The idea of Black women being called on to impart their essence into a white woman in order for her to become empowered is laughable, when you consider the fact that actual Black women are systematically disempowered in American society. Yet when viewed in the context of the social construction of an essential Black culture, and white folks’ subsequent appropriation of said culture, it makes total sense. Why not pick and choose the most desirable aspects of what you’ve created and incorporate them into your own identity? Why not then shame the people whose culture you stole, reconstructed, and marketed back to them for engaging in those same activities? Why worry about the historical significance of your actions when nothing other than the protests of those occupying a lesser social status compel you to do so?[read more at Bitch Magazine.]
My sexual coming-of-age took place in the 90s, the decade in which I spent the entirety of my teenage years. It was a time when blatantly sexual R&B/slow jams were really coming into their prime, and thus made up a large portion of what whet my aural appetite. It was also a time when I wore high heeled jelly sandals, miniskirts, low cut tops, and carried a box purse. But, we don’t need to explore my teenage hoochieness right now. Let’s just say I took the outfits in “Freak Like Me” way too personally.
So the other night I was tipsy on kombucha (because I’m an incredible lightweight) and my vagina was feeling a kind of way like it does when I ingest any amount of alcohol. I started messing around on Twitter, like I do pretty much every night (I’m @misstashafierce, FYI), and since I was already talking about the state of my vagina and how nothing was entering it that night, I decided to focus my frustrated sexual energies on going to YouTube and finding all the old 90s sex jams that I remembered being embarrassingly titillated by as a teen. After tweeting select freaky lyrics as I went through each video, I realized I really just needed to take y’all back in the day and share my favorites with you. Let’s break it down.
Freak Me – Silk (1992)
I was 12 when this came out, so my scandalization apparently started pre-teen. But let’s be real, I was thinking about this shit for a while prior to that. I mean, I think I was like, 10 when I found my mom’s Playgirl mag under her bed, which was simultaneously exciting and horrifying. I don’t think I ever saw this video at the time, but what really stands out for me now that I’m watching this, other than their horrible hair, is how super intense this dude in the striped shirt is about freaking me tonight. It looks like it’s causing him real physical pain. I’m thinking maybe he should wear something other than a mock turtleneck because it might be making it hard for him to sing.
Knockin’ Da Boots – H-Town (1993)
“New video by HAYCH-Town”. Damn British people.
First off, if we’re about to have sex and the dude gets undressed but seriously leaves on his boots, he’s lost already. So I hope Luc is joking about two boots coming together. Cross Colours is featured heavily in this video, or what looks like Cross Colours. I won’t front, I wore CXC back then, but since I don’t now, I can still shade from the future. And where are these guys singing from? A half torn down shanty next to an abandoned baseball field? Also, not digging on getting videotaped in a closet by dude who looks like Kid while being on a date/having sex with every other member of H-Town. Do they always date as a team? At some point he looks like he’s wiping a baseball bat off with a towel and I really don’t want to know where that’s been. And now every time I see that boot hanging I think of that Justin Timberlake/Andy Samberg video “3-Way (The Golden Rule)“.
Touch It – Monifah (1998)
I picked this video rather than the official video because the official didn’t have all the dirty words and these dirty words are VERY IMPORTANT. Plus I like her hair and outfit better in this one. And really, the video doesn’t matter–it’s the WORDS.
The important parts are when she says “I’ma show your body what your tongue is doing wrong”, and “This motion has got me wet like crazy/I want you more and more when you call my name and spank me”. In the actual song she also says “do you really wanna touch it/do you really want to FUCK with me tonight” which is also important but I couldn’t find that in any of the videos on YouTube. To understand why I spend 30 minutes trying to find the dirty version of this, let’s put this in the context of my sexual development. This song came out right as I started actually having sex. 2 years prior to this I had been introduced to my mentor, Lil’ Kim, and been taught the ways of the demanding of cunnilingus, which I implemented as soon as I began giving it up. That then led me to discover the joys of being “wet like crazy” while someone “calls my name and spanks me”. Basically. So since that message was heavily reinforced here, this song was on repeat for quite some time.
