SICK SAD WORLD

What kind of ally are you?

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on June 17, 2010

Re-blogged from here

1. Active Oppression

  • Laughing at or telling jokes about LGBT people
  • Making fun of people who don’t fit traditional notions of gender roles and sexual identity
  • Verbal and/or physical harrassment
  • Working for anti-LGBT legislation, i.e. employment and housing
  • Gay-bashing or other forms of violence

2. Indifference & Ignorance

  • Business as usual attitude
  • Passive acceptance of actions by others which demeans LGBT individuals, i.e walking away and/or not contronting said behaviors
  • Ignoring the topic, i.e lack of discussions
  • Adopting a liberal attitude of “what people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is none of my business. I just don’t want to hear about it.”
  • Being friendly before you knew somebody was LGBT but ignoring them afterwards.

3. Oppression Through Lack of Action

  • If you hear a friend telling a demeaning joke, recognizing it as oppressive, not laughing at this joke but not saying anything about it either.
  • Being uncomfortable but not confronting homophobia
  • Labeling individuals based upon stereotypes – or not confronting those who use stereotypes to label others
  • Avoiding participation in events that might make others suspect you are a LGBT-ally, or LGBT yourself

4. Confronting Oppression

  • When you hear a homophobic joke, you confront the speaker about it.
  • Making a choice to participate in events (or spaces) that are LGBT-friendly/inclusive
  • Be aware and confront statements such as, “I’m not prejudiced but…”

5. Growing as an Ally

  • Read books/journals by and about LGBT individuals
  • Being sensitive to issues LGBT individuals face
  • Attending LGBT-friendly events (such as PRIDE!)
  • Educating yourself about LGBT-issues instead of relying on “experts”

6. Becoming Active as an Ally

  • Educating others, engaging others in LGBT-oriented conversations, presenting programs to others.
  • Be “out” as a supporter of LGBT issues and individuals
  • Encourage and promote respect for one another, and celebrate the differences between individuals.

7. Challenging Systems

  • Creating a climate where individual and cultural diversity is recognized and celebrated
  • Working for a LGBT-positive legislation
  • Addressing LGBT issues through training and workshops
  • Supporting “out” LGBT individuals
  • Changing and challenging discriminatory institutional practices and working to change such practices.

Of course this doesn’t just apply to LGBTTQ issues.

I think most people I know sit at 3 on this scale. This also makes me aware of my own inaction.

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How to deal with being racist

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 31, 2010

Guardian columnist Joseph Harker hit it on the head when he wrote:

The acknowledgement of personal racism is simply a prerequisite before anyone can begin to eradicate its pernicious effects.

This has led me to think that it might be worth reviewing the way we use the “R” word. For ethnic minorities, or non-white people, who have lived experiences of racism, it is a fact that racism exists. It may be ‘new’ racism – insidious, covert, difficult to clearly find words for and expose – but it is there. ‘New’ racism slips by in the jokes made with close friends when no minorities are around, the language used to describe minorities, non-white people or less-privileged ethnic groups, and the unthinking perpetuation of behaviours and rituals that exclude, essentialise and other these people.

But calling out racism can sometimes be counter-productive. Rather than enlightening the person who caused offence, or eliciting an apology from them, the word ‘racist’ tends to put up walls. “I’m not racist! I have black/brown/Asian friends! I love curry!” When someone is offended by racism, and they point it out to the person who has offended them, they are likely to get one of three reactions:

1. The pseudo-apology:  “I didn’t mean to cause offence. It was a joke. Sorry if I caused offence.

2. The “explanation”, or “whitesplaining”: “I said this/did this/behaved this way because I was being ironic/trying to illustrate/racism doesn’t exist anymore/didn’t think anyone would be offended/it CAN’T be offensive because this this and this/I said it to my [insert ethnicity] friend and THEY weren’t offended…”

3. The dismissal: “You’re too sensitive/politically correct/can’t take a joke/get over it.”

The problem with the pseudo-apology is that the apology is not for holding racist views or doing something that demonstrates and perpetuates racism; the apology is made for offending someone. This equates offence caused by racism with the offence caused by farting in an elevator full of people. The person is not apologising, they are naturalising – they are simply explaining that their racism is not malicious/is natural to them. Oops, I didn’t realise my racism was showing.

The explanation similarly whitewashes (excuse the pun) the issue. It avoids the apology, the recognition of hurt caused to the person offended, and instead goes about justifying racism with a shit-ton of excuses. Instead of owning the damage done and recognising the repercussions of racism, it attempts a debate about “what is and is not racism”. This adds insult to injury – who are you, a person with the privilege to perpetuate such behaviour, to tell others how to define their experiences of racism?

