordered to pay the $9 million in damages to Shackelford by a court in Greensboro, N.C., last week.

“I had not a clue that Allan would wander," Shackelford told local newspaper the Greensboro News & Record. "He kept telling me 'Oh, she’s just a friend. There’s no affair. I love you.’”

I gotta say I was pretty shocked when I read this.  Really?  Should the law really be intervening in private affairs like this?  You cannot legislate sexual morality; that should be left to the individual.  Shackelford may feel vindicated, but what did she really win?   All her actions did was support the ridiculous notion that the other woman is always to blame.  No one forced Allan to get his freak on.

Even if his mistress knew that she was having an affair with a married man, she did not make any promises to Shakelford, and if Allan the wonderful lecher had not been intent on cheating in the first place, no affair could ever have occurred.   Why is the other woman paying the price for Allan’s infidelity?

Judgements like this are extremely harmful to women because they proscribe when sex can occur. It is no accident that this archaic law was suddenly re-discovered in a society that is trying to demonize the hook-up culture.  We may have access to birth control and in some cases abortion, but apparently true agency is still denied us if we decide to stray outside of conventional relationships to have sex.  What is this judgement but the painting of a modern day scarlet letter directly on the skin of the mistress? Be a good girl and have sex only with your lawful husband or you to may end up having to pay.

I think we should just be realistic and admit that affairs are going to happen.  There is a reason the divorce rate is as high as it is.  Perhaps, the way that we have structured relationships is not at all realistic for many members of society.  Affairs happen across, class, culture, age and sexuality.  It would seem to me that they are far more normal than we are willing to accept.  I understand that Shakelford was hurt by her husbands infidelity, but punishing women is just supporting patriarchy and it will not undo the damage done to her marriage. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dear Prudence: Perhaps YOU Belong in the Closet

image Emily Yoffe is Slate’s advice columnist.  Her “Dear Prudence” column can be read at the Washington Post and Slate.  Advice columns are something I generally speaking stay away from; however, when one is full of this much fail, it is hard to walk away.  

Fairfax: Last Halloween, I came to my office in full "office girl" drag. Dress, heels, makeup, wig.... It went over pretty well (although it was NOT a dressup day for the rest of the office). People still mention it.

Well, I did that because I do crossdress occasionally. When people kid me about it, I REALLY want to say "well, it was nice to show the office what my days off are like" or something like that. I'd really love to be "out" it's lonely in the closet, but I know the cat doesn't go back in the bag.

Should I keep my mouth shut, or share with my co-workers?

Emily Yoffe: I bet they still mention it. And I'm not sure it went over as well as you think, just that the rest of the uncostumed office didn't know what to say except, "Nice skirt." When you talk about the closet -- and I assume you don't mean your clothes closet -- if you're saying you're hiding the fact you're gay, then, yes, you should feel free to let people know you're homosexual. However that doesn't mean that anyone, whatever their sexual orientation, should then subject the office to a tour of their sexual proclivities. You don't want the cubicle mate who is into S&M showing up in bondage gear -- it's just not something that belongs in the office. So keep your off-hours wardrobe to yourself.

Where to begin with this fail?  First, she assumes that the author in question is gay, which really highlights her lack of understanding.  Gender and sexuality are two separate entities.  The need to attach the two speaks to her desire to privilege not only a heterosexist but cissexest mode of thought.  Even in her faux attempt to be pro gay, she instructs Fairfax not to flaunt his sexuality and compares same gender attraction to S&M. It’s a logical leap right-if you’re gay, you have sexual proclivities that are way to naughty for polite company.

FairFax could be trans or simply like cross dressing, but the fact that it is constructed as an “off hours” thing, further creates a needless element of shame.  FairFax is expressing a desire to be who he is publicly and rather than supporting him, Yoffe is far more interested in promoting bigotry.  Yep, others won’t like it, so stay in the damn closet. 

The truth of the matter is, that if FairFax comes out, it could have negative consequences because there are not enough protections under the law regarding gender and gender presentation.  He will most definitely face bigotry and it is up to him to decide what he wants to do; however, regardless of what decision he makes, shame should not be an element.

When I thought that it could not get any worse, Yoeffe decided to go for the trifectar:

Fairfax, Again: I'm not gay gay is (comparatively) easy in today's workplace. I'm talking about crossdressing. It's something I do, sometimes.

