Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Blogiversary, elle, (abd) (phd)

Five years ago today, I began this blog with these words:
A few minutes shy of November 29, 2005, I'm beginning a new blog. Let's see how this goes...

I think it has gone swimmingly :-) I don't post as much as I'd like, but the friends I've made, the thoughts I've worked out, the writing I've done, the realizations to which I have come all have made this one of the most important endeavors I've undertaken in my life.

I don't know what the next five years will hold. Will I have a year in which I actually post consistently? Will I finally call it quits as the tenure clock shifts my focus away from writing anything but THE BOOK (that's how I think of it--a terrifying, in-need-of-revision thing that stands between me and job security :-)? I really don't know.

But I am glad I did this!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am thinking about how Thanksgiving is a story we weave for ourselves so we don't have to focus too much on the horrific reality of what happened to indigenous peoples before/after this "story."


I am thinking of all the people who mark this day as a "Day of Mourning."


As part of this culture, I am thinking of that for which I am thankful. In a few hours, my family, (largely) spared and well for another year, will pour into this house with an abundance of food and warmth and children and love.


I am thinking about the physical absence of my father and feeling that, but I am thankful for what his life of work and sacrifice and love made possible. I am sitting in a house he bought with an education and gift for words he helped make possible. I have a security-in-self, an assured-ness that I am loved and appreciated that he fostered.


So, it should come as no surprise that I have a wide variety of thoughts and feelings and observations. I am, after all, a SIStorian who is quite interested in the way U.S. history is constructed and taught in ways that encourage nationalism, often at the expense of (hi)stories that don't fit the narrative. I am also very much a product of this country and a Christian heritage that emphasize the need to be and express thankfulness.


I don't try to figure me out--neither should you :-))

Monday, November 08, 2010

Anchored

Once, during a particularly un-Louisiana like winter in my youth, we had a severe ice-and-little-bit-of-snow storm. The world outside our flimsy screen doors was cold and white. The ubiquitous pine trees bent beneath the weight of icicles. The roads lay covered by inches of ice and the little stream in front of our house looked as if it had been interrupted mid-flow, frozen into a wavy sheet that we assumed must be just right for ice-skating (we were kids from the Deep South; what did we know? :-). Because my blue-collar parents didn’t have the luxury of having jobs to which they could just call in and miss, they went to work. My mom always hated the fact that if one person made it out of the bad weather to the plant, all of them would be expected to come.

My sister and I spent the day at the babysitter’s who lived down the street from us. At some point after 3 p.m., my dad, who was working days that week, came to collect us. We were so excited. Because mama did most of the day-to-day care and was so overprotective that we were always with her, Daddy was the “fun” parent. (As a mother, I think that’s horribly unfair, but it’s how we perceived it.)

He’d ridden with someone else who dropped him at our babysitter’s house. We were all going to walk home together. My sister and I initially took itty-bitty steps, scared of slipping and falling. We clung to Daddy’s arms and I honestly have no idea how he stayed upright and managed to keep us standing. Over the course of the few hundred yards to our house, we grew bolder, sliding on the ice, nodding at Daddy’s warnings, but skipping and squealing as we’d slip. Each time, Daddy would sigh, catch us, set us on our feet. It was a little scary, the knowledge that we might slip down the steep sides of the “branch” and land on the frozen stream. It was also exhilarating because we were made virtually fearless by the presence of Daddy, secure in the knowledge that he would never let us fall.

Today is my dad’s birthday and I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for our relationship than the one expressed in that story. I have done some questionable, dangerous, make-no-sense-at-all things in my life and my dad was always there to catch me, to make me feel safe, to keep me upright. Even when I ignored his warnings, he’d sigh a lot, scold for a minute, then pick me up and set me on my feet again. His presence made me feel safe in venturing out, messing up, and trying again. One of the reasons that I’ve been able to do so much, good and bad, is because I knew I had a secure foundation in my parents. “You can always come home,” they told us, and they didn’t mean it in just a literal sense. My parents were/are home, and in the last four and a half months, I’ve felt the missing part of that structure keenly.

This is the first November 8th I’ve ever faced without my dad. I’m not even home to visit his grave. And in two weeks, I’ll have my own first birthday without my Daddy. I don’t like thinking about that, either.

But I do have moments of peace. A few weeks ago, we went rock climbing. As I hemmed and hawed and climbed, I kept thinking, “Your ass knew better than this! Lord, I’m not gone make it.” I kept going, though, a little bit at a time, stopping to catch my breath or balance. And then, a good way up the rock, we suddenly felt a strong wind at our backs. It was so forceful that we could feel it pushing us. I made it to the top and just sat there for the longest, thinking, breathing, silent as the wind blew all around me. That night, when I talked to Mama about it, I told her, only half-jokingly, “I know that was Daddy helping me up that hill.”

“It probably was,” she said, “You know he’s still holding you up.”

I love you, Daddy. Happy birthday.

And thank you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Crises

I graded papers this weekend. That created the first crisis. Roughly 20% of the students in this small class plagiarized. Another 50% percent did their own work, had great ideas, but lacked the organization, details, and analysis to make their exams good.

This class has turned out to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated because quite a few of the students came in not ready to do the work required in upper division classes. Grr.

But here is the main crisis. Crisis One facilitated an emergency moscato-run. I returned home to find...

MY CORKSCREW WAS NOT WORKING.

And so I was reduced to this chisel-and-shove game involving a paring knife, a steak knife, and, as my need and desperation grew, a small hammer.

You know how sometimes you say f*ck it and just push the cork down into the bottle and swill down cork with your deliciously sweet wine? Well, yeah, no. This one wouldn't budge. I swear we worked on it for an hour.

Finally, the bottle just cracked and off popped a smooth piece of glass. My niece looked at me, ready to toss it.

"Girl, get my glass," I told her.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Which CNN Doesn't Get "It"

Liss directed me to an article on CNN entitled “Is Ethnic Beauty the New “It” Factor?” From the article
There was a time when the Caucasian girl-next-door looks of Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford and more recently Kate Moss dominated the fashion pages. Then came new fashion icons: Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce - and then Giselle, Kim Kardashian and Shakira.

More voluptuous figures, fuller lips and darker skin, features traditionally associated with women of African, Latin and Asian cultures, are "in." Over the past decade, an appreciation for ethnic beauty has been on the rise, and these natural features are becoming popular among Caucasian women who desire to look more "exotic."

My immediate response was, “Eww.” I’ll give you some reasons why in simple, numbered form.

1) CNN, you’re a little bit late. The New York Times ran a piece way back in 2003 about “Generation E.A.: Ethnically Ambiguous” in which advertising and fashion industry insiders waxed on about the “desire for the exotic, left-of-center beauty.” And you know what T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting discovered when she analyzed the “rise” of Generation E.A. in her book, Pimps Up, Ho’s Down? This:
“Despite the hubbub about Generation E.A., editors and ad executives admit that whiteness continues to dominate the beauty and fashion industries,” (31).
2) There is something creepy and fetish-y and colonizer-y about talking about WoC’s “exotic” beauty, white women’s desire for it, and the commodification of it. “What’s not to love, embrace and emulate about ethnic beauty?” gushes one fashion director. And, yes, the NYT article actually used the word “exotic,” too. They also both, not-so-covertly, define WoC outside the realm of “Americanness.” From the CNN article:
The desire for individuality leads people to embrace the image of ethnic women over typical "cookie-cutter American beauties," said [Marie Claire beauty and health director, Ying] Chu.
And one blogger claimed that “no one wants to just look like the quintessential American girl.”

