Friday, June 1, 2012

Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal

I came across this proposal on Pinterest and simply had to share.  I must admit that I am such a romantic that I teared right up. Consider it a little bit of Friday happy to celebrate the end of the work week.

And Take Your Pictures With You

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.
'Third World' is a term that's easily tossed around. In common (white) parlance, it usually connotes otherness, darkness, exotic mystery, crushing poverty -it connotes less-than-us.

But despite its worn usage, I never hear those words, 'Third World', without a tug on my heart so deep I fear it could stop my breath. Maybe it's the crushing isolation of Third World identity amid white Midwestern culture. Maybe it's because, the more I read, the more I see connections between Palestine and South Africa, between Afghanistan and India, between Jamaica and Sri Lanka, between your history and mine. Or maybe it's because I haven't been home in years. But recently whenever I see pictures of 'that part of the world', I stare for long moments and come close to crying.

A collection of poignant photography has been circulating on Tumblr, mostly featuring refugee communities in Afghanistan. These photographs range from children playing with their family's lone sheep, to young girls fetching heavy pails of water, to a man carrying his 6 goats, his only means of sustenance, across flood waters waist deep. They all have one thing in common: except for the photographer's, there are no names.

The subjects of the photos are always 'Afghan girl' or 'Ethiopian immigrant' or 'Tamil Nadu villagers'. If it's a thematic series, then they become 'Afghan girl doing XYZ', 'Indian family with XYZ'. Multiple photographs, multiple people, multiple stories, but no names.

Was knowing their names not worth a few more minutes of the photographer's time? If we don't know their names, how do we know they consented to being photographed? Did the 6 year old 'Afghan girl' bent over by a huge pail of water really want her picture taken for some Western magazine?

Third World strife and the people who live it are so much more picturesque, aren't they, when our First World lenses can freeze them in a tragically romantic snapshot? How much easier it becomes, this consumption of their lives, when the troublesome issue of human individuality is erased. How delightful, to extend patronizing benevolence to those people,  who have no names, no dreams, no secret jokes, no favorite tunes, no sexual fantasies, no anger or complicated grief, but who simply are, delicately framed and posed for your collective First World liberal tears. Why bother to respect and acknowledge the powerful humanity of the Third World, when it's so much more pleasant to imagine yourself as the savior of undiffrentiated suffering Brown people (whose suffering has nothing to do with you or the lifestyle you enjoy of course!)?

When I talk about the Third World, white people are quick to dismiss, erase, or downright challenge my claim to the people I was born from. I'm incomprehensible to them: someone from the Third World who speaks back, who has a name and identity. The West has grown so accustomed to objectifying and consuming Third World lives, that ascribing them equal humanity is almost unheard of.

When I look at those pictures, I see images of my high-school classmates in the shape of an eye and the hue of a cheek. I imagine what their names are, names I grew up with: Zainab, Zahra, Kulsoom, Abeer, Farhana. If we took the time to learn their names, to ask their stories, to listen as they spoke, to be challenged, we could no longer dismiss or pity the Third World.

Motherhood in Game of Thrones

In real life, motherhood is many things. It is love and bonding, affection and protection and most certainly inspiration. Mothers have been inspired to incredible feats over the years on behalf of their children, for their children and for the world their children live in. We have a world where motherhood can be a great strength and a source of great power and resolve.

In Game of Thrones, however, motherhood seems to coincide with victimhood - being a mother is rarely, if ever, a source of strength for the mothers of Westeros, but so often another avenue through which they can be vulnerable, attacked and manipulated

This is, perhaps, clearest of all with Cersei Lannister, Queen of the 7 Kingdoms, and mother of Joffrey, Marcella and Tommen. Cersei has lead a life with little love and a great deal of harshness. A callous father lead to a loveless marriage which in turn has lead to her seeing love as a weakness. She openly advises Sansa not to love because to love is to leave one vulnerable to being hurt. And with that assertion she has another lament - that you cannot help but love your children, she sees her children as an weakness.

