Saturday, February 4, 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. 

The 44th Down Under Feminists Carnival
White Women’s Rage: 5 Thoughts on Why Jan Brewer Should Keep Her Fingers to Herself
Q&A VIII: This is piece includes a definition of asexuality along with some basic 101 info.
Must Read: "Notes from an Occupation 14: Shock and Awe! Or: How I learned to stop loving the motherfucking Police and start loving Oakland (part 1?)"
The Golden Handcuffs of Gay Rights: How Pinkwashing Distorts both LGBTIQ and Anti-Occupation Activism
Fat News!
bad parenting: how much slack should we cut parents?
Free Willy:Should prison inmates have the right to masturbate?
‘Slavery By Another Name’ Director Gets 2-Min Standing Ovation at Sundance
Birthing While Black: An Experience I'll Never Forget
Canadian MPs Allegedly Snicker and Mock Trans Screening Concerns in Parliament
Cancer Sucks, Pink is Profitable, and Cures are Magically Blameless
Choosing Abortion and Sex Selection: Two Different Moral Problems
Two Families, One Crime, And One Hard-Earned Right
 URGENT: Help Find Missing 10-week-old Baby Girl
29 Days on Drugs – Day 2: The President’s Pot Problem
Based on the colour of one’s skin
Dear Massa, Thanks But No Thanks
Disabled Refugees: Vulnerable, With a More Limited Safety Net
Mitt Romney & The Mormons: Will He Come Clean on the Curse of Cain Doctrine?

The Vampire Diaries Season Three: Episode Thirteen: Bringing Out the Dead

When I reached the end of this episode, I kept thinking that the writers probably saw this episode as a real game changer, and then proceeded to laugh my ever lovin' ass off.  I don't even know where to begin talking about it.
Last episode, Damon finally got smart and pulled the dagger from Elijah's body, and sent him back to Klaus, with a note in his pocket informing him that they needed to have a chat.  This is exactly what Elena should have done when she returned the vampire cheerleader known as Rebekah to Klaus.  Elijah comes out of his coffin swinging, but then Klaus promises to tell him everything, and reminds him of his oath of loyalty to him. 

Before going off to meet with Klaus, Damon and Stefan have yet another spat, in which they both agree that they don't trust each other.  This of course has everything to do with Elena, because clearly they have both acted numerous times to protect each other from the threat of other vampires.  Beyond being a beautiful young woman, I simply don't understand the fascination with her.

This week, sheriff Liz got pulled out of the plot box long enough to tell Elena that the dagger they found in the dead man, only has her fingerprints on it.  Suspicion is immediately placed on Meredith, but Elena casts that aside, simply stating that she does not believe that Alaric can have that kind of bad luck with women.  Yeah logic, she has none.

In the meantime, it seems that Bill Forbes was attacked and killed when he was in the hospital, but because Dr. Fell had injected him with vampire blood to cure his wounds, he is now essentially a vampire.  All he needs to do to complete the process is to consume human blood. The ever so noble Bill decides that he would rather die than become a vampire.  Don't you love how self preservation instincts just flew out the window there.  I have never liked Bill and his aversion therapy, but he is the only gay character on the show, and I am disgusted that the writers so easily killed him off.  I am further disgusted that he choose suicide, because  he couldn't live with what he had become, in a culture in which gay teens are committing suicide. Is anyone who isn't a minority ever going to be in threat of dying on The Vampire Diaries?

Caroline decides that she is going to force Bill to drink blood, but Elena intervenes to lecture her about respecting Bill's choices.  Really?  Is this woman for real?  Since when does she support a policy of non interference? This is a woman who has had Jeremy's mind cleared out, and his memories erased on more than one occasion, though she knows that he is specifically against this.  All of a sudden she is advocating for the bodily autonomy of another.  I suppose that because this didn't effect her, and the people that she supposedly loves, allowing them to choose is no big deal. Hypocrisy much? Elena does take care to point out that she knows what Caroline is feeling, because her father is also dead. Funny, I don't remember Elena having to watch as her father chose to die, but yeah, she can empathize with everyone.

Caroline stays with Bill and he comforts her by saying that no parent is supposed to outlive a child, and that this is what it means to be human. Oh Bill, so noble until the very end.  He dies as Caroline holds his hand, and Liz watches with tears in her eyes.

In the meantime, who should show up but Matt.  They really need to give his character his own storyline or get rid of him.  What purpose does he serve?  At Elena's house they walk in and find that Alaric has been attacked and there is blood all over the house. Elena begins to cry and is upset because she can't lose anymore family.  She asks Matt to wait with her for Alaric to wake up. Question, how come the magical ring worked this time, but the last time it failed and Alaric had to have some of Damon's blood to live?  I suppose consistency is not something the writers are big on.  It turns out that the good doctor was in surgery at the time of Alaric's assault, and is now officially cleared of attempting to murder the council members. Ooooh the smell of more mystery and yet another bad guy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blake Lively and Transphobia at Elle

I am starting to believe that Elle simply courts controversy in the hopes of selling magazines.  It engages in actions that are so clearly problematic, that I don't believe for one moment that they are not aware of what they are doing.