And yes, I do wonder what the rest of the office REALLY thought. But I'll never know.

Emily Yoffe: To all the readers who are chiding me that most transvestites are not gay -- yes, I understand the cross-dresser may well be heterosexual, I was just dealing with the ambiguity of his using "come out of the closet." This letter makes the nice point that cross-dressing is something some people "do." It doesn't matter what your office mates might think about what you do in private -- the point is to keep it private.

Yep, back to the  “come out of the closet”  fixation, how hard is it for this woman to comprehend that many people whom society others lead a closeted life, and this includes trans people and cross dressers.  The term is not gay specific.  Also, “transvestite”? What year are you writing this in?  Come the hell on.

Believe it or not, it does matter what FairFax’s office mates think, not because we should care what others think about our identities, but because intolerance is reflective of our desire to privilege the male/female binary.  Each person that buys into this nonsense is determined to protect their undeserved privilege.

So what if FairFax wants to wear a skirt, or heels and hose?  As long as it does not impede his work, which it most definitely would not if he has an office job, what the hell is the difference? It is only a disturbance to those that are small minded.  Again, I repeat, it is not dirty, nor is it shameful; it is simply a part of who is. 

Yoffe could have gone with a more affirmative message.  What saddens me, is that someone who is questioning whether or not there is something wrong with them might read this and infer that they are some kind of deviant.  There are enough negative messages in society without adding to it.  Attitudes will never change as long as people are told to hide who they are for fear of offending others.  Perhaps, those that are offended just need to learn to deal with it instead.

H/T Allison McCarthy (everyone’s favourite Gus) Via e-mail


Tune in Tuesday: Bob Marley Redemption Song

This is actually one of my favourite songs of all time.  Each time I hear it, I learn something new and it continues to touch me deeply.  In perhaps what is the most profound lyric ever written, Marley sang, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.”  Today we perform  that which has become normalized never realizing how much it damages us as people. 

We live in a white supremacist, sexist, homophobic, cissexist, fat phobic, ageist, ableist world.  Even though many of us negotiate at least one ism, many are quite content to embrace the privileges that we have in other areas and this is indeed a form of mental slavery because we have chosen to identify with the oppressor rather than the oppressed.  To look in the mirror and face your privilege is a hard thing and it takes a lifetime worth of commitment.  Even with all of the work, at the end of the day we will still be imperfect because we are imperfect beings, but it is the journey and knowledge that count.  It is only in laying down this heavy burden that we can ever achieve anything close to freedom.

Don’t stand aside and look, become what you were meant to be and in so doing become a truth teller.  Whatever your instrument is, it will magnify power because nothing is as powerful as truth in a society that is determined to lie about the worth of humanity. 

Well, now that I have rambled what are your thoughts on this song?  Please feel free to discuss any other Marley song that touches you and don’t forget to share why.

A Spark of Wisdom: What Counts as Sex?

image 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.

Apparently, I am a virgin.

Now, this rather surprised me, all things considered. I rather thought all the sex I'd had disqualified me. It most certainly surprised Beloved when I told him (though it did paralyse him with uproarious laughter for some time)

But no, to some people I am a virgin - because I am a man who has never had sex with a woman. Specifically, I have never had penis-penetrating-a-vagina sex. And this is the only sex that counts. Yes, yes it is.  (Amusingly, some of these same people also believe that, as a gay man, I am also a promiscuous. This makes me a promiscuous virgin. It's at this point that logic just said "Seriously?!" and left the room in a huff.)

I was surprised the first time and put it down to, well, extremist foolishness. After all, the homophobes have never been logical have they? And I'm sure that no belief or stance, no matter how silly or hateful, isn't held by someone somewhere (and that he has internet access).

Except it wasn't isolated. Several times I have come across people who decided I had never ever had sex, or never had "real" sex, because no woman was involved in the proceedings. Often they combined it the old foolishnesses of "how do you know you're gay if you've never had sex with a woman?" (I was so tired of saying "and have you had sex with a man?" that I had to mix it up a little "have you ever had sex with a lawn mower? No? Then how do you know you won't like it!") and "you only need to meet the right girl" (which is several kinds of annoying when I've already met the right guy) that I'm sure we've all heard and mocked before. But still, there was a surprising number of these "the only real sex is penis/vagina sex" out there.

