Category Archives: class

The New York Times Offers Reasons ‘Why Black Women Are Fat’

By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black  Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

… for crying out loud … good grief.

I had lots of thoughts about this op-ed, simply because I struggle with the reality that so much of women’s body issues are tied up in dating and mating, not their own health. I’m not downing those who have made that decision–that’s not my place–I just wonder if those women truly wind up getting what they originally wanted in the end.

I’ll explain that later. For now, on to the article.

I had to chop this up into bits and pieces. It’s so hard to read, that every time I go to paste a new paragraph, I feel like sticking my virtual finger out and saying “B-b-but …” because it misses so much of the point.

Maybe I’ve been writing about this stuff for too long.

At any rate…the article starts out with a photo of Josephine Baker, with the caption “Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal Black woman.” This highlights a huge problem with a lot of Black women as it is today: we don’t understand sizes, our bodies or “curvy” because “curvy,” like “thick,” has been misappropriated so many times that it no longer has any meaningful definition.

Courtesy: A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

“Curvy” simply means that you have curves. Josephine Baker–and, by correlation, Marilyn Monroe–does not have the same kind of curves that many Black women (hell, women period) refer to when the say “curves” today. Josephine’s waist isn’t any larger than a 28; her hips, no larger than 40 inches. Not by a long shot. She might be curvy, but she was small. Petite women and smaller women are also afforded the ability to be curvy. Maybe if we embraced and accepted that idea, we’d stop clinging to the notion that “curves” can only accompany a larger frame. It simply isn’t true, and I’m annoyed by the author’s attempt to use Baker’s photo to imply such.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: rosasparks

By Andrea Plaid

Courtesy: rosasparks

Before the R got into the Tumblr game, I followed rosasparks on my personal one, just totally vibing her nuggets on living, mothering, community-loving, and wisdom-giving that she brought to my dashboard when I logged on. When she followed me back, I felt all swoony and fangirly.

Before I had my Tumblr, Ms. Owner/Editrix adored rosasparks’ commentary on Jezebel while Ms. O/E worked as a scribe over there.

So, when I suggested rosasparks to be our Crush Of The Week, Ms. O/E fangirled a bit, too. When I told rosasparks about how much we loved her here at the R, she squeed herself. We at the R had to know more about our loved-up, so here’s an interview with her, continued over at the R’s Tumblr.

I discovered you on Tumblr, and Latoya adored your whipsmart comments when she worked at Jezebel. What/who informs your politics? And what keeps you at Tumblr vs., say, maintaining a blog at WordPress or Blogspot? 

My ma is a progressive and has always been very politically active. I was born in Oakland, in the early 70s, and the Bay Area was alive and bubbling with activity and my ma was inspired by and busy in all of it. My first memories, no joke, are of watching political debates and speeches on TV with her and listening to her talk about the importance of being civic-minded and paying attention to issues and what politicians are saying, and not saying, and being engaged in your community.

I was an African American studies major, in college, which included studying a ton of world politics and history. And throughout my adult life, I’ve always been working, volunteering or taking great, personal interest in government and transparency and equality and policy. Now that I have a daughter, I stay involved because I’d like for her to live and participate in a society that is inclusive and cares about all of its citizens. All of this stems from my ma and what she instilled in me. Also, I adore bell hooks. I take everything she says as gospel.

I was a commenter on Jezebel, for a long time, and when I decided I didn’t want to comment there anymore, several commenters I was close with had headed to Tumblr and said I should go there, too. I followed them, no pun intended, and I’ve never left. I love the community of Tumblr. It’s a simple format to manage and a lot of fun. It inspires me and I’ve met and encountered so many amazing people and hear so many different stories. I’ve forged true friendships, all from something as silly as cat gifs and liveblogs of TV shows, to real substantive discussions about feminism, mental illness, equality, LGBTQQ issues, parenting, the fuckery of the GOP; you name it and it’s probably been discussed–ad nauseum, in fact. Some days, you just want to post the gif of the jockey beating a dead horse.

I stay at Tumblr because I’m lazy, I guess, but really because I don’t feel like I have the ‘voice’ to have a stand-alone blog. Nor do I feel egotistical enough to say, ‘Oooh haaaay, I’m so important, go read my personal blog!’ That just sounds bizarre. I like interacting with people in the moment and I think Tumblr allows for that more than being some private island of blogitutde. Besides, I’d miss all the gifs and the ridiculous memes and everyone I follow.

DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Vagina Whitening (That’s Right, You Heard Me)

By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian

One year I vacationed in Mexico and spent the entire time in the water, body surfing and boogie boarding. My skin got really dark, which I don’t care about one way or another, though I am afraid of sun damage and skin cancer, in that order. I made one mistake that trip though, and it wasn’t forgetting sunscreen (always, always remember sunscreen). My mistake was going to see my grandmother right after. The first thing she said, once she got over the shock, was “How did you get so dark?!” For the rest of the visit, she introduced me to her friends as “My Granddaughter-Who’s-Normally-Not-This-Dark.”

Light skin is still prized in Asia for a number of reasons that have to do with longstanding notions of race, class, and gender. Good thing then, that there’s a booming market for skin whitening creams, many of them manufactured by Western companies! And good thing the companies who make these creams also make commercials, because quite a few of them–beyond their creepy, disturbing premise–are kinda hilarious.
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Vogue Italia’s ‘Haute Mess:’ Racist, Ignorant, or Brilliant?

All images courtesy Vogue Italia

By Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

That’s right: what you’re seeing above is actually something that’s in the world’s current fashion bible. Vogue Italia’s March 2012 issue features this spread, aptly titled “Haute Mess”, and features a bevy of the world’s most beautiful women obscured by everything but the kitchen sink.

I’ve got to say right off the bat that Coco Rocha is one of my favorite models in the entire universe–I often gasp in Minnie Riperton octaves when I come across her (and this is one of the reasons why) but, until I read the credits, I had no idea she was even in this spread. The same goes for models usually familiar and amazing like Joan Smalls and Jessica Stam. Fashion most of the time is supposed to enhance or highlight the beauty of the wearer, but sometimes–like in this spread–it’s trying to challenge what your idea of beauty is. But does this shoot succeed or offend? In looking at this shoot, I couldn’t decide whether or not it included subtle or overt racist tones, if it was ignorant to the message it would provoke…or that it so beautifully over-the-top it was actually brilliant.

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Sundance Pick: Mosquita y Mari

“Though we tremble before uncertain futures/ may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength/ may we dance in the face of our fears.”
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Mosquita y Mari is a slow paced exploration of being a teenager peering over the brink of adulthood. Set in a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mosquita y Mari follows the lives of two very different Chicana teenagers. Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) is a studious high-achiever, a dutiful daughter from a loving home. Mari (Venecia Troncoso) is rebellious and volatile, with a chip on her shoulder that crowds out most of the world. Circumstances toss them together again and again, and they embark on a deep and intense friendship.

In her press kit, writer/director Aurora Guerrero writes:

The inspiration behind my debut feature-film, Mosquita y Mari, was my own adolescence. Initially, when I decided I wanted to write a feature-length script I kept coming back to a series of complex, same-sex friendships I had while growing up. When looking back, long before I identified as queer, I realized my first love was one of my best friends. It was the type of friendship that was really tender and sweet but also sexually charged. Despite the fact that we had the makings of a beautiful teen romance we never crossed that line. The beginnings of Mosquita y Mari was reflecting back on that time and asking myself the questions, why didn’t we cross that line and what kept us in “our place”? I didn’t grow up in a household where my parents forewarned me that if I turned out to be gay they would disown me. They didn’t wave the Bible in my face saying it was wrong. Instead the message was subtle. It was hidden in the silences around sex and desire; it was implied in society’s expectations, you know, like you only experience those feelings of love and desire with the opposite sex. I think all of us are subject to society’s rules so I think many people can relate to this story of censored friendship. That was the initial inspiration. [...] Continue reading

Voices: Reactions To ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’

By Arturo R. García

Just when you thought Satoshi Kanazawa had wrapped up Tone-Deaf Article Of The Year honors for 2011, Forbes’ Gene Marks sauntered his way into consideration Monday with “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” which spun a speech by President Obama on economic inequality into a privilege-fest with bon mots like these, emphasis mine:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Somehow Forbes chose not to tag the bit about good grades as BREAKING NEWS. But maybe Marks’ editors didn’t want to overshadow the moment when he breaks it down even further than the President. That whole Occupy business? Totally barking up the wrong tree:

President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.

And about Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry thinking Marks’ column sounded like something out of The Onion? Well, she’s not wrong:

You know, it occurs to me that you don’t even live in America. And I’ve got to know, what the heck are you doing living in Sri Lanka? What do they have there? Camels? Rugs? Well, I can tell you one thing they don’t have: 100 percent grade-A American opportunity.

America is the land of milk and honey. You can probably catch a flight here from Sri Lanka for as little as $2,500 if you shop around. So what’s keeping you? Okay, I can imagine how it is: you live in a back alley and you eat garbage. And maybe you don’t have the liquid capital to outlay $2,500 on a luxury-like first-class airfare to the U.S. Well, you can always fly coach for about a third of first-class fare, and if worst comes to worst, put it on the plastic. As long as you pay it off as quickly as you can, the interest won’t cramp your style. (See Tip #1.)

It should also be noted that, as, Talking Point Memo’s Callie Schweitzer pointed out, Marks has also applied his “wisdom” to gender-equality issues in the workplace:

Women also have more personal and social pressures than men. And this affects their ability to further their careers and get the experience they need to become good managers. It’s common today for families to have two working parents. But let’s admit it, when little Johnny gets sick at school who’s the first person that’s usually called? When a child is up at night coughing, which parent is staying up with her? When the plumber has to make an emergency morning visit, who’s generally staying at home to deal with it?

It’s usually mom. And even if she has a full time job too.

When my wife and I were younger and our baby would cry in the middle of the night I would put a pillow…over my head. That stopped the crying for sure. My wife (who was working full time by the way) was the one who got out of bed to care for the child. Yes, I was an ass. I’m not saying that many dads don’t pitch in or try to do their fair share. But as much as women have achieved in earning their equality, there are still some age old cultural habits that won’t die. Children need their mommies. And most moms I know, whether they have a full time job or not, want to be there for their child. I know plenty of women who admit they struggle with this instinctual tug on their gut. Men don’t have this kind of instinctual tug. Let’s face it: unless there’s beer involved, men don’t have many instincts at all. We figure our wives will ultimately handle these things. And in many cases, they just do.

I could go on and on, and but, you know – beer. More reaction from around the ‘Net under the cut.

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Mic Check: A Day In Zuccotti Park With #OccupyBigFood

By Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss

“Whose food?”

Our food.

Signs of “Turn the beet around!” (an obvious nod to the fact that most beets in the US, the source of a large percentage of our granulated sugar, are genetically modified), “Zucchini Park,” and “Take back our food!” filled Wall Street as the members and supporters of the #OccupyBigFood movement made their way into Zucotti Park, with myself and the toddler in tow, bringing up the rear.

I’d made the decision to go a long time ago, when one of the supporters left a link in my comments regarding the original affair. That scheduled Saturday was also the date of the first “Big Snow” of the pending 2011-2012 disgustingly-wet-and-blisteringly-cold season, so it was ill-attended (which meant that I wound up out there among the #OWS Tent City.)

The human mic system at Zuccotti Park blasted valuable message after valuable message, meaningful morsel of info after meaningful morsel:

“Corporate entities are ensuring big subsidies for themselves while convincing Congress to cut money from programs like SNAP…”

“The Union that makes up the people that SERVE that food stand in solidarity with the people who are treated inhumanely and are made to harvest that food for pennies,”

“We want a sustainable system that ensures and guarantees access for everyone,”

All things that we stand for here, though it may not be coming from the same angles as those at the #OccupyBigFood rally.

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An Interview with Dr. Mythili Rajiva, Co-Editor of Reena Virk: Critical Perspectives On A Canadian Murder

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Mythili Rajiva is associate professor of Sociology at Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Her research focuses on girlhood, the Canadian South Asian diaspora, and racialized identities. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Canadian Review of Sociology, Girlhood Studies and Feminist Media Studies. She is the co-editor of Reena Virk: Critical Perspectives on a Canadian Murder.

BCP: Why a book on Reena Virk?

MR: The idea of working on the case had been in my head from about 2004 onwards, maybe because of a shift in my own identity from being a graduate student just starting a ph.d. in 1997 to where I was in 2004, finishing my thesis. I think it was Salman Rushdie who once said that the journey creates us; writing a thesis on South Asian Canadian girls’ experiences of racism in adolescence made me realize how much I cared about social justice issues.

The case had always haunted me, but up to this point, it had been at a visceral level. When I started analyzing it through the scholarship on racism and identity that I’d read for my thesis, I realized the case mattered to me deeply, both at a personal as well as a political level. But when I started doing research, I found very little academic work.

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