Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Question: What's Cooking?

'120/366: ?' photo (c) 2008, Magic Madzik - license:

As regular readers know, I love to cook. I am always looking for new recipes to try.  One of my boards on Pintrest is dedicated solely to recipes and if I am not careful, I can get lost pinning and going through recipes for quite sometime.  With the warm weather in full swing, I am busy looking for quick easy recipes that won't heat up the house, and will be easy to make. 

It's been a long time since I have done a Friday question so I thought that I would ask, what is your favourite thing to make during the summer?

Anita Blake: Faux Champion of Sexual Agency

Many people, especially ex-fans of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series have become very strong critics of the series, especially after Narcissus in Chains. Myself included. Before this point, Anita was a strong, determined female character, she made her own rules and decisions, she was the dominant actor in her own life – she had issues, certainly and was far from perfect, but she was a strong character in a rich, diverse world with interesting and often surprisingly deep issues.

And then the ardeur landed, after which opening each book came accompanied by bow-chika-wow-wow porn music. The plot and the world took a back seat to random sex scenes and unnecessary and not very edgy orgies which occasionally sprouted new magic powers (humping to level up!) and people were disappointed that such a great series had devolved into such a plotless wonder.

And in response to the criticism, the straw man was raised that the critics were prudes who were against a sexually pro-active, powerful woman and there’d be no problem if the protagonist was a man. Which is a shame because it misses the actual complaint – that the books were a really well written, fascinating series of books that had all the plot and development cast aside. I don’t actually mind Meredith Gentry – because Meredith Gentry has been squeezing plot in between the endless sex scenes and occasionally humping to a new level of magic since book 1.

But let us examine this straw man a little closer – Anita is a sexually pro-active woman. Is she? Because I question this a lot.

Now, I very much like a book that includes a woman who is in charge of her own sexuality, has sex as and when she wants to, with whom she wishes, without pressure and without shame. I love that and praise that. But Anita Blake is not that woman, primarily because Anita Blake did not choose her sex life, did not seek it out – and most dramatically, did not consent to it.

That sounds extreme, but look at Anita’s sexual encounters. Start with the more casual of them, the one offs. The vast majority of these happened because the ardeur struck and Anita physically had to have sex – absolutely had to. If she didn’t she’d literally go mad, starve or drain energy from Nathaniel and Damien and kill them. She has to have sex now to save her life or the lives of people she cares about. If she had her own choice, completely un-coerced and without these supernatural pressures, would Anita have ever had sex with London or Byron or Requiem or Graham or Wicked or Truth? I don’t think anyone can claim that Anita would have chosen these sexual encounters, but the magic forced her. Do I even have to mention the weretiger orgy that happened under the influence of Belle Morte? Anita blacked out for that one and still has no memory of what she did/what was done to her.

And they’re not the only metaphysical emergencies that force Anita into sexual contact. Channeling Raina’s Munin (magical werewolf ghost) to heal forced to initiate sexual contact with Nathaniel (twice), Jamal, Jason and Gregory all, again, at times when she would not have consented to or sought sex with any of them. Healing her triumvirate has driven her to deep ardeur feedings with the heads of different shapeshifter packs, Donovan Reece of the swanmanes, Rafael of the wererats and even tried for Joseph of the werelions (who refused due to being monogamous. She actually refuses protection for him that would lead to his death for not having sex with her). Again, would Anita without pressure or coercion have chosen these sexual encounters? Given the character, I don’t think you can sensibly say Anita would have freely chosen this and that this sex was of her own un-coerced volition.

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Melissa Harris-Perry Gives the 101 on Black Hair

I suspect that just like myself that there will be Black women who will be bookmarking this 101 bit to forward to all of the nosy, inappropriate, rude, and racist, White people, who cannot seem to stop asking, touching, or talking about our hair.  Here's everything you have always wanted to know about Black hair. Watch it and please refrain from harassing us from here on in. Don't say I've never done anything nice for you.

  transcript below the fold

Apparently, Black Women Are Making a Mistake Not Wearing Makeup

I don't know about you, but I am not particularly happy about men deciding what I should look like.  Sam Fine is a makeup artist and Fashion Fair Creative Makeup Director. He recently did an interview with Fashion Bomb Daily.  Fashion Fair's makeup is specifically targeted to WOC, which means that it is one of the few lines where you don't have to struggle to find a product that matches your skin tone. Considering that many makeup companies are hard pressed to cater to our needs, Fashion Fair is important. I do however reject the idea that I must wear makeup to be beautiful.

