Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My New Haircut

I accomplished something this break! Complements of my sister-in-law, the scissors-whiz.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Support The New Orleans Women's Health Clinic!

I'm going to put a section of the e-mail here with pertinent details about donating, but the text of the entire e-mail is below the fold.
Please help the New Orleans Women’s Health & Justice Initiative (WHJI) and the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic (NOWHC) to continue prioritizing the needs, experiences, and leadership of women of color and low-income women in the region. We ask for a donation that will:

* Expand the Clinic’s ability to continue to support and subsidize the cost of care and medication for uninsured women who access services at our Clinic through our Women’s Health Access Fund.

* Build the Clinic’s Sexual Health Youth Advocacy Institute – focusing on comprehensive sex education, sexual violence prevention, sexuality, and STI education, and HIV prevention justice advocacy

* Open the WHJI Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center to serve as a resource and organizing hub to end violence against of women of color and gender variant members of our community

* Develop our joint Action Kits and Toolkits, including informational pamphlets, posters, and fact sheets on safe forms of birth control, STIs, breast health, fibroids, environmental toxicants & reproductive health, gender violence prevention, alternative health and healing remedies

We are asking you to further our work this holiday season by giving a gift of justice.

A Gift of $50

* Subsidizes a well-woman annual exam, including a pap smear, to an uninsured low-income woman
* Funds the expansion of the WHJI Women of Color Lending Library

A Gift of $100

* Subsidizes the lab cost of uninsured patients at the Clinic, and
* Develops WHJI sexual and reproductive justice organizing tools and materials

A Gift of $250

* Supports the involvement of youth in the Clinic’s Sexual Health Youth Advocacy Institute
* Contributes to the planning, coordination, and convening of WHJI Organizing Institutes

A Gift of $500

* Bolsters the Clinic’s Women’s Health Access Fund
* Supports the opening of the Initiative’s Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center

A Gift of $1000

* Supports the salary of a full-time paid executive director and medical staff for NOWHC
* Strengthens the long-term sustainability of the Clinic’s ability to provide safe, affordable, non-coercive holistic sexual and reproductive health services and information

Financial contributions should be made out to our fiscal sponsor: Women With A Vision, with NOWHC and WHJI listed in the memo line. All contributions will be split evenly between NOWHC and WHJI, so your donation will support the work of both organizations. Checks should be mailed to the:

New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic
1406 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116

Your gift is tax-deductible and you will receive an acknowledgement letter with the Women With A Vision Nonprofit EIN#

Full text of the e-mail:
December 2008

Dear Friends and Supporters,

With 2009 rapidly approaching, the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic (NOWHC) and the New Orleans Women’s Health & Justice Initiative (WHJI) would like to wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season, and thank you for all of your support this past year. Thank you.

As NOWHC and WHJI continue to work together to equip marginalized and underserved women with the means to control and care for their own bodies, sexuality, reproduction, and health, while developing community-based strategies to improve the social and economic health and well-being of women of color and low-income women, we ask you to support the ongoing efforts of our organizations by making a donation this holiday season. This appeal presents accomplishments of both of our organizations for your giving consideration.

New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic
The women we serve at NOWHC are the women we stand with, the women we are – women of color and low-income women most affected by disasters (natural and economic), women whose bodies are blamed and used as decoys for systemic injustices. We recognize that the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic cannot simply end at addressing immediate needs through services delivery. NOWHC works to integrate reproductive justice organizing and health education advocacy into our clinic to address root causes of health disparities and sexual and reproductive oppression. Our programming acknowledges intersectionality and addresses the social and economic determinants of health disparities, while challenging punitive policies around social welfare, housing, and reproductive health.

With the support of hundreds of donors like you, in just 19 months, NOWHC provided safe and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services and information to 3,040 women from throughout the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area as follows:

* 618 unduplicated women accessed direct medical services, 432 of which had repeat visits
* 820 additional women accessed health information and counseling services.
* Approximately 1600 referrals for service were provided over the last 5 months.
* Subsidized the cost of direct medical services for hundreds of women through the Women’s Health Access Fund
* Partnered with the B.W. Cooper Housing Development Resident Management Corporation, enabling NOWHC to advocate and organize directly in the communities where many of our constituents live.
* Launched a Sexual Health Youth Advocacy program, focusing on comprehensive sex education, sexual violence prevention, sexuality and gender identity, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) education including HIV prevention justice advocacy

The women accessing and utilizing services at the clinic and the need for safe and holistic sexual and reproductive health services and resources, paint a portrait of the unique vulnerabilities that women of color, low income, and uninsured women face in accessing health care. Take for example, the demographics of our clinic patients:

* 65% of our patients who access care at the Clinic lacked health insurance. Without our support, most of these women would have gone months or even years without receiving safe, affordable, and unbiased care.
* 72% reported annual incomes of less than $24,999 –nearly 40% earned less than $10,000 a year
* 60% identifies as Black/African-American, and nearly 20% identifies as Latina/Hispanic – many of whom are undocumented. The Clinic provides a safe space to alleviate this fear of deportation for many undocumented women.
* 70% identified their housing status as ‘renting’ and
* 84% were between the ages of 18 to 40 years of age

With your continual support, NOWHC can expand our integrated approach by improving the sexual and reproductive health of low-income and underserved women and their families.

Women’s Health & Justice Initiative
Much of the work of the clinic is done in concert with our sister collective, WHJI. WHJI impacts the reproductive and sexual health lives of women of color and low-income women, by mobilizing our communities to engage in racial, gender, and reproductive justice activism that challenges the legislation and criminalization of women of color and poor women’s bodies, sexuality, fertility, and motherhood. As a predominately all volunteer collective, WHJI has:

* Launched organizing efforts to establish a Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center, to serve as a resource and organizing hub to nurture grassroots organizing and activism to end violence against women of color, linking struggles against the violence of poverty, incarceration, environmental racism, housing discrimination, economic exploitation, medical experimentation, and forced sterilization. The Center will house a Radical Women of Color Lending Library, a cluster of computers for community access, meeting space, and a host of movement building and leadership development programs and resources.

* Sponsored a series of Organizing Institutes, focused on examining and challenging gender and sexuality-based violence against women of color and queer and trans people of color. The Organizing Institutes have both facilitated community building conversations between grassroots social justice organizers and health practitioners, and created a space for developing grassroots strategies to equip those most disenfranchised by the medical industry in exercising their agency to take control of the their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality, while organizing for racial, gender, and reproductive justice.


* Led a coordinated effort to respond to the particular vulnerabilities of women of color, low income women, and women headed households (including women with disabilities, seniors, undocumented immigrant women, and incarcerated women.) We made over 700 calls, assisting our constituency and their families develop and implement evacuation and safety plans as communities across the Gulf Coast region prepared for Hurricane Gustav. Ironically, this occurred on the eve of the 3 year anniversary of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and subsequent government negligence.

* Immediately following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, WHJI and NOWHC took the lead in responding to the eugenic and racist legislative plans of Representative John LaBruzzo (R) of Louisiana to pay poor women $1,000 to get sterilized under the cloak of reducing the number of people on welfare and those utilizing public housing subsidies. Our organizational responses to Representative LaBruzzo’s eugenic agenda, and the outcry of social justice organizations and community members around the country, resulted in LaBruzzo being removed from his position as vice chairman of the House Health & Welfare Committee.

Please help WHJI and NOWHC to continue prioritizing the needs, experiences, and leadership of women of color and low-income women in the region. We ask for a donation that will:

* Expand the Clinic’s ability to continue to support and subsidize the cost of care and medication for uninsured women who access services at our Clinic through our Women’s Health Access Fund.

