Saturday, April 14, 2012

Drop It Like It's Hot

Hey everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation.  I think that there were some really great conversations that challenged a lot of what has become normal discourse.  Please remember, we cannot always agree but it is important that we stay respectful and committed to listening to each other. Talking at each other, rather than to each other, get us nowhere.

I am still looking for new contributors.  Though I can write about a myriad of things, we all learn best from the people directly negotiating a particular ism.  I am particularly looking for someone to discuss fatphobia and class critically but I am very open to other ideas. Please be aware that womanist musings also has an open guest posting policy, so please feel free to submit a piece or a cross post from your blog.  You can reach me at womanistmusings (at) gmail (dot) com

Below you will find a list of posts that I found interesting this week.  Please be aware that a link does not necessarily mean an endorsement of the article, just simply that I found something about the piece interesting.  Please be aware that I don't read the comment sections so read those at your own risk.  Well start spreading the love, and when you're done, don't forget to drop it like it's hot and leave your link behind in the comment section when you are done.

The Hunger Games Makes The Top Ten Challenged Books in 2011
The Politics of Fat: We Have to Keep Struggling to Liberate Ourselves from Self-Hatred
How to have sex with an asexual person
The Poverty of Marriage
The Famous Five Clearly Not Important
Bringing home a porn star
Trans-misogyny primer
Mad Men and Black America
 Katniss Everdeen, Female Action Heroes, and the American Tradition
Hand Jobs
The War on Women: A Progressive Man’s View
Why Wait Until 40…Stop Caring Now!
Broadening the representation of pregnant bodies
Pretending to be poor
Female War Veterans More Likely to Become Homeless
On Race, Feminism, and Jodie Landon
Sepia Mutiny’s Closure Is a Reminder: Blogging While Brown Ain’t Easy
"I don't remember raping her"
Representing Sara Baartman: on Show and in the Museum
Don't White People Kill Each Other, Too?
Blonde Beauties and Black Booties: Racial Hierarchies in Brazil
Magical Thinking Works For You? That’s Great. It Doesn’t For Me.
Feminism is not All White
The war on women has already been lost if you're poor.
The Hunger Games, Hollywood, & Fighting Fuck Toys
Can we check our cunting privilege?
Sticks and stones might be bad – but being called Fat really did hurt me
The Hunger Games is not a love triangle (and why that matters)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Things I Miss the Most

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 have a cultural inheritance from my mother. She has taught me how to quilt, how to pick out clothes that go well with my skin tone, apply makeup, carry a purse. She has taught me how to be a mother, how to cook my grandmother’s recipes, how to hunt for bargains in both the grocery store and the clothes section. Because of her, I can change a diaper, soothe a crying baby, and perhaps more unconventionally, change a tire and fix a broken computer. My mother taught me empathy, how to care and be a good human being. She taught me all of the things that are essential to know in order to be a good woman, both by society’s standards and her own higher ethical standards. These are things that women have been teaching each other for generations and have been passed down and down until they have reached me. I am proud of this heritage and I am glad that some day, I will be able to pass on so much of what my mom has taught me to my children, who may in turn pass it on to their children one day.

The problem is not what my mother has taught me, however, but what I didn’t learn from her. I am coming into boyhood late, going through puberty at eighteen and learning how to be a man as I go along. There are things that I have missed out on. My father didn’t show me how to shave. There was no play at smearing shaving cream on my face, no process of showing me how not to cut myself. I got a description on the basics from a man in my support group and figured it out while my rather proud roommate looked on and giggled at the funny faces I made. My father didn’t teach me how to tie a tie, with a cute little rhyme or otherwise. It was not something he thought his daughter should know, so I looked it up on the internet. I spent hours trying to tie my tie until I got a knot that was the proper size and was positioned correctly on my collar. My mom was the person who helped me buy my first suit, because my father didn’t want to help me. The sales clerk was very helpful and showed me exactly what I would need in both a jacket and vest. He assumed that my mother was a single mom, because normally fathers helped their sons with this sort of thing. My father didn’t teach me to be a good man, because he could not bring himself to see me as anything other than a daughter.

Where Are you From?

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.

inspired by the poems"Clone" by the amazing Vanessa Shanti Fernando, and  'Where are you From" by Harshbrowns 

Questions of origin,
Stitched into my skin, woven
                    into my dreams.

