During our November 9th, 2009 show at Port Ghalib in Egypt, something happened that inspired some of my writing for my album 4 (arriving in a few weeks). I was in the middle of performing “Irreplaceable,” and as the audience started singing “to the left, to the left” there was a woman sitting on top of a man’s shoulders in her full, traditional burka. Only her eyes and hands were visible.
She was waving her hands to the left, to the left, and singing every word – which I could see because the veil around her mouth was moving. Although the venue was at capacity, I could see her clearly in the audience. I was shocked she was even there, that she’d even been allowed to go to a concert, because after it gets dark, you don’t see any women in burkas on the street. So her presence alone was so moving. Witnessing the power, beauty, and strength of women – especially those living in places where their liberty is limited – is what moved me the most. I felt she had her beliefs, and they were important to her, but music also had a place in her life and she made a choice to be there.
—Beyonce, “Eat, Play Love,” published in Essence, July 2011
by Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn, originally published at Digital Femme
Back when I used to read Uncanny X-Men, I would always wonder why writers had mutants face events that actual minority groups dealt with decades ago. Slavery. Segregation. Attempted genocide. After all, why not tap into some of the very real plights that minority groups currently have to deal with? Demonization in the media. Housing discrimination.
I wonder if the creative teams working on Marvel’s X-books are taking a step in that direction or if the preceding mock Utopia ad is one hell of a coincidence. Because the first thing I thought of when I saw the advertisement was how the green skin of the women had been held up as some kind of novelty or amusement for “normal” men to enjoy. And I can’t help but think of Black and Latina women in the Dominican Republic and Asian women in the Philippines who are considered that same kind of novelty act.
It’s not funny. It’s creepy. It’s disgusting. And it’s infuriating.
So seeing that ad got my hopes up. It made me wonder if Marvel was going to use the X-books to shine light on a problem that many either know nothing about or refuse to acknowledge. Marvel certainly isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects. But that’s usually reserved for mature books such as those in the MAX line. To see something like this alluded to in an ad for a regular Marvel book is surprising. And impressive.
Unless the advertisement was intended to be humorous.
Which will pretty much cause me to wild the hell out.
ETA:David Brothers apparently has no regard for the safety of those at Wizard, because he’s telling me that this is a mock ad from Wizard that is intended to be funny.
We are late on picking up the story of Nazia Quazi, a Canadian woman being held against her will in Saudi Arabia.
The Coast recently ran an interview with Quazi, explaining her situation:
A Canadian woman being held against her will in Saudi Arabia says the Canadian government is not taking her plight seriously.
Nazia Quazi was taken to Saudi Arabia by her father in November 2007. Because of that country’s archaic gender laws, women of any age are subject to male “guardianship.” In the 24-year-old Quazi’s case, her father has taken her passport, and refuses to sign an exit visa allowing her to leave the country…
Her family moved to Canada in 2001, although Quazi says her father has maintained a residence in Saudi Arabia, where he works for a bank, for 25 years. Quazi went to high school in Canada and became a citizen in 2005.
In 2007 she traveled on holiday to Dubai to visit her boyfriend. But when her parents learned of the trip, they flew to Dubai to intervene. Her father took her to India, and then to Saudi Arabia on a three-month visa. But, without her knowledge or consent, Quazi’s father changed the visa to a permanent visa.
Ever since, she says, she has been pleading with the Canadian embassy to intervene, but has gotten next to no response.
“When I try to contact them, I don’t get a positive response of any kind. They always say, ‘we’re still trying, we haven’t heard anything yet, but when we do we will let you know.’ There’s never a real straight-up answer to me, to my face. I’m just waiting for them to do something, waiting for something to happen.
by Guest Contributor Catherine Traywick, originally published at Hyphen and Femmalia
For most of my life, I’ve acted the part of the fiery feminist activist. At age 10 (before I even knew “feminist” as a word) my surprisingly cogent defense of biblical Eve moved my evangelical father into surrendering his argument that women are the root of all evil. At age 16 (when I only knew “feminist” as a term of derision) I scandalized my Filipino teachers by conducting an (albeit amateurish) study charting gender discrimination within Republic Central high schools. And by age 19 (when I proudly donned my first signature “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt) my transformation seemed complete. In those enlightened times, I was fond of telling people, “You’re probably a feminist — you just don’t know it yet.”
So thrilled was I to have found a word — an ideology, a movement! — which embodied my long-standing belief system that I didn’t realize until much later the foolishness of such a proclamation; feminism isn’t, after all, defined by one’s inherent, unarticulated views on gender (however progressive those may be), but is rather a conscious, political choice one makes after considering and asserting those views.
These days, a much more educated, experienced, and cynical Me teeters on the fence. Some days, I hear feminism derided by an ignoramus with a beer and the beast inside rears its rosy head in indignation. Other days, my oft-broken heart smarts at the memory of old friends and activists whose feminist ideals didn’t stand in the way of their marginalizing a person of color, or objectifying another woman, or even downplaying the sexual assault of a friend. Most of the time, my commitment to social justice advocacy doesn’t feel as though it requires a label so I have the room to vacillate.
I am working on a paper titled, “How Beyonce and Capitalism Undermined R&B’s Ability to Normalize Black Love.”
The title may change to Beyonce Incorporated, as that is more focused and more appropriate for academia.
My professor wants me to l shift my focus to the media’s investment in what I have called the Beyonce Beauty Aesthetic – light skinned, size 4/6, curvy, blond hair.
But I am not interested in just talking about the media, I am interested in how Beyonce is a tool for maintaining US hegemony and the ways in which she normalizes really fucked up, patriarchal, Black heterosexual relationships.
I am fascinated by a light skinned, middle class Black woman from the Houston suburbs who sings about needing a soldier, who she could upgrade, so that he can put a ring on it, and if he likes her he can put her in his video phone.
Johnny R. Williams, 30, would appear to be an unlikely person to have to fret about the impact of race on his job search, with companies like JPMorgan Chase and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago on his résumé.
But after graduating from business school last year and not having much success garnering interviews, he decided to retool his résumé, scrubbing it of any details that might tip off his skin color. His membership, for instance, in the African-American business students association? Deleted.
“If they’re going to X me,” Mr. Williams said, “I’d like to at least get in the door first.”
Similarly, Barry Jabbar Sykes, 37, who has a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, now uses Barry J. Sykes in his continuing search for an information technology position, even though he has gone by Jabbar his whole life.
“Barry sounds like I could be from Ireland,” he said.
Though Luo is working under the rather shaky premise that recent progress for blacks, like Barack Obama’s election, was supposed to improve prospects for black job seekers, he notes the opposite attitude in his interviewees:
Many interviewed, however, wrestled with “pulling the race card,” groping between their cynicism and desire to avoid the stigma that blacks are too quick to claim victimhood. After all, many had gone to good schools and had accomplished résumés. Some had grown up in well-to-do settings, with parents who had raised them never to doubt how high they could climb. Moreover, there is President Obama, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that belief. Continue reading →
While globalization has turned much of the world into a wide-open labor market, it has also created complex human and societal dramas. Women account for up to 50% of the world’s 100 million–strong migrant-worker population — and there is no effective entity to protect their rights and dignity. In 2008, Indonesians working abroad, commonly as domestic staff in the Middle East and parts of Asia, contributed about $6.8 billion to their national economy via remittances, according to the World Bank. And while statistics are difficult to come by, there are increasing reports of many who are physically abused, raped and — in some cases — killed by their employers…
…female migrant workers are raped and then dumped on the streets by their employers, who refuse to give them their passports after discovering that the women are pregnant. The women are then arrested by police and placed in jail. Sometimes they are deported before the child is born.
Normawati says there are dozens of children who were abandoned by migrant workers in homes throughout Jakarta and surrounding areas.
I really appreciate the way this article draws attention to the intersection of gender and workers’ rights. The article focuses on Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but their stories are an illustration of a wider problem — those hit hardest by callous economic policies are almost always poor women of colour.
But it must be said that I do not care for the way Time Magazine characterises the women migrant workers. The article doesn’t interview any actual migrant workers; as a result both the mothers and the children they leave are painted as voiceless victims, when there is definitely a lot more to their existence than that. (For example, the women are referred to as “raped migrant mothers” – not “women who were raped while doing migrant work.” Potentially a small difference, but the first phrase reduces the women to the word “raped.”) As well the article repeatedly emphasises how these women have ABANDONED their children; leaving the reader with a rather crude and over-simplified picture of women in unimaginable situations, forced to make terrible choices.
The literature on sex equality is shot through with accounts of this predicament, variously described as a “double bind,” a “Catch-22,” or a “tightrope.” In many workplaces, women are pressured to be “masculine” enough to be respected as workers, but also to be “feminine” enough to be respected as women. (I put the adjectives “masculine” and “feminine” in quotation marks when otherwise unmodified because I use them to describe perceptions rather than realities about traits held by men and women.) The sheer mass of evidence further persuades me that demands for conformity made of women are not generic, but target them as women. I also become convinced these contradictory demands mean the story of contemporary sex discrimination is more complex than a single narrative of forced conformity to the dominant group.
To see how distinctive this Catch-22 is to women, consider the absence of a gay equivalent. If gays were in the same position as women, straights would constantly ask me not only to cover but to reverse cover. If I dressed conservatively, I would be asked to wear edgier attire. If I “acted straight,” I would be urged to be more flamboyant. But I do not think gays occupy this position. With significant exceptions of the “queer eye for the straight guy” variety, straights generally only ask me to cover. In my experience, the reverse-covering demand is more likely to be made by gays themselves.
Racial minorities are more like gays than women in this regard. If I, as an Asian-American, “dress white” and speak “perfect unaccented English,” I will find safe harbor. Whites make occasional reverse-covering demands – “Speak Japanese so we can hear what it sounds like,” or, “No, tell us where you’re really from.” But again, I have fielded reverse-covering demands more often from other Asian Americans, who tell me to get as politicized about Asian American issues as I am about gay issues.
When gays or racial minorities are caught in the crossfire of covering and reverse-covering demands, it is often because we are caught between two communities. The majority community (straights or whites) makes the covering demand, and the minority community (gays or racial minorities) makes the reverse-covering demand. Recent literature on African-American “oppositional culture” illustrates this dynamic. In response to white demands that African-Americans “act white,” some African-Americans have developed a culture of “acting black.” An African-American could easily be caught in a Catch-22, but not one generated by whites alone. More generally, negative epithets for racial minorities who cover – such as “oreo,” “banana,” “coconut,” or “apple” – seem to come from minority groups rather than from whites.
What makes women distinctive is that the dominant group – men – regularly imposes both covering and reverse-covering demands on them. Women are uniquely situated in this way because their subordination has more generally taken a unique form. Unlike gays and racial minorities, women have been cherished by their oppressors. Men have long valued the “feminine” traits women are supposed to hold, such as warmth, empathy, and nurture. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World