Archive for May 2009

Malcolm X’s birthday

May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Malcolm X. I’ve always felt he got the shaft in history class. Not that MLK Jr. wasn’t an incredible human being; I only wish Malcolm X got the same respect in American society. 

I leave you with one of my favorite columns on Malcolm, by Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Early in his public career, a young white woman approached Malcolm and asked him what role sincere white allies could have in the struggle for racial equality. He rebuffed her and told her that there was no role for whites at all. Years later, he said he regretted his response and spoke of the difficulty in building workable interracial coalitions. He remained committed to black empowerment and self-governance within African-American organizations, but toward the end of his life he also came to understand the critical importance of anti-racist efforts among white Americans. He taught us that we must acknowledge human interdependence if we hope to build enduring movements out of the fragile and complicated interests that we share. -MHL

“I believe that it would be impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant that I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after this deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come. I do believe that I have fought the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. I know that my shortcomings are many.”

-Malcolm X

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You Should Know Jean Grae.

May 18, 2009

I posted this on Feministing a while back, but it bears repeating. I can’t get enough of Jeanie.

As many of you know, the hip hop/rap scene is yet another arena dominated by men. Especially after Lauryn Hill disappeared from the scene, there have been only a handful of known female MCs. Brave & talented women have been doin’ their things without as much coverage and props as their male counterparts. One of these lesser-known ladies is my personal favorite– Jean Grae.

After an early career in groups like Natural Resource & collaborating with successful male artists like Immortal Technique & Talib Kweli, Jean launched her own career. Taking her name from the X-Men character, Jean has commented that growing up she didn’t play with girls’ toys like My Little Pony; she played X-Men. She has put out incredible albums and critics have called her possibly the greatest lyricist. Yet she isn’t well known, and doesn’t make much money.

Record companies have repeatedly fumbled, not knowing what to do with a female hip hop artist who isn’t trying to be a sex kitten, who is just straight up doing her own thing and trying to be the greatest emcee. Her albums have leaked on the internet prior to being released, and she hasn’t been marketed with the respect she deserves.

 She’s had struggles with her label and the people managing her. One of her tracks, “The Story” off the Jeanius album is an incredibly honest flow on her experiences with abortion. Yet her label wanted to go ahead and make a video, without her in it, and changed the vibe of the song. Jean has tried to fight it, remarking,

“You couldn’t have a more pro-choice song. So now, in essence, what you’ve done is taken the choice away for the video for the song called “My Story.” I think it’s the most disrespectful thing ever.”

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the barriers she hits as a female emcee:

“The interesting duality comes from being female and immediately being written off saying anything—it’s: “Oh, she’s complaining again. See? And that’s why bitches shouldn’t rap.” It’s an interesting place to stand. It’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Jean is ridiculously creative with her lyrics and her topics. She’s funny one second, and sensitive the next. Her songs are, to me, the most honest hip hop I’ve ever heard. She even did a song and video for sexual abuse/rape awareness that details a girl in high school attacking the school after continuous abuse that she endures:

She’s unique in the fact that she’s not interested in marketing herself as a sex symbol, but she doesn’t shy away from being a sexual person, with jams like “Love Thirst”: Okay, turn the lights out/no, turn ’em back on/Want you to see my backbone and my black tone / Start minimal, raise it to animal / please You’re no amateur / please me, I’m tangible

She has been pit against other female artists who have a “sexier” image but Jean remarks:

“If at the end of the day, you can rest and feel OK with yourself, that’s fine. Personally, I don’t do certain things. I read articles and they’ll pit me against Lil’ Kim like I’m going to smash them down. I never said any of that; I never said I didn’t like Kim or Foxy. I think the media places a slant on it: “Yeah, she’s so badass! She’s gonna beat them all up! She keeps her clothes on!” I mean, that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to do all that. That’s just not how I am. But if you’re comfortable doing that, that’s fine. I just happen to be doing some other shit. “

If there’s anyone who DESERVES to be recognized, and deserves to make a living off their flow, it’s Jean Grae. Jean is one of the most underrated artists ever. She’s smart, crazy talented, witty, strong, and sensitive. I HIGHLY suggest her music.

