Saturday, February 11, 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.
It Happens To Us Too: Addressing Mental Health Stigmas Among People of Color
Who says I can’t be a Muslim feminist?
Carnival of Aces: Call for Submissions
White History Month
Finley: If life's cheap, murder's not news
Why I'm Pro Choice, and My Boyfriend Is Too
I am the Only American Indian
Apparently, religious freedom = right to break the law and violate employees’ civil rights
Who are the outlaw mothers?
My Perfect Vulva (note: important piece but there is some cissexist language, and the comment section is extremely transphobic)
Will the Catholic Church support his religious freedom?
Personal Decisions, Global Catastrophes: Capitalism is Not Inherently Friendly to Human Life
Friday Hoyden: Madonna
Not Helping: Cornel West Calls Melissa Harris Perry "A Liar," "Fake," "Fraud" In Interview
Black History Month Kool-Aid Sale
How to Be the Black Friend
The Subtle Bigotry That Made Jeremy Lin the NBA’s Most Surprising Star
This Is What Happened to CeCe

Friday, February 10, 2012

Michael Steele Is Right and Wrong About Gay Rights

'P5010385' photo (c) 2009, - license:

After his treatment by the Republican party, for the life of me, I cannot understand why Steele refuses to get on the right side of history.  In an interview with on MSNBC recently, he decided to parrot the ridiculous state rights routine to deny gays and lesbians the right to vote.  It was his contention that theses things need to be decided on the local level, because the federal level would force the issue on him.  I wonder if this fool realizes that without the 1964 and 1965 voting rights act, he would have no say in the government he is so damn concerned about.  I personally believe that civil rights should never be held up to a vote because it leaves historically marginalized people to suffer the tyranny of the majority.  There are somethings that should just be considered immutable human rights, and same sex marriage is certainly one of them.

When John Heilemann decided to ask how Steele would feel of Black men were unable to marry White women across the entirety of the U.S. Steele has the following to say:
First off, let’s just be very clear about a couple of things. There are a significant number of African Americans -- myself included -- who do not appreciate that particular equation. OK? Because, when you walk into a room, I don’t know if you’re gay or not. But when I walk into a room, you know I’m black. And whatever racial feelings you have about African Americans, about black people, that is something that, it viscerally comes out. I don’t know until later on, maybe you tell me or some other way, so don’t sit there and make that comparison. It’s not the same.

The Maude 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.  

Despite what my bio says, I am not just a cultural critic—simply put on this earth to analyze, inform, and hate on all the things that make you happy. I am actually something much more prolific than that. I have been granted a special power that absolves and heals white guilt. Yes, it’s true: I am a race priestess. By divine blessing, I have the power to not only attract white people who need to confess their nonprejudiced, nonracist frame of thinking, but my very essence heals them from the pain and awkwardness that comes with being white and knowing that some white people have done really horrible things to people who look like me. 

There was the older white woman who approached me in the “African-American Literature” section at a liquidated Borders. After telling me all about an episode of Oprah with Terry McMillian, she segued into a story about how she’d always been quite liberal and never had a problem with Black people (or gays!). 

There was the man at a suburban library who noticed my copy of bell hooks’ Killing Rage: Ending Racism and shared with me his experience of working with young Black men in the army. He explained, “I’m not prejudiced, but I was hard on them because they wouldn’t listen. They saw me being tough as being prejudiced. I don’t have a prejudice bone in my body. I don’t have a problem with black people. Black people are humans too; you all put your pants on one leg at a time…just like the rest of us.” 

There was the college professor who chatted me up in the locker room at my gym. She wanted to know my thoughts on why Black people in the 60s didn’t like blues-influenced white rock music. She blamed it on the Civil Rights Movement because, according to her, it taught Black people to be self-sufficient and segregate ourselves. 

*My personal favorite* Though he wasn’t quite looking to defend himself in race court, an elderly man saw my friends and I sitting together at a local Red Lobster (I know, but it was my birthday) and was struck by the fact that “all three races [Black, Korean, and Jewish]” were “sitting together at one table!” He’d “never seen that combination before!” Like unicorns and leprechauns, racial integration is such a rarity in America that when one stumbles upon it, he must stop and marvel. 