In Dubai where I grew up
everyone was from somewhere
India, Sudan, Sri Lanka
We came from histories
not easily discarded
when pale-skinned Emiratis
joined white westerners
in spitting on us.

A Sri Lankan woman raped by her employer
jumps from a window
the shattering of her bones swallowed
in city rush glitter

A Filipina stabs her would-be-rapist employer
who's kept her passport under lock and key
to prevent escape.

In classrooms teacher after teacher
questions me
as I stand pinioned by a dozen curious eyes
branded "non-Muslim"
What do you believe?
How do you pray?

Where am I from?

Is a poem I've begun
and abandoned 
and begun
and returned to because
these cartographies live
inside my skin, under my tongue
and some journeys you only have the strength
to make once.

Where am I from?

Ceylon, Serendib, Cinnamon Isle
hung on the Indian Ocean
a teardrop earring
I would know its shape in my dreams,
my heart can guide my hands to trace it
like a lover's face
Lanka Matha, torn with war
beautiful as the first garden

Outside Sunmart, 10:00 pm, Minnesota
Sitting in a white friend's car I listen
"And the bombing continues...
Sri Lanka's northern territories
crisis, genocide, refugee camps..."
My heart clenches and bleeds,
tears in my throat I
can't explain
to those who've never
watched from an airplane window
an island coast growing smaller
then lost
not knowing when you can return.

A teardrop shape
familiar as my own heart

Lanka matha
Namo matha

Where am I from?

You ask like you have a right to know.
As if I should unfold these storied maps
from the pages of my heart
just for you.

How do you love nations
when no flags are waving?
Without the certainty of a thousand Hollywood heroes
spinning grand white myths
Do you know?

Let me tell you
of loving a land so
My tongue thirsts for the taste of its water
Across a thousand miles
and too many years

Where am I from?

My dreams run leaping 
into the arms of the Arabian Sea
its foaming laughter and wild-blue wind
I awake with salty yearning lips
and see only a frost-latticed window.
The crush of loneliness around my heart,
it would stop your breath

You who've never had to venture
too far from the horizon of safety
following dreams in spite of a naysaying world
the weight and love of a people behind you
pushing you forward, holding you firm,
reminding you why you left
and why you will return.

Where am I from?

Minnesota fall bright green red gold.
we hold a banner together
its sprawling words soar in my heart
"Pro-choice. Trust Women"
stealing glances I see the bracelet on his wrist
red, gold, green
Colours of the Mexican flag

We fall in love through
the soft rains of autumn
across stories of belonging
bloodlines and crisscrossed histories
in a land where neither of us
will truly belong

Already I know
these prairie colours rolling outward
almost touching a cloud-ribboned sky,
these evenings blue with snow
will tug at my heart
someday, somewhere else I
must go

Can the limits of your heart
be tested
across three continents
endless ocean miles
and stay open to love,
more love?

Where am I from?

You don't have time
or capacity
for the real answer.

You want a neat name
a clear label
so you can categorize and rationalize
excuse the systems you partake in
that mark us
First World, Third World
American, foreigner

You don't have time or ears
for all the stories
we could tell
my mothers
my sisters
my people

You don't really want to know

Born there, lived here
loved always
hearts stamped with histories
you cannot begin to understand.

Where am I from?

Why don't you turn it on yourself?

Where are YOU from?
what do you know of
the history you were born from?

stop demanding
answers you are not
ready to hear.

I come from many places
I come from many people

Where I'm from
is where I was always meant to be.

where are you from?

The Evolution of Snow White

One of the newest trends we’re seeing in speculative fiction is the revisiting of fairy tales, especially in a modern setting - they’re almost a unique sub-genre of the Urban Fantasy and Fantasy genres.

And, in many ways, this is very important to do as fairy tales are some of the very first stories many of us are exposed to as children. Unfortunately, they’re also very old stories - and contain a lot of very old and sadly prevalent tropes that have stayed with us over the years. Generations of children have grown up with stories of helpless princesses, passively waiting for a handsome (and anonymous - after all, any man will do if he’s in the right place at the right time) prince to save them from abject peril. There is no question that this iconic image - repeated over and over again in fairy tales, has had a profound effect on our culture, our society and our view of gender roles  and there have been numerous excellent posts deconstructing the damaging messages of fairy tales.

