Tag Archives: sexism

Gloria Steinem: Pitting race against gender

by Racialicious guest contributor Jennifer Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

Since 2004, when rumours abounded over an Obama candidacy, pundits have cast this year’s Democratic election as a battle of identity politics: will Americans choose a Black man or a White woman to be their nominee for president? And by extension, will this finally settle the debate over which is the more subjugated identity: race or gender?

Yesterday morning, Gloria Steinem, influential second-wave feminist, weighed in at the New York Times with an opinion piece titled “Women Are Never Front-Runners”. I guess we can tell where she stands in this debate.

(Incidentally, if women are never front-runners, than how did Clinton get as far as she did on the “inevitable pseudo-incumbent” campaign she’s been running that made her the front-runner for most of last year? I find the headline of this piece to be a wee bit of hyperbole.)

We’ve heard many argue that it’s time for an African American president, and many more argue it’s time for a female president. But, nowhere in the race vs. gender frenzy that has swept the nation has anyone challenged the very validity of the question. How can one compare racism to sexism – and if one tries, where do those of us who are disadvantaged both by our race and by our gender fit in?

In truth, the juxtaposition is disingenuous, divisive, overly simplistic, and ultimately harmful, because it redirects our attention away from efforts to break the White male patriarchy that excludes all the Others, but towards in-fighting where we all compete to see both who’s more oppressed, and who will make it out of that “Oppression Box” first.

Scholars like Steinem have only fueled these divisive attitudes. Though she writes, “I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest”, Steinem opens her article with the observation that “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life”. She continues by implying that the race barrier has largely been resolved, because “Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women”. Continue reading

is there such a thing as a responsible rape scene?

by guest contributor Thea, originally published at Shameless Blog

Research. It always gets you into trouble. This review was supposed to say “Empowering! Feminist! Realism! Actually Tough Women of Colour!”. But then I did a little googling, (damn you google!) and now I’m confused.

The movie Bandit Queen is based on the story of the real life Phoolan Devi. In the 80’s in India, Devi led groups of bandits to pillage high caste villages for money. She was notorious and fearsome, and this was a big, shocking, deal – not only was she a woman, she was a low caste woman.

A kind of Robin Hood with a gender twist: at 11 Devi was married to a 30-something man who raped and mistreated her. As an adult she found him and stabbed him in front of his village, as a warning for old men who marry young girls.

Devi was always described to me as a hero for poor people and women. Separate from who she actually was, Devi became a legend and a symbol of the one woman who just wasn’t going to take it anymore. She was tough shit! She was brutalised, pushed around and dehumanised by patriarchal culture (more on that later) – but she actually pushed back!

So a movie about the life of this feminist hero – ok, the violence she committed makes her a problematic feminist hero – would definitely be a feminist movie wouldn’t you say? Well, this is where the confusion kicks in.

What I liked most about this movie was how it is such an unflinching, unsentimental portrayal of life for women in a patriarchal culture. The violence against women in Bandit Queen is essentially constant and blatant (I didn’t say it was a fun movie to watch), but that amazed me. Because the movie seems to be saying, look, it’s not just that some men are bad apples, and it’s not just that women will experience gender violence once in their lives. It’s that under a patriarchal system the threat of violence and the incidence of violence against women is constant and total.

For example, often “rapists” and “wife beaters” in North American cinema are portrayed as dirty, creepy, foul-smelling and poor. The men who assualt Devi in Bandit Queen however, are just regular, average men. This seemed to say to me that, it’s not just lower income men who don’t wash their shirts who are capable of violence, it’s all men who’ve been socialised by rampant sexism.

BUT, that’s exactly the problem with Bandit Queen: the constant gender violence. Arundhati Roy argues here and here that Bandit Queen reduces Devi to a rape victim, and is just two hours of rape, rape and more rape. Continue reading

War of the Roses: Amnesty International’s Newest Campaign against Female Genital Mutilation

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

Amnesty International has run a new campaign to raise awareness about female genital mutilation. These images of flowers sewn up are visually striking because of the implied violence against a delicate object. The ads are effective because they give the viewer a graphic idea of what exactly is implied by female genital mutilation (though the campaign leaves out “lesser” forms of FGM, such as clitoridectomy). While the idea of using a flower as a metaphor for a woman’s genitals doesn’t sit well with me (it really just makes me think of comparing women to flowers and pearls, i.e., things that need protection), this is a really good way to get this message across.

I was especially thrilled to read the copy at the bottom of the page (click on the images to see them up close): “Every year, two million girls suffer the pain of genital mutilation – a clear violation of their human rights. No government should continue to ignore this crime. Help us to stop violence against women. Give your support at…”

No mention of Islam. No mention of Muslims. No mention of geographical locations associated with Muslims. No pictures of veiled women. Just a statement that condemns an action without entangling politics or religion. Often, FGM is used synonymously with Islamic practice, though this is incorrect. Muslims who practice FGM do it in certain parts of the world because of cultural traditions, not because of Islamic ones.

