Tag Archives: gender

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.

Oh Conan Yes!: Defending the new movie

Went and saw the new Conan movie last night and it was amazing!

Okay so number one a lot of people have been calling the Schwarzenegger movie a classic and “How could they redo it?” and on and on and on. So let me just say I own the first movie on DVD along with Red Sonja. So don’t try to bullshit me into this world where the original Conan is some amazing bit of film. It is camp, high camp (as if any movie with Arnold could be anything but) and not even James Earl Jones turns it into some amazing bit of art. And if I’m remembering correctly everyone dies in that version, Conan comes out the other side but not many other allies survive. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing and I like the original film but come on.

Now on to the new film. Will contain spoilers:

Continue reading

World Science Fiction (Renovation) – Here I Come!

So I will be attending my first ever World Science Fiction Convention this year! 2011’s con is Renovation in Reno, NV. I’ve always wanted to attend a World SF Con and with it being so close geographically this year and a couple of other things that came together it looks like I’m gonna make it! There’s still the matter of rooming to be worked out (if you need a room I have slots, please be not-a-serial-killer, smoking I can live with a knife in the back not so much). Hope to see at least some of my friends from WisCon and World Fantasy there. I’m also going to be on 7(!) panels. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Here are my panels for the Con:

Thu 14:00 – 15:00, Science Fiction, Gender, and Social Change(Panel), A03 (RSCC)

The workings of any society are a confluence of many different forces and movements. As society changes, its literature and arts (including SF) reflects, anticipates, and perhaps influences the direction and scope of change. How has SF influenced and reflected the changes in gender and gender roles over the past quarter century? As we look back to the work of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the sixties and seventies, what can we say about their impact and
that of their heirs today?

Alexandria Brown (M), Ctein, Amy Thomson, Mari Kotani and Naamen Tilahun

I’m very interested in who we think are the heirs to LeGuin and Russ. Not just authors with a feminist slant (while many authors tend to deny this label) but authors where feminism and gender roles are central to their work in many ways.

Thu 15:00 – 16:00, Why We Still Love _The Twilight Zone_ Fifty Years On (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

While science fiction for kids filled the TV screens of the ’50s, Rod Serling’s _The Twilight Zone_ was, arguably, the first SF show for adults. Featuring sophisticated themes, good writing and a surprising number of young actors who went on to be stars, _The Twilight Zone_ is a classic of the genre everyone should be watching. Our panel talks about some of their favorite episodes and why they’ve lasted.

H. G. Stratmann (M), Gary Westfahl, J. Steven York, John DeChancie and Naamen Tilahun

Okay, admission time. The Twilight Zone freaks me out! Don’t get me wrong, I love it but it still freaks me out. It is one of my mom’s favorite shows so I was exposed to it a lot growing up and I still feel terror over certain episodes (mostly more obscure eps like the one with the bus stop and the doppelgangers). Amazing show, effective and creepy and oh so sci-fi.

Fri 10:00 – 11:00, SF We Love by Writers of Color (Panel), A03(RSCC)

Are you curious about SF by writers of color. How do you
find the good stuff? There are many reading options, and many ways of connecting with the various communities of color producing excellent SF. Join us to look at reading lists from the Carl Brandon Society and other sources. And bring your own suggestions and your squee.

Naamen Tilahun (M), Vylar Kaftan, Anne Gray, Bradford Lyau

Definitely have authors that I think are getting some attention but deserve a lot more. Readying a list.

Fri 11:00 – 12:00, Minority Representation in SF Art and the Ugly Reality (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Minority representation needs to get better in our visual SF, including casting in film and TV and the design and selection of cover art. A discussion of what’s wrong with the status quo and how the industry can and should improve.

Lee Moyer (M), Aliette de Bodard, Lee Harris, Naamen Tilahun

I have examples I can bring! Examples from multiple decades! Gotta dig through my books and pull out my old copy of Butler’s “Dawn”, Emily Deveport’s “Larissa”, Laurie J. Marks’ “Fire Logic” and of course bring up the recent controversies in cover art and the idea that asking for accurate and inclusive cover art is somehow being a problem author.

Sat 14:00 – 15:00, Unsuppressing Women: The Work and Legacy of Joanna Russ (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Joanna Russ was one of science fiction’s first
feminist writers and a leading literary critic. Our panel looks at her fiction, reviews, and critical work, and assesses her lasting impact on the field.

Farah Mendlesohn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Naamen Tilahun, Gary K. Wolfe

Love, love, love Joanna. I’m doing a series over at Feminist-SF The Blog called Remembering Joanna about reading four of the more obscure works she wrote. Only the first part is up so far but I’m hoping to get at least one more up (if not the whole sequence of four) by the time I leave for WorldCon.

