Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back from the AMC

Writing a post about it to be here shortly. Many thanks to the folks who donated to help me get there. It would never have been possible without all of your support.

While at the AMC I've learned a LOT and want to grow Latino and will keep the donate button on the sites for folks who wish to support this endeavor.


Monday, June 27, 2011

On Bristol Palin

cross posted from my Media Justice column

I’ve been writing this post for several weeks. It’s a hard topic for me to discuss in the ways I feel are most useful for readers and to have a conversation. Originally this piece was called “Could Bristol Palin Be A Sexuality Educator?” and I discussed and outlined how Bristol Palin has been discussed (and basically dissed) by sexuality educators, activists and professionals. Parts of that original post are still included, but now as I read more about Bristol Palin, especially after the release of her memoir, there are other topics that come up and that I think must be included in such a discussion.

Bristol Palin has released her memoir “Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far” where she shares a lot of intimate information about her experiences having sex, discovering she was pregnant, her childbirth, traveling with her mother during the presidential campaign, and her life now. One part of her story that I think is important to this piece is that she shares that the first time she had sex with her partner at the time Levi, she was drunk and had no recollection of the experience. The New York Daily News
reviews her memoir and shares:

“The then 17-year-old recounts how she got drunk on too many wine coolers during a camping trip with Levi. She says she woke up in her tent with no memory of what happened. Meanwhile, a boastful Levi told all his friends about his conquest.
"I could tell by the evidence in the tent that all of my plans, my promises, and my moral standards had disappeared in one awful night in a series of bad decisions," Bristol wrote. She insisted that she immediately felt obligated to marry Levi.”

Many of you reading may have the same reaction I did: this sounds like a non-consensual experience, one that many would classify as a sexual assault. From this quote I believe that Bristol does not, at this time, classify her experience as a sexual assault. Yet, there is a lot of room for discussion, education, consciousness-raising, and building from her experience. It is because of this that I believe, yes, Bristol Palin can become a sexuality educator.

Many of the folks who I know who identify in one way or another as sexuality educators come to this work from personal experience and interest. There is a calling to do this work for many of us. A calling that we are
not always comfortable with, but that remains nonetheless. I know that we also grow as educators. We grow in what we believe and think about the field, our work, current events, and ourselves. Yes, Palin’s current sexual health focus is on abstinence, let’s be honest, many people do focus on abstinence. One difference is that other folks are trained and experienced in discussing options outside of and in addition to abstinence, ones that complement abstinence.

I want to be clear here, I’d like for us in the reproductive justice movements to really take a look at ourselves, our messages, who we are supporting and why, who we include in our movement, and who we exclude (and do we even know why?).

When Bristol Palin was identified and
hired by The Candies Foundation to speak on preventing teen pregnancy, many sexuality educators were not happy about that decision. Many folks, some who I know personally, wrote and spoke exclusively about how this was wrong on numerous levels. Rarely (if ever) did any of these seasoned sexuality educatorsthink about things such as the exploitation of youth, lack of mentors for potential sexuality educators, especially young women, and the communities we are not reaching that others may be able to.

Many of us are in support of helping young people make the best decisions they can for the situation they find themselves in at a given moment. What would we share with a young person in Palin’s situation, who has found herself possibly hung-over, with no memory of the sex she experienced with her partner the day before, and is now in need of support and help? Palin is not the first young person, young woman, to have this experience, and she will not be the last. So, how have we thought about creating spaces for young people to discuss, contemplate, and learn from such experiences?

Many of the people in my community shared a video
honoring single mamas of Color and young mothers, who are activists and often forgotten. Why do many so quickly and easily take those forms of support away from someone such as Bristol Palin? Is it because of what her mother represents? Is it because we project what her mother believes and thinks and desires onto her, a completely different human being? Is it because she’s from Alaska? Is racially White, from a wealthy family and now a celebrity? Because she is able-bodied, has access to health care, and a ton of other privileges 99% of US citizens don’t have? Let’s be clear about what our reasons are for taking certain forms of support away from single young mothers.

I wonder what my life would be like if at 18 I was treated by others based on what my parents reacted, thought, and did. There are many things my parents have done, and still do or think and believe, that do not compliment or even support any of my ideologies. We are completely different people, and I love them for their differences, yet they are not who I am and I am not who they are. And guess what, even in my 30s my ideologies are changing because I’m learning so much about myself, what I do, and what world and change I want to be a part of.

