Friday, August 17, 2012

The Microaggressions We Live With

I have a new piece up at Clutch

No matter how successful, street savvy, or together a woman is, it only takes the briefest moment to remind her that she is nothing more than an object of sexual gratification in our sexist patriarchal world.  To make matters worse, when violence does occur, it is too often suggested that somehow the victim brought it on herself.  How many times have we seen that after an assault the question quickly becomes, how much did she have to drink, what was she doing in that location, and (my personal favorite) what was she wearing?  All of these questions suggest women are somehow to blame for the crimes committed against us.

In an incident that has recently gone viral, 18-year-old Aaron Morris  grabbed a woman’s behind at a North Lauderdale, Florida, Walmart and justified his actions by claiming “her booty looked so good, I just couldn’t resist touching it.”  Clearly, Morris believes his attraction justifies his actions, but what is more disturbing is the fact that his supposed reason has become the punch line of various jokes, with people commenting that the booty should be introduced at his trial. By turning Morris’ alleged assault into a joke, people have minimized the idea that women have the right to live their lives without fear of assault. Morris’ actions, as well as the public reaction, are a manifestation of rape culture.

The truth of the matter is that to be a woman in this world is to be subject to all kinds of indignities based in gender.  It means that in public spaces, even when engaged in the most benign endeavors, we have to guard our person, while men occupy space at demand and walk freely.  Look around at a mixed-gender room and you will see that women attempt to make their bodies as compact as possible, while men sit with their legs spread and their bodies largely sprawled about because of a sense of not only safety but also entitlement. With each act of assault, or street harassment, we become less free. Though these incidents happen on a daily basis, they are not deemed important enough to be part of our national conversation. Yet all women have at least one story to tell about experiencing something like this.

I was 13 years old and on my way home when I felt something pressing against me from behind.  I wasn’t sure what it was and assumed at first that because the train was so full it was simply a matter of high traffic.  It wasn’t until I looked down and saw an arm wrapped around my thigh that I realized what was happening. I suddenly became aware of his hot breath on my neck and I remember shivering with revulsion.  I looked up at the man in front of me, my heart filled with fear, praying that he would say something.  I continued to feel the press of my abusers erection against my buttocks, but felt paralyzed to do anything, and it only stopped when my abuser had to switch trains.  I never saw his face, but I will never forget the fear I felt that day or how by his actions my personhood and right to bodily integrity was erased, simply because I dared to occupy a public space as female.  I felt dirty and cheap through no action of my own. We always hear about the fast-assed little girl, but what about the girl who becomes a victim because we live in a culture which teaches men that such invasions are a right of passage? What about the fact that we live in a society which teaches that female bodies are objects or commodities to be bought and sold at the whims of men?

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Ally to All, Not Some

Mike is an 19 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.

Intersection is something important for any social justice movement. There is no sense in getting rights for one group at the expense of another. It just leads to more movements and effort expended in the end. Intersection is also important because it creates a unique set of struggles for people with multiple oppressions. This is partially due to the compounding ability of oppression and partially due to the inability of different social justice movements to get along. Between the two of them, trying to participate in activist communities can result in headaches for those caught in the middle.

The compounding ability is one of consequences. There are consequences of belonging to an oppressed minority (regardless of how unfair these consequences might be) and these consequences are cumulative. That is, if you belong to more than one minority group, you get the consequences from both minority groups. For instance, transgender people are twice as likely as cisgender people to live in extreme poverty. Transgender people of color, however, are four times as likely to live in extreme poverty. Belonging to more than one oppressed minority group adds another layer to the struggles, having to deal with multiple isms and correcting members of your own community more often than not, as they end up generating problems trying to fight for their causes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Being The Only Person In The Room

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 most nerve wracking experiences any marginalised person can face is being the only “X” person in the room.

You know what I mean, being the only GBLT person in a room, or being the only POC in a room. That moment when you look around, especially if it’s a large crowd, and realise that you are the only one of that marginalisation in the room.

Especially if it’s a large crowd. If it’s a huge gathering, maybe a public event, or a party or something similar, then the feelings ratchet up to the max.

There’s that chill, that sudden realisation that there’s no-one here like you. You are the only one.

There’s that sense of not belonging. That sense of being the Other. That sense of being the stranger, in alien territory. That realisation that there’s no-one like me in the room. That sense that this is “not my space, not my place, not for me.”

You are the only one who has this lived experience. You are the only one who understands being X. You are the only one in the room without the blinkers of privilege – blinkers that make it impossible for people to understand, blinkers that will always leave ignorances.

And, let’s face it, there’s the instinctive fear. After all, marginalised people in a crowd full of privileged people have had plenty of reason to be afraid. And that’s an instinct you can’t just turn off.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lip service isn't enough

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 

I recently attended the Vancouver trans and genderqueer march. If you’ll note on the facebook event page they write:
WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THIS MARCH IS BEING HELD ON UN-CEDED COAST SALISH (Musqueam/Tsleil-Waututh/Squamish) TERRITORY.
This seems like a good thing to mention, giving recognition to the fact that the march is taking place on occupied territory. In Vancouver at least it has become an important part of many demonstrations or whatever to make mention of this crucial fact. But what purpose does this actually serve in a march where one of the chants was, “Who’s streets? Our streets!”.

How can you claim to recognize your complicity in the continued occupation of Indigenous land but think that such a chant is actually appropriate? If it is the case that this land we are on is unceded, then the claim that the streets are yours in a group largely composed of white people, sounds almost exactly like the claims that any given non-Indigenous cis person is making about most of the occupied land in Canada.