Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trans woman brutally beaten in Queens hate crime

Trigger warning.
Leslie Mora was brutally beaten by two strangers as she walked home from a nightclub last on June 19 at 2:30 AM. The offenders beat her with a belt as they screamed "faggot" at her in Spanish, only stopping when a passing motorist threatened to call the police. She was found nearly naked and bleeding on the sidewalk. Police recovered a blood-covered belt buckle and subsequently apprehended her assailants.

From the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund:
We’ve demanded that the Queens County District Attorney investigate this brutal attack as a hate crime. Leslie was beaten with a belt while her assailants called her a ‘faggot.’ While Leslie is a transgender woman, her attackers perceived her to be gay. State law currently classifies it as a hate crime for an individual to target and attack a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. Leslie’s assault is a hate crime because her attackers perceived her to be gay and targeted her for violence because of that perception. This is as clear a case for prosecution as a hate crime as any we have seen.

Her assailants, Trinidad Tapia, 19, and Gilberto Ortiz, 32, fled the scene but were arrested by police soon after the attack. Both were charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon, a felony, and released on their own recognizance. The Queens County District Attorney has declined to investigate the attack as a hate crime.
And via Shakesville:
On average, at least one transgender person is killed in the US each month. It seems only by the intervention of "good fortune" that Ms. Mora didn't join so many of our sisters and brothers already listed at the Transgender Day of Remembrance site.
Keep Ms. Mora in your thoughts as she makes her way towards recovery.

ETA: For a trans perspective on this, please visit Transwoman Times.

Parents exploit their child's disability for personal profit


Parenting 101: Don't exploit your child's disability:

Amie McRoberts, 37, and Catherine Nickell, 41, both of Union Township in Clermont County, have been charged with misdemeanor theft.

An investigation revealed they sent their two special-needs children door-to-door asking for donations to go to a special-needs camp, police said. The money was actually being used to pay McRoberts' and Nickell’s bills, police said.
And earlier:
"She had on her full little Girl Scout uniform, and she knocked on our door and she was very shy, made me feel really bad, and said, 'I'm trying to raise money to go to a camp for my Girl Scouts,'" said victim Heather Locke. "I said okay, so I gave her a dollar."

Police said some gave more money than that, and investigators believe the girls' parents exploited them by driving them around and sending them out to collect money.

"The children were never going to go to a special needs camp," said Josh Bail, a Union Township police detective. "The money was going to the parents."
Wow. What kind of sociopath does this? If their parents are sending them out to beg for fraudulent money for them, I can only imagine what these vulnerable daughters are put through in the home.

I'll update as I learn more.

further reading

Feminist Puberty: Privilege, and Fucking Up

In writing in this forum, I've been trying to figure out what kind of feminist I am trying to be, and how to handle the privilege that blinds me, by looking at where other bloggers I admire have fucked up recently and a while back.

As a feminist writer, you can't not fuck up. People are essentially flawed, and even when we should know better, even when we do know better, we offend, oppress, and enact the privileges of our bodies upon problematized bodies. It happens. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does. As a woman of immense privilege, I identify with those that fuck up. I can see myself doing it. Maybe I've done something very like it before. When feminist writers of privilege get called out, it's not bullying (usually) - it's just hard to look at these writers, see where they fucked up, see where I might fuck up, and face it. And I want to be right. I don't want to be a part of the problem.

Feeling my privilege acutely for the first time is a bit like feminist puberty. As when I grew hips, all of a sudden, I realize that I have these adult responsibilities. I am no longer a preadolescent feminist, who can rant against the patriarchy and be righteous and oppressed without recognizing that I'm complicit too. As I was suddenly forced into recognizing sexuality at 13, I am forced to recognize privilege, too. Some may choose to pretend that feminism exists in a vacuum, that it's just about ladies. These folks are refusing to take responsibility for their own participation in a system they decry.

It's not that my privilege never existed before - I just didn't realize that sexism didn't cover all oppression. As I felt fat at 13, I feel bloated with privilege today. I can't just benefit from all kinds of systems of oppressions, be a feminist, and act like it doesn't exist. I can't pretend that I know what it's like to be a trans woman. This limits the conversation I can have - I cannot unilaterally declare that something is heterosexist, and I cannot tell others that they are being victimized.

Suddenly, I'm so aware of my embarrassing, awkward privilege, and I'm self-conscious. I feel like throwing up my hands and walking away, as I walked away from femininity when I was 13 because suddenly being a girl was too hard. That didn't help then (partially because I'm cis) and it won't help now. I have to face it, and try to negotiate, and accept it when I fuck up. It's a part of being in a conversation in which my privilege should marginalize me, in which I am not the authority.

There are a few different ways to handle fucking up: some problematic, and some responsible. Jessica Valenti has her issues, but her usual non-response, while problematic, makes some sense to me. When you fuck up as publicly as she does, it's probably hard to separate the legitimate criticism from the handwringing and to respond to every claim. By not participating in the debate on her actions, Valenti refrains from talking over the voices of others. Obviously, this silence is not blameless. By not responding to the claims, Valenti can continue to move in feminist circles without directly addressing the serious issues she presents, thus marginalizing the critical voices against her. But practically and comparatively, for a big big feminist blogger, Valenti is light-years better than the Amanda Marcotte how-DARE-you model, which works to avoid responsibility and further silence oppressed groups through loud whining.

For a better model of white women fucking up responsibly, I turn to Daisy's Dead Air:
And I have always wanted to spin. I have wanted to spread justice and righteousness, I have stormed statehouses, demonstrated against presidents and political parties; I have been teargassed. I have carried signs, signs, signs, more signs than anyone should have to carry. I blog about human rights. That is my version of dancing; I would like to SPIN. That is what I wanted. To LIVE the Social Gospel; to spread the Word. I wanted to do it well. ..

And now, I have hit the wall. The delirious happiness of falling in love and honeymooning is over, time to pay the bills. And the hard work has proven very difficult for me to do, or even admit that it needs doing...

