Saturday, February 19, 2011

Drop it Like It's Hot

 Hello everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation. If you would like to participate more fully in the Womanist Musings community and would like the opportunity to guest post, please send an e-mail to womanistmusings (at) gmail (dot)com, including either an original piece, or a link to your blog.  Please include a three line bio, and one image that represents you. Guest posts round out the conversation here, because they allow us to discuss topics that I am either not well versed enough to discuss, and they provide a unique opinion.

Below you will find links to blog posts that I found interesting this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out.  When you are done, don't forget to drop it like it's hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

"The Gay Moralist" Dr. John Corvino Destroys Almost Every Anti-Gay Argument In Under 8 Minutes
 Vietnamese Outsider
Hidden in the Open: A Photographic Essay of Afro American Male Couples
Let us talk about racism when discussing identity, belonging and multiculturalism
Bad Luck With Straight Women
Short Story: The Letter
Children's Book Explaining Homosexuality
On things we are not allowed to say....
Hello, I Am Fat
Dan Savage: Please Stop
Poetry is nice. Prostitution is not.
fighting racism, one swimsuit at a time
We Hate Having to Blog About Justin Bieber Sometimes
One small squirt for boy, one giant leap for parentkind
Do Black People Really Know Their Uncle Tom?
A Food Crises Is Coming, But Urban America Already Has It Solved
Another Fashion, Another Coloured Model Fad
Cold-case sheds light on civil right's era darkest crimes
Bigoted Landlords Forced To Pay Up
Report: Blacks and Latinos Make Up Percent of Pot Arrests in NYC
Taxes Don't Drive (Many) Millionaires Out Of High-Tax States
An FBI Snitch in Every Hood: Soledad O'Brien's New CNN Black History Conspiracy Special
Put the blame on the dames: The Rape Game
Dangerous Choices
“good blacks” and “bad blacks”
Wells Fargo Meeting Today With Philly Homeowner Who "Foreclosed" On Them
Vancouver housing advocated preparing to set up tent city at Olympic Village
On Jewish "Success"

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Friday and The Question Is.........

We have had a bit of a warm front here in the armpit of Canada, otherwise known as Niagara Falls.  It had me thinking about spring and so I rushed out and bought two pairs of shorts even though it is still too cold to wear them.  I cannot wait for the warmer weather and the fresh smell of everything coming alive again.  So with that in mind, this week's question is: What do you most look forward to about spring and why?

Real Housewives of Civil Rights

Below the fold you will find a transcript and my thoughts.

Re-Righthing Nether Roots

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.  
Breathing as the Dusty Third Worldling on a regularly alarming basis, is a difficult space to occupy, surely; even more so if you identify as feminine, which by this time almost always needs a special mention, like a parentheses of obligation. Given the Empire’s dedication to mapping and charting such invisible spaces, boundaries and borders often make me anxious and claustrophobic. Growing up with the ‘Kargil War’ being a part of the bigger, back-ground, constant state of war with chalk lines between two supposedly different countries of the Subcontinent, hearing rumours in the school playground that America was going to invade us — soon after 9/11 — that Pakistan is going to launch an attack, that people from Over There may come in any time and take us over like they did in ‘those’ countries like Iraq and Iran, that it was indeed true when we’d hear someone’s aunt’s sister’s cousin’s maid’s mistress’s sister had fled Over There because these days patriotic-and-patriarchally-inclined people decided it’s quite okay to invade borders and bodies personally because they belong to the ‘opposing country, that ‘those’ horrid buggers — any nation we’re displeased at the moment comes in this category — are going to be the End Of Us, destroy the sanctity of a country as diverse, at parts even ‘broken’ like ours and then you’d hear sighs when people said, Leave It All To God. I’d think of all this when I’d pore over maps and atlases with my sister, tracing ‘borders’ with our fingers, see if we can stretch edges and make it a Nation Of The World, like our geography books said with, what seemed to me, utmost confidence. At the end, I’d read a paragraph that countries like India and ‘Others’ of the Subcontinent, continents like Africa are a part of the Third World or the Nether World — as my Childcraft books called it — and that such countries haven’t joined the First World, but if they ‘work harder’ and ‘do more’, one day we’d join the league of ‘developed nations’ too.