Sat 15:00 – 16:00, The Paranormal as Metaphor (Panel), A16 (RSCC)

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Naamen Tilahun (M), Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, Rose Fox, Patricia Briggs

Really like the idea of this panel, totally had the discussion of metaphors of vampires and werewolves and witches in on of my classes last year and really enjoyed it. Also sort of want to bring up the opposite effect in metaphor. The way in which Twilight and some other YA works attempt to rework the mythos of these creatures into something that is safe and somewhat non-sexual when their initial metaphor had such a sexual connotation.

Sun 13:00 – 14:00, Feminism in Science Fiction and SF Fandom (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

Feminism and feminist themes are an integral part of SF and Fantasy. There is major annual feminist SF&F convention (Wiscon). Last year the _The Secret Feminist
Cabal_, a cultural history of science fiction feminisms was published. What role does feminism play in modern day science fiction and fandom, and how is that role traceable the seventies and before?

Renée Sieber (M), Ellen Klages, Joan D. Vinge, Naamen Tilahun, Jed Hartman

Loved The Secret Feminist Cabal when I read it when it came out. Gonna try and re-read it before the Con so all of it (or at least the more pertinent bits) are fresh in my mind.

So that is my WorldCon schedule. Hope to see some of y’all there!

For Colored Girls…But Not Really

Now I’ll fully admit that I have watched some Tyler Perry movies in the past and even enjoyed one or two. There’s a lot to discuss about Perry most especially the way women tend to be portrayed in his work. Strong but unable to be so if they continue to be single. It’s like the law of Tyler Perry movies a female character cannot just leave her abusive/mean/dismissive/boring husband or boyfriend unless there’s another man already lined up for her to lean on. There’s also the added facet that all of these women go from “professional” men to “working class” men which adds a whole class aspect to his work. The men always marry up and the women always marry down in terms of socio-economic level. And this isn’t saying that that is not a valid story for some folks but it’s less the individual movies I have a problem with as much as the overall thematic pattern of his work. The only woman allowed to be angry and strong consistently in his work is himself dressed as Madea, which is a whole essay on its own. We could also talk about the fact that those who starred in his original plays and happen to be plus size and black never make the transition to screen unless its in the background, there’s not even talk about the originators of the roles being cast which is interesting considering the to do that’s happened around other transitions like Rent and such but again point for another time that none the less informs a lot of the things that bother me about him and his portrayal of women of color.

So I was understandably nervous when he bought the rights to Ntozake Shange’s amazing choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf which is an amazing work from the perspective of eight  black women only known  by the titles: Lady in Red, Lady in Orange, Lady in Yellow,…Green, …Blue, …White, …Brown and …Black. It’s one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read period. It interrogates the perspective of black women as they fall in love, deal with abuse, raise their children, confront their secrets, work, dance and just live their lives. It’s nuanced. It’s moving. It’s smart. It’s beautiful. These are not words I really connect to Tyler Perry or his work.

The fact that originally Nzingha Stewart was supposed to direct the film before he used his connections to snatch the film from her already did not make me a fan of  him. When it was announced that he was considering Beyonce for one of the roles I was too through. Then as things started to come together in terms of the cast I had hope: Janet Jackson (who lest people forget started in acting – Good Times, Fame and Poetic Justice), Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson and more. These are all actresses I’m a huge fan of and began to balance out the presence of Tyler Perry. I also learned that rather than writing the screenplay himself he was using the the screenplay that Nzingha Stewart wrote when she was still in charge of the film which IMDb and various sources confirm. Another point in the movies favor.

And as I was watching the trailer I actually was interested.

(WordPress would not let me embed the video of the trailer, go here to watch it.)

Until the whole video ended with this:

“Written For The Screen, Produced and Directed
By Tyler Perry”

WTF? So not only did Perry snatch the film itself from Stewart but he’s taking credit for her work. Now if it turns out that what I’ve heard and IMDB is reporting is wrong then I’ll take this back but as of now I hate Tyler Perry. What a move to make? To take a story about black women’s experiences written by  a black woman, steal it from a black female director (of which there are few enough as it is) and then take credit for her work. Methinks you actually need to read some of the original work you’re adapting:

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff 
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
 but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
 this is mine/this aint yr stuff/
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self

somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff 
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin 
i was late for my solo conversation
 or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts

link to the entire piece

We could also have a conversation about the shortening of the name, erasing a lot of the context in terms of the lives being portrayed, but that’s a post for another time.

Seth Rogan, I Hate You.

So in my post about Adventureland ( “We Don’t Get This” ) there were some comments in the post itself and also in the comments between Kate and I that might have implied that I dislike Seth Rogan. At the time I was talking about Seth Rogan as one of the people that defines a certain genre of film and humor. But today…today I hate Seth Rogan! His new film “Observe & Report”? Apparently it contains a scene where Rogan’s character date rapes a woman intoxicated on high levels of tequila and anti-depressants. She’s so wasted she actually throws up on herself before it happens. But it’s still funny! Why? Well let’s just hear what Seth has to say:

In an interview with the Washington City Paper he states:

SETH ROGEN: When we’re having sex and she’s unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay:
BRANDI: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?”

