Yeah. You read that correctly. To borrow from my southern roots, I got “thowed off” when my student put this in the atmosphere while talking about black women’s sexuality in a multicultural space like hip hop.
It happened in class about a month ago, and I have yet to find the words to ease the levels of high anxiety and horror that I continue to grapple with after hearing this phrase. Part of me recoiled like the 9-year-old little girl I talked about here; part of it was me as a grown woman angry at the fact that rape is contextualized and dismissed as a spectacle. By no means is this quick commentary intended to be a polished discussion of rape and blackness in the popular imagination. Instead, is more sporadic and “off the dome.” It has no shaped trajectory but accentuates the messiness of rape discourse that currently exists in (black) American popular culture.
I just saw the most problematic image on Facebook. It was a photo of four blonde female pilots in combat gear with the caption, Hey Taliban, look up in the sky! Your women can’t drive, but ours CAN!
Despite the issues I have with militarism, or this country’s campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m all for cheering for female pilots (yea, bada&& flying ladies!). What I can’t just can’t stand by and let slide is this “your women are oppressed, but ours are awesome” rhetoric, a rhetoric which only illuminates how–both actually and metaphorically–racism, xenophobia, and imperialism so often play out on women’s bodies around the world.
To me, this photo represents how blithely and blindly women from the Global North allow ourselves to be used as (actual and metaphorical) weapons of war against women from the Global South. In fact, that offensive caption isn’t significantly different from comments I’ve been hearing this week like, “These are countries where women have very little value.”
Sadly, the place where I’ve been hearing such phrases isn’t on some conservative TV program or website (where I think that all-woman pilot photo originated), but rather, on the PBS film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, a well-publicized neo-liberal “odyssey through Asia and Africa” hosted by everyone’s favorite white saviorNew York Times reporter, Nikolas Kristof. Continue reading →
On April 19, 1989, a young woman who was jogging through Central Park in New York City was found badly beaten. She had also been raped.
I have written briefly about the case before in comparing it to Scottsboro. However, I want to return to it today because I just saw the trailer for Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the case and it brings back terrible memories for me.
I was living in New York City at the time of this incident. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school. My school was across the street from Central Park and I was terrified. Just a few months before, I had been sexually assaulted (not in the park) and now I was certain that I would be targeted again. Continue reading →
Reading that wordsmith/musician/teacherJoy Harjo’s memoir just dropped brought back that crush with capital-L life I had in my undergrad days : all dewy-new to the adult world, pretty effin’ cocky about what I thought I already knew and wanting to gooble up more ideas from new books and new people, and seeing middle age as sunset-colored horizon meeting the ocean, all lovely and over there.
Harjo was one of the writers in my 4-year degree days who, if you didn’t read her, you knew of her because her name and/or the titles of her writing dropped from almost every Women’s Studies major’s mouth, cropped up in anthologies by feminist writers of color, and compiled by professors in (what the folks at my university) called their “Kinko’s books.” (“Kinko’s books” were copies of individual articles, poems, essays, analyses, etc. college profs compiled and constructed with bookbinding famously associated with mega-copy shop Kinko’s, now known as FedEx Office. The compilations have been since ruled to infringe on authors’ intellectual property.)
Now that I over here in the beginnings of my middle age–realizing that I don’t know everything and being pretty OK with that, still trying to navigate Life’s waters, and seeing my youth as storm-clouds of not-so-lovely and quite happy that it’s back there–I revisited Harjo’s most famous work, “She Had Some Horses.” Her poem does what quite a bit of literature does well: it navigates life with you, sometimes as compass, sometimes as lodestar, sometimes as anchor. An excerpt after the jump; the rest of the poem is here.
Meena lives in Gereshk, a town of 50,000 people in Helmand, the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Helmand has struggled with the double burden of being one of the world’s largest opium producers and an insurgent stronghold. Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access. She doesn’t meet outsiders face to face.
“I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,” she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed. “I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,” she went on. “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.” Meena gulped. She was trying not to cry. On the other end of the line, Amail, who is prone to both compassion and drama, began to weep with her. Tears mixed with kohl dripped onto the page of the spiral notebook in which Amail was writing down Meena’s verses. Meena recited a Pashtun folk poem called a landai:
“My pains grow as my life dwindles, I will die with a heart full of hope.”
“I am the new Rahila,” she said. “Record my voice, so that when I get killed at least you’ll have something of me.”