Friday, February 24, 2012

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

'Question mark' photo (c) 2009, Konrad Förstner - license:

Hey readers, it's been awhile since I have done the Friday question.  A dear friend of mine recently came out, and he was a heavily closeted person.  I would very much like to give him gift to commemorate this big news, but I have run into a blank slate. I am a very tactile person and I love to have tangible things to help me remind me of big life events, and I would like to do the same for him.  So, do you have any suggestions for gifts?  I am open to about everything, but am particularly interested in books, movies magazines etc.,  So, what would you give your friend to celebrate him coming out?

Paranormal Cinderellas

'Cinderella's Royal Table' photo (c) 2010, HarshLight - license:
Looking at so many Paranormal Romance series the title of this post isn’t just a cheesey line from an 80s hair band (don’t judge my taste in music), but for the female partner in so many of these stories, an accurate summation of their lives. Time after time, we see these women live unpleasant, hollow, painful or just plain dull and uninspiring, hopeless lives and suddenly, all is saved and rescued by the man - who is sexy and exciting and magical and special and gives them a reason to live again! One could call it, saved by the penis. We see it so often - in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, Anya Bast’s Elemental Witches, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series, Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling Series, DB Reynold’s Vampires in America Series and so many more - this post was actually getting ridiculously long from the examples we were adding

In Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series we have Grace Alexander (the worlds most unqualified sex therapist, all sad and lonely), Amanda (messy break up, arsehole ex, actually dedicated to making her life as dull and boring as possible), Astrid (the justice nymph who has lost her faith in their being any innocent men in the world), Cassandra (literally on the run for her life, hunted by Daimons and doomed to die in a few months anyway), Bride (bad breakup, low self-esteem), Susan (career and love life in tatters): even Marguerite (living her father’s expectations, not her real life) and Tabitha (aimless and drifting) were somewhat lost.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood - I’ve already touched on in detail, but again we have Beth, Mary, Marissa, Bella, Ehlena, Cormia, Payne - the same pattern, women with miserable, unfulfilled and generally unhappy lives before their men swoop in. They’re lonely, they’re sad, they’re desperate - they’re even ill or severely injured (Mary, Payne) or shunned and ostracised (Ehlena, Marissa) and frequently they have been physically rescued from kidnapping (just about every damn one of them).

In Anya Bast’s Elemental Witches, Mira has a dead end job, has come from a messy divorce and doesn’t even know she’s a witch. Isabelle exists for revenge and has no life outside of avenging her friend (which she doesn’t even achieve!). Clare is a demon’s handmaiden and is, yes, rescued into a completely new life and Sarafina? Yes, again rescued from kidnapping.

And do I need to talk about Nalini Singh Psy/Changeling Series? The Psy women are living in societies that are slowly destroying them and repressing them. They’re cut off from their emotions and Faith and Sascha are literally being driven insane by the lives they are forced to live. In fact, except for the 2 shapeshifter women, Indigo and Mercy, all of the women of the series are being rescued or healed from something.

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American Dervish: a book review

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.
"The months that followed were witness to a series of spiritual experiences that would remain singular in my life, all revolving around the Quran and my evening study hour with Mina. I would leave her room feeling lively, easily moved, my heart softened and sweet, my senses heightened. Often, I was too awake to sleep, and so I took to my desk—white muslin still bound to my head—to continue memorizing verses. After long nights like these, the mornings were not difficult, as Mother warned when she would find me at my desk past ten o’clock.
If anything, these mornings were even sweeter: the trees stippled with turning leaves and bathed in a glorious light that seemed like much more than just the sun’s illumination; the white clouds sculpted against blue skies, stacked like majestic monuments to the Almighty’s unfathomable glory. And it wasn’t only beauty that moved me in these heightened states. Even the grease-encrusted axle of the yellow school bus slowing to its morning stop at the end of my driveway could captivate me, its twisting joint—and the large, squeaking wheel that turned around it—seeming to point the inscrutable way to some rich, strange, and holy power."

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to identify with a work of fiction. To have my thoughts and cultural experiences splayed out so nicely by a complete stranger. To have my ideas about religious interpretation and understanding shared beyond the blogosphere – and actualised in the imaginative words and deeds of colourful, intense characters.

Often while reading American Dervish, when I wasn’t snickering at the humour, rolling my eyes with the characters or gaping and cringing at the more sensitive and emotionally intense scenes, I was usually nodding my head and saying, “yes, exactly.” More than once I’d look around for a book club because I so wanted to share and deconstruct the issues Ayad Akhtar has raised in this wonderful novel.

