Lily Allen and the phenomenon of white feminism through “ironic” black booty -
I was never really a fan of Lily Allen. I went to a predominantly white high school where most of my white hipster friends who thought they were “weird” and “different” would throw her name around to conjure up some type of trendy authenticity. Therefore, I always associated her with the “privileged, white-woman with bangs” crowd. Little did I know that would also become the mainstream feminist crowd.
One of my professors recently told me to watch Lily Allen’s new music video. It’s supposed to be a satire of Miley Cyrus and the growing trend of sexualizing women’s bodies in music videos. It’s called, “Hard Times Out Here.”
Though the popular feminist blog Jezebel calls her song “a feminist pop anthem you can blast at parties”, I don’t even want to link to it because of its racist, sexist imagery.
Allen’s lyrics are supposed to be critiquing the consistent objectification and fetishization of women’s bodies in popular culture: “I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking. You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen. I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains. Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain.”
Those lyrics become even more problematic when she couples them with hypersexualized images of black women twerking ferociously. Mia McKenzie from Black Girl Dangerous states: “Here’s yet another white feminist throwing black women under the bus because she has some point she’s trying to make about…sexism? I mean, I can hardly tell, probably because my feminism includes black women.”
There appears to be an explicit tongue-in-cheek commentary about signifiers of mainstream hip-hop like chains, cars, rims, and big-bootied women. Though there are problematic elements in commercialized hip-hop, including the hypersexualization of black women, we have to be mindful that we don’t perpetuate violence in our own critiques. It becomes tricky territory when we critique hip-hop because there’s an added layer of complexity, due to racism. We have to be careful that we don’t naturalize tropes of blackness in our critiques of mainstream hip-hop representations.
Allen relies on violent images of black women to critique a type of sexism that she says is not racialized. The black women are used to discuss white women’s objectification, and are objectified in the process. Though Allen is poking fun at sexism, she employs elements of sexism to propel her critiques. This is especially upsetting because the conversation about objectification in popular culture is necessary. Unfortunately, in order for women to be activists, or to critique sexism, they have to sexualize the message.
I get that we live in a Family Guy culture where no one wants to take anything seriously — including racism and sexism. Despite that fact that satire usually references a serious issue, it is not supposed to PERPETUATE the problem. In fact, in response to the criticism Allen received about the video, she stated, “The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture…it has nothing to do with race at all.”
In order for satire to be successful, you need to understand the problem you’re poking fun at. If you fail to realize how sexism is a highly racialized terrain, then you risk perpetuating some of the violence you’re trying to stop. The fact that black women’s bodies are overtly sexualized in most domains is not random or accidental. There’s a particular history attached to the sexualized images of black women, and having to repeat this 400,000 times to white feminists when they could simply Google this shit in less than two minutes, is the depressing job of being a feminist of colour.
Some white feminists and websites have been posting Allen’s video as some new ode to feminism even though, yet again, it’s just another video featuring a fully clothed white person touching the twerking bottoms of black women. It seems like the only prerequisite for being hailed as a queen in white feminism is to say something denouncing the kitchen. That’s it. Then you’re automatically granted feminist status by the white masses, while the feminists of colour have to focus all of our time and energy on explaining why it actually isn’t feminist.
The fact that black women’s bodies are constantly used as markers of authentic sexuality in just about EVERY video complicates and confuses Allen’s employment of their asses as a kind of satirical commentary on sexism. Allen contributes to racial violence by ignoring the racist conditions that black women inhabit, and she fails to locate how her whiteness contributes to those conditions. Race is central to Allen’s employment of black women in the video, so her dismissal of race as an issue is beyond ironic. I guess her smacking the twerking ass of a black woman was accidental. Oh, the accidental racists…
Allen’s racist, sexist video, as well as her post-racial stance on sexism demonstrates how popular feminism is hijacked by whiteness. The consistent removal of race from popular gendered analyses is reflective of the white consciousness in popular feminist media culture. This white consciousness makes it possible for Allen to deny the racialized, sexualized baggage that comes with being a black woman. Admitting that sexism is different for black women would make Allen, and other white feminists, liable for their exclusions of women of colour in their critiques and would force them to realize that they have a type of privilege that prevents them from speaking for all women. In reality, many white feminists are creating violence towards women of colour, and this must be recognized.
I get that white people think black people are cool, man. But, because we can co-exist side by side in music videos doesn’t mean that we experience systemic violence or oppression the same. This is most evident in Allen’s video where we hear her voice but see black women’s butts.
Because black women are conflated with gyrating asses, a white person learning to twerk is conflated with racial solidarity. I am so ready for a post-twerking era.
While Allen gets the privilege of talking about objectification and sexism, black women get the chance to twerk in slow-motion to her lyrics. It feels as though black women’s butts have become the new units of measurement for white success.
Since I have so much faith in popular white feminism, I can only wait for Lily Allen to wear blackface. Until then, I guess I have to keep watching black women ironically twerk in white feminist videos.
Aphrodite Kocięda is a graduate student in Communication at the University of South Florida and a contributor to the Vegan Feminist Network. Her current graduate research focuses on feminist activism in a postfeminist rape culture climate.
Why not boycott the NFL? (Or, Buy Nothing Day is for bros) -
I saw this Tweet today and, while I don’t completely agree that “Black Friday is a ‘feminine’ Super Bowl,” it did lead me to think about the left’s priorities… Black Friday is, without a doubt, a fairly horrid phenomenon in the U.S. (now extended into Canada), wherein consumer culture, corporate greed, and anti-labour practices collide. The holiday tradition of over-consumption, beginning on Black Friday and ending at Boxing Day Week, in a mountain of things and post-holiday depression, led Adbusters to attach itself to the promotion of “Buy Nothing Day,” which takes place the day after American Thanksgiving.
