You say “Angry Black Woman” like it’s a bad thing.

Amazing!! Cal Thomas, “Syndicated Columnist” for Fox News, thinks all black women are angry. All 12+ million of us. Well, okay. Except one.

THOMAS: I want to pick up on something that Jane said about the angry black woman. Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She’s always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They’re usually angry about something. They’ve had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don’t really have a profile of non-angry black women.

PINKERTON: Oprah Winfrey.

THOMAS: Oprah Winfrey. Yes, there you go, Oprah Winfrey.

Oh. Well, then. As long as there’s Oprah, there’s hope.

Okay, look. None of us are surprised at Fox behaving badly, now, are we? Even if they have belatedly acknowledged that the “baby mama” drama was, to put it mildly, “poor judgment”. Fortunately I don’t have to point out The Stupid here, since Daily Kos has done it so inimitably.

But he asks an important question, which I think bears repeating:

What I’m also shocked about is that this disgusting statement was made on Saturday, and the first time I heard about it was on Dan Abram’s show tonight. And he didn’t provide any analysis or discussion of the statement. Why aren’t all those people who denounced sexism during the primary race up in arms with this racist and sexist nonsense?

Yeah. That’s a good question, isn’t it? Food for thought.

Michelle Obama Watch thought about it too.

The double-whammy of race and gender make Michelle Obama an irresistible target. And the relative silence from Hillary-supporting feminists reveals a serious flaw in the idea that feminists will defend all women.

In all fairness’ sake, as people in the MOW comments pointed out, some of the third-wave feminist blogs (like Feministe) have indeed come out in defense of Michelle Obama, which I’m relieved to see. But it’s hard not to notice that there’s not nearly as much commentary about this in the feminist blogosphere as I saw when there were sexist media attacks against Hillary Clinton. Talk about angry black women — what those Fox pseudopundits really ought to be afraid of is angry white women. They’re kickass, man. I mean, there was just so much furor out there — and rightly so — over the sexism heaped upon Clinton. All the big names of feminism and politics — Steinem, Ferraro, Jong, and more. All women who speak softly and carry big no-phallic-pun-intended-sticks. I’m sure these same women are going to come out guns blazing now that Michelle is getting the same ugly treatment. It’s still sexism, right? Even if it’s compounded by racism. Sexism’s still sexism.

Right? Right? So the defense should begin any minute now. Right?

Oooh, I can’t wait to hear what Rosanne Barr or Linda Hirshman have to say about this. I mean, they’re just so articulate. (And, of course, clean.) Any minute now, I’m sure I’ll see a trifecta of blasts on the Huffington Post and the New York Times and the Washington Post, all from big-name second-wavers who are disgusted, simply disgusted, by Michelle’s treatment.

Any minute now.

Any minute.

Anyone? Anyone?

Bueller?

On Feminism, Part 2

I bet you don’t remember part 1, do you? Here’s a reminder.

I said back then that I was still trying to put my own feelings into words and hadn’t succeeded yet. Considering what’s been going on in the blogosphere lately I think it’s time to finally crystallize my thoughts. The problem I keep coming up against is that my interactions with feminism and feminists varies greatly depending on the venue, I am finding a hard time resolving my feelings in one area with my feelings from another.

I’m being vague, sorry. Let me be specific.

As many of you know, in my other life I am a science fiction and fantasy writer. I have spent almost my entire adult life hanging out in that community. Now, from the outside, the SF community would not seem to be a place to understand, interact with, and discuss feminism and feminist issues. But lo, there are feminists to be found. Really smart feminists. There’s even a con dedicated to feminism and feminists in SF–WisCon.

WisCon is one of my very favorite conventions because of the topics of panels, the conversations I have in and out of panels, and the caliber of people who attend. These are smart, passionate folks who care about literature and media in equal measure. And, if they’re at WisCon, they more than likely consider themselves feminists or, at least, allies.

Through attending WisCon I became interested in feminism in a more direct way than I had been before. I vaguely understood feminism and felt, as most intelligent people do, that the core ideal of feminism as I understood it was a right thing–i.e. women are equal to men and should be treated as such. That women and men may be different, but men certainly aren’t better, in general. But from attending WisCon, I began thinking about the issues of gender, privilege, and feminism in ways I had not before.

Over the years I’ve convinced many people to come to WisCon, but it was sometimes a struggle because I had to break the barrier of ignorance surrounding the word “feminist”. I’m sure many of you have encountered this same problem. People equating feminism with “FemiNazi” (what a bullshit word), or with the extreme types who ruin every ideology/movement/etc. At this time I was not aware of the real problems of feminism. Ones that were far more disruptive and dividing than women who “hate men” or other such nonsense.