'Detroit 187'S' Cissexist Trans/Cross Dresser Murder Episode

I have stayed away from writing about cis-sexism and transphobia, because I have made so many fails in the last year, that it became obvious to me, that I need to take my own advice and STFU and learn.  As part of this learning, I have been doing a lot of reading and trying to understand the ways in which society perpetuates cissexism.

I recorded this week's episode of Detroit 187, and just got around to watching it last night.  What I saw was a complete disregard of some very basic human decency aimed at what were potentially trans women or cross dressers.  What troubled me as I viewed the episode, was how normalized the approach was. It made me wonder how many people saw the episode and did not pick up on the "othering," because we have privileged not only cisgender status, but a specific form of performing gender.

At the beginning of the show, the detectives are called to a murder seen with a dead woman.  As they begin discussing the body, the coroner lifts up her skirt and announces, "hold the presses folks, yup dude looks like a lady. It looks like we've got ourselves a dead drag queen."  This was quickly followed by Special Agent Jess Harkins saying, "well if there's one thing they taught us at Quantico, it was always check for suspicious packages."

This happened within the first three minutes of this week's episode. Genitalia does not equal gender and assuming that the victim identified as male, before for ascertaining hir preference, is without a doubt cis sexist. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tracy McMillan Tells Women Why They Aren't Married

I am about done with Tracy McMillian, after reading her polemic screed in Huffpo.  It seems that she feels that unmarried women are liars, sluts, bitches, shallow, selfish and simply not good enough.
1. You're a Bitch.
Here's what I mean by bitch. I mean you're angry. You probably don't think you're angry. You think you're super smart, or if you've been to a lot of therapy, that you're setting boundaries. But the truth is you're pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it's scaring men off.
The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here's what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn't think so. You've seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man's fear and insecurity in order to get married -- but actually, it's perfect, since working around a man's fear and insecurity is big part of what you'll be doing as a wife.

Memories of Gender Segregation

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.

What do you mean we have to sit at the back?

I stared incredulously at the mosque representative. About 10 men already sat on the bus waiting for an organized student trip to Montreal – and they were occupying the front seats. A group of six women were standing in the cold waiting for my standoff to end.

I argued that we had mixed classes together, that this was a social trip, that the bus was secular ground, that there was no religious reason why we had to be segregated on a bus, and asked why the women were being forced to the back. I was told that despite the trip being social, we should always maintain proper Islamic decorum, that I wasn’t being culturally sensitive to the needs of the bothers who were accustomed to gender segregated spaces, and that they would feel more comfortable not staring at women for the 4 hour trip. “And what about us? Do you think we want to be staring at you?

He wasn’t going to budge. The least I was able to negotiate was to get all of the men to disembark first so we could get on the bus without having to brush their knees as we passed. I was furious.

Justin Beiber Pets Esperanza Spalding's Hair

In an interview with Spalding, Beiber reached out and touched her hair without asking.  I suppose he thought it was fine, because he told her that he liked her hair, but it was an absolute violation.  You don't just reach out and pet someone.  Spalding is entitled to her bodily integrity.  
When I look at the above image, I cannot help but think of the race and gender dynamics at play.  Beiber is a White male with plenty of class privilege.  White men have a history of violating the bodies of women of colour, because they have always existed with a privielge that is unmatched by any other group.  Whether they were sneaking into the slave cabins, or publicly ridiculing and shaming us, they have always felt that their race and gender entitles them to our bodies.  

Coming to Terms With the Lynching of Willie Earle

Daisy is a hippie grandma, feminist, vegetarian and lifelong activist, living in South Carolina.  She blogs at Daisy's Dead Air.

64 years ago, the last lynching in South Carolina took place about 10-15 miles from where I live. And next week, after a very long 64 years, there will finally be a memorial on the rural back road where it happened.

[Trigger Warning]

On February 16, 1947, Thomas Watson Brown, a white cab driver, picked up a black man on Markley Street in Greenville, South Carolina. Brown was later found half-dead, his taxi driven off the road in rural Pickens County. He had been beaten, robbed, and stabbed three times.

