Friday, July 20, 2012

the Unwritten Rules: Ep. 4 "Let's Talk About Hair"

Alright everyone, I am way late to this. This new webisode has actually been out for about three weeks.  I don't think that there is a Black woman alive who cannot relate to this episode because of course it's all about our hair and having to deal with educating White people and put up with their intrusive touching.

Let me know what you think.

Brandy Should Know It’s OK to Judge Chris Brown

I have new piece up at Clutch magazine.

I have to be honest: When the news went viral that Chris Brown had beaten up his then-girlfriend Rihanna, I had no idea who either of them was.  Not being a fan of their genre of music, I actually had to look up their discography.  Over the coming months and years, as Brown went to trial and then completed his probation, I learned a lot more about him and the acceptance of gender-based violence in our society.

It all began when in various comment sections throughout the blogosphere, Brown’s violence was defended repeatedly because Rihanna had the audacity to look through his cell phone calls.  Rihanna was beaten, bitten, and blooded by this man.  The photos which were leaked to the public are absolutely horrific.  According to The Huffington Post, at the time Brown stated, “I’m going to beat the shit out of you when we get home” and “I’m really going to kill you.”  To be clear, this is a crime Brown admitted committing and because of which, he is now a convicted felon.

Brown has publicly apologized for his violent crime; however, his actions don’t read like he is sorry for anything.  He continues to be violent, as his rampage at the “Good Morning America” studios (after being asked about his crime) and his recent public brawl with Drake at a nightclub proves.  There is also the little matter of the tweet after winning a Grammy: “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I Got A Grammy Now! That’s the ultimate [email protected] Off!

These are not the actions, nor the language, of a man attempting to take responsibility for his behavior and make amends.  These are the actions of a man who has been rewarded for his gender-based violence through awards, continued positive media attention, and, of course, record sales.  Every single song or album purchased emboldens the idea that what he did is not a big deal.  Is there anything a black man can do to black woman that we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive?

It does not help that celebrities are continually suggesting that Brown needs forgiveness.  Queen Latifah stated the following in support of Brown, following the 10th Annual BET Awards:

“He is young guy, he made a big mistake, and he needs to bounce back from that. And he needs an opportunity for a second chance,” she says. “We can’t condemn that kid. He’s a kid and he needs to correct the mistake for the future, not live in the past.”

“He needs to be forgiven. Enough already. We can’t keep beating him up. She [Rihanna] is going to grow, he’s going to grow, and we have to allow them both to do that.”
Last month, Brandy became yet another person to join the Brown forgiveness celebrity train when she stated:
“I just feel like everybody goes through things in their life, and it’s not my place or anybody’s place to judge. I just know that Chris is a fantastic artist and he’s always been supportive of me as an artist, and I just wanted to work with him because he’s great at what he does.”

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

MURS, Tackles Homophobia in Latest Rap Song

In the following video rapper Murs tells the story of two young men and the danger of same sex love, in a homophobic world.  By now, I am sure that many of you have seen this video, but I thought I would share it, for those of you who have not seen it.

lyrics below the fold.

Husband Takes to Craigslist to Have His Wife Raped

There are times when I read the news that I absolutely despair for humanity. When you marry someone, you trust that they love you enough to always have your best interests at heart.  You most certainly assume that they aren't going to attempt to harm you physically or emotionally for their own cheap gratification.  Unfortunately, for a woman living in the Twin Cities, her trust was ill founded, because her husband used Craigslist to have two men break into her home on two separate occasions and attempt to rape her.  Yes, you absolutely read that right.
The intruder was described as being about 5'10" with a medium build and short black hair; both arms covered in tattoos.

Two days later, at around 3.45pm on Saturday, a second man broke in and police arrived to find the woman holding him at gunpoint in the living room.

He was arrested over the break-in and told police in an interview that he was responding to a 'casual encounters' ad on Craigslist, supposedly posted by the victim.