And so, I apologize to my transgendered friends for my offenses, for insulting them, for repeating my clueless brainwashed blather wholesale when exhausted and not paying close attention. But where, I wondered, did it come from? How could this be? And I know: there are some things that we will never be able to transcend. Some damage is, unfortunately, permanent. We may compensate for it, we may learn new ways to deal, we may try "recovery" and yes, we may improve. But it is also likely that these things will be perpetually difficult, a constant trial, always confusing. I am willing to take on this trial, but please know, my friends, it is not easy, since I didn't even know it would be necessary in the first place. I thought I had it in the bag! Ha.

Daisy apologizes honestly, and from the very bottom of her heart. Once she realizes that she has fucked up, she takes responsibility and explains how and why she came to fuck up. This kind of introspection is invaluable to young feminists who don't yet realize that feminism is not a get-out-of-racism-free card (or whatever paradigm of oppression). Daisy takes responsibility and directly recounts how and why she is wrong, without whining about being misunderstood. She takes full responsibility for her fuck-ups, and humbly asks for forgiveness from the groups she betrayed. Time and scarcity of charges permitting, I think that this model of sensitivity and responsiveness is ideal, and it's what I hope to swallow my pride and follow when I, inevitably, fuck up.

Further reading:
Pearl Clutchers

Image via My Private Casbah

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reverse Racism! meme reaches Supreme Court

I'm very surprised Clarence Thomas didn't write this opinion:

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide, potentially limiting the circumstances in which employers can be held liable for decisions when there is no evidence of intentional discrimination against minorities.

"Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his opinion for the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them."
So, the way I understand it:

  • This makes it easier for business owners to enact racist hiring/promotion practices
  • If a white man doesn't get a promotion, it's automatically discrimination, regardless of whether a POC received the promotion at their expense.
  • As long as business owners do not actively tell the POC they pass over that they are being ignored because of their skin color, it's A-OK!
This is essentially a way for white men to further ingrain their privilege. It's a defense mechanism against any action that does not explicitly favor them above other.

Disgusting. Here's hoping that Ms. Sotomayer gets to the Court sooner rather than later.

Image from Ampersand

Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's been an exciting week here for a number of reasons. I've set up the bare minimums of my home office, which marks the beginning of my Freelance Career. I'm gearing up to launch a new site design in the month of July, at which time posting will probably reliably increase to 2x a day. Last night, I went to a party and met a new friend who pretty much immediately identified herself as a feminist (a somewhat rare occurrence here in post-college Southwest Virginia). My post on Michael Jackson brought on a huge wave of traffic, and I was linked by Womanist Musings (one of my very favorite blogs) and fellow new blogger Adventures of a Young Feminist.

On to the links!

Happy Juneteenth, Peeps!

Why Gossip Matters (the rock band)

stuff white people do: think of asians in terms of faceless hordes and claim they have native american blood (I've definitely heard this story from my family, and my partner's made this claim)

Michael Jackson, Celebrity, Empathy, and the Culture of Silence

Relationship with Celebrities and Social Justice Burn-out

Feminism: The White Women are Chatting

High Heels and Lipstick: The Big Question

Hair-Washing, with 2 edible ingredients

If you've written or read anything you'd like to share, please post it in the comments!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marginalizing Thomas Jefferson's reliance on slavery

On Thursday, I wrote about how Michael Jackson’s failings should be a part of his legacy. Since then, there has been a great deal more discussion of his misdeeds – I particularly liked Renee Martin’s and Feministing’s takes, which provide a good balance. However, this scrutiny should not be only applied to abused and abusive superstars, but to our flawed cultural gods.

Thomas Jefferson’s identity as a slave owner has been accepted into our cultural impression/definition of him, but it’s often shunted to the side, given a nod without little critical thought. It was just one bad part of an awesome life – one has nothing to do with the other. "Time Wastes Too Fast", an illustrated trip through Monticello from writer/illustrator Maria Kahlman (whose work in the New York Times I often admire), falls into this trap.

Initially there is a nod towards his being wrong. But it’s quickly swept aside so that his accomplishments can be gloried. His flaws are segrated into a small, insulting section of the story, in which:

  • no black persons are pictured (granted, no persons are pictured in action, but there are many portraits of white men and women).

  • This framing of Hemings solely in terms of her connection to Jefferson’s wife erases the rich and full life of Sally and other Hemingses, only serving to underscore the sappy romaniticism of the piece’s focus on Martha, Martha, Martha.
  • Using the catchphrase of Bart Simpson to dismiss this complicated union is trivializing and dismissive.

And finally, the hallmark of every piece on Jefferson :

He was kind. How lovely.

The art in this piece is beautiful, and I don't think that author intended ill - it's an example of privilege blinding someone to the realities of the situation. Jefferson’s life was dependent on and integrated into the construct of slavery. If this focused on his public life that would be one thing: Jefferson’s public life was not built upon the idea of slavery, but in opposition to it. In that, an aside describing his hypocrisy and contradiction would bring an accurate window into the context of his admirable acts.

But this is about his home, his personal and family life specifically. Jefferson’s life was necessarily built upon slavery, and his home, in construction, decoration, and social activity, reflected that. It’s integrated into his personal story, but this author chooses to ignore that.

Slavery did not stay in those tiny, lamentable rooms. They cooked his food, gave him advice, read his works, slept in his bed, designed and built that magnificent house. Perhaps it wasn’t the whole story, but it wasn’t just a clearly defined and labeled part of the story. It was the “what else” of Jefferson.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Link: Bronx lesbians win "best couple"

Via Feministing comes this heartwarming story of Deoine and Victoria, voted "Best Couple" by their Bronx high school:
Victoria: I wanted to win best couple, but I didn't know how people react. I thought they would discriminate. But Deoine and Maribel went around to every class telling them to vote for us. When the papers came out for people to vote, it said "best couple: pick a boy and a girl." Deoine asked if I voted and I said "no," but then I was thinking about President Obama and I told myself "one vote could make a difference," so I scratched out boy and I put girl.
Maribel: But let me tell you something, you did not win by just two points, you won by a lot.
Deoine: I used to watch like a lot of shows, all the movies where at the end the girl gets the guy and they live happily ever after. And I always thought "maybe that's going to happen to me." But it wasn't a guy I got at the end.
Victoria: Teachers, classmates, and people outside tell us we are "perfect"...but we're not. We go through the same mistakes other relationships go through—disagreements (a lot of those, oh my God), we're both stubborn, and we have broken up a couple of times. But, we're still staying close. And next year, we're both going to college in New York. Hopefully this love lasts forever.
I tend to look on high-school sweethearts with some skepticism. I didn't date in high school (something I regret), so I don't know what that bond is like. But this was just precious.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Euphemisms and Michael Jackson in immediate review