Freak Like Me – Adina Howard (1994)
Pretty much everyone I know loves this song. It’s got Adina in PVC tap shorts rolling around on what are probably supposed to be yellow satin sheets but what looks vaguely like a tarp, chicks droppin’ it like it’s hot in satin bathing suits with knee pads on, a few girls with those SWV fingernails, and the obligatory house party scene. There really ain’t no party like a West Coast party and that’s basically what would happen, down to doing the reverse cowgirl on top of a dude in a large drinking fountain. Or maybe that last part was just me, that one time.
Doin’ It – LL Cool J (1996)
Now, I had already wanted LL to help me with my vagina before this song, but when I heard these lyrics it turned into a primal need. The video cracks me up, though. Let me try to briefly recap my amusement for you:
0:08 Are you seriously at a party talking dirty to your girl in a huge crowd?
0:35 She’s getting out of her car, on the phone, and he’s muttering to himself.
0:36 Lip licking, always.
0:57 So the girl is laying in front of him, how is he still talking to her on the phone?
0:60 I can get with “I need a roughneck nigga mandingo in the sack who ain’t afraid to pull my hair and spank me from the back” though.
1:15 WHY IS HE IN THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM??
1:40 I really don’t think they let food into those peep show booths. And having been in one, I don’t think it’s sanitary at-fucking-all to eat in there. In fact, I KNOW it’s not.
2:57 I am not rubbing up on a dude who would rather finish his Frostee than fuck with me.
I guess, LL. I’d still hit it, though.
Too Close – Next (1997)
When this came out I was 17, and believe it or not, it took me a while to realize EXACTLY what they were talking about. When I finally did, I spontaneously shouted “THIS IS ABOUT BONERS!” to the embarrassment of friends and bystanders.
After that I just marvelled at how sneaky they were. “Making it HARD for me! How clever! I feel a little poke comin’ through! This is genius!” I hear it now and I’m like, this was pretty thinly veiled and it’s kind of sad that despite how sex-focused I was I didn’t get it immediately.
Red Light Special – TLC (1994)
I love this video. Even all these years later it’s actually not corny, unlike most of the rest, so I’ll use this to bring us home.
Let me just say Left Eye is fucking adorable in this, while simultaneously being badass, as she did so well. I love the lyrics, like I could just sing this to a dude and it would pretty much sum up what we were about to do. “I’ll let you go further if you take the southern route”, “I like ’em attentive and I like ’em in control”… Except I don’t sing shit to dudes, so maybe I’d recite it or something. The one thing that annoys me is the guitar playing white dude with the hair. I’m trying to be in a sexy mood and his whole butt rocker gig there is ruining it.
I just wish more clothes had come off before Left Eye threw the damn table over.
That’s enough for now, I need to go change unders. Here’s a few runners-up I didn’t include because this is already hella long. If you can think of more I missed, let me know your favorite 90s sex jams in the comments.
When I was a kid I would watch the winter and summer Olympics with rapt attention every 4 years, religiously. Then I got married and stopped, I think because my ex-husband wasn’t into sports so I had no one to watch it with, or maybe I decided I was too cool for the Olympics now that I was 21 and could drink. Who knows. Honestly, I don’t really like most sports either, but I don’t really consider the Olympics sports in the way pro teams in the U.S. are sports to me, because the events aren’t as boring and the athletes don’t make like, $10 million a year. It’s just more exciting because I only see it once every 4 years, whereas shit like football is on way too much. And when I’m watching football I always get annoyed that so-and-so is all idolized but beats his girlfriend, or what’s-his-name gets models pregnant and dumps them. In 2008, I heard about the Michael Phelps eight gold medal quest at the Beijing Olympics so I kept an eye on that online, low pro like so my husband didn’t know I was a nerd for stuff like that. But I didn’t actually watch all the races, and I didn’t watch any of the other competitions I used to love as a kid.