“I think the biggest beauty mistake is really not wearing makeup.”

I know that it is his job to sell this product, but seriously, who does this man think he is? With his explanation, he only manages to put his foot, even deeper down his throat.
“I think the biggest beauty mistake is not understanding how to enhance your beauty,” Sam added. “And I think a lot of [women of color] are scared that makeup is going to make [them] look fake, ‘It’s not gonna look like me, they’re not going to have my color.’ I think that they just tend to step away from the category when a brand like Fashion Fair, is releasing a liquid foundation in July to add to the range of colors. Nineteen shades! There will be 17 shades in liquid! And if you look at that, that’s not a range that’s broken up for general market vs. African Americans. So you really are getting a wealth of coverage options and colors. I think the biggest mistake is not participating in the game at all.”
 Silly women, with all of these choices, how dare you walk around with no makeup on your face.  Just look at what Fashion Fair has done for you.  How dare you be so ungrateful.  It's not really about your comfort level.  Don't you know that as a woman, it's your job to be beautifully made up everyday.  That's right ladies, fake it until you believe it.  Look how generous he is,  he's not even asking that you wear a lot of makeup.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Disney Princesses: New Drawings, New Problems

Fairy tales are in right now. It seems more and more on TV, in books and films, taking these old classics and re-imagining them in the modern world and in modern contexts. While it’s something we like to see, we also do think it has its flaws.

Recently we came across these series of images of Disney Princesses made bad ass. And that’s definitely something we support. We’re beyond tired of heroines whose role in their story is to lie back and wait passively for a prince to rescue them. We much prefer heroines who not only can rescue themselves - but won’t be kidnapped or imprisoned in the first place, not if you know what’s good for you! So these images in fighting poses and weapons looking mean? We like.

Except... why does being bad ass mean a woman has to lose her clothes? They’ve become tough, dangerous, mean fighters - and this involves fish-net stockings (Snow White), a loin cloth (Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel), and a bared navel (pretty much all of them). And Sleeping Beauty (ye gods). We’ve seen this time and again, when a woman goes to fight she leaves her clothes behind. Can a woman’s clothes and a weapon not exist in the same picture?

This unnecessary sexualisation of women whenever they are pro-active seems to be part of a prevalent message that a woman cannot be powerful or aggressive without it relating to being sexual; she is reduced to sex.

And these images have other flaws when we look at the WOC

Princess Tiana

The Princess and the Frog is fraught with problems from start to finish. Unlike the majority of the Disney Princesses, Tiana did not get to retire to a castle with her princess charming, she got to run a restaurant. We see her at the end of the movie serving food to people. It is not an accident that the first Black princesses did not get the fairytale ending. If that were not enough, she spends most of the movie as a frog. A frog people. You would think that any kind of revision would be be better than the original but that is not the case.

Tiana goes from being fully clothed in the Disney version to being heavily exposed. Why does sexualizing a character which has already been othered relative to the White princesses equal empowerment? You don’t need to be naked to kick ass. Tiana is also the only princess who was given a gun.  Am I really supposed to ignore the racial implications here because some artist wants to yell rah rah sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Serenity Prayer

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 thought this pray was beautiful, when I was little. I played with my father’s coins from AA, not knowing what they were for or what they represented, but I liked the prayer (again ignorant of its origins with AA) and it made me feel closer to my dad. He also had a stained glass folding panel with the prayer, and it was beautiful. For those of you who don’t know what it is:

God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve also been watching Degrassi, for the Adam character and reading the recaps on AfterEllen. And one of the things the recapper said was that Adam wasn’t just naieve, he was repeatedly giving people second chances in order to educate them, and that it was both admirable and stupid in her eyes (I’m paraphrasing a little, forgive me). And that got me thinking.

The reality is that there are so few transgender allies that most of the time, we make them as we go along. Sometimes it takes educating the LGB community about trans* specific issues. Sometimes it takes long, in depth conversations about oppression and cisgender privilege. It takes work and effort in order to get tolerance, especially where the trans* people are now.

The Life and Death of Goodfella's Henry Hill

I love the movie Goodfellas and can quote quite a bit of it.  I read today on TMZ that Henry Hill, the former mobster whose life became the focus of Goodfellas has passed on.

