Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello readers.  I know that the content has been a little light this week and it is because I am busy researching a very large project.  I hope to be able to share the exciting work that I am doing with you soon.  I am trying to work on balancing out my schedule but with the boys finishing school shortly, I cannot promise that it will happen anytime soon. 

In the meantime, if you would like to add to the conversation here at Womanist Musings, please feel free to send me either an original piece, or a link to your blog via e-mail.  Most recently our columnists and contributors have been the catalyst of great conversation. 

I am also still working on a new format for the blog and if you can help out with this through either a donation or some advice, your help would be greatly appreciated.  Though Womanist Musings was started by me, it has become a great community in which we all participate.

Below you will find a list of great articles that I came across this week.  Yes, I did a massive amount of reading.  Please show these bloggers some love and check out their work. When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.  

Filling Up an Empty Space

“Allies” bringing “attention” to an issue in a city that is not their own

Five things I wish gay guys knew about me

WHY, AS AN AFRICAN, I TOOK A RHODES SCHOLARSHIP

SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND PRIVILEGE: WHY IS GREEN ALWAYS WHITE (AND MALE AND UPPER-CLASS)

Fear of My Own Rage

“White Mexicans”: Hollywood shows off its faux liberalism again

Sarah Palin and the Arbiters of Feminism

Ending racism starts with accepting bias

“Porn for Women”: A Rant

Why Don’t Non-Disabled People Trust People With Disabilities Anyway?

Is it okay to airbrush models to be heavier?

Malawi Couple Jailed: This Is a Woman’s Issue

AN OPEN LETTER TO ANYONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED BY SON’S MELTDOWN

15 MAYO: LO QUE ILEGAL SE PUEDE IGNORAR:   “The problem with abortion’s illegality is that it creates a class-based abortion industry, where women with money can access safe procedures, but women without, cannot”.  (article is in English)

Beyond the Binary: Where Do I Fit In?

Why I won’t be drawing Muhammad

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Dear White People, Just No

You may now wash your eyeballs out, because the next horror is completely auditory.

Yes, that is Liza Minnelli destroying Bey Bey…I love you Liza, but you cannot get a pass for inflicting this on the world..

Okay wash and rinse one more time.

H/T Uptown Notes on Swagger Wagon and Back2StoneWall on the Liza video

Friday, May 21, 2010

It’s Friday and the Question is…..

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This week I am actually going to ask two questions.

1) Mayhem is known as the family fashionista.  Today was his first day of pre-school and he spent 15 minutes searching for the perfect outfit to wear.  When I came downstairs from having my shower, he took one look at me and said, “Mommy you don’t look pretty today, do you want me to pick something out for you?”  Nothing makes his day more than when I allow him to pick my outfit for the day. I have become his human dress up doll.   I know that if  I ask him how do I look, he will honestly tell me what he thinks, whereas; Destruction, and the unhusband will sugar coat it to spear my feelings.  So question one is: Who can you count on to be honest with you no matter what, and what does this honesty mean to you?

2)  As everyone knows, Sunday is the last episode of “Lost”.  Seriously, I am not happy with the way that the ending is  headed, but I still have to find out how “Lost” ends after years of speculation.  When “Lost” is over, what show do you think that you will watch as it’s replacement, or do you believe that nothing comes close to measuring up to “Lost”?

Jillian Michaels Knows What Fat is all About

image Physical trainer Jillian Michaels became a household name when the exploitative show “The Biggest Loser” hit the airwaves.  Each week viewers tune in to watch Michaels whip fatties into shape.  Michaels recently did an interview with Time magazine in which she was asked, “Is obesity about emotional trauma, bad genes or poor habits?

Michaels responded with:

You can be predisposed genetically, but it's not a sentence. I'm genetically predisposed, but I manage my weight. The root of obesity, though, is usually emotional. The poor habits are a symptom of a deeper emotional issue.

Right,  and of course she is all about helping the poor fatties by participating in a show that has proven to be unhealthy and dangerous.  “Whether it’s gallbladder disease, hair falling out, skin getting dry,” said Karen Kovach, the chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers, “the more rapid the weight loss, the greater the risk.” She added: “You get above a kilogram a week, the risk really shoots up.” “The Biggest Loser” promotes weight loss at any cost, thus leaving its contestants emotionally vulnerable.  The problem is not the weight, but people like Michaels who under the guise of helping, support the idea that fat people are less than.

Season 1 winner Ryan Benson discussed the drastic measures he took on this Myspace blog:

“I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn’t eat one piece of solid food! If you’ve heard of “The Master Cleanse” that’s what I did. Its basically drinking lemonade made with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn’t use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn’t take any drugs, I just starved myself! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.”

Season 3 contestant Kai Hibbard also blogged about the risky measures she took for the finale. The New York Times reports:

“She recently wrote on a blog that in the two weeks before the finale she severely dehydrated herself using asparagus (a diuretic), colonics and six-hour stretches of hopping in and out of a sauna. She lost 19 pounds, which as she joked, rebounded to her rear end almost immediately.’”

Considering that participation in “The Biggest Loser” is extremely risky, I fail to see how anything Jillian Michaels has to say about fat or weight loss is in the least bit relevant.  This woman is not really concerned, despite the fact that her inner fat child may be copiously weeping, because she makes her living exploiting the self loathing that many fat people negotiate the world with due to constant shaming.

Not every fat person is walking around with an eating disorder.  The two biggest factor in weight are DNA and Illness/Disability.  You will note that the later is often ignored because it props up the myth that if one just does the right thing, that health is a lifelong guarantee.  People that are fat because of medications that they take, lack of mobility, or illness/disability, are not emotionally sad and eating themselves into oblivion.  I know this first hand because I am fat and disabled.  Despite the occasional craving for chocolate, my diet is healthy and balanced.

Jillian Michaels cannot afford to be honest about fat.  She cannot afford to acknowledge connections like disability and fat, because to do so would conflict with the hateful message that she promotes every single week on the show.  She is no different than a snake oil salesman, selling people cures for illnesses they don’t even have.  It is much healthier for a person to maintain their weight and exercise moderately than it is to participate in the crash diet/exercise program that she facilitates on “The Biggest Loser.” 

It saddens me to know that millions of people are tuning into this program every week and buying into the ridiculous notion that if they were only strong enough to exercise until they throw up and tolerate international humiliation for being fat, that  they too can achieve and unrealistic body weight that is unsustainable.  The only problem with fat people is that we live in a world that has decided to stigmatize fat. The biggest losers are not the contestants, they are the staff that everyday supports a dangerous diet for a quick buck.


No, You Mean to be Hateful to Gay People

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Last night we were sitting around waiting for the unhusband to burn bbq dinner, when  our neighbour popped by for a visit.  For the purposes of this conversation I am going to call him Michael.  We stood chatting when suddenly another neighbour popped out of his house.  Michael decided to greet the new addition by yelling, “hey faggot”.  This was supposedly a friendly greeting, though in my mind it constitutes hate speech.

Destruction, never being one to allow a slur to go unanswered responded with, “would you mind please not using that word, it is not nice”.

Michael came back with, “In real english, you know the proper english that they speak in England, a fag is a cigarette”.  He then proceeded to take a smoke out of his pack and show it to Destruction.  “There is nothing wrong with this word”, he said, “because fag only means cigarette”. 

Destruction was quiet for a moment and responded saying, “No, fag is like the N word and it hurts gay men and gay women, like it hurts me when people say the N word.”