This campaign is a perfect example of how to condemn an act without extending the condemnation to everyone that happens to be in the same religious/ethnic category of those who happen to practice said act.

Junk Prints: Anti-Racism You Can Wear

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of enjoying the indie design fabulosity that is the Craftacular, an annual market sponsored by Bust Magazine. For those of you who may not know about Bust, here’s the mag in a nutshell: feminism meets DIY meets up-and-coming musicians, writers, artists, and actors. Thanks to Bust, I can now brew my own beer at home, knit an extra boob for bra-stuffing, and find local designers that understand my desire to buck the system by rocking a piece of unique jewelry to contrast with my boring corporate attire. I found quite a bit of that at the Craftacular on Saturday, but I also had the opportunity to meet a ton of really innovative designers. One designer that stood out in my mind, however, was Chanel Kennebrew of Junk Prints.

I would have passed up the quiet booth in the corner if it weren’t for the beautiful, multicolored, metallic vintage purse I glimpsed. It was a tiny north star in a room full of distractions—jewelry here, shoes there, and an overabundance of human bodies cum consumers all searching for the perfect holiday gift. I made my way through the crowd over to Chanel’s booth, and was immediately thankful when I saw that a) the purse was still there, and b) that the clothing she displayed was the long-lost fashion twin of Racialicious! Of course, she had lighthearted items such as her vintage meets modern mashup outfits and her decoupage covered journals, but what caught my really caught my eye was her t-shirt on celebrity transracial adoption: She describes her “Colorblind Glasses” shirt on her website:

Color Blind seem to be all the rage in Hollywood these days. I mean, international babies are sooo ‘the new dog’ (which was ‘the new purse’ in a not so distant past). Are Madonna and Jolie ready for the commitment? Ah who knows. Love is love right? You,my friend don’t have to find a foreign baby to show your color blind spirit, nope, you show your spirit with this fancy pants shirt.

Chanel also designs digital prints that cover issues that would be quite familiar to Racialicious readers, for example, her “Silence” collection. The print entitled “Good Housekeeping” (pictured below) is described as follows:

Good Housekeeping critiques the magazine identity and questions the values that it imposes on racialized women in North America. The magazine identity is a contradicting ideology that promotes idealism through exploitation. The things that we (as the North American consumer) want are essentialized and viewed as ingrained desires. In actuality they are usually sold to us at the expense of ourselves. This can be seen throughout history as cultural appropriation, tokenism etc. The concepts of the magazine identity and media morals pose many problems for society in general. The affects are devastating for those that cannot be the ‘better self’ because society doesn’t recognize the existing racialized ‘self’. This group of images focuses an a group that will never achieve the magazine identity due to the fact that it has been excluded from it’s canon of idealistic values. They confront topics of identity, media values and the exploitation of women foreign to the mass consumer audience.

Lastly, check out her one-of-a-kind commentary a la t-shirt on the Don Imus debacle:

You know about Don Imus Right? He’s the was the sports announcer that got fired for calling a Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” He recently received a multi-million dollar contract and prime morning-drive-time slot on a radio station. Wow, well I’ve been working on a graphic for this for a while but the most complicated part of doing that is, how do I make the connection with wigs and historic cosmetic homogenizing techniques without glorifying that crazy dude. Not sure if I’ve figured that out so I’m trying out a few ideas on some gently worn thrift.

Chanel’s work is fun, but has a message as she fuses statements on our society with some pretty fun wares. I highly recommend taking a look at her website as well as her Etsy store. You can also friend her on facebook.com and myspace. So if you’re still looking for stocking stuffers for your friends who are a little on the intense side or who just happen to have everything, it’s definitely worth giving Junk Prints a looksie.

The Veil Does Not a Prison Make

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

Who’s Danielle Crittenden? She writes a blog for The Huffington Post and recently, she decided to “take on the veil” as a social experiment for one week of her life in Washington, D.C. She went straight for the gold and decided to wear the starkest, blackest niqab out there, ignoring the fact that the hejab is far more prevalent among Muslim women than the niqab. She blogs about her experience in four separate posts under the title, “Islamic Like Me.”

Readers, you know my issue with people who use “Muslim” and “Islamic” synonymously. For god’s sake, would somebody check the Associated Press guidelines?! “Islamic” describes architecture and history…things. A “Muslim” is an adherent of Islam; Muslims are people, not things.

So Ms. Crittenden decides to put on a niqab…for what? For giggles? She never really explains her reasons for doing so, but makes it very apparent that wearing a niqab is a bad idea because it’s “oppressive”. Does she want to see what it’s like to be a Muslim woman who wears niqab? Does she want to understand the prejudice that these women face?

