Saturday, June 16, 2012

Seeing Yourself

I came in on the tail end of HBO’s “The Latino List” and had the pleasure of hearing Marta Moreno Vega share a story from her childhood. To keep it short and simple, she saw her drug addicted brother in the street one day and did not respond when he spoke to her. She “kept it pushin” as they say. And like any true sibling he ran to their mother and tattled on her! When Vega’s mother questioned her about it, and Vega admitted that she didn’t speak to him because he was dirty and so on, her mother said “…that could be you, that could be your brother, that could be your sister, that could be me. Don’t you ever… don’t you EVER not recognize yourself in somebody else.” Vega ended her story with “that’s being spiritual. My mamá taught me that.”

Of course this story gets added to the list of things that made me want to cry this week because I thought of two things – how powerful that statement is and how many things our parents teach us that we go on to share with the world.

Could you imagine if we all took the time to see ourselves in someone else? In the homeless, in those addicted to drugs, in the brown-skinned innocents that US sanctioned drone attacks kill, in the young black men being profiled (and stopped and frisked and harassed and violated and, eventually, killed) in our streets every day? Would we stop and help them?

Could you imagine if every single child saw him or herself in not only those people, but in our business owners, our president, our politicians? If our politicians saw themselves in the poor, in women, in we “voiceless” marginalized folk, in those brown-skinned innocents that they voted to kill? What a world that would create - politicians that actually begin to care about people rather than their own agenda, their own beliefs, their own hatreds and bigotry. We’d have children that would grow into adults who see themselves in every single person. Those adults would run our country and I’d like to believe they’d run it better. But, I digress.

Of the things that I learned from my parents, and still learn every day – never take any shit off anyone. They probably didn’t say it in exactly that way, but that’s how I’m taking it.
Never stop writing.
Never stop caring.
Never let anyone silence you.
Always treat others with the respect and dignity that you yourself deserve.

And, now, I add to their list – always see yourself in others; always recognize yourself in others. I’d like to believe this will make me a better person, someone that has greater drive to help others inside the classroom and out. I’ve made a real stink over women’s issues and minority issues (in television) lately and I just know that it is my singular goal in life to bring multicultural literature, film and television to students. I want them to see themselves in those people – in those actors, actresses, directors and writers.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll leave my classroom and enter the world thinking about more than themselves. When someone says “this is a race/racial issue” they’ll be more inclined to not only listen, but understand. When someone says, “this is a women’s rights issue” they’ll be more inclined to not only listen, but understand. When they enter the workforce and go on their paths to run our country, be businessmen, police officers, etc, they’ll see a brown face and see their own. They’ll see the poor and see themselves. They’ll see brown-skinned children gunned down in the streets and they will see their own.

Think of the world we could create if something as simple as “recognize yourself in others” was taught alongside the golden rule. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true, people don’t want to care about an issue until it affects them personally. Looking at the world this way, it does, doesn’t it? 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kenyetta, Brianna and me.

I’ve been on the feminist bandwagon for a few weeks now and let me just say – or type, rather – that I am so glad I finally found something that I can truly sink my teeth into. This world where race, sex, gender, class and so many other things collide is quickly becoming my happy unhappy place. I think about it constantly – how to make people understand, how to make it better, how to teach it. Never been happier that I left biology for bigger, brighter and better endeavors.

Margaret Bowland, Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna (2008)
Margaret Bowland: Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna

I saw this on the internet today. It brought that itch to the back of my eye that foreshadows tears. But they didn’t come. One, because I’m at work. Two, because – dammit – I will not shed another tear over this.

I’ve focused a lot on identity and intersectionality over the last year in my coursework – examining the layers of black identity and how they are embraced, quelled and/or misunderstood. This image brought back all of my own personal struggles with those very things. How can I be “more” black? How can I be more…authentic? How can I be less me and more who you want me to be? How can I not be the “little white girl” in my family and the “black chick” amongst my friends? How can I be a strong, self-reliant and self-sufficient woman without being the “black woman that doesn’t need anybody?”

