Saturday, January 28, 2012

Drop It Like It's Hot

Hey everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  I think that there were some really great conversations that challenged a lot of what has become normal discourse.  Please remember, we cannot always agree but it is important that we stay respectful and committed to listening to each other. Talking at each other, rather than to each other, get us nowhere.

I am still looking for new contributors.  Though I can write about a myriad of things, we all learn best from the people directly negotiating a particular ism.  I am particularly looking for someone to discuss fatphobia and class critically but I am very open to other ideas. Please be aware that womanist musings also has an open guest posting policy, so please feel free to submit a piece or a cross post from your blog.  You can reach me at womanistmusings (at) gmail (dot) com

Below you will find a list of posts that I found interesting this week.  Please be aware that a link does not necessarily mean an endorsement of the article, just simply that I found something about the piece interesting.  Please be aware that I don't read the comment sections so read those at your own risk.  Well start spreading the love, and when you're done, don't forget to drop it like it's hot and leave your link behind in the comment section when you are done. 

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”
Haunted by The Handmaid's Tale
Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More than Marriage Equality [Report]
My Life: the modern Muslim woman is who she chooses to be
Why I'm an anarcha-feminist
Announcement: 2010 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival Now Accepting Submissions
Gay People Over the History
Call for Submissions: Forum on Mental Health and Illness
Shit Racist Republicans Say About Black People

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Marriage-Industrial Complex

April Scissors is a writer and cultural critic. She works to explore and uncover the historical and present implications of faulty representations of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups in politics, popular culture, and media. Find more of her work at and on 89.5fm in Chicago where she is a frequent guest and contributor.  

Two nights ago, I dreamt it was my wedding day. The florist dropped off the flowers in Styrofoam to-go boxes; the caterers wanted to know if and where they could smoke weed before the reception; guests asked me to pour them a Coke; I was overcome with emotion that people I’d never spoken to in college were there to celebrate my big day; and the entire cast of Martin showed up. Finally hitting my breaking point, I cried to Martin that everything was a mess (and I didn’t even know who I was to be marrying). He gave me a hug and in a high-pitched voice mocking me, apparently, he repeated the mantra I’d always given him when things got tough. “Whenever I’m having a bad day, I just put five drops of glitter on my face and everything’s better!”

I woke up to make sure there wasn’t a gas leak in my apartment that would’ve caused me to dream such nonsense, but then I began to process why marriage would even be on my mind. Marriage, and more specifically the politics of marriage is everywhere—with the spotlight unforgivingly resting on Black women. Since Barack and Michelle Obama waltzed through their inauguration—looking blissful, accomplished, and in love—a near obsession has taken hold of mainstream news outputs from CNN to the New York Times about why Black women have such low marrying rates compared to other women. Largely spearheading that conversation has been Steve Harvey—the thrice-married comedian whose advice errs on the side of Black women should consider dating men 15-20 years their senior. He’s been on Frontline, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and more recently, Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show explaining to the world what (Black) women are doing wrong and how they can get right when it comes to love.

To counteract those images of the Obamas, the media engaged in a massive “anti-black woman campaign” to let Black women know that what the First Family has is an “anomaly.” They responded with this statistic: 70% of Black women are single. So for the last few years scholars, scientists, and journalists have been asking “why can’t all these beautiful, successful Black women get married?! Everybody else can!” Theresa Lasbrey calls it “The Obama Effect.” The unspoken message becomes: “Black women, please do not think you’re going to get that fairytale. Your men are in prison, uneducated, and the ones who aren’t only like white women. So there. Go sit down and watch Martin.” 

Hollow Characters of Colour on Lost Girl

Okay, sit for a moment, folks and let us consider the side characters of Lost Girl. What can you tell me about them?

Well, Kenzi. Kenzi’s awesome. We’ve met her aunt steeped in old Russian folklore, and we know she had problems with her mother and ran away from home.  We know she had to hustle and run cons to get by. We know she maintains contact with numerous dubious figures from her time living on the streets. Now she even has a boyfriend who she is on tour with, a boyfriend she has had a long history with and knew in childhood. While she is light and frivolous, we know a lot about her history, goals and desires.

