Saturday, April 3, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, what an interesting week of conversation.  Thanks again to all who participated and a special thanks to those who remained respectful, though we were discussing very difficult issues.  As I said in a post this week, Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  If you would like to participate, please send either your original post or a link from your blog via e-mail.  I promise you the process is relatively painless.

Below you will find links to posts that I found interesting this week.  This is a gentle reminder that I did not read the comment sections, so read those at your own risk.  When you are done showing these bloggers some love, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.   

Is Leonardo DiCaprio “Bad For The Jews?”

Patrilineality Does Not Require Name Changes

Reclaiming Ugly

Gender Studies and the objectification of transsexual people

Crazy

Say “Fuck That” To The Dress

A step backwards for reproductive rights

Combat Barbie Saves the Day

LINKAGE: Veiling and “Save the Muslim Girl!”

Social capitol and the pain of black women

 The painful state of being

It’s Not As Easy As You Think

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Friday, April 2, 2010

RapeLay Speaks About More Than Japanese Culture

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trigger warning

Just as the title suggests, RapeLay is a game about rape.  According to CNN, the game begins on a train platform and the object is to harass a young woman and eventually rape her.  Obviously, rape as amusement is absolutely horrifying and helps to de-sensitize the participant regarding the violence faced by women all over the globe.

In media reports, opposition has been framed as an effort to protect children and it has been understood  as some sort Asian attack on North American sensibilities.  It is more than reasonable to want to prevent children from engaging in rape as a form of play; however, to understand this as the work of the somehow uniquely perverse Japanese is clearly racist and limited.

This game may have been created in Japan, but rape culture is a global phenomenon because patriarchy is systemic internationally.   Prior to the invention of the internet, you didn’t need to travel to Japan to see rape culture, you simply needed to walk down any street in your hometown, or read a newspaper, listen to music on the radio, or watch an evening of television. Victim blaming is a daily part of life in the Western world.

Westerners have a tendency to frame oppression as something that happens elsewhere because they understand their society to be evolved and somehow removed from much of the violence and inhumanity that troubles the globe.  Consider the way that oppression against women is often constructed as something that happens to Muslim women because of the niqab. This totally ignores the fact that many women actively choose to dress modestly and or veil, as part of their religious practices.  How many times have people professed that real women’s oppression is something that happens in the Middle East?  Even some who speak about the horrendous rate of rape in the Congo, see this as phenomenon that is based in the savagery of Africans, rather than admitting that rape happens every minute in the West.

We should be outraged that Rapelay exists.  We should use whatever means possible within the law to restrict its sale and proliferation, but in so doing, we should acknowledge that violence against women does not solely exist in the culture of “others” .  This line of thought creates Western victims of violence and sexism as invisible, and further strengthens a damaging form of ethnocentrism  that serves to maintain a racialized view of humanity. 

Whether it is the save the kids mantra, or a jingoist impulse to protect American trade, nothing justifies painting this as something those Asians do, regardless of the fact that many of these games originate in Japan.  Western capitalists are rewarded on a daily basis for exploiting women and for glorifying violence in horribly escalating forms.  When women complain about the ways in which the portrayal of violence is damaging, it is often silenced by those referencing sexism and violence in other cultures.  Saying “those people” gives westerners an excuse to ignore the ways in which no space is truly a safe space, if one is female in this world.

 

On When to Speak

This is a guest post from Broadsnark

I am an anarchist, atheist, adopted, jewish, bilingual, woman with a degree in Latin American Latino Studies and a head crammed full of the history of the Americas. I spent a decade working in the law in Florida and another decade working for nonprofits in California and DC.  I know more than your average person about the history, policies, and human rights violations related to the food system, drug prohibition, the prison industrial complex, immigration, and (inexplicably) cowboys.  I believe that justice, peace, and understanding are possible.  I blog at www.broadsnark.com

Growing up in South Florida, I was surrounded by people who had lived horrors that were incomprehensible to me.

I had friends who grew up in Nicaragua during the war and had to hide under their bed as the fighting went on outside. I had friends whose parents were dissidents in Cuban prison. I had friends who watched paramilitaries in Colombia execute unarmed people and who could do nothing but feign support and drink beer with them after. I had friends who told me about seeing body parts on the streets of Haiti. I listened as people with numbers tattooed on their arms talked about losing their entire families in camps.

So much suffering.

And all too often the people who had suffered so much were unable to connect their suffering to the people around them. Nicaraguans looked down on Haitians. Haitians looked down on African Americans. Cubans looked down on everyone and everyone looked down on them right back. Fear, stereotyping, and ignorance all too often prevailed. The communities who had suffered used their suffering as justification for the denigration of others.

It would seem that experiencing dehumanization would make people more sensitive to it, but, just as often, people simply turn around and do the same thing to someone else.

And where does that leave me? I am incredibly privileged. I have not experienced the horrors of war, rape, genocide, poverty. And yet, don’t I still have an obligation to protest when I see groups being vilified? No matter who is doing it? But how do I do that? How do I tell the holocaust survivor that their hatred of Germans is wrong? How do I tell the person whose child was blown up by a Palestinian terrorist that their hatred is wrong? How do I tell the person whose child was shot by Israeli soldiers that their hatred is wrong?

How do I not tell them?

I don’t know.

But I do know this. All of the suffering in this world is connected. It is contagious. It is dependent upon our willingness to vilify other people, to condone hierarchies, to accept domination, to embrace violence, to ignore the suffering of others, to worry about “our own.”

And I am tired of all the suffering.

It’s Friday and the Question is?

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I don’t believe that I am the only to think that publishing has undergone a decline.  There is just so much purple prose masquerading as good literature, that I often weep for the trees that were wasted in its production.  This weeks question is:  What authors/books make you wonder how they ever got published?

The Tea Party: A Lesson in Ignorance

I came across these images on Flicker and I thought I would share some of them with you.

image image image image imageDid you notice a trend?  All of these signs have spelling errors and it is highly reflective of who makes up the Tea Party.  They are largely poor and undereducated Whites who fear the loss of the only privilege that they have – Whiteness.  Poor Whites have acted against their best interest economically for centuries.  It is no accident that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to have  liberal views.  I find it ironic that they want English affirmed and yet they themselves are hardly able to speak it, let alone write it proficiently.

The tea party stands as proof of why education is so important.  These people have been sold a bill of goods and with no counter-point, they have accepted this without question.  The ruling White bourgeoisie is never going to tell these people who is really responsible for their impoverishment and their ignorance.  This is why we have seen an attack on so-called liberal college professors and a cult of anti-intellectualism.  Thinking is specifically discouraged, because given the hard facts, it is hard to deny that the real evil in this culture is not poor bodies of colour, or even socialism, but those that live with undeserved privilege.

They don’t even understand that socialism is in their own best interest.  No pure capitalist state exists for a reason – capitalism is predatory and it necessarily marginalizes for the purposes of profit and therefore, those in the working/under class would not be able to achieve any kind of sustained subsistence without some form of socialism. Capitalism is the cult of I in a world that clearly needs a culture of we. 

