In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Good news and bad news

Last week, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously, 7-0, to retroactively lighten sentences for crimes related to crack cocaine. 19,500 prisoners could be free within months. There has been a stark disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine for two decades. 85% of federal inmates for crimes related to crack cocaine are black.

The Jena Six case just took an evil turn. Carmen of All About Race received an email that said D.A. Reed will make Mychal Bell prosecution star witness. He will testify against the five others, four of whom will be tried as adults. This could mean jail time for the other five:

Think what you will of LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, he has done a masterful job of pitting Jena 6 defendants against one another and the result will probably mean jail time for each Black teenager.

Of the six Black teens accused of beating Justin Barker, a White schoolmate last year in Jena, La., only Mychal Bell is known to have had a criminal record, which included two battery incidents and two charges of criminal damage to property. By first focusing on Bell, the D.A. has been able to portray Jena 6 as hardened criminals and, equally important, force Bell into a compromising position. Recently, Bell struck a deal with the D.A. that includes testifying against his five co-defendants, if needed. Op-Ed: A Split Among The Jena 6, George Curry – BlackPressUSA -Reclaim our Civil Rights

The fact Reed hasn’t been Nifonged yet is astounding.

*Cross-posted at my place.**

Sudy brings the truth home

I have to admit, I’ve watched this video several times over the last 24 hours. Each time I’m more impressed.

For starters Sudy, of A Womyn’s Ecdysis is a great natural actress. In her new project, Fem Watch 1, she works with some of the most priceless material the progressive and feminist blogosphere has managed to cough up. *ahem*

File this under “better confront the elephant in the room before it drowns you in its shit.” (h/t Ilykia)

You can be my black Kate Moss tonight

If you can’t find a real live woman of color to model for you, there’s always blackface!

According to one informal perusal of this month’s fashion magazines, there are exactly zero models of color in the fashion spreads. As Dodai at Jezebel says:

So, what have we learned? Black, Asian and models of color are still not “fashionable.” But advertisers use black and Asian models, because they know not to fuck with buying power — Bethann Hardison talked about this at the NYPL conference. Still – -can you think of another billion dollar industry in which blatant racism is tolerated?

Well, yeah, actually, but that’s another post. It is important to distinguish between the ads and the fashion spreads, because they do serve different (if overlapping) purposes. And Dodai points out, advertisers are well-aware of the fact that women of color have buying power, and they don’t want to fuck with that. But when it comes to selling an image — beauty, a look, a lifestyle, and all the other things that fashion designers are trying to do beyond simply getting you to purchase a single product — they want a white face attached it it.

Of course, it is better than taking white models and painting them black. (That’s me, always looking on the bright side).

A Thanksgiving Story

A week ago, it was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A couple days later, of course, it was Thanksgiving. Two annual events that I often have rather mixed feelings about. Obviously I’m almost a week late in writing this post, but more stuff kept happening last week, so it’s only now that I’m getting around to telling the whole story.

The Day of Remembrance has never been my favorite anniversary. I know a lot of trans people who feel the same way: why is the only day devoted to talking about trans issues all about people who have died? All too often, TDOR events have felt to me like some kind of semi-obscene pity party, an opportunity for many LGBT politicians, community leaders, and other professional gays to express their solemn condolences about all the dead trannies before going back to whatever they were doing the next day and mostly ignoring all the most vulnerable parts of the trans population: the poor, the youth, the homeless, sex workers, the HIV positive, people with many overlapping oppressions, and a whole lot of trans women of color.

This isn’t to say that the downcast faces and sorrow aren’t real, or that people don’t know folks who have really died. At some TDOR events, it’s friends and loved ones who are reading the list of the fallen, as opposed to a well-meaning white lady who can’t quite pronounce the names (yes, it’s happened). It’s important to commemorate the dead, to draw attention to the incredible murder rate of trans people–14 times the national average in the US, according to one estimate. 2007 was the year when Erica Keel was run over repeatedly by a man who threw her out of his car, a man who wasn’t even brought up on hit and run charges, much less murder. This was the year when Ruby OrdeƱana/Rodriguez was found strangled on a San Francisco street corner, then was subsequently called a “psychopath” for no reason by a radio shock-jock, and had her funeral hijacked by the Nicaraguan embassy, who ordered the funeral home to dress her like a boy at her father’s request. This was the year when at least nine other trans people were murdered or died from lack of medical treatment and a year when odds are we’ll hear of at least a few more.

But why has the TDOR become the key “trans day” of the year? It’s an evening where trans people gather with our friends and family and allies to light some candles, read some names of victims that most of us didn’t know, and then disperse to go home in the night. I couldn’t possibly put it better than Little Light did:

I think it breaks most of us a little, knowing that sometimes the only time in a year we all get together is to read a thick stack of names of those of us who have been ground into the ground, punctured, stolen, crushed and rent apart, all in order to satisfy someone else’s ideas of what the world ought to be–and to tell all the rest of us, look out. You could be next.

I’ll leave the beautiful eulogies to a natural priestess and poet like LL. As for me… I mostly just get pissed off.

So I was thinking about a lot of things last Tuesday.

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The Colonial Sex Trade

Apparently middle-aged and older white women are traveling to Kenya in order to have sex with young local men.

