Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm not a feminist (and there is no but)

I have a new post up at the Guardian. 

Chloe Angyal is correct when she asserts that most young American women believe in equal rights. However, for some women, eschewing the label of feminist is not about avoiding being called "ugly" or an "angry extremist". For some women, avoiding the label of feminist comes from a place of self-love and balance.

Feminism is the form of women's organisation that is prioritised both in the media and academia, but many black women have turned to womanism in an attempt to counter the ways in which the combined oppressions of race and gender affect our lives. Womanism is not just feminism for women from minorities; it is based in our spirituality, honouring our foremothers and a desire to support both men and women. While womanism at its heart is pro-woman, it is also about understanding the communal value of all people of colour.

I'm not a feminist (and there is no but), because my life experiences lead me to believe that feminism was not created for women like me. The name of the first feminist hero mentioned by my professor in my first women's study lecture was Simone de Beauvoir, and the trend of focusing on white women would continue throughout my education. Inclusivity to the women's studies department that I was a part of meant using the work of bell hooks occasionally. However, she quickly became an additive, thrown in to give the appearance of intersectionality. I would have to scour the library and online journals to learn names like Patricia-Hill Collins, Audre Lorde and the woman who would become my inspiration, Alice Walker. And so I followed indexes and bibliographies, desperate to read journeys that mirrored my own.

I sat in seminars where I became the "token black woman" when they deemed it necessary to actually consider something outside of the white woman as monolithic representative. Despite feminism supposedly being a movement to end women's oppression, women's studies seminars and lectures are where I learned to recite "Ain't I a Woman" out loud to protest the assumptions about my race and my culture. It is where I learned that the sisterhood and camaraderie lasts only as long as you don't insist on interrogating oppression from multiple sites.

Finish reading here

 

Drop It Like It’s Hot

 Hello everyone, thanks for a great week of interesting conversation.  I am particularly pleased with how respectful the conversation has been this week, given that we tackled some particularly troubling ideas.  We cannot always agree however, I feel that as long as we are conversing, some positive gains will be made.  You never know if something that something you say will turn out to be a significant teaching moment to someone and that is what is so great about spaces like this.

Once again, I would like to take the time to remind everyone about the open guest-posting policy.  If there is an issue that you have not seen covered here and you would like to weigh in, please feel free to either send your original work or a cross-post to womanistmusings [at] gmail.com.  Also, please  feel free to send a response to a post that you may be in disagreement with that has been published here.  When we examine issues from as many sides as possible, we deepen our understanding of the issues, as well as create spaces that are more inclusive.

Below you will find a list of posts that I found interesting this week.  Please take note: 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 be afraid to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

On Badu and Our Bodies: Are We Comfortable In Our Skin?

VISIONS OF MANILINESS PRESENTS: On the Fringes of Male Privilege

Monstrous

So we get rid of Glen Beck, then what?

Penises and Vagina Festivals (oh my)

Confederate History Month: Um Ok

Ideas for conduct in emotionally charged conversations

 Childhood Memories of Domestic Violence

If This Happened In A Muslim Country

CPCs and a pro-choice victory Texas!

Well fuck you intellectual, we got guns!

Wealth Gap and Jay Z

Reading, Writing …Anti-Choice Rhetoric

Who Cares? They are just people.

Lessons of Rage in South Africa

Feminist Intersection: Contemporary feminism   isn’t necessarily anti-racist

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church Rejected By The KKK

How do you know that the hate organization that you belong to is full of mega fail? When even the KKK chooses to avoid any affiliation with you, clearly you have reached a supernova level of vileness, and you should quietly disappear from any gathering or forum where decent people congregate.

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Obviously, I believe this a case of pot and kettle, because clearly the KKK is a racist terrorist group that needs to be wiped off the face of the planet itself.  I just find it ironic, that these two hate groups find time for disagreement considering all of the effort they place into attacking innocent people for their own scurrilous and in fact downright evil ends.

H/T  Rod 2.0

Editors Note: Any racist messages on this post will be subject to immediate deletion and the commenter may be banned.

Stop Comparing People to Hitler

I was reading a horrendous story about the fact that corrective rape of both gay men and women is occurring in Zimbabwe. According to Rod 2.0, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai rejected calls to include gay rights in the new constitution that is being drafted.

"Gay men were forced into heterosexual acts and lesbian women were raped, sometimes by male relatives, to teach them to change their ways, said Amanda Porter, political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Harare and compiler of the report. 'Some families reportedly subjected men and women to corrective rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct' she said Tuesday. Homosexuals reported widespread discrimination in 2009, the year under review. But the report notes that the conservative southern African country has long frowned on homosexuality. Hate speech by politicians against the nation's small gay community fuelled social pressures on families, Porter said. And crimes against human rights and sexual abuse against gays were rarely reported to police. 'Victims are afraid to speak out,' she said.

I am sure that most, if not all of those reading the blog can agree that the situation in Zimbabwe is dire for the LGBT community.  In my opinion, rape is the worst violation that one can undergo and having it done at the hands of your own family (those that are supposed to cherish and love you), adds to the horror I am sure.  The government of Zimbabwe is determined to ensure that their GLBT community has no quality of life, or rights under the law.

The following quote appeared in the comment section of Rod 2.0 in response:

Corrective rape? This Mugabe is a monster. We need to be talking about him the way they talked about Hitler. I can't imagine anything worse than being an LGBT person living on the African continent or in the Caribbean.

I will not argue with the fact that Robert Mugabe is a  monster, but does he really rise to the level of Hitler?  Let’s not forget that Hitler lead Germany to incite a second world war (note: I acknowledge the appeasement engaged in by the west) and intensified Anti-Semitism.  Before the rise of Hitler, it is quite reasonable to suggest that France would have been understood to be a far more Anti-Semitic nation, especially when we consider the Dreyfus affair. 

Not  only did Hitler strip Jews of their positions, he forced them to wear yellow stars identifying them as Jews, enforced a curfew, vandalized their businesses and then housed them in ghettos. After plans to resettle Jews outside of Europe were dismantled, he lead the massacre of millions of Jews by firing squads and gas chambers. image

Some of the murder victims were even forced to dig their own graves before they were killed.  In the camps, some were experimented upon medically, routinely raped, and worked literally to death.  When the concentration camps were finally liberated by the allies, they were greeted by the walking skeletons that had somehow managed to survive.

