Category Archives: privilege

Blackface is Racist. Period. Mocking Domestic Abuse is Misogynistic. Period.

So this happened.

http://jezebel.com/5952124/idiot-students-in-blackface-reenact-chris-brown-beating-rihanna-at-worst-pep-rally-ever

Yeah an almost all white school had a performance where they did a skit in blackface portraying Chris Brown beating the shit out of Rihanna to win a popularity contest. This was a skit approved by school officials, watched by staff and community leaders. And now many of the students and faculty are defending it, saying it’s not racist at all. Sadly I’m not that surprised by this but it did make me feel some things I wanted to share.

First of all, as always I love it when white people, especially white people who obviously have no cultural knowledge of the history of blackface, and have close to no diversity in their community tell me what’s racist.

‘Cause they know right? They’ve been hassled by the police. They’ve been called the n-word by people that were supposed to be their advocates. They’ve been targets of harassment where people wouldn’t believe them because of their skin tone. They’ve been assumed to be a thief, thug, stupid, animalistic. They know how much it hurts some members of the black community to see blackface, how it’s tied to a time when we were considered less than human, how it was used to mock, belittle, terrorize, and propagandize to keep a group of people from having basic rights.

Blackface is racist. The end. Any comedy that requires you to darken your skin to be funny? Relies on the characters race for humor and considering you couldn’t get a black person to play the role I’m going think that the comedy wasn’t exactly flattering. There is no reason for blackface. Why is your art relying on an archaic and problematic premise?

Prejudice is the easy joke, it’s the simple laugh. Watch any frat dudebro comedy and you’ll see, they go for the old school stereotypes about women, foreigners, LGBTQI folks, disabled people, poor people, etc. for their humor. The women are always virgins or whores there to be mocked for either decision, the POC are always thugs (Af-Am), hackers (As-Am), mocked for their misunderstanding of America (everyone), etc. and the gay characters are there to be mocked with old stereotypes that compare queer women to men and queer men to women. We’re not even going to go into that problematic binary, that’s a completely different post. The point is it’s the easy laugh. HaHa look at the outsider, they’re not like me so their funny. If that’s the only humor you can reach for, aside from being privileged and oppressive you’re just a bad comedian. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s racist, it’s no longer okay.

And I assume if they’re defending this and past examples of blackface they’ve examined why they feel the need to use blackface. They’ve delved deep into their psyche and examined why an almost all white community that has little to no contact with People of Color finds blackface so entertaining it had to happen repeatedly.  They have a really good defense and reasoning for why they did this, why educators approved it, why everyone thought it was funny, aside from their critics being stupid or oversensitive, right? They were doing some good work deconstructing race and gender and the male gaze right? ‘Cause if they don’t have any that.

It’s. Just. Racist.

This is without even going into the fact that they were recreating the act of a black woman being abused! Go to the link above, look at that photo, look at the all-white audience laughing and smiling while they imagine a brown woman being thrown to the ground in violence. I don’t care what the skit was, I don’t care what they meant by it, I don’t care for anything the students, faculty or attendees have to say that is not a heartfelt apology, an explanation why they thought this was funny, and a commitment to examine their own amusement at mocking the physical assault of a black woman. Would it have been just as hilarious if it was recreating Pamela Anderson’s abuse incident? Sharon Osbourne’s? There’s misogyny here to be sure but the racial aspect turns it into something even worse.

What is it about seeing a brown woman beaten that these white boys think will win them a popularity contest, that their community will be entertained by the misogynistic, racist spectacle?

Also I’m sure the faculty and advisers know that 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend in an abusive relationship, that 1 in 4 teen girls have been forced into sex by a intimate partner, that 80% of abused teen girls continue to date their abuser, that almost a third of teen girls killed every year are killed by a boyfriend or husband. Given these statistics they must also know that there are likely girls in that auditorium watching that performance that are currently involved in an abusive relationship. So what message did they get from the faculty approving of this? How likely are these girls now to feel safe reporting anything about abuse to this school, to anyone in their community? They’ve effectively told all who see this that the misogynistic atmosphere of the community is the arbiter of who gets to complain, who’s pain is real and whose is a joke.

But it was all a joke right?

