Archive for July, 2010

Link Love: Abagond

July 30, 2010

Did you know that there was a statue of an old black man bowing and tipping his hat in passive subservience erected in Natchitoches, Louisiana for the purpose of “grateful recognition of the arduous and faithful services of the good darkies of Louisiana”?

Yeah, me neither. To learn a little bit of history about it and to see a photo of the statue (which is exactly as bad as it sounds), check out Uncle Jack the Good Darky by Abagond. I just discovered this blog and it is filled with fascinating articles about black history and anti-racism.

I also recommend The Space Traders, Malcolm X: On Afro-American History, David Myers: a black boy who thought he was white, and Do whites have a culture? just for starters. Seriously, there is enough good stuff here to keep my mind and eyes busy for months!

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Props For a Radical Mama

July 30, 2010

Today’s post is kind of fanwomanish, I’ve got to admit. I visited Mai’a’s blog, Guerrilla Mama Medicine, and discovered that she collaborated in the creation of a web zine called Outlaw Midwives. Mai’a describes it as:

featuring visual art, poems, essays, and practical tips from women globally. about abortion, pregnancy, birth, and babyhood, colonialism, structural violence, anti-oppression work, and revolutionary love.

Which is right up my alley. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on thaura zine distro as well:

we, aaminah al-naksibendi (who lives in michigan, usa)  and mai’a (who lives in cairo, egypt), started this little zine distro to share zines, stickers and other cool stuff centered in the lives and work of folks living on the margins: women and genderqueer of color, third-world women, working class, mothers, and survivors.
in arabic ‘thaura’ means ‘revolution’.

I just love finding woman revolutionaries. You go mama!

Shake the Shit Out Of ‘Em!

July 29, 2010

Fuck Feminism.

Guest blogger Mai’a said a lot of things in her post entitled “ain’t i a mama?” on Feministe yesterday, but for some reason, “fuck feminism” seems to be the only thing that a lot of people heard. 

The notion that feminism might not be such a great and awesome force for ALL women (and not just middle class, cis, white, able-bodied ladies) seemed to blow many minds, to the point that they bounced from the site altogether, never to return (or so they claimed). The idea that feminism might actually be an OPPRESSIVE movement and a THREAT to many women (ESPECIALLY trans women! Exclusion of trans women from feminist and women-friendly safe spaces is actually super fuckin’ common! And do I have to start listing the radfems who have actively called for their genocide?) caused many a Well Intentioned White Liberal Feminist to literally shit themselves with rage!

The comments section of this post is absolutely golden. There is plenty of racefail, but there are many good and thought-provoking points (as well as some free education) that make it worth the ride. Here are some of my favorites:

From bfp:

I think it would be an *amazing* conversation to talk about why feminists will “reclaim” bitch and cunt, but find “mama” just too fucking goddamn offensive to even think about

IrishUp:

have we USians internalized some thing(s) about being a mama or mothering that might need unpacking? What about having internalized that mothering and mama = cis het female? The OP, and other commenters strongly identify with mami and mothering in the context of their social justice work and their sense of nurturing – myself included. That should be OK in a feminist space, and I think there is a lot to learn from the WHY’s w/r/t OP’s identification with mami over feminist.

Nanette:

My reasons may be different from that of others – to me, centering children means centering life. And it means centering *all* children – loving by any means necessary, as you say (I love that!). Imagine a world where the children were the center, and the parents/adults were the satellites – people would pull out all stops to make sure that no child went hungry, that they were not bombed, that no child was ostracized because they were gay, or trans, or gender queer, or not abled in any certain way, or poor, or of any particular color or ethnicity, or born to a certain group of people in a certain place, or… well, I could go on, but I think that’ll do. What a world it would be when they grew up – not perfect, because there is no such thing, but maybe… different.

And, by way of centering children, centering life, it naturally follows that women are centered. Whether they are biological parents or not – that is not really important (to my way of thinking) to the centering of life (not wombs, specifically, by the way).