When Michael decided to persist in his lie, I intervened and told Destruction that we would discuss it over dinner, and that we were going to drop the conversation for now.

Michael then asked me if I were going to tell Destruction  the “real meaning of the word fag”, to which I responded, “yes”.

Over dinner we sat down and told our son that we were proud of him for standing up for a marginalized group and that he was right because what Michael said was indeed a slur, despite his asinine assertion that he meant cigarette.

Destruction is only a nine year old boy and he knew enough to understand that such language was harmful while a grown man did not have the courage to admit that what he said was wrong when openly called out.  Michael clearly felt that because he was in the presence of a traditional family, that using homophobic language would be something that we would accept.  You see, most people don’t have the courage to be hateful directly to someone’s face, and yet the moment they get into a group that they perceive to be akin to them, their filter comes off and they wallow in all of the undeserved privilege that they have accumulated.

When straight men like Michael use the word fag, they don’t mean cigarette, they mean to demean a group of people based specifically on heterosexual privilege.  It did not matter to him that my four year old and my nine year old were in attendance, because teaching children to acknowledge their underserved privileges is something that we are very invested in.  Had it not been for the fact that the unhusband and I have made a point of teaching our child that homophobia is wrong, Destruction would have seen his language as normal and therefore acceptable.

Socially we have this myth that we try to protect the innocence of children and yet on a daily basis we teach them to hate.  It is not always as overt as my neighbours language, but it still amounts to attempting to discipline them into believing that marginalized bodies are inherently foul.  Incidents like this are exactly why I believe that parenting can be a radical act of activism.  When hate is allowed to progress through the generations, there is no possibility of real social change. 

Our mode of parenting involves correcting acts of homophobia, as well as showing our children as many positive images of gays and lesbians that we can.  On a typical day of watching television aimed at children, gays and lesbians are specifically invisible, even though we know that there are children that are living in LGBT families that would most certainly find it useful and affirming to see their families represented. Under the guise of protecting children we eliminate gays and lesbians from children's programming without acknowledging that some of these children watching will grow to be members of the LGBT community. How does this show concern for children? 

Incidents like this prove that passive parenting is not sufficient to prepare children for the lessons that the world is more than willing to teach them.   I know that it can be stressful to keep house, work, and keep up with their activities, but it is absolutely essential to think about what we actively teach them.  Along with learning their colours and days of the week, showing them respect for all people is important because it will produce a population less willing to tolerate bigotry in any form that it manifests.  Whatever we normalize for them will become their world and our children deserve better than to live with someone else's hatred.


Chris Brown Attacks Sandra Rose and Reveals the Ugly Side of Black Masculinity

image Quite honestly, I had no idea who the hell Chris Brown was before he decided to beat Rihanna to a pulp.  Since then, between seeing his new age Ike Turner woman beating face on various programs, I have read stories about him whining that his new album is not taking off, and that people are not forgiving him. Considering that he is such a douche, it is hardly surprising that the public continues to fail to support his trifling ass.  He has become the poster child for the face of Black masculinity that we would like to pretend does not exist.

It seems that blogger Sandra Rose was critical of him and being a pathetic whining baby grown ass man, he had to take his grievances to twitter.

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Brown claims that he is able to change his behaviour, but clearly from the heinous tweets that he decided to aim at Sandra Rose, he has not yet attempted to deal with his issues.

Since Brown decided to beat up Rihanna, it became clear to the world that he was no friend to women, and his tweets reveal another dimension to his hatred – hueism.  

Deciding to attack Rose because she is darker skinned than he is reveals a very determined hatred of Blackness. And while these tweets are coming from Brown, the kind of attack that he launched at Rose are examples of what dark skinned women have faced for centuries. 

Dark is still understood by many members of the African-American community to be decidedly unattractive and that is because they have internalized Whiteness as the ultimate good. Brown has what Malcolm X would term the slave mentality.  He still seeks the approval of Whiteness and this is specifically what makes his mind colonized.

His commentary also has an element of sexism.  Rather than dealing with the criticism that Rose has directed at him, he sought to silence her by calling her ugly.   In his mind, a woman only has value when she matches a constructed physical ideal.  It is sexist to believe that you don’t have to deal with someone’s allegations because you believe that you are better than her based in gender. 

Brown may only be 21 years old, but he has already become a symbol of much that is wrong with Black masculinity.  The devaluation of women, physical violence, and hatred of his black self reveal a mind that is truly troubled.  It may be tempting to throw him by the wayside because of his vile behaviour; however, what we should be doing is trying to understand how it is that man that grew in a home watching a woman being abused became an oppressor of Black women.  We must learn from Chris Brown in order to prevent this sort of behaviour and mental state with our Black sons.

We cannot afford to lose our Black sons to this kind hatred and anger.  Instead of hating the forces that created the negative circumstances in which he grew, he aimed his rage right back at those that would love him and support him.  Chris Brown is exactly what society created him to be and we all need to take ownership of him.  He is the ugly side of Black masculinity that we would like to pretend does not exist, but we must shed  light on his actions in order to save those that come behind him.  Brown has stated on numerous occasions that he would like to be a role model and his behaviour does not exclude him from this role, because he can now teach young Black boys exactly what not to be.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tea Party Member Rand Paul Does Not Believe in the Civil Rights Act

I first wrote about Rand Paul when he spoke against the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), in favour of private business.  The idea that we should support private business over human rights is absolutely ridiculous.   Most recently, Paul appeared on Rachel Maddow to defend his position on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  It seems that once again Paul is more than content to put the needs/desires of business over the civil rights of human beings.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Partial Transcript:

Maddow: Do you think that a private business has a right to say that 'We don't serve black people?'

Paul: I'm not in favour of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But do discriminate.

But I think what's important in this debate is not getting into any specific "gotcha" on this, but asking the question 'What about freedom of speech?' Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent. Should we limit racists from speaking. I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behaviour because that's one of the things that freedom requires is that
we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it...

Maddow:... How about desegregating lunch counters?
Paul: Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'well no, we don't want to have guns in here' the bar says 'we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other.' Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion...

Rand presents the typical libertarian argument that these conversations aren’t practical and just an academic exercise, because as a White man of race and class privilege, he has never been subject to the evil that is racism. 

Rands argument relies upon the rhetoric that government is evil and tramples upon individual rights, without the recognition that without said limitations, minorities are particularly vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority.  Social convention must be enforced by the rule of law because the supposed free hand of the market is not enough in and of itself to regulate behaviour.  The many years of segregation in the south evidences this.

While Rand Paul personally claims to find racism abhorrent, the mere fact that he can suggest that laws that seek to protect the rights of minorities are some sort of oppression, speaks to the fact that his main priority is supporting White hegemony. You cannot claim that something is evil, and then reject the very mechanism that has been set into place to fight it.

Government exists to serve the people and by forcing businesses to accommodate African-Americans and the differently abled, the government specifically acted to protect a marginalized and historically oppressed class.  Because Rand exists with various privileges, he can suggest that this is an infringement upon the rights of the business owner.  He knows that as a White able bodied man, his ability to access these services will not be impacted by blatant discrimination.

Businesses do not exist in isolation and they are indeed public property in some aspects.   The moment that a business owner must interact with the public to either advertise or sell hir wares, a business ceases to be independent  and becomes a part of our social world.  The impact of business is often felt most keenly by marginalized groups of people and therefore, acts that support a hierarchy that have proven to be socially harmful must be restricted.  Suggesting that a business has the right to openly discriminate in support of so-called free speech (note: speech is never free, marginalized bodies pay the cost),  is quite literally advocating that not all men are created equal, which of course conflicts with the Declaration of Independence --that is unless one truly believes in the framers definition of men, to only include White men who own property.