'The person posting the ad told him she wanted to be forcibly raped as that was a fantasy of hers,' the police report states.

'He was told to force his way inside and rape the woman there and not stop no matter how much she resisted.'

Police scoured the man's cellphone and found a string of emails exchanged with the ad's poster which backed up his story.

They traced the emails he had allegedly been sent to a computer at the Army National Guard in Mountain Home, where the 32-year-old husband works.

He was returning home at the time of the attempted assaults and has since been arrested, admitting his involvement to police.

The husband's bond was set at $100,000 and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 27. [source]
Much of the comments on the Daily Fail of course deal with the fact that the woman used a gun to defend herself.  In the first attempt, the gun was taken from her by alleged assailant and it was only in the second incident that she was able to use the gun to hold off her attacker until the police arrived.  Discussion about this story should not be about the value of a gun but about the fact that her husband broke a sacred trust and that two grown ass man thought it was a good idea to play at raping a woman they had never met, based on a series of e-mails. Guns are not the answer for stopping gender based violence, breaking down the society in which this is deemed normal and acceptable is. Violence against women won't end until men recognize their privilege and universally decide that they don't have the right to hurt us, control us, or have access to our bodies.

Coming to Terms with Being an Oppressor

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 have come across a whole lot of “allies” complaining about how all (able bodied, cisgender, white, straight) are not like that. I wanted to create a reality check for all of those people who don’t understand the anger coming from people who are oppressed, in addition to a checklist of things to keep in mind when trying to check your privilege. This is probably a bit 101, and I’ve synthesized it both from my own personal experience and from listening to other people who belong to different minorities. All errors, however, are my own.

The first thing to keep in mind, and one of the most important, is that you will ALWAYS have power. ALWAYS. The things that trans* people, disabled people, black people, gay people, and women say will ALWAYS have less of an impact than those said by those who are white, straight, cisgender, and male. That power exists in every space you visit, everywhere you go, and in absolutely every conversation you have. This is of course an unfair situation, and it can be difficult to keep track of all of the nuances of a specific oppression.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Being Marginalized is NOT Cool and Fun

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. 

One of the eternal frustrations with trying to talk marginalisation with privileged people is the ignorance of what persecution actually means, what being marginalised actually means. Yes, I know, blink and step back “surely it’s obvious!?”  right? I mean, groups that are marginalised are treated horrendously in a myriad of ways for centuries – how can we not know what that means?

And yet – how many times have we seen a marginalised person described some event in their lives where prejudice has screwed them over and you have some privileged person saying “oh, yeah, that’s just like what happens to me!” And then we to resort to the marginalised serenity prayer – give me the serenity not to kill this person with axes. Increasingly it seems I am lacking in serenity, on the plus side, I have no shortage of axes.

However, axe murdering does rather stain the carpet, and putting out plastic sheeting every time is a nuisance so can we actually address what marginalisation is and why privileged people don’t face it, even if they think they do?

So, let us begin with the “that happened to me too.” Ok, but does it feed into a societal pressure and habitual victimisation? Do things like that commonly happen to people like you, for that reason? Does it reflect or build on a major societal pressure?

Because this all matters. Say tomorrow I am walking down the street, leaving my firm and someone decides that he really really hates lawyers and decides to violently attack me with my own axe. Woe, I have been attacked, due to my profession. I have been victimised. Yet, if we take exactly the same attack and change one thing – that my attacker tried to kill me for being gay instead – and we’ve got an entirely different situation.