Socialism means a society that cares whether or not the poor woman across town has enough to eat.  It means that we understand that we are a communal animal and dependent upon each other for survival.  Just our dependence upon touch and human interaction should prove this most basic fact and yet, the ruling bourgeoisie trumpets individualism, and responsibility, while they openly abdicate the debt they owe to marginalized bodies.

If you live in privilege, it is not because you have worked harder than anyone else or because you have some sort of special talent, but that throughout the course of history your family has stood on the shoulders of others to allow you to have access to opportunities that were not available to the poor.  For instance, house ownership continues to be an issue in the African-American community and when we consider that this is one of the easiest ways to pass wealth from one generation to another, is it any wonder that Blacks still exist with little net worth?

When poor White people fight in opposition to healthcare, it speaks to their inability to see their own best interest to protect a class interest that is in complete opposition to their own.  Rush Limbaugh can afford the best healthcare that the nation has to offer at any given time and this is because he has class advantage.  Of course he is not going to want to take care of anyone else and of course, he has developed a sense of self entitlement; his gender and his race have encouraged this from the moment of his birth.

What we can learn from the Tea Party is that education is essential dismantling undeserved privilege.  Teaching children to think critically is extremely important and this means giving them accurate information on which to base their decisions.  People who are not taught to think will follow.  As I have always said people drink the sand not because they see a mirage but because they don’t know any better.

 

RE: Kola Boof

When I asked people to welcome Ms.Boof to the blog, I mentioned that her truth would be a hard one to hear.  Kola speaks from a particular perspective based on her life experience and though we all claim to believe in the value of life experiences, if they conflict with our particular views, many are quick to disagree. 

I am somewhat aware and up to speed on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, however; I have no awareness of the dynamics between Blacks and Arabs.  This is completely outside of my experience and I would be a fool to attempt to speak to this.  I do think that Ms.Boof has spoken very eloquently on this blog and in fact in ALL of her other writings about her life.  No one has attempted to understand what it must have been like to see your parents murdered before you at the age of 8, or to be sent away from the only family you know because you are to dark.  No one has thought about what it must be like to know that your Arab father bought your Black mother.  That fact alone is jarring to me.  For daring to speak her truth here on this blog, Ms. Boof has received death threats and this is completely unacceptable.

I have received many e-mail complaints since Kola started posting here and a few of you have made your feelings clear in the comment section.  First, let me say I understand that you are upset but to tell me what I must do “right now”, when no one is paying me a damn salary is to treat me like chattel and I damn well deserve better than that people.  It shows a sense of entitlement that is frankly shocking especially in light of my post this week on the economics of blogging and the personal issues that my family has undergone in the last few weeks.

Womanist Musings has had an open guest posting policy for quite sometime, with weekly reminders of its existence.  This means that this platform is open to anyone and in fact many times, simply based on an interesting comment, I have asked readers to expand on ideas/thoughts made in comments.  I created the open guest posting policy and added columnists for the express purposes of expanding the conversation around here.  When I speak, it is from a very specific position and it means that there are issues that I am not competent enough to comment on that need attention. 

If you want a different perspective than that written by Ms.Boof, then take the initiative to write it and send it in for publication.  Examining an issue from many perspectives is always the goal of this blog and this is why I like to think of it as the intersectionality blog.  In fact, the more intersections the better because one perspective is rarely correct.  When I have messed up, you have called me out and I have appreciated it.  I have never attempted to silence legitimate discourse even when it hurts because of my belief in conversation. 

I challenge you to take the time to sit down and articulate your feelings, just as I do every single day.  I am not going to do the heavy lifting for you.  This is your space, just as much as it is mine and we all need to participate to keep it not only current but educational. I have attempted to dedicate this space to marginalized bodies because I know that there are few venues in which we are legitimately allowed to speak our truths and therefore, I once again say to you: speak your truth and it shall be heard. 

 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

“The Third Eye Report: Israel Vs. Palestine” By Kola Boof

image Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com
We have grown used to seeing the African mother as a maid to be ordered about, or as Zora Neale Hurston so aptly put it—a mule. This image is so imbedded within our global psyche, that the other day, during my introduction to the forum that is “Womanist-Musings,” several people became outraged that the Prime Minister of Israel had complimented me for being a warrior in the protection of—my children; Sudanese children. They scolded me quite viciously; denied that there is genocide in Sudan and suggested that all who believe in freedom have a moral obligation to support and defend the cause of Palestine and reject any connection whatsoever to Israel. In other words, I was being told once again to “put my Black babies down”…and go pick up, nurse and protect “a silken-haired Palestinian baby.”
In the midst of their claim that there is no genocide or Arab Imperial oppression of Black Sudanese, not a single compassionate word was uttered to acknowledge the mass murdering of millions of Chollo (Black African) children at the hands of Arab funded militias. Darfur, now a media catch phrase with I-Pod and microwave owners was thrown out, but no one mentioned the larger story in South Sudan, the one specific to me (war and secession in 2011), and not a single female stood up and said that they could understand how an African Womanist, even a Half-Arab one like myself, would be concerned first, not with saving Palestinian children, but with saving—Chollo children.