American Dervish is a non-traditional “coming of age” story – where each character takes his or her own journey to discover themselves and what it means to be American and Muslim. Taking place in Milwaukee during the 1980s, Pakistani-American Hayat Shah narrates a heartbreaking story of love, the Divine, and negotiating faith and culture.

Even in Death, There is No Peace for Whitney Houston

 I have new article up at Clutch Magazine

When I was young girl, I thought that Whitney Houston was a princess.  Everything about her seemed perfect and I am sure that I cracked a few mirrors attempting to sing like her.  As I grew older and Whitney attempted to take control of her own image, I began to understand that the Whitney Houston who I had loved — with what can only be described as a teenager’s glee — was a creation of Clive Davis.

In crafting Whitney’s public persona, Davis’s brilliance was giving Black people a woman who could be elevated at a time when we were all desperate for positive images of Black femininity.   This vision of Black womanhood was framed in a manner that was not threatening to Whiteness because it didn’t involve a political message which questioned inequality or any of the issues Black women have to negotiate in this world. Whitney was a Black woman with a powerful voice, singing cute and ultimately harmless pop songs rather than gospel or R&B music.  As a professional voice for hire, they told her what to sing and she sang it.

In the later years of her career, Whitney would take control over own image and move away from the “princess” Davis created in an attempt to be more authentically herself.  Whitney strove to bring in the traditions of her own culture as an African-American woman and to more closely tie herself to the Black community, but despite her efforts, she was booed at the 1989 Soul Train Awards.  Like many celebrities, the creation still obscured the person, but in her case it was specifically because many viewed her as “too white.”  Her acceptance in the Black community was often tenuous as a result.

 Finish reading article here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You're Cured Now Right

'Accessible latrine features (Tanzania)' photo (c) 2011, SuSanA Secretariat - license:

Last week, my family life and the unhusband's working schedule was extremely chaotic.  This meant that it fell to me to do the grocery shopping.  This is something that the unhusband normally does, because it is physically exhausting for me, and means that for at least the rest of the day, and sometimes even the next day, that I am unable to do anything else for my family.  I did what I am not supposed to do - double up on the pain medication and headed off to the grocery store.  By the time my cart was loaded and I had checked out, even with the extra pain meds, my entire body was covered in sweat, I was exhausted and I hurt all over. 

When I called my cab to get home, the first thing the driver said to me was, "you're looking so much better and moving around more.  You're cured now aren't you?"  Cured? I bit down on my lip and closed my eyes to avoid giving him the side eye.  As a disabled person, I am constantly encouraged to rise above.  The super crip narrative is absolutely universalized.  What rarely gets discussed is the fact that when disabled people do actually push themselves and rise above, it is taken as proof that a disability no longer exists, and that accommodations no longer need to be made.  This kind of thinking also does not take into account that someone could actually be having a good day.  Yes, they happen.  A day when the pain level might not be as bad, disabled people might take advantage of it, and do something that they are not normally able to do, but this in no way means that the disability has disappeared into thin air.

When one is disabled, there is constant discipline of one's behavior.  Just from looking at us, people think that they have the right and the ability to determine whether or not we are really disabled. Of course, after they make this determination, they then treat us accordingly. Depending on the situation, this may mean paternalistic behaviour, or an accusation that we are faking.  No matter what the public decides, disability is an identity which one most constantly defend, or explain. This creates a no win situation for the person who is negotiating a disability. 

We are still heading for Self Destruction

Danny is a man that is trying to work his through the ups, downs, and all arounds of what being a man is all about. Along the way talks about video games, Japanese anime, computers and lots of other things that make up the whole man that he is trying to discover. He can found at Danny's Corner, Ethecofem, and Tumblr at Danny's Phototherapy

A little over 20 years ago some of the leading members of the east coast hip hop and rap communities came together in a collaboration to shed light on self destructive violence. Self destructive violence that was tearing black American  communities apart. Well that self destructive violence has not gone away. And to make it even worse its now coming from the very community whose members were once calling for an end to it.

A week or so ago rapper Too Short apparently saw fit to dole out some fatherly advice to today's young boys on how to go about treating girls when it comes to sex at XXL Mag. He basically parrots some of the very damaging behavior that is harming our young black boys and girls. Some highlights include talking about how to “turn little girls out” and recommending pushing a girl up against the wall, putting a little spit on the finger, sticking the finger inside her underwear, and seeing the magic happen. 