The Pickens County sheriff reported that muddy footprints at the crime scene led to the house of Willie Earle, about a mile away, where officers reportedly found cash, a blood-covered knife and bloody clothing. (Many of these facts have always been in dispute, but this is what was presented at trial.) Willie Earle, age 24, wasn't at his residence; he was in another cab, driven by a man who would later become one of the 31 defendants.

Earle was arrested and put in the Pickens County second-floor lock-up.

The news of Brown's stabbing traveled like wildfire, as did the news of Willie Earle's arrest. The nexus of unrest was the Yellow Cab office on West Court Street, where Greenville's taxi drivers had congregated in an angry pack, and started passing around a bottle of whiskey.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boys Need Affection as They Grow

In a lot of cases when a male baby is born, he is showered with love and affection.  This slowly dissipates over time, as the project begins to make sure that the child is taught to perform masculinity commences.  It begins in small ways, like encouraging them not to show emotion even when they are hurt.  Words like mommy or daddies "little man" erases the fact that they are not little men, they are vulnerable children. Just when they need to be babied and protected the most, we start to withdraw affection from them, in the false idea that this will toughen them up. 

Recently, I have been keenly reminded of this because my son's tenth birthday is quickly approaching.  He has had a very rough year dealing with racist attacks at school.  I know that he feels rejected by some of his classmates. At more than anytime in his childhood, I find that he is reaching out for affection.  He constantly wants to be near me.  He has moved beyond his ritual hug and kiss hello after school, to being obviously demanding of more.

Satire Does Not Justify Using a Racist and Sexist Cartoon to Attack Michelle Obama

It looks like the conservatives will use anything to attack Michelle Obama.

The above cartoon comes from  I am sure the usual defense of satire is being used to justify this latest round of attacks against Michelle Obama.  The FLOTUS is not fat. I absolutely agree that there are problematic aspects to her reducing childhood obesity campaign, but they have nothing to do with her physical body.  What this cartoon is doing, is using fat to shame Michelle Obama into silence.  In the media, there has been continual commentary about her  muscular arms, long legs and shapely figure.  This kind of scrutiny is not unique to Michelle Obama, but in fact is something that all women in the public eye must deal with to varying degrees.

Michelle Obama's plan for reducing childhood obesity does not call for the complete denial of choice.  In fact, if I remember it correctly, on thanksgiving, she specifically encouraged Americans to eat what they wanted.  She has publicly stated her love of french fries.  Michelle's message is everything in moderation, with a good dose of activity for good measure.  Obviously, there are aspects of disableism and classism to this approach that need to be deconstructed however, using fat shaming as legitimate form of protest is in and of itself problematic.

Always My Son

I came across the following video about a family coming to terms with their sons sexuality.  Because of the length of the video, I will a short summary below.

I have a mental illness, but I am NOT “mentally ill”

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

I have a mental illness, but I am NOT “mentally ill”

I am NOT mentally ill. I DO have a mental illness, but it is NOT who I am. For years as an individual in the mental health system, I learned to define myself by my diagnoses. When people asked me what I was, I said "I am bipolar" or "I am borderline". As if my mental illness defines me as a person. I am so much more than a medical condition.

I am a woman,

I am a lover,

I am a fighter,

I am a writer,

I am a sister,

and I am a daughter. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Drug Addiction and Class

I have tried very hard to ignore the media stories about Charlie Sheen and his drug and alcohol induced antics.  Because of his history of violence against women, and outright misogyny, I must admit that I little to no interest with anything to do with this man.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I have been inundated with news about his antics.  This morning, I learned about some things he had to say when he called into the Ever Sporty Dan Patrick Radio Show, that I believe are worth discussing.
"I'm a man of my word, I have a contract. They said get your act together and I did, and…I think maybe it's a timing thing, they didn't think it was going to happen this fast."
"I heal really quickly, but I also unravel really quickly, so get me right now, guys," he said. "Get. Me. Right. Now." Well, that's an assurance if ever we heard one.
Sheen reportedly told Patrick that he does not believe in AA.  I think by reading the above statement, what we can see, is that he is clearly a man that is out of control and is holding onto sobriety by the merest thread.  The fact that he said "get me now", indicates that he believes he cannot maintain sobriety for a long time.

Spark of Wisdom: Valentine's Day Equals Happy Hetness

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. 