“This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies — a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions,” said Nottinghan University’s Davidson.

And where black men are accessories for consumption, kind of like the beaded African necklaces the women take back home.

At one club, a group of about 25 dancing men — most of them Joseph look-alikes — edge closer and closer to a crowd of more than a dozen white women, all in their autumn years.

“It’s not love, obviously. I didn’t come here looking for a husband,” Bethan said over a pounding beat from the speakers.

“It’s a social arrangement. I buy him a nice shirt and we go out for dinner. For as long as he stays with me he doesn’t pay for anything, and I get what I want — a good time. How is that different from a man buying a young girl dinner?”

I’m not going to even touch that first paragraph, I just wanted to point it out and ask: Did he really say what I think he said?

As for the rest of it, does anyone really doubt that it’s an exploitative relationship when an older man in a position of extreme social power, by virtue of his wealth and his race, purchases sexual favors from a young girl who is relatively powerless? I certainly can’t fault the young women and men who accept the offers of food, money and a good time in exchange for sex; I’m certain that there are a number of them who make that choice consensually and uncoercedly.* But this just seems a little too much like a white person’s exotic jungle fantasy for me to shrug it off as acceptable, just so long as everyone consents.

When men pay women for sex, it violates our notions of female sexual propriety and a whole lot of people fly off the handle — not at the men, of course, because they’re men and they’re expected to want sex all the time, but at the wicked, tempting whores who enable and encourage them. When women pay for sex, it’s cute — even when they’re buying it in a context fraught with imbalanced power dynamics and an ugly racist history (not to mention an ugly racist present). It’s cute partly because it’s apparently only “old” women who pay for sex, and they’re paying dark-skinned men from far-away lands; in other words, it’s not particularly threatening to the dominant power structures.

People are not souvenir beads; they are not exotic pets to experiment with on vacation. I’m not against sex work, and I’m not suggesting that the men discussed in this article have no agency. But I am suggesting that it’s impossible to divorce this scenario from a history of racism, colonialism, and the use of black bodies for the pleasure and service of white people.

And then there’s this context:

These same beaches have long been notorious for attracting another type of sex tourists — those who abuse children.

As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts — about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there — are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya’s government and U.N. children’s charity UNICEF reported late last year.

Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work, it said, some paid for the “most horrific and abnormal acts”.

Thanks to MissSarajevo for the link.

*I don’t think that’s a word, but I think it should be, so I’m using it.

U.S. Immigration Enforcement Finally Preaches What it Practices

Julie Myers, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, apparently thinks that blackface is “original.”

Myers, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ran into trouble earlier this month after she and two other agency managers gave the “most original” costume award to a white employee who came to the agency’s Halloween party dressed as an escaped prisoner with dreadlocks and darkened skin.

The incident drew complaints of racial insensitivity and an apology from Myers. It also cast doubt on whether she’ll get a confirmation vote before the end of the year, when her original appointment expires.

It would be a stunning collapse for Myers, 38, a native of Shawnee, Kan., who worked hard over the past two years to convince skeptical lawmakers that someone with little immigration experience was up to the task of running the government’s second largest investigative force.

With just a few more weeks to go before the end of the session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not scheduled a vote on Myers. Spokesman Jim Manley said this week that Reid has “serious concerns” with the nomination and is consulting with other lawmakers about how to proceed.

Myers met resistance in 2005, the first time President Bush tried to appoint her to the Homeland Security Department post, after Democrats and Republicans said she had weak credentials for the high-profile job. To avoid a fight, Bush installed her during a Senate recess and her position expires at year’s end unless the Senate votes to confirm her.

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International Day of Action Against the Northern Territory Intervention

Via Laurelhel and BFP, today is the International Day of Action Against the Northern Territory Intervention. The Northern Territory is a territory in Australia that is sparsely populated and largely made up by Aboriginal people, whose ancestors were the original inhabitants of Australia and the victims of white colonization.

The Day of Action is based around a hugely racist and imperialistic “intervention” on behalf of the Australian government in Aboriginal communities, purportedly designed to combat child abuse, but instead resulting in gross human rights violations.

I wouldn’t expect most people who have not lived in Australia to be familiar with the history of Australian Aboriginals — many Australians themselves aren’t, and though I lived there three years I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as I should be. But I have put together a very brief, very simplified overview of the negative “highlights,” because the current actions cannot be divorced from historical oppression. I invite anyone who is more knowledgeable to fill in the blanks and, though I have taken care with accuracy, to correct me if and where I am wrong.

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Your Daily Dose of Hate

Here’s a beautiful example of male college students who think that being offensive is the same thing as being funny: The Sentinal “humor” piece “Mock of Love.” It’s a set of “spoof” suggestions for the second season of the VH1 Bret Michaels dating show Rock of Love. The irony is that if you’ve ever watched Rock of Love (you won’t admit to it, so I’ll do it for you), you’ll know that no one could mock the show better than its mere existence does. The jokes write themselves — including the incredibly misogynist ones.

Now, I can’t say that we should expect much from a publication whose poll in the sidebar looks like this (the options are bad enough, but what people actually chose is even worse). But Antonio Ciaccia takes things to a whole new level of douchery, managing to insult everyone on pretty much the most vile terms possible, and miserably failing to actually be funny.

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