Now I'm all for teaching kids about sex, but this isn't safe, and it would more than likely be called rape. Yeah, apparently doing possible forceful things with girls, is better than kissing, so he gives advice that will take these young boys “to the hole”. (I originally found out about this video over at The Root however, the video has been removed and I have not been able to find it anywhere else except for this video response someone made which has a few quotes and snippets of sound, but not the original footage. If someone knows where it can be found please share.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pissed Off Dad Shoots His Daughter's Laptop

The following video has gone viral and I thought it would make an interesting piece for conversation.  A father who works in IT discovered a disrespectful post on his daughter's facebook page and decided to resolve the issue by emptying his gun into his daughters lap top. He then placed the video on her facebook page for all of her friends to see.

transcript below fold.

Anderson Cooper Gives Janet Jackson Fans the Suprise of Their Lives

I saw this lighthearted video and it had me cracking up.  I think that many people have at least one celebrity for whom they would absolutely lose their shit, should they ever meet them.  Anderson Cooper brought a Janet Jackson dance trope on his show under the guise of a competition.  As they were doing their thing, Ms. Jackson walked on stage and their responses were absolutely priceless.

I know that if I were ever to meet Dr. Maya Angelou, Alice Walker or George Michael (yes, shut up, I know it's a weird combination) I would just lose my mind. Fess up folks, what celeb would like to meet, and which one would most likely inspire a shocked overwhelmed experience?

Racist Rants Online Do Have Consequences

Last week, my Bff sent me a 14 minute video with two young women going on what can only be described as a horrible racist rant on youtube.  As I listened to the video, I was absolutely horrified.  I didn't post it at the time, because I didn't think it would serve much purpose in this space, but I have decided to share it with you today.

Since this video went viral, one of the girls has gone into hiding, and both of them are no longer enrolled in school.  They have both received death threats.  Apparently, the young women attempted to delete the video, but by the time they did so, it had already been copied and uploaded several times, proving that once something goes online, you can no longer control what happens to it.

I can’t be racist because I have a [insert non-white ethnicity] girlfriend

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.    
Interracial couples would have you believe that they have reached a post-colonial utopia through their relationship with each other. In their blissful “swirl”, many insist that they have not only overcome racial problems but that, in fact, they are devoid of racist tendencies; “I don’t see color” is a popular phrase.  While this is all well and rosy, my experience in interracial relationships and with interracial couples suggests otherwise.

One of my most memorable experiences was at a bar in a poor Irish neighborhood. I had wandered in there to kill time during a power cut at my place and one of the locals started chatting me up. I was friendly – though uninterested – until he started talking about his sister’s husband, “that damn towel head”. While trying to grope me discreetly and mumbling about what a pretty mouth I had, he continued ranting about his sister’s husband and using a variety of slurs against Arabs. I was so disgusted that I left the bar and returned to the darkness of my flat.

How dare he be so blatantly racist and still think that he had a chance with me? It seemed that he thought that since his slurs didn’t apply to my ethnicity, they didn’t matter. However, I also had another experience on a date with a Jewish college student, who seemed good fun until he started making fun of Indian men. It seemed that he believed that insulting men who look like my grandfather is fine, because I’m a woman, the object of his desire.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Franchesca Ramsey is Back With "High School Hottie"

I first heard about Franchesca when her video, "Shit White Girls Black Girls" went viral.  According to Ramsey, ""High School Hottie" which a parody of the popular “Top Girl” iPhone game, which is aimed at middle school aged girls. If you’ve never heard of it, brace yourself, cause it’s pretty bad. “Top Girl” (and it’s sister game “Social Girl”) lures girls in with such wonderful features as "Get a fantastic job as a fashion model and make tons of money. Flirt with boys and snag a boyfriend that gives you presents when you give him kisses!" Yikes."

Marginalized People Need Their Communities

'Safe Space' photo (c) 2011, Feral78 - license:

I have had a personal situation going on involving a close friend of mine for a few months. I am not at liberty to discuss the situation with you, but I would like to talk about one of the real revelations that I have taken from it.  My friend has been very isolated, though he has a lot of friends.  In this case, when I say isolated, I mean isolated from the GLBT community.  He has had several issues which though I am his friend and empathize, I cannot completely understand.  This has everything to do with the fact that I am straight. 