This month, Blake Lively appears on the cover of the magazine. Included with her cover, is of course a the obligatory cover article.  I would like to focus on a snippet of what Lively had to say regarding motherhood.
"I hope to have a few girls one day. If not girls, they better be trannies. Because I have some amazing shoes and bags and stories that need to be appreciated." (source)
Where to even begin with this hot mess? I suppose the obvious place to start would be her callous use of a trans slur.  Blake joins Neil Patrick Harris and Lance Bass as celebrities who have recently very publicly used this slur. There is never a reason or situation in which it is acceptable to use a slur.  The T word is not obscure, and trans* communities have been very vocal in making sure that cisgender people are aware that this term constitutes a slur and causes harm. To use this word is to purposefully attack and degrade trans* people.  In the case of Bass, he made a point of saying that his trans friends who use this term, and that he therefore felt that he had the right to.  This very much reminds me of when White people decide that it's okay for them to say nigger or nigga, because some Black people do.  The basic rule of thumb should be that if a slur does not apply to you, and it cannot specifically debase your humanity, then you have no right using it, or commenting on how the effected community chooses to negotiate it. If that were not enough, Bass went on to say that he did not get the memo, which reflects his cis privilege.  It is not an excuse to say that one did not know that the T word constitutes a slur, when trans*people have been saying so loudly for a very longtime. If he didn't know it's because he actively chosen not to listen.

I am the mother of two sons, and have made no secret of the fact that when I got pregnant that I wanted girls.  I have since dedicated myself to raising womanist sons and could not love and respect my boys more. I do not understand Lively's claim to want to have trans children, if they are not born cisgender girls for the purposes of having an accessory. This is not positive, nor does it deal with the issues of rejection that defenseless trans children face everyday.  You don't wish for a trans* child so that you can have a pet, or a captive audience.  To carry this idea one step further, I also feel the need to point out that this yet another example of Adult privielge. Lively's comments show a complete disrespect for children and their ability to teach us, even as we help to guide them on their journey to adulthood. It is also worth noting that if the only reason you want a girl is to teach or how to dress up pretty, then a lot of work needs to be done understanding the nature of patriarchy.

Existence is not Entitlement, Erasure is not Acceptable

'Right Through The Invisible Man' photo (c) 2011, Matthew - license:

As we have often made note of in this space, Urban Fantasy, Dystopian, Horror, and Steampunk is often filled with the erasure of GLBT people (note: a universal erasure applies to trans people) disabled people and people of colour.  The default as with all forms of media is to fall back on the most privileged bodies at all times. And it’s wall to wall - not only will the protagonist always be as privileged as possible, but so will most of the people who surround them as well.

And in the few cases were marginalised characters do exist, all is not rosy. It’s very rare for us to get more than a single token character; in fact, sometimes we’re lucky to get that - often we will see the odd marginalised face in a crowd scene, or someone referred to in passing without any real ‘screen’ time at all. When we do have them, the characters are often hollow. They have no real traits or personalities, no goals, no personhood - they’re just a placeholder for the necessary inclusion cookies. And, were that not problematic enough, usually they exist to serve the privileged protagonists - side-kicks, best friends, entourage, never people in their own right.

Of course, in the few occasions when they do have some traits, they normally fall into ridiculous, stereotyped tropes that are hardly progressive and serve to further “other” them while maintaining the supremacy of privileged people.

As we have mentioned in the past, gatekeepers do effect the ability of writers to include historically marginalized characters; however, they are not solely responsible for the dearth of representation.  Just like everyone else, writers are born into a discourse that privileges certain bodies and unless they have made a conscious effort to decolonize their minds and consider a world which may be outside of their lived experience, the tendency to repeat dominant social narratives becomes normalised. Even with writers who are aware of this phenomenon, they often fall into the trap of hunting for inclusion points by introducing the gay uncle or a wise negro to fulfill what they deem to be a quota rather than investing in these marginalized characters to the same degree that they invest in characters that come from a dominant sub group.

And this erasure costs. Our children grow up forever seeing themselves as not worth talking about, their stories not worth telling. And when they see themselves? They see themselves as less, or they see some caricature that’s supposed to be them but is barely human. This is why even today when Black children are asked to take the “doll test” they routinely invest the White doll with all positive traits and the Black doll with negative traits. Children learn at an early age to internalize the negative images and messages created by media, and this inevitably follows them all the days of their lives.

