Links & love

15 09 2009

I’ve been absent, I know. I just went through one of the more abrupt transitions I’ve had to date, and though it’s been from one great thing to another, and I feel pretty ridiculously lucky for that, I’m still trying to pull myself together and keep my life in order. I’ve been pretty good at keeping the kitchen clean the last few days, at least. That’s something, right?

That being said, 9/11 was last Friday, and so I wanted to direct you to this post by Elián at Queers Against Obama. An important reminder that 9/11/01 was not the first act of terrorism on September 11th, and in the past, the US has been *directly* responsible for that violence.


On 9/11/73, the U.S. government helped overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected President of Chile– and replaced him with one of the most brutal dictators in history: Augusto Pinochet. Sure, he massacred countless people, but he was a staunch ally of corporate America. And that’s all that really matters, right?

Even if you’re not of the anarchist/feels-uncomfortable-with-overt-patriotism/icked-out-by-statemaking type, I think it’s really important to remember that beneath the US’ posturing about democracy and freedom, this country has engaged, again and again, in the overthrow and undercutting of peacefully, democratically elected leadership it disagrees with. And that’s sort of just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to US imperialism. But that’s all for a longer post, for now, go read Elián’s.

Also… I just have to say, I found Elián’s blog because he was linked to me by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore at NOBODY PASSES, darling. Yes. Mattilda linked to my little blog. I have a pretty unabashed writer/activist crush on Mattilda, so that makes me feel a little light-headed, to be totally honest. One of her books, That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation , has a permanent place as the only reading material in my bathroom, because I think it’s important that everyone who comes through my house is exposed to it. Seriously. As backwards as that may seem, it’s a place of honor. I want it to be read by everyone I know, and most of them will be in my bathroom at some point, so that’s where it is. People comment on it more frequently than they comment on Stitch & Bitch or the Postsecret books on my coffee table, so I think it’s working.





doing justice

29 07 2009

I kick it with shit-talkers pop-lockers non-stopping hip-hoppers/kings, queens, seasoned fucking witch doctors medicine men/… trendiest trend setters and tenement-den dwellers/Tienemen square fellows/revolutionaries brilliant/resilient with hella truth to carry/I kick it with gay guys and women so queer they leave a homophobic rapper crippled with fear/My mother showed me hatin’ was fruitless/stupid and my God-brothers are Jamaican and Jewish/I never write you off for being white – not what my life’s about/but if white supremacy’s personified, I’ll gouge its eyes out

Senbei, Chameleon

A friend is, right as I type, participating as a facilitator in an experiential history project for queer youth. For a week, queer youth are guided around the city (a US city with lots of queer history that will remain nameless) and facilitated through workshops and programs that, it seems, are designed to give them greater appreciation of the kinds of queer genealogies and histories we can draw. I think. Or something like that.

It almost doesn’t matter exactly what they’re doing, except to know that it’s politically progressive/radical(maybe?), and involves queer and trans youth.

And, apparently, it also involves lots of workshops on oppression, and the trauma of oppression. And lots of intention, on the part of some of the facilitators, to make sure that the white gay cis boy doesn’t take up too much space. Or as they’d probably describe it, trying to make sure folks with identities that have been marginalized throughout history (remember this is a history program) are given space/platforms/support/etc. Which, you know, is important. Don’t get me wrong, I think this really matters. Platforms and space and centering oft-silenced voices.

I think what’s more important, though, is actually listening to people’s voices, rather than thinking you understand them because you’ve read about/heard other voices coming from people with bodies like theirs. And it sounds like that piece might be missing here, as it is far too frequently. When the white gay boy, this youth (so let’s be real, he’s probably not older than 17-18) has all eyes on him at all times, because he’s white and gay and a cis boy – and yet people don’t seem to notice that he is consistently stepping up to support the whole community in ‘unremarkable’ and unnoticed ways. Like ensuring that the dishes all get done, & one person isn’t left to do them. And calling out words of encouragement and support to his peers any time they seem to hit a rough patch. And participating in/encouraging spontaneous fashion shows in their downtime. Aren’t those acts of kindness as much who he is as his intersecting (and largely privileged) identities?

I’m not trying to needlessly attack other people I don’t know, participating in a program I’m not a part of, doing what sounds like mostly really exciting and valuable work. And I’m not trying to completely deride anti-oppression work, because I think it’s important. Necessary but insufficient.