No, it’s not a joke. Abuse is not a joke, racism is not a joke. I’ve been known to make the off-color joke myself among friends, true but first that is among friends and I always try to be aware of the privilege I have and how that factors into what I’m saying. I try not to be defensive if people decide to call me on what I say. It seems like this community wants none of that. They want to pretend that blackface is just make-up, that watching a woman getting an abusive beatdown is all good fun, that a community rallying to defend white boy’s right to recreate a brown woman’s fear, terror and pain as entertainment is okay. It’s not. This is not art that’s meant to inform, educate or examine abuse in certain communities which is one thing but entertainment that mocks her pain, belittles it, makes it fodder for the humor of an all-white community.

And that? Is. Not. Okay.

Privilege: I’ll Ignore You & It’ll Get Better

So I was watching Kathy Griffin’s new talk show this week and her talkin’ shit guests were Chelsea Handler & Whitney Cummings. I learned two things from the show.

1. Whitney Cummings is actually funny when she’s just being her. ‘2 Broke Girls’ is full of stereotypes and bullshit (which makes me sad ’cause I love Kat Dennings) and jokes about sexual assault so I fell out of that pretty quick. The show ‘Whitney’ feels repetitive and just not that funny. However her manic personality and willing to say anything come through very well when she’s just being herself.

2. Wow Chelsea Handler is both privileged and dumb.

Granted I haven’t had that much exposure to Chelsea. I’ve heard a few of her soundbites, which always seem funny, and read a few excerpts from her books but that’s it. So the first hint that  she really just didn’t know what she was talking about was about being offensive/racist in your humor. Where she basically said you have to start with the groups you belong to and work your way out and that way no one will care.

Okay quick breakdown, making fun of a privileged class is in no way the same as making fun of a marginalized group. So for example when Chelsea mocks someone for being white it does not have the historical weight behind it that making fun of other groups does. Also when people make fun of white people it very rarely has to do with their race directly. One of the things about stereotypes is that very few of them about the dominant group get so powerful as to be called fact “Blacks are more violent.” “Asians are more studious.” and none of them  get coded into laws to be used against your group.  So let’s not pretend that it’s the same thing or even similar. Making fun of the group in power is never as hurtful and damaging in a larger sense as making fun of people who are already treated as other.

That’s not even my main complaint with Chelsea in this show, that comes along when Kathy brings up feminism. Kathy Griffin is actually trying to have a semi-serious conversation about how women make 70 cents for every $1 that men make. Chelsea has the nerve to say (paraphrased) that she doesn’t believe in talking about inequality because that simply leads to more inequality. She prefers to ignore it and it will get better on its on.

What the flying fuckity-fuck?

When we don’t think about things, they get better? Excuse me. I’m pretty sure that no inequality in the history of the world has ever been improved by ignoring that it exists. Honestly being able to say that means that you don’t care about all those people who don’t have the option of not discussing it.  Chelsea can afford that have that opinion, literally. With the amount of money that she has coming in she can insulate herself from the worst of what those who aren’t as wealthy cannot help but  deal with. It seems to come from the same place of “Why are you always bring this up?” which carries the assumption that you derive some joy in discussing the ways we are oppressed in society.

The main assumption being made here though is “It doesn’t affect my life, so it can’t matter right? I don’t have to think about it so obviously you shouldn’t either. And you’re only bring this up to make me uncomfortable of course.”

Privilege is the ability to think that only things that affect you matter. Privilege is asking others to stop talking about inequality because bringing it up doesn’t help you in any way. Privilege is pretending that closing your eyes makes the monsters go away and privilege is not acknowledging that not everyone can or should close their eyes.

Marriage As Inequality – Link with Commentary

Most people know I have very mixed feelings on marriage in general (Not The Marrying Kind) and the push for marriage equality in particular (Marriage Equality: Yay for California but My Overall Reaction to Marriage is *shrug*). I am far from the only person to critique marriage as an institution or the push for marriage equality but up until now most of where I’ve heard it is in more radical or independent presses/spaces.

Then someone pointed me to this New York Times article that was published after the marriage decision in New York. Judith Stacey a sociology professor at NYU and brings up some excellent points in her piece, Unequal Opportunity. Such as:

My research suggests that younger gays are less likely than their forebears to envision alternatives to marriage and nuclear family life.

