Post-racism is Not Where We Are

Some of you have likely heard about Vance Gilbert and the racism he experienced while flying United Airlines (Vance wrote a post on his blog about it, and various news sites have picked it up, not to mention the speed at which social networks transmitted the information). I am still baffled by the whole thing. Of course, that’s part of my privilege: I get to be baffled rather than humiliated and frustrated. I get to live in a world existence where I can be flabbergasted that a man reading about vintage airplanes was considered a potential terrorist for a short period of time. On most days I consider myself to be paranoid and anxious, yet I never have to be concerned about the color of my skin arousing suspicion.

In a follow-up post about the responses he has received concerning his letter and public humiliation Vance Gilbert wrote:

See, Black people not only live in the day to day world, but we live somewhere between total race paranoia and absolute to-the-letter stereotype. We people of color certainly aren’t done coming to terms with eons of inequality and racism, and we carry its residual madness, uninvitedly, everywhere. I’m first to admit that. We are no more totally realized individuals than you are.

And let’s be clear, I didn’t get snatched off of a plane because I was Black. Nor was I removed just because I was reading an antique book of aviation. It’s the combo plate that set this thing in motion. Paranoia needs a hook for its coat. That hook has historically been race, religion, and such, and we work like dogs to teach our children otherwise.

We will tell the truth to our children, and to your children, that there is no difference between people no matter their color, for as long as we can.

Then we will lie to our children, and to your children, for as long as we can about how people do not look at each other differently thanks to hue and shade.

Then at some point, these children will learn that we weren’t done, and that so much is up to them.

The post contains some really great responses from people who have contacted Vance on the matter. I’m glad he decided to share them with us. I recommend you pop over and check them out. Also, be sure to tell United Airlines how this situation was not okay and they need to address it ASAP. We need to stand behind folks who are fighting the fight (if we can, of course). Here is a response I thought was the best:

But you know what, I too—a white man—have been profiled: 6 times out of 10 if I go to a discount store in a non-white neighborhood I get someone coming to me asking me questions as if I am the store manager. And when I stop them and say no? Sometimes they think I am security or a cop. Now, do they ever say “Sorry, I thought you were in a position of power here because you are white and this is a discount store so why else are you here…” Never. But that is what happens. Doesn’t happen to me in Chinatown or Little Odessa… Only in non-white neighborhoods. You know why? Because America still has some massive race issues to deal with. And it does go both ways. But as a white person in America the chances of me being negatively racially profiled because I am white are pretty much zilch.

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Bigotry comes with many faces, and not all of them are unrepentant asshole

[TW: SLURS]

There’s this idea people have of what a bigot is.

Bigots; they’re the people who spit out slurs to the exclusion of any other language to describe oppressed groups of people; they’re the violent ones who well, maybe not all of them will kick your head in… but they will certainly cheer on those who would. They’re the people who mutter darkly about ‘all sorts’ being let into the country these days, and their position on immigration runs to ‘no-one with skin darker than a Milkybar or people who worship god(s) other than the big man spoken of in the New Testament’. They’re nationalists; they might not be Nazi supporters but they think Hitler had some good ideas about segregation. They’re the cross-burners, the Westboro Baptist Church, the English Defence League.

Or, less extremely, they’re your Granddad; a product of an older time, when the n-word was just how you described black people and whilst they might not hate LGBQ and trans folks, they still don’t really hold with that sort of thing, feel that marriage equality is not really appropriate and that adoption should be out of the question for queer couples because well, it’s just not right you know, children need a father and a mother.

People don’t think of themselves.

They’re good people; they know that people of all colours are equal, and the same for women, and trans people, and gay, lesbian and bisexual people too. They don’t even use ‘gay’ as an insult, and they love Oprah and Kanye West. They might not want to see queer people being queer, but they totally have queer friends. And yeah ok, they did tell that one joke about Obama… but it was just a joke. Hell, it was ironic.

