Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going Behind The Old Stone Face

Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.
As a country dedicated to be a hub for Westerners to feel 'at home' or to 're-find themselves', India peddles a lot of things right by your nose -- to the delight of the omnipresent DoucheColonial Gaze--  as long as they fit the frame of being 'exotic' and condescendingly charitable. Like the handmade paper by limbless workers, the Snake Dance performed by devdasis or Temple Dancers or anything that evokes the same sentiment that Slumdog Millionaire did: consumable, understandable and decoded culture, set to lively Bollywood beats, ready for you to devour it and then feel better for being as far away as possible from a culture or space that 'terrible'. In this process of re-packaging and selling culture, we've started buying it ourselves. That our religions or gods were indeed some mystified beings, that they did really exist at one point, and we will seek legal proof of just that -- as opposed to the previously held belief that they were well written and formed myths or epics -- that festivals need to be celebrated collectively, publicly, catastrophically till all semblance of an 'I' is washed away and in its place remains the bigger, more heavily inscribed 'We', till the act of worshiping god becomes an exhibitionist ritual while the personal in religion is coloured invisible.

Eyes glowering. Sometimes raised, sometimes fixed. Rock steady.

The last two weeks have been what we call in India 'Navratri', where most of the overtly Hindu regions of the country break into a folk tradition of dance and celebration to felicitate the myth of a Goddess who slayed a Horrid, Horrid Monster some centuries ago and in her memory we perform this ritual. There are ambiguous reasons behind this Goddess Amba some say she is another avatar of Shakti (the root of all feminine folklore), some believe she existed outside Shakti and some believe she is tied up with Creation itself, seeing how she is the Mother of the Universe. Whatever the reason may have been for her creation, today she is one of the ideals of femininity; an extremely non-threatening one at that. The myth I grew up with was the demon Mahisasura had got himself a boon of immortality and specifically speaking requested that "No god nor animal" will be able to match up to him, conveniently forgetting to include 'Woman'. So the Gods from their Heavenly Seats decided to make such a woman, where each God gave her some of his special powers, she was given extra limbs and a weapon in each arm, to kill the demon. One thing that strikes me is how she is ManMade, how she is created with a specific purpose in mind, she has utility for the DudeCouncil and that she wouldn't exist at all -- or even occupy the few hundred lines she does in our epics -- had it not been for one vain demon. Just like Eve, she too is half, incomplete without her demon; she has no role to play except fly into a rage, use her Shakti to restore peace unto Earth, displaying sanctioned amounts of rage on the source of 'Evil' after which she dissolves into obscurity without a trace.

Mouth set. Not a word ever escapes out. That fixed smile sets on me.

Monstrous Musings: Vampires and Domestic Violence

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.

Given that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought a post on interpersonal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape culture as depicted in vampire narratives would be appropriate.

Vampire narratives certainly offer all sorts of ways to explore issues of sexual violence, rape, and consent. Given that most are turned into vampires and/or have their lives/blood taken from them without consent, we might read the genre as an enduring metaphor for rape – usuMally with male (vampires) raping female (humans).

I was also spurred to write this post due to continuing comments at my Seduced by Twilight blog that refuse to see Edward’s and Jacob’s actions towards Bella as forms of interpersonal violence. Regarding Edward, though many admit he is controlling and domineering, many others blame Bella and/or excuse Edward’s behavior. Likewise, many blame Bella for what they cite as her manipulation of Jacob and use the “he just couldn’t help himself” argument to justify Jacob’s forced kiss as well as Sam’s attack on Emily. While Bella certainly has her faults, I worry about the tendency of many readers to blame and criticize her for the violence done to her – as if it is her fault the men in Port Angeles nearly gang rape her, her fault Jacob attempts to kiss her without her consent, her fault Edward is “forced” to control her due to her supposed weakness. This, to me, smacks of the “blame the victim” mentality that is part and parcel of rape culture.

However, given that these issues are covered elsewhere in relation to Twilight (including by WMST student writers (yeah!) – as here and here), I want to also think about how other vampire narratives represent these issues.