How does class intersect with this too? Are we so dismissive of folks who have a higher income than ourselves that we are willing to debunk the work they are trying to do? (and to be clear this is very different from challenging wealthy and extremely privileged folks who take/borrow/steal ideas and plans of working-class folks and claim them as their own as we saw in the film

At the end of the day, Bristol Palin is a young single mother. We know like many single mothers, she is being told she can’t do a job, that she can’t be a contributing member of society because of her choices and her family formation. Is this really the type of messaging we want to be a part of promoting? Is this example of targeting and dismissing youth a legacy we want to leave for future sexuality educators and activists?

What would it look like if we provided support and mentorship to people who showed an interest in becoming sexuality educators regardless of their background? Do we realize that the work we do does not always reach everyone in our zip code, let alone our state or country? We need all the forms of outreach we can manage, and if Bristol Palin can reach wealthy young people who come from similar backgrounds as her own more effectively than I can, why am I going to limit that interaction? Not everyone responds to the same messaging (this is a media literacy component, different people have different perspectives). So who are we to say what may be effective for youth from wealthy families? I know I can’t speak from that space and probably never will.

Maybe some of you think I’m playing “devils advocate” with this piece. There are many reasons why I have resisted writing this piece for a while and part of it is because I need there to be a larger dialogue about such topics. I can’t just read the same perspective over and over again from sexuality educators. It gets tired debunking, dismissing a young person and
essentializing all sexuality educators - that’s not the world I wish to live in or community I desire to be a part of. I know we do better work than this and I wonder why we choose not to at such times.

I’m not the type of sexuality educator that only focuses on abstinence, I don’t think many of us here, and those of you reading are. The reality is that abstinence IS a choice and it remains a choice that we speak about. Many of us may experience abstinence in our lives and many of us define it differently, this is why we must talk about it openly. It’s also an important topic to talk about how it may not work for many folks and why (just as it did not work for Bristol Palin). However, that is not a reason to
completely dismiss the work she is attempting to do.

What we can be disappointed about is how our lifes work, how our social justice agendas, are being pimped out by corporations that don’t have any of our interests in mind only their own capital! This is what really irks me and pisses me off, personally.

What also irks and pisses me off is when we dismiss youth so easily. When we question, critique, and mock them in ways that are not helpful. Many folks wrote about Palin’s classification as a sexuality educator
a few years ago and a handful of these folks had access to working with Palin as seasoned sexuality educators. Yet none of the folks who wrote about her, critiqued and debunked her attempted to reach out and work with her, train her, mentor her, and give her the support she may need to do the work she claims she wants to do.

That’s definitely not the community of reproductive justice advocates I wish to be a part of. It takes more to be an educator, activist and mentor than dissing other people. It takes dedication, commitment, and being open to unlearning things about ourselves, and challenging ourselves at the same time (and these are just a few things!). So I’d like to ask: what community do you wish to see created as a reproductive justice advocate/educator/professional?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Women Deserve

cross posed from my RH Reality Check blog

The work of Sonya Renee Taylor is timeless. I first met Sonya Renee when I was living in Maryland and organizing with Visions in Feminism (ViF), a collective of activists who wanted to create an accessible and affordable conference discussing issues of feminisms for folks who were often excluded in such dialogues. At the time Sonya was working at HIPS and beginning to transition into a full-time work as an artist. It was after this transition that I met her, as she was the keynote speaker for ViF 2005.

A few months ago I saw a video of her performing her work “What Women Deserve.” I immediately reached out to her asking for permission to share the video of her performance and the transcript of her poem. This poem can be found in her book A Little Truth On Your Shirt: A Collection of Poems published in 2010 by GirlChild Press. One of the reasons I’m sharing this poem and video is because it is an amazing piece of art that speaks to so much of what many of us value and are seeing continue in our society. It also speaks to women’s work and how art and poetry is a part of a movement and it is work as well!

I also share this because it is important to know that if there is artwork/images/media that we value, and wish to use/support and include in conferences, classrooms or organizations, the creators are approachable! There was a time early in my career where I thought people who I saw online, whose work I read, seemed so far away from where I was. It was not until I began to contact the people who create the media I value did I realize how approachable, close, and excited they are to have folks reach out to them. It has become part of my usual communication to reach out to artists and media makers and share my support and adoration of their work and it has resulted in amazing friendships and building of community. This communication has also resulted in their work becoming more widely known, selling more books, and exposing their work to more people, which they value very much!

