Friday, February 1, 2013

Why 'Between Women' Is Important

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of webseries.  Traditional media too often socializes us to actively oppress historically marginalized people.  When we are not being actively erased, too often we are tokenized, or placed in highly prejudicial stereotypical roles. This continues to damage us, despite the claim that we should just watch something else, or that we are looking for reasons to be offended when we complain.

I recently came across a webseries called Between Women.  It is the story of Black lesbians living in Atlanta.  This is a group who are marginalizd by race, gender and sexuality and a group that the media studiously avoids.These are stories that need to be told.

I recently came across a quote from Diablo Cody, who did an interview with The Hollywood reporter.
THR: Do you think women filmmakers have a different perspective that gives them an advantage in some ways over men?

Diablo Cody: Yeah, definitely. I know there are people who think every story has been told in film, but I'm telling you it hasn't, because women have not had their proper say. There are stories out there that can only be told from a woman's perspective that have not been told yet and are going to be told. And when those movies come out, people are going to go, "Oh, that's really exciting!" I doubt it's going to be me, but it'll be somebody. It'll be somebody that makes that new story. I think we have the advantage of a different and fresh perspective that has not been represented.
The cynic in me paused to ask which women is she talking about?  Does anyone remember any women of colour, or lesbians featured in Juno? The truth of the matter is that when women finally get their say, we can be sure that marginalized women will remain just as marginalized. Why should I celebrate the success of women like Cody or Kathryn Bigelow, when it will not translate into success for marginalized women?  This is specifically why we need to support webstories written, directed and or produced by historically marginalized women.  No one is interested in promoting us, let alone giving us the chance to speak our truth.  Despite the rhetoric, women in Hollywood, doesn't mean all women in Hollywood.

With that in mind, I am going to post the first season of Between Women over the coming weeks.  We have a responsibility to support marginalized women who are finding a way to tell their stories. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can We Please Stop Questioning Michelle Obama’s Feminist Credentials?

I have a new piece up at Clutch Magazine

'First Lady Michelle Obama official photographic portrait' photo (c) 2009, Georgia Democrats - license:

Once again, there is a conversation in the mainstream press about whether Michelle Obama is feminist enough.  Her platform is being debated, as well as her decision to identify as “Mom-in-Chief.”  This conversation really brings to fore the breach between White feminists and many Black women.  Feminism has a long history of racism and these issues have yet to be settled.  Black women are told that we should privilege gender over and above any other marginalization that we must also negotiate, while many White feminists continue to ignore that Black women have often had very different organizing goals.  Michelle Obama isn’t just the First Lady of the United States; she is the first Black First Lady and over and above her educational and professional accomplishments, Mrs. Obama represents a view of black womanhood that is often eschewed by the media.

When Michelle Obama said, “For the first time in my adult life, I’m proud of my country,” the media had a field day, and she was quickly benched by President Obama’s election campaign.  As much as feminists may want a more vocal and assertive First Lady, I cannot help but wonder what they would do if they actually got their wish. Are they even capable of understanding that being an educated wife and mother under the gaze of a 24-hour news media is indeed political for a Black woman?

The question feminists should be asking isn’t whether or not Michelle Obama is feminist enough, but why the role of the First Lady is so limited. First Ladies are expected to take a peripheral role in government and support initiatives which are considered safe and do not challenge their husband’s policy directives.  She is meant to comfort Middle America while appearing as arm candy for the President.  Any First Lady who has sought to step even marginally outside of this role has been pilloried by the press.

Many liberal feminists have deified Hillary Clinton as the feminist political representative. Though Hillary Clinton was not the first woman to run for president, no other woman has come as close to winning their party’s nomination for president. Clinton was the first to have her own office in the West Wing and she even led former President Clinton’s failed bid at healthcare reform.  Bill and Hillary made it clear that by electing him, the American people were getting “two for the price of one,” yet Hillary Clinton was seen as interfering in government business, even though her education and work history clearly made her labour valuable to the American public.  Hillary was repeatedly and resoundingly skewered by the right-wing press. For many, Hillary was simply a woman who didn’t know her place.   It has become common practice to claim that constant public attacks have no effect on their target, but the truth of the matter is, one would have to be an automaton not to have an emotional response to repeated attacks based solely in one’s marginalisation. There absolutely was a personal cost to the role that Hillary played in the Clinton administration.