These people are devoted activists fighting a wonderful cause. They are steadfast and justified in their rage against the racist oppression, apartheid and degradation of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. They talk of bombs being dropped on the heads of Palestinian children; they raise heaven and earth profiling every nook and cranny of the dehumanization of the Palestinian people. But unfortunately, they are still Westerners quick to order the maid. Apparently, they have never seen “gasoline fire dropped from the sky” on Dinka villages in South Sudan or been a Black-Skinned African mother with bare feet situated on Arab occupied Muslim-governed sand; the oar in her stomach turning as a son or daughter has not returned home before dusk; the instinct of her gut knowing that the “murhaleen” (slave raiders) abducted her child and are selling that child for the back stoop of an Arab household, maybe in Sudan; maybe in Jordan; maybe in Egypt; maybe in Saudi Arabia.
Million-selling books by actual Dinka slaves, such as my close friend, Francis Bok, author of “Escape from Slavery” are ignored or denied no matter how much evidence there is. Even the history of the first Black Woman to be ordained a Saint by the Catholic Church, Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Dinka girl enslaved by Arabs and sold to Italians almost a hundred years ago—even this is ignored.
The perception of these “Western Activists” is wholly one in which only the White Arab and Jewish states exist. And in which White Israel is the “all-evil” and Tanned Palestine is the “all-good.” Anxious and gung-ho to gain justice for those who get media coverage—the Palestinians—these “morally superior” activists detect no African history; no African presence; no African value.
Years ago, while writing my autobiography, I suffered terrible depression recalling an Uncle who had been murdered when I was a child in Sudan. Palestinian dock workers at the ship yard in Port Sudan became outraged when my Black-skinned Uncle was promoted “Foreman” over them. A White American had given my Uncle the position and the Palestinians protested that they would now have to report to this Abeed (slave/nigger)—“abd” (correct spelling) being a term that all Arabs, including the darkest of Palestinians, use on a daily basis to describe anyone who is Black. These Palestinian dock workers never thought about all the Black Sudanese who by rights of majority should occupy those jobs at Port Sudan in the first place—what they cared about was that an “abd” would be telling Humans what to and what not to do.
These “brown brothers,” as Black Americans have famously dubbed them, kicked holes in my Uncle’s stomach. He died the same day he got that position as foreman. Neither his wife; his two children or myself got the chance to say goodbye to him or convey what he meant to us. He was dead.
Nobody reported it on the television news. Arab Corporations, most of them in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, own all the local newspapers, radio and television stations in Sudan—a Black Nation—and along with owning all media in this Black nation; it is illegal for Blacks to have weapons; therefore no one from the “abd tulat” (nigger village) could riot or defend my Uncle’s murder. But, of course, the Palestinians and other Arab civilians had arms.
I am describing but one of an avalanche of Black experiences in Arab run countries like Sudan. Countries infested with “Police Racial Profiling,” the mass wholesale rape of Black women and Black children at the hands of institutionalized Arab privilege; Shariah Courts that hand down the law and will of Allah (chopping off of hands)—the majority of those with hands chopped off or tongues cut out of their head coincidentally being Black African, of course. Go to any jail in Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya or Morocco—and you will see that the majority of prisoners are that nation’s Blackest people.
Just as the activists and Womanists in America feel the utmost angst and passion for how they must save the poor downtrodden-oppressed-degraded Palestinians from the cruelties of Israeli injustice—I, a woman born in Omdurman, Sudan to a Charcoal coloured woman who was purchased by her husband, my White Arab father, when she was only fourteen—I feel even greater responsibility and passion for what I know, personally, and for what I have lived personally, which in my estimation is much greater than many of the people criticizing me.
I came to the United States, not as an adult immigrant, but as an orphan adopted by sympathetic Black Americans. My birth parents had been executed in my presence when I was eight years old by the Murhaleen, because my White Arab father (renowned archeologist Harith Bin Farouk) had dared speak in public against Arab enslavement of Dinka-Nuer tribes people and had campaigned against the building of Lake Nuba.
Not two weeks after my parents were slain in front of my eight year old eyes—my Arab Egyptian grandmother, Najet Kolbookek, decided that my skin was “too dark” to for inclusion in my birth father’s family and sought permission from the Mullahs to let me for adoption (as adoption is illegal in Egypt). In no time, I was handed over to UNICEF and sent packing—a narrow wisp of a child who spoke no English and was expected to survive on its own at the mercy of Western adult males simply because—I was dark skinned.
So in light of this perspective, please find it somewhere in your intelligence if not your common sense to accept the fact that I and quite a few North African freedom fighters, particularly Black African mothers, feel that we owe absolutely nothing to the Palestinians; their suffering at the hands of Israel or to the Arab Muslim Imperialists in general, as supporting Palestine is in fact supporting the entire web of Arab nations—nations that have enslaved East and North Africans for the last one thousand years.
I am here to write as a Womanist; to empower other women with my heart and mind—but believe you me, it will attest my heart and mind as created by my unique experiences and my place in the world. And I cannot lie to you. I do not support Palestine; I do not honestly care what happens to the Palestinians. When I was a model and actress in Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Morocco in the 1990’s, I lived as a guest of Swedish Activist friends for ten weeks in the Palestinian territory.
Not a single Palestinian that I talked to cared anything about the children in Sudan being bombed, raped, enslaved. The racial climate of the middle-east caused these Arabic people respond with a hissing denial or indifference whenever I brought up the suffering of Black African people. Of course, because American Blacks have money and influence over politicians in America, the Palestinians feigned interest in the oppression of Black American activists visiting Palestine. But overall, because I actually speak Arabic and Black American visitors do not, I witnessed verbose and mass indifference to the plight of all “abd.” And in particular, my plight was taboo—slavery and genocide in Sudan—it was not to be acknowledged, because of course, the fat Black Women cooking meals in so many of those Palestinian platoons had the tongues cut out of their heads and were marked and purchased for fourteen dollars.
And that is the real Arab world that I am born from. I have never seen in my lifetime any Arab person anywhere on earth march or protest on behalf of Black people or Black liberation. All that I have ever witnessed is hatred and contempt for Blacks on the part of Arabs. In America, for speaking my truth in public, I am met on the radio with death threats and vows written in Arabic to slit the throats of my eleven and ten year old son’s. Yet I, the African mother, am expected to drop everything and go on a sojourn for these people.
Yes, I went to Israel and met with Benjamin Netanyahu.
We were both impressed with the presence of the other and he was quite a flirt. I do not agree with or share most of his political views. I think he is very heavy handed and quite unfeeling towards anyone who is not his kind. But in recognizing Israel and South Sudan’s common enemy—the Arab Muslim Imperialists—Netanyahu helped me to save untold Black lives.
Guns, ammunition, clothing, medicine and food for the Dinka-Nuer and Shilluk tribal people of South Sudan were provided to my Commanders in the SPLA, Yaka and Athor. We were given the means to fight back against our oppressors, Bashir’s Arab regime in Khartoum, their Oil Company investors and their tentacles throughout the world Arab governments. No armies or activists from the United States, Black America; Canada or Feminists or Womanists—none of them lifted a finger to give African mothers of Sudan what we needed—the means to protect our children’s lives. But Israel did.
I am proud for what I have done. My allegiance as a woman being first to my womb; I feel that in the name of our Mother, the Goddess Sudan—I have not let down the children of Africa. And I never will.
Tima usrah (through fire comes the family).

Monstrous Musings: Gender Norms, White Privilege, Ableism, and Commodification in Manga Monster Form: Twilight:The Graphic Novel Volume 1

This is a guest post from Natalie Wilson

I am a literature and women’s studies scholar and author of the blogs Professor, what if…? and Seduced by Twilight. I am currently writing a book examining the Twilight cultural phenomenon from a feminist perspective. My interest in vampires and werewolves dates back to my childhood fascination with all types of monsters.

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I got my copy of Twilight The Graphic Novel Volume 1 in the mail today. Much as I worry about feeding the Yes-on-8-heteronormative-Mormon-money-machine, I felt I needed to analyze this, the newest of the Twilight franchise adaptations. (Though I readily admit the only other graphic novel I own is V for Vendetta and that I have never read a comic book in full. So, I am no expert on the comic book, graphic novel, or manga genres.)

I agree with Deb Aoki’s estimation that, “By letting Young Kim's artwork do much of the storytelling, the graphic novel is an improvement on the novels, because Meyer's florid prose is one of the most distracting aspects of her books.” As so hilariously noted in the recent Monkey See post, the writing of Twilight often leaves much to be desired. That being said, the story is compelling, and as Chris Sims of Comics Alliance points out “a lot of what's lousy about the novel plays to the strengths of a comic.”