There is no fairy tale that can be considered more centre stage than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. An ancient tale, it rose to prominence when it became Disney’s first full length animated movie and was forever cemented front and centre as not just a fairy tale - but THE fairy tale. The ultimate tale of the protagonist - poor, helpless, sweet and oh-so-fair Snow White is attacked by her evil stepmother, while she helplessly sings to wildlife and eventually resides in a glass coffin to be rescued.

This is clearly an image that needs challenging - and, appropriately, Snow White is front and centre of the fairy tales that are being revised for the modern world. Between Once Upon A Time, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, we see a very different princess. The modern Snow White does not lay in glass coffins awaiting rescue. Her reaction to is to attack, not to run away in fright, or maybe sing a little ditty to bluebirds. The modern Snow White kicks arse, she wields a sword, actively hunts down the Evil Queen,and she stands shoulder to shoulder with her Prince Charming. One of the things that we love most about Once Upon a Time is that, while Mary Margaret may be the soggiest lettuce in town, Snow White is a highwaywoman, a fighter and a swashbuckler, every bit Prince James’ equal. Snow White is no longer a prize to be claimed, no longer an object to be won, and no longer a passive element in what is supposed to be her own story. And if she needs rescuing, she is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.

And this is both so very needed and very empowering. It’s powerful to not only create new stories that empower marginalised bodies, but re-examine these old tropes and challenge them in a way that not only sets a new paradigm but highlights how wrong the old paradigm was.

We are far removed Disney’s 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Once Upon A Time, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, have all revisioned the fair heroine and made her active rather than passive.  The story is now clearly an active conflict between two women very strong women.  The problem of course is that strong woman still means straight, able bodied, cisgendered and of course White. Snow White may not necessarily be waiting in her coffin for true loves first kiss, but we do know that there will be a love interest and it will most certainly involve a man. 

Read More

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Combatting Bullying One Child at a Time

'Bully Free Zone' photo (c) 2008, Eddie~S - license:
My oldest son has been subject to racist bullying since the age of five.  He has not had an easy childhood on the playground, but the one truth I can always say about Destruction, is despite the potential blowback, he is always on the side of the underdog.  The kind of compassion he displays everyday simply cannot be taught; it is innate to him.

I had sent him to the store to grab a can of corn to go with dinner last night, and when he returned and asked me if he could go to the park.  Normally, my answer is yes, because I believe that children should spend as much time as possible playing, and breathing in fresh air.  This time I told him no because all I had to do was heat up the can of corn and dinner was ready to be served.  He responded saying, "Mom you don't understand, Paul [not his real name] is at the park and he is walking his dog.  Xavier [not his real name] is there.  Every time Paul walks his dog, Xavier bullies him.  He used to bully me to but now that I am larger than he is, he leaves me alone.  I just want to walk Paul's dog for him so that he doesn't get bullied again."  I kissed him on the forehead and told him that I would keep dinner warm until he got back.

It didn't take him long to walk Paul's dog and we sat to have dinner about fifteen minutes later. I know that I have said it before, but I am so very proud of my son.  When you have been a victim, it is so easy to keep your head down and hope to remain unnoticed in the future.  Bullying happens in a very public space and continues because people don't speak up.  Even when parents get involved and speak to the school administration, that is no guarantee that the bullying will stop.  The unhusband and I have made repeated calls to the school, as well as spoken with the various principals, only to find that nothing changes.  I know that there have been instances of bullying that Destruction has not told us about simply because he has seen the futility of our efforts.  This scares me more than words can convey, because I know that over time this leads to depression and for some children suicide.  We have made a point of asking our son each day what happened at school and if he had a good day.  We try to leave the lines of communication at all times.  On the days when he says he doesn't want to talk about it, we respect his right to refrain from sharing, and just remind him that if and when he is ready, that we always have time to listen.

Second City Spoofs Mary J Blige's Burger King Commecial

Last week the internet was a buzz about a Burger King add that featured Mary J Blige singing about chicken of all things.  The advertisement is below for all who have not seen it.