Feminists and other social justice warriors, they certainly don’t think of themselves; they’re for equality, damnit. And well, why derail the discourse around abortion with the inclusion of trans people, anyway? Right? I mean, come on, everyone knows that abortion primarily affects cis women. Trans women aren’t affected at all of course, because they don’t have uteri. And come on, they’re feminists, they’d never enable rape culture. Look, gender and sexuality minorities don’t count because rape culture primarily affects straight cis women; they’re the ones who are being targeted by the straight cis men, duh! No look, prison rape and the fact that trans people and people of colour are more likely to be raped is just derailing. No, erasure isn’t as bad as direct persecution, so shut up. Ableism isn’t relevant to this discussion, they don’t care if you’re disabled: it’s not relevant.

My sister doesn’t think of herself as a bigot. Yeah ok, she might say unkind things about sl*ts and fatties but they deserve it, right? I mean, they do it to themselves, right? And it’s not like she hates them, she just judges them. And ok, so yeah, she uses ret*rded a lot, but that doesn’t make her a bigot. She’d never be horrible to a disabled person. Ok, so she made that joke that one time about tr*nnies, but that was just a joke, it was funny.

None of these people are the British National Party, they’re not the sort to go burning people’s houses down, they aren’t extreme. But they are bigots, in one way or another.

My friends and family are bigots, and I’d wager yours are too. This doesn’t make them screamingly atrocious people; it makes them products of their society.

People have this idea of what a bigot is, and it’s that idea that rises to the fore of their mind when someone calls them out, or explains that they have privilege. It’s a function of the insidious nature of today’s fundamentally bigoted society that a large amount of bigotry is deemed, well, not bigotry at all.

This is why finding ways to explain why certain things are bigoted- especially things that most people won’t even think about before doing or saying- is so important. So we can get through to those bigots we love, respect and admire, those bigots who aren’t neo-nazi cross-burning obvious bigots, the bigots in our lives who have no idea they’re bigots at all.

Charlie is an eighteen year old social justice activist, artist, designer and writer. They can be found at sharptonguecharlie on wordpress and whatfreshhellisthis on tumblr.

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On Self-Care

I’ve been feeling this for a while now – a sort of restlessness, a dissatisfaction with what my life currently is.  Oh, there are a plethora of reasons for it, but then I came across this blog post by Autumn at The Beheld (a blog exploring beauty work from a feminist perspective) the other day, and I had one of those DINGDINGDINGDINGDING!!!! moments.  It happened right about here:

Meof course, I’m a “real woman.” pilfer paper towels from the office kitchen instead of carrying special wipes made for special people. I stash dirty granola bar wrappers and unwanted flyers in my bag because I’m too good of a citizen to litter and in too much of a damn hurry to wait for a trash can. I carry around makeup from 2007, because who am I to think I’m so privileged as to deserve new cosmetics when these work perfectly fine?

It is not me being “real”; it is me short-changing myself on self-care. I used to think that self-care was anything that was utterly nonproductive. Cleaning my purse doesn’t feel like self-care; it feels like work. Zoning out on the couch with a box of graham crackers and watching five consecutive episodes of Dexter, however, was “self-care” because it was my fucking time, goddammit, and I’m not going to pick up the phone and I’m not going to answer your e-mail and I’m not going to exercise or even do a fucking Sun Salutation because I am far too busy caring for myself, do you understand?

You will not be surprised to learn that this form of self-care rarely results in me actually feeling cared for. My version of “self-care” has long been to wait until I am at the very end of my gas tank, and then to do the only thing I have energy left to do—which is pretty much nothing. But it gives me enough of a break to get back on track, until I’m running on empty again, and again, and again. And again.

Oh my god, I thought to myself – THAT’S ME!

Autumn goes on to talk about how self-care can actually require a little bit of effort, a little bit of work.  Sometimes, it’s about cleaning your damned house a little, or shaking all of crap that collects in the bottom of your purse out.  Self-care includes stuff like exercise and washing one’s face, as well as doing the shit we need to do to decompress.

