SICK SAD WORLD

Anti-immigration: flipping the script

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010
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Why Gaga’s ugly sells

Posted in Uncategorized by Nancy on May 30, 2010


the ability to be ~transgressive or subversive or creative or outside-the-box is a privilege because it assumes you aren’t already viewed that way

– quoted from a comment somewhere here

There is, unquestionably, something to admire about Lady Gaga. Her refusal to bend to sexualised feminine ideals, to take pop music in a new direction and play with the possibilities of different mediums is to be commended. She works hard and, from what I can glean from interviews, she has a good, working brain under all that gear.
But it’s worth looking deeper into why Gaga’s ‘subversiveness’ has become so successful, and saleable, for mainstream audiences. Why does a ‘genderbending’ artist, who once may only have made it as an ‘alternative’ cult figure, suddenly find such acceptance in a Western society that has narrow ideas bout gender conduct? How did young female
audiences go from lapping up coquettish Britney Spears-esque hyper-girly sexuality to Gaga’s transgressive, foul-mouthed and ‘bent’ sexuality?
Like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper before her, Gaga has risen to fill the need for something ‘new’ and controversial in the arena of blonde pop sensibility. But, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, Gaga has the privileged starting point of whiteness from which she can deviate. Like the white, blonde pop divas before her, Gaga has the opportunity to deviate from her ‘clean’ image. Her natural appearance represents a ‘pure’ starting point to subvert.
Designer Gary Card unwittingly illustrates this in this comment:
“She’s brave enough to let herself be a canvas for a designer to go and really express themselves. Nothing is off limits! With Rihanna and Beyoncé there is an end result of desirability and unattainable sexiness, whereas Gaga is a really interesting bridge between the desirable and the grotesque.”
Rihanna and Beyonce are interesting comparisons. Why not Taylor Swift or Katy Perry? Rihanna and Beyonce are already othered by the colour of their skin. They cannot be ‘art’, but sexualised identities, as attractive black women so often are (whether as ‘video hoes’, hypersexualised rappers or ‘sexy divas’ such as Tyra and Beyonce).
When was the last time you saw a photographer’s ‘whimsical’ image featuring anyone other than small, cutesy, white, size 8 females with typical haunted/coquettish/awkward expressions and poses? When was the last time you saw a fat girl, or a black, brown or Asian girl, posing in some hipster photographer’s shoot? Indians, blacks, latinas are all denied the possibility of subversion, because their very existence subverts what the music industry (and fashion and news industry) sells to us as ‘normal’/the starting point.
look how white and twee we are!
Gaga, as a cute, small white girl, has the choice to be ‘grotesque’. Take a look at Beth Ditto. Why is she not as widely praised as a ‘subversive’ figure? Because her body and identity already subvert the image required for a successful female musician. Her subversion is not a choice. But Ditto doesn’t get praise and worship for her refusal to be invisible (although fatphobes wish she would be) – she gets slammed for not conforming to the feminine model of beauty.
kiss her fat ass, haters.
At first, I was angry at Gaga for receiving the kind of props other artists will never receive because of their appearance (especially women such as Grace Jones, one of Gaga’s direct influences and inspirations),  but she can’t help her privilege. However, it is up to her fans to acknowledge that she is not ‘tearing down the system’, merely cashing in on it, although she may be exploring it in a more novel way. It’s worth remembering that privilege allows Gaga to be possible.

somebody’s children

Posted in Uncategorized by Nancy on May 30, 2010

A 4-year-old Iraqi child cries as older boys stage a mock execution Monday in Baghdad, Iraq. Children’s games are under a heavy influence of ongoing violence in the country. One of the more popular games is the clash between militias and police.

source here

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Is Chimbalanga a ‘gay man’? Getting it right

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

A fantastic update on the Malawi couple story:

Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika announced on Saturday the pardon of the jailed gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years earlier this month.

The decision was made at a press briefing at the state house after Mutharika met with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.

“I’ve pardoned the two on humanitarian grounds but what they did is criminal and against our culture,” Mutharika told journalist.

HOWEVER, I have a problem with how this couple have been described by the news media.

Here are some clues on why we should rethink the “gay” label for this couple:

1. “[Tiwonge] Chimbalanga, 20 (on the right in the photo), who dresses as a woman, spoke defiantly of his love for the man he plans to marry.”

2. “Dressed in a blouse and describing himself as a woman, [Chimbalanga] said that they became engaged after “my darling, Steven, proposed love to me and we agreed to get married”. Unlike Mr Monjeza, he refused to accept that he had broken any law. “Which laws? I am a woman, I can do what a woman can do,” he said.”

Of course, the fact that Chimbalanga identifies as a woman and presents herself as a woman is FAR too complicated for cut-and-dry news reporting, and far too  “confusing” to accomodate with a different pronoun. Apart from the label “gay” being much easier to fit into tight headline spaces, a trans person may not have attracted as much sympathy and reporting in the Western media. As in the case of Caster Semenya, news about intersex, third-gender or trans people results in muddied and confused reporting, as these people don’t fit nicely into our neat little narratives.

While its wonderful that this couple’s right to love has sparked sympathy around the world and attracted UN intervention, the framing of this story as a “gay” issue is simplistic and incorrect, as one half of the couple does not identify as a gay man. Chimbalanga seems quite clear on the fact that she is a woman, but this has not been made clear/has been rendered unimportant in these stories.

In the same way gay male and lesbian issues are often lumped together in a big rainbow file, the failure to acknowledge how Chimbalanga views herself shows a refusal by the media to think outside of binary heterosexual/homosexual constructs. Chimbalanga has been blatantly misgendered.