I was probably halfway through college before I stopped trying to be everyone else’s conception of me.  Before I stopped trying to figure out how I could be a little bit of this definition and a little bit of that – an all-you-can-eat buffet of identities.  But, dammit, those little girls in that picture. That *woman.* They bring it all back. They are me. I can’t take my eyes off of them, off of the me that I see in them. And that itch is back again.
That woman is who those little girls will become. We don’t grow out of or away from our identity crises. We either overcome them or let them overcome us. My heart breaks over this image, this “whiteface” and the shame (and shaming) that it represents. The idea that being a different color or a different shade of brown will make that shame – and the sense of pain and ugliness that it breeds – go away.  Who among us hasn’t though that life would be easier if we were rich, white men? That’s the shame I speak of. And the more I think about that shame, the more I think about bell hooks’ analysis of black women being at the bottom of the totem pole. She believed that we were the most marginalized of them all, having no community of people to other in order to make ourselves feel superior. I expand this concept to women of color in general. In my mind, because we have no “other” of our own to hate, we turn it on ourselves and on each other – denigrating other women (of color) when we really should be reaching out to them and embracing them in solidarity. We point fingers and make crass jokes about each other’s hair when we should really be saying, “hey, I may not like it – but I love that you love it.” We order ourselves along some arbitrary system – too black, not black enough – when each and every one of us is enough. We fall victim to new school twists on old school light-skinned/ dark-skinned stereotypes and classifications.   

And my heart breaks every single damned time.
It breaks every time I think about how many of my own experiences have been marred by these very things because I didn’t look the part or didn’t fit the role. How can we rally against a society that promotes a finite definition of beauty, damning those that do not fit, when we are doing the same thing to each other? How can we continue to engage in this double standard where it is unacceptable for society to tell women who they should be and look like, but acceptable for individual woman to place those same constraints on others?

I want all women to wake up and understand that I don’t have to tell you that you are beautiful. *You* have to tell you that you are beautiful. You don’t need to go outside of yourself to find beauty – it’s already there.
I want those little girls, that woman…I want to tell them that. I want them to understand that.
My natural/permed hair, skin, thick/thin/in-between thighs, my eyes, my feet, my toes, my big/small/in-between butt, my small/large/in-between breasts, are beautiful regardless of what black, white, [insert ethnicity here] men or women say. Period.

And there’s that itch again. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When your choice is no longer your own

So, in my morning perusal of tumblr I came across this, which made me say this:

(Read it and you’ll understand why. Don’t worry. I’ll still be here when you get back. I’m just that kind of dependable.)

I, of course, just had to respond. The post has been excerpted for your benefit. I don’t who this girl/woman is, or how much traffic her page gets (not that it matters), but I do know that sentiments such as those highlighted below pervade our society. As a budding feminist, this both saddens and frustrates me.

“[…]the quickest way to set me on the warpath is to tell me you want to be a stay at home mom for the rest of your life and not get an education and mooch off your husband/partner completely by choice (ie: You have the ability/funds/everything else required to attend school and better yourself) BUT THAT’S NOT BECAUSE IT’S AN OPPRESSIVE FEMALE ROLE, it’s because it’s a waste of a brain[…]”

Going to college and having a career is indeed a wonderful opportunity that countless men and women should be proud/thankful to have. But, what you seem to be missing is the fact that white men have *always* had that opportunity. What you’re failing to consider, or are just blatantly ignoring – I’m not sure which – is that people of color and women as a whole were historically denied the choice of getting a decent education and following that up with a career. But, for now, I’ll shelve the class/race element for the sake of brevity and focus solely on women.  Feminists fought for a woman’s right to attend college, graduate school, etc and eventually pursue careers because women did not previously have the option to do so.  Our role was to grow up, go to finishing school if our culture dictated, find a husband, have babies, cook, clean and shut up and look pretty. We could not choose to operate outside of this role. (Again, shelving the class debate, because Black women were definitely working and raising families before white feminists began fighting for a woman’s right to have a life outside of the home. This, of course, informed a large portion of the debate between early feminists of color and early white feminists.)

What we have now, in the 21st century, is the ability to choose what we want to do.  A woman that chooses to stay at home and take care of her husband, wife, significant other, [insert term of choice here] is no less intelligent than a woman that chooses to pursue a career. And they are no different than women who choose to pursue careers and take care of their families. There is no difference between telling a woman that she has to go outside of the home to be considered worthy and telling a woman that she must stay at home, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, to be considered worthy. Why? Because both claims deny her the right to make the choice for herself. They strip her of her choice. And that’s what feminism is truly about – giving the women the authority to govern their own damned lives. Got it?

 Now, if you think that being a stay at home wife/mother would be a waste of your personal brain space, then that’s fine, but do  not seek to extend that belief to all other women in the country, or on the planet. Such a job (and please believe it is a job, an often thankless one at that) is a waste of brain FOR YOU.
Don’t get me wrong. The last thing on earth I want to be is a stay at home anything, least of all a stay at home parent. But I would never look down my nose and tell a woman (or man) that chooses to do that that s/he is somehow inferior and stupid.