You know, I didn’t used to be this chronically lazy.  I have avoided vacuuming the rug in the living room for like, a month now.  The wool rug.  That sheds like a motherfucker. (This is also attributable to the fact that my cat has puked on it twice in the past month in what appears to be indelible vomit.  I’ve wept over those stains as I feverishly sprayed Resolve at them, and only succeeded in bleaching out the surrounding area.  I no longer like this yack-stained rug, and vacuuming it feels like working on keeping a shitty relationship together.)

I think part of the reason I gave up on self-care has to do with fat acceptance – or rather, it’s just a step on my “journey” (as much as I loathe the word).  It should come as no surprise to those who have read me elsewhere on the internet that I still struggle with a lot of issues – food issues, image issues.  For as many years that I’ve been doing this, I still haven’t quite gotten to the self-acceptance part, and it’s making me wonder if I’ll ever get there.

Perhaps part of my problem though, is that when fat acceptance hit me like a revelation, I took the opportunity to shut down on myself.  I think I needed it.  I’d grown up in the land of “lite” and “free” foods, under extreme imposed calorie restrictions, and with the constant reminder that I was a “beached whale,” and that no one would ever find value in me so long as I looked the way I do.  I think after twenty years of being terrified of being fat, and being scared of the repercussions of gaining any weight, that I really did just need to turn off and learn to not feel guilty about being me.

At first, I kind of thought that was the end of my “journey.”  That I would grow into the “bad fatty” trope, and that would be okay.  And it would have been okay, except I’m realizing that that’s not quite the person that I am.  Who I am had been hidden from me.  All of the skiing and soccer playing and backpacking and bike riding I did as a kid was done because I was forced to do it.  I’d never learned how to feed myself because eating was not my responsibility when I was growing up – that responsibility had been taken away from me, because the fear was that if I was allowed to be in charge of what I consumed, I would turn into the Blob.

Well, it happened anyway.  My mother’s worst fears came true.  I am supahfat and…. nothing at all has happened as a result.

I quit smoking about two months ago, after ten years of being a smoker, and eight years going through about a pack a day.  The reason I gave myself was that I could no longer afford it, which is true, but after about the three week point, I realized that it was more than that, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

And then, Autumn’s post about self-care hit me like a freight train, and I realized that I am finally ready to be in charge of my own self-care, and I’ve realized that it’s going to involve more than “decompressing” at the end of the day.  What I really realized was that I don’t need to be afraid of doing work to care for myself.  Before, I was afraid that forcing myself to be productive would just lead me back to old patterns of behavior, back to the guilt, back to feeling like I was a failure if things didn’t turn out exactly the way I’d planned.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  I’m in charge now – no one else – and I think it’s time to go vacuum the pukey rug in the living room.

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Policies Page Unveiled

Hey Folks,

I just turned out Policies page live. I hope that helps clarify some bits and tells you where we stand on things. If there is anything additional we need to add, or if you have any questions, or if I wasn’t clear on something, please contact us so we can get everything straightened out.

Posted in Site Updates | 3 Comments

FAT COW

I wrote about innerfatgirl on the About page and how they were an inspiration to the upstart of this blog. This week they posted this great experience on their blog and have been kind enough to allow me to repost it in its entirety here. I hope it brings you as much excitement, inspiration, and hope as it brought me.

Tonight I was biking my fat ass up a hill when someone drove by in a car and yelled “COW!”

At first it stung a little because we all know that word is loaded with an intense history of hatred towards the feminine and is specifically linked to the size of a persons body and their perceived desirability or sexual currency in dominant culture.

I kept on biking, and I let my fat assed rage take me to the top of the hill before I stopped. Then I promptly burst into tears.