And, considering her eldest son, it’s no surprise. Joffrey is, without a doubt, the most evil character in the Game of Thrones. Callous, selfish, cruel, sadistic and not very intelligent, he is a blight on Kings Landing and the throne - and everyone loves it when Tyrion slaps him. Cersei isn’t blinkered to the flaws of her son. She sees what he is and how truly awful he is - and has expressed so with Tyrion on more than once. She has told Sansa that she knows she will not be happy as Joffrey’s queen and she’s fully aware of the atrocities he’s committed, whether it’s slaughtering babies or having prostitutes brutalised.

Yet, she is still driven to protect and support him. She still worries about him when he goes into battle, she still wants to save him, she is still driven to support him. She is bound to the loathsome boy and even as she sees his crimes, she cannot turn away from him. She doesn’t even get any power from being the mother of the king as she is increasingly both outmaneuvered by Tyrion and, ultimately, unable to curb the excesses and foolishness of her son. Her son is a burden, something to endure.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nikki Muller and Butt Hurt

Yesterday I posted the video Ivy League Hustle (I Went to Princeton Bitch).  I really didn't think much of it and went on about my day, until Ms. Muller and her little friends decided to congregate in my comment section.  I woke up this morning to several of their comments in my moderation cue. In the interest of transparency, I am going to post Ms. Muller's comment here and address it. The rest of her hive mind buddies are going to stay in moderation. No one bullies me in my online home bitch.
Generally I avoid reading these kind of polarizing commentaries, and I think everyone's entitled to their own opinions, but I'm truly appalled by the ignorance demonstrated here. First: I couldn't possibly be more horrified by the implications that I "planted" a black female in my video for "street cred". The idea of that is anathema to me, and certainly to my friend and co-collaborator, who appears in many of my videos, which you might notice if you bothered to look into other things I've done instead of racing to judgement on a single view of a satirical rap I posted. To reduce her to a "token" role is insulting to her and her talents. I also hope you realize that both of the women in my video are my cograduates of Princeton, so anything you say applies to us all.

Furthermore, THAT WAS MY "BOOTY". And it's pretty obviously me... you can see my hair. I can't even begin to imagine why you projected that misinformation. You have some serious issues.

Lastly, assuming because I'm white that I'm "privileged" is racist. The only reason I could afford to attend Princeton was because of their generous financial aid. You do not know me and you do not know my background. Judge my video from what you see, but extrapolating facts about who I am is ignorant. You claim to be a feminist but you are just as bad as the frat boys who tell me to STFU and get back in the kitchen, just the opposite end of the spectrum.

Finally, anyone who thinks I'm being elitist maybe missed the part where I said "it doesn't really help that I'm an Ivy Leaguer". And this is all I'm going to say on the subject, because I'm sure you're going to ignore it and believe what you want to believe. 
I don't even know where to begin with this hot mess.  Yes, I said hot mess.  For someone who went to Princeton Bitch, you would think that she would recognize her own damn White privilege. Rap is not now, or ever will be your medium, and you don't get to appropriate it so that you can walk around with swagger and give the appearance of toughness. After seeing this video, why in the world would I be interested in wasting anymore of my precious time consuming anything else Muller has done?  I assume that because she is rapping about Princeton, she thinks she's better than Kreayshawn.  Guess again Muller.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Teaching Children to Be Homophobes

The following is a video of a young child singing in church that is absolutely heartbreaking.


The child sings:

The Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
The Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one, twenty six and twenty seven;
Ain’t no homos gonna make it to Heaven.

The congregation claps loudly, stand and cheers.  In the background a man voices can be heard yelling, "that's my boy."

Insersectionality - what it is and isn't

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.  

White queer people have an unfortunate tendency to appropriate African American historical and cultural symbols. I see this coming out of two beliefs, the first of which is that the major battles to end racism have already been fought (false) and the belief that if you belong to an oppressed group, you cannot add to a different group’s oppression (also false). The reality is that being oppressed does not give you a get out of being an oppressor free card. It is very possible to be queer and be racist.

