Tag Archives: sexism

Feminism, Race, and Sexist Dating Guides

by Latoya Peterson

One of the many issues I have with feminism is how my racial identification is treated as a problem, separate from the “real issues” that feminism seeks to deal with – despite the fact that the world perceives me as a “black woman” rather than a “woman.” (The “white” that goes before “woman” is silent.) My race is supposed to go unmentioned and unnoticed – until, there is some kind of “black culture” thing to tsk-tsk and blame on the inherent sexism in the black community.

So, it was with great trepidation that I clicked on a header post from Feministing. Titled “Dating Advice from Assholes: ‘Stop Treating Women Well,‘” Ann summarizes a Washington Post article about yet another crappy book about how to catch a man.

Titled “The Re-Education of the Female” (charming, right?) some bama basically regurgitates the same bullshit being spouted at women since time eternal – cook, clean, fuck, and STFU. The cover lets me know that my initial eye-roll was the right reaction.

Boooo!

Now, Ann’s post was cool, and I was about to click off to some other part of the internet, but for some reason, I decided to read the comments.

The first ten or so were cool, expressing general disgust at the ignorant sentiments. And then, we get to this one:

I echo the sentiments already expressed. I am disgusted by this.

I am also disheartened by the fact that this filth is targeted at black women. I have a feeling that black women generally (but not all, of course) would be more susceptible to these ideas. There seems to be an a fairly strong sentiment among many black women that they need to stand by “their” men, as though they are disgracing themselves and their heritage by dating outside of their race. I have several times seen reference to the shrinking number of black men due to incarceration and consequently a shrinking dating pool, the implication always seeming to be that women have little choice but to date in this pool. Furthermore, there is the specter of single motherhood looming over black women. I fear that the expectation that black women date black men and the fear of scarcity of good black men will cause the women who identify with these issues the most to buy into these horrid ideas for fear of ending up alone otherwise.

*sigh*

Paging the white savior – the Negro women need your guidance!

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White Feminists and Michelle Obama

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Should white feminists be taken to task if they don’t defend Michelle Obama from the misogynistic attacks sure to continue coming her way as the presidential campaign unfolds? Not necessarily, say Corinne Douglas and Jacquelyn Gray, who wrote an editorial called the “Cost of Silence” at the Root.com.

In the article, Douglas and Gray argue that black women remained silent when Hillary Clinton suffered a litany of misogynistic attacks. Therefore, white women can’t be held accountable if they refuse to defend Michelle Obama from the evils of sexism. Douglas and Gray write:

“The misogynistic savaging of Hillary Clinton was one of the most inexcusable elements of the primary campaign, and the silence from black women in the face of those attacks, because they supported Obama, was, at least, a tactical mistake. It is entirely unacceptable to go along with unfair attacks against women simply because you disagree with the particular woman under attack.”

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Is it sexism or racism? Or racialized sexism?

by Guest Contributor Luke Lee

Let’s say you’re a woman of color climbing the ladder in one of the most male-dominated “boy’s clubs” in America. You’re the assistant to the top spot and when at a meeting with others in your business, a man singles you out asking who you are, why you’re there, what you are and then proceeds to make fun of what he perceives to be your race. While that strikes (and rightly so) everyone as racist, Kim Ng makes an important point here in that when this happens, it’s also sexism. Or more so sexism than racism, according to Ng.

Going on five years ago, Ng’s private journey – the work day of an assistant GM is a mostly anonymous one – became a national story. Bill Singer, a former big-league pitcher and at that time a special assistant to New York Mets GM Jim Duquette, stopped Ng during GM meetings in Phoenix. He asked her who she was. He asked her why she was there. He asked her about her heritage. Ng, recognizing the situation as potentially flammable, patiently answered his questions. He then mocked her in gibberish-speak that was supposed to approximate Chinese.

She calls it, “the Bill Singer incident.” She calls it the worst episode of sexism – not racism – she has experienced.

“I think that’s the ironic thing,” Ng says. “People match it up to race, and I think it was more about gender.”

I remember when the story about Ng and Singer first broke the response seemed to be “wow, what a racist guy. He should be fired” (which he was). Second, people were a little shocked to realize that “hey, a woman is in a top spot in a major baseball organization” but the one and two were never connected. That Singer’s comments weren’t just racist but that he was most shocked to see a woman who is a person of color.

(Photo credit: MLB.com via The New York Times)

When Catcalling Isn’t Just an Annoyance

by Latoya Peterson

A while back, I wrote about how catcalling affects women, specifically saying:

When a man feels like he has the “right” to force me to stop and speak to him, it is a whole other game entirely.

Complicating matters are the risks faced by women in our society. One in six women will become the victim of a sexual assault. Most people (men and women) do not recognize what is defined as sexual assault. According to Byron Hurt’s documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes reveals more statistics: Black women are 35% more likely to be assaulted than white women. Only 7% of black women report being assaulted.

I have been sexually assaulted. The majority of my female friends have as well, running the gamut from being groped and restrained to molest to being raped at 13 years of age.

What men think is a game has completely different stakes for women.