With regards to the NYT article, Sharpley-Whiting notes that the “left-of-center” designation “still situates whiteness at the center of American beauty culture and darker hues on this schematic shifting to the left,” (31).

3) There is, apparently, “beauty” and “ethnic beauty.” Love that continued disappearing of (the normalizing of) whiteness.

4) This isn’t just about our increasingly multicultural nation. “ ‘Race’ mixing is not a ‘new reality,’” writes Sharpley-Whiting, “America [has never been] as ‘white’ as it believes itself to be,” (30). This is about the beauty myth and those ever-shifting goalposts. Naomi Wolf is right—women are never going to meet the elusive standards. I did agree with the blogger I mentioned in point two that this has less to do with a melting pot and more to do with the “obsession of perfection.” “The beauty standards,” she said, “[are] a bit skewed and contradicting.”

5) To imply that the fashion industry, with its notorious color and race issues is at the forefront of this “trend” is laughable, at best.

6) Speaking of the word trend, now, come on! I mean, the “it” factor? And the claim that the mainstream popularity and visibility of Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez “made the larger, rounder bottom sexy?" This underlying notion, for which I don’t yet have the words, that implies that so-called ethnic beauty needed the affirmation, acceptance, and envy of white people to exist, is infuriating.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jail Is Preferable

File this under continued vilification of poor people:
Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in "personal hygiene."
I don’t think I can fully break down the classist, sexist, and racist stereotypes/myths embodied in sentiments like these, but just to start:

1. Welfare recipients don’t work outside the home and don’t want to do so. Even before welfare “reform” back in 1996, most recipients worked or sought work. I always wonder if people like Paladino have any idea how paltry benefits are.

2. Being poor/needing assistance is some sort of moral failing that requires institutionalization and constant shame. That people seek welfare assistance is particularly “bad” to people like Paladino—the poor are supposed to suffer nobly and silently. As one commenter romanticized:
[B]ack in the thirties young men were ecstatic to get a job and to develop new skills via the Civilian Conservation Corp. But back then, the poor were tough, honorable folk with intact families… Today's poor aren't poor due to the economy, but the result of hand feeding that created and now sustains society breakdown.
Recently, problemchylde commented on this mindset:
All rags-to-riches (or rags-to-bitches, if you want to get all Boondocks about it) stories start with people who are poor but industrious. Tales of kids eating cigarette ash sandwiches to survive. Tales of people saving mustard packets so they have food that stretches through the whole year. Bonus points if your parent proudly refuses government help, or if you suffer through and survive a vitamin deficiency. You’re a rock star if you live many years out on the streets and still pull down a 4.0+ GPA. You have done poverty correctly.

However, if you take what little disposable income you have and buy sushi, you are doing wrong. Poor people do not want things like smartphones (you’re poor; who are you calling on a smartphone?), televisions (you’re poor; what do you need entertainment for?), nice cars (why wouldn’t you get a modest car to get around when you’re poor), or delicious food (do you know how much ramen you could have bought for the cost of that scone?). Poor people should not take any windfalls or nest eggs or scraped together pennies and expose themselves to luxuries. After all, isn’t that just a brutal reminder of how poor they are any other time? Why not just face the fact that poor is what you are, poor is what you shall be, and poor means that you cannot have nice things?
I’d advise you to read the whole post.

3. Motherwork is not "real" work/not valuable. The only work that is important/deserving of remuneration occurs outside the home. The article quotes Paladino as saying, “Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check.” (Emphasis mine)

4. The mothering of poor women, especially poor women of color, is insignificant/not necessary for their children. As I said at that link,
A discourse has developed in this country to support stealing our children away from us that attacks us as immoral, "illegal," or uneducated. [Remember] black children sold away from their mothers and Native children forced into "Indian schools" so they could be "properly" Christianized and Americanized. In fact, Americanizers of the late 19th/early 20th century spent inordinate amounts of time threatening to take immigrant children from their parents, telling immigrant mothers how their methods of child-rearing were substandard to those of more WASP-y Americans, probably as much time as 20th century welfare critics spent convincing themselves that poor black women did not really love or want their children--they only had them to get more out of the system--and as much time as 21st century anti-immigration proponents spend convincing themselves that Latinas don't really love or want their children--they just want anchor babies.
If most welfare recipients are single moms and you move them into dormitories, who takes care of their kids? Or do you institutionalize the children as well, under the blanket assumption that the state will do a “better” job of rearing them? As Dorothy Roberts said in Shattered Bonds, "America’s child welfare system is rooted in the philosophy of child saving—rescuing children from the ills of poverty, typically by taking them away from their parents," (p 26). Which brings me to another problematic idea…

5. Poor people need to be institutionalized/under constant government oversight because of their deficient character and abilities. We already know that the state intervenes disproportionately in poor families of color. According to Roberts, "the public child welfare system equates poverty with neglect," (p 27). And as the article noted:
the suggestion that poor families would be better off in remote institutions, rather than among friends and family in their own neighborhoods, struck some anti-poverty activists as insulting.
I think “insulting” is too mild a word.

6. Poor people are unclean, all come from disordered homes and, thus, lack social skills. I mean, he’s going to give them lessons in:
“personal hygiene… the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes.”

[snip]

“You have to teach them basic things — taking care of themselves, physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never learned these things”
Related to the belief in the disorder/dysfunction of all poor homes and communities, Paladino asserts, "These are beautiful properties with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities." To live in... jails. And see how he emphasizes the bathroom/toilet facilities? As if this is 1910 instead of 2010 and people aren't used to them?

As an aside, that comment reminded me of Barbara Bush's assertion, after talking to Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston, "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." The idea that poor people don't have "real" or worthy communities or family and geographic ties is infuriating.

7. Poor people deserve to have their labor exploited. He’s using prisons to house people to extract low-cost labor. I don’t think this idea is so original.

I'm sure there is more that I could highlight in this disaster of a suggestion, but I think you get the idea.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Concentration

From the Florida AP/Miami Herald:
A candidate for the Florida House of Representatives says "camps" should be built to house illegal immigrants in Florida until they can be deported.
Yeah, let that sink in. Said candidate seems woefully unaware of how similar ideas have worked in U.S. history. Or, you know, maybe she is.

As if that isn't enough:
Marg Baker, who is seeking the Republican nomination for House District 48, says officials could "collect enough illegal aliens until you have enough to ship them back."
The dehumanization in that sentence--as if referring to people as "illegal aliens" is not a clear indicator of her mindset, she actually makes the suggestion that the government "collect" them and "ship" them as if they are cargo.

Baker even threw in a little classism* for good measure:
Baker added the housing would be "regular homes like a lot of poor people live in."
Then, just to be sure the us vs. them sentiment came through (minus words like "undesirable" and "dangerous"), Baker warned:
"We need to have camps because there are a lot of these people roaming among us."
Emphasis mine.

Ignorance hers.

H/T Quaker Dave He found video (that I just saw this morning and as I am on my way out for a while, I can't transcribe right now). Scratch my idea that maybe she doesn't know about historical precedent. She actually says:
We can follow what happened back in the 40s and 50s. I was just a little girl in Miami and they built camps for the people that snuck into the country because they were illegal. They put them in the camps and shipped them back... we must stop them.