For GLBT youth it is equally as perilous.  This erasure teaches them that who they are is filthy and inhuman.  It also feeds into a culture of homophobia, which encourages bullying -- which we have seen has lead to a high rate of GLBT suicide, depression and self harm. It further encourages a closeted existence because erasure teaches that GLBT are not to be visible or part of society in any way, shape or form.

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Regarding SnowdropExplodes and Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer

When I addressed the issue of SnowDropExplodes and his piece about rape yesterday, I assumed that it would be the last word, but unfortunately, I have to address this yet again.  I will start off by informing everyone that though I have left the option open to him, SE has decided to cease commenting on Womanist Musings. In an email, he stated the following: 
I also feel that I should respect their wish for me not to comment in future at your blog, which it seems to me should be a safe space for the people closest to womanism, and enough of them say that they feel that my presence in any form negates that.   I will continue to read and learn, but will not comment.   If it matters, do not feel that this is "shutting me down", any more than I would feel shut down by being refused entry to a women-only space.   I have always felt it is my place to listen more than talk.  
I will of course respect his wishes. I trust that this settles the matter of those who were concerned about the safety of this space. This includes those who don't actually read or comment on WM, but have decided to suddenly engage in a swarm because this is the hot topic of the moment.

When I created Womanist Musings, there were very few people talking about Womanism, and it certainly has a much higher profile in the blogosphere today than it did four years ago. This however does not mean that women of colour are uniformly treated with equality and consideration,  or that the label of Womanism is treated with any kind of dignity or respect.  Womanism isn't just feminism 2.0.  There is a lot more involved. And just because Alice Walker, who coined the term Womanism, identifies as both a womanist and a feminist does not mean that we all do.  There are various forms of womanism and each one has its own specific set of organizing principles. But then, feminists would know that if they gave a damn about the various ways in which WOC organize.

Womanism is an extremely important facet of my identity.  I think I have proven this over the years through my work on WM and Fangs For the Fantasy.  I have lent my voice to various issues over the years, which I have deemed important, but this has still won me no accord in the blogosphere.  Most recently, a Facebook page was started entitled Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer in response to the Feministe debacle. I tweeted several times in support of this group and fended off an attack on Twitter because of my support.  When I was asked to write a piece in support of the group, I spent an entire weekend crafting a piece in response to Hugo's Jizz post on Jezebel.  I was up for over 24 hours researching and talking to various people to make sure that this piece was the best that I could make it. Granted, the piece I ended up writing was not the one asked for, because I was initially approached to write a piece about Hugo's effect on WOC -- as though the request in and of itself was not just as racist as anything Hugo has done.  Why is that only women of color are asked to talk about race issues?  Are we not qualified to write on other topics?  Do we have nothing else to contribute to the conversation?

There is also the fact that the name Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer is exclusionary because many women who do not identify as feminist have problems with Hugo.  In fact, there was a discussion when the page was created as to whether the name should change so as to be more inclusive to those who do not identify as feminists, yet the name remained. After all, why let a little thing like respecting the identities of women interfere with speaking on behalf of all women?

I bring this up because this same group that I supported, Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer, decided to start shit on Facebook and create a discussion entitled How liberal feminists deal with misogynistic predators in the feminist community. Even when they were informed that I don't identify as a feminist, they decided to keep calling me one, and belittle my identity as a womanist.  I was referred to as a "joke." Then I was informed that womanism and feminism are not mutually exclusive.  There is truth in that statement, but that determination is up to the woman who is carrying the label.  Some, like Alice Walker, choose to use feminism and womanism interchangeably, while  others have chosen to eschew the label of feminist because of the ongoing racism within the movement.  I fall into the latter group and have said so plainly FOR YEARS.

Incidents like this are exactly why I will never, in a million years, ever identify as a feminist again.  The moment you don't agree with the great feminist horde, they take it upon themselves to belittle you as a person. How feminist is that, exactly?  I didn't expect everyone to agree with my decision, but I did expect respect after the years that I have dedicated to social justice, and I especially expected it from a group that sought out my support and my writing for their cause.  But I suppose that is still too much for a disabled WOC to ask for. How dare they just take to their little corner to attack someone who has in the past supported them without any engagement?  Had it not been for a friend of mine, I never would have known about their little dive bomb mission.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Southlands Regina King WOC in the Media

'regina king' photo (c) 2007, sagindie - license: of the reasons I tune into Southland each week is for Regina King.  Though there are a lot of women in prime time television there are not a lot of women of colour staring in roles that reduce them to cheap stereotypes. Regina King plays, Det. Lydia Adams.

Lydia grew up in the hood and she is not policing it.  I do at times have a problem with the things she asserts in character like drugs and criminality being a choice, because Lydia was able to pull herself up by her bootstraps but I fully recognize that the message of meritocracy is something the media is very committed to despite the fact that it is in many cases impossible to achieve a positive shift in class location.  Considering that minority actresses and actors are often forced to say lines that are abhorrent to keep their jobs,  the character of Lydia is far from the worst of examples that appear on television.

