Montag, 6. Juli 2015

On Rihanna, White Feminism and Racism

Why? Because I'm another woman, and everyone knows women are sweet and helpful with each other? Because we're all sisters under the Goddess?” (Fanche in Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce)
So the internet exploded once more, this time over Rihanna's video to Bitch Better Have My Money. Especially the White Feminist internet. Everybody's talking about it, so let's do so.

And yes, I will start with the white woman in the video so we can get that out of the way. Her portrayal follows the dominant discourse on white women. She's very white, blonde, pretty, thin, rich. She's vain and shallow. She's also the Innocent Victim embodied by her skin colour and social status. It's easy to feel with her, because we have a lifetime worth of experience telling us that she's the kind of women we should have empathy with. She also displays the common white women racism of simply ignoring the existence of women of colour. And she gets stuffed in the refrigerator.

As John Fiske notes in Understanding Popular Culture, items of popular culture only become popular if the “contain resources out of which the people can make their own meanings of their social relations and identities”. As a white woman, the video offers me nothing. The discourse on white women is not deconstructed. She still only exists as an extension of the white man, is used to hurt him, and when he apparently doesn't want her back, she can be discarded. In other words, it's Monday.

But it's also OK, because not everything has to be about me. And even though I want a bigger share of the popular culture cake for white women, I don't want it at the expense of women of colour. I want a piece of the dudes' share. Rihanna and other women of colour don't have to use their platform to do white women's work. That's our job. When did we ever lend a hand to women of colour? To the contrary, our feminist history is full of very, very racist individuals and could you please look the other way while we celebrate their other achievements?
But what about the discourse of black women, on women of colour? Reading my Twitter feed, Rihanna struck a nerve with them. Apparently, whatever there isn't in the video for me, it's in there for them. I'm not going to do a thorough analysis of the discourse on black women. Not because I don't care, but because I'm not qualified. Please read this excellent essay on Media Diversified on the subject. Obviously, Rihanna's persona isn't taking shit from white people in the video. They wrong her, she gets them. She doesn't need a guy to avenge her, she doesn't ask or beg. I can imagine how this can feel. It's the feeling you get when your heroine kicks ass.
EDIT: Here's another post on the construction of black women by Black Girl Dangerous.

Quite obviously, there's more than one discourse going on here. There always is. No cultural text will ever be perfect. Some oppressive discourses are challenged, others are reinforced. And, really, what did you expect from a product of consumerist mass culture? It's not a medium know for it's revolutionary tendencies. As I said, in terms of the discourse on white women, it's Monday. It's everywhere. Which gets me to the small herd of elephants in the room: the thinly veiled racism of white feminist critics.
Yes, I'm talking about you, Helen Lewis and friends. Helen Lewis who literally had to drop whatever she was doing to yell at Rihanna for a while. She tells Rhinna that torturing rich white women isn't very feminist. Because what is and isn't feminist is decided by White Feminists. Because suddenly there's this mythical unified entity called "women" again. What you're doing to one of them, you're doing to all of them. Provided the one of them is white. As if Judith Butler's analysis that "gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts and ... intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual and regional modalities of discursively constructed identities" never happened. We're all in this together, right? Except when we aren't.
The problem isn't criticising Rihanna's video. The problem is that black women are the only ones who are ever being criticised. For things that are a dime a dozen in popular culture. They are held to a different standard than rich white women. Helen Lewis cries about Rihanna not protecting white womanhood. About Rihanna not being perfect. But here's what Helen Lewis had to say about Lena Dunham not being perfect:
 The point is not that this criticism is unfounded but that, as ever, women are held to a standard that men are not. From some of the commentary, you would think that because Dunham wrote and directed the show, she should have been able to dismantle the entire racist, sexist structure of the US media single-handedly.
 Such a sense of proportion. So many excuses. So much understanding! Funny, when Lena Dunham writes and directs an entire show that erases women of colour, a form of violence many people don't even realise exists, it's something that can be excused on accounts of nobody's perfect. But Rihanna, now Rihanna should be able to do so, right? By the way, that article is about Dunham's autobiography. Not a word on Dunham's transgressions towards her younger sister and the further violation of her by publishing those accounts.