Dyson? well we’ve seen Dyson’s story back and forth in many a flashbacks. he’s been a warrior for an ancient king, he’s lost his best friend (and loved his best friend’s wife), considered making deals with the Norns, and has an ongoing relationship and history with Ciara. While he is very taciturn, we know quite a lot about his history, goals and desires. Including the fact that his junk can cure cancer (yes, Kenzi is awesome)

Trick? oh there’s so much to know about Trick. He’s clever and wise and has a long history as the blood king. We know about his wife who died tragically, and we know he used his great power to stop the fae fighting amongst themselves. While he is ever a mystery figure, we know quite a lot about his history, goals and desires.

Lauren? We know about her girlfriend, Nadia and her driving passion to free her from her coma. We know how she fell into the Ash’s hands after Nadia was cursed - and we know why and how Nadia was cursed. We know that she was a doctor doing research in Congo - we know quite a lot about her history, goals and desires.

Hale? We know... we know... hmmm... we know...? Well, we know he comes from an aristocratic family - but only because it was briefly useful to Bo & Co for one episode (even more ironically, even this revelation was to coerce him into doing something he didn’t want for the sake of the rest of the cast). And in the very same episode, we learned that he wanted to avoid Fae politics (and, therefore, becoming a character of note) so became a police officer. Other than that? Well we know he’s a Siren? yes, that basic bit of knowledge we know about every fae within 5 minutes of meeting them.

And that’s pretty much it.-- he’s been part of the show since the pilot,  and he’s still a completely empty character. It’s not even a mystery - mystery would imply that there is something hidden we want to know - I don’t think any of the other characters (or the writers) even give a damn. He’s just a hollow character. He only shows up when he is needed, his only actions are to serve the rest of the cast. We know nothing about his history, goals and desires. I don’t even know if he has any.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear Ian Somerhalder Missing Black People Are More Important Than Cats

I know that I said that I was taking a sick day, but I came across something on twitter that angered me so much that I was forced to write a post.

Anyone following Ian Somerhalder on twitter will quickly discover that he has a passion for animals and the environment.  He is constantly tweeting to raise awareness or to encourage funding for various groups that deal with either the environment or animals.  Obviously, these are extremely necessary and worthy causes.  In fact most would be hard pressed to see where this kind of activism falls short.

Somerhadler recently linked to a cat slaying in Arkansas.
This past week, The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher attacked this country’s great media divide. He embedded with South Carolinians of differing political viewpoints and tracked their divergent news diets. “There’s more campaign news and commentary out there than ever before,” writes Fisher, “but more and more citizens are tucking themselves inside information silos where they see mainly what they already agree with.”

For further evidence of this phenomenon, try pumping “liberal dead cat arkansas” into Google News. Those search terms fetch a chilling and apparently partisan story from Russellville, Ark. The skinny is this: Jacob Burris, the campaign manager for Arkansas Democratic congressional candidate Ken Aden, found his family’s cat slain in front of his house, the word “liberal” painted on its dead body. (source)
Obviously this crime is heinous and represents a break of trust between humanity and animals.  I was in complete agreement with Somerhalder's desire to raise awareness until I read the following:

At this moment, my blood began to boil.  He expects police officers to seriously investigate this matter, and then even went as far as to promise to start his own investigation, if they didn't follow through.  Gee, whatever could be wrong with Ian dedicating himself to hunting down a cat murderer because of police neglect?  Well, I will tell you what the problem is. At this moment, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of missing people of color whom the police in their infinite wisdom have not bothered to investigate. When a White child goes missing, the amber alert flashes, and the media reports on the missing child repeatedly.  The blonder and prettier the child, the more likely that the alarm bell will ring.  Obviously, these categories specifically exclude children and women of colour.
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Sick Day

My fibro has been flaring for the last week and each day I have pushed myself to keep working.  When I woke up this morning, even my eyelids hurt I knew that my body was demanding a couch day.  I hope to be back tomorrow folks.  It just simply hurts too much to type today.
take care and be nice to each other,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GoDaddy Kicks of Super Bowl Sexist Advertising With the Release of their Commercial

I am not a fan of football whatsoever, and so I don't get caught up in the ridiculous sports hype.  My only interest in the Superbowl comes from the growing dread as it gets closer, because I know that many advertisers take this opportunity to release racist and or sexist ads.  Advertising space during the Superbowl is extremely expensive, and so advertisers have to get their message across as succinctly as possible unfortunately, far too many choose to rely on an ism to sell their product, ignoring that the same marginalized people that they are attacking are potential customers.