Demetria L. Lucas wrote an open letter to Ms. Blige on Clutch in which she had the following to say:

Mary, I don’t wish to belittle you. Your transgression has been blasted on Twitter, in other open letters and blog posts have been written aplenty. Marketing extraordinaire and author Steve Stoute is tweeting to distance his business from being associated with yours.

My intent isn’t to get you down, but to remind you of your worth. You scraped from Yonkers’ hard knocks to the top where someone of your skill rightfully belongs. You didn’t cultivate an award-wining voice to sing about, of all things, chicken and some got damned lettuce on a condiments counter at Burger King. Surely, I don’t need to remind you about the negative associations of Black people and fried chicken. Yes, I know it’s good and people of all colors eat it (except me, I gave up chicken 14 years ago, but I remember it fondly), but you don’t need to play into stereotypes by celebrating its glory. You are beyond belting about its joy to an almost-empty restaurant. If this was about money, pass the plate. Black women got you because of all you’ve given to us.
Burger King has since pulled the ad but as you know, once something hits the internet and it goes viral, it's not long until a spoof appears. For those who didn't quite get the coonery of the original version, Second City decided to produce an "unaired version" of the videos for your viewing pleasure.

I Shouldn't Have To Think So Much About My Hair

'Sandra's Weave' photo (c) 2007, Joanita Hafermalz - license:

So as readers know, I have had natural hair for about 10 years now.  First I wore dread locks which hung almost to my behind.  After years of wearing that I got tired and wanted a new look, so I did the big chop.  I knew without a doubt that I never ever wanted to relax my hair again.  I know that the chemicals are not good for my hair or my scalp, and I felt that straight hair was capitulating to the Eurocentric standard.  I took to youtube and learned all about twist outs and Bantu knots.  Since there are no natural hair salons where I live, let alone a Black hair dresser, I knew that I would have to care for my hair on my own.  I spent time asking all the Black women I knew where they got their products and set about trying to find something that wouldn't break the bank, that would still work for my natural hair.  Let me tell you that was a tough task.  As much as Carol's Daughter for instance, has an incredible line of products, for everyday care, they are extremely expensive.

After several horrible attempts, I finally was able to rock a twist out that worked for me.  I covered it that night, went to bed and the morning, my hair was a disaster.  From this I learned that to make this look work, I would have to retwist my hair nightly.  It seems like a small thing, but when you're hands are aching and the thought of raising your arms up does not sound at all appealing what do you do?  Okay, that means an afro on the days that I am incapable of twisting, a look btw that I am not fond of on me.

I made the decision to buy a wig to wear on the days when twisting my hair was simply not going to happen, through time constraints, or aching hands.  The thing about this whole purchase is that I had to agonize over it.  What was I saying politically by buying a wig?  Did this mean that I didn't love my natural hair enough to fight the good fight?  Was making the decision to buy a wig an internalization of Black hatred?  On and on it went in my mind.

Processes of Feminization: Becoming Myself

Eva Rivera is a proud lesbian Chicana, daughter, sister and sex worker who can walk in 6 inch heels and twirl naked on a pole in front of total strangers but is still viciously afraid of moths. She hails from Fresno, CA and is a poet and aspiring film maker. You can find her more personal writing on her blog.  

I watched my father’s expressions carefully as he explained how important it was to know how the Founding Fathers shaped America. He stood up for this lecture, held the Federalist Papers in his hand and pronounced his words slowly and carefully and with so much pride. I was maybe twelve and blooming into a nerd who didn’t really fit into any clique at school and was unsure about where I was going. The only thing I was really certain of, was that Men were smarter, better at most things and leaders of pretty much everything. Women were good at raising kids and thought with our hearts instead of our brains. After his lecture I retreated back into my bedroom and glared at the short row of blonde dolls on my floor. I had three and they were all named Jessica. I kicked them into the closet and started writing a poem in my diary. That day I decided I wanted to be someone that people were proud to talk about and who did important things and I couldn’t do that being a girl.