There have been a number of smart critiques of Buy Nothing Day (and, more generally, Adbusters‘ focus on consumption and it’s branding of non-consumption) and, while I appreciate the efforts of individuals to avoid participating in the buying frenzy that surrounds the holidays, I find some of these boycotts and actions to be overly simplistic as well as conveniently lacking in gender (and, in fact, class) analysis.
When I think of the anti-consumerist movement, I think about white men. The notion of “not buying” on one particular day strikes me as something that’s fairly easy to do so long as you don’t need anything (food, diapers, whatever). Busy, overworked people — particularly those with families — may or may not have the luxery of picking the days upon which they spend money. It’s relevant to note, also, that for single mothers (and, really, mothers in general — single or not), this “consumption” will rest solely on their shoulders, whether it’s buying gifts for the kids or groceries for dinner. How nice that a bunch of “radical” white men have invented a form of activism that completely ignores the realities of many women’s lives. Women, I suppose, should feel guilty for perpetuating capitalism and consumer culture because they had to use their days off to do their Christmas/grocery shopping. If Kalle Lasn can avoid the mall, we all should!
But beyond the fact that Buy Nothing Day is both a classist and sexist invention, I find it interesting that certain factions of the left focus so much on Black Friday and on consumption around the holidays, but conveniently ignore the sexist, capitalist, violent, ridiculousness that is the Super Bowl — a decidedly male-centered celebration. Watching professional football is now a tradition intricately tied to American Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl, specifically, is basically a holiday for men.
I’m not anti-sport. Yes, I’d rather stare at the wall than watch sports on TV, but I understand that others enjoy watching, and that’s fine. But the NFL is not merely about sport. It’s about profit and it’s about advertisers. And it is, therefore, about consumption. And not just the consumption of products, but the consumption of women’s bodies. Think Super Bowl ads.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the decorative ladies required for “sports.”
M.I.A. gets it, calling the Super Bowl “a massive waste of time, a massive waste of money, [and] a massive display of powerful corporation d–k shaking”
So why does a violent, sexist, franchise that exists for men and is primarily about corporate profit get a pass while shopping doesn’t? Oh right. Dude culture.
It isn’t complicated. The Super Bowl is about celebrating masculine culture, corporate profit, and objectifying women. At least the holidays are for men and women.
I’m not completely mean and no fun. And I’m certainly not defending a holiday that celebrates both colonialism and consumerism all at once. I’m also not literally asking that all you men to stop watching football if you enjoy such banalities; but I am asking that, in your efforts to fake activism, don’t throw women and the working class under the bus. If you can manage to get all up in arms about shopping, you can also manage to muster some energy for commentary around the corporate greed and sexism that is very much a part of the NFL and the Super Bowl.
“A magazine for everybody” is a magazine for men -
“Female friendly” “Porn for women” “Woman-made porn” We’ve heard it all before and here it is again in Adult, a magazine “of contemporary erotics and experience.”
Women have been so indoctrinated by the idea that male sexuality = human sexuality that we can only understand “sexy” though the eyes of men.
Adult tries to disguise it’s overt glorification of the male gaze by claiming it is “by women” and “for everyone” but the lazy sexism is impossible to miss.
“I want a magazine that is for everybody but feels like it was made by a woman,” says founding editor Sarah Nicole Prickett (of selfies-are-empowering infamy).
“Who is ‘everybody?’” you might ask. Even Prickett admits that a porn magazine by, and supposedly for, women is no different than any other: “all of the people in the magazine — the subjects in the photo editorials are women.” I haven’t gotten the impression the magazine is being marketed as “lesbian erotica” so what Adult seems to be doing is to sell objectified women to heterosexual men and women.
Something new, my ass.
I wouldn’t dare advocate for “equal objectification” — I fail to see how objectifying men will stop us from objectifying women — but to claim the male gaze as our own is foolish, never mind unoriginal.
If all we can come up with, as women, is the same old thing, it should tell us something about the pervasiveness of the notion of “male as human — all others are other.”
Prickett passively defends the choice to allow “everyone” to borrow powerful voyeuristic gaze commonly reserved for men with the same argument the faux-feminist, “good men” do: “We’ve all sort of internalized this idea that the female body is just intrinsically more attractive.” It’s like when men go to the strip club and claim it’s because they love women so much: “They’re just so much more beautiful than men.”
That’s not beauty, that’s objectification. It’s not that the female body is “more attractive,” it’s that we see the female body as something that exists for public consumption. Which is all this new (yet old — retro sexism, anyone?) magazineseems to do: perpetuate the notion that women are things to-be-looked at. Sexism isn’t just for men anymore — now women are “free” to join in on the “fun.” Empowerment™.
“When there was a man in the photo, it didn’t totally work,” Prickett claims. Well no. Of course it “didn’t work.” We’re used to looking at women in this way, it makes us feel comfortable. To objectify a man would be to remove his power. That’s why it feels uncomfortable to us. We are accustomed to women portrayed as powerless. Indeed, to try something new, to challenge that easy-to-digest notion of woman as “thing” is difficult. Easy is easy. Obvious is easy.
How Adult is different than just Hustler for hipsters or Playboy for Terry Richardson devotees, I don’t know. Prickett says the publication is “literary” as well, something she claims to value: “If I’m in too much of a literary milieu, I’ll totally freak out about how unsexy everyone is. But if I go to a fashion party, I’m like, ‘Can anyone here read?’” (you’ll find Prickett quoting herself extensively on her Tumblr page, enamoured); but as we all know, everyone reads Playboy for the articles. Black is the new black. Porn is the new porn. Women are the new men.
“So we have some boring soft-core hipster porn mag,” you might say. “Big whoop.” But this particular endeavour is offensive in a way that goes beyond plain old objectification.