“You want equality? You want to be respected? Well then, the best solution is clearly to just lay on the floor and whine about how disrespected you are. You wonder why women are seen as weak? Do I really need to explain why? It’s because your response is to whine and complain rather than getting out there and eating stereotypes for breakfast. Go out there, get an education, and take over the freaking world..”

I agree that people simply whining about being disrespected and marginalized does nothing to implement change. However, you seem to think that “eating stereotypes for breakfast” is going to somehow show men that women are equal to them.  I see two problems with this assessment. First of all, stereotypes persist because they make the privileged majority (in this case bigoted men) seem superior.  In fact, they are a set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly (thank you Stereotypes continuously marginalize othered groups, making claims such as “women are the weaker sex because they lack testosterone” and “women earn less because they are less aggressive” seem normal and therefore acceptable.  Secondly, you either forget or simply do not know that a stereotype persists regardless of the evidence mounted against it. Women don’t have the drive, don’t have what it takes to be scientists/engineers/politicians/pilots/[insert career of choice here]. And yet, there are countless women who are scientists, engineers, politicians, pilots and so on. And there are just as many stories by women in those professions that detail how much sexism they’ve had to deal with on their way to the top. Having a career and being educated does not automatically mean that sexist men will no longer be sexist. “Herpderp, she has a career now. I guess I have to stop thinking she’s a lesser being.” No. That’s not how it works.

Suffice it to say – negating the stereotype does not destroy the stereotype. So, the onus isn’t upon women to prove to men that they are equal, the onus is upon bigoted men to stop thinking they are superior just because they were born with a penis.

“The harsh reality is that if you want respect you’re going to have to show men you deserve it. Yes, just like any other human being. Oh, you thought men just walked into a business environment and everyone respected them?”

So, all of those women who are groped or on the receiving end of disgusting sexual invitations when walking down the street (including myself) need to show those men that they “deserve” respect? Or perhaps all of those women who are CEOs, COOs and CFOs of companies both big and small and are still treated like they are “just” women? Or maybe you mean those women who are legal partners in major law firms, top surgeons in their medical field, or those women who stay at home and raise the children that will become our future. What you fail to understand is that imploring women to show men that they deserve respect places them squarely in a man’s world and thereby at the mercy of what men think a women should be or do. And it makes the fact that they aren’t respected their fault. That’s like telling a black man that someone hurled the ‘N’ word at him because he had the audacity to have black skin. Let’s not play this “blame the victim” game.  It’s tired and oh so boring.

I do not think men just walk into business environments and immediately garner respect, but I do think women sometimes walk into business environments and immediately get even less respect – from both sexes. Think about what women who like to wear high heels and have their nails done often have to face in the work place – in other words women who are conventionally pretty. The stereotypes persist even then – you’re pretty so you must be dumb as a rock. You assume that success (both academic and professional) somehow affords women respect. It does not. When a person believes himself to be superior to another human being, he will find a way to prove his point. Period. It does not matter if I stay at home or if I go out and join the work force. I’ll still be a woman dealing with real woman problems at the end of the day.
So get off your high horse and make decisions about your own life and encourage other women to do the same. But do not tell them that your way is the right way and that their’s is wrong. I mean this in the best way possible - before you go on a rant about a topic such as this – perhaps pick up a book and educate yourself. If you choose not to, that’s fine. But that’s counterproductive and, dare I say it, lazy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Because anger doesn't preclude rationality. Irrationality, however, does.

“As ‘objects,’ we remain unequals, inferiors. Even though they may be sincerely concerned about racism, their methodology suggests they are not yet free of the type of paternalism endemic to white supremacist ideology. Some of these women place themselves in the position of ‘authorities’ who must mediate communication between racist white women…and angry black women whom they believe are incapable of rational discourse.” bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

The double standard here drives me up a wall. Literally. I’m typing this from the ceiling. It’s cozy up here. I know this book is “old” by today’s standards (even though it looks young enough to be 20) but that makes it no less relevant. I read those words and my blood pressure immediately shot up. We (all women, perhaps especially Black women) have been raging against this idea that emotion negates rationale for decades, centuries even. The hormones, oh the hormones, preclude our better judgment. (It’s why the War on Women is seeking to limit our access to birth control.)

Rather than arguing that I’m/we’re not angry – I’m choosing to embrace it. I’m calling upon my non/anti-feminist counterparts to cease invalidating my feelings/opinions/thoughts/ideas/existence on any issue just because of my emotional, Black or (ugh, the horror) vagina-ized state. I’m calling on my feminist compatriots who are melanin-deficient to help bring an end to this “angry black woman” stereotype – and help everyone recognize that there is nothing wrong with being angry and there is everything wrong with using a powerful tool of the patriarchy against other women. What is wrong is the marginalization of one socially, politically and economically "inferior" group by another, (slightly less) socially, politically and economically "inferior" one. I see this now not only as it pertains to the differences between black women and white women but the west and the non-west (i.e. Muslim women and non-Muslim women seeking to free Muslim women from their “shackles,”).  