Chekhov's Junkshop

'Antique shop - or junk yeard?' photo (c) 2008, net_efekt - license:

Chekhov’s gun is a theatre and literature term coined by Anton Chekhov saying: "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it."

Or, in other words, you shouldn’t have something in the plot if it is not relevant. If you mention something, it should add to the plot, the characterisation, the world building - something. Well, reading Urban Fantasy, we have gone beyond mere Chekhov’s gun. We’re lost in Chekhov’s junkshop. We have so many irrelevant things piled on the shelves, stacked under foot  and hanging from the ceiling, that it is an arduous task to battle through it all.

If you are an avid reader of fiction, I am quite certain that you have come across this little trope. For the life of me, I don’t understand why writers have a tendency to tell rather than show.  This of course results in copious amounts information delivered in the most dry fashion possible, that leads a reader to look at their toilet and think that it would far more fun to clean it, than read another ponderous word.

And when showing really needs to be the norm when it comes to emotion. Aside from the fact we really do not need to know every single little emotional nuance a character feels at every given moment (seriously, it’s like having a mood ring attached to the book), please show us. We can usually infer anger, sadness, etc from their actions, we don’t need to be told - and if your telling us takes the better part of 2-3 pages of moping, for you to adequately describe just how very very sad your character is, then I am going to go find something more interesting to do. Like clean tile grout. And if there is anything worse than telling rather than showing - it is showing AND telling. When I see lines like this: Jane collapsed, sobbing piteously. Her heart was like ash, she never imagined she could ever feel happiness again, she sobbed in misery, her grief almost overwhelming I despair. The minute she was prostrate and sobbing piteously, I knew how sad she was. I don’t need 5 more paragraphs to tell me the sad character is sad.

Speaking of telling, not showing. We know your world is fascinating and interesting and we know you want to tell us about it. But World Building should not be a series of info-dumps. If we want long lectures we can go back to university or dig up our text books - show us the world, introduce us to concepts as they become relevant - don’t treat us to essays. And on the subject of essays - if you have a degree in English literature (or any field) your novel is not the place to show off how many books you’ve read and can quote or how much you know. If you’re that desperate to establish your credentials, include your letters in the “about the author” section.

The really inventive writers then of course get into bed with Mr. Thesaurus in an attempt to make their ramblings seem more important.  This means we get the happy marriage of over written prose, combined with words that no one has used since the 1400’s.  Please, please, if you must bore us with over written pretentious nonsense, for heaven’s sakes at least spare poor Mr. Thesaurus such abuse.  What did he ever do to you, to result in such a continuous beating?  If you must continue to thrash Mr. Thesaurus, may I recommend that you have the decency to at the very least introduce him to Ms. Dictionary.  You see, using a word improperly further throws off your useless prose and makes it even more frustrating to have to slog through, in the hope of somehow magically finding a plot.  Sometimes finding a plot behind all of the info dumping and useless world building is like searching for the one grain of salt in the pepper grinder. 

Read More

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dreaming of Eryn's Sermon

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.

There’s no compulsion in religion and God has sent a message to everyone – so there’s no reason to find faults in the beliefs of others. Think about what you’re saying and how your words will be understood. How they can offend or mislead. Take fasting for example. If you say that we only go out to eat when the sun goes down… people are going to think we’re a bunch of vampires.
I never laughed so hard at Friday prayers. The imam was jovial, frequently engaging women in constructive dialogue during his upbeat pre-sermon talk – which was easy, since we were literally only a few feet away from the minbar. We were in an “open concept” mosque, where women and men shared the same prayer space. It was segregated, but arranged so we could all pray side-by-side. A runner divided the room in half, giving space for people to move in-between the rows without disrupting the sermon or prayer.

Eryn and I chose to pray close to the Hubby instead of joining our friends at the back of the room, where two wings off to each side of the main prayer space provide privacy for anyone who want seclusion. I’ve prayed in the wings once before and liked how they were built with shaded glass at the front – giving people a clear view of the imam and the main hall. I didn’t feel separated from the congregation at all – especially when I used the microphone for people to ask questions.

