Friday, June 22, 2012

Dan Savage and the [email protected] slur

This is a special end of the week contribution from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness

Ok so Dan Savage and the colluders at GOProud are having a little imbroglio over the useage of the slur [email protected]

I’ve made it clear before what my stance is on slurs – I find them completely and utterly unacceptable.  Slurs serve to dehumanise

I also am not even remotely a fan of reclaiming, though I recognise that as a personal choice and leave it up to people to self-reference as they wish.

I have also made it clear I do not think insulting uses of slurs are reclaiming. It’s reclaiming to take their weapons and use them to reinforce and strengthen yourself. It’s not reclaiming to take their weapons and then USE them against your fellows. Reclaiming is beating the swords into armour, it’s not taking those swords and doing the stabbing yourself.

Chelsea Lately, Nelson Ellis and a Whole Lot of Problems

Chelsea: This is you on the cover of Entertainment Weekly by the way (she’s holding up the magazine) with makeup on right? You have eyeliner on there for your character?

Nelsan: Yes Ma’am

Chelsea: You have to wear a lot of makeup don’t you?

Nelsan: I do, I probably wear a lot more makeup than all the females.

Chelsea: So you play - it’s true he does. You play a gay character on the show and you’re a medium.

Nelsan: I am

Chelsea: Well don’t so excited about it. (Nelsan laughs) So you get possessed basically by a different person each season, or for the whole season, or for just a couple of episodes?

Nelsan: Umm, pretty half the season and it’s mostly women.  And so I am playing a gay dude and I get possessed by nothing but women.  (audience laughter) There’s only so far my masculine body can move in terms of....(Nelsan moves hands and a wave like motion)

Chelsea: So how did you decide to play a gay character, if you’re a straight guy?

Nelsan: I just act like my momma. (audience laughter) I been watching her all my life. I’ve been watching her, imitating her all my life so I was like, I can just do what she do (Nelsan snaps his fingers in a Z snap formation)

Chelsea: Your father, your parents are conservative right? Your dad’s like a deacon?

Nelsan: My father’s a super duper deacon. He’s one of those deacons who jumps and shouts. Mmmm Jesus.  So then he has a son on tv wearing lipstick hooker. (Nelsan snaps his fingers) So uh, yeah.

Chelsea: So what does he say about the show? He must have been horrified in the beginning.

Nelsan: This type of material would never exist in my father’s house; it never has. Now, he’s watching the show.  I mean, he supports me now but in the beginning not so much.  Yeah, it’s like, that and Jesus don’t exist in his world. But now, he called me yesterday and he was like “that first episode was good son. It wasn’t all weird like always is; it was good.  

Chelsea: Have you ever questioned your sexuality in real life?

Nelsan: No, I’m nervous

Chelsea (looking over her shoulder): Chewie have you?

Chewie: No

Chelsea: Am I making you nervous? Did you just say you were nervous?

Nelsan: I am nervous, can you tell?

Chelsea: Why are you nervous?

Nelsan: ‘Cause, I’m a really big fan of yours.

Chelsea: Oh you’re so cute you don’t have to be nervous.

Nelsan: I’m sweating

Chelsea: No, I’m sweating to (fans herself) it’s not just you. It’s hot in here. It’s very hard to come on for interviews for normal people.  So, don’t feel weird, everyone feels like that unless you’re really obnoxious like me. (Nelsan laughs) So I appreciate you being honest and telling me that you’re nervous but don’t worry, Chewie shits his pants every single day.
It’s a short video but there’s a lot of problems here that make me cringe to watch it.

Firstly - one of the most prevalent ideas that dog gay men is the idea that gay men are somehow less men than straight men. And this is hammered throughout this short clip - Nathan Ellis jokes about how his “masculine” body can only move so far. Yeah, because playing a gay man is so much stress on a straight man’s body.