Over 6 million political prisoners, Jews, Gypsies, disabled and gays and lesbians lost their lives under Hitler's rule.  Millions of people lost their lives fighting to bring an end to the Third Reich. This is the evil that was Hitler, and may none of his like ever be visited upon this earth again.   Only Pol Pot, Stalin and possibly Mao rise to that level.

As evil as Mugabe is, I think that it does a disservice to those who lost their lives, as well as the survivors of the Holocaust, to throw around references to Hitler.  Hold Mugabe accountable, protest against his government, provide safe haven for GLBT members escaping his tyranny, but please stop suggesting that this has risen to the evils perpetrated by Hitler and his Third Reich.  Too often, those that claim to be liberals will toss out holocaust and or Hitler as analogies without giving real thought to the experiences, lives and deaths that they are so haphazardly erasing.  There is real evil in this world and we should not be afraid to confront it and name it when we see it; however, whenever we falsely claim that something rises to the level of Hitler and his Third Reich, we are dishonouring the deaths of millions of people.

We have enough words to denounce Mugabe and all that he stands for without having to infer a connection to Hitler.  In fact, when we make this kind of comparison, we are not better than the right wing who have come to use this as a happy little trigger comparison to attack those they politically disagree with.  So in short, unless you are dealing with an actual holocaust or genocide as in the case of Rwanda, leave the Hitler and or holocaust comparisons alone, the dead and the survivors deserve more respect than that.

 

Jamaica Holds Its First Pride

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Jamaica has a long history of violence against GLBT people and so you can well imagine my surprise when I learned that they recently had their first pride parade.    StaceyAnn Chin wrote about her corrective gang rape in Jamaica before moving to the U.S., and artists like Beanie Man have released songs that have openly called for violence against the gay community.  The culture of homophobia is well known and various organizations have called for a ban on travel to Jamaica, as well as a boycott of Jamaican products.

From the U.K. Gay News:

Officially, it was the Walk for Tolerance from Howard Cooke Park, along Howard Cooke Boulevard and ending on the beach.

“Yesterday was an amazing day, here in Montego Bay,” he told UK Gay News. “My eyes well up at the very thought of the day's outstanding and astounding success.”

Encouragingly, the walk had police support, Mr. Urich added.

Around 100 took part in the walk, which was headed by Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, the openly lesbian presiding bishop of the International Movement of Metropolitan Community Churches.

One participant commented: “I never thought I would live to see the day that this could happen in Jamaica.”

And other ‘buzz phrases’ heard at the event included “I'm exercising my rights”, “I feel so liberated”, “I have validation”, and “exuberant”

Hopefully, this will signify a real change in the lives of the GLBT community in Jamaica.  No one deserves to be persecuted because of their sexuality or gender identity.  The murders, physical violence, and corrective rapes need to stop. Being gay, lesbian, or transgender, does not make one somehow deviant or less human and when we open our arms to the various journeys within the human experience, we enrich our culture and increase our joy.  Hate does not feel good but love is enough to nourish the soul.

It’s Friday and the Question Is….

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Unless you are an absolute clean freak, you have a please don’t look there spot in your home.  For some it is the supposed utility draw in the kitchen, or a corner of the basement but wherever it is; it collects useless junk or supposedly really important stuff that just happens to be lying there for a year that you have not gotten to yet.  For me, it is the corner between my beloved couch and TV stand.  I’m not really sure what’s in the pile, but honestly I’m afraid to find out.  So, this weeks question is, where is your messy area and what are you hiding in it? Let your clutter bug roam free.

Should we just leave Heidi Montag alone?

I have new article up at Global Comment

image Plastic surgery has become very commonplace as the prices for procedures have dropped. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 91% of all surgeries for a total of 11 million procedures were performed on women in 2008 alone. We live in a society that constantly scrutinizes our bodies while imposing standards that have become increasingly unattainable. For women, the added pressure of sexism makes the failure to conform that much more problematic. From the dolls little girls play with, to the images in magazines, perfection is the only option that is effectively given to us.

According to US Magazine, Heidi Montag recently had an interview with Ryan Seacrest in which she discussed new details in her plastic surgery marathon:

“In addition to familiar-sounding enhancements — nose, cheekbone and chin jobs, eyebrow lift, breast enlargement, fat injections — Montag said that she also ‘had my back scooped.’ When Ryan Seacrest asked her to clarify what a ‘back scoop’ is, Montag replied, ‘I actually didn’t know. I might be the first one to try it. It carves out your back a little bit.’”

The fact that even after the surgery that Montag was unable to be coherent about the procedure reveals an issue with informed consent and her understanding of her body’s appearance. No patient should ever undergo any medical procedure without being fully aware of what is going to occur and what the risks are. Though plastic surgery has become routine, going under general anaesthesia should always be understood as a risk — patients have died on the operating table.

There is a tendency to dismiss Montag as someone who is unstable, but the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that in the year 2008, multiple cosmetic procedures performed at once increased 9% and repeat patients also went up by 7%. It would seem that Montag may be a bit more typical than we would like to admit.

Finish reading here

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Monstrous Musings: I like my monsters fictional, thank you very much

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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When I posted a few weeks back at my Seduced by Twilight blog on What does a monster look like? someone commented as follows in the thread:

“I think REAL monsters are those that don’t look like monsters at all. The most innocent looking, quiet ones that wait in the shadows and kill young women are today’s monsters. Monsters are violent and relentless but not always obvious.”

While I agree that real monsters are scarier than fictional ones, I am intrigued about the way we use the word monster both to designate creatures of the imagination – vampires, zombies, dragons, etc – as well as to designate people who act in ways defined as monstrous, cruel, and evil.

The etymological roots of the term monster come from “monere” (to warn), “monstrum” (that which teaches), and “monstrare” (to show). As noted in this essay on monsters, “The theme of teaching or guiding is thus implicit in the etymology, with the English word 'demonstrate' turning out to be a cousin of 'monster' in that the Latin 'demonstratum' is a past participle of 'demonstrare', which means 'to point out, indicate, show or prove'.”

These etymological roots indicate that monsters (both those we create in our fictional worlds AND those that inhabit our societies) teach, warn, show, prove, and indicate.

So, what do today’s “REAL monsters” (as they are referred to in the above comment) have to teach us? What are they warning us about?