And then I read  this little linky from the Kinsey institute, That pointed me to this study.  30% of people who took the study did not consider oral sex to be sex. 20% did not consider anal sex to be sex. That's a pretty limited definition of sex there - and one that leaves me in the category of "not had sex." In short, 20% of people who took this study think I'm a virgin.

And suddenly "quaint, silly, little eccentricity" becomes something rather more. It says rather a lot of our attitudes towards sex. It shows we have a very heteronormative view of sex - and a very restrictive view of sex. By privileging a sex act that is seen as quintessentially heterosexual as the only 'real' sex then we, in turn, lessen homosexual sex. We're not capable of 'real' sex, it's lesser sex, fake sex, not 'proper' sex. I can't see this attitude as anything but harmful, just as any devaluing assumption is.

I don't think considering only acts that try to expressly exclude gay people to count as real sex is motivated by homophobia in most cases (though the motivation doesn't change that it is harmful), let me be clear. I rather think that it's down to obsession with one particular act coupled with a whole lot of desperate self-justification (I'm not having sex, I'm just...) and just the general weirdness that comes with humanity's collective horror and obsession with sex. I'm rather at a loss as to explain the full silliness of it, I confess.

I don't know the motivations, but still, to 20% of these people, I am a virgin. And I'm not sure whether to be amused or insulted.



Tavis Smiley’s Black Agenda: outdated, not inclusive

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Saturday, March 20th, Tavis Smiley convened a panel to discuss the Black Agenda in the age of Obama. The panellists included such people as Dr Michael Eric Dyson, Angela Glover, Reverend Jessie L. Jackson Sr., Dr. Cornel West, Louis Farrakhan and Dorothy Wright Tillman. The We Count panel replaced Smiley’s annual State of the Black Union conference, but the format remained similar. All participants were members of the Black intelligentsia, with no representation from poor Blacks that the panellists’ expressed such concern for.

Tavis Smiley posed the following question to begin the discussion: “How do we advance and African-American agenda in the era of Obama and how do we do that in what many are calling a post-racial America?”

This question coming from Tavis Smiley is quite interesting, considering that he has a history of expressing displeasure with Obama. The panellists were quick to affirm their own problems with the Obama administration.

In response to Tavis, Ms Tillman had this to say:

“President Obama is not addressing the Black agenda. President Obama has been told that it’s alright not to address our agenda. So if you don’t address it, don’t worry about it, ‘cause they going to be quiet. He been told by the little birds in his ears. Because we are so happy to have a Black face in the White house that we have to get back in that place where they had us before.”

Though this commentary supposedly came from a place of love, the overwhelming message was that Obama has failed to place the needs of African-Americans at the forefront, because he continues to hold a high approval rating among them and received 97% of their votes. For as long as he is beloved, it was suggested that he will not be inspired to act.

Many White Americans believe that the United States has moved to a post-racial state, because it has elected an African-American president. This flies in the face of all of the systemic inequality that continues to exist.

Brother Farrakhan addressed the issue saying:

“The forces around power is always the real power. President Obama does not run this country. President Obama has been chosen to govern White affairs and if in that process we get something, it won’t be because the governing powers want it , it will be because we organized and forced a government to speak to our needs. I like you am very proud that a Black man sits in the White house but I understand very clearly and we should all understand that it is the White house… Do you think that having a Black face in the White house means that we don’t have to make him do it? We have a right to expect something from our brother, 97% of our people voted for him.”

Years of work went into electing Barack Obama. Even as Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation, Blacks were dreaming of the time when they would have a seat at the table. From Shirley Chisom to Jesse Jackson, politicians and civil rights leaders have struggled so that one day a Black face would become the face of America.

Now that the dream has been realized and the cup still remains empty, it is reasonable to suggest that the struggles have not reaped the benefits that were projected onto this President. As Obama has repeatedly said, he is not the president of Black America, but the president of all of America.