He compounds this by his inspiration for Lafayette - his mother. Because, of course a gay man is based on a woman. Why is a straight man deciding the best way to look for inspiration to play a gay man is too look towards women? Why are women templates for how a gay man should act? A gay man is still a man - being gay doesn’t change that.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just Say No to '50 Shades of Grey'

It all started when Tami, of What Tami Said suggested that I read 50 Shades of Grey and since then I have been asked repeatedly by friends and acquaintances if I plan on reading the book. It has even been pointed out that since I read the Twilight novels, that I should have no problem making it through this Twilight fanfic masquerading as a book.  More recently, I have received email from regular readers asking if I plan on reading the book and reviewing it here on WM. In a word,


I understand that many people have read it, but if a hundred people jumped off a bridge, that would not make me inclined to follow suit for shits and giggles. I don't feel excluded from conversations, nor do I feel a desperate need to be a part of the zeitgeist surrounding this terrible waste of trees.  I think in fact that my inner goddess and my subconscious would take turns smacking me for subjecting them to this. Wouldn't my time better spent watching the way that pants magically hang off my unhusbands hips in that special awe inspiring way, or dealing with my disappointment that I orgasamed yet again.

I have been reading the chapter reviews written by author Jennifer Armintrout and I am quite certain that I am getting more pleasure from reading those, than actually reading the book.  The truth is, 50 Shades of Grey depresses me.  As I writer, I have no idea how this ever got published.  The excerpts alone reveal it to be one of the worst written pieces of literature claptrap, which has ever been published and that is before we even begin to tackle the extremely abusive nature of this relationship.  The only thing I can thank E.L James for doing is largely excluding marginalized people from this horror.

So, as I mentioned, I will not be reading this book and no review will happen here at Womanist Musings authored by me anyway, but I do want to give you the opportunity to talk about it, since so many of you have asked.

Have you read 50 Shades of Grey, why or why not?  If you have read it, what did you think about its writing style and the messages that it sends? 

Blacks Aren't Welcome At a Bar

 'no more hate' photo (c) 2005, Blake Emrys - license:
Yesterday Philip Christman posted an account written by his former student Jonathan Wall regarding an incident in which he was physically thrown out of a bar and grill.  It's is Wall's contention that this is a race based issue and the comments of the post itself include several others complaining about receiving the same treatment at the bar in question based in race.

I am going to get you started on Wall's account, but you need to read the whole thing yourself. 
My name is Jonathan Wall, and I am a 21 year old black male from Raleigh, NC. I was born and raised here, and just a few weeks ago I graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. This fall I’ll be headed to grad school at Harvard to get a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management. I’m in Raleigh for the summer before heading off to grad school.

As the story begins, on last Saturday night around 12:30am, I and 2 other friends went to Downtown Sports Bar and Grill off of Glennwood Avenue. The night got interesting as soon as we got to the door, and the bouncer told us “you need a membership to come in tonight, I’ve never seen you here before.” My friend Chris and I looked at each other in curiosity, knowing that the establishment was a bar and not a club, and that people in line before us walked right in after showing their ID. The only difference between those people and my friends and I was our race. Still, we stood at the door in bewilderment asking “What?” as he further tried to explain that we weren’t going to be able to come in because of our “non-member” status. However, as he was explaining this, a police officer walked up to where he was standing to tell him something unrelated. As soon as he caught sight of the officer beside him, he said “Never mind, y’all go ahead.” This was the first interesting ordeal of the night, but not the last.

