Friday, March 2, 2012

Those Girls

I'm a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I'm a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I'm a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary living and loving.  I blog at Irresistible Revolution.

partly inspired by "The Coming of El Mundo Surdo" by Gloria Anzaldua
 
I was that girl
with the Harry Potter glasses
who used big words
everyone thought strange
I was that girl
who wrote poetry for fun
who knew the Bright Star sonnet
who sketched mermaids and tomb raiders
who didn't want to be
no IT specialist no doctor no accountant

but an artist.

You were that girl
who sang sweet as syrup
dark as chocolate
Sidestepping your dreams for
your parents' ambitions
sharing with me
the stolen joy of two brown girls
artists
dreaming
our way through school
with music and Emily Bronte

We are those girls,
who they called
cookie
oreo
banana
kalu suddi
different
Whom others called
crazy feminist
emotional
angry
ugly
bitter

We are those girls
Who never gave a shit about borders
whose lives crossed first
asked permission later
Dreamed big, loved fierce
Fought hard
who looked at all the sky
its blue unshrinking vastness
Unafraid.

We are those girls
the racial justice warriors
Jedi knights and
warrior queens
island sisters
desis
unapologetic
our names too many
too beautiful powerful
for blanket tongues.


Let them update their dictionaries. 


Because we are those girls
Loving fighting
Dreaming writing
And I
You
We
Girl,
We got each other.

Are Black Students Better Off with Black Teachers?

I have a new piece up at Clutch Magazine

Jada Wiiliams of Rochester N.Y., never imagined when she wrote an essay comparing the racist oppression faced by Frederick Douglas to her current lived experiences as a Black student, that it would end with her teacher claiming offense or in Jada having to leave the school. “Most White teachers that I have come into contact with over the last several years of my life, have failed to instruct us – even today,” she wrote. Her parents were forced to pull her out of school when they noticed that her grades suddenly began to drop in several of her classes.  In tears, she told ABC News, “I did feel overwhelmed because I didn’t know that it would become this huge.”

The fact that her grades declined after handing in this essay adds validity to the charges of racism that Williams bravely made in her essay.  RCSD Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, who is clearly on the defensive, stated that, “Teachers, regardless of their color, are able to teach us.”  Most of the teachers in the Rochester district are white.  Although teachers are forced to take sensitivity classes, regardless of their intent, the fact remains that they have been raised in a culture steeped in white supremacy.

This incident will serve as a very harsh teaching lesson to young Jada.  Though Whiteness has attempted to claim that we are post-racial, or that we have at least reached the point where the kind of virulent racism experienced by Blacks during slavery and Jim Crow has so severely declined as to make it negligible, ongoing attacks against racial minorities continue to be pervasive in almost every social institution – the exception, of course, being inside (some) Black families. This means that charges of racism are often reduced to the minority in question being too sensitive or playing the so-called “race card” to invoke sympathy.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research reported in 2006 that the graduation rate for the year 2003 was seventy percent.  When the numbers are divided by race and gender however, the success rate drops drastically.

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The Importance of Critiquing Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy is something that we both clearly enjoy.  It’s a break from the everyday with it’s fantastic flights of fantasy, and slightly warped version of our world.  What has always attracted me to fantasy is that it contains so much hope. Each time an author sits to tell a story, they have a chance to erase the problems of our current society and start anew. Unfortunately, in many cases, urban fantasy does not live up to its potential, because though authors are starting with what is essentially a blank slate, they have grown in a culture that promotes isms at every turn, which inevitably means that their fantasy worlds are as flawed as the world we live in today.

Because urban fantasy falls into the category of speculative fiction, and largely written by women, there is a tendency not to take it seriously.  This is a mistake on the part of consumers of this genre and reviewers quite frankly. The popularity of fantasy flares and wanes over the years. We are currently in an upswing, with movies like the Twilight saga pulling in large box office dollars -- if not critical acclaim -- and shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle and Teen Wolf etc., airing in prime time. Fangs and angst mean big box office dollars, large conference attendance, and constant social discussions.  Whether or not you like urban fantasy, there can be no doubt that it has had a huge impact in the last six years. 