If you read the comment section of the piece in question, many people are quoting lines from the movie.  I wanted to share you two comments in particular that stood out, not because they were praising the Hollywood version of Hill's life, but because they spoke such a hard truth.

No one chose to engage with this comments, but I think that they made an excellent point.  I can only think of one movie which even remotely glorified a Black criminal and that is American Gangster staring Denzel Washington, and this movie most certainly did not become part of the social consciousness.  I think that it tells us that Whiteness can mask a myriad of sins.  What are your thoughts on the glorification of Hill and what it says about criminality?

What if Sasha and Malia Obama Aren’t Straight?

Despite Barack and Michelle’s diligence in securing their daughters privacy, when it comes to dating, the press is well aware that they can always get the president to make a crack about the secret service in relationship to his daughters and dating. 

The president began a series of interviews on Monday when a reporter from WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., brought up a touchy subject that instills dread in many fathers as their girls grow up: "Soon the boys will come."

"Oh, well that's why we have Secret Service," Obama said with a big grin as he fidgeted with his cufflinks. The reporter laughed in response.
It’s funny right?  Boys are what fathers worry about when they have daughters right?  This kind of comment has absolutely become a rote response from the president over the last four years.  Each time it is followed by a laugh because the comment appears innocent.  

When the secret service do appear in media, they are largely White cisgender men and it has often made me wonder about the implications of them acting as gatekeepers to the sexuality and bodies of young Black women.  Given the history of rape and various sexual indignities perpetrated by White slave owners on our foremothers this relationship seems incongruous at best.  Considering that White men continue to assault Black femininity in every single social organization the idea they are placed into the position as guardians of virtue flies in the face of the social reality of race and gender relationships. 

The reality is that these jokes about the Obama girls dating and the need for vigilant secret service are not harmless.  Aside from the fact that it denies the legitimacy of their sexual agency and the right to make decisions about their bodies, the comment in and of itself assumes heterosexuality.  Obama may be the best president in terms of Trans* rights, but in terms of his willingness to combat homophobia, his administration has been lacking. Even assuming that in his private conversations that he is far more liberal, his continued commentary about protecting his daughters from boys assumes heterosexuality.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm A Feminist Because...

I was sent the following video by the creator of this video and I thought I would share it with you. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

transcript below the fold

Loving Day and Interracial Relationships

Loving Day commemorates the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision, which struck down the last of America's anti-miscegenation laws, allowing interracial couples to legally marry. As a Canadian, obviously this ruling does not apply to me, but having been in an inter racial relationship for over twenty years, I thought I would take the time to talk about it.

I think from the outside there exists a belief that race simply disappears when one is involved in an inter racial relationship and I can tell you first hand that nothing could be further from the truth.  If I were with a Black man, our racial discussions would probably be less, because there would be a greater understanding of what living in a White supremacist state involves.  Being with someone who is White, even one who is absolutely a committed anti-racist, means that racism is something that is always present, even in moments that are supposed to be safe and or neutral.

Loving a White man does not suddenly mean I don't see the colour of his skin, or the racial privilege encoded to his body because of it.  Loving me, does not mean for one moment that my unhusband is not aware of my Blackness and how it marks me and by extension him.  He has seen how just his presence at times confers acceptability for me.  I was shopping for a new purse and trying to get the attention of a store clerk.  They all walked past me like they didn't see me; however, the moment he came to stand next to me, taking my hand, suddenly a clerk appeared and asked him how he could help, despite the fact that we were in a purse store and I was the one obviously who was going to purchase something. We walked out hand in hand, but that does not mean the sting didn't hurt.

He has had moments when without knowledge of me or our children, co-workers and acquaintances have made extremely racist comments. Without my presence, his Whiteness speaks loudly and people feel free to let their inner bigot run loose. What they don't know is that by doing this, they are attacking the very people that my unhusband holds loves the most.  Of course he is angry and hurt, but even as he relates these stories to me, he cannot imagine how much more it hurts me.  I  have held his hand and listened as he was told that he should find himself a nice White girl and that he didn't have to settle for me because he is a good guy. To outsiders, I am a stain on the purity of his Whiteness, though I have stood by his side for twenty plus years and birthed him two sons. He has been called a nigger lover more times than I can tell you.

We can’t achieve justice without it being for everyone

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.  