The “for women” argument as stand-in for progress is trite, but it fools people. Meaningless words are thrown around to create a fog that vaguely resembles intellectualism to those who don’t know (or don’t care to know) any better.
“…it returns to the first meaning of “radical”–the roots of things, traced below the skin…” the descriptor on Amazon states ambiguously. Smoke and mirrors seem to be Prickett’s calling card — “fake it till you make it,” her motto.
To co-opt radicalism in order to market porn would be ballsy if it weren’t clear that the meaning of the word was lost on the author. The irony of attaching “radical” to “below the skin” in order to sell a skin mag is comical, at least.
That Prickett comes from “a seemingly sheltered background,” as The Daily Beast describes it, is less “ironic” than obvious. She’s still behaving like a rebellious teenager, relating to them in a way that seems envious: “I’ve written essays defending sexting and the selfie. I’m very on-side with teenage girls and almost anything they do on the internet.” If only we could reclaim that self-exploitative childhood we missed out on, as adults… Maybe it’s not too late.
Pornifying women may feel rebellious when we’ve come from a restrictive background. And calling it “porn for women” is sure to draw attention — as we’ve seen, the magazine has received extensive coverage across the U.S., but as philosopher Drake tells us: “Seek respect, not attention. It lasts longer.”
No penis = no power: The worst we could do to Rob Ford is emasculate him -
A cartoon in today’s Toronto Sun shows a castrated Rob Ford. While I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to Ford’s castration, this cartoon is indicative of society’s unquestioned belief that penises equal power. What’s the worst we could do to Rob Ford? Emasculate him.
Rob Ford’s sense of power and his absolute certainty that he not only deserves but is entitled to his position as mayor, as well as his belief that he can behave however he wishes and should not be challenged is firmly rooted in his male privilege. That we believe that to strip him of his power is equivalent to castration signifies our cooperation in this system that privileges masculinity and believes that power is a male domain.
The myth of the leftist, feminist, anti-racist, elitist -
By: Michael Laxer
In an act of what has to be acknowledged as tremendous, though in some respects entirely typical, rich famous male hubris, Joss Whedon, of comic book and Buffy the Vampire Slayer note, recently gave a talk in which he proclaimed that feminism is a term that he objects to and that he feels should be replaced because, in essence, he does not like it. He does not like it because it is supposedly at variance with his idea that equality already exists as a “natural condition” or for some pseudo-philosophical reasons that are never really clear other than that, frankly, they are rather silly, it must be noted, coming from a man.
The sheer idiocy of a wealthy straight male (or any male of any kind) telling women how they should frame the language of their own liberation movement, however, did not prevent large numbers of liberal men (and, of course, some women) like CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on air, from gushing over it, thrilled, apparently, to see yet another in a long line of alleged male “feminists” talking down to women about just what it is that they are doing “wrong” that men could tell them how to do better.
Like abandoning the very term feminism for starters.
This would all be Buffy-style darkly humorous were it not for the fact that it is indicative of a far broader problem within both the left and society as a whole.
The problem being that, somehow, the notion has arisen that not only are the people living oppression, like women under Patriarchy, not allowed to frame their own discourse without condescension from those who are actually members of the oppressive group socially, historically and right now, but also that people in struggle for liberation against injustice and fighting systemic oppression are regularly labeled as “elitist” or as part of an “Ivory Tower” for doing so.
Often such resistance is called out as “purity” and as an example of “identity politics” that, apparently, indicates that one is an “intellectual” or “academic” who is out of touch with all of those supposed “salt-of-the-earth” leftists.
There are few better examples than the sad and extreme exuberance and exultation that greeted the BBC interview with Russell Brand that some heralded, rather farcically, as the start of a new social discourse or revolution; a notion so facile that it can only be a comment on the left’s desperation that it would actually be believed by anyone.
Russell Brand is at least as misogynist in his personal conduct as rape anthem “star” Robin Thicke, if not worse in every meaningful real world way, but apparently, for some, making a quasi revolutionary rant on the BBC (that the BBC then promptly shared everywhere, of course) absolves one of having to be held accountable for it.
This is an odd version of leftism.
When, entirely rightly, feminist activists and others pointed out that the notion that one should take inspiration from the ranting of a well established misogynist with a long history of ugly, exploitative and violent behaviour towards women, (by his own acknowledgment), is highly problematic, they were often met with the standard line that they were being “elitist”, “putting identity first” or that they were exhibiting what was an example of “posh” leftism, as if any such thing actually exists.
This came from many of the usual suspects of sexist “leftism”, the allegedly revolutionary exponents of the tired old “class first” line, for example, but it was inherently ridiculous given that they were defending the rather minor, in political terms, outburst of a rich, abusive and atrociously self-indulgent white male that was then widely and wildly promoted by the very media that he had supposedly “bested” and called out on his way to a gig as guest editor of the New Statesman! If it is “elitist” to identify, question and condemn behaviour and opinion like Brand’s towards women, behaviour that reflects centuries of oppressive and violent entitlement and social power, and if it is allegedly counter to the interests of the “left” to do so, then there really is no left.
This is hardly an isolated example. Regularly one hears from pundits and politicians, and certainly not only those on the right, that any number of people are now part of the “elite”. Variously unions, anti-poverty activists, anti-racist activists, people of colour, First Nations and aboriginal peoples, LGBT groups, women and feminists are all commonly described as “special interest” groups, despite the obviously reactionary background to this.
It turns actual elitism on its head.
This is going on, right now, with the entire Rob Ford fiasco (the misreading of which by the Left deserves to be the focus of an entirely separate article from this one). Even here we find not only the right but also many leftists framing the Ford phenomenon as a revolt against “elites”; a notion that is demonstrably false. Never mind that his abusive behaviour to women is constantly overshadowed and even ignored in the discourse.