While The Sookie Stackhouse Series is rather critical of rape and violence against women (which is no surprise given Harris’s first novel – A Secret Rage - functions as a critique of rape culture), the television adaptation, True Blood, often leans more towards sexualizing violence – Bill’s twisted neck “she asked for it” scene with Lorena being a key example. As Renee has argued here, there is a reoccurring theme of violence against women in the series. Yet, I would posit that it still an improvement on the likes of Dracula and the Twilight saga in terms of this issue– as least we have the strong fairy-human hybrid Sookie, the strong, witty, and non-heteronormative Pam, the wonderfully complex Jessica, and the rape avenger Tara. Though the television adaptation too often sexualizes violence, it does counter this representation with characters who resist and condemn this violence.

The Catholic Church Will Baptize ET But Not Trans People

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

The Roman Catholic Church has not been shy since 2003 of expressing their hatred and dislike of transgender people to the point where even Pope Benedict XVI has used his Christmas Eve message to declare transpeople a threat to the survival of mankind.

Last month, in a shake your head moment, the official astronomer for the pope, Guy Consolmagno  told the Guardian that if intelligent life is found elsewhere in the universe and it would like to be baptized in the Catholic faith, they would do so.

burqas are all the rage

WoodTurtle is a Canadian Muslim feminist currently using her extended maternity leave to explore developments of Islamic feminism in the Western and Muslim world.  As a woman who wears the hijab (owns several abayas and a niqab monogrammed with her initials in pink, sparkly sequins), she writes frequently on genderized Islamophobia. She also works toward dispelling myths and stereotypes about women in Islam for both Muslims and non.

When I first put on the hijab, I felt the door to my community opening. Without that piece of cloth, no one would have known I was practicing unless I was spotted at the mosque, or I worked it into conversation. Suddenly I was being consulted on complex religious matters, receiving dozens of marriage proposals (okay... three), and was acknowledged  by other Muslims as we passed each other on the street. My religious relationship with my secular world also changed. Explaining to my colleagues that I wasn't going to the pub after work was no longer necessary and restaurant staff didn't blink when I asked for no bacon bits on my Caesar salad. There was suddenly no denying my religious convictions.

But I was also spit on, congratulated on my mastery of the English language, debated and shouted at while riding the subway and verbally assaulted in the middle of a Tim Horton's coffee shop. My colleague, however, was sexually assaulted. Hayat was struck in the head. A robber celebrated 'Eid by wrapping a Muslim woman in a carpet and setting her on fire. Anwar's hijab was torn off. Shaika had her niqab ripped from her face. Marwa was stabbed to death.

So what do these women have in common? Gendered Islamophobia. They are all identifiable Muslims and have experienced deliberate violence, harassment or prejudice based on their gender.

Hate crimes against Muslims have been steadily increasing over the past decade, with reports of yet another defamed mosque, assault or attempted murder occurring on a weekly basis. Racism tends to be the motivation behind attacks on men, who are first targeted by race and then physically attacked after it's determined they're Muslim. The latest example of this was the stabbing of New York cab driver Ahmed Sharif.

But women who cover are walking advertisements for Islam and are completely targeted on the basis of their religion and not necessarily because of their race. Naturally, when men are the perpetrators, the attacks are often sexual in nature. The least innocuous is the forcible removal of the hijab or niqab. Which in some strange Orientalist male fantasy represents the complete violation of a Muslimah's sexuality.

Proponents of the hijab argue that it protects and frees women from being perceived as sexual objects. Some even erroneously pit the hijab against stereotypes of non-Muslim women being promiscuous and obsessed with abstract notions of female beauty. It's better to be covered and valued for your thoughts, words and actions than your body. While I do believe that the intention behind veiling is related to sexuality, it's very dangerous to think that a piece of cloth will protect you from assault.

Please welcome WoodTurtle

Hello everyone, I would like to announce a new contributor. Her name is WoodTurtle.

WoodTurtle is a Canadian Muslim feminist currently using her extended maternity leave to explore developments of Islamic feminism in the Western and Muslim world. A former academic with a masters in Islamic law and medieval history, she believes that in order to grapple with patriarchal religious Tradition, it's necessary for women to produce engaged readings and interpretations of the Quran. And to do so confidently.

As a woman who wears the hijab (owns several
abayas and a niqab monogrammed with her initials in pink, sparkly sequins), she writes frequently on genderized Islamophobia.  She also works toward dispelling myths and stereotypes about women in Islam for both Muslims and non. She writes full time about her feminism and motherhood over at WoodTurtle and occasionally guest blogs at Hijabman.
Please welcome her to the blog.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bacon-palooza: What am I, Chopped Liver?