Privilege, oppression and marginalisation are concepts we talk a lot about in the social justice blogosphere (and beyond). There’s a lot to talk about and many nuances, intersectionality and so much more. But there’s also a creeping habit to, by intent or accident, use the language of privilege and oppression in a way that denies our own privilege, centres our own marginalisation as more vital (or universal), or gives our own marginalised group a pass on the badness. It’s a common reaction – after all, we all want to think of our people as “the good ones” and, despite it being easier to live as the oppressor, it’s certainly more sympathetic to identity with the oppressee. But it’s still not all good – because it does come down to denying privilege, denying marginalisation or dismissing marginalised people’s issues.

The most common thing I see is us just taking a rather scattershot approach to privilege – including every privilege the offender has – even the ones that are not relevant to the situation.

Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke in a grossly misogynist way because of her testimony on birth control. And, thankfully, people describe what a privileged arsehat he is. This is good – but I also saw many people cursing him for his straight, white male privilege. Sounds right – after all he is a straight white male (and he’s also a homophobic racist as well as a misogynist). Except, he didn’t use straight, white privilege to (though those privileges add to his power and position, certainly) to attack Ms. Fluke; his male privilege was the relevant one. And this matters – because by adding the straight and white privileges there we’re implying that if Limbaugh were gay or POC (or both) then he would not be oppressing Ms. Fluke, he would not have privileged over her - or, he simply wouldn’t do such a thing. We know that’s not true. Being gay or being POC is no defence against being a misogynist.

It’s not that he doesn’t have these privileges – it’s that they’re not relevant to the current discussion – or the relevance they have is fraught since it also implies a pass for those groups.

Another example – in my many many fraught discussions of the problems of slash and m/m genres  many people have joined me in objecting. But some of the objections are of the appropriating writers using straight, white privilege. Except I’ve a whole shed load of homophobic fail in my inbox from straight POC writers, slash, m/m and yaoi defenders, declaring their natural ally-dom to all gay men since they’re man-sex fetishisers. It is by their straightness and othering that they are oppressing – and, again, we’re giving a pass to some of the privilege offenders by bringing in these other privileges. Some of the homophobic bullshit is given a pass.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sherri Shepherd Responds to Rape Threats

'Sherri Shepherd 2' photo (c) 2010, Alexander Vaughn - license:

Most of the time that I write or think about Shepherd, it is usually about some ish she said.  Over the years, Shepherd has said so many things that are offensive; however, no woman, regardless of the reason, should be threatened with violence and rape, as Sherri recently was on twitter. I had to wade through a ton of nasty tweets to find the tweet by @DacloneKiller which it began it all.

This tweet was made on the 6th and @DaCloneKiller has gone on to slut shame and fat shame Shepherd. His twitter feed is the definition of online troll.   
@DaCloneKiller You think I should be raped in a back alley?" she wrote yesterday. "Let's see if the police agree w you & I took a pic of your tweet...I'M FILING A POLICE REPORT. SO TELL ME NOW WHAT SHOULD BE DONE W ME."
And then again, to the offender himself, "I am going 2 file a police report 4U threatening me. And so help me God, when I find out where U live, charges will follow."

"I'm tired of folk thinking they can hide behind a celeb Avi & type anything they want to you w/o consequences b/c they can't be seen COWARDS," she added. I'm not a little 19 year olds... I'm a grown @%$ woman... seriously you want to threaten me? I'm on my way to the police @DaCloneKiller."

A few hours later, Shepherd tweeted, "Just returned from filing a police report for this online harassment nonsense. I will be pursuing this legally. The police said @Twitter has to be subpoenaed for release of @DaCloneKiller's information. I will be pursuing this #cowardshidebehindavis." (source)
I really do hope that Sherri follows through and has this man charged.   The perceived anonymity of the internet has given rise to much abusive behaviour and there can be no doubt that marginalized people are largely on the receiving end of this abuse.  @DaCloneKiller is busy trying to justify his threat by claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt and there are several people in his time line suggesting that she is blowing this out of proportion, even as he escalates the attacks against her.

Who Is Woman Enough to Participate in the Olympics

'Olympic Rings - (Day 7 Holiday 2011)' photo (c) 2009, Matthew Kenwrick - license:
We have all become accustomed to the drug testing athletes must undergo to ensure that their performance has not been enhanced. Female athletes however are subjected to a new form of gender based policing based in the idea that someone have a natural biological advantage because of things like hormonal imbalances.  There are some who believe that this amounts to an unfair advantage ever as it encourages gender policing that is harmful emotionally to girls and women.
Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was so fast and muscular that many suspected she was a man, exploded onto the front pages three years ago. She was considered an outlier, a one-time anomaly.