The truth of the matter is that while racism and homophobia are both forms of oppression, they are very different. There are of course intersections, one of the quirks of queerness being that it is universal. People of any race, class, or creed can be queer. There is still a very large chunk of white queer people that will never experience the realities of racism first hand and there are POCs who will never experience the realities of homophobia first hand. There is nothing wrong with this, because allies are wonderful and it isn’t anyone’s fault that they were born a certain race or sexual orientation.  It becomes a problem however, to appropriate or erase pieces of movements that don’t belong to you or your heritage.

What brought this on was reading Forty Hours and an Unwritten Rule by Kim Williams. It is an amazing and fantastic book that explains how racism is both still thriving and difficult to deal with. Williams included a chapter on queer people’s tendency to compare their struggles to those of African Americans, saying that what they experienced was pretty much the same thing. And I’m not disagreeing with her on that point, and I’m not going to disagree with her that it’s a bad thing, for two reasons. First is that queer people can perpetuate racism and comparing homophobia to racism erases much of the racism that is still around today. The second (and ultimately more selfish) reason is that it makes homophobia seem like it isn’t important and bad all on its own. I really only object to the way that Williams goes about decrying appropriation and comparison that I object to, particularly since she erases a good deal of queer history to do so.

There's More Wrong With Parenting Magazines Than Missing Daddies

'Monique - Motherhood' photo (c) 2008, Barbara Olson - license:

Mike Adamick has an article up at Jezebel decrying the near erasure of fathers in parenting magazines. He points out that in the rare media mentions of fathers that they are often depicted as inept.  Adamick argues that this is extremely problematic and not representative of fatherhood. To that I say uh huh.  Look, I know damn well that I have one of the good ones, but research has shown repeatedly that most childcare and housework is still overwhelmingly done by women.  This is why parenting magazines, cleaning products, and any products for children are routinely marketed at women.  Advertisers and magazines are not going to market a segment of the population that has historically shown little interest in this area.

Adamick is crying what about the mehnz, rather than encouraging his fellow men to pick up their share of the burden that he misses the obvious erasure in this area. Whether it is magazines, or any kind of advertising, as long as it is related to parenting, it is overwhelming marketed to straight, cisgender, able bodied, White women of class privilege.  It is only in recent years that we have begun to see diaper commercials using Black and Latino children.  I am sure that the changing population demographics have more to do with that than a sudden desire to be inclusive.  Why focus on what is so readily obvious, when he can decry the erasure of men, in a role that they have eschewed for a very long time?

Even in more informal spheres like mommy blogging, marginalized women are continually erased.  White, straight, able bodied, cisgender women continue to be uplifted, even as marginalized women struggle to receive even the smallest recognition.  Can you think of a mommy blog on par with Dooce run by a marginalized woman? Our blogs tend to look different as well, because to raise children successfully, we have to focus on preparing our children for the fact that they have been brought into a world which will see them as second class citizens.  

The Ivy League Hustle (I Went to Princeton, Bitch)

This video was created by Princeton grad Nikki Muller.  It talks about how women hide the fact that they are highly educated in order not to scare men off and the fact that even with an ivy league education, women are still struggling to make a living

I get the point she was trying to make but there are so many issues with this video that for me they override the positive. Note the one Black female to give the video street cred. I also have a problem with this privileged White woman talking about how much she has in common with Michelle Obama.  They may have the same alma mater but that is where the comparisons end.  Michelle was the first one in her family to go to college and she grew up poor in Chicago.  Appropriating her experience to add legitimacy to a gender complaint, shows exactly how out of touch Muller is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Baking Becomes Homework

I have written many times about my love of cooking for my family when I am able.  It is very much cultural for me and one of the myriad of way in which I show my men that I love them.  Cooking and baking however, are too separate entities.  If the bananas are singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, I will bake to avoid waste, but other than that the men usually have to find a way to trick me into it.