It seems to me that those we generally consider monsters – those that kill/torture/abuse indiscriminately and repeatedly – do serve as a warning – a warning that our society not only allows such monsters, but actively creates them. Are not such monster indicating that our world breeds violence? Do they not point out that the main modes of societal organization – patriarchy, corporate capitalism, militarism – is perhaps the perfect conditions for monsters to thrive? Does not their existence – in exorbitant numbers and in all branches of society – priesthoods, schools, sports, government, media, etc – PROVE that we may be creating more monsters than we can slay or contain, let alone eradicate?

I am focused on such REAL monsters for reasons close to home. Last month, a 17-year-old female from my town was raped and murdered while jogging alone in a local park. This past weekend, on Easter Sunday, the attendance secretary from my son’s school was shot in her home, as was her husband, by a disgruntled neighbor who decided the best way to solve their long-standing disputes over a parking space was with a shotgun.

I am also focused on such REAL monsters due to a slew of hate crimes on the campus where I teach – crimes that have largely been ignored by campus administrators as well as the local media.

I know that such incidents are far from unique. I know such monsters lurk in every neighbourhood, on every campus, in every corner of the globe, and certainly in many governments, religious organizations, and law enforcement teams. But, somehow, the warning seems more urgent when such monstrous acts become so common as to be expected – as if daily violence, rape, murder, and hatred is par for the course.

I am beginning to wonder – have we become less like Frankenstein’s monster, who was horrified by his own monstrous reflection, and more like traditional vampires, who could not see their own reflection? I am in hopes these numerous warnings (in the form of all too real monsters) lead us to contemplate our collective reflection in that largest of mirrors - our society.

The Pain is real even though you can’t see it

image I have been in extreme pain the last few days because it has not stopped raining.  I know that there are places that are suffering a drought right now, but I keep wondering if I should be collecting animals and building an ark.  When you have fibromyalgia, rain is not just a little inconvenience, at times it feels like nature is conspiring to make you as miserable as possible.  I have spent the last few days sipping on Brown Cows (yes it’s medicinal) wrapped in an electric blanket praying for relief.

In the last few days there has been a lot of talk about prescription pain medicine and addiction on CNN and while I believe the conversation on addiction is important, not talking about chronic pain is an erasure that is absolutely maddening. There are many conditions that can cause chronic pain and it needs to be recognized that some of the people that are taking these drugs are not just simple addicts looking for a fix, they are trying to have some semblance of life.

Unless you live with chronic pain, you have no idea what it is like.  You don’t just get used to it or learn to tolerate it.  You spend your days looking for any kind of relief that you can find.  There are times when the pain is so overwhelming it invades your sleep and you cannot process anything but the hurt.  It changes who you are and how you relate with people.  I sometimes find myself snapping for no other reason than the pain.  I have to consciously remind myself that no one did this to me and not to lash out at those I love.

Simple tasks become impossible or require strategic planning.  Today I wanted to make a dish that I love, but I realized that I didn’t have any apples and because the pain is so extreme, a simple trip to the local farmers market is out of the question. So much for that.  I then had to think of something I could make that would not involve copious amounts of chopping because my hands ache.  But that was not my only requirement: whatever dinner consisted of could not involve prep time that involved me standing on my feet for any length of time or having to get up to check it on the stove. Tonight’s dinner was not selected based upon what we like or crave, but my physical ability to prepare it for my children. 

When I hear health advisors complain about the processed food people eat, I wonder if any of them considered those who find it painful to simply pick up a knife and make a peanut butter sandwich?  You see, I do sometimes serve my family packaged meals, not because I don’t know any better, or because I am short for time, but because it sometimes comes down to eating that or going hungry due to pain.  There are days when even having dinner at the dinner table is out of the question because of pain.

There are many compromises that you must make if you live with chronic pain that a currently abled bodied person does not have to consider. My family knows to ask at all times before they touch me, because some days a simple hug is excruciating. I turn down invitations from friends not because I don’t want to spend time with them, but that it would be to physically exhausting for me. 

You learn to say that you are fine when people ask you how you are, because they don’t really want to know or have the time and patience to understand. Even if we decide to explain, the quick nod of acknowledgement and the sudden shift of conversation lets us know that the topic isn’t really all that important, though the pain for us might be overwhelming. There is this expectation that we will be like the other disabled people that they see on television and suddenly get our dancing shoes on (how many healed paraplegics have you seen on television?).  Why aren’t we getting better, or finding an acceptable way around it so they can declare us courageous even as they move on?

When I go out on my scooter I see the looks as people register my fat body and assume that I ate myself into this condition, or make some ridiculous joke about getting run over while they jump 2 meters (yep metric in Canada) out of the way. What they do not see, is the struggle it took to get on that scooter and the pain I am in, even as I manoeuvre with it, just so that I can get some basic things done.  Pain is invisible and because people cannot see it and in fact cannot imagine it, they  create all kinds explanations (flights of fancy really) based on their privileges and biases about why you aren’t able to do something. 

I have been told how easy I have it and that I do not work, and yet a simple trip to the bathroom can cause me to have rest for five minutes before even contemplating doing anything else. I don’t care how much you hate getting up to the sound of an alarm clock, at least you can get up and get to a job that people recognize as work.  Even if I were to never write another word on this blog, just getting through my day is work because it means negotiating the pain.  Pain isn’t something that you can see, but to the person that is suffering with it, it is very real.  Disability isn’t always about what you can see (especially true since some are vision impaired), it is about the individual and the adaptations they are forced to make to negotiate this world.

The next time you see a differently abled person and you are tempted to make some sarcastic remark about switching with them in order to avoid some annoyance in your life, remember that it can come with more pain than you could possibly imagine.  Remember that it comes with ableism and cruelty.  Not working, and spending most of the day on the couch is not a permanent vacation, it is a survival mechanism because the body has gone into revolt.  So just keep wishing it, because one day it might all come true – being able bodied is temporary for us all and it is minimizing to assume that my pain would equal some sort of vacation from your stresses.

 


Good Housekeeping: Stop Messing With Photos of Michelle Obama

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I know that photo-shopping images is now the norm, but more often than not, it has become completely ridiculous.  Michelle Obama is an absolutely stunning woman and does not need to be photo-shopped.  In fact, no one needs that; we simply need to move away from our ridiculous concept of beauty.  What did they do to Lady O’s head and why does her hair which we know is beautiful and healthy, look like a helmet all of a sudden?  Her face looks so squished, it could belong to a cartoon character. 