Okay that IS NOT consent! When you are so fucked up that you have vomited on yourself you cannot give informed consent! That line could have been about anything, don’t even assume at that point that’s she’s aware of her circumstances in any but the most random way. Trust me, on one or two occasions I’ve been that drunk and I have things I said recalled to me that I am absolutely horrified by and do things I never would have done sober. The argument that Brandi’s line somehow absolves him of raping her? NO! Let’s look at the fact that he never asked for consent before he started to undress her, he was obviously already set on the goal of sex whether she consented or not and nothing was going to stand in his way. The fact that her random ramblings while supremely intoxicated could be imagined to be INFORMED CONSENT allows Rogan’s charater to continue do what he was already doing while having some sort of balm for his guilt. It also allows the audience of mostly misogynistic and immature men to chuckle in public at something society tells them they should be horrified by. They don’t have to have guilt over having a fucked-up racist as a POV character or enjoying that scene because she said that line and that makes it humor! Funny!

No! 

Rape is NOT funny! Being violated is NOT a joke! Every time you mock sexual assault you make it more okay in the cultural discourse. It becomes a more acceptable act because after all even girls so fucked up they vomit on themselves want it? right? right?

I had heard that Superbad had it’s share of date-rape jokes which is the main reason I’ve never seen it. This film takes it a step further – not only is it acceptable to mock someones emotional anguish over being assaulted but it’s fine and dandy to perform the act! Fuck you Seth Rogan! Last week I hated you in an amorphous kind of way, now I want to punch you in your mouth!

P.S. We won’t even go into the fact that this scene and the violent rape scene from Last House on the Left made it past the MPAA but any hint of any alternative sexuality and there’s no way to get an R rating – ex. The Bruno film from Sasha Baron Cohen. Conflation, intersection of two mindset – firstly that women and women’s pain does not truly matter and so can be shown and mocked with impunity and secondly that any kind of sex act that GLBTQ people engage in is inherently dirty or sinful.

Hat tip to Jezebel: Is Date Rape Funny? Seth Rogan Explains It All To You

Talking Amongst Ourselves

Now something I’m sure most folks who are knowledgeable about anti-oppression politics and discuss them in their everyday life have seen is the attitude that you only hold those beliefs to be politically correct or to be argumentative about “the way things are”. I know when I’ve told people that “No, I talk about these things all the time because they effect my life everyday.” I’ve gotten disbelieving looks or right out accusation that I don’t discuss race when I’m with other People of Color, etc. Now anyone who knows me, has talked to me at a convention or has hung out with me for more than a few hours can tell you that’s bullshit but the attitude is always there, that thought that you only talk this way or feel this way because of the company you’re in or whatever other outside factors. First of all it’s straight out insulting to insinuate that I can’t form my own opinions or that my opinions are so ludicrous that there must be some outside force exerting pressure on me. Secondly it’s just untrue. 

Now the documentary U People which I’ve been desperate to see for months and is now up for free in it’s totality on Logo Online explores the conversation people have within their community. Hanifah Walidah a poet, rapper, actress and black lesbian was filming the video for her song Make A Move where she recreated a house party. Now black GLBT folks have a long history of house parties that stretches back for decades. It arose out of a number of factors but a major one was the racism they tended to encounter when they tried to enter GLBT watering holes and forming a vibrant community outside of that hostile environment. Since they couldn’t go to the limited number of GLBT bars/clubs at the time they made their own parties and clubs in each others houses. Some of the parties were exclusively for men or women and some were mixed. And this is not a tradition that has died out, it’s still alive and strong – moreso on the west coast than anywhere else but the legacy is all over.

Anyway, while Hanifah was filming this music video she heard the conversations that were happening all around her and decided that those were just as important as what was going to end up in the music video. She calls it an accidental documentary for just this reason but go and read about it in her own words at the website linked above.

But there it is: a group of 30 People of Color, mostly lesbian women and a couple of transfolk (I also believe there are two or three straight women who talk about being straight in a majority lesbian environment) talking amongst themselves. Talking about gender and the “definition” of woman, talking about coming out, talking about the intersection of race and gender, and all of it to each other, with each other, about each other. It shows not only the complexity and differences among the supposed monolithic horde of “you people” but is also a chronicle of community and the way we form it around ourselves.

Go check out U People even if you don’t think you’ll learn anything from it because it is a touching, smart and funny documentary that shows a segment of society so exceedingly overlooked by the mainstream.

Even leaving aside the personal connection I feel to this documentary despite not being a lesbian – because in so many ways these are the women I grew up around and connect with very well – it’s an amazing film. Now if only I could see black./womyn.:conversations sometime soon.