The dismissal is just as frustrating as the explanation. Except, instead of pretending to engage in dialogue about racism, it shuts down the conversation completely. The dismissal is a refusal to acknowledge, or even consider, how words or actions may have caused harm or offended. Dismissal, like explanations and pseudo-apologies, reveals defensiveness. It reveals the unwillingness to acknowledge the prejudice, hate or fear that we harbour in ourselves towards other kinds of people.

This is because ‘racist’ is a scary word. To allow yourself to be called a racist acknowledges your privilege, your passivity in the face of inequality and your support of the status quo. If you are in all other respects an empathetic and kind-hearted person, of course this is a blow to the ego. To apply the word ‘racist’ to yourself can require a great deal of honesty and courage. But not all people are malicious racists. To quote Harker again, “it is naive to believe that the long history of racial distortion – which goes back to the days of slavery and colonialism – has not had a lasting effect on the individual subconscious”.

This doesn’t excuse racism or make it any less damaging, but I think it is important to consider the way we think about racism. A racist is not necessarily a bogeyman dressed in a KKK hood. Even as a non-white person, a racist could be the colleague you get along with especially well, a close friend or even your lover. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good people. It just means they harbour ingrained prejudice and privilege. This prejudice and privilege is not natural – it is instilled in us from birth. Where we are born, the colour of our skin, our gender, sex, and our physical or intellectual ability all determine how much power and privilege we get in society.

What is important is that we recognise this power and privilege, and recognise when we abuse it. There is no way to eradicate racism, or to remove personal prejudices, without first acknowledging that they exist.

The next time someone calls you out for racism, try these approaches (some borrowed from this LJ community’s list of rules):

1. Be aware of your privilege. Recognise that racism is dependent on power imbalances.

2. If someone calls you on it, don’t take it as an insult, but as a learning opportunity. Try to understand their point of view before you get defensive. Be honest about the perspective you are coming from.

2. Recognise that the people suffering from an oppression have the right to define it. Don’t mansplain, whitesplain, straightsplain, cissplain, etc. Respect people’s right to self-define.

3. Keep in mind that you are responsible for educating yourself.

4. Be grateful someone has called you out and given you the opportunity to learn.

5. It’s okay to say dumb stuff/do dumb stuff. We all fuck up. But a deliberate unwillingness to learn will reveal your true colours.

Some help for heterosexists

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 25, 2010
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10 common myths about trans men

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 19, 2010
  1. All FTM’s come from the lesbian community, and after transition are heterosexual (that is, attracted to women).
  2. Transsexualism/transgenderism can be “cured” by psychotherapy. Transsexual men are really just lesbians.
  3. FTM’s did not exist until after World War II, with the advent of hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery.
  4. Female-to-males are far rarer than male-to-female transsexuals.
  5. Trans men seek to live as and be recognized as male in order to obtain male privilege and economic advantages.
  6. All trans men exhibit stereotypically male behavior and want to be as macho as possible.
  7. Taking testosterone makes female-to-male transsexuals much more aggressive and angry than they were before taking hormones.
  8. All FTMs want genital reconstruction as the driving force of their transition (not necessarily the social aspects that go along with masculinity).
  9. Historically, all women only chose to live as men to pursue careers that were otherwise unavailable to them, to seek economic opportunities, or to justify lesbian relationships.
  10. Trans men are really just butch lesbians who change.

Source is here

Note: I have changed the original spelling of ‘transmen’ to ‘trans men’ as many (but not all) trans feminists find the spelling without the space offensive.

Also check out Trans 101.

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If black women were white women

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 17, 2010

Food for thought, in case we all  still want to wake up tanned, blonde and thin (like every character on the Hills etc).

Here is the Source

In “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem makes the persuasive argument that “Whatever a ‘superior’ group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever an ‘inferior’ group has will be used to justify its plight.”

For too long the definition of racism has been a fight between white and black manhood or “who’s the bigger man”, so to speak. We’ve trivialized the existence of gender between both groups of men in favor for discussion of the “bigger issue”.

This has historically enabled white female supremacy—the most unchallenged form of white supremacy—to escape any critical thought.

What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?

The answer is clear: Black women would represent value, purity; and based on their natural traits would be worthy of protection and instantly become the objects of universal desire. White women would represent the opposite.

“Beauty tar potion” would become globally popular to get the “black look.” “Dove” would be replaced with a black soap called “Raven” to help exfoliate the skin and bring out subtle hints of melanin.