Ms. Baker... while you're reminiscing about history, please remember someone else used camps in the 40s.
__________________
*Of course, much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, particularly anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric, is classist already.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Write Letters

(edited below the fold: h/t
ajoye and The Chemist at Shakesville)


Dear Allstate,

Despite what your advertising people may have told you, this is not a commercial:


(Transcript below the fold)

This is a twisted conglomeration of stereotypes. In 15 seconds, you perpetuate and reinforce the ideas that the “typical” teenage girl:

likes pink,

is distracted by sparkly things,

is careless,

is a dangerously poor driver,

is selfish.

Who is this girl? I'm not sure she's typical. And, as if the commercial isn’t insulting enough, you have the nerve to refer to this mysterious girl as “Mayhem?”

Who’s “in good hands” with you, Allstate? Certainly not young women or the image of them.

Exasperated and insulted,

elle



And this:



Because women out performing their daily routines are a danger to men who just can't help themselves. Here is the same sentiment present in so many rape apologists' arguments: "It's the woman's fault for wearing certain clothing/being attractive/taking up (public) space)."

Grrr.
__________________

Transcript 1:


A pink SUV makes its away across a parking lot. The camera then switches to the inside of the SUV where we see a disheveled man (Mayhem) driving and clutching a cell phone with a sparkly cover.

Mayhem: "I'm a typical teenage girl."

The phone chimes and Mayhem looks down at it. In the process, he hits the front fender of a car and knocks it off, damaging his own car, as well. He continues to drive off and tosses the cell phone into the back seat.

Screen fades to black and the words "Are You in Good Hands" and then "Allstate" appear.

Transcript 2:


Commercial opens on Mayhem jogging with requisite pink headbands and weights.

Mayhem: I’m a hot babe out jogging. I’m out making sure this (gestures towards his upper body) stays a ten when you drive by.

(Guy drives by in black car and ogles Mayhem. Mayhem smiles and winks because we all know how flattering it is to be ogled.)

Mayhem: You’re checking out my awesome headband when…

(Guy crashes into light pole)

Mayhem: Oops.

(Light pole falls on car)

Mayhem: That’s when you find out, your cut rate insurance… it ain’t paying for this.

(Guy gets out of the car to survey damage)

Mayhem: So get Allstate. Save cash and get better protected from Mayhem like me.

Allstate logo appears along with voice of Dennis Haysbert: Dollar for Dollar, nobody protects you from Mayhem than Allstate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Well, This Might Be a New Angle

Did you know black women are in a crisis? A marriage crisis? Forty-two percent of us have never been married and that spells OMG!!! DOOM!!!

Seriously, how could you not have heard about it? It's been a hot topic for the past few years now (And here's a timeline from just the last few months!). Media outlets have been all over it. Scholars at Yale even did a study and Oprah got in on the hype.

Yesterday, Liss sent me an article that captured an argument that was new to me. It poses the question: Does the black church keep black women single? "A-ha," I thought (after I picked up my jaw) "yet another way to keep this largely manufactured crisis going."

Why am I so aggravated, you might ask, if all these articles are simply stating a true fact? I'm not bothered by someone saying 42% of black women have never been married. I am bothered by how the tone and content of these articles often play into old tropes of black women as undesirable and of black communities on the verge of collapse.

They're also plain old sexist for a number of reasons. For one thing, this is always a crisis for black women. As one of my colleagues pointed out when we did a presentation on this, the percentage of black men who have never been married is quite similar (43% maybe--I need to find the number she unearthed) but we never hear about the black man's marriage crisis. The "problem" is quite often cast as black women having the nerve to get educated/be successful. This crisis also presumes that women are incomplete without men and marriage, that nothing we've accomplished matters, that contentment and happiness cannot exist for single women.

The "marriage crisis" is also used to obscure systemic/institutional causes of larger problems like poverty and lack of equal access. As I wrote in my half-hearted review of CNN's "Black In America"
After watching parts and pieces of CNN's Black in America: What's Wrong With The Black Woman and Family last night, I was worried.

I mean, I'm single, educated, and a mother. I felt practically doomed.

But! CNN has the solution for the problem I didn't even know I was: marriage. Yep.

See, marrying would mean that I wouldn't be a single mom anymore. And, it would magically mean no more poverty for single moms! Never mind that

1) Many single moms (like me) have arrangements that work for us and our children. I am single because I'm not married, but I'm not raising my child alone.

2) We refuse to adequately address pay equity and the devaluation of women's work which contribute to the impoverishment of women and children.

3) We've stigmatized and rendered thoroughly inadequate any system of social provision.

4) Marrying a guy who does not work or who works in low-wage labor won't solve much of anything.

5) What about single moms who don't want to marry? Is that not a valid option when you're poor?

6) What about single moms who don't want a heterosexual marriage because they're lesbian or bisexual?
I'm also irritated because no matter how much we analyze, challenge, and try to debunk the crisis, the news organizations proceed willfully unaware with these stories.

The other major source of my irritation/aggravation? So often the solution to the marriage crisis is presented as black women's need to settle/compromise. Our standards are too high, apparently. In that sense, the argument that "the" black church "keeps black women single" is not new. From Debborah Cooper (the article is based on a discussion she began):
"Black women are interpreting the scriptures too literally. They want a man to which they are 'equally yoked' -- a man that goes to church five times a week and every Sunday just like they do," Cooper said in a recent interview.

"If they meet a black man that is not in church, they are automatically eliminated as a potential suitor. This is just limiting their dating pool."
Now, I can understand Cooper's critique on some other points--she writes, for example, about how black churches are structured around "traditional gender roles which make women submissive to and inferior to men." But if a woman has made up her mind that it is important to marry a man who shares her beliefs and values, why all the demands that she compromise? Is that unreasonable? Don't women other than black women have similar desires?

My jaw dropped again when Cooper suggested that church-going black women should give up their Sunday morning habits to "leave-and go where the boys go: tailgates, bars and clubs."

Cooper says she is trying to empower black women. But what is empowering about giving up something to which you are dedicated to linger around places you might find questionable or unpleasant in effort to "get" a man?

To me, this sounds like more of the blame-the-black-woman-for-this-imaginary-crisis. What do you think?
___________________
I should really, really do another post on one magical solution that's been posited as the "crisis" has grown--interracial marriage. Of course, the issue is not interracial marriage itself, but the portrayal of it as an easy cure-all.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Signs and Such



Since my father's death, I've been in this space--the spot where tangible things are so important--his truck, his clothes, the last thing he may have worn. And I have been battling guilt because I was so sick the last weeks of his life that he was consumed with worry about me. He'd just come sit in my room and look at me quietly. Sometimes he'd knock on the door and I'd be too sick to say anything, even when he'd ask if I was ok. I feel horribly about that now.

Yes, I tell myself not to reduce my 35 and a half years with my dad to those last two weeks or so. Yes, I tell myself that the memories I have and the lessons he taught me are things that are more important, more lasting than anything tangible. But right now, so early on, I still have regrets.

People have told me to perceive so many things as signs. A song on the radio, the birth of two new babies to my family so shortly after his death, fleeting scents or feelings. But I'm not that type. I always search for the "logical" explanation.

Back to my need for tangibles. When I finally made it home from my hospital stay, my sister presented me with one of the silicone bracelets he'd been wearing when he died. She had one on her wrist and she gave me one that they'd had to cut off him because his congestive heart failure often made him suffer from edema. I put it in my coin purse until I could glue it together.

Sometime shortly thereafter, I opened the coin purse somewhere and lost the bracelet. I looked for it desperately to no avail. I was heartbroken, but tried to convince myself that it was just a thing, that I didn't need it because I had so much more of him.

And still, I felt horrible. It was one of the last things he'd worn and I planned to always keep it close to me. How could I be so careless?