There are very real elites. Industrial, financial and commercial capitalists are an elite. Hollywood stars, comedians, sports players, etc., are certainly an elite and an almost neo-feudal one in the way that they are fawned over by sycophantic “handlers” and servants. The capitalist managerial class and professional upper middle class, including large numbers of the so-called 99%, are an elite. There are others. Never mind whites and men, the beneficiaries of centuries, and sometimes millennia, of systemic privilege, acknowledged and unacknowledged, spoken or otherwise.
A generation ago, as a part of their assault on the gains of working people, women, people of colour, the LGBT community and others, the reactionary right created all of the terms like “Champagne Socialist” or “latte drinker” that are tossed about in an attempt to turn social relations around and make out leftists, feminists and community activists and liberation theories and movements as the new elites. They made it seem as if talking about the injustices and consequences of systemic oppression was an academic exercise or a function of “privilege”.
It is not. Misogyny, racism, homophobia and poverty are a violent and oppressive reality every single day. These institutions of oppression abuse, violate and kill women, people living in poverty, aboriginal and First Nations peoples and members of the LGBT community daily. They cause tremendous and demonstrable inequality and suffering in the lives of real people. They are not an abstraction, and, unlike Mayor Ford in Toronto, for example, people living under the weight of these oppressions are often not given first chances, let alone second ones.
It is bad enough that these views and terms are to be found within society and the forces of reaction. It is even worse that we use these arguments and terms ourselves in our debates and disagreements within the left. Instead of exposing and combatting institutionalized oppression within our own leftist movements, when using this language or logic of reaction activists who do allow them to continue without being confronted and minimize their fundamental importance to the struggle for human liberation. Far from “distracting” from the struggle, you cannot have a radical socialist agenda of any meaning without taking a radical stance against all of these oppressions.
No matter what disagreements leftists may have, it is not elitist to fight racism, misogyny or homophobia. It is not elitist to stand for union or worker’s rights. It is not elitist to acknowledge systemic oppression or injustice.
In reality there is no such thing as a leftist or anti-oppression “elitism”. It is a right wing myth.
If prostitution isn’t about lonely, undersexed men, what is it about? (Or, Justin Bieber doesn’t need to pay for sex) -
Justin Bieber was photographed leaving a Brazilian brothel last weekend. He was covered in bedsheets, which leads us to believe that buying sex still isn’t seen as a completely acceptable pass time (though our friends on team “sex work is work” are doing their very best to change that).
It’s not as though the Biebs has a shortage of options in the lady department. In fact, the very next evening, he left the club at 3am with a van load of 30 girls. Whatever. I know you don’t care what Justin Bieber does on weekends. My point is this: Why are we still pretending as though prostitution exists for lonely, socially awkward, undersexed men.
The media is in love with the “sex surrogate” story these days. Last year the idea of sex as a kind of therapeutic service for the disabled was mainstreamed when The Sessions, a film about a man who was paralyzed from the neck down and hired a sex surrogate in order to lose his virginity, came out.
We want to pity johns more than we want to shame them. The sad men and their sad penises. But I don’t think Justin Bieber’s penis is very sad… And I don’t think loneliness or disability is a reasonable defense for male power.
The notion that prostitutes exist as an “outlet” for men isn’t new. Over a century ago we believed prostitutes were necessary in order to prevent men from raping (non-prostituted women) and to preserve marriages. Prostitution was seen as a “social service.” Prostitutes were essentially there to take shit from men, so they wouldn’t take it out on the “good women.” You don’t want to be in the position of being an “outlet” for male aggression (something that was seen as natural and is still seen, by many, as innate). Naturalizing male sexuality as uncontrollable or violent isn’t going to help anyone and making a certain, marginalized, class of women responsible for protecting the other, more privileged women is abhorrent. The Romans viewed prostitutes as sexually insatiable deviants, a notion that conveniently erases any abuses those women suffered at the hands of the men who pay to do with them what they will. We cling to all these notions today, repackaging them over and over again in a continual effort to convince the world that this industry is both necessary and deserving of permanence.
The discourse surrounding prostitution has changed in that we’ve tried to sanitize the industry. “A job like any other” makes prostituted women into service providers, no different than a hair dresser or a physiotherapist. What stays the same is the notion that prostitution is necessary because of the poor, sex-deprived men who “need” women as “outlets.” Some women are lucky enough to have other choices besides dick-receptacle. The poor, the abused, the racialized — not so much.
Today, we like to imagine prostitution as a service for the lonesome. We are to pity these men — What, are they supposed to just masturbate? The horror! But examples like that of Mr. Bieber (and the countless other wealthy men and celebrities who pay for sex) show us that prostitution isn’t just about sex. There is no shortage of sex in Justin Bieber’s life — he has access to plenty of vagina, not to worry. Prostitution, it’s clear, is about power. Male power, specifically.
We can recycle as many of these centuries-old defenses as we like. Take your pick:
- Men are naturally violent and rapey and need to ejaculate into or onto women’s bodies in order to remain sane.
- Men are naturally promiscuous and need different vag to keep things spicy. Their wives, after all, have real feelings and personalities which can be annoying and tiresome.
- Prostitutes just loooove sex! You can bet all those johns are really generous in the sack. Really, really skilled in the art of pleasing a woman. They can’t tell the difference between real pleasure and acting, but hey, that’s why they pay. So they can imagine themselves to be the most virile of lovers. It’s no wonder they (supposedly) can’t get laid for free.
We have, after all, been defending men’s right to women’s bodies since the invention of patriarchy. Why stop now?