I hope you enjoy this piece by Sonya as much as I do and can find ways to use it and her other poems in the work you are doing. There is some language in the video that may not be suitable for some work places. Transcript is after the video.

What Women Deserve by Sonya Renee Taylor

Culturally-diversified bi-racial girl,

with a small diamond nose-ring

and a pretty smile

poses beside the words: “Women deserve better”.

And I almost let her non-threatening grin begin to

infiltrate my psyche

till I read the unlikely small-print at the bottom of the ad. 
‘Sponsored by the US Secretariate for Pro Life Activities

and the Knights of Columbus’

on a bus, in a city with a population of 563,000.

Four teenage mothers on the bus with me.

One latino woman with three children under three,

and no signs of a daddy.

One sixteen year old black girl,

standing in twenty two degree weather

with only a sweater,

and a bookbag,

and a bassinet, with an infant that ain’t even four weeks yet

Tell me that yes: Women do deserve better.

Women deserve better

than public transportation rhetoric

from the same people who won’t give that teenage mother

a ride to the next transit.

Won’t let you talk to their kids about safer sex,

and never had to listen as the door slams

behind the man

who adamantly says “that SHIT ain’t his”

leaving her to wonder how she’ll raise this kid.

Women deserve better than the three hundred dollars

TANF and AFDC will provide that family of three.

Or the six dollar an hour job at KFC

with no benefits for her new baby-

or the college degree she’ll never see,

because you can’t have infants at the university.

Women deserve better

than lip-service paid for by politicians

who have no alternatives to abortion.

Though I’m sure right now

one of their seventeen year old daughters

is sitting in a clinic lobby, sobbing quietly

and anonymously,

praying parents don’t find out-

Or is waiting for mom to pick her up because

research shows that out-of-wedlock childbirth

don’t look good on political polls.

And Sarah ain’t having that.

Women deserve better

than backward governmental policies

that don’t want to pay for welfare for kids,

or healthcare for kids,

or childcare for kids.

Don’t want to pay living wages to working mothers.

Don’t want to make men who only want to be

last night’s lovers

responsible for the semen they lay.

Just like [they] don’t want to pay for shit,

but want to control the woman who’s having it.

Acting outraged at abortion,

when I’m outraged that they want us to believe

that they believe

“Women deserve better”.

The Vatican won’t prosecute pedophile priests,

but I decide I’m not ready for motherhood

and it’s condemnation for me.

These are the same people

who won’t support national condom distribution

to prevent teenage pregnancy—

But women deserve better.

Women deserve better

than back-alley surgeries

that leave our wombs barren and empty.

Deserve better than organizations bearing the name

of land-stealing, racist, rapists

funding million dollar campaigns on subway trains

with no money to give these women—

While balding, middle-aged white men

tell us what to do with our bodies,

while they wage wars and kill other people’s babies.

So maybe,

Women deserve better than propaganda and lies

to get into office.

Propaganda and lies

to get into panties,

to get out of court,

to get out of paying child-support.

Get the fuck out of our decisions

and give us back our VOICE.

Women do deserve better.

Women deserve choice.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What's Up With The Fellas?

cross posted from my Media Justice column

This week has been filled with a whole bunch of people who identify as men acting out! So, I wonder, what’s up with the fellas this week?

My homegirl Barbara sent me this evolving story of Tom MacMaster, a 40-year old heterosexual married man who is a US citizen posing as a young Syrian lesbian woman named Amina Abdallah Aral al Omari on the blog A Gay Girl In Damascus (go search for it because I’m not linking to it!). He creates this persona and person on a blog he establishes and creates fictitious experiences, the most recent being that she was kidnapped. I remember seeing this story come up on my Tumblr page with an image of what is to be Amina Abdallah Aral al Omari saying she has been kidnapped. Shortly after that exchange, it comes to light that he was making it all up. In an interview with the Guardian,
MacMaster speaks on the portrayaland is basically very matter-of-fact regarding his posing. Not only is he posing but he’s also stealing fotos of a woman from Facebook and using them for his story(ies).

His reasoning for doing this was one of selfishness. He wanted to be a lesbian Syrian woman because it was a “challenge” for him as a writer. He wanted to be challenged in the stories he creates. Oh, but folks it gets better! He also created an online relationship with another woman in Canada who alleges the relationship was “serious” and may have been sexual in nature as well. MacMaster says he feels “regret” and talks about how hurt he feels for tricking folks all over the world. He says he “regrets a lot of people feel I led them on.”