* Build the Clinic’s Sexual Health Youth Advocacy Institute – focusing on comprehensive sex education, sexual violence prevention, sexuality, and STI education, and HIV prevention justice advocacy

* Open the WHJI Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center to serve as a resource and organizing hub to end violence against of women of color and gender variant members of our community

* Develop our joint Action Kits and Toolkits, including informational pamphlets, posters, and fact sheets on safe forms of birth control, STIs, breast health, fibroids, environmental toxicants & reproductive health, gender violence prevention, alternative health and healing remedies

We are asking you to further our work this holiday season by giving a gift of justice.

A Gift of $50
* Subsidizes a well-woman annual exam, including a pap smear, to an uninsured low-income woman
* Funds the expansion of the WHJI Women of Color Lending Library

A Gift of $100
* Subsidizes the lab cost of uninsured patients at the Clinic, and
* Develops WHJI sexual and reproductive justice organizing tools and materials

A Gift of $250
* Supports the involvement of youth in the Clinic’s Sexual Health Youth Advocacy Institute
* Contributes to the planning, coordination, and convening of WHJI Organizing Institutes

A Gift of $500
* Bolsters the Clinic’s Women’s Health Access Fund
* Supports the opening of the Initiative’s Women of Color Resource & Organizing Center

A Gift of $1000
* Supports the salary of a full-time paid executive director and medical staff for NOWHC
* Strengthens the long-term sustainability of the Clinic’s ability to provide safe, affordable, non-coercive holistic sexual and reproductive health services and information

Financial contributions should be made out to our fiscal sponsor: Women With A Vision, with NOWHC and WHJI listed in the memo line. All contributions will be split evenly between NOWHC and WHJI, so your donation will support the work of both organizations. Checks should be mailed to the:

New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic
1406 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116

Your gift is tax-deductible and you will receive an acknowledgement letter with the Women With A Vision Nonprofit EIN#.

The New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic and the Women’s Health & Justice Initiative warmly thank our network of donors and volunteers for your continued generous support. Please support this essential work with the most generous donation you can give. Our ability to provide needed services, maintain autonomy and organize to build power and a healthy community is made possible through the support of individuals and organizations in our community and nationwide.

Thank you.


New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic Board of Directors
Women’s Health & Justice Initiative Collective


Coming soon...

A description:
Speak! is a women of color led media collective and in the summer months of 2008, they created a CD compilation of spoken word, poetry, and song. This is the first self-named album.

With womyn contributors from all over the country, Speak! is a testament of struggle, hope, and love. Many of the contributors are in the Radical Women of Color blogosphere and will be familiar names to you. Instead of just reading their work, you'll be able to hear their voices.

I can guarantee you will have the same reaction as to when I heard them speak, I was mesmerized.

Proceeds of this album will go toward funding mothers and/or financially restricted activists wanting to attend the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI this July. This is our own grassroots organizing at its finest with financial assistance from the AMC. We collaborated and conference called for months and here it is, ready for your purchasing.

In addition to these moving testaments, there will be a zine, featuring more of our work and a curriculum available to further process the meaning of each piece for yourself, education, or a group discussion. The possibilities are endless.

You get all of this for less than $20, you can order one for yourself or buy a gift card for friend which can be redeemed to buy the CD. Stay on your toes and look for more information come January 1, 2009. Only 200 copies are available.

Forward this promo vid widely and to the ends of your contact list. See the link here.

Much love.
When I first heard the CD, I described my reaction as something like, "it made me feel good in a place where I didn't know 'good' was possible."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What to Do with Myself...

Because I'm helping coordinate her reception and take care of a few wedding details, my friend Dee volunteered to cook my portion of my family's Christmas dinner. Dee is a throwback to another time with the soul food cooking, so I happily agreed.

So it is Christmas Eve. I've wrapped 97% of the presents I'm going to wrap. Dee is making collard greens, ham, and chicken spaghetti and offered to make the dressing. That is more than enough for my share.

And I have nothing Christmas-y to do. My son is gone with his dad, my sister is doing last minute shopping, and my parents don't feel well.

I am at a loss as to what to do with myself! I'm supposed to make a white chocolate cake, but I'm almost out of the notion of trying a new recipe. I made red velvet cake and a fudge cheesecake at Thanksgiving, so I don't want to do those again. Peach dumplings can't be made until tomorrow and the crescent rolls I need to make the dumplings cost $637 in a town with two little grocery stores, so those are iffy (I refuse to drive out of town on Christmas Eve. REFUSE!!). My mom already made lemon pies. That is about the extent of my dessert repertoire.

I need a task.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fruity Friday

Of all the things my son could have volunteered me to make for his class party, he had to choose a damn fruit tray. Not a $2 bag of chips. Not juices or plates or candy.

A fruit tray, when I'm broke and not done Christmas shopping. And he told me all proud, "Guess what I told Mrs. F you'd bring?"


"A fruit tray!"

"Did?!" I looked at him with one raised eyebrow and he went for flattery.

"I told her you do them all the time for weddings and stuff and you do a really good job."

So here is my hasty Friday morning fruit tray:

The fruit awaiting the cream cheese dip:

A close-up. The lopsided-ness is a direct result of the fact that a pint of itty-bitty strawberries was $4+, while grapes were about $1.70 a pound:

The cream cheese awaits a splash of milk, some powdered sugar and a little vanilla flavoring. It really is better to do it by hand with a fork or a whisk because a mixer makes it more like frosting than dip. And yet I mixed. File that under, "I don't know why I do the shit I do sometimes":

Done! (Well okay, after this pic, I went back and added/spruced up the kale).

Ready to go in a festive little bowl:

I'm ready for this winter break, I swear.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama is just as white as he is black.

It's actually a factual comment. So why is it so offensive to many blacks, and somewhat soothing to many whites? I'm not sure there's a easy (forgive the pun) black or white answer.

I'm biracial too. I'm not sure I could say I'm equally black and white considering my German mother's father was Moroccan. Though DNA labs categorize many North Africans as white, I'm not so sure. Never-the-less, I grew up with a parent perceived as white and a parent definitively descended from African slaves in America. So, Elle asked me to give my take on this, and I reluctantly agreed. It's not that I don't have an opinion. I have many. But these opinions - when it comes to racial identity, for me, tend to contradict one another. But that's the problem isn't it. Racial identity and cultural norms aren't pretty, neatly divided packages. And for someone who doesn't fit squarely in one box or another, it's not as simple as just picking one.

Often-times, the box is checked for us. Barack Obama may have been raised by a white mother and white grandparents, and attended mostly white schools, but he looks Black, and, therefore, is Black. This is largely what our societal norms tell us. It's the same for me. I certainly don't look white (though I have often been mistaken for a Black Latina), so I must accept that society will always perceive me as Black. And Obama, clearly, has consciously accepted this norm, as have I, to a large degree. He writes in his autobiography about trying to find his way and teach himself how to grow up as a Black man. I grew up with my Black parent in the house, but still felt the need to adapt or favor my blackness - particularly once I made it to high school in Texas. Prior to then, I'd lived in Germany and California on military bases where many of the other kids were biracial in so many different combinations. My best friends were Black & Korean, White & Korean, Black & German, White & Japanese and Black & Mexican. Even at my high school in Texas these combinations were common - it was a military town too, but the lines between Black and White were much sharper and divisive. Biracial kids with Black ancestry were often asked what they called themselves by other Blacks. If Black wasn't the answer and only answer, you were a sell-out or Uncle Tom, or you thought you were better than non-biracial Blacks.* So I conformed. I fit in. Most of my interests in music, tv, fashion, boys, etc, were in step with my Black peers anyway, and I didn't want to offend, and didn't want to be seen as a sell out or "high yellow" (a new term to me when I moved to Texas). Being biracial is not something I advertised. I knew my husband for years in college before he knew I had a white mom - and he was shocked. His friends to this day come over to our house and ask who the white people are when they look at our pictures (I also have a white brother).