The Biebs isn’t lonely, desperate, disabled, or socially awkward. So how do you explain his visit to the brothel? I’m going to pass on what I learned about johns from survivor and author, Rachel Moran here: Men buy sex because they think they can treat prostitutes differently than they can treat their wives, girlfriends, and dates. They buy sex in order to project what Moran called “evil arousal” onto a human being, guilt and consequence-free. They buy sex to experience dominance and to make rape and abuse “consensual” (we’ve convinced ourselves that payment = consent). Indeed, most johns derive sadistic pleasure from that power imbalance, Moran says.
Prostitution isn’t about sexuality. It’s about male power, plain and simple. And if you’re a feminist, a humanitarian, or a person who believes, in any way at all, in equality and human rights, it’s time to stop regurgitating defenses of the industry. They are old — so old — and they are incredibly destructive; even deadly.
Beyond Halloween: Revisiting Blackface -
By Aphrodite Kocięda
Let me begin by saying that I am super tired of hearing about white stars or white people accidentally wearing blackface, especially when there have been so many mainstream conversations about this exact topic. White people have gone so far as to dress up as Trayvon Martin.Whoops!
Recently, Julianne Hough decided to dress up as “Crazy Eyes”, a character in the popular show, “Orange is the New Black.”
She’s since apologized, and other celebrities have decided to share their opinions about the event. Actress Martha Plimpton stated “White people: Do not wear black face. Life will still be okay if you don’t ever, ever, ever wear blackface. OKAY? GREAT.”
Plimpton later said that racist trolls were writing on her timeline because of her comments. I didn’t see the posts on her timeline, but I read the comments under another article about Plimpton’s statement and wanted to write this post after seeing how people were responding to her — not because of Hough’s costume.
Here are some examples of what people said in response to Plimpton:
John: “Meh…. The costume was never about blackface. Crazy Eyes is a character on a TV show. People playing the race card in this situation are ridiculous.”
Nonparieldolls: “Could she share her ‘message’ with black comedians and actors? Pretending to be white is ok, but dressing up for Halloween as a TV show character is wrong. Guess no guys out there better dress up as Ricky Ricardo!!! Imagine the affront to Latinos!! Bet Ms. Plimpton is enjoying the attention (BTW — who is she??)”
Conservative in a blue star: “If I paint my face orange, will a pumpkin feel offended??????, Lady, get a life!!!”
Patrick: “Why can’t a white person dress up as a black person??????? I don’t get it?????”
Jennifer: “Simmer down, it wasn’t that bad. Julie has nothing to be sorry for. Overly sensitive people need to apologize for opening their holes over every little thing.”
You can see how these comments showcase a very white supremacist understanding of racism, where race, as an issue, is virtually nonexistent. This is exemplified by the plethora of comments suggesting that black people wearing “white face” is equally asproblematic as white people wearing black face.
Being “offended” by racism is presented as an indicatation that you’re overly sensitive, angry, and uptight. Yet again, people of colour are relegated to the irrational “hyper-sensitive,” “overly emotional” sphere.
Whenever people of colour want to discuss racial injustices, uncritical white folks hijack the conversation to discuss how they too have been persecuted under white supremacy. In trying to become “victims” of white supremacy, uncritical white folks silence the voices of people of colour and allies.
The fact that people are openly defending Hough’s decision to wear blackface demonstrates how twisted and confusing racism is. This is what happens when people don’t understand how systemic racism works. White bodies and black bodies are seemingly interchangeable because hey, we’re equal.
I’m reminded of a recent Dunkin’ Donuts ad in Thailand wherein the company decided it was a good idea to put a woman in blackface to sell their new “charcoal” donuts… Because what screams black donuts better than blackface?
That it’s 2013 and we’re still having these conversations about blackface is appalling.
It’s important to note that critical folks are not necessarily offended because of the black colour. We’re offended because of the context. This isn’t simply a matter of changing colours. Race isn’t 100% just about skin colour, but about the cultural connotations that we’ve constructed around particular races.
I mean, there’s a reason why Crazy Eyes is in a prison outfit in the first place. Blackness is constantly associated with deviancy, so when Halloween costumes capitalize on signifiers of blackness, without problematizing the deviant elements, the people that wear them are merely reproducing these stereotypes. “Black people” Halloween costumes are offensive, not necessarily because of the skin colour, but because of the connotations. When minstrelsy was a hit, the white characters who wore black face changed their mannerisms to act more animalistic and child-like. Black face, which translated to blackness, has always been a signifier of buffoonery.
We shouldn’t lose sight of who Crazy Eyes is and what she represents. The fact that she is a woman of coulor who is a prisoner, in a culture where people of colour face mass incarceration, is a direct result of white supremacy and racism. For a white person to dress up as a black prisoner, situated within the context of a white supremacy, is beyond ironic, especially when they don’t know the history of oppressive black representations that look similar to their costume. To dress up as your favorite character, without even understanding the conditions that surround them, is just plain ignorant.
Additionally, whiteface does not have the same effect as blackface. Whiteface is something that people of colour live daily — The need to perform as a white person to assimilate into white culture is whiteface. Whiteface is the norm for a white supremacist nation.
Remember when Tyra Banks wore whiteface to portray her favorite supermodels?
Though some uncritical folks labeled Tyra a racist, others pointed out that wearing whiteface did not have the same impact as blackface. Tyra was not dehumanizing white people. In fact, one could argue that she was emulating these women as role models. During the shoot, she tweeted: “Four hours of hair and makeup later, I’ve become ubermodel.” Wearing whiteface helped Tyra actualize her attempts to emulate these women. She wasn’t trying to make fun of whiteness or belittle white people.
If you are in denial that black people occupy lower social positions than white folks, then you will never understand why blackface and whiteface are interpreted differently. In a culture where people of colour use bleaching creams to lighten their skin and use lighter-toned makeup on their faces to look more white, wearing whiteface is not systemically offensive to white people. Though white people tan, they do so as a signifier of whiteness. Tanning becomes a classed activity that authenticates white femininity—it is not a quest to become black. In fact, if you tan too much, you are ridiculed.