Now that Eryn is old enough to pray, we both prefer to be at the front near the Hubby so we can worship together. As a family.

Comedian Dave Ackerman Dresses in Black Face to Ask BYU Students About Racism and Black History Month

Dave Ackerman is not saying on his Facebook page that this was a social experiment and that only a few people bothered to point out that he wasn't Black.  He is further comparing himself to Franchesca Ramsey who's Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls Video quickly went viral.  I debated posting the following video but have decided to in order to answer his comparison and his decision to wear Black face.

When Ramsey made her video, she was talking about her lived experience as an African-American woman.  What Ackerman did is no way the same thing. Talking about racism is not now, or ever will be, anything like living with racism.  He may have shown how ignorant and racist the White students at BYU are, as well as the ignorance and internalized racism of Black students but Ackerman is not guilt free in this situation.  There is absolutely no justification for donning Black Face.  The fact that those he spoke to largely did not see his actions as problematic, does not erase the fact that Ackerman went into this experiment with the intent of releasing this video online.  I am highly offended by Blackface, regardless of the context in which it occurs.  His decision feels more like he was trying to be edgy rather than actually proving a point. 

Outside of a historically Black college, I believe that Ackerman would have found the exact same circumstances because education is not invested in teaching Black history or trumpeting Black accomplishments.  To be educated in the West is to learn the oppressors truth.  Those who actually become racially aware, tend to do so through self learning rather than being part of an institution.  Even the additive Black History Month has proven not to be enough to raise consciousness enough and this is specifically why as children of the African Diaspora we need to demand that history of POC be taught from the very beginning throughout the year.  Elevating slave owning, colonizing privileged Whites as the be all and end all example of humanity does not even come close to telling the history of the Americas.

Without further ado, here is the video that has gone viral.  I am very interested to hear your take.

Organic Food and Privilege

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 hate the Organic Crowd. There, I said it. Don’t misunderstand me; there is a part of me – a part that longs for the noisy markets of my hometown and is nostalgic for the days when, in late December, we would pick bunches of red lychees off the tree in my back garden – which it appeals to. However, it is more likely to get on my nerves, especially in the U.S.

One reason that I tend to dislike people who talk about buying organic food – and make sure that you see them filling their carts or inquiring loudly about free-range chicken at restaurants – is that I suspect that many are buying into a fad rather than making these choices as a result of careful research and thorough understanding of the subject. Organic – and so-called whole, raw, vegan – food has been deemed the only acceptable food to eat in the West; not only is it a trend, it is a label. That Whole Foods paper bag and the “Grass-Fed Cows” sticker marks you as one of the Enlightened; one of the good people, who cares about what they put in their bodies, wants to save the cows and trees, and cares about starving children in India. Unlike your lazy colleague, you wouldn’t dream of touching a frozen dinner or run-of-the-mill eggs. No, you make time to cook cage-free eggs in a fabulous frittata because you’re just wonderful that way.

Victoria's Secret Angel Saving Her Body For Her Husband

'Victoria Secret' photo (c) 2011, jmussuto - license:
Victoria Secret model, Kylie Bisutt has decided to walk away from one of the most coveted positions for a model.  Kylie became an angel at the age of 19, just after getting married. She has since decided that her religious convictions will no longer allow her to model for the famous lingerie brand.
“Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise,” she told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modeling lingerie, and lingerie isn’t clothing, I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it because of my faith…

“My body should only be for my husband and it’s just a sacred thing,” she said. “I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.

“It was pretty crazy because I finally achieved my biggest dream, the dream that I always wanted, but when I finally got it, it wasn’t all that I thought it would be. Especially being married I just wanted to keep my marriage sacred because divorce rates now in America are pretty high, and I just want to do everything I can to keep my marriage special.”