This year, though, I have jack shit else to do since I’m home taking care of my mom (who is recovering from surgery), so I’m once again able to go for the gold in competitive “yelling at Bob Costas”. Pretty much everyone I know is annoyed by some aspect of NBC’s coverage of the Games, and I’m also someone I know who’s annoyed. Not so much because they don’t play the events live, since being on the West Coast I’m used to watching things hours behind everyone else and having everything spoiled by my Twitter timeline. What’s elicited my best “yelling at Bob Costas” performances have been the ways NBC (and the media in general, actually) spends all this time glorifying athletes and then craps all over them when they don’t “measure up”. Oh right, and that whole racism thing they do.
Regarding the former issue, there was their treatment of Michael Phelps. When he won silver in the 200m fly, NBC was like “OMG! PHELPS’ LONDON NIGHTMARE, WILL HE EVER RECOVER FROM THIS??” Okay yeah, he didn’t win gold in this event and he usually does. And yeah, he didn’t place in his very first race. But “nightmare”? Really? I mean, he just won a silver. There are a shit ton of countries that have never won any medal, out of all their athletes. Some countries are happy to just be able to compete. I think what with this being our dude in the race, maybe we could not make him feel like shit for winning a silver medal? It’s amazing to me that anyone swims anywhere ever as fast as even the last place finisher does in these races. And, hello, he won a gold just the other night. Thankfully for Phelps’ worth as a human being, he didn’t fail miserably in his next 2 races, he won gold. So nyah, Bob Costas. Get off his nuts.
And speaking to the latter issue, you have Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Weiber. Jordyn didn’t qualify for the women’s all-around gymnastics competition even though she was/is the current world champion. So for the entirety of the women’s team gymnastics event they talked about how horrible it was for her to not qualify, what an injustice it was, how this is her redemption, and blah blah blah. Which is like, fine, that’s cool, she’s doing well now. You can give her some props. But, hey! Over here is Gabby, who DID make it into the all-around, AND is doing every apparatus in the team event, and you’re completely ignoring her bad ass performances because you’re busy going on about poor Jordyn. Gabby scored higher than Jordyn on each apparatus, but I guess you didn’t see her since she’s Black and that big White Woman’s Tear was blurring your vision. When Team USA won the gold, even though Gabby scored 33% of the team’s points, some magazines didn’t even name her in pictures of the team. Well, um, It’s pretty hard to not see her and name her now since she won the f-ing women’s all-around gold. Is that good enough, NBC? Did the heat from all Gabby’s awesome dry up some of those White Women’s Tears?
NBC’s Olympic coverage just manages to mirror American attitudes towards greatness and towards race, sometimes simultaneously. If you’re capable of greatness and usually achieve it, we love to pile on you when you mess up. This plays out in a more tawdry and decidedly less talent-oriented way in the tabloids with crap like “GUESS WHOSE BEACH BODY HAS CELLULITE” articles and the annual “REMEMBER WHEN JENNIFER ANISTON GOT DUMPED BY BRAD FOR ANGIE?? SHE MUST STILL FEEL LIKE SHIT!” issue of US magazine. We want to know the best can fail, or be less than perfect, and we revel in it so we feel better about our failures. Do we really need to do that to salve our own wounded egos? No, but it’s an easy, temporary palliative agent that requires very little work on the part of an individual.
When race comes into play, white people want to be assured that Black/brown people who achieve greatness are only able to be great because some other white person was robbed, or because they have white in them (see Obama, Barack), or because they were given unfair advantages to make up for their race that ended up screwing white people in the end. If Jordyn had been there, Gabby wouldn’t have. Right? The racism towards Gabby during and after the team event was slightly under the radar, but recognizable to those willing to see it. Now that she’s won the all-around gold, the media has taken the post-racial society tack. “Well, Black folks have finally broken down their own mental barriers, good for them! It totally wasn’t institutionalized racism that contributed to them being unable to achieve certain things, what with lunch counters having been desegregated for 50+ years now.” That is word-for-word what Bob Costas said after Gabby won. Okay, it’s not. But it might as well have been. I finally brought home the gold in “yelling at Bob Costas” after that verbal turd he laid.
Anyway, these are just my slightly less than random thoughts on NBC’s Olympic coverage. I’m going to get ready to watch Michael Phelps win in the 100m butterfly and eat some Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack.