No. After reading her posts, it’s obvious she just wants to play dress-up. She doesn’t attempt to adhere to any principles of Islam while wearing the niqab, nor does she take it off in her home like most niqabis would, nor does she even attempt to start a dialogue with any Muslim women—niqabis or not.

This experiment reminds me of one of Tyra Banks’ experiments: you remember when she put on a fat suit? Yeah. That one. She put on a fat suit under the guise of “seeing how the other half lives” but really just used it as a self-indulgent exercise in vanity (kind of like everything else Tyra does, bless her heart). This one seems really no different.

So, we read the first paragraph of Ms. Crittenden’s post “Islamic Like Me: Taking On The Veil”, and already, I want to throw my computer out the window.

“‘I wonder what it’s like to wear Arabic dress?’ I said one day to my husband. His eyes sparked with interest. ‘You mean as in I Dream of Jeannie?’ ‘No. I mean those black cover-ups they wear in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.’”

(Long sigh). So, we begin with the blatantly incorrect idea that all women in the Middle East wear “Arabic” clothing, even if they are not Arab or Muslim. We see later in her posts that her idea of “Arabic clothing” is a niqab and abaya—ignoring several other traditional dress styles that Arab women wear. And, of course, her husband throws in the sexualized Orientalist fantasy of I Dream of Jeannie. Fantastic! Continue reading

MadTV turns Obama into a mandingo

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

As early as April, we began seeing emails floating around linking Barack Obama with a sexual desire for white women. Now the “he’s coming for our white women” sentiment has gone mainstream, thanks to this dumb-as-shit MadTV skit. (Thanks Wendi.)

Maybe I’m missing something, but to me this presidential race is about as sexual as Tay Zonday’s last visit to the optometrist.

Only a society that has internalized stereotypes about black men as sexual predators and women as sex objects could come up with as crude a sexual narrative as we see here.

MadTV has done some good commentaries on race in the past (especially Aren’t Asians Great? and Nice White Lady). But this piece of racist and sexist drivel is just a fucking embarrassment.

Black women support Hillary Clinton because their men cheat too?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’m glad the bad-ass ladies at What About Our Daughters? are speaking out about this. I watched this segment on CNN early this morning too but was not quite awake enough to trust my reaction to the piece. Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking, WTF?

This Week’s Wagging Finger of Shame Award Goes to Essence magazine editor Tatsha Robertson for being a complete and total embarrassment to Black women everywhere for saying this foolishness on CNN:

“Even though she’s Hillary Clinton, they [Black women] see themselves, you know, within her, dealing with the family issues, the infidelity issues.”

According to CNN’s Chris Lawrence Robertson says Clinton’s ultimate embarrassment is her greatest asset. Robertson went on to say:

“She decided, you know, whether she wanted to stay or not, and I really think, you know, people respect that about Hillary Clinton, especially black women. “

Really? Is that why black women like Hillary? Because their men are cheating on them too, so they identify with Hillary’s marriage problems? As opposed to say, her accomplishments or views or positions or personality?

Check out the transcript here.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Triple Threats and Double Troubles for Muslim Women

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

You’ve probably heard about the recent ruling given to a Saudi gang-rape victim: 110 lashes added onto the original sentence of 90 lashes because she protested her sentence to the media. It’s a horrible and vindictive sentence, and the callous treatment this woman has received as a victim is insulting to her, Saudi Arabia, and Islam.

Why Islam? What does her ruling have to do with Islam? Well, nothing really. Technically, the judge who sentenced her went by Shari’a law, but he added those extra lashes from his own judgment because she spoke out about her case. So he punished her.

But every reactionary blog poster, conservative news network, and Western women’s rights group has condemned this action as an Islamic one. So Muslim women around the world have a choice: do we defend ourselves against Islamophobia, against racism, or against misogyny?

This “triple threat” is one we often face as Muslim women (especially if we are also women of color). We always seem to be battling against one (or more) of these three issues: racism (for Muslim women who are also non-white), Islamophobia, or misogyny (not just from our own Muslim communities, but also from non-Muslim communities who think they know what’s best for us).

Being on the defensive all the time creates reactionary behavior. We always feel like we have to keep our guards up to defend our faith and our choices, and it gets tiring. Most Muslims don’t necessarily mind explaining stuff (that is, if you’re genuinely interested in understanding instead of starting an argument), but we can’t all be Encyclopedia Islamicas all the time.

Some of this “damage control” keeps us from having dialogues within our communities. Muslim women face a lot of problems within our communities as well as outside, but we’re afraid to talk about it because it can potentially be used against us. People in our own communities this power: for example, feminists in Iran are accused of being too “Westernized” by compatriots who have no interest in changing the status quo for women. Many women who seek their fair share are given this load of crap in order to guilt them into shutting up, because Westernization is equated with undesirable qualities in the Muslim world. Or, if we try to speak out to a non-Muslim audience, we are accused of “betraying” Islam or our communities by airing out our “dirty laundry.” Continue reading