“It is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don’t want to do,” she said. “I’ve fallen into many things that I wouldn’t have wanted to do, it’s a very tempting industry.”
I am a big supporter of a woman's agency in terms of her physical body, but I am not sure where I sit with this one.  Christianity is an extremely patriarchal religion.  Womanist and Feminist theologians have had to work extremely hard to find a liberationist theology, in which 'woman' can be empowered, and yet their work is nowhere near a mainstream level.  Week after week, in church after church, sexism is preached as the word of God. Preachers love to quote the Pauline gospel as justification for their sexism.  Thus sayeth the apostle Paul, should be a clue that it's time to leave that church. My click moment in terms of women's activism happened in a church, and to this day, I remember the slut shaming the minister engaged in, in his anti-abortion rant.  This man damn near cost me my faith.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Black Gay and Beaten, What Responsibility Does the Victim Have?

A young Black men was exiting a store when he was set upon by several other men, who were also Black. They kicked him and punched him repeatedly while screaming a gay slur.  At this time, the victim has failed to come forward and so we have not idea whether he is indeed gay, however there can be no doubt that homophobia was absolutely the inspiration for this attack given the slurs that were shouted during the beating.

What follows is a video of the attack.  Please be forewarned that it is extremely graphic as it caught the assault from start to finish.  Trigger warnings apply.

Is Christina Aguilera Latina Enough?

'bts_secretpotion_09' photo (c) 2011, YayA Lee - license:

Okay, I am going to go out on a limb with this one, because I am not Latina.  Huffpo has a piece up today in which Christina Aguilera answers critics who question her personal identity.
Christina Aguilera says she's been criticized for not being Latina enough.

"I've dealt with that [criticism] my whole life," she said in an interview with Latina Magazine. "I don't speak the language fluently. And I'm split right down the middle, half Irish and half Ecuadorean. I should not have to prove my ethnicity to anyone. I know who I am."

In the magazine's March issue, Aguilera opens up about her Hispanic heritage, her turbulent relationship with her father, and her role in the reality talent show "The Voice," which is starting its second season.

"I wouldn't be questioned [about my heritage] if I looked more stereotypically Latina," she said. "Whatever that is. All I know is no one can tell me I'm not a proud Latina woman... I dove headfirst into a Spanish-language album for that reason and I'm planning another one even though I don't speak the language. I'm sure that doesn't sit well with some people." [source]
Aguilera got her start on the Mickey Mouse club, and we all know how friendly Disney is to people of colour.  There can be no doubt that despite her identity as a WOC, that Aguilera exists with passing privilege.  Passing privilege means that she has absolutely been offered opportunities that have been denied to darker skinned women.  This of course is the effect of living in a White supremacist state. The lighter skinned a minority woman is, the more likely she is to be uplifted by the media and this is no different with the Latina community.  That said, Aguilera has one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard, and she is a true diva.

Pennsylvania University Puts "Morning After Pill" in Vending Machines

'plan b' photo (c) 2008, dana robinson - license:

According to News One, the vending machine at Shippensburg University’s Etter Health Center now contains Plan B, along with condoms and decongestants.  The pills are available to anyone over 17, without a prescription, and cost a total of twenty-five dollars each. How awesome is that?  It's about time that women's reproductive choices be treated with ease.  It also frees women having to deal with pharmacists, who seem to feel that they have the right to interfere, and not do their jobs due to religious objections. If that were not enough, some pharmacy's don't even carry the pill, which they justify by claiming that Plan B is an abortion drug.

Obviously, condoms combined with foam are the best way to go, but we all know that things happen and condoms can break. Plan B prevents conception, which is something that is often misconstrued by conservatives, who have a very nasty habit of claiming that it's an over the counter abortion pill and therefore against their religious principals. This argument has never made sense to me.  It seems to me that if one is anti-abortion, that the best possible way to reduce them, is to ensure that pregnancy does not occur in the first damn place. Their refusal to see this tells me that the issue is about controlling women's bodies, and not a dedication to lowering the abortion rate.

I came across the story at Madame Noire, where some of the commenters are concerned that the introduction of Plan B to vending machines will increase the STD rate, and that it will promote unsafe sex practices, because of the ease at which the pill can be obtained. 
ElvisWasAHero2Most: I can see our pro-life friends shaking their fists with anger...