Being attacked as a lawyer wouldn’t make me worry about it happening again. It wouldn’t make me check the news for other attacks on lawyers and feel that fear every time I see it appear. I probably wouldn’t actually see any other incidents, or very few. I wouldn’t change my behaviour or worry about how I’m acting and what I’m saying. It wouldn’t send a message to all other lawyers that they’re under threat and their lives aren’t valued. I wouldn’t walk into a room full of non-lawyers and worry about being safe. I’d be pretty sure that it wasn’t part of societal attitudes to destroy me, drive me out or render me invisible (well, except for people who’ve seen one to many of those “I’ve had an accident” Underdog adverts, but even I want to punch them. After I’ve tracked down the Go Compare opera singer anyway). There won’t be powerful forces in authority encouraging people to discriminate against me for being a lawyer, to condemn me for it and to add to a culture of violence against lawyers. I can expect the press to report on my attack, rather than ignore it, I can rely on them not demonising me for being a lawyer. I am confident that, being attacked as a lawyer, my attacker will be treated like a criminal, I will be treated as a victim, I won’t be blamed for my attack, my attacker will be sentenced appropriately, the crime against will be treated as a grave one.

And this is just a surface scratch of the differences. Even though it’s the same offence – there’s a vast difference once a marginalisation comes into play. Or, to put it another way, no, it didn’t happen to you, too. The context matters, the societal history and pressure matters. Because no crime (or other prejudiced incident) against a marginalised person happens in isolation.

Alleged Jay Walking Leads to Taser Incident in Florida

I first saw the following video on Bossip a few days ago, and since then it has gone quite viral.

The video, which runs 10 minutes, shows Zikomo Peurifoy being stopped by Casselberry, Florida police for ignoring crosswalk signals. When an officer asked Peurifoy for ID, he refused to give it to him.

"It's not a lawful command," Peurifoy says.

He was then cornered by officers in a parking lot and tasered three times until he fell on the ground.

Police claim that the officers' actions in the above video are so textbook, the clip is being used as an example of a perfectly appropriate use of force. [source]

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding

I have a new piece up at Clutch

'Cupcake n Wedding cake' photo (c) 2008, misscreativecakes - license:

This weekend I went to a family wedding.  I was thrilled to see my niece, who I have known since she was a little girl, walk down the aisle. Watching the father-daughter dance brought tears to my eyes.  The music was great and people got their drink on with great gusto.  All in all, it was a day to be remembered.  This sounds like a typical wedding, doesn’t it? We all know the clichés.

My partner and I have been together for more than 20 years now.  Through ups and downs, we keep on fighting.  One of our most constant negotiations is race, because I am black and he is white.  I knew before we even arrived at the church that I would be spending the entire day without seeing another person of color.  I knew at the end of the night no one would be stumbling around slightly tipsy on the dance floor barefoot doing the electric slide. The best I could hope for was that they would have the good sense to avoid the Macarena or that hideous chicken dance.  Those are two things you don’t see at black weddings.

For the most part, his family and I get along well, but that does not mean being surrounded by them doesn’t leave me with a strong sense of dysphoria.  Well intentioned comments and carefully chosen words make up a large part of our speech patterns to avoid dealing with the elephant in the room. No matter how progressive they believe themselves to be, I am essentially the square peg in the round hole.  The very absence of any other person even remotely considered raced speaks volumes about their regular interactions outside of those with me.

At weddings, we invite family and our nearest and dearest friends.  With the cost of the modern-day wedding, it causes us to prioritize who we deem important in our lives. Even as some might refer to that co-worker of color with whom they occasionally have coffee as a friend, when it comes to shelling out more than $100 a plate, suddenly that friend’s appearance at a wedding is decidedly not important. Friendship is a word  bandied about far too easily, and it is only during life’s major moments where we can see who we truly value.