Lydia lives with her mother and she has an active sex life for which she does not feel any shame.  She is committed to her job and she is good at it.  My only question in terms of casting has to do with the fact that in the last two seasons she has very specifically been cast with a partner of colour and it feels a little like racial segregation.

If we didn't live in a White supremacist, patriarchal society the fact that Regina King plays Det Lydia Adams, there wouldn't really be worthy of an comment.  The truth of the matter is that King is a rarity in mainstream entertainment despite the so-called post racial world and African-American president.
“I’m just really thankful to have the chance to portray a character you don’t see every day,’’ said King in between filming. “I have women come up to me all the time and say that exact thing to me. They say they love my character and how she is a real woman with a real career that they believe. People love to see themselves on screen in a way that makes sense and seems on point.”

“I’ve tried to be flexible in my career by doing a little bit of everything and that’s worked for me,” says King. “It’s incredibly hard out there for women of color. That’s why I do love being a woman of substance on Southland. Someone who isn’t a caricature and isn’t a stereotype. But remember she wasn’t written as a black character and that makes a big difference in how she can be portrayed.”

King credits the writers and producers of TNT and Southland for encouraging the development of characters based on true human portraits and not on preconceived notions and ideas.

“We’ve all worked together to make Lydia an interesting person that isn’t based on being a girlfriend or sidekick on the show, which is something totally different in terms of writing and acting,” said King. “It’s great to work and have those kind roles, but it’s also great to have the key scenes and be the key character. It’s good for it to be about you sometimes.’’ (source)
What we should be asking is why King is the exception to the rule rather than the rule?  It's not just Black women that are subject to this sort of erasure?  Where are the women of colour in primetime, who are playing characters of substance?  If you turn to reality television, we exist to either be the token Black girl (I'm looking at you Bachelor), or we exist to be shamed for being ghetto, angry, loud or just generally unwomen?  There is a much greater chance in seeing a Black woman show up in an episode to be a prostitute, drug user, or an abusive mother.

On the Difficulty of Writing Non-White Characters

Nomade is a 23-year-old Mauritian graduate student living in the United States. She is interested in the areas of Francophone culture, bilingual identity and post-colonialism. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, painting and writing fiction.

I have always loved to write stories. I also find it impossible to write about non-white people, even though I am of predominantly Indian descent. For many years, I felt guilty every time I replaced Anekha and Suresh with Jessica and Paul. Try as I may, I could not bring myself to write the same story with characters that didn’t sound or appear White enough. Their names felt strange on my tongue, even though I grew up with more Preeti’s than Kelsey’s. They did not seem to belong in my fictional universe; I could not imagine them feeling the things that my White characters did, having the complex relationships that they did and leading such interesting lives. Even more problematic were physical descriptions; the beautiful heroine could never have brown skin, black hair or dark eyes. Even though I was surrounded by women with these features, women that I considered beautiful, they refused to translate into my story. The heroine was always fair-skinned, with red or blond hair and unusual – violet? – eyes.

Even today, as I force myself to draw on the authentic world I grew up in and acknowledge my own experiences when writing fiction, my first impulse is to write about a Mary-Jane with long blond hair. Why? I believe that there are several reasons for this, some of which are very personal but others which I think are common to other writers of color. First, although I spent my childhood and adolescence in a predominantly non-white country with a majority Indian population, my experience was somewhat atypical. I grew up with parents linked to the West in more than one way; European ancestry, European educations and pasts. This meant that much of the media that I was exposed to growing up was Western; books written by American and British women, films featuring white actors, magazines filled with white fashion models and blonde Pop idols. Some of these were inescapable, even for others who had a more traditional upbringing; I remember girls having an obsession with looking like Britney Spears, bleaching their black hair and investing in bright blue contact lenses.

Regarding Snowdropexplodes

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence. 

On Monday January 30th, I cross posted a piece by Snowdrop Explodes, entitled What happens when it is abuse? BDSM culture, safewords, and the abusers within.   I am a longtime reader of his blog A Femanist View.  I specifically sought permission to cross post his piece because BDSM is not a topic that I am very familiar with, and I thought that his piece raised some very salient issues regarding consent that did not specifically stigmatize the BDSM community, while asserting the importance of bodily integrity of all involved.  It was on strength of the aforementioned points that his piece appeared on my blog.

In the comment section, it was brought to my attention by several commenters, that  Snowdrop Explodes has a secondary blog.  On said blog, a few years ago, he had written a piece, describing an incident in which he assembled a rape kit and stalked a woman, with the intent of raping and murdering her.  He did not in fact follow through with his intention. He claimed to have posted this piece in order to encourage other men not to rape and blamed this incident on depression.