The pictures tell the story well, and much of the artwork is very beautiful and packs strong narrative/emotional punch. And, as the text painstakingly points out, both in Meyer’s preface page and Kim’s closing statements, Meyer “supervised each and ever page.” This is surely a nod to fans, many of whom seem to be “Team Meyer” just as much as they are “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.”

Alas, neither Kim nor Meyer apparently noticed (or maybe just had no problem with) the fact the resulting images promote delimiting gender norms, erase all but white identity, and frame the body as only beautiful when it is ultra-thin and able-bodied. With a price tag of 19.99 (and with images throughout of obviously fashion conscious characters) the novel also furthers the pro-consumer, pro-wealth messages of the series itself.

As for representations of gender, the first image is of PART of Bella’s face – her eyes are cut off, tears dripping down her thin white chicks, and her lips are parted. Ah, the erasure of the female gaze, the promotion of beauty norms, and the sexualization of the always ready female mouth all in image one! Wow!

Being an academic, I can’t help but read more into the line that accompanies this image: “I’d never given much thought to how I would die” -- dying/death often symbolizes sexual activity (and especially so in vampire stories). Focus on a duly open mouth below the word “die” – well, I know I am going all Freudian here, but what I think is “blow job!!!” (The links between dying and oral sex are not lost on Gary Numan either, who sings “Her favourite trick/Was to suck me inside” in his song named – wait for it – “Everyday I Die.”) I am NOT claiming this suggestion is intentional, but I am with Roland Barthes here: intent is largely a moot point.

Flip the page, and we get a crotch shot of Bella (oh the many ways we can display women in parts!) followed by an image of HIS golden eyes. As these first few images make painstakingly clear, HIS male gaze will permeate the text – shaping  not only Bella’s view of herself, but also reader’s interpretations of the story.

As noted, I am no comic book or graphic novel expert, but it seems Bella’s head is cut off in an inordinate number of images, with framing that often leads the eye to focus on her chest or butt. One time I mistakenly thought there was a crotch shot of Edward and got excited, thinking this might at least be a case of equal opportunity objectification. But, I was mistaken, it was Bella’s crotch. On a second flip through, I find not one image that cuts off Edward’s eyes or head nor any that sexually objectify parts of his body…

As per the text’s representation of race, will, apparently race doesn’t exist – instead, everyone is white! Though the publisher claims the text combines "a rare fusion of Asian and western comic techniques,” I see little fusion in terms of race. (Maybe what they are referring to is the failure to include a picture of Kim on the back flap to accompany Meyer’s photo – or, in other words, fusion as erasure…?)

In regards to the illustrations themselves, as Deb Aoki notes, “Jacob and other characters' faces lack the rich characterization seen in Bella and Edward's faces.” Guess it’s hard to capture that “russet-color” that Bella and Meyer are supposedly so fond of…

The side characters – Eric, Jessica, Mike, Angela, Tyler– as well as the general Forks High School scenes – also portray EVERYONE as unabashedly Caucasian. No dark skin or “raced” features in sight! (Not too mention everyone looks like they could really use a sandwich! Is there some rule that manga drawings need be anorexic looking?)

So, enter the La Push gang. Yup, you guessed it, they look white too! The only representation that seems to say “I am Native” is Jacob’s – and this is indicated by a lame looking pony-tail and exaggerated “almond eyes.”

In many images, Jacob looks very feminine. Hmmm, is there some secret commentary or internalized racism going on here regarding men-of-color as not “real men” or “true macho”? Again, I doubt this was intentional – more likely, the artist is trying to portray Jacob’s “difference” and it ends up coming off (as difference often does) negatively (not to say that being feminine is “negative” but that it is perceived as such by the dominant ideology).

I don’t know about coloring processes, but I assume the Quileute could have been portrayed with darker skin – instead, they are literally white-washed, their faces as pale as Bella’s (though sometimes there is a strange cross-hatching on their faces, which has the effects of making their faces look dirty rather than dark. Interesting.)

In addition to suggesting that everyBODY is thin in the extreme, the artwork frames disability as weak and annoying. In one image of Billy Black, he has a demented Michael-Jackson-in-wheelchair aura, with Jacob oddly clutching onto his chest. Jacob is much larger in the image and takes up more space as he pushes Billy’s chair, and the result is that Billy looks very helpless and weak as his chair, the copy tells us, goes “CLATTER.” Oh, darn those disabled people, with their wheelchair noise and their inability to push their own chairs!

On the next page, Charlie pushes a scowling Billy -  you know, cuz what disabled person can actually push themselves…? (Do they only have chairs from the Victorian Age in the Olympic Peninsula or something?)

Now, reading the above you might assume I hated this little graphic foray into the Forks universe. Quite the contrary, actually. I think it’s a pleasurable adaptation that allows for a new experience of the story. But, being one who can never turn off her analytical side, I did find faults, as noted above. Does this mean it is BAD? No, as with ALL texts, it merely means it is caught within the confines of its own historical moment – a moment undoubtedly defined by the policing (in monstrous proportions) of race, gender, class, and body norms.


Coming to Terms with PETA

I know that I have been a great advocate against PETA but throughout this time, I have been watching their videos and reading their press releases. I never thought that I would reach the point of saying that I have decided to advocate on their behalf.  I hereby renounce all of the speciest arguments that I have made in the past.

You see, I have come to realize that the same hierarchy of bodies that applies to human beings, has been applied to animals by thinking of them as less valuable.  I know right…the light bulb is sometimes slow to turn on.  I was so attached to the idea that certain bodies deserve respect, that I used this as a crutch to deny my desire to privilege my existence.

image I certainly don’t see myself wearing a lettuce bikini anytime soon, but with the help of other committed PETA activists, I am sure that I can use the blog to help with our struggle.  I have always had the ability to shock people with my words, and perhaps I can use that to the benefit of PETA.  I am excited that I will stand alongside so many stars that have spoken out in the past.  PETA has a long history of resistance and when you think of the history of resistance engaged in by people of colour, women and the differently abled (all of which I identify as ) this should be a great marriage. 

I have been thinking of the benefits.  If you read the PETA literature, they promise that avoiding meat and meat products will lead to a healthier lifestyle and in fact a healthier body.  As a fat woman, I have been particularly resistant to this line of thought but as a mother of two, how could I not want to live longer and be happier?  This was hard for me because I have internalized the view point that there is nothing wrong with fat and who really wants to look in a mirror and dislike themselves but, if I face the truth maybe I can find more happiness.

I even thought that I could offer to pose for one of their billboards as a sort of cautionary tale.  You know, a sort of this is what will happen to you if you don’t change your ways type of deal.  It will be tough to face the embarrassment of this, but part of embracing PETA means letting go of my identity to privilege others.  I can do this and with your support, I am sure that we can make some really positive gains.  Hey, if I could see the error of my ways anyone can.