Plenty has been written about the fat husband/hot wife dichotomy on TV sitcoms. The critique usually consists of disbelief that a fat man would be able to land a “hot” wife. Now, in these shows, like According To Jim, King of Queens and Still Standing, the behavior of the husbands is also often undesirable. But the main thing people seem to be outraged about is that the husbands and wives are not of commensurate attractiveness. These men are also often referred to as “ugly,” and their “ugliness” appears to be directly tied in to their fatness. While the men on these shows are fat, I would argue that their looks are at the least average if not slightly above average. But, as has been demonstrated in the comments on this blog, people are often perceived to be less attractive if they are viewed as fat.
I mainly deal with fat women in this blog, but in this case I feel that fat men and fat women are being discriminated against with this dichotomy and I wanted to offer a different framework in which to discuss it. In the case of fat women, there are virtually no examples of shows that feature a fat wife and a “hot,” thin husband, so the problem there is lack of representation. On the other side, the disgust expressed by so many writers at the idea that an attractive woman would marry a fat man speaks to the disgust so many have for fat in general. I agree that casting an attractive woman opposite an ill-behaved fat guy can be unrealistic in many ways and in most cases probably expresses the fantasy of the male sitcom writers that fat “average Joes” have a chance at a model-pretty woman. In reality, these pairings are probably few and far between. My point is that although fat men are being represented in these shows, they are still often typecast as slobby, unintelligent and undesirable to most women except their wives. Fat men face discrimination as well, but as so many fat male celebrities are also comedians and comedic writers, they are gifted with their own TV shows and are able to write characters for themselves. However, they are still expected to play off the stereotype of the fat male slob.
Of course, the few times fat female comedians have been gifted with a show, they’ve usually derided as being unappealing and abrasive, as in the case of Roseanne Barr. Although her show was extremely popular she as a person was less so. And shows featuring fat female comedians certainly do not allow the comedian to express any serious sexual desire, whereas fat men are at least shown lusting after women other than their wives. The similarities between how fat women’s sexuality is treated and how fat men’s sexuality is treated lies in how their bodies are portrayed—as comic relief. There are plenty of jokes about weight on these fat male comedians’ shows.
As we well know, men have access to a hell of a lot more privilege than women do. But fatphobia still affects them as well, they just have an easier time with it. So although there are many more positive representations of fat men in pop culture, there is still a fatphobic framework in which they have to work—which is why fighting fat hatred should not only be a feminist issue but an issue of social justice across the board.
One of my favorite sometimes cringe-worthy shows is Louie on FX. I’ve long been a fan of Louis C.K., while I will admit his humor is sometimes problematic. So his new show, naturally, is hilarious and sometimes problematic. I haven’t had a big problem with it so far, but the last episode (I don’t know what day it was actually on because I TiVo everything) was full of fail on so many different levels it’s amazing. I’m not going to go into detail on every level of fail. Other sites have dealt with that. What I am going to go into is the very last part of the episode when the above screencap took place, because this is a blog about representations of fat in pop culture. Yes, Louis went there. He made it with a fat black chick. A very vigorous fat black chick.
My beef with this is that the short scene in which the making occurs basically reinforces every stereotype about fat women’s sexuality and in particular fat black women’s sexuality. Louis has spent the last half of the episode pursuing a black woman ostensibly to go black and not go back. At the end, she rejects him and goes into her house. He’s all sad because he didn’t get to dip into that. But out comes another black woman, a fat black woman who leers at Louie and smiles suggestively. You know, that creepy sex-crazed smile and leer that fat black women are CONSTANTLY shown as affecting in every damn representation of fat black female sexuality. Cut to the next scene, said woman is on top of Louie, rocking the bed, making exaggerated faces indicating extreme sexual pleasure, and Louie is just under her looking bewildered.
Now how you’re going to get pleasure out of a dude laying there underneath you not doing shit I don’t know. But fat black women are portrayed doing this pretty much every time they’re shown having sex. Apparently we have some kind of animalistic desire bubbling under the surface that’s just waiting to envelop some awkward but eager guy. And apparently we harbor this desire for any paunchy balding guys we see hanging out creepily next to our doorways.