Largely because of societal constructs, it just seems intuitive to think of myself as Black. Having a white mother hasn't somehow mitigated the subtle and not-so-subtle racism I've experienced over the years. Those experiences and the fact that I am a real minority in this country helped bond me to the Black experience on a very rudimentary level. But it's not that simple. I am half white. That doesn't make me better than anyone, it's just who I am. And I like to look at Obama as someone like me.

My mother felt (justified or not) a very real rejection from me when I was a teen. To this day I'm not sure what I said or did - it's not like I had a afro and screamed "black power" every day. But she felt it, all the same. Claiming to be biracial to me is more an acceptance and inclusion of my mother, than a rejection of being black. She married my father before it was legal in all states. She experienced the hatred first-hand for having the gall to allow a Black man to raise her white child. She endured it all and gave life to me. She deserves to be included when I say who/what I am.

But often, many in the black community see it the differently. When Mariah Carey didn't say Black first when she said she was Irish, Venezuelan and Black, there was an uproar. I remember being perplexed at why she should embrace Black first when her Black & Venezuelan father was nowhere to be found. Halle Berry was hailed because she considered herself Black despite being raised by a single white mother. And Tiger...don't get me started. How DARE he not claim being Black. And while I find myself disturbed by anyone who seems to run from the Black part of them, I completely relate to those that simply include other parts of them as well and find myself frustrated with Blacks who can't see it that way.

But it's too easy to simply say that those who are offended or put off by biracial people who don't just pick Black are wrong. I understand the very real circumstances that have created this. I mean starting with "house niggers" and "field niggers" through brown paper bag tests to today's very real social constructs that teach us that the whiter you are the more appealing you are, there are very real reasons for the feelings of rejection for many Blacks. For so long people of color wanted to align themselves as closely to white or non-black as possible: "I've got Indian in my family" "I'm Creole" "I'm Spanish", etc. For so long those with very real non-Black blood in them used it as a tool separate themselves in class from their darker skinned peers (like with the above mentioned brown paper bag tests). I know fair skinned Black people to this day whose family members frown upon them being involved with a darker skinned person. And there are people who think they are better than, prettier than, smarter than, simply because their skin is light or they've got "good hair". The resentment some may feel is rooted in something real, whether I find it applicable to me or not. First impressions of me by Blacks are often that I'm stuck up, rather than simply introverted and somewhat shy.

In the end, facts are facts. Society may see me as black (or at least non-white). I AM both. Now that I have two boys who are light skinned, I don't want them thinking they are better than anyone, AND I don't want them struggling to prove their Blackness. Their grandmother is white. She adores them. They have white cousins - and while they have a gazillion cousins on their father's side, my boys and my other [biracial] brother's children (with Mexican mother!) are the only cousins my white nephews and niece have. I don't want them to grow up hiding that fact nor do I want them elevating that fact to separate themselves or make themselves out to be better. But, in the end, their white grandmother won't prevent them from being pulled over by racial profiling police. And it won't make it any easier for them, should they decide to run for president one day.

Obama is a savvy politician who clearly understood all of this and he smartly navigated a thin line. While I'm sure there is validity to his acceptance of himself as a Black man on his own, he's intelligent and self-realized enough to know that he couldn't be perceived as seeing himself as better than or other than Black by the Black community. What better way to embrace his Blackness than to declare it. But he was also careful to emphasize his real roots with his family. Being raised by a white mother and white grandparents no doubt made him more palatable to some whites with deeply ingrained prejudices. I find it ridiculous that it would, but I'm sure it did all the same.

So, what's wrong with saying Obama is the first Black president? Nothing. He is. Yes, there are a few Presidents that might have had some Black in them down the line, but none had a parent or even first grandparent known to be Black. But there's nothing wrong with saying he's biracial either. He is. To me, it's not a rejection of or separation from being Black, it's an inclusion of all that he is and involves people who were instrumental in making him who he is. But, I'll admit I am conflicted here as well, because I do believe his Whiteness somehow makes him more palatable and his achievement less earth-shattering to many whites. I've experienced this too. Having a white parent somehow explains to some why I'm smart or why my hair is long or why I'm so (here it comes...) articulate.** People actually think they are complimenting me by pointing out how smart and articulate I am for a Black girl. I seem to defy their ideas of racial construct until they find out my mom is white. Nevermind it's my father who has the college degree (that he got at 50) in our family and my mother was brought up very, very poor in Post WWII Germany and only made it through 8th grade.

So Elle, like many biracial people, I find myself on the fence here. I don't like the idea that Obama being half White somehow makes him more acceptable, in fact I find that insulting. But I don't like the idea that he must be considered Black to avoid somehow diluting the amazing accomplishment he's achieved. So, while I find myself taken aback by articles such as this that challenge the notion that he is our first Black president - the author linked believes it should be first biracial President, when I really think about it, the statement is simply fact. It's our convoluted, socialized racial constructs that make it seem like a controversial thing to say. Because somehow we (many of us) perceive that to be a rejection of Blackness rather than an inclusion of Whiteness.

* I say non-biracial Blacks, because, lets face it, Blacks in America, specifically ones descended from slaves are not 100% Black.

** I absolutely HATE that word when used about Black people. It's so patronizing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Television Marathon Followed by Grading Marathon Reduces a Usually Somwhat-Agile Mind

I've been watching "The Wire," right?

And, I temporarily gave it up yesterday so that I can grade exams by Friday's due date.

So, I have "The Wire," provocative, clever, astounding, on one side of my brain, and students waxing-pretty-damn-poetic (on the limitations of the early Civil Rights Movement wrt women, the urban poor, etc. or the construction of race in the U.S. in the last 140 years or why black power was so threatening beyond, "OMG, scary black men with gunz!!!" or challenges African Americans face in the 21st century and how they are linked to the myriad issues we discussed this semester) on the other. And you know what I keep thinking?

I'd really, really like a doughnut. And not just any doughnut; a warm, way-too-sweet Krispy Kreme with hot chocolate or chocolate milk. I've even gone so far as to call to find out when will the hot sign be on again. However...

the temperature is 45 degrees and falling, with an expected low of 35.

You know how this dream ends, right? No doughnuts for me. No "The Wire" for me. Only essays stretching far into this cold, dark night.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Wire, III

Notice to all interested parties, one Idris Elba, aka Stringer Bell is now available again. I'm cutting him loose. I mean, I knew he was a criminal--though I know one of the points of this series is to show the thin line between "criminal," taken to mean "bad guy" and "authorities"--but some criminals, like Omar who prides himself on never killing "a citizen" (someone not involved in drugs), have a code. Stringer Bell is now dead to me--you don't kill someone's child then pretend you're her best friend and truly concerned. That is so low down and dirty!

Some things I've been meaning to comment on 1) the almost "casual" racism, sexism, and homophobia. Like, really, "cunt" and "nigger" and "faggot" and "Polack" can just fall out of people's mouths and the next moment, they're eating dinner or drinking or working with someone they've included in one of the slurs referenced above. The stevedores/longshoremen are perfect examples. I don't doubt that they love each other, have a strong bond, but I'm struck by their language.

ETA: And, Maurice Levy: If I knew someone like him, I would step in his face, using all my considerable weight and really, really high heels. But so much of that character is a grossly-caricatured, anti-Semitic stereotype--when Bri calls him "that Jew lawyer," I was like, "Damn, we get it!!!"

And references like "project niggers" and when Prez cracked the phone code used by the Barksdales--he knew it had to be easy because the black Barksdale gang wouldn't be able to use algebra or something he said.