How does Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels painting their symbols on a naked woman sell the quality of hosting services from GoDaddy?  Are we to believe that if we get hosting from GoDaddy, that our site will suddenly be sexay and attract a lot of traffic?  How exactly does tech, equal naked female flesh?  None of this has to make any sense, because in a sexist society, the idea of co-opting women's bodies has become so normalized that no real message or connection to the product is needed. Women's bodies are sold to promote everything these days.

PeTA Hopes to Turn O.J Simpson's Home Into a Meat is Murder Museum

'O.J. Simpson White Bronco Toy - 1994' photo (c) 2010, - license:

Now that O.J is in jail, he is obviously experiencing cash flow problems.  His home is about to go into foreclosure, and PeTA of course is hoping to capitalize on this event.  Before getting into this, I feel the need to say upfront that I have no sympathy for O.J.  Though he was not convicted of murder, there can be no doubt that he beat his now deceased wife Nicole Brown Simpson repeatedly, leaving her body with unspeakable bruises. No man that raises his hand to a woman is worthy of any kind of empathy.

O.J is apparently owes $725,000 on his house, and this figure includes overdue principal, interest, fees and penalties. Considering that he is now serving time for kidnapping and armed robbery, due to an extremely foolish attempt to reclaim his own items, it's clear that this house will soon belong to JP Morgan Chase. PeTa is hoping that JP Morgan Chase will either agree to give them the home, or sell it to them for a nominal fee, in order for them to turn it into a Meat is Murder museum. Has your stomach turned yet?

Ingrid Newkirk presented her justification in the following statement:   
"Our museum will remind visitors that violence may not always be preventable but that it sometimes can be prevented and that nonviolence begins on our plates." 

"For instance, many wonderful flesh-and-blood individuals—who feel pain and fear as acutely as humans do and who value their lives in much the same way—are knifed to death every day for nothing more than a fleeting taste of flesh."

Tim Wise on BlackinITUP

I am normally not a fan of promoting the work of White anti-racists, because I feel that the profit from the very racism that people of colour are forced to endure each day.  They are granted expert status, while we are constantly questioned about the validity of our lived experience.  Tim Wise, who have had issues with in the past, sat down with Elon James White, L. Joy Williams and Aaron Rand Freeman, to promote his latest book and talk about race relations in 2012, and the ever evil and backward Ron Paul.

Please be forewarned that Wise does make a troubling analogy regarding survivors of abuse victims but has acknowledged the problematic nature of his commentary on twitter.

Editors Note:  I apologize for the lack of a transcript, but my fibro is flaring again, and I simply cannot do a 40 mins transcript today.

Professor Charles Francis Xavier the SuperCrip

Note: I have not read the comics and so all of the commentary in this piece is about the Xavier I have come to know in the multiple X Men movies.

Last week, I wrote about talking to my child about appropriation, and this conversation began during a viewing of the first X Men movie.  At the time, I mentioned the ableism in the film, and since have received emails questioning this assertion. I believe that the best place to start this conversation is with a discussion about Professor Charles Francis Xavier.

Let's begin with the fact that Xavier is both White and male.  Disabled people are often erased from pop culture, but in the few instances in which we appear, we are far more likely to be portrayed as White and male.  Just as in any other oppressed group, the White male is the one who is most likely to rise to the top and to be visible. Not only is Xavier White and male, he is well educated and has class privilege.  I am aware that his disability occurred when he was a young man, which of course gave him plenty of time to use his various privileges to accumulate wealth.

I know from personal experience that going from an able bodied experience to a disabled one is extremely difficult.  There is the constant reminder of the things that you can no longer do, and of course dealing with the ableism that suddenly becomes an active part of ones life.  We never get to see Xavier's struggle with this change. He is far to busy trying to avoid the potential of a war between mutants and humans.  He never really experiences disableism, despite the fact that he is a wheelchair user. He is looked to as a leader by all who surround him.  Even the major antagonist Magneto, clearly respect Charles, though he disagrees with his position on mutants.