It’s just that, in hearing about & talking about this program, and some of the dynamics coming up, I was reminded how damn common those kinds of stories are. How frequently those of us who try to incorporate an understanding of historical & contemporary institutionalized oppression & marginalization into our work end up doing so at the expense of the people involved. Because it’s not just about the white gay (seemingly economically advantaged) cis boy. It’s actually not even mostly about him, although I think he matters, too. It’s also about the poor trans woman of color – and what it means to distill who she is down to those identity labels, as though they could ever encompass and describe and communicate to anyone else the central tenets of her personhood. The labels we place on people, or those they/we take on themselves/ourselves, will never quite do us justice. When I tell you I am a radical queer fetch Jewish feminist environmentalist – you might be able to start to sketch a rough outline of some things that might matter to me, but you know nothing about how I love the people I gather to my heart. It tells you so little of what brings me joy, the moments for which I get up each morning, and even less of how the challenges I’ve faced have shaped me, what struggles I’ve overcome and what I’m afraid of.

Those boxes we can tick are not enough. Which is not to say that they don’t matter. Because I think they do matter. And I think there is great utility and importance in building community around points of intersection – but when those labels, boxes, and identities take precedence over each individual’s humanity – aren’t we, really, replicating a pattern of dehumanization? Aren’t we, once again, saying that the color of your skin/ the genitals of your lover/ your gender identity/your class background/your [dif]ability  is more important than understanding who you are as a person?

Typing this, I’m afraid that it’s going to read like “anti-oppression work is BS and we just need to hold hands, sing kumbaya, and love each other” which is really not at all what I’m going for. I’m not talking about a lack of accountability, or pretending that we should all just be friends and that it would be enough to right the wrongs in the world. What I want is to remember the humanness within each person we interact with; that they will always be more than their boxes and their elbows will always poke through the sides. And sometimes that humanness will manifest itself in beautiful moments of compassion and community, and people will surprise you. And also that humanness will be flawed, and people will make mistakes and be thoughtless and crass and they will have trouble learning and they might hurt you, and often those gaffes will be compounded by and entrenched with years of built up institutional inequity and privilege. And that privilege and inequity will probably make thoughtless mistakes more painful for those on the receiving end, and easier to ignore for those committing them. And we need to encourage learning and growth and accountability in those moments. But those are human errors, always. Not just straight errors or misogynist errors or white errors. Which, again, is not to say it is immaterial how heterosexuality and whiteness and cisgendered-ness and masculinity and ability and wealth play into the whole thing, or that they should be obscured, apologized for, or ignored (I’m all about identifying isms for what they are) but that those qualities of a person will never be the be-all-end-all of them.

When we let those labels become all encompassing, when we allow them to take priority over personhood, even if we are doing so in an attempt to counteract past wrongs – aren’t we going to make it impossible for us to see the person in our midst?

I guess I’m just thinking about so many of my friends, the people I love, and what would happen if you were to say to me, “describe _______ to me,” and I answered with “well, they are a queer person of color with relative economic privilege” – it wouldn’t tell you jack shit about what I love and value and treasure about them. It wouldn’t really do them justice, at all. And I mean, isn’t that the whole point? Justice?

PS The rap quoted at the top of the post? Follow the link beneath it and download the album. It’s phenomenal, and free.





monday night – milk paint, sawdust, and building philosophies/communities

23 07 2009
Collage of building materials - stone, thatch, slate, and wood. By flickr user ...jeddy3

Collage of building materials - stone, thatch, slate, and wood. By flickr user ...jeddy3

On Monday evening, I had the incredible pleasure of sitting in on a lecture/question-answer session at a natural building and design school in rural central Vermont. The session was led by the co-owners of the natural building company I’ve been working for this summer, one of whom, A, is a close friend, and the other, D, – someone I’m hoping to become a larger part of my life. (The latter, D, the not-yet-close-friend-who-I-like-a-lot, has been teaching all summer, so we haven’t been working together.)

The whole evening – from dinner on picnic tables, outside, surrounded by Vermont greenery and creative energy, chickens in a nearby coop and a thriving garden; to a lively lecture in a small classroom between the woodshop and outdoor workspace, with walls covered in milk paint and air filled with the faint, sweet smell of sawdust; to late-night drinks in the local bar with aforementioned wonderful people – left me feeling filled to the brim.