Clear cases of exceptionalization I think--"the black people I work with/respect are not like those 'project niggers'"; Kima is a "cool" lesbian; Omar is gay, "but" he's tough as hell and has the aforementioned code. Jimmy McNulty's wife "Elena" is "different" from the other women he treats as if they are disposable.

2) The level of inner city violence. A shootout on a city street in daylight? Drug gangs "controlling" public housing? I knew, but didn't KNOW. Hell, I still don't know. I feel naive and frustrated. I'm most angry at the police and politicians who are willing to let the city die behind politics--really, is it that serious? There's so much more I could say here, but I'm just still taken aback.

3) The drinking. My God.

I made it through episode 10 of season two last night, slid the final disc, episodes 11 and 12, out of the sleeve and realized it was broken. Cracked from center to outside like a line of radius or something. If I could kick someone's ass at netflix, I would.

So, here's the plan. I go drop season two in the mailbox. I grudgingly rent the last disc of season two and the first two of season three at the video store. That will tide me over until the rest of season three and beginning of season four come on Wednesday. Ok, it won't, but I can't justify paying for netflix and making numerous trips to the video store. Ye old budget says no.

That's probably all I can do before the break--I have my last final tomorrow and grades are due the 19th, plus we have all the end-of-semester get-togethers and luncheons and stuff. I'm trying to figure out how to at least get the rest of season four to take home with me.

mrs. o says that we have to figure out a way to get whatever I need while I'm in Louisiana so that she finally has someone with whom she can discuss the show. For her, I'd be willing to buy the last season, except I really don't watch too many shows/movies after I've seen them once. Plus, no lie, Christmas has me on the verge of BROKE!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Wire, II

So you're all going to have to deal with my discovery of this show. Just pretend your head had been buried in the sand, too. On my last "The Wire" post, I drooled over Idris Elba and Sonja Sohn. Hagar's Daughter asked me about Omar Little, played by Michael K. Williams. I swear, I had just sent mrs. o this text message:
I know omar gotta die. I'm starting to love omar. Don't die, omar!!
And that heifa sent back:
Not going 2 tell u. But u will not like what happens...

No, really, I don't want to know. You should see me, wanting to look up all the characters, but scared to read too much on imdb or wikipedia.

I'm about to start season 2, episode 3. I'm not as into the dock/port stuff yet, but I am interested. mrs. o says the school system season is going to kill me.

Will update you at the end of season 2. And I don't mean to take props away from McNulty/Dominic West. He's a cutie, too--but Idris, Lord, Idris!!!

Thank You

We don't know if the donors came from this blog or from one of the other blogs that linked our request or simply from browsing the site, but mrs. o's proposal has been funded.

Thank you, so much.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Friday Morning, "I'm Cold!!!" Poem

The rest of my body knows
As I lay huddled
Under the covers
Trying to create
Trying to absorb
But my fingers
(They so often get me in trouble)
Wanted to rub
my cold nose
Wanted to stretch
They felt cramped
Wanted to glide
Across the keyboard,
More curious
than my cold nose
can be
So they crept up
Past the boundary
Of the sheets
Rubbed the cold away
Stretched sinuously
Typed quickly
Warmed, despite the room's
Then, as parts of me urged--
the shoulders now bared
and shivering
the arms
with hair on end
the nose
whose warmth was fleeting--
the fingers paused
slid away from the keyboard
grabbed the comforter
tugged it gently
re-created the cocoon

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Wire

Started watching "The Wire" this morning a little after midnight. At 7:14, I could no longer hold my eyes open. I paused near the end of episode 7.

Why didn't y'all tell me it was instantly addictive? I'm scared! B/c I could only get Season I, Discs 1-4 on netflix (I still had one film checked out, so disc 5 is at the top of my queue), if I sit here and finish discs 3 and 4, I won't know how the season ends until Saturday or Monday (if I send netflix back today, they'll send more out tomorrow). I can't take it!

I guess I could pay my late charge at the video store and get the last disc and the first disc of season two. Will that tide me over til Saturday? Who knows???

A quote from the text I sent my friends and sister this morning, begging them not to call me because I was finally going to sleep:
And, oh, Idris Elba could make me agree to have sex again!
His tall drink of water ass in glasses or jeans? Oh. My. God.

And I've always seen him playing an American.* I just watched a video clip of him speaking with his British accent. I want to cry.

ETA: And I always heard about Felicia Pearson (admittedly bad-girl sexy). No one told me about Sonja Sohn--around episode four or five when we first see her with her hair down... Yeah, I'm loving this show.
*ETA: I lied; How can I forget watching "Sometimes in April?"

Poetic Justice?



Not sure what you call this:

Accused Drunken Driver Ends Up Running Over Self

Kinda old, but I hadn't seen it, and I was struck by it (pardon the pun) to say the least.

Further evidence of why you drinking should be done in moderation:

Man Arrested After Walking into Sheriff´s Office Drunk

Of all the places to stumble into when you're drunk! And that article actually contains the following:
He dropped to the floor and refused to move. At that point, a deputy used a taser on Blevins. He then was willing to comply with deputies.
Really? Wonder why he changed his mind?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How the Economic Crisis Affects Two Families

To say that I was pissed when I saw, over at Shakesville, that Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly posited that much of the economic crisis is negative spin, the product of a liberal media conspiracy, would be a gross understatement. I called mrs. o and asked her to help me tell the story of how the "imaginary" crisis is taking a not-so-imaginary toll on our families.

These stories overlap, because we share some relatives and some of our family members work(ed) at the same places.

As background, some significant layoffs and shutdowns have occured in north Louisiana in the last few months. Most devastating for my home town/parish has been the economic trouble that has shaken Pilgrim's Pride, which has filed bankruptcy. Once the largest employer in Union County, AR and Union Parish, LA, Pilgim's Pride has had to scale back dramatically. For our families, that has meant:

My mother lost her job after 23 years.

My brother lost his job after 19 years.

My cousin, Tesha, a single mom of two, lost her job after eight years.

mrs. o's aunt lost her job after almost 20 years.

mrs. o's husband has faced serious cutbacks--he was off every Wednesday for a while.

My mother is more fortunate than some--my father receives social security/retirement payments and 90% disability payments from the VA. They own their house. Her utilities will be paid. She wants another job, but she has a high school education and spent most of her working life doing unskilled labor. She is 59 years old.

But for the others, the picture is even more grim. Losing their jobs means the loss of income for families who were living paycheck to paycheck. If you were already "behind" because of hard times, this can spell disaster. It takes a few weeks to get unemployment payments. And when those run out, where do unskilled, but "young"-enough-to-work people in area that already had little job opportunity go?

Losing the job also means losing health insurance. My mom worries about how she will afford medicine and regular doctor visits--she is largely healthy, but she is diabetic and has had some heart issues.

My brother has six children, four of whom still depend on him for health insurance. His ex-wife is an LPN who is struggling to make ends meet and is providing most of the financial care for their granddaughter. My oldest niece (just 21) is already working two jobs to help her mom. My brother's layoff means my ex-sister-in-law will, for a while, lose the child support benefits for her youngest two kids, worsening their situation. It also means that when he does secure another job, he will be behind on his payments.

My present sister-in-law is a self-employed hairstylist who does not have health insurance and who is facing the very real fact that salon appointments quickly shift from "necessity" to "luxury" in times like these.

mrs. o is a veteran teacher who has some job security, true. But keep in mind, she is working in one of the lowest paid parishes in the state. She and her husband are buying a home and have two young children as well as a college-age son for whom they still provide some support. Things are tight, even when her husband can get in a 40-hour week. They will lose income in at least two ways if he loses his job, because it will be much more expensive for her to insure the family through hers.