"Leah Jane is an Über-liberal, nerdy, feminist, American-Canadian, secular humanist, skeptical, pansexual, overeducated, intellectual, philosophical, artistically inclined, white-tea drinking, loudmouthed, agnostic, politically correct, mordant, autistic Jewess who likes to draw, write poetry, study languages and smell flowers. She runs her blog, The Quixotic Autistic as a way to cope with a world that seems to want nothing more than for her to speak, but tells her to be quiet and let the neurotypicals talk when she tries to."
Today, being the usual news hound that I am, I stumbled upon this story on NPR:
The main focus of the article was on the bacon, of course. We are living in the culture of bacon mania, and the bacon related products available, bacon soda, bacon shrimp, bacon egg cream, deep fried bacon.... You get the idea. Two, count 'em, TWO sentences were devoted to the charitable intentions of Bacon Palooza, and if you're seeing me write about it, you can already guess what the charitable cause was: Yup, autism. Specifically, to "raise money for kids with autism". 
Well, that's great! They can buy new horse dolls, a new Thomas the Tank toy (I personally want Hiro, the first Japanese one) Wait? What's that you say? It's not actually going directly to kids with autism or their families? According to the website,  the charitable proceeds go to unnamed nonprofit schools in the NYC area, and there is no list of schools in NYC area that will receive the donations, only to say that any one that is not fully nonprofit will not be included. 
Now, I tend to be skeptical of all autism-related charity work covered in mainstream media. Most of the time, it ends up going into the yawning jaws of Autism Speaks, an organization that puts the P in problematic with their pity-based fund raising and having only 7 cents of every dollar raised go towards assisting autistic families. The My first gut instinct upon any story related to autism is to immediately check out where the funds are going, to reassure myself that it's not Autism Speaks, Defeat Autism Now, or Age of Autism getting the money. This first test was passed, so I let out my bated breath and relaxed.... But then realized my brain wasn't done overthinking it. A few things were still bothering me, big time, so it's time for me to address it before the party hats and bacon themed party favors are broken out. 
I don't have a problem with the nature of the fundraiser. I'm not the biggest fan of bacon, being an on-again-off-again vegetarian and a general worry wort about blood pressure, nitrates, all that good stuff. But I am not an anti-bacon crusader, and don't mind it being used to promote charitable causes.
 But in this case, as evidenced by my need to google and double-check the sources of the charity and where it planned to send the money, the fact that this was all about OMG bacon so hip and yummy, the food of the geeks and hipsters!!1 overshadowed the charitable cause itself. The word "autism" was mentioned twice in the entire article, once at the beginning, and once again at the end. There was no information given about how the money would help the children with autism in the entire article, or even what autism is.
By now, the public is probably well aware of media depictions of autism, with the number of diagnoses going from 1 in 150 to 1 in 110 and growing more considerable with every press release. But there's still very little public knowledge about what autism is, and what people with autism need in their lives to thrive and flourish in our communities. It's still mostly "Oh, that's the kids who flap their hands and can't talk, right?" or "Oh yea, I saw a special on Oprah about it, isn't it caused by vaccines?" So it goes. But when you start talking about stimming, or the pros and cons of ABA, or services for adults on the spectrum, you're treated to a blank stare. 
I guess we're not as cool and important as bacon though. Fair enough. People just can't get enough of bacon-flavoured vodka, even if it means giving up space in the article to talk about how the bacon will be beneficial to those on the spectrum. 
Another thing which irked me in the extreme was the focus on kids with autism. Remember how I said that this was going to schools? Well, that's fine and dandy, except for the fact that this does exist in a culture where adults with autism are either ignored or stigmatized out of existence, and very few charities ever pay attention to the need for funding and programs for adults on the spectrum. Whatever's to blame for this, whether it's a different set of attitudes between how adults and children are perceived, the burgeoning number of new diagnoses of children, or something else I have yet to dream up, I don't care. It's enough to make me feel like the day I turned 18, I stopped being relevant to all these people who claim to care about the well being of people with autism. 
People with autism do not suddenly turn into neurotypicals when puberty or a particular birthday comes around. We need support and services just as much as children do, if not more so, because many of us (in fact, over 90% of us) are unemployed and do not/cannot depend on our parents to support and guide us. Why are we not focused upon once in a while when there's a charitable event for autism going on? 
I could go on all day. I could talk an ear off about my negative opinion of separating children with autism into specialized schools, since it makes autism mysterious and unknown to neurotypical children more than if they were to learn side-by-side with aide support, or how tacky I think it is to throw charity events and pat ourselves on the backs while failing to address genuine inequality in the treatment of non-neurotypical persons both during and after childhood, and how the problem of lack of funding for services and families with autistic individuals goes beyond what money spent on fatty pork products can fix. 
But there's only so much I can say. I suspect if I mouth off anymore, I'll end up with a piece of bacon stuffed in my mouth to keep me quiet. I'm not very kosher, but I'm one hell of a kempfer. 