Even as the panellists were critical of Obama’s top-down solution to poverty, the irony of the fact that they were themselves privileged was not once remarked upon. Not only did the men outnumber the women, but they were all able-bodied, cisgender and heterosexual. That this basic fact went unremarked upon suggests that perhaps the real agenda is not equality for all but the rise of a Black middle class that rivals the current middle class, which is largely made up of White able-bodied, cisgender and heterosexual people. Repeating hierarchy is not freedom.

finish reading here

Monday, March 22, 2010

Better Trim That Pubic Hair (NSFW)

As most of you know, I am a fan of the cable show “Spartacus of Blood and Sand”.  Every week male frontal nudity is a mainstay and in fact, this week I finally got a look at a particular man that I was very curious about (you can call me naughty later).  Spartacus is attempting to be a historical fiction based on a true story; however, certain details are particularly problematic.

(Editor’s note: the image formerly displayed here has been removed because of nudity)

As you can see, female nudity is not an issue for this show.  It is always done tastefully; however, I have noticed that despite the fact that this show is supposedly based on ancient Rome, modern grooming aesthetics continue to dominate.  Notice how carefully groomed the pubic hair is?  If you are looking for a stray arm pit hair you won’t find it either.  It seems that even for the sake of historical accuracy, the idea that women did not always attend with such care to their bodily hair is troubling.

Why is hair on women such an issue?  It is as though we seek to create a world in which women never leave a pre-pubescent state.   I will certainly agree that how women choose to groom their bodies is an individual choice; however, we should not ignore the fact that much of this choice, is mitigated by the norms we have created. 

Even in a show that is attempting to convey historical accuracy, the women have shaved armpits and scrupulously groomed pubic hair.  No authentic Roman woman would be worrying about her bikini line, or whether or not she had armpit hair.  I would not be surprised if upon closer inspection, you would find that all of the actresses also shaved their legs.  Why is there so much fear regarding hair?  Hair on your legs armpits or crotch, is not suddenly going to make you less female.

We talk about choice and female agency and yet the moment a woman decides not to participate in the cult of hairlessness, she is immediately disciplined. I simply don’t understand how hair which is naturally occurring, can be so problematic and yet vajazzling is considered this wonderful discovery.  Your crotch does not need to look like a disco ball. 

For all of our freedom and agency, we still have not reached a point where we feel that personal grooming is up to the individual, because even in times when it certainly does not make sense, we promote a particular aesthetic.  We constantly talk about the beauty of the female form and yet in its most natural simplistic state we consider it not only unacceptable, but deeply flawed. 

Editors Note: A correction: Roman women of class privilege did shave body hair; however, slaves, as this image depicted did not.

 


Just Another Monday

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Normally, I start by complaining that the work week has officially begun, but given the events of this past weekend, I am sure that people have much more on their mind.  Please consider this your open thread to chat about whatever you would like and I will join you in the comment section.

Conservative Blogger Calls for Obama’s Assassination on Twitter

Nothing like health care reform to bring out the nasty in people. 

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It seems that Forell believed that hir point was not clear enough and then tweeted the following:

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The comments have since been deleted; however, to my knowledge, the account remains active.  When he received a backlash for his commentary, he posted the following tweet.

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This back step is hardly reassuring because the fact remains, that even before Obama was officially elected to the White House, he had to receive secret service protection early because of the numerous death threats aimed at him.  While there are those that are clearly against the goals of his administration, what is clear is that his largest crime is being Black.

Reading these tweets reminds me of a woman who two years ago declared at a Palin rally, that she was worried that Michelle and Mr Obama, didn’t like White people.  Isn’t it interesting that Whiteness continues to speak about a fear that Blacks will reject them, when the opposite is in fact true? Whiteness continues to oppress Blacks for economic gain. Race as a category was not created because of difference but to justify oppression and we have not moved past this understanding because greed continues to be our biggest motivator.

Whiteness enslaved our people for 310 years, instituted Jim Crow laws, lynched and beat us and killed many of our leaders, yet it continues to speak as though it has the right to its rage.  The tea party is the result of angry White men who fear the loss of undeserved privilege, that they view as a birth right. It is in this frame of reference, that they throw the slur of nigger and call for the death of Obama. 

The world is not post racial, and the tea party and racist conservatives prove this on a daily basis.  It is full of ignorant White men, who are not intelligent enough to realize that their enemy is not Blacks or even progressives, it is the rich White men of privilege who have thrown up race as a straw man, to protect the fact that they live in luxury on the backs of the poor.