Of course I'm angry. All the damned time and about so many things. But, I can be angry and know that 2 +2 = 4. I’m done asking other people if I have the right to be in such an impassioned state.  I'm embracing the fact that I do indeed own the right to live and feel as I choose. And I own that right in the face of men who think me inferior because of my impressive set of ovaries, and women who think me inferior because my hair is kinked and my skin has a year-round tan. 

Our myriad struggles with the perfect body, control over our baby-making and sustaining machinery (both before and after giving birth - breastfeeding anyone?) our varying battles with Darth Patriarchy (Vader’s distant cousin), our fight against gaslighting and so on are points of unity, not division. Unity, of course, does not mean minimization of difference. It means creating a world in which women have the authority to govern their own lives, wear their own clothes and be angry any time of the month they damn well please.

When a man got angry some time around September 2001, he launched an entire war that cost us countless lives. But his act was “rational.”

When I get angry, I’m PMSing, I’m irrational and my thoughts on the issue are thereby irrelevant.
Do you see where I’m going with this? 

I’m not saying anything here that hasn’t been said before, I know this. But I guess this post is really more for me and for those other women like me that get angry and then second guess their anger as though there is something wrong with it. God gave you anger. That’s how you know something is WRONG.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all go bat-shit crazy and run over our significant other’s because they stole our twinkies and that made us angry. I’m not saying we should all morph into Hulkina or Lady Hulk or whatever the hell her name is.

What I am saying is that the next time someone tells you that you’re “just angry” you should reply “And? Your point?” Because anger, or any other emotion for that matter, doesn’t preclude or disrupt rationality. Irrationality, however, does. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Moment of Silence is Over

As I sit here on the last Friday before most of my major final assignments are due, I think of all the ways in which female oppression around the world is the same but different, instead.
A woman in Beijing, China confronts the brutal abuse she faced at the hands of her husband. 

Beijing. I was just there. I left with this euphoric feeling of how beautiful the city was, how it was different than the US.  But, it’s so much the same.  Women – silenced because abuse is something to be ashamed of. Something you aren't supposed to talk about publicly.

Women in Haiti are still being raped.  Still being silenced, because girls are so promiscuous… No help from the cops because girls always want it anyway. Men raping women, raping children, raping babies….and it’s the victim’s fault? It’s the victim’s fault that she was held down and violated?

Source: FreckledChimp

I live in a culture of women that think they’re free because they get to walk out of their front doors without having to cover their hair or hide their faces.  They can show off their legs and get into cars with men that aren’t family members.  But, when (God forbid) they are raped – the question lingers: well, what were you wearing? The judgment rises: maybe if you hadn’t worn that tiny skirt…Why did you get into the car with him? Why did you go out with him?

Yes, because men can run the country and tell me what to do with my womb, my reproductive organs, MY BODY, but they can’t control themselves around a woman in a skirt.

Forgive me my Muslim friends if I get this wrong, but isn’t part of the oppressive culture surrounding hijabs and burqas directly related to the sexuality of women? And how women must cover themselves to avoid raising the lusts of men? Please, correct me if I’m wrong.*

Wholly different circumstances, but still so much the same.  America likes to place itself on a pedestal, pointing a naked finger at all of those other countries that are so backwards and must be saved from themselves. “My, look at how women are treated in Iraq/Iran/[insert othered Middle Eastern country of choice here] we must liberate them so they, too, can be free like our women!”

You throw too many stones America.

It seems that women, by their very existence, are responsible for their rape, their abuse and their status as object, as less than in any country.  And when we speak up against it – we’re feminazis, we’re seeing things, we’re not working hard enough, or we work so hard we’re bitches and ballbusters.  When I confront blatant sexism and misogyny I “can’t take a joke." We're liars because "stuff like that" doesn't happen "here." Or, we just don't understand because that's part of "culture." 


STOP letting them silence you.

*Note 8/28/2013: I meant in no way to disrespect women who choose to wear hijabs, etc. My comment was focused on the idea that how women are clothed, in form, is in anyway related to how they are or should be treated. I am still learning. Forgive me if I overstep or mis-speak while doing so. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Marissa Alexander

Wow. 3 posts in one week! I know I should be focusing on final assignments/exams for the semester, but life just keeps distracting me.