White female features would be declared violent. Their “jagged” thin lips, “knife sharp” noses, and “harsh” jaw lines would be nature’s way of expressing why men have a natural preference for the soft features of black women. Soft lips, soft cheekbones, and soft, round noses would be proof of natural femininity. Full, pink lips and large, dark eyes would become associated with virginal black girls whose purity must not be compromised. Black female features would thus be said to represent youth.

Straight, blond hair would be considered “wild and unruly” because when the wind blew, it did not stay in place. Women with naturally straight hair would hide their “unruly” and “wild” stick-straight hair in public. The desire for “lightweight hair” that defied gravity would permanently end the use of blow dryers. Keeping one’s natural blond hair wild and straight would become indicative of a political statement.

The anti-aging properties of black female skin combined with soft, curvy bodies would be proof of the overall reproductive health of black women. Scientists would argue that black women were naturally preferred as long term mates and mothers because they were “healthier.” Men’s attraction to women is based on overall health and fertility, after all.

Suddenly, biracial women would be “in” because the hard features of white women wouldn’t prevent the fragile genes of “black beauty” from peeking through. Men would suddenly have the desire to date “ethnic,” non-black women since they would look “closer to black” than blond women—at least they wouldn’t look like white women.

Statistics would equate the fact that white women make up the majority with their “overpowering” and “strong” population. This would be proof that they could handle unsafe neighborhoods. The “strong culture” they would have created amongst themselves would enable them to withstand their lack of protection from predators and criminals. Statisticians would argue that men were attracted to black women innately because they made up a small percentage of the population. “We tend to value what is rare,” they might say.

Men would proclaim that white women deserve sexual objectification because “flat buttocks” allow for deeper penetration. In ghettos across America, men would stand on street corners and yell “Damn! You got a flat ass!” to remind white women of their sexual status in society.

Upper class women would be afraid that their “asses looked flat” since it would represent animalistic and sexual deviance, like white women. Black women’s buttocks, said to protrude farther from the body, would prove that their natural vulnerability made them “less equipped” to handle hardcore sex and rape like white women could.

“I need a strong white woman!” would become a popular “empowering” slogan for exploitative men who rationalized the emotional, financial, and sexual overburdening of white women.

Overweight white nannies would become the “acceptable white women” in popular culture as they do not pose a threat to black female superiority and privilege. Conventionally attractive white women would serve as a sexual threat to black women for single-handedly breaking down the beauty hierarchy.

Hip hop videos would feature men throwing money at “white bitches” bent over in front of the camera to showcase their white asses, eager for deep penetration. Entire songs would be devoted to hatred of “white gold digging bitches” who believed that they were entitled to the financial security in marriage to which black women were entitled. “Penetrable white asses” and “pale-faced hoes” would become the cash commodity for selling entire musical genres.

White women’s “hard” bodies would be deemed more “capable” of fighting off sexual attackers, while the soft curves of black female bodies would become worthy of police protection. White women, despite being at high risk of being victimized by violence and sexual crimes, would not “need” police protection.

Movies would feature black women as the main objects of men’s desire across racial lines while stereotypes of evil, bitter, and oversexed white women would further prove why men of all races simply did not prefer blonds. “We can’t help those to whom we’re attracted,” men would say. “Preference” would become an unconcealed acceptance of discrimination against white women. White women’s anger towards and sadness about the status quo would show their unreasonable jealousy of the innate superiority of black women.

Republicans would ban abortions to protect the virtue of pure, black motherhood and liberals would advocate increasing the number of abortion clinics in “low income” neighborhoods where white women would be the majority. Liberals would claim that white women had “culturally” approved of sexual objectification and were “safe enough” without outside help since they were warned not to touch “in-group issues” with a ten foot pole.

And so on and so forth.

The most important reality is that black feminists would eventually grow tired of being seen as innocent and vulnerable in patriarchy and would fight to erase the commodity of black femininity. “The innocent, submissive, and vulnerable representation of women is what puts us in danger. The rigid category of femininity has contributed to our oppression,” they might argue.

In the back of every black feminist movement we would hear the quiet and dignified pleas of radical white feminists. “But, we do not represent femininity. We are considered strong, incapable of feeling pain, and sexually deviant—but all this has done is increase our likelihood of being in danger. And aren’t we women too?”

As Gloria Steinem wrote, “In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless – and logic has nothing to do with it.

What remains universally evident is that the many justifications for power and privilege are always inherent, always scientific, and always permeate society to the point that they remain deeply buried within our collective consciousness.

Until someone challenges them.

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