Now, who does this man think he is? Why does he think it is alright to do this? Oh, right it’s that little thing called male privilege when it hooks up with white supremacy. This is one example where people create specific messages for specific purposes. An example of how art can hurt other people, communities, and halt/distract social justice movements and agendas worldwide. But we can rest assured “justice will be served” right? WRONG. There are currently NO, I repeat NO legal ramifications for anything that he did/created, even stealing the images of another woman.

What message does this send about the lesbian community? Activists in Syria? Middle Eastern women?

Ok, Syria too far away from home for you? Ok, let’s try the creator of the lesbian news website Lez Get Real who goes by Paula Brooks is
actually a man also posing as a woman online. Bill Graber is a 58 year-old heterosexual married veteran from Ohio, posed as a deaf lesbian!

What’s going on here folks? I’m not going to try and “figure out” each man in these stories, I’m far from figuring folks out these days. Instead I’m wanting to understand how claiming an identity and performing what one thinks that identity includes is so appealing. Let’s be honest, since the internets have existed folks have been posing online. Some folks who are against
Net Neutrality could use these examples as reasons to put boundaries on the internets, however what about the misuse of power in these scenarios? I’m not talking about folks who go onto sites and build avatars that don’t look like them to play games or build community, or folks in chat rooms who are looking for something specific, or to lure others into giving them things or manipulating them. Those instances, of people lying about who they are online, is old news. But this, using the media in a way that is international and reaches multiple people is something that may be a bit new, at least it is new to me!

However, the main issue about why folks may be attracted to such activities, I believe, remains the same: power. Kira Cocran at The Guardian speaks to this in her article
The Weird World of Lesbian Hoaxers where she speaks with several lesbian writers. She reports:

In fact, as the psychotherapist and feminist writer Susie Orbach says, they seem to have been using these lesbian personas as a "double inversion – exploiting the 'illegitimacy' of the person they were impersonating to give themselves legitimacy". In apologising, MacMaster wrote that he had seen "lots of incredibly ignorant and stupid positions repeated on the Middle East" online, and had found that when he, as "a person with a distinctly Anglo name, made comments on the Middle East, the facts I might present were ignored and I was accused of hating America, Jews etc. I wondered idly whether the same ideas presented by someone with a distinctly Arab and female identity would have the same reaction."
And so he took on the persona of someone whose views are so rarely heard or listened to. Iman Qureshi, a Pakistani lesbian writer, sees this as a very distinct form of egotism. "I think the rise of identity politics – a concerted effort to give marginalised people a voice – has made some white heterosexual men a little paranoid or insecure," she says, "so they invent an oppression and position themselves as victims. I would assume MacMaster felt ostracised from his 'own people', as it were, and as a result took on a persona in which he felt he could be heard without criticism. This seems to me to be a hero complex that's really a very smug delusion – 'Look at me, look at how I'm standing up for oppressed people.'"
Both cases, says the feminist writer Beatrix Campbell, can be seen as a portrait of male dominance – men needing to infiltrate discussions where they wouldn't otherwise have an obvious, and certainly not an authoritative, place. She says that when it comes to MacMaster, "he clearly doesn't have a clue about what the politics of identity has tried to reveal, which is, first, that we are not all white men, and second, that white men are always treated as the supreme identity. Here he is, doing the same thing – claiming the virtue of representing a repressed condition, in a repressed part of the world, deciding that he is the person who will give that voice. That is the supreme irony. Here we have a boundaryless white American boy absolutely habituated to a kind of supremacy, and reiterating that supremacy through his blog. It speaks to an omnipotence that doesn't understand its own limits." As Carolin says, he is ignored the first rule of being an ally, which is "don't try to speak for the people you're trying to support".

Then, I am reminded of Tracey Morgan’s
trifling rant, which I’m sure you have read about, has influenced a lot of the writing that has come my way. I’m sure you’ve also read abouthis numerous apologies. He has been working with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and will be meeting with families of LGBTQI youth who have been murdered because of violence in NYC and returning to Nashville to apologize. Now I could go on a tangent about how GLAAD has it’s own mess to clean up, but for now I’ll stick to Morgan. There’s something going on here and I know I need more time to think on it, but I’m wondering if it is connected to attention. Or rather the impression that people are being seen and heard. I know what it feels like to want to be heard and seen and taken seriously in what you do and believe. So, how does this desire/need become something so harmful and manipulative?