The fact that women of colour try to lighten their skin-tone and eye colour on a daily basis, whereas white folks want to wear black skin only on Halloween speaks volumes. One tone is desirable, whereas the other becomes a tool to facilitate a funny or silly look.
White people in America have never experienced a time when people of colour controlled imagery and representations of whiteness . People of colour never collectively dehumanized white people or stripped them of legal rights. Black people do not hold systemic power in the ways that white people do. In a culture wherein black peoples’ citizenship as authentically equal Americans is questioned all the time, from Barack Obama and the birthers who question his citizenship, to Trayvon Martin not “belonging” and being “suspicious,” we have to be careful when we wear blackface. It is your duty as a white person to understand the intimate dynamics of racism because your privilege is based on it. Black people are not playing the “race” card. Being ignorant of white history and it’s violence, and then wearing blackface and claiming that you didn’t “know” IS the only race card.
The fact that Hough’s Halloween costume and other similar incidences are occurring in the same year that Trayvon Martin’s murderer walked free is no coincidence. In fact, it further illustrates how pervasive racism is in 2013.
Brad Paisley’s terrible phrase from his song, “Accidental Racist” is an apt expression of the ways racism manifests today. Evidently, it’s all “accidental.” Zimmerman “accidentally” killed Trayvon Martin and “accidentally” profiled him. Hough “accidentally” wore black face; she had no clue there was a history of racism attached to it, despite that fact that this conversation has been happening in the mainstream for decades. Those who are racist merely become repackaged as “victims” of their circumstances… Apparently they just didn’t know.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that black culture is a naturalized fixed entity that cannot change, I am, however, saying that people of colour are dehumanized in the current social order, and we have to be mindful of that. Though race is a social construction that we perform every day, the embodied, lived experiences of race matter.
Yes, Halloween is supposed to be a fun night when we can suspend our social conditions, but that doesn’t mean systemic realities disappear. If that were the case, women wouldn’t feel pressured to dress as sexy [fill in the blank] every year.
Gavin McInnes thinks male violence feeds babies, explains to women what women think -
Throw a little gasoline on the hipster sexism fire, folks — co-founder of Vice magazine* and “Godfather of hipsterdom,” Gavin McInnes threw a misogynistic tantrum on Huffington Post Live during a discussion about contemporary masculinity on Monday. Little known fact: Gavin McInnes is not only a scientist and knower of all facts, but he can SEE INSIDE OUR BRAINS, ladies. And what does he see? Misery.
McInnes drops so many truth bombs in the discussion that it’s hard to know where to begin, but his basic premise is that male aggression is natural and that feminism has made women miserable by forcing them to pretend to be men. You know how we all do that? Yeah. Well now we can stop. “You’re welcome” – Gavin McInnes.
It’s weird because I don’t have any babies and I hate doing chores, yet… strangely… I… feel… happy… what with my intact vagina, my ability to sleep in and the daily joy I experience when I don’t have to clean up another human being’s poo. I’m pretty sure McInnes would like to chalk me up to “anecdotal evidence,” if not for this little thing some of us like to call “history.”
Inside Gavin’s special little head, feminism has made women miserable. The problem with this argument is that, before feminism, women were miserable. And that’s why feminism was invented.
Let’s go ahead and assume that because one doesn’t need to actually read things in order to know ALL TRUE FACTS ABOUT EVERYTHING, Gavin has never heard of “the problem that has no name.” Don’t worry, little buddy. We’ll help you out on this one.
“The problem that has no name” is what Betty Friedan wrote about in her book, The Feminine Mystique. That book was published way back in 1963! (Seven short years before little Gavin would grace this earth with his omniscient presence.) Friedan surveyed women across America during the 50s (So that’s, like, fifty years ago, Gav. Way to stay abreast of cutting-edge research.) and found they were depressed and unfulfilled and didn’t know why. It was weird because they’d been told that fulfilling their “natural” roles as homemakers, mothers, and wives would bring them happiness. Turns out women had been fed a bunch of bullshit — coincidentally, the very same bullshit spewing out of Gavin’s mouth today.
As a professional scientist who knows all facts about everything, it’s odd that he would argue we go back fifty years and try something that already failed once, very badly.
Despite the millions of women around the world who aren’t supported by a male “breadwinner,” McInnes argues that men, indeed, are the breadwinners “in the majority of cases.” Lucky you, 10 million single mothers of the world! Lucky you, 15 million fatherless children in America! LUCKY YOU, EVERYONE! Gavin McInnes is telling the truth about REAL LIFE AND FACTS that fly in the face of history, statistics, and actual research. The courage it must take to blatantly lie in front of the entire world. *Swoooon* Ahem, I mean *blow jooobs*
Since only men run businesses and since men are naturally violent, it’s only reasonable to conclude that violence is necessary to make a living, which one needs to do in order to feed one’s families. ARE MEN SUPPOSED TO JUST LET US STARVE? That they do is beside the point. Also shush, Gavin is explaining science. Male violence is “crucial to our survival” and, as we all know, men are very, very concerned with women’s lives. Hence all the women murdered and beaten and raped by their loving husbands every day.
As we all know (but were afraid to cop to until Gavin McInnes liberated us just right this second), IT’S BEEN PROVEN that women are all miserable, thanks to what else but feminism (Making Women Miserable Since 1920™). It’s weird how he knows so much about what women think and need and feel, as a man. What’s even more weird is that he doesn’t even need to listen to the actual words that come out of women’s mouths in order to be able to see inside their pretty pink brains and know exactly what they want (spoiler: it’s to grow babies and clean Gavin McInnes’ house).