*****

Toward the end of the lecture/Q&A session, one student brought up a question about the similarities and differences between Natural Building and Green Building. A & D answered deftly, I thought, masking what was either exhaustion or frustration (or both), as it was already getting pretty late into the evening, following on the heels of a long day on the worksite, AND, D had given a lecture on *precisely* that question a week and a half ago. Though I certainly wouldn’t wish frustration or exhaustion on him, I loved hearing D articulate what natural building was to him. I loved hearing him tease out the intersections and points of departure, gracefully drawing a picture of how these movements connect to one another, and also the strength in their divergences.

I don’t think that I can do justice to his answer, but the short version is this:

Natural building is about a fundamental, comprehensive, holistic change in, and approach to, building. It’s about understanding our environments as composed of communities – broadly defined. It’s about making sure that people are part of the equation, and that so is the non-human landscape. It’s about bringing together and bridging varying and sometimes conflicting needs in a manner that respects the fundamental value of each piece. It’s about not sacrificing the environment for the sake of aesthetics, but also about not sacrificing the needs we have as people, to live full, vibrant, healthy, nurturing lives, for the sake of ascetic principles of environmental preservation. It’s about a building site that prioritizes the safety and comfort of the builders, the happiness and satisfaction of the clients, as well as the health impact of the materials we build with, and the carbon footprint of their production processes. It’s about radical change, and justice, rather than just reform.

Green building is more about reform. It’s about working within the existing system to bring about incremental change. It’s about being palatable to a wide, mainstream audience, about not asking too much of people too quickly, but taking small steps. It’s about broad-based visibility, and profitability, and often – greenwashing.

I’m sure it’s pretty obvious where I stand between the two. And yet, as D pointed out, there is space for both, and each relies on the other, benefits from the existence of the other, and there is growth and productivity in the healthy tension created. The visibility that the Greening movement has brought to natural building has been really valuable. Sometimes it can bring up questions of priorities and sacrifice, but it can also bring about opportunity for really important change and an expansion of existing frameworks. If so much natural building is happening in places like rural Vermont, the outskirts of Santa Fe, NM, and sequestered in the abundant forests of the NorthWest – perhaps there is a need for an impetus, a catalyst, to push people’s creative gaze and critical perspective to urban spaces. Not just because urban spaces are the source of much environmental depletion and pollution, etc. But also, and importantly, because the faces of the homesteaders in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Vermont, and New Hampshire are so often white, and in many places must be economically privileged, and their family structures are so frequently heteronormative. Because prioritizing people means prioritizing ALL people, not just those of us who can hop in a car and head three hours into the forest to satisfy a need for health-promoting spaces and environments.

Ivy-covered-city-bldg

The other thing that really struck me about D’s answer to the question on Monday night was how easily his answer could have been translated to a conversation about activism, and political movements. Because the tension between the Green movement and natural building feels a lot like the relationship between liberal, or progressive, political movements and more radical political activists. In the US, the liberal/progressive contingency also encompasses a broad range of people and beliefs, from Beltway-entrenched Blue-Dog Democrats (or even regular, mainstream Beltway Democrats) to the hordes of young Obama volunteers who believe in and want to act for change, and believe that voting and the existing political institution are the best way to get that done. (Full disclosure, I had a short stint of Obama volunteering – canvassing in NH a couple days before the election – but I wasn’t a deeply invested campaign organizer. Although I did, admittedly, get somewhat swept up in Obamamania.) And then there are also us radicals, a designation that also encompasses a very broad swath of people and political beliefs. There are more Anarcho/a-______ ideologies than it makes sense to name here, and then there are the Socialists and the Communists who don’t attach the circle-A to the front of their beliefs. Some of us in this wing off to the left see no space for intersection or overlap between the two, and some of us see possibility in the tensions created, and a fundamental need for interconnection.

Mostly, I just really liked that momentary (continual?) reminder of how interconnected the spheres of my world really are. I liked that a conversation about techniques for air and moisture -proofing strawbale buildings could blend so easily with theory and ideology, and how natural the connection between building philosophies and my political ideologies felt.

