Friday, July 13, 2012

Pay Up! Criminal Justice Debt in Philadelphia

I know that this is a long video but it is well worth the watch.  Apparently the city of Philadelphia is going after its poorest citizens in what it claims debts owed.  According to the video, in many cases they have lost the actual records but have still tacked on unseemly amounts of interest.  This debts are causing the denial of social assistance benefits and pardons.  In many cases, the people involved didn't even know that they owed court fees.  It seems to me that this is nothing more than a modern day debtors prison and a continuation on the war on the poor.  It also shows that even if you serve your time, and remain a clean record for 20+ years, you still aren't free.

H/T Rippa

People of Colour as Extras do not Equal Inclusion

Here’s an interesting phenomenon, I think there’s a population of POC mole people in the world, or at least on TV.

For example, on the Secret Circle there were only 3 POC (including 2 people who managed to make a brief appearance for 2 episodes), who actually spoke. But when they’re at school, when there are crowds of people in the corridors - suddenly there are several POC! Yes, the POC mole people came out from the corners and the shadows to show their face for Essential Inclusivity Crowd Scene and then, when there’s actually speaking lines going around, they fade back into their secret lairs. I actually expect the white cast to look around in shock “where did these guys come from?!”  

One of the most obvious examples was the season three premiere, “Happy Birthday Elena.”  This episode stood out not because something spectacular happened in the plot, but because they managed to scare up so many people of colour for Elena’s birthday party. Where did they come from? I thought Black people were only for the purposes of snacking or to do magic when Elena needs a favour.  

On Falling Skies, the representation of people of colour is well below population demographics, which would lead one to believe that for some reason, the aliens find us to be extra tasty; that is until it’s time to show a crowd scene and all of the people of colour come out of hiding to wave at the camera, before being saved by the ever-so-heroic white knight Tom.

Crowd scenes are a major time for the POC mole-people to show up to hit those essential inclusion moments - and how many times do we see this? An all white cast, but the minute we’ve got a crowd of people going in front of the cameras, the POC mole people emerge! And yea the casting director pats himself on the back, because a face in the crowd with a bit more melanin and lo, inclusion is achieved!

Who do they think is actually falling for that? If the best you can do for inclusion appears in the credits as “man crossing road #3” then you have do not have inclusion.

Then you have what we like to call recurring tokens. Members of the protagonist team who are POC, but extremely tertiary (they’re not even side-kicks) to the other cast members. The absolute best example of that is of course T-Dog from The Walking Dead.  First, we have to deal with the fact that though we have been promised Tyrese would make an appearance, the ineffectual T-Dog (could they have chosen a more uncool 90’s name?)  is the only representation of Black masculinity.  We have been given a reason to invest in every other character whereas for T-Dog, we have learned that he is handy to have around as a driver if you are running from zombies, or if you need a big heavy box moved.  More often than not an entire episode can go by without seeing him and when he does appear, chances are he does not have a single line of dialogue.

But he’s hardly the only one. Melissa on The Secret Circle, is virtually an afterthought. On Bedlam season 1 we had Molly floating around everyone else’s life. In Falling Skies, despite being part of the team since the very beginning and one of their most skilled and experienced scouts, Dai still takes a secondary role to the teenaged Hal and the new recruit Maggie. He’s always around in the background, especially on any dangerous scouting missions, but most episodes he doesn’t even have a speaking role. These characters aspire to become side-kicks, they’re hangers on who are occasionally useful, but their main role is to show a face that isn’t white to the cameras.

Another useful POC token to throw in is the external support staff. They probably won’t show up every episode and when they do, it’s only briefly for their expertise - they’re not involved in the main storylines, they won’t have any storylines of their own, they usually won’t have any real character development - but they’re there to assist the main (white) protagonist’s story. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kirk Cameron is not Being Persecuted

Continuing on with his monumental assholery, Cameron has now created a video for the Marriage Anti Defamation Alliance.

transcript below the fold

Anne Rice's Old Erotica is New Again

By now, I’m sure that most of you have heard of the New York Times bestselling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey and I am equally sure that a few of you are also sorry that you have. Fifty Shades of Grey started as bad Twilight fanfic  and has since  become part of the zeitgeist.   I am certain that banning at some libraries has added an illicit nature to this tale of a vapid college student, who cannot seem to stay sober for more than five minutes and her emotionally and physically abusive boyfriend. Before people were mindlessly reading this horrible waste of trees, they were reading The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, written by Anne Rice, under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure.   