I get that they think that tinkering with images brings out the best in the subject, but it does not and it sets up unrealistic beauty standards.  If a beautiful Black woman like Michelle Obama needs work, what hope is there for the rest of us?  I know that there have been worse examples of photo-shopping run amok, but this really bothers me because Michelle is not just the first lady, she is THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN first lady.  Her presence in the house that slaves built means a lot to not only Black women, but to young Black girls that are looking for a positive role model.

The image of beauty has historically been the White woman and this continues to this day.  Look through any fashion magazine and you will find blondes, brunettes, red heads aplenty but finding a beautiful Black woman can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Due to sexism, beauty remains one of the few ways in which women have access to power and this has been denied Black women.  We have been constructed as the angry,ugly ball busting, harridan. Ugly is a slur constantly thrown at Black women and therefore when they take someone as beautiful as Michelle Obama and alter her image, it reaffirms the idea that the Black woman is always and forever less than.

So, I’ll just say it once.  LEAVE MICHELLE OBAMA ALONE.  Young Black girls need at least one attractive, intelligent woman that they can look up to.

Newsweek: Reclaiming the Dark Skinned Earth Mother

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The above image is next weeks cover of Newsweek, which I saw over at Shakesville.  Liss does a wonderful job dealing with the issue of gender and sexism with this image, but when I saw it, I saw something completely different; I saw the erasure of the Brown and Black mother. This image is clearly Mary the mother of Jesus and therefore; the White skin is extremely off putting. Yes, I’m going to talk about race.

The White Jesus is what has become normalized because Whiteness is the racial body that exists with the most social power and therefore the conceptualization of God or for that matter a Goddess necessarily reflects Whiteness even though it is highly unlikely that this is an accurate representation. 

Jesus was not White.  Process that for a minute. Jesus was not White.  How could he possibly be when he was born in the Middle East of Semitic descent?  He is described in Revelations as having hair like wool and feet like brass.  What kind man do you recognize as having hair like wool?  That is specifically a trait of dark-skinned people and it has been ignored to perpetuate to support the conceptualization of white as good, pure, and Godlike.

If Jesus was not a White man, then it stands to reason that Mary, his mother, was not a White woman.  Reclaiming the virgin mother as the dark-skinned woman that she most likely was is an important task, because today dark skinned mothers continue to be abused and then tossed aside like refuse.  The White mother has been placed upon a pedestal in order to uplift the fruit of her womb. 

imageOur motherhood has long been disrespected and even as we wept bitter tears, our children have been ripped from our grasp never to be seen again.  We have been constructed as irresponsible breeders and our wombs have been made barren in order that the White mother and her White children should receive all that is good.

Mary is constructed as pure, kind and the epitome of goodness whereas; the Brown or Black mother is lazy, abusive, angry, lustful, dirty and decidedly unfeminine.  Black and Brown mothers have never been able to argue our status as mothers to protect us from the harshness of this world, because ultimately we are disposable.  Whiteness does not seek to see any generation of Brown and Black babies inherit any of the goodness, wonder or beauty, that is the earth and therefore; the assassination of the Black and Brown mother is a necessity.

I have broached this topic many times, and  I have been answered with, it does not matter what colour Jesus was and it does not matter what colour Mary was; it is the message and the legacy that are important. While I will not deny the message that God who became man bequeathed to the earth, the body that ze chose to inhabit is vitally important.  If this omnipotent being, chose a brown body, what does it say that so much evil has been perpetrated on those who share hir skin colour?  What does it mean that idols and statues are made to praise his mother and yet so few of them resemble the woman that she actually was?

Race is not divorced from any conversation, as much as Whiteness would have us believe that it is often irrelevant or that we seek to interject it too often.  Until the Brown and Black women can be legitimately celebrated, we will never be free because we are all children of our mother and the mother as it just so happens was at a very minimum Brown if not Black.  You cannot evolve beyond that which gives life because that is the source of all power and indeed all goodness.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dr. Phil Takes on the Fatties

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I stopped watching Dr. Phil almost immediately after his program first aired because of his often patronizing and sexist approach to women’s issues, fatphobia and his heterosexist, cissexist approach to the GLBT community.  Unfortunately my boycott did not mean that his show got cancelled, in fact; he continues to maintain very good ratings and people still buy his books, even though he is the only psychologist that I have heard of that is an expert on everything.

Well, yesterday he once again decided to take on the issue of fat by discussing “The perception of the obese, and how accommodating society should be towards the overweight and if its possible to be fat and healthy”.  If you think that the premise would clearly indicate a hot mess, you are absolutely right.  In an effort to appear neutral, he had fat activists, as well as people representing an anti fat position.  In what world is this a balanced debate?  When you have people questioning your right to exist, and questioning your right to take up space, it is a forum of bigotry in which fat bodies become vile objects.

We’re not fat haters we don’t have hate for fat people. We hate fat behaviour. We hate laziness – Michael karolychyk while wearing a t-shirt that says no chubbies

Isn’t that nice, he doesn’t hate fat people.  I wonder if he wants a cookie for his amazing show of tolerance?  Of course to do this, we have to ignore his conflation of fat with laziness.

For someone to be discriminated against, there has to be something innate like race or sexual orientation when you are talking about judgement. Habitual and improper eating is what is causing almost all obesity, and that does not need protection –Meme Roth

So I suppose the fat shaming of Gabourey Sidibe, Kelly Osbourne, Jessica Simpson, Kevin Smith, Monique and Queen Latifah is all just a figment of our collective imaginations.  I suppose people don’t really stare and giggle when fat people eat at a restaurant.  OOOh and my personal favourite, I suppose all gyms are friendly when fat people enter to try and improve their level of physical fitness.  It is certainly a problem when people feel as though they have to diet and lose weight before they can even comfortably enter a gym.

A chubbie is someone who is lazy, makes excuses and doesn’t want to accept accountability. We have thrown cupcakes at our clients. If you can’t handle my program that means you can’t handle the truth. If we have a client who is routinely cheating on their diet and they are lying about it we give them a urinalysis. – Michael karolychyk

Right, it’s not about accepting yourself for who you are but wallowing in food and denial because it is just sooooo much fun being fat.  Why even consider the fact that sometimes fat is a manifestation of an illness and not and illness in and of itself.  I suppose his approach would be news to my resperologist and my rheumatologist, but hey, everyone is competent to give medical advice these days aren’t they.