So, no more excuses for being fat, no more trumpeting the  speciest belief that my needs are more important than animals and no more rejecting any opportunity to get this point across. We are in a war and tactics in the heat of battle may not be pretty, but I have to agree that getting the point across is far more important.  After all, who really fights fair?  It is unreasonable to expect any activist to do this when so much is at stake.  I know that some of you will have trouble with this and I fully understand because it took me a long time to come to terms with it, but you never know what foolish things you can embrace every April 1st :)

A travesty for women & the environment

By Deirdre Griswold

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It seemed like a scandalous disconnect, a case of the right brain not knowing what the left brain was doing.

On March 12 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations announced the appointment of a High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing. The group is supposed to mobilize the money to help poorer countries deal with climate change, which had been promised them during the U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December.

March 12 also happened to be the last day of a two-week session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which of course had received high praise from Ban and other officials. At those meetings, reports were given on how climate change impacts women and their children even more severely than men.

Ban had also issued a statement on International Women’s Day saying that “empowering women is central to all other millennium development goals.”

And, according to Selina Rust, writing from the U.N. on March 18 for the Inter Press Service news agency, “Ban himself gave a speech last September underlining the importance of ‘an environment where women are the key decision makers on climate change, and play an equally central role in carrying out these decisions.’

“’We must do more to give greater say to women in addressing the climate challenge,’ he said at the time.”

It was all just talk.

Of the 19 appointees to the high-level climate change group announced March 12 by the secretary-general, not one was a woman. Jaws dropped. Women’s groups still gathered at the U.N. were shocked and outraged.

Was it just an oversight? Certainly from the point of view of public relations, it was a huge blunder to make such an announcement that day. But leaving timing aside, this was not unusual. High-level appointments in which women are shut out get made all the time by capitalist governments and supposedly international bodies. Sometimes they include just a token woman — something the secretary-general’s office scrambled to do once news of his all-male appointees hit the fan.

It should be noted that the meetings on the Status of Women, like many other progressive activities that use the U.N. as a venue, are organized through the General Assembly, which currently has 192 member states. However, the secretary-general of the U.N. is nominated by the much smaller Security Council and is subject to a veto by any of its five permanent members.

Thus it is the Security Council — dominated for decades by U.S., British and French imperialism, which occupy three of five permanent seats — that pulls the strings in matters like these appointments. They are the ones who get to decide what is, to them, the most important question regarding climate change: money.

They also represent highly industrialized capitalist countries whose drive for profits is responsible for most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is causing climate change.

The usual suspects

So who were on Ban’s list of appointees? They included:

Lawrence H. Summers, current director of the White House’s National Economic Council, who in 2006 had to resign as president of Harvard after he had tangled with African-American activist professor Cornel West and also had said in a speech that the underrepresentation of women in the top levels of scientific academia could be due to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”

George Soros, the multibillionaire currency speculator and founder of the Open Society Institute, which played a big role in getting control of the media in Eastern Europe and engineering the overthrow of the workers’ states there. This led to a disastrous decline in living conditions, especially for women, and soaring rates of sexual trafficking.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has alienated much of his Labour Party constituency, but pleased Washington, by sending thousands of British troops to Afghanistan.

Executives from the central banks of both France and Germany.

Of course, this group would have no credibility without also having members from the global South. But the imperialists made sure that the person who is co-chair, along with Brown, is someone they can trust: Meles Zenawi. He became prime minister of Ethiopia after an imperialist campaign brought down the revolutionary government there. His troops have collaborated with the Pentagon in the invasion and bombing of Somalia.

The IPS article on the Status of Women hearings cited a report by the British-based Women’s Environmental Network showing that more than 10,000 women die each year from weather-related disasters such as tropical storms and droughts, compared to about 4,500 men. Women, it says, are also the main producers of food, providing 70 percent of agricultural labor in sub-Saharan Africa, and so are particularly affected by reduced agricultural output. And because of diminishing water supplies in many developing countries due to climate change, women must travel farther each day to collect water and fuel.

Any group tasked with finding the money for poorer countries to survive climate change that does not include genuine representatives of the people affected will bend to the will of the financiers, the bankers and the imperialist politicians. What has just happened is a travesty not only for women but for all people struggling against the horrific consequences of unbridled capitalism.


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lt. Choi, Join The Club

This is a guest post by the ever fabulous Monica of TransGriot.

image DADT repeal activist and founder of the West Point GLBT group Knights Out Lt. Dan Choi was recently quoted in a Newsweek interview as saying he felt "so betrayed" by HRC.

I have great respect for her (Kathy Griffin) as an advocate. But if [the Human Rights Campaign] thinks that having a rally at Freedom Plaza with a comedienne is the right approach, I have to wonder. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not a joking matter to me. To be at Freedom Plaza and not at the White House or Congress? Who are they trying to influence? I felt like they were just trying to speak to themselves. If that's the best the lobbying groups and HRC can do, then I don't know how these powerful groups are supposed to represent our community. Kathy Griffin and [HRC president] Joe Solmonese said they would march with me to the White House but didn't. I feel so betrayed by them.


Join the club, Lt. Choi.
I experienced the same disappointment and moment of epiphany about HRC in 1999. It led me to join other transpeople who had the same moment of clarity to found NTAC over a decade ago.

It also led me to the conclusion that African American transpeople need to do more for ourselves in terms of fighting for our rights since white run and led organizations could not be trusted to effectively advocate for us and our issues.

You have not only discovered how your trans brothers and sisters feel about the Human Rights Campaign, you've echoed some of the same concerns, complaints and comments LGBT people of color have articulated about HRC for over two decades.

And by failing to support you at your White House protest, HRC once again has reinforced the perception that people of color are only welcome in the GLBT movement to provide melanin for photo ops, not determine policy or set the agenda for the movement.

One thing we people of color know all too well as Frederick Douglass reminds us, power concedes nothing without a demand. If the people leading your movement are too busy sucking up to the same powers instead of confronting them on behalf of the powerless people you purport to represent, it leads to an ineffective movement.

It also manifests itself in leaders that are resistant to doing anything that may put their own comfortable position at risk or engage in "tough minded" confrontational strategies that anger the defenders of the status quo they so desperately want to be a part of.

Lt. Choi, thank you for speaking your mind. You have now joined the expanding ranks of people across this nation who are seriously questioning the fitness of HRC to lead the GLBT community toward achieving the goals of full societal equality and fairness for our people.

All Lesbians Are Redheads

Our dinner table is where we gather as a family to talk about issues and share the stresses of our day.  No subject is ever considered too taboo and we make certain that the boys are able to express themselves equally.  Last night, Destruction thought that he would educate us on a new fact that he had learned.  It seems he discovered that all lesbians have red hair.  Yep, you read that right.  Apparently, you can spot a lesbian by the colour of their hair.

When I asked where he learned this fact, he told me that the kids on the playground had told him this.  Of course they’re all experts right.  If you don’t talk to your children, someone else is more than willing to do it for you and while they are filling their heads with false information, they will also impart morals that you may not be in agreement with.