Which has always been something that bothered me. The narrative of: ‘There is a different way to live your life, a different family structure you can form that may not look like what you’ve been taught to expect but is valid nonetheless’ has gotten completely lost in the last couple of decades. More and more I see the marriage equality push legitimizing itself by trying to look more and more normative by which I mean white, male, masculine and traditionally attractive. A line is drawn, those who want to get married and “freaks”.

Another great point Ms. Stacey brings up:

For this very reason, same-sex marriage enthusiasts are wrong to celebrate the democratizing effects of their victory in New York. To be sure, it removes an indefensible form of discrimination against lesbians and gay men. But the upshot of celebrating marriage is to exacerbate discrimination against the unmarried and their children — a rising proportion of our population, particularly among its poorer and darker members. Same-sex marriage, like its heterosexual model, is disproportionately accessible to members of the white middle class.

I enjoy the fact that she acknowledges that this is a blow against discrimination but that there are more complex issues and interactions at work here as well.

The article is shorter than I wanted and doesn’t goes as in-depth (I’m thinking I may need to pick up her book on marriage) but hits some excellent points that I and other people have been arguing for years and it’s great to see these points and perspectives brought up in a larger arena.

Now go read the whole thing

Glee, Why You So White?

So Gwyneth Paltrow singing Cee-Lo Green. For all the reasons this hurts and why it should not be even in the most hellish of nightmare worlds, go here: A Few Things About Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘F*ck You’ As Performed on Glee for an excellent, intelligent and hilarious take on why it is so not okay. I’ve dealt with a lot on Glee (I’m looking at you Matthew Morrison and your incessant need to rap) but this is the first time I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting the songs on my iPod. So the part of the post linked above that seems to be causing the most drama up and in the comments is this part:

The song is off-limits for white people
Unless! Unless you really want to match Cee Lo sound for sound. First off, the soul-pop package doesn’t mitigate this song or its message; it mainstreams it. It’s subversion on steroids, and watered down to high-school pop it’s about as subversive as Reader’s Digest. More technically, I guess there’s nothing keeping Paltrow from actually rhyming that “if I was richer/I’d still be wit’ cha,” (hello, Amy Winehouse!), but her whitening of the phrase is kind of… well, disgusting. Let’s face it: Gwyneth Paltrow singing any variation on “F*ck You” is like Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” and maybe even worse: At least he didn’t have to dance with Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer.

Okay so the inevitable response to such queries as this is to scream “If you said black people couldn’t cover white songs that would be racist, so this isn’t okay! It’s reverse racism!” Okay first of all that’s a straw man argument that has nothing to do with the initial reasons given for why it’s not okay. Second of all, racism (as many people have said over and over) is privilege plus power. Black people as a group have never had enough power to enforce a nation-wide prejudice on white people in the west which continues through media to this very day.

Ignoring that let’s address that argument as if it’s valid. See the problem is that it’s only valid if equality is the base and we don’t live in an equal society at all and Glee certainly doesn’t exist in a universe of racial equality. See when this season started I was already a little put out that football coach Ken Tanaka and glee member Matt Rutherford were written out of the show and essentially replaced with white folk. Beiste for Tanaka, Sam for Matt. This is no comment on the characters of Beiste or Sam (both of whom I actually enjoy) but to show the whitening of the show in terms of diversity, one of the things they were initially praised for.

In the midst of this look at the guest stars they’ve had on the show so far: Eve, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, Barry Bostwick, Meatloaf, John Stamos, Johnathon Groff, Britney, Olivia Newton-John, Josh Groban, Cheyenne Jackson and now Gwyneth Paltrow. With the exception of Eve they are all white and Eve doesn’t even get to sing during her entire one episode appearance. How many songs has Kristin Chenoweth had on the show so far? More than Tina, one of the “main characters” that’s for sure.

So why can’t we have some Broadway legends of color? Some Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills, Rita Moreno, Lea Salonga, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Taye Diggs. Shoot at this point I’m willing to accept Carol Channing’s sketchy claim to some black heritage and cheer for her as a guest star. Or even some actors/musicians of color? Jennifer Hudson, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Enrique Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz. You could just prop Whitney Houston up in the corner and have her bust out some ‘Greatest Love of All’. Shit, why couldn’t Cee-Lo himself play the substitute teacher and sing his own damn song?