I’m not going to say fat black women don’t get buck wild sometimes because we do. Of course, pretty much every woman does at some point. But when we’re shown doing nothing BUT getting buck wild in a humorous way, well, that’s a harmful representation. It feeds into the “black women are oversexed freaks” stereotype as well as the “fat women are desperate for sex” stereotype. I mean, basically if you wanted to name a stereotype involving fat women and black women, that two-minute scene was a great mashup. It was extremely disappointing, and that’s saying a lot because however it may appear, I am not easily offended. But I had to say something at that point because the episode was iffy as is and then that was just the cherry on top of the shit sundae the viewer was served.
This is why we must critique the pop culture we consume. You better believe if I’m going to watch a show that I love but can be problematic—I’ve got to analyze the problematic elements and recognize them when I see them. Like I said, I’m a fan of Louis C.K. But that doesn’t mean I can give him or his show a pass when he produces something like this last episode.
While there are endless examples of fat female characters portrayed in an unappealing light on television, fewer and farther between are positive portrayals of female fatness. When you come across one, even if it’s on an otherwise dull show, it’s refreshing to see. I’d like to take in a few of those breaths of fresh air here, for your reading pleasure.
Grey’s Anatomy: Dr. Callie Torres (see above picture)
Played deftly by Sara Ramirez, Callie is a strong, complicated, nuanced and gorgeous woman of color who happens to be fat—a characteristic that doesn’t hamper her ability to get it on with some of the hottest people on the show, from Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan to her current love interest, an attractive, thin blonde woman by the name of Arizona. This relatively recent development in Callie’s love life earned her the adoration of legions of queer women (myself included). Her character proves that fat female sexuality can be portrayed in a tasteful, positive light without the partner of the fat woman being positioned as a “chubby chaser” or in some other way a fat fetishist.
Grey’s Anatomy: Dr. Miranda Bailey
Chandra Wilson’s Emmy-nominated portrayal of Dr. Bailey presents us with a petite powerhouse of a Chief Resident. Commanding despite her diminutive stature, the fact that she’s fat doesn’t detract from her authority or ability to be taken seriously; so many fat black female characters on TV are forced to play off their fat in comedic or Sapphire-type roles. Although she doesn’t get involved in the sexual antics of her co-workers, it’s not because she’s considered unattractive, it’s because she’s no-nonsense, married, and not the type to buy into the soap opera nature of her colleagues’ personal lives. Dr. Bailey is a wonderful example of how a black female character can be written as assertive and at times aggressive but maintain a level of vulnerability and sensitivity that jibes with the overall nature of her personality.
Roseanne: Roseanne Conner
While some may say Roseanne, with her caustic wit and sarcasm, is not a positive portrayal of a fat woman. I beg to differ. On the show, she is not weight-obsessed and her fatness is not positioned as a Big Issue in regards to her interpersonal relationships with co-workers and other family members or her romantic relationship with her (also fat) husband. She is portrayed as an average, realistic working class woman. Many average working class women are fat. She’s simply playing a character that represents a large number of USian women, and being as how she is the lead character and her fat is not something that is constantly brought up with a lot of hand-wringing surrounding it or subject to cheap jokes playing off it, I’d say she’s a pretty positive representation. In and of itself, seeing an average working class fat woman on a top-rated sitcom every week was a positive development.
Gimme A Break: Nellie Ruth “Nell” Harper (see above picture)
Honestly, Nell Carter’s character on this show was the first character I thought of when I started thinking about positive portrayals of fat women on television. Yes, she’s playing a stereotype—the black housekeeper of a white family—but folks, this was 1981 and any black woman, especially a fat black woman, on TV not screeching at her husband or wearing a kerchief was a milestone. Nell Harper was attractive, pulled together, funny AND had a love life. She dated, had a boyfriend, and was sexual without it being a joke. The show was not immune to playing off her weight, but it at least did so along with playing off the weight of the male lead on the show, Police Chief Carl Kanisky. Nellie was a positive character, as nuanced as you’re gonna get for a fat black woman on a sitcom in the early 80s, and was played expertly by the Tony-award winning Ms. Nell Carter.
Disparate as these roles are, they all have something in common—they’re not caricatures, they’re real characters, something very rare and very special for fat women on television.