I am surprised by the coverage of the Michael Jackson in blogs immediately after his demise. The media has focused on Jackson's alleged pedophilia for the last decade; however, all mention of this was absent from most immediate memorial posts. The only post that I have seen thus far that makes reference to these tragic charges is Pandagon:
Of course his body gave out---god only knows how many drugs a plastic surgery addict and pedophile must take to escape the reality of himself. I think it shook me because I mentally chose to believe that the Michael Jackson that I loved died within minutes of releasing “Smooth Criminal”. ... But even if you plug your ears and try to pretend that there was only one Michael Jackson---the Michael of the Jackson 5, of Off The Wall, of Thriller---it’s hard. His earlier music that displayed his practically supernatural talent is impossible to listen to without occasionally hearing portends of the child molesting freak show shell of a human he was to become.
I know we shouldn't speak well of the immediate dead especially. I understand that this may be in poor taste (I've never been great with etiquette). Certainly he was a musical genius and a tremendously talented man who put a lot of positive energy into the universe. I don't object to highlighting or focusing on those accomplishments. I also understand that he was never found guilty, but he is the man most associated with a serious evil and even that is worthy of mention.

Glossing over, marginally mentioning, or using euphemisms discounts extremely serious offenses towards those in society who need the most protection. Sexual predators are a serious threat to all children, and all too often their crimes are ignored (often because of class privilege). Some bloggers that I respect a great deal completely erased these serious evils - especially my most recent fave blog Shakesville, which posted two articles on his death without any sort of reference to his issues with children at all. Jon Pareles of the New York Times also went almost completely without mentioning his pedophilia, despite going into some detail about his career.

Obituaries and media coverage of one's death are the first drafts of their legacy. I don't object to remembering Jackson primarily for his music, much as we respect major misogynists such as Ernest Hemingway for their brilliance (though Hemingway's mistakes were far less evil to my knowledge). But Jackson's wealth was a prime example of how class privilege can constitute exemption from responsibility in our penal system. Child molestation is not something to turn into a historical footnote.

ETA: Commenters at the Shakesville threads brought something that I missed to my attention: Jackson's childhood abuse. Just as the repeated accusations against Jackson should merit mention, so should the abuse that Jackson and his brothers faced as child performers. Jackson was as much victim as victimizer in the cycle of abuse, and his tortured childhood should not be forgotten. It's a valuable example of the way children and child performers are sometimes treated. Comprehensively his personal life is a tragic case of the cycle of abuse that is independent of his astounding, almost mythic talent and music for the ages.

Woman's mobility stolen

Renee at Womanist Musings brought this heartbreaking story to my attention:

OSHAWA -- Someone stole Gaile Kelly's legs.

The motorized wheelchair that links the 54-year-old woman to the world was taken sometime late Sunday or early Monday, leaving her confined to her small one-bedroom apartment above a bodyshop.

"Well, I can't get around or do anything," said Kelly, who suffers from spina bifida and also has a broken left foot. "I can't walk anywhere."

... Kelly and her husband, Stephen, kept the 1992 Fortress scooter locked under a trailer behind the Grenfell St. apartment, in the King St. and Park Rd. area. They kept it outside because it's impossible to carry it up the 15 steps to their apartment.

Renee covered most of the major issues at stake, but I had something to add:

This heinous act is not only reflective of individual hatred and disregard for the lives of others, but also institutionalized ableism. If her apartment were fully accessible to disabled persons, she wouldn't need to leave her method of movement outside and vulnerable to attack. Not only would her scooter be safe, she would be able to move about her apartment.

Every human should have full access and mobility where they operate, particularly in their own home. Fifteen little steps stopped this woman's mobility.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another gross blowjob advertisement

Since this has been everywhere, here is some advertising fellatio on a Wednesday afternoon:

What's next, mayonnaise bukkake? (Punctuated by CREAMY in 52-point font, of course.)

H/T to Shakesville, Womanist Musings

Do you know what an older man can give you?

This problematic poster is currently making the rounds:

(This is the only picture I could find, sorry it's not clearer.)


1)The onus is placed on the women being preyed on, not the predator. The young women manipulated and hurt by older men are constructed as more culpable than the men wronging them.

2) The girl in this picture is clearly white, but is the man black? The lips and the dark hair seem to code him as black, and it would fit neatly into our cultural narrative of relations between black men and white women as predatory and scurrilous.

3) Illegitimate children constructs the family as necessarily nuclear (along with other issues).

4) AIDS is not equal to death.


ETA: Casey of Pop-Punk Junkie asked what the origin of this image is, and I don't know. I found it at the first site I link and I couldn't find any other sources for the image (thus the shadow/poor quality). Anyone know anything about this poster?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Perez Hilton: "bad for the world"

I love the effervescent side of culture. We're going to see Britney Spears in September, and I am seriously excited. Celebrity gossip is kind of a form of nationally composed literature - there are such amazing arcs! (Granted, many of the discourses these statements take place in are wildly misogynistic, and this is reflective of my identification with the plight! of privileged women).

I've been reading celebrity gossip for a loooooong time. Unfortunately, since my early, early college days, I've often visited Perez Hilton. Even now, even when I know about far superior and not fundamentally sexist sites, I still sometimes visit the utterly vapid and detestable page. I don't usually mention frivolous things like astrology, but since he is utterly trivial: he makes me ashamed to be an Aries. He is the worst of my sign and all the things I struggle against: self-centered, always convinced they are ultimately right, bullying.