Since that first WisCon my involvement in SF’s feminist contingent has deepened. I’m one of the bloggers at FeministSF.net, I contribute to the Wiki, I consider some of my co-bloggers there to be good friends, I participate in WisCon programming, and now I’m a jurist for the Tiptree award, an honor that arose from the ideas and ideals that WisCon was created to explore.

If this was the only experience I had with feminism, then I would have no need to write this post. I’d be perfectly content to call myself a feminist and be done.

But oh. Then there’s the wider world.

Then there’s Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and any number of white feminists from the second and third wave that really ruin feminism for the rest of us. If they’re not insisting we put aside our “of color”-ness in favor of our woman-ness, they’re busy using their white privilege to marginalize, dismiss, silence, or otherwise treat us the way those pesky white men they’re so angry with do.

I hadn’t been on this blog long before I apprehended that all was not well in feminism-land. Remember the post about Cesar Milan? It started on some blog where the white, female poster was up in arms because Cesar had made some comment about women that she objected to. She claimed that if he’d made a similar comment about black people the entirety of America would have jumped down his throat. Because, see, racism is no longer a problem in America, but sexism is.

Sigh.

It just gets worse from there. As we have daily proof.

And these recent blow-ups not only make me angry because of what these white feminist bloggers are doing to women of color, but because it makes me angry at feminism itself. As Aminah put it way back when, feminism just isn’t made for us women of color. And as someone else (I can’t remember who, but someone please tell me in comments if you know) said recently, it seems like what white feminists want is to become white men. They want what white men have going on, up to and including privilege and the ability to ignore voices of color unless it suits them.

Some of you may feel this is an unfair generalization. And others of you are sitting at your computers right now shaking your head and saying, “Nuh uh, not me!” Maybe so not you, and maybe so I am being harsh. But you take a look around the blogs right now and tell me that the view from where I’m standing doesn’t bear that out. And take a good look at yourselves. Think about if you can honestly say that you’ve considered your own privilege when dealing with the issues of feminism and race lately. Some of you have, of course, but some of you absolutely have not.

And unfortunately, even my happy pocket of SF feminism isn’t immune from this crap. Last year at WisCon I heard more than one report of goings on in places I was not that revealed the racist attitudes of certain feminist con-goers. This was extremely sad, but not a great surprise. I resolved that this year I would make it my special project to watch and listen out for such attitudes and do what I could to put an end to them. Because I believe that WisCon and the community therein is worth my time and effort to make an even more excellent space than it already is. I want to be able to attend a con without base sexism and racism at the same time. I’m willing to be one of people making that happen.

But I’m not entirely sure I want to do that on these here internets. Why? Because maybe the wider swath of feminism isn’t worth saving.

Feminism is made for and by white women. And I really feel like this is one of those areas where the white women need to get enlightened before things can change. But, of course, many of them won’t be because they don’t see racism, which is directed against women of color, as a feminist issue. They’re hard pressed to acknowledge that racism is as great a problem as sexism at all.

No, actually, what I should say is that the white feminists who are seen as leaders, who are given press and attention and cred are in need of enlightenment. Because there are plenty of white feminists who do get it, who are enlightened, who can see the interconnectedness between anti-racist work and anti-sexist work. So what’s really needed is a good purge. Those of you who know what’s up need to weed out or educate those of you who don’t. Because obviously we women of color are too angry or jealous or indelicate to do it.

And, quite honestly, I am tired of the burden being on us to fix this mess. I’m tired of having to decide if I want the label of “Feminist”, not because someone might think I hate men, but because someone might wonder why I would want to associate myself with people who think my voice and experiences are less important because I refuse to put my gender ahead of my race.

What am I, if not a feminist? I’m not sure. Maybe this will help me figure it out:

When I offered the word “Womanism” many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of color, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honor devotedly, our singular path as women of color in the United States. We are not white women and this truth has been ground into us for centuries, often in brutal ways. [...] We have come a long way, Sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time. One of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on Truth.
Alice Walker

Not Going Anywhere (But I Damn Well Feel Like It)

So I get back from my little vacation and find that Black Amazon took down her blog.

I don’t have a lot to say about that, because it should be obvious that it fucking angers me that white feminist bloggers (need I say ‘certain white feminists’? Or name some names? Nah, I’m sure y’all are smart enough to figure out who I mean) are silencing, disparaging, stealing from, and otherwise oppressing women of color bloggers all while whining about how they are victims and oh, it’s so sad. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE WHITE WOMEN PLEASE!

It’s all just so much bullshit. I have a long post about it coming, but I wanted to say one thing:

I’m not going anywhere.

And let me also say that this is not some sort of underhand condemnation of those who choose to close down their blogs because of this shit. I understand the inclination. I support that choice. There have been times when I had to step away from this blog and other parts of the internet just to salvage my sanity. One day I may need to do so again. But right now? Right now I am staying here.