I don’t know if Malawi has a “third gender” (the way India, Samoa and Thailand do that is radically different to Western ideas of transgender), but either way it is absolutely incorrect  to use the label “gay man”. In the same way, if the story was about a man’s relationship with a fa’afafine, I wonder, would the Western media report it as a “gay” story although homosexuals and fa’afafine are completely distinct? I guess so.

Just another fun example of how reporting eliminates identities and how Western media reduces the complexities of gender to black-and-white binary categories.


Month of pride

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

President Obama is often accused of not doing enough, or doing too little too late to make progress on issues he campaigned on. One issue was the repealing of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” bill, which bans gay people from serving in the military if they reveal their sexual orientation.

Just last month, Obama was heckled by angry gay rights activists at a Democratic fundraiser. Fair enough – politician’s legacies are filled with broken or unfulfilled promises. But they didn’t have to wait too long for change: “the Senate armed services committee and the full House of Representatives in quick succession on Thursday approved measures to repeal the 1993 law.”

He’s now gone a step further and declared June 2010 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

Obama Pride sure hedged their bets with the right guy.

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A woman’s work is never done

Posted in The Good Word by Nancy on May 29, 2010

Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious
and we’re the first to get the sack
and what we look like is more important than what we do
and if we get raped it’s our fault
and if we get bashed we must have provoked it
and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches
and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos
and if we don’t we’re frigid
and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a ‘real’ man
and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy
and if we expect community care for children we’re selfish
and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and ‘unfeminine’
and if we don’t we’re typical weak females
and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man
and if we don’t we’re unnatural
and because we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon
and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion
and ….. for lots and lots of other reasons we are part of the women’s liberation movement.

– Joyce Stevens

Some help for heterosexists

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 25, 2010
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Recognise the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia

Posted in The Good Word by Nancy on May 25, 2010

Dr Omi Osun Joni L Jones has many wise things to say in her speech on ‘6 rules for allies’. By ‘allies’ she refers to people who are sympathetic to those affected by racism/sexism/classism/homophobia/ableism/transphobia and other kinds of oppression.

The video is worth watching but I will sum up some key points that stood out to me.

1. Being  ‘liberal’ is not enough

‘The liberal position is the hegemonic force of the academy . . . which means racism, sexism, homophobia . . . and a commitment to class structures cannot be undone in the academy.”

“The liberal position says that those of us with legitimate observations about injustice are really exaggerating, paranoid, and unwilling to see how we are creating the problem we expose.”

2. Speak up, name it and say it

“If you are male, YOU be the one to tell your department chair that the women’s salaries in your department must be brought line with those of the men. If you are white, YOU be the one to advocate for the qualified grad student of color applicant over the qualified white grad student applicant.”

3. Recognize the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia

“It is institutional and structural. Learn to walk in a room and count the people of color . . . Allies know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are real and NEVER tell people, ‘You could be wrong, you know’. Such a statement presumes that you have greater insights than those with lived experience inside of multiple oppressions.

4. Welcome getting called out

“When called out about your racism, sexism or homophobia, don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t cry, and don’t silently think “she’s crazy” and vow never to interact with her again . . . We are all plagued by racism, sexism, and homophobia. Be grateful that someone took the time to expose yours.”

All too often, calling out an injustice can seem more offensive than the injustice itself – it is easy for the privileged to brush off legitimate concerns.

From the transcript, I see Dr Jones also read a 1951 poem by Beah Richards. It is still as relevant today.

They said, the white supremacists said,

that you were better than me

that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.

They lied.

White womanhood too is enslaved.

The difference is degree.

And what wrongs you, murders me.

And eventually marks your grave

So we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

He, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous

thought—

‘white skin is supreme.’

Set your minds on my slavery

the better to endure your own.

Cuddled down in your pink slavery

and thought somehow my wasted blood

confirmed your superiority.

Because your necklace was of gold

You did not notice that it throttled speech.

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true colours

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 22, 2010

Just your friendly neighbourhood Tea Partier.

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Foreign bodies as sexual playgrounds

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 22, 2010

This fantastic post on how race and ethnicity become commodified as it becomes ‘cool’ to be ‘in touch with’ ‘other cultures’.

I’ll just re-post sections of it but read the whole post here

So there was this American guy, Jake, who sat with Gareth and me at lunch last Saturday and was telling us how much he wanted to go to Malaysia because it’s apparently a great place to meet women, and claimed that the country is chockfull of hot-bodied beauties. He also didn’t waste time to explain that the reasons behind his quest was down to his general lack of luck with women and self-confessed socially-inept ways. And so like the many sad, lonely white men with money to squander, he’d like to try his luck with Asian women because they, y’know, love white men, are ultra-feminine and so willing to please, and all that BS.

So what makes an otherwise well-travelled, highly-intelligent Harvard-Oxford-educated man like Jake essentialise Malaysian women, and most ‘Asian’ women, as beautiful and ever-compliant? The answer is likely to lie in how we see our world and how we ‘consume’ it. In her essay ‘Eating the Other’, bell hooks articulates the way we are fed with media images in advertising, mainstream film-making, and general consumerist culture that fuel our imagination with the allure of the ‘Spicy’, ‘Demure’, and ‘Uninhibited’ Otherness. These images do nothing but reify the racial and capitalist power that are in favour of very specific groups:

Gareth asked me last night that surely where Jake comes from there are plenty ethnic-Asian women around to de-mystify his idea of ‘oriental beauty’. My thoughts about this are that women from distant, foreign lands are perceived to be and treated like untouched, uncharted territory. The last frontiers of MANkind, so to speak. I say ‘untouched’ in the way Madonna had once sang about, in that they haven’t been corrupted by feminism and modern, progressive attitudes about love and romance. Cross-cultural virgins.

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