Well, Andrew Breitbart, smearing Shirley Sherrod in order to refute the NAACP’s resolution against “racist elements” in the Tea Party turned out to be a pretty bad idea. Yes, you cost her her job, but she’s making black people look good. It’s too bad you’re not like, a journalist, or something, and did some digging to find the full video before you declared it to be an example of reverse racism. Ms. Sherrod is actually a really worthwhile person, unlike yourself, and now the world knows it. So kudos to you for bringing our attention to a woman who was and is working to bring black people and white people together in solidarity during a time when so many are feverishly working towards the opposite.
I try to avoid watching Fox News. I hear about it on the real news and I see its headlines on my iGoogle page, but I can’t bring myself to waste the electricity changing the channel on my TV to “FNC”. Apparently Glenn Beck has been heralding the coming race war. I’ve always understood “the coming race war” to mean the time that racist white militias finally band together and kill off all the browns. I also thought it was a joke, and kind of funny. Beck, however, wants us to believe otherwise. He’s saying that the “New Black Panthers” are going to start a government-backed race war to kill off Big Whitey. Of course this is silly. Fox News has been complaining about the tiny group of New Black Panthers for like a decade. I don’t know who they think Obama is, but if anything is true about him, it’s that he’s not demonstrably a militant black man. I’m more militant than he is, and I’m a bougie tragic mulatto living in the suburbs. I don’t see any medallions, dreadlocks or black fists adorning the Oval Office. But we’re supposed to believe that in between getting blamed for the oil spill and fomenting socialism, he’s been training this small elite squad of brothers to take out the white menace with the U.S. Army at their disposal? I’m really just speechless.
There was a time when I wasn’t always hearing about reverse racism, race wars, etc. in the mainstream media. It kind of seemed like most reasonable people had come to the conclusion that racism was bad, we needed to work against it, and that if you were a violent, loud mouthed racist you should just stay in your cabin and keep it to yourself. We didn’t worry about them because they stayed in the woods, for the most part, and everyone thought they were “crazy” anyway. I was focused on rooting out insidious racism, the kind that you can’t easily identify, the kind that exists in progressive communities, the institutional kind that deeply affects every person of color and which still exists today but has been obscured by all this blatant racism and the fact that we now have a black man in the White House. I could be romanticizing pre-2008, but it just seems like we wouldn’t be seeing articles like “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege” during the Bush years. They knew to keep their racism under wraps back then. I’m almost laughing to myself remembering when the GOP was respectful of black people because they felt like if they tried hard enough, they could lure a few over the fence. Case in point: Michael Steele, head of the RNC. He became head of the RNC during the 2008 campaign as, I think, a way to say “hey black people, we’ve got ourselves a Negro too!”, and also as a way to criticize Obama without seeming racist. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way they planned, and the black guy still won. So what’s the point of respecting black people or other nonwhite people now? They’re all just going to vote for the Colored, right? Because all people of color are a monolith, especially those predictable darkies.
I think the “racist elements” of the Tea Party/GOP are playing their end game. Calling him any name they can think of, blaming him for everything from AIDS to increased activity on the sun, doing anything they can think of to bring him down before the end game plays out. What happens then is yet to be seen. Will it be the repudiation of the Tea Party by the majority of U.S. citizens in this coming midterm election? Will it be the end (again) of acceptable blatant, virulent racism? Will something ominous happen to Obama? I couldn’t tell you. But you can’t be a right wing ideologue with unstable, easily manipulated followers and go on and on about a “coming race war” without something happening at the end. I know what some of Beck’s followers would really like it to be, and that’s scary.
I live in California, Los Angeles to be exact. I saw this on a bumper sticker the other day:
“Where’s Lee Harvey Oswald When You Really Need Him?”
This “family feud” has been mentioned in blog post after blog post, so I’ll keep the history short. Big “feminist” site Jezebel posts about female comedy writers not being represented in the staffing of The Daily Show. Big “feminist” site XX Factor posts about how hypocritical it is for Jezebel to post something controversial to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue, as XX Factor uses their controversial article to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue. Other less commercial blogs such as this one write about the feud. Then! The female employees of The Daily Show put out an open letter insisting that Jon Stewart isn’t sexist. Cue the (admittedly hilarious) response to that letter and the background chatter regarding new TDS female correspondent Olivia Munn and how she gets half naked sometimes, hates fat people (she does come off as pretty fatphobic) and isn’t funny. Ad infinitum.
