Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Vanity Fair, Anti-Choice Race for the Cure, & Jay-Z’s Political Correctness

Happy 2012! We’re back after a long winter break. Here’s a little of what has been going on in feminisms around the web.

Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue emphasizes fresh white faces. via Jezebel

  • The Globe and Mail explores the politics of the b-word, imagining Jay-Z’s lyrics without it after his statement that having daughter means he will no longer use the word. Samhita Mukhopadhyay from feministing.com is quoted:

“There’s an idea that being politically correct ruins art. You don’t want something raw like the lyrical mastery of Jay-Z to be diluted by these PC notions – that women are humans too. … But if we think of the basic reality that women are humans as ‘politically correct,’ we’ve got a major problem.”

  • Jeffrey Goldberg tells us how to spot racism in the Republican campaigns. According to him, “This presidential election will be one of the most race-soaked in recent history.” Here’s a little sample of the kinds of assessments of the black community we can expect from the GOP [trigger warning]:

“[T]he pathologies afflicting black Americans are caused partly by the Democratic Party, which has created in them a dependency on government not dissimilar to the forced dependency of slaves on their owners.”

Keep your eyes out for the February Issue of re/visionist, coming very soon!

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: All-American Muslim, Victim-Blaming Ad Campaign & “Muscular Empathy”

via feministryangosling.tumblr.com

  • In an attack on women of color’s reproductive freedoms, anti-choice members of Congress have pushed for a bill called the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” which seeks to prevent women of color from attaining abortions in the name of “civil rights.” Clarification: Neither Susan B. Anthony nor Frederick Douglass would have supported this BS.
  • Feministing breaks down the victim-blaming and just downright disturbing “rape prevention” campaign at “ControlTonight.org”, targetting — you guessed it — young women victims. Same old ridiculous narrative: the raped person should control the rapist’s urge to rape by NOT going out and drinking.  The ad’s image itself is a trigger warning, so be prepared to fume with anger.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates responds to the Forbes article, “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.” It’s entitled, “Muscular Empathy,” and explores one of the greatest challenges an historian faces, let alone a human being: empathy with people from very different circumstances than ourselves. Here’s an excerpt:

This basic extension of empathy is one of the great barriers in understanding race in this country. I do not mean a soft, flattering, hand-holding empathy. I mean a muscular empathy rooted in curiosity. If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

Harris-Perry is at her strongest when she breaks down the devastating and unseen culture of shame that is put upon and often internalized by black women; it is fed by a dangerous form of misrecognition that harms both individuals and societies. Harris-Perry is nuanced in her understanding of shame not only manifesting as a sort of shrinking-away, but in the compensating “strong black woman” stereotype that seems positive, but leaves little room for the full scope of human vulnerability. Shame, then, serves as a kind of social control.

  • Robin Lim, an American midwife who has served thousands of Indonesian women in their births, is CNN’s Hero of the Year.

Sebelius claims that her reason is that the FDA didn’t show that 11-year-old girls, some 10 percent of whom are fertile, understand how to follow the EC directions….If a sixth grader can’t understand those elementary, crystal-clear instructions, we should just move back to the caves, because civilization is finished.

Queering Categories, Bringing Wreck

illustration by Cristy Road

by Kate Wadkins

In sync with Sarah Lawrence’s recent call for papers for 2011’s Women’s History Conference, I am syndicating my review of the plenary panel from this year’s The Message is in the Music: Hip Hop Feminism, Riot Grrrl, Latina Music & More with RE/VISIONIST (it is also currently published in this year’s Women’s History newsletter). Specifically Ngo and Nguyen’s papers, in the context of the Conference at large, really inspired me to pursue my thesis work on masculinities in punk rock. Watching other scholars dare to take on pop culture subjects like music gave me hope and certainty that cultural production is worthy of an historical treatment.

This article is also timely as it preempts the publication of International Girl Gang Underground, a compilation zine about the way riot grrrl has influenced punk feminist cultural production over the past twenty years. Nguyen’s early iteration of her paper, “Aesthetics, Access, Intimacy” or “Race, Riot Grrrl, Bad Feelings” will be included in the zine, nestled in among scene reports and personal stories from all over the world.

“I quit punk like 8 times,” Mimi Nguyen confessed to a full auditorium at Sarah Lawrence College’s 12th Annual Women’s History Conference: The Message is in the Music: Hip-Hop Feminism, Riot Grrrl, Latina Music & More, recollecting her contentious relationship with punk rock. As the first panel of the morning opened up, the groggy, packed audience, comprised of women of all ages and ilk, quickly awoke to Nguyen’s sharp wit and powerful presence. For the plenary panel, Fiona Ngo and Mimi Nguyen, both assistant professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, discussed grassroots punk scenes and their internal racial dynamics. A third panelist, Sarah Lawrence alum Christa D’Angelica, presented on what she termed a “second wave” of riot grrrl that traversed from zine[1] pages to dial-up modems in the late 1990s. Continue reading

Heterosexism, Sex & Sexuality: A Conversation about Black Male Privilege

On Wednesday, November 3 Steven G. Fullwood, project director of the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive Project, will engage Jewel Woods, author of The Black Male Privileges Checklist, in a discussion about, you guessed it, black male privilege.