Blah blah me me me. Anyway, I thought this was a great piece of web criticism via ONTD, from the always engaging Rich of FourFour:
But I don't care about that at this point, because I couldn't be less jealous of him especially given the current circumstances. I just kind of want to throw up my hands (or in my hands) and call out this character, this persona, this online half-person for what it is: bad for the Internet, bad for gay people, bad for the world. I can't help but feel like everything would be better off without him. I know that's a harsh and extreme point of view and believe me that I paused before typing that to actually consider him and his contribution to society. I'd go as far as to say I racked my brain and I've still come up with absolutely nothing positive or pro-social that he has brought to the world, at least on a public level (and keep in mind that I'm not following his every move, so I could have missed an act of philanthropy or two). But not even the "entertainment" he provides is to be commended, as it ultimately lowers the very low standards of the Internet. Forget the rich and famous, if you are a human being, Perez Hilton makes you look bad, no MS Paint necessary.
If you've never heard of fourfour, check it out. Particularly Winston:

(Another perspective on Perez:


Obama brushes off LBGTQ folks

The White House is having a reception to commemorate the Stonewall riots 40 years ago. Awesome, right? Totes! Except that they've done nothing to promote or publicize the event, and it's apparently a party? Is it appropriate to celebrate hate crimes when they haven't been extinguished?

From Shakesville:
Now, I'm about the last person who will ever be heard complaining that an event isn't formal enough, but, I've got say, it strikes me as just a wee bit (where wee bit = colossally) irreverent to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion with a "festive affair akin to" a St. Paddy's Day or Cinco de Mayo party, given that, y'know, hate crimes against queers aren't exactly what one would call a distant memory. Party down like you've got equality, bitchez!
I was one of those feminist folks who thought that Rick Warren wasn't an indication of things to come. I thought that Obama was trying to be inclusive and that Warren was throwing a pre-emptive bone to the right. But in his first six months, Obama has systematically ignored the concerns of LBGTQ* persons.

One of the most striking examples of this is his conferring of some benefits to partners of federal employees - not including health insurance. This isn't even the everything-but-the-language, separate-but-equal compromise of civil unions. By withholding highly sought and hard to find health insurance to partners of federal employees, Obama makes a strong statement about the place of QTGBL persons in his plan for America. How can their bodies and health be valued if this is his version of equal rights?

Renee Martin makes a good point about the intersectionality of the important issues Obama has addressed:

In less than six months, Barack Obama has not moved quickly enough to alter the hierarchal imbalance that exists in the US and minority groups seem intent on holding his feet to the fire. Their requests for Obama to keep his election promises are reasonable; however the time period in which they have asked is not. Unlike his predecessor, he has not knowingly lied to the populace, he simply has been focusing on matters that will most broadly benefit all of society...

...The GLBT community has faced and continues to face discrimination in employment. However, both of these marginalized groups have yet to publicly recognize the importance of ensuring that there are good paying jobs available. They want programs directly aimed at them, rather than focusing on achieving the greatest good for the largest number of people.

This is a valid point. Obama has only been in office a few months, and he has not had time to dismantle systems of inequality. However, he's flubbed a number of opportunities to make progress with relatively little extra effort. His choice of Rick Warren, his silence on unpopular policies like Don't Ask Don't Tell, the omission of health benefits to same-sex partners of US employees and the callousness of the Stonewall party reveal that he is going beyond just prioritizing crises.

Obama is giving lip service without any actual action. He doesn't need to fix all of these problems at once: one strong action would show that he is serious about BLGTQ rights. These rights have been attacked or ignored for about sixteen years, and Obama hasn't made a serious move towards repairing and building towards equality, despite the opportunities listed above.

While our president has made a number of steps in the right direction, he has also systematically ignored GBLTQ bodies and still expected their support. In the campaign, he promised the conservatives that there wouldn't be no gays getting married on his watch, and fierce advocacy to TLGBQ persons. Guess which promise he's kept?

What do you think? Will change come eventually? Or have GLBTQ folks waited long enough?

*I switch up the order of the initials in this acronym so that no specific group is consistently privileged.

Monday, June 22, 2009

(White) GOP sexuality and the expectations of black sexuality

Today at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte wrote an excellent analysis of how straight Republicans guarantee their right to sexual freedom while they deny sexual agency on the part of women and GLBTQ folks:
And it’s true---one wonders why, when straight Republican politicians are caught with their pants down, anyone thinks they owe the world an apology. Apologies are hypocritical. Their stance is clear---straight men get to have all the sex they want with all the women they want. It’s not straight male sexuality, in any of its manifestations, that’s bringing down society. It’s women having sex without being punished repeatedly for it, and of course, gay men need to be run out of town for it.
I recommend the piece, but I thought it left a lens out. All of these dudes are also white, and being white is essential to their sexual blamelessness. White sex in general and white straight male sexuality in particular are constructed as productive, healthy, and family-oriented. Black sexuality is framed as debased, irresponsible, criminal, and violent.

Women of color, particularly black women, are expected to be sexual, but in a very narrow frame by the patriarchy supported and entrenched by the GOP. Unlike virginal white women, women of color are constructed as silent sexual outlets. In the construction of the patriarchy, they are not agents of sexuality, but objects. This is rarely as overt as it once was, and black women are now often expected to hide their sexuality so they don't reflect poorly on other black women. In today's terms, they are as harshly punished for active sexuality as white women - especially in cases in which they are not the owners of class privilege.

Black men fare no better. They are as basely sexualized as black women, constructed as base and predatory. Whereas the predatory actions of Republican men are written off as aberrations, men of color (black men in particular) are automatically suspected of sexual misconduct or framed as irresponsible fathers.

Republicans are in no small way responsible for this discrepancy. The GOP usually ignore persons of color, but their few contributions are not positive. They endeavour to punish black women and particularly poor women along with all other women, and participate in the sexualization referred to above. They caricature black men as threatening and deny them full agency.