Last night, my oldest nephew emerged from my father's room with a ring. I recognized it immediately. It was his wedding ring, one he'd refused to take off until the edema made it impossible to wear. Once he'd taken it off, the kids had meddled and lost it. And now, little more than a month after his death, here it was.

I slid it on my finger and went to my mom. She confirmed that it was his wedding ring. She reached for it and I began to take it off. Then she shook her head.

"It fits your finger," she said.

It does, quite well. Never in my life had I been happy that I'd ignored my mom's warnings that cracking my knuckles would make me have "big ol' fingers" with an "embarrassing" ring size. As always in my life, I was happy I have a mama who knows when I need something.



And I needed this ring. I know that one day I probably won't. One day I might be able to look at it fondly in a jewelry box or return it to my mama or be content with memories, but not now.

I don't know if this is one of those elusive, ethereal signs, but I am so grateful for it.

No Place Safe

(Wrote this a month ago. Forgot that I didn't publish it here. Will give you some idea of my summer before I start writing more)

Today, I am on the bright side of the sickest period, physically, of my life. And days ago, while I lay on my bed, thinking I might be slowly dying, my darling father actually did. To say that I am not well is an understatement. My family and friends banded together to bring me back to the city to better care and I am feeling the effects.

The nausea no longer turns me inside out.

I no longer have to close my eyes while my best friend or my mom or my sister bathes me.

I can actually make tears and jokes and dear God, words.

But just now in this hospital, the sickness has rebounded in away. I feel assaulted, so shaken, so fucking tired that I can only do the one thing I feel that I know how sometimes--write.

The other day, long dark hours ago, when I couldn't speak and my mother was telling one of the aditting doctors that I was a professor, and of history no less, I should've felt the warning come of him, but Lord I was so ill. He said something like, "A-ha! Is she ready?"

He came back today. I was not ready. He pulled his chair up in the middle of this room where my mother and I sit now and began with the questions. What did I teach? Surely I realized the broad scope of my fall classes? Had there been black films made in a protest tradition? Could I find copies of them?

Did I get the Amazon suggestions he left at my bedside table the other night while I was vomiting--books I should read as a historian, he assured me. My mom asked had he been a history major. "No," he said imperiously, "I just read."

Because of course she doesn't.

And then came the heart of his argument. Could I understand the position of white people like him who respected black people who had seen real racism in the 1940s and 50s but now had to deal with the anger of black people for whom racism was rare, and mostly a memory?

A memory of resentment, I think he said. No black person born after 1970 has really encountered racism--well, maybe me from Louisiana, but here? Oh no. No, we want to preserve our racial preferences without acknowledging our racism. We too often assume racism.

As an example, he'd grown weary of his black friend who often wondered if poor service was a result of her race. Anyone could be served badly in a Texas city by the end of the 20th century.

And yes, he understood the feelings of (black) nurses' aids who cared for (white) patients who were subjected to racist abuse. BUT alzheimer's... delirium... old memories... and couldn't I understand that one of the greatet fears of old white women was thata black man would come do something to them into the night?

Also, when would I teach about the Palestinian-Israeli comflict? Wasn't Israel as guilty as South Africa? Step outside my comfort zone--it was as easy to teach about others as ourselves.

Finally, he prepared to leave after telling me I didn't talk enough for him. Me with the nausea and the phlegm and the cracked lips.

He doesn't see racism (or sexism I'm sure)

but he

came into my room

turned down the TV my mama was listening to

disregarded my recently delivered dinner

ignored my signs of discomfort and final outright silence

advised me on what to teach--though he never asked my specialties

gave me homework

had a history of dismissing black women's opinions and experiences

planned to challenge me and my authority from the moment he knew my title.

Before he re-situated his chair and left,

He said, "I feel better now."

My blood pressure when they just checked it?

149/104

and all I can do

is write.

Will this be my life?

ProfessorWomanofColor?

I don't want it right now.

Monday, May 03, 2010

In Which I Share Some (Re)Sources

I'm prepping for my Construction of Femininity class and one of the things I want to explore is, what happens to women who don't meet the definition of feminine? How do they negotiate femininity, masculinity, the pressure to be either/or and external and internal pressures? What social sanctions are imposed upon them?

As one source for these kinds of reflections and life experiences, I wanted to read what butch/stud/aggressive lesbians had to say about their experiences as children and adolescents. I wanted information shared by these women, not written about them. I didn't find a lot with my own (probably clueless) searches or in academic databases. So, I wrote the organizers of the Butch Voices regional conferences and pleaded for help. They responded quickly and wonderfully. I have a few books to begin with--a number of them seem to be fiction, but historians can use that (and my class is a multi-disciplinary topics course)!

I also was given a link to a website about the Kicked Out Anthology. A description:
In the U.S., 40% of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). Kicked Out published by Homofactus Press brings together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth and tells these forgotten stories of some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Diverse contributors share stories of survival and abuse with poignant accounts of the sanctuary of community and the power of creating chosen families.
And I really want to share the video below, called "Tomboy" with y'all. It's geared towards kids, based on the book Are You a Boy or a Girl? by Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, but I will use it in my college classroom to prompt my students to talk about what they saw/experienced as youth and how they see the same lessons being perpetuated today.

Because it is for kids, it has some simple, generalized language and characters we'd probably question: "boy things" and "girl things," for example, and the girl who is "traditionally feminine" is a villain of sorts, a complete tool of the patriarchy. That in particular reminded me of the questions Gwen at Sociological Images asked here:
How do you reject the trappings of that socially-approved version of femininity without devaluing femininity, girls, and women themselves?

(snip)

My students who are trying to distance themselves from ideas of passive femininity often disparage “girly-girls,” those they see as unambiguously accepting pink culture. Thus, wearing a sparkly barrette or painting your nails pink becomes inherently problematic, a sign that you must be boy-obsessed, dumb, superficial, and so on.
That being said, here is the video:

Tomboy from Barb Taylor on Vimeo.



And if you have more suggestions for resources, please drop them in comments. I am looking now for non-fiction adn film. The discovery of this video led me to another book by Pendleton Jimenez, "Unleashing the Unpopular": Talking About Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Education. I am about to beg the history department (I'm exaggerating--no begging required) to get me an exam copy as it looks as if it could be really useful to me as a professor.

Friday, April 30, 2010

So Sexy Too Soon

I don’t think I knew, outside the realm of those beauty pageants for little girls, that 8-year-olds wore mascara. Not only does this phenomenon exist, according to a NYT article, but
From 2007 to 2009, the percentage of girls ages 8 to 12 who regularly use mascara and eyeliner nearly doubled — to 18 percent from 10 percent for mascara, and to 15 percent from 9 percent for eyeliner. The percentage of them using lipstick also rose, to 15 percent from 10 percent.

We’re* prepping them earlier and earlier, with the assistance of the beauty industry, for conforming to notions of “beauty” and “femininity,” for life as the objects of the heterosexual male gaze.

From the article:
"There’s relentless marketing pressure on young girls to look older,” Ms. [Stacy] Malkan said. “Not just from magazines and TV ads, but from shows like ‘90210.’ Those kids are supposed to be in 10th and 11th grade, but they look 25.”

Indeed, the aisles of Sephora and CVS are lined with cosmetics aimed at Miley Cyrus fans. Fashion runways teem with heavily made-up girls of 14. Neutrogena offers a line of acne-clearing makeup featured on the “Neutrogena Teen” section of its Web site. Even Dylan’s Candy Bar, the upscale candy store whose Upper East Side flagship has become a tourist attraction, has a “beauty” line that includes cupcake body lotion and strawberry licorice “lip saver.” (“Lips should always be candy-luscious and sweet to kiss!” reads the Web site.)