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that it brings.  Like many, I am tempted to ignore the work of Stephanie Meyer, who needs to send her thesaurus on paid holiday, because of the obvious abuse in her writing, but to do so would be a mistake.  Years from now it will not be the dry tome that is written by an academic that will be studied as representative of our time, but the work of popular authors like Stephanie Meyer. If you doubt that, think about the fact that Lady Chatterley's Lover was highly dismissed when it was first published, and today it is considered a classic that is studied in literature classes across North America.

What do you think shapes culture more? A verbose, dense literary fiction artistic epic read by English literature professors in universities, who in turn congratulate each other on how wonderfully dense and nigh incomprehensible it is? Or Twilight? Or True Blood? A series that has been read by thousands, if not millions, turned into a TV series or a film, and watched by yet more people? Personally, I think it’s the latter that will have the greatest effect on our culture.

Urban fantasy is the mythology of our time and this means that the treatment of historically marginalised people, who are being erased or placed into subordinate roles signifies an ongoing oppression rather that a fantastical world.  What will it say to future generations of readers that GLBT people are either erased, turned into side kicks, or die routinely?  What kind racial equality is being promoted in fantasy worlds, where protagonists of color are almost solely written by writers of color, or are otherwise erased -- or placed into secondary roles -- to sacrifice or serve White protagonists?

You cannot truly change culture without addressing the media. Ultimately, we can pass 100 laws saying that misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia, ableism et al are not okay. We can we fight, we can vanquish a thousand bigots, and make a thousand impassioned speeches, but if everyone goes back home to books and TV full of hate speech, stereotypes,  tropes, and marginalised servants/villains or – and most commonly – to fictional worlds where we don’t even exist – then how much can you change? “Hearts and Minds” are the key here – and it’s in the pages of books and the light of the TV screen where we will reach them.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart is Dead at the Age of 43

'Andrew Breitbart' photo (c) 2011, Gage Skidmore - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/


The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Andrew Breitbart passed away of natural causes, at the tender age of 43.  He leaves behind a wife and children.  At this time I would like to offer my condolences to his family. It is a terrible thing to lose a loved one.

Breitbart first came to my attention after he edited a video of Agriculture Department worker Shirley Sherrod, in such a way as to make it appear that she was biased against White farmers.  This kind of heinous action I was to discover, was quite typical of the man who spent much of his lifetime espousing conservative politics, aimed specifically to hurt marginalized people. I'm not happy that he is dead, but I will not engage in revisionism because he is.

Looking at twitter and several blog posts, there are pleas from some on the left that we treat his legacy with respect, as well as conservatives claiming that people are celebrating his passing. The legacy you end up with in death, is the legacy you create in life.  I will agree that no one's death should be celebrated, regardless of how bigoted or hurtful they have been in life, but I don't think that death grants anyone a free pass from honest critique. No one should be deified when they pass on, because it erases the harm that they have caused, and the fact that there are still people who have to live with the consequences of their actions.  Breitbart was well aware of the harm that his actions and language caused in his lifetime.  He actively sought out notoriety, and I see no reason why this should not follow him in death. 

Princess Hijab

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.

“Okay, I’m the boy now!” Eryn cheerfully drops to one knee and raises her hands, ready to catch me as I twirl towards her. I suppose in her imagination when her little hands grasp my leg, she’s gracefully lifting me up into a delightful twirl. Soon it’s my turn to be the boy and she giggles incessantly when I throw her into the air.

Recently, Eryn has become more and more interested in role play – and it’s interesting to see how she assigns gender roles to her various make-believe characters.

Boy ballerinas lift twirling girl ballerinas; girl farmers climb trees and drive the tractor while boy farmers remain untouched in the box; mamas have babies (sigh); babas have meetings (double sigh); and doctors, nurses, and faeries apparently have no gender.

Overall, we’re trying to be fluid about gender stereotypes in order to emphasise that she’s capable of doing and being anything she chooses. Especially since living in a community with strong cultural and religious ideas of women’s “divinely ordained” roles will one day impact her in ways I can’t yet imagine.