When you have school age children, one of things that you will have to negotiate is the bake sale. I don't mind going to bake sales and buying scrumptious treats, but I am not a fan of participating in them because it means I am expected to bake. Over the years to avoid this, I have gone to the bakery.  When the children would bring up the fact that all of the other mothers bake, I would simply say good for them and repackage my purchased items, to give them the appearance of being home made. Don't even roll your eyes, because I know that if you have kids, you have either done this, or thought about doing it.

The school has now created yet another category to force me into the kitchen with flour and measuring cups. They call it recipe translation, which is short for drag your mother into the kitchen and force her to bake us something to prove that she can read a recipe.  Destruction failed to tell me about his homework assignment until Sunday, because he knew that a request for baked goods would end with me giving him twenty bucks and sending him to the bakery to buy something.  Because the bakery is closed on Sunday, I had no choice and had to bake something.   I was set up by the school and my own son.

If I see a homophobe that stain sticks

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, a person, party, company or whatever has shown their spotty homophobic arse for all to see. They have said things they shouldn’t, done things that make us want to pelt them with rabid armadillos and then they turn round with a gesture of apology. So what do we do?

This is especially difficult for me because I recognise I am not a forgiving person. Oh, I am not. If I see a homophobe that stain sticks and for a hellaciously long time afterwards I will always see it in any interactions with that person. I don’t trust easily and my goodwill is easily lost.

And part of that is I think marginalised people in general, and certainly the GBLT community tend to be… awfully forgiving. Or excessively enthusiastic over small gestures. I get it, I’ve been there so much – at one point 2 kind words to me would have me fawning like an overenthusiastic puppy. Hate speech against is normalised. In the last few weeks we’ve seen one preacher call for concentration camps for us and another calling for us to be beaten as small children. And this is standard, every damn day – it’s just not always as well publicised. And, of course, positive counter messages are few and far between since we’re so often considered too obscene for public viewing and we have the unpleasant situation of being usually brought up by parents and families who don’t share our marginalisation – in fact, it’s sadly common that our worst oppressors are those who should love and support us unconditionally.

So yeah, it’s very very tempting to leap up and down and sing “he likes me he likes me!” to every kind word. Which means we tend to give not just a lot of praise to gestures – but we also accept even the most hollow apologies for even the most egregious of offences. This feeds into my urge to be a grudgey unforgiving.

And this is topical. We recently have what could be considered a few gestures of apology from companies with dubious records.

The first 2 are DC and Marvel who, after being put to shame by Archie of all comic companies (guys, really? Archie beat you on progressive points, really?) decided to pull out a gay wedding and a major gay character reveal. Now, these comics have a decidedly dubious history when it comes to GBLT characters and portrayals. And for this reason alone I am slow to jump up and down with joy in this. And I’m certainly not alone in this. My first thought actually was “Northstar’s alive again? Damn, how they going to kill him this time?” Yes, I’m a cynic, but I have good reason for my cynicism.

The Empowerment of Willow Smith is About More than Gender

Feminist blogs have been all a flutter about the following statement by Will Smith, regarding allowing Willow to cut her hair.
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.” [source]

Most of the conversation surrounding this statement have been reduced to gender, which I suspect is why it has made the rounds in feminist spaces.  Will Smith has cultivated the every man image, which clearly is modeled on pre pound cake Bill Cosby. He tells his jokes and he makes White people feel safe, because neither he or his wife, ever challenges White supremacy.  It stands to reason that as a public figure, with much class privilege that Will Smith is now immune to many of the daily insults that African-Americans live with, but he is still a Black man in America.