Others have documented this ongoing sexualization of young girls. In speaking of her book, Girl Culture, Lauren Greenfield notes the “the exhibitionist nature of modern femininity.” Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne explore the role of gendered and sexualized marketing on young girls in So Sexy, So Soon. They tell a story of 7- and 8-year-old girls who feel they must be sexy so boys will like them and are upset that their parents won’t buy them sexy clothes. Levin and Kilbourne describe the messages transmitted over and over to young girls
In today’s cultural environment, products that channel children into narrowly focused content and activities threaten to consume every aspect of their lives. For young girls, this usually means focusing on buying fashion items, looking pretty, and acting sexy. From newfangled Barbies and sexy Bratz dolls to “old-fashioned” princess fairy tales, young girls… learn to value a certain aesthetic and a certain behavior—be pretty, be coy, and… be saved in the end by the handsome prince. [T]hese gender stereotypes and sexualized messages are everywhere. **

They are everywhere and apparently they are effective.

The author of the NYT article says that some young girls might be “sophisticated enough to make… their own beauty decisions.” He points to an 11-year old who denied trying to emulate anyone by wearing makeup; “I try to make myself look like me,” she said.

That immediately reminded me of a scene from Good Hair when Chris Rock tries to go into a hair supply store and sell “black” hair to the store owner who stocks primarily Indian hair. Black women, the store owner tells him, don’t want “black” hair, because they want to look more “natural.” You can see that scene beginning around the 2:09 second mark in the trailer below.



All of that leads me to wonder why looking “natural” is never equivalent to being "natural" (i.e. without artifice) for women. Instead, “natural” is constructed as the outcome of subjecting our bodies, head to toe, to various processes.

As girls began these processes at younger and younger ages, what will be the effect on their physical and mental well-being?
_______________________
*The article says that 2/3 of the girls surveyed reported getting makeup and makeup techniques from a “family member or adult family friend.”

**Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids (New York: Ballantine Books, 2009), 30; 32-33.

Fomenting the Mommy Wars

Or maybe the mommy/non-mommy wars, as for some people, motherhood seems to be the only reference for women's identity.

So, Luisita Lopez Torregrosa wrote an article entitled "Childless by Choice," in which she discusses her decision not to have children or get married, how she enjoys her life, and how she's felt distance grow between her married, "child-filled" friends and herself. In other words, she's describing her life.

I didn't like the blanket statement here:
Take women with children, especially with young children. They get together -- at the park, at the grocery, at play dates – and can talk about nothing else but their beautiful, brilliant, amazing children.
When I did manage to get with my girlfriends when my kid was small, the last thing we wanted to talk about was the kids. We wanted mixed drinks and a break. I didn't like the generalization, but I don't doubt for a minute that might be her experience and again, she's describing her life.

Which should be just fine, right?

Wrong! The AOL lede/link to the story is "Woman's Column May Anger Moms."* Because all moms decide other women's lives must be read through and judged by moms' experiences and because we get blazingly angry that all women don't make the same choices.

Or something.
_______________________
*Sorry, y'all, wanted to provide a screen capture, but my en-virus laptop is not cooperating. As of right now you can go here, and click to page 5 of 9 in the little lead stories box to see the link.

Breaking News!!! OMG! WTF??? XYZ!

Brace yourselves...

Joe Arpaio arrests 'very few' non-Hispanics.

Shocking, right?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweep Around

Every Saturday morning, Mama used to throw open the doors to our little house, turn on her stereo, and start cleaning. One of the songs we listened to over and over included the line, "Sweep around your own front door, before you try to sweep around mine." I thought the song was really about cleaning for the longest time.

I share that little anecdote to say, my horror with Arizona might need to extend to areas a little closer to home (Texas). From the AP:
[Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball, TX] says she plans to push for a law similar to Arizona's get-tough immigration measure.

(snip)

Riddle says if the federal government did its job "Arizona wouldn't have to take this action, and neither would Texas."

Apparently, she has at least one person of like mind in the state legislature:
[State Rep. Leo] Berman... plans a broad bill similar to the Arizona law, which makes being an undocumented worker a crime. He specifically wants to include the measure to allow law enforcement officials to ask people who they believe may be in the country illegally about their status.

Berman is also enamored of the Arizona bill that will require President Obama to prove that he was born in the U.S. or risk being left off the ballot in 2012:
Berman said he's planning several bills, including one that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to prove their citizenship to the Texas Secretary of State before their names can be put on the ballot. The Arizona law requires presidential candidates to produce birth certificates.

"We'll do it," said Berman, R-Tyler, and a former Arlington mayor pro tem. "We'll do it from now on. If he can't prove citizenship ... he won't have a place on the Texas ballot."

As if he ever could "prove" citizenship to their satisfaction.

I hope this shit doesn't get off the ground here.

Support BFP’s Computer Fundraiser!

Via ProblemChylde:

Brownfemipower is one of my favorite bloggers and people on the internet. She is brilliant, open, and her sense of humor is out of this world. Plus we share a deep, unabashed love for Salma Hayek’s tetas.

In order for her to stay on the internet and spread her flip flopping joy far and wee, she needs to upgrade her computer. She wants to blog and write in style, and she has selected the Apple MacBook Pro as her goal computer. As a die-hard Apple fan I am proud of her choice; but we all know Apples do not run cheap.

From now until June 23, Miss BFP is fundraising for her new machine. She has a donation/gift scenario similar to that of a PBS telethon, and the goodies are just as rewarding:

Every person who donates will receive a gift!

For those who donate between:

$5-25: You will get a personalized thank you note from yours truly!

$26-50: You will get the personalized thank you note and a newly published zine!

$51-100: You will get the personalized thank you note, and two newly published zines!

Over $100: You will get the personalized thank you note, two newly published zines, and a surprise gift (I will tell you once you order–I only have certain quantities of each, so I don’t want to list them online!).

The bad news: Because this computer breaking down has taken me by surprise, I am only in the planning stages for the zines. So it will be up to two months before those of you who order zines will get them. So that you know what stage I am at making the zines, I will be documenting the process I go through to make them here on the blog. This has the added bonus of hopefully helping other people–so many people I know have expressed interest in making zines, but have also expressed not having any damn clue how to.

Not only can you get a treat, you also get a lesson wrapped around the treat. That’s what I call a great exchange. You can’t place a price on learning… but in this case, let’s give it a shot!

Please head over to her blog and give what you can. She has a Chip In donation badge on her sidebar. Keep my friend doing the great work she’s known for!


She's a little over half way there! Yay!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exposing the Racist Roots of Arizona's New Immigration Law

If you thought there was any chance that the new immigration law in Arizona was about anything other than race, watch how Rachel Maddow thoroughly rebukes that notion.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



That people like Russell Pearce and members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform have the platforms that they do and can shape legislation is chilling. I was going to add "especially to me, as a WoC" but I am trying to get better about statements like that which imply that racism is primarily the concern of people of color and that white people should not care/worry about it/address it.

Transcript below the fold:

MADDOW: The big deal news headline out of the world of politics today was the Republican Party‘s filibuster of Wall Street reform. But there was supposed to be another big deal thing in politics today. Today was supposed to be the day that Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced bipartisan climate change legislation.

That announcement, as you probably noticed, did not happen today. Why didn‘t it happen? Because Lindsey Graham got very mad. He scuttled his own climate legislation because he says he‘s angry that the Obama administration might bring up the issue of immigration reform first.

