Category Archives: appearances

On National Tragedy And Personal Identity: Reflections On The Shootings In Wisconsin

by Guest Contributor Amit S. Bagga

As a preface, I encourage you to read this edited excerpt from Harsha Walia’s response to this incident on the Racialicious blog:

“To my Sikh sisters and brothers: this incident is yet another reminder of what it means for us to be racialized as Others and as eternal
Outsiders…We cannot see and name ourselves as ‘accidental’ victims of Islamophobia, which suggests that somehow Muslims are
more “appropriate” targets of racism…Striving to be more desirable within an oppressive system–that is built on our social discipline and compels our obedience–will never set us free. What will set us free is our collective liberation and thriving as the proud brown people we were meant to be.”

I am a Sikh. Or at least half. With his hair shorn. Yeah, it’s kinda nebulous. This has been my refrain for as long as I can remember. I’ve been as attached to “my” Sikh identity as strongly as a stray hair hanging out from the back of a poorly-tied turban (though not my father’s, let me assure you. No stray hairs there).

South Asian social mores would dictate that a child (a son, no less) born to a Sikh father would undoubtedly raised a Sikh. He would don a little bun wound into tightly-wrapped cloth (joora) atop his head, murmuring Guru Granth Sahib verses alongside a set of twangy, off-key pajis and, at least in the US, being shipped off to various camps to memorize, recite, and maybe–just maybe–internalize something. Well, that was not the case with me. In fact, for a variety of reasons, some intentional, most not, the development of my identity as a Sikh was not quite “marginalized,” but certainly somewhat subverted, and I was reared a good Hindu boy by a mother suspended somewhere between Punjabi goddess worship and post-colonial, urban, middle-class Brahminism.

The world in the 1980s. The Golden Temple incident; Indira Gandhi has been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards; Hindus and Sikhs are busy killing each other in the streets of Delhi; we live in a Bronx neighborhood where outsiders, despite this being New York City, are not particularly well-liked. So, the decision is made: he will not wear a joora and, as such, the Sikh bit a fell to the side. Though the decisions may not have been conscious, Punjabi was eschewed in favor of Hindi, and Guru Nanak eschewed in favor of Durga. To be fair, I learned how to recite many verses and went to the gurdwara and sat through langar, as well as the many in-home readings of the holy book, that both sides of my family, despite one being Hindu, decided to keep–but it wasn’t quite the same. At the end of the day, the Sikh-est thing about me was my middle name–and, well, the manifestation of that which pulses in all Sikh blood–the ability to two-step to a little bhangra. Continue reading

Who Is the Black Zooey Deschanel?

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, crossposted from What Tami Said

I had a great Twitter conversation yesterday with @AndreaPlaid, @AnnaHolmes and @Amaditalks. We were talking about Julie Klausner’s recent post on Jezebel, “Don’t fear the dowager: a valentine to maturity.” Klausner’s post, lamenting the trend of grown women adopting childish personas, is sort of a companion to all the similar pieces about modern men living in a state of perpetual boyhood. She writes:

There’s so much ukulele playing now, it’s deafening. So much cotton candy, so many bunny rabbits and whoopie pies and craft fairs and kitten emphera, and grown women wearing converse sneakers with mini skirts. So many fucking birds.

Girls get tattoos that they will never be able to grow into. Women with master’s degrees who are searching for life partners, list “rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot” under “interests, on their Match.com profiles. Read more…

Anna is quoted in a similar article from The Daily Beast about websites launched by Jane Pratt and Zooey Deschanel.

But when the site xoJane.com was finally unveiled a few weeks ago—minus Gevinson’s involvement (though she says she will be launching a sister site in a few months), the reaction was less than stellar. Writer Ada Calhoun, on her blog 90sWoman, called out the site for its incessant namedropping (Michael Stipe was mentioned nine times the first day), writing: “The chatty, best-friends-realness voice feels put-on and costume-y, like too-big heels.”