I’m not going to critique any of the above-referenced articles, nor am I going to offer an opinion of whether or not Olivia Munn is qualified to be on The Daily Show. What I am going to talk about is the fact that I’m tired of middle to upper class white cissexual Internet feminist all-stars dominating the debate over what is acceptable in feminism and what isn’t. I’m not saying these women aren’t talented writers; they are. But I want to see myself (not literally, although of course that would be nice — a chick’s gotta eat) and other marginalized feminists represented in the feminist all-star constellation. I want to read articles in WaPo and Slate and Salon and the NY Times by marginalized women dealing with issues that actually affect us, and don’t involve pot meeting kettle. I want to see articles on the big woman-oriented blogs that deal with intersectionality, that talk about deeper issues, and that inspire me to think and take action other than reaching for the Tylenol.
Tangentially, but also related in a way, I want to raise a concern I’ve had for a while about the name of the Slate woman-oriented blog “XX Factor”. Titling your blog after a set of chromosomes that not every woman has and not every man does not have is, to me, extremely transphobic and also ignores intersex folks with varying sets of chromosomes (because it ain’t just XX or XY). It completely erases trans women as women, and it is really appalling to me. Why should I take a woman-oriented blog seriously that clearly doesn’t understand or apparently doesn’t care about intersectionality or exclusion of certain women? Cutesy names don’t make up for erasure of identities.
Examples like the one given in the above paragraph are what I mean when I say we need representation of marginalized women on the big, ostensibly feminist, woman-oriented blogs like Jezebel, Salon’s Broadsheet, and Slate’s XX Factor (well with them, we need a name change as well). The discourse is controlled by women for whom sexism against white cis women seems to be their main focus. We need to stop looking to these white middle/upper class cissexual feminist role models for instructions on how to interpret feminism or on how to apply feminist principles to media critique. We need prominent marginalized women who have more than paid their feminist/womanist dues to offer a fresh and very much needed perspective.
What’s interesting to me about these large woman-oriented sites is that when you look closely, they’re actually not explicitly feminist. That’s why I keep referring to them as “woman-oriented” or “ostensibly feminist”. Writing articles that appeal to women does not mean that they’re feminist articles. For example, Jezebel’s tagline is “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” XX Factor’s tagline is simply “What Women Really Think.” Salon’s Broadsheet just doesn’t say anything, as far as I can tell. Basically, these sites can simply fall back on the fact that they never said they were feminist. So maybe we shouldn’t be expecting representative feminist content from these blogs. When questionable content pops up on these sites, like Hanna Rosin’s critique of Al Gore’s accuser (which, to be fair, she did later follow up with a sort-of “I was wrong” post) on XX Factor, or the Emily Gould anti-Jezebel article, also on XX Factor, what standard can you hold them to? Emily Gould is a woman, and she wrote what she “Really Thinks”. I guess that’s all you can ask for when they’re not specifically identifying themselves as a feminist site. These sites are simply woman-oriented. Not all women are feminists.
Marginalized feminists/womanists need to have the door unlocked so we can finally kick it down and get some actual representation alongside the current white cis feminist all-stars. Unfortunately, those same white cis feminists are holding the keys to the door. The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard. We need to make it their problem. We need to “show our color”.[This piece originally appeared on Feministe.]
I’ve been away for some time, but over my extended vacation I had the pleasure of watching a treasure trove of disaster movies, which made me giddy. I want to share these gems with you, but there’s quite a few, so I’m breaking it up into parts. Part 1 and 2 will be earthquake movies, Part 3 will be weather movies and Part 4 will be dedicated to volcanoes. I present to you now, Part 1 of The Movie Marathon That Destroyed the World: Earthquake Season #1.[… read the rest at I Fry Mine in Butter.]