The moment the topic of hair and Black womanhood comes up, there will always and forever be a connection to race, but you wouldn't know that from reading the White feminist coverage on this issue.  For them, empowerment of girls, regardless of frame reference, is always reduced to teaching them to fight patriarchy. Allowing a White girl freedom to cut or dye her hair, is a completely different thing than allowing a Black girl to do so.  One is about bodily integrity and the other is about bodily integrity and racial freedom.  I can say this unequivocally because I am a Black woman and have spent a lifetime dodging the hair police. Consider for a moment the White women lined up to defend the appropriation of Willow's Whip My Hair.  Clearly, this song is an anthem for Black girls everywhere and so of course a White woman had to horn in on the action.  Can't have the darkies believing that we have the right to celebrate anything about ourselves.

Will Smith is in the business of being safe and approachable and so he is not going to talk about the racial aspect of this.  Allowing Willow to do as she pleases with her hair, teaches her that she does not have to conform to the beauty standard set by Whiteness - a beauty standard that is unattainable to Black women by virtue of our race.  Other than the colour of our skin, hair is the next largest indicator of our difference.  It is something that is used as a weapon to assault our femininity and to mark us as inferior. White women and White men are equally guilty of hair policing and that is why giving a young Black girl the permission to make decisions about her hair care is absolutely about more than gender.

The focus on gender allows White women to absolve themselves from the racist and sexist policing of Black female bodies.  Over the years, Willow has rocked some amazing styles moving from straight, to natural, to shaved with ease.  Each time she has changed her style -- there has been some sort of discussion on the degree of appropriateness of the style in question -- as though this is something that should be up for public debate.  Many times, this even extends to what she is wearing.  From start to finish, Willow is constantly being policed and this has everything to do with the fact that she is a young Black girl in patriarchal, White Supremacist America.

Giving Willow autonomy over her hair not only frees her from patriarchal appearance demands,  it frees her from White supremacist constructions of Black femininity.  It is incredibly important that Black girls learn at a very early age to love themselves without equivocation, because social institutions will send the message repeatedly that they are unwomen. Black women are largely erased socially unless the narrative of the welfare queen, bad mother, hyper sexualized, loud, aggressive and angry trope can be employed.   Many Black women still cannot wear their natural hair at their jobs because it would be considered unkempt, or too political. Even in cases where they manage to do so, they have to deal with White people who think it's okay to pet them and to ask rude and intrusive questions about our hair.

While Jada and Will may play it safe in public, they both have the experience of growing up Black in America and it is impossible to suggest that they are unaware of the expectations placed on Black girls when it comes to things like hair.  To parent effectively, they would have to talk to Willow about how the world perceives Black women, and why it is important to fight negative stereotypes. The fact that Will was asked about Willow's hair evidences the degree of policing involved.  Keep in mind that Willow is only eleven years old.

I don't expect real intersectionality in White feminist spaces and that is why I am not surprised that they grabbed a hold of this statement and went on and on about gender, as though women all face the same oppression.  What was so patently obvious to me as a WOC, was ignored by them because it allowed them to present gender as the primary site of oppression, while allowing them to absolve themselves of the degree to which they participate in the racist and sexist oppression of Black women while going on about sisterhood.  If we are going to have a conversation about empowering Willow Smith, then it needs to happen in an intersectional manner, because she will have to negotiate both racism and sexism. Excluding one to elevate the other, does not even come close to telling the whole story.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater

Ser Davros is leading Stannis’s fleet to Kings Landing and, as is usual with Ser Davros the Onion knight, we get some more exposition as he speaks to his extremely devout and fanatical son.

In Kings Landing Tyrion wakes next to Shae, discussing the war, how he has no choice but to fight it and admitting his fear while Shae again makes it clear her loyalty is with him. Cersei is having her own council before the war – with Maester Pycelle , giving her a potion that would help her sleep or be used as a powerful poison.

Bronn is partying on the eve of battle (including naked women, of course) and singing in rather good harmony, actually. It seems that the soldiers of the Lannisters could double as a decent choir. But the revelry is interrupted by Sandor Clegane, the Hound and he and Bronn lock horns. Sandor to strip the illusions from Bronn and make his cold violence and love of killing seem more honest. The show down as to who is the most dangerous of the 2 is averted by an alarm bell ringing.