Mamita Mala:

I chose and choose mami on purpose. I am not a mommy. I am not a mama. I am a mami : mami because it has been cooed at me by ancestros who have passed as a term of love even when I was a child and clearly not a mother. mami because as soon as decided to identify as a young woman of color it was hissed and yelled at me in the streets by men across racial/ethnic lines, mami because it has a sexual context attributed to women like me: poor single women who have had children and are struggling. Mami because my mentor helped me learn how to work in the streets with other mamis whose children had been murdered by police and racists (which usually have been one and the same). Mami porque yes, I have two hijas but oh so much more. Mami for all the white men who wanted to call me that as their way to trying to own my ass. Mami for all the men I give my ass to…

And for me mami is not gendered. I want to be clear on that. In my community mami is not gendered. Yes, I identify as a cis-mujer pero I can think of sooo many people whom I call mami with love and soo many people whom are called mami with love who are not.

One of the things that I learned from the post and the comments it sparked is that what I as a middle class American think of when I hear the word “mama” is not the same thing as what someone in another country or culture is going to think. The childfree discussion that is going on misses the point, in that for many cultures outside of the white American middle class demographic, “mama” is really not limited to who can or has borne or raised children.

I try to be aware of my privilege as much as I can, but my American privilege is one that I pretty consistently forget to check – the rest of the world does not revolve around me and my US-ness. It’s something I need to keep working on, and I’m grateful to Mai’a for giving me an opportunity to look at myself and my assumptions from a different viewpoint.

I also loved where Nanette was going: that if we stop oppressing children, we stop oppressing everyone. Having a goal of raising children in an environment that is free from transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, ableism, and classism means eliminating those things entirely – in which case, everybody wins. Challenging the memes and myths that are the building blocks of rape culture and slut shaming means starting early; it means respecting the bodies and lives of all children with the hopes that they will grow to become adults who respect the bodies and lives of others. Bigotry is learned behavior and if we ever hope to fully eradicate it from our society (which I know will never happen, but it’s still a goal worth pursuing), then that requires not just unlearning that bigotry in ourselves, but actively refraining from teaching it to the generations that follow us.

The title of this post comes from the movie Ink, in which one character asks another how he plans to wake up a child that has fallen into a coma. His answer: “Shake the shit out of her!” Of course he doesn’t mean this literally (and I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film), but I love the idea of shaking the shit out of someone – of giving them a rude awakening, taking them out of their comfort zones, and just doing what you have to do to snap them out of the dream they were stuck in. Mai’a did exactly that in her post, and I do hope that despite all of the derailing and bickering, that at least a few people have woken up.

—-

Edited to add: Another fabulous quote from bfp (emphasis mine):

to be clear, when I say “reclaim” mama, I am talking in the white centric US centric sense of the word, I am NOT talking about mama in the way mai’a is using, the way I am using, the way mamita, etc are using. mama, mami, mamita, m/other, etc–all these call for a decentering of the US white heteropatriarchy dominant imposition of “mommy” on the entire world.

When I say “reclaim mama”–I am asking white dominant US centric feminists who think I am calling them a stupid lazy bitch or a mythical child eating cunt because I *do* organize around mami–to consider why “mama” is so infantilizing, offensive, horrific, etc to them. And if you can reclaim a word like cunt, when it is used to hurt you, why can’t you reclaim a word like mama when it is used to control you and hurt you? I am not saying “embrace your inner granola girl”–i’m saying, if sexist pricks don’t get to control “cunt” then why do they get to control “mama”? 

Locs and Babies and Consent, Oh My!

July 28, 2010

I’m still thinking about hair, but today I’m thinking more about Eve’s head rather than my own. I’ve always wanted locs for myself and my children, and have always had every intention of locking up my kids’ heads while they were very young. While browsing the natural hair boards to see when (and, most importantly, HOW) other parents started locking up their children’s hair, I found that there is a bit of a debate over whether or not one should lock a child’s hair before they are old enough to consent to it.

I was surprised, honestly, that there was even any ethical question over it. Eve’s ears are unpierced because I do not believe in permanently altering children’s bodies for non-medical reasons without their consent – and this includes routine circumcision and cosmetic genital surgery for intersex children. Several people have asked when we plan to pierce her ears, and my answer is simple: when she is old enough to ask for it, she can have them. This may be when she is four, it may be when she is seven, it may be never. But it’s her body, not ours, so it’s not a decision that we will make for her.

My opinion on hair is very different. While locs are a somewhat permanent style, they ultimately are just hair. They can be grown out, cut off, whatever. If she gets older and decides that she doesn’t want them, we can remove them. If we cut them off, she will have to learn how to style her hair as it grows from very short to whatever length she prefers, but I don’t think that learning how to manage one’s hair throughout its entire growth cycle is really a bad thing. Basically, my thoughts on hair boiled down to: it’s my kid, it’s just hair, I’ll do what I want.