Now that public attention has been turned to faux BDSM erotica, Penguin intends to re-release Anne Rice’s erotica series. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty was originally released in 1983 and was followed by Beauty's Release in 1984 and Beauty's Punishment in 1985.  As you may have guessed from the titles, the books involve a retelling of The Sleeping Beauty fairytale and let me tell you, Beauty gets punished. 

Speaking about why these novels are important Rice had the following to say: 
As a feminist, I’m very much supportive of equal rights for women in all walks of life. And that includes for me the right of every woman to write out her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. Men have always enjoyed all kinds of pornography. How can it be wrong for women to have the same right? We’re sexual beings! And fantasy is where we can do the things we can’t do in ordinary life. A woman has a right to imagine herself carried away by a handsome prince, and to choose for herself as she writes, the color of his hair and eyes, and imagine his silky voice. She has a right to make him as tall as she wants and as strong as he wants. Why not? Men have always allowed themselves such fantasies.
When Rice’s books were published, there certainly was not a lot of erotica for women in publication.  The syrupy romance that drones on about meeting that special someone, who will sweep you away to live happily ever after, has long been a part of women’s literature. Living in a patriarchal sexist world, it is hardly surprising that these books seem to embody the myth that all one needs is a good man to be happy. No one asks what happens when prince charming doesn’t have the first clue about the importance of your clitoris. In bolder novels, we may get a sex scene or two, but it is often filled with euphemisms for body parts.  To this day, I still wonder why it is that E.L James, author of 50 Shades of Grey can have her protagonist whine about having another orgasm (cause that is the worst thing in the world to happen) but have her be unable to talk about her vagina. What exactly is a down there? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dreadlocks are Unacceptable for Employment at Six Flags and Many Other Companies

The natural hair movement among African Americans has experienced resurgence, as evidenced by the many YouTube videos, blogs, and products created to aid in grooming unprocessed hair, or what is at times called nappy or virgin hair.  Natural hair has been constructed as radical, extreme, and unkempt, despite the fact that a natural hairstyle simply means wearing our hair the way it grows out of our head, without the addition of harmful chemicals. This natural aesthetic should on its face be unproblematic, but because whiteness has an ongoing interest in policing our bodies, many have found the decision not to relax their hair, or cut it into a short style, has lead to negative results.  In a market in which all must sell their labor for profit, this decidedly limits the options of people of color, who at times must choose between being true to themselves or conforming to racist and other appearance standards.

A Six Flags theme park is under public scrutiny for the second time in two years for its policy of denying employment to women with dreadlocks. In 2010, 23-year-old Janet Bello and 60-year-old Jackie Sherrill were both denied employment because of their dreadlocks.
Blackvoices reported the following
Six Flags issued a statement to ABC News:

“Six Flags enforces a conservative grooming policy across all parks. The policy does not permit certain hairstyles such as variations in hair colors, dreadlocks, partially shaved heads, tails, and hairstyles that impair vision. Braided hair is allowed but must be in neat, even rows and without beads or other ornaments.”
In the most recent case, 21-year-old Markeese Warner, a senior at Pennsylvania State University, arrived for her interview dressed in appropriate business attire, when she was informed that she would not be eligible for employment due to her dreadlocks. For Six Flags, dreadlocks, along with Mohawks, fall under the category of “extreme hairstyles.”

Not content to let this obvious racist abuse go without attention, Warner spoke to family friend Kwasi Abahu about this incident. Abahu organized a petition, now being featured at Change. Org. The petition states in part:
“It is disparaging for Six Flags to accept substantial amounts of money every year at their parks across the United States, Mexico, and Canada from patrons who wear their hair as it grows naturally, but the company would refuse to hire any of those patrons with locks. We spend way too much money at places like Six Flags Theme Parks for them to discriminate against any members of our community. Let us also exercise our voice with our dollars.
There is no excuse in 2012 for such abhorrent employment policies. In a time when the “voice of the people” can be witnessed to move mountains, let us in one accord raise our voice. In a country that purports itself to be the greatest “melting pot” of social values and ideals, it’s time for Six Flags to stop its discriminatory policy by categorically refusing to employ people because of their natural hair.
To date, the petition has received 35,381 of the 50,000 signatures, which it is seeking.