I have to admit, when I first heard the news that Al Gore had been accused of sexual assault by a Portland-area massage therapist, I had to question the source, which at that time was an online National Enquirer article. As fine a publication as the National Enquirer is, I tend to take its “news” stories with a container of Morton’s salt. Then, as I browsed the blogosphere, I came across this post on The Sexist, which caused me to seek out the actual police report on the incident, which includes a lengthy transcription of the 54-year old alleged victim’s account of the assault.
Having read the actual transcript, it boggles my mind that anyone would dismiss this woman’s allegations out of hand. I’m not going to recount the transcript here, but the alleged victim’s description of the event is very detailed, very lucid, and very believable, if you’re not addicted to the Al Gore Kool-Aid. Apparently some women who call themselves feminists were swimming in the punch bowl, because the immediate reaction from many was to discredit the accuser based on trivial things like why she’s kept a pair of pants she wore the night of the assault that had “suspicious stains” on the front of them. Hello? Here’s a little Sex Ed for you: When men are aroused, they can emit a bit of fluid from their “love rod”. That fluid contains – guess what? – DNA! So if you’re a woman accusing an adored, very public figure of sexual assault, why wouldn’t you keep a pair of pants with possible evidence on them to back up your story? Get a clue, people. Hanna Rosin, the woman who wrote the above-referenced “why did she save the pants” article on Double X, had NOT read the police report before she decided to comment on the situation. After she did, she backed down, stating “[…] this very long and detailed statement paints a picture of Al Gore that is so disturbing and so completely at odds with everything we know about him that it’s hard to know what to think.” Really, people, do the legwork. I know everyone wants to be the first to write about this juicy story, but having to update your post after reviewing the evidence just makes you look silly.
Other media outlets haven’t been so gracious as to recant their skepticism and victim-blaming. Salon gives us “3 reasons to doubt the Al Gore sex assault story“. The author, Steve Kornacki, states as his third reason:
We have seen plenty of cases of baseless (if vivid) sexual allegations against celebrities before. Tucker Carlson was once accused of rape by a woman he’d never met, for instance. Something similar happened with magician David Copperfield last year, too. (Plenty of celebrities have been guilty of sex crimes, too, of course.)
So naturally since some baseless allegations have been made, we shouldn’t give the accuser the benefit of the doubt, especially since she has so much to gain from making these accusations, like having other women make fun of her for not washing the aforementioned pants for four years.
The alleged victim’s friend, Donna Burleigh, has spoken out about the truthfulness of her story, stating that her friend recounted the incident to her after it happened in 2006, without revealing the name of the “high profile” client until Gore made an appearance in Portland 2 years later. According to Burleigh, the incident left the alleged victim suffering from panic attacks, and her previous health problems were exacerbated. But, of course, she probably has a history of “hysteria”, reason 4 to doubt her story.
There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the alleged victim was compensated for her story. This article, published online on June 24th, reports:
The editor of the National Enquirer said Thursday the tabloid didn’t pay the Portland massage therapist for its story. The statement rebuts reports that the paper paid $1 million for the story that it broke a day earlier online.
“We did not pay the therapist or any representative of hers,” Editor-in-Chief Tony Frost said. “In fact, she was unaware the story was being published.”
Yet in Howard Kurtz’ column in The Washington Post, he states:
The executive editor of the National Enquirer says the Oregon masseuse who made a sexual allegation against Al Gore asked the tabloid for $1 million but that the Enquirer did not pay her or anyone else in reporting the story.
Barry Levine said in an interview Thursday that the woman offered to sell her account through her lawyer but that “no money exchanged hands” and the paper conducted only a brief interview with her.
Regardless of whether or not the alleged victim asked for money, the immediate knee-jerk reactions of some reporters to circle the wagons and spread doubt about the allegations reflect the deeply ingrained sexism that comes to the fore whenever a beloved liberal icon like Gore is accused of misconduct. Even feminists jump on the victim-blaming bandwagon, sometimes in quite vicious ways, and in this case, without even reading the alleged victim’s account of the incident. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize and single-handedly bringing global warming to the attention of the world (yeah, right) doesn’t make you immune to the typical trappings of those in power — they want what they want, and will pursue it with impunity. Left-leaning media outlets and bloggers would do well to not be blinded by their idol-worshipping.