I long ago taught Destruction that there is no difference between the relationships that gays and lesbians have and what he see his father and I have.  Love is the most precious thing in the world and I have worked hard to ensure that he has come to view this as a truism.  I can say with confidence, that his discovery that all lesbians are redheads was not based in some sort of bias, but in listening to the ignorance around him

As a parent I have learned that many of the harmful isms in this world are directly taught to children and this then enables many of the inequities that are very much a part of our social world.  Time and time again I have to spend a good portion of my day teaching and guiding, so that he learns to see bigotry and hate for what it is.   I recognize this as an essential part of my job; however, I am well aware that many parents abdicate that responsibility in the belief that the world will teach their children what they need to know.

After much discussion on the topic of lesbians, I finally had to show him proof of my assertions:

imageI chose this photo for very political reasons.  Not only are Helen and Portia NOT redheaded lesbians, this is a picture of their wedding day.   I wanted him to see the love between them as natural and to understand that love breaks all stereotypes, it fulfills us and sustains us.  I wanted him to see their pure joy and see how it matches the love he sees between his father and I.

Now that I think about our discussion, I think that it went rather well.  The only thing I would change is who I showed him.  You see, I immediately went for the first famous lesbian that I could think of and in so doing once again ignored same gender loving people of colour.  Why didn’t I think to show him a picture of someone like Wanda Sykes? 

You see, I proved the point that lesbians are indeed not all redheads, but I unconsciously affirmed the Whiteness of the GLBT community by not showing him a lesbian of colour.  It  is very easy to go with the norm when you are trying to prove a point and in so doing forget about how the supposed norm marginalizes different people. 

Though my child is bi-racial the world views him as a Black boy and he in fact identifies as Brown for the time being.  I have made a very conscious effort to teach him that all sexualities are acceptable but by not including a face that looked like his, I made it that much harder for him to see a GLBT identity as something that he may himself identify as.  He needs to see himself reflected to understand this is not only legitimate but acceptable.

The lesson I learned in this is, not only must we make a very conscious effort to talk to our children about the biases that they encounter, we must ensure that while making corrections that we do not again marginalize another being.  Tonight when he comes home, I intend to show him pictures of same gender loving couples of various races.  In this way, I hope to normalize what it is to be GLBT to him, so that the next time someone fills his head with nonsense, he will see it for what it is. Not all lesbians are red heads but not all lesbians are White either.


Kola Speaks: “Dishonesty about Race—an American Social Reflex”

image Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com

 From my earliest childhood memories in Sudan to the ones of being adopted and growing up in the Anacostia Park ghettoes of Washington D.C., I’ve always had an innate curiosity, affection and spiritual appreciation for all human beings of every different type—so imagine my continuing frustrations about being labelled a “racist” whenever I find myself in a discussion with American-born Americans on the issue of race, whether those Americans be black or white.

“It’s because the Americans are dishonest and idealistic about race,” my friends from Nigeria, Israel, Harlem, Norway, Mexico and Argentina insist.  And I’ve come to agree with them.

For instance, if I decide to make love with a white male Producer from NBC NEWS (as I did two years ago); a man I had dated quite regularly, cooked for and shared a mutual love for silent films circa 1912-1922 with—I am “racist” for telling him that on the matter of seeking marriage, my true preference is for very dark skinned black men and that part of my attraction to him is because he is “white” and I would like to experience his “white” flavour.

It doesn’t matter how much I adore him, respect him and have extended friendship to him.  His American colleagues both white and black will insist that I am a racist because I told him the truth rather than uphold the blanket American policy of pretending that there is no physical or cultural difference between any of us. 

To tell blatantly honest truth, as I have always done in my published writings and speeches in America, is to risk the reprisal of American insecurity and ignorance, and though I greatly understand that most White Americans are “overly sensitized” when entering discussions on race due to constantly being accused of “racism”—I also find myself weary of the suffering I endure in not being allowed to honestly discuss my reality and my experiences with those Americans that I love and share friendships with as a fellow human being.

Quite a lot, you will hear African-American scholars such as Cornel West and John Edgar Wideman, and African people in general, preaching that there is no such thing as race.  That race is a social construct.  But when I remind them that the “blind spot” of such pronouncements is the fact that black skin, hair texture and facial features are not a social construct—that “color” itself, unlike race, isn’t a social construct—and that the role of “gender” is just as much a social construct as race is, they become perturbed and turn a deaf ear.

I offer this commentary to say to you my fellow Americans—we are making racial issues much worse in this country by pretending that “difference” doesn’t exist and that the past never happened.

When Americans try to pretend that a woman who looks like fully African black and a woman with one drop of African blood and can pass for White are in fact the same woman, sharing the exact same experiences and being treated the same—I say that you are a liar. Mixed are treated better than Black.

When I am chatting at the Post Office with a White woman friend who has given birth to a biracial child, I am tired of being told by the whole California society that it’s abnormal for me, a chocolate-skinned beauty with African hair to prefer that my own children have black skin and beautiful, luxurious nappy hair like mine—because I am their mother and want to see my own image carried on.  This is not racism on my part.  In my mind, the California brigade, and America in general, is extolling a reverse racism. 

The idea that Black people should stop existing and be replaced by mixed raced people as some symbol of a “faux mass unity”…as if the erasure of black children will miraculously bring about the end of racism…is plain old fashioned White supremacy to me, wrapped in the cloak of “progressiveness”.

And Black people’s post-slavery, post-colonial self-hate.

I have love in my heart for every kind of human being on this earth.  But I am also a person wise enough to know that the biggest part of truly loving someone is to tell them the truth about what you think, feel and know—it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong; one must tell his or her truth—and this, despite my detractors, has always been my way.

God intended for animals and insects to be colorblind—not humans.  For us, because of our intelligence, she intended that we be able to appreciate; affirm and continuously cultivate the diversity of beauty and extraction that has sprung up from her contradictions.

I am Black, I ordered that my sons are black and I will die Black.  That is not an affront or rejection of anybody else’s reality, but it is a personal and spiritual celebration of my self and the God in me.

Including the Caucasians, I suspect that few of us are as racist as America’s dishonest “everybody’s the same; one face fits all” multi-cultural delusion makes us out to be.


Spoken Word: He Swallowed

I have not posted any spoken word poetry in awhile and so I simply had to share this wonderful poem by Xicano Sol

Transcript:

When Juanito was just five years old he held hands with his classmate Pedro during recess.  He was later scolded by the T.A. who said that it didn’t look right for boys to hold hands.  Janito wanted to say, but I feel special when I hold Pedro’s hand, but instead he kept his hands in his pockets and just swallowed it.

At age eight, Juanito could kick anyone’s ass at tether ball, but the playground coach led him away from the game and told him that was a girls sport. Juanito wanted to say, but that’s the only game that I like and I’m good at it. But instead he walked away to play handball with the other boys and just swallowed it.

