Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Break Up I Didn't See Coming and the One That I Did

In H IS FOR HUBRIS, HUGO; S IS FOR SORDID, SCHWYZER,  Flavia Dzodan sums up the latest exposé of the acclaimed writer and professional male feminist Hugo Schwyzer (who recently blamed feminist critiques for his mental breakdown and decision to stop writing about feminist issues) and addresses who should be taking responsibility for the damage that Schwyzer was put into a position to be able to inflict on marginalized women.

"Herein lies another problem with this toxic media environment that supposedly represents feminism: if you protest too loudly or not using the right platitudes or if you go after the gate keepers, you can forget to be included. You can forget mainstream gigs, book deals, mentions, promotion. You become “a loose cannon” (something he apparently called me for writing about him)."

I remember the pain of experiencing this. It seems that suddenly, after a lifetime of seeing your issues ignored, the white women who are supposedly your "sisters" are finally interested in the way their behavior marginalizes us. It felt like a real honor for these mainstream white feminist sites to be interested in giving me the opportunity to  write about disability culture, my perspective as an Indigenous American woman, and being queer in these communities.

Then, one day, I questioned the behavior of one these privileged editors and suddenly the ableism appeared and I was too "unstable" and the racism reared its head and I was labeled too "hostile" and then came the silence. All of a sudden, the links stopped. There were no more casual mentions in their posts--the subtle way that prominent white feminist writers signal to their readers which smaller blogs are worth checking out.

It becomes apparent that this is all just an extension of high school for them. And every cheer leading squad has to have a few virile white studs to fawn over. Schwyzer represented that for them. They defended him, because he represented the identity that enforces the hierarchy that centers the experiences of white, western, non-disabled women above everything other than white, western, non-disabled men. It was only natural for them to remain loyal to him even as he shit on women of color, women with disabilities. He makes it possible for them to shit on us, too. As hip and cool as it seems to be a "friend of the the blacks" or someone who sympathizes with the poor cripples, it isn't worth sacrificing the perks of white privilege.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Mused Magazine and Drew-Shane Daniels Need to Go and Take a Seat

Yesterday, Mused Magazine decided to post Drew-Shane Daniels' very transphobic post ("Forget The Lawsuit, So B. Scott Is 'Transgender' Now?") about B. Scott's decision to sue Black Entertainment Television (BET) for an incident that occurred earlier this year. It pissed me off so much that I decided to pick it apart and address it. I've seen how comments like this can get removed rather quickly, so I'm posting it here, too.

By the way, I'm using male pronouns, because B. Scott's spokesperson said this is his preference.


"With all of that said: one thing he has not been known for until now was self identifying as transgender."

B. Scott never had a responsibility to tell you or anyone else how he chooses to identify.

"It is very irresponsible for B. Scott to claim being trans after all of these years of stanning for androgynous or gender non-conforming."

According to YOU. B. Scott has no responsibility to live up to any one's expectations other than his own.

"I can only hope his actions don’t spiral out of control with assumptions in our community."

You are already spiraling out of control with assumptions about how B. Scott should identify and live his life.

"To be transgender, in the simplest terms, is to have a fluid sexual appearance and/or gender that you self-identify not matching one’s assigned sex."

No. You're simply incorrect.

"Instead of suing for $2.5 million, perhaps B. Scott could have taken the time to educate the community about sexuality and gender identification."

What in the world do those 2 things have to do with each other? If you think the community needs education about sexuality and gender identification, you could start with educating yourself and then stop expecting B. Scott to do what you could do for "the community".

"We have to stop the (white, heterosexual) media from writing our narratives and be willing to tell our own stories at any risk."

Yet, now that B. Scott is telling his own story, folks like you reject it and demand that he tell us something different. You refuse to accept what he has to say about his life. Maybe you'd treat him differently if he was white and heterosexual.

"At the end of the day, I can respect B. Scott’s decision to identify as transgender; however, the timing couldn’t be any better or profitable."

"Better or profitable"? "Better" at a time when transgender people are still being murdered on the streets like they're less worthy of rights than the pets people keep in their yard? "Profitable"? When even prominent transgender folks still struggle to find work and the majority of transgender folks have to deal with housing issues, food insecurity, non-existent health care appropriate for their needs, and the cissexism that's present even in queer communities? Please! Don't get it twisted. B. Scott is taking a very big risk by identifying as transgender and I think that courage should be supported.

"If we want to complain about people policing and making money off our sexuality, we must demand respect from our own."

How about you lead the way by showing some respect for "our own" by quitting with all of the transphobic nonsense you wrote here? That would be a very good start.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

What Not to Say to Your Daughter and Why You Should Avoid Assumptions About People

Tonight, I found a particularly troubling blog post that someone wrote giving mothers advice about "How to talk to your daughter about her body". I tried to just dismiss it, but it kept bothering me so much that I felt it might be helpful to explain what's wrong with it and what mothers can do instead.

