The Silence of Our Friends

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I think everyone here has some knowledge of internalized racism. Racism and white supremacy is so pervasive in our culture that it isn't surprising when people of color believe the lies and begin to think of white people as superior or more authoritative than themselves or other people of color. Many other POC before me have noted that "white" isn't a skin color, it's a state of mind that even brown skinned people can have.

The problem I am having is possibly internalized sexism. In much the same way as internalized racism, I think us women can buy into the anti-women ideas swirling around us every day and it manifests itself when you hear a woman blaming another for the violence inflicted on her by a man, or slut shaming coming from women, etc. I think that I may be doing something like this. I'm really not sure but am damned frustrated and have a feeling that it might be the reason I am completely flumoxxed and why this one woman and I are talking past each other. Because this is a private conversation, and I am not sure if she even wants to be a part of it anymore, I won't reveal who she is and will just give a synopsis of what I think is going on and what was said. Unfortunately this is only my point of view and I may mischaracterize what she is saying because I am only telling you what I believe she means and not what she knows she means. So bear with me, hopefully she will be willing to step in and set things straight if I am misreading her. Or at least tell me privately so that I can update the post.

Anyway the disagreement is over this post at Daisy's Dead Air about Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth. I happen to agree with Daisy that the probability is that Elizabeth is a trophy wife, and have seen the pattern often enough with celebrities and politicians so that I don't ignore it and automatically assume, gosh, must be true love! Nope, it's too incredible that these wealthy and/or powerful men just happen to fall in love with teh hawt young babes and never young but average, or their own age, or older. And why is it teh hawt babes never hook up with old nobodies?

I'm just so sick and tired of our "wink nod" culture, I've raised this point several times and really need to sit down and write a post about that. Be that as it may, I think sometimes the obvious, Occam's razor and all that, is just the obvious. As one who mostly thinks of herself as a feminist, yeah I got huge problems with what passes for feminism nowadays, but that's for another day, but on with a feminist, do we have to ignore the obvious to give other women the benefit of the doubt? To give them the best, least judgemental, motives for the things they do *wink nod*? And especially within the cultural context, because I don't have a problem with women who date/marry men they don't love but who give them something else they find important, but our culture certainly does, [sarcasm]damned golddiggers![/sarcasm] In fact, I think that all our chosen relationships are based on the idea that you are getting something from the other person, and they get something from you in return. Hopefully it's also true in the family you are born into, and that one of those things is love, but I know enough disfunctional families to know it isn't always true.

So there are two things going on in my mind. The first is, whatever floats your boat. If the young beauty wants money, fame or reflected glory, presige, social or political rank, hey that's up to her; and if the older dude wants his eye candy, fine. As long as they are both ok with it and happy, who am I to say any different? The second is, you don't get to a long term relationship or marriage without at least a minimum of compatibility, trust, and at least liking each other. But this is about the initial attraction, because I do think people filter out who they date based on certain characteristics they are looking for. And while on an individual level, whatever, if someone decides that something is right for them, it's no one else's place to tell them it's not; but I agree with Daisy that it is an indictment for our cultural and societal values when the priority in a list of attractions in general is youth and beauty for women, and wealth and power for men.

The point that the other woman makes is that you can't know what goes on between two people in a relationship, it is unfair to point fingers at specific people, although it is somewhat ok to notice a trend. But I think it's impossible to notice a trend without having many specific couples in mind, otherwise how is it a trend if it is some amorphous idea out there in the ether? Would it really be better if we had a hypothetical couple with over 30 years in age difference between them, but the dude is a national political figure, running for president, seems like a nice guy, has some great ideas and a good mind, looks like an old leprechaun, and the woman looks like a model, probably a very nice person and is liberal minded. So yeah, compatible politically. Now the question for you, do you think the model who is compatible politically with the old leprechaun would still be with him if he was a Wal-Mart greeter? The answer is, of course she would! As soon as she laid eyes on him she heard the strings section swelling and felt all swoony and once she knew he had the same political views it was all over, no way his prominence in national politics had anything to do with it. *wink nod*

Christ on a bicycle. Marla Maples fell in love with the hair. Anna Nicole Smith had a thing for skinny bald dudes. Monica Lewinsky likes cigar games, it doesn't matter if the guy is president, he could be a clerk in the mailroom and she'd still want to mess up that blue dress.

