Saturday, May 12, 2012

Motherhood & Feminism

 Hey everyone I was on The Current yesterday discussing motherhood and feminism.

Motherhood & Feminism - Feminist Philosopher, Elisabeth Badinter
Mother's Day is just around the corner, and as many Canadians prepare to celebrate one of the hardest working members of their family with flowers and breakfast in bed, a new book has sparked an old debate over the impact of motherhood on feminism.

In her new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, the French feminist philosopher Elisabeth Badinter doesn't take long to stir the pot.
The object of this book is to defend the right of women to make their own choices and to take issue with this idea that you are a bad mother if you bottle feed your baby, if you put your kid in daycare and if you work. And what bothers me terribly is that because of this return to nature, the idea is that there is now this one unique model of motherhood which implies that everyone who doesn't fit that model should be condemned.
And it's not just peer pressure that is destroying feminism today, according to Elisabeth Badinter:
Motherhood today .... really for the past 15 years, has become crushing for women. In the sense that it monopolizes women's time - 24/hours a day. But also because there is this new set of obligations that comes from this oragnic ideology. That weighs on a mother's time. Now you not only have to breast feed 24 hours a day - you have to make your own natural baby food, there are an incredible number of obligations weighhing on the shoulder of new mothers. Which I think are dangerous for their desires and their ambitions and their freedom as women.

Motherhood & Feminism - Mom Panel
As more intensive forms of raising children gain popularity -- some moms are annoyed by Badinter's argument that babies are the "best ally of masculine domination." Helicopter moms, tiger moms and mommy bloggers all have their critics and advocates... does there really need to be a conflict over the ever-changing role of mother?

To talk about the pressures and pleasures of modern motherhood, we were joined by two women - both mothers raising school-aged children. Renee Martin is a freelance writer and blogger at Womanist Musings. She was in Niagra Falls. Cori Howard is the founder of The Momoir Project, an online writing centre that offers memoir and blog writing classes for moms and she is also the editor of the anthology, Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood. She was Vancouver.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Female Vampires: Children, Villains or Servants

'Vampire Pam (True Blood) Fan Art' photo (c) 2009, Angie22Arts - license:
Looking at Urban Fantasy we see a lot of vampires. A lot of vampires.  Sparkly vampires, sexy vampires, daylight walking vampires, sexy vampires, magic vampires, sexy vampires, viking vampires, sex vampires - did we mention sexy vampires? Yes, lots and lots of sexy vampires.

Who are men. Nearly always men - especially when we look at Urban Fantasy on television. Men men and more sexy men wall to wall - and very very few women. Of course, part of this is because most of the human protagonists are women and Urban Fantasy is extremely heteronormative and will only pair them off with a male love interest. But looking at the few female vampires we can dig up and it’s not a great sign - we seem to have 3 models: children, servants and enemies.

Much of the models that we see in vampire stories involve an ancient male vampire and a young, often innocently virginal human female.  You would think that when a relationship forms between a female vampire and a young human male that the pattern would simply repeat, but such is not the case. Female vampires are quite often infantalised, though they are at times well over a thousand years old.  The best example of this is Rebekah from The Vampire Diaries. She is 1000 years old and in comparison to every other vampire on the show, she is absolutely childlike.  Rebekah has thus far concerned herself with proms, dances and even becoming a cheerleader.  Why oh why would a person who has seen so much history be interested in these things, especially after spending so many years trapped in a coffin?

When Bill was forced to turn Jessica into a vampire on True Blood, she was just a young teenage girl who had not seen much of the world.  True to form, she was also a virgin. When she discovered that she had been changed, Jessica delighted in cursing, as this was something that she was not allowed to in her parents home.  It was the act of a child rebelling against that which she had been taught.  Much of Bill and Jessica’s relationship takes the form of father/daughter, based in the fact that Bill is her creator.  He only reluctantly takes responsibility for Jessica, after Eric makes it clear that he will not.  Jessica has matured over the years and has really begun to figure out exactly who she is; however, thanks to being turned into a vampire when she was still a virgin, her hymen reforms after each act of sexual intercourse, thereby constructing her as a perpetual virgin.