Essential Presence writes about the terrible aftermath to some of these situations. In a post entitled “Why Bother With Calling me a Bitch When You Can Just Shoot Me?” she notes:

There was a time when if you rebuffed a stranger’s advances, if you didn’t give him your phone number he would just call you a bitch and tell you that you aren’t shit. And as his friends laughed at his witty response they would all walk or drive off.

Now, young Black women have to choose between some bug-a-boo calling their cell phone or risk getting shot. Continue reading

Hip Hop & Patriarchy: My Struggle with Mobb Deep

by Guest Contributor M.Dot

It’s challenging to criticize hip hop publicly.

My rationale is that Hip Hop gets hammered by the popular media, so why should I contribute further to it?

When given more thought, I see this as a poor reason to avoid criticizing anything. As an athlete I know criticism is feedback and nothing is improved without feedback. Professor evaluations are feedback. Customer service evaluations are feedback. Feedback is in many ways the oil that greases the improvement machine.

However, my reluctance to criticize may also be related to the tendency within the African American community to avoid airing our dirty laundry. On balance, I also know that dysfunction
flourishes when concealed out of sight.

As a teenager and full-fledged hip hop head, I never listened to Miles because I learned that he beat Cicley Tyson and was unapologetic about it after reading Pearl Cleage’s “Mad at Miles.” I bumped Coltrane, Roach and Blakey, but no Miles. One day, a few years ago, a film Professor and jazz lover who I respected, asked me how could I avoid Miles and listen to so much hip hop?

It was then that I began to see that I would have some reconciling to do regarding gender and hip hop. Continue reading

CNN’s Special on Women in Iraq: Painting Iraqi Women With the Victim Brush

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

On Saturday and Sunday, CNN ran a program called On Deadly Ground: The Women of Iraq. Hosted by Arwa Damon, the program briefly profiled several women who live in Iraq; at the beginning, she promises, “You will meet the women of Iraq.”

The program opens on a street somewhere in Baghdad: unpaved, muddy, with trash lying in heaps on the street. Damon’s voiceover introduces us to a young woman who squats in a decrepit building with her children because she has divorced her husband—she won’t live with her family because they will make her return her children to her ex-husband. When speaking about her living conditions, Damon’s tone is that of incredulousness and even disgust: “They’re squatting in an old building,” she says in an attempt to elicit a sympathetic response from the viewer. “What you see her [the young woman] going through…this is normal.” She wants us to realize how badly this woman (whose name is not shared) has it, and the fact that she is not the only one: “They [displaced families] are tragically becoming more and more the norm.”

Damon tells us that “Iraq is a country of contrasts” and makes this the official theme of the program. She contrasts the divorcee living in poverty with Iraq’s remaining elites who can afford to play at private pools. She contrasts these same elites with women who cannot afford to feed their children and thus live two lives: one life with husbands and children, a second life as a prostitute to earn the money that feeds their families. Women without agency to a woman with an agency: Yanar Mohammed, the founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Then, Samar, a 25-year-old woman on death row because she is accused of being an accomplice to murders committed by her fiancé. Another contrast, between a young woman who will either be put to death or spend her life in prison, and 14-year-old Wurud, who chats on the internet and whose father is a high-profile Iraqi official. A girl who believes in Iraq’s government vs. the wife of an insurgent who is against the government. Then Dr. Eaman, who disassociates herself from her only son to keep him safe from the insurgents that threaten her own life, but treats Iraqi children. And, finally, Nahla: she still has her child, but she no longer has her husband, who was killed in an attack.

The program does not focus on the overall condition of Iraqi women as the title might imply. This was a missed opportunity: the security of and increased violence against Iraqi women has made headlines, with male gynecologists in Iraq being targeted and increased attacks on women who attend school or don’t wear headscarves.

Instead of focusing on all Iraqi women, the program zeroes in on these women and their particular difficulties. It is the common tragedies of these specific women’s lives that Damon makes into a second theme. All of these women live with fear of raids or bombs, and all of their stories feature tragic events. Even the “positive” stories like Wurud’s or Mohammed’s, stories about women making or wholeheartedly believing in change, are tinged with bitterness and despair. When Damon asks Wurud if she is ever afraid, she brushes this off with teenage bravado: “I am never afraid.” The viewer understands this as boasting: we still feel sorry for her life that is interrupted by bomb blasts and the fact that her beloved father is a target. Even Mohammed and Dr. Eaman, both women who work for positive change, leave behind their sons. Mohammed tells us that she continues to return to Iraq because, “all the people that I love have been crushed.” Continue reading

En Vogue: Muslim Women in Fashion News

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

A smattering of articles have appeared in newspapers lately, aiming to spread the word about how fashionable Muslim women are. These articles seem to refute the idea that Muslim women are against or unreceptive to fashion: “You can be religious and fashionable! Lots of them are! See?”

Is this supposed to be a compliment? Generalizing an entire religious group into a massive worldwide body of snappy dressers?