As one who isn't too far removed from school, I have vivid memories of my glory days, running down to the lobby to grab a handful of condoms (even though I'd only need 2 a semester) when the moment got hot.  I wonder would things have been different if my school had a plan B vending machine. 

One backlash that is foreseeable is an increase in the STD rate.  I don't know if it's just me, or other guys think this way as well, but my priority when having sex is making sure I don't birth a seed... I guess that has been my priority because I've always assumed since dealing with college educated women, I won't have to worry about an STD... which yes I know, is stupid as all hell.  However, if these pills are readily accessible, the need for a condom will likely decrease.  Kids will get in the heat of the moment and not worry about a condom since they can avoid that baby the morning after.  Sounds problematic.

Ms_Sunshine9898: It's a good thing and bad thing. Quicker access to it but then it promotes "well we don't need a condom, we can just run to the plan b machine in the morning. . .
Say it with me folks .... horse shit. The more opportunities women have to access contraception, means that they are more empowered to make decisions regarding their reproduction.  Granted, Plan B is not meant to be used specifically as contraception, but we all know that people are not always as responsible as they should be when it comes to their sexual activities.  What the introduction of Plan B means, is that they will not have to have an abortion, or birth a child that they don't want.  Anything that empowers women, is a good thing.

It is also worth noting that whether or not women can access this pill at a vending machine, they can still legally access it, and so I fail to see how making it convenient suddenly is an argument to suggest that it will lead to unsafe sex activities.  Convenience does not mean promotion, it simply means increased access.  Every time something progressive happens in terms of encouraging women's reproductive freedom, the naysayers gather to make their fallacious arguments.  I am particularly troubled that the negativity occurred at a site aimed at Black women, especially considering the historical interference in our reproductive freedom.  We have been sterilized against our will, we have had our children stolen from us, and it seems to me that anything that puts a WOC firmly in control of her body, is something that should be touted, not argued against.

As a woman of colour, I see this machine as incredibly important. It is a well known fact that women of colour have abortions at a higher rate than White women.  There are several reasons for this, but I believe access to Plan B, at a reasonable price, will do much to stem this tide, especially if it comes with increased education on sex.  The more access women have, the greater the chances that they will make the decisions that are best for them.  I see this as a really positive step, and hope that other universities and college campuses follow suit. 

Y’know, being able to ignore homophobia? It’s a privilege.

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’m not going to ignore it

One of the things that I’ve found a lot is that I am frequently required to ignore things.

Now, I’m a polite man. I know there are some things that it is polite to allow to pass without comment. I don’t comment on Great Aunt D’s baking even though I think the UN inspectors may want to visit her kitchens to check for chemical and biological weapons. 

I ignore that when Beloved cooks for us it involves lots of pre-packaged, ready-made food he then tries to pass off as his own cooking. And he burns it (ok, I don’t ALWAYS ignore this, but snark is good for a relationship).

I ignore that my cousins think their lovely daughter has a wonderful career ahead of her as a singer while I think she has a great future imitating albatross bird calls. Or possibly stunning them into submission with her high-allegedly-C.

See, I can ignore things. But I really do draw the line somewhere – and I’m certainly drawing the line at homophobia. And this is rather vexing because it does tend to be the thing most people expect me to ignore.

When people try to convince me that Theresa May isn’t all that bad, and her mini-me figleaf Lyn Featherston – so long as I ignore May’s record of despicable homophobia and hate speech. Can’t I look at her record on X, Y, Z and just ignore the fact she’s a homophobe? In fact, the same applies to Cameron and the majority of the Tory cabinet. Oh and listen to this speech from Baroness Warsi, sure, she said gays were child predators, but can’t I just ignore that? No. No I don’t think I can.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to be a good ally

transcript is below the fold.

Did You Know That the U.K. is for White Folk Only?

Recently, there have been  several instances of White women verbally abusing people of colour on public transportation in the U.K.  What follows is a six minute tirade.

After saying that the passengers come from all over the world, she asks: 'I'd like to know if any of you are f****** illegal, I'm sure 30 per cent of you are. It's taking the f****** p***.'