I’m a little worried about taking on more than I can handle, but I want to start volunteering with what looks like a really great organization in my community, YouthBuild Boston. I’m not sure in exactly what form, because I don’t know that my building skills are good enough that I can teach other people a whole lot, on a technical level, but I just want to support these kinds of programs. And I’d love to find out more about the collaborations happening, or the opportunities for them if they aren’t, between organizations like YBB and The Urban Ecology Institute.

*******

Later, over drinks in the only bar still open in town, the conversation meandered away from building houses, and toward building communities. I explained to D what I’m going to be doing this fall, and was sort of blown away, in the best way possible, by his enthusiasm. He was just so excited to be reminded that there were spaces and environments (not even all that far from VT) where there were enough Jews for a Jewish community organizing fellowship. And for LGBT/queer Jewish organizations. And for politically radical Jewish communities to form. Because rural northern Vermont is definitely not one of those places.

It was a reminder to value the blessings and opportunities abounding in my community, and in my life. I anticipate that this coming year is going to be challenging, for a lot of reasons, but it’s also incredibly exciting, and I am lucky to have such an opportunity, in *my* community. Where I already live. Where I’ve been building a life and pulling together strings of community for almost a year now. I don’t have to go elsewhere to find it, it’s here already. So many people don’t have that blessing, and I don’t want to take it for granted.

********

These days, I’m feeling full and rejuvenated. I’ve been building office infrastructure for A & D’s company, and that feels really fun and exciting too, in a way I haven’t experienced doing similar work before. I can’t wait to do more building, and I can’t wait for this next adventure (which is quickly approaching) to start. Life just feels full of possibility.





this is why

12 04 2009

gay marriage is not my issue

*TRIGGER WARNING*

An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.

Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school.

Because this story makes me cry. Because I heard within MINUTES of the Iowa decision, and of the Vermont legislature’s action, and of the DC City Council vote… and it was nearly a week before I learned of this tragedy. It’s not that I don’t think there is space for triumph and joy, and it’s not that I begrudge people their happiness. But rather, knowing how many millions of dollars have been poured into marriage campaigns across the country, my heart breaks, wondering what could have been if, instead of trying to prove that we queers are JUST AS GOOD!! as straight people, JUST AS DESERVING of access to and participation in the same deeply flawed social, legal, economic, religious, and cultural institutions, we had invested more than a fraction of that money in the struggles that could save people’s lives. In a campaign for far-reaching education, curriculum reform, anti-bullying training, and lgbt sensitivity training for school administrators, teachers, and students.

The short of it is: People are dying. Still. People are dying because we live in a world in which gender presentation and sexuality are policed and transgressors violently punished. We live in a world in which the implicit, and sometimes explicit, message is that your queer or gender nonconforming body doesn’t matter, and others can do with it as they please (that message is all the louder if yours is a body of color, or with disabilities, or female, or poor). And I don’t think that all of us getting gay married is going to save lives, and I know that it SURE AS HELL is not going to give Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, or Lawrence King back the chance to grow into whomever they could have been.

I tend to be very wary of rhetoric that urges us to abandon the long term vision or goal because we’re so deeply immersed in the struggle that we don’t have the time for long-term. I believe that strategic thinking, and vision are of the utmost importance when we are in crisis. And to that end, I’m not just trying to argue that there are more pressing issues (though there are, obviously), but rather that marriage is NOT a stop on the road to liberation – it is a rambling off-shoot dead-end path – and that our energies could be far better directed. If our goal is not simply to approximate heteronormativity, but justice and liberation, then let’s do something that will actually bring us closer, not reinforce the dominant system we’re trying to challenge and dismantle.

Gay marriage is legal in Springfield, MA. It didn’t save Carl’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to hear the news from Iowa, Vermont, and DC – I just wonder, “at what cost?”

Apparently, as I was told recently (by a lesbian friend), I’m a “really intense gay” – to which I responded, “queer, thank you,” at which she rolled her eyes and said, “exactly.” I think her point was mostly about my radical politics, and that my queerness is politicized (as is my gender identity, and every other facet of my identity). We then got into a discussion about heteronormativity, and whether or not it was a bad thing – my answer: yes. her answer: but heterosexuality *IS* normal, 90% of the population is straight. I think this post would fall into the “intense gay” category, too.Which is all to say, I know that “we” have different goals, I just think mine are better.





pulling together

24 03 2009

There are some things I’m trying to pull together that might just remain entirely disconnected, but this is how I’m present right now, so it’s just going to be this way.