In Interview with a Vampire, Lestat turns Claudia into a vampire after finding Louis feeding from her, in the hope of forcing Louis to stay with them.  In the novel, Claudia was only about 6 years old at the time she was turned, though she was portrayed to be between 10-12 in the movie.  Even when Claudia has long past the age where she would find dolls interesting, Lestat continues to gift her with a doll on the anniversary of the day he turned her.  Claudia is desperate to grow up and put away childish things but she cannot because she is trapped in the body of a child, though she has the mind of a grown woman.  Her age means that she is forever dependent upon an adult vampire.  Claudia never does achieve her freedom and dies at the hand of the theater vampires, her very existence seen as a threat. 

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Daily Fanpoodle, Drama Queenz - Episode 6 - "Simple Little Things"

Hey everyone, sorry I missed yesterday.  We are going to continue watching Drama Queenz.  Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts.

Middle Passage Atlantic Slave Trade Shackle Manacle for Sale on Ebay

Have you ever come across something so triggering that you immediately began to cry?  That was the effect of seeing this Middle Passage Atlantic slave trade shackle manacle for sale on Ebay.

A slave manacle collected in Marrakesh, Morocco, possibly 18th century.Weight about 4 lbs, larger ring about 5" x 3-3/8"inside diameter, smaller ring about 3" x 3".The keyed lock is functional. Extremely Rare Mated Set of Two Small Child's Size Slave Hand-Forged Rattle Shackles & Made for the Slave Trade

For Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, Women are Dirty Sluts Who Shouldn't be Allowed to Vote

Peterson has long been a commenter on Fox News.  He in the past has said things like "90% of Black people hate White people".  I have been interviewed on his show, and I can promise you, he can keep up this ridiculous act for over an hour.  In his latest act of stupidity, Peterson is now on a rant against birth control, and women's voting rights.  I wish I could ignore this sell out fool, but because he has such a large audience, it simply is not possible.

transcript below the fold

Who I am

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.  

Twice in two days I have been told you are who you come form. I have been told priceless stories, handed down through generations and worn soft at the edges through many retellings. My inheritance of stories is small and meager, one side of my family with lots of records and official dealings and one side a complete blank. On my mother’s side, I have ancestors that came long before the American Revolution. Francis Hubbard came to America in 1736 and she or her descendants helped with the revolution in some manner or another. I am a descendant of Union soldiers who helped fight in the civil war. I do not take pride in any of these stories or my ancestors, country stealers, slave owners, and colonizers. On my father’s side, I do not even know who my grandfather is. He left when my father was very little and I know nothing of him, not even his name. Here I have no stores, no tales, simply the escapades of my father and a tale of survival.

For my own sanity, I cannot believe that we are who we come from absolutely and unchangeable. I need to believe that I can change from who my ancestors were, because of who they were not just in history but to the people around them. On my mother’s side, my grandfather and great grandfather were alcoholics, and abusive ones at that. My great grandmother raised my mother, and she was emotionally abusive. On my father’s side, my grandfather was an abusive alcoholic who abandoned his family and his children. My father himself is a rapist and a narcissist, someone who I do not want to become with every fiber of my being. These are the people who inhabit my genes and provide the groundwork for who I am and who I might become. My heritage comes from these people, good or bad though it maybe.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Shane Lost Tom

This is the story of two men who loved each other, and how in death Shane was denied all his rights because they weren't able to marry.  It's heartbreaking enough to lose the person you love, but to have that love go unrecognized and having no say in what happens to the person you love is just an added burden no one should have to deal with.  For all of you inhuman enough to still believe hat this is a lifestyle choice, or that two people of the same sex don't really love each other, watch this video.

This had to be heartbreaking for Shane to do and quite honestly, I don't know how he found the strength. It is impossible to watch and not cry.


So, You Want To Join the GLBT Community

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.