Inaction contrary to what Rand Paul believes is indeed a form of action because it allows the status quo to continually devalue certain bodies without consequence.  If the state does not act to protect the greater good, those that have always lived with privilege will continue to do so unabated.   Though tea party members have taken to quoting Dr. King out of context to support their warped sense of racial equality, the truth is that the maintenance of White supremacy has always been their foremost goal.  I rightfully judge them by the content of their character and declare them to be an insipid cruel collection of people.  They continually use a fear of a loss of privilege as their rallying cry, and yet leaders like Rand Paul claim that they believe in equal rights.  If I cannot sit at a lunch counter and drink a wretched coffee without fear of being violently physically assaulted because of the colour of my skin, how can we claim that this constitutes fairness and equality?

The situations which Rand sees as irrelevant and academic, continue to be issues today.  It was just last year that a private club ejected Black children who paid to swim in their pool.  We are not talking about distant history, when Whiteness continues to live in gated communities in an attempt to separate themselves from people of colour on a daily basis.  This is not some sort of race card or game that people of colour play to draw attention to themselves; this represents our interactions with the prison industrial complex, purposeful under education, high rates of unemployment, and lack of treatment for life threatening diseases.  In every aspect of the social world people of colour continue to be devalued and therefore, the idea that legislation is impinging upon the freedom of business to operate is nothing more than a foil for the continuation of White supremacy. Is it really any wonder that that the vast majority of tea party supporters are White people with class privilege when so much of their social messages involves “othering” marginalized bodies? 

 


Steve Harvey: A Relationship Guru?

I recently decided to get a subscription to “Essence” magazine.  I live in a small town that is predominately White. The world which I negotiate is predominately White, and the magazines that are for sale reflect that.  I subscribed to Essence because I wanted to see images of beautiful Black women and men; however, I quickly learned that I should have listened to all of the critique written by Black women before spending my money.

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It seems Mr. Harvey has a monthly column in which he gives relationship advice.  The idea that he has some special knowledge is based on his book “Look like a Lady and Think like a Man.”  Black men are cashing in on the erroneous social theory that Black women are desperately lonely and in many ways, Harvey has become the face of this phenomenon. 

This would probably be somewhat palatable, if Harvey was not himself a man twice divorced.  Clearly, his success rate when it comes to long term relationships is questionable at best, but he is still considered a “relationship guru,” because he possess that rare commodity (read: penis) that Black women are supposedly seeking. 

The White run media has made constant referral to the Black Bridgette Jones phenomenon, and this is based specifically in an understanding that the Black woman is the un-woman of the world.   We are constructed as decidedly unfeminine, over sexualized beasts, while White femininity is uplifted. These stereotypes function to uplift both patriarchy and White supremacy, and this is specifically why they have become so pervasive.  Due to the history between Black womanhood and the White supremacist state, it is quite easy to see why they continue to trumpet these mendacious myths, and the support of Black men like Harvey adds credence to these claims.

Too many Black men function with the false belief that because they are subjected to racism, that they do not live with other privileges.  Gender is just one site of privilege that Black men regularly ignore, because to them, freedom and equality mean having the ability to act like the White male patriarchy.  Black men are quick to remind us that Black masculinity is under attack, while studiously ignoring the ways in which Black women are daily subjected to racism and sexism.  When Black men participate in harmful social memes like the desperately lonely Black woman, they are informing a discourse that others all Black people.

Black men love the supposed Black Bridgette Jones phenomenon because it keeps them at the center of the conversation.  Black men are told that they are valuable and are given the opportunity to police Black women’s behaviours.  Essentially, the myth informs Black women that if we expect Black men to tolerate our supposedly deviant version of femininity, that we are to be submissive and this is an old move taken specifically from the playbook of White patriarchy.  This keeps us constantly thinking about Black men and ensuring their needs are met, while our happiness is pushed to the sidelines.

The White supremacist patriarchy loves this conversation because it serves to divide us from each other.  Instead of focusing on the differing struggles that Black men and women face for true emancipation, we end up fighting one another, thus achieving negative progress. This is specifically why we cannot ignore the Black Bridgette Jones syndrome or label it some form of harmless Black machismos.  What hurts Black women also hurts Black men. Continuing to support this negative construction in a Black magazine like “Essence” is doing the master’s work.  Sexism like every other ism needs to have the compliance of oppressed bodies to proliferate, and if we are to every truly to move to a place of equality, we need to stop affirming negative social stereotypes.

 


Monstrous Musings: Monstrous Menstruation

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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The notion of menstruation as monstrous is widely evident in contemporary culture. A quiz on ivillage, for example, supplies readers with eight questions to determine if they are “menstrual monsters,” noting that “It's amazing how even the sweetest, most well-balanced woman can turn into a swamp creature when she has her period.”

This conflation between menstruation and monstrosity has deep historical roots. Though menstruation was recently linked to zombies in relation to the commotion over Dakota Fanning’s period scene in The Runaways, the “curse” is much more pervasively linked to vampirism historically.

In the nineteenth century, for example, women were believed to become vampires in order to replace blood lost during menstruation. The vampire’s “kiss of blood is a weakening device” (according to Sue Ellen-Case*) that speaks to “male myths of menstruation, where a women’s monthly loss of blood was associated with their pale, weak image.”

Menstruation is also associated with another vampire symbol – the full moon. The Greek word for vampire is “sacromens,” meaning “flesh made by the moon,” and there is a long history of equating the monstrosity of the menstruating woman to the wily pull of a full moon. Lucy in Dracula is often read as a representation of the supposed insanity menstruation releases in women, of the notion that “Under the light of the moon this raging, hungry female force is released.” **

Barbara Creed reads the vampire legend as “a symbolic story about woman’s menstrual flow,”  referring to the vampire as “menstrual monster” while French Feminist Julia Kristeva traces the notion of female blood as impure to Leviticus, arguing that the bible’s framing of blood is utilized in order to construct woman as impure.***

We need look no further than one of the most popular contemporary vampire sagas – Twilight – to find modern links between menstruation and vampirism. And while Stephenie Meyer may not be conversant in French Feminism, she is certainly familiar with the bible. We might thus presume the simultaneous desire and disgust with blood that Twilight enacts issues at least in part from the teachings of Leviticus.

In the texts, Edward lusts after Bella’s blood, but he abstains from it – while the narrative frames this as his heroic refusal to kill Bella, we might also read it as a refusal to be defiled by her blood – a fluid that (as Midnight Sun makes especially clear) threatens to turn him into ravenous monster.

Bella, the heroine, fears blood – unable to even stand the smell or look of even a drop of it as revealed early in Twilight. Unlike Lucy of Dracula who becomes a blood-drinking child-murderer, Bella’s hatred and fear of blood frames her as able to overcome female monstrosity, allowing her to be transformed from not-quite-monster to perfect (immortal) mother.

As many readers have noted, Meyer’s saga fails to address what happens when Bella menstruates given that Edward is inexorably drawn to her blood. Perhaps blood is so defiling in the Twilight universe that menstruation is not allowed to sully its pages.

While Meyer shies away from dealing with the problem menstruating females would pose to her blood-addicted vampires, the link between menstruation and monstrosity is not only historically resonant, but infiltrates the contemporary imagination.

As Jessica Valenti explores in The Purity Myth, part of the fear and hatred of menstruation stems from the notion that females lose their “innocence” once they start menstruating – that vaginal bleeding represents the dawn of their existence as sexual creatures. Quipping “If being premenstrual is ‘innocence,’ does that make those of us with periods guilty?” Valenti’s work suggests the same thing as many vampire tales – that, yes, bleeding women are guilty – guilty of being sexual.

Part of the fetishizaton of purity contemporary society champions is about not wanting women to be adults. The onset of menstruation is read as the loss of girlhood and menstrual blood is thus a defiling and dangerous fluid that turns women into beasts (re: sexual females).

Perhaps this accounts for the turn of vampire from female to male in so many texts. While early lore often represented the blood-sucker as female, the Victorian age and our present moment tend to favor the vampire as male. Or, in an age particularly horrified by female sexuality – both the Victorian and our own - male monsters suck blood from females – draining them not only of their life-blood, but of their sexual power.

As Gloria Steinem indicated in her 1978 piece, menstruation would be a bragging right if it was a male bodily reality. However, since females are the ones with periods, the menstrual cycle is framed as dangerous – and particularly so to males. As Renee noted in a recent piece, we bleeding females are such a threat we are instructed to warn people by wearing period-announcing bracelets and t-shirts.

So, as Mary Elizabeth Williams writes at Salon, “though moviegoers will gladly make blockbusters of movies that feature rivers of gore ("Terminator Salvation": $120 million and counting), a little trickle from a girl's bathing suit area is an instant nightmare.” Thus, as I wrote about in this post, females are supposed to pretend as if periods don’t exist – or, if they MUST be acknowledged, to associate them with blue liquid and frolicking on the beach.

While ads put the reality of menstruation under erasure, fiction continues to play on the bleeding female nightmare, ushering in modern day Carrie White’s. Though Stephen King famously condemned Meyer as a hack – they do share at least one thing – both authors frame menstruation as true horror.

*”Tracking the Vampire,” Sue-Ellen Case, in Writing on the Body

**”‘Your Girls That You All Love Are Mine’: Dracula  and the Victorian Male Sexual Imagination,” Gail B. Griffin, in  Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics

*** The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, Barbara Creed; Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

To Malcolm X on his 84th Birthday

“Before our eyes our father was taken. Before the eyes of his beloved, he was robbed of his life, and we were robbed of not just the man you think you know, but real simple, Daddy. And she of her man. All too soon”. Attallah Shabazz

image Born Malcolm Little, May 19, 1925 in his life he would come to be known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz or more commonly, Malcolm X. In his eulogy, Ossie Davis referred to Malcolm X as our shining Black prince and the truth of this statement has only become more apparent to those who live in the shadow of his legacy. In his time, Malcolm X was many things and those that would have us turn our back on his greatness, do so from a sense of desire to reject a history that convicts Whiteness of some of the world’s greatest atrocities. Extremist and racist are often labels associated with him because in his time he advocated something revolutionary – the humanity of African American people.

Malcolm grew in a home in which the teachings of Marcus Garvey helped to shape his formative years. His parents attempted to supplement the paltry public education by specifically centering Black concerns and Black pride. The Garvey’s self-help philosophy was the principle of the Little household. Like millions of Black mothers before her, Louise Little embarked upon a path that involved teaching her children to garden and then convert their labour into profit in the local market as well to make education a path for enlightenment and progress.

In the Spike Lee’s biopic of Malcolm X, one of the most poignant scenes occurs when a fellow inmate, John Elton Bembry (Bimbi) opens a dictionary and instructs Malcolm to learn each word; however, this was a practice long since instilled by his mother Louise who instructed him to look up any word that he mispronounced or used incorrectly. Her sole desire was to give her children a broad scope of language, so that they would be able to communicate with people of all levels. Speaking on his education Malcolm X commented, “I finished the eighth grade in Mason, Michigan ... My high school was the black ghetto of Roxbury [MA]. My college was the streets of Harlem. And my masters was taken in prison"

What is most important to recognize is Malcolm is that he was the product of a White supremacist state determined to ensure that African-Americans remained in a post colonial form of servitude that rendered them apathetic, uneducated, fragmented and disorganized. In a long African-American tradition of speaking truth to power Malcolm dared to oppose those that would oppress him and this continues to be his largest crime.

"Raw naked truth exchanged between the black man and the white man is" needed to "clear the air of the racial mirages, clichés, and lies" that have marked this country's history, he explained. Such confrontations represent not a "breakdown" of communication, which has never truly existed, but rather the basis for a genuine exchange rooted in truth.

Marcus Garvey once famously said, “Men who are in earnest are not afraid of consequences” and this is the message that Malcolm internalized each time he dared to speak his truth. There exists this belief that when the marginalized speak that it must be palatable to the listener and this imposes a form intellectual dishonesty and a re-victimization of oppressed bodies.

Malcolm referred to White men as, “blonde haired blued eyed devils,” and some would find these words inflammatory and racist – yet it was White men that murdered his father when he was just six years old. It was White men that called him nigger, as they attempted to squelch his desire to become a lawyer and finally, it was White men who imprisoned him for utilizing the only skills they allowed him to learn, running numbers, women and theft. There are few words of remorse for the near animal that they made him, only recrimination at his vilification of his persecutors.

In a speech at the London School of Economics in 1965, Malcolm had this to say:

“Somebody's got nerve enough, some Whites have the audacity, to refer to me as a hate teacher. If I'm teaching someone to hate, I'm teaching them to hate the Ku Klux Klan. But here and in America, they have taught us to hate ourselves. To hate our skin, to hate our hair, to hate our features, hate our blood, hate what we are. Why, Uncle Sam is a master hate-teacher, so much as that he makes someone think he's teaching law when he's teaching hate”.

We cannot afford to walk away from Malcolm X because so many of the lessons he taught us are relevant today. African-Americans have yet to reach a point of critical consciousness wherein they cumulatively recognize their self worth and this is evidenced by the ways in which Black children continue to see Whiteness as positive attribute while identifying anything authentically Black as bad. Malcolm X is our inspiration to keep fighting. His words not only inspire hope, they remind us all that we are truly beautiful.

Tea Party Member Rand Paul Wants to Abolish The Americans With Disabilities Act

I long ago stopped looking for any Tea Party member to actually make sense, but the degree to which they are stunningly ignorant still continues to shock me.  They claim to be about common sense and therefore, Rand Paul believes that  allowing businesses to discriminate because it saves money is appropriate. Why value human life, when we can focus on the all mighty dollar? 

transcript:

Interviewer:  Do you support The Americans with Disabilities Act or do you think that is the federal government getting too involved?

Rand Paul: You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner. [...]

What about the person patronizing the business, do they not have the right to have access to the entire building? If these businesses had taken the differently abled into consideration in the first place, they would not have to spend money to renovate and make their premises ADA compliant.

Accessibility is about more than money;  it means allowing people whose bodies are constructed differently the ability to lead full and active lives.  I live in a city that is not very accessible and it means that there are plenty of activities that my family cannot participate in unless I push my body to the point of pain.  The fact that I have this option, is a sign of my privilege, as for many, standing period is simply not physically possible.

The tea party claims to represent a disenfranchised class and yet it seems to me that what they really support is the maintenance of norms that “other” large sections of society.  It is fine for Paul to put the interests of business owners first because it will not directly affect him.  At this point he cannot foresee a day when the very laws he claims are unfair will allow him to participate in life.  Able bodied status is temporary for us all and as he ages, Paul may well find himself sorry that access is not as readily available as it should be.  Rand’s position  is a very typical response, because the degree to which society is structured to exclude certain bodies is easy to ignore if there is no personal impact.

When my body functioned like the so-called normal bodies, I did not see what was right before my eyes.  I gave little thought to the narrow aisles, lack of ramps, or disabled bathrooms.  I roamed the world with able bodied privilege, never once thinking that my ability might someday change, or that the freedom that I then enjoyed was not equal across the board.  I believed that people were always kind to the different abled and I patted myself on the back for always being willing to pitch in if asked.  This is the kind of able bodied mirage that many live in because they have not experienced what it is like to be systematically excluded or reduced to invisible to support a society that believes that only bodies that conform to a certain standard are worth recognizing.

When the differently abled protest being excluded, we are told that we are being too sensitive or we are expected to rise above, no matter the pain that this inflicts.  We are told about good intentions and never asked whether or not our needs and expectations are being met.  Doing good works does not make you an ally, but listening and taking the time to validate our experiences and our lives does.  Constructing the differently abled as a simple inconvenience, without acknowledging the fact that society has been specifically constructed to ignore our needs is oppressive. The tea party is not interested in radical change, only in the maintenance of ideals that have proven to be historically harmful.  One day when Paul inevitably needs some form of accommodation, I hope that he remembers his words, because someone might just decide allowing him to participate is not as important as saving a few dollars.

H/T RiPPa via twitter

 


Quebec Cardinal Denounces Abortion for Rape Victims

image You would think that considering the various scandals that the Catholic Church is currently dealing with, that sitting in judgement of others would be low on their priority list, but it seems that shaming so-called sinners and controlling female bodies  sends them into some kind of euphoric bliss.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, attending the Campagne Pro-Vie conference in Quebec City on Saturday, suggested that abortion can never be justified, even in cases where a woman has been raped.

He called abortion a "moral crime" as serious as murder.

Ouellet said he understands how a sexually assaulted woman has been traumatized and must be helped, and that her attacker must be held accountable.

"But there is already a victim," he said. "Must there be another one?"

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Quebec City says Ouellet was simply stating Church doctrine when a reporter asked him about rape and abortion.

[source]

The last thing that the Catholic Church is concerned with is life.   It has repeatedly proven that it is only interested in maintaining its steadily declining power.   This is the same institution that has allowed priests to rape, murder and abuse children for centuries.    It has officially apologized and paid reparations to Native people in Canada for its role in genocidal activities; however, it is cold comfort, because it serves as evidence of how quickly the Church is able to cast aside its so-called Christian position, if the opportunity to use power coercively appears. How can you claim to have a respect for life when you move pedophile priests from diocese to diocese, instead of acting to protect the very children you want to be born?

Recently it was revealed by Catholics for Choice that an Arizona nun was excommunicated for her  participation in a decision to permit an abortion.  The woman was eleven weeks pregnant and carrying the pregnancy to term would have meant death for her.  You can only believe it appropriate that a woman surrender her life, if women have no value.

All of the official Church doctrine is about controlling the weak and often times powerless members of society.   Why else would it be absolutely necessary to assert that women don’t have the right to have control over their bodies, or allow children to be raped for centuries?    Considering the church’s behaviour, it is hardly in the position to lecture anyone on morality and yet it continues to spew its hate rhetoric.

Here is the bottom line:  in places where abortion is illegal women die.  If you have any respect for life whatsoever, how can that not be taken into consideration?  These women are not without value and it is an absolute loss to society.  A return to a no abortion state in Quebec would mean death for the sake of a few cells that have yet to develop into anything significant.

When the Catholic Church starts being moral, then and only then are they in a position to comment on how others are living their lives.  I do not recognize Christ in their teachings and instead what I see are patriarchal forces intent on punishing people who refuse to conform to narrow guidelines that were established to promote a dangerous hierarchy.  Women matter and living children matter, and this is something the Church has repeatedly failed to acknowledge. If you cannot care for children when they are being raped and abused, you cannot invoke them to control women’s bodies.  The Church is no position to cast any stones.

 


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Feministing: Racefail on Indigenous Culture

image On May 11th, Samhita wrote a post about intimate partner violence.  The alleged perpetrator was a lacrosse player and she made some comments on the game which clearly reveals a lack of knowledge regarding First Nations cultures.  I feel that it is important to correct this erroneous information because far too often Aboriginal peoples are obscured from progressive spheres and their issues silenced.  If activists cannot be bothered to get the most basic information correct, is it any wonder that their specific issues are ignored?

Lacrosse is considered an elite sport, perhaps not the most sophisticated sport, but it is played and supported by more privileged members of the sports community, be it those race privileged or class privileged and generally more of the former. The majority of the coverage of this case has focused on how this incident is a tragedy, but hasn't totally made the connection between feelings of entitlement and instances of intimate partner violence.

This isn't the first time a college lacrosse team has been in the spotlight for potential involvement in beating, raping or abusing a woman. If we think back to the Duke rape case a huge part of that case prior to the charges being dropped was the role that entitlement played in how the story was told and the assumptions people made about not only how privileged people conduct themselves, what behavior they are entitled to and of course how the university responded.

In the interest of full disclosure, for those that are new to this blog, I am Canadian and lacrosse is our national summer sport.  This is not to imply that I have some special understanding of the importance of lacrosse and Indigenous culture, but rather an explanation as to why it was so easy for me to see the error in the piece cited.

Lacrosse is a sport that is played with great regularity on reservations in northern Ontario, the province in which I currently reside.  My nephews though not Indigenous, have played many games on tribal lands on which more than a few racial incidents have occurred.  This game is a matter of pride for many First Nations people, and a failure to acknowledge this appropriation of the sport by Whiteness speaks to the ways in which we have devalued Native culture.

First Nations tribes have been playing Lacrosse for centuries. It was played to train young men for war, to settle disputes between tribes and to amuse the creator.  It was played by the Mexican Kickapoo in Texas, the Seminole in Florida, the Bungi in Manitoba, the Cherokee in Tennessee, and the Passamaquoddy in Maine. The game was called Baggattaway, meaning they bump hips by the Algonquin tribe, and Tewaarathon, meaning little brother of war, by the Iroquois tribe.

The game was especially violent when used as an alternative to war to settle intertribal disputes. One example was a game between the Creek and Choctaw tribes in 1790. This game, which was to determine which tribe had the rights to a beaver pond, broke out into a violent battle after the Creeks were declared the winners of the game. Because of the massive attack and the savage play, lacrosse truly was the little brother of war.

The game also had important religious value to Native Americans. Especially in the Iroquois tribe, lacrosse was played to please the Creator, whom the Natives worshipped. Although the Natives were for the most part polytheistic, the Creator to whom the Iroquois referred is likely the divine leader Deganawidah, who, according to Iroquois legend, united the Six Nations of Iroquois in the 15th or 16th century.

For many Natives, a lacrosse competition was a ceremonial replay of the Creation story and of the constant struggle between good and evil. The Natives believed that team selection and victory were supernaturally controlled. The game was also played for other spiritual reasons, such as to bring good weather, to honor the deceased, or to cure the sick. As Tony Gray, captain of the 1998 Iroquois National Team says, "We play because we believe it will please the Creator, and he will then help the sick person.  [source]

While Samhita certainly has a point when she references the game the way it is played on many college campuses across North America, it is highly erroneous to suggest that this sport is specifically supported or played by rich White elites, when it has a long tradition in First Nations culture.  In fact, were it not for the Aboriginal people who created this game, these elite colleges and universities would not being playing lacrosse.

I think that it is important to note that only one person on that comment thread corrected the idea that lacrosse is an elite sport, and that it was not engaged in any further by the commenters, or the author of the post itself.  Assumptions are continually made about cultures that are marginalized; however, unless the oppressor feels that they can use the culture for amusement or to reinforce the idea that they are to be understood as less than, marginalized bodies are erased from the mainstream.

Even though we know that every step that we take is on stolen land and that Indigenous People have paid a terrible price so that we may live in this so-called advanced and modern world issues that are specific to their fight for justice are often ignored or overshadowed in traditional spaces.  When we say WOC it is generally speaking not inclusive as most often the term really means Black or Latino women. 

I have been guilty of not writing enough about Indigenous issues.  I have been guilty of making assumptions, and I am sure that at times I have been guilty of appropriation.  I think that when we make assumptions based in this idea that we have a superior knowledge about a specific thing and when we are corrected, we have a duty to acknowledge our mistakes.  This was not a small grammatical mistake or a type o; this post specifically ignored the importance of lacrosse to Indigenous communities and that is problematic.

If one is not familiar with a particular group of people, mistakes are going to happen however; it is absolutely a sign of privilege to believe that one can simply continue on without admitting that we once again created a marginalized group as invisible.  Being progressive means owning her mistakes when we make them and not ignoring them as though they are insignificant.  Live and learn really needs to become a more more common theme in places that are dedicated to liberation otherwise we will re-create the same dynamic that is the foundation of our social desire to rank both bodies and oppressions.

 

 

 


Spark of Wisdom: Never mind the culture of slurs and attacks that exist all around us

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.

Context cannot be ignored

There is a habit when dealing with marginalisation for certain privileged people to ignore context.

There is a constant desire to pretend that X incident happened in isolation, to consider it on its own without looking at wider society. We examine homophobic acts while ignoring a homophobic society, look at examples of sexism while pretending the patriarchy doesn't exist, consider racism while denying is power and prevalence and look at ableism while pretending the whole world isn't structured to making living extremely difficult for the disabled.

How many times is this wilful ignorance of context used to silence the marginalised? When they react with anger or hurt our outrage - how often do the words "oversensitive" or "hypersensitive" get trotted out? How many times do people complain about "thin skin" or being "too angry?" Never mind the context that makes the latest hurt but the tip of a mountain of hurt. That the anger comes from months, years of repression and the same pain repeated over and over. Never mind that there is a constant bombardment of demeaning, insulting, hurtful and grossly offensive commentary that pummels marginalised people every single day.

Never mind the context that that hurt and offence exists in. Never mind the pain

How often do we see a stereotype justified as being minor or no big deal? Why should we protest about one portrayal on one television programme? It's one character, how can we be so upset about a TV programme? Never mind that those same stereotypes are trotted out every single day. Never mind that these stereotypes are all we see. Never mind that these constant stereotypes affect how people are treated in real life, never mind how our individuality is ignored and dismissed.

Never mind the context that stereotype exists in. Never mind how pervasive it is. Never mind how narrow they are.

How often do we see gross insults against the marginalised diminished and ignored by people who refuse to see context? How often is frankly blatant bigotry ignored through this? People who can't see why comparing Obama to a monkey and Bush to a chimp are not even remotely equivalent. People who argue that "straight pride" is just like "gay pride." People who will argue that "breeder" and "cracker" are slurs with just as much impact as those used against the marginalised. How often do we here 'misandry' raised as equivalent to misogyny?

Never mind the context that marginalised people have been reduced and dehumanised for centuries. Never mind the power difference. Never mind the culture of slurs and attacks that exist all around us.

How often do we use context ignorance as an excuse to ignore bigotry? When we see people claiming that Arizona's disgusting anti-immigration law isn't racist because it applies to all undocumented immigrants. Never mind that we all know that this law targets brown people, that a European immigrant is really not going to be harassed under this law. Only by ignoring context can we claim not to see the racism in this. Or in the UK, when the Tories set forth a proposal to reward married couples which, on examination, virtually requires one member of the couple to not work, only ignorance of context would allow us to believe this isn't sexist.

How often do we see cluelessness upheld by privileged people drawing comparisons between their lives and those of the marginalised? When someone in an interracial or same-sex relationship talks about familial hostility, they speak up about how much their in-laws don't like them. When a black woman speaks about how her hair is regarded as something of alien curiosity, they speak up about how everyone comments on their child's blond locks. When a disabled person talks about how hard it is to negotiate a shop in a wheelchair or a scooter, an able bodied person talks about their struggles with a pram or even a shopping trolley. When a woman complains about sexist 'humour,' how often do we hear someone trot out some jokes that make men the target as something that bugs them as well?

None of these things exist in isolation. And we cannot pretend they do. To try and view them as discrete incidents is an act not just of privilege - but of wilful ignorance. Every prejudice thing that is done or said, is built upon a foundation of centuries of prejudice that has gone before, and is part of a massive structure of prejudice that is very much around us. You cannot focus on the brick and ignore the entire wall.

And is that annoying as privileged people? Is it irritating to feel that everything said or done has this weight of prejudice ready to be hooked to it? Can it be hard sometimes to think about this, especially since, as privileged people, it doesn't always come naturally to us? Yes yes and yes. Yes it can be hard, yes it can be irritating and yes it takes work and thought and consideration to see and navigate round that huge mass of context.

But it's not NEARLY as hard as having to live as a marginalised person constantly pummelled by that context, attacked by it, beaten down by it and blocked by it. So if considering context is really that hard - just be thankful you're in a position for it to be a conscious effort - rather than something you couldn't ignore even if you tried.

If You’re Not In Prison and Not Making Babies What Are you Doing?

My little boy turned nine this year and with each day he begins to leave his childhood behind him.   When I look at him I still see the sweet little baby that used to give me a smile full of gums and sweet giggles.  I see the little boy that picked all of the flowers out of our neighbours gardens because he wanted to give me something pretty.  The reality is that the road ahead for my boy will be incredibly difficult and he is just starting to learn that.

No matter how good or hard working young Black boys are, the reality is that the world believes that they are either headed to prison or making babies that they cannot support.  Their sense of manhood is continually devalued to prop up the racist White supremacist state.  This is not say that Black males don’t operate with a degree of privilege, but we should be well aware of the unique challenges that face them.

Destruction is already being shown by the world that he should not attempt to succeed and that he is less than.   He has already learned that he cannot behave in the same manner as his friends, because if something goes wrong it will be him that carries the blame.  The entire childhood for Black children is designed by Whiteness to give two options: jail or making babies and abandoning them.  There is a crises in Black masculinity that must be addressed and we cannot afford to throw them by the way side when we struggle as women of colour for our own emancipation.

During the summer I normally help Destruction prepare for the school year ahead.  We spend between 1 hour to 2 hours a day doing math, geography, reading etc., but this year I am  designing a summer study programme specifically designed to teach him about Black history and the achievements of Black people.   This is an absolute necessity because instilling racial pride in Black students is something that schools do not do.  The education system does nothing to counter the negative images that Black kids receive and is quick to push them into streams that are designed to lead to low paying jobs or manual labour.  By the time a child is in the first grade they have already been placed into a specific category and from that point on parents must battle to ensure that they are learning and being properly graded.  The only subject that one can truly trust is math, because it is not subjective; the answer is either right or wrong, but one must really consider if the marks assigned for any other subjects are based in achievement or racism.  Teachers may make a commitment to teaching, but they are born into the same world as everyone else, and they do indeed bring their biases into the classroom.

The ability for me to spend the amount of time I do teaching my children is a reflection of privilege.  If I were a poor mother working two jobs to keep a roof over their heads this would quite simply be an impossibility.   Destruction is an incredibly supported child, because both his father and I have the time and the wherewithal to ensure that he does not become one of the terrible statistics that is often associated with Black men.

The fact that he is bilingual is a representation of our commitment to him.  Our French board demands a pre year for all students that do not come from a francophone home which must be paid for by the parents.  At the age of 3, his father and I had already determined that we were going to use our resources to commit to his education.   He has repeatedly been told that he is going to college or he is going to get a good trade, but either way we have expectations and if we have to sell our re-mortgage our home, our child will not become a statistic.  That said, it is a sign of our privilege that we are able to commit on the level that we do.

I have recently been haunted by the book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Faces.”  It is the story of two young Black boys that grew up in the same neighbourhood.  One ended up being a Rhodes Scholar and working at the White house and the other is currently serving a life sentence for murdering a police officer. 

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Listening to his story I could not help but think of the White people who have told me that they worked hard and therefore Blacks can do it to.  The main difference that I see between the two Wes Moores is education and the ability to leverage assets to assure success for their children.  Each generation of White families has been able to achieve greater success for their children because of White privilege. And so while each person may have worked hard, the ability of their family’s to contribute represents a large part of their success.  Each generation builds on the success of the previous generation but for Blacks, education and even home ownership (the easiest path to generational wealth) has been a rarity rather than the norm. The fall-out of the mortgage crises will be felt by African-Americans for generations to come.

The playing field is nothing approaching equal because Whiteness has hundreds of years of wealth accumulation and a system designed specifically to continue its privilege in every avenue.  Instead of holding up a man like Wes Moore and saying see you can do it too, what we should be doing is looking at the ways in which he was able to succeed because his family had the financial capitol and time to invest in him.  Black children will continue to flounder unless circumstances are changed to specifically allow for positive growth. We cannot afford to focus on the few that manage to escape the statistic as proof of an ever changing world, when Blacks continue to dominate in areas like poverty, teen pregnancy, prison population and dropping out of high school. 

Wes Moores story much like my son is about race and it is about class.  As a Black child Wes had to deal with racism in much the same way that my child will and like Wes, my son has parents that have the ability to leverage assets to secure his success.  We cannot talk about the failure of Black children without having a serious conversation about class.  Parents cannot be blamed when they barely have time to ensure the kids are washed and fed.  This is a structural problem that demands structural changes or we will continue to find that many children end up becoming the other face.


“Modeling Sucks: Or How I met Colin Powell and Other World Leaders” 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
Modeling sucks if you’re a hyper-intelligent woman. But we’ll go deeper with that in a minute.  First—I want to share with you some really funny shit. 
I was twenty-four and relatively “dumb” when this happened. You must picture Tel Aviv, Israel circa 1994; seaside resort for the jet set, totally secular—Israel’s young and rich; the happy and the sinful.  A forty-something gay male friend (and Sissy Spacek look-alike) who we’ll call “Swan” had rescued me from being an older man’s mistress in Fairfax, Virginia and taken me across the ocean to Israel with the bright idea that me being over six foot tall and slender with an angular face would instantly translate into Naomi Campbell’s millions as a supermodel. Swan knew a Jewish photographer in Israel and both were comfortable in that culture, so off to Israel I went. The photographer indeed trained me, bedded me! (haha), sent me on “go-sees” and got me steady work as a pose model. But my dearly beloved Swan turned out to be a lot more adventurous and dangerous than anyone could have predicted.  He almost got the both of us put in prison for life!
Using the money of some rich old Jewish politician, Swan opened an “exotic eatery” called “WHO’S GAME” where we served ultra-expensive delicacy meats such as kangaroo, antelope, elk, boa constrictor, cobra, ostrich, wallaby and crocodile—Swan cooking and me playing the glamorous, charming hostess.  I swear on a stack of Bibles…I never knew that we were actually serving chicken thighs, white-dyed chicken thighs and more chicken thighs with egg plant pieces, different sauces and food colorings dribbled over it to make it seem like exotic game meats.
The authorities arrived one day and arrested Swan.  Not only was he high on marijuana and face beat (meaning made up a like woman; androgyny) when they busted in the place—but he tried to deny that the highly expensive plates warming over rock-fire grills were nothing more than cheap chicken cuts.  He insisted it was real exotic game meat and I had no reason not to defend him, to insist right along with him. 
“This is no crocodile and bison!” hollered the police. “The shit tastes like chicken…and it is chicken! Arrest them both!”