How White Flight Brought Down the Economy

This is a guest post by the fabulous Daisy of Daisy's Dead Air

PART TWO of my series, How did the American Left lose the working classes?

I drove down to Woodruff Road and decided to check out the Goodwill Store. (As my regular readers know, I love snooping around in the Goodwill.)

Although I had seen a plethora of DeMint and Haley bumper stickers on my drive down, it is notable I saw none in the Goodwill parking lot. I saw Our Lady of Guadalupe, of whom I am very fond. I saw her about five times, even more than usual.

Keeping this series of posts in mind, I counted. Three white people in the whole place. All three whites were at least over 40; one was a quite-ancient, wise-appearing old man perusing the used book-bin, carefully inspecting the tossed-aside Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum thrillers. The other two had grandchildren in tow and seemed to be shopping for them, too.

The signs are now in Spanish and English, and several announcements were made in Spanish. (The music was a neutral oldies radio station, although I imagine that will also change in the future.) I was instantly reminded of the thrift store I went to in suburban Atlanta last year (see my souvenir photo above), in which I was the only white person in the whole store, the signs only in Spanish. And this was in Newt Gingrich's old district, where some of the houses start at half-a-million dollars (or did, before the economy tanked). Where do these folks live? -- I wondered. And then I realized, they live in one of the many apartment complexes dotting Cobb County, just as I live in a similar one here in Greenville County. They work for the people who live in the half-million-dollar homes, just as I also do.

After my visit to the suburban-Atlanta thrift store, we went over to the Barnes and Noble. I was immediately struck by the fact that these businesses were not very far apart in terms of mileage, but are light-years apart in terms of culture and economics. The Barnes and Noble was practically an all-white enclave, only a few miles from the thrift store, an all-Latino enclave.

And today, after leaving the Goodwill, I drove only a mile or so to Whole Foods.

Again, the shock of leaving a heavily-Latino enclave, driving a short distance, and entering an all-white one.

Why are we segregating ourselves?

I know for a fact (see link above) that poor (and some middle-class and bohemian-type) white people love digging through second-hand cast-offs as much as I do. I have been visiting yard sales and thrift stores my whole life, and white people have always been very well-represented.

So, what's going on?


Today, I saw workers replacing the carpet in another apartment unit in my building. Latino men, speaking Spanish and hammering nails, waved to me as I left. Latino men take care of the grounds, too. (When we moved here, the grounds crew were all black men, and the fellows laying the carpet were also black.)

Me and Mr Daisy often joke we will be the last white people left in the complex. Our apartment faces the woods and golf course, as I have written before, and we like living in this little pocket of quiet that we have been lucky to find in such a busy area. Whenever we seriously consider moving, we are never satisfied with houses that are RIGHT ON THE STREET; we have gotten rather spoiled living back here in our private little spot facing the woods, away from traffic and other suburban hoopla. Even though we are only about two blocks from I-85, we hear the occasional siren or Harley-Davidson, but not much else.

When we moved here, the population of the apartment complex seemed to mirror that of South Carolina at large, which was fine with us. (One of the main reasons we moved here was that the schools were supposed to be the best, in a county where the schools historically have left quite a lot to be desired.) I'd say it was about 25-30% African-American; the state of SC is about 1/3 African-American in total.

But we have stayed, and the other white people haven't. Where'd they go? We looked around one day, and saw that the vast majority of our neighbors were black or immigrants (Asian and Latino). The white people who remain are usually older (like us), or very young and newly employed at nearby Michelin or BMW (the Asian engineers walk to Michelin from here; while the whites all drive). We hardly see any white families with children; I was stunned to see ONLY children of color getting off the school bus in front of the apartment gate recently.