After much deliberation, I have come to an important conclusion that I feel I must confront my fellow GBLT people over. I’m sorry, but the jig is up guys, it’s time to come clean. Which of you is hiding the good booze from me?

Don’t tell me you don’t have it –  because there must be some reason why all these straight, cis people are clamoring to be GBLT, so I figure we’ve actually got the best booze stashed somewhere. I can’t think of any other reason why these straight, cis people are desperate, desperate to elbow their way in under the GBLT umbrella.

I’ve had completely cis people declare they’re a gay man in a woman’s body – due to gender issues? No, they just loooove Liza Minnelli. Or that they like Judy Garland or Barbara Streisand. Because they can make a quiche or like finger skating. We’re not talking throwaway lines here, we’re talking people genuinely expressing they’re part of the community because they conform to some ridiculous and rather dated gay stereotypes. (For the record, while I make an awesome quiche, I don’t care for Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand or Liza Minnelli. And KI have no idea why anyone wants to skid around on ice with knives strapped to their feet. In fact, I don’t know why anyone would want to go anywhere where there’s ice at all – unless you’re Canadian and have no choice of course).

Not too long ago Beloved, some friends and I were at a gay pub relaxing in a gay space when we got a tourist group coming through (why why why do large groups of straight people feel the need to descend on gay spaces? It’s not like there aren’t a gazillion pubs in the city!) being loud and irritating. There was much grumbling and finally an acquaintance (actually, she thinks I’m her bestest friend ever. I think she’s only marginally more tolerable than being water boarded in battery acid while listening to George Michael, sadly I think she’s a vague cousin of an actual friend so locking her in a tiger pit is, alas, frowned upon) announced that she thought all straight people should be banned from gay bars. She, the straight woman. Now, I did resist the urge to say “the door’s that way” (I know, aren’t I saintly?) but I did boggle. Of course, straight people doesn’t include her! She has gay friends (not nearly as many as she thinks she does)

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Breaks Down Ashton Kutcher's Brown Face

The back of Womanist Musings can be a very ugly place.  I recently posted commentary on Kutchers decision to wear brown face and inevitably, the whitesplaining and racism began.  I didn't publish the following comment on that piece, but I am going to publish it here.
Apu: Oh no, actor plays character...a not-white character even though he is white! RACISM! Well, I guess we have to chalk The Simpsons up to racist shenanigans, as well, since Hank Azaria voices Apu. Its kind of like when Ralph Bakshi made "Coonskin"...Al Sharpton accused him of a white man cashing in on the Civil Rights movement. Bakshi retorted: I'm Lebanese...

This entire blog is full of fail.
Even something as obvious as Brownface is enough to cause some people to go into denial.  I won't repeat what I have already said and besides, I think that Hasan Minhaj does it much better than I do.  This one is for those in denial about the harm this kind of characterization causes people of colour. As Minhaj says, "if you're going to be racist, come correct with your racism."

Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 6: The Old Gods and the New

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.

We begin with Bran’s dream about the Sea coming to Winterfel coming true. Theon Greyjoy lead his forces to attack one of the Stark’s bannermen and while their forces were away, they then invaded Winterfel. Theon then spends a lot of time almost begging everyone to acknowledge him as the Lord of Winterfel – it’s a well presented scene as, even with his forces all around and the keep controlled by his men, he is still blustering for control. Osha offers obedience to Theon to fight for him (and, unnecessarily, makes it clear this is Bran’s dream coming true). He throws that he was a hostage in their faces – especially the extremely defiant Ser Roderick, but they know they raised him and treated him better than a hostage needed to be and no-one respects his defence. As the defiance escalates, Theon is forced to execute Ser Roderick – again it’s really well acted with Theon driven to do things he doesn’t like and knows are wrong to try and prove himself to his men – and Roderick dies with incredible dignity.

I have to praise again the acting in this entire scene, from Theon’s conflict to Roderick’s dignity to the people’s grief – it’s very well done.