When this was made public on Womanist Musings, he then wrote a secondary piece  on his blog A Femanist View, in which he reasserted his reasons for writing the original post, and once again, claimed his depression as the major reason that this happened.

I was absolutely shocked when this piece came to light, as I had no idea that he has a secondary blog, let alone wrote something of this nature.  As a rape survivor myself, I found this confession extremely hard to read.  I feel that his past history makes his work, unsafe for this space and I apologize to all who were triggered.  His intent in writing that piece may have been good, but really, such a confession does not encourage men not to rape, and it fact it reads like a shared rape fantasy that is disturbing on many levels.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rickety Bridge Scenario

Hey everyone, my boys are off school for the day and the unhusband is off work, and so I am taking the day to spend time with my family.  I know that there are issues that need addressing, but I will deal with them tomorrow.  In the meantime, I would like to leave you with a clip of my nephews band Rickety Bridge Scenario.  Cal is playing lead guitar and singing.  I think they're awesome, and I am not above bragging.

See ya tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Being a Maid

'Movie Projector' photo (c) 2008, daryl_mitchell - license:

I recently wrote about the small blow up between Spike Lee and Chris Rock in regards to his movie Red Hook Summer. James McBride an associate of Lee's has written a response piece on the 40 acre and a mule site that must be read.  I would like to share with you a snippet.

America is a super power not because we make the biggest guns. We’re a superpower because our culture has saturated the planet: Levis, Apple, Nike, Disney, Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Jazz, Rhythm n Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, and Hip Hop. Our culture dominates the world far more than any nuclear bomb can. When you can make a person think a certain way, you don’t have to bomb them. Just give them some credit cards, a wide screen 3D TV, some potato chips, and watch what happens. This kind of cultural war, a war of propaganda and words, elements that both Hollywood and Washington know a lot about, makes America powerful beyond measure. The hard metal of this cultural weaponry, much of it, emanates from the soul of Blacks, the African American experience in music, dance, art and literature.

But this kind of cultural war puts minority storytellers – Blacks, Asians, Latinos and people of color – at a distinct disadvantage. My friend Spike Lee is a clear example.   Three days ago, at the premiere of  Red Hook Summer at The Sundance Film Festival, Spike, usually a cool and widely accepting soul whose professional life is as racially diverse as any American I know– lost his cool for 30 seconds. When prompted by a question from Chris Rock who was seated in the audience, he blurted out a small, clear truth: He said one reason we did Red Hook Summer independently was because he could not get Hollywood to green light the follow-up to “Inside Man” – which cost only $45 million to make and grossed a whopping $184,376,240 million domestically and worldwide – plus another $37 million domestically on DVD sales. Within minutes, the internet lit up with burning personal criticism of him stitched into negative reviews of “Red Hook Summer” by so-called film critics and tweeters. I don’t mind negative reviews. That’s life in the big leagues. But it’s the same old double standard. The recent success of “Red Tails” which depicts the story of the all black Tuskegee Airmen, is a clear example. Our last film, “Miracle At St. Anna,” which paid homage to the all-black 92nd Division, which fought on the ground in Italy, was blasted before it even got out the gate. Maybe it’s a terrible film. Maybe it deserved to bomb. The difference is this: When George Lucas complained publicly about the fact that he had to finance his own film because Hollywood executives told him they didn’t know how to market a black film, no one called him a fanatic. But when Spike Lee says it, he’s a racist militant and a malcontent. Spike’s been saying the same thing for 25 years. And he had to go to Italy to raise money for a film that honors American soldiers, because unlike Lucas, he’s not a billionaire. He couldn’t reach in his pocket to create, produce, market, and promote his film like Lucas did with “Red Tails.”

But there’s a deeper, even more critical element here , because it’s the same old story: Nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens. And therein lies the problem of being a professional black storyteller– writer, musician, filmmaker. Being black is like serving as Hoke, the driver in “Driving Miss Daisy,” except it’s a kind of TV series lasts the rest of your life: You get to drive the well-meaning boss to and fro, you love that boss, your lives are stitched together, but only when the boss decides your story intersects with his or her life is your story valid. Because you’re a kind of cultural maid. You serve up the music, the life, the pain, the spirituality. You clean house. Take the kids to school. You serve the eggs and pour the coffee. And for your efforts the white folks thank you. They pay you a little. They ask about your kids. Then they jump into the swimming pool and you go home to your life on the outside, whatever it is.  And if lucky you get to be the wise old black sage that drops pearls of wisdom, the wise old poet or bluesman who says ‘I been buked and scorned,’ and you heal the white folks, when in fact you can’t heal anybody. In fact, you’re actually as dumb as they are, dumber maybe, because you played into the whole business. Robbing a character of their full dimension, be it in fiction or non fiction, hurts everyone the world over. Need proof? Ask any Native American, Asian, Latino, Gay American, or so called white “hillbilly.” As if hillbillies don’t read books, and Asians don’t rap, and Muslims don’t argue about the cost of a brake job. 