Charles is one of the most powerful mutants, and his abilities were not hampered by his disability in any way.  There is no challenge that Charles cannot overcome with the help of his X Men and cerebro. While more accommodations would lead to greater opportunities for disabled people, the fact of the matter is that the world is not designed for us, and the accommodations that Charles has managed to create for himself, are a direct result of his class privilege.  It is not an accident that Charles rarely has forays outside of his mansion that are visible on screen, where he has to face a world in which not even his great wealth can over come the institutional ableism of society.  Xavier never has to deal with the fact that disabled bodies make people uncomfortable. I highly suspect that we never see this simply because it would detract from the powerful leader that he has been constructed to be.  Seeing him having to struggle to get something from a shelf, or coming across a door that does not automatically open at his presence would make him appear weak in the minds of many, though what it would represent is the reality of an ableist world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dan Savage Has Been Glitter Bombed and the Response is More Transphobia

"Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives."
-Oscar Wilde

I have to admit that I have tittered with glee each time that I have read that Dan Savage has been glitter bombed.  Savage was glitter bombed before his appearance at the Vogue Theater in Vancouver on Jan 21.
A group of six activists, who named themselves The Homomilitia for the event, said they confronted Savage as he entered the theatre through a back-alley entrance.

In an interview with Xtra after the confrontation, activist Fister Limp Wrist accused Savage of "ableist, racist, transphobic, fat-phobic, sero-phobic and rape-apologist attitudes and views." Activists handed audience members bright pink pamphlets outlining their accusations as they entered the theatre.

The Lavender Menace hands out a pamphlet accusing Dan Savage of transphobia and other "dismissive to downright hateful" behaviours at the Vogue Theatre.
(Gareth Kirkby)

They are building on the work of trans activists and friends of trans people who glitter-bombed Savage at university appearances in Eugene, Oregon, and Irvine, California, last November. At one event, an activist threw a heavy glass jar at Savage's face after leaping on stage. Savage managed to duck despite having glitter in his eyes and escaped what one audience member described as "a concussion or worse."

Queer activists have historically used glitter-bombing as a tactic against conservative politicians and high-profile anti-gay bigots, Vancouver protester Lavender Menace notes. Asked if she lumps Savage in with such people, she says people have different ways of contributing to oppressive systems.

"Savage is taking on being a speaker and leader in this movement. We have to take that into account," she adds. "He's part of a broader [group] of gay, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied gay men focused on gay-marriage priorities. We want to say those priorities are messed up." (source)
I have chosen to stay out of the conversation because I believe that this is what I like to refer to as a family business matter, i.e. a conversation between members of the GLBT community.  I have no expansive comment on Savage being glitter bombed, but I do have a comment on the trasphobic reaction to this.  The way to prove that Savage is not transphobic, is not to dismiss the pain of the trans community or to engage in transphobia.  The following are a few comments from the Xtra article to highlight the problem. Please be forewarned, that all of the comments are cissexist and include the usage of anti-trans slurs.

Red Hook Summer and Why Spike Lee Isn't a Racist.

'Spike Lee' photo (c) 2004, Danny Norton - license:
At the Sundance film festival, Spike recently premiered his independent movie, Red Hook Summer.  Spike has had several problems over the years getting funding for his films, and I firmly believe that at least part of the issue, is Spike's commitment to telling our stories without the coonery that is featured in the typical Tyler Perry film.  To be clear, Spike's male privilege has at times made some of his work problematic and in fact, other than She's Gotta Have It, strong female roles have been few and far between. Even She's Gotta Have It, includes a rape as punishment for failing to agree to a monogamous relationship.

The reviews for Red Hook Summer have been decidedly bad. I have not seen the movie, so I cannot argue any faults or biases the reviews may contain.  In the question and answer period, Spike Lee and Chris Rock had a verbal scuffle.
Rock, who appeared to be joking around, said, "You spent your own money ... What would you have done differently if you'd actually gotten studio money? What else would have happened? Would you have blown up some (bleep)?"

Lee, apparently unamused, responded, "We never went to the studios with this film. I bought a camera and said we're gonna do this mother(bleeping) film ourselves. I didn't need a mother(bleeping) studio telling me something about Red Hook! They know nothing about black people! Nothing!" Lee then added, "And they're gonna give me notes about what a 13-year-old black boy and girl do in Red Hook? (Bleep) no!" [Source]
I have to agree with Spike when he points out that no White studio head has the slightest clue of what it to be a 13-year-old Black boy and girl.  This is especially true if we consider the class aspect that the movie seeks to interrogate.  These White men of class privilege are only interested in the bottom line, and not about depicting the true experiences of kids of colour, or even why such movies are desperately needed. 