I don’t blame my father for this pattern of thinking. I heard about all the wonderful things white men did in school, church and the media too. My parents were just one source of information. I’m not sure at what point I just gave up the whole girly thing. I just remember making a very conscious decision to not act, look, talk in a feminine way at a young age and that meant erasing and destroying some parts of myself that came naturally to me. That definitely messed with my self image and fed into my severe depression growing up. When I finally realized that I could actually be smart, funny, a leader, and good at most things I do and still be feminine I was thrilled. But the process of getting back to that place where I felt most at home in my skin was terrifying at times and challenging always.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Woman Prostitutes Herself for Two Cheese Burgers

'double cheese burger' photo (c) 2010, charlene mcbride - license:
We may not be living through the same circumstances as the generation who survived the great depression but that does not mean that times aren't tough.  For those who were already in a shaky circumstance before the recession hit, these precarious times have meant disaster in many cases.  Basic subsistence needs like food, shelter, clothing are something many are desperate to obtain.

A woman in Florida allegedly offered sex in exchange to two double cheeseburgers from the dollar menu at Mcdonald's and forty dollars.
Christine Faith Baker, 47, was walking on a Southwest Florida street last Friday when she was approached by a detective working in the Manatee County Sheriff Office’s special investigations division, according to a sheriff’s office report.

After the undercover detective invited Baker into his car and the talk turned to sex, she said her fee would be two double cheeseburgers from the dollar menu at McDonald’s, the report states.

The detective bought the burgers for $2.75 and then Baker told him that he could also tip her $40 for her services, according to the report. After Baker gave the detective directions to a vacant lot, Baker was arrested by other agents and charged with prostitution, the report states. [source]
If the above story was reportedly accurately, what happened looks like a case of entrapment to me.  I also think it's worth noting that a woman who asks for food as a form of payment is clearly hungry and desperate, making the decision to arrest her was cruel.  It seems to me that what she may have needed was help and jail for any length of time is not going to help her.

Comedian Kevin Hart Jokes About "Strong Black Women"

Yet another comedian has decided that calling something a joke magically erases the harm that their actions cause.

According to Loop21, this is not the first time Hart has decided to attack Black women.
Hart had this to say about women with darker complexions:

“#handsdown Light-skinned women usually have better credit than a dark-skinned woman…Broke as dark hoes…Lol”

After receiving backlash from his fans, Hart told dark-skinned women to stop being so sensitive, and to remember he’s a comedian.
Notice how these "strong Black women" have so much attitude that Kevin decided to partner with a White woman. Shit like this is why I have always said that just because Black men and Black women must both deal with the harm of racism, they are not necessarily our natural ally.  A Black man may will face oppression in the public sphere, but that does not mean that he is incapable of being just as sexist as any other male. Make no mistake, Hart's attack has a very specifically gendered message.

Talking to Children About Gendered Slurs

'Bitch- felted wristband' photo (c) 2007, Jera - license:

Yesterday I wrote about a confrontation I had with a woman I now consider to be a former friend.  What I omitted from that post is the fact that our initial confrontation happened over the phone, while my children were in the room.  They were watching television quietly when I first started talking, but as my voice began to rise with anger, my oldest, Destruction began to listen to what I was saying.  I have taught my children many lessons over the years, but I have made a point of stressing to them that we are a family and no matter what, we always need to stand up for each other and stick together.  I know that for me, our family has always been a shelter from the storm, and I hope that it will always be that way for our children.

As he listened to my angry responses to being called a liar, even as I explained in detail my life, Destruction became angry.  There are very few things that I am certain of in this life, but I know without doubt that my family loves me, as I do them.  In frustration, he got up and stood in front of me and said "don't listen to that bitch mom, you're not a liar".  I asked him to sit down and mind his own business for now.  After dealing with the horrid woman and making a decision not to interact with her anymore, I knew that I had to talk to my child about his use of a gendered slur.

This was a difficult conversation for me to initiate with Destruction, because I know that in his mind, what he said was a response to what he felt quite rightly was an unfair attack against my person. Having been a partial carer for me since the age of 5, he knows first hand my struggles.  He has personally seen the various times which I pushed myself to rise above and the consequences.  He gave up playing ball hockey, when he realized that the rink was not accessible for me.  I tried to hide the pain of having to stand and watch him play in the cold, but he saw through it anyway.  He has seen my frustration trying to negotiate a town which is most decidedly not accessible.  The irony of course is that my attacker owns a diner, which is not accessible because it is to narrow and does not have an automatic door opener. I can just imagine the state of the bathroom. Is it really any wonder that a woman who would run a business that is not accessible, could not wrap her mind around the need for a mobility aid?