Nobody wants to address why these people keep getting larger and larger, costing us more money for health insurance, costing us more money in fuel costs, causing so many problems in our country. If nobody wants to address it, we’re going to be talking about three airline seats in a couple of decades. – Michael karolychyk

Are you freaking kidding me?  No one is shaming fat people for daring to take up space.  I suppose all of the diet ads which tout that women should lose weight so that they can wear a bathing suit (never mind that bathing suits come in multiple sizes) aren’t aimed at fat people.  What about the fact that the first lady is so focused on childhood obesity that she publicly announced putting her daughter on a diet, never mind what it did to the child's self-esteem, and the fact that despite the whole everything in moderation mantra, chocolate Easter eggs were banned at the White House Easter egg hunt this year.  Between “The Biggest Loser” (which btw is UNHEALTHY) and Jamie Oliver’s tears, I cannot go a day watching television without someone telling me how gross my body is and what I should be doing about it. 

But just in case the message did not get through to you, Dr. Phil offered us a woman who is trying to change her fatty ways in the body of comedian Erica Watson.  He generously arranged for her to work with Jillian Michaels of “The Biggest Loser” and when Peggy Howell from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance  tried to interject on the grounds of safety, he quickly shut her down.  You see, this was not about having an objective conversation, this was his attempt to tell fat people that we are the problem and not society’s incessant shaming and failure to provide accommodations.

Even the so-called middle position played by Kelly Osbourne was filled with problematic elements:

I took more hell for being fat than I did for being a drug addict. You know that you can help it if you really want to, but it so hard to change and to find the motivation.

So in the end, despite having fat people in his family and not being a thin man himself, Dr. Phil unsurprisingly decided to parrot the dominate discourse of fat equals unhealthy and disgusting despite supposedly presenting both sides of the issue.  In true Dr. Phil tradition he closed with:

Body size is an indicator of your health, there is a risk factor associated with obesity.  There clearly is a choice here, when you chose the behaviour you chose the consequences.

In this he is absolutely correct, as I will never get the hour back of my life that I wasted listening to people spout bigotry and ignorance as though they knew better than I what is good and healthy for me. I made the choice to listen to his bigotry and my consequence is the anger I now feel.


NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and Gay Rights

The feud between the White members of the LGBT community and the heterosexual members of the Black community continues to wage on.  Though both groups are marginalized, both maintain elements of privilege due to the hierarchal construction of our shared social world.  We spend more time talking at each other than to each other and this has led to anger and bitter recriminations on both sides. 

The NAACP has been a strong out spoken advocate for LGBT rights and in fact, many Black leaders, which includes the congressional Black Caucus,  have spoken in support of the LGBT community and yet, Blacks continue to be constructed image as uniquely homophobic.  When gay marriage was lost in Maine, the LGBT community could not use race as a factor because of the percentage of people of colour in the population and yet, there was no suggestion that Whites as a group are uniquely homophobic.  The moment that people of colour are removed from the equation, suddenly race is no longer a factor, though whiteness is just as much marked and disciplined by our understanding of what it is to exist as a racialized body in North America as any other grouping of people.

Jealous discussed the inability to reach some form of understanding between the LGBT and the Black Community in an interview published at “Big Think”.

Jealous is also attuned to the civil rights struggles of another minority group—gay Americans—and aware of the public perception that black activists have been lukewarm in supporting their cause. Yet for his own family as well as the NAACP, he says, gay rights are not only important but "personal"—and if there's a gap between the movements, it's a product of insufficient outreach from the LGBT side.

Even in his support, Jealous relies on privilege to explain away the issues between the two communities and in the process ignores the people of colour who are LGBT and therefore living examples of the intersection between the two communities.  It is privileged to believe that marginalized bodies should educate you about the issues and justify why social action is needed.  We can only ignore oppression when it does not directly affect us and this is why we must always look within ourselves first to understand the various ways in which our bodies are encoded with privilege.

image Even with the knowledge that expecting to be spoon feed knowledge is an example of privilege; the reality is, that if a marginalized group wants to move forward in their drive for equality, they will need a coalition of bodies because no fight for civil rights has progressed without a ground swell of support from a wide spectrum of the population.  This means enabling privilege by not only explaining the issues but reaching out to targeted communities.

It is not enough to say that you are oppressed too and therefore you should know better, because though no oppression is ever good, no two are the same, despite being built on a desire to support hierarchy and “othering”. When Blacks look at the GLBT community they see White faces staring at them and when this is coupled with the just like you tagline, it hardly encourages a feeling of solitary because just like you necessarily means White and class privileged.  Appropriating parts of the Black civil rights struggle only further implies that this is a problem of rich White people who are willing to play with what is considered to be real oppression for their own gains. 

Let’s be honest, Gay rights does not involve slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, a lack of economic progress, over representation in the prison industrial complex, etc., but the closet, gay bashing, lack of good media representation, DADT, ENDA, housing discrimination, employment discrimination and  HIV/AIDS, are all horrors unto themselves that present a unique challenge that can and should stand on their own. If the BLGT community wants an outpouring of popular Black support, rather than just the support of what are in some cases self appointed leaders, the face of TLGB activism needs to reflect the actual population and not simply the oppressed White Castro gays that don’t want to be treated as niggers because honestly, that is how the appropriation, Gay is the new Black, and we’re just like you reads, whether or not it is fair.

People join movements to fight oppression when they can empathize with the situation and a White face on the GLBT community is problematic for Blacks who have had the boots of White oppression placed upon our necks for hundreds of years.  No one, no matter how magnanimous and kind, openly and willingly embraces their oppressor and to expect this is to show a distinct lack of understanding of what it is to be of colour in North America. 

If there is to be some reference regarding Jim Crow or the civil rights movement, allow same gender loving people of colour to make the analogy because it is our shared history not yours. The long and short of it is this, if you want Black support, simply allow the people of colour who are part of both of our communities to have a chance to speak about their issues because when the face looks likes you, it is far easier to see the similarities rather than the differences…so yeah, just like you, but with a Black face.