With all of the changes that have happened, the one thing that I have encouraged him to do is to immerse himself in the LGBT community, because I know that there he will find someone who understands exactly what he is going through.  There are some conversations that only someone who is facing the exact some marginalization as you can understand.  This means no matter how sympathetic you are, or how much love the person in question, or how past your privilege you may think you are, immersion in the community is absolutely vital for health happiness and well being.  This is not a sign that you are not a good friend, but a sign that privilege will always form a block, and that isms are so ingrained that they have become systemic.

As a disabled woman of colour, there are times when I need to speak with someone who has a disability, and there are times when I need to speak to someone who is of colour.  I do this because it not only gives me a sense of community, these contacts help boost my self worth and work to keep me from being isolated.  As a disabled woman, one of my on going irritations, is the fixation of able bodied people, on vitamin C, goji juice and fucking cherry juice.  These three items are supposedly the cure for everything that ails me. I have even been shamed for failing to take these items. I have had many well meaning people suggest this, and yes - even people that I call friend.  When the frustration gets too much for me to bear, I know that I can turn to Sparky, have a good ole fashioned rant, and he will understand exactly where I am coming from.  Sometimes we will laugh about the ridiculousness of it all, but other times, it's a case of affirming that yes, I am right, I'm not being to sensitive, these suggestions are indeed offensive as hell.

Capitalism, Food Waste and Community

'Rotting Compost Food Macro March 01, 20113' photo (c) 2011, Steven Depolo - license:

One of the things I am most likely to harp on my family about is food waste.  First, it is an absolute waste of money, and second it is absolutely disrespectful to the environment. When I think of food, I think of the resources that were spent growing it, slaughtering it, transporting it, and finally cooking it.  So much happens to food before it hits the plate.

Whenever I can, I try to turn left overs into a new meal, or I turn fruit that is about to go off, into some sort of baked good.  Yesterday was family day in Canada, which btw is the reason why the posting was light.  We spent the day together, which began with me turning bananas, which were singing, swing low sweet chariot into banana pancakes.  The kids were horrified when they saw the shape that the bananas were in.  They were soft and brown, and clearly in their mind beyond the ability to consume.  They looked hopefully at the compost, but I knew that added to a little batter, they would make the perfect pancakes. In the end, they were thrilled with breakfast, and felt like I had done something really special for them.

Each time I do something like this, we have a discussion about the importance of not wasting food.  Destruction pointed out that their grandmother, always cooked at home, and never ordered out. I have noticed that we are throwing out a lot of mashed potatoes, and so now I am looking for a recipe that the family will enjoy to turn them into potato cakes.  I think I have found one by Paula Deen, but I will of course have to reduce some of the fat.

I think that the ability to waste, is one of the privileges that goes unremarked upon.  We have such an extremely disposable society, that many will not think twice about the waste they produce, or what it does to the earth.  In terms of food, just because I can afford to waste, does not make it the moral or appropriate thing to do. All of us need to eat to survive, and yet when we reach a certain class position, this need is treated very cavalierly. The ability to waste has become a sign that one has arrived, so to speak.

I am not a dumpster diver, but because we live in a tourist town, I am highly aware of the waste that comes from the multiple hotels and restaurants.  There is a restaurant in town which regularly throws out perfectly edible sandwiches.  For a time, there were people diving into their dumpster at the end of the day to take these sandwiches.  When it was discovered what was happening, the restaurant placed a lock on the dumpster.  This happened sometime ago, and yet every time I walk past this restaurant, I experience a wave of disgust.  Not only have they placed a lock on the dumpster, staff is not allowed to take these sandwiches home.  Basically, if they can't make a profit, then no one is allowed to eat. I know that this phenomenon is not unique to them. 

We know how you really feel.

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.

Many people protest most mightily at the idea of being called a homophobe. How dare we say such a thing?! Why they loooove the gays! They've never ever ever been a homophobe, could we, precious. Why they're so shocked they need to sit down, pass the smelling salts; oh how could we be so mean?

Except, of course, when we listen to them, to the words they use, to how they react and we can see a different story. We listen, we can see how they really feel about us. 

So we know how you really feel about us if your word choice suggests that being gay is a crime or something to be ashamed of. If you refer to someone “alleging” someone is gay, or making allegations about being gay - this has very powerful connotation - we allege people commit crimes, we use "allegedly" to say "controversial" things with as much cover as possible. Or if someone is “accused” of being gay or “suspected” of being gay 

Similarly, people do not “admit”  or “confess” to being gay. If you talk about being gay as if it’s a crime, we know how you really feel.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Othering and Representation

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.

(This is an interesting post in light of Renee’s apology last week. I’d actually written this sometime a few weeks ago...)