The long term outlook is not all-positive, either. mr. o has been unable to match Pilgrim's Pride deposits into his 401(k), meaning that he has been unable to save much towards retirement. That problem has been compounded by the loss of value of the 401(k) (in part, mrs. o says, because Pilgrim's Pride invested in its own stock which plunged this year). If he had retired 16 months ago, he would have received $303 a month. According to a statement he received last week, that amount has dropped to $35, after 14 years working for the company.

And, the security of mrs. o's job is not written in stone. The parish has been plagued by underperforming schools and a lack of money to run the schools. One local paper observed a few months ago:
Currently, [the school board superintendent] said the school district receives $3,855 per student, which amounts to $296,835 at [mrs. o's school]. It currently costs $600,000 to run [mrs. o's school].

It represents a significant operating loss for a school district, which is already financially strapped.
So there is talk of consolidation, of shutting some schools down, of reducing staff. Again, mrs. o has some security because of her master's degree and her time in the district, but little is certain.

The school situation renders my sister's position much more tenuous. With one year of service under her belt in the parish, she is the new kid on the block, worried about being "the last hired, first fired." She and mrs. o have both begun looking at other districts, but my sister has an even greater sense of urgency.

In the months since her fiance lost his job, he has only been able to find work through temporary agencies. For now, most of the financial responsibility for their household and the kids falls on her. She has taken an afternoon job through a tutorial program. Working two jobs and mothering an eight-year-old who's struggling with school this year and a seven-month-old who is a little busybody takes its toll. My mother helps with childcare and chores that can be done out-of-the-home (e.g. washing), but my sister is still tired and worried.

There have been a number of bankruptcies filed in mrs. o's and my families this year, but widespread relief has yet to be felt.

These are our lives right now. There's nothing "spun" or "manufactured" about them.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Now We Can Get Back to Wholesome, All-American Barbie!

***All bolding-for-emphasis is mine***

I'm not particularly upset that the outcome of Barbie Doll-maker Mattel's lawsuit is that a judge has ordered the competing Bratz doll line to discontinue production, except for the effect this will have on the people who work for MGA. I do believe Bratz represent a highly-sexualized image not necessarily appropriate for young girls and I'm not a big fan of "fashion" dolls period.

But it's not just the clothes and lip gloss that appealed to millions of girls.

Wikipedia describes them as having "almond-shaped eyes" and "lush... lips." Here are some images:

Images from here

According to Fara Warner:
If Barbie® were a real woman, she would stand 6 foot 2 and most likely would be unable to stand because of her tiny waist and large bust. By contrast, if Bratz™ were real girls, they would stand about 5 foot 6 and sport bodies that look more like entertainers Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez
My point is, that Bratz did not look like white-Barbie dyed light- or dark-brown, and that is definitely part of their appeal:
“Barbie® did advance as women advanced. She had a doctor’s outfit, she went into space. But she was still blonde and blue-eyed when a majority of girls in the U.S. and the world were not.
Focusing on the fact that these dolls are multicultural does lead to more troubling questions though:

1) Why did the manufacturer feel the need to dress and adorn these dolls in this way?

2) Have people (particularly moms) explored why it's so easy to call these dolls (dolls, for god's sake!) "freakish" and "hookers" and "slutz" and "trampy"?

The Bratz are market successes because they rely on stereotypes about "ethnic" women: they are sexy (and sexual) and made cutting-edge/trendy by their "exoticness" and their adherence to an alternative/rebellious counterculture (in this case, largely hip-hop).

Ironically, these are the exact reasons Bratz are repudiated. This mom, for example, was appalled by the "vinyl whores" who, when compared to Barbie had "less boobs, more junk in the trunk."

I am also bothered when people posit Barbie or Disney Princesses* as more "acceptable" alternatives. In a 2002 Detroit Free Press Article, Ellen Creager** claimed that "Barbie's" attempts to cash in on the Bratz appeal (discussed further down) besmirched her:
Mattel Inc.'s new My Scene Barbie has a big head, pouty pink lips, skimpy jeans and a navel-baring wardrobe worthy of an MTV diva.

But if ruining her reputation is what it takes to win back girls older than 7, Barbie's more than willing.

"The dolls are more reality-based," Mattel spokesman Ria Freydl said. "A girl can really relate to them."

Sure, if she's Christina Aguilera.
And, says Margaret Talbot,
You could never imagine a Bratz doll assuming any of the dozens of careers Barbie has pursued over the decades: not Business Executive or Surgeon or Summit Diplomat -- not even Pan Am Flight Attendant or Pet Doctor. Bratz girls seem more like kept girls... Whereas Mattel’s Scothon likes to talk about Barbie’s "aspirational" qualities -- how she might inspire "a girl to run for President and look good while she was doing it" -- [Bratz creator Isaac] Larian prefers to talk about "fashion and fantasy" and what’s "cute."
Ah, yes, Barbie, the feminist fashion doll!

Barbie and the Disney Princesses are just as problematic as Bratz, and Barbie, with her previously-impossible measurements and adherence to the blonde-blue-eyed-white-woman-as-THE-ideal is just as sexualized. For how many years did she play nurse to Ken's doctor, ahem?

But her sexualization is more acceptable--largely because it is cloaked beneath white skin and presumed to be reserved for one man. Barbie has been critiqued plenty, we all know. The basis of some of that criticism was her early devotion to the "cult of domesticity." The culmination of Barbie's life was to be marriage, in which she would reap the awards of her physical attractiveness--being "taken care of," having dreamhouses and luxury cars.

Contrast that to the basis for much of the Bratz criticism. Bratz detractors claim they "look ready to stand on a street corner." Now, a cynic like me would point out that these critiques have something in common; both imply that a message is being relayed to girls to rely on their looks and their bodies to get money from men for survival. The difference is, one way is idealized--long defined as normative--and the other, criminalized, classified as deviant. Thus, while Barbie is "despised by feminists and child educators for being a tool of racism and sexism, and a contemporary epitome of the cult of thinness," she is "idolized... as a model of aesthetic perfection and a cultural icon of heterosexual femininity."

(Speaking of "Barbie vs. Bratz," isn't it amazing how "disputes" between even fictional women can be cast as catfights? LOL/sob.)

And Disney, with its dead mother/evil stepmother issues and "aspire to be a princess who needs to be rescued by others!" isn't exactly the company I want shaping my goddaughters' world views.

Please don't think Mattel is overly concerned with protecting children from The Menace of the Bratz!! They tried to cash in on the Bratz's success with their ill-fated "Flava" line, viewed as offensive by many.

And what do you think MyScene Barbies are all about?

Barbie was no longer queen of the fashion doll circuit, so Mattel had to do something.

Look, in the interests of fairness, all I want are a few things:

1) I want psychologists, after YEARS of feminist critiques, to think about why they aren't as alarmed about Barbie as they are about Bratz.

2) I want mothers who point out the "vacancy" of the Bratz's lives to fashion a similar critique about the MyScene dolls who are, according to their website, primarily concerned with fab faces, shopping, and bling.

3) I want people to analyze why a doll based on a German "sex doll" who once opined that "Math class is tough!" and came with a weight loss guide that advised, "Don't Eat" is THE model for "fashion" dolls. (That's a bit rhetorical, huh?).

Seriously, Bratz did not spring from nowhere. Little girls get messages everyday about how the most important aspect of their person is physical beauty, about how women LOVE to shop and put on makeup. As I've been Christmas shopping for my six-year-old goddaughter, I've seen sweaters with feathered necks and fronts (Bratz are trashed for their feather boas), ultra-skinny jeans, high heels, lip gloss and manicure sets, and enough sparkles and glitter to decorate a high school prom.