And you just know if these women were the same age, maybe even older than the men, and average, maybe a little homely, it wouldn't have mattered one bit to the men. It's their minds, and spirits, and gumption that lured the men in!

Ok now I'm getting facial tics from all that winking and my head wants to fall off from all that nodding. Enough with the frustrated anger and sarcasm.

Part of the issue is that it is unfair to use these examples as an example of a wider trend, not just of politicians and celebrities. It's unfair because many of us have been involved in May/December romances and it does not fit this pattern. Yes, but sometimes it does, there wouldn't be the cliche of the man running off from his family with the young beautiful secretary if it wasn't so common. Now maybe I'm not feeling the indictment when Daisy talks about this because although I did date a man 14 years older than me, but both of us drove junkers and had shit jobs, we met because we had mutual friends, we mostly hung out with those mutual friends who didn't bat an eyelash at the two of us dating. He was also at least as attractive in the conventional sense as I was. He was also single, I didn't "steal" him from his wife or older girlfriend. There was so many differences from the cliche that I never felt defensive or felt like anyone was judging us. Maybe if he was wealthy and had a nice car, and he was homely and looked especially old next to me, we would have gotten those stares, and I would have felt like I had to justify our relationship. So yeah, I get that, the unfairness of being stereotyped because this damned shit is so common! But that is the problem for me, that is where I am stuck. I am being told that I should play stupid and not notice how common it is, because there is that 5 or 10% who don't fit the stereotype, or assume that young beautiful women who wind up with politicians and celebrities are doing it for the truest of true love, and those old guys are loving their models for their minds, and I can't!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Even More FFF

Hugo Schwyzer has a new post up, he admits that he didn't mention the "controversy" surrounding the book to his class, and thinks it would be a good learning tool, and is asking for help and direction in creating materials. If you are so inclined, head on over and offer some suggestions.

What got my attention is that the post sounds like he took to heart the things that "Jessica" said in my last post. Now many other people said the same exact things before I wrote that last night, so he may have gotten the idea elsewhere, but in the back of my mind I am crediting "Jessica". I wonder if he got a glimpse of the unfairness in the split second he really thought it was Jessica and took the criticism seriously, then realized, no it's just a WOC. Why is the same exact thing said by a white person more authoritative than said by a woman (or man) of color?

You may think I am gloating and crowing over this little bit of trickery I may have pulled off. You'd be wrong. I was crying over it. The beautiful soaring voices of my brothers and sisters are almost always only heard by those of us also in the choir. The congregation we want to reach is snoring in the pews with their ear plugs firmly in place. That hurts. It hurts alot.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More on Full Frontal Feminism

Hugo Schwyzer decided to add Full Frontal Feminism to his syllabus this semester. He enjoyed the book, thought it had some value and would be relevant to his students. He strongly disagreed with the few less than laudatory reviews especially the one written by BlackAmazon.

Now that the semester is coming to an end, Hugo asked his students what their opinions were on the book, and has a post up about their responses. There are several things problematic about the post, and on going discussions regarding that are: BrownFemiPower's - Teaching Full Frontal Feminism, BlackAmazon's - I Really Tried, Crip Chick's - BA and BFP Always Get Me Going, and Sylvia/M's - Studying Women: A Mirrorless Act.

What interested and amazed me was Jessica Valenti's response to Hugo's post:
"Don't do this, Hugo. You are pitting the women of color in your classroom against women of color in the blogosphere. It's unfair on several levels. First, there is the strawman argument you are setting up, none of the women of color online who critiqued the book ever said that no women of color would ever like the book. Second you are filtering the responses of your students through your own biases in favor of my book. It would have been fairer for you to send your students directly to BlackAmazon, Sylvia/M, and Petit Poussin's blogs to have a conversation with those women about their impressions of the book. Although I couldn't say it at the time, there was a prototypical young woman I wanted to address with my books, it's the sorority girl who might eventually become the Republican voting soccer mom. That is the audience who will find the book relevant and it will have limited relevance to women of color, Christian, working class, disabled, non-American women. You should also consider a few other factors, is it possible that your students will be influenced by your enthusiasm for the book, as well as the inequality in a teacher-student relationship and vulnerability the student may feel when disagreeing? They may also be reacting to a preference to conversational tone compared to the dry reading of academic texts, and many other books contain no mention of women of color at all, they may be grateful that I included them in even the limited way that Full Frontal Feminism does."