Quote, “This comes out of left field. We haven‘t done anything to prepare
the body or the country for immigration.” Senator Graham‘s anger has been seconded now by the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who said yesterday, this isn‘t, quote, “the
right time to do immigration reform.”

Republicans are bending over backwards right now, doing everything they possibly can, scuttling their own legislation if they need to in order to make sure that immigration reform does not come up. Remember when George W. Bush wanted to do immigration reform in 2007? Again, it was
his own party, the Republicans, who bent over backwards and delivered their own president a huge political defeat on this issue because they were so desperate to not do immigration reform at the federal level.And the fact that it continues to not happen at the federal level is
all the justification that some states need right now to deal with immigration on their own, which is how we got this—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA: The bill I‘m about to sign into law, Senate Bill 1070, represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And so, the state of Arizona now has a new law requiring police officers to demand the paperwork of anyone who looks like they might be an illegal immigrant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What does an illegal immigrant look like? Does it look like me?

BREWER: I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think that there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In the meantime, papers, please. Before this bill was actually signed into law, we told you about the guy who introduced it in the first place. It‘s this guy, Republican State
Senator Russell Pearce. Mr. Pearce is famous in Arizona for having sent an email to his supporters that included a white nationalist screed, accusing the media of pushing the view, quote, “a world in which every voice proclaims the equality of the races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish, quote, ‘Holocaust‘ tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood of nonwhite aliens pouring across the borders.” Mr. Pearce sent that around to all of his supporters, which he later apologized for.

Russell Pearce is also famous for having been caught on tape hugging a neo-Nazi. No, like a real neo-Nazi. Not some sort of metaphorical Godwin‘s law-invoking neo-Nazi guy, but an actual neo-Nazi guy. See, with the swastikas?

Russell Pearce is the guy who introduced this radical immigration bill in Arizona that just became law. But if you want to meet the guy who’s taking credit for writing the new law, that would be the gentleman named Kris Kobach. Kris Kobach is a birther. He‘s running for a secretary of state in Kansas right now. His campaign Web site today brags, quote, “Kobach wins
one in Arizona.”

The guy that helped Arizona‘s new immigration bill is also an attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute. That‘s the legal arm of an immigration group that‘s called FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR was founded in 1979 by a man named John Tanton. Mr. Tanton is still listed as a member of FAIR‘s board of directors. Just for some insight into where John Tanton and FAIR were coming from seven years after he started FAIR, Mr. Tanton wrote this, quote, “To govern is to populate. Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile? As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night or will there be an explosion?” That‘s FAIR, who helped write Arizona‘s anti-immigrant law.

After John Tanton got FAIR off the ground, for nine of the first years of the group‘s existence, the group reportedly received more than $1 million in funding from something called the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund describes itself as a group formed, quote, “in the Darwinian-Galtonian
evolutionary tradition and eugenics movement.” For the last 70 years, the Pioneer Fund has funded controversial research about race and intelligence, essentially aimed at proving the
racial superiority of white people. The group‘s original mandate was to promote the genes of those, quote, “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.”

John Tanton‘s organization, FAIR, which, again, claims credit for writing Arizona‘s new immigrant law, John Tanton‘s FAIR was long bankrolled by the Pioneer Fund—which actually makes sense after you read some more of Mr. Tanton‘s writings. Quote, “I‘ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-
American majority and a clear one at that.” In 1997, John Tanton told the “Detroit Free Press” that America will soon be overrun by illegal immigrants, quote, “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.” Defecating is the problem, I guess.

Again, this genius is the guy whose group is behind Arizona‘s new radical immigration law. They take credit for writing it. FAIR is bragging about having, quote, “assisted Senator Russell Pearce in drafting the language” of his Senate bill.

In drafting that language, FAIR may have slipped a little something special in there for themselves. FAIR makes a living off of suing local and state governments over immigration laws. Tucked inside Article VIII of Arizona‘s new law is a provision that if groups like them win their cases, quote, a judge—sorry—a judge may order that the entity, quote, “who
brought the action recover court costs and attorney fees”—which could create a nice financial boon for the formerly eugenics movement-funded, advanced the white majority, promote the genetics of white America anti-immigrant group whose attorneys helped write the new law.
Congratulations, Arizona. This thing is going to make you really, really, really famous for a really, really, really long time.

Another Item for the "What the Hell, Arizona?" File

What in the world are they up to out there?

From that link:
The Arizona House of Representatives recently approved a provision requiring President Barack Obama to prove that he is a natural-born citizen before the state agrees to place him on the ballot in 2012. He must have his birth certificate approved by the state's attorney general in order to run in the next election.
Oh, Arizona...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is Your Boyfriend Making You Fat?

Hey, girls, the people at Women's Health are concerned that having a boyfriend might be leading you toward the dreaded fattyhood. Here is the newest update on the "Women just let themselves go once they have a man" idea:
Falling in love can make you feel all soft and gooey inside. Unfortunately, it can have the same effect on your outside. Skip a workout here, order some greasy takeout there, and before you know it... you've got a full-on jelly roll hanging over your waistband. Or as Lauren Conrad, former star of "The Hills," put it: You've acquired the dreaded "boyfriend layer."

"When we get comfortable in a relationship, we establish new habits together that aren't always the best for our weight," says Amy Gorin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut.

But worry not! The Women's Health crew has identified five of the behaviors that contribute to the "boyfriend layer" and included helpful fixes.

Because I care about you all, I shall share a few:
Behavior: You eat out ... all the time
When you're single, you tend to prepare healthy foods at home. But once you're in a relationship, it's decadent dinner dates followed by caloric brunches.

(snip)

The fix: Eat in

That is so rocket-sciency! I'm so amazed by that fix, that I will refrain from commenting on the classism evident in the description of the "behavior." And I won't even bring up how you'd think people at "Women's Health" would recognize this might create more work for women, who still do the disproportionate share of domestic tasks like cooking.*

Then, there's this one:
Behavior: His snacks are your snacks
You might not buy chips for yourself, but when he leaves the bag out on the coffee table, you need supreme willpower to ignore it.

(snip)

The fix: You have two diet-friendly choices: Serve yourself a small amount of his snack and put it on a plate (dipping your hand into the bag over and over again leads to diet disaster), or... have a portion-controlled, lower-calorie alternative on hand to munch while he takes down that bag of chips or pint of ice cream.

Oh, look. Virtual product placement for the diet-industry foods that already target women and symbolize the pressures to be thin! He can enjoy his snacks; you can agonize over yours. Maybe this is what Gwen meant by the gendering of dieting? She writes
we gender who we think cares about the caloric or nutritional content of food in the first place, and we gender why we think they care about it if they do.

I'm going to go ahead and skip to the fifth behavior they identify, and on this point, I'm feeling decidely less snarky. Why?

Because the fifth behavior is being happy:
Behavior: You're Happy
Research shows that what's good for your heart may be bad for your hips. A study published last year in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that happy people were less likely to succeed at losing weight than those with a "slightly negative and cautious outlook."

The fix: Weigh in often

These people are really worried that part of being happy might be learning to love and be comfortable with yourself as you are. I know it's unfathomable that fat women can be happy, but damn. The fix is so chilling--weigh in often so you can see if those numbers go up, thus creating anxiety and unhappiness, jarring you out of your happy "complacency."

The whole tone of this article is like that. These people are positing that falling in love and being happy are things of which you should be wary in case they lead you to the horror of being fat. Just think about that for a minute. Your negative and cautious outlook might be... well, negative, but you have a better chance of being thin. Hooray!