But similar cases are emerging all over the world, and Semenya, who was banned from competition for 11 months while authorities investigated her sex, is back, vying for gold.

Semenya and other women like her face a complex question: Does a female athlete whose body naturally produces unusually high levels of male hormones, allowing them to put on more muscle mass and recover faster, have an “unfair” advantage?

In a move critics call “policing femininity,” recent rule changes by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, state that for a woman to compete, her testosterone must not exceed the male threshold.

If it does, she must have surgery or receive hormone therapy prescribed by an expert IAAF medical panel and submit to regular monitoring. So far, at least a handful of athletes — the figure is confidential — have been prescribed treatment, but their numbers could increase. Last month, the International Olympic Committee began the approval process to adopt similar rules for the Games. [source]
Essentially, these tests and probes are meant to define what constitutes woman.  Even if a woman has always identified as female and lived her life as a woman,  simply a complaint to the IAAF is enough to force her to endure a battery of tests and treatment that she may not want or need, to be deemed suitably female enough to be able to compete.  This is beyond intrusive and amounts to cissexist gender policing.

Biological Essentialism

So, I’ve been trying to do some research into what bakla means back in the Philippines (since I live in the diaspora). One article I’ve read (of a few):

Winter, Sam, Sass Rogando-Sasot, and Mark King. 2007. “Transgendered Women of the Philippines.” International Journal of Transgenderism 10:2: 79-90.

Now, if you decide that you want to dig up the article and read it yourself, be warned that it uses some outdated terminology (can you tell from the title? ‘Transgendered,’ blech!). Now, the first author is a white cis dude, as far as I’m able to tell, but the second author is a bakla woman. In any case, they surveyed a bunch of bakla/bayot in the Philippines and recorded some interested data.

One very, very interesting response was what the participants attributed their gender/sexuality to, 73.5% of the respondents checked that it was a result of biology (87). Now. You could immediately try to argue that one reason they were ‘mistaken’ about this was/is ignorance or a lack of education (since, it is true that the Philippines has a great deal of poverty and many people cannot access education). But, 70.1% of the participants had some level of post-secondary education, much higher than the 30% national average (87).

True Blood Season Five, Episode One: Turn! Turn! Turn!

I am not going to do a recap this week because so much happened that I really need to talk about.  I love True Blood dearly, but it continues to fail, and in some cases fail huge.

When we last saw Jason,  Steve Newlin had shown up at his door as a vampire.  Steve glamored Jason tied him up and said that the reason he has been all murderous, is because he was jealous that Jason slept with his wife. Apparently, becoming an immortal gave Steve the freedom to admit that he is a gay American.  He then doubled down on this revelation by admitting to be deeply in love with Jason.  To his credit (a phrase I don't normally associate with Jason) Jason said that he was flattered and said that he isn't gay.  This was not what Newlin wanted to hear and he immediately became angry.  If Jessica had not shown up declaring Jason hers and reminding Newlin that she is the older vampire.

I loved seeing Jessica come blasting in and rescuing Jason.  It really shows how much she has evolved since becoming vampire and gaining her freedom from her restrictive family.  My excitement over seeing Jessica be powerful could not overshadow my disgust at what they did with Newlin's character.  He decided to hate on vampires and become a fundamentalist preacher because he was a closeted gay man?  Really?  I would say that I am shocked that they literally turned him to the predatory gay male, but this is after all True Blood we're talking about.  Despite the whining and complaining, True Blood isn't nearly as GLBT positive as some believe.

The next night, Jason showed up at Bill's were Jessica was having a party.  It seems to me that he only showed up there because he was rejected by Hoyt and his friends.  I love that Jessica told him that nothing had changed.  When Jessica was paying attention to another man, Jason tried to get in the middle but she was not distracted.  Seeing that he wasn't going to get anywhere, he took off with one of the co-eds.  Jessica was clearly surprised but didn't go after him.  I really hope that they don't put Jessica in a serious relationship with Jason.  For his part, Jason decided to take the co-ed home rather than sleep with her because he is suddenly trying to be a good guy.