I’ve watched Mercedes get slowly pushed aside, until she is the only glee club member without any kind of romantic interest, or urge at all if the show is to be believed. The relationship between Tina and Mike crosses the line from cute to stereotype so many times it makes my head spin and the treatment of Santana, especially in this last episode with the whole Puck/Artie storyline has drifted far into the overly sexualized latina stereotype.

The way the characters of color end up sidelined so much has resulted in many, many songs by artists of color being sung by white characters on that show. The reverse is hardly ever the case. When Mercedes is given a whole song to sing it is most often a song already done by a black female artist. She doesn’t get to cross that barrier ever (with the exception of Rocky Horror which she got crucified online by Glee fans) while characters like Mr. Schuester and Artie do so on a regular basis. This is not a case of there being a basis of equality that has suddenly changed. This is a case of people beginning to notice that the show is getting more and more white and monolithic in terms of race.

Glee does not rest on a base of equality, just as the world itself does not. To argue the charge of reverse racism you basically have to prove that all things being equal the world isn’t already slanted against People of Color and other oppressed groups. I’m not saying that individual members of an oppressed group cannot be prejudiced but the charge of reverse-racism is erroneous and detracts from the overall question I’ve started to have with Glee, a show I love and would like to continue too love, Glee why you getting more and more white?

And don’t even get me started on the conflation of white, young boy and gay that happens on the series, that’s another post that will be going up later this week.

Is He or Isn’t He? Take 5,890,763,111 – The Zachary Quinto Edition

Politically I’m quite a bit to the left (quelle suprise, I know) so it’s fairly often that more mainstream media pisses me off. Mainstream GLBT media especially which tends to be very white, male and “normative”, ignoring a lot of other parts of the queer community and thus pissing me off. So I tend to stay away from sites like Afterelton.com, the exception to this is the Glee Recaps which I enjoy and head over to read every week. This particular week I clicked on a link in the sidebar to a weekly column entitled, “Best Gay Week Ever!” and was scrolling through when I came across this charming little tidbit.

There was a lot of discussion this week about Zachary Quinto’s declining to address his sexual orientation when asked by the New York Times. That is certainly Quinto’s right and we here at AfterElton.com firmly don’t believe in outing in any way, so that’s pretty much all of what I have to say about Quinto.

But I just as firmly believe that every GLBT person who is able to live a life today that is more free and open than ever before has an obligation to do their part to make things better for those who come after us.

That’s why I’ll always champion out actors like [Chad] Allen and Cheyenne Jackson and Jonathan Groff, and won’t spend much time thinking about those who benefit from the sacrifices made by others yet live in glass closets.

Okay. *Deep Breath* Let’s ignore the hypocrisy of “[we] don’t believe in outing” and ending the rant with “others yet live in glass closets” and the fact that after saying that’s all that will be said about Quinto that the following two paragraphs are pretty much a passive-aggressive statement all about Quinto despite the fact that his name doesn’t appear. This isn’t even really about the person who wrote this column as much as it’s about  this pervasive idea in mainstream GLBT media that being out is the only way to live your life and that it’s worth anything and everything and on and on. It’s happened with rumors about Elijah Wood and Queen Latifah and Ne-Yo and a hundred other entertainers, along with the continual refrain of “Why won’t you just come out?” and frankly I’m sick of it.

First of all, let’s talk about the fact that the only reason that Quinto has had his sexuality questioned is his support of GLBT causes and issues. Take a moment to contemplate the sad fact that any straight man cannot support GLBT causes without it become a question of his sexuality and inevitably his manhood as well. That’s a whole research thesis in and of itself.

Now, let’s also look at the fact that Quinto [and Wood, Latifah, etc…]  could very well be straight, that his denial to reveal his sexuality could actually be a strong and interesting position of basically saying, “Despite my heterosexuality I don’t feel the need to confirm or deny my sexuality and make that the issue here rather than the GLBT issues we’re talking about”.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that a ‘No comment’ is the same as admitting to something. There are simply too many variables that we don’t know, that we can’t know, to make it that simplistic.