At age thirteen, Juanito started to started to realize just how much he enjoyed the boys locker room but he was always cautious not to get caught staring for too long.  Juanito wanted to say that his feelings of attraction are normal but instead he kept his focus on the ground and just swallowed it.

At age seventeen Juanito came out of the closet expecting unconditional acceptance from his family  but instead he was sent to reparative therapy talkin; dysfunction of his desires.  Juanito wanted to say it’s all of you who are wrong and must be taught to accept diversity. But instead he went to every one of his therapy sessions and just swallowed it.

At age twenty-one Juanito went out for his first real date, dinner a movie and dancing.  But when it was all over, the guy walked him to the dorm and shook his hand because neighbours were watching.  Juantio wanted to say, it’s okay for you to kiss me goodnight, there’s nothing to fear.  But instead he reached out his hand in return, smiled and just swallowed it.

At age twenty-seven, Juanito desired the companionship of a long-term partner.  But the guys he kept meeting, just drifted away after they got what they wanted. Juanito wanted to say, I know I deserve more than putting myself at risk like this, but instead he kept hooking up to fill the void  of loneliness and just swallowed it.   

Please share your thoughts in comments.

The Economics of Blogging

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I think that it is time that we have an honest conversation about the world of blogging.  It seems every few months, a blog run by a woman erupts in some form of controversy due to advertising or remuneration.  Most reasonable people are aware that bloggers aren’t living at home, typing away in their mother's basement, but the mendacious myth that we are all financially well-off seems to just want to stick around.

I was reading Amanda over at the Washington City Paper recently and she had to explain why she had what a reader viewed to be a sexist advertisement on her blog. Feministing’s readers have complained about fat-phobic ads and Feministe had to give a breakdown of their finances last year to satisfy reader curiosity. In an effort to make her space safe, Liss over at Shakesville cancelled her advertising and is now dependent upon reader donations to support her work.  Every two months, she puts up a reminder post and inevitably some pain in the ass will show up to complain.

I feel the need to say that blogging is hard work.  I know it may simply seem like bloggers are living the life of Riley, but I am here to tell you first hand, that some days my stress level is incredibly high.  From the hate mail, to the drive to always find interesting subjects to write about, each day brings a lot of stress.  This is not to say that I don’t like what I do, but that it is very unrecognized and often filled with conflict.

I know that people believe that because there are ads on my blog, that I am making a significant amount of money, but don’t let that fool you.  Advertisement does not come close to offering me equitable reward for what I do.  Like many women before me, I have had to find separate ways to finance my urge to communicate and explore this world through the written word. 

I had no idea until recently how many people were reading this blog using Google Reader.  This may be very convenient for you as a reader, but it means that you are not landing on my blog.  This means that you are not giving me pageviews, which is how I get paid through advertising.  To change this, I have altered my feed so that it will no longer provide full posts.  I am working on getting snippets to appear so that you can get a sense of what each piece is about, but that may take some time, as I am not technologically savvy.

Whenever I can, I try to support the work of women writers because I know first-hand how hard it is:  I know about the rejection letters, the hate mail, and what it's like presiding over epic blog wars.  I know about the stress and the high standards that we are held to.  I know about the courage it takes to lay yourself naked before the world in the hope of making some change. I know what it is to see your good intentions spit upon.  I know what it is to learn publicly -- and to challenge yourself to unlearn -- all of the privileges that you have spent a lifetime learning. I also know that despite the challenges, someone will always show up to tell you that you missed  something, or how wrong you are doing something, even as they often lack the courage to do what you do every single day.

Blogging is work.  What's more -- it is unpaid labour for most of us that do it.  This may not mean much to you, but I ask you to consider that most of the work women do in this world is unpaid and this largely contributes to the economic gender imbalance.  So when I see yet another blogger having to explain why she has ads that are questionable, it makes me upset. 

Each day of our lives we make compromises.  We have to because we live in the world as it is and not as we want it to be.  This does not mean that we should stop striving for change, but that each one of us has to find a way to survive while acquiring as few scars as possible. 

Are people always this black and white in real life, or do they find it easier to get on a moral high horse online because there is no personal penalty?  A good blog takes time and energy and though women are very active in the blogosphere, they have yet to reach the same kind of success as men; this is even more true if you are a WOC.

I am writing this to ask you to think about how you support the women that you regularly read online.  Do you take the time to comment? Do you hit that donate button once and awhile? Do you network?  Do you think critically when you have an issue rather than shooting off a missive because it will make you feel good?  Do you think about the work that someone has put in? 

I have written this not to discourage legitimate complaint because everyone needs to be pushed to improve.  Each day I want to improve my craft.  I have invested way too much of my time for me to take this lightly.  All I would ask is that before you seek to criticize, think about the effort that has gone into creating this space and in fact all spaces created online by women. 

Many think that blogging has created this brave new world because voices that have traditionally been silenced now have the opportunity to speak their truth.  But the reality is that this truth costs the marginalized more than ever.  Not only do we have to deal with over-privileged bodies who are full of resistance, but the lack of remuneration also reaffirms the economic divide in the real world, thus once again devaluing our contributions. 

So I am going to say this as plainly as I can: if you are not hitting the donate button and you are not paying someone’s bills, do you really have the right to criticize the way in which many attempt to earn a pittance (and believe me it is a pittance) from blogging, while reading their work for free?

This post has been cross posted at Blogher

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Introducing Kola Boof

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Dubbed “The most controversial woman in the world”  by CNN and “The African Garbo” by The New York Times….Egyptian-Sudanese-American Author and Television writer Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  In 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called her one of the ten women in the world he most admires and featured her on his website. Her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and the upcoming “Virgins In the Beehive.”

Kola Boof is the mother of two sons and lives in California. 

Kola Boof has agreed to become one of Womanist Musings’ new columnists.  Her work will appear here monthly, though on occasion, if a topic is of particular interest, she might grace us with her thoughts during the month.  Kola is a controversial woman and her truth is not always easy to hear or understand, but I believe that she asks questions that most are afraid to ask and since this blog is about conversations from as many view points as possible, I ask that you welcome her into our shared space.

Senator Eric Adams: Stop the sag, pull your pants up

transcript:

Throughout history, in every society cultures have had to endure negative caricatures and stereotypes imposed on them.  Even in this country, images of ridicule portraying certain groups in a negative way have  been forced on minorities and it has taken activists and united communities to confront and reject these misrepresentations.  It is disturbing that today we still see similarly  negative and degrading imagery, but this time it is self imposed.  We see this insidious spectacle among some of our young people.   Whenever they walk down the street with their pants sagging, this is not a fashion trend; it is un-kept and unnecessary.

Sagging pants have become a degrading and self imposed icon.  They follow in a long tradition of negative stereotyping that results in groups being seen in a negative light, particularly since the origin of this style comes from a prison culture.  Our young people should not promote it.  They should have too much pride and are above this. 