Osha continues to try and ingratiate herself with Theon. Which involves her getting naked, of course, and exchanging sex for her freedom. While Theon is asleep she sneaks out, seduces and kills another guard (shame she didn’t kill Theon) and flees the castle with Bran. Hordor, Rickon and their dire wolves.

Arya is still in Lord Tywin’s camp and we get to see Tywin’s harsh but extremely intelligent and perfectionist leadership style. It’s hard not to respect him even as he is one of the villains. Then Lord Baelish arrives – Baelish who knows what Arya looks like. Baelish and Tywin discuss the death of Renly, the undeclared nature of the Tyrells (the house with the third largest army in the Seven Kingdoms, Loras and Maegery’s house). Baelish proposes recruiting the Tyrells to the Lannisters for the sake of revenge against Stannis. All the while Arya tries to hide who she is from Baelish.

Later Arya and Tywin have some conversational back and forth which, again, is really well done. He questions her reading and family. We also learn that Jaime appears to have been dyslexic. She also manages to steal a note from the table – though I think it may have been planted by Tywin. She is caught with the note and has to run to Jaqen to name another man to die – and he does, just as the man opens the door to see Lord Tywin.

In Kings Landing Myrcella is being sent to Dorne according to Tyrion’s plans – and Cersei is not happy and makes that viciously clear. Joffrey is, of course, as vile as ever, expressing disgust for his little brother crying at his sister’s leaving. Sansa tries to interject some humanity but, of course, Joffrey doesn’t have any. And he has to go back to the palace surrounded by hostile – and hungry – commoners. Tyrion sees the riot before it happens – but it flares when someone throws a cow pat at Joffrey and he demands the crowd be executed. Oh why can’t someone kill him already.

Joffrey rants and screams – but Tyrion is equally hacked off with him and sets him down with some excellent lines and points out that they only threw a cow pie at him – and that because they’re starving because of his war. I don’t approve of slapping children but it’s hard not to approve of slapping Joffrey. In fact I’m going to rewind and rewatch it. It’s almost therapeutic. And again. Tyrion is also the only one who worries about Sansa who has been separated from them during the riot – though at least part of that concern is that they’ll never get Jaime back without Sansa.

Sansa has been captured and dragged down by a gang of men intent on raping her – until she is saved by Sandor Clegane, the Hound who left Joffrey’s side to find her during the riot. Two people who care about Sansa at least. While Sansa wasn’t stripped nude, another woman has her breasts randomly bared during the riot.

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Leah Dunham and her all White "Girls"

When Girls premiered, it was touted as Sex in the City for a new generation.  I decided to give it a go and found that it was nothing but a navel gazing show, focused on the angst of a group of White women.  There is nothing original about this.  Turn on just about every television show in the mainstream, what you will undoubtedly find is that Whiteness is the focal point.  Girls did throw us a bone and include a Black homeless man in the last 30 seconds of the premier.  Yeah for inclusion everyone.

I am not the only to come to this determination.  Lena Dunham recently addressed the lack of inclusion on the NPR:
“I take that criticism very seriously. … This show isn’t supposed to feel exclusionary. It’s supposed to feel honest, and it’s supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it’s not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue.”
So, a show about 4 straight, able bodied, cisgender, White women isn't supposed to feel exclusionary? Uh huh.  How exactly could Dunham believe for one moment that it could be anything else? I love how she preemptively declares the use of her quotes as potentially problematic. She isn't concerned about speaking sensitively, she is concerned about being called out on the product which she has created.  I wonder if Dunham realizes that the narrow focus of Girls speaks very loudly about her experiences?
“I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Daily Fanpoodle, Drama Queenz Season 1 Episode Five

Hey everyone, this week we continue with Drama Queenz.  In episode five the roommates decide that they are in need of some down time.  Of course, this does not run smoothly.

Racialized trans* slurs (tw: transphobic and transmisogynist slurs, racism)

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.   

Let’s talk about the slur, ‘ladyboy.’ Do a quick google image search for the word (I’ll wait). You’ll see that it is mostly Asian faces looking back at you. This is important for this discussion because I want to talk about how this word is a transphobic and transmisogynistic slur used against Asian people.