I was minding my on business this morning, taking down my hair and attempting to style the lioness’s mane while listening to the radio.  The TJMS to be exact.  This particular segment concerned the plight of a young, black mother in Florida who is facing 20 years in prison for “defending” herself against her verbally and physically abusive husband against whom she'd filed an injunction.  And I use the word “defending” loosely because what she actually did was warn him.  She didn’t even touch him – but we’ll get to that later.

From what I can tell, he entered her home and began to attack her while she was using the, how shall we say, facilities.  She managed to escape to the garage to her car, at which point she realized she couldn’t get the garage door open due to mechanical failure, she didn’t have her car keys and she didn’t have a cell phone to call the cops. She had no other means of egress.

What she did have, concealed in the garage apparently, was a gun – for which she had both a permit and training. According to her personal testimony, found here, her husband and his two sons were supposed to be exiting the house through the front door. She goes back into her home through the kitchen only to find that her husband is still there.  Her husband yells “Bitch, I’m going to kill you,” and charges.

Now, if someone’s just physically assaulted me in my home, and  screamed that they were going to kill me while they’re charging at me in my home – I’m going to fire the weapon I’ve been trained to fire.  I’m going to protect myself.

And that’s exactly what Marissa did. She fired her weapon into the ceiling in warning. Her husband (now ex) fled the domicile. She was denied the right to have her case dismissed under the now notorious “Stand Your Ground” law because, according to Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt she could’ve have escaped through a window, the sliding glass door, or some other exit.  Mind you, this woman had just given birth 9 DAYS ago. Do you really think it’s fair to ask her to slip out through a window?

More to the point, this man was in her house. He was the intruder, and he admitted to being the aggressor. There was an injunction against him and he violated it, thus committing a crime. There is documentation of his physical abuse toward her. But Marissa had to flee? She had a duty to retreat?

Under the “Stand Your Ground” law people who feel threatened have no duty to retreat.  Under this law, they have the right to defend themselves. I’ve included the important bits of Stand Your Ground as they apply to this particular case:
A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a)The person against whom the defensive force was used...had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle...and
(b)The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred”

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Marissa is now charged with 3 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm, and child abuse because she fired a weapon with her child in the house because, according to Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, she had an opportunity and the means to escape.

Once again, the victim is blamed. Once again, the victim is made out to be a criminal and once again - women's rights, especially in the face of violence directed at them, are abrogated. 

If you do nothing else today, please follow this link to the blog her family has put together for her and follow this link to sign the petition in her honor.  This woman does not deserve 20 years in jail for protecting herself, especially when Florida has granted her the right to Stand Her Ground. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Conversation That Never Was

At this point in my life I've been told more times than I can count to 1.) think before I speak, 2.) think before I act 3.) do my own research and 4.) don't jump to conclusions about what I see on the internet. 

By now, many of you have seen, read or heard about the Great Swedish Cake Controversy of 2012.  If you haven’t, allow me to direct you to the only article I’ve read that makes an effort to examine the facts and remain unbiased by the immediate assumption of racism.

I’ve seen the now infamous picture of a crowd of white people laughing as the cake in the shape of a naked black woman’s body is carved for their pleasure.  I’ve seen the crumbs of red velvet cake run like rivers of blood as slice after slice is made into her body, a body that offers pleasure to those amassed to view her. I’ve thought about the racism that such an image implies.

And, from that vantage point, it seems like another issue of white vs. black, of racism in its most abhorrent, overt form. And if you take that picture as the alpha and omega of things that occurred in a Swedish museum that day, then you’ll see it that way too. But, what I’m going to ask you may shock you to your very core, it may cause you to shiver in disgust, it may even cause you to walk away from the computer screen to you get your sudden urge to vomit under control.

What I’d like you to do is this. Take a moment to think about what happened before and after that picture was taken.  Think about the fact that this image that’s come to represent “racism in its most abhorrent form” is merely a split second shot in a timeline of events that most of us can never know much about….unless, of course, we have a video

I want to examine this work of performance/visual art, the images that ensued and the anger it’s created.  Some have attacked the artist, believing that what he did was “racist,” whatever the definition of that word in this context may be. I want to ask,  “did this piece of art do its job?” Doesn’t the image make a profound statement about the pain and victimization of women in any male dominated society? Doesn’t it give voice to the trial of woman everywhere, the fight to have her voice heard in a room full of people that would otherwise laugh, point and objectify her with their finger-pointing and photograph taking?  The act itself, the cutting of the cake, the screaming initiated by the head of the cake whose artist is housed therein – doesn’t it make a larger statement about voicelessness and silence in the face of female gential mutilation (for the artist), and women’s oppresion, racism, othering (for the rest of us)? 

I think it makes all of those statements when you take a moment to really think about it.  
However, it seems that it failed in generating the sort of conversation the artist seems to have sought.