Now seriously, after that you know that you need to read the whole thing right?

Really, Liz Lemon? Am I the only one who thinks Tracy Morgan's homophobia shouldn't be comedy fodder?

I am a writer, black woman, bibliophile, music lover, nappy head, geek, eccentric, Midwesterner, wife, stepmother, sister, aunt and daughter. I am a liberal progressive. I believe in equality...of gender...of race...of sexuality...and I believe in working PROACTIVELY toward same. I am anti-oppression. I believe in justice for ALL. (Knowing that, you may label me as you wish.) I am a genealogist and I believe there is strength and knowledge to be found in the lives of our ancestors. Good living, good food, good music, good books, good people and good conversation turn me on. In this space, I celebrate and discuss all that I am and all that I love. Tami can be found at What Tami Said.

'tina_fey' photo (c) 2007, Andreas Matern - license: night's episode of 30 Rock made like Law & Order and ripped a story from the headlines. It played on the real-life backlash against series star Tracy Morgan after he made violent, homophobic remarks during a summer stand-up performance in Nashville. In last night's show, Morgan's Tracy Jordan character mades a dumb remark about homosexuality during a performance and attracted the ire of the gay community. And ensued?

I think the decision by Tina Fey, Morgan and the writers at 30 Rock to tackle this real-life controversy was a bad one. By doing so, they diminished Morgan's earlier apologies and added insult to injury.
(Relevant content is at the beginning of the clip)

When Does Light Bright and Damn Near White Become a Problem?

The gorgeous and super talented Thandie Newton has been cast to play an Igbo woman in the film adaptation of Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel Half a Yellow Sun.  Thandie Newton is a bi-racial woman whose father is White and mother is a Black Zimbabwean woman. Shortly after Thandie was cast a petition was created in protest.

The petition reads:
Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The novel chronicles the lives of several characters during the course of the Biafran War that took place in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. Tribal conflicts between the Hausa and the Igbo initiated this Nigerian Civil War, which led to the genocide and starvation of over 3 million people. The main characters in this book are Igbo. Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, and they were also the main victims of this horrifying war. Upon hearing that Half of a Yellow Sun, a wonderfully written book, would be adapted for the big screen, I like other Igbos were extremely excited. However, I am disturbed by the casting of Thandie Newton as an Igbo woman.

Igbo people, like any other people range in physical characteristics as well as complexion. However, the majority of Igbos are dark brown in complexion. Igbo people do not look like the bi-racial Thandie Newton. Thandie Newton is an accomplished and talented actress in her own right. However, she is not Igbo, she is not Nigerian, and she does not physically resemble Igbo women in the slightest.

As a result, I have created this petition to demand the following things:

1. The use of Igbo men, women, and children, who look like the majority of Igbo people (which means brown in complexion) in the leading roles of the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's, Half of a Yellow Sun.

This petition is important, because we live in a world where mass media sells us the belief that white, and anything close to white is right, and black is not only wrong, it is unattractive, and undesirable. We are indoctrinated into these beliefs consciously and sub-consciously through media images. Like many other countries in Africa, Nigeria suffers from the epidemic of skin bleaching. Many Nigerian women buy lotions, to lighten their once dark skin to become lighter. This practice has not only severe medical side effects, it is preaching an acceptance of self hate. The media plays a large role in how people, especially women view themselves. The casting of Thandie Newton as an Igbo woman is not only false, it helps promote the idea that light skin and curly hair is the only way black woman can be represented in the media, because that is the only way they are attractive. This casting choice is an abomination to Igboland.

This petition is not an attack on Thandie Newton or bi-racial people. It is simply a demand for accuracy and authenticity.

Failure by the producers of Half of a Yellow Sun, to meet these requirements will result in the failure of everyone who signs this petition to support Half of a Yellow Sun when it is available in theaters or for purchase.
This petition focuses on some very important issues in terms of representation of Black people in the media as well as perpetuating the dark skin/light skin divide.  The truth of the matter is that we are far more likely to see a light skinned woman representing Black women, no matter what kind of media that we look at.  When dark skinned women do appear, that are far more likely to be exoticicized, constructed as violent, angry or decidedly unwomanly.  As the documentary Dark Girls reveals, these messages have been internalized to the point that many Black people find dark skinned women ugly and look upon it as a curse.  It is not uncommon for children growing the same household who have different hued skins to experience radically different treatment based on favoring of light skin.

