Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Problem With A Steampunk Obama

You ever come across something surfing the net that just makes you say no?  I came across the following image at Xerposa and took an immediate dislike of it. 

According to Xerposa, this image was created by "Deviant Artist Benjo Camay of the Philippines, [who] used Painter to render this mechanical version of the leader of the free world."  I read a lot of steampunk and I can tell you that when it comes to speculative fiction, to say it's highly erased is being kind.  I wanted to like this version of Obama but after some thought, I have realised that what Camay has done is to turn Obama into an automaton, thus removing his personal identity.  The fact that this has been done to a man of colour, in a genre which regularly excludes people of colour is problematic to say the least.  Yes, the image is recognizable as Obama; however, by definition a mechanical man is not a man and considering that the manhood of Black men and in fact their humanity has historically been denied, it's impossible to divorce this image from the social constructions of Black masculinity. The image further troubles me because Obama's mouth is reminiscent of those racist minstrel images of Blacks.

I love to see our modern technology be altered to reflect a steampunk esthetic, as has been done to this laptop for instance, but it is another matter to do this to a person. I am further troubled by the fact that this was not done for Mitt Romney as well.  How is it that a rich, White man gets to keep his humanity, while a Black man does not?  Xerposa made some comment about Romney being already to robotic but to me that speaks of a failure to consider the race dynamics at play.  I know that the intent behind this creation was good, but that does not mean that the end result isn't disturbing. 

What are your thoughts on the steampunk Obama?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Dichotomy of Cultural Appropriation

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.

Cultural appropriation is the ultimate dichotomy. The conqueror or oppressor says that a group of people are worthless, that they are less than human and don’t deserve equal rights. The oppressors strip these people of their rights, their dignity, and often, their culture. At the same time, this isn’t good enough for the conquerors. The culture that these people have created and the fruits of their labor are frequently bastardized and pulled into the culture of the oppressors. What remains is often a shell or husk of the beliefs and art of the people who created the culture. Western culture takes what they see to be the best elements of a culture and they take credit for it, because surely anything they do is far superior to the efforts of people in other cultures.

This is the start of the dichotomy. The culture and art has been created by the oppressed people. It is created by them as it in turn creates them, developed over decades, centuries, or millennia. Surely, if the culture that has been created is worth valuing, worth adding to our own culture, the culture of the oppressor, then the people who created it have value. They are worth honoring and respecting. It is amazingly illogical, really, to devalue a culture and call it barbaric, while simultaneously claiming elements of a culture to incorporate into our own. It cannot be simultaneously barbaric and worth adding to our own culture.

Until people of different cultures, different races, can be respected, there should be no stealing their toys. Foods from different cultures might be tasty and fantastic, but they are not ours to borrow. This is especially true when people are mocked for eating those same foods, where they are valued less simply for the food that they are using to nourish their body. It should be impossible to steal something from a culture while simultaneously mock people from that culture for partaking in the stolen bit of culture, and yet somehow, this is exactly what happens so frequently in American culture. It seems to me as if most Americans are like toddlers raiding their parents’ closet, completely trashing whatever they pick up in the process, no matter how valuable or beautiful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts On 5 Year Olds Pole Dancing

'Pole Waxers University Pole & Exotic Dance Studio' photo (c) 2011, Robin Olson - license:
In part of one of his stand up routines, comedian Chris Rock quipped that a father's job is to keep his daughter off the pole.  It seems that a fitness studio in Duncan, British Columbia, has a very different opinion about pole dancing.
The 'Little Spinners' sessions have been added to the timetable at a Canadian fitness studio, alongside 'Flexy Sexy' and 'Babes on Bikes' classes.

Instructor Kristy Craig has insisted the classes are focused on fitness and that children are not taught any 'sexual moves', but a child psychologist has warned that parents should be conscious of pole dancing's association with stripping and the sex industry.