What I’m really trying to get at here is that – while we’re busy pointing fingers and getting upset over the image, we need to have the conversation about the  issue that it’s supposed to be representing. After all, isn’t that what we – the othered – always ask people to do? To engage in dialogue about the nature of the issue? Aren’t we always saying that problems such as these arise when people refuse to have honest, open discourse?  Why aren’t we teaching people about female gential mutilation (FGM)? Why aren’t we talking about what this image, what this cake, what the videos, etc, mean about the nature of being subjugated as not only a woman, but a black woman? The artist has opened the door, and we’re refusing to walk through it with him.

After watching the video, I can tell you that the visual makes me uncomfortable to the point of cringing and it makes me think about how much my cringing pales in comparison to the screams and pain of girls that suffer from FGM. But the people in the video were obviously not uncomfortable enough or aware enough of the stark reality of the differences between their own situation and that of FGM victims to forgo the temptation of some delicious red velvet cake, even as the plated victim screams in agony with each slice.  I want to ask these people – why were you more concerned about cake than about what it was meant to represent? Why didn’t the torment of the woman on the table and her screams speak louder than your need to eat cake? (And, while we’re at it, doesn’t this say something about the concept of “herd mentality?”) As you watch the woman approach in the beginning of the video and ready her camera – think about how it seems to be one big joke, one big assed spectacle.

The people in this video missed the point, and so, I’m afraid, did the rest of us.  So, to beat the dead horse, why in the hell are we so busy pointing fingers and not busy talking? 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why save for tomorrow, what you can do today

I often post articles, blog posts, tumbler feeds that I find interesting to my newsfeed to share them with my cyberfamily and generate discussion and debate. It doesn’t always work, but, today, I had an interesting discussion about the lack of color on my television set lately. It all started when I read this article [we'll take a break while you consider following the link, but in the end decide not to because you know it's about to be partially summarized] which discusses the lack of minorities on the show “Girls” – a new HBO show set in Brooklyn, New York. The article pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. I’m tired of not seeing black, Latina, Asian, gay, lesbian, transgender, bicurious/sexual, male, female, twentysomethings on my television set, dammit. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that someone put them there. 
I'm not attempting to make this a white v. non-white, gay v. straight issue.  What I'm really focused on is how few people in the television/film industry make honest efforts to step beyond what they know and into new and exciting communities. Take a step beyond the default white, male, straight setting and experience some flavor so that you can write a new something that you know.  The sad part is, people in those industries have the largest opportunity to do just that. They have the opportunity to broaden the scope of the world in the characters they create and the stories that they write - they just don't do it.  James Cameron made millions of dollars off the backs of blue people – BLUE PEOPLE – and you mean to tell me we can’t put a Chinese woman on mainstream, American television? Of course we can, she just needs to be crouching like a tiger or hiding like a dragon. Black women have to be loud and sassy, fat and matronly, or thick and sexual. They can’t exist in a role in which their skin color, and the stereotypes that come with it, are afterthoughts.
The people that create these fictional universes, that create lives with a scratch of their pens or the swiftness of a keystroke, have the best opportunity to include the faces of those identities that we so rarely see. And when asked why their shows don’t include these people, they too often say “well, I’d like to include them. We’ll have to examine if there’s a place for that in the future.”  Do I have to tell you that during the Civil Rights Movement, quite a few of its detractors said they liked the idea of desegregation, of giving second class citizens their rights as taxpayers in this great nation that is the United States, but they thought the Movement was asking for too much, too soon.  They wanted the movement to slow down, and only change a little bit at a time.So, when I hear producers, scriptwriters, show creators and the like telling me “we’ll have to examine that in the future,” what I’m really hearing is the collective voices of all those people saying, “yeah, we need it, but not. Right. Now.” To quote “The Great Debaters” “The time is always, is ALWAYS, right now.”
            I can’t tell you how excited I am to see Kerry Washington leading the cast on “Scandal.” And I can’t tell you how much it saddens me that I don’t have another show to watch in which a minority leads the cast. Still, minority actors in supporting roles definitely deserve their respect – Sandra Oh  and Chandra Wilson on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Taye Diggs, Benjamin Bratt and, formerly, Audra McDonald on “Private Practice.” (Notice, all three of those aforementioned shows are created by a black woman – Shonda Rhimes). Gabourey Sidibe is holding it down on “The Big C,” while Tamala Jones and Jon Huertas have appeared in nearly every single episode of “Castle.” David Zayas and Lauren Velez on “Dexter.” (I can’t think of any shows off the top of my head featuring LGBT characters). I could go on, but the point here is that while so many people are saying “we’ll look at it in the future,” there are those that are just doing it. Right now. And the ethnic background of the characters I mentioned above rarely, if ever, comes into play (with the exception of Sidibe on “C”). What does this mean, Hollywood?
It means that inserting racial, ethnic, gender and sexual diversity into a show does not make the show about racial, ethnic, gender and sexual politics. It means that you don’t have to figure out if there’s a place for us in your script, you just put us there. What it means is that the next time you issue a casting call for the next great female lead – just ask for women or men of a certain age, of a certain height, maybe of a certain build. Step beyond the boundaries of your cookie-cutter nation and add some flavor to your melting pot.