As for women partnered with women, I can't decide if the writers are saying you're not "at risk" or you don't exist.
_______________________

*I'm not saying that you should eat out all the time, but I'll bet it's commonplace that couples' determinations to eat at home more creates more work for women.

Link to a description of a study I'm thinking about using in a fall class on the Construction of Femininity that posits "women observed eating with a male companion chose foods of significantly lower caloric value than those observed eating with another woman." Description of it here. For me, there's something about the juxtaposition of this study and the Women's Health article
.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shifting the Burden

**Trigger Warning**

So apparently, Oprah Winfrey had Mo'Nique's brother, Gerald Imes, who molested Mo'Nique beginning when she was seven, on her show Monday.

Why? I am asking seriously because I really can't think of a good reason.

And he apologized.

So?

I know it's not my place to be dismissive, but I don't understand what the apology is supposed to do.

I am angry that Oprah gave Gerald Imes such a public, highly visible venue to make his apology. Though Mo'Nique has refused, understandably, to respond, he has created the impression that "the ball is in her court." It as if he has shifted a burden onto her because of the unspoken expectation that she do or say something. He hopes, he says, that they can "come back together as sister and brother," putting further pressure on her to negotiate some kind of relationship.

He gets to re-image himself as penitent and remorseful and as a victim in his own right. And in remaking himself, he tries to disrupt what Mo'nique said, ensuring that he has the final word if she keeps to her silence. According to his story, it's not that she's a liar... exactly. She's just wrong about the details.

From Liss, I learned that their parents were there. That they would join him in this very public forum made me angrier. Yes, I can understand that they don't want to abandon their son, or whatever.

But what does their appearance, as he was giving his apology, mean/say to their daughter? To me it says, "We have forgiven him." What it doesn't say, but seems to imply, is--"You should, too." That's how that sort of pressure works. I don't think I'm far off in my assertion; Mo'Nique's own parents seem to have a "Let's put this behind us" attitude:
The Imeses told Oprah they thought the matter had been addressed when they temporarily asked Gerald to leave the family home after Mo’Nique told them her older brother had “tried to lay on top of me” when she was 15.

(snip)

Imes now regrets not revisiting the sexual assault with her daughter after banished Gerald returned to the family home - but she was hurt when Mo’Nique decided to go public with the family’s secret on national TV.

She added, ..." ‘As a family such as we were, this is something I felt that should have been discussed first privately within the family. Now, if you wanna tell the world, but give us a chance (sic).'

(snip)

“I only hope, with doing this, this can cleanse her hurt.”
I don't think Mo'Nique's hurt is the primary concern here, especially since she is the one being portrayed as betraying the family bonds.

I am viewing this through the lens of someone who has been disheartened by the way many communities rally around men who abuse--that in itself is not a racially specific thing.

But the pressure on women of color not to tell, because men of color already have a difficult time having to deal with a racist/kyriarchal system is well-documented.

As if we don't exist, and as women (!), under that same system.

There may be survivors to whom the apology means something. Mo'Nique is in a situation in which, while the abusers wasn't prosecuted, her story was believed/verified. If an abuser was denying the abuse or walking around as if zie had done nothing and people were doubting or disparaging the survivor, maybe the apology would mean something. Or maybe there are people, in circumstances like hers, to whom the apology means something. I don't know.

I really want to understand why Oprah had him on.

What is that apology supposed to mean or do? Especially, if it is true that Gerald Imes is seeking to make money off the "story."

What the Hell, Arizona?

Both houses of the Arizona state legislature have passed SB1070, a truly frightening piece of "immigration legislation":
Arizona's bill orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.

As a historian, I don't like to hear people say "If we don't learn history, we're doomed to repeat it." We learn history all the time, and still do much of the same, hateful stuff that's always been done.

In reading the provisons of the bill, I wondered, how different was it from the Geary Act of 1892:
The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year at hard labor.

or the 1954 INS-sponsored operation that
coordinated 1075 Border Patrol agents, along with state and local police agencies, to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics

or, in Arizona's own more recent history, the actions of Joe Arpaio?

Historical comparisons are not the only things circulating in my mind, though. The point is this law codifies racial-profiling and harrassment and criminalization of Latino/as (because, really? what is likely to be the basis for "suspect[ing] they're in the United States illegally"?). Isabel Garcia, an Arizona legal defender, offered this description:
[T]his bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights... We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws. And targeting our communities, it is the single ... largest attack on our communities.

Latino/a* lawmakers are entreating Republican Governor Jan Brewer not to sign the bill into law for fear that it will "authorize discrimination."

Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce shrugged off those kinds of worries:
You know, this is amazing to me. We trust officers, we put guns on them, they make life and death decisions every day

The casual assertion that everyone lives in communities in which police and their decisions are respected and trusted?

Pri-vi-lege.
____________________________________________
*I sincerely hope Latino/a lawmakers are not standing alone in protest of this travesty.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP, Soror



"I think of my life as a unity of circles. Some are concentric, some overlap, but they all connect in some way. Sometimes the connections don't happen for years. But when they do, I marvel." -Dr. Dorothy I. Height

More here

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deuce in Boots


Cutest just-turned-two-years-old in the world. Happy belated birthday, sugar!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chip, Chip, Chip

That's how I'd describe what the state legislature is doing to abortion access in Nebraska:
Nebraska lawmakers on Monday gave final approval to a first-of-its-kind measure requiring women to be screened for possible mental and physical problems before having abortions.
[snip]
The bill requires a doctor or other health professional to screen women to determine whether they were pressured into having abortions. The screenings also would assess whether women have risk factors that could lead to mental or physical problems after an abortion.

I read that article just before reading this one about Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's decision to again declare April "Abortion Recovery Month":
The proclamation... “encourages and promotes healing opportunities and raises awareness of the aftermath of abortion experienced by individuals and families,” according to the document signed by the Republican governor and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Despite claims to the contrary, the bill and the proclamation are not about caring for women and their mental and physical health. They are about politics.

I am convinced of that, especially in the aftermath of recent studies which found
There is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women
and
Recent studies that have been used to assert a causal connection between abortion and subsequent mental disorders are marked by methodological problems [example here] that include, but not limited to: poor sample and comparison group selection; inadequate conceptualization and control of relevant variables; poor quality and lack of clinical significance of outcome measures; inappropriateness of statistical analyses; and errors of interpretation, including misattribution of causal effects. By way of contrast, we review some recent major studies that avoid these methodological errors. The most consistent predictor of mental disorders after abortion remains preexisting disorders

My point is not that no woman ever experiences depression or guilt after having an abortion, but that evidence points to co-occuring factors, not abortion, as causal. For example, in my case, any guilt I felt was about not feeling guilty as everyone had told me women who have abortions should. About the abortion itself, I felt relief, and I thought, "Wow, does that mean something is wrong with me?"

My case exemplifies what potential laws and proclamations like this do--they foster the notion that abortion has to be traumatic and guilt-inducing, even when studies and women themselves counter that idea.

I say these actions are about politics, too, for at least two other reasons. First, the goal is to scare women into not having abortions. Having one's doctor say, "You can have this procedure, but you are at risk for serious difficulties if you do," is frightening and, as I'm sure anti-choice folk are hoping, quite the deterrent.

Second, I don't see as much concern for screening women who decide not to terminate their pregnancies. We know that women can have physical and mental health issues after spontaneous miscarriage and childbirth--why no push for intensive screening and "warning" or recovery proclamations for those cases?