However, one person on the natural hair board did say something that made me rethink my stance. Her gripe was specifically with parents who decide to loc their very young children’s hair when they do not have locs of their own (including white parents in transracial families). She brought up the point that locs are a highly politicized style whether or not one grows them for political reasons, and that there are distinct stereotypes and other misguided assumptions that one will face if you’ve chosen to wear them. While it’s one thing for a child to endure that sort of ignorance from people with the loving guidance and support of a parent who is also dealing with the same thing, it’s another situation entirely to force that child to go it alone.

That was all she needed to say to convince me. I still intend to loc Eve’s hair, but ONLY if I have locs myself. If I can stick with it, then in about two years my locs should (hopefully!) have matured, and Eve’s hair will be long enough that I can start the process on her head – if that’s still what I want to do. If I can’t hang in there, if I quit again, then Eve’s hair will stay loose for as long as she wills it.

Fair enough? I think so.

Hair Porn!

July 27, 2010

Yesterday I made an appointment to have my hair done professionally for the first time in about five years. I’m finally going to start my locs again, and I am so excited that I’ve been reading natural hair blogs and looking at nappy pictures all day. This will be my third attempt at locking since I went natural; my hair is so naturally soft and my curls are so loose that my hair takes a very long time to loc. Both of my previous attempts failed because after more than a year of spending too much money at the hair salon, my hair still had a very long way to go; in my impatience, I quit.

This time I have a plan. I’ll have a professional start my locs (I do want more or less even parts, and I know I can’t manage that on my own), will see her for a few months to have them retwisted, but then will take over my own maintenance once I feel confident enough to do so (or once I start getting sick of spending the money every month – whichever comes first).  I’ll be maintaining my own locs using the latching method, which will give me the freedom to work out regularly (yes, I do plan on exercising again once the summer heat waves have relented) without worrying about my twists coming undone.

Via Feministe, I found a link to this hair porn tumblr (it’s not actual porn, silly), which features pictures of many women of color but also non-POCs and their ‘dos. Unfortunately, there are no image descriptions.

Help Nikki Araguz

July 26, 2010

A woman whose husband has died is being sued by her in-laws, who assert that because the widow is trans, the entire marriage was a farce and she has no right to his death benefits. On top of the fact that the in-laws are grabbing for money only a few weeks after her husband’s death, they have also publicly outed her as a trans woman and have endangered her life by doing so.

For more details, check out Cara’s post on The Curvature.

Mrs. Araguz is currently living off of donations since her assets have been frozen. Please help. If you can’t afford to donate, then at least spread the word! I doubt very seriously that the big GLB orgs and celebrities are going to come running to her assistance; trans issues just don’t rate very highly on the list of Things That Matter in any cis-dominated sphere. Every little bit helps.

Is It Wrong That I Find This Hilarious?

July 23, 2010

Description: A screenshot of my blog stats shows that at least one person has found my blog by Googling the phrase “I am sick of white people.”

Mumbling and Grumbling

July 22, 2010

Today, a white coworker, R, was griping to me about L, another coworker, who is black. L really doesn’t like R and doesn’t try to hide it. When R asked her a question about something work-related, L kept mumbling the response and forcing R to repeat the question. Every time R repeated herself, L got more and more agitated and continued to mumble the answer. It was an understandably irritating situation.

When R told me about this, she added, “I was tempted to tell her to stop pulling that black shit on me.”

I honestly thought that I hadn’t heard her correctly, and in response to my confused look, she added, “Black people do that shit on purpose. They mumble. You know how you can’t understand what they’re saying when you go through the drive-through? A janitor told my mom that they mumble that shit on purpose.”

I really really wish that white people would stop thinking of me as their Honorary So-Intelligent-That-She’s-Not-Really-Black-So-I-Can-Unload-All-My-Racist-Bullshit-And-She-Will-Agree-With-Me Negro Friend. She talked to me, a black woman that she has known for years, about black people and what “they” do and why “they” do it, as if I weren’t actually a part of the group that she is stereotyping and disparaging.

I am not white. I am NOT white. I AM NOT WHITE. So don’t fucking pull that shit on me!