(and oh, you don’t know how hard it is for me not to use gendered slurs against you whiny little princesses right now. oooo!)

What is this “protection” of which you speak?

“Sexual assaults are frequent, and frequently ignored, in the armed services.” I have this insane urge to email Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA)and say “Duh!” This is old old news, but every few years someone rediscovers the reality that rapists join the military and we get a bunch of op-eds and exhortations for the military to do more to protect women. The military isn’t all that interested in taking care of male soldiers (see Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome and those LSD experiments on unwitting soldiers) since we’re really just here to protect everyone else. I’m a disabled vet that has spent years going back and forth with VA over my leg injuries despite it being documented by a stack of tests from military doctors that gave me a medical discharge because “the damage is too extensive and it will just get worse as you get older” and that was at 19. I’m 31 now. I’ll let you guess how my leg feels now.

Want to hear something shocking? Putting on that uniform does not automatically make the person in it a decent human being. Much like active pedophiles seek out positions that give them access to children? Rapists, abusers, and your run of the mill misogynistic assholes seeks out the military because it’s a place where being hypermasculine is rewarded. And as long as you’re not too careless you can get away with hurting women every day without fear of repercussions. The Army cracks down harder on drug smuggling than it does on rape and spousal abuse. I was a soldier. I married a soldier. As some of you know he hit me the first time for the crime of being pregnant and not wanting to deliver my child alone in Germany while he was slated to be deployed. I told him that I wanted to come back to the States in my last trimester and all Hell broke loose. A neighbor called the MP’s when she heard him kicking down a door to get at me. His command gave him less than a slap on the wrist (I don’t think he even got extra duty) and I was admonished to be more understanding of his stress levels and encouraged not to do anything hasty like leave him. We were sent to counseling (Did you know on every base there’s a group for batterers and their spouses?) and he made all the standard moves (complete with flowery promises never to do it again) and that was the end of that as far as command was concerned.

A friend of mine was attacked by a guy she liked hanging out with while I was stationed at a base in Texas. Despite the fact that she was covered in mud and bruises, our command initially acted like she’d somehow provoked the attack (while wearing that oh so sexy set of BDU’s) and when it became clear that she wasn’t going to let this slide (So as to not ruin his career. After all since they’d been friends before the incident didn’t she care about his future?) they made a desultory show of an investigation and he wound up on extra duty and losing a few weeks pay. Mind you, she didn’t shower, he’d torn her uniform and she’d put up one hell of a fight judging from the bruises I saw and the blood all over her fingernails. But, somehow there wasn’t enough evidence to merit pursuing a criminal case. Meanwhile the guy that drove down to Mexico and got caught crossing the border with a kilo of coke? They threw the book at him. AFAIK he’s still in Leavenworth and won’t be going anywhere in the next 5-10 years.

The only time I saw any real justice meted out for a guy assaulting a fellow soldier it was done by another guy that was friends with the woman that had been attacked. Of course he just beat the shit out of the would be rapist and dared him to report it to Top. It wasn’t (obviously) the best response, but we all knew that it was the only way anything substantive would happen to him. Note, I am not saying that every male in the service is a rapist or that every woman is going to be victimized. Your MOS will make a huge difference (my 1st MOS was the equivalent of being a stevedore so I was with a lot of males and very few females) as will your appearance and your willingness to drink. Those of you that know me in meat space are well aware that you’ve never seen me drunk in public. That was a habit I picked up as a petite woman in a male dominated social environment. Mind you, I can drink more than the average woman my size (courtesy of a flirtation with a drinking problem in high school and hanging out with women that drink whiskey), but unless I’m in a situation that’s completely safe (like my house) I’m not getting sloshed.

Women that look feminine (think nice clothes, makeup, doing your hair, smelling good and all the other frilly things that you can start to miss after three weeks of running around in the mud and muck) and fall into specific gender roles (what better way to feel feminine than to flirt a lot and play wife to the guy of the moment?) in their off time get a lot of attention in the military. Some of it is good. A lot of it is not. Women who serve become aware very quickly of all the ways that shit can go wrong. If you happen to be exceptionally lucky at your first duty station someone may well run down the facts of life for you. What are they? You need to avoid getting drunk, avoid drinking anything you did not pour for yourself, and avoid being alone in a room with a bunch of guys no matter how well you think you know them because that is always a bad idea. You may get warned about which members of command to avoid at all costs and what guys have already engaged in some ugly behavior. Is it fair that the onus is on the women to protect themselves? No. But this idea that the military will actually protect them is so ludicrous all I can do is laugh like a hyena at the thought. Unless we’re planning to overhaul our entire society, women that sign up need to be aware that the predator concentration is much higher in the closed environment of the U.S. military. It sucks and I’d love to buy into the delusion that military = hero, but I knew too many assholes in uniform to lie to myself that way.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

Which came first, my uterus or my skin?