Girls and boys aged between five and 12 have already been enrolled in the controversial classes at the Twisted Grip Dance and Fitness studio in Duncan, British Columbia. [source]
From a child's perspective, I can see how this would be great fun.  They get to climb on the pole do twists and turns and generally speaking, burn off some excess energy.  A child as young as five would not be able to make the sexual connection, nor would they understand it if they could. From an exercise standpoint, to excel at this, they would have to be in great shape and develop new muscles as well as improved coordination. None of these factors can possibly be denied, yet there is a part of me that is forced to ask, do we really need our daughters on a pole? For boys I think it is an interesting way to challenge gender norms, but when it comes to girls, I cannot help but worry.

Annoying are the Peacemakers, for they will call for our silence.

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.  

Yes, of the many many many many, oh-so-many things that annoy Sparky, I think there needs to be a spot near the top of the list for peacemakers.

I’m sure we all know a few, in our families, at work, among our circles of friends – the peacemakers. The people who just cannot stand a raised voice or a harsh word. The people who have never seen an argument they don’t want to stop and who really really want everyone to like everyone else.

And is this a laudable instinct? Probably. In many ways the world would be a better place if there were more effort to build bridges, look for middle ground and everyone sit down and talk and listen. But not everything is that simple.

I can’t get along with bigots. I can’t, I won’t.

I won’t play nice when someone espouses bigotry. No matter how politely they word their bigotry – their bigotry alone makes them unacceptably rude and due a verbal beat down.

I won’t grit my teeth and just “let it go.” Our society is partly the bigoted thing it is because of so many people letting bigotry passed unchallenged. And don’t tell me “it’s not worth it,” because we’re talking about the ongoing fight to prevent bigotry being acceptable. It’s worth it. It’s necessary. And I’ll decide what’s worth my time and energy, thank you.

Don’t ask me to “agree to disagree,”  people disagreeing on whether or not I’m due human rights or human respect isn’t something I agree with, nor is it something I’m going to let lie.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Christian Father Sues to Keep Kids From Learning About Sex and Sexuality but He's Not a Bigot

'Back to School' photo (c) 2011, Phil Roeder - license:

Okay, I know this is going to be a second article about parenting and schools today, but I really feel that this topic needs some conversation. Steve Tourloukis, a parent whose kids attend school in the Hamilton-Wentworth area, has asked to be given advanced notice when the teacher plans to teach sex education, so that he may remove his children in order not to conflict with the Greek Orthodox Christian teachings in the home.  When the request was denied, he decided to sue.
“It is important for my children to be taught about these issues from a Christian perspective,” he told a news conference on Monday.

“As a Christian, I hold a sincere religious belief that I am required, by God and the Greek Orthodox Church, to raise my children according to biblical principles and the tenants of the Christian faith.”

Tourloukis is the father of a daughter in Grade 1 and a son in Grade 4, and his wife is a teacher in the same school board. Tourloukis says his traditional Greek Orthodox faith guides his family’s views on marriage, family and human sexuality.

According to the case, to be heard by the Superior Court of Ontario, Tourloukis is demanding the school board provide him with advanced notice of any lessons or material that conflict with his “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and allow him to remove his children from class.

“I have never been an advocate for ignorance. This is not about me merely objecting to ideas that I don’t like. I teach my kids that everybody is made in the image of God, including people from the gay community,” he said.

“I teach my kids not to condemn anybody. In fact, to condemn anybody in my faith is a sin.”

His lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, said the Greek Orthodox church holds traditional views on the subjects.

“The Greek Orthodox Church holds certain views on marriage, traditional Christian marriage, and so … he wants to teach his children about marriage through a Greek Orthodox lense,” Polizogopoulos said.