What happens to politicians of color who have affairs? One advantage that persons of great privilege exist with is that their every action and mistake will not be taken as evidence of the failings of the minority group they belong to. Case in point: Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit who resigned after evidence of extramarital affairs surfaced. Even before his scandal, Kilpatrick was infantilized and patronized, with Time Magazine asking whether this fully grown and responsible man could "grow up". While Kilpatrick was certainly guilty and his misdeeds serious, his case was held up as evidence of the immorality of black America. He was expected to hide himself in shame for disgracing other black Americans. Furthermore, the violent parts of his downfall were highlighted where they may have been ignored or hidden in the case of a white politician. His identification as a hip-hop politician was viewed as proof that hip-hop was ruining the country.

What would happen if Obama were revealed to have had an affair? Certainly, there would be the usual sturm und drang that typically accompanies this sort of story. But how racialized would it be? Would Obama's infidelity be taken as evidence of the irresponsibility of all black men? How heavily would it impact his chances at re-election? If the other party in the affair were white, would he be constructed as a rapist?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Steve teaches us about ending inequality.

Bitch Blog brought this silly article on CNN about how feminism is obsolete to my attention. It's the same tripe the patriarchy's been pushing about how women are doing just fine. (feminism shouldn't just be about women's issues, but whatever). Bitch covered the article well, but it was the third comment down that caught my eye:
Feminism, racism, etc., will not be obsolete until society stops using quotas for race, gender and religion to make decisions. Also, the media will need to stop acting and a 1,000x amplifier of these issues. I am tired of hearing of the first black president, the first woman AND Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court. How about that CNN starts the trend and only deals with people based on their abilities and achievements.
Yes, Steve. Racism will be stopped when we go back to ignoring rather than celebrating and electing problematized bodies.

The thing is, it makes sense in this fella's probable world. If there is no more "reverse racism" (affirmative action), there's no chance that Steve will be passed over for a promotion or job in favor of an ... equally qualified woman. If there are no more quotas, Steve doesn't have to listen to people of color in his classroom, talking about things that do not fit perfectly into his worldview.

If there's no more quotas or action taken against racism, if Steve just pretends we're color-blind, then he can pretend that everyone's white and won't be bothered by silly questions of inequality.

Yes, Steve. When you can ignore all inequality and pretend that everything's just dandy, then movements working to stop that inequality will be obsolete. When you're able to construct a world in which your privilege is preserved and the achievements of of oppressed bodies are ignored or entirely erased, then there will be no more need to fight against oppression.

I think I've learned a lot from you today, Steve. Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New York Times acknowledges, devalues fat fashion

Apparently the New York Times has just gotten the memo that women larger than a size eight also enjoy wearing stylish clothing in a new article by Ruth la Ferla, called "Fashion Reaches Out to Heavier Young Women". This degrading article comes despite widespread reporting that the plus-size industry is retracting (they allude to this fact in the article, which makes for confusing reading in a piece about how plus-sizes are the Hot New Thing).

Their main evidence for this discovery is that nationwide retailers like Target, Old Navy (which caters to teens, not older women) and Hot Topic are now offering clothes for fat women? Which has been going on for...some time?

The entire article by Ruth la Ferla is filled with snobbish condescension like this:
The woman of size, as she is euphemistically known, “still wants to wear the same clothes as her slimmer counterparts,” he added.
Euphemistically for what? "Disgusting fatass"? This comment is odd considering that la Ferla does everything she can to avoid calling women "large" or "fat" : "glamorously curvy", "round-bodied"

Also bizarre is the emphasis on K-Mart as the face of fat fashion:

“I’ve noticed lately that they are trying to make big sizes more into style,” said Kathy Salinas, as she considered a zebra-striped Piper & Blue tunic at a Kmart in downtown Manhattan this week. “You see that at regular stores, not just the plus-size stores, and that’s a good thing.”

Nothing against K-Mart - I occasionally shop there and even bought a $5 scarf there last week - but it has never been a hot spot for fashion. K-Mart clothes are by definition discount and downmarket, and it is the only retailer in the article mentioned multiple times. La Ferla could have focused on Target, or Torrid, or another retailer with a reputation for putting out stylish clothes for all - but chose to focus on a store known not at all for its stylish clothing. This subtle framing reinforces the idea that fat women are undiscriminating, sloppy, and at the low end of the fashion spectrum - even in an article that's specifically about fat style.

Still, it's only obtuse and mildly insulting until the very end. There's a curt nod to fat acceptance:

More than tokenism, such fashion and media tactics seem born of a conviction that larger young women have become more self-accepting. “They are inclined to show off the parts of their bodies they love,” said Ms. Sack, the Chicago retailer. Pushing the trend is a broad movement of fat acceptance among academics, anti-bias activists and some psychologists. “It’s important to reclaim ‘fat’ as a descriptive, as even something positive,” argued Ms. Maribona of Fat Fancy.
But such forward thinking is immediately regulated with a healthy serving of guilt and shame:
But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.
So, fat girls who dare to like themselves are faking it - and if their outrageous self-love is genuine, they should wake up and realize how unhealthy they are. How is this kind of health moralizing acceptable in an article about fashion? Is there no space in the mainstream media where fat women can be discussed without being pathologized and degraded?

Even in article that's purportedly fat-positive, about how large young women (like myself) are fashionable and beautiful (as if we ever weren't), the mainstream media feels a need to reinforce shame and police our bodies.

ETA: Courtney of Feministing just posted on this article (linking my community cross-post - thanks!). Jill of Feministe also wrote about it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Southern accents and attraction

A post over at The Jaded Hippy has some interesting thoughts on racism in sexual attraction:

In a racist, sexist society can our sexual attractions ever be value neutral? Is it REALLY just a "preference" when white people aren't attracted to people of other races?

My conclusion? No, not really.

Knowing what I know now about society, social indoctrination, whiteness, etc. I can no longer think it's a coincidence that white men tend to be the ones I find most sexually attractive.

This post made me consider my own pattern of attraction (which is not particularly static), specifically my fondness of Southern accents. It's something that I've recently but intensely developed, and it poses an odd contradiction: it's not exactly race-based, but it is a response to my identification with the patriarchy and my need to fit in to the (shallow) South, where I recently came to live.