Just DO IT already.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reproduction 101 - It's elementary...or at least it should be.

I’ve been away from the blog for a while (and should perhaps stay away a little bit longer if my final assignments are any indication) but I cannot endure the silence any longer.

I got an e-mail from Mr. President (and co.) today.  It was asking me to donate, as most e-mails from politicians do, but what stood out to me was this:

We can't afford an endless war in Afghanistan, a return to policies that hurt the middle class, and a social agenda from the 1950s.”

Please note, the emphasis is my own. I believe this "social agenda from the 1950's" is meant to refer to the current war on my right to have and maintain a blessedly empty womb. 

A few days ago I was made aware of Arizona House Bill 2036 which was sent up the chain to the governor on April 10th.  This bill makes it illegal to perform abortions after the fetus reaches a gestational age of 20 weeks.  According to this bill, gestational age is calculated from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual cycle to the current date.  Let me repeat that: the age of the fetus is to be calculated from the first day of the woman’s last period. That makes sense…


No it doesn’t.

I immediately began to research, because biology is my bible (sorry, Ma!).  Being a woman of a certain age, I thought I understand menstruation. Based on that understanding, I assumed that being on one’s cycle usually meant that one wasn’t pregnant.  But, under this bill, a woman seeking an abortion would effectively be considered pregnant during a time that she couldn’t have been pregnant. (I understand that there are exceptions to the rule. As a rule, exceptions to the rule are usually considered minorities.) 

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, gestational age is typically calculated in this way, so Arizona didn’t just pull this out of its rather large ass. I mean, we can trust doctor’s right? Right?!

But, this same page also says that “gestation is the period of time between conception and birth…”

Conception: the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both.

(Hang in there people, I know I’m getting academic on ya!)

Fertilization occurs when a sperm wriggles its way into an egg.  Said egg is released during ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs 14 days AFTER a woman’s period begins.

To summarize: the period is that time of the month when the unfertilized egg is excreted from the body.  An unfertilized egg means that either your birth control did its job or the sperm didn't do his (or hers as the case may be). 

So, I ask ye newly educated citizens of Blogospheria, how in the hell can a woman be pregnant on the first day of her period, a time when her body is getting rid of the very egg that was supposed to be invaded by sperm, but wasn't? 

How can a woman be considered pregnant a full 2 weeks before she can even biologically GET pregnant, ipso facto - when pregnant she ain't? 

Think of the ramifications people! A woman is losing critical time to adequately enact her right to choose.

Arizona can hide behind the claim that their definition of gestational age is backed by medicine, but they, and their doctor cronies, are wrong. Doctors have been known to f*ck up before, and let's face it, how often does our government get it right? 

Note: bills similar to Arizona's are planned in Georgia and New Hampshire, and have already passed in Nebraska. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot Naked Bodies and Dollar Dollar Bills, Y'all

I have got to get out of this country. And I mean that exactly the way it sounded in your head – with a nasally decorated “ugh” followed by a pompous “I’m better than this” snort.

There’s a nasty little rumor (that happens to be true) floating around about a bill that’s being pushed by some woman (Pam Dickerson) in Georgia (state, not country) that clearly does not appreciate the beauty of the naked human form (no parenthetical addendum needed).  

Said bill will make it illegal for me to take Ye Olde Balle and Chain’s head and photoshop it onto Johnny Depp’s hot, naked body. Something that I would never, ever do – at least not in Georgia (country or state).  

Actual bill is linked here for your perusal. Read it, internet, and laugh at the pure, delicious hilarity of it all. (Also, visit I'm learning a lot from this corner of the internet.)

Moral of this story, internet? Our elected officials have way too much time on their hands. Because they’ve solved our deficit issues, paid back our debt to China, fixed the oh-so-fair tax code, ended our never-ending wars, and…oh, wait...

Yes, absolutely, please spend time on this bill Pam Dickerson of Georgia (state, not country).