A negative reaction has become common place to much of what Spike says or does. The following are some comments on the discussion between Spike and Chris Rock.

There Shouldn't be Rules to Being GLBT

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.

Rules, rules, rules.

So many things you must do or mustn’t do. All the hidden rules of being marginalised, the hoops you have to jump through, the constant checking and second-guessing.

There are things you don’t do out of fear to pandering to various stereotypes. We all know those rules – I don’t comment on clothes or fashion (partly because I don’t care, but it has reached a level of pretending to not even knowing what Versace is and gods’ preserve you if you actually know Jimmy Chos are shoes). If I’m decorating any room it is carried out in the utmost stealth because 2 gay men cannot possibly be seen to be involved in interior design without it being a gay thing (we live in a cave. Yes, a cave with rough hewn rock walls. Paint has never ever entered our home, honest). Music choices must be carefully vetted in case they reveal to much disturbing gayness. And while a straight man wearing pink is mature and secure in his sexuality, Beloved going out in that ghastly pink shirt is just seen as a gay man being extra gay. And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve bit my tongue because I fear being seen as a catty, sarcastic queen (and, believe me, giving up sarcasm is an epic sacrifice).

Of course these seem comic, but there’s a lot of trouble behind them, the second guessing of your actions, the checking of stereotypes (I’ve been accused of stereotypes I never even knew existed. And I’ve given up on hair – there is absolutely no hair length or style you can possibly wear that isn’t somehow “gay”  apparently) the constant push not to be boxed. Because all it takes is one stereotype too many and you’re not a person any more – you become a gay.

And, of course there’s the flip side – because if you avoid all of them then you’re not a REAL gay man, no, go too far and you’re trying to be straight, or trying too hard or closeted. Then there’s nothing for it but to crank the Cher, reach for the glitter and find yourself a feather boa.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How (Not) To Write About Black Trans Women

This is a guest post from the always awesome Monica of Transgriot

Karnythia of the Angry Black Woman blog had an interesting post I ran across entitled How To Write About Black Women in which she slammed all the tropes, memes and blanket statements aimed at Black women when others outside our community write about us.  

One group she didn't mention is Black trans women, and here's where I was inspired to pick up the baton and happily run with it where Karnythia left off.  

(Moni cracks knuckles)  

Let's get started with this post, shall we?

Only acknowledge the existence of Black transwomen when we are murdered or the victim of a crime, salaciously involved in some scandal or news story you wish to highlight, during the November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, you wish to pump up your Nielsen ratings during sweeps week or you wish to use us to insult Black cis women you hate

Ignore the African descended trans activists who have toiled for decades to represent our community or have eloquently written about those issues for years because only white transwomen do that.  Don't bother quoting Black transwomen on issues of importance to the rainbow community at large, write positive stories about them speaking on trans issues or believe there are engaged Black transfeminine leaders involved in fighting for the human rights of their community and others.

More on cis and trans* outside of the West

Biyuti is a Bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. He also blogs at The Biyuti Collective.

Part of this post is intended to highlight the importance of context for understanding certain topics. It is somewhat known in the trans* community that there are non-Western cultures that recognize more than two genders. What is generally unknown (or at least unexplored) is what implications this has for the trans/cis distinction.

I know that some people cut this distinction along the lines of experiences of body dysphoria. This can be a fairly easy way to make a fairly clear distinction between who counts as cis and who counts as trans*, since it often appears to be a large part of the trans* narrative (or, at least, those narratives which are heard). There are, of course, problems with using body dysphoria as the divider, since it emphasizes the more medical aspects of transition and puts a strange emphasis on the body. This latter is important because it is also part of the trans* narrative that gender is best understood as being unrelated to bodies.

Other people will demarcate this distinction using dis/agreement with your (coercively) assigned gender. To a certain extent this means that being trans* becomes somewhat more of a function of how *other* people perceive you and not about how you understand yourself. Because your (coercively) assigned and the gender role that accompanies it (and what you don’t agree with) is a product of external factors it fits within the notion that gender is socially constructed and not a property that inheres within certain types of bodies.