The woman then becomes aggressive towards the man sitting next to her. 'I hope they f****** catch up with you and shove you off,' she says.

She adds: 'I shall punch you in the f****** face. Ninety per cent of you are f****** illegal. I wouldn't mind if you loved our country.' [source]

Romance Writers, Ink: Showing their Homophobic Arses

'Rainbow Pride' photo (c) 2010, Charlie Nguyen - license:

So, Romance Writers, Ink, an Oklahoma-based chapter of the Romance Writers of America was having a writing competition. It’s called More than Magic and is open to all forms of romance. In fact, so eager where they to include all kinds of romance that they said this:
Our judges are all romance readers. Within that group are RWI chapter members and members of other RWA chapters. We recruit judges nationwide and even worldwide (for e-books) and our only requirement is that they are regular romance readers. They tell us which categories and what “heat” level they prefer to read, so our entrants’ books get into the hands of people who might give them the most favorable rating. Our final round judges are chosen for the diversity of their romance reading interests and enjoyment, sense of fair comparison across all categories, and knowledge of the romance genre.[source]
So, let’s be clear - they will raise mountains to ensure that every and all kinds of romance are accepted and find a receptive audience. No matter how steamy, how explicit, what genre or category they fit in - no matter how out there, they will find a judge to look upon it favorably.

Except any romance with a same-sex couple. No, that’s not allowed and not accepted.

This is something we’ve seen before in speculative fiction. We can expect people to deal with elves and magic and dwarfs, we can expect them to deal with vampires and werewolves and witches, we can expect them to deal with space ships and aliens and phasers with 12078 settings (when all you use is the “kill” option) but gods forbid you include 2 people of the same gender who dare to love each other! That is just going far too far!

In fact, nothing I say could beat the excellent words of Courtney Milan:
Apparently, it’s possible for the MTM contest to get entrants’ books in the hands of diverse judges from multiple RWA chapters who are comfortable with all types of romances and heat levels. You can write M/F erotica. You can write M/M/F. You can write about aliens from another planet who have tentacles, or barbed sexual organs. You can write degrading rapes. None of those things are barred from entry in the More than Magic contest, and if you write them, they’ll try to find judges who are predisposed to like your books. But they won’t do that if you write same sex romance–even if it’s a sweet romance with no sexual contact whatsoever. No–when it comes to same sex romance, the fact that they might be able to identify judges in their chapter or outside of it who would be willing to read same sex entries and judge them fairly somehow becomes irrelevant. In that instance, the majority gets to say that those entries don’t belong.[source]
And why is this discrimination here? Because they’re UNCOMFORTABLE with same-sex romance

Really? You pride yourself on being able to find judges who will look favorably on any romance, no matter how out there or how explicit but you couldn’t find one who could endure the presence of those icky gays no matter how sanitized? Really? What does this say about your membership? And can we say again how gross it is that straight discomfort means that gay people have to be removed and hidden? Because the bigots are uncomfortable our lives get erased from the page? Why, again, does GBLT existence take a second seat to prejudiced straight folk’s discomfort?

The Romance Writers of America has released a statement:
RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA's board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters. [source]
So they want to make it clear they don’t want to meddle with their local chapters. Really? This is the weak excuse? Because it’s several kinds of pathetic. Welcome to the 21st century and get yourself a non-discrimination policy for crying out loud! Why isn’t THAT included under the RWA bylaws? You are accepting these people as part of your organization, minimum behavioral standards should really be part of the membership process - otherwise your name gets affiliated with, say, homophobic bigots. This is basic PR, this is basic common sense. Are you really going to give your name and endorsement to people without any controls of their behavior? Do you value your name, your brand, that poorly?

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Are You Reading?

'Book collection' photo (c) 2006, Ian Wilson - license:

Since I first learned out to sound out words, I have been a voracious reader. I was thrilled to find out that many of the regulars here at WM are readers as well.  It's been a while since I posted one of these threads so I thought that we were about due.  What books are you reading and would you recommend them to us? 

Do Marginalized People Need to Turn the Other Cheek?