I burst in to tears because biking up hills is something that is a really big deal for me and a huge form of resistance against a culture that does not want my body to be seen in public, especially not while exerting energy via exercise and I was really proud of myself

I burst into tears because I am EMOTIONAL (and that’s okay!) and because words like COW and FAT and BITCH and WHORE have been trying to make me, and many other people invisible for my entire fucking life and even before that and I feel pretty over it

I burst into tears because words like that serve to reinforce a world where fat bodies are only seen in certain contexts and have kept me and many other people I know from moving our bodies in self-determined ways that reflect our different abilities and bodies and make us feel empowered

I burst into tears because that person probably just hated who they were and wanted to make me feel bad so that they could, for a moment feel cool, or funny, or like they had power over me. I feel sad that we live in a world that makes us do that to each other

And then I laughed because I am so over feeling upset about those things or holding them in my heart because of the wonderful support of people who follow me and read my words (because you really do make me stronger)

And I laughed because I am so grateful for the support of the people in my life who are real with me and honest and want me to feel empowered, like my supportive and amazing brother who was with me through this experience

And I laughed because I wished I had yelled “that’s FAT cow to you! if you’re gonna insult me, at least do it properly”.

I share this story with you in the hopes that I continue to have the strength to use my body as a form of resistance, on my own terms and in ways that make me feel joy. I share this because maybe someone will get something from my story and use it as they wish, be it hope for the future, or fuel for resistance.

in love and rage,

A FAT COW

(aka majestic legay)

HARDER, BETTER, FATTER, STRONGER FOREVER AND EVER

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Black History, Nicki Minaj and Ms. Magazine


(No captions or transcripts found.)

Coincidentally I found this video and a Ms. Magazine article about Nicki Minaj all in the same day. (You can find an HD version on MTV’s website; however, it requires watching a commercial.)

I found the video to be touching and frustrating and a super tribute to those out there who are resisting in the spotlight. It was a moment of incredible vulnerability, strength, and determination.

The article in Ms. magazine doesn’t really have anything to do with Nicki Minaji, though I thought it helped set the scene. Janell Hobson shares with us the story of “Sara (Saartjie) Baartman, a South African woman who was exhibited in England and in Paris as the ‘Hottentot Venus‘ between 1810 and 1815.” Just a few years before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

The premise of Baartman’s Hottentot Venus show focused on her supposedly too-large behind and the belief in her “missing link” status as a “Hottentot,” a now derogatory term used to describe the Khoisan ethnic group residing at the Cape of South Africa. That group was believed to be so “primitive,” straddling the line between human and animal, that only they would find someone like Baartman to be a “Venus.” Any white man who found Baartman desirable was in danger of “reverting” back to his “primitive” form (even though Victorian ladies donned bustles later in the century).

Shelley, who wrote her science fiction as a criticism of scientific violations of the natural world and the “mad” scientists who obsessed over “penetrating nature’s secrets,” may have had men like Cuvier in mind. Cuvier literally penetrated such secrets in his dissection and preservation of Baartman’s brain and genital organs. His thesis, which compared Baartman’s genitalia to those of orangutans, formed the basis for much of 19th-century scientific racism, which later evolved into eugenics. Of course present-day science is quick to remind us that race is a social construct and not based in biology, but popular culture can keep this strain of thinking alive with its reductionist representations of black (and white) female sexuality.

As Hobson points out in the comment section of her article, the connection between Nicki Minaj’s SNL skit and the Hottentot Venus through the decades relies on the universal understanding and agreement that a Black woman’s body is funny. That is a powerful idea.

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We’re Watching Virgie Tovar’s Guide to Fat Girl Living


(No captions and no transcriptions available. We hope that someone will jump in and start captioning/transcripting these videos!)

I found this courtesy of Jessica Jarchow over at tangledupinlace on Tumblr. It has been one of the more adorable, amazing things I’ve seen for awhile. I love Virgie Tovar’s energy, style, and flare. She is super smart and in your face and makes a point to be clued-in to privilege and intersectionality. This isn’t a scripted, professionally manufactured video series. Oh no. This is Virgie, face-to-face, sharing her shit with us. It’s powerful in a lot of ways.