Is there any famous white woman Helen Lewis will not excuse? I don't know. I've found this exchange on Twitter about the MTV video awards. Here's her lauding Patricia Arquette without even mentioning her huge fuck up, handwaving objections from women of colour. I cannot find her calling out Taylor Swift, or Miley Cyrus, or Lily Allan, or Katy Perry. Never did their racism, their appropriation of black women's music, life, and bodies bother Lewis' enough to even spill a single Tweet about it, let alone a lengthy article in the New Statesman. And Helen Lewis isn't alone, she's just one of a score of professional White Feminists who really, really, really needed to tell the black woman that she's wrong. And that's why the critique of Rihanna's video is racist. Not because you don't like the lady in the refrigerator. Because White Feminism never ever calls out other white women. They are excused, protected, defended. The black woman is thrown down the bear pit at the slightest sign of being less than perfect.

Dear White Feminists, if you would like black women to consider your tender feelings when they're producing cultural texts, I have some suggestions for you:

1. Speak up. Do your fucking job and throw some intersectional feminist critique at the next pretty white woman who erases women of colour, who appropriates their work, who uses their bodies as props. Maybe if black feminists saw you doing that once in a while, they would be willing to discuss the intersectional construction of womanhood with you.

2. Shut up. Quite obviously you don't know about the discourses on black women. Because if you did you'd probably understand that you're simply not very qualified to analyse them beyond the most rudimentary levels. It's OK to leave that critique to people who are qualified. Here's a hint: they're not white. Use your clout to give them a platform.

3. Learn something. I know, those matters are complicated, discourses intersect, they change. But you're being paid to be cultural critics. It's your job, ok?

Sonntag, 25. Mai 2014

The exceptional woman

I've always tried to counter mainstream gender-essentialism with our daughters.
"Girls like pink!" But my favourite colour is blue.
"Star Wars is for boys!" Hey, I like Star Wars. Your dad doesn't have a clue, though.
"Girls don't want to be knights!" Hun, there's mummy's longsword mounted on the wall.
"Dad can fix that!" Let me look at it, after all it's my toolbox.
One day in one of these conversations my eldest said: "It's OK mum. I understand. You're the exception. You can go on liking dragons and swords and blue."
Suddenly I'd been turned from the feminist rolemodel into a freaky exception. Gender essentialism was saved.
The exceptional woman is a well-know phenomenon that has a tendency to occur especially in more conservative circles. It's what gave us Margret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. I guess the point could be made for the exceptional different minority member as well, but I don't want to talk out of my ass here.

The exceptional woman is well liked for a number of reasons. First of all she never threatens the Status Quo. The majority has long accepted that women can be prime ministers and such, only that they are very rare like those utter geniuses. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Margret Thatcher. Only that the guy-geniuses are outstanding among all humanity while the outstanding women are only outstanding among women while doing things many men do and have done and will do. There's no talk about equal representation when it's clear that only the top 0.000000000001% of women are suitable for something 5% of guys can do, right?

Secondly, the exceptional woman doesn't rock the boat. She doesn't question power dynamics and structures, she simply finds her place in them and many men are happy to make room for her because "she's one of the boys".

Thirdly, she serves as a convenient fig-leaf. How can you claim the Republicans have a problem with racism and misogyny if they have Condoleezza Rice and Sarah Palin? The fact that all the women who gained power within conservative structures did so by decidedly NOT caring about the issues faced by women serves as further evidence that those problems don't exist instead of evidence that you cannot get ahead in politics if you do.

This might also explain the relative lack of exceptional women in more progressive circles. Those groups are ripe with misogynists (and racists, homophobes, transphobes), so when women who are progressive because they care about women's rights are trying to get ahead with a feminist agenda the room the conservative woman gets suddenly disappears. After all, making room for this clearly not so exceptional woman would be tokenism, right?