1. How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Please, don't listen to this. The world is going to tell your daughter that her body is bad, stinky, too dark, too fat, too short, too tall, et cetera. Please teach your daughter that her body is great.

2. Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you notice that your daughter has lost or gained some weight, there's nothing wrong with talking to her about how it is absolutely normal for our weight to vary at different times of the month or depending on how active we may be.

3. If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

If you think your daughter's body looks amazing, tell her! Tell her how gorgeous her brown skin looks with that skirt or how adorable she looks wearing the new swimming suit she picked out. Why shouldn't someone tell her how marvelous she looks? There seems to be a problem in white colonialist societies where women are afraid to compliment each other. Don't buy into that!

4. “You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Don't say this to your daughter. In fact, don't say this to anyone, ever. Teach your daughter that "healthy" is a completely subjective notion. You can't tell anything about some one's health by looking at them. I went through 18 years of my life looking "healthy". The whole time I was suffering with a terrible progressive auto-immune disease. However, everyone thought that I was just imagining all of the symptoms I felt. After all, I looked "healthy". It was heartbreaking and frustrating to be told time and time again that I looked healthy when I kept telling people that I did not feel well. You aren't doing anyone any favors by telling them that you think they look healthy.

5. Or how about, “you’re looking so strong.”

Again, this is indeterminable. How does a strong person look? All of these women are Olympic champions. All of them have very different looking bodies. All of them are strong.Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

6. “I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”

This isn't all that bad. However, I'd say it might be better to tell her that it seems like she's in a good mood. Also, it might not hurt to make it a point to regularly let her know how much you enjoy being around her regardless of her mood or happiness.

7. Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

I disagree wholeheartedly. Teach your daughter that there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying nice things to other women. If you think that a woman's new hair color is pretty snazzy, let her know. If you really admire a woman's tattoos, feel free to tell her how cool they look. If you see a woman with beautiful ebony colored skin, don't be afraid to say how stunning she is. Let your daughter see that you can admire all kinds of women and all kinds of bodies. It will teach her that she needn't feel obligated to fit into the narrow and negative Western beauty ideal that is damaging the psyches of so many girls today.

8. Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

No. Encourage your daughter to figure out what makes her feel less stressed. Teach her that she should feel free to develop her spirituality wherever she feels led and let her know that you will support whatever decisions she decides to make, even if she decides that she doesn't need any kind of spirituality in order to be happy. Teach her that there are plenty of folks who follow the faith traditions of their families, but there are also plenty of folks who strike out on their own and that's okay, too.

9. Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

There's really no need to do this. Not all girls enjoy team sports. She can grow up to be a good leader and a confident woman even if she decides that she'd prefer solo activities. She may not like sports at all. There are plenty of other ways to develop the skills needed to engage in teamwork.

10. Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Please don't teach your daughter to associate abilities with being a part of a particular gender. Some women do need men to move their furniture and there's nothing wrong with that. There's never anything wrong with asking for help when she needs it. Tell her that.

11. Teach your daughter how to cook kale. Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Ask your daughter if she wants to learn how to cook. She may not even be interested in it. Not all women are. Teach her that it's perfectly okay if she doesn't know how to cook. Let her know that if she becomes interested in learning, then you'll show her or you'll learn together.

12. Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

This assumes that we all have moms who collect recipes. Again, not all women like to cook. It's perfectly okay to buy a recipe book if she wants to learn how to make something. There's nothing to be ashamed of.

Oh yes, and some of us don't love being outside, so we can't pass on that love. Some of us hate being outside. Some of us can't spend time outside, because of our disabilities. It's okay to be an "indoors girl". You can get plenty of exercise without ever leaving the house. However, if you do decide to take her outdoors, make sure you teach her about why sunblock is important.

13. Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

This is ableist. Don't tell your daughter what she can and can't do with her body. She may not be able to run a marathon, even if she wants to. She may not be able to scream or sing or lift up the world. She can still be awesome even without doing any of that. Tell her so.

14. Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

Skip that advice. Tell your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to enjoy it. Enjoy it in any way that she pleases, because it's hers and only hers. Enjoy her body to the fullest and tell her that there is absolutely nothing shameful about her body or anything that her body does or anything that she does with her body. That is what you should teach her.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

White Racists Can't Deal With Criticism, Not Even From Other White People

It started with an excellent article about fans of the group Postal Service and their racist reaction when New Orleans sissy bounce rapper Big Freedia performed as their opening act.

White Music Fans Are Afraid of Difference

 One New Orleanian commented and that prompted someone else to respond and then I responded to that response. You can see it all here or on the Salon site.