*****

I was in a bit of pain, tonight. I think I have a tendency to downplay or minimize my own pain or suffering, for a whole host of reasons, some that I’m okay with and some that I’m not – recognizing that with health insurance, my family’s financial stability, my grasp of english, my access to a car, my race, etc. whatever the problem, it’s going to be easier for me to address than it would be for someone without those privileges (I’m okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain, a healthy does of humility & perspective, that perhaps works to offset an oppressive, internalized, inflated sense of my value in relation to others); recognizing that, as a woman, I’ve internalized all sorts of really problematic lessons about pain and suffering, and about being a caretaker and prioritizing my own needs (I’m not okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain) – but tonight I was hurting. I still am, really. My job makes me sore. I don’t know what it’s about, because I basically just carry a clipboard around for 5 hours, but some combination of the cold and the walking and the clipboard always on my left arm – makes me really sore.

I’m not sure I have deep conclusions about this, but I’m trying to sit with the pain.

And I’m thinking about the other kinds of pain people are forced to sit with, on account of their jobs. Of the personal bodily risks people take to sustain themselves, their families, and their lives. And, again, of how minimal my sore shoulder is compared to all of that. I’m thinking about how our capitalist system organizes people by our means of employment, and about what it means that the bodies that are placed at the greatest risk of harm are so often the bodies of people of color, of women, of the poor.

*****

I might have the opportunity to work on a building crew this summer. I’d be working for a friend, for his  natural building company – at which he prioritizes giving queer and trans folks, and cis women greater access to the trades – and every time I think about this opportunity I get more and more excited. It might not happen, for a whole host of reasons, but I’m simultaneously optimistic & trying not to be too invested. Mixed in with that are ideas about the kinds of productivity that I value, and that I perceive others to value; also about working in the trades, and with wood – the degree to which this is and isn’t something that feels like “my” space.

Physical labor, particularly as a means of supporting oneself, was not part of the upper-middle class world I came of age in. My friends’ parents, and my own, all had advanced degrees and were “profesionals” in that way that usually connotes an office, desk, and maybe even a secretary or administrative assistant, although some were doctors and nurses and I never pictured them having desks like those that were accountants and lawyers. My dad’s office used to have a popcorn machine, which was the only thing that seemed relevant about his job for most of my childhood.

And yet, despite all of that, I strongly associate carpentry and woodworking – and the attendent skills & self-reliance – with my father. A good chunk of our garage is taken up by his tools and workbench. I love the smell of sawdust, and I always thought it was SO cool that he built the house my grandmother now lives in.

I received my first hammer at a pretty young age. It was one of those little ones with a handle that screwed off to reveal a screwdriver, with a handle that screwed off to reveal an additional (smaller) screwdriver, and so on and so forth, until you got to the really small cute one in the end of the handle. That one was my favorite. Nowadays most of the hammers I see like that tend to have flowery designs printed on them. I suppose that makes them more girly? On the one hand, that’s annoying, that tools need to be pink to be appropriate for girls, but on the other hand, if one girl picks up that flowery hammer and finds use and power in weilding it that she wouldn’t have otherwise- awesome.

Floating around my parents’ house somewhere, there’s a picture of me ‘helping’ my dad build the cabinets in our kitchen. I can’t be more than 2, and I’m literally sitting in the cabinet, holding up a tool of some sort (maybe even that little hammer), so proud and excited to be helping my dad build.

One year, for Christmas (that year it was definitely a Christmas present, not Hanukkah), he made me a really beautiful bed. It’s still my bed when I go home, and I love it. The stain is a beautiful deep shade, and there are built-in drawers underneath, painted dark green, with cream colored ceramic knobs. I remember so vividly the weeks that I wasn’t allowed to go into the garage when he was in there, and when I’d finally sneak in (while he was at work, or in the shower, or otherwise preoccupied) I would mostly just stare with wonder and excitement at the nondescript tarp-covered bulk in the middle of the garage. Once I peeked under a corner, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the tarp back far enough to see more than a deep, warm, red edge. Christmas eve, I slept in the guest room, and I spent the night wide awake, listening to my dad and my uncle carry the massive bed upstairs, and then listening to my dad finish building it IN my room.

It is the most vivid Christmas memory I have from my childhood. I’m pretty sure that says something about what my subconscious values.

