Tag Archives: women

Idealize This | Feminism

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.

However, my indecision piques about every six months. Continue reading

Time Magazine on Gender, Migrant Work & Rape

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Time Magazine reports on women migrant workers who have been raped, and the resulting pregnancies:

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.

Continue reading

Timing Is Everything: Nicolas Sarkozy Defends Women’s Rights by Restricting Them

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

I must open this piece by stating that as someone who believes in equality between men and women, I would not be happy if my country or my religion or my culture told me I must dress or look differently from my male peers. I am not happy when it happens in any country, including my own, the United States. When I turn on the television and hear stories of women spending countless dollars to look like a certain celebrity or see magazines marketed toward women that encourage them to do, act, or look a certain way to garner more male attention, whereas men participate far less  frequently in this charade, I am disgusted.

So when Afghanistan was the country of the moment leading up to the September 11th attacks and America’s subsequent response, I recall feeling angry every time I saw a woman in a burqa on television. My gut response was one tempered by the typical Western media approach to more conservative aspects of Islam. “Why must these women wear something covering every inch of their bodies, while men are left to dress according to their very whim?” I tried to put myself in these women’s shoes, knowing I would be incredibly angry if I went from wearing clothing I chose on my own to being forced to adhere to a new government policy that dictated my very move, even down to my personal style.I would feel trapped, limited, removed, alienated. I would feel separated from my former self, as I use my clothing and style to reflect my personality and my mood. Most of all, I would feel different, and ultimately inferior to the male peers with whom I was once, more or less, visually equal.

Yet now, as the burqa has resurfaced again in the Western media, my opinion has changed. Continue reading

Questions and Answers

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

A couple of weeks ago I had the Toronto launch of my novel, Shine, Coconut Moon. I prepared myself in the usual way, going over what I would read, how I would introduce myself and the book to the guests, and anticipating audience questions during the Q&A. This Q&A, however, threw me off. I should have known better than to expect the usual, “So, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?” line of questioning from my Canadian peeps.

The questions they wanted answers to were more along the lines of: So, what would you say is the difference between Canadian racism and American racism? And, Would you say South Asians in the U.S. are more assimilated than South Asians in Canada?

Maybe I brought it on myself with the intro.

Before reading an excerpt, I talked a bit about how, while living in Canada, I never thought of myself as Canadian – I was always Indian or Punjabi or Sikh and then later, South Asian. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. and lived through eight years of the Bush administration, that I felt the most Canadian I’d ever felt in my life. That was when I realized that things I’d always taken for granted (free universal health care being only one of many) were values that formed and shaped who I was. They were the underpinnings of what I thought was right and just. And I was clearly not in Canada anymore.

But having to answer those tough questions for fellow Canadians was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do yet. So much of the experience sits as half-formed thoughts that I had to somehow mold into coherent responses.

Things like the fact that when I lived in Canada, I reveled in my “ethnicity,” wore my Indian-ness with unapologetic joy. But the minute I crossed the border I shrunk from everything that made me appear “too” ethnic. I was hassled at the border several times when I visited home and tried to return. My partner at the time begged me to remove my nose ring and to dress more “corporate” so that I would get across. And the time that I followed that advice, the crossing was smooth and uneventful. I understood, then, on a much deeper level, why that push for assimilation was so strong south of the border. Continue reading

Quoted: Andreana Clay on Queer Women of Color and Hip Hop Masculinity

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

null

A variety of clubs cater to queer women of color in the San Francisco Bay area. Some are wall-to-wall women of color – Black, Latina, Asian and most play hip-hop music non-stop. In each club, there are all different kinds of women. For instance, there might be women over forty with long ‘locks, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and Teva sandals in one corner of the room and younger, Butch, women wearing crisp, indigo-colored Levi’s with thick black belts, large belt buckles and perfectly gelled hair in another. There are also femme women in tight jeans or skirts, heels, and short T-shirts, some cut around the collar so that they slide down their shoulders. In every club I that I’ve been to, there is always a clearly designated dance floor, which is usually packed tight with sweaty bodies. Some clubs have elevated dance floors or stages with one or two go-go dancers dressed in hot pants and knee-high boots. Below them are women lined up with dollars. In the background, hip-hop music fills the room with beats and voices, sometimes the only male presence in the room. What type of male, and ultimately what type of masculinity depends on the club.

On Gay Pride weekend this year, I went out to several of these clubs. Two in particular stuck out in my mind because of their similarities and differences in relationship to queer sexuality and black masculinity. For instance, at one of the clubs I went to, the deejay played songs that characterize more of the nigga, or thug image in hip-hop- 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, the Game, and 50 Cent. At the second club, the music had much more of a playa or sexualized tone – the Ying Yang twins, David Banner, and Khia. While there are two different types of masculinity being played at each club, in a room full of women of color, the lyrics fall to the background as the performances take center stage. For instance, nigga masculinity in the first club is reflected in a particular style, stance, or code. It is more about an individual identity, one that each person can take on. Women throw up hand gestures as they dance, make eye contact with one another and mouth the words to the lyrics. Some women even had on T-shirts with the ultimate “nigga 4 life,” 2Pac. The tone set at this club is also about community. The mood isn’t so much about sex or domination sexually, but rather, a stance about who someone is or declares herself to be: being down, being able to take what comes in life, being loyal to this group, this identity, and this community.