Maybe stories like these are why I’m so thankful for types of media by men like the ones below. The first on is a video of a performer, J-Jon. I have no idea who this young man is to be honest and my searches lead me to different folks, and I’m not sure which to link to so if you have information on this performer please share!

This is my first introduction of him and it came from youth and a teacher at a school where I provided an HIV/AIDS education and prevention workshop last week. After speaking to the students for a class period, the teacher shared with us this artists and song title telling us we would really like the video and song. The teacher shared that the students they work with shared it and they thought we would appreciate it as well. It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that I remembered and looked it up. Now I realize why they think we would appreciate this video. Check it out below, there is some language that may not be appropriate for some work places (no transcript, if someone is able to or knows where one is located please share)

I’m sure if I was in another headspace I could provide further discussion and critique of this piece of media. For now, I’m glad I have it as a tool to use when needed. What are your thoughts?

Finally, this weekend I read an article by a Native writer of novels, comics, screenplays and young adult books, Sherman Alexie. If you are not familiar with Alexie’s work may I suggest his latest works
War Dances and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I have not ever taught Alexie’s work, mostly I’ve read it for my own pleasure and passed books around among my friends and folks I’ve had the privilege to mentor. Yet, when I managed a literacy project for youth of Color in east Harlem six years ago, young adult novels became a part of everyday work. There has been a lot of talk around young adult novels and Alexie has responded.

In his Wall Street Journal article titled
Why The Best Kids Books Are Written In Blood Alexie makes an argument for why young adult novels address difficult and challenging topics (i.e. sexual orientation, teenage pregnancy, addiction, sex, homelessness, rape, -isms, war, survival, etc.).

Alexie argues:

When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.
No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.

It is this privilege that I hope my students may be able to discuss when I use this article in my class. How are our ideas of protection ones that are very specific and limited? How do our ideas of protection reach far beyond books, to law enforcement, social expectations, and reproductive justice? Who are we really protecting and why do we think we even have such power?

Power. It’s a topic that has come up a lot in this article, and in this column since it began in 2008. I think this topic is so important. We must realize that we individually and collectively have power. We must also recognize when we use that power over others versus with others. How that power may shift and become oppressive and we must hold ourselves accountable and learn to grow and heal so that it does not happen again. I think some folks, such as the two men above, have yet to really grasp this idea of power and how to use their power in strategic ways that make connections and not stroke their egos. My hope is that we all discover our power and that we choose to use it to create change that will eliminate any form of injustice and oppression.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Felix Pupy Insua: Rumba Documentary

This came across my FB dashboard by a homegirl CH and I fell in love. I'm talking deep, feed my soul, to the core, rocked me love. My favorite quote from this video is:

dancing means health. dancing is the most delicious thing there is.

yesssss! check it out. In Spanish with English subtitles

Man Down & Woman Up: Can We Claim Violence?

cross posted from my Media Justice column

***Trigger Warning for discussions of violence and rape***

I’m going to write something very controversial, something that many folks will not agree with and I’m aware of this and I’d like readers to be aware also. Here goes: I do not completely believe that non-violent societies/communities are the most safe all the time. I write this knowing that violence manifests in complicated and multiple ways. If your idea of violence is just physical pain and issues of safety, please think of violence as larger than that. When people talk about state violence they are often discussing systems of oppression that are institutionalized (not just the death penalty as some may think). Violence comes in many forms and I admit that there are some forms and types of violence that I completely understand and could perhaps see myself becoming a part of or performing if put in certain situations.

For some time I’ve been wondering why people are so shocked and disappointed when women (anybody who identifies as a woman in this world) claim some level of violence (whether it be carrying pepper spray, a weapon (and as Ani DiFranco says “’cause every tool is a weapon if you hold it right”), or learning self-defense and/or martial arts (to name a few). Yes there are folks who think it’s problematic that women and other folks who must protect themselves must do so in our society/world and they talk about what that means and how it can possibly change. I’m not arguing against change, I’m urging us to think about how what some may call “violence” others may call “survival” and even “love,” a form of love so deep and revolutionary that it stems from a desire to survive and be liberated.

This is a topic I’ve discussed often regarding specific topics and people. The conversations around Rihanna’s “Man Down” video and song have inspired part of this post/thought process/desire for larger conversation. If you haven’t seen the video it is below and lyrics to the song can be found here.