The Reality of GLBT Genocide

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.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in the UK the 27th of January was National Holocaust Memorial Day. A day to remember, think about and discuss that terrible atrocity, the victims and other genocides since then. In particular it’s a day to acknowledge what has happened without hiding and a day to realise that persecution and hatred are ongoing problems (problems? I feel there needs to be a word beyond problems. Problems seems so inadequate when dealing with such enormity)

And these issues are certainly issues, thoughts and conversations that concern GBLT people

I’m surprised to this day at the number of people even today who do not realise that GBLT people were victims of the Nazi holocaust. I’ve actually had angry people chide me for demeaning the severity of this genocide by mentioning GBLT victims, or even that GBLT people were appropriating this horrific atrocity. They didn’t know their history, they didn’t know where the pink triangle came from, they didn’t know the story of GBLT people in the concentration camps.

Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising I guess. When the camps were liberated, in a moment of what I want to call irony (though the word seems far too mild), several gay prisoners were re-arrested –because, of course, all of the liberating powers considered it a crime to be gay. Naturally, the pensions and reparations available to holocaust victims were not available to GBLT victims. Being gay remained in a crime in Germany until 1969. Some, many, holocaust memorials and museums do not include the gay victims.

It wasn’t until 2002 that Germany acknowledged that GBLT people had been victims of the holocaust. It was 2005 before the European Parliament acknowledged that, yes, gay people had been holocaust victims.

That’s an awfully long gap.

But the point of National Holocaust Memorial day isn’t just to recognise past genocides, but also to recognise the seeds we are sewing today, seeds of hatred, of persecution –  and, yes, future genocide. And that is something we definitely need to think about – and definitely something with vital GBLT issues.

We need to talk about genocide.

Now, normally when I mention genocide when talking of the persecution of GBLT people I usually get a bunch of cis, straight people jumping in to chide me on my over-dramatic or disrespectful language. My hyperbole. My ridiculously emotive and inaccurate word choice. Tut-tut, genocide, really, I'm going to go there? I'm going to use the big bad g word? How could I?

Well, y'know what, I want to ask why the rest of the world ISN'T using this word?

Think about it. If we said a country was enacting a law where if you belonged to a certain religion/ethnicity/culture/people/nation/etc then you would be hanged – what would you call that? If they could prove your existence they killed you and the only way to avoid death is to hide the fact you belong to said group? Where people who sheltered you, or hid you or failed to report your presence would face death or imprisonment?

Monday, January 30, 2012

What happens when it is abuse? BDSM culture, safewords, and the abusers within

 SnowdropExplodes self-identifies as a straight-ish White MAAB tubby bitch, and (most days) uses male pronouns and identification.   His belief system is largely made up from communism, Christianity, and wisdom derived from science fiction TV and novels.   He's been kinky for as long as he can remember, but only spanks you (or lets you spank him) if you ask nicely.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of sexual assault and (especially in the Salon article linked) rape apologia.

I've seen this mentioned in several places today, and feel that I cannot allow it to go past without making some comment.

Salon has a piece up which is about women within the BDSM scene campaigning to have the problem of abuse in BDSM recognised by the community.

I have read the original piece by Kitty Stryker that is referenced in the article, and been sickened by it. Sadly, I am not surprised by the allegations she makes (except, perhaps, that she hasn't met any submissive women who haven't been victims - but if she says that it is so, then I believe her). I have been a reader of Maggie Mayhem's blog and something rings a bell about what the Salon article says, so I may have read another piece by her about these issues, referencing her experiences.

I cannot comment on the "Bay Area scene", except to say that from other reading and descriptions elsewhere, it sounds a lot different from the scene with which I am familiar. That doesn't mean that there are not similar problems in my area.

I believe their stories because I believe that there are abusers in every subsection of society, because there are abusers in society at large. Any culture that has power dynamics will have abusers seeking to acquire power and then abuse that power. That's how come there turn out to be a lot of abusers in the Roman Catholic Church, for example. It may seen contentious to say this, but I don't think that the Roman Catholic Church is anything unusual.

So, there's a problem, and stuff needs to be done about it. My big problem with this is that my instinctive reaction when I read something like Stryker or Mayhem's criticisms is to say, "Well, I'm not like that! Don't blame me!" As I'm sure you can see, that is a very unhelpful response. I may not be like that, but the question instead is what am I doing to stop others being like that, and I have to admit, not a huge amount. In fact, the biggest thing I am doing is just believing the stories when they're told. In mitigation, I am somewhat marginal in my local area scene and just don't have the opportunity to witness abusive behaviour in it very often, and therefore to do anything about it. The other thing I do is try to drum home the message about "enthusiastic consent", the importance of a safeword, and so on. And I am vigilant with myself to see that I do not screw up and break someone's boundaries (and if I make a mistake, I realise quickly and apologise, and back waaaay off). This is not enough, but I feel like I haven't the wherewithal to do much more at the moment.

As Stryker admits, it is very hard to be vigilant against abuse in the community when people are constantly trying to shut the community down with the accusation that BDSM by its very existence is abuse. It's pretty hard when the law in this country is still officially that SM play is illegal.