According to the NOLOSE 2011 presenter bios page:

Virgie Tovar is a fat semi-socialist fauxhemian smut-writing Latina high femme with an MA in Human Sexuality. She was voted “Best Sex Writer” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian in 2008. Virgie doubles as Dulce de Lecherous, and is a member of GLITTERACTION! A Radical Queerlesque Cabaret.

You can check out her Facebook page and her blog at the National Sexuality Resource Center. In addition, you can find Virgie at Good Vibrations Magazine and, of course, on YouTube.

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Wisdom from the Angry Black Woman

I’m late to the game on these, as is typical of me (there is so much great shit to shuffle through, y’all; I am going to die at the computer or behind a book, I swear); however, I thought these posts were must-shares.

The blog post How Prejudice and Bias Work by the angry black woman dispels the argument that racism doesn’t happen in capitalism because it would impede sales:

They can employ this subtle racism, wherein they cater to the privileged and ignore the not-privileged, and not suffer financially for it. People of color will still buy the products.
Why? There are lots of reasons. The main one being that many people of color just don’t notice. After all, our culture is a white one. It is centered around the most privileged in our society, the white male. It’s ingrained into us from childhood that whiteness is normal and maleness is better. So why should we question that there are no brown people on the TV? After all, we are inconsequential.

Those of us who do notice these things have little recourse. Because every time we dare to speak about it in public, there are plenty of people around to tell us that we’re being stupid, or oversensitive, or playing the race card, or seeing racism where it doesn’t exist. All of this from people who’ve most likely never had to consider if something is racist or not. They don’t see it, therefore, it doesn’t exist.

In the next paragraph she writes about the training white people undergo by the media and entertainment outlets which continues to feed into these concepts:

It seems like there aren’t too many network execs that worry about “shooting themselves in the foot” when it comes to green lighting a show with no people of color whatsoever. Sure, they want lots of viewers so they can sell advertising slots. But which demographic do advertisers care about? Males. White. 18 – 40 years old. If a show skews too female (and it’s not on Lifetime) or, god forbid, too black (if it’s not on the CW or BET), how long will it last?

Great stuff here, y’all. Go read it. It’s still relevant and important 4 years later.

Another post on Angry Black Woman is breaking down the accepted notion that anger is hate and thus has no place in “civilized” society:

I am angry, that much is certainly clear. The things I’m angry about or the people I’m angry at? I don’t hate them. I’m just frustrated and annoyed. I deal with my frustration by blogging, by trying to make people understand why I’m angry, by trying to fix things so they don’t make me angry, anymore. But that’s hard to do when people insist on telling me I feel a way I don’t.

So, to be as clear as I possibly can be: I don’t hate white people. I don’t hate men.

What I do hate? Racism. Sexism.

Don’t you?

Yes ma’am, I do, and I hope I can kick ass as well as you do one day.

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Heads Up! Sound Opinions Riot Grrrl Special

Just a quick note – Sound Opinions happens to be one of my favorite podcasts (not least because I don’t listen to radio proper, so this is pretty much the only exposure I get to new music – sad, I know), and I’m catching up on past ones that I’ve missed.

I just finished listening to the episode on on Riot Grrrl, and it was remarkable.  They played tracks from Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and more, and interviewed Sarah Marcus, author of Girls to the Front, a book on the history of Riot Grrrl.  If you have a boner for Kathleen Hanna like I do, you should really take 3/4 of an hour and listen to the episode, which you can download from iTunes, or stream it online.

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Teaching Our Kids to Internalize Misogyny – The Earlier the Better!

A portrait of Mackenzie from the TLC show "Toddlers and Tiaras"

Copyright Brian Haley/DCL via TLC.com

I’m not going to lie – the image to the left creeps me the hell out.  It might be due to the fact that I have so many regrets about my own childhood that I feel like kids should be kids and like, they shouldn’t be Photoshopped and airbrushed into oblivion.