Jewel Woods

Woods, the founder and director of the Renaissance Male Project, an organization committed to building a community of practice around men’s issue while addressing intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women, has committed his life to pursuing “the paradox of men’s lives.”  On his Web site, Wood asserts that examining black male privileges offers black men and boys an opportunity to go beyond old arguments of “personal responsibility” or “blaming the man” to gain a deeper level of insight into how issues of class and race are influenced by gender. According the Woods, The Black Male Privileges Checklist can be applied to all men. However, because of the specific privileges that black men have in relationship to black women, there are specific items that apply only to black men.

The event, which is hosted  by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, is free and open to the public. For more information visit the Schomburg Center’s public programming schedule here. For more information about Jewel Woods and the Renaissance Male Project visit here and here.

-Nydia Swaby

Ginny Thomas reminds women we should be thanking Anita Hill

Anita Hill

This is an excerpt from an article by Devona Walker posted on AlterNet. You can read the full article at AlterNet.

The Anita Hill case was a turning point for American women, who have endured sexual harassment and gender bias on the job. Even though they dragged her name through the mud, she was unflappable on the stand and gave women everywhere in the U.S. courage to stand up and say “enough is enough.” Subsequent to her testimony the U.S. Supreme Court made employers more liable for sexual harassment in 1998. The Society for Human Resource Management has reported that 62 percent of companies now offer sexual harassment prevention training programs, and 97 percent have a written sexual harassment policy.

For those of us who knew Anita Hill told the truth, the appointment of Clarence Thomas was a defeat, a slap in the face.

But because she had the courage to speak out there were long-term consequences. There soon was national awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace. Between 1991 and 1996, awards to victims of sexual harassment under federal laws nearly quadrupled, from $7.7 million to $27.8 million.

Another repercussion was that women started getting involved in politics. The following year, in fact, the media heralded the 1992 election as the “Year of the Woman.” A record number of women ran for public office and won. In the U.S. Senate, eleven women ran and five won seats. In the House of Representatives, twenty-four women won new seats. Why? Because women across the country realized that the only reason her grievances were not taken seriously is because she was being judged by a Congress, not an electorate, who was 98 percent male at the time.

Read the full article here.

Let’s Talk About….Sex Work?

by Brittany Robinson

My interest in this topic stems from a class I took during my senior year of college called Sexual Revolutions. My professor was an amazing woman who challenged us to look at sex work as a product of our culture, not just something we can condemn or advocate under the idea that this form of work (which Ronald Weitzer in Sex for Sale says includes stripping, prostitution, peep-shows, phone sex operators, etc (1)) just emerged without our consent or awareness of it.  From this, I thought “What about sex work within my culture?”  I am an African-American woman from the South, and I have always heard women in my community treat sex as a “secret,” so when some of them learned I was taking a class that examined sex work, they wanted to know one thing: why I would feel comfortable as a Black woman discussing sex work when we have a history of sexual exploitation.  Because of their inquiries and my own, I came to formulate the argument presented below. Continue reading

Amy Ashwood Garvey: A Revolutionary Pan-African Feminist

by Nydia Swaby

“A nation without great women is a nation frolicking in peril. Let us go forward and lift the degradations which rest on the Negro woman – God’s most glorious gift to all civilizations.”

~Amy Ashwood Garvey

Amy Ashwood's reception at Juaben. Photo courtesy Lionel Yard collection.

If you ask a Jamaican to name a national hero, the first person that usually comes to mind is Marcus Garvey, the Black Nationalist who popularized the movement of Pan-Africanism in the early 20th century. Based on his belief that the only way to improve the conditions of black people around the world was to unite them into one racial community Marcus Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Kingston, Jamaica in 1914. The influence of “Garveyism” can be traced throughout the Afro-Caribbean, United States, and Africa. People of African heritage from every corner of the world know of Marcus Garvey’s philosophy and writings.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Amy Ashwood Garvey, Marcus Garvey’s first wife and co-founder of the UNIA. Serving as a representative of the Pan-African movement Amy Ashwood lived a politically active life independent of her relationship with Marcus Garvey. She toured the United States, all islands of the Caribbean, South and Central America, Europe, the British Isles, and West Africa lecturing on the need for unity among people of African descent and chronicling the experiences of the people she encountered with the goal of publishing her findings. To date, none of Amy Ashwood Garvey’s manuscripts about her travels and humanitarian work have ever been published. However, two biographies have been written about her life, and she is referenced in several articles and books on Caribbean radicalism, Pan-Africanism, and Black nationalism. Continue reading