Last year, I wrote a piece about Destruction's thoughts on Disney's Peter Pan. He was incredibly disturbed by the movie, because of the racism in it.  Yesterday, it received a new comment and since the piece is now buried in the archives, I have decided to elevate the comment for the purposes of discussion.
Your kid has the capacity for common sense that has eluded the world for centuries. However, is it not just as bad to return racism like that with hate as it is to be racist in the first place? He recognizes the need to stop the racism, but it's your job now to teach him how to deal with it. Taking a militant standpoint only makes things worse. Nonviolence. Kill ignorance with kindness.
Hir comments were restricted to race, because the post itself was about race; however, I think that this conversation can and should be made broader.  The suggestion that Destruction not become militant is an exhortation that is constantly aimed at historically marginalized people. Think about how the GLBT community has routinely been charged with pushing a militant gay agenda by homophobes. The gay agenda has been constructed as actually threatening to heterosexual people. Consider for a moment how the fight for gay marriage has been responded to with the suggestion that it will somehow harm heterosexual marriage. The women's movement continues to be subject to the exact same sort of discourse, even as they tell us they we are over reacting to things like rape culture.  Rush Limbaugh has made quite a living for himself attacking women's activists and suggesting that they are militant. When Disabled people protested the ableist, Jerry Lewis, they were called a militant angry fringe.  Whenever historically marginalized people respond with anger, they are accused of working an agenda or of being overly militant.

With any marginalization there comes a point when one comes to awareness of where exactly one stands.  For POC, we begin in an environment of love with our parents and over time, as we venture into the world, we become aware of what it is to be a person of colour in a White supremacist world.  For gays and lesbians, they begin to notice that something is different about them, and once they realize what their sexuality is, the awareness of what it means to be gay or lesbian in a homophobic culture quickly takes hold, as they deal with the issue of coming out or not, or negotiating the various oppressions aimed at them.  For trans people, there is the dawning awareness of realizing one's internal gender, does not match the outward gender, and what it means to be trans in a world in which cis bodies are privileged.  With this comes of course the consideration of coming out as trans, whether or not to transition, and of course all of the oppression that comes with being trans. With disabled people, there is the realization that the disability itself exists, and then negotiating a world that is not built with us in mind. No matter the ism, there is a point of coming to awareness with it, and a decision of what to do next.  The next step will be different each group, but what they all have in common is that any fight for inclusion, equal rights, or freedom from oppression will inevitably be viewed as militant, and quickly dismissed by the ruling classes.

AZ Rep. Cecil Ash Wants A Day to Celebrate White Folks

If you went to school in North America, chances are that you are very well versed in the history of Whiteness.  You will have learned that White people are responsible for anything that is good in this world, and that people of colour exist to be colonized, stolen from, enslaved, raped, impoverished, and purposefully undereducated.  There isn't a single agent of socialization in which Whiteness does not have a hegemonic presence, and this means that POC must actively fight to have our stories told, or to have any form of positive representation.

Rep. Cecil Ash, a Republican from Mesa, is suggesting Arizona needs a holiday for white people.

"I wanted to speak to you all about Latino Americans here in Arizona," said state Rep. Richard Miranda on the House floor Monday, starting the conversation that sparked the controversy.

Miranda said Arizona should have a Latino American day in Arizona.

After some heated debate, Rep. Cecil Ash stepped up to the mic.

"I'm supportive of this proposition. I just want them to assure me that when we do become in the minority you'll have a day for us," Ash said.
"Yes, I think it was appropriate. It was appropriate for the mood that was in the House and I think that if and when the Caucasian population becomes a minority, they may want to celebrate the accomplishments and the contributions of the Caucasian population the same way," Ash said.

Ash went on to say the state should acknowledge the accomplishments of great people, no matter their ethnic background. [source]

The people who are safest in this world are the most privileged

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. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti.

No, seriously, are there safe communities?

Perhaps my post at the beginning of last week was an inauspicious beginning to the week with everything that went down with SnowdropExplodes. I do find it ironic beyond belief that I began the week at WM reflecting on whether or not there are safe communities. I also drew an analogy to the feminist community and how often it alienates the people it purports to help (women). Mere days later? My point was proved (on both accounts) (and in case anyone is wondering? I’m also not a feminist).