Valentines day has swung round again. And words cannot express how much I hate this day (though I am looking forward to the much more fun holiday - cheap chocolate day!)

Not just because it's so commercialised that cupid should have a Clinton Cards logo branded on his arse. Not even because I think greetings cards are the biggest con since people started trying to sell London bridge

No, my first annoyance is just how empty it is.

Are Payday Loan Companies the Answer to Poverty for Indigenous People?

I came across an article about payday loans In The Voice of Tucson. The following is a short passage from it.
In the battle to shield themselves from lawsuits and government oversight, some high-interest payday lenders have found unlikely allies: Native American tribes.

In legal fights in California, New Mexico, West Virginia and Colorado, a group of Internet-based payday lenders have argued they are immune from lawsuits and regulation because they are “tribal enterprises.” They claim they enjoy tribal-nation sovereignty, which allows them to operate outside state oversight — even when they’re making loans to non-Native Americans living far from Indian lands.

State regulators and consumer lawyers say that the lender-tribe marriages are ruses designed to allow non-Native American companies to skirt consumer-lending laws. The tribes, they claim, are being used as fronts for the lenders.
Pay day loan schemes are absolutely exploitative.  The annual interest rate is so high, that it amounts to usury.   These companies absolutely prey upon the poor.  A person falls short one month and then gets a payday loan, but quickly finds that they don't have any extra money the next month, and are forced to get another loan.  In many cases, people end up with multiple payday loans -- taking out one -- to pay off another, in large part because of the roll over of fees.  It quickly becomes a horrific cycle, that can be nearly impossible to escape.  These companies are also not adverse to making false threats to its customers, to ensure their continual debt.

Dan Savage and Fat Activists Both Erase Disabled People

Well, Dan Savage has managed to use his privileges to attack a marginalized community once again. This time, he decided that because a politician made some false claims about same sex marriage, that fat marriage should be disallowed
Even if it were true—even if gay people had lower life expectancies (which we do not)—and if that "fact" all by itself was a justification for banning same-sex marriage, why stop with gay people? Iowa should ban fat marriage. There are, according to the state of Iowa, more than 1.4 million obese people living in Iowa. That's nearly 30% of the state's population, and those numbers just keep rising. The social costs of Iowa's obesity epidemic are pretty staggering—and those costs include including premature death and lower average life expectancies for Iowans.

Since we know that obesity is "contagious"—someone with an obese spouse is 37% more likely to be or become obese—then we shouldn't permit the obese to marry. If an outright ban on fat marriage seems too draconian, then we shouldn't permit the obese to marry the non-obese. The odds that the skinny spouse will be ultimately be seduced into the risky obese lifestyle are simply too great and the potential health consequences too severe.
In another example of how cowardly he can be, instead of reacting to the criticism that was aimed at him, he republished a piece from 2008. I suppose doing that, is easier than saying two words - I'm sorry. As I read over Savage's commentary, and the response pieces, I realized that something was missing.  Savage is absolutely wrong when he writes about teh death fatz, but the people arguing in favor of a more positive understanding of fat, universally erase people who are disabled and fat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Short Story: The Letter

I am a proud Anishinaabekwe of mixed heritage and I strongly identify with my Anishinaabe/Ojibway roots. I am an author, writer, poet and healer. On my blog, I share my life experiences through my poetry and stories. Areas and interests covered in my writing and poetry include: Anishinaabe heritage and culture, Anishinaabe territory, Native identity, Aboriginal/Native/Indigenous/First Nations issues, Native feminism, matriarchy, the Great Lakes, Michigan, Mother Earth, environmentalism, earth based spirituality, healing and the healing arts. 

She was penning him a letter. Writing and erasing what she said in her mind before penning it down on paper. You had made my Scratch. You hurt me in more ways than one. Don't you understand your privileges as a white male from an upper class family? Scratch. This all wasn't getting to the root of her feelings. Mainly it was hard to write about the hands around her throat which created an inability to speak and an inability to write. It was difficult to write about the emotional violence and control. This is where she got up from her lonely table to make another cup of tea. The lonely table to return to with a new cup in hopes of telling the story as it is.

