5-31-12 Links Roundup

For black women, particularly those in the public eye, the answer to this question is often a resounding “Yes.” They are required to be noble examples of black excellence. To be better. To be respectable. And the bounds of respectability are narrowly defined by professional and personal choices reflecting the social mores of the majority culture—patriarchal, Judeo-Christian, heteronormative, and middle class.

Spencer ended up taking home an Oscar later that month for Best Supporting Actress (Davis lost to Meryl Streep for Best Actress), but Smiley had articulated a discomfort many in the black community felt about their big-screen roles. For all its popularity and acclaim, The Help illustrates that Hollywood still filters (and distorts) the lives and histories of minorities through the eyes of the majority; celebrates white saviors; and, 72 years post-Mammy, is still more comfortable casting black women as maids than as prime ministers, action heroes, or romantic leads.

Where Smiley trod lightly, some people have been more explicit in their criticism of Davis and Spencer. In an open letter to Davis on the film-industry site Indiewire, black filmmaker Tanya Steele wrote, “Currently, the vanguard of black culture is still healing wounds from their past. Wounds that racism has created, wounds that drive you to gain acceptance in the larger culture. The acknowledgment comes in the form of a paycheck, exposure, star status, acceptance. An acceptance that is more important than our legacy. Isn’t it that simple? How else could a black woman…take the role?”

In particular, students have expressed frustration with the “monopolization” of Mexican politics and media. The example New America Media provides is a company named Televisa, which along with TV Azteca, controls 95 percent of Mexico’s TV market.

Similarly, students believe PRI has a monopoly of sorts on Mexican politics. The party has ruled Mexico unchallenged for seven decades, and has a very good shot of winning the July 1 elections.

Furthermore, students see these two monopolistic forces as being in cahoots with one another. Documents obtained by Proceso magazine suggest Peña Nieto paid Televisa for favorable media coverage while he was governor of Mexico State.

The Gates Foundation and its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are working to build up a network of private seed companies and private agro-dealers across Africa. The goal is to increase average fertilizer use in Africa by more than a factor of six and to decrease the distance each African farmer must travel to reach a shop selling seeds and inputs. Those who support this vision have heaped praise on Obama and the G8′s New Alliance. In fact, with both Republican and Democratic support, this is one of the only things both parties agree on.

But what do actual Africans think? Not just the elite, but the peasant farmers? Charity, for her part, is frustrated. Most of Kenya’s land is arid or semi-arid, making agriculture difficult if not impossible. But Ngong Hills receive adequate rainfall – or they did anyway. The climate crisis has changed the previously reliable rainfall patterns within Kenya and even a wet area like Ngong Hills is suffering. The stunted, diseased corn one sees there was planted from the “best” store-bought seed and ample chemical fertilizer was applied. The crop failure was not due to lack of inputs.

In another part of the country, about an hour from Nairobi, Samuel Nderitu points out more failed corn crops. Corn – or maize as Kenyans call it – has been the main staple since Kenya was colonized by the British. But the corn growing on the demonstration farm of Nderitu’s NGO, Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK) is healthy and thriving. So are G-BIACK’s other vegetable crops and fruit trees. Why will he harvest a successful crop when his next-door neighbor will not?

Over the past month, a “scandal” has erupted over the exposure of Secret Service agents who have used the services of sex workers. It is important to remember that scandals are created from popular imagination. So why has this news in particular captured people’s imagination? The story is often referred to as an “embarrassment” and a “public relations” problem for the Obama administration. Missing from these descriptions are the voices of the women who were victimized by agents of the United States. Let’s be very clear: sex work iswork. And refusing to pay a sex worker for his/her services is a form of violence and slavery, in the same way that refusing to pay any worker for his/her labor is violence and slavery. An even more appalling incident in Brazil came to light recently, where three U.S. Marines ran over a female sex worker with a car after she tried to open the car door to demand payment for her work. Although the Brazilian police wanted to press charges, the Marines were immediately deported (or smuggled out, let’s be real) back to the United States where they were supposedly “punished,” far out of the reach of the Brazilian justice system to which they should have been held accountable.

So where does this leave the women who were victimized by these agents of the United States? Calling these acts of violence, deception and manipulation a “sex scandal” diminishes the horrific nature of these acts, perpetrated by those who have immense power over the vulnerable woman-bodied people who survived these interactions. Similarly, as the media loves to use the phrase “sex scandal” for instances of rape and other types of sexual violence, the portrayals have again devolved into exotifying brown-skinned women, particularly sex workers, as simultaneously sexually deviant and unrapeable.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FIN6IQP2R5QWALHVUDALMTLXAM MST2010

    Being the granddaughter of “the help,” I just couldn’t bring myself to read the book (one of my sisters did) and hated it.  I had no desire to see the movie, either.  I just thought of the tales my mother told me, when as a young girl she would help her mother clean houses — of being paid in old clothes when there was no food in the house, of unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, etc., of hearing her employers use racial slurs as if they weren’t even there.   And this wasn’t even in the South, where I’m sure things were worse.   My grandmother never could afford to go to the doctors, and because of complications of diabetes (they called it “sugar” back then) she lost her eyesight and both her legs had to be amputed below the knee.   And since she was paid in cash she never contributed to social security, and she died penniless.

    That said, I really, really tried to like Viola Davis, and I try not to judge, but at some award ceremony (I think the Golden Globes) where she thanked Kathyrn Stockett for writing the book — all I could say was — dayum.  Really, Viola?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FIN6IQP2R5QWALHVUDALMTLXAM MST2010

    Being the granddaughter of “the help,” I just couldn’t bring myself to read the book (one of my sisters did) and hated it.  I had no desire to see the movie, either.  I just thought of the tales my mother told me, when as a young girl she would help her mother clean houses — of being paid in old clothes when there was no food in the house, of unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, etc., of hearing her employers use racial slurs as if they weren’t even there.   And this wasn’t even in the South, where I’m sure things were worse.   My grandmother never could afford to go to the doctors, and because of complications of diabetes (they called it “sugar” back then) she lost her eyesight and both her legs had to be amputed below the knee.   And since she was paid in cash she never contributed to social security, and she died penniless.

    That said, I really, really tried to like Viola Davis, and I try not to judge, but at some award ceremony (I think the Golden Globes) where she thanked Kathyrn Stockett for writing the book — all I could say was — dayum.  Really, Viola?