Poor Whites have a history of making decisions and participating in political action that are not in their best interest because they continually buy into the lie of Whiteness as a real benefit.  It is not Blacks that are stealing your jobs, under educating your children, or reducing your ability to achieve class mobility.  All of the major blocks to progress actually have a lily White face and when they need your angst, they will inflame your anger, but that same rage will never buy you a seat at the table or a membership to their exclusive clubs, because the key is not just Whiteness, but Whiteness plus class privilege.

They scream about hand outs and socialism as though something is being taken from them.  The face of need is always understood to be of colour, though among their ranks stand people who cannot afford their mortgages or to put their children through college.  They speak about working hard, as though they would even be in the position to live in the standard to which they have become accustomed, without the 310 years of free labour provided by Black slaves or the years of indentured servitude that followed with Jim Crow. Let us also not forget that even today, in this so-called era of post racial wonder, that Blacks continue to be underpaid for their labour. The White men of today may never have enslaved anyone, but they are quick to claim the benefits, as if this is an achievement to be proud of.

No matter how poor or undereducated  African Americans have been, they have largely been able to see what is and is not in their best interest, because they are not saddled with the lie that White privilege somehow elevates them. Embracing and loving your Whiteness will not comfort you in times of need, or feed you in times of hunger; it will only give you the ability to look down upon others while speaking to none of your direct issues.

These tea party participants and racist conservatives are nothing but a tool of the White bourgeoisie. They are a mindless mob congregating not to stop a wrong, but to perpetuate their own suffering.  We cannot take their rage for granted, because history has shown that when Whiteness feels challenged, it reacts like a caged animal and attacks.  Obama’s life was in danger the moment he decided to run for president, the question is how long people like Forell will continue to espouse the rhetoric of hate and violence to hold onto a privilege that was never rightfully theirs to begin with.  The next White man in office will not bring you justice, only dismantling the system of privilege will.

 



Donna Simpson: feederism is abuse

I have a new post up at global comment

image From Twitter to “The View,” the story of Donna Simpson’s attempt to become the fattest woman in the world has made its rounds. The Daily Mail reports that Simpson is 42 years old and is a resident of New Jersey. The story is filled with voyeuristic facts, highlighting such things as her ability to eat “70 pieces of sushi” or “her love [of] cakes and sweet things.”

According to the Mail, Donna’s goal is to become the world’s heaviest woman – taking her 7xl frame to a staggering 1000 lbs. Simpson hopes to achieve her goal weight in two years, even though this will require consuming 12,000 calories a day. Interestingly enough, this is the same caloric intake that the eight time gold medalist Michael Phelps consumes when he is in training.

To support herself, Simpson runs a website on which her viewers pay to see her consume food and pose in suggestive photos. In a video posted at Fox News, Simpson says, “I also have videos of me in motion because they like to see me in motion and see how my fat jiggles and moves.”

When she was asked how it made her feel that people wanted to see her move around like that, Simpson responded, “Love it, love it. Cause they are not saying it in a bad way. They’re paying to see me; they adore it just as they would a woman of normal size.” Her husband is reportedly encouraging her to gain weight and, according to Simpson, is a real belly man.

Simpson’s husband may be the only one who publicly supports her right now.  Dan Savage blogged that she should have her child taken away and similar comments have appeared on Twitter.

Many used her decisions to argue the price of healthcare is inflated due to the presence of obese people, and one commenter at the Cleveland Leader had this to say, “It’s because of irresponsible people like this woman that healthcare costs too much and the President is asking me to pay for her care. Incredible!”  Another chimed in, “That woman needs to DIE. Tomorrow would be nice! She should be ashamed of herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a waste of LIFE!”

Many go on to blame mental illness, because few can accept the idea of a woman being happy weighing over 500 pounds, much less the 1000 pounds that she is aiming for. The feeder/feedee element as well as the fetishiszing of fat people, which are the most obvious aspects of this story, have not been commented upon that much, however.

The feeder/feedee relationship is not only toxic, it is abusive. Though in most cases, it involves force feeding or the threat of ending a relationship to encourage someone to eat, the mere fact that Simpson made sure to point out that her husband actively wants her to get bigger, points to a troubling aspect in their relationship.

There is definitely a very negative power dynamic at play. Even within her own home, Simpson is fetishsized. This is substantiated by Simpson’s claim that her husband is a belly man. Feeders will typically fixate on large fatty breasts, buttocks, hips or stomachs. Often these men will insert their penises into the folds of fat to achieve sexual gratification.

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