Freitag, 10. Januar 2014

Ihr Familienbild kotzt mich an

Disclaimer: Dies ist eine Hetenmeinung.
Ich will damit überhaupt nicht so tun, als würde die aktuelle Diskussion um #idpet mich im gleichen Maße betreffen wie die LGBTQ community. Deshalb schreibe ich auch nicht über deren Part, sondern über das, was wir Heteros an dieser Stelle meiner Meinung nach mal laut und deutlich den PolitikerInnen sagen sollten:
Ihr Familienbild kotzt mich an!
Nun lebe ich in etwa in dem, was von der katholischen Kirche bis zur FDP als "ideale Familie" bezeichnet: hetero, verheiratet, zwei Kinder. Fehlen nur noch Eigenheim und Hund um als vollwertige Menschen anerkannt zu werden und es lässt meinen Blutdruck gewaltig steigen, wenn dann Politiker, Polemiker und andere Arschlöcher auf uns und unseresgleichen zeigen als "Argument" warum es OK ist andere zu diskriminieren.
Meine Familie ist NICHT ihr Spielball, Herr Rülke.
Wir müssen NICHT vor "homosexueller Indoktination" geschützt werden, Herr Nägle.
Sie sprechen NICHT für uns.
Zu meiner Familie, zu den wichtigsten Menschen in meinem Leben gehören auch nicht-heterosexuelle Menschen. Jeder Angriff auf sie ist ein Angriff auf meine Familie. Sie ist auch ein Angriff auf meine Lebenswirklichkeit, auch wenn ich an der Oberfläche so schön in ihr Bild passe.
Ich habe keine Ahnung welche sexuelle Orientierung meine Kinder haben. Ich bin nicht so blöde anzunehmen sie wären hetero nur weil ich das bin oder weil das am wahrscheinlichsten ist.
Ich bin ja auch nicht davon ausgegangen dass sie Rechtshänder sind als sie noch nicht koordiniert greifen konnten.
Deshalb möchte ich, dass meine Kinder in einem tatsächlich geschützten Raum aufwachsen in dem sie ganz selbstverständlich lieben dürfen wen sie lieben, in dem sie sich nicht fürchten müssen, dass etwas nicht mit ihnen stimmt weil sie anders sind, in dem sie erfahren dass sie nicht alleine sind.
Und je mehr Kommentare man sich von Eltern bei der #idpet Petition durchliest, desdo offensichtlicher wird es, dass Schule eben dieser Raum sein MUSS, denn leider haben auch homophobe Arschlöcher LGBTQ Kinder und nicht nur tolerante Bäumeknutscher wie ich.

So, und wenn ihr das jetzt lest und nickt, dann TUT was. Dann sagt ganz klar: Nicht im Namen meiner Familie!
Dies ist kein Konflikt zwischen Hetero-Familien und LGBTQ-Menschen. Dies ist ein Konflikt zwischen uns und den homophoben Arschöchern.

Montag, 30. Dezember 2013

Gender Bender Shmender Lavender

Or: I simply don't understand it.
I admit, i grew up during a time when clothes were made for children. So, upon having them myself I still don't understand the girl-boy rules. Not really.
As you probably know, I do machine embroidery and happily make shirts not only for my kids, but also for my friend's three boys.
So, this is this year's christmas collection:
For the youngest one, age 4
And I admit I happily made one with purple kitties for the gender non-conforming middle child. That kid rocks. He doesn't give a shit about what other people say. He is a sparkling princess for carnival and loves Hello Kitty:
Isn't it cute?
Now, the oldest one is more "traditionally boyish", if by "traditional" you mean fashion that didn't exist 20 years ago. And I chose a combination of designs and colours that simply rocks:
I fell in love with it. Sometimes what you plan in your head doesn't quite turn out the way you thought it would. And sometimes it's better than you ever imagined. This one is the latter case. I was like "I want this soooo much. I would so much love to make it for my children, but probably they wouldn't wear it anyway and then those hours would be wasted".
There's nothing cute about this. It's fierce and bold. 
But I thought it would be worth asking.
Well, if the shirt wasn't blue. And with purple. And pink...
My daughter didn't even allow me to wash out the chalk and the hoop burn.
New favourite shirt. And baby rabbit.
 I still don't understand the rules, but I'm glad she has a new favourite shirt!

Samstag, 23. November 2013

Froebelsterne, for rq

OK, let's get started without me trying to find a nice intro.