H/T Back2Stonewall

 


Michelle 'Nazi' McGee Slings Transphobic Insult At Chelsea Handler

This is a guest post from the ever fabulous Monica of Transgriot

image Michelle McGee, the alleged mistress of Jesse James got a little perturbed over the zingers that Chelsea Handler aimed at her.

On her blog Handler aimed a zinger directed at the 32 year old McGee in which she's quoted as stating, "I guess she doesn’t read magazines, which makes sense since she basically has one on her face.”

McGee sent retaliatory fire back at Handler courtesy of her Facebook page..

“Chelsea, heres some free advice..use some of that botox from your forehead and put it in your flabby underarm skin. Ive seen better wings in a bucket of KFC chicken,” she wrote.

Then Miss White Power 2010 went a step further and added: “In all seriousness, Im a big fan of Chelsea Lately…feel so honoured to have a transexual poke fun of me…”

No, you haven't had a transwoman poke fun at you until now. What I'm about to say isn't intended to be humorous like the pwning you've been getting from Chelsea.

But if people find it to be funny, then that's all good.

Look, Eva Braun for the new millennium, whatever beef you have with Chelsea, leave the trans community out of it.

The trans community is more than a little sick and tired of cognitively challenged cispeople struggling to come up with zingers in dissfests in which they are hopelessly outclassed using transwomen as an insult.

As a matter of fact, I know more than a few transwomen who are better looking than you and don't have swastikas tattooed on their bodies.

I've got a salute for you, and it isn't a stiff arm one. It starts with my extended middle finger.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Race and Two Little Boys

image Last night we went to my neighbours for a bbq…Yeah, a night free of the unhusbands creations in the kitchen.  My neighbour has a nephew the same age as my baby Mayhem.  I sat sipping on a rum a coke (it’s not officially beer season) and watched them play.  They were both engrossed in their pick up game of golf that they had organized and were having a really good time.

I smiled an easy smile and realized that this uncomplicated relationship will not always remain this way; you see, my son is bi-racial and the other boy in question is White.  For now, both of them see race and difference, they simply do not apply any weight to it.  Each of these young boys will be shaped in different ways because the world will treat them very differently. 

In time, the little White boy will come to realize that he is a member of the most privileged group ever to walk the face of the planet.  His manhood will not be questioned.  He will be able to walk into a store without people immediately fearing that he will steal something.  Before he opens his mouth, it will be assumed that he speaks English without utilizing slang.  He will not have to be taught to fear the police as a survival tactic.  He will walk through this world like he owns it. And why not, White masculinity has been trampling on the rights of others for a very long time.

When I saw this little boy playing, I saw the face of a future oppressor.  If his parents do not take the time to attempt to undo all of the messages that society will normalize for him, privilege will be as normal for him as breathing air and this will inevitably change the way he will relate to my son.

You see, no matter how close a person of colour is to a White person, race will always have a role to play in their relationship.  White people make assumptions about others based on the normalization of Whiteness that often has people of colour decoding their lives and explaining why such an action or statement is racist.  In fact, no matter how aware a White person is, at some point they will engage in some sort of racist behaviour that will hurt.  This is specifically because of the way that racism has become such a social norm.

I remember having a coffee with a friend of mine when she began to complain about the sexist treatment that she had received from some Arab men. Just as I was about to offer words of support she called them “sand niggers”.  To this day, my mind resonates with shock.  Here is a woman that has seen the door of no return and yet “sand nigger” easily fell from her lips.  While she had every right to complain about the sexism that she had received, racism is how she fought back and this is very much in line with the response many White people have when they feel marginalized.

A precious few are able to see the ways in which resorting to racism only perpetuates marginalization.  For the woman in question, she expected her race to be able to protect her from assault because Whiteness is a privileged class. When White people are wronged they always have race to latch on to and in that moment of rage, they reach for it quite easily because it is a well known equalizer. Using a racial epithet immediately changes the playing field and reduces the person of colour to a thing, an object to be reviled.

My little boy thankfully has yet to have a racial incident but the day is coming. My oldest was taunted at the age of five with children calling him brown boy.  I was not prepared to deal with this because I could not imagine children engaging in such racist behaviour at that young age.  I have learned a lesson from that and will soon prepare my youngest child to deal with what it is to be of colour in this world.  I must arm him and fill him with self pride, because these little friends that he makes today, could discover tomorrow the benefit of Whiteness at the cost of my child’s mental well being and self worth.

Teaching about Race in High School

This is a guest post by Lyndsay

"I am almost done studying to be a teacher in Toronto, Ontario. After growing up in a small city with little ethnic diversity, getting a Bachelor of Arts and Science in biology and psychology at a somewhat more diverse university, I am enjoying living somewhere with sushi at practically every corner. I may teach science in England next year but my hope is to come back and teach courses like Challenge and Change in Society, Women's and Gender Studies and Introduction to Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology in High School."

I am training to be a teacher and just finished a month-long practicum. I taught a grade 11 class a psychology unit in an Introduction to Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology course. At school we are constantly encouraged to teach a curriculum that is more inclusive and works toward social justice. I watched as the teacher who was supervising me taught her class about the lack of biological evidence for our ideas of race and the history of our ideas about race. While she was teaching, I thought about how important this information is for students to know and the opportunities other subject teachers have to teach it.

If you asked most adults, they would likely guess people have been racist since they discovered people who look different from them. While humans have a long history of treating people like they’re inferior, at one point it was often based on people being “uncivilized” or unable to defend themselves. I haven’t read the new book The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter but it looks like a detailed history of the development of the concept or social construct of race.

“Race as a social construct” can be taught in an evolution unit. This would begin with teaching that before sunscreen or products supplemented with Vitamin D, people developed the skin colour that was most adaptive to the region they were living in so they would not get skin cancer or broken bones before they could pass on their genes. In evolution, traits do not have a value. They are simply adaptive to the environment the person or animal evolved in. Then a teacher could delve into race as a social construct.

“Race as a social construct” can also be taught in a genetics unit. There is not significant genetic evidence to divide people in three or five or ten groups. Geneticists have found more differences within races or ethnicities than between one race or ethnicity and another. Talking about the lack of genetic evidence for dividing people can lead into teaching about how our ideas about race came to be. In both units, students can also be taught there is the most genetic diversity in Africa, which is evidence for people beginning in Africa, and can dispel ideas students have about people from Africa or Asia being very similar to other Africans or Asians.