I know the dysphoria I felt at my wedding was mine and this was not something many of the guests would acknowledge, even to themselves.  My body represented change and an inclusiveness I didn’t even remotely feel, despite the exchanged kisses, hugs, and well wishes.  When you marry outside of your race, you’re not only getting your white partner, you’re getting you’re white partner’s family and all that it entails. The family events, which for the most part should be race-neutral gatherings, shift to those fraught with problems a lot deeper than who isn’t speaking to whom.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

‘Third genders’ and western constructions/appropriations

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

So. A kickstarter campaign recently came across my path. I’ll be nice and link to it and let people make their own decisions about the project. The intended documentary is “Gender Blender: A Movie about a Third Gender.” And on the page it defines ‘third gender’ as:
We have been conditioned to only recognize two genders: male and female (this is known as the gender binary). There are, in fact, many more genders. In the context of this film, third gender does not refer to one singular gender type, but instead, to a spectrum of various gender expressions that exist beyond the binary. The Third Gender refers to people who identify not as male... not as female... but as something completely unique.
For those who don’t know, this is not actually what third gender means. Not as a term and certainly not as a concept that originates in anthropology.

To cite from a paper written about the kind of failure this film endeavor represents:
The term third gender was apparently introduced in 1975 by M. Kay Mar- tin and Barbara Voorhies, who employed it to draw attention to the ethnographic evidence that gender categories in some cultures could not be adequately explained with a two-gender framework. (Towle and Morgan, 472)

True Blood Season Five Episode Six: Hopeless

I'm not quite sure what to say about this episode.  It certainly has its moments of shock but at the same time, I still don't really feel like the plot is going anywhere and there is still far too much distraction with ancillary characters getting much more airtime than they need.

Terry realises that he is well and truly made a mistake and the irfit is going to hunt him and kill him.  He is saddened because it means that in order to keep them safe, he will have to leave Arlene and the kids behind. When he goes to Merlott's to tell her, Arlene immediately assumes that he is off his medication because of course, curses aren't real.  This really irritated me because it plays upon the idea that PWD cannot be trusted.  Arlene lives in a world of vampires, shifters and was personally put under a spell by a meanad. Last year she saw Lafayette be possessed, watched ghosts rise from the grave and saw a witch cast spells but somehow a curse is impossible and so Terry must be off his meds.  It makes no sense to question Terry's assertions given everything that she has seen and the assumption that he is off his meds, reads as highly ableist to me.

When we last left Tara and Jessica, they were getting into a fight over Hoyt.  When the fight spills into a far more public space in Fangtasia, Pam stops it and yanks Tara out of the room by her hair.  I really dislike the heavy handed nature of the relationship between Pam and Tara, when all she has to do is order her not to do something.  There is absolutely no need to ever lay hands on Tara. For her part, Jessica says that she guesses the whole friendship deal is over.  Alone, Pam tells Tara in no uncertain terms that Fangtasia is hers and that she just works there, but she does tell her that she is proud of the way she fought.  Jessica is older and therefore stronger, but Tara more than held her own.

Lafayette rushes to his mother, played by the amazing Alfre Woodard.  At first he believes that she has died but she quickly ends the ruse.   Lafayette learns that Jesus is being held hostage by his evil uncle, who we met last season.  Ruby Jean makes it absolutely clear that Lafayette must help Jesus.  I am still not pleased with the fact that the writers of True Blood routinely put homophobic slurs into her mouth.

In the hospital, Luna and Sam have clearly been hurt and at first they are worried because her daughter is missing.  They don't have to worry long because Martha shows up with her in tow.  After much angsting, Luna decides to allow her daughter to stay with Martha until they can figure out who is responsible for the attacks.  Sam is determined to get to the bottom of it and approaches Andy.  Sam feels that it's a hate crime because the shifters are being attacked for who they are. I understand why Sam made that point because the only four shifters in Bon Temps have been targeted; however, I reject its usage outright.  True Blood does not have a good record on social justice issues, or marginalized people for that matter.  

Sam volunteers to help Andy with the case, claiming that because of his ability to shift that he can get to places that Andy cannot.  When Andy does not agree, Sam tells him that he does not know what it is to be hated for what he is.  This line coming from a truly marginalised person would not be a problem but once again they have taken on the experiences of truly historically oppressed people. Why couldn't they give someone like Lafayette or Tara the opportunity to say something like this?