Saturday, March 17, 2012

Someone Should Have Told Madonna That Stealing Babies is Hard Work

I have a new op-ed up at the Loop21

Madonna is still an ambitious woman, but these days she finds that ambition tempered with the difficulty of raising four kids by herself. In an interview with The Sun, Madonna made it clear that since her separation from Guy Ritchie in 2008, being a single parent is tough. Discussing her latest song, “I Don’t Give A,” Madonna states, “It's about the life of a single mother.  It's a challenge juggling everything -- multi-tasking is my middle name.”  I don’t doubt that raising four children alone is a daunting task; however, Madonna certainly does not inspire any sympathy from me.
Shall we consider for a moment that two of the children in her custody – Mercy James and David Banda – are the result of dubious transnational adoptions?  Mercy’s uncle, John Nglanade, was initially responsible for blocking Madonna’s first attempt at adoption.  Lucy Chekechiwa, Mercy’s grandmother,made it clear that she did not want her grandchild adopted outside of Malawi.  Let’s not forget that David’s father only agreed to the adoption when he was assured by Malawian officials that Madonna would only have temporary custody of David.  Clearly, this man was misinformed as to exactly what adoption means. 
In her promotional interview, Madonna sought to position herself as the typical modern-day working mother, but her class position and race make this anything but the truth. Madonna made sure to highlight her ambitions while complaining about having to multi-task in raising her children ("I'm not going to lie — it's hard work having four kids and doing all the work I do.").  Unlike Mercy and David’s parents, Madonna does not have to worry that her children will be taken from her because she cannot provide the basics. Madonna instead wields the power to remove children from their country of origin.Despite clear familial objections to the adoptions of both David and Mercy, Madonna forged forward, determined to be yet another white earth-mother with black children in tow.  She has not reached the numbers of Angelina Jolie, but Madonna believed that her class status and her whiteness would offer a better life for these two children, even though removing them from Malawi means that both kids are now cut off from their nation and culture of origin.  This disconnect is not something new for children of the African Diaspora, but due to the circumstances of their birth, it is an emotion that Mercy and David could both have avoided if Madonna had chosen to invest in supporting black children by empowering their mothers, rather than assuming control of their children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rice Queens, the colonization of the Asian body, and self-orientalizing, Part 3

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

When you are a young bakla and you’ve been thrust into this world where most of the (White) guys you meet will (at best) pretend you don’t exist and (at worst) tell you straight out that they don’t date Asians (because of bullshit, racist ‘preferences’), you are vulnerable to rice queens and the pressure they exert on your self-image. You start to re-imagine yourself as a delicate lotus blossom for them to admire (and control).

You start to wish that you were thinner, smoother, more delicate. You start to swallow your opinions and bite your tongue from expressing yourself. You begin, in so many different and small ways, to lose yourself and to reshape yourself into what is desirable to the white, Western gaze. Why? Because, like most people, you are but human and want love/company/sex/friendship/etc.

This is the process a dear friend of mine called ‘self-orientalizing.’ It is also the subject of a this post. It is especially of concern when speaking of sex... Because I do remember doing more than a few things in bed that I wasn’t super enthusiastic about, but did anyways, just because I didn’t know when the next chance I’d have to touch another human being was. Because part of being feminized is also becoming sexually available to men -- all the time.

We don’t live in a perfect world – so why expect us to pretend?

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.

On writing reviews for Fangs for the Fantasy – and media in general - one of the most common objections we find is people questioning our “assumptions” about the reasons for a character’s actions.

After all – we don’t know that that character’s love affair with its desperate tragic ending is because they’re GBLT. We don’t know that a gay man  who is flouncing, and mincing, and obsessed with fashion, is because he’s a gay stereotype. We don’t know that that snarky, sassy Black friend is a trope laden side-kick because she’s Black. We don’t know that a woman who has needed rescuing so many times that she must be positively bored during kidnappings by now, is constantly kidnapped because she’s a woman.

No, we don’t “know” this, but we can make a pretty good guess. Because assuming otherwise would be to pretend that this story is completely separate from the rest of the world – that the context of privileges and prejudices that so mar our society, are somehow blessedly absent from this particular book/story/game/film/series. Perhaps, it was created on Mars by little pixies, who never knew prejudice or hatred?

No, I don’t think I’ll assume that. I won’t assume that centuries of prejudice, of bigotry, or stereotypes have magically had no effect on this work and it is merely sheer coincidence that the portrayals (or erasure) within just happen to coincide with some very tired, very insulting tropes. There’s a limit to how far I will deny reality – and usually reality denial on this scale is only perpetrated when I want to poke Beloved – and I’m certainly not going to do it for the precious fee-fees of privileged folks who can’t abide criticism of their precious.

I also ask why these critics think it matters. Authorial intent is no more magical than any other kind of intent. Just because your writing of the GBF, or the camp buffoon, wasn’t meant to invoke a trope, doesn’t mean it didn’t walk the same, tired, path of a thousand stereotypes before it – causing all the damage, harm and offense of every other character that has walked that same damn path.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My gender is not merely male, but transmale.

Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.

I am never sure how well I pass. Sometimes, it's pretty clear that people don't really think I'm trans. Sometimes they find out I am trans because I start talking about being a girl in the past or because I stretch the wrong way. Sometimes other people tell them. I am out right now. It feels safer that way, and somehow more honest. I feel like it's being more honest to my gender and the way that I am in life. I can't imagine a time where I wouldn't want to be out.

On the other hand, I can see the appeal of stealth. No one questions a cisgendered man's right to be a man. Well... Ok, that's not true, if he does stuff outside of his assigned gender role, they will. But they
don't find out he's cisgendered and start using the wrong pronouns. In fact, he's most likely getting male pronouns because he is cisgendered! And passing well enough that people can't tell I'm trans means that sometimes I forget. It means that I can forget, for a moment, the pain of being born in the wrong body and it means that I am in the correct box. It's a nice feeling, to know that there are some people out there who don't see me as anything but a man.

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode Eleven: Better Angels

The episode opens with Dale's funeral where Rick says that Dale was honest and brave.  "I couldn't always read him but he could read us. He saw people for who they were.  He knew things about us the truth - who we really are.  In the end, he was talking about losing our humanity and he said this group was broken. From now on we are going to do it his way, that his how we honour Dale," Rick said in his eulogy of Dale. 

In flash scene, we see Andrea, Shane, T Dog and Darryl driving until they come across some zombies, and then they stop to kill them.

They decide it's time to move everyone into the house, saying that with winter coming they are too vulnerable. When Rick talks about releasing Randall again, Shane is upset, but Rick tells him that the plan was right, but the execution was wrong. Shane is clearly not at all mollified.

Alone  with Rick, Hershel says that he has no patience with Shane anymore.  When Andrea joins them, Rick asks her to keep an eye on things.  Hershel says that if he stays there permanently that Shane has to understand that what he and Rick says goes.  Andrea is upset about being asked to baby sit Shane, and tells Rick that maybe he should stop leaving.  Yeah, so now they have Andrea saying Lori's lines?  If she hadn't aligned herself with Shane to begin with, Rick never would have thought to ask

Carl approaches Shane and wants to talk, but asks him to promise not to tell his parents.  Shane says that this is a bad idea for both of them, but when Carl walks away, Shane calls him back.  Carl shows Shane the handgun he took from Darryl's motorcycle and admits the role that he played in Dale's death. Shane tells him that it is not his fault, and that he needs to hold onto the gun to protect himself.  Carl tells him that he is never touching another gun again, but Shane answers that this is not an option. Carl tells Shane to give it back to Darryl and walks away.

Glenn comes in the house and Maggie tells him to put his stuff in her room, but Glenn is not comfortable doing that with Hershel in the house.  So he can have sex with her in a pharmacy with the threat of death hanging over them, but Hershel being in the same house is too much?  Really?

Hershel gives up the bed to Lori, and says that he will take the couch rather than seeing a pregnant Lori sleeping on the floor.  When Lori says that she can't because this is Hershel's home, Hershel tells her that it is their home as well. When Lori attempts to refuse, T-dog says "if you two can't decide, I'll take it".  Great, they can't give T Dog anything serious to do but move shit around, but hey, he can play the role of comic relief.

When Hershel and T-dog go inside,  Laurie see Shane fixing the windmill.   They chat about life before the zombies and Laurie asks him to come down. Laurie says, "this is real and we can't keep at bay; it's already got us and it just keeps coming.  I made a mess of things, and I put you and Rick at odds. I don't even know whose baby this is.  I can't imagine how hard that is on you.  You lead us out of Atlanta with no thought of yourself. " She tells him that she never thanked him for getting them out of Atlanta.  "Even though things got confused between us, you were there for me, thank you".  Shane says that he she doesn't need to thank him for that.  Lori says, "what ever happened between us, I'm sorry Shane. Please believe me I am so sorry".

Okay, what the fuck was that? No, seriously, what the fuck was that?  Did she suddenly forget that Shane tried to rape her?  What woman decides to thank her rapist?  I am sick and tired of the way that The Walking Dead has chosen to treat the attempted rape like it never happened.  We are only encouraged to see Shane as bad because, he killed Otis.  What's a little attempted rape right?  This is just one more sign that the writers don't take their female characters seriously.   
Read More