The unbearable whiteness of TVing

There have been few times in my life where I have had a single-race group of friends. Living when and where I have, there have even been few examples where I was the only person of colour (PoC) in my immediate social circle. Part of it came, to be sure, from the fact that my high school was ludicrously multicultural, and I went to university for the next 6 years of my life before moving to Vancouver, a city with a huge PoC population. Simple probability theory dictates that you can’t really put together a monoracial group without more than a little bit of intentionality behind your friend selection.

Which is why shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and How I Met Your Mother annoy the living shit out of me. Well, to be fair to HIMYM, they eventually cast Kal Penn, so now the only thing that annoys me is the terrible writing. Anyway, these shows somehow manage to be about a group of white people living in one of the most multicultural cities in the world who only have ny kind of meaningful contact with other white people. Sure, PoCs occasionally pop into existence on these shows, but it’s almost always as either one-off characters or as “hilarious” jokes based on stereotype.

Last week I invited you to think about privilege as a pair of coloured goggles that prevented you from being able to see certain parts of the spectrum. Of course, if it were simply the case that privilege caused you to ‘miss out’ on things, it wouldn’t be much of a privilege, would it? Here’s the thing – that kind of selective blindness has consequences: [Read more...]

Skeptivism: Jamie’s story

My Blogathon efforts left me far more drained than I thought it would. By the time 6 hours of recording was up, I didn’t have much left in the tank for blogging. All is not lost, however, because a friend of mine from Vancouver has been engaged in some truly impressive local activism, so I asked Jamie to sum up the events for you all to take a look at:

I’ve been writing a lot about demonstrations, protests, nearly frothing at the mouth while yelling profanity, and taking my top off, all in the name of exercising bodily autonomy as a person who has two X-chromosomes. I mean a lot. This entry concerns a summary version of what is contained in all those posts, with links to the original writing.

The inciting incident concerned a woman in a sun dress, who felt particularly brave one afternoon while approaching a pro-life group that appears at the same intersection every weekend, to the Great Annoyance of the entire neighbourhood and virtually all passersby. She said “If a woman is raped and conceives from it, should she be forced to carry the child?” and was answered with “If she’s dressed like you, she should.” When I found out she wanted to organize the community to hold them accountable, I flipped all my shits. Read about it here.

Read Jamie’s epic saga; it’s really impressive.

I will be back to normal tomorrow, I bet. Plus I still owe a bunch of people cover tunes, so that’ll happen.

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“It’s my movement too”; the white whine of atheism

*Trigger warning for misogyny.

*UPDATE 2014/02/14 – I was contacted by one of the subjects of this piece, asking me to take it down because “the internet takes things out of context”. Ordinarily that kind of weaksauce pleading doesn’t cut it with me, but I can make the argument in this post without using his name, and he has to use his name to get jobs and such. I have deleted it from the body of the text and from the comments. It is still present in the screencap of the tweet though, because seriously fuck that guy.

Sometimes the world does your job for you.

A tweet calling Rebecca Watson an 'uppity cunt'

So one of the most fun aspects of male privilege is that I can look at stupid bullshit like this and laugh. First of all, Ian A*** isn’t a member of CFI Amherst, he’s just a douchebro with a big mouth. But hey, that’s one of the hallmarks of douchebroism – a ludicrously inflated sense of self-importance. Because I’m a guy, I get to look at words like ‘cunt’ in purely anthropological terms and pick apart the various types of ignorance and privilege that would lead someone to make that word choice. Of course, Mr. A*** immediately disavowed any sexism in his tweet: see, there are a lot of things he could have meant by ‘cunt’. He might have been calling her an old old wooden ship from the civil war era! Words can mean anything! I guess he’s relying on the assumption that we’re all as stupid as he is. [Read more...]

Racism? Let them eat cake!

Sometimes stuff comes up in the news and I just don’t bother going after it. There are low-hanging news stories that are so silly or frivolous that I can’t think of anything worthwhile to say about them. Sometimes I file them away for a rainy day when I don’t have a lot of time or energy, or on the off chance that I’ll be able to link to it later in a more substantive piece. So when I read about Sweden’s “racist cake” incident, I figured it was worth taking a pass:

Sweden’s culture minister is facing calls to step down after she was photographed cutting a cake shaped in the form of a naked black woman. The incident involving Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth happened at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. According to Radio Sweden, the museum said the cake was supposed to highlight the issue of female circumcision. But the Association for African Swedes said it was a crude racist caricature and called for Ms Liljeroth to resign.

A few people asked me to respond, but I thought it was a waste of time. After all, it’s a very silly story about an art installation that, as is often the case, was provocative and not in the greatest ‘taste’ (sorry for the pun). Avant garde art is, by definition, ahead of public opinion and designed to shock to prove a point. The involvement of the Swedish culture minister was a regrettable move on her part, but what would you do if asked to cut into a living cake at an art gallery? Staunchly refuse and launch into a tirade against the artist? It was the result of really shitty staff work and a questionable piece of art.

But damn if that confection didn’t have staying power. I guess it’s true – chocolate just doesn’t come out! So here’s a brief issue-by-issue breakdown of my thoughts. [Read more...]

Movie Friday: DIY

Here’s a chance for you to make your own Friday movie.

Gender Commercial Remixer

Just take any two commercials, and swap the audio from the ‘boys’ commercial with the video from the ‘girls’ commercial (or vice versa). Hit ‘mashup’ and enjoy!