In other news, I’ve now officially been put on drugs to lower my blood pressure after learning about how much Mitt Romney pays in taxes. If you haven’t heard by now, just avoid the story altogether. Or, read it and then sue Mitt for emotional distress. He can afford it.

It just amazes me that the rich blame the poor for being poor, claiming that they have all that money because they “worked” for it. Meanwhile, they benefit from a tax code that takes more money out of my pocket and puts more money into theirs.

I guess they only like “spreading the wealth” in their direction.

What’s more, it’s not like they understand the tax code any more than we do. They just have a shit ton of money and can afford to pay the poor saps that can.

I’m so proud to be an American.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Waaaaait! Oh, Never Mind. Carry on.

I’m long past “missing” my MLK day post. I’ve been trying to write, re-write and beautify something that I did write, but it was awful. And MLK deserves much more than that.

So, here I sit, a week later thinking about my future, my renewed course of life and what it all means. I’m having an existentialist moment, if you will. (I’m an English major now. I can say sh*t like that AND get away with it.)

I’d decided at the beginning of the year that in an effort to reduce my newfound student loan debt as soon as humanly possible, I would take a job at the start of my final semester at UNCC and go to class at night. I would forgo pursuing an MFA in creative writing and work to pay my debts down. After a year, I would revisit pursuing an MFA – saving up money, paying down debts and having what I like to call guap in my pocket.

Then I read Letter from Birmingham Jail, for my Black Arts Movement course (the only worthy course I’m taking this semester).

We all know that the famous phrase “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” is taken from this letter (If you didn’t, YOU’RE WELCOME), so I’m not going to focus on that. What struck me about this letter is the power of his words. The way his argument is framed. The way it literally shook me to my core.

Do you ever get that feeling when you read a truly magnificent work of literature (fiction or otherwise) that grips you and refuses to release you until you’ve read the last word? I get it when I read anything by Jacqueline Carey (notably anything in her Kushiel and Naamah series). I got it when I read Kenyon’s Acheron – which is one of the few books that made me cry. And I got it when I read Letter.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…For years now I have heard the word, ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity…when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you have seen the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…” and on it goes until King says “then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

The word “chills” doesn’t even come close to what I felt when I read that. How much longer will I wait? Of course, my fight to hang on to and realize my dreams pales in comparison, is nearly invisible next to that of so many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. But, the aforementioned words made me stop and ask myself – how much longer will I wait to be who I’ve always said I wanted to be? I’m not ready to be a starving artist, but I’m also not willing to wait any longer to write words that shake people to their cores, that make them cry, that urge them to act or even change their point of view.

So, did a U-turn. MFA it is. PhD it is. Screw a corporate 8 to 5. Screw sitting in traffic. Screw working with people that never seem to close their mouths long enough to engage in actual work. The debt is scary, and like a vicious, drug-resistant fungus – it grows. But I want to be a better writer and I want to teach. Those are the only two things I desire more than Johnny Depp naked on a silver platter for Christmas. And, now, I’m willing to pay for it in more ways than one.

People did not fight and die so I could sit around and twiddle my thumbs all day.

How much longer will you wait?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why hello 2012, it's nice to meet you.

I've been dreading this year. I know, some of you out there are above it all and holding steadfastly to your belief that the world isn't coming to an end. BUT, what if it does? This year could be your last year to write that book you've always wanted to write, or call that one family member you've sworn off for [insert indubitably defensible reason here].  

I'm not taking any chances.  I haven't really had the time, or inclination, to write for my blog the way I used to. I've been trying, but failing, to keep up with the political rat race and learn more about controversial bills that are being signed (defense authorization, anyone?) or lobbied for (did you wash with SOPA and water?). But that doesn't matter because you're on top of these things right? 


So, rather than bitch and moan about all the political ish you are so familiar with, I just dropped in to say that I'm doing everything in my power to be bigger and better this year, because it might be my last chance.  I'm 12,000 words into my manuscript and fresh off a week's worth of writing 2-4 hours a day - a biggie for me.  I've got a busy semester planned chock full o' lit and feminism courses that I'm just bursting at the seams to begin.  Once this hell beast of a semester is over, I'll hopefully be donating my time and writing abilities to a local LGBT friendly organization.  I'm making sure that I get out and vote NO for North Carolina's gay marriage amendment in May. 

Did I mention that my bank account is as dry as the Sahara because I drained my funds to take my ass to Beijing? If the world's going to implode in December, I want to see the Great Wall before I go. I might even just say screw it, take a few weeks off and drain my account again to backpack through Europe. Who knows!

I hope you do the same. Take the time to cross a few things off your bucket list - even if it's just eating escargot or some such.  Happy New Year everyone. Embrace could be your last! MUAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!