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
Friday, June 11, 2010
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
Eugenia de Altura is a female graduate student conducting research on issues of women and gender in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America with the exception of Haiti, and over 60% of the country’s population is of indigenous descent. Eugenia’s postings explore women’s rights, sexuality, and reproductive health in Bolivia and in Latin America as a whole.
This week, I am concerned with a number of interrelated issues that are shaping women’s lives in Andean Bolivia: the ways in which society—and in particular, men—manipulate women’s experiences of motherhood; how the local and international press report on some crimes, and ignore others, and how those that commit these more “mundane” crimes enjoy almost complete impunity.
In the last several days, the BBC and La Paz’s daily newspaper La Razón each brought us a story of thwarted motherhood. First, on June 4, the BBC reported on a mother who attempted to sell her newborn child for US$140 to a woman unable to have children of her own. Then, yesterday, La Razón covered the story of an adolescent girl who was arrested after stealing an infant from a hospital in the city of Trinidad. Both of these stories make good news—they are flashy, they have clear victims and villains, and their resolution makes the Bolivian police look—for once—effective. But there is something else going on here, something perhaps far less newsworthy, but all the more important because of its prevalence: men’s abandonment and abuse of women.
First, let me say that I am not defending these women’s actions. Selling a person—especially one that you have recently given birth to—and stealing someone else’s child are both reprehensible crimes. That is, in part, why they are so newsworthy. However, it is important to recognize all factors to a crime, and place blame where blame is due. And in these cases, the blame falls partially on these women’s male partners.
First, consider the case of the woman who attempted to sell her baby. Although the price of US$140 that the woman and her “customer” fixed for the child represents much more money in Bolivia than it does in the U.S. or Canada, it still signals the acute desperation that this reluctant mother must have been experiencing. When asked why she was selling her child, the BBC reports that, “she agreed to sell her child because she had been abandoned by her husband and could not afford to support the child.”
Due to her folly, this woman will be charged with child trafficking and will likely face years in prison. And her husband? The man whose actions may have contributed to this act of desperation will likely remain free. Few know that Bolivia’s penal code stipulates a prison sentence of 6 months to 2 years (or a hefty fine) for men who abandon their families. If the wife or girlfriend is pregnant at the time of the abandonment—and if she sells her child as a result—the man faces one to five years in jail. And yet, few men are ever punished for abandoning their partners and children. In Bolivia, the impunity that these men enjoy is so common that the BBC reporter did not even find it relevant to mention that the woman’s abandonment also constituted a crime. And, I mean, why would you mention it? In addition to being common, the abandonment of women and children is also simply not as flashy as baby selling.
And the adolescent girl who stole a newborn from a Trinidad maternity ward? Her reasons for kidnapping the infant are even more heartbreaking, and highlight the sticky web of social problems surrounding women and couples in Bolivia. The 17-year-old girl, labeled M.C.T. by the press, reported that she stole the infant because she had recently suffered a miscarriage, and that “her partner had told her that if she did not have another baby, he would leave her” (translation mine).
Just pause for a moment and consider this—that, there is so much pressure for Bolivian women to be mothers—that there is so much wrapped up in that identity—that even at age 17, M.C.T. had already lost a child and felt desperate to have another. That her partner, instead of seeing her through the difficulty of the miscarriage and patiently awaiting the next pregnancy, demanded another child—as if it were something she could produce alone. And let’s not forget the woman who attempted to buy that infant for US$140—that she, too, must have felt such desperation to be a mother that, rather than pursuing adoption to bring home one of the 17,000 children that are abandoned in Bolivia each year, she decided to buy a kid.
As I said before, these crimes are terrible. But after living in Bolivia, and seeing and experiencing both the pressure to be a mother, and the unreliability of your average man, I am reluctant to place the blame solely on these women. Because after all, those babies didn’t get here alone—despite what these men’s actions would seem to imply.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
This is a guest post from the ever brilliant Monica of TransGriot
I've found these lists are heavy on the gay and lesbian side of the community, forget the bi part or add them as an afterthought, and either forget the trans part altogether or mistakenly believe that drag queens are acceptable substitutes for actual trans people.
Not surprisingly, I get to tell y'all about another African descended media outlet that fails in that regard.
While there are some wonderful and well deserving people on the list Talia Whyte compiled such as Keith Boykin, Pam Spaulding, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Anthony Woods, Staceyann Chin, Lee Daniels and Wanda Sykes, I'll give you one guess who she chose as what she thought was a representative of the trans community.
Nope, wasn't the TransGriot. Wasn't Miss Major, Kylar Broadus, Earline Budd or even Isis King. The person she chose was RuPaul's Drag Race Season One winner Bebe Zahara Benet.
Okay, how many times do I have to say this Black GL community and African descended cis allies? This next paragraph also applies to elements of the vanilla flavoured GL community and our cis allies, too as well, so pay attention.
Drag queen, unless said drag queen is living 24/7/365 (366 in a leap year) as a woman, DOES NOT equal trans.
Yes, there are and have been drag artists that not only have done high quality work in terms of entertaining the community, but stepped up offstage to fulfill leadership roles for the TBLG community.
But I'm beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of Black peeps putting lists together advertised as LGBT community ones and being too fracking lazy to do the work to find actual trans leaders to profile on these lists.
And don't give me or the African descended trans community the weak azz excuse about you don't know or can't find any trans leaders or accuse me of sour grapes for calling y'all out on the oversight.
This isn't even about me, so don't go there. It's about the erasure of African descended transpeople.
My point is that if our own people don't or won't show us some love when you compile these leadership lists, and you write for one of our leading blogosphere sites directed at the African-American community gay and straight, how in the hell can we Black trans leaders who are doing the work expect the predominately white TBLG community to respect us as well?
As I wrote yesterday, Womanist Musings, is a womanist blog, and therefore; the subjects that appear here are generally speaking from a womanist perspective. What I have noticed is that despite my attempt to cover a broad range of subjects to make the blog as intersectional as possible, the posts written about disability routinely receive the least comments. My writing style does not change from post to post and each piece that I dedicate myself to writing, is filled with the same passion. The issue cannot be with me, but with the readers of this blog.
I know that many people come to Womanist Musings expecting a critique involving race. In fact, when I am not being mislabelled a Black feminist, this blog is also routinely called an anti-racist blog. I am a Black woman and therefore, race will always play a significant role in my life, but my disability also impacts how others view me and the treatment that I receive.
Disableism is not viewed by many as seriously as racism, though its effects can be just as devastating. When you have disabled women being raped and impregnated by their caregivers, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, an inability to enter a store to buy a fucking stick of gum, I fail to see how this cannot be taken as a serious issue. Perhaps people don’t think it is sexay enough to make headline news, but for those of us on the receiving end of diseablism, it is painful in ways that I cannot even describe to you.
As much as I love the spring because it means an end to my winter hibernation, I simply loathe the next round of articles regarding the threat that scooter users are to pedestrians. Apparently, we are all hopped up on drugs, using our mobility devices unsafely, or we take up way too much space and people have places to go. There is always a reason why the differently abled are seen as an inconvenience.
I get angry when I try to enter a store, only to find out that the automatic doors don’t work, or that the aisle way is so narrow that I cannot navigate well enough to shop.
I get angry when people think that they have the right to touch me, because clearly my scooter indicates to the world that I don’t have the right to bodily integrity.
I get angry when I see that disabled characters are most often played by able bodied people. Of course there aren’t any disabled actors looking to make a living right.
I get angry when disability is always famed as dark or evil (think Darth Vader). I have special hate for the fact that a miracle cure or revolutionary surgery is always found so that the differently bodied character can be whole and happy again.
I get angry when I say something is disableist, and an able bodied person says we will just have to agree to disagree. No we won’t agree to disagree, you are being an ableist jerk and what you said was offensive. Simply because it is common practice to use someone’s body as a descriptor, does not make it right. Why is it that a marginalized group’s right to decide what is and is not offensive, ends when you want to use words like lame, or refer to right wing talking heads like Limbaugh as crazy?
My disabled body took me a very long time to own. For the longest time I pretended that nothing had changed. I avoided buying a mobility scooter because I knew that it would mark me as “other”. I didn’t want to take on yet another identity that is socially marginalized. Even now I push myself when I should not: writing when I am in pain or depressed, standing when I need to sit, and forcing wakefulness when my body needs rest. I know how the super crip mythology works, and I know that my body is a target because of the way the world is organized and not because of a personal failing -- and yet, the desire to be invisible haunts me, because invisible means that I belong; that I am just like everyone else.
I don’t think people realize the energy and strength of will that it takes to get through the average day. I am routinely exhausted and running on fumes, and yet when I write about disability, the number of comments seem to infer that it is better that I keep this struggle to myself. The few that do comment always say I am sorry that you are going through this Renee, but the last thing I want or need is your pity. Pity is something that is often thrown at differently abled bodies, and while some mean it with a good heart, to often it stands as yet another example of how unworthy we are. What I want is not your pity, but your commitment to change. I want the same level of commitment that every other post on this blog gets.
I am just going to flat out ask, why is it that the posts on disability are not getting the recognition that they deserve? The posts on disability are treated as hands off and the majority of the comments are written by people who are themselves differently abled. I find this interesting because people don’t seem to need a specific social marginalization to comment on posts about racism, sexuality, gender or class -- but when it comes to disability there is a resounding silence. If you think that this is not another form of “othering,” you are sadly mistaken. Refusing to engage with an ism, because you don’t know much about it is just another sign of your privilege. If you are routinely leaving the go to comments that requires little to no thought, that is again another sign of your privilege. Not commenting, not interacting says to me that this issue, which has completely changed my life is not considered worth the bandwidth and the time it took me to write it. Let’s see what you have to say this time.
Yes, that is the blonde haired Claudia Schiffer getting her Black on for an ad campaign. The photos were taken two years ago by Karl Lagerfeld. Of course they didn’t mean to offensive, they were attempting to be “edgy”.
A reader sent me a link to a story about this last week, and I had to really think about whether or not to write about this story. Obviously what Schiffer did was offensive, but then POC have been saying that about blackface for a very long time.
When “Hey Hey It’s Saturday Night” did it, they defended their actions by saying that Australia is culturally different. When Chuck Knipp decided to dress in drag and perform the Shirley Q Liquor show, he claimed to be celebrating Black women. It was such a celebration that he named Shirley’s nineteen children after venereal diseases and discount stores. Not to worry, Knipp is a gay White male and as such could not possibly have any kind of bias or privilege. There is also the infamous example of Blackface spearheaded by negro sell out Tyra Banks on “America’s Next Top Model”. And every Halloween, some jerk decides that Blackface constitutes a costume.
Each incident is followed with a faux apology and the statement that the guilty party either did not know that Blackface is offensive, or that they didn’t mean to be offensive. Sometimes it is claimed that this art, and therefore; falls outside of the normal bounds of human decency. While I agree that good art challenges boundaries, when it reaches the point of reducing the humanity of another, it is no longer art; it is a defacto statement of White supremacy.
I could argue against this by discussing the fact that Black women have an extremely difficult time getting jobs in the fashion industry, Italian Vogue notwithstanding-- but I won’t, because it should simply be enough to hear that a group of people find a particular behaviour offensive to cause a cessation. Black face continues because despite the post racial bullshit lie we are told, White supremacy is far from a thing of the past.
No matter what the situation is, Whiteness will always defend its right to oppress as evidenced by the comments on this story:
Oh diddims... so people like Beyonce and Rihanna can get lightened, wear fake hair and air brushed to the max no one flutters an eyelid but when it's the other way round there is an up roar.
PC gone mad.. get lives people!
its not racist then when a black women straightens her hair and dyes it blonde,is it racist when whites go on the beach to get a tan,for Gods sake get a life
This is so stupid. If a melanin rich model or normal person on the street wears a fairness cream ( common in India) or tries to lighten her complexion , no one gives a hoot...but THIS causes a furore...
There is a continual refusal to put actions like Blackface into historical context because to do so, Whiteness would have to own its crimes against people of color. Skin lightening creams are extremely toxic and yet people use them because they have internalized a White standard of beauty. It is an act of self hatred, whereas; Blackface is designed to specifically humiliate people of colour. The two actions do not have the same goal, and yet they are placed side by side to justify racism.
So here I am writing yet another piece about Blackface, and I am sure someone will tell me to just relax or get a life. Perhaps they might even suggest that I have no sense of humour, or that I really just don’t get the nature of so-called art; however, protestations and excuses aside, Blackface has always been offensive and will continue to remain that way. When you ignore the anger of a group of people to their obvious marginalization, it is because you have already decided that your privilege is worth more than their sense of self and humanity.
H/T Russ via e-mail
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
It’s been awhile since we had an open thread, and since it is rainy and sucky here today, I thought why not. Please use this thread to chat about whatever is on your mind. No topic is too taboo or too pedestrian. Have you seen a good movie, or read a good book? Is there a subject that I have not gotten around to covering that you think that we should chat about? Here is your chance, let it fly and I will see you in the comment section.
I have to confess that I have never heard of Samantha Bee before today. The first thing I did was hit Wikipedia to find out who the hell this woman is.
Bee was born in Toronto, Ontario. She studied theatre at the University of Ottawa, also studied at McGill University in Montreal and studied acting at George Brown Theatre School in Toronto. She was one of the four founding members of Toronto-based sketch comedy troupe The Atomic Fireballs, with whom she performed before being hired by the Daily Show in 2003.
On The Daily Show, Bee has demonstrated an ability to coax people into caricaturing themselves — particularly in segments like "Kill Drill", on hunters and fossil fuel executives claiming to be environmentalists; "They So Horny" on the dearth of Asian men in U.S. pornography; "Tropical Repression," on Ed Heeney, a Florida politician running his campaign based on opposition to gay rights; "The Undecided", an over-the-top look at the infamous undecided voters leading up to the 2004 U.S. presidential elections; and "Samantha Bee's So You Want To Bee A..." report series, which humorously caricatures the way in which one can easily obtain a certain job, like becoming a 527 group. Her segment on "NILFs" ("News I'd Like to F#@k"), discussing the sexiness of news anchors is one of her most memorable: "CNN has the wholesome girl-next-door NILFs, the kind you can bring home to meet your mother. MSNBC has the dirty-over-30 NILFs. Fox has the filthy NILFs who will report anything. They're the Hustler of NILFs."
Okay, now that we have established her identity, let’s look at a conversation she had with Jessica Wakeman of Frisky:
(laughs) Is this part of the interview?
It can be. I like pubic hair! Our body looks weird without it. Vaginas don’t look that nice to me without it.
I mean, vaginas don’t look that nice. Like, little girls have cute vaginas. But lady vaginas, you need a little hair. It makes it look better.
I just resent being told I’m supposed to do something with my pubic hair.
Me too! F**k off! It’s my thing. If you don’t like it, let’s move on. I don’t like you. If you don’t like my vagina, I have moved on. Ten minutes ago! To someone else!
Is that a problem you’ve had?
I have never had that problem and I’ve never given it more than two minutes worth of thought. Like, I just don’t care if a man didn’t like my vagina. I would just hate him instantly.
So, let’s see if I can get this straight. A man cannot comment on whether or not he would like her vagina to be bald or not, but she can tell other women that they have to grow hair or their ladybits won’t look nice. For heaven’s sake.
It is not pro woman to be anti-bald vaginas as much as you may think it is empowering. What is empowering is understanding that how women chose to groom their vaginas is their business. Really, why is this such a hard thing to understand?
The moment you get into the realm where you are judging other women based on their physical appearance, you are doing patriarchy’s work. A pro woman centered conversation acknowledges that women’s bodies are shaped differently, and are beautiful in all of their manifestations. Supporting women also means acknowledging personal bodily integrity, and the right to make decisions about what one does with ones body without judgement or interference from others.
Whether or not my vagina has hair on it does not reflect its beauty. My vagina gives me pleasure; it was the canal through which I birthed my children, and it signifies in my case a female cis gendered body (note: I acknowledge that not all women have vaginas). My vagina is beautiful, because it is a part of my body, and that is all that should be necessary to consider it such.
RavenScholar from ravenscholar.blogspot.com is a fairly new blogger on the Internet. She (re-)discovered feminism and comics at about the same time she started blogging, and has great fun writing about both. She has lots to say, lots of artwork to show, and likes hearing other's opinions.
It’s that time of year again. The National American Miss people are sending out flyers. Last year's I really didn't like, and this year's I found more issues with, after a year of paying attention to feminist blogs. Lets examine this:
First, the cover
Typical Euro-centric ideal of beauty? Check. Airbrushing? Check. "Fashionable"? Check. Vaguely pained look? Check. "Sexy" Posing? Check. Looks old enough to be the mother of the audience targeted? Why is she even on this thing?
EVEN MORE European girls? Check. Posing? Check. Now onto the highlighted stuff. That's were it gets really insidious.
- "Makeup is not allowed on our participants ages 4-12 during the event." Well, that sure didn't stop you from airbrushing their pictures, did it?
- "The National American Miss pageants are dedicated to celebrating America's greatness and encouraging its future leaders." Apparently "America's greatness" is little pretty white girls. Also: to be a leader and a girl, you must be pretty. No two ways about it.
- "You'll gain... self-confidence...You'll feel good about yourself." Yes, I'm sure it will help boost the Hispanic girl from my old hometown who also received this flyer's self-confidence that the only girls pictured on the sides are clearly European and the overweight girl down the street will feel better about herself when all the girls there are thin.
- "If not accepted into the pageant..." Way to judge a girl on her looks when she's supposed to be a "future leader".
- "The total fee for the pageant is $440." Well, my goodness, that sure explains why there's pretty much just white girls on this! You only want people with half a thousand dollars lying around! Poor people, obviously, are ugly; and unfit to associate with you until they can cut food or utilities bills to pay for this.
And the back
Finally, some token racial diversity! Posing? Check. Airbrushing? Check. Ridiculously happy smiles? Check. People who are clearly models with their perfectly white teeth and shaped eyebrows who are surely not the sort of people who would actually be at this? Check.
One last highlighted thing:
"All you'll need is:
- A prom dress or evening gown
- A suit or dress for interview
- Official production number t-shirt outfit (available on pageant weekend for a nominal charge)"
Say it with me people: Hidden Costs! So lets say you manage to scrape up half a thousand dollars to go to this thing. Now they want you to buy a prom dress! And a suit! And a t-shirt for "a nominal charge"! Turns out you need more like another $430 there!
Total cost: $870. Way to raise the bar. Now they only want you if you've got about a thousand dollars lying around! Now I know why the popular pretty girls on TV are always rich whites! They're the only ones with enough money to be official.
Congratulations, National American Miss pageants. You have now officially sent the most racist and classist bit of mail I have ever seen.
It seems that I once again I have to write a post about womanism, because I have been getting e-mails and comments referring to me as a “Black feminist”. When White feminists are not ignoring my womanism, they are calling it divisive, or a separatist movement, in the hopes of delegitimizing it. Of course, all this does is increase my commitment to womanism.
Feminism has long claimed to be a movement to advance women’s rights, and yet it’s history is filled with incidents in which marginalized women are soundly rejected or ignored. Womanism is not a separatist movement. Just as feminism speaks to your experiences, Africanna Womanism speaks to mine. It allows me to articulate my spirituality, my connection and love of Black men, a genuine sisterhood with other Black women, a connection to family with a special emphasis on motherhood, a self-defined identity, unconventional gender roles, collective outcomes, group achievement, self love, nurturing, and a recognition that all isms effect women. I have found that none of these things consistently appear in feminism, but they are central tenets of womanism.
Womanism is not just Black feminism, and when you create it as such, you deny our identity and erase the women who do identify as Black feminists. At the heart of this erasure is a desire to oppress. White women have for generations articulated a theory that centers their concerns and their needs, and the existence of womanism is seen as a threat to this hegemony. If White feminists are so committed to agency, why is my desire to self-identify so alarming?
This is about colonialism. Our desire to nurture, to embrace women’s spaces, to embrace our families, is perceived as a threat because Whiteness is continually attempting to break the bonds of people of colour in order to control every facet of our existence. This is why when White feminists participate in conversations about reproduction, they are specifically centered on the right to have an abortion, and womanists ask the question what about motherhood? This is why White feminists can create all men as equal, and womanists acknowledge our blood bond with Black men, and the ways in which racism unites us in a fight for justice. This is why White feminists belittle children and womanists fight for their value because we know that the fruit of our wombs are always considered the surplus population.
Womanism is more than a political label to me; it encompasses that which I love the most. And when you tell me that this is divisive, what you are saying is that I don’t belong unless I am obedient and subservient to your needs. This is why White feminists can come into this space and ignore that it is not run or maintained for them, while lecturing me on how I let feminism down. I am constantly asked to provide resources explaining my beliefs, to justify the existence of my label, and yet feminism apparently needs no defence despite its clearly racist, transphobic, homophobic, disabelist history. Only my body and my beliefs require explanation, because it is still considered the eternal “other.”
What I see is a continuous oppositional approach to women’s organizing that leaves many women on the margins. You cannot theorize a meal, or fucking indoor plumbing okay. There are real world problems that no amount of theory can explain, and yet when womanists say this is my life, my knowledge, my history, it is soundly rejected to instead preference some esoteric feminist who has no knowledge of our experiences. There is a place for theory and there is a place for communal solutions. It is time for White feminists to seriously be quiet and just listen. Your voices will not be missed because we have had our fill of your misinterpretations.
This is a womanist space, and that means it will be filled with ideas that are central to womanism. It is just as much a space for women and women’s organizing as any conventional feminist space, with the difference being separate organizing principles. I will not allow this space to be colonized for the purposes of further silencing marginalized women. This means that here there shall be no consuming the “other”. Here, the subaltern shall not only speak, but be heard.
Honestly, I hope this is the last such post I shall have to write. I am tired of having to defend my identify because others seek to colonize by existence for their benefit. I have taken the time to learn your beliefs for the sake of my survival -- and if White feminists are truly interested in equality, it is more than time for you to make a legitimate effort to consciously murder the monolithic woman -- because she exists only to erase my rightful place in women’s organising.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
As regular readers realize, I am a huge True Blood fan. In fact, I pretty much am interested in anything regarding vampires. This Sunday, after a very long wait, “True Blood” will be returning to HBO. On Monday I will once again be posting a synopsis of the episode, so that we can discuss it down to the minute detail. And to those that are wondering I am still staunchly team Eric. That would be your cue to back off Sparky. I saw him first and I am screaming DIBS.
At any rate, after chatting with Tami, of What Tami Said, about how excited we are for the new episode, we decided to host a podcast every Monday night at 9pm EST to take our special brand of womanist anti-racist analysis to the show. Now this does not mean Tami and I aren’t going to get silly and giddy sometimes, it’s just that as much as we love True Blood, there are still issues that require attention. Tami and I have both read the books and so a little book/episode comparison might happen from time to time as well.
We have yet to pick a name for our new podcast. We are actively looking for suggestions. Think of something cool and leave it in the comment section. Yes, to those that are wondering, that is a True Blood countdown at the end of the blog, and yes, I am a little obsessed.
One cannot possibly deny that Helen Thomas is a remarkable woman. She has had the courage to speak for decades while other White House reporters sat quietly waiting for crumbs. Far to many today are celebrating her retirement, having long wanted to see her chair vacant and filled with a supplicant. It is not an accident that Ari Fleisher, former White House press secretary for George Bush, sent e-mails spreading the word about Thomas’ ill advised comments regarding Israel, while calling for her to be fired.
"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," the doyenne of the Washington press corps said, and laughed. "Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land."
Nesenoff asked where she thought they should go.
"Go home," she responded.
Asked to elaborate, Thomas said, "Poland, Germany and America, everywhere else." (source)
The existence of Israel is not something anyone, regardless of their credentials can ever be flippant about. Israel was created after millions of Jews were slaughtered due to Anti-Semitism and the appeasement strategy of western governments. They knew very well what Hitler was doing to Jewish people, and quite simply did not give a damn. Western governments turned away Jewish refugees, and had a safe harbour like Israel existed at the time, Jewish people would have had a place to go.
We cannot deny that there are certainly problems with the way the Israeli government is treating the Palestinians. In fact, I would argue that with their denial of vital resources, as well as untold murders, they represent a hostile regime that has in the past engaged in what can and should be deemed terrorist activity. It is however a far cry from denouncing the policies of the Israeli government, to announcing that Jews should just go back home. Back home to where exactly? It did not occur to Thomas that there are Jewish families that have been living in Israel for centuries, furthermore not all Jews residing in Israel are of European heritage.
With her comments, Thomas privileged one group of people over another and that is in large part what continues to fuel much of the anger and aggression that plagues the Middle East. Palestinians and Jews BOTH have a right to independence, and they BOTH have a right to exist free of the threat of violence. I certainly believe that we have a responsibility to be critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians as social justice advocates, but we must be wary of using that same anger toward the injustice to engage in “othering.”
When I first heard this story on CNN this morning there were those that were defending Thomas based in her age. In three months she will be 90 years old, and it was suggested that perhaps she is not functioning with the same capabilities as a forty year old. Using ageism as a defence for her statements is unacceptable because it reduces a group of people. You cannot use an ism to defend obvious bigotry. The “othering”of seniors as a defence falls into the same category as Thomas dismissing history to preface her own political position. People matter and that is what is at the heart of this controversy. You cannot and should not defend the indefensible simply because it was an action taken by someone that you respect.
On “The View” this morning, Whoopie Goldberg suggested that this falls under the category of free speech and therefore, she believes that Helen Thomas should not have lost her job. It is not clear at this time if Thomas decided to retire of her own accord, or was pushed out, but the fact remains that speech comes at a cost. And whether it is Thomas or Don Imus, people should bare the responsibility for their language. The notion that people should be able to speak without consequence means that marginalized bodies end up carrying the weight of the stigma that is created when speech is used for the sole purpose of attacking someone’s right to exist.
You don’t have to agree with the creation of Israel, or Israeli policies, but I do think announcing cavalierly that people should just go home, or that they don’t belong sets up a dangerous hierarchy that Jewish people have seen only too personally leads to death. Announcing that Jews should return to a country that slaughtered them in cold blood says to me that Helen Thomas decided that the lives of Palestinians are worth more than Jewish lives. The moment we decide that some people are naturally more deserving, is the moment we create the circumstances for margianlization and as we have seen, the consequences can range from small discrimination to death.
It is terrible that Thomas’s distinguished career is ending in this manner. When people look back at her legacy they will mention this incident and it will forever tarnish her reputation. What this incident teaches us is that no one is above accountability. It is however sad it was Thomas who taught us this lesson, when so many others remain unpunished for language and or behaviour that is equally if not more heinous.
According to her mother, Abbie Dorn had dreamed of being a parent for a very long time before she became the mother of triplets via invitro-fertilization. Unfortunately for Abbie, during the delivery she began to bleed and went into cardiac arrest, which deprived her brain of oxygen for twenty minutes. When her children turned one year old, her husband divorced her and ended visitation. At this time he feels that it would be too damaging for the kids to see their mother.
Today, Abbie communicates with one long blink for yes and no response for no. She is completely dependent upon her parents for care.
In the 19th century women were often housed in state facilities for their natural lives receiving little to no contact with the outside world. They had no legal right to marry or reproduce. In the 2oth century they were routinely sterilized, without either being informed or actively consenting to the procedure. The right of disabled women to reproduce and parent their offspring is something that society has historically seen to be problematic, because their bodies are viewed as flawed. Geneticist feared of passing so-called defective genes, or it was assumed that a disability meant that one was not fit to parent.
Abbie Dorn’s parents are currently attempting to sue for visitation rights on her behalf. According to Holmstrom, Sissung, Marks & Anderson, APLC:
The California Family Code says that it is the public policy of the state to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The rare exception would be if the courts deemed not seeing one parent in the child's best interest. This case will force the court to make difficult, unprecedented decisions.
In 1979, the California Supreme Court said that disabled parents can't be denied custody just because they are disabled, saying that parenting is as much about emotion as it is about physical ability. That case involved a father who had sole custody of his kids at the time of an accident that left him a quadriplegic. He retained the ability to speak and drive.
Dorn’s case differs because her parents are seeking visitation on her behalf rather than custody, and should she win this suit, it will establish new rights for disabled parents throughout the U.S.
Once again the argument of what is in the best interest of the child is being used to deny a marginalized woman her right to motherhood. Children are incredibly resilient, and if their mother were introduced to them from the very beginning, I fail to see what kind of damage this would cause them.
Whether or not they see her, at some point they are going to learn that it was her sacrifice that lead directly to her disability. They may or may not feel responsible; however, at the very least visitation would allow them to form a bond with their mother. Growing up with a disabled parent will teach them about their able-bodied privilege, as well as encourage them to show empathy towards others -- but since these characteristics are not highly valued, they can soundly be ignored to trumpet the so-called best interest of the child.
Abbie may not be able to communicate conventionally, but she feels. To separate her from her children after all that she has gone through is not only cruel, it is inhumane. It further suggests that there is no value to her being. This is the social understanding of disabled bodies. They are expected to disappear from sight and are understood to be an inconvenience simply for existing. It further follows the historic pattern of disallowing disabled women to mother because of their status as members of the so-called surplus population. If we can separate a mother from her children, how can we possibly claim to have the belief that all people are equal, or that we live in a society that cares about those whose bodies are constructed differently?
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.
Much of this post deals with how lesbians and bisexual women are represented in the media, though it certainly applies to gay men when it occurs as well, it occurs far less often and certainly much more rarely than in mainstream media. I am not a lesbian nor do I think merely being GBLT makes you any particular authority on the other letters under the umbrella (something I've argued before). It gives you an insight, but it's still an outsider's view. As such, I give my impressions and how I feel but I cannot speak for Lesbians and bisexual women, do not wish to do so and make no guarantees I am getting it right.
I watch representations of GBLT people in the media with a great deal of cynicism. Most of the time it's not there at all, when it is there it is often highly problematic and even when well portrayed it often focuses so much on the negative (homophobia, AIDS, family rejection, internalised hatred, etc) that it's not just depressing but damn near triggering to watch. So when I see GBLTs in media or literature I tend to approach cautiously and not exactly in an open and fluffy mood.
Miley Cyrus has simulated a lesbian kiss in her latest performance on Britain's Got talent, part of her ongoing campaign to ditch the 'nice girl' image.
Not too long ago Madonna and Brittany had their oh-so-dramatic lip lock on stage.
As far as I'm aware, none of these women are Lesbians or Bisexual or anything but straight (despite much gossip in each case), yet they all engaged in on-stage woman on woman kissing.
t.A.T.u is another rather infamous example. 2 female singers from Russia that became popular across much of Europe - who pretended to be lesbians both in their music and their performances. They're not, they're straight.
And I look at these and find them more than a little off. Not because there shouldn't be portrayals of lesbian and bisexual women being loving, sexual and sensual on television and in music - most certainly we need more - but because I don't think that's what we're seeing here. Is this done to show lesbian sexuality? To celebrate it? To protest that it should be acceptable and wonderful and respected?
Or is it done to titillate? Is it done so straight men can speculate and drool? Is it done to shock? To prove to a heterosexist world how edgy and cool they are? Is it done so people can gawk and chatter and gossip? Is it done to hit the headlines and draw attention because it's so *gasp* outrageous?
See this is something that preys on my mind when I watch portrayals of gay people in the media and certainly when I read books in the m/m genre and slash fiction (neither of which are particularly my habit any more). I look at the portrayal and ESPECIALLY if there is sexiness going on and I ask - what is this for?
Because owning our own sexuality, being proud of it, wearing it, being open with it and being fierce with it is a whole world of difference from our sexuality being paraded so straight folks can drool or stare.
Because portraying a gay or lesbian person or a gay or lesbian couple to show their lives, their families, them as real people due respect, love and happiness is a world of difference from portraying them so they can be viewed or read with one hand, or for shock value or as a publicity stunt.
Because there's a difference between Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga on the one side, and t.A.T.u. and Miley Cyrus on the other.
Because there's a difference between lesbians living as themselves and 2 women getting it on for the joys of straight male viewing.
Because there's a difference between a book that tells the story of gay men in love, and a book that treats gay men as pose-able mannequins to drool over.
And I'm not saying that from any kind of anti-porn/erotica standpoint - I'm generally pro-porn. But recognise that not all portrayals of us are about us and most certainly are not for us. Some of them are appropriating us with varying degrees of respect - and a fair few of them are downright using us and not holding in to a great deal of respect or concern in the process.