Other Jeanie quotes:

“It’s cool to have the naked girl if she wants to be the naked girl. We should be able to express our sexuality. My only problem comes when it’s the naked girl and no other girl. I can be the girl with her clothes on, with the book and the glasses. Because people wear clothes. It’s cold outside.”

“America is racist and people know it. I find it interesting when people are more blunt about it instead of sweeping it under the rug. A lot of people are fucked up and wrong. Sometimes the things that they think about will come out of their mouths. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how racism is prevalent and sometimes you feel it real hard. Especially in NY, we’re like “it’s cool,” but everything is not fuckin’ cool. We’re more of a “sweep it under the rug” type of city – but when you go down south, you know that it’s out there. We’re kind of fakin’ it here. You still can’t catch a cab here. I think that sometimes we’re surprised by a lot of shit that we shouldn’t be surprised by.”

Wackest Search Terms Part I

May 17, 2009

For bloggers, viewing what search terms people use to find your blog can be a scary, depressing, interesting, or fun experience. I thought I’d share some of the strange things people google in order to come across my blog. 

 

1) “sex between girls at 15 age” – lets hope this person wasn’t googling underage porn. Maybe just curious about youths discovering  lesbianism? Errr…

2) “what not to say to a feminist woman” – haha! Well, I’m glad someone is taking the initiative to not offend. I could give you a few pointers. “Feminazi,” “you’re being too sensitive,” “bitch,” etc. 

3) “depictions of masturbation” –  This is not that kind of blog!

4) “what do men want out of a woman?” – hey! if you figure that out online, let me know!

5) “white women black births” – umm…hmmm..

6) “lady gaga thinks feminists are angry” – yes, she does! sometimes, we are!

7) “women can vote” – yes, they let us do that now!

8 ) “rape or sex” – um. very serious distinction.

9) “do pageants promotes racism degrade women” – answer: yes.

10) “don’t hate me cause i’m” – ….beautiful? I don’t!

Have We Overcome Our Need to Pose Overly Simplistic Questions?

May 11, 2009

I feel like every time I pull up CNN.com, there is some inane question or line about race or sex equality.  Today, it comes in the form of: Have We Overcome Our Race Problems?

Even posing this question as a realistic and reasonable inquiry shows a really poor and shallow understanding of the issues. Racial equality is not some sort of checklist and once we hit certain check points (voting rights, check. black president, check.) we can consider it over and done with.

There’s nothing wrong in discussing how race relations have improved, and there’s nothing wrong with giving a hopeful outlook on ways things can continue to improve. But I think think that framing the question this way feeds the simplistic ways most Americans (particularly white Americans) think about race. And because we’re not discussing it in a largely mature or deep way, we fail to really think about how race affects our own lives: our privileges, our prejudices. We have to seriously confront those or we aren’t going to get far enough.

 

Still to come…a personal blog about Mother’s Day.

Rape, Sex & Catholic Education

May 8, 2009

Let’s play a little game of “one of these things is not like the other.” It’s a multiple choice. The “sexual misconduct” policy [at Catholic University] outlaws:

a. premarital sex

b. condoms

c. masturbation

d. rape

Washington D. C. City Paper, May 8-14, 2009

The above is an excerpt from an article about Catholic University policy regarding “sexual misconduct.” As City Paper points out, CUA lists consensual sex and rape in the same sentence of their policy. (“physical contact of a sexual nature that is unwanted…and/or disruptive to the university community”– ‘disruptive’ means all premarital sexual conduct) Which, obviously, comes  directly from the Catholic Church’s rulings.