In the second club, the playa image was much more prevalent. If you wanted someone to help you get your groove on, this was the place to be. Women would grind their bodies into one another, and move one another’s bodies around to the direction of the lyrics. Queer sexuality was much more on display, as a woman, you wanted to be looked at, have somebody notice you, and maybe take you home. For instance, at one point, I noticed two women on the stage, dancing with one another. One of the women, in baggy jeans and a baseball jersey picked up the wman she was dancing with who was wearing a short, silver skirt and tank top. She then lifted her up onto the bars surrounding the stage and then put her face into the woman’s skirt under the musical direction of “work that clit, cum girl.” I had to sit down. Continue reading

How to Write about Muslims (for real)

by Guest Contributors Sobia and Krista, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

After getting all of that sarcasm out of our systems two weeks ago, we decided it might be useful to put together a list of actual guidelines for writing about Muslims. Of course, this is mostly just wishful thinking, because if reporters actually seemed willing to adhere to guidelines like this, then there would be no need for this blog. But here are some suggestions anyway.

A lot of this isn’t new stuff, as you’ll see from the many MMW posts that we link to, which illustrate some of our guidelines in more detail.

So, here you go: the shockingly un-sarcastic version of “How to Write About Muslims.”

Rule #1: Don’t assume that Muslim women need to be saved, or that you know how to save them.

By making this assumption, what one is essentially doing is:

    * Assuming that all Muslim women are somehow oppressed at the hands of their fellow Muslims. The Muslim community is just as diverse as any other. By generalizing in such a way, one maligns the entire community, including the women. This is offensive to the many women who are treated with respect and equality by their fellow Muslims, including Muslim men. This assumption also ignores the forms of oppression that Muslim women may be facing from outside of the Muslim community, such as racism and Islamophobia (or even war and occupation, in cases like Iraq and Afghanistan), which for some women can be much more disastrous than anything they experience from their Muslim community.
    * Assuming that Muslim women can’t take care of themselves. This is very patronizing. Muslim women have agency, and a great deal of it. Throughout history and today, Muslim women have been taking various forms of leadership. In situations where women are being oppressed, they are resisting in all sort of ways that the media doesn’t always think about. Additionally, most Muslim countries have Muslim women’s organizations that are working hard to support themselves and other women.
    * Assuming that what you’re going to do for them is going to be helpful. The assumption is that you know better than them what’s good for them. It also suggests that you are actually in a position to help them, which might not be true.

These two posts by Faith go into more detail about what is wrong with making these assumptions.

Rule #2:Rather than assuming you know what Muslim women’s lives are like, try asking them.

Too often, writers write about Muslim women without ever having tried to find out what Muslim women’s lives are like from their perspective. This is poor research, and feeds into the problematic assumptions discussed in Rule #1. Do your homework, and try hard to connect to the specific women that you are writing about. Even if you are writing about women in another country, try to connect to women’s organisations in that country. At the very least, try to connect to women from that country who are living in your own community.

Rule #3: Be careful of who you talk to regarding Islam and/or Muslim women.

Don’t assume, just because someone is Muslim, that all Muslims will agree with them or that they represent all Muslims. For example, Muslims who have made a career out of calling other Muslims Islamists, and who base their credibility on the number of other Muslims who don’t like them, are not a good source of information. Generally, people who work within an Islamic framework, as opposed to always bashing Islam, are more likely to understand the Muslim community. Continue reading

Quoted: Jaemin Kim on Stereotypes, Asian Women, and Hate Crimes

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson


During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, all three used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape – vaginally, anally and orally — two of the young women over a seven hour ordeal.

In Spokane, one of the attackers immediately confessed to searching only for Japanese women to torture and rape — and eventually all pled guilty and were convicted. It clearly was a racially-motivated criminal case. The victims also believed they were attacked because of their race, the prosecutor told me.

What is astonishing, however, is that the district attorney failed to bring an additional charge that would have tagged the crimes as motivated by racial bias. The police also neglected to report the crime as a “hate crime,” as demanded by the Justice Department to keep accurate statistics of all bias-driven crimes. Although the attackers all received long sentences, an important opportunity to raise the nation’s consciousness was lost. We, as a society, were told that it’s not a hate crime to rape an Asian woman because of her race. Continue reading

Quoted (WTF Edition): Anonymous Source on Female Rappers

It wasn’t always like this. From 1998 to 2003, female rappers such as Lauryn Hill, Eve, and Missy Elliott were among the genre’s most bankable artists. But nearly all of their successors — including Lil Mama, Kid Sister, Ms Dynamite, and Jean Grae — have struggled to connect with listeners. And it’s harder than ever to launch new talent. ”Hair and makeup is killing female hip-hop,” says a source. ”The grooming cost to break a female rapper versus a male rapper is 10 times as much per appearance. That tends to have an adverse effect on a record company’s willingness to even entertain a female rapper.”

—- From “BET and VH1 Present…Awards Shows Without Women,” Entertainment Weekly

(Thanks Carmen!)