I wrote earlier on the popular perception of Muslim/Middle Eastern women as label whores, and many of these articles play up that exact angle. The Independent’s article, written by Sarah Buys, openly states, “This [retail development in the Gulf], in turn, has given rise to one of the most sartorially savvy, high-fashion buying demographs in the world. Middle Eastern Muslim women aren’t just prolific shoppers, now they are discerning, prolific shoppers.”

“Quit your bitching,” you might say. “It’s a compliment to be considered fashionable. What’s your problem?” My problem is that, with this characterization of Muslims as rich and fashionable, we slide right into “label whore” territory, which brings along with it the labels of the “rich Arab teenager” or the “spoiled Persian princess,” both younger cousins to the harmful Jewish-American Princess stereotype. These are class-based stereotypes that attach themselves to specific ethnicities and, now, to Muslims. They are not compliments.

If that’s not offensive enough for you, we can always take a look at the underlying Orientalism surrounding these articles. The title of The Independent’s article is “Muslin women: Beneath the Veil.” And The New York Sun piece, written by Jesse Sposato, is entitled, “Conservative Muslim Women Hide Knack for Fashion Under Their Religious Robes.” All this “beneath the veil” crap is tired. Women who wear more conservative clothes in line with their interpretations of Islamic requirements just wear clothes under those things! But these articles can’t be satisfied with that. What kind of clothes?

Hold on to your fantasies: they wear sexy clothes! Sposato’s article recounts a young woman’s anecdote about what a girl she knew would wear under her abaya: “When I was living in Dubai, there was a girl who wore a closed abaya with a bikini under it! She would just be at university walking around with a bikini under her abaya, and nobody would know. It was great.”

And Buys doesn’t even wait to get into the article to fantasize about what Muslim women are wearing under there. She comes right out and sexualizes us all in the tag line: “…And under that shapeless, monochrome exterior, don’t be surprised to find a daring and imaginative sense of style – not to mention a miniskirt or pink hot pants.”

So, according to these articles, Muslim women walking around in austere black robes are practically naked underneath. Ironic, isn’t it? The majority of these women wear conservative clothes to take focus away from their bodies (in line with cultural practices or certain Islamic schools of thought), and these articles bring it right back to them.

These articles would make more sense to me if these papers were doing some sort of style profile on several different religions; Islam is not the only religion with modesty guidelines. But singling out Muslim women (none of the articles mentioned modesty requirements for men) in order to sexually hint at what’s “underneath the veil” just doesn’t sit well with me.

Sumpin’ Turrrrble: SNL’s Keenan Thompson Performs Minstrel Act

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine (blog)

I didn’t get a chance to see the entire episode of Saturday Night Live this weekend, but I came across a segment clip from NBC’s website that made my blood curdle. SNL’s guest this week was the young actress of Juno fame, Ellen Page, whose comedic timing proved powerful yet equally disturbing in a piece with Keenan Thompson, the only black member of the cast (Maya Rudolph, who is half black-American, half white Jewish, identifies as multiracial), entitled “Virginiaca Goes to Baby Gap.” You can see the full video of the sketch here, but I’ll give you a little re-cap:

An overweight black woman who, only for lack of a better term, would be characterized as “ghetto” stumbles out of breath into a Baby Gap store (as it’s on the second floor) with a pastry in hand. She practically sexually harasses the Baby Gap employee (played by Andy Samberg). Her step-daughter, played by Ellen Page, corn-rowed, permed, and wearing a tracksuit, enters the store, demanding to try on spandex pants she’d like to wear as booty shorts. Angered that the Baby Gap employee won’t allow her to try on the pants for fear that she’ll stretch out the merchandise (as it’s meant for BABIES), Page’s character and Virginiaca name drop (as Virginiaca’s new husband is a wealthy white aluminum tycoon, the daughter of whom she has clearly “corrupted”) in hopes of getting their way. After a slew of aural and visual stereotype guest appearances (including the “booty back and forth” dance and repeated overt and unwanted flirting with the sales guy), the segment ends with the sales person quitting and Virginiaca in all fours on a merchandise stand continuing her “booty back and forth” dance in the store.

While SNL has engaged in black/brownface before, including having light-skinned Latino Fred Armisen play presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and Darrell Hammond play Jesse Jackson and Geraldo Rivera,they were impressions, albeit good ones, and I never found offense in having the best cast members for the job portray important members of our society who happened to have darker skin than theirs. Yet when I saw the “Shopping with Virginiaca” sketch, which apparently is a regular segment on the show, I felt something different. Keenan Thompson, though black, was performing a blackface minstrelsy routine that went far beyond basic impressions of famous people. He was poking fun, sure, but in a way that ultimately cements what black women are and how we are viewed by the general public.

The routine was all the more significant in its meaning when I first saw it as I had just ended a conversation with a white colleague regarding how much I tire of the negative images of black women on tv that are so powerful that I can’t help but wonder whether or not people expect this behavior of me when they see me on the bus, on the subway, or in the street, no matter how I am dressed, how I speak, my job titles, or what school I went to. The stereotype precedes me. It walks 10 feet ahead, greeting those who pass by before I can say a word. And shame on you, Keenan Thompson, for making the stereotype strong enough to tackle me down before I can open my mouth to interrupt its first impressions. Continue reading