And I'm not just talking about feminism. My purpose in the other post was to discuss the problems with trying to build moments based on identities. About how this leads to identity policing and this over investment in the terms. It was also about the notion of safe spaces and communities. And how I don't believe this exists.

A constant criticism throughout the whole Schwyzer business has been about how it makes Feministe an unsafe space for women. Similar arguments have been made about Renee's decision not to ban SE from commenting. All this about ensuring that WM is a safe space for women. Should it be? Could it be?

Part of this is premised on the notion that Renee (or anyone else) should be able to prevent the incursion of predators into communities. Of course, I'm not trying to be specious in discussing possible predators, when we are discussing actual predators. Yet it highlights my point. Renee didn't know and  SE has been participating on this site for years. Which means that, for years, a predator was within this space. Are you shocked? Surprised?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Congratulations For Creating a Token

Okay, so I am still pissed off and want to address a few more things before moving on.  It's no secret that over the years I have had a few online altercations, with different people over various issues. Over the years, White feminist women have engaged in a common rebuttal that I would like to address. Whenever there is a disagreement, the stock phrase has become even WOC don't agree, and you don't speak for all WOC.  Sometimes, it's a case of there are WOC in our group and you are erasing them with your charges of racism, or there are WOC in our group, and you are not acknowledging their existence.

Here's the deal, if you have to run behind the skirts of a WOC to base your defense, you have effectively turned them into your token darky.  Just because you can find one or even many WOC to take your side, does not mean that what you did, or said is not racist.  It's like declaring something isn't racist because your best Black friend said so. Having WOC in your group, does not necessarily make it a safe space for all WOC to engage, or give you some kind of inclusive street cred for you to wave around.

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  I know it's shocking, but it's time that someone told you.  All WOC, though we share the oppression of race and gender, do not think a like. We are individuals and this means that we are capable of disagreeing with one another and frequently do.  Having WOC in your group does not mean that it is not a hostile place or harmful.  Did Condoleezza Rice make George Bush's administration Black friendly?  Should I agree with everything that she did in her term in office because she is a Black woman?  Finally, does Condoleezza represent all Black women because of her race?

I am not going to go through the name calling, because I know that the guilty parties are well aware of who they are.  I bring this up because I am sick to death of seeing it as a defense, and the racist nature of it disgusts me. Turning the POC in your group into a defense mechanism, is tokenism and it shows that you have no real respect for who they are as people. Your argument either has merit, or it doesn't.

The second most frequent response I get is the charge that I hate White women.  I often chuckle when this happens, because nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout history, White women have been given a pass on their racist actions. It's quite true that because of patriarchy their ability to make systemic changes has been limited, but that should not stand as a reason to ignore the various ways in which White women work to maintain their White privilege. I am in the business of talking about systemic isms and that means no one gets a pass.  Pointing out that a White woman has done or said something racist, or discussing the ways in which they can be racist, eg., White women's tears, or purse clutching, is not a declaration of hatred, but a statement of truth.  I see no reason to ignore something that actively oppresses me, simply because the action came from a White woman.

To blog one needs a very thick skin, and I think this is especially true in the social justice blogosphere, with the mob like mentality of many of its participants.  There seems to be this pervasive belief that group think is necessary for participation. This is absolutely counter to who I am and what I believe in. Mistakes require one to prostrate oneself and at any moment. A mistake you made years ago will be thrown into your face, as though your worst day is representative of who you are as a person.  None of you are Jesus for me to beg eternal salvation from. The level of perfection demanded is ridiculous.  This is especially true because decolonizing one's mind is a lifetime journey.  In many ways, it reminds of the way we treated convicted criminals.  We stigmatize them, refuse to hire them, and then have the nerve to complain about the recidivism rate. I'm not saying that we as marginalized people are required to accept an apology, or that we are responsible for own oppression, but what I am saying is that living in glasses houses, as though each of us not guilty of oppressing someone, in some way, is counter productive.