In focusing part of my attraction on speech patterns, I'm regurgitating the dominant paradigm of my current surroundings: men around me and the man I'm with speak this way. Southern accents are reinforced as positive and desirable, a mark of masculinity and honesty:

And I can't any longer ignore that these traits also, though not tied to skin color (what most commonly think of as THE racial indicator) are most certainly tied to dominant narratives about "real men" and that those narratives are strongly informed by whiteness.

However, it's not as simple as this problematic identification. A Southern accent is a disempowering feature: it causes the speaker to be seen as uneducated, unintelligent, and dull-witted. One study found that a Southern accent increased a job applicant's chances of being passed over or paid less. A few years ago, I held this view - it was one thing that I didn't particularly like about my partner (whose Southern accent is very strong) upon getting to know him. This was not a reflection of J, but a reflection of my more recent life in the Midwest: as I am now conditioned by the patriarchy to appreciate Southern accents, I was then conditioned to reject them.

(There's also the question of the blue-collar exotic, but I won't get into that here.)

It's kind of a moot point. Since I'm happy in my relationship with an accented man, I'm not going to try to make any shifts. But I'll certainly be a little more critical the next time I'm watching Lost and become entranced by Sawyer.

Recipe: Southwestern Salmon-Avocado Salad

This recipe is very filling - neither of us could eat our whole portion last night - and yummy! Slightly spicy with a nice textural contrast between crisp lettuce, chewy salmon, and creamy avocados. It's best cold, and terrific for lunch! Modified from San Antonio Chicken recipe from cdkitchen.com.


  • 10 ounces salmon, cubed
  • 1/3 cup picante sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 ripe avocado
  • 1 habenero peppers
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Combine picante sauce, cumin and salt in 10" skillet.
  • Cook salmon in sauce mixture, stirring constantly on medium, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  • Transfer contents of skillet to mixing bowl; cover and chill thoroughly.
  • After chilling, add sour cream, lemon juice and mayonnaise to salmon mixture; mix well.
  • Peel, seed and coarsely chop avocado. Seed and dice habenero pepper. Add avocado and celery to chicken mixture; mix lightly.
  • Spoon onto lettuce-lined salad plates. Serve with additional picante sauce.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

3 Bonnaroo failures and successes

- Getting in The communication between festival workers, local authorities and festival-goers was weak and ill-organized. One example: My group was delayed at least two hours (out of the eight we waited) because no one told that we were in the RV lane.
- The sound from That Tent is too soft. Merle Haggard was ruined.
- Sight lines Which stage and This, That, and Other tents were not conducive to a festival environment because of the poor sightlines. You had to stand to see any acts in these venues, even in the grass beyond the immediate area. Dancing is great, but at three in the afternoon and at 85 degrees, sometimes you just want to sit and watch a concert - not people's legs. The What stage is a great success in this area, with the stage visible for tired folks sitting way back on the lawn.

+ Incoming security for Centeroo Security guards struck a good balance between rigorously searching some and keeping the line moving. Considering that there were constantly thousands of people waiting to get into Centeroo, this was one example where the hot and cold of Bonnaroo security actually worked.
+ The wristband is perfect - durable, colorful, immediately recognizable without getting in the way.
+ Layout of Centeroo I was never more than a 15 minute walk from any stage - and that's with blisters. This is huge when you are at Merle Haggard and need to get to Snoop Dogg before he plays "Jump Around".

3 things I did wrong (and 2 I did right) at Bonnaroo

3 Things I Should Have Packed for Bonnaroo

I did not pack a live parrot. I should have.

1. Less food I packed all kinds of cholestoral-building goodies (spinach tuna salad, macaroni salad, Cheetos, lots else) but I didn't eat a quarter of it. It won't be wasted (it's in the fridge now) but space in our trunk was.

2. Our canopy I don't know how, but we forgot to bring the canopy for the tent to the festival we've been planning since February. So we came up with a creative solution:

Ours is the one that doesn't look right. On the right.

A tarp and three dollar-store sunblockers held together with bobby pins and duct tape protected us from crazy weather throughout the weekend.

3. Galoshes The rain on Thursday night created a very muddy environment. The sophisticated Bonnaroo vets I attended with had galoshes to protect themselves, keeping their feet free on the mud that pervaded the campgrounds.

2 Things I Did Right

1. Went with friends Friends expand the music you see (and the bands you discover) in Centeroo, and socializing enhances the scene back at your camp and helps you process the ten bands you saw in five hours at Centeroo.

2. Focused on seeing music Making myself leave my campsite, where there are friends and free beer and food and shade, at noon every day was difficult, but worthwhile and necessary to my enjoyment of the weekend. Even if you came for one specific band, see at least a few others and limit yourself to one break a day.

Top 5 Bonnaroo shows (and what I missed)

Top 5 shows at Bonnaroo

1. David Byrne. This show was a perfect balance between showmanship and authenticity, with dancers serving as an accent to Talking Heads tunes like "Burning Down the House" (my musical highlight - low-quality video above). Byrne was electric, mixing up solo and TH material like it was no big deal in one long set and two encores.

2. Jimmy Buffett. This total surprise (unannounced until Wednesday night) lived up to the expectations my Parrothead partner (who began seeing JB at 12) set high. Buffett's positive vibes are infectious.

3. Jenny Lewis. I'd really been looking forward to this and the Rilo Kiley frontwoman did not disappoint with a comfortable and energetic set featuring Elvis Costello.

4. Phish. Phish live is hard to describe or translate to CD, but I love them and thought the Friday and Sunday performances, particularly the weird vocal jam and AC/DC cover on Friday and the Sunday encore and Springsteen songs.

5. Elvis Perkins in Dearland. I only caught the second half of this attractive band's set after Buffett on Saturday, but I'm sure glad I hustled over. That half of the show (recommended by the rad M. of Ped Xing) had some memorable instrumentals and snappy folk tunes that made me wish I'd seen more.