Yeah, right. Did you really think she would ever say anything like that? I would bet that at least half the white people who read that will be more inclined to consider the points while they thought it was coming from a white person. Many others would still push back since it's favorable to women of color, I say this with Amanda's apology for the burka incident in mind, when her white fans were quick to tell her that she was wrong to apologize or show consideration for WOC. Anti-racism gets lip service only from the major white feminist bloggers and that's the way the bloggers and their white readers like it. That is why you would never see a post like that from Jessica, because she would have to actually read and listen to WOC, believe them, and incorporate their views into her feminism. That won't ever happen.

Sylvia has a wonderful post up called Stretching the Knapsack Metaphor to It's Full Bent (and Then Some). In the comments Michelle says this:
I’ve been thinking about the difference between stuff I have been/am involved with because I have a CHOICE about it, and stuff that I have no choice about. For me, the second thing, what I have no choice about, isn’t in any of the categories, even areas where I am oppressed like gender or sexual orientation. But it’s there and real and it is fucking INVOLUNTARY. I don’t get a choice about whether to be affected or not, I just AM and I can’t ever just choose to opt out and go back to being protected, because — I can’t.

On the other hand, areas that are not involuntary for me in being affected no matter what I do or want ot whatever (eg involvement in struggles against racism/white supremacy, more specifically to my life lately, migrant rights before and indigenous rights now) — these are choices of mine, and I have already stepped away from one group, chosen to be part of Y rather than X, where will I “be involved”.

IMO where people have these choices we are by definition untrustworthy. It’s great if or when we do the right thing, but it’s an action-by-action kind of situation, because at any moment we have the choice to step away, to choose to not notice because we do have a choice. Clearly we in that position are NOT the people who should be defining anything where we have this disconnect.

There are very few white allies who are trustworthy, who will do the right thing when it is at odds with their own wants, needs, goals. I am convinced that most of the major white feminists, including bloggers, have no intention of dismantling the patriarchal system, they want to join the power structure, have power over other people, and have a higher position in the hierarchy. That's why they only wink and nod when it comes to issues involving other oppressed groups then tell us to shut up while they go about their important business of getting the things that are only to their advantage, and eventually (*wink nod* never) they will get around to our "pet issues". Paying lip service to anti-racism is always to their advantage, gives them the warm fuzzies, and leads their readers to believe they are actually progressive instead of as selfish and self serving as conservatives. On the other hand squealing with glee because someone praised your book, even while that someone craps on WOC, well just ignore that crapping on WOC part, don't let that spoil your fun and white camaraderie.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Be My Research Assistant!

Ok, not mine, be Sudy's research assistant. If you haven't been paying attention, then you haven't seen the wonderful video she made honoring Women of Color Feminism. So take a look! Now that we all know about it, she wants to make a new video, a testament or witnessing of the idiocy, ignorance, toolishness of the feminist/liberal blogosphere.

The reason why I said I want you to be my research assistant in the title, is because I have memory problems due to my meds. I can remember some of the firestorms and blog wars, but don't have exact quotes or where they were said. So I'm hoping someone can remember for me and give Sudy the quotes and links.

My blog's raison d'etre, (Did I do the French right? Do I appear sophisticated and worldly for using French? Why yes, I do. Unless I did it wrong...) is the Clinton blogger lunch. Any outrageous racist, sexist quotes from that would be great. I already gave her TRex.

Others: The burqa incident. Lindsey's racist post about asylum for all Afghan women to the US. Almost any time a WOC mentions sexism or violence within POC communities there is at least one sexist MOC who gives her hell for it. ENDA transphobia. Katie Thorpe/Ashley X ableist firestorm. FFF and It's a Jungle Out There book covers. Angelina Jolie and other celebrity colonialism. "You can't be a feminist because you're a damned slut" wars, both the sex workers and 'fun feminist' versions and any others you can think of. In other words, anything blatantly racist, sexist, classist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, etc you can think of would be great for this project.