Talking about how our ideas about race came to be can be done in any science class when teaching about the flaws of science research. Since students are mainly taught core (undisputed) science, they rarely get a chance to try to question science research. Some of the ideas we have about race came from scientists. For example, Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) collected skulls from around the world and measured the interior of them to judge intellectual capacity by their size. He found the skulls of Europeans were largest. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) in The Mismeasure of Man wrote about the errors in Samuel Morton’s work. Everyone should know brain size doesn’t even predict intelligence. Carl Linnaeus, known as the father of modern taxonomy, also classified people into five races and gave each different characteristics. Of course he placed Europeans placed at the top.

The development of ideas about race can be looked at in any course that looks at history from the last 400 years, sociology, or anthropology. I’m sure there are times when this could be taught in an English course too. Of course it’s important to make clear that this doesn’t mean racism doesn’t affect people today. I definitely think it’s important to teach about the impacts of racism as well but that wasn’t the focus of this post. All this does mean the ideas we have about race were created over time by scientists and law makers in particular, over the last 400 years. They justified treating a group of people as less than human by convincing people that this group was less than human. The hope is that by having students understand the history of race they can examine ideas about race they didn’t even realize they had and realize these ideas have not been around forever. Ideas from people from over 200 years ago can be changed. It seems harder to blindly accept ideas when you know they came from fallible people in the past, some of whom were motivated by the desire to make money for their country no matter what the cost to people’s lives.

Tune in Tuesday: Sunday Morning Maroon 5

I actually first heard this song on the now defunct Canadian Idol.  I immediately fell in love with it though the person singing it was voted off that week.  There is something soothing about it.  It makes me think of a rainy Sunday morning and sipping coffee while cuddling with the unhusband.  I think that there is something special about Sunday mornings.  It is a day of rest, relaxation and all around comfort.  

Well you know the drill, please share what you like about this song or the band.

Constance McMillen and Neurologically Atypical Students Sent to “Fake Prom”

image Constance first gained national attention when she sued her school to be allowed to attend her prom in a tuxedo with her girlfriend.  Rather than admit that their policy was completely discriminatory, the school cancelled the prom.

Constance has since faced much backlash from the community who chose to blame her for the cancellation, rather than attacking the school board for its discriminatory practice. It would seem that victim blaming was far more acceptable than recognizing how harmful homophobia is, not only to the GLBT community, but to all of society because it enforces a hierarchy bodies.

Constance has proven to be a very brave young woman in the face of all of the naked hatred, but it seems  that the community still had one last humiliation in store for her.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back - she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on.

"They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen says. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn't invited to."
Last week McMillen asked one of the students organizing the prom for details about the event, and was directed to the country club. "It hurts my feelings," McMillen says.

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. "They had the time of their lives," McMillen says. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."

Shame on this town.  What they did was create people as social outcasts for being different.  In the process, they taught their children that the most important aspect of life is to conform to so-called norms. 

I think what is even more disturbing is that they defend this obvious cruelty by claiming support based in Christian values.  Well, these Christians need to read their bible, because Jesus, who they claim to worship is not credited in the bible as saying one negative word about homosexuality, or people that are differently abled.  In fact, it is certain that Jesus would consider them to be a protected class, because of the way in which both have faced persecution for simply being the children of God. Since each person is made in the image of God, who are they to spit on Gods creation in this way?

I think that this teaches activists a very important lesson.  We cannot afford to dismiss the importance of intersectionality because all social isms are related; they are based upon “othering”.  Constance may have able bodied privilege; however, her status as a lesbian was enough for people to consider her a spoiled identity.  Anything that steps outside of the perceived norms will be stigmatized and people will be attacked, thus making it extremely problematic to suggest that something is not part of a particular groups struggle.

As for the parents that orchestrated and condoned this – they are DISGUSTING.  It’s people like you that perpetuate the hatred that has become normal in this society.  They may think that they have saved the prom for their little darlings, but what they have affirmed to these young kids is that oppression and bigotry are acceptable as long as you are a member of the dominant group.  Since most people will have to face at least one stigmatization in their lifetime, they have built and supported the foundation of oppression that their children will one day face.

To Constance McMillen and the other students who were treated to the special prom, I say have courage. This prom was not a signifier of how awful and worthless you are, rather it is a strong indicator of how low ignorant and over privileged bodies will sink to maintain their undeserved social status.  I am just one woman writing a small blog from Canada, but you are heroes in my book.

H/T Pam’s House Blend.


A Spark of Wisdom: What is the RIGHT form of activism?

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.

I have been looking at various brouhahas about activism lately, especially in the LGBT community. In particular, I've been looking at a lot of arguments.

And part of me is happy about that, I have to make that clear now. One of the things I love love love love about LGBT activism and the LGBT community is there is never any idea that we should all be reading off one page. There are few, if any, grand leaders of the movement and we don't put many people on pedestals. And when you gather us together you either have the best party ever or the biggest argument ever. Maybe even both. And I like that, I like that we're not all reading off the same page, I like that there's a variety of opinions and I like that individuality is still a mainstay of us.

But, I digress - on activism itself. I am seeing a lot of arguing as to what is good activism and what isn't. What people should be doing. What people aren't doing. Why X form of activism is better than Y. And here I have to add my own disagreement.

I don't think any FORM of activism is wrong.

I think screaming in fury, waving angry signs and jumping up and down is great activism - it shows you're passionate, it shows that you are angry, it shows that there is something real and tangible and awful to fix.

I think civil disobedience, chaining yourself to fences, holding sit ins, are all powerful activism. It's brave, it's courageous, it shows how determined people are to see this change, again it shows how important it is. It draws attention, it creates visibility, it highlights injustice.

I think spreading the stories of pain is effective activism. Showing everyone the real people who are hurt by discrimination and hatred, remembering the names of the fallen, reporting the hate incidents, putting faces to the numbers and making it clear that the problem is still there are vital to prevent them being dismissed.

I think objectively listing discriminatory laws and policies, of compiling statistics of people fired, of lives lost, of the large scale numbers the problem brings in a calm, clinical manner is effective activism. It presents the issues and the scale of them in an accessible format.