Lots of bloggers have been commenting on Gloria Steinem’s opinion article in the NYTimes a few days back. I can’t comment on it; I’m too angry. But the rest o’ ya’ll? Feel free. =)

1/16 edit: Looks like the politicians, amazingly, are trying to be smarter than Steinem. Dunno how I feel about “neither race nor gender should be a part of the campaign”; that strikes me as naive. It is an issue. It’s always an issue, even when the candidates are only white men. But I can see why they’d declare a truce.

-Nora

Criticizing the Critical

On the Kids Hair post, La – msviswan made this comment:

…it also seems black women with natural hair are putting emphasis on black women who prefer their hair straight as having some kind of self-hate. This insinuation (not saying by you) usually offends me.

Which dovetails nicely into a conversation started by Ren over at Feministe that BetaCandy summarizes thusly:

…how do you criticize insane beauty standards without criticizing the women who fit them, or work to? And is it ever appropriate to criticize women who engage in patriarchy-approved beauty rituals?

Which is part of the same problem, methinks.

It’s really easy for black women with natural hair to get on a high horse about it. To put down women who choose relaxers as somehow less ‘real’ or sellouts or shallow people who hate themselves. It’s a +10 attack spell against women who criticize us for having natural hair. Just last week my aunt said that I had hair “from the jungle” and she would just love it if I got it straightened again, because it would look better. When I asked her why in the world I would voluntarily burn the curls out of my hair and thus deny the natural beauty of myself, she rolled her eyes at me. Like that wasn’t a valid consideration at all.

And this is my family. I get it much worse from people who don’t even know me.

The thing is, women on both sides of the aisle give each other shit as part of a defense mechanism. If I choose to go natural and my friend chooses to go straight, we somehow feel our choices are only valid if we convince ourselves and others that the other choice is the wrong one. The truth is, neither choice is wrong as long as it’s a choice you made in your own best interest.

If you love the way your hair looks when it’s straight, then wear your hair straight. Especially if you’ve weighed the options. Maybe you like it straight because that’s the beauty standard you grew up with. Or maybe your face looks best when framed that way. I know mine looks best when framed in curls, which is natural for me. Dreds or braids would be natural, too. But I don’t think they’d look as good. Straight may look okay, but it requires more effort than I’m willing to put in. That’s my choice.

Black people need to stop giving people shit about their choices. If you feel a good friend or family member is choosing relaxer for a misguided reason, say so with love, not with judgment. Same with a natural style. But if you don’t know that person, keep your opinions to yourself unless asked!

ABW vs. the Embodiment of White Privilege

All right. The time has come.

I thought about this last year sometime but dropped it because I figured the antagonists wasn’t popular enough anymore. I hadn’t seen her in a while. I thought maybe I should concentrate my efforts on that crazy woman Michelle Malkin.

That was before Ann Coulter clambered back into my view again. Before she dissed Elizabeth Edwards.

So I’m here after my long absence to say that I am revitalizing my long-dormant showdown. That’s right, kids. The Angry Black Woman is taking on Ann Coulter!

ABW vs Ann Coulter

Continue reading

Savage to Mary Cheney: Fuck You

Mary Cheney is having a baby, but she doesn’t want anybody to use her precious embryo for politics. (This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop.) Dan Savage has a few choice words to say about that.

Yes, it’s a baby, not a prop. My kid isn’t a prop either, but that never stopped right-wingers from attacking me and my boyfriend over our decision to become parents. The fitness of same-sex couples to parent is very much part of the political debate thanks to the GOP and the Christian bigots that make up its lunatic “base.” You’re a Republican, Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.

And so long as your party insists on making the fitness of homosexuals to marry or parent—or, hell, exist—a subject of public debate, Mary, your decision to become a parent is germane and very much fit for public discussion and debate. The GOP’s selective embrace of some pregnant dykes—only knocked-up lesbians with powerful connections will be treated with respect—is a disconnect that demands answers. From you, from your father, from your venomous mother, from the idiot president you helped elect. Is that fair? Maybe not. Want to blame someone? Go look in the mirror.

bwahahahahahahaha. pwned!

You kept your mouth clamped shut when your father needed the political support of assholes like Dobson. And now that your dad is a despised lame-duck VP, dad’s gay-bashing political allies feel free to treat you with the same contempt with which they have long treated other gay and lesbians. And now you cry foul?

Sorry, Mary, and fuck you. You and your whole fucked-up family crawled into bed with bigots like Dobson when it suited you. And now you and your whole fucked-up family have some explaining to do. So welcome to the political debate, Mary.

You tell ‘er, Dan.

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