I’m not going to attack the choice of an individual to belong to a religion of his or her choice. HOWEVER, I will say this: the Catholic Church (hierarchy of, political arm of, etc) perpetuates rape culture. Putting rape in the same sentence as & violating the same clause of the CUA Policy as sex sends a strong message. You’ve now softened the seriousness of forcible sexually assaulting another human being, and put it on the same level as a universal human instinct. Great.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Carrie Prejean and Beauty Pageants

May 5, 2009

Everyday it seems more and more scandals are popping about about Carrie Prejean, former Miss USA hopeful, and current anti-gay-marriage spokesperson. First, it was her ignorant fumbling response to her panel question during pageant. Second, came the news about her breast implants– they were paid for by Miss USA Pageant. Finally, today semi-nude photos were released, in an effort to mock her Christianity and paint her as a hypocrite. All throughout, Ms. Prejean has been running through the press circuit, defending herself and her position on same sex marriage.    

What Ms. Prejean says and represents is wrong. We should criticize what she said about same sex marriage the night of the Pageant. Furthermore, she says the following in response to the release of her ‘racy’ photos:

I am a Christian, and I am a model…I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive.

Its blatantly hypocritical to suggest that she is the victim of intolerance while simultaneously positing the immorality of GLTQ people marrying the person they love. She is also quoted perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes about how homosexuality is a “choice,” which (I like to think) is an antiquated idea and is harmful for the fight for equality.

HOWEVER. What is also flat out wrong is to call her a “b***h,” a “c***t,” and to degrade her body and the choices she makes with it. 

A day after the pageant, Perez Hilton, a Miss USA judge and gossip blogger, posted about the controversy, calling her a B—h and “Stupid C–t.” Besides throwing around these slurs, nearly every major media outlet has jumped all over news stories about her breast implants, and her “sexy” photos. Most of these news stories aim to belittle her for these decisions. I see a huge problem with this back-and-forth media jumble about Prejean. This preoccupation with every misstep she takes and everything she does with her body isn’t getting us anywhere. Her answer to the gay marriage question was wrong, offensive, and poorly argued. But the debate about gay marriage has nothing to do with Ms. Prejean’s breasts. Her answer may not be right or legitimate, but sexism is still sexism, and it hurts us all. 

Samhita at Feministing says the following about her breasts:

As a feminist, I hate when women’s breasts make the news, since it is rarely to uncover the sexism embedded within a system. The fact that Carrie Prejean got breast implants is not newsworthy to me. The fact that the California Pageant Association paid for them, well that is. Not because it is scandalous, but because it shows that pageants aren’t about highlighting women as they are or for their talents, but for their physical appearance and to make spectacle of a specific type of femininity.

I think Samhita nails it on this point. Her breasts aren’t anybody’s business– HOWEVER, the fact that the Pageantry Association bought them should indicate to everyone what their standards are, and how they judge femininity. This should be a huge red flag— that their image of a “real woman” is basically unattainable without body alteration. This pursuit of the perfect body and perfect femininity is seriously dangerous. Women are dying trying to achieve it. And we need to recognize that and think seriously about why women are still striving to parade themselves like dolls and commodities, in 2009.

Pageantry is a bad thing. I believe the world would be better without it. Beauty pageants honor nothing but one unachievable representation of femininity and physical appearance, while still trying to pretend they care about ‘talent’ and ‘intelligence’. Women like Ms. Prejean are socialized to believe their physical beauty is what matters. In fact, American society tells all women this; its just that some of us have the resources and networks to reject this. We can’t berate one contestant for her choice to get breast implants when the system supporting her is not only giving her emotional but financial support. 

Yes, Carrie Prejean is an offender. Yes, she’s a reinforcer of ignorance and stereotypes. But she is also a victim. A victim of a culture that forces women to construct their self-worth based on their looks, then degrades them when they do. In the glitzy world of beauty pageants, the picture ain’t a pretty one. But if we can switch the dialogue from the individual to the system, maybe we can get somewhere.

Guiliani absent at former roommates’ wedding

May 4, 2009

THIS is truly an example of politics at its worst.

Rudy Giuliani’s refusal to attend the same-sex wedding of his former roommates shows both his commitment to the stagnant Republican party, and the decline of his personal, independent choices.

I realize that in politics anything goes, and all politicians compromise something at one time or another. But I think that forsaking personal relationships and close friends represents the saddest form of all.