Varys and Tyrion are indulging in some verbal sparring while Tyrion puts on his armour. Varys has a map of tunnels under Kings Landing through which they can escape if necessary (though Tyrion is determined to stay, for which Varys has a wonderful little snarky barb). Varys also reveals he knows about Mellisandre, the priestess of Asshai that Stannis has – and that he believes in her sorcery and that Stannis has used the dark powers to gain his army. Something Varys considers intolerable.

Tyrion and Bronn  have a moment (I do like Bronn) and Tyrion sees Sansa has been called to see Joffrey off (rather than stay in the most secure keep), Tyrion also makes a point of pretending not to know Shae. Sansa pledges to pray for Tyrion’s safe return just as she does for Joffrey – now make of that what you will! Sansa’s getting good at these little barbs. Unfortunately, Joffrey arrives (alas, may something kill him soon) and calls Sansa like a dog. Sansa shows more of her devious cleverness as she manipulates Joffrey to fight in the Vanguard.

Cersei and Sansa retire to the secure keep, with Ser Ilyn (the mute executioner) standing by to guard them and to execute any servants trying to flee the castle with full pockets. Cersei busies herself getting drunk and trying to teach Sansa hard lessons about being a queen.

Cersei continues to get drunk while Sansa prays. Cersei reveals some more about how hard she is and why. She encourages Sansa to drink and expresses her frustration about being trapped and discusses how she would use seduction to win over their attackers if it weren’t for it being Stannis. She speaks frankly and callously to Sansa about what happens when a city falls and how the women in the room are likely to be raped, including Sansa.

Cersei speaks about how she and Jaime were treated so differently even as children when they looked almost identical. It’s a really good, angry summation of the fierce and rigid gender roles in Westeros and how much they devalue and demean women and Cersei in particular. Sansa protests that she was Robert’s queen but Cersei artfully points out that Sansa will be Joffrey’s queen and she’s unlikely to be happy about it. She also notices and question’s Shae – whose actions and inability to curtsy rouse Cersei’s suspicions.

They’re interrupted by Lancel carrying news and it distracts the tipsy Cersei who reveals the real reason for Ser Ilyn’s presence – to kill them all should Stannis get through. Cersei doesn’t intend them to be taken alive.

Joffrey and Tyrion have an amusing and childish game of communicating through proxies. And Ser Davros leads the fleet into a nearly empty harbour – the Kings Landing fleet is missing. And Tyrion’s plan becomes clear – 1 ship has sailed out, empty of men, trailing wildfire across the water. One flaming arrow later and it sets the water alight and explodes, devastating Stannis’s fleet and killing Ser Davros. But Stannis still lives and still outnumbers them – he’s determined to go forwards even though the cost will be far higher.

Joffrey loses his shit – predictably, while Tyrion keeps his cool and moves his soldiers appropriately. The Hound, Sandor Clegane, reminds us of his fear of fire (recall that the scar on his face was caused by his brother holding his face in the fire. He's deathly afraid of fire to the point of phobia) and threatens the fire archers painfully if any arrow comes near him. I’m not even entirely sure why they’re using flaming arrows since the stabby part seems to work just fine and a small flame isn’t likely to do that much more damage, but hey, it looks dramatic.

Time for dramatic fight scenes! It looks stylistic and bloody – arrows and dropped rocks and people and all kinds of nasty bloody, death. Thankfully, Clegane opens a door for them and dramatic swordplay is added to the mix. It’s pretty hard to see who is who in the night fight or who is on whose side. Clegane cuts people in half with his big sword and Lancel gets shot with an arrow.

There’s more and more fire on the battlefield (which I doubt helps either side) and Clegane becomes more and more frozen with his fear. He’s saved by Bronn but eventually leaves the battlefield, and the Lannister troops retreat, closing the doors behind them.

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