All of these things are swirling together as I think about this summer. Mostly I’m excited, and it feels like a really ideal way to spend the summer. I get this huge grin on my face when I imagine working outside, really feeling my muscles strain and grow; inhaling fresh, crisp New England summer; harnessing power tools beneath my fingers; creating sustainable, responsible, natural environments; how my hands can help give form to structures, and shapes, and milled pieces of lumber – and also how that lumber will shape and toughen my hands.

Hands. Soft, smooth, silky hands seem to be so strongly associated with class, and so I also feel the weight of my ability to choose to toughen my hands; to welcome callouses and roughness.

*****

My mom is really awesome. Today, she sent me an email with a couple of grant and/or funding opportunities highlighted. She does this occassionaly, she’s connected to development, funding, grant-writing/-giving circles, and so sometimes she passes on interesting calls for proposals. But this time, it wasn’t even for me. It was for my friend, the one I might be working for, who she’s never met. It just struck me as incredibly thoughtful, and I feel really lucky to have had a woman like that in my life for, well, all of it.

*****

I’ve been reading and digesting people’s thoughts on radical love, community building, organizing, sustainability, and accountability.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about someone she is growing close to. She worries about introducing him to some of her friends, to the people she loves and cherishes, because he hasn’t necessarily had exposure or access to the language & frames of analysis many of us employ with one another. And then I read these words today, by Nadia, at Now Snow Here:

feeling alienated in these conversations because of the emphasis on words and specific word choices – that is a conversation for writers, academics, people who spend time with pretentious adults. don’t want it imposed on me right now, it bothers me how judgemental people are when others don’t know or have the language for the *right* way to say things. hard to engage when its so easy to be misunderstood, not feeling like we give or get the space to make mistakes but maybe i’m wrong and just overwhelmed with the intense dialoging.

And between that conversation, and this paragraph, and all of the dialogue happening on Jess’ post at BFP’s (the “people’s thoughts” hyper link, above), I’ve been thinking about the tension this all brings up. About creating spaces to honor and affirm everyone, especially because of what Nadia is describing, but also even for people you don’t necessarily like or agree with, because it is important to honor and affirm their humanity. And I’m also holding on to accountability. I think it’s important to allow for vulnerability and not-knowing; to allow for that instability and uncertainity – I think within moments of uncertainty there’s great possibility for growth. But what do you do when affirming one person’s not-knowing and growth means allowing the negation of another? How do you balance competing, and conflicting, needs or truths? How do we both allow space for potentially screwing up, and simultaneously hold one another accountable?

*****

There’s so much more I want to say on this, but it’s late and I really need to sleep. Hopefully I won’t be as sore tomorrow.





Sparkle and Embracing the Feminine

22 08 2008

I’ve been really bad at keeping up with my google reader, so I just now got around to reading Octo’s post on Feministe about “sparkle.” Sparkle (I love this term), as Octo uses it, is ‘a catch-all for burlesque, sex work, fashion, any kind of sexy display or fashion statement.”

There’s always lots of feminist debate about whether or not sparkle can be feminist, or anti-patriarchy, and you usually wind up with sex-positive feminists on one side and radfems on the other. This debate is kind of exhausting, and seems rather counterproductive, because it often ends with sex-positive feminists focusing on a woman’s right to make independent choices about her body, and radfems talking about false consciousness and having bought into the patriarchy. Which basically, as I hear it, boils down to: “you don’t know what’s best for you, or your feminism, so we will tell you and discredit what you’re saying at the same time.” That’s surely an oversimplification, and if it wasn’t already clear, I don’t identify as a radfem, but that’s at least what it sounds like from where I’m sitting.

I don’t necessarily identify as a femme. I embrace my femme side, but it’s not an everyday thing. These days, when it comes to a label for my gender presentation, I’ve been toying around with fetch (femme + butch + new pop slang = awesome!?), and in the past appropriated a friend’s phrase “quirky femme,” but I haven’t committed 100% to any of them. Since cutting my hair and coming out (which happened at similar times, but weren’t causally related), I’ve felt more comfortable embracing my butch side. Something about making active choices (coming out, not my queerness) that fly in the face of conventional beauty standards has made it easier to be comfortable with my less femme tendencies. But this also scares me, because I think it is SO important that queer communities not reject or abandon the feminine.

Read the rest of this entry »





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.