Suffice to say, I had to leave Israel.  The photographer and other prominent Jewish people who’d gotten to know me spoke on my behalf, insisting that I was innocent, and T-Swan went to jail by himself. Year later, after sending him money in jail, I managed to secure a lawyer and get him out; mainly because I knew his heart and loved him regardless of the scam. But our friendship died the day he got me entangled in that mess and I swiftly departed Israel.
Being the daughter of noted Egyptian archaeologist and activist Harith Bin Farouk (and speaking Egypto Arabic fluently), I returned to my father’s country, Egypt. This too, was illegal, because they don’t allow people to travel freely from Israel to Egypt without special permissions and stacks of paperwork.  I basically fucked a Judge in Jerusalem and was sent over with an Arab politician in six days flat for free.
Hired as a model for “Seychelle”, a Greek firm, I immediately became a “paid party girl” at Egypt’s top resort, “Sharm el Sheik” (I got to meet Colin Powell!).  A paid party girl is not quite a prostitute. You must realize that in Arab Muslim cultures, the majority of women cannot go with their hair uncovered or any skin showing.  So foreign women (models, actresses, singers, dancers) are paid money to come and be “wall candy” for political state balls and government affairs.  Our job was to look “western,” glamorous, sexy and anything else from there was up to us.  Some girls did prostitution raking in hundreds of thousands in months; some only accepted the check for appearing at the party, and many others, like me, sought what I call “parity”—a mistress position with powerful and wealthy men.  Within months I was working as a “hostess” for Egypt’s President Mubarak at both Sharm el Sheik and on his private yachts in the Mediterranean. I never had sex with President Mubarak (frankly, he isn’t sexually attracted to Black women who look Black).  But it was while working for him that the world of modeling, acting and being a “kept woman” opened up for me.
Quickly—in case you’re unaware of my bio, I’m Sudanese born but adopted and raised by Black Americans since the age of 8 or 10 (there’s no way to know my age for sure).  My Egyptian father and Oromo Charcoal-colored mother were murdered in my presence for Pappuh speaking out against the building of Lake Nuba, slavery and genocide in Sudan.  Couple that with me being “raised” by American Blacks in Washington, D.C., and you begin to understand what made me so intriguing and exotic to Arabs, Africans and Jews alike. I was chocolate colored with the long angular Nilotic face, the large forehead and the wispy frame. I could speak Arabic. But I was also very American in appearance and spoke English flawlessly without an accent. I wore weaves, was assertive and bold and I could mimic the slang of an American abeeGoddessa (hot chocolate)—Pam Grier, Vivica Fox, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Condoleeza Rice, Whitney Houston—the kind of Black women Arab men fettish in those countries, mainly because there are none over there.
Who can forget the pandemonium that broke out in Vienna, Austria in the mid-1990’s when 300 native Austrian men showed up at a Video Rental Shop to purchase a VHS motion picture that featured Vivica Fox.  It was crazy and violent fighting over such few copies; but they don’t have women who look like Vivica over there, so to them, she’s an alien dream fantasy.
As much as racism worked against me in Israel and the Arab North African world; it was this exotic status that also benefitted me.
Though I’m definitely not claiming that I’m an exceptionally beautiful woman or even beautiful—what I do know is that I am outrageously tall with a striking face, DD natural breasts, a nice booty and 50-inch legs. Add in my Sharon Stone attitude and being a great beauty was not important.  I appealed wildly to Arab men’s race-specific lust (the belief that black women are insatiable panthers waiting to be ravaged) and their hate.
I was never the type of Black Woman who gave a shit about other races seeing us as “sexual athletes” or hyper-sexualizing us. Frankly, I think that’s where a lot of us go wrong—trying to prove shit; trying to prove that we’re decent and clean; trying to prove our humanity to people who can’t stand the birth of us no matter how docile and respectable we act. It’s also why I hate Men’s religion (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, all of their “woman is impure/needs to be shut away on her period” crap).  Since I was a child, there was always a part of me, a huge part of me that believes I’m the best thing in the room; it’s also how I see other Black women—so I’ve never really been able to care what other races of people think about my sexuality.  I feel that my sexuality is mine, for me to enjoy, and that’s what I did and do.  I live my life.
I modeled and eventually moved to Libya and Morocco where I became “actress Naima Kitar” doing television commercials and over forty Arab B-movie comedies (always cast as the topless African girl prostitute, usually the only Black in the whole film).  In one commercial, the punch line was having my wig snatched off by my little boy.  Arabs love to see African women demeaned or portrayed as overweight.  In the one and only film that I was ever the lead star, “Al Sitar” (The Curtain; made in Morocco), I got to sing wearing beautiful gowns. But I was still naked for most of the movie and had sex with three Arab male characters that I happily called “sayiid mu-allim” (master) before dying in an alley from a venereal disease.  It ended with the male love interest announcing my death from “dark demons” and him marrying a nice Arab Muslim girl to cleanse him of my seduction.
I know I’m talking a lot. But what I really want this piece to do is two things.  One, show African-Americans how Blacks are treated virtually the same everywhere in the world (the “brown brothers” Camel shit that Black Americans spew claiming anonymous, invisible solidarity with “others” sickens me to no end—the average Black American can’t even relate to Alek Wek, so how on earth are they thinking Arabs, Spaniards and White Latinos are their brothers and sisters beyond “surface affection”?).  And two, to tell those of you who are women about one of the moments in my life that I started accepting the fact that I need feminism as a force and protector for myself.
I woke up one day and realized that male models are called “male models.”  But that we females were simply called “models.” Women who prostitute are simply called “prostitutes” while men who prostitute are called “male prostitutes.” The wording indicated a lack of expectation for womanhood’s ability that morning.  It indicated a long history of women being powerless and oppressed by men’s privilege—men’s right to own our sexuality (own it!) via marriage or dowry. And then demonize it provided a woman chose the ultimate freedom, prostitution (which frees the woman from loving and catering to one man and allows her to make a career out of many men).  Granted, I believe most of the world’s prostitution is the result of women being desperate, uneducated, unloved and lost. I don’t think it’s something that most women want or see as a good career choice.  But I do think it’s a woman’s right; and a lucrative career choice for smart women who know fully what they’re doing. The wording though—model; prostitute; stripper—and then society adding “male” as a prefix whenever males did it, gnawed at me.
I was born the observant analytical type; the chief components of a good writer (which I hadn’t realized back then); so the more I modeled, the more disturbed I began to feel about how I was allowing my body to be used.  For us Black models working in North Africa or Spain, there weren’t any hair care products or makeup that flawlessly matched our tones.  In fact, unlike the lighter-skinned girls, we had to do our own hair and makeup. Black American girlfriends in Anacostia Park, Lanham, Hampton University, Harlem and Brooklyn sent me Crème of Nature, Ultra Sheen and bottles of foundation I mixed until I got near the Chocolate Gold coloring of my face.  Less care went into photographing us. Hours could be spent on lighting and photographing the White, Arab, Spanish and occasionally Asian model. But African girls were just thrown against a wall or posed across a table. They often put us in animal prints and gave us a spear.  The clothing that the White and Tan models didn’t want to wear went to us; lesser time and detail went into us. And we were paid less money. Some under aged African beauties were photographed, raped and not paid at all.
I was naturally skinny black then, so I never had to starve myself. But this is how the White and Tan models suffered, too. At times one of them (almost always a blond) would come up missing and be found weeks later dead.  They did starvation diets and myriad drugs to stay thin.  Everything was about being ultra-skinny, tall and boy-like.  Several African girls “skin bleached” and took the Michael Jackson Pill to try and attain a lighter complexion and they felt no shame about it.  In fact, they considered me stupid for cherishing my color and wanting to look like Angela Bassett in my photos.  One of the blond girls had her vagina infibulated and circumcised like us African girls to be “closer” to us (dumb bitch).  She was suicidal about it, and to this day lives in agony, but she ended up making literally millions off the men, because of course, in Arabic Africa, that’s what the men prefer above all us—a properly cut and permanently tightened vagina. And then always, the men booking, choosing and photographing us made it clear that we were to use our beauty as a punishment against other women—our skeletal glamorexic images invoking a reminder that for not looking like us or trying to look like us, they deserved whatever was dished out by the men in their lives.  Quite literally, the men talked openly about how they wouldn’t “smile at no ugly girl” and didn’t have to be polite women who they found unattractive.  A few even boasted about how they’d made some ugly girl’s day by gang-raping her.  They saw it as charity.
It was nice with most of the British and French photographers, though.  What I despised was working with the Arabs or the ones from Barcelona, Sicily or Portugal.  And if you were an African girl modeling on that rare occasion for a Black Western male or auditioning for something that a Black Male had a vote in, it was typically your worst nightmare, because they, our own seed, hated us the most. 
Black men in the industry, unless they were homosexual, always made it clear for reasons I’ve never understood that Black women should be invisible; should be unloved; should be grateful to live in the shadow of everyone else.  They were horrible to us but couldn’t kiss the asses of White and Tan girls enough.  Unlike other races of men, African males judged us almost solely on how dark or light we were.  Having African hair (ie. Nappy) absolutely revolted them. The lighter and more European you looked, the more Black men could see you as a human being or admit out loud that you were pretty.  So along with the Arabs, they were the rock bottom worst.
But overall, the whole modeling endeavour sucked.
I was too much of a critical thinker not to laugh at how absurd and demeaning my job was.  Each day, I felt dumber and dumber standing posed in grass in high heels and a leopard sheath pussy-cover (what I call mini-skirts) with Prince Charles painted over my bare tits and a wig made of long dog-smelling hair cascading down my back.
Stop thinking so much, Naima—it’s showing in the camera. Stop thinkingWe don’t need you to thinkYou’re supposed to give us a fantasy—not a real personIf the sun is too hot and mosquitoes are biting you—do what Naomi Campbell would do—make love to itYou’re supposed to be the ultimate goddess in these shots. You want every man to worship you don’t you?
I just really wanted the money back then.  Nearly twenty years later, I realize that I’ve never once missed modeling, and on occasion, even denied that I ever used to do it.
I never felt like a woman when I was modeling.