1. You need 4 paper strips
They need to be fairly long: 30cm for 1 cm width, 50-60 cm for 2 cm width. Look for quilling of paper ball supplies. They turn out nicest when both sides are coloured, but for the tutorial I used paper with different sides.

2. Fold in half

 3. Cut a point at the end for easier insertion later

4. Hold one strip in your hand, the closed side to the left, "hang" another one over it

5. Turn counter-clockwise, hang the next strip over it.

6. Now with your last strip, go over the right strip and in between the left.

7. Pull tight and flip around so the side that was previously on the bottom is on top now. The strip pointing upward should be on the right.

8. Fold the upper strip down.

9. Fold the other strips clockwise.

10. For the last one you need to insert it in the little "pocket" formed by the first strip and pull tight.

11. Now start with the left hand strip on the top. Fold 90°. Make sure you fold in the right direction.

12. Fold downward, but make sure to leave a little gap.

13. Fold inward to make a point.

14. Now you need to insert the strip under the loop again. This works best if you fold the point backwards a bit.

15. It should look like this now. Turn 90° counterclockwise, rinse and repeat. By turning ityou can always work in the same pattern.

16. Once you folded all 4 sides, flip over again and repeat on this side.

17. When you're done it should look like this.

18. Take the lower strip thats pointing to the right and fold it to the left. This is just to get it out of the way.

19. Take the right strip pointing upward and fold down. Now fold 90° BUT don't make a sharp edge, just pinch it at the centre.

20. Now make a loop and insert the strip under the strip you folded out of the way. You can see which side needs to face upward by the pattern

21. Pull tight, but not too tight so a point forms.

22. Turn clockwise, rinse and repeat. You can see that the strip actually leaves through the point.

23. Once you're done with one side, flip around. You can also leave it like this and stick on a parcel or card. If you go on you need to work in your hand.

24. Done! Almost. Cut away the remaining paper. Traditionally you cut close to the point, but I think it's nicer when working with 2 colours to leave a small margin.

25. You can also make a shooting star. If you've made it flat you can use it as a name tag or place card and write the name on the longer strips.

26. And if you go over the top like me you can make a nice decoration.

Dienstag, 11. Juni 2013

Nice, white, colourblind people

Yesterday in written expression we had to describe a photo.
As detailled as possible. Including the colour of the windowframe the woman was standing in front of.
Something nobody* thought worth mentioning: a white woman.
Because duh, if I** say "woman", of course that means "white woman", right?
If she'd had the audacity to be black I'd surely have mentioned, right?
Because I'm colourblind. I don't see white....

*well, except me.
**Not actually me

Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

No, the important things about women ain't their looks....

Don't know how informed you are about German news, but you might have heard that we had a trio of murdering fascists roaming the country for more than 10 years who killed people of Turkish and Greek origin.
The trail against the one surviving member, Beate Zschäpe and some of their accomplices started last week after it had been postponed. Postponing was necessary because there is, of course, a big interest in the media about the trial and not enough space for all the journalists to sit. After all, this is said to be the most important trial in Germany in recent history.
So, what did the media tell us about that first day of trial?

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
Beate Zschäpe, die mit dem Rücken zu den Fotografen steht, ihren Kopf in den Nacken wirft und ihre langen rot-schwarzen Haare schüttelt und schüttelt, als wäre sie auf einer Strandpromenade und nicht in einem Gerichtssaal.
Beate Zschäpe, who has her back turned towards the fotographers, who throws her head back and who shakes and shakes her red-black hair as if she were o a beach promenande and not in a courtroom.

Süddeutsche Zeitung:
  Sie trägt einen schwarzen Hosenanzug und eine helle Bluse. Ihr Aussehen sorgt für Aufsehen. "Mit Ohrringen und Stöckelschuhen ist sie gekommen", schreibt die türkische Zeitung Hürriyet.
She's wearing a black suit and a light blouse. Her look draws attention: "She came with earrings and in high heels" writes the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet

And so on, and so on.
Rejoice ladies. Even when you're a murderous fascist terrorist still nothing will be as important as your looks...