The chorus of this song and the interpretations of the lyrics are what have sparked much conversation and debate. Some lyrics include:

Oh mama mama mama
I just shot a man down
In central station
In front of a big ol crowd
Oh Why Oh Why
Oh mama mama mama
I just shot a man down
In central station

Viewers and listenters are encouraged to connect these lyrics and Rihanna’s actions to revenge for a rape that occurred that we see in the video. Part of me wants to remind folks that Rihanna is not singing anything new, even for her. Can we think back to her first album Music of the Sun and her song “There’s A Thug In My Life” where she sings:

There's a thug in my life, how'ma gonna tell my mama
She gonna say it ain't right, but he's so good to me
There's a thug in my life, and its gonna cause crazy drama
I'm gonna see him tonight, I'm gonna give him everything

Here she’s invoking talking/telling her mother, just like in the “Man Down” song. She focuses on disappointing her mother, talking about how she is making decisions based on what she feels and knows is best for her. This is something that we often don’t provide or allow youth to do, we, adults, think we know “better” what is good for a young person than that young person knows for themselves. This goes totally against my positive youth development philosophy as well as my support of harm reductionist approaches. I digress.

Lots of talk about the Rihanna video from some great places, that if you want to read more I would suggest the Crunk Feminist Collective post Man Down: On Rihanna, Rape, and Violence (read the comments too!), Code Red has a great discussion on Caribbean representations and Rihanna’s video between Bajan and Jamaican communities.

Yet, I want us to have large conversations about violence. I’ve discussed in the past women of Color claiming a certain level of violence, something a student of mine from years ago mentioned and has stayed with me all this time. I spoke about this specifically with the Ivy Queen song “La Abusadora” which you can listen to here (it’s in Spanish only).

What about non-consensual violence such as beating and hitting an attacker, self-defense, in some forms of discipline, for protection, to cope, and to end colonial legacies? I want to be clear here, there are violent interactions that are consensual and I’ll talk about those in a moment. These examples above I’m thinking about in larger ways, not just issues of safety in our communities, also in public health, spiritual growth, liberatory goals, nationalists agendas, and freedom in general.

You see I struggle with this often. I appreciate the exchange within my community and online about this topic. There are parts of me that know when someone is murdered or harmed in particular ways that has an impact on a community in very specific ways. At the same time I understand why being violent in certain ways (I’m thinking a rape victim/survivor hurting/killing their rapist) can also create a safe( r) space. Then I struggle again with how we can build communities with that person/rapist who has violated other people in such a way. I am not comfortable with this being so dichotomous: either you are anti-violence or pro-violence. I think it is more complicated.

You see, I don’t think all forms of violence are forms of abuse. My homegirl Marie shared with me on twitter when I asked about violence always being a form of abuse her experience in her Krav class (a form of hand-to-hand combat/martial arts). That “I'm learning how to defend myself in class. Violence in a controlled environment is necessary in order to learn.” Controlling violence is something that is new for me as well to think about in this particular way. For example, when we discussed violence in my class last semester and then I asked students to write about it on their final exam, many of the men in the class wrote about boxing and a way to end boxing to have less violence communities. I was surprised that they thought this way, and realized we didn’t talk about “controlled violence” which is what boxing as a sport is in our society.

So, why don’t we believe youth and women and other folks who claim a certain level of violence to control that violence? To only use that violence when it is really needed (whenever that may be) but when they feel unsafe, need to protect themselves, or liberating their land, family, home, country? I think a lot of this idea lies in the “what if” fear. What if someone else was hurt? What if a melee occurs? What if people misuse that form of violence?

I think those questions are valid. I think they are also connected to ideas of power and who can claim power and when. I really appreciate Sofia Quintero’s (aka Black Artemis) list of “revenge films” to watch and discuss, which was also inspired by the Rihanna “Man Down” video. If you have not seen her last suggestion, the Descent, I’d like to hear about your impressions and thoughts about Rosario Dawson’s characters decision and actions. More importantly I’d like to hear folks talk more about pushing this conversation forward versus debunking it quickly.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why I Don't Like Bridesmaids

cross posted from my Media Justice column


At first I wasn’t going to dish out any money for any movie that wasn’t 100% on my “to see” list, and
Bridesmaids wasn’t! Then I had dinner with two great friends last week and one shared how amazing she thought Bridesmaids was. Then I remember reading this post on RH Reality Check on why so many folks enjoyed the film.

Then this same homegirl gifted me two free movie tickets and I told her I’d used them to watch Bridesmaids. And I did. I dragged my partner in crime with me to an almost sold out screening on Memorial Day Monday at 8pm. We were seated in the third row from the screen and I was prepared to laugh. Prior to going to the film, I had called my sister who had shared that she wanted to see it. She too echoed my friend’s enjoyment of the film.

Ten minutes into watching preview trailers and I already realize that I may have made the wrong decision to see the film. The only film trailers for upcoming films that had any people of Color is
The Help, a story about Black maids in the US South. It stars an amazing cast of Black female actors, but the narrative still revolves around a racially White woman sharing their stories. I was so tired by the time that preview was over, I threw popcorn at the screen!

Let me be clear what my main issues are with this film: Casting, character development, stereotypes, and issues of class that are represented.

So I don’t really mind who was cast in this film, but how the casting was decided. This film falls into that space that Sex In The City does: being centered in a metropolitan area (in this case Maya Rudolph’s character, Lillian, aka the bride, lives in Chicago) but there are only three people of Color with speaking roles. Lillian’s father is played by SNL legend Franklyn Ajaye (yeah I called him a living legend!), a Black man and is partnered with a racially White woman to demonstrate Lillian’s multiracial identity (and Rudolph’s background). Her father speaks, but only says the same thing: mention the cost of the wedding and how his budget is not very large. Her mother doesn’t speak. Terry Crews is also in the film during a cameo with a speaking role where he yells at the main characters for not paying $12 to join his exercise program in the park and instead do his workout from behind a tree.

So Lillian has no friends of Color. The only people in the film of Color we are lead to believe are her father’s family members and they are sprinkled throughout the film in non-speaking roles. To be fair, I knew that this would be an issue; my friend had mentioned it to me. However, after watching the trailer for The Help, and then sitting through 2 hours of this ish, I about had it with the triflin’ casting!

The character development was less than exceptional. Yes the main focus was Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian. However, there were several other characters that were (more) complicated, layered, interesting and could have been provided with fantastic stories. For example, the married mother of 3 boys Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the newly married, was a virgin until marriage, Becca (Ellie Kemper), and the love interest of Annie, Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). These characters had speaking roles and supported the overall progression of the film, yet I was left wonder, how did they come into the story and what happened to them?

There are several racialized jokes as well. One which discusses a tall Black man who stands behind Annie while speaking to Megan (Melissa McCarthy) at the engagement party asking if he (Hugh Dane) is Annie’s “mistaken” partner. As the crowd laughs at the idea of he being partnered with her or the idea that she once again has to admit she is single, Megan says something about having to “climb him” which is very sexual in nature. So far we have seen angry Black men in Terry Crews, over-sexualized Black men in this character, and older Black patriarch that is not happy to spend money.

Other racialized jokes that I choose to remember (I believe I ignored many of them to cope) were during a drive by when Annie was attempting to get Officer Rhodes attention, she passes by him playing what I’ve heard referenced as “shoot a cop Hip-Hop” blasting from her windows as she has lowered the back of the driver’s seat and rolls slowly past him. Thank goodness he ignores her! This made me like his character more.

And then there are the fat jokes. Megan (Melissa McCarthy) plays Lillian’s sister-in-law and her gender expression is one that in our US society is labeled as “stereotypically masculine.” There is nothing wrong with this, let’s be clear. The problem is in having people laugh at what she does and says because the joke is that she is doing and saying these things while being fat. The audience is given permission to (continue to) laugh at fat people for existing. Lillian is comfortable in who she is and her character is what some may call “rough around the edges” in that she says what’s on her mind without filtering. I find this characteristic refreshing, personally. Perhaps the audience is expected to laugh at a fat person who has confidence and self-esteem? When Megan begins to hit on a man, who she thinks is an Air Marshall on the plane, the audience roars. They laugh all over again when we see them engaging in foreplay using food, wow how unpredictable and unique!

Not so ironically, Megan becomes the one character that has the most stability and that connects to Annie when she finds herself unemployed, living at home with her mother, in a fight with Lillian, and depressed. It is Megan who shows support for Annie, who gives her some “tough love” and shares her own story of overcoming challenges. The one character the audience is supposed to laugh at is the same character that is the most present.

Then there is the lover of Annie, an ex-partner who she has decided to remain in a sexual relationship with, a character we are expected to not appreciate. Surprisingly, I found his character one of the most honest. One of the reasons we as the audience (and as women?), are supposed to dislike him is because he is “using” Annie for his own sexual satisfaction. This may be true from some perspectives, especially with the scenes of them in bed we see, yet I believe here we have a very real scenario where people are trying to create a situation to enjoy one another and the woman is demonstrated to be wanting something more/else, thus having a hidden agenda. Yet, because many of the viewers are expected to identify with Annie, we are to not like her lover, when in reality he is being honest with what he is interested in maintaining with her. It is Annie who must be honest with herself and realize this is not the relationship she desires. Instead, we see a stereotypical representation of a man “getting over” on a woman because he is asking for what he wants. Why can’t we see a film with women asking for what they want?! Why do we have to knock people who attempt to have
polyamorous and open relationships? How is this an attempt to socialize us to believe monogamy is the best and only form of relationships?

Finally, the class jokes are front, center, and constant. There are many class representations in this film with Annie being at one end (making no money) and Helen (Rose Byrne), one of Lillian’s bridesmaids, being at the other end living a wealthy life. We watch as Lillian decides to have the planning process of the bachelorette parties go from Annie to Helen. We are lead to believe that all of the other characters live middle-class lives that allow them to go on a trip to Las Vegas without having to budget or plan as Annie does.

Aside from having Lillian’s father complain about the cost of the wedding, we also watch as Helen makes very expensive choices for the wedding. She takes Annie’s idea of having a French-themed party for Lillian and claims all the glory. Then she gives to Lillian as a gift a trip to Paris, followed by hooking her up with a French wedding dress designer. This is when Annie erupts. Much like I have experienced (and others in similar situations), when people in certain situations of power and authority, claim the ideas of people who do not have as much power as their own, we get mad.

At the end of the film Lillian is overwhelmed and realizes that Helen has planned the entire wedding considering only her own personal budget, and has an expensive event planned. She cries to Annie as they both bond again and we watch as Helen’s event planning snowballs into a final performance by Wilson Phillips (Lillian’s favorite musical group).

As my homeboy Jerome had shared, he heard this film defined as “Homance” (a play on the term “Bromance”) and asked “on what planet would that be appropriate?” I have to agree. This is one of the reasons the first thing I said to R was “I think I’ve aged out of this type of humor.” After some conversation on the film and what parts we enjoyed the most, R agreed this film is more about class than just a comedy. He said: “some people play too rough, others play too rich.” That exactly sums up this film, and had it had this approach it may have been a completely different film!

I know I’m in the minority in not enjoying this film. And I get that this is a film that makes a lot of people smile and enjoy themselves. It’s the same formula that we see in films focused on men and masked with characters that are women. I’m just over people being happy with the minimum that we are given and expected to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#ComeCorrect Spring Fever Blog Carnival!!!

“When all else fails, masturbate like its May,” ~La Bianca

You can’t describe it but you know it when it’s here. You notice the sun warming the air and your skin flushes. Hot. Unrelenting. This heat is brazen. It slides beneath the hem of your shirt and strokes the skin of your thighs. It fingers the zipper of your jeans. It begs, cajoles, climbs into your mouth and between your teeth and trembles there.

Spring fever is here. And there is no better time to #ComeCorrect

Bring it on!

If you are a black gyrl who knows black feminist sex is the best sex EVER…..if you’re a Puerto Rican mami who believes radical women of color cum harder….if you’re an Asian boi who loves bondage…if you’re an activist building an archive of intimate relations in rural communities….if you’re a professor teaching a class on Sexting While Black……

Bring. It. On.

The way it works: Write where you live, but send in a link to your post (and/or HTML or embed URLs if it’s a vLog or image) by midnight on Monday, June 21, 2011 to (just in time for summer!).

There are ZERO restrictions. Previously published posts, images, and videos are all welcome! The organizers are cis women of color and we strongly encourage contributions from trans and cis women, nonbinary and trans* feminists of color.

Don’t hold back—this carnival is so very Not Safe For Work (#NSFW). We want it to burn the glossy off your monitor.

The #ComeCorrect Spring Fever carnival will be hosted across the interwebs @:

Come Correct
Crunk Feminists Collective
Latino Sexuality (that's HERE!)
Mamita Mala
Manifest Freedom
New Model Minority
Nunez Daughter
Pretty Magnolia

Quirky Black Girls
The WOC Survival Kit

If you’re interested in hosting, shoot us an email. If you’d like to curate the next one, let us know!

Questions, comments? Hit up or ask online at

Your #ComeCorrect curators this #FeverSeason are:

Pretty Magnolia

The WOC Survival Kit







[Image Credit: Posted by Rocka-Bye Baby! / Reblogged byCome Correct]