Perhaps part of that disappointment stems from the improbable goal of including 48 year olds and 12 year olds under one roof. The result is a seemingly permanent state of girlishness that any professional woman over the age of 30 should cringe at, but one that Pratt pushes with abandon.

“I actually blame Bonnie Fuller,” said Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel.com, referencing the former Glamour and Us Weekly editor, whose penchant for bright pink cursive handwriting scrawled all over the pages of her magazines and websites has nabbed her million dollar paychecks—and, unfortunately, permeated the lady mag and gossip set.

With such tickle-me-hormonal content online, it makes one wonder, where is the content for women who want the equivalent of GQ, with sharp articles about powerful women and fascinating trend stories, written by writers as good as Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion? Where are the fashion spreads that make you feel aspirational, not inadequate? Must everything be shot through with a shade of red or pink? And does everything have to end with an exclamation point? Read more…

The Klausner article generated a ton of push back on Jezebel. I suspect because the manic pixie dream girl persona is “in” right now and everyone wants to feel like they choose their own choices. In this case, that means that some women want to believe that their predilection for rompers and kittens and baby voices reflects their individual personalities and not some trend toward retro, non-threatening femaleness. But no one chooses their choices in a vacuum and certainly it means something that so many women seem to be finding this super-girlish, childish part of their personalities at the same time, while Katy Perry’s sex and candy persona is tearing up the charts and actual little girls are being bombarded with pink, purple, princesses, tulle and sparkles.

Continue reading

Dark Girls: A Review of a Preview [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

**TRIGGER WARNING**

I recognize the women in this preview: these women were me when I was growing up. The kids at my mostly black Catholic school called me just about every black-related perjorative ever since 3rd grade, letting me know and telling others within my earshot that I was physically inferior solely because I was dark-skinned. I even remember a boy in my 7th grade class drew a picture of me being nothing more than a solid black square. Even though the same kids voted me 8th grade class president…I was still considered in their estimation an ugly (vis-a-vis my skin tone) girl. Even had the only boy who was my boyfriend (we were in 8th grade) dump me for a lighter-skinned and younger girl, to the mocking laughter of the lighter-skinned students.

My mom—a dark-skinned African American herself—told me something that didn’t make any sense through my woundedness: “You know those light-skinned girls people think are pretty in school? Wait ‘til you’re grown and see where you’re at and where they’re at.” Added to this was my mom’s constant admonition to “get an education.” Well, sure enough, what my mom said came to pass. I’ve had photographers approach me and ask to photograph me. I had lovers of various hues—even had a husband. (He was white.) And women of various hues, races, and ethnicities have given me love on the streets, at the job, and at workshops.

I’m not sure how—or even if—some of the women in the clip worked through the pain some black people have inflicted on them. But, instead of the usual devolving, derailing, and erasing conversations of “that’s happened to me, too, though I’m a lighter-skinned black person!” (that’s a thread for another post) or “it wasn’t me! I’m a down black person!” (will be met with an exasperated eyeroll)…it would be a really good thing to simply listen to these women’s truths, as uncomfortable–sometimes, as implicating–as they may be.

Transcript after the jump.

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Continue reading

Quoted: Arielle Loren on Video Vixens, Bodybuilders, and Black Respectability

Two women, dressed in bikinis, stand on a stage. One woman’s muscles bulge from every part of her body. The other is voluptuous with a perfect hourglass figure and a fat gluteus maximus. The first woman is a bodybuilder, flexing, flaunting, and celebrating her body for an audience. The second woman is a video vixen, also parading and celebrating her body. Similar in wardrobe and performance, these women’s bodies are the center of their careers. Yet, the commoditization of black female bodies remains a controversial topic. While the video vixen would receive the cast of shame for promoting her figure for profit, the bodybuilder gets a clean pass for doing the same, simply because she’s in the fitness industry. It’s the same for high fashion models using their figures for profit. Why do certain women receive callous judgment for pursuing careers centered on their bodies?