Oh, and to state the obvious: When a black person does something obnoxious, it’s because they’re black and they’re just pulling “that black shit.” It’s never because they, as an individual, are obnoxious. It’s because black people do shit that is obnoxious (and she knows! because a janitor somewhere told her mom! so it must be true!).

I’m fucking ready for my vacation.

Dictionary Deconstruction: Politically Correct

July 21, 2010

I’ve got two words that I hate stuck in my head this morning. The phrase is not one that I use in my vocabulary as I have yet to see any evidence of its value. Whenever I hear someone say it, my eye twitches a little and I die a little inside.

Those words are: politically correct.

I don’t know what the official definition is, but if I had to make one up for the dictionary, it would look a little something like this:

politically correct. Adj.
 1. Acting or speaking, using carefully selected buzzwords, in order to mask one’s bigotry.
 2. The state of being full of shit.

There is nothing – nothing! – that is gained from the practice of  thoughtlessly replacing one’s problematic speech and actions with “approved” speech and actions. If you do not take the time to think about why certain ways of speaking and acting are hateful, if you do not listen to the people who are hurt by your speech and actions, then you are just going to keep doing it. You can use all the right words and still silence and dehumanize others with your speech.

As far as I can tell, a lot of folks are perfectly content to keep on acting in dismissive, hurtful, and oppressive ways. They don’t care about the impact of those words or actions – they just care about how others perceive them and whether they’ll be getting a gold star this week.

This is what I hate about PC. It’s not about changing oppressive patterns of behavior. It’s not about examining the root causes and the effects of marginalization. It’s not about stepping back and allowing the people that we have silenced to finally have the space to speak.

It’s about looking good. It’s about fitting in. It’s about patting yourself on the back for being such a good ally, even as those you supposedly have allied with scream their frustration and hurt at your back (and yes, you have turned your back on them). It’s all about You The Privileged instead of the Oppressed, and any anti-oppression work that centers privileged people over marginalized people is nothing short of a fucking farce.

PC is not something that we as activists should be accepting or working towards. PC is a lie, a soothing glamour, an exercise in deception. 

Real anti-oppression work requires introspection, humility, and a complete rewiring of our ism-indoctrinated minds. PC, on the other hand, just requires that one cares enough about one’s image to use the “Replace word with” function in MS Word before clicking Publish.

I don’t think I have to tell you which kind of work is actually going to change the world. (Hint: It’s not the one that can be solved by merely using keyboard shortcuts in your word processing program.)

Recipe of the Week: Um, Nothing?

July 19, 2010

So it’s not that I stopped trying new things in the kitchen. I am still totally having fun trying out new foods and stuff. But I’m starting to pull away from the recipe-bound version of cooking that I have always known and am starting to acquaint myself with technique, innovation, and experimentation instead. I got a membership at Rouxbe, which is an online cooking school that I can sum up in one word: fucking amazing! (Meh, so that was two.)

The videos on Rouxbe are clear, thorough, and go into all the science behind why certain techniques are more efficient at producing desired results than others. Sadly, they do not seem to provide transcripts or subtitles for any of the videos (although the recipes do have text versions); I’ve emailed them to see if they would be willing to provide accommodations for folks who need them, and I hope to hear back soon.

I’m a woman who loves sauces and gravies, and on Friday I put together a sauce for a pot roast without using a recipe – I just winged it, tasting frequently, and it turned out DELICIOUS! Here’s what I did (I think, it’s been a few days and I didn’t write it down):

  1. Saute a few minced shallots and a couple of minced garlic cloves in unsalted butter until softened
  2. Add a pinch of kosher salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, a tiny bit of basil, and plenty of fresh rosemary and sautee for another 30 seconds or so
  3. Deglaze with red wine
  4. Add a couple tablespoons of demi-glaze (I got mine from Fresh Market for a few bucks) and stir until incorporated
  5. Reduce sauce a little
  6. Add a few squirts of Worcestershire
  7. Add honey a little bit at a time, tasting frequently, until desired sweetness
  8. Reduce sauce until desired flavor concentration is reached
  9. Strain and pour over meat!

All I basically did was taste frequently and pay attention to how the flavor changed depending on what I added/reduced. I don’t have exact measurements because I really just did it by taste. I feel very good about how it turned out and look forward to more experimental saucemaking in the future!