Other highlights: Drive-By Truckers playing instrumental cover of "Hey Ya", Gomez, Portugal the Man, Moonalice, Pretty Lights, Dillinger Escape Plan

3 Things I'm Pissed I Missed

1. Parts of NIN. After Bruce, Jimmy Buffett, the Drive By Truckers, and Jenny Lewis, I dozed through significant parts of NIN's last American set on Saturday night. Even when I was standing and moving, I couldn't focus on a highly charged and skillful set. Check out "Hurt" above - probably the most emotional moment of the festival.

2. Gov't Mule. I am rather sore about missing "Southern Man", U2, and Helter Skelter covers. But I missed it for Jenny Lewis, so I can't complain too much.

3. Al Green/Lucinda Williams/Ani DiFranco. I intended to catch all of these artists, but a quick return to the campsite turned into a multihour pow wow before David Byrne. Didn't hear much about the latter, but I heard raves about Al Green.

Hello again!

Just got back from BONNAROO. As I'm sure you can tell from the caps, Bonnaroo was too short, too hot, too muddy, too expensive, too crowded, too damn dirty, and the most exhilarating/relaxing weekend/vacation I've had in a long time. In an effort to contain my excitement, I'm going to post a whole lot about Bonnaroo that doesn't have a whole lot to do with Feminism and Things today, and then never mention it again.

I am now Officially Freelancing, so expect to see a lot of posts coming up. The site will probably undergo a makeover relatively soon, and I am going to work on focusing my content. I think that you can expect to see a lot of feminism and literature (by my very broad definition) in this space. Lots of new comments and visitors in my absence - very exciting.

I've previously promised a lot of posts - life is an apology to be made at a later date. I can say that I will have that Womanist Musings review up soon, along with some assorted commentary and perhaps a recipe. I know I will no longer be reviewing No Doubt, but I can direct you to an excellent review by Casey over at Pop Punk Junkie (check that blog out if you're into modern pop-rock. She's a college friend and a fantastic and passionate writer).

Here are posts you can expect to see on Bonnaroo:

My top five shows (and three I'm mad I missed)
Three things I did wrong (and two I did right)
Six positive and problematic aspects of Bonnaroo

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don't you realize X is unhealthy?

Yesterday, in Feministing's weekly sex column "Ask Professor Foxy", "Awkward" wrote in about her possible asexuality . Though Awkward did not mention wanting to be sexual, loss of a sex drive, or her health, the comments often read like this gem from sondjata:

Not saying this particular person isn't asexual, but there are other biological issues that could be at play here low hormones being chief among them. Since it is normal for the vast majority of the species, particularly at the age of this person, to want to engage in sexual activity and that a lot of that is hormonally driven, a medical exam would be in order for this individual prior to declaring they are asexual.

What this post really does is allow for the patient to self-diagnose and for the "doctor" to say: "If you say so." write a prescription and dismiss the patient without taking an exam. In the real world that's malpractice. [emphasis mine]
What, exactly, is wrong with self-diagnosis of one's sexuality? Sexuality is a personal thing that is ultimately up to the discretion and instincts of those who own their sexuality. How is someone saying "you know, your instincts about your sexuality might be right!" rather than "GET THEE TO A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL" performing a grave disservice? What gives sondjata the authority to order - not suggest - that Awkward seek medical advice in hopes of claiming privilege before daring to declare herself asexual?

Sondjata's comment constructs her privilege as the healthy and right way to live, wielding her societal advantages to other Awkward. There is no room for Awkward, except as a freak of nature. Sondjata insults asexuals by implying that Awkward does not take care of or know her own body.

Instead of focusing on asexuality in culture, sharing experiences and perspectives on the topic, sondjata and other commenters chose to undermine Awkward's knowledge of her own body and assert the rightness, the biological superiority of their own sexuality. Instead of responding to Awkward's queries, they chose to doubt the legitimacy of her asexuality and suggest that Awkward doesn't really know what she's talking about. How could someone who wasn't silly, irresponsible, or sick not want to experience the all-consuming power of sex?

If someone wrote in about their very active sex drive, no one in the comments would suggest that they had a tumor - though that can cause an overactive sex drive. Commenters who respond with "Well, you might be sick. Make sure you're healthy so you can maybe be normal!" are robbing folks like Awkward of their agency in their sexuality and working to further entrench their privilege.

The post brought to mind the excellent and essential "Don't you realize fat is unhealthy?" from Shapely Prose:

7. Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings.
8. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. See how that works?
9. In any case, shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t fucking help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You cannot hate people for their own good.” [emphasis in context]

If health is not mentioned in an individual's discussion of their problematized body - in sexuality, or size, or gender identification - interrogating them on their health is a condescending display of privilege. It de-legitimizes and others their experiences, and robs them of an identity, reducing non-standard agency to simple, nonthreatening sickness.

Bottom line: other people's health are not your business. Their body belongs solely to them, and do not exist to soothe threats to your privilege.

More reading: The top ten responses to asexuality

Sunday, June 7, 2009



All via Feministe's Self-Promotion Sunday - lots of great stuff there.

Planned this week:

Asexuality and health snooping (in response to this)
Site recommendation/review: Womanist Musings
Concert review: No Doubt

Feel free to comment with anything you've written or read!

Feminists at rock concerts

Rock concerts are one of my favorite ways to spend time and money. However, a lot of the bands I see are pretty damn patriarchal: Widespread Panic, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Metallica, etc.

Over at Female Impersonator, Amelia wrote about the discomfort she felt at rock shows:
At [rock concerts], I have felt very much like an outsider as a woman in a mostly-male space ... How can I be a good feminist while I'm cheering for a band that attracts the kind of crowd that yells, "Show your tits!" and cheers when women pull up their shirts?
I don't have a lot of problems consuming sexist, racist, or otherwise patriarchal media. Art is art, and it's not perfect. As long as I'm critical of it and recognize how it is wrong and why, I will enjoy and support bands who make music or art that I like. Liking these bands forces me to re-examine my commitments, and I'm not responsible for their fans.

And I've never felt particularly uncomfortable at rock shows. After several dozen shows over two years, it's a familiar atmosphere. But that comfort is due to my partnered privilege. I almost never go to shows without my partner, whose central passion is live music. As a single women, I would be vulnerable, a target. My unavailability signals to men that I am deserving of privacy.