While it may surprise most, video vixens also train to stay in shape and preserve their hourglass figures. Of course, some indulge in plastic surgery, as do bodybuilders, but regardless, it takes effort to maintain a video vixen’s body. These women also flaunt and entertain for a living on stages and in front of cameras. However, this work is met with extreme disdain because of the politics of respectability that consume the black community. It is not “respectable” to be black, female, voluptuous, and sexy on a stage for profit, but it is perfectly acceptable to be black, female, muscular, and “unsexy.”Is this double standard acceptable? Is one profession truly more sexualized than the other?

–From The Respectability of Video Vixens vs. Body Builders

Racebending Roundup: Hunger Games & Red Dawn Follow The Money

By Arturo R. García

The main character and narrator of the story. Katniss is slender with black hair, grey eyes and olive skin. She is sixteen years old and attends a secondary school somewhere in Appalachia, known in the book as District 12, the coal mining sector. She is often quiet and is generally liked by District 12′s residents, mostly because of her ability to provide highly-prized game for a community in which starvation is a constant threat. Katniss is an excellent hunter, archer, gatherer, and trapper, skilled just like her deceased father. She and her father shared singing ability, too. Since his death in a mine explosion, which killed Gale’s father too, Katniss has been the sole provider for her family, a role she was reluctantly forced to assume at the age of eleven when her mother’s grief overcame her ability to function. Katniss is surprised when her sister is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games, and willingly steps forward to take her place out of love.

- Character profile for Katniss Everdeen, via Goodreads

Does that description – more specifically, that physical description – sound like it matches Jennifer Lawrence, pictured above?

Only in Hollywood.

Continue reading

“No blacks. No fems.”: Hooking up and Black/Femme-phobia [Love, Anonymously]

by Guest Contributor TQ, originally published at Trans Queers: A Transfags Sex Journal

Do Not Hump

    Disclaimer: In this post I mainly focus on black-phobia because that’s the type of racism I can speak to the most, however I recognize that racism plays out in many ways for different races on these sites. This piece speaks to my experiences as a black man of African descent, and not necessarily those of black people of other descents or ethnicities.

“I’m a masculine guy and I like the same. No fems! Into whites and Latinos. Not into Blacks. (Sorry no offense).” I looked at the picture next to the profile, which showed only the torso of what was obviously a white guy. A hooking-up newbe, I’d been perusing this sex site for a couple weeks, barely able to get a bite. By now I’d seen enough “no femmes” and “not into feminine dudes” warnings in numerous profiles to get wise to the fact that the more masculine you looked, the more ass you got. The race issues I noticed during my initial introduction was also jarring, when, in retrospect, they really shouldn’t have been all that surprising. It quickly became obvious to me that the hook up scene, because of the anonymity it affords, is where oppressive attitudes and ideas about race, gender, and bodies, play out in the most unabashed way.

Signing up for an a4a account was one of my first declarative steps into the nsa/hook up scene. I was newly on hormones (again). Newly out as a transfag – a trans man who is attracted to other trans and nontrans men. I wanted to explore my sexual attraction for nontrans men in particular. Meeting nontrans men in real life proved to be difficult, since they were usually put off by my, then, gender ambiguity. I ventured into the world of a4a and manhunt because I liked the straightforwardness of these sites – you meet someone, message for a short bit, and eventually fuck if your interests are aligned. After my first few times perusing, I was blown away. So many profiles were like warped responses to gay male stereotyping around manhood; phrases like “no fems” or “I’m a masculine man. You be the same,” abound. I noticed a lot of black and brown men included these phrases in their profiles. On one level, this rejection of femininity was demoralizing, especially for a black trans man who was already grappling with notions of masculinity: what it meant and how to authentically express it. Continue reading

Quoted: On Being Black and Invisible in Punk Rock

Afro Punk Girl

To like punk should not be like joining a whites-only club. But when you get involved in the “scene,” when you come in contact with other people who like punk, when you go to shows and do zines – you’re stepping neck-deep in an institution steeped in racism. It’s subtle. It’s not like I’m going to go to a Peechees show and find myself swimming in white power skinhead girls testing out a tree to lynch me on. It’s the kind of thing that I described earlier when talking about my appearance – really hard to put a finger on, yet there nonetheless. Maybe a group of “friends” will make some racist jokes and then laugh, because “it’s all in good fun.” Maybe when I comment on how I need to relax my hair they’ll go off on how black people smell funny. Or as I talk about how clipart depicting black people costs money whereas clipart depicting white people is widespread and free, they’ll launch into an hour long tirade about how black people should have to pay for their clip art because white people are better. Then they’ll call me a militant for disagreeing with them. 

Invisibility is paired with racism. Once I got here, they had insults waiting. The invisibility manifests in the fact that they don’t even know a black person could like punk. The racism illuminates the reality that, although I have that one thing in common with them, I am still an alien being. Maybe it’s because punk hasn’t been infiltrated by blacks for as long as some other forms of music, and they don’t know how to act around a black person who likes anything other than rap or R&B. Maybe all they know of black people are the stereotypes they’ve been force-fed by popular culture. You can’t turn on a TV today and see many black people doing anything but what white people think they’re supposed to. It’s like a caricature, and in all my encounters with people in the “scene,” they are operating off of this caricature – and I don’t fit it. They pay lip service to stopping racism yet it’s not racism when they say “a thousand black men at the bottom of the ocean is a good start” and then laugh. Saying “nigger” isn’t appropriate but nothing is said when I’m called, disparagingly, a Rastafarian because I have braids. Because we’re all fighting for the same cause, right? We all hate the government and we all love punk, and what does it matter that I feel isolated because I never see another black face and you’re constantly telling me I’m an aberration? This isn’t about “fuck punk.” It’s about fuck you and your racist attitudes. It’s about you waking up and realizing that you’re not some kind of revolutionary while you continue to support this institutionalized racism that has poisoned even your precious little punk rock community.

I am ostracized by the black community and I am only partially accepted by the punk rock community as a token of punk’s “fight against racism.” Even other people of color are more accepted in punk than blacks, simply because they are perceived as being “whiter.” Other people of color don’t have a pre-defined style of music that they should listen to; therefore it is more believable that they could like punk. I am in no way saying that racism doesn’t exist for these people of color in punk. I am simply saying that there is less of a musical stereotype for them, and that facilitates their acceptance.

~~Tasha Fierce, Black Invisibility and Racism in Punk Rock

Excerpt: The Rise of Reality TV Racism

Note: video slightly NSFW – bleeped out profanity

IN THE BEGINNING, the Network Suits said, “Let them be white,” and reality TV cast members were white. Seasons passed, and they multiplied to a mighty celluloid nation, populated by dominant men and decorative women, Bachelors and Top Models, Apprentices and Swans. We shall remember this age as “BF.”*

After half a decade the Cable Suits gazed upon their Network neighbors’ unscripted creations, saw the ratings bounty sexism had provided, and grew envious. Then the Cable Suits decreed that producers must layer racism atop their misogynistic bedrock, saying, “Let us remake Black people in advertising’s eternal image.” So producers birthed a minstrel show and called it Flavor of Love, and it was bad, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was happy.+ Flavor of Love begat Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School and I Love New York, which begat Real Chance of Love. And lo, people of color began to rule over their own plots of televisual land. But there was much suffering; visibility became a plague on their McMansions. Competing Cable Suits discovered Black Housewives in Atlanta, reformed Black and Latino men From G’s to Gents, and taught White Rappers their place.

And so it was, and so it still is today.

* Before Flavor Of Love
+ For the viewers, it was bad. For VH1, it was the biggest hit they’d ever had. And KFC? Their product placements figured prominently
# After Flavor Of Love
- From Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, by Jennifer Pozner (site includes more video excerpts)