We were downstairs for all of ten minutes, when my two friends dispersed. My friend Chris went to the bathroom, and my friend Kristin went upstairs to get some fresh air. Only a few seconds after they left, what appeared to be a bartender came from behind the bar to clean drinks off of one of the tall bar tables that was near me. After he cleaned the table, it looked as if he was headed back behind the bar when he came up to me and said “Either buy a drink or leave right now.” Again shocked, I replied “I’m just waiting for my friend to come back from the bathroom.” He responded, “I don’t care, get a drink or leave right now.” I said “Okay” and began texting. He walked away from me, then went and sat with his back to the bar as he stared me down. Being non-confrontational, I looked towards the bathroom, waiting to see my friend come out so that we could leave. I also took notice of how many of the people surrounding the bar and the club area didn’t have drinks in their hands. I felt as if I was singled out. The common denominator, again, was that I was the only black person around. After staring me down for about 30 seconds, he walked back over and said “Are you going to buy a drink, or are you going to leave?” I replied, “As soon as my friend comes from the bathroom.” Before I cold utter another word, he grabbed my right wrist and my left arm and threw them behind my head in an effort to constrain me, although I was speaking to him a calm and non-aggressive tone and didn’t once even gesture. He then used excessive force to push me through the crown and out of the club while I was still in this “headlock” of sorts, before pushing me out of the front door. As soon as he grabbed me, I let my body go limp because with the degree of force he was already using, I didn’t want him to think I was trying to fight back. I accepted that he was on an ego-trip, and let him guide me through the club in this position before pushing me out. I was completely shocked and more saddened that this was happening than angry.  [source]
Reading his account and the comments, I can tell you that I was not shocked in the least little bit. I don't think that there is a person of colour living in North America who has not experienced this kind of treatment.   These businesses know that they cannot put up Whites only signs and so they will find any excuse not to let you in, or they will make sure that you are so uncomfortable that you are forced to leave.  Sometimes this takes the form of shitty service, rude comments, or downright threatening glares.

Can vs Should?

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

I am physically capable of climbing a flight of stairs. I can also run, jump, skip, play sports, and stand on my feet for hours on end. At the same time, I am disabled. Not because I cannot do any of these things, but because it hurts like hell to do these things. Especially when I am running on adrenaline, I can ignore the pain. When I stop, however, I get hit with waves of pain and am usually tired for hours afterwards. It is possible for me to handle all of these activities, but the cost is much greater, causing waves of pain and fatigue I can’t get rid of for hours afterwards. It is this reason why so many people love their mobility aids, because instead of needing them to move, they are something that cuts out pain and makes it possible to keep up with people while running errands.

It took me a while to realize that this too was part of the fibromyalgia, not just the consistent ache when I don’t get enough sleep. I just assumed that everyone hurt as much as I did trying to do basic normal activities and that I was lazy when I couldn’t get up the will power to get up or go out. My mom would want me to go to the grocery store or my father would want me to run up and down stairs in order to get something for him, and all I wanted to do was lay on the couch. Getting up would usually be a bit painful and the POTS would result in a head rush. More than anything, I was tired all of the time. It took more energy for me to do something than it did for any of the other people my age and I just thought I was out of shape and lazy.

It was for this same reason that I was so reluctant to start using power scooters or wheelchairs. I didn’t think I was actually disabled, and simply needed to take more precautions in order to treat my fibromyalgia. I assumed that it was my responsibility to manage my disability and that it was my fault when I felt bad. It is possible to help out my fibromyalgia. I’ve felt better when I get enough sleep, when I eat fruits and vegetables until I’m fairly certain I’m going to put down roots and am starting to go hungry because produce is expensive, and there are a whole bunch of other rules that different doctors give me that may or may not actually work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Would You Do When a Trans Woman is Insulted

I must admit that I love watching What Would You Do.  In this case they used an actual trans woman, which I must be hones shocked me because far too often cis women are employed in the media to play trans.  In this scenario, a customer who has been absent for awhile walks into discover that a server which he knew decided to transition.  As his comments become more and more abrasive, people actually call him out.  I was impressed to see this but at the same time, I am far to well aware that violence against trans women suggests that this is not the norm. Watching this, I couldn't help but wonder if their reactions would have been as protective had she been a woman of colour considering the high rates of violence trans women of colour are subjected to? 

I think that What Would Do, sets up interesting scenarios.  It's really easy to say that you believe something, but another thing entirely to stand up when it counts and prove you believe it. For many even when they know something is wrong, be silent just seems easier. No one wants to get into a confrontation with a stranger, let alone a co worker, friend or family member but it's in these moments that we are put to the test. I think it comes down to a simple fact- you either have the courage of your convictions or you don't.