Tourloukis said he is not seeking money or even an apology, only the same religious accommodation afforded to other groups, suggesting Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims are allowed to leave class during certain activities.  (source)
Okay, I understand that Dr. Tourloukis has religious beliefs; however, schools are public institutions funded by public dollars.  I highly suspect that his issue has a lot to do with schools teaching about same sex families and homosexuality.  If he really didn't have a problem with the LGBT community, he wouldn't have an issue with his children learning that members of the GLBT community deserve equal treatment in society and should not exist with a stigmatized identity. As it is, the information given in school does not even approach the necessary level to teach children about heterosexism, cissexsm, homophobia and transphobia.  

The First Week of School and Already a Racist Incident

'School Buses' photo (c) 2005, Alex Starr - license:

As much as I love my children, I was absolutely giddy to see them get on the school bus last week.  The unhusband and I were singing and dancing, as the children pouted and whined. For as much as they  complained about our joy, they were actually ready to leave 45 minutes early, which tells me that they were ready to get back on routine.  We went outside to wait for the bus on our porch and it was raining causing Destruction to quip, "You see that, even God is crying for us today."   I have to admit that this cracked me up.

I spent that first day reveling in the silence and hanging out with the unhusband. When the school bus pulled up at the end of the day, the dog barked loudly and ran in circles, but I was excited to hear about their first day.  The moment Destruction walked in the house, he told me he had yet another incident involving the word nigger and my heart just sank. They shouldn't have to deal with this ever, but the first day of school?

My kids have had problems with the little asshole before and so this time he got smart.  Instead of directly calling either of them nigger, he decided to very loudly sing or rather rap a song that had the word nigger in it, of course emphasizing the word nigger every time.  This, I assume, was his way of thwarting the rules, having already been spoken to about why it's not appropriate to call my sons niggers. 

Once again, I got on the phone with the school and the bus company and I had to fight to be heard.  We supposedly agree that this word is hurtful and racist, but apparently when done in this context it is supposedly not as serious. Clearly a kid who has a history of using this word as a weapon should not be given the benefit of the doubt. Clearly his intent was to harm my children but convincing others of that was a problem. Throughout the conversation, the bus company struggled to get me off the phone and I steadfastly refused to just let this go.  In the end, through my complaints, I managed to get the little asshole suspended from the bus for two days.  As sad as that is, this is actually a massive achievement because this is the first time I have managed to get some kind of consequence for the racial insults my children have had to live with. 

50 Shades of Hypocrisy

'pot and kettle' photo (c) 2006, Loz Pycock - license:
It’s not our genre, we know - and it is the excuse we will cling to should anyone suggest we should review 50 Shades of Grey (so don’t even try - do not even try! You might however manage to get Tami to wax prophetic about her favourite porn. if you really want to see a review - go read Jennifer Armintrout’s excellent recaps - we can do no better and it says it all) but since it’s based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series (which we read - AND watched the films; we have suffered enough) we felt we could talk about this.

Now, everyone who knows anything about this series knows that it is based on Twilight fanfiction. If you’ve actually read any of the books it’s pretty blatantly obvious. The characters in this book have had their names filed off, but otherwise they’re not appreciably different from Twilight.

Well, it seems that E. L. James is MOST upset at people using her work without permission. And Her lawyer has said - I kid you not: "You can't just hijack something someone else owns."

How she said this with a straight face is beyond me. C’mon, she had to laugh. Before the end of the sentence she must have cracked. Despite the fact that 50 Shades of Grey has probably out sold every other book but the bible it’s still nothing more than cheap (and poorly written at that) Twilight Fan Fic. This book is so bad that it actually makes Twilight look like a stroke of literary genius and believe me, that’s saying something and it amazes me that James could become so precious about such crap. Somewhere there are trees crying because they gave their lives to produce this.

Still, in terms of sheer chutzpah, we have to applaud. We never thought we’d say it, but at last something about 50 Shades of Grey has left us in awe. We can only hope that James will feel the same if Meyer gets around to reminding her that copyright belongs to her as well. 
Originally posted at Fangs for the Fantasy