Please Welcome Mike Our New Contributor

Hey all, my name is Mike. I’m a female to male transman and I’m a junior at the Evergreen State College, majoring in psychology. I’m eighteen, although my body thinks that I’m fifty. I have fibromyalgia, POTS, and various and a sundry mental diagnosis to go along with my copious amounts of emotions about the way the world works. I live in the queer dorm along with my dog Toby, so there might be mention of him. I’m also a quilter, although I don’t have much time to quilt with all of the homework that my professors love to give us. I’m something of a reluctant activist, although I love to write and don’t mind educating provided that it doesn’t involve hordes of people asking me what I plan to do with my genitals. I volunteer at the trans* organization on campus, as well as at a local museum for children. I find it fascinating how early people start teaching gender roles and how arbitrary those roles can be.

The main things I will probably write about are what it’s like to live with a few chronic conditions and various and sundry musings about gender. I’m not a big fan of gender roles and often get mistaken for a flamboyant gay boy, probably because transgender isn’t as well known as gay or lesbian. Other things among my pet peeves are questions about my genitals, confusing sex and gender, and dealing with ableism from people who really ought to know better. I tend to write about my pet peeves, mostly because it is stuff that I know about and like to explain.

I also like to tell stories. I like to be able to put people’s feelings into words so that they have something that expresses how they feel and so they feel less alone. Telling stories is the best form of rhetoric to me, simply because it helps to inspire empathy and it can be funny and interesting. It is hard to hate someone for being different when you can relate to a lot of the stuff they say. Stories can make history come to life and they can show what people experience. People are made of stories, and telling those stories can help a person feel more whole and accepted.

One of the most painful things about being part of a marginalized community is the fact that there are very few things in the media that tell a story similar to yours. It is possible to interact with culture and say, I feel this way, and have culture say, oh no, that identity doesn’t exist. There is a very large gap there, and I feel like part of my job as an ambassador and an activist for the trans* community is to go out and tell the stories that aren’t being told by the mainstream media. It is extraordinarily for people to know that not only are they not alone but who they are is valued and special. The media isn’t doing that for me or other trans* folk, so I will do it for them. The same goes for my disability. If I educate people, then maybe I and people like me won’t get nearly as many stupid questions.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 2: The Night Lands

You may not know it, but I am a huge fan of the series The Game of Thrones on HBO.  Just as I have done with other series, I will be covering each episode weekly.  All posts on The Game of Thrones have been written by our Beloved Sparky.  Because I was offline, I missed week one, so here's a link, for those who want to know what was said.

I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.

Game of Thrones is back. I expect so much from this season. Dragons and breasts and kings and prostitutes and brutal murders and breasts and politics and prostitutes and war and breasts. Ok, probably more snarky than intended – I actually expect a lot of great action and story in this series – but I also think it’s going to be told against a backdrop of a thousand naked prostitutes

So without further ado, let the gratuitous jiggling – err, story - commence

In Kings Landing Joffrey is continuing to be the hateful little worm he is – now indulging in blood sports while Sansa tip-toes around his torturous, sadistic and petulant demands – including cleverly manipulating him into saving Ser Dontos’ life. At least Joffrey’s siblings are pleasant.

In Queen Cersei’s council the Maesters has confirmed that the summer is finally over. Cersei’s way of dealing with the many refugees in this time of war and coming winter is to have them evicted from the city

Except now Tyrion is here as well, with his all encompassing awesome. He sets Joffrey down most wonderfully, provides what comfort he can to Sansa in her awful predicament and to show Cersei that Tywin has appointed him hand while he’s away. Tywein takes the chance to poke Cersei perfectly (particularly the “it must be hard for you, being the disappointing child) with all her many varied failures. Alas for the Starks, now Tyrion is making the decisions.

Tyrion has brought Shae, despite his father’s orders.

While Cersei is hoping to find Arya to fix one of her mistakes. She approaches Baelish (her advisors don’t trust Varys being a eunuch) and she exchanges battles of wit with him which she loses – but she then has her guards hold a dagger to Baelish’s throat and show the true power she has. I have to say, the Lannisters do have style.