He exhibits this further by calling Mary Anne Franks, another panelist and a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, a “fucking idiot.” Okay girls, who spilled the beans? Next he’s going to figure out how much we love nonconsensual sex and being put in our place. SECRET’S OUT.
Franks points out that statistics show that both men and women are happier when they accept that there is no such thing as innate “femininity” or “masculinity.” In other words, there’s no such thing as a “male brain” or a “female brain.” Men aren’t “naturally” successful or aggressive just as women aren’t “naturally” passive homemakers.
Panelist, Micheal Addis, author of Invisible Men, aptly points out that what Gavin is doing (besides pounding his fists on the cave floor) is how masculinity works. Men are told they must behave in _____ way otherwise they will be called wimps, faggots, or (worst of all) “girls.” It’s those who define “masculinity” in a particular way who bully others into conforming. “This is called the policing of masculinity,” Addis says.
McInnes, of course, denies doing any of this (NO, NO, STUPID EVERYONE, HE’S DOING THE OPPOSITE) and claims we are simply “ignoring the vast majority of how people naturally behave.” Which is funny because it seems that, actually, Gavin is the one who is ignoring the vast majority of everything that’s actually true, scientifically proven, and statistically correct.
“You’re the ones doing the enforcing!” angry Gavin cries, before taking all his toys and stomping out of the room.
“You’ve got guys whose wives won’t even take their last names, who stay at home while the wife makes money… When you swing the pendulum so far away from the natural world, you all look like a bunch of fools.” Because, as we all know, in the “natural world” a lady orangutan’s father will walk her down the aisle in a white dress before sending her off into a life of domestic bliss as Mrs. Ape.
Gavin’s “gut” has told him that the “majority of women like being domestic and shaping lives,” and if anyone knows the real, inarguable truth about what women “like” it’s Gavin McInnes’ gut.
All joking aside, this guy is the whiniest, most childish, cry baby, bully asshole I’ve encountered in some time. I feel so fucking sorry for his wife. If he behaves this way in public I don’t even want to imagine how he behaves behind closed doors.
*McInnes left Vice in 2007 because of “creative differences.” Good fucking riddance.
Feminists are not responsible for educating men -
By Cecilia Winterfox
As a vocal feminist with many intelligent, lovely male friends, I’m often met with indignance when I choose not to engage with them about feminism. Surely if I really cared about changing our culture of discrimination and inequality, I should be trying to educate men? Isn’t that an activist’s job? Shouldn’t feminists be grateful when men want to bounce questions off us, because it shows that they are at least trying to understand?
It’s both exhausting and diversionary being expected to hash out the basics with men who haven’t bothered to think about their own privilege before. Men are not entitled to expect feminists to educate them. Real change will only happen when men accept that the burden of education is on them, not on women.
Recently, I politely declined to debate with one such baffled male friend, who followed up by sending me some well-intentioned advice on how I could be a more effective feminist. Having never thought much about feminism before, he said, he just didn’t find my social media posts appealing. Too shouty and academic. What I needed was to explain things in a way that appealed to men.
Considering himself as the sort of bloke who “could be part of the solution”, he helpfully sent me a link to a twelve-minute TED talk which contained, in his words, “a basic yes/no test” for misogyny together with proposed steps to solve the problem. In an impressive gesture of hubris, he suggested the next time I was asked to educate a man who was genuinely trying to learn about feminism, I forward this snappy sound-byte resource he had just found for me.
It’s astonishing that 50% of the population are so regularly asked to make a sales pitch for liberation from structural disadvantage and systemic violence.
Here’s the thing about being expected to hold the hand of each individual man as he grapples with the possibility that despite his self-perceived good nature and honest intentions, he is a beneficiary of the structural oppression of women. It actually hurts. Patriarchy hurts women on a daily basis. But even though it can be traumatic to discuss rape culture, for example, we live in hope that by showing men how it hurts us they will begin to understand and become our allies. When men appear to take an interest in feminist discourse it tugs at this yearning. While they can play devil’s advocate and toss around hypotheticals that are utterly disconnected from their reality and then opt out at the end, for women these discussions require revelation and vulnerabillity; they are a sharing of our actual lived experience.
The most common argument is: If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn. This is how it usually plays out. Self-described Nice Guy interjects discussion with earnest appeals for feminists to engage with his personal opinions. Having pushed past his bristling discomfort at feminists being bitter, resentful and combative (but not before pointing out this sacrifice), Nice Guy is bewildered not to have his theories discussed immediately and in a reasonable, non-angry way. Despite the hundreds of resources on the subject which he could, like the rest of us, go off and read, Nice Guy expects women to stop what they are doing, and instead share their experiences of oppression and answer his questions. In an ironic twist, Nice Guy is unaware that by demanding women divert their energies to immediately gratifying his whims, he reinforces the power dynamics he is supposedly seeking to understand.
It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with having basic questions about feminism. Unpacking something as complex and insidious as patriarchy, particularly when it requires an examination of your own privilege, isn’t easy. Where it becomes problematic is when you are so confident that your questions are SUPER! IMPORTANT! that you try and co-opt feminist discussions to have them heard.
To borrow the analogy of another woman:
It’s as if you have walked into a postgraduate mathematics seminar, yelling: “Hey, how can you even use imaginary numbers anyway if they’re not real?” When someone rather distractedly points you to a first-year text-book in the corner, you leaf through the first couple of pages half-heartedly for a few seconds and say: “I don’t agree with some of the definitions in here – and anyway you haven’t answered my question. Doesn’t anyone want to have a discussion with me?!!”