Hi, I’m New York state senator Eric Adams.  My message is, let us not be the ones that make our community seem foolish.  If we raise our pants, we raise our image.  Don’t surrender control over your own image.  We have power so very much of our messaging to others.  I ask our communities, our parents, our neighbours, our friends to explain and be a role model over correct dress.  And I say to our youth all over the city and state, you can raise your level of respect if you raise your pants.  The city, the country, the globe is watching us.  We are better than this.

I am constantly on my son about pulling his pants up and if he is wearing anything sagging I make him put on belt.  I know that even as I am doing so, that I am participating in middle class values or what senator Adams calls “correct dress.” The truth of the matter is, that the sagging pants originates in prison culture and therefore, is considered socially a reflection of broken people.

I want my son to think that this goals in life entail far more than going to prison and yet I know that which is counter-culture is often denigrated to force conformity.  When I had my dreadlocks down to the middle of my back, I faced much negative backlash from Blacks because we have so internalized a very specific idea of what a proper appearance is.

Whose standards are we trying to maintain and why?  There is very much a class element to this whether we want to admit it or not.  As a Black person, I know that when someone does something I completely disapprove of, part of my anger is the knowledge of how this will reflect upon me and make it harder for me to get through the day.  I am sure that this is not something unique to Blacks, because only dominant bodies exist in this culture as individuals. 

Most inside the community know that this style originates in prison culture, but how many outside see it this way?  No matter how well dressed a young Black man is, he is always considered a predator.  Any adult Black man can tell you a story about some ridiculous White woman grabbing her purse in their presence, or people crossing the street to avoid them.  Quite often, the appearance of a person is irrelevant; their race is enough to signify a negative social standing.

I think we should consider who sets the norm.  The idea something is just proper, ignores the fact that standards are set by dominant bodies, so that society will be able to more easily discern who has outsider group status.  When we see people dressed a certain way, we immediately associate beliefs and in fact patterns of behaviour without knowing the individual in question intimately. Our first impressions are built upon societal norms and the fact that these are often “othering” to marginalized bodies is rarely processesed.

I may not like the look of sagging pants, but I am also honest enough to admit that it is because it signifies many of the negative associations that are socially made regarding Blackness.  I am also aware that given all of the anxiety about how terrible this particular fad is, that it is directly aimed at young urban Black youth and yet White kids also wear their pants this way.  When was the last time you saw a White politician express anxiety about sagging pants?  They don’t need to because a White person race will speak on an individual level allowing them to avoid any form of association, whereas; the same is not true for an Black person.

Honestly, I know that this a fashion I don’t want my child adopting but I will not lose sleep if his pants end up sagging because the person inside those clothes are far more important.  We should be talking about education, healthcare, housing etc., sagging pants are only an important issue if we are socially invested in taking on the attributes of dominant bodies.  We and we alone decide what symbols mean.

 


Am I Being Sent A Message?

Throughout the day the unhusband will send me e-mail.  I recently received this.

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(the image is linked to the right video)

So I ask you, is this not the most passive aggressive way to complain about someone’s snoring, especially when they don’t snore?  And NO it’s not denial.

Tune in Tuesday: Lady Gaga (Haus Of Gaga Underground)

I know that Lady GaGa is the latest thing and that is probably why I have avoided most of her music until now.  I was chatting with Sparky yesterday, when he introduced me to this video.  It’s enough to make a good girl cross and uncross her legs.  

So you know the drill, chat about GaGa and what you may like or not like about her.

Spark of Wisdom: The Closet’s Most Damaged Victims

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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.

One of the perennial scandals among the forces of homophobia is when the virulent, hateful, bigoted homophobe is caught in a gay bar. Or visiting a gay prostitute. Or having a "wide stance" in a public toilette, or otherwise seeking sex with those nasty nasty gay men they revile so much.

And there are many feelings when they are revealed. There's a certain amount of cruel satisfaction in seeing such a vicious enemy brought low in such ironic perfection. I admit, there is a certain justified crowing and now small amount of glee at such revelations. That is understandable – after all, such vehement haters being brought low can only be a way forward for GBLT people - it is reasonable to be happy at such a victory.

There's also a certain amount of anger - and that's pretty understandable as well. These people fight against every right we have, every protection we have. They fight against equality, basic justice and so many of the things that we need to make our lives work. They fight against our basic rights, against the basic protections we need and contribute towards the hatred and even the violence out there. We have damn good reason to be angry with them - all the more for their hypocrisy.

But there is another feeling I have here that eclipses both - pity. Deep and abiding pity.

Because these men are victims. They are one of the many victims of the closet that damages and destroys so many of us. In many ways they are victims as damaged and broken by heteronormative society and the demand that we hide and repress ourselves as much as all of our fellows who are driven to take their own lives.

We grow up in societies that tell us we are wrong, flawed, diseased. We are bombarded with messages that our expression is unacceptable - or fetishistic, weird, perverse. We are invisible or the freak show, non-existent or the stereotype,  or people whose love needs to be punished. Kissing or holding hands in public is an act of courage for us and too many are subject to violence of any public expression of our sexuality.

We are taught to hide. Hide for safety. Hide so we don't disappoint our parents, our family. Hide because we should be ashamed. Hide because our presence offends straight people. Hide because we're an affront. Hide because we're disgusting. Hide because we should be trying to change, to reform, to redeem ourselves. Hide, ultimately, because what we are is wrong and unacceptable.

So we hide. So very few of us have removed the closet from every single facet of our lives. We hide and we act and we pretend. We wear the mask. We lie. We act. We ask ourselves the question over and over - is it safe to be me here? Is it OK to be me here? Am I allowed to be me here? Because it can't be assumed and we cannot relax, there is too much risk in being ourselves in too many places.

I remember playing that game - still do play the game far too many times. It's exhausting, to always be on guard, to be constantly censoring yourself, checking yourself, making sure the mask hasn't slipped. It's soul destroying, to constantly deny yourself, hide yourself, pretend to be something you're not. And it's shaming - shaming to know that by hiding you're agreeing and supporting the idea you are wrong, flawed, broken. Shaming that I bowed - and bow - to the idea that I'm not ok. That I should hide. That I should spare straight people my gayness.

Slowly but surely, the closet destroys a part of you.

And then I look at people like these homophobic politicians and my heart bleeds for them. Because they are some of the closet's most damaged victims. They're so far in the closet, so far in self repression that they have lived decades of denial and self-hatred - decades where the only true expression of their sexuality they have is a hook-up in a toilette? Lives without any expectation of as true connection, without any expectation of living as themselves. Lives where they can never ever take the mask off - not even in their own homes?

They hate us? I'm not surprised. Can you imagine being so repressed, hating yourself that much, hating what you are that much then looking out and seeing people like you who are FREE? Who have escaped the closet, the self-loathing, the acting, the lies, the shame?

I pity them. From the bottom of my heart I pity them. And I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that we have societies that have done this to them. That have raised them with such self-loathing, such self-repression, such shame and hatred that it has blighted their lives to such a cruel degree. I'm so sorry this was done to them.

And I promise that I will continue to work and fight to stop any more kids walking down your painful, self-destructive road.