Because the suggestion of sexual assault is never funny

29 07 2008

I don’t even know where to begin. This story about an effigy of Isabel Garcia (a pinata with a picture of her face) being mocked, ridiculed, assaulted, and threatened on camera and on the air, by a white, male, radio personality is incredibly awful. That link is to one of my favorite bloggers, BrownFemipower, who has links to more information. It’s almost too awful for words, and I’m both incredibly angry and incredibly sad. The video is disgusting, I almost couldn’t make it through the whole thing. As BFP said:

I want people to see this for what it is–a white man feeling like he can control, humiliate, and imply sexual violence against a brown woman–all while be recorded for public broadcast. It’s about a white man controlling a woman who pissed him off, by mocking her race, by implying sexual control over her through the use of racist imagery and language.

She is being attacked, mocked, ridiculed, and sexually humiliated because she is brown and she is a woman.

Ms. Garcia is an inspiring, talented, motivated, effective activist, and her work should be supported by feminists, anti-racists, and supporters of immigrants. But this treatment, as BFP points out, isn’t about her activism. She received attention because of her activism, but the degradation, racism, sexism, and abuse she is being subjected to isn’t about the work she does, it is about power and control in the hands of white men.


Silver lining

28 07 2008

This story on NPR today brought tears to my eyes. It is about an Iraqi man, Bahjat, who worked with U.S. forces in Iraq, subsequently received death threats for his collaboration, was granted asylum in the U.S., and then struggled to find a job and support himself and his family. His story was shared on NPR in February, and a business owner in Montana who heard it (and happened to be looking to fill a position in Bahjat’s field) got in touch and offered him a job.

I can’t even imagine beginning to count the myriad ways in which the US has royally screwed up our involvement in Iraq, but our ineffectuality in supporting Iraqis who have worked with US forces is a big one. This story though, of one person (and, subsequently, the whole community) with resources helping out another really touched me. What I found particularly heartening was that this situation wasn’t about charity, but about recognizing complementary needs and resources, and bringing them together in a way that respected everyone’s dignity and was full of compassion.

In the family

26 07 2008

I haven’t been blogging with any consistency. But instead of trying to catch up, I’m just going to launch right into things.

I want to talk, for a minute, about my brother, Andrew. He’s a pretty awesome 17 year old guy, and while I already knew this, we had a great conversation on Friday that was all sorts of heart-warming.

Awhile ago, I forwarded him a link to the San Diego “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” fundraiser taking place this fall, and suggested that he get involved. We don’t talk often, so when we chatted on Friday, it came up. He remarked that walking a mile in women’s shoes (literally) is really intimidating, and he thought he might sprain an ankle. Relishing the opportunity to take hold of a teachable moment, I prodded him to think about what it means that he can think about wearing shoes that compromise his physical safety and well-being as an anomaly. I asked him to think about the women and girls in his life who feel pressure to wear high heels, and maintain other standards of beauty, some of which compromise our health and safety, to meet male-centric ideals. He remarked that he didn’t really like heels, but that he knew that girls and women felt a lot of pressure to look right, and that it didn’t seem fair.

That might seem like a pretty basic concept to many feminists, but considering a lot of the 17 year old guys I’ve known (I was 17 not so long ago, and I work with teenagers), I practically leapt for joy. It’s so easy for guys, especially teenagers, to hold on to what is popular and easy, and thinking for yourself about sexism is neither of those things, for anyone.

In the same conversation, we got on to the topic of my work. I teach teen dating violence and intimate partner violence prevention to youth, for a Domestic Violence resource agency. My approach to violence prevention has a pretty heavy dose of examining underlying social causes, including but not limited to constructions of masculinity.

I began explaining this to Andrew, and he picked right up where I was going, expanding on the ways that ideas of what a “real man” should be like both make it more acceptable for men to use violence to maintain power and control, and also make it more difficult for men who are in abusive relationships to seek help and support.

I really heart this kid.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention my other brother, Nathan. He’s away from home this week, but is also a pretty rad 17 year old guy (they are twins), full of sensitivity, compassion, self-reflection, and feminist approaches to the world. We didn’t talk this week, but he also routinely reminds me of how lucky I am to have such cool little brothers, and just how incredible my parents are for having raised such mensches.