Joffrey starts emulating the Targaryen decorations and even steps over the line with Cersei – even Cersei is seeing what a disgusting little toad he is and how little he cares about anyone but himself – including her, Jaime and Tywin.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if we didn’t have some jiggling breasts in a brothel. I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see one this episode and I’d have to edit my opening. The guards are hunting and killing all of Robert Baratheon’s illegitimate children, even the babes in arms. That also sets them on the trail of Gendry – who has joined the Nights Watch and is traveling north with Arya.

The Family Table Is Not Always Safe for GLBT People

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.

So another holiday in which I largely avoided family. Well, there was an awkward awkward dinner involving Beloved’s parents, a sadly overcooked piece of lamb and all the pre-bought things that I normally shun. But I was polite and they were polite and it was such a very polite affair. Like the kind of dinner one would expect to have if, say, you invited your boss round one day albeit without the creeping and brown nosing.

I did spend some time on the phone with my brother again, this is getting more frequent, it suggests he’s going to drop in at some point, he usually does *is prepared for Hun invasion*. However, I did point out that I had bought mother an Easter egg and he had forgotten which officially made me the Good One (one of the eternal elements of familial politics is how quickly family favour can shift in the grand scheme of things and how the coveted title of “Good One” also conveys the passive aggressive dig of “Bad One who doesn’t care and is his arm broken because he never picks up a phone!” Which goes to show that our family is never happy without feuds, snarks and sulks) Brother mine pointed out that I could never be the good one until I started dating women.

Which, well, hmmm… that rather upped that ante in a manner that was inappropriate for the discussion, as I would have thought would be rather obvious. He still doesn’t get why he crossed a line that didn’t need to be crossed and I just don’t have the energy to walk him through it.

I Still Have A Lot to Learn About Disability

'Canadian money' photo (c) 2009, Lauren Siegert - license:

It's 2Am, and I should be in bed sleeping, but after tossing and turning, and disturbing the unhusband with my sighing, I decided to give up the battle and get up. Something happened to me today that I have not been able to reconcile in my mind.

Over the years, I have lost more than a few White friends to racism.  It is something that I have learned to negotiate like a pro.  I don't stay up nights pondering what a proper response should have been, or whether or not my actions were correct in any given situation involving race, because this is something that I have been dealing with for the majority of my life.  Unlike race, disability is something that is extremely new to me.  In the almost six years since I have been disabled, I have experienced plenty of ableism.  It has usually come in the form of invasive questions, rude stares and the ever popular inaccessibility.  They have happened so often that I have developed rote responses.

For the first time since becoming disabled, I lost a friend due to my disability yesterday.  I have no doubt in my mind that their thought pattern was absolutely ableist, though they defended their argument with a false class analysis -- but what is keeping me from sleeping -- is not their ableism, but my response.  As I yelled back, defending myself from attack filled with righteous rage, I justified my decisions, explained my life and my need repeatedly.  I said personal information that is none of anyone's business, because I felt the need to defend my need for a mobility device and its importance in the daily functioning of my life. 

One of the truths I have come to realize with disability is that it means a life of dealing with gatekeepers. We all have to negotiate the medical establishment, but in our everyday lives, disabled people are forced to explain their conditions, their need for accommodations and continually justify that these requests are a human right - a civil right.  In my fit of rage, it did not cross my mind that she had no business asking me these questions, or sitting in judgement of me to begin with.  It did not occur to me that I had a right to my own privacy, and that questioning my needs, or my decisions as it relates to my disability constitutes an act of ableism.

I argued back and explained in detail the very private details of my life, only to be told that I was exaggerating and that what I had to say was bullshit. The bottom line is, no matter what this person believes, they don't know what it's like not to be able to hug your children when they need comfort because you are in pain.  They don't know what it's like to spend a week on your back on the couch because of pain.  They don't know what it's like to miss meals because you are in too much pain to cook, or because though the kitchen is only a few feet a way, it might as well be miles.  They don't know what it's like to look out a window and see people coming and going, living their lives while you are trapped in your house watching the world go by without you.  They don't know what it's like to deal with a system determined to treat you as though you are asking for handouts and freebies, even as the top 1% get their tidy little tax right offs and place money in offshore accounts.  They don't know what it's like to be in pain because this week, you simply could not squeeze in the cost of your pain medication. They don't know what it is to have to stretch your pain medication because you know that you cannot afford to refill the prescription until payday. They don't know what it is to smile through tears, because you cannot bring yourself to let the people you love see you hurting.  They don't know what it's like to have your 11 and 6 year old boys act as a carer for you. They don't know what it is to sit on your kitchen floor and cry, because you have just realized that you don't have any milk for the cereal you just poured, and will have to wait for a member of your family to go and get it, because you are incapable of a simple trip to the corner store.  In short, they don't know what it is to have your independence stripped from you through no fault of your own. They don't know the million compromises I make everyday of my life, but the thought that I might potentially get something I don't deserve is enough to rush to judgement and attack.