Parody: Madea Goes to the White House

Okay, you ever watch something and then have to stop and ask, "hey, should I really be laughing a this?"  I am going to justify this by saying that the creators did a good job on featuring the ridiculous tropes that Perry ritualistically features in every single one of his damn Madea movies.  If we can't get him to take off the dress, I think we should laugh at him, rather than with him.

What are your thoughts?

H/T Jack and Jill Politics.

It's Not Hard for Privileged People to Pretend to be Marginalized

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, as a privileged person, you decide you want to know more about a given marginalised person, so what do you do? Do you go out and find some resources from people who have lived that marginalisation? Actually speak to POC about racism? Pick up a book by a gay person to check in on homophobia? Google up some trans blogs to learn about transphobia?

Or do you find a nice privileged expert to explain it all? Because some of these folks have made quite a tidy living about of been privileged experts on marginalised groups.

I can’t say I’m overly impressed by the whole idea – why not go to the source? And why give the money (be it from ad clicks or book royalties) to privileged people talking about the marginalised rather than the actual marginalised themselves?

What does a white author have to offer when talking about race that a POC cannot? Why is a straight person someone to talk to when looking at the effects of homophobia and heterosexism? Why do we need to talk to able-bodied people about ableism when there are disabled people out there willing to speak?

Apart from anything else, it’s damaging

In all matters our voices and opinions are considered to be less important, less informed and less valuable than people who have privilege over us. Whether that comes from regarding us as less ignorant or simply because our importance is considered less or just because, societally, there is so much pressure to ignore us is immaterial – the fact remains is we are ignored and our input is not valued.

Which is why I am more than a little dubious of the idea that providing a privileged source on marginalised lives is somehow an asset. After all, it is claimed, privileged people are just more comfortable hearing from privileged sources. White people are more likely to listen to conversations about racism from a white face. Straight people will pay more attention to other straight people! Men will listen to men more than they will women – even when talking about sexism.

Monday, June 18, 2012

On finding common ground

 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

The other day, I had an interesting discussion about language and the trans* community. One thing that I've been discussing a lot in my posts here has been the hegemonic discourse of the white trans community. How they police language very heavily and use it in ways that continuously erase and exclude PoC.

One thing I ended up saying that using english was about the only concession I was willing to make when discussing gender with white trans* people. But I will resist using their definitions and arguing in their frameworks.

The fact that my first language is english is a result of colonization. And what makes using english particularly galling, is the fact that white people wield their arbitrary language rules like a weapon. We are always, always expected to engage white people in their spaces, in their languages, and following their rules.

I cannot uncritically use language in the way that white people do and want me to simply because of how language is used as a tool of white supremacy. It always boggles my mind that trans* people can so intelligently and critically examine the ways that language can erase, silence, and dehumanize trans and/or gender variant people but so frequently fail to understand how whiteness is also encoded into the language we use.

Rest In Peace Rodney King

'Rodney King' photo (c) 2007, 4WardEver  Campaign UK - license:
The beating of Rodney King, was an example of police brutality that rang throughout the African Diaspora.  Watching the video, we knew that all that separated us from King, was a simple matter of time and place.  I remember seeing the video for the first time and believing that finally, cops would be held accountable for their actions in the Black community, only to be horrified when the not guilty verdict was delivered.

As a Canadian, I remember most the smug reporting of our media on this issue, as though Canada does not have its own history of police brutality against people of colour, or its own history of criminalizing driving while Black. There was a failure to understand why this event resonated so deeply with us and it was cast repeatedly as an American issue, rather than an issue of race, which evenly effects all of the descendants of the African Slave trade.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned King was found dead at the bottom of his pool on Sunday.