As much as it wasn't clear during the whole 7 year relationship it wasn't clear now. She wondered why she dated a white male who attended private schools and had everything given to him by his parents when she was of multiracial heritage; Cree, Ojibway, French and Finnish, and had struggled throughout her whole life. She struggled with making steps each day in her life. Sometimes a step was taken with a heavy cement block around each foot, unable to move, because of trauma, because of pain. Violence in the home swirled around her with a new spirit of what was to come waiting to greet her. Not necessarily a spirit that was good but one that carried the burdens and the pains of the generations. She can smudge. She can pray. She can dance to roundance songs. She can connect with the land. But sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes the pain is the burden that one must bear. The burden that is never ending.

Motherhood and My Valentine's Failure

The first year that Destruction was in school, I searched all over town for French Valentine's Cards.  After much frustration, I finally decided to make my own for him to give out.  When he came home, I found that all the Valentine's he received where in English.  I  quickly proceeded to pitch a fit, and vowed never to put myself through the craft thing again.

Last night, the kids reminded us that they needed cards to give out today, and so the unhusband got dressed and went out in the cold to the dollar store.  He came home with the typical meaningless kids valentines cards, and my oldest sat down to address them.  This morning, while they ate breakfast, I sat down to address the cards for Mayhem.  As I was writing this, I found myself getting more and more frustrated.  I told my oldest that this will probably be his last year with the fake cards, as he will be in grade five next year.  He was not happy with this suggestion.  I tried to tell him that today is nothing but a greeting card holiday and he completely denied the truth of this.

I know that I have gone along with a lot of the typical childhood myths, like the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy, but the Valentine's ritual is the one that bothers me the most.  Each year that I give my kids these false cards to hand out, it normalizes this fake love tradition that serves to enrich, florists, hallmark, and jewelery stores. Furthermore, handing these cards out on mass cheapens the idea that this day is supposed to be about the people we love above all else.  I tried to tell them that I don't need a special day to tell them that I love them, or their father, but they were not able to see beyond the hype that has become Valentine's day.

What if Prince William were gay?

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Though Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th, this year perhaps our greatest celebration of love will occur on April 29th when Prince William, son of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, marries his fiancé, Kate Middleton.  The story goes that Prince William carried his mother’s engagement ring around for three weeks before building up the courage to propose, and from the moment the engagement was announced, the world embraced their supposed fairy tale romance.  After all, young children are indoctrinated early on to believe that one day, a handsome prince will marry a beautiful princess.  This upcoming wedding is the completion of the discourse specifying the Royal Family’s compulsory gender and sexuality roles.

Commemorative items like comic books, China, replicas of the engagement ring, and even the controversial Crown Jewels Condom were quickly marketed to a public that has been consumed with royal wedding fever.  The rush to create a profit from this event shows the heightened importance of the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton as symbols of the nation as a whole.

Prince William was born into a very specific set of expectations due to his royal status.  Along with performing charity work and representing Great Britain at public events, as the prince matured to adulthood, it became his responsibility to find a wife and produce an heir (preferably two children — the heir and the spare) to continue the royal line of succession.  A royal heir to the throne can only be produced through heterosexual marriage, thus elevating the coupling Kate and William to a national standard, which serves to normalize and promote heterosexuality at the cost of LGBT relationships.  The imposed heterosexuality and gender roles have been foisted not only upon the prince, but on every person who has stood in the royal line of succession to the British throne.

Just Another Character in 'Getting Mother's Body' by Suzan-Lori Parks

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

Renee and Sparky have been talking about books this week, which made me think about my own reading experiences. I read a lot of what are often called “trans books” - books by trans people (and sometimes non-trans people) about trans subjects. I also read “non-trans books,” which encompasses pretty much everything else.

But the most pleasant surprise comes when a trans character is incorporated into a book among a variety of characters - when he or she simply has a place among an “ensemble cast,” no more or less outstanding than anyone else in the book. In this case, which exists, but is rare, you don't have a “trans book” or a “non-trans book” - you just have a great book.

And such is the case with Getting Mother's Body by playwright and author Suzan-Lori Parks. This is not a new book. It was published in 2003. But it will always be on my shelf, and it will always make Parks stand out to me as a very special author (but she doesn't need my accolades - she's already won the Pulitzer for her play Topdog/Underdog).