Sometimes I worry she’s going to start feeling that boys have all the fun.

My worries recently intensified after reading Peggy Orenstein’s book, Cinderella ate my Daughter. I regaled my friends and family with examples of the Barbie, Disney and Bratz subtext selling “vapid beauty equals self-worth;” the gendered materialization of a single colour just to sell pink baseball bats; and the over-sexualisation of girls by marketing “Sexy” (but not slutty!) to five-year-old Hanna Montana fans.

Fearing little Eryn would want to paint her nails and wear hot pants tomorrow, I desperately ran off my checklist of parental tactics, hoping we’re prepared enough to offset this new "girlie" culture.

Then I sighed, and for one brief, relieving moment said: “Well, thank God for hijab.”

And in that second I bought into the argument that hijab creates a counter-culture to combat materialism, commercialism and the sexualisation of women in the media. It’s frequently used as an anti-commercialism selling point for Muslim women to take on hijab, while complimenting the slew of other reasons based on modesty and religious, political, and cultural mores. It’s an argument I believed in when I first put on hijab over a decade ago, crying out: When I cover my flesh, I reject “western” standards of beauty, fashion, and remove stereotypical gender barriers, allowing people to focus on my mind instead of my body!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rest in Peace Davy Jones

I just learned that Davy Jones of The Monkees died today of a heart attack at the age of 66.  They heyday of The Monkees was well before my time, but that does not mean that I didn't enjoy their music.  I have been known belt out Day Dream Believer at Karaoke after a few beers.



Rest in peace Davy and thanks for the great tunes.

Really? Round Eye Noodle Bar

I don't know about you, but I've about had it with White people who think they can get away with making what they believe to be cryptic racist commentary. 

As you can see, this restaurant is owned by two White men.  They have decided to serve noodles which btw is a familiar form of cultural appropriation.  Food is one of the every day examples of how Whiteness has colonized cultures of colour.  If you doubt this assertion, watch a few hours of the Foodnetwork, where you will absolutely find White chefs teaching viewers how to cook dishes from cultures of colour.  This may not seem readily offensive, until you think about the fact that because they have set themselves up as teachers, they are claiming expert status in cultures which they do not belong to -- while the people indigenous to the cultures in question -- can't even get five minutes on the air.

So, not only do we have cultural appropriation through food, the name of this restaurant is racist. The community organizers at Asian Americans United very aptly explain why this is a problem in the following comment:
"But if these self-named 'white boys' are the 'roundeye' noodle makers what does that make the Asian noodle places they're modeling their place after? As a city notoriously home to Chink's Steaks, it's really a shame that a well-regarded spot like Matysons [sic] would lower their reputation to a legacy of petty, derogatory names in an effort to be 'hip.'"

She continued: "I don't think the owners of 'Roundeye' had specific intent, but that's exactly the problem with racial stereotypes - they're so deeply ingrained people don't even question it.

I also heard from AAU executive director Ellen Somekowa, who wrote: "If you grow up Asian in America, there is no more common put down than ridicule of the shape of our eyes. There is no way to hear the name, 'Roundeye,' without at the same time hearing what it is being contrasted to. .. A very hurtful racist slur -- SLANTEYES." [source]

The “Trans-V” Probe … and Other Historical Atrocities

I was sent a link an article written by The Goddess of Gumbo on Facebook.  It was extremely eye opening and yet painful to read. In it The Goddess puts the new anti abortion laws and forced ultrasounds into perspective by discussing the history of these procedures.  I am going to post a small section of the article, but please read the whole thing. 
There is a male equiv­a­lent to the vagi­nal exam­i­na­tion. It involves prob­ing the anus to check for prostate abnor­mal­i­ties, and it is justly regarded with fear and trem­bling by most of the male pop­u­la­tion. I don’t know the his­tory of proc­tol­ogy or of proc­to­log­i­cal exams, but I do know the his­tory of gyne­col­ogy. And I know, as many do not, that those famil­iar instru­ments of both fem­i­nine dis­com­fort and fem­i­nine sal­va­tion are the result of med­ical experimentation–without consent–on enslaved women in the South.


The story is told–eloquently, harrowingly–by Terri Kap­salis in Pub­lic Pri­vates. It begins with three enslaved African-American women–Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy–forced on an Alabama plan­ta­tion to have too many chil­dren too young. (Anar­cha, for exam­ple, was only 17).

Youth, inad­e­quate nutri­tion, and vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent health care, then and now, are a recipe for lengthy, dif­fi­cult labor dur­ing child­birth that not uncom­monly results in vagi­nal tears called “fis­tu­las”–a con­di­tion com­mon dur­ing the 19th cen­tury that is still epi­demic in parts of the world where there are too many mal­nour­ished child brides and too few doctors.

Enter J. Mar­ion Sims, the “father of the gyne­col­ogy,” also known as the  “archi­tect of the vagina.” Sims, born in South Car­olina and trained at the insti­tu­tion now called the Med­ical Uni­ver­sity of South Car­olina, attended Anar­cha dur­ing child­birth and was called back to cure the fis­tula appar­ently caused by his inept use of the forceps.

Now let’s be clear. Women afflicted by fis­tula suf­fer uncon­trolled incon­ti­nence, fre­quently mixed with blood, occa­sion­ally with feces. Then, as now,  fis­tula suf­fer­ers are out­casts within their com­mu­ni­ties. They are con­sid­ered “unclean” by cer­tain con­tem­po­rary reli­gious stan­dards. And dur­ing the period of enslave­ment, they were use­less to a mas­ter class which prized the sex­ual util­ity and breed­ing capac­i­ties of women of color above all attributes.
I con­sider the labor of a breed­ing woman as no object, and that a child raised every 2. years is of more worth than the best labor­ing man…   
wrote no less ardent a “demo­c­rat” than Thomas Jef­fer­son, our third pres­i­dent, in 1819.

So Sims–in a series of 28 oper­a­tions con­ducted with­out anes­the­sia (and yes, it was avail­able) between 1845 and 1849–in fact per­formed … a ser­vice as he invented the specu­lum, the stir­rups, and even­tu­ally “cured” the women’s fis­tu­las with his dis­cov­ery of the effi­cacy of sil­ver over  silk sutures.

Would that he had stopped there.

Read the rest here
                                                                         

The Children Have Successfully Hired a Lawyer

'Bloody Lawyers & Woe Unto You, Lawyers' photo (c) 2011, k763 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/


There is a social myth that children keep young, but I am here to tell you that the exact opposite is true.  Last night, the unhusband was hiding on the porch eating an ice cream cone.  I knew that the unhusband was up to something, because he had been gone so long, and I was certain that he had abandoned me to the children. When I went outside, I saw the sweetest little kitty.  He came right up to me and started circling my legs and meowing.  When I bent down to pet him, he began to purr and I fell in love.

We have a lot of stray and outdoor cats in the neighbourhood and I didn't recognize him as one.  When I really looked at him, I saw that his long hair was beautifully brushed and that what I assumed was a lot of fur, was really masking a very fat cat.  I decided that we should bring him in for the night because he was gentle, sweet and clearly someone's pet.  The unhusband was very much against this situation, and only capitulated under protest, when the children accused him of being heartless.

Destruction brought the kitty into our home.  We had to put poor Sookie in the kennel, because she was overly excited about the cat.  I told the children that tomorrow, we would go around the neighbourhood and look to see if we could find a poster about a missing cat, and that if we found the owner, that we would return the cat.  This of course led to questions about what we would do if we could not find an owner for the cat.  I then told them that we would call the humane society, because our local shelter has a no kill policy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wendy Williams Attacks Viola Davis' Natural Hair


I refused to watch the Oscars because I could not stand the idea of having to watch as a Black woman received an award for playing a maid in the year 2012.  To this date, I have not seen The Help, nor do I have any attention of doing so.

As you might imagine, it has been impossible to avoid coverage on the Oscars.  I was happy to see that Viola Davis chose to put her wigs aside and wear her natural hair at such a public event. What I was less pleased about was Wendy Williams response.  According to Madame Noire, Ms. Williams remarked, that she doesn't want to see “Room 222″ look on the red carpet."  For those who are unaware, "Room 222 refers to a show from the late ’60s and early ’70s, about a history class taught by a black man". This to me implies that Williams was not only suggesting that there is something inherently wrong with natural hair, but that a woman choosing wear her natural hair looks like a man.

I am not at all pleased with the implications.  Williams has long been referred to as a trans slur by many Black entertainment blogs - yes, I'm looking at you Bossip.  She has to know first hand how terrible it is to question someone's gender identity in order to smear them.  It is extremely transphobic and it is something that is constantly thrown at cis Black women in order to support the cruel unwoman meme. For Williams to then turn around and engage in the same damn ish is disgusting. 

Awaiting The Next Death of a Gay Man on 'Spartacus'


I have been watching Spartacus since it premiered.  Even though I recognize the faux history going on, I still love the ancient setting, the brilliant acting and to be perfectly honest, the absolutely gorgeous bodies. Nearly naked men, dripping in sweat, week after week, is a pretty huge enticement to keep watching - well for me at least, as a straight woman.

Spartacus recently started it's third season, and I found myself waiting for the inevitable - the death of a gay man.  In season one, we were introduced to Petrus and Barka, the beast of Carthage.  I was instantly excited, because not only was there clearly love between these two men of colour, their sex scenes were every bit as sexually graphic, as the straight couples.  There is very little representation of same sex love and sexuality on television, and even less so when it comes to men of colour.  I quickly discovered that I should not have gotten my hopes up, as both men quickly met their death.  One committed suicide, and the other was murdered by Quintus Batiatus.

The second season of Spartacus was a prequel. This means that Barka was back, and this time he had a relationship with a White male gladiator.  Being more seasoned, I didn't expect much from the writers.  What Barka had with Petrus was beautiful, and if they could allow that to die so easily, I knew that this current relationship would end poorly.  I was not shocked, or even disappointed, when Barka's White male lover quickly died. That was the end of the same sex relationships on the show for the season, though they continued to show forced sex between men for the rest of the season.  These sex scenes were predatory, because they involved Romans raping their slaves.  If one cannot say no, then one cannot consent, and this fact makes these sex scenes rape.

This season, I found myself wondering who the writers were going to slate for their obligatory gay couple.  At this point, it was clear that they have established a pattern.  I didn't have to wait long -  Agron and Nasir recently shared their first kiss.


Disability Click Moments

'Parking bay' photo (c) 2009, David Morris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/


Those of us who are not born with a disability, must come to terms with the loss of our able bodied status.  This is something that must happen, regardless of the type of disability that is developed.  I have written several times about the loss, and the mourning period that I personally experienced, and so today, I would like to focus on something that I call my disability click moment.

About two years ago, I went to a Walmart with my family to get some shopping done.  This is something that should have been no big deal at all.  As I began to walk through the aisles with my family, the pain started and very quickly it became intense.  I went to the area where they keep the patio furniture to sit and try to rest.  Though my family waited patiently with me to recover, I knew I was the one keeping them from finishing the task we set out to do, and so I got up, and once again tried to finish our shopping.  After being on my feet for a few minutes, I again had to return to the patio section to sit.  This is a cycle that I repeated several times, which led us to spend about three hours picking up a few household items.  When I got home, I was covered in sweat and my body hurt so badly, I was in tears.  After this trip, I was bedridden for three days.  I swore to myself never again, and then I realized that never again meant being trapped in my home. 

This is when the depression hit.  I realized that I was sentencing myself to a life inside my home.  I was a very active person before becoming disabled.  I could always be seen around town doing things with my children, and the very thought of sitting on my couch waiting to die depressed the hell out of me. 

It was my unhusband who suggested that I get a mobility scooter.  At the time, I didn't think I needed one, because those were for real disabled people.  It wasn't until we went to Zellers a week later, and I used their scooter, not wanting to be in the same kind of pain that I was in at Walmart, that the light bulb went off.  Suddenly, I could keep up with my family and go wherever they wanted to go.  When it was time to leave, I didn't want to put the scooter back.  It was in that moment that I knew I needed a mobility device and decided to do what I had to, to get one.

This is the moment that I decided that yes, I am indeed disabled and it's okay to do what I have to do to live my life as I see fit.  There is a ton of stigma when it comes to obvious signs of disability.  Whether it's a cane, walker, wheelchair or scooter, it announces to the world that one's body is different and this instantly changes the way that people react to you.  This btw, does not mean that there aren't problems associated with invisible disabilities, like being neuro atypical for example. 

Being “privileged” doesn’t mean your life is rosy



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 generally avoid 101 conversations on Womanist Musings, or for that matter, on sparkindarkness. I’ve never really thought of WM as a 101 space – not that it’s not a good place to learn, but because it tends not to be so basic and I generally get the impression that most readers already have at least some of the 101 on. Apart from anything else, I do tend to think that 101 learning is something you do with a Google search after reading something you don’t understand rather than something you need to be actively taught. I even think of it, sometimes, as an early test if you like – is this person willing to spend the minutes Googling their 101? If not, then what is the point of talking to them at all? Call it harsh, I tend to think of it as triage.

But something keeps coming up and over and over – both in comments that get through and the fun stuff behind the scenes as well. It’s the constant denial of privilege, of what privilege means and denial that one has privilege when, clearly, they very much do.

Can we be clear on something? Being “privileged” doesn’t mean your life is rosy and fun and involves you lounging around on a solid gold chaise lounge eating caviar covered truffles, washing your feet in Bollinger and having your every whim catered to by a large staff of peons (including your back rubbed because a solid gold seat is very very uncomfortable). 

You can have a privilege and still have a life that is not all fun and rosy. Part of this is obviously because you can have a privilege and still be marginalised. And, unless you’re Dora, the Black, Muslim, poor, trans, disabled, immigrant lesbian, you probably do have some (and Dora at least is first in line to be everyone’s friend. I mean, think of it, you just need one hangers on and you’ve got an excuse against every bigoted thing you ever say ever again!) privilege lurking there somewhere.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rice Queens, the colonization of the Asian body, and self-orientalizing, Part 1

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.
 
So... This post will probably be a mess. I’ve been trying to write it for a week and this is the 5th (or so) iteration of it. However, after this post on WM last week, it seems extra appropriate and timely. 

But this post has convinced me that (crappy/disjointed/incoherent or not) this post is necessary (I also just read another post about this in a paper). Renee has had occasion to point out the anti-Black racism of the gay community. Interestingly, the post I linked to is one of the most popular on this site. I think that the gay community isn’t called out enough for its racism (and its misogyny, for that matter). But I want to talk about gay racism.

One of the (numerous) problems with stereotypes is that they don’t really do any good for anybody. Not even the ‘positive’ stereotypes like the model minority myth for Asians. The Western emasculation of the Asian man (or those perceived as men) creates two major problems if those Asian men are gay/queer. First, it means that gay Asians become the gay equivalent to Asian women (i.e., China Dolls/Lotus Flowers -- whatever) and, second, that they are constructed as the (arguably) least attractive men within the gay community.

It is not uncommon to join a gay dating/hook up site and see profile, after profile saying, ‘no Asians.’ The only other groups of people awarded this distinction are fat men and femmes. But the singling out of Asian men cannot be separated from sexism and a rejection of anything femme in the gay community. It is also based on a white supremacist and cis-supremacist notion of what it means to be ‘masculine.’ (this also generates the stereotype of the gay, Black man as the stud. I had a fairly queeny Black friend who always, *always* had to act super butch if he wanted dates. But this is based on the more, general white supremacist construction of the Black man as being more ‘animalistic’ or, in more plain words, less human.)

Men, Sexism and Faux Oppression

'Iconscollection - Men' photo (c) 2007, Simon Adriaensen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/



I was up very late last night talking to a friend about oppression.  The conversation that we engaged in, is one that I often have with my male friends.  There seems to be this disconnect about how power and oppression really function in the life of men.  I got the standard argument that I couldn't tell him that they're not oppressed, because of course, I am a woman, and have not lived a day as a man.  To me, this argument reminds me of the way in which White people love to assert that they are oppressed, because they are White, and that they face racism too.

Men are not oppressed because they are men.  This has been true throughout history, and it is true in our time.  One of the examples that was brought up last night,  was the ever popular grey flannel suit guy.  This guy, is the one who  went to work in the 50's and 60's to support his family. He worked long hours and generally speaking was unhappy with his life, and died early of a stroke or a heart attack.  Was the model harmful to men? Absolutely, but it certainly is not sexism.  The grey flannel suit guy, was in the position he was, not because of gender, but because of class.  He simply lacked the class power to be able to personally decide how to spend his time, and were a shift in class to occur, the very same man would find himself in a very different situation. This man faced class based oppression, because anyone who must sell their labour and does not own the means of production is unfairly disadvantaged, however, the moment he returned home to the private sphere, he was the oppressor and not the oppressed.  Even though he sold and in fact continues to sell his labour at an unfair price in the present day, the labour that occurs in the private sphere, which is largely done by women, continues to be devalued and performed without pay. 

The common argument is that not all men have the same benefit as the top one percent, however, once again, this does not make them oppressed because they are men.  The social stratification occurs because of other sites of oppression.  If one is trans, gay, of colour, disabled, poor, fat, or even a senior, these identities greatly impact the degree to which one is able to profit from male privilege.  It is the stratification or the other identities that impact men, and most certainly not their gender. This argument holds true for other forms of privilege as well.  If one is White, one of course exists with White privilege however, once again, class, age, gender, ability and sexuality, effect the degree to which one can benefit from Whiteness.  Isms may effect people's lives differently, but the power behind how privilege works, is exactly the same.

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode Ten: 18 Miles Out

The episode begins with Rick confronting Shane about Otis, who claims that one of them wasn't going to survive. Shane asks if Rick thinks that he can keep, Lori, Carl or his baby safe, and Rick says that he is not the good guy anymore, and that to save Carl's life, that he would do anything.  Rick warns Shane that he is not going to be dangerous to anyone anymore.  "You don't love her, you think you do, but you don't. Now the only way you and me keep on is that you accept everything I just said right here, right now and we move forward with that understanding," Rick says. 

Shane says that he tried to get Rick but he couldn't. He tells him that in the hospital, the military was shooting civilians. "Lori and Carl kept me alive, and I want you to know that I didn't look at her before like that, and if I could take it all back I would," Shane says.

This whole exchange was very much a pissing contest between the two men.  Though Shane seemed very much like he regretted his relationship with Lori, that man is not to be trusted.  If he was so sorry, he would have admitted to Rick that he tried to rape Lori when she rejected him. 

Back at the farm, Maggie talks with Lori about Glenn. It seems that Glenn is still not himself.  "Men are going to blame the little woman for the reason they do, or they reason they don't, and we're just trying to keep it together until they come back.  If you have nothing to apologize for, tell him to man up and put himself together, just don't say man up, Lori advises.

In these two scenes we can see the clear division between men and women in this series.  It seems that if the world goes to hell, gender roles become even further entrenched.  The little women stay home and the men go out and face danger. Instead of carrying clubs, the men carry guns and knives.

She who has taken to her bed (read:Beth) is finally awake. When Lori goes to Beth's room to check on  her, Beth says, "You're pregnant, how could you do that?" Lori answers that she doesn't have a choice, and leaves the room. Great, and now we have she who has taken to her bed, believing that she has the right to question.  Is there a woman on this show who is not going to throw in her two cents about Lori's pregnancy? Beth may well be worried about the state of the world, but the writers did not have to include this question. It's policing, and just because they put these words into the mouth of a female character, doesn't make it any more appropriate.