King was not the perfect victim we were reminded repeatedly, as though one only had to be good  to avoid his fate, as though Blackness in and of itself doesn't have a history of being marked.  To even go down this road, one would have to ignore the impact of living in a White supremacist state as a person of colour. He was reared in a world that told him repeatedly that he did not matter and the verdict itself proved this to be true.  No matter what King was guilty of, no one deserved to have their civil rights violated like this, yet the excuses kept coming.

True Blood Season Five, Episode Two: Authority Always Wins

From the moment I saw the previews of season five, with Christopher Meloni, I couldn't wait for his first scene.  This episode we were introduced to Roman and learned a lot more about True Blood vampire lore.  It seems that not only are vampires the descendants of Lilith, they have their own vampire religion and bible. As much as I love Meloni, if the vampires are indeed descendants of Lilith, why couldn't we have a strong woman as the leader of the vampires?

During interrogation, both Bill and Eric were quite prepared to protect each other and claim fault to save the other.  This made absolutely no sense to me.  I asked in my review of Turn!, Turn!, Turn!, I commented on their dedication because this makes no sense, given their history of antagonism and occasional moments of grudging respect and seems that they are continuing Bill and Eric's excellent adventure.  In the end, to save their lives, Bill reveals that no only is Russel Edginton not dead, he is on the loose.  Roman is upset by Eric's excuse of wanting Russel to suffer and threatens to stake Bill, but Bill promises to end Russel as a final act of solidarity.

This episode, we finally got to see how Eric and Pam met. I am not normally a purist, especially given that the original text was written by Charlaine Harris, however; having Pam as a madam in the early 1900's just did not work for me. It actually makes Pam a lot younger and therefore less powerful than she is in the books and it means that she didn't evolve into who she is, but was always jaded and hard. In the books, Pam left with Eric to avoid the restrictions placed on her as a woman.

Well, it seems that the predatory gay man is going to be the theme for this season's True Blood.  Each year the writers seem to pick some trope to beat us to death with.  This year the trope is embodied by the closeted and predatory Steve Newlin. After admitting that being a vampire gave him the strength to go after what he really wanted, Newlin went on television to sell the idea of vampires wanting peace and unity.  When asked if he had someone special in his life, Newlin made a point of using a female pronoun.

If that were not enough, Newlin decided to crash Jessica's party to buy Jason from her.  When he offered her ten thousand, she started to talk to him about how hard Jason's ass is, along with his other assets. Newlin became so aroused at the thought of a naked Jason that he began to breathe hard, his fangs dropped and he got an erection.  In turn, he was belittled and laughed at by Jessica. When a fight broke out between the two, instead of punching, he actually pulled Jessica's hair.  Is there any trope that they won't have him live out.  What he was suggesting was horrendous and predatory but the whole situation made his attraction to Jason appear deviant and dirty.
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Shame: Hummer Edition

We haven't done one of these in quite some time.  Sparky and I are working on a project, which you will find more about later and in the process we were discussing cars.  This led our not so beloved Sparky to believe that I needed to be Sunday Shamed.

Sometimes you think you know a person. You think you know their habits, their hobbies and the many things that makes up them as a person. But then you learn something – something so utterly horrifying that it rocks you back in your seat in sheer shock that this person you knew could truly think something.

That was me, traumstised in horror in learning that Renee actually likes this

Yes, the hummer. That hideously ghastly eyesore; that oversized, over priced monstrosity. This blight on the roads, this scrap heap on wheels, this proof that the human race truly has nothing but pain to add to the planet, this insult to any sense of taste with the carbon footprint of a small country. She likes it.

And yes, that is her colour choice as well.

I despair people, I truly despair.

Obviously I have to take into account cultural differences. In the snow bound, icy land of Canada, I understand transport considerations are very different

But there are limits to all reasoned tolerance. I knew eating cottage cheese and gravy couldn’t be good for the mind. I already had concerns for Renee’s obvious lack of taste when she said she liked those grossly awful plastic shoes (that should be banned by international treaty) but this? Clearly an intervention is needed.

So, I am left with no choice but to demand a Sunday Shaming!