Mike Adamick, writing for Jezebel, has a similar aversion to the whole pre-pubescent beauty queen thing.  He says:

 I would wager a lot of parents would never, ever let their kids enter a contest where looks are everything — where bodies and images are dissected, graded and given points and sashes. But I don’t even want my daughter to even know about them. I don’t want her to watch a second of those shows or to even know they’re out there, waiting, available.

Yeah, I don’t blame ya, buddy.  If I were a breeder, I think I’d try to delay exposing my kid to that stuff, too.  But here’s where Mike’s analysis gets a little creepy.  He says that he and his daughter enjoy watching baseball games and shows on the Discovery Channel together, and one day, when they were about to settle in to have some father-daughter time on the couch, he flipped on the TV, and it just happened to be tuned to TLC, which just happened to be airing a rerun of “Toddlers and Tiaras.”  Says Mike:

I heard my daughter’s little feet padding toward the family room, her head probably filled with Mike Rowe’s sweet, manly voice or images of a baseball game. And here I am, watching a rerun of Toddlers and Tiaras.

Mike Rowe’s sweet, manly voice.  Um…

Briefly ignoring how fucking creepy that phrase is in context, let’s really examine what’s going on here.  I get not wanting to expose your daughter to the pageant world, where young girls are judged on their looks (and spray tans).  Yup, that’s pretty sick.  But it seems to me like Mike is a bit over-exuberant about the fact that his daughter enjoys “boy stuff” like baseball and Mike Rowe’s manliness (but seriously – who doesn’t enjoy Mike Rowe’s manliness, amirite?)

A couple of days ago, Eld wrote about wanting to try wearing makeup, and we ended up riffing on internalized misogyny a bit in the comments.  Pretty much every feminist I know of has gone through a phase in hir life where ze completely rejected anything “girly.”  Understandable – it’s kind of a revelation once it really hits you how much of your gender expression was taught, and how much society expects you to “act like a girl.”  But many of us then go so far as to loathe anything girly – and then, we start loathing anyone who doesn’t reject the girly stuff.  Seriously – how many women have you known in your life who have said something along the lines of, “I don’t get along with other women,” or even, “I hate girls?”

And women are rewarded for that type of behavior.  I remember during my first year of college, I was sitting in the dining hall with a girlfriend of mine and a couple of guys from a different dorm that we didn’t know very well.  As we were eating, a girl that I’d seen around campus marched up to the table, completely ignored my friend and me, and exchanged a few words with the guys.  I don’t really remember what she said, but I remember being kind of shocked by it (anyone who really knows me will tell you that I like to lie to myself and pretend that I’m vulgar, but I’m really kind of a prude – I guess I’m okay with that).  When she left, I asked the guys what they thought of that, and they said they loved it.  They told me that this girl “acted like a dude,” and they all universally thought it was the most awesome thing ever, and all of them – universally – were seriously mooning after her.

I am absolutely not saying that women should act one way or another, but they are rewarded just as much for rejecting anything girly (and for hating other women) as they are for behaving like “ladies.”  So as a result, we end up with a bunch of misogynistic women, which helps no one.

So listen, Mike.  It’s awesome that your daughter likes baseball and Mike Rowe.  I like baseball, too, and when Mike Rowe was on “Wait, Wait – Don’t Tell Me,” I found him to be a pretty charming, likable dude (shut up, I like radio!).  But the message you’re sending your kid when you praise her for liking “boy stuff” and treat “Toddlers and Tiaras” like something shameful is that boy stuff is good, and girl stuff is bad.  Unbeknownst to you, I’m sure, you’re teaching your child to hate other women.

I’m all in favor of keeping young girls away from pageant culture, but also let’s be mindful about what behaviors we’re positively reinforcing in our young girls.  Because girls who like “Dirty Jobs” and sports are no better than girls on the pageant circuit – they’re all girls, and they all deserve to be valued.  Say it with me: there’s no wrong way to be a girl.

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