The Bratz aren't some anomaly. They are reflective of much about our culture and pulling them off the shelves won't change the root problems. And the whole suggestion that Barbie is somehow a more-acceptable-tool-of-the-patriarchy is weird to me (and sorta misses the point, doesn't it?). How much of our problem with Bratz comes from the fact that this particular cultural reflection comes in different "packaging?"
*Guess which Disney Princess the Hot Air blogger's daughter has a problem with? Jasmine, cuz she kissed Aladdin and she wasn't married!! Slutty brown girl!

**"Barbie Bares Her Belly to Compete with Bratz," 27 November 2002.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Teh Cuteness, It Burns!!

This just might be my favorite pic of Deuce so far, post-lunch.

Sleeping it off.

With Coti

With Shaquille

Sunday, December 07, 2008

How Not to Teach Middle Schoolers about the Middle Passage

When I took an African American literature class as an undergrad, my teacher tried to demonstrate to us physically the nature of the middle passage. Nothing in a well-lit, comfortably-temperatured university classroom can suffice, but she tried anyway.

She had all of us who would gather into a corner and move closer and closer to each other until the girl nearest to the wall asked that we stop. Many of us were visibly shaken, unable to put words to our feelings when the professor asked.

It was a voluntary activity and I still have mixed feelings about it (she did not tell us that we would be closing in on ourselves).

And we were, in terms of age, adults.

k8 sent me this article about a similarly-minded teacher of middle-school children:
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A white social studies teacher attempted to enliven a seventh-grade discussion of slavery by binding the hands and feet of two black girls, prompting outrage from one girl's mother and the local chapter of the NAACP. After the mother complained to Haverstraw Middle School, the superintendent said he was having "conversations with our staff on how to deliver effective lessons."

"If a student was upset, then it was a bad idea,"* said Superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District in New York City's northern suburbs.

There are so many levels of wrong in this that I won't pretend that I can address or even see them all. It's not a matter of being age inappropriate (my point above was that I don't know if such activities are appropriate for any age in a classroom setting). But I am struck by the fact that the teacher called on two teenagers, two girls who, like so many teenagers, may have been inordinately self-conscious of being the center of their classmates' attention in what they perceived as a negative light.

And then she thought it was okay to BIND them. To tie their hands and feet. With apparently no thought of how traumatic that may have been, no knowledge of any experiences these girls may have had that BINDING them might trigger, no thought to how absolutely powerless and vulnerable and scared it makes you feel when some one else strips you of the ability to control or move your own body.

She also did not think about what these girls' perception of slavery was. So many black people are taught that it was shameful for slaveowners and the enslaved. That the whole identity of our ancestors was subsumed by the designation "slave," because so much of that history comes from the slaveowners. That there must have been no pride, no dignity, no agency, no self-definition.

And always, beneath the surface, is an unspoken accusation of almost-complicity--that people of African descent accepted slavery and the Jim Crow aftermath meekly until the 1950s. One of my comps questions was about the "lack" of what would commonly be called slave uprisings. One of my white male students in my African American history class asked me, when we discussed Redemption, "Why didn't black people do something, stand up for themselves?" and none of my responses was enought to change his opinion or stop the dismissive shake of his head.

I have heard black people my whole life say, "I couldn't have lived back then, because I would have..." We are ashamed because we were taught the "happy darkies working in the field and being beneficently cared for" lie so long. We are also taught that our "honorable" history begins and ends with the Civil Rights Movement.

And she asked those girls to assume all of that in a classroom:
On Nov. 18, [Eileen] Bernstein was discussing the conditions under which African captives were taken to America in slave ships. She bound the two students' hands and feet with tape and had them crawl under a desk to simulate the experience.
If her point is to teach that the middle passage was devastatingly traumatic, why would she want middle-schoolers to re-enact it?
*Emphasis mine, because I didn't realize there was a correlation between students' " upsetness" and the determination of whether or not something is a "bad idea."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Movie Question

I decided last night to order "The Wire," beginning with season one.

No, I've never seen it, not one episode.

But hold your gasps until I ask my question for the weekend!

"The Wire" isn't the only apparently huge hole in my tv/film life. My students were shocked, SHOCKED!! that I have seen none of the "Star Wars," "E.T.," or "Indiana Jones" films.

Off the top of my head, also unseen: "Boyz in the Hood" (I pieced that together from various clips and people's stories of the film), "Do the Right Thing," any "American Pie," "Citizen Kane," "Rocky I through MMXLV" or whatever, "Love Jones" which I began and couldn't get into, to be honest, "Love and Basketball" in sequential order, "Fatal Attraction," "Gone with the Wind" (don't want to), any episode of "Grey's Anatomy," or "Lost" and I'm stopping there, whew.

So what's the gaping hole in your motion picture repertoire?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Movie Day

You know, I usually observe my hallowed Friday evenings with a book, a good dinner, and alcohol.

Tonight, however, I want to go to the movies. Because of recent, juvenile company, I have seen Madagascar 2 and Bolt. My son and I went to see Twilight. The only movies I want to see are Milk and Cadillac Records.

I read wonderful reviews for Milk, then found out it wasn't playing here. I'm about desperate enough to ask them to arrange a private screening in my garage or something.

I live 20+ miles from the historically black section of town, a fact that has been made painfully obvious to me by 1) The search for a barber and hair stylist 2) The search for a church for my mom to attend on my birthday 3) The fact that Cadillac Records is not playing anywhere within 12 miles of my house (and I live less than half a mile from one theater), even at theaters with 20+ screens! Can't decide if I'm motivated to drive that far in the cold (don't ask; it makes sense in my head).

My son votes for Punisher or Transporter. I am glad votes don't count in the U.S. until one is 18.

Any suggestions?

O.J. Simpson

My brother just called to tell me to watch O.J.'s sentencing on ESPN. Listening to the analysis afterwards, I think they're saying he will spend about ten years in prison.

I do not care much for Mr. Simpson. I think he is an abusive, arrogant ass who got away with murder.

But one of the first things that ran through my mind was, "Is this a case of, if at first you don't succeed..."

Did you know Sean Avery's horrible, sexist comments about Elisha Cuthbert are best described euphemistically as "off-color" and "not eloquent?" I heard that on ESPN, as well.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

C'mon, Muse

I really need to write something substantial...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

To Heat or Not to Heat

As noted myriad times before, I am a southern girl who thinks cold weather is defined as temperatures below 65 degrees F. I loathe the cold.

The crunch of the ground under my constricting boots.

The chilly winds that whip around with no care given to my hair or, more interestingly, my skirt.

The moments spent in agony during the dash outside to crank the car and/or remove ice from the windshield.

The fetal position assumed as a miserable, protective ball against an insufficiently warmed car or to avoid the nether regions of cold sheets.

The slick slip across ice of a certain already clumsy sistorian.

The aching, forgot-my-gloves hands.

The awkward, shivery dance done to ward off cruel temperatures while waiting outside.

I resist it as long as possible, but the time came, on Sunday night when I could resist no more.

I lay curled in bed, my feet little more than ice blocks, my nose feeling nipped by that damnable Jack Frost. I was so cold, so devoid of any modicum of real or artificial warmth that I could not sleep. It was time, part of me figured, to turn on the heater.

But the heater means warmth that dries out your nose and roughens your throat.

The heater means waking up in a restrictive jumble of bedclothes.

The heater means sweat on my neck and scalp and behind my knees.

The heater means "Good-bye, $96.11 electric bill!"

The heater is a poor substitute for autumn.

But I dragged my ice-blocks across the floor and switched it on. By the time I made it back to bed, I scented the ominous stench of heater-not-used-in-a-while. It smelled as if it were on fire. I was too peeved--and, well, too cold--to turn it off. Instead, I plotted how my son and I could land, relatively unscathed, should we have to escape fire through second floor windows.

Then, the smell subsided. And the warmth began. Glorious, defrost your feet, stretch your legs into the cold, dark regions of your sheets, lift your head from the cocoon of the comforter, warmth.