As I still work towards decolonizing my mind and attempting to view the world through my own eyes and without the lens forced on me, I’ve begun to notice a certain bad habit that I’m guilty of. It is a bad habit that I also see many other SJ types doing. It is something continuously done to PoC by White people, to LGBTQ people by hetero and/or cis people, to disabled people by TABs, women by men, etc, and any combination of the (un)listed identities.

This is the problem of "othering" and stereotyping. We are taught from birth in this racist, cissexist, ableist, heterosexist, sexist, fatphobic, etc., world not to see the humanity of marginalized people. We are all taught this because of the dominance of the messages conveyed by a media controlled by people deeply invested in dehumanizing us. Many of us recognize this.

The problem seems to be fully and utterly eradicating this from how we perceive and interact with other marginalized people. It is especially important to do this with marginalized people who do not share your particular axis of oppression. It is also something that I have often failed at and have seen many other anti-oppression activists fail as.

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode Nine: Triggerfinger

There were a lot of things that bothered me about this episode.  Instead of doing a recap, I think that we would all be better served if we talked about the issues.

Let's begin with Lori, and her killing of the walkers.  After she gets out of the car, she goes back to retrieve her gun and then she shoots them.  This did not make any sense to me at all.  At that point, Lori was clear of them and she was more than capable of out running them.  I don't understand why she would risk a shot, when it has become a well established fact in the cannon that loud noises attract walkers.  It seems to me that the sensible thing would have been to only use the gun when cornered.  I think that this plays into yet another example of a woman on The Walking Dead making ridiculous decisions.  Granted, this one is not nearly as bad, as her getting into a tizzy for absolutely no reason, and deciding to go after Rick, Hershel and Glenn in the first place.

Speaking of Glenn, why oh why is he always the one put into a position of endangering his life?  Rick doesn't even ask Glenn how he feels, he simply orders him out of the bar to go and get the car, though he knows that there are armed men outside, and the place is crawling with walkers. In and of itself, this scene wouldn't have been that bad, if Glenn were not constantly used as bait.  It is further telling that he is one of only two regularly reoccurring men of color.  

If that were not enough, when Glenn finally returns to the farm, he feels guilty about letting Hershel and Rick down.  He feels that because Hershel saved his life and he froze, that he did not pull his weight.  From the very beginning, Glenn has been very active for the group.  When they were still camped outside of Atlanta, it was Glenn who saved Rick's life.  It's also worth noting, that if Hershel hadn't gone on a bender in the first place, none of them would have been in that situation. But yeah, Glenn feels guilty for letting them down - this in an episode in which Rick said he had no guilt for killing to human beings.

When Glenn gets outside, he is shot at by a Black man, who is quickly taken out by Hershel.  My first thought was that this incident is yet more proof of the race problem on The Walking Dead.  Not only was this man shot by Hershel, he quickly became walker food.  It was Tony, the other man who was shooting at them that Hershel, Rick and Glenn end up saving.  Once again, the White man prevails.

There is a lot of fandom about Carol and Darryl,  but this recent episode proves that this relationship is not positive.  I know that Darryl is most often seen as a misunderstood redneck, but he has a history of being racist and sexist in his language. Last week, I liked when he called Lori Olive Oyle, and made it clear that he no intention of doing her senseless bidding, but I have a problem with him calling her a "dumb bitch". In fact, to be technical, his comments were sexist and ableist.  He can dislike Lori to the end of time, but a man calling a woman bitch will always be a strong sexist statement.  

When Darryl got into Carol's face, it proved that he is no redneck with a heart of gold.  I don't want to even hear the line about how he is suffering to.  Carol, is Sophia's mother, and nobody is suffering more than her.  He was loud, and stepping into her personal space like that was nothing more than an attempt to physically intimidate her.  He even had the nerve to point viciously at her, and wave his hand in her face, to the point where she flinched. Carol standing her ground and refusing to leave was not the sign of a strong woman, it was a  reflection of her history as a survivor of domestic abuse. Darryl is nothing more than yet another bad man, that she is in a relationship with.

Shane continued to be an asshole this week, which comes as no surprise.  His big argument against Rick, was that he could not protect the group.  To make matters worse, he is backed up by Andrea, who claims that Shane, who is not dead, has done more to keep the group safe than Rick, or anyone.  This just made me miss the Andrea of the comics.  Who is this woman and how can she not see Shane for everything that he is?  The Andrea of the comics would never have fallen for his shit.

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