And then cry, I guess. If you have kids, maybe show this to them so they know how stupid advertising executives think they are.

h/t Radical Bytes

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It’s a good day for the ladies

One of the most frustrating arguments I encounter when talking about feminism is the various double standards. Women are portrayed as the passive recipients of actions, and yet are the ones who must take responsibility for their marginalization (either by “grow(ing) a pair”, “get(ting) a sense of humour”, or not “dress(ing) like a total whore”). There is rarely the corrolary pressure put on men to moderate their (our) behaviour, at least not by non-feminists. Of course when feminists do say “hey guys, don’t do that”, they (we) get piled on for being a castration-hungry horde of groupthinkers who are just trying to get laid (if you’re a straight man) or who just need to get laid (if you’re not).

Not too long ago, I talked about an experience I had when I was doing undergrad orientation, where the women in my residence were taught a number of ways to safeguard themselves against date rape. Oddly (or, rather, not oddly at all), there were no accompanying instructions for the guys. Safeguarding people from date rape was a ‘victim-only’ responsibility. In that same post, I lauded a program that is seeking to shift the conversation away from that kind of blame-based advice and toward a “personal responsibility” *twitch* model. The idea seems to be picking up steam in some unlikely places. [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Can I have yo’ number?

So as I get more immersed in the literature of anti-racism, feminism, class structure and sociology, it becomes harder and harder for me to enjoy jokes. For example, I used to find this video hilarious:

And it is funny – it’s a comedically exaggerated version of an interaction that happens between men and women all the time. Here’s the thing though: knowing what I know about sexual harassment and the pressures put on women to be “nice” to men who are overstepping their boundaries, it’s hard to laugh. Knowing that women are often “nice” because there’s a risk of violence if they aren’t, it’s hard to laugh. Knowing that some clueless dolts interpret anything that isn’t a clear and brutal “no” as an invitation to try harder, and that those same dolts will react to a brutal “no” as though it’s the woman’s fault for being a “stuck up bitch”, it’s hard to laugh.

Knowing that Darrel’s social awkwardness is exacerbated by his race, and that the same approach (modified for dialect) from a white guy would likely seem less obtrusive, it’s hard to laugh. Knowing that even if Darrel were successful in getting Yvonne’s number, the two of them have clearly different social backgrounds and would struggle to find acceptance in their respective communities, it’s hard to laugh. Knowing that Darrel could possibly face violence for walking down the street with Yvonne in the wrong neighbourhood or town, it’s hard to laugh.

Basically what I am saying is that thinking about things ruins jokes. So… I’m sorry I guess?

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A twisted sense of honour

This may end up being yet another one of those kind of posts where I end up in a crouch against one of my fellow FTBorg. Today’s bone is picked with Matt Dilahunty of The Atheist Experience. I am similarly terrified of dueling with Matt, but I would be remiss if I let his comment pass unchallenged.

On Sunday’s episode of The Atheist Experience, a caller asked Beth and Matt for their opinion on ‘honour killings’, in light of the recent conviction of Mohammad Shafia. Beth and Matt were, in the least shocking plot twist imaginable, opposed to them. No big deal – killing is wrong, killing because of something as misguided as patriarchial, misogynistic concepts of “honour” is even more wrong. I’ve said as much before:

There’s no honour in murder. It is the weak-willed act of a coward who lacks any human decency. One might be able to persuade me that there is honour in the suicide tradition of Bushido, in which failure to act honourably moves the samurai to take his/her own life. I’m generally against the idea of suicide, but a person’s life is their own to do with what they want. What he is not entitled to do, however, is murder someone else to restore his own sense of ‘honour’. Any society in which one person’s mental state or social status trumps another’s right to the security of their person cannot stand.

Matt then pivoted from what was essentially a good point about the intolerability of murder in a sustainable society into a terrible point about religion. His argument, as best I could understand it, was that Islam provides a context in which honour killings are permissible. The implication of this statement is that Mr. Shafia’s Muslim beliefs fueled his decision to murder his three daughters and first wife. I’ve also expressed my objection to this concept:

[Read more...]

Both sides of the coin

Most people who support a woman’s right to choose when to have children call themselves just that – pro choice. While most rankle at the lazy characterization of “pro-abortion”, I’m personally okay with it. I am for abortion access. I think every time someone makes the choice to have a child it should be celebrated, and every time someone decides that now is not the right time, that’s a smart move too. I feel no sense of moral panic at the consequences of my stance. Anyone who would use abortion as birth control (the religious right’s nighmare scenario) isn’t someone I want raising a child, not even as some kind of twisted form of ‘just deserts’ punishment.

As I’ve explained before, it is wildly inaccurate to call the opposite side – the anti-choice side – anything else. They’re not “anti-abortion”, since restrictions on abortion do not reduce the overall number of abortions. And they’re not “pro-life”, because when women seek out abortion services outside of a licensed medical practitioner, the results can be fatal: [Read more...]

#Mencall Kathryn Marshall things

So every time I see the kind of cruelty that is leveled against women for the arch-crime of existing, it always catches me flat-footed. I always approach things with a mindset of “naw, people can’t be THAT bad”. I am almost always wrong.

Case in point – watch this video:

Now, if you didn’t make it all the way through the video in one go, I don’t blame you. It took me 4 or 5 bites to actually force that turd down my throat. For those of you who couldn’t watch, I will briefly summarize. On a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC – roughly the equivalent of NPR but less… well, less NPR) program called Power and Politics, Evan Solomon hosts a debate between John Bennett of the Sierra Club and Kathryn Marshall of Ethical Oil. The debate is over the pipeline from this morning’s story.

Ms. Marshall has clearly been instructed to make the following points:

  1. The Sierra Club accepts foreign donations
  2. Foreign interests should not be involved in a Canadian regulatory decision
  3. Ethical Oil is supported by grassroots donations
  4. The pipeline creates Canadian jobs and is important to economic growth
  5. Opponents of the pipeline want to oppose any development projects [Read more...]