Victor Pizarro
As a native New Orleanian, I think the author of the article is SPOT ON and completely on to something. The only telling points missed were the connections to bounce, call and response, and African roots inherent in the music (see "The World that Made New Orleans" by Ned Sublette). The comments and reactions to Freedia do have everything to do with cultural whiteness and ultimately, fear. The comment thread listed here is absolutely telling. Art and music are subjective tastes, but person after person has commented here about Freedia's lack of talent. I suppose New Orleanians must have awful, shitty musical tastes, seeing as we're never exposed to a variety of music. Freedia is a hard worker and puts everything into each show. These comments not only insult Freedia but New Orleans as a whole as well.
Shit like this makes all of us down here just want to secede from the nation. Don't worry, we'll take the jazz, bounce, seafood, Mardi Gras, and oil and gas with us. No worries.
@Victor Pizarro As a native New Orleanian I think your comment helps to demonstrate how self-absorbed and vapid New Orleans culture is becoming. With the the exception of Trombone Shorty and Lightwire theater, the only acts from New Orleans getting any national attention are both minstrel shows right out of Spike Lee's Bamboozled. The first is the "sissy bounce" drag queen minstrel shows of Big Freedia, and the other is a male dance minstrel show in the 610 Stompers. 

When we created Jazz and exported it to the world, it was about the best of New Orleans, now we are exporting the worst of New Orleans, and when others see it for what it is and express their displeasure with it we play haughty and talk about how others simply aren't sophisticated enough to "get it." And let's ascribe the worst traits in people who don't like our leading minstrel show in Big Freedia: they must be racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist all wrapped into one. 

New Orleans put its musical preservation into hyperdrive, and the result was that it locked the many young talented musicians into the 1920s. New Orleanians no longer innovate in music. We have the musical talent in New Orleans to innovate new musical styles as impressive as Jazz and beyond. But we can't do that, because we preserve the past at all expenses, and so pretend that a minstrel show is more musical innovation coming from New Orleans, and when everybody else dislikes it we talk about "cultural whiteness" and fear and blah blah blah. But the defenders of "sissy bounce" won't tell you is that it wasn't black music writers who pushed the music to the forefront -- it was southern white music writers who fell in love with the black-gay-drag-queen minstrel and promoted it as a cultural revolution. Now, white people have to act like it is something special and not a totally obnoxious repetitive uncreative misntrel that it is, or be colored as racists hicks because they don't "get" something about black culture. But if black culture got it so good why didn't black music writers hawk it to the general population? 
Jake Hamby
@Robert1969 Thanks for writing that. It explains so much about what seems to be going on here. I can't stand whiny indie bands like The Postal Service, so I'd be happy to believe that their fans were turned off by Big Freedia out of racism, since there was plenty on display in comments.
Like another commenter here, I wouldn't mind listening to bounce music for a few minutes, which I suppose means I like Big Freedia more than TPS, but that genre is far too repetitive and uptempo for my taste. The big question is why they would be picked as an opening act when the two style clearly don't mesh.
Your comment about white people reviving an old genre as a type of modern minstrel makes a lot of sense and is in line with the theme of the article about white musicians appropriating a black style without an understanding of the origins and historical context, as well as with my own personal prejudices about white indie hipsters appropriating black music by promoting it (like, for example, an opening act for a completely different genre) *in addition to* white hipsters reflexively responding with racism to a musical act that they wouldn't have liked anyway.
bint alshamsa
@Robert1969 Wow! You really are out of touch and uninformed. You think that Trombone Shorty and Lightwire are the only acts getting national attention right now? I can't think of anything funnier than that. There's Christian Scott, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Los Hombres Calientes, the Devin Phillips Quartet. I could go on and on.
When we created Jazz, we had to listen to the same kind of foolishness you're spouting here. Jazz wasn't considered the best of New Orleans. It wasn't even considered a legitimate music genre. It was considered "n-word" music that only white drug addicts liked to listen to. NOW white people like to pretend as if they were always able to appreciate Jazz. That certainly isn't anything even close to reality.
Back then cultural whiteness defined it as nothing more than just cacophony, lacking proper structure and format. It wasn't until Southern white musicians fell in love with it that it began to be recognized as a legitimate art form. So, is it any surprise that sissy bounce didn't start getting more recognition until it began to interest Southern white musicians? Not if you're someone with any knowledge of how American music has traditionally spread.
The truth is, black people in the general population have been familiar with sissy bounce. It's just white squares and L7s like you who didn't know about it. As usual, y'all don't pay any attention to what's going on in non-white cultures until we've been doing something for decades.

Friday, August 02, 2013

My Franglish

Kimberley McLeod wrote an article on XOJane called "I Do Have An Accent Just Not Around You" that piqued my interest this morning.

I didn't realize just how much my language is affected by my Francophone roots until I spent a few weeks by my momma and daddy. My way of phrasing things is, apparently, very different. Also, without even mentioning anything about where I'm from, someone on an internet thread asked me if I happened to be from New Orleans. It turns out that I'd been writing a few things in French without even noticing it. When I write without stopping to think about the words I'm using or when I'm really excited, I think my brain just goes into auto-drive and chooses whichever language fragment pops up first.