(And, yes, I realize that it may be occasionally used against white trans* women, but the stereotypical ladyboy is Asian.)

Because the word is heavily racialized mostly used (in popular media, at least) against Thai kathoey but is also relevant to many of the SEAsian trans* feminine people. Read this charming definition on Urban Dictionary (tw: for serious transmisogyny, transphobia, homophobia, sex worker shaming):

An extremely effeminate gay Southeast Asian male, usually in his 20s, who dresses up like a girl, often has tits (fake or grown with hormones), and typically cums like an ordinary male. They often practice as prostitutes in the tourist ghettos of Thailand and The Philippines, and are known for luring/soliciting unsuspecting Western men, as well as their unique ability to suck cock given their personal familiarity with male anatomy and desires. Most ladyboys prefer to get fucked in the ass, though a few (usually those with larger dicks) are tops. Ladyboys are completely mind blowing to sexually confused Western men who are simultaneously bi-curious and into Asians. Large hands/feet and over-assertiveness are usually a dead giveaway.

Openly Gay Student Suspended For Using Taser For Protection

Transcript below the fold

Black Women, Feminism and the Ever Popular ‘Mommy Wars’

I have a new piece up at Clutch magazine

There have been many societal changes to our understanding of family, but most women will at some point take on the role of mothering, either through natural birth, foster care, adoption, or parenting a step-child. Like everything else women do,  motherhood is analyzed and talked about to death.  Is there a better way to keep 50% of the population on edge than the constant suggestion that we are failing to follow through on our so-called maternal instincts? The New York Times has begun a discussion about modern motherhood based on a book entitled, “Le Conflit: la femme et la mère” (“Conflict: The Woman and the Mother”) by French intellectual and feminist Elisabeth Badinter.  In a roundtable discussion, several female columnists are exploring the good mother/bad mother binary and the role feminism has played in how women perform motherhood today.
If you look through most parenting magazines, you will see an erasure of the experiences of marginalized women, particularly women of colour.  Our motherhood has always been complicated by aspects such as social class and racism.  When you have to worry about your child being shot for simply wearing a hoodie or children being educated in failing schools, somehow the debates of cloth versus disposable diapers, co-sleeping, and staying-at-home versus working take on a completely different context.  I was impressed when I realized that a woman of color blogger and columnist LaShaun Williams recently contributed to the discussion.  That is, I was until I read her article.
For Williams, feminism is the singular cause of the malaise suffered by the modern mother because “the present feminist climate pressures women to work. We should question why so many of us are working — single and married women alike. Is it because we bought the feminist lie that we don’t need a husband? Is it because we want to prove to the world that we are worth something? Or is it to live in a ritzy neighbourhood and drive an Audi Q7?” Williams writes.   I wonder if the author has considered that some women aren’t married because same-sex marriage is not legal throughout the U.S.  I suppose a little heterosexism goes hand in hand with gender essentialism. Oh monolithic woman, how I detest you.

At this point in reading her brief contribution to the debate, I had to pause and wonder about how this ahistorical piece of claptrap thought it could successfully pose a legitimate argument against feminism. This was truly a difficult thing for me because I identify as a womanist rather than a feminist, due to a long history of racism, transphobia, ableism and homophobia engaged in by White, straight, cis gender, temporarily able-bodied, class-privileged feminists.  (Yes, I know that was a mouthful.)  At any rate, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms that should rightly be aimed at feminism, but suggesting that feminism created a world in which children must be reared in a two-income household — and is responsible for the dissatisfaction experienced by working mothers — is intellectually dishonest at best.  It seems to me that the real issue is the demise of the Keynesian economic system. It is worth noting, however, that even in the imaginary golden age of the 1950′s which Williams references — a time when June Cleaver reigned supreme — Williams forgets that poor and working class women, regardless of their race, had to work to ensure the economic survival of their families.

finish reading here