And let’s say they are queer in some fashion (or even straight!), maybe they just feel it’s none of  our damn business and that’s okay. It’s okay for someone who lives their life in the spotlight and has everything scrutinized to want to keep their private life private. Now I’m not one to jump on the “woe are the celebrities/rich” whiny bandwagon by any means and I admit to an unhealthy love of celebrity gossip and reality TV but should someone be judged and held up for (albeit mild) contempt because they didn’t answer a question the way you wanted them to? I don’t think so.

There is a contract between entertainer and audience, it says: you will entertain me and I will pay you. That’s it. That’s all she wrote.  Somehow it’s shifted to this entitlement that we as the audience have the right to know everything about an entertainer and put them on some pedestal as a leader, a hero and it’s an insidiously pervasive idea our society. Bottom line is that none of these people that (the generic) you believes to be in the closet ever promised to be your: leader/lover/healer/hero/figurehead/and the list goes on. To put that expectation on them and then be angry when they refuse to live up to it exhibits a level of arrogance that really bothers me.

And finally, and this hearkens back to what I said about not knowing all the factors, the idea that just coming out is the solution is too simple and too one-pronged a position to take for such a complex issue. (This at the base is the same issue I have with the It Gets Better campaign, even though I get the motivation and impulse, because it doesn’t always get better for some folks and others can’t wait that long). The thing is that you can’t know what is best for someone else. It’s impossible. You don’t know their family dynamics like they do, their religious affiliation and level of belief, their ethnic culture, their racial identity, their connection to community and that community’s value system, their political identity, their age and how they’ve identified so far, their class background and a hundred other things of both large and small effect that determine whether it’s better for someone to come out of the closet.

Basically by taking the position of out being the only way, the GLBT mainstream not only makes an amazing display of privilege in urging everyone that one way is the right way, they are also saying that coming out is worth everything you might change. And that’s probably the case for some and some of have less to lose but for others maybe they don’t want to deal with familial fall-out, maybe they don’t want to change the way people look at them, maybe they want to keep their career on a huge uptick [anyone remember how quickly Rupert Everett’s rocket ride to leading man came to an abrupt halt, Hollywood is always more comfortable with gay actors when they play gay/desexualized characters] and maybe they just don’ t think it’s any of your business. And maybe just maybe they’re fine with that decision, maybe it actually makes them happy. Maybe things are more complex than ‘in the closet’ = sad panda and out = healthy vibrant queer.

Because I’m not talking about staying in the closet miserable and afraid by any means, I think every who wants to come out should be able to in a safe and loving environment. I also think someone should give me a billion dollars. Not only does not everyone exist in a scenario where they are able to come out but some people don’t feel the need to, some just don’t care about making an announcement to anyone. I’m saying that this is a much more complex and minefield laden issue than a simple “Hey, come on out, the water is fine.” and that whatever decision someone may make on the spectrum of ‘out’ to ‘in’ their choice is a valid one and one that should be respected.

Really it all amounts to the fact that we should be praising Quinto and others for supporting GLBT issues however they identify. This focus on “Well are they or aren’t they?!? And if they are they should be out!” makes it seem as if the only reason they could ever be invested in the politics is if they had a personal stake in it which is surely not the impression that should be given out.  And I think that with his activism and voice Quinto is (as the columnist above stated of GLBT out actors) doing his “part to make things better for those who come after us” whatever his sexual orientation may be.

Manifesto! 5/5 – Not The Marrying Kind – Statements…The End

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I think there’s humor in the hypocrisy of a movement that fights for marriage equality while lauding a film like “Brokeback Mountain” as romantic when the core basis of the film is an extra-marital affair. But it seems being on the down’low is acceptable as long as those engaging in it are white and only betraying women. Although the theme of pretending to be something you’re not fits in quite well with the homogenizing view of the large GLBTQ organizations.

Manifesto! 4/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.2)

Previously – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.)

I believe that the fierceness and power of the movement has been bled out by the constant focus on marriage equality as the only issue of importance perpetuated by large, wealthy, privileged groups such as GLAAD and the HRC who are looking out for themselves as opposed to the community as a whole.