I sighed and slept.

And I remembered that nothing, not the hurried morning shower to wash away night sweat, not the half-assed flat-ironing of tangled, damp-at-the-roots hair, not the extra minute to toss Hall's honey-lemon drops into my bookbag and load sheets into the washer, lessens the satisfaction of smacking winter's creepy, icy fingers away from a newly-warmed body.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Donors Choose

I learned, via Kevin, I believe, that a number of black bloggers were highlighting/sponsoring high-poverty public school classrooms listed with I wanted to participate and decided to get my two favorite teachers, mrs. o and my sister, to describe the needs of their own high-poverty classrooms.

mrs. o created a proposal here. If you would consider donating to her class, you'd be helping with the following:
I need basic supplies such as pencils, pens, paper, graph paper, and such. We are tutoring for state testing trying to get ready for benchmark tests, and I did not have enough pencils. I had to buy some to help my students. With these supplies they can focus more on achieving success rather than worrying about how am I going to take my tests and do homework or worrying about not having paper to write on... I am so hopeful that you will donate to my school. Making a difference in my children's lives would mean so much to them and myself.
Her initial request was for $468. If people will donate just $234, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match that.

My sister hasn't finished yet, but I know her kindergartners do a lot of computer work on two very old computers. I think she's leaning toward writing a proposal for a (relatively inexpensive) computer and/or age appropriate learning software. She bought a printer herself this weekend. I'll post as soon as she has her proposal up.

Please, please consider giving to this cause.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

working on my blogroll... blogrolling seems to be permanently out of commission.

My goal is to enter one section per day.

That's my goal. Ahem.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Three Years???!!!

Not to voice an oft-repeated cliche (is that redundant?--isn't "oft repeating" what makes something a cliche?), but I have no idea where the time has gone.

elle, abd/elle, phd is three years old today. It began as an attempt to catalogue my journey through grad school as a single mother and someone affected by and writing about oppression of women, people of color, and the poor. I have grown so much in three years--I think I've learned as much from other bloggers as I did from some grad classes.

One of the biggest benefits for me personally and academically has been the encouragement of critical analyses by radical WoC--particularly things that I wouldn't have necessarily thought fell within the scope of my narrowly defined conception of race, class, and gender, and the expansion of my work and my mind to examine other systems of oppression like heterosexism and ablism.

In many ways, I'm still learning, still struggling, still saying shit that makes me bite my lip and shake my head later (I want to erase so much of my archives as I re-read :-). I've become so discouraged with my ignorance that I've had to take time off to reassure myself this space is mine to make mistakes and show knowledge gaps and be flat-out wrong sometimes. I am always encouraged by a quote that BFP left for me once, from Maya Angelou--"You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." And I can comfort myself that this is true.

I finally feel as if so many things fit, in terms of my beliefs and politics and this blog gives me room to pursue my love of writing and my examination of self and the world at large.

I tried, so much as an adolescent and a young woman to keep a diary. And while this journal is not as unvarnished as a private one would be, it is still intensely personal, still full of my thoughts and dreams and fears and frustrations.

And I'm so proud that I've stuck with it.

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alice and Rebecca, Embracing the Complications

My blog is down again, and so I am here, at the lovely Ms. Elle's place, doing some ranting until I can move back into my place! ~~BFP

First a little background. The following posts are important to read so that you understand where I'm coming from:

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up: A question of Power

Walker on Michelle O. Or, the stupid job of First Lady
How my mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart

Ok. You with me? For those of you without the patience to sit and sort through the above links: here is the short version of a long story. Alice Walker and her daughter, Rebecca Walker do not get along. In fact, from what I can tell, they are estranged. Rebecca Walker details her end of the relationship here. As far as I know, Alice Walker has not spoken specifically on her relationship with Rebecca, but as anybody who has read her work knows, Alice has talked about being a mother, many times in highly complicated and negative ways, just as Rebecca has talked about being a daughter to a feminist mother in highly complicated and negative ways.

Ok, having laid the framework for this discussion down, I want to bring in the third player. The one who said:

It’s hard not to read a major Oedipal* subtext to Rebecca Walker’s work. It ain’t hard to link the distancing from feminism in her writing to her struggles with her mother, Alice. This dynamic was obvious in a recent column for The Root about Michelle Obama.


Of course this hasn’t hurt Walker’s career, since the powers that be are always delighted to give an anti-feminist woman, better yet an anti-feminist black woman, plenty of airtime. It’s too bad, though, because there are interesting things to say about Michelle Obama. I think Michelle Obama is the bomb and I loved it that she was quoted immediately after the election saying she’d be working to raise awareness of the struggles of working moms. And damn is it something fine to see a gorgeous, regal black woman as First Lady of the United States of America.

Before I go on, I want to point out--what the woman who wrote this said about the Walker relationship is not new. If you look back through the course of Rebecca's online time, you find that she's gotten a *lot* of this response to her writing: "I know you don't like your mother, but that's no reason to talk bad about feminists." Or, "Rebecca is everything that's wrong with the third wave of feminism--they're all a bunch of petulant children who hate that they're not as good as their mothers." Or, "it's great that Rebecca can make a name off of bashing the only reason anybody even knows her." etc etc etc etc.

So, seeing as the previous passage is simply another chord in a previously played song, I don't want to focus specifically on the blogger in question.

Rather instead, I want to focus on a few more general things. General things like, 1. Why is it so easy to dismiss a woman of color who says she's been hurt by feminism? 2. Why is it that a woman of color says she's been hurt by feminism and suddenly it doesn't matter *what* she writes about, the only thing people can associate with her is her 'angry' 'bitter' 'resentful' 'jealous' and 'ranting' against feminism? and 3. Why is it that it's so fucking easy to take two really complicated and painful interactions with motherhood written by women of color and strip the complicated and painful down to 'bitter' and 'jealous'?

Why is it so easy to dismiss a woman of color who says she's been hurt by feminism?

Rebecca Walker is not the first woman of color to say that she's not only ambivalent about feminism, but that feminism has hurt her, deeply and powerfully, in ways that many women simply can't or refuse to understand. She's pointing to reasons that are much different than the reasons I'd point to--but she's saying the same thing that I've said and that historically, MANY women of color have said. And she's being treated in the same way most, if not all of us have been treated. Completely ignored, infantilized, cast aside, ridiculed and outright rejected.

Having been on the receiving end of this treatment, it's hard not to notice how many *white* women are treated when they voice similar problems with feminism as a whole. They get whole books written to them in their 'language' in an attempt to reach out to them. They get linked on their mother's blogs, even though they say exactly the same thing women of color say:

Then there’s Erica Jong, well-known novelist and advocate of what Shalit describes as “the concept of a random, guilt-free sexual encounter between strangers.” Jong’s now-grown daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, tried that lifestyle and found it utterly unsatisfying. The sad thing is, she tells Shalit, “You’re not allowed to admit that [promiscuity] just doesn’t work.” Though devoted to her mother, Molly is “embarrassed” by Erica’s writings and says to Shalit, “I was sold a bad bill of goods.” Well, their kids ought to know.

Is this anything different than what Rebecca Walker has said? What's up with that difference in how white women and women of color are treated for expressing the same thing? What does it mean? What does the difference stem from? Is there something wrong with feminism that white daughters are embraced and recognized as valuable enough to keep reaching out to, but colored daughters are written off? Does it speak to the values of feminism?

2. Why is it that a woman of color says she's been hurt by feminism and suddenly it doesn't matter *what* she writes about, the only thing people can associate with her is her 'angry' 'bitter' 'resentful' 'jealous' 'ranting' against feminism?