I think marching and demonstrating are a great form of activism. It shows energy, it shows numbers, it shows dedication. It connects you to more people in your cause and increases morale and energy - as well as drawing attention

I think pride parades are a great form of activism. It helps the isolated connect, reinforces the messages of exposure and attention. It sticks two fingers up at the closet and asserts loudly and proudly that we exist and have every right to do so. That we're proud to do so.

I think blogging is effective activism. It spreads the word quickly, to a huge audience and establishes relationships between activists across the globe. It draws attention to stories missed by the mainstream press, it engages people, it brings new insight and opinions to people who were unaware or didn't think on those terms.

I think tweeting is effective activism. I think a tweet can span the world in an instant and have a thousand furious people informed, engaged and responding. From Southwest Airlines to Jan Moir, we have seen the power of social networking.

I think mass mailing elected representatives is effective, especially if each letter is personalised. Ultimately, even the most corrupt and bought politician is elected and has to at least give a nod to his constituents. If enough weigh in on an issue, then that issue becomes important. You may even find one that cares *ducks flying pig*

I even think professional activist and lobbyist organisations - that come under a lot of criticism - are effective activism. I think they establish relationships with legislators, they become groups that they have to acknowledge, even if they ignore them. They become groups that politicians even have to court and make at least some gestures towards (hollow as they may be at times), they have an in.

I think all of this activism is effective, powerful and to be encouraged. I don't think any of them is doing activism wrong. But I think it's possible to do them wrong.

I think that the shouting in anger can often devolve into incoherent rage.

I think meticulously enumerating the facts can seem emotionless and unimportant, ivory tower philosophy rather than real lives and real people.

I think sharing stories of the tragedies can become maudlin and unproductive - especially if we focus on the bad without any considerations for how to make them better or move forwards.

I think Pride Parades can become heavily commercialised and become more about the show and the display than about the message and the community.

I think the professional lobbyists become more concerned with the august circles they move in, their profiles, their profits and the celebrities they get to rub shoulders with rather than the cause itself. I also think it's very easy for these high profile lobbyists to lose connection with both the cause and the people they're fighting for.

Yes, they can be done wrong - gods yes they can be done wrong. And we certainly need to speak up when it is. In fact, I think we have been a lot less critical of the lobbyists than they deserve (to pick one set of failings among many) -  but that doesn't mean that that form of activism is wrong. And that we have to be careful with. There is no one true way - all are effective within their own sphere. But again and again I am seeing people say "we need this activism, not that kind" or that "X is ineffective" or deriding, say, internet activists for their online work, or mocking the civil disobedient for media hounding or sniping at the angry for "putting people off."

I would rather have a 100 voices, than just one voice echoed 100 times. But at the same time, I don't think it's very useful for those 100 voices to spend all their time bickering with each other about how the others talk. We should certainly criticise when there is a problem, when someone is failing badly and not even remotely helping (and, again, I think one of the main problems is that that HASN'T been happening) - or even hindering the way forwards. But there's a difference between criticising them for doing it wrong - and criticising them for not doing it your way.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Pig Goes Pop: Teaching Kids Fat Hatred

 This little game is sold at Toys R Us.  Players roll the dice to determine how many hamburgers to feed the pig, whose stomach steadily increases with each hamburger.  Eventually, his stomach pops from overeating.  Funny ha ha ha.

image Look, I don’t like the idea of feeding an animal (notice how they chose a pig) until it explodes from way too much consumption.  This is hardly sending a positive message to children about food and fat bodies.  Though they may have been attempting to teach the lesson of everything in moderation, to me me it screams of people are fat because they just will not stop stuffing themselves. 

I am also disgusted with the idea that the food of choice is hamburgers because everyone knows that fatties spend their day eating hamburger after hamburger, just trying to avoid exploding their disgusting fatness everywhere. The entire game is a metaphor for how disgusting and dangerous fatness is.

Apparently this game was one of the hottest selling toys last Christmas though I just saw the commercial for the first time today.  When we consider that we live in a culture of fat hatred this is no innocent game.

At the U.S Toys R US site the consumers did not complain about the bias that this toy teaches children, instead they focused on its functionality.  Yep, their upset that their nasty little fat hating pig didn’t explode properly.I think that this is very telling because it offers proof that many of the attitudes and behaviours that we claim to be naturally occurring, are specifically taught to children.

When a baby is born, they don’t care whether or not the person holding them is skinny or fat; they simply care about love and having their physical needs met. This toy teaches them from a very young age a negative understanding of their bodies and eating habits.  It says don’t indulge, don’t see food as pleasurable and in a world in which many women regularly starve themselves to maintain an unrealistic weight, this is hardly healthy.

If we want children to make good connections with food, we need to approach it with a sense of pleasure and not  a fear of stigmatization and sickness.   We must regain the celebration of life that eating truly can be.  Food brings families together, it commerrates holidays, as well as sustains our bodies. If we want to stop the un-healthy eating habits that we have come to embrace for the sake of unrealistic ideals, toys like this cannot be considered harmless. 

 


Boys can be Single Ladies As Well

I know that there are some of you who think I have an obsession with the song “All the Single Ladies” however I simply had to post this video.

Description: Two girls and a boy start to sing “All the Single Ladies.”  The father in the front seat instructs his son that he is not a single lady and the child immediately begins to cry.  Realizing that he hurt his sons feelings he says, “I’m sorry, you’re a single lady”.  The child refuses to be quieted even after the father sings a line from the song.

Moments like this are exactly how we inform our children about gender and what it means to be a boy or a girl.  Often as with this young boy, it means discouraging them from doing things that they are naturally inclined to  because we have privileged gender performance over individuality.

When children are discouraged from following their interests they get robbed of their potential.  Though Mayhem  is only four, he has a very decided interest in fashion.  He will often comment on what I am wearing and let me know if he thinks that my skirt does not look good with my shirt.  Though little boys are supposed to be too busy playing with Tonka trucks to notice this, it has become a daily occurrence in my household. None of his interests make him any less male – they make him Mayhem.

Right now the little boy in the video had the courage to show his displeasure at the gender discipline that he received from his father, but as the pressure mounts to perform masculinity, that same scream of injustice may be swallowed.  Gender policing happens on a daily basis and none of us escapes, no matter how much we attempt to ignore the signs.  It seems to me, that if we really loved children and valued their potential, that we would allow them to become who they are, rather than directing their choices based in gender.  

H/T Sociological Images