Read More

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Williams Sisters Win, Cue Racist And Transphobic Slurs

This is a guest post from the ever fabulous Monica of TransGriot

Didn't take long for the haters to start posting racist negativity aimed at the Williams sisters as they had a very successful fortnight at 'Williams'-don and captured the Ladies singles and doubles titles.

Loved this post by NewBlackMan (In Exile) Entitled 'Ain't I A Champion?'

If you think I'm kidding about the racist negativity, just peruse some of the comments that were directed at her on Twitter this week.
Today a giant gorilla escaped the zoo and won the womens title at Wimbledon... oh that was Serena Williams? My mistake.

          Serena Williams is a gorilla

         Watching tennis and listening to dad talk about how Serena Williams looks like gorilla from the mist
         I don't see how in the hell men find Serena Williams attractive?! She looks like a male gorilla in a dress, just saying!
    You might as well just bang a gorilla if you're going to bang Serena Williams
         Earlier this week I said that all female tennis players were good looking. I was clearly mistaken:

    The Gorilla aka Serena Williams.
          serena williams looks like a gorilla
          Serena Williams is half man, half gorilla! I'm sure of it.
         Serena Williams look like a man with tits, its only when she wears weave she looks female tbh, what a HENCH BOLD GORILLA!
    Serena Williams is a gorilla in a skirt playing tennis #Wimbledon
          My god Serena Williams is ugly! She’s built like a silver backed gorilla
          I would hate to come across Serena Williams in a dark alley #nightmare #gorilla #notracist
          Serena williams is one of the ugliest human beings i've ever seen #Gorilla
Note to you scientifically illiterate bigots.   Gorillas also look like this.

I don't hear you comparing those Eastern European tennis playing amazons who lose to the Williams sisters on a regular basis on the world tennis tour to this animal, calling them ugly or men.

Wayne Brady Is Interested in Slapping Bill Maher

I first discovered Wayne Brady on Whose Line is it Anyway?  I believe him to be a very talented man, who has long had to battle the idea that he does not fit the ideal aggressive nature of supposedly typical Black masculinity.  In an interview on Aisha Tyler's Girl on Guy podcast, Brady took issue with comedian and professional douche bag Bill Maher.

transcript below the fold.

GLBT People in Advertising

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.

A fair few companies at the moment are producing adverts with *gasp* actual GBLT content, whether it’s JC Penny’s and their gay families or Oreos and their rainbow cookies or some bank suggesting 2 men are buying a mortgage together – we’re starting to creep into this field.

And it is a big deal. That gasp alone says that. It is unusual. After all, including us at all instantly sets of a shit storm from the usual suspects who are outraged, OUTRAGED that you acknowledge we exist. Just ask this spokesperson from One Million Moms.


So including us has been and still is risky –  and since the very nature of advertising is to get as many people to open their wallets as possible, it’s not been a risk many people have taken. In fact, advertising is one of the most GBLT erased media forms out there unless it is specifically aimed at and appearing in GBLT media (only a little ahead of children’s media and, probably, computer games I think). Reduction of erasure is generally good (though not enough – and in some cases a bad portrayal is worse than no portrayal at all) simply because there is such a push to deny our existence and deny our place in society. So, yeah inclusion is a positive.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Super Golden Friends

Sometimes you just have to get your geek on.

The colonial aspects to the medicalization of gender

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 
One of the aspects I find most troubling about the colonization of gender by the west is the way that the contained medicalization and/or pathologization has become the standard by which peoples around the world move to inhabit their genders.

What I mean by this, is the way the heavy focus on medical transition legitimizes the medical model and creates a situation that can be dangerous for non-western trans* people.This post describes the means by which many bakla in the Philippines access hormones:
Male-to-female transgendered people have access to hormones but their intake is mostly not medically supervised for it is very easy to obtain hormones in the Philippines. Hormones can be bought in most drugstores without any doctor’s prescription. Mostly, M2F’s buy birth control pills. I have no idea if hormones that FTM’s use can be easily bought.
The ease of access and the lack of supervision can be dangerous. While one might be inclined to think that the lack of medical gatekeepers to the hormones represents an improvement of the situation in the west, where one must often go through a medical professional to access them, it is essentially meaningless to have this access without the requisite social, legal, and economic support to go beyond this stage (or to do this safely).

What is problematic about this situation is the way that it is clearly influenced by not only western medical technologies but the colonial structures that support the medical industrial complex.