Belle already covered WOC morphing into the oppressor and The radfem transphobia wars, but if you got more, or better quotes, go for it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Virgins, Whores, and the Sliding Scale of Our Humanity

Do you all remember what State Senator Bill Napoli had to say about exceptions to the abortion ban in South Dakota?
A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

It seems to me that this attitude is very similar to that of Judge Teresa Carr Deni, who threw out rape charges because the victim is a prostitute and instead called it "theft of services".

This whole attitude about women and our sexuality is so damned repressive in the US. The idea behind the thinking is that there is some sort of sliding scale of justice and empathy for women dependent on whether they EVER consent to have sex. Only the pure virgin deserves real justice or empathy, and at the other end are the sluts and whores. If you have consented to sex in the past, or heaven forbid, are a sex worker, you simply can't be raped. And if you find yourself pregnant, well that's punishment for being slutty and a whore.

Just think about Napoli's words, the one exception he could come up with is the never consenting virgin who is attacked in multiple ways with the most extreme brutality imaginable. If any of these factors isn't present, a woman who had consented at one time who is brutally raped doesn't fit his profile for exception, and definitely not one who actually enjoys sex, even with her husband. Only the virgin is given the choice to abort, is given control of her own body. Carrying a pregnancy to term is seen as a punishment for the fallen woman, they don't give a shit about babies, all they care about is their moralizing.

That is what Judge Deni does here also. I'm sure she would also agree that a woman can not be raped by her husband, after all she had consented in the past. She obviously doesn't think that consent can be withdrawn, and once a woman consents to one sexual act, then she is consenting to everything. How else can her decision in the case be construed? No one including the judge thinks that the prostitute wanted a gun pointed to her head, or that she wanted to have sex with four men. But it's not rape according to Deni, even though what happened was not what the prostitute agreed to, even though she had a gun to her head, nope, still not rape.

I hate this society and culture that teaches us that sex is dirty, that women should not control their own bodies or destiny. God forbid we actually like having sex or ever consent, then we deserve every punishment imaginable.

I hope the people of Philadelphia are so outraged by this injustice that they vote Deni out of office today.

Tristan's Corner of the Web

I've updated my blogroll finally, and still have more to add anyway. BUT I want to bring to your attention a very important development in the blogosphere: our favorite commenter, Andrew, has finally signed up for a blog and is blogging! I would personally appreciate it if everyone went over to his new blog at Tristan's Corner of the Web and welcomed him, and don't forget to add him to your blogroll. I really want to encourage him to keep writing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Drowning Maestro

Here we go again. Unexamined and unacknowledged privilege is rearing it's ugly head all over the place. The one thing I am getting fed up with is, "watch your tone, be nicey nice", or what Nezua has named The Drowning Maestro. Nezua's examples:
• "We'd admit about your point if you presented it nicer."
• "I have this work I was going to throw your way, is there a problem?"
• "People would listen to your complaint if you weren't so loud."
• "If you want people to care about this, you should learn to be smoother."
I recommend everyone read the entire definition from Nezua's glossary. No, I recommend everyone read the entire glossary.

Alrighty! First we had projektleiterin in the comments of the last thread warning us to be sweet to the nice white ladies and try to put ourselves in their shoes, and stop being so "stroppy". My question is when do we finally get to turn the tables? When do they reciprocate? When hell freezes over, is when...

Then we have Latoya at Racialicious telling Nadia to watch her tone. There is nothing wrong with Nadia's tone, she is in fact, being helpful. Latoya didn't like having her comfortable "latent prejudices" being pointed out.