One thing that I think is really important to recognise and to counteract, is the culture that inhibits safeword use. Whatever the naysayers' claims, I know and have seen (and have encountered first-hand when playing with previous partners) the belief that to safeword is somehow "wussy", "not submissive enough", or even, "topping from the bottom". A lot of the time, I feel as though this is something that bottoms bring with them and with their preconceptions of the power-exchange dynamic. But I think there are many ways in which community standards actually seem to send the signal that a safeword is an unfortunate necessity, rather than a valuable tool that should be used. And, of course, those abusers in Dom's clothing will work subtly (or not so subtly, in a lot of cases) to send the signal that using a safeword is not quite the "done thing". That is something that really does need to be countered.

Are There Safe Communitites?

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.

So... I’ve been thinking more about my posts on WM these past few weeks and a thought occurred to me while looking it over...

The whole notion behind a common umbrella term as a means for political organizing and solidarity is not only in danger of creating a hegemonic notion of identity but also just plain lazy. This is a slow realization that dawned on me the more I thought about it.

How and why is it lazy? Well, if I pick on feminism again, we can point to what we know of it’s history. Feminism, more or less, was used and intended to be used as the umbrella term for all women fighting for liberation and equality. Now, we already know that in the early 80s (or thereabouts) that Black women, among other WoC, began to speak out against this. About how the notion of ‘woman’ constructed and centred in feminism was white (and middle-class and cis and TAB etc). And, to this very day, any non-white, disabled, nuero-atypical, poor woman who criticizes feminism will get called out for being divisive. For splitting the movement. (btw, I’m not linking to examples, because there are too damn many and y’all can educate yourselves if you don’t already know).

Why Are We Talking About Octavia Spencer's Weight and not Her Work?

I have yet to see The Help.  I simply cannot bring myself to watch yet another movie in which a Black woman plays a maid, regardless of how many awards the movie, or the actresses win.  Spencer won best supporting actress at the SAG (screen actors guild) awards.  This is an exciting moment for any actress, and in the case of Spencer, carries with it a host of racial issues, and yet People Magazine decided to focus on her weight, by choosing to highlight the following quote:
"I am not healthy at this weight," Spencer, 39, said backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she won a best supporting actress trophy. "Any time you have too much around the middle, then there is a problem. [And] when you reach a certain weight, you are less valuable."

But Spencer, who also won a Golden Globe, says that Hollywood should be more accepting of actresses of different sizes, including those who are extra thin.

Blaming "society" for the stigmas attached to looks, Spencer adds, "I feel for the overly thin women as much as I do for the overweight women. It ... has to change."
First, let me start by saying that she is right about the constant policing of women's bodies. Women are forever seen as imperfect and in need of change no matter how thin, or how beautiful they are. This of course keeps women unbalanced and helps the bottom line of the diet and exercise companies. I am however disappointed to hear Spencer declare herself to be unhealthy, because of the weight and shape of her body.  I believe that what she should be focusing on is HAES (health at any size)  As long as you are eating a moderately healthy diet, and are excising, there is no reason to believe that one is unhealthy simply based in size.  The media has done much to perpetuate the idea that unless one fits into a very narrow standard, that one is unhealthy, and therefore undesirable.

Sometimes Mommies and Daddies Need Time Alone

'Vat of Condoms.' photo (c) 2010, Holly Williams - license:

I have always said that once you have a couple of kids, they function as great birth control.  Every time the unhusband and I get close to each other, one of them ALWAYS needs something.  Last week, the unhusband had gone to lie down because his back was hurting and he wanted to stretch out.  After about 30 mins, I decided to join him thinking that a mid day cuddle might be nice.  Within five minutes, Mayhem was at the door yelling, "what are you two doing in there? Can I come in?"  We told him no.  One minute later we again heard, "but I'm bored and I want to come in," to which we again answered, "no".  Every few minutes for the next 15 minutes, the same exchange happened.

It finally ended when Destruction came upstairs and said to his little brother, "Mayhem, sometimes mommies and daddies just need to spend a little time alone." The unhusband and I giggled, while Mayhem continued to let us know that it was not fair that we were in our room playing without him.  Being the awesome kid that he is, Destruction took Mayhem to his room and they watched a movie on Netflix, until the unhusband and I decided to get up.

As soon as the bedroom door opened the questioning began AGAIN.  This time however it came from Destruction. "So, what were you two really up to in there all that time", he asked.  We were just cuddling and talking the unhusband answered.  "Are you sure?" Destruction queried? "Umm yeah," the unhusband said, before he walked into the shower.  A look of mistrust crossed Destruction's face, but he let it go.

It took me awhile to figure out what was up with the questions and then it dawned on me that he thought that we were having sex.  Of course you know I absolutely lost it laughing.  If only he knew that he was just as responsible as his brother for the decline of our sex life in the last 10 years.To be honest, I don't know how the Duggars managed to have so many kids.