Count the number of times Rebecca Walker mentions her mother in that essay about Michelle Obama. The answer? Zero. She instead talks about the passionate discussion that her and other women had about a passionate woman and how she still had thoughts about that discussion. When I read her post, I felt excited and vaguely jealous because I wanted to be a part of that discussion.

But for some reason, when other people read that post (or, frankly, anything written by Rebecca), all they can see is some "Oedipal complex" playing itself out in some sort of vain obnoxious way.

Is it reflective of feminism that a woman who voices objection to it becomes known for those objections rather than her complicated, interesting, passionate debates that have almost nothing to do with her fight with feminism? Is it reflective of feminism that with few exceptions the woman who becomes entrenched in feminist history as existing almost exclusively as a reactionary force of violence and hate against 'real feminists' is a woman of color?

What does it say about feminism that this pattern keeps repeating itself?


Why is it that it's so fucking easy to take two really complicated and painful interactions with motherhood written by women of color and strip the complicated and painful down to 'bitter' and 'jealous'?

I'm going to be forthright here in how I understand both Rebecca and Alice's relationship with motherhood/daughterhood. I get both of them. I am a daughter who would never ever in a million years make the same decisions my own mother did, because I disagree with them that forcefully. I am also a mother who has made decisions that I know hurt my baby girl because they were the only decision I *could* make and stay alive. I am so beyond grateful to Alice Walker for writing Meridian, and pointing out the conflict of my life: what do you do when you figure out you never wanted to be a damn mother to begin with?

I am also so beyond grateful to Rebecca Walker for writing the other conflict of my life: what do you do when you figure out you never wanted to be a mother, but now that you are, you would rather cut off your own hand than hurt your child the way you were hurt?

What do you do with the love you have for your mother, the anger you have, that seems to simultaneously show itself in your relationship with your own child?

What Alice and Rebecca Walker talk about is not easy. It's not fun, it's, more often than not, completely painfully devastating--almost exclusively because there are no easy answers. Both of them are right. A woman has a right to not be tied down or defined by marriage or child rearing. A child has a right to be raised (and a right to *expect* to be raised) by a mother, not a friend or hired help. And yet, somehow, the painful brutal conflict that Alice and Rebecca discuss is so very easily reduced to "Oedipal conflict."

Why is that?

Is it a reflection of feminism that two women of color who are complicated, nuanced, painfully truthful, and committed to 'the personal is political' can be so easily reduced to squabbling children?

Is it a reflection of feminism that opportunities to self reflect and critically examine what feminism has done, what it's achieved, what it's screwed up, what it still needs to figure out, are considered male identified hate attacks rather than opportunities to become bigger, stronger, more beneficial to more women?

Is it a reflection of feminism that "feminism" as a whole seems to hold itself accountable to pretty much--well--nobody?

That it's simply another trick that people get to use however they see fit to achieve whatever they want?

Because I think that's what so many find so offensive about Rebecca's writing--that she's asking exactly what so many other women, and specifically women of color have asked for-- accountability. Feminism as a whole is demanding things that many women haven't asked for, and is insisting that it is doing it in their names. But when those women demand accountability, when those women say, not in my name, or what were you thinking, or you hurt me--then, suddenly the fun game is up. Then suddenly, the hard work of *movement making* is sitting and staring feminism as a whole in the face. And feminism as a whole refuses to admit--it isn't really sure what the hell to do.

There are many reasons for this, I think--but the biggest one is then women would have to sit down and admit, really admit--feminism is in the process of failing. Failing itself, failing women, failing girls-- but who wants to deal with that when there are more fun things to do like get Hillary into office and write books?

And if we can reduce Rebecca Walker to a whiny petulant brat, keep Alice Walker on a throne instead of in a painful dialogue, feminism can achieve that super fun dream.

But as somebody who will never again call herself a feminist and now approaches most, if not all of "feminism" with caution and trepidation--I have to say--You'd think that the lives of women would mean more to a movement that claims to care about women.

Wouldn't you?
Shouldn't you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday To Someone Special

I have been best friends with Elle for the last 29 years of my life. In that time span, she has been my rock through every storm I have ever dealt with in my life. As she celebrates another great year on this earth, I wish her all the best this world has to offer because no one deserves it better!

Best Birthday Present Ever!

auntie elle & DEUCE!!!

My family made it here yesterday! We met in Houston and had a late lunch with Kim before driving back here. My mother and sister are cooking a soul food dinner for us and I'm going make myself a cake.

Happy birthday, me!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Fat Hatred, Emotional Blackmail, and a God-Complex Meet...

... you get this result as evidenced by the story below, taken from an issue of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, dated 23 July 1960. Without further comment:

Man, Wife Lose Weight in Order to Adopt Baby Girl

LOS ANGELES (AP) Months of rigid dieting paid off Friday for an overweight man and wife when they gained permission to adopt a 1-year-old girl they have raised from birth:

After shedding 159 pounds between them, they vowed to keep on dieting “until we get down to a decent size.”

“I’m too happy to say anything,” said Mrs. Bernice Sherman, 37, as she blinked back tears after a closed hearing in which Superior Judge Ben Koenig approved the adoption.

“It was a long struggle,” concluded her husband, Frank, 39, “but it paid off,”

Three months ago, Koenig ordered the Shermans… to show they could lose more weight before he would allow them to keep the child.

They weighed 320 and 250 pounds then and had been watching calories since last November 27, when they weighed 369 and 281. After hearing Koenig’s ruling they stepped up their dieting.

At Friday’s court session, Sherman, a truck driver, weighed 277 and his wife 214. Between them they had lost 79 pounds since April alone.

“We make no further objections to this adoption,” announced Walter A. Heath, director of the adoption bureau, His agency had opposed their petition to adopt little Janet when they came before him April 8.

The Shermans were told then because of their excess weight they “might not live to be good parents.” But a doctor examined them and said they both were healthy, and “they could outlive us all.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gearing up for the Holidays

Deuce, with Alex, in Coti's hat

Two days before he turns seven months old and one week until I see him!! I am so ready for my Deucie-Deucie-Fat-and-Juicy (and yes, I call him that in my head, for real).

Anyway, the time between now and January 2 will pass in a busy blur (hopefully, a pleasant, busy blur) for me with Thanksgiving, finals, graduation, archive visit, Christmas, and New Year's intoxication all looming. I'm currently getting ready for my mom, sister, brother and sister-in-law and kids for Thanksgiving. Hectic, but okay.

Anyway, are you celebrating Thanksgiving? If so, how? And, (the important question :-) what are you cooking??

Friday, November 14, 2008

Please Help Duanna Johnson's Family

Duanna Johnson's family needs assistance in paying for her funeral expenses. Background from Memphis Flyer via Lisa
Memphis police identified the body of transgender woman Duanna Johnson lying in the street near Hollywood and Staten Avenue early this morning.
Police believe Johnson was shot some time before midnight on Sunday. No suspects are in custody at this time.

Johnson was the victim of a Memphis police brutality case this summer when a video of former officer Bridges McRae beating her in a jail holding area was released to the media.
The video led to the eventual firing of McRae and Officer James Swain. It also led to the formation of a Stop Police Brutality Memphis, a coalition of human rights activists who lobbied the city council for more sensitivity training for Memphis Police officers.

A statement from the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center: "Duanna bravely confronted the Memphis Police Department officers who brutalized her while she was in police custody. At great personal cost, Duanna was the public face of our community's campaign against racism, homophobia, and transphobia. There was no justice for Duanna Johnson in life. The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center calls for justice in the investigation and prosecution of Duanna's murder."
For more on Johnson's beating, read the Flyer story. --Bianca Phillips
Jack has details on how to donate through the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. I've been seeing that the amount needed is around $1200. If we all could just donate a little bit, that shouldn't be too hard to raise. Please help!
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...