Finish Reading Here

American Idol Appropriation and White Privilege

Alright, there better not be any shaming over this admission.  Last night, I watched American Idol.  What can I say, I love the horror that happens during the audition stage.  At any rate, last night we were introduced to Papa Peachez.

Like many contestants in recent seasons, Papa Peachez decided that he needed a hook to get his shot at a golden ticket. Unlike many contestants, he didn't wander into the audition room in a weird costume.  Papa Peachez decided that his shtick to get attention would be far more common place - racial appropriation and White privilege.  In the little features that American Idol creates for contestants they believe will boost the attention of the audience, this is what Papa Peachez had to say:
Most people look at me and they see a cute little white boy and I'm really just a big black woman trapped in a little White boys body.  My voice has a lot of gospel and a lot of soulful influence from Mississippi.
Pause for a moment to digest that quote.

Already I want to see this fool leave on the first day in Hollywood.  Notice that not only does he supposedly have the soul of a Black woman, but a "big Black woman," because we certainly don't come in various sizes.  Most musicians will take influences from different styles of music but from what Peachez said, for him this isn't about blending styles and creating a new sound, but his right as a White male to take anything he wants from Black culture.  In short, he should be called Papa Racial Appropriation.

Lena Dunham Is Not Impressed With Rihanna

'Lena Dunham TFF 2012 Shankbone' photo (c) 2012, David Shankbone - license:

For some time before the official announcement that Chris Brown and Rihanna are a couple again, there were plenty of images of the two of them cuddled together.  The announcement simply confirmed what the public already knew.  Since the incident in which she was brutally beaten anyone and everyone has taken the time to decide and dictate what Rihanna should do.  A lot of this has been couched in Rihanna's so-called responsibility to her young and impressionable fans.  The most recent celebrity to weigh in is Lena Dunham and predictably, she is not impressed. In a podcast with renowned sexist Alec Baldwin, Lena Dunham had the following to say.
Being a role model is amazing. It’s an amazing thing and it’s like, it’s a platform that you have to take seriously. Which is why sometimes it’s like I used to be really into Rihanna, that pop star, and then it’s like again, I don’t want to ever throw stones from my glass house, but I follow her on Instagram and I just think about how many little girls beyond what I could even comprehend are obsessed with Rihanna. Like you know, she left Barbados, she’s had this amazing career, she’s won a Grammy. She’s talented. And then she gets back together with Chris Brown and posts a million pictures of them smoking marijuana together on a bed. And it cracks my heart in half in a way that makes me feel like I’m 95 years old.
First off, Rihanna is a singer, and she did not sign up to be anyone's role model. People have the choice about buying her music and supporting her career.  It's a parents responsibility to decide for themselves what their child consumes. Early on, I made it clear that our home would be a rap free house because of the frequency in which the N word is employed in the lyrics and the misogyny.  It's really not that hard, trust me. Furthermore, Rihanna's experiences can open the door to talking to our sons and daughters about domestic violence, as has happened in my home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spark of Wisdom: Good Faith

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.  

I’m faintly, academically curious about how the same arguments used by privileged people to dismiss nasty complaining marginalised folks keep getting used -and even rebranded. One glorious example is:


You know how this goes? Someone spouts a whole load of bigoted crap as they do so many times over – maybe they’re ignorant, maybe they don’t give a crap, maybe they’re just that overloaded on their own superiority and privilege, maybe they’re malicious – ultimately they’re called out on it and they turn round and say “I didn’t intend that!”

And magically everything’s fixed. Except, not. Unintended bigotry is still bigotry. Something that dehumanises or others marginalised people still does so even if the person producing it is thinking of fluffy kittens and happy unicorns. It doesn’t make a slur any less triggering, a piece any less erasing, a portrayal any less stereotyped or their actions any less dismissive, offensive and othering. Intent as an excuse puts the privileged person’s feelings above the actual harm caused to marginalised people. This is why the watchword for so long has been “Intent isn’t magic.”

Ah, but the forces of privilege aren’t going to give up just because someone has hit them with some common sense (alas, for if they did we’d be in a much better world by now). And even as we continue to fight magical intent, it’s mutated child has crawled onto the scene…


The Good Faith argument basically says that the person meant well – they had good faith. In other words, it’s the Intent argument for those who know they’re not going to impress anyone by waving the intent banner. But it has the bonus points of being aggressive, not defensive. See, the “Intent” argument is a defence “I didn’t mean that!” while this is an attack “I’m acting in good faith!” with the nasty little implication that the marginalised person challenging them has BAD FAITH. Tuttut.