Bakla people, cis or not, have existed in the Philippines since before colonization. We have been there. And without needed modern, western medical intervention. (Let me be clear, I'm not judging or otherwise condemning the choices of trans women and/or bakla in the Philippines to pursue medical transition, but I wonder about the colonial impact on how we conceive of both gender and medicine such that they are willing to pursue potentially dangerous paths to medical transition.)

I question the colonial processes by which the social and spiritual category previously occupied by trans women and/or bakla in the Philippines became so eroded that modern [email protected] society has begun making a clear distinction between bakla as sexuality (i.e., effeminate man) and bakla as gender identity (i.e., trans women) and how this distinction is impacting the health of bakla trans women.

Because it is not accidental that this process has ended up centering and making supreme the western colonial conceptions of gender. It is not accidental that what was once a relatively free and painless procedure (moving to embody a different social than one might have been born to) has become an expensive, painful, and potentially dangerous one guarded carefully by medical gatekeepers and that only serves to reinforce the medical industrial complex.

True Blood Season Five, Episode Five: Let's Boot and Rally

Last week, many were upset when Sookie and Alcide started to make out because of her inebriated state, but it seems that they need not have worried, because it was quickly brought to an end by Sookie puking all over Alcide's feet.   This, along with Bill and Eric's presence quickly brought an end to any potential naughty times.  The men quickly started to bicker, which caused Sookie to laugh.  It seems that she sees them sort of like the mob - every time she tries to get out, they drag her back in. They head off to find Russell Edgington, with Sookie reading the mind of an associate of Alcide's, whom Russell compelled to help him.

In the meantime, Eric and Bill have run out of time.  The authority has decided to give them until sunrise before they activate their I-Stakes.  In the back of the truck, Bill and Eric are starting to bicker about who is responsible for alerting the authority about  Russell. When they arrive at what looks like an abandoned mental institution, they try to tell Sookie to stay outside but she won't hear of it.  Apparently, she believes that her little fairy power and the sunlight are all that hurts Russell and claims that it will be her protecting them. I couldn't help but wonder why they bothered to argue with her.  If they get lucky, maybe Russell will eat her.

At Fangtasia, Tara made an appearance in a purple bustier which she borrowed from Pam.  I gotta say that she looked hot. What wasn't so hot was her comment suggesting that if she wanted to look like a drag queen that she would borrow something from Lafayette's closet.  Really? So if a man is gay, he's suddenly a drag queen now?  The thing is, after everything True Blood has pulled, I cannot say that I am in the least bit surprised. I also didn't like Tara's slave reference to Pam, given the fact that True Blood has a history of playing fast and loose with African-American history.

It was however interesting to watch Tara and Jessica compare notes on being a vampire.  Though she may be upset about how it happened, it seems that Tara is coming to terms with it. Hoyt then showed up outside of Fangtasia in all of his fang banger regalia.  He offered himself to Tara who told him to go home to his mama and Hoyt got all upset stating, "What, my blood isn't good enough for you?"  We get it, Hoyt is having an identity crises, but why should we care?  In the bathroom, Tara is feeding on him but when he says no, Jessica bursts in and they start to fight.  If this ends up bringing Jessica and Hoyt back together or even into a friendship, I am going to be pissed.  As it is, the whole thing read like a White man helpless at the hands of a wild Black woman. Do they even think about the situations they put Tara in and what it means in the context of race and gender?

When we last saw Jason and Andy, they were being hustled out of the fae bar.  They arrive naked at their respective houses.  Before Jason wakes, he has a dream about being a kid again.  Am I the only one who loved the He-Man PJ's?  It's christmas time and his parents are waiting for him at the breakfast table.  When he goes over, he sees bite marks on their neck, suggesting that vampires are the reason that they died.  For his part, Andy wakes up naked at his grandmother's house, much to the horror of Arlene.  Yeah, I wouldn't want to see that first thing in the morning either.  

They head over to the house where the shifters Emory and Suzanne have died and Jason asks Andy if he knows what happened.  In classic True Blood style Andy responds, "Watch that homo talk Stackhouse, folks will sue you for all that shit."  Okay, so that's two anti-gay moments in one episode.  How exactly did Andy's comment even make the smallest bit of sense?  Jason tells him that everyone at that bar were fairies.  Andy decides that he is not going back because he is not going to mess up his relationship with Holly.  Funny how at the bar, he didn't even remember Holly's name when the opportunity to get laid was presented to him.