This incredulity is usually delivered with a sound telling-off for being sarcastic, unreasonable, illogical, ungrateful and bitter. Now, as a woman raised under patriarchy I am socialized to respond to men’s praise and approval. Having suffered the consequences of men’s disapproval, conflict is counter-intuitive to me. It’s tempting to give in to the desire to be recognized as a “good” feminist who takes the time to explain things in a polite, fun, sassy way. But here’s the kicker: polite feminism not only doesn’t work, it is actually self-defeating.
Spending time and energy nurturing men through their journey of self-discovery is not only incredibly dull, it actually serves to reinforce existing power dynamics and keeps us from collectivizing as women and enacting real change.
My advice to men who genuinely wish to learn about feminism is this: read and listen to the voices of women when they explain what misogyny feels like and how it operates. Never ask women to find resources for you; seriously, get a library card. Or the internet. Don’t interrupt to disagree or derail by using individual examples of women in positions of power or instances of what you see as “reverse sexism” (here’s a hot tip: “misandry” isn’t a real thing.)
To paraphrase Audre Lorde:
When people of colour are expected to educate white people as to their humanity, when women are expected to educate men, lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world, the oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions.
If you are in a group that has the structural advantage of wages, safety, health and education – when you’ve basically already won the life lottery just by showing up – it is your responsibility to educate yourself. And really, don’t tell women to be nice. We’re angry. We have every reason to be. Frankly, you should be too.
This post is reprinted with permission from the author. Cecilia Winterfox is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia.
Sinead O’Connor is (mostly) right about Miley Cyrus. Now let the ageism and sexism begin! -
I won’t deny that there were parts of Sinead O’Connor’s viral letter to Miley Cyrus that bothered me.
To say that “your body is for you and your boyfriend” irked me a little for heteronormative reasons but also because it seems frame the female body as some kind of private gift only your boyfriend gets access to. For O’Connor to put herself in the position of “mother” to Miley (“it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love”) is also bothersome because, well, simply because one is an older woman, that shouldn’t make a person necessarily a “nurturing” or “mothering” figure (though I get that O’Connor might feel “protective” of Cyrus in some way). I don’t find the woman = mother stereotype to be particularly useful, progressive, or accurate. Also, Sinead is not by any means Miley’s “mother.” Beyond that, the phrase “young lady” reads as a scolding from your teacher back in 1953.
But to dwell on these flaws is to miss the primary (and the most relevant) point of the letter, which is this: sexualization does not equal empowerment.
O’Connor tells Cyrus that which all girls and young women should know (not just celebrities, though it does impact young women in the entertainment industry particularly), which is that those who encourage you to objectify yourself, those who give you attention because you are appealing to men, those who tell you that power comes from desirability are wrong. Those people don’t care about your well-being and they don’t care about female liberation and empowerment. In Miley’s situation, they care (as O’Connor points out) about profiting off of your naked ass.
The point many are glossing over amongst nonsensical commentary around “slut-shaming” and “judging” is this:
Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.
Having been in the music industry herself and having lived longer in this world than Cyrus, O’Connor is perfectly in her right to position herself as a mentor of sorts. Of course these days it’s popular to throw older women under the bus, as many immediately did, making O’Connor into your old, no-fun, prudish, mom. This isn’t just a trend that’s popular with mainstream sexists, but with the third wave as well — you may have encountered sexist/ageist attacks on second wave feminists who are regularly accused of being “sex negative” or “stuck in the past” or whatever else we like to say to dismiss women who know more than we do. Sorry, but every 20 year old thinks they know it all. But 20 year olds, in fact, know very little. This isn’t to say that young people must necessarily defer to their elders in all circumstances, but playing to ageist, sexist tropes just makes you sound like a catty, obnoxious, teenager.
Cyrus goes one step further into the misogyny dung heap, accusing O’Connor of being, essentially, “crazy” and making fun of her struggles with mental illness:
Some took the obvious “women aren’t victims!” route, trying to frame critiques of a sexist industry and culture as a form of disempowerment in and of itself.
The rest immediately began to accuse O’Connor of “slut-shaming.” And to those folks, I have to wonder if you even have any idea what you are talking about. Objectification and sexualization have nothing to do with female sexuality. Cyrus is not “doing her own thing FUCK YEAH” — she is marketing a sexualized image for profit. And primarily, as O’Connor points out, those who profit from this image will be powerful men who will remain rich and powerful long after Cyrus has been used up and discarded.
Slut-shaming isn’t a real thing, for starters (it’s just misogyny, lovies), but what we need to understand about this COMPLETELY OVERUSED term is that being critical of a culture that pressures women and girls to pornify themselves and offers them few other options in terms of gaining self-worth and power, is not the same as being critical of an individual’s sexuality. This is an image Cyrus is presenting to the public (or being pressured to present) — it’s about representation. If you can’t differentiate between that and Miley’s private desires and/or sex life, then you may want to tread a little more lightly when entering into conversations about feminism and female liberation.
O’Connor says that which we can all see is true: the music industry will try, with all their might, to exploit young women — to “prostitute” them, as she says; meaning to use their bodies and sexualities to profit.
Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked.
And here’s what O’Connor knows that Cyrus, and many other young women (including myself at that age) don’t know: that power you feel — the power you get from having men want you — is fleeting. Further reinforcing this particular kind of imaginary “empowerment” only perpetuates the idea that, without sexual appeal and without youth, women are useless, irrelevant, and invisible.
While disgusting Terry Richardson (who, by the way, is known to be a sexual predator) is busy turning Cyrus into soft-core porn, we’re all busy trying to make sure everyone knows how empowered! and in charge of her own sexuality! Cyrus is; telling anyone who dares to state the obvious that they are judgy slut-shamers. Why not point your busy twitter fingers at the exploitative industry or the pervy Richardson rather than at those who tell the truth, that “the music business doesn’t give a sh– about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted”?
What O’Connor says is (mostly) right: “Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire.” And she deserves to be listened to and respected, not mocked.