The other major question circulating in my mind is, what do laws like the potential Nebraska one mean, with regards to the way we frame choice, for women who are determined by their doctors to have mental or physical health "risks?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At This Rate...

...we're never going to finish. I finally finished typing up the labels for all the people mama wanted to invite to the anniversary party.

165 labels, y'all. I was planning for 150-200. Most of these labels have couples or "and family" on them. This is going to be fun and possibly my biggest challenge to date. I know everyone won't show and a few of them are to cousins and classmates waaaaay out of town. Can't wait until the RSVPs start rolling in (hint, hint).

Anyway, we have almost 6 pages of labels. I did three pages of addresses and mama is supposed to be doing three. But every time she calls one of her classmates for hir address, an hour long conversation ensues. She's probably gotten three addresses today and she's been at it for hours.

We're never going to finish by my tomorrow deadline (so I can get the invitations out exactly two months before).

But she's having fun catching up. :-))

Friday, April 09, 2010

I Write Letters

Dear Animal Rights Group That Shall Not Be Named,

I must say, you have outdone yourself. Because this shit right here:



takes my breath away. You have a bit of everything going on here. I mean, obviously this ad can appeal to a variety of people, most notably people:

Who liken poor mothers to animals.

Who are proponents of negative eugenics and forced sterilization.

Who believe poor mothers and their children are burdens on "taxpayers."

Who believe only certain women should have children, and who see the birth of children to some mothers as an "epidemic," or a "problem" or any of those other negative terms.

You know, the old sympathetic me might have been tempted to believe maybe, since you keep producing such horrible ads, you don't know the background of some of this stuff you invoke. Then I remembered some wise words from Sarah M.:
[They know] they are operating within potent historical narratives—without a history of the objectification/subjugation of women, or slavery and racism, their imagery wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.
I suspect you're reaching people whom you might not envision as your target audience, but really, we can't tell.

Sincerely,

elle

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On Collective (and Selective) Memory

You know, I am not at all surprised by the fact that Virginia's Governor Robert McDonnell proclaimed April Confederate History Month. My (Louisiana) parish has done it before and I'm sure it's not an anomaly in the South.

But what gets me, what always gets me, when I see people loving on the Confederacy and declaring that their flags and memorials are all about heritage, is the selective, largely one-sided memory they have. The "Old South" may have been all moonlight and magnolias in their recollections, but there were four million or so people who, I'll bet, remembered it quite differently.

Encouraging people to remember the Confederacy includes encouraging them to remember that those states left the Union largely because of their fear that Abraham Lincoln would not just stop the expansion of slavery, but abolish it all together. Remember that these people were willing to go to war to protect their right to own and exploit other people. That dims the moonlight a little bit.

The irony is, it is "heritage" to remember the Confederacy, but we are never supposed to talk about slavery. McDonnell urges people to "to recognize how our history has led to our present," but when we talk about how slavery has very real effects on our present, that is dismissed. It ended a century and a half ago, after all, and to talk about it is to search for grievances and dwell on the past or however that argument goes. The proclamation itself makes no mention of slavery, just vague allusions to "a time very different than ours today." McDonnell himself suggested that slavery was not important enough to merit mention in a proclamation about remembering the Confederacy.

That is not the only contradiction in that proclamation:
all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace
No, they didn't. They fought like hell to reinstate and then maintain their previous control over every aspect of southern life, at the cost of thousands of lives and the continued denial of the most basic civic rights.

And then, the admonition that "this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten," as if that has ever been a possibility. (Some) white southerners and their sympathizers have been busy since the end of the Civil War making sure we never forget their noble "Lost Cause" or how near-perfect the South was before the intrusion and unwarranted intervention of the North. Confederate flags haven't just been on people's bumper stickers or their back windows. They've flown over state capitol buildings and been woven into new flags. We are not in danger of forgetting "this defining chapter."

I think what we are in danger of forgetting--and I say this as a history teacher in Texas absolutely appalled at what the Texas Board of Education is doing to the social studies curriculum--is that not everyone has had the same experiences of every event in U.S. history and that those "defining chapters" have tended to be interpreted very differently by people forced into the margins of society. That doesn't make those interpretations any less valid or real or "American."

It is enraging and hurtful to me that people expect us to learn, to teach, to glorify history in a way that disappears us, our experiences and our contributions. The history of this nation is not composed solely of the experiences and opinions of the dominant group(s).

Neither should its collective memory be.

I Don't Think You Understand...

Dear Jami Bernard,

When writing an article about the ableism on display in Burger King's "Crazy King" ads, it is not clever or hilariously pun-ny to state "Mental health advocates are not too crazy about" the advertising campaign. Neither is it somehow better to use "crazy" in the following context:
But perhaps what they should be complaining about is how crazy it is to tout such cholesterol-laden food to a public that is collectively headed for a heart attack.

It is not cool to equate peoples' outrage over the campaign with "political correctness"... twice.

And I know you might not have chosen your headline, but really? "Mental health advocates not so nuts about cheesy Burger King ad?"

Jami, maybe you should've passed this one on to someone else.

Sincerely,

elle

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hey, This Seems Familiar

trigger warning

I have a new piece up at the Guardian's "Comment Is Free America" about that cartoon that depicts a scene after President Obama has raped the Statue of Liberty. I try to put that cartoon and so much of the related sentiment in historical perspective:
The juxtaposition of this cartoon and the violence/assassination threats [against Obama and his supporters] are significant, as well, in historical context. One of the primary reasons given for mob action that resulted in the death of black men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the accusation that a black man had raped a white woman. The cartoonist has accused President Obama, figuratively, of that crime – say what you want about Liberty's greenish hue; women who historically represented the US, from Columbia to other depictions of Liberty, were white. Obama, according to the cartoonist, has violated this symbol of both white womanhood and America. This serves as more justification for retaliating violently against him.

Please check out the whole thing!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Quick History Lesson

Dear Military Folk,

Read about your idea of requiring "separate bunks for gays" if gay servicepeople are allowed to serve openly.

Wanted to remind you we tried that separate-but-equal thing. It was never equal. It was unfair and stigmatizing.

People grew tired of it and effectively resisted.

The military finally gave it up.

I mean, it was even repudiated legally.

Yet, here you are, contemplating a march backwards. This is wrong for so many reasons, and not solely the ones I mentioned above.

As Vanessa pointed out in another forum, the very premise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, acknowledges that there are already gays in the military. Why do you expect a problem to develop if they are allowed to serve openly? This idea, that gay servicepeople should be segregated, suborns homophobia, particularly, as a colleague of mine wrote, the idea that gays are indiscriminate in their desires and straight people are in danger/in need of rescue. You are insulting your own personnel with suggestions like this which imply they, as a whole, threaten other service people with sexual aggression and potentially, sexual violence.

If only you were as concerned with the actual and significant problem of sexual violence that occurs within your institution.

Though, I suppose you could flip the argument and try to say it was for the protection of gay personnel, especially given the current political climate towards any so-called "progressive" change. In that case, I'd still accuse you of upholding homophobia and some sort of macho-ethic (okay, I'd accuse you of that, anyway).

Why? Because if your solution to addressing the potential danger openly gay servicepeople would face, is to segregate them, rather than address the military culture which allows for that danger, you've totally missed the point.

Sincerely,

elle
___________________
*And I'm not relying on the opinion of one general as sole evidence that the government would consider this. The article says, "The question of whether changes to housing policies would be necessary is being addressed in a study to determine how to allow gays to serve openly."
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...