Okay, where are the white people? What's going on?

Family Values Destroys Family Values

Monica of the fabulous blog TransGriot sent me a recording of a transman speaking to his family about his transition.  Trans people face a lot of rejection socially and from their parents, who are supposed to love them unconditionally.  This recording really struck a nerve with me, because this is the first time that I have actually heard a conversation like this.

As a mother I found it astounding.  They repeatedly told their son that he was not happy despite his statements to the contrary and asserted that what he is doing is a crime against God and nature.  When he told them that he was going to marry a woman that he was love with, they further denied his gender identity and called him a lesbian.  Repeatedly they told him that they didn't want a daughter-in law, they wanted a son in law.  They complained about a supposed inability to have grand children.  In short, they made it all about them, even though this is not their life to live. I suppose this is a common trait amongst those with cisgender privilege, but hearing it so bluntly was truly an assault to the senses and I cannot imagine how painful it was to the man in question.

I chose the title family values destroys family values because in this case it is so true.  This is their child that they are actively rejecting because he is different.  They are destroying their family because of transphobia and a ridiculous desire to maintain cissupremacy.  If family were that important to these people and the conservatives that enact anti LGBT laws, they would find a way to open their hearts and understand that difference does not equal corrupt, or less than.  Family values to me means being there for your loved ones no matter the circumstances and supporting their lives to the best of your ability. I honestly don't know how these people sleep at night. 

Precocious Puberty and Sexual Harassment

I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality

Children suffering from precocious puberty may feel different from their peer group and this can cause social and emotional trauma in the young ones' minds. Depression, substance abuse and low self esteem are some of the problems that widely occur in children with this condition. If it is difficult for the young child and the family to cope up with such a situation then it would be best to seek counseling help. Psychological counseling can definitely help family better understand and handle emotions and challenges that accompany precocious puberty. (source)
In recent years, the incidence of early onset or precocious puberty has increased in young girls. 37% of Black girls, 18% of white girls and 23% of Hispanic girls have breast tissue growth significant enough to be classified as pubescent by the age of 8. Those numbers have been on the rise since 1997, when the issue of precocious puberty was last studied.

Precocious puberty impacts girls who are affected by it. Not only do they have to adjust to hormonal changes that give rise to feelings and urges that they may be too young to deal with appropriately, but they also are often ostracized from their peers. They are made to feel like they do not belong, they are treated differently by their peers as well as by adults, and they sometimes are the victims of sexual harassment without even  recognizing it.

Back in 1980, when I was 7 years old, I was the only girl I knew who had to wear a bra in 3rd grade. I remember trying so hard to hide the straps because I was humiliated that I was the only child in my class who was wearing one. And, when I got my period at the grand old age of 8 years old, I was terrified of the other kids finding out my secret. I was always taller and weighed more than the other children my age. I was teased for being fat, although looking back on it, I was only a bit chubby. I was just more developed.

By the time I was in 5th grade, I was wearing a bra that was larger than my mother’s. I remember being made fun of by other girls in gym class because I did not have a bra that fit properly. My breasts grew so fast that they spilled out of the cups. I was called “tornado tits” by the boys in school. Boys  would grab my bra straps and snap them. Girls in my class used to run around yelling “titty squeeze” and grab each others chests and pinch them, which was particularly degrading for me, since I had ACTUAL breasts,  not just tiny buds like the other girls.

When I entered middle school, I was 5’2”, 140 pounds. I thought I was so immensely fat, but I look back at pictures now and see that I simply had the body of a voluptuous woman. I had a big booty. I had thick thighs. I had large breasts. I remember being on the bus coming home from school., and day after day, two boys would sit in my seat, and grab various body parts. I thought they were doing it to emphasize that I was too fat. They would rub on my knees, squeeze my thighs, brush up against my butt and my breasts. I never even realized there was anything sexual about what they were doing until years later. My parents had taught me about sex, about it being an expression of love between two people. This had nothing to do with love. This was pure humiliation. This was degradation. This was me being treated as an object instead of as a person.I recall being in the girls bathroom changing clothes in one of the stalls, because I did not want the other kids to see my body. Two girls were trying to break down the door to catch a glimpse of my body. I thought it was to make fun of me (since these were two girls who were constantly making comments about the size of my breasts and the fit of my bras) but looking back, I can see that they were actually trying sneak a peak because they were attracted to my figure,  though even they might not have realized it at the time. When I saw one of these girls as an adult, she confessed that this was, in fact, the impetus behind her actions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monica of Transgriot Needs a Hand

Many of you are familiar with my chicken loving, Blue Bell ice cream chomping homegirl Monica from her frequent guest posts here or her awesome blog TransGriot.  Monica is running her first fundraiser because she really needs a new computer.