Monday, April 9, 2012

In Memory of Shaima Alawadi

Allison McCarthy is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Bitch, Ms. (blog), AlterNetGirlisticGlobal CommentColorsNWThe Baltimore Review, Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen, and Hoax, as well as in the anthologies Robot Hearts: Twisted and True Tales of Seeking Love in the Digital Age (Pinchback Press) and Dear Sister: Letters to Survivors of Sexual Violence (forthcoming).  Her guest column forGOOD magazine was selected as an Editor's Favorite for 2011.  She is currently a graduate student in the Master of Professional Writing program at Chatham University and lives in Maryland.

Shaima Alawadi 
thirty-two years old,
housewife in El Cajon
a California mother of five
found by her teenage daughter
beaten unconscious
drowned in blood
with a note:
“Go back to your own country. You’re a terrorist.”

They left a note on your house the week before
You dismissed it as a childish prank
You did not call the police
Could you even have imagined
a world of kicked-in doors and
tire-iron swipes to your precious head?

Her death is an act of terrorism
Violence against women of color is an act of terrorism
Violence at the hands of white supremacy is an act of terrorism

your name means good-natured
I imagine you walking in California sunshine
holding your babies
laughing with your daughter
Your killers took nothing from your home
except what could not be replaced

There are no answers for Fatima
as she clutches tissue
sunglasses hiding her tears
speechless at her mother’s innocence
no comfort, no justice
She calls the killers
animals without a God

Santorum Inspires 'Wank Off' Protest

I will honestly admit that I do have certain issues with porn, but the following suggested protest amused me.  I was further shocked by the unlikely endorsement.

transcript below the fold.

It's Easy to Call John Derbyshire a Racist

John Derbyshire, a former writer for the conservative magazine The National Review was fired after he published a piece in Taki's Magazine entitled: The Talk: NonBlack Version.  Derbyshire was inspired to write this article because of the conversations that Black parents are having with their sons in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin. I am going to share with a small portion of Derbyshire's advice to his children:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.
(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.
(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.
(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.
(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”
(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.
(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.
At first The National Review simply tried to separate itself from Derbyshire's article, but decided to fire him after public outrage was evident. There have been several articles in major news outlets like The Guardian and Huffpo, as well as commentary at CNN, declaring Derbyshire's piece to be racist. Anger at this piece is the quintessential White liberal response, and comes with the added bonus of being able to separate oneself from Derbyshire and declare that since you would never dare to express these kinds of idea publicly that you are not a racist.

Further thoughts on trans* theorizing about the body

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.  

My post last week requires some clarification. It wasn’t necessarily about how trans* discourse manages to construct a uniquely trans* mind/body dualism, but rather the ways that trans* discourse relies on a larger philosophical context of Cartesian dualism.

This context needs to be teased out for the ways that it privileges some trans* narratives over others and for the ways that it erases non-Western trans* experiences. It also serves to illuminate a tension in trans* discourse of the relationship between socially constructed meanings and the bodies on which they are forcibly placed.

Part of my argument last week was that the word ‘trans*’ or ‘transgender’ itself depends on this context of Cartesian dualism. And, as I spent the week pondering and mulling over this, it became even clearer why I dislike the term so much.

My experiences as a gender variant person more feel to me as a continual becoming (perhaps, flowering). I started my life as the person I was going to be and I am now in an ongoing process of becoming that person. I am not, transitioning, transforming, transcending anything. Not my body and not the socially constructed gender role I’m forced to live my day-to-day life as. Instead I work on becoming.