And now we have Yobachi telling BrownFemiPower to watch her tone in this comments thread at Women of Color Blog. This one actually had me shaking with anger. Jasmine makes a comment that distills the whole argument against "protection":
We don’t get men to stop abusing women by portraying women as justifiable targets of abuse. How about if we stop painting targets on the backs of women?
It is only because you view us as targets that we need "protection". Stop viewing us as targets, teach your brothers that we are not targets, and we will not need protecting. If you still don't get it, I'll take a quote from Ginmar out of context, because it sure as hell works here too.
This kind of reaction amongst men is the reason that cries about 'chivalry' fall so flat. Chivalry amounts to a guy staking a claim to a woman by his act of offering her some kind of protection, displaying his ownership for other men. It's kind of like the guys who claim they want to 'protect' women. With that protection comes protection from freedom, self-determination, independence, and a complete lack of protection against the guy offering the so-called protection. Rejecting that extortionate deal leaves women alone in a world of men who perceive female slights as being so serious that they require violent actions or threats, actions that are brushed of as 'reckless' and 'stupid' when what they are is calculated, arrogant, hostile, and designed to intimidate.
The part about it being an extortionate deal especially resonates after reading Yobachi's bullshit. There is no asking women what they want or need, we gotta be nicey nice with our tone and accept his "solution" to the problem no questions asked, or else he'll stand aside when women get attacked. He later retracts that part, it's just satire, because you know, joking about men standing around while women get raped is hilarious.

Every example I have given has been a person of color using privilege against another person of color. This is not a problem with whites only, all of us in American society are brainwashed by white supremacy/male supremacy to some extent. Projektleiteren doesn't notice that she is expecting us to treat whites better than they treat us, because it is "natural" to see them as superior and therefore grant them more benefit of the doubt, chances, understanding, etc than they ever grant to us. If you think I am being sarcastic, you'd be wrong. We do get so used to being treated like we are wrong, like our opinion doesn't matter, like we don't know ourselves and our own families, lives, world; all of these things contribute to internalized racism. You know the grass is green and the sky is blue, but daily it seems like everyone else around you is saying the grass is purple and the sky is yellow. You may start to question your reality, believe that they are right and there is something wrong with you. I've told a story in the past about a person I know who was collecting histories from the elders on his reservation. He found a particularly interesting one and related it to a friend, the friend didn't believe the story, he asked if it has been verified by historians. Keep in mind these are two Native American men. Does anyone see what is wrong with this picture? These are Native histories, told by Native elders, in their own words...and the one Native American man wants it verified by WHITE HISTORIANS. Whites are given the authority instead of the Native American elders. The grass is purple and the sky is yellow in his world.

In the Racialicious post, Latoya doesn't seem to understand what she is asking of Muslims when she makes a request for an anti-Islamofacism blog, post, etc. Nadia explains that Muslims are in the ridiculous position of having to preface everything they say with, "Hi! I'm not a terrorist." That is the racist narrative. It would be like if I created this blog to explain that: Native Americans aren't all drunks. Native Americans aren't all millionaires from casinos. Native Americans aren't all exactly the same with the same beliefs, lifestyles, histories, spirituality, which usually is expected to be either Cherokee or Lakota (Sioux). We weren't conquered. We aren't all dead. Why don't I write a blog like that? I'm assuming that most of the people who wind up here have at least half a brain and already know this stuff, already know that these are racist lies. Nadia is assuming the same about her supposed liberal allies. Does she really have to spell out for them that there is no such thing as Islamofacism? I guess so, since Latoya believes in it, assumes that there must be some truth to the racist lies. She gets angry with Nadia's tone, which is odd since all Nadia did was state matter of factly that the grass is green and the sky is blue. Latoya is saying that when you remove someones white lens, do so gradually and gently. Sorry, it can't be done. We really can't have people believing that the grass is just a little purple and the sky has a slight yellow tint.

The part about tone that is disturbing in the comments thread at Women of Color is that it is about who controls what is to be said and done about violence against women. Yobachi will not accept that women have every right to question these campaigns supposedly on our behalf. It's all about men, what they want, how they want to talk about this, how it's still about controlling women. That is what protection is all about, she has to be your property or under your control in some way before you can protect her. If she doesn't accept your protection on your terms then she is just a target who deserves whatever she gets. The campaign should be about changing mens' attitudes towards women, so that they don't think in this way. Protection is an extention of the abuse, not a solution to it, because the idea comes from the same place where men decide which women deserve safety and which ones don't. Watch your step and your tone or you'll be thrown to the wolves.