I'm never hit on or made to feel uncomfortable - unless my partner is in the bathroom. This applies to no just drunken frat boys, but those lovely and benevolent authority figures.

At a Panic concert in Virginia Beach two summers ago, I held mine and J's beers in my hands while I waited for him to return. Four cops - not one, not two, not even three, but four full-grown men - surrounded me and began hassling me for my ID. I explained that J had my ID (I don't carry purses into shows), but that didn't satiate them. They continued to violate my personal space, until J returned with my ID. It was humiliating and infantilizing, and made me glad of J's presence for my very safety.

Many of the bands that I see regularly now I would be hesitant to see without J. The way I present myself makes me a target for unwanted attention. Without J, the fun of getting drunk and dancing at a rock concert would make me feel unsafe - a target for men who can do just that without shame or harm coming to them.

Look for more commentary on sexism at concerts this week, and for a review of No Doubt in Charlotte last night.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why don't I read the news anymore?

What is my problem? Our president is fairly rad. There's debate about the Supreme Court (I love the Supreme Court.)

But at some point in the last three months, I stopped reading the news regularly. Even though I am interested in world events, even though it informs my work as a writer, even though I feel slightly ashamed not to keep up, I avoid it and read a book, or webcomic, or what have you. I've been going through some different transitions, and priorities and habits get confused, but this is unacceptable.

Today, I will read the New York Times - at their website. The Google Reader kind of kills the fun of reading the news:

(I'm never hooked by headlines - maybe that's why I'm terrible at writing them).

Tomorrow, I will put my stationary bike together and watch the news. Or get on the treadmill. Or something. (Boy, it's nice to have this stuff at home. Thanks, disposable income + privilege!)

Yesterday, a friend mentioned Obama's speech in Cairo, and I barely knew enough to contribute my opinion. I've been going through some transitions, and priorities and habits get confused, but this is unacceptable. That ends today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eminem and rape/abuse

Trigger warning

MTV has jumped on the “rape is hilarious!” meme with this exchange between Sasha Baron Cohen (“Bruno”) and Eminem:

Bruno forces his genitals on Eminem, who shoves him and walks off in anger. The event was staged with participation from all parties, but many bloggers have called it out as an example of how rape is played up for humor. Renee Martin from Womanist Musings wrote:

What is shocking about this video is that Cohen is using Eminem’s known homophobia to justify sexually assaulting him… It publicly cemented in the minds of those that have irrational fears of gay men that they are justified in fearing attack.

This is especially disturbing in the context of the promotion of Eminem’s new album, Relapse. Relapse is chock-full of songs that are directly and without question about rape. This is not really new to his literary discography. As in other albums, most rape scenes in Relapse are enacted by Eminem’s sociopathic persona Slim Shady1, who is often blamed for the actions of more ethical personas Eminem and Marshall Mathers. But Insane casts Eminem as the victim and not the actor in rape:

Insane is an extremely graphic and in my analysis autobiographical story about a stepfather raping the narrator. The the second verse seems to refer to “Shady” in Insane and indicate that this is part of the mythology of the Slim Shady persona, but the first and third verse seem to be about Eminem’s “real” persona, Marshall Mathers, his usual vehicle for expressing serious emotions. Most of these references do not suggest self-identification of “Shady”, but being called that by another. Furthermore, Shady’s persona is outwardly violent and rarely introspective, and only the second (and half of the third) verse poses the narrator as the actor and not victim of violence. Shady is not one to say “help me” in any context, as the narrator does in the third verse.

I interpret the first verse (which concentrates on the rape) as autobiographical because of this reference to the mother in this situation:
Debbie don't let that fucker get you upset
Debbie is Eminem’s mother’s real name. This direct mention of her in conjunction with the also autobiographical “My Mom” (which addresses his family history of addiction) further suggests that Eminem is not playing around. After the transition to Slim Shady and outward violence in the second verse, Eminem transitions back to the child Marshall:

What the fucks happening? I think I'm fucking melting,
"Marshall I just love you boy I care about your well being",
No dad I said no, I don't need no help peeing, I'm a big boy I can do it by myself see
Eminem’s voice in these lines are distorted, suggesting a transition. Though the name is again imposed rather than self-identified, the use of Em’s legal name suggests that this is not part of the Slim Shady mythology or an attempt to explain “Shady’s” bad deeds but is instead a dramatization of actual events. [The lyrics quoted come from here.]

Further supporting my analysis of this song as largely autobiographical, most Slim Shady and rape songs are played for comedic purposes (though this is less present on Relapse). I don’t detect a humorous tone in Insane, with its screeching violins., and neither has anyone else I’ve listened to it with.

Eminem’s recent admission of his history of abuse makes an already vile stunt even more disgusting. Even using the interpretation of “he’s a homophobe, he deserves it” is faulty in the context of Relapse, which is to my ear considerably less focused on homophobia, and Eminem’s recent claim of a close friendship with Elton John. As Melissa observed at Shakesville:

Baron-Cohen certainly is aware of the same almost-but-not-quite admissions Eminem has made about his childhood that I am, and he went ahead with this stunt, anyway. Most of the people in that audience, and probably most of the people who have viewed the video and found it hilarious, are aware of the possibility that Baron-Cohen was sticking his genitals and butt into the face of someone who is very likely a survivor of sexual abuse.

Yet it's all so goddamned funny—because most of us won't even make the connection between what Baron-Cohen is doing and sexual abuse.
Eminem may have been a participant in this stunt, but that does not mitigate MTV and Sasha Baron Cohen’s error; it’s never appropriate to sexually ambush anyone, and their choice of a possible rape victim as the victim in this situation accents this depravity.

1 Side analysis of Slim Shady persona: The character’s actions constitute not just hetero/sexism and violence, but also racism – apparently, “Slim Shady” comes from a term for a white rapper who “acts black”, similar to the vile term “wigger”. By making SS the “bad” part of Eminem’s three-pronged persona (Eminem/Marshall Mathers/SS) a figure that “acts black”, Eminem is enacting and furthering the white privilege he takes steps towards recognizing in songs like “White America”.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin