Tag Archives: gender

I Didn’t Know My–Or Michelle’s–Ass Was That Interesting

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

Did United Statesians electing its first president of color become an implicit invitation for liberal/progressive media outlets to talk about Black and brown behinds?

According to two of them, yep.

Salon started off the conversation with Erin Aubry Kaplan’s essay, “First Lady Got Back,” where she waxes ecstatic about First Lady Michelle Obama’s behind:

“…while it isn’t humongous, per se, it is a solid, round, black, class-A boo-tay. Try as Michelle might to cover it with those Mamie Eisenhower skirts and sheath dresses meant to reassure mainstream voters, the butt would not be denied.

As America fretted about Obama’s exoticism and he sought to calm the waters with speeches about unity and common experience, Michelle’s body was sending a different message: To hell with biracialism! Compromise, bipartisanship? Don’t think so. Here was one clear signifier of blackness that couldn’t be tamed, muted or otherwise made invisible. It emerged right before our eyes, in the midst of our growing uncertainty about everything, and we were too bogged down in the daily campaign madness to notice. The one clear predictor of success that the pundits, despite all their fancy maps, charts and holograms, missed completely? Michelle’s butt.”

As my friend Tom would say, “Stop, Miss Gurl.”

There’s more–infinitely more–to what makes our new First Lady beautiful and a challenge to the white-beauty standard than her boo-tay. If Aubry Kaplan would have delved into the beauty-brains combo she started to discuss (“She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style…”), the piece would have been sort of all right. Nope, just Michelle’s ass.

Then here comes Alternet with Myra Mendible’s “Big Booty Beauty and the New Sexual Aesthetic. Her take on the ass thang:

“We should not underestimate the symbolic value of buttocks. Butt metaphors helped European cultures categorize and describe their others, ascribing bodily differences certain moral and intellectual attributes. Gilman argues that, “Beginning with the expansion of European colonial exploration, describing the forms and size of the buttocks became a means of describing and classifying the races. The more prominent the more primitive…” (Making the Body Beautiful). British culture, in particular, identified the buttocks with primitive or debased sexuality (Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex). Non-Western women were associated with the “lower regions” of the body and characterized in terms of their abundant backside. Similarly, in American culture, the U.S.-Mexico border marked a figurative divide between Northern mind and Southern body, rationality and sensuality, domestic and foreign. This bodily trope culled associations between the lower body and the inferior, more primitive “under” developed “torrid zones” south of the border; it often served to rationalize U.S. military interventions or corporate exploitation of Latin American labor and resources.”

Analytically speaking, what Mendible wrote is what Aubry Kaplan should have written: a more nuanced reflection on the history and meaning of the colored butt in the erotic imaginations and racial and gender definitions of white people and Black men and Latinos and how that loaded image became a policy of exploitation for both groups. In other words, a little intersectionality would have helped Aubry Kaplan’s essay. Continue reading

“The next big shift in feminism”

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

Camille Paglia recently wrote a number of gushing statements about Sarah Palin, but here’s the one that made my eyes roll the hardest:

I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns — that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

It’s amazing how many wrong assumptions can be crammed into two short sentences. Twenty years after Chandra Mohanty’s Under Western Eyes, and we still have Western feminists advocating colonialism for the good of Third World women?

Feminists like Paglia still refer to a monolithic Third World, a categorization that assumes a homogenous oppression of all brown and black women. Of women who are characterized by all the stereotypes attached to the word “traditional” – backwards, primitive, uneducated, victimized, poor. Continue reading

Icing on the cake: The Truth about Marriage

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Professor Tracey has me thinking…as usual. Over on Aunt Jemima’s Revenge, she has launched a spirited discussion about black women and marriage. Rather than go the usual “why can’t black women get married” route, hand-wringing over dire statistics like these:

The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Read more

…Tracey asked something different–something no one else seems to be asking, since it is easier to cast black women as powerless victims or simply undesirable (too educated, too aggressive, too black, too too). She wants to know, “Do black women really want to get married?”
Continue reading

Mirror’s Edge: Pixilated Beauty, Race, and Stereotypes

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been checking for the game Mirror’s Edge for a while, since the first stills dropped a few months ago. There are a lot of things that excite me about the game: tapping into the parkour experience, rolling through a first person landscape without it being a shooter, a provocative plot.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was geeked about a woman of color protagonist – and one who has a character design which reflects the environment she works within.

However, I haven’t yet played Mirror’s Edge because of what I am calling the If You Give a Gamer a Cookie New Console conundrum.* So, I’ve been keeping my gaming excitement on a low simmer. Well, I was, until I clicked over to Feministe.

And as always, Hollyhas got the gaming goods.

Mirror’s Edge is at its heart a game about parkour, the athletic art of moving between two points as rapidly as possible, using nothing but your body and features of the environment. The game’s protagonist is Faith, an Asian-American courier with a knack for hurling herself into harm’s way. Like a lot of parkour enthusiasts, she spends a lot of time on rooftops, and Mirror’s Edge is largely about jumping, vaulting, climbing, pushing off of walls, rolling as Faith falls from great heights, and other almost-impossible seeming feats of gravity defiance.

I swear, I have to bite my finger from screaming at this gameplay. But Holly’s post also sheds some interesting light on a racial nuance in the conversation surrounding Mirror’s Edge:

Even when you do see her in ads, mirrors, and cutscenes, Faith has a wiry, androgynous form suited to someone who runs and climbs for a living. Her clothing is utilitarian, not decorative, and her style of movement is closer to the efficiency of parkour than the aesthetics of free running. Tom Farrer, the producer of the game, was recently quoted about her character design:

    We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.

    We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.

    We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel. We wanted her to be approachable and far more real. It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job. That was kind of what that image looked to me. […] To be honest, I found it kind of sad.

Continue reading

Can the LGBT community spare some outrage for Duanna Johnson?

by Guest Contributor Jack, originally published at Angry Brown Butch

On February 12, 2008, Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer after she refused to respond when the officer called her “he-she” and “faggot.” That night, Johnson became yet another of the countless trans women of color to be targeted and brutalized by police in this country. Two officers were fired after the attack; neither was prosecuted.

Just to be trans, just to be a woman, just to be a person of color in this country is enough to drastically increase one’s exposure to hatred and violence; when oppressions overlap, violence tends to multiply.

This past Sunday, Duanna Johnson was found murdered on the streets of Memphis. I didn’t hear about this until today, when I read a post on my friend Dean’s blog. When I read the awful news, I felt heartsick in a way that has become all too familiar and all too frequent.

After reading Dean’s post today, I was surprised to find out that Johnson was murdered nearly three days ago already and that I hadn’t heard about this until today. I know that I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the news or the blogosphere these past few days. But I can’t help but notice that despite this relative disconnection, I’ve read and heard no shortage of commentary, protest, and outrage about Proposition 8.

A Google News search for “Duanna Johnson” yields 50 results, many syndicated and therefore redundant. Much of the coverage is tainted by the transphobia and victim-blaming that tends to inflect media coverage of violence against trans women of color (like this Associated Press article). A search for “Proposition 8″? 18,085 results – 354.6 times more than for Duanna Johnson.

The skew in the blogosphere is less severe but still pronounced. A Google BlogSearch for Duanna Johnson: 2,300 results. For Prop 8? 240,839, or 100 times more. Continue reading

Is there a Bechdel test for race?

by Latoya Peterson

Today, I talked a bit about Vicky Cristina Barcelona and introduced the concept of the Bedchel Test. Here’s the original comic the test came from:

So, after rejoicing over how brilliant the test is in its simplicity, I started wondering – could we adapt the Bechdel test for race? And if so, what would the end result be?

I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(Image Credit: “The Rule,” originally published in Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel)

Summer Movies: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

by Latoya Peterson

Have you ever watched a movie, and then wished you could have seen it from another character’s perspective?

That was the feeling I got while watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the most recent Woody Allen film that is actually quite enjoyable – as long as you don’t mind having two dimensional female characters and you are fine with the whole foreign locale/exotic-natives as a backdrop for the growth of the white protagonist kind of thing.

So yeah, you have to swallow a lot to enjoy the film.

Then again, I watch films like Transformers. Obviously, I don’t have problems suspending disbelief.

I sat in the theater and allowed the story to wash over me. In broad strokes, the third party omniscient narrator explains the thoughts and travels of two friends – Vicky and Christina.

(Warning: After this point, there are spoilers.) Continue reading

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom Movie Plays to Modest Success

by Latoya Peterson

Well, look at what slipped under the radar.

In the midst of the election run up, the results, and the waves of discussion about proposition 8, Logo launched a movie based on their popular (yet mysteriously canceled) series Noah’s Arc.

The New York Press’ Armond White has a thought provoking review on the significance of the movie, titled “MEET THE BLACK CARRIE BRADSHAW – LOGO’s Noah’s Arc makes the jump to the big screen—showing a completely different African-American experience”:

Noah’s Arc’s quartet of young black men counteracts the prevailing image of gayness as a young, rich, white male phenomenon. The title refers to Noah (Darryl Stephens), an L.A.-based aspiring screenwriter whose love and social life resist Hollywood storybook cliché. Noah may dress in couture like Carrie Bradshaw (he enters Jumping wearing a Russian toque, cape and calf-high boots) but his style is provocative; he flouts ideas about masculinity, blackness and class. If you accept Noah (his gentle, gazelle-like demeanor stresses effeminacy), his friends still test your tolerance: Chance (Doug Spearman) is a snooty, over-enunciating university professor; Alex (Rodney Chester) is a plus-sized drama queen who likes to cook when not dispensing counsel at a gay men’s health center; and Rickey (Christian Vincent) is incorrigibly promiscuous. Continue reading