A computer is an essential tool for a blogger and though they have come down in price, they are still expensive if you have a fixed income.  I personally have learned a ton from her and I am sure those who have read her blog or her frequent guest posts here have as well.  I know that times are tough for everyone, but if you can spare a buck or two to help Monica continue to share her fabulousness with the world, I am sure it will be appreciated.  We all need a little help sometimes. 

Juan Williams Gets Nervous Around Muslims

Islamophobia is commonly expressed in the media everyday; 9/11 is used to justify the bigotry.  What happened on that day was absolutely terrible, but it was not representative of all Muslims, nor was the U.S. completely an innocent victim.  Go ahead and take a big huge gasp.  Conservatives have a tendency to claim that liberals are forcing PC speech on them by demanding that they qualify their statements, because of the harmful stereotyping.  The only truth conservatives are interested in promoting, is that which marginalizes people.  If truth were really issue, they would spend time investigating why there is so much anti-American sentiment throughout the world.  Not everyone cried when the towers fell and there is a good reason for that.  The American empire has been cruel and oppressive and as it begins its decay, this has only multiplied.

The Muslim terrorist has become a common image presented to the media.  We are taught to fear Muslims wearing obvious expressions of their religion, particularly in places like airports, for example:

Sister Wives: It's Official Wife Number Four

This Sunday the last episode of Sister Wives aired.  I must confess that I watched the show from start to finish. 
 I must admit that I was ambivalent when I first learned that TLC would be doing a reality show featuring a polygamist family.  Fundamentalist compounds are hotbeds for abuse and exploitation, and they must be exposed for what they are.  This family is not a product of this.  All of the women involved are mature consenting adults and while their choice to live like this disturbs me, I recognize that supporting women means supporting the choices of women.

Spark of Wisdom: Praising someone for being a decent person

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.
This is something I wrestle back and forth with a fair bit and have often wondered exactly how to put words around it. Sometimes a thought is formed but the words won't play nice with it :)

There are a number of times - more times than I can count - when I am confronted with the following situation

Someone announces that they support equal rights for GBLTQ people, or they say something affirming or they say homophobia and transphobia are wrong... or people will show me links or transcripts or youtube vids of some straight person saying nice things about us.

And then I mess up my lines. Because I'm supposed to say "thank you" there. Or maybe have a little happy dance. Or at least praise their wonderfulness. Cookies are probably called for.

And I'm not criticising people who do. A lot of people do greatly appreciate and praise such statements. People find affirmation, hope and signs of progress. People find their own silver linings and sparkles :)

But a large part of my mind always goes to that fun-but-not-nice sarcastic place and thinks "wow, you're not an arsehole. Well done. Would you like a plaque? 'Fred is totally not an Arsehole' You could frame it." 

Because treating LGBTQ people as equal isn't - or shouldn't be - praiseworthy. It should be normal and expected. It should be base behaviour. Treating us as equal should be as expected and normal as not slapping people in the face. It shouldn't be praised when it happens, because it isn't - shouldn't - be special or above and beyond normal, decent behaviour. If Fred announces that he's not going to slap you in the face today, we don't thank him for it. We give him a look and tell him he'd better not!  Someone saying a few nice things or refraining from treating me like shit - or refraining from treating other GBLTQ people like shit - really don't deserve lashings of praise and happy snuggles from me, methinks.

It's why I also tend not to be especially impressed by "I used to have a real problem with GBLTQ people but then..." It just doesn't really impress me a whole lot, it's like someone saying "hey, I used to punt kittens, but have totally stopped now." I mean, yay? The lack of kitten punting is certainly a good thing - but is it really praiseworthy, even from a habitual kitten punter? Even in a time and place where kitten punting is commonplace?

It bugs me. It bugs me because it suggests that NOT being homophobic or transphobic is an achievement rather than a reasonable expectation. That simply saying nice things or refraining from being an arsehole is some kind of monumental effort or gift to us. It's unusual, it's difficult, it's impressive, it is something extra - or -  it's a gift given, a concession or some kind of award. 

And all of that may be true - it may indeed be unusual. It may have even taken a great deal of effort to reach that state. It may be rare and worthy of comment. But it shouldn't be. Someone isn't doing something especially good or going above and beyond what is expected of them when they treat us as equals, any more than Fred is going above and beyond expected behaviour when he refrains from punting kittens.

Not treating someone as less is not a gift given, it's not a prize that has been won or a present you're bestowing - it's an injustice avoided. It's an insult unuttered. It's a sin uncommitted and a wrong not done. In short (hah, yes I know nothing I say is 'in short!), it's something you should be condemned for not doing - not something you should be praised for doing.

And I think it applies across marginalisations. You aren't owed cookies because you manage not to be a misogynist. Why should there be praise and fuss because you're not a racist? Should the disabled person say thank you because you're not an ableist fool? 

Why should any of them be grateful for what should be a basic expectation of human decency? Why is basic decency seen to be such an IMPOSITION on a privileged person?

Ultimately, I'm not grateful for being treated as a full human being. Because it shouldn't be in doubt - it should be a basic expectation. It should be the base line. Now I can be happy that here's someone who hasn't succumbed to the poisonous prejudice that seems so omnipresent. I can be happy that here's someone making the effort to get past their privilege. I can be happy for the progress it represents. I can be happy because it's a nice word in a world that talks a whole lot of crap.

But I'm not going to be grateful for the basic respect. I'm not going to treat my equality as some kind of present that has been given me. It isn't something given - it's something owed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Marriage Proposal: The Supposed Black Point Of View

I am sure like me, you are getting sick and tired of the constant media commentary about the state of the Black marriage, or Black women that simply cannot find a good Black man.  All of these conversations presume that marriage is the path to happiness and is therefore something everyone eventually wishes to embark upon.  They also presume that the Black community is universally heterosexual.  Maybe some of those lovely sisters who can't find a man, weren't looking for one in the first place -- but heaven forbid we do anything but create a generalized stereotype (read: steaming pile of bullshit) that is reflective of the community as a whole.

It seems that a series of animated videos have gone viral on youtube by playing on the phenomenon.

Walmart Bans Kanye West's New Album Cover

Let me start off by saying that given Walmart's business practices, it has no business declaring anything obscene. From the way it treats its workers both domestic and abroad, its entire existence is an offense to the poor and working class.

Kanye released a new CD and Walmart decided to ban it.

West registered his discontent via twitter.
So Nirvana can have a naked human being on they cover but I can't have a PAINTING of a monster with no arms and a polka dot tail and wings.
I don't agree that this is simply an image of a monster.  It very much plays upon the way in which inter-racial sexual interactions are viewed.  Many White women are considered to have a spoiled identity the moment they enter into a sexual relationship with a Black man.  I also think the image of the Black man as a monster with sharp teeth indicates something savage.  It's almost as though he is ready to consume the woman.  This is not the first time West has used problematic imagery to illustrate the relationship between Black men and White women.  Given his little stunt with Taylor Swift, and the resulting fall out, I am surprised that he would choose this direction again.

The Princess Boy and The Family That Loves Him

Dyson Kidodavis loves to play dress up.  His mother went to pick him up at daycare  to find her boy dressed in a red sequin dress and pink heels. This initially made his mother uncomfortable and so she purchased boy's clothing and pretty king fu costumes for the dress up closet at the school. The boys clothing didn't interest him and when she picked him  up again, he was wearing a yellow dress. At this time, his parents could have given into the pressure and forced their son to conform to his perceived gender, but instead they chose to love and support him unequivocally. 

His mother Cheryl wrote a book entitled My Princess Boy, which is now being used by her son's school as an anti-bullying tool.

I love my princess boy.  When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls clothes.  But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him.  When he buys girls things, they laugh at him and then they laugh at me; it hurts us both.

Put Food In The Budget

Five hundred and eighty-five dollars a month is the welfare payment for a single adult.  In many cases, outside of public housing that is barely enough to secure housing.  Niagara Falls the city where I live is far less expensive than a large urban city like Toronto and I can tell you that amount of money will get you a room in a motel at best.  I cannot even imagine how little it buys in a city like Toronto. 

I came across the webpage put food in the budget via a post about world food day.  This organization is currently advocating to have welfare payments increased by 100 dollars, to help those who live on social assistance buy healthier food. Despite the fact that McGuinty (current premier of Ontario) is a liberal, he has done nothing substantial to roll back the cuts of his conservative predecessor Mike Harris.  Mike Harris won a majority with his war on the poor that he called the common sense revolution.  He presided over a cut back in welfare payments by 22% under the misguided belief that it would encourage people to get off the system and find a job.  According to Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) organizer John Clarke, "Today people would need a 55 per cent increase in social assistance rates to bring them back to the level they were at when Mike Harris cut social assistance in the 90’s."

Put Food in the Budget encourages people to do the math with their expenses survey.  When I did it, using what I believed were conservatives amounts my results were as follows:
  • $-1035 left to spend on food if you're a single person on Ontario Works
  • $-578 left to spend on food if you are receiving ODSP
  • $-65 left to spend on food if you are making minimum wage (35h/week).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Shame: Sookie The Womanist Dog

As longtime readers know, I am a dog person.  I was delighted when my family adopted a yellow lab/ king sheppard cross.  Ms. Sookie, as she has come to be known, has turned out to be the great equalizer.  You see, including the undog Darren, there are four males in my home.  This of course has led to a few issues,  and this is specifically why I demanded a female dog.  Someone else had to squat to pee other than me.  So now we are two against four, but I think that we only need the two of use to keep the boys and yes that includes the unhusband in line. 

I started training Ms. Sookie right away.  We were out for a walk at the park when Chewie, the shih tzu, thought that he would get fresh with my girl.  I thought he was up to something, when I noticed how long he lingered during the customary bum smell greeting and so I watched him closely. Let me tell you, that dog has a deformity, because never in my life have I seen testicles that huge -- never mind on a shih tzu.  Sookie hasn't even had her first heat yet and this horny little thing thought he would mount her.  Well, he went to make his move and I yanked on Ms. Sookie's lead pulling her out the way announcing, "you're a womanist dog you don't have to put up with his shit".  Of course, Chewie's owner Brian, gave me a weird look as we proudly walked out the park together, but I think that is the last time Chewie will step out of line with my girl.

Darren, the undog was the first pet we adopted and as such, he pretty much thought he owned the house and us! He was supposedly an outdoor cat, but every time we open the door to give him a chance to explore the neighborhood, he looks at us like we have lost our ever loving minds and snuggles up on the couch. Darren naturally was the first male in the home that Sookie sought to put in his place.  Like a typical male, Darren would taunt Sookie from a distance, meowing loudly in front of her kennel when he knew she could not get out. He has been known to crawl on us for a cuddle, if he can sense Sookie watching to assert his ownership.  Cowardly kitty that he is, he runs upstairs the moment she is free.  They have effectively divided the house, with her owning the downstairs and Darren the upstairs.  I would say that makes one male in the household now tame.

Sookie has also decided that the baby's underwear and socks make great chew toys.  Though we have tried to break her of this habit, it seems that nothing is as tasty as socks and underwear.  At this moment, I don't believe the baby owns a pair of drawers without a big gaping hold in them.  That would be male number two who has been put in his place.

Because of my disability, Destruction and the unhusband split the walking duties.  Though she is not perfectly housebroken yet, she barks loudly when she wants to go and one or both of them must stop what they are doing immediately to take her out.  They don't see this as a form of control, but really it is.  Think about it. Sookie has also been occasionally known walk them, instead of them walking her, should she happen to see a squirrel worth investigating.  Then of course, there is the unpleasant task of scooping. I think that means she has mastered some measure of control over the Unhusbad and Destruction.

Slowly but surely Ms. Sookie is changing the balance in the household.  I never dreamed that this day would happen, when they started to lecture me about lifting the toilet seat when I was done. Ms. Sookie has managed to accomplish in just under two months, what I have been trying to do for years.  It is an accomplishment to be celebrated.  All of you women who are living in an all male household, my advice to you is to get a female dog; sometimes it takes a real bitch to put the testosterone back in its place. '

There is a part of me that is a little upset that I needed to help to get the men in line, but I guess Sookie proves that membership has its privileges and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.   Of course, this is exactly what I had hoped for the moment the boys started asking for a dog. One must do what one can to fight patriarchy. What